I’ve never read Lord of the Rings. Never seen the movies. Fantasy books have never really interested me, whether they’re single offerings or five-book series. I never even read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, even though I’ve read dozens of his books and everyone I know who’s read the Dark Tower ones raves about them. But their setting and plot and elements just didn’t interest me.
And until last week I had never read any of George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books and I hadn’t seen an episode of the HBO series based on the books, A Game of Thrones, which has already run for two seasons. I still haven’t read any of the five books. But I have watched the first season. Now all I want to do is talk about Game of Thrones and read about it and watch YouTube tributes and joust and betray a king.
And god do I want to see that second season.
So what happened? Have I become a full-fledged fantasy fan, one who dreams of dragons and witches? Will I attend conventions, perhaps dressed as a knight? Will I ditch sports messageboards in favor of forums about imps and boy kings? Probably not. But I have realized I’ve limited myself based on nothing more than some strange belief that fantasy books weren’t my thing.
We don’t get HBO so I couldn’t see the first season of A Game of Thrones when it premiered in 2011. I read good reviews of the series and knew friends who liked it. That’s not enough to sway me. Last year I also read an incredible story in The New Yorker about the fans of the books, some of whom turned on Martin when he took years to publish the fifth offering in the series. This enraged the fans, who created websites to ridicule their hero, all while hoping he’d finally produce something they love. It was a great story, but didn’t inspire me to watch the series.
Finally, as I browsed Netflix, I decided to just pick a series and watch it straight through and I read some of the enthusiastic Netflix reviews about A Game of Thrones — while wading through the messages left by those who still loathe the company for daring to raise their prices — and ordered the discs, all five of them for the first season. I was hooked from the first episode’s opening scene about the death of The Hand of the King until the final scenes with the dragons. I watched two or three episodes a night, sent the discs back and when it was all over, cursed the fact the second season won’t be on DVD until early next year.
Of course, I’m also woefully behind the times. While I’m still fascinated by the Lannister siblings’ unorthodox relationship, and terrified of the White Walkers and in love with the imp and ready to go into battle under the direction of Robb Stark and horrified by Ned Stark’s fate, everyone else has moved on to… whatever it is that happens in the second season (and please don’t tell me).
The problem with being behind the times is that you’re still of our times. You can’t avoid everything or much of anything. Through osmosis last year I heard about some of the plot twists, including the most dramatic one involving Ned Stark’s head. Still, I basically came into the series as a blank slate. Since I didn’t read the books I couldn’t compare the series to them and I couldn’t complain about what was left out or what was changed.
Not sure what I’ll do for the second season. In my pursuit of stories about the first season, I’ll inevitably stumble onto information about the second, tidbits that will seep into my brain, take up residence and re-emerge next year when I see the DVDs.
I’m debating about whether I should simply buy the second book. And again, people whose opinions I know and trust, folks who have similar tastes to me, rave about the books. But am I really ready to commit myself to 900 pages of fantasy, or can I only take it in one-hour doses? Maybe it works visually for me but not on the page. I have a feeling I’ll buy that second book and shortly after I’ll read the third. Eventually I’ll finish the fifth and then I’ll realize there aren’t anymore left, not until Martin produces the sixth in the series that is expected to be seven books long. Then I’ll finally understand the frustration of those fans who turned on Martin, even if I still question their sanity.
In some ways of course this is the best way to watch a series. Instead of having to wait a week for each new episode, you get everything at once and only wait a day for the mail, or consume it all at once if it streams instantly. But still, you don’t experience the highs and lows with everyone else. On a certain level, you do know what is coming, no matter how much you try and avoid it. Same thing happened with that HBO series about some guy in the mob in Jersey. You remember it — you’re still cursing about what happened during that Journey song. When The Sopranos originally aired I only caught a few episodes in real time, although with the way that show saturated our culture, it was truly impossible to avoid major spoilers. But in 2010 I splurged and watched every episode of the series in the course of a month and went through all the emotions that other viewers experienced seven or eight years earlier. Four years after that ending baffled everyone else, it baffled me.
So now I wait for that second season of A Game of Thrones. And by the time I do watch the second season, everyone else will be ready for the third. How to fill my time?
Suppose I could give that Wire show a shot.