Fans of Game Of Thrones, prepare yourself for some harsh but predictable news.
Publisher HarperCollins confirmed that the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, titled The Winds of Winter, will not be released this year. As a result, the ongoing HBO adaptation of the show will almost certainly conclude well before George R.R. Martin finishes the actual books it is based on. Fans of the series will be forced to either give up and watch the show or meticulously avoid spoilers for what might ultimately be years of waiting.
Mild spoilers: The fifth season of the HBO show will cover the (relatively slow-moving) fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows, as well as parts of the next book, A Dance With Dragons. That leaves approximately two seasons of the show left to film, and the producers have been adamant that they will not be adjusting their shooting schedule to fit Martin's whims. As Mashable's Chris Taylor reported, that means the show's sixth season will probably come out in 2016 and the finale in 2017.
That might leave Martin with barely enough time to squeeze out The Winds of Winter before HBO releases the season based on the book, assuming he finishes by early in 2016. Considering his track record of innumerable delays, that in and of itself may be a long shot despite the fact that sample chapters from the book have already been released online. Beyond that, it gets much hairier. Here's how long it's taken Martin to finish each book in the series:
That's right: While the first three books came out over the course of four years, the fourth book took five years to complete and the fifth took six. If this pattern continues, Martin's sixth book might just barely squeeze out by the time the next season of the show airs in 2016, and the seventh book could take until the 2020s, long after HBO has completed its adaptation. The Washington Post has speculated that the last book, A Dream of Spring, might not be out until 2023.
The show's producers have previously said that while they'd prefer to keep pace, "there is a ticking clock" on the television version, and they won't sacrifice the show's pacing to compensate for Martin's lackluster writing speed. They also pointed to the aging of the cast members playing the Stark children — it's not like Hodor can carry around a 20-year-old Bran.
Martin has said the rapid pace of the show is "alarming" but offered no plan to offset the potential "crisis." Since the producers already know how A Song of Ice and Fire ends, the reality is that HBO will likely opt to finish strong, and fans of the book will be left in the cold long after winter has come and gone.
In a message to fans who worried the 66-year-old writer would keel over and die before finishing the books, Martin had just two words (and they weren't Valar Morghulis):
Presumably he holds the same attitude now.
HarperCollins' Jane Johnson attempted to mollify fans, telling the Guardian, "These are increasingly complex books, and require immense amounts of concentration to write. Fans really ought to appreciate that the length of these monsters is equivalent to two or three novels by other writers." She added that fans could look forward to an illustrated collection of Martin's three prequel novels, which, coincidentally, have already been written.
But that probably won't keep fans, some of whom feel just as betrayed as Ned Stark, from scowling and throwing more shade the author's way. In the meantime, they can hold out for the far-fetched possibility that Martin will send an equally big "fuck you" to the producers and end his books in an entirely different way than the show ... or at least enough that the payoff will be worth the wait.