Rolling Stone recently published an interview with A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin (which you can read in full here). Martin makes it clear both in his writing and in his interview that if there’s one thing he wants you to know, it’s that the world is full of moral ambiguity. There aren’t any real heroes or villains; there are only people who do good things and bad things and more often than not, most people do both.
I found Martin’s interview exceptionally interesting because he talks about killing your darlings, the limitations of J.R.R. Tolkien (who happens to be one of my favorite authors) and a myriad of other topics. I highly suggest reading the interview in its entirety but there are certain quotes that really popped out at me that I felt like noting. I think that the quotes I have chosen to list here (and the interview as a whole) can serve a great deal of purpose for readers, writers, and Game of Thrones fandom nerds alike.
We have the untold-history book coming out later this year, where I’ve written a fake history. I find it amusing, and secretly pleasing, that I have so many fans who are interested in the history. I’m not sure if they would so eagerly study real history, you know?
Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it’s the execution that is all-important.
The Tolkien model led generations of fantasy writers to produce these endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes. But the vast majority of wars throughout history are not like that.
We’re setting up mechanisms where we can kill human beings with drones and missiles where you’re sitting at a console and pressing the button. We never have to hear their whimpering, or hear them begging for their mother, or dying in horrible realities around us. I don’t know if that’s necessarily such a good thing.
On Killing Your Favorite Characters
The more I write about a character, the more affection I feel … even for the worst of them … Whoever it was who said ‘Kill your darlings’ was referring to his favorite lines in a story, but it’s just as true for characters.
On Forgiveness & Redemption
Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you’re a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don’t know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what’s the answer then?
On Moral Ambiguity
We have the angels and the demons inside of us, and our lives are a succession of choices.
I personally believe that we can learn just as much from authors as they are–breathing, sweating, struggling human beings like the rest of us–as we can from their books. And I believe that every one of the excerpts I have listed from the interview serve as some serious food for thought. What do you think?