Beloved A Song of Ice and Fire author and part-time tugboat captain George R.R. Martin continued to procrastinate and instead of finishing The Winds of Winter already, he sat down with Rolling Stone for a pretty excellent interview about his creativity, ideas, moral ambiguity and J.R.R. Tolkien. He pretty much comes off like your eccentric uncle who smokes a pipe and is super into fantasy worlds and makes inappropriate political comparisons at family gatherings. It's wonderful.
Apparently he got a lot of inspiration from Staten Island, which he compares to Shangri-La... or whatever. Or whatever!:
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.
He's written an untold history book that's coming out this year and takes a friendly jab at his own fans, which I find charming. That's great and all. When does The Winds of Winter come out? Is Tyrion going to be okay? Quit toying with my emotions:
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?
And then things start getting great. He brings up the concept of redemption and how compelling the notion is to him - when do we forgive, and can we forgive, and how can someone who has done horrible things be redeemed? He also compares Woody Allen and Roman Polanski to Paula Deen:
One of the things I wanted to explore with Jaime, and with so many of the characters, is the whole issue of redemption. When can we be redeemed? Is redemption even possible? I don't have an answer. But when do we forgive people? You see it all around in our society, in constant debates. 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?
What's great about the above quote is that, like any real discussion of morality and ethics, he's only contemplating questions instead of providing absolute answers, which is all we really can do - I wouldn't forgive a Nazi prison guard as easily as, say, Roman Polanski, and the lengths they'd have to go to in order to redeem themselves is up to them individually, but it's also our own subjective perception of whether they've been sufficiently redeemed, or how atrocious their acts are. When you consider this week's episode of Game of Thrones and the varying reactions to what Jaime did to Cersei, Martin's quote seems particularly interesting.
And then there's the part where Martin compares Vietnam to Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, so...:
Going back to Vietnam — for me, the cognitive dissonance came in when I realized that Ho Chi Minh actually wasn't Sauron.
...But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy?
You can read the rest of the interview at Rolling Stone, where he also talks about how The Lord of the Rings is better than Star Wars.