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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » Dumb Question: Game of Thrones, Spoiler Alert

   
Author Topic: Dumb Question: Game of Thrones, Spoiler Alert
Crystal Stevens
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I've been watching GOT on DVD. So I've only seen it through the 3rd season. I stopped reading the books somewhere in the middle of the 3rd book. I think that was "Storm of Swords"? It's been awhile, so my memory may be lacking in that respect.

The point is; about the time I think I've figure out who the story is about, that person gets killed off. The story doesn't seem to be about one particular person or have any kind of goal. To me, it all seems rather pointless. I really wasn't interested in renting season 3, but my husband wanted to see it. Anyone have any idea what is the reason for this series other than killing the most important characters (at least from what I can tell) off in every book and GOT TV season? I've tried to understand it, but have come up blank.

[ March 11, 2014, 10:29 AM: Message edited by: Crystal Stevens ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Maybe the point is to make money.

(OOH! I am being SO cynical!)

I only made it through the first book, Crystal. And I haven't watched even a second of the HBO series. (Don't have HBO.)

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extrinsic
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Look to the title: Game of Thrones, about the myriad complications of monarchial hierarchy, including violent succession.

[ March 09, 2014, 03:59 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Robert Nowall
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I have a theory---nothing to do with reading or watching Game of Thrones, neither of which I've done or plan to do---that Martin wrote in this Tolkienesque genre of fantasy because it was a viable commercial category, and no other reason...certainly not great affection for the genre.

I also have the observation---based on reading a massive whole lot of Martin's work before Game of Thrones---that Martin writes of characters who are (1) on the scuzzy side of the ethics spectrum, and (2) have something wrong with them on the evil side of the good / evil divide. Any speculation on my part about why Martin writes of such characters would be pure speculation---on the evil side of it, too.

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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
Maybe the point is to make money.

(OOH! I am being SO cynical!)

I only made it through the first book, Crystal. And I haven't watched even a second of the HBO series. (Don't have HBO.)

We don't have HBO either, Kathleen. That's why we rent the DVDs when they come out. I really didn't care whether we watched the 3rd season(that just came out on DVD) or not, but my husband wanted to see it. I was just curious on everyone else's take on what is the driving force--the point--for the series... why anyone should keep watching it. After all, every story has a theme... something that keeps it going. In GOT, I see nothing in that direction. Hence my question.
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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Look to the title: Game of Thrones, about the myrdiad complications of monarchial hierarchy, including violent succession.

That could very well be, extrinsic. But I would think that only students of such hierarchies would take an interest in such a show or series. JMO Also, it's one thing to play and enjoy a chess game. It can get very boring watching it. Particularly if you don't understand what's going on in the first place or why the game is played at all. This is where I feel I'm at with GOT.
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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I have a theory---nothing to do with reading or watching Game of Thrones, neither of which I've done or plan to do---that Martin wrote in this Tolkienesque genre of fantasy because it was a viable commercial category, and no other reason...certainly not great affection for the genre.

I also have the observation---based on reading a massive whole lot of Martin's work before Game of Thrones---that Martin writes of characters who are (1) on the scuzzy side of the ethics spectrum, and (2) have something wrong with them on the evil side of the good / evil divide. Any speculation on my part about why Martin writes of such characters would be pure speculation---on the evil side of it, too.

I'll have to admit, Robert, I was not aware of Martin's writing style. I haven't read very many of his books. That's good to know when looking at GOT.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Crystal Stevens:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Look to the title: Game of Thrones, about the myrdiad complications of monarchial hierarchy, including violent succession.

That could very well be, extrinsic. But I would think that only students of such hierarchies would take an interest in such a show or series. JMO Also, it's one thing to play and enjoy a chess game. It can get very boring watching it. Particularly if you don't understand what's going on in the first place or why the game is played at all. This is where I feel I'm at with GOT.
Game of Thrones follows a historical fiction model, albeit fantasy which somewhat compromises historical fiction's insistence on authenticity and challenges willing suspension of disbelief. The sweep of ideas and history are the point, though.

Readers who favor close narrative distance with viewpoint characters' personal complications won't enjoy as close an aesthetic distance with impersonal milieus, ideas, and events' complications.

James Michener wrote popular historical fiction. However, he wrote self-contained novels, not a grand, sweeping, allegorical fantasy saga about the history of monarchy. Michener's novel Chesapeake covers a sweeping time span. Its viewpoint focus, though, is from a character sequence of a fictional family's progress through U.S. history. The viewpoint characters are personable.

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Robert Nowall
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quote:
James Michener wrote popular historical fiction. However, he wrote self-contained novels, not a grand, sweeping, allegorical fantasy saga about the history of monarchy. Michener's novel Chesapeake covers a sweeping time span. Its viewpoint focus, though, is from a character sequence of a fictional family's progress through U.S. history. The viewpoint characters are personable.
Ah, but Michener's novels were so massive that a self-contained episode within one often ran as long as an independently-published short novel. (I'm thinking The Source here.)
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extrinsic
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Michener's storytelling and history reporting aesthetics vary across a wide spectrum. Close reading the body of his work reveals a broad and flexible craft. He was more of a collaborative team writer than a lone writer, too. Writers who worked for him may have wrote appreciable portions of his novels under his aegis. Credits and acknowledgments in the books suggest as much. I also understand their contracts included nondisclosure clauses.
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RyanB
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Ah, but Michener's novels were so massive ...

Martin is no slouch either when it comes to page counts. That's per book, and the series is supposed to run to what . . . 7 installments.
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Denevius
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quote:
Anyone have any idea what is the reason for this series other than killing the most important characters (at least from what I can tell) off in every book and GOT TV season?
Someone else here on this site pointed out its existential influences. Perhaps the gods are cruel, don't care about man, and simply like to play around with us and see us suffer. That's a fairly prevalent theme in the book.

Martin himself said that people die in his book (main characters) because people die in real life, and in a novel that takes place during constant times of war and strife, it only makes sense. I actually agree with this sentiment, as I've noted in other threads. Fantasy and scifi is full of adventure and action, but no one of consequence usually dies until their death *is of consequence*. They die in order for their death to mean something in the narrative, which isn't how life actually goes.

Take the people who (most likely) just died on that 777 flight from Malaysia. Their deaths were unexpected and untimely, but of little consequence beyond their friends and family. If you're trying to write prose that mimics this real life scenario, then main characters sometimes die, especially when all odds are against them. I don't want to give away spoilers, but in the first book at least, all of the deaths made sense to me. And in reading books with a lot of adventure, I've personally become somewhat frustrated at how it's almost a guarantee that characters will live no matter what.

My problem with the continued Game of Thrones series isn't that the deaths seemed untimely, or inconsequential. My problem is that I strongly suspect Martin is only writing the books now for a paycheck. We all write to get paid, but there comes a point when it seems like money is the single motivator. This is why I stopped at Book 3.

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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
Anyone have any idea what is the reason for this series other than killing the most important characters (at least from what I can tell) off in every book and GOT TV season?
Someone else here on this site pointed out its existential influences. Perhaps the gods are cruel, don't care about man, and simply like to play around with us and see us suffer. That's a fairly prevalent theme in the book.

Martin himself said that people die in his book (main characters) because people die in real life, and in a novel that takes place during constant times of war and strife, it only makes sense. I actually agree with this sentiment, as I've noted in other threads. Fantasy and scifi is full of adventure and action, but no one of consequence usually dies until their death *is of consequence*. They die in order for their death to mean something in the narrative, which isn't how life actually goes.

Take the people who (most likely) just died on that 777 flight from Malaysia. Their deaths were unexpected and untimely, but of little consequence beyond their friends and family. If you're trying to write prose that mimics this real life scenario, then main characters sometimes die, especially when all odds are against them. I don't want to give away spoilers, but in the first book at least, all of the deaths made sense to me. And in reading books with a lot of adventure, I've personally become somewhat frustrated at how it's almost a guarantee that characters will live no matter what.

My problem with the continued Game of Thrones series isn't that the deaths seemed untimely, or inconsequential. My problem is that I strongly suspect Martin is only writing the books now for a paycheck. We all write to get paid, but there comes a point when it seems like money is the single motivator. This is why I stopped at Book 3.

You've completely missed my point, Denevius. It isn't that he kills off key characters. It's that about the time that I think I've discovered who the story is about Martin kills that character off. Take Ned Stark for example. I thought all through the first book that GOT was his story. Yes, it did make sense when he died. That I agree with. What shocked me was I thought he would live through the entire series; that he was who the story was about. So I went back looking to find another character that foot that bill. Was it Rob or his mother? That must be it, because they're still alive and kicking butt. Nope, 'fraid not. They're dead too as of the end of the third book. At this point I'm ready to throw up my hands and walk away.

It isn't that main characters are being killed for the sake of realism, it's trying to make sense of who (or what?) the story is truly about. At this point, I think extrinsic is right. It's not about any one person, but about a brutal hierarchy and how it works regardless of at whose expense. Right now that's the only thing, to me, that makes sense.

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extrinsic
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I've only sampled a few synopses and fragments of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, enough to feel disinterested. If the local library circulated copies would settle on their home shelves for a while, I'd skip to the last book's ending and read backward until it made sense. If the ending did make sense, I might then read from the beginning. Otherwise, I'm not buying, or starting into a long reading cycle. I have too many more engaging novels on my must-read list.

Bought a 12th edition The Little, Brown Handbook yesterday, a thousand pages of tedious, delightful reading there. The heavily worn 1st edition I've used for years contained inconsistencies, grammar and rhetoric principles given short-shrift or absent altogether, and outright grammar faults that bothered me from the first day I got it thirty years ago. This edition corrected those faults, and contains more dynamic content: visual and online rhetoric, expanded rhetoric generally, as well as accounting for non-native English grammar users. The one paragraph section of the 1st edition about sentence fragments, for example, is an entire section of guidance in the 12th, and with which I heartily agree.

Did I say fun reading!? Much more entertaining, too, the 12th is than the 1st. I mean, who reads grammar handbooks for fun.

[ March 09, 2014, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
It isn't that main characters are being killed for the sake of realism, it's trying to make sense of who (or what?) the story is truly about.
Ah, okay. *But* if it's an existential fantasy fiction, that means that there is no point. Think along the lines of a Thomas Hardy fiction, such as "Tess of the d'Ubervilles". Or Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War".
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extrinsic
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No immediately accessible tangible point, for example, to The Chocolate War, but its intangible though stable irony is "play by the rules of society" even if they are contrary to noble social values. And if you buck the power consensus abuses, be prepared for abuses. If you would win through, go along to get along or be prepared for an unwinable battle, no matter how noble the cause. Yet underneath is the heroic cause that by small succcesses transforms society. A resounding indictment of majority rules by fait accompli and force majeur coercion abuses of minorities and dissenters.
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Denevius
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First, I'd like to point out that maybe this thread should begin with SPOILER ALERT, just in case someone curious comes here and reads the ending to Book 1.

Inherent in the question of, "Who is the story about?", are several implied questions. 1) Who does the beneficial creator (the writer) care about? 2) Who have they set up to win from page one? and 3) Since traditionally, Western fiction sets up the dichotomy of Good vs. Evil in their narratives, how does good prevail and evil get its comeuppance?

The disquiet I sense in the OPs question (and I could be wrong), is that these questions are neglected in GoTs. And to me, when a writer does this, it puts them thereabouts in the vein of existential fiction.

An existential story would go something like this: a good man defeated at the hands of an evil man has a son, who, from the moment the son can walk, he raises for combat. He trains him, he pushes him, he makes the quintessential "One" out of him.

On the first day of bootcamp, his son gets shot in the head by an errant bullet, and the book ends. The question becomes, "So what was the point?" The existential answer: "There is no point". We exist in a void, we take actions, some of which are good, some of which are evil, and maybe we'll attain what it is we aspire to, but most likely we won't, and if we do, it doesn't really matter because we're all just going to die anyway.

Whereas, a traditional story would have the son, after trails and tribulations, become the "One", and vanquish his father's enemies. Now all actions have meaning, like a domino effect, until the last and final piece destined to fall, falls.

Book 1 of Game of Thrones fell into the former category. There were good men making good actions, there were bad men making bad actions, but ultimately circumstances led to the good man falling, the bad man rising, and all of their actions against the backdrop of what's most consequential: the pointlessness of the game when death always wins anyway.

Look at the great fear, the huge wall keeping at bay death, the nightwalkers. This is the thing prophesied in Book 1 to sweep aside all the kingdoms anyway. All these humans fighting against themselves when "winter is coming".

But as I said, I think Martin is just writing for a paycheck now, so whatever themes he explored in the first book are lost, in my opinion, in the subsequent books.

[ March 10, 2014, 03:21 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Crystal Stevens:
It's not about any one person, but about a brutal hierarchy and how it works regardless of at whose expense.

Just the thing I don't want to read (and why I stopped after the first book). Life is too short, and there are too many other things I'd rather read.
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Denevius
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I am surprised at the popularity of Game of Thrones, particularly among female readers/viewers, considering how bleak the book is, and how vicariously brutal it is in its descriptions of violence towards women throughout the narrative.

But women do enjoy the series:

WIRED

HUFFPOST WOMEN

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MattLeo
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quote:
It's that about the time that I think I've discovered who the story is about Martin kills that character off.
That's a bit like asking, "With Ophelia dead, who is Hamlet going to end up marrying?" It shows a serious misapprehension about where the story is going.

SoI&F is not a character oriented story, so don't read it expecting satisfying character arcs. Nor is it a plot-centered story either, so you shouldn't read on expecting some kind of cathartic resolution.

I've spent considerable time thinking about the first three volumes in the series trying to figure out what makes the story tick. The answer I ended up with is: spectacle. The attraction of the story is all about thousand foot high ice walls, knights in fantastically rococo armor battling each other, and sweaty barbarians raping in the dust. Any plot or characterization, skillful as it might be, is only there to get you to the next set piece. In SoI&F Martin doesn't bother tying off loose ends in this story, it'd just be a waste of time. He simply snips them and moves on.

There's some pretty good writing in SoI&F; maybe not Hemingway or Flaubert, but in places quite impressive by genre novel standards. Martin sketches characters vividly, often with wit. His plotting is cleverly contrived and agile, even if it leads nowhere in particular. But unfortunately those all-important set pieces just aren't that good. His fight scenes are poorly staged and uninteresting. His sex scenes are distinctly un-erotic. The sumptuous feasts and spilled entrails (sometimes intermixed in one scene) soon become repetitive, skip-over territory.

For me at least, the fantastic elements of the story fall between two chairs. They are neither realistic enough to be credible, nor magical enough to overcome incredulity. I couldn't help thinking, "Even if you *could* build a thousand foot ice wall with magic, it still wouldn't make sense," or "A society organized this way couldn't possibly survive a ten year winter." But if the books work for you then more power to you. Perhaps you're into Grand Guignol; a lot of people are.

My take on this series is that if you read the first book and you're hooked you should carry on, but if you were frustrated by lack of closure in Game of THrones you shouldn't read further into the series hoping things will change. They won't. Yes, there's a lot of new plot that happens, but it's strictly plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, although that happens to make it ideal material for a television serial.

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Denevius
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quote:
The answer I ended up with is: spectacle.
I think this is what the sequels became, but not what they started out being. By the second novel, and especially by the third novel, the series of books devolved into a long soap opera. And even if you've never watched soap operas, you know that they're about the next big dramatic event to happen, whether or not it necessarily makes sense from what you've read before.

But then, Martin used to write for television, so it doesn't surprise me that he would eventually adopt this method of writing to keep the sequels going on indefinitely (or until the paychecks shrink from lack of interest from readers/the audience).

Just about nothing, in my opinion, by book three was particularly relevant. Characterization was inconsistent, actions were in a vacuum and had little to no influence on anything that followed. It could have been a bunch of flash fiction pieces that all took place in a similar world, but beyond that, had no real connection to each other.

I think Book I was more than spectacle, however. Martin's writing became cheap and gimmicky later on, but that first book was brilliantly written. And the death at the end, while hard to take, gave the novel staying power in a reader's mind. Death was so prevalent in that first book, from its opening pages to its final conclusion that, again for me, it seems obvious that's what the novel was ultimately about. Mortals living lives taking "grand" actions that ultimately lead to nothing.

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Robert Nowall
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I read somewhere that the whole thing was supposed to conclude after six volumes...but that's gone and now it's open-ended. I've said repeatedly that I wouldn't read it until it was complete, now, even if it is, I don't know if I'll bother.

*****

Somewhere above there's a discussion of how Martin kills off characters because in the real world people die. There's also some comparison to "Hamlet." With Shakespeare, there's always some point to characters dying.

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RyanB
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I read somewhere that the whole thing was supposed to conclude after six volumes...but that's gone and now it's open-ended. I've said repeatedly that I wouldn't read it until it was complete, now, even if it is, I don't know if I'll bother.

*****

Somewhere above there's a discussion of how Martin kills off characters because in the real world people die. There's also some comparison to "Hamlet." With Shakespeare, there's always some point to characters dying.

I'm pretty sure the Wikipedia page for the series lists 7 novels. I would guess about 8 years before it concludes.
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MAP
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I haven't read the books, but I've seen three season of the HBO Game of Thrones series, so I'm not sure how well the show reflects the books, but I think there is a bigger picture than the fight between Starks and Lannisters, and that is the point of the story.

In the first season, one of the leaders of the Night Watch said, "Does it matter who sits on the Iron Throne when winter comes." And the truth is that it doesn't. The whole fight for the Iron Throne is pointless. There is a much bigger threat looming over the entire world with winter and the white walkers. The Starks, Lannisters, Baratheans, and Daenarys are all being idiots fighting with each other over something that doesn't matter. They are fighting for control of a kingdom that is going to perish.

They need to band together and get ready for the bigger threat coming, but they are blind to it. And that to me is the point of the story.

So the story isn't about Ned or Rob or Catelyn. It's about a world where everyone is blind to the real problems and the real dangers, and in the end, I bet it kills them all (or at least the vast majority of them).

That is how I see it, but I could be wrong.

[ March 11, 2014, 03:56 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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