Sunday, August 3, 2014

I Predict A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones (Spoilers!)

What Is This?

I read a very little bit of Game of Thrones when it first came out, the very first book ... less than 10% of it. I stopped because a) it was too rapey; b) the female characters weren't very realistic; and c) I haaaaaaaaate novels that switch POV all the time. The sum totally of what I remember from the book is a little kid gets thrown off a tower for something to do with incest, and the big important castle is built on a hotspring even though it's like always winter and never Christmas at it.

I forgot about it until it started getting bit in pop culture. I resisted reading or watching it, because it sounded extremely violent (which isn't my thing) and because I'm awfully tired of grimdark fantasy (although I really GRRM and GoT were among the progenitors of the sub-genre). But finally I got tired of being left out of nerd-chat and gave in. I knew it was supposed to have many shocking and unforeseen twists, so when I read the very first chapter, I texted one of my nerd friends (Kathryn) and said, "Ned's gonna die, right? Is that the shocking twist that everyone's always complaining about?" This turned into a game where I texted her (and then some of my other friends, and then posted on facebook) my predictions as I read through the books. I've compiled the texts from the first two books into the following posts (adding in timeline as best I could afterwards; it's a bit messy), and then started keeping a better log going forward. I'm putting all my prediction and commentary together on this page, and will be posting additions to my blog as well as adding them to the master page.

Where I was texting my comments I have edited them for clarity and flow (taken out the text-speech, turned things into actual sentences). Wherever you see something in [square brackets], that was a comment from whomever I was talking to, most often Kathryn, and sometimes Mike or Carmen or other friendly nerds. Generally I've edited their comment to the most direct question -- sometimes because I no longer have that part of the conversation, other times because we were also, at the same time, discussing baby poop.

General Comments and Foreknowledge

From my first attempt at reading the books (which ended less than 10% in):
  • A castle has hotsprings
  • A child gets thrown off a tower for something to do with incest
  • Also women have a raw deal in this world
Before I began, I sat down to list everything I knew about the story from things that were just ambient in the world/pop culture:
  • Danerys, who is extra-blond, has dragons
  • Joffrey, who is a boy-king and maybe crazy, has a whiney voice and at some point dies
  • There are wolves and the actress who plays Sansa adopted hers and it was bad at acting
  • Cersei, who is also blond, is into incest
  • Jon Snow is somebody's bastard
  • Lots of people die with relative frequency and people are often shocked
  • There is a character named Arya and people like her
  • Sean Bean wears a lot of furs. I don't know who he is.
  • GRRM likes to kill his characters and torture his readers. Also, people think he writes too slow.
  • Somebody maybe dies at a wedding?
  • There is a Wall, which I think is basically Hadrian's Wall but magic, and it is serious business.
  • It's loosely inspired by the War of the Roses, and Lancaster/Lannister and York/Stark.

As I go I am also adding things I realized later on that I already knew. (For example, when I got to "Blackwater," I went, "Oh yeah, I remember reading an article that HBO spent a lot of money on special effects at Blackwater!") I'm putting these in their own section, for the sake of completeness.

One of my nerd-interlocutors commented that I was really good at predictions. I think I have three advantages here:

  1. Wide reading in the source materials, including the SFF genre in general and epic and grimdark fantasy in particular; British history; and religious epics. I've been reading fantasy since I was old enough to read independently, just about everything I could get my hands on. I no longer read bad fantasy, and I've gotten more selective about fantasy that's really long but just good, not great -- but in general I've hit all the high points. I like British history quite a bit and studied the Tudors fairly intensively in college (adjunct to studying theology). I'm not terribly familiar with the War of the Roses but I'm aware of the broad outlines. Fantasy in general, and fantasy with religious systems in particular, always borrows broadly from the world's great religious and mythological epics (it's all very Joseph Campbell!). I have a BA and a masters in theology, and I taught comparative religion as an adjunct professor for a few years, so these things tend to stand out to me.
  2. Point of View switches throw me out of the narrative. My objection to them is purely personal -- they are a legitimate literary tool that can be used to great effect -- I just don't like them. In any book with POV switches, I get thrown out of the narrative, and I have put books aside because of it; I just can't get "into" them when they switch frequently. This is why I gave up Wheel of Time way before the rest of you, and the biggest reason I gave up Game of Thrones the first time around. So every time I start to get wrapped up in the story in GoT, the story stops and goes somewhere else and I come crashing back to reality with thoughts like, "Um, that's not how boobs work," or "Wow, that was some heavy-handed foreshadowing." I think I would notice a lot less of it if I could get more wrapped up in the narrative, as GRRM is a good storyteller.
  3. I'm reading suspicious, since this turned into The Prediction Challenge before I was 25% of the way through the first book! So I'm constantly looking for clues GRRM's going to kill someone or be sneaky.

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