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A Dance With Dragons: George R. R. Martin

We’re talking with medieval fantasy author George R. R. Martin, the writer behind HBO’s Game of Thrones and the epic series “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

Author George R.R. Martin whose novel series have been adapted into the HBO series "Game of Thrones," is shown on the set. (AP)

Author George R.R. Martin whose novel series have been adapted into the HBO series "Game of Thrones," is shown on the set. (AP)

*SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read the previous books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, this program contains spoilers.

George R. R. Martin started out in science fiction, moved to medieval fantasy, wrote the book behind the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and was knighted “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine.

Then the bearded epic-spinner retreated to his New Mexico redoubt and took six years to produce the fifth installment in his great tale of kings and queens and flawed humanity. Impatient readers laid siege online.

Now, he’s thrown the book over the wall. “A Dance with Dragons.” It’s out today. And he’s with us.

This hour On Point: American Tolkien, George R. R. Martin.

-Tom Ashbrook

Show Highlights

Killing off beloved characters is hard.

Tom Ashbrook: Leia calling from Medford, MA. Leia, you’re on the air. Thanks for calling.

Leia: Hi Tom. Hi, Mr. Martin.

George R. R. Martin: Hi there.

Leia: I’m calling to ask how you are able to kill of characters if the plot merits it. These people live in your head in such a real way and have been with you for such a long time. How are you able to just off them whenever you need to?

Martin: Well, it is, it is hard actually.

George R. R. Martin talks with Tom Ashbrook about his new book "A Dance With Dragons." (Alex Kingsbury /WBUR)

George R. R. Martin talks with Tom Ashbrook about his new book "A Dance With Dragons." (Alex Kingsbury /WBUR)

Ashbrook: [laughing] You brutal, you brutal man!

Martin: In some sense…in some sense, these are the children of my mind and they’re characters whose skins I have lived inside—viewpoint characters in particular where you’re writing from inside your head and you’re seeing the world as they see it. While writing those chapters you actually sort of become those characters, and then to kill them off is difficult. There’s a chapter in the third book—which people who’ve read the books will know which I’m

referring to—where a number of characters die. And it was the hardest thing I ever wrote. When I wrote that third book, A Storm of Swords, I skipped over that particular chapter even though it occurs about two-thirds of the way through the book. And I wrote the rest of the book, and only when everything else was done could I force myself to go back and write that chapter since it was so emotionally wrenching.

So, why do I do it? Well, I think it’s necessary. I mean, I spoke earlier about how predictable stories bore me. And we’ve all, you know, seen the stories where the hero, you know, he seems to get in trouble—he’s all alone, he’s surrounded by twenty foes, but he’s the hero! You know he’s going to get out of it; you’re not really engaged. I want you to be engaged. I want you to feel what the viewpoint character is feeling. If the viewpoint character is in trouble, I want you to be afraid, I want you not to know whether he’s going to get out of it. And I think the only way to do that is establish very early in the books that you’re playing for real, that anyone can die, and if the character’s in a life or death situation that he might not survive it. That these are not superheroes, these are not Indiana Jones. These are fallible hu

man beings who are vulnerable to death and betrayal and all that. To my mind, that makes the stories much more suspenseful and gripping and emotionally involving.

The hero is the villain of the other side

Tom Ashbrook:Lev Grossman in TIME magazine called you—says your “skill as a crafter of narrative exceeds that of almost any literary novelist writing today.” He goes on to say this, and I wanted to put to you—he says, “the complexity” of your stories—“of Martin’s design ensures that we experience the struggle for Westeroros,” your fictional continent, “from all sides at once. It’s as if he’s trying to show us that every fight is both triumph and tragedy, depending on where you see it from, and everybody is both hero and villain at the same time.” What about that?

Author George R. R. Martin speaks with Tom Ashbrook in the studios of WBUR. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

George R. R. Martin: Yeah, I think he’s accurate. Yes, that is something that I’m going for. You know, the fight between good and evil—which has been a hallmark of so much fantasy over the years, ever since Tolkien, and Tolkien did it brilliantly! But in the hands—

Ashbrook: And long before.

Martin: —in the hands of his imitators, it’s become kind of a cliché where you have the dark lord, and he has his evil minions. And his evil minions are very evil—you know they’re evil: they dress in black, they’re very ugly, they have no redeeming qualities.

I prefer gray characters. I prefer the philosophy that, you know, the hero is the villain of the other side. You know, there’s—yes, things like the fight between Gandalf and the witch king of Angmar is a great moment, but the fight between Achilles and Hector also, you know, resonates for me and is something that I wanted to draw upon where you have two heroes fighting. I also liked the idea of the story not being predictable. Too much of fantasy is too predictable, you know? They say we write the stories that we want to read. And I was a reader l

ong before I was a writer, and as a reader I love stories that take me to places that I don’t expect, and I hate stories where you read the first five pages and you know exactly what’s going to happen for the rest of the book. Those stories bore me very quickly, and I don’t want to bore my readers or indeed bore myself in writing, so I try to, you know, create a fairly complicated thing that’s full of twists and surprises and unexpected turns, but all of them rooted hopefully in human nature and arising out of the characters and the desires and wishes and dreams of those characters.

How did you end up writing fantasy?

Tom Ashbrook: You started out in the realm of, years ago now, in the realm of comic books and then very much in science fiction. What brought you over into kings and queens, and furs and daggers, and chainmail and horses in battledress. What pulled you in here?

George R. R. Martin: It was really not a change. When I was a kid growing up in Bayonne, NJ, where I was born and raised, I read a lot of comic books. I read science fiction: Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, Eric Frank Russell, Andre Norton. But I also read horror stories. H.P. Lovecraft was one of my favorites. And I read

fantasy, by Robert E Howard, creator of Conan [the Barbarian], Fritz Leiber…and, of course, J. R.R. Tolkien, whom I read I think when I was 13. And it had a profound effect on me.

Ashbrook: Yes, we can see it and we’ll talk about it. But with all that reading you could have ended up in outer space or in some futuristic dystopia? You name it.

Martin: To tell the truth, I never saw distinctions between these two genres. They all seemed to me to be flavors, if you will, of imaginative fiction, romantic fiction The great romantic tradition as opposed to realistic tradition in literature. My father called it all ‘weird stuff.’ He said I liked weird stuff. He liked Westerns. So his taste was more grounded, at least in his view. I was always fighting a dragon or going off to the stars or something like that.

We heard a few songs from the HBO series Game of Thrones.

  • “Main Title” Ramin Djawadi
  • “The King’s Arrival” Ramin Djawadi
  • “You Win or You Die” Ramin Djwadi
  • “Finale” Ramin Djwadi

From Tom’s Reading List:

George R. R. Martin chats with employees from WBUR in the staff kitchen before heading into the studio and talking with Tom Ashbrook. (Alex Kingsbury / WBUR)
George R. R. Martin chats with employees from WBUR in the staff kitchen before heading into the studio and talking with Tom Ashbrook. (Alex Kingsbury / WBUR)

*SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read the previous books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, this excerpt contains spoilers. LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This excerpt contains language that some readers may find offensive.

From A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin


He drank his way across the narrow sea.
The ship was small, his cabin smaller, but the captain would not allow him abovedecks. The rocking of the deck beneath his feet made his stomach heave, and the wretched food tasted even worse when retched back up. But why did he need salt beef, hard cheese, and bread crawling with worms when he had wine to nourish him? It was red and sour, very strong. Sometimes he heaved the wine up too, but there was always more.

“The world is full of wine,” he muttered in the dankness of his cabin. His father never had any use for drunkards, but what did that matter? His father was dead. He’d killed him. A bolt in the belly, my lord, and all for you. If only I was better with a crossbow, I would have put it through that cock you made me with, you bloody bastard.

Belowdecks there was neither night nor day. Tyrion marked time by the comings and goings of the cabin boy who brought the meals he did not eat. The boy always brought a brush and bucket too, to clean up. “Is this Dornish wine?” Tyrion asked him once, as he pulled a stopper from a skin. “It reminds me of a certain snake I knew. A droll fellow, till a mountain fell on him.”

The cabin boy did not answer. He was an ugly boy, though admittedly more comely than a certain dwarf with half a nose and a scar from eye to chin. “Have I offended you?” Tyrion asked, as the boy was scrubbing. “Were you commanded not to talk to me? Or did some dwarf diddle your mother?” That went unanswered too. “Where are we sailing? Tell me that.” Jaime had made mention of the Free Cities, but had never said which one. “Is it Braavos? Tyrosh? Myr?” Tyrion would sooner have gone to Dorne. Myrcella is older than Tommen, by Dornish law the Iron Throne is hers. I will help her claim her rights, as Prince Oberyn suggested.

Oberyn was dead, though, his head smashed to bloody ruin by the armored fist of Ser Gregor Clegane. And without the Red Viper to urge him on, would Doran Martell even consider such a chancy scheme? He may clap me in chains instead, and hand me back to my sweet sister. The Wall might be safer. Old Bear Mormont said the Night’s Watch had need of men like Tyrion. Mormont may be dead, though. By now Slynt may be the Lord Commander. That butcher’s son was not like to have forgotten who sent him to the Wall. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life eating salt beef and porridge with murderers and thieves? Not that the rest of his life would last very long. Janos Slynt would see to that.

The cabin boy wet his brush and scrubbed on manfully. “Have you ever visited the pleasure houses of Lys?” the dwarf inquired. “Might that be where whores go?” Tyrion could not seem to recall the Valyrian word for whore, and in any case it was too late. The boy tossed his brush back in his bucket and took his leave.

The wine has blurred my wits. He had learned to read High Valyrian at his maester’s knee, though what they spoke in the Nine Free Cities… well, it was not so much a dialect as nine dialects on the way to becoming separate tongues. Tyrion had some Braavosi and a smattering of Myrish. In Tyrosh he should be able to curse the gods, call a man a cheat, and order up an ale, thanks to a sellsword he had once known at the Rock. At least in Dorne they speak the Common Tongue. Like Dornish food and Dornish law, Dornish speech was spiced with the flavors of the Rhoyne, but a man could comprehend it. Dorne, yes, Dorne for me. He crawled into his bunk, clutching that thought like a child with a doll.

Sleep had never come easily to Tyrion Lannister. Aboard that ship it seldom came at all, though from time to time he managed to drink sufficient wine to pass out for a while. At least he did not dream. He had dreamt enough for one small life. And of such follies: love, justice, friendship, glory. As well dream of being tall. It was all beyond his reach, Tyrion knew now. But he did not know where whores go.

“Wherever whores go,” his father had said. His last words, and what words they were. The crossbow thrummed, Lord Tywin sat back down, and Tyrion Lannister found himself waddling through the darkness with Varys at his side. He must have clambered back down the shaft, two hundred and thirty rungs to where orange embers glowed in the mouth of an iron dragon. He remembered none of it. Only the sound the crossbow made, and the stink of his father’s bowels opening. Even in his dying, he found a way to shit on me.

Varys had escorted him through the tunnels, but they never spoke until they emerged beside the Blackwater, where Tyrion had won a famous victory and lost a nose. That was when the dwarf turned to the eunuch and said, “I’ve killed my father,” in the same tone a man might use to say, “I’ve stubbed my toe.”

The master of whisperers had been dressed as a begging brother, in a moth-eaten robe of brown roughspun with a cowl that shadowed his smooth fat cheeks and bald round head. “You should not have climbed that ladder,” he said reproachfully.

“Wherever whores go.” Tyrion warned his father not to say that word. If I had not loosed, he would have seen my threats were empty. He would have taken the crossbow from my hands, as once he took Tysha from my arms. He was rising when I killed him.

“I killed Shae too,” he confessed to Varys.

“You knew what she was.”

“I did. But I never knew what he was.”

Varys tittered. “And now you do.”

I should have killed the eunuch as well. A little more blood on his hands, what would it matter? He could not say what had stayed his dagger. Not gratitude. Varys had saved him from a headsman’s sword, but only because Jaime had compelled him. Jaime… no, better not to think of Jaime.

He found a fresh skin of wine instead, and sucked at it as if it were a woman’s breast. The sour red ran down his chin and soaked through his soiled tunic, the same one he had been wearing in his cell. The deck was swaying beneath his feet, and when he tried to rise it lifted sideways and smashed him hard against a bulkhead. A storm, he realized, or else I am even drunker than I knew. He retched the wine up and lay in it a while, wondering if the ship would sink. Is this your vengeance, Father? Has the Father Above made you his Hand? “Such are the wages of the kinslayer,” he said as the wind howled outside. It did not seem fair to drown the cabin boy and the captain and all the rest for something he had done, but when had the gods ever been fair? And around about then, the darkness gulped him down.

When he stirred again, his head felt like to burst and the ship was spinning round in dizzy circles, though the captain was insisting that they’d come to port. Tyrion told him to be quiet, and kicked feebly as a huge bald sailor tucked him under one arm and carried him squirming to the hold, where an empty wine cask awaited him. It was a squat little cask, and a tight fit even for a dwarf. Tyrion pissed himself in his struggles, for all the good it did. He was up crammed face first into the cask with his knees pushed up against his ears. The stub of his nose itched horribly, but his arms were pinned so tightly that he could not reach to scratch it. A palanquin fit for a man of my stature, he thought as they hammered shut the lid. He could hear voices shouting as he was hoisted up. Every bounce cracked his head against the bottom of the cask. The world went round and round as the cask rolled downward, then stopped with a crash that made him want to scream. Another cask slammed into his, and Tyrion bit his tongue.

That was the longest journey he had ever taken, though it could not have lasted more than half an hour. He was lifted and lowered, rolled and stacked, upended and righted and rolled again. Through the wooden staves he heard men shouting, and once a horse whickered nearby. His stunted legs began to cramp, and soon hurt so badly that he forgot the hammering in his head.

It ended as it had begun, with another roll that left him dizzy and more jouncing. Outside strange voices were speaking in a tongue he did not know. Someone started pounding on the top of the cask and the lid cracked open suddenly. Light came flooding in, and cool air as well. Tyrion gasped greedily and tried to stand, but only managed to knock the cask over sideways and spill himself out onto a hard-packed earthen floor.

Above him loomed a grotesque fat man with a forked yellow beard, holding a wooden mallet and an iron chisel. His bedrobe was large enough to serve as a tourney pavilion, but its loosely knotted belt had come undone, exposing a huge white belly and a pair of heavy breasts that sagged like sacks of suet covered with coarse yellow hair. He reminded Tyrion of a dead sea cow that had once washed up in the caverns under Casterly Rock.

The fat man looked down and smiled. “A drunken dwarf,” he said, in the Common Tongue of Westeros.

“A rotting sea cow.” Tyrion’s mouth was full of blood. He spat it at the fat man’s feet. They were in a long dim cellar with barrel-vaulted ceilings, its stone walls spotted with nitre. Casks of wine and ale surrounded them, more than enough drink to see a thirsty dwarf safely through the night. Or through a life.

“You are insolent. I like that in a dwarf.” When the fat man laughed, his flesh bounced so vigorously that Tyrion was afraid he might fall and crush him. “Are you hungry, my little friend? Weary?”

“Thirsty.” Tyrion struggled to his knees. “And filthy.”

The fat man sniffed. “A bath first, just so. Then food and a soft bed, yes? My servants shall see to it.” His host put the mallet and chisel aside. “My house is yours. Any friend of my friend across the water is a friend to Illyrio Mopatis, yes.”
And any friend of Varys the Spider is someone I will trust just as far as I can throw him.

The fat man made good on the promised bath, though. No sooner did Tyrion lower himself into the hot water and close his eyes than he was fast asleep. He woke naked on a goosedown featherbed so soft it felt as if he had been swallowed by a cloud. His tongue was growing hair and his throat was raw, but his cock was as hard as an iron bar. He rolled from the bed, found a chamberpot, and commenced to filling it, with a groan of pleasure.

The room was dim, but there were bars of yellow sunlight showing between the slats of the shutters. Tyrion shook the last drops off and waddled over patterned Myrish carpets as soft as new spring grass. Awkwardly he climbed the window seat and flung shudders open to see where Varys and the gods had sent him.

Beneath his window six cherry trees stood sentinel around a marble pool, their slender branches bare and brown. A naked boy stood on the water, poised to duel with a bravo’s blade in hand. He was lithe and handsome, no older than sixteen, with straight blond hair that brushed his shoulders. So lifelike did he seem that it took the dwarf a long moment to realize he was made of painted marble, though his sword shimmered like true steel.

Across the pool stood a brick wall twelve feet high, with iron spikes along its top. Beyond that was the city. A sea of tiled rooftops crowded close around a bay. He saw square brick towers, a great red temple, a distant manse upon a hill. In the far distance, sunlight shimmered off deep water. Fishing boats were moving across the bay, their sails rippling in the wind, and he could see the masts of larger ships poking up along the shore. Surely one is bound for Dorne, or for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He had no means to pay for passage, though, nor was he made to pull an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn my way by letting the crew bugger me up and down the narrow sea.

He wondered where he was. Even the air smells different here. Strange spices scented the chilly autumn wind, and he could hear faint cries drifting over the wall from the streets beyond. It sounded something like Valyrian, but he did not recognize more than one word in five. Not Braavos, he concluded, nor Tyrosh. Those bare branches and the chill in the air argued against Lys and Myr and Volantis as well.

When he heard the door opening behind him, Tyrion turned to confront his fat host. “This is Pentos, yes?”

“Just so. Where else?”

Pentos. Well, it was not King’s Landing, that much could be said for it. “Where do whores go?” he heard himself ask.
“Whores are found in brothels here, as in Westeros. You will have no need of such, my little friend. Choose from amongst my serving women. None will dare refuse you.”

“Slaves?” the dwarf asked pointedly.

The fat man stroked one of the prongs of his oiled yellow beard, a gesture Tyrion found remarkably obscene. “Slavery is forbidden in Pentos, by the terms of the treaty the Braavosi imposed on us a hundred years ago. Still, they will not refuse you.” Illyrio gave a ponderous half-bow. “But now my little friend must excuse me. I have the honor to be a magister of this great city, and the prince has summoned us to session.” He smiled, showing a mouth full of crooked yellow teeth.

“Explore the manse and grounds as you like, but on no account stray beyond the walls. It is best that no man knows that you were here.”

“Were? Have I gone somewhere?”

“Time enough to speak of that this evening. My little friend and I shall eat and drink and make great plans, yes?”
“Yes, my fat friend,” Tyrion replied. He thinks to use me for his profit. It was all profit with the merchant princes of the Free Cities. “Spice soldiers and cheese lords,” his lord father called them, with contempt. Should a day ever dawn when Illyrio Mopatis saw more profit in a dead dwarf than a live one, he would find himself packed into another wine cask by dusk. It would be well if I were gone before that day arrives. That it would arrive he did not doubt; Cersei was not like to forget him, and even Jaime might be vexed to find a quarrel in Father’s belly.

A light wind was riffling the waters of the pool below, all around the naked swordsman. It reminded him of how Tysha would riffle his hair during the false spring of their marriage, before he helped his father’s guardsmen rape her. He had been thinking of those guardsmen during his flight, trying to recall how many there had been. You would think he might remember that, but no. A dozen? A score? A hundred? He could not say. They had all been grown men, tall and strong… though all men were tall to a dwarf of thirteen years. Tysha knew their number. Each of them had given her a silver stag, so she would only need to count the coins. A silver for each and a gold for me. His father had insisted that he pay her too. A Lannister always pays his debts.

“Wherever whores go,” he heard Lord Tywin say once more, and once more the bowstring thrummed.
The magister had invited him to explore the manse. He found clean clothes in a cedar chest inlaid with lapis and mother-of-pearl. The clothes had been made for a small boy, he realized as he struggled into them. The fabrics were rich enough, if a little musty, but the cut was too long in the legs and too short in the arms, with a collar that would have turned his face as black as Joffrey’s had he somehow contrived to get it fastened. Moths had been at them too. At least they do not stink of vomit.

Tyrion began his explorations with the kitchen, where two fat women and a pot boy watched him warily as he helped himself to cheese, bread, and figs. “Good morrow to you, fair ladies,” he said with a bow. “Do you know where whores go?” When they did not respond, he repeated the question in High Valyrian, though he had to say courtesan in place of whore. The younger fatter cook gave him a shrug that time.

He wondered what they would do if he took them by the hand and dragged them to his bedchamber. None will dare refuse you, Illyrio claimed, but somehow Tyrion did not think he meant these two. The younger woman was old enough to be his mother, and the older was likely her mother. Both were near as fat as Illyrio, with teats that were larger than his head. I could smother myself in flesh. There were worse ways to die. The way his lord father had died, for one. I should have made him shit a little gold before expiring. Lord Tywin might have been niggardly with his approval and affection, but he had always been open-handed when it came to coin. The only thing more pitiful than a dwarf without a nose is a dwarf without a nose who has no gold.

Tyrion left the fat women to their loaves and kettles and went in search of the cellar where Illyrio had decanted him the night before. It was not hard to find. There was enough wine there to keep him drunk for a hundred years; sweet reds from the Reach and sour reds from Dorne, pale Pentoshi ambers, the green nectar of Myr, three score casks of Arbor gold, even wines from the fabled east, from Qarth and Yi Ti and Asshai by the Shadow. In the end, Tyrion chose a cask of strongwine marked as the private stock of Lord Runceford Redwyne, the grandfather of the present Lord of the Arbor. The taste of it was languorous and heady on the tongue, the color a purple so dark that it looked almost black in the dim-lit cellar. Tyrion filled a cup, and a flagon for good measure, and carried them up to the gardens to drink beneath those cherry trees he’d seen.

As it happened, he left by the wrong door and never found the pool he had spied from his window, but it made no matter. The gardens behind the manse were just as pleasant, and far more extensive. He wandered through them for a time, drinking. The walls would have shamed any proper castle, and the ornamental iron spikes along the top looked strangely naked without heads to adorn them. Tyrion pictured how his sister’s head might look up there, with tar in her golden hair and flies buzzing in and out of her mouth. Yes, and Jaime must have the spike beside her, he decided. No one must ever come between my brother and my sister.

With a rope and a grapnel he might be able to get over that wall. He had strong arms and he did not weigh much. He should be able to clamber over, if he did not impale himself on a spike. I will search for a rope on the morrow, he resolved.
He saw three gates during his wanderings; the main entrance with its gatehouse, a postern by the kennels, and a garden gate hidden behind a tangle of pale ivy. The last was chained, the others guarded. The guards were plump, their faces as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and every man of them wore a spiked bronze cap. Tyrion knew eunuchs when he saw them. He knew their sort by reputation. They feared nothing and felt no pain, it was said, and were loyal to their masters unto death. I could make good use of a few hundred of mine own, he reflected. A pity I did not think of that before I became a beggar.

He walked along a pillared gallery and through a pointed arch, and found himself in a tiled courtyard where a woman was washing clothes at a well. She looked to be his own age, with dull red hair and a broad face dotted by freckles. “Would you like some wine?” he asked her. She looked at him uncertainly. “I have no cup for you, we’ll have to share.” The washerwoman went back to wringing out tunics and hanging them to dry. Tyrion settled on a stone bench with his flagon. “Tell me, how far should I trust Magister Illyrio?” The name made her look up. “That far?” Chuckling, he crossed his stunted legs and took a drink. “I am loathe to play whatever part the cheesemonger has in mind for me, yet how can I refuse him? The gates are guarded. Perhaps you might smuggle me out under your skirts? I’d be so grateful, why, I’ll even wed you. I have two wives already, why not three? Ah, but where would we live?” He gave her as pleasant a smile as a man with half a nose could manage. “I have a niece in Sunspear, did I tell you? I could make rather a lot of mischief in Dorne with Myrcella. I could set my niece and nephew at war, wouldn’t that be droll?” The washerwoman pinned up one of Illyrio’s tunics, large enough to double as a sail. “I should be ashamed to think such evil thoughts, you’re quite right. Better if I sought the Wall instead. All crimes are wiped clean when a man joins the Night’s Watch, they say.

Though I fear they would not let me keep you, sweetling. No women in the Watch, no sweet freckly wives to warm your bed at night, only cold winds, salted cod, and small beer. Do you think I might stand taller in black, my lady?” He filled his cup again. “What do you say? North or south? Shall I atone for old sins or make some new ones?”

The washerwoman gave him one last glance, picked up her basket, and walked away. I cannot seem to hold a wife for very long, Tyrion reflected. Somehow his flagon had gone dry. Perhaps I should stumble back down to the cellars. The strongwine was making his head spin, though, and the cellar steps were very steep. “Where do whores go?” he asked the wash flapping on the line. Perhaps he should have asked the washerwoman. Not to imply that you’re a whore, my dear, but perhaps you know where they go. Or better yet, he should have asked his father. “Wherever whores go,” Lord Tywin said. She loved me. She was a crofter’s daughter, she loved me and she wed me, she put her trust in me.
The empty flagon slipped from his hand and rolled across the yard. Tyrion pushed himself off the bench and went to fetch it. As he did, he saw some mushrooms growing up from a cracked paving tile. Pale white they were, with speckles, and red ribbed undersides dark as blood. The dwarf snapped one off and sniffed it. Delicious, he thought, and deadly.
There were seven of the mushrooms. Perhaps the Seven were trying to tell him something. He picked them all, snatched a glove down from the line, wrapped them carefully, and stuffed them down his pocket. The effort made him dizzy, so afterward he crawled back onto the bench, curled up, and shut his eyes.

When he woke again, he was back in his bedchamber, drowning in the goosedown featherbed once more while a blond girl shook his shoulder. “My lord,” she said, “your bath awaits. Magister Illyrio expects you at table within the hour.”
Tyrion propped himself against the pillows, his head in his hands. “Do I dream, or do you speak the Common Tongue?”
“Yes, my lord. I was bought to please the king.” She was blue-eyed and fair, young and willowy
“I am sure you did. I need a cup of wine.”

She poured for him. “Magister Illyrio said that I am to scrub your back and warm your bed. My name — ”
” — is of no interest to me. Do you know where whores go?”

She flushed. “Whores sell themselves for coin.”

“Or jewels, or gowns, or castles. But where do they go?”

The girl could not grasp the question. “Is it a riddle, m’lord? I’m no good at riddles. Will you tell me the answer?”
No, he thought. I despise riddles, myself. “I will tell you nothing. Do me the same favor.” The only part of you that interests me is the part between your legs, he almost said. The words were on his tongue, but somehow never passed his lips. She is not Shae, the dwarf told himself, only some little fool who thinks I play at riddles. If truth be told, even her cunt did not interest him much. I must be sick, or dead. “You mentioned a bath? We must not keep the great cheesemonger waiting.”

As he bathed, the girl washed his feet, scrubbed his back, and brushed his hair. Afterward she rubbed sweet-smelling ointment into his calves to ease the aches, and dressed him once again in boy’s clothing, a musty pair of burgundy breeches and a blue velvet doublet lined with cloth-of-gold. “Will my lord want me after he has eaten?” she asked as she was lacing up his boots.

“No. I am done with women.” Whores.

The girl took that disappointment too well for his liking. “If m’lord would prefer a boy, I can have one waiting in his bed.”
M’lord would prefer his wife. M’lord would prefer a girl named Tysha. “Only if he knows where whores go.”

The girl’s mouth tightened. She despises me, he realized, but no more than I despise myself. That he had fucked many a woman who loathed the very sight of him, Tyrion Lannister had no doubt, but the others had at least the grace to feign affection. A little honest loathing might be refreshing, like a tart wine after too much sweet.

“I believe I have changed my mind,” he told her. “Wait for me abed. Naked, if you please, I’ll be a deal too drunk to fumble at your clothing. Keep your mouth shut and your thighs open and the two of us should get on splendidly.” He gave her a leer, hoping for a taste of fear, but all she gave him was revulsion. No one fears a dwarf. Even Lord Tywin had not been afraid, though Tyrion had held a crossbow in his hands. “Do you moan when you are being fucked?” he asked the bedwarmer.

“If it please m’lord.”

“It might please m’lord to strangle you. That’s how I served my last whore. Do you think your master would object? Surely not. He has a hundred more like you, but no one else like me.” This time, when he grinned, he got the fear he wanted.

Illyrio was reclining on a padded couch, gobbling hot peppers and pearl onions from a wooden bowl. His brow was dotted with beads of sweat, his pig’s eyes shining above his fat cheeks. Jewels danced when he moved his hands; onyx and opal, tiger’s eye and tourmeline, ruby, amethyst, sapphire, emerald, jet and jade, a black diamond and a green pearl. I could live for years on his rings, Tyrion mused, though I’d need a cleaver to claim them.

“Come sit, my little friend.” Illyrio waved him closer.

The dwarf clambered up onto a chair. It was much too big for him, a cushioned throne intended to accomodate the magister’s massive buttocks, with thick sturdy legs to bear his weight. Tyrion Lannister had lived all his life in a world that was too big for him, but in the manse of Illyrio Mopatis the sense of disproportion assumed grotesque dimensions. I am a mouse in a mammoth’s lair, he mused, though at least the mammoth keeps a good cellar. The thought made him thirsty. He called for wine.

“Did you enjoy the girl I sent you?” Illyrio asked.

“If I had wanted a girl I would have asked for one.”

“If she failed to please… ”

“She did all that was required of her.”

“I would hope so. She was trained in Lys, where they make an art of love. The king enjoyed her greatly.”

“I kill kings, hadn’t you heard?” Tyrion smiled evilly over his wine cup. “I want no royal leavings.”

“As you wish. Let us eat.” Illyrio clapped his hands together, and serving men came running.

They began with a broth of crab and monkfish, and cold egg lime soup as well. Then came quails in honey, a saddle of lamb, goose livers drowned in wine, buttered parsnips, and suckling pig. The sight of it all made Tyrion feel queasy, but he forced himself to try a spoon of soup for the sake of politeness, and once he had tasted he was lost. The cooks might be old and fat, but they knew their business. He had never eaten so well, even at court.

As he was sucking the meat off the bones of his quail, he asked Illyrio about the morning’s summons. The fat man shrugged. “There are troubles in the east. Astapor has fallen, and Meereen. Ghiscari slave cities that were old when the world was young.” The suckling pig was carved. Illyrio reached for a piece of the crackling, dipped it in a plum sauce, and ate it with his fingers.

“Slaver’s Bay is a long way from Pentos.” Tyrion speared a goose liver on the point of his knife. No man is as cursed as the kinslayer, he mused, but I could learn to like this hell.

“This is so,” Illyrio agreed, “but the world is one great web, and a man dare not touch a single strand lest all the others tremble. More wine?” Illyrio popped a pepper into his mouth. “No, something better.” He clapped his hands together.
At the sound a serving man entered with a covered dish. He placed it in front of Tyrion, and Illyrio leaned across the table to remove the lid. “Mushrooms,” the magister announced, as the smell wafted up. “Kissed with garlic and bathed in butter. I am told the taste is exquisite. Have one, my friend. Have two.”

Tyrion had a fat black mushroom halfway to his mouth, but something in Illyrio’s voice made him stop abruptly. “After you, my lord.” He pushed the dish toward his host.

“No, no.” Magister Illyrio pushed the mushrooms back. For a heartbeat it seemed as if a mischievious boy was peering out from inside the cheesemonger’s bloated flesh. “After you. I insist. Cook made them specially for you.”
“Did she indeed?” He remembered the cook, the flour on her hands, heavy breasts shot through with dark blue veins. “That was kind of her, but… no.” Tyrion eased the mushroom back into the lake of butter from which it had emerged.
“You are too suspicious.” Illyrio smiled through his forked yellow beard. Oiled every morning to make them gleam like gold, Tyrion suspected. “Are you craven? I had not heard that of you.”

“In the Seven Kingdoms it is considered a grave breach of hospitality to poison your guest at supper.”
“Here as well.” Illyrio Mopatis reached for his wine cup. “Yet when a guest plainly wishes to end his own life, why, his host must oblige him, no?” He took a gulp. “Magister Ordello was poisoned by a mushroom not half a year ago. The pain is not so much, I am told. Some cramping in the gut, a sudden ache behind the eyes, and it is done. Better a mushroom than a sword through your neck, is it not so? Why die with the taste of blood in your mouth, when it could be butter and garlic?”

The dwarf studied the dish before him. The smell of garlic and butter had his mouth watering. Some part of him wanted those mushrooms, even knowing what they were. He was not brave enough to take cold steel to his own belly, but a bite of mushroom would not be so hard. That frightened him more than he could say. “You mistake me,” he heard himself say.
“Is it so? I wonder. If you would sooner drown in wine, say the word and it shall be done, and quickly. Drowning cup by cup wastes time and wine both.”

“You mistake me,” Tyrion said again, more loudly. The buttered mushrooms glistened in the lamplight, dark and inviting. “I have no wish to die, I promise you. I have… ” His voice trailed off into uncertainly. What do I have? A life to live? Work to do? Children to raise, lands to rule, a woman to love?

“You have nothing,” finished Magister Illyrio, “but we can change that.” He plucked a mushroom from the butter, and chewed it lustily. “Delicious.”

“The mushrooms are not poisoned.” Tyrion was irritated.

“No. Why should I wish you ill?” Magister Illyrio ate another. “We must show a little trust, you and I. Come, eat.” He clapped his hands again. “We have work to do. My little friend must keep his strength up.”

The serving men brough out a heron stuffed with figs, veal cutlets blanched with almond milk, creamed herring, candied onions, foul-smelling cheeses, plates of snails and sweetbreads, and a black swan in her plumage. Tyrion refused the swan, which reminded him of a supper with his sister. He helped himself to heron and herring, though, and a few of the sweet onions. And the serving men filled his wine cup anew each time he emptied it.

“You drink a deal of wine for such a little man.”

“Kinslaying is dry work. It gives a man a thirst.”

The fat man’s eyes glittered like the gemstones on his fingers. “There are those in Westeros who would say that killing Lord Lannister was merely a good beginning.”

“They had best not say it in my sister’s hearing, or they will find themselves short a tongue.” The dwarf tore a loaf of bread in half. “And you had best be careful what you say of my family, magister. Kinslayer or no, I am a lion still.”
That seemed to amuse the lord of cheese no end. He slapped a meaty thigh and said, “You Westerosi are all the same. You sew some beast upon a scrap of silk, and suddenly you are all lions or dragons or eagles. I can bring you to a real lion, my little friend. The prince keeps a pride in his menagerie. Would you like to share a cage with them?”

The lords of the Seven Kingdoms did make rather much of their sigils, Tyrion had to admit. “Very well,” he conceded. “A Lannister is not a lion. Yet I am still my father’s son, and Jaime and Cersei are mine to kill.”

“How odd that you should mention your fair sister,” said Illyrio, between snails. “The queen has offered a lordship to the man who brings her your head, no matter how humble his birth.”

It was no more than Tyrion had expected. “If you mean to take her up on it, make her spread her legs for you as well. The best part of me for the best part of her, that’s a fair trade.”

“I would sooner have mine own weight in gold.” The cheesemonger laughed so hard that Tyrion feared he was about to rupture. “All the gold in Casterly Rock, why not?”

“The gold I grant you,” the dwarf said, relieved that he was not about to drown in a gout of half-digested eels and sweetmeats, “but the Rock is mine.”

“Just so.” The magister covered his mouth and belched a mighty belch. “Do you think King Stannis will give it to you? I am told he is a great one for the law. Your brother wears the white cloak, so you are heir by all the laws of Westeros.”
“Stannis might well grant me Casterly Rock,” said Tyrion, “but for the small matter of regicide and kinslaying. For those he would shorten me by a head, and I am short enough as I stand. But why would you think I mean to join Lord Stannis?”
“Why else would you go the Wall?”

“Stannis is at the Wall?” Tyrion rubbed at his nose. “What in seven bloody hells is Stannis doing at the Wall?”
“Shivering, I would think. It is warmer down in Dorne. Perhaps he should have sailed that way.”

Tyrion was beginning to suspect that a certain freckled washerwoman knew more of the Common Speech than she pretended. “My niece Myrcella is in Dorne, as it happens. And I have half a mind to make her a queen.”
Illyrio smiled as his serving men spooned out bowls of black cherries in sweetcream for them both. “What has this poor child done to you, that you would wish her dead?”

“Even a kinslayer is not required to slay all his kin,” said Tyrion, wounded. “Queen her, I said. Not kill her.”

The cheesemonger spooned up cherries. “In Volantis they use a coin with a crown on one face and a death’s head on the other. Yet it is the same coin. To queen her is to kill her. Dorne might rise for Mycella, but Dorne alone is not enough. If you are as clever as our friend insists, you know this.”

Tyrion looked at the fat man with new interest. He is right on both counts. To queen her is to kill her. And I knew that. “Futile gestures are all that remain to me. This one would make my sister weep bitter tears, at least.”

Magister Illyrio wiped sweetcream from his mouth with the back of a fat hand. “The road to Casterly Rock does not go through Dorne, my little friend. Nor does it run beneath the Wall. Yet there is such a road, I tell you.”

“I am an attainted traitor, a regicide and kinslayer.” This talk of roads annoyed him. Does he think this is a game?
“What one king does, another may undo. In Pentos we have a prince, my friend. He presides at ball and feast and rides about the city in a palanquin of ivory and gold. Three heralds go before him with the golden scales of trade, the iron sword of war, and the silver scourge of justice. On the first day of each new year he must deflower the maid of the fields and the maid of the seas.” Illyrio leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Yet should a crop fail or a war be lost, we cut his throat to appease the gods, and choose a new prince from amongst the forty families.”

“Remind me never to become the Prince of Pentos.”

“Are your Seven Kingdoms so different? There is no peace in Westeros, no justice, no faith… and soon enough no food. When men are starving and sick of fear, they look for a savior.”

“They may look, but if all they find is Stannis — ”

“Not Stannis. Nor Myrcella.” The yellow smile widened. “Another. Stronger than Tommen, gentler than Stannis, with a better claim than the girl Myrcella. A savior come from across the sea to bind up the wounds of bleeding Westeros.”
“Fine words.” Tyrion was unimpressed. “Words are wind. Who is this bloody savior?”

“A dragon.” The cheesemonger saw the look on his face at that, and laughed. “A dragon with three heads.”

Excerpted from A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin. Copyright © 2011 by George R. R. Martin. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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  • Ellen Dibble

    I challenge anyone to take pen in hand and take down a chapter in which one story prefigures or post-figures the situation of our fellow mortals, and see if it doesn’t look something like Martin’s.   Perhaps all of the 20th century along with Tolkien saw world wars with clear good and evil writ large.  
       Personally, the epics I know best are the  Homeric, and I’m reading Caroline Alexander’s “The War That Killed Achilles:  The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War,” and read that both Troy and the Greeks self-destructed thereby, over the fair Helen, and that 500 years of illiteracy followed, illiteracy on islands like Lesbos where people of Turkey and those of Greece mixed, and told and retold the tales of the war, until those oral tales wore themselves into the rut that is the Iliad, with plenty of turns of phrase as worn to that age as sea glass.     Anyway, Saturday, feeling recumbent, I set pen to paper and captured a chapter or so onto a legal pad, geared to age 10, I’d say, which seemed rather like Pilgrim’s Progress:  The Slough of Despond with plenty of allegory.  It’ll get sort of Himalayan, sort of Big Foot, but it seems sad.  So Monday when I woke to an all-day headache (someone smoking marijuana on one of the floors below), I heard only one piece of news, a review of Martin’s book on NPR, and it seemed to me Martin has written “it” all — on my behalf.  Oh, whew.     And I’m wondering if there’s something seeping through the air besides smoke, to wit, a dance with dragons of sorts.  If the Iliad was a cautionary tale about past glory, what is the call upon literature nowadays?  And isn’t it movies and computer games that is undertaking that mission nowadays?  Mostly, it seems to me, the framing of the Issue of Humanity for impressionable minds is totally throttled, and we are in the 500 years of illiterate muteness.  (Sorry.  But I do want to know, does this author fish his stories out of the same well the rest of us fish in?  How so?)

  • Jay

    I want to thank On Point for covering such a relevant and pertinent topic as imaginary dragons.

    Who cares that the A.T.F. recently got busted for selling 2,000 semi-automatic guns to Mexican drug cartels?

    Who cares that Congressman Issa has stated that Atty. General Eric Holder gave inaccurate testimony concerning the D.O.J.’s involvement in Operation “Fast and Furious”?

    That stuff is so yesterday!

    Talking about imaginary dragons is way cooler.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, lighten up.
      On Point covers all the important stories, and you know it. 
      Otherwise you wouldn’t have checked in here this morning.

      Since you know enough to find the site, you should also know that current events are typically covered in hour one. Hour two is usually reserved for the arts, because the soul needs nourishment, too, and these are simply great reads.

      Back to the salt mines tomorrow, I’m sure.
      At 10:00.

      • Jay

        Yeah, you’re right NewtonWhale, I really do need to “lighten up”.

        It’s a good thing that the A.T.F. sold 2,000 semi-automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

        Those Mexican drug cartels are going to need those AK-47′s that they bought from the A.T.F. to protect themselves,

        just in case they get attacked by imaginary dragons.

        • Anonymous

          Well, you made me do it.

          I clicked on your profile, read some of your earlier comments, and found out you are obsessed with this issue and a burning hatred of Obama. In fact, it is apparent that you simply raised this issue during a show on literature specifically to bash Obama.

          Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean it’s fine if that’s who you are.

          Variety is the spice of life, and most of Tom’s audience enjoys the coverage he gives to the arts. Even if it means occasionally dealing with dragons, dwarfs, and fantasy. Personally, I could do without trolls.

          • Jay

            You can do without trolls, fine.  I’m really happy for you.

            I can do without a Justice Dept. that sells semi-automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels (Operation “Fast and Furious”).

            But why should we burden ourselves with the truth?  The truth can be so problematic and inconvenient.  Maybe I should learn to bury my head in the sand like you Newt, and just hope that everything works out.

            Just remember what President Obama said,

            “Information is a distraction”.

          • Anonymous

            This particular show is about a book. 
            It’s not about politics.
            Oysters are not snails.

            If you suffer from the inability to withhold or refrain from making political comments, you may have Political Tourettes’ Syndrome. Ask your doctor if a cup of this would help:


          • Jay

            Wow Newt, I seem to have really struck a nerve with you, so sorry that I shattered your false sense of reality.

          • Yaj

            You’re a douche bag Jay! 

          • Jay

            Yaj, it’s so nice to see that you are allowed internet access in the correctional facility that you’re being housed in.

          • Mike

            Dude, get a hobby. Partisan hacks are really starting to get on my nerves. Want to talk about this issue? Call up Rush Limbaugh and blather on to the rest of the angry bumper sticker crowd. This is not the forum.

          • Jay

            You’re absolutely right “dude”.

            The A.T.F. selling semi-automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels who in turn used those guns to murder U.S. Border Patrol agents is no big deal.

            Who cares if the federal govt. is shredding the Constitution.

            We as a nation should be more focused on imaginary dragons and who Justin Bieber is dating this month. 

          • Starbug86

            Are you saying that this hasn’t been covered?  I’m sure you could find it if you did a search of NPR’s web site.  On Point may or may not have covered it, but I’m sure NPR has.

          • Starbug86
          • Emilio Matos


        • Ellen Dibble

          The way I see it, fantastical stories are the way to lead people to think about issues that are too hot to touch, the Third Rail — in Egypt, about Mubarak under his rule; under Stalin certain things; and in the USA plenty of things.  First you need the implements, emotional and rational, to address the unfathomable, and then people can use those tools to get out of brittle convictions and move on.  The Iliad was an assault on the ancient Indo-European heroic traditions, where looting was the way of life, and the glory of being much-sung by the high poets.  And Achilles totally spurned that; he was the Individual with a capital I up against the heroic tradition.  And Homer took plenty of the tradition, to keep its energy and patterns, but stood it on its head too.  “I would rather live a long life in my home, without glory or booty, in furthest Greece, in the Phthia, the Wasteland, where farming is constant.”  (Achilles at the Embassy)
               But we still have wars.   So.  A story about the ATF and its misadventures?  I would pit that against hungry families trying to relocate, and the compromising positions on all sides, the difficulty for children of framing heroes and ideals…

    • guest

      Issa is a petty thief.

      • Jay

        Hurling unsubstantiated insults is always the first sign of desperation.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I am wondering who the editor was for Dance with Dragons.  It’s a Bantam publication, and I see they publish plenty of books that for me are unreadable.  They don’t “get at” anything I’m tangled with, amazingly enough.  To me, the excerpt above reads like a screen play.  It begs for a movie director to flesh out almost every sentence.  It outpaces the strength of my imagination by very very very far.  Usually a few phrases will have me totally connected:  speculating, “hearing,” “seeing,” and wondering.   This is just to say I’m not Martin’s target audience, apparently.  The things that motivate and capture this reader aren’t engaged at this point in time.  Apologies for that.  Instead I’m interested in what motivates him as the writer, and those who read it.  Is it family dynamics?  Is it issues of power and greed?  Is it an attempt to lay out a comprehensive emoto-scape of modern awareness?  What do people get from it?

  • Wesley Robertson

    Is there any chance for a similar treatment with the WildCards mosaic novels.

  • Anonymous

    Heavens — why the comparison with Tolkien?  They are doing completely different things.  Not every fantasy is a descendent of Tolkien.

  • Anonymous

    Great series!! Looking forward to new intsallment – HBO did well on their mini-series – didn’t stray far from the books – fleshed out characters very well – hopefully it will continue

    I find George much easier to read that Tolkien – maybe because I am older – The Hobbit bored me to death – Snow & Ice is exciting and people are more realistic and have human failings. 

  • John Cogswell

    One of the earliest pieces of fiction I ever read was as a 9 year old in my father’s Omni magazine- Sand Kings.  Ever since, all other fiction has always had a candy-coated sacchariny taste to it.  I love George’s writing and style of writing.  After reading in my teens much of the Weisman style books and other authors, I always felt like I was on the Nick Jr. Fantasy circuit, and then finally George came out with A Game of Thrones many years ago, and I’ve been riding high taking many friends along with me into Westeros.

    My major concern is Robert Jordan and any fearful parallels that could be drawn.  George, love your work, keep it up!

    • Mbcarr2003

      “Sand Kings”!  I freaking LOVED that story.  I collected OMNI mag as a teenager and still have all of my issues,  Sand Kings was one of the best stories I ever read in OMNI.

  • Rex

    What’s with the extra R in the name?  Is it a writer thing?


  • Anonymous

    Many SF writers have had mentors.  Who was Martin’s mentor?  Did he attend Clarion?

  • Ndbarss

    Perhaps off topic – but is there any chance that we will see more of Dunk and Egg?  They have been my favorites since I first encountered them…

    • Eenhavik

      Aside from Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword it is unlikely, that is if he actually plans on ever finishing the main Ice and Fire series.

  • Matthew

    Are these books teenager friendly? I am looking for novels such as these for my child to get engaged in. Is the content suitable for a younger audience or is there explicit content for them to avoid in these novels?

    • Anonymous


    • Tracy

      Most likely not, unless you are very permissive and it’s a nearly college-age teen. Tons of violence, sex (nearly all of it unhealthy and, it being a pseudo-medieval setting, some of it underage), and very rough language.

      Fantastic series, however.

    • Guest

       Most definitely NOT suitable.  Much of Martin’s appeal is in the fact that he writes for the adult reader explicitly which gives him much more lattiude to write a freely expressive and no-holds-barred storyline with complex characters.  Whereas much of the genre tends to be written more for the “young adult” reader or younger.  Martin’s themes are for mature adults only in my opinion.

    • Anon

      teenagers aren’t nearly as innocent as you like to pretend.

      • John Cogswell

        This is not to say that what you describe is an ideal situation, of course.  Or perhaps you’re not a parent of one.

        • Nightwish

          Of course it is. The more they know, the better they are prepared for the world. Do you think their mantle on innocence should drop just at the moment they turn 18 and can vote/be drafted/go to jail for life? How can they be prepared for anything at that point?

    • Biancapookie03

      these are great books but definitely not for teenagers wanting to avoid explicit language, sexuality,or violence.

    • Verbalista

      Far too explicit for teens!  Rape, whores, gore galore.  Great fun, though!  I read the series well before there was a TV show.  Martin keeps worlds inside his head.

    • MC Odecco

      Not for kids or teens!  Try Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  You also can’t go wrong with Harry Potter.  Give Wheel of Time a shot.  It starts with the characters as teens and you get to grow with them… It is my favorite epic.

    • http://www.lyonbooks.com Heather Lyon

      Matthew, How old is your child? Boy or Girl? I am a children’s bookseller. George RR Martin is definitely adult stuff. I recommend The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage for kids through 13 or 14. I like the Abhorson trilogy by Garth Nix for older teens. Both series have elements of historical fiction and magic and are avoid the graphic sexual violence of the Song of Ice and Fire.

  • Marion

    I wish I had been able to reach Martin to ask him this question directly, but his intense popularity made getting through impossible.  

    I wonder how Martin feels about readers coming to the series after the HBO series began – I very much enjoyed reading the books after each episode, and look forward to doing that for years to come.

  • Margaret_altman

    What about Arya?

  • Orin

    Amazing! Been waiting 6 years. Haven’t seen the show yet…. Congrats, Mr. Martin!

    My friend who recommended the books warned “Don’t get attached to any of the characters. Noone is safe.”

    So real feeling.

    Thank you, very much.

  • Jmradosta32

    I missed the name of the Boston conference he says he attends every year. Does anyone know it? Has it occurred yet this year?

  • Sarahdeo

    My husband loves this series. He started reading the books when they came out. He was so excited when HBO picked up Game of Thrones but he didn’t think I’d like the show. 

    I LOVE THE SHOW. When it was on, I would see it on Sunday, then see it again on Thursday, and see it a third time before the new episode on the sunday. 

    Once the season ended, I bought the book and would read one episode worth of the show and then re-see the show. 

    I just started the 2nd book. I cannot believe how good it is. 

    I loved the strong female characters. The author portrays women so wonderfully. I LOVE this series. Thanks for the books, and i hope the last two don’t take 6 years to make though! 

  • Batesmotel34

    The convention mentioned by G.R.R. Martin is boskone which is held every President’s Day weekend in Boston or environs.

    My biggest fear with the series is that it will go the same way as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series where the author’s estate has had to recruit someone new to finish the series. Is this series enough under control to actually be finished?

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniesparks Daniel Sparks

    I’ve not been a reader of Mr. Martin’s series due to the fact that I was always consumed with Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. I enjoyed the fact that he ended the show with what sounded very much a tribute to Mr. Jordan who left us far too early.

  • Ungar655

    From the first, I was amazed by Mr. Martin’s work.  His characters were complex, as if drawn from life, and all were engaging.  I was floored when I found myself feeling sympathy for Jamie Lannister, and pitying Sansa Stark.  I adored Tywin Lannister, and Arya Stark.  Daenerys Targaryen was transformed as I read.  The new series on HBO has stuck by the storyline.  I am sure it will send many watchers scurrying to the bookstore to purchase all Mr. Martin’s novels.  

  • Pingback: George R.R. Martin on On Point | Geek Mountain State

  • Robert Hanson Einlein

    Liked “Armageddon Rag”, disliked “Fevre Dream”, haven’t read much else by him.  Saw the TV show: liked some of the sex, disliked being able to predict plot twists and the 1-D characterisations (maybe not G.R.R.M’s fault–I can’t bring myself to read multi-volume heroic fantasies set in pseudo-mediæval worlds where technology hasn’t advanced in 5K years).

    Porn has its place.

  • Michelle

    Tom!!!!! Careful what you say – at least lead with a ‘spoiler alert’ before saying someone dies. 

  • Eighteesix

    Thank you to Tom Ashbrook who GAVE NO SPOILER WARNING to the massive plot spoiler he unleashed to all the listeners. Ruined my day.

    Great topic though.

    • Chris

      They really should have at least bleeped that out of the podcast. My heart sank when he blurted out that huge spoiler so nonchalantly. 

  • Cory

    I think I played Car Wars and Gamma World with that guy in my 8th grade study hall!

  • Mike

    Dammit Tom! That was a major spoiler.  Can someone please edit that part out?

  • valentine

    I am really unhappy with the fact that there was no mention of spoilers being present in the interview. Listening to that just killed a major plot line for me. 

  • Ellen Dibble

    Why doesn’t somebody post exactly the minute where the spoiler part came up, so people who will be reading the book can listen and know to push the needle past that spot.  I don’t know the plots, but if I had to guess I’d say about 35 minutes in.  

  • Brett

    For those who are inclined toward this sort of genre literature—and, as evidenced by the genre’s popularity, there are many out there—a melodrama involving dragons and whatnot should be appealing. I am not much interested in this genre, but I feel I can be objective toward good/mediocre writing. The excerpt provided reveals writing that, to me, seems amateurish, pulpy in its approach, and poorly edited…not everything is to like, I suppose…

    Why are people attracted to stories that have a medieval setting? Epic battles between the forces of good and evil? Spiritual powers manifesting themselves in the form of wizards/monsters/magical spells and the like? Maybe it’s not so much escapism as the reader/viewer wanting clearly delineated metaphors/symbols? The proverbial monsters in the closet…I don’t know. 

    • Ellen Dibble

      Brett, I once was going to Boston by bus, and may have met a True Believer of the genre going to that boskone convention.  It was a few years back.  She was a college kid, a junior, the kind who’s voted most popular, blonde and very pulled together, very poised.  To the eye of an older person, there was something very guarded about a presentation so Fifth Avenue chic on an old bus. It was science fiction though, specifically, that was her passion.  So maybe another convention was involved.  Apparently the way to be cool and nerdy simultaneously is to be into science fiction.  And I can understand why.  It’s similar to the reasons around fantasy, as you suggest:  There are metaphors and symbols.  You don’t have to say, “I’m thinking of offloading all the values of my parents but can’t quite fabricate an alternative set.”  Instead you can talk about as-if.  You can discuss passionately an alternate world, parts of which you might adopt, parts of which others might adopt.  No one has to commit.  Just to pay attention.  And the smarter you are and the more science you know, the higher you are in that hierarchy.  The individual beside me on the bus was heading right for the top of it.
          As for the medieval framework with GRRM, I suspect it takes less specialized education for a reader/viewer to become part of that scene.  I’m thinking that fantasy suggests that the pieces in culture are actually movable, not fixed.  The “pieces” in the Bible, for instance, are not negotiable in the same way.  So alternate worlds enable something important.  I had to make do with Grimm and so on, next to which even Narnia can seem very pale.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Rosa/1059360979 Anthony Rosa

      You know, if I stumbled into a showing of Othello, watched a scene, and then walked away, I might find myself with the same sort of dismissiveness you feel, Brett. Especially if I had a predisposed opinion about those kinds of plays.

      You should know that for all your attempt at claiming objectivity, your bias shows from your first sentence to your last. You contemplate why people would like something with a medieval setting with a sense that you feel it beneath you. And your theories generally have nothing to do with A Song of Ice and Fire in particular. It’s not your fault you don’t know the story, but nevertheless, when you try to contemplate why people like this sort of milieu, maybe you shouldn’t try to focus on the worst of its cliches.

      Nobody reads A Song of Ice and Fire for battles between good and evil, escapism, clearly delineated symbols or anything else. Because you’ll find next to none of what you theorize about in this series.

      It’s a story about power, and how those with power use it. It’s a story about how being a good man doesn’t automatically make you a good leader, about how blindness to your own faults can lead you astray, and how even one who claims nobility may destroy themselves through their virtues.

      It’s a story about how when those with power play their game of thrones, it’s the regular people like and me who suffer most.

      It’s a story about people against themselves, because what’s important isn’t a hero battling an external foe, but a person fighting the darkness within.

      It’s a story about how love can be destructive. How everyone believes themselves the hero, even the most monstrous. How, when you make a real mistake, you will pay the price for it. How counting on prophecy and belief will bite you in the ass every time.

      It’s basically the antithesis of the sort of generic fantasy story with obvious heroes and magic and destiny saving the day. In a sense, Martin is defining his story in opposition to the tropes of the genre, as can be seen in his interviews. He wanted to create a story that was NOT the Disneyland version of the middle ages, and was NOT some moralistic tale of beautiful heroes defeating ugly, deformed villains.

      But you know. Keep acting like it’s beneath you.

      • Brett

        As David Bowie once explained in an interview, there is high art and low art, both have validity. Your comment speaks more toward your feelings people have about those who enjoy works in the literary realm as opposed to the fantasy realm, and your perception that they are elitists. Occasionally, those two types of literature can cross paths. This writer does not appear to approach that sort of artistry. Yes, I can judge how good the writing is by reading a passage of a book, particularly one which was picked to represent the author, irrespective of whether or not I know the story. A good story does not on its own make a good novel. 
        There are plenty of fine writers out there whose genres I don’t care for that I readily recognize as great writers. Stephen King comes to mind. AND, I’m absolutely sure that if I read something of Shakespeare’s and did not know it was he who wrote it, I would recognize its skill. 
        It’s funny, really, I was going to put in my initial post that people who are into this sort of thing always argue that critics do so because they don’t know the story, or they don’t know the series, or they are snobs, or something. You’ve validated my thoughts on this to me.  

        • Ludwig_Van

          You are one hilarious babbler.
          First of all, there is no internal demarcation in art (whatever “art” might be) between “high” and “low”. Instead, there are commercial labels and social traditions, all of them volatile and prone to change. The history of art is one great change of meaning with regards to supposedly low or merely entertaining works that become highly appreciated, even revered ones. This is true not only for individual works or artists (like, for example, Shakespeare) but also genres and artistic mediums (like, for example, opera, photography and film). It is in hindsight only that one can judge what has proved to be – more or less consitently – considered successful/meaningful art by the people of a given time and culture. Of course, this provides no answer to the question whether something ‘truly’ belongsto “high” or “lo” art.
          Moreover, aesthetics doesn’t provide a single conclusive or at least compelling internal argument as to how “high” or “true” art could possibly be differentiated from “low” art. Worse still, there is no convincing reason at all for any such dichotomy in the philosophy of art – the ones brought forward (by Adorno, Benjamin, Bloom, Bourdieu and so forth) tend to collapse or get forgotten as tradition, taste and makets change. Needless to say, I doubt that David Bowie succeeded where the Frankfurter Schule did not…
          You have, in fact, not a clue what you are talking about. Ridiculously enough, your examples not only fail to illustrate your point, they actually work against it (see Shakespeare).
          And by the way, the only valid kind of ‘elitism’ is my kind: It’s characterised by contempt for people like you who denigrate things they don’t know or care about based on feigned arguments lacking any academic or analytic rigour.
          As we genre lowbrows say: LMAO.

          • Anonymous


          • Mjang18

            Lol babbler

          • Brett

            For example, a comic book would be considered low art; a Rodin sculpture would be considered high art. There’s nothing elitist about such distinctions, nothing less valid about comic books because of those distinctions.

          • Ludwig_Van

            Well, then one might reasonably ask what the distinction’s use is, if it has any use at all.

            What does it say about a work of art to be “high” or “low”?
            Does that merely represent some contemporary, cultural assessment? Like, most people would say that Neil Gaiman writes fantasy because there are gods in America (!) in “American Gods”, and he is a big shot amongst the nerds and geeks, and writes comics, too (the horror, the horror!). But Cormac McCarthy certainly doesn’t write speculative fiction because he is a “literary” writer revered by critics and humanities departments, and it doesn’t matter that “The Road” takes place in some dystopian future because… well, it doesn’t matter.

            If that’s all there is to the distinction, then one can’t use it to say anything about works of art, because all it can possibly say is something about their social role, perception and use.
            What a bummer.

          • Brett

            They are different, one isn’t better than the other. There is good and bad art—this isn’t what I’m talking about. Because I like literary fiction as opposed to genre fiction does not mean I find genre fiction invalid. Because I wasn’t impressed with Mr. Martin’s writing does not make me a snob. All art has the same social role: to help us leave ourselves just long enough to come back to ourselves, see the humanity in others, see the humanity in ourselves; it conveys something about the human condition in subtle ways. I think it’s the “subtle ways” that is the difference, or maybe high art explores our interior life more (as opposed to a melodrama, say, which emphasizes action), I don’t know. I know the difference when I see them, as subjective as that might be.

            By your statement, “Well, then one might reasonably ask what the distinction’s use is, if it has any use at all,” in response to my saying there is a distinction between high and low art, this ostensibly indicates you think I  consider one bad and the other good. On the contrary, I think it is important to make the distinction so there is no comparison. One really can’t compare a comic book to a symphony, just as one can’t say whether a piece of art is good or bad based on whether it is high or low art.  Me thinks nerds and geeks are too thin-skinned  to have an intellectual conversation. 

          • Ludwig_Van

            Ah, make no mistake, I’m neither offended nor do I feel or care much about any external assessment of the things I like or care about (except for some contempt maybe…).
            Additionally, with my question about the distinction’s “use” I did not imply that it indicates any value judgement. I thought it did after your first posts, but you already clarified this. I am, however, interested why one would use the distinction when personally assessing works of art even though the distinction itself is apparently a social or economical one.

            Personally, I do not make any “high”-”low”-distinction between Sibelius or Zappa, von Horváth or Gaiman. Firstly, because I’ve never come across any compelling argument for an internal distinction of this kind in aesthetics. Secondly, because if the distinction is merely external, as your answer implies by not contradicting my illustration above, then it is, in fact, utterly useless when talking about art – instead of talking about the social role or use of art.
            Now, people here (except for Ms Dibble, who obviously doesn’t know much about “genre” literature and even less about Mr Martin’s novels) are talking about works of art – not their cultural but their personal perception and evaluation. And since you fail to present a reason why anyone in this context should care about anything you say with the terms “high art” or “low art” in it, I doubt that there is much to it.

          • Ludwig_Van

            To answer one of your attempted explanations:

            “I think it’s the “subtle ways” that is the difference, or maybe high art
            explores our interior life more (as opposed to a melodrama, say, which
            emphasizes action), I don’t know.”

            Well, it could be. But again, this would lead to a dilemma regarding Mr Martin, who is considered to write not only tight plots but first and foremost some of the most compelling characters in any kind of fiction. Now, does the fact that they live in a ‘fantasy land’ (the correct term is “secondary world”) invalidate their deep-felt humanity? Does the fact that ‘supernatural’ events are possible in their world invalidate their human fears, dilemmas and decisions? What about the characters of Gabriel García Márquez? Most of them obviously live in a fantastical world (even though Marquez’ reality is not so much a secondary world as a supernaturalised version of ours). Does it invalidate them, make them less “subtle”? I think not.

          • Brett

            When I talk of internal explorations in literary works, do you think of tight plots and good characters? 

          • Ludwig_Van

            No, I believe that you, like many people with a background in literary criticism or the humanities, actually think that we can ‘learn’ from art, that it somehow shows us something about ourselves, our relationships to others and our place in the world.

            But what it is that you are talking about regarding this strange “high”-”low”-distinction of yours (which is, of course, a long-standing one), I obviously don’t know.

            By “internal explorations” you could refer to literature’s supposed ‘insight’ into what is called the ‘human condition’ by people lacking rigour of thought. As if Molly’s monolouge could tell us something about human psychology, as if Shakespear’s revered characters were humanity’s universal archetypes, as if Goethe somehow knew “was die Welt im Innersten zusammenhält”.
            You could also refer to literature’s alleged ability to make us reflect our own thoughts and sentiments, question our decisions or our acceptance of mores and morals by putting us into the head of characters who share either much or little with us, or by conjuring situations that most people will never face in life. This would then enable us to become somehow ‘better’ or at least more open to other perspectives.
            And maybe you are just saying that you like to read McCarthy (for example) but not Martin, that you see the craftsmanship of King but can’t relate to fantasy, horror or science fiction because that’s not what you grew up with or what you were made to study at university.
            I don’t know.

            But all this doesn’t really interest me. I’m asking what it is that the distinction between “high” and “low” art contributes to a personal discussion about works of art (as opposed to a discussion about their social or economic role). You already ruled out that it says something about their “validity” (whatever that might be – naturally, it would have to be an external attribution). In fact, you deny that it entails any kind of value judgement.
            Consequently, my question remains: The distinction is an instrument, descriptive or explicative. But what is it good for? What is its use? What does it do? Why make the distinction?
            Surely, you don’t want to tell me that it’s somehow important simply because it has been used – without any robust justification by philosophers of art – “for a long time”. I mean, come on…

          • Brett

            You know…I was thinking about Strauss and his waltz’s…at the time, the old farts thought this form of music was an abomination; worse, the dancing was considered vulgar and would be the end of  civility. (Their reaction was similar to parents’ reaction when Elvis came on the scene.) Among young people, man it was the dance craze of their lives, the early 19th-century version of the jitterbug. Today, Strauss’ waltz’s are played as if they should be behind glass in a museum diorama or something. I think today’s version gets it wrong….Strauss is for dancing!!! 

            Dvorak used elements of peasant folk songs in his music, as have many other composers. (And, yes, critics were harsh with their disapproval.) Dvorak loved the peasant music, so he didn’t care about his critics…BUT, he knew precisely how to incorporate peasant melodies and themes into a more classical structure. So, for example, he knew the distinction. 

            It is detrimental to a writer for him/her to think he’s/she’s writing a great literary novel when he/she is really creating an O. Henryesque short story. In my mention of Bowie, I did so because he considers his art low. Rightly so. I think the distinction is important for artists to understand about their own work. 

            As far as what we as individuals enjoy, it doesn’t matter. Art has to reach us on a visceral level initially, or it isn’t doing it’s job, then it can seep into our intellect. I believe it also should, at some balance, guide us somewhere between having an emotional moment and seeing a set of conditions in a new light. If it only gives us a treat, then it won’t be around long.  Once upon a time, high and low art DID want that demarcation line to be about class distinction (and, of course there are those who still wish to perpetuate such nonsense), now it has more to do with the fact that we humans like to put things into categories, assign them files, as it were, make distinctions, seek out patterns, and so on…

            I was a bit stymied by your, “you deny that it entails any kind of value judgement.” [I presume when one is making a distinction between high and low art] When did I say that?!?!? All art entails a value judgement!!!! The artist decides he/she needs to share his/her work with the world (they are putting a value judgement on their own work). A reader reads ten books over the summer, only liked four (that’s putting a value judgement on others’ work). Someone decides to listen to country music instead of jazz…aren’t we making judgments on what we do and do not like all the time? 

            As far as art goes, I hope the world continues to make value judgments; when art becomes comfortable, predictable, replicable, and all artistic creations are given the same value, good or bad, then art will die, both high and low!   

          • Ludwig_Van

            “I think Ms. Dibble knows what good writing is, as do I. ”

            Most interesting! Please educate me.

          • Brett

            High and Low Art are not terms I’ve come up with, they exist on their own, and have for a long time. You and others keep saying criticisms are because the critics are not familiar with “genre” literature. This seems a kind of elitism. And, it is invalid as a way to dismiss their opinions. I think Ms. Dibble knows what good writing is, as do I. 

            Otherwise, your point is difficult to follow, and you mention not being offended (I don’t know where you get the thought I think you were offended), which means you probably were offended. 

          • Brett

            Wait…ah, the bit about being “thin skinned.” That was intended for Anthony Rosa, sorry. He seemed to take what I am saying very personally. 

          • Brett

            I do agree with what you say about what is regarded as low and high art, and how that changes over time; however, we do strip art of its importance if we treat all comers as artists. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/Elkgirl Barbara Stoner

      I am one of those attracted to medieval/renaissance settings.  Must be why I’m such a fan of Umberto Eco.  When it comes to fantasy, I think we like it because the battles are personal.  Hand to hand with few exceptions.  Because life isn’t easy in that setting.  No smart phones, no uzis.  The metaphors strike home.  I just finished a book that was amateurish, pulpy and poorly edited.  Believe me, this is not that book.   

      • Brett

        “This” book (the one excerpted) just came out yesterday, supposedly; so, unless you got an advanced copy somewhere, you haven’t read it either. You see, I’m saying I didn’t like the writing based on the excerpt above that I read; you seem to be saying you like the book because….? I can find no other substantiating support other than you say you like “fantasy.” Perhaps it is unfair to judge Mr. Martin’s work based on this show’s appearance, but in a sense he is asking me to BY his appearance and BY giving permission for OnPoint to provide an excerpt.    

        I can appreciate that you like medieval/renaissance settings…atmospherics can give people the right feel for a particular story they want to read. Not sure why you would mention Umberto Eco; who, btw is a very different kind of writer than Mr. Martin, a distinction I hope you can make–which is also a point I’m trying to make.

        I liked the “battles are personal” and the “No smart phones, no uzis” and the “metaphors strike home” …that’s good stuff; they sound like a trailer for an action movie…

        • Ludwig_Van

          This novel has been sold early by several retailer which is why some people had already read it before it was officially released.

    • Mjwjzk

      I am inclined toward this genre, but more inclined toward good literature, and this is not it. It reads like an HBO series. May as well just watch it, but don’t have time.

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  • Brett

    Movie trailer (based on comments by forum posters) 

    (Loud, digital surroundsound™ gives motion to the announcer’s deep, resonant voice) 

    “It’s a story about power and how those with power use it…it’s a story about those with power and how they play their game of thrones; it’s a story about power and fighting the darkness within…at a time when there were no smart phones and no uzis, when life wasn’t easy and battles…battles were personal! Love is back, and this time it’s destructive!!!!”   

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Rosa/1059360979 Anthony Rosa

      You know, you can twist my words all you want. But it just shows that your childishness. I spoke from the heart about a story, but you instead mock something you don’t understand.


      Movie trailer:

      (loud, digital surroundsound gives motion to the announcer’s deep, resonant voice)

      “IN A WORLD… of betrayal… IN A WORLD… of passion… one Moor is a general… IN VENICE! DUM DUM DUM! And things seemed like they were going well for him. He even has the love… of a lady! *Cue slo-mo shots of Desdemona*

      BUT THERE IS A CATCH! *Iago sits, half shadowed, behind a desk, his hands folded sinisterly*

      CAN this love succeed? CAN our hero overcome the prejudices of his society? THIS. IS. OTHELLO!”

      Yeah, one can mock anything if they feel like it. To think the ability to mock something is the same as it being bad is a logical fallacy.

      So you know, keep enjoying your little hard-on about your own self-importance. Oh, and the reason people keep telling you how you don’t understand when you mock something? It’s because you actually don’t know what you’re talking about, not because of some cliche that your inferiors always hide behind it when defending what they like.

      In any case, my taste in literature is probably better than yours -and certainly more varied. I like my Raymond Carver and Jamaica Kincaid and Charles Waddell Chestnutt. I enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck and Albert Calmus and Franz Kafka. Dostoevsky is great, btw. Throw so Hemingway on the list too, please.

      I also enjoy Richard Matheson, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Arther Conan Doyle. I like Patrick Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin and Tolkien and Stephen King. And while I wouldn’t put it in the same catagory as something like Carver or Fitzgerald, I even enjoy some J.K. Rowling.

      In any case, none of them have the same style. It’s obvious the little you had of Martin isn’t to your liking. That’s fair. But acting so superior about your own personal taste -because that’s all this is, no matter how much you may deny it- is a kind of arrogance not worth having.

      • Brett

        For example, a comic book would be considered low art; a Rodin sculpture would be considered high art. There’s nothing elitist about such distinctions, nothing less valid about comic books because of those distinctions. It’s more than “personal taste.” 

      • Brett

        Maybe one is owing to tradition more than the other? Take Hendrix…definitely low art. Andre Segovia: high. Both have value as artists producing art which moves people the way art should

        • Brett

          Come on, Brett, you know that Hendrix crack is gonna rile ‘em, just stop it!

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  • Christopher LeFay

    Tom does a “Vader is Luke’s father” just before we walk into The Empire Strikes Back- and then is unapologetic about the spoiler.   His justification? -somebody else was gonna ruin it for us, anyway… Not very nice, Tom.

  • FreddieD

    I just finished “A Dance With Dragons” and now I can’t wait for the next book ! When is the next one due ?

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  • http://twitter.com/Andor_2001 Irene Guy

    I cried after I finished the last book ((( I am almost 70, and I don’t believe I will live to read the next book (((  But I am glad I’ve had a chance  to read the “Dance”….

  • joyrobin

    Loved the entire series, just closed A Dance With Dragons.  Now The Winds of Winter?   Every spare moment I have been living in the The Land of Fire and Ice and I only knew of them since HBO.  Read the first book before the series started.  I need to feed my addiction, when can we expect the next book? 

    • Desiderata333

      LOL welcome to the club…this one took 7 years to come out when GRRM thought it would be 1…look for the next one in 2020 or thereabouts…but it’s worth it!! :)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000669755581 Brokk Galea

    I discovered the series in late 2006.  I loved them.  Very dark and twisting with a hint of fantasy spun throughout.  I read them all.  Then waited.  Then waited.  Then Robert Jordan died. I waited more.  And more…

    Then I lost interest.

    I can’t even bring myself to watch the HBO series.  Call me when he finishes writing the series, 20 years from now.  If I’m still alive, I’ll go back and read them all.  I’m sure I’ll love them.

    I think the risk in writing *too* complex a series with too many threads, is that it takes too long to write and the readers get bored waiting.  Future generations will have a wonderful series to read in total.  Being a reader now?  Just depressing.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DXAGN6JUQGV2RYD54TACK7BWIY Jane

    Please make the 8/30/12 rebroadcast of the “A Dance With Dragons: George R. R. Martin” podcast available on itunes. Thanks

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Five Midterm 2014 Races To Watch
Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014

The five most interesting races of the 2014 midterm election cycle, per our panel of expert national political correspondents.

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Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

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Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »