The Others: Consistency in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”

Like the zombie ideas Paul Krugman cannot ever seem to kill, those who argue for the evil incarnate nature of the Others posit their rules of storytelling answer for why the “Others” are not being “othered”: Martin already did that with the Wildlings/Free Folk. So, we must once again delve into why the eldritch apocalypse crowd is destined to be wrong, just wrong, Full Stop.


The Rules

Apparently there are certain rules to storytelling even if, like Martin, you have set out to defy those rules and have no respect for genre rules. One of them is you cannot have the same exact theme apply over and over to lots of different situations. Once you have used a particular reveal or plot device or theme, like a bullet, you cannot use it again. To which I reply there is no such rule.


Martin is just being consistent. Do not judge until you have adequately viewed things from different sides. Do not be prejudiced. Just because your sympathies are with the viewpoint character, you should not accept their view at face value. Writers use the same theme throughout and it is not hackneyed, or repetitive, or overdone. It is just the central theme of their work. In Martin’s case, it is: Do not take things at face value. You will oftentimes be wrong.


The Only Path to Peace

If you have not figured out yet that Martin dislikes war, prefers peace, but is concerned with what people do during war, you have not been paying attention. What about the Others as evil incarnate leads to anything resembling a “heart in conflict with itself”, according to Martin, the only thing worth writing about? Fighting evil does not cause a moral quandary. Using the nuclear weapons of Westeros – dragons – on evil incarnate does not generate a moral issue. Deciding whether to fight evil incarnate presents no dilemma whatsoever.


Similarly, peace is not difficult to achieve with evil incarnate. You annihilate it. It is over. Done. Finito. Finis. There is no mystery. There is no reveal at all. There is no question of perspective, eye of the beholder, hidden history, or any of the other trademark Martin devices. How likely is it that Martin is posing a situation that is directly contrary to everything in “A Song of Ice and Fire” and literally everything he has written in all of his other work?


Having now read almost everything he has written, there is no escaping the conclusion that 1) there is going to be a love triangle; 2) there is going to be sexual violence; 3) there is going to be telekinesis and/or telepathy; 4) there is going to be a hive minded species; 5) there is going to be a twist; 6) there are going to be questions about power and who should exercise it. Last, but not least, there is NOT going to be evil incarnate, white v. black morality, and good v. evil, only shades of gray. Full stop.


The Others are NOT going to be evil incarnate. Kindly remember, there are no stupid questions, but there are stupid answers. The eldritch apocalypse is one of them. It assumes, presumes, and bulldozes its way through moral quandaries. It bullies, harasses, and fanboys its way over better, deeper, and more insightful theories. In other words, it is everything Martin is trying to overthrow.


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