What is it that has enabled George to captivate readers in so many different fields? What qualities are there about George’s work that ensnares readers, no matter what kind of story he’s telling?
For one thing, George has always been a richly romantic writer. Dry minimalism or the cooly ironic games of postmodernism so beloved by many modern writers and critics are not what you’re going to get when you open something by George R. R. Martin. What you’re going to get instead is a strongly-plotted story driven by emotional conflict and crafted by someone who’s a natural-born storyteller, a story that grabs you on the first page and refuses to let go.
You’re going to get adventure, action, conflict, romance, and lush, vivid human emotion: obsessive, doomed love, stark undying hatred, unquenchable desire, dedication to duty even in the face of death, unexpected veins of rich humor … and something that’s rare even in science fiction and fantasy these days (let alone the mainstream) - a love of adventure for adventure’s sake, a delighting in the strange and colorful, bizarre plants and animals, exotic scenery, strange lands, strange customs, stranger people, backed by the inexhaustible desire to see what’s over the next hill, or waiting on the next world. […]
The most important reason, though, why so many readers are affected so strongly by George’s work, is the people. George has created a gallery of vivid characters - sometimes touching, some¬times grotesque, sometimes touching and grotesque - unmatched by most other writers […]
George cares deeply about all of his people, even the spearcarriers, even the villains - and by caring so deeply, he makes you care for them as well. Once you’ve mastered this magic trick, you don’t really need another. […] And it is the thing that ensures that, no matter what field he chooses to work in, people will read him - and want to read him again.
–Gardner Dozois, Introduction to Dreamsongs, Vol. 1 by George R.R. Martin
A reminder that a new story set in the ASOIAF world will be available on the 10th of October. A new anthology by Gardner Dozois, the Book of Swords, includes Sons of the Dragon, a chronicle of the reigns of Aenys Targaryen and Maegor the Cruel.
We are quite excited to have new Targaryen related content being published, and will be monitoring the #sons of the dragon tag along with our usual tracked tags. We hope the new story will inspire renewed discussion about ASOIAF, as well as new content, and we are looking forward to reading it.
I know that my attachment to science fiction literature has shaped my worldview in a major way. Science fiction literature invites us to contemplate what I believe are 2 of the most important words in combination, in language: What. If.
It is in the exploration of that question - what if- that all things in this realm become possible. That’s what science fiction literature has brought into my life. I cut my teeth on Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, and I simply love the genre. As an adult, my favorite science fiction author has become Octavia Butler. If you haven’t read her yet, RUN and pick up her books. Also, there’s a series of anthologies that come out once a year of science fiction shorts, they’re called The Year’s Best Science Fiction series. There are some thirty or more of them, all compiled and edited by Gardner Dozois. I love these, they are staples for my bedtime reading. They are amazing, they really are amazing.
“No man is free. Only children and fools think elsewise.”
–Tywin Lannister, to Tyrion, A Dance with Dragons
“You will kill to be free,” Maneck said. “What is ‘free’?” […]
“Free is able to do what I want when I want without having to dance to anyone’s fucking tune. […] Free is being your own goddamn man! Free is not answering to anybody for anything! Not your boss, not your woman, not the pinche governor and his pinche little army! A man who’s free makes his own path where he wants to make it, and no one can stand in the way. No one! Are you too fucking stupid to understand that?” Ramón was breathing hard […] and a shudder of fear ran through Ramón—the presentiment of pain that never came.
“Free is to be without constraint?”
“Yes,” Ramón said, mincing the words as if he were speaking to a child he disliked. “Free is to be without constraint.”
“And this is possible?” it asked.
Thoughts and memories flickered through Ramón’s mind. Elena. The times he’d had to scrape by without liquor in order to make the payment on his van. The police. The European.
“No,” Ramón said. “It’s not. But you aren’t a real man if you don’t try.”
–George R.R. Martin & Gardner R. Dozois, Hunter’s Run
I love this theme of the struggle between freedom and constraint that is present in Martin’s writing, and I think that it’s such an important theme for ASOIAF, from Sansa (“Back to your cage, little bird.”) to Daenerys and the Free Cities (“There was no slavery in the free city of Pentos. Nonetheless, they were slaves.”) to the Lannister children wrestling with the shadow of their father, to Jon and his Night’s Watch oaths and his sense of honor and obligation.
Of course Tywin is wrong in the end, as Tywin is always is.
Ramón of Hunter’s Run is free eventually, not because the things he does are radically different from what he was doing before, but because in the end he chooses to do them.
I think this is a theme that’s going to be especially important for the Three Heads of the Dragon in ASOIAF, because it’s not that they will save the world because it’s their destiny or because someone is making them, but because they choose to do so. I’m really eager to see how this theme plays out with Tyrion especially, because it’s not what the heroes do (i.e. save the world) but why they do it, and GRRM is so good at exploring that and giving it weight, it’s part of why I think ASOIAF is so amazing.
We wanted gods and could find none, so we built some ourselves. We should have remembered what the gods were like in the old mythologies: amoral, cruel, selfish, merciless, murderously playful.” He was silent for a long time, and then, visibly gathering his strength, as if he was almost too tired to speak, he said, “They must be destroyed.
I bought myself a book last Monday to celebrate the ending of our 2nd Chem L.E.*, an anthology called The Mammoth Book of Best New SF edited by Gardner Dozois.
I like Gardner Dozois’ taste in stories, so I just had to buy it, despite it almost singlehandedly freeing me of all my birthday money. But it was worth it! I’ve read the first story, “Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson, about a woman who has transcended this plane of reality going back to her younger self to tell her story. It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to have the free time** to read everything else!
*I got a relatively high but just a bit disappointing grade for this one. Ah well, on to the last!
**What with the Bio Quiz later, the Lab Practical Test tomorrow, and the short exam in Philo II on tuesday, I have a moderate lot on my plate. haha.
Dangerous Women is a cross-genre anthology, but I’d say that most of the stories fall in the realm of speculative fiction. Like most anthologies, it has some hits and some misses, but I was, in general, disappointed that it didn’t live up to its title. While there are indeed a few dangerous women to be found here, too many of the stories were written from the point of view of male characters; several stories were not about women at all and focused on either the relationships between male characters or on how much men are freaked out by women having, you know, agency; and one story was so disgustingly and violently misogynistic that I almost didn’t continue reading because it made me so angry to find it in the middle of a story collection ostensibly focused on women.