40 Thousand Skeletons

The COTF Master Plan: Part 3

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Posted (edited)

On 8/8/2017 at 7:26 PM, 40 Thousand Skeletons said:

So those are my main thoughts on Cat's and Ned's terrible decisions. I am going to post a response about time travel in a bit. :D 

Wow, its compelling when you lay it all out like that, I may have to reread again and look for the clues you are pointing out. They do seem more plausible as you go through them in detail. I definitely see LF as a major agent playing the hapless Ned and Cat like a fiddle, I just missed your original contention that he was a pawn for the OG. Which gods do they follow in the Fingers? Why was LF in Riverrun to begin with, wouldn't his family have sent him somewhere in the Vale? What do we know about his upbringing?

I have read Song for Lya and to me it seems Lya is making a rational choice lol, what the fungus is offering sounds pretty good, ecstatic never ending connection instead of loneliness. Isn't it sort of an allusion for what human religion claims to offer, the promise of comfort and end of suffering, except the fungus is offering something a lot more real? Which reminds me that I've wondered why the Starks resist entering the weirwoodnet, why bury their dead in the crypt? What's the point of worshipping the old gods if you don't get eternal life among the trees? And the Jaenshi (edit: got my race wrong lol) had it pretty good with the pyramids, so their gods sound better than Bakkalon lol. The mudpots just wanted balance and protection from harvesting, not human genocide. (Although I don't get the idea of psychic cats as ambassadors/translators at all, that kind of ruined the story for me.)

I've wondered if the hive minded aliens aren't getting a bad rap, who exactly is the neutral authority for deciding their slave races are actually slaves? How is that different from the 'slaves' of the various human religions? The really evil 'god' in Sandkings is Kress, not the sandkings even in their evolved form, right? Are the OG less malign than some of the gods of Planetos as brought to power through the actions of their believers? Weirwoods sound better than R'hllor. Ha getting sidetracked lol.

I look forward to your thoughts on time travel as part of an agenda or conspiracy. That does exist in GRRM's stories, so I suppose its possible that after thousands and thousands of pages and decades of writing them, it could all be about getting to a certain final outcome on the part of some player after multiple attempts. But as PJ pointed out in his episode review, is a time traveling Bran any less lame than Planetos being part of 1000 Worlds lol? I suppose it depends on who gets to decide which version of lame is less lame lol.

Edited by SerProle

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Posted (edited)

On 8/6/2017 at 6:52 PM, SerProle said:

I really dislike the idea of time travel in the series, so its personal resistance to that part of your master plan. I grant that it may indeed be a part of the story, and I need to pay attention more to indications, especially those bits of Tyrion later on. But to have it play such a key role, as the OG try to get things their way, seems almost too easy, in the same way it would be if gods were real or magic solves all problems. 

Chance seems to be important in GRRM's stories, even with schemes and betrayals and behind the scenes players, nothing in my memory suggests certainty about much. Is there a way that time travel or powers along those lines are substantially limited? Not a final trump card by any player? More like the 'weak' magic idea for those who like magic in ASOIAF? Or gods and prophecies only existing in the sense of how people believing in them bring some of it to pass?

Physics and multiverse theories are much more widely known now, even in laymen's terms and in fiction, so GRRM will have to definitely know his stuff if he wants to include time travel in some form now and be convincing about it. Or it will come off as cheap and tired and what we think of now as cheesy bad 80's sci-fi lol.

Ugggh... time travel...

I myself was initially quite resistant to the idea of time travel in ASOIAF. But then I read the 3 stories GRRM has written with time travel, and I was like OH SHIT! There is definitely time travel in ASOIAF... Time travel is basically the cherry on top of GRRM's exploration of the struggle within the human heart. When I wrote the OP, I wanted to try to stick with just the evidence for time travel presented in ASOIAF, but in retrospect I probably should have gone into more detail about these other stories, because almost everyone who has read my theory remains thoroughly unconvinced of the time travel aspect. So, let's do that now! :D 

First a disclaimer: As I mentioned in the OP, it is possible that the old gods could accomplish their master plan without the use of time travel. It would just make things easier. But I am 99% sure that at least Bran will/has been using time travel, and that time travel in ASOIAF obeys the same basic rules explicitly established in both Unsound Variations and Under Siege. And there is one huge similarity between all three stories, as you will see.

WARNING!!!!!! spoilers for non-asoiaf stories below!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, let's get the least important story out of the way first, For a Single Yesterday. This is also the first time travel story GRRM wrote (as far as I am aware), all the way back in 1975. The story takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth that has recently had a nuclear war, presumably between the US and Soviet Union, sometime in the near future (of 1975). The protagonist Gary lives in a small commune that survived the Blast because they were far enough from the cities when it happened. Our time traveler, Keith, is a musician who was visiting friends in the commune when the Blast happened, and his lover Sandi (red hair ;)) died in the Blast because she was at school in NYC at the time. At some point the members of the commune managed to find some random drugs lying around that hadn't been scavenged by anyone else yet, including a fair amount of a drug called chronine, which is a fine, sparkling blue powder that you inject into your arm. Chronine is ostensibly a "memory drug" that allows the user to basically re-live a memory from their past. No one else wanted the chronine, so they gave it all to Keith, who uses it regularly to visit Sandi. And Keith argues that chronine is not a memory drug. He says it is a time travel drug, and the experts are wrong because they never tried it themselves. And FYI, he does his time traveling while lying beneath a tree.

Just so you understand who Keith is, here is the very beginning of For a Single Yesterday:

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Keith was our culture, what little we had left. He was our poet and our troubadour, and his voice and his guitar were our bridges to the past. He was a time-tripper too, but no one minded that much until Winters came along. 

Keith was our memory. But he was also my friend. 

He played for us every evening after supper. Just beyond sight of the common house, there was a small clearing and a rock he liked to sit on. He’d wander there at dusk, with his guitar, and sit down facing west. Always west; the cities had been east of us. Far east, true, but Keith didn’t like to look that way. Neither did the rest of us, to tell the truth. 

Not everybody came to the evening concerts, but there was always a good crowd, say three-fourths of the people in the commune. We’d gather around in a rough circle, sitting on the ground or lying in the grass by ones and twos. And Keith, our living hi-fi  in denim and leather, would stroke his beard in vague amusement and begin to play. 

He was good, too. Back in the old days, before the Blast, he’d been well on his way to making a name for himself. He’d come to the commune four years ago for a rest, to check up on old friends and get away from the musical rat race for a summer. But he’d figured on returning. 

Then came the Blast. And Keith had stayed. There was nothing left to go back to. His cities were graveyards full of dead and dying, their towers melted tombstones that glowed at night. And the rats — human and animal — were everywhere else. 

In Keith, those cities still lived. His songs were all of the old days, bittersweet things full of lost dreams and loneliness. And he sang them with love and longing. Keith would play requests, but mostly he stuck to his kind of music. A lot of folk, a lot of folk-rock, and a few straight rock things and show tunes. Lightfoot and Kristofferson and Woody Guthrie were particular favorites. And once in a while he’d play his own compositions, written in the days before the Blast. But not often. 

Two songs, though, he played every night. He always started with “They Call the Wind Maria” and ended with “Me and Bobby McGee.” A few of us got tired of the ritual, but no one ever objected. Keith seemed to think the songs fit us,somehow, and nobody wanted to argue with him.

Until Winters came along, that is. Which was in a late-fall evening in the fourth year after the Blast. 

Songs are historically used to remember things. Songs are sort of like weirwoods. And of course the COTF literally sing, and are really called "those who sing the song of earth".

The story begins with a man named Winters joining the commune. Long story short, Winters ends up convincing the commune, with an excellent argument, that Keith cannot continue to waste their supply of chronine. The drug was created to retrieve useful information from the past, and that's what they should use it for. They could have a doctor in the commune and not even know it. One specific story is recalled of a member of the commune dying of appendicitis, because they didn't know how to remove an appendix and ended up "butchering" him. At the end of the story, Keith smashes a guard in the head with his guitar (breaking the guitar) to break into the supply cabin and steal the remaining chronine. He then takes one more dose along with a bunch of sleeping pills to commit suicide while "time traveling". And then this is the very end of the story:

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But we still have singing and music. Winters found a kid named Ronnie on one of his trips, and Ronnie has a guitar of his own. He’s not in Keith’s league,of course, but he tries hard, and everybody has fun. And he’s taught some of the youngsters how to play.

Only thing is, Ronnie likes to write his own stuff, so we don’t hear many of the old songs. Instead we get postwar music. The most popular tune, right now, is a long ballad about how our Army wiped out the Sons of the Blast.

Winters says that’s a healthy thing; he talks about new music for a new civilization. And maybe he has something. In time, I’m sure, there will be anew culture to replace the one that died. Ronnie, like Winters, is giving us tomorrow.

But there’s a price.

The other night, when Ronnie sang, I asked him to do “Me and Bobby McGee.” But nobody knew the words.

So Keith is dead, and the memories he carried died out because they stopped singing his songs. They can't remember the lyrics to "Me and Bobby McGee", including the line where the story gets its title:

But, I'd trade all of my tomorrows, for a single yesterday
To be holdin' Bobby's body next to mine

Interestingly, GRRM has left the concept of time travel ambiguous in this story (unlike the other two). Keith argued that chronine actually allowed him to travel back in time, and the implication is that he hoped to remain in the past permanently by killing himself while "time-tripping". But if Keith was right, does that mean he could change the past? Could he have gotten Sandi out of the city before the Blast? Or was he doomed to repeatedly lose her and kill himself over and over for eternity? These questions are not explored at all in the story. But Keith does live out the lyrics of "Me and Bobby McGee", literally trading all of his tomorrows for a single yesterday.

Most importantly, Keith committed suicide to stay in the past. And we will see this concept used in both Unsound Variations and Under Siege.

The next story, chronologically, is Unsound Variations, released in 1982. Everyone who is a fan of ASOIAF should absolutely read it. It is thoroughly entertaining and short. Here is the "moral of the story" part, where GRRM hits us hard with some super profound shit:

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“What are you thinking about?” Kathy asked.

Peter smiled grimly. “Chess, believe it or not.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“Life is a lot like chess,” he said.

She laughed. “Really? I’d never noticed, somehow.”

Peter refused to let her needling get to him. “All a matter of choices. Every move you face choices, and every choice leads to different variations. It branches and then branches again, and sometimes the variation you pick isn’t as good as it looked, isn’t sound at all. But you don’t know that until your game is over.”

“I hope you’ll repeat this when I’m out of the tub,” Kathy said. “I want to write it all down for posterity.”

“I remember, back in college, how many possibilities life seemed to hold. Variations. I knew, of course, that I’d only live one of my fantasy lives, but for a few years there, I had them all, all the branches, all the variations. One day I could dream of being a novelist, one day I would be a journalist covering Washington, the next—oh, I don’t know, a politician, a teacher, whatever. My dream lives. Full of dream wealth and dream women. All the things I was going to do, all the places I was going to live. They were mutually exclusive, of course, but since I didn’t have any of them, in a sense I had them all. Like when you sit down at a chessboard to begin a game, and you don’t know what the opening will be. Maybe it will be a Sicilian, or a French, or a Ruy Lopez. They all coexist, all the variations, until you start making the moves. You always dream of winning, no matter what line you choose, but the variations are still … different.” He drank some more beer. “Once the game begins, the possibilities narrow and narrow and narrow, the other variations fade, and you’re left with what you’ve got—a position half of your own making, and half chance, as embodied by that stranger across the board. Maybe you’ve got a good game, or maybe you’re in trouble, but in any case there’s just that one position to work from. The might-have-beens are gone.”

This is basically GRRM putting his own life onto the page. Unsound Variations was released in 1982. GRRM had graduated with a degree in journalism and was an expert chess player who ran tournaments (hence the chess-based theme and setting), he had done some writing with mixed success, and had a stint as a teacher. And he had gone through a divorce and moved from the mid west down to Santa Fe. The story even ends with the protagonist deciding to take another shot at writing full time, which is what GRRM himself had done just a couple years earlier.

The basic plot of the story is that a man with a photographic memory named Bloodraven Bruce Bunnish, hungry for revenge on his college chess teammates who had wronged him in the past (because he can literally never forget anything), managed to invent time travel at the age of 71. Then, using the combination of his photographic memory and new time travel ability, Bruce carried out elaborate revenge schemes on all of his former friends, culminating in him inviting/manipulating them to travel to his cave private mansion far away from civilization (an unspecified but explicitly not walkable number of miles) in winter December. He simply locked all their cars in his garage so they couldn't escape, and while they were trapped he told them the details of how he had systematically ruined all of their lives by utilizing time travel. For instance, he ruined the life of an inventor by memorizing all of his patents and the dates they were obtained, and he simply patented every idea himself ahead of time, casting the inventor (who was successful in a previous timeline) into poverty and depression, which also made him an alcoholic. And it is implied that Bruce has gone back in time many, many times in his sick revenge lust. The pov character/protagonist is one of the former friends who is trapped in the cave mansion.

So how exactly do the mechanics of time travel work in Unsound Variations you ask? Fortunately for us, GRRM actually made it pretty explicit. First, here is the introduction to the concept from the book. You will notice that GRRM quickly and hilariously dismisses any and all paradoxes.

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...For more than fifty years, I worked toward that end, and that end alone.”

Peter swallowed a mouthful of cold coffee hastily and said, “What? Fifty years? You mean five, don’t you?”

“Fifty,” Bunnish repeated.

“You are insane,” said E.C.

“No,” said Bunnish. “I am a genius. Have you ever heard of time travel, any of you?”

“It doesn’t exist,” said Peter. “The paradoxes …”

Bunnish waved him quiet. “You’re right and you’re wrong, Norten. It exists, but only in a sort of limited fashion. Yet that is enough. I won’t bore you with mathematics none of you can understand. Analogy is easier. Time is said to be the fourth dimension, but it differs from the other three in one conspicuous way—our consciousness moves along it. From past to present only, alas. Time itself does not flow, no more than, say, width can flow. Our minds flicker from one instant of time to the next. This analogy was my starting point. I reasoned that if consciousness can move in one direction, it can move in the other direction as well. It took me fifty years to work out the details, however, and make what I call a flashback possible.

...

I perfected my device at the age of seventy-one. There is no way to move matter through time, but mind, mind is a different issue. My device would send my mind back to any point in my own lifetime that I chose, superimpose my consciousness with all of its memories on the consciousness of my earlier self. I could take nothing with me, of course.” Bunnish smiled and tapped his temple significantly. “But I still had my photographic memory. It was more than enough. I memorized things I would need to know in my new life, and I flashed back to my youth. I was given another chance, a chance to make some different moves in the game of life. I did.”

Steve Delmario blinked. “Your body,” he said blurrily. “What happened to your body, huh?”

“An interesting question. The kick of the flashback kills the would-be time-traveler. The body, that is. The timeline itself goes on, however. At least my equations indicate that it should. I’ve never been around to witness it. Meanwhile, changes in the past create a new, variant timeline.”

“Oh, alternate tracks,” Delmario said. He nodded. “Yeah.”

WOW, that's a lot of explicit details (for once). So consciousness can move backward through time, but not matter. And (spoiler) Bunnish's equations turned out to be correct. At the end of the story, Bunnish is found dead hooked up to his flashback device, and the timeline continued onward without exploding or anything.

So here's the key point: when the time traveler (Bunnish) kills himself and goes back in time, that timeline (with dead Bunnish) continues on like normal, as if Bunnish simply committed suicide. But then the consciousness of Bunnish exists in himself in the past in a "new, variant timeline".

So, now you may be wondering, how did the protagonist win? How could he possibly defeat a time traveler? Well, it is actually quite simple. Here is the second to last scene from the story, the climax where they defeat Bunnish:

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You can go,” Bunnish said. “And that drunk, too. But not Peter.” He showed his dimples. “Why, Peter has almost won, in a sense. So I’m going to be generous. You know what I’m going to do for you, Captain? I’m going to let you use my flashback device.”

“No thank you,” Peter said.

Bunnish stared, befuddled. “What do you mean, no? Don’t you understand what I’m giving you? You can wipe out all your failures, try again, make some different moves. Be a success in another timeline.”

“I know. Of course, that would leave Kathy with a dead body in this timeline, wouldn’t it? And you with the satisfaction of driving me to something that uncannily resembles suicide. No. I’ll take my chances with the future instead of the past. With Kathy.”

Bunnish let his mouth droop open. “What do you care about her? She hates you anyway. She’ll be better off with you dead. She’ll get the insurance money and you’ll get somebody better, somebody who cares about you.”

“But I do care about him,” Kathy said. She put a hand on Peter’s shoulder. He reached up and touched it, and smiled.

“Then you’re a fool too,” Bunnish cried. “He’s nothing, he’ll never be anything. I’ll see to that.

Peter stood up. “I don’t think so, somehow. I don’t think you can hurt us anymore. Any of us.” He looked at the others. “What do you think, guys?”

E.C. cocked his head thoughtfully, and ran a finger along the underside of his mustache. “You know,” he said, “I think you’re right.”

Delmario just seemed baffled, until all of a sudden the light broke across his face, and he grinned. “You can’t steal ideas I haven’t come up with yet, can you?” he said to Bunnish. “Not in this timeline, anyhow.” He made a loud whooping sound and stepped up to the chessboard. Reaching said. “Checkmate, checkmate, checkmate!”

So Bunnish while may have the power to further ruin their lives, it won't actually effect them. It will effect the versions of them that exist in future iterations of the timeline, which they will never have to experience. Bunnish can't steal the ideas they haven't come up with yet. He cannot further sabotage their lives in that timeline, and his need to gloat has actually ruined his own revenge scheme.

It is possible that the end of ASOIAF will be something like this. And I speculated in the OP that, similar to the protagonist Peter, Bran will have the opportunity to go back in time and change everything for selfish purposes, but he will refuse and choose love for others over himself.

OK, onto the last story, Under Siege, released in 1985. It is actually a totally rewritten version of a college paper GRRM wrote called The Fortress. The original version was a historical fiction about the Siege of Sveaborg, a siege during the Finnish War in 1808, where the fortress of Sveaborg mysteriously surrendered to the Russians even though they had a superior position. Under Siege is a sci-fi version of events, using time travel as an explanation for what happened.

Under Siege is set sometime around 2050, again on a post-apocalyptic Earth where the US and the Soviet Union went to war with nuclear weapons. The setting is a bit vague, but there is still some form of "government" running things, and the characters live in some sort of bunker. Supplies are dwindling, and the people have recently stopped manufacturing clothing entirely, which is a sign of how drastic the situation is. But luckily, they have several mutants who can travel back in time and influence the actions of people in the past. Their basic goal is to change the timeline to prevent the nuclear war, basically by preventing the Soviet Union from ever existing. This may sound like an absurd plan, but they claim to have computer models that predict nuclear war won't happen if they succeed. They started with 6 time travelers, but the story opens with the 5th dying, leaving only 1 left, the unnamed protagonist/pov character of the story. He refers to himself as a Geek (for convoluted unimportant reasons), so I will just call him Geek. Side note - the oldest time traveler was named Nan (Old Nan :P). She was born before the war and told stories about it, particularly stories of ice cream, and how it was the most delicious food ever, way better than anything they have now. 

Geek, who is a physically horrifying and ultra unattractive mutant (giant green tumor on his face, multiple rows of yellow teeth, unable to walk, and no nose) is in love with the most beautiful woman in the bunker, Dr. Veronica Jacobi, who Geeks calls Ronnie. Another time traveler (now dead) at one point hooked up cameras to spy on everyone in the bunker, and he once invited Geek into his room and showed him Ronnie having sex with her former lover (also now dead). Geek wonders if she has taken a new lover, but he has never gone back to look at the camera feed, and prefers his fantasies.

Each of the 6 time travelers was given a different "nexus point" to go back to, a critical point in history. The Great Northern War, the Revolution, the reign of Ivan the Terrible, and the Siege of Sveaborg are specifically named, with our protagonist Geek getting Sveaborg.

Now here's the catch: not everyone in the past can be telepathically influenced. The time travelers can only "build rapport" with certain people. GRRM was vague about why certain people can be influenced and others can't, but I'm guessing it has something to do with genetics. The reason this is so important for the plot is that the time travelers are severely limited in what they can do. Ideally, Geek would just build rapport with the commander at Sveaborg, or even the king of Sweden himself, and simply issue a command not to surrender the fortress. But the best Geek could do was to build rapport with a colonel at Sveaborg named Bengt Anttonen. Through Bengt, Geek tried to convince the commander not to surrender by giving him accurate intelligence reports. The problem is that Bengt had no way of knowing this info, because the reports were actually from the future, and the other officers thought that Bengt was going mad.

So the character who is basically Geek's boss (who Geek kind of hates), Major Salazar, comes up with a plan and orders Geek to kill the Russian General Suchtelen under a flag of truce, which will escalate the situation and prevent the peaceful surrender of Sveaborg, leading to Russia losing the war and then being crushed by Napoleon instead of defeating him.

Unlike Unsound Variations, the characters in this story seem confused and unsure about what will happen to the timeline if it is drastically changed. This is the vague explanation on paradoxes given in Under Siege:

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Your success may doom us all. When you change the past, the present as it now exists may simply cease to exist, and us with it. But our nation will live, and millions we have lost will be restored to us. Healthier, happier versions of ourselves will enjoy the rich lives that were denied us. You yourself will be born whole, without sickness or deformity.”

“Or talent,” I say. “In which case I won’t be able to go back to do this, in which case the past stays unchanged.”

“The paradox does not apply. You have been briefed on this. The past and the present and future are not contemporaneous. And it will be Anttonen who effects the change, not yourself. He is of that time.

Now this explanation is a bit contradictory. Why would the present cease to exist if they change the past but the past and present are not contemporaneous? I am guessing that Salazar is wrong and that the Unsound Variations rules apply. The past and the timeline can definitely be changed, as I will show you in a moment, but the present timeline probably just keeps going, unchanged. So yes, there will be new versions of those characters who get to live the rich lives denied to them in this timeline, but the actual characters themselves will never get to experience the new timeline. They are stuck with their shitty lives. 

The night before Geek goes back in time to carry out his orders, everyone has a wild drunken sex party just in case they are wiped out of existence. Geek is basically kept prisoner in his room with a guard on duty, just in case someone decides to kill him and ensure their existence continues. Geek still clings to his fantasy about having sex with Ronnie, however, and he tries to get past the guard to see her. The guard physically stops Geek (which is easy because he is in a wheelchair), and tells him that Ronnie doesn't want to see him. She is having sex with Major Salazar. Geek is crushed and finally takes another look on the monitors via the secret camera in Ronnie's room. She has indeed just finished having sex with Salazar. She then starts to perform oral sex on him, and Geek shuts off the monitor.

Geek then proceeds to go back in time, but instead of following his orders, he does the opposite. He ensures that the fortress gets surrendered to the Russians, and Bengt lives. Geek commits suicide while time traveling and remains inside Bengt's head for the rest of Bengt's life. And he did explicitly alter history:

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He took up residence in New York City, where he married, fathered nine children, and became a well-known and influential journalist, widely respected for his canny ability to sense coming trends. When events proved him wrong, as happened infrequently, Anttonen was always surprised. He was a founder of the Republican Party, and his writings were instrumental in the election of John Charles Fremont to the Presidency in 1856.

Obviously James Buchanan defeated Fremont to become president in 1856, and Lincoln was the first Republican president in 1860.

Just to clarify, Geek and the other time travelers were kept in fancy sci-fi chambers immersed in fluid (with like oxygen tubes going into their mouths and stuff), hooked up to an IV. It isn't specified if they are on any drugs that are helping them time travel, like in For a Single Yesterday. But like Keith, Geek used pills to kill himself while he was in the past.

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Bengt Anttonen found himself possessed of an eloquence that even his good friend might envy. He spoke on and on. He had one moment of strange weakness, when his stomach churned and his head swam, but somehow he knew it was nothing to be alarmed at, it was just the pills taking effect, it was just a monster dying far away in a metal coffin full of night, and then there were none, heigh-ho, one siege was ending and another would go on and on, and what did it matter to Bengt, the world was a big, crisp, cold, jeweled oyster.

Lots of ASOIAF-style symbolism in these stories. Notice the language there, a "metal coffin full of night" being the description of Geek's immersion chamber. Also, the top of the tank (on the inside) is "coated by a thin ebony film", so Geek sees his hideous reflection when he wakes up.

OK... so that's all of GRRM's previous explorations of time travel. As you can see, he basically brushes aside the paradoxes and goes with the basic concept that there are iterations of the timeline, so to speak, and each iteration continues forever like normal. Changes to the past of one timeline do not change the present or cause a paradox; the changes only effect the next iteration of the timeline itself. And it is possible for one's consciousness to jump from one iteration to the next by committing suicide and remaining in the past permanently. And at least in the case of Bruce Bunnish, it is rather trivial for someone with this power to keep going back to the past over and over and over again, a potentially unlimited number of times. Although it is easy to imagine a final version of the timeline where Bunnish gets hit by a car or something, and the opportunity to go back in time and prevent it would not be available to him.

So what does this imply for ASOIAF? Well I actually reread all three of those stories yesterday to gather the details for this response (they are pretty short), and I have a slightly new addition to my theory, building on my OP. My best guess is the following convoluted explanation: The old gods have been employing a strategy for thousands of years of adding greenseers to the weirnet and then altering the timeline as they see fit (utilizing their newly added powers) to achieve dominance over mankind. But what are their limitations, what are the exact mechanics, and how will Bran fit in? As I have said, I think the basic concept of having "iterations" of the timeline will definitely apply to ASOIAF. But having the time traveler commit suicide in the present to be permanently sent to the past may be a key factor, as it is central to the plots of all three of those stories. Bruce Bunnish was required to kill himself 100% of the time in order to go back and alter the timeline. Geek, on the other hand, was able to alter the timeline without dying. But dying enabled him to permanently stay in the "past", or more accurately in the new iteration of the timeline. The weirnet is probably more like Geek. They can at least look into the past and alter small things (the wind) like Bran did in ADWD without Bran dying (although, it may be the case that this trip to the past required the sacrifice of Jojen, fed in paste form to Bran). But it may be the case that upon joining the weirnet, and physically dying, the greenseer is mentally joined to all the other greenseers in the net and together they are all sent back in time, all the way to the beginning of the weirnet (approximately 20,000 years ago). And then together, with their freshly added knowledge and power, they replay all their moves and change the timeline according to their master plan. In other words, while Bruce Bunnish had effectively infinite chances to go back in time, the weirnet may be limited to a single time traveling adventure per greenseer, or a single time traveling adventure per greenseer per iteration of the timeline (if that makes sense :P). Bran, ultimately, will either refuse to join the weirnet, or he will join it but be hostile to the old gods and change the timeline in a way they did not intend. It may be that Bran is powerful enough to sort of "take over" the weirnet after he joins it. I lean toward Bran joining the weirnet but taking it over for his own purposes. This idea of a time traveling Bran would explain why Old Nan confuses all the various Brandon Starks and thinks they are basically the same person. And then of course there is the question, if Bran can potentially influence the minds of other people, like how he skinchanges Hodor, who exactly is he limited to influencing? Can he just float inside anyone's head in the past and alter their decisions? Well, like Geek, I think Bran (and maybe the old gods) would be limited to only certain people. Specifically, I'm guessing he would be limited to people whose blood has been absorbed into the weirnet. In particular, I think the WF crypts are built to facilitate this. I think the roots of the heart tree simply grow into the tombs of every dead Stark king (and Lyanna and Brandon) and absorb their blood into the weirnet (the iron swords ironically do nothing). And this would allow Bran to go back in time and be all the Brandons.

That's my best guess anyways :D. I could definitely be way off about the specifics. But based on those other stories and what we have witnessed already in ADWD, and BR's quote about the weirwoods experiencing time differently from humans, I will be shocked if time travel doesn't explicitly enter the plot by the end of ASOIAF.

EDIT: I'm just going to tag some random people who may be interested in reading about time travel @The Fattest Leech @kissdbyfire @ravenous reader

And here is quote from Under Siege just for you @LmL, because I know you love that black blood symbolism. This is our intro to the protagonist, the first time he returns to his own body in the present after traveling back in time:

Quote

… before the awareness is always the pain, and the pain comes first, the only reality in a still quiet empty world beyond sensation. For a second, an hour I do not know where I am and I am afraid. And then the knowledge comes to me; returning, I am returning, in the return is always pain, I do not want to return, but I must. I want the sweet clean purity of ice and snow, the bracing touch of the winter wind, the healthy lines of Bengt’s face. But it fades, fades though I scream and clutch for it, crying, wailing. It fades, fades, and then is gone.

I sense motion, a stirring all around me as the immersion fluid ebbs away. My face is exposed first. I suck in air through my wide nostrils, spit the tubes out of my bleeding mouth. When the fluid falls below my ears, I hear a gurgling, a greedy sucking sound. The vampire machines feed on the juices of my womb, the black blood of my second life. The cold touch of air on my skin pains me. I try not to scream, manage to hold the noise down to a whimper.

Above, the top of my tank is coated by a thin ebony film that has clung to the polished metal. I can see my reflection. I’m a stirring sight, nostril hairs aquiver on my noseless face, my right cheek bulging with a swollen greenish tumor. Such a handsome devil. I smile, showing a triple row of rotten teeth, fresh new incisors pushing up among them like sharpened stakes in a field of yellow toadstools. I wait for release. The tank is too damned small, a coffin. I am buried alive, and the fear is a palpable weight upon me. They do not like me. What if they just leave me in here to suffocate and die? “Out!” I whisper, but no one hears.

 

Edited by 40 Thousand Skeletons

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11 hours ago, SerProle said:

Wow, its compelling when you lay it all out like that, I may have to reread again and look for the clues you are pointing out. They do seem more plausible as you go through them in detail. I definitely see LF as a major agent playing the hapless Ned and Cat like a fiddle, I just missed your original contention that he was a pawn for the OG. Which gods do they follow in the Fingers? Why was LF in Riverrun to begin with, wouldn't his family have sent him somewhere in the Vale? What do we know about his upbringing?

I have read Song for Lya and to me it seems Lya is making a rational choice lol, what the fungus is offering sounds pretty good, ecstatic never ending connection instead of loneliness. Isn't it sort of an allusion for what human religion claims to offer, the promise of comfort and end of suffering, except the fungus is offering something a lot more real? Which reminds me that I've wondered why the Starks resist entering the weirwoodnet, why bury their dead in the crypt? What's the point of worshipping the old gods if you don't get eternal life among the trees? And the Greeshka had it pretty good with the pyramids, so their gods sound better than Bakkalon lol. The mudpots just wanted balance and protection from harvesting, not human genocide. (Although I don't get the idea of psychic cats as ambassadors/translators at all, that kind of ruined the story for me.)

I've wondered if the hive minded aliens aren't getting a bad rap, who exactly is the neutral authority for deciding their slave races are actually slaves? How is that different from the 'slaves' of the various human religions? The really evil 'god' in Sandkings is Kress, not the sandkings even in their evolved form, right? Are the OG less malign than some of the gods of Planetos as brought to power through the actions of their believers? Weirwoods sound better than R'hllor. Ha getting sidetracked lol.

I look forward to your thoughts on time travel as part of an agenda or conspiracy. That does exist in GRRM's stories, so I suppose its possible that after thousands and thousands of pages and decades of writing them, it could all be about getting to a certain final outcome on the part of some player after multiple attempts. But as PJ pointed out in his episode review, is a time traveling Bran any less lame than Planetos being part of 1000 Worlds lol? I suppose it depends on who gets to decide which version of lame is less lame lol.

Yeah, I definitely didn't make it clear that LF is a key pawn. I probably should have :P. But the OP grew to such an absurd length that I aimed for brevity where possible.

In the Fingers they would almost certainly follow the Seven, but Littlefinger is of Braavosi descent and his sellsword grandfather could have worshiped pretty much any god imaginable. What is important is that whatever gods LF believes in, he heard powerful voices in his head, or saw full-on visions of the "future", and he probably believed it to be the gods. Similarly, the Unsullied worship an unnamed goddess (who I refer to as Chekhov's unnamed Unsullied goddess), and Victarion is about to show up at the battle at Meereen and blow a horn that enslaves humans (Chekhov's horn). I predict that the Unsullied will hear the horn and be convinced that the Bride of Battle (one of her many nicknames) is speaking to them, and they will go over to Victarion/Euron. They have effectively been primed for being re-enslaved by that horn. Grey Worm claims that her true name belongs only to those who have burnt their manhoods upon her altar. This actually sounds uncannily similar to what Varys went through. Varys was castrated, his parts were burned in front of him, and he heard a voice speak through the flames.

Oddly, Lyanna 1.0 does in fact seem to be making the rational choice. But I think GRRM is playing with the concept of heaven and suicide. If you are a rational person, like Lyanna 1.0, and you sincerely believe you will definitely go to heaven when you die, and suicide does not prevent you going to heaven, then shouldn't you just kill yourself? Why delay? Come on! Paradise awaits! But really, it is possible that there is simply nothing when you die. I have no idea what the reality is in that story. I'm not sure GRRM does either. He certainly loves ambiguous endings. Is the weirnet some sort of living heaven for greenseers? Or is it a living hell into which all the greenseers have been systematically lured and captured, their powers being taken advantage of while a malevolent greenseer overrides the wills of all the others? Side note - a super-powerful time traveling, Hell-on-Planetos-containing weirnet seems like the very antithesis to the religion of the Faceless Men. And because of this, I have speculated that Arya may ultimately assist in destroying the weirnet with Chekhov's wolf pack. Or she might just use the wolves to scare the shit out of a bunch of cavalry or Dothraki riders and change the course of a battle.

And you bring up a great point about slavery and the hive-minded races. My favorite example is And Seven Times Never Kill Man. Clearly, the Jaenshi are slaves (at least to a large degree) to the pyramids. When the Jaenshi are "disconnected" from the pyramids, they eat and have sex without restraint, similar to humans. When they are "connected" aka actively mentally enslaved, they live in balance with nature like the COTF. Living in balance with nature is certainly sustainable, but at the same time, they lack basic free will. Is the pyramid acting like a dictatorial parental figure who just knows best for the Jaenshi? Are the Jaenshi ultimately better off, with a superior quality of life, as slaves? AAAAHHHH! Hard moral questions... :P 

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Quote

And you bring up a great point about slavery and the hive-minded races. My favorite example is And Seven Times Never Kill Man. Clearly, the Jaenshi are slaves (at least to a large degree) to the pyramids. When the Jaenshi are "disconnected" from the pyramids, they eat and have sex without restraint, similar to humans. When they are "connected" aka actively mentally enslaved, they live in balance with nature like the COTF. Living in balance with nature is certainly sustainable, but at the same time, they lack basic free will. Is the pyramid acting like a dictatorial parental figure who just knows best for the Jaenshi? Are the Jaenshi ultimately better off, with a superior quality of life, as slaves? AAAAHHHH! Hard moral questions... :P 

And you know what else about the Jaenshi, they are the recruiters for the pyramids, like the red priests of R'hollor. Remember, the Jaenshi also sacrifice their children (well, don't care when they are sacrificed). There is a rather strange relationship betwen the adult Jaenshi and the juveniles. Like Asshai. The Jaenshi lure the Steel Angels in with the pretty little "chess" pieces, get the humans "hooked" on the pyramids, and even merge their "lord of light" , the Pale Child Bakkalon to the pyramid to get full control over every angel in the hive.

This is very much like a future merging, or take over, between Dany and the Citadel in the ASOIAF books. The light and fire eminating from atop a stone structure where people flock to it like hive minded ants. Dany, the Pale Child Bakkalon, is atop her pyramids in Meereen with her firey lightbringer dragons, while the structure and history of the Citadel is a stone structure with a pale flame at the top and is described as a beacon. The measters are like the Steel angels, and the lower raking house measters and acolytes, etc are just the hive minded, blind following ants.

I actually think the Jaenshi are the antagonists in Seven Times Never Kill Man. The Steel Angels certainly are, but I think the Jaenshi overrride (Override. get it?!?) that prestigious title when you think about it.

Edited by The Fattest Leech

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1 hour ago, 40 Thousand Skeletons said:

EDIT: I'm just going to tag some random people who may be interested in reading about time travel @The Fattest Leech @kissdbyfire @ravenous reader

Well hello again, my book teyn friend.

I think you and I may have had a kinky mud wrestling situation over the use of time travel between George's older stories merged with ASOIAF. I have read Under Seige (very Tyrion), and Unsound Variations (very somebody with a fucked up jealous/control issue. Littlefinger, perhaps?). I actually really like Unsound Variations and have listened to it while driving. The story For a Single Yesterday is not in print anywhere, is it? I could never find it or I certainly would have read it by now. You can pm it to me if you have it and I will read it so I can join in on that one.

The one, biggest, boldest thing that is holding me back in the use of actual time travel as it is used in those three stories, is that those stories are set up as time travel stories right from the beginning. There is no need to hide this issue for a surprise reveal. Is that what you are saying here, that ASOIAF is a time travel fantasy story? (I am not mocking, just asking)

I do wonder if George is using the weirwoods as quasi-time travel by allowing Bran (and whoever is hooked up) to to see and watch past, present, and maybe future (in that vague "what if" way), but no interaction/changing the past, maybe some present day interaction via the wind and leaves, and only viewing a possible future. I feel like a reveal of time travel (mind consciousness, not bodily) this late in the ASOIAF game might feel a little gotcha-y. Too much of a reader surprise. I could be wrong. I admit this because I certainly have no inside knowledge to George's plans, but I feel like George tweeked his TT idea and embedded it in the weirwood trees. If you remember, many of his past stories, including but not limited to Unsound Variations and Bitterblooms, do employ the use of a tv/viewing screen to show visions. I think George has refenaggled this in a fashion into the red priests flames being a tv view screen (filled with Snow!), and also the weirwood visions. He does reuse his own themes, but he slightly twists them each time. No doubt about that.

Let me read this again, and hang out to see how the other details go, and maybe get to read FASY, and I will be happy to join back in here. It is 1am here and I am bushed, and I have to actually sleep at some point and head to work in the morning. I will check back in later.

 

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Wow definitely interesting to get a lot more details about those time travel stories and see potential parallels. I hadn't read them yet, only familiar with them as reviewed by others like PJ when talking about time travel possibilities in ASOIAF. I'm still working through all the 1000 Worlds stories but I will have to read the time stories now too.

Now I'm thinking you are right, some form of time travel for consciousnesses and merged consciousnesses seems likely as part of ASOIAF. But I also think Fattest Leech has a point, that unless GRRM is at his very best, to have this revealed in a more obvious way may feel like gotcha to a lot of readers. But is that even important? GRRM might not care at all, he's been planning this story for decades and insists at every opportunity that he is going to do things his way, no matter what. I personally don't care if it might come off as gotcha to some, because as your work shows there are enough clues already that its isn't really gotcha for those paying attention. It will just inspire more readers to reread again and again so they get the hints lol. Wouldn't it be just like one of his shut-in semi-omniscient characters for GRRM to have the last laugh lol. 

Many human religions claim it is folly to try and work out the reasonings of gods, their motives and decisions. I have a hard time imagining GRRM taking this stance with his invented gods, even if those gods aren't actually real which is what I believe anyway. So if there are godlike entities, even as hive minded creatures that are certainly more knowledgable than the human characters, what are their motives even if vague to humans and readers? Its hard for me to imagine GRRM won't give them some. I've never found the Eldritch Apocalypse and more Lovelockian interpretations of ASOIAF that appealing, partly because these gods seem demonic in ways that make them cartoonish to me. I like the ambiguity in GRRM's stories, where I the reader am left questioning whether the pyramids, or the Hrangans or Fynndi (finally getting the spelling right lol?) or the fungus are malevolent or not, especially compared to the gods of the human religions that motivate such horrific actions. The ambiguity is a strength in the stories, in my view.

If the weirwoodnet is seeking balance and control, in the way the pyramids are, keeping the human herd in check like the Jaenshi, that has positives and negatives for humans in aggregate, right? Less human free will, also less human suffering? Now that brain science is demonstrating empirically that free will is actually an illusion even though it feels real enough to us, would this have an impact on GRRM's storytelling? Even identity is being questioned as an illusion (although this idea has been around for thousands of years in other philosophical traditions), being more a collection of habits and socially constructed. Will this color some of GRRM's final thematic storytelling? Blended consciousnesses and warging and skinchanging and corpse handling (wights) already hinting at this, plus the various resurrected and altered characters? 

I totally hadn't thought of the idea that the heart tree roots could be creeping into the crypt and nullifying the stone and iron swords at Winterfell lol. And I don't think I even paid much attention to the god of the Unsullied. I feel embarrassed by how much I missed in my first reading lol, even though I actually didn't read ASOIAF until after having read some of 1000 Worlds and watched PJ's videos lol, I should've been primed to notice that kind of thing.

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Tks for tagging me, @40 Thousand Skeletons. Very interesting, w/o a doubt. However... :P

I still don't see it happening in ASoIaF. I agree w/ @The Fattest Leech, I think it would definitely feel like a "gotcha", and I don't see Martin doing that, not where we are at story-wise. That said, I fully acknowledge the possibility of being wrong. - I'm not though... :D

 

3 hours ago, SerProle said:

But I also think Fattest Leech has a point, that unless GRRM is at his very best, to have this revealed in a more obvious way may feel like gotcha to a lot of readers. But is that even important? GRRM might not care at all, he's been planning this story for decades and insists at every opportunity that he is going to do things his way, no matter what.

It is. And he did say he doesn't like sudden twists that come out of nowhere, and five books in, a time travel reveal/explanation would feel... very sudden. Or something. :)

 

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23 hours ago, The Fattest Leech said:

And you know what else about the Jaenshi, they are the recruiters for the pyramids, like the red priests of R'hollor. Remember, the Jaenshi also sacrifice their children (well, don't care when they are sacrificed). There is a rather strange relationship betwen the adult Jaenshi and the juveniles. Like Asshai. The Jaenshi lure the Steel Angels in with the pretty little "chess" pieces, get the humans "hooked" on the pyramids, and even merge their "lord of light" , the Pale Child Bakkalon to the pyramid to get full control over every angel in the hive.

This is very much like a future merging, or take over, between Dany and the Citadel in the ASOIAF books. The light and fire eminating from atop a stone structure where people flock to it like hive minded ants. Dany, the Pale Child Bakkalon, is atop her pyramids in Meereen with her firey lightbringer dragons, while the structure and history of the Citadel is a stone structure with a pale flame at the top and is described as a beacon. The measters are like the Steel angels, and the lower raking house measters and acolytes, etc are just the hive minded, blind following ants.

I actually think the Jaenshi are the antagonists in Seven Times Never Kill Man. The Steel Angels certainly are, but I think the Jaenshi overrride (Override. get it?!?) that prestigious title when you think about it.

LOL I get it :P 

All very good points. And yeah, the Jaenshi may start out looking like the underdogs, but before long their society was presumably going back to normal, while the Steel Angels experienced horrific destruction. (cough..  cough... children of the forest... cough...)

22 hours ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Well hello again, my book teyn friend.

I think you and I may have had a kinky mud wrestling situation over the use of time travel between George's older stories merged with ASOIAF. I have read Under Seige (very Tyrion), and Unsound Variations (very somebody with a fucked up jealous/control issue. Littlefinger, perhaps?). I actually really like Unsound Variations and have listened to it while driving. The story For a Single Yesterday is not in print anywhere, is it? I could never find it or I certainly would have read it by now. You can pm it to me if you have it and I will read it so I can join in on that one.

The one, biggest, boldest thing that is holding me back in the use of actual time travel as it is used in those three stories, is that those stories are set up as time travel stories right from the beginning. There is no need to hide this issue for a surprise reveal. Is that what you are saying here, that ASOIAF is a time travel fantasy story? (I am not mocking, just asking)

I do wonder if George is using the weirwoods as quasi-time travel by allowing Bran (and whoever is hooked up) to to see and watch past, present, and maybe future (in that vague "what if" way), but no interaction/changing the past, maybe some present day interaction via the wind and leaves, and only viewing a possible future. I feel like a reveal of time travel (mind consciousness, not bodily) this late in the ASOIAF game might feel a little gotcha-y. Too much of a reader surprise. I could be wrong. I admit this because I certainly have no inside knowledge to George's plans, but I feel like George tweeked his TT idea and embedded it in the weirwood trees. If you remember, many of his past stories, including but not limited to Unsound Variations and Bitterblooms, do employ the use of a tv/viewing screen to show visions. I think George has refenaggled this in a fashion into the red priests flames being a tv view screen (filled with Snow!), and also the weirwood visions. He does reuse his own themes, but he slightly twists them each time. No doubt about that.

Let me read this again, and hang out to see how the other details go, and maybe get to read FASY, and I will be happy to join back in here. It is 1am here and I am bushed, and I have to actually sleep at some point and head to work in the morning. I will check back in later.

 

Yes, to clarify I am saying that ASOIAF is a time travel fantasy/sci-fi story, and I think time travel will be central to the ending (either with Bran traveling to the past to change something important, or Bran permanently ending the cycle of nefarious time travel, or a combination of the two). :D 

6 hours ago, SerProle said:

Wow definitely interesting to get a lot more details about those time travel stories and see potential parallels. I hadn't read them yet, only familiar with them as reviewed by others like PJ when talking about time travel possibilities in ASOIAF. I'm still working through all the 1000 Worlds stories but I will have to read the time stories now too.

Now I'm thinking you are right, some form of time travel for consciousnesses and merged consciousnesses seems likely as part of ASOIAF. But I also think Fattest Leech has a point, that unless GRRM is at his very best, to have this revealed in a more obvious way may feel like gotcha to a lot of readers. But is that even important? GRRM might not care at all, he's been planning this story for decades and insists at every opportunity that he is going to do things his way, no matter what. I personally don't care if it might come off as gotcha to some, because as your work shows there are enough clues already that its isn't really gotcha for those paying attention. It will just inspire more readers to reread again and again so they get the hints lol. Wouldn't it be just like one of his shut-in semi-omniscient characters for GRRM to have the last laugh lol. 

Many human religions claim it is folly to try and work out the reasonings of gods, their motives and decisions. I have a hard time imagining GRRM taking this stance with his invented gods, even if those gods aren't actually real which is what I believe anyway. So if there are godlike entities, even as hive minded creatures that are certainly more knowledgable than the human characters, what are their motives even if vague to humans and readers? Its hard for me to imagine GRRM won't give them some. I've never found the Eldritch Apocalypse and more Lovelockian interpretations of ASOIAF that appealing, partly because these gods seem demonic in ways that make them cartoonish to me. I like the ambiguity in GRRM's stories, where I the reader am left questioning whether the pyramids, or the Hrangans or Fynndi (finally getting the spelling right lol?) or the fungus are malevolent or not, especially compared to the gods of the human religions that motivate such horrific actions. The ambiguity is a strength in the stories, in my view.

If the weirwoodnet is seeking balance and control, in the way the pyramids are, keeping the human herd in check like the Jaenshi, that has positives and negatives for humans in aggregate, right? Less human free will, also less human suffering? Now that brain science is demonstrating empirically that free will is actually an illusion even though it feels real enough to us, would this have an impact on GRRM's storytelling? Even identity is being questioned as an illusion (although this idea has been around for thousands of years in other philosophical traditions), being more a collection of habits and socially constructed. Will this color some of GRRM's final thematic storytelling? Blended consciousnesses and warging and skinchanging and corpse handling (wights) already hinting at this, plus the various resurrected and altered characters? 

I totally hadn't thought of the idea that the heart tree roots could be creeping into the crypt and nullifying the stone and iron swords at Winterfell lol. And I don't think I even paid much attention to the god of the Unsullied. I feel embarrassed by how much I missed in my first reading lol, even though I actually didn't read ASOIAF until after having read some of 1000 Worlds and watched PJ's videos lol, I should've been primed to notice that kind of thing.

LOL so close, it's "Fyndii" ;)

You and @The Fattest Leech and @kissdbyfire have brought up a super important point concerning the time travel reveal. As I sort of mentioned waaaaaayy back in part 2 of the OP, I do think this reveal has already been done in ADWD, albeit subtlely: 

Quote

"Winterfell," Bran whispered.

His father looked up. "Who's there?" he asked, turning …

… and Bran, frightened, pulled away. His father and the black pool and the godswood faded and were gone and he was back in the cavern, the pale thick roots of his weirwood throne cradling his limbs as a mother does a child. A torch flared to life before him.

And then again at the end of that chapter:

Quote

"Father." Bran's voice was a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the leaves. "Father, it's me. It's Bran. Brandon."

Eddard Stark lifted his head and looked long at the weirwood, frowning, but he did not speak. He cannot see me, Bran realized, despairing. He wanted to reach out and touch him, but all that he could do was watch and listen. I am in the tree. I am inside the heart tree, looking out of its red eyes, but the weirwood cannot talk, so I can't.

And in between is when we get depressing anti-time travel explanations from BR:

Quote

"But," said Bran, "he heard me."

"He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves. You cannot speak to him, try as you might. I know. I have my own ghosts, Bran. A brother that I loved, a brother that I hated, a woman I desired. Through the trees, I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it."

I think BR is either lying or wrong. Probably lying, considering the other nefarious activities he has been up to (at least according to me :P).

So here is the crux of the matter: BR claimed that the past cannot be changed. But Bran argued that Ned heard him. So, my question is... did Ned always weirdly look up and ask "Who's there?" out loud? My answer is: almost certainly not. And that really decides the issue for me, as trivial as it seems. The proposition that Ned always looked up and asked "Who's there?" out loud seems ridiculous. Why would Ned do that? Well, we know the reason is because he heard Bran. However, in the "first iteration of the timeline", there was no Bran yet. The future had not yet happened. And so it is beyond a doubt (in my mind) that Bran changed the past. And that was just his first trip into the weirnet. Imagine what Bran could accomplish with some more training.

Now, one could argue (as many people did) that Bran did not change the past, because the past and future are contemporaneous. Future Bran always whispered "Winterfell" and so Ned always heard him. The only way time can exist without paradoxes is by meeting the condition of a casual loop. And that is technically possible... but it is not how time travel works in Unsound Variations or Under Siege. I think that this quote I referenced earlier is probably the most relevant point here:

Quote

“Your success may doom us all. When you change the past, the present as it now exists may simply cease to exist, and us with it. But our nation will live, and millions we have lost will be restored to us. Healthier, happier versions of ourselves will enjoy the rich lives that were denied us. You yourself will be born whole, without sickness or deformity.”

“Or talent,” I say. “In which case I won’t be able to go back to do this, in which case the past stays unchanged.”

“The paradox does not apply. You have been briefed on this. The past and the present and future are not contemporaneous. And it will be Anttonen who effects the change, not yourself. He is of that time.”

So the past, present, and future are explicitly not contemporaneous in other GRRM stories, and this is not just a claim made by characters, but proven to be true, like when Fremont became the first Republican president in 1856.

I think the bottom line is, unless GRRM has decided to suddenly switch over from his previous time travel rules to "casual loop" style time travel, I'm pretty sure I'm right, and that passage from ADWD with Ned asking "Who's there?" is the reveal. When I was first coming around to the idea of time travel myself, I reread that chapter and had a legit feeling of, Oh god, I have been living in denial on every reread and just ignoring the implications of this chapter. I certainly expect that there will be a bigger reveal in TWOW. I think GRRM was very deliberately trying to write that passage so that time travel has technically been revealed but it is relatively easy for people to deny.

I think fAegon and the Red Wedding are both somewhat comparable to this level of reveal. Varys and Illyrio obviously had a complicated and mysterious plan that involved starting a war, and Tywin sure seemed confident about Robb's imminent demise. The Aegon reveal and the Red Wedding both still felt like giant surprises out of nowhere on my first read through. But then on every reread, I was like Oh, yeah, Robb is totally doomed, and of course Varys was planning on using a war to put someone else on the throne. If time travel is 100% confirmed in TWOW or ADOS, I definitely wouldn't be like, George that's bullshit! You pulled time travel out of nowhere without even hinting at it!

As for hiding the time travel aspect, I think the point of waiting until ADWD to even do a mini reveal is because we are witnessing the timeline that Bran has already changed, and so Bran is probably responsible for some of the plot. And I think GRRM did not want us to have that in mind while reading the first few books. But then on a reread we may be able to spot Bran's intervention.

Edited by 40 Thousand Skeletons

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