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Co-Executive Producer George R.R. Martin arrives at the premiere of HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 3 at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 18, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

creative minds

13 Choice Quotes From George R.R. Martin’s Rolling Stone Interview

If there’s one thing that George R.R. Martin wants you to know, it’s that the world is full of moral ambiguity. Any Game of Thrones fan can attest to this: There are no real heroes or villains, just people who do good things and bad things, and usually in combination. In a long interview with Rolling Stone published yesterday, the cap-wearing fantasy novelist talks about killing your darlings, his days writing for network TV, and the limitations of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s worth reading in its entirety to hear him expound on the following topics:

On imagination:

“For many years I stared out of our living-room window [in his hometown of Perth Amboy, New Jersey] at the lights of Staten Island. To me, those lights of Staten Island were like Shangri-La, and Singapore, and Shanghai, or whatever.”

“Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it's the execution that is all-important.”

“Should these things be literal here? Should the Targaryens actually have dragons? I was discussing this with a friend, writer Phyllis Eisenstein — I dedicated the third book to her — and she said, ‘George, it's a fantasy — you've got to put in the dragons.’”

On working with network TV

“We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn't want blood, or for the beast to kill people. They wanted us to show him picking up someone and throwing them across the room, and then they would get up and run away. Oh, my God, horrible monster! [Laughs] It was ludicrous. The character had to remain likable.”

On history:

“We have the untold-history book coming out later this year, where I've written a fake history. I find it amusing, and secretly pleasing, that I have so many fans who are interested in the history. I'm not sure if they would so eagerly study real history, you know?”

On redemption:

“Should we forgive Michael Vick? I have friends who are dog-lovers who will never forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick has served years in prison; he's apologized. Has he apologized sufficiently? Woody Allen: Is Woody Allen someone that we should laud, or someone that we should despise? Or Roman Polanski, Paula Deen. Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you're a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don't know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what's the answer then?”

On violence:

“We're setting up mechanisms where we can kill human beings with drones and missiles where you're sitting at a console and pressing the button. We never have to hear their whimpering, or hear them begging for their mother, or dying in horrible realities around us. I don't know if that's necessarily such a good thing.”

“Going back to Vietnam — for me, the cognitive dissonance came in when I realized that Ho Chi Minh actually wasn't Sauron.”

On J.R.R. Tolkien:

“But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy?”

“The Tolkien model led generations of fantasy writers to produce these endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes. But the vast majority of wars throughout history are not like that.”

“That's not the kind of fiction that I write. Tolkien was not that. The scouring of the Shire proved that. Frodo's sadness — that was a bittersweet ending, which to my mind was far more powerful than the ending of Star Wars, where all the happy Ewoks are jumping around, and the ghosts of all the dead people appear, waving happily [laughs].”

On killing off your favorite characters:

“The more I write about a character, the more affection I feel ... even for the worst of them … Whoever it was who said ‘Kill your darlings’ was referring to his favorite lines in a story, but it's just as true for characters.”

On moral ambiguity:

“We have the angels and the demons inside of us, and our lives are a succession of choices. Look at a figure like Woodrow Wilson, one of the most fascinating presidents in American history. He was despicable on racial issues. He was a Southern segregationist of the worst stripe, praising D.W. Griffith and The Birth of a Nation. He effectively was a Ku Klux Klan supporter. But in terms of foreign affairs, and the League of Nations, he had one of the great dreams of our time.”

Read the full interview at Rolling Stone.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images