Literalizing Hyperobjects: On (mis)Representing Global Warming in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones

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Abstract

This chapter examines the ways in which George R. R. Martin’s epic confronts the difficult to represent hyperobject of global warming (see Morton 2013). The analysis in this chapter will focus on the use and effect of the narrative tools of speculative fiction, namely the literalization of abstract figures, in spinning a story about large-scale systemic change, into something tangible.

Literalization of metaphors has sometimes been considered a defining feature of speculative fiction (see Stockwell 2000, McHale 2018). These abstract figures are often either personal or literary in nature. Martin, however, uses this narrative tool to render the threat of global warming tellable. The villainous Others of A Song of Ice and Fire (1996–) carry with them a theme of climate change without being reducible to an allegory of it. The essence of the threat is plucked from real world discourse and embedded in elements of Martin’s fiction, made concrete and anchored into the fantasy world-building of the series.

This chapter also discusses HBO’s wildly successful television-adaptation of Martin’s books, Game of Thrones, and its reception. Comparing these two works of fiction highlights some startlingly large differences wrought by seemingly minor changes in the story. Many of the story-changes made for the television series impact the parts of the story most heavily involved with representing global warming in Martin’s mythos. This creates a cascading effect: A Song of Ice and Fire is a thematically interconnected whole and changing the structures that communicate meaning in one part of the story can end up changing the substance of the story elsewhere.

This chapter shines a light on a strategy through which fantasy is uniquely equipped to confront some of the difficult issues of the Anthropocene, and also on the ways this confrontation can fail.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFantasy and Myth in the Anthropocene
Subtitle of host publicationImagining Futures and Dreaming Hope in Literature and Media
EditorsMarek Oziewicz, Brian Attebery, Tereza Dědinová
Place of PublicationLondon
Chapter35
Pages235-245
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-3502-0335-8, 978-1-3502-0336-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Keywords

  • global warming
  • hyperobjects
  • literalization
  • fantasy fiction
  • adaptation
  • Game of Thrones
  • climate change
  • anthropocene

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

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