Waitin’ On the Winds of Winter: ASOIAF Via John Mayer’s Discography

Intro

Yes, this is real.

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Ser Jay of House Gatsby: American Myths in ASOIAF

A sword shivers from a scabbard. A lion banner flaps in the early winter wind. The moors are disquiet. To the north are the cold mountains and crags; to the south are the lands of decadence; to the east are the horselords and their strange wild customs. To the west is the open sea, the end of the world, from which no sailor returns. Kings brood in golden halls. Something that isn’t quite the Catholic Church holds sway with the peasantry.

Hey, look at that! We just built 90% of all fantasy settings!

The Medieval European Milieu Experience (MEME for short) is the most common setting for fantasy stories through the last century. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions – there are tons of exceptions – but the image of fantasy is a decidedly French-British-Germanic one, variations on the theme of the heyday of feudal Christendom.

A Song of Ice and Fire, aesthetically, fits this milieu. The swords are broad and the armor is plated. The main players are kings, queens, lords, and ladies, all dressed in Ren Fest gear, boiled leather, and jeweled hairpieces. It’s a comfortable place for many fantasy fans, this MEME. But while ASOIAF dwells in the MEME, the meat of the series – the blood and sinew, the stuff that makes it move – is uniquely, categorically, American.

In the following essay, I will talk about the myth of the self-made man in America, and how many characters in ASOIAF explore this idea, both in a historical sense and in a literary one, arguing that ASOIAF is a much a part of the Great American Novel Canon as it is the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Hall of Fame.

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Hardhome’s Refugees and the Rocks of Cannibal Isle

George R. R. Martin likes boats.

In Arya’s The Blind Girl chapter in A Dance with Dragons, we hear tell of two boats in particular: the Elephant and the Goodheart. These two ships – a pair of Lyseni galleys, crewed by pirates and rascals – dropped anchor at Hardhome after having been driven north by a storm. Ever the enterprising (and amoral) businessmen, the Lyseni pirates offered to take all the women and children from Hardhome to safety. As soon as the women and children were loaded on the galleys, however, they were clapped in chains and hauled off to be sold as slaves at the markets in Lys.

Fate intervened, though. The gales of autumn still blew in the Narrow Sea. Another storm separated the Goodheart and the Elephant. The Goodheart was blown to Braavos, where the Sealord immediately seized her and her cargo. Slaving, after all, is illegal in Braavos. Arya (as Blind Beth) overhears sullen sailors from the Goodheart discussing their plight. She relays their conversation to the Kindly Man:

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Toxic Narratives and ASOIAF: From Within and Without

That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling (Dance, Bran III)

A specter is haunting ASOIAF – the specter of the past. Our characters are haunted by the great things that came before them, from myth and song to parents and grandparents. In this essay, I’m going to talk about some of the toxic nostalgia our characters participate in…and then talk about how some in-real-life toxic nostalgia may be informing some of the storytelling choices GRRM makes.

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Fantastic Transmissions E008 – Grass Dancer by Owl Goingback

Episode 8 of Fantastic Transmissions is about Grass Dancer by Owl Goingback. Grass Dancer, a Nebula nominee, weaves a Vietnam war story with American Indian myth and legend. I discuss the craft of the story itself, as well as some background on American Indian soldiers in Vietnam. I also explain why this story first appeared in, of all things, an anthology of King Arthur stories.

Podbean: https://bookshelfstudios.podbean.com/e/episode-008-grass-dancer/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fantastic-transmissions/id1341102133?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/m/I3zr6oajxcx3unkxb6o5pwpwoqe?t=Fantastic_Transmissions

The intro music is sampled from Clyde Borly and His Percussions, off the album “Music in Five Dimensions.” The rest of the music in the podcast was created by Blue Dot Sessions. Their work can be found on the Free Music Archive under a Non-Commercial Attribution License. You can also find all their tracks at www.sessions.blue.

Links and references can be found at the bottom of the post!

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Fantastic Transmissions E007 – Bloodchild by Octavia E Butler

Episode 7 of Fantastic Transmissions is about Bloodchild by Octavia E Butler. Bloodchild is a multiple-award-winning story by a multiple-award-winning author about the symbiotic (or parasitic?) relationship between a human colony and their insectoid overlords. We discuss the idea of male pregnancy, and attempt to answer the big question about Bloodchild: is it about slavery?

Podbean: https://bookshelfstudios.podbean.com/e/episode-007-bloodchild/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fantastic-transmissions/id1341102133?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/m/I3zr6oajxcx3unkxb6o5pwpwoqe?t=Fantastic_Transmissions

The intro music is sampled from Clyde Borly and His Percussions, off the album “Music in Five Dimensions.” The rest of the music in the podcast was created by Blue Dot Sessions. Their work can be found on the Free Music Archive under a Non-Commercial Attribution License. You can also find all their tracks at www.sessions.blue.

Links and references can be found at the bottom of the post!

(more…)