George R.R. Martin discussed The World of Ice and Fire with Laura Miller in New York City on Sunday – and Hypable was there to tell you just what went down!
The conversation began with a discussion of the origin of The World of Ice and Fire. As an author known for his worldbuilding, Martin confessed that he mostly aspires to the elaborate, organic fantasy setting revolutionized by JRR Tolkien.
“The world grew along with the story,” Martin said, a fact that proved true for both the cultural details and the series’ vast maps.
One impetus for adding detail and depth to Westeros and the lands beyond were questions the author received from fans – among them, Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson. Garcia and Antonsson eventually founded Westeros.org, and thanks to what Martin jokingly called “an almost obsessive knowledge of my world,” were contracted to compile the bulk of The World of Ice and Fire in 2008.
But as with so many things Martinesque, The World of Ice and Fire grew much longer than initially intended. According to Martin, Garcia and Antonsson gave him 20,000 more words than contracted – which Martin then ballooned to 300,000 words.
“At which point, my editor’s head exploded,” he laughed.
Many of those stories were culled from the final version of The World of Ice and Fire. Martin reiterated his promise that the complete stories (most of which concern the history of House Targaryen) will eventually be published in his “GRRM-arrillion”… after A Song of Ice and Fire has concluded.
But as for the information and secrets revealed in The World of Ice and Fire, Martin admitted that he was loathe to pull back the curtain on many of series’ subtle mysteries. The author clearly remained conflicted as he touched on a piece of artwork featuring a duel between two knights that will occur in a future installment of his Tales of Dunk and Egg.
“Anything more you want to tell us about that?” Miller prompted.
“No!” Martin answered emphatically.
Martin adamantly refused to unveil certain secrets, such as the mysterious tragedy at Summerhall. “I know what happened,” he said, “But I don’t want to reveal that yet.” Martin’s reticence required some creative thinking on the part of Antonsson, Garcia, and editor Anne Groell, who have framed The World of Ice and Fire as the historical publication of an invented maester.
Another crucial element of The World of Ice and Fire is the extensive and elaborate artwork. Martin collaborated intensively with many of the artists, striving to capture his precise vision – sometimes very different to what is portrayed in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Martin revealed a few tantalizing details about A Song of Ice and Fire while discussing selected images from the worldbook, and answering fan questions. An image of Aegon the Conqueror prompted the hint that the Targaryen practice of incest came about not only to preserve bloodlines, but to retain whatever inherent Targaryen quality enables them to control their dragons.
A question from the audience later asked if birthing dragons requires human sacrifice. “Interesting notion,” Martin coyly replied. “I think I’m gonna dodge that one right now.”
Speaking of dragons, Martin laughed as he recounted an online debate about whether Daenerys’ dragon Drogon could defeat Tolkien’s crafty Smaug. “As competitive as I am and I’d like my guys to win, no,” he admitted. Drogon is – for now – much too small… and Smaug, of course, would have a distinct intellectual advantage.
More banal, but equally as interesting to fans, was his response to the question of how he’d invented the name of fan-favorite character Hodor. Martin clarified that Hodor’s real name is in fact Walder; but why is he called that?
Martin shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “You’d have to keep reading.”
The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones hits bookstores and retailers today.