This page is written notes style, so pardon the bullet-pointed lists as opposed to narrative heavy text. There was so much going all the time that sometimes I preferred to listen rather than note or record. George and I also talked about other topics not mentioned below, but again, I was enjoying my conversation with him rather than taking copious amounts of notes. If you know of other Balticon experiences, please feel free to link them in comments.
Additionally, there is a stripped down version of this write-up in the Westeros.org So Spake Martin archive, you can read it at this link here, but this page you are on now is the ‘the’ fuller, more accurate version that I was able to fix once I returned home and re-listened to recording compared to hand written notes. Feel free to compare the two write-ups side-by-side. I have not changed anything, just clarified a few words, punctuation, or phrases here and there.
Lastly, the now notorious 1993 outline is asked about and discussed below. Here is a page with the actual outline and line by line notes as to what stayed, what was shifted, what was omitted. Read it here.
The Donation Dinner on Thursday, May 26, 2016:
*quick note: anything that I “quote” means it was a direct quote from George as he said it. His words, not mine.
I knew another ASOIAF fan was also going to attend the dinner, so we agreed ahead of time to meet in person. Through the rest of the convention, Con Friend and I attended most panels and readings and such together.
- I was at table 5, which the way it fit in the small room sat me right next to table 1 as well! Of the other five diners at my table, only 1 has read the books, two are an older couple there to support Balticon, and the other is Mark Van Name and he is the MC of the event and the one to do the official GRRM interview on Saturday. He and I are getting along famously!
- GRRM described himself as a “sex positive feminist”.
- GRRM just sat with my friend and he is talking about SpiderMan and Greenwich Village.
- Three notes from my Con Friend about something that happened at her table next to mine:
- “Also the guy sitting next to me brought up the Hodor elevator story to him. He said he didn’t remember it, but everyone at the table still had a good laugh about it.”
- GRRM talked about Dorne! He wasn’t exactly dissing the show, but he didn’t have anything good to say about it. One guy talked asked if season 6 would spoil the books for him. Something like “Don’t think what happens in the show will happen in the books, the show is completely different. The books will be nothing like that.” You could really feel the dislike he had for it.
- My friend asked him about Gendry and Arya meeting back up and when will Arya get her moonblood to which GRRM answered “soon”… and GRRM had an interesting response to Arya and Gendry meeting back up. I will let her tell you the answer. But I do know he said of Arya and Gendry that, “I’ll visit them again.”
At my table now:
George’s assistant Joanna (Jo) sat with us and explained and few things about George and social/technical parameters… but then she and I got to talking about lots of other stuff and I grew to love her very quickly. After Jo left, GRRM’s assistant Lenore came a round and sat with George during the dinner. Parris was feeling ill.
- Just as George was approaching me at my table, he held out his hand and said “valar dohaeris”, and handed me a faceless man iron coin. I very nerdily replied “valar morghulis”, and touched two fingers to my brow. I got to keep the coin
- George just sat right next to me. He was crazy nice and shook my hand … but not before noticing and complimenting me in my silver wolfhead necklace pendant.
- My wolf necklace: The conversation started with his work at the wolf sanctuary that is something he is very passionate about. That was the one time his tone changed and became very serious. He went on about the sanctuary and how sometimes humans can be irresponsible with what they think is “cool” by having wolf-dog hybrids and how that is worse for these poor animals. There was passion there.
- GRRM is describing the maesters and how he wanted them to have a lot of flower knowledge and to be very clean.
- Then someone at my table told him I like his story Meathouse Man and he turned to me and told me I was a freak!!! And laughed and then told me how he came about writing Meathouse Man and it was cool. I am also a writer and could appreciate the writing process down to the editor and publisher.
- At first he did not want to talk about this story with me, said it was still painful, but after a minute of him growing quiet and internalizing a few things, he started to open and talk to me about it. I do not idolize GRRM by any means, but I felt a sense of honor in those moments he shared. He does not know me and did not have to tell me anything, but he did. We then went on to have a good conversation about the current writing and publishing processes. This came about when he went on and on about how many rejections the story got, and how only one person believed in him (Harlan Ellison) and that story at the time, and how hard Ellison pushed George, and how emotionally taxing it was, and so on. I will never forget this evening.
- At the dinner, his assistant Joanna told me his other assistant who does the artwork for some of the graphic novels said she was working on something “super secret”. And then when George was at my table a little later, he told me that he was working on more stories that included Bloodraven in them. I was first excited for the possibility of She-wolves of Winterfell in the D&E stories, but then I was like duh, it’s probably Winds and his art assistant was working on something else.
- My first “big” question I asked was, “who has a better chance of getting together, and that there is no right or wrong answer to this (hahaha), Jon and Val or me and Bloodraven.”
- That is when he laughed and said I was weird and then said, “Bloodraven is half a tree,” to which I replied, “So? I’m a gardener and the wood jokes write themselves.”
- Then he paused, took a minute to think, and told me he is writing more with Bloodraven in it (to which I died).
- Then he paused again and said “Jon and Val, huh? That would make a good fit,” and then, “well, there’s not nothing there…”
- George did have more to say about Jon and Val, but being that I am rather superstitious to put it all out there, this is all the Val-Jon info I am reporting on for the time being.
- My other “big” question to him was about my Targ/Non-Targ theory.
- Here is a link to the thread on Westeros.org to the birth order theory. http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/138744-targaryen-non-targaryen-children-always-favor-the-non-targ-parent/
- Curiously enough, when I asked him at the Thursday dinner about my Targ/Non-Targ first born babies, he replied “interesting”, then told me, “you know alot”.
- He did not say “no,” as he often does when something is just plain wrong, but instead, he asked more questions. He also took my note card and looked at what I had written (to not forget under pressure).
- GRRM then started to diverge the conversation in to the Blood&Fire book, and that he would have to “go back and look at his notes.” Regarding my Targ theory. This may be a way he avoids answering questions that could be spoilers.
GRRM/ John Picacio interview Saturday, May 28, 2016:
- The interview ended a few minutes ago and GRRM did make mention at how when you see actors at other cons, which are considered shows as opposed to fan conventions, that the guests and show actors are there because they are paid (does that equal employee?) There were a few other subtle tidbits in there as well and if this convention gets a video of the interview up, then it will be towards the end.
- George just answered the Picacio question, “What part of Kong are you working on right now?’, and GRRM answered that he was working on a Cersei chapter when he left home the other day and he still has a ways to go.
- He is probably closer than he thinks because when he wrote Game, he thought 1200-1500 pages wasn’t enough and it was his editor that told him to scale it back to the now finished size. However, GRRM did add, “I still have a ways to go. I shouldn’t be here right now…”
- Fan fiction: GRRM and Picacio both made the joke about “you need to pay the artist” and such regarding general fan fiction. And then GRRM said he has issued some sub-licenses to things like art and games, etc. GRRM also mentioned that HBO owns the rights to the exact likenesses of the tv version of the story, meaning, no art can be made where Dany looks like Emilia (his example given). He was very careful in avoiding a real link in feeling between him and HBO even though he was asked about it twice. Then GRRM mentioned, and Picacio joined in, how GRRM knew the show would overtake the books. Not too much new.
- GRRM did say how he hates when movies stray too far from the books.
- An audience member asked GRRM, “As the Game of Thrones TV series moves farther away from the book, has this changed or done anything to your views on fan fiction?
- GRRM’s Reply: “No. I continue to be opposed to fan fiction because it’s copyright infringement. HBO, of course, gets around this by paying me large dump trucks full of money. So, if you would like to arrive in front of my house with a large dump truck full of money, I may consider allowing you to do some fan fiction. But I won’t consider it fan fiction then. I would consider it a sub-license. I make many sub-licenses to people who do games and card games and coins, etcetera. But Harlan Ellison always had this rule that he has been very vocal about over the years. You can find his diatribe about it on YouTube. And I think John also feels (one must) pay the artist, because this is how we make our living.”
Liars Panel Sunday, May 29, 2016:
- The Liars Panel is hilarious. GRRM just admitted he once received a nipple piercing gift certificate as a gift and that he knows all the words to Petticoat junction and he just sang a bit of the theme song.
- From the link: CATCH A LIAR, LAUGH HARD, HELP KIDS. THE RULES:
Each panelist answers a set of questions. All answers must be the truth—except three. No one other than the answerer knows which are true and which are lies. After each answer, anyone in the room can challenge the answerer. Multiple people can challenge; the more, the better. After there are no more challengers, the panelist tells whether the answer was the If it was true, each challenger puts $1 in a bucket that runners pass. If it was a lie, the panelist puts $10 in the bucket.
ALL PROCEEDS GO TO BUY BOOKS FOR BSFS BOOKS FOR KIDS. BRING LOTS OF $1 BILLS, SPOT THE LIES, AND RAISE MONEY FOR BSFS BOOKS FOR KIDS!
Book signing Sunday, May 29, 2016:
- Since I was at the donation dinner I had a very low number to get my book signed. I was #6.
- When I approached GRRM he remembered me right away from the donation dinner. We talked for a minute and he really liked my Bloodraven “fan” t-shirt I had printed up special for the signing. He once again told me I was, “weird,” and, “nobody likes Bloodraven.”
- I had GRRM sign the one art page in Knight of Seven Kingdoms book that shows Bloodraven (notice the theme of my personal favorite here?). He also signed the inside cover of my book = two signatures in one book !!!!
Martin reads Damphair! Sunday, May 29, 2016:
- Not much to add here that you have not already seen online by now, so just a few notes.
- George gave the option of the Arya/Mercy chapter, a chapter from the new Blood & Fire book or Damphair. The crowd overwhelmingly chose Damphair and he called us, “sick fucks,” and made comments that Euron was worse than Ramsay. This makes sense because Ramsay and Euron are both archtypes by plot detail and characterizations to the “big bad” in GRRM’s story The Skin Trade.
- During the reading everyone was silent. It was surreal being taken along through the eldritch nightmare of that chapter by none other than George R.R. Martin himself. The only noises came when GRRM mentioned that Euron has a suit of armor made of Vayrian steel… gasps and murmur all around for a quick few seconds.
- Always the editor, he used a red pen to make a few notes along the way.
- I do have an especially nice recording of the chapter, but here is a link to the text if you have not had a chance to read it.
- Of course, thunderous applause when he finished reading.
Kaffeeklatsch (Coffee Talk) Monday, May 30, 2016:
- My Con Friend and I attended a kaffeeklatsch (coffee talk) with George and about 8 other people. It lasted about an hour and a half in a very small, private room that overlooked Baltimore’s inner harbor (interpret that as you will). I do have a recording of the talk, but can’t get the file small enough to share easily. I did start to take written notes as he said certain things as to not forget the specific phrasing.
- The funny stuff:
- The two tables were pulled close together and GRRM sat in the middle of the two with me on his right, and Con Friend in front of him. We almost did not make it in because the sign-up was limited and there was zero information to be found on how and where to sign up. We had a leprechaun on our side that morning.
- At one point during a book recommendation, George started talking about sword fighting and how Hollywood gets it wrong. At this point he was physically demonstrating how to hold and wield a sword or shield. He then held both of his hands up and pretended he had two swords. This was all during his talking points about how Hollywood is very inaccurate at sword fighting. Well, during his physical demonstration at how clumsy holding two swords would be, he accidentally bumped my foot and and uncrossed my legs for a brief second. He never said “two swords looks awful”, but it was odd and curious how he decided to pretend he had two swords to demonstrate his point. (I am never washing my foot again!!! )
- The books or authors he recommended were The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (that may just be the show name based on the books), and the book Aspects of the Novel.
- The serious stuff:
- My con friend asked about the Jon/Arya relationship again and brought her (impressive) Game book that had all of her references marked out with little flags. She brought up the Ygritte connections to Arya that Jon saw in her. George did not directly answer yes or no if there would be anything romantic between the two.
- George did say, despite what readers see as clues to a romantic relationship between Jon/Arya in the books themselves, he did not confirm this so easily but inferred that what Jon saw in Ygritte was a comfort level of femininity. <<< She and I obviously discussed these comments after the meeting and this was the general feeling.
- My con friend was referring to George explaining Jon’s perception: GRRM replied, “You know, I don’t think it’s a reference for that [for romance]. It’s a reference to a certain physical type, and a certain indication of what Jon finds admirable. It’s like someone who reminds you of, you know… Other people might be put off by this, you know, hair that looks like small rodents have been living in there. It doesn’t put him off because he is used to that.”
- The Outline: George said he was “pissed” that the outline was posted in the office building and that someone took photos and shared them. He said it was a letter for him and the publisher only. He was very firm when telling this and it showed on his face.
- He then said that he is not good with writing outlines, making book deadlines, and that often in outlines he was “making shit up“, and “characters changed along the way“. Side note: I know he said other things in past interviews, so interpret this as you will. * “quoted” words are his words exactly.
- He went straight from talking about the references in the actual books, to the “differences” in the outline from then to now. He did say that he still knows who sits the iron throne and the end game of the main 5, but also included Sansa, but did not give any details (for obvious reasons).
- I asked him about my Bran/Wood dancers/Pinocchio theory. I pointed out the seemingly heavy influence Pinocchio has in the Bran storyline and he replied, “Interesting.” He asked if I saw the Disney movie because that is his “favorite” Disney movie and how “dark and disturbing” it is.
- He asked if I ever read the book. I answered “yes, as a kid and I love the movie too.” He said he never read the original story… but then two or three sentences later he talked about the differences in the book to movie and gave quotes and examples from the book story?!?!
- George mentioned how Pinocchio at the time, did not want a conscience and smashed the cricket for trying to give him one. He started to relate Bran to Pinocchio when someone cut in.
- I do believe this was some sort of diversionary tactic because I may have been on to something. And then as he paused and was thinking of the next part of his answer, some other woman cut in to ask about how Shakespeare influenced him. (By the way, this Shakespeare question was asked at least two other times at public discussion panels already )
After the Coffee Talk just outside the room:
- My Con Friend asked about Arya and Jon again. This time GRRM gave some very pointed replies:
- Friend: Ok, if you foreshadowed something in the first book, like, really cleverly hidden, would you then follow through on that hint? For sure?.. GRRM: “Well, this goes with what I said before, the story changes and expands as I write. I wish I was able to go back and make revised drafts, but that’s not going to happen.”
- GRRM finished (in the hallway now) by saying that he “wished some past things weren’t such strong foreshadowing,” and that he, “wished some new things had stronger foreshadowing then.”
Here is a transcript of the outline discussion and Jon/Arya portion of the coffee talk:
GRRM: “Alright, you’ve thought about this more than I have. I mean it’s simple, Jon is very fond of Arya. They were the two odd birds in the Stark family nest, here. They didn’t quite fit in with the others, they look like each other, they both had the brown hair, you know, as opposed to the auburn hair of Sansa and Bran and Rickon and Robb. So there was always that closeness between them. And, you know, Arya didn’t mind that Jon was a bastard, and Jon didn’t mind that Arya was a tomboy, so there is that closeness there.”
GRRM: “If he did it, uhm… I began writing these books in 1991, and, uhm, I worked on it in 91 and then I got a tv play, so I put it aside to really work on ‘Doorways’ tv pilot and did a tv show in 92-93. In 94 I returned to it [the books] and worked on it. You know, up till then, in my career as a writer, I’d always written the entire book before I opted for sale. That’s unusual. Most writers do chapters and an outline. They write a few chapters, they outline the rest of the book, give that to the publisher and the publisher says ‘oh okay, I’ll take that’.
“As some of you may have noticed, those who have been paying very, very carefully attention, I’m not good with deadlines. And, uh, and I’m not good with outlines, either. I always hated outlines. So with Fevre Dream and with Armageddon Rag and with Dying of the Light and all my novels, I wrote the entire book. I didn’t do chapters and outline. I sat down, I wrote a whole book, and I sent it to my agent and said ‘Look, here’s a whole book, and it’s finished’. That way I ran into no deadline, it was finished before it even went on the market. And it worked well for me. And my initial thought was to do this the same way, but what happened, you know, was in 1994, uhm, when I returned to it and I’m working on it and I’m very enthused about it and I say ‘I really wanna write these Game of Thrones books as the next part’. But I was still in Hollywood and I’d just lost all this groundwork on ‘Doorways’, I was still in… The studios and networks still wanna work with me, so I’m getting other offers, like ‘We want you to write this movie’, ‘we want you to do another tv pilot’. And, you know, I took a couple of them and was ‘Oh god, I gotta have to put the book away again’. Cause I have no deadline [for the book]. You know, when you think Hollywood, they will give you a deadline, you know, they say ‘here, son, write this movie, we want it in three months’.
“So, I said ‘look, if I wanna get back to being a novelist, I’m gonna have to sell this even though it’s not finished’. So I had my 200 pages of Game of Thrones at that point, but they wanted outline. I said ‘I don’t do outlines. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, I figure it out as I go. And that’s how I always did it.’ No, we had to have an outline. So I wrote two pages, a two-page thing about what I thought would happen. It’ll be a trilogy, it’ll be three books, Game of Thrones, the Dance with Dragons, and Winds of Winter. Those were the three window titles. And, uh, it’ll be three books and this’ll happen, and this’ll happen, and this’ll happen. And I was making up shit.
“And I had thought that those two pages were long forgotten, because, of course, the books did sell. They sold in the United States and in Great Britain, both. They sold for enough money that I didn’t have to take any more Hollywood games. So I was able to say ‘no’ around. I had a few less [?] to wind up in in 94 and 95. Once I had, I said ‘no, I don’t want any more movies or tv shows, I’m going to write these books now’. And I started writing the books. And in the process, I pretty much disregarded the outline. The characters took me off in entirely different directions. So, for 20 years I had forgotten that that two-page thing even existed. And then someone in my British publisher, HarperCollins, they got a new office building, uh, brand new offices, and new conference rooms, big conference rooms that they decorated with books and stuff like that. And they named the conference rooms after the writers, so one of the conference rooms [?], and they put up these plastic display cases, including the outline. The two-page outline, yes. [?], they didn’t ask my permission, they just put it up. And in that two-page outline, Jon and Arya become a romantic item.”
“You know, I don’t think it’s a reference for that [for romance]. It’s a reference to a certain physical type, and a certain indication of what Jon finds admirable. It’s like someone who reminds you of, you know… Other people might be put off by this, you know, hair that looks like small rodents have been living in there. It doesn’t put him off because he is used to that.””
[someone says they have 5 minutes left]
“You know, I was pretty pissed that that outline got out there. It should not have happened. Outlines and letters like that are meant only for the eyes of the editor. They shouldn’t go on public display. And, uh, they also [?] my papers on [?], all my papers and correspondence. You know, I’ve been sending that stuff there for years, and it’d be, you know, available for future scholars or whatever, just like the papers of many other writers. Somehow, in the back of my head I was like ‘yeah, 20 years after I’m dead some scholar will go in and find them’. They’re going in right now!” ”
“Yes, I mean, I did partly joke when I said I don’t know where I was going. I know the broad strokes, and I’ve known the broad strokes since 1991. I know who’s going to be on the Iron Throne. I know who’s gonna win some of the battles, I know the major characters, who’s gonna die and how they’re gonna die, and who’s gonna get married and all that. The major characters. Of course along the way I made up a lot of minor characters, you know, I, uhm…Did I know in 1991 how Bronn, what was gonna happen to Bronn? No, I didn’t even know there’d be a guy named Bronn. I was inventing him along the way when I was writing, ‘Okay, he gets kidnapped. Let’s see, there are a couple sellswords there, their names are Fred and Bronn’.
“It was actually Bronn and Chiggen, and then one of them dies, I flipped a coin ‘okay, who dies? Chiggen dies, cause his name is stupid. Bronn is a better name, so I’ll keep Bronn’. And then Bronn became quite an interesting character and plenty of these characters take on minds of their own. They push to the front till you [?] speech and you think of a cool line and you give it to Bronn because he’s trying to talk, and now Bronn is somebody who says something cool. [?]. That’s how characters grow on you.
“So a lot of the minor characters I’m still discovering along the way. But the mains-”
“Tyrion, Arya, Jon, Sansa, you know, all of the Stark kids, and the major Lannisters, yeah.”
Notes from my Con-friend:
This part is not my own notes, but that of my friend, whom I attended with and we were with each other the whole time. I am not naming this friend because as it has been out, they are a diehard Jon-Arya shipper and this info is a bit sensitive to them to share with their name on it.
Thursday Night: The Dinner
Balticon 50 hosted a “Feast of Ice and Fire” the night before the start of the convention, Leech and I attended. At this event GRRM periodically switched tables, there were 5 tables in all. I was at the fourth and biggest table. When he arrived at mine most of the time was taken up by one guy asking about comics, but I was able to sneak in two questions after I took my picture with him. I kind of took him aside and told him I didn’t get to ask him my question, he said alright and turned his ear towards me. We were standing quite close to each other and it was very loud. First I asked about Arya and Gendry. This is the way I asked the question, as much as I recall from that night anyway:..
Me: So Arya and Gendry, I felt like there were many romantic undertones between them in the books. Are you building towards something between them? Are you planning on developing a future relationship?..
GRRM: *smiling* I’m going to visit them again, but I’m not spoiling everything for you. They are still very young.
Me: But you wrote the Mercy chapter…
GRRM: Yes, I did write Mercy. Arya is growing up fast, but not as fast as her actress Maisie. *has a little chuckle*..
Me: Will Arya be flowering in TWOW?..
GRRM: *nods his head and smiles again* Soon..
That’s the end of the interaction, after that someone else took a picture with him and I returned to my seat. Leech also sat with him at a table, so you can ask her about anything he might have said then. I think they talked about Bloodraven, his wolf sanctuary and Meathouse Man, plus other stuff. Had Lemon cake for desert, lol
Ending Comments: What he told me was very similar to the 2012 Toronto book signing comments. Except then he said “Whether or not they meet again, you’ll have to keep reading” instead of outright confirming that they meet again. Also he left out the alleged “separate futures” comment that was so polarizing. Maybe this is because he perceived me to be a Gendrya shipper? And since I paid $1k to have dinner with him, he didn’t want to break my shipper heart? Idk….
I was super exhausted by the end of the long weekend. However, that is not a complaint because each and every moment was a blast and I met so many wonderful fans and creators and crazies that I still love to this day.
I do have a good handful of pictures with me and George together, but I like to remain mysterious when it comes to my face being online. And I don’t have an assistant to handle that amount of fan mail 😉
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