Jun. 18th, 2016

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If you pay any attention to the Marvel and DC comic book universes, or know someone who does, you've undoubtedly heard about their periodic "reboots": whenever the storytelling environment (or a specific character in that environment) goes stale, they wipe the slate clean and start over. It's kind of a shoddy tactic, but it does elegantly solve the problem that after nearly 80 years, guys like Batman really shouldn't be standing without mechanical aid, let alone kicking supervillain ass.

Could the same approach work in written fiction? Maybe. Here's a scenario that explains the delay of more than 5 years between books 5 and 6 in George Martin's "Song of Fire and Ice" series (better known as "Game of Thrones"):

George Martin, having tired of the unending slaughter of characters (who haunt him when he sleeps) and having written himself into a corner, decides to borrow from the Marvel/DC examples and reboot his entire universe. The delay in releasing the next book in the series stems from simple physical logistics: Martin must reread all existing books to ensure that he's up to speed on his own story universe. This takes years, further delayed by the need to reappear in public every few weeks to reassure everyone that he's still alive and announce that book six will be coming "real soon now". (Rumors arise that he's paid the same folks who created hologram versions of Michael Jackson and Tupac to do this for him; they quickly deny this, pleading the lack of markets for holograms of literati who are actually still alive.)

In the rebooted universe, the Seven Gods each contribute a gem from their respective crowns to create a "finity gauntlet" ("infinity gauntlet" having been trademarked by Marvel), which they throw down to "Earth". The gauntlet confers the literal power of the gods to alter the universe; in the wrong hands, it could prove catastrophic. It ends up in the hands of long-suffering Sansa Stark, who uses it to reset the story universe to the point before the Starks leave for King's Landing (from which point everything goes to shit), and make the universe a shiny, happy place in which everyone is like the Dornish: polymorphously perverse (they'll sleep with anyone or anything), yet also fighters so skilled that they need never actually harm their foes. Instead, they subdue enemies through superior gymnastics and repartee/banter.

Widespread tournaments are held around the land to use up all that testosterone that would otherwise go to waste, but with Nerf weaponry and dedicated cadres of Maesters to heal anyone who is inexplicably wounded despite complex rules of engagement intended to avert any injury. Those who break the rules of engagement (e.g., the prohibition against aiming for the face) are sent for a "time out" at The Wall, where they spend some time (the duration depending on the seriousness of the crime) in a four-star hotel run by the Night's Watch. In a nod to political correctness, the Night's Watch is now a combination of all-volunteer army (mostly stocked with those who can't abide the summer heat in the southlands), and the former criminals who formed the Watch are rehabilitated and turned into valuable members of society. "Taking the black" becomes the polite way of saying "fucking off north to avoid one's responsibilities".

The occasional amputation (usually with farm implements) regrows itself without medical intervention; as a result, Jaime Lannister once again becomes the most feared Nerfsman in the seven kingdoms. Psychological wounds heal equally fast; Ramsay Bolton turns in his dissecting kit and roams the land, healing the sick and doing charitable work. When he dies under mysterious circumstances, his body ascends into the heavens and national days of mourning are declared in five of the seven kingdoms.

The dragons return, led by Puff, the Magic Dragon, and discover the joys of veganism. (There are also unicorn infestations, about which the less said, the better.) Veganism doesn't really catch on, other than among the peasants, who make a virtue of necessity. (Sansa having been raised in a royal enclave, she never quite "gets" the whole poverty thing.) Modern agriculture and supply management are implemented, banishing the specter of starvation forever. There is talk about "geoengineering" to eliminate the harsh cycle of long summers and decade-long winters, but the gods quickly quash that notion. (Translation: the editors at Bantam refuse to allow science fiction to intrude on this epic fantasy.)

Surprisingly, sales of subsequent books (starting with the hastily retitled "The Gentle Winds of Winter") plummet, and George Martin becomes a hermit. He no longer receives invitations to Guest of Honor gigs at SF/F conferences. Rumors arise that he is working on his capolavoro (masterwork), a romance novel with the working title "Fifty Shades of Pink". Every few weeks, Martin resurfaces to reassure us that it's coming "real soon now".

And so it goes.


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