George R.R. Martin’s Apology is Touching (and Unnecessary)

This past Friday, author George R.R. Martin took to his blog to let readers know his eagerly anticipated novel The Winds of Winter (the latest in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series) would not be finished any time soon. Martin acknowledged that fans would be disappointed, but that no one could be more disappointed than himself.

In the past, Martin has been reticent to share specifics about his novels in progress, but wrote that he felt obligated to do so with the April premiere of “Game of Thrones” Season 6 just around the corner. With the completion of Season 5, the TV series has covered everything in print. With the delay of The Winds of Winter, the show will have outpaced the book series it is based on.

It has to be a difficult situation to be in, and Martin wrote candidly about the depression he has experienced since missing his deadline, and how difficult this has made completing the book. Possibly anticipating a fan backlash, Martin told readers that if they needed to blame anyone, they should blame him.

The vast majority of his fans are very nice people, but the rare exceptions are particularly troublesome: They are the readers who greet any project of Martin’s that isn’t a new A Song of Ice and Fire book with unabated fury, and the ones who openly speculate about his health and question whether he’ll “pull a Jordan” before the series is complete. (The latter a reference to fantasy author Robert Jordan, a friend of Martin’s, who died before finishing his own epic fantasy saga.)

A lot of pressure stems from the entertainment industry, too. News chatter about “Game of Thrones” almost inevitably returns to the topic of Martin and his much anticipated novel. It’s almost as if some people find more amusement in watching Martin racing against time to complete the books before the show ends rather than actually reading them.

By Martin’s own admission, deadlines have always been difficult. He’s committed to excellence, and excellence takes time. It can’t be helping matters to turn on television and see the book’s delay become a running joke on Comedy Central’s “South Park,” or to see a song like Paul and Storm’s “Write Like the Wind (George R.R. Martin)” become a viral online sensation.

There have been signs that things are changing for Martin. News of the book’s delay was met with overwhelming support from his fans, and entertainment publication Variety reassured Martin fans that things were going to be “okay,” one way or another. Compare this to the vitriol that Martin faced a few years ago during the lead-up to the prior book in the series, A Dance With Dragons.

Like it or not, Martin is going to write the way he writes, and the book will be done when it is done. We should be thankful for that. An excellent novel delayed is far preferable to a terrible novel delivered. If we love his work, we can show it by giving him the time and space he needs to create it.