On the Fandom Road: How a Salesman Accidentally Became a Watcher

Jorah Think

My journey through the Game of Thrones fandom is one of which I’m both proud, and at which I am surprised. I never expected to be so persuasive. While I’d always enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, I had really only fashioned myself somewhat of just a connector. But let me take a step back, here. Gladwell explained that for an idea to become contagious, it requires three kinds of people – Connectors (people who have vast networks of social and professional outreach), Mavens (information hounds who stay up to date on the latest trends) and Salesmen (people who are able to convince others of something’s value through rhetoric or some form of persuasion).

When I began reading A Song of Ice and Fire in the summer of 2009, because I’d casually picked up A Game of Thrones several months prior at Barnes & Noble (really just because it looked cool), I had no idea it was one of a series, nor did I have any idea a pilot had recently been ordered with Sean Bean by none other than HBO. Know what else I didn’t know? That I’d somehow be able to convince 20+ people to read a sprawling fantasy series, with books over 1,000 pages long that didn’t even (at the time) have a Lord of the Rings-style visual medium behemoth behind it to justify their commitment. It was only words on a page with no visuals (yet). But my word was good enough.

When I started reading A Game of Thrones in the summer of 2009, I was halfway through college. The last fiction book I had read for pleasure was the seminal science-fiction masterpiece Ender’s Game my freshman year. But then everything changed. By junior year, as I was barreling from one ASOIAF book to the next, my college acting teacher assigned select chapters from  Gladwell’s Blink. Never you mind about the select chapters; I devoured the whole thing. While doing so, I realized how much I loved his work, and picked up a copy of his older book, the aforementioned The Tipping Point. While simultaneously reading this and A Clash of Kings at the time, I had no idea how soon the ideas from one (TTP) would cascade into the other- all the ASOIAF books.

As I learned the backstory of what makes a phenomenon catch on, I was slowly but surely introducing AGOT to every friend in college that I could. It’s no easy feat getting people on board with this, but I somehow did it. By the time senior year rolled around, we knew that HBO had ordered a first season, and I had amassed a loyal army of ASOIAF devotees. I still remember watching the first episode 5 weeks shy of college graduation, in a room with 6 friends, 5 of us having read the books (thanks to my Gladwellian push), and 1 having not. The 5 of us were thrilled – it had actually happened. The other one? He had no idea what was going on, threw his hands up after Bran got pushed, and said “Eh, I’m done.” (He has since caught up and now likes it.)

Sam Coleman didn't have a door to hold for me.

Sam Coleman (Young Hodor) didn’t have a door to hold for me.

Within the next year, home from college, I’d gotten more people both within my family, and among my non-college friend group to read the books…so much so, that by the time the second season had debuted, I was no longer surrounded by largely Unsullied comrades. But once again, I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll remember that I said I’d heard about the first season order from HBO, and Sean Bean’s casting? Well, it wasn’t from Wikipedia that I’d heard this news. It was from none other than WinterisComing, the fan site I had found online at some point in the 2010s. Man, I lived on that site day and night, checking about as often as I did my Facebook. I read every single article, word for word, and could not wait to see what news or speculation poured forth next; I was glued. Thanks to Sue, Oz, Phil, and the (then) team at WIC, I found a nerdy space to call home.

Axechucker, Kim Renfro, Me, and Bex, ardently defending Sansa Stark on our Con of Thrones 2017 panel.

Axechucker, Kim Renfro, Me, and Bex, ardently defending Sansa Stark on our Con of Thrones 2017 panel.

Before season 1 had debuted in April 2011, I had committed myself to writing one review for each upcoming episode. I was hopeful that my insight backed by my book knowledge, enthusiasm for TV, my feelings on what adaptations should or shouldn’t do, and general presumption of insider knowledge (imbued by my daily dosages of WiC consumption) would lead me to create interesting weekly reviews for the show I already loved (before it began, that is). There was a bit of a learning curve for me. The first review I ever posted was rather verbose, at a short 11 pages. Let’s just say that I’ve learned a thing or two since that college senior wrote about Khal Drogo and Daenerys’ marriage night by saying “I just didn’t love the wedding scene, and quite frankly felt a little uncomfortable during the marriage’s ‘consummation.’” Yikes, I’m cringing just reading that un-woke college student’s take.

Me, Aimee Richardson (Myrcella Baratheon), Sam Coleman (Young Hodor), Lindsey Romain, and Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon) hanging out at Con of Thrones 2018.

Me, Aimee Richardson (Myrcella Baratheon), Sam Coleman, Lindsey Romain, and Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon) hanging out at Con of Thrones 2018.

And yet my reviews continued, thereafter. I got lost in the fandom, on the Internet, and in real life, as I slowly but surely converted more people into not only book readers, but now show watchers as well. After Ned Stark lost his head and the first season came a close, I remember that summer of 2011, working at camp, lending my copies of the books out, going to Walmart, buying cheap copies, and lending those out as well, just so that I could get people on board with my obsession. Most memorable for me that summer was when I was made fun of the day that A Dance with Dragons arrived in the mail. I was SO excited to open that package. When I did, my co-counselor grabbed the book from me and ran around the campus chanting, “Look everyone! Rosenblatt got a book in the mail!!!” …8 years later and that guy is as big a Game of Thrones fan as anyone. It’s the little things.

From left to right: Me, Eric, Samantha, Petra, and Luka, marveling at the map outside the hotel for Con of Thrones 2018

From left to right: Me, Eric, Samantha, Petra, and Luka, marveling at the map outside the hotel for Con of Thrones 2018.

And then my life changed forever one fateful day in the spring of 2013. Little did I know how the butterfly effect would cascade into something larger. It was at some point during season 3. Our dear Oz of Thrones had written one of his lovely Unsullied recaps, or perhaps a ‘Looking Forward’ segment, I honestly don’t remember. What I do remember was that I woke up on the douchebag side of the bed that morning. Oz had made some mild grammar error in his writeup. I had always enjoyed reading his takes, and for some reason, for some godforsaken reason I’ll never know, I left a comment on the comment boards, contributing to all that terrible and toxic culture we all complain about all the time…I nastily called out Oz for his mistake, and said something along the lines of “Come on, this is the best kind of writing you can get for this site?” I promise, I’m not normally that mean. Naturally, the commenters on our sites have always been by and large fantastic, and they came to Oz’s defense…they came to his defense hard. It’s true. I had been a dick, and they let me have it.

But then something wild happened. Oz defended me. I wasn’t sure why, because I didn’t really deserve it, but he did it nonetheless. He thanked me for holding him to a higher standard. Pleasantries were exchanged between me and him, where I apologized and he downplayed it, saying there was nothing to apologize for. Seriously, the rumors are true; our Oz is the kindest person in the world and we are truly lucky to have him. With that in the past, I thought that was the end of my brief interaction with the writers. How very wrong I was.

That time I jokingly went to London to 'run into GOT celebrities' and accidentally ran into John Bradley, aka Samwell Tarly.

That time I jokingly went to London to ‘run into GOT celebrities’ and accidentally ran into John Bradley, aka Samwell Tarly.

Oz and I stayed in touch via Twitter, occasionally chatting. Cut to October of 2015: I was sent on a mission. Oz was in a jam and needed some help with the Night of Ice and Fire event. All I had to do was bring the WotW T-shirts and other merchandise that he would mail to me. It was so cool! I finally got to meet Sue, whose articles I’d been reading online almost 4 years and counting at that point, I got to sell some goodies to fans (even claiming a shirt myself), I got to watch Kristian Nairn (Hodor), Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell), and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Obara Sand) record a podcast live on stage, and I even found time for a casual 30 minute chat with GoT linguist David J. Peterson. It was an incredible night, and I still thought the fun ended there.

Me, at the merchandise booth that very night of NY Comic-Con - picture taken by none other than Sue the Fury!

Me, at the merchandise booth that very night of NY Comic Con – Picture taken by none other than Sue the Fury!

A few months later, season 6 had almost debuted, and the first of many Memory Lanes had begun, where Watchers would revisit every episode one by one, revisiting and re-reviewing them. Until that point, I had been enjoying reading the Memory Lanes on my own time, when Sue messaged me (not Oz this time), and asked me if I wanted to write one! Season 2’s episode 3’s ‘What is Dead May Never Die’ became mine, and I got to revisit an episode I’d loved. Turns out that went pretty well, because Sue asked me back to write a second one; she gave me ‘The Dance of Dragons,’ for which I was petrified, given how monumental it was (it was an ‘epic 9’ after all.) With the responsibilities I’d been given successfully executed, I settled in for  season 6, which debuted a couple of days later.

Lindsey Romain, Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon), Sam Coleman (Young Hodor), Aimee Richardson (Myrcella Baratheon) and me on the 'Kids of GOT' panel at Con of Thrones 2018

Lindsey Romain, Kerry Ingram, Sam Coleman, Aimee Richardson, and me on the ‘Kids of GOT’ panel at Con of Thrones 2018.

Time went on as usual, with my weekly viewing parties happening, well, weekly. Friends joined me each week for what I’d long dubbed “Games and Thrones,” where we’d play board games by day and watch, well, you know, by night. Once season 6 was in the can, I thought my GoT-related activity was over for a while given the long wait until season 7…until Sue asked me if I was going to the inaugural Con of Thrones. I told her I’d been thinking about it but hadn’t really committed to it. And that’s when she told me that she’d love me to be a featured panelist for several vacancies, should I come. I said yes, and never looked back.

That time I jokingly went to London to 'run into MORE GOT celebrities' and almost barrelled past into Joseph Mawle, aka Benjen Stark

That time I jokingly went to London to ‘run into MORE GOT celebrities’ and almost barreled past Joseph Mawle, aka Benjen Stark.

Con of Thrones 2017 was incredible, where I met so many people who before had only ever existed for me on the Internet! But most important of all, several weeks after the con, I had the small courage to ask Sue if she would take me on full-time, and she provided me with the good fortune of saying yes, and well, here I am. Con of Thrones 2018 came and went, bigger, and somehow even better than spectacular 2017. The past two years have been an absolute blur but they are ones I wouldn’t change for anything. My fandom road began in the Barnes & Noble bookstore my junior year of college, continued through with the fans I encouraged along the way, and it has molded itself into my being a staff writer of the best damn Game of Thrones fan website across the Internet.

Valar Dohaeris, indeed, and I’ll keep doing my part. What’s yours?

23 responses

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    1. ☺️ so you were a Grammer Nazi to Oz… Oops (“I fucking hate Grammer Nazis” said I, in Tormund’s “I fucking hate Thenns” voice). I hope I wasn’t one of those who told you to stuff it or whatever they said in defense of Oz lol

      Excellent decision by Sue to ask you to contribute, David and I can only hope you’ll convert some more Unsullied to be book readers 🙊

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    2. Thank you so, so much for sharing your story, David. It was absolutely delightful to meet you at Con last year (I was one of the surprisingly few Cerseis in an ocean of Daeneryses), and I look forward to seeing you again this year.

      As for grammar Nazis… I’ve never been “nasty” to a stranger about it, but I have been known to return grammatically-incorrect memos, field-trip permission slips, etc. with corrections in red ink.

      Incidentally, isn’t the top photo from 2017?

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    3. Nice article – thank you for giving me something to read as I wait out this cold night in Australia – it’s 3am – 8 hours left – simply cannot sleep – IF SANSA DIES IM GOING TO LOSE MY MIND

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    4. David, those Memory Lanes were lifesavers for me. I was stuck at home for a few months with a broken hip. Those articles and subsequent discussions kept mind from going stale, and kept me out of self pity moments. Thank for your additions to them

      And I have been known to go after grammar in public. The sign in SF that said ‘you brake it you bought it’ made me take out my marker. Glad you and Oz were able to connect, what a great story! Hope there is a Con this next year, it would be fun to meet everyone!

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    5. What an amazing journey you’ve had. Thank-you for sharing

      I look forward to hearing about your mew journeys, maybe with the spin-offs?

      Wish you all the best for your future 🍻

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    6. A nice article David and an interesting read.

      Speaking about ‘Memory Lane’, what’s happened to them? They were always a good read, but nothing more written since 610 and that was by Vanessa back in July 2017. What happened to S7 eps 1 to 7?

      I thought there was something missing from WotW over the last year or so and that’s what it is – No Memory Lanes 😛

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    7. What a sweet and wonderful article! As a professional English grammar Nazi, I must ask: are either of your parents teachers? It seems to be the hallmark for all EGNs I know. Anyway, keep writing, and promoting reading, a very useful sort of thing.

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    8. David,

      Great story! It’s cool how this website inspired you to interact and engage, and how that paid off!

        Quote  Reply

    9. TormundsWoman:
      ☺️ so you were a Grammer Nazi to Oz… Oops (“I fucking hate Grammer Nazis” said I, in Tormund’s “I fucking hate Thenns” voice). I hope I wasn’t one of those who told you to stuff it or whatever they said in defense of Oz lol

      Excellent decision by Sue to ask you to contribute, David and I can only hope you’ll convert some more Unsullied to be book readers 🙊

      I’m forever thankful to her!

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    10. TormundsWoman:
      ☺️ so you were a Grammer Nazi to Oz… Oops (“I fucking hate Grammer Nazis” said I, in Tormund’s “I fucking hate Thenns” voice). I hope I wasn’t one of those who told you to stuff it or whatever they said in defense of Oz lol

      Excellent decision by Sue to ask you to contribute, David and I can only hope you’ll convert some more Unsullied to be book readers 🙊

      The top photo is actually from 2018, on Thursday before the con. Sam and I went for a drink at one of the nearby pubs. Hopefully there will be some cool places to meet up with people this year. Make sure you come say hi and remind me who you are because I met so many people and combining faces with Internet usernames isn’t the easiest! Looking forward to catching up.

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    11. Sansa’s Knight:
      Nice article – thank you for giving me something to read as I wait out this cold night in Australia – it’s 3am – 8 hours left – simply cannot sleep – IF SANSA DIES IM GOING TO LOSE MY MIND

      I’ve always thought I was best saved to be read on a cold night in Australia at 3am.

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    12. ash:
      David, those Memory Lanes were lifesavers for me.I was stuck at home for a few months with a broken hip. Those articles and subsequent discussions kept mind from going stale, and kept me out of self pity moments.Thank for your additions to them

      And I have been known to go after grammar in public. The sign in SF that said ‘you brake it you bought it’ made me take out my marker.Glad you and Oz were able to connect, what a great story!Hope there is a Con this next year, it would be fun to meet everyone!

      A Memory Lane a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. I think I saw that sign in the doctor’s office.

        Quote  Reply

    13. MaesterMercy:
      What an amazing journey you’ve had. Thank-you for sharing

      I look forward to hearing about your mew journeys, maybe with the spin-offs?

      Wish you all the best for your future 🍻

      My journey through the spinoffs: Coming sometime 2020-2028. Clear your calendars.

        Quote  Reply

    14. Black Raven:
      A nice article David and an interesting read.

      Speaking about ‘Memory Lane’, what’s happened to them? They were always a good read, but nothing more written since 610 and that was by Vanessa back in July 2017. What happened to S7 eps 1 to 7?

      I thought there was something missing from WotW over the last year or so and that’s what it is – No Memory Lanes 😛

      Thanks! Who knows? Could be coming your way in the future.

        Quote  Reply

    15. Riverhawk 2055:
      What a sweet and wonderful article!As a professional English grammar Nazi, I must ask:are either of your parents teachers?It seems to be the hallmark for all EGNs I know.Anyway, keep writing, and promoting reading, a very useful sort of thing.

      Patrick Sponaugle:
      David,

      Great story! It’s cool how this website inspired you to interact and engage, and how that paid off!

      Thanks, Pat! Been here since the early days. Long before ‘Nam.

        Quote  Reply

    16. Really great to read through David, amazing that you somehow bumped into two GOT stars in London on your visits as well!

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    17. Jon Snowed:
      Really great to read through David, amazing that you somehow bumped into two GOT stars in London on your visits as well!

      It is truly wild. Thanks for reading!

        Quote  Reply

    18. Thanks for sharing your story, David!
      I admire your commitment to spread ASOIAF, that’s a true fan. Admitting your past mistakes (both being nasty and making fun of your own previous work) takes bravery – I can see that Jorah is your favourite character.
      I’m glad that you’re part of WOTW staff, passion should always be rewarded.

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    19. Thanks for sharing David! This is a really cool series- it’s fun to see each contributor’s journey to WotW!

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    20. Just a thought…

      Is it possible, in future, to cease and desist from using Grammar N*** as a descriptor? ( Yes, I know, politically correct titles, titles. )

      Still, in the real world – in this era of divisiveness and people choosing violence, use of that word sends a chill up and down my spine; there and back again. It invokes too many terrifying images of hate to stomach.

      Certainly, divisiveness and violence have been with us since forever; however, having been tragically and personally affected by this particular violence in recent events, the nonchalant use of the phrase seems simply… wrong.

      There are alternative and more accurate phrases out there – Grammar Grouch/Grump/Griper, English Enforcer, Spelling Soldier/Stickler, Punctuation Patroll/Police, to name only a few. (I have an affinity for alliteration, an affliction for which I apologize.) Other options, and perhaps more trendy, might be Grammando, Grammarista.

      Anyway, I’ve retired the Grammar N*** phrase from my personal vocabulary… to each their own; I won’t @ anyone for using it. But for my part, I simply cannot bear to go there ever again.

        Quote  Reply

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