He mentioned something about five Lady Starks running Winterfell -- the Wolf Women or something like that -- with four of them widows of a bunch of fairly recent former Lord Starks, and the current Lady Stark, whose 30-something husband is fading fast from a wound taken from fighting the Ironborn.
GRRM did mention at last nights meal that he had been working on D&E Part 3 but wrapping it up wasn't as easy as he hoped. But he is close. Originally it took place right after tSS but now he has decided to give it a 1.5 year gap but that means another round of mods to ensure the timeline works. (A 1.5 year gap makes sense to me if he wants to continue to progress Egg's story up to and beyond him taking the crown). He also reminded me of the state of the Starks 100 years ago...
SPOILER: Starks 100 years ago
I was suggesting it would be nice to see the Starks in power, without the current disarray. But GRRM pointed out that things were not so good 90 years either, with a lot of Stark widows struggling for power, with the current lord dieing from a wound taken against some Ironborn. Although I could have the reason for his wound up. I'm reading the RPG game book at the moment and I might be mixing things together. There is a lot of Stark kids around though, so ending the line wasn't a problem. I think he said 10 children, from various Starks members.
Oh, and I don't know whether the Starks are actually going to feature in the next book. It does seem like he has an idea about a Stark story though.
Anyone remember what he called the Stark widows btw? Wolf crones or something?
I don't recall George mentioning anything about Dunk and Egg in particular. He of course was asked his publishing schedule for ADwD. George said he has been traveling so much he hasn't really had time to write much. But he only has one appearance between now and World Con which is a Columbus con over Memoroial day. So he expects to start making progress soon.
As others have said the reading was the first Tyrion Chapter.
George RR Martin, author of the bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire, appeared at this year's Boskone science fiction convention in Boston. Martin read from A Dance with Dragons, the series' upcoming fifth installment, participated in several panel discussions on writing, and partied with one of his fan clubs, the Brotherhood without Banners. Boskone's special guest, author Cory Doctorow, also read from a forthcoming book and discussed both his past work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and current developments in technology. Doctorow presented a list of style tips he hopes bloggers will adopt that include writing a descriptive headline and presenting a brief AP-style summary for people with no previous background in subject at the start of each entry. Cory, this paragraph is dedicated to you. ;)
Friday: I headed over to the Con on foot from the Med school and arrived a bit before George Martin's appearence in a panel on "Non-traditional Structures for the Multi-volume Novel". I was waiting outside the room for the previous panel when George arrived, so I welcomed him back to Boston after such a short absence, and he chuckled about how it seemed he'd hardly left. The panel topic might seem to be something he would be well suited to comment on, but the discussion got side-tracked into the mechanics the back end of publishing and distributing books. There was some interesting stuff in there: For example, apparently any book that's going to be much over 400 pages requires special high capacity binding presses that are less common and therefore more expensive to book time on, driving up the cost of the book. The upshot being, unless you have either a track record or something your publisher thinks is going to be the next Harry Potter, expect to have to keep your book around that length by the time it's finished with editing. We also learned that the way the Evil Barnes and Noble empire allocates shelf space is dependent on the number of copies of the book they order, which is generally going to be capped at whatever number of copies your last book sold, so expect less and less prominent display space unless your book makes it big and sells out at launch.
I asked the panel a question about how an author deals with no longer being able to revise portions of a multi-volume epic because they're already out in print. It was clear from their faces that this issue is the bane of their collective existence. George expressed envy for Tolkein having the luxury to finish all of LotR before taking it to be published. One of the other panelists lamented that he'd have to go back and re-read all of his old stuff one of these days because his tale has gone from being 90% one point of view character to over half of the book told from various other viewpoints. He said that he was now having to weave an arc where the protagonist discovers that people have been lying to her in order to justify changes to plot points from several books back. George snickered a "Been there." George also remarked that, however much it makes sense to do so, Stephen King going back and revising older installements of the Dark Tower series now that it is finally complete strikes him as slightly cheating.
stegoking stopped by this journal after my three Vericon reports (Note: reports discuss what info we were able to drag out of George about the fifth book at the Con) to mention that the Brotherhood without Banners, one of George's fanclubs, would be at Boskone. (Apparently one of his fellow posters has a Mr. Universe setup from whence he trawls the web for any and all tales of George Martin. Hi Stego's friend, if you're reading this.:)) So I wandered up to the party, where I promptly obtained a pretzel, figuring that it counts as a bread-like product and has salt, thus making me safe for the evening as a guest by the customs of Westeros. :)
That matter out of the way, I was served a drink called "drowned man" by a girl answering to the callsign "Goat of Nymeria", and I met Stego, Stego's wife, and a number of other people who were good company and whose names I have no chance in heck of remembering. (I'm terrible with names in general and large rooms of people none of whom I know in particular, so I did my best to socialize. :)) Stego wanted to know whether I had recorded the Westeros Celebrity Jeopardy skit (Book 1-4 spoilers) from Vericon, because he found it hard to imagine that anyone would remember the dialog that well without a recording. (My girlfriend refers to my memory as freakish that way. It probably won't help my defense to point out that I didn't actually write everything I remembered down, just the funnier stuff, or that I still remember a decent portion of it even though I only saw the thing once approximately three weeks ago.) George himself arrived shortly clad in the Squid Sigil of House Greyjoy. We subsequently had to explain to a random con-goer who came in how this did not mark us a cult of Cthulhu. Anyways, I was a bit tired and planned to be up early the next morning, so I headed homewards.
After that, it was off to George's next panel on the use of death and sad events in stories, which the moderator described as being about "Why George Does Such Awful Things To His Characters". George was chuckling maniacally through a fair portion of this panel, and joked in his introduction that his worst nightmares envision being on the Jerry Springer show and having a bunch of his dead characters show up to air their grievances, head literally in hand. He did draw a distinction between killing a character early on to "establish that you're playing for keeps" (i.e. so that the reader will feel suspense in future dangerous situations) versus killing a character towards the end of an arc towards more of a bittersweet/tragic ending. There was some discussion amongst the other end of the table about how sometimes one doesn't WANT to kill off a character and/or is prodded in that direction by an editor, but it was agreed that George needs no such encouragement. Asked at the end whether he regretted offing a character, George thought for a minute. His eyes narrowed, he stroked his beard thoughtfully, and he replied confidently - "No." If he and Joss ever get together, the world may end.
Next up was George's reading. I was speculating on what character we were going to get. George had commented at Vericon that he was having trouble with the Jon chapters, he'd read the first Davos chapter there, and the first Dany chapter appears as a preview at the end of book 4, so I guessed that we were going to get Tyrion. The day was mine, but I won't spoil it here unless people want more details. George took questions afterwards, and revealed some interesting tidbits. Tyrion is his favorite character and, despite the "no regrets" sentiments he expressed at the previous panel, he admitted that he feels hesitation over how to write him - George feels conflict between not wanting to make the guy seem like a dick because he likes Tyrion and portraying someone who has been through what Tyrion has been through, along with all the hurt, confusion, and betrayal that comes along with. George also admitted that he had a hard time writing the "Red Wedding" scene in the third book - indeed, he had to skip it, write the rest of the book, and force himself to come back and do the deed. He claimed it was perhaps harder on him than on us because for him all of the minor characters who perished in the massacre were also people he created and plotted and now they too are gone. Could it be that George Martin, like Veronica Mars, is a Marshmellow? .... Probably not. ;)
After the reading, I tried to offer the Brotherhood some local expertise on restaurants, but we quickly determined that it's hard to seat a party of 15 on Saturday night on short notice in Boston. Given that no progress would be made on this until the group re-convened at 6...
With the con events that I was after wrapped up, it was back to the Brotherhood, who'd settled on Jasper White's Summer Shack primarily because it was prepared to seat all of us. It had the added advantage of being across the street, since it was bleeping cold out. After dinner, it was back upstairs to an impressively full bar (George and Stego donated various prizes to be raffled off in order to fund the refreshments) and a bathtub full of ice, soda, and beer. A lot of fun was had.
... But the BWB were good company in general. George wandered by again to chat, have drinks, etc. I learned how the process of bidding for the right to host WorldCon is not unlike the Olympics (bribery in the form of parties apparently both welcome and expected), and in turn had to explain the old "Jesus Saves, everone else takes full damage" gaming gag because people didn't get it and were staring at an ICon poster wondering if it was some sort of weird Christian Con. (Good work, vampedvixen. ;))
Overall, both the party(-ies) and the Con were a lot of fun. I hope stuff like this lands in my neighborhood more often. :)
I actually, quite randomly, ended up following George RR Martin to the building, and I held the door as he entered. I picked up my registration at 5pm (yay for preregistering and not having to wait in line) and killed time people watching as I waited for his first panel to start.
The first panel was at 5:30 and was about "Magical Realism"--more or less, how one should or shouldn't write magic in fiction. Nothing too interesting, and Martin didn't really talk much about his own work, just cited historical precedent and other authors who have done well or poorly. There were a couple of very strange and babbly women on the panel who I found endlessly irritating. Although Martin did call one of them out on her inanity. Someone wrote it up here on the asoiaf board, which I'll quote:
Ms Gilman was asked some sort of question about inherent mythology in her world, and she stated that her world's inhabitants know that if they do not perform certain rites, then the sun wil not come up.
George then said, and I am paraphrasing, "Well, they don't know that for sure, do they? They've never tested it."
Greer: "They just know. If certain things aren't done, the sun will not come up."
George: "Has the sun ever not come up before?"
George: "So how do they know? They only suspect."
A flustered Greer: "They know, just as they know that if they drop a pot it will shatter."
A jovial George: "They know that because they've dropped pots before."
Sarah Smith: "Well in my books, the magic is very subtle."
At 7:30, Martin read a chapter from the upcoming book A Dance with Dragons (which the kid introducing him incorrectly called Dances with Dragons, giving me hideous visions of Kevin Costner as Ned Stark....). It was a Davos chapter, and I find Davos to be one of the most painfully dull characters in the series, so I haven't much to say about it. Hearing George read it the way he means it was cool though--you pick up more from having the author himself read it, I think.
Next morning we were up for a quick bagel and coffee breakfast (there are approximately 700 million coffee places in the Harvard Square area, and I wanted to try as many as possible) and a panel called "All You Need Is Love", about love and sex in fiction. It was okay, though it's not like Martin is a master of romance fiction, y'know? He did say he prefers tragic love stories (a la Romeo and Juliet) which gave me even less hope for Jaime and Brienne. He also ridiculed the concept of "gratuitous" and defended his inclusion of sex scenes (as he is trying to create an immersive experience, and sex is a huge part of peoples' lives and is necessary for his development of characters).
Afterward we got some books signed at the nearby bookstore. I asked Martin "Did you intend for Jaime Lannister to be such a complex character from the beginning, or is that one of the things that grew in the telling?" He said that he likes exploring grey characters and always intended for Jaime to be complex, but some details grew in the telling. 10zlaine told him she likes his blog.
After lunch we headed over to Martin's 5pm guest of honor speech, which was in another fascinating Harvard building. Fascinating and complex, as no one in the crowd or on the concomm could figure out how to turn on the lights, so Martin gave the speech in the dark (with a small light behind him lighting his notes).
The speech was quite good, and was about why we read fiction. He suggested a variety of answers, some of which rang more true than others, and finally settled upon "vicarious experience." Then he went into a fascinating sort of existential thing about the nature of memory, how we live only in the present moment and how we are defined and created by our memories, and so if we remember, say, Lord of the Rings more vividly than we remember the street we grew up on, isn't Lord of the Rings at least as big a part of who we are?
It was really interesting, and got me to thinking about how that applies to other forms of art, and whether the music I love means so much because it evokes the memory of who I was when I loved it most, or because it's a form of vicarious emotional experience, or whether love of music is more closely related to one of the other reasons he suggested which is the beauty of the words themselves (you could also apply that to the sound and rhythm of music).
I hope he posts the speech somewhere; I haven't really done it justice in summary.
He also answered some questions, and had some interesting things to say. He repeatedly emphasized that he prefers to write grey characters, because in real life people are complex; no one is pure evil or pure good. Fiction tends to divide people into heroes who do no wrong and villains who go home and kick their dogs and beat their wives, but that reality is much different. He cited a soldier who heroically saves his friends' lives, but then goes home and beats his wife. Which is he, hero or villain? Martin said both and that neither act cancels out the other.
He also said that he's suspicious of creators who try to answer questions with their work, and emphasized that he prefers to ask questions. He explained that those who try to answer usually end up with the wrong answers (and cited L. Ron Hubbard as an example) but that those who ask are getting people to think and figure things out for themselves. (Oh, Joss Whedon and Rob Thomas, if only you were as wise as George R. R. Martin!!!!)
He didn't offer much in the way of spoilers, but did say that we'd see Arya and Asha in this book, that there would be one new POV but hopefully no more after that (and that they'll continue to keep dropping off), that the timeline of the new book may continue past AFFC but that it depends on the length, and that we'll definitely see Casterly Rock and may see Highgarden.
Someone asked why he writes so much about outcasts and misfits, and he said on one level he relates to that, and that on another level everyone is weird or a misfit in some way. He said aside from the obvious (Brienne, Tyrion), Davos is a misfit because of his low birth (he always feels uncomfortable with his high status) and Ned is a misfit because he feels like he's living his brother's life (marrying Cat, being Lord of Winterfell) which isn't necessarily what he wanted or would have chosen.
I kept trying to formulate a question, but all I really came up with was "Why are the Lannisters the only people in Westeros who have a sense of humor (aside from the QoT, of course)?" and something about the way he seems to be consciously creating as many diverse and interesting female characters as male characters, but I never even formulated that as a proper question. I suppose it's a good thing that I get pretty much everything I need from his books, understand most of what he's doing, and really have no burning questions or things I don't "get." This may be different once the series is actually over, however.
We returned at 9pm to yet another Harvard building for "Once More, With Dragons," which was kind of musical/comedy collection of ASOIAF-related sketches. Mr. Martin was in the front row, [info]10zlaine and I in the second. It was very funny. You can read a summary here.
It was amusing to see, for example, Jaime Lannister as Darth Vader, announcing to Joffrey that he's his father (Joffrey's reaction--horrific disgust, of course).
The best part was the Westeros version of celebrity jeopardy, with Robert Baratheon, Hodor, and Arya Stark as contestants. And there was a "Lannister and Stark" song sung to the "Beauty and the Beast" tune with the characters fighting in the background.
At 1pm was Martin's final appearance, an "interview," in which he elaborated on his speech and answered more questions. It went a bit over time, because they didn't need the room yet and he agreed to keep answering as long as we kept asking. I was getting so sick of questions about like, gaming and RPGs and other such boring stuff, so I finally forced myself to raise my hand and ask a question (you have no idea how hard this was), which was something like "Jaime Lannister is one of the most complex characters I've read, and the growth he goes through is so interesting. Can you talk more about that or what inspired that?" (Yeah, I know, as far as I'm concerned it's "the Jaime Lannister series.")
So he said that he likes to paint characters in shades of grey (recurring theme of the weekend, yay! so refreshing from these damn didactic TV show runners... anyway....). And that even what seem like the most horrific people have other sides, aren't pure caricatures of evil, that even Hitler had his nice moments. And he wanted to explore what might cause that kind of villainy, because no one just wakes up and says "I want to be evil today," and that Jaime didn't start out evil--that he actually was a very idealistic young man who was disillusioned by life, and that there was always much more to his killing of Arys than just "evil."
Since he was going on so much about Jaime as "exploration of evil" (and I certainly don't think Jaime is evil anymore!) I kind of tried to ask "Do you think he's changed?" to get him to talk about Jaime's redemption arc, so he said something like he wanted to explore the concept of forgiveness and whether it's ever possible to be forgiven for doing such horrible things, and that his goal was to ask the question, not give an answer.
Um, so that was neat. (Well, except for the fact that Hitler came to his mind when talking about Jaime!)
Various characters and ghosts were hanging around one of those nebulous out of character bars. The leadin for the World of Westeros video was that Mellisandre was playing the new George Martin MMORPG, but she complains of how one incompetent player can ruin a whole raid. Cut to a complete re-enactment of the Leeroy Jenkins video. (This was also a clever use of props, as the actress was running the computer with the powerpoint show and video on it, and thus provided an in character explanation for why she had it.)
(In the original WoW video, a guild is sitting around in the middle of a raid on a dungeon, trying to figure out how to survive the next room. The plan they come up with is horrible, and their stats guy gives them a 32.33%, repeating of course, chance of survival, which is relative good for their plans apparently. During the whole discussion, a character named Leeroy is sitting with his "Away from keyboard" tag on. Suddenly, Leeroy speaks up, "Okay guys, I'm back, let's do this. LEEEEEEROY JEEEENKINS!!!!" Leeroy charges in, the raid sits there for a moment in stunned silence and then follows him, the leader crying for everyone to stick to the plan. Everyone dies. Video ends with the raid leader declaring "Leeroy, you're an idiot".)
For the spoof, someone rolled up a bunch of low level characters named after various Martin characters and recreated the video nearly scene by scene. Stannis was the raid leader, discussing their plan to topple Joffrey, Mellisandre was the stats person, and Ned Stark was the AFK NedJenkins, with a guest cameo by RobbStark, who also gets himself killed. It was pretty hard to catch all of the dialog, unfortunately. Maybe if we're lucky the Vericon folks will post the video somewhere. After the video ends, with Stannis declaring that Ned is an idiot, enter the ghost of Ned, who protests that he isn't that stupid. Everyone laughs, but he swears he had competition. Cut to Celebrity Jeopardy.
The contestants are:
Robert Baretheon, playing the Sean Connery role
Arya Stark, who has added Alex Trebek to the end of The List.
Quotes and questions:
Trebek: And our last category, discussing Sam and Aemon's journey across the sea, Maester Boating!
Robert: AH HAHAHAHA!!!
Trebek: *sees double entendre* Uh... let's change that to World Religions.
Trebek: House banners for 200. This animal is on the banner of House Lannister. *picture of lion flashes up on screen*
Arya: What is the broken corpse of a rat snapped in two by the jaws of a wolf?
Trebek: Don't we all wish. Hodor?
Robert: The Lannisters are a bunch of pussies!
Trebek: Judges? Yes, we'll give you that one.
Trebek: This man is the true father of Joffrey, who has fair hair and green eyes like all the Lannisters and unlike all of Robert's bastards. Robert: Who is me? Trebek: No. Anyone? The answer, surprizing as it might be to some is Jamie Lannister. *Cut across stage to Jaime and Joffrey* Jaime: What did they tell you about your father? Joffrey: They told me my father was killed in a hunting accident! Jaime: *deep voice* No, Joffrey. I am your father. Joffrey: NO!!!! It's not possible!!!! Jaime: Join me and we will rule Westeros together as father and son. Joffrey: Ack, can't get the image out of my head, no!!!!
Trebek: And now for Final Jeopardy. To give Hodor a fair chance, the question is to write your own name. All you have to do is write your name and you win. *music interlude* Alright, Arya, let's see what you wrote.
Arya's board: Nobody.
Arya: Cat? Salty? The Ghost of Harrenhal?
Trebek: Give up. Robert, what did you write?
Robert's board: others
Trebek: No, Robert, you're not a bunch of wraiths seeking to over-run Westeros. Let's see what you wagered.
Robert's board: *letters appear around the "others" to reveal* Your mother's a whore.
Trebek: *sighs* Hodor, I suppose we should see what you've done...
Hodor's board: Hodor
Trebek: Wow. I guess you do know how to to write your own name. Let's see what you wagered.
Hodor's board: Hodor
Trebek: I should have seen that coming.
There was also a segment where Mellisandre cast a spell to let the audience hear character's thoughts, Earshot-style. By far the best of these was Jaime's, which was just him repeating "Lancel and Osney Kettleblack and Moonboy too!" over and over again. :) Then there was a musical number "Lannister and Stark" to the tune of "Beauty and the Beast", as the obligatory fight breaks out. The show ends when the waiter orders everyone who isn't prepared to refrain from fighting to leave, pretty much everyone does, and suddenly the waiter falls over dead, shot by a crossbow for no apparent reason. The folks left on stage shrug, saying that people always die in George Martin tales.
I'm not sure if George Martin got all of the jokes or not, but he seemed to think the show was pretty funny.
The promised reading from the forthcoming book was the first Davos POV chapter. The Hand of Stannis gets dragged before a minor lord nominally loyal to Kings Landing and is left with nothing but his wits to plead his case. There aren't major developments - indeed, Davos has yet to be filled in on events from the closing chapters of the third book. But the Onion Knight's usual mix of honesty and insight get to work as he once again needs to talk his way out of a potential watery grave. I wasn't terribly fond of him when he was first introduced (to be fair, a large part of my reaction was nothing specific to Davos and more "Oh no, not another POV character I need to remember who'll further dilute the frequency of Jon, Arya, and Tyrion chapters"), but he's grown on me since and this tale showcased why. Here's hoping that, as is often the case with Martin books, the news we heard second-hand of the Onion Knight in the fourth book turns out to be false.
Other tidbits of the future:
When asked about how the structure of having books 4 and 5 run in parallel would work, Martin said that the timeline *might* advance beyond the end of where it was as book 4 wrapped, if he still had space. I wouldn't count on it - as he explains, the series will be seven books long, that's his story, and he's sticking to it, so forget all the rumors you may have heard of 3, 4, or 6. Oh yeah, and the only real spoiler...
Some POV characters from Book 4 will return, including Arya! :) (Of course, this merely means we'll be waiting six years to find out what happens to her next instead of the 10 it'll take for book 6....)
Paraphrases as close as I can remember them:
- *when asked about how the villians of his tale all seem to have deeper motivations* "Villians are the other side's heroes.... they have motivations too, it's not like anyone wakes up and thinks "Hmmm, what evil can I do today?"
- *asked about violence, especially towards women, in his book* I get surprizingly few complaints about the violence. Moreso about the sex. I can write a graphic description of what happens when an axe enters someone's head, but when a penis enters a vagina. Our country is surprizingly alright with axes entering skulls and not alright with penises entering vaginas... I get letters about how people bought a fantasy book and got porn.
- *asked about how he goes about revising his books* "Well, 'A Feast for Crows' took a bit longer than we expected." [the book was announced for 2001 and came out in Nov of 2005]
(Later on in his answer, he commented on something I noticed during the reading, namely that he was reading the manuscript with pen in hand and actually writing down tweaks as he went, which was kinda nifty.)
- Asked by GA how he keeps all this stuff straight (to much laughter in the room): Well, I've been living in Westeros since 1991. The part of my brain that would remember people I met today or errands I was supposed to do goes to recalling the second spearman from the left and [name of the minor lord from the Davos chapter that GA's already forgotten], who I might never use again, but has his moment in the spotlight here.
(On followups by other folks, he said that he's not tired of writing this tale despite the long time he's been at it, though he concedes that "A Dance with Dragons" has been his nemesis - when the series was to be three volumes long, Dragons was to be the middle one, and it keeps getting pushed back. He says that we can get worried about the overall length of the series if the next book to come out isn't Dragons. :))
Vericon is a wonderful concept; a small college convention catering primarily to youth. There is anime aplenty, webcomics galore, and cosplay abounds. Furries rub shoulders with those present for the Dance Dance Revolution tournament, while the CCG people huddled in their bunkers strategizing world domination through cardboard.
It was a geekfest in grand Harvard style.
On Friday night, George had a panel on magic with lesser known authors Greer Gilman and Sarah Smith.
Ms Gilman was asked some sort of question about inherent mythology in her world, and she stated that her world's inhabitants know that if they do not perform certain rites, then the sun wil not come up.
George then said, and I am paraphrasing, "Well, they don't know that for sure, do they? They've never tested it."
Greer: "They just know. If certain things aren't done, the sun will not come up."
George: "Has the sun ever not come up before?"
George: "So how do they know? They only suspect."
A flustered Greer: "They know, just as they know that if they drop a pot it will shatter."
A jovial George: "They know that because they've dropped pots before."<
Sarah Smith: "Well in my books, the magic is very subtle."
I found this exchange hilarious. I just thought I'd share it.
After the panel, George gave a reading from A Dance With Dragons, and although it was the Davos chapter he had previously read, this was the first time he had officially done a reading from ADwD. If you want spoilers from the chapter, wonderful ones are provided already in the ADwD forum.
After the reading we (my wife Maureen and I) went back to George's suite with him and some of the convention organizers. We ordered in pizza and soda, and spent the next few hours in an ever-fascinating conversation.
It's always a surprise how wonderful and interesting a human being George is. I never fail to be amazed.
On Saturday, George sat on a panel about 'Love in Fantasy' which inevitably turned to 'Sex in Fantasy.' I wasn't present at the panel, but that's the report I got. (Maureen and I were sleeping in after a long Friday night.)
We also missed his signing across the street at the Harvard Book Store in the early afternoon. Harvard campus is a difficult place to find parking, so we had taken the train in. I was simply NOT willing to take my beloved collectibles on public transportation, so I'm holding off on getting things signed until Boskone. (3 weeks is hardly a long time)
On Saturday afternoon, George gave his Guest of Honor speech. The topic was 'Why We Read,' and like all of Martin's work, it was moving. I'd like to get a transcript at some point.....perhaps he'll make it available at his website. His assertion was that we read for vicarious experience. He's fought a thousand wars, loved a thousand women, all from the comfort of his home. I'm incapable of condensing his hour long speech and expressing all he touched upon... here's hoping he makes it available.
After the speech, Maureen and I took George out for a burger at the local 'famous burger place.' There's something infinitely cool about having a burger with your favorite author.
Saturday night featured ASoIaF skits performed by the Harvard SF association. This included an 'ICE and FIRE PUB: Live Characters Only' skit that was Westeros meets Cheers. Then there was a World of
Warcraft Westeros movie which portrayed Ned Stark as the infamous Leeroy Jenkins. "That dumbass got everybody killed!"
Then came the grand finale....... Celebrity Jeopardy in Westeros. The contestants were Arya Stark, Hodor, and Robert Baratheon. (as Sean Connery from Saturday Night Lives Celebrity Jeopardy skits) Alex Trebek was the host, of course.
In classic celebrity Jeopardy style, Trebek gets sick of the constant stupidity and moves on to final Jeopardy where he asks the contestants to write down their names.
Arya, of course, has a hard time with this task. She just has too many names. She ends up getting mad and adding Alex Trebek to her infamous 'list.' "Ser Gregor, The Hound, The Tickler, Raff The Sweetling, Alex Trebek."
Hodor got his name right. (His first correct answer of the evening.) Unfortunately, his wager was Hodor.
King Robert's answer to 'Write down your name' was 'Other's.' Of course King Robert Baratheon is not an Other...... but the answer made sense when his wager was revealed, and the entire sentence came into view.....
"You're mOther's a whore, Trebek!"
George was howling with mirth, and I for one almost peed myself.
I'm trying to get a recording of the skits on tape so that I can upload it and share it. If unavailable, the entire skit may be performed again at Boskone in a few weeks..... at least I'm trying to make that happen. Stay tuned.
We finished up the evening in proper BwB fashion, drinking at a local brew pub.
We said our farewells to George at a reasonably late hour, with a "see you in a few weeks at Boskone!" I've promised George that we will make Boskone memorable for him, and that many more BwB members will make it. You all need to help me fulfill this promise. Stay tuned for that, as well.
-----I forgot to add that we were not priviledged this weekend with the presence of the wonderful Parris. She was indeed missed.
I don't know what other's have heard and passed on.....
My understanding from what I've heard is that "Yes, we will see Arya." Asha was NEVER mentioned.
I asked George later "But will Arya see us?" He said, of course not.....she's a fictional character....she can't see the reader. "But will she see...I dunno.....anything?"
"That would be telling," he said merrily.
The book, as I understand it will feature Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Davos, and probably Theon(?) and the other mystery POV. Arya will be in towards the end, he said.
So here's my report from the CBC Book club event in Vancouver (for our international friends, the CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - public radio and tv and I cannot live without it!)
The event was not all that well attended....I was shocked! I arrived quite early, so got a front row seat. The event was moderated by Sheryl McKay (a local radio host - most excellent) and John Burns (book editor for a local paper)
George came in, and joked about the weather...its been raining here for a month solid, bad even for the Wet Coast. It went well with the first chapter - the Cersei one, on the way to the funeral, with all the rain. After, Sheryl and John made some comments and posed some questions.
J commented on how G's reading aloud conveyed the gamesmanship and paranoia on every page and asked G if he found imagining and writing all that intrigue exhausting. G said no, not that part of writing, he actually enjoys that part quite a bit. He writes books that he would want to read and finds alot of fantasy deficient because everyone is as they seem-called it lazy writing; said we all wear masks and people are complex--they have heroism and monstrosity. The exploration of character is the most interesting aspect of people and he tries to celebrate it in his books.
S - commented on how he offs his main characters.
G - fiction is too predictable, esp in fantasy, where you know a main character will survive, no matter how many orcs are chasing him. G is not interested in this fiction of comfort- wants to shake up readers, make the danger feel real.
S - wanted to know how readers felt about it
G - most love it
J - commented on sex in the books
G -says there should be more sex in fantasy, more sex in life; gets more letters of complaint about sex than about death, G marvelled that "the penis obscene while the ax is just cool fun"; said that anything gratuitous is that which does not advance the plot directely, but big deal - plot alone makes a 20 page book; he wants you to smell the smoke and food at a feast, see the fools - trying to do complex characters...you need to show it--cant just say "this character here is complex, you know"
Then he talked a bit about oaths, and how they are lost in modern life. the books grapple with this
After a few more questions/comments, the floor was opened, and the first question, I kid you not, was "who are Jon's parents"
In response to another question about why this book took so bloody long, G admitted to mistakes in structure. he talked about Tolkein, and how he did something great in LotR by starting with the Shire, which is the whole world at the beginning, and when the story grew, so did the world. He is trying to do this, and from the beginning had planned to introduce new parts of this world, and new characters - found himself with too many balls in the air but he needed to keep them there, otherwise they would fall on his head
Next question was on POV's and whether G was worried about creeping Jordanism
G - Only one new one in DwD - see above for juggling analogy; he's gonna kill some off too. He wants all POV's to have a story arc even A VERY SHORT ARC (a significant statment, I thought); some readers were displeased with all the new ones in Feast....wanted old familiars, but the new ones were neccessary geographically. With Dorne and the Iron Islands he had originally tried each with one single POV, but it wasnt working, hence more delay.
Then he read a second chapter, the Captain of the Guards. Afterward, talked about Dorne a bit....separated physically and culturally, but joined due to a dynastic marriage.
Question from John:
what was the hardest thing in writing about such an alien world
G - the vast majority of fantasy is middle agey time wise, and he himself finds the period fascinating; glad to adopt it for novel writing - likes knights and castles and such. He objects to bad fantasy practice which adopts a time setting without accepting the culture - imposing 20th century values like the cheeky stableboy telling off the princess (in reality cheeky stableboy would lose his tongue - look what happend to Micah); the class system was not just and ornament and these people truly belived in blood, and the rank and priviledge that came with "good" blood. He discussed the role of women - in bad fantasy where the princess refuses to marry the old ugly fart - women were raised to accept this as their fate (ie Sansa and Tyrion); he castigated the warrior princess in a chainmail bikini, who in that reality would get chopped in two with a longsword. You needed brute strength to fight a la middle ages (voila Brienne); but women could fight with other weapons (sand snakes), it was just very very rare.
Question from Sheryl:
Heard that the series came from an image of direwolves and winterfell
G - yes, and the growth of the story from there was very exciting....he sees his writing style as being more like a gardener...planted a seed and watered it and let it grow, as opposed to writers who are like archtects, who plan everything out before they write the first word.
Audience questions on maps and size and population- we've heard it before.
Question on characters - very similar to characters from classical literature - is it intentional?
G- everything he experiences goes into the hopper, gets ground up and comes out in the books; but he tries not to draw direct analogues.
Question - have the mechanics of scriptwriting affected his fiction writing?
G - improved strength of structure and dialogue; his practice of repeated cliffhangers is directly from tv writing - act breaks - but- he is anti hollywood in many ways- his work is too long, too extravegant and has too many battlescenes for film/tv...fiction allows him to indulge his love of scale and detail.
Question (from yours truly) what the hell is with Biter? Is he just a bad guy or is he something more....
George treated us to a never before heard back story of Rorge and Biter.....Rorge ran a dog and bear fighting place in Flea Bottom. Biter was an orphan whom Rorge grabbed up and raised ferally to fight in the pits. ( I was most pleased to actually elicit something totally unknown)
DwD? Hoping for early 2007. Going home to write now.
As regards oaths, he seemed to lean toward the loss of the oath as bad, but said that first, he was grappling with the issue himself, and the second, he didnt want to get all didactic about it, and wanted readers to draw their own conclusions about the value of an oath.
I saw him tonight.. twice actually! Once from 4pm-6pm at a live radio interview that was put together at the last minute with almost no advertising... It was mostly an interview, with two readings, and a long Q&A. At this first event, I asked him about the POVs. I basically said he's known for it, and so far each book has had new ones, and that Feast seemed to contain the most new ones yet. But I asked if he was planning to continue introducing new POVs, or if he was worried about potenitally losing control of the story. I mentioned "other best-selling fantasy authors who shall remain nameless" who some say lost control of their series.
He spoke about all the balls he's juggling in the story, and wondering at times if he really needed the last few balls, but he's juggling them all now so he's gotta keep going. But he said he only hopes to introduce one new POV in Dance with Dragons, and then to probably stop introducing new ones. He wants to start bringing it to a close, and he thinks it will still be 7 books.
At the end of this radio interview, they had a draw, and since only about 20 people were there, I managed to win a hardcover signed copy of Feast! Too bad I already have one though...
The second event was at 7 pm, at Chapters bookstore. At this one he didn't do any reading, he simply spoke for about 45 minutes, about Fantasy and fiction in general. It was really interesting. He spoke about Lord of the Rings for a good 10 minutes, which was awesome. Again they had a Q&A, and again I managed to ask a question. This time I asked about the 5 year gap, and since Feast only covers a short period of time, was there still going to be a gap? He had a long, pretty funny answer, all about why the gap was a terrible idea and why it's now totally scrapped. He said he had opened his big mouth and mentioned the gap in so many interviews and conventions that he kept sticking with it, even after he should have stopped, realizing that it was not working. He spoke of how in King's Landing so much stuff had happened over the 5 years that he was basically writing non stop flashback scenes. Then, in the North, he had to write about how nothing had been happening... he actually imitated Jon Snow, saying "It's been a slow 5 years here... at the Wall... hanging out with Stannis... but now a bunch of stuff is about to happen!". He said the gap would have been good to allow the dragons to grow bigger, and the children to grow up, but that for better or worse it is now gone.
Biter's Untold Backstory!
At the first event, the CBC radio interview, a girl asked him about Biter. She said most of his characters are somewhat grey, not totally evil.. but that there was something about Biter, and she had suspicions about him. Martin seemed to love the question, and laughed about it, and then he told us the as-yet-unwritten backstory to Biter! Here it is, if you want to know, but I guess it's SPOILERS!: Rorge owned a pot shop or bar in Flea Bottom, the really bad part of King's Landing. Rorge would stage rat fights, and dog fights, bear cub fights, etc., and make money of these fights. At some point he found young Biter, a big ugly kid with no parents or something like that, and took him in. Rorge starting putting Biter into the fights, fighting mastiffs and bear cubs, etc. And then he said something like "And all of this led to his winning personality! So there you go, that's the backstory for Biter that I haven't written yet, but I might!"
A couple other people asked some good questions, and a couple that I thought were bad. Someone specifically asked about who Jon Snow's parents were, and someone asked about Syrio and Jaqen H'gar! He basically laughed and said "I'm not gonna tell you!"
The signing was taking place in one of the bookstores downtown Calgary in a large cafee they have upstairs there. It was cozy, but unlike Toronto, nobody had to be packed in the rows between the bookshelves.
George Martin gave an hour or hour and a half talk, answered some questions from the audience, and then signed our precious books!
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The most important thing first: Martin was touring since October, so he had not done much progress on the Dance With the Dragons. However, he is sitting on 500-600 pages taken out of the Feats, and (well, last time he was three years late) he wants to try to finish by the summer, so that the book can be published in the end of 2006. Or the beginning of 2007... Well, the main thing, he said, do not believe anything amazon tells you! On the daily updates: It would give people heart-attacks to read that he ripped apart twelve pages, so he is a week back on what had been written.
Alright, now to the rest of the stuff: he started with saying that he is disappointed in Calgary -- last time he was touring, it was with the Storm of Swords, and we had --40 C, so it greatly helped him in the writing about the Wall. Yes! We, calgarians, sure did our best there!
Then he went on remembering his very first signing tour that started in Texas -- a mistake right there -- where he had 20 or so people in Houston, 30 in Austin, and then, when he came to Dallas, why, there was a good crowd... for the signings done by a dog -- some sort of a children character, I suppose, a big stuffed toy costume and all that. He had two people.
Then he started talking about the questions he is usually asked to get it out of the way. In regards to the advice for the inspiring writers were: dont start with the epic, write short stories with the beginning, middle and end, and experiment with them; learn write about the painful things; read a lot, and of every gender and persist.
Killing characters: He writes the books that he wants to read. Meaning, the books that you know how they'll end on page 5 (told a joke about his mother who could predict very well how the next episode of I love Lucy will end in the very beginning, and how he got good at it soon too, and got bored). And the books that allow emotional attachment to the characters.
Ideally, Martin said, I want you to drop through the book cover and be in the middle of the book, on the battlefield when the characters are fighting, or in the bedroom when they step there. Obviously, its not what's going to happen, because you will still be sitting in your chair or in your bathtub -- bad idea, the books are too heavy, and you will drop them. But, the magic is to make it real.
Well, if you are polite, you will call it a work of a magician, and if you are impolite -- a fraud. (He likes this idea, actually; on the prior conference, he opened his "Why do we like to read GoHs speech with the "I am a liar."
Here, he also gave a lovely a little speech on gratuitous; people often ask why there are so much gratuitous in his books -- gratuitous heraldry, gratuitous feasting, gratuitous sex. Not many, he said, object to the gratuitous feasting though... What, would he ask do you call gratuitous? Well, they'd say, when it does not advance the plot. Martins reply is that he can hand out the 20 page summaries of the plot, but he does not believe that it what the readers want; it's not what he wants in a book -- hed read plenty which were just that: plot advancement. He want the reader to get hungry when the characters feast, and horny when they make love... or disgusted, as the case might be. Fear. He was talking about the rollercoaster movies and books -- comparing the adrenaline rush you get while perfectly safe and the "real" fear, the one that one experiences in the face of death. Talked about us watching Indiana Jones killing 424 Nazis, and knowing that not a single one is going to blow the back of Indi's head of....
While in his universe, Westeros, the world is dangerous, so if Tyrion faces 424 Nazis he is in real trouble -- first, because there are no Nazis in westerous, and second, because he is a dwarf, so facing two, or even just one guy with a big axe is a challenge for him, and who knows if he emerges alive. Thats by the way, why he kills the characters -- do it early on, and you achieve the suspense. The reader should not know what happens next, he needs to want to see what happens next.
But, he hates killing his characters. If you thought it was painfull for you to read the Red Wedding, maybe you hurled the book into the wall, well, it was more painful for him to read. The Red Wedding was the last scene written, before he had to submit the manuscript to the publisher.
Questions from the audience:
On keeping notes and writing the backstory: No, Martin does not keep outlines (did it in his TV's days and hated it). he knows where he is going, but he puts everything he has pretty much in the books. Said, he gets e-mails sometimes from Tolkien devotees, asking him about the structure and grammar of Old Valyrian. Said: "I created eight words in High Valyrian. When I need the ninth I will create it." of course, he said, most authors like to pretend that they are Tolkines, keeping manuscripts and manuscripts of the world creation. But, its not the case. Tolkien is an exception. It is not like an iceberg. It is more like a float onto which the writer piled a bit of ice. When he needs the iceberg to look taller, well, he'd add more ice.
That answers the question that is asked of him: "What if you die before finishing the books?"
Well, I dont want some f*cking hack to finish my book! You will have to hope that I live long enough.
Now, how does he keep track of all those characters? A gift, he guesses. He is bad in the real life with remembering people; he won't remember the guys who stand in line twice to sign more copies (he signs three per person per time); but he happens to remember the name of the captain of the guard in the Highgarden
Speaking of the names, someone asked about the names. Different ways, some invented, some altered. He praised Tolkien, who does not just have one wonderful name, but six of them; also mentioned Vance in that respect.
He said it still amazes him that people call their babies after their characters, but he is slightly apprehensive as well. In the "Beauty and the Beast" days, when one of the cast, called Catherine resigned, they killed her, and introduced a new character. So, one of the outraged phone calls was from a tearful, weeping woman, telling the writers that they killed her baby, because she named it after the character J He said, be careful, you like the character now, but what about in three books? (Domi: conclusion: name children after the dead characters)
He was also asked about how his book started. Pretty much with Brans chapter. The Wall is inspired by his visit to the Hadrian's wall, but since his was bigger, it had to guard the realm against someone fiercer than Scotts (not that Scotts arent fierce).
So, in the end, I happily got my autograph; I asked him to write "Don't cry when Jaime dies." but he laughed and said "it will be giving too much away" and signed: "Dont cry when _________________ dies" He left a hellishly long line there too, to fill in!
Hey, did I bore you all to death yet?
I never got to ask a question during the Q&A. But i sliped in a quick one during the book signings. I asked about the unmarked island near the Dorne. His answer was that it was just one of the stepstones and he hadn't even come up with an actual name for it. And it didn't have a lord as of yet. And apparently there are several more islands of simalar size that are extend further east. So now i'm not even sure it is part of westeros.
I also wanted the words for house Blackwood in my LEGENDS II. To that he said he had thought up some but he didn't know them from memery. So he just wrote "Winter is Comming" which doesn't really suit the book but i wasn't quick enough to suggest "fire and blood"
Another addition as well. In Toronto when George answered the "Who is the most underrated character?" question he pronounced Catelyn's name quite differently than I've heard others saying before. George said it as Kat-el-in *steals Ran's phonetics*
There were a LOT of people there. I arrived at around 6:40, so I was stuck standing in the line toward the middle to end. But that's ok, I dragged my sister along for the ride (who hasn't read the books btw haha don't worry I'm working on that) so I had someone to bug and poke during the wait.
Anyway, to the important stuff. GRRM started off saying how Toronto is like some sort of time portal, because the last time he was here in 2000, he was watching the U.S. elections and turned off the t.v. just after Gore won Florida thinking it was safe to go to bed. He said he hopes that somehow his being in Toronto will reopen the portal and he'll find himself in the second term of Gore's presidency rofl2.gif
After that, he discussed the 5 year gap, why it had to be scrapped etc. everything we already pretty much know.
Then some people asked some questions, such as who is the most underrated character. GRRM didn't REALLY answer that question, just saying he knows who readers don't really like (he mentioned Sansa and Catelyn, but I like them both tongue.gif ) and that Arya, Jon Snow and Tyrion are most people's favourites.
Someone asked about Tywin and whoring but he said he couldn't answer those kinds of questions from a platform and they will be better resolved in future books. (ooh cryptic)
Someone else asked about turning ASOIAF into an HBO series and GRRM said maybe in the future if HBO comes to him etc.
Ummm that's all I can remember right now from the questioning...
I waited in line for about an hour and a half, got my book signed, GRRM was really nice etc. anyway, off to read some Shakespeare and hit the sack! Hope all you BWBers who met up had fun and had a few (and more) drinks to make up for my absence.
My husband went with a few of his buddies to the Albuquerque signing last night, got a few of our books signed, and managed to get most of the talk and QA recorded on his PDA for me, which came out pretty well in spite of ~75 people being in attendance; it was standing-room only. I suppose I should have posted a note ahead of time to see if anyone would be there, but since I knew I wouldn't be going myself, I didn't think of it!
- George gave his usual humorous talk about his signings - the story about having his signing in Dallas ages back being trumped by Clifford the Big Red Dog, and also the one about driving four people out of the feminist bookstore in St Louis. Good stuff!
- He discussed his tour and seemed pleased as punch that his British edition made the Times bestseller list in England, and the American edition debuted on the NY Times list at #1. Big applause for that! He thanked his editors, agents, publicists, publishers, bookstores, readers, and Parris (who was present) at length, attributing his success to them. The part about 'word of mouth advertising' and people forcing their friends and relatives to read the books, really hit home with me... I've addicted at least fifteen people to the series by myself hehe, and I hound the newer ones to finish!
- He told the story about how the series got started, how he was writing something else and the scene with the direwolves in the snow just came to him and demanded to be written.
- He talked about the 5-year-gap, and that he trashed it primarily because he just couldn't skip all that time for the adults and write everything in flashbacks; what might have worked for the children didn't work for the adults. Also, he mentioned the problem with a gap meaning he'd have to recreate all the tension and foreboding, especially on the Wall, which felt false.
- He discussed the reasons he took so long for this book, that it just kept getting bigger and bigger, got to 1600-1700 pages long and still not done, and also why he divided it up - largely because he didn't want to cut anything out - he couldn't do that by just 'deleting all the adjectives', he would have had to cut intertwining character arcs and plotlines, and he was unwilling to do that, and moreover leery of the delay that a massive revision like that would cause. (As a side note, he made the point that he doesn't include chapters or characters on a whim, they all have a very good reason for being there.) He also rejected the idea of just cutting it down the middle, because that would have left the first part without any sort of a climactic end. His analogy is that the series is a symphony and each book is a movement, and explained that he likes each character arc to have some sort of finale in each book, whether it's on a cliffhanger, or a completion of some phase of the character's story arc (or death hehe). Ultimately, he decided to divide it geographically as you all know, since Dany's story is taking place in Martinland's China, and the rest is taking place in Martinland's England.
- He said he's getting back to work writing now that his tour is done. He said he has 500-600 of it done and a strong idea of where he's going, and hopes he's back a year from now with the next book.
Question Answer Session
- Someone asked about whether the next book was going to explode and be four books, whether the series would start getting out of control. George said he hoped not; he admitted that it started as a trilogy, and that ADWD is the book that 'has always receded away from him.' He quoted Tolkien: "A story makes its own demands." He said he's still aiming for 7 books, which he thinks has nice thematic symmetry (7 kingdoms, 7 gods) but that he's not promising anything in blood, it might take more.
- One guest asked how much of the "ending" of the story Martin knows before he sits down to write the beginning; George answered that he's not an architect who must know where everything goes before building, but rather he's a gardener who throws out seeds and tries to shape the plants as they come up, as best he can. He mentioned again the scene with the direwolves sparking the series, that he really didn't have any of it planned in the very beginning. He did say that in Hollywood, he was expected to be an architect because they want to approve of your plans ahead of time, and that maybe because of that, his Hollywood work wasn't as good.
- George was asked about his method for writing; he answered that he commutes to his second house across the street to work and write every day, starts out with his coffee and email, rereads and revises yesterday's work, and then sets to writing new stuff - on the good days. (He must be deadly sick of answering these same questions millions of times!)
- He was also asked about advice for new writers, and he gave the usual answer: write short stories not novels and trilogies. The good thing about writing short stories being that if you write a bad one, you've only wasted three weeks rather than years, and while the money isn't huge, there's always room for new authors, because established folks move on to novels. Of course he also suggested reading voraciously, in all fields, not just fantasy - 'the best writers are sponges'.
- Someone asked how, as a 'gardener' style of writer, George manages to set and stick to the "rules" of his fantasy world without contradicting what has gone before. George answered that he doesn't have to worry about contradicting his magical system because he's deliberately limited the magic and intentionally tries to keep it magical and mysterious, that the essence of magic is that it must be "wondrous and unexplainable". He doesn't like what other authors have done, which is to treat magic like a different kind of science with its own set rules. He does admit keeping some details straight is hard, since he keeps a lot of it in his head, though that's supplemented with charts and computer files. He joked that he thinks the brain synapses normal people use for real life, he uses for living and remembering things in Westeros; he forgets the real people he meets, but can remember the names of the guardsmen of third-rate lordlings several books ago. He did note with some amusement that his readers catch his mistakes for him (Renly's eyes being green once, then blue, and then calling them 'blue-green eyes that changed color depending on what he wears' as an out). Ditto with various horse gender oopses.
- One woman remarked that George does a remarkable job making each viewpoint character drastically different in the way the speak and act, and wondered how he pulled it off. He said that was the fun part and the challenge. He gets into a groove with characters, and will write one character for awhile, multiple chapters with that character in a row until he gets stumped, then he switches, and when he does, he steps back and has to consciously take a deep breath and remind himself he's writing someone else. He mentioned he borrowed the interweaving viewpoint style ("mosaic novels") from the Wild Cards series, which worked best and gained strength when different characters lent their own world views and eyes to the same events. He joked that the best part of having so many characters is that he can kill some of them off and still have plenty left over to tell the story (big laugh there hehe), and that makes it more suspensful.
- Favorite character question - Tyrion, he answered (yes you've heard this before), because he's a smartass, he's an active character who drives the narrative, he's always up to something, always has plans, and his voice comes to Martin easily, being the character most like himself. Although, he notes, he is taller and has an entire nose (more laughs). Then he said, your next question will be, who's the hardest character to write, and that's Bran, because he has to recheck every sentence to make sure it's really what an 8-year-old would think and say, and that it's even harder when he has to write about Bran morphing into Summer, because he finds it hard to put himself in the place of a wolf.
- Next he was asked whether he finds it difficult to kill off viewpoint characters. He said yes, definitely; they're not just characters he's writing about, but rather he feels like he's been inside the heads of these people (he was really trying to avoid spoilers here). He did say that the Red Wedding was the hardest chapter for him to write, and that he put it off til the very end, even though he knew it had to be done. He explained though, that even though it's hard, he writes with the goal of making his readers experience, and live, the books, not just read them, to see and feel what the characters see and feel. He brought up the idea of fear, of fun 'roller-coaster' fear versus 'real' fear, that in some books you can be confident the hero will never die so you never truly feel their fear. He prefers instead to create the idea of uncertainty, of 'mortal peril', to make you afraid to turn the next page. He did mention he gets letters from people upset that characters die, that they weren't reading his books and getting emotionally attached to see them die - 'they wanted roller-coaster fear, and I chucked them out of the roller-coaster' (laughs). He noted he wasn't trying to put them down, that even he enjoys that from time to time (he used Indiana Jones as an example).
- One man asked whether George ever learns of people naming their kids after his characters. He pointed the guy to his website, where he even has baby pictures of Sansas, Aryas, even a Daenarys, Nymeria, Eddard, Bran, Chataya, and several Cerseis. He won't take credit for the Jons, though (hehe). It was great; someone in the audience made a crack about Cersei, and someone else said "as long as they aren't twins"). He mentioned meeting a little girl whose parents had named her Daenarys and he made a joke about how she was really going to hate spelling that when she gets to first grade. He also once got a letter from a 23-year-old girl named Lya whose mother said she was named after a character in one of his stories (A Song for Lya) and wanted to know who the heck Lya was. George sent her a copy! Hehe. He said he finds it flattering overall, but thinks it's a bad idea when the story isn't done yet and some of the characters will come to a bad end, and then those parents will be pissed with him!
- A woman asked if he woke up one day and decided to become a writer; he answered nah he'd always known, was always a writer, even selling his stories as a kid in the projects, for a nickel (the price of a milky way bar). He mentioned that all little kids have dreams of becoming an astronaut or a superhero, but as he got older he realized that it was kinda hard to become a playboy crimefighter, and not a lot of job opportunities for it (laughs!) and that writing about it was easier to break into.
- Another woman mentioned that Martin is very intuitive when writing women; Martin responded with the idea that everyone always says to "write what you know", and that he hated that when he was young, because he wanted to do science fiction, he wanted to write about space pirates, and how could he ever know space pirates? But that now he realizes there is truth to that, and what he knows best is himself. So he'd learn about space, and he'd learn about pirates, and then put himself into the character, no matter how different, and figure out how he'd feel in those shoes, and then write it. He pointed out he does women, young girls, old men, warriors, dwarfs, and that he's never been any of those things; 'it's all a question of empathy'. Yes, he noted, there are differences between men and women, but there are also a great deal of similarities, we're all people, and when he's stumped, he just talks to women and asks them.
- He was asked about his story The Sandkings and how he felt about its adaptation into an Outer Limits episode. He answered that a healthy attitude is to realize the story exists separately from any secondary product. He told the story of how someone involved with said TV production had called him, excited to let him know that they had cast three members of the Bridges family of actors to play the three generations of the Sandkings. He answered, well, that's great... but in my story, there weren't three generations!
- A guy asked about the Dunk and Egg stories, and asked whether the next DE story would be at the Wall. Answer: nope. He did say he was working on another DE story but it's only half done and he hopes to finish it soon but he wasn't sure where it would be published (he mumbled something about the Legends anthology being defunct? I'm out of the loop on that).
- The same guy asked about the Daynes and the Sword of the Morning, asking how that title is decided. George said the Sword of the Morning is always a member of House Dayne, someone who is deemed worthy of wielding Dawn as decided within the House, that whoever it is would have to earn the right to wield it.
- Question about the comic book version of one of his stories that he mentioned at Bubonicon... Martin said the Hedge Knight comic and graphic novel was done and there'd be a sequel (Sworn Sword) that was also being adapted by the same people, but that the Fevre Dream comic was still being worked on, with illustrations by a Spanish artist, so he doesn't have an ETA on that one.
- Some poor lout asked about about all the bad luck House Stark has had (laughs) and whether they'd all get back together by the end. Of course George wouldn't answer (big laughs), saying that was akin to asking Orson Welles what "rosebud" is. Ie - keep reading! Then he was asked if Rickon would ever get a chapter, and Martin said that the only thing worse than writing an 8-year-old (Bran) would be writing a rabid 4-year-old. He did say that "perhaps" Rickon will have "days in the sun" when he grows up a little, but that we shouldn't expect viewpoint chapters from a 4-year-old. He also said that if he'd stuck with the 5 year gap, Rickon might have been more feasible in that role.
- My husband asked about the maesters and their science being destructive of magic in AFFC, a subject I've ranted on here on the boards before, and a subject he finds personally important, being a scientist himself. He was specifically talking about a story in A Song For Lya, and Martin was quick - he mentioned the exact story my husband was thinking of, "With Morning Comes Mistfall". He admitted that it's a recurring theme in his work, and that "Misfall" came about when he was reading a newspaper article in the early 70s about a scientist who'd been given a grant to study Loch Ness and determine, once and for all, whether or not there was really a Nessie lurking in its depths, and ultimately proving there was no monster. Martin says he didn't like that; he prefers a world in which we can continue to hope there is a Loch Ness monster, that the world is poorer without that mystery. But he went on to say that doesn't truly "epitophize" (great new word!) his views on science, that they're much more complex than that, that he's not a believer in simple black and white, in characters or in anything else.
- The next questioner said, in reference to the question about how Martin writes women, that Jack Nicholson had once said to write a woman, "just take a man and remove all reason and accountability." Martin said "Oh you're in trouble now!" Then he asked about name pronunciation. JAY-mee. Deh-NAIR-is. Tar-GAIR-ee-ehn. Ser like Sir. MAY-ster. Then he said, but you can say MY-ster if you want, that he's from New Jersey and he's probably saying it wrong anyway. He did laugh about the audio books (read by Roy Dotrice from Beauty and the Beast), that they questioned him on the hard ones and got them right, but then went and got all the easy ones wrong (like Peh-TEER instad of PEE-ter.) Then the same guy asked whether Valyrian steel had anything to do with Conan, and Martin said no. (No idea what that means!)
- Martin was asked a bit more about Wild Cards; he said they're pitching their publishers a new three book deal, since the current series has wound down, and that they're going to be adding a new cast of characters, since a lot of the current characters are old, and also to give an 'in' for new readers.
- He discussed the HBO series "Rome"; he said he hadn't watched the finale, but he had a feeling Caesar may die (lots of laughs). He demands that everyone get HBO because of the quality of their shows. He compared 'Rome' to ABC's 'Empire' which he said sucked ("The same story, but done really stupid.")
- The last person told Martin to take as much time as he needed with the books; that they were worth the wait. George seemed to really appreciate that, and told everyone to keep reading because he "has a lot of good stuff planned."
When it was my husband's turn to get our books signed, he told him he wanted the Stark words in two books, and the Tarth words (whatever they were) in the third. George said that he hadn't ever come up with words for the Tarths (maybe he will, now!) He laughed and said if we really wanted something about Tarth, he could just write "sapphires" - naturally, my hubby said, "no, sapphireth!" But ultimately he just put "Winter is Coming" in all of them.