George RR Martin is the author of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books, the source material for HBO’s Game of Thrones, and if you’ve ever read the books or watched the show then you know that he has a penchant for murdering off characters when you least expect it. I’m going to include some Game of Thrones spoilers below, nothing from this season, but if you’re not relatively caught up on the show you probably want to abort this post now before it’s too late.
Martin: I don’t think of it in those terms, that I’m using death for any purpose. I think a writer, even a fantasy writer, has an obligation to tell the truth and the truth is, as we say in Game of Thrones, all men must die. Particularly if you’re writing about war, which is certainly a central subject in Game of Thrones. It has been in a lot of my fiction, not all of it by any means but certainly a lot of it, going all the way back to “The Hero,” which was a story about a warrior. You can’t write about war and violence without having death. If you want to be honest it should affect your main characters. We’ve all read this story a million times when a bunch of heroes set out on adventure and it’s the hero and his best friend and his girlfriend and they go through amazing hair-raising adventures and none of them die. The only ones who die are extras.
That’s such a cheat. It doesn’t happen that way. They go into battle and their best friend dies or they get horribly wounded. They lose their leg or death comes at them unexpectedly.
Death is so arbitrary. It’s always there. It’s coming for all of us. We’re all going to die. I’m going to die. You’re going to die. Mortality is at the soul of all this stuff. You have to write about it if you’re going to be honest, especially if you’re writing a story high in conflict. Once you’ve accepted that you have to include death then you should be honest about death and indicate it can strike down anybody at any time. You don’t get to live forever just because you are a cute kid or the hero’s best friend or the hero. Sometimes the hero dies, at least in my books.
I love all my characters so it’s always hard to kill them but I know it has to be done. I tend to think I don’t kill them. The other characters kill ‘em. I shift off all blame from myself.
It’s hard to believe that the answer’s just that simple, ‘All Men Must Die’, that it’s been in front of our faces the entire time. I guess what I have to wonder now is why he chooses to kill off the protagonists at their most triumphant moments, like he did with the Red Wedding, and allows characters like Joffrey and Ramsay to linger for seasons after they should’ve died. If he’s going to apply real-world logic to these deaths then George RR Martin has to recognize that these murderous fucks would’ve been killed ages ago by a good guy with a good sword, that’s just the way of the world.
Anyways, the full interview on Galaxy’s Edge is quite fascinating so if you’re interested in reading more you can follow that link and click on over!