George R.R. Martin talks about fan fiction, advises aspiring writers and discusses his reasons for killing off characters

GRRM

George R.R. Martin details his experience of making it as a writer, discusses his disapproval of fan fiction and explains his approach to incorporating death into his work.

In an interview with novelist, Joy Ward, for Galaxy’s Edge, George R.R. Martin discussed his journey to becoming a professional writer, from selling 2-page horror stories to friends for candy bar money as a child to publishing his science fiction piece, “The Hero,” in Galaxy Magazine in 1971. Martin also spoke of his time in high school writing what was then called “fan fiction” for fanzines but he was quick to distinguish between what he wrote and what fan fiction is today.

“What I wrote was not fan fiction like that term is used today,” he said. “Today when people say fan fiction, they talk about taking my characters or Robin Hobb’s characters or Robert Jordan’s characters or Kirk or Spock or any characters from a television show or movie and writing stories about them. Writing stories about someone else’s characters. I never did that and I never approved of that.”

Martin’s offered some advice to aspiring writers: “Writing is a terrible career if you’re looking at it as a way to have a career … ask yourself the question, ‘What if no one ever gives me a penny for my stories? Will I still write them?’ And if the answer is yes, then you’re a writer.”

When asked how he uses death in his writing, Martin said that he merely sees it as part of a writer’s obligation to reflect reality.

“… The truth is, as we say in Game of Thrones, all men must die. Particularly if you’re writing about war … Once you’ve accepted that you have to include death then you should be honest about death and indicate it can strike down anybody at any time. You don’t get to live forever just because you are a cute kid or the hero’s best friend or the hero. Sometimes the hero dies, at least in my books.”

118 responses

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    1. fans can write fan fiction if they want…. it doesn’t affect your work or your sales. be glad that you have fans who love your characters to spend their time and their imagination to create stories about them. its an honor to have fans to love and to think of your characters in such a capacity, to dream up such stories.

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    2. I appreciate Martin and the story he build, and even share his views on fan-fiction, not as extreme as his though, I even read some really good fan-fiction…it was just hard to find it..

      But he really needs to drop this entire ”the hero can die anytime” Dany won’t die, neither will Tyrion or Arya and Bran.
      He killed Jon and he came back..

      They could all die, hell I think Dany will die in the end, during the final battle, perhaps even Jon but this isn’t ”anytime”.

      He killed 1 POV Ned, who started as the ”hero”, more like main-character, but he quickly showed that he isn’t one and gave room to Tyrion/Jon/Dany…etc.

      Hell Rob wasn’t even a POV character and Catalyn, who doesn’t even come close to ”hero” or main character.

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    3. Agree with George about killing off characters.

      Strongly disagree about his fan-fiction beliefs. If it encourages people to write, and they are not making money off it, then I think it is a positive thing in my opinion. I’m sure a lot of people who write fan-fiction go onto write their own stuff, which is much better because they have nurtured their skills writing fan-fiction. I actually think his view is a pretty selfish one actually, but he’s not going to change it whatever anyone says to him.

      I don’t write fan-fiction, nor do I read it, but I have absolutely no problem with it. If I was a successful author, I’d actually be honoured that others want to write their own stories using my characters. No one writes fan-fiction about characters they don’t care about.

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    4. Adam,

      They were the heroes at that point in the story. In his stories heroes and villains rise and fall, and new ones take their place.

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    5. Danny,

      There’s a big difference from dying in the end and ”anytime”. Read my comment above.

      Yollo,

      Not at all. HBO gave him loads of money to buy the rights on those characters/story.
      This means they do it with Martin’s blessing and accord thus it isn’t ”fan-fiction”.

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    6. Adam,

      Ned and Rob were indeed heroes, if not THE heroes, of the story. The point is that heroes die untimely deaths. And that doesn’t make them any less heroic. Indeed, some of civilization’s most enduring heroes died untimely deaths. In this story, the legacy of the honorable Ned Stark will echo through the ages. Both through stories, and through his children. Ned may have died in season 1, but his example will likely win in the end.

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    7. That said, I suspect the following (as I have always suspected this is a story about the Stark family scattering and then getting back together):

      1. Sansa as Queen of Westeros (you will survive us yet, Lady Stark), with Arya as her Hand. King? A Targaryen, perhaps. Jon Snow? Cousins, I know. But…yeah. This is Westeros. They will displace the Tyrells, who will take over KL this season in a Red Wedding-style massacre of the Lannisters.

      2. And/or Jon Snow as Lord of Winterfell.

      3. Dany and the dragons defeating the White Walkers, and dying in the process. Fire and Ice clash, cancel each other out, and the magic-less modern age begins.

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    8. i am planning to write something on Sothoryos..you know take a minor/major character from the main storyline there …and so he could discover a new world full of new possibilities. ..but I won’t publish it ….I’ll probably send to some friends ……have fun …………I like writing I’m not very good at it….but I’ve written a few stories so I’m happy George said that ….coz when I wrote those stories I never once thought of money or appreciation. …I just ….wrote the whole thing….then a magazine editor absolutely destroyed me by criticising my grammer and my English so I’m Working on it ,,,,but I will write again. ….

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    9. I like GrrM, but his disapproval of fanfiction is something I’ll just never agree with. I’ve never written it myself (I just don’t have the patience, or skill), but I do know people who have written fics with 100k word counts that have been done whilst balancing real life, studies, jobs, etc. There’s also a lot of writers out there who use fanfiction as a way to experiment with styles and techniques, and also to show respect in the way they know best.

      It seems especially strange that he’d criticise people who set out to write without making a profit, whilst also saying

      “Ask yourself the question, ‘What if no one ever gives me a penny for my stories? Will I still write them?’ And if the answer is yes, then you’re a writer.”

      ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    10. Mihnea,

      The climax, the denouement, the end – that is still in general a time in the story so he is within the boundaries of his “any time” comment. In real life, people drop dead in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of sleep, in the middle of anything, some times at the very beginning of earthly life – only when the very old die we feel a life has been truly lived but given that there’s little we can do to stop death, we accept that death is usually untimely for us all. Untimely death in fiction doesn’t work. A character must served the story fully before being killed off. Whenever, wherever in the story that happens to be.

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    11. ArgonathofBraavos: Ned may have died in season 1, but his example will likely win in the end.

      Personally, I think Ned’s example will not win in the end. I think the point Martin made was that Ned was honorable to a fault. One cannot survive the world, especially the political world, by acting like Ned did. Ned, with the help of Sansa, essentially killed himself. Human nature does not change. If you assume others will be as honorable as you, you’re wrong; they will take advantage of you.

      Now, my personal feeling about the “bittersweet” ending is that:

      – The true enemy (I still think it’s the Others) will be defeated
      – The dragons will be dead
      – Most of our heroes will be dead
      – Westeros will be torn apart.
      – Westeros will end up with a new form of government, perhaps Planetos’ first Republic.

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    12. OT: You guys think if Bear Island is presented in the show, the place will be showed in the opening credits scene, just like Dreadfort or The Twins, etc?

      I´m pretty excited for that.

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    13. Trouble with most fan fiction I have seem is that it is strongly based on “shipping” which is something I hate with all my being, When the stories have their foundation in an actual story which is true to whatever world it is based on they can be quite readable.

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    14. As a writer, I agree with George in that I don’t understand why people want to write more about other people’s characters than their own.

      That being said… I really don’t care if they do it anyway. It’s just not something I’m going to do.

      Also, are you a writer if someone DOES give you money for your work, but you stop writing then cause you no longer need to write to survive? We want Winds of Winter, George.

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    15. To me Fan Fiction IS taking a character that already exists and making them your own into some other situation than the original text. I call it Role Playing. Harmless if one does NOT intend to capitalize on it. If you write RP and then want to make money, then unfortunately you must come up with your own original idea and characters. I have read some Potter fan fic that is really good writing and original to the writer, but NOT original to the character. That would be plagiarizing. And to be honest most of the fan fic I have read, say, about Tolkien is just God bloody awful. If you want to be a writer, then write YOUR ideas not some extension of someone else’s. It is hard to do. I have tried my hand and still do dabble in my own fantasy of writing, but they are ALL 100% my creation, not a copy cat of someone else’s brilliance. It is actually possible to be inspired by a great writer, but not copy that writer by using their characters or story line. That is what GRRM means when he says if you want to be a writer … then write …but if all you care about is making the money for writing, it probably isn’t your profession because MOST of the struggling writers never, ever get published.

      I do agree with GRRM about people dying. They do it all the time. In fact in the time it has taken me to write this post, someone died in a car accident, from cancer, in a war or simply old age. Hence the “anyone can die at anytime” and will. The fact that Mr. Martin did it in a way as in the Red Wedding was just shocking, not POV characters and certainly not the hero’s of the story, but it was BRILLIANT and we are all still talking about it to this day. Proof of it. I love the idea that when I read something I can’t count on anything, that I could be totally surprised at any moment. Tolkien was brilliant but we all knew that Aragorn would win in the end. Rowling is a great writer but we all knew that Harry would win in the end. Martin is a great writer and I haven’t a real clue. I have many guesses, but I have NO real clue and neither do any of us.

      Don’t you love that? Isn’t that Mr. Martin’s “hook”?

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    16. I disagree with his views on fan fiction. I don’t read GoT fan fiction, but I’ve read from other fandoms and enjoyed many stories. The only thing that annoys me about fan fiction, however, is when the author publishes it and blatantly plagiarizes (see 50 Shades).

      Also, ummm….he didn’t exactly kill the heroes. Yes, he killed Jon, but he’ll be back. And he has not killed (and likely won’t kill) Tyrion and Dany.

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    17. King of the Ashes,

      Who are you to lecture him about what he should feel honored by? What an arrogant thing to say. They’re his characters. He may not be able to stop people writing about them, but he certainly doesn’t have to like it.

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    18. JP Dayne,

      Martin has received money, lots of money, to give the rights of the story/characters/world to HBO.
      This makes it a ”adaptation” you can agree with how they adapt it or not, that’s not the point.

      The writer himself gave this rights and blessings to HBO and this alone means that it isn’t fan-fiction.

      Fan-fiction is when you take the characters and story without the authors consent.

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    19. Meco:
      GRRM may be hinting that Jon and or Dany will not survive at the end. His bittersweet ending.

      Yeah I think that’s a foregone conclusion anyway

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    20. JP Dayne:
      Yollo,

      CAME TO POST THIS.
      His life’s work will be finalized by fanfiction writers!

      Poppycock. D & D are adapting Mr. Martins work for television based on what he has advised them about the story. GRRM says he knows the end game for all the players and has communicated that to the showrunners. If Shireen doesn’t burn, Stannis isn’t killed or Shaggy doesn’t die, I will eat my hat after the books are published.

      Until then you are nothing but a flea to me using that sort of reasoning about D & D and what they know vs what YOU know about the story.

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    21. GRRM guaranteed that Jon and Dany would survive until the end in his 1993 outline (he said characters, even sympathetic characters and POV characters, would die, but that five “core characters” would make it to the end). He said recently that he’s known the broad strokes of the ending in 1991, suggesting to me that he’s going to stick with the 1991 ending even now. I’d be very, very surprised if Jon, Dany, or any of the other three “core characters” died.

      When he says “anyone can die” he means “anyone EXCEPT the core five can die.” He said as much in the outline. EVERYONE is expendable…except them.

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    22. JP Dayne,

      George refuted a fan’s claim that the show was fan fiction during the outcry over season 5. He told the fan that the show was “a licensed adaptation” and that the fan didn’t understand what fan fiction was.

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    23. Looper:
      As a writer, I agree with George in that I don’t understand why people want to write more about other people’s characters than their own.

      That being said… I really don’t care if they do it anyway. It’s just not something I’m going to do.

      I’m in this exact boat. If I’m going to borrow a character, tweak them to my own tastes, and have them do different things in different settings, it’s already a different character. I’ll readily admit to an homage, but I have my own stories to write.

      But if someone gets their rocks off with parallel universe versions of the stories they love, go for it. Through linguistics and classics I’ve studied oral history a lot, and fan-fiction has a lot of parallels with bardic tradition and mythologizing. I love comparing adapted work with this stuff in mind, and, honestly, sometimes the only difference between adaptation and fan-fiction is that the former is commissioned.

      The biggest reason I probably won’t ever read fan-fiction seriously is that I don’t have enough time to get through my reading list of original stories, as is.

      That said, I highly recommend A Gronking to Remember.

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    24. umuckurlife,

      Totally agree about the “republic” aspect. A couple weeks ago me and a friend were having a discussion and both said ASOIAF was going to ultimately be about political revolution set in a fantasy world. I like that because while I love ASOIAF, I’m not a huge fan of fantasy in general, and I think that gives more of a Historical Fiction type feel to it, which I can get way more into.

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    25. For someone who brags about using the historical Wars of the Roses for his characters and basing several ASOIAF characters off historical figures, very closely in some cases, he sure seems to have a problem with writers using characters they didn’t make up themselves.

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    26. M,

      Yet you can’t list the characters that are supposedly based on historical figures? There’s a big difference between being inspired by a situation like the Wars of the Roses or even by people like Catherine of Aragon who married her dead husband’s brother and directly lifting a character entirely with its history, name, and personality. I’m sure you do get this. Good try at making excuses.

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    27. M:
      For someone who brags about using the historical Wars of the Roses for his characters and basing several ASOIAF characters off historical figures, very closely in some cases, he sure seems to have a problem with writers using characters they didn’t make up themselves.

      Seconded. And getting a character out of a corner you wrote him into in the first place by killing him off and reviving him is something most fanfiction wouldn’t dare to do

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    28. I’ve not read the responses yet but I do agree with George….to a point. He isn’t writing real life, he’s writing a story. By all means, allow major characters to die, but at the end of the day people read books and watch TV as part of their leisure time. Don’t people do that as one of life’s pleasures? Who wants to be left deflated and despondent as a result?
      There’s a fine line imo. His bittersweet ending sounds good to me.

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    29. I think GRRM is a brilliant, masterful author. He is entitled to his opinion on fanfiction, and I will say that I disagree with it. *My* main issue with George’s statements on the subject are that they feel very hypocritical to me.

      In his younger days, George played RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons. Perhaps he never played in one based on Lord of the Rings or Conan the Barbarian or any other popular published work of fantasy or science fiction… but I highly doubt it.

      Further, he has given his blessings twice to pen-n-paper RPGs based on ASOIAF, thus letting players and game masters everywhere use George’s settings and characters to tell their own stories and adventures. The difference between this and standard fan-fic is purely financial – George likes fan-fic when he gets paid for it, and doesnt like it when he doesnt get paid. Makes no difference if the fan-fic author is deriving anything from it or not.

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    30. Halfman,

      Agreed, Halfman. There’s a line between rejecting tropes and alienating your audience. How many people would have given up on the show if Jon had stayed dead? Can’t risk that, so his plot armor is impervious. I think, at least for now, Jon, Tyrion, and Dany are immune to permadeath… anyone else, though, serves as an emotional motivator.

      Same with Ramsey continuing to murder fan favorite characters. At some point, different for everyone to be sure, the fans will have had enough of it and start to get irritated and bored. The trick for the writers and directors is to take us right up to that edge, then give us not what we wanted, but something unexpected… and SATISFYING. The payoff for watching Ramsey kill and torture people all these years. Ramsey is going to die, thats the payoff… the way in which it happens is the key, and that it happens before everyone goes f&#K this show.

      So, as you say, people watch and read for pleasure. There absolutely has to be a satisfying payoff, even if it’s not a “happy ending”.

      [ED: sp]

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    31. Ant,

      Eh…more “didn’t” instead of “can’t.”

      And while I agree there’s a big difference between a character being inspired by someone else and just transplanting a character altogether, I very much hear M’s point that GRRM borrows an incredible amount from history. Not that there’s anything, at all, wrong with that. Nor does it make GRRM a hypocrite to dislike a specific definition of fan-fiction. But it does go to show that this is all a relative matter of labels.

      Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead directly lifts characters entirely, with history, name, and personality, and Stoppard’s a genius for it. There’s no criticism in pointing out that, yeah, maybe the Stark:York::Lannister:Lancaster thing is a relatively direct lift.

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    32. Ser Gerold:
      Halfman,

      The payoff for watching Ramsey kill and torture people all these years. Ramsey is going to die, thats the payoff… the way in which it happens is the key, and that it happens before everyone goes f&#K this show.

      [ED: sp]

      I wouldn’t be so sure with Ramsay’s death. It would be incredibly satysfying but sometimes characters liek him don’t get the ending they deserve.

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    33. I completely respect George for his aSoIaF stories, yet must disagree with some of his views here.

      Actually he’s not the first author to despise fanfics. I’ve seen worse, lol. Whether or not to approve people for fan-work are their rights. However, to claim all fan-fictions to be worthless is unbelievably extreme. It’s like saying things such as ’Wild Sargasso Sea’ and ‘Wicked’ are totally meaningless (Whether they are good compared to ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wizard of Oz’ is another thing), not to mention those historical references and classic retellings.

      I don’t browse the aSoIaF/GoT fan-work collection nor other fandoms because my life was so busy. However I used to read and produce, and I’ve seem some amazing stuff – epic long stories written by my friends and strangers from the fandoms that I’ve stayed. They did not do it for stealing characters/plots to make themselves famous, but purely out of their love for the original work. They imagined those characters in different settings, to express creativity, make ‘what if’ scenarios to interpreting themes presented in the original stories, and it sometimes actually help people to love those existing characters more. George doesn’t seem to object fanart that much and luckily I don’t see HBO taking down GoT fan-videos. However, story-telling exists in those formats of fan work too. So yeah, I think there is a bit of hypocrisy here.

      Okay there are quite a lot of ‘shipping’ fanfics on AO3 or wherever, but just consider how much romantic novels there are in the original world of novels : ) I’ve also seem disturbing stuff that makes the controversies of HBO adaption sweet in comparison. Still, really good ones exist.

      The other thing is regarding killing of main characters. Mihnea said everything I wanted to say. A lot of characters die due to the scale of this story, but It’s true none of the real main heroes are killed off without revival before the endgame comes.

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    34. I don’t understand his problem with fan fiction if its just people having fun and not trying to make money off of it. I wonder how he feels about people that write Game of Thrones spec scripts? That’s a pretty common practice in the television industry for those looking to break in, to write an episode of a show that they watch,

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    35. Elena,

      I can see that where there is a limited amount of canon for much loved characters people may well want to read more, and to be fair who wouldn’t want more of The Hound & Arya if it was well written and NOT in any way romantic! 🙂

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    36. Ser Gerold:
      Halfman,

      Agreed, Halfman. There’s a line between rejecting tropes and alienating your audience. How many people would have given up on the show if Jon had stayed dead? Can’t risk that, so his plot armor is impervious. I think, at least for now, Jon, Tyrion, and Dany are immune to permadeath… anyone else, though, serves as an emotional motivator.

      Same with Ramsey continuing to murder fan favorite characters. At some point, different for everyone to be sure, the fans will have had enough of it and start to get irritated and bored. The trick for the writers and directors is to take us right up to that edge, then give us not what we wanted, but something unexpected… and SATISFYING. The payoff for watching Ramsey kill and torture people all these years. Ramsey is going to die, thats the payoff… the way in which it happens is the key, and that it happens before everyone goes f&#K this show.

      So, as you say, people watch and read for pleasure. There absolutely has to be a satisfying payoff, even if it’s not a “happy ending”.

      [ED: sp]

      I completely agree. Leaving Jon dead would have left the storyline floundering, not to mention, you deny hope, you deny the most fundamental human instinct….apart from the will to survive.

      Yes there has to be a payoff with Ramsay although I’m not sure whatever end he meets will satisfy everyone.

      The bottom line is no one wants evil to triumph fundamentally but people can live with an edge of realism. LOTR ticked those boxes. I hope GOT does too.

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    37. Though I don’t share George’s opinion on fan fic, I don’t see anything wrong with what he’s said. He doesn’t personally approve; he wouldn’t personally write it; but that doesn’t mean that he’s judging those who do or saying it should be illegal. At least, I don’t think he is.

      I’m okay with him saying that he’s killed off the heroes because anyone can die at any time. When I read Jon’s last chapter, I was in a panic until I discovered R + L = J. Normally, I would have been like, whatever, the hero cannot die, but with George, he’d established that a beloved and heroic character could still die in this series.

      What I do take issue with, however, is the one thing that no one else seems to:

      When asked how he uses death in his writing, Martin said that he merely sees it as part of a writer’s obligation to reflect reality.

      If George’s only goal is to reflect reality, then why is he writing a fantasy series? If George’s only goal is to reflect reality, then why do we not have 99% of the series filled with nothing happening? George pulls out this keeping-it-real bullshit when he’s asked about rape and death in Westeros, but he doesn’t mention the importance of reality when asked about dragons, Others, Children, or Faceless Men. He gives his characters conflict like death because conflict is what makes us love characters, hate characters, identify with characters, root for characters, and be invested in their stories. Yes, part of his reason for exploring death may be wanting to grapple with the harsh realities that life can sometimes deal us, but the deaths in this series aren’t a reflection of what folks are likely to see in their normal, everyday lives. Death: yes, everybody does it, but I’ve been to plenty of weddings where no one died, no one was raped, and no one was forced into marriage.

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    38. Ginevra:
      Yes, part of his reason for exploring death may be wanting to grapple with the harsh realities that life can sometimes deal us, but the deaths in this series aren’t a reflection of what folks are likely to see in their normal, everyday lives.Death:yes, everybody does it, but I’ve been to plenty of weddings where no one died, no one was raped, and no one was forced into marriage.

      Funnily enough I’ve never been to a wedding that’s anything but a joyous event!

      He’s an artist, painting a picture. He needs to remember that it’s a picture people need to want to see. Not everything in the world is dark, depressing and negative. There is a balance to be had.

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    39. Ginevra:

      If George’s only goal is to reflect reality, then why is he writing a fantasy series?

      He didn’t say it was his “only” goal. He said his intention in portraying death is to reflect reality. Sci-fi and fantasy are called “speculative fiction” because the whole premise is speculating what reality would be like if a few things were different. There’s nothing wrong with GRRM saying, “I’m going to speculate what a fantasy world with realistic chances of death would be like.”

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    40. LatrineDiggerBrian:
      I don’t understand his problem with fan fiction if its just people having fun and not trying to make money off of it. I wonder how he feels about people that write Game of Thrones spec scripts? That’s a pretty common practice in the television industry for those looking to break in, to write an episode of a show that they watch,

      Perhaps because it’s largely poor storytelling and he is actually very good at it. It is HIS story don’t forget, so while from one perspective it’s a great compliment, as an author it must be rather irritating.

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    41. JCDavis:
      To me Fan Fiction IS taking a character that already exists and making them your own into some other situation than the original text. I call it Role Playing. Harmless if one does NOT intend to capitalize on it. If you write RP and then want to make money, then unfortunately you must come up with your own original idea and characters.

      Hmm, I see roleplaying as something a little different from fan fiction: fan fiction would have only one writer and many characters while roleplaying has one person per character. I was on a Harry Potter forum where we (really they) did a lot of roleplaying: some were Harry Potter characters and most were their own homegrown, silly characters, but much fun was had pretending to be someone we weren’t. And we created stories together, with each individual writing his or her own part.

      Online games are well known for their roleplaying, as well. You become someone other than who you are and play up some quirkiness or other.

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    42. Isn’t GRRM also a very vocal fan of Richard III and I, Claudius, as well as historical fiction authors such as Philippa Gregory (who has essentially made a career out of writing Tudor fanfic)? Pretty sure Shakespeare didn’t come up with Richard III on his own.

      GRRM’s got some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

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    43. If I see anyone calling TV series a fanfiction in the comment section, I think I will explode with rage…

      I’ve never written a fanfiction. If I wanted to write anything related to fantasy, I have my own story and my own characters in my head (Lord Parramandas among them).

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    44. Oh dear – I wrote (but only in my notebook and not for publication) about the characters in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. Still I was only 7 at the time.

      Being more serious, while I’ve never been tempted to read the “Outlander” books I read somewhere (it might have been in an article by GRRM) that Diana Gabaldon had been fairly tolerant of fan fiction of her work until somebody wrote a story with her characters that roughly mirrored what she had written (as yet unpublished) for the saga herself. The “fan” wanted payment from Ms Gabaldon when it had happened by chance. I believe Ms Gabaldon didn’t give in to blackmail but went back to the drawing board scrapping that particular subplot. But if a “fan” is going to come up with an “I wrote about that scenario – give me some money” con trick I can understand why a writer wouldn’t want anybody going near their characters. I don’t know much about the laws of copyright and intellectual property – I believe in the UK (my country) books remain in copyright for 75 years after the death of the author though I did hear there was one possible exception.

      Elena: Actually he’s not the first author to despise fanfics. I’ve seen worse, lol. Whether or not to approve people for fan-work are their rights. However, to claim all fan-fictions to be worthless is unbelievably extreme. It’s like saying things such as ’Wild Sargasso Sea’ and ‘Wicked’ are totally meaningless (Whether they are good compared to ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wizard of Oz’ is another thing), not to mention those historical references and classic retellings.

      I don’t know much about the ‘Oz’ books Elena and who wrote them and they are American books so I presume subject to the laws of the USA but I believe Charlotte Bronte had been dead for over the prescribed 75 years when “Wide Sargasso Sea” was written.

      I said a few months ago on a different thread that I preferred John Keats’ poem about Meg Merriles to Sir Walter Scott’s “Heart of Midlothian” (although Walter Scott created the character). Other works that could perhaps be described as fan-fiction that I’ve quite liked were Big Finish Productions’ “Confessions of Dorian Gray” (imagining that Dorian Gray was a real person and taking his experiences into the 20th and 21st century) and for kids Shoo Rayner’s re-imagining of some horror stories from a feline point of view (“Blue Beard’s Cat” and “Frankatstein”) are a couple of titles I can think of in the series.

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    45. I agree with what he said. Fan fiction is the total pits. And it “encouraging people to write” is nonsense. If they want to write so bad than why not write their own story with their own characters? Fan fiction is there for the creation of fantasy relationships with other people’s characters, at least the majority of the time. The result of this is the changing of traits, characteristics, and personalities of characters that they do not own, they did not create.

      And what if by chance someone writes fan fiction about two characters getting together which then actually happens in the source material? I’ll bet you right now they’d sue for millions, claiming the actual original author “stole” their idea.

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    46. I don’t care if someone creates fan fiction… it’s when they then claim the fan fiction is better than the actual source material that I lose all respect for them.

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    47. Halfman: Perhaps because it’s largely poor storytelling and he is actually very good at it. It is HIS story don’t forget, so while from one perspective it’s a great compliment, as an author it must be rather irritating.

      Of course it’s not very good, it’s from fans, but everyone knows that, so what’s the problem?

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    48. Ginevra: Hmm, I see roleplaying as something a little different from fan fiction:fan fiction would have only one writer and many characters while roleplaying has one person per character.I was on a Harry Potter forum where we (really they) did a lot of roleplaying:some were Harry Potter characters and most were their own homegrown, silly characters, but much fun was had pretending to be someone we weren’t.And we created stories together, with each individual writing his or her own part.

      Online games are well known for their roleplaying, as well.You become someone other than who you are and play up some quirkiness or other.

      I also know RP very well. My alternate muse is named Fionavar and she has been in many a Middle Earth RP since 2001. Most all the RPlayers in the group used their own fake name, however, we did interact with the “real” characters, like Aragorn or if we traveled to Rivendell, Arwen or Elrond. I think we tried to keep true to the Tolkien character but there were some that were just awful. To me a badly done fan fic is one that wants to write about Aragorn, changes the name to Araporn and is the Little Finger of Middle Earth. What in the world???

      Either way, it is all playing with other writers characters. Fun is fun, RP is RP….but fan fic can edge that fine line. At least that is my take on it. I say that if one thinks they are a good writer, prove it. Don’t use someone else’s genius to try and piggyback to fame.

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    49. JCDavis:To me a badly done fan fic is one that wants to write about Aragorn, changes the name to Araporn and is the Little Finger of Middle Earth.What in the world???

      Damn, I thought I’d destroyed all the copies of that draft. Hope you didn’t get to the part where the Prancing Pony is an S&M brothel.

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    50. So fan fiction is defined as stories that are written about established characters without permission or pay? As long as the franchise gives permission then it’s ok to write about other authors’ characters? Because one of Marten’s best friends and collaboraters is someone writing about established characters-Melinda Snodgrass in the Star Trek universe.

      He’s entitled to his opinion, but it doesn’t seem consistent.

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    51. Kilgore Tully: He didn’t say it was his “only” goal.

      You are right. I was basing my comments on the paraphrasing in the above article, which says, “When asked how he uses death in his writing, Martin said that he merely sees it as part of a writer’s obligation to reflect reality.” Since “merely” is synonymous with “only,” that’s where I assumed that GRRM said his writing of death was only part of the writer’s obligation to reflect reality. But in looking at the linked article I see that this paraphrase is not entirely accurate. I apologize. I should have read the full article.

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    52. Ser Not Appearing in this Series: Damn, I thought I’d destroyed all the copies of that draft. Hope you didn’t get to the part where the Prancing Pony is an S&M brothel.

      I love a sense of humor. Actually it was the Prancing Ponytails, a chorus girl line of elvish women, all hand selected by Araporn.

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    53. “What I wrote was not fan fiction like that term is used today,” he said. “Today when people say fan fiction, they talk about taking my characters or Robin Hobb’s characters or Robert Jordan’s characters or Kirk or Spock or any characters from a television show or movie and writing stories about them. Writing stories about someone else’s characters. I never did that and I never approved of that.”

      Say whaaaaaaaaaaaat? Oh, wait. He totally did.

      “When Howard Keltner, one of the editors and publishers of STAR-STUDDED COMICS, the leading fanzine of its day, invited me to write about two of his creations, Powerman and Dr. Weird, I leapt at the chance… but only with Howard’s express invitation and permission. So that’s the sort of fan fiction I wrote.”

      http://grrm.livejournal.com/151914.html

      Do as I say, and not as I do. So sayeth the GRUM so sayeth the flock.

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    54. umuckurlife,

      Ned was dead without Sansa’s help, did you think he cared about his life do you think LF cared about his life? or Joffry?, at a minimum he would be sent to the wall by Cersei
      He was dead the day he threaten Cersei in the gods wood and he refused Renly’s plan, and bartered with LF who betrayed him to Cersei,so Joffry, who more likely heard a mocking bird in his ear had to show his toughness .

      Sansa just guaranteed a political hostage or three by disobeying Ned to say good bye.
      His plan had a small chance, like less then 5% once he confronted Cersei and LF got involved.

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    55. Mihnea:
      ArgonathofBraavos,

      Robb wasn’t the hero of the story, far from it.

      Ned was one of the ”main-characters” of the first book but even he isn’t the main-character of the series.

      Because he died early and unexpectedly. Your argument is circular.

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    56. M:
      Isn’t GRRM also a very vocal fan of Richard III and I, Claudius, as well as historical fiction authors such as Philippa Gregory (who has essentially made a career out of writing Tudor fanfic)? Pretty sure Shakespeare didn’t come up with Richard III on his own.

      GRRM’s got some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

      Not to mention, some of the greatest literature we know – Paradise Lost, The Aenaid, Danate’s Inferno, were fan fictions.

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    57. Mihnea: Not at all. HBO gave him loads of money to buy the rights on those characters/story.
      This means they do it with Martin’s blessing and accord thus it isn’t ”fan-fiction”.

      Indeed, Martin himself has been adamant about this: adaptation is not fan-fiction. Fan-fiction (in theory) tries to create novel stories with existing characters and plots. Of course, most of the time, it is just storyless plotting using names from well-known tales but not the actual characters due to horrid misunderstanding of the characters in the first place.

      The goal of adaptation is to tell the same story, but to take into account that storytelling devices that work for a novel do not work on screen, and then trying to find cinematic devices for making the same points. The story stays the same, but the plotting and details differ. Put another way, Anna Karenina often is suggested to be the greatest novel ever written: but Tolstoy’s book is a horrible script, and if you want to tell his story about people trying to get their lives somewhere else on screen or on stage, then you have to replace many of his literary devices with comparable cinematic ones.

      And that makes adaptation and fan-fiction pretty much antithetical.

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    58. M,

      M: Isn’t GRRM also a very vocal fan of Richard III and I, Claudius, as well as historical fiction authors such as Philippa Gregory (who has essentially made a career out of writing Tudor fanfic)? Pretty sure Shakespeare didn’t come up with Richard III on his own.

      No, he did not. But that did not make it fan-fiction: what Shakespeare did was adaptation of history and old stories, resetting them to be presented in a different storytelling style

      Again, fan-fiction would be taking those characters and then inventing new little adventures for them. In principle, it would tell a novel story: although insofar as I ever have seen, fan-fiction is just stuff happening with no story transcending the events. (I do not have all that much experience with it, and I am assuming what has been called to my attention is not totally out of the ordinary.)

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    59. Ginevra: If George’s only goal is to reflect reality, then why is he writing a fantasy series?

      Well, you could recast that to “why write fiction?” Not all fiction is fantasy, but all fiction is invented.

      However, the reality to which GRRM is referring is almost certainly the reality of human character. Even in a world with dragons and magic, GRRM’s stories are entirely character-driven: unlike the vast majority of fantasy works, there are true protagonists in Song of Ice and Fire. The real story is not in the wars, but in the evolution of the italicized thoughts of a handful of key characters. After all, GRRM has pointed to Faulkner as one of his primary role-models for storytelling: and Faulkner wrote a lot of fiction, but never any fantasy.

      That really has been the goal of most fiction authors for the last 200 years. Sure, there were rebels against this: Tolkien, Lewis and the other “Inklings” are well-known for their dislike of character-driven literature. However, the bulk of fictional works have focused primarily on thought experiments about how people change in response to different stimuli, including themselves. (The Faulkner school is particularly prone to that, and that is really what Anna Karenina got rolling.)

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    60. Ser Not Appearing in this Series:
      Trouble with most fan fiction I have seem is that it is strongly based on “shipping” which is something I hate with all my being,When the stories have their foundation in an actual story which is true to whatever world it is based on they can be quite readable.

      This. Definitely this. I avoid it like greyscale.

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    61. Geralt of Rivia: I wouldn’t be so sure with Ramsay’s death. It would be incredibly satysfying but sometimes characters liek him don’t get the ending they deserve.

      I predict he’ll step on a nail and get tetanus, that’d be hilarious.

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    62. Pigeon: I predict he’ll step on a nail and get tetanus, that’d be hilarious.

      Only if it is part of a ridiculously long con by Littlefinger!

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    63. Wimsey: Only if it is part of a ridiculously long con by Littlefinger!

      It’s so crazy it just might work!

      I was thinking of all of the “Bwahahahaha nyuk nyuk nyuk he’s going to be horrrribly killed! Mwahahahahaha flayed and set upon by dogs and squished by a giant and tortured by those he’s hurt and teeheeheehee!!!!!” that people say, rubbing their hands together in glee and dancing around in anticipatory frenzies….

      Meanwhile, back at a lunch meeting…”So, what shall we do with Ramsay?” “Oh, we’re going to have him accidentally slip on a damp patch of stone and hit his head on a brazier, dying instantly.”

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    64. Pigeon,

      Leaving out that he’s going to have the evidence point to.. umm… er… oh, I know: Lord Tarley! And this will provide an excuse for the Lannisters to attack the Tyrells because Tarley is a bannerman of Tyrell!

      And then LF will tell us where he hid Jimmy Hoffa’s body.

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    65. Wimsey:
      Pigeon,

      Leaving out that he’s going to have the evidence point to.. umm… er… oh, I know: Lord Tarley!And this will provide an excuse for the Lannisters to attack the Tyrells because Tarley is a bannerman of Tyrell!

      And then LF will tell us where he hid Jimmy Hoffa’s body.

      ? But of course! Tarley…Taryel….Tayrel! It’s a cover! Tayrel = Tyrell!

      *starts digging up parking lots*

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    66. Chad Brick,

      Dear Chad.

      This is the 4th time I politely ask you not to reply/speak with me. Again I ask you to respect this choice, I myself will do the same with your comments.

      Thank you.

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    67. What’s fan fiction?? What’s wrong with it? Also what’s shipping? I keep seeing those terms and don’t know what they mean

        Quote  Reply

    68. Dee,

      Fan-fiction is when you take the authors story/setting/characters, without his permission, and write stories about them.

      It’s wrong because technically it’s illegal. You can’t use the authors characters/story/setting, without his permission, because it’s his private intelectual property

      ”Shipping” refers to people wishing/wanting certain couples to enter a romantic relation, like TormundxBrienne or BriennexJaime…etc.
      Mostly though it’s some really weird combinations like JonxArya or JonxSansa and so on..

      Fan-fiction, in most cases, is about these sorts of couples.

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    69. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – Charles Caleb Colton (1780–1832)

      Isn’t that what fan-fiction is? Maybe George doesn’t like being flattered.

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    70. Various comments: “GRRM didn’t kill the hero(s)!”

      Y’know, folks, GRRM has written lots of stories and books other than ASOIAF. In some of them, the hero(s) die at or before the end.

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    71. Dame of Mercia
      I don’t know much about the ‘Oz’ books Elena and who wrote them and they are American books so I presume subject to the laws of the USA but I believe Charlotte Bronte had been dead for over the prescribed 75 years when “Wide Sargasso Sea” was written.

      Hi there : )

      ‘Wicked’ is written by Gregory Maguire, quoting Wikipedia, ‘a revisionist look at the land and characters of Oz from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. The broadway musical of the same name is also based on it.

      Once again someone might point out about it having no legal right issues, and I won’t argue about that because it’s true. It’s also true that technically all forms of fan-work done without first asking the consent of original author could potentially run into legal troubles. I’ve already mentioned that George has all the rights to deal with fan-works of aSoIaF in whatever ways he legally can.

      I was merely disagreeing with the common view that all story-tellings using existing characters/events have no artistic value. That’s rather extreme. Those revisionist work, purely talking of the creative aspect, are not-so-different from the concept of ’fan-fictions’ of modern days. Quality is another thing. Again, I don’t want to engage in lengthy discussion with some views that generalise *all* fan-fictions to be ‘tasteless romance only’. WotW is not a place for that. it’s also a long story for people who are not familiar with the vast world of fan-fictions : )

      Finally, allow me to have a short moment of nostalgia. Years ago, a friend and I produced story-telling fan-work for a non-English small fandom, managed to attract the attention of the original author, and we befriended her in the end. So I said sorry, we took your characters and twisted your stories. She said don’t worry, it was fun to read/watch anyway, of course technically it’s all illegal but my company would never do the unpopular thing and pull all the stories/pics down, we’d tweet the fun ones instead. Why not? It’s good for marketing. She and team members was secretly clicking likes to romantic fanfics (was disturbed by some inspirational ones too :p) and they adored some seriously written/drawn ones, it was like getting insightful reviews of their work, so they said. I had a great time but will never come back to that, it’s a time-consuming activity and now I’m using that time for GoT, anyway : )

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    72. So…what does GRRM really look like when he takes off that blue stone?

      (Theory: it’s Benioff under that glamour, and the real GRRM is being held captive until he finishes the books)

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    73. Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy,

      Actually, that is what I was thinking!

      SoI&F really does not have “heroes”, anyway: that is a hallmark of a different type of story. He has killed two protagonists: Ned and Catelyn. He has killed a number of prominent secondary characters, such as Robb, Joffery, and (in some but not all characters’ pasts) Stannis. A couple of faux protagonists have died, such as the cut Quentyn. However, the primary protagonists of the series are alive and kicking: well, one of them might be on a hiatus from living in the book, but the TV show suggests that he’ll be back any decade now in the books.

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    74. Cersei’s Brain: Sorry guys but I find fan fiction lazy and indulgent.

      You can choose not to read fanfic- personally, ASOIAF fanfic is not for me- but it is not lazy. People spend a lot of time and effort writing fanfiction, and it’s plain wrong and somewhat ignorant to call that ‘lazy.’ Many of the world’s greatest works of literature are based on characters created by other people, and we don’t call them fanfic. We call them classics, we call it Shakespeare. GRRM is within his rights to say no to ASOIAF fanfic but don’t insult fanfiction writers or the people who like to read it.

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    75. Bex,

      I don’t even want to know…

      About fan-fiction: While I not necessarily agree that all of it is lazy (some people put a lot of work into it), it is taking a big shortcut. The characters and worlds in fan-fiction are already pupular and that’s because of the good work of the author who created them. I don’t see much harm in taking this work and having fun with it, but I absolutly get that the author might not be thrilled about other people writing in his/her world, because while rare there have been cases where an author wanted to expaned the story in a certain way, but the problem was it had already been done in fan-fiction. The author has all the rights of the story in question of course, but there is the nasty question he/she might hear about having stolen the idea fom the fan-fiction…

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    76. Wimsey:

      Good point. Multiple POV narration often undercuts the whole idea of “heroes”–after all, who is the “hero”* of As I Lay Dying or The Sound and the Fury? And of course in some genres such as horror, the demise of the protagonist/narrative POV character is the frequently the whole logical point of the story (see “Sandkings,” for example).

      * In any sense other than the Barthean one.

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    77. JCDavis: I love a sense of humor. Actually it was the Prancing Ponytails, a chorus girl line of elvish women, all hand selected by Araporn.

      Prancing Ponytails! Did Araporn refer to each as “my little pony”? Does that make him a brony?

      Before there were Fifty Shades, we were delighted by the awful but awfully enlightening “Yes, Severus.”

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    78. I’m under the impression GRRM doesn’t like fan fiction not because it will impact his sales or whatever. I get the feeling it’s purely from a writing perspective – he probably just thinks it’s lazy to write about someone else’s characters, because that means you don’t have to think up your own characters, their motives and goals and personality, and that constitutes a pretty big chunk of the whole storytelling piece.

      I get the feeling he thinks that writing fan fiction is akin to half assing it. If I’m wrong, shoot me down, though.

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    79. Mihnea:
      Dee,

      Fan-fiction is when you take the authors story/setting/characters, without his permission, and write stories about them.

      It’s wrong because technically it’s illegal. You can’t use the authors characters/story/setting, without his permission, because it’s his private intelectual property

      ”Shipping” refers to people wishing/wanting certain couples to enter a romantic relation, like TormundxBrienne or BriennexJaime…etc.
      Mostly though it’s some really weird combinations like JonxArya or JonxSansa and so on..

      Fan-fiction, in most cases, is about these sorts of couples.

      Dee, it sounds like you need “How to Speak Fangirl.”

      Though technically illegal, any true fanfiction (not telling the same story as the original and not profiting) should be able to fall under Fair Use in the United States. Fair use is for works that are technically under copyright but where the law can and will be bent if enough of the four Fair Use tenets work in favor of the piece:

      1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
      2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
      3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
      4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

      If the work is nonprofit, which nearly all fanfic is, then #1 will be in favor of the work. If the original story is not being retold, then #4 should work in favor of the piece, with #4 being the most important one.

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    80. Elena,

      Wicked is an awesome reimagining – perhaps the perfect example of quality fanfiction! Very few critics would disagree. I would say that the musical is only loosely based on Maguire’s book, which was a relief to hear because I didn’t want my babies watching puppet sex. Because the original works were no longer under copyright, which lasts a ridiculous 70+ years nowadays, then there were no legal issues with what Maguire has done with all of his books, Wicked being the most famous. One could say the same of Ella Enchanted and perhaps stretch to even Shakespeare, but we don’t really know how much Shakespeare borrowed in these days before copyright existed.

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    81. Mihnea:
      Dee,

      Fan-fiction is when you take the authors story/setting/characters, without his permission, and write stories about them.

      It’s wrong because technically it’s illegal. You can’t use the authors characters/story/setting, without his permission, because it’s his private intelectual property

      ”Shipping” refers to people wishing/wanting certain couples to enter a romantic relation, like TormundxBrienne or BriennexJaime…etc.
      Mostly though it’s some really weird combinations like JonxArya or JonxSansa and so on..

      Fan-fiction, in most cases, is about these sorts of couples.

      Fanfiction is not illegal. Fanfiction is not automatically a violation of copyright; the vast majority of fanfiction falls under Fair Use.

      Whether with permission or not, anyone who makes something using another creator’s original setting and/or characters is creating fanfiction. Some authors, especially Martin, think that last has changed. It has not. Fanfiction does not magically become unFanfiction when the IP holder waves the Magical Permission Wand.

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    82. Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy,

      Well, in a very strict definition, the hero is the one who dies to save everyone. Under less strict definitions, heroes tend to be diagnostic of stories devised before protagonists really were a concept: heroes show you what one should do, protagonists show you someone trying to figure out what he/she should be.

      But, yes, when you have multiple protagonists, then it gets fuzzier still. One of them might be more “heroic” than others – Jon is a fairly heroic individual, for example – but that just makes him/her the “heroic” protagonist rather than The Hero. Now, to what extent the main protagonists (Jon, Daeny, Tyrion, Bran, Arya and maybe Sansa) all become “more heroic” is certainly a interesting question: after all, all of them save Book!Sansa (but including Show!Sansa) have shown increasing empathy as they have evolved, which sort of is a modern replacement for “heroic.”

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    83. Cumsprite: Fanfiction does not magically become unFanfiction when the IP holder waves the Magical Permission Wand.

      True.

      However, that sidesteps the issue of what is and is not fan-fiction. In particular, far from being fan-fiction, adaptation is antithetical to fan-fiction. The goal of adaptation is to tell the same story, but adapt the storytelling so that it works in a different medium. GRRM himself has stressed that the books and show are telling the same story, but doing it differently. However, if someone does not understand that the telling is not the story, then this would seem oxymoronic!

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    84. I don’t understand why anyone, even the original author, would care about fan fiction. I also don’t exactly understand GRRM’s definition of it. By what he says here, anything that uses previously existing characters is “fan fiction.” I suppose that’s true in a very strict sense, but, as others have noted, there’s a rather long tradition of authors using pre-existing characters in imaginative retellings. I mean one could argue that some of the earliest forms of narrative fiction from Dante and Milton would fit that definition, East of Eden likely would, and more recent examples like Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” certainly would. Is it time and distance that doesn’t make it fan fiction? I guess I always thought of fan fiction as fiction written by, you know, fans, for no other reason than some shits and giggles, and I don’t see the harm in that or why you’d care.

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    85. Wimsey,

      I agree. An adaptation is a completely different animal. I believe the professional degree of whoever is tinkering with the original creation needs to be considered when making a determination of what does and does not constitute fanfiction.

        Quote  Reply

    86. Martin never put down fan fiction, or said he disliked anyone who wrote it. He simply stated he never approved of it.

        Quote  Reply

    87. King of the Ashes,

      Funny thing… I just finished reading a work of fan fiction by GRRM himself. It is a tournament between Jaime Lannister and Rand Al’Thor from the Wheel of Time series, held in Westeros. It is meant to be a 7 vs 7 tournament, but Rand Al’Thor arrogantly determines to fight alone versus Jaime and his 6 companions, who GRRM took from various other books. In fairness, this is the only possible way Jaime could have shown the Dragon Reborn that the hero of destiny does not always win, particularly in Westeros. And that is exactly what happened.

      In addition to the 6 characters from other books–who I did not recognize and could be GRRM’s own characters for all I know–he wrote about many Wheel of Time characters apart from Rand Al’Thor. Most of Rand’s normal band of followers were involved.

      I was trying to find that story GRRM told about Robert Jordan’s characters to look over it again, searching “GRRM fan fiction”, and it led here… to GRRM expressing disapproval for people writing stories with Robert Jordan’s characters. I am a little curious about how he rationalizes that. On his LiveJournal, he said “this is all in good fun”. Yeah, just like all the other fan fiction, Georgie.

        Quote  Reply

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