On one of the first blustery evenings of what promises to be another frigid winter in New York City, George R.R. Martin spoke to a group of fans at the 92nd Street Y. No one uttered a “Winter is coming” but some of us were, I’m sure, thinking about it. Martin was in town to promote The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, which hit stores today. And let me tell you, the book is drop-dead gorgeous.
Salon.com co-founder Laura Miller interviewed Martin with the live audience, reviewing pieces of the art featured in the book, learning the history of its writing — which encompasses a good portion of the time he’s been writing the series — and took questions from the audience.
“His head is full of people — lots and lots of people,” Miller said shortly before he took the stage, earning laughs from the crowd, and what followed was the intimate conversation you can watch in its entirety below.
It was most interesting to hear Martin discuss J.R.R. Tolkien and his influences on modern fantasy. Before Tolkien, fantasy writing consisted mostly of fables, fairy tales, and simple stories. With Lord of the Rings, suddenly worlds, people, and most importantly languages, were created to entertain.
“They expect a fully realized separate world,” he said speaking of fans of fantasy today. And with A Song of Fire and Ice, Martin has created one. The co-writers of the book, Elio García and Linda Antonsson, were some of the earliest fans to begin chronicling the complex world of Westeros. And after a friendship bloomed from the early exchange of emails between author and fans, they began tracking characters, storylines, landscapes and more. This was back in the 1990s, to give you an idea of how early of fans they were. Now they are credited as co-writers in his world history. He joked that it was because they sometimes know more about the world he created than he does himself.
Any fan of Game of Thrones will want to pick up the new book. In addition to beautiful art from a wide variety of incredible artists, it contains the answers to many of your questions. Not all of them though. You won’t find out the details of Summerhall.
“The hardest thing,” he told us, “was deciding what to tell and what not to tell.”
Are you eagerly awaiting the next installment in A Song of Fire and Ice? Tell us your favorite theories on who will win the Game of Thrones in the comments below.