The fifth season of the HBO fantasy hit Game of Thrones certainly left us with a lot of questions, in no small part because it's the first season in which the TV series is really diverging from the A Song of Ice and Fire novels written by George R.R. Martin. Because Martin is a bit slow in writing his books, the series has surpassed him at many points, developing its own story independent of the novels, but that doesn't mean the novels don't still matter to fans.
WARNING: Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire SPOILERS follow
At the end of Game of Thrones Season 5, more than one character seems to suffer a horrible death, but we don't yet know for sure if those characters are truly dead, which means that Martin himself has been inundated with questions about the eventual fates of characters. The most significant of these characters is, of course, Jon Snow, who seemed to die at the close of the season, but the final episode also featured the apparent death of Stannis Baratheon, the would-be king who was trying as hard as he could to win the North for his people.
In the series, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) seems to die by the hand of Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who kills him after his army has been destroyed by the Boltons. We don't actually see Stannis' body, though. We see Brienne make what we believe to be the fatal cut, but we never see if he's really dead. So, is he? Well, Game of Thrones might have its own ideas, but as far as Martin's concerned, he's definitely alive.
In a post on his LiveJournal account this week, the author said that Stannis is alive "beyond a doubt" in his books, but of course his possible death happened very differently in the novels. In the books, Stannis' death is only reported through a letter from Ramsay Bolton to Jon Snow, and the accuracy of the letter is always in doubt. Martin seems to have created a situation in which the Boltons could easily have lied about Stannis, but the show has left things much more transparent. Unless Brienne deliberately missed, or didn't cut deep enough, Stannis is dead on Game of Thrones.
But is that a clear indicator? We never see the body, after all, and that could prove an important reveal in Season 6. Whatever the case, it's clear that Martin himself has further plans for the character, even as the show continues to play out.