I made my first post here last week, but haven’t actually introduced myself so thought that was probably the polite thing to do before anything else. I had lurked a bit first, as I tend to do!
I live in a seaside town in England with my husband and our 2 dogs (no children as yet) and work in an academic library.
My ASOIAF/JB story goes like this, I’ll try (but almost certainly fail) to keep this brief:
In July 2013 I went to visit my now-husband for the weekend, because we lived in different towns at the time. This was just after GoT Season 3 had aired, and it seemed like everyone was having dramatic reactions to it and talking about it and I felt like I was missing out, so I suggested we watch it all so far. I don’t watch a lot of TV at all. He doesn’t have HBO, he just knows how to torrent things. I was sewing while it was on, not giving it undivided attention, so enjoyed it and thought it was different and interesting but got confused about who all the different beardy white men were. We got as far as the birth of the shadowbaby before I had to go home again, which was a weird point to leave it – it had seemed like a political drama mostly and suddenly there was these new characters and freaky magical shit happening. My husband kept watching without me after I left, but I don’t know how to safely illegally download shows so I got left behind. He watched season 4 when it was on too, but the only bit of that I saw was episode 9, “Watchers on the Wall”, again because I happened to be visiting him the day it aired.
When Season 5 premiered we lived together, and I still hadn’t caught up (in fact, had pretty much forgotten everything about Season 1 except N.ed got beheaded) but ended up just watching it along with him anyway, hoping I could fill in the sizeable gaps (can you even imagine picking it up again there??). My sister and her partner and my dad were all following it by that point as well. Inevitably I was pretty lost and confused about everything, but sat with my husband and watched casually. I asked lots of question but generally got “shh, I’m trying to watch, it’s too complicated to explain, you’ll have to watch the past seasons”.
Season 6 rolled around and I had a colleague at my new workplace who is an obsessive fan of both show and books and wants to talk about it all the time, so I tried to pay attention to what’s going on so I could humour him and contribute something to the conversation. Season 6, Episode 8…amongst other things that happen, there is of course the Red Tent of Feelings. When Brienne arrives at Riverrun and looks down on the siege and sees Jaime, my husband goes “Oh! Yeah, these two have history don’t they” or something like that. As I recall it now, he sounded quite excited when he realised they were going to encounter each other and remembered what had gone on between them before, so hopefully he ships them too (obviously more casually than I now do!), not talked to him about it though, this kind of thing embarrasses me a bit, most things do.
Don’t ask me why, but something about this really peaked my interest and curiosity. I had missed all of the episodes Jaime and Brienne had together and knew nothing of their shared experience (honestly, I didn’t even know why Jaime only had one hand, I remember when I first noticed, at some point in Season 5, and said “What?” and my husband sighed and told me to watch the parts that I’d missed, and I just accepted it and moved on), hadn’t noticed them mention each other since I started watching again. So, very soon after that, I felt the need to google “Jaime Brienne” and find out what he was referring to. And I definitely read the whole of both of their character pages from A Wiki of Ice and Fire (which is book info of course, but I didn’t understand the difference at the time), and scanned the results of the image search, can’t remember if I looked at anything else. But something about it chimed with me, Deciding then that I really I needed to see the seasons I had missed, I tried to torrent them off one of those pirate sites, but didn’t know what I was doing and just ended up with some sort of porn and scam advert virus all over my laptop. That was the end of that.
Summer 2017! We had just got married and GoT Season 7 was due to premier imminently, as my colleague kept reminding me. A media studies lecturer at the college where I work requested that we purchase a DVD box-set of Game of Thrones Season 1-5 for our library collection, and we obliged. So I borrowed this box set from work and watched them, between watching Season 7, as it aired, and properly paying attention and trying to follow what was going on and who everyone was this time around. Once I’d seen everything, I read the synopsis of every episode on Wikipedia to make sure I’d understood and then, because I still had lots of questions about things I started looking on the internet. And inevitably found myself reading discussions that concerned GRRM’s books, and the ASOIAF Wiki, on Westeros.org, and got a real sense that I was missing out on something a.mazing, and answers to my questions that the show hadn’t satisfied, by not reading the books.
I’d seen quotes from the books that were funny or profound or moving or intriguing, or just plain well-written. I am a slow reader, and the idea of how much of my time working through those fat old books would eat up (and what else I’d have to neglect to do it), had put me off starting before but I felt I could no longer resist – those books needed to be read! 7 months later I had finished, and moved straight on to the Dunk and Egg novellas (love love love them), and become totally involved/obsessed. I was reading the forums and watching the Youtube videos and listening to the podcasts and talking the ears off my husband and Dad (has recently listened to the audiobooks) and sister (read the books once in a normal, attentive but not fanatic way along with the show as it aired) about this immersive universe and fandom.
I really appreciate some things about the show, mostly in the early seasons, and am disappointed by other things, mostly in the later seasons, but I will always want book faithfulness in adaptations and realise that TV is a very different medium, and the unfortunate situation of overtaking the books has affected things too. I just take it for what it is, I think it’s best to compartmentalise the two entities. The books are the ultimate canon, but the show is another, separate but obviously related thing that more is happening with, in term of new material, right now. Call me a sweet summer child, but we ought to have The Winds of Winter by 2020, and that is both exciting and scary – seeing how it all really unfolds, for all our theorising and preferences.
That wasn’t brief at all, warned you I’d fail! But in a very spacious nutshell, that’s how I got here.
I am drawn to many aspects of the ASOIAF story, the weirwood network and everything related to it – ravens, Bloodraven, greenseeing, singers of the song of Earth, old gods magic, Northern stuff in general – being high on that list, for example, and I care about many storylines and characters, but when it comes to people and relationships, there’s just something especially endearing and compelling for me about Jaime and Brienne. I find it hard to name a favourite character if asked, there are so many (if we just kept the question to POVs, outside of obviously Jaime and Brienne I’d also say all 3 Stark kids, Davos and Asha, maybe), but, while I know he’s not a “good” character, my honest answer to who am I most interested by, and invested in the arc of, would have to be Jaime. I am very hesitant to say I find him relatable, to people I know, because I don’t know how they would judge me for that, considering what he has done and how he is thought of.
I realise how personal it is that I find his story compelling, because I struggle with guilt and self-loathing and so much of my mental energy over the years has been taken up turning over moral dilemmas, feeling like there’s never an action that isn’t the wrong thing to do in some way ("forsaking one vow or another"). Trying to be “good” and self-improve and clean up, failing and thinking “what’s the use in trying”, switching off from caring, feeling I must be inherently “bad”, and that I’ve gone too far wrong already. Sorry to be melodramatic, but if I can’t say that anonymously on the internet on a forum for fans of the character I’m relating to, where can I. I don’t know if this is what attracts other readers to him as well, maybe this is a very common human thing, wanting atonement and the motivation and opportunity to change, the courage to break away from vices, to choose to be better and different, whatever crimes you’ve committed, whatever poor track record or reputation or baggage you carry around from your past. It is important to see redemption and self-determinatiom and the will to work for it whether it is actualised and recognised or not, it is something we instinctively want for others if we feel a need for it ourselves.
Brienne is like one of these people I see as being inherently good, whether I’m delusional about how easily this goodness really comes to them and how much effort and practice has gone into it or not. And I love her for that, as I love the people in real life I percieve to be inherently good and courageous souls – some of whom I’m lucky enough to know on a personal level, but it is much harder to identify with someone pure and righteous and innocent than to identify with someone admiring her and aspiring to be more like her.
And there it is, I’ve said too much, but I’m not taking any of it back. Because it took too long to write.
Thank you for making this online space for us who can’t help but sail this precious ship.