The end of Game of Thrones on HBO back in 2019 certainly hasn't meant the end of the world of Westeros on television, with one Targaryen-centric spinoff officially on the way, another live-action series in development, and now potentially another spinoff that would be very different from any of the other shows. With A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin reportedly involved in this new possible spinoff, it's hard not to wonder: what about The Winds of Winter as the next book?
The next Game of Thrones spinoff could be animated, according to THR, which reports that George R.R. Martin is working directly with HBO development executives in expanding the world originally brought to the small screen with Thrones. The animated series would reportedly release on HBO Max rather than HBO proper.
No details are available at the time of writing about what the plot of the animated series would cover, and HBO Max has not yet commented, but this spinoff would reportedly have a similar tone to Game of Thrones and continue to be targeted toward adults. Animation doesn't have to mean content for kids! All of this said, no deals have evidently been made at this point, and there are no guarantees that an animated series will actually happen for HBO Max.
HBO does seem intent on expanding Game of Thrones content despite the divisive end to the original series, even if the first attempt at a spinoff (co-created by George R.R. Martin) was cancelled and replaced by House of the Dragon despite reports from Martin himself that the original spinoff, called The Long Night, was scheduled to be shot and had assembled a cast. So, what does Martin's involvement in expanding the Game of Thrones world for HBO mean for A Song of Ice and Fire's long-awaited Winds of Winter?
Well, the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire will follow the events of the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, that was published back in 2011, and George R.R. Martin has yet to deliver more than the occasional chapter released early, presumably to whet the appetites of fans who have been waiting nearly a decade at this point. The author previously said that he wanted to finish The Winds of Winter by 2016, which obviously didn't happen, and an update back in August 2020 wasn't exactly encouraging that the book would be out soon.
Now, personally speaking, I don't envy George R.R. Martin the effort to continue all the plot threads that he set up in the first five books, but I also find myself looking at the list of his publications between A Dance with Dragons' release in July 2011 and now. Since 2011, he is credited with no fewer than eight publications, and there are two that I find particularly frustrating: The World of Ice & Fire and Fire & Blood, the first of which is a reference book for the A Song of Ice and Fire world and the second of which is the first half of a history of the Targaryen dynasty.
Do I own both of those books? Yes I do, but if George R.R. Martin could put out two fictional history books over the past decade while not finishing The Winds of Winter and now working on TV shows, I think book readers are entitled to ask some questions about where the sixth A Song of Ice and Fire book's progress stands! Still, news of a potential animated show is a good reason to get excited.
If development turns into a series order, it's possible that an animated project could be completed far faster than anything live-action, with House of the Dragon not coming until some point in 2022. And I can always start getting my hopes up again for a Robert's Rebellion story unfolding on screen. For now, you can always revisit the original Game of Thrones streaming on HBO Max.