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    I've been talking about A Song of Ice and Fire as long as I've been blogging. I purchased the first book as a paperback in December of 1998 because of the cover and some blurbs from authors that I found credible (Tad Williams?). In 2000 I ordered the British edition of A Storm of Swords...
  • I got interested in GOT after family members alerted me to the HBO series, which started out pretty great. I immediately bought the audio versions of the books, and listened to them all – with steadily decreasing interest.

    The endless meanderings of initially interesting characters like Arya Stark & Brienne of Tarth just got more & more pointless & boring, as the story, or lack thereof, went on.

    At this point, I think it’s pretty clear that GRRM, unlike JRRT, was never a serious artist – just a talented story-teller with no real vision.

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  • @timothy
    Yeah, at times Clarke would finish writing portions of the novel and, maybe a week later, he would get to see rough-cut footage of what he had just written. What a surreal way to write a novel.

    A major divergence is that in the film the spacecraft travels to Jupiter, while in the book it travels to Saturn. But Clarke tacitly admitted that Kubrick's film had bested him, because when he wrote the sequel he retconned the storyline so that the craft had gone to Jupiter after all.

    The movie switched Saturn to Jupiter because showing the rings would have been too difficult F/X-wise.

    Really, the most obvious difference between the novel and the movie is that the movie leaves out a lot of the exposition. For example, Clarke explicates why the monolith on the moon emits the radio signal at the precise moment it does, whereas the movie just suggests it. Similarly, the final act is explained in the book, whereas its left to the viewer to piece together in the movie.

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  • I liked how Sanderson ended the WoT series. Once you adopt his writing style, which he adequately shapes after Jordan (I don’t know if that’s how it is or if he adopted for the WoT books), the conclusion seemed very worthwhile to me. Fortunately, you don’t really miss much from books 6-9 and Wikipedia would fill you in. Books 10 through whatever bring the series back to being enjoyable.

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  • For the books I read, the current record is held by sf writer David Gerrold. His “War Against the Chtorr” series looks like this:

    A Matter for Men (1983)
    A Day for Damnation (1985)
    A Rage for Revenge (1989)
    A Season for Slaughter (1993)
    A Method For Madness (not yet published)

    To add to the difficulty, Gerrold retcons the entire series every time he publishes a new one. So, I own book 1, books 1b and 2, books 1c, 2b and 3 and finally book 4, because I don’t even want to look at the others.

    The rumor is that he got into a fight with his publisher, who owns the right of first refusal, so the series is likely dead. But Gerrold is still alive, where there’s life there’s hope, but as always valar morghulis.

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  • I’m of the opinion that there’s a good chance tWoW will never be published by Martin, and that A Dream of Spring is an impossibility. I started reading these books when the paperback of SoS was first issued, and read the first three about a dozen times apiece over the years. While I’m invested in the story, it’s clear Martin has lost interest, and is valiantly trying to finish for his fan’s sake and his legacy.

    If he had any sense at all, he’d give up and enjoy his remaining years. No sensible person could begrudge him that.

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  • It’s a fork only if Martin actually publishes AWOW, something that he seems to have lost interest long ago.

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  • I bet he will make a conscious effort to keep close to the show. He has got a good commercial sense (three movies coming?) and won’t want to alienate viewers just to show independence. But the story is his baby and he’ll put in any plot twists he finds cool enough, even if the show has already gone another way. And HBO has shown not to care about consistency.

    I look forward to reading about how it all happened, when they are done. In 2036.

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  • @Douglas Knight
    I believe that another synthetic process is 2001. Kubrick and Clarke collaborated on writing "it," but in the end produced two final products. But that was not a serial where the audience could see the divergence over time.

    Yeah, at times Clarke would finish writing portions of the novel and, maybe a week later, he would get to see rough-cut footage of what he had just written. What a surreal way to write a novel.

    A major divergence is that in the film the spacecraft travels to Jupiter, while in the book it travels to Saturn. But Clarke tacitly admitted that Kubrick’s film had bested him, because when he wrote the sequel he retconned the storyline so that the craft had gone to Jupiter after all.

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    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    The movie switched Saturn to Jupiter because showing the rings would have been too difficult F/X-wise.

    Really, the most obvious difference between the novel and the movie is that the movie leaves out a lot of the exposition. For example, Clarke explicates why the monolith on the moon emits the radio signal at the precise moment it does, whereas the movie just suggests it. Similarly, the final act is explained in the book, whereas its left to the viewer to piece together in the movie.
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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    The plot for sure slows down around Books 4-5 and there are a number of decisions there I found to be highly questionable (e.g. UnCat?), but comparing it in any substantial way to what happened with WoT is ridiculous.

    The writing itself continued to be superb, if anything exceeding the level of the earlier books, whereas RJ only ever went downhill from Book 7 at the very latest. From then on he was only ever artificially stretching the series out with all the hair twitching and braid pulling and skirt adjusting and female-on-female BDSM and that is indeed what happened until Brandon Sanderson put WoT out of its misery. In contrast, GRRM has compensated the slowdown in plot progression with actual worldbuilding and, most critically, character development. I for one enjoyed Tyrion's odyssey, and depiction of Cersei in Book 5 as a human villain is on a level that I frankly cannot recall being matched in any other work of fantasy.

    Most importantly, whereas it was clear by mid-series in WoT that the plot was going nowhere, in ASoIaF things have clearly and neatly been arranged to enable a whole swathe of climaxes to happen in Winds of Winter in quick succession from the fantasy version of Battle of the Ice to the Battle of Mereen and the Return of the Queen.

    and depiction of Cersei in Book 5 as a human villain is on a level that I frankly cannot recall being matched in any other work of fantasy.

    j. carey’s sundering duology were an attempt to write tolkien from the perspective of the “evil” side. not perfectly executed, but worth a read.

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  • The plot for sure slows down around Books 4-5 and there are a number of decisions there I found to be highly questionable (e.g. UnCat?), but comparing it in any substantial way to what happened with WoT is ridiculous.

    The writing itself continued to be superb, if anything exceeding the level of the earlier books, whereas RJ only ever went downhill from Book 7 at the very latest. From then on he was only ever artificially stretching the series out with all the hair twitching and braid pulling and skirt adjusting and female-on-female BDSM and that is indeed what happened until Brandon Sanderson put WoT out of its misery. In contrast, GRRM has compensated the slowdown in plot progression with actual worldbuilding and, most critically, character development. I for one enjoyed Tyrion’s odyssey, and depiction of Cersei in Book 5 as a human villain is on a level that I frankly cannot recall being matched in any other work of fantasy.

    Most importantly, whereas it was clear by mid-series in WoT that the plot was going nowhere, in ASoIaF things have clearly and neatly been arranged to enable a whole swathe of climaxes to happen in Winds of Winter in quick succession from the fantasy version of Battle of the Ice to the Battle of Mereen and the Return of the Queen.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    and depiction of Cersei in Book 5 as a human villain is on a level that I frankly cannot recall being matched in any other work of fantasy.

    j. carey's sundering duology were an attempt to write tolkien from the perspective of the "evil" side. not perfectly executed, but worth a read.
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  • I believe that another synthetic process is 2001. Kubrick and Clarke collaborated on writing “it,” but in the end produced two final products. But that was not a serial where the audience could see the divergence over time.

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    • Replies: @timothy
    Yeah, at times Clarke would finish writing portions of the novel and, maybe a week later, he would get to see rough-cut footage of what he had just written. What a surreal way to write a novel.

    A major divergence is that in the film the spacecraft travels to Jupiter, while in the book it travels to Saturn. But Clarke tacitly admitted that Kubrick's film had bested him, because when he wrote the sequel he retconned the storyline so that the craft had gone to Jupiter after all.
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  • Below in my post on The World of Ice & Fire there were two comments which I think are important to keep in mind. First, George R. R. Martin has admitted that accounts of distant lands and ancient times may not be precisely accurate in a modern sense, but rather hew to the sort of...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The reality is no secondary-world replicates the complexity and nuance of the real world in terms of the religions, languages, and peoples, which we see around us. None of them are able to have as much historical background as the real world. In fact if someone attempted to do this they’d not be able to write novels! Secondary-worlds by their nature have to be stripped down. The same problem crops up in far future science fiction.

    A work which consciously attempts to build a secondary-world of realistic complexity is Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand. It’s perhaps the only work I’ve read that illustrated the cultural gulfs we could expect in such a vast milieu.

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  • For Christmas I gifted myself a physical copy of The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones. I actually went down to the local bookstore, but balked when I noted that Amazon charges $25 while they were offering $50 retail. I don't go for cheap in every...
  • Since Martin has, in fact, published several hundred pages of prequels, I don’t think he is getting ahead of himself in the Targaryen material.

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  • @josh
    Lawrence Auster noticed the same thing:

    I hope I can be forgiven for making observations about a work of which I have so far read very little (namely the key parts of Fellowship including the conference in Rivendell and the last chapter, the first few chapter of Two Towers, and the appendix on the Numenorian kings), but I just have to say how amazed I am. There’s so much to say, but I’ll just limit myself to this.

    The sheer _particularity_ of Tolkien’s created world gives it a density and texture that makes it alive. There is the specificity of the geography (a good map is an absolute requirement for the reader), and of the various races and their characteristics. Tolkien doesn’t set out to tell a myth. He sets out to tell something that has the specificity and concreteness of history. But the story he tells has such a density that it takes on the quality of myth. For example, when Aragorn and his companions have to make the choice whether to follow Frodo and Sam toward Mordor, or whether to head in the opposite direction and try to rescue Pippin and Merry from the Orcs, and they decide on the latter and head off on this exhausting chase across the Northern regions of Rohan toward Isengard, everything has this concrete specificity about it. Yet the whole “lay-out” of the story—including the actions and sufferings of the characters, the detailed geographical setting in which they move, the awful dread that continues to hover over them—has such a density and resonance that it takes on the quality of myth, of something that lives outside time. Tolkien has created a historical, particular world which is so real in its particularity that it becomes mythical. This is an amazing achievement. It is analogous to God’s own creation of the world.
     

    http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/002048.html

    See Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories. In particular, this part about suspension of disbelief and sub-Creations:

    Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker’s art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called “willing suspension of disbelief.” But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying (more or less willingly) to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed.

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  • Below in my post on The World of Ice & Fire there were two comments which I think are important to keep in mind. First, George R. R. Martin has admitted that accounts of distant lands and ancient times may not be precisely accurate in a modern sense, but rather hew to the sort of...
  • Well, I gave up the moment a girl walked into what is a huge bonfire to hatch her eggs and emerged unscathed. That kinda violates all we know about our chemistry, but it’s entertaining fantasy. I usually ask myself if the drama is worth overlooking the unlikely/impossible.

    I do resent these books in the manner that for anything to be adult entertainment, it must be bleak and cynical. It’s GRRM’s signature style and he does it well, but it bothers me when people describe it as fantasy for adults.

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  • “As a stylized example, if a given nuclear family has a 95% chance of having an adult son each generation, a quite high rate, within 15 generations more than half of these lineages would still be extinct. That’s 375 years. The idea that the Starks would be able to maintain the paternal lineage for thousands of years, let alone keep their status as the apex lineage, is simply unbelievable.”

    Many historic ancient king lists and genealogies (Sumerian, Egyptian, Confucian, Chinese, Biblical, etc.) have dozens of names in them. They are probably almost all inaccurate to some degree or another, but that doesn’t mean that people didn’t believe them to be true at the time. The odds that three or four families of dozens of one time contenders have a lineage that survives that long is hardly that stunning. And, it also is hardly surprising that those families with long unbroken lineages are more likely to spend episodes of social success than those that don’t.

    Put another way, if you have a dozen “apex lineages” at any given time, the patriach among them with the longest unbroken recorded lineage, even if some of the older names of the list were quite humble, may be better positioned to claim legitimacy and make a claim to rule them all than anyone else, just as monarchy, in general, thrives because people secure peace by having lots of people rally around one person to be a successor when an old ruler dies despite the seemingly flimsy reason for doing so.

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  • The genealogy chart of the British Royal Family starts with Odin, runs through early Saxon rulers and pre-Norman kings of England, through the Normans to today. I would guess that Stark claims are similarly well-grounded.

    I’m not sure if the 12,000 year history of Westeros is in-world fantastical or just Martin multiplying everything by 5. Most of the distances mentioned in the TV show seem to be 5 times too far, eg in episode 1 the King arrives at Winterfall after riding ‘a month’ from King’s Landing. That’s a month to ride a couple thousand miles (& it’s another 1000 to the Wall). 2000/30= 67 miles/day.

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  • OK, to take a step back, I’ve really lost it, haven’t I?

    Um…

    The reality is no secondary-world replicates the complexity and nuance of the real world in terms of the religions, languages, and peoples, which we see around us. None of them are able to have as much historical background as the real world. In fact if someone attempted to do this they’d not be able to write novels! Secondary-worlds by their nature have to be stripped down. The same problem crops up in far future science fiction.

    This also is true of pretty much any mathematical model of any aspect of reality: whether or not it is useful, and whether or not it is accurate (whatever that means). Models are not only a way of checking logic, killing analogies, etc., but a way of telling ourselves stories.

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  • Thanks for the explanation.

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  • Re: the long term survival of these family names, I just assumed that this was a myth, and that various families had taken on the name “Stark” when they take over Winterfell. For example, I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that after one or two generations, the potential descendants of the union of Ramsay Bolton and “Arya” Stark would be referred to as Starks. There are in-lore stories of the male Stark line dying out even, with a new line founded by a daughter and her illegitimate child with Bael the Bard, the King Beyond the Wall.

    I would think that up until the Andal invasions, the Children of the Forest and the weirwood network would have helped preserve knowledge and keep the culture and language of Westeros somewhat homogeneous. I don’t think having a weirwood in every castle and keep was just for show. I’d accept some sort of magical role in maintaining the Night’s Watch’s cohesion at some basic level, which would have only begun to break down in the previous few centuries as the influence of the Children of the Forest and the Greenseers waned. It’s mentioned that both the Children of the Forest and the old Valyrians maintained long distance communication networks of some form.

    None of that explains the Andals retaining a single mutually intelligible language for 2,000 years though.

    Re: the “Frey strategy” – as others have pointed out, the Targaryens probably wouldn’t want a proliferation of people to be able to control dragons, since the dragons are the source of their power.

    Re: Plants and animals dying off in the long winters, I just kind of assumed that organisms in Westeros were adapted to their long seasons, and able to hibernate for extended periods.

    All of this is hand waving of course, but it’s how my inner nerd rationalizes it lol. I do agree that Martin’s strength is in his characters first, world building distant second.

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  • The
    rulers of Mecklenburg (“Herzöge”) reigned for nearly 800 years
    in sucession.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Mecklenburg

    I’d like to know how unlikely this is.
    Regards
    Georg

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  • RE: Ancient unbroken lineages
    This topic is actually addressed in WoIaF. Both the Stark and Lannister male lines are broken- female heirs took outside consorts, and their children kept their mother’s names. I think that implies this sort of ‘bridging’ has occurred more times that they chose not to remark.

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  • The real problem with Martin’s fantasy is that he’s lost interest in it, and the story ends almost in mid-sentence with characters stranded hither and yon and no resolution in sight.

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  • Martin’s world is filled with implausibilities and we have to suspend our disbeliefs at many levels (age of the protagonists, travel time, management of the Wall by a handful of men, let alone magic). Somehow dynastic perpetuation is more troubling than the aerodynamic properties of dragons.

    In the story of Bael the Bard, we hear that the male Stark line has been broken, and the son of a wildling claimed the Stark name (though the Starks are not inclined to recognize this). So the Stark patrilineal line can have survived fraudulently. What really survived is the prestige of the Stark name (Japanese imperial line?). From time to time, a cousin of dubious ancestry, a son of a lone daughter managed to inherit the crown of the north. At this point in Martin’s story, the Stark line is in danger of disappearing (even the lone daughter is an imposter), and we will see how it will be reinstated (my intuition is that it will not be pretty, and might possibly involve the agency of the old gods).

    There might be something similar in the survival of the Night’s Watch. The institution had its up and down, but it survived in reason of its mystique and because it filled a social role (as a penal colony, and even more as a respectable place to retire political opponents). Perhaps in its blurred history, the Watch was sometimes decimated, or even annihilated, and revived by a King of Winter. Indeed, supporting the Watch is a political currency, and sending defeated enemies to the Wall is a often a good compromise to end a war (no blood feud etc). Six kings of Dorne were once sent to the Wall, for instance.

    Concerning long histories, we are warned at a point that everything can be put in question and that there are competing narratives. I was reassured when I saw that the World of Ice and Fire is merely a compilation of the knowledge of the maesters of Westeros. What is built by Martin is not a world, but the perception of it by the protagonists. For Martin, objective knowledge is elusive, either in History and Geography, or in subjective narration, prone to confusion, error and bias.

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  • With regards to lineages and extinction, in Gaelic Ireland up until it’s destruction by the Tudor conquest if anything you had massed lineage expansion. Nicholls describes it’s quite well in “Gaelic and Gaelicized Ireland in the Middle Ages”

    http://www.amazon.com/Gaelic-Gaelicized-Ireland-Middle-Ages/dp/1843510030

    (US paperback price is excessive, Kindle price not to bad)

    One of the most important phenomena in a clan-based society is that of expansion from the top downwards. The seventeenth-century Irish scholar and genealogist Dualtagh Mac Firbisigh remarked that ‘as the sons and families of the rulers multiplied, so their subjects and followers were squeezed out and withered away’; and this phenomenon, the expansion of the ruling or dominant stocks at the expense of the remainder, is a normal feature in societies of this type. It has been observed of the modern Basotho of South Africa that ‘there is a constant displacement of commoners by royals [i.e. members of the royal clan] and of collateral royals by the direct descendants of the ruling prince’, and this could have been said, without adaptation, of any important Gaelic or Gaelicized lordship of late medieval Ireland. In Fermanagh, for example, the kingship of the Maguires began only with the accession of Donn Mór in 1282 and the ramification of the family – with the exception of one or two small and territorially unimportant septs – began with the sons of the same man. The spread of his descendants can be seen by the genealogical tract called Geinelaighe Fhearmanach; by 1607 they must have been in the possession of at least three-quarters of the total soil of Fermanagh, having displaced or reduced the clans which had previously held it. The rate at which an Irish clan could multiply itself must not be underestimated. Turlough an fhíona O’Donnell, lord of Tirconnell (d. 1423) had eighteen sons (by ten different women) and fifty-nine grandsons in the male line. Mulmora O’Reilly, the lord of East Brefny, who died in 1566, had at least fifty-eight O’Reilly grandsons. Philip Maguire, lord of Fermanagh (d. 1395) had twenty sons by eight mothers, and we know of at least fifty grandsons. Oliver Burke of Tirawley (two of whose sons became Lower Mac William although he himself had never held that position) left at least thirty-eight grandsons in the male line. Irish law drew no distinction in matters of inheritance between the legitimate and the illegitimate and permitted the affiliation of children by their mother’s declaration (see Chapter 4), and the general sexual permissiveness of medieval Irish society must have allowed a rate of multiplication approaching that which is permitted by the polygyny practised in, for instance, the clan societies of southern Africa already cited.

    The above is probably one of reasons why several male Y-Chromosome lineages have massive levels in Ireland (O’Donnell and O’Reilly mentioned above were probably R1b-M222, Maguire probably R1b-L513).

    Mac Firbisigh book of genealogies (compiled in mid 17th century) is a thing to behold, however I imagine like in “World of Ice and Fire” that earliest tier of genealogies are subject to political manipulation (most Irish historians regard genealogies for period 500-800AD as subject to such manipulations)

    What’s interesting post 17th century is the lineages that had submitted (Surrender and regrant) to crown authority and adapted primogeniture often eventually died out (The main O’Brien lineage eg. Earl of Thomond in the late 18th century, the line survives through subsidiary “Baron Inchiquin” line tested R1b-L226+)

    -Paul

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  • @Ali Choudhury
    Seems like when there's a significant number of Targs around, a civil war breaks out e.g. the Dance of the Dragons and Blackfyre rebellion.

    I don't know if the cultural and technological stasis is that out of the ordinary, plenty of regions outside of Western Europe e.g. imperial China went through long stretches where Not Much Changed.

    The “Chinese stasis” story is a myth- China went through multiple periods of turbulence where the empire fragmented over and over again only to be re-assembled. It also advanced over time, although the European countries eventually pushed ahead after the 17th and 18th centuries.

    If you roughly half the dates given for the Long Night, Andals showing up, etc it makes a lot more sense. The Andals would have shown up as the equivalent of early Iron Age warriors and adventurers, becoming the equivalent of High Medieval societies around 2000 years later. The Long Night would have been 4000-5000 years before the book events, meaning that oral stories and songs might have records of it along with some of the early literate societies in the Martinworld, but it would be shrouded in myth and legend.

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  • The history is pretty unreliable, to the point where events that happened before the Andals showed up 2000 years (the more reliable estimate by the Maesters) before the books’ events are wrapped in legend and myth. 2000 years for their arrival isn’t too bad if you figure that the Andals showed up as Iron Age barbarian adventurers – it’s about the time between the beginnings of the Iron Age and the High Middle Ages in real life.

    The Night’s Watch’s survival is pretty implausible, even if you figure it’s more like a religious order that has undoubtedly changed over time even if its basic mission has stayed the same. Same for the seasons – most of the plant and animal life north of the Neck should die off with multi-year Winters, even if there are warmer interregnums in most of them.

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  • Seems like when there’s a significant number of Targs around, a civil war breaks out e.g. the Dance of the Dragons and Blackfyre rebellion.

    I don’t know if the cultural and technological stasis is that out of the ordinary, plenty of regions outside of Western Europe e.g. imperial China went through long stretches where Not Much Changed.

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    • Replies: @Brett
    The "Chinese stasis" story is a myth- China went through multiple periods of turbulence where the empire fragmented over and over again only to be re-assembled. It also advanced over time, although the European countries eventually pushed ahead after the 17th and 18th centuries.

    If you roughly half the dates given for the Long Night, Andals showing up, etc it makes a lot more sense. The Andals would have shown up as the equivalent of early Iron Age warriors and adventurers, becoming the equivalent of High Medieval societies around 2000 years later. The Long Night would have been 4000-5000 years before the book events, meaning that oral stories and songs might have records of it along with some of the early literate societies in the Martinworld, but it would be shrouded in myth and legend.
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  • For Christmas I gifted myself a physical copy of The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones. I actually went down to the local bookstore, but balked when I noted that Amazon charges $25 while they were offering $50 retail. I don't go for cheap in every...
  • The Starks defeated the Warg King at some point in their past, killing his sons and taking his daughters as prizes. That’s likely where the warging ability comes from.

    Show is worth watching.

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  • I recognize the name Tolkien and I’ve heard there is a popular HBO show called Game of Thrones though I assumed it was something akin to other fantasy entertainment I’ve never seen like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Should I assume that men of your (our) age are generally familiar with the subject of this post, an HBO series/fantasy novel genre? If so, mind explaining why?

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  • josh says:

    Lawrence Auster noticed the same thing:

    I hope I can be forgiven for making observations about a work of which I have so far read very little (namely the key parts of Fellowship including the conference in Rivendell and the last chapter, the first few chapter of Two Towers, and the appendix on the Numenorian kings), but I just have to say how amazed I am. There’s so much to say, but I’ll just limit myself to this.

    The sheer _particularity_ of Tolkien’s created world gives it a density and texture that makes it alive. There is the specificity of the geography (a good map is an absolute requirement for the reader), and of the various races and their characteristics. Tolkien doesn’t set out to tell a myth. He sets out to tell something that has the specificity and concreteness of history. But the story he tells has such a density that it takes on the quality of myth. For example, when Aragorn and his companions have to make the choice whether to follow Frodo and Sam toward Mordor, or whether to head in the opposite direction and try to rescue Pippin and Merry from the Orcs, and they decide on the latter and head off on this exhausting chase across the Northern regions of Rohan toward Isengard, everything has this concrete specificity about it. Yet the whole “lay-out” of the story—including the actions and sufferings of the characters, the detailed geographical setting in which they move, the awful dread that continues to hover over them—has such a density and resonance that it takes on the quality of myth, of something that lives outside time. Tolkien has created a historical, particular world which is so real in its particularity that it becomes mythical. This is an amazing achievement. It is analogous to God’s own creation of the world.

    http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/002048.html

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    • Replies: @AnonNJ
    See Tolkien's On Fairy Stories. In particular, this part about suspension of disbelief and sub-Creations:

    Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called “willing suspension of disbelief.” But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying (more or less willingly) to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed.
     
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  • Re: everyone’s comments on unreliability, I’d just add that this interview from Martin confirms that we are not suppose to take the World of Ice and Fire as entirely factual.

    http://www.vulture.com/2014/11/george-rr-martin-new-book.html

    “Some of that is, Here there be dragons,” Martin cautioned. “It’s beyond the world they know.” Of the other continents yet to be explored, Martin said he “deliberately” kept Sothoryos mysterious, to echo real-life history: “Even though Africa was known to Europe from the earliest days of ancient Greece,” he said, “we knew relatively little about sub-Saharan Africa.”

    He also mentions that he wants to write (or rather co-write, as like this book the two people who run Westeros.org would be working on it as well) a GRRMarillion in the future. Which would be awesome.

    Re: the incest thing – I think it has something to do with their affinity and ability to bond with dragons. Perhaps a process similar to the Starks’ and First Men’s wargs? If it’s a genetic trait, perhaps that was the original reason for their endogamy.

    Re: the people in Sothoryos, I’ll have to reread a Dance with Dragons, as Dany sees some Brindle Men in Mereen when the fighting pits reopen. I can’t recall any details about their appearance though (aside from obviously having brindle colouring). There are other near-human races that we take for granted in the series – the Children of the Forest, the giants and the Others. I don’t think we know much about their interfertility with “standard” humans, or if they share any common ancestry.

    If anyone’s interested in a series with an anthropological skew on its world building, I’d highly recommend the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Erikson is (you guessed it) an anthropologist.

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  • The inbreeding of the Targaryens clearly has a cost with many of them insane or very impulsive, but that’s the price to pay for the ability to bond with dragons, ability that looks to be hereditary. Maybe Daenerys should look for other descendents of Valyrian aristocracy to marry if madness is an effect of incest, but if the same genes that allow bonding with dragons make the Targaryens crazy there is not much she can do.
    The weirdest thing is how so many Westerosi dynasties survived for hundreds and even thousands of years (in Europe their lifespan was on average 150 years) and are threatened with extinction now.
    I’m curious how the warg abilities of the Stark children and Jon Snow came about. Was it something latent in the Starks triggered by the direwolves?
    The TV series has better control of the narrative than the books. Or at least it tries. Martin keeps bringing new characters and new lands into the story all the time and that started to get on my nerves by book 4. I’m curious what they will do now on the HBo series because the written material for some of the characters like Bran is exhausted while others like Jon and Dany have a lot to do. The actress playing Sansa hinted at a very dramatic scene in the upcoming season that it’s not from the books so the show runners will push forward some plotlines ahead of the future books, that may or may not come.

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  • My understanding is that the further from Westeros, the less reliable the account of the “maester” who supposedly wrote The World of Ice and Fire. So they may not be separate species.

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  • I will say it appears genetics work slightly differently in ASOIAF universe (universos?). Notice Targ purple eyes platinum hair through generations, or the whole Baratheon dark hair thing (though I suppose we could explain them via VERY dominant traits) . It might be a world in which inbreeding has a less deleterious effect for some reason. I mean, if we accept unstable seasons it’s not to much to accept inbreeding through generations not causing catastrophe and genes working slightly differently.

    There are hints that the inbreeding does have SOME effect, i.e. the quote about the Gods flipping a coin in every Targ for madness or greatness. So who knows… maybe the genes for greatness adn madness are linked (similar to Cochran’s theories on Ashk Jewish selection for intelligence leading to higher myopia, tay sachs, etc.) in universos.

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  • “Both of these populations are explicitly stated to not be inter-fertile with other human populations due to post-zygotic barriers. I have to wonder if this was just created on the stop to add exotic color to the book, since it seems pretty outlandish.”

    Remember that the narrator of the book is not omniscient. Some of this is deliberately like medieval European reports of men with their faces in their chests. In the game of telephone, some things get messed up. As far as the Ib go, Brown Ben Plumm claims to have an Ibbish great-grandparent. I think it more likely that there is just reduced fertility.

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  • I have to point you to this post on royal inbreeding in A Song of Ice and Fire. They reference my post on the Habsburgs. Well done! In any case, one possibility is that the Targaryen lineage may have purged their genetic load through inbreeding. The basic logic is that all the recessive traits are...
  • 20:
    It was only the royal class that did that as a regular practice. And there was quite a bit of “fooling around” among the chiefs that probably alleviated the incest effect somewhat. Hawaiian culture even after the introduction of Christianity had a difficult time with the whole monogamy thing.

    The practice originated out of the beliefs in the concentration of mana and the development of a caste system of sorts. That said, often the system would reset itself. Kamehameha I was the offspring of a lesser wife of a lower chiefly caste.

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  • Interesting. Hawaii was at the end of the Austronesian chain of expansion, which happened sequentially over many hops from Taiwan to Hawaii, so my intuition would be that Hawaiians overall must have been pretty inbred (in the manner that your Hapsburgs post illustrates, with multiple lines of descent from the same ancestor to the same currently living person).

    I wonder if the fitness disadvantage of brother-sister marriage is reduced when you are only modestly more closely related to a sibling than to, for example, a second cousin.

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  • The Egyptians are pretty much the only historically attested culture with brother sister marriage,

    hawaii too

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  • The Egyptians are pretty much the only historically attested culture with brother sister marriage, although brother-sister households that were not sexual were apparently pretty common in hunter-gatherer societies.

    As we get DNA evidence from mummies, it seems that there were high degrees of fidelity and that this did produce inbreeding fitness impairments.

    The idea of purging a genetic load through inbreeding is an interesting one, and one way to think about the Hapburgs is that they were done in not simply by inbreeding, but by inbreeding from a recently established and cosmopolitian set of aristocrats who had not had sufficient time in previous generations to dump their mutation loads. Their dynasty was the first truly transcontinental empire in centuries.

    A natural test population for the hypothesis would be Middle Eastern Arab populations, which have been inbred for a much longer time period. If they have a relatively light load of recessive genes, the theoretical prediction of load dumping would be supported. But, it doesn’t take a lot of influx of outsiders with new recessive genes at each generation to screw up load dumping and depress fitness with inbreeding.

    It is also worth considering that if you have large numbers of children per family, high infant and youth mortality, and highly concentrated power and wealth in a society, the fitness costs of inbreeding could be tolerable, especially if the current regime can appoint successors from anyone in a large pool of descendants and cadet lines.

    Elevating the odds of a damaging recessive gene combination from say, 0.4% to even 40%, can be tolerable as long as you have lots of kids, lots of kids aren’t going to survive to reach adulthood in any case, and you can decide after you’ve seen the results which one will be the heir to the kindgdom. The goal is to get at least a couple of kids who has as many of the desirable traits of his or her parents as possible, and if the price of that is many kids who have huge problems, so what. The kingdom still prospers.

    On the other hand, if the success of the kingdom depends upon having as many competent descendants as possible to make family control competent at the most finely grained possible level, inbreeding fitness depression is a real problem.

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  • @Naughtimus Maximus: I think it’s safe to say that it’s the TV show that caused the resurgence of interest in the books. Recall that the HBO first bought the rights to make the show back in 2007.

    As another example of mixing historical influences, consider what went into Dorne…

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  • #11, u are actually not far off the mark in terms of my methodology of commenter filtering/sorting.

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  • I would have associated the Dothraki with the Mongols but author in the link above tends to see them based on the Huns.

    i asked GRRM this in a chat in march of 1999 on this specific question. they’re composites of central eurasians. or at least that is what he told me. unlike kate elliott in her crown of stars series the historical analogs aren’t supposed to be obvious, easy, or even there.

    re: incest. ancient egyptian royalty alternated between inbreeding and outbreeding. also, not just brother sister, was also aunt-nephew. had to do with a old matrilineal aspect of egyptian society.

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  • Incidentally, regarding incest, infidelity, and inbreeding:

    I recall one of the kingdoms visited in Gary Jenning’s fictional account of Marco Polo that the heir to the throne was descended traditionally from the King’s sister when available not from the King. (at least I think it was in that book- historical fiction is my favourite fiction genre so I read a lot of them).

    This is because the King’s wife could be untrue- but if the child descended from the King’s sister- would carry his blood anyway.

    Jenning’s book was definately fiction- not historical- but Jenning’s does base a lot of events in his stories on real events. Whether such a system existed anywhere I don’t know. Makes sense from a 21st century perspective- don’t know if it would have anywhere in the 13thC.

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  • I’m on my second reading of the books and have a question; was the tv series commissioned on the back of a resurgence of interest in the books and if so what caused the resurgence (as A Game of Thrones is quite old)?
    Also what historical groups do people think inspired the various groups in the books?
    I would have associated the Dothraki with the Mongols but author in the link above tends to see them based on the Huns.
    Also I think the Kingdom in the North seems to be based on Scotland, and I think there are similaritys between the Tutha de Danann of Irish mythology and the Children of the Forest SPOILERS
    with them being driven under gorund after the arrival of another group.

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  • As #9, Elfino suggests, I wonder how much “not-really-inbreeding” happenened in inbred royal families such as the Egyptians, Hapsburgs, etc.

    The egypitans think wedding to brother to sister would keep blood lines pure- but any infidelity on the part of the woman would break that- and given human’s natural defence against in-breeding (chemical pheremonal cues to breed with one with different immunity) the temptation to stray MUST have been stronger the inbred couples.

    Game of thrones is fiction [gasp!!!!!] but the same could possibly be true of the Targaryen in that book. Also, I agree with #10- I take “dragon blood” figuratively, perhaps meaning a genetic predisposition to being able to tame dragons rather than any actual dragon ancestors.

    As for “blood magic” being the reason Daenerys being able to resist fire (read it above- now I can’t find it again) – that isn’t true. If I recall from the first book (read it so many years ago) there were events prior to her hatching the dragon eggs where she was not burnt when she should have been.

    By the way- I’m not a prude, and I know GRRM was involved with the HBO version- but I was kinda disappointed with it. They were too obsessed with showing flesh- and less concerned with telling the story. For those who have only seen the TV show- the books are a million times better… yes, I know that is said about most things (exception Forrest Gump) but in the case of Game Of Thrones it is more true than ever.

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  • NERDZ!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I get the eerie feeling Razib is maniacally laughing in the background, updating his 1950′s blinking computer database that adds points to “smart” contributors yet wields the power of subtraction onto others.

    Having said that, we don’t pay for HBO, but my wife bought season 1 on DVD so we could watch some bouncing breasts together, and the stellar performance of Peter Dinklage.

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  • @Elfino: Historical reality shows that infidelity in kings is a common vice, infidelity among queens is high treason however.

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  • Another theory. In the novels infidelity is common in kings. Perhaps is common in queens, too. So every one hundred years there is an illegitimate king, with his fresh genetic contribution.

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  • I read “dragon blood” as basically just being a few genes acquired through mutation or magic that change them in a way dragons can detect (perhaps smell?) making them more friendly or obedient towards anyone carrying them, not something silly like direct dragon ancestors.

    Also didn’t some ancient Egyptian royal families have incest rates comparable to this? I recall brother sister marriage was practised for example.

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  • I agree, Jessica. I’d only add that they weren’t practicing moderate levels of consanginuity – we’re talking brother-sister marriage as a regular practice. That’s pretty extreme.

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  • NERDZ!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • I’ve only watched the TV series, but my impression is that the Targaryens probably wouldn’t mind practicing infanticide, and if they were willing to kill up through toddler age, they’d probably do pretty well at removing a lot of the homozygotes with obvious defects. It also helps that unlike in the Hapsburg situation, there’s only one Iron Throne so they really just need two healthy Targaryens per generation (and sans birth control, 10 or more offspring wouldn’t be unreasonable!) Plus don’t forget the “coefficient” of dragon blood — who knows what effect that has on their genetics!

    Anyway, moderate levels of consanguinity aren’t as deleterious as we (Western Euro/American types) have been brought up to think. (a few papers have shown that a bit of inbreeding is actually better for you, at least as measured by some quantitative traits including certain measures of fertility)

    And, since I have the very citation handy in my current manuscript: ;)

    Kimura, M., Maruyama, T., and Crow, J. (1963). The mutation load in small populations. Genetics 48, 1303–1312.

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  • Elfino – yes, but GRRM has explained that that was a specific situation tied to her use of blood magic to wake her dragon eggs. Keep in mind that Rhaenrya Targaryen was burned to death by her brother’s dragon, Aerion Targaryen died drinking wildfire, and the Tragedy at Summerhall claimed the lives of Aegon V and Prince Duncan Targaryen.

    To the extent that the Targaryens have magic in their blood, it deals with some ability to control dragons, and a recessive tendency to clairvoyancy. They are not fireproof. And they do get mutants.

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  • StevenAttewell… Daenerys (SPOILER: END OF 1st BOOK)… walks into fire without problem.

    You know, in fantasy stories, whenever you find something extrange and there is not explanation… A magician did it.

    In Science Fiction is… Casimir effect in combination with dark matter cinetics.

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  • Your post on the Hapsburgs was very helpful. While it’s been a while since I’ve done genetics – as a historian – I’m quite astonished at how the Targaryens survived, given their penchant for extremely direct incest. Brother-to-sister, uncle-to-nieces, and cousins-to-cousins pretty much throughout (although they did occasionally bring in the occasional Arryn, Martell, Hightower, etc.) must really increase the odds of genetic disorders.

    As for the “blood of the dragon” protecting – I doubt it. We know that there was a recurring “madness” in the family (although nature vs. nurture is hard to figure out in this family), and Maelys the Monstrous was pretty deformed, which suggests there’s some problems in the family tree.

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  • You forget that Targaryen have blood of the dragon. Such extrange genetic contribution may have turned them invulnerable to inbreeding in ways we can’t imagine.

    Of course, I don’t want to think how such extrange contribution was made by the ancerstors of Daenerys Targaryen…

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  • A friend mentioned last night that he was watching a bit of A Game of Thrones, the new HBO series based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I'll probably wait until after the DVD version comes out, if I watch it at all. I'm not generally impressed by visual...
  • i watched the film. the casting of van dien was pretty conscious by the director, who distorted a lot of the intent of the books. rico’s race was not in the foreground in *starship troopers*, but delaney relates a scene when rico looks at himself in the mirror, and mentions his brown skin. this delaney took to be a reference to rico’s blackness.

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  • My mistake is to do with the fact that Rico was a White Argentine (I wasn’t sure whether he was Brazilian or Argentine when I wrote my comment) rather than Filipino in the movie adaptations of Starship Troopers and the fact that I didn’t read the book but watched the first film (I wrongly assumed the films were faithful to the book in the choice of characters). Rico is played by Casper Van Dien, a pretty Nordic guy.

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  • u can make recourse to wikipedia:

    In Starship Troopers, Rico was the son of a wealthy Filipino family who joined the Terran Mobile Infantry almost on impulse and over his parents’ objections.

    or control-f “tagalog” in google books. he mentions it as his native language.

    i guess u proved your own point about how people don’t always see what’s there….

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  • Yes, he was a White Brazilian as far as I can remember.

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  • Filipino? I thought he was Brazilian. Weird. An excuse to read it again, I guess.

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  • samuel delaney remembered the main character of starship troopers as black. but he was actually a filipino.

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  • Re the Euro themes in fantasy, I have written a couple of fantasy novels. My main characters are certainly not Euro/Nordic what-have-you. On asking readers to describe the characters, they are described as Euro anyway. Doesn’t matter how many times a character is described as dark, black hair, black, or whatever. People see what they want to in a novel. Read sf or fantasy with an eye to details and you’ll find plenty of non-white characters, and not all stereotypes. But…Jordan’s mains, and Martin’s, are, to my memory White. I suspect they were writing for their expected audience, mainly White Americans. It’s a sales question.

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  • historical fiction instead.
    I’m finding I’m increasingly preferring fantasy that is built on a base of reality but occasionally has more of a deep tinge of the fantastic and raw irrationality to it, like Gene Wolfe does at times (for all his intentional and often pointlessly obfusticating difficultness), and less tries to emulate the real world in terms of having a deep underlying logic (strange, as I’ve got a lot of interest in detailed historical chains of cause), while I appreciate all the maturity that Martin tries to bring.

    you are being confused by the aGoT. martin explicitly created a ‘low magic’ world. it will get more magical. he also explicitly disavowed attempts to rationalize/order magic via a set of rules, as you see in l. sprague de camp, or some of brandon sanderson’s stuff.

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  • Matt says:

    Martin’s a good author, but looking back on the first few books of Fire & Ice (which were all I read), while well crafted, feel in retrospect more like a strange kind of really detailed alternate world historical novel about feudalism, without much in the way of fantastic elements, and that I probably should have just read some historical fiction instead.

    I’m finding I’m increasingly preferring fantasy that is built on a base of reality but occasionally has more of a deep tinge of the fantastic and raw irrationality to it, like Gene Wolfe does at times (for all his intentional and often pointlessly obfusticating difficultness), and less tries to emulate the real world in terms of having a deep underlying logic (strange, as I’ve got a lot of interest in detailed historical chains of cause), while I appreciate all the maturity that Martin tries to bring.

    (I agree with the kudos to Robin Hobb as well btw, although I couldn’t read it past my teenage years – she basically took all the female and teenage girl centered Romantic Fantasy cliches and structures, swallowed them whole and gave them depth and made them something adult and worth it for reasonably emotionally mature teenagers and young adults to read, which is no small deal.)

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  • As a reader of both Martin and Jordan, I have decided to wait until both series are finished to finish reading them.

    I guess I am not as up on politics as the rest, but I found the interaction of the characters in WoT fascinating and engaging. Making the attempt to figure out what was going to happen next, or what the little clues sprinkled through the text meant have kept many reader on their toes.

    Then there was several incidents that no matter how many times the books were read and discussed that we could not decide who the perpetrator was. (Who killed Asmodean was the major one for at least 6 books, and only answered in the glossary of the last one.)

    If you have not started reading Martin, a warning. Do not get attached to the characters. He has a tendency to kill them off.

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  • Razib, after reading this post, I’m going to have to give Martin another try. I can’t remember which one of the early volumes I tried some years back–but I put it down after a couple of chapters. It may be that I was unduly influenced by my just-prior reaction to another writer, Robert Jordan, whom I had just thrown at the wall.
    :)

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  • So I love Game of Thrones, but is it COOL to compare any other fantasy novel disfavorably to LOTR, because (honestly!) while Tolkein’s ideas are certainly innovative, his writing style is certainly dull and not all that grasping. Love lord of the rings, but he wasn’t the first fantasy novelist, and probably not the greatest, even though he was loved by hippies.

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  • Is it racism or simply lack of originality? It seems that authors of the Fantasy genre tend to be far less imagintive or flexible then Sci Fi authors in regards to their characters’ ethnicity and race going back to Robert E. Howard and the Conan series. Even when you get non-Eurocentric plots, the cultures are still vaguely Asian or Middle Eastern. Fantasy writers tend to fix their main characters in cultures that are spin offs of Medieval Europe. The non-whites are then, by default, villains or, at best, secondary characters.

    Howard, btw, I’d argue was racist in an Gobineau kind of way, whereas Tolkien probably picked up his more gentile anti-Eastern bias from ancient and medieval laments over Hunnic or Islamic attacks. C.S. Lewis resembles Tolkien in this. Both are way too medieval to be Social Darwinians.

    Sci Fi writers, on the other hand, are far less earth-bound. I’m not just talking about Star Trek let’s add a skull protusion and make a new people kind of way or Star Wars. They seem to be more willing to experiment with believable hominid variations. Think Jack Vance or Frank Herbert. This is probably because they were more scientifically aware, and less hostile to Natural Science and more open minded than a tenured, luddite Professor of Anglo-Saxon literature. I love Tolkien and don’t mean to discredit the imagination he showed in creating his legendarium, but the guy’s ideas for a well-ordered society are unrealistic.

    On a side note, Martin does show some genuine originality with his description of the Northern barbarians and non-humans.

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  • “the racial aspect is pretty obvious in the silmarillion. tolkien asserted that his secondary world had no close correspondences with the real world of the time (e.g., is mordor industrial communism and fascism?” RK

    Tolkien rejected an allegory to modern times but he imagined middle earth as prior age of this earth, with gondor, arnor and rohirrim roughly coresponding to modern europe in geography.

    Tolkien Described the orcs as
    “…squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.”

    Now I think a straight racist reading of this very much misses tolkiens point but there is certainly a level of ethnocentrism and even more so religiouschauvinism, the free men off middle earth are the antecendants of later day christendom which is probably more important to the devoutly catholic Tolkien then the racial differences he portrayed.

    On the subject of Martin I have to agree in a sense he signaled the rise to maturity of the fantasy genre and while I think other authors were moving in the same direction its interesting to see how many good authors in fantasy have been working in a similar direction. R. Scott Bakker, Joe Abercrombie, Robin Hobb, J,V jones its a good time to be fan of fantasy.

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  • That’s very interesting. I have never heard of Durham. I think you are right in that many people like to be able to picture themselves in myths, if not, they are not interested. To be honest, I have always like Greco mythology very much. I just don’t care for the Dark Age dragon-knight stuff, but I’m not sure I can tell you exactly why. Maybe I will give some of it a second look.

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  • interestingly many ppl seem bothered by the tendency of modern fantasy to use northern european motifs. or they can’t relate to it. but fantasy is just an updating of what used to be mythology with the aspects of the novel. LotR was tolkien’s attempt to give the english their own mythology, equivalent to the irish or norse cycles. but for those readers who want a bit “more color”, david anthony durhman’s series might be of interest:

    http://www.davidanthonydurham.com/

    probably just a coincidence, but the family at the heart of the cycle have a café au lait look which seems a reflection of the author, who is a light-skinned black american.

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  • Hell this likely goes back to proto-Indoeuropean myth concerning those having the “blood of God’s” and do miraculous things

    i think the divine-blood aspect is pretty much a cultural universal. any sufficiently complex society will result in a situation where the elite needs to deify itself to justify its just desserts. the aztecs and incas both engaged in this, and no one would claim indo-european predecessors.

    Keep in mind Razib…in Tolkien, all the bad stuff comes from the “”East””. haha Some type of genetic memory of Asian hordes?

    the racial aspect is pretty obvious in the silmarillion. tolkien asserted that his secondary world had no close correspondences with the real world of the time (e.g., is mordor industrial communism and fascism?), but he couldn’t help but be influenced. you see the same in c. s. lewis’ narnia. and it is totally understandable as a product of the time. doesn’t really bother me too much. if you want an extreme inversion, you can look at le guin earthsea or judith tarr’s avaryan rising. it’s fantasy, i don’t take it too seriously. i mean, i don’t believe in gods either ;-)

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’m a huge fan of the series but I’ll probably totally avoid the TV series unless it gets amazing reviews. I am kind of skeptical of the ability to translate such a large multi character plot to TV. It’s like when you hear of plans to turn Steven Erikson’s malazian empire into a film…… 10 books, 1000 pages each and enough characters to populate a small European city…. Right

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  • I saw the 14 minute preview online, looks alright, but not like anything I have not seen before. I don’t care for the genre to be honest. I don’t want to harken back to the old barbaric days of Europe. I especially have never had an interest in “magic”and other such nonsense. I do like sci-fi quite a bit, but that is because I’m somewhat of a futurist. I hope that one day the things I read and see in sci-fi will be possible. I know the stuff I see in Tolkien-like media HAVE NEVER existed and will never.

    Also as you correctly cited, the predictable story line. It does seem though that all these writers, and likely Dark Age peoples, believed in HBD. They are always going on about “blood lines of warlor…I mean ‘kings’”. Hell this likely goes back to proto-Indoeuropean myth concerning those having the “blood of God’s” and do miraculous things, only to find out their father is a god (usually a rapist one) or was a just king (murdered by someone evil), etc.

    Keep in mind Razib…in Tolkien, all the bad stuff comes from the “”East””. haha Some type of genetic memory of Asian hordes? :-) My cousin once told it to me like this (someone who read a lot of this stuff as a kid)…”once upon a time, everything was peaceful, and Euro” then the “darkies” came and messed it all up from the East. haha That’s probably an extreme take, but I had a good idea that the past sucked, I like to hope that the future would suck less. :-)

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  • I once accompanied a friend to a genre convention. Mr. Martin was the only author present whose work I had read, but I got to talk with him, and it was a delightful experience.

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  • i emailed martin a few questions in late 1999, and he got back to me a few months later. he might be a slow writer of his novels, but he seems like a genuine and nice person. so wuteva.

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