2023 was a "nightmare year" for The Winds of Winter author George R.R. Martin, "personally and professionally"

By his reckoning, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin did not have a good 2023.  "I am very glad that it is over. Unfortunately, so far 2024 looks to be even worse."
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Oftentimes, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin has taken to his Not a Blog at the end of the year to ruminate on the past 12 months and look forward to the year ahead. This year, he did write a post about 2023, but it is grim. The creator of Game of Thrones does not sound happy. "2023 was a nightmare of a year, for the world and the nation and for me and mine, both professionally and personally," he wrote. "I am very glad that it is over. Unfortunately, so far 2024 looks to be even worse."

What has Martin so upset? He mentions the ongoing wars in Israel and Gaza, as well as conflicts in places like Myanmar "that our western media just ignores." He bemoans the increasingly polarization of the American electorate and fears that Donald Trump may retake the presidency this year, finishing the job he started on January 6 of 2021 and installing himself as a dictator. Even movies, TV shows and books, usually a refuge for the author, offer little succor. "It used to be fun talking about our favorite books and films, and having spirited debates with fans who saw things different," he writes. "Now social media is ruled by anti-fans who would rather talk about the stuff they hate than the stuff they love, and delight in dancing on the graves of anyone whose film has flopped."

And then there's the fact that the 75-year-old Martin has been losing many friends and colleagues in recent years. "I look around, and it seems as though my entire generation of SF and fantasy writers is gone or going," he writes. "Only a handful of us remain… and for how long, I wonder? I know I have forgotten people in the list above, and maybe that is the destiny that awaits all of us… to be forgotten."

"Say Something Nice to George"

So that's all pretty bleak. I can't offer much advice on dealing with the press of bad news on the national and international stages, except to vote what you feel is right, take the opportunity to extol the virtues of empathy when you can, remember that what the news media presents us with is alarmist by design and doesn't always accurately reflect reality, and enjoy what pieces of good news you come across. As for the toxicity of fan communities online, it might not be a bad idea to take a cue from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss and just unplug. You can always talk with friends in real life about movies, TV shows and books. I'll talk with you, George!

Lest you think I'm indulging in some parasocial nonsense with that plea...well, you're mostly right. But the people on the PureASOIAF subreddit are collecting testimonials from fans who want to let Martin know what his work has meant to them. If you want to "Say Something Nice to George," you can write out a message at this link. "We can't promise that he'll ever read any of these," the creators caution, "but we at PureASOIAF are going to exhaust every avenue to try and get it in front of him. He deserves to know just how successful his work is—not in terms of readers, viewers, or dollars, but in terms of deep, personal impact, the development of empathy, and the spreading of genuine happiness through the consumption of well-crafted fiction."

The Winds of Winter

I feel bad that Martin feels bad. In terms of what this means practically for fans of his books, I have to wonder if Martin's note about 2023 being a terrible year "professionally" means he hasn't made much progress on The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth book in his Song of Ice and Fire series, which fans have been waiting for since the last book in the series A Dance With Dragons — came out in 2011.

There's no direct proof of this in Martin's new blog post; he doesn't mention Winds. But we've been keeping track of when he does mention it. In 2021, he revealed that he'd made significant progress on the book in 2020. “I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of THE WINDS OF WINTER in 2020,” he wrote at the time. “The best year I’ve had on WOW since I began it. Why? I don’t know. Maybe the isolation. Or maybe I just got on a roll. Sometimes I do get on a roll.”

Then, in 2022, he wrote about wrapping up storylines for major viewpoint characters in Winds. We haven't heard anything quite so rosy since. Martin made one of his more recent statements about Winds in November of last year, during an interview on the Bangcast alongside fellow author Bernard Cornwell. "I have like 1,100 pages written but I still have hundreds more pages to go," he said. "It’s a big mother of a book for whatever reason. Maybe I should’ve started writing smaller books when I began this but it’s tough. That’s the main thing that dominates most of my working life."

That's similar to what Martin said during an appearance in January of 2023 on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “Eh, [I've written] like 1,100, 1,200, something like that," he said. "it’s not done yet though. I need another 400 [or] 500 pages.”

Whether Martin has made progress on The Winds of Winter or not, I'm sorry to hear he's feeling down. He does end his new blog post on a positive note, remembering some kind words he received from screenwriter Steven Paul Judd following the death of Martin's friend and sci-fi author Howard Waldrop, whose passing hit Martin "very very hard."

Also, when we're feeling blue, we can at take solace in the fact that an Iron Throne made of chocolate exists somewhere in the world:

I hope you feel better, George.

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