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George R.R. Martin at Norwescon
George R.R. Martin at Norwescon

With the new season of Game of Thrones near, and fresh off the release of his latest chapter for The Winds of Winter, famed novelist George R.R. Martin was king at Norwescon today.

The Pacific Northwest event that celebrates everything wonderful about sci-fi, fantasy and more, hosted Martin as its Writer Guest of Honor. He appeared for a Q&A Friday before a packed room, and was full of jokes and opinions, healthily punctuated by a few choice swear words.

Sorry, GOT fans: He was tight-lipped when it came to spoilers for both the books and the HBO series. But he was filled with delightful insights, the best of which are below:

On his first stories, inspired by the “plastic aliens” he collected as a kid: “I made them into a gang of space pirates. They were not all from a TV show, movie, they had no story so I provided the story…When I reflect on that, I think it is cool they had no story. Kids these days buying Star Wars figures, they already have a story attached. I had to fill in the blanks. It does encourage the imagination.”

On Stan Lee: “My first time being published was a fan letter. It was for Fantastic Four, No. 17, and the comment I made was, ‘Move over, Shakespeare. Stan Lee has arrived.’ You know, there’s still an element of truth to that. Stan Lee is still probably the greatest writer in the history of comics and the greatest creator…one guy created this immense pantheon of characters and wrote in a revolutionary way.”

On writing comics: “I love comic books and the idea of superheroes. I tried going into writing comics after college. Fortunately, they didn’t hire me, so I was forced to become rich and famous instead.”

Advice for aspiring writers: “I tell aspiring writers to get used to rejection, but if you need security, it’s not for you. Become an accountant and have a steady increase in salary and retire with a gold watch.”

“Being a writer is like being a gambler, you’re always at the table rolling the dice again.”

On Dying of the Light and his attraction to darker themes: “I’ve always been attracted to twilights, endings, the idea that summer is over and winter is coming. We’re in the long autumn. Dying of the Light is part of that. I tried to analyze why that is, and I’m still not entirely sure, it may have something to do with my own background. We were poor, lived in projects in Bayonne, N.J. My mother’s side came from family that had certain amount of wealth and power, but the family had lost its business during the Depression …

The tales from my mother were always about docks and ships and how important we were but now weren’t, so there was always this sense of living in the aftermath, family glory gone. It gave me the attraction to twilight, the long fold and exiles and all that.”

On science making it possible for humans to live forever: The Immortalists is a documentary I highly recommend. They say the first person who will live to 1,000 is alive today. I would like to be this person. Then I could finish all these books.”

Game of Thrones
Photo via HBO/Game of Thrones

On the gore factor of Game of Thrones“History is not for fainthearted, it’s written in blood. There is a lot of dark stuff there. GOT people say, ‘Why is it so violent?’ And I’m like, ‘Boy, you have no idea how much I’ve toned it down from real history.’ Read real history: butcheries, genocides, torture and torment. We’re actually better than people were for most of history — there’s certainly been a moral evolution in mankind — but I do think we’re probably doomed. As far as we’ve come, I don’t think we’ve come far enough. Now weapons are so powerful that I do fear we’re going to destroy ourselves.”

On other projects: “I have a million other projects, that’s why I want to live forever…I have an overall deal with HBO to create TV shows…and with Michael Cassutt, we have created a new show called Captain Cosmos about the golden age of TV. It’s about people making a sci-fi TV show in 1949. That should be fun.”

On the metal dragon he received from a fan: “The TSA is gonna love this.”

Photo of George R.R. Martin at Norwescon
George R.R. Martin at Norwescon

Norwescon continues throughout the weekend at the Doubletree Hilton near SeaTac.

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