Why I won’t ever be able to read fantasy and keep a straight face

  I just finished reading A Storm Of Swords, the third book in the A Song Of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (you know, those huge books Game of Thrones is based on). It was depressing. It was awesome. Wait, what?

  I’ll try not to spoil anything; I just need you to know that Martin loves screwing with his readers. There’s no such thing as “plot immunity”, when it looks like things can’t get worse, they do; and villains often win. But who would want to read such a depressing story? Well, for one, it might be sad, but it’s realistic… or rather, consistent, as this is a fantasy series. And we all hate plot holes.

  But more importantly, knowing that anyone can die, that things could go either way, creates tension. Drama. Suspense. I suspect this is why fantasy isn’t usually considered “proper” literature: it’s full of clichés. We always see things from the hero’s point of view, the difference between good and evil is black-and-white, and the good guys are guaranteed to win in the end.

  To which I say, BO-RING. Even fantasy characters are human (or fairly similar to such) and can’t really be considered good or evil; bad things happen to good people in the real world, so why shouldn’t that also be true in fantasy? Realism, even when it’s the morbid kind Martin is fond of, encourages immersion – it makes the imaginary world look like it’s inhabited by real people.

 Tolkien created the first great fantasy setting; Martin was the first to fill his with humans.

So, fantasy authors, learn the lesson. Especially you, Paolini. Your books suck.

The answer to last week’s question was: Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Andorra and the Netherlands.

The new question is: 

Jack died in 1960. Once during his lifetime his age was equal to the square of the current year.

When was Jack born?