Review Fix chats with “Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War” author Ken Mondschein, who details the creation process behind the book and why George R. R. Martin is one of the most unique and special novelists of our time.
About the Author:
History professor, fencing master and jouster Ken Mondschein is the author of several books on medieval and Renaissance martial arts. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, and is a Visiting Fellow at the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies.
About the Book:
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels and HBO’s Game of Thrones series depict a medieval world at war. But how accurate are they? The author, an historian and medieval martial arts expert, examines in detail how authentically Martin’s fictional world reflects the arms and armor, fighting techniques and siege warfare of the Middle Ages. Along the way, he explores the concept of “medievalism”—modern pop culture’s idea of the Middle Ages.
Review Fix: What inspired the creation of this book?
Ken Mondschein: Basically, I love the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, and I love medieval warfare. There’s been a glut of publishing on the series, most from a critical perspective, but I set myself a different goal: Could I write a book, based on my deep knowledge of both the series and medieval history, that explained away inconsistencies, while at the same time explaining the past to modern fans? I flew a couple of essays on the Web, they were popular, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Review Fix: What makes Game of Thrones worthy of a book like this in your opinion?
Mondschein: Simply, the fact that George R.R. Martin is himself a huge nerd and a huge history fan. He bases so much in the series on the past, but with a modern twist. Added to this is the fact that I love his writing and hate nitpickers, so it became a fun intellectual game to explain inconsistencies or seeming discrepencies.
Review Fix: What was the writing process like?
Mondschein: It was really quick; I’m a fast writer. I wake up in the morning, make a French press, sit on the couch, and a few hours later, I have about 5,000 words written.
Review Fix: In your opinion, how do you feel people will feel about Game of Thrones
in a decade or so?
Mondschein: I think that while pop culture comes and goes, the best fantasy series get a cult following. On TV, Firefly and Babylon 5 are still popular — and of course, Tolkien, Moorcock, Zelazny, and their ilk have never been out of print.
Review Fix: What did you learn about GOT through the writing process that you
Mondschein: Not that much; as you can see, I know the subject pretty thoroughly!
Review Fix: What are your goals for the book?
Mondschein: Frankly, I wanted to write a book that would combine my nerdy interests into something that would sell well. I always figured the more people read my stuff, the better! And, if I could give people accurate information on actual medieval arms, armor, fighting, and history, so much the better!.
Review Fix: How would you like it to be remembered?
Mondschein: As the guy who wrote a whole bunch of best-selling books on medieval history, and then took the money and bought a whole bunch of really nice horses and traveled around the country going to medieval-style tournaments and jousts.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Mondschein: After years of adjuncting I finally got a semi-stable job, so I’m looking to get my first truck and trailer so I can take my horse to some events. Academically? I’m looking at doing a history of romance and an academic monograph on the history of fencing. Maybe something on why academia doesn’t deserve the legitimacy we give it.
Other than that… I really want to see how the book series, as opposed to the TV show, ends.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Mondschein: I saw a really interesting panel by Cliff Rogers this past International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo. It seems that in the Hundred Years’ War quite a lot of castles and fortified places were taken by direct assault… and one way of stopping them was to attack the attackers. So maybe the strategy at the Battle of Winterfell wasn’t so stupid after all?