One of the main criticisms of late-era Game of Thrones was that, once the show had gotten out of range of the safety net of George R.R. Martin’s books, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were unable to sustain the mix of quality plotting and fantasy trope subversion that made the TV series a cultural phenomenon. Martin was diplomatic about, and supportive of, the series’ latter years. But he has now revealed that—unlike the first four seasons, when he wrote an episode for each, and helped with other scripts, casting decisions, and visited the set—as he stepped back to work on the next novels, he was gradually nudged further away from the show by Weiss and Benioff. “By Season 5 and 6, and certainly 7 and 8, I was pretty much out of the loop,” Martin told the New York Times. When asked why, Martin said “I don’t know—you have to ask Dan and David.” (The duo did not respond to the Times’ request for comment.)
He’s back in the loop for HBO’s new prequel series, House of the Dragon, which premieres August 21st, and is focused on ruptures in the Targaryen family, 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. According to the Times, Ryan Condal, one of the showrunners, has been working closely with Martin: The series is based on Martin’s 2018 spin-off novel, Fire & Blood, the first of a two-book series focused on the Targaryen history. Martin picked his old friend (and fellow fantasy obsessive) Condal to create the series, and the two have conferred often as the show has progressed.
Meanwhile, Martin continues to work on the final two novels in his Song of Fire & Ice series: It’s been 11 years since the release of book five, A Dance with Dragons. The completion date remains TBD, but Martin went out of his way to add that “his ending will be very different” from the way Benioff and Weiss concluded the TV version of his saga. While in previous interviews given closer to the divisive finale, he intimated that conversations between the three illuminated the path he’s still writing towards, this is the first time he’s strongly phrased the idea that his conclusion will vary greatly.
Back when the finale aired in 2019, Martin wrote on his website about the crucial differences between the parameters of wrapping up a television arc and concluding a book series. “I am working in a very different medium than David and Dan, never forget. They had six hours for this final season,” he wrote. “I expect these last two books of mine will fill 3000 manuscript pages between them before I’m done… and if more pages and chapters and scenes are needed, I’ll add them.”
It seems he has one eye on his novels, and the other on his show, and its competition. In a recent interview with the Independent, Martin spoke about the oft-discussed showdown between Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series and House of the Dragon. “I hope both shows succeed. I’m competitive enough. I hope we succeed more. If they win six Emmys–and I hope they do– I hope we win seven,” he said. “But nonetheless, it’s good for fantasy. I love fantasy. I love science fiction. I want more shows on television.”