What's going to happen if HBO's "Game of Thrones" catches up to author George R.R. Martin's five finished tomes? It's a question that's been on fans' minds, and it's a scenario the network wants to avoid.
The show wrapped up its third season earlier this year, but had already started touching on revelations from book four of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series from which the epic fantasy drama is based. Martin currently has five of the planned seven novels on the market, with no release date yet available for book six. The series is expected to finish after the seventh novel.
On Thursday, the subject was broached again with HBO executives Mike Lombardo and Richard Plepler at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Beverly Hills.
"As far as I'm concerned, it can go on as long as there are stories to tell," Lombardo replied when asked if the show could go beyond seven seasons to match the number of novels. "We certainly haven't gotten anywhere near that conversation with (show creators) David (Benioff) and Dan (Weiss) yet."
"Our line to George was, 'You keep writing,' " added Plepler.
"Yes, 'Get busy writing,' " Lombardo emphasized.
Martin is known for sometimes taking long periods to finish his lengthy tomes. After releasing the first three novels with just two years between each book, it took him another five years after the third book to release the fourth, and nearly six years after that for book five to hit shelves in 2011.
But like fans and HBO, Martin worries that the show will catch up to his books.
"I'm writing very fast because my great fear is that David and Dan will catch up with me,” he told Conan O'Brien in June.
"It's true that they're moving faster than I am — the series has its own speed — but I don't see us catching up for another three years or so, by which time another book will be out," he told The Hollywood Reporter in May. "That should give them another two seasons of material. And while I'm writing the last book, they'd be making those."
Though there is no release date yet for book six, titled "The Winds of Winter," but the author has posted excerpts on his website.