In April, George R.R. Martin announced he would publish a new book by the end of 2018. True to form, it would not be his years-late next book in the Song of Ice and Fire narrative, upon which the HBO show Game of Thrones is based.
Martin announced then that Fire & Blood, a 989-page history of the Targaryen family in the style of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, would come out Nov. 20. The book, he said, would cover the Targaryen kings, from Aegon I to the III, and would include “lots” of dragons. He was also sure to emphasize that the book wouldn’t exactly be for casual, plot-loving readers or watchers of the show.
Martin wrote, “I do want to stress… indeed, I want to shout… that FIRE & BLOOD is not a novel. This is not a traditional narrative and was never intended to be. … Everyone clear on that?”
This week, Martin re-affirmed that this is not the book his fans really want. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Martin said:
The important thing, as I keep stressing, is that it’s not a novel. I think it’s very entertaining—a lot of people will like it, I hope—but I don’t want them to buy it thinking that they’re getting the latest Ice and Fire novel, which is an entirely different literary form than what’s essentially a popular history.
Fans of the show may be long past caring about the existence of Martin’s books, as the plot overtook the novels in season six, which aired in 2016. But for purist fans of the book series, the delay on Winds of Winter has been agonizing, as Martin has continued to work on a seemingly endless list of projects that are not the sixth book.
Martin is not the first creator to warn fans in advance that they might not like what he’s about to produce. Indeed, fervent internet fandom is gaining unprecedented clout in Hollywood, and “fan service” does seem to guide plot lines and inside jokes on the HBO show. But Martin as an author seems to be suffering from a different problem: He has long promised he’ll finish Winds of Winter, and seems to genuinely care about feedback from his most loyal fans. But that’s still not enough to get him over the severe procrastination and rabbit-hole-burrowing that’s led him to this deep-cut historical non-novel.