George R.R. Martin and John Hodgman Talk Naming Dragons and Medieval Magic in Fire & Blood

“I’ve often thought that what makes your books so interesting as fantasy books,” John Hodgman told George R.R. Martin at a recent book event for Fire & Blood, “is that you never actually fantasize about living in that world, because it’s so brutal and so rooted in the brutality of medieval life. […] But now you have an Air Force in this world.”

He’s talking, of course, about the dragons in Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones, Martin’s ambitious historical doorstopper detailing the Targaryen dynasty. The folks at Penguin Random House have provided a number of videos from last week’s event presented by WORD Bookstore, delving into the presence of magic in the new A Song of Ice and Fire book, Martin’s remembrances of Stan Lee, and the author’s little-known catchphrase “by gumbo!”

Here’s the part of the talk on Fire & Blood, including Martin’s discussion on why he always tries to consider the societal ramifications of major magic usage in the world of Westeros:

Magic is the hardest thing to write, in some ways. The dragons, and the other things—the spells—I try to handle those very carefully and dance around them. Even with a character like Melisandre—is she really doing magic, or is she bluffing in some senses, or what’s going on. I try to give a little subtlety and ambiguity there.

I think there’s a lot of fantasy out there that overdoes the magic, and they don’t really think about the effect the magic would have on society as a whole. Because if you really do have wizards who can wipe out an entire army of a hundred thousand people by reciting a spell and waving their wand, why would the lords even assemble an army of a hundred thousand people? That just seems stupid if one wizard can go ‘boogity-boo’ and everybody is dead.

Watch the entire event below, for how Martin credits his early fanzine publications to Stan Lee letters, and to watch Hodgman pitch the Downton Abbey of Westeros:

And read our non-spoiler review of Fire & Blood!

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