"R+L=J" is geek shorthand for one of Game Of Thrones' most enduring fan theories. (Hint: It surrounds the true parentage of a certain character that could drastically alter the course of the novels and TV show.) Today, the books' author dropped the biggest hint yet that our speculation is right on the money. It seems "R+L=J" is totally legitimate — just like a gloomy bastard we could mention.
Earlier today, Game Of Thrones author George R. R. Martin was the guest of honor at the Edinburgh international book festival. During the event, Martin took questions from fans ranging from his chief creative influence (Tolkien, natch) to why there are no gay sex scenes in his books (there are currently no gay "viewpoint" characters).
While ruminating about internet speculation and fan theories, Marin appeared to let Ser Pounce out of the bag as to how the overarching plot will unravel. This is probably the closest he has ever come to an all-out "R+L=J" admission:
I struggle with this because I do want to surprise my readers, delight them and take them in directions they didn’t see coming. I hate predictable fiction as a reader. I want to surprise and delight my reader and take the story in directions they didn’t see coming. Some readers in internet boards got the clues. Do I change it? No, I can’t, as I had planted them and it would be a mess. I've been planting all these clues that the butler did it, then you're halfway through a series and suddenly thousands of people have figured out that the butler did it, and then you say the chambermaid did it? No, you can't do that.
To the few Game Of Thrones fans who haven't been paying attention, "R+L=J" posits that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Eddard Stark, but rather the product of a doomed love affair between Ned’s sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen (the older brother of Daenerys, who was killed during King Robert's rebellion). This would essentially make Jon Snow half-Targaryen and a potential claimant to the Iron Throne.
As Martin alludes to in the above quote, there are many hints sprinkled throughout the books that lend credence to this theory. Chief among them is the mystery promise Eddard made to Lyanna just before she died under vague circumstances. (There's mention of blood and a bed, which suggests childbirth complications. In this scenario, Ned's promise was to raise her baby — Jon — as his own.)
Tellingly, Martin took pains to include a minor character at the scene of Ned's promise, which means the secret still has a way to reach Jon's ears despite Eddard, Lyanna and Rhaegar all being dead. That's just the tip of the ice berg — this video does a pretty good job of gathering up all the clues.
Despite all the carefully planted evidence, many fans continue to challenge the validity of the "R+L=J" theory which Martin himself has helped along by inserting an occasional red herring. However, the above quote from the man himself seems to all but confirm it. If he's not talking about "R+L=J", then what else?