Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

history of westeros Archive



August 2015



Interviews of Ice and Fire: Ashaya of History of Westeros Podcast

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, IOIAF, Pop Culture

It is a pleasure to welcome Ashaya of History of Westeros Podcast to the site. 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. HoW recently wrapped up an in-depth series on Summerhall. You can support HoW through their Patreon campaign.

HoW just wrapped up two podcasts on the Tragedy of Summerhall, one of the series’ strangest mysteries and certainly one that’s overlooked by casual fans. Given how little information there is on the topic, can you tell us a little bit about how you approached it? In terms of difficulty, how did it compare to some of your other series?

 The episodes in our Religion & Magic series are generally the hardest to put together, specifically the episodes on weirwoods. The possibilities of magic are just so wide open, and that tends to make it harder to decide how to frame the narrative of the episode, and how to organize and present everything. The Tragedy of Summerhall episodes weren’t part of that series, but they obviously deal with magic as well, and so they did have some extra difficulty. We speculated about the magical aspect of it a bit, but more so focused on the role of prophecy and on the impact Summerhall had on characters like Aerys, Rhaella, and Rhaegar (and the realm).

 One thing that’s stuck with me since listening is the potential involvement of the pyromancers and how Jaime had a particular hatred of them. Given that they had seemingly no friends in court during Robert’s reign and plenty of people who don’t seem like they would be particularly fond of their line of work (Robert, Jon Arryn, Stannis), why do you think they were kept around at all?

I don’t think Robert or Jon Arryn would have felt any particular motivation to outright end the Alchemists’ Guild, which is a rather drastic course of action. If we’d had Jaime in a position of power, he likely would have, though! That said, their power has waned and waxed over time, so they weren’t as prominent during Robert’s time as they are currently in the series or (obviously) during Aerys’ reign.

One thing you mentioned that I’ve never even thought about was Aerys II’s lack of known bastards. Do you think that is an oversight on GRRM’s part or could something larger be at play?

 Questions like these are difficult because well, I do often find myself debating whether something can be explained sufficiently in-universe or whether the Doylist method is more appropriate. I know that there are a lot of fans who are pretty firmly Watsonian, but I enjoy both types of explanation, though I favor the Watsonian view overall. So often obscure things in A Song of Ice and Fire make perfect sense, and you don’t have to look at things from an out-of-universe perspective. My answer, then, is that while I think it’s possible that it was an oversight, I think there are a number of in-universe explanations, namely a) Aerys had issues with fertility (my pick) or b) Varys dealt with his bastards.

One more Summerhall question as you mentioned Shiera Seastar and she’s one of my favorite tertiary characters. I’ve often viewed her as a parallel character to Bloodraven. As unanswerable as this is, does her being Quaithe preclude her from being somehow involved in Summerhall?

No, though I personally don’t subscribe to that theory myself.

My favorite HoW episodes are the ones you did on the Battle of Ice. Granted, the two are completely different but have any of your thoughts changed since season 5?

The landscape (hah get it) of the show is indeed entirely different from the books; for instance, we theorized about the ice lakes (now you get it) having a role in the battle, with Stannis laying a trap for the Freys (we also theorized that it might backfire and get the Manderlys, but let’s ignore that). I would say that it had an effect on me, but I strongly feel that if Stannis is going to be the one to burn Shireen in the books, it will be for something far direr, and so I still don’t think that the Battle of Ice is the end for Stannis in the books. In the podcast, I said I thought that Stannis would win, and I still feel that way (with a touch more doubt, admittedly).

Since Euron = Daario seems to be unanswerable, I shall ask, how do you feel about that theory in general? Do you think there are too many identity theories floating around?

There are definitely too many identity theories! Why, I’ve even seen theories that Amin of A Podcast of Ice and Fire is my very own Aziz of History of Westeros. I try to be diplomatic about most theories, but I can’t do it for theories about Euron being Daario, Rhaegar being Mance, Arthur being Mance, etc.

If you could pick the topic for the next The Princess and the Queen or The Rogue Prince style novella, what would you pick?

Fun question! My answer for this is different than what it would be if it were for a more traditional style rather than the masterly historical style of those novellas. I would love to read an account of the Rhoynar migration and find out more specifics about the people Nymeria traveled with and so on…that might be a bit large for a novella, though, even in the history style. Alternatively, the Conquest of Dorne.

What is the craziest theory you think might actually be true.

I’m not a big theorist, especially not crazy theories, but I’m fond of the Citadel Conspiracy theory, Jojenpaste, and, (our own idea), the theory (more of a hypothesis really) that weirwoods have some sort of connection to genetics, with family looks sticking for thousands of years due to their influence. In the case of the Citadel theory, I don’t think there’s a mass conspiracy, but I think their bias is clear and should always be considered in analysis. In the case of Jojenpaste, I just like it and think it’s (deliciously) dark. The third is pretty crazy for us, but given the length of time that the appearances of these families have remained in stasis, and that we know magic is involved in the genetics, I still find myself liking the idea.

I know HoW has been to many fan conventions over the years. Can you think of a highlight that you’d like to share?

Not as many as I’d like! Though we have plans to go to Mysticon and Balticon next year, so soon there will be more under our belt. It was a huge honor to meet George, talk to him, give him our card, etc., but I think hearing him read the History of the Westerlands from The World of Ice and Fire was the highlight for me. This was prior to the release of the book, and so we were particularly hoping for material from TWOIAF. When we met GRRM the day before and told him that our podcast was titled ‘History of Westeros’, he told us that we should be excited for the reading the next day, then, so we knew in advance that we would for sure be getting new material. Let me just say…it was so hard to sleep! But then at least it was very easy to get up early due to my excitement. We frantically took notes at the reading, and were able to publish it on our website, which brought us some good publicity, which was a nice bonus. But! The day got even better, because during the Q&A after the reading, GRRM picked me to ask him a question….I was able to ask a long-burning question (what is the Unnamed Princess of Dorne’s name?), which was a dream, even if he didn’t have an answer (boo). One day I’ll have a name for her!

What shocked you the most about season 5?

That Tyene used the phrase “bad pussy”, which is, by the way, a non-canon piece of slang that has never been used in A Song of Ice and Fire, save for once in the term “pussy willows” in The Mystery Knight.

How many times a day do you get asked if Jon Snow is still alive?

Me, personally? Hardly ever. How many times a day do I have to read other people speculating based on things like his hair? Often. As an aside – it’s always the wrong question, anyway, he’s obviously dead, the question is whether Jon Snow will be brought back to life.

Will HoW do book to show episodes next season?

Definitely! They were a lot of fun, and it was great to have more opportunities to have guests like Radio Westeros on. I myself will likely be in the first few and then drop out for the rest of the season, as I did this past season. I like talking about the characters when they are first introduced, and speculating on where the season will take us, but, at least last season, I quickly got burnt out and frustrated. We’ll see, though, for all I know, I’m going to love every episode of next season! (I crack myself up)

Generic question, but who is your favorite character? Is the same true for the show?

I’ve actually done this great ASOIAF character sorter, which takes hours and hours, and I found that my number one is Sansa Stark for both A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones (the GoT sorter…yes I did both). It’s difficult to compare POV characters with minor characters, but some of my other favorites are Arianne Martell, Samwell Tarly, Maester Aemon, Varys, Wylla Manderly, Alys Karstark, and of course the usual suspects like Arya, Tyrion, and Jaime. I need a historical character sorter still, but I am particularly fond of Rohanne Webber, Egg/Aegon V, Nymeria of Ny Sar, and of course our patron saint, Septon Barth.

What’s next for HoW?

We are continuing our series on the Blackfyre Rebellions as well as preparing episodes on a few different houses like House Dayne and House Royce, and preparing an episode on Nymeria of the Rhoynar. We will also have live Q&A episodes more often as we are close to hitting that milestone on Patreon.

Share Button



May 2015



Interviews of Ice and Fire: Aziz of History of Westeros Podcast

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, IOIAF, Pop Culture

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.

A Hymn For Spring can be purchased here


Share Button