Sunday Inspiration: 1,000 Lives

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.
—George R. R. Martin

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The Science of Game of Thrones

I always enjoy it when fantasy makes at least some kind of scientific sense.

The video mentions fire-breathing dragons. A while back I found this explanation, apparently written by someone with a background in organic chemistry, of how dragon fire might work. If I ever had a cause to include dragons in a story, this is probably how they would breathe fire.

Game of Thrones for Geologists

This would have been a cool way to learn about geology back in my college days! A group of geologists who are also fantasy enthusiasts have reconstructed a geological history of Westeros, the setting of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. By looking at the observations of characters in the novels themselves, place names, and even fan wikis, they have reconstructed 500 million years of geological history, which they share in a series of blog posts under the name “A Geology of Game of Thrones.”

I love it when fantasy fiction is (or can be shown to be) scientifically coherent within its own premises.

The Evolution of Fantasy Fiction

Leo Elijah Cristea has traced the roots of fantasy fiction, the “Grandfathers of Fantasy” as he calls them, in a brilliant essay at Fantasy Faction. In a single post, he gathers up everything from mythology to faery tales to Poe and Lovecraft and Tolkien and Eddings, showing how they all relate to one another in a vast fantastical “tree of life.” One of my favorite sections:

The ancestor of fantasy is mythology; fantasy’s great-uncle, thrice-removed, is the art of faerie tale; but fantasy’s true grandparents are the fantasists who crafted dreams, speculative realities, and visions of distant worlds, whether by means of the gothic, the early fantastic, or uncanny commentary on the future. Fantasy’s grandparents are far, far older than Tolkien, Eddings, Brooks, or Martin.

Due to our unswervingly human need to label, there are more subgenres of fantasy than you could shake a whole forest of ancient oaken sticks at. Helpfully, our predecessors were quite happy to call anything that didn’t mimic whole reality, fantasy. They were right, too. Anything that doesn’t fit into the neat little frame, within which the finite possibilities of our world sit, is left out, branded fantasy. Of course (and this won’t be the first time I’ve flirted with the admission of stating that I believe in what should probably not be believed in) the small grey areas outside of this accepted, built and well-maintained frame  are what fuel a fantasist’s speculation—or at least, that’s how it used to be.

Imagine living and writing in the times of Mary Shelley, or Poe, or John Polidori and his Vampyre, imagine not having all the facts staring at you, and imagine not seeing the world broadcast at you on the news every day. Imagine the itch to write, to learn, to dream, to explore—to speculate.

This is where fantasy proper first appeared.

It’s well worth the time to read it all.

Writing Tips from George R. R. Martin

At a recent event at the Sydney Opera House, A Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin shared ten tips for writing fantasy. Here is the list; click through to Chris Jager’s Lifehacker article for the details:

  • Don’t limit your imagination
  • Choose your point-of-view characters to broaden the narrative’s scope
  • It’s okay to “borrow” from history
  • On believable POVs
  • Grief is a powerful tool — but don’t overdo it
  • Violence should have consequences — so spare nothing!
  • Avoid fantasy cliches
  • On creating “grey” characters
  • Juggling lots of characters takes skill — and luck
  • Remember: Winter is coming