Stefan and I have had several special guests before, but joining us this week are two of the three people without whom I, for one, would likely not be hosting this podcast at all. (I’ll let you figure out the third. Here’s a hint: His initials are GRRM. You have three guesses. Ready, set, go!)
Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson are the co-founders of Westeros.org, the oldest and largest continuously running ASoIaF fan site on the Internet. They’ve been enormously influential and inspiring to me as writers; as people, even more so, since you can trace a direct line from their enjoyment and support of the writing I’ve done for All Leather Must Be Boiled through Elio hand-selecting me to help annotate A Game of Thrones for Subtext to my gig covering Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone. Stefan and I were both thrilled to have the chance to speak with them about the issues and ideas in the series, which they know better than just about anyone else.
Obviously, they’d make terrific guests any old time, but we brought them onboard for a reason: their contribution to Beyond the Wall, the excellent collection of essays on A Song of Ice and Fire edited by James Lowder and published by Smart Pop Books. (In that light this episode is a sequel of sorts to last week’s conversation with their fellow contributor Alyssa Rosenberg.) Titled “The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow: Romanticism in A Song of Ice and Fire” (you can read the first page or so here), Elio & Linda’s essay traces the way in which the series reflects the historical, aesthetic, and ethical values of the Romantic period, both in the repeated intimations of a greater, fallen world of the past and in the use of charismatic, misunderstood Byronic heroes.
This is a hugely important aspect of the books, and one that yields some of its most memorable passages. (The Tower of Joy, anyone?) However, given that the TV show has largely eschewed the books’ historical information in favor of a tighter focus on the here-and-now (though story editor Bryan Cogman has said this will eventually change), it’s a topic we don’t often get the chance to tackle during the weeks of intense conversation about the material generated by and revolving around the HBO series. Talking about it in depth therefore seemed like an ideal use of BLAH.
How do Martin’s romanticist inclinations complement or conflict with his literary and military realism? How do they stack up against the use of similar elements throughout the epic fantasy tradition? How do the stories the characters tell one another, and themselves, about their own pasts and the past of their society shape those characters and that society? Can a romanticized view of the world that was help as well as hinder societies dominated by such views? I’m really pleased with the answers we came up with and hope you will be too.
(Special thanks to Alex Kropinak for the audio assist.)