The Citadel: SSM

The Citadel is an archive of information for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

New to the series? Read our spoiler-free review of A Game of Thrones.

Read our Privacy Policy.

Connect With Us
Recent Entries
Archives

View All

Sites of Interest

Correspondence with Fans

Concerning Wildling Women

I'm sorry to bother you again, but one thing struck me as off, when I read about Mance Rayder's wife, Dalla, preparing to give birth. I know that you haven't asked, but in case there are other births in your books...

Laboring and birthing in bed is something of a modern, western thing. As a woman who has given birth three times, twice unmedicated and once in my own home, I can tell you that unmedicated women in labor are powerful, not passive! They walk, they sway and dance and move. They moan, howl, rock, pace, squat. They give birth squatting, or on hands and knees, and are quite capable of catching their baby in their own hands. Check out Sheila Kitzinger's book Rediscovering Birth. It explains some of the history and anthropolgy of birth in different cultures.

Fierce warrior women would not take birth lying down! They would be active, strong, and show how powerful they are while bringing forth new life.

Well, point taken. I'll take a look at that book if it turns out that I need to describe another birth... especially if it's from the viewpoint of one of POV characters.

However, in my own defense, I should note that Dalla was not a "warrior woman" per se. She was from a warrior culture, yes; one that gave women the right, but not the obligation, to be fighters. Ygritte was a warrior woman, as was (most conspicuously) the fearsome Harma Dogshead. Dalla and Val were not.

Also, though I don't go into details, something was obviously amiss during Dalla's labor, since it killed her. Childbirth isn't quite the killer in Westeros that it was in medieval Europe in the real world, since Westeros has the maesters, who are a considerable improvement over medieval barber/surgeons... but the levels of mortality for both infant and mother would still be frighteningly high by modern standards. And the wildlings don't have maesters. Nor do they have any handy healing magics, such as we see in many other fantasy epics. Dalla did not even have a midwife at the crucial moment. Presumably the midwife was scared off by the big battle going on all around them as the birth was happening. Dalla had only her sister Val. All that being said, if I do depict another birth, I promise to consider all of this more thoroughly beforehand.

I love your books, and I would be glad to answer any questions you might have about birth or breastfeeding!

I'll take you up on that... although this question may be outside your area of expertise. In a medieval setting like mine, if neither the mother nor a wet nurse is available to feed an infant, what sort of milk would be best for the child? Cow's milk? Goat milk? Mare's milk? Could anything be added to it to make it more nourishing, and a better substitute for human breast milk? At what age can solid food be added... and what sort of solid food should it be, in a world before Gerber's? I know honey can kill infants, but I don't know what's good for them. Porridge? Mashed turnips? Stewed something-or-other? Stewed fruit sounds as though it might be an idea, but they don't have a lot of fresh fruit on the Wall right now, with winter almost upon them.

Any info you can provide would be appreciated.

Concerning the False Spring

When was the year of the false spring?

Don't have my references to hand, but it was a year or two before the start of Robert's Rebellion.

Praise

I am re-reading AsoIaF (I am about of the way through AsoS as I write this). I would have to say that this series, considered as a single work, is one of my favorite stories - definitely the best within the genre.

Thanks. That's high praise indeed.

About a year ago I was lucky enough to find a first ed. HC copy of A Game of Thrones offered for sale on the internet by a used bookstore in Washington state. I happily paid over the $35 or so dollars that the seller wanted for it.

You got quite a bargain. That book goes for several hundred dollars now. Take good care of yours.

Well, it turns out that you were doing a signing in another area bookstore and the seller offered to have it signed at no additional charge. Of course I agreed. I'm proud to have that book as the centerpiece of my growing collection of books.

Anyway, I look forward to reading your latest installment. I know it will be great. Thanks for writing it.

A FEAST FOR CROWS continues to grow, though slowly. Sorry it has taken so long. I hope it will be worth the wait.

Meanwhile, there is an excerpt from the new book in the March issue of DRAGON magazine, available at most good newsstands and gaming stores. It's called "Arms of the Kraken." Check it out. It may help pass the time until the novel is done.

Please consider visiting the Chicago area for a signing. I would love to meet you in person and have you personalize a copy of the new book for me!

I did signings in Chicago for the first and second books, but the turnout was pretty meagre, so my publisher did not send me back for the third. Whether or not Chicago will be back on the tour for the fourth volume, I couldn't say. It's my publisher who makes these calls, not me. All I can tell you in to watch the Appearances page on my website.

Naming Characters

Let me start with the big fan opener: I am one, read ASOIAF 5 times over, can't wait for the next book, etc., etc...

Glad to hear it.

Now to the meat of this email.

Where do you get the names of your characters?

I make them up. In many cases, they are variants of real names -- Eddard for Edward, for example. They have to have the right "sound," though. It is hard to explain... and hard to do as well.

I am a big proponent of the theory that "names have power". Not in the fantasy sense, where the holder of a true name can make you stand on your head or somesuch, but in the phonetic sense, for lack of a better description. I feel that names can evoke a feeling about a character, describe a character, better than a whole page devoted to just that.

I agree.

You should read some Jack Vance. He's marvelous with names. Tolkien was very good as well.

Almost every name you use in ASOIAF do just that.

Greatjon Umber Gregor Clegane Lannister Stark

I could go on and on.

So, Where do you get the names of your characters? How do you come up with them? Do you TRY to give characters names that will evoke feelings in the mind of the reader, or is that just a lucky coincidence?

You want the names to be evocative, yes.

Would you think about naming any of your characters Bale, in honor of my EZboard nick...? ;)

Nice try.

Thank you, and keep up the great work! We are all rooting for you!

I appreciate it.

Some Questions

I hope I'm not intruding on your writing time, and I hope your writing is going really well. But I have a couple of questions about your work (which is brilliant) that I would like to ask you.

Are you going to let Littlefinger survive the series? I really hope so, because you should see the number of arguments that he causes at our message boards. He is one of your best characters, and I for one hope he lives.

That's not something I am like to answer in a letter. Keep reading.

Are the Others just pure evil, or are we going to find out more about their motives later on?

Keep reading.

Did one of the Brandon Starks ever reach Asshai by the Shadow?

No.

Does Littlefinger feel an attraction to Sansa solely because of her beauty, or is it because she is Catelyn's daughter? I personally prefer the former, though. :)

Both.

Finally, on a slightly different topic, can you recommend any good informative books for want-to-be fantasy writers like me?

Lisa Tuttle's recent book on writing SF and fantasy is valuable. There's a link on my website, under "What I've Read."

Thank you for reading this e-mail, and I hope it hasn't taken up too much of your time. I look forward to reading your reply.

Good luck.

Arms of the Kraken Errors

I've received a couple of advance copies of the new issue of DRAGON, which contains "The Arms of the Kraken," the excerpt from the prologue from A FEAST FOR CROWS.

Looks pretty good, I think (whether it reads pretty good or not, I will leave it for the readers to decide), but in reading the story in magazine form, I came across an embarassing mistake that somehow slipped past me, despite the fact that I proofed the damn thing a dozen times on computer and at least twice on paper. There's one place in Victarion's section where two characters make reference to Lady Bolton... when it is actually Lady Glover that is meant. The only Lady Bolton at the moment is Fat Walda, who does not figure in the story at all.

This is my fault. Not the kind of glitch that I could expect the copyeditors at DRAGON to catch. I should have had you guys read the story in advance...

Anyway... please feel free to pass my "mea culpa" on to the fans on the boards and such. Let them know that I am aware of the slip, and am sorry for it. Elsewise I am going to get twenty emails pointing it out, I know. Sigh.

At least this allowed me to fix the error, so it will not be repeated in FEAST itself.

Award in Israel

I've been informed that the Hebrew translation of A STORM OF SWORDS has won the Geffen Prize for the best fantasy book of the year in Israel. The award was announced at Icon 2002, the Israeli national SF convention. The Hebrew editions of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE are being published by Opus Press.

Progress on A Feast for Crows

I would like to thank you for your exceptional serie starting with A game of Throne.

I do not know if this will mean something to you, but I simply wish to tell you not to worry about us impatient readers *grin*. Most of us will always prefer a good book coming late rather than a rushed one :-) Keep up the good work, we are behind you :-)

Thanks for the kind words.

A FEAST FOR CROWS continues to grow, though slowly. I hope it will be worth the wait. There will be an excerpt from the new book published in the March issue of DRAGON magazine, available at most good newsstands and gaming stores. It's called "Arms of the Kraken."

Seeing Asshai

I just wanted to ask, what are the chances of finally seeing Asshai/the Shadow in AFFC?

Very remote.

About Armageddon Rag and the Twilight Zone

[Note: This is actually a Usenet posting to rec.arts.sf.written, regarding the Wild Cards series.]

ARMAGEDDON RAG was optioned for film shortly after it came out in 1983, by a writer/producer named Phil DeGuere. He did several drafts of a screenplay, but never managed to convince a studio to greenlight the picture. Phil was tight with the Grateful Dead, and planned to film the big Nazgul concert scenes at Dead shows.

No movie ever came of it... but a couple of years later, CBS tabbed Phil to revive THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and he asked me to do a script.

So in a sense, the unmade RAG movie was responsible for my career in television and film.

About Wild Cards

[Note: This is actually a Usenet posting to rec.arts.sf.written, regarding the Wild Cards series.]

Ah... WILD CARDS was just sleeping.

And now we've woken up. The old books are being reissued, a new one (DEUCES DOWN) came out in hardcover a few months ago, another new one (FIVE CARD DRAW) is being written, a new role-playing game should be released in 2003, and we're exploring some interesting possibilities in TV and film.

Definitely not dead.

FWIW, I will admit that we stumbled badly with the jumpers, way back when. If Jove can nod, so can I. I do think we came back strong afterwards, with the Card Shark triad. Creatively (if not commercially), those were three of the strongest volumes WILD CARDS ever had... but switching from Bantam to Baen Books was a big mistake on our part.

The Card Sharks triad was very dark, I will concede. Darkness was the complaint I heard most often about the later WILD CARDS books.

DEUCES DOWN is much lighter.

More on Hollywood Interest

I know you are a busy man, especially since your trying to finish your long awaited new book. I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you that I am a huge fan of your work. I am currently about to complete my 2nd re-reading of your A Song of Ice and Fire series, its phenomenal stuff.

Glad you think so.

While I was reading A Storm of Swords last night (Arya has just been captured by the Hound), I had a thought. Since it would almost be impossible to make into a feature length film, A Song of Ice and Fire would be perfect for a HBO series. Each book could be an 8-10 episode season. Since it's on cable you wouldn't lose any of the grittier elements that would be lost if it was to ever be made into a network mini-series. Anyway just an idea, I m sure you ve considered it before, but just in case you hadn t I had to tell you about it.

Well, I'm game if HBO is, but the ball is not really in my court on things like that. All I can do is wait for the producers and studios to come to me. So far, we've had a few nibbles, but nothing serious.

Keep up the great work. I can t wait for A Feast for Crows.

You may have to. I'm still writing it.

Thanks for all the kind words.

Ibben and Armor

Though Im sure you dont remember me we have corresponded a number of times and Im a great fan of your ASOIAF series. It is truly a modern masterpiece :)

Thanks.

But on to the questions lol Im sorry to bug you man, but gotsta ask! Hope it doesnt interfere with FFC

1)Ibben. Ibben has been a pet interest of mine for some time. I even have an EzBoard with an Ibben Theme. I was wondering when or if we would see Ibben or atleast learn more about them. It truly fascinates me. Does Ibben have a major city? Are they feudal as well? Do they have a king? Armies? What kind of soldiers do they field? Ever been to war with Westeros? And so forth.....

The major city is the Port of Ibben. The Ibbenese are a little far from Westeros to war with them, I think. They do have colonies on the mainland of the eastern continent, but mostly they live on a cold, mountainous, Iceland-sized island (and a couple much smaller ones) in the Shivering Sea. If you consider Westeros to be where the British Isles are in the real world, Ibben would be... oh, about where you might find Finland. But an island. The Shivering Sea has a large whale population, and many of the Ibbenses are whalers. They chew blubber and light the Port of Ibben with whale oil lamps. As to whether the action will ever go there... I don't know. Probably not.

2)Armor. Ive noticed that outside of Westeros and even in Dorne people use bronze armor pretty frequently. I was wondering about the metal working skills of these people. They use iron/steel in weaponry but use highly inferior armor.

The Dornish use a lot of copper, but mainly for ornamental purposes. It's very pretty flashing in the sun. As pretty as gold, but cheaper.

Understandably it is far lighter than platemail or something but It strikes me as a little wierd. An army armored in bronze going against an army in iron will inevitably lose... Sorry to nitpick, so tell me to shut up if Im out of line hehe

Dornish fighting tactics differ from those of the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Saladin's warriors were pretty lightly armored when they went up against Richard the Lion Hearted and his Crusaders, but still did pretty well.

3)I am under the strong impressoin you openly indicated Dany would be traveliing east to Asshai and the Shadow lands, possibly to invade Westeros from the other side even... Everyone tells me im wrong, it doesnt fit into the time frame etc etc. Did you or did you not want us to get that impressioin by a)introudcing Quaithe b)the whole to go west you must go east under the shadow etc etc prophecy... c)Bran saw dragons in Asshai. Perhaps Danys dragons in the future? I doubt real dragons are in Asshai now or the whole magic leaving the world thing wouldnt have happened....

Sorry, these answers will need to wait for future books.

The Process of Making Valyrian Steel

I hope all goes well with you and this finds you in good health. I was just wondering if you could settle something for me in relation to Valyrian steel and I I just wondering if I have taken you up correctly on the matter. I belive I'm right in saying it differs from say Mithril (from LOTR) in that it is not a material which in itself bears advantageous properties but rather ordinary steel which has been subjected to a process (the physical manipulation of the steel combined with spells) which embues it with the desired elements.

Yes, that is correct. You don't mine Valyrian steel (actually, you don't mine any steel), you make it.

What I'm less sure of is whether Valyrian steel ever exists as a raw material.

It does not.

I believe it doesn't but only as a finished blade, what I mean is that it is the actual process of making the sword from run of the mill steel which gives us a Valyrian weapon rather than Valyrian steel being made beforehand and then this product being used to make an item.

The closest real life analog is Damascus steel, but Valyrian steel is a fantasy metal. Which means it has magical characteristics, and magic plays a role in its forging.

Thanks for taking the time from your no doubt over burdened schedule to read this none too clear mail. May I take the opportunity to thank you for the enjoyment you've already given me and say I wait with eager anticipation for A Feast For Crows and The second Dunk & Egg tale.

I'm at work on both. Thanks for your enthusiasm, and your patience.

Sansa’s Memory

[Note: This mail has been edited for brevity.]

. . . this is an inconsistency with ASoS more than an outright error. In ASoS, Sansa thinks that the Hound kissed her before leaving her room and King's Landing. In ACoK, no kiss is mentioned in the scene, though Sansa did think that he was about to do so.

Well, not every inconsistency is a mistake, actually. Some are quite intentional. File this one under "unreliable narrator" and feel free to ponder its meaning. . .