For those who don’t follow George R. R. Martin’s Livejournal religiously, we’ll start with the bad news first: The Winds of Winter won’t be released in time for Game of Thrones’ sixth season. Not a chance. Nada.

In other words, readers of the saga will no longer have an advantage over TV watchers when the HBO show comes back in April. “Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all,” Martin wrote in a post about missing his book’s latest deadline, “because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.”

That’s not necessarily a problem. By now, most GoT fans have settled in to their own models of consumption: Some book readers are content to be spoiled by the show; some show-watchers may never read the books (especially not now); others are saving the show until the books are totally done.

But let’s face facts: At this point, Martin isn’t just disappointing fans—he’s screwing himself. He’s apologized profusely for his tardiness, and we’ve all accepted that apology. Some folks are upset, others just want him to finish and do it right. Yet the farther he falls behind the show his stories helped create—at this point, he says “I can’t tell you when [Winds of Winter] will be done”—the less relevant he’s going to become to Game of Thrones as a whole.

Even with the wildly ambitious editing schedule Martin’s books seem to get (he says in the Livejournal post that if he’d finished his latest book by the end of the year it would’ve been released in March, just ahead of the mid-April premiere), there seems to be little chance Winds of Winter will be out before even the end of Season 6. That’ll be two full seasons that the show has had to go its own way from the book series—and two full seasons that those who are watching and not waiting for the books have to get used to GoT without George. (Do you miss him, dear readers? Do you?)

Look, nothing in the Thrones world would exist without George R.R. Martin. But as much as we’ve liked to make “type as fast as you can” jokes, his slowness at finishing books isn’t really funny anymore. Eventually, readers will get to a point where they give up hope—or, in a reversal of fortunes fit for the Song of Ice and Fire, they’ll get betrayed by show-watchers who begin to spoil the story for them. Hey, all those book people who filmed their friends watching the Red Wedding have it coming.

Not everyone will up and abandon Martin—in fact, many will surely wait him out. And, as he points out in his blog post, it’s certainly possible to enjoy books and their filmed adaptations simultaneously on different levels. But unlike finishing the Hunger Games books before their movie adaptations hit theaters, there is no recorded ending to the Game of Thrones saga in any format, and if they keep diverging fans will ultimately have to pick which one is canon—which one is theirs. If HBO gets to the end first, provided both versions have (relatively) the same ending point, that’ll be the finale that will resonate. And the longer Martin takes to release his version of events, the less likely it’ll be that his Song is the one people remember the words to.

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Game of Thrones Book Delays Hurt George R. R. Martin, Not Fans