A Primer on Game of Thrones Fan Theories (Spoilers)

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io9 posted a great primer on the most popular fan theories about George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire yesterday.  Keep in mind these theories all refer directly to the books, not the HBO show Game of Thrones, and contain pretty massive spoilers.

It’s definitely worth a read, especially for someone who has just read the books for the first time.

A Song of Ice and Fire is complex enough that it’s very unlikely any reader will notice all of the hints and clues and puzzles Martin lays out with just a single read through, so a post like this (with links to in-depth articles on the Westoros forums) is helpful if you’re interested in learning more and aren’t afraid of spoilers.

The series itself has become big enough by now that some of these fan theories have likely eclipsed the plot of the actual books in complexity, but it’s still a fun diversion if you love you some ASOIAF.

‘The Winds of Winter’ Update

TWoWGeorge R. R. Martin revealed at San Diego Comic-Con that he would neither be writing a script for HBO’s Game of Thrones this coming season (as he has in each previous season), nor be visiting the set.  He announced that he would honor travel obligations that had already been scheduled, but otherwise was focusing primarily on finishing the sixth book of A Song of Ice and Fire (on which Game of Thrones is based), The Winds of Winter.

This isn’t exactly news of how close he is to finishing the book, but it does indicate that he’s starting to take the idea of HBO catching up to him more seriously.  As Season 5 of Game of Thrones, premiering in 2015, will likely cover the majority of the material in A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons, story material from Martin’s as yet unpublished The Winds of Winter may start appearing as early as Season 6.

The threat of the show catching up with the books may be even greater, depending on how much of the story published in the books to date HBO ends up discarding.  The Wertzone has a great summary of recent casting announcements as well as speculation on what they might mean for Season 5:

There is also some surprise at a lack of any indications that characters such as Euron and Victarion Greyjoy, Young Griff or Jon Connington will appear this season, although it is possible that further announcements will be made down the line. It is also possible that Season 5 will see the most drastic changes yet to GoT‘s story, as entire plots and subplots from the novels are discarded.

As a reader of the books who feels that Game of Thrones has improved upon the story in many ways, I have to say I’d be perfectly fine with the idea of cutting, for instance, Quentyn Martell and Jon Connington out of the story.  They were late additions that, so far, anyway, seem to add little beyond unnecessary complications to an increasingly bloated story.  The Greyjoys might still have a role to play, given their possession of a certain horn, which will likely end up being somewhat vital to the plot, however.

It will be interesting to see how things progress.

Don’t Drown the Meat: Worldbuilding and Mark Lawrence

Originally posted on James Cormier:

Fantasy writers (and science fiction writers, to a lesser extent, since they are less often in the position of starting entirely from scratch) worry a lot about worldbuilding.  It’s really the most unique thing about writing in this genre.  In addition to crafting character, plot, theme, and all of the other various parts that make up a novel, you’re in the position of actually creating an entirely new world.

The problem lies in building your world while also preserving the quality of your story and your prose–introducing the reader to the exotic while still focusing on what’s really important: character.  In the end, the world must serve the characters, or you’re doing it wrong.  As much as we’d all like to self-indulgently nerd out over the details of our world’s history or the intricacies of our super-creative, ultra-unique new magic system, ultimately it’s all for naught if the story and the…

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New Info on ‘The Winds of Winter’ by George R.R. Martin

In a recent interview with SmarterTravel.com, George Martin described the plot of the beginning of the sixth novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter:

ST: One of the dominant themes in the first five books, in fact probably the tagline for the whole series so far, has been that winter is coming. By the end of A Dance with Dragons, winter is no longer coming, it’s finally here. What can you tell us about the book you’re writing now, The Winds of Winter?

GRRM: Well, I’ve posted a preview on my website, so you can read one chapter there, and there will be another chapter in the paperback of A Dance with Dragons when that comes out in the summer. So, you’ll get two free chapters. After that, it’s going to be awhile.

Obviously, I’m going to continue the story. There were a lot of cliffhangers at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Those will be resolved very early. I’m going to open with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle at Meereen—the battle of Slaver’s Bay. And then take it from there.

Martin also told the interviewer a little about what he knew of certain main characters’ fates before writing the novels, and some more about what to expect in the next book:

ST: After what happened to Ned in A Game of Thrones and then Robb in A Storm of Swords, I find myself reading your books with this sort of pleasant pit of dread in my stomach.

GRRM: (Laughs)

ST: And yet, if Ned hadn’t died it becomes an entirely different series. The same with Robb. How early on did you know what was going to happen to those two characters in particular? Or were their deaths something that developed as you went along?

GRRM: I knew almost right from the beginning. I know the major beats of the story and who’s going to live and who’s going to die—the ultimate end of all the major characters. There’s a lot of fine detail that I discover along the way in the writing. For some minor characters I may make it up as I’m writing. So, if a major character is going to battle with his six friends, I don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen to all six friends when I sit down to write it. But the major players and the major lives or deaths or life-changing events have all been planned from the beginning.

ST: Along those same lines, a lot of people think you killed Jon at the end of A Dance with Dragons. You do have a history of doing terrible things to the Starks, but my gut says he probably survived. Would you care to comment on that?

GRRM: (Laughs) I will not comment on that.

ST: With Jon effectively out of the picture as Lord Commander, though—even if he lives—I’m not sure I like the Wall’s chances of holding back the Others now that winter has come. Is it safe to assume that we’ll be seeing them move south of the wall in The Winds of Winter?

GRRM: Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but you’re definitely going to see more of the Others in The Winds of Winter.

‘The Dark Court’

Ashsilverlock has a great essay up on Fabulous Realms about The Dark Court, AKA the mythology of dark elves. An excerpt:

Dark Elves have actually been around in mythology almost as long as Elves themselves – Celtic folklore in particular is full of tales of the Dark or Unseelie Court, causing mischief and mayhem for both humans and their Light or Seelie Court counterparts. They are also referenced as Dokkalfar or Svart Alfar in the Norse myths. In the Eddas Dark Elves were not truly evil as such, they could mainly be distinguished from Lios Alfar (or ‘Light Elves’) by the fact that they dwelt within the earth and were mostly swarthy, while their cousins lived in Alfheim, located in heaven, and were said to be fairer than the sun to look at. There also seems to have been some overlap between Svart Alfar and Dwarves, although this is done away with by Tolkien in his legendarium, which refers to them as two different races. Tolkien’s Moriquendi seem to be the origin of Dark Elves in fantasy fiction because it is in them that the term ‘Dark’ is first given a specifically negative connotation. In Tolkien’s world, from the beginning there was a division between the Elves who desired the light of the Undying Lands versus Elves who did not wish to leave Middle Earth, implying that these ‘Dark’ Elves willingly tolerated the shadows that the Dark Lord Morgoth had put upon Middle Earth.

Is Logen Ninefingers in Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Red Country’?

According to Patrick from Stomping on Yeti, the newest Gollancz catalog (Gollancz publishes’ Abercrombie’s work in the UK) features the following blurb about Joe Abercrombie’s upcoming stand-alone novel Red Country (set in his First Law universe):

“His name is Logen Ninefingers. And he’s back for one more adventure…

Joe Abercrombie is the most successful genre novelist of his generation, with a remarkable, cynical and powerful voice cutting through the clichés of the fantasy genre to create something compelling and exceptionally commercial. A Red Country is his most powerful novel yet.”

If this is true, it would make a lot of sense: Abercrombie has been very close-mouthed about Logen’s fate in every interview I’ve read.  What better reason to play it coy than that the Bloody-Nine has a major role in his forthcoming novel?  My interest in reading this book just tripled in a matter of seconds.

Joe Abercrombie Discusses His Next Trilogy

In the inaugural episode of the Fantasy Faction podcast, Fantasy Faction’s Marc Aplin and Paul Wiseall interviewed Joe Abercrombie, author of the First Law trilogy, two stand-alone novels in that same universe, and the forthcoming A Red Country, the final stand-alone volume before Abercrombie writes another trilogy, presumably a large-scale follow-up to The First Law.  Abercrombie mentions the interview himself on his blog.

Details on the trilogy have been thin, in no small part because Abercrombie himself doesn’t seem to know exactly where he’s going with the story, but the author game some details to Fantasy Faction in the podcast interview that I hadn’t heard before.

Abercrombie told Aplin and Wiseall that the new trilogy will probably feature a “next generation of characters” taking the major roles.  A Red Country apparently picks up about fifteen years after the end of The First Law, and the new trilogy will start five or ten years after A Red Country, meaning we can expect the new trilogy to begin at least 20 years after the end of The First Law.  The main characters from The First Law will therefore become the older generation, and will most likely appear as secondary characters (though Abercrombie notes that this is subject to change).  Jezal Luthar, for example, will likely remain in the background as “the old king,” probably much as he has done in Best Served Cold and The Heroes.

The main plot will probably be a “political civil war style plot based around the Union.”

Aplin and Wiseall tried to push him a little bit toward revealing how likely it was that characters from The First Law would return in major roles, and Abercrombie took the opportunity to discuss the “fine line,” as an author, “between giving people what they want and being bored.”  He seemed in general ready to move on from focusing primarily on the First Law characters, ready to take the series in a new direction.  But he was also definitely aware of fans’ desire to see a return to characters they know and love.

When discussion finally turned to the elephant in the room — the question of when we will find out what happened to Logen Ninefingers and if and when we will see the Bloody-Nine again — Abercrombie responded predictably (and understandably; it’s not as if we really want him to spoil the surprise): he said that he really “can’t ever answer that question [in an interview]” and that fans who want to find out should keep buying his books.  There’s an implicit promise there, and one thing I think we can be certain about is that, one way or another, Logen’s story isn’t finished.  Otherwise it would be cruel and unusual punishment for Mr. Abercrombie to keep playing coy.

Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Cosmere’

Casual Brandon Sanderson readers may not have picked up on this yet, but all of his adult fantasy fiction novels, regardless of their apparent differences, share the same universe: the “Cosmere.”  In his usual comprehensive manner, Adam Werthead of the Wertzone summarizes Sanderson’s planned 36 book mega-series in a helpful primer for those unfamiliar with the subject.  This announcement will no doubt seem more than a bit remedial to the folks over at the 17th Shard.

The fact that all of Sanderson’s fantasy series share a universe is based on the existence of common characters, concepts, and statements by the author himself.  Sanderson’s meticulous planning combined with the fact that his planned legendarium is far from finished has created a lot of fodder for the theorists.

If you’re a Sanderson devout and want to know more about the Cosmere, the Shardworlds, or the more esoteric shards, check out the Coppermind, the Sanderson wiki.

As much as I want to (finally) found out how the Wheel of Time ends, I’m more excited to see where Sanderson goes with his own work.  He’s unmatched in secondary worldbuilding and the development of magic systems, and The Way of Kings was a good read.

Brett Finds Balance in Debut ‘The Warded Man’

Published in the US in 2009, Peter V. Brett’s debut novel The Warded Man (titled The Painted Man in the UK and elsewhere) was released to broad acclaim, considered one of the best debut novels in years.  I’ve become somewhat cautious about epic fantasy in recent years.  I have less time to read than I once did and I fear, perhaps irrationally, getting bogged down in a mediocre series that the completist in me will feel obligated to finish.  I often find myself waiting until the hubbub dies down before reading a well-received book.  It avoids the possibility of being caught up in fan fervor (which I am vulnerable to when it comes to fantasy), and I find I am able to keep a more level head that way.

When I finally picked up The Warded Man, I had no preconceptions of it, which meant I had accomplished my goal of avoiding hype.  What I found was a strong, if flawed debut novel that strikes a refreshing balance between the classic elements of fantasy and the newer, darker trend the subgenre is currently riding.

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‘A Memory of Light’ Official Release Date Set

Tor announced today that the 14th and final volume in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light, will be released on January 8, 2013.  That is all.

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