The 15 Most Interesting Tidbits from George R. R. Martin's Rolling Stone Interview
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The 15 Most Interesting Tidbits from George R. R. Martin's 'Rolling Stone' Interview

By Cindy Davis | Trade News | April 24, 2014 | Comments ()


Rolling Stone published a great interview with George R. R. Martin yesterday; I’ve tried to condense with some of the best bits, but do yourself a favor and read in its entirety.

1.He’s mindful that the television series may overrun what he’s written. “I better get these books done.”

2. He has a full size, operational Robby the Robot in his office. “Robby the Robot…it was a great kick to buy him and to show him off. A bunch of money sitting in a pile - what do I get out of that?”

3. He’s from Bayonne, NJ, and wasn’t close to his father, who Martin believes was a functioning alcoholic. Martin’s family didn’t have a car because “My father always said that drinking and driving was very bad, and he was not going to give up drinking.”

4. Facing a draft during the Vietnam War, Martin requested and received conscientious-objector status. “Those were desperately hard decisions, and every kid had to make them for himself. To my surprise, they gave me the status. I was later told - I have no way to prove this - that I was granted the status because our conservative draft board felt that anyone who applied for CO status should be granted it, because that would be punishment enough: Then it would be part of their permanent record, and everybody would know that they were a Commie sympathizer, and it would ruin their lives.”

5. On television screenwriting: (It) “…improved my sense of structure and dialogue.” Martin, who worked on CBS’ Beauty and the Beast, faced “censorship battles” over violence, sexual content and how politically charged the series could be. “We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to kill people. They wanted us to show him picking up someone and throwing them across the room, and then they would get up and run away. Oh, my God, horrible monster! [Laughs] It was ludicrous. The character had to remain likable.”

6. The idea for A Song of Ice and Fire sprang from a vision that sprung into his head while working on a science fiction novel. “It’s from Bran’s viewpoint; they see a man beheaded and they find some direwolf pups in the snow. It just came to me so strongly and vividly that I knew I had to write it. I sat down to write, and in, like, three days it just came right out of me, almost in the form you’ve read.”

7. He was initially unsure whether to include dragons—overt fantasy elements. “I was discussing this with a friend, writer Phyllis Eisenstein - I dedicated the third book to her - and she said, “George, it’s a fantasy - you’ve got to put in the dragons.” She convinced me, and it was the right decision. Now that I’m deep into it, I can’t imagine the book without the dragons.”

8. The Wall was inspired by Martin’s visit to Hadrian’s Wall. “I stood up there and I tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman legionary, standing on this wall, looking at these distant hills. It was a very profound feeling.”

9. Fan “intensity” may be delaying his writing. “But maybe that’s part of what’s slowed me down - the knowledge that so many people are looking at every line, and waiting on every turn and scene. We have the untold-history book coming out later this year, where I’ve written a fake history. I find it amusing, and secretly pleasing, that I have so many fans who are interested in the history.”

10. On Jaime’s (and others’) redemption: “When can we be redeemed? Is redemption even possible? I don’t have an answer. But when do we forgive people? You see it all around in our society, in constant debates. Should we forgive Michael Vick? I have friends who are dog-lovers who will never forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick has served years in prison; he’s apologized. Has he apologized sufficiently? Woody Allen: Is Woody Allen someone that we should laud, or someone that we should despise? Or Roman Polanski, Paula Deen…I don’t know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what’s the answer then?”

11. He has quibbles with Tolkien. ”’Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone - they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles? …Just having good intentions doesn’t make you a wise king.”

12. The Red Wedding was hard for him as well—in fact, Martin skipped over the scene and wrote the rest of A Storm of Swords before returning to it. “I loved those characters too much. But I knew it had to be done. The TV Red Wedding is even worse than the book, of course, because [GoT creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] turned it up to 11 by bringing in Talisa, pregnant with Robb’s child, none of which happened in the book. So we get a pregnant woman stabbed repeatedly in the belly.”

13. He loves contemplating power andwho really has it. “One of the central questions in the book is Varys’ riddle: The rich man, the priest and the king give an order to a common sellsword. Each one says kill the other two. So who has the power? Is it the priest, who supposedly speaks for God? The king, who has the power of state? The rich man, who has the gold? Of course, doesn’t the swordsman have the power? He’s the one with the sword - he could kill all three if he wanted. Or he could listen to anyone. But he’s just the average grunt. If he doesn’t do what they say, then they each call other swordsmen who will do what they say. But why does anybody do what they say? This is the fundamental mystery of power and leadership and war through all history.”

14. Fan opinion really affects, and matters to Martin. “One letter I got was from a woman, a waitress. She wrote me: “I work hard all day, I’m divorced, I have a couple of children. My life is very hard, and my one pleasure is I come home and I read fantasy, and I escape to other worlds. Then I read your book, and God, it was fucking horrifying. I don’t read for this. This is a nightmare. Why would you do this to me?” That letter actually reached me. I wrote her back and basically said, “I’m sorry; I do understand where you’re coming from.”

15. He likes to remind people of the truths we all must face. “Winter is coming and Valar morghulis - all men must die. Mortality is the inescapable truth of all life . . . and of all stories, too.”

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)

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