A rumor has been circulating through some media circles concerning the last two books in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.
The rumor became so widespread that the author felt he needed to step into the fray and shut it down on his blog.
During a Game of Thrones fan convention, actor Ian McElhinney, who portrayed Ser Barristan Selmy during the show's early seasons, told gathered fans that Martin had actually finished The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring and that he'd made a deal with HBO Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff to hold off on publishing them until the TV show was concluded.
Multiple media outlets reported McElhinney as saying:
"George has already written Books 6 and 7, and as far as he's concerned there only are seven books. But he struck an agreement with David and Dan, the showrunners on the series, that he would not publish the final two books until the series has completed.
So if all goes well, in another month or two we might get Books 6 and 7, and I'm intrigued to know how Barristan, for instance, ends up going through those final two books.
George, I talked to him during Season 1 and he did say to me that Barristan had a very interesting journey. But unfortunately I didn't get to play all of that, so we'll have to wait and see."
Though McElhinney seemed pretty confident in his claim, a bit of careful thought reveals how unlikely the scenario he proposes actually is.
If Martin's last two books are completed, it would mean the secret has been kept perfectly by many people much closer to the situation than McElhinney for years, while Martin simultaneously created countless fictional blog posts updating fans on the progress of the novels.
Of course, the idea that Benioff and Weiss would, for some reason, want Martin to keep his books under wraps is dubious at best, especially when they've always publicly supported Martin finishing his saga.
Martin himself wrote on his blog:
"No, THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING are not finished. DREAM is not even begun; I am not going to start writing volume seven until I finish volume six. It seems absurd to me that I need to state this. The world is round, the Earth revolves around the sun, water is wet… do I need to say that too? It boggles me that anyone would believe this story, even for an instant. It makes not a whit of sense.
Why would I sit for years on completed novels? Why would my publishers — not just here in the US, but all around the world — ever consent to this? They make millions and millions of dollars every time a new Ice & Fire book comes out, as do I. Delaying makes no sense. Why would HBO want the books delayed? The books help create interest in the show, just as the show creates interest in the books.
So… no, the books are not done. HBO did not ask me to delay them. Nor did David & Dan. There is no 'deal' to hold back on the books. I assure you, HBO and David & Dan would both have been thrilled and delighted if THE WINDS OF WINTER had been delivered and published four or five years ago… and NO ONE would have been more delighted than me."
It's unclear why McElhinney made his unlikely claim. Perhaps he was making a joke that many reporters misinterpreted. Perhaps he himself misunderstood something told to him during his time on the show.
The actor told EW in 2015 how disappointed he was with his character's death:
"I'm disappointed. But I think you have to accept—as I have accepted—that the demands of TV are different than the demand of book writing. With TV there's a pressure to create a number of high points. One of the big things about this series—it's true in the books and even more true in the series—is the surprise element, the shocks.
They've got to keep that up because people expect that. You can't predict anything but what you can predict is that there will be surprises."
Sorry, Song of Ice and Fire fans! It seems the wait continues...