Archive for June, 2016

The Devil’s in the Details

Or… “My Love-Hate Relationship with Game of Thrones”

(Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, so if you came here to see a minor author slam the biggest name in fantasy at the moment, go home. You’re drunk. Also this will have spoilers for season 6’s finale, so consider yourself warned.)

I love Game of Thrones. I caught the first episode the day it came out–I was 17–my parents had HBO at the time. I hadn’t read the books (I had been loaned one by my sociology teacher, Mr. Conder, but I returned it to him unread and pretended I liked it all right). By the time episode 2 aired a week later, I was just starting the third novel, A Storm of Swords. For a boy who literally grew up reading and re-reading The Lord of the Rings, it was a revelation. An utter tour-de-force focusing on those aspects of Tolkien’s work I most enjoyed: the world of men, the politicking and the grimy mess and nightmare of the human struggle (this being far and far away from Tolkien’s focus, bless him). I was smitten. Utterly. Have been ever since.

And since that April of junior year in high school, a lot has changed for me. I finished high school, I went to college, I finished college, I got a job, quit a job, bought a car, oh…and I got a publishing deal that now extends over half a dozen countries. I even paid off my student loans and learned to like musicals. Who knew?

But Game of Thrones is still there, looming large and lively. And it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, which is great, because it’s objectively very, very good. But it’s reached this sort of weird point where it isn’t perfect any more, and that’s weird. Because it was. It was perfect for all of season 1, and was arguably really close to perfect all the way through to the end of season 4–just about until they ran out of book. And then…ugh. I don’t want to be the one to say this, but…

What are they doing? What the hell is this?

Calm down! Yes, you. Put the keyboard down and step away from the machine for ten seconds. Keep reading. Breathe. Because some of the show is still perfect, and the parts that are are even more perfect than season 1 ever was. It’s just that that perfection doesn’t go all the way through. It’s like using the finest chocolate chips the world in cheap, grocery store-made cookie dough. Let’s look at the last two episodes, The Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Winter. Both clearly the finest visual masterpieces of the series, with the possible exception of Hardhome. All directed by Miguel Sapochnik, all scored and set and superbly written. I love them both, but they betray a subtle problem that’s starting to become more and more apparent.

They keep going needlessly off-book, making everything seem a bit slapdash.

Now I understand a show is not a book. I know things have to change, and I support that. When they made Jaqen the Kindly Man in the House of Black and White, I was delighted (and in no small part because Tom Wlaschiha is a remarkably nuanced and spooky actor). I love that Theon and Asha are the ones who take the Iron Fleet to Meereen, although I do miss Victarion. It would have been cool to see him.

But the showrunners, David Benioff & Dan Weiss, have said repeatedly that the next 2, final seasons might be shorter, running 6-7 episodes because they’re “running out of story.” I’m sorry, what? You’re what? No, they aren’t running out of story, they have willfully ignored huge chunks of it. Consider Victarion Greyjoy, previously mentioned, and his brother Aeron. Consider Rhaegar’s son, Aegon, still apparently alive. (He may be a fake, but he’s still a better candidate in the books than anyone else trying to be king right now). Consider Sansa’s time in the Vale (her marriage to Ramsay being one of the more effective changes, but still one that I think is ultimately a bit sloppy). Consider the Mance Rayder plot, how he is still alive in the books and in the clutches of Ramsay Bolton. MOST of all, consider Dorne, which serves as the best example of weird, sloppy changes.

In the books, Prince Doran Martell is criticized by his nieces, the Sand Snakes (who are awesome, if a bit dumb) for not taking enough action against the Lannisters and Tyrells. His daughter, who doesn’t exist in the show, comes up with this plan to make Myrcella Baratheon queen, and Doran shuts that down. He reveals that no, he hasn’t just been twiddling his thumbs, he’s come up with a plan to ally himself with both Daenerys and Aegon Targaryen through Arianne and his other son, Quentyn, who mysteriously¬† ALSO DOESN’T EXIST, which is fine, actually, Quentyn’s arc in A Dance with Dragons is supremely disappointing and goes nowhere in the books. In the books, Doran is a brother driven by his revenge to supreme caution, seeking to destroy the people who killed his sister (and now his brother), and who does so from the confines of a wheelchair with a skill that might chill even Tywin Lannister’s blood. And they replace it with…what? Ellaria Sand? I’m sorry, but why? This is completely incomprehensible to me. Why would you sacrifice the great story described above for Ellaria’s sloppy coup? It’s a complete disaster, and one that will forever place as asterisk next to Game of Thrones on my list of favorite shows, like this:

Doctor Who, Community, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Daredevil, Game of Thrones*, Stargate SG-1, Cowboy Bebop, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock.

*Except for the complete bullshit handling of House Martell.

Okay in fairness most of those other shows get asterisks too, Doctor Who’s is just called “Series 4” (which is garbage), but I’m getting off task. They keep making these adjustments to fit their medium, fine. But they keep making these weird overcorrections, as with Dorne. Let’s look at the scene where Arya kills Walder Frey. Okay, that’s great. I hope she DOES kill him in the books, but a few things.

  1. How does Arya get to Westeros so quickly again? (Timing has been a real issue in the show this season, I’m looking at you, Littlefinger and Varys).
  2. Why did the Kindly Man (call him UnJaqen) let Arya get away with the temple’s magical faces? Wouldn’t you want to keep those under wraps?
  3. WHY DID ARYA GO FULL HANNIBAL LECTER HERE? She killed the Frey sons and baked them into a pie. That’s okay if it’s Wyman Manderly doing it, but Arya’s clearly got a conscience, or else she wouldn’t have spared Lady Crane. I’m not sure I buy her COOKING PEOPLE into pies. Revenge-killing is one thing, but that’s next level stuff right there.

It’s things like this that are becoming ever more rampant, and which are causing me increasing levels of distress, particularly when compared against things like Hodor’s plot twist, WHICH WAS PURE GENIUS and–apparently–cribbed directly from the sixth book. Next to the unadulterated genius that was “The Door”‘s Bran scenes, this business with Dorne looks like some General Hospital weather machine level vaudeville.

And Game of Thrones is better than that.

 

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Mission Accomplished (Sort of)

Well, it’s been several months now since last I deigned post anything, and since people might actually start CARING that I haven’t posted anything on this blog in a while, I thought I should maybe fix that.

I finished my rewrite today. The book’s done again. Thank heavens. I even played some Dark Souls 3 today. The lion’s share of this labor is over. As it stands now, the book is 200,306 words long (640 pages in word). I expect the final version will be shorter, but we’ll see. I accomplished this feat in 107 days, averaging 1873 words per day. I’m slightly worried I sold my soul somewhere in there to obtain the powers to get that accomplished, but it’s been accomplished. As Frodo said, “It’s gone. It’s done.”

Only it isn’t! Because like Frodo, I have to go home and kick Saruman out of my living room–and by “kick Saruman out of my living room” I mean fix a couple niggling little issues before I send it on to Sarah, my wonderful editor. Notably, I have to translate several lines of dialogue into multiple fictional languages (this is what I get for idolizing Tolkien from age 5 onwards, and I’m nowhere near his equal in the conlang department). Fortunately, several of the languages are just Earth ones that have meandered over the centuries and I just rewrite what Google translate gives me with blurred spellings and messed up pronunciations. But the Cielcin language has a grammar. I may make it up as I go but it has a grammar. Remember, if there are any alien grammatical errors in-text, they’re Hadrian’s fault. Not mine.

Not mine.

But I’m not really done. One must keep moving, keep going. I have three more books to write (and hopefully several more, this is my dream, after all) and the next one will need an outline soon, to say nothing of revisions to this first one that will need doing. I’ll try and relax a little (Dark Souls 3 must be beaten!!) but I’m afraid to slow down too much. I’ve never missed a deadline in my life and I’m not about to start now. Especially now.

Which brings me to the news bit, or the question bit: Should I resurrect my twice-monthly video blog thing? Everyone who saw them seemed to really rather like them, and I had fun making them–however cursory my editing skills might be. When last I made a video, on 1 November 2015, I hadn’t gotten an agent yet, much less secured my deal with DAW, with Heyne, with Gollancz, or even gotten my job working as an Editoral Assistant with Baen. You can see that last video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K250TMBFp5s

I held off making more because so much was happening and I wasn’t sure if I was legally allowed to talk about any of it. I’m much more comfortable now (and not working two jobs). So it might be possible to keep up with the videos. What do you think? Leave a comment (or comment on the inevitable Facebook link (since that’s where most of you will be seeing this anyway) and let me know!