About a year before Game of Thrones debuted on HBO, I was in a bookstore looking though the fantasy section, thinking to myself that it had been a while since I picked up a new fantasy series (I read several when I was a teen, I’m now 35). I hadn’t been plugged in to the scene for a while, but I had sort of been seeing George R. R. Martin’s name in the bookstore for years, so I picked up Game of Thrones and saw the little “soon to be an HBO series!” sticker. I figured if they were going to make a fantasy series into a high budget TV show, I should read it first. And read it I did, tearing through the first books in a fury. I’ve done several re-reads over the past several years, reading the books once on paper and listening to the dulcet tones of Roy Dotrice for several audiobook re-listens. These days I usually have the audiobooks on if I am cleaning or driving, etc.
In February of 2015, I was in the middle of moving and other personal turbulence when a bolt of lightning hit me. I had been listening to podcasts about the Long Night and Azor Ahai from Radio Westeros and History of Westeros when something clicked in for me – the moon cracks in both the Azor Ahai story and the Qarthine origin of dragons story. That’s when I smacked myself on the forehead and realized, “duh, a thousand thousand dragons pouring forth is a meteor shower.” I am a big fan of world mythology, the older the better, and I am also a fan of Fingerprints of the Gods author Graham Hancock, whose work stresses the astronomical underpinnings of world myth. When I realized that Martin might be hiding an astronomy story in his in-world myth, the lights clicked on and I thought “yes, of course Martin is clever enough to be aware of and recreate this phenomena.” I began thinking about his myth in those terms, and I had the connection between the second moon exploding and the meteor shower, and everything more or less unfolded from there. Somehow in the middle of packing to move, I carved out several days to write like a madman, staying up all night and following leads in every direction, and about a week later I had some kind of first draft. It really was a bit of a surreal experience – it was so stimulating to the puzzle and creativity parts of my brain that I literally only needed three or four hours of sleep a night, which is very, very unusual for me.
That first draft had almost all of the ideas covered in my essays so far in some form or another. It was crazy, though, jumping from one thing to the next and oh by the way the Deep ones might be real and oh by the way I don’t think the cotf did the hammer of the waters and oh by the way Dawn is the original ice and Ned’s sword might be Lightbringer and King Renly is acting like Garth the Green… you get the idea. I reached out to Yolkboy from Radio Westeros, who was nice enough to read it and try to make sense of it and offer some encouragement and feedback. I contacted a couple of Westeros.org members who I had seen sniffing in the right direction, most notably Durran Durrandon, who helped me refine the draft and sort through ideas and eventually produce a readable essay to post on the forums, my first real essay.
And then I pressed “submit.”
What would happen next? I had no idea. My essay was pretty damn long, and very ambitious. Would people think I’m a pretentious know-it-all? That I’m out to lunch, seeing patterns in the noise and conjuring up phantoms? Would people even take the time to read it? Maybe it would get two comments, one of which was “Euron = Daario” and that would be it. I put a lot of time into it, and I was really excited about it – I really felt I had a hold of something, and the more I looked, the more things seemed to line up – but man, I had no idea how the forum community would handle it.
The response was far, far more than I ever expected.
Tons of positive feedback in general, and lots and lots of creative ideas. What I had hoped was that by pointing at this astronomy pattern and the general set of symbols associated with it, that others would take my ideas and make more connections and unlock other puzzles. This is exactly what happened. People had been studying certain characters or themes or angles of the books for years, and everyone has their own area of deep knowledge. When I put the astronomy idea out there, people came back with their favorite passages and said “hey look, i think the moon is doing some exploding here” or “hey, I think Sansa is playing a moon maiden role here, does that mean something?” etc, etc. I frequently receive messages from people who catch little passages and metaphors which I haven’t identified yet, which just makes me just oh so happy.
The comments thread of that first essay was at least as dense as the essay itself – I really managed to attract some of the best and brightest minds on the forums to contribute their ideas. This too was exactly what I had hoped for, only infinitely more so. People chipped in with astronomy expertise, mythology expertise, book knowledge, different ideas about interpretations of text, and people’s own theories which applied to the subject in some way. My own ideas were subjected to constructive criticism and scrutiny, and the ideas which needed to go away were dropped or modified, and the good ideas became more clear and better supported. The essays you see on this site are, for the most part, revisions of my first handful of essays which take into account all the things listed above, so I shall take this moment to acknowledge and thank everyone who participated in the conversation over the past several months on the Westeros.org forums… even the couple of cranky people who ticked me off that one time. 😉 Sometimes it’s the slightly offensive criticism which gets under your skin that motivates you to go back and research your arguments a little better, so I really do mean “thanks” to everyone who participated.
Right now I am engaged in a re-read of the series after hopping around a lot during my initial research. I am going through the series chapter by chapter and making notes and highlighting text for each one. Notes are going into many categories, relating to all the things I have covered so far such as meteor showers, impact sites, Lightbringer stuff, moon stuff, hammer of the waters stuff, God’s Eye, etc., but I also have many categories of notes which have not made it into essays yet, such as notes concerning the origins of the Others, Garth the Green and the sacred order of green men, the Night’s King and the Last Hero, the ancient Starks, the War for the Dawn, the nature of magic in general, and more. I other words, I have several more essays to write before TWOW comes out. 😉 I also have plans to do line by line analysis of many key chapters, because many chapters are actually extended metaphors which must be analyzed in totality to really understand what George is saying. Many of the important scenes are played out like the “dumb show” in Hamlet, a play within a play which is at once telling a main story and a secondary, metaphorical story. These will be almost like a selected re-read project, and I already have several chapters outlined and dissected – I am really looking forward to these. Finally, I’ve got a few characters in mind which simply need their own essays, particularly the two Stark girls.
The newest development is that I have begun recording these essays as podcasts, to make them more accessible. I of all people, with my abusive audiobook habits, understand that it is much easier to find time to listen to a podcast than to read a long essay on the computer. You can check out the Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast here, or just look us up on iTunes. My lovely and talented wife, sometimes known as the Amethyst Koala, has recorded the text quotes from the essays in her dulcet tones in order to break up my analysis. We hope you enjoy it as much as a good, fresh-baked cookie.
For now, it’s only audio – if anyone is interested in doing accompanying graphics to make it a video, please contact me. I just don’t have time to do video and audio. I want to spent my time writing essays… I have a bunch of half-finished ones that I would like to get out.
In closing, why am I here? I am here because George R. R. Martin has done something immensely clever, and I want as many people to be in on it as possible. That’s it in a nutshell – I’m so impressed with what he has done that I simply want everyone to know it and appreciate it for the genius that it is. I might be wrong about any one part of my theory, but the broader point is simply to show that George is telling us about the Long Night events through the myths and in-scene metaphors in the book. I invite others to look at the evidence and come to different conclusions – the discussion can only help advance the theory. Most of all, I’m having a blast trying to follow this trail and I’d like to share that joy and excitement with everyone else in the community. The novels read like an entirely new experience once you have the basics of the astronomy pattern in mind. You won’t be able to help yourself from noticing the astronomy metaphors, I promise. They add a layer of surreal, celestial grandeur to scenes which are already dramatic and poetic and beautiful and tragic as it is, in addition to giving insight about the past which may jut be insight about the future as well.
Thanks for reading my work, please leave a comment if you enjoyed it, even if only to say that you did – it always means a lot to me. And if you like these essays, please, please share them with other ASOIAF nerds. You know the type of folks who would enjoy this stuff, so don’t hold out on them.