As if the Game of Thrones rumor mill needed any more fuel, a cryptic blog post from author George RR Martin has fans locked in intense speculation – with some daring to hope that it means the next Thrones book is coming.
Wednesday night's blog update contains an artist's depiction of Old Valyria – the fabled ancestral home of the Targaryens, who managed to escape the city before its mysterious destruction long ago – and the words "Alas, alas, that great city Valyria, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come."
So what does it all mean?
The gods only know, but the timing of the post is strange, considering the much-anticipated premiere of the seventh Game of Thrones season is this weekend.
Does it mean Martin is planning an important announcement – say, a release date for his sixth book, The Winds of Winter– to coincide with the return of the TV show?
Some readers think so, and such an announcement would be a huge, huge deal. The book has been in the works for nearly a decade, and fans' anticipation has reached epic proportions (especially since the TV show has now "moved ahead" of where the story currently is in the books).
So, too, has their impatience with George RR Martin.
His seeming inability to complete the novel (not to mention his lack of meaningful updates on the project) has sparked a lot of online grumbling, and intense debate about what an artist "owes" his or her followers. It would also be fair to say that the extended wait has strained the goodwill of Martin's fanbase.
To say the least, making a Winds announcement this weekend would be quite the treat for a lot of book-starved Thrones readers.
Not so fast...
But those same readers, after seven years of waiting, have turned into a skeptical bunch.
A couple people in this Reddit thread speculate the announcement actually signifies what a forthcoming Game of Thrones "prequel" might be about (a story set in Old Valyria, maybe); others believe it's just Martin's way of celebrating the new TV season's red-carpet premiere, which was Wednesday night in Hollywood.
But the overwhelming theme of their reactions is one of heartbroken cynicism, with many fans bracing for yet another disappointment. As the tweets below attest, humor seems to be their coping mechanism (the last is my personal favorite):
Whatever this mysterious announcement leads to (and this writer is strangely hopeful), new Game of Thrones episodes start this Sunday on HBO.