George R.R. Martin Has “Given Up” Predicting When He’ll Finish ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’

George RR Martin had a cold—but he was still breathing fire. The creator of the game of Thrones universe found himself sidelined from the gala premiere of GoT‘s new prequel series, House of the Dragon, when he came down with COVID the day before. the day after, however, he rallied to do this joint interview with Ryan J. Condal—his handpicked co-creator for the new prequel series that’s set roughly two centuries before the brutal history viewers saw unfold in the 2011–2019 HBO show.

The writer was, as one would expect, a little testy about fans who used the occasion of his illness to publicly wring their hands over what this might mean for his famously unfinished Song of Ice and Fire books. “Oddly enough, although I hate having COVID here, the two years of enforced isolation enabled me to get a lot more writing done, because I was doing a lot less traveling and public appearances and speeches and all of that stuff,” the 73- year-old said. “I’m making progress, but I’ve given up on any hope of predicting the end. Every time I do, I don’t make it and everybody gets mad at me, and there’s no sense. It’ll be done when it’s done. Hopefully, COVID won’t kill me, so we won’t have that issue. I do find it a little grisly, people speculating online about what’s going to happen to the rest of the books when I die. I don’t like to speculate about that. I don’t feel close to dying.”

The new show, debuting August 21, is drawn from his 2018 book, Fire & Blood, and will tell just a portion of that fictional history of the Targaryen family from an era when dragons were plentiful. The ruthless family wielded them over Westeros as weapons of unimaginable power, but the creatures were also an everyday sight. When civil war erupts within the clan, a conflict eventually known as the Dance of the Dragons, those competing for dominance ultimately destroy the beasts—not to mention one another—rendering dragons all but extinct for generations.

In addition to the show telling this backstory, the first episode of House of the Dragon includes new details of a prophecy that may have major implications for the author’s final words on the Song of Ice and Fire saga. This is Martin’s chance to have his own say over the canon, after the original HBO TV series overtook his glacial writing pace. (While still maintaining general continuity with the previous show, House of the Dragon already changes the Iron Throne so that it looks closer to how Martin envisioned it in his books.)

Martin and Condal discuss all of that in the conversation below, also offering a defense of the most disturbing scene in the premiere episode, one that will surely require a warning for the squeamish.

Vanity Fair: George, how are you? Everybody’s worried about you.

George RR Martin: I’m “positive.” Other than being positive, I’m okay. Yeah, I have some symptoms. I have sniffling and I’m sleeping a lot, but yeah, other than that I feel no worse than I’ve felt with many colds in my life. Aside from being quarantined and going a little stir-crazy, I’m good.

Ryan, what’s the backstory on how you and George came to work together on House of the Dragon?

Ryan J. Condal: George very kindly involved me in this project nearly four years ago. It was September of 2018 when I got called up to the major leagues. After that, in the midst, we had this whole pandemic situation that seemed to make time roll back on itself. It just feels bizarre, in a way, after making this thing seemingly inside of a vacuum over in Watford, England, for so long, to suddenly have an audience full of people in a theater [watching] the finished show. There were times that it felt like it would never get finished.

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