Vanity Fair has an interview with George R.R. Martin in its April issue, and it sounds like the author is keenly aware of the speed with which the Game Of Thrones TV show is consuming the material in Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire books. It’s a wide-ranging chat that touches on the epiphanic origins of the fantasy epic and the difficulty of writing unpredictability into a story. Martin handles these topics and others with aplomb. But when the subject turns to the speed of the TV show’s production—compared to the relatively unhurried pace of Martin’s written output—the author rambles a bit.
See, the show has been turning out a new season every year, adapting either half a book or a whole book at a time. Meanwhile, Martin has two more entries planned in the series, and he’s taken about half a decade between each of the last couple books. The math doesn’t work out so well for the harried scribe. You can practically see Martin dab sweat from his forehead and take large, hurried gulps of ice water as he reveals his ramshackle plan to get everything done in time:
I’m hopeful that I can not let them catch up with me. The season that’s about to debut covers the second half of the third book. The third book [A Storm of Swords] was so long that it had to be split into two. But there are two more books beyond that, and A Dance With Dragons. A Dance With Dragons is itself a book that’s as big as A Storm of Swords. So there’s potentially three more seasons there, between Feast and Dance, if they split into two the way the did [with Swords]. Now, Feast and Dance take place simultaneously. So you can’t do Feast and then Dance the way I did. You can combine them and do it chronologically. And it’s my hope that they’ll do it that way and then, long before they catch up with me, I’ll have published The Winds of Winter, which’ll give me another couple years. It might be tight on the last book, A Dream of Spring, as they juggernaut forward.
The Vanity Fair interviewer offers Martin a lifeline, suggesting that Game Of Thrones could take a mid-season hiatus like Mad Men to buy some extra time. This seems to excite Martin, inspiring him to rattle off a bunch of other stalling tactics that he has concocted.
Spartacus went back and told a prequel season. That’s also an option. We have prequel. We have the Dunk and Egg novellas, which take place a hundred years before. And I’ve just published The Princess and the Queen, which takes place two hundred years before. So there’s lots of Westeros material out there, if we want to keep doing Westeros projects, but not necessarily that. But, you know, I realize—I don’t want to sound too glib about this. This is a serious concern.
When Game Of Thrones runs out of material in a few years, remember those ominous words: “We have prequel.”