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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.


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)
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.
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)
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.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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