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How Many Seasons?

Here we go again.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY is doing a big double-issue about GAME OF THRONES. Four gorgeous variant covers (collect them all, kids!), and pages and pages of material... including a sidebar feature about how long the series will run.


This discussion is nothing new, of course. I get asked similar questions every time I make a public appearance, do an interview, or walk a red carpet. My usual answer is a variant on, "I don't know how many seasons the show will run."

I don't know. No one knows.

This is Hollywood, friends. As William Goldman wrote in ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, in Hollywood "nobody knows anything."

I do know that David & Dan have stated in interviews that they see the show winding up in seven seasons. People send me emails about that every time I say "I don't know" in response to the question, as if I were somehow unaware of what D&D have said. I'm not.

I also know that HBO wants the series to run longer than that. I have known that since the very beginning... well, actually, since the day after the second episode of season one aired, when I had lunch with one of HBO's top execs, who told me, "We want this to run ten years." I allowed that ten years sounded fine to me. I continue to hear similar sentiments from HBO every time I have meeting with them, be it in LA or New York.

And it should be pointed out that neither ten seasons or even seven is locked in. Right now, GAME OF THRONES is guaranteed only six seasons. That's all HBO has officially committed to, by contract. We can speculate about additional seasons beyond that, but that's all it is, speculation. A lot of things can happen between now and season seven, or eight, or nine, things that cannot be anticipated. Believe me, I've been there. I was on staff on an hour-long TV series that was pulled off the air and retooled as a half-hour show. I was on staff on another show that could easily have run five, six seasons... until our lead actress left, and took most of our audience with her. I had a pilot that was so hot that the network ordered six back-up scripts and all but guaranteed us a midseason slot... but without an actual production order, that meant nothing when the network underwent some big personnel changes, and new people came in.

I am not saying that any of these things will happen with GAME OF THRONES. But they could. Weird stuff happens in television, and there are sooooo many factors involved. Budgets. Actors' contracts. New shows in development. Ratings (though HBO does not weigh ratings as heavily as the broadcast networks, that does not mean they are unaware of them). Awards.

HBO usually renews their shows for one season at a time. It was very unusual, last year, when they stepped up soon after the season four debut to order both season five and season six. Bloggers and journalists can speculate as they please, but none of it will mean anything until next year, when season six begins to air. Around the time that the second episode of season six is showing, HBO will order season seven, we hope... or maybe, just maybe, they will order seasons seven AND eight. But even if they just order season seven, that doesn't mean that the show will end in seven; it could just represent a return to the original policy of committing to only one season at a time.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying what I said to begin with: no one knows.

I see that this new crop of stories also raises, once again, the notion of concluding the series with one or more feature films. And in some of these stories, once again, this idea is wrongly attributed to me. Let me state, yet again, that while I love this idea, it did NOT originate with me. It was a notion suggested to me, which I have enthusiastically endorsed... but since I was the first person to raise the possibility in public, somehow I am being seen as its father.

Sure, I love the idea. Why not? What fantasist would not love the idea of going out with an epic hundred million feature film? And the recent success of the IMAX experience shows that the audience is there for such a movie. If we build it, they will come. But will we build it? I have no bloody idea.

As we go forward, I expect I will have a voice in all these decisions. But mine will only be one voice among many, and there are all sorts of other factors that can come into play. I will say, I am incredibly fortunate in having partners like HBO, and David Benioff and Dan Weiss. Seven seasons, ten seasons, with or without one or two feature films... in the end, all that matters is that we tell a great story, with a great end.


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Jordan Ray
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:13 am (UTC)
Old Venus
Different subject. I'm reading and loving Old Venus, and was wondering about the process of editing a volume like this. How do the editors decide the order of the stories? How much say do editors have over the content of the stories? Without specifics, have you as an editor ever had to recommend that a story radically change?

Again, I'm really loving the book!
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
Re: Old Venus
Off topic... you should post this on my OLD VENUS post.

Every editor works differently. In our case, Gardner usually selects the order of the stories. I look over the TOC and make suggestions. Yes, we do sometimes suggest radical changes, but not often. If you pick your contributors right, it usually is not necessary. These books are invitation only, so all our writers are seasoned professionals.
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
in the end, all that matters is that we tell a great story, with a great end.

As a forever book fan, while I love the HBO series all that really matters to *me* is that *you*, Mr. Martin, get to finish telling *your* great story (on your own timetable of course) in print. Everything else, including the HBO show, is gravy.
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:28 am (UTC)
Books and the show
George... I know you don't want to talk much about the books, and I understand and respect that... but I am concerned about the speed of the show and the new books. Is the show going to deviate so much from the books that they will now be 2 different things? Or will you allow the show to spoil the books? I like the show, but I love the books, and think those should come first. The show should adapt your story from the page. Love ya man!
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Books and the show
Thank you! Totally agree. I am so upset that the people who watch the show will know the end of the story before the people who only read the books (like myself).
Re: Books and the show - saxster - Mar. 13th, 2015 10:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Scott Hanberg
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:37 am (UTC)
More Seasons
You've certainly supplied them with enough content to make many more seasons. And if they end of making their own ending, well that'll be even better. The show being the show and the books being the books.
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:41 am (UTC)
Was there ever any discussion of the difficulties relating to the child stars getting older over the course of the series? With a long running series, I would assume some thought must have gone into it. Yet the child characters on GoT are now so famous and popular that pulling a Bobby (from Mad Men) and chucking new actors into the roles every season would almost certainly result in lynch mobs and the like.

My own thinking is, when Hodor is lugging around a 30 year old Bran Stark, it might be time to start winding the series to a close.

Edited at 2015-03-13 02:43 am (UTC)
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
There's no doubt, our young actors have grown up much faster than the characters they portray.

No way to avoid that. It is what it is.
(no subject) - ahaplessnewbie - Mar. 13th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 13th, 2015 02:48 am (UTC)
George, do you ever worry about how people will react to the ending? The series is well known for its surprises, but some of the best endings in fantasy didn't come as a surprise to readers, while most of the worst ones did.
Are you trying to avoid that in ASOIAF? Trying to make it satisfying without shocking readers?
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:08 am (UTC)
I've tried to provide a strong ending for every story I have ever written. ICE & FIRE will be no exception.

Will you all like the ending?

Some will. Some won't.

That's going to be true no matter how I end it.
(no subject) - Fairfax - Mar. 13th, 2015 03:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Mar. 13th, 2015 05:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marlowe1 - Mar. 13th, 2015 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Strong endings - Christian Heup - Mar. 14th, 2015 12:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:03 am (UTC)
A better question
A more interesting question is how many books?

A lot of people in the fandom feel there is no way the story will be wrapped up in 2 more books given the timeline parallels with the leaked trilogy concept.
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:08 am (UTC)
Re: A better question
I am still aiming for two more books.

But of course I have been wrong before.
Re: A better question - fitzochris - Mar. 13th, 2015 06:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A better question - NoxPixie - Mar. 14th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Keith Riskey
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:13 am (UTC)
I'm rooting for 10 seasons and a movie
More time to enjoy the show. And possibly even time to finish the books before the show ends.
Robert Pemberton
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
Thank you.
I appreciate your transparency George R.R. Martin. I love the shows and the books, keep up the great work. I'm reading Dreamsongs Vol. 1 right now which helps me appreciate your writing in GoT even more. It's amazing to read where you came from and your roots in comics and scifi writing as it lead you to this series.

Edited at 2015-03-13 03:47 am (UTC)
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:46 am (UTC)
Is the non-Game of Thrones but still Westeros material included in whatever contract you have with HBO? If they wanted to do a Dunc and Egg series, would that be a whole new cycle of negotiation, or would that be rolled into "Well, we already have the rights to this?"

I suspect they don't, but, hey, Hollywood, and I don't doubt someone will try to make that argument.

In the meantime, if they come looking for more material, point out that the voyages of Corlys Velaryon could make for a really interesting series.
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:36 pm (UTC)
Those rights would need to be negotiated separately.
Vera de Ferran
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:49 am (UTC)
I know you always says that the books and the series are different things, but can they write the series end anytime, spoiling the books end?
Mar. 18th, 2015 12:00 am (UTC)
He has said that D&D know the general outlines of the ending of the story. I also don't know if that is how they HAVE to end it. They could, for this very reason, just make a separate ending (perhaps one that doesn't answer every question, leaving room for a feature film) for the show.
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:50 am (UTC)
Season 6
"the books are the books and the show is the show"...

Will season 6 be an entirely "the show is the show"? I think that is something Hollywood should already know by now
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:53 am (UTC)
[Sorry for the off-topic comment, but the book is very old and I don't think you've mentioned it in the blog recently]

How accurate is the information in the Tabletop RPG book of A Song of Ice and Fire after FEAST and DANCE?
I've been wanting to ask this because fans have been debating the military strength of the regions in Westeros for more than a decade, including Elio and Linda.

Thousands of your fans play RPGs and strategy games based on your books everyday, it would mean a lot to us if you could help us put this debate to rest.

These are the army sizes in that book, by the way:
Ronald Grimsson
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:55 am (UTC)
If the series concludes with two theatrical movies, each with a 100 million dollar budget, how exactly is that going to work? Since each would be at least 90 minutes long, two would mean three TV-episodes. Will they be shown as regular episodes first and then on the theatres, or vice versa?

And since you are one of the most powerful men in the business now, is there any hope that we will see the unscreened pilot in a future DCD-release?
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC)
Take that "most powerful" stuff with a grain of salt, please.

And no, I doubt that the original pilot will ever be screened.
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:59 am (UTC)
Hear! Hear! Thanks again for sharing deep thoughts from George RR Martin! ;) I know that could sound "cheeky", but it's really sincere appreciation for your candor and never tiring attention to your fans. You're especially responsive tonight and that's always fun to see too. I for one am psyched for the new season and waiting for TWOW is an exercise in patience and a good reminder that, you can't always get what you want when you want it so, practice some ZEN centering or life will just be that much more difficult than it needs to be. You don't know George, but YOU are MY Zen Master. :) Sensei Martin.

Edited at 2015-03-13 07:44 pm (UTC)
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:39 am (UTC)
How nig was it?
The IMAX experience - how did it do, dollar-wise, and did it surpass expectations? Love the worlds you have created!
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: How nig was it?
It vastly exceeded expectations.
Mar. 13th, 2015 06:17 am (UTC)
Definitive question
While I love the show, I have a bigger question that I think lots of readers and viewers alike will want answered; will you write any scripts for Season 6 and onwards? Some have argued that you and D&D are on bad terms judging by how you stopped writing scripts for the show. But of course I know by your words alone that you made that decision to work on KONG.

However if you write at least a script for the final season it can be seen as a seal of approval in a way and that you're still trying to make the best possible story with D&D even if the 'show is the show and the books are the books'. I personally hope that the episode you would write for the final season will be the series finale.

Even if the show is D&D's adaptation and some key elements of the end-game may have been omitted, it'd still be a great feeling to watch the ending of the story as written by the author himself. But of course you may want the show to have a different ending to not spoil the books?
Mar. 13th, 2015 06:38 am (UTC)
I've said it before, but unless TWOW miraculously materializes before the end of 2015, season five might have to be the last one I watch. I really enjoy the show, and I don't necessarily have qualms about them changing or streaming material to suit a 10-episode visual format, but I have no interest in learning the outcomes of the Battle of Winterfell, the Battle of Meereen, or Cersei's trial via proxy.

Bran's absence next season is actually a bit of a comfort for me, because it means they're trying to keep his journey at a common velocity with the rest of the story. The real concern for me is Sansa, who only has one published chapter left to adapt, and it's her scenes that will have my index finger hovering over the mute button.

I know that might sound a bit precious, but the show is genuinely starting to alter my perception of certain aspects of the story, and I'd really like to experience the final act as it was intended, rather than HBO's cliff-notes. Resolving little mysteries and giving tidbits of lore outside the book's scope is one thing (e.g., the White Walker youth outreach program), but I managed to spoil myself on a couple of major events in the first three books (such as the Red Wedding), and while I don't think it robbed those events of any narrative substance (and, indeed, they have grown richer upon rereads), their emotional impact was reduced, and I didn't quite feel the raw vulnerability and surprise that I think George intended me to feel. And I don't want to cheat myself of that experience for the final phase of this awesome series. :)
Mar. 13th, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
100 million movie feature?
Pfft. With the GoT pulling power you should be able to wrangle 250 mil.
We want them dragons on big screen to look damn good!
Leave the 100 mil stuff to newly acquired Miami Dolphin defensive tackles.
Mar. 13th, 2015 10:46 am (UTC)
About Show and Books
Dear Mr. Martin!

I am Daniel from Hungary. I love your books, your story, your characters. I don't want to force you in relation to writing, because ASOIAF is your world.

But, to tell the truth, I wanna know the end of story from last books even if I like HBO's series. I don't want to finish watching 'Game of Thrones'.

As I saw in four season, there were many differences between books and GoT so I hope maybe the end of show will be different than end of books.
For example, one of my favourite female character is Arianne and she won't be in fifth season. Or Aegon (I didn't hear news about his cast).

My question is: if show will catch up the books or GoT will finish the story before last two books will be published how will you feel about it?

Thanks your answer!

Greetings from Hungary! :)

Edited at 2015-03-13 10:47 am (UTC)
Emma Gaia Seljan
Mar. 13th, 2015 10:47 am (UTC)
I'm worried about the show overtaking the books, and so my friends. Many of them decided not to watch Season 5, because they're afraid of spoilers. Yes, knowing how it ends shouldn't make the journey any less fun: knowing that the Titanic sank didn’t make the movie any less successful. Before reading the books we can be certain that Harry Potter will defeat Voldemort, and before watching the films it’s a safe bet that Luke Skywalker will triumph over the evil Empire. The destination is never as important as the journey itself, but A Song of Ice and Fire is not a predictable story, and it is only by you that we, the readers, would like to know the epilogue. May I ask you if you think that we are right when we fear tv spoilers ruin the reading experience?
Mar. 13th, 2015 11:46 am (UTC)
George forget fantasy writing for a minute and lets talk about our real fantasy, I call it 'The dream of a New York Jets super bowl title'. This has been the strongest offseason in the teams history in my opinion, I've been tremendously impressed with the way they have gone about improving the roster, especially the secondary. Here is a picture to get you excited!

Mar. 13th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC)
Funny picture.

But off topic. This should have gone to my Jets post, down page.
Byron Gillan
Mar. 13th, 2015 12:02 pm (UTC)
The Future Seasons
I don't understand how something can be stated and reiterated as many times as the "finish in a film or seven/eight season" discussion, and yet people can still hound HBO/The Showrunners/You for info like they've never heard a single ounce of information on the matter... Mind boggling.

I am wondering something however, about the show adaption by HBO. Do you prefer the show staying true to the work its based upon, or do you feel that an adaption to a new medium should experiment with the base structure of the story or try something different? Would you prefer seeing alternate stories explored or different outcomes to events both past and future in the novels? I've heard multiple takes on this from a few published authors i've interviewed, who've had adaptions based on their works, and it seems their all very split on the philosophy behind what makes a good adaption of a work.
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC)
Re: The Future Seasons
My view on ALL translations from page to screen -- not just GAME OF THRONES, please note -- is that the best adaptations stay as close to the source material as possible.

(Melinda Snodgrass have had many amusing debates on this subject at conventions).

Certain changes are always going to be required, as dictated by the realities of budget, shooting schedule, production requirements, and the like. But going beyond that is always a risk. The best Marvel movies, for instance, are those that stay closest to Stan Lee.

There is a reason a book or a comic is closer for adaptation, after all. Hollywood does not buy bad novels or comic books; they are cherry-picking the good stuff.

That being said, no adaptation can be completely faithful. We are dealing with different mediums, and there are always hard practical considerations.
Re: The Future Seasons - ahaplessnewbie - Mar. 13th, 2015 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Future Seasons - sourbillytipton - Mar. 13th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Future Seasons - grrm - Mar. 15th, 2015 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Future Seasons - il_volpe - Mar. 14th, 2015 07:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Future Seasons - Boris Lelong - Mar. 15th, 2015 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Future Seasons - borislelong21 - Mar. 16th, 2015 07:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 13th, 2015 12:05 pm (UTC)
I'm happy however many seasons the show runs, because it got me into your books, which are even better.
Mar. 13th, 2015 01:06 pm (UTC)
George, what would be your best bet, how many seasons do you think the show will have? Just a guess.

Also, would D&D have a problem if HBO decided to continue the show after season 7, or they will be happy?

Thank you
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:46 pm (UTC)
Re: .

Didn't I just answer this in the long post above?
Re: . - dusty dogy - Mar. 13th, 2015 07:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
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