Pop Rocks: I'm Pretty Sure George R.R. Martin Is Never Going to Finish Game of Thrones

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The third season of HBO's Game of Thrones premieres in ten days. In addition to the requisite direwolves, dragons and bears (oh my), we'll be seeing another new face:

Among the many gray-bearded men on HBO's "Game of Thrones" this upcoming season will be the one true wizard of Westeros.

George R.R. Martin, the author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire books" on which the hit HBO series is based, will be making a cameo in Season 3, showrunner David Benioff told Deadline.com at a Tuesday night event at Hollywood Chinese Theatre.

Fans of the TV series are probably noncommittal about Martin joining the scores of hirsute fellows already on display. Fans of the books, on the other hand, would probably prefer an update on The Winds of Winter (the next book in the series) to yet another example of Martin's apparent disinsterest in completing A Song of Ice and Fire before 2025, if at all.

I'm (mostly) of two minds about this. On one hand, ASOIAF is Martin's baby, and he can proceed as he pleases. He got his first break writing for TV, so for all I know he misses the collaborative nature of the endeavor, especially now that no one is cutting stuff from his stories (the lessons of Beauty and the Beast are hard-earned). The success of his works has allowed him freedom to visit with his fans at conventions and pursue other interests and not write for a paycheck. I don't begrudge him that (and, truth be told, I'm more than a little envious).

On the other, he can't simultaneously get all pissy when fans of the books -- who were in large part responsible for the success of the HBO series and have made him one of the best-selling authors in the world -- wonder why he's spending time working on a TV prequel to Game of Thrones when the series itself is years away from being finished.

I mean, Dunk and Egg? Do something with Robert's Rebellion, if you must, or the old days of the Night's Watch, or a history of the Free City of Braavos, for crying out loud, but William Blake? Dunk and Egg? Why not a tale about the Clegane brothers' wacky childhood high jinks?

It's a vicious circle: Martin is tight-lipped about updates, knowing he's made predictions in the past that were way off (especially with regard to book three (A Dance with Dragons); this leads to increased fan bitching, which in turn leads to further clamming up on Martin's part. The latest update on his Web page (in the section helpfully called "Ice and Fire Update") is from April, 2011, and it's simply the word "FINISHED," referring to ADWD. Aside from the occasional vague muttering about page counts, there's been no official word on the release of TWOW.

Some are worried about HBO catching up with the books. I didn't used to be, but lately I'm not so sure. Season Three of the TV series will be the first half of the third book (A Storm of Swords). Now, giving each book a minimum of two seasons (and that's a big if, especially for Book 4), and with one year to produce/film same, it'd still be 2018 before HBO used up the available material.

I'd always assumed Martin would (at least) be finished with the next book by then, but some recent comments of his have made me reassess that position. First, Martin himself has acknowledged the possibility the TV series will catch up with him. Second, he's on record as saying he doesn't want anyone to complete the series if he dies before it's finished, à la Robert Jordan. He's 64 years old and reportedly in good health, but if each successive book takes six to seven years, he'll be in his early 70s before everything's finished, and that's taking the optimistic position that two more books is all it will take to wrap things up.

Third, he's remarked that GoT producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know how the story's supposed to end and what happens to the main characters, meaning the TV show has his virtual blessing to continue even after he's gone. Is that Martin's way of taking the pressure off himself? Are we really going to see a new Wild Cards novel before Winds of Winter?

I guess I should thank the guy. Because of the lengthy wait between books, I've sworn off ever reading another unfinished fantasy series again (what's up, David Gerrold fans?).

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