5 Things We Learned at the GOT Ultimate Fan Experience

by Katie M. Lucas

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Seven thousand lucky fans – some in costume – attended the 'Game of Thrones' Ultimate Fan Experience at Barclays Center last night. The festivities included Common's performance of his 'Catch the Throne' track, “The Ladder,” a marching band rendition of the show's theme song, and a screening of the Season 4 premiere episode. One lucky winner took home a life-sized Iron Throne, which author George R.R. Martin noted is "the perfect accessory to a New York City apartment." 

Cast members Maisie Williams, Sibel Kekilli and John Bradley answered questions doled out by Hodor himself, Kristian Nairn. Here's what had fans cheering:

1. George R.R. Martin Attended Dany's Wedding

The author revealed that he made a cameo in the series pilot as a guest at Dany's wedding to Khal Drogo. Unfortunately, Martin was edited out and audiences missed seeing his elaborate beard extensions.

2. John Bradley Has a Crush on Jon Snow

When asked his favorite thing about playing Samwell Tarly, the Englishman replied, "Five words: Kit Harrington's big brown eyes."

3. Maisie's Swordplay Caused Technical Difficulties

Maisie Williams still needs “dancing” lessons. The actress shared that she's accidentally hit camera equipment with her weapon... many times. Williams laughed that she got "disappointed parent looks" from the equipment operators. 

4. Sibel Kekilli Admires Shae's Gutsiness

"She's not scared of anyone," the actress said, citing Shae's bravery as a reason why Tyrion fell in love with her.

5. Martin Joked That He Based a Lannister on Putin

George R.R. Martin quipped that he wishes he could say that Tywin Lannister is a version of the Russian leader. Although that instance isn't accurate, Martin admits that he frequently borrows from history. "If you steal from one person, that's plagiarism… If you steal from a lot of people, that's research."

Season 4 premieres on April 6th.

“Bear and the Maiden Fair” Round-Up: The Crowned and the Furry

By Katie M. Lucas

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'Game of Thrones' has no shortage of battles (both emotional and literal) but Sunday night marked a series first: a bear fight. Jaime’s rescue of Brienne was as heroic as it was unexpected. “It's pure instinct, and it's really stupid,” actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau tells HBO.com about Jaime's impulsive leap. But "he just can't stand that a woman that has so much dignity should be degraded that way.” Critics were also taken by Bart the Bear II; “Great acting from the bear… I've never seen a live wild animal action sequence like that on TV before,” says Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd.

The episode, written by George R.R. Martin, balanced action with subtler scenes. In this week’s Inside the Episode, Executive Producer David Benioff discusses how these quiet moments shed light on the characters and their stakes. Robb’s scene with Talisa, Executive Producer D.B. Weiss explains, connects the rebirth of his cause to the future birth of his child.

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As Robb reaffirms his mission, so does the khaleesi. Dany’s makes it her duty to liberate the slaves of Yunkai. “The scene in which she meets and rejects the emissary from Yunkai,” Time’s James Poniewozik says, “is spectacular without a single fireball.” Mike Hogan of the Huffington Post is fully behind Dany’s vision: “I frankly find it really exciting to think of her as an avenging angel leading an army of liberated slaves to victory over these inbred families with their castles and crests….” 

In these families, power is wielded less tactfully. King Joffrey summons Tywin, and as Sarah Hughes of The Guardian points out, “the boy king was sort of right in everything he said: he should be learning how to rule; he should be sitting in on council meetings and not having to seek them out; Dany actually is more than a ‘curiosity on the far side of the world.’ ” Yet Joffrey quickly realizes that his grandfather is superior both “emotionally and with regard to intelligence,” actor Jack Gleeson explains in HBO GO’s Interactive Features. The king may wear the crown, but he can’t command his grandfather’s respect.

What are your thoughts on the Lannisters’ struggles? Has Jaime won your respect? Will Bart be visiting your nightmares?

George R.R. Martin Describes His Inspiration for GOT

By Steve Marzolf

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At Comic-Con, 'Game of Thrones' author George R.R. Martin appeared on a panel with a handful of his fellow fantasy writers to discuss the meaning of a word that gets tossed around a lot in the genre: EPIC.

"I think that in its modern usage, 'epic fantasy' is a marketing category that publishers and booksellers use to distinguish that stuff that those of us here write: stuff with castles and swords and sometimes elves and dwarves – or in my case just one dwarf. A lot of it is epic, and a lot of it involves the fate of the world, where huge armies are on the march. I've done some of that stuff myself, and there are many great examples of epic fantasy that's gigantic in scale. But I would just as soon NOT make that a requirement of our fantasy genre. I'm thrilled when I encounter a book where the fate of the world does not seem to be involved."

Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' stories, of course, are massive in scale and very much involve the fate of the world. But the spark of inspiration that eventually spawned the Starks, the Lannisters and their Seven Kingdoms was much more compact.

"I started with a vision of a scene where some wolf pups are discovered being born with a dead mother in the snow. It just came to me very vividly, and I wrote it. I didn't know what story it was part of or what world it was part of. I didn't know anything. But by the time I finished writing that chapter, I knew the second chapter. And once I was 50-60 pages into it, I decided I had a novel – or maybe more than a novel – so I thought I'd better draw a map and think about who these people were …"

One fan asked the author how – after painstakingly building a world and creating characters to live in it – a writer can know when their book is ready for publication. And although he's famous for his delayed deliveries, Martin warned against endlessly fiddling with a story. "You can write forever and not know if it's ready," he advised. "The key is to write, finish what you write and put it on the market. There are editors who will let you know if it's ready … by sending you a check."

A Dance With Dragons Receives Critical Praise

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It’s not just the 280,000 fans who purchased ‘A Dance With Dragons’ on its release day who are enjoying George R.R. Martin’s latest installment in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series. Julie Bosman of the New York Times has published her review and she’s as glad as the rest of us to rejoin the adventures of Tyrion, Dany and all the rest. “As ‘Dragons’ cascades toward its finish,” she writes, “the reader is whipsawed by cliffhanger after cliffhanger, while being all too aware that Mr. Martin’s next installment won’t be coming out next week, or even next year for that matter. But as I write, I know that I’ll be happy to cling to the hard and scaly back of this particular dancing dragon as I wait for Book 6, ‘The Winds of Winter.’”

George R.R. Martin’s New Novel, ‘A Dance With Dragons,’ Released

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Fans of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series have been waiting years for this day to arrive: The fifth installment of the story has landed on bookshelves and e-readers, bringing with it the adventures of Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow and others who were split off from the story line in ‘A Feast for Crows.’

Author George R.R. Martin has made no secret that the growing complexity of his story has been a challenge that’s taken some time to work out. In the meantime, he’s been making a lot of promises – and not just to his fans. The author’s long-time partner, Parris, whom he recently married, told us all about the IOU’s she’s been amassing while he completes the much-awaited novel. “For the last three years, George has been saying, ‘As soon as I finish “A Dance With Dragons,” I will do X,’” Parris said. “And I’ve been keeping a list. ‘As soon as I finish “A Dance With Dragons,” we’ll go on a real vacation.’ OK, check.”

As the commitments piled up, Parris has found a surefire way of keeping George honest about getting his work done. “We got our first computer in 1983 – it was a 64k of RAM Televideo machine. And George got Wordstar word-processing software. George still writes in Wordstar. He has a separate DOS machine to run it. That’s one of the ways I can tell if he’s working, because the DOS is a black background with white letters. So when he’s goofing around, he’ll have the Windows machine on with a color screen. He’ll say, ‘I’m working on the novel …’ And I’ll tell him, ‘No you’re not – you’re looking at who the Giants are picking for the draft.’”

Martin will be appearing for signings at locations across the country. 

George R.R. Martin Sees a Lot More Writing in His Future

By Steve Marzolf

On a recent trip to New York City, author George R.R.  Martin stopped by the HBO Shop for a visit. While his wife Parris raided the shelves for charity-auction items, George shared his thoughts on the season so far:

What has stood out to you about the first few episodes?

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“The kids were a particular revelation, and they were very hard to find. It’s hard to find a good kid actor. If you stop and think about it, 95 percent of them are in sitcoms, and all they have to do is be cute and get off little zinging one-liners that put the adults in their place. Our kids have to carry serious dramatic weight. A lot of the power and the drama of the show rests on the shoulders of the Stark children. The scene in which Ned discovers Arya in her chambers is great. She’s just an amazing talent. Her audition was a scene that’s not in the show. But all of the Aryas and all of the Sansas read a scene that David and Dan had written. I’d watched that scene a hundred times before I saw Maisie’s take on it, and she was just so alive. The expressions on her face … It was Arya, coming alive.”

Now that you’re writing books you know will be adapted into TV, does that change the way you look at the story?

“I hope not. I think inevitably on some level it may, but I’m fighting consciously against it. You know, I’m the author of the books, and David and Dan are doing the show. I don’t ever want to find myself thinking, ‘How are they ever going to produce that? I’d better not put that in.’ Because that would be shortchanging the readers of the books.”

Is that a warning to David and Dan?

“I’ve already warned them. This first season was quite a challenge, but the books keep on getting bigger and bigger. They’re getting their revenge on the Blackwater [a fabulously complex battle in the second book] though – they’ve told me I have to write that for the second season.”

How does it feel to have the latest book, ‘A Dance with Dragons,’ finished?

“We officially decided it was finished when I met with my editor here in New York. We went out and had lunch and a nice dinner, but I’ll catch up on the celebrating later. I’ve still got some more books to write. It’s nice to have this one done because it’s been so late and so tough – but there’s another one already beckoning. “

'Game of Thrones' Author Named in Time 100

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As a man who knows the value of a complex cast, George R.R. Martin should appreciate the company surrounding him on the 2011 Time 100 list. The magazine honored teen idols (Justin Bieber), business titans (Jamie Dimon), hardened terrorists (Anwar Al-Awlaki) and, of course, Oprah, in addition to the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ author.

Humorist John Hodgman wrote Martin's entry, comparing his novels to HBO's 'The Wire,' saying: "The experiences turned out to be surprisingly similar. Both kidnapped me to intimately drawn worlds with stories of a grim conflict and characters so achingly human that you end up rooting, tragically, for both sides. ... Martin, 62, is as fine a researcher as he is a storyteller, and he packs in enough miserable fact about the meanness of medieval life that it occasionally echoes Baltimore in its harshness."