Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has definitely come up with some of the most shocking ways to kill people, from gasp-inducing beheadings to blood-spattered Red Weddings. But in an interview with Rolling Stone, Martin says the way we engage in modern warfare is far more brutal.
When speaking about the remorse that some of his characters feel after they kill, Martin talks about the age of Medieval-era violence which required warriors to confront and acknowledge their victims. He compares it unfavourably to today's anonymous, almost video game-mentality of killing:
Taking human life should always be a very serious thing. There's something very close up about the Middle Ages. You're taking a sharp piece of steel and hacking at someone's head, and you're getting spattered with his blood, and you're hearing his screams. In some ways maybe it's more brutal that we've insulated ourselves from that. We're setting up mechanisms where we can kill human beings with drones and missiles where you're sitting at a console and pressing the button. We never have to hear their whimpering, or hear them begging for their mother, or dying in horrible realities around us. I don't know if that's necessarily such a good thing.
Martin also discusses the practice of torture, something that's featured regularly in his storylines:
You see this same moral struggle all through history. It's always the question, when you're at war, do you do whatever it takes to win, or do you actually maintain your own moral standard and ideals? Should we be waterboarding people? What if we get valuable information that saves our lives? Well, even so, aren't we compromising ourselves? But if it prevents another 9/11, is torture worth it? I don't know, but it's a question worth asking. Do you commit horrible crimes to stay alive so your side should win?