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April 24, 2019


"Keep an eye out for dragons."

I do.

I prefer an enchanted world.

Pictures or it didn't happen!

Pictures or it didn't happen!

So then, nothing happened before the mid-19th century? (Even the 4004 BC creation believers don't go that far. ;-)

For thoughts about the difference that magic makes in an individual's moral world, you could do worse than reading Rosalie H. Wax (11 pg. pdf). Writing about the shift in perspective between the moment of representation in the Icelandic sagas and the moment of construction two centuries later she says:

The difference between the magical point of view and the saga writers is profound; within the former view all of the crucial phenomena of man's experience are morally and socially explicable, while within the latter the coherence is troubled by rationalistic disenchantment.

Her argument (in the out-of-print book from which the chapter is an excerpt if not in the chapter itself) is that it is difficult to re-enchant a world once the rationalistic viewpoint has taken hold.

Side note: I would be remiss if I did not mention that my wife has another novel coming out this October from Daw, which features a world where magic and science are not opposing paradigms. You can see it (and read the first chapter) over at Hypable. How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse .

I prefer an enchanted world .... addendum.

Unless the dragon wants to eat or incinerate me.

Then I'm happy and quick to convert back to rationalistic disenchantment.

And then back again should the rationalistic dragons come after me.

Long ago, a beautiful woman young greeted me by saying "I'm so very disenchanted to meet you."

Get in line, I said.

My favorite dragon in literature isn't Smaug, nor the Earthsea dragons : it's the unnamed dragon in John Gardner's strange novel _Grendel_, a retelling of the Beowulf story from the monster's point of view. (Turns out the monster is intelligent and thoughtful, and the dragon is a very cynical philosopher.)

It's interesting that the Beowulf poet took some effort to establish that the dragon was the legal owner of the hoard and thus the aggrieved party in the final confrontation.

Has anyone noticed that the dragons in Game of Thrones (TV version, anyway) are really wyverns? (Or at least arguably are.)

John Gardner was taken too soon.

"Grendel" and "The Sunlight Dialogues" are must reads.

"The Wreckage of Agathon" too.

Gardner became a little preachy near the end.

Has anyone noticed that the dragons in Game of Thrones (TV version, anyway) are really wyverns? (Or at least arguably are.)

I'm in the (apparently tiny) group which has never watched Game of Thrones.

But the definition I am familiar with (rooted in heraldry, actually) says
Dragons: 4 legs
Wyverns: 2 legs
It at least has the virtue of clarity. ;-)

I'm in the (apparently tiny) group which has never watched Game of Thrones.

i watched the first season; tried the second season but gave up when i realized i didn't care about most of the 839 plotlines and wasn't going to invest the effort into keeping track of them all.

I'm in the (apparently tiny) group which has never watched Game of Thrones.

Great minds think alike. ;-)

Great minds think alike. ;-)

I think I've been insulted! But I can't be completely sure, what with my not-great mind and all. :^I (ambiguous emoji...)

I'm in the (apparently tiny) group which has never watched Game of Thrones.

Me too.

Yet another commonality which binds us all together....

Apparently I'm an outlier.

My only defense, such as it is, is that I read all the GoT books as they came out,
re-reading the first three a couple times to refresh my memory before undertaking a new volume, and so every character and plotline was already engraved in my mind before I ever saw the first trailer for the first episode.

I think it's superb TV.
Opinions vary.

As someone who is currently working my way (again) through my DVDs of Castle, I doubt I'm in a position to fault others' entertainment choices.

You could be setting your DVR to record reruns of Who's the Boss?, which would be far more fault-worthy. So you got that goin' for ya!

Has anyone noticed that the dragons in Game of Thrones (TV version, anyway) are really wyverns?

Nerd alert. ^

I’m giving them license. If that thing from the “Neverending Story” can be a dragon, the scope is wide.

A favorite John Gardner quote :

"One of my less pleasant chores when I was young was to read the Bible from one end to the other. Reading the Bible straight through is at least 70% discipline, like learning Latin. But the good parts are, of course, simply excellent. God is an extremely uneven writer, but when he's good, nobody can touch him."
-- John Gardner, NYT Book Review Jan '83

My lookup source has corrupted the text.
"excellent" in the quote above should be "amazing", which is the way I remembered it.

I regret the error.

... and the percent sign should be the word, "percent"

I watched the first season of GoT Tues and Wedn night. I will watch three more (four if I can get out of work early tomorrow)this weekend and polish them off next week. I felt I should be ready to watch the end.

Yes, I have the ability to have no life.

Modern day dragon sightings. Not mocking, actually. Agnostic on the subject.


On GOT, I got sick of the books. The show is mostly good, but has stretches that I can’t watch. The first four seasons were great ( except for the horrifying bits) , the last three have been uneven, though, not, I think, because of getting ahead of Martin. He is overrated and some of the changes in the first four seasons improved on him. Can’t say more because I will spoil it for Marty.

Large pterosaurs look like wyverns.


I don’t quite get the reconstructions. The new estimates are that they weighed about 550 lbs., but even allowing for light bone structure you would think this giraffe sized thing would be at least half the weight of a giraffe or more. Looking at the model I would guess over 1000 lbs but I am wrong.


Like birds, a lot of their respiratory system was inside their bones. Also like birds, their respiratory system is thought to have been flow-through, not the super-inefficient in-out method mammals use.

So I completely believe the apparently low weight estimates.

In Polynesia, dragons had lots of magic powers but mainly went for water destruction rather than fire. In Hawaii, there are an awful lot of rock formations said to be pieces of dead giant lizards. https://www.mauimagazine.net/the-sacred-spine/

Can't wait for the Sunday night dragon fights. I have been following GoT since the books came out and am looking forward to at least seeing how the TV series ends.

In the books, it seems to me that Martin loses the momentum with Arya in Bravos, with the subplots in Dorne, and at The Citadel.

I actually haven't watched all of the most recent two seasons of the TV show,
and will catch up sometime when work is less pressing (perhaps after I retire in July).

I think that Martin's "prequel", _A_Knight_Of_The_Seven_Kingdoms_, is more tightly written than all but the best parts of _A_Song_Of_Ice_And_Fire_,
and recommend it as a starting place for those daunted by getting involved in a six-volume trudge. And I very much like Dunc and Egg.

Charon Dunn: ...am looking forward to at least seeing how the TV series ends.

Off topic, I know, but that reminds me of my second-favorite Samuel Johnson quip: "I am always glad to hear of a poet dying, for then I can be sure I have all of him on my shelf."

My nephew, 14, has got hooked on GoT. His mother (my kid sister, who is a Downton Abbey addict herself) was afraid when she told me that I'd make fun of the kid for it. I reassured her that although I've never watched a single minute of the show, it's only because I have to control my media diet carefully -- even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd still only have 24 hours in a day to "consume" entertainment, and I'm already cutting into my beauty sleep as it is. So I would no more scoff at my nephew for watching Game of Thrones than I would scoff at his father for binge-watching Premier League football (soccer, IOW), or at myself for re-reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories on a regular basis. To each his own.

To tell the whole truth, my sister had cause for her trepidation: some years ago, my brother-in-law and my nephew both enthused about the movie "300" to a revolting extent, and I did ridicule them a bit for going nuts over a gay sword-and-sandal flick. Can't say I regret that. To each his own all right, but there are limits.

Anyway, I'm surprised nobody has brought up Puff in all this commentary on dragons.


According to Snopes, Puff is not a secret encoded reference to mary jane.

I loved 300. The look, the pacing, the comic-bookishness, the dead sliding rhino, the ships at sea. It was just gorgeous, like an ink drawing in dark strokes come to life. Then I ran into the criticism and thought, "that's probably right, but I wasn't watching it with that part of my brain." I tend to fail purity tests though, I even still like a few Michael Jackson songs.

One's fandom is inscrutable unto oneself, agree with you 100%.

I'm with joel in having read the books (the ability to speed read the less gripping passages helps) and watched the adaptation - good, even excellent in parts, but overall underwhelming.

If joel produced a first-hand description of a dragon, would it be a Ha(y)nes Manual... ?

Birds' bones are part of their respiratory system? And how does flow-through respiration work?

Nous, I will defiantly keep an eye out for your wife's book!

In at least three contemporary novels, Dragons are depicted as underwater inhabitants of major rivers(The Magicians, Liz WIlliams, Jacka) I don't know if underwater dragons is a new thing or an old thing that I just recently learned about. The concept is that they lurk down there waiting for opportunities either to eat people or impart wisdom to them).

I don't like it when authors present any magical creature as having no existence other than waiting around for the main characters to show up and interact. I prefer to think of the magical characters as having places to go and things to do and agendas of their own.

Russel, just by coincidence I recently read two books about dinosaurs. Both books empathized the close relationship between birds and dinosaurs, based on similarities of bone structure and respiration. I can't remember the details, though.

I am seeing great blue herons differently now.

I’m giving them license.

Well, you are Pete, after all.


Birds' bones are part of their respiratory system? And how does flow-through respiration work?

I'm imagining undulating flutes running between the nostrils and the arse.

More like a mashup between an accordion and several sets of bagpipes ?

More like a mashup between an accordion and several sets of bagpipes ?

Well, if they're anything like bagpipes, that would explain the love 'em / hate 'em dichotomy in how people view them.

I found this very brief primer on avian respiration. The unidirectional flow is in the lungs, which don't expand or contract. Air still goes both in and out through the trachea, with air sacs doing the pumping.


speaking of mashups...

would it be a Ha(y)nes Manual... ?

In these degenerate days,
hardly anyone can drive a Manual

If you want it to sell outside a niche market,
it has to be a Haynes Automatic

Dr. Science—

Thanks. I don’t doubt the mass estimates. But it is surprising.

Sometimes I wish the asteroid and/or the Deccan volcanic eruptions had been a bit less thorough in their effects.

but it did give us this:


"I am always glad to hear of a poet dying, for then I can be sure I have all of him on my shelf."

For the longest time, and without even realizing it was the case for many years, I never started listening to bands until they had broken up. The only exception I can think of is Drive By Truckers. It's probably just laziness.

I read the first 3 or so GOT books a few years before the series, got sick of waiting for the next as far as I remember, and just never cared enough to commit to the series. I'm not ruling it out for the future though: I like dragons and sorcery if well done, and machiavellian machinations combined with a bit of soft porn can be fun too. But with something so long and involved, you have to keep caring what happens, and from what I hear I'm not sure I will. We'll see, when I next need a spot of televisual escapism - currently (and as usual) I'm getting it from books.

A couple of years back, I read the books end to end. They were kind of addictive. By the end of it all, I felt like Martin just didn't really give a crap anymore and was basically just phoning it in.

My understanding is that the TV series is better.

I am seeing great blue herons differently now.

from up and down and still somehow
it's great blue heron illusions I recall
I really don't know great blue herons
at all

I felt like Martin just didn't really give a crap anymore

I tend to think that he got sick of all these people who felt like they were entitled to him writing at their pace. And any kind of push/shove to get things finished that the TV series would have given him probably got lost in all the Sad/Rabid Puppy crap that came up at the Hugos.


I just finished the first screen season of GOT, after failing at the books (my son gave me the set .. he read them cover to cover twice; I'm willing to sort out the characters' names and identities in Dostoyevsky, but couldn't bring myself to do it for Martin), after a friend browbeat me into watching it.

It took me awhile to get through the first season, but the white walkers interested me, and then the dragons (pretty amazing screen dragons as these things go) showed up in the suttee scene in the last show of season I, and now I'm on my way.

As happens with these multiyear serial shows (I watch Netflix, don't have a TV) I can't STOP watching, but then after binging on a few years' worth I find myself growing sick of the main protagonists (wait, you are going to make the same mistake and get sucked into the maelstrom yet again -- I picture the scriptwriters sitting around trying to figure out how to squeeze one more iteration out of the material. By the next to last season of Ray Donovan I was rooting for the Chechens to once and for all wipe the entire recividist Donovans and Ray's shallow celebrity airhead clients off the face Earth).

It's as if you had a night-after night recurring nightmare in real life that some celebrity lout and his entire sketchy family and crime associates won the Presidency and took up residency in the White House.

You think, well, now bad can nuclear holocaust be, if it ended this show and any chance of sequels once and for all.

One of the reasons I’m fond of Korean TV drama is that they rarely do second seasons, and even more rarely third.

I'm not into fantasy at all, but remember reading "The Neverending Story" as a child in one go over a few days and being completely mesmerized by it - especially by the army of nothingness or whatever it was called exactly that made the world vanish bit by bit and had to be stopped.

I've been watching GoT mainly because my wife likes it. I don't like the structure (i.e. cutting back and forth between the different tribes / locations) but there's no other way to tell such a story (same with Lord of the Rings) and it's well done of course. I mainly enjoy the more seasoned character actors, some witty dialogue and the occasional complete outrageousness.

“By the end of it all, I felt like Martin just didn't really give a crap anymore and was basically just phoning it in.”

Books 4 and especially 5 struck me that way. The most charitable interpretation is that he had killed off so many of the interesting characters he had to throw new ones in, but he also had to fill time until the dragons got bigger and... well, honestly, I think he got tangled up in all the plot lines. He has sort of admitted that.

The TV show is better, for all its flaws, because it cut out some of the crap and it also improved on the characters. TV Shae is a more interesting character than book Shae, for instance. Also, while I vaguely remember liking Tyrion in the book, Peter Dinklage really does a superb job.

I mainly enjoy the more seasoned character actors

Diana Rigg !

I didn't know about GOT until late--all of the books were written SO I read them all very quickly one after the other. I liked the way he made individual scenes and locale so densely realized. I even got a map and read the series a second time while marking places on the map. I never felt like any of it was phoned in.

But he didn't finish it. And I am not waiting for the end anymore. Also I donnt go back and reread, I think because it is such a fundamentally dark and depressing series. I am very much into escapism these days

I am enjoying the TV version because I dontthink the writers are going to kill off the main characters and I think there will be a conventional happy ending of sorts. That meets my escapism need.

I've just been watching sea dragons hatching and feeding on David Attenborough's Blue Planet II. They really do look remarkably like dragons, although even tinier than Lady Trent's sparklings.

Nigel posted a comment, but the dragon eated it.

Apparently the software hates the Washington Post. At least for this link. No idea why.

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