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George R.R. Martin’s Winds of Winter Won’t Be Out Before Game of Thrones’ Sixth Season

George R.R. Martin at the premiere of HBO’s Game Of Thrones on March 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

2015 was the fourth consecutive year in which George R.R. Martin failed to publish Winds of Winter, the sixth novel in his Song of Ice and Fire septet. That wasn’t surprising—HarperCollins confirmed last January that the book would likely come in 2016—but recent rumors had fans hoping that, at the very least, it would arrive before Game of Thrones’ season six premiere this April.

That scenario is no longer possible. In a long, apologetic missive posted on his LiveJournal today, Martin admits that “the book’s not done.” He goes on at some length about why that’s the case—missed deadlines, colossal pressure, plain old writer’s block—but concludes by noting that he’s reverted to his stance from last March: “It will be done when it’s done.” Which, honestly, is the most sensible approach here, for both fans and author alike.

As for the more pressing question—will Game of Thrones next season “spoil” the books?—Martin has a more ambiguous answer:

I can’t think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written. So when you ask me, “will the show spoil the books,” all I can do is say, “yes and no,” and mumble once again about the butterfly effect. Those pretty little butterflies have grown into mighty dragons. Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all… because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so. 

In short, the show will obviously tread ground Martin hasn’t; also obviously, the show and book series are two distinct pieces of art, and have been for some time. So take heart: Winter is coming. It’s just a little later than expected.