George RR Martin’s Dilemma - Nobody (in its universe) Cares About Westeros So Why Should You?
I have a theory as to why George RR Martin is taking so long to release the next book in the Songs of Ice and Fire series. He’s realized that he’s written himself into a corner.
When the series started, The seven kingdoms of Westeros were the be-all and end-all of the universe. We were told that the stakes were high, that If Westeros fell to the White Walkers, then Humanity was lost. The internecine warfare between clans there was both paramount and a distraction from the real, not-quite-hidden, threat that loomed over everyone’s head - Winter is Coming! In the beginning, the only real power outside of Westeros was a group of horsemen who terrorized every village within their reach. There was no one -- no one -- who could protect Humanity from the White Walkers if Westeros fell.
But, as the series has progressed (both written and on TV) it has become more and more apparent that Westeros is the backwater of Humanity. Each city that we’ve met (thanks to Dany’s quest) has been stronger and more powerful than the Red Keep (Westeros’ capital and only real city). The Bank of Braavos has the power to decide who sits on the Iron Throne. Many of the non-Westeros characters have expressed their contempt for the place, and made clear that it’s not important to Humanity.
Even within Westeros, it’s shown that the best skill sets come from outside. Want to forge Valerian steel? You need someone from outside of Westeros. Want to study to be a Septem (Doctor)? Leave Westeros. Want to study to be an assassin? Leave Westeros.
Westeros is great at making farmers and conscript armies, and among them, some rise to be warriors of note. But realistically, commerce and education are superior outside of Westeros.
So what value does this whole “Game of Thrones" truly have if the winner is just a little dictator in a backwater?
Thus Martin’s problem: How does he keep us interested in the fate of the weak outlying territories when so many of the characters in the story continually reinforce that it is a backward and not a very notable place?
Well, he could level the playing field, have a catastrophe event that would somehow weaken the other players and suddenly make Westeros a powerbroker. There are definitely hints that Valeria suffered some kind of nuclear apocalypse.
Could that happen again?
The event can’t be Dany’s dragons. She’s already too powerful for Westeros and Martin has her waiting outside until something changes that will either counterbalance her power (White Walkers?) or otherwise make it less obvious that she’s going to win that game. From the beginning Martin has seemed to be building to a Jon Snow/Dany alliance; two outcasts, fire and ice, uniting Westeros in the end and I still think that that's the direction he is heading in.
But as of now, who, within that universe, cares? Not the Braavosi, not the Second Sons, not anyone outside of the Seven Kingdoms, not anyone who has real power. So why should we?
And that, I believe, is the dilemma that George RR Martin is facing, and is the cause of the delay in the arrival of hte next book in the series. Until he can figure out how to plausibly level the playing field, he's going to keep Dany out of Westeros and the story, which he needs to end, can't end.
I know there are many people out there much more obsessed with GoT/SoIaF than me. What are you thoughts?