George R.R. Martin’s vision for his A Song of Ice and Fire series has helped turn his fantasy epics into a pop-culture phenomenon. But in light of a newly leaked, decades-old pitch letter, it’s clear that his game plan has changed significantly over the years. According to The Guardian (via Game of Thrones fan site Winter Is Coming), the author’s October 1993 letter was sent to his agent, the late Ralph Vicinanza, outlining the structure and crucial characters for “the high fantasy novel I promised you,” A Game of Thrones. “When completed, this will be the first volume in what I see as an epic trilogy with the overall title, A Song of Ice and Fire,” the author writes of the series, which has expanded to five titles – with two more still on the horizon.
The letter, which currently resides on a wall of UK publisher HarperCollins’ new London offices, was photographed and leaked via the Twitter account of publisher Waterstones. Though the tweet was later deleted, The Guardian confirmed the letter’s validity with HarperCollins, who wrote in a statement, “We’re enormously proud to have it in our possession.”
In the letter, Martin details the series’ “five key players” as Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, Bran Stark and Jon Snow – and the author originally had surprising plans for some of those characters. Arya, who is nine years old to start the series, “realizes, with terror, that she has fallen in love with Jon, who is not only her half-brother but a man of the Night’s Watch, sworn to celibacy. Their passion will continue to torment Jon and Arya throughout the trilogy.” Tyrion, meanwhile, is envisioned as falling “helplessly in love with Arya Stark while he’s at it. His passion is, alas, unreciprocated, but no less intense for that, and it will lead to a deadly rivalry between Tyrion and Jon Snow.”
Martin also explains that “the enmity between the great houses of Lannister and Stark [will play] out in a cycle of plot, counterplot, ambition, murder, and revenge, with the iron throne of the Seven Kingdoms as the ultimate prize.” The letter reportedly contains a blacked out (and possibly revealing) final paragraph.
But for all its surprises, one element of the pitch letter – Martin’s promise to kill off major characters – has come to fruition. “All three books will feature a complex mosaic of intercutting points of view among various of my large and diverse cast of players,” he writes. “The cast will not always remain the same. Old characters will die, and new ones will be introduced. Some of the fatalities will include sympathetic. . . characters. I want the reader to feel that no one is ever completely safe, not even the characters who seem to be the heroes. The suspense always ratchets up a notch when you know that any character can die at any time.”
The series’ first title, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996. Four more books found release over the next 15 years, the most recent being 2011’s A Dance With Dragons. But fans continue to pine for the long-awaited sixth book, The Winds of Winter, which is not included in HarperCollins’ 2015 publishing schedule.
Martin did drop some Winter plot hints last June in an interview with Entertainment Weekly – teasing some intense happenings at The Wall, a meeting between Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister and a possible opener featuring “two enormous battles.”