A Song of Ice and Fire question

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Cyphon, Oct 13, 2017.

  1. Cyphon

    Cyphon Journeyed there and back again

    So I am listening to the audiobook for A Dance with Dragons andI had a thought today thinking about all of the moving pieces and where most of the focus of the book/series lies.

    If you took away The Others and maybe to a larger extent everything going with the wall, would this series still be as popular and do you think it would be as interesting and good?

    I really did just think of this and am not even sure what my own answer is but I am leaning towards the answer being yes. As much as I like the stuff at the wall and fantastical elements of series like this, the political intrigue has been the true entertainment in these books. Even 5 books into a supposedly 7 book series, it seems 90% political to 10% wall happenings. And even at the wall the politics of it all are involved. And even without the wall you would still get the fantastical touch with dragons and magic from the red priests.

    Anyway, was hoping to get other peoples thoughts on this and what they think.
  2. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Good question. Hard question.

    I guess for me it wouldn't be as good, as a lot of my favourite scenes are on the wall. I also think its a good antidote to the politicking - there's a lot to be said for a subplot that offers a change of pace - and a great thematic accompaniment. After all, there's all these kings and lords squabbling away, with their self-justifications and pride, and up north there's Icemageddon.

    But if you're all about the brutal civil war, maybe its a distraction. Maybe it wouldn't be as good.

    Say one thing for the wall though, say the series title doesn't really work without it...
  3. Cyphon

    Cyphon Journeyed there and back again

    I am with you that on a personal level I like a lot of the wall stuff and what is going on there. I just got to thinking while listening that you could tell almost the same story and completely remove the wall and beyond. That being said, I love the story the way it is and not saying that I wish it had gone the other way, just an interesting thought IMO.

    As for the title, I thought about that too and it could still work if Martin played it right. The northerners have always kind of been the most independent nation so he could have made the Starks oppose Dany after she crosses the sea and crushes everyone with her dragons. Ice and fire and what have you.
  4. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Yeah. But its kinda weak for ice to be this bunch of humans who live in a cold place with fire being a motherloving dragon. Ice zombies vs Dragons? Now we're sucking diesel. I guess if we'd never known about the alternative, it wouldn't bother us so much, but now we do, it would be weak.

    I'll admit to having occasionally having had the same thought, but about removing Dany.

    edit: And what does it say about the series that we're casually talking about removing probably its two most iconic characters like it would make no difference?
  5. Blastoise

    Blastoise Got in a fistfight with Dresden

    This is an interesting question and, I agree with Peat, a hard question for me to answer. Jon Snow, along with Arya, is my favorite character and obviously his story is largely tied to the wall/the Others. I certainly like the story as is, but I have found myself caring about, and being interested in, the clash of kings much more than the Others as the series has gone on. I haven't really thought about it in terms of this before (like this question is posing), but that's definitely the case. I mean, so much so, that I probably wouldn't really care if that got dropped and only the resolution of the Iron Throne was resolved, lol. Clearly that would be a strong critique and it would drop in rankings objectively, just saying that I don't really care that much about it despite enjoying reading about it.

    I'm also MUCH more of a character-oriented person vs being story oriented. Don't get me wrong, I can and certainly do appreciate a good story, but if I don't have characters that I latch on to, I feel confident in saying that it will never be my favorite. Thankfully this series delivers strongly on both ends, which propels it to the top for me. The point in saying this is that yeah, not having the Others/the Wall would change the stories for some of those characters, like Jon, that I really enjoy, but he's such a strong character that I think I would like him no matter where he was placed geographically in the book because I would still enjoy reading about him. It's similar to TV shows for me- some of my favorites like Suits, White Collar, and Supernatural have storylines that vary across the seasons in terms of strength/quality, but I continue(d) watching them because the characters are so good, IMO. It just doesn't matter a whole lot what the nuances of the story are in those settings. I'm so character oriented that I almost quit in book 1 due to my favorite character dying, but I kept on (thankfully) due to liking several other characters as well, lol.

    However, that being said, there is no doubt that I also appreciate a strong story. The difference is, for me, a story-oriented book/show that does not have characters I identify/latch on to strongly will never be my favorite. I may enjoy it a lot, but I probably won't reread/rewatch it, at least not soon or with any regularity.

    So the difference is that no matter how great a story is, it will always be limited by the strength of the characters, whereas the reverse is not as much the case (so the ceiling for a weak character/strong story book/show will generally be lower than a strong characters/weak story book/show for me while the strong character/weak story will also have a correspondingly higher floor in my ratings). Of course, it's also entirely possible that ASoIaF would not have stood out to me as much if the story was lessened in scope and maybe it would just be another "good fantasy series" along the lines of The First-Law Trilogy (no offense meant to FL at all- I liked that series a good bit and I still think ASoIaF would still be better, just a quick example I had in my mind) instead of the GOAT (IMO from what I have read). Somehow I have a hard time imagining that, though, simply due to how much I enjoy the rest of the stories going on and how strong I think they are on their own. It would still be a very special series and probably my favorite still.

    But like you said, I enjoy the wall and everything going on there and I would not choose to have it not be there. It's just not the it, game-changing factor that it could understandably be for other people.
  6. Blastoise

    Blastoise Got in a fistfight with Dresden

    IMO, this is such a huge and rich world, that you could quite literally remove just about any single group/aspect/family/whatever and the story/potential would still be insanely strong. I mean, the Starks, as huge as they are, you could remove them and just have Lannisters vs Dany very plausibly. Or you could have killed off the Lannisters and have the Baratheons vs Dany instead. It would be a much more linear story, but you could still include the others and it's a very dynamic story still.

    There is no doubt in my mind that removing any aspect of the story, like on the scope we are talking about here, would certainly weaken the story compared to its current form. However, I could definitely see myself reading/enjoying a more limited version as well.
  7. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I do not think it would be as good, but it would still be good. I really like the Sword of Damocles the Others pose. No matter all the political squablings in the South, in the end the White Walkers will still invade. That threat gives the entire Northern storyline a very ominous feeling, which I really like (it particularly fits Jon's brooding chapters).
  8. Bill Door

    Bill Door Listens to The Unbeliever whine about life

    I thought the Jon Chapters (wall chapters) were some of the weakest and least interesting of A Dance With Dragons.
  9. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Jon's chapters in A Dance With Dragons led to me putting the series down.

    Little to disagree with there. But I'm not sure that captures nearly all of my thoughts about this situation. To have your major characters so seemingly peripheral is something virtually no author would try.

    I do get the impression that most people here prefer the whole gamut of fantasyland offered over the possibility of a more political intrigue though.
  10. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    It helps that the politics aren't really political, in the sense that the root word for politics is the ancient Greek polis, which primarily meant "the citizens of a city-state" like the Athenians or Spartans. It's not politics when the leaders don't actually represent their citizens' interests. There's little actual domestic policy in the politics. One exception is the anti-slave-trade stance of Daenerys, but that's irrelevant to the 7 kingdoms where its already illegal. Another is Jon's willingness to let the wildlings south of the wall, I guess. What about foreign policy? There are tons of alliances, acts of diplomacy, etc... except nobody cares about trade, land disputes, borders, tariffs, etc. My point is that drawing a line between the "politics" and everything else is mostly a meaningless distinction. Were Oberyn's duel or the Red Wedding political events? As much as anything else in the books. To the Starks after Robb declares himself king of the north, the Lannisters in the south and the Walkers in north present the same type of conflict: war to the death.

    It's not like the book spends 10% of its pages on zombies and dragons and 90% of its pages debating tax reform and workers rights :p
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2017
  11. Cyphon

    Cyphon Journeyed there and back again

    Well when you put it like that maybe politics isn't the right word. I guess in a broader scope looking at the name of the series I am talking about this could easily just have been A Game of Thrones thoughout the series and still maintained the same quality. You could completely remove the looming threat in the north and have still had almost exactly the same story with the same amount of intrigue.

    And to reiterate, I don't want this to come across as me wishing it was out because I enjoy The Others and everything that goes with it. I just had the thought one day. And speaking of that thought there is a follow up question I have.

    Can you think of another series where something like this is the case? When you consider most other fantasy series the focal point is the dark side, bad guy, end of the world, etc etc...If you removed it your story goes away. This is the only series I can think of where you could remove that entire concept despite it being a fairly large focal point and still tell a very similar story.
  12. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    There are so, so, sooooo many things that could be said in response to this - most of which would be against the forum's rules - but I think its safe to say that it is very much common usage to use politics to talk about the powerful intriguing for their own personal power and aggrandizement.
  13. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    The sentence should have said "It's not really politics when the leaders only represent their own interests and give no thought to the interests of their citizens." I stand by this edited version. Fight me.
  14. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    I offer Sanderson's political systems (any of them) as examples of actual politics in fantasy books.
  15. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    I have spent the past 7 years reading the media for a living. This is the first time I've seen someone offer this as a definition, although I have seen repeated accusations of playing politics when a leader is only representing their own interests. Ditto all of my various debates about SoIaF with other nerds/politics with other nerds.

    If I google politics definition, here's 2. of the definition Google throws up:

    "activities aimed at improving someone's status or increasing power within an organization." - that's from the Oxford English Dictionary. Neither the Oxford, nor the Merriam-Webster, nor the Cambridge, support your assertion that politics is only politics when leaders are acting in the interests of their citizens.

    You are giving a definition to a word that it quite emphatically does not have.
  16. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    Aristotle would be outraged https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_(Aristotle). I understand that there are multiple modern meanings, many of which are along the lines of what you posted. You're right of course, that it's not incorrect to use the word that way. You're incorrect to imply I just made my definition up, though. Here's the first 5 definition of politics from dictionary.com (very prestigious):
    With political defined as:
    I'm sticking with the ancient Greeks on the only meaningful meaning of the word "politics." That idea of "politics" is fully compatible with modern political science, as opposed to the stuff that makes good shows on Netflix and HBO.

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