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3 things we learned about George R.R. Martin

By Michael Frye

George R.R. Martin, slayer of your favorite fictional characters and wedding planning enthusiast, assumed the throne at 92Y on Sunday to talk about his new book, The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones. Fantasy fiction fans (say that three times fast) have claimed Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (better known, perhaps, as Game of Thrones due to the HBO series adaptation) has made him the J.R.R. Tolkien of our time. As such, The World of Ice & Fire, which has been in the works since 2008, has evolved into the Silmarillion of Westeros. Topped off with beautiful illustrations and maps, this book will have you praying to the old gods and the new for even more. Here are just a few of the things we learned about George R.R. Martin last night at the Kaufmann Concert Hall

1. He originally wanted illustrations in all the books
Unlike many visual companions, which are published for films and less-illustrated fiction novels, The World of Ice & Fire was actually written by Martin and intended to live side-by-side with his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Martin discussed his love for illustrated books and comics, and said he is troubled that traditional novels don’t allow room for art alongside the story. He wanted every book in the series to have illustrations, so with this book, he was finally able to work with popular fantasy artists such as Chase Stone, Magali Villeneuve and Marc Simonetti, to create Westeros as he originally imagined it, with over 170 illustrations.

2. He loses track of his characters sometimes, too
Whether you’re reading the books or watching the HBO series, it's hard to keep track of all the characters, kingdoms, sigils, and Arya’s growing hit list. But have no fear, because even Martin himself can’t always remember everything. Martin has been working on the series since the early '90s, and has added extensive lore, backstory and timelines, making Westeros an even bigger, richer and more populated place then we’ll ever truly know. To keep on track, Martin keeps in close contact with Sweden-based superfan couple Elio M. Garcia and Linda Antonsson, co-founders of, to quickly remind him when he’s killed someone in a previous novel, placed a river in the wrong country, and even the sex of a characters’ noble steed. Garcia and Antonsson have remained friends with Martin since the beginning, and have grown from being his biggest fans to contributing writers, earning them well-deserved co-author credits in The World of Ice & Fire

3. He's really into history
If you thought George was insane with his obsessive man-flaying, you’ll be happy to know that many of the characters and events from A Song of Ice and Fire were loosely inspired by actual events. The infamous Red Wedding, for example, came straight out of Scottish history books—the king of Scotland tricked an earl and his family into attending a celebratory feast, later known as The Black Dinner. Even the Lord of Light, R’hllor, is derived from Zoroastrianism and the Cathars who believed in two gods of equal power (light and dark), and were ultimately wiped out during the Albigensian Crusades. If you thought Game of Thrones was as gruesome and heart breaking as it gets, it’s time to pick up a history book. 

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones is available October 28.

You can watch the full recorded livestream of Martin's conversation here.


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