May 23, 2019

What Will We Talk About After Game of Thrones?

“Padraig Butler doesn’t quite recall when he became God Emperor of the Brotherhood Without Banners. For the past 18 years, the 43-year-old aviation forecast manager has made an annual pilgrimage to Worldcon, the science fiction and fantasy convention, to celebrate the work of A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin. And it was almost 18 years ago when he first traveled from his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, to Philadelphia that he began the journey to God Emperor.

As the story goes, the newly minted organization—named after an outlaw group in the book series—had organized a party in honor of Martin. After an evening of drinking, one well-served fan known on online forums as Aghrivaine (and whose real name is David Krieger) presented the author with a sword and asked to be knighted. The author agreed under one stipulation: that Krieger and the other revelers join him on a 1 a.m. “quest” to Pat’s King of Steaks. That night, after about 20 BWB members filled their stomachs with the local fare, they were dubbed the Knights of Cheesesteak.

In the early years of the book fan club, when the size of Brotherhood Without Banners meetings was still manageable, these food-centric titles became a badge of honor. (See: the Knights of Poutine, the Knights of Deep Dish, the Knights of Haggis, and, regrettably, the Knights of the Dumpster). Per Martin’s decree, additional honors were added to recognize participation. A member who had attended at least three major BWB meet-ups would be dubbed a lord. After five, a prince. And after seven, king. Butler has been to 16 Worldcons and about 100 other Thrones-related conventions and ad hoc get-togethers, securing his kingdom, on top of his cheesesteak knighthood, a long time ago. “Eventually George was asked, what do we call Padraig now?” Butler recalls. “He said: ‘That’s it. He’s a king. He will stay king until somebody removes him from his throne.’” Butler doesn’t have any plans to stop going. “Now people just say: ‘You’re God Emperor.’””

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