No One Has Died and I find myself disappointed. Have I Become So Corrupted?
I blame George R.R. Martin. I am on the fifth book of a series that is widely considered a classic by epic fantasy fans – If you want to know which, feel free to hook up with me on Goodreads – and I am beginning to find it really hard going.
I am trying to work out why this is. The world building is fantastic, and the characters are very compelling. This series has won multiple awards and turned a generation onto the genre. The Internet abounds with discussion groups, artwork, jewelry, collectible cards, and even a board game.
The series lacks two things and I am embarrassed to admit that I am missing them. The first is sex, or at least sexuality. Sure everyone sounds very attractive, but seem to blush when a dress comes above the knee. Now, I respect a society that values modesty, but in every other aspect, this is a dangerous world with bad folk, extreme circumstances, and a lot of opportunity for more than noble romance. We delve deep into the souls of these characters, but burn me (yes a hint!), if just a bit of cleavage is shown then everyone blushes and flees for cover or avert their eyes. Sorry, Master Author – no teenage boy is going to do anything less than gawk when confronted by three beautiful women in skimpy negligees.
The second aspect that is beginning to bug me is that no hero or heroine seems to die, and I am really not expecting it as I approach the end of Book Four (I also read the prequel if you are counting). Please no spoilers if there are any!!!! But we seem to have fit into a rather comfortable pace and rather predictable story arc.
But here is what is really bugging me. I read, no devoured, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and there is neither anything remotely sexual (no matter the noble efforts of Peter L. Jackson), nor do any of our major characters die – with all due respect to Boromir and Haldir.
So what has changed? Me? Of course not! I am as full of self-denial as the next man. And so I point the finger at George R.R. Martin: plenty of sex (not particularly healthy I wish to note) and plenty of main characters dying.
Now I have killed my share of protagonists in The Wycaan Master series – I Didn’t Mean To Kill Her and Oops! Just Killed A Friend – and I have neither enjoyed the criticism I have endured for my efforts nor got over the personal sense of loss that each death inflicted on me (let alone the character), but somehow I now crave that tragic turn, expect it, even anticipate it.
What has happened to me? Have I lost my (fantasy) innocence? And what shall I read while waiting for the next Game of Thrones?
Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series: The First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the series, will be released in September 2015. The story continues.
Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+
And here I am, just the opposite when it comes to major characters dying. I’ve heard about Martin and won’t pick up his books because major characters die all the time. I will not invest my emotions in a character to see him slaughtered. I would drop the book and bury it with the character and would not continue reading the series.
Society has changed what readers/viewers expect, and sometimes it hits too hard. Violence has to be more violent, more crude, give that shock and awe, just to get a reaction. I don’t watch violent movies, so when something does occur in a movie I am watching, I feel it. I relive it for weeks, perhaps months later.
My fantasy novels have moderate violence (if on a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being extremely violent, I’d fall around a 4, simply because I’m not graphic). People die in every book, but I’m on the second one, and a major character hasn’t died (spoiler alert). I need him to continue the series. I don’t have a lot of main characters.
Some readers won’t like the idea of a major character living on, but there are many readers who are like me, and would be extremely disappointed (not sad, disappointed in what the author did) if a major character died. As a writer, I know the author has control, and if they killed a major character for a reaction, the reaction they would get is one of dislike.
For example: I watched the movie “Message in a Bottle” and the ending (where the man dies) ruined the entire story. I felt as though I wasted my time. I felt cheated. It made me angry. It was a needless death.
As for sex in novels, if it happens naturally, that’s fine. If the author puts it in to sell books, it’s a turn off. And sex every five pages is a turn off. Yes, there is mild sex in my novels only because it happened naturally, and because I wanted it there. I could have closed the door and left it to readers imaginations (and I did a few times), but this is an adult book.
It is interesting many can watch Lord of the Rings and not think about injecting sex or killing a main character. Society is heading in a bad direction. Imagine how many disappointed souls there would be if Frodo died? We would feel cheated, angry. He’d have gone through all that hell and his payment was death.
I’ve had a similar discussion–the killing of main characters–with other writers. Some will do it, others won’t. I’m sure it will be something we discuss long into the future.
Great comment, Diane. Thank you for taking the time to articulate your views. AS you say, this is going to be a discussion long into the future.