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A Bit More (Fake) History

I had intended to write this post a few days ago, when Bantam gave me the green light, but I got busy, and we had Carrie Vaughn coming to town, and a worldcon/ Hugo deadline approaching, and all that seemed more time-sensitive, so I wrote those instead. Unfortunately, that meant the news below broke from other sources, and inevitably, all sorts of weird distortions crept in, and now the internet is rife with rumors and false reports and misinformation. Pfui. I need to set the record straight.

My friend Gardner Dozois, long-time anthologist and winner (many many times) of the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor, has a big new fantasy anthology coming out this fall. It's called THE BOOK OF SWORDS, and it's about... well... swords. Y'know. "Stick 'em with the pointy end."

I have a story in the book. "The Sons of the Dragon" is the title. Those of you who enjoyed "The Princess and the Queen" in DANGEROUS WOMEN and "The Rogue Prince" in ROGUES will probably like this one too. It's water from the same well. A history rather than a traditional narrative. A lot of telling, only a little showing. (The opposite of what I do in my novels). But if you're fascinated by the politics of Westeros, as many of my readers seem to be, you should enjoy it. As the title suggests, "The Sons of the Dragon" chronicles the reigns of the second and third Targaryen kings, Aenys I and Maegor the Cruel, along with their mothers, wives, sisters, children, friends, enemies, and rivals. If you're read something to that effect on the web, good, that much is right.

However, there is a lot that's wrong out there as well. THE BOOK OF SWORDS is not my book. I didn't write but a small part of it, and I didn't edit it, nor even co-edit it. Gardner is one of my oldest friends and he and I have co-edited a number of anthologies together. We did OLD MARS and OLD VENUS together. We did SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH and DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS together. We did the huge award-winning cross-genre anthologies WARRIORS, DANGEROUS WOMEN, and ROGUES together. But we did not do THE BOOK OF SWORDS together.

SWORDS is all the Great Gargoo. I mean, it's not as if he hasn't edited a hundred other anthologies all by himself, before he did a few with me. We're friends, but we are not attached at the hip. I edit Wild Cards without any help from Gardner, and he edits lots of great stuff without any help from me... including THE BOOK OF SWORDS and next year's THE BOOK OF MAGIC (which will also have a story from me, a reprint).

Truth be told, I loved editing those anthologies with Gardner, and we want to do more together. We're talked about MORE ROGUES and EVEN MORE DANGEROUS WOMEN, since those two books were hugely successful, and we have definite plans for OLD LUNA and, who knows, maybe eventually OLD MERCURY and OLD PLUTO and OLD URANUS. But we're not doing any of that NOW. The anthologies, much as I loved them, were taking too much of my time, so I stepped back from them... until I finish THE WINDS OF WINTER, at least. Once that's done, maybe I can sneak another one in...

The point is, just because I had to step back did not mean Gardner had to. And he hasn't. Hence THE BOOK OF SWORDS, which I expect to be just as good as ROGUES or DANGEROUS WOMEN.

The lineup of THE BOOK OF SWORDS is an impressive one:

Introduction by Gardner Dozois
THE SWORD OF DESTINY, by Matthew Hughes
THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE, by Walter Jon Williams
THE MOCKING TOWER, by Daniel Abraham
HRUNTING, by C.J. Cherryh
A LONG, COLD TRAIL, by Garth Nix
THE KING'S EVIL, by Elizabeth Bear
WATERFALLING, by Lavie Tidhar
THE SWORD TYRASTE, by Cecelia Holland
THE SONS OF THE DRAGON, by George R.R. Martin

There's some amazing writers there. Some of the stories, I expect, will contend for the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award. But I wouldn't know which, since I haven't read any of them yet, since I am not the editor. Unlike, say, ROGUES and OLD MARS and the like, where I read every word, because I was the co-editor.

THE BOOK OF SWORDS is scheduled for release on October 10 in hardcover and ebook. (I don't have the cover art yet, but when I do I will post it here).

As for my own story...

Long-time lurkers on this site will recall that several years ago, when we were working on the gorgeous illustrated worldbook/ concordance that was eventually published as THE WORLD OF ICE & FIRE, I wrote a number of 'sidebar's about Westerosi history. Actually, I got rather carried away, until I found I had written 350,000 words of sidebars for a book that was supposed to have only 50,000 words of text (it ended up having a lot more that that, actually). Since I had only reached the regency of Aegon III the Dragonbane, and had largely skipped over Jaehaerys I the Conciliator, however, it became apparent that my sidebars were going to burst the book.

So we pulled them all out, including only severely abridged versions of the main events in THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE. The full versions, much longer and unabridged, will eventually be published in a fake history tome to be called FIRE & BLOOD (and sometimes just the GRRMarillion), but since that one is years away, I included excerpts (again abridged, though not as severely) in DANGEROUS WOMEN and ROGUES. That's where "The Princess and the Queen" and "The Rogue Prince" came from.

"The Sons of the Dragon" came from the same place. Gardner asked me for a story. I told him I did not have the time to write a story. He asked if perhaps I had more like "The Princess and the Queen" lying about... as it happened, I did. So I sent him "The Sons of the Dragon," he liked it, and there we are. (Fwiw, though "Sons" has never been published before, some of you may have heard me read it at one convention or another. I think I've read it twice, though offhand I do not recall when).

Anyway... that's the story of the story. Don't believe any other weird crap you may encounter on the web. It's Gardner's book, and it should be a fine one. You can't go wrong with Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch, Lavie Tidhar, Daniel Abraham, Matthew Hughes, and the rest of the contributors that Gargy has assembled. You'll love their stuff, I know. Maybe you'll like my contribution as well... if you're partial to fake history.


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Feb. 1st, 2017 04:05 am (UTC)
Thank you for clarifying George. This books sounds spectacular! can't wait! I'm really into some of those writers! D. Abraham is The Expanse and I'm totally into those books. I only discovered Robin Hobbs book recently and I'm totally into The Tawney Man series! I've been audiobooking Cixin Liu's seris and that has consumed me for the last few weeks! Amazing stuff! please no judgement for audiobooking as well as reading, valid reasons for doing so.
I sincerely hope Gardner makes sure to have Gwendolyn Christie narrate at least one story in Book of Swords! Pass it on please. Something about her narration is like listening to someone weave magic!
Can't wait to read the new World History story!! Yay! Comes out my Birthday Month.
Feb. 1st, 2017 04:17 am (UTC)
Is there a way to send you messages directly, as in an email? I would like to briefly share my feelings about your work.
Feb. 1st, 2017 04:36 am (UTC)
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Ryan Bruce
Feb. 1st, 2017 05:05 am (UTC)
The book of Swords Rumors
On the topic of rumors,

I heard a particularly nasty one the other day regarding plans for a celebration you were holding over 3 days with all the authors, editors, publishers and minions involved with the book upon publication. Can you confirm??

Haha congrats, I can't wait for some more fake history :)
Feb. 1st, 2017 05:37 am (UTC)
RE: The book of Swords Rumors
What? Weird. No, nothing true there.
RE: The book of Swords Rumors - Ryan Bruce - Feb. 1st, 2017 08:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The book of Swords Rumors - themadpianist - Feb. 1st, 2017 09:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: The book of Swords Rumors - Ryan Bruce - Feb. 2nd, 2017 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2017 05:06 am (UTC)
> It's called THE BOOK OF SWORDS, and it's about... well... swords. <

Thank goodness for that. A metaphor for other slashy-pointy things would have been fine, or even a group of people who have slashy-pointy personalities in a stretch.

But if it was on the history of the potato and entitled 'The Book of Swords' I would have disappointed.
Feb. 1st, 2017 05:17 am (UTC)
A simple, but not so simple question
Hey George, I've always wondered what makes a fictional world feel real to people, if you don't mind me asking I was wondering what makes a fictional world feel real to you? I know it can be a hard question to answer so I totally understand if you don't have time, but if you do, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Feb. 1st, 2017 07:57 am (UTC)
The Targaryens are so cool and it is so clear, in reading TWOIAF as I am right now, that what we have is deeply abridged. Your novels aren't known for their levity, so it's bizarre seeing details glossed over. So yeah, definitely looking forward to the eventual Fire and Blood book. That being said, I'm desperate to know more about the thousands and thousands of years of Stark history. And Blackwoods and Glovers and Karstarks and Reeds! Your relative mumness on this makes me hope for some pretty wicked reveals through Bran, assuming the TV show lines up.
Erik Robb
Feb. 1st, 2017 08:55 am (UTC)
So how canon is this since you only wrote a bit and didn't edit it? I'm not really sure what editing qualifies as though, as I assume you read though it and made sure it all check out?

I've very interested in your answer, as well as any other thoughts you have about what's considered canon in your works.

P.S Your books have all but ruined reading for me as I can't find anything that matches the quality of your writing so I never finish books anymore. But that problem also inspired me to write my own book! I have no idea what to do or where you go when you've written one; but going from never even considering writing, to devoting the majority of my free time to it, has been a profoundly positive change in my life. So thank you for the stories so good they changed my life. The Thousand Worlds, ASoIaF, and all the rest =)
Feb. 1st, 2017 09:41 am (UTC)
Some details
Thanks for the news!

You read 'The Sons of the Dragon' at last LonCon, by the way, and got throughout the reign of Aenys I. I was there and really had fun madly scribbling very detailed notes down.

Will some parts of the story be edited out like it was done with 'The Prince and the Queen' and 'The Rogue Prince'? What you read about the reign of Aenys I definitely was short enough to be only a short novella but only you know how much is coming during the bloody reign of Maegor the Cruel...

By the way - there seems to be an inconsistency between 'The Sons of the Dragon' and the way things are portrayed in TWoIaF: In 'The Sons of the Dragon' you had Maegor hang out on Dragonstone most of his young life with his mother, resulting in him becoming known as the Prince of Dragonstone. But in TWoIaF Aenys is referred to as the Prince of Dragonstone before he becomes king upon the death of the Conqueror. I really liked the idea that the Heir Apparent of the Iron Throne was not always the Prince of Dragonstone but that this thing sort of thing only came to be when Aenys I stripped Maegor of that title when he sent him into exile, bestowing it upon his own son and heir, Aegon, instead.

A similar thing goes for the Dornish wars. In Gyldayn's account of the Conquest it says that after First Dornish War that ended in failure the attempts to subdue the Dornish 'continued well into the reigns of Aegon's sons'. But 'The Sons of the Dragon' does not mention any Dornish wars during the reign of Aenys I aside from the first Vulture King uprising which had the Targaryens fight the Dornish on their soil. Were there any such wars later during the reign of Maegor or during the two year tenure of Maegor as Aenys I's Hand? Or was Aenys I contemplating at one time to bring Dorne into the Realm by marriage, as Viserys I later did? Aenys I had a lot of children and could very well have married Viserys, Jaehaerys, or Alysanne to the heir of Dorne...

Can you clarify what's 'true' there?

And can you tease a little bit about the undeveloped aspects of the Targaryen family tree, most notably who Alyssa Velaryon's Targaryen mother had been (she and Aenys I were cousins) who the Sea Snake's Targaryen mother was (if he had any), or what ultimately happened to Aerea and Rhalla, the twin girls of Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena?
Feb. 1st, 2017 06:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Some details
Your report was amazing and much appreciated at the time, Lord Varys.

****I asked Elio about that: turns out that the reference to Aenys as "Prince of Dragonstone" was a typo in the first-run print edition. Check the AWOIAF page for "Prince of Dragonstone", I subsequently updated it accordingly.

...I don't think it was a "title" he stripped Maegor of, it was a nickname that Maegor had, and then Aenys "appropriated" by using it for his own son.

As for the Dornish Wars, yeah we've been having fun trying to pick those apart, thanks for posting these questions.

Hey I'm still holding out on who Valaena Velaryon's Targaryen mother was. We must be as patient as the grass which hides the viper
Feb. 1st, 2017 10:47 am (UTC)
TWOW readings
Are you planning to read more sample chapters from TWOW?
Vincent Witvliet
Feb. 2nd, 2017 12:13 am (UTC)
RE: TWOW readings
I hope not. I'd rather just have the whole book...
Re: TWOW readings - grrm - Feb. 2nd, 2017 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 1st, 2017 01:44 pm (UTC)
Dunk and Egg?
I was curious whether you've given more thought to publishing more DUNK AND EGG in future anthologies before completing and delivering WINDS and DREAM. IIRC, you didn't plan to publish any more D&E before completing and delivering WINDS, but I wondered whether you had revisited this or maybe considered on publishing the fourth D&E between WINDS and DREAM?
Williamjames Hoffer
Feb. 1st, 2017 02:20 pm (UTC)
Fake History
As a historian myself, I am always curious to read your description of what you write as "fake history". Is it a history? Yes. Is it a retelling based on sources? Yes. Nothing fake about it unless you think writing the history of a fantasy/historical fiction world is fakery. We'll just have to agree to disagree. Regardless, thanks for the clarification. P.S. Try not to follow the speculation on-line too closely. Like staring into the abyss, one can get lost in there.
Feb. 1st, 2017 02:38 pm (UTC)
How exciting!! A bit off-topic, but do you think we'll ever get an account from Mushroom's side of things? The World Book really teases for him ;-)
Feb. 1st, 2017 03:34 pm (UTC)
Faith Militant uprising wiki article
Ah! Good news. In anticipation I just finished thoroughly screencapping the "Histories & Lore" animated featurettes from TV Season 5, which give a brief recap of the Faith Militant uprising, Aenys and Maegor (though admittedly they don't match that kickass Balerion vs Quicksilver art).

Some may be of use to our website team for the announcement:



*How much of "I, Claudius" is in "The Sons of the Dragon"? I felt a strong "I, Claudius" tone from those sections (and the live read reports).

*Will we learn more about dragon lineages? Live-reads mention something about when Vermithor and Silverwing hatched (right after Ronnel Arryn flew), but the specifics are frustrating. And of course, what color was Vhagar? Ah, I can't wait.

*This question comes up a lot so I need to know what to tell people: how do we pronounce "Aenys"? I get that' it's a combination of "AE-gon and Rhae-NYS". I pronounce it "E" "Niss".

*I've previously heard you ask the open question of "what does it mean 'he ruled well'?" - i.e. Tywin is ruthless but is an effective ruler, Robert is generally a nice guy but an incompetent ruler. And this is just the classic example: weak, genial, and diplomatic Aenys, contrasted with the decisive but ridiculously brutal Maegor. When I heard you ask this question before, the comparison you used was "Jimmy Carter was a good man personally but had a troubled presidency, while Richard Nixon had a lot of morally dubious actions but he also did a lot of objectively effective things like open up relations with China, so what does it mean to be a 'good' ruler?" ---- Does the Carter/Nixon contrast work for Aenys/Maegor? That was before my time, but my mom saw Carter speak at her high school once (and thought he was feckless).
Feb. 1st, 2017 04:04 pm (UTC)
Blood and Fire!!!
Dear George:
There is only one thing I can say about your post:
Thank you.
I can hardly imagine the pressure you have over your shoulders resulting from all the bothering fans, readers and editors that your fascinating books have built, BUT, with this comment I want to humility transmit to you the huge hope, enthusiasm and happiness you have generated with this new post related with your saga. I am absolutely eager for new stories from Westeros, and particularly, from Targaryen dynasty with their mysterious dragons.
Thank you for your marvelous imagination. Thank you for your tireless dedication to all your tasks.
Find my complete gratitude, appreciation and admiration with these words. May the magic of the Seven Kingdoms, Essos and Ashaii of the Shadow, go with you.
Un saludo agradecido desde España.

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