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Why George R.R. Martin Will Likely Need An Eighth Book To Finish The Game Of Thrones Saga

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The background:

In 1995, fantasy author George R.R. Martin gave his agent the first 200 pages of a novel titled "A Game Of Thrones," along with a plan for a trilogy called "A Song Of Ice And Fire." Nearly 20 years later, the series has sprawled to five long books, with two more planned, and — despite years of denials from Martin — now his editor has said that "maybe eight books" is a possibility.

Maybe eight books? After the runaway success of the series, selling more than 24 million books in the U.S. alone and adapted to become the most successful HBO franchise ever, the author's history of undelivered deadline promises, and a slew of huge emerging plot lines in the most recent installment, an eighth book seems more and more likely.

While this may annoy some fans, many of us would be happy to read extra pages of the epic story.

The Trilogy Gets LongerShortly after submitting his outline for a trilogy, Martin realized he would need more space for the growing plot and added a fourth novel into the plan. By the time he completed "A Game of Thrones," released in 1996, the plan was for six books in two linked trilogies. "A Clash Of Kings" followed in 1998 and was the first of the series to appear on The New York Times Best Seller list. "A Storm Of Swords," published several months behind schedule in 2000, was even more popular. The first two books were long, averaging 1,100 pages, but the third was immense at 1,521 pages.

The second trilogy, supposed to take place five years after the first, was scheduled to launch in 2002, but Martin ran into unexpected troubles. He had expanded the story to focus on settings that were only mentioned in earlier books, and the page count, which publishers had asked him to keep under 1,200, was already longer than the previous book. He had also started rethinking the five-year jump, originally meant to give time for younger characters and young dragons to age, and ended up abandoning it. Martin took a friend's advice and divided the plot lines into two books, which took place at approximately the same time. Controversially, he saved the most popular characters for the fifth book.

The new target was for a seven-book series.

"A Feast For Crows" finally came out in 2005. Fans were already frustrated by the delay and complained even more when they saw Martin had left out so many key characters and plot lines. Although Martin promised to release the next book within a year, the author struggled with a series of plot complications nicknamed the Meereneese Knot. It would be an unthinkable five more years before "A Dance With Dragons" came out in 2011. The book was 1,600 pages, and Martin still could not fit a climactic battle sequence and left several major characters in cliffhangers.

Which brings us to "The Winds Of Winter" and a whole host of plot lines that Martin is trying to fit into just two more books. At this point, Martin’s commentary on the firmness of the seven-book plan is this: “I’m as firm as I am,” Martin said, “until I decide not to be firm.”

Spoiler Alert: The article elucidates all the unresolved plot lines after book 5:

GRRM was disappointed by the ending of LOST:

If the history of the series has taught us anything, it’s that the plot lines are unpredictable, complicated, and have lots of potential for extending beyond their original goal. Though Martin knows where the main characters will end up, how they get there is a whole different story.

Readers seem divided in their opinion of the extension of the series into eight books. One school of thought argues that, in typical George R.R. Martin style, we’re about to witness a massacre of characters in the onslaught of winter. This would reduce the number of open-ended plot lines and make seven book more feasible, but it might not necessarily resolve them in a satisfying way. Which is why many fans believe that, in order for a well-written conclusion, there will be an eighth epic novel.

Martin has repeatedly expressed commitment to providing a terrific ending for fans, as he knows what it’s like to experience disappointment at the hands of a series. Martin went on record as feeling “cheated” at the conclusion of "Lost," and considered it a huge letdown with multiple narratives left unsolved. If he intends to do the fantastically crafted story justice, he will need more pages.

Though readers morbidly joke that we hope 65-year-old Martin doesn't die before the books are finished, and extending the series into eight books would increase the risk of that actually happening, many would rather have a longer but well-written conclusion. 

At the end of the day, Martin will continue to do what he's always done: write at his own creative pace, and at whatever length he believes is necessary for his story to be told.

Vanity Fair explains why we should be worried about Game of Thrones season 5:

arya stark game of thrones maisie williams

Now that our Game of Thrones Season 4 watch has ended (har har), I think it’s safe to say that it was a pretty good run of episodes, right? Major characters died, there were some gnarly fights, and we got to spend some time in bed with Oberyn Martell before his head got squished. There was also plenty of genuinely great writing and acting to savor this season, from Tyrion’s tearful prison-cell scenes to Sansa Stark’s dark coming-of-age. There was much to admire about Season 4. Well, I hope you all enjoyed this season as much as I did, because as the show moves forward, it’s headed into some seriously uncertain territory.

O.K., I’ll cop to having written basically the same thing last year, urging fans of the show who had not read the books the series is based on to keep calm as the show began to morph into something nearly unrecognizable, and not as good. As it turned out, I probably acted a bit too hastily.

This past season, which roughly mirrored the second half of the third book in the series, proved as compelling as any other season of Game of Thrones. Most importantly, the writers tidily and smartly elided and connected story lines so the show could move rather elegantly through what becomes, in the books, a compellingly knotty but frequently disorienting jumble of places, names, and histories. So we were granted a reprieve, it would seem, from the narrative frustrations that have plagued readers for two books now.

But, alas, I’m afraid that grace period is up. As Arya sails across the Narrow Sea and Tyrion is shipped away, the show is barreling toward what I worry is inevitable confusion and disappointment. Certain beloved characters will stay stuck and stagnant (anyone hoping that Daenerys will get out of the dang slave desert anytime soon should probably stop holding their breath), while a bunch of new characters are introduced who, as far as any of us have read anyway, really don’t have anything interesting to do. Will viewers be happy to meet more salty, stolid Iron Islanders? Will various antics involving other Dornish folk intrigue them as much as Oberyn’s plotline did? I’m just not sure they will.

The show, at least, has one advantage over the books. What has proven especially frustrating to readers making their way through the series is that Martin completely omits main characters from book four before returning to them in book five. Meaning, fans went years, or at least many pages, without updates on Bran, Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon Snow, and others. The show can’t just forget about crucial characters for an entire season, so presumably that problem is solved. But still there’s all this business of the new guys, of Victarion and Quentyn and Jon Connington and others, to be dealt with. It’s hard to see how the show can streamline all that narrative expansion (the books just keep growing, and growing, and growing) into something as propulsive and, for the most part, cohesive as the last four seasons have been.

As an ardent fan of the books, I am also concerned that, as happened once or twice this season, Weiss and Benioff’s privileged knowledge of the series’s ultimate trajectory will result in accidental spoilers about the next two books. But if too much of that starts happening, it might simply be a sign that it’s time to stop watching the show and wait, perhaps in vain, for Martin to finish his books.

The series needs to find its own way, as its own entity. Now that they’ve made their way through the best and most exciting book so far, it’s really time the show exerts its independence. It could be bumpy for a while—ever hear of a Kingsmoot? Because you’re about to hear a lot about a Kingsmoot—but this show has proven again and again, no more so than this past season, that it can confidently navigate its way through Martin’s wild world, judiciously honoring or ignoring the original text as need be. In some ways, this season was a little test to see how the show could handle some extratextual outings. I’d say they passed. But the next couple of seasons will be the real trial. And, unlike Tyrion, the show will have to be its own champion.

This article originally appeared at Vanity Fair. Copyright 2014. Follow Vanity Fair on Twitter.

SEE ALSO:  'Game Of Thrones' Is Officially The Most Popular Show In HBO History

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