Earlier this week, Entertainment Weekly confirmed something Game of Thrones fans had long suspected, and author George R.R. Martin had previously hinted. Bryan Cogman, executive producer and writer on the HBO series, is working closely with the author to pitch the fifth potential Game of Thrones “successor show”—what everyone else is calling a “spin-off.” After that official announcement, Martin himself took to his blog on Wednesday to add some extra hints about the still-mysterious project. HBO has yet to reveal the actual content of this or any other proposed Game of Thrones follow-up—but Martin’s clues may make it possible to figure out what he and Cogman are planning.
“You should not expect to see all five shows, though, at least not immediately . . . much as I might love the idea,” Martin wrote on his blog. “But we could possibly see two or even three make it to the pilot stage, with one series emerging on air in 2019 or 2020 . . . and the others maybe later, if they come out as well as we all hope.” Martin also announced over the summer that his next book, the Song of Ice and Fire-adjacent history Fire and Blood, Volume 1, has been set for publication in late 2018 or early 2019.
The timing here could very well be a coincidence, and Martin is notorious for setting deadlines for himself—then blowing right past them. But these dates could also reveal what, exactly, Cogman’s spin-off series will entail.
Martin initially intended Fire and Blood (also jokingly known as the GRRMillion) to be a complete history of House Targaryen, with a heavy focus on all the Targaryen kings from Aegon I to Aerys II. In 2014, Elio Garcia, Jr., one of Martin’s co-writer for The World of Ice and Fire suggested that he wouldn’t complete the Targaryen book until after he had finished the long-awaited final two books of the Song of Ice and Fire saga. But while writing the more complete Westerosi history for a separate companion book, The World of Ice and Fire, Martin found himself focusing more and more on the Targaryen kings, to the point where the book couldn’t accommodate everything he had dreamed up. In total, Martin reported editing out over 200,000 words from The World of Ice and Fire—words that he reserved for Fire and Blood, which (until earlier this year) was slated to be published after the main series finally concluded. But then Martin announced in July that he actually planned to split Fire and Blood into two parts, and that the first—which was “largely written“ already—would be released as soon as 2018.
Martin has good reason to run to the printer the moment he finishes something; the HBO series has long since blown past his own Ice and Fire books, and though the author has never critiqued the show directly, watching other people finish his story has clearly pained him. Look at what he said about why he did not want HBO to adapt his Westeros-set Dunk and Egg novellas, at least not immediately:
“I can’t tell you what the shows will be about (well, I could, but I won’t), but I will tell you a couple of things they WON’T be. Which will disappoint some of you, sure, but better to do that now than later, I think.
We’re not doing Dunk & Egg. Eventually, sure, I’d love that, and so would many of you. But I’ve only written and published three novellas to date, and there are at least seven or eight or ten more I want to write. We all know how slow I am, and how fast a television show can move. I don’t want to repeat what happened with GAME OF THRONES itself, where the show gets ahead of the books.”
So you have an author who never wants to see a TV series spoil his own story again, and a book fast-tracked to be published years before it was originally scheduled to see the light of day. Which brings us to Bryan Cogman, and the series I believe he and Martin are working on together.
Cogman is known in the Game of Thrones production circle as “the keeper of the lore.” Beyond writing episodes of the series, he supervises the denser animated histories of Westeros that appear as DVD extras. Additionally, as sci-fi blogger (and Martin acquaintance) Adam Whitehead first pointed out, Martin specifically used the word “adaptation” when discussing the pitch he is working on with Cogman—implying they’re working off of something that either already exists in published form, or soon will.
By the time Fire and Blood, Volume 1 is published, Martin will have complete histories of several significant events from Westerosi history. The two that seem the most complete are Aegon’s Conquest and the Targaryen Civil War known as “The Dance of the Dragons.” Of these two periods in Westerosi history, Martin has spilled the most ink on the Dance. After featuring it in the novellas The Princess and the Queen and The Rogue Prince and further expanding on it in The World of Ice and Fire, Martin says the Dance will finally be told in full for Fire and Blood, Volume 1.
Given Martin’s extensive interest in this Westerosi period, the movement on that Fire and Blood, Volume 1 publication date, and Cogman’s role as lore-keeper and supervisor of the animated histories, the Dance seems to be the most logical subject matter for a new show. Add to that the popularity of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen as well as HBO finally mastering its dragon effects—as seen most fully in the Season 7 episode “The Spoils of War”—and the “Dance of the Dragons” seems like the perfect vehicle for Martin, Cogman, and the dedicated VFX/SFX team to pursue after Game of Thrones is complete.
The final piece of evidence might be the ever-shifting publication date of the next volume in A Song of Ice and Fire: The Winds of Winter. In January 2017, Martin said he thought he would complete the book “this year,” but in his latest update, he said the book “might” be out in 2018. In other words, the publication of The Winds of Winter seems forever on the horizon. Game of Thrones has moved beyond the published work in A Song of Ice and Fire, and these new successor shows are just getting off the ground—so it’s possible that Martin has shifted some of his writing priorities to finalizing Fire and Blood, Volume 1 first, if only to ensure he never has to watch another HBO series move beyond or “spoil” work he hopes to publish.
So if this Cogman pitch is what we think it is—and if it becomes a series—it will be Martin’s best chance to see his own story come to the screen, from beginning to end. But it may also leave fans wondering when, if ever, they’ll see Martin’s own conclusion to A Song of Ice and Fire.
Source: Jeff Hartline (www.vanityfair.com/contributor/jeff-hartline)