One of Game of Thrones bard George R.R. Martin’s most endearing qualities is that he still maintains Not a Blog, his LiveJournal. One of Martin’s most frustrating qualities is that he semiregularly updates that LiveJournal with dispatches from his life as a cult fantasy author turned accidental steward of the most valuable IP on television — but those dispatches never, ever amount to “You know that book I’ve been promising for six years and counting? I finished it!”
The frustration, it turns out, is mutual. Martin’s dearest wish for a bundle of planned Thrones spinoff series is that they don’t become as much of a headache for him as Thrones has.
Martin’s non–Winds of Winter–publication-date missives — which is to say, all of them — are marked by an endearing peevishness. That prickly tone was on full display in Sunday’s post, “About Those Spinoffs …,” a characteristically long note on the slew of potential Game of Thrones follow-up series HBO is developing. “For what it’s worth, I don’t especially like the term ‘spinoff,’ and I don’t think it really applies to these new projects,” Martin began. He wants us to understand that he prefers the term “successor show,” which will almost certainly not catch on, for series set in the same universe but starring different characters. Most importantly, though, he wants us to know that two of the most popular possibilities for dramatizing well-known bits of Westerosi history are out of the running, and for a deeply understandable reason: George R.R. Martin has no interest in getting lapped again.
“I don’t have the pages yet” was a defining part of Martin’s brand as far back as 2011, when The New Yorker ran a profile of him straightforwardly titled “Just Write It!” In 2017, his tone has gradually morphed from apologetic to ever-so-slightly adversarial (though admirably transparent and still pretty apologetic). Martin wants us to understand that “we are not talking Joey or AfterMASH or even Frazier [sic] or Lou Grant,” so we can stop asking for a prequel rom-com about Oberyn Martell’s sexual misadventures. And there’s a bunch of other stuff we won’t get, either, because Martin doesn’t want to create yet another runaway train that adds to the already significant pressure of writing at his own pace.
So Robert’s Rebellion, the massive civil war before the massive civil war on Game of Thrones, won’t get its own show because “by the time I finish writing A Song of Ice and Fire, you will know every important thing that happened in Robert’s Rebellion.” The Tales of Dunk and Egg, the ongoing series of prequel novellas costarring a future Kingsguard commander and a future Targaryen king, won’t happen either, because “I’ve only written and published three novellas to date, and there are at least seven or eight or 10 more I want to write … I don’t want to repeat what happened with Game of Thrones itself, where the show gets ahead of the books. When the day comes that I’ve finished telling all my tales of Dunk and Egg, then we’ll do a TV show about them … but that day is still a long ways off.”
In other words: Even if you don’t trust Martin to finish up soon, Martin does, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is by claiming the exclusive right to tell (and finish) some particularly popular stories. We will find out about Robert’s Rebellion; we’ll just do so in the books Martin will publish, eventually. We will get enough material for a Dunk and Egg show — it’s just that we’re not there yet! It’s an outlook best described as “combative optimism”: Martin believes in himself, and he’s strong-arming his readers into believing in him, too.
The post is yet another not-quite-explicit admission that drafting the blueprint for the biggest TV show of our modern era in real time is not particularly pleasant, and not an experience Martin would like to replicate. Martin clearly has mixed emotions about Game of Thrones’ extraordinary popularity, and he’s intriguingly open about them on his defiantly old-fashioned personal platform. Not a Blog has always been a fascinating peek into the creative process, with all the glory and frustration that entails. Now we get to watch Martin take back some agency from Thrones’ runaway train. This is his story, and he’s going to decide how it’s told.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.