Tag Archives: George R.R. Martin

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Game of Thrones Season 7 – Comparative Opinions Episode 58

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! This week, hosts David and Holly dive into the whole of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, the things they liked, the things they didn’t. Definitely mixed feelings at this point, as the show plows further ahead of the books. Let us know what you think!

And listen to our Season 6 recap podcast here!

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!

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Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

Science Fiction versus Fantasy – Throwback Thursday

Next up, after pitting Star Trek versus Star Wars, I decided to do some more direct comparison between Science Fiction and Fantasy. It helped to have some comments by George R.R. Martin to start from. At this point, I started working on new terms to maybe replace the old genre titles – more of these to come!


I have given a definition of both Science Fiction and Fantasy before, and I love both, so I care. If you look back at our Liebster Award nomination, I said that one of the more important things to me is Science Fiction being taken seriously. And I think I would happily include Fantasy in that as well. There are a lot of other causes out there, and things to be done – I’ve talked about Geeks and Charity as well – but the discussion about Science Fiction, and its place in thought, in learning, in the classroom… That seems like something I can influence a bit, right?

So recently we listened to George R.R. Martin on the Nerdist Podcast. And first off, if you like George R.R. Martin, it was a lot of fun. It was right after he destroyed the guitar (which we talked about before) at Comic Con. He talks Game of Thrones, and conventions, and writing, and, to the point here and now, he talks Science Fiction and Fantasy.

If part of the reason I like the quotes from Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkien is because they are the fathers of the genres. However, George R.R. Martin is something of a current crown prince, or some other metaphor, in Fantasy. So what does he add to my thought? And where do we draw the lines?

WHAT GEORGE R.R. MARTIN SAID

If you look carefully, you’ll see that Winter is Coming. Found on http://www.nerdist.com/2013/07/nerdist-podcast-george-r-r-martin/

So, George R.R. Martin was basically of the thought that there are people who take Science Fiction too seriously, that it’s not too different from Fantasy, that there are people seriously considering life and humanity in Fantasy (very true: read some George R.R. Martin…), and that we should maybe not fight between the two.

And really, is that a bad conclusion?

In many ways, it matches reality. I don’t know a lot of people who like ONLY Science Fiction and not Fantasy, or ONLY Fantasy and not Science Fiction. I can think of a few, but they stand out. For the most part, however, how many of us are there watching Doctor Who and Game of Thrones at the same time? How many of us love Lord of the Rings and Dune? Blade Runner and Princess Bride?

Science Fiction and Fantasy often blend, anyway. As I talked about in my post about the idea of the Ancient Alien Race, large Fantasy series tend towards having Science Fiction in their past. And suddenly, the two genres are one. So what do you call them?

It matches our reality at the store, too. Assuming bookstores are still a thing, and we’re not all reading on a Kindle… But bookstores inevitably combine Science Fiction and Fantasy. In part, it seems easy to tell if a book is one of these two, but would take a ton of work to figure out which to put it in. Plus, more importantly – they understand that there’s more money to be made by combining the two. Same audience.

However, here’s where my opinion does come in: Just because we shouldn’t draw so hard a line between these two Genres does not mean we shouldn’t still take their works of art seriously. Just like there is good and bad literature, there is good and bad Science Fiction. And we can debate and fight all day about which is which – but it’s important to think we could have that debate. Instead of it being a given that one, the other, or both of these genres is pointless.

So, let me go on to think of other ways we can consider Science Fiction and Fantasy.

SPECULATIVE FICTION?

One of the terms I hear thrown about for the sort of What-If Science Fiction that might describe the best of the genre is Speculative Fiction. A vague term that could also just be called “Fiction,” Speculative Fiction tries to mean something very specific: to mean fiction that asks a question, and generally, a question about our future, where we don’t know the answer to the question we ask.

This is the good thought experiment of Science Fiction: to ask a question about our future, and try to provide an answer. Sometimes, the ideas and answer are the main point. I see this in stories by authors like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick – a strong question is asked, a strong answer is given, and they link the two with a plot. Then there is more cinematic sorts of fiction, heavier on plot, where sometimes the questions asked and answered happen after the fact – like the sorts of science questions that cropped up around Star Trek and Star Wars after the fact.

That’s about how I remember him. Found on https://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4pr/20090401

And both are good. One is more high brow, I guess, and ends up looking very different if made into a movie. The other is more escapist – is perhaps a bit closer to Fantasy.

But, if we spread this thinking to Fantasy, then there are Heroic Journey sorts of stories, great epics in the traditions of mythology, and of archetypes. Then there are stories that are more Escapist, are Fantasy fun. I have read over twenty Drizzt Do’Urden books by R.A. Salvatore, and I love them; but have I learned much from them, have they made me think?

Well, a little, if I use that example. Salvatore does a great job of working in the thoughtful, philosophical quandaries of his main character in-between acts. Part of what makes this such a likable and popular character.

So really, I guess my point is, there is a lot to be said for a lot of stuff being done in Science Fiction and Fantasy. That even if the literary writing isn’t the best, the ideas in the book may be sound, or groundbreaking, even. If the writing is fun, there still might be something there to make you think, to bring you out of the story a moment and consider the implications.

There are other genres that exist adjacent to Science Fiction and Fantasy as well, which also enter into strongly speculative realms: Urban Fantasy, and Steampunk. The former is imagining our modern world, but with Fantastical elements. The latter is imagining our past, with a Science-Fictional future. Both of these can also have a lot of value, despite – or maybe especially because of – being new.

NEW TERMINOLOGY FOR OUR FICTION?

So maybe we need a new language to talk about these fictional genres. Something to remove the baggage, and get some attention?

I did a post, after looking at the definitions of Science Fiction and Fantasy, pitting Star Wars against Star Trek. Check it out here.

My conclusion was that, based on the definitions I was using, Star Trek is Science Fiction, and Star Wars is Fantasy. But if we’re thinking of a new language to talk about these veins of fiction, maybe these can help lead us.

For one type, call it Exploratory Fiction. Maybe exploring an idea, maybe exploring actual space. You see physical exploration in Star Trek, or Firefly; in games in Freelancer, or Skyrim. But this could also cover Speculative Fiction, and exploring an idea.

For another type, call it Escapist Fiction. This matches more like story-based games, where you are immersing in their story, unlike the free-range games like Skyrim. The heroic journey is the best sort of escape – the quest to become more than we were, and usually save some stuff in the process.Worlds, universes, kingdoms, friends.

So there are good examples and bad examples of these types, but that is like with all things. But this would bleed these genres together, and be more about the type of story they are telling, or the way they are telling it – rather than about whether the story has aliens or elves. And if we move away from aliens-and-elves assumptions about these genres, maybe other people could get into them – and, as my point earlier – they could be taken more seriously as artforms.

The Super Secret Origin of the Azor Ahai Myth in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is a sprawling fantasy epic that carefully blends grounded medieval realpolitik with magic and supernatural elements. George RR Martin has gone on record about his inspiration for the politics of the series: the real-world dynastic battles of the War of the Roses, with Starks and Lannisters being analogues for ye olde Englande’s northern Yorks and rich Lancasters.

But what is the origin of the supernatural mono-myth that seems to dominate the story? I’m talking about the story of Azor Ahai and related myths that are so prevalent in Westeros and Essos.

RedSunset

Born under a bleeding star.

Continue reading

By the New Gods and the New

Anyone watching Game of Thrones knows that there are several religions across the continents of Westeros and Essos. You’ve got your drowned god, your many-faced god, your great lamb god (or is it a shepherd), your old nature gods, etc.

501_Great_Sept_Seven_statues

There’s also the Seven, which are occasionally called “the New” in conjunction with “the Old Gods.”

The Seven, although they are often interpreted as individual gods, are more like seven aspects or avatars of one divine force. Here’s the breakdown:

  • The Father
  • The Mother
  • The Warrior
  • The Smith
  • The Maiden
  • The Crone
  • The Stranger

Because this is Comparative Geeks, I thought it would be fun to interpret the aspects of the Seven, aka the New Gods, with a different set of New Gods: Jack Kirby’s super-beings that he developed for DC Comics. (And it’s a thinly veiled reason for me to talk about two things I like: Game of Thrones and comics.)

The New Gods (of DC)

Jack Kirby is best known for working alongside Stan Lee at Marvel Comics, but for a period of time DC Comics wooed him over into creating some titles for their books. Kirby had a flair for creating larger-than-life cosmos-spanning stories and characters, and what he created for DC fit that description.

DCNewGodsSmall

 

One of the titles was called The New Gods, and dealt with the warfare between two highly advanced planets, New Genesis and Apokolips. (Spoiler Alert: the inhabitants of Apokolips were the bad guys.) The mythology about the creation of New Gods has evolved and changed a bit over time, but basically there were the Old Gods, who were a unified super-race, and then some cataclysm created two different and warring factions: the New Gods.

I could provide more details here, but I think it’d be more interesting to get right on into talking about individual DC New Gods and how they could represent aspects of the Seven.

Kinda.

The Father

The aspect of the Father in the Faith of the Seven is that typical patriarchal godhead type. You know, making the laws, making judgments. Probably sporting a big white beard. Theoretically, all aspects of the Seven are intended to be equally important, but some must be more bossy than others.

Father: I’ve made up a whole bunch more laws!
Mother: Lovely! I’ve baked some cookies!
Father: Oh yaassss!
Warrior: I just want to punch stuff.

So who in the DC New Gods “pantheon” would that describe?

On New Genesis, their leader is Izaya, commonly referred to as the Highfather. He’s in charge.

HighFather

The eldest god among the inhabitants of New Genesis and probably the most powerful, Izaya also is the most committed to peace, trying to manage the conflict with warlike Apokolips to prevent mutual and total annihilation. He’s not necessarily a warrior. He can be judgy. And in the DC Universe, when they kind of need a big powerful stereotypical godlike figure, they often turn to Izaya.

1817287-highfather_super

The Mother

An equally important aspect of the Faith of the Seven is the Mother, who represents a kind of flip side of the Father. The Father might be focused on justice, where the Mother includes mercy and compassion (presumably even for the guilty.) The Mother can be seen as an advocate, unconditional and loving. Is there an analogous character in the DC New Gods? Sort of.

There are important mothers for characters who we’ll get to in a moment, but I’m not thinking of someone to represent the archetype of the mother, but something. Or things rather. Things that have “mother” in their title.

Mother Boxes.

mother-box-dc-comics

Mother Boxes are living computers, sometimes presented as squares, sometimes shown as small as the modern mobile phone. They are relied on for transportation. They increase rates of healing to those they’re in contact with. Like many real moms, they do miracles.

MomBox

Holding a mother box provides a feeling of unconditional love, even to denizens of Apokolips. If anything can be considered a non-judgmental and helpful advocate, it’s a mother box.

The Warrior

The Warrior aspect of the Faith of the Seven is pretty straightforward, right? Some kind of Ares/Mars type, or maybe an Athena/Minerva type? Grants strength and skill, represents bravery? Etc?

It’s kind of a specific vibe, and therefore not all that interesting. So, who would represent the Warrior among the DC New Gods?

Despite the Warrior being (in my opinion) the least complex of divine aspects, my pick for the Warrior, Orion, has one of the two most interesting backstories among the New Gods.

Orion

Orion is clearly the greatest warrior among the citizens of New Genesis, and their strongest soldier in their defense against the forces of Apokolips. This is due largely because Orion is not from New Genesis. He’s the son of Darkseid, the tyrannical ruler of Apokolips.

Whaaaaat?

In the history of the New Gods, to forge a truce between Apokolips and New Genesis and halt the nightmarish destructive conflict, Izaya proposed that his infant son and Darkseid’s infant son be exchanged as hostages. (We’ll be getting to Izaya’s son who was raised on Apokolips soon enough.)

Orion, being from Apokolips and the son of one of the most evil beings in the DC Universe, was filled with natural rage and possessed terrifying strength. That’s a bad combination. But Izaya’s teachings and the angry lad’s upbringing on peaceful New Genesis allowed Orion to channel his powers in defense of his adopted home, to resist Apokolips. It’s a battle that Orion fights regularly externally, and fights internally daily.

1937946-brola1

I could probably spin this back towards Westeros and talk about Theon Greyjoy and the similar (and different) situation with Ned Stark and Balon Greyjoy, but I need to move on.

The Smith

If the Warrior is a fairly-straightforward aspect of the Seven, the Smith is one of the most complex, unless interpreted too literally. The Smith might merely be the divine aspect of people forging metals into tools. Boring! And way too specific. The Smith (in my opinion) represents hard work but also the creative spirit. Laborers, farmers, craftsmen, musicians, and artists, people who are doing things and making things, can all seek inspiration and strength from the Smith.

Identifying the aspect of the Smith in the New Gods pantheon required a bit of squirming and thinking-outside-of-the-box, which was perfect for my choice as representative: Scott Free aka Mister Miracle.

1525_justice_league_41_splash

In my section on the Warrior, I mentioned that Izaya and Darkseid swapped sons to be hostages as part of a truce. Orion was raised with hope, love, and optimism on New Genesis, but Scott, the son of Izaya handed over to Darkseid, did not have the same advantages. Darkseid turned him over to the monstrous and ironically named Granny Goodness, who began to torturously train him to be a soldier of Apokopolis.

2006-10-21_152604_Mr._Miracle_Panel_1

Scott eventually escaped from Apokolips and found his way to Earth, where he became an escape artist and showman known as Mister Miracle.

Escape Artist? Showman? Yes. Bear with me. Scott turned away from the cosmological conflict between New Genesis and Apokolips, and came to Earth, to more or less discover who he was.

So why is he the Smith? Because Scott is representative of freedom and of arts. On Earth, recognizing how humans were vulnerable to the insidious influence of Darkseid, he engineered his traveling showcase of escape artist theatrics to harden people’s willpower against control. A kind of Performance Art Against the Man.

In a sense, Scott was forging stronger psyches in people to resist domination. Of all the New Gods (who generally are either beating up on parademons from Apokolips, or picnicking on lovely New Genesis) Scott was the one that was doing something creative.

The Maiden

The Maiden aspect of the Faith of the Seven is associated with purity, beauty, love. Things along those lines. Certainly more a kind of innocent love, full of joy, as opposed to the maternal love of the Mother with its responsibility.

Almost all of the New Gods (at least the ones on New Genesis) are beautiful, but my vote for the Maiden would be Orion’s best friend Lightray.

Lightray_009

Yes, Lightray’s a dude.

Lightray is just that literal beam of sunshine type of person. As bright in spirit as he is in external aspect. Where Orion (the Warrior) is angry and gloomy, Lightray is bubbly and optimistic. His light-based powers make it difficult for him to be seriously threatened by the forces of Apokolips, just as the purity of the Maiden (in theory) can shield the innocent. By extension, the Maiden is a good complement to the Warrior, like bright Lightray is a good companion to dark Orion.

Lightray

And, because Lightray has great hair, he’s been mistaken for a woman at least once by the superhero General Glory. So I think he’s a good fit.

The Crone

The aspect of the Crone in the New Gods of Westeros represent wisdom, particularly in regards to the future. The Crone is old, she’s seen a lot, so she knows a lot. And she carries a lantern to light the path of the faithful into the future. She’s seen as a guide. A seer. The wise woman.

In my experience, there really isn’t a great analog for the wise guide among the New Gods. I mean, Izaya often consults “The Source” so that’s like looking into the future. Sort of. But I’m already using him for the Father.

So I decided to take the easy way out, and just go for a literal meaning of the name “Crone.” And go with Granny Goodness, one of Darkseid’s terrible minions.

supergirl-v4-29

Admitedly, it’s not a great fit. I mean, Granny is an old crone, but she’s not a benevolent repository of experience and wisdom. She is cunning though.

And she’ll be the first to tell you that she knows what’s best for you. As if she’s seeing the future.

granny-goodness-small

Because, you know, you’d better do as Granny tells you, or it will go very, very bad for you.

The Stranger

Rounding out the aspects of the Seven is the Stranger. It’s a unique aspect from the others in that the Stranger is recognized as one of the Seven, but is not prayed to. The Stranger represents the Other, is often depicted as either having no face or the face of something non-human. The Stranger is associated with death as well as the vaguely disquieting unknown. If the Crone shows a destiny that can be strived for, the Stranger represents a fate to be avoided.

In DC New Gods terms, Darkseid is the Stranger.

darkseid

The dictator of Apokolips and super-super-villain of the DC Universe, Darkseid is obsessed with finding the Anti-Life Equation. Anti-Life sounds rather death-like, although to be fair, it’s more in line with domination and not literally antithetical to the biology of life. But it just seems to fit.

Darkseid is not someone to get the attention of, much like no one prays to the Stranger. Because nothing good comes from it. And of the New Gods, Darkseid seems the least human in appearance.

Just like the Stranger in Faith of the Seven art.


Alternatively…

I’ve cobbled together my seven DC New Gods and the Faith of the Seven New Gods as a comparative exercise, but it’s not in any way definitive. There are many more New Gods than just seven in the DC Universe, and others could easily fit into the broad archetypes represented by the Seven of Westeros.

Darkseid, Izaya’s nemesis and counterpart, could easily be the Father. Not only is he a dad (famously to Orion, as well as to the hairy clown Kalibak) but if you’re looking for someone making laws and judging you (harshly), that would be Darkseid. Lawful Evil all the way. The anti-life equation is an extreme version of lawmaking. Just not very just.

On Apokolips, the evil genius Desaad would make Darkseid tools of destruction, so he’d be a candidate for the Smith.

Metron, the amoral knowledge seeker might be considered the Stranger, because of him simultaneously and paradoxically being associated with both New Genesis and Apokolips

1366445-metron

(Metron tends to not pay attention to Darkseid’s evil ways, since he’s too busy contemplating the infinite.)

One of my favorite creations in the New Gods, Forager, would also be a good candidate for the Stranger. (He wears a mask to hide his human face among his non-human family of Bugs. It’s crazy great!

I could go on and on, but this post has gone too long already, and I think I’ve probably worked through this exercise enough.

Hopefully my mashup of the DC Universe and GRRM’s Universe has been an interesting topic. I’d love to talk more about this, or hear where I’m wrong, or whatever. It’s all good.

Audio

Comparative Opinions: Episode 3 – Game of Thrones Season 6

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! This week hosts Holly and David, and guest hosts Julia and Pat Sponaugle, discuss the recently completed Game of Thrones season 6. *Spoiler Warning* for both the TV series and for the books! For more Game of Thrones, check out Pat’s blog: https://patricksponaugle.com/

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!

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Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros