Game of Thrones: Only Power And Those Too Weak To Seek It

Game of Thrones is the new hotness in fantasy, the major paradigm of fantasy writing that people most commonly tend to riff on (when they aren’t going back to older wells). I see a lot of people misunderstand what Game of Thrones is about, though. Being unfinished, it’s not actually completely clear what the ultimate point of the series is supposed to be, but I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not about how the bad guys win a lot. I’ve written before about how Dragonlance did that a lot in its waning years, and it has not made Dragonlance into Game of Thrones.

What Game of Thrones is about (in part, anyway) is the moral indifference of the universe. That is to say, Game of Thrones is a setting that makes absolutely no distinctions between good guys and bad guys at all. Characters in that setting sometimes make distinctions and you get things like Jaime Lannister’s arc where he becomes a better person in the eyes of certain other people. This also makes him a worse person in the eyes of some other characters. The people who like him better in the end are the ones the narrative follows, so we call that a redemption arc, but the setting as a whole doesn’t care one whit about whether or not Jaime Lannister is good or evil. He’s good at murdering people but he lost his hand, so he’s significantly less good now than he was before, and that there is the sum total of what the setting of Game of Thrones cares about concerning Jaime Lannister. What he wants to do with what power he has makes precisely zero impact on how much power he has and how good he is at using it to accomplish things.

What makes something Game of Thrones-esque isn’t bad guys triumphing. It’s having an attitude of indifference to whether or not someone is a bad guy in the first place.

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