Game of Thrones: A Theory of How it Ends

As if it wasn’t obvious, this post contains spoilers galore and, if I’m right, could even spoil the very ending. If you don’t want to risk it, don’t read and wait until Monday (or after you’ve had a chance to see the final episode). Then we’ll see how right or wrong I was.

The theory goes that the Night King versus the god of light is a battle repeated again and again every few centuries. The Night King and the Others are gods of the cold and death. Meanwhile R’hllor, the “one true god” who really likes fire, is represented through followers and allies in the form of the Red Priestess Melisandre and the undying Beric Dondarrion. However, the Night King was unlikely to win against R’hllor without recruiting/claiming a powerful ally… the Green Seer, better known as the Three-Eyed Raven. A shaman of the old gods, whom the northmen still worship. (The religious aspect is important, and I’ll explain in a second why.)

The Raven knew the Night King was coming and reached out for Bran Stark, who was gifted enough to take on the sight and host him. And after the events of the battle of Winterfell, was finally freed of the threat of the Night King. I would note Sandor Clegane’s line on how “the one true god buggered off the moment the Night King was dead.”

My suspicion is that Bran/Three-Eyed Raven is, in fact, manipulating events. I can think of three, non-exclusive reasons:

A) Bran Stark made a deal with the Three-Eyed Raven, to become his new host in exchange for protecting his family.
B) As the shaman of the old gods, worshipped by the northmen, he owes it to them to give them their vaunted “King of the North.” This goes back into the “the right to rule stems from religion” argument. Just as the Faith of the Seven deigning the King of the Seven Kingdoms, the northern gods were looking to crown their own king.
C) The possibility that Bran is, in fact, evil, and the old gods could very well be a Cthulhu reference. Afterall, George RR Martin did add Carcosa to his book series.

I would say C is the least possible reason, and am inclined to dismiss it. However, the Starks could not be safe as long as Cersei had the throne and Jon Snow had a claim.

This leads us to a final point. Bran’s powers include seeing the future and, most importantly, controlling animals. I don’t think Daenerys was actually in control of Drogon while he burned King’s Landing to the ground. Bran was.

In fact, who knows how far Bran’s manipulation has gone. He could have set the Dothraki to charge against the the white walkers during the Battle of Winterfell. All he’d have to do is nudge the leader’s horse to begin the charge after their swords were lit afire. He was also warging into the dragons during the battle, possibly trying to prevent the ice dragon from killing Jon. Likewise, it seems strange for Bran not to mention that Daenerys could lose Rhaegal during the march to King’s Landing.

Regardless, I think Daenerys is being framed, and may not be as mad as we think. But it still prompts action against her, and may result in her death, however unjust. If Jon learns that it was Bran who caused all this, who knows what will happen however… a colleague of mine suggested that Jon may burn down the throne and shatter the seven kingdoms for good, breaking the cycle of power.

Finally, there’s a small suspicion I have that Jaime Lannister isn’t dead, and maybe the one to kill Daenerys. Guess we’ll find out Sunday.


Anthology Publishing Theory

An idea came to my during the day. My friend sent me some flash fiction to edit. The flash was intended to go between the stories of a new anthology we’re working on.

The flash was great, but diverse. Some were happier endings, some comical. Some were darker. They hit a wide range of emotions in anywhere from a paragraph to a page in length.

As I finished, a thought occurred to me. In my opinion, the grand problem with anthologies is that their nature doesn’t permit them to be page-turners quite like novels can. A story comes to an end, and you say goodbye to the characters, the setting, the events and plot. You have to start something new.

Every tale has an emotional impact associated with it. So when it ends, I suspect that most people shut the book and set it aside to digest the ending. We’ve made some effort in the past to be careful with the order of our tales, trying to keep similar stories apart.

But as I thought about it, what’s the job of a DJ? To come up with a playlist of songs to keep people dancing, to maintain a kind of energy high so people don’t want to leave the dance floor. If the music doesn’t keep up the pace, people start to hit the bar. (And if the music is bad, people leave.)

A flash vignette is tempting however. If the reader sees that there’s a short passage just after a short story has ended, I suspect that they’d want to read it just because it’s so simple and brief. So could there be a way to balance it? If the short story ends on an evil note, could a hopeful and uplifting flash fiction piece help the audience carry onto the next story more readily?

More initial instincts say that the emotions should contrast to find balance. If something is sad, make it happy. If something is depressing, give them hope. If a tale ends with the bad guys winning, have the next piece contain an outlet for the reader’s anger.

Will have to try it…

On Scientists

For whatever reason, scientists have reached some sort of weird, pop culture phenomenon where they’re humorously hailed as saviors of humanity. As incredibly intelligent people who will ultimately be the ones who offer us some kind of utopia.

Being close to the NIH, I hang out with many scientists, research fellows and the like. And I listen to their tales. Their frustrations, their daily lives. And let me assure you that despite whatever the internet tells you, they’re as ordinary flesh-and-blood human beings as you can imagine…

No, no really.

No, no really.

First, let me point out that scientists frequently have to get used to being wrong. The entire soul of the scientific method is in proving a theory to be correct or not. It only takes one small detail to be off for the theory to require correction and improvement. A theory is just a working model of reason that is meant to be improved upon and corrected until it’s a fact, or disproved entirely.

It requires a pragmatic mindset that is willing to follow the data and facts, regardless of where they take you and whether or not you like the results. Anyone with an agenda can and should be questioned by his peers. And jumping to conclusions is a fast track to losing all credibility. And let me assure you, there is such a thing as scientific misconduct.

Second, scientists are usually pretty bright people, but not full blown geniuses. They’re inclined towards a keen interest in knowledge and how the world works in general, much like how a man who loves cars might gravitate towards learning how engines operate. You could say they have a strong sense of philosophia (a love of knowledge/wisdom), geared towards our material world.

Sure, sometimes you get that genius-grade scientist, who can recite every element in atomic numbering order, or fully and accurately explain bio-molecular details to a T. But for the rest of them, they have the periodic table, text books, research journals with complimentary search engines, Google and a heuristic inclination to seek the information when they need it.

There are also foolish scientists.

I’ve heard horror stories about bad scientists, like Melvin pictured above. At best, they stay out of the way. At worst, they took sloppy data results, allowed samples to become contaminated, messed with calibrations and settings and all around made the lives and work of their fellow research teams pretty miserable. A hot mess doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Now, while scientists certainly deserve a healthy amount of credit for their work, a new fact or discovery is most critical when it can be applied to our daily lives. For that, we need people who can take a discovery and find ways to apply it, amplify it and in some way, distribute it. We need engineers too.

Look, the investors need SOME kind of bang for their buck, alright?

Look, the investors need SOME kind of bang for their buck, alright?

For example, take a look at the Haber-Bosch process. The chemical process pulls nitrogen from the air, which can be then be turned into ammonia, and fertilizers. The chemical conversion is only half the battle however, as the other half was an engineering feat that permitted the wide scale production of this process. To this day, the Haber-Bosch process feeds the world.

While the chemical process was valuable, it still needed to be amplified to be of use, hence the need for engineering. It’s a two way street where the scientific discovery is as necessary as the means to act upon it. Knowledge isn’t enough, there’s just so much more to it than that.

Then we have the religion versus science arguments. The stereotypical belief is that all scientists are atheists, firm proponents of Richard Dawkins. It’s all nothing new, going back at least as far as Galileo, although I’m sure others could find earlier examples of religious persecution for scientific curiosity and assertions. But these days, it might feel somewhat the other way around.

Children, children… it’s time to start playing nice.

Religions can offer a set of moral beliefs which we, in theory, act upon. Both sides can have a hard time with the live-and-let-live approach. Embryonic stem cell research, questions of evolution versus creationism versus intelligent design. We have a hard time leaving it be.

But let me assure you that there are scientists out there who are practicing their faith. And no, their spirituality does not interfere with their work. Nor does their faith disprove their findings or facts. People lie but verifiable data doesn’t. You don’t have to believe in God to just be respectful of others who do.

Still, whether one is religious or not, I think it healthy to constantly step back and ask oneself of the moral implications of a decision or act. Science is inviting for its sense of nobility, but one should always question whether the ends justify the means, lest we all end up as lab rats.

Another point of concern for scientists is the subject of reporting of results. It might take a hundred, if not a thousand, failed tests before getting the appropriate data, but not all failures gets reported upon. Science remains a fairly results oriented process.

In the ordinary world, we don’t need a million recipes of how not to bake a cake. But such errors can be useful for scientists, at least in determining before experimentation what does not work or has been investigated before. Hence the value of extensive research. And that is a lot of mind numbing work.

At the end of the day, such details might stymie the romantic and heroic suggestions of an occupation whose focus is about improvement and progress for humanity. I just think we got a bit carried away praising particular people who are just as interested in get drunk, paid and laid like the rest of us.

But neither should we deny them their due credit. Their work is frustrating, but important, and with respect to morality, ultimately makes life better for all of us. Just remember, they’re as human as the rest of us.