George R. R. Martin's editor recently hinted that the Song of Ice and Fire series, the basis for HBO's smash hit Game of Thrones, may end up being eight books long rather than the planned seven. Fans have long feared that Martin may die before finishing the increasingly expansive series, but in this exclusive open letter, he tackles those fears head-on:
My friends and companions,
Please know that your concerns for my health and wellbeing are not going unheard, nor are they unfounded. I'll admit freely that I'm not in the best shape, as anyone can see, and I am certainly getting up there in years. And there are thousands and thousands of pages still to write, at least a decade of continual work. But before you take to comment threads and blogs to stoke concern over my apparently imminent demise, please, know this:
I want to die. Dearly, truly, monomaniacally, I want to be mulch. If I could shuffle off right now, I would, in less than a heartbeat. God knows I've tried.
But HBO won't let me.
In fall of 2011, I suffered a massive coronary. The public never knew. A Dance With Dragons was on shelves, season 2 was in production, and I had never been more stressed. My future sprawled before me, an endless dusty highway of writing, consulting, interviewing, this convention, that panel, this rape controversy, that character's death. One afternoon a meeting with D. B. Weiss and David Benioff, the show's executive producers, got overheated. I raised my voice, stood up too fast, and felt something pop. Well, I thought, that's that.
In that all-encompassing black, I felt myself fading around the edges and sinking into a silent warmth. It felt like love, infinite and indescribable. Finally, I was at peace. I was ready.
"We got him," I heard someone say. "He's back." I was in a hospital room, half-blinded by fluorescents, clinging to that warmth and love as it drained away. Benioff and Weiss were standing over me. They were smiling. I will never forget the chill of those smiles.
HBO had made a killing on Game of Thrones, they explained, enough to fund unregulated, clandestine biomedical research into bleeding-edge life-extension techniques. Their doctors had saved my life by implanting one of their inventions, an experimental regenerative polycarbon valve, in my heart, but that was just the beginning. Artificial lungs, livers, glands, even brain tissue regeneration: the public won't see any of these advances for another decade, but HBO has them all ready to go, just for me.
Since that day I have died nine more times, and every time they have brought me back. I've had heart attacks, strokes, and embolisms. I've cut my throat with my shaving razor, hung myself with my trademark suspenders, even tried to choke on my jaunty captain's cap. They just wheel me into a cleanroom, boot me right back up, and hand me a laptop. "Keep writing." I'm not allowed to shave anymore, and the hat and suspenders have been grafted onto my body. My trademark image is my prison.
I am a dairy cow, milked dry, slaughtered, and revived. They sell my milk and meat for a fortune, and pump that right back into keeping me alive. Every day they pump a fresh transfusion of stem-cell rich blood drawn from crewmember's children into my veins. I crunched the numbers once; I've received nearly 25 whole children's worth of blood. Think of that the next time you go online to call Sansa Stark a "dumb bitch."
In happier times, I would kill off my characters sparingly, because it made for good drama and meshed with my themes, pitting ideals against harsh realities. Now I kill off characters in droves out of mad, frustrated desire, sending them a stillness I'll never know. You think "Valar Morghulis" – "all men must die" – was just a clever turn of fantasy phrasing? Please. I've been begging for oblivion in the only way they've left me.
However: If you see me at a convention or out and about, please, make no attempt to give me the release for which every last organic cell of me aches. There are rumors, whispers of a supercomputer to house my consciousness when there's nothing left of my body to salvage. Perhaps I don't yet know the true depths of the hell I've been "living." But I do know this: someday, somehow, I will outsmart them. I have a hundred lifetimes to plan my escape. I will return to the earth if it's the last thing I do.
Do you hear that, you bastards? I am not your Prometheus! I will have my rest! Valar Morghulis!
George R. R. Martin
(This humor piece was written entirely by Dan Abromowitz, not George R.R. Martin. Follow Dan on Twitter.)