This past weekend I attended Balticon, a science fiction and fantasy convention. The four day event celebrated its 50th year in a big way with over twenty Guest of Honors from past years–and filling Guest of Honor duties this year, George R. R. Martin. The convention revolved mainly around the book world, but there was plenty of art, music, parties, panels, and speakers specializing on various topics.
At one panel, George R. R. Martin answered interview questions, delving into his life and career. He talked about how much Marvel and comics in general changed his life, and he told a story about how Stan Lee published a commentary of his in the back of an old issue of Fantastic Four. He talked about college at Northwestern, and how journalism was a middle ground for going into a living where writing would make him money. He talked about the Vietnam War, and the gray characters he wanted to write in his fantasy; characters that were morally complex and included nuanced villains. He talked about his past works, including Fevre Dream (a Mississippi vampire novel), Armageddon Rag (a rock n’ roll story), and his short stories.
When asked if he wandered into the massive size of the Song of Ice and Fire series, he answered Yes. He knew the series would be long, and it originally started as a trilogy, which became four books, and then well, you know. He talked about the Hugos–a prestigious award in the science fiction and fantasy community–and the divide in the industry over a recent controversy concerning it. Then he wrapped up talking about fandom in general, including the positive, fun, inclusive atmosphere of conventions.
At a reading, Martin read a new chapter from the upcoming Winds of Winter. The chapter was from the perspective of the Aeron Greyjoy, the Damphair. Don’t read the next paragraph if you like avoiding all spoilers in any form–just scroll past the next picture.
Okay, so without going into specifics, the chapter revolved around the priest Aeron as a prisoner on his brother Euron’s ship. In the chapter, Euron was presented as a brutal madman, torturing his brother along their journey. He feeds him the drink of the warlocks, inciting visions in Aeron. Visions of Euron sitting on the Iron Throne with all the gods of Westeros, old and new, pierced upon the blades that make up the massive chair.
People went insane for it, giving a lengthy standing ovation. The general fun atmosphere of conventions that Martin spoke about was always front and center at Balticon. Whether you enjoy spotting the wandering cosplayers, or browsing the show floor filled with tables and tables of books and merchandise, listening to live music, or you just want to socialize with and be around friendly individuals that love the same things you love, then make sure to attend a similar convention in your area. Or come to Balticon next year. These conventions are a blast well worth your time.