George R.R. Martin | Talks at Google

George R.R. Martin | Talks at Google


[upbeat music plays]>>Female Presenter: On May 2, 2011, Nicholas
Farmer was at Professor Thom’s on 2nd Avenue in New York City. Maurice, the bartender,
nudged him and said, “Hey, Nick. There’s the author of Game of Thrones.” They were all
there to watch the HBO version of the book. Nicholas approached the creator and a conversation
ensued. He asked if he’d heard of [email protected] and if he’d be interested in speaking there.
Friendly guy that our guest is, he said, “Have your mother contact my publicist. It’s up
to him.” [laughter] I turned to our [email protected] network. The
publicist was contacted and the return email offered “July 28th at noon. Work for you?”
“Yup.” So, here we are today, July 28th at noon, our first live streaming of an [email protected]
event. Thank you all for joining us. You, the viewers,
have shaped the questions we will be asking today. And thanks to all the people here at
Google that helped make this event possible. And now, our one and only, Dan Anthony, will
introduce today’s guest. [applause]>>Dan: Wow. This is awesome. We’ve got one
of the largest rooms on campus and it’s packed to standing room only. About the only thing
that would be cooler than this was if Joss Whedon came rushing in the door and said he
suddenly had to cast a Googler to star opposite Scarlett Johansson. [laughter] I think for a lot of us, fantasy, our journey
into fantasy, is an individual thing. And it’s very much of our generation. As a child
of the ’70s, like I suspect a lot of people in this room, my first foray into fantasy
was The Sword of Shannara and I never looked back from there. It took me a while to get to A Game of Thrones,
which as hopefully everyone knows, is the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire. And
like a lot of people in this room, I suspect we had some of the same touch points. You
know, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Tolkien, all the folks who really
make up the backbone of fantasy. But I think one thing we can all agree on
no matter how we got here is Game of Thrones. It’s certainly not The Sword of Shannara. [laughter] But it probably helps that, as a New Zealander,
fantasy is in our blood and we’re used to weird things. [laughter] So, not only do we have Australians to deal
with– [laughter] but we’ve got Orcs, Goblins, Hobbits, Dwarves,
Horselords, men in leather with swords and whips and chains. And heck, that’s pretty
much any Auckland nightclub on a Saturday night. [laughter] But what we don’t have is any characters as
awesome as the world’s favorite Dwarf, Tyrion Lannister. And George, that doesn’t mean you
can kill him off now. [laughter] And Tyrion is only one of many. And we have
Arya. We have Cersei, Jaime, Ned, for the ten minutes he was alive. [laughter] And it’s not just the main characters that
are really interesting. There’s a whole host of smaller characters: Davos, Bronn, Syrio.
And these are all compelling and ritually realized and possibly part of that is the
way that the story is structured. When your characters have an average life
expectancy of 37 pages, you’re gonna have to have a long life cycle. But regardless,
it’s given us a really rich world to get immersed in. And now we’ve got the HBO series
which is bringing a whole new realm of audience to these books. And for those of us who are readers of the
books, it means that we now know we have to get the next two books within six years ’cause
they need them for season 7 of the HBO series. [laughter] But the really cool things about these books,
and I think the thing that resonates, is they are truly a world-wide phenomenon. They’re
in 22 languages, or 20-odd languages and I just got back from a ’round the world trip
at eight different countries, four different continents and every country, I found people
I could talk to about the books that really got into it. And there’s something really cool about walking
into some rinky-dink little book shop in the back streets of Hong Kong, and front and center
is Game of Thrones on display. But I learned something on the trip. So, in India, it seems
they censor HBO and they censor it quite heavily. I also learned that in India, they don’t like
movies where the hero dies. So this leads me to believe that in India, Game of Thrones
is gonna be 23 minutes long and it’s gonna be the most unpopular 23 minutes in television
history. [laughter] Ladies and gentlemen, the man who’s given
us one of the best fantasy series of all time, one of the most compelling reasons to watch
television today, a man who made it acceptable for nerd to talk about fantasy in public again– [laughter] please join me in welcoming George R. R. Martin. [applause]>>Martin: Thank you all. It’s a thrill to
be here. This is quite a kick for me. I’m on my book tour now for Dance With Dragons
and visiting a city a day. It’s sort of a blur where I am right now. But I’ve done many
events. This is the first time I’ve done one like this, however, where most of the audience
seems to have computers in their laps. That’s sort of intimidating. [laughter] But interesting. Very interesting. So, it’s–.
I came out of the world of science fiction. I wrote a lot of science fiction early in
my career and I’ve always gone back and forth with those science fiction writers about whether
fantasy and science fiction are in fact two different flavors of the same thing, which
is my contention, or whether they’re absolute polar opposites. And fantasy is corrupting the precious bodily
fluids of science fiction, which is the contention of others. And I think the fact that I’m here
at this campus devoted to the world of computers and the cutting edge of tomorrow and you’re
all fantasy geeks, is proof that I’m right. [laughter] And it’s all one big thing.>>Dan: Thank you for coming, George. We really
appreciate it. And a token of our appreciation, on behalf of the whole project team, presented
by the person who designed these fine t-shirts that we’re wearing.>>George Martin: Oh, thank you. Thank you
very much.>>Female Shirt Designer: It was entirely inspired
by you. [clapping] It’s our take on the wonderful mythos that
you created and we combined it with the Android. So, it’s an homage.>>George Martin: Thank you. Great. Thank you
very much.>>Female Shirt Designer: Take care.>>Dan: And we do expect you to wear it on
your next television appearance.>>George Martin: Oh, OK. [laughter]>>Dan: So, for everyone in attendance and
the folks on the stream, we have taken the most popular questions from the YouTube page–the
moderated page–and from internal Googlers. And we’ll be going through those questions
today. One of the guiding principles we have, since a lot of the folks here are gonna be
new to the series and know it either from television or from just reading the first
book, is we’re not gonna ask any questions that touch on content matter beyond A Game
of Thrones. So, even if your question got bumped up, unfortunately,
we may not be asking it today. So with that, we have a question from Jigger444. [laughter] “You mentioned you had trouble cutting down
some of the Arya chapters for A Dance with Dragons. Would you ever post the unused material
on your website?”>>George Martin: No, probably not. [chuckles]
I do save everything. When I cut material, I do save it because I may find a place for
it later. And there are things that I cut out of the second book that I find a place
for in the fourth book. And that sort of thing is constantly going on. But I’m still carrying forward with material
that I cut from the first book. Some of it as short as a single, pithy sentence that
I particularly liked, but no longer fit and others half chapters that I took out. And
maybe I’ll find a place for that, but I have a feeling that much of that and more will
still be in my files when the whole series is done. But I don’t know if I ever want it getting
out there. [audience laughs] It’s taken out for a reason. There’s one chapter from the
new book, from Dance with Dragons, that I, this does go beyond Game of Thrones, but I’ll
be vague. There’s this Tyrion chapter that drove me crazy all through the decade, it
seemed, that I worked on, on Dance with Dragons. That was precursor for Feast for Crows where
I kept putting it in and taking it out and putting it in then taking it out. And then
I put it in as a dream sequence and I took it out. Then, I made it a series of recurring
dreams, each one going slightly further. So I put it in seven chapters. And then I took
it out of those seven chapters. [laughter] It’s one of those chapters that I think is,
by itself, is a terrific chapter. I liked the way it came together. It’s vivid. It’s
kind of spooky. It’s got some really great visual imagery in it and it leads me absolutely
down a dead end, where if I take that path I’m stuck on a detour and so, I had to take
it out. That chapter I may, I don’t know, publish
at some point down the road, but not most of the other material.>>Dan: Great. So the next one is a multi-part
question. And it came up a lot on the public site and there are also some Googler questions
around it as well. “Have you ever,” and this comes from somebody whose name I can’t pronounce
in Vancouver. [audience chuckles]
“Have you ever been influenced by some of the crazy theories your fans come up with
for mysteries in the books? Have you ever changed an aspect of your story based on fan
feedback, or if one of their theories is better than what you originally planned? [laughter]>>George Martin: No. But I am concerned about
that possibility, which is one of the reasons I don’t tend to read the fan boards. I mean,
when the first fan boards started occurring and they started theorizing and analyzing
books in such detail, and I’m going back now to the mid-’90s, really, when the first boards
appeared. Dragon Stone coming out of Australia that
Peter Gibb ran, I think was the first board I was aware of. And a couple others came up
after that. I was very flattered and I did read all the theories. And then precisely
this point occurred where it says, “You know, what if they’re guessing the things that I
haven’t revealed yet? What if they guessed them correctly? How does that affect me?” Do I then say, “Oh, my God? They figured it
out already. I’d better change it. Or do I just ignore it and plow ahead? And what if
they come up with better ideas than the ones I had? Do I steal them?” And I didn’t like
any of these possibilities. So I said it would be better for me to try
to keep my distance and not go on these boards and try to–. Somehow, it was a futile effort
because people also write me emails and people come to public forums like this. And they
come up to me at signings and whisper their theories in my ear. [laughter] And things like that. So, I am aware of some
of the speculation out there, but I try to keep my distance from it precisely because
I don’t wanna be impacted. I mean, it’s one of the drawbacks of the whole internet culture
in this world that you guys have created– [laughter] that something that previously maybe one reader
in a thousand would have guessed, but you still had the other 999 who would have no
inkling until you reveal it in a book. Now, that one person in a thousand puts it on an
internet message board and everybody sees it and they say, “Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s right.
Now I see the clues. I got it.” And pretty soon, half the readership, or at
least the internet savvy portion of your readership, knows it. But what do you do then? Do you
change it and come up with something goofy and outlandish that you haven’t lead the,
that you haven’t done the foreshadowing for, that you haven’t laid the foundation for just
in order to surprise people? I mean, sure. I could have like, aliens come
down and– [laughter] that would certainly surprise the hell out
of everybody. No one is predicting that, but it would ruin the series. [laughter] So, basically you can’t let yourself be influenced
by this stuff. And I try not to.>>Dan: Great. So, Rita Meyer, who is a Googler
asked–as a sub question–“With the books now being adapted for a successful TV series
that you also write for, do you think this will have an influence on the decisions and
choices you make in the novels?”>>George Martin: Well, once again, no. I hope
not. The novels are novels and the TV series is the TV series. And they’re two different
beasts. The TV series is very faithful so far. I do write for the series. I do one episode per season. I’m also co-executive
producer on the series. I have great relationship with David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who are
the show runners and the main writers on the series. But ultimately, that’s their baby
and the books are my baby. And– [George Martin clears throat] there is the possibility, that as faithful
as we’ve started out and as faithful as we intend to be, that changes will come into
effect–what I call the “butterfly effect.” Which I’m sure, being the audience you are,
you all understand because you’ve read Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” You step on a butterfly in the Pleistocene
and it seems very minor, but suddenly you return to the future and all of human history
has changed because of that butterfly. A small change can produce large changes later on.
And that’s a question on the show. I mean, we’ve already seen in the first season, as
faithful as it was, at least two significant departures. One character, who has his tongue torn out
with hot pincers, who later in my books that doesn’t happen to him and he’s around and
gets involved pretty seriously in some stuff in Book Three. He’s not gonna be around to
do that. So, David and Dan are gonna have to remove that stuff or create a new character
or somehow address that problem. Similarly, the great scene in Book One or
in the first season where Khal Drogo confronts the man Mago, the Dothraki bloodrider and
rips out his tongue. Terrific scene. Completely made up by largely Jason Momoa and by Dan
and David. It doesn’t happen in my books. Mago is still alive in the books and still
has yet to be dealt with, so these kind of butterfly effect things may produce changes
down the road. But I mean, what am I gonna do? Go back and retroactively rewrite Book
One? Maybe I should. [laughter] That throat scene was great, but [laughs]
no. I can’t let myself be affected. I am aware what they’re doing in the show. I advise Dan
and David whenever they’re about to hit the butterfly effect and sometimes they change
according to that and sometimes they plunge ahead. So, the two beasts are the two beasts and
each one is separate from the other.>>Dan: OK. So, coming from Tinanti in Slovenia,
“What was your favorite and–well now we know this–what was your favorite and least favorite
scene in HBO’s Game of Thrones?”>>George Martin: [clears throat] My favorite scene–. Well, this of course,
I suppose everybody’s seen this series now, so I don’t have to worry about giving things
away. But, my favorite scene had to be the end of Book–, end of Episode Nine, the execution
of Ned. I thought they did that very powerfully. It was not precisely as described in the books,
but it was certainly moving and evocative. The director did a great job on it. The script
writers did a great job. They added a wonderful grace note, which is when Ned is being led
up to the stairs where he sees Arya and he says to Yoren of the Night’s Watch as he passes
him he says, “Baylor,” to set in motion Yoren saving Arya, which is not in the books. In the books, Yoren just spots her on his
own and takes his own initiative. But it was a great idea to give that little moment, that
one last heroic act by Ned. So, I love that. I love what they did with that moment. But
there are a lot of great scenes that I love. The final scene with Dany , the season closing
episode, which I was in. Considerable trepidation about because you
know, how good were the dragons gonna be? That’s a big CGI thing. [clears throat] And
it’s a reality of television today that television has become so good and the technical standards
have become so good that a large portion of the audience is judging us on the basis of
what they’re seeing on major motion pictures. So, we always have to run the risk of if we
do CGI, people will say, “Well, it’s not as good as what I saw in Lord of the Rings, or
in the latest big budget science fiction picture.” And that’s so frustrating ’cause of course
those shows have immensely more time than we do and they have budgets that are ten,
twenty , a hundred times our budget. And there was a time when the audience made
that distinction. They did not expect [clears throat] a chase scene on an episode of TJ
Hooker to match what they would see in Bullitt or The French Connection where a major motion
picture cop scene at the time. But now they do expect it and it’s a challenge for our
special effects guys and our technical guys to live up to. We have a very sizable budget for a television
show, but it’s still a television budget and it’s not a feature film budget. So, we’re
always having to wrestle with that. Least favorite scene. You know, I don’t know that
I really have one. I suppose my least favorite scene that actually
appeared on camera would be the hunting scene where Robert is boar hunting ’cause there
was like a Robert and Renly and Barristan were tromping through the woods alone and
I talked to Dan and David and said, “You know? There should be like, a hundred other guys
and horses and tents.” [laughter] And when the king goes hunting it’s not like,
“OK, I walking through the woods with a spear here.” [laughter] And they don’t disagree with that. I mean,
they said, “Yeah, we would’ve liked all that stuff too, but once again, it’s budget. We
had an hour to shoot that scene and our horse budget was exhausted for the season.” [laughter] So, there you are. So, the reality is–. I
mean, the great thing about writing books, as I do now, is that my budget is unlimited.
I can write anything that I can think of and I’m limited only by the size of my imagination,
and by the size of the imagination of my readers. [clears throat]
But when you translate it to television and film, you have the realities, not only of
the budget, which I had mentioned, but also the shooting schedule. You have to keep on
schedule and if have a lot of trouble getting a scene you were supposed to shoot in the
morning, they give you less time to shoot the scene in the afternoon. But you can’t slop over to the next day or
you start getting a rolling effect and you fall further and further behind your shooting
schedule. And then, you’re more and more over-budget and it becomes a mess. So, all of that impacts,
too. And this is all the kind of “behind the scenes” technical stuff that really the viewers
should not have to worry about. It’s the viewers should really just have to
view the final product. But, nonetheless, for those of us concerned with behind the
scenes stuff, it’s a reality of life. The actual thing–. I mean, for the most part
I loved all the scenes that were in the books that they translated to the TV show. I think they did all of those great. I also
loved the vast majority of the new scenes that they did. If I have any quibbles with
the show, and they are quibbles, a very minor thing, it was the missing scenes, the scenes
that weren’t there at all. As I watched the show, frequently I would
find myself thinking, “Oh, OK. Now they’re getting up to this scene that’s really good.
I can’t–. Oh. They didn’t have that scene.” [laughter] They skipped over that scene. And some of
them were scenes that I had seen the actors do in auditions. They had been scenes that
had actually helped the actors get their roles. So I really expected them, ’cause I already
knew, “Oh, the actor will do this great. I already saw him do it in audition, sitting
in a room in front of a curtain and now I’m gonna get to see him do it in costume on the
set.” And then, oh. It’s not there. [laughter] So, I would’ve loved to have two more hours
to have a 12 episode season instead of ten. And of course to have an extra 50 million
dollars. [laughter] But who of us wouldn’t want an extra 50 million
dollars?>>Dan: They did do a great job. As a fan,
when you’re only complaint is that Syrio has hair and one guy looks like Orlando Bloom,
you’re doing really good. [laughter]>>George Martin: We get a fair amount of people
who are upset about no purple eyes, too. I get “Why aren’t their eyes purple?” Well,
try wearing purple contacts and see how you’d like it.>>Male Presenter: So Dan, we have some Googler
questions that were collected through Google Moderator and we’ll kick off with one of these
right now. This one’s from Peter in San Francisco. He writes, “The sex, nudity, violence, and
gore in the HBO series–so, continuing with our previous question–has been very much
like the books. It preserved a similar feel. Could you please
discuss the creative process around the inclusion of this mature content? Was there any pressure
to tone it up or down?”>>George Martin: Well Chris, there was no
pressure on me ’cause I’m hardly involved. I mean, I am basically a consultant who writes
one episode per season. And so, whether there was pressure on Dan and Dave to go one way
or another, I really don’t know. If so, they didn’t share it with me. We did make some decisions early on that we
wanted to include that material and the biggest one is where we took the show. When Dan and
Dave and I decided that we would do this project together and I attached them, we discussed
this at some length and said, “We have to go.” HBO was our first choice and pretty much our
only choice. If HBO had said no, or they weren’t interested, yeah, we could’ve gone to another
couple other cable outlets, but I think we were all agreed right from the beginning that
we weren’t gonna go to traditional networks, ABC or CBS or NBC, or any of those, simply
because they would’ve made us remove all of that material. Everything would have been gone and much toned
down violence, no sex whatsoever, just sort of a few hints of sex, and certainly no inappropriate
sex. [laughter] And a fantasy series, they would have slotted
us as an 8 o’clock show. I mean, I’ve been through this in my Hollywood years. I worked
ten years in Hollywood from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s and I worked on a couple shows,
Twilight Zone, the Twilight Zone revival and Beauty and the Beast. Both of which were 8 o’clock shows, despite
the fact, on both shows, we kept saying, “We don’t wanna be an 8 o’clock show. We wanna
be like a 9 o’clock or a 10 o’clock show because the standards and practices–the censorship
things–are a little looser there. And you could do a little more material.” And you know the network guys would promise
us, “Well, we know that. We really think of you as an adult show, not a kiddie show, but
we have no room on the schedule, so we’ll put you as an 8 o’clock show, but we’ll treat
you as a 9 o’clock show.” And then we would be put as an 8 o’clock show
and those guys, who were the programming guys, would suddenly no longer be around and instead,
we’d be dealing with standards and practices guys, who were censors who would say, “I don’t
care what programming told you. You’re an 8 o’clock show. And these are our 8 o’clock
standards.” So, we made a decision right away, we’re gonna
go with HBO. HBO has that kind of stuff whether it’s a 7 o’clock show, an 8 o’clock show,
5:30 show, they don’t care. [laughter] You’re signing up for HBO. You’re paying a
subscription. You know what you’re getting and what you’re getting is something you can’t
get on the over-the-air networks. So that’s part of it. And then the other big decision we have to
make to keep all that material was the ages of the characters. In the books, Dany is 13
years old when all this begins. And I was drawing, although my books have fantasy, they’re
not historical fiction in a strict sense. They occur in an imaginary world and in imaginary
kingdoms. They’re very heavily based on real medieval history. And of course, I’ve done
a ton of research on real medieval history. And basically in the Middle Ages, they did
not have our concept of adolescence, of this teenage year, in-between, where they’re adults
but they’re not adults and we have different ages where we’re allowed to vote at this age
and we’re allowed to go war and die at a different age and we’re allowed to drink at another
age and have sex at a different age, depending on which state we’re in. [laughter] All of that stuff. They had child and adult.
And the difference between them was the onset of sexual maturity. And we still have, in
our cultures, remnants of this older structure in our ceremonies, the Jewish bar mitzvah,
the Catholic confirmation ceremony, which I went through it at 13, reaffirming as an
adult the vows made for me , made by my God parents at baptism. The Catholics once considered 13 adulthood.
And I promise you that even when I went through my confirmation ceremony, my parents no longer
did not consider me an adult even after I went through the rite of passage. So, these
things are just remnants now, but they weren’t remnants in the Middle Ages and they’re not
in the books. We have a very different way of looking at
things. So, I was using that based on historical precedent. But there was no way that was gonna
fly in our present environment. We couldn’t do that. If we had cast a 13-year old Dany
, there could have been no sexual stuff whatsoever with her. And even if we had cast like a 17-year old
actress playing a 13-year old, there are some very stringent laws in like, the United Kingdom.
You can’t do that even if you have an actress whose past the age of consent playing someone
who is under the age of consent. You cannot have a sexual situation. It goes
against the whole child pornography thing and stuff like that. So, we have a 22-year
old actress playing a 17-year old Dany, instead of a 17-year old actress playing a 13-year
old Dany. And we did that deliberately so we could include this material. So, I think that speaks to the fact that we
did think it was necessary to the story we wanted to tell and all that. Of course, once
you make that change, you have to make all of the other changes and you have to age up
the other characters because Dany’s birth ties to the–. You know she was born posthumously, nine months
after the Battle of the Triton and the fall of King’s Landing and so the ages of the other
characters has to be adjusted accordingly and it becomes a whole, once again, the butterfly
effect. And so, the whole thing is a tapestry and you can’t just change one string without
the whole thing unraveling. So, Dan and David made this whole series of
changes. But a long answer to a short question, I guess.
[audience chuckles]>>Dan: Good answer, there. So, I know you’ve
got the prequel novellas out there, but DNJ Sid and Lisa in San Diego asks, “Would you
ever consider writing a prequel to the Song of Ice and Fire series once it’s finally done,
such as the back story of Lyanna and Rhaegar , or Ned and Robert? I’d love to see how it
all started.” And by the way, when you’re answering the
questions, feel free to correct the pronunciation. It’s happened a few times.>>George Martin: OK. I don’t have any plans
to do any of those stories, but I never rule anything out. If I get an inspiration or one
of those stories suddenly takes hold in my imagination and won’t let go, sure. Maybe I’ll do something like that. One of
the things I’ve been trying to do with the series is to tell these stories. Tell the
stories of Robert’s rebellion and some of the stories of the history of Westeros in
successive revelations and flashbacks and people remembering things. So, at the same time the story is moving forward,
it’s also moving backward and gaps are being filled in and you’re learning. You hear about
this event in the first book and hear a little more about it in the second book. And then
the third book, you heard about it from a different person who has a very different
version of what happened from the previous versions you’ve heard. And there’s this hole in it which gets filled
in the fourth book. So, I hope by the time it’s all finished, I will have expanded backwards
as well as going on forwards. And many of the gaps will have been filled in and you’ll
know more about the whole Robert and Rhaegar and everything like that. But it’s not quite the same as telling the
story about them, I realize. I still have two more gigantic books to write, though.
So,– [laughter]>>Dan: And six years to finish them.>>George Martin: Right. Yes. I’m very fast,
so– [laughter] I don’t know what I’m gonna write after that.
Whatever seizes me. I mean, I like to do different things as a writer. This has been a huge project.
Certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life or career, but I’ve done other
things and hope to continue to do other things. As much as I love Ice and Fire and fantasy,
I also love science fiction. I wanna do more science fiction work. I wanna do more short
stories. I love doing those. Wild Cards, which is a series I’ve been working on even longer
than Ice and Fire. I’ve been, in the beginning of Wild Cards, I wrote a lot for it as well
as editing it. Now the series is still ongoing. Mostly I
edit these days ’cause I don’t have time to write for it. But I’d love to go back and
write some more Wild Card material, about some of the characters for that. So, what
will I feel like writing after those six years are done? Who knows? Whatever I feel like writing on that particular
day. There was someone at the podium I think who had another–.>>Female Shirt Designer: Hi. So, we have another
question. It is, “Given HBO’s history of completely changing story lines–I’m looking at you,
True Blood–how did you get them to stay so true to your complex-as-all-hell novels?”>>George Martin: Candy and chocolates. [laughter] You know, it’s David and Dan really. David
Benioff and Dan Weiss are the show runners. I don’t have any veto power. I signed a pretty
standard contract where I gave them rights to adapt this into a television series and
I got certain titles and agreed I’d write one script a year and a large dump truck full
of money. [laughter] And they can have the aliens come down next
season. [ audience chuckles] They can turn the whole cast into vampires. [laughter] And I’m powerless to stop them, but I don’t
think they will do that. They love the books and they seem committed to telling my story
in a different medium. And I knew all that before I signed any of the contracts. I mean, when these books started hitting the
New York Times Bestseller List, which was as early as “A Clash of Kings” I was approached
by other people who wanted to adapt them, many for feature films. And I had meetings
with those people and heard their plans. How were they gonna fit this giant thing into
feature film? “Well, we’re gonna make it all about John Snow and drop all these other characters.”
Or, “We’ll make it all about Dany and we’ll drop all these other characters.” They had
various schemes of how they would do it. Or, “Well, we’ll just make the first book
up to this point and then we hope that the movie will do well enough to order a second
movie.” And none of these really appealed to me. So, I said no, which is–. It’s always
said that no is the sexiest word you can say in Hollywood. The more you say no, the more
they want you and– [laughter] I guess it was true ’cause they kept coming.
And eventually, David and Dan came and we had a wonderful meeting that lasted like most
of a day. We met for lunch and we were talking and getting all animated about how we were
gonna do the series over lunch in a crowded restaurant in Los Angeles. And little by little, it emptied out and pretty
soon we were the only people there drinking our seventh cup of coffee and iced tea and
still talking about it. And then, more hours passed and we’re still talking and the restaurant
dinner crowd is coming in and then they’re setting up for dinner. I think we closed out the restaurant that
night. So, it was one of those classic meetings that you only get once in a while. But I had
a great feeling about them. I mean, if you’re J. K. Rowling, you can go into a situation
where every studio in Hollywood wants you and you can set very stringent terms where
you get to approve everything. But if you’re not J. K. Rowling, and virtually
nobody is J. K. Rowling, except for J. K. Rowling, then you can’t do that. And you have
to find people that you trust and put your faith in them and in the understanding of
the story. Which is something that I think I also understood a fair amount of that because
of my ten years working in Hollywood in the effect that I had seen the other side of the
process. Sometimes, I think some of my fellow novelists
who have not worked in television and film are very naive about this process. They get
an offer and there’s the dump truck full of money and they sign it, they cash the check
and then they’re not involved in the series. They may get invited to premiere and they
come out of the premiere looking like all of their children have just been gassed [audience
chuckles] and with a stunned look on their face ’cause everything has been changed. And
it’s, some of them get very upset and start writing angry editorials and things like that. I haven’t heard of anyone except Alan Moore
actually returning the check however. So, I think there’s a certain, I don’t know, hypocrisy
there. It’s not a secret that Hollywood does change things and maybe they change too many
things. When I had my writer hat off and I put on
my reader and my fan boy hat, I get upset as anyone and I can go on for a long time
about how they change things in Spiderman and the Fantastic Four in ways that I don’t
approve of. [laughter] But nonetheless, you gotta know the job is
dangerous when you take it, you know?>>Dan: Good. This one’s for the nerds. So,
DanFoley182 in the UK asks, “Is it possible to warg into a dragon?” [George Martin laughs]>>George Martin: Well, we’ll have to see about
that, won’t we? [laughter]>>Dan: Fusion, also from England, asks, “How
do you decide the characters that get to be a POV character? I read somewhere you resisted
adding a character as a POV for a while until finally giving in. And so, I wondered the
kind of decisions you have to make in that regard. Are there certain traits that a POV
character needs, or do they just need to be surviving?” [laughter]>>George Martin: Well, I try to give each
of my POV characters a story. And I had an occasional POV character who only lasted a
chapter and then dies. So, in that case, it’s a very short story. [laughter] But it’s nonetheless a story. It should have
the semblance of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even if it’s not connected to the
main story of the books, it should have a certain “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are
Dead” sort of thing. I mean, that was their story, which was off to the side of Hamlet’s
story, but both part of the larger story. I try to resist having POV characters who
are just there to be a pair of eyes. If a battle is taking place, or someone is being
murdered and I don’t have a POV character there to see it, I tend to present that as
a report that someone receives or a rumor, rather than just switching into third guardsman
on the left– [laughter] so I can have him see that. ‘Cause I don’t
like that as a reader and I don’t like that as a writer. But one of the criteria–. So,
I guess one criteria is do they have a story and what is the story of the POV character?
Another thing though is the thing of a pair of eyes. And sometimes you need–. The question is, is it important to present
this thing on stage to dramatize it and have the reader actually go through it, or is it
sufficient that we just hear about it, hear a summary? Do you need full dramatization,
or is summary narrative sufficient? And if we need the scene to be brought out then we
may need a POV character there. And can I get any of my existing POV characters
there? I mean, I’ve talked–. Those of you who read my not-a-blog will know that with
Dance With Dragons, one of the things that I’ve wrestled with for a long time was what
I call the Meereenese Knot, which I can’t go into in any great detail without the spoiling
of tremendous things, but five years from now, maybe if the next book is out or something
and everybody has read this book, I will talk more about that in more detail. But a lot of it simply had to do with a number
of POV characters being together and some important events coming on, which some of
them would see from one viewpoint and some from another and some wouldn’t really know
what was going on. So, how do I get these particular sequence of events to cross with
what point of view? And I would write something from one point
of view and it wouldn’t quite work, so I’d write it from a different point of view and
that wouldn’t work either and I’d try splitting it. I finally solved that problem in part
by introducing a new point of view, who was much more centrally located, but he’d been
a character who’d been there all along and he was deeply involved in the thing. And it all fell into place once I introduced
that. So, you can have that kind of breakthrough. But I do need to kill a lot more of my point
of view characters– [laughter] because there have gotten to be an awful lot
of them.>>FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: Who?
[laughter]>>George Martin: So, which ones will die?
Well, you’ll just have to keep reading to find it out.>>Dan: And I think the character you’re
referring to is the one who was asked about.>>George Martin: OK. Next.>>Dan: Another Googler question.>>MALE #1: OK, so this question is asking
if you could take back one thing you wrote in any of your books, what would it be?>>George Martin: One thing I wrote in any
of my books? Well, I would take back the little one-page thing at the end of Feast for Crows
where I say that the next book will be out within a year. [laughter and clapping] That one has gotten me into no end of trouble.
All I could say is I meant it at the time. I mean, I was splitting off 500 pages from
a 1500 page manuscript, so I only had to write another 500 pages. I can write 500 pages in
a year. I’ve done it before. Of course, the book tended, turned out to
need an extra thousand pages, not 500 pages, and I would up rewriting almost all of the
500 pages that I was pulling out. So, I turned out to be a lot more than 500 pages. And even
that being said, yeah I can write 500 pages in a year. In a good year. I’ve had good years in which
I’ve written entire 500-page novels start to finish. But that’s not to say I could do
it every year, regular as clockwork. I am, unfortunately, a slow writer and have always
been a slow writer. But I’m a slow writer given to delusions of
optimism that I can be a faster writer [chuckles] under certain circumstances. Sometimes I am,
but more often I’m not.>>Dan: Great. So, we had a whole bunch of
questions around this, so we had to pick one of the most popular ones and go with it. BTFabian1
asks, “I’m just curious. Several authors I read have discussed how hard it is to sometimes
kill off certain characters.” Which clearly is not an issue here. “You’ve
certainly killed plenty off in your career, both in and out of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Which character was the toughest to kill off?”>>George Martin: Well, I won’t mention any
character names, but the Red Wedding was the hardest thing I ever wrote. And those who
read the books know what I’m referring to. That chapter occurs about two-thirds of the
way through Storm of Swords, but it was actually the last thing I wrote for that book. When I reached that chapter, I couldn’t
write it. I skipped over it. I wrote all the aftermath and the other things. I wrote the
other wedding. There was someone else that dies. That one was easy and fun to write. [laughter and clapping] ‘Cause everybody wanted to see that little
shit die. [laughter] Actually, I’m being glib. I should say, yeah,
that was an easier chapter to write. But even at the moment that that particular little
shit does die, I tried to write it so that you would feel a moment of empathy for him
in his dying and bring home the point that this, too, was a human being who was scared
and terrified and then dead. [laughter] But only after everything else was finished,
did I go back and force myself to write the actual Red Wedding chapter, simply because
it was so painful to write. I invest a lot in these characters and particularly viewpoint
characters. I live inside their skin, so it’s a little like killing a part of yourself or
smothering one of your children. But sometimes it has to be done for the service
of the almighty god of the story. [laughter] And the story always comes first.>>Dan: And related to that, do you ever find
that it would’ve been more expedient had you not killed a character off later on?>>George Martin: No. Not really. Not really.
Sometimes my readers write me and they wish I hadn’t killed off a particular character,
but there was a reason for all of the major character deaths. I mean, a lot of minor characters die, too.
And sometimes, I don’t even remember they’re dead, you know? [laughter] I’m saying some Night’s Watch expedition leaves
out and it has Fred, Bill, and Sam on it. And Elio of Westeros points out “you actually
killed Bill two books ago.” Oh, damn. I forgot about that. [laughter] He died in a fenz attack, but fortunately
I have fans who have sharper eyes than I who will point out this stuff. But the major character
deaths have all been planned or all a part of the story and I don’t regret them.>>Dan: Hopefully this means Syrio will pop
back up again. Can we have another Googler question?>>Female Shirt Designer: OK, so this next
question is, “In your books, there are several religious systems, such as The Seven, The
Drowned God, The Faceless Man, The Old Gods, etc. How do you come up with such a detailed,
yet entirely distinct, doctrines? Are there any that aren’t detailed in the books?>>George Martin: Well, yes. To start with
the last part first, yes, there are many religions that are not detailed. You can see some of
them in Arya’s Brava’s chapters, where she visits–, passes through the Islands of Gods
and I throw in references to 17 different obscure religions that I’m probably never
gonna reveal in much detail. But some of them are, of course, little tips
of the hats to other fantasy authors and mythos’ that I admire. I mean, there is both a Roger
Zelazny homage and a H. P. Lovecraft homage on that Isle of the Gods for those who are
sharp enough to see them. I do that kind of shit all the time. [laughter] The Three Stooges are in Book One if you’re
sharp enough to find them. [chuckles] The major religions that actually play a significant
role in the story are somewhat based on real religions, or real religious systems. Although, I don’t believe in just doing a
one to one transformation where I’m gonna take like, Islam and file off the serial numbers
and call it Mislam or something. [laughter] And pretend it’s the same. I take certain
tenants of the religions, but I maybe take part of this and part of that and I meld them
together and I think about it and I add a few imaginative elements. But certainly, the Old Guards of the North
with the trees worship, I mean, that’s based on animism and traditional Pagan beliefs of
Wicca and various other Celtic systems and Norse systems. I meld it into a construct
of my own. And with the fantasy element of the Weirwood trees added as a central element
there, the faith of The Seven is very loosely modeled on the medieval Catholic Church. But again, with different elements. I mean,
of course the Catholic Church, which I was–. I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, but that
was how I was born and raised, has the whole concept. The heart of the Trinity, which was
explained to me as it’s three but it’s also one, which kids can never get. It’s like, “OK, we have three gods.” “No,
no. You don’t have three gods. You have one God. He has three parts.” “OK.” So, we don’t
have three. We just have one. It’s like the shamrock that was held. The three-leaf clover.
So, I did that except I made it seven instead of three. I have the whole where we have the seven gods,
we have seven personas, instead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We have Maiden, Mother,
and Crone, which of course I took from Paganism as the traditional female thing. I hobbled
the male side together and then I added The Stranger as the God of Death, who’s also the
center of the Cult of The Faceless Men. I mean, I think worship of death is an interesting
basis for religion because after all, death is the one universal. It doesn’t seem to matter
what gods you pray to. We all die in the real world and in fantasy worlds. So, if there
was one culture where you did not die, I suspect that would be, that God would become very
popular. [laughter] They will promise us eternal life, but whatever.
[audience chuckles] So my faith with its hierarchies, its High Septon, and its Septs and its orders
of essentially monks and priests and so forth is loosely based on Catholicism. And then
you have the Red God, the Lord of Light from across the sea, which has a certain Zoroastrianism
elements to it with the fire worship and so forth and the duality . The Albigensian Crusade, -the Cathars, who
are exterminated by the Catholics and the Great Albigensian Crusade. But they had the
fundamental belief, a dualist religion, that there were two gods, a good god and an evil
god. And the world we live in was created by the evil god, which when you look at the
world, particularly the Medieval world, it’s kinda persuasive. If, you know, what kind of good god would
create that kind of crap, you know? What kind of good god sits around saying, “Hmm, leprosy.
Good idea.” [laughter] “Let’s give them leprosy. Hmmm.” So, the Lord
of Light. So, all the religions are based–. This is my general philosophy, I think, for
fantasy is base it in reality, but then get a little imaginative to it and rework the
elements and put this with that and add your own touch to it. And, but the grounding it in reality, I think,
give it a certain verisimilitude, plausibility where just entirely made-up religions that
are unconnected to anything, it’s much more difficult to make them plausible.>>Dan: OK. Amon Shin in Maine asks, “If you
lived in Westeros, which house would you like to be part of, or in which area would you
like to live?”>>George Martin: Well, you know, there’s something
to be said for being an honorable Stark, but you’re kinda cold all the time and– [laughter] poor and so forth. And you have a lot of land,
but there’s not a lot of stuff on it, you know? On the other hand, if you’re in Lannister,
you have a nice house and all the gold you want and all of that stuff. So, there’s a lot to be said for being a Lannister.
I don’t know. Maybe I could probably see me being a Lannister. [laughter] And I would always pay my debts. [laughter]>>Dan: Great. Let’s take another Googler question.>>MALE #1: OK, so this question asks, “How
do you keep all the secrets of the book-to-come to yourself? Are you dying to tell people
what you know, or do a few people already know everything?” [laughter]>>George Martin: I’m not dying to tell everyone
what I know. Eventually, I will have to yield up on my secrets. But actually, if anything,
maybe I hold on to some of these things too long. I don’t know. There’s always the question,
“When do you reveal something? How long do you draw it out?” And the books are full of little puzzles and
enigmas and reversals and how do you place those? You don’t want to give it away too
soon, but if you stretch it out too long, everybody’s gonna guess it anyway. So, at
what point is that? But, I kind of like having the puzzles and you need to keep at least
some of the puzzles till the end. So, but then again, you can’t keep them all
to the end, otherwise you end with a final chapter that’s just one guy endlessly talking
about “well there’s this, and then there’s this and the explanation to this is this.” [laughter] It’s a very boring and not very good chapter.
So, David and Dan know a few things, a few important revelations. So, eventually if I
am hit by a truck or something like that, they would know a few things, but they don’t
know all by any means. And my editors know a few things and have guessed a few things. I suspect that some of the fans probably know
more than anything else. I mean, I’m gonna be doing the concordance. The Ice and Fire
concordance is the next project in the World of Ice and Fire, which is under contract at
Bantam and Random House. And I’m doing that with Elio Garcia and Linda
Antonsson of the Westeros site. And I swear they know Westeros better than I do. I mean,
the Elio’s knowledge of it is just absolutely amazing. When I’m writing the books, I sometimes call
him up and say, “I’m about to introduce this character. I think I mentioned him in Book
Three. Did I ever say what color his eyes are?” And within a half hour, I get “blue-grey,
page 314, second book.” [laughter] Oh, Very good. [chuckles]>>Dan: Great.>>George Martin: I hate eye colors. Everybody
should have the same color eyes. I’m constantly getting screwed up on eye colors. [laughter]>>Dan: Just make them all purple.>>George Martin: Yeah. [chuckles]>>Dan: So, we probably have time for one more
question. And I think the next one’s such a good one we should probably use a Googler
one.>>Female Shirt Designer: The question is,
“The women in leadership roles seem particularly challenged. Can you share your insights about
women in positions of power?”>>George Martin: I don’t know if I have any
particular views about women in positions of power. Although, I think it’s more difficult
for women, particularly in a medieval setting, than for men because in addition to all the
usual problems of having power, they have the additional problem of that they’re a woman
and a lot of people don’t want them in a position of power in what is basically a patriarchal
society. So, that is a challenge to all of my queens
or would-be queens. And once again, I’m drawing from medieval history on that. You can repeatedly
see some of the women who assume positions of power, be it Cleopatra in Ancient Egypt,
or the Empress Maude during the great English Civil War, the war between Steven and Maude,
who was essentially rejected simply because she was a woman. And even though her claim to the throne was
very clear cut and was endorsed by her father, the King, and yet they turned to a cousin
instead simply because he had a dick. [laughter] Well, to be fair he was also charming and
she was sort of difficult. But nonetheless, there is that additional challenge. But one
thing that I’m trying to get at in the books–a political aspect if you would–is to show
that this stuff is hard. I mean, I think an awful lot of fantasy and even some great fantasy
falls into the mistake of assuming that the good man will be a good king. That is, all that is necessary is to be like
a decent human being and then when you’re king, of course, everything will go swimmingly.
And even Tolkien, who is the, I think, my respect for Tolkien is second to none and
all modern fantasy flows from Tolkien, but there’s an unspoken assumption in his books
there that Return of the King. Aragorn is the king now. Everything will be
hunky dory. The land will prosper and it’ll be wonderful and the crops will be good and
there will be justice for all and the enemies will be defeated. And you never actually get
into the nitty gritty of Aragorn ruling. And what is his tax policy? [laughter] And how does he feel about crop rotation? [laughter] How does he handle land disputes between two
nobles, both of whom think that they should have this particular village? So, they take
turns burning it down in order to establish this claim that–. These are the hard parts of ruling and be
it in the Middle Ages or now, and of course, it’s not enough to be a good man to be an
effective ruler. And it never has been. If it has been, Jimmy Carter would be the greatest
President of the 20th Century. I mean, he’s clearly, I think, the best human being to
be President in my lifetime. But he not a particularly effective president.
For all his decency and his humanity and his compassion and his undoubted intelligence.
I mean, the man was a nuclear engineer in the Navy. But nonetheless, he failed at it.
And there are some examples of medieval kings in history who were terrible human beings,
but they were nonetheless very good kings for their country. So, it’s complicated and it’s hard. And I
want to show not just with the women, but you see in my books repeated examples of both
kings and the hand of the king, the Prime Minister if you would, trying to rule. And
whether it be Ned Stark or Tyrion Lannister or Tywin Lannister or Daenerys Targaryen,
in the latest book, Cersei Lannister in the book before that. And trying to deal with some of the real challenges
that affect anyone trying to rule the Seven Kingdoms or even the city like Meereen. And
it’s hard. We can all read these books or look at history as, “Oh, so and so was stupid.
They made a lot of mistakes. Look at all these stupid mistakes they make.” But these kinds of mistakes are always much
more apparent in hindsight than when you’re actually faced with the decision of “My God,
what would I do in this situation? How do I resolve the thing? Do I do the moral thing?
But what about the political consequences of the moral thing? Do I do the pragmatic,
cynical thing and just screw the people who are screwed by it?” I mean, it’s hard. And I wanna get to all
of that and be it a male ruler or a woman’s ruler.>>Dan: So everyone. That brings us to about
time. Thanks everyone in the room for coming along. Thanks for submitting your great questions.
Thanks everyone on the stream for tuning in. And George, thank you so much for taking the
time out to come in, answer the questions and–.>>George Martin: It’s my pleasure. It’s been
a thrill to be here and to take place in this high-tech computer things. I think you should
bring some of these strange machines of yours to Westeros so they could probably entirely
replace the whole thing of tying messages to the legs of ravens. [laughter]>>Dan: Great. Thanks, George.>>George Martin: Thanks. [applause] [upbeat music plays]

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