George compares magic in his books to a cook using salt: too much and you'll ruin the soup.
CONAN: I don't know if this is a myth or not, but initially when you started writing the series, you did not want to include dragons.
You had envisioned this realm, but you weren't necessarily a fan of dragons or thought dragons should be a part of it.
Is that true?
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: I debated it.
We're going all the way back to 1991.
I had written the first few chapters.
For a fantasy it's very realistic, very low magic.
I knew -- the question was, should they have actual dragons, which would just be a symbol?
I was going back and forth about that until a friend of mine, a very talented fantasy writing herself, Phyllis, read some of the early chapters and she said, George, it's a fantasy.
You have to have real dragons.
CONAN: You've got to have dragons.
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Yes, yes.
CONAN: I appreciate, as someone who loves the show, that it isn't a constant stream of impossible fantasy and magic.
It is very much grounded in reality.
And then there are, of course, a few elements here and there.
But it makes it easier to relate to.
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: It certainly makes it grittier and more realistic.
I think magic has to be handled very carefully in fantasy.
Phyllis was right.
You need some magic in a fantasy. But too much magic is like too much salt in the stew.
All you can taste is the salt and anything can happen.
Pigs are flying and --
CONAN: Flying pigs would be fantastic.
Keep that idea.
That's next season, right?
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Actually, I do have a Knight with a winged pig on his shield in the next book.
CONAN: Do you really?
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Yeah, I do, yeah.
He doesn't actually have a winged pig --
CONAN: Yeah, wait till the network gets involved.
We ran it through the numbers.
You have to have a winged pig.
Game of throes --
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: We do have sir pounce the cat.
He is very popular.
We made a spinoff about the adventures of sir pounce.
CONAN: Do you know about this?
Who's sir pounce the cat?
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: He's a cat.
He's the king's cat.
CONAN: I didn't know about that.
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: It wept crazy when sir pounce appeared.
CONAN: You have a computer from 1911.
How would you know?
The internet went crazy.
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: I have my other computer.
The one that gets the viruses.