After a whirlwind of travel to Ireland from Sweden, then back for two days before going to Northern Ireland, I’m sufficiently recovered to try to (briefly) cover the amazing time Linda and I had at Dublin 2019 and that I then had at Titancon, the 2019 Eurocon. I probably spent more time chatting with George since ... hmm, maybe 2015 when George visited Sweden and Åland. Much to report, but I really, really want to try to be succinct. So as a general overview, I’ll just say it was fantastic, filled with meeting old friends from the Brotherhood without Banners fan group and making new acquaintances from the ASoIaF/GoT sphere. Many discussions were had—on the SF/F genre, on the Hugo awards past and present, on Worldcon bids, and of course on various matters related to ASoIaF.
(Photo courtesy of Joey Yu, the inaugural winner of George’s Terran Prize writer’s scholarship.)
The first significant event with GRRM was the Wild Cards trivia panel with a host of writers: Walter Jon Williams from the original writers and roleplayers was teamed with Carrie Vaughn, the much-in-demand Wild Cards trivia guru and writer Kevin Andrew Murphy was teamed with Charles Stross and Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Peadar Ó Guilín was joined by Paul Cornell. It was very amusing!
After that was George and Parris being interviewed by George’s assistant Ti regarding their history together and in fandom. Some who have perused George’s biographical pieces, on his website and elsewhere, are familiar with many of the details. But not all!
The two big messages they had for fans were to embrace their fandom and support their conventions by attending and (especially) volunteering, and they spoke with great feeling about their long association with the Wild Spirit Wolf Sancutary which they have been leading patrons of for years. If you’ve time and wherewithal, consider donating an item or two from their Amazon wishlist to help them in their continuing effort to protect wolves and wolf-dogs.
George’s signing sessions were at the Point Square location, 10 minutes walk from the main convention center. These were extremely smoothly run, and both times George went through hundreds of signatures in record time. Some fans managed to get multiple items signed by entering the line again. In fact, both times George’s sessions were done well ahead of time, which was a welcome change of pace for him compared to, say, the rather slow Helsinki lines of 2017.
On Saturday evening, George took part in a special event hosted by the Irish Film Institute, in which George participated in a Q&A following the screening of a pristine 35mm print of George’s favorite film, Forbidden Planet. The Q&A is below:
Sunday evening was the Hugo Awards, and then the famous Hugo Loser’s Party, which Linda and I were kindly invited to by George.
Despite the historic name, GRRM and his team graciously combine their resources with the traditional post-Hugo party thrown by the next Worldcon as a kind of handing over of the torch, so the guest list isn’t just Hugo nominees and winners, but members of the committees, notables and friends, industry people, past Hugo Losers, etc. Of particular note for Game of Thrones fans, the lovely Sibyl Kekilli and her partner, who were also guests at the 2017 Helsinki party. There was even a noted caricature artist, Niall O’Laughlin, providing free portraits.
Unfortunately, things did not entirely go as planned. You can read more about the issue at File 770, but in brief the venue—the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin’s most popular tourist exhibition—had room for 450 people on its second floor.. and yet an entire busload of people were left outside until after George and Parris awarded two Alfie Awards (named for the great Alfred Bester) to editors Jane Johnson and Malcolm Edwards and some started to leave the venue. George has provided an extensive breakdown of why things didn’t go as planned, taking responsibility for any errors and offering his apologies. (For more on the history of the Hugo Loser’s Party, see here and GRRM’s added information here.) It’s a shame that it marred an otherwise wonderful, lively event with many of the genre’s greatest luminaries on hand. We hope the party will continue strong in 2020 at ConZealand, because it’s a wonderful example of George’s love of the fandom and his largesse towards the community that he calls his own.
We left (very tired) quite late, after having a terrific time. We did have the opportunity to chat briefly with Parris and George, which is always a pleasure. Unfortunately, we left for home in the morning, and so missed the closing ceremonies (where George and Parris encouraged fans to make fandom a way of life) and also their interview in which they discussed their connections to Ireland.
(For our own part, we had a signing session, and we each had a couple of panels—me on fandom communities online, Linda on writing horses and then a look back at the final season of Game of Thrones. Managed to record the latter, which included Hugo Award-winning writer Charlie Jane Anders (now also Hugo Award-winning podcaster), Marina Berlin, Adam Whitehead of The Wertzone, and ably and hilariously managed by Laura Antoniou.)
And then I did it all over again, because after a couple of days, it was off to Titancon, this year’s Eurocon. A Belfast institution born out of the Belfast Moots where George and various actors hung out with fans in various pubs, Titancon has had a tough road as the years progressed and the actors and venues proved increasingly difficult to obtain. But it was the little con that could, and managed to land the Eurocon bid. It was, all in all, highly successful, containing multiple tracks of programming while at the same time maintaining a number of Titancon traditions such as Literary Night, a series of short readings by numerous authors all one after another, karaoke (which for some mad reason I offered to help run, and it went very well but all thanks to Toft, a BwBer who clearly knows how to manage such things better than I), Family Feud, a novelty beard competition, and a group bus tour to various Game of Thrones sites. Most notably, though, it was much smaller—about tenth the size of Worldcon—which meant far, far more ability to actually socialize for the fans… and, as it happens, for George, who seemed to greatly enjoy sitting at a table in the hotel bar and holding forth with a handful of friends and fans.
Of official events, prior to the con George participated at a special event at Castle Ward, the home of many Game of Thrones filming locations, but most of the questions put to him were fairly standard (the only notable bit of new info I can recall was that you can’t milk dragons… or so I was told; I’m guessing that was a humorous response to a question…) At the convention itself, George participated in the opening ceremony (which I just missed) and the closing ceremony where he met two of the Season 1 direwolves, had a signing that went very smoothly, and then a Wild Cards panel with Peadar Ó Guilín and Kevin Andrew Murphy, moderated by Adam Whitehead. Forgot the start of it, but here it is:
But it was the non-official events where a lot of things were discussed with George. He was very nostalgic—perhaps triggered, in part, by the intimacy of this convention—about the pre-bestseller days when he knew all the members of the Brotherhood without Banners and could sit around with them for hours without being interrupted for selfies and autographs. He asked after some fellow “bros” of the past, some who’ve become busy with life and children, others who simply couldn’t make the trip for other reasons, and some who were about but had not yet had a chance to hang out with him. We chatted about a lot of things with various people, mostly related to fandom, Worldcon, film and television, the genre, where to find good pizza (GRRM gave his approval to Gusto e’, which was just a short walk from the convention hotel), and so on. But on matters related to A Song of Ice and Fire and the like, I can offer three bits of information from our various conversations:
As for my own Eurocon event—other than helping with two evenings worth of karaoke—I did participate in the panel “What Next for Westeros”, moderated by Peadar Ó Guilín and featuring Ash and Aziz of History of Westeros and Adam Whitehead of The Wertzone and The Atlas of Ice and Fire. For reasons explained at the panel, I was somewhat constrained in what I could say about the pilot currently in post-production.
And that is more or less that for con-related matters, except I will add one detour I made, a 2 hour drive south to the Republic of Ireland. Thanks to Robert Brown, a founder of Forte Historical Services, I managed to hitch a ride with him to visit the amazing Boyd Rankin, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since I visited the set in season 1 with George, and his wife Lynne at their farm. Boyd is probably best known to fans as Mikken, the Winterfell smith glimpsed in season 1, (he always jokes it was his leather apron that was cast), but for me he’s the senior armourer who helped created many of the iconic weapons of the first four seasons, using his expertise as a blacksmith and historical re-enactor to give swords like Longclaw their character.
Linda and I last saw him last year at the second Winterfell Festival, where he insisted on giving us a gift, a Dornish knife (“a throat-slitting knife”, he said) he had been commissioned to make for the 4th season which was never used that fans may now notice has a proud place on our bookshelves. This time, after an hour of visiting, chatting about his home and his immense collection of weapons (not just medieval, but also a wide range of firearms, which I believe is one of the largest private collections in Ireland), he wouldn’t let me leave without a very special parting gift which I first glimpsed a year before (in fact, I’m holding it in the picture above). To say I was flabbergasted and very hesitant to accept it is an understatement, but Boyd would not be gainsaid. Getting it back home with me, proving difficult, has led me to leave it in Robert’s care for the time being, but we hope to figure out how to ship it over soon where it will definitely have a very prominent place in our library.
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Every so often I end up with a sword that blows my mind. This is no exception, gifted to the GoT writer Elio Garcia but temporary in my care untill we find a way to get it to sweden ... I present the very first ever Longclaw created originally for Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. This blade was the first ever concept for longclaw that never got used and is the only 1 of its kind in the world created by the shows master armourer Boyd Rankin of Irish Arms who played Mikken the Blacksmith. It features a pure bronze cast roaring bear head to symbolize House Mormont and has a darkened hilt and solid grip. Such an incredible and beautiful weapon with incredible detail! This deserves to be seen by the world and for everyone to know the expert skills of Boyd! . . . . . . #mormont #got #gameofthrones #longclaw #jeor #jeormormont #lordcommander #nightswatch #stark #castleblack #bronze #sword #props #blacksmith #mikken #jonsnow #ForteHistoricalServices
In a separate post, I hope to cover Tourism Northern Ireland‘s invitations to visit the Game of Thrones Touring Exhibition—in its last days in Belfast, with the final day being September 8th—and the Glass of Thrones installations which led from the city centre all the way out to the Titanic Quarter. Quite a few pictures taken, and some interesting things learned about the future of the same of the Game of Thrones sets.