Like the haunting refrains of “Jenny of Oldstones,” the ghost of Game of Thrones is walking loudly amongst us. Appropriately timed during the same week as Halloween and the Day of the Dead, the old agonies and ecstasies of HBO’s flagship series have been awoken as WarnerMedia made waves by announcing that one Game of Thrones prequel, The Long Night, is dead while another is alive. Not only is it alive, but House of the Dragon is going straight to series with George R.R. Martin credited as a co-creator.
This has been met with a positive, if cautious, reception after Game of Thrones’ controversial finale, but it also has made some Martin fans even more anxious since eight years after the publication of A Dance with Dragons, we’re still waiting for the sixth book in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” The Winds of Winter. Martin, however, attempted to quell those concerns when he took to his adorably antiquated blog to confirm he will not do any actual writing on House of the Dragon until The Winds of Winter is completed.
“Let me make this perfectly clear…” Martin wrote (emphasis his), “I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER. Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as I’d love to write an episode of HOUSE.”
The confirmation that Winds of Winter is Martin’s priority shouldn’t be a surprise considering that he opted to stop writing episodes of Game of Thrones after season 4 to focus on Winds of Winter. (Which in itself is a shame, as the show still caught up with him, and his episodes, particularly “Blackwater,” has some of the best dialogue in the whole series.) However, this does appear to leave wiggle room for Martin to write episodes of House of the Dragon before or during the writing process of A Dream of Spring, so don’t get your hopes up of seeing his version of the of the Battle of Winterfell or the burning of King’s Landing anytime soon.
Martin did, however, also reveal that House of the Dragon was the first spinoff he personally pitched to HBO, and one he led co-creator Ryan Condal toward after Condal pitched to Martin making a spinoff series about the Dunk & Egg novella series—something Martin refuses to allow until he theoretically writes more short stories in that saga.
[Condal’s] a terrific writer… and a fan of my books since well before we met,” wrote Martin. “He tells me that he discovered the series just after A STORM OF SWORDS was published, and ‘I’ve loved the books for 19 years.’” He went on to describe working with Condal on House of the Dragon as a dream come true.
Martin added, “HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been in development for several years (though the title has changed a couple of times during the process). It was actually the first concept I pitched to HBO when we started talking about a successor show, way back in the summer of 2016.”
Beyond this, Martin is somewhat cryptic about the details, but we’ve unpacked here the series is expected to be about the build-up and subsequent clash of the first Targaryen civil war, romantically known as “the Dance of Dragons,” about 200 years before the events on Game of Thrones. That war, which is loosely based on a British civil war from the 12th century known as “the Anarchy,” is credited by some as the beginning of Targaryen decline after Westerosi lords attempt to back a male heir from King Viserys I’s second marriage over the lone surviving daughter from the dead king’s first marriage. Fighting and dragonfire ensue. This series features Condal and director Miguel Sapochnik as showrunners (Sapochnik directed many of Game of Thrones’ most visually dazzling episodes.)
Martin also offered some sweet, conciliatory words to Jane Goldman and her whole team on the axed The Long Night pilot, which we personally thought had a lot more fertile ground for storytelling possibilities in the distant past of the “Age of Heroes.”
“It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series,” Martin said. “Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her. I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with HOUSE OF THE DRAGON. This was never an either/or situation.” He went on to add, “I know Jane and her team are feeling the disappointment just now, and they have all my sympathy… with my thanks for all their hard work, and my good wishes for whatever they do next.”
Martin certainly has his hands full, but one thing’s clear about his vision of Westeros: we never wanted to leave. And it appears we won’t be.