Westeros is likely to keep me occupied for the next few years, admittedly. I want to do some more Dunk & Egg stories to follow up on "The Hedge Knight" from LEGENDS, in between volumes of the series. It looks like WILD CARDS is coming back, though. We'll be reprinting some of the old books and adding two new ones. I'll be editing those, but probably not writing for them... but eventually, if the series takes root again and flowers, I'll want to do more Turtle and Popinjay stories.
I am just writing to congratulate you on Storm of Swords. I thought it was a very good book. However, in my view GOT and COK were better. One reason was I found SOS extremely depressing. Virtually every character I like went through some type of hell.
Yes, it is a dark book. But there's still hope.
Hopefully characters such as Tyrion, Arya and Bran will get some fun in their lives in Dance of Dragons. Jaime was a great POV, I hope we can continue to see his point of view, and that he and Tyrion can reconcile sometime in the future.
Jaime's POV will continue, definitely. A reconciliation... well, you'll have to wait and see.
By the way, there was an interesting theory put forward on the eesite message boards once that I always loved. It involved the whore at Chataya's who was successful in the bet that Tyrion would not give up Allaya (or in reality Shae). It was noted that she had silver hair, a cool demeanor, green eyes and read books. She isn't by any chance Tyrion's daughter by Tysha? (or by any other whore for that matter).
Anyway, love the series, and hope the next three books are just as good (and hopefully quickly out :) ).
"Quickly?" Would that it were so... but these are huge books, and they take a long time to write. I'd look for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS sometime in 2002.
I will be leaving on October 3 for a month long tour of Germany.
Some of my time will be spent playing the tourist, visiting castles and Roman ruins, enjoying the scenery, and hunting for old toy knights and castles. However, I will also be making a number of public appearances.
The weekend of October 6-8 I will be the Guest of Honor at Elstercon, in Leipzig. Details of the convention can be found on Elstercon's website, at http://apple.rz.uni-leipzig.de/FKSFL.html.
On Monday, October 9, I will be speaking and signing books at UFO-Buchladen in Berlin.
From Tuesday October 17 through Monday October 23, I will be attending the Frankfurt Book Fair. As of this writing, I have no official scheduled appearances at the convention, but I expect to be around for most of the week. Ask for me at the Fantasy Productions kiosk in the German hall, or at the HarperCollins booth in the English hall, I plan to visit both.
From the 25th through the 29th of October, I plan to attend Spiel, the comics and gaming convention in Essen (Gruga). I may be doing a signing or a talk there, or perhaps just hanging around, but I should be findable.
I will return to Santa Fe on October 31, and enjoy two whole days at home before leaving again on my American book tour for A STORM OF SWORDS.
I looking forward to meeting some my German readers while I'm over there, and having a few of these good German beers I've heard so much of.
[Note: The following interview is no longer available on the Ottakars website, so they have kindly given us permission to repost the whole of it here. It remains © Ottakars. The precise date, beyond September 2000, is unknown.]
In the early part of your career you were chiefly known as a writer of short stories, winning I think it was 3 Hugo and 2 Nebula awards (please correct me if I'm wrong).
At present it's four Hugos and two Nebulas -- I picked up another Hugo a few years ago at the San Antonio worldcon, for the novella Blood of the Dragon, an excerpt from A Game of Thrones. Also a Bram Stoker and a World Fantasy Award, if it matters.
As time has passed, you seem to have gradually moved to longer and longer formats - first novels, then a series of long novels in A Song of Ice and Fire. I was wondering what you felt were the strengths of each form, and whether you were planning on staying in longer forms or revisiting the short story again.
I do want to do more short fiction in the future, definitely, though it is not likely I'll be doing true short stories. Even back in the '70s, I found I was more comfortable at novelette and novella length. I want to more more tales of Dunk and Egg, who were featured in my Hedge Knight story in Legends. Those will likely be novellas. It's a question of finding the time. The Ice and Fire books are huge undertakings, and don't leave me much time for other projects.
Many of your early stories were set in the same universe, last visited in the stories collected in Tuf Voyaging. Do you have any plans to write anything else set in the same universe?
Well, I would like to do more Tuf stories one day, and I also have a chunk of an SF novel called Avalon that I put aside to write A Game of Thrones. I have a lingering fondness for that old future history of mine, I must admit... even though certain aspects seem very outdated today. I expect I'll visit it again one day.
You have often been described as a Romantic writer in the widest sense, and as having the sensibility of a poet allied to an awareness of the brutal realities of existence. Your characters frequently live with loss and regret, and the failure to reach their goals or to live up to their ideals, a theme that runs from your earliest work through to A Song of Ice and Fire. Is there an autobiographical element in such flawed crusaders as Laren Dorr, the Great and Powerful Turtle and Ser Jorah amongst many others, or do they perhaps reflect more of a general view of life?
Hmmm... well, I mined my own life shamelessly when creating the Great and Powerful Turtle, I admit. Tom's childhood was my own, complete with pet turtles. Unfortunately, I never developed telekinesis... otherwise I might be out fighting crime from an armored Volkswagen, rather than writing novels. My other characters are less autobiographical on the surface, but down deep there's a lot of me in all of them. A writer observes other people and draws on all that he sees and hears and experiences, certainly, but observation can only take you so far. To make a character really come alive, you have to become that character, and that means delving down into your own psyche, using your own dreams and desires... and even your fears.
In many ways you were one of the precursors of the recent boom in vampire novels with Fevre Dream. What do you think is the appeal of vampire stories, and why is it that they seem to have become so popular now?
Vampires have always been popular. I have written stories about werewolves, ghosts, and zombies as well, but none of them have the sex appeal of the vampire. I think eroticism has a lot to do with it. There is a dark romanticism to the vampire that none of the other traditional monsters can match. In Fevre Dream, Joshua York quotes Byron at one point. "She walks in beauty, like the night..." He's speaking about the steamboat, but the words apply to vampires as well.
In the 1980s, you moved into television, working on series such as the new Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. How did you find the experience differed from working in the medium of print? Did it teach you anything?
Ultimately it taught me that I wanted to go back to books. Oh, it was an exciting time, to be sure. I worked with some good people and did a lot of work that I remain proud of, but TV and film are collaborative mediums, and in the end I just got tired of collaborating. A book allows me to be the writer, director, producer, special effects artist, set designer, stunt man, and all the actors, rolled in one. I don't have to compromise my story to meet the demands of studio or network, or water it down because Standards and Practices thinks it's too violent or too sexy or too opinionated. And I don't have to worry about the budgets either! My scripts were always budget-busters out in Hollywood.
In the late 1980s you were the guiding light behind the excellent Wild Cards series of "mosaic novels", working with writers such as Roger Zelazny, Mellinda Snodgrass, Ed Bryant and Walter Jon Williams amongst many others. What was it like to collaborate so closely with so many very different writers?
It was frustrating and exhilarating by turns. We had a tremendous group of very talented writers, and a great world to play in, and some of our brainstorming sessions were as much fun as any I've ever been a part of. Of course, there were arguments as well. But since I was the editor, I always won them... unlike the arguments I had in Hollywood. We told some great stories, and I think we also took the "shared world" concept to a new level. No other shared world series ever attempted anything as ambitious as our mosaic novels.
Actually, it looks as though Wild Cards will soon be coming back. We are negotiating a deal that will bring many of the old books back into print and allow us to add a few new ones. I can't say more than that until the contracts are signed, but I'm looking forward to revisiting some of those characters.
Although you have always written both Fantasy and SF, A Song of Ice and Fire is, I believe, your first foray into the traditional epic Fantasy genre. Commercial considerations aside, what attracted you to the genre?
Actually, I had made several forays into high fantasy years and even decades before I began work on A Song of Ice and Fire -- The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr, The Ice Dragon, In the Lost Lands, etc. Even in my rock 'n' roll mystery horror fantasy, The Armageddon Rag, I named my fictional 60s rock band the Nazgul, and called their first album "Hot Wind Out of Mordor."
A Game of Thrones was my first attempt at epic Fantasy at novel length, but I'd loved the genre all my life. Growing up, I never made any distinctions between SF, Fantasy, and Horror. I would read Jack Vance's Dying Earth one week, and Asimov's Foundation the next, and enjoy them both. And The Lord of the Rings had as much impact on me as any book I ever read.
Fantasy novels are often set in a kind of idealised version of how we wish the Middle Ages had actually been. One of the unique features of A Song of Ice and Fire for me was the way in which it combines the brutal realism of the actual Middle Ages with elements derived from its own idealised versions of itself - the elaborate armour and heraldry evokes obvious echoes of Chaucer, Mallory and Spenser. Was this a conscious decision to illuminate the way a mediaeval society might view itself, or was it perhaps just too much fun to play with all that bizarre symbolism?
Well, I have to admit I enjoy the heraldry just for its own sake, although I have played fast and loose with some of the real world heraldic conventions. A lot of bad Fantasy takes place in a sort of Disney Middle Ages, and that had no appeal to me, but I did not want to write thousands of pages about mud and lice and plague either. That would be just as false, in the other direction. The real Middle Ages had room for both plagues and pageantry, and I wanted both sides in my books as well -- heightened somewhat, since this is Fantasy.
In the same vein, the society of the Seven Kingdoms seems to be caught in the dichotomy between its lofty ideals, as expressed by its codes of chivalry and heraldry, and its inability to live up to those ideals, as revealed by the appalling atrocities you describe as the civil war erodes away the masks that society wears. What are your thoughts on this?
Every society has tensions between its ideals and its reality, but in some the gulf is especially dramatic. The medieval period was one of those.
A Song of Ice and Fire is obviously an epic in almost every sense of the word. There are elements here from just about every Fantasy convention, such as war, magic and dragons. There's truly Machiavellian realpolitik, and even popular culture favourites such as mammoths, giants and what sounds suspiciously like velociraptors! The whole story has an epic feel to it, not least as a result of its sheer length. To take on a project like this must take tremendous commitment, but you obviously feel it's worth it (and so do I!). How have you found the whole experience and what are your thoughts on the epic genre?
This was the first major project I tackled after ten years of working in Hollywood, of keeping one eye always on the budget, of writing teleplays that had to fit into 46 minutes, and screenplays that dared not be longer than 120 pages. After a decade of that, I desperately wanted to do something that gave me more breathing room, something that was big and rich and grand in scale.
When I began, I was planning for a trilogy; three books of about 800 manuscript pages each, I estimated. Had I kept to that, I'd be done by now, with the final book about to come out -- but a story makes its own demands, and this one was simply too big to be contained in three books. Nor have any of the volumes completed to date been as short as 800 pages. Instead they have come in at approximately 1100, 1200, and 1500, respectively. And I still have three more books to go...
Had I known as I set out how huge these books would be and how long it would take me to write them, I would probably have been too intimidated to write the first sentence. But now that I am well into it, I am glad things worked out this way. I might have told a version of this story in three 800-page books, yes, but it could never have had the complexity of plot, the depth of characterization, or the richness of detail that I have been able to achieve with those added pages. Sometimes bigger is better.
Another element I liked about the series was the moral relativism of many of the characters. Too many Fantasies rely on the shorthand of truly evil villains in the absolute moral sense, but your characters, while they might commit terrible acts, generally do so either from short-sighted self-interest or because they truly believe they are acting for the best. Was this a deliberate decision, or is it just more interesting to write this way?
Both. I have always found grey characters more interesting than those who are pure black and white. I have no qualms with the way that Tolkien handled Sauron, but in some ways The Lord of the Rings set an unfortunate example for the writers who were to follow. I did not want to write another version of the War Between Good and Evil, where the antagonist is called the Foul King or the Demon Lord or Prince Rotten, and his minions are slavering subhumans dressed all in black (I dressed my Night's Watch, who are basically good guys, all in black in part to undermine that annoying convention). Before you can fight the war between good and evil, you need to determine which is which, and that's not always as easy as some Fantasists would have you believe.
Likewise, you show a willingness to kill off characters who are built up as if they will be pivotal elements who will see the whole thing through to the end. This sudden dispatching of characters who are often on the brink of achieving their goal seems to me to be of a whole with the often painfully realistic and unglamorous depiction of war and the random obscenities it often generates. Is it difficult to plan something which feels as if it reflects the arbitrary nature of life like this?
Difficult? No, not especially. Actually, I think there is something vaguely obscene about epic Fantasies that portray huge, world-rending wars and yet somehow never let any serious harm come to the main characters. Fiction is the art of lying convincingly, but I believe Mark Twain once said there were lies and damn lies (and statistics, but we won't get into that). During my years in television, I often ran up against the hypocrisy of the networks, who wanted shows full of "action" but not too much "violence". I'd had enough of that. There was a glory in war, at least before the gun made its appearance -- all our ancient and medieval sources agree on that -- but there was horror and pain and fear as well, and once battle was joined, anyone could die.
Would you say that this appearance of random fate is an integral part of what you're trying to say about the epic Fantasy genre, given that it is so often underpinned by a deterministic theme, even a prophecy?
Prophecy is one of those tropes of Fantasy that is fun to play with, but it can easily turn into a straightjacket if you're not careful. One of the themes of my fiction, since the very beginning, is that the characters must make their choices, for good or ill. And making choices is hard. There are prophecies in my Seven Kingdoms, but their meanings are often murky and misleading, and they seldom offer the characters much in the way of useful guidance.
Finally, one review I read praised the "sheer bloody-mindedness" of A Song of Ice and Fire. What's your reaction to this?
I took it as a compliment! Even so, A Song of Ice and Fire doesn't hold a candle to the stuff that went on in the real Middle Ages...
[Note: The address has been edited to accomodate the fact that Ottakars has moved the interview into their archives.]
I suppose that there must have been a Targaryen Valyrian sword ..what happened to it? it is never mentioned. Was it melted down like Ice?
Being an great fan of your books, as well as a German i'm very interested in the nature of your appearances in Germany this autumn. I'm especially interested your appearance at the Frankfurt book fair, compared to the Elster Con, since i live only one hour from Frankfurt.
I will be hanging around the Frankfurt Book Fair from the afternoon of Tuesday the 17th through the end of the fair on Monday the 23rd, but as of this writing I do not have any official events scheduled. You might try asking for me at the booths of my various publishers, particularly HarperCollins (British) and Goldmann (German). I will also frequently be found at the booth of Fantasy Productions in the German hall, where my German agent Werner Fuchs will be based.
I hope this helps you find me.
I have attended Dragoncon in the past, but it is not likely I will returning in the near future. Dragoncon is moving its date to Labor Day weekend, which conflicts with the World Science Fiction convention. I have been attending worldcons since 1971, and would never dream of going to another con on worldcon's traditional weekend.
I may come to Atlanta for other events, however, and I do sometimes teach at the Clarion West writer's workshop.
Even the behavior of dungeon recruits on their way to the Wall seems atypical of criminals. This behavior could be read as evidence that those chosen from the dungeons are acting under a mild geas, even though that fact has been forgotten in present-day Westeros. Given the variety of options open to escapees, both in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea, it is difficult to accept that, e.g., Yoren's last band would set out without stringent security measures in place. But if generations of recruits have gone more or less docilely to the Wall, it is easy to see how the peculiarities of their behavior might not be noticed, except by someone like Tyrion.
There is no geas intended or implied, not even a mild one. I suspect that you and I just disagree on what constitutes the "typical" behavior of criminals. I don't find any peculiar anomalies in the behavior of Yoren's band of recruits, though I gather you do.
I don't have the time or energy to argue the point, alas -- except insofar as the book itself constitutes my side of the argument. Like any writer, I have to write my characters as I see them, based on my own observations and knowledge of history and human behavior... but I recognize that disagreement is possible, and probably inevitable. Hell, writers often disagree with one another.
As to Yoren's band... he did keep the three most dangerous men in chains, and many of the unchained were orphan boys, volunteers, or petty criminals like thieves and poachers, none of them likely to give him any trouble. But his success, such as it was, does not necessarily mean that =all= past recruits went "docilely" to the Wall. I have no doubt that over its long history the Night's Watch had its share of murders, mutinies, and runaways. But they were relatively rare events... as rare as shipboard mutinies, prison riots, and slave revolts have been in the real world.
It has been my intention from the start to gradually bring up the amount of magic in each successive volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, and that will continue. I will not rule out the possibility of a certain amount of "behind the scenes" magic, either. But while sorcerous events may impact on my characters, as with Renly or Lord Beric or Dany, their choices must ultimately remain their own.
I am having discussions about the Wall. Some think that it is an impossibility for a structure of that size to remain standing if it is made from ice alone. Personally I think that the wall started of a lot smaller and slowly grew larger over the centuries as the black brothers trampled layer after layer of blue metal or small stones across the top. If that is the case then the wall is probably a mixture of crushed rocks and ice, which in my opinion would be a VERY sturdy construction, as demonstrated by Jon when he filled the barrels with water and used them to crush the battering ram.
Well, the Wall has undoubtedly "eaten" a lot of crushed stone over the centuries and millenia, especially around the castles where the black brothers regularly gravelled the walkways. But there's a lot more ice than there is stone.
Yes, the Wall was much smaller when first raised. It took hundreds of years to complete and thousands to reach it's present height.
If time is permiting would you mind giving a brief description on how the wall was constructed?
Much of those details are lost in the mists of time and legend. No one can even say for certain if Brandon the Builder ever lived. He is as remote from the time of the novels as Noah and Gilgamesh are from our own time.
But one thing I will say, for what it's worth -- more than ice went into the raising of the Wall. Remember, these are =fantasy= novels.
[Note: This mail incorporates additional information and clarifications sent by GRRM in a second mail. It also contains clarifications and additions provided by Parris while GRRM was on his tour.]
Bantam has sent me the dates and places for my November tour for A STORM OF SWORDS. Some of the details still remain to be worked out, and it's always possible that there will be additions and changes later on, but right now the schedule looks like this:
FRIDAY NOV 3, 7:30 pm --- Barnes and Noble, 3701-A Ellison Drive NW., Albuquerque, N.M.
SATURDAY NOV 4, 7:00 pm --- Joseph Beth, Lexington, Kentucky
MONDAY NOV 6, 7:00 pm --- Harry W. Schwartz Books, 10976 North Port Washington Road, Mequon, WI.
TUESDAY NOV 7, 6:00-8:00 pm --- Bakka Books, 598 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada
WED, NOV 8, 7:00 pm --- Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, California
THURSDAY, NOV 9, 7:30 pm --- Kepler's, Menlo Park, California
FRIDAY, NOV 10, 7:00 pm --- Bay Book and Tobacco, Half Moon Bay, California
SATURDAY, NOV 11, 7:30-8:30 pm --- Cody's - 2454 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley (510) 845-0837
SUNDAY, NOV 12, 3:00-4:00 pm --- Borders - 16920 SW 72nd street - Tigard OR (503-684-5765)
MONDAY, NOV 13 --- Taping of interview for Evergreen Radio Reading Service, will be broadcast on 3 Wash. state NPR stations; no scheduled play time
TUESDAY, NOV 14, 7:00 pm --- University Books, 4326 University Way, Seattle, Washington
WED, NOV 15, 12:00-1:00 pm --- The White Dwarf 4374 W 10th Ave - Vancouver BC - 604-228-8223
WED, NOV 15, 7:00-8:30 pm --- Bolen Books, Victoria, British Columbia
THURSDAY, NOV 16, 6:30-8:00 pm --- Sentry Box Books, Calgary, Canada
SATURDAY, NOV 18, 2:00-3:00 pm --- Dangerous Visions, 13563 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA, 818-986-6963
SATURDAY, NOV 18 --- Taping for KPFK-FM "Hour 25" interview, not yet scheduled for play (www.hour25.org)
TUESDAY, NOV 21, 7:30 pm --- Tattered Cover (Cherry Creek store), 2955 East 1st Avenue, Denver, Colorado
Looks like I will be racking up quite a few frequent flyers miles. If I seem unduly befuddled at any of the events, please forgive me and rack it up to jet lag.
I will be reading and answering questions at several of these appearances -- at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, at Kepler's in Menlo Park, at the University Bookstore in Seattle, possibly others.
I hope I will see many of you at one or the other of these events.
[Note: A lengthy IM conversation between Rania and GRRM. Edited for brevity.]
Tigers14: guess you are not going to tell me about Minisa Whent :)
GeoRR: Does it matter?
Tigers14: minisa? it might, since if she is the sister of of the last lord of harrenhal, than edmure's kid (if he lives long enough to have one) might be the real heir to harrenhal which would give the freys effective control over riverrun, the twins and harrenhal.... and be for all intents and purposes the rulers of the riverlands.
GeoRR: Yes, but the crown has awarded Harrenhal to Littlefinger.
Tigers14: true. but littlefinger doesn't have the men to conquer it does he?
Tigers14: btw, i think that with tywin dead and tyrion on the run, the crown under cersei is going to have trouble
GeoRR: Cersei will have some challenges, certainly
Tigers14: btw, can a marriage be annulled without both parties present? and without sansa revealing who she really is?
GeoRR: no one needs to be present to annul a marriage
GeoRR: but Sansa would need to request it
Tigers14: as sansa?
GeoRR: Well, why would a High Septon consider a request from anyone but the parties involved?
Tigers14: i mean she can't hide who she is. she has to request that her marriage, her being sansa stark, to tyrion lannister be annulled.
Tigers14: which would imply that the High Septon would need to know that Sansa Stark is requesting the annulment of her marriage.
Tigers14: Which would reveal, to a certain extent where Sansa is.
GeoRR: yes indeed
Tigers14: another question, can NW vows be annulled if a person had no idea who he really was when he took them?
GeoRR: who had no idea who he was?
GeoRR: Jon knows who he is. He may not know who his mother is, but that's not the same thing. There are plenty of orphans and bastards in the Watch who don't know who their parents are.
Tigers14: yes. but if jon is the legitimate son of rhaegar and lyanna , he is the king of westeros.
GeoRR: well, you know I am not going to get into any of that
GeoRR: I think I've said enough for tonight.
Two questions. First, any estimated date when the fourth volume will be released?
Depends on when I get it done. Sometime in 2002, most likely.
The second concerns the oaths of the Night Watch, Maesters, King's Guard, silent sisters, etc. Both Robb and Stannis, and presumably Robb's great lords, thought it was possible that Jon could be released form his oaths. Other than the precedent established by Joffrey with Ser Barristan, is there any other past precedent with any of the other organizations were the members swear poverty, celibacy, etc. to be honorably released from their vows? I ask because if the NW has been around for 8000 years, and many great lords and/or their families may have joined (not entirely willing in some cases), there seems to be a lot of potential for "exceptions" to develop as time went on.
Yes, there have been a few other cases, but they have been very rare. Such vows are taken very seriously.
Was just toying with the idea that Lightbringer is the lost Lannister sword. I'm not so bold as to ask you to give away the plot, but could tell me if there is a description of the lost Lannister sword in any of the first three books, or if Melisandre explains how she aquired the sword and from where?
No and no.
Any visits to Australia scheduled in your busy schedule??
Not in the near future, I'm afraid. I was just down there last year, and again the year before. This year I'm going to Germany. Then to Spain in 2001, and to Italy in 2002.
[Note: Oenone asks GRRM about whether Lysa's child was aborted or whether he survived.]
Lysa miscarried a child at Riverrun, yes.
As to whether the child was male... well, Lysa was convinced she was carrying a boy, at least.
I was wondering if you would tell me where Lady Shella Whent is right now. We know that she isn't at Harrenhal, and that she had left Harrenhal before Tywin got there. But where is she? Also, is she the aunt of the Maid /Queen of the Harrenhal tournament? or the Queen of tournament herself? If the former, is she Lady Minisa Whent 's and Ser Oswel Whent's sister?
Lady Shella Whent was the mother of the "fair maid" at the Harrenhal tournament. Ser Oswell Whent would have been her husband's brother, and therefore uncle to the "fair maid."