Hi Everyone, Bruce here. Thought I’d poke my head in for a second to introduce you to someone you’ve already met…A.M. Justice. She graced us with her presence awhile back as a guest, but I’m pleased to tell you that Amanda has agreed to join the Guild of Dreams as a regular contributor. Watch for her biography with all her links to go up soon. In the meantime, say hello to A.M. Justice. (Beware…spoilers ahead)
Last time I appeared here on Guild of Dreams I wrote a humorous piece speculating where the showrunners for HBO’s Game of Thrones might take the series, if they wanted to veer away from the plot of The Song of Ice and Fire. Yet David Benioff and Dan Weiss have always reached the key narrative milestones of that series, even when they’ve taken a different route than George R.R. Martin to get there. This season picks up right after the infamous Red Wedding, when the Stark family’s quest for justice died. (Or did it? The Stark clan isn’t quite done for, with all Rob’s siblings still at large, and you can lay odds that one of the Red Wedding Party will return to haunt the Westeros countryside.) As for my silly forecasts last summer, I think I may have scored a bull’s-eye with Prediction #2. Didn’t Arya and Sandor make the cutest couple when they teamed up to slay an inn-full of ruffians?
But let’s talk about why Martin’s series is so successful. What accounts for its broad appeal? My husband liked sword and sorcery pulp fiction as a boy (he loved the Conan books), but he never embraced high fantasy and his adult tastes run toward stories where the houses have indoor plumbing. Yet he’s a GOT fan. While the show’s relentless commitment to all men must die may leave him a bit shaken, he tunes in with the same fervor he felt for Breaking Bad. When I asked what draws him to the show, he said, “Well, it’s all about the characters.”
And those are great characters, aren’t they? Well developed, with complex motivations and emotions, those people know how to grab a reader by the collar and not let her go. The books are written in apostolic third person—with each chapter helmed by one of about a dozen different characters. Four or five of those names will make me say, “One more chapter,” when I turn the page to find that character’s point of view, no matter that it’s two o’clock in the morning. Those individuals’ story lines are too compelling to set aside. Plus, I can’t resist noshing on the delicious stew of bloodlines and family dynamics. (I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the mystery of Jon Snow’s parentage, and I’m certain Ned Stark isn’t his father.)
But what I like about Martin’s series is its realism. The world is as fantastical as any created by Tolkien or Jordan or LeGuin, and has some elements that defy explanation. (As a biology geek, I’m baffled by how a forest ecosystem survives north of the Wall, where there’s always snow. Tree seedlings need bare earth to take root.) But the characters are real—complex, three dimensional people with desires and skills and problems that we can relate to because we see them in every day life. While Westeros has its mages and witches, its wraiths and its dragons, there’s no mythic Dark Lord who must be vanquished in The Song of Ice and Fire; their war of power is for the political, not the magical kind.
I’m also fond of Martin’s work because he writes in the gray zone of human morals, and so do I. When I began work on my first novel Blade of Amber, none of the Westeros novels had been released and moral relativism was uncommon in fantasy. However, it’s the norm in everyday life, where few are wholly good or wholly evil. The complexity of the human spirit is what makes us interesting, and it’s our flaws that make us loveable (depending on the flaw, of course). We don’t root for Tyrion Lannister because he is erudite, clever, and suave; we love him because he’s a deeply empathetic man who always tries to do the right thing. Then there’s Tyrion’s brother Jamie, who began the series as a villain but who has evolved into one of my favorite heroes as his character arc has taken him away from his family’s power-seeking. I will always put off sleep for a Jamie chapter. Of course, in The Song of Ice and Fire, no good deed goes unpunished, and the harder Tyrion or Daenerys or Jon try to save those around them, the deeper they descend into hell. I’ve put those three together on purpose; don’t be surprised if they end up astride Daeny’s dragons before the series end (that’s not a spoiler—it’s pure speculation on my part).
Reviewers have compared my work to Martin’s, and I’m happy to play in a corner of the same ball park. Knownearth—the planet where my characters live—is a simpler place than Westeros, with fewer cultures, fewer religions, and only one major feud. But my work is all about the characters too. Vic, the protagonist of The Woern Chronicles, is a complex woman with gifts and insecurities that fate hammers into an alloy as strong as Valerian steel. She’s far from invulnerable, though; underneath a badass façade, she’s an emotional wreck, and the power she gains at the end of Blade of Amber isn’t nearly as limitless as it may appear—something that quickly comes to light in A Wizard’s Lot, the second Woern Chronicles novel. Yet because realism is important to me, I’ve made all the residents of Knownearth as three dimensional as the people I meet on the street every day. My work is all about the characters, and a page-turning narrative that I hope makes readers say, “one more chapter,” even if it’s two o’clock in the morning.
A.M. Justice writes fiction from distant times and places and chronicles journeys in the here and now, when she’s not in the Dark Playground taking Zimbio quizzes (she’s Tyrion, according to the GOT quiz). As the newest member of the Guild of Dreams, she looks forward to sharing her waking dreams with all of you. To see more of what’s on her mind, drop by the KnownEarth Works website, follow her on Twitter, or hang out on her Facebook page.