The Citadel

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

So Spake Martin

July 2008 Forum Chat

[Note: This is taken from a chat hosted by the Spanish-language fan site,]

[Why did Balon Greyjoy rebel the first time?]

Yes. Obviously Balon was wrong, but he believed that Robert, as a usurper, might not have the strong support of the other lords the way that a Targaryen king would have. He also thought he could defeat Robert at sea.

[Did Littlefinger influence Joffrey to try and kill Bran?]

Well, Littlefinger did have a certain hidden inflouence over Joff... but he was not at Winterfell, and that needs to be remembered.

[Did Arya not kill the Hound because she didn't want to kill him, or because she wanted to make him suffer?]


[What is the cycle of a year? Why do they count years when seasons are strange?]

Twelve moon tuns to a year, as on earth. Even on our earth, years have nothing to do with the seasons, or with the cycles of the moon. A year is a measure of a solar cycle, of how long it takes the earth to make one complete revolution around the sun. The same is true for the world of Westeros. Seasons do not come into it.

[Are the seasons irregular only in Westeros or also in the eastern continent?]

The eastern continent (Essos) is further south than Westeros, and feels the North of the great sweep of the eastern sweep of the eastern lands is a huge ocean, the Shivering Sea. Only Westeros extends to the far north.

[Questions concerning Targaryen polygamy.]

Maegor the Cruel has multiple wives, from lines outside his own, so there was and is precedent. However, the extent to which the Targaryen kings could defy convention, the Faith, and the opinions of the other lords decreased markedly after they no longer had dragons. If you have a dragon, you can have as many wives as you want, and people are less likely to object.

[Why did Doran not join Renly against the Lannisters?]

Doran plays to win, whether at cyvasse or the game of thrones. Likely he did not see Renly as a winner. The emnity between Dorne and Highgarden also played a part, I am sure.

[Was Tywin the Hand who made the secret tunnel into Chataya's, to hide his visits?]

Interesting theory.

[What was the hardest death to write?]

The Red Wedding was the hardest thing I´ve ever written.I don´t know that I have actually enjoyed any of them. Even when you kill a bad guy, it can be hard... he´s one of your ¨children¨too. Besides, good villains are hard to find, and you always have the nagging doubt that maybe you´ll need him down the line.

[What is the Welsh influence in how you envision Dorne?]

Several genertaions of English kings tried to add Wales to the English crown, but never with much success. The Welsh successfully resisted for centuries... not by defeating the English in large battles, but by melting away into their mountains and hills and waging campaigns of small scale resistance... what today we would call "guerilla warfare" or maybe even "terrorism." The Dornish used the same approach.

[Why is Pycelle so loyal to the Lannisters?]

There´s backstory yet to be revealed, certainly, but if you asked Pycelle he would insist that he was acting in the best interests of the realm.

[Why does Melisandre believe Stannis is Azor Ahai? Did she seek him out or did Selyse bring her?]

More will be revealed in DANCE WITH DRAGONS.

[Maegor the Cruel's death on the Iron Throne: who and why?]

More will be revealed... somewhere or other.

[Is there any similarity between Jaime and the character Sawyer from Lost?]

Interesting suggestion. Could be some similarities. Ask me again when both series are done, and we see where the characters wind up.

[How many Dunk and Egg stories, and will they cover their lifetime?]

The number of stories is not set. Nine, ten, twelve, whatver it takes. They will carry the tale forward to the end of Dunk´s life. More than that I am not willing to reveal. The third story, The Mystery Knight, is finished and will be published in the anthology WARRIORS, edited by me and Gardner Dozois.

[Is there a reason for why A Feast for Crows headed with descriptive titles rather than names?]


[Did Aegon Targaryen convert to the Faith as a political maneuver?]


[Lack of variety in noble titles.]

The number of titles of medieval nobility multiplied over times, as the feudal system became more complex and the social structure more layered, with various degrees of precedence, etc. In the earlier periods -- say, England around the time of Henry I and William II Rufus -- all those different titles did not exist. I prefered the simplicity of those times. In hindsight, I probably should have added a least one more title to differentiate the great houses from their vassals, but I am glad I stayed clear of using the whole roster of noble stylings.

[Is a character safe from death if a seemingly-deadly attack is told from their point of view?]

There are no rules. No one is safe.

[Why didn't Arya recognize the reference to Lord Snow in A Feast for Crows?]

I´ll leave my readers to think about that one.

[Why did Benjen join the Night's Watch?]

Good question. One day you will get an answer. But it will not be today.

[Are the ironborn's drowned men truly drowned?]


[What happened to Rhaegar's body?]

Rhaegar was cremated, as is traditional for fallen Targaryens.

[Is there any connection between Sansa's story and the song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"?]

Well, we´ll have to see.

[How will things be reorganized in The Winds of Winter to take into account the splitting of A Feast for Crows?]

I will worry about that tomorrow... or rather, next year. Right now my focus is all on finishing A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, there will be plenty of time to agonize about THE WINDS OF WINTER later down the road.

[Will we see Asshai?]

Only in flasback and memory, if at all.

Circulo Fantasy Chat

[Note: This is a Spanish-language chat, with GRRM's answers translated to Spanish by a moderator.]
Biblioteca de Telheiras Signing
Submitted By: cteresa

These notes are not representative of the whole session and might have errors, I am just trying to write down in good faith what I remember. My memory, handwriting and language skills all got failings so please keep that in mind.

The theme of the session was genre: fantasy, sf, horror from an author´s point of view. Moderator was Rogéério Ribeiro and the other participant was a portuguese author (of sf I think) called João Seixas. Saturday, 5th of July 2008, 16.00 at the auditorium of Biblioteca Orlando Ribeiro (Biblioteca de Telheiras) in Lisbon.

The discussion started with genre, in which field did GRRM feel more comfortable writing. GRRM replied he does not differentiate to any great extant, that he believes people write what they read and mentions the overlap of genre historically done, like Lovecraft´s sf stories, Jack Williamson´s work particularly "Darker than You Think". Discussion then turned to that in the USA there is strong differentiation of genres by the public, including separate labels and for younger writers breaking into the genre if they want to write in a different genre (or subgenre) name changes are suggested.

GRRM mentioned that in the USA fantasy is going much better than sf. Historically sf outsold fantasy but then in the 60s Tolkien and then in 70s the Del Rey imprints and authors like Donaldson and Terry Brooks started to show up in the bestseller lists. Currently it´s not clear, that now that bestselling authors like Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke died, which sf authors can emerge to have that sort of bestselling numbers and status.

GRRM - Fantasy outselling SF seems to be a worldwide phenomen, even more pronounced in Britain than in the USA, the exception seems to be Asia, Japan particularly. GRRM thinks that is because the Asian countries have more belief in the future, that in the USA maybe readers have lost the belief in the "sf future", that most americans when polled reply they think their children will have a worse life than they have, due to things to pollution and climate change. The attitude in Asia resembles 1950s America. Na example is the tallest building in the world. Through many years in sf that was a symbol of progress, giant towers of early sf, and they are not being built in the USA anymore. Through the beginning of the 20th century, American buildings suceeded each other higher and higher has being the tallest building in the world but now those supertall towers are getting build in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Malaysia, Dubai-- The obsession with the futuristic seems to have moved to Ásia.

Then some arguments from the portuguese sf author about role of science in asian societies, but I really did not agree with some of those points and can think of plenty of counterarguments so I did not bother with notes or trying to transcribe. Let me just say that a lot of science development happened and a lot of sf got written in post-1945 America IMHO.

GRRM then told an anecdote that when he was growing up, a lot of sf authors had a written future history, a universe defining how the future would develop. Heinlein, Asimov had it, got published as appendixes to their stories (personal note: much of GRRM´s own sf seems to fit the same universe, anybody ever tried to build a timeline or concordance for that? I love his sf stories as well). The one future history which GRRM did not think believable was Heinlein´s which seemed arbitrary and full of incoherences. Turns out Heinlein was closest to the truth, he was right that people did go to space and then stopped. Heinlein predicted the crazy years, predicted a theocracy dictatorship, Nehemiah Scudder as dictator, which some days does not seem so implausible. Perhaps Heinlein was the accurate one.

GRRM - that there are many types of sf, but that the story of space travel was central to the genre. Like in history historians talk of the Matter of Britain or Matter of France (Arthur or Charlemagne), to american sf its central core was The Matter of Space, and the space program was abandoned and it undermined sf. A lot of people present at the conference were too young to ever had somebody walk on the moon during their lifetime.

A new question, if sf has run out of new ideas? According to GRRM no, there are always new ideas and even fads coming up in sf, things like nanotech, but perhaps the problem is that people stopped imagining the future as a terrific place.

Another new question about the "american Tolkien" comparison, from a critic for Time magazine. GRRM did not adress that but mentioned a bit of ASOIAF publishing history, that since the beginning his publisher has been convinced that ASOIAF is very likely to appeal to people who do not like fantasy (personal note - I totally agree, I have had tremendous luck recommending it to people who do not like fantasy but love historical fantasy or just plain good stories). As an example the first cover of AGOT, which will now only be found in the ARC had a veyr fantasy feel, GRRM described it and it does not sound familiar at all (Catelyn mentioned perhaps? anybody knows?). It was precisely the same type of cover to a lot of fantasy novels which were selling very well. Publishers hoped a non genre cover would appeal much more widely so picked a "big book, important book" non genre cover to catch the eye of everyone, silver foil with a generic symbol and planned subsequent covers to be of the same style with a common metallic theme. The hardcover edition of AGOT turned out to be partially a failure so publishers panicked a bit, and when it came the paperback edition they picked a typical genre novel cover (the one we know, with jon Snow riding a black horse). The second book´s cover was a compromise, picking up the gold foil from the AGOT hardcover edition, but using an illustration box for the fantasy genre feel. With book 4 came a complete redesign, the publishers think they got all the fantasy fans aware of the series, time to go after the non-fantasy fans. GRRM mentioned that the difficulty on reaching, on perception of who are the readers who might like a certain book can be frustratring to an author.

New question about media and fanzines, GRRM mentioned that fanzines seem to have moved online and there is all sorts of electronic media to fulfill that role. That magazines are folding and the ones holding out are selling less and less every year and that sadly will probably be a matter of time, maybe even less than 5 years till Asimov and Analog close. F&SF might last longer not being part of a big corporation. As a journalism graduate GRRM has recently been very impressed when he received a chinese sf magazine who was serializing Skin Trade. He could not actually read the magazine but leafing through, it was a very thick magazine, full of ads for lots of things, full color, with articles on all sorts of media (games, interviews with authors) as well as fiction from several genres (or subgenres), that the american sf magazines are stuck on time and while they might print great fiction they don´t make appealing magazines. Oh and apparently men´s magazines (Playboy etc) are also dying out, it´s all in the internet now .

A new question, about if there is commercial pressure to write fantasy and if authors pick themes not chosen for literary reasons. GRRM mentions that there is a distinction between a career and a livelihood, that in the earlier days, a lot of writers were not fulltime writers. Heinlein was the exception, but Asimov was a college professor, Simak was a newspaper editor for example. In the 1970s it changed and a lot of emerging authors were able to be "just" writers, to have writing be their livelihood. That is now changing back, that for a lot of emerging authors it´s just as possible to have a great literary career but maybe they might still not be able to do it as a fulltime job.

Another question, this time as a former editor of New Voices magazine, what did GRRM look for? GRRM mentioned that there are many kinds of good writing and good stories, mentioned he is currently editing an anthology "Warriors" with Gardner Dozois, a cross genre anthology where the theme is an examination of the warrior mythos. They will mix up all the stories without labeling (genrewise) any story and hope it helps toe expand the horizon of readers . For example if somebody who bought it for the Joe Haldeman story finds out the Cecelia Holland story and likes it and vice versa. GRRM believes they are all stories and that genre is an artificial construct which creates genre expectations which affect the way a reader reads a story. Classic example, a story where a detective finds a body drained of all their blood. If it´s an horror story we expect vampires, if it´s a mystery we expect vampire wannabes and that affects the reading experience.

A short mention of sf setup books written by non sf authors, often of literary acclaim, and that for sf writers or fans it can be frustrating to read reviews which seem to think the concept is original and has just been invented. GRRM mentioned Cormac McCarthy´s The Road, another author based in new Mexico but they never met. Trivia : some New Mexico based genre writers meet for lunch once a month.

Recommendations of books aspiring sf/authors should read were asked. Just caught GRRM´s replies, he warned he would mention only classic writers, that he is relatively stubborn and his influences came mostly from his earlier reading, so he is not likely to be influenced by another writer anymore. Sf recomendations: Zelazny´s Lord of Light, Heinlein (his juveniles or The Puppet Masters, that Stranger in a Strange Land is not a particular favorite though it has many fans), Bester´s The Stars My Destination, Sturgeon´s Dreaming Jewels and Jack Vance who he considers the greatest living sf writer. For fantasy the recommendations were Tolkien, Ghormenghast, Vance´s Lyonesse and Dying Earth series, Robert E Howard ´s fantasy stories, Fritz Leiber. For horror he mentioned Lovecraft, Stephen King who is unavoidable in the genre, Clive Barker. Then a mention I can not quite decipher (Robert Bloch). And a particular recommendation of an almost forgotten author, Gerald Kersh who wrote strange little horror short stories and is mostly remembered by a mystery he wrote, Night in the City who was adapted twice to film, the last time starring Robert de Niro.

More comments about writing and fandom, that writers of other genres seem to write in isolation and not often meet the people who read their work, that sf/fantasy authors are much more fortunate than those in other fields. Sf fandom exists since the 1930s, possibly since the 1920s, conventions have been going on since 1970s. GRRM mentioned that he believes relations between friends are stronger in the sf world, gave an example from his post-college parties, that it´s his sf friends who still keep in touch.

Then some more discussion about the generics of awards, that GRRM thinks awards are good even when given to the "wrong" book, since they get people talking about books. That the purest awards are the ones directly given by fans, and that a problem with the Hugos is that so few people (of all those who could) vote for those, that 20 votes might be enough to put any work in a shortlist, so it´s very important that all those who can vote or nominate do so.

And that is about it. Any misquotings or misinterpretation (nevermind missspellings and assassinations of grammar) are all my own, for which I apologize.

PoderFriki Interview

[Note: This is a Spanish language interview from a fan who bumped into GRRM at Heathrow airport and had the opportunity to chat with him for awhile. He discusses a range of topics, including historical fiction, movies, the works of various fantasy authors, and more.]

Corte Ingles signing
Submitted By: cteresa

This is about the session at Corte Ingles in Lisbon on July 1st 2008. Moderator was Safaa Dib, and the topic was A Song of Ice and Fire followed by a signing session, and along with a pre-release of the portuguese translation of the first half of A Storm of Swords ( I think.)

Room was filled, it was standing room only before the beginning of the session, perhaps some 200 people in all, I was impressed by how diverse, ages, gender the audience was.

First thing is, the book is not finished. Probably another 6 months, the hope is by the end of the year, so it comes out sometime in 2009.

GRRM was asked the typical question, of where the idea for ASOIAF had come from. He replied that in the summer of 1991, when he was working as a Hollywood screenwriter, in a gap between assignments he began work on a new novel, a sf novel called Avalon ( personal note, no I would not swap it for ASOIAF, but I would have loved to have read it), set in his future history universe. And somehow, he found himself writing the first chapter of AGOT, about the direwolf pups un the snow. And after that came a second chapter and pretty soon he spent the whole summer writing AGOT.

From there he started to plan a trilogy, since there were 3 main conflicts ( Starks/Lannisters; Dany; and the Others) it felt it would neatly fit into a trilogy (ah!), but like Tolkien said, the tale grew in the telling. He ended up putting the project aside after being asked to write a tv pilot, he had about a 100 pages written of both Avalon and AGOT. With his projects he has a problem that when somethings goes cold he can not pick it up again. Avalon has gone cold, but with a ASOIAF it has never happened, he kept thinking about it. Some time after, driving through Britanny once he was thinking of Tyrion and what would he think or do, despite having been years since he wrote about Tyrion and being a couple years till he wrote again about him. He summarized it all in that he has no idea where the idea for ASOIAF did come from.

Another question was about the sucess of ASOIAF and if he ever expected it. He said he hoped but not expected sucess and that Armageddon Rag was supposed to be his breakout novel but it tanked instead. It got great reviews but nobody bought it. So he is always anxious when a book comes out. And sucess for ASOIAF was slow, it only picked momentum when the 2nd book came out in hardcover and AGOT was released in paperback, around 1997/1998. The Legends anthology did a lot to help popularize ASOIAF, he hears frequently from fans that they bought the anthology to read the story of this or that other author, but ended up loving Dunk´s story and from there finding out about ASOIAF.

On being asked if he feels comfortable getting called the American Tolkien, GRRM considers it a great compliment, since he loved Tolkien when he was a kid, that his were some of the books he never wanted to end reading. But he is very different from Tolkien and writes very different type of books. The moderator somehow blurts out sex, general laughter, GRRM´s replies he does not know where little hobbits come from. But that he thinks Tolkien has darkness,that the end of TLOTR is crucial, the Scouring of the Shire, that the Tolkien immitators always end with triumph but never cover the cost of triumph.

From then the questions moved to historical fiction, there being similarities between ASOIAF and the War of the Roses, if he had ever thought about building a story about them. GRRM replied he liked historical fiction very much, mentioned Cornwell and Pressfield as infusing history with the tropes of fantasy ( I think) but that his problem with history is that he knows too much history, that he can not read about the war of the roses without knowing who won the battle of Bosworth Field. With history, a lot of readers will know who wins and what happens and he likes to readers to not know what is going to happen (ah!!)

He used an interesting analogy to his use of magic in fantasy fiction, he compared it to, on a college dormitory take out, him being used to plain style New Jersey pizzas, first trying anchovies in a garbage pizza (that was the expression used, really). He loved those anchovies, but when he next ordered an anchovy pizza he thought it was awfull, overwhelming. Magic and fantasy can be like anchovy in pizza, too much unbalanced can ruin everything . Tolkien did it right, on his opinion, that his magic is often knowledge and the sense of magic is very low key, that we are often not sure, are the fireworks real magic or just fireworks? Magic should be mysterious, unnatural. In a Song of Ice and Fire (or ADWD) we have two sources of magic descending on Westeros from opposing directions.

He mentioned he created history and dynasties as he goes along and that it was Tolkien which created the truly serious worldbuilding expect in fantasy. Before Tolkien a lot of fantasy writers did not bother, Robert E Howard had perhaps the name of 3 kings, Lord Dunsany did even less ( paraphrasing "there was a king who had a daughter"). But with Tolkien it was like an iceberg, 3/4 are under the waterline. All other authors ("us") are just pretending, ice on a raft floating giving the impression it is an iceberg. Some fans get furious at that admission. Once a fan wrote asking him for word lists in high valyrian so the fan could start to work out learning the language on his own. GRRM says he knows 8 words of high valyrian, and when he needs a 9th, he will just make it up. ( despite this very funny impressive anecdote which was very well received, in the question session, yes somebody started to make complicated questions about language).

Another classical question, on what writers had an influence on him. GRRM replied the authors he read and enjoyed when he was young, Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Heinlein was his favorite sf author, Zelazny, Jack Vance. Apropos of Jack Vance, GRRM mentioned he is editing an anthology, where 20 top fantastic writers are writing each a Dying Earth story ( or so I understood it. Dont quote me if it contradicts other reports). He mentioned also other non genre authors, Goldmann, F Scott Fitzgerald, Lawrence Block, McDonald, Raymond Chandler.

When asked what he considered to be his greatest strength as an author, he replied characters, that he thought characters to be the most important part of any story. And on what was his favorite PoV characters, he likes all of them, that it is important to consider that a hero is a villain from the other side, that Theon, Cersei and Jaime all think they are doing the right thing. perhaps Tyrion is his favorite character, his chapters are the easiest to write and he is the most like GRRM himself. He can think of no good definition of good and evil and that struggle to define it is a common theme in his work. That is one difference between him and Tolkien, that there is nothing redeeming in a orc or Sauron. It´s fine in Tolkien, but it´s a problem on his less subtle immitators.

On if no character ever being safe if it was part of a writing strategy , he said he he tries to write with honesty about war, it´s not about who is going to win a soccer match ( personal note - well, there actually have been real wars about that. And he probably has not hear of a *few* matches I can think of. And the Maracanazo probably caused deeper social trauma than any brazillian border war of the 20th century. sorry, can´t help myself) and that death and grief can happen to all characters not just extras. He brought up a anecdocte about the tv show Beauty and Beast and network concerns ( network speak violence is bad, action is the euphemism for it). The series lasted 3 years, at the end of series 2, the main character (the beauty, Catherine) was killed because Linda Hamilton, the actress wanted to leave. The writers, against the network´s opinion ("get on with it, don´t mention the name again"), had some episodes written which dealt with the grief of remaining characters. The ratings plummeted - so while they made the right artistic decision, commercially they had failed. GRRM thinks authors can not worry about commercial sucess when writing.

The moderator praised ASOS has being his masterpiece, he said with the proviso that AFFC was not a complete book but half of a whole he agreed "so far". When she asked if If the pressure of being considered the "best fantasy writer" ( there were probably a couple adjective there like american or living) affected his work, he says he does not enjoy the pressure but is still enjoying the writing. Most days, some days don´t go well!

About the famous 5 year gap and the delay of ADWD he sais the problem was precisely the idea of the 5 year gap, which would give the kids time to grow old. he spent over a year writing the book that way, but ended up writing endless flashback scenes so he had to scrape that.

If he knows how the series will end, yes, he does in broad strokes, compared it to a drive from Lisbon to Moscow, you know where you are going, but not seeing all the steps of the way.

There was some talk also of HBO optioning AGOT, that two scripts have been written and the BBC is now a partner and budgets are being drawn ( if that is the word). Possible locations mentioned were Ireland, the Czech Republic and New Zealand, but of course they are looking at any possible cheaper options. He thinks a pilot might get filmed. After that a possibility is maybe that each book will be a season, 12 hours but is not really sure if ASOS would fit that.

Then GRRM himself very kindly asked if fans wanted to make some questions. And yes, somebody did ask if Ned was really killed ( to be fair, only AGOT and ACOK have been translated into portuguese yet, so I am sure lots still had some hopes for Ned to do a Gandalf act by the end of ACOK).

When the manuscript for ADWD is finished it will be rushed over in 3 months, which is amazingly fast for the book industry.

He does find hard to keep track of all characters and keeps flipping back and forth through his notes to find out the color of this character´s eyes or the name of this cousin. Elio and Linda are great help, so sometimes he writes to them asking them this or that. He is very good at changing the sex of horses between books, he calls those his transexual horses.

An interesting comment about the focus and pace of LOTR and ASOIAF. TLOTR starts slow and very focused, on a small part of a very large world, with things unfolding and the world getting bigger. He wanted to do something like that in ASOIAF, starting with a very tight focus on Winterfell drawing bigger and broader. The action is now at its broadest point, and it´s going to start narrowing again.

We were read a prologue chapter for ADWD. The reading was very good, somewhat spoiled by some noise with the audience, I think something to do with the selling of those pre-release translations of part of ASOS. I did not get any notes on that, just enjoyed it.

And that is about it. Any misquotings or misinterpretation (nevermind missspellings and assassinations of grammar) are all my own, for which I apologize.