Winter may be drawing to an end for us in North America, but not for fans of HBO's hit medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones. The second season of the show, adapted from the bestselling A Song of Fire and Ice novels by American author George R. R. Martin, will premiere April 1, giving its loyal (and quickly growing) fan base more of the family rivalries, power struggles and back-stabbing (and, uh, front-stabbing, for that matter) that has made the show such a smash success.
Meanwhile, Martin continues to pen his books and plot out the future of the imaginary Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. His latest book, A Dance with Dragons, came out last summer. It's somewhat fitting that Martin finds himself the topic of a popular debate concerning the greatness of legacies, as many fans compare him to The Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien. And some argue that Martin's series is even better.
Martin, who first discovered the English author in junior high school, says that Tolkien has been a crucial inspiration for him.
"What I tried to do was to take epic fantasy in the Tolkien tradition, which I love, and combine it with some of the gritty realism [and] ambiguous morality of some of the best historical fiction, with layers of complexity, real human characters with sexuality, violence, all of that good stuff."
In Martin's world, mystical zombie-like creatures, dragons and spells are all well and good, but they mean little without emotional drama to make the adventure relatable.
"My mantra has always been from William Faulkner, who once said, 'The only thing worth writing about is the human heart and conflict with itself.' And the characters come first, the human heart and conflict with itself comes first, no matter whether you have castles in it or aliens in it or vampires or whatever, you always have to come back to that."
You can listen to Martin's complete interview with Q guest host Brent Bambury in the audio clip below.
Martin also stopped by George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and discussed the realistic violence and depiction of warfare in his books and in the show.
"War is so central to fantasy ... and yet it's these bloodless wars where the heroes are killing unending Orcs, and the heroes are not being killed ... I think that if you're going to write about war and violence then show the cost -- show how ugly it is, show both sides of it. There's also the other side, which sometimes gets me in trouble with the opposite side of the political spectrum: the glory of war. Those of us who are opposed to war tend to try to pretend it doesn't exist, but if you read the ancient historical sources ... people are always talking about the banners that 'stirred the heart' ... I think that if you're going to write about that period then you should reflect honestly what it's about and capture both sides of it."
The Georges also discusses Martin's choice to be a "conscientious objector" to the Vietnam War and his decision to show the two sides of war: the gruesome and the glorious.