The Citadel is an archive of information for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
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Just got back from dinner. Had a great time. Being able to talk to two published authors (Wild Card author Mary Anne Mohanraj also joined us) was rather spellbinding. They had some great publishing stories and we talked alot about other books and authors we all liked. So there wasn't too much ASoIaF talk.
However, GRRM did talk a little bit more about ep. 8 which he is writing. He really wouldn't get nailed down about where the episode ends but he did say it would also involve the NW finding Otho and Jafer Flowers and the Dothraki and the Lamb Men. So pretty cool!
One thing I found interesting that she didn't mention was GRRM's response to a question about how he keeps all the details straight as he writes more books.
GRRM responded that this was one of the things that was making Dance take so long, namely having to go back and check a bunch of details. He said that without search functions in documents he would have gone mad.
He gave a very funny rant about eye color - about how in the real world, we really notice anyone's eye color unless we're very close to them, but in books, everyone has their eye color described. Having to go back and check the eye color he gave for hundreds of characters was an example of a detail that could drive him batty; GRRM said he regretted mentioning the eye color of any of his characters. He also noted that as a brown-eyed person, he finds it annoying that brown-eyed characters are always portrayed as ordinary, while the doers of great deeds always have blue or hazel eyes or something - he notes that he himself was somewhat guilty of this with the violet eyes of Dany or the red eyes of Melisandre.
He said that in all seriousness, what was most important in rereading prior books to make sure he got the continuity right was speech patterns - each of his hundreds of characters has a distinct way of talking that he wants to make sure he is faithful to.
Another interesting thing he mentioned: he mentioned the coming of age of Arya in Braavos in the context of how a writer had to discipline himself to write only as many chapters as were necessary to serve the story, saying that what Arya was dealing with in Braavos could make a worthy young adult novel in its own right.
Another tidbit I liked (this I think from Friday night): that while Tyrion was his favorite character and the most like himself, and for those reasons perhaps the easiest for him to write, these chapters have been harder in Dance because of the dark turn Tyrion's story has taken.
He talked about how in typical fantasy, a magician will throw lightning bolts and kill thousands of men, but in 'real' medieval times, more men died of disease than on the battlefield, due to the unsanitary conditions involved in keeping together a large army - to me, there was a hint that we may see some of this effect of disease in Dance.
In talking about his progress writing Dance, he mentioned that he is now writing the epilogue - this doesn't mean that he's finishing up; he was clear that he was writing this part out of order. As we've heard before, the he said that resolution of the Meereenese knot was the major thing left to complete in Dance.
In response to a question about whether it was hard to kill a character, he said that it always was, even if the character was an evil bastard. He said that the Red Wedding was the hardest thing he's ever written, and that he put off doing it until the rest of the book was complete.
The Friday night reading was the lengthy Jon Snow chapter that others have probably read before, but which I had disciplined myself not to view online. Martin does the voices of his characters very well - I liked Sam's squeaky, stuttering falsetto.
Finally, to me the most interesting thing he said publicly all weekend were some comments about the nature of writing and what he tries to do. He said that pure good-and-evil fantasy wasn't interesting to him; while Tolkien had done Sauron masterfully, he'd had a lot of bad imitators doing 'dark lord' villains. He noted that to him the most interesting characters in Lord of the Rings were the more flawed heroes, folks like Boromir and Denethor.
He made the point rather dramatically by saying that all fiction could be lumped into two types: Good guy punches bad guy in the nose, or the human heart struggles against itself. He said he was really only interested in writing the second kind of fiction.
At the beginning of the Q&A, GRRM decided to forestall a few questions.
So he announced, "quot;I'm still working on IT"quot; and said he had more than 1,300 pages in final draft form. Right now he is working on the epilogue - but that doesn't necessarily mean its the last thing to get done. He will post on his LJ Not A Blog when he is done. He won't hint when he is done. There will be no smoke signals. He will be posting "quot;I'M DONE"quot; when he is done.
He talked about the HBO series and how it is 10 episodes and 1 season right now. Maybe they will move to 2 seasons per book if the series continues but it all depends on how the first season does. HBO does not care about ratings, it cares about subscriptions - so he urged us to subscribe to HBO and to tell them the reason we were subscribing was Game of Thrones. He added that he cannot get anyone a job on the show - he gets lots of letters from people asking him to do this. He knows they are looking for extras with large beards to be on the show but you need to be in Northern Ireland and he has nothing to do with it.
Okay onto questions...
(1) Will we be seeing GRRM as an extras in the show?
There is some chance of this. We need to watch the show closely.
(2) How well is the book translating to tv?
GRRM said that they are doing a faithful "adaptation". But it is an ADAPTATION. With only 10 hours to cover the entire book there is obviously going to be some difference. Some minor characters will not be there. Some will be regulated to background non speaking parts. Some favorite dialogue will be cut. If you liked Jackson's LOTR movies, you will be happy because it is about in that realm of faithfulness. He is pretty happy with what he has seen so far. But he said its going to get harder as the series progresses as the characters separate more and more and it becomes more complex. But right now they are all just focusing on season 1 by trying to stay faithful to the book and make good television. He's got a lot of fans but a large book audience is only a drop in the bucket compared to tv audiences.
(3) Did it give HBO producers "pause" that the book has two separate plots only vaguely connected?
He wasn't in the room when the HBO producers were discussing the plot so he has no idea if it gave them..."pause" But he pointed out if it did, they seem to have moved beyond that now.
(4) Who is his favorite character?
Tyrion. He feels really lucky with the casting of his character for the HBO series. He loves what he has seen so far. But Tyrion is the easiest to write for him. He is funny but has angst. He is the most like GRRM...but GRRM is taller. However, he loves all of the characters he creates, even the a-holes.
(5) Trebla then asked his question about the skinchanger and the faceless man to which GRRM replied - probably not. (I didn't write anything more down here because I figured Trebla could supplement/correct as needed.)
GRRM then did a brief Fever Dreams commercial and urged people to check out his comic at the Avatar booth and promised that his vampires "Do not twinkle".
(6) What inspired him to set Fever Dreams where it is?
GRRM talked about living in Dubuque, Iowa which was once an important steam boat port. He got interested in steam boats so he decided to write a story with them. Being a fantasy writer, he decided to stick vampires into the story. He didn't end up actually writing the story until he moved to New Mexico where there is no water.
(7)Has he gotten any new knights?
He gets them all the time but his collection has slowed down because he has no time right now.
(8) What is the future of Wild Cards?
Still going. Working on volume 21 which he hopes to deliver next month. He hopes to do more beyond that. Ft. Freak should be a cool book. It centers around NYC's 5th precinct which handles all the police problems in the Wild Card world.
(9) How does he collaborate with other writers?
There is no easy answer to this. Its like having sex - its different with every person. GRRM talked about his early experience with his first girlfriend and how he thought he had sex all figured out after her and knew what women liked. But then he got his second girlfriend and she liked completely different things so he had to learn all over again. Collaborations are like this. He mentioned his experience with Hunter's Run and how he approached Daniel by asking him, "How do you feel about a 3 way with two old fat guys?" He talked about how collaborating has changed with the internet. In the old days when he was working with Lisa Tuttle you had to type up your pages, send them through the mail to the other person, then they would have to retype your pages with their changes and add their bits and send them back to you and how much time it would take to do this.
(10) How does one socialize with other writers?
GRRM talked about founding a SF writer group in Chicago back when he was living here and recommended looking for a writers group to join as one way to connect with other writers. He stressed that you should look for writers who are your own level - i.e. for his group he had the requirement that everyone had to have published at least one story. And if you are a beginner writer, you might want to look for a group of other beginner writers. He also mentioned that conventions and events like the one we were at were a good way to meet other writers - i.e. go to writer panels. And he stressed the importance of networking among your peers because someday one will be an editor of something and someone else will recommend you to their agent, etc.
(11) Where did he teach when he was in Iowa?
He taught at Clark College. He was the print journalism department. He also ended up having to be the advisor to the student newspaper - which he hadn't expected or been told about prior to getting the job. He got into trouble doing this as his role was really to censor the school newspaper and he didn't believe in censorship. So as a result there were articles about lesbians and other hot topics...well for the 1970s at an all Catholic girls college.
(12) How does he feel about the Jets' new quarterback.
This was puzzling to GRRM as of course the Jets do not have a new quarterback...so basically the guy asking the question had his sports news completely wrong.
(13) Talk about your switch from journalism to being a writer.
GRRM always knew he wanted to be a writer but he also knew how little a writer could make. So he majored in journalism in college as a fall back career possibility. However, he started selling stories in college so he never really had to fall back on the journalism career. He learned a lot from his journalism training. He doesn't think it would be the best fall back choice for an aspiring writer today, however, as today journalism as a fall back position might be a sinking ship. He mentioned that he has a podcast for aspiring writers and recommended they check it out. He did stress that if you want to be a writer, you must write a piece and finish it. A lot of people talk about wanting to be a writer, a lot of people start stories...to be a writer, you must finish a story. He also told people to be prepared for a lot of rejection.
(14) How does he feel about Jaime loosing to Rand al'Thor in the Suvudu Cage Match?
(15) Any books he'd read recently that he'd recommend?
He recently read Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis which he really enjoyed. The Nazis have supermen! The British have demons!
(16) How does he feel about Jaime loosing to Rand al'Thor in the Suvudu Cage Match? (Yes, this really was asked for a second time)
al'Thor's fans cheated! Jaime lacks magical powers so it really wasn't a fair fight. Magical powers make it hard for a swordsman. He was glad Jaime managed to defeat Hermione Granger. He was really glad to see the fan support for the event. But he wondered if maybe some more mainstream cage matches could be more interested. He'd like to see Silas Marner take on Huck Finn.
(17) Does he have a system for keeping track of his characters?
This is becomming increasingly more difficult for him. Most info is in his head. He does have family trees drawn up for the main families. But he finds himself having to keep going back and rereading his writing to find out info about his characters. He uses the "search" button on his books a lot. Computers and the "search" function make it a lot easier to find the info he is looking for. HE IS REALLY SICK OF EYE COLORS!!!!! He could tell everyone in the audience has eyes. However, he couldn't tell what color anyone has. You only really notice a person's eye color when you go in to kiss them. As a brown eyed person he gets really annoyed by the lack of brown eyed characters. Too much blue. And ff you have purple eyes...you are obviously important! He wishes he had never given any of his characters eye colors as he doesn't like having to keep that info straight. Instead he'd rather focus on things like a character's speach patterns. He likes to try and stay consistent to a character with that. Its important to him to keep a difference between the high born and poor people.
(18) Which characters most helped him develop the story?
They all did. In the beginning it was mainly the adult characters as the kids were just along for the ride. But now that the kids are growing up, that is changing.
(19) Does it hurt to kill a character?
Yes. Even the sons of bitches. The death in Book 3 was the hardest to do.
(20) What was his mindset in having a smaller pace in Feast of Crows and the growing importance of religion?
GRRM was inspired by real history and reading about the 100 Years War and the Crusades. He wanted to make people turning to religion in times like that a part of his world. He is also trying to incorporate real things into the story he is writing now. He wants to bring in the elements of disease which isn't often addressed. Often people will just have a bolt of lightning kill off everyone in a story but in reality it would be thousands of people dying from disease. Its difficult to decide how far to go down this road. You don't want it to end up like in Monty Python where everyone ends up covered in shit.
(21) Will the next Dunk & Egg story take place at Winterfell?
Probably - but he hasn't started writing it yet. But that is the plan.
(22) Aragorn v. Jaime - who would win?
GRRM had to clarify what their condition would be and what they'd be fighting with. Jaime would have both his hands. Just swords. So a fairly even fight. Clarification was needed on what sort of protective gear Aragon actually wears and this segwayed into a brief mention about armour and how it was worn and used for a reason.
(23) You are so good at humanizing your less than likeable characters...so when are we going to see the other side of Melisandre?
She has a viewpoint in the next book. He likes to show that all his characters are human. He doesn't believe in Dark Lords. He loves Tolkien but Dark Lords haven't worn well in the hands of Tolkien's immitators. The most evil people in the world don't think of themselves as evil. Hitler probably thought of himself as a hero. You need to reflect this. His favorite quote is from William Faulkner after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature..."...the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. That is his mantra.
(24) Does he know how he is going to end the series?
He thinks he does but he reserves the right to change it. But he knows where he is going.
(25) Any particular storyline he is enjoying right now?
He said that Dany's storyline is emerging in increasing importance. But he is struggling with the Meereenese Knot. So he can't say he is enjoying it. But he is really enjoying writing Arya's story. He could write an entire novel of it. He could write an entire YA novel about her...(at this point the audience starting clapping and calling out YES! DO IT!)...but her entire story isn't part of the greater novel. He has 12 novels worth of info for this book and its hard to fit it all in.
(26) How different is the plot from what he originally envisioned?
Not different - just more of it. It has grown in complexity but he likes it that way because it feels real to him.
GRRM concluded his talk by mentioning the Dothraki language that is being created for the HBO series by David Peterson of the Language Creation Society. He talked about how after the press release went out about it, someone had to come forward and denounce the Society. How many people in the world create their own languages? There can't be that many of them. But no matter how few of them there are, even they have factions. Human life and politics are complex and he tried to reflect this in his novels. It isn't just good guys and back guys because even among the good guys there would be 17 different factions.
[Note: This recounts an exchange a fan had with GRRM at the Denvention Worldcon. Ran would be your intrepid SSM maintainer. ;)]
Then he [William Lexner] said that Ran wanted to know how old Darkstar was.George got that 'i don't fucking know' look on his face, then replied that he had Ran to answer those sorts of questions.
These notes are not representative of the whole session and might have errors, I am just trying to write down in good faith what I remember. My memory, handwriting and language skills all got failings so please keep that in mind.
The theme of the session was genre: fantasy, sf, horror from an author´s point of view. Moderator was Rogéério Ribeiro and the other participant was a portuguese author (of sf I think) called João Seixas. Saturday, 5th of July 2008, 16.00 at the auditorium of Biblioteca Orlando Ribeiro (Biblioteca de Telheiras) in Lisbon.
The discussion started with genre, in which field did GRRM feel more comfortable writing. GRRM replied he does not differentiate to any great extant, that he believes people write what they read and mentions the overlap of genre historically done, like Lovecraft´s sf stories, Jack Williamson´s work particularly "Darker than You Think". Discussion then turned to that in the USA there is strong differentiation of genres by the public, including separate labels and for younger writers breaking into the genre if they want to write in a different genre (or subgenre) name changes are suggested.
GRRM mentioned that in the USA fantasy is going much better than sf. Historically sf outsold fantasy but then in the 60s Tolkien and then in 70s the Del Rey imprints and authors like Donaldson and Terry Brooks started to show up in the bestseller lists. Currently it´s not clear, that now that bestselling authors like Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke died, which sf authors can emerge to have that sort of bestselling numbers and status.
GRRM - Fantasy outselling SF seems to be a worldwide phenomen, even more pronounced in Britain than in the USA, the exception seems to be Asia, Japan particularly. GRRM thinks that is because the Asian countries have more belief in the future, that in the USA maybe readers have lost the belief in the "sf future", that most americans when polled reply they think their children will have a worse life than they have, due to things to pollution and climate change. The attitude in Asia resembles 1950s America. Na example is the tallest building in the world. Through many years in sf that was a symbol of progress, giant towers of early sf, and they are not being built in the USA anymore. Through the beginning of the 20th century, American buildings suceeded each other higher and higher has being the tallest building in the world but now those supertall towers are getting build in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Malaysia, Dubai-- The obsession with the futuristic seems to have moved to Ásia.
Then some arguments from the portuguese sf author about role of science in asian societies, but I really did not agree with some of those points and can think of plenty of counterarguments so I did not bother with notes or trying to transcribe. Let me just say that a lot of science development happened and a lot of sf got written in post-1945 America IMHO.
GRRM then told an anecdote that when he was growing up, a lot of sf authors had a written future history, a universe defining how the future would develop. Heinlein, Asimov had it, got published as appendixes to their stories (personal note: much of GRRM´s own sf seems to fit the same universe, anybody ever tried to build a timeline or concordance for that? I love his sf stories as well). The one future history which GRRM did not think believable was Heinlein´s which seemed arbitrary and full of incoherences. Turns out Heinlein was closest to the truth, he was right that people did go to space and then stopped. Heinlein predicted the crazy years, predicted a theocracy dictatorship, Nehemiah Scudder as dictator, which some days does not seem so implausible. Perhaps Heinlein was the accurate one.
GRRM - that there are many types of sf, but that the story of space travel was central to the genre. Like in history historians talk of the Matter of Britain or Matter of France (Arthur or Charlemagne), to american sf its central core was The Matter of Space, and the space program was abandoned and it undermined sf. A lot of people present at the conference were too young to ever had somebody walk on the moon during their lifetime.
A new question, if sf has run out of new ideas? According to GRRM no, there are always new ideas and even fads coming up in sf, things like nanotech, but perhaps the problem is that people stopped imagining the future as a terrific place.
Another new question about the "american Tolkien" comparison, from a critic for Time magazine. GRRM did not adress that but mentioned a bit of ASOIAF publishing history, that since the beginning his publisher has been convinced that ASOIAF is very likely to appeal to people who do not like fantasy (personal note - I totally agree, I have had tremendous luck recommending it to people who do not like fantasy but love historical fantasy or just plain good stories). As an example the first cover of AGOT, which will now only be found in the ARC had a veyr fantasy feel, GRRM described it and it does not sound familiar at all (Catelyn mentioned perhaps? anybody knows?). It was precisely the same type of cover to a lot of fantasy novels which were selling very well. Publishers hoped a non genre cover would appeal much more widely so picked a "big book, important book" non genre cover to catch the eye of everyone, silver foil with a generic symbol and planned subsequent covers to be of the same style with a common metallic theme. The hardcover edition of AGOT turned out to be partially a failure so publishers panicked a bit, and when it came the paperback edition they picked a typical genre novel cover (the one we know, with jon Snow riding a black horse). The second book´s cover was a compromise, picking up the gold foil from the AGOT hardcover edition, but using an illustration box for the fantasy genre feel. With book 4 came a complete redesign, the publishers think they got all the fantasy fans aware of the series, time to go after the non-fantasy fans. GRRM mentioned that the difficulty on reaching, on perception of who are the readers who might like a certain book can be frustratring to an author.
New question about media and fanzines, GRRM mentioned that fanzines seem to have moved online and there is all sorts of electronic media to fulfill that role. That magazines are folding and the ones holding out are selling less and less every year and that sadly will probably be a matter of time, maybe even less than 5 years till Asimov and Analog close. F&SF might last longer not being part of a big corporation. As a journalism graduate GRRM has recently been very impressed when he received a chinese sf magazine who was serializing Skin Trade. He could not actually read the magazine but leafing through, it was a very thick magazine, full of ads for lots of things, full color, with articles on all sorts of media (games, interviews with authors) as well as fiction from several genres (or subgenres), that the american sf magazines are stuck on time and while they might print great fiction they don´t make appealing magazines. Oh and apparently men´s magazines (Playboy etc) are also dying out, it´s all in the internet now .
A new question, about if there is commercial pressure to write fantasy and if authors pick themes not chosen for literary reasons. GRRM mentions that there is a distinction between a career and a livelihood, that in the earlier days, a lot of writers were not fulltime writers. Heinlein was the exception, but Asimov was a college professor, Simak was a newspaper editor for example. In the 1970s it changed and a lot of emerging authors were able to be "just" writers, to have writing be their livelihood. That is now changing back, that for a lot of emerging authors it´s just as possible to have a great literary career but maybe they might still not be able to do it as a fulltime job.
Another question, this time as a former editor of New Voices magazine, what did GRRM look for? GRRM mentioned that there are many kinds of good writing and good stories, mentioned he is currently editing an anthology "Warriors" with Gardner Dozois, a cross genre anthology where the theme is an examination of the warrior mythos. They will mix up all the stories without labeling (genrewise) any story and hope it helps toe expand the horizon of readers . For example if somebody who bought it for the Joe Haldeman story finds out the Cecelia Holland story and likes it and vice versa. GRRM believes they are all stories and that genre is an artificial construct which creates genre expectations which affect the way a reader reads a story. Classic example, a story where a detective finds a body drained of all their blood. If it´s an horror story we expect vampires, if it´s a mystery we expect vampire wannabes and that affects the reading experience.
A short mention of sf setup books written by non sf authors, often of literary acclaim, and that for sf writers or fans it can be frustrating to read reviews which seem to think the concept is original and has just been invented. GRRM mentioned Cormac McCarthy´s The Road, another author based in new Mexico but they never met. Trivia : some New Mexico based genre writers meet for lunch once a month.
Recommendations of books aspiring sf/authors should read were asked. Just caught GRRM´s replies, he warned he would mention only classic writers, that he is relatively stubborn and his influences came mostly from his earlier reading, so he is not likely to be influenced by another writer anymore. Sf recomendations: Zelazny´s Lord of Light, Heinlein (his juveniles or The Puppet Masters, that Stranger in a Strange Land is not a particular favorite though it has many fans), Bester´s The Stars My Destination, Sturgeon´s Dreaming Jewels and Jack Vance who he considers the greatest living sf writer. For fantasy the recommendations were Tolkien, Ghormenghast, Vance´s Lyonesse and Dying Earth series, Robert E Howard ´s fantasy stories, Fritz Leiber. For horror he mentioned Lovecraft, Stephen King who is unavoidable in the genre, Clive Barker. Then a mention I can not quite decipher (Robert Bloch). And a particular recommendation of an almost forgotten author, Gerald Kersh who wrote strange little horror short stories and is mostly remembered by a mystery he wrote, Night in the City who was adapted twice to film, the last time starring Robert de Niro.
More comments about writing and fandom, that writers of other genres seem to write in isolation and not often meet the people who read their work, that sf/fantasy authors are much more fortunate than those in other fields. Sf fandom exists since the 1930s, possibly since the 1920s, conventions have been going on since 1970s. GRRM mentioned that he believes relations between friends are stronger in the sf world, gave an example from his post-college parties, that it´s his sf friends who still keep in touch.
Then some more discussion about the generics of awards, that GRRM thinks awards are good even when given to the "wrong" book, since they get people talking about books. That the purest awards are the ones directly given by fans, and that a problem with the Hugos is that so few people (of all those who could) vote for those, that 20 votes might be enough to put any work in a shortlist, so it´s very important that all those who can vote or nominate do so.
And that is about it. Any misquotings or misinterpretation (nevermind missspellings and assassinations of grammar) are all my own, for which I apologize.
This is about the session at Corte Ingles in Lisbon on July 1st 2008. Moderator was Safaa Dib, and the topic was A Song of Ice and Fire followed by a signing session, and along with a pre-release of the portuguese translation of the first half of A Storm of Swords ( I think.)
Room was filled, it was standing room only before the beginning of the session, perhaps some 200 people in all, I was impressed by how diverse, ages, gender the audience was.
First thing is, the book is not finished. Probably another 6 months, the hope is by the end of the year, so it comes out sometime in 2009.
GRRM was asked the typical question, of where the idea for ASOIAF had come from. He replied that in the summer of 1991, when he was working as a Hollywood screenwriter, in a gap between assignments he began work on a new novel, a sf novel called Avalon ( personal note, no I would not swap it for ASOIAF, but I would have loved to have read it), set in his future history universe. And somehow, he found himself writing the first chapter of AGOT, about the direwolf pups un the snow. And after that came a second chapter and pretty soon he spent the whole summer writing AGOT.
From there he started to plan a trilogy, since there were 3 main conflicts ( Starks/Lannisters; Dany; and the Others) it felt it would neatly fit into a trilogy (ah!), but like Tolkien said, the tale grew in the telling. He ended up putting the project aside after being asked to write a tv pilot, he had about a 100 pages written of both Avalon and AGOT. With his projects he has a problem that when somethings goes cold he can not pick it up again. Avalon has gone cold, but with a ASOIAF it has never happened, he kept thinking about it. Some time after, driving through Britanny once he was thinking of Tyrion and what would he think or do, despite having been years since he wrote about Tyrion and being a couple years till he wrote again about him. He summarized it all in that he has no idea where the idea for ASOIAF did come from.
Another question was about the sucess of ASOIAF and if he ever expected it. He said he hoped but not expected sucess and that Armageddon Rag was supposed to be his breakout novel but it tanked instead. It got great reviews but nobody bought it. So he is always anxious when a book comes out. And sucess for ASOIAF was slow, it only picked momentum when the 2nd book came out in hardcover and AGOT was released in paperback, around 1997/1998. The Legends anthology did a lot to help popularize ASOIAF, he hears frequently from fans that they bought the anthology to read the story of this or that other author, but ended up loving Dunk´s story and from there finding out about ASOIAF.
On being asked if he feels comfortable getting called the American Tolkien, GRRM considers it a great compliment, since he loved Tolkien when he was a kid, that his were some of the books he never wanted to end reading. But he is very different from Tolkien and writes very different type of books. The moderator somehow blurts out sex, general laughter, GRRM´s replies he does not know where little hobbits come from. But that he thinks Tolkien has darkness,that the end of TLOTR is crucial, the Scouring of the Shire, that the Tolkien immitators always end with triumph but never cover the cost of triumph.
From then the questions moved to historical fiction, there being similarities between ASOIAF and the War of the Roses, if he had ever thought about building a story about them. GRRM replied he liked historical fiction very much, mentioned Cornwell and Pressfield as infusing history with the tropes of fantasy ( I think) but that his problem with history is that he knows too much history, that he can not read about the war of the roses without knowing who won the battle of Bosworth Field. With history, a lot of readers will know who wins and what happens and he likes to readers to not know what is going to happen (ah!!)
He used an interesting analogy to his use of magic in fantasy fiction, he compared it to, on a college dormitory take out, him being used to plain style New Jersey pizzas, first trying anchovies in a garbage pizza (that was the expression used, really). He loved those anchovies, but when he next ordered an anchovy pizza he thought it was awfull, overwhelming. Magic and fantasy can be like anchovy in pizza, too much unbalanced can ruin everything . Tolkien did it right, on his opinion, that his magic is often knowledge and the sense of magic is very low key, that we are often not sure, are the fireworks real magic or just fireworks? Magic should be mysterious, unnatural. In a Song of Ice and Fire (or ADWD) we have two sources of magic descending on Westeros from opposing directions.
He mentioned he created history and dynasties as he goes along and that it was Tolkien which created the truly serious worldbuilding expect in fantasy. Before Tolkien a lot of fantasy writers did not bother, Robert E Howard had perhaps the name of 3 kings, Lord Dunsany did even less ( paraphrasing "there was a king who had a daughter"). But with Tolkien it was like an iceberg, 3/4 are under the waterline. All other authors ("us") are just pretending, ice on a raft floating giving the impression it is an iceberg. Some fans get furious at that admission. Once a fan wrote asking him for word lists in high valyrian so the fan could start to work out learning the language on his own. GRRM says he knows 8 words of high valyrian, and when he needs a 9th, he will just make it up. ( despite this very funny impressive anecdote which was very well received, in the question session, yes somebody started to make complicated questions about language).
Another classical question, on what writers had an influence on him. GRRM replied the authors he read and enjoyed when he was young, Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Heinlein was his favorite sf author, Zelazny, Jack Vance. Apropos of Jack Vance, GRRM mentioned he is editing an anthology, where 20 top fantastic writers are writing each a Dying Earth story ( or so I understood it. Dont quote me if it contradicts other reports). He mentioned also other non genre authors, Goldmann, F Scott Fitzgerald, Lawrence Block, McDonald, Raymond Chandler.
When asked what he considered to be his greatest strength as an author, he replied characters, that he thought characters to be the most important part of any story. And on what was his favorite PoV characters, he likes all of them, that it is important to consider that a hero is a villain from the other side, that Theon, Cersei and Jaime all think they are doing the right thing. perhaps Tyrion is his favorite character, his chapters are the easiest to write and he is the most like GRRM himself. He can think of no good definition of good and evil and that struggle to define it is a common theme in his work. That is one difference between him and Tolkien, that there is nothing redeeming in a orc or Sauron. It´s fine in Tolkien, but it´s a problem on his less subtle immitators.
On if no character ever being safe if it was part of a writing strategy , he said he he tries to write with honesty about war, it´s not about who is going to win a soccer match ( personal note - well, there actually have been real wars about that. And he probably has not hear of a *few* matches I can think of. And the Maracanazo probably caused deeper social trauma than any brazillian border war of the 20th century. sorry, can´t help myself) and that death and grief can happen to all characters not just extras. He brought up a anecdocte about the tv show Beauty and Beast and network concerns ( network speak violence is bad, action is the euphemism for it). The series lasted 3 years, at the end of series 2, the main character (the beauty, Catherine) was killed because Linda Hamilton, the actress wanted to leave. The writers, against the network´s opinion ("get on with it, don´t mention the name again"), had some episodes written which dealt with the grief of remaining characters. The ratings plummeted - so while they made the right artistic decision, commercially they had failed. GRRM thinks authors can not worry about commercial sucess when writing.
The moderator praised ASOS has being his masterpiece, he said with the proviso that AFFC was not a complete book but half of a whole he agreed "so far". When she asked if If the pressure of being considered the "best fantasy writer" ( there were probably a couple adjective there like american or living) affected his work, he says he does not enjoy the pressure but is still enjoying the writing. Most days, some days don´t go well!
About the famous 5 year gap and the delay of ADWD he sais the problem was precisely the idea of the 5 year gap, which would give the kids time to grow old. he spent over a year writing the book that way, but ended up writing endless flashback scenes so he had to scrape that.
If he knows how the series will end, yes, he does in broad strokes, compared it to a drive from Lisbon to Moscow, you know where you are going, but not seeing all the steps of the way.
There was some talk also of HBO optioning AGOT, that two scripts have been written and the BBC is now a partner and budgets are being drawn ( if that is the word). Possible locations mentioned were Ireland, the Czech Republic and New Zealand, but of course they are looking at any possible cheaper options. He thinks a pilot might get filmed. After that a possibility is maybe that each book will be a season, 12 hours but is not really sure if ASOS would fit that.
Then GRRM himself very kindly asked if fans wanted to make some questions. And yes, somebody did ask if Ned was really killed ( to be fair, only AGOT and ACOK have been translated into portuguese yet, so I am sure lots still had some hopes for Ned to do a Gandalf act by the end of ACOK).
When the manuscript for ADWD is finished it will be rushed over in 3 months, which is amazingly fast for the book industry.
He does find hard to keep track of all characters and keeps flipping back and forth through his notes to find out the color of this character´s eyes or the name of this cousin. Elio and Linda are great help, so sometimes he writes to them asking them this or that. He is very good at changing the sex of horses between books, he calls those his transexual horses.
An interesting comment about the focus and pace of LOTR and ASOIAF. TLOTR starts slow and very focused, on a small part of a very large world, with things unfolding and the world getting bigger. He wanted to do something like that in ASOIAF, starting with a very tight focus on Winterfell drawing bigger and broader. The action is now at its broadest point, and it´s going to start narrowing again.
We were read a prologue chapter for ADWD. The reading was very good, somewhat spoiled by some noise with the audience, I think something to do with the selling of those pre-release translations of part of ASOS. I did not get any notes on that, just enjoyed it.
And that is about it. Any misquotings or misinterpretation (nevermind missspellings and assassinations of grammar) are all my own, for which I apologize.
The first, on friday night, was discussing POV's. It was intending to be a panel on managing multiple POV's but it became more of a discussion of character building and how the writer relates to his characters. Nothing we haven't really heard before. Still its a priviladge to hear a writer of George's calibre talk about aspects of his art at length. The panel was well moderated and there were a couple of other pros on it, though not names I knew that also had quite a bit interesting to contribute. Couple of highlights from GRRM's comments: 1. He strongly prefers limited 3rd person point of view as compared with first person or omnicient 3rd person. Probably obvious to any read of ASoIaF. Still, this is a artistic preference that he strongly feels and not just something that he finds works well in his current project. 2. He tends to write from a single POV a couple chapters at a time to stay with the same voice. Switch POV's can cost him a couple of days of writing to be able to get back into the voice of the person who's viewpoint he is writing from. He goes back and rereads the last couple of chapter's he's written from that POV to help him. 3. Writing the the kids is the hardest. Not new information. He clarrified why that is though. He finds he has to check every sentences to make sure its something a child would think or so and to check every word to make sure it is one a child would know. Because he doesn't have children nor has many children in his life he doesn't have a model to work from expect his own childhood which makes it far more a stretch.
The second panel, on Saturday morning, was on writing for TV compared with writing novels. While there were other panelists most of it became George and the moderator (Jim Frenkel, senior editor for Tor) sharing stories and complaining about the the world of TV from the writer's perspective. Its lucritive but apparently a real pain in the arse.
A couple of notes, though nothing big from the Q&A seccion following the reading: 1. He's hoping to have ADwD done by June. He seemed reasonably confident that this could be done. He said though, that if he can't get it done but sometime that month that it would be delayed quite a bit more. He has a busy summer coming up after that which will not allow him time to work. So if its done by June, we should see the book by christmas if not earlier. If not then its going to be a while. 2. He still really thinks he can get it done in 7 total books though there did seem to be a bit more doubt on that lingering behind his words. That was my impression though, not anything that George actually said. He is commited to the 7 book idea at the moment. 3. The HBO show is still in limbo. Which we already knew.
That was about it for noteworthy material. Any panel George is on though is enjoyable and worth attending.
[Note: The following report is excerpted from a LiveJournal post by author E. E. Knight, with his permission. It should be emphasized that this is a rough transcript, and features paraphrases throughout rather than being word-for-word.]
Okay, here's my write up of the Martin panel on characterization. Well, it was about a lot of stuff but mostly characters and points of view.
Please, keep in mind that this is a rough transcript. The description of what was said is as accurate as I could make them typing on my laptop but I had to paraphrase here and there, therefore I'm not using any quotation marks. I'm sure I made errors. So don't write George R.R. Martin and say that you don't understand what he said or you think he screwed the pooch with his Gandalf observation unless you were actually there, m'kay? All errors of style are mine.
The panelists were:
Monica Valentinelli (moderator) (MV) free-lance writer of games and fiction
Sean T. M. Stiennon - (SS) college student, some short fiction and an anthology
Richard Chwedyk - (RC) Nebula winner, short story writer
George R.R. Martin (GRRM)
What sorts of characters do you like to write?
GRRM: I like to write many different kinds of characters - part of the reason my books have multiple viewpoints - people perceive differently. Different POVs allow you to explore all the varieties of humanity - people you can love, loathe, or have mixed feelings about. The goal is to let you understand the characters even if you find them reprehensible.
Do you prefer some over the others?
GRRM: I like all of them when I’m writing them.
I don’t believe in omniscient viewpoints. It gets in the way of understanding the character. The reader must see the world as the character would experience it as they’re living events. The 3rd limited allows closer identification and deeper understanding of how the character sees the world. Once you get inside them the common humanity makes you sympathetic with them.
Did you hate any?
GRRM -The act of writing them makes you like or understand them.
RC (or possibly MV)- Characterization is kind of like method acting, do everything you can to get in the role of the character.
Any way to get into the mood to write?
GRRM - I wish I had something entertaining to describe, but it’s just me in front of the computer, no strange creative rituals.
Different character creation for gaming and fiction?
GRRM - Told a story about a superhero turtle, with many hindrances to improve his armor. Recreated him for Wildcards fiction to make it more interesting.
MV: Challenging in writing game fiction is that I had to imitate powers and game mechanics exactly. Book packagers were demanding that she adhere to game mechanics right down to time spent concentrating and so forth.
GRRM: You can’t just take your games and make fiction of them. Today the most common story sent in to sf/fantasy genre editors is someone who has written up their RPG - often starts with meeting in a tavern. Start a story in a tavern and it’s coming right back to you.
RC: I’ve read some of those manuscripts.
SS: Characters have to be beyond a list of traits, they need personality.
GRRM: Would like to write about leper king of Jerusalem - has a lot of empathy for his problems and it’s a fascinating exercise to try to get into his mind. Creation of a character who is not like yourself is very difficult. You have to be able to project yourself into these different kinds of people.
How do the tropes influence your writing?
GRRM: You have to be aware of them but you have to smash them with hammers and make up your own. Tolkien twisted an old cliché of elves (tiny faeries) into something else - met with resistance from his editors at first, arguing over what an elf or dwarf is. Now Tolkien is the cliché. Can’t just regurgitate them you have to do something with them.
RC: Games are open ended - with certain characters I know the ending. There’s a gravestone waiting - there’s a dramatic structure to a story. You’re focusing on a very crucial moment in a characters life and you know the outcome.
MV: Purpose of a game character is to make it playable. In fiction the point is to make it readable and interesting as possible. When I write I don’t know how they’ll play off everyone else.
GRRM: How you experience life is unique to you, and it should be unique to each character. You have to somehow get from inside your body and into theirs - we all see life through one set of eyes, none of us are telepaths, we all have internal monologues - at the same time we’re experiencing the world.
Use of POV has to be structured, has to be under control. Have a reason for switching POVs. The big problem is when you’re switching promiscuously is it’s not clear.
MV: A common pitfall of new authors is to try to do too many POVs.
RC: 3rd person omniscient is annoying to read. It’s tough.
Character creation process?
GRRM: Hopefully you know the general shape of your story. Writers generally come in two flavors: architechts and gardeners - gardeners plant a seed which is the character and in the earth which is the world you created and you water it with your blood.
Is it hard to write when a character dies?
GRRM: It can be tough. Hardest chapter I ever wrote was the death of a character - had to skip over it for a long time. Part of the process is emotional - something like grief, because you’re dealing with the grief of the characters who knew the person, also the commercial consequences, what will editor and readers think of this. But it’s good to kill someone off now and then. Tolkien made the wrong choice when he brought Gandalf back. Screw Gandalf. He had a great death and the characters should have had to go on without him.
RC: Death has a strong effect, writing a death’s been murder. Opening scenes leading up to death have been incredibly difficult to write.
GRRM: My books deal with death, but I do try and deal with mourning and grief. There’s a moral component to people who kill.
Horror stories in the 19th century were morality plays, showing how a flaw in a character brings about a tragic downfall. Innocent characters being killed by the horror is a more modern version - we have rules. "The Grudge" doesn’t obey any rules as to the guilt or innocence of who it kills.
RC: SF is a way of looking at the world that isn’t tied to a story or genre structure. There aren’t demands on characters short of space opera.
GRRM : Tyrion in Ice and Fire. Abner Marsh in Fevre Dream.
Glad to hear you pronounce the names
GRRM: In my youth I had a strong NJ accent, only reader in family, knew a lot of words that I had never heard spoken aloud. When I went away to college I found I was pronouncing a lot of these words wrong. I came to not care much about pronunciation. Pronounce the names of my characters however you like.
There are dangers in being a gardener, the story can run away from you - Shakespeare had to kill Mercutio because he was taking over play.
RC: Has a character who thinks of herself as a background character in revolt against being a background character.
How important is religion and myth in your stories?
GRRM: Mythos is important and it can also be very difficult. An author’s beliefs color the character, audience’s beliefs color it. Easier for me to write a secular character or someone who mocks and insults the gods than it is to write a sincerely devout character. It’s a secular society, especially our sf/fantasy readers.
How do you keep dialogue distinct in different points of view - how do you bring personality through dialogue?
GRRM: What appears between quotation marks is what was said. But you don’t have to quote everything a person says. You can paraphrase, or use someone’s perception to illustrate their character. Can present dialogue as stream of consciousness.
RC: Make sure the voices are distinct and what they’re saying is important enough you don’t want to paraphrase it. Try and strengthen dialog with each draft.
[Note: The following refers to remarks from the previous Technicon report, that GRRM stated only a page was left to be completed in the third Dunk & Egg story.
I thought that he said he needed about two days to finish the story.
I would like to share one comment GRRM made about the release date of ADWD. It is still incomplete, however, he added the caveat that if he completes the book by June the current release dates on Amazon are accurate. He seemed much more up beat about the book than when he appeared at Trinoc Con back in August. I'm now cautiously optimistic that we will see ADWD by September/October.
GRRM also said he believes he's a page away from completeing the third Dunk and Egg story. It is still to be published with the anthology Warriors.
GRRM at his panel on "Anti-Protagonists" made the comment that Jon would soon become a much greyer character than we had seen in the past.
George threw me under the fangirl bus last night.
See, we all somehow got seated so that GRRM and I were back-to-back with Tim Powers and his wife, and I had mentioned to Lugalirra just how much I love Powers' books. George asked if I had actually told Powers this, and when I answered "No, I don't like to harass writers at Cons because they're probably mobbed at all hours" he said "nonsense!" and turned around, thumped Powers on the back, and said "She loves your books! (turns to me) Tell him how much you like his books!!"
And so Mr. X and I got incredibly dorky and fannish with Tim Powers, and discussed his work teaching at a high school for the arts. He's incredibly friendly and very gracious, despite being accosted in the waning moments of his dinner.
Other notable con guests who rolled on by the BwB party: Scott Bakker. I'm not sure he remembers it all that well -- all 8 feet of him was listing dangerously due to a fair run on the beer downstairs. Hal Duncan stopped by for an hour or so, too, as did a bunch of other people I'm forgetting. I did not bartend much last night (big props to Yags, Mr. X and Alchemist) and spent it wandering the party and the rest of the hotel.
George read a revised version of the prologue. I'm not going to post anything here (spoilers, etc), but I thought it was pretty good. The ending is a total kicker (as all prologue endings should be). He also answered some questions regarding warging (the term only applies to those who can communicate with wolves/dogs), the HBO series (no greenlight yet, and it's in vague competition with a King Arthur-themed series), and Wild Cards (the January release is the first of a 3-book series, and there is the possibility that if this series does well, all the rest of the Wild Cards series will be put back into print).
I've just fled from a panel on HP Lovecraft. As much as I fangirl Tim Powers, I was just not ready to spend an hour listening to people talk about Lovecraft's rejection/subversion of the supernatural. Especially since I STILL have to finish this damned article for work. Which is what I'm about to do right now.
At Trinoc GRRM confirmed he has several publishers interested in the 3rd Dunk and Egg story he just hasn't settled "on the best venue" yet. He also said that D & E will be collected into a book and that all of the stories he has planned will not fit into one volume.
Another interesting thing from the con, at one point in a panel GRRM was commenting that he didn't like how in a lot of fantasy stories various races are all defined by a single personality (i.e. all orcs are evil, all elves are wise, etc), whereas it would be more realistic for various individuals within a race to have different personalities, viewpoints, etc. Some quick-witted audience member asked him how that idea applied to the Others in his own books, to which he replied, "I'm not gonna answer that." Food for thought.
Nobody as relayed this-but the question about this did come up with GRRM at the last con. And his answer was-basically... forget about it. For now there is nothing happening and he said that HBO could loose their option (let it run out). They are still waiting for an initial script and that would probably be rejected, a new one resubmitted, etc. It sounded to me like the option was probably going to expire with nothing happening - but that is just my take on what he said when the question was asked during the reading as well as later.
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