An open letter to J.R.R. Martin and the makers of HBO’s Game of Thrones
You’ll never find a bigger fan of your awesome period drama, A Game of Thrones.
I’ve downloaded just about every single episode. GoT has become a fixture in the Keyes household, where we’re already halfway through Season 4—and itching to see Tyrion get what’s coming to him!
Of course, we all want to protect our kids from the more horrific aspects of the real world. It’s only human. But they have to learn about English history somewhere, and I’ve always believed the best place is the home, where it’s safe to ask questions. So we have a rule at our house: if you’re old enough for kindergarten you’re old enough for Monday-night family hour in the computer room.
That’s why it’s so sad when Game of Thrones gets the science wrong.
‘Winter is Coming’?
That’s how you say ‘Fake Future News’ in just three words.
Climate parenting is tricky at the best of times, but the last thing anyone needs is a bawling 4-year-old who demands to be reassured that No, sweetheart, a resumption of geohistorically normal conditions (or quote-unquote ‘reglaciation’) is not coming.
Some of you may even be climate parents yourselves!
We, the climate community, respectfully hope you will work with us, not against us. Together, there’s no reason we can’t get the science and the events of the Wars of the Roses right.
I appreciate that it’s no small thing to correct a catchphrase so central to your intellectual property. I’ve therefore taken the liberty of debunking the concerns I expect you have, as follows.
1. “It’s just a TV show!”
Just a TV show? Just a TV show?
I must say, I wasn’t expecting such an ignorant argument from you of all people, HBO.
GoT is a cultural phenomenon! When asked what they want to be when they grow up, children are now more likely to say ‘Hand of the King’ than ‘climate scientist.’
Try explaining to your teen that Distinguished Professor Michael E. Mann may not have a hereditary longsword, flowing sandy hair, or honor, but that doesn’t make him one iota less ‘cool’ than Tony “Eddard” Stark. It’s a great way to embarrass her in front of her schoolfriends, including the hot one.
We implore you not to sell short the arcane power of the flickering image. As we in the climate-change business know only too well, half the population is barely capable of telling fact from fantasy. If they see it on a screen it must be real.
With the stakes so high, mixed messages are never harmless.
2. “But it’s too late to change the script now.”
Oh, come on, I don’t buy this for a second. You’ve got some of premium cable’s best writers on payroll!
There isn’t an imaginative bone in my body. (I don’t make up the science, I just communicate it.) But it barely took me 5 [five] minutes to come up with some alternative Starck words that are pretty rad, if I say so myself:
Children aren’t going to know what winter is.
Summer is Coming—One Long Summer From Which we may Never Awake.
Even the reyne that does fall on Castamere won’t be enough to fill our dams.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made catastrophic summer by this sun of Dorne.*
Sure, technically, the LIA is coming—but the overwhelming majority of credible maesters describe it as a local phenomenon.
A local phenomenon!
3. “Won’t this compromise our artistic integrity?”
Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off! Self-important much?
It’s just a TV show, for gods’ sake. (The old and the new.)
And it’s set in the past—which scientists say no longer matters.
Besides, records from the time are patchy at best. Anybody who claims to know what a Warden of the North would say is pulling your leg.
All we can ever know, as humans, is the future. Because we have science. And the future (says science) is basically going to be one endless, Indian summer.
And not in a good way. Or a racist way either.
Anything that undermines our preparedness for that future is, frankly, irresponsible.
Knowing you will do the right thing,
B. Keyes for the Climate Nuremberg team
*Son of Dorne… sun of dawn—get it? Shakespeare’s take on the whole Lannister vs. York thing may not be as good as Mr Martin’s, but the Bard sure was a gun with a pun.
†Hat tip to reader KBO.
NOTE Comments containing spoilers will be moderated without mercy if I’m not up to the episode in question yet. We do not have the soft hearts of women here!