Narrative structure of A Song of Ice and Fire creates a fictional world with realistic measures of social complexity

Thomas Gessey-Jones, Colm Connaughton, Robin Dunbar, Ralph Kenna, Pádraig MacCarron, Cathal O'Conchobhair, Joseph Yose

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Abstract

Network science and data analytics are used to quantify static and dynamic structures in George R. R. Martin’s epic novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, works noted for their scale and complexity. By tracking the network of character interactions as the story unfolds, it is found that structural properties remain approximately stable and comparable to real-world social networks. Furthermore, the degrees of the most connected characters reflect a cognitive limit on the number of concurrent social connections that humans tend to maintain. We also analyze the distribution of time intervals between significant deaths measured with respect to the in-story timeline. These are consistent with power-law distributions commonly found in interevent times for a range of nonviolent human activities in the real world. We propose that structural features in the narrative that are reflected in our actual social world help readers to follow and to relate to the story, despite its sprawling extent. It is also found that the distribution of intervals between significant deaths in chapters is different to that for the in-story timeline; it is geometric rather than power law. Geometric distributions are memoryless in that the time since the last death does not inform as to the time to the next. This provides measurable support for the widely held view that significant deaths in A Song of Ice and Fire are unpredictable chapter by chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume(In-Press)
Early online date2 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2020

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