An Evening With George R.R. Martin and Kim Stanley Robinson in Review

I have to start out this review by saying Tylar, you’re the real MVP! I can’t believe I was actually able to attend this event. It sold out so fast, but my friend Tylar was able to score tickets for this great event at our alma mater, UCSD.

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Before the event, I was wondering what it was going to be like. George R.R. Martin was clearly the main event and why most people bought their tickets. I wondered how Kim Stanley Robinson felt about that. I imagined that maybe they were going to bring Stan out first and then have George talk.

What they did was actually even better. They had both authors sit down with one of the professors from the UCSD literature department (not a professor I knew from when I was there) and they discussed various topics for about 45 minutes before answering questions from the audience.

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I’m sure you’re reading this to hopefully a) find out when the next Game of Thrones book is coming out or b) find out spoilers for the new season of Game of Thrones. And I’ll get to some of the more specific answers George gave, but first I want to talk a little more about the evening in general.

George definitely dominated the evening. He talked much more than Stan and always had a ready answer for the moderator. But I think that’s a difference in personality. Stan was much more reserved, but seemed like such a nice guy. Like the type of guy you wished was your own grandfather because you just wanted to give him a hug and hang out with him.

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I’ve only read one book by Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, and sad to say, I didn’t like it very much. But after this event, I think I’ll check out the Red Mars trilogy and the Three Californias trilogy, one of which I guess he wrote while he was a student at UCSD. I had also added his new book, New York 2140, to my book wishlist before the event when I saw it on a list of upcoming dystopian novels. I had no idea Stan was a UCSD alum before this event – super cool!

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I will say I surprised by how smart and how well-read George was. I mean, I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. Game of Thrones is fantastically complex and clearly the man behind it is a genius. I guess I didn’t expect that to translate to verbal ability. Color me impressed. George knows the history of literature as well as any professor. He keeps up with the awards and who’s writing this or that. It was really amazing to hear him speak, he is a brilliant man.

In no particular order, here are a few tidbits I got from the evening:

-A big topic of the evening was the discussion of genre fiction and its place in relation to literary fiction. George was obviously representing the fantasy genre and Stan was representing the science-fiction genre. George told an interesting story that I’d not heard before. It concerns Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson and basically sets the stage for the distinction between genre fiction being seen as not “serious” literature. You can read that Henry James essay here.

-George and Stan talked about movie and tv adaptations of their writing. George said that Peter Jackson and several others had approached him previously to turn Game of Thrones into a movie, but George always wanted Game of Thrones to be a tv show. He’s very happy that HBO picked it up. He wishes he could have gotten 13 hours per season like most HBO shows prior to Game of Thrones, but the sheer cost of the production is what kept all of the previous seasons to just 10 episodes.

-George talked about why it’s taking him so long to write the next Game of Thrones book and just finish the story in general. He said that it’s due in part to his age and also due to the fact that he feels enormous pressure to complete the story in a way that fits with everything that has come before. In short, he’s struggling against his own perfectionism. He does consider Game of Thrones to be his magnum opus and he wants to do right by his millions of fans.

-Also, George is only 68 guys. He looks older, but 68 is positively spry.

-As you can see from my pictures, George wore his George R.R. Martin uniform: cap, suspenders, and jacket despite the fact that it was mid-80’s all day and no cooler in the ballroom.

-George has got jokes guys. He’s a funny, funny man. The audience asked him whose death he most regretted. George: JFK

In short: If you get the opportunity to go see George R.R. Martin talk, take it. If you get the opportunity to take Kim Stanley Robinson out for a cup of coffee, take it. Thank you to UCSD, Clarion Writers’ Workshops, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for organizing a great event!

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A Dance With Dragons

By George R.R. Martin

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

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Another great entry in the ASoIaF series. Paralleling the events of book 4 for much of book 5, the end of A Dance With Dragons also further advances the story overall.

This was one of my favorite books in the series because my favorite characters were some of the viewpoint characters: Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. And finally, we get a little bit more Cersei, a character whose head I just love to be in.

Some of the plot points in this book are major game changers. Some of the twists really turned where I thought the story was going on its head.

It’s also interesting to watch the current series having so recently finished the last book. This season is setting up even more plot departures and none of them bother me. You can really see that what makes for good writing doesn’t always make for good tv. It’s not that the show writers are improving on Martin’s story so much as providing an alternate, but equally acceptable way to get from A to B.

I will be anxiously awaiting The Winds of Winter like everyone else. I can’t imagine Martin wrapping up this massive story in just two more books, but we’ll see.