Setting is one of the elements of fiction, but it doesn’t get a lot of attention like plot and characters do. And in fantasy, it’s crucial. A sense of place. A sense of history. That this world is not just an inch deep, but that this world has deep roots and a long history, and that it’s real in some sense. Middle Earth was real to me. The Hyborian Age was real to me. These places did not exist. I knew they didn’t exist, but I wanted to go to them, and I wanted to return to them in my books.
So when I came to write fantasy myself, I wanted to create a world that was just as vivid and real to my readers as the worlds of Tolkien and Robert E. Howard had been to me. And that’s what I strove to do with the Seven Kingdoms.
And what I discovered is that there’s a lot of readers out there who have a great interest in these matters. They wanted maps. They wanted more maps when I gave them maps. Then they wanted even more maps and more detailed maps. So we did a map book.
And they wanted history. I mentioned in the books little things about the history and the kings who had gone before and incidents from the past. 50 years ago or 100 years ago or 300 years ago. The Doom of Valyria and Robert’s Rebellion and Aegon’s Conquest and the Dance of the Dragons, all these things.
Yet still I got letters: “I want to know more about the Dance of the Dragons. I want to know more about Aegon’s Conquest. What happened after Aegon died? What happened when his sons took over?”
We decided that we would do a concordance, a World Book as we called it. And that’s what The World of Ice and Fire is. It’s a big coffee table book that I’ve done with Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson. These are fans from the beginning of the series. I think they know more about Westeros than I do. They went through all of the books and pulled out every reference that I had to history and legends and geography and everything I had put in, and organized it all for me and put it in order and wrote a rough draft. Then I revised what they did and expanded it and filled in gaps. Then we got some of the best fantasy artists in the world. People like Marc Simonetti and Justin Sweet and Magali Villeneuve and Ted Nasmith to do incredible art for it. There’s art on virtually every page of this book.
It’s done in the format of a maester of the Citadel writing a history of the world, and of the Seven Kingdoms in particular, as a gift to the new king. Actually there’s two maesters being quoted, who sometimes disagree with each other, which is part of the fun of the book. It’s a fake history, if you will, but people seem to love the fake history, so hopefully they’ll enjoy this book.