Winter is coming
December 20, 2017 8:24 AM   Subscribe

 
The undead army has certainly overrun things in this world.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered how the hell they plant crops. Or why everyone doesn't starve to death in winter. Including all the wild animals. You've got effectively a nuclear winter every few decades or so.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:32 AM on December 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


(also available in Dothraki and High Valyrian)

No.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2017


...I mean, at best, you'd need to have a massive importation of grain from Dorne and Essos, which I suppose you could fund through gold in the Westerlands and maybe timber and/or wool from the North (but I can't imagine it's cost effective to even grow wool if the sheep can't forage from the fields).
posted by leotrotsky at 8:37 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Magic is endothermic.

Well...

Actually...

The maintenance nanites for the GoT Dyson sphere are endothermic when tricked into performing acts that seem like magic to the sphere's inhabitants (all of whom have forget they are in a Dyson sphere to begin with) .
posted by Artw at 8:47 AM on December 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


why everyone doesn't starve to death in winter.

I think it's canon that a lot do... but they're mainly peasants so who cares about them?

And everyone/thing that can goes south for the Winter... I imagine Dorne gets a bit crowded.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:47 AM on December 20, 2017


Supplies aren't a big problem because by the time winter sets in there are three people left who haven't killed each other.
posted by adept256 at 9:06 AM on December 20, 2017 [18 favorites]


A Feast of Crows.
posted by Artw at 9:12 AM on December 20, 2017


Supplies aren't a big problem because by the time winter sets in there are three people left who haven't killed each other.

And they've been too horribly mutilated to look after themselves so they quickly starve. Every spring, the north is recolonized, and whoever gets to Winterfell first just claims to be the Starks and insists they were there all along.
posted by Naberius at 9:15 AM on December 20, 2017 [25 favorites]


I've always wondered how the hell they plant crops. Or why everyone doesn't starve to death in winter. Including all the wild animals.

This is a big deal in the books. The wiser characters are all trying to store grain and root vegetables for winter, or worrying about the fact that they don't have reserves. Meanwhile, the War of the Five Kings has destroyed a lot of crops, adding to a general sense of dread about the perpetually coming winter.

There are also some fan theories that Winter is why Westeros hasn't progressed much as a society in thousands of years.

You've got effectively a nuclear winter every few decades or so.

IIRC, most winters are not quite that bad. There are mythically bad ones every few centuries or so.
posted by lunasol at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Anyway winter's not coming coz George is never going to finish that book(s).... zing!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


For some reason this winter apologia for ASOIAF drives me nuts. It's a fantasy series, so it's okay they have some mythic shit going on, no problem there. But there is no "real" explanation. If winter is anything like they describe, all the animals die. It doesn't matter how awesome the Northerners are at storing grain and salting meat. All the animals die in year two and three of winter. So next spring, it doesn't matter how many small folk are left. None of the deer, rabbits, birds, wolves, bears, elk, etc. stored up forage for the winter, and so they all died, and they're not coming back. Except it's magic, so they didn't, and that's okay, but any explanation about grain harvests and granaries and The Year Without A Summer, so it's really very scientific just makes me want to throw rocks.
posted by skewed at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2017 [10 favorites]


Pretty sure it's like Encino Man and you can just bury some breeding pairs in the deep freeze.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:34 AM on December 20, 2017


I mean, it doesn't matter in a scientific sense, but I find it really interesting in a narrative sense. Especially given our own climate crisis. How do different people handle it, and what does it say about them?

I don't really see it as apologia - just context for this discussion, jeeze.
posted by lunasol at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


The maintenance nanites for the GoT Dyson sphere are endothermic when tricked into performing acts that seem like magic to the sphere's inhabitants (all of whom have forget they are in a Dyson sphere to begin with) .

At some point in prehistory the First Men forgot where they were, overran their geographic buffer, began damaging the self-sustaining ecosystem on Westeros and degrading the functionality of the Sphere's communication architecture (weirwood.net) by destroying its local nodes.

The local admins (Children of the Forest) attempted to remedy this incursion, first on their own, then by hacking the invading men's wetware, hoping to produce a reboot by interfacing them with the Sphere's constituent nanites operating in the substructure that maintains the Sphere. They did this (somewhat crudely) by making use of a shard of solidified substructure embedded with nanites found near the surface (obsidian/dragonglass) Since the substructure of the sphere is very hot*, operating nanites must be extremely endothermic** to maintain integrity. This, unfortunately had unpredictable results, as the behavior of men had already been corrupted (obviously, because otherwise they would have stayed in their own lane in Essos and out of Westeros to begin with). The runaway growth of nanites in the human medium produced a similar runaway endothermic reaction in the men exposed, producing the White Walkers and surrounding local weather phenomena (they bring The Winter with them) we all now know.

*a later breach from excessive mining by the Fourteen Fires produced the apparent volcanism of the Doom of Valyria
**via rapid depressurization by porting local atmosphere to exterior vacuum via wormhole
posted by leotrotsky at 9:40 AM on December 20, 2017 [16 favorites]


This argument convinces me we should fire GRRM and get Gene Wolfe to finish the series.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:47 AM on December 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


Lunasol, sorry my comment seemed directed at you when it was really just impotent bluster at long-past arguments on this subject. I agree that narratively the winter issues are pretty interesting, and even if they don’t hold together perfectly, I think it adds a lot to the series.
posted by skewed at 9:51 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


cont.

The fundamental problem with the Children of the Forest is that they did not know fire. They worked with what they knew, but they picked the wrong nanites to fix the problem. This was a job for the Sphere's surface nanites, not the subsurface nanites (who are out of their element and screwing things up).

On the interior of the Sphere, surface nanites activity is frequently evidenced by fire. Surface nanites act to maintain the inner surface ecology of the Sphere. They operate through its flora (weirwood trees) and its fauna (crows, dragons). As surface nanites need not operate in extremely high temperatures, they are somewhat simpler in design and need not port their energy away (the local atmosphere dissipates it.) That means they tend to produce heat. In most circumstances this is barely noticable, but when they're working really hard (like empowering a sword or giving flight to giant scaly beasts) they can generate enough to ignite nearby air. The surface nanites have a better understanding of the ecology of the Sphere's inner surface, and are currently trying to repel the mistaken introduction of subsurface nanites (who don't really know what they're doing) into the surface domain by the CotF.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:54 AM on December 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


The birds and the bears and everything are actually just forms of advanced fungus that leave behind spores during the winter that germinate back into the full sized 'animals' again when the spring comes (well the ones that don't fly/wonder down to Dorne)

(Think that's some sf short story but I can be arsed googling it)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


This argument convinces me we should fire GRRM and get Gene Wolfe to finish the series.

In the Gene Wolfe version, none of the conflicts or plots are resolved as it turns out none of that stuff matters and it was actually about finding god or something all along.
posted by rodlymight at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


(Think that's some sf short story but I can be arsed googling it)

It's how WH40K Orks (and I assume other goblinoids) work. WAAAGH!
posted by Artw at 9:58 AM on December 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


For some reason this winter apologia for ASOIAF drives me nuts. It's a fantasy series, so it's okay they have some mythic shit going on, no problem there. But there is no "real" explanation. If winter is anything like they describe, all the animals die. It doesn't matter how awesome the Northerners are at storing grain and salting meat. All the animals die in year two and three of winter. So next spring, it doesn't matter how many small folk are left. None of the deer, rabbits, birds, wolves, bears, elk, etc. stored up forage for the winter, and so they all died, and they're not coming back. Except it's magic, so they didn't, and that's okay, but any explanation about grain harvests and granaries and The Year Without A Summer, so it's really very scientific just makes me want to throw rocks.

The animals migrate. That's why one of the first things that happens in the series is the Stark kids finding the direwolf pups - it was the first time in forever that direwolves were coming that far south, and it presaged what kind of bitter winter was coming.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


For some reason this winter apologia for ASOIAF drives me nuts. It's a fantasy series, so it's okay they have some mythic shit going on, no problem there. But there is no "real" explanation.

But isn't it just a game? A way of applying a bunch of ideas to a ridiculous problem and seeing how convincingly you can construct a justification. I don't think anyone involved thinks they're doing science, just playing with ideas because it's fun.
posted by howfar at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure it's like Encino Man and you can just bury some breeding pairs in the deep freeze.

I was thinking A Deepness in the Sky, but sure, Encino Man works too.
posted by nickmark at 11:11 AM on December 20, 2017


I don't think anyone involved thinks they're doing science, just playing with ideas because it's fun.

Some people play for blood, like the MIT students who chanted "The Ringworld is unstable!" at Larry Niven
posted by thelonius at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2017


|__winter__|___________________winter is coming___________________|winter|
(apologies for being northern-hemisphere-centric)
posted by farlukar at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


But isn't it just a game?

No.
posted by adept256 at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


But isn't it just a game?

No, it’s also a clash, a feast, a storm, a dance, a winds, and also a song I guess.
posted by rodlymight at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


Wolfe? Aldiss! Except, like, too late.

Helliconia: How & Why
posted by mwhybark at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oops, sorry for taking it personally, skewed!
posted by lunasol at 11:58 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


The animals migrate. That's why one of the first things that happens in the series is the Stark kids finding the direwolf pups - it was the first time in forever that direwolves were coming that far south, and it presaged what kind of bitter winter was coming.

It was the first time in hundreds of years a dire wolf had been spotted south of the wall... so the animals don't generally migrate, even during a run of the mill 3-5 year winter. Also, most animals don't migrate, don't really have the capability to migrate hundreds of miles. Some bears can travel hundreds of miles for forage, but they do this during summer, not winter. And they can't hibernate for 5 years. They die. So do all the non-migrating gophers, mice, squirrels, etc. Sure, some might move south as things get colder and survive for awhile, but winter as described in the books is cold enough that there is no growing season as far south as Casterly Rock, with winter including 20-day snowstorms in King's Landing, and Blackwater Bay freezing. Everyone dies!

Or it's magic. Or they're simulacra of Earth people and animals with vastly different biologies. Otherwise, they all die, the animals especially. There is no real-world explanation, it's a fantasy series, it doesn't map to reality that well. No problem.

But isn't it just a game? A way of applying a bunch of ideas to a ridiculous problem and seeing how convincingly you can construct a justification. I don't think anyone involved thinks they're doing science, just playing with ideas because it's fun.

If it is, part of the game is pointing out how the explanations don't fit with the text, or don't actually solve the problems they attempt to. I think it's an impulse, something about wanting soft-sci fi/fantasy make sense in a way it isn't really designed to, I don't think. Anyway, it always drives me nuts, but it's harmless fun for those who like it, and obviously at this point, part of me likes pushing back too.
posted by skewed at 12:07 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


But isn't it just a game?
No.


Book XLII? WTF? People be taking Warhammer way too seriously.
posted by Naberius at 12:21 PM on December 20, 2017


Actually Paul Park also has a series, the Starbridge Chronicles, set in a world where seasons last for a generation. If you're lucky, you are born in spring and live through summer, dying before winter really descends. If not, well, all the good things of the world belong to summer - sufficient food, some social freedom, safety from terrifying weather extremes, art, culture - so you're just out of luck. They're amazingly weird books that are available electronically but out of print otherwise. I might actually prefer GoT-world to winter in Park.
posted by Frowner at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2017


So Samwell Tarly is both a character in Game Of Thrones whose decisions hinge on his complete faith in his (distinctly non-modern) reality and somehow also aware that he is a character in a show / book (including the name of said book) and has access to computers and the internet?
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:40 PM on December 20, 2017


I think the point of the long winters is to force the issue that it's a fantasy world and not allow people to interpret it as sufficiently advanced technology. Myth is a genre that's antagonistic to scientific explanations. As skewed pointed out, that makes the winning move in this game is to not play.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Talking of Sam Tarly... I nearly put this in the main post, as... GoT started as an amazing show and now, ... well, just the one season to go.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:57 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you're lucky, you are born in spring and live through summer, dying before winter really descends. If not, well, all the good things of the world belong to summer - sufficient food, some social freedom, safety from terrifying weather extremes, art, culture - so you're just out of luck.

We keep on coming back to boomer vs millennial.
posted by Artw at 1:02 PM on December 20, 2017 [12 favorites]


Is this some kind of SimCity variation?
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:53 PM on December 20, 2017


I think the most likely expending is that GRRM just didn't think things through, and is going to have to rely on the "Is a myyyyyystery" handwoven.

Now if you want a fantasy world where the mysteries of the world is climate and geography (including the mysterious burning of large deaths of countryside) are presented in such a way that their solution makes sense, I recommend Rosemary Kirstein's The Steerswoman series. It's also manages to be about a thousand times less rapey.
posted by happyroach at 3:00 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


I would suggest The Broken Earth trilogy. That also has endothermic magic.

Though I really don't think the handling of the winters actually constitutes a problem with GoT, that seems more like YouTube-dude-yelling-plothole-at-movies type thinking.
posted by Artw at 3:38 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Why do we assume the plant and animal species in Westeros are the same as their IRL counterparts? If they evolved in a world that periodically experiences devastating winters, presumably they've evolved mechanisms/strategies that allow at least some members of the species to survive and rebound afterwards.

But since we're delving into the science of GoT, could someone please explain to me how a single dragon could melt a hole through a 700 foot tall ice wall? Do you have any idea how much energy is required to melt even a single cubic meter of ice? If my back-of-the-envelope math is correct, melting a cubic meter of ice requires 334 MJ or 93 kWh; enough energy to power 31 homes for one hour. Multiply that by the dimensions of the wall and the energy requirements enter thermonuclear warhead territory. Yeah, yeah, I know--it's dragon magic. The problem is that such magic would necessarily have to break the laws of thermodynamics, which introduces a whole host of problems once you think through the implications.

The only rational explanation is that destruction of the wall was an inside job. Someone planted demolition explosives before-hand, timed to go off just as the dragon hit the wall with blue fire. Wake up, sheeple!
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:18 PM on December 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


...with its ice breath.
posted by Artw at 10:28 PM on December 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


dudes, errbody knoes the zombie dragon FROZE tha ice, by supercooling it to such a gegree that it reduced 90% of the enmagicked h2o molecules to free elements, oxygen and hydrogen gasses MMMKAY roight
posted by mwhybark at 11:28 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Fredd, it's hot as Dorne in here! Turn up the AC!

Cut to small zombie dragon exhaling blue flame into duct. Small zombie dragon shrugs.

It's an unliving!
posted by condour75 at 5:45 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I approve of the Dyson Sphere explanation, as it works with my headcanon that most of Planetos is a Jetsonsesque futurescape and Essos/Westeros is kind of their Amish country. Dragons, pffft, try genetically-engineered kilometers-long air whales.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:51 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe seasons are perfectly regular like Earth's, but the society has fallen victim to superstition and legend so much that they don't have accurate recorded histories. Within the first-person context of the books, there's never an extra-long winter; maybe stories about a few extra cold months got exaggerated into tales of a multi-year freeze. Certainly Earth's residents had some extremely inaccurate ideas about the way our world worked until relatively recently.

I think that's kind of the point of Game of Thrones. Nothing is clear-cut and most of the main characters are confused about the basic facts of the universe.
posted by miyabo at 8:22 AM on December 21, 2017


Clearly zombie dragons breath anti-matter or something. Or anti-magic / nano-particles that react with the magic / nano-particles that are buried in the structure of the wall and normally work as a barrier to ice zombies. That should be enough energy when they annihilate each other
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:14 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


(also available in Dothraki Norse runes and High Valyrian Elvish)
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:43 AM on December 23, 2017


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