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crossword
07-28-2016, 08:20 PM
I'm on page 200 of this 800 page novel, Book 1 in the series. The first 150 or so pages were quite slow. It's not all that fast now either, but it's getting more interesting.

I know this book 1 of the series was published 20 years ago and stories were allowed to be much slower then. Still, i'm disappointed in the story on many levels:

1. it took me a while to connect with the characters. The ones I did feel for were the ones we are meant to feel sorry for ie the dwarf and the illegit son, since both were looked down on. And also young Dany who was married off so young by her bully brother. But I could not really care for any of the characters who didnt have miserable lives. If the only characters I can like are the ones I feel sorry for, that's a problem.

2. while there are touches of humor here and there, on the whole the story is too depressing for me so far. If I don't feel happy at least sometimes when i'm reading a story, the author has failed to give me good feelings. I don't read to feel depressed. I read to feel happy and uplifted. Hopefully inspired, though that doesnt happen often and I don't insist on that. I know, fantasy is probably the wrong genre if what you're after is happy feelings. On the other hand, Harry Potter was full of cheerful moments. At any rate, the first 5 books were. I found the last 2 Potter books slow and dull.

3. My biggest gripe--the plot seems quite basic and minimal. I can forgive a lot for a good plot. I know the Da Vinci Code has been roundly despised and I agree the characters were flat, but the plot was very intriguing. I had to read on to know what happened next.

I don't feel that way about A Game of Thrones. Its all moving so slowly that i'm not dying to know what comes next. I know it's set in the medieval age, but so much is made of a simple thing like informing the father, Ned, that his son was deliberately pushed and almost knifed to death. Ned's wife Catelyn makes a long journey to where he is to tell him this. All this is made a big deal of. Maybe i'm feeling the impatience of one who lives in the Internet Age where an SMS, email, or phone call can convey info in a second.

I've heard so much about this novel that I was expecting a brilliant plot full of twists and turns. Lots of intrigue and deception as people plot for the throne. Sure, there's deception but it seems to be at a very basic level. Nothing brilliant about it.

Perhaps shows like How to Get Away with Murder have raised my expectations. I know its a silly, over the top show but I like the twists and surprises it gives as we think one person is the killer, then we learn another may be. So far i've seen no such twists in GOT but of course I still have the bulk of the book to finish.

I've seen many Goodreads reviews where people complain the book is slow. Some say writers like Sanderson write much better fantasy. I havent read much fantasy, so I cant compare.

So what did A Game of Thrones have that other fantasy series don't have? What made it such a hit? Was it mainly the characters that people got attached to rather than any billiant plot?

I suspect the books were not that huge a sensation until after the TV series made the novels so big, but i'm not sure. I havent seen the TV series, so I cant judge how good it was but its such a hit that I assume they made it much faster moving than the books.

I plan for the next book in my paranormal series to be set in an alternate universe where kings and their heirs battle for thrones and kingdoms. Naturally I thought GOT would be a must-read and it would show me how a well-done book does this kind of thing. I'm really disappointed because I feel I got few tips so far. Can anyone recommend any series that does this kind of thing well, ie monarchs and leaders plotting and scheming to conquer kingdoms? Thanks!

Introversion
07-28-2016, 09:05 PM
Caveat: I stopped reading the books after #3, or maybe #4, because the plot seemed to be in the weeds, and I wasn't convinced the author had a map for how to exit them.

I think perhaps this series was a bit of a fantasy groundbreaker, in terms of going all grimdark? I read relatively little epic fantasy, so perhaps I'm wrong about that? But certainly it felt like something new to me. Today, not so much.

Frankly, the pace doesn't feel any slower to me than most epic fantasy I've read, or tried to read. (FWIW, I gave up on the first and last Sanderson book I've ever attempted, because slow. Glacially slow.)

I did quite love the characters of book 1, and that kept me going as long as I did.

lenore_x
07-28-2016, 09:05 PM
You're only 25% into the first book, let alone the whole series; don't you think it's a little early to be writing off the plot as simplistic?

Other than that, I don't really know what to tell you. I got into the first book quickly, easily bonded with most of the characters, and found the series as a whole impossible to put down. We have different tastes. As it happens, I dislike the television show and I'm mystified by its runaway success, but again I recognize: different tastes.

Loverofwords
07-28-2016, 09:15 PM
I started reading the first book about a year ago and am still in the process of finishing. Like you, I used to wonder how this book (and TV show) ever became so popular because it didn't seem all that fresh. Then again, it was probably fresh back in the day it was published. Anyway, I now LOVE the tv show and completely understand why it's popular, but I'll admit that the first book is too slow for my taste and makes it more difficult to read.

One of its biggest selling points is probably that it's fun to theorize about because there are so many characters and possible outcomes. You've got dragons and prophecies and people to root for. But everyone has different likes and certainly not everyone will enjoy the book or the show.

crossword
07-28-2016, 09:19 PM
"You're only 25% into the first book, let alone the whole series; don't you think it's a little early to be writing off the plot as simplistic?"

maybe, but since i'm reading it for research I welcome people telling me it will get much better later on and telling me what they loved about it so I can keep a lookout for that.

Introversion, I didnt find the first 5 Potter books slow but i suspect i would find most fantasy books too slow for my tastes. I enjoyed the LOTR books but i read them as a kid and could not get into the movies. perhaps I would not enjoy the books today either.

it doesnt help that i get easily bored with description and GOT seems to describe everything, even about minor characters, swords, surroundings etc.

crossword
07-28-2016, 09:21 PM
LoverofWords, i'm wondering how teh books got so famous they even thought of making the TV series.

Maggie Maxwell
07-28-2016, 09:25 PM
Most likely, time, word of mouth, and the extended release schedule, as well as being just a good series in general. Yes, it's long, and yes, the beginning is slow as all the characters and relationships are established. It's a huge world and a great worldbuilding study. Keep reading. The best (and winter) is coming. :)

Introversion
07-28-2016, 09:28 PM
Introversion, I didnt find the first 5 Potter books slow but i suspect i would find most fantasy books too slow for my tastes. I enjoyed the LOTR books but i read them as a kid and could not get into the movies. perhaps I would not enjoy the books today either.

Potter was paced pretty well, I thought.

LOTR were slow (I thought), but I enjoyed them because the story always seemed to be clearly aimed at a logical end-point. GOT? Not as obvious, at least where I quit in the series.


it doesnt help that i get easily bored with description and GOT seems to describe everything, even about minor characters, swords, surroundings etc.

I started reading GRR Martin in the 70s, starting with his short fiction. Was a huge fan of his early novels, which were much tighter-paced. But he never really hit the big-times as an author. He won some awards (deservedly so), but I don't recall seeing him on best-seller lists. And for a time in the 80s, he was writing for Hollywood.

My guess (may be completely wrong) is that when he decided to come back to writing SF/F, he consciously decided to write epic fantasy (aka, "by the pound") and aimed at the NYT Best Sellers list. Because, why not? And because, the pay's better. And he certainly succeeded! Kudos to him.

rwm4768
07-28-2016, 09:42 PM
I'm not a huge fan of the series either. I've read the first two books and part of the third, and the pace only picks up a little bit. There are some characters I like, but just as many that I hate reading about. There are some fantasy elements, but not as many as I like in my fantasy. I also find it to be overdescriptive. I don't need to know what everyone is wearing and eating. I don't need to know the name of every knight that participated in a tournament.

It's not bad, but I struggle to see why it's hailed as the best in the genre. I've found countless other fantasy novels that I like much better.

Latina Bunny
07-28-2016, 09:44 PM
I think this comes down to a matter of taste and preferences.

I like light-hearted stories that have a bit of a faster pace, so I knew big SFF books with super-serious (and grim?) epics like GOT would not suit me. That's just my taste and preferences, though. I'm not going to judge a series just because it doesn't suit my own tastes.

GoT obviously appeals to a lot of people, and that's why it's a hit. :) The tv show probably helped, too.

stephenf
07-28-2016, 09:57 PM
hi
I did read the Game of thrones , but I could not commit such a big chunk of my time , I'm a slow reader , to finishing the entire A song of ice and fire . The story is not a single story but many intertwining stories. The stories don't have a good conclusion but end with a death . It is the endless frustration that holds the interest.

King Neptune
07-28-2016, 10:06 PM
I read the first book several years ago, and I was annoyed with the lack of a distinct plot and the complete lack of plot resolution (you can't resolve something that doesn't exist). It was suggested to me that it actually is part of the Annals of the West; rather than being a novel, it is just a history of what went on like reading the history of the Plantagenets for example. If one looks at it that way, then it isn't bad, but it certainly is not a novel.

Like a TV soap opera that goes on for decades with some of the same characters.

PyriteFool
07-28-2016, 11:15 PM
ASOIF is one of my favorite book series, and I enjoy the show, though not as much as the original novels. I love each character (or love to hate them) and I felt each was incredibly fleshed out and unique. I also enjoyed the lavish description. It made the world come to life for me, and yes it does contribute to the slow pace. But I think the initial slow pace is one of the story's greatest strengths. This is a story that builds over time, and that's what I find so rewarding about it. When the big beats come, I feel like I and by extension the author and the world earned them. The impact is heightened by the time and care put into reaching them. Plus I've never seen an author handle character death so well as Mr. Martin.

Obviously there are parts I thought dragged and plot-lines I am less interested in. And yes the series requires time and attention. It's not for everyone, but it is a great example of the craft of world building and fantasy writing.

And yes, I admit it, I love the food and costume porn. I own the cookbook. I have no shame.

Myrealana
07-28-2016, 11:42 PM
I read the first book in this series shortly after the 2nd book came out.

What struck me was the facility with which Martin wove his story in and among the diverse points of view, and how consistent voice and characterization were across the chapters. I found the pacing to be outstanding. I didn't read it to find out what the overarching plot would be, but to learn more about this world and these characters and to journey along with them as their various decisions led them to good or ill. I stayed up until after 2:00am reading book 2, and at a certain point, almost called to chew out the friend who recommended the series to me in the first place, I was so invested in those characters.

The world is rich with a deeply ingrained history and traditions that come into play throughout the story. I loved that there are many different beliefs about gods, magic, slavery, you-name-it. I love that "Magic" isn't one thing, and that there is no five-man-band trotting out to save the world. The events play out on a grand scale, but the stories are about the people involved in them. It's not about House Stark vs. House Lannister. It's about Ned, Cersi and Robert, Cat, Robb, Tyrion, Dany... And yet, any of them could die, and the story would still go on.

It was fascinating. The latest book kind of lost me, but when the next one comes out, I'll read it anyway.

waylander
07-29-2016, 02:13 AM
What particularly struck me was the way GRRM juggled 8 or so POV characters and made each one fascinating.

StuToYou
07-29-2016, 02:52 AM
If only he'd stopped at 8..... Many great qualities to this series, but when he started to diverge wider and wider, and wider, the 'payoff' became more and more diluted. No doubting his excellent writing skills, and brilliant characterization, world building etc. TV Series is highly watchable, the acting of some especially powerful. overall i think it serves fantasy writing, and genre writing, very well.

JinxKing
07-29-2016, 03:05 AM
I'm on page 200 of this 800 page novel, Book 1 in the series. The first 150 or so pages were quite slow. It's not all that fast now either, but it's getting more interesting.

I know this book 1 of the series was published 20 years ago and stories were allowed to be much slower then. Still, i'm disappointed in the story on many levels:

1. it took me a while to connect with the characters. The ones I did feel for were the ones we are meant to feel sorry for ie the dwarf and the illegit son, since both were looked down on. And also young Dany who was married off so young by her bully brother. But I could not really care for any of the characters who didnt have miserable lives. If the only characters I can like are the ones I feel sorry for, that's a problem.

2. while there are touches of humor here and there, on the whole the story is too depressing for me so far. If I don't feel happy at least sometimes when i'm reading a story, the author has failed to give me good feelings. I don't read to feel depressed. I read to feel happy and uplifted. Hopefully inspired, though that doesnt happen often and I don't insist on that. I know, fantasy is probably the wrong genre if what you're after is happy feelings. On the other hand, Harry Potter was full of cheerful moments. At any rate, the first 5 books were. I found the last 2 Potter books slow and dull.

3. My biggest gripe--the plot seems quite basic and minimal. I can forgive a lot for a good plot. I know the Da Vinci Code has been roundly despised and I agree the characters were flat, but the plot was very intriguing. I had to read on to know what happened next.

I don't feel that way about A Game of Thrones. Its all moving so slowly that i'm not dying to know what comes next. I know it's set in the medieval age, but so much is made of a simple thing like informing the father, Ned, that his son was deliberately pushed and almost knifed to death. Ned's wife Catelyn makes a long journey to where he is to tell him this. All this is made a big deal of. Maybe i'm feeling the impatience of one who lives in the Internet Age where an SMS, email, or phone call can convey info in a second.

I've heard so much about this novel that I was expecting a brilliant plot full of twists and turns. Lots of intrigue and deception as people plot for the throne. Sure, there's deception but it seems to be at a very basic level. Nothing brilliant about it.

Perhaps shows like How to Get Away with Murder have raised my expectations. I know its a silly, over the top show but I like the twists and surprises it gives as we think one person is the killer, then we learn another may be. So far i've seen no such twists in GOT but of course I still have the bulk of the book to finish.

I've seen many Goodreads reviews where people complain the book is slow. Some say writers like Sanderson write much better fantasy. I havent read much fantasy, so I cant compare.

So what did A Game of Thrones have that other fantasy series don't have? What made it such a hit? Was it mainly the characters that people got attached to rather than any billiant plot?

I suspect the books were not that huge a sensation until after the TV series made the novels so big, but i'm not sure. I havent seen the TV series, so I cant judge how good it was but its such a hit that I assume they made it much faster moving than the books.

I plan for the next book in my paranormal series to be set in an alternate universe where kings and their heirs battle for thrones and kingdoms. Naturally I thought GOT would be a must-read and it would show me how a well-done book does this kind of thing. I'm really disappointed because I feel I got few tips so far. Can anyone recommend any series that does this kind of thing well, ie monarchs and leaders plotting and scheming to conquer kingdoms? Thanks!

And I Darken by Kiersten White has a lot of political scheming and power plays. It's all about the ways power entwines leaders.

morngnstar
07-29-2016, 03:26 AM
To to answer your title question, because it's quite good.

The worldbuilding is pretty impressive. At first glance some of it is a bit cliche, like the mysterious undead enemies and "Winter is coming," prophesying, but there are lots of intricate details, like the seven gods (and later other religions come into play) and how the Stark's castle is heated with geothermal energy.

The plot is extensive with dozens of major characters each of whom have their own agenda.

The writing is good for what it needs to be. It isn't beautiful prose that grabs your attention. It keeps you moving, which is what it needs to do in a series that adds up to thousands of pages.


1. it took me a while to connect with the characters. The ones I did feel for were the ones we are meant to feel sorry for ie the dwarf and the illegit son, since both were looked down on. And also young Dany who was married off so young by her bully brother. But I could not really care for any of the characters who didnt have miserable lives. If the only characters I can like are the ones I feel sorry for, that's a problem.

I'm pretty sure you feel sorry for all the characters eventually. That's a plus in my book. It's more realistic than a fantasy adventure where a hero slings a broadsword, but never feels any pain, even if he occasionally sheds a drop or two of his own blood to prove how tough he is.

But I disagree with you. As well as Danaerys and Tyrion, I sympathized with all of the Starks. And if you keep going, the remarkable thing is that Martin manages to make you sympathize with antiheroes like Jamie, Cirsei, and Theon.


3. My biggest gripe--the plot seems quite basic and minimal.

Maybe book one was pretty straightforward, but later it gets more complicated, with alignments and loyalties shifting. You're not even sure as the reader where your loyalties should lie.


I plan for the next book in my paranormal series to be set in an alternate universe where kings and their heirs battle for thrones and kingdoms. Naturally I thought GOT would be a must-read and it would show me how a well-done book does this kind of thing. I'm really disappointed because I feel I got few tips so far. Can anyone recommend any series that does this kind of thing well, ie monarchs and leaders plotting and scheming to conquer kingdoms? Thanks!

I don't really think one should try to model their work on GoT, simply because it's a really hard thing to pull off. Just because some guy is really successful with a 4000-page monster doesn't mean you will be, nor do you have to.

morngnstar
07-29-2016, 03:53 AM
Caveat: I stopped reading the books after #3, or maybe #4, because the plot seemed to be in the weeds, and I wasn't convinced the author had a map for how to exit them.

Same. I mean I imagine he does find a way out, but there doesn't seem to be any structure. I lose interest because nothing seems to matter. Any left turn will likely be canceled out by a right turn along that plotline a few hundred pages down the road (after switching back and forth to other plotlines also going nowhere).

juniper
07-29-2016, 05:34 AM
Haven't read the books (too long for me) and don't have HBO so haven't seen the tv series. Heard so many good things about it, though ...

So I did borrow from the library the first season of the tv show to take with us on vacation next week. We're going to a place with nothing to do, really - isolated place just for relaxing. This will be good evening entertainment. My husband really likes fantasy so should be fun.

jjdebenedictis
07-29-2016, 08:31 AM
For me, it was the characters. They are so many, but all so vivid and clear that I never have trouble telling anyone apart (something I tend to really have trouble with in a lot of books).

I agree the plot is a bit in the weeds in these past few books, and the earliest books were the best ones, but I'm sticking with the series because I care about what happens to these characters (despite having my heart ripped out regularly when the answer is, "s/he dies horribly.")

I would disagree the series is grimdark, though, simply because it's not as grim as some grimdark authors have gone. The show might be gory and rapey, but the books tend to leave it up to your imagination.

SillyLittleTwit
07-29-2016, 01:20 PM
I'd point out that ASOIAF was not a massive hit when it came out (A Game of Thrones - 1996). It only took off around 2003-2004, for three reasons:

(1) Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptions, and Harry Potter, had made fantasy more mainstream. People were hunting around for something new, and Martin's series fulfilled that need.

(2) Robert Jordan had run into problems with his series: Martin's series appealed to disgruntled Jordan fans.

(3) In 2003, Martin's own problems had yet to surface (A Feast for Crows was 2005).

The TV show then capitalised on this a few years later: with liberal lashings of blood and boobs, the thing has become a fantasy soap opera.

Welcheren
07-29-2016, 01:42 PM
I'd point out that ASOIAF was not a massive hit when it came out (A Game of Thrones - 1996). It only took off around 2003-2004, for three reasons:

(1) Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptions, and Harry Potter, had made fantasy more mainstream. People were hunting around for something new, and Martin's series fulfilled that need.

(2) Robert Jordan had run into problems with his series: Martin's series appealed to disgruntled Jordan fans.

(3) In 2003, Martin's own problems had yet to surface (A Feast for Crows was 2005).

The TV show then capitalised on this a few years later: with liberal lashings of blood and boobs, the thing has become a fantasy soap opera.



I have sentiments about the trajectory of the series. Much though I adore earth-analogues like Westeros, I can only take so much shock&drama for the sake of shock&drama before I go meh. But I had not considered the variables you just mentioned. Thanks for clearing that up.

Maxx
07-29-2016, 03:25 PM
To to answer your title question, because it's quite good.



I haven't seen the TV thing or read all the books, but the writing is pretty interesting if not much to my taste. I'm glad so many people like it, but what I read seemed like solid writing with a vengeance, almost like character acting by the writer -- well done but oddly impersonal. But then Epic/High fantasy is not my cup of tea.

crossword
07-29-2016, 11:38 PM
thanks for your responses, everyone.

Jinx, thanks for the suggestion. I read some reviews of And I Darken by Kiersten White since you said it has a lot of political scheming and power plays. Unfortunately it doesnt sound like the kind of book I would enjoy. Has the book been a huge hit? Looks like its only been out a month or so but has over a thousand reviews on Goodreads. I suspect it was very well marketed. Perhaps publishers were attracted to the originality of the heroine being so tough.

It sounds like both she and her brother are in love with the hero. That ventures too close to the ick factor for me but perhaps a lot of readers appreciated that same sex attraction was shown as normal. Normally I would approve of a book that showed diversity and any LGBT themes but the brother in love with the same guy his sis is in love with--not for me. I know its not incest but sorry, ick for me. Especially since there's no hope the bro could get the guy.

I'm now up to page 400 of A Game of Thrones. I see now that no character can make a journey or even move from one spot to another without it being described in the greatest of detail. I'm surprised he hasnt described the scenery en route to the bathroom. Oh I forgot--they used chamber pots at the time. Thank God.

I'm also fed up of the senseless killing. I want to hit these characters on the head with a copy of Gandhi's autobiography and then tie them all up and force them to read it.

Ah, I see now that no one can even go for a ride in the woods without being attacked by people who will causally kill you or castrate you. In fact most of the characters cant seem to make any journey anywhere without being attacked. I would have died of a heart attack in two days but I see everyone in these books has strong hearts and takes it for granted they will be attacked anytime, anyplace.

I'm not sorry I bought this ebook because I wanted to read it to see what all the fuss was about and because as I said I plan for the next book in my paranormal series to be set in an alternate universe where kings and their heirs battle for thrones and kingdoms.

Morngnstar, no I wasnt trying to model my work on GoT. I had the idea for mine before I read GOT or knew much about it. I just thought I should read GOT as it's the most famous example of this kind of thing.

I intended to read all the books in the series but now I don't think I can. This book is making me depressed. I feel sad whenever its Bran's POV and we see him as a cripple. I get sad when I read of Sansa whose direwolf was killed and of Arya whose friend was killed.

Serious question, guys: do readers expect this kind of heavy stuff in their fanatsy? Mine is a paranormal series, not a fantasy.

My fear is that because mine features kings scheming for thrones, it will automatically be compared to GOT and other fantasy novels and readers will get disappointed, especially when they see there are no elves, fairies, dragons, other magical creatures in mine. Yes there are humans with paranormal powers and objects that give them powers.

This is just a part of what i'm planning: in my alternate universe, India is filled with Maharajahs [Hindu kings] and Nizams [Muslim kings] who rule different Indian states.

As happened in the real India, centuries ago Muslims invaded India, conquered and killed many Hindus and ruled for centuries before their reign declined. And now many Hindus resent them and want them gone.

The various kingdoms live in tension and fear being overpowered by others.

One of the Muslim rulers asks the British for help in strengthening his grip on India. Since the Brits see this as a way to colonize the country, they agree and send it troops to help the Nizam keep a hold of his Kingdoms.

Meanwhile one Hindu King is the ruler of the state of Gujarat. He's old and weak and has to hand over the reins to one of his sons. He has to decide which.

One son, Vikram, is a supporter of the Hindu fundamentalist groups that want to kill or forcibly convert all Christians and Muslims.

The fundies start agitating because a mosque was built over the temple at Ayodhya, which Hindus believe was the birthplace of Lord Ram. Vikram sees a way to win the hearts of his people and make them clamor for him to be crowned king.

He plots with the fundies to kill some Hindu pilgrims in a train on their way to Ayodhya to ask for the temple to be rebuilt. His goons will make it look like the Muslims did it. This will enrage the Hindu population of his state so much that the fundies will then organize huge mobs to go around slaughtering Muslims. [all this is based on events that actually happened during the Gujarat riots of 2002].

when the prince's younger brother Nikhil learns of this plan he is horrified and tries to stop it.

Vikram says the Muslims deserve to be slaughtered because they would not even be in India had they not invaded centuries ago. Nikhil says these people are our subjects and a king has to protect all his subjects. We cant help what happened centuries ago.

So, one brother is pitted against the other. Then Nikhil learns Vikram is inviting the French in to help him defend and expand his kingdom.

So one Muslim king has invited the British in, and one Hindu prince has invited the French in. both Britain and France have anyway been competing for India for some time. Both the rulers are willing to sell india out to consolidate their own power. I will also feature the monarchs of these 2 countries and show them making alliances and enemies too.

There's more to the story but for now, do you think the above would interest readers? I'd show all the intrigue and political plotting.

My fear is that many readers will lose sympathy when they hear “muslim” and will side with the evil brother who wants to slaughter them.

Its kinda sad when you have to worry your readers will side with evil, but i've read and witnessed so much hatred of Muslims in both real life and on the net that I actually fear this will happen. So there it is. Will this be a problem?

Obvious solution is to give them all fictional names. India could be Vanara, the Hindus could be Narus, the Muslims could be Medeans.

But i'd rather keep it india because I would find it so easy to write about india. I could draw a good pic of the culture, customs, way of life. In fantasy people like to have a a whole detailed culture drawn for them. But writers have usually set their fantasies in medieval times with that kind of culture. I think it could be something new and interesting to see India depicted instead.

So what do you think? As I said mine ISNT a fantasy but I suppose readers will anyway class it as one due to the kind of story it is.

Introversion
07-30-2016, 02:20 AM
Serious question, guys: do readers expect this kind of heavy stuff in their fanatsy?

The ones who want it, look for that. The ones who don't, won't. Don't worry; not all fantasy must be dark. If anything, the trend of dark dystopian fantasy has probably passed its popularity zenith.

Roxxsmom
08-01-2016, 02:35 AM
I think some reasons it got a lot of attention at the time of its publication:

1. It deconstructs many of the tropes that became popular in the fantasy of the 80s and 90s, especially the more optimistic, idealized versions of fantasy worlds. Note, there were writers who presented dark, gritty worlds and deliberately deconstructed Tolkien before Martin's time (Moorcock's Elric books come to mind), but Martin did it on an epic scale, and his books still contain many of the things people expect from epic fantasy (war, dragons, magic, invading hordes, castles, kingdoms etc).

2. Some have praised it for presenting a "historically accurate" view of the middle ages. It doesn't, particularly, but it meshes with the whole concept of darkness, chaos and cynicism that many think is realistic, especially in the era of the 24 hour news cycle, where a new human atrocity seems to surface every day. It does give the nod to the idea that people living in the old days were no more noble or enlightened than they would be today. For whatever reason, cynicism about human nature is cool right now, and this series tapped into that.

3. It analogizes something pretty salient--people in denial, going about their daily lives and engaging in their petty power games instead of working together when an environmental catastrophe is looming.

4. It appeals to many for the same reason soap operas do. It's not just about one protagonist who we all know must succeed (or there would be no story). And even if you can't stand character X and hope they die, there's that character Y you can't stop thinking/worrying about. Yet it's still character focused, with all these interwoven stories about people, rather than a focus on the overarching event or plot (as some of the older, omniscient epic fantasies were). There's no one protagonist, and anyone can become more important or be written out at any moment. People keep turning pages to find out what befalls their favorite characters, rather than to discover how the plot as a whole advances.

5. This kind of narrative lends itself well to a television miniseries, and while the books were popular before, they really took off after HBO picked it up.

SillyLittleTwit
08-01-2016, 06:32 PM
5. This kind of narrative lends itself well to a television miniseries, and while the books were popular before, they really took off after HBO picked it up.

Martin worked as a TV writer during the 1980s, and has a background in short stories. I think this has influenced the structure of the narrative.

In terms of deconstruction, I think you can see this as building on Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn (which Martin cites as a major influence). Williams was unusual for 1980s epic fantasy in that he gave the Dark Lord figure a sympathetic backstory.

snafu1056
08-02-2016, 01:55 AM
If I had any clue as to what makes anything a hit, I'd be out writing hits.

Roxxsmom
08-02-2016, 02:14 AM
snafu makes a great point.

Every analysis of success is made in hindsight. I was at a writer's workshop a few years where one of the speakers (an editor for a very successful big-5 SFF imprint who has edited some really famous books) said that they can't predict with any certainty which of the equally promising SF or F books they accept each year for publication will become bestsellers and which will languish in midlist limbo and which will fail in spite of being well written and hitting all the right notes.

Once a certain level of quality is reached, I gather luck and timing play a big role in the degree of success a book will have.

I'm guessing that this is something that can drive moderately successful authors nuts as much as it drives those of us who can't get into print in the first place. "Why him/her and not me?" "Why that book and not mine?" "Is that person really a better writer than I am?" or "Why does this person get the credit for inventing X, Y, or Z when [other author name] was doing it a decade earlier and doing it well?" or "Why does this person get to break all the rules in a way that would earn most people a rejection slip?"

Writing is a tough vocation for people who have analytical minds and an approach to life that tries to maximize one's success by sitting back and studying things carefully so they know what the rules and lay of the land are before jumping in."

CheesecakeMe
08-02-2016, 03:04 AM
Makes it popular?
1. Fully fleshed out and interesting characters. No one is "the best friend" or "The love interest," they're people.
2. You can't predict where the story is going. People you thought important die, someone you deemed evil does something kind, you thought the plot was going one way then takes a hard right and goes another way.

All this makes for great conversation among fans while they wait for the next book

BethS
08-02-2016, 07:43 PM
2. while there are touches of humor here and there, on the whole the story is too depressing for me so far. If I don't feel happy at least sometimes when i'm reading a story, the author has failed to give me good feelings. I don't read to feel depressed. I read to feel happy and uplifted. Hopefully inspired, though that doesnt happen often and I don't insist on that. I know, fantasy is probably the wrong genre if what you're after is happy feelings.

It's only going to get darker and more depressing, so this is probably not the right book/series for you. Nothing wrong with that; not every book is for every reader.

If you want happier and/or more hopeful stories, try Lois McMaster's Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan series. It's sf, not fantasy, but with books as entertaining as those, I don't know why that would matter.

Brandon Sanderson also tends to write more hopeful, less edgy fiction.

BethS
08-02-2016, 07:53 PM
So what do you think? As I said mine ISNT a fantasy but I suppose readers will anyway class it as one due to the kind of story it is.

I think it sounds fascinating, with plenty of conflict, both personal and political.

Marian Perera
08-02-2016, 07:55 PM
This is a transcript of my thoughts when I picked up A Game of Thrones, long before the HBO series came out.

"Hm. Don't know anything about the story, but the cover shows a man on a horse, with a raven. OK, giving it a try."

Prologue

"What? Everyone died! Whom am I supposed to read about now?"

First Bran chapter

"This is confusing. All these people, so many names to remember and nothing much is happening. I'll try one more chapter and then I'm reading something else."

First Daenerys chapter

"OK, this is easier to understand. I wonder what'll happen to her. I'll check out her next chapter to see if she declares she will only marry for love, and then runs away."

Next Dany chapter

"Didn't expect that."

Next... next... next...

"Really didn't expect that."

...next...

"But he was supposed to take her back home to reclaim her throne! How could he die? And she lost everything! What the hell she going to do now?"

...last

"Wow."

*flips back to start reading all the rest of the chapters*

crossword
08-02-2016, 09:56 PM
“I think it sounds fascinating, with plenty of conflict, both personal and political.”

thanks, Beth. No one else commented on my proposed setting of India, so I assumed no one liked it. I do have doubts about featuring india, since most fantasies and alternate universes are set in places that resemble the west.

On the one hand, showing india could be very original and since I know all about the culture and politics of india, I can give something based on fact that most westerners have no idea about.

But what is the use of original if no one wants to read that and everyone wants to read the same old?

morngnstar
08-03-2016, 02:39 AM
No one else commented on my proposed setting of India, so I assumed no one liked it.

No, it was because tl;dr. It was a tome of a post, and you didn't even start pitching your book until the middle.


I do have doubts about featuring india, since most fantasies and alternate universes are set in places that resemble the west.

On the one hand, showing india could be very original and since I know all about the culture and politics of india, I can give something based on fact that most westerners have no idea about.

But what is the use of original if no one wants to read that and everyone wants to read the same old?

I really hope that's not true. In fact I don't believe it's true. People do complain if things are too unoriginal. But they do tend to want certain things to stay the same, while you find one of the things that aren't those things to be original about.

If you were to take a page from Martin, it would be to take your historically-derived idea and set it in a fantasy world where the names have changed. That doesn't mean it has to resemble the west. It can resemble India. It can have rajahs and monsoons and saris and one religion with many gods and another with one. But you draw a slightly different-shaped peninsula and name the cities something different. (If you want to really imitate Martin, you can use made-up names that resemble traditional Indian ones, like Nikhard instead of Nikhil. But don't do that. That was the dumbest thing about GoT.)

Another thing you should consider taking from GoT is not to make any character wholly good or wholly evil. Instead of making Vikram's only motives hatred of Muslims and ambition, make there actually be some threat, or at least a suspicion of some threat, from some Muslims. It doesn't justify Vikram's methods or extreme prejudice, but it explains it and makes it a more complex moral question. Conversely, give Nikhil some opportunity where it seems like all will be lost unless he does something unethical, like assassinate someone or spread a false rumor. Then it's interesting, either whether he sticks to his ethics or not.

If you keep reading, you will also find interesting parallels to what you're doing, because a story element that comes up in ASoIaF is the conflict between the established polytheistic religion and a new monotheistic religion. Though it's not a direct analogy, I think Martin was basing this on the conflict between Catholics an Protestants that was going on during the era of English history that inspired GoT.

So you don't have to imitate the dark style of GoT, or the slow and rambling plot, but there are good things there worth learning from.

crossword
08-03-2016, 02:54 PM
thanks, morngnstar. I'll work on the india story some more and perhaps post it in a new thread to ask if this kind of india set fantasy would be interesting.

It won't all be set in India. Britain will also be shown, and I will show kings and princes of both countries as Britain tries to take control of India. As it did in real life but in this alternate universe, the reader won't be sure how I will make it all turn out. I might indulge in a bit of wish fulfilment and eventually show India turning the tables and conquering Britain because, you know, I'm evil that way.

Good point about not making characters all good. I do like a streak of ruthlessness even in some of my good characters. Eg, I have this plan:

the King of England is attacked and almost killed by his own body guard and so he wants to recruit boys who will grow up to be his sons' bodyguards. He figures having these boys grow up with his sons will ensure they bond and are less likely to kill princes for whom they feel a real affection.

So a school is started to train young boys in martial arts and use of weapons, especially guns. To me it sounds idiotic to train kids to use weapons but considering theyre anyway using them and killing with them in the US and other places today, I don't suppose any reader can object much that I'm showing something terrible when I show kids are being trained to use weapons even in more enlightened times. my story is set in an alternate universe that roughly resembles Earth in the Edwardian Age. So theyre not dealing with medieval weaponry and fighting tactics. These boys are learning martial arts that are popular in the East of their world.

The ones who do the best will be sent to be raised with the princes, with 3 assigned to each prince.

Since in this era, the lines between the classes are clearly drawn and the working classes don't have much of a future besides being household help or doing manual labor, theres a lot of competition among working class parents to get their boys selected to these posts. The boys who grow up with the princes will be well looked after, given a stipend at first and then a full salary when theyre adults and ready to act as bodyguards.

One of them, Ash, is anxious to get selected. His father has died and at 13, Ash feels he has to be the man of the house and support his mother and siblings.

He knows he will never be considered a real man if people know he is attracted to boys.

He does get into the training school and there he meets another boy who Ash is convinced is attracted to him. The boy seems to look at him as if he's attracted. So one day when theyre alone Ash tries to make a move on him.

The other boy is affronted and tells Ash that Ash will have to pay him hush money if he doesnt want the authorities to learn of this.

Ash is sure the guy did give him signals. He is unsure whether the guy reacted this way because he is in denial about his own sexuality or whether he deliberately lured Ash into a situation where Ash made the first move so he could blackmail.

Anyway Ash doesnt have hush money. And he will be ruined if this guy exposes him because people will look down on him, probably take him to a doctor who will try to cure his homosexuality with pills. At worst he'll be imprisoned. Since he's young, only 13, they will probably try to cure him first. But he'll be shamed and thrown out of training school. He'll never have a chance to look after his family and do them proud.

But Ash is not the kind to ever admit defeat or stand for being blackmailed. So he kills the guy and makes it look like an accident. Perhaps he lures him to some isolated spot so they can discuss it and then Ash throws him over a cliff and then acts all devastated and bereaved. He claims the guy must have fallen off the cliff; Ash heard a shout but was unable to save him.

He is believed since the two guys were friends and no one suspects they had a falling out. Ash simply doesnt make enemies; he gets along with everyone.

Ash feels that he will always have to fight harder than everyone else since he is gay. He has to look out for himself; who is going to look out for him? Even his own family who loves him--would they still love him if they learned he was gay? He isnt at all sure they would still be on his side on anything.

And that is the way he goes through life. He is a smart, charming, friendly guy who easily disarms and befriends everyone he meets. But whenever he sees anyone, whether man or woman, is drawn to him and his open, pleasant, easy-going nature and demeanor, a small cynical part of himself always thinks: “Would you like me if you knew I was gay?”

So he kills at 13 to keep his secret and to have a life. when he sees the boy's parents weeping over the death of their son, he feels terrible. He thinks how heartbroken his mother would be if that was him who had died.

But though he feels for them because he has a conscience, he still thinks: “it was either him or me. I would never have hurt him had he not tried to harm me. It's the world that decided there isnt room for people like me in it. I never decided there isnt room in the world for people who arent like me. I don't harm them until they threaten MY existence.”

and that is basically his code. He believes it is wrong to harm people but if they do it first, if they hurt either him or his family in a way that could devastate, then Ash will do anything to stop that happening. Its not about revenge; its about protecting himself and the ones he loves.

Later he is chosen to be one of the prince's companions and to continue training to be his guard. Prince Rupert is a younger son, not the heir to the throne.

Ash feels very protective toward the prince, who he soon sees is a sweet guy but lacking in courage. The prince has been pampered and lived soft all his life and he takes it for granted someone else has to protect and defend him.

Ash soon sees Rupert is attracted to him but Ash is too afraid to make a move. He knows he will always have to hide his orientation if he wants to be a success in life. Of course the king is not going to allow any child of his to have a gay bodyguard.

Plus Ash is wary after what happened before with the other guy. If he makes a move on Prince Rupert and the latter takes offense, its all over for Ash.

But Prince Rupert makes the first move and they sleep together when theyre both 14. By now they are anyway best friends and are equally close to the other 2 bodyguards.

Ash and Rupert fall in love. Eventually the other 2 bodyguards find out and they decide to keep the secret.

“In case anyone finds out, we have to pretend we never knew,” one of them tells the prince. “Your father the king will never forgive us otherwise. He will insist it was our duty to report you and Ash to him so he could send Ash away.”

the other bodyguard agrees and says: “I won't pretend I can ever understand your attraction to each other. I don't even want to think about it. But you are our prince and both you and Ash are our friends and we love both of you. if you need to be with each other to be happy, we will help you keep this secret.”

when Prince Rupert is 18 his parents start thinking of which royal house to marry him into to further their alliance with another country. Since he doesnt want to marry a woman and deceive her while he sleeps with Ash on the side, he has to give excuses whenever they present him with a possible bride.

so that is Ash's story. Though I did not like the GOT characters, I did feel a lot of sympathy for some of them. I see a lot of people liked the GOT characters.

So would you like this character of Ash as I have outlined him? I fear that showing he has killed would make people lose sympathy for him but to me that's a part of what makes him a conflicted and imperfect character.

Or would it be safer to remove that bit and simply write it that he paid off the boy who blackmailed him or the blackmailer died in an accident? I don't want to wimp out of it that way but it might be safer since this is a character I want readers to like.

I know the GOT characters kill with impunity but that was set in the medieval age. By Edwardian times it was a lot less acceptable to simply kill off anyone who was in your way. I think readers too judge a character's actions by the time period they live in. I know I do. Yes I want to force-feed the GOT characters the story of Gandhi, but like they would get anything out of that anyway. They would not even be able to comprehend it.

crossword
08-03-2016, 09:45 PM
actually I think I have a better idea. Rather than killing, it would make Ash seem less vicious and more clever if he turned the tables on the guy blackmaiing him by going to the authorities and claiming the guy had come on to him. That way the other guy is disgraced. He could argue, but since Ash got his story in first, he is believed. Especially if he plants some pix of topless men in the other guy's room.

morngnstar
08-03-2016, 11:27 PM
Nah, the killing is better. It makes him more flawed. Maybe afterward he realizes he could have done some blackmail plot, but in his panic he didn't think of it. Then he will regret the murder all the more. Readers will sympathize, because you've made clear the enormous pressure he's under.

mpack
08-04-2016, 01:44 AM
I do have doubts about featuring india, since most fantasies and alternate universes are set in places that resemble the west.

I think there's interest in and a market for non-Western fantasies. I see a number of agents looking for diversity in setting on their MSWLs, and there are a number of writers such as N.K. Jemisin, Saladin Ahmed, and Ken Liu who have ongoing fantasy epics with non-Western settings.

crossword
08-07-2016, 05:42 AM
thanks, morngnstar and williemeikle. Williemeikle said: “The force is strong in this one.” I'm not sure what he was referring to. I assume he was saying the blackmail plot is better than the killing.

I received a notification and saw someone had said: “Sounds interesting to me!”

I assume he was referring to my india set plot. Since in both cases i'm unsure what exactly they were referring to, it gets confusing.

Thanks, mpack. I looked up N.K. Jemisin, Saladin Ahmed, and Ken Liu and saw their books seem to be set in Africa, Arabia, and China.

How come no one has done india so far? Years ago I read of some woman who was working on some fantasy story involving Hindu mythology.

There must be some fantasy series inspire by india or hindu mythology.

I suppose its possible people don't want to use Hindu mythology since there always seem to be protests when Hindu gods are depicted on any product like cothes or flip flops.

Google shows Saladin Ahmed made this tweet:

“when will mainstream republicans stand up and tell trump that one is supposed to hold out one's pinky while drinking the blood of innocents?”

***

i've always read a writer should not post anything political since this will offend half their readership. If we assume about half our readers are Dems and the other half Repubs, then no matter what you blog or tweet, you will offend someone if you veer into politics. Then they won't buy your books.

Do a lot of writers write about politics like this? I think there's too much risk of alienating readers.

ClareGreen
08-07-2016, 12:13 PM
If half your readership are democrats and half are republicans, there's a whole rest of the world out there you've yet to sell to, most of whom don't actually care all that much about the hot-button topics of current American discourse. But, given that someone with the name 'Saladin Ahmed' probably isn't one of Mr. Trump's favourite people to start with, I doubt he's got that much to lose by making comments.

crossword
08-07-2016, 02:35 PM
“If half your readership are democrats and half are republicans, there's a whole rest of the world out there you've yet to sell to, most of whom don't actually care all that much about the hot-button topics of current American discourse.”


but Americans make up the bulk of our readership. A book usually gets big by selling well there first. Sure, there are exceptions and sure, some Brit authors have got big in the UK first.



And i'm not so sure the rest of the world doesn't actually care all that much about the hot-button topics of current American discourse. Everywhere in the world there are liberals and conservatives. Or people who espouse such beliefs. Eg, from what I wrote about my gay subplot you can figure i'm liberal on this issue. A lot of my readers won't be. In a book they might just skim such a plot. They might not want to read me blogging about my support for gay rights.

nossmf
08-07-2016, 05:58 PM
I find this conversation vastly amusing. Over in SYW, if you aren't starting off with a bang you often get slammed. Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.

crossword
08-07-2016, 07:19 PM
“Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.”



but it was published 2 years ago. Today perhaps no agent or publisher will look at something that starts slow.

mpack
08-07-2016, 08:38 PM
I find this conversation vastly amusing. Over in SYW, if you aren't starting off with a bang you often get slammed. Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.

As a longtime fan of the series, I've never considered the opening a slow start. It isn't action-oriented, but the first chapters of AGoT establish immersion into a world filled with intrigue. Martin interweaves family tension, political rivalries, and a plot to overthrow the king with subtle hints of a deep, rich backstory without resort to copious exposition. I was hooked by the masterful prologue -- which does have its own bang -- and completely sold by the first 50 pages. It isn't an action-adventure story, but it never pretends to be. It's a dynastic drama set in a well-realized fantasy world with superb characterizations.

CrastersBabies
08-07-2016, 10:23 PM
I would argue that it's not so grimdark. Read Prince of Thorns to see what grimdark looks like. Did it break ground in terms of allowing fantasy to go a little darker? Yes, absolutely. For those of us growing tired of the chirpy, happily-ever-after super clean Star Trek the next Gen type fantasy stories, it was a nice turn and a nice change. (I compared it more to Pillars of the Earth in many ways myself which I enjoyed.)

If the style or tone or character/story aren't working. It seems like you've given it a fair shot. Some people just aren't into that sort of writing or story. It's nobody's fault and it's okay to have different tastes. I gave up on Robert Jordan after one book and have very little desire to try it again.

VeryBigBeard
08-08-2016, 06:16 AM
Hi, crossword. Just wanted to let you know that williemeikle's "The force is strong with one" line is his user title. It shows up on all his posts, even deleted ones.


I find this conversation vastly amusing. Over in SYW, if you aren't starting off with a bang you often get slammed. Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.


but it was published 2 years ago. Today perhaps no agent or publisher will look at something that starts slow.

And what agents are seeing today won't be published for ~two years.

The reason for the strong opening thing in SYW is partly because we're trying to simulate what an agent or acquisition editor sees. If your job is to read hundreds of submissions each week, your eyes start to blur. It's a common trait for writers to think their stories are so obviously unique and eye-catching. Frequently the reality is somewhat different. If you want to simulate the effect, go to Amazon and Look Inside 40-50 books, preferably self-published ones. See how long it takes before you start to see the same opener again and again and again.

What mpack says is also important. A strong opening doesn't have to be big action. It does have to start the story quickly. I'm not overly familiar with Game of Thrones or ASOIAF, but I gather they do that. It's about the tension and the stakes, not how much big stuff happens.

crossword
08-08-2016, 09:06 AM
“Just wanted to let you know that williemeikle's "The force is strong with one" line is his user title. It shows up on all his posts, even deleted ones.”



oh, I see. Thanks for telling me. And I thought he was making a gracious comment on my outline. Damn. so I guess few people liked my outline enough to even comment on it.



This is so frustrating. When anyone deletes a comment to me before I had a chance to read it, I get consumed with curiosity. My mind races with possibilities as I wonder: What did the deleted comment say? Was it something totally juicy that would have started a flame war? Not very likely since I simply don't respond to flames; no time. Did it question my sanity, my intelligence, my legitimacy, my very right to exist on earth? So many possibilities...



sorry, that was a typo when I said of GOT: “but it was published 2 years ago. Today perhaps no agent or publisher will look at something that starts slow.”


I meant it was pubbed TWENTY years ago. A VERY different time. Books were a lot slower then. I will reread the GOT opening to see, but I do remember I got put off with all the characters just standing about talking about how cold it was. Today I doubt you could sell a book that opens with the characters talking about the weather.

Brightdreamer
08-08-2016, 09:23 AM
I meant it was pubbed TWENTY years ago. A VERY different time. Books were a lot slower then. I will reread the GOT opening to see, but I do remember I got put off with all the characters just standing about talking about how cold it was. Today I doubt you could sell a book that opens with the characters talking about the weather.

Actually, a quick look at GoT shows that the Prologue starts with the hook of dead people who may not be dead (in a supernatural sense), and Chapter One starts with the promise of a boy watching his father perform a beheading, as well as the hint that this world has years-long seasons and the possibility of more supernatural oddities.

Overall, they do move somewhat slowly, especially compared to non-epic fantasy, but there are hooks early on to get the reader interested enough to stick around. (Well, some readers, at least - no one story appeals to everyone, after all, which is a good thing because we all have different stories to tell.)

shortstorymachinist
08-08-2016, 09:53 AM
I find this conversation vastly amusing. Over in SYW, if you aren't starting off with a bang you often get slammed. Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.


Actually, a quick look at GoT shows that the Prologue starts with the hook of dead people who may not be dead (in a supernatural sense), and Chapter One starts with the promise of a boy watching his father perform a beheading, as well as the hint that this world has years-long seasons and the possibility of more supernatural oddities.

Overall, they do move somewhat slowly, especially compared to non-epic fantasy, but there are hooks early on to get the reader interested enough to stick around. (Well, some readers, at least - no one story appeals to everyone, after all, which is a good thing because we all have different stories to tell.)

What Brightdreamer said: No hook will catch every reader. In SYW we're not looking for a bang so much as something that piques our curiosity enough that we would continue reading. In GoT's case, fantasy-zombies, beheadings, and supernatural seasons got the job done for a lot of people.

morngnstar
08-08-2016, 05:38 PM
Yeah, I'd say GoT starts slowly in terms of plot, but with lots of drama. There are almost two prologues: one about some nobodies getting eaten by zombies, the second about a family gathering for an execution. The plot doesn't really get started until Ned gets appointed the King's Hand, which we are told (but not shown) is a dangerous business. And then finally it gets rolling when the King is assassinated.

BethS
08-09-2016, 10:49 PM
Ash

In the late 70s, novelist M.M. Kaye published a huge, epic historical novel, The Far Pavilions, set in British India, mid-19th century. It was a big bestseller and was adapted to a mini-series. The protagonist's name is Ash.

Just thought you should know, in case you didn't. But anyone interested in India as a setting has probably read that book. It's quite memorable.

BethS
08-09-2016, 10:52 PM
“Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.”



but it was published 2 years ago. Today perhaps no agent or publisher will look at something that starts slow.

If you're still talking about Game of Thrones, it was published a lot more than two years ago.

And personally, I didn't find it slow at all. I thought it developed at exactly the right pace.

crossword
08-10-2016, 03:41 AM
yes i watched The Far Pavilions as a kid.

Cobalt Jade
08-23-2016, 10:47 PM
I had read somewhere that Martin wrote GoT how and when he did as a reaction against the more friendly and fluffy fantasy that was prevalent at the time, such as David Eddings' Belgariad, The Dragonlance series, anything by Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony, Robert Jordan, etc. I remember when it first came out, it caused quite the stir in SF/Fantasy fields because it went against the tide.

I also wonder if it was a reaction against the characters in the then-popular fantasies being too modern -- like SCA participants in a safe, sanitized Medieval world rather than as people truly living in that culture and having the alien (to us) mindset of that culture. It's something Guy Gavriel Kay does very well, even if his books are mostly alternate histories in fantasy worlds.

As to the popularity of the TV show, I think it got a big push from The Tudors, the violent, salacious, yet gorgeously produced, Henry VIII epic starring Jonathan Rhys.

Jinnambex
08-23-2016, 11:41 PM
I haven't read the books, but I've watched all six seasons multiple times. The show is amazing. It is so good at showing you character motivations that you rarely come across the situation where you find yourself asking "Why?". The characters are for the most part, despicable human-beings. There are some good ones, but for the most part they are gray characters, all of them with their own beliefs and desires that directly impact what is happening in the story. Also, no one is safe in game of thrones. They kill off so many main characters! Characters you love, and characters you hate.

I am sure that it helps that the first few seasons on HBO are also (IMO) like soft porno's at times. That keeps people's attention. Its a bit ridiculous actually. The later seasons focus way more on the story, which I appreciate.

Overall, GoT is so complex and engrossing that I think it hooks readers because they can identify with the characters and even understand some of the horrible decisions that are made by the characters, even the evil ones. Martin has time and time again said that evil is internal. It comes from normal people, not from some external malignant force. That helps drive the realism in a fantasy world that is anything but that.

SillyLittleTwit
08-24-2016, 06:29 AM
I had read somewhere that Martin wrote GoT how and when he did as a reaction against the more friendly and fluffy fantasy that was prevalent at the time, such as David Eddings' Belgariad, The Dragonlance series, anything by Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony, Robert Jordan, etc. I remember when it first came out, it caused quite the stir in SF/Fantasy fields because it went against the tide.

Well, it's the earliest epic fantasy series I can think of that uses "fuck".

That said, ASOIAF wasn't that groundbreaking - Stephen Donaldson had already written rape into a fantasy setting (1977), David Gemmell made his name (1984 onwards) with gritty unglamorous heroes, and Tad Williams (1988-1993) had already written a major deconstructive medieval fantasy. Other genre authors between the publication of The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) and A Game of Thrones (1996) include Patricia McKillip, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Poul Anderson, Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, and Guy Gavriel Kay - not everyone was an Eddings, Brooks, or Jordan.

I think Martin is most notable for dialling the grimdark stuff up in a much more in-your-face way - and as I said before, getting lucky after the LOTR and Harry Potter films.

Locke581
08-24-2016, 08:07 PM
I read that GRRM wrote ASOIAF as a response to the TV producers he was writing for in the 80s. His TV plots were constantly being curtailed as too big, sprawling, expensive, etc... A Game of Thrones was his F-you. Of course it was then picked up as a TV show for HBO. You know nothing, producers.

BethS
08-25-2016, 05:38 AM
yes i watched The Far Pavilions as a kid.

You might try reading the book. They changed a lot for the miniseries.

jjdebenedictis
08-25-2016, 05:59 AM
Well, it's the earliest epic fantasy series I can think of that uses "fuck".


I can remember at least one fantasy series in the 80s that used "fuck". I'm not sure it'd be called epic fantasy though, since I've always been hazy on what the difference between "epic", "high", and "bog-standard-wizards-and-stuff" fantasy is.

H.G.Aguilar
09-23-2016, 02:27 PM
HBO and BOOBS
They have massive funding for HBO somehow still....and u pay the premium for the nudey bits among a piece of cinematography. I've not watched or read most of it but i get the idea....
IMO it is the last fading success of paid TV networks, I wouldn't model much on it. (but sex sells as always and may continue to do so for a few hundred yrs or more)

morngnstar
09-23-2016, 06:43 PM
I think the question was about the book, although it had plenty of (described) boobs too.

SillyLittleTwit
09-23-2016, 06:56 PM
I think the question was about the book, although it had plenty of (described) boobs too.

And nipples. Martin is strangely fond of those.

jjdebenedictis
09-23-2016, 10:21 PM
Yeah, the books were wildly popular before HBO came along. And HBO wouldn't have come along had the books not been wildly popular, so no, 'twas not teh boobiez wot dun it.


And nipples. Martin is strangely fond of those.

Well, who isn't. :D

wordpainting3
09-28-2016, 11:42 PM
First off, the books were not too slow for me. I thought the pacing was excellent.

I think the issue here is not GRRMs writing ability but the fact that he writes Epic Fantasy. When an author becomes famous then everyone wants to read their stuff whether that is typically the genre they read or not. Based on your comments on liking fast plots I'm guessing you usually read Thriller or Suspense type stories. You can't suddenly switch over to Epic Fantasy and expect the same kind of story.

Epic Fantasy is known for taking the time to build up a wealth of characters (in depth) as well as a world we are not familiar with but excited to learn about. That requires that the author spend time describing those things in detail, which will slow down the pace of the story. There are readers (like me) who absolutely LOVE world-building and character-building and eat it up just as much as we do a plot that clicks along. This is probably why you are getting mixed responses from those who thought the pace was wonderful and horrible.

But to say that GRRM is a bad writer is shocking to me. I actually study him so that I can learn more about how to improve my own writing. In my opinion, he can write circles around most popular authors today. He is that good.

Thomas Vail
10-04-2016, 11:15 PM
I find this conversation vastly amusing. Over in SYW, if you aren't starting off with a bang you often get slammed. Yet this mega-successful series sounds slow as molasses.
As has already been said, there's nothing slow about it. The prologue starts with a bang, and the plot only seems to take a while to get going because there is no single, central plot, like, 'get this mcguffin to slay the dark warlord and save the world.' All the characters are driven by their own motivations and desires, so it takes a while to figure out the big picture, but all the same time, they're all quite actively doing things to advance their own stories.


I can remember at least one fantasy series in the 80s that used "fuck". I'm not sure it'd be called epic fantasy though, since I've always been hazy on what the difference between "epic", "high", and "bog-standard-wizards-and-stuff" fantasy is.
Really, nothing that Martin did was groundbreaking or completely original, but that's neither here nor there. No matter how original you try and be, there will probably someone whose done the exact same thing already. Not that that matters. There's little value in originality merely for it's own sake.

I picked up the first book shortly after it hit paperback (I was reading ASoIaF before it was cool - geekcred yoooooooo!). That was back when Wheel of Time was still in it's first half. Fantasy was (and still is, really. These tropes are popular for a reason) full of stories like that, where you knew the heroes, or at least the core protagonists were guaranteed to survive at least until the final confrontation, bands of adventurers traveling the land in pursuit of some great destiny, and despite being semi-medieval, everything was, to a certain extent, fairly nice and contemporary.

That made GoT stand out, because it evoked a very strong feeling of medieval verisimilitude in the setting. The characters act and react, with all the complications and ugly bits included, like they live in a world where the rule of law only extends as far as you can force it, with other guys with swords quite willing to push back for their own gain. As I said before, a lot of fantasy has a certain amount of contemporary genteelism in how their worlds behave, and the fact that GoT didn't made it an intriguing change.

Like I said, it was nothing absolutely original, but he had the right story at the right time to turn into lightning in a bottle.


How come no one has done india so far?
You're reading in the English market, where a lot of people don't have deep familiarity with the history, culture, and background. They are intimately familiar with the tropes and designs of western fantasy, and those are the images they're used to thinking of.

It does happen. The later half of Glen Cook Black Company series, The Books of the South, are set in fantasy India and Vietnam, as one of the first examples to spring to mind. And publishers are starting to realize the potential of making greater efforts to translate foreign writers into English, such as some of the examples listed earlier.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-05-2016, 02:22 PM
Regardless of the fact that there were many pre-cursors to what GRRM did with ASOIAF(not GOT, which is the show series title ;)), what had not necessarily happened before was packing all this together the way GRRM did. First and foremost, the series is known for the fact that you can never quite pinpoint who the "hero" or protagonist is. In most books, including much of epic fantasy, you know the hero is going to make it to the end of the book, because there wouldn't be a book without them. What Martin's enormous ensemble cast does is allow him to play with that expectation and set up multiple people as the person the reader identifies with before mercilessly massacring them and thus frustrating reader expectation *and* fueling a compulsion to find the next "obvious' survivor the reader can grow attached to. Plus there are several different character archetypes available for readers who have different interests to latch onto.

The multiple deaths and grimdarkness also tap into a different kind of frustration, where the reader reads on hoping for there to finally be some sort of triumph for one of their favorite characters. You can grab readers not only by their hearts with happy feelings, but by the throat with sad or angry feelings. Surely this villain will finally get their comeuppance? Surely this character will finally find their footing and began to succeed in their goals. It's the same thing that makes plot twists so popular: just when you think you know how it's going to shake out, bam! the whole table is upset again and there's new tension that must be resolved. Yes, soap operas often work on the same principle, though they're a bit more cliche about it. If anyone has watched the American "House of Cards" series, it's the same principle. What makes it so addictive is repeatedly getting closer and closer to success only to have the rug pulled out from under you again and again. You've perhaps heard of intermittent reinforcement? Or superstition? When something often works but not always, it's hard to stop. Like gambling.



Also, the series was popular for the dynastic scrabbling and low fantasy element. There are no mages everywhere casting fireballs or throwing up shields against arrows. The fantasy elements are low-key and mysterious as opposed to the popular notion of science-like systematic magic today. There are dragons--supposedly. The Red Priestess can cast spells to upset dynasties--perhaps.

What all these things have in common is uncertainty. And uncertainty can be a powerful draw, much like the will-they/won't-they of obscenely drawn out romantic tension in a story like TV's "Castle" or the love triangle in Twilight.



There's a great deal of luck in any series becoming super popular or a best-seller, as a previous poster noted when quoting that editor. But it's not like ASOIAF didn't have the proper recipe for success.