George R.R. Martin spoke about how important his readers have been in helping him create the expansive world of Westeros during an interview this weekend at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. The conversation (available to watch below) centered around Martin’s new book, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, a series companion co-written with two series super fans that dives into the history of Westeros — but that doesn’t mean the Game of Thrones creator still isn’t getting hit with the hard questions.
Martin recalled a recent email about an online argument over whether Drogon, one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons, could beat Smaug, the beast from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, in a fight, and offered a highly rational answer: “Basically, no. Drogon is a very young dragon and still barely large enough to get Dany into the sky… Smaug is gigantic, not to mention that Smaug talks and would probably have an intellectual advantage. But Balerion could give Smaug some trouble; they’re more equivalent in the size and ferocity department.”
Fictional dragon fights aside, Martin addressed the impact Tolkien’s meticulously detailed Middle Earth saga had on the world of epic fantasy, especially in regards to world-building. Martin suggested that the mythos, history and languages of Middle Earth — as detailed in Tolkien’s posthumously published Silmarillion — was perhaps more important to the author than The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings books themselves. “Readers now expect a fully realized ‘secondary world,’ as Tolkien called it,” Martin said. “So certainly that’s what I set out to create in Westeros.”
Though these days that doesn’t always happen, Martin joked, saying that a lot of fantasy writers, himself included, don’t start writing with a fully fleshed-out world in mind. While Martin said he built Westeros as he wrote his books, he also noted how important his rabid fans were in helping him realize his fictional universe.
Elio García and Linda Antonsson, the two co-authors of The World of Ice and Fire, were among the fans who wrote Martin with questions about historical events mentioned, but not described, in the early books — and who pointed out a few continuity errors, as well. When it came time to write The World of Ice and Fire, Martin immediately tapped Garcia and Antonsson “to do all the hard work because they keep track of the stuff better than I do.”
This was back in 2008 and the book was supposed to be done in just a couple of years, Martin laughed, adding: “But you know how that works. And like many of my projects not only did it become late, but it got much bigger than it initially had begun.” And while fans of A Song of Ice and Fire will certainly be pleased with the lengthy new concordance, they’ll still have to wait for the series’ next installment, The Winds of Winter. Still no word on when that book will see the light of day, but the wait is in keeping with the official “words of House Martin,” which the author offered up during the conversation: “Deadline? What Deadline?”