Currently George R.R. Martin is busy writing the sixth volume of the series, which will be called The Winds of Winter. "I've already written 400 pages of my sixth book and I really look forward to publishing it in 2014, but I am really bad for predictions.” Furthermore, the prestigious American Cable Television HBO is preparing what will be the third season of the television series, where Martin, as usual, is the writer of one of the chapters, called 'Autumn Storms'.
Adria's News converses with the author of the moment at the Celsius 232 Festival of Avilés and discovers a close and ironic George R.R. Martin that talks with great enthusiasm about the story and the characters that have made him touch the sky. And yes, Tyrion Lannister is his favorite character.
When I get into the room where we arranged the meeting I find an old man with a cap, suspenders, goggles and a lush white beard. He is sitting in an armchair in which he holds as it was the imposing Iron Throne and next to him there is a wooden table with a drink. I get a little bit disappointed when I see is neither Arbor Gold nor Hydromel, but a Diet Coke. He greets me kindly and we cross a few words before the interview. He looks affable and cordial. Eventually I realize that he is also ironic and close. He seems delighted when he talks about his work, but it’s clear he sometimes get tired of answering several usual questions. However, he thanks unusual questions and he use to refer to a lot of historical facts. He alternates large and intricate sentences with long pauses and phrases left in the air. But he controls much what he says in order not to reveal any unresolved clue he had left in the books. Nonetheless, he doesn’t bite his tongue to say flatly that "no one is safe in the books."
Good evening Mr. Martin.
I’ll try to do the entire interview in English so excuse me for my dornish accent...
It’s O.K. [Laughs].
I think in Spain you are like a kind of a rock star. Thousands of people are waiting for you everywhere. Bruce Springsteen must be jealous of you...
[Laughs] I don’t know. My wife is currently in Dublin and she just saw Bruce last night. I think he’s got his fans too.
Mr. Martin, you always wear glasses, a cap, the suspenders, and that white beard. These are your symbols. Is that for any particular reason?
[Laughs] No! But I’ve always liked hats… I have a lot of hats but when I travel I tend to go with these greek-seller caps because they have nothing in the back so… For the airplane seats, if I go back with a cowboy hat or anything with a broom in the back, I would have to take it off to put under the cabin. But at home I wear different kind of hats. However, now I’ve become so indentified with this cap. If I take it off, nobody would recognize me. [He takes off the cap and shows it to me]. You would never have known me. Who am I? [Laughs]. And the same with the glasses. If I take them off… Wow, superman! [Laughs].
Why did you decide to include the double ‘r’ for your artistic name?
Well, the first ‘r’ is for my father’s name, Raymond, and the second is for Richy, a name which came with the confirmation. And yes, before you ask me, I was grown up as a practicing Catholic, although I haven’t been practicing for a long time. In addition, I wanted the double ‘r’ in my artistic name because George Martin is a very common name and there are some famous George Martin, indeed, so I decided to put the double ‘r’ in order to be distinct from the other people.
It’s suspicious… Tolkien was also R.R. Tolkien…
[Laughs] I read Tolkien when I was twelve or so and he impressed me a lot so I don’t get tired of rereading it. In fact, I planned to send a letter to Mr. Tolkien when I was a child, but I finally didn’t, thing for which I am a little bit annoyed, more after getting noticed that Tolkien use to read almost every letter he received. But Tolkien wasn’t a direct influence to me when I decided to write A Song of Ice and Fire although my books are in the fantasy canon that Tolkien improved. I mean, fantasy is very ancient. We can find it in the Iliad or in the Gilgamesh Poem, but Tolkien turned it into a modern genre, and A Song of Ice and Fire shares some of these patterns but not all of them. For example, I pretend to offer a dirty fantasy, more raw than Tolkien’s.
GAME OF THRONES, A MODERN CLASSIC: “Tolkien wasn’t a direct influence when I decided to write A Song of Ice and Fire”
|Photo: Adrià Guxens|
Let’s talk about your saga, then. A Song of Ice and Fire is a phenomenon that spans a lot of generations. I wasn’t born yet when you first came up which the idea and now I admire your work, like some many others.
Yes, I know I write very slowly… [Laughs].
Then, how can you keep interested so many people having such a wide range of ages to please?
Well, I think a good story is timeless and I see it in my books signings; I see a great mix of people coming from everywhere to get my books signed: old people, young people... I have kids as young as ten or eleven, which are too young in my point of view. But, however, they are there, buying the books and getting them signed. And I see white people and black people, a lot of women, probably even more women than men, like 55%-45% more or less... So I am very gratified to have an audience that reaches across generation, gender and racial lines.
You are acclaimed to use the point of view technique with mastery. Talk me a little bit about this method.
I’m a strong believer in telling stories through a limited but very tight third person point of view. I have used other techniques during my career, like the first person or the omniscient view point, but I actually hate the omniscient viewpoint. None of us have an omniscient viewpoint; we are alone in the universe. We hear what we can hear… we are very limited. If a plane crashes behind you I would see it but you wouldn’t. That’s the way we perceive the world and I want to put my readers in the head of my characters.
But you have a lot of characters…
Yes, in the case of A Song of Ice and Fire I have an epic story; is as huge as the story of World War Two. If I wrote about it, what viewpoint would I chose? I could choose the viewpoint of a young American soldier who is sent to Germany, but then, of course, I wouldn’t know what is happening in the Pacific or in the circles of power… So I would also choose Churchill point of view but then I only would give information of one side, so I would have to choose Hitler point of view too and then I certainly would feel so strange.
When we go to the head of your characters we can see what they think and we do not have the perception there are just good or just bad…
No. My characters are not black or white, like the traditional fantasy cliché. I don’t have the typical white side, with very good people, and the bad side, composed by ugly and evil people who only wear black clothes. I’ve been always very impressed by Homer and his Iliad, especially the scene of the fight between Achilles and Hector. Who is the hero and who is the villain? That’s the power of the story and I wanted something similar to my books. The hero of one side is the villain of the other side.
Do you use to write the story chronologically?
I do not write the chapters in the order you read them. Each of the point of view characters has its own voice and vocabulary. It’s difficult for me to shift from one to another, so I use to write consecutively two, three or four chapters of the same character. Then, I stop because I have gone too far or because I don’t know what will happen next. For me, changing from a Tyrion chapter to a Daenerys one, to put an example, is very exhausting. It demands a lot from me.
There are several expressions that you use to repeat a lot. Sentences such as “A Lannister always pays his debts” or “Dark wings, dark words” are often used in your novels. Why do you want to emphasize them so much?
It’s an interesting question… There are certain sentences, like “A Lannister always pays his debts”, which is not the official Lannister motto, that are repeated a lot. A lot of them are not the words of the Great Houses but there are just popular sayings; and some of my readers get annoyed for that, but I do it intentionally. I also like that Jaime remembers every day the sentence Tyrion said to him about Cersei, which is: “She’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know”. I have learned this technique from Stephen King and I like it very much.
Do you remember how you decided where to start the story? I mean, Game of Thrones begins, more or less, with Jon Arryn’s death. However, you had beforehand a lot of previous history built, such as Robert’s Rebellion...
[Laughs] I don’t really remember why I decided that point; it probably wasn’t a conscious decision. I mean, you are sitting down and you wait... the story just comes to you and you follow its needs. For me, the story started with the direwolves in the snow and that was the first chapter written; then I wrote the second and the prologue, which comes before all of that, was written later, so the first thing I actually wrote was that scene in the snow. Everything sets in motion from there.
Would you like to change anything of the first books?
Yes, I imagine…
Ahm... Wait... What would I like to change? Well, I might like to change the scene where Tyrion Lannister is first introduced; the scene where Tyrion jumps from the top of a gate; it isn’t possible. By then I had very few references about people of its condition and it was later when I came to know more extended details about his physical challenges. So that’s one of the things I would change.
From the fourth book you have been uncovering some chapters with nicknames, like ‘The Prophet’ or ‘The Kraken’s Daughter’. Why do you do that?
Well… [Thinks for a long time with an enigmatic smile] I don’t know if you know Gene Wolfe, one of the best science fiction and fantasy writers, in my opinion. Well, his work is full of puzzles and enigmas and you have to put a lot of attention on what he is saying. I remember one day I asked him: “Why do you use that? Is there a deeper reason beyond?” And he didn’t say anything at the beginning. He just smiled me ironically and said to me: “What do you think it means?” And I told him my theories. Then, he answered: “Interesting…” [Laughs]. That’s all you wanna get out of me, but I have to say this is not an accident [Laughs].
FORECASTING THE FUTURE: “I think the great majority of my readers would be happy with the ending”
|Photo: Adrià Guxens|
In both fourth and fifth books you divided the plot lines geographically. Why did you decide to do it?
My plan, at first, was to write the fourth and the fifth book together, with the action set five years later of the ending of the third book. However, this jump in time didn’t work with all the characters and I discarded all I had written to start again from zero. I started just five minutes after the end of Storm of Swords and as I saw I had a lot to tell to my readers, I decided to split the story; I decided to divide it geographically instead of chronologically because it would be better to keep the continuity of the action of several characters. I admit I had a lot of problems of coordination.
However, at the end of the fifth book the story of all the characters converge again. Will it keep joined in the sixth book or will you split the timeline again?
No. I want to reunite the plot lines again in the sixth book so, hopefully, they will come back together and you would be able to read about all the characters again.
Every title of A Song of Ice and Fire saga is composed by three words. Is it a reference to the fact that the dragon has three heads?
It is not, not really. You just wanna name in patterns, so people can tell that all the books are part of the same series. Initially, the series was planned to be a trilogy and my first three titles were A Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter... And I finally got A Dance with Dragons [Laughed]. I thought I’d never get that one sitting before me… And now I am on to the The Winds of Winter.
How many pages have you already written of The Winds of Winter?
I’ve already written 400 pages of my sixth book. However, of these 400 pages, only 200 are really finished because I still have to revise the other 200 pages, which are in a rough version and I still have to work on them a lot. But you have to keep in mind that the last book, Dance with Dragons, was 1.500 pages long and this one will be more or less the same extension, so I have a lot of work. I hope after this tour I can go back home in order to write as a possessed man. But the sixth volume won’t be released in 2012 or in 2013. I really look forward to publishing it in 2014, but I am really bad for predictions, you may know it. And then, there is another fact: when I finish this saga I will be judged for the quality of the books, not for the speed of my writing.
You have said several times A Song of Ice and Fire is based, in part, on The Wars of the Roses, in which the Lancasters, whose symbol was a red rose, as the Lannisters, fought against the York family, with a white rose as its emblem, like the Starks. Can we expect a similar ending for your saga?
You cannot count on that. The Lancasters and Yorks fought themselves to extinction until the Tudors came in. But the Tudors were really a new dynasty; they weren’t Lancasters. So...
Do you know, then, how will you end up the story?
Yes. For me, writing a book is like a long journey, and like any trip, I know the point where I start the journey and the point I wanna get to. I also know a little bit of the route, such as the main cities in which I wanna stop by, and even a few monuments I would like to visit. What I do not know is where I will eat the first night or which songs will be on the radio. I discover all that details while I am writing the book and that’s the reason why I go so slowly: because sometimes I have to go back to change certain things.
Your last book was first named A Time for Wolves...
Time or Wolves was an earlier title. But it will finally be named A Dream of Spring.
That’s the current title but first you thought the other title...
Yes, but it was just a working title. I decided I would use Dream of Spring.
Is that for any special reason? The other was too revealing?
No. It’s just I thing Dream of Spring is a better title.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire brushed away the Hugo Award in which your Storm of Swords was also a nominee. What do you thing about J.K. Rowling and her saga?
Well… [He changes his tone, into a lower one] I wish I have beaten her, what can I say! I would have liked to win that award and I don’t think Rowling cares much about it. And she didn’t send anyone to accept the award, which is certainly annoying. But she has done a great stuff for fantasy and many of my readers are people who started with Harry Potter; they’ve grown up and she got them to reading, she got them to fantasy. J.K. Rowling has grown up an entirely generation of children into the field and for that I applaud her.
Was Storm of Swords your favorite book?
It’s probably the strongest of the series to date, but on the other hand it’s sort of artificial to talk of that because I look at this as one book, not five, although it’s been published as five books. I try to give each book a sort of identity but it’s really one story, it’s A Song of Ice and Fire, just as The Lord of the Rings is The Lord of the Rings. Its division into three volumes, in the case of Tolkien, was purely artificial; the same is true of mine. To say Storm of Swords is the best is like to say: “I like these 20 chapters better than the rest of the book”. Well… maybe I do, but still, you have a book. Story, in this case, has to be judged a whole, beginning, middle and end. We’ll see when I get to the end what people think of that…
You know that the ending won’t please everyone, don’t you?
Of course I will disappoint some of my fans because they are making theories about who will finally take the throne: who would live, who would die… and they even imagine romantic pairings. But I have already experienced that phenomenon with Feast for Crows and again with Dance with Dragons, and repeating the words of Rick Nelson: “You can’t please anyone, so you’ve got to please yourself”. So I will write the two last books as good as I am capable of and I think the great majority of my readers would be happy with it. Trying to please everyone is a horrible mistake; I don’t say you should annoy your readers but art isn’t a democracy and should never be a democracy. It’s my story and those people who get annoyed should go out and write their own stories; the stories they wanna read.
Do you use to check the Internet forums in order to see the predictions made by your fans?
I am aware of the principal Internet forums about A Song of Ice and Fire and I really used to look at the American and English groups. Nowadays, the most important site is Westeros, but I started to feel uncomfortable and I thought it would be a better idea not to get to these sides. The fans use to come up with theories; lots of them are just speculative but some of them are in the right way. Before the Internet, one reader could guess the ending you wanna do for your novel, but the other 10.000 wouldn’t know anything and they would be surprised. However, now, those 10.000 people use the Internet and read the right theories. They say: “Oh God, the butler did it!”, to use an example of a mystery novel. Then, you think: “I have to change the ending! The maiden would be the criminal!” To my mind that way is a disaster because if you are doing well you work, the books are full of clues that point to the butler doing it and help you to figure up the butler did it, but if you change the ending to point the maiden, the clues make no sense anymore; they are wrong or are lies, and I am not a liar.
Have you ever change any of your ideas just because your fans got you?
I ultimately thought I don’t wanna change anything. What I have to remember is that if one person figures out the ending and 10.000 people read it, they will doubt and still, a 100.000 people won’t see the post on the Internet and they will be surprised. I have to say that for each correct theory on the Internet are at least 1.000 incorrect theories. People use to see shadows on the wall when there is nothing, but I am aware about that stuff. In fact, my wife Parris use to enter to those forums and apprises me if there is anything particularly important, but that’s it.
BEYOND THE STORY: “My intention is to play with the reader’s expectations”
|Photo: Anna Guxens|
You are an evil writer because you kill a lot of the main characters. How do you manage with that?
Well… I want my readers to be emotionally involved in what they read. I don’t like to read from the distance and I want them to be really involved, and if scary stuff is gonna happen; I want them to be scared. Beyond the way to do that I want to state that everybody can die. Mine is not a predictable book like so many others, where you know the hero is safe. No matter how much trouble the hero gets in, what odds he seems to be facing; he’s gonna come through, cause he... he is John Carter, he is the hero. That’s not the way in real life and I want to be realistic in my books, so no one is safe in the books. My goal as a writer has always been to create a strong fiction stories. I want my readers to remember my books and the great time they had while they were sitting in a comfortable armchair.
But who is the hero of A Song of Ice and Fire?
I don’t know. Anyone is the hero of its own story... and I have more than a dozen viewpoint characters, and they all are heroes...
Another curious thing of your books is that you give us a lot of hints through the Red God flames, the words of the Ghost of the High Heart or through the visions of the House of the Undying…
[Laughs] Well, are they spoilers? You have to look them very carefully to figure out what they mean. Not all of them mean what they seem to mean...
Surely the plot is very unpredictable despite all the prophecies you give to help us...
[Laughs] Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy... In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that.
So you always want to frustrate our expectations, am I right?
Yes, it was always my intention: to play with the reader’s expectations. Before I was a writer I was a voracious reader and I am still, and I have read many, many books with very predictable plots. As a reader, what I seek is a book that delights and surprises me. I want to not know what is gonna happen. For me, that’s the essence of storytelling and for this reason I want my readers to turn the pages with increasing fever: to know what happens next. There are a lot of expectations, mainly in the fantasy genre, which you have the hero and he is the chosen one, and he is always protected by his destiny. I didn’t want it for my books.
Why your saga is called A Song of Ice and Fire, because of the Wall and the dragons or is something more beyond that?
Oh! That’s the obvious thing but yes, there’s more. People say I was influenced by Robert Frost’s poem, and of course I was, I mean... Fire is love, fire is passion, fire is sexual ardor and all of these things. Ice is betrayal, ice is revenge, ice is… you know, that kind of cold inhumanity and all that stuff is being played out in the books.
Which is your favorite character?
Do you remember when he came to your mind?
Well… In 1981 I wrote a novel with Lisa Tuttle called Windhaven. In fact, we wrote three different short stories with the same main character, Maris, and once we had them written we decided to put them all into one book with three different parts. So while we were writing the books we thought about a dwarf who would have been the Lord of one of the islands. He had to be the ugliest person in the world but the most intelligent too. I kept that idea in my mind and it reappeared to me when I was starting to write Game of Thrones. So…That’s Tyrion Lannister.
So you kill people, you like Tyrion... You are clearly a Lannister.
[Laughs] Who knows... I am member of all houses.
In fact, this morning you wore a Greyjoy T-shirt, so…
[Laughs] I have a shifting alliance. I mean, when I write about one character, I am with that character. I have a dozen viewpoint characters and I become all of them in turn.
Talk me a little bit about female characters, because they are very diverse... Lady Catelyn, Queen Cersei, Asha Greyjoy, Melisandre, Brienne of Tarth...
Well... They should be different because they are different women with different life experiences. I don’t believe all women are the same like no all man are the same. I think any statement that you make like “all women are… filling the blank” is on the face to be wrong. Such generalizations always get you into trouble so I wanted to present my female characters in great diversity, even in a society as sexist and patriarchal as the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Women would find different roles and different personalities, so women with different talents would find ways to work with it in a society according to who they are.
One of the strongest female characters is Catelyn Stark, in my point of view.
Well, I wanted to make a strong mother character. The portrayal women in epic fantasy have been problematical for a long time. These books are largely written by men but women also read them in great, great numbers. And the women in fantasy tend to be very atypical women… They tend to be the woman warrior or the spunky princess who wouldn’t accept what her father lays down, and I have those archetypes in my books as well. However, with Catelyn there is something reset for the Eleanor of Aquitaine, the figure of the woman who accepted her role and functions with a narrow society and, nonetheless, achieves considerable influence and power and authority despite accepting the risks and limitations of this society. She is also a mother… Then, a tendency you can see in a lot of other fantasies is to kill the mother or to get her off the stage. She’s usually dead before the story opens… Nobody wants to hear about King Arthur’s mother and what she thought or what she was doing, so they get her off the stage and I wanted it too. And that’s Catelyn.
In the second book Renly gives Stannis a peach. What did you want to tell us with that?
The peach represents... Well... It’s pleasure. It’s… tasting the juices of life. Stannis is a very marshal men concerned with his duty and with that peach Renly says: “Smell the roses”, because Stannis is always concerned with his duty and honor, in what he should be doing and he never really stops to taste the fruit. Renly wants him to taste the fruit but it’s lost. I wish that scene had been included in the TV series because for me that peach was important, but it wasn’t possible.
THE TV SERIES: “I write the books; David and Dan do the TV show”
Yes. When I was a Hollywood screenwriter every time I wrote a chapter I had to cut scenes and reduce battles because of the budget. For this reason I started A Song of Ice and Fire, because I wanted to write my stories with no fringes. I said to me: “I will write as scenes in castles as possible, I will create as characters as possible, I will write about gigantic battles...” I really didn’t expect my novels to be adapted for television but at that time was the fantasy boom brought by Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings.
I imagine then every major wanted his fantasy story in order to adapt it for the big screen…
Yes, but I didn’t want my work to become a film. However, one day came to me two television producers, David Benioff and Dan B. Weiss, who wanted to adapt the books for television and we had an epic meeting at a Hollywood restaurant called ‘The Palm’. Both David and Dan said they loved the novels and their intention was to adapt them to a television series. I remember we were eating and we finished the first course and we kept talking; we finished the second course and we kept talking; we finished the deserts and we kept talking; and as we continued talking afterwards, we decided to have supper there.
Do you like the TV show?
Yes, I love the TV show! I love nearly everything on the HBO, which is, for me, the Tiffany’s of the television. And I am really involved on the series. In fact, I write the script of one chapter for season.
Won’t you like to write more than one chapter or to be there during the shooting?
Yes, but unfortunately the day has only 24 hours and there are people who think I am quite slowly in my writing, so if I moved to Belfast to participate more actively in the TV series, I would need more time to finish the novels, and I think no one would be interested on this.
No, certainly not. However, there are some differences between the TV show and the books. For example, at the TV series Loras homosexuality is clearly revealed while in the books you only give us hints to deduce his sexual orientation. That’s an example, but there are lots of them. Is all of that for any special reason? Do you say Dan and David what to change and what to keep?
I write the books, they do the TV show, so they make these decisions: what to keep, what to lose… I’m aware to lose some things because we simply have ten episodes for season, but is their decision what to include and what not. I remember a chapter in which appeared a council with a dozen of people. They should have been all speaking characters but for that we should have casted twelve actors and the thing I discovered about actors is they all expect to be paid [Laughes].
Yes. You have time and budget limitations…
For this reason we have to lose things, but I am very happy about the adaptation of the books and I am also very happy to the original scenes David and Dan have added to the show although there is no point of view for them in the books; scenes such as the one in which Cersei and Robert were discussing their marriage or the one between Varys and Littlefinger. The things I am less happy about are the omitted scenes, especially those of them which were, for me, central scenes, but we can’t do anything. I have to write the books, that’s the most important thing for me and I don’t want them to catch me up.
Which of the performances do you like the most?
I like almost all of them. We have an extraordinary cast and Nina Gold, the casting director, is amazing. Certainly Peter Dinklage as Tyrion has achieved a lot of recognition: an Emmy award, a Golden Globe award... all very well deserved.
And now he has been nominated again for the Emmy Award…
Yes, and I am so happy with that, but I feel a little bit disappointed because although we have received a lot of nominations, they are principally in the technical categories, and I think we have very great performances with Sean Bean (Eddard), Mark Addy (King Robert) and Harry Lloyd (Viserys) in the first season, which all of them were marvelous. But the kids are also incredible: Maisie Williams (Arya), Sophie Turner (Sansa)... Lena Headey is a marvelous Cersei and Conleth Hill, as Varys, is incredible too... I think we should have received more nominations in the artistic fields.
Do you know which chapter will you write for the third season?
Yes, I wrote the 7th episode (3x07), called ‘Autumn Storms’. I know the title is not as brilliant as ‘Blackwater’ (2x09), which was certainly good, but it was the best name I could come up with. At least, there are a number of autumn storms and it’s raining a lot in that chapter… [Laughs].
So you won’t write the chapter of the certain wedding we both know…
Well… If this chapter is finally included in the third season it would appear later, after mine, and I think David and Dan want to write that by themselves.
Will the third book be adapted in two different seasons because of its extension?
Yes. The HBO decided to split the third book into two separate seasons. More or less the third season will talk about the first half of the third book and the fourth season will be about the other half and perhaps will also appear the first chapters of Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons, because its action will be told chronologically. The limits between every season and every book are not clear and, in fact, in the second season we saw some things of the third book.
Will we see new locations for the third season?
Well, we are set in Northern Ireland, which gives us a lot of beautiful locations. Nonetheless, as these books take place in the entire world, we have to use the entire world to find the ideal landscapes. Last season we use Dubrovnik for the exteriors of the King Landing and I know they would be coming back this summer. Last season we use Iceland for Beyond the Wall and they will go there again. The news is that year we will be filming in Morocco. I suspect for Daenerys stuff…
The Slaver’s Bay material, I suppose…
Exactly, but the fact is we actually shot in Morocco when we filmed the pilot. Unfortunately, we finally discarded all that material, including my own brilliant cameo which would surely have made me win an Emmy Award for best Pentoshi noble standing [Laughs]. Jokes apart, we are the first TV show that shoots in four different countries at the same time, with different cast and different directors.
Is there any location in Westeros based in Spain?
Yes. Dorne is definitely influenced a bit by Spain, a bit by Wales. But nothing is one and one. I took that together. Dorne is a very special land, with a slightly different cultural basis than the rest of Westeros… it was politically apart for a long time, it was also culturally apart because of the Rhoynar and the traditions they brought, but they didn’t influenced the rest of Westeros so much. So the dornish have their own particular sort of costumes. I see that in Spain with the whole history, particularly the Moorish history of Spain, you know… it really sets apart from France.
Have you planned to use any of the Spain’s nooks for the TV show?
I probably shouldn’t tell you this but we were about to film in Spain. You have a lot of castles and interesting locations, especially in the south of Spain, but ultimately you were beaten by Croatia. But who knows? Perhaps we’ll use Spain in the future, which would be fine, and then you would be able to register to be an extra [Laughs].
You have created a very diverse and complex kingdoms, cities and landscapes. Why do you consider the development of the setting so significant?
Setting is very important in fantasy. I think it has been true for a long time and it’s demonstrated with Tolkien’s work. I was a college student when Tolkien achieved his first great commercial success. At that time, college students started reading The Lord of the Rings and they wearing badges with the words “Frodo lives”. We also had posters in the dormitory. What struck me, however, was those posters were not about the book cover or about the picture of any of the characters. They were about Middle Earth’s map; that was the first icon of The Lord of the Rings, and that remarks the important of the setting. Setting becomes a character in fantasy.
Perhaps The Wall is the most important location of your books. How did you come up with it?
I remember it very well. In 1981, on my first trip outside the United States, I visited England to see my old friend and writer Lisa Tuttle. I spent a month there and we went through the country visiting the most important sites. And when we were to Scotland we visited Hadrian’s Wall. I remember it was the end of the day, near sunset. The tour buses were leaving and we have the wall nearly for ourselves. It was fall and the wind was blowing. When we arrive on the top, I tried to imagine how would be the life of a roman legionary of the first or second century after Christ. That wall was the edge of the known world, and it was protecting the cities from the enemies behind the wall. I experienced a lot of feelings there, looking to the North, and I just used it when I started to write Game of Thrones. However, fantasy needs an active imagination. I couldn’t just describe Hadrian’s Wall. It is pretty amazing but it’s about ten feet tall and it’s made of stone and mud. Fantasy requires more magnificent structures so I exaggerated the attributes of Hadrian’s Wall.
THE OPINION OF A MASTER: “My work is not an allegory to our days”
|Photo: Anna Guxens|
In your books Robb Stark wants The North to become an independent kingdom. There are people in the real world who want the same for their nations, such as Catalonia, Scotland or Wales. What do you think about that?
Well... That’s of course a different situation, but I do find it interesting as an American. This seems to be almost that there are two contradictory things going on and one is these ancient historic kingdoms or countries, in general kingdoms, that have various regions with ethic groups, want to brake way from them and have their own country. You have that here, in Spain, with the Basque region, also to some extent I guess with Catalonia, which wants to be separated. But at the same time no one wants to be separated; everyone wants to be part of EU. So you wanna be separated by yourself but you wanna be part of the larger political, social, economic group. It seems to me contradictory impulses… Just to me... I don’t entirely understand it but I come from a different tradition in the United States. America is a great melting pot where we took people from 50 different countries all around the globe and brought them with their languages, their foods and their religions, and in the space of a couple of generations they became Americans. All of them may retain their foods, they celebrate certain feast days… but they are not Italians anymore. They are Americans or Italian Americans.
It doesn’t seem to work that way in Europe, then…
Yes, and it’s puzzling for me. I mean, when I visited the countries of the former Yugoslavia it was very impacted because they attempted to do the American model taking these five countries to construct Yugoslavia. So long as Josip Broz Tito was alive it seemed to be working, I mean, that people would say: “I am Yugoslav”. But nobody says that anymore; there are all are Serbs, or Croats, or Bosnians, and the ethnic identity is clearly more important than jumping out of the melting pot. They don’t wanna melt into Yugoslavs like we melted to Americans, so I don’t know... It’s interesting. You probably know it more than me. I am not an expert and you may understand that process a lot better, certainly what is happening in Spain, a lot more than I do.
Is A Song of Ice and Fire a parallelism or a criticism to our society?
No. My work is not an allegory to our days. If I wanted to write about the financial crisis or the conflict in Syria, I would write about the financial crisis or the conflict in Syria, without any metaphor. However, it’s true that in my novels appear several elements which we can find in world history. Things such as power, sex, pain… I have grown up as a science fiction reader, and it was my first love, even before fantasy. But science fiction, then, presented an idealistic world: the space, a bright future, but unluckily that optimism disappeared very quickly and the future wasn’t as good as we had expected. Nowadays, science fiction is very pessimistic and talks about dystopias: about a polluted world, about a rotten world… Of course I would prefer to be part of another world; a better world, but I can’t. Perhaps winter is not coming only to Winterfell, but in the real world.
- Interview with George R.R. Martin (catalan, spanish).
- Interview with Neil Gaiman (American Gods).
- Interview with Joe Abercrombie (The First Law series).
- Interview with Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen series).
- Interview with Lisa Tuttle (Windhaven).
- Interview with David Simon (The Wire).
- Interview with Christopher Priest (The Prestige).
- Interview with Ian Watson (Artificial Intelligence).
- Interview with Robert J. Sawyer (FlashForward).