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Gruesome Game of Thrones: Fantastic Atrocity

I have been a fantasy writer now for forty years. I began in high school and was first published in 1973. I have continued on through that time as a published and award winning author and artist through all these many, long and arduous years. I have watched Fantasy grow and wane, become a must-have item and a toss-away bit of flotsam. Living and working for sometime in Albuquerque, New Mexico I watched the careers of George R.R. Martin and Bob Vardeman, Melinda Snodgrass develop and prosper as High Fantasy took a lot of wild and crazy turns. Then the movies began to deal in fantasy from epics like Conan and Dragonslayer to grand flops like the Dark Crystal and the Labyrinth. I loved fantasy so much I reveled in all of it.

When I heard George R.R. Martin was developing Game of Thrones for HBO I wanted desperately to see it. However my finances were not such that I could afford HBO at the time. I was sad, but I figured I’d catch it on DVD. There was a lot of huffing and puffing about it when it first appeared. It had magic and dragons and horrible gods, magicians, sword wielding warriors and all the other fare one comes to expect of a Fantasy series. Yet I also heard that it was not a “fantasy world” so much as a real world in which the fantastic element plays a part. It was supposedly more like the Middle Ages with the rise and fall of various powerful men and women, city-states and well...thrones, like A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman with some magic tossed in.

I had read A Distant Mirror because I love history and especially the Middle Ages. I was aghast at the political machinations, the brutality and the dishonor with which the medieval knights especially had comported themselves. There was nothing “Romantic” about the Middle Ages except the songs and poems the troubadours sung at ostentatious parties paid for on the backs of the serfs and lower classes. It changed my view of those times from the Arthurian Context, to more of a Dick Cheney/NeoCon context.

After Tuchman’s opus I read several more books on the subject of the Middle Ages. Apparently so did George R.R. Martin. Because when I finally got to watch Game of Thrones this past year, I was once again aghast at the gruesome nature of it. Game of Thrones is a direct descendant of Tuchman’s historical book.

Now gruesome. There’s a Romantic word if there ever was one! Used by Poe, Lovecraft and Howard, by Shelly (Mary) and Polidori and others to describe the most gut-wrenching, bloody affairs of the darker stalls and holes of the world of Fantasy. Gruesome. Like when you show someone having their hand chopped off in gory detail. Or you have to sit and watch someone crucified to a wooden cross, then tortured endlessly, again, in vivid, realistic detail. You watch people starved, strangled, beaten mercilessly by laughing soldiers, having arms removed, faces burned, heads put on pikes... Gruesome indeed.

As I watched this gore-fest taking place in the wet, muddy, stinking corridors of Winterfell, and its “fantasy world” of dark, damp forests, 700 foot ice walls or decrepit castle dungeons, I became less and less interested in the storyline of Game of Thrones. It seemed to me a pityless story of politics of the kind our world is more than used to. It seemed to me a bitter reflection of real history when Plantagenets and Popes, Tudors and Medicis ran roughshod over the world, crying “Divine Right!” and “God Wills It!” While they plundered, raped and pillaged the starving masses and tried to corrupt everything and everyone with their own sense of jaded “I’m on top so I get to mess with you” mentality. It reminded me of Now ... rather than Then. Because our now has indeed come down from then with a horrid sense of fatality as history repeats itself again and again. Our stories of then, of Robin Hood and Marion, or Arthur and the Grail, are simply fairy tales painted of a “better world” that never existed. Sort of like America’s bucolic 1950’s or 1890’s. Full of racism, genocide, and political madness which we now see as “the good old days.”

George R.R. Martin’s world actually existed. It was called France, England, Germany, and Italy. It played out just like he is portraying it. Like those times, no amount of romantic magic, flaming swords or even demonic gods and walking corpses are able to cover up the stink of what we humans have been doing to one another, for sport and profit for two or more thousand years in Europe and now America. The hopeless, wretched state of most people remains. Our politics is as insidious and brutal as theirs was. In fact it is all built on the foundations that arose in Europe’s own grotesque Game of Thrones.

I recall watching the Dragon Mother seeing if she could buy an army from the slaver that was mocking her, thinking she did not understand his language. I had the plot down within minutes. “She’s going to fake him out, give him a dragon, but not to keep, then use the army to pillage the town.” I knew it in the first minute. Because she, with her beautiful platinum blonde hair-do and her girlish figure was a brutal “Queen” who would not hesitate to kill anyone in her way, like Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman, a “strong” woman who played up her “weakness” and waited like a lioness to deliver her killing bite at just the right moment. The little plot played out the next week just as I suspected. It was too obvious. As is every element of this program. It has a lot of gruesome shock, but as a story it is rather dusty and worn. One guy has power, then someone betrays him and another guy has power, but he’s a brute so someone betrays him, one family hates the other, so they extract stupid, useless vengeance on innocent people--and on and on. Big whoop-de-do. Thrones pass through unlucky hands like water through a sieve. It’s not a game. No good guy or girl wins, because no one is good. They are all corrupted by the sense of power they have in their names and family lineages or allegiances.

Last night I watched about five characters whom I really admired and was rooting for, viciously slaughtered by raving human monsters at a wedding! Blood was everywhere, open wounds, slit throats, a pregnant woman brutally stabbed in her belly, gore, screams of innocent women and men dying at the hands of some brutish, Gollum like “lord.” It was like watching the Tate-LaBianca murders! I am so shocked I am at the point where I do not remember the names or the characters. I was stunned last night by the vile bloodshed and gruesome details. Many in America were also shocked and dismayed.

Now, these things really did happen in those days. Vlad Dracula boarded up lepers and poor indigent sick people in a church and lit it on fire. He used to impale people and have dinner under their writhing, tortured bodies. I know, I wrote an entire book on him. But to see it now in graphic detail without the hint of a hope of a good outcome to this awful, gruesome game of thrones is just too much. Watching people die in agony for political expediency, familial revenge or just plain “fun” is NOT fantasy. It’s reality. As if we don’t have enough of that on TV and the Social Networks today. Everything seems to be gritty reality, deranged serial killers, mad bombers, immoral terrorists with nothing on their agenda but to spill blood in order to gain the favor of God or the Devil or some other invisible, monstrous entity from our bygone past. I wonder when we might ever grow up. I believe aliens see us as deranged animals with no control over ourselves and hence, will NEVER visit us and take us into the Federation of Planets.

My main problem is I don’t see the “fantasy” element of this show at all. Dragons are simple weapons of mass destruction. Soldiers are fodder for political necessity. The God of Light is a hellborn Elder God like some slimy cthuloid-Lovecraftian being. Castles and Strongholds are exactly what they were in Europe, prisons and fortresses whose halls crawl with rotten,worthless, corrupted and mindless barbarians who hate other religions or lifestyles, or who covet someone else’s lands and goods. Boy Kings who kill poor chamber-maids for sport. Rulers who abuse children or go a-whoring outside their marriages. Women are used like cattle. There is no sense of anything good anywhere in the Game of Throne’s realm.

The little bit of magic used sparingly, especially in yesterday night’s program, was used to make animals savagely attack other people. Wow. We train pitbulls to do the same thing. There’s nothing majestic about the wolves or eagles or ravens. They are just as moronic and clueless as the people. Oh, and then we get to see a wolf in a cage slaughtered! So animal lovers out there beware. Whether it is ball-less eunuchs intent on tormenting former abusers, or smiling abusers intent on tormenting other creepy abusers, it is like a cesspit of human misery where indeed, there is no black or white, good or evil, just a mixture of human offal.

You can’t root for the little girl...she just clubbed an old pig farmer who was trying to fix his wagon so she could get to a fortress in time to see all her relatives slaughtered like the pigs she was herding. You can’t root for the redheaded princess, because you KNOW she’s about to be corrupted by her new princess friend and become a sexual deviate!

The only good thing that could happen in this cruel and morbid world of Game of Thrones is its utter devastation. Someone should nuke the place and start over. I think this will happen when the dragons get really, really big.

I believe now George R.R. Martin will be held accountable for the brutal and gruesome murder of High Fantasy. This is no Lord of the Rings. This is no Le Morte De Arthur. This is just an accurate portrayal of life in the Middle Ages, with enough magic mixed in to make children watch it...a nice little life lesson from a man who must have the dark soul of Sauron to post up such mundane horrors and call it Fantasy.

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David St. Albans, Saint Albans' Art Studio
6929 N. Hayden Rd. C-4#205
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