Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boskone 50 - Saturday - A bit of George R.R. Martin

The Boskone schedule had this item listed as taking place in Dragonslair (the children's corner) at 4pm today:
Something Art-y: Bring your Imagination! Join John Picacio, Official Artist of Boskone 47, for this art project.
That sounded exciting, so I went downstairs to participate in that with my daughter. Some weird conceptual art piece, it sounded like.

Instead there were a few children playing with cardboard and pipe cleaners. John Picacio showed up and asked the head of Dragonslair what he was supposed to do. There wasn't a lot of clear direction. My husband showed up and said hi. I found some construction paper and asked Mr Picacio, Do you want to draw something?

"I don't think the kids would be all that interested," came the reply.

My husband made some folded thing out of a light blue sheet of paper.

"What's that?"

"A mask." He showed me.

Mr. Picacio and the kids started to collaborate on a creation made from strips of paper. My daughter made a pretty cool mask out of pink paper and pipe cleaners.

I went upstairs to a panel. It wasn't very interesting. I left.

I looked at the schedule again.

There was a George RR Martin reading. I haven't read his stuff. We're too cheap to get HBO. But I've always heard good things about him, and it is interesting to hear how successful authors read, so I went in.

He was describing a battle scene. He read with a very good voice. He knew his stuff.

Then came the question period.

Someone asked if his story was a parallel to the War of the Roses. He said he stole from lots of different interesting bits of history. He quoted: "If you steal from 1 source, it's plagiarism. If you steal from many, it's research."

Another question led to him recounting how he has received letters from fans who have tried to explain about the seasons on his planet by complicated descriptions of the planetary orbits. His response:
I've thought not at all about the planetary orbits. It's a fantasy book, not a science fiction book....Obviously, science fiction fans have stumbled into the wrong tent.
Someone asked, "Do you feel guilty when you kill your characters?" He replied,
I do feel guilty. Yes, they're like my children....The red wedding until 3 [is that what he said?] was the hardest thing I ever wrote.....Sometimes I say I don't kill them--the other characters do....Death is a part of life. Part of all our lives. Fiction should treat it...When a character dies, you should feel it as you do when one of your loved ones dies....It is important to show death in the cost of war.
When asked about Metal bands using his motifs he said that Rock music influenced him to write Armageddon Rock when he was younger and that all art interacts. He added that he was more of a Simon and Garfunkel fan.

Someone asked if he felt bad that people were only paying attention to the Thrones books, not his many earlier works and he said yeah, he would like it if he could get his readers to read the other books. He said that Stephen Donaldson discovered after writing other books that he had many more Thomas Covenant fans than Stephen Donaldson fans. He said that J.K.Rowling was finding that her many Harry Potter fans weren't coming over to her new adult book. He added that since she now had "more money than the Queen", she could sit in her castle, be waited upon by "the entire cast of Dowton Abbey", write whatever she wants, and if three people buy the book then that's fine.

OK, so I first heard about George RR Martin while watching the old TV show Beauty and the Beast. My boyfriend at the time saw the credits and said, "Oh, George R.R. Martin, he's a big science fiction writer." Which goes to show how long Mr Martin has been on my I-gotta-get-around-to-reading-him-someday list.

The question I would have liked to ask would have been along the lines of, "What book of yours would you recommend to someone who doesn't want to commit to a long series?" But I don't know, I think it might be rude to say to a famous author that you haven't read any of his books.

So, to change the subject for a second or two off of Game of Thrones, I raised my hand and recounted how that TV show was the only one I can remember where I would watch at the beginning to see who had written the episode, and if it was by George RR Martin or David Peckinpah, then I knew it would be a good episode. If not, well the way I phrased it was that other episodes were often written with a different philosophy. The word I was reaching for was closer to schmaltzy, cloying, icky, overly sentimental. That show skated on the edge of icky and too often fell in. Some of the writers were icky and others were cool.

George RR Martin's face seemed to freeze in a way that made me think the subtext was "I am responding in a diplomatic fashion to your question because it would not be good to repeat anything nasty about my friends in television." That could just be my imagination, of course.  I may have made a mistake in praising Peckinpah. Martin said that his own stories were more of the fantasy mystical magical bent, while Peckinpah was more into gritty urban tales. He said that it was a great show to write for because the writers were given a lot of freedom.

When asked about his attitude towards his works being adapted, he mentioned the "truckloads of money" that writers are offered for such adaptations, and that the time to negotiate what happens to your work is before you take the truckloads of money. He said J.K.Rowling could negotiate very good terms because there were many who wanted to make movies from her books. He said that he turned down the first truckload of money that backed up in front of his door, because it was an offer to make a single movie out of his hours and hours of stories. He said that the current deal allows him certain amounts of creative control and that he is satisfied with it. He said that complaining about what happens to your work after you have accepted the truckloads of money is like after you've sold your house complaining about the furniture that the people who bought your house are using.

He talked about how Ireland was a great place to film the show because it saves them money, Ireland even gives them money (and they generate a great deal of money for them in return) and also that it gives them access to an excellent cast of classically trained Irish and British actors.

In response to another question he said that the character Osha was rather colorless in the book, but that  Natalia Tena, who plays her, gives a mesmerizing performance, that would likely influence him if he writes more about Osha in future work. He said her performance was mesmerizing even before she took off her clothes for the role, and even more mesmerizing after.

Someone asked if the plot ever had to change because, for example, an actor wanted to leave the show. He said absolutely, when Linda Hamilton decided to quit Beauty and the Beast they had to write her out. They decided to kill her, but then it was Beauty and the Beast without a beauty. So they introduced another Beauty, but the show only lasted for 6 months after that. He said it was because they had built up the love between the two characters as being such a Great Romance that the audience wouldn't accept a substitute. You can't have Romeo and Juliet and then say, oh no, what I meant was Romeo and Harriet.

That is not what I remember as going wrong with the show. As I said, the show was always on the edge of ickiness. The way they killed off Hamilton's character was kind of icky, but actually, I didn't really like Hamilton's character very much. I liked the new character they brought in to replace her much better. One of the mistakes they made in the writing was to have the boss of the killed character retroactively have been in love with her. They had to give him an icky love motivation instead of just a righteous wanting to find the killer of his respected employee and friend.

It reminded me of the Remington Steele mistake made way too early in the show where they take the character who is supposed to be the female lead's male best friend and reliable brother type character and have him fall in love with her. It is not our fantasy to have our friends in love with us, because then we can't rely on them as friends, and also we feel sorry for them and guilty and pressured and just, ick.

Right. So I was feeling a little guilty about bringing up Beauty and the Beast, wondering if Mr Martin would have mentioned a Thrones example otherwise, for that would have made the audience much happier.

He did complain about how there can be loads of different James Bonds and Charlie Chans etc, but that  TV audiences just won't accept the re-casting for a TV character. He said it does make him want to shake the TV audiences and tell them, "You know these people are f-ing actors. They're not the real people."

When asked whether he had favorites for the Hugos he recommended The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham for Fantasy, and Caliban's War for Science Fiction. He also mentioned books and artists related to his show, for example, a cookbook written by some people from Boston. He said,
I don't think a cookbook has ever won a Hugo before, but it's certainly eligible for it.

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