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.



Game of Thrones S7E04: “THE SPOILS OF WAR”

The unifying idea that ran under all  the stories in “The Spoils of War” was the return of magic – including both literal magic, like voodoo and dragons, and the magic of the story, as scattered plot threads are stitched back together like Beric Dondarrion’s flesh and bone.


Game of Thrones S6E9: bubble of the bustards

spoilers below the cut. also I feel like I should say – every week I do these. And they’re pretty much my first impressions. usually a week later i’ve changed my mind on some stuff.


Jaq in Black: Why was a Faceless Man in the Black Cells?

Everyone loves Jaqen H’ghar. It’s hard not to; dude’s pretty tight. Arya first meets him in A Clash of Kings; he is a prisoner from the black cells of King’s Landing, bound for a life on the Wall.


Where Do We Go From Here? Sansa in Season 6

Sansa’s arc in Season 5 was without a doubt the most controversial arc in the history of the show. To many, it seemed like a step backwards. Season 4 ends with Sansa taking control of her own life, symbolized by creating a dress for her new identity. In Season 5, she goes to Winterfell…and is promptly reduced to a distressed damsel, held captive by a sadistic, twisted boy-heir. Many people saw it as an exploitative rehash of her story in seasons 1-3, using sexual violence and torture purely for shock value.