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.
My notes from GRRM's reading and Q&A from yesterday:
Before the reading he talked about all the things he has going on. There is a new Wild Card book in the works as well as an "Old Mars" anthology. The latter will contain stories about Mars with the canals and Martians and such. He also talked about the Lands of Ice and Fire book and the perils therein. He was initially told he wouldn't have to do any work on it but when the maps were blown up there was too much open space that needed to be filled. He also had to "head East" and create some terrain as well as cities. He indicated that it goes Far East but not to the Uttermost East. He imagined he would hear complaints about that.
Lastly he talked about The World of Ice and Fire that he has been working on with Elio and Linda. He's always wanted to explore the history of the world but it can't always come up in the narrative of the books, such as Littlefinger's interest of Aegon II's trade policy. This book can fix that and he has Elio and Linda who know more about Westeros as anyone. The Worldbook will be told by different maesters and will reflect their personality. Info that would be major spoilerish will be someone how blocked out. Something like a large ink stain covering up the events at Summerhall. With that, explaining that he doesn't want to read too many chapters from Winds, he had something else and we would be the first people to hear it. Or not...
The History of Aegon's Conquest
The history begins by explaining that there is controversy about the beginning of Aegon's reign. The years before are slated as BC= Before Conquest and the ones after are AC= After Conquest. However, there is a 2 year span from when Aegon landed in Westeros at the Blackwater and when he was crowned in Oldtown by the High Septon. Debate continues as to when the new calendar should begin.
In Valyria, there were two score rival houses that contested for power. House Targaryen, however, was not considered a powerful house. Daenerys the Dreamer, the daughter of the head of House Targaryen, foresaw the Doom and convinced her father to leave Valyria. Her father, Aenar, took his family to Dragonstone along with 5 dragons. In Valyria, this was seen as weakness. The Doom happened 12 years after Aenar left for Dragonstone.Maegon, his brother Aerys, and Aerys' sons, Aelyx, Baelon, and Daemion
The Targaryens ruled Dragonstone for the next 100 years, which were called the Years of Blood.. 4 of the dragons died on Dragonstone leaving only Balerion. However two eggs hatched and Vhagar and Meraxes were born. "Gaimon" the Glorious ruled after Aenar and was followed by Maegon, his brother Aerys, and Aerys's sons Aelyx, Baelon, and Daemion. In 27 BC, Aegon the Conqueror was born to Lord Aerion Targaryen, the son of Daemion, and Lady Valaena of House Velaryonand . He later married both his sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. This was considered unusual although there was precedent for it. The histories often said that Aegon had never stepped foot on Westeros before the Landing but there is evidence that he traveled to the south and may have even visited Lannisport.
Around that time there had been wars in the Riverlands and the Reach. The two most belligerent rulers were Black Harren, ruler of the Iron isles and Argilac the Arrogant. Harren was nearing completion of his vast castle and was said to be looking for more conquests. Argilac had grown afraid of Harren and so proposed an alliance with Aegon. It is believed he wanted to create a buffer zone between him and Harren. He offered the hand of his daughter in marriage as well as dowry lands. However, many of those lands were in fact in the possession of Harren the Black. Aegon refused and instead offered the hand of his best friend and bastard brother, Orys Baratheon. Argilac took this as a grave insult and had the hands of the envoy cut off. He sent them to Aegon with a message of "These are the only hands you will receive". Aegon called his banners and took counsel with them and his sisters. When they were done ravens flew to every ruler in the 7 Kingdoms. He informed them that "There will be only one king" and that those who bent the knee would keep their lands and titles. But those that did not he would destroy.
The size of the force that departed Dragonstone is belived to have been 3,000. Others believe it could have only a few hundred. They landed at the Blackwater, a place where a hundred kings of old had lain claim to. No kings ruled from there now, only a few petty lords lived nearby who were ruled by Harren and they loved him little. Aegon sent his sisters to nearby Rosby and Stokeworth and the castles surrendered without bloodshed. Darklyn of Duskendale and Mooton of Maidenpool did fight. Orys led the army while Aegon rode Balerion high in the sky. They won an easy victory.
Aegon's eldest sister was a warrior more comfortable in ringmail than in silk. She wielded a Valyrian steel sword called Dark Sister. She was described as having a harsh beauty and was reputed to have dabbled in sorcery. His younger sister Rhaenys was all that Visenya was not. Playful and curious, interested in music and poetry. However, she loved to ride her dragon Meraxes and spent twice as much time riding than her siblings. She surrounded herself with comely young men and there were whispers that she entertained men while Aegon was with Visenya. Yet Aegon spent ten nights with Rhaenys for every one with Visenya.
Aegon himself was seen as an enigma. He was a solitary person whose only friend was Orys. He was a great warrior who wielded a sword called Blackfyre but only rode his dragon for battle or travel and never entered tourneys, He remained faithful to his sisters and left governance in their hands and only took command when necessary . While he was harsh with those who defied him, he was generous to those that bent the knee.
After the Landing, a wooden motte and bailey was built on one of the hills overlooking the Blackwater. He named Daemon Velaryon Master of Ships, Tristan Massey Master of Laws, and a Celtigar as Master of Coin (Thank you Boiled Leather for remembering that for me!). Orys Barathon he called "My shield, my stalwart, my strong right hand" and Orys became the first Hand of the King. Visenya would crown Aegon and Rhaenys hailed him as king. The lords and knights cheered him but the small folk cheered the loudest.
In the Seven Kingdoms, the kings raised their banners and made alliances. Dorne would offer an alliance to the Targaryens but only as equals. Little King Ronnel Arrys also offered an alliance. Aegon did not reply to either. All waited to see where the Targaryens would march. Daemon Veraryon would lead the fleet north and were met in battle by the Arryns. He would die in battle. (This portion was like a fog of war, so much info that it was hard to write it all down. I know I missed some). Orys Baratheon would be battered in battle. Aegon and Balerion burned Harren's sons in their longships and they would all die. Rebellions began to spring up. The Sistermen rebelled, followed by then by Riverlords. Edmyn Tully of Riverrun led his forces to Aegon and other greater houses followed: Mallisters, Brackens, Blackwoods, Freys among others. They all marched to Harrenhall and it was besieged. The walls were enormous and it was to have an unlimited supply of water and vast stores of provisions.
Aegon arrived and proposed a parley with Harren. Maesters were present and recorded the conversation.
Aegon:" Yield now and I will name you Lord of the Iron Isles. I have 8,000 men here"
Harren: "What are 8,000 men? I have walls!"
Aegon: "I have dragons."
Harren: "Stone will not burn"
Aegon: "At nightfall, your line will end"
Harren offered a vast reward to the man who slew the dragon. Aegon climbed onto Balerion and flew high into the sky. He descended with great speed and landed behind the walls. Balerion unleashed his fire. Stone may not burn but wood, thatch, and MEN did. Stone did crack, though, and the great towers soon looked like candles. Harren and his line did indeed end. Swords, blackened and bent were sent by cartloads to the Landing.
While Harren's men had rebelled, Argilac's men stayed loyal. He would vow that he would not die in his castle like a suckling pig with an apple in his mouth, but in battle. He led his army out into the field. Visenya scouted from the sky and informed Orys of Argilac's movements. As the armies drew close, a great storm came upon them. His men advised him to wait but he had the advantage of two to one and the rain was blowing into the faces of the Targaryens. Argilac advanced and began the Battle of the Last Storm. Argilac's knights charged but were slowed by the mud. They finally broke though but faced Rhaenys on Meraxes. The dragon was just as deadly on the ground as in the air. In the confusion, Argilac was thrown from his horse and found himself face to face with Orys Baratheon. Both took a wound but soon Argilac would get his wish and would die in battle. His death would signify the end of the battle.
At Storm's End, Argilac's daughter Argella would declared herself Storm Queen and defiantly barred the gates. However, her men were not so eager to die and presented her to Orys chained and naked. Orys treated her gently. He removed the chains and gave her his cloak as well as food and wine. He would take the arms and seat words of House Durrandon for his own, and married Argella.
In the Vale, Queen Sharra Arryn plotted her next move, She was said to be beautiful and sent her portrait to Aegon with talks of marriage. Her only demand was that her son Ronnel would be named Aegon's heir. Aegon did not reply. King Torrhen Stark also called his banners.
King Meryn Gardener and King Lorren Lannister assembled a huge army of 55,000 and marched towards Aegon. The three dragons gathered at Stoney Sept. The allies had 5 times as many men as Aegon did, including many more lords and knights. Meryn Gardener commanded the most men so he demanded command of the vanguard. Jon Mooton of Maidenpool, the first lord to come over, was given command of the Targaryen army. The narrative comments more than once that the field was quite dry that day. The allies charged and started to break the Targaryen lines. The dragons took to the air and began to set the field aflame on all sides, especially downwind of the allies while Mooton was upwind. Of the allies, 4,000 died in the fire while 10,000 men suffered burns. Other thousands suffered wounds. Of the Targaryens less than 100 were lost while Visenya took an arrow to the shoulder. King Meryn of Highgarden and his sons died in the battle but King Lorren Lannister escaped. He was caught the next day and so bent the knee. Aegon kept his promise and raised Lorren up and named him Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West. Aegon flew to Highgarden and the castle was surrended by Steward Harlen Tyrell. Aegon named him Lord of the Reach and Warden of the South. They began to journey to Oldtown when news came from the North.
Torrhen Stark had raised a large army (30,000) and had crossed the Neck. Aegon marched with an army half again that size. The Starks waited at Moat Cailin and took counsel. Torrhen's bastard brother, Brandon Snow, offered to sneak into the Targaryen camp and kill the three dragons. Instead, Torrhen sent three maesters to meet Aegon across the Trident. Torrhen would bend the knee and would be forever nown as "The King Who Knelt".
The siblings would split up with Visenya flying to the Vale. She would land in the Eyrie's inner courtyard. Queen Sharra would come out to find her son Ronnel with Visenya and he wouild ask her, "Mother, can I go fly with the lady?" Sharra would yield and Ronnel would get to fly with the lady twice.
Rhaneys would journey to Dorne but would find keep after keep empty except for women and children. When asked where the men went, the Dornish would just reply "away". She would finally journey to Sunspear and would only find the Princess of Dorne, Mirram Martell. She was 80, fat, blind, and almost bald. Argilac the Arrogant would call her the "Yellow Toad of Dorne". Mirram would tell Rhaenys that she would not fight nor kneel. She told her to leave and return at her peril. Rhaenys warned that if she left, she would return with fire and blood. Mirram answered with words of House Martell.
Aegon had gone to the greatest city in Westeros, Oldtown. There the High Septon resided. He prayed for seven days and was answered by the Crone. He was warned that if they fought, Oldtown would fall. The ruler of Oldtown, Banfred Hightower, was a cautious man. He listened to the high Septon and soon Oldtown yielded. In the Starry Sept, Aegon was anointed in oil and proclaimed Aegon, First of His Name, King of the First Men, the Andals, and the Rhoynar. Because the maesters were there at the coronation, this date is considered the correct date. Many thought that Aegon would choose Odltown as his capitol or perhaps Dragonstone. He surprised them by choosing his small fort as his new capitol, King's Landing. And from there he would rule from an uncomfortable seat called the Iron Throne.
GRRM stated that there will be different narratives in the Worldbook. He mentioned a dwarf jester of Viserys I named Mushroom who was around for some mayhem. There will also be a septon who will angrily refute many of Mushroom's wild claims. "Poison!? He didn't die of poison, he died in his sleep!"
In the Q&A he said he's not sure if he will expand the history of ASoIaF once the books are complete. He's not sure what he will want to do by then.
He said that LOVES to write about Arya's adventures in Braavos. He said he could write whole novels about. That received a huge applause until he joked that maybe he could put off Winds to do so.
He WILL collect the stories of Dunk and Egg into one book. I then asked if the story of Maekar's death (Egg's father) against an outlaw lord would be found in the Worldbook. He replied no, that will eventually make it into the Dunk and Egg stories. In the Worldbook the story of Maekar's death would be a SPOILER!!!
He doesn't think there is enough material to make a book with all the songs from the novels.
And no, LF will not ever be a POV.
George RR Martin reading: George did indeed read from The World of Ice and Fire, a lengthy excerpt concerning Aegon's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, with some character info on the Targaryen siblings and a little history of the line from its Valyrian exit to the Conquest. The best parts were some of the more detailed ones, such as the fall of Harrenhall, the Final Storm (the Targaryen conquest of the Storm Kings), and the Targaryen sibling character sketches (Aegon was nearly as mysterious to his era as he was to the Ice & Fire era, Rhaenys was his favorite sister-wife but she may have dabbled with other bed-mates, etc.) He also said that the conceit (at least in their minds, not sure that it will be a formal part of the book) being used is that Linda and Elio are writing from the perspective of one arch-maester and George is writing from the perspective of another, more opinionated one.
He read for nearly the entire hour so only took one question: will there be more Dunk & Egg stories? Yes, he said, in fact there is one being done for a short story collection and then these four will be collected into a single volume together (although do not expect that for several years).
I caught up with George briefly afterwards and asked him if he considers this to be like his Silmarillion. He laughed and said probably not, especially since Tolkien had many songs in The Silmarillion. I suggested maybe it was time he wrote some and he laughed again and said perhaps he should.
A couple more details from Day One now that I've slept a bit :)
--George mentioned the maps book in passing and said, despite repeated fan requests, there will never be a full world map...he used his often-cited reasoning that folks in the Middle Ages didn't have full world maps, or at least accurate ones, so why should the folks of Westeros?
--The Aegon's conquest section began with the Targaryens leaving Valyria and the reason why. It then followed the line, briefly and quickly, through the settlement of Dragonstone. It also covered Aegon's landing at Aegon's Fort/King's Landing and the various ways in which each of the Seven Kingdoms was, or was not, subdued. IIRC, the submissions of Harren the Black, Argelac the Arrogant (the last of the Storm Kings), the Lannisters, the Gardeners, the Arryns, the Martells, Oldtown, and the Starks were all given a bit of explanation, with more detail being spent on the battles for Harrenhall and Storm's End, as well as the unique way in which submission of the Arryns was achieved and the lack of conquest of Dorne. The Dorne passage included an awesome description of how the Dornishmen all faded away in front of the armies of Aegon's sister (forget which one), leaving only the 70-ish years old Princess of Dorne to openly defy the Targaryen and her dragon.
--He also mentioned which other sections he had done, but of course they've escaped me now...I think the original Dance with Dragons has a section, as well as some information on Aegon's peacetime policies and some history on the rule of his sons Aenys and Maegor the Cruel.
--The book will include some information on the Dawn Age and the Age of Heroes (presumably by Linda and Elio), but George pointed out that even in the age of the books these were long-distant times with little in the way of accurate information.
--George said that though this seemed like a somewhat easy task, basically collecting money while everyone else did most of the work, it hasn’t been quite like that. The information is background information that the people in the books know (just like we know about Thomas Jefferson without having to recap all that name means and implies) but that doesn’t directly come into the story or the characters’ discussions. In short, it exists and is fairly easily put forth, rather than being created from whole cloth. The problem is that he’s always been a big believer in show not tell and writing this sort of historical material in an appropriate voice requires mostly telling and very little showing.
--Francisco is correct re: the timing of the Dunk and Egg book. The new one will be in an anthology that won’t be out until later this year and that anthology holds the rights for a full year…then the D&E rights revert and the collection can be published.
Genre in Film and TV Panel: This was my favorite panel as it was basically GRRM, Melinda Snodgrass, and Michael Cassutt just shooting the breeze. They talked a bit about various shows and why they may have failed (Terra Nova, V, Life on Mars) and what kind of shows seem to be working now as genre fare (GOT for one). They were not confident that SyFy's recent announcement of a Blake's 7 remake will stick, mostly due to lack of confidence in that channel to do it right. They also enthusiastically brainstormed the idea of Beverly Hills 90210 with dinosaurs in it, so be prepared for that to hit the screen near you soon. Michael Cassutt was really cool and really funny, he had George in honest-to-goodness giggling fits on at least three occasions with his wisecracks. The dinosaur schtick also led George to tease us that despite dinos often being done wrong and used as ineffective window-dressing (Terra Nova, looking at you), fellow New Mexico writer Victor Milan's upcoming Dinosaur Lords trilogy from Tor does the "big, f-ing lizards" right. I've been hearing about this series off-and-on for a bit, so this added to my interest.
So, he confirmed Dangerous Women anthology for the publication later this year? Could you remember what's the name of the last Storm King?
On the anthology, I believe so... keeping in mind lots of events between Friday night and now. :) The last Storm King was Argilac the Arrogant, who was conquered by Orys Baratheon, King's Hand to Aegon. Orys joined his line with the Storm Kings' by taking Argilac's daughter as his wife.
That's the Princess of Dorne rather than a king's sister. Who is mocked as the Yellow Toad, but... she's pretty badass, let me tell you. ;)
... yes, she is a tough toad! In the excerpt, she basically sits alone in an empty throneroom and tells Aegon's sister (who rode in on a dragon, mind you) to get lost.
This is so cool! I actually find myself wanting this "World" book more than the next installment. Also, very interesting about Orys being the first Hand. Any other details that come to mind? What was the "unique" method of forcing Arryns to submit?
While I'm definitely pumped, I think I'd vote for Winds of Winter myself. :) George was right when he said this was a lot of telling, rather than showing. The best sections were when the telling gave way to a bit of showing (conquest of Harrenhall, etc.)...that's definitely his strength. What I'm really interested in is how the whole will come together; remember that George was really reading from a sidebar article and there will be a bunch more "stuff" in the book itself.
The Arryns (also at this time ruled by a young boy and his regent mother) sent a massive army to the Bloody Gate and then high-tailed it into the Eyrie. But Visenya Targaryen simply rode her dragon up into the courtyard of the Eyrie and the regent rushed outside to see the young king seated on the dragon and begging her for a ride. The Arryns surrendered and the king had his ride.
Martin spoke on a number of topics for the Q&A, although a lot of it wasn't new as people asked many of the usual questions. However, he did reveal that for Game of Thrones season 3, Morocco will be added to the filming locations, and it will stand in for Slaver's Bay. There most interesting question was about what Meera and Jojen Reed know about the Tower of Joy. George said that the Reeds might know something about it. GRRM also noted to one question that he thinks Victarion is "dumb as a stump".
so at miscon 2012, george r.r. martin read not one but two chapters from winds of winter!
he also answered a pressing and important question: what word did brienne of tarth scream in feast for crows?
[Note: I've redacted the The Winds of Winter chapter reading report. You can read it at the forum, along with other chapter reading reports.]
anyway after he finished reading the chapters, he opened the floor to some discussion about the plot of asoiaf, and some amazing genius girl said: you know my friends and i were debating this pretty heavily in the lobby just today, brienne screams “one word” as she is being hung by lady stoneheart’s men in a feast for crows - what was the word?
george turned the question on the audience and asked if anyone had figured it out - we shouted all kinds of dumb stuff, “jaime”, “sapphires”, etc. but some other genius in the second row said “sword”!
george confirmed that the word brienne screamed was “sword”; lady stoneheart gave brienne the choice of either swearing her sword to her or being hung, saying “sword or noose”, and as brienne was being hung she screamed “sword”
the questions moved on for some time, but then a girl asked “well what about podrick payne? he was getting hung with brienne!” and george confirmed that brienne had made the decision to swear her sword to stoneheart in order to save the innocent podrick payne from the noose
Well, just came back from TIFF. George was great!
No, I didn't have a ticket. I went down to TIFF and asked everyone if there were rush seats - no - or an overflow room - no - and looked very sad and sorrowful. And in the end 2 different TIFF people actually offered me tickets. For free.
And when I went into the room the front 5 or 6 rows were for the public, and then about 10 rows for sponsors, then back rows and the balconies for the public. I asked if there were any single seats and ended up smack dab in the middle, basically in front of George, and in the 3rd row. Beauty! Always have faith!
If you listen to the CBC interview which you'll see the link for under General ASOIAF, much of what he said was repeated tonight. He admitted Tyrion was his favourite, and if he was having dinner with 3 characters, they would be Tyrion, Maester Aemon and then he thought of Arya, but feared she would throw food at him, so he'd go with Dany, because she's hot!
[Redacted description of a partial reading of a chapter from The Winds of Winter.]
As for his reading style, George reads well with feeling. He doesn't do voices or accents but his voice rises and falls with passion and emphasis.
Couple of stories from George, maybe you've seen them already.
The Wall is filmed in a quarry in Ireland. There's basically this huge cliff, and the section used for the wall is painted white. There is a working elevator built to go up the side of the cliff (I mean, the one in the book and show). The quarry drops towards the centre where there is a lake where water collects. The first time there, GRRM looked up the side of this huge cliff and asked someone what the depth was from the top of the cliff to the bottom of the quarry, and was told "400 feet". And he said he looked up again and said, "Shit, I made the wall too high."
He also said from the beginning the 2 actors they knew they wanted were Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean. No one was asked to read for Tyrion, Peter was the one. Other actors read for Ned, in case Sean couldn't accept their offer because of conflicts.
George said that artists have trouble with Dragonstone because they draw it like a normal castle with dragon statues adorning the walls. It is the only castle in Westeros built by the Valyrians and they had a powerful magic which could liquify stone and shape it how they want. (Inspiration for Stone-made-soft in the Long Price perhaps?) So Dragonstone is literally shaped as a dragon with doorways opening in their mouths.
[Note: This transcript is provided by Deborah Beale, wife of fantasy author Tad Williams, whose "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" series was a significant influence on GRRM's "A Song of Ice and Fire". The transcript was streamed by Ms. Beale over Williams's twitter account.]
Tad: I want to thank the folks responsible for tonight – whoah, slow down, what an enthusiastic bunch! First let me thank the very kind people from one of the world’s finest indie booksellers, and that’s Kepler’s Books. And also let me thank the management at the beautiful Fox Theatre.I’m acting as your agent, taking questions for our esteemed guest. He and I have known each other for some time laboring in the same fields. A few years ago we were talking at a convention and I was telling George how not thrilled I was about my comic-book company experiences – I was being treated like a brand-new writer -- OK I was whining. And when I told this to George he looked up and in that Jacobean way of his he said, "That’s outrageous, they should treat you like a visiting prince." But I know YOU folks know how to treat visiting royalty, right?
Ladies and gentlemen, applause please for our very own visiting royalty – Mr George R R Martin!
GRRM: Thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s quite a year for me -- it’s quite a week for me. This bookstore has been terrific for me and I take special pleasure in returning to Redwood City and Keplers. In 1996 when they sent me on my first tour for A Game of Thrones, I had been a prince in exile for a number of decades. I had been working in Hollywood and I wasn’t well known any more in the SF field and I did a number of signings where the turn-out was minimal, and in some cases hypothetical. But there were a few exceptions to that – Kentucky – and Keplers. Keplers sold more copies of >A Game of Thrones than any bookstore in the USA. It is great to return to the scene of the crime!
The format here is I’m going to say a few remarks and answer a few of the frequently asked questions, then turn it over to you before I begin debasing your books.
Tad’s fantasy series, The Dragonbone Chair and the rest of his famous four-book trilogy was one of the things that inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy. I read Tad and was impressed by him, but the imitators that followed -- well, fantasy got a bad rep for being very formulaic and ritual. And I read >The Dragonbone Chair and said, "My god, they can do something with this form," and it’s Tad doing it. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series.
The FAQs – like, what the hell took me so damn long? That’s a heavy one and you know it’s complicated -- strange things going around the internet like I had the book finished but was hiding it. But in an excess of optimism I’d hit 1,500 pages for A Feast for Crows and my publisher was saying, when is this going to end? How many thousand more pages? And I said, I don’t know – maybe 5, maybe 6, maybe 800. I pulled out of it 500pp for A Dance with Dragons, leaving about 1,000 pages. So Feast came out and then I had those pages left over. I thought, I’ll write another 500pp, it’ll take a year and then I’ll have another book of comparable size and I made my infamous mistake. It goes down with famous last words, like that civil war cannon ball can’t possibly hit us. But when it was finally complete, the book was another 1,500 pages and in addition as I got into it I didn’t like those 500 pages that I had pulled. I would up rewriting a lot of them, so really only a couple of hundred got pulled from Feast and made it into Dance. That’s what took so long and I know some of you were a gleam in your father’s eye when I was starting, but eventually it will all be done and eventually it will all be good.
More FAQ - what do you think of the HBO series – well, I think the HBO series is great. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in the people I’ve been partnered with. The New York Times bestseller list, the books have been climbing since the first one just made the extended list at #13. And now we’re #1 for the second week in a row. Initially, Hollywood contact was screenwriters and studios, and I thought about that and there are temptations to say yes to something like that dumptruck of money. But fortunately I had no need and I could exercise a little thought. I couldn’t see that my book would make a 2.5 hour movie… What it needs is the sort of treatment Tolkien got, and nobody’s going to commit to how big it would be. I had the luxury of saying what is always always the sexiest word in Hollywood: No. But if you say it enough eventually you get an offer you can’t say no to, and the offer is right. I sat down with the showrunners and producers in the Palm restaurant in LA and we thought out the film.
I said, It can’t be network, they will take out all the sex and violence and put it in an 8 o’clock time slot, god help me. All around us, little by little people are leaving and we’re still drinking coffee, and then people started coming in for dinner and we were still talking. We got great stuff right there. Sean Bean for Ned Stark and Peter Dinklage for Tyrion came right there at that meeting. I had a little TV experience so I didn’t frighten them so much, since I knew the realities of budgets, shooting, the costs of sheds for the actors and their care and feeding. I write one script per season but I can’t write more unless you want the books even later than they are. I’m consulted and we talk frequently, and I see all the audition tapes. Sometimes they listen to me, sometimes not so much. It’s been a great process with Dan Weiss and David Benioff. We’ve had a fabulous casting director –- great actors –- some straight out of drama school, and the kids are incredible, kids who had only done school plays before they were canst and now they’re on HBO movies, that’s very exciting. So I am thrilled to be doing the HBO series and we started filming 3 days ago on the second season. Hopefully there’ll be a third and a fourth too.
Tad: A question from the audience -- what will happen if HBO catches up to you?
GRRM: I’m doing the best I can. I hope they won’t catch up with me!
Tad: Another question from the audience -- would you allow someone else to finish for you and who do you think could do the job well? [jokes] That was a suggestion from K J Anderson – thanks, Kevin, for the question!!!
GRRM: No one is going to finish for me. But if I’ll be dead…. No. I intend to finish this for myself.
Tad: There would be so many people out there following you around in case you tripped--
GRRM: One of the many good things about fans is, if I ever need a kidney – hey!
Tad: Question: Do you purposely start a character as bad so you can later kill them?
GRRM: No. What is bad? Bad is a label. We are human beings with heroism and self-interest and avarice in us and any human is capable of great good or great wrong. In Poland a couple of weeks ago I was reading about the history of Auschwitz – there were startling interviews with the people there. The guards had done unthinkable atrocities, but these were ordinary people. What allowed them to do this kind of evil? Then you read accounts of acts of outrageous heroism, yet the people are criminals or swindlers, one crime or another, but when forced to make a choice they make a heroic choice. This is what fascinated me about the human animal. A lot of fantasy turns on good and evil – but my take on it is that it’s fought within the human heart every day, and that’s the more interesting take. I don’t think life is that simple.
Tad: All of us work with multiple viewpoints – I hear this next question a lot: with story-driven plots, how do you decide which character viewpoint to write from – do you write several characters, taste them, then decide?
GRRM: No, not several, at least not intentionally. I had more choice early in the series, I frequently had situations where 2 or 3 were present at the same time. But as it’s progressed they have dispersed, so I need to be in the viewpoint of whoever’s there. There are some cases when I have a choice and in that case, I weigh which one. Without talking exactly about "The Mereenese Knot" – I’m not going to talk exactly about it, but but [there was a time when] a number of viewpoints were coming together in Mereen for a number of events, and I was wrestling with order and viewpoint. The different points-of-view had different sources of knowledge and I never could quite solve it. I was rewriting the same chapter over and over again – this, that, viewpoint? – spinning my wheels. It was one of the more troublesome thickets I encountered. There’s a resolution not to introduce new viewpoint characters, but the way I finally dealt with things was with Barristan, I introduced him as a viewpoint character as though he’d been there all along. That enabled me to clear away some of the brush.
Tad: Question: do you choose characters because they will provide you with a viewpoint or something characterful?
GRRM: Actually, no. I try to give each viewpoint character an arc of his own, and ideally I would like to think that you could pull the material out – in the early books I was able to pull out the Daenerys chapters and publish them separately as a novella, and I won a Hugo Award for that. It'd be great if I could pull out each [character-arc] and it would resemble a story. In some cases a character died and that was a very short story. My prologue and epilogue characters always die but even then I try to give them a story.
Tad: You say that like they’re the only ones. We know better, George! Tapping a vein of reader interest here – do present-day events factor into your writing, and how much do you have real-life political events in mind?
GRRM: I think there’s some of that going on, yeah, you know. But I’m not setting out to write a political allegory. Tolkien was often accused of that with ‘Rings,’ WW2 or WW1, I don’t feel quite sure of the point but there’s probably some influences, some critic could study it. But I hate it when they say stuff like Stannis is actually [some real-life source.]
Tad: question - do you mourn any of the characters you killed -- ps you’re a genius -- ?
GRRM: Actually I do mourn the characters I kill. You have live with that, become that, crawl inside its skin. Some of my characters are like me and some are very unlike me, but the emotional core is still me reaching inside, which all writers do I think. All inspiration becomes grist for the mill. The only person we really know down deep is ourselves -- the demons in the dark -- I am all these people in some sense, so I kill an aspect of myself and its difficult but I do it anyway.
Tad: I can see the bumper-sticker -- Authors don’t kill characters – Characters kill characters. You’ve been living with some of these characters for quite a long stretch now. How much of the idea of the story did you have when you started?
GRRM: Nothing. I had nothing, I was writing another novel that I’d started in ‘91, but I had a few months off before pitch season started so I began Avalon, an SF novel, and it was going reasonably well, 30 to 40 pages. Suddenly a first chapter came to me so vividly and it could not possibly be part of Avalon. It was so vivid I had to write it. I started and 50, 60 pages were there suddenly, then I drew a map, then I put it aside for 3 years because I sold a pilot and did some screenplays. But the characters were in my head, and when I returned to it in ‘94 it was like, 3 days had passed. Which was unusual for me, it hadn’t been like that, I have trouble switching from 1 character to another and if I’m away from something for too long, it pulled away from me. I have a famous unfinished novel, Black and White and Red All Over, but these characters wouldn’t leave me alone. And they’re insisting I still have a long way to go.
Tad: Will we ever see Asshai or the Shadow?
GRRM: You may hear about it and you may get flashback scenes from characters who have been there and you can puzzle it out on the internet. But I don’t know. I may return to write other stories set in this world. I want you to return to Osten Ard by the way.
Tad: Do you have any moment to share from all this where it was – Wow oh wow…
GRRM: There’s been a half dozen this past year. It was incredible last week at Comic Con on the ‘Game of Thrones’ panel -- Comic Con is a madhouse, there’s nothing like it on earth, 150,000 in one room -- we were 4,200 people [at that panel.] I was moderator and all these people were screaming and making that sound strange squealing sound when they see famous people--
GRRM: It was startling. I could see the cast come out, but that one was about me. Ok! That was pretty cool. And a couple of months before that, being named one of the Time 100. Well, I’m now trying to use my immense influence for good. I’m going to settle this debt thing, and reform the Hugo rules and their ridiculous categories, and I’m going to solve the NFL, I told them so… It’ll be another great year for the Jets and we’re gonna kick the Raiders’ asses. [risible, mixed audience reaction re. local team]
I want to apologize for not personalizing people’s books. In Slovenia there was a thousand people in line, waiting, and four of the fainted. We can’t do posed photos, same reasons, we have to move the line along. I’m signing for four hours. Please don’t look at me all big puppy dogs – I can’t do that!!! I do want to meet all of you briefly – and if you have a question, well, say it quick, don’t ask me if you can ask a question because then you’ve just asked the question!
Tad: Thanks everyone, and now the signing can commence.
I showed up to B&N a little before 4 and the seats had already filled up, so I took a seat on the floor in the standing room line. I was early enough that I was about 60 or 70 people back in line, which meant I still got through pretty quickly once the signing began and was out a little before 9. Big props to the B&N staff for keeping things organized and moving quickly.
George got a standing ovation when he came up the escalator and his first words on the microphone were, "Wow. See, I really was working on it!" He talked about how much bigger the crowds are now than when he was on the book tour for AGOT and told the story of how the four people at a signing in St. Louis got up and left as he was about to start ("Some writers talk about having no one show up to their signings, but I think I'm the only one who can claim a turnout of negative 4!").
George said he'd talk about the three questions he gets most often. Most people here know the answer to "What took you so long?" The second question was "When will the next one be out?", and he said "It will be done when it's done. I've learned my lesson not to make promises." He also said he hoped to have the ASOIAF World Book out next year. The third question was "What do you think of the TV show?", and his answer was "I love the TV show, I think it's amazing." He talked about the Emmy nominations (Peter Dinklage's nomination drew the biggest applause), mentioned that ADWD had the biggest first-day sales of any new novel published in 2011, and then opened the floor up for questions.
Quick summary of audience questions and GRRM's answers (the quoted parts are my notes filled out to the best of my memory):
Q: Is it possible the tale will grow in the telling again and we will see eight book?
A: "I would like to do it in 7," but he didn't want to make any promises.
Q: Do the many gods serve any other purpose?
A: George answered this by talking about what he sees as the two schools of readers: those interested mainly in plot and those who are interested in the entire experience. "My philosophy of fiction is not necessarily all about advancing the plot... I want to give my readers a vicarious experience. Ten years later, I don't want you to remember you read a book, I want you to remember you lived an experience."
Q: What new advice for young writers did you learn by writing Dance?
A: "Don't try to write something so gigantic! When I finish the series I'm never going to do it again," adding that he would write more short stories and standalones. His summary of advice to young writers is "write everyday," "read voraciously" in multiple genres, and "start with short stories."
Q: What is the last book you read that you thought was great?
A: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. George admitted he was a bit biased as Corey is really his assistant Ty and his friend Daniel Abraham, but he did love the book.(Right after he said this, a B&N employee walked down the aisle I was standing in, grabbed a big stack of copies of Leviathan Wakes, and brought them out to a table by the top of the down escalator. I heard later that they sold all of them by the end of the night.)
Q: Is a certain POV character in ADWD gay?
A: "I can't answer without spoiling, but if you're talking about what I think you're talking about, then yes." George mentioned that there are gay characters in ASOIAF. He mentioned Loras & Renly, saying that he included "what I thought were subtle but clear hints. HBO was not subtle about it."
Q: Will you make a cameo in the HBO series?
A: "Probably, though you'll have to watch very carefully." He told the story of his cameo in the original pilot and the crazy hat he wore as a Tyroshi.
Q: How do you stay plugged into the story and keep track of the details?
A: "Most of the stuff is kepts in my head. I do have notes and charts, but not as many as I should." And he emails Ran with questions about character details. :) He said he gets upset with himself when he makes a mistake, because there are already intentional mistakes in what characters say. "Some inconsistencies are deliberate. There are unreliable narrators, especially when they are remembering things."
Q: Did you have to fight with your publisher to keep that huge thing that happens in the first book? (There was a no spoiler policy in effect for the Q&A.)
Q: How long should an aspiring writer stick with one idea?
A: "If an idea comes to you and demands to be written, you need to write it." (My apologies for not taking better notes on the answer.)
Q: Hodor hodor hodor, hodor hodor, hodor hodor hodor hodor?
A: "Definitely hodor."
And then he started signing books, and then we all ended up at Professor Thom's where the bar had made a sign for the "Game of Thrones Fan Party" on the second floor, and it was a good time.
[Note: This report refers to the question of Jeyne Westerlings hips, described by Catelyn as being "good" for the purposes of having children, and described by Jaime as "narrow". This seeming contradiction has sparked theories that the girl Jaime sees and is told is Jeyne is in fact an impostor.]
I actually asked GRRM about this at the union square signing. When he spoke he said some mismatched descriptions are him doing it on purpose, and some are mistakes. And the mistakes are really unfortunate because it detracts from when he does it on purpose.
When we approached the stage for signings we had the chance to ask a quick question, and he told me that that the hips were a mistake unfortunately.
George showed up, got big applause. Is currently explaining what took so long. The story we all know. Some on his writing process. Sometimes writes several of the same pov chapters in a row. Lots of people are recording this so more complete synopses will be available, doubtless. Comments that he knew it would annoy people to move his most popular characters out of A Feast for Crows but that he didn't realize just HOW annoyed people would get.
Made a quip about his bit at the end of AFFC about the next book being along in a year. "It took longer than I thought, but here we are in 2007 and dance is out!" References the chapbook with the first three Dany chapters from 2005 and that it offers insight as to how much the book has changed since then. Some jokes about football. Shouts of "Go Pats!" from some in the crowd, getting laughs. Oh, Boston. Actively not promising TWOW next year. Hopes it won't take as long as AFFC and ADWD. But "no promises" and "there are lots of other good books". Promotes Abraham, Lynch and Rothfuss.
A dude directly across from me looks like the undertaker's ugly brother. He never smiles. I'm saying right now that if something awful happens, he probably did it. George lauds Gwendolen Christie (Brienne). Says a half dozen other roles have been cast but he can't talk about them yet. They're going to start filming next season. As executive producer he writes one episode per season. Says he'd like to write more than one, but that we'd get to wait twenty years for The Winds of Winter rather than the six for A Dance with Dragons.
Still seven books and favorite character?
Favorite is Tyrion but he loves them all, even the slimeballs. Still aiming for seven books but no promises.
Any potential future for Syrio Forel?
Martin gives no comment.
Aging up of characters in the show?
The prime reason was Dany, since it was felt they couldn't show a thirteen year old girl going through what she goes through. Real medieval culture had no adolescence so he goes with that in the books. Modern society doesn't go with that, so while a married thirteen year old having sex is fine in a book, but moving to tv would necessitate either removal of sex scenes or aging her. In the UK an adult actor can't portray an underage character in sexual situations legally. So by upping her age they ended up upping other kids' ages.
The other factor being that casting child actors is harder than casting teenage and young adult actors. Kid actors recite words but don't act much or else try overact and overemote.
Jokes about why he never wrote a Rickon POV. "I have an inner child, but it's not that young."
What if HBO catches up?
They won't catch up! "I have a big head start."
Any pov characters in Casterly Rock?
Yes, maybe in TWOW.
The first two books were big and written fast, was that a creative spurt?
Parts of A Clash of Kings were ending up in A Gameo of Thrones, so he cut it off and when A Game of Thrones was published a lot of A Clash of Kings was written. He admits that A Storm of Swords was written quickly. Moved a Sansa chapter to The Winds of Winter because it was the beginning of a plot so worked better in a new book.
How are you dealing with the crush of fandom?
"Ask me at the end of this signing". 1500 people here, big but not as big as the 2000 in Slovenia. A Feast for Crows had the first really scary signings for him. Mentions his rules to keep the line moving. Four people in Slovenia fainted.
What's it like having your books translated to tv?
"it's been great for me!" since he worked in tv for so long he knows what to expect realistically from an adaption.
What would you name your direwolf?
Depends on personality. Has a cat named Asha.
[Note: This article reports on Martin's trip to Slovenia, and is in Slovenian. However, the embedded video features Martin discussing the genesis of the novels and shows other details from his trip.]
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