[Note: The following chat is made available through the Internet Archive.]
Mr. Martin, we found it peculiar that Tyrion considered the importance of the Greyjoy fleet in aCoK (when Balon's message reached him in KL), since he never thinks about the West's own naval strength and it's usefulness against the Starks.
So we began to doubt said strength.
Did Tywin ever rebuild the Lannister fleet, after Euron burned it eight years ago?
And if he rebuilt it, did he ever appoint a permanent commander of this fleet?
Yes, Lord Tywin certainly replaced the ships that were lost.
However, as far as naval power goes, the only fleets comparable to that of the Greyjoys are the royal fleet (most of it destroyed on the Blackwater) and the Redwyne fleet, based on the Arbor. Besides the king, the Greyjoys and Redwynes are the traditional sea powers of Westeros.
The lords whose lands abut the coast of the Sunset Sea all keep a war galley or three about for coastal defense, and of course those shores are home to scads of fishing boats as well. The Lannisters have a larger and much grander fleet, but we're still only talking about twenty to thirty ships, perhaps. To fight a major battle, they would call the ships of their various bannermen, just as Stannis summoned the lords of the narrow sea for the battle on the Blackwater.
For what it's worth, however, their ships would be larger and more formidable than the longships of the ironmen -- cogs, carracks, and war galleys of various sides, up to the great dromonds with scorpions and catapults on deck.
The Tyrells are in more or less the same position as the Lannisters, though they depend even more on their bannermen, especially the lords of the Shield Islands off the mouth of the Mander. The Hightowers have only a few warships, but control Oldtown, home to numerous trading vessels.
Closer to the books, when Cat and Ser Rodrik go to King's Landing, Cassel finds Ser Aron Santagar (master of arms at the Red Keep) to ask him about the dagger. We never learn what Rodrik learned. Just what did Ser Aron say when asked about the knife? Did he corroborate what Littlefinger told Cat, or did he plead ignorance of the weapon and its owner?
Ser Aron most likely told Ser Rodrik that Littlefinger owned such a weapon, but not much more.
Do we the readers, after having read aGoT and aCoK, have enough information to plausibly be able to reason out who was behind the assassination plot against Bran?
There's a couple of additional things to be revealed in SOS... but I think the answer could be worked out from the first two books alone, yes... though of course, =I've= known the truth all along, so in some ways it's hard for me to judge.
First. When Cersei and Ned talked in the godswood in aGoT, she mentioned Jon, and wondered who his mother was, (paraphrasing) "...Some peasant wife you raped, while her holdfast burned?" This indicates that there were fightings in Dorne when Ned went there to get Lyanna back. But I thought the Martells stayed out of the war, and that Ned went there when the war was all over. So: did Ned take an army with him into Dorne, or not?
Ned's army did not accompany him to Dorne, no. There were no battles in Dorne during Robert's Rebellion, though doubtless there were minor skirmishes along the borders. But it's not entirely correct that the Martells stayed out of the war. Rhaegar had Dornish troops with him on the Trident, under the command of Prince Lewyn of the Kingsguard. However, the Dornishmen did not support him as strongly as they might have, in part because of anger at his treatment of Elia, in part because of Prince Doran's innate caution. Cersei's line reflects no more than a desire to wound, to say something nasty to get a rise out of Ned.
Second: We discussed whether Robert loved his brother Renly or not. Haaruk thought so, while I never envisioned their relationship as more than lukewarm. (Jaime said Robert hardly could stomach his brothers (plural form)). Which is correct?
There are many different kinds of love. Robert was dutiful toward his brothers, and no doubt loved them in a way... but he didn't necessarily like them. His relations with Stannis were always prickly. Renly was the baby of the family, and spent little time in Robert's company until he was old enough to come to court. I suspect Robert was fond of the boy, but not especially close to him.
Stannis always resented being given Dragonstone while Renly got Storm's End, and took that as a slight... but it's not necessarily true that Robert meant it that way. The Targaryen heir apparent had always been titled Prince of Dragonstone. By making Stannis the Lord of Dragonstone, Robert affirmed his brother's status as heir (which he was, until Joff's birth a few years later). Robert could just as lawfully retained both castles for his sons, and made Joffrey the Prince of Dragonstone and Tommen the Lord of Storm's End. Giving them to his brothers instead was another instance of his great, but rather careless, generosity.
[In response to a reader asking whether any more children of the forest exist, if the remaining population is of pure or mixed stock, and how does their magic compare to what they did in ancient times]
You'll need to wait for later volumes to learn the answers to your questions about the children. Sorry.
You'll learn more about Valyria and its Doom in later volumes, but not especially in A STORM OF SWORDS.
I know my Homer, of course, but Cersei is not based on Circe. Many names sound alike.
Arya is two syllables.
[Note: The following is a summary of a "10 Questions" feature produced by Sulthon of Kingslanding.org, which is now defunct. The precise date, beyond September 1999, is unknown.]
Martin does a lot of research on any story that has a historical or quasi-historical setting. For the series, he immersed himself in the Middle Ages, reading everything he could about such things as castles, tourneys, knighthood, food, medicine, clothing, and customs. He also read histories of things like the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses, the Crusades, and so on. In his opinion, the more you can take in of a period, the more your work will have a sense of truthfulness.
If any sort of accident would bring about an early end for our favorite author, such as a meteor flatting his home, the readers will be flattened with him. There is no "master outline" for the series, just a half-dozen pages of very rough notes that are largely out of date. If he should die unexpectedly, the publishers might hire someone to finish the series, but they'll be on their own and will be very unlikely to finish it the same he would. However, he's only 52 years old, and had had a full physical in February, so he doesn't think there'll be a problem.
We'll learn what "valar dohaeris" means in A Dance with Dragons
Tyrion is Martin's favorite character, but from the perspective of House Stark, he's certainly a villain -- someone once said that a villain was a hero on the other side.
At the time of the Sack, Aegon Targaryen was, "Still a babe at the breast. A year old, give or take a turn or two."
Martin had once stated that Gandalf should have stayed dead (in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings). He still holds to that position, despite some of the events in A Storm of Swords. However, if "he had returned as an evil flesh-eating zombie", that could have been different. Martin does not believe his "resurrections" are remotely similar to what Tolkien did. Death actually made Gandalf greater, improving him and increasing his power. And, quibbles aside, Martin still thinks that Tolkien was the greatest of all fantasists.
Martin has no central resource for his knowledge of the Wars of the Roses, but he has a bookshelf packed with related materials. Special mention goes to Thomas B. Costain's 4-volume history of the Plantagents, however. Though the wars are dealt with only in the final volume, the books are extremely readable and full of colorful anecdotes about the times and the people who lived in them.
Martin says that all young writers go through an imitative phase, and that it's not a problem. It can be a useful learning experience, and eventually one will find one's own voice.
Martin recommends Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Robert E. Howard's Conan and Kull stories, the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake, Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place, Fritz Leiber's stories of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories, and Jack Vance's Lyonesse, The Dying Earth, and Cugel's Saga. He also recommends historical writers such as Sharon Kay Penman, Nigel Tranter, Cecilia Holland, Thomas B. Costain, and Maurice Droun.
Martin likes all sorts of food. Living in Santa Fe, he's a bit of a snob about Mexican food, however. New Mexico has the best Mexican food in the world, much better than Sonoran or TexMex, so he never eats Mexican food away from home. He loves Chinese food as well, especially Hunan and Szechuan styles that are extra spicey. Greek food and pizza as well, but only the thin-crust New York style pizza.