Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture (via Instapaper.)

“The Inklings were different. They clung by their fingernails to the past, to old languages and old books and old-school habits and values. They could be cranky geezers — beer drinkers who wore tweed, refused to admit women to their ranks and recited Anglo-Saxon poetry for fun. They expected to be ever-more marginalized and sneered at, although they did fight like hell to keep Oxford from updating its syllabus to included such new-fangled entertainments as Victorian novels. Still, they assumed that they’d lose eventually. They were so unfashionable! So how did they end up taking over popular culture?”

“Yet Tolkien, and to a lesser degree Lewis, arguably have a bigger foothold in the early 21st-century imagination than Carroll, Wilde or some fictional police inspector. Why should that be? Surely one of the best explanations so far has been advanced by the academic and Tolkien scholar T.A. Shippey, who believes that Tolkien drew forth the long-submerged mythic past of the Anglophone world by means of his deep, historical knowledge of the English language.”

“The standard sophisticated take on this fantasy is that it’s childish and escapist, that it posits a past that never existed. And that’s true — Tolkien, who regarded the modern, industrialized world as a hellscape ravened by soulless machines (he hated cars), happily copped to the escapism bit. “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home?” he retorted.”

“Is it any wonder, then, that it isn’t the modernists, those poets of disintegration and speed and fleeting solitary experience, that readers keep returning to, but these fusty holdouts and abstainers, the guys who said, “We’d prefer not to”? Being Christian was just one of their ways of putting on the brakes, and it’s far from obligatory — let alone the central secret to their appeal. None of us gets to live in the Shire, but we haven’t lost our appetite for the kind to stories that are told there. Those stories are still the ones that feel the most like home.”

Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture

May 31, 2015 at 04:08PM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1JgxAZo

Advertisements

My Introduction to Lore: The Legend of Zelda.

Recently I read this article by Phil Owen on io9 titled I Care About Star Wars Because It Introduced Me To ‘Lore.’  In it he says:

“For me and many other fans, Star Wars is not a series of movies but a setting, a place. And Star Wars was the first property I enjoyed growing up where should I want more stories in its settings I could always have them. And it wasn’t a case of, as it is in many game franchises praised for having lots of lore, characters in a book telling us about past events or info in a codex — nearly all the lore was in books or comics somewhere.”

And I thought, “yeah, Star Wars was definitely the first time I cared about the world of a property beyond its main storyline. That was until I received this in the mail:

Master Sword, yo.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Graphic Novel by Shotaro Ishinomori.

This is a graphic novel, a reprint of a comic that was both printed in Nintendo Power then collected into a paperback in the 90’s. I found the paperback version shortly before The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out.

Continue reading

G. Willow Wilson’s Fantastic Observation on Genre Fiction and Tropes.

“Genre–whether it’s action/adventure, romance, scifi, fantasy, or superheroes–largely differentiates itself from “mainstream literature” by its heavy reliance on tropes. The lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The reluctant paladin called to defend his or her homeland. The white knight. The savior-sacrifice, who must pay the ultimate price to keep the darkness at bay. Good genre books and films succeed because the authors or artists have manipulated these tropes in a particularly skillful way, either by subverting them or unpacking them or, occasionally, pointing right at them. Some of the most stunning works of SF/F produced in the past couple of decades–those that have shifted the cultural conversation–have been those that rely the most heavily on tropes, on what we think we know about a certain genre, and which then proceed to show us, almost by slight-of-hand, what we have overlooked. The Walking Dead. Gravity. District 9. The superb Children of Men. What is masterful about each of these is that the creators exhibited no embarrassment whatsoever about their pulpy source material–instead, they dug deep into the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ and used tropes we might have considered all played out (the astronaut in trouble, the zombie apocalypse) to illustrate profoundly heartbreaking things about the human condition. That is, perhaps, genre in a nutshell: it is cliche turned on its head.”

Dr. Lepore’s Lament

May 14, 2015 at 03:03PM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1K5pc0v

Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World is What Half A King Should Have Been.

Last year, one of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, said Half A King was “[his] favorite Abercrombie book yet. And that’s really saying something.” So naturally I decided to buy, and all his other books. I started The Blade Itself a week before Half A King was to be released and ate it up like I had The Name of the Wind and The Lies of Locke Lamora. When Half A King arrived I read it and when I did I couldn’t wait to finish because I wanted to go back to reading The Blade Itself.

The fact that Half A King was Young Adult didn’t bother me, but everything else did. It all seemed so predictable, paint-by-the-numbers kind of characters and plot. Then the ending came too quick and too anticlimactic. By the end Yarvi broke the greatest sin for a protagonist, I no longer cared about him.

So it was with great reluctance that I started Half the World, the second book in the Shattered Sea series. I need that Joe Abercrombie fix but needed it to be quick because I was right in the middle of reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I was absolutely blown away.

  • Yarvi’s weakness was his crippled hand and how that limited his abilities. Thorn and Bran, though, suffer from internal struggles of self-doubt, anger, and worthlessness. I found this far more engaging because once you figured out Yarvi was clever, you knew he’d always think his way out of any limitations his hand caused.
  • Yarvi’s story seemed more coming-of-age, as most YA is, but Abercrombie blends Thorn and Bran’s coming-of-age with the hero’s journey as the two become stronger and prove their worth to the rest of the crew.
  • The lore of the Shattered Sea is explored and expanded upon. Half A King seemed so focused on getting back to Gettland that the rest of the world didn’t seem to matter. Plus, the history of the elves, magic, and what disaster they caused is given to us to small amounts to entice the reader’s interest.
  • With a bit of age and without his point-of-view Yarvi’s cleverness is more impressive and without his inner monologue, much more cunning.
  • With war looming, their cause seems more desperate, the tone more serious, and with better protagonists I’m more worried if they’re going to make it out okay. When events go awry and the characters make a mistake they could have avoided, I am more concerned. When the characters get seriously hurt, injured, and killed I know Thorn and Bran are not completely safe (even though they are.) It’s easier to believe the protagonist isn’t safe when they’re not so clever.
  • I had to reopen the first book to discover that Thorn was the thirteen-year-old girl who witnessed Yarvi, with his short time as king, dueling with Keimdall.
  • When characters from the first novel are reintroduced, it’s a sure sign of a better book that even when I don’t fully remember the first book Abercrombie makes me feel something for them in the second.
  • The romantic tension between Brand and Thorn simmers slowly and never overtakes the main plot or the action. By getting both of their point of views, you get to be frustrated as they each have the same doubt about the other liking them. Sexual tension builds, romantic mishaps happen, and they both get to the point where you wish someone would just sit them both down and go you’re crazy for one another, just kiss already. Someone does and without feeling like a Deus Ex Machina.
  • Abercrombie does this through Rin, who through her brother’s and hers experience of hardships teaches Thorn a lesson above privilege, appreciating what she haves, while giving Thorn enough information to figure out what an idiot she’s been with Brand.
  • What is a well thought out move, just because they are together doesn’t mean Brand and Thorn’s self-doubts don’t just go away.
  • While war is often romanticized in books such as this, especially considering it’s based on Vikings and Norse culture, seeing Brand’s trauma and struggle with the morality of raiding villages hit hard. Then when he stands up for peace and the king praises him for it you feel proud of him also.
  • The twist with Grom-gil-Gorm, Mother Isriun, and having Thorn as the Queen’s chosen shield to fight Grom was such a satisfying moment, like when Eowyn reveals herself to the Witch King.
  • Then to have Grom, having grown tired of Mother Isriun’s orders, sparing Thorn, turning away from the High King, and forging an alliance with Gettland was a resolution I both didn’t see coming and thoroughly enjoyed. I just assumed, probably because I’ve read so many books where the child becomes the great warrior and avenges their father, that Thorn would find a way to kill Grom.
  • Bran in the end shows his own cleverness against Father Yarvi proving himself as someone who stands in the light, as he puts it, without feeling as if his story has had a bad ending. Plus, a marriage proposal awaits Thorn.
  • Then to end with Thorn telling off Master Hunnan and becoming a teacher just as Skifr did was the best conclusion this story could get. Perhaps one of these pupils will become the protagonists of Half A War. I’m looking forward to it.

Jorah Mormont’s Redemption Won’t Be Worth It.

Spoilers for all of Game of Thrones and all of A Song of Ice and Fire up to now, right up front.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Jorah Mormont, played by Iain Glen on the show, is an exile from Bear Island due to selling poachers on his land to slavers. When the show begins he attends Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo’s wedding as a spy for Varys, sending back information about the exiled Targaryens in hope of earning a royal pardon.

He eventually falls in love with Daenerys, saves her life from poisoning, and stop sending back reports to Varys fully committing himself to his khaleesi. The problem is, and this is where her point-of-view chapters from the books benefit, is that he sees her as both a child and as someone he wants to bed. She needs him to see her as a queen.

It feels like Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys knows this but we cannot be sure. Unlike the beginning of A Storm of Swords, Jorah never has this big reveal of his love for her until it is too late. This doesn’t make Jorah any less a creep, as the audience knows he secretly loves her through Viserys’ reveal in season one, his fatherly protection of her in seasons two and three, and his jealousy of Daario in season four.

On the show, Tywin Lannister uses the royal pardon that was promised to Jorah to separate the two of them. In the book, it is Barristan Selmy who reveals this fact and the two of them have to prove their loyalty to Daenerys by breaking into Meereen. In either medium she both rejects him and exiles him from her presence.

This leads us to Sunday’s episode Sons of the Harpy in which Ser Barristan Selmy is killed by the Sons of the Harpy,  a group of insurgents fighting against her rule in Meereen. Meanwhile, Jorah has kidnapped Tyrion in Volantis.

The death of Barristan Selmy was a surprise and an annoyance. Not because it was different from the books, that’s only part of it. Some of Barristan’s best moments in the series comes at the end of A Dance with Dragons and thanks to  D.B. Weiss and David Benioff we’ll never see them. Is it the biggest deal? No, but it makes the plot for the rest of the season really predictable.

Without Barristan, Daenerys is without a close advisor. Who should happen to be heading back her way but good ol’ stalker creep Jorah Mormont with Tyrion in tow doing whatever he can to earn his way back into her good graces by bringing her one of her enemies.

He’s going to arrive, and Tyrion is going to betray him instantly. He’s going to spin a clever tale that’ll make him her new advisor and put Jorah right into the fighting pit, and will try to save Daenerys when Drogon returns. Of course he won’t be needed, this is when Daenerys will finally mount Drogon and fly with him leaving Jorah behind to take care of Meereen along with Tyrion. Uh oh, the hijinks that will ensue. In the books, Tyrion and Jorah had not yet arrived but Barristan was there to take care of Meeren as Lord Commander of her Queensguard when she takes off. All those moments he has, and it does involve the Sons of the Harpy, will now be Jorah’s.

That’s not all Jorah will do. Before he meets Jorah, Tyrion travels with Jon Connington, Rhaegar’s former best friend who contracts Greyscale rescuing Tyrion as they pass Stone Men, a group of people infected  by the disease that they pass. Gee, Greyscale sure has mentioned an awful lot this season. I wonder if that’s relevant? For Jorah Mormont I bet it will be.

What better way for the show-runners to redeem Jorah by

  1. Infecting him with a fatal disease
  2. Bringing a beloved character (Tyrion) to another beloved character (Daenerys)
  3. Fighting to the death in the fighting pits until…
  4. Drogon arrives and he tries to protect Daenerys then…
  5. Gets all the badass fighting scenes defending Meereen while the queen is away.

I can understand cutting Jon Connington and his story from the show, and even giving part of that story to Jorah but he is not so great a character that it was worth losing Barristan Selmy, the only good person left in the show who

  1. Both Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister revere.
  2. Who told off King Joffrey just after the boy king cut off Eddard’s head.
  3. Who Tywin Lannister thought dismissing Barristan was a dumb move.
  4. Who was the only one not to attack Eddard in the throne room and
  5. Questioned Cersei’s dismissal of Robert’s last requests.
  6. Kills the gold cloaks that go after him to prevent him from leaving King’s landing.

Some of these scenes don’t make it to the show, along with the ones that will occur after his death, and all for the sake of redeeming Jorah Mormont. I don’t mind changes from the book but that’s not going to stop me from criticizing bad storytelling. If my prediction for Jorah Mormont is right, it’s going to be bad.

Bendis On Iceman’s Outing, Says “I’m Not Done With This Story Yet” – Comic Book Resources via Instapaper.

“This story isn’t something that’s coming out of the blue, either. Over the years there’s been a lot of hints that Bobby might not be entirely honest with himself about his sexuality.

Yes! That’s the funniest conversation online. We have some people going, “What on Earth are you talking about? Where did this come from?” Then there are other people who weren’t surprised at all. Already on Tumblr, and I’m not going to repost them until later in the week, people have posted a road map of panels of things that Bobby has done over the last 50 years that prove the point that I thought was obvious, and many others did too.

It’s funny that we have so many people who saw it as coming out of left field, and so many people who weren’t surprised at all. But with sex and politics, people are going to see what they want to see.”

Bendis On Iceman’s Outing, Says “I’m Not Done With This Story Yet” – Comic Book Resources

May 8, 2015 at 10:45AM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1d0TX9f

“Why Being A Debut Author Isn’t Exactly A Dream Come True” via Instapaper

“For most writers, publishing a book is the achievement of a lifetime dream and only the most tasteless of people would talk negatively about it”

“The reality, I’m afraid, is more like you’re sitting alone, post-carnival, on a cigarette-butt encrusted patch of grass typing your own name into Bing, but other than that you’re feeling super-duper lucky. Everything is great!”

“This plan of yours couldn’t have come at a better time. Your book has been out for two weeks now and you have a lot of questions. For example, did everyone else get the memo that from this point forward every time you read from your hardcover, you’re also trying to sell it? Hey! Selling a hardcover is tough! Twenty-six dollars is a lot of money. Hell, you haven’t ever spent that much on a dry-aged steak! But wait, what’s that? One of your new debut author friends sold all the books at her last reading? In a town she doesn’t even live in? Eighty copies total? Wow, that is so great!”

Why Being A Debut Author Isn’t Exactly A Dream Come True

May 6, 2015 at 03:54PM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1IDvHUH

How to Write About Characters Who Are Smarter Than You

“Doyle’s great discovery is that intelligence is not about the accumulation of data — it’s about deciding what that data means. Holmes has the same tools at his disposal that you do; he almost never possesses information that you don’t. It’s only that he looks at the shared information and sees things that you never could. An analogy might be found in the poker game Texas Hold ’Em, for any reader who plays (I play a lot.) The trick of the game is in some sense that you’re not playing your opponent’s cards — you’re playing the community cards. The real game isn’t in what she knows that you don’t, or what you know that she doesn’t. It’s in what you both know, but you simply deploy to greater affect.”

How to Write About Characters Who Are Smarter Than You

May 3, 2015 at 01:15PM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1A70NRA