Review: George R R Martin – Edinburgh Book Festival.

11th & 12th August 2014.

Why divvy them up into two separate ones, really? So, here we are. There were two authors who caused havoc on the Edinburgh Book Festival site when tickets went on sale and, unsurprisingly, George R R Martin was one of them.

Legions of Game of Thrones fans seized the opportunity to see the man behind the books that spawned the fantastic  HBO series. And, man, it was good.

Where some authors can be overly serious, or lack a sense of humour, George is so jolly you can’t help but be swept along. His giggle is infectious when people ask about his murderous streak with characters, and he sets out to make his audience enjoy themselves.

Event one was chaired by Stuart Kelly, who kept it short and sweet to allow for fan questions, but asked about topics with depth: even asking about his influence by Scottish history had reference upon reference to draw from.

You know George is a history fan, as it were, but the ease in which he rallies off events is astonishing. You do learn that, by the second event, a lot of his answers are obviously well versed, but still moderately impressive.

He talks about Stan Lee’s influence on him, with Wonder Man’s introduction to the Avengers being his earliest memory of a character that toys with the dichotomy of good and evil. Maybe Stan Lee is his greatest literary influence, he laughs.

wp_ss_20140811_0005Fan questions vary: who are your favourites to write, do any of them have absolute morality, and – the most important of all – do you change a plot if the internet comes to the right conclusion? Regarding, ahem, someone’s parentage.

That’s like asking to choose between your children, he answers, but admits Tyrion is a sheer joy. Brienne starts with the closest to absolute morality, but her life has indeed been sheltered, so being opened up to the real world is challenging her.

And, finally, without alluding to any actual plot points (though, everyone has the same theory in mind) he says it would be disingenuous to go against the clues already planted towards a plot arc just because someone figured it out. He wants to surprise his readers – there’s nothing worse than a predictable writer – but not through sacrificing the story he wants to tell. Basically, he can neither confirm or deny what you’re really wanting to know.

The following day is the same, but different. The Guardian event is chaired by a journalist (I can’t remember the name, sorry!) who asked more blunt, basic questions. And, for the theme of page to screen it kind of works, but it feels like much of it background information that most people already knew, and a lot of the questions are almost carbon copies of the previous night.

Some interesting points include him writing horror stories as an 11 year old and selling them to younger children for a nickel a piece to fund his comic book collection. He subsequently had to stop this when a parent told on him for scaring her child.

He also talked about the instability and difficulties of being a writer. He doesn’t enjoy writing books, but he enjoys having written them. There’s no security in the job, and he’s incredibly lucky to have finally found some. His hotly tipped The Armageddon Rag was his biggest flop, so bad that he questioned whether he had to give up his career as a novelist at times.

“It’s my job to write the books,” he says, as the closing fan question asks about the fear of the TV show catching up. TV moves fast, Martin does not. We’ll see what happens is the basic answer.

So, to summarise this incoherent ramble that no one wants to read, George R R Martin was great. To see him talk for yourself and genuinely find yourself being entertained is fun, and as a fan of his work it was a great two hours spent delving into the mind’s workings behind the series and more.

That was fun, huh? I also decided not to get a book signed, but instead draw a completely ridiculous OTT cartoon of him destroying Westeros in a godzilla like fashion, to which he giggled and said it was “very cool”. It is 100% getting framed and hung up in my living room, because everyone needs a sweary cartoon in their home.

I will be covering the festival properly at some events, so expect some more formal things. But this is a ramble from a fan who’s been waiting for this for months. From now on, I shall have my professional review hat on.

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