A Song Of Ice and Fire and Television


Never underestimate the power of television: It’s amazing to see the sales and popularity of the A Song Of Ice and Fire books shoot up to the stratosphere following the HBO excellent adaptation of Game Of Thrones, the first book in the series, leaving all long-time fans in a “told you so!” mode. I wonder if the new readers are genre fans or just book fans. It seems to me ASOIAF has broken through the genre stereotype and has become so mainstream it’s a little annoying. It causes my geeky snobbishness to emerge (“Oh, NOW you like fantasy!).

But it’s just me being snarky. I’m hardly a long-time fan myself. I only started reading the series a few years ago following constant recommendations. Just to put things is perspective, Game Of Thrones was published waaay back in 1996. But once I started, I never looked back. These books are immensely compelling, and hard-core fantasy elements like spells and magical creatures – the elements that make the genre seem silly in the eyes of most readers (and often justifiably so) – are very minor and subtle here. They seem to be a a part of the ancient history of the world rather than its present, which actually make them even more awesome and “magical”.

I remember going through the same process with Watchmen, the groundbreaking Graphic novel by Alan Moore. I read it years ago, and was well-aware of its high-status in the world of comic book fandom. But only when the movie came out a couple of years ago did you start seeing people reading Watchmen on the subway in such quantities you’d think you’re in Tokyo and not in Toronto.

I cannot say I’m not happy to see other people getting exposed to the books I love, people who would probably never have read them otherwise. I see old women reading Game Of Thrones, for crying out loud. Usually you would see them holding a Daniel Steele book or somethin’. But no, they read Game Of Thrones, with all the sex and brutal violence. I would be honest, I’d say it makes you feel a little less special about yourself, but also a little less geeky. Now, says the Ego, you have to go and find other obscure book to love and cherish to help you feel special! until, that is, they make a movie or a TV show out of it too. The supremacy feelings that make your inner geek all warm and fuzzy inside were apparent as book readers watched in cruel joy as watchers of the TV series, new to the world of ASOIAF, were shocked again and again by the twists in the plot.

But enough with all the labels (although it’s fun. If we lived in a world where everybody likes everything else that everybody likes, how boring would that be?)

So A Song of Ice and Fire went mainstream. It was considered a high point in the genre for years, but if you didn’t read SF and/or Fantasy, you probably weren’t aware of that. To be honest, it makes sense ASOIAF has been “liberated” by TV. The books may not be great literature (how many books are?), but they’re certainly great entertainment. Martin is an accomplished screenwriter as well, and his chapters in ASOIAF read like TV episodes. Short and sweet, full of twists and turns, and usually ending with a cliffhangers. The very definition of a page-turner which usually applies to thrillers and not 1000 pages long fantasy novels… It’s a very easy read on the one hand, but also very demanding – trying to keep up with all the names of people and places, but it’s well worth it.

Book 5 is out today after a looong wait. Welcome to Westeros, everybody.

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3 comments so far

  1. shelberman on

    I do not agree that ASOIAF is not great literature. The term “great” is maybe exaggerated, but it is an excellent piece beyond being a successful genre page-turner, and has many issues raised, that we discussed some time, especially the origins of power, and the enigma of it (what makes one man powerful and not the other, beyond muscles). And much more…
    Shakespeare is also popular, very well known and had numerous adaptations to the screen, that does makes him less great, or less deep. The question is what you can see in him.
    I am sorry for your loss, but as for unappreciated or publicly obscure pieces, in the “Geek” genre or out of it, my list can go on and on, so I can retain my snobbishness. Even though, I understand you just a bit. Felt a little like it with “Lord of the Rings” a decade ago.

  2. AnOldFan on

    Cool story, Bro.

    Hipsters understand that feeling of betrayal you described so vividly up top there. You should go pour your heart out to one of their independent ‘special’ asses.

    To be honest, I read these in high school as well (2004-2005) and my female friends mocked and poked fun at me for doing so. Now their facebook updates often show me their anticipation for the series premiere or what cliffhangers are going to occur in the next episode. Fucking hypocritical bitches.

    I feel ya.

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