I am honored to welcome Aziz of the History of Westeros podcast to the site. The History of Westeros is one of the most in depth ASOIAF resources available; creating episodes that piece together the series’ confusing timeline along with commentary on the houses, theories, reviews of Game of Thrones, and just about anything else imaginable. Aziz is also a contributor for the recently released Tower of the Hand anthology A Hymn for Spring.
The History of Westeros Podcast features some of the most in depth discussions on ASOIAF. Can you tell us a little bit about the research that goes into each episode?
One of the most important things we do is take our time. We don’t rush to record anything. It’s easy to miss details, and we all know that. What’s not so obvious is that having a fresh perspective on a topic can really change your mind on a few things. There’s no way to have a “fresh perspective” if you work on the same topic steadily for several weeks.
So we are typically researching at least 5, often as many as 10 topics at once. This way every topic stays relatively fresh in our minds, which keeps us open minded with regards to new ideas.
As for research itself, we scour every book and all the Q&A records (SSM’s) for references to whatever the topic is. Then we do the same for references to subtopics, all the while looking for good quotes. We dump everything we can find into a document, then start organizing it and figuring out the best order for everything to be in. Having things flow nicely is important when dealing with a large topic.
But it all starts with knowing where to begin, which comes from already knowing the material well before beginning any project. That of course, means reading the books many times.
Your website says you became a fan of ASOIAF back in 2000. What made you decide to start a podcast?
Technically, I didn’t start it. Our friend Steve Mangiameli did, and I first met him through a mutual friend. She told me he wanted to do a “History of Westeros” podcast call in show, and suggested I participate for fun. I did, and it was great. He invited me to be his co-host soon after and I got swept up in all the possibilities. So it was a bit of an accident, you could say.
Your podcasts use plenty of analysis found in the novellas, which many fans tend to overlook. Which one is your favorite?
Probably “The Hedge Knight” because we see so many different ancestors to so many major families, including so many Targaryens.
As someone who’s been involved in the ASOIAF world for fifteen years, can you tell us a little about how you’ve seen the fandom evolve with the TV show and later installments in the series?
Definitely. It’s incredible how well versed the fandom is in the material in general. Back when I was new to it all, even some of the most now-widely-accepted theories were a tough sell, and discussions would be rife with mistakes. There was no wiki nor e-books either, so it was hard to settle such things or even look things up. Now there are people who volunteer huge amounts of time track cross referencing every little detail amongst two canons (ASOIAF & HBO).
I’m constantly impressed by the devotion and intelligence of the fandom. I actually appreciate how long the books have taken to come out, (a recent realization) because without it, this amazing situation would not exist. The experience of living through the wait, of making friends, of podcasting… none of it would be here if the books came out quickly.
Did the release of The World of Ice and Fire cause you to want to go back and change any of your past episodes?
We’ve actually taken quite a few down, though partly it was due to our earliest episodes having some audio problems. We avoided quite a few topics for about a year and a half in advance of The World of Ice and Fire’s release, because we knew we we’d risk treading ground that was likely to shift.
Episodes of your podcast frequently focus on a specific house. Which house(s) would you like to see more of in Game of Thrones?
Some of the houses that are faves of mine and of many readers are barely represented or not represented at all. Dayne & Manderly come to mind. Velaryon as well, because of their Valyrian heritage. But none of those are likely. As far as something that might actually happen, I’ll say Greyjoy.
One of my favorite episodes of THOW was when you covered the Arianne TWOW chapter (still not sure how you managed to talk for two hours about that). As someone who’s been a fan for a long time, what do you think of GRRM’s decision to release so many sample chapters over a long period of time?
It’s a great idea and a smart decision. It renews interest for many fans and gives us all something new to break up the long wait. TWoW will probably have around 80 chapters, so even if we see 8 or so of them, it’s only 10% of the book, and it’s a 10% chosen for being on the side of set up and exposition, rather than major events and plot points.
What’s the craziest story you can tell about recording the History of Westeros?
If we’re talking about the actual recording process, we have 5 cats that don’t get locked up while we’re on camera… They have video-bombed us many times, enough so that we have had many requests to talk more about them or even do a video specifically on them. We also once lost a recording to Ironborn raiders.
Was the Mad King truly mad?
I’d say there’s little doubt. He was so paranoid that his fingernails were as long, or longer, than his fingers. A sane man would at least cut his nails on his own. He believed the wildfire planted around King’s Landing, when lit, would transform him into a dragon. Even if the stories are exaggerated (possible, since many/most accounts of Aerys are tainted by being written under Baratheon reign), I trust Barristan’s and Ned’s judgement on the matter, and they both seem pretty clear on it.
Generic question, but who is your favorite character in the books. Is the same true for the show?
Davos in the books, because we know he’s really as honest and loyal as he acts, since we’ve seen inside his head.
Tyrion in the show. Davos is featured too little, and we don’t get that same sense of knowing him. Peter Dinklage’s acting wins the day in this medium.
What are your thoughts on season five so far and the changes from the books?
I have a very high threshold of tolerance for the changes. That’s how I set my expectations from the beginning, and I credit that as a major factor in my enjoyment of the show. I embrace the differences as much as I can, though I can’t help but be critical from time to time. That said, we’ve just now scratched the surface on real changes. Even late in season 5, most characters have not caught up with their book arcs, though many are extremely close, and of course a few have gone in a completely different direction. Season 6 is where we’ll see the biggest divergences, and that will likely be surpassed by season 7.
Ser Barristan’s death in the show has made me reconsider my thoughts that he’ll survive the Battle of Fire. Has anything that’s happened in the show caused you to reconsider your opinions?
The biggest to date, and expect there will be more, is the scene where the baby is carried far to the north by a White Walker, and given to what we’re told is Night’s King. When we did our episode on Night’s King, it was impossible not to at least consider how this could relate to the books. Ultimately, it needs to be treated separately, but undoubtedly there will be some parallels.
Can you tell us a little about your contribution to A Hymn for Spring?
In terms of the project, it was great to be part of a group who have all done similar projects before. Marc Kleinheinz made the process simple, all we had to do was write our essay and spread the word through our show. The essay itself, on the subject of Harrenhal and its curse, was a lot of fun to write and research. We tried to capture the feel of our show, which is to be perceptive, funny and thorough. We combined meta-analysis of what a “curse” is and what it means to Westerosi of all levels with historical analysis woven in.