George R.R. Martin bonus interview!

Uploaded by geekandsundry on Jun 28, 2012

TOM MERRITT: Hey you guys.
We're off this week, as you know, but we've got a couple
of bonus interviews for you this week, one with George R.
R. Martin and one with Henry Jacoby.
If you want more philosophical information about the Game of
Thrones, we've got some answers for you.
We have, like, this one from terpkristin, who wants to
know, did you try to keep your book spoiler-free for people
who maybe weren't finished with the series?
HENRY JACOBY: Yeah, that was something we
worried about a lot.
Because we realized that a lot of people who are reading the
book may have only seen the TV show or maybe just read the
first book, and we didn't want to ruin things for them.
But what happened was a lot of the contributors felt that it
was necessary to talk about events that happened in the
later books to really make the philosophical points they
wanted to make.
So what we did was we put a spoilers warning page at the
beginning of the book.
I believe there's six chapters out of the 20 in the book that
have some spoilers in them , and so we cautioned readers.
We said, well look, if you've only watched the TV show, you
might want to hold off before you look at these chapters.
But yeah, that was something we worried about a lot.
TOM MERRITT: Now we talked a little bit about this in the
show last week, but were you a fan of George R. R. Martin
before you started thinking about writing this book?
And if so, how far back?
Terpkristin wants to know, did you read all the books first,
or did you have this idea and then go read the books?
How did that all play out?
We see you have Arya's Needle up on the wall behind you, so
you must be something of a fan, at least by now.
HENRY JACOBY: Yeah, and I have my Stick 'Em With the Pointy
End shirt on.
HENRY JACOBY: Yeah, Arya is my favorite character.
Well, I was a fan of George R. R. Martin.
I'd read one of his books, Fevre Dream, which is a
vampire novel that he wrote.
I'd read that a while back.
But I had not read the books prior to doing this.
I mean--
well, I did.
I mean, I wasn't a fan of the show until I found out about
the show being on, and then I started to read
the books, of course.
And then I read every one of the books many, many times.
Partly because I enjoy them so much, but also I had to really
make sure that there were no mistakes in our book, too.
Because the story, as you know, is so complex.
And even up to the last day before the book was
published, we were--
I was going back through it-- wait a minute, that didn't
happen in Storm of Swords, that happened at the end of
Clash of Kings, and that kind of thing.
So I had to really know the books as well as possible.
But I've enjoyed reading them many times.
VERONICA BELMONT: This may be too big of a question.
I'm not sure yet.
But what were some of your big takeaways from the series and
from the TV show?
What were some of the main points that you put in your
book about the philosophy behind this series?
HENRY JACOBY: Well, that is a very big question.
I mean, we tried to look at the most obvious
philosophical issues.
Clearly, there's questions about war, and there's
questions about the gods, and there's
all the ethical issues.
You know, different cultures have different moral views.
What does that tell us?
There's questions about incest and all sorts
of things like that.
The relationship between virtue and honor and morality
and a good life, all those things were there.
But I also like to focus on some of the other things.
So for me, the question about consciousness and how some of
the characters can transfer their consciousness into
different beings and so on was very fascinating.
But there's just so much there, as I said earlier, in
one of the earlier questions, that you can--
there's just so much to choose from.
VERONICA BELMONT: Is anyone in the show or in the books truly
evil or truly good in your opinion?
HENRY JACOBY: Well, they break the norms, you know?
Most of the characters are a mixture.
They do honorable things, and then they do horrible things.
I suppose Eddard is one of the most honorable characters.
And I think Bran is a very honorable character.
And truly evil?
Yeah, I mean, I think maybe Joffrey or
Ramsay Bolton, for sure.
There are some like that.
But most of the main characters, I think that we
love, Tyrion and Cersei and Jamie and--
HENRY JACOBY: Yeah, and Arya.
You know, I mean, Arya is one of the great
heroes of the book.
And as I said, she's my favorite character, but she's
murdered a lot of people, too.

But that's what makes the characters so fun and so
interesting is that they're not just always doing good or
always doing evil.
And you don't know what they're going to do next.
And sometimes you don't find out why they're doing what
they're doing until much later.
TOM MERRITT: The White Walkers seem pretty evil though.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, I don't know if I'd really count
them as characters.
I mean, they're characters, but they're more of a--
I don't really know how to describe them-- a supernatural
essence, I guess.
HENRY JACOBY: They're not people
either, so that's different.
TOM MERRITT: I don't know.
The White Walker rights agencies may have a
problem with that.
VERONICA BELMONT: Their union might be calling you to
complain about their representation in the book.
HENRY JACOBY: The Others, who created the Whites, we don't
know a lot about them.
You know, they're being portrayed as being evil, but
maybe they'll turn out to be the good guys.
HENRY JACOBY: We don't know.
TOM MERRITT: Who knows.
One last question from our viewers.
I see you've also written a book on House, M.D. In the
course of doing your writing, what kind of parallels between
the ethical and philosophical issues in House did you maybe
run across with Game of Thrones?
HENRY JACOBY: Yeah, that's a great question.
When I first was thinking about coming up with a list of
topics for Game of Thrones, of course, I didn't think
anything about House at that time.
I wasn't thinking, gee, what did we do when we did the
House book.
And at first glance, it seems like the two
are just worlds apart.
You have this modern-day hospital setting, and then you
have the medieval fantasy, right?
But what's interesting is if you look at the two books,
each one has a chapter on Zen.
Each one has a chapter on moral luck.
Each one has a chapter on leading a good life and a
meaningful life.
Each one has a chapter on virtues and character.
So it turned out there was quite a bit of overlap.
And one really interesting thing too, there's--
House is big on medical ethics issues, obviously.
And one of the chapters in the Game of Thrones book is about
And they talk about--
someone says it would've been a mercy to kill Bran because
of him being crippled.
And that's contrasted with Khal Drogo, who is euthanized.
So the author talks about euthanasia through the eyes of
those two characters.
So that's another overlap.
But I thought it was real interesting that it turned out
there were a lot of the same topics in the books.
Lot of different ones too.
TOM MERRITT: The book is called Game of Thrones and
Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords.
Henry Jacoby, thank you so much for taking the time to
chat with us some more.
Is there a website or a place people can go to learn more
about the book?
HENRY JACOBY: Yeah, Wiley has a pop culture philosophy
website where you can read about my book, and you can
read about all the books that they have.
And I think that's probably the best place.
Or you can just look up the book online, and you'll find
descriptions of it.
TOM MERRITT: Excellent.
And of course, folks, if you missed it, the last episode of
Sword and Laser, our Game of Thrones special, we had a
little time with Henry Jacoby to talk in there, as well.
So if you liked what you heard here, go watch that.
And of course, there's a brand new TableTop from Geek and
Sundry coming tomorrow.
And we'll be back next week with an all new Sword and
Laser with our guest, Rob Reid, and kicking off a new
sci-fi book.
We'll see you then.
ROBOT VOICE: Sword and Laser.
VERONICA BELMONT: Thank you for answering a few more
questions from our audience.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: My pleasure.
Glad to be here.
TOM MERRITT: Rachel wants to know, in the world of A Song
of Ice and Fire, it's incredibly detailed, constant
references to food, armor, weapons, and the like.
How do you know so much?
You have to read.
Whenever I'm going to write a book that draws on history to
any extent, I kind of immerse myself in the period.
And obviously, for Ice and Fire, which I've been writing
for 20 years now, I've been reading everything I can get
my hands on about medieval history for 20 years.
Memoirs and popular histories, historical fiction, treatises
on things like medieval feasts and tournaments.
There are many wonderful, specific books out there.
And of course, the internet is useful for some things too,
but for my mind, there's still nothing to take the place of
good old-fashioned books.
And I love to find new ones and to learn
more about these periods.
There's always great stuff in there that you can use.
And you really have to know it.
I like to do this immersion so that when I'm writing, and I
need to know something, I do know it.
Because if you don't know it, and you have to kind of stop
and look it up, then that sort of takes you out of the
moment, and it's hard to recapture the momentum.
So the more you can know before you even start to
write, the better off you'll be, I think.
TOM MERRITT: Do you know about what Neal Stephenson is doing
with sword fighting?
He's doing a Western martial arts video game.
TOM MERRITT: And it's essentially--
he's done exactly what you're talking about.
He immersed himself in sword fighting with a
group of his friends.
So much that he's now, says, I've got all this knowledge.
We're writing books in that venue.
We want to make a real, good sword fighting video game.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I have heard a little about that.
I don't know a great deal about that.
But, yeah, I mean, sword fighting, of course, is one of
the more interesting things.
Most of the great material on sword fighting, of course, no
longer exists.
I mean, in the actual Middle Ages, there were hundreds of
books written about the techniques of sword fighting
and how best to do it.
And most of them have not survived.
They're long gone.
And I think a lot of what we see, not only in books but in
television and film, and even people who put on displays, is
theatrical sword fighting.
And it's a lot of fun.
It's exciting to watch.
But it's not necessarily the real techniques that they used
in the real Middle Ages.
On the other hand, I'm not sure as a writer that you want
to get too realistic about some of these things.
There's that famous line from Liberty Valance.
"When the truth becomes legend, print the legend."
VERONICA BELMONT: So kind of taking it out of the past and
the history world and moving forward into the future, Gord
wants to know if you've ever given any thought to what
happens in the future world of Westeros and Essos?
Is it going to be more-- is it going to parallel to our
Is it going to be something else entirely different?
TOM MERRITT: Renaissance?
VERONICA BELMONT: Renaissance, is it going to be steampunky?
I don't know.
I'm curious if you've ever thought about that.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I have thought about it
from time to time.
If I have any particularly interesting ideas about it, I
may write books about it sometime in the future.
But I don't know.
That's a long time off.
The other possibility is--
remember that big red comet from book two?
It might come back and hit the world of Westeros and just
kill everybody.
So, who the hell knows?
TOM MERRITT: No future.
VERONICA BELMONT: You don't have to worry about it.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: When you hang a red comet on the wall,
you have to use it, Chekhov would have said.
TOM MERRITT: Yes, that's right.
When the gun enters the story, exactly.
When the comet enters the story, Chekhov might have said
in this case.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I hope your viewers don't actually
take that seriously.
I don't want the whole internet to go nuts over the
idea that I'm going to wipe out the entire world.
VERONICA BELMONT: We're going to get all sorts
of new fanfic now.
That actually is one of my favorite parts of the setting
of A Song of Ice and Fire is the seasons.
And I know a lot of folks have tried to come up with
scientific rationalizations for the seasons.
Is that important at all?
Do you give thought to that, or do you just say, this is
just the way it is, don't--
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I get letters all the time about it.
And some people have devoted a lot of thought to it and have
some very ingenious ideas.
And I get letters talking about periods of rotation and
axial tilt, and is it a binary star system?
And this, that and the other thing, which just gives me a
headache because I have to keep writing to them and
saying, guys, it's a fantasy.
It's a fantasy.
If I was writing a science fiction book, yes, then you
could send me all these theories about the axial tilt
and the binary stars.
But it's a fantasy.
It's magic.
VERONICA BELMONT: You know how everyone says hard sci-fi?
We could be the first, like, hard fantasy novel, where all
the magic-- well I'm sure someone's probably done it.
Where everything that's fantastical about the universe
is somehow based in science, I guess?
I don't really know how that would work.
TOM MERRITT: Actually--
that, I mean, [INAUDIBLE]--
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who
said, "Sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from magic."
VERONICA BELMONT: So, Casey wants to know, if you have any
time to do so, what are you currently reading?
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: What am I currently reading?
I'm currently reading-- well, talk about history.
I'm currently reading a book about Florence in the days of
the Medici and all the Renaissance intrigue and
backstabbing and religious mania and Savonarola, or
however the hell you say his name.
All of that stuff.
So that's fascinating, fascinating, stuff too.
TOM MERRITT: What's the title of the book?
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I haven't started it yet, but I want to
read Caliban's War, the second book in James
Corey's Expanse series.
That's next on my list.
TOM MERRITT: We just had Daniel and Ty
on Sword and Laser.
VERONICA BELMONT: Just last week.
TOM MERRITT: The one before-- well, two
weeks, two shows ago.
VERONICA BELMONT: The last full episode ago.
Before the last one.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: Ty is actually sitting here.
He says to say hello to you two.
TOM MERRITT: Oh yeah, say hello to Ty for us.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I have to say nice things about him
because he just accepted my Locus Award, and he actually
hasn't given it to me yet, so--
VERONICA BELMONT: He's holding it on to it for safekeeping.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: I have to be nice to Ty.
TOM MERRITT: So you're like-- he's like plug Caliban's War.
You have to, or you don't get your award.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: Something like that, yeah.
TOM MERRITT: Well, Leviathan Wakes may end up being our
book pick next week, which is the first book before
Caliban's War in the Expanse series.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: Oh really?
Well, that's a terrific book.
TOM MERRITT: I'm curious about that Medici book because we
just finished up Tigana in the book, and of course Guy
Gavriel Kay based that on that period of Italian history.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: The Italian city-states.
That's a fascinating story there.
TOM MERRITT: Terprkistin wants to know, if you were stranded
on a desert island for a year, what three books would you
want to have with you?

GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: Fellowship of the Rings, The
Two Towers and Return of the King.
Cover all your bases there.
TOM MERRITT: Some purist is going to write in and go, well
actually, those are meant to be one book, so
that's only one book.
So don't write us.
VERONICA BELMONT: Don't "well, actually" George R. R. Martin.
So, our last question, Craythur, now this is a theme
that's come up in many of our author interviews, so we're
curious to see how you respond.
Do you have a tabletop role-playing
background of any kind?
Is that something that's interesting to you?
Because many of our authors seem to be going that route
and saying that that has informed their world building.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: The Wild Cards series that I mentioned
earlier grew out of a role-playing game.
I've talked about that in numerous
introductions and all that.
But I started doing tabletop role-playing when I moved to
New Mexico in the early '80s, gaming with a group of the
local writers, including Melinda Snodgrass and Walter
John Williams, Victor Milan, John Jay Miller.
Roger Zelazny was a member of our group
for a number of years.
And some of my most cherished memories are role-playing with
Roger Zelazny.
He was just as creative a gamer and as delightful as he
was a writer.
I miss him still.
Yeah, those were some great games, and I was actually a
game master for a few years.
I ran Call of Cthulhu, and I ran Superworld, the big
superhero role-playing game that we played obsessively for
like three years and that eventually developed into the
Wild Cards series.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, yeah, that's right.
I think I remember reading that.
VERONICA BELMONT: Actually, we just had a--
we interviewed another author named Seanan McGuire last
night who said she used to play Wild Cards all the time.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: Oh really?
Oh, cool.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, she also writes under the name Mira
Grant, if you see that.
Well, I think that does it for us.
Justin Robert Young had told me to ask you about Tebow
going to the Jets, but I'm a little afraid.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: [LAUGHING], well, he is on the
Jets, but Mark Sanchez is still my quarterback.
TOM MERRITT: All right, thank you George for taking the time
to chat with us.
We really appreciate it.
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: Thank you.
You're welcome.
TOM MERRITT: We'll be back with all new Sword and Laser
episode next week.
We'll be interviewing Rob Reid, author of Year Zero, as
well as kicking off our new book pick.
But don't miss the new version of TableTop with Wil Wheaton,
coming tomorrow right here on the Geek and Sundry channel.
We'll see you later.