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Kyll.Ing.

Rothfuss XVI: Books? What books?

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I would say that ASOIAF did redefine the genre but I would have trouble articulating exactly how. It's fair to note that his killing of Ned and Robb and even Catelyn is a good fundamental shift away from the standard of "main character overcomes and accomplishes what he set out to do by defeating the big bad." At the same time, some of that is simple misdirection and hiding how Jon and Dany are the true heroes (theoretically). Certainly, the intrigue and the level of detail (depth and breadth) he puts into things are a factor. Even the early focus on politics before a stronger shift towards more standard fantasy elements is a style shift.

Some of the struggle I have here is that much of this has been done in one form or another by others. But they didn't succeed in the same way and so it didn't really serve to redefine things. Overall, I would say that popularity is a factor here but it's more than mere popularity. ASOIAF has a very different feel and focus than many alternatives in the genre. It's not just quality of working either. Without adding it up (and fully admitting that I may just be wrong were I to add it up) I'll say that where he spends his time and his word count is different than most popular series.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing

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GRRM didn't redefine anything, necessarily, but he did consolidate a whole bunch of ideas. We'd had "really long series" before (WoT), we'd have "fantasy with sex and swearing and morally ambiguous protagonists" before (Donaldson, Cook, Gemmell, Kearney), we had the whole "noble families clashing" thing (Dune, GRRM's historical inspirations) and so on, but GRRM rolled them all into one very accessible package. Tolkien did something similar, though his linguistic approach was more unique to him. A lot of the individual things GRRM gets credit for weren't really original to him, but he popularised them.

The "killing characters" thing is also merely an application of scale. From the POV of A Game of Thrones in isolation, killing Ned is a big deal. From the POV of ASoIaF as a whole, Ned is the father/mentor figure present at the start of the story who has to die for his children to take centre-stage. Nothing we haven't done before, but by making Ned a POV character and anchoring the book on him, it makes it a bit more surprising.

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14 minutes ago, Werthead said:

 Tolkien did something similar, though his linguistic approach was more unique to him. A lot of the individual things GRRM gets credit for weren't really original to him, but he popularised them.

I would say that Tolkein was more of an innovator in a bunch of ways, taking into account his time.  A consistent mythology, excellent battles, heroes who are physically unprepossessing, a touch of the eerie and the fae.  And a romantic vision.  

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6 minutes ago, Gaston de Foix said:

I would say that Tolkein was more of an innovator in a bunch of ways, taking into account his time.  A consistent mythology, excellent battles, heroes who are physically unprepossessing, a touch of the eerie and the fae.  And a romantic vision.  

A bunch of that stuff was in earlier books, like The Worm Ouroborus and The King of Elfland's Daughter (not to mention Conan), like the mapped kingdoms, the different cultures, the quest and the massive battles. Tolkien definitely did them more realistically and better than before, though.

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The Ned thing was clever because he framed Ned as the hero rather than the Obi-Wan. In hindsight like Wert says it's less revolutionary than it seemed but at the time killing what seemed to be the Aragorn in the first book was a fair old mind-blower.

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24 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

The Ned thing was clever because he framed Ned as the hero rather than the Obi-Wan. In hindsight like Wert says it's less revolutionary than it seemed but at the time killing what seemed to be the Aragorn in the first book was a fair old mind-blower.

Especially since at one point the story misdirects that Ned will get exiled to the Wall, where the reader assumes he’ll be positioned to fight the Others.

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I don't know that he redefined a genre, but he certainly had an effect.  Ned has been mentioned and I agree.  I also remember my reaction to the Red Wedding made my roommate at the time grab a copy of Game of Thrones.  I was shocked by that chapter.   

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2 hours ago, Inkdaub said:

I don't know that he redefined a genre, but he certainly had an effect.  Ned has been mentioned and I agree.  I also remember my reaction to the Red Wedding made my roommate at the time grab a copy of Game of Thrones.  I was shocked by that chapter.   

I threw my paperback across the dorm room, then an hour later tried very hard to take it out on my wonderful college girlfriend with a series of snide comments and bitter complaints. Once she realized I was acting like a toddler without his pacifier, she mercilessly mocked me for being a rotten shit due to a book chapter. But, but, she didn't understand!

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I think a big part of why fans get obsessed with game of thrones is the amount of  time from reading the books and rereading going on forum.

Spending that amount of time on anything, will make a person naturally obsessed.

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So much that happened in the volume, the one with Ned Stark as a character, was not written with any plan or strategy for the future volumes.  Which is why so little can be reconciled by either readers or writers, whether the latter are either the author or adaptors.  Which proves yet again very long works don't work well with seat of the pantsers, unless starting already as saggy bags of epics with no particular need or even objective to fulfill plot arc.  GRRM didn't realize that and just merrily continued to generate cash but due to his inexperience with the long form beyond slimmer stand alones, got lost and now doesn't know what to do.

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

So much that happened in the volume, the one with Ned Stark as a character, was not written with any plan or strategy for the future volumes.  Which is why so little can be reconciled by either readers or writers, whether the latter are either the author or adaptors.  Which proves yet again very long works don't work well with seat of the pantsers, unless starting already as saggy bags of epics with no particular need or even objective to fulfill plot arc.  GRRM didn't realize that and just merrily continued to generate cash but due to his inexperience with the long form beyond slimmer stand alones, got lost and now doesn't know what to do.

I think anyone who is basing an epic fantasy series off of historical writings has to be a pantser.  So much of history doesn't have a feeling of a beginning er an end. Id rather him develop more insights or variations of historical ideas and characters and then use that than characters who bend over to fulfill a silly plot arc mapped 30 years ago.

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3 hours ago, Zorral said:

So much that happened in the volume, the one with Ned Stark as a character, was not written with any plan or strategy for the future volumes. 

Citation needed.

3 hours ago, Zorral said:

Which is why so little can be reconciled by either readers or writers, whether the latter are either the author or adaptors. 

Citation also needed.

3 hours ago, Zorral said:

Which proves yet again very long works don't work well with seat of the pantsers, unless starting already as saggy bags of epics with no particular need or even objective to fulfill plot arc.

REALLY citation needed.

3 hours ago, Zorral said:

  GRRM didn't realize that and just merrily continued to generate cash but due to his inexperience with the long form beyond slimmer stand alones, got lost and now doesn't know what to do.

Other than writing 3 huge books that are some of the most successful of all time? Did he get 'lost' writing ASOS? Please. 

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Perhaps the 'he got lost' was the planned five year gap. And the ever evolving elastic time frame of getting everyone everywhere

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16 minutes ago, lysmonger said:

Perhaps the 'he got lost' was the planned five year gap. And the ever evolving elastic time frame of getting everyone everywhere

I get that he got lost in the path along the way, but he has had for something like 3 decades the precise thing he wants as far as an ending goes, and was able to communicate that to the showrunners as well. And they also adapted things based on those ideas. There are very specific beats that we know he has had for years and years and years planned out - and the Red Wedding is one example that we know of. The idea that he's been just making all of this up and now has no idea how to end it is just not backed by anything. In particular, the idea that he didn't know what was going to happen with Ned dying and didn't have that planned out at all is really, really stupid. 

There are a lot of problems with his writing, and his writing process - but the notion that he didn't have an idea of where he was going with this is simply not backed by facts. Hell, if you want you can actually go and read his plot outline he had of  the whole god damn thing that he wrote in like the 80s. It kind of sucks and is not the same as what we have, but it's there. 

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On 8/7/2020 at 5:54 PM, Werthead said:

GRRM didn't redefine anything, necessarily, but he did consolidate a whole bunch of ideas.

I agree with alot of your points, but he certainly redefined the level of mainstream success a modern fantasy author was thought to be capable of. Before the juggernaut that was Game of Thrones, I dont think anyone really suspected that the pop culture appeal of a fantasy series outside of The Lord of the Rings could really reach that kind of level of success. That was absolutely the biggest show on TV while it aired, and in turn has caused him to be the biggest celebrity the fantasy genre has ever known outside of Tolkien. I mean, did any of us ever think that an epic fantasy writer was gonna have a  guest spot on a late night television show?

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2 hours ago, bms295 said:

Before the juggernaut that was Game of Thrones, I dont think anyone really suspected that the pop culture appeal of a fantasy series outside of The Lord of the Rings could really reach that kind of level of success.

I mean, Harry Potter, obviously.

Even if you set YA aside, though, Pratchett was a bigger celebrity in the UK and in Poland for some reason but hasn't reached the same kind of mainstream appeal in America as far as I can tell coz y'all have terrible taste or something I dunno.

 

But also, the influence of aSoIaF as a novel series and the influence of GoT as a TV show are separate thing separated by years. Before the show came out, GRRM was not in the sales or pop culture awareness ballpark of a Jordan or (urgh) Goodkind, or someone like Neil Gaiman, although aSoIaF might eventually have caught up anyway given time and more books in the series. There's a pretty good chance that Jordan's sales will go back above GRRM's when the WoT TV show hits, though, since by Wert's numbers they're not far apart even as is.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, lysmonger said:

I think anyone who is basing an epic fantasy series off of historical writings has to be a pantser.  So much of history doesn't have a feeling of a beginning er an end. Id rather him develop more insights or variations of historical ideas and characters and then use that than characters who bend over to fulfill a silly plot arc mapped 30 years ago.

Actually historical understanding has always involved the continuous imposition of a narrative onto the past which trails into the present. 

If you asked someone in Henry VIII's court to describe recent English history they would have started with the rotting of the Plantagenet dynasty in the figure of Henry VI (the lawful but incompetent heir) followed by the arrival of Edward VI as England's saviour.  Followed in turn by the infanticidal Richard III who usurped his brother's thrown followed in turn by Henry VII rescuing England from tyranny and uniting York and Lancaster. 

Each one of these sentences is highly contestable (except maybe that Henry VI was an unworthy King).  This narrative did not fully adopt with either the Lancaster or the Yorkist narrative at the time of the War of the Roses.  It was a melange that was widely accepted as truth. And it had a definite beginning (Henry VI descent into madness) and end (Henry VI ascension and marriage to Elizabeth of York). 

And you can do this with many, many definite periods of history including the conversion of Rome from a Republic to an Empire.  It's how humans think naturally, in terms of stories.  And the in-world history that GRRM has written in the books pretty much breaks up his narrative up into storytelling capsules.  

The problem is between the 20,000 feet view of a historian and ASOIAF's current status which resembles the Ganges at its most meandering is the compelling narrative of history as story, told from diaries, letters, dispatches and contemporaneous accounts. GRRM as a fiction writer can do even better and show us history from the perspective of its actors. 

He's not hitting that ideal form because in response to widespread adulation he's made the book a travelogue, a social commentary, an introduction to every character in Westeros.  It's as if the world is saying to him, George we want more.  We love your creation.  And GRRM's obliging response after all those lonely unappreciated years is to say, you want more. I'll give you more. I'll show you everything. There's no limit to my imagination. 

And the overall effect is that the writer has imprisoned the historian. 

Edited by Gaston de Foix

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4 hours ago, polishgenius said:

But also, the influence of aSoIaF as a novel series and the influence of GoT as a TV show are separate thing separated by years. Before the show came out, GRRM was not in the sales or pop culture awareness ballpark of a Jordan or (urgh) Goodkind, or someone like Neil Gaiman, although aSoIaF might eventually have caught up anyway given time and more books in the series. There's a pretty good chance that Jordan's sales will go back above GRRM's when the WoT TV show hits, though, since by Wert's numbers they're not far apart even as is.

You're very much wrong.  Back in 2005 Feast for Crows sold 375,000 copies to Knife of Dreams 500,000 copies.  At the time, Martin's last book was A Storm of Swords and Jordan's last book was Crossroads of Twilight.  You can guess what the general epic fantasy fandom's opinion of the writers was at the time.

 

Comparing series total sales is silly when trying to establish pop culture reach.  WoT has 14 books, ASoIaF has 5.  Martin would need something like 3 times as many readers as Jordan to achieve parity of sales.

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3 hours ago, Gaston de Foix said:

If you asked someone in Henry VIII's court to describe recent English history they would have started with the rotting of the Plantagenet dynasty in the figure of Henry VI (the lawful but incompetent heir) followed by the arrival of Edward VI as England's saviour.  Followed in turn by the infanticidal Richard III who usurped his brother's thrown followed in turn by Henry VII rescuing England from tyranny and uniting York and Lancaster. 

They might also do a Shakespeare and "start" with Richard II.

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On 8/8/2020 at 9:54 AM, Werthead said:

GRRM didn't redefine anything, necessarily, but he did consolidate a whole bunch of ideas. We'd had "really long series" before (WoT), we'd have "fantasy with sex and swearing and morally ambiguous protagonists" before (Donaldson, Cook, Gemmell, Kearney), we had the whole "noble families clashing" thing (Dune, GRRM's historical inspirations) and so on, but GRRM rolled them all into one very accessible package. Tolkien did something similar, though his linguistic approach was more unique to him. A lot of the individual things GRRM gets credit for weren't really original to him, but he popularised them.

I think Martin's major contribution might be making the word "fuck" commonplace in fantasy. Pre-Martin fantasy swearing tends to be a bit different.

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