|JOHN HODGMAN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm John Hodgman in for Jesse Thorn. My guest is the George R.R. Martin. He's the author of the series of fantasy novels known as "A Song of Ice and Fire," also commonly known as "Game of Thrones" for the HBO series that is based upon it. In it, members of the warrior brotherhood known as The Night's Watch discuss the mysterious threats that lie north of the enormous Wall which they've been sworn to protect. |
One of the things that first struck me when I first found the books was that this was a fantasy world which not a lot of people would fantasize about living in. Not a lot of fantasy aspect to it in the sense that it is set in an alternate world, or made up world.
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Secondary universe, Tolkien called it.
JOHN HODGMAN: We'll call it a secondary universe, that's a term I came up with for it independently just now. Didn't steal from Tolkien at all there.
It's set in a secondary universe, and it has certain sword and sorcery trappings, although more swords than sorcery certainly in the first book; but, it also is really rooted, grounded, if not sort of mired in the harsh realities of medieval life, and a harsh feudal caste system, where the only medicine around is a kind of poultice and people are routinely seen elderly at the age of 35 because they're dying all the time.
It's not a place or a world or a time where most people would want to live. Why was it important to you to write in that setting?
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: As I said, I read a lot of different things, not just science fiction/fantasy. One of the things I read a lot of is history and historical fiction. I'm a big fan of historical fiction. I did read fantasy as well. As I read that, I sort of had a problem with a lot of the fantasy I was reading, because it seemed to me that the middle ages or some version of the quasi middle ages was the preferred setting of a vast majority of the fantasy novels that I was reading by Tolkien imitators and other fantasists, yet they were getting it all wrong. It was a sort of Disneyland middle ages, where they had castles and princesses and all that. The trappings of a class system, but they didn't seem to understand what a class system actually meant.