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Neuromancer Left us Confused and Cold

Julia

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Welcome to the very first edition of The Fandomentals Classic Sci-Fi Book Club. We’re making our way through some of the works considered to be essential reading for anyone interested in this genre.

This time we looked at Neuromancer by William Gibson. First published in 1984, this novel helped pioneer the cyberpunk movement and is credited with popularizing many of the ideas that would eventually develop into the world wide web.

Plot Summary: Case is a washed-up hacker who can no longer work because a poisoned neural system doesn’t allow him to enter “cyberspace,” so he spends all his time trying to get high in Japan. Then a mysterious man, who has a technological augmented “street ninja” named Molly working for him, offers him a second chance and a job pulling off a heist that gets him involved with a mysterious business clan of clones, and the artificial intelligences that they created.

What do you think of the world building?

Julia: I suppose the defining feature of cyberpunk is high technology juxtaposed with squalor. But even the high technology feels like it’s probably a little squalid too.

Lisa: It definitely does! It feels dirty and invasive. Grungy, even. The tech Case uses to “flip” feels dangerous and scrappy. I highly doubt the rich of this world tap into the Internet the same way.

Barbara: It was very effective. I felt completely immersed, at times even overwhelmed by the world. It was an interesting contrast with the lack of immersion in the character. And as a small aside, I cannot help but mention that I completely hated the depiction of Istanbul as compared to the other places they visit.

Julia: Oh Barbara, is there any fictional portrayal of Istanbul you DO like? But your point his well taken. And I’ll add in another point about stereotyping with the Japanese Yakuza assassins and the perma-baked Rastafarians. It was almost funny how the black side-kick character just randomly came along on the deadly mission for the climax because… he bonded with Case so much?

I think Lisa is right about everything feeling “grungy.” In my mind’s eye, everything is just dirty and the technology is held together with duct tape. Whenever I think of the Sprawl I just picture used take-out containers and Red Bull cans littered everywhere. And I can almost smell the red, infected skin around half of these cybernetic implants.

This is, probably intentionally, in very sharp contrast with Freeside and Villa Straylight, which seem almost sterile. Like an isolation ward in a hospital. You know that people like 3Jane don’t have any weird mirrors grafted to their eyes, or any such nonsense. Though the weird cloney incest ways of the Tessier-Ashpools and those fake contour tanlines are as gross in their own way as the Sprawl.

Lisa: Totally. Those tan lines are synthetic grunge. Perfectly placed but grimy all the same.

Barbara: Ha, yes, trust me Julia, I remembered my beef with that adaptation of Orient Express when I read Neuromancer as well. I swear it’s not me, it’s every author who thinks Istanbul is the best place to live their Orientalist dreams. But you’re right about the other stereotypes as well, of course, I actually wanted to mention the Rastafarians and forgot about it. Like you, I almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of some of it.

I have to disagree about the tanlines though – I want that.

Caroline: To add to the conversation regarding the stereotyping, the word “gaijin” is thrown around a lot when they are in Japan. Gaijin is the Japanese word for foreigner. I studied Japanese in college and went to Japan as part of an exchange program and, from what the Japanese college students explained to me in 2012, gaijin is often used in an insulting way. I found it weird that the narrative used gaijin so often, seeing as it closely followed Case, and Case himself seems to be a foreigner (I don’t think he’s ever described as Japanese?). It stood out to me during the story. I don’t know how people felt about the word in 1984, or what contact Gibson had with Japan prior to writing this, but it felt sort of forced into the text.

Otherwise, I felt the world-building was thorough but confusing, and definitely reliant on stereotypes! I guess that begs the question: can/how do you build an entire world without using stereotypes as a base?

The political and social aspects of the world building were very vague. What impression did you get of what the world is like in those ways?

Lisa: Maybe it’s just the current climate, but the lack of politics was a bit unrealistic. Is this future society so apathetic that they generally don’t care about their piss-poor quality of life? Most of these people live in “coffins”…it’s hard to believe a whole populace would take that lying down.

The lack of economic structure was weird, too. Besides the random service employee here and there, what does most of the populace do for a living?

Taking all that into consideration, it would seem that this future world doesn’t exist within the confines of any political, social, and even economical parameters that we can really understand. It is a race of people that is nihilistic in nature. The only being in the book that seems to have an innate desire to improve and grow is Wintermute. Everyone (and everything) else is stagnant, simply treading water to stay alive.  

Barbara: I felt like the social commentary there was more implicit, but it definitely was there. It worked for me, because I didn’t think Case was very political personally, nor any of the people directly around him. But you’re probably right that from the wider cast of characters, one would expect at least someone to mention something.

Julia: Yeah, I don’t think I got the impression that most people in this world live like Case does. I don’t think it’s usual for entire families to be shoved into “coffins” or anything like that. Though Molly’s rather vague descriptions of her childhood did make poverty seem… not unusual. There was some political content with the Panther Moderns, for instance, that gave the impression of political instability and endemic violence. 

Oh, and the offhand mentions of nuclear war. Apparently most of Germany is a radioactive wasteland or something? And, of course, there was a war with Russia that featured prominently in Armitage’s backstory.

It seems to be an SF trope that technology will make us superficial and materialistic. Any human energy towards “self-improvement” seems to be directed towards things like upgrading your implants, or cloning a better granddaughter, rather than towards anything intellectual or spiritual, let alone towards improving social conditions.

I (Caroline!) felt very disjointed throughout the story – the short sections and jumps from scene to scene threw me off for a long time. I definitely struggled getting a grasp on the setting, even with some of the nice descriptions. Did anyone else feel this way? If so, do you think it was intentional? Does a disjointed/jumpy narrative style reflect on themes of the story?

Caroline: To answer myself, I think there might be a connection or meaning when comparing the narrative structure to the life Case is living. The narrative jumps from place to place in quick slices; Case, likewise, jumps from living in the real world to being in cyberspace, experiencing reality and artificial reality in segments. I think the disjointed structure gives us the best understanding of Case’s brain, even more so than Case or any character development (if there was any…). It seems that the structure reflects the story, or the story reflects the structure.

Julia: Gibson apparently has a reputation for never spoon feeding the word building. He just throws terms and concept out there for the reader to figure out. I suppose that can extend to the story itself as well. Case knows about the whole nuclear war thing, so why would be explain it. He knows what’s going on too, so why should his close third-person explain it?

I can’t say it makes for an enjoyable reading experience.

Did you find the protagonist in any way memorable or distinctive?

Barbara: The protagonist actually makes this really hard to read for me, since he’s a very distinct type of (anti)hero, and one I’m really tired of. It’s obviously unfair to the book, because it was in many ways first in this (though there are inspirations Gibson pulls from), but I couldn’t quite free myself from it…

Lisa: I couldn’t connect with Case at all. I still feel like I know nothing about him (except that he really likes to get high). I think all Gibson’s characters are a bit shallow, if i’m being honest.

Caroline: Agreed. I know almost nothing about Case. At best he is a struggling drug addict; at worst, he’s just a literary device to let us see Gibson’s neato sci-fi world. Neither is abhorrent, but neither is compelling.

Julia: Yes, exactly. I feel like I know nothing about him. There was an attempt, I think, to make us care about him, specifically with the sacs of neurotoxin and Linda Lee (who he’s… mourning?) but I don’t think I at any point actually cared if he succeeded or not. That moment when he was screaming and crying because he thought Armitage was going to take the secret with him as he died and Case would be poisoned again did nothing for me.

Lisa: Nope. No feelings for Case, at all. I felt worse for Armitage!

Molly. Let’s talk about the her role in this novel and her relationship with Case.

Barbara: I can’t get over that first sex scene. Like, what even was that?

Caroline: I know right!

Lisa: Conceptually, it kind of reminds me of Sleeper, a movie Woody Allen directed in 1974. In the movie, Allen and Diane Keaton use an “orgasmitron” to have sex. The couple doesn’t touch each other at all and instead relies on the orgasmitron to stimluate the body to orgasim.

I think it’s a play on the idea that technology makes us less-human. Gibson takes it a step further, in my opinion, by partnering Case and Molly. They way they copulate is strange, foreign, and seemingly robotic, inferring a lack of intimacy. However, even though these two people have been manipulated both intellectually and physically to reflect the hyper-tech world they live in, they still find the need to sleep in the same bed. They still desire companionship, a very basic human need.

Barbara: Well the whole book is intentionally rather low on introspection, you only rarely find out what the protagonists are thinking or feeling, so that’s part of it, I think (and also relates to what you said about not connecting to Case). But that first scene…on one hand I tend to read it as some kind of strange male fantasy – he is in the same space with a woman, so of course she would want to have sex with him – but on the other, it read like borderline rape, given the state Case is in and that the initiative is entirely hers…

Julia: I think I’m questioning the decision of the author to have them have a physical relationship at all. I’m not sure what it adds to anything. It’s like it happened out of some sense of obligation. I’m don’t know if it was Gibson’s sense of obligation, or the characters’.

Lisa: Agreed. I don’t think the sexual relationship is necessary. Neither character is ever driven by their undying love (or even lust) for one another. If anything, the relationship is simply commentary on loneliness.

But I think that’s giving Gibson too much credit. This was written in the early 1980s when sex-scenes in entertainment were rampant. Instead of a time-lapse montage, most movies in the 80s included some kind of sex-scene montage. I think that’s just what audiences wanted back then.

And good point about the entire book being incredibly not introspective, Barbara! Thematically, is that a play on the mysteries of the AI world? We can never know exactly what a machine/computer is thinking?

Barbara: 100% agreed on the sense of obligation. I think it was primarily Gibson’s, and he transferred it to the way the characters acted…

Caroline: Do y’all think Gibson actively thought, “I must have a sex scene,” or do you think it was his unconscious bias about how men and women must interact in a story that led to it? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was written because it was just assumed a male (anit)hero has a female love interest, and of course she wants him, too.

Julia: I’m not sure why she would want him. I guess he doesn’t actively creep on her like Peter Riviera does.

Molly’s description of sex work in this world seems particularly disturbing, with the workers not in control of their bodies at all and not aware of what they’re doing.

Barabara: It seems to stem from this idea that sexwork itself is a deeply unpleasant experience that no one really wants to be present for. Because the vibe I got, at least, wasn’t “they force sex workers into this”, but rather “sex workers prefer not being present”, which is very disturbing indeed.

Julia: It reminds me a little bit of the well observed phenomenon of people feeling more free to express opinions they know aren’t socially acceptable on the internet because of the anonymity it offers. In this case, the anonymity is extended to sex. No one has to know about your weird kink, not even the sex worker you’re doing it with.

Lisa: Which plays into the idea of sex, and sexual deviance, as taboo, right? Gibson is acknowledging sexual “deviance” and it’s overwhelming existence in everyday life. This is chillingly similar to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Staying on Molly and Case, how do we feel about the uplink thing that lets Case see things through Molly’s eyes?

Julia: Not good? The Dolyist reason for this is rather obvious, the author wanted be able to see plot things that were happening to Molly without actually having her point of view. And that rubs me the wrong way, I’m not going to lie. Especially given the whole puppet sex worker thing she went through before.

Lisa: I think it’s cheap, too. It would have been much more interesting to write from Molly’s perspective. The uplink/flip could still happen, but from Molly’s perspective, we would have known what it felt like to have Case in her mind like that.  

Caroline: If a plot device is only a plot device, does that make it a contrivance? I agree with all above – it’s obvious Case’s ability to see through Molly’s eyes was solely for the reader’s benefit to see what Molly sees. I can’t connect it to any themes, etc., at all. I think if a plot device serves no other discernable purpose than its single purpose, it may very well be a contrivance. This felt very contrived and, as pointed out, very cheap.

Barbara: I second all that. Or at the very least they could have had some discussion about it or something, some more in depth exploration of the experience…the degree to which it was waved aside effectively confirmed that it was a plot device. The only moment when it was an issue was when Case felt Molly’s pain. I don’t know if we were supposed to believe this was everyday stuff for Case and so he felt no need to mention it, but I really don’t see what in his personal history would make it so…

Julia: Now that I think about it,God is Molly ever repressed. She spends most of the time she’s uplinked to Case just kind of talking about all her past trauma’s in this oddly detached way. She seems even detached from her own emotional reactions to things. We, the reader, are aware that her trauma with growing up in poverty and being sexually exploited motivate her, especially with things like her hatred for Peter Riviera, but I don’t think she’s much aware of it.

So, I don’t think I want to call Molly a “shallow” character, because that depth is all there, but the narrative didn’t explore it much at all. Which is a little infuriating, because, yeah, Case is that shallow. He wants money for drugs, I think. He has some kind of feelings about wasp nests maybe.

This society seems very afraid of Artificial Intelligence. Do you think the narrative argues that this fear is justified? How do we see Wintermute and Neuromancer as characters?

Lisa: This is one area where I felt Gibson really did well. The fear of AI is very well-depicted and real. Maybe because our society has been afraid of AI for decades…who knows? My favorite scene in the entire book was when Wintermute annihilated the Turing officers that were chasing Case. The way the AI used the environment to decapitate one of them was everything I would expect of an all-powerful sentient being.  

Wintermute and Neuromancer were my favorite characters in the entire book. They were incredibly interesting and complex. I found Wintermute to be intellectually stimulating, whereas I wanted to snuggle up in a blanket on the beach with Neuromancer. In a lot of ways, the two AI felt more human than the humans…

Julia: Wintermute is everything Case is not in a protagonist. He’s (?) got that introspective self-awareness that makes him very interesting and just the right amount of mysterious. And Neuromancer is everything thing the humans are not and really should be, as Lisa just said.  They both seems to actually care to ask questions about their own natures and how they can be better and grow. They’re like flowers that grew out a of pot of dirt at this point.

Why is Case the protagonist and not Neuromancer?

Million Dollar Questions: Is this book “good”? Did you enjoy reading it? Does it age well?

Lisa: I can see why it turned heads in 1984…the language and the story is incredibly unique. But no, I did not enjoy reading it and I do not think it ages well.

The lack of diverse characters (and the stereotyping Julia mentioned) doesn’t reflect modern day readers. I also think the characters are pretty shallow and unrelatable. I didn’t really like this book at all…

I’ve recently re-watched the Matrix trilogy and in a lot of ways, it’s a Neuromancer rip-off. (The matrix, Zion, uplinking, etc.) But the Matrix has done much better in terms of scale because it’s simple and relatable. There are diverse characters and a clear enemy. (There’s also an unnecessary sex-scene in Matrix Reloaded.)

Julia: Maybe it is just because the concepts, which were groundbreaking in 1984, one assumes, are all so old hat by now, but I didn’t find anything about this book particularly compelling. I don’t think I would have finished it if I didn’t have to for this book club. I suppose it goes to show that even hard sci-fi needs to be character driven.

Barbara: I picked up this book for the first time when I was fourteen, and couldn’t get into it. When I opened it now, I was curious if it would be better…it wasn’t. It was worse, actually, because it hasn’t aged particularly well and I see problems now that I wouldn’t have seen at fourteen. I would say that I enjoyed moments of it (the actual action is done well, in my opinion), but then there were long passages that left me completely indifferent and also bits that were downright unpleasant.

Caroline: I started out liking it – I was impressed by the world building and the sheer number of words Gibson created. But it quickly dissolved into a realization that the book is not particularly well-written, and in many cases is impossible to follow. The fact that the main character is totally unrelatable doesn’t help. I agree that much of it was unpleasant. Perhaps worse, a lot of it was boring. Without solid characterization, I couldn’t care much about what happened. I felt like I was watching the season finale for a show I’d never watched before and didn’t care about.

Apparently this book predicted the internet. Discuss.

Lisa: I’m not sure it was Neuromancer itself that predicted the internet…Gibson first wrote Burning Chrome in 1982. That’s where the term “cyberspace” was born.

Via history.com, “ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. The online world then took on a more recognizable form in 1990, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.”

So while, yes, Gibson can certainly be partially credited for “predicting the internet” as we understand it today, but it was in the works before Neuromancer was written. (Maybe ARPANET got their hands on Burning Chrome? Who knows….)

It certainly is interesting that both Burning Chrome and Neuromancer were written while the Internet was being developed/established. It’s highly unlikely Gibson really knew anything about that, right? He certainly familiarized himself with computer components, hardware and software…but where did he come up with the idea of a “network”?? According to Wikipedia, Gibson was TERRIBLE at math…

One thing I personally made note of while reading was that the technical concepts were actually quite difficult for me to visualize. The only thing I can think of is that tech is much more refined now and understanding raw, rough, seemingly archaic tech, is confusing.

Anyone else have that issue? Or was it just me?

Barbara: I definitely agree that it was hard to visualize most of the things he’s describing. It didn’t really bother me, because I tend to skim over descriptions in any case when I read, even when they are descriptions of regular things…but usually I know I could actually imagine it if I wanted to. I think it’s made harder by the amount of made-up tech words he uses. It helps worldbuilding, but makes it more difficult to imagine a scene, paradoxically.

I wouldn’t dare to speculate on the internet genesis topic, but I do find it interesting to see – as I often do in sci-fi – what he did not imagine. Like how the way the protagonist searches for information is so much less efficient than, you know, Google. Partly because he just doesn’t imagine encyclopaedias being made specifically for that kind of medium. It probably goes with the atmosphere, too, that things must be, as Julia said, squalid. Wiki is too tidy for that.

Julia: I think that it was easy enough to predict the concept of a global network that one can access regardless of physical location, but no one was able to predict how we were going to use it. It integrated into our society, rather than taking it over. All these concepts had a network that was totally immersive, “a consensual hallucination,” as this novel famously says, a mode of existence rather than a tool. And one one predicted that there would still be this focus on the written, rather than the spoken, word that the internet still has. And I certainly don’t think that we could have predicted that I could be writing a collaborative piece like this, with three other people in two other countries, while I was making breakfast.

Caroline: I agree with the point about the difficulty of imagining the technology. The fact that Gibson uses his special sci-fi lingo from the jump doesn’t help much either – it took quite a while for me to figure out a lot of the terms. In a way it adds to the immersion, but without an idea of what those things are, it just leaves big gaps in the mental image of the story. This is a place where written science fiction may falter while a visual adaptation would succeed. For instance, the “transporter” in Star Trek is explainable by watching things step onto the pad and disappear, reappearing somewhere else. This is much harder to explain in a written format, since so much detail is needed to convey that idea. A lot of Case’s jumping around from Molly’s eyes to cyberspace elsewhere is confusing because of how much detail he’s really seeing, as opposed to what we’re presented on the page.

I can’t make a determination one way or the other about the internet thing. Looking at it now, I’d like to say it’s not hard to imagine a network like the internet – but then again, I can’t predict what new technology will come out next year. I think we’re able to imagine concepts in technology, things we want to have – transporters, food replicators, robots, cell phones – but of course we can’t get the specifics down because it’s all speculative. Case’s experience with cyberspace is very different from a modern experience, I think (I don’t think he watched any funny cat videos during the story…), but the base concept remains the same.


Next Time: The book that put the OG in “Oh god, what have I done!?” Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. Who was an eighteen-year-old when she started writing it. No, really.

This should be awesome.

Featured image: Neuromancer by Josan Gonzalez

Julia is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals with far too many hobbies and complex emotions. She may or may not be an actual Martell.

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Lucky 7 Is A Queer Cyberpunk Thriller Unlike Any Other

Griffin

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Lucky 7, written by 2016 Rainbow Award Winner Rae D. Magdon and published by Desert Palm Press, is a cyberpunk tale told through the first-person perspectives of its protagonists, and eventual lovers, Elena Nevares, a latinx bisexual hacker from Mexico City, and Sasha Young, a black sapphic handler born in America but naturalized in Russia. They’re joined by a misfit team and ad-hoc family of other specialists that cover just about every other angle of queerness and race under the sun as they unearth a conspiracy that connects far too close to home. Also they fight a virtual dragon.

It is, in short, a cyberpunk narrative unlike any other, though not for the reasons you think. But we’ll circle back to that. Also it’s extremely sexually explicit, so take that into account if it’s not your cup of tea. That being said, every instance of intimacy is wonderfully characterizing for both parties as well as deeply evocative. What I’m saying is that it’s not just shameless smut; there’s a purpose for it, just like pretty much everything else in Lucky 7.

I’m entirely sure if this is common knowledge about me, but I love cyberpunk as a setting. It combines two of my favorite niche genres: noir and hard sci-fi. Cyberpunk stories typically live and die by the immersiveness of their settings, rather than the characters or even the plot itself. It’s most often a trip into a capitalist hellscape where governments have been rendered obsolete by mega-corporations and quite literally everything has been privatized. It’s an endlessly interesting logical extreme that continues to be explored every day in our lifetime, as it’s really not that far removed from our current reality.

The world’s current wage gap between what remains of the middle class and the hyper-rich is the largest it’s ever been, and you have mega corporations (Amazon, Disney, Comcast, Google…) buying up other companies for a legal monopoly of not only telecoms but content creation itself. While we don’t currently live in an industrial nightmare where most of Southern California has merged into one urban sprawl, it’s not hard to see the multitude of other ways society could evolve (or devolve, depending on your point of view) as corporate superpowers continue to consolidate power.

Which is where the conspiracies come in. The combination of the “hard boiled detective” being smashed together with a reality that is both so similar to and yet so unlike the classic noir tales of the 1940s just makes sense, even if the subsequent haymakers that are Blade Runner and 1995’s Ghost in the Shell hadn’t done the heavy lifting. It’s always about the human condition, what we define as alive, and how corruption and greed can feed on everyone regardless of origin.

Magdon’s Lucky 7 addresses all of those questions, and more, but what’s most remarkable about her book is that it does it in one of the most staunchly colorful cyberpunk settings I think I’ve ever witnessed. And I mean that in terms of both race and literal color. When you consider cyberpunk, you’re normally thinking of the grey, rainy, concrete and steel jungles that seem inescapable to the common citizen. Thanks to its 1940s noir roots, that’s by design. But it apparently doesn’t have to be.

Lucky 7 is set in June of 2065. The basic building blocks of the world are borrowed from the likes of Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell franchise, but the biggest deviations aren’t what you think they are at first glance. Yes, the book is filled to the brim with wonderfully and sincerely written queer characters of just about every color, creed, and identity to an extent that only Ghost in the Shell has toyed with, but there’s just something more to this that I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.

We start our story in a mostly rural Siberia, where Elena meets Sasha, and then jump to the Amazon rainforest after an explosive prison break. It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment, but in any cyberpunk, post-industrial nightmare you’ve ever heard of…was there ever still undeveloped land? Were there any parts of the world that hadn’t been paved over with concrete, let alone something as delicate and already-dying as the Amazon rainforest? I’m guessing no.

Blade Runner 2049 showed us forms of wilderness and rural areas, yes, but mostly in the form irradiated deserts and dying farmland. For something like the Amazon to even still exist in a world with hyper-population scales and a purely capitalist society isn’t something to be overlooked. It’s a message that lines up perfectly with one of the two main themes of the narrative: it’s not over yet. I don’t want to spoil exactly how deep this runs into the central character arcs and relationships, but let’s just say the inherently cyclical nature of that idea isn’t something that Magdon takes lightly.

The supporting cast of the book are introduced in a rather clever method. It’s something that I’d describe as “Bioware-esque” if it wasn’t so intrinsically tied into the narrative pacing. See, with some older Bioware games—specifically Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effectand Dragon Age: Origins—the protagonist is dropped into a situation and then chooses what order to recruit the rest of their party. Each quest or mission advances the narrative, regardless of order, and you learn more about a certain aspect of the world as you go.

This inevitably lead to some…strange narrative choices at the behest of player freedom, but here that basic idea is expanded into the context of “putting together a crew” for a heist. Or, rather, reuniting a crew after a job gone bad. Elena is our outsider point of view for the first half of the book, so each introduction to the supporting cast is already thick with complex interpersonal relationships, be it romantic, platonic or familial, with everyone else already belonging to the titular Lucky 7. I recognize it’s not a particularly unique method of introduction, but it’s always the execution that matters, and Magdon does it wonderfully.

Aside from the intentional coloring of the setting to differentiate itself from the pack as I’ve discussed above, this is the most intrinsic aspect of Lucky 7 that makes it work so well. And it’s also what makes the darkness surrounding it feel manageable, almost as if the crew itself is helping the reader cope with the plight and state of the world. The why of “it’s not over yet.” Cyberpunk is a genre that centers obsessively on the lone wolf protagonist. The hard boiled detective gets in over their head, getting shoved into a larger story that rarely has anything to do with them. They either die solving the crime, or get out alive more emotionally broken.

Lucky 7 goes out of its way to show the reader, again and again, that that’s not how this story is going to go. At one point in the book, Sasha reflects that “In this business, lone wolves don’t live long”. This is meant to be in direct contrast to Elena, who has repeatedly declared that she has no intention of bonding with this crew. She’s used to working alone, and she intends to stick to that. But that mentality of hers falls apart piece by piece as she realizes just how empty her life was doing this job alone.

In a world filled with betrayal, uninhibited greed and overwhelming oppression under the mega-corporate boot, a group like the Lucky 7 can still exist and even, to some extent, thrive together. Under a lesser writer, this wouldn’t work. The found family dynamic is a personal favorite of mine, but it’s something that shouldn’t fit within the confines of the cyberpunk genre. It should also go without saying that the corporate concept of “family” being called out like this is especially satisfying.

Not even Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, with its own fleshed out supporting cast, had any intention of connecting the members of Public Security Section 9 as anything other than comrades who could depend on one another. With literally one exception that may or may not be reciprocated (Batou’s feelings for Motoko), that’s all they ever are. Professionals who enjoy working with one another, and protect each other…but the personal relationships were always kept at juuuust enough arm’s length to keep them isolated on a deeper level.

But Magdon managed to make it happen without losing the core of the genre and what makes it so interesting to explore in the first place: the socio-economic structures of the world itself. Sure, the noir aspect was cool and important and it worked seamlessly in the classics, but it wasn’t until reading Lucky 7 that I realized how it may have been more of an expositionary device rather than an intrinsic aspect what defines cyberpunk.

As much as I praise the work Magdon has done here, that shouldn’t be mistaken for believing this to be a perfect story. The first few chapters have a bit of a rocky start to them, but not anywhere near to the point where it stopped me from wanting to see where Magdon went with this.

Her separation between virtual reality and reality is clear, and at times clever, but it’s really the characters that prop up this particular depiction and sell it. As great as those characters are, they can’t cover for everything. It also doesn’t help that the few times I was taken out of the story were due to decisions on Magdon’s part to use questionable language as in-universe slang. Using the words cyberspace, meatspace, and credits unironically in a novel that at no point attempts to dive into nostalgia territory for the classics feels out of place and genuinely confusing. To be frank, it feels antithetical to Magdon’s excellent subversions of other aspects of cyberpunk.

There are a lot of cool concepts brought up during the course of the story that aren’t explored as much as they, in my opinion, could be, and the world itself could use some more fleshing out on quite a few levels. For example, we’re introduced to Mexico City as having a lower-class population large enough to have its own cultural identity, implying that many other megacities have this trait as well. But we barely spend any time exploring that idea, and we don’t spend too much time in any these cities at all. It’s by and large mostly in remote areas that happen to have secret facilities. Again, this is something that the characters, relationships and dialog more than make up for, but it did stick out to me that the root of the cause for the crew’s existence at all, these massive megacities run by megacorps, aren’t as much of a focus.

All of that aside, though, Magdon has created something truly special with Lucky 7. It uproots cyberpunk genre conventions and subverts them masterfully, crafting a narrative where levity and betrayal are equally intrinsic, and the murky grey duplicitous nature of humanity is refracted through a prism, creating a spectrum of morality and color that is just as wide as its queerness. 

It’s a world, as you can plainly see, that I want to dive into and learn more about. It’s something I’d love to see expanded upon, and considering how many threads are left untied at the end of the story, I can’t imagine we won’t get a sequel. Or a series. Ideally a series. 

You can buy the ebook today from Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. If you’re more into paperbacks, Amazon offers that too!


Cover art by Rachel George

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Analysis

The Environment and Tolerance in Wolf Speaker

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Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Tamora Pierce’s Wolf Speaker starts with an acknowledgments section. Pierce included a staggering amount of animal behavior theory in this book. While some information is out of date, due to being published in 1994, it’s clear that Pierce cares about accuracy in her work. For a book largely based around various philosophical debates about humanity, showing her sources is important. Pierce spends Wolf Speaker talking about how humans interact with the environment. She also discusses how humans interact with each other and the ugly biases that everyone has. Finally, she talks about how we can change and outgrow those biases.

Spoilers for all of Pierce’s previous work.

What Happened In The Book?

The novel begins with Daine and Numair arriving at Dunlath, a fief in northern Tortall. Brokefang, the head of the Snowsdale wolf pack, summoned them to Dunlath to speak with the humans. King Jonathan allowed them to go, provided they search for a group of Riders and a unit of the army that disappeared near Dunlath. Daine discovers that the nobles are cutting down the forest and mining for opals.

The badger arrives and tells Daine that she can share the mind of an animal. Daine does so several times. When she leaves the animal, some aspect remains shortly with her system, e.g. her ears turn into bat ears. After Daine and Numair meet with Belden and Yolane, the nobles, for the first time, Numair says they have to leave the valley. They met several wizards aligned with Carthak at the castle.

Numair leaves Dunlath, but Daine stays to help Brokefang and the other wolves. They had changed because of her magic, and Daine feels responsible. A magical barrier goes up, separating the valley from everything else. The wolves steal from the logging camp, and Daine panics over their changed behavior. The mages send a Coldfang, an immortal that hunts thieves, after the wolves, and Daine stops it. With help from Tkaa, a basilisk.

Maura, Yolane’s half-sister, flees the castle and tells them that the nobles want to rebel against Jonathan. They’re selling the opals they mine to Carthak, which provides them with soldiers and mages.. Daine, Maura, and various animals and immortals, and villagers rebel against Yolane and Belden.

Daine fights another Coldfang, breaks the barrier, and hunts down Yolane in wolf shape. Maura takes control of the fief, and she promises to take advice from humans, animals, and immortals.

Eco-Feminism and The Environment

Environment and Humans

One of the major issues that Wolf Speaker covers is the relationship between humans and the natural world. The central conflict in this book is revealed because the wolves saw the issues that the humans were causing. As Brokefang says, “this spring men started cutting trees and digging holes without planting anything. He says they brought monsters and more humans there, and they are killing off the game. …they’re driving the deer and elk from the valley. If it isn’t stopped, the pack will starve,” (13). This, and the rest of the story, reads as a fairly stereotypical example of the sort of damage humans cause the environment. Pierce shows how humans take advantage of the environment, and she frames it as explicitly bad.

Pierce addresses the issues of deforestation and strip mining in a children’s novel. While it’s not an incredibly nuanced reading, considering the fact that it’s a young adult novel somewhat justifies that lack of nuance. With her novels, Pierce tries to show by example how we can be better people. But she frames her story around the issues she addresses, so it doesn’t sound too moralizing.

In addition to the initial problem of deforestation, Pierce also addresses pollution in this novel. The mages from Carthak, create a poison called Bloodrain. They plan to dump it in the river in order to defeat Alanna, and her forces. It’s a poison so powerful that one of them got a drop on her hand, and cut it off. It’ll kill everything that uses moisture from the river, and keep it barren for the next seven years. Again, it’s not a particularly nuanced depiction. However, it shows that Belden and Yolane are willing to kill an entire ecosystem for power. Sadly, that’s not incredibly inaccurate.

Humans and Animals

Another aspect that Pierce discusses is the relationship between humans and animals. We see two characters as foils in this regard. Daine, who knows animals though her magic. Maura, on the other hand, knows animals only through what gossip says.

Several times through the book, Maura is terrified of Daine’s animal companions. She flees in terror from bats. She believes the wolves will eat her. And always, she explains that, “Everybody says — ‘Everybody’s wrong.” (158). Daine then proceeds to explain that bats don’t fly into hair, or that wolves only hunt to eat, and they don’t eat humans. Through Maura, Pierce shows the importance of being properly educated about the environment and all it’s inhabitants.

Through the book, Daine is occasionally scared of the wolves. However, her fear comes from how she’s changed the wolves, rather than their natural behavior. The wolves steal axes from the logger and food from the humans for Daine and Maura. Daine panics both times about how they are more intelligent than normal wolves, seeing how her magic has changed their thoughts.

The most pertinent example is Brokefang. He licked a wound Daine received from the bandits while they were in Snowsdale. This changed him more than all the other wolves. “New thoughts came thick and fast now, more every day, and he did not understand them all.” (97). Daine’s magic changed Brokefang, so much that his mind works more like a humans’s than a wolfs. Because of the damage that did, Daine remains behind, to help heal some of it. While animals don’t change to this extent in the actual world, human behavior shapes theirs.

Tolerance and Cooperation

Daine and the Stormwings

A recurring theme in Wolf Speaker is the tense relationship between Daine and any Stormwings in the vicinity. After the events of the last book (and events alluded to between the books), Daine despises the entire species. She aims her crossbow at a group of Stormwings that fly overhead when she and Numair arrived at the valley. Numair stopped her from shooting, and suggested that she learn tolerance.

She proceeds to do so through the rest of the book. Maura proves to be a good influence there. Shortly after Maura joins Daine and the wolves, three Stormwings appear to return her home, because the Stormwings were concerned for her. Maura is friends with a specific Stormwing, Rikash, and he is fond of her in turn. Maura and Daine have several conversations about Stormwings, where Maura slowly convinces her that not all Stormwings are awful.

At the climax of the story, Daine runs into Rikash and more Stormwings again. She thinks:

Once she had wanted to kill every Stormwing she found, but was that still true? It seemed as if, ever since she had come here, someone was telling her that because she didn’t like a creature’s looks, it didn’t mean that creature was bad. She still didn’t like Stormwing looks, but … ‘I’d like to end this bloodshed, I think,’ … We don’t like each other, but you can’t go killing everyone you don’t like.”

Through the rest of the series, Daine never again makes the mistake of hating all creatures of a particular species, just the ones aligned against her. Through Daine’s hatred of Stormwings, and her subsequent change of heart, Pierce advocates for learning tolerance.

The Badger’s Plan

Two thirds of the way through the novel, the badger god reappears. He asks Daine what she thinks of Dunlath. She replies that it’s a nice place, for animals and for humans, and “even immortals, too, if they wanted to just live here and raise families.” (216). The badger then reveals that Brokefang’s call for help had divine inspiration. Daine was summoned to Dunlath for a godly experiment, she is to, “set this whole valley to rights, … shape a bridge between kindreds.” (217-8). The Badger explains that she is supposed to broker peace between humans, animals, and immortals in Dunlath.

This is something that Dunlath desperately needs. At the beginning of the book animals and humans are opposed. The nobles laugh Daine out of the castle when she brings the plight of the wolves up to the nobles. The wolves are preparing a war of attrition against the humans in retribution. The mages imprisoned a whole slew of hurroks (carnivorous winged horses), ogres, and Stormwings. They forced the ogres to mine for opals, and the hurroks and Stormwings to patrol the valley.

Through Daine, all three groups can communicate. She organizes the animals during the battle to reclaim Dunlath. She sends squirrels to free horses, and the wolves and a pack of wolf-hounds go with Maura. Daine and Iakoju (an escaped ogre) help the ogres rise up against their human oppressors. The villagers evacuate and help round up the soldiers employed by Belden and Yolane.

Maura ends up ending the book as the leader of the valley. She vows to listen not just to the humans, but the animals, when their opinions are translated by Tkaa, the basilisk. She gives the ogres half the valley for them to farm. Maura, with Daine’s initial assistance, fulfills the Badger’s plan for Dunlath.

Conclusion

In Wolf Speaker, Pierce tries to do many things. She demonstrates the relationship between the ecosystem and humans. She shows how important it is that we are educated about animals and the effects we have on the environment around us. In addition, she addresses the issue of biases and how we can, and should grow to overcome them. She advocates for different groups of people working together and living together in harmony. It may be idealistic, it may not be incredibly nuanced, but all of the messages she sends are important.


Image Courtesy of Atheneum

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Analysis

A Definitive Guide to ASOIAF Analysis

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A friend of mine recently finished George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF), and she asked me if I had any recommendations for essays or podcasts focused on analysis/theory. My immediate response was, “OH BOY DO I.” Because that’s the kind of reader I am. I may not watch the show anymore, but I am an avid consumer of ASOIAF analysis.

If you’re brand new to the fandom or the world of ASOIAF analysis, finding a place to start can feel exhausting. There’s so much available, and not all of it may be good or scratch your specific analysis itch. Because of my particular interests and preferences—themes, character analysis, and mythological and/or symbolic interpretation—I’ve had to pick and choose my way through the analysis world. Many other readers have to do the same or give up because they don’t even know what they’re looking for.

So, if you’re as anxious for The Winds of Winter to come out as I am, share my same proclivities, and looking for a way to fill time, I give you my personal, definitive guide to ASOIAF theory and analysis.

7. Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire by BryndonBFish, Militant_Penguin, Nfriel, and SomethingLikeALawyer

“Battle of Westeros,” by Thomasz Jedruszek

This one is hit or miss for me, depending on the author. It was one of my first theory blogs, and one that I only occasionally revisit now because I’ve found others I like more. I also admit that I pretty much only read BryndonBFish’s work because I’m not that big of a fan of the other three contributors for various reasons. They’re not awful, just not my preferred approach or perspective.

Anyway, if you’re looking for essays on military strategy, political maneuverings, and various battlefield commanders, this is the place to go. BryndonBFish’s essay on the early evidence for Roose Bolton’s treachery brought me to the site, and it’s still one of my favorites when it comes Martin’s foreshadowing of the Red Wedding because of how subtle it is. I really like his speculative essays on the upcoming battle of Fire, battle of Ice, Daenerys’s destructive path, and Aegon’s military campaign. He has a couple of great character pieces on Tywin Lannister and Kevan Lannister, and how the latter doesn’t deserve his relatively good reputation. I also highly recommend his essay on Stannis’ flexibility, as it highlights an oft misunderstood characterization that many fans share with in-world characters.

Basically, if it has to do with war and military figures, start here.

6. Meditations on A Song of Ice and Fire by Cantuse

Ah, my first true love. I found Cantuse’ blog via BrendanBFish’s blog years ago and their essays are still some of my all-time favorites. Do you like Stannis Baratheon? I do, and this is the place to go for all things Stannis. Character analysis, plot analysis, predictions for TWOW. Even a thorough, and highly compelling, battle plan for the battle of Ice that puts even BryndonBFish’s series to shame. The whole series on Stannis is called the Mannifesto, and if you have a free weekend, you should read it. It will take you that long—it’s not called a manifesto for nothing—but it’s totally worth it.

There are some fascinating theories and character studies along the way. Like the spearwife Rowan being Mors Umber’s long-lost daughter, a Val/Jon wedding Jon may not even be aware of, or Theon being the author of the pink letter. There are even a couple of really tinfoil-y identity theories, like Mance being a descendent of Duncan Targaryen and Jenny of Oldstones. My favorite piece by far is their one on Robert Arryn’s sweetsleep addiction. I actually have to remind myself this theory isn’t confirmed in canon because it makes so much sense.

One of the other major emphases of the blog is prophecy: how it functions in Martin’s world, the characters most closely associated with it, and interpretation of some of the most famous prophecies. There’s a whole series on Rhaegar and prophecy that also includes a fascinating discussion of Mance, Jenny’s song, and the ghost of High Heart.

Unfortunately, Cantuse hasn’t produced anything new in over a year. However, what is there is analysis gold. I’ve read every essay Cantuse ever wrote. I may not agree with everything they say, but I always enjoy reading it.

5. Reread Projects

Some of the best character driven essays I’ve read about ASOIAF come out of reread projects. There are a lot of whole series rereads (some with online discussion groups or podcasts), but my favorite are single character arc rereads that focus on themes, symbolism, and character development. The Sansa reread project Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa is a must read, in my opinion. It’s a lot of information and there are dozens of excellent essays compiled by various Westeros.org users over months of work.

The table of contents on the forum is very well organized, but reading forum threads can still a lot to wade through and seem daunting. The project has its own website now, and I find it easier to navigate. I recommend starting with the sections on motherhood, women in power, courtly love, and the piece on Arya Stark under female influences.

Other rereads worth engaging in are the Quentyn (Prince Mud) and Arianne (Trial by Folly) rereads. Not least of which is because you will get to read our very own Kylie and Julia interacting back in their forum days.

4. ASOIAF Analysis by LadyGwynhyfvar

If you’re into Arthuriana (the fancy name for the legends of King Arthur) and courtly traditions, check out Lady Gwyn’s website. Her “Rethinking Arthurian Influences in ASOIAF” would be the place to start, then her series on different character parallels and inversions. She brings mythology, archetypes, and other literary parallels to bear on the text, so you can see just how complex the interweaving of various sources and inspirations are for Martin. She’s also a great resource for all things ‘Great Northern Conspiracy’ related, and that episode of her podcast is one I’ve listened to multiple times.

Speaking of which, she’s the cohost of the Radio Westeros podcast alongside Yolkboy, and I recommend checking that out as well. It’s not as deep of a dive as some of the other podcasts I listen to, and I don’t always agree with their takeaways for certain characters (like Catelyn), but it’s enjoyable. Most of their episodes are character based, which can be a great way to look a character’s arc across books, as well as theories associated with them, all at once. I really like their ‘myths and legends’ episodes, as well as their one on the Blackfyre conspiracy.

They also have fake ‘ads’ from Westeros, songs from the fandom, and other unique little tidbits scattered in. Their tone is light and non-judgmental, which is fabulous given how divisive this fandom can be. Even if they don’t agree with one of your favorite theories, they will always treat it with respect. All in all, a fun way to re-engage with characters and get caught up on the most relevant theories.

3. Ideas of Ice and Fire

Background Image is from the game Kingdom Under Fire 2.

What I love most about this series of YouTube videos is how it draws a lot of book lore into small, easily digestible videos. If you’re not into essays with word counts in the thousands but want to engage with theories about the origin of the White Walkers, Arya’s future, and the power of Melisandre’s ruby, for example, this is a good video series to check out. You can even listen while doing something else, though the pictures accompanying the videos are quite lovely.

This is also a good series to get into if you don’t feel like reading The World of Ice and Fire but want to know what information from it might be pertinent to ASOIAF. He has episodes on the origin of dragons, Asshai, Yi Ti and the Bloodstone Emperor from the Empire of the Dawn (remember this dude, he’ll come up in another podcast/essay series I really like), and more. I may not agree with all of his conclusions, but I always enjoy listening and walk away with something new to think about. There’s also some great Lovecraft lore thrown in, like this joint episode with Lucifer Means Lightbringer on mythical creatures in ASOIAF, or this one on Qohor.

It’s short, accessible, and you don’t need a lot of background or a long attention span to get something out of it. Plus, he has a soothing voice. He also has lots of videos about the Dune series, if you’re into that.

The first two entries represent my early ASOIAF analysis days. I was interested primarily in theories about plot elements and hidden character identities, as well as character arc predictions based on existing material. The middle three represent a middle-of-the-road approach that combines what I’d call more ‘traditional’ ASOIAF analysis with increasing levels of symbolic interpretation. These final two are “my wheel house.” They’re the pinnacle of everything I love about ASOIAF analysis: mythology and symbolism. This is where I live now, and you should join me. (One of us! One of us!)

2. Mythological Weave of A Song of Ice and Fire by SweetIceAndFireSunRay

SweetIceAndFireSunRay is one of the gems I’ve discovered only recently. I’m still working my way through her pieces, and so far, I love them. Her approach incorporates Greek and Norse mythology, parallelism, death and the maiden symbolism, and other forms of symbolic interpretation. The title of her blog comes from the fact that she conceives of the series like looking at a tapestry: at first, only the foreground characters seem to matter, but once you start to look at the background characters and seemingly minor details, you see how they all weave together to tell the main story.

“Once we understand and can make associations the tapestry gains layers of depth that sheds a new light on the whole. It does not change the story, but it makes it so much richer, renders clues, and interconnected.”

Her series on the underworld/cthonic cycle should be standard reading for anyone getting into mythological analysis. I especially love how she draws out just how much Martin likes to play with overlapping and subverting Greek mythological archetypes. Robert, Ned, and Stannis are much like Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon overthrowing a paranoid ruler (Aerys/Chronos) and setting up a new regime. (Robert and Zeus have so much in common it’s not even funny.) But at the same time, Rhaegar acts like Hades when he kidnaps the corn maiden Lyanna/Persephone. Yet instead of being brought back to the world of the living by Robert, Lyanna spends the rest of her (after)life in the underworld/crypts rather than cycling through life and death, as Persephone does.

It’s a unique approach and really lets Martin’s artistry shine because of how playful he is with these stories. He’s aware of the archetypes and myths and our expectations of them when we encounter characters who fit certain types. However, he never lets that familiarity lie. He both uses and subverts them at different times, so we’re always on our toes. SweetIceAndFireSunRay brings that tension out well in her pieces.

She also has a series on the ‘red stallion’ and horse-related scenes, one on bear imagery, and one on the various ‘ragtag teams of misfits’ in the series. I have yet to read those, but I assume they are as excellent as her chthonic cycle.

1. Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire by LuciferMeansLightbringer

This is it. This is the big one, my absolute favorite podcast/essay series ever. It’ll blow. your. mind. (At least I hope so.)

A lot of the essays or podcasts I listen to add a lot of unique info or a new perspective on a particular character or plot point. This one offers a completely different way to read the series. I listened to the first one on a whim, and I’m hooked. I can’t stop listening and chomp at the bit every month waiting for a new episode. I will never read the books the same way again. It both changes and makes sense of everything at the same time. It’s glorious.

So what is this podcast? Well, the underlying premise of Lucifer Means Lightbringer’s (LmL) perspective is that Martin is writing modern mythology and can be analyzed the way all mythology is: with a reference to astronomy, nature, and, especially, symbolism. The myths in ‘Planetos’ (like Azor Ahai, the Long Night, etc.) all refer to astronomical or natural phenomena that occurred in the distant past. These mythologized events also refer to human events along a “as above, so below” kind of logic that we frequently see in human mythology. For example, Christianity’s writings about Jesus draw on a lot of morning star mythology, which is based on observations of the planet Venus, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also a real human being. LmL uses the same approach to Martin’s work. Azor Ahai could be both a real person, or category of people, and a mythologization of astronomical events.

Moreover, these in-universe myths and legends are highly symbolic and can be analyzed using the methods of interpretation one uses for actual human symbolic history found in our own myths. Almost every theorist I read acknowledges the mythological sources Martin draws from—Chinese, Norse, Celtic, Arthurian, Christian, Mithraic, etc. LmL takes it a step further to say that Martin weaves together the similar threads in each of these mythologies in purposeful ways to create an entirely new ‘mythology’ that underlies the entire series. Martin may draw on existing mythological archetypes (like Persephone) but he’s also creating his own, new archetypes and using them as the basis for his characters and events.

Thus, the main character action of the story can be interpreted through the lens of symbolic myth as well. Not just the myths Martin draws on from our world, but the myths he created within ASOIAF itself. Sansa is a very specific kind of moon maiden, for example, and one that corresponds to the symbolic myth/legend that conveys the astronomical event that lies behind the Long Night. I don’t want to give all of LmL’s theories away, because they’re breathtaking to listen to as he develops them. But I can give you the starting point:

“The main pattern of the astronomy theory on which this page is founded is that of the sun destroying the moon with a comet, followed by that moon raining down meteors on Planetos to cause the Long Night.”

And from there, we get weirwood goddesses, green zombies, moons of ice and fire, and a whole (starry) host of other amazing, thrilling, fascinating theories and analysis. Trust me, even if you don’t buy his premise, it will completely change how you read the books in the best possible way. I recommend starting with the above linked piece on modern mythology, then moving on to the Bloodstone Compendium. I listened in podcast order (starting with the oldest), so that’s what I’d recommend, as his analysis builds on itself.

All of LmL’s podcasts also exist as essays on his website, which I really appreciate. I like to listen to the podcast while I’m driving, crafting, or working around the house, but I can look up the essay later if I need to remember something. It’s a great format that I wish more ASOIAF theorists used. He also does monthly livestream Q&A sessions after he releases a podcast episode. Those are a lot of fun, and you get to ask him all the questions you might have after engaging with a new piece of his work, plus anything else you feel like. He also links a lot of related pieces and ones that formed his own theories, which is like bonus reading material if you’re into following how theories develop like I am.

Westeros.org Forum users Blue Tiger and Ravenous Reader interact with him a lot on westeros.org and have a lot of excellent additions, comments, tweaks, and expansions on his theories. They don’t have independent websites that I can find, but their essays on the forums are always stellar. Any time you see them in a forum or on Twitter, they’re worth paying attention to. (Ravenous Reader’s post on the ‘killing word’ is amazing.)

Check out Twitter, too, where you can find TheDragonLML, Blue Tiger, Ravenous Reader, and lots of other awesome theorists—Unchained, Branthebuilder, RustedRevolver, Septa Shaena, Joe Magician (who also has a pretty sweet ASOIAF theory website), and more!—interacting with each other over analysis and theory crafting. It’s a pretty active bunch, and even when I don’t participate, reading the threads is fascinating. And kind of intimidating given how smart and deep they are. But mostly fun and inspiring.

If you get nothing else out of this list, please go read/listen to Lucifer Means Lightbringer. I cannot recommend his work, and the community of amazing people who interact with him and his analysis/theories, enough. It’s so good.

What about you? What are your favorite ASOIAF theorists, essayists, podcasters, and YouTubers? Any good analysis I’m missing out on? Tell me in the comments!


Images Courtesy of Bantam Books, Fantasy Flight Games, Phantagram, and Lucifer Means Lightbringer

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