Sunday night following the Vroman’s signing, a number of ASoIaF fans wandered over to the nearby home of one of the more prominent members of the Brotherhood without Banners, there to feast, drink, sing, and dance in glorious and bawdy gaiety amidst fellow fans of the novels.
A little history: The Brotherhood Without Banners (BwB) was created in 2001 by fans of A Song of Ice and Fire. It grew from an unnamed gathering of people from the Westeros boards, and it soon took the name of the Berric Dondarrion-led Brotherhood from George R.R. Martin’s epic tale. It has since grown into what is by and large the only official fanclub of the ASoIaF series. They have multiple gatherings each year at different locations all around the world (the Belfast moot was organized by them), and are basically just a bunch of really cool, nerdy people. I’ll admit to an initial trepidation; I knew none of them personally, and was not sure how they would take to this “FaBio guy from that TV show website” tromping in on their business. Most of them had been friends for years, after all. I could very well be treated like an intruder.
And boy, was I!
I was met by the mysterious man known only as Prince Lodey—so mysterious he also refuses to be photographed. Some say Lodey is actually Dondarrion returned once more to life. To that I cannot say. I can say, however, that he has a commanding yell. “What, you don’t know how to use the front door?” he barked at me as I entered the party through a side gate. It was a fair assessment on his part; I didn’t know how to use the front door. In fact, I almost entered through the house’s gigantic front window, which would have been very interesting, not to mention par for course where FaBio entrances are concerned.
(I eventually did locate the front door once it was time to go. But I had help.)
It’s a great house too, belonging to a lovely lady called Iseult of the White Hands. No, that’s not her real name either (Westeros names are used to protect the wicked), but I followed Blackfyre’s lead and called her “Izzy.” Blackfyre, by the way, is also one of the olde guarde of the BwB; a very charming man with a friendly smile and a disarming gaze that says yes, he is smiling now, but he will kick your freaking ass if you break anything in the house. (I really think he occasionally thought of the house as his. Izzy thinks so too.) I liken him to a better-looking Bruce Campbell. If that’s possible.
Inside was a feast made for men and women of all sizes (and guaranteed to make us larger). The mushroom soup was divine, as were the wicked sliders and a “Trader Joe’s Special” stuffed ravioli soup that you had to taste to believe. But it was the DESSERT TABLE which caught my eye. Those little pink cupcakes? Lemoncakes, people! I devoured five.
Soon enough GEORGE ARRIVED, and in even better spirits than any time earlier in the week. His illness abated for the nonce, the Man worked the room like a seasoned Bunny at the Playboy Club. With him was Melinda Snodgrass, co-editor / author of George’s Wildcards series, Mara from HBO, a lovely editor from Bantam (her name escapes me like brains leaking out of my cracked skull), and Ty, George’s always-mellow assistant.
I poke fun at Ty (and who doesn’t?) but he’s actually pretty cool. A more self-deprecating dude I have never met, half-convinced that half the world hates him. And it’s not true; he is only hated by half of the ASoIaF fandom. You see, Ty is the dude who screens George’s messages. He’s the guy who tells you, “No, I’m not letting you post on George’s LiveJournal that you sexually fantasize about him with your cat Butterbumps. I don’t care if you think it’s flattering. He won’t.” Ty is the first and last line of defense. In short, Ty tells a lot of people “No.” So when he says, “Everyone hates me,” I don’t disagree with him, I just get him a drink.
To the right is Ty with FaBio (circa Vroman’s). FaBio is wearing his Dean jacket, trying in vain to be cool. FaBio also sometimes refers to himself in the third person. Ironic that Ty has long hair (it’s in a ponytail) and FaBio’s former mane has been chopped. Sweaty hair FTW.
(I couldn’t come up with an amusing caption that didn’t have “Blue Steel!” or “Who farted?” somewhere in it, so I leave the captioning task to you all.)
I met more long-time BwBers (pronounced Biebers), including a wry gent named Cueller who told me a few jokes I cannot legally repeat, as well as Kevin, who begged me with his eyes to stop following him everywhere. (I did eventually find the bathroom.)
… And here we have the infamous Westerosi “Wet Blanket,” Venardhi. If you think he’s wet on the boards, well, you should see him when he gets a few drinks in ‘im. Love this guy. Part-time actor, full-time pontificator, he still looks like my approximation of Edmure Tully, and he came to the party sporting the week’s most awesome ‘stache. We bonded over tales of Hollywood and Avery Clark. At one point he looked GRRM in the eyes and drawled, “Joseph Mawle would have made a better Ned. I’m just saying.”
It was an odd night, but an extremely cool one. I highly suggest attending at least one of these in your lifetime. Where else might you find a conversation regarding Catelyn Stark’s possible choice of underwear (or lack thereof)? Or hear Nessa of Jeffrey’s Tight Tee Harem loudly debate the history of the English monarchy with GRRM? (Nessa, Shea, Kristin, Victoria—I’m telling you, those girls are trouble!)
I learned a lot. I learned that GRRM occasionally “knights” loyal BwBers, sending these errant folk out on quests for cheeseburgers. I learned that Ran is always dying for updates from these gatherings, so we’re all just supposed to make up fake shit to tell him. (This time we determined that a book was in the works featuring the corpses of dead ASoIaF characters that would rise to form Westeros’s first super hero group, called Wild Cadavers!). I learned when Mara says “Don’t you dare tweet this!” that I really shouldn’t tweet it. And to my credit, I didn’t.
As the night drew to a close and the gathering waned, GRRM found himself in a quieted living room with just a few people. He talked about the rigors of his profession, and the fact that his vacations always included some form of business or another; he said Parris asks, on rare occasions, if they will ever just go somewhere that isn’t work-related. And then he said to us, with a mischievous little grin, “I’m of a mind that, if I go too many days without doing something constructive, I just might wander into the nearest bookstore and start signing things.”
He talked, as more than a few people have, about the kids on the show. The kids! How worried everyone was that they’d never find the right ones, and how relieved they were that the old trope (“You work with adult actors; you work around child actors”) would not prove true once they found Sophie, Maisie, and Issac. They were so vital to the show, he knew, because of the extremely adult nature of each of their roles. “Half the kids you get, they memorize their lines, they do their scene and then look up at you, so proud that they got through it. The other half just mug, trained since birth at being cute, or silly. We saw that, over and over again. You almost become numb. They’re all the same.” And he shook his head and chuckled and said, “And then Maisie comes up. She just blew us away. And we knew we had it.”
It’s these softer, quieter, late-night moments when George is just barely speaking above a growl that you really see the love he has for his series. He says the characters are his children, and yes, sometimes they have to die to further the story. He is equally saddened and yet at peace, I think, with the characters who have left the story, but he admits a part of him is very happy to see them living on again on the small screen.
Some critics want to paint George as a huckster of sorts, a man with a golden goose who is never at a loss for hocking his wares. My view is not so narrow, and I say it’s every person’s right to make a living, however they can. But let me tell you something—this is a man who loves this story. You think you love it? You don’t love it like he does. You wait, like I do, for any scrap of news, any little tidbit, be it for ADwD or for the show. But you’re not up nights, fretting over a few small words that could turn the tide in not just a chapter, but the entire series. Worrying over a Merenese Knot that to most casual readers wouldn’t even register as problematic, but to the fans who have taken the time to figure out exactly how long it takes to get from point A to point X—it matters. And so he works on it, tweaking his sacred story here, there, or another place.
I can’t put words in his mouth (even though I probably paraphrase from time to time), but I believe he thinks this story will be his legacy. A Song of Ice and Fire will be his magnum opus. And he knows—and works toward the fact—that he needs to get it just so.
And that was my night with the Brotherhood without Banners. I occasionally remembered I was supposed to be taking notes for this post, and had even brought my camera. Wouldn’t it be cool to get a large group picture of the BwB? At an opportune time, I leapt up and directed everyone to gather around George. “This one’s for the archives!” I cackled. “Everyone on three, say ‘Winter Is Here!”
“One… two… three!”
“WINTER IS HERE!”
This was going to be perfect!