Take your time George R. R. Martin

This started out as a facebook post in reaction to this but quickly grew into a rambling mess which I spent the next half hour editing into something coherent.

***Spoilers below for the all five books and all five seasons ***

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I started watching Game of Thrones before I even knew there was a book series it was based on. I caught up to the second season and when that ended I knew that I needed more. So I went out and bought the first two books having read online that each season of the books corresponds with the show. I loved reading the books as much as I loved watching the show, the narrative in GRRM’s novels filled in the gaps for me as I went along. Some of the major events that rocked my world on the screen hit me just as hard when I absorbed George’s prose and I eagerly awaited what was to come. Due to time constraints, a student’s budget and the enjoyment I got from watching the show with friends I decided to adopt a “watch a season – read a book routine” so that I would keep pace with (and not annoy) my friends who weren’t reading the books.

Then season 3 happened and we were left hanging after the Red Wedding.

Waiting for season four was agony. I found myself spending what little money I had on the next three books in the series and I took them home completely ready to devour them over a week. I’m not sure what stopped me (probably school obligations) but I found myself waiting for the next season of the show with more anticipation than I thought I could ever contain. I watched all of the promotional material over and over again but at the same time I avoided dreaded spoilers like a plague. I formed my own theories in my head. I was obsessed.

The fourth season began and I was not disappointed. The action and the intrigue were just as good as they had ever been but for some reason it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I turned back to the books and read them at a pace that I hadn’t been able to reach since the Harry Potter series. Reading A Feast For Crows in tandem with watching the fourth season of ‘Game of Thrones’ was an interesting experience. The level of detail in the novels far surpasses what we receive on the television screen (which is really saying something because HBO spares almost no expense in Game of Thrones‘ production values) but the basic plot is the same. So when a character was introduced in the novels but never appeared in the show, or when two characters were combined together or one character or event was never seen or mentioned you didn’t so much get the sense that something is being left out or that this is an alternate universe (as I have seen some fans use to explain the differences between the media) but rather you are truly getting an adaptation from a loving fan. Similarly, Tolkien’s novels and Jackson’s films are vastly different but tell the same story and all are excellent (I’m not counting The Hobbit ‘trilogy’).

I finished reading A Dance With Dragons well ahead of season five of Game of Thrones. Now that I was all caught up I poured myself into fan theories and speculation. I read through the lore on the Game of Thrones Wiki and I would have tracked down Martin’s other works such as The Hedge Knight and A World of Ice and Fire if I had the extra time or money. With the knowledge of the plot from all five novels and some extra background info on the world of the story I finally watched the show from the perspective of someone who knew what was coming.

And to be honest, the books are better. The foreknowledge in some ways ruined what was coming for me. Not to say that Game of Thrones is not worth watching. ‘Hardhome’ (Season Five, Episode Eight) had me holding my breath for its entirety and that was completely different from anything the novels presented. I couldn’t watch the death of Shireen Baratheon and I couldn’t even listen to it. I had to turn the volume down lest I be sick. Cersei’s walk played out on the screen exactly as I saw it in my head. The actors and showrunners continue to deserve every Emmy that they win.

game-thrones-season-5But some things were not handled particularly well. Dorne was a mess. The Greyjoys have not been heard from in almost a whole season. Why is Jaime Lannister not in the Riverlands where his redemptive arc is more satisfying and makes more sense? (although he and Bronn work almost as well together as Bronn and Tyrion. Actually everybody works well with Bronn. We need more Bronn).

This is definitely the result of the show’s budget and the minor changes which were introduced earlier in the series. And that’s okay. GRRM has said before that the show and the novel are different animals and I could not agree more. The novels were not perfect either (what was the point of sending Doran Martell to Dorne other than to fuck up, release Dany’s dragons and die?) but they are consistently good, daresay, incredible. Watching Game of Thrones and reading ‘A Song of Ice and
Fire’ are two very different yet very enjoyable experiences that complement one another.

Now George is saying that the next book, The Winds of Winter, is not going to be finished in time for Season Six. To me that’s a little disappointing but also a little exciting. Now I’m practically back to where I was when I startedmy adventure through Westeros and Essos; I know nothing about what’s next but I cannot wait to find out. And when this season has ended and I have gotten a good taste I will go back for my second portion of this feast and truly appreciate the nuances of each flavor and texture which GRRM is using to tell his story.

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Furthermore, as an aspiring author I truly understand and appreciate when GRRM says “sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t.” Writing is hard. Writing a good story is really hard. Writing a cohesive story incorporating hundreds of characters, spanning two continents and hundreds (or even thousands) of years of backstory and making it a best-selling page-turner is hard as shit.

Godspeed George R. R. Martin, your fans eagerly await what’s coming next. For now we will be happy with HBO’s excellent adaptation of your work.

But please, can you write just a little bit faster?

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A Realization – The Lottery

They were giving away lottery tickets in the lobby of my office building as a promotion for a new game. Some of my coworkers went down and got one, some of them did not, some of them did not know about the promotion. I planned on picking a ticket up at lunch but forgot. But I had a conversation with one of them and then I had a similar conversation with my father and something clicked in my head.

Nobody plays the lottery to win. Everybody who plays hopes they will win, but anybody with a basic understanding of probability and statistics knows that they are not going to win. Yet they will still buy a ticket, they will still check the numbers everyday, they will still fill in the little bubbles week after week.

Why?

Anybody who plays the lottery or has ever played the lottery did not pay for a ticket, they were paying for the fantasy of winning. Everybody, myself included, wants to see instant improvement in their life, it is a most basic human trait and weakness. Instant gratification is what makes games so prevalent in our society and why so many gym memberships are forgotten about in march. We love to imagine ourselves as better versions of ourselves but we hate the idea of putting in the work to get there.

And we do not like each other fantasizing about such scenarios.

“How dare you imagine yourself as better off than me for no reason,” we think.

But it’s different if you win the lottery, in that case you just got lucky,  the victory was not earned and it may not have even been deserved, but it was fair. There is nothing more fair than simple chance.

We are paying to dream of a better life, or more accurately, we are paying to dream about taking a shortcut to the better life.

Random Image Exercise 2

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He had journeyed long and he was weary and soon his journey would be at an end.

Yet even still, after all he had done for her, after all he had endured, she would not look at him. None of them would. He had traveled to the ends of the earth and beyond. He had seen things fit for no man’s eyes, done things fit for no man’s soul, all for them, and still they would not look at him. He was was one of them, he had proven it time and time again, yet still they shunned him, happy only to take his services. Still they sent him away promising acceptance should he be successful and still, after years of absence and even more years of servitude he was a stranger to them.

So it was now. The masters called him from his chambers and met him in the great hall. They looked over him from their high seats, never looking directly at him.

“Your next trial is to return the spirit of the temple to its home here,” the grand-master said with a dispassionate voice.

He almost laughed out loud.The spirit of the temple was a bird. A bird that existed only in stories. How was he to bring back a legend? How was he supposed to create act from fiction? He almost screamed. When can I take my rightful place? Have I not earned what I came here for? Am I to be your errand boy forever? It would not have been the first time he made such an outburst , it would not even be the twentieth, but nothing ever came of such displays. The masters had spoken. So he bowed his head and took his leave.

She was there in the temple courtyard as always, draped in red and meditating. He lingered only a moment watching her from behind then he crossed the grass and exited through the heavy doors of the enclosure. Even when he was in front of her, her back was turned towards him. He fought back the rage that such isolation brought. Descending the steps, he found himself at the threshold of the desert which enveloped the temple. He entered it without hesitation eager to be rid of the place. He wandered. He wandered until his throat was dry and his lips were peeling and he could not see for the fluid in his eyes had retreated. He wandered the desert until his back was ready to burst into flame from the sun’s heat. He wandered until he came upon an impossibility, until he found a rushing waterfall with no possible source in the surrounding desert. He wandered until he was able to look upon his goal in the flesh.

Perched in a nest on a rock jutting out of the falls was the temple’s spirit. The bird’s plumage was impossibly dark save for a tuft of shimmering emerald feathers on its crest. At first he smiled joyously to look upon it, but then he wailed for here was no way to capture his prize even though ti was in sight. This was the master’s plan. This was how it always was. He sank to his knees and sobbed.

The bird never moved from its perch and despite the years he by the waterfall he could never reach it, or ensnare it or coax it from its nest. This time he was truly defeated. The masters had won. He sank inside himself and let his body sink into the cool waters of the waterfall’s pool. Then, just as he was about to release all of his pain a hand pulled him from the water. The sensation was like being born again, he gasped hard at the new air. It gave him strength. He opened his eyes and there she was, red robes soaked through, staring him directly in the eye. With one leap he snatched the bird from its perch.


This one took a few hours to compose over the course of two days. Compared to my previous effort with this exercise I am not as pleased with the result. Maybe there is some story in what I have written but I cannot really make out much from what I have here. It seems fairly unstructured grammatically and thematically. I can honestly say that I felt this as I was composing the original story. It is something that I will keep in mind with future endeavors and who knows, maybe this will become something more in the future.

For anybody reading this, I would love some feedback or advice (could just be a typo that I missed or a grammatical rule that I misused). Or if you know any exercises I could try I would greatly appreciate it.

Cheers.

Random Image Exercise 1

This was an exercise to develop my writing skills. Basically,  I went to a random image generator, took the first five pictures I found and set myself the task of writing a cohesive five-paragraph story in under two hours which related each picture together. I hope to do this at least once a week (or at least weeks where I have no ideas and hopefully there will eventually be a positive trend in quality.

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Jessica held her hand perfectly still as the dragonfly tiptoed across her fingers. A breeze rolled over the hills and through her hair. The dragonfly rustled its wings but otherwise appeared undisturbed. It crawled across her fingertips, tickling her with every step. When she exhaled she was careful to do so as gently as possible lest she scare away her guest. A minute passed, then two, then ten. The insect turned to face her, its bulbous eyes looked into her intense emerald ones. Then, with a bob of its head as if to say thank you the dragonfly took off and rejoined its brethren in the distant meadow. Jessica stood from where she sat and walked over to join the master who was leaning on the bridge. Leaning beside him was a long, tied and bundled object. Jessica hesitated.

“Come child, it is time,” the Master said softly. Steeling herself against her nerves Jessica walked forward with long graceful strides which hid her apprehension. This was a moment which the past three years had been building to and she could barely believe it had finally arrived. The endless, grueling training would finally pay off. The Master picked up the bundle and presented it to as she got nearer.

“You have earned this. I am proud of you. Do not waste it”. Jessica took the bundle with her right hand (the tickle from the dragonfly was still on her fingertips) and lifted it from the Master’s outstretched palms. As she did so the old man vanished. Jessica allowed herself a rare smile; soon her destiny would be fulfilled. But first, the climb.

The mountain would be her penultimate challenge and rightly so. Many an adventurer had attempted to scale it and many had failed. To look at it from afar was to look at as much of nature’s beauty as one could comprehend at a time. But this beauty covered up nature’s treachery; hidden by it were false footholds, paths unsafe for mountain goats, unstable cliffs and falls upon rocks sharp enough to cleave muscle from bone. Jessica took a moment to size up her task then rubbed her palms together and began. The beginning left her legs burning. Each step required even more careful footing and each turn potentially led to a dead end. Jessica had to be as sure of the path ahead of her as she was of herself. The middle of the climb left her arms burning as she was forced to scale the virtually sheer mountainside. The end of the climb left her lungs burning as the air thinned around her. But Jessica continued. Her destiny was at hand, there was but one more challenge.

The beast had been waiting at the summit for a thousand years. It watched Jessica with hungry eyes as she made the last steps to the top, sweating and breathing hard. It waited a little longer as she undid the bundle to reveal the ancient, gilded sword which bore the beast’s name. The beast breathed hard with anticipation. It had spent so long waiting for this day, waiting for the day when it would fulfill its long-ago set purpose. It had spent so long waiting for the sword and for the adventurer who wielded it, the person it was created to destroy. Jessica and the beast faced each other. She held the sword in front of her, it pawed at the ground. Then it pounced and Jessica, with one movement, graceful as always, plunged the blade deep into the beast’s skull. It slid across the ground and died and Jessica let a moment pass in reverence for the aged creature. She then turned to the boulder which the monster had been guarding. With all of her strength she pushed the stone away and let it roll down the mountainside. Her goal was what lay beneath. The final challenge had been defeated and her destiny was at hand. Jessica looked at what was beneath the stone not sure what to expect to find there. All she saw was dirt.

Personal Fictions

As an amateur writer with a romantic heart and a love of storytelling I have noticed a mental flaw of mine that can be rather bothersome. I find that too often I lose myself in fantasies created from my reality rather than trying to experience my reality as is. I also find myself assigning meaning to things which are meaningless or making connections where there are none. Often I find it necessary to remind myself that a look may just be a glance, a hug is simply a friendly gesture or that a coincidence is simply a coincidence.

It can be difficult to forcefully eject yourself from a fantasy. We all wish our lives were more interesting than they really are and we all imagine ourselves as more attractive, smarter and more important than we really are but the bigger picture shows that we are merely specks, insignificant compared to the greater whole. Personally, I find myself having to remember this on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. I am considering having a plaque made.

However, the fantastic life that we can imagine having is not a bad thing, far from it in fact. The fantastic life we imagine for ourselves is literally the stuff of dreams. It is what drives us to invent and create and draw and live and love. If Michael Jordan never entertained the fantasy of being the greatest to play the game then he would have never become the greatest to play the game. In other words, to become a legend is to embrace your personal fiction; it is to live your dreams. Just do not get lost in the story you are writing of your life otherwise you will forget to live it.

The Dragon Slayers

Once upon a time there was a terrifying dragon and a peaceful, sleepy village. Every new moon the dragon would burn the village to the ground, steal livestock and kill any that got in its way. This went on for hundreds of years until the villagers finally had enough. They put out a call for a dragon slayer. Soon their call was answered.

The first to show up was a brave young knight in shining armour atop a powerful black steed. The knight wielded an awesome sword with a jewel encrusted scabbard and ivory-gilded hilt.

The second was a mysterious wizard who arrived in a puff of smoke and spoke with a voice that boomed like thunder. The wizard’s eyes were an unnatural shade of green and glinted even when no sun shone on them.

The third dragon slayer to arrive was a young boy no older than five years old. He was dressed like a pauper and had messy hair. The boy had the usual childlike wonder and optimism in his eyes and smiled whenever he spoke.

The townspeople asked each of their heroes how they would slay the dragon.

“I will have an epic battle with the dragon and cut off its head,” said the knight.

“I will turn the dragon into a harmless frog,” said the wizard.

“I will give the dragon a hug and teach it to not be so mean,” said the little boy.

The villagers were shocked. Surely they could not let this naïve child walk to his death. But it was too late, all three dragon slayers had left to be the first to defeat the terrifying monster.

The villagers only had wait until the next sunrise to learn which of their heroes was successful. At dawn the wizard stumbled back badly burned. It was certain that he would die from his wounds.

“It was horrible, the knight went charging in, screaming at the top of his lungs and the beast burned him and his horse to ash.”

The villagers once again were horrified. They asked about the little boy. The wizard shook his head.

“He walked up to it arms outstretched and it swatted him away. I still remember him bouncing as he went flying into the forest. I’m sorry we have failed you so miserably.”

With that the wizard breathed his last.

The villagers realized that their situation was hopeless. Their only choice would be to leave their ancestral home. But, just as they were packing up their worldly goods the little boy walked into town, drenched in blood, carrying the knight’s sword in one hand and dragging the dragon’s head in the other. The look of optimism was gone from his eyes.

“Fuck hugs,” was all he said as he walked on.