On the Fandom Road: Making Connections

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My journey with Game of Thrones literally started with a journey. In 1999, I was at LAX waiting to fly back home from SIGGRAPH 99, the graphics conference that I’d attended for work. I didn’t have an unread book on me for the flight home, so I picked up a copy of A Game of Thrones. As I recall, it was the one with Jon Snow on the cover and Winterfell in the background. (I know it was Jon Snow and not Ser Waymar Royce because Ghost was on the wraparound cover too.)

I’d like to say that I voraciously consumed the book on the flight, but I’d be lying. I think I set it aside so I could take a mid-air nap when Bran was climbing up a tower in Winterfell. You know, no big deal. Turns out I’d missed Bran’s mid-air experience.

I set the unread book on a shelf when I got home, and it stayed that way for years. (I have a large collection of half-read books cluttering up my shelves, competing for attention.)

Even though I hadn’t yet started A Song of Ice and Fire in earnest, I was aware of the books that followed. I had friends who kept asking me if I’d read the series, and then I’d hear their complaints of how slow George RR Martin was about finishing the fourth book. When A Feast for Crows did come out, I heard their dismay that he’d only included half of the point-of-view characters that they’d expected, leaving out some of their favorites.

Their frustration wasn’t quite convincing me to start up reading again. I mean, they were all so distressed. Did I want that? But I bowed to pressure and started over with A Game of Thrones. Bran being pushed from the tower was rather shocking to me. I had been just pages away from that the time I’d been reading originally on my flight home.

But as I was following along with Ned coming into King’s Landing with hints of treachery and treason all around him, I decided I did not want to read this book. In college, I had a friend who had read all of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, which is a series best described (by me) as a historical fantasy with grand political conflicts. My friend gave me a detailed summation of the books, along with his commentary that the “good guys” were constantly undercutting their efforts to defeat their less savory opponents, by being hamstrung by their own adherence to their virtues.

Reading about virtuous Ned entering the decidedly unvirtuous King’s Landing, I was worried if I would enjoy a book where the noble protagonists are just brutalized constantly by unscrupulous opponents. So I put the book down.

My friends ganged up on me. HBO announced that in 2011 they would be airing a series based on the books. Afraid that I was going to be left out in the dark, I dusted off my copy of A Game of Thrones with the intent of bulling my way through it.

This was around Thanksgiving of 2010, so I had roughly four months to read this book. I took my copy and a flashlight with me to wait in line at a Best Buy for a Black Friday sale. Jon’s chapters of being at the Wall have a certain tangible component if you read them in the dark, standing outside in the chill of November. I was reading about Ned Stark sending Beric Dondarrion to interdict the Mountain when the doors to Best Buy opened up, and I was a bit annoyed that I had to put the book away. This time, I’d been completely hooked on what was going on.

I finished the first book, and recommended it to my wife, Lisa. She was not all that interested in reading fantasy and my recommendation was not a convincing factor. But thankfully our goddaughter had also recently read A Game of Thrones and convinced Lisa to read it. I’d borrowed a copy of A Clash of Kings and was reading it while Lisa started in on A Game of Thrones. She finished up the first book before I was halfway through the second one, and stole it from me. From then on, Lisa was ahead of me on reading.

Her punishment for getting a jump on me was in encountering the Red Wedding long before I did, and not having anyone to process her feelings with, while I was glacially making my way through the books. I knew something big was going to happen, because she had this haunted look whenever she asked me how far I was into A Storm of Swords. Once I got to the Red Wedding, the second time I threw that particularly book across the room, I could commiserate with her.

2011 was spent either convincing people to check out the show, or getting people to read the books. I picked up a new edition copy of A Game of Thrones for my dad as a Father’s Day present, telling him that it featured great examples of good and bad paternal figures. After reading it, he bought a set of the four published books.

I’d convinced most of my office colleagues to watch Game of Thrones on HBO. Then nearly all of them picked up the books after the season finale. I am somewhat in the doghouse now that I’ve been promising that The Winds of Winter is just on the publishing horizon. For years. It’s a wonder I’ve not been fired.

The TV show LOST had introduced me to the concept of recap podcasts, and I began listening to Game of Thrones focused podcasts which ranged from ones featuring book experts to those hosted entirely by people whose only experience was the show. There were so many bad takes, and I felt it would be rude to send in argumentative emails, that I began to publish blog posts on my WordPress blog, mostly articles in defense of Game of Thrones characters or their actions.

I’d never heard of Reddit, and didn’t know that there were years of well reasoned subreddit analysis (as well as some not-so-well reasoned suppositions) based on the books. Writing in isolation, it was always a joy to run across some other Game of Thrones blog, or have someone read and comment on a post of mine. It was nice to make these connections with people.

When George RR Martin came and talked as Guest of Honor at Balticon 50, I met so many popular Game of Thrones podcasters and /r/asoiaf moderators that it put into perspective how little I knew of the fan community surrounding the show and books. It was a humbling experience.

In 2017, the first Con of Thrones convention was held in Nashville, Tennessee. I hadn’t necessarily planned on attending, but Lisa surprised me by buying us memberships as a Christmas gift. Friends of mine leaned on me to submit panel suggestions for the convention, and I submitted so many of my blog posts as topics for panel discussions that the convention programming team was either impressed by my enthusiasm or felt pity on me and added me as a panel participant talking about the Night’s Watch.

I made friends with other podcasters whom I had been listening to for years. Be nice to podcasters when you email them, my friends. Like the North, they remember.

To my relief, I made a good impression overall at the convention and when I responded to a call for feature writers for Watchers on the Wall, I was accepted and began to write up opinion articles for the site during Season Seven and after.

Writing about Game of Thrones, talking about Game of Thrones on social media – it allows for so much fun discussion and creative outlets. This year, my parody Twitter account @WinterfellOrcs (a collection of staunchly pro-Stark orcs who watch Game of Thrones on Sauron’s Hi-Def Palantir) enjoyed a surprising (to me) amount of positive interaction when participating in the Davos’ Fingers podcast sponsored #ASongofMadness brackets competition. This year as the orcs watch and comment on Season Eight Game of Thrones, they’ll have more friends (hopefully non-elf friends) to share the experience with.

Now that we’re in the final season, there’s already a sense of loss that in just under two months the show will be over, despite the potential of successor shows and the promise of the last of the books for A Song of Ice and Fire.

My dad was always keen to talk Game of Thrones with me in off-season family gatherings, complaining that he might not live long enough for all the books, and how he has forgotten what happened the previous season of the movies (Dad always calls them movies, and I am reluctant to correct him.) But he also enjoys talking about what a genius Martin is for his world, and how he admires Martin for his research and use of real world historical parallels.

It is gratifying to me that my dad reads my blog posts and feature articles (my high school English teacher would be shocked based on my lackluster efforts as a student, but she deserves no credit.) It is charming to me that my dad keeps asking if George RR Martin, the author who so much of my writing is based on, reads my work.

No, Dad. No. My picking up a book at an airport bookstore kicked off my making connections with many, many people. But not that one.

Valar Morghulis.

38 responses

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    1. My goodness Patrick! I wish Martin WOULD read your articles and blog. If only so you can surprise your dad one time when your answer would be different than what he usually hears.

      I’m glad you’ve got the books and finally read them. And that you’ve joined the staff of this site.

      Just so you know I had a hard time reading Clash. I only read it once, I’ve read the rest multiple times. I also put that volume away on the back burner for a whole summer if I’m not mistaken. It was a hard read for some reason and I’m glad I picked it up again. Not because it got better but because it flew into some of the best writing I’ve seen in fantasy as I understand fantasy (which is probably extremely inflexible and unfair) with Swords and the Feast&Dance.

      Had no idea you do parody on Twitter but will check it out. Account description Sounds hilarious.☺️

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    2. TormundsWoman,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate you talking about your having trouble getting into Clash of Kings. And my orcs will be happy to say hi to you.

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    3. Oz of Thrones:
      Great story Pat! And so glad you are here. I’ll never forget our panel together at CoT. 🙂

      Ozzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!! It was a highlight of the convention to meet irrepressible you.

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    4. Thank you so much for sharing this, Patrick. I absolutely love your in-depth show analyses, and will miss them terribly—I’ll miss everything terribly—when this is over. Will you be gracing us with prequel commentary?

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    5. Enjoyed this post, as I have many of your others as well! I am enjoying this Fandom Road series too. I get insight into this massive world created by Martin by folks like you and other Watchers on the Wall writers and posters and it adds to my enjoyment. So it is interesting to see how you all got so deeply involved and are now part of this site.

      I like how you described the connection the books have been between you and your wife then you and your dad. I hope when Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring (or is it Hope of Spring?) come out you all will have a grand time reading them together!

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    6. Wolfish:
      Thank you so much for sharing this, Patrick. I absolutely love your in-depth show analyses, and will miss them terribly—I’ll miss everything terribly—when this is over. Will you be gracing us with prequel commentary?

      Thank you Wolfish! I hope to be writing my impressions for the successor shows. Thank you for asking. 🙂

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    7. onefromaway,

      I appreciate that! I know my dad will be happy to get a new book, but he will complain that he’s forgotten what’s happened in the 8+ years since Dance. It means I can spend some time getting him caught up.

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    8. Greetings from Belgium!
      You took a long time to read the first book. For me it took a while too, but that’s because I bought them in English, while I speak Dutch. But thanks to the books I now read English fluently. And thanks to this website, I also learn to write in English, but that’s still difficult.
      So nice you got the chance to participate to Con of Thrones and now this website. It’s always very interesting to read your articles. I don’t know if I’ll still visit this site after GOT has ended, but if I do, I hope you’re still writing here.

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    9. Thank you for sharing your GoT origin story Patrick! What a great supporter you have in your father – I saw that he commented on your last post! I actually delayed reading ACoK because I was dreading reading about Winterfell being overrun by Krakens but alas, I powered through. Also happy to hear you will continue writing for the successor shows! Yay!

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    10. Pigeon:
      Your dad sounds awesome, my parents would probably keel over if they read the books. 😆

      I was lucky as a kid, that I could get him to read books I liked, like DUNE and Ringworld.

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    11. Chilli,

      Thank you for this comment, and your own story in regards to the books and strengthening up your English. I am impressed with your dedication

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    12. Dark Sister:
      Thank you for sharing your GoT origin story Patrick! What a great supporter you have in your father – I saw that he commented on your last post! I actually delayed reading ACoK because I was dreading reading about Winterfell being overrun by Krakens but alas, I powered through. Also happy to hear you will continue writing for the successor shows! Yay!

      Hi Dark Sister! Thanks, if I can think up anything interesting to write while watching the successor shows, I will definitely pitch it to Watchers.

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    13. Thanks for all you do for WotW, Patrick. Your start-stop with the first book almost convinced me to read the books, but I am sticking by my declaration that I will read them when A Dream of Spring is finally published, and not a day before!

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    14. Thanks for this and all of your articles, Patrick. I had no idea you weren’t an “early adopter” of the books since you have such intelligent opinions/ideas about ASoIAF and GoT, both in your writing and on the panels at Con of Thrones!

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    15. David Rosenblatt:
      I got chills as I finished reading this. Such a lovely read from such an awesome dude. Thanks, Pat.

      Thanks David! I appreciate it. Looking forward to reading yours.

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    16. LadyGoodman:
      Thanks for all you do for WotW, Patrick.Your start-stop with the first book almost convinced me to read the books, but I am sticking by my declaration that I will read them when A Dream of Spring is finally published, and not a day before!

      Lady, that’s also a valid choice. My boss is following the same plan. No reading until all the books are available.

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    17. Wonderful story Pat! I still remember when you were one of the first people to give me positive feedback on my (now defunct) blog, and then how nice it was to finally meet you at the first Con of Thrones.

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    18. Roberta Baratheon:
      Thanks for this and all of your articles, Patrick.I had no idea you weren’t an “early adopter” of the books since you have such intelligent opinions/ideas about ASoIAF and GoT, both in your writing and on the panels at Con of Thrones!

      Thank you Roberta. I blew my book-reading friends’ minds when I read the first book and said, Hey, Jon is totally Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son. And they had had no idea.

      I deeply appreciate your kind words

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    19. Vanessa:
      Wonderful story Pat! I still remember when you were one of the first people to give me positive feedback on my (now defunct) blog, and then how nice it was to finally meet you at the first Con of Thrones.

      Vanessa! You are so great!

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    20. Thanks, Patrick, for sharing your GoT/ASoIaF story.

      I really like this series of WoTW contributers telling their stories. All unique but all sharing one thing: the fascination and love of the series, book and show. I feel I’m among friends here.

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    21. Patrick Sponaugle: … I blew my book-reading friends’ minds when I read the first book and said, Hey, Jon is totally Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son. And they had had no idea.

      WHAAAAT?!!? Like you just totally spoiled all your friends?!!? Naughty you! 😀

      I saw S3 first (kind of confusing), then gobbled all the five books very quickly (a week and a half for all five, I think). I was somewhere early along the third book when it clicked. Jon is totally Lyanna Stark’s and Rhaegar Targaryen’s son. I can’t even remember what triggered it, the chapter I was reading at the time was totally unrelated, maybe an Arya chapter. But something had been bubbling under in my subconsciousness and then I just twigged. Of course! I looked up a couple of passages earlier on and it was just so blatant.

      All excited, I went online to look up GoT/ASoIaF communities for the first time… Only to be humbled to find out I wasn’t particularly brilliant or original in figuring out R+L=J on my own, haha!

      Some of my friends and family – who are waiting for the show to finish to binge – are asking to borrow my books but I’m… uhm. Nope. I’ve underlined so many of the foreshadowing, all kinds of hints, connections, written in the marginals etc. that my books are now walking spoilers.

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    22. talvikorppi,

      Haha, it was only a spoiler because I was right. To be fair to me, I would do it like this:

      Me: Hey, do you want to know who I think Jon Snow’s mom is?
      Them: Sure.
      Me: Lyanna Stark.
      Them: What? Jon is an incest baby?
      Me: No!

      Then they would want to know the full theory.

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    23. Patrick Sponaugle,

      But cannot we give ourselves a bit of a halo for figuring it out ourselves, R+L=J, without any online stuff. Like, it makes us feel a bit clever, and that’s always a nice thing to feel.

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    24. talvikorppi:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      But cannot we give ourselves a bit of a halo for figuring it out ourselves, R+L=J, without any online stuff. Like, it makes us feel a bit clever, and that’s always a nice thing to feel.

      We completely earned that halo for figuring it out unhelped, Talvi!

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    25. Patrick I have loved your posts and often find myself coming away with a new thought or two. Love reading your GOT journey – we have all taken so many roads to get to this place! And I also had a dad that read everything I did (Even Valley of the Dolls! I was in JR HS) He wasnt that big on sci/fantasy, but I think I couldve gotten him started ; he loved strong plots and characters. Great that you two have such a great bond!

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    26. Hi Patrick, thanks for sharing your adventure. Your dad sounds amazing. He is so supportive. Perhaps someday you will create your own fantasy world?

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    27. Thanks, Patrick, for sharing your story! I’m glad it’s a shiny one, with shiny people around. I wish you, your wife and your father to enjoy the prequel(s) and the following (positive thinking!) ASOIAF books! I do hope that George RR Martin will read your work and let you know it.

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