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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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Mar. 13th, 2015 04:52 pm (UTC)
On the upcoming season...
Can you, without spoiling anything, say anything about how you feel Dave and Dan solved the Meereeneese knot this season? I still loved how they tied it to podrick in season 3!
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:35 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of Deadwood
Mostly it reminds me of this passage from Nathan Rabin's excellent piece on John from Cincinnati -
In a move of staggering perversity worthy of John From Cincinnati itself, HBO said “no” to giving Milch more money to continue a proven, beloved property like Deadwood only to spend what I can only imagine was a vast fortune on John From Cincinnati. That’s a little like nixing a Saw sequel in favor of a $300 million experimental film featuring extensive bisexual bestiality. There hadn’t been a surfing show for a long time before John From Cincinnati, yet Milch brought surfing back to television in the unlikeliest possible fashion. But it wasn’t just surfing that made John From Cincinnati such unlikely TV fodder, even for HBO.
Yet, I imagine at the time it seemed like a good idea. Like maybe Deadwood is too tenuous but hey we still got the showrunner.

I also loved Luck but it made little sense as far as plotting was concerned. It was beautiful and sweaty and full of losers fighting against each other and every show put me in a cool mind space. But I have no clue what was going on. And then all the horses died.
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:36 pm (UTC)
George, when the show's storyline runs further than your books, will this affect the way you write them? Also, do you think there is enough from your books included in season 5? I'm hoping that this season does it justice!
Mar. 13th, 2015 05:50 pm (UTC)
Nothing will change my plans for the novels.
(no subject) - evangelion - Mar. 15th, 2015 12:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Lindsay Travis
Mar. 13th, 2015 06:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the post George. You've made yourself very clear. I'm sorry we're so impatient.
Mar. 13th, 2015 06:43 pm (UTC)
Hi George, i know that you are tired of the same questions but i'm scared: i want to watch the show but the sixth book is not finished (and i'm not hurry you, take your time :)) i just want to know if the serie is gonna spoil the story? And I know you are not aware of everything about the production of the show 'cause you are busy but... well i want to enjoy both separately- the show and the books- with all this change with the books make me feel scared.
Mar. 13th, 2015 07:08 pm (UTC)
Son of Kong & Grandson of Kong!
What happens when you eventually finish "Son of Kong" (The Winds of Winter)and I guess "Grandson of Kong" (A Dream of Spring)....will you retire writing in Westeros? Finally retire completely from writing??? Enjoy the fruits of all your long/storied writing career by buying a small Caribbean Island? either way it shakes out...hell of a ride so far! Many thanks for all the greatness over the years with Wild Cards and ASoIaF!
Mar. 13th, 2015 07:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Son of Kong & Grandson of Kong!
Writers don't retire.

I will be making up stories till the day I die.
Re: Son of Kong & Grandson of Kong! - wittycook - Mar. 13th, 2015 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Grigore Darius
Mar. 13th, 2015 08:29 pm (UTC)
Mr.Martin, sorry for off topic, but I have a question that I think nobody has asked yet.

Did sansa stay in king landing while joffrey was alive only because she wanted an opportunity to kill him? I mean, though she had two good opportunities to escape and get back to her family, she refused. Her situation was miserable and hopless, but she still wanted to stay instead to go back to her family.

Thank you very much

Edited at 2015-03-13 09:09 pm (UTC)
Bernhard Vienna
Mar. 13th, 2015 09:41 pm (UTC)
Only feature films
It should be only feature films. Six per year.

And they should tell the whole story again as an animated series with motion capture. And this time tell everything from the books.

And there should be a series about Robert's rebellion and one about the invasion.

And you could hire other writers to tell us more about Dunk and write other Westeros stories.

And there should be a Game of Thrones theme park. Where people can get actually hurt like in that Simpsons episode on the ride with the sharp blades...
Mar. 21st, 2015 08:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Only feature films
Theme parks be damned. The true follower will settle for nothing less than, as a bare minimum, the following reforms:

Westerosi food and drink (with vegetarian variants) should be served in inns by seductive wenches (with variants to cater for other tastes, and/or local customs).

Westerosi festivals should be honoured, and tournaments held to celebrate royal and noble weddings and other great days. (Obviously, this will entail the eradication of those odious innovations, democracy and republicanism).

New coinage should be minted to honour the true king (every year or so at the current rate of wastage).

All religions currently practiced should be renounced, and the gods of Westeros, the Seven, should be worshipped in due and proper manner. (Permission to worship the old gods of Westeros may be granted, at the sole discretion of the true king, though Godswoods will be maintained at the sole expense of the adherent).

Within a time-frame yet to be determined, nation-states currently purporting sovereignty should declare their allegiance to the self-same true king, and recognise his full suzerainty, or be incorporated into the realm by force of arms.

In short, the needs of the fans should - nay, MUST - be met. NOW.

Mar. 13th, 2015 10:39 pm (UTC)
Game of thrones ending vs Ice and fire ending...
It has been written that Dan and Dave know you're planned ending of ice and fire. Are we loyal book readers going to have your amazing writing spoiled by them? I don't want to watch the show if it's going to spoil the books.
Tomy Gamba
Mar. 13th, 2015 10:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you
I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful world (and characters) that you have created. It has brought me countless hours of enjoyment and made me discover many other great books (Some by you, some by other authors). Also I find it amazing that you actually take the time to read and even reply to some of these comments. It shows how much you care for your fan base.

Best wishes from Argentina. Tom :)
Chad Cottle
Mar. 13th, 2015 11:31 pm (UTC)
I'm a Happy Game of Thrones Fan
I am very happy to read above, George, that you will be participating in making the end of the HBO show a good end. I remember reading you've told "the boys" where you're heading and likely how it all ends, and I think we might have seen some inklings of that in the show already.

I don't care at all if the books aren't done before the show catches up. I love even the parts they've changed from the books. I'm just a giddy, complete nerd fan of both the books and the show and have dutifully, happily spent my money on HBO, the Blu-Rays of each season, mugs, books, t-shirts, IMAX and whatever I can find. Strangers everywhere stop and talk to me when I'm wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt.

I've never spent money on any merchandise created for any show, until now. I've followed the books since they were published and the show when it was only being considered by HBO. What joy it is to see how successful it has become, and that new trailer unveiled at the Apple gathering is just plain awesome.
Mar. 13th, 2015 11:34 pm (UTC)
To the HBO execs
Let the author's will be known. Make a damn movie, release it in theatres as part of a new HBO avenue, and release it on your stupid channel before it gets sold on Blu-ray, etc. That way everyone's happy. Most of all your loyal subscribers who, by the way, would overwhelmingly love the idea of a movie.
Mar. 14th, 2015 01:12 am (UTC)
People are always talking about Game of Thrones, but do we have any news on Fevre Dream?

Any chance it will one day replace Tru Blood?
Mar. 14th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
No, nothing new on FEVRE DREAM.

Hollywood, alas, is the land of the perpetual tease. So many times you come so close to getting a project up and running, only to see it dissolve... sometimes for reasons that are never explained.

At least twice in recent years we have been close to making a deal on FEVRE DREAM with a major director, only to have the deals somehow melt away like morning mists.

But we steam on. One day, maybe...
Mar. 14th, 2015 11:54 am (UTC)

the story on screen will eventually surpass the books. In this scenario, we will get spoiled by the tv series before reading the source material (the books).

Don't you think this is a "betrayal" for book readers? So far, we have experiencied Westeros directly from your books first, which we could later watch translated into a screen.

However, for the latest books we will first experience the tv series before reading the books, which is kinda awkward. Even if the latest seasons diverge even more from the books, I suppose the main events of the books will be there.

I am not aware of any work that has been first translated into other medium BEFORE being released in the original intended medium.

Of course we can choose to not watch the show before reading the books. But we live in a society, we can easily get spoiled by friends, news, social media, etc.
Mar. 14th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
I am not aware of any previous instances either... but then, life is full of firsts.

It is what it is.

I write the books as fast as I can, but that's not very fast. They are very big, very complex, very challenging. I have never been a fast writer, and the passage of years is not making me any faster.

Is it "kinda awkward?" Sure. Is it a "betrayal?" I think that's harsh, and unkind, and untrue.
(no subject) - Dannii Willis - Mar. 15th, 2015 12:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
You - Diarmaids85 - Mar. 15th, 2015 12:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Thomas Vu - Mar. 15th, 2015 01:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
"Betrayal" - Jim Nee - Mar. 15th, 2015 01:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - grrm - Mar. 15th, 2015 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - rsobers - Mar. 15th, 2015 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - rkpanthers - Mar. 15th, 2015 09:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - Peter Berkman - Mar. 15th, 2015 09:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - Jim Nee - Mar. 15th, 2015 10:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - Ryan McCulloch - Mar. 15th, 2015 10:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - Shane Giroux - Mar. 15th, 2015 11:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - Kyle Smith - Mar. 16th, 2015 12:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - FeedTheWorld3 - Mar. 16th, 2015 12:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - avimuchnick - Mar. 16th, 2015 10:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - Mark J. Crandley - Mar. 16th, 2015 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Betrayal" - ISaidBitch - Mar. 16th, 2015 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Ilari Kajaste [ilarikajaste.fi] - Mar. 17th, 2015 06:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hoodakaushal - Mar. 15th, 2015 01:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maxence Fernandes - Mar. 15th, 2015 01:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Your Books - James Garcia - Mar. 15th, 2015 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - AzaJabar - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Idea? - rooqirulz - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Robert Fiorentino - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
An alternative viewpoint - oenoneablaze - Mar. 15th, 2015 05:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: An alternative viewpoint - Robert Fiorentino - Mar. 15th, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: An alternative viewpoint - Bobby Skelton - Mar. 16th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xkot - Mar. 15th, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Betrayal is a bit harsh - kratoas617 - Mar. 15th, 2015 08:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Justin Biddle - Mar. 16th, 2015 10:45 am (UTC) - Expand
ASOIAF Vs. Game of Thrones - MarkAndreotti - Mar. 16th, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
I can think of one other example - ssalem3 - Mar. 17th, 2015 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Tom Jones
Mar. 14th, 2015 04:56 pm (UTC)

A two to three part film edition of Robert's rebellion would be fun. We get to see a lot of old favourites returning.

We could see how Jaime, Brandon, Ned, Robert, Rhaegar, Cersei, Oberyn, Elia, Cat and Lyanna when they were younger and their journeys.

The heirs of at least 5 of the 7 houses are of a similar age, would be a great juxtaposition of the character. The type of people they were and what become of them.

The timing would be interesting. Do they release the films before season 7-8 or after the series?

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George R.R. Martin
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