No, George R.R. Martin still doesn”t have a release date for Winds Of Winter. (Photo by Sergey… <+> Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
George R.R. Martin is about to release the latest book in his long-running fantasy A Song Of Ice And Fire. That would be great news if it happened to be book six of the main series,The Winds Of Winter.
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Alas, the book in question is volume one ofBloodand Fire.
“Most ofFire and Bloodconsists of the “sidebars” I originally wrote forThe World of Ice & Fire,” writes Martinon his blog.”Abridged versions of some of those pieces appeared asThe Princess and the Queen,The Rogue Prince,andThe Sons of the Dragon,but these are the full versions, together with some chapters that have never appeared anywhere.”
When asked in the comments whetherFire and Bloodwould come out beforeWinds of Winter,Martin responded that volume one would be out first, followed byWinds,and then volume two ofBlood and Fire. Previously, Martin had stated that he wasn”t sure which would release first, writing“Whether Winds or the first volume of Fire and Blood will be the first to hit the bookstores is hard to say at this juncture, but I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018 … and who knows, maybe two. A boy can dream.”
I”m not sure a boycan,in fact, dream. Not after this many years of disappointment and delay.
I realize that this is one of my longest-running laments and that perhaps I”ve become something of a broken record on the topic, spinning the same gripe over and over again but I can”t help it. I began reading Martin”sSong of Ice and Firewhen I was 19 years old. It”s one of my favorite pieces of literature of all time. I spread the gospel ofA Song Of Ice And Fireto everyone I knew.
Five books later, I”m approaching 37. Nearly half my life I”ve been reading these books, and for nearly seven years—the entire span of HBO”sGame of ThronesTV adaptation—I”ve been waiting forThe Winds Of Winter.I”m hardly alone in feeling frustrated by this, given how many other projects Martin takes on while dangling the promise ofa satisfying conclusion to this story.
Martin has bristled in the past over this type of haranguing by fans over his glacial pace, flipping a famous bird at fans who worried he might die before finishing all seven books. But I have very little sympathy remaining. Yes, I know, they”re Martin”s books and he can do whatever he likes with them. He can stop writing them today and never look back. He can write them and never publish them out of spite. But it”s important to remember that all his success and all his fame, the TV and video game deals, all of it is possible because of his passionate fans. And we”ve waited year after year after year for a new book. We”ve gotten married and divorced, changed careers, had kids and seen presidents come and go.
The really frustrating thing is that both books four and five,A Feast For CrowsandA Dance With Dragons,were similarly spaced out. We had to wait years for each book, and then both books ended up far inferior to their predecessors in large part due to the utterly inexplicable decision to split the two booksby character rather than out of narrative logic. So one book dealt with one set of characters while the other dealt with another set of characters all across the same time period. This was a terrible decision that made a mess of the chronology and sapped each tome of its tension.
Worse, Martin introduced a whole slew of new point-of-view characters, making theplot unnecessarily unwieldy.Rather than simply stick to the characters we”d been following for three long books already while slowly introducing new ones, Martin vastly expanded the scope of his stories and cast of characters. The books suffered equal measure.While the critics raved overA Dance With Dragons,I couldn”t help but wonder what happened to Martin”s editor.
But perhaps the worst thing about this whole mess is the wayA Dance With Dragonsended. One cliffhanger after another piled up, with one unanswered question following the next. Was Jon Snow really dead we wondered? What would happen with the High Sparrow and Cersei? What”s this game Varys is playing at? And what is Littlefinger planning with Sansa? Sorry kids, you”ll have to wait forThe Winds of Winterto find out—or, as the case may be, for HBO to give us the fan-fiction version.
Now, nearly seven years later, I think it”s safe toworry over the likelihood of this series ever wrapping up. We”ll get Season 8 of the HBO version so one way or another we”ll get an ending, but after the lackluster writing in season 7that”s not such a hopeful prospect. Now, as the show slips into a mere shadow of what it once was, and as Martin continues to delay his next book, I think it”s reasonable tobegin burying our expectations.
Even ifThe Winds of Winterdoes come out in 2018 or 2019, how long will we have to wait until book seven? And even then, there”s no guarantee that the seventh book would be thefinalbook. (“I don”t consider A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE a series either,” writes Martin on his blog, it”s one single story, being published in (we hope) seven volumes.”) But in a best-case scenario whereWindscomes out in late 2018 or early 2019, that still leaves us with…another seven or eight years before book seven releases. That”s halfway through the next decade.How many moreGame of Thronesspin-offs will HBO put out between now and then? Martin is no spring chicken at 69. It”s reasonable to worry that he might not be able to finish at this rate and equally reasonable to suspect he doesn”t much care.
For fans who have stuck with these books for decades, it”s also reasonableto be angry about that, and to feel let down, because while Martin is the author of this tale, the fans are the ones who made it a huge success. I”ve said this before, but the reason we”re upset is because we love these stories and we have become huge superfans of Martin as a writer and storyteller and he”s become rich and famous. If fans weren”t upset by this never-ending wait for book seven (after suffering through similar waits for books four and five) Martin would be in a much worse position. As it stands, it”s love that drives our fury.
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.
If I”m wrong, I”ll happily eat my words.
P.S. I”ve heard from readers that some fans have gotten really angry with Martin, confronting him both online and in person very rudely. This is not the way. Please don”t do this. I think it”s good to express your frustration in forum posts, to friends, or when discussing articles like this one, but there”s no reason or need to make it personal. We don”t know why Martin can”t finish these books. We can be upset by it while still trying to be empathetic and compassionate. Don”t be one of those crazy fans that gives fandom a bad name. Be excellent to each other.
(Oh and for more on fandom, read this.)
Erik Kain writes a widely read and respected blog about video games, entertainment and culture at nacdb.com. He is a Shorty Award-nominated journalist and critic whose work
Erik Kain writes a widely read and respected blog about video games, entertainment and culture at nacdb.com. He is a Shorty Award-nominated journalist and critic whose work has appearedin The Atlantic, The National Review, Mother Jones, True/Slant and elsewhere. Kain co-founded the political commentary blog The League Of Ordinary Gentlemen, whose members have gone on to write at multiple major publications including The New York Times and Slate. He lives in Arizona with his family.