Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

winds of winter Archive

Tuesday

5

January 2016

0

COMMENTS

The Martinese Knot: Can We Fault George R.R. Martin for Not Finishing The Winds of Winter?

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

It’s official. The Winds of Winter will not be out before the sixth season of Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin recently put out a lengthy blog post explaining the delays and apologizing to the legions of angry book fans. Many writers, most prominently Neil Gaiman, have rushed to his defense, urging book readers not to berate Martin’s slow creative process.

As a dedicated fan of A Song of Ice and Fire as well a published author, I know that the delay is both frustrating and understandable. I find it horrifying that a TV show would overlap a book series, but I can’t fault a fellow author for taking his time and enjoying the spotlight. I’ve written about the important work GRRM does with his anthologies, using his star power to help dozens of sci-fi and fantasy authors gain much needed exposure. Few, if any, mainstream authors do more to promote their genre than GRRM and I’ll always respect him for that.

Fans of ASOIAF know that the show and the books are two completely different entities. Season five bore little resemblance to A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons. There is the risk that big storylines in the books will be spoiled by the show and that’s certainly legitimate. With that in mind, I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable for fans to be mad at Martin for the delay.

Two things about Neil Gaiman’s blog stick out to me that I don’t agree with. He titles the post, “Entitlement Issues” and then goes on to italicize the phrase, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” While he’s certainly right about the second part, I do take some umbrage with the notion that wanting to see a book released before it’s spoiled by television somehow reflects entitlement.

Gaiman is right to point out that by buying a book, you aren’t signing a contract where you then get to control the author’s whole life. The audience cannot force an author to write something and if they could, it would probably be terrible. Writers need creative freedom.

GRRM can take as much time as he wants. Should he? Entitlement is one thing, but what about obligation?

An author is nothing without fans. Fans made GRRM. I may have maybe .01% of GRRM’s fanbase, but they’ve helped me get to where I’m at today and I won’t have much of a future in this business without them. We may not owe our fans our firstborn children (or dragon in GRRM’s case since he doesn’t have kids), but there is a sort of moral obligation to the people who got you to where you are. If Davos were real, I’m sure he’d say something similar.

There is also the fact that ASOIAF is not a new series. The first book came out twenty years ago. In the new foreword to The Gunslinger written after The Dark Tower was finished, Stephen King wrote about how he’d receive letters from fans who were terminally ill or on death row asking how the story ends. I don’t mention this to suggest that GRRM should hurry up because his fans are dying, but rather to point out the obvious. Fans invest in stories.

ASOIAF matters to many people. It matters to me. I’ve made many friendships through a common love of these books. I’ve spent countless hours obsessing over them. GRRM doesn’t owe me anything, but I’m also not going to call anyone who’s a little miffed at him entitled either.

Books matter. We’re supposed to feel something when we read. If people are angry that a TV show may ruin a book, that should be taken as a compliment for it shows what a marvelous job GRRM has done over the years.

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Wednesday

4

March 2015

10

COMMENTS

Coldhands, Quaithe, and the Nature of Identity

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

While much of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire status as a worldwide phenomenon is attributed to the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s important to remember that these books were hugely successful years before the show was even conceived. A Feast For Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller List, joining a club of fantasy novels with more exclusive membership than those who have pitched a perfect game or played James Bond. It’s not hard to see why.

The depth of this series is deeper than the crypts of Winterfell. Martin has woven an intricate puzzle that’s been the subject of countless articles, videos, and cocktail party conversation (I can attest to that final one). Re-reading the series is almost like reading a whole new series when you realize how much you’ve missed the first time around.

Identity has always been at the core of ASOIAF. Jon Snow’s parentage is the series’ most popular mystery. Even fans of the show who haven’t opened the books know about R + L = J. Martin’s use of the POV device allows him to shroud plot progression as much as he likes, which provides mystery at nearly every corner if you dig deep enough.

This also allows characters to mask their identities to the reader. On some occasions, Martin provides enough evidence to piece the puzzle together. The Gravedigger is probably Sandor Clegane and the Oldtown novice Alleras is probably Sarella Sand. On the flipside, Aegon Targaryen is probably not Aegon Targaryen (my guess is he’s a Blackfyre, though that’s a subject for another article).

A probably completely intended consequence of this is that it leads one to question the identity of many characters that Martin may not necessarily shove in the reader’s face quite like the Gravedigger. The overall depth of the series coupled with the long wait for The Winds of Winter has lead to countless theories that will likely be proven untrue. Once someone is somebody else, than anyone could be anyone else. The best example of this is Howland Reed as the High Septon, which is sort of explainable as Reed is a complete enigma, but lacks common sense from a story standpoint.

My two favorite mystery characters are Coldhands and Quaithe. I doubt not a coincidence that these two are linked to the stories of ice and fire respectively. Though they both make multiple appearances in the books, we know next to nothing about who these two might actually be and more importantly, what their agendas are.

It’s pretty clear that Coldhands used to be a man of the Night’s Watch. What’s also pretty clear is that he isn’t anyone from the books. Leaf eliminated Benjen Stark, Will, and Waymar Royce, when she said “they killed him long ago.”

This leaves The Night’s King as the only possibly person of note, but I wouldn’t use process of elimination to name him Coldhands. If Coldhands had bore some affection toward Houses Flint, Umber, Magnar Bolton, Norrey, Woodfoot, or Stark (putting aside what he did for Bran) then the notion would have some credibility. He doesn’t and further more, it seems unlikely that The Night’s King would act as a henchman to the three eyed crow, who’s significantly younger.

My personal theory is that if Coldhands is someone from the books, it’ll be revealed through a future Dunk & Egg novella. Bloodraven is mentioned almost excessively (like Tyrion’s waddling) in the first three and GRRM has said there will be at least eight D&Es. Bloodraven had a pretty loyal following, along with many of his Raven’s Teeth, accompany him to The Wall and his disappearance was clouded in mystery. If a future D&E novella features an elk riding follower of Lord Rivers, then I think we can pretty sure who it was.

Quaithe is a whole different story. We know she’s a shadowbinder from Asshai and that’s about it. She somehow has enough pull in Quarth to be part of Dany’s welcoming committee, but she urges her to get out of there as soon as possible. Quaithe’s agenda doesn’t appear linked to any of the other factions in the city. She gives Dany cryptic advice and appears to her via some weird sorcery.

The two leading theories are that she’s either Ashara Dayne or Shiera Seastar. Unlike Coldhands, neither of these candidates can really be eliminated. Like Bloodraven, Shiera is also mentioned prominently in the D&E novellas as a lover of Lord Rivers. She’s also mentioned as having an eye defect, which could be an explanation for why Quaithe wears a mask. Applying the same logic that Coldhands could be from a future D&E, it stands to reason that Quaithe could be as well. This would further tie the two character together as Coldhands, a henchman of Bloodraven, would be helping on the ice front while Quaithe aids Dany with the fire portion of the story.

There is some logic to suggest that Quaithe is neither of them. Ser Barristan frequently mentions Ashara Dayne, reaffirming her importance, but he doesn’t have anything to do with Quaithe even though he’s in close proximity to Dany for much of her story. Shiera Seastar makes sense from the angle that if Aegon is a Blackfyre, she’d naturally hate him as Bloodraven’s lover, who was a major player in the Blackfyre Rebellion. Quaithe warns against “the mummer’s dragon,” but not anymore than she warns against anyone else.

An important question to consider is what exactly changes if Coldhands’ or Quaithe’s identities are revealed? While Quaithe’s identity is likely more important than Coldhands’ is, it doesn’t mean she still isn’t a cryptic crazy woman. Further more, identifying her as Shiera Seastar does next to nothing for the majority of ASOIAF’s fanbase who haven’t read Dunk & Egg. This isn’t necessarily a compelling reason, but it’s something to consider.

ASOIAF is messy. That’s why it’s so fun to write about and why it has a rabid fan base who still engage with the series despite the long gaps between books. Our appetites are tamed a little bit by the novellas, sample chapters, and The World of Ice and Fire, but this is a feast for crows compared to The Winds of Winter.

We shouldn’t forget that there are errors. Tyrion has acrobatic skills early on in A Game of Thrones that disappear and there are a few inconsistencies in the appendixes. This shouldn’t be held against Martin, but it also goes to show that not every single word in this massive epic series serves to play into the bigger picture.

Some mysteries don’t get solved. I’ve done this with my own writing. The narrator of A Trip Down Reality Lane lacks a name. That’s just a secret that isn’t getting revealed. When it comes to ASOIAF, we can be sure that there’s plenty that won’t get answered, which will ensure the series’ popularity long after all of us have passed (and hopefully not come back as Lady Stoneheart). We aren’t going to get all the answers.

Coldhands can just be Coldhands and Quaithe can just be Quaithe. I’ve provided a few possible reasons why they are in fact secret identities, but there isn’t really any compelling motives for why this needs to be the case. ASOIAF is in many ways, a massive jigsaw puzzle. We can put together many of the pieces, but we’re probably not going to get all the answers. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

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Friday

5

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

Could the Onion Knight Bring a Belated Gift to the Bastard Wedding?

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

While the separation of the Stark children can lead one to forget about the importance of the North in general, excluding The Wall, much of A Dance With Dragons alludes to the depth of the Northern conflict. There’s been plenty of blog and podcast speculation on the Battle of Ice and for good reason. At first glance, we tend to forget about minor houses like Ryswell, Dustin, and Cerwyn in favor of speculation surrounding the more important characters. I initially set out to write an overview of my thoughts on the outcome of the battle, but instead want to focus on a more specific x factor in all of this who could change everything.

This article will approach things more from a literary/storyline perspective. There isn’t a lot of textual evidence so most of this should be treated as educated speculation. I’ll include some links at the bottom for more information on the Battle of Ice.

When we left Davos Seaworth in A Dance With Dragons, he was about to embark on a dangerous mission to secure the loyalties of House Manderly for Stannis’ cause. This involves traveling to the dangerous island of Skagos to retrieve Rickon Stark, who set out there with Osha and Shaggydog after A Clash With Kings. We don’t really know if they’re actually there, but for the sake of the storyline, I think it’s fairly safe to assume they made it.

There’s something odd about the placement of Davos’ chapters in A Dance With Dragons. They’re over well before the end of the book. Now you can argue that this doesn’t have to mean much because there’s a ton of characters and other major POV characters like Bran get similar shafts. But Davos’ quest has immediate ramifications to the story line while characters like Bran and Arya play more into the bigger picture.

The real question is, could Davos have enough time to go to Skagos, get Rickon, and make it to Winterfell before the battle?

Let’s look at a map and see.

Credit to James Sinclair of A Wiki of Ice and Fire

Credit to James Sinclair of A Wiki of Ice and Fire

 

Skagos is a bit far from White Harbor. Davos doesn’t really know anything about the island. It’s also kind of far from Winterfell and we don’t know that Osha and Rickon even want to go with Davos. It’s also winter and Davos isn’t an expert in Northern geography. Things rarely go perfectly in these books and they would need to for Davos to factor into the equation. Doesn’t look too promising, right?

Maybe.

Time is tricky in A Song of Ice and Fire. The events of Robert’s Rebellion are supposed to take place in just a year, which leaves plenty of discrepancies that haven’t really been explained. Factor in the fact that Davos is an experienced smuggler and Osha knows the area and you’ll see that we have what appears to be the best makings to pull off a job like this. Davos is the man who got past the Tyrell blockade to save Storm’s End after all.

The other kicker is the start of the battle itself. It hasn’t started yet and doesn’t appear to be completey imminent either. Stannis has his hands full with what to do with the Karstark’s and the Greyjoy’s. To answer the question of where or not its possible Davos to make it, the best answer is that it can happen if Martin wants it to happen.

Another thing to consider is what would happen if The Winds of Winter picks up with Davos in Skagos or even further behind in his journey. That pretty much takes this particular plotline out of the equation for the whole book, as we’d likely be treated to another traveling narrative. This plotline isn’t completely needed to fuel the Northern story, but its absence would create somewhat of a holding pattern that doesn’t seem too terribly likely with what’s happening at the Wall and in Winterfell.

Davos isn’t the only x factor in all of this. There’s another character whose placement is important when considering the likelihood of the return of a Stark to Winterfell.

Wyman Manderly

What’s he doing at the Bastard Wedding? Why does this obese man want to make the long trek in bad weather to attend a wedding of people he hates? Couldn’t he have sent someone else with his Frey pies and added that to the list of things he does to piss Roose Bolton off?

Yes, but he didn’t and that means something.

Davos’ quest is all about securing Manderly’s loyalties and yet Manderly seems to have a death wish at Winterfell. Bolton knows he’s up to no good. Is there really a scenario where Manderly isn’t a surefire goner in this battle?

It’s right up Martin’s alley to have Davos show up with Rickon right as Manderly bites the dust, or snow if you will. Which doesn’t really mean that Manderly’s army doesn’t defect, but the cause would be without its biggest Northern supporter still alive save for the captured Greatjon Umber. If Manderly is a goner and Davos doesn’t show up, doesn’t that sort of take some of the fun out of the White Harbor chapters?

Outcomes of the Battle of Ice are tough to speculate. It could go many ways. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Stannis loses, but doesn’t die. What does Davos do without Stannis? It’s not like he’s a throwaway character. With what’s happening at the Wall and with Mance fooling around, winning doesn’t necessarily mean all is well in the land of the Mannis either. Having Rickon doesn’t mean that all of the other houses will flock to his cause either. This whole thing is a mess, but that’s a big part of why it’s so entertaining.

Here’s my simple speculation for the outcome of the Battle just to give you an idea where all I think all of this could go (I am not at all confident that this is how it will actually go). Stannis wins after the Umber’s and Manderly’s unite behind him, Roose dies, and Ramsay flees back to the Dreadfort after seeing that Rickon’s presence ruins everything and they Frey’s won’t support him. This gives the fans an outcome without concluding anything in the North.

But I am confident that Rickon will be a factor. Why? Because now is the time where he matters. Wizard Bran, Azor Azai Jon, and Littlefinger backed Sansa aren’t part of the equation just yet, but likely will be down the road. Stannis needs some sort of boost to keep him in the picture, unless the Battle of Ice is his last stand. Which it could be, but if it is then where does Rickon come in at all? The Onion Knight should deliver because that’s what Davos does. He’s one of the series more bankable characters and easily the best person for this particularly job besides possibly Drogon.

So here’s my speculation. Is any of this hard evidence? Not when you compare it to something like R + L = J. But the depth of those theories is a big part of why ASOIAF is so special and not every single thing that happens requires a prophetic foreshadowing. This one’s foreshadowing comes from surface level logic. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment with your own speculation/thoughts if you feel so inclined.

Here are some links to check out for Battle of Ice related content

https://cantuse.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/the-mannifesto/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syFM7936yMs

 

https://bryndenbfish.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/a-complete-analysis-of-the-upcoming-siege-of-winterfell-part-1/

 

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Monday

21

July 2014

1

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Finally Acknowledges The One True King Stannis Baratheon

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

One of the downsides, perhaps the primary one, of adapting an epic book series is that certain characters are naturally going to get less screen time than they deserve. Game of Thrones has taken this to a whole new level, mostly out of necessity. While George R.R. Martin is content to have characters disappear for multiple books at a time, this isn’t really realistic for a television program.

The biggest victim of this so far has been Stannis Baratheon, King Robert’s rightful heir. His prominence in season two and the splitting of A Storm of Swords into two seasons makes a statement like this puzzling, especially since Stannis isn’t even a POV character. The problem is that the show has hardly done the one true King justice, while allotting large amounts of screen time to characters who are just as absent from chunks of the source material.

The main problem is that Stannis’ portrayal in season two doesn’t do the character justice, though Stephen Dilane was a strong casting choice. Book Stannis is a strong leader with a firm sense of right and wrong who helps uncover the Lannisters’ deception along with Jon Arryn. In the show, he’s introduced as an easily manipulated power hungry religious loon. The show backs off of this a bit in season three, but the much of the damage is done. At least in the viewers’ mind.

Until the season four finale, it was difficult to talk to fans of the show who hadn’t read the books about the one true king. Using strictly television logic, Stannis’ survival past the Battle of the Blackwater is puzzling. He’s portrayed as the “big bad” to Tyrion and Renly and those types of characters tend to die in season finales. And yet Stannis prevails.

The show’s lax characterization of Stannis deprives the character of his rich personality, which makes him one of the books’ strongest characters. While it’s easy to judge Stannis solely by Ned’s characterization, his maiming of Ser Davos, and his devotion to Melisandre, that just scratches the surface of his personality.

Stannis’ defense of Storm’s End during Robert’s Rebellion is consistently referred to as indicative of the middle Baratheon’s personality as a whole. He had it far worse than any of the other commanding usurpers and was perhaps the only one other than Ned Stark who could’ve held off the Tyrell’s under such dire circumstances. His rigidness proved to be an asset.

Which explains why he’s considered unlikable, but it’s easy to forget how little that actually matters. Stannis might not have been a friend of either Ned Stark or Jon Arryn, but he commanded their respect. The Tyrell’s were the only significant supporter of Renly who didn’t defect to his cause and that was a foregone conclusion anyway.

Stannis commands loyalty even in places where the reader/viewer isn’t supposed to expect it from. Ned refused to back Renly because Stannis was the rightful heir, a move that cost him his life. Davos supports him even after Stannis maimed his hand. He works with Jon Snow even after he was rebuffed on his offer to legitimize him as the heir to Winterfell.

Stannis grows quite a bit as he grapples with his sense of duty to the realm. We see him as more than a man seeking his right to rule, but rather as someone who understands that he is the only person who could actually bring order to Westeros. This point is eloquently featured in the show when Davos and Stannis visit the Iron Bank of Braavos in perhaps the show’s only deviation from the books that served to benefit his character.

While it’s slightly upsetting that the episode dedicated to the Wall didn’t end with Stannis’ arrival, it was great to see him have his moment of triumph after a turbulent two seasons. Since season four didn’t fully catch up with Jon’s plotline, this can sort of be excused. Fans have much to be excited for in the upcoming season as Stannis’ relationship with Jon Snow supplies the meatiest storyline of A Dance With Dragons. By saving The Wall, he shows that he’s the only one who doesn’t crave power solely for the sake of power. He chases justice.

Games of Thrones has an opportunity to let Stannis shine opposite one of the series’ most popular characters, which in turn should raise his image in the eyes of the fans of the shows. Hopefully the show won’t use him as a foil for Snow, who is occasionally at odds with Stannis but manages to gain his respect and eventually helps him rally northmen to his cause. I wouldn’t put it past the show to elevate the Snow legitimization conflict, but that in it of itself would be a further bastardization of Stannis’ character.

Looking to the future of the series, it appears as though Stannis could find himself deeply involved in the eventual Targaryen conflict if the R + L = J theory holds up and if The Onion Knight is successful in retrieving Rickon Stark from the cannibal island. Preview chapters of The Winds of Winter show Stannis’ looming decision regarding the fate of one Theon “Reek” Greyjoy, which will undoubtedly shed more light on Stannis’ overall sense of justice.

Stannis is a perfect example of the depth of characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. While Martin never goes too far out of his way to give the spotlight to the one true king, he’s much more of a three dimensional character than anyone at King’s Landing would have us believe in the first two books. While conventional logic would suggest that Stannis has about a zero percent chance at having a happy ending at the end of the series, Martin has a tendency to keep the reader guessing. Perhaps the Lord of Light will stand with Stannis. I know I will.

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