I’m not sure what I expect when it comes to the next book in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song Of Ice and Fire. Despite all the many reasons I’ve told myself to give up hope, I keep a sliver of it in my back pocket. It only ever leads to disappointment, but then maybe when it comes to fantasy fiction I have a masochistic side.
But I suppose it’s also because, since I began reading A Game Of Thrones over two decades ago, this series—even unfinished—has been one of my all-time favorites, though I’ve come across a bunch of other great reads that scratch that Thrones itch in the meantime.
The sixth book (fifth if you consider A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons one book) was supposed to release before the sixth season of the HBO show, but The Winds Of Winter never materialized, and soon the show ran out of source material and ran out of steam, ending badly largely because its creators struggled to come up with a satisfying ending.
Meanwhile, Martin continues to struggle to complete the long overdue tome. The last book released on July 12th, 2011 the day my now-13-year-old son turned 1. There is still no publish date in sight, and may well never be. This bums me out. I am constantly reminded just how much of a major bummer Martin’s inability to finish this book (and this series is).
Last year, Martin said he’d finished 1,100 to 1,200 pages of the Winds and had a few hundred more to go. So I did the math. I ran the numbers. You can click that link to see how I ran the numbers, but basically I concluded:
So if Martin continues to write at the pace he’s been writing, and has this many more pages left to go, we’re looking at a best-case scenario of 3.8 years for Winds Of Winter to be finished and a worst-case of 5.18 years. That doesn’t include the process after he’s done writing, which includes editing and marketing and going to print and getting it digitized and distribution and all the rest.
But while math is comforting in its solidity and reason, human fickleness knows no bounds. We’ve learned recently that one whole year later, Martin has still only written about 1,100 pages of Winds and continues to struggle with the writing process, despite it being his chief project (of many).
Speaking on the podcast Bangcast, the fantasy author said:
“The main thing I’m actually writing, of course, is the same thing… I wish I could write as fast as [The Last Kingdom author Bernard Cornwell] but I’m 12 years late on this damn novel and I’m struggling with it.
“I have like 1,100 pages written but I still have hundreds more pages to go. It’s a big mother of a book for whatever reason. Maybe I should’ve started writing smaller books when I began this but it’s tough. That’s the main thing that dominates most of my working life.”
Martin is a terrific writer. One of the very best in the history of genre fiction. But yeah, maybe he should have tried writing shorter books. Since the fourth and fifth novels in ASOIAF, one of my primary critiques of his work has been the sheer number of POV characters he includes, which rapidly increased with each new book. There are simply too many to keep track of! He wants to show us too many events from too many perspectives instead of limiting himself and letting some of these stories take place “off screen” as it were.
In many other of my favorite fantasy works—from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law books to Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn (which inspired Martin’s stories in a major way)—there are multiple point-of-view characters but they’re limited, and that keeps the storytelling a bit tighter. Martin has bitten off more than he can chew, it seems, which happens when an author is left unchecked by editors and perhaps has planted too many narrative seeds, not to mention all the fame and fortune. Success can be the worst thing to happen to a writer.
Oh well. As I said five years ago (five!) when Martin was 69 years old:
Recall the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s time to finally read the writing (or lack thereof) on the wall and accept that this series may never be finished. Abandon hope and anger and leave your expectations in the dirt. One of the fantasy genre’s very best series may also become its most crushing disappointment.
I’m not sure I can give up the ghost just yet. But 1,100 pages in 2022 and 1,100 pages in 2023 is not exactly inspiring hope in me, either.
At least we have an infinite potential number of spinoffs at HBO. House of the Dragon is quite good. I’m very excited for the Dunk & Egg show (though I don’t plan on getting any more novellas). It’s something. But the books are better.
The Post George R.R. Martin Has More Bad News About ‘Winds Of Winter’ Originally Posted on www.forbes.com