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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?