On A Song of Ice and Fire

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The Prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire

By Gary Westfahl

As anyone who examines the results can attest, a multi-volume fantasy epic requires an enormous amount of writing, and one might imagine that authors in the midst of such projects would focus their undivided attention on completing their tasks. Instead, they are often diverted into writing prequels, stories taking place before the original works begin, which may add to the depth and complexity of authors’ creations but do nothing to advance the series toward the conclusion that readers are eagerly anticipating.

To be sure, the phenomenon is not limited to fantasy: in the field of science fiction, Isaac Asimov wrote his last two Foundation novels about Hari Seldon, the psychohistorian whose life predated the original trilogy, and the protagonist of Robert A. Heinlein’s final Future History novel was the mother of the series’ central character, Lazarus Long. But fantasy writers seem especially prone to looking backward into their epics’ prehistory: among other examples, before and after finishing The Lord of the Rings (1954—1955), J.R.R. Tolkien famously kept working on a never-completed chronicle of the events in Middle-earth that occurred long before his trilogy, assembled after his death by Christopher Tolkien as The Silmarillion (1977) and other works; David and Leigh Eddings wrote two prequels to their series that started with Pawn of Prophecy (1982); Terry Brooks has written several prequels to his original trilogy that began with The Sword of Shannara (1977); Robert Jordan interrupted his Wheel of Time series to produce a prequel novella, “New Spring” (1998), later expanded into  …

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