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. :))