(Originally Posted on January 2016)

Over the weekend, George R. R. Martin took to the Internet to admit defeat. The author of the popular A Song of Fire and Ice novels will not have the sixth volume of the fantasy saga, titled Winds of Winter, ready before HBO debuts the sixth season of the televised adaptation. Martin and his American publisher (Bantam) had hoped to release the book by late March but the author admitted that for various reasons he had missed several deadlines necessary to edit the manuscript and rush Winter to store shelves. Martin offered no possible date on when the sixth volume will be complete while the sixth season of Game of Thrones debuts on HBO April 17th.

While fans are naturally disappointed (and maybe feeling a little taken for granted), this could very well be a good thing, giving them the kind of choice other fans can only dream of.

Martin’s progress on the series has always been laboriously slow. The first book, A Game of Thrones (where the show finds its name) was released in 1996; in the two decades since, Martin has added just four more books to the series, albeit enormous ones (the fourth and fifth volumes were initially one manuscript that he split up and revised). The last title to grace store shelves, A Dance of Dragons, was published in 2011, six years after A Feast For Crows. Speed has never been one of Martin’s strong suits, especially considering his other obligations (including his role as producer and social media cheerleader for the show).

Thrones producers had already admitted that they were writing scripts using Martin’s notes as a guideline. That isn’t unusual given the liberties the show has increasingly taken as it has progressed, diverging from the original source material while still respecting the spirit of the story (as evidenced by several controversial scenes from last season). There are entire message boards devoted to dissecting the differences between the two, often passing judgment on which version was better. It isn’t inconceivable that when the show concludes, most likely in 2017, its finish could be dramatically different then Martin’s planned conclusion for the books.

So take heart book fans, while it may be painful realizing you have to wait longer for Winds of Winter, the last thing you want is for any portion of this epic to be rushed, especially the final two volumes. Given how long it has taken Martin to publish five books so far, could you imagine the disappointment in the finished product if he sped through simply for the sake of meeting a deadline? In the likely event that it will take him several years to conclude his ubertale of Westeros, you can savour the inevitable differences in how he wraps everything up and how Thrones’ show runners decide to. You’ll actually have two different versions of the same story to compare and enjoy. And it isn’t as though the seventh and final tome in Martin’s epic will see the light of day for at least another five years, so even if he managed to get book six out by St. Patrick’s Day, there was no way book seven was going to be published before season seven hit cable waves in April of 2017. Falling behind was inevitable and fans are better off seeing it happen sooner rather then later.

Look at this for what it is, a rare chance to play “Which Ending Do I Like Better?” Because when Martin concludes his epic, you’ll have the opportunity to choose which ending you prefer-books or show. Because as we all know, the road to TV hell is paved with the endings of beloved and long running shows that fell well short of the expectations of loyal and devoted fan bases. Just ask fans of and a hundred others how much they’d like an option B to wrap those stories up.

Shayne Kempton


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