dimarts, 1 de setembre del 2015

Elio & Linda: “George R.R. Martin often says he feels that we know Westeros better than he does”

Elio & Linda.                                                                 Photo: Anna Guxens

“I don’t think it has just been a day in 18 years where we haven’t even mentioned A Song of Ice and Fire in some way!”. These are words of Linda Antonsson, one of the heads of the couple behind the most important webpage about this gigantic universe writer George R.R. Martin had been developing since 1996: www.westeros.org. With her husband, Elio M. García Jr, she has now written The World of Ice and Fire, a beautiful coffee table book that follows the recent history of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond with lots of attention-grabbing information and marvelous illustrations.
“We looked at actual medieval history because we were interested in how people viewed history back then, since they were still figuring it out”, they say. That’s the reason they invented the figure of Maester Yandel, which allows them to have an imperfect text that makes the book more interesting and realistic. Elio confesses he has developed Yandel’s whole story and he would love him to appear as the last A Dream of Spring point of view of. “He could write in his book: ‘And the winter came forever and ever’”.
For sure, A Song of Ice and Fire has changed the face of fantasy, turning it into “something adults can read without being ashamed or thinking of it as kid’s stuff”. And the TV show has definitely helped in that way. Thus, Elio & Linda are grateful to HBO because thanks to them there are more people willing to read the books. They even gave more exposure to their webpage, as the couple explains. “Despite Westeros is a term used in the Free Cities to describe the Seven Kingdoms, they are using it in the series all the time”. However, there are also things of the show that piss them off, like the fact a lot of people is now blame George for things HBO does that are not in the books or the fact the series will finish the story before the books, something that will be “very hard” for the fans.
Adria’s News takes advantage of their visit to Barcelona and thinks Gigamesh bookstore is the perfect setting to interview these two big fantasy fans who not only didn’t get to know each other in a Lord of the Rings online game, but who also got married the day A World of Ice and Fire came out. Adria’s News talks with Elio & Linda to get to know how they achieved building up the big community behind Westeros.org, to discuss how much Martin is a descendant of Tolkien and especially, to ask for their thoughts about the future of the books and their legacy.

First of all I would like to ask you how did you actually meet and decided to start what is now the biggest A Song of Ice and Fire webpage: www.westeros.org.
Linda Antonsson: Elio and I met in an online role-playing game that was based on Tolkien, but we also were playing another based on Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. In that one we discovered one of the guys that was involved in the community started collecting what he called The Concordance, which was basically a compilation of all the facts from the books as a help for the players. We wanted to start our own game for a while, and when we read Game of Thrones we thought this would be the perfect setting for it, so we contacted George to ask for information although it took quite a while for him to get back because he checked with lawyers and all these things. But when he got back to us we started collecting things in our own concordance.

You started working on Westeros in 1997, although you aired the site in 1999. However, back then only two books had been published. Was your main aim, then, to recollect information for the fans?
Linda Antonsson: Originally the website was supposed to be a resource for our players when we get the game started, but it took us a very long time to take the game off the ground. We didn’t start till 2006, so we were working from 1998, when George gave us permission to do all that. And then the website took on a life of its own. We did the heraldry, and George really liked that section, so he started sending us his notes for houses that even weren’t in the books and we started doing those as well. And then we came out with this idea of having a section where he would answer all these questions for fans so we did the So Spake Martin collection. We also thought we could do something with the prophecies and dreams, so we put that in The Citadel section. So our webpage slowly became something for fans in general, especially once we started on being regulars of the forum. Elio became a moderator and eventually had to take it over when the founder left because he was too busy with Medical School.
Elio M. García Jr: The first forum we had disappeared. The guy who was taking care of it, an Australian, couldn’t run it properly in the end. But we thought we had to preserve all those information, so we thought of our webpage as an archive too.

Westeros “I think it’s the community what makes our webpage different”

One of the most famous things in Westeros is the theories section. Do you think this part is nowadays the one that really makes your webpage very different from the others?
Elio M. García Jr: I think it’s the community what makes us different. The forum has over a 100.000 members posting, reading, discussing and arguing those theories. And the longer it takes the books to come out, the craziest the theories become.

Why did you choose to name the site Westeros and not something else?
Linda Antonsson: We spent quite a lot of time to decide this, but we wanted it to be a resource about the world, so I think the fact that we started with that, completing the facts about the world, it made sense to use the sense of Westeros, which is nice and short as well! [Laugh]. It seemed like a really cool domain name.
Elio M. García Jr: Certainly, when we started the page, Westeros had much more of a focus, but George has built up progressively more and more on Essos, which is now an important area. But there’s no name for the whole world! So we thought Westeros would work very well and a lot of people recognize it, even more than the Seven Kingdoms. And the TV Show has helped us as well, because despite Westeros is a term used in the Free Cities to describe the Seven Kingdoms, they are using it in the series all the time, so it gives us more exposure than we would get if they used the proper name.

When I interviewed Martin, he told me he used to read the forums. However, now it seems he is very uncomfortable doing so because he sees some fans are forecasting the future of the series. So do you thing the slow pace Martin writes the books is a good thing to make the saga bigger by constantly talking about it or it is something bad since all this imagination together can spoil the ending?
Linda Antonsson: I don’t think the series would have become that big if he had been able to publish all the books in one or two years apart. And if the books had been all published before the TV Show started it would have been an entirely different dynamic since he wouldn’t have time to build the audience. Obviously, it would have been ideal if it wouldn’t have taken him as long that the TV Show is going to overrun him, but to some extent an epic fantasy series has to gain momentum and it has to take a certain time for people to build up the community and really get into it because there’s so much to dig into!

Predictions “The longer it takes the books to come out, the craziest the theories become”

Elio & Linda.                                                                   Photo: Anna Guxens

And the longer it takes for him to finish the series, the bigger the feeling the fans have that A Song of Ice and Fire is something that will accompany them for their entire life…
Linda Antonsson: Exactly. We’ve been talking about it for 18 years now. I don’t think it has just been a day in those 18 years where we haven’t even mentioned it in some way! So it would never have become such a big part of our lives if it had been over in six or seven years.

Seven kingdoms in Westeros and seven years it took you to meet George after you set up the site.  How was that first encounter?
Elio M. García Jr: I met him in 2004 when I was visiting my family in the United States after I moved to Sweden with Linda in 1999. I did a cross-country trip from Florida to Las Vegas. My father was driving and I thought: “Hey, we are pretty close to Santa Fe!”. I didn’t have a mobile phone, or Internet, or anything like this in 2004, so I called Linda from a pay-phone, she then emailed Parris –George’s wife–, Parris got the phone number of the booth that I was at and George called me and we arranged dinner. It was something very improvised [Laughs]. So I met him in his office, which is right in front of his house. They’re even identical houses. We met in there and he showed me his collection of miniatures and his books. Now he has his library tower, which we haven’t seen yet, that’s new. And then we went to dinner and spent three hours eating and chatting. I was overwhelmed. 

Do you have any anecdote about that day?
Elio M. García Jr: I actually do. One of the things I remember is this big box I saw when I went in. When I asked him what was inside he said, “That’s the manuscript of my new book” I didn’t dare to sneak in or even touch it as a holy relic it was. At the dinner with George he said his publishers wanted him to write this big book of the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, but he was very busy with the series and his companion had died, so he asked me: “Do you and Linda want to help me writing this?” I said yes at the moment and I called Linda afterwards because it was a very unexpected thing, since we weren’t professional writers at the point. But George often says he feels that we know Westeros better than he does, so it seemed we would be perfect partners.

Phenomenon “I don’t think the series would have become that big if he had been able to publish all the books in one or two years apart”

Did you meet him many times afterwards?
Linda Antonsson: Not that many. In 2005 we met him at the World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, being that the first time I got to know him. Then, in 2006 we signed the contract at the World Con in LA and then it was until last year at the WorldCon in London that we met him again. However, we have emailed each other many times now.

Let’s talk about The World of Ice and Fire. Do we have to take this book as the Game of ThronesSilmarillion?
Elio M. García Jr: I hesitate to use this term because Silmarillion is such a unique thing; it’s biblical, almost. The impulse in Silmarillion to some degree was to delve into the ancient history, to explain, for example, where the elves came from. When Tolkien first started writing it he started writing about this First Age and that was why he had this notion to create a mythology for England. George doesn’t have this idea of creating a mythology, but his impulse is similar, since he also wants to delve into the past and explain why things are what they are.
Linda Antonsson: The Silmarillion is more of a whole creation myth from the start. It is like reading the Norse myths; it’s a whole package. Our book fulfills, I guess, a similar function for the fans that would read the Silmarillion only as a companion to The Lord of the Rings, without thinking about the whole mythological side of it. So in that sense, I think The World of Ice and Fire fills in a similar place for fans without obviously being at all as in-depth because Tolkien’s approach to world building was really to do everything and there has no been any other author who has tried to do the same. The closest thing might be some role-playing game guys that try to lay out everything that you need.

Prequel “George had this idea of writing a novel about Aegon the Unworthy very inspired by George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman

Elio & Linda.                                                                Photo: Anna Guxens
But I have the sense that George enjoys world building too, doesn’t he?
Linda Antonsson: George writes about what interests him and he gets really into it when he writes the backstory of some characters or events. We saw that when he sent us some material later on. There were some things that he really liked and wrote a lot about and others that he simply wasn’t that interested in and arose so many questions that kept asking him if we could fill the spots. Religion, for example, or bureaucracy of the Seven Kingdoms and the structure of things… Those aren’t things that have fascinated him and he hadn’t needed them for the story that much, so he hasn’t fleshed them out, whereas Tolkien would probably have said “I need this, I need this and I need that to make complete mythology without skipping any steps”.

Was The World of Ice and Fire thought to be an illustrated book with some information or an information book with illustrations?
Elio M. García Jr: George really wanted a big beautiful coffee table book. However, it isn’t quite the proper coffee table size, since it would have needed to be a little larger.
Linda Antonsson: Our book, at least, fits into a bookshelf [Laughs].
Elio M. García Jr: George wanted lots of illustrations that would be nearly as important as the text. In the end, we had 170 illustrations and many of them were brand new. When we signed the contract, the book was set to be a 50.000-word piece. So when we stated working on it, the first section we wrote on was a kind of who is who, a guide through the characters that came out to be around 70.000 words. And we thought “What are we gonna do? This is supposed to be about the world and not about the characters!”, so we started cutting it and cutting it. We ended up thinking there was no point in keeping that because it was too short that wasn’t even satisfactory. That became a real issue, but fortunately Random House started doing apps, and they developed the official World of Ice and Fire app, so we moved all that over there and we got back to the world.

Red Wedding “It is a lot less interesting in the TV Show than it could have been because they didn’t give Catelyn the importance she deserved”

Did George write any of the parts of the book?
Elio M. García Jr: Yes, but once he had time to contribute it ballooned. I think we had like 90.000 words written and we were waiting George to send some notes. But instead of the notes, he started writing this big segment that became Aegon’s Conquest chronicle. That was the first piece he wrote and we left that 100% untouched. We didn’t cut it, it’s exactly as he wrote it. We edited down everything else for brevity or we actually paraphrased to compress it more, but when we completed everything it was about 180.000 words, more than three times what we said originally.

I know Martin put special emphasis in the castle illustrations, thing I can understand since he is a really big fan of the medieval era, but I also heard he put a lot of effort in describing Aegon the Unworthy’s mistresses. Do you know why that was so important for him?
Elio M. García Jr: What he said is that we will meet them someday…
Linda Antonsson: When we first contacted him for the game we were going to make we said we didn’t want to set it at the time of the books because too much people would expect the characters, so we decided to start at the Dornish Conquest with Dareon I, the Young Dragon. And George told us he had a lot of notes for that period, so he really had been thinking about Aegon the Unworthy’s youth and his time as a king. W already had the names of his mistresses back in 1998.
Elio M. García Jr: I actually think it was near 2000, because for a while he knew the detail, but not the whole story. However, people don’t realize how often things change as he is writing, and the same happened with Tolkien. But that, the details of the mistresses, were pretty much bought on since he really knew how he wanted them to be. I remember at the Glasgow Con we and some other fans were having breakfast with George and he said he had this idea in his head of maybe writing a novel about Aegon the Unworthy very inspired by George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, which tell the story of this complete horrible person. He is a coward, he is a liar, he is a cheat, he is a brute… but he always comes up on top. And I think he still plans to do this same thing with Aegon.

The Lord of the Rings “George is definitely a descendant of Tolkien, but he decided to take it into a less mythical direction and more attached to the ground”

Elio & Linda.                                                                Photo: Anna Guxens
There are already some universities that are teaching Game of Thrones courses. Would you like this to be their textbook?
Elio M. García Jr: [Laughs] I think it would be lovely to have our book being treated as a text, especially to discuss all the world-building process and the metatext, because the concept we had for the book is that it was written by a maester and was thought for a broad audience. He has this kind of introduction where he says he hopes that common men would use it to teach their children. This is not gonna happen, probably, but he would like it to happen. So we played with the idea that he is a maester building all his knowledge on what others before him had. Hence, he is mentioning other maesters, the disagreements between them and even the curse singers meant to preserve true knowledge without sensationalizing it.
Linda Antonsson: If we went with this idea was also because George wouldn’t have to reveal important things or we wouldn’t just have gaps in the book because “Sorry, but we can’t tell you this”, basically. But because we had done that, when George put it on all this material we couldn’t fit it into the book as it was, so we decided to say George’s text comes from another maester. It’s a lost work that our maester found of the Targaryen history and summarized for his text.

You created the character of Maester Yandel to be a narrative thread, but he is biased like any historian is in real life. Did you decide this to have a more realistic approach or in order to put possible spoilers under an ambiguous filter?
Elio M. García Jr: Most of the bias we get come to the modern time where the important and powerful people he doesn’t want to offend. What he really thinks? That’s the question. Certainly, he wouldn’t have thought very carefully what the Martells might have said say when he put down that Elia might have murdered her own children. I couldn’t believe I came up with that one, but if he is so concerned about the Lannisters being upset he has to explain their death somehow. Anyway, I don’t think he is taking any vacation in Dorne for a while. But for the most part, the bias is just to be realistic, since he is very aware of the politics of the time he is writing. The spoilers are mostly hidden by having certain things he doesn’t discuss very much, like Qarth and Mereen, because he thinks they are horrible places, with the slavery and so on, and also because George would not give us anything about Qarth. The other big spoilery stuff was Summerhall, but George didn’t want to give us much about this one either.
Linda Antonsson: There were some things we were surprised he didn’t reveal because he wrote sections up until the regency of Aegon the III. After that we could fill in with the notes that we already had from Viserys I up to Aegon IV. Then, after that, we get to a bit of a gap again but we can get some from The Hedge Knight. We had to do a conference call about the later kings because George did not have time to write any more long sections, although it was easier because they are closer to our period. However, I think Jaehaerys II was very sketchy and it would be odd when we had a lot before and a lot after, so there we had to talk to George on a conference call and we thought that he wouldn’t reveal that much because, obviously, these are things that he can figure in the future Dunk and Egg stories. He has a file with information and at the beginning he was hesitant to give us things.
Elio M. García Jr: However, he ended up sharing other stuff in great detail. So to him it’s not what happens, but how it happens and why it happens.

TV finale “There’s no way the last book is coming out before the last season, so I think we are going to find a cave and stay there for five years”

Did you develop a kind of backstory for maester Yandel or do you know which house was he supporting?
Elio M. García Jr: He was originally serving Robert, but Robert died and somebody scratched out Robert’s name and put in Joffrey’s. In fact, I have the whole Yandel’s story. Yandel was left at the doorstep of the Citadel. A master got him and took him to the Seneschal of the time to ask what to do with that child, and he told him he should take care of him because he might proof to be useful. In fact, the master thought Yandel would be valuable because he’d be able to experiment with him, but Yandel is very grateful to him, because it meant that he could start to read a lot of books while being a servant. Yandel is a young idealist guy and he wants to share his knowledge, so he sets out to write this very understandable history book for kids and for the general populous. In my mind, nobody has tried to do that in Westeros before, so it’s not perfect or accurate, plus he gets sometimes too much caught up in discussing arguments and digressions between maesters. For inspiration I looked at actual medieval history because I was interested in how people viewed history back then, since they were still figuring it out. So there are a lot of deliberate digressions. People sometimes get very frustrated, but mine was a realistic approach because Yandel is not writing the kind of school textbook that you have today where there is a lot of editing…

Do you know if Martin is going to include Yandel in the forthcoming books?
Elio M. García Jr: I would love to have him holding his book while the Others are invading. He would say “I’m never gonna give my book to your king!” [Laughs]. Or he could be the last epilogue and write in his book “and the winter came forever and ever”. 

Isn’t it risky to publish this ‘Game of Thrones Bible’ before all the books are released? I mean once this happens, will it be an updated version or another book will come out to add the extra information?
Elio M. García Jr: There’s a little talk about this. Maybe there will be a second edition.
Linda Antonsson: Yes, the contract left room for a second edition, in which I guess we would have to presume that either Yandel or somebody else decided to do a sort of revised edition, but obviously because we weren’t really following the events of the book, we don’t really need to update that part but certainly there would be more gaps filled in the end so maybe he can publish an amend. It depends on whether George will go ahead with the Fire and Blood book, which would be the whole complete Targaryen Kings story. However, even then there would be things that even won’t make it to that book, because he wrote long sections about the Ironborn or about the Westlands that we had to trim as well. Maybe the publishers decide to make a longer version because it went really well in the US, although it depends on the other markets as well.
Elio M. García Jr: It’s true that a lot of people asked us why we didn’t wait until the books were done. The logic is a book like this cost a lot to produce because all the art and the layout is more expensive per page than a normal novel, so the right time to do it is the time it interests the people most to minimize the losses if it doesn’t sell well enough. Maybe if we had published it afterwards might have been shorter or we might not have been able to afford as much art because our budget was now very large. But I think to have an imperfect text makes the book more interesting because nobody has perfect knowledge and we don’t have to forget he is a maester so he doesn’t think much about magic, the first men and the Others. Of course, readers know the truth and when Yandel says you should ignore Septon Barth for this and that because although he was very brilliant he also was very misguided by esoteric things. So when Yandel says he was wrong the reader might thing Septon Barth was right.

Winds of Winter “We are going to see a lot of point-of-view characters coming together, so there might be several important deaths by the end of the book”

Elio & Linda.                                                                 Photo: Anna Guxens
Is it true that you got married the day the book came out?
Linda Antonsson: We had been engaged forever and ever and I wanted to plan something bigger and then I realized that if I was to plan something bigger I would have been so stressed. So we finally decided that was a very good way of remembering the day.

You said before that you met in an online The Lord of the Rings game. Would you say The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire are the opposite sides of the same coin?
Linda Antonsson: I think that A Game of Thrones is very much a descendant of The Lord of the Rings, like all the fantasy is, but there are a lot of people that came after Tolkien that they just looked at Tolkien and based their fantasy straight on Tolkien instead of going back to the roots, the myths and legends. Writers who do that might come up with something very good, but if you are just based on Tolkien and don’t look at what he was inspired by, then you are going to look derivative. George definitely went back very much to history, so he’s definitely a descendant of The Lord of the Rings, but he decided to take it to a very different direction, less mythical and more attached to the ground. So the level of mythic quality that The Lord of the Rings has very few fantasies have that. There have been authors who tried but Tolkien was so knowledgeable about things like Beowulf and the ancient epics that he was able to write an epic of his own. Most of the people who just imitated Tolkien tried to write something with more normal human beings or they tried to write these heroic characters that just came off as odd supermen without the mythic qualities. And George loves Tolkien, but he didn’t want to write about these perfect archetypes. Aragorn is the perfect king, he is the image of a king and is destined to be king, and George just said “I want to write about these very imperfect humans, but in a fantasy world”. So you still have the fantasy world, but the characters are much more from our world, in a sense. Dany is the one that stands out as being very mythical and also her journey is much more of a fairytale than anyone else. She is the one who’s got the most traditional fantasy adventure even though he is obviously subverting it now. She’s conquering but she’s finding all these difficulties to rule so even her story is very much grounded in the realism. But then he’s got characters like Catelyn and Davos who are very much regular people in this fantasy world.

When A Game of Thrones was published it was a success among the traditional fantasy fans. However, it has now turned into a very big mainstream thing. Do you think this is a good or a bad thing?
Elio M. García Jr: The fourth book hit number one in The New York Times fiction best-seller list, so it wasn’t only fantasy fans. It had started to go wider, but the TV Show made it much bigger, having a lot of exposure.
Linda Antonsson: I don’t think they would have allowed us this size of The World of Ice and Fire book if it wasn’t for the TV Show. If we had been done as early as we had originally planned, the book would have been smaller, but now they thought it would be possible to sell the volume despite being massive.
Elio M. García Jr: For me, the TV Show is a good thing because it has brought so many readers. The only bad thing is that a lot of people forget about the books and just talk about the series or even blame George for things the show does. In season four there was this rape scene between Jaimie and Cersei and people were saying Martin was a sick guy, when he didn’t write that. There are some annoying things like this or the fact Daenerys is just khaleesi for everyone.

Ending “It seems there is a line in the first book that is connected to the very last scene”

And now Dorne is a city…
Linda Antonsson: Yes! And that’s weird because everywhere else they can talk about the North and Winterfell. It’s not a problem. But now we’ll make it all Dorne and we’ll make it all green too, in the background... It must have rained a lot in Dorne this year. [Laughs].
Elio M. García Jr: The guy I commented on this, who lives in the area, said they had this magnificent beaches and dunes that go on forever but they picked the wrong angle. And if it’s so green is because there’s a golf course back there! Apparently, golf is big in Dorne… [Laughs].

What do you think of the TV Show’s decision to keep going without Martin’s books as a basis, since part of what they are gonna do from this season on isn’t published yet?
Elio M. García Jr: There’s the positive thing that by going more into their own story, delivery moving away from the books, fans that are concerned about spoilers would be more relieved. What they have said is because they have to narrow the story down faster, they have less time, so it would be very different in some ways, but they are going towards the same end. In Season Six if George pulls The Winds of Winter out we won’t have to worry about that one, but there’s no way the last book is coming out before the seventh season, which would probably the final season, so we will be spoiled a little bit at the end, and that is very hard.
Linda Antonsson: I think we are going to find a cave and stay there for five years.

I have a personal doubt and I thought you might be able to address it since you know things no other fan does. I think the plot right now is so big that Martin will need an eighth book to conclude the series. Do you think this will happen?
Elio M. García Jr: He says the plan is still seven books, so he seems to really feel he’ll be able to conclude the series in two more novels. However, he can always “I said seven books, although each one is gonna be 2.500 pages long and will be divided in four volumes!” [Laughs]. He’s trying, but you are right. He’s been wrong before and maybe he sees he couldn’t get as far as he wanted to in the sixth book. The other thing is that in the sixth book we are going to see a lot of point-of-view characters coming together at one place, and when you have so many characters on one place you don’t need as many characters, so there might be several important deaths by the end of the book. Hence, there will be fewer stories to follow and the seventh book might progress faster.
Linda Antonsson: He has said before that he increased the characters with a point of view because he needed new perspectives in the story, to have someone there, but he also said that once he had introduced a new character as a point of view one, he wants to give him o her a complete story, a full arc. Unfortunately, all the arcs tend to end up at the same place, which is death [Laughs]. That’s the full story. For them, it’s like drawing straws. Who’s got the long one? Because I’m afraid there are just a couple of long ones. The rest will have a short straw and die soon if they are not already dead…

TV Show “By moving away from the books, going into their own story, fans concerned about spoilers would be more relieved”

Elio & Linda.                                                                 Photo: Anna Guxens
We know Martin’s first intention was to write a trilogy, so do we have to assume that a third of the clues that can lead us towards the end are in the first book?
Elio M. García Jr: When he was finishing the first book, he realized it wasn’t a trilogy, but a four-book series, so even part of A Clash of Kings was originally written for A Game of Thrones, but when he started the second book he said “Wait, this is getting even longer!”, so he stopped for a moment and visualized the whole story before deciding there will finally be six books, although now, for a very long time, he has said seven. Nonetheless, you are right. A good portion of the clues about various things that will happen in the very end are in the first book. For example, Daniel Abraham did a comic series adapting A Game of Thrones and there’s one interesting thing that George told him: “You have to keep this line because this line is important for what it happens in the end.
Linda Antonsson: The very last scene… So there’s something in the very first book that will be echoed there.

What do you think the legacy A Song of Ice and Fire will be?
Elio M. García Jr: I think after it many more people will see fantasy as something they can read without being ashamed or without thinking of it as kid’s stuff. I think it helped launch careers of many writers, like Joe Abercrombie, with a style very connected to Martin’s. So it has changed the face of fantasy, in a way, pushing it towards a grim dark tone. George’s work isn’t much like that, but it opened some doors for people who are now writing about very dark stories.
Linda Antonsson: He opened more sides of fantasy. It had started before George as well. People who didn’t want to do the same thing as Tolkien, but they needed somebody to make it really big and show this approach can be successful. So we can see much more variety in fantasy after A Song of Ice and Fire. We can see more styles.

Spoilers “They are mostly hidden by having things George didn’t want to discuss very much, like Qarth, Mereen or Summerhall”

Which are your favorite characters and arcs?
Elio M. García Jr: My favorite character, and a lot of people get surprised when I say this, is Catelyn Stark. She is the every woman. Tyrion is so witty, Jaimie is a great fighter, Jon has his direwolf and a mysterious destiny, but Catelyn to me is a lady and is a mother. She has moral courage, but a lot of bad things happen to her. We are in her head and we know how hard it has been for her. And people don’t like her because they think she’s complaining and whining all the time, but fate is against her and yet she tries her best. After Catelyn I loved Davos because he isn’t a great fighter either or anything like that; he is just a person, so it has some strong connections with Catelyn. And favorite story arc… Obviously, the way Catelyn’s story goes is very powerful. I think the TV Show did a big disservice. Michelle Fairley is fantastic, but they changed her character so much to suit them. Maybe they either didn’t understand the character or maybe they thought others were more appealing to the audience. We can see they thought Robb was more interesting, they thought Khaleesi was more interesting. And even the Red Wedding is a lot less than it could have been because they didn’t give Catelyn the importance that she deserved.
Linda Antonsson: I am a more traditional fantasy reader and I really love Dany’s arc for the whole fairytale feel of it. The TV show really changed her time in Qarth and the House of the Undying, but I like the fact George gives her problems. A lot of people don’t like her story in A Dance with Dragons because they want her straight on to Westeros and take over there and instead she stops and she is uncertain and she has her doubts and she is moaning about Daario… She is a young girl and is dealing with this very tough situation and I think it is very brave of George to have it. First she goes from strength to strength and all in a sudden she goes backwards and becomes uncertain. I liked a lot the last chapter in A Dance with Dragons. It blew me away. The implications of that when she realizes she can’t be a peacemaker, she has to be a conqueror like her dragons. It’s quite scary, in a way she realizes that she has to be this kind of weapon of mass destruction, basically. That’s the only path he can take.

Another thing Martin’s seem to like so much are secrets and especially secret identities or whereabouts. We don’t know where Benjen or Rickon are and we don’t know who really are a lot of characters, such as Quaithe, Lemore, Taena, Tree Knight of the Laughing Tree, and many more… So identity seems to be a strong theme for him.
Linda Antonsson: I like that, especially with Arya and Sansa’s arcs. They are both kind of loosing their identities and interchanging their names so I think he spoke a lot of that for both in Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, where there are a lot of people not knowing who they are or trying to find their way again and, in that sense, I think again Dany’s arc is very interesting to me because it starts as a classic fairytale, continues in a very realistic way and then goes back to the sort of mythic or avatar she is supposed to be. She’s just fire and blood herself, just like the dragons.

What are you gonna do after George finishes the books?
Elio M. García Jr: [Thinks for a while] Rest... [Laughs].

Not reading them again?
Elio M. García Jr: [Laugh] Definitely, I might do that to see how it all fits together. That would be a good thing.
Linda Antonsson: I think it’s gonna be very hard for us. I don’t think I’ll ever let it go, in that sense. I was originally doing Classical History at university and then last year I started with Literature instead because I had been doing that on the side of the other work. I work from home so I had the fortune to keep studying, so I took and advantage of that and decided I really wanted to go into Literature, as well. I’ve just finished a paper on role building and its use in A Song of Ice and Fire. And going into a more scholarly discussion of the work of other fantasies is something I get completely fascinated by, especially when it comes to talk about world building and how people respond to it. I think fantasy has always been a big part of my life and it’s definitely going to continue that way.

Second edition It depends on whether George will go ahead with the complete Targaryen Kings story he plans to write”

Elio & Linda.                                                                Photo: Anna Guxens.

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