Nerd Culture

Five Unfinished Fantasy Series That Are Worth the Wait

Helen Sloan/HBO
Emilia Clarke in season seven in Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin still hasn’t finished Winds of Winter even though the HBO series has come to an end.

Martin isn’t the first author to take decades to finish a series. Stephen King took more than 20 years to complete The Dark Tower. And there were 55 years between Harper Lee’s two novels.

But he's one of the first in the internet age, when sites like Reddit act as echo chambers of fan rage at the glacial pace of his writing. It’s an opportunity for geeks to engage in that most fanboy-ish activity — complaining.

Really, it’s downright rude.

Dealing with trolls chiming in on every article and blog entry mentioning Martin must surely sap some of his energy, and probably leads to some spite at the delays. But like Neil Gaiman infamously said in 2009 when fans were grousing over the long wait for Martin's previous novel, A Dance with Dragons, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.”

Great art sometimes takes time. Just ask these other authors whose epics still have no end in sight but are very much worth the wait.

And remember, they’re not your bitches either.

Patrick Rothfuss

Rothfuss made a splash when he debuted in 2007 with The Name of the Wind, the first in his trilogy “The Kingkiller Chronicles.” The series would tell the story of Kvothe, an orphan prodigy, magician, and warrior, and how he came to be a broken innkeeper hiding from his past legend.

Rothfuss’s problem was he over-promised.

After stating he had the trilogy completed and the books would be released annually, the perfectionist in him led to years of revisions and fine-tuning, often word by word. In 2011, the second volume, The Wise Man’s Fear, hit shelves and speculation started anew for the end of the series.

He has released some short works related to the “Kingkiller” trilogy, but the finale, Doors of Stone, is still MIA.

If anything, "fans" of this bearded fantasist are worse than Martin’s — stalking him online, criticizing him for running charity drives at Christmas, berating him for taking time out of his schedule to enjoy a video game in the evening, even hassling him for spending time with his kids. One even screencapped a page from the much-anticipated finale while Rothfuss was Twitch-streaming a writing session and chatting with his fans. It quickly showed up on Reddit, further souring the genial author's relationship with his "fans."

click to enlarge Scott Lynch's much-anticipated The Thorn of Emberlain. - VICTOR GOLLANCZ, LTD
Scott Lynch's much-anticipated The Thorn of Emberlain.
Victor Gollancz, Ltd

Scott Lynch

Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series kicked off in 2006 with the audacious The Lies of Locke Lamora. And he quickly followed it up with Red Seas Under Red Skies in 2007.

Then nothing.

A messy divorce and crippling depression sidelined Lynch for six years. Unlike Rothfuss or Martin, however, Lynch’s fans have been patient. He opened up about his personal issues, and discovered how forgiving his fans were when The Republic of Thieves came out in 2013.

“I realized that as of this moment I had to be totally honest, or I would be dancing around this question for the rest of my natural life,” he said in a 2015 interview at the Tucson Festival of Books, “I didn’t have it in me to spend the next 20 years getting irate at people for asking the question, so it was essentially the laziest and easiest method of self-defense.”

The fourth “Gentleman Bastards” novel, The Thorn of Emberlain, will hit stores hopefully by September of this year. Lynch's fans know he has a new wife and home, along with his continuing health issues, so they don’t seem to mind the wait.

Diana Gabaldon

The creator of the Outlander fantasy series that is currently winning new fans on premium cable, Diana Gabaldon is another slow writer with a long-running series. The most recent novel in the “Outlander” series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, hit shelves in 2014, five years after the previous entry and just before the series made the leap to TV.

Even before the TV show catapulted her to fantasy superstardom, Gabaldon was not a fast writer, taking several years to meticulously research her historical adventures. But since she has been extensively involved in the TV series, her writing has slowed even more. A collection of short stories surfaced in 2017, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, but the ninth novel, Go Tell the Bees That I’m Gone, is still at least a year away.

With eight books in print already, however, the TV show still has a way to go before it overtakes her novels.

click to enlarge Oathbringer is the third in Brandon Sanderson's 10-volume saga "The Stormlight Archive." - TOR BOOKS
Oathbringer is the third in Brandon Sanderson's 10-volume saga "The Stormlight Archive."
Tor Books

Brandon Sanderson

Unlike most of the other authors listed here, Sanderson is prolific. Incredibly prolific. Since 2015, he has released a half dozen novels in multiple series, as well as short stories and a graphic novel. But all that work other work has slowed down progress on his 10-volume epic, "The Stormlight Archives."

Sanderson kicked the series off in 2010 with The Way of Kings, promising a “Stormlight” novel every two years. The second volume, Words of Radiance, did not hit shelves until early 2014, however. And the third volume Oathbringer, came out in 2017.

At this rate, we can expect him to wrap up the series somewhere around 2040.

Not to worry though: Sanderson will continue to release more novels in other series, including his “Mistborn” series, which is six novels deep and has another half-dozen or so in the works. He is also planning several other series and sequels to fill out his grand unified universe that will link most of his work together, The Cosmere.

So you may not see the end of "The Stormlight Archive" in your lifetime, but at least you'll have plenty other works to read.

click to enlarge Melanie Rawn's next novel, Playing to the Gods, isn't her long-awaited finale to the "Exiles," but at least the reclusive author is writing again. - TOR BOOKS
Melanie Rawn's next novel, Playing to the Gods, isn't her long-awaited finale to the "Exiles," but at least the reclusive author is writing again.
Tor Books

Melanie Rawn

If you think waiting five or six years for a new novel, try waiting 20. This reclusive Flagstaff resident began her “Exiles” trilogy in 1994 with The Ruins of Embrai, and The Mageborn Traitor followed in 1997.

Then, silence.

Like Lynch, Rawn has suffered crippling health issues, which sheathed her pen for almost a decade. She began writing again about 10 years ago, but was not ready to finish the “Exiles” trilogy. Instead, she started a new series with Spellbinder.

Since then Rawn has been writing steadily, releasing another six novels in two series. Playing to the Gods came out in 2017, but she still has not returned to her “Exiles” trilogy.

Rumor has it that The Captal’s Tower is Rawn's next project. We hope so. And we hope it’s worth the over-20-year wait. Regardless, we're glad she's writing again.

Editor's note: This piece was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.