When it comes to being a fan of George R R Martin’s epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, I am not old school or new school. I would count myself as middle school, that is to say that I wasn’t there at the beginning but I was there a good few years before it was turned into Game of Thrones, the HBO TV series. As a member of the fan group, the Brotherhood Without Banners, or, for ease and because it’s what we generally call ourselves, the BWB, I have been to EuroCon in Denmark, EasterCon in London and Glasgow, WorldCon in London and Montreal and many smaller gatherings in Dublin, Galway, Chester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and York. It was the books that brought me to the BWB but it was the ‘bros’ that kept me there.

I first found my people in 2005 shortly after WorldCon was in Glasgow. Being oblivious to the existence of such wonders at the time, I had completely missed this huge gathering of science fiction and fantasy fans that had been virtually on my doorstep. I did get a clue, however, in time for the “A Feast for Crows” book signing that George attended in Glasgow. Via the Board (www.westeros.org) I had begun chatting to other ASOIAF enthusiasts and discovered that real people met up from time to time. The book signing was coming up and I gathered the courage to ask if I could tag along for the post-signing gathering.

Standing in line at the book store clutching all of my books, including “A Feast for Crows” and the newly released “The Art of A Song of Ice and Fire”, I wondered if I would recognise any of the people who I was so eager to meet. I also made sure that I knew where my nearest escape route was, in case it turned out that I should have heeded all the warnings from the non-internet people in my life. Getting there early had given me a spot near the front so I had my books signed by George and asked him an inane question about where he got his inspiration for names from. He was lovely and gave me an answer worthy of a far better question, whilst chuckling in his individual way.

Now I was able to check out the queue and soon spotted a group in Nights Watch t-shirts. There was no mistaking that this was the BWB.  Nobody had two heads and none of them were wielding chainsaws. I put aside my slight disappointment at how normal and human they were and introduced myself before waiting for them to get their signings done. We then went to the pub for a couple of drinks where we talked about many things that were not even book related (this was to be a running theme of our gatherings) and laughed until my sides hurt (also a running theme). At some point it was relayed to me that we would be meeting up with George for dinner.

So, my very first meeting with the BWB, I found myself having a Glasgow curry with the author of my favourite series of books. George R R Martin comes from fandom and is very much ‘one of us’. He was very engaged with the BWB and still is, although the sheer numbers involved since the launch of the TV show mean that popping out for curry with the man himself is much less likely to happen for a random noob like I was. Those people and many more who I met at later gatherings, became firm friends, people who I can bump into at conventions all over the world, share a meal, a few drinks and lots of laughs with whilst planning one of our legendary parties or simply putting the world to rights. We now have shared experiences to bond us, as well as the books and the author that we all love. Taking that first step and introducing myself to a bunch of strangers in a book signing queue all those years ago, was one of the best decisions in my life.

K M S Harvey blogs as the intrepid Captain Kat and earns a salubrious living in the field of custom erotica as Kat Steel. Her first love is genre fiction though and, when she finds time amongst the writing that pays the bills, her children and building a medieval fort, she is doggedly working away on a Steampunk erotica novella, a speculative fiction novel and a historical screenplay.