Sunday, July 31, 2011
Theatre is like politics; it's the theatre of the possible.
My hallmark as a writer has always been Faulkner's statement, from his Nobel Prize speech, where he said, 'the human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about:
The gender stuff is just furniture. You can have a science fiction story with aliens and starships, you can have a mystery story about a private eye walking the mean streets, you can have a fantasy story with dragons and kings and sword fights, but ultimately any of these genres or the other genres are all about the human heart in conflict with itself. That's what makes fiction worth reading.
Time magazine said watching Game of Thrones ''is like falling into a gorgeous, stained tapestry … [that] takes our preconceptions of chivalry, nobility and magic and gets mediaeval on them.'' Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times's Mary McNamara wrote that the series ''finds that rare alchemy of action, motivation and explanation, proving, once again, that the epic mythology remains the Holy Grail of almost any medium''. McNamara has since qualified her enthusiasm with a call for the show's producers to ''tone down the tits'', feeling that much of the nudity in Thrones was becoming gratuitous.
None of it is gratuitous in Martin's eyes. Asked if Thrones and its companion novels are significantly darker than most fantasy, which trends as a genre towards wish fulfilment, he turns to the classics. ''If you go back and look at Tolkien, the master of them all, there's definite darkness in Lord of the Rings,'' he says. ''There's a sadness to it, the passing of an age, the elves are leaving, magic is dying, these kingdoms of men are fading. There's a sort of twilight sensibility … It's not all happiness and dancing in the moonlight. Things have been lost … I responded to those elements, even when I read it at 13.''
The author, who has been famously cursed with the title of the American Tolkien, has an instinctual distrust of conventional happy endings, and the banality of black-and-white characters.
''All fiction, if it's successful, is going to appeal to the emotions. I don't think I'm a misanthrope, or gloomy. I think love and friendship are very important parts of what make life worth living. There is room for happiness.
''But that having been said, there are some basic truths. One of them is that death waits for all of us at the end … Another is the existential loneliness that we all suffer. While we interact with other human beings, we can never really know them.
''I think these things, that we feel on some deep instinctual level, make us feel the resonances in fiction.'' hese are not mere words. Martin is hard on his characters and his readers. His books are a dangerous world where nobody, not even your favourite hero, is safe. The tragic looms constantly in his work and millions of viewers, unfamiliar with the books, have now been subjected to those signature George Martin moments when watching Game of Thrones, the moment when that character you have come to love and cannot possibly imagine being lost, dies horribly, screaming.
Tragedy, he says, has always got more respect than comedy