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Maybe You CAN Go Home Again...

... at least for a visit.

Last week I returned to my old haunts in Evanston, Illinois, to Northwestern University and the Medill School of Journalism, where I was honored with an Alumni Achievement Award. The honor meant a lot to me, as did the warm welcome I received from the faculty and students at Medill.



I also got to attend a football game at Ryan Field (it was Dyche Stadium when I was there), and witness a thrilling last-minute victory over the Lannister Lions Penn State Nittany Lions. Good game (though Penn State did knock out NU's starting QB, which could bode ill for the remainder of the season). Not only did I see a win, but I got to hang out with a fellow NU alum, AND was presented with a Northwestern helmet midway through the second quarter. VERY cool.





All that was great... but the best part of the visit was getting to meet some of the students, who turned out in large numbers for all of my public events. For some reason, they all seemed a lot younger than the students I remember from 1970... but just as bright.

I had forgotten what a pretty town Evanston is, especially in autumn. The city has changed a lot since I was last there, however, as has the campus. A LOT of new buildings, everywhere. Fisk and Harris and University were still there, I was pleased to see, but surrounded on all sides by big modern buildings I don't remember. Deering looked unchanged, though. And Tech... where I took Bergen Evans' introduction to literature...

A lot of memories. I would have loved to wander the campus a little more and wallow in nostalgia, but alas, I could not walk a block beyond the hotel without being stopped for half a dozen selfies, so I had to put that plan aside.

(I was saddened to see that Evanston has lost all of its old movie theatres. The Varsity, the Valenica, the Evanston up by the stadium, the Coronet down by the Main Street newsstand... gone, every one of them. What a loss).

My thanks to Dean Hamm, President Shapiro, Beth Moellers, the gang at the Nerd Bar, and everyone else who helped to make my visit so special.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Kevin Patrick
Nov. 11th, 2015 08:16 pm (UTC)
Is that Julia?
Is that Julia?
trevor_ohara
Nov. 11th, 2015 08:18 pm (UTC)
The Armageddon Rag
George,

I just finished reading the Armageddon Rag (came across it at a used book store, had never heard about it until then) and absolutely loved it, as a fan of yours and of rock and roll. Two questions for you: 1. which rock bands are your favorite? 2. It seems like you wrote a lot of yourself into Sandy Blair, is this an accurate interpretation?
grrm
Nov. 11th, 2015 08:50 pm (UTC)
Re: The Armageddon Rag
Sandy is much cooler than I ever was... but otherwise, yes.

Take a look at the dedication page for the RAG, and you'll know who my favorite bands are.
Mark Stackpole
Nov. 11th, 2015 08:38 pm (UTC)
On the subject of old movie theaters, there is a site which tracks and eulogizes all those old film palaces. Here is the page for Evanston, IL http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/united-states/illinois/evanston?status=closed
dannydemiurge
Nov. 11th, 2015 09:32 pm (UTC)
"A lot of memories. I would have loved to wander the campus a little more and wallow in nostalgia, but alas, I could not walk a block beyond the hotel without being stopped for half a dozen selfies, so I had to put that plan aside."

Between the hat and the beard and the whole 'evil santa' look in general, you're too easy to spot. What you need is Coen brothers-style fame: the kind of fame where tons of people know who you are, but you're average looking enough that you can walk down the street and only hardcore fans are likely to know what you look like.

I'm guessing shaving would do the trick and then some. But I'm also guessing it would cause a few heart attacks. It's difficult to mentally picture you without facial hair of any sort.

missmatchedeyes
Nov. 11th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC)
:(
I'm sorry you couldn't wander the campus. That has to be really annoying. But you met "Elaine"! Wow!
northwestmagpie
Nov. 11th, 2015 11:34 pm (UTC)
I'm sad to hear the theaters are gone. I lived in Evanston as a kid from 1977- 79, on Seward, and had some of the best fun in summer going to one that was on the other side of the El tracks. And the Dr. Jazz ice cream parlor in old Evanston is gone. Probably Gerard's Market is gone, too. ::sigh::

But at least the murals in Oakton Elementary's auditorium have survived.
ADragonDemands
Nov. 12th, 2015 12:13 am (UTC)
Gender & Sexuality in Westeros - 60,000 word wiki article series; questions
Ser, I'm one of the head Admins over on Game of Thrones Wiki (I've asked on here before about "Maegor III" some weeks ago). I have a question about gender and sexuality in the A Song of Ice and Fire mythos - they're actually different from what scholarship has been able to deduce about real life medieval patterns of gender and sexuality.

I wrote up a book-length 60,000 word series of articles on GoTWiki about "Gender and Sexuality" (that's the name of the main page, and it branches off into sub-pages - your Livejournal settings won't let me post a link here). I shared it with Elyo and Linda over Twitter earlier this week and they seemed to like it; Linda said it was quote a "nice breakdown, very thorough". In real life I actually hold a Master's Degree in Medieval History, so my knowledge about medieval gender concepts is not based on "video I saw on youtube", but based on my graduate-level readings on the topic.

When I compared the real-life patterns of gender and sexuality in medieval Europe to the society of Westeros, my largest observation was that conceptions of gender and sexuality in Westeros actually aren't similar to those in medieval Europe, but closer to modern patterns – but, this is to be expected, due to the presence of female clergy also being a *drastic* difference from real medieval Europe. It's internally consistent, you see.

1 - ...having a gender-blind clergy in the Faith of the Seven is actually drastically different from the social model in real-life medieval Europe. It should greatly affect societal attitudes about sex and gender - making them closer to modern conceptions. Why did you make the Faith of the 7's clergy gender-blind? We've seen female Most Devout (Cardinals), and youve said there were probably High Septas in the past (I think).

2 - Did you think out how having female clergy would affect the societal patterns of Westeros, and attitudes about sex and gender? Because even if it was unintentional they actually match up anyway with how characters are portrayed in the novels.

3- Did you intentionally make attitudes about gender and sexuality in Westeros similar to modern attitudes in order to make the characters more relatable to a modern audience? It would be difficult to write Faulkner-style POV chapters about beings with very different mindsets from our own, such as the White Walkers or the Krell from Forbidden Planet.

4- Is first cousin marriage officially not considered "incest" in Westeros? Is this due to Targaryen influence or was it always like that? The Lannisters, Tyrells, and even Starks have all practiced first cousin marriage in the past generation or two. The TV series got confused on this point though, and seemed to imply that the Lancel/Cersei liason was considered incest in their culture.

5- I am aware that "the TV series is simply different", but why did the TV series remove mention of nearly all female heads of major Houses? This may simply be due to condensation, but as Elyo and Linda have noted, they also genderswapped characters who actually do appear in the TV series: Larra Blackmont, Tanda Stokeworth, Jonelle Cerwyn, etc.

6 - ...based on sections from my medieval history textbooks, I wrote up a sub-page on "Rape in Game of Thrones”. Basically I block quoted an explanation you already gave at length in a previous interview that you're reacting to the "Disneyland Middle Ages" in which wartime atrocities don't happen, etc, posted quotes from my texts about rape in the real middle ages, etc.

I do have one major question on this point, both as a reader and a history major, which I explain at length in the article: "First Night" actually never existed in real life, nor anything remotely like it. Scholarship debunked it nearly a century before “Braveheart” repopularized the myth. It did exist in Westeros in the past but has been banned for centuries. Season 5 omitted any mention of First Night when Roose explains Ramsay’s conception. Were you aware that scholarship has debunked the existence of First Night in real life? Was this influenced by “Braveheart” coming out in 1995, around the time you were conceiving of Westeros? Does it continue to exist in the fictional world anyway, separate from our own, for thematic reasons?


Edited at 2015-11-12 12:18 am (UTC)
grrm
Nov. 12th, 2015 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Gender & Sexuality in Westeros - 60,000 word wiki article series; questions
I could answer all these questions. Some of which would require lengthy essays.

Or I could continue to write WINDS.

I think I'll go with the latter, and let you puzzle out this stuff for yourself. Thanks.
ADragonDemands
Nov. 12th, 2015 05:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Gender & Sexuality in Westeros - 60,000 word wiki article series; questions
Ack. I'm sorry to take up your time, ser. I'll try asking Elyo and Lynda more.

I recently saw the live read you did at Worldcon Seattle, it was fun to meet Mary Mertyns. I've been wondering about her in the book indices for some time now...

Edited at 2015-11-12 05:58 pm (UTC)
gayeld
Nov. 12th, 2015 09:46 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Gender & Sexuality in Westeros - 60,000 word wiki article series; questions
I vote for this approach as well.
Kristin Esteves
Nov. 12th, 2015 02:28 am (UTC)
Lannister lions
Ouch. Although, we've been called worse.

Glad you had a nice trip back!
savatage
Nov. 12th, 2015 02:41 am (UTC)
Elaine Benes would have made a great rival to Cersei Lannister.
TheRedViper
Nov. 12th, 2015 10:29 am (UTC)
Selfies
Most of fame seems terrible, especially to an introvert like myself. To avoid being a famous writer, I'll probably use a pen name. And write trash.

You should visit a small, super-isolated town. Residents will be all over you for two days, and then after that will be used to you and wonder what the big fuss was. May I suggest the arctic? You can even write it off -- research for your books.

On that note, honestly... in the books you may want to include sled dogs, people using snowshoes, etc. -- which are the absolute basics of life in any northern area. It'd be pretty impossible, for example, for people to trudge huge distances through deep snow in regular boots only, without a dog team pulling them, or without snowshoes. And even if walking with snowshoes, people would generally pull their gear on a sled, not wear packs on their backs.

Also, it'd be cool if the days were getting shorter north of the wall, as is especially pronounced in the north during winter. And northern lights. There's a lot of great details you can add, to add realism. But it'd take considerable research, like what you did for Fevre Dream. It'd be worth it, though. I highly suggest a trip to the north in winter, to an isolated town.
NU_alumni
Nov. 12th, 2015 03:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for making the journey!
It was an honor to have you back, George. Our students were so excited and your insights about being bold as a writer were an inspiration. You also inspired an entirely new genre of Game of Thrones/Football themed social media! Take a look here - https://storify.com/medillschool/medill-presents-hall-of-achievement-award-to-georg We have some creative students. Go Cats!
yeamal
Nov. 12th, 2015 03:17 pm (UTC)
Medill Memories
Wow! I don't think I've ever felt so touched by your writing (but then again...maybe some Arya scenes hit me harder).

I'm a Medill senior, and I just wanted to say that it's a true honor having you as an alumnus. I worked at that Medill alumni department and spent hours every day in Fisk for class and work (sometimes thinking about how one of my favorite authors walked these halls as well). I couldn't be there for either of your talks, but seeing and hearing anecdotes from friends and peers was something special as well.

Anyways, I hope you had a lovely trip –– and thank you for sharing your experiences with us students.

Thanks for your visit!

-Mallory

P.S. Did our brutal Evanston winters inspire any elements of the North's?

Gregg Skomsky
Nov. 12th, 2015 07:20 pm (UTC)
most famous alum?
George, who do you think the most famous alum of the Northwestern School of Journalism. I am sure I missed a few but I know of several espn personalities such as mike greenberg, michael wilbon, rich eisen. This is just going off the wikipedia list, btw you need to have one of your minions fix the wikipedia page cause you arent on it.

Where do you think you rank compared to alumni from other schools at northwestern? there is stephen colbert, seth myers, joseph staten(directer of halo games)

But id say you are up there with arthur goldberg (supreme court) and kermit krantz (inventor of expandable tampon)
linnymay
Nov. 13th, 2015 04:49 pm (UTC)
College kids today ARE younger...AND brighter. They must be.

Nice photo op with the VP.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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