The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

Balticon Report

[Note: A very long and detailed report of multiple private and public encounters with GRRM from a member of the ASoIaF forum, The Fattest Leech. Original thread here]

The Donation Dinner on Thursday, May 26, 2016: *quick note: anything that I “quote” means it was a direct quote from George as he said it. His words, not mine.

I knew another poster here was going to attend the dinner, so we agreed ahead of time to meet in person. Through the rest of the convention, she and I attended most panels and readings and such together. I will only name her if she agrees to it and as of this writing I haven’t had a chance to ask her yet. Preston Jacobs was there, but I didn’t know it at the time.

1. I was at table 5, which the way it fit in the small room sat me right next to table 1 as well! Of the other five at my table, only 1 has read the books, two are an older couple there to support Balticon, and the other is there and he is the MC of the event and the one to do the official GRRM interview on Saturday. He name is Mark and he and I are getting along famously!

2. GRRM described himself as a “sex positive feminist”.

3. GRRM just sat with my friend and he is talking about SpiderMan and Greenwich Village.

4. My friend asked him about Gendry and Arya meeting back up and when will Arya get her moonblood to which GRRM answered “soon”… and GRRM had an interesting response to Arya and Gendry meeting back up. I will let her tell you the answer. But I do know he said of Arya and Gendry that, “I’ll visit them again.”

a. A note from my friend about something that happened at her table: “Also the guy sitting next to me brought up the Hodor elevator story to him. He said he didn't remember it, but everyone at the table still had a good laugh about it.”

b. GRRM talked about Dorne! He wasn't exactly dissing the show, but he didn't have anything good to say about it. One guy talked asked if season 6 would spoil the books for him. Something like "Don't think what happens in the show will happen in the books, the show is completely different. The books will be nothing like that." You could really feel the dislike he had for it.

5. George’s assistant Joanna (Jo) sat with us and explained and few things about George and stuff… but then she and I got to talking about lots of other stuff and I grew to love her very quickly. Lenore cam ea round and sat with George during the dinner. Parris was feeling ill.

6. George just sat right next to me. He was crazy nice and shook my hand … but not before noticing and complimenting me in my silver wolfhead necklace pendant. The conversation started with his work at the wolf sanctuary that is something he is very passionate about. That was the one time his tone changed and became very serious. He went on about the sanctuary and how sometimes humans can be irresponsible with what they think is "cool" by having wolf-dog hybrids and how that is worse for these poor animals. There was passion there.

7. ADDING 7/26/16: Just as George was approaching me at my table, he held out his hand and said "valar dohaeris", and handed me a faceless man iron coin. I veru nerdily replied "valar morghulis", and touched two fingers to my brow. I got to keep the coin

8. GRRM is describing the maesters and how he wanted them to have a lot of flower knowledge and to be very clean.

9. Then someone at my table told him I like his story Meathouse Man and he turned to me and told me I was a freak!!! And laughed and then told me how he came about writing Meathouse Man and it was cool. I am also a writer and could appreciate the writing process down to the editor and publisher.

10. And he said fuck or fucking about 50 times

11. At The dinner, his assistant Joanna told me his other assistant who does the artwork for some of the graphic novels said she was working on something "super secret". And then when George was at my table a little later, he told me that he was working on more stories that included Bloodraven in them. I was first excited for the possibility of She-wolves of Winterfell in the D&E stories, but then I was like duh, it's probably Winds and his art assistant was working on something else.

12. My first “big” question I asked was, “who had a better chance of getting together and that there is no right or wrong answer to this (hahahaha), Jon and Val or me and Bloodraven.”

a. That is when he laughed and said I was weird and then said, "Bloodraven is half a tree," to which I replied, "So? I’m a gardener and the wood jokes write themselves."

b. Then he paused, took a minute to think, and told me he is writing more with Bloodraven in it (to which I died )

c. Then he paused again and said "Jon and Val, huh? That would make a good fit"

13. I had dessert with George and 5 other people at my table. GRRM sat directly next to me on the right. I had the “Reach Pear Tart” and GRRM had the lemon cake.

14. GRRM was at my table and we started talking a little about Targaryen history and GRRM mentioned he uses Elio to help with the details he can't remember (something we all know) but then GRRM mentioned that Elio has a guy he knows that lives in Scotland that helps with "other" things.

15. My other “big” question to him was about my Targ/Non-Targ theory.

a. Curiously enough, when I asked him at the Thursday dinner about my Targ/Non-Targ first born babies, he replied "interesting", then told me, "you know alot".

b. GRRM then started to diverge the conversation in to the Blood&Fire book, and that he would have to "go back and look at his notes." Regarding my Targ theory. This may be a way he avoids answering questions that could be spoilers.

c. This is where he mentions using Elio to help him remember and link details… to which I responded, “interesting as well.” He laughed.

GRRM/ John Picacio interview Saturday, May 28, 2016:

1. the interview ended a few minutes ago and GRRM did make mention at how when you see actors at other cons, which are considered shows as opposed to fan conventions, that the guests and show actors are there because they are paid (does that equal employee?) There were a few other subtle tidbits in there as well and if this convention gets a video of the interview up, then it will be towards the end.

2. George just answered the Picacio question, “What part of Kong are you working on right now?’, and GRRM answered that he was working on a Cersei chapter when he left home the other day and he still has a ways to go.

3. He is probably closer than he thinks because when he wrote Game, he thought 1200-1500 pages wasn’t enough and it was his editor that told him to scale it back to the now finished size. However, GRRM did add, “I still have a ways to go. I shouldn’t be here right now…”

4. GRRM and Picacio both made the joke about "you need to pay the artist" and such regarding general fan fiction. And then GRRM said he has issued some sub-licenses to things like art and games, etc. GRRM also mentioned that HBO owns the rights to the exact likenesses of the tv version of the story, meaning, no art can be made where Dany looks like Emilia. He was very careful in avoiding a real link in feeling between him and HBO even though he was asked about it twice. Then GRRM mentioned, and Picacio joined in, how GRRM knew the show would overtake the books. Not too much new.

5. GRRM did say how he hates when movies stray too far from the books.

6. An audience member asked GRRM, “As the Game of Thrones TV series moves farther away from the book, has this changed or done anything to your views on fan fiction?

a. GRRM’s Reply: “No. I continue to be opposed to fan fiction because it’s copyright infringement. HBO, of course, gets around this by paying me large dump trucks full of money. So, if you would like to arrive in front of my house with a large dump truck full of money, I may consider allowing you to do some fan fiction. But I won’t consider it fan fiction then. I would consider it a sub-license. I make many sub-licenses to people who do games and card games and coins, etcetera. But Harlan Ellison always had this rule that he has been very vocal about over the years. You can find his diatribe about it on YouTube. And I think John also feels (one must) pay the artist, because this is how we make our living.”

ASOIAF fan talk and (separate thing) ASOIAF trivia:

7. My friend and I attended both. We were busy!!!

8. The trivia was awesome and she and I were killing against the other groups of four or more. Woo-hooo to us!

9. The fan conversation was boring. Sorry. Too much whining about things that are barely ASOIAF related.

Gender/Sexism in GoT Panel Saturday, May 28, 2016:

1. It was up and down I guess. The first thing they talked about was Loras and Renly acting like gay stereotypes, they got that right.

2. There was one guy who talked about the Sansa v. Jeyne thing, really ripping into the show for not having the northern lords and no one caring that Sansa was being raped. That was a highlight.

3. And then a female panel leader claims that no one in the book universe or even the readers care that Jeyne Poole was tortured and raped… she was not important to anyone and readers have no sympathy for her. I just found my quoted notes… the panel lady sayd, “"no one cared for Jeyne (Poole)" I just found a pic of the panelist [url=][/url]

a. I will admit that I lost my willpower and shouted “NO” and then went on to explain the motivations Mr. Benioff and Mr.Weiss used to get Sansa in with Ramsay and so on. I actually had people come up to me after this panel ended and thanked me for speaking up. I was shocked, yet happy with that.

b. The guy on the end in the panel was telling the crowd how empowered Sansa was after her rape.

c. One audience guy made a point to say in the books everyone around fArya/Jeyne knew who she was and even heard her crying and such.

4. And then there were other guys asking why no one cares that the males are mutilated, etc.

5. Honestly, one hour does not do that topic justice. This panel did not "kill it" because the girl on the end only hopped in last minute because they were asking for panelist. The focus went all over the place but rape was a focus.

6. That said, it was nice to see a crowded room with that many people thinking and talking about it.

Saturday evening at a bar:

7. Me and another poster here got to meet and hang out with Preston Jacobs for a while over a few beers. He was super nice, about 6”6” tall!

8. I don’t know many of his theories at all, but we talked about some, to which I agreed to some and disagreed to others. However, he was kind enough to also listen to my theories and we had great, civil discussions on both.

9. at the after party bar where we met Preston Jacobs and a few other really nice book fans, just before we left, a guy recognized us from the gender/sexism panel and praised our argument/statements we made. I guess he wasn't impressed with the main three panel players either?

Liars Panel Sunday, May 29, 2016:

1. The Liars panel is hilarious. GRRM just admitted he once received a nipple piercing gift certificate as a gift and that he knows all the words to Petticoat junction and he just sang a bit

Book signing Sunday, May 29, 2016:

2. Since I was at the donation dinner I had a very low number to get my book signed. I was #6.

3. When I approached GRRM he remembered me right away from the donation dinner. We talked for a minute and he really liked my Bloodraven “fan” t-shirt I have printed up special for the signing. He once again told me I was, “weird,” and, "nobody likes Bloodraven."

4. I had GRRM sign the one art page in Knight of Seven Kingdoms book that shows Bloodraven (notice the theme of my personal favorite here?). He also signed the inside cover of my book = two signatures in one book !!!!

Marin reads Damphair! Sunday, May 29, 2016:

1. Not much to add here that you have not already seen online by now.

2. The a/c was cranked in the room. I was cold L

3. My con friend and I were also second row back, three to the right from center. Great Seats!!!

4. I’ve never been much of an Iron Islands type fan, but holy shit, this was awesome and renews my respect for GRRM’s work.

Episode 6 viewing Sunday evening:

1. George never showed, but the other authors. Guests of honor did and they sat in the back row.

2. One thing I have noticed tonight is that while the opening "look back" scene was on, and then the opening credits, people gave little woo-hoo's and claps to their favorite actors. I decided I would clap and give a little woo-hoo to GRRM's name when it went up in the opening credits (I mean , he IS Guest of Honor at this convention). I gave a respectable woo-hoo and a few people joined in... but when D&D's name came on screen, lots of people shouted big WOO's and waved their hands around like crazy even though the same ones were silent for George.

3. Reactions after the episode

a. People were confused about Sam taking Heartsbane. It seemed out of character for him to do so.

b. Amanda Peet was talked about (Benioff’s actress wife) and apparently, people do not like her. Typecast for being a b*tch.

c. Dany on Drogon seemed random and a repeat of previous seasons.

d. Others loved Dany on Drogon.

e. People praised Sam for sticking up against his father.

f. Where is George?

Kaffeeklatsch (Coffee Talk) Monday, May 30, 2016:

My con friend and I attended a kaffeeklatsch (coffee talk) with George and about 8 other people. It lasted about an hour and a half in a very small, private room that overlooked Baltimore's inner harbor (interpret that as you will). The first half of the talk was boring because some woman bombarded the conversation with her tales of living in China and golf and how golf pays her bills and China and golf. The rest of us realized we would have to just cut her off if we were going to talk about anything else. And so we did. I do have a recording of the talk, but can't get the file small enough to share easily. I did start to take written notes as he said certain things as to not forget the specific phrasing.

The funny stuff:

The two tables were pulled close together and GRRM sat in the middle of the two with me on his right, and Joan Jett in front of him. We almost did not make it in because the sign-up was limited and there was zero information to be found on how and where to sign up. We had a leprechaun on our side that morning.

At one point during a book recommendation, George started talking about sword fighting and how Hollywood gets it wrong. At this point he was physically demonstrating how to hold and wield a sword or shield. He then held both of his hands up and pretended he had two swords. This was all during his talking points about how Hollywood is very inaccurate at sword fighting. Well, during his physical demonstration at how clumsy holding two swords would be, he accidentally bumped my foot and and uncrossed my legs for a brief second. He never said "two swords looks awful", but it was odd and curious how he decided to pretend he had two swords to demonstrate his point. (I am never washing my foot again!!! )

The books or authors he recommended were The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (that may just be the show name based on the books), and the book Aspects of the Novel.

The serious stuff:

My con friend asked about the Jon/Arya relationship again and brought her (impressive) Game book that had all of her references marked out with little flags. She brought up the Ygritte connections to Arya that Jon saw in her. George did not directly answer yes or no if there would be anything romantic between the two.

He did say, despite what readers see as clues to a romantic relationship between Jon/Arya in the books themselves, he did not confirm this so easily but inferred that what Jon saw in Ygritte was a comfort level of femininity. <<< She and I obviously discussed these comments after the meeting and this was the general feeling.

My con friend was referring to George explaining Jon's perception: "You know, I don't think it's a reference for that [for romance]. It's a reference to a certain physical type, and a certain indication of what Jon finds admirable. It's like someone who reminds you of, you know... Other people might be put off by this, you know, hair that looks like small rodents have been living in there. It doesn't put him off because he is used to that."

1. Instead, George said he was "pissed" that the outline was posted in the office building and that someone took photos and shared them. He said it was a letter for him and the publisher only. He was very firm when telling this and it showed on his face.

2. He then said that he is not good with writing outlines, making book deadlines, and that often in outlines he was "making shit up", and "characters changed along the way". Side note: I know he said other things in past interviews, so interpret this as you will. * “quoted” words are his words exactly.

I asked him about my Bran/Wood dancers/Pinocchio theory. I pointed out the seemingly heavy influence Pinocchio has in the Bran storyline and he replied, "Interesting." He asked if I saw the Disney movie because that is his "favorite" Disney movie and how "dark and disturbing" it is.

1. He asked if I ever read the book. I answered "yes, as a kid and I love the movie too." He said he never read the original story... but then two or three sentences later he talked about the differences in the book to movie and gave quotes and examples from the book story?!?!

2. George mentioned how Pinocchio at the time, did not want a conscience and smashed the cricket for trying to give him one. He started to relate Bran to Pinocchio when someone cut in.

3. I do believe this was some sort of diversionary tactic because I may have been on to something. And then as he paused and was thinking of the next part of his answer, some other woman cut in to ask about how Shakespeare influenced him. (By the way, this Shakespeare question was asked at least two other times at public discussion panels already )

Oh, and the woman who went on and on about China and golf and golf in China also asked him WHEN WILL WINDS BE OUT???? George did not like that question, gave the standard answer and the meeting soon wrapped up after that. Every person who went to Balticon was made aware either in email, other print or verbally to NOT ask this question.

He went straight from talking about the references in the actual books, to the "differences" in the outline from then to now. He did say that he still knows who sits the iron throne and the end game of the main 5, but also included Sansa, but did not give any details (for obvious reasons).

After the Coffee Talk just outside the room:

1. My friend asked about Arya and Jon again. This time GRRM gave some very pointed replies:

a. Friend: Ok, if you foreshadowed something in the first book, like, really cleverly hidden, would you then follow through on that hint? For sure?.. GRRM: Well, this goes with what I said before, the story changes and expands as I write. I wish I was able to go back and make revised drafts, but that's not giong to happen. (He said way more than this, but this summarizes it. )

2. She asks about the hints for Jon/Arya in the second and third book, the comparing Ygritte and Arya, which wouldn't be there if GRRM had made up the romance for the outline.

a. "You know, I don't think it's a reference for that [for romance]. It's a reference to a certain physical type, and a certain indication of what Jon finds admirable. It's like someone who reminds you of, you know... Other people might be put off by this, you know, hair that looks like small rodents have been living in there."

b. GRRM finished (in the hallway now) by saying that he "wished some past things weren't such strong foreshadowing," and that he "wished some new things had stronger foreshadowing then."

Overall, I had the most amazing weekend. I was tired as hells come Tuesday which is part of my reason for the delay in writing this up.

Here is a transcript of the outline discussion and Jon/Arya portion of the coffee talk:

[question about Jon/Arya]

GRRM: "Alright, you've thought about this more than I have. I mean it's simple, Jon is very fond of Arya. They were the two odd birds in the Stark family nest, here. They didn't quite fit in with the others, they look like each other, they both had the brown hair, you know, as opposed to the auburn hair of Sansa and Bran and Rickon and Robb. So there was always that closeness between them. And, you know, Arya didn't mind that Jon was a bastard, and Jon didn't mind that Arya was a tomboy, so there is that closeness there."

[question about Jon comparing his lover to his sister]

GRRM: "If he did it, uhm... I began writing these books in 1991, and, uhm, I worked on it in 91 and then I got a tv play, so I put it aside to really work on 'Doorways' tv pilot and did a tv show in 92-93. In 94 I returned to it [the books] and worked on it. You know, up till then, in my career as a writer, I'd always written the entire book before I opted for sale. That's unusual. Most writers do chapters and an outline. They write a few chapters, they outline the rest of the book, give that to the publisher and the publisher says 'oh okay, I'll take that'.

"As some of you may have noticed, those who have been paying very, very carefully attention, I'm not good with deadlines. And, uh, and I'm not good with outlines, either. I always hated outlines. So with Fevre Dream and with Armageddon Rag and with Dying of the Light and all my novels, I wrote the entire book. I didn't do chapters and outline. I sat down, I wrote a whole book, and I sent it to my agent and said 'Look, here's a whole book, and it's finished'. That way I ran into no deadline, it was finished before it even went on the market. And it worked well for me. And my initial thought was to do this the same way, but what happened, you know, was in 1994, uhm, when I returned to it and I'm working on it and I'm very enthused about it and I say 'I really wanna write these Game of Thrones books as the next part'. But I was still in hollywood and I'd just lost all this groundwork on 'Doorways', I was still in... The studios and networks still wanna work with me, so I'm getting other offers, like 'We want you to write this movie', 'we want you to do another tv pilot'. And, you know, I took a couple of them and was 'Oh god, I gotta have to put the book away again'. Cause I have no deadline [for the book]. You know, when you think hollywood, they will give you a deadline, you know, they say 'here, son, write this movie, we want it in three months'.

"So, I said 'look, if I wanna get back to being a novelist, I'm gonna have to sell this even though it's not finished'. So I had my 200 pages of Game of Thrones at that point, but they wanted outline. I said 'I don't do outlines. I don't know what's gonna happen, I figure it out as I go. And that's how I always did it.' No, we had to have an outline. So I wrote two pages, a two-page thing about what I thought would happen. It'll be a trilogy, it'll be three books, Game of Thrones, the Dance with Dragons, and Winds of Winter. Those were the three window titles. And, uh, it'll be three books and this'll happen, and this'll happen, and this'll happen. And I was making up shit.

"And I had thought that those two pages were long forgotten, because, of course, the books did sell. They sold in the United States and in Great Britain, both. They sold for enough money that I didn't have to take any more hollywood games. So I was able to say 'no' around. I had a few less [?] to wind up in in 94 and 95. Once I had, I said 'no, I don't want any more movies or tv shows, I'm going to write these books now'. And I started writing the books. And in the process, I pretty much disregarded the outline. The characters took me off in entirely different directions. So, for 20 years I had forgotten that that two-page thing even existed. And then someone in my british publisher, HarperCollins, they got a new office building, uh, brand new offices, and new conference rooms, big conference rooms that they decorated with books and stuff like that. And they named the conference rooms after the writers, so one of the conference rooms [?], and they put up these plastic display cases, including the outline. The two-page outline, yes. [?], they didn't ask my permission, they just put it up. And in that two-page outline, Jon and Arya become a romantic item."

[question about the hints for Jon/Arya in the second and third book, the comparing Ygritte and Arya, which wouldn't be there if GRRM had made up the romance for the outline]

"You know, I don't think it's a reference for that [for romance]. It's a reference to a certain physical type, and a certain indication of what Jon finds admirable. It's like someone who reminds you of, you know... Other people might be put off by this, you know, hair that looks like small rodents have been living in there. It doesn't put him off because he is used to that."

[someone says they have 5 minutes left]

"You know, I was pretty pissed that that outline got out there. It should not have happened. Outlines and letters like that are meant only for the eyes of the editor. They shouldn't go on public display. And, uh, they also [?] my papers on [?], all my papers and correspondance. You know, I've been sending that stuff there for years, and it'd be, you know, available for future scholars or whatever, just like the papers of many other writers. Somehow, in the back of my head I was like 'yeah, 20 years after I'm dead some scholar will go in and find them'. They're going in right now!"

[question if he is still going with the 1991 ending]

"Yes, I mean, I did partly joke when I said I don't know where I was going. I know the broad strokes, and I've known the broad strokes since 1991. I know who's going to be on the Iron Throne. I know who's gonna win some of the battles, I know the mayor characters, who's gonna die and how they're gonna die, and who's gonna get married and all that. The major characters. Of course along the way I made up a lot of minor characters, you know, I, uhm...Did I know in 1991 how Bronn, what was gonna happen to Bronn? No, I didn't even know there'd be a guy named Bronn. I was inventing him along the way when I was writing, 'Okay, he gets kidnapped. Let's see, there are a couple sellswords there, their names are Fred and Bronn'.

"It was actually Bronn and Chicken, and then one of them dies, I flipped a coin 'okay, who dies? Chicken dies, cause his name is stupid. Bronn is a better name, so I'll keep Bronn'. And then Bronn became quite an interesting character and plenty of these characters take on minds of their own. They push to the front till you [?] speech and you think of a cool line and you give it to Bronn because he's trying to talk, and now Bronn is somebody who says something cool. [?]. That's how characters grow on you.

"So a lot of the minor characters I'm still discovering along the way. But the mains-"

[question if he knows Arya's and Jon's fates]

"Tyrion, Arya, Jon, Sansa, you know, all of the Stark kids, and the major Lannisters, yeah."