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Thread: A World of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin

  1. #1

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    A World of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin

    This is an incredibly interesting read for me, although I'm only a third of the way through or so. I tend not to extrapolate the vast histories of super-rich worlds like Martin's while actually reading the books, so I just love a book like this that forces the world itself and it's history into the fore. On the other hand, I have been obsessing over the seasons and their lengths since I first started reading Game of Thrones, and I flat out refuse to accept the explanation put forth in this book. Not from George R. R. Martin. I'd accept that sort of chicanery from a lesser writer but he just sit himself down and come up something better, cuz I'm not buying it.

  2. #2

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    What explanation do you mean, exactly?

  3. #3

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    He kinda pulled a Tolkein-esque, "it's probably magic, I acknowledge that you want to know, but I'm not really going to give you a concrete explanation so just suck it up" sorta thing. I'm still stewing over Tom Bombadil, I don't need another author screwing with my head. I could accept this sort of thing if they were just crappy, unimaginative writers who couldn't come up with something, but these are two of the best writers in modern history. They have breathed entire universes into existence. They do this to torment me. :shifty eyes:

  4. #4

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    Can you think of a good example of how a writer explains magic that satisfies this issue you have? To me, the essence of magic has always been that is is unexplainable.

  5. #5

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    Okay, who did the magic, is it ongoing? Some sort of long term spell done once years ago or a series of spells performed by a group, or an individual who is incredibly long-lived? And if it is a long-term spell, why isn't it predictable, why has no pattern been found. What, if any, relation does it have to other magic we have seen that actually works, such as that of that red woman who worships Rhi'lor (sp?). And far more basic, is it or isn't it actually magic in the strictest sense? The semi-sorta kinda explanation seems to imply that given the movements of the heavenly bodies, the seasons should be regular. Since they are not, obviously something else must be at work, but strictly speaking I'm not certain I would even call what the red woman does "magic" per se, at least, not all of it. That may be splitting hairs though.

  6. #6

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    When you say "the magic", what do you mean, exactly? Also, That doesn't really answer my question: what are you looking for in your fantasy book magic, if Tolkien and Martin don't satisfy it?

  7. #7

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    You seemed to be asking what explanation would have satisfied me. The answers to those questions would have done so. In the case of the seasons, if they are bizarrely long and unpredictable because of magic, then who or what cast such a spell and for what motive? In the case of Tom Bombadil, who the heck is he? Is he one of the Ainur or some other of the heavenly host? What is his relationship to the world and lore that allows him to control so completely his little corner of the world.
    As a rule, Tolkein and Martin do satisfy precisely what I seek in my fantasy magic, except when it comes to explanation. It is neither heavy-handed nor annoyingly unrealistic. They have created worlds in which I could believe, and, in fact, if I am honest, I do believe in them probably more than is strictly healthy for a grown-up. These are not men wielding applied phlebotinum, hand-waving implausible acts for the sake of literary convenience. Perhaps the fact that these worlds are so real to me is what makes me so frustrated with the lack of answers on these particular topics. I feel like I should be able to google it or something.
    Take the Wheel of Time, for instance. I consider these books to be somewhat inferior to the works of Tolkien and Martin overall while still excellent in their own right. But there isn't any hemming and hawwing over what, say, the Warder bond is. There's no everlasting mystery over the nature of the Amyrlin Seat or Ogiers or heck even the Dark One, really. Although that's arguable.

  8. #8

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    Ah I see. Yes, there are certainly a lack of direct answers in those books. I think the authors (and much of the readership) prefers it that way. I know I do. It creates a sense of realism, allows a suspension of disbelief that I find lacking in most other fantasy. This is among the main reasons I do not read as much fantasy anymore, I think it tends to cater to hyperbole and melodrama, tried to explain itself far too often and deeply, and has lost faith in its readership as intelligent beings with a questioning nature. Most fantasy tropes are as tired and old as they come. I find this to be less true of GRRM than anyone else currently writing in the genre.

  9. #9

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    I would tend to agree with most of that. It is one of the reasons that I consider Mr. Martin to be superior to any writer in the genre today. I don't need him to explain what it is that Melisandre does precisely, that would be unnecessary and destroy the intricate subtly of his work. I don't need a clearer explanation of the nature of the power of the Faceless Men, or to what extent the Old Gods are or aren't real, or how exactly that paste affected Bran. My questioning nature does however want a freaking answer to the question of how on earth these people manage to live on a planet with nine-year summers. What's the deal with a Harvest festival that happens in the fall when fall only comes every few years and harvests happen far more frequently? Why doesn't a nine year summer scorch their crops? I mean, think about it, how many days in a summer are hot enough that if they lasted, say, a week, plants would start to wither and die. Such a large and obvious part of the world does justify an explanation. It's the elephant in the room.
    Granted, I would not expect much of an explanation in the context of the story itself, that would be cumbersome and tedious. But in A World of Ice and Fire we get some old maester's hemming and hawwing that comes down to "no idea, probably magic".

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