[Note: The following is a brief excerpt from the owner of Clarkesworld Books, a particularly popular bookseller among ASoIaF fans due to his excellent service and his stock of hard-to-get GRRM novels and collections.]
After John left, I decided to drop by the signing tables since George R. R. Martin was scheduled. Much to my surprise, there was no one in line. I spoke to George for a couple of minutes and asked him if he would mind signing a small stack of A Feast for Crows for the store. Yes! I ran off, picked up the books, came back down, and there was still no one there. While signing, I asked George about the RRetrospective. He told me that a UK edition was in the works and that iBooks had wanted to do a two book version, but he refused. (good thing since iBooks just went chapter 11) He suggested that I bug Bill at Subterranean to do a second printing.
Oh and the reason for turning down a two volume edition was that the the whole point of the RRetrospective was to get everything in one book.
So this panel immediately preceded Martin's reading, and a lot of time was actually spent on discussing how much GRRM likes to hurt his characters. Other sadists included Ginjer Buchanan - who doubled as moderator - Esther Friesner - who tried to keep the tone light - Paul Park and Melissa Scott.
Ginjer noted up front that the panel was "created so George can explain why he continues to do horrible things to his characters." Martin responded, saying "I'm sorry," which was immediately shouted down by "No, you're not!" and he had to admit, indeed, he was not sorry. He does, however, sometimes envision his characters coming out to contfront him Jerry Springer-style, with Ned leading the pack, carrying his head under his arm.
Prompted, he noted that he doesn't think he's particularly depressed. Rather, the things that shape you as an artist happen when you're younger. He always saw the past as being somehow better than the present - a state caused much more by the financial circumstances of his family than the kind of past found in Westeros. In fact, he derives a great deal of creativity depicting the age that comes after the Golden Age of a place. That statement is particularly telling when one considers how many of the elder characters in A Song of Ice and Fire regard the Tournament at Harrenhal in the year of false spring.
The focus of the panel then shifted to Esther, who described her inner darkness as "the dark tupperware in the refrigerator of my soul." She said that she learned a lot about not letting the sorrow overwhelm you but to struggle to make the sorrow and pain worthwhile from her parents - her mother is a breast cancer survivor and her father a Holocaust survivor who lost his first wife and child in the camps. That is perhaps a longer sentence than one should have, but I am tired and too lazy to break it up.
Melissa then reminded everyone to never write a love song when actually in love as it always turns out badly. From there, through levels of conversation I don't have preserved in notes, we progress to George stating his policy of killing off a significant character early on so that the reader understands that the danger is real and you're playing for keeps.
He also disagrees with the vast majority of genre books that have happy endings. He finds that inherently untrue. The moment he said that I flashed to Sansa and her "songs" that never quite come out the way she dreams them. George then related the story that when he was in little league he always knew he would hit a bottom of the ninth homer and win a game despite never having hit a ball during the game. It happened in the movies, why not to him?
The panel then agreed wholeheartedly with his statement that the Scouring of the Shire is evokative, costly, and profound. That ending, and not the one of the fields of Cormallen or the white tower of Minas Tirith is what sets the LotR trilogy apart in its greatness. Esther also pointed out that there are three typical endings - happy, tragic, and bittersweet, with the last being the best kind.
Sunday morning I was running late, but I still managed to make it to the GRRM kaffeklatch which was bizarrely empty. Those there theorized it had more than a little to do with the relatively early hour - 11AM, and George himself had been up until 4 the night before - and it being the last day of the con. Kaffeklatches are relatively informal, so part of it was spent discussing football and baseball. Then we moved on to actual books.
George mentioned that he felt really silly about that planned 5 year jump. He imagined it originally going something like Jon sitting on the Wall going "Well, it's been 5 fairly quiet years since I've been Lord Commander. But I'm starting to think that'll pick up now..." and realised that the adults wouldn't wait in their plot lines for Arya to hit puberty.
Likewise, he mentioned that the titles of the chapters in AFfC were a nod to how the characters think of themselves - most especially Sansa. He wants to get back to writing ADwD, but so far touring has severely curtailed his productivity.
queenofthorns, you will be happy to know that I did in fact ask him to wait on killing Jaime until book 7, to which the entire table laughed. But hey, I did try.
At the reading, George mentioned several things while taking questions - Tyrion is his favorite character, but extremely difficult to write a the moment. His chapters, though technically "done" in the early part of the novel are still getting revisions. The Red Wedding was probably the most difficult thing he's written - in fact he finished writing the manuscript of ASoS before he went back and wrote those chapters in. I now feel justified for not being able to read them yet.
On Saturday my boyfriend and I attended a bunch of panels (separately). On my way down to the first one I ended taking the elevator down with GRRM! So I introduced myself and told him I'm a member of the BwB. He was actually staying on my floor. I told him I go by the name of Sorceress of Neverwords on the board and he asked if he should call me Sorceress. I told him he could call me by my real name but he replied that Sorceress is easier. I told him I'd be at his autograph session later on and then we reached the bottom and went our separate ways. I see why everyone says he is so approachable!
At 2:00 I attended GRRM's panel called "The strength of sadness: with mourning comes magic" where I ran into Pod, Race, Stego and the BwB. GRRM said a couple of interesting things about killing off his main characters. First, he mentioned killing them early so that his reader knows that his story is very real, and that his heroes are not immortal and can easily slay 150 orcs single-handedly. He said this lets the reader know that no one is safe, and that it helps build up the tension in a novel. Secondly, when asked if he regretted killing anyone off or if he wished he hadn't because he could use them later on, he basically said no.
At 3:00 we went to GRRM's reading where he read a previously-read chapter back when it was supposed to be a part of AFFC. It was a Tyrion chapter; and I'm glad I went because I feared I would be spoiled for ADWD. Hearing this chapter only whetted my appetite for more.
I talked to GRRM for a bit. My boyfriend wanted to know where he got the name Doran from and GRRM said he either made it up or found in a baby name book. I asked him if Eddard Stark was analogous to Lord Hastings since Robert was similar to Edward IV - and both Eddard and Hastings were suddenly beheaded without any warning. He said if I looked hard enough I could see many similarities to other historical figures - such as Henry VIII in Robert, and Richard III in Tyrion. Then I asked him if the setup for Margaery's arrest was based on what happened to Anne Boleyn who was also betrayed by a singer that was tortured, and then arrested on false information. He basically said that it was. None of his answers were straightforward though.
Anyway, we left the party at 12:30 am since we were by that time pretty tired. Race was disappointed - even though I told him I was old and decrepit and needed my sleep!
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. :)