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Phylum of Alexandria

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  1. Sybell Spicer -> Lord Gawen Westerling Tysha -> Tyrion Lannister, at least for a time.
  2. Do you mind explaining Changeling theory? I am unaware, and a quick search did not yield anything.
  3. Interesting to think about. Crowfood's Daughter (and probably LmL) suggested the Grey King's Promethean gift of fire to man via a thunderbolt to a tree is a legend about greenseeing and other weirwood magics, and it suggests some sort of trickery or theft. Perhaps the weirwood of Raventree Hall is one such tree that was violated for the purpose of granting humans magical blood. I haven't watched her video in a while, but I remember Crowfood's Daughter associating the Blackwoods with the Yronwoods. What is your take on the Greenwood/Blackwood connection?
  4. I hope Dany doesn't fall too far into villainy. And I hope Jon doesn't kill Dany, either because she's a villain or because she's Nissa Nissa.
  5. Well, based on what GRRM has suggested, it seems that Lemongate is not nothing. Plus, I do love a good pun, and "Dane heiress" is no exception. Still, this is one more area where I start to worry about the ASOIAF plot. We have a hidden Targaryen prince in Jon, not yet revealed. We now also have Aegon claiming that he's a Targaryen prince once thought dead (and he might actually be a Blackfyre, or other pretender). Now, I quite like the Aegon development, because it's a way to simultaneously 1) introduce a more manufactured (i.e., "fantasy") version of Jon and Dany into the story, thereby highlighting just how much more earned their own stories feel, and 2) make a more explicit reference to hidden princes, because Jon's parentage actually hasn't been revealed yet, so the foreshadowing needs to ramp up somehow, and Aegon the interloper is one way to get naive readers thinking more about the prospect. But then...Dany, who we've thought forever was the last surviving Targaryen is in fact an imposter? Obviously, how brilliant versus regrettable a choice like this would be for the narrative all boils down to execution. In most respects I have the utmost faith in our dear author. Yet I do confess that my moments of doubt are with all of the hidden stuff bubbling in the background of the narrative. Not unrelated, I felt that The Mystery Knight was the least successful Dunk and Egg entry, mostly because the preoccupation with hidden plots and reveals seemed to upstage GRRM's desire to make an impactful, meaningful story. Beyond seeing some key characters come to life on page, what was the point of it all? I'm hoping GRRM can stick to what matters most to the structure, impact, and themes of his story. Rant over!
  6. Well, obviously Martin is deeply indebted to Tolkien. The whole notion of monomythic high fantasy world building is Tolkien's invention, and so in that respect ASOIAF is following what Tolkien already did, as you say, probably better. But my point about a more ambitious endeavor is different. Despite it intricate details about place, language, and mythic history, Lord of the Rings is a pretty simple story. It's an epic tale of an unlikely hero and his compatriots; the tone consistently teeters between wondrous discovery, foreboding, and the melancholy of change and loss. This is not a fault. The simplicity is part of why the narrative is fairly tight, some tangents aside. Not only is Martin working with a much bigger cast of characters (and paying a lot more attention to the writing of their characterizations), his story is his attempt to tackle some really hard moral and philosophical questions. I think the fact that Tolkien made escapist fantasy that was nevertheless deeply affected by the ugly realities of his time was something that really resonated with Martin, and Martin has built upon that and then some. Martin loves hero narratives, he thinks myths and songs are not just beautiful, but important for human life--and yet, how to reconcile the fantasy with all of the complexities, moral grey areas, banalities, and ugliness of reality? How to account for atrocities committed not just by the Orcs of the world, but also the Aragorns? How to capture the very real possibility of human self-extinction? And how to nevertheless manage a successfully inspiring hero's narrative when including all of these more complicated considerations? These are all very tall orders. How successful he is in his work can be debated, of course, but regardless it's an astoundingly ambitious project.
  7. I'm one of the few people who is not all that into the LoTR films. They're fine as swashbuckling action fare, but I much prefer the books' slower, steadier building of tension, and its rich sense of place and time. For me the biggest weaknesses in Tolkien's writing is his human characters. Boromir and maybe Denethor aside, they're mostly flat and devoid of inner conflict. Otherwise I love the poetic, sublime nature of his writing, tinged of course with sorrow for things lost. With Martin, character writing is one of his greatest strengths. He has a few groaners peppered throughout (like Asha's sex scene, ugh), but by and large he has created an expansive pantheon of characters with various spectra of character traits, motivations, opportunities, and limitations. I agree that Tolkien is better at pacing and overall narrative structure, but arguably Martin is trying something far more ambitious in ASOIAF: he's doing a multi-level epic that include personal experiences, societal critiques, and an almost Jungian layer of dreams, prophesies, visions, myths, and faintly remembered histories. There are plenty of flaws to point out, but at the same time I am continually amazed that the books that we have so far were in fact written by just one person. It's an astounding accomplishment, even unfinished.
  8. Yeah, I think there's plenty of horror to come! I think, for all his blending of genres, GRRM is at his heart a horror writer. His fantasy stories are almost always gothic fantasy; his Sci-Fi content feels much closer in tone to Alien than to Dune. Act 3 of ASOIAF seems guaranteed to ramp up the more supernatural aspects of the story, but I think that means a concomitant ramping up of the horror.
  9. I’ve recently finished Dreamsongs for the first time and I want to collect my thoughts on how themes and plot details from these older short stories could have possibly informed the ASOIAF series. This post will be the first of several posts on GRRM’s previous stories and ASOIAF. Obviously plenty of others have done this before, though not to my particular satisfaction (at least the ones I’ve encountered). If you’re hankering to wax hypothetical about GRRM’s larger oeuvre, this is a good place for you. Let me state my own particular biases up front: I take GRRM’s statement that Planetos is not part of the Thousand Worlds at face value. Borrowed ideas and recycled themes across stories, sure. Cameos within ASOIAF from anyone other than the Pale Child statue, almost certainly not. I also tend to look for parsimony in explanation. Obviously we all need a little bit of Shade of the Evening when we speculate like this, but the fewer unsupported assumptions made for an explanation, the better. Anyway, here are some thoughts about Gods and Hive minds. What we know about the weirwoods thus far suggests some sort of psychic hive mind interpreted as gods. And this happens to be a topic that GRRM has written about quite a bit in his other stories, so perhaps there are things we can learn. The stories that seem most relevant to me are: A Song for Lya, And Seven Times Never Kill Man, Sandkings, Nightflyers, Guardians, and The Men at Greywater Station. I’ll review them all separately, but will synthesize when it makes sense to do so. {Spoilers for these aforementioned stories below} A Song for Lya Psychic talents Robb and Lyanna learn that the Shkeen worship a plasmic parasite called the Greeshka: a pink blob of slime that seemingly exhibits no signs of conscious thought that the psychics can pick up on. And yet, the Greeshka seems to generate and perpetuate a psychic hive mind for all of the Shkeen and humans that is has devoured. For all intents and purposes, the Greeshka offers its followers an actual afterlife, one filled with bliss and true unity. One thing I should point out is that many narrative details remain unexplained by the story’s end. We don’t know for sure if the Greeshka had some sort of consciousness that was simply out of the bounds of the psychics’ power, or if it truly was an unconscious matter that happened to generate an emergent collective consciousness from the minds of the fallen Shkeen. To that effect, it’s also not totally clear if Lya’s dream visit to Robb was actually coming from her mind via the collective consciousness, or if it was a psy-lure from the Greeshka, as Dino suggests. I lean toward the psychic hive mind constituting a real afterlife. Of course, even if it really was Lya reaching out to Robb rather than the Greeshka, the effect is the same. The only difference is that Lya takes part in the psy-lure. We certainly know that in ASOIAF, skin changers can feel the psychic remnants of others living on in the animals, and green seers long dead can be felt in the weirwood net’s collective astral plane. So, in both stories, the religious belief of gods tends to have a genuinely supernatural explanation, albeit one that feels more clinical and self-serving rather than inspiring. In Song for Lya, GRRM does present the afterlife with a measured sense of ambivalence and ambiguity. In contrast, Bran Stark’s chapters in the weirwood feel extremely dark in tone. I don’t think the tone of Bran’s chapters necessarily means that the weirwoods and children are malicious, but instead to replace the ideal of beneficence with cold self-interest, and to warn readers about possible ways such powers can be abused. Bloodraven seems to be himself, but he, like Lya, could be unwittingly acting in the interests of a hivemind that happens to thrive on spilled human blood. And Seven Times Never Kill Man! In the conflict between the Jaenshi and the Steel Angels, we seem to see the prototype for ASOIAF’s children of the forest, and the various armies of superstitious humans who posed a threat to the weirwoods (the First Men, the Andals, the followers of R’hllor). The Jaenshi exhibit the same selfless, dispassionate, balanced approach to life that the Children describe to Bran. What’s interesting about the Jaenshi is that this trait only seems to have emerged once they started worshipping the pyramids—and the Steel Angels also exhibit this self-culling style once they too embrace the pyramids. We don’t learn anything about the nature of the pyramids, beyond the ability to seemingly read the minds of those nearby and reveal objects of love and devotion in its statues. Still, while it’s unclear if there is a collective conscious like Song for Lya and ASOAIF, the pyramid power does create a hive mind of sorts among its followers. For GRRM, this is religion itself. In all three stories, there is the notion of cross-species conversion into the religion, with humans willingly taking on some alien godhead. Of course, the First Men converted to the religion of the Children, what is now referred to as the Old Gods. Interestingly, the Steel Angels converted to the religion of the pyramids rather unwittingly. This “tailored” conversion does raise questions about what may have been changed to get humans to embrace the weirwoods. Is the weirwood creature at the Black Gate something closer to what the Old Gods were before they started to resemble trees? We don’t know. Sandkings Speaking of variation and change, in Sandkings we get four rival organisms of a hive mind species, with each organism consisting of multiple mobile bodies and an immobile queen, which serves as the brain and the stomach. The mobile units also undergo several stages of metamorphosis, with no predetermined endpoint in morphology. It’s therefore also somewhat of a strategic shapeshifter, at least in fixed stages. At this point, we don’t know if these details are relevant to ASOIAF, but I must say I find them rather tantalizing. Obviously the weirwoods can rope in converts like the First Men, and possibly also the CotF. But what if there are actual walker units for this species? What if the green men are walkers hiding away on the Isle of Faces? What if the Others are white walkers for some queen in the Heart of Winter? After all, the sandkings warred against each other and took on distinct shapes over time. One reason I like this notion is because it seems to tie together several details that otherwise are quite puzzling. See my Trichromatic Theory of Magic post for more detail there. But I fully admit that right now this is fully speculative. What we do know is that Cress’ manipulation by the sandkings is a clear case of psy-luring. This is a potential danger for Bran, Bloodraven, and anyone who visits the psionic astral planes of Planetos. Guardians Here we have another multi-component hive mind species. Like Sandkings, the mudpots have mobile guardian units that they can engineer and change according to their needs. So, another case of shape-shifting mobile creatures, another case of a singular organism that’s mistaken for separate entities, and another case of a strategic mother-brain that wrongfully dismissed as mindless. In this story, a peace was eventually brokered between the mudpots and humans, assisted by a psychic intermediary. That somewhat resembles the Pact between CotF and humans, and is certainly a possible resolution for ASOIAF with respect to the Others, although I happen to think the end will be much more dramatic, devastating, and bittersweet than that. The Men at Greywater Station Two main takeaways from this one. First, the most prominent example of a simple lifeform, mold in this case, exhibiting strategic offenses against humans. Second, the offense included the psychic manipulation of said humans, to pit them against one another. Nightflyers Nightflyers doesn’t concern gods per se, nor does it technically constitute a hive mind, but there are some ideas explored that might be relevant for ASOIAF’s hive mind gods. Royd is a physically frail Romantic psychic who spies on everyone around him, and thus clearly gives off a Bran/Bloodraven vibe. Royd Eris doesn’t share the same mindspace as anyone else, like Bloodraven shares with the other greenseers. Instead, he is a gender-swapped mind-copy of his mother, and they both exhibit psionic powers. Not to mention that the ship itself, a space taken for granted as background, is in fact controlled by Royd's mother, and is therefore sentient and dangerous. The idea of auto-reproduction is fascinating, given the clear motif of incest for preserving magical blood in ASOIAF. We don’t yet know how those bloodlines got started, but some sort of fusion with a supernatural species was likely the origin. We know the weirwoods are powered by blood, and we know that the Others use human babies for some sort of strengthening, or maybe reproduction. We also know that developing firewyrms or dragons are able to gestate in the magically hot blood of Targaryens. Beyond that, we don’t know much. Wrap-up Are those noble trees in Westeros really as passive as they seem? Are they simply enablers of a psychic afterlife realm, as Lya thought of the Greeshka? Or do they actually have their own interests, motives, and strategies to get what they want? I am leaning towards the latter, though perhaps we’ll never know that one for sure. However, I do think the mystery of reproduction is something that GRRM will eventually reveal by the end of ASOIAF, and it will offer a key insight into the nature of magic, and how to eliminate it. In the meantime, I will continue to stew on it. Thanks for humoring me and letting me rant. Feel free to share your thoughts!
  10. That's a valid concern. But a lot of Cat's troubles were due to the author playing cruel god with House Stark, and her other frustrations added to a valuable larger critique on the harshly patriarchal culture of Westeros. I think with Sansa's rise to action in Act 3 we would probably see less of that particular authorial emphasis, though Sansa and the rest will indeed still have significant frustrations, sacrifices, and losses by story's end.
  11. Oh, I don't mean as a military leader. I mean a leader like Catelyn was. A lady of a powerful house; someone who can use her wits, her charms, and her courtesies to marshal resources for practical purposes, and to influence the military leaders.
  12. Interesting. I hadn't thought of the notion that mountain clansmen like Timett would be able to identify Sansa. I tend to think that the Mad Mouse will play more of a role though. Even if he's not Howland on a rescue mission, he nevertheless has somehow recognized Alayne as Sansa, and he will make some sort of move. Another player to consider is Lyn Corbray; Sansa's interaction with him in her TWOW chapter has a tension to it that hints at danger. To be perfectly honest, I do kind of worry about this Vale plotline. There are so many things bubbling up under the surface: plots, rival factions, rival claims, questionable loyalties, possible hidden identities. Then there's the tourney itself, and the mountain clans. And then on top of all that, put an avalanche there as well! I fear that it's just going to be a jumble of random events, when what I really want is to see Sansa come into her own as a player and a leader. I'm telling myself that GRRM plans to use such chaos in order to cut through the Vale dilemma somewhat quickly, but even there the execution is likely very tricky to pull off in a satisfying way. All I can do is wait and hope... PS: I do love my city, but I chose my name to suit my music blog, and also as a nod to Philo.
  13. I mostly agree with your take, but where does Dany basically say "We'll probably get married later?" She takes Quentyn down to the dragon pit because she knows Dorne wants dragons, and she knows she'll need some dragon riders, at least eventually. While both are not in the know as to how dragons are controlled at this point, Dany's offer to Quent is fairly pragmatic and definitely platonic. Quentyn's head is still stuck in Romantic Hero mode, however, and so once Dany flees the scene, he takes her offer as a challenge to seize his role as a protagonist of the story, but that doesn't work out so well.
  14. I think the Lannister regime will be deposed by the newly crowned King Aegon. After that, I really don't have a good sense of where their stories are going. I wouldn't totally count Cersei out as a threat. Surely there must be some purpose for Qyburn's resurrection of Robert Strong. Even if his role is solely to get Cersei out of her trial (and I hope it's more of a role than that)--surely her surviving said trial should be more important for the story than simply to get shut down by Aegon! It is for this reason that I think Cersei might ultimately serve as the late-story threat that constitutes ASOIAF's Scouring of the Shire scene. But that's really just a guess. Jaime's story seems rooted for now in the Riverlands, with Lady Stoneheart and Brienne. I think he'll probably survive that ordeal, though perhaps he'll finally come to terms with all of the horrors his house had perpetuated. I do think there's a good chance that he will later neutralize the threat of Cersei, fulfilling her valonqar prophecy by playing the Grima to Cersei's Sharkey. I am of the mind that Tyrion will ultimately manifest as a heroic figure, though he will ride the line of villainy for some time before pulling back from the brink. Tyrion is so very good at manipulating others for his own gain and survival, yet he has shown a few moments of bravery and self-sacrifice. For that reason, maybe his redemption will end in his own heroic death. I certainly would love to see House Lannister come to an end, with their gold given to a reformist king for the reconstruction of Westeros.
  15. Yes, agreed. Also, while Rhaegar's actions with Lyanna are still somewhat mysterious, and accounts of him are somewhat conflicted (especially in Book 1), we nevertheless can construct a pretty good idea of his personality and some of his motives from the various perspectives across the 5 books. I have such a good impression of Rhaegar's personality that I immediately recognized him in another GRRM story: Fevre Dream. It was nice to see him play a more prominent role there. In contrast, Quaithe seems like an empty plot construct. I'm fine with her being so. She's kind of like a dream guide in a David Lynch film (the Man From Another Place in Twin Peaks, the mystery man in Lost Highway). But she's not interesting in and of herself.
  16. Yeah, my feeling is that frozen hell will break loose before anyone goes South, and Winterfell will show itself as the main refuge against the winter. Mel, Selyse, and Shireen may come from the North to seek shelter there as well. Which would likely kick start the final leg of Stannis' arc: do I emulate the prophesied hero of ages (the guy who sacrifices innocent life for his magic sword), or simply try to protect the people under my charge?
  17. Who needs beauty? Certainly Melisandre thinks she does, which is why she is using a glamor on herself. Given that she may have been transformed and preserved by her fire magic, she's probably right.
  18. Do you think when Stannis and Melisandre got together there was foreshadowplay?
  19. I enjoyed your essay, and agree with your observations and associations. Certainly GRRM has a plan for all of these conflated concepts--dragons, swords, comets--but how exactly they all tie together and thereby affect the endgame is not clear. You might be right, but it's hard to say for sure at this point. Especially because we don't even know how Valyrian steel was made...or dragons for that matter. Comets/meteors will obviously play some role, but given GRRM's mischievous use of polysemous writing, it's hard to say exactly how.
  20. Not just any sword, but a "dragonsteel" sword, which connects this Northern Westerosi legend to the powers of the East. And if dragons are indeed involved, then traveling to various points across the world becomes a lot easier.
  21. I don't know, these are some extreme changes! Personally, I don't think it's fair to say that a given plot element serves no purpose when the series is not yet finished. Perhaps GRRM has in fact lost the thread, and by the end, we'll see for sure that a lot of Act Two consisted of padding and pointless cul de sacs. But conversely, those scenes could be set ups for later payoff that we haven't yet seen. GRRM is certainly someone who likes his big dramatic moments to feel earned rather than simply because the genre demands it. I would argue that Brienne's AFFC chapters are quite important thematically, because they help to establish the author's existentialist attitude about heroism (Regardless of knightly vows, or her purported quest, or even her own self-image, Brienne is a knight because she bravely walks into risk for the sake of those who cannot). But even so, I can imagine those chapters being quite important for informing her later approach to Lady Stoneheart. Not to mention quite important for Sansa and Arya's chapters, as Brienne unknowingly walks both of their narrative paths in AFFC. We'll see more of the Mad Mouse and the Gravedigger in the story, yet it was Brienne's chapters that introduced them. tldr: maybe you're right, and this stuff serves no larger purpose. But we can't really say until the full structure of the story is revealed. It's all in the execution.
  22. Probably an unpopular opinion, but I think that the story will ultimately be stronger from Martin's unconventional placement of these battles in his books. At this point, we've already seen plenty of battles, and we've also seen their consequences. Obviously there will be some excitement for any battle, but it's also in the author's interest to shift the tone on these things, particularly given his story's framing conceit and central themes. In that respect, I think it's smart to open Act 3 with some big battles that mostly go in the favor of the people we're rooting for, and then the story can shift to the fallout from those battles, and unforeseen factors, which lead us inexorably toward the more pressing cataclysms of the story: the next Dance of the Dragons, the fall of Winter/a second Long Night, and the threat of the Others coming into effect.
  23. Whether it's really one person or several similar roles, collectively the character is something like a cross between Odin and Lucifer. He's like this traveling mage who brings great power and knowledge to the societies that take him in, but the great power and knowledge are almost always abused, and ruin follows. There's a cyclical aspect to it, where the solution to a problem was a major cause of the problem in the first place.
  24. Tywin should have appealed to the throne when Catelyn arrested Tyrion. He could have used the opportunity to defame the Stark's reputation (hire some singers to spread "The Wolf is Smallest of Them All" or some such propaganda) and save a lot of bloodshed and chaos.
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