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The Biblical Game of Thrones

One of the most interesting things about the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is the all-to-human snapshots it gives of life and politics of the Bronze Age. While the Gospels spreads a moral vision of a perfected humanity, the OT spares us none of the warts and horrors we have come to expect of ourselves.

For example, consider the Books of Kings. Historians have called into question whether Solomon really ruled over the resplendent realm that Scripture describes, but the fall from power that Solomon and his heirs experience has a powerful truthfulness to it. Basically, Solomon grew old and arrogant, taxed too much, married too often, and began to idolize himself. He became the thing that the prophet Samuel warned Israel about when they asked him for a king. And then, under his heirs, the northern part of the realm broke away and formed its own kingdom, worshipping the Golden Calf (because nothing is new under the sun).

The House of David after Solomon, ruling the southern kingdom of Judah, was a mixed group, according to the two Books of Kings. We see some genuine reformers, some hardened idolators, and some in between. But they hung on to power until the Babylonians came calling.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, was a soap opera out of George R.R. Martin’s most lurid imagination.

The leader of the revolt against Solomon, who became king of the Northern Tribes, was Jeroboam I. He build the Golden Calves, an idolatry the Biblical authors never miss a chance to remind us of and condemn. His son and successor, Nadab, was murdered by Baasha, a captain in Nadab’s army, who stole the throne. As Justice would have it, Baasha’s son and heir, Elah, ruled barely a year before a commander of chariots, Zimri, murdered him while he dined in the house of a steward.

Zimri was king for all of seven days. Apparently he’d neglected to check if the army was really behind him. As soon as the word got out that Elah was dead, the soldiers nominated another commander, Omri, to be king, and Omri laid siege to the palace in Tirzah. Zimri perceived that all was lost and set fire to the palace, burning it down over his head. Omri thereafter ruled from Samaria.

After this, we get a period of relative dynastic stability. Omri’s dynasty rules for three generations. They are followed by the dynasty of Jehu, which manages four generations. Then the old pattern re-emerges. Shallum murders King Zechariah, and rules for a month before being killed by Menahem. Menahem rules ten years, and his son Pekahiah for two, whereupon Pekah assassinates Pekahiah (yeah, there’s a difference). Pekah rules for twenty years before being assassinated himself, by Hoshea. Hoshea was a puppet of the Assyrians, and when he made the mistake of rebelling against them, the Assyrians did what they were famous for, and wrecked the place, brought in foreign tribes, and resettled the Israelites in other parts of the realm. So began the legends of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

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There’s a novel in here somewhere, is all I’m saying…

Resurrection and Identity in Game of Thrones I – The Man of Ice and Fire

Game of Thrones made its mark upon the public consciousness with its mix of fantasy and intrigue but also with its premium-channel willingess to “go there” with sex and violence. Thematically, this has been shown in numerous instances of the Death of the Hero. Not only were Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark shown to be flawed and destroyed by their enemies, but also their avengers – Stannis & Renly Baratheon, Robb & Catelyn Stark, etc., came to untimely ends before our eyes. Death is a god in the eyes of more than one set of characters in Westeros, and its reach, the shows seems to tell us, is unlimited.

Except not really. There are certain characters who still possess what is known as plot armor: they are too essential to the storyline, or readers have invested too much in them, to be discarded. Tyrion Lannister, Danaerys Targaryen, and others are all but assured of at least making it to the climax of the story. They may die in that, but their deaths are to be used on behalf of the climax, and not just as a consequence of their own flaws.

Consequently, this season of Game of Thrones has had a marked interested in the theme of Ressurrection. Characters are being brought back, symbolically and literally, from death and given a new lease on life. Concomitant with resurrections are a shift in identity. The dead/dying characters are not just reborn, but recast as someone new. In this space, I will discuss some of the characters who have or are experiencing rebirth this season. Today, we will deal with the obvious: Jon Snow.

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Continue reading → Resurrection and Identity in Game of Thrones I – The Man of Ice and Fire

What I’m Expecting on Tonight’s Game of Thrones

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

That should protect the eyes of people on my Facebook feed.

First, the preview:

 

Breakdown:

  1. Jon the Undead. If the Willings were prepared to fight to avenge him, they might just make him their king now. There’s something poignant in Jon succeeding Mance as King Beyond the Wall, but they’re not beyond the Wall now. Of course, that raises the question of whether he can simply resume his duties as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Technically, death releases him from his vows. So is he even still in the Watch?
  2. Arya the Unseeing. I’ll confess, I’m not sure where Arya’s plot line is going. If she truly becomes No One, then she ceases to be Arya, then she ceases to have any real connection to the story, but just folds into the House of White and Black. The whole point of her becoming lethal was to gain vengeance on her enemies. So I’ll assume that this arc continues to drag along.
  3. Ramsay’s Gift. Since we don’t know who that guy is, I can think of a couple of possibilities: 1) an Umber offering him Rickon Stark, or the whereabouts of Rickon Stark, 2) a Frey offering him a gesture of defiance for his butchery of Walda. I have serious doubts that Walder Frey is going to believe Ramsay’s story about how Roose and his wife and child all died on the same day, or that he’s not going to do anything about it. But who knows.
  4. Danaerys in Vaes Dothrak. The question of Dany’s arc this season is whether she’s going to cultivate her own path to survival, as she did in Season 2, or whether she’s going to rely on others for her rescue: Jorah, Daario, and the Drogon ex machina. In this episode, I suspect she’s just going to get locked into her khaleesi-widowhood.
  5. King’s Landing. Vengeful Cersei is vengeful. I don’t see her trial happening next week, so I expect sound and fury, signifying nothing.
  6. TOWER OF JOY! If you’re not a book reader, you don’t know that this is a big deal. This Bran seeing what happened when Ned Stark went looking for his sister Lyanna in the aftermath of Robert’s Rebellion. It is the single most tantalizing scene in the grand theory of Jon Snow’s true parentage. Basically, if you see a bunch of chatter on the internet regarding R+L=J, you’ll know why.

Content Creation Blues

 

A Song of Ice and Fire, Hold the Ice

If you’re on Reddit, you probably noticed or took part in the New Year’s Night vigil of watching George R.R. Martin’s livejournal for the update on The Winds of Winter. I myself did, and it was an instructive lesson in group emotions: first excitement, then frustration, then japery, rage, despair, and, just when we thought he’d gone to bed and we were getting all the news we were going to get, he commented and said he had one more update in him. The joy (“hype” as they call it on Reddit) was transcendent. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire who were previously damning George for a lazy old fat prat got religion without even blinking.

He admitted his frustration with his progress and copped to the problems he’d been having. And I was fine with it. I was fine with him telling me what I surmised to be true: that Season 6 of Game of Thrones was going to spoil the books. It’s disappointing, but it’s okay. Now we can finally accept it.

Podcasting Takes Time

I’ve been trying to find the right moment to sit down and do my next podcast, which I have previously stated to be all about Star Wars. Now that we’ve had a chance to digest the film, I can see some of the complaints about it, but I’m going to talk about that more fully. I just need to make myself do it. And sooner, rather than later, because…

January is My Personal NoWriMo

Reading Larry Correia’s blog (especially this post) has inspired me to sit my rear end down and get cracking on my epic fantasy stories. I started creating this world on an electric typewriter back when I was 14, and seeing them in print has always been a dream. My first completed novel, The Island Prince, was from this world. It took me three years to write it, and its in no condition to be published. So I’m going to start again, with a story a few centuries before that. Hopefully what I’ve learned about writing over the last twelve years will show itself in the product. But at any rate, I’m on this. Working title: The Blood King

Actual Content Creation

The Unnamed Journal, a lit mag I have a tangential relationship to, just published its second issue. Click here for a hard copy, or here for Kindle.

And then there’s the music review project, Every Damn CD, on Tumblr. Currently I’m on the White Stripes, but there’s so much more to go.

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Game of Thrones Just Did That Thing It Does.

Killing the charactes we like, making us like the characters we hate.

{Warning: Contains spoilers. Also Swearing.}

At this point, we’ve been down this road so many times that some of us are starting to feel numb to it. This season has left a bad taste in many fans’ mouth, because the usual collection of horrible things had no balance with anything good happening. Storylines seemed condensed, rushed, or just pointless. Everything that happened in Dorne felt tired and very lazy, and contrived to build up to a entirely predictable shock ending.

Shock endings are what the showrunners have been accused of primarily trading in, to the exclusion of proper character arcs. I’ve heard this since at least the Red Wedding. At it’s getting hard to deny.

{More Spoilers below SERIOUS YOU GUYS DON’T READ}

Jon Snow’s death in the books comes after a last straw. He receives a threatening, cryptic letter from Ramsay Bolton, and decides to go off and fight him. This represents the total betrayal of what the Night’s Watch is, and could even threaten it’s continued existence (if say, the Boltons or Lannisters decided they were an enemy). So a group of guys who’v’e been mostly loyal to him, if uncomfortable with letting the wildlings through the wall, turn on him “for the Watch”. It actually makes sense.

On the show, it’s done because Ser Alliser Thorne and other grumpy bigots just have to hate on them wildlings (in the books, Thorne is away ranging when Jon is killed and has nothing to do with it), and it’s done via a goofy pretext about Benjen Stark that was designed to do nothing but trick the show audience via the “previously on” that appears before the episode. All misdirection and shock, no character growth or even continuity.

What does this mean going forward? More of the same. People will die, on minimal, flimsy pretexts, and we will be shocked by this. The people we hate now will get theirs, too, just as soon as we’ve lost any possibility of being satisfied by it (remember how much we hated the Lannisters? those were simpler times).

And at some point, one character or other will get the whole picture, and will have the means and the will to stop the White Walkers. I don’t know who that is yet, but in the meantime, anyone getting in the way of them is going to have to fall in line or be pruned.

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Leave George R.R. Martin Alone

It’s time to deal with some unpleasant truths, Song of Ice and Fire fans.

Full-Metal-Jacket

  1. The Shows are going to Lap the Books. This is going to happen. We are going to get spoiled by a show in which there is no Lady Stoneheart, no Brave Companions, in which the Greyjoys except Theon hardly exist and have the wrong names. Nothing can be done about it. This was built into the cake when the show started and the books were half-finished.

    And sure, you can say, “Then she shouldn’t have started the show!” But be honest. You’ve busted your butt your whole life to create a literary work that is both popular and significant. And the premium of premium cable channels offers to turn it into a massive television series. You’re supposed to say, “No, I’d hate to see my story visualized by creative people and performed by awesome actors. Please spend your money on something else.” Please.

    Accept that this is happening. Enjoy it as best you can, and when the books finally come out, take solace in the fact that it will be better than what you’ve just watched. The book always is.

  2. George is gonna give us the books when he can give us the books. Yep, we’re four years past A Dance With Dragons and no end in sight. That’s the reality. And the madder we get about it, the more nothing happens, because our nerd-rage has no bearing on how fast we get The Winds of Winter. No. Bearing. Whatsoever.

    So don’t be this guy, whining to Martin on Martin’s own livejournal, accusing him of “betraying” his fans. Display some awareness of cause-and-effect. Do you honestly think this sort of moaning inspires the man to write faster? That he says to himself “Gosh, I’d better not disappoint them any more”? Because it it was me, I’d start wondering how hard I really wanted to work to please the same group of malcontents who took a crap all over my artistic process when I was fighting my way through A Dance With Dragons. If you’re not helping him, you’re not helping yourself. So knock it off.

  3. It’s All Gonna Work Itself Out. If George delivers the books, and they complete the story in a satisfying way, then all of the wait will be forgotten, and we can go back to the books or the series whenever we want and enjoy them. If we don’t like the books’ ending, maybe we’ll like the show’s ending. If George should die with ASOIAF uncompleted, someone else will finish it. That won’t be as good, but it will still be better than Wheel of Time (and the chatter I’ve picked up from those that slogged all the way through WoT is that the books that Jordan didn’t write were at least an improvement over the tedium that the series was stuck in. So who knows what can happen?). We’re going to get our books, one way or another. If we stop complaining, we might even like them.

This is what I had to say in 2011, around ADWD‘s release:

The length of the wait caused no small amount of reader acrimony, and I can see why. The Internet breeds contempt. When authors were faraway geniuses who you might meet at a signing if you paid attention, you had no choice but to wait like a cat left home alone for the weekend. But when an author has a livejournal of his own, and regulary updates it, it’s hard to avoid thinking “Yeah, that’s nice George. Now is Dance of Dragons gonna write itself, or…? And while we’re at it, a few miles on the NordicTrac wouldn’t kill you.”

For myself, I got tired of reading Martin’s dull football commentary, his middlebrow center-left political statements, his self-congratulatory merchandising for his less-interesting books (Fevre Dream: there’s $16 I’m never getting back). So I stopped reading them. I left his site alone until a wikipedia blurb suggested some chatter from his publishers that he might get around to being done soon.

Understand that I’m one of you. I’ve been reading the books since 2003 or thereabouts. I feel frustrated,  like my fandom has been abused. But abusing Martin in return won’t save that. In fact, I kind of regret the mean things I said above (why would he not use his success to say “Hey, if you like this book, check out these others”? Honestly…).

So if the current ridiculous state of ASOIAF is just too much for you, then consider leaving it alone until it resolves itself. You’ll only diminish the wait thereby.

Friday Linkfest: This, That, and T’other

It’s not the post that Friday needs, but the post the Friday deserves:

Peace out, cub scouts. Have a great weekend.