There's big news for Game of Thrones fans. HBO has hired four writers to develop spinoffs of the show, which wraps next year. That doesn't necessarily mean all will make it to the screen. But there will almost undoubtedly be more sinister scheming in Westeros and Essos in our future.
Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have long said they won't stick around for any sequels or prequels. But Entertainment Weekly reported Thursday that the pair will indeed be involved to a lesser extent than they have on whatever series comes out of this, as executive producers. And they're not the only ones returning. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the series Game of Thrones is based on, will be fairly hands on. He's helping develop two of the four spin-off ideas, collaborating with Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, Kingsman) and Carly Wray (Mad Men, The Bastard Executioner).
This is good news -- in a way. Of course we want the man who invented such a vivid world to help create any extensions of that universe. But there's a downside, too: Is Martin ever going to get around to finishing his Game of Thrones books, which fans have been eagerly awaiting for years? It's not looking good.
To recap, when HBO premiered Game of Thrones in 2011, Martin had already written four of the planned seven books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Later that year he published the fifth novel, A Dance With Dragons. Some readers were concerned from the start that the show would catch up to Martin's story, given that it took him five years to complete Dance. Sure enough, the series raced right past the pages. The sixth season of the show was the first time book readers couldn't brag about knowing what was yet to come.
Martin was apologetic. He really thought he could finish his books before the series caught up, he told his fans. He has admitted in the past that he's a slow writer, but his pace wasn't entirely to blame in this case. Neither was writer's block.
"It's distraction," he said in 2014 during the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. "Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It's like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who's passing up a free trip to Dubai? I don't write when I travel. I don't write in hotel rooms. I don't write on airplanes. I really have to be in my own house undisturbed to write. Through most of my life nobody did bother me, but now everyone bothers me every day. I have assistants and minions whose main job is to make sure people don't bother me so I can actually get writing done."
His sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, was slated for release before the sixth season of the show premiered in 2016. But Martin couldn't get it done. In fact, now, just a few months before season seven's July premiere, readers are still waiting. Rumors swirl online that the book will finally be available this summer, but we should know better than to get our hopes up. With Martin it's never sooner, always later.
"Look, I have always had problems with deadlines," Martin wrote on his blog in 2016. "For whatever reason, I don't respond well to them."
Some might wonder why we even need the books at this point, since the series will keep chugging along to its conclusion in 2018. Weiss and Benioff never delayed the series (and HBO probably wouldn't let them). But the books and the series have never been identical. Martin has teased at least one twist in the next book involving a character who is dead on the show but still lives in print. There are many opportunities for the screen story and the book version to deviate.
So the waiting continues. And it could last a very long time. Even if Winds of Winter comes out this year, the final book could take ages to make it from Martin's brain onto the page.
Even before he was a co-executive producer on HBO's most successful series, Martin was hardly churning out novels at a steady clip. And now his "distractions" are multiplying, with these two potential spinoffs. For show fans who don't care that much about the novels, the good news is HBO isn't going to be as forgiving as Martin's editor about deadlines. The network isn't going to dilly-dally when it comes to delivering another surefire hit.