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Brandon Sanderson on George RR Martin Cannoli Send a noteboard - 29/01/2020 05:05:59 AM

A few years ago, someone asked Sanderson to speculate on how he'd write "A Song of Ice and Fire" if, as seems increasingly likely, the series might one day have the same need for which Sanderson was tapped regarding "Wheel of Time." Sanderson said he'd decline that job, while being careful not to slam the series or Martin's writing, by saying he's not a good fit for that story then why did he undertake to finish a series which required a witty writer with a sense of humor, adult vocabulary and comprehension of politics, human interactions and grunt-level experience of warfare?.

He says:
"The primary reason has to do with fundamental optimism vs pessimism. I write darkness into my books, but it is darkness as contrast to light, and there is always a spark of hope. George's work seems fundamentally pessimistic--which I don't say as a slam. One of my favorite short stories is Harrison Bergeron, which is also fundamentally pessimistic. Saying George's work is pessimistic doesn't mean that HE is pessimistic, only that he creates a work of art that evokes emotion and discussion through pessimistic themes."

Just. What. This.

Shut up, Brandon. Go back to churning out descriptions of magic systems and clever manipulations of rules you made up and writing conversations where half the words are aimed past the fourth wall. Stop pretending you know what good better stories are all about.

Daenerys Targaryen - Lost almost her whole family by the time she was born. Lost her birthplace, then her childhood home and the man who raised her. Passed from the custody of an emotionally abusive and petty bullying brother, to a rapist husband, and made a new family anyway, and when she lost that, she made a miracle happen. She managed to become her own person and wield the power she got from that miracle for herself, in spite of a slew of mentors and advisers who only wanted to use her for their own advancement, enrichment or base gratification. And even though she was last seen letting the oppressors she overthrew take advantage of her better nature to steal by treachery what they could not hold onto by strength, she still maintains her identity, and the story suggests she's coming back to be done with taking crap, and that she's going to be a critical figure in saving the world from Evil. Regardless of how un-cinematic and un-spectacular and non-subversive of expectations two writers even dumber than Sanderson might have judged that ending.

Jon Snow - Grew up feeling so unwelcome in his own family home that he thought permanent exile to the edge of the wilderness was the best life he could hope for. He managed to overcome generations of fear and prejudice to parse the difference between enemy people and the Enemy of All People, and to become a leader who could make common cause with them. At the last, he still loved his family and the kingdom that holds him to be worth less on account of birth issues over which he had no control, so much that he conceived a plan to get rid of a societal cancer that had betrayed and murdered his family and spat on the social contract. That plan so threatened the powers-that-be that he was Caesared to death, and everyone knows that's not going to hold him down long. That he's going to come back from the dead, and whether or not that's in time to make things right with his home or his institution, it's going to be critically necessary to save the world in a way that (see above). Jon was conceived by a moron thinking he could breed a prophesied messiah, but who fucked up every other aspect of his job so badly it almost undid all his work...and yet, if Jon's going to be the messiah of that prophecy, it's going to be because his mother's kin didn't care that he was spawned by the family that tried to wipe them out, didn't care about the circumstances of his birth, but raised him and loved him and made him a real boy, instead of a lab-rat slash puppet hero slash mummer's dragon, and that's going to be the difference.

Tyrion Lannister - A midget, in a culture that values the physically fit above all else, raised by a psychopath who hated him, with a brother whose values were so messed up that his kindnesses could be the greatest cruelties and a sister who hated and abusive him even before a fortune teller gave her an excuse to hate and fear him. He grew up dreaming about flying on a dragon, and was last seen, in close proximity to dragons, where he's going to befriend their mother. Who was mutilated, raped, traumatized and rejected by his family and a city he did more than anyone else to save, which drove him to a nihilistic, despairing mindset...and yet, he keeps trying to help his companions; saving the man who enslaved him, first from a brutal death as a discount gladiator, then from slavery amidst an epidemic; stepping in front a scared kid whose life story he just mocked, to save him from a leper-but-more-horrific; rescuing a naive girl who annoys him more than anything and though she shares his marginalization, copes by embracing the Uncle Tom aspect of it all. These are people he helps at his very nadir as a human being.

Sansa Stark - Gets a huge shock to discover that the bubble in which she was raised was a lie, but somehow, in spite of many, many people actively telling her otherwise, holds on to kindness and decency, helps people who should be her enemies, or who just want to use her and are only as nice to her as they need to be, if that. She's the only one who can persuade a wretched spoiled kid with the mentality of a selfish infant to behave, who can make a traumatized thug try to be better or a psychotic tyrant child-king sometimes actually not do the shittiest thing possible in a situation. Who goes from everyone telling her she's stupid, to clearly getting a training montage to become a master politician. After spending a couple of years in captivity, with no reliable or confidence-inspiring aid or moral support, on the very last day, she is still refusing to bend to her captors and let them define her family or loyalties, resenting their attempts to do so, and showing up at a wedding of two avaricious, ruthlessly ambitious families, wearing her own blood-family's colors, and a piece of jewelry for no other reason than she was told it represented vengeance for her father.

Arya Stark - Despite being seen by the shallow as the more hardass of the sisters, and being depicted as a closed-off emotionless freak in a certain other medium, wanders the countryside, taking care of orphaned children, offering mercy or comfort to caged criminals on more than one occasion, and constantly focused on justice and fairness, no matter how much might-makes-right is presented to her as the only viable metric, even rebuking a priest of a secret assassin cult that they should use their gift against the bad, rather than ending the sufferings of the good. Her own version of the creepy mentors to outgrow and leave behind preach to her that death is a blessing and right and wrong don't matter. Clearly then, the moral of her story is that right and wrong do matter and are going to be central to the identity she eventually reclaims from them.

Bran Stark - Lost all his dreams as a boy. Became crippled in a society that only values the fit and healthy, but found the courage to embrace a new path, despite being told he can't have anything he wants. Like his sisters, he was last written as being mentored by a villain with a warped view of the world, who might just be responsible for loosing a super-villain on the realm, and possibly Cthulu to boot, and in his heyday, ran an oppressive police state. Like his sisters, he is threatened with the loss of his identity, but as the only good guy learning magic, it can be taken as a given that he's going to break out of it. The only moral dimension for his story is to pull back from the Dark Side he has dabbled with by mind-controlling a retard, and the last act he took in the story was to help the treacherous foster brother who took his home away recover his own identity and step up to be better.

Ned Stark - Well, we all know he was a moron, totally over his head and doomed, the moment he set foot a court, and the lesson his kids have to learn is to be smarter than he was and not so stupidly honorable. Except he came within a stroke of bad luck of obliterating the Lannisters from the realm, he somehow raised a military genius prodigy who beat the most feared lord in Westeros so silly his enemies had to result to society-destroying treachery that has turned every hand against them. Where Martin wrote the Macchiavellian genius Tywin Lannister as rotting and stinking on his bier, literally causing his grandson to lose his crown, he has people all over the North, rallying in the name of Ned's memory and eager to march to certain death to save his daughter. He inspired a good and honorable knight to realize there's more to honor than blind obedience to a king.

Stannis Baratheon - Even if he DOES end up burning his daughter alive, it's going to be out of a misguided commitment to the greater good. This guy is introduced as a super-villain with a volcano lair and a sinister sorceress at his side. His enemies start falling to black magic and he represents a very real threat to two sympathetic characters by the end of the same book and a potential threat to others, and he bounces back after a loss, to be the single best hope remaining on the continent to save the kingdom from both tyranny and mismanagement, and ancient supernatural evils. He does this by listening to appeals to duty and morality, not by being ruthless or terrifying. He does this in spite of a vision of a crowning burning its wearer. He does it without flinching at the prospect of his own death. He does it by going against his nature, by learning to ask for what he believes he has the right to demand and by never ever giving up. And acting as the savior figure to a number of other characters right when it seems like they have no hope.

Davos Seaworth - He just keeps plugging ahead, trying to do the right thing...and it keeps working out. It's because he is loyal and honest that Stannis trusts his counsel and raises him to a position where he has more agency to do the right thing. It's because he sticks with his assignment and honestly stands up for his king that Manderly and Glover decide to work with him, instead of using him as a tool to maintain their cover as cowed Lannister loyalists.

Melisandre of Asshai - 'In truth, he was here because Melisandre had asked for him. The four eldest sons of Davos Seaworth had perished... Devan...was safer here with her than at the king's side. Lord Davos would not thank her for it...but it seemed to her that Seaworth had suffered enough grief."

Theon Greyjoy - "Sister, this time I knew you. My name is Theon. You have to remember your name."

Brienne of Tarth - 'There was no chance against seven. No chance, and no choice.'

Yeah. Sometimes people die. But this story keeps rewarding goodness over and over again. There are lots of ways presented that things can go very very badly, but that's so the highs feel so much higher and the victories feel so much more earned. Martin stacks up such a shitty world and system and set of conditions against the heroes, not because he's a pessimist who believes that's all there is, but because he's such an optimist, he believes that the heroes can even triumph over the worst he can do. Martin is such an optimist that he believes an evil dynasty can fall apart at the height of its power, without the good guys needing to lift a finger against it. He is such an optimist he believes the Red Wedding can't wipe out House Stark. He believes Jon Snow can he rejected and betrayed and murdered and STILL be a hero who saves the world. He believes that when Winterfell is burned down to the stones, it isn't destroyed and "the wolves will return". He doesn't believe Ramsey can torture a man enough to permanently break his spirit. He believes gentle maidens can tame violent monsters. He believes crippled children can be heroes, and dwarves and retards can contribute beyond their physical or mental limitations.

I knew Brandon Sanderson was prone to using words whose meaning he does not understand. I guess we have to add 'pessimist' to that list.

By the way, wouldn't a REAL optimist have answered the question of finishing "A Song of Ice and Fire" by saying "Me? Why? George is going to do it."?

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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Brandon Sanderson on George RR Martin - 29/01/2020 05:05:59 AM 198 Views

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