Monday, December 26, 2011

150/150 + extras

While I still have two books in progress, I've managed to meet my goal of reading 150 books in 2011.

Here is a link to the first 114 I read, I posted this back in September.

115. Hamlet's Mill by Georgio De Santillana
116. Seige of Darkness by R.A. Salvatore (Drizzt #9)
117. The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
118. Passage to Dawn by R.A. Salvatore (Drizzt #10)
119. Himmler's Crusade by Christopher Hale
120. Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #1)
121. A Portrait of the Artist as a young man by James Joyce
122. The Last Lion: Visions of Glory by William Manchester
123. The Hour of the Gate by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #2)
124. The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche
125. Dictionary of Accepted Ideas by Gustav Flaubert
126. The Day of the Dissonance by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #3)
127. Memoirs of a Medieval Woman by Louise Collis
128. The Moment of the Magician by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #4)
129. The Monkeywrench Gang by Edward Abbey
130. The Paths of Perambulator by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #5)
131. The Hiram Key by Christopher Knight
132. The Time of Transferance by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #6)
133. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
134. Spellfire by Ed Greenwood (Shrandril #1)
135. A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson
136. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings (Belgariad #1)
137. Introduction to African Religions by John S. Mbiti
138. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (Alderly #1)
139. Azure bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (Finders Stone #1)
140. Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings (Belgariad #2)
141. The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis
142. Wellington, Years of the Sword by E. Longford
143. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
144. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
145. The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham
146. Magician's Gambit by David Eddings (Belgariad #3)
147. The Wyvern's Spur by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (Finders Stone #2)
148. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
149. Jesus's Son by Denis Johnson
150. The last Lion: Churchill, Alone by William Manchester
151. Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings (Belgariad #4)
152. Enchanter's End Game by David Eddings (Belgariad #5) In progress
153. The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner (Alderly #2) In progress
154. Song of the Saurials by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (Finders Stone #3) In progress

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dealing with the low rolls.

In my pathfinder group, the DM and one of the players are uncle and nephew. They make up a lot of the soul of the group. They also go with me to LARP. I've known the older of the pair since High school. He's been through all the iterations of D&D with me. 3.0, 3.5. 4.0, Pathfinder. He's been with me in Warhammer since 5th edition and Warhammer 40k since 3rd edition. We've played Munchkin and Kobold's ate my baby. His nephew has been something of a fixture with us since he hit twelve. We knew how bad it sucked to be a nerd in a hick town, so we always took extra effort to include him. I've helped them both every chance I got.

Well today I was left with no way to help them. The cosmic DM rolled low. Their Brother/Father respectively died today during routine surgery. A Dislodged blood clot. 1. No chance of a saving throw.

Maybe it seems callous to parse this all in gamer terminology. But these two, a young man and a boy on the cusp of becoming a man have been such a big part of my life, and have been there during every experimental game and late night Anime session I've pretty much ever embarked upon.

I hate feeling sorry for myself. But I hate the feeling of powerlessness that comes with that dreaded phone call. I hate not being able to make them better. I hate seeing my friends upset. They are supposed to be jovial and full of quirk and witty nerd banter. Not crying in the hallway of the hospital. Not trying to figure out how to move on when a single father of 3 teenagers has just died. unprepared. unexpected. leaving his 19 year old son to take care of his 17 and 14 year old sisters, a house, a car, property taxes, all while he is still in high school. What kind of sick cosmic joke is it that this happened on Christmas Eve? You listen as they cry and moan and sob, you hug them and try to reassure them. You sputter, you inanely ask if there is anything you can do, and you probably, ridiculously say you're sorry. as if you did it and could take it back with a word.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I've got myself a Plan!

Normally I would write myself a complete syllabus for the year in what I hoped to accomplish. It generally would have about 100 books on it, and would include things like "Write a review of X Number of words" or something like that. I had to do it the last two years to try and keep up with some semblance of a reading pace for Hyborean Apocrypha. That's unfortunately been set aside due to having real syllabii to adhere to via school.

I still intend to plan out a few key series to go after in 2012, Michael J. Sullivan's Rirya books and Stephen Erickson's Malazan books are probably my top goal to read through in the new year. I'm also hoping to fill in a few more gaps in my classic Fantasy and Science-Fantasy reading in the form of Andre Norton's Witchworld and Phillip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers. Eventually my goal is to read everything on the D&D Appendix N list.


Brackett, Leigh
Brown, Frederic
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: "Pellucidar" series; Mars series; Venus series
Carter, Lin: "World's End" series
de Camp & Pratt: "Harold Shea" series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August
Dunsany, Lord

Farmer, P. J.: "The World of the Tiers" series; et al
Fox, Gardner: "Kothar" series; "Kyrik" series; et al
Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series
Lanier, Sterling: HIERO'S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz: "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series; et al
Lovecraft, H. P.
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; "Hawkmoon" series (esp. the
first three books)
Norton, Andre
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manley Wade
Williamson, Jack
Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; "Amber" series; et al

The ones in Bold I've read, and the ones not in bold I haven't. So I'm going to see how many more of them I can read through.

Other than that, with another English Class and a History class this semester.. who knows what I'll be reading for them?

Friday, December 16, 2011

GIJOE Retallition Trailer.

I HATED the abomination that was GIJOE: Rise of Cobra. Every aspect of it was wrong. The casting was wrong. The Look was wrong. Everything about it was wrong. I'm not talking about making them an international team, I never had a problem with that. What I had a problem with was the way they ignored nearly 30 years of backstory. They made it into a dodgy sci-fi B movie and let Steven Sommers include all the dopey elements that make all of his other movies so obnoxious. They even let him include Brendan Fraser. No chance at all was given to Joseph Gordon Levitt to show us just how awesome he is as an actor in his portrayal of Cobra Commander. Heck, we didn't even get to see much of Cobra Commander. It was like watching a Live Action DIC episode.

In the new Trailer, which I will link to at the bottom, they waste little time in establishing that this isn't going to be the second movie warmed over. They liquidate the team with extreme prejudice. Leaving only three members of the original cast remaining to taint the new movie. Cobra Commander has his blue jumpsuit and metal face mask which makes him so Iconic. Roadblock actually uses the Ma Deuce for which he is famous. Essentially.. this is what GIJOE should have looked like the first time. Gone are the super suits and the Eiffel Tower being eaten by nanomites. Gone is the ridiculous glass bubble head that Cobra Commander wore.

I love the visual of the Cobra Banners being unfurled on the front of the White House. The Idea of Cobra being a organization set on world domination was something postulated by the Cartoon. In the comics, it was the United States which Cobra had its primary issue with. The United States slighted the man who would go on to become Cobra Commander. A Used Car Salesmen who identified with Jon Galt a bit too much, but decided instead of pouring his efforts into inventing miraculous new products he would gain his empire through theft, graft, con jobs and murder. Despite what Joseph Gordon Levitt says, and the cast sheet says. Cobra Commander is clearly in this trailer. Who is playing him and what role he will be playing no one knows yet. But It's unlikely that the confirmed villains of the picture, Fire Fly, Zartan and Storm Shadow, Three men who have a long and extremely checkered past.. would be interested in taking over the United States without the instigation of Cobra Commander.

I have hope for this movie, not as much as I would have had if they had completely re-booted the franchise.. But It looks better than the two Transformers Sequels anyway.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Skrillex Condundrum and Other Stories.

A new fad is sweeping America. It is called Skrillex. The stage name of a slight music producer who formerly fronted an Emo band. He has finally succeeded in a massive way of introducing Garage and Dub step to the American consumer. He is an enormous hit. Even selling out shows in my tiny college town. I can't even imagine how he has accomplished this.

I first became aware of Garage and Dub-step when I was in the UK over 6 years ago. It was nothing special at the time, simply a style of music which a certain portion of the population listened to. It was dance music. it was music you blasted out of your 10,000$ system from the back of a 8000$ Peugeot while it was idling in a parking deck.

Needless to say I was not able to get tickets to see the Skrillex Cell when they perform in Athens at the newly rebuilt Georgia Theater. It's something I truly regret missing out on. I'm not sure why I like his sound quite so much as I do, but it motivates me when plenty of other noise doesn't do anything but put me to sleep.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum are a trio of outfits that I've been listening to a lot this year is John T. Pearson. He fills his folksy-country songs with pain I couldn't imagine even if I were into cutting. His music reaches into your very soul and tugs at strings and ligaments you were not aware you possessed. Following in the footsteps of Bon Iver he brings even more feeling and emotion to his even lengthier songs. No stadium filling noise here, but simple and heartfelt lyrics which cut like paper and sting like lemon every time.

Between Bon Iver and Josh T. Pearson I have nearly had to go back to taking my anti-psychotics. All the delusions I built to protect myself from the world are stripped back by their bluesy riffs and soulful vocals. Following current trends in my life, I can't help but find the lyrics of these neo-folk acts important. Thankfully Florence & The machine are there to give me a bit of upbeat when I get depressed. Her driving vocals and outrageous costumes (including a reference to Clan of the Cave Bear) help inoculate me to the pain of the other groups.

Whether you enjoy or hate these bands is some what immaterial to me. I'm a firm believer in the idea that whatever you are feeling at the time you first hear a song is as important as the ideas behind the song itself. After all, who really cares what the creator thinks.. You are the important and active participant in the process. The creator of the song has long since finished their portion of the social contract in the process of recording the music. You however, the listener, are the active party.


Josh T. Pearson.

Bon Iver.

Florence & The Machine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Context people, Context.

I'm a major history buff. That means I know how to put things, such as facts, in their proper historical context and not get all bent out of shape about them. It doesn't make them right or wrong. It just helps you understand were to place them. So why do so many people find themselves incapable of placing historical writers in the context of the world they lived in?

Enter This guy. Another in a long list of bloggers who read a pulp story from the 1920's and apply a 2011 mindset to it.

Pro Tip. It doesn't work. You cannot separate the work from the time period it was created in or the audience it was created for! The thing you have to consider about Lovecraft, is was he exceptional for his time? Location? Class? Keep in mind that Lovecraft wrote Herbert West a scant 7 years after D.W. Griffith's A Birth of Nation came out. Look at Woodrow Wilson (yes, the President of the United States... was a horrible racist too!) and his writings of the time. He excused the KKK as a "Natural outgrowth of reconstruction". The 1910's, 20's and 30's were a time of profound racial oppression across the United States. Wilson, like Lovecraft had little compassion for immigrants of any race, even the Irish, who at the time weren't really white men either, they got upgraded later only because they were lighter skinned than the Italians!

There were books circulating at the time such as Madison Grant's "The Passing of the Great Race", Henry Ford's "The International Jew" and Houston Stewart Chamberlain's "Foundations of the 19th Century". These were books which inspired the atrocities which eventually came to Germany. Reading them today gives you a frightening glimpse into the popular zeitgeist that existed at the time. It makes you realize that Nazi Germany isn't that surprising, but what is surprising is that it only happened there and didn't spread to the rest of the western nations.

Before you begin chundering in impotent rage at some writer who lived nearly a hundred years ago, wrote for the people of his time, and was living in a time of extreme change the likes of which we wouldn't even be able to recognize. When Lovecraft was a boy, people still drove horse and buggy to town! Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to have a motor car, and that was when Lovecraft was 20 years old. You have to look at his entire life to understand where these feelings came from. He barely scraped by, his malnutrition may in fact have lead to his death. He viewed immigrants, much as many modern Americans today do, as some how taking the lively hoods of good, honest, hardworking Americans. The world which Lovecraft lived in, was in the early stages of transforming into the world we know today, but he himself grew up in, and of which he held the values from, is one which would be considered entirely alien today.

British literature is full of novels which show this transition. The transformation from the Victorian period, where people still fit into a rigid social order, to the modern day where to be a member of the upper class is to be ridiculed. In the last 50 years alone, such dramatic social change has influenced the western world that it is unrecognizable to what it once was. We have finally begun implementing the ideals which we built our nations on in the first place.

If you can't appreciate Lovecraft's work in the proper context, thats fine. To each their own. But don't act as if he was some how extraordinary in his views from that of the common man at the time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carl Macek's Robotech Universe.

I'm a Robotech Fan. I enjoy saying that. Part of my enjoyment of saying it is because it makes a lot of Anime fans exceedingly angry.

I like it for a variety of reasons. Nostalgia. The generational saga. The dense and convoluted storyline that arose from the combination of three pre-existing sagas along with new material.

Don't mistake me, I enjoyed all 3 of the original Japanese shows.. but I wasn't converted to the accepted dogma. I didn't abandon my Robotech fandom to rush into the arms of Macross. They mock, but it only makes me love it more.

Last year, the man responsible for "creating" Robotech from those three shows, Carl Macek, died. He was a talented man who gets berated greatly by the Anime fan community in general. They don't stop to think that he didn't originally want to put those three shows together, he wanted to show Macross on its own. But he was hampered by the syndication rules at the time. He took a bad situation, and found a solution to get that great material out to the people. Now you can just buy DVD's from Japan or even get them subtitled in the US, but at the time Anime was a nascent barely clinging together clump of cells.

Because of Carl, Robotech expanded beyond the confines of the TV series. It was adapted into a series of Novels, the novels expanded even further on the background of the show and were themselves integral to the creation of the Robotech RPG which went into stunning detail in filling in the gaps left by the construction method of the TV series. Many comic book series, two feature films, and an assortment of other bits and pieces followed.

Thats essentially not the story as presented in the new Documentary Carl Macek's Robotech Universe. Though it is present in its barest forms, most of the documentary is taken up, not buy the writers or technical people discussing how Carl made Robotech, but is instead mainly fixated on the voice actors lavishing praise on their recently dead friend. I understand that since Robotech was many of the VA's first job, they would wish to postulate on the man himself rather than his production. It just wasn't a very good documentary about Robotech, even though it was a decent enough one about Carl's Role in Robotech's creation. It re-iterated some of the mythology that Harmony Gold now makes use of. They've taken the tact of simply ignoring the critics entirely and creating a some what delusional world in which Robotech was the Saviour of Anime in North America. I love it to death but I think that Voltron, Macron 1, G-force, Star Blazers, and many many other shows were just as important to the burgeoning Anime fandom. I think that the role that Harmony Gold wants to place Robotech into, likely belongs in reality to Dragon Ball Z. DBZ was on multiple channels, multiple times a day, lasted forever, and it was sometime while the characters were still on Namek that the Anime bomb went off and it was EVERYWHERE.

When I was in Elementary school, Anime consisted of shows like Robotech and Voltron and Star Blazers, no one really watched it. When I got to Middle School, DBZ was on and a vast cross section of people with highly divergent interested were watching it. When I got to Highschool, Anime was literally everywhere. It was omnipresent. There were anime exclusive stores in the suburbs around Atlanta. Book stores were stocking Manga. Best buy had two whole aisles for Anime VHS tapes at outrageous prices.

I'm not trying to say that Robotech and Carl Macek played no part in this, it was back on TV at the time on Cartoon Network.. but I just feel its disengenueous to simply decide it was the most important catalyst.

Another problem I had with the documentary was Tommy Yune's casual dismissal of Transformers and Transformers fans. I'm not sure if Mr. Yune has noticed.. but while Tobey Mcquires live action Robotech film is floundering.. Michael Bay has produced a Trilogy of (admittedly bad films) which have cumulatively grossed billions of dollars. Robotech's 25th anniversary is largely remembered because of the hardcore fans of the series going back to the 80's, its high DVD sales are the result of perpetually releasing newer and newer DVD sets. Just since DVD got big around 2001, there have been no fewer than 5 different releases of the show on that format. Every one of them offers drips and drabs of new material. the first ones were just the broadcast masters, but were loaded with extras. Then they released just the broadcast show in bare bones release. Then they remastered the show using new tapes from Japan, cleaning it up and re touching the sounds. Those releases got re-released later with all of the special features from the original release. Now A&E has re-re-re-released a new set, that has all of the remastered shows, all of the special features from all of the sets along with this new documentary and a variety of other bits and pieces. They even finally acknowledge Robotech the movie, but don't go so far as to actually include it. Pity. I suppose they are holding it back, along with the new Yellow Dancer centric mini-film Robotech Love Live Alive (made from a Japanese music video and which will apparently bridge the gap between Southern Cross and New Generation) for another future release.

All of this isn't to dismiss the documentary. It was a good enough documentary, it simply wasn't what their hype made it out to be. It should have gone into more detail about the show itself, about the comics, about the controversy, about the very rational for creating it in the first place. Instead we just got a bunch of weepy voice actors talking about their friend.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Final Countdown.

Well.. not really all that dramatic but it is getting close to the end of the year and I just got my grades for my Finals from school.

A+, A, A, and C+.

I'm really pleased with the C+ as it is Math, and being as Its been 8 years since I've used any of that stuff to say I was rusty would be an understatement. I went into the class fully expecting to bomb it, and while I didn't make a great grade.. I'm happy it wasn't any lower.

I'm hoping with my schedule for next year being more streamlined, I'll have more time to get back to work on the Hyborean Apocrypha project.

In other news, due either to Holiday hiring or an upswing in the local economy 5 members of my D&D group have managed to get jobs so that's some what putting a crimp on their availability. Will the group survive? will have to roll a Fortitude save to find out I suppose.

I'm going to be posting up my end of the year Tally for books I've read in 2011 in about 2 weeks time, I mentioned earlier in the week on Brian Murphey's blog The Silver Key that I wasn't sure I was going to meet my goal of 150 books, but due to hastily reading a few slim volumes (I.E. Cheating) I think I'm going to bag it this year. I'm going to set myself a smaller reading goal next year also to cope with the class work, since next year I'll be taking classes all year rather than just in the fall. But when you have a To be Read pile of nearly a thousand books, that despite how many you read never seems to go down, it doesn't take long to feel snowed under if I'm not constantly pushing myself.

I am planning on starting Stephen Erickson's massive Malazan series in January, and filling in a few more gaps in my classic Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery catalog with Andre Norton's Witch World and Phillip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers. I'm going to try and finish up the last 6 of the Shannara novels I've got to read too. We will see.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Theory on B.O.T (a.k.a. the single worst episode of transformers ever)

The episode is notoriously bad. It is so bad it dethrones season 3's Carnage in C-Minor for the title of worst episode ever. It's really, really, mind numbingly bad. All is not lost however.

Over the last several years, inspired by such diverse products as Apocalypse Now! Redux! and Star Trek: Remastered, I have been working on a new episode list for the 1980's Transformers cartoon that will not only make the series some what more serialized and coherent but also hopefully eliminate some of the obnoxious flaws.. hopefully without having to physically alter any of the episodes. Impossible? Maybe.

For the most part it is simply using the already present chronology of season 1 and then building on it so as to create a logical introduction to new characters. As the episodes stand now, new people show up in Season 2 with no real reason for them being there, only to promptly vanish for the next episode which inexplicably only features characters from season 1. In other words, its hardly rocket science.

But then you come to the obvious point of this, what do with the worst episode ever? Well it falls production wise as the last episode of Season 2. Meaning it is the last episode before Transformers: The Movie. This is, to me, unacceptable, and since it's a free country I'm going to do something about it. I started to look around for ideas of what could be done with it. It's so bad, and contains so many animation errors that the idea of re-editing it some how using bits of other episodes (beyond the obvious that this would be breaking my own rules) was a bit too technical for me to undertake.

I hit on a solution one evening while researching the Chronology of Super Dimensional Fortress: Macross. SDF: Macross was a huge hit in Japan. They made a movie, SDF: Macross Do you remember love?, it was a huge hit also. But it fundamentally changed extremely important aspects of the TV Show, and more or less made the relatively human looking Zentradi into very much more monstrous beings. The reason for that is, Chronologically speaking, SDF: Macross DYRL?, is itself a movie within the SDF: Macross Universe. Released in theatres some time around the Macross Plus era, while there are Descendants of Zentradi living on earth! It was followed by a sequel, Macross II the Movie. Genius. How to include something that completely screws up the canon, while not completely screwing up the canon.

It dawned on me then, B.O.T. could be a Transformers Movie, inside the Transformers universe. It explains why most of the characters are from season 1 (the ones who would have been seen on the real news more frequently) it also explains why the kids act so preposterously precocious.. and all the flaws in the episode can then be chalked up to "Well, Hollywood got it wrong, as usual". There is even evidence from the episode "Hoist Goes Hollywood" that there are directors in that universe who want to cast transformers as actors, why not characters?

However, I figure the Sunbow Universe's equivalent of Michael Bay still directed it, which would also go a long way to explain why the episode is so bad.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Geography, Learn it, Use it, Understand it.

Having just got done reading Dodai Stewart's otherwise well thought out article on Jezabel about why modern reinterpretations of fairy tales have such an aversion to casting non white cast members.. This quote really annoyed me, I mean beyond the obvious notion of why would a dark skinned lady be called "Snow White"...

"Last year around this time, an actress went to a casting call and was told she was too brown to be a Hobbit. It's infuriating to think that a world that includes orcs, elves and dragons cannot include brown-skinned people."

First of all, just to get this out there. Middle-earth has "Brown-skinned people". However, here is the rub. Racial groups do not just randomly spring up in various proportions on the globe without human agency being involved. Even if you have only seen the Peter Jackson films, you know Middle Earth has a variety of skin tones amongst its human population. The problem is that they are geographically isolated from 'The west' by Mordor and a couple of big darn deserts. You don't just get Hobbits with a bunch of different 'races'.. because Hobbits are a 'Race' unto themselves. Its highly unlikely there are a bunch of white people roaming around in Rhun or Far Harad either, and if they are they are almost certainly evil men who sided with Mordor and have simply been living their ever since the fall of Numenor.

If you look at Howard's Hyboria, there is far greater transit between the various ethnic groups present. You might find a Kushite in Shem, and you might find a Cimmerian in Shem, But you wouldn't find a Black Cimmerian anymore than you would find a White Kushite. Unless there is some human agency at work to shift people from one place to another, or an enterprising person decides to up and move themselves, manages to fit in and become part of a pre-existing community.. I suppose it could happen.. its just not very likely.

When this is done, like it was in Willow, Though this isn't to say that some where there isn't an entire group of black Nelwyns or a close relative of them. Or the BBC's recent Robin Hood series, it tends to look extremely forced and done simply to avoid the PC police's notice. They make fun of it on South Park by actually naming the one black kid at the school 'Token'. Let us be honest with ourselves here. If it weren't for the transatlantic slave trade it's very likely the very idea of having a massive multi-cultural milieu would be considered the norm. Japan, China, and the various eastern countries where there was no African slave trade are for the most part homogenous, or at least homogenous to western eyes. And were it not for human agency (empire, immigration, commonwealth) England,would just as Homogenous as Japan is. So why would you expect their to be a variety of colours of hobbits when their is no evidence of their ever being hobbits in a climate where having dark skin would make evolutionary sense?

Is it seriously coming down to this, that despite all we know of evolution and anthropology we are simply supposed to believe that dark skinned people would just naturally appear in Norway? Why would evolution do that? What possible reason would it have?

Yes, its annoying and frustrating and I'm sure infuriating that Hollywood doesn't produce more fantasy fair with non white casts. Even when they adapt a property such as Earthsea or the last Airbender they tend to white-wash the cast, this is unacceptable and I think morally repugnant. I'd just about kill to see Imaro on the big screen. But the answer for this injustice is not forcing middle earth to have a random "brown" hobbit. Fantasy as a genre is more than capable of having heroes, heroines, villains, villagers, or city dwellers of any culture or colour imaginable. But if the Geography as laid out in the story precludes it, then accept it and move on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sounds to take you back.

There are two ways for Movies to go. They either have a Score or a Soundtrack, or sometimes both. Usually the scores are forgettable and the soundtracks filled with either 40 year old Thin Lizzy and AC/DC songs or new songs from bands no one will remember in 10 years let alone 40.

Occasionally however a movie will make tremendous use of a song. Every time you hear it from then on you will remember it. My own example of this is the way that Nine Inch Nail's The Mark has been made, was used in Man on Fire. Every time the percussion starts in the song I can picture Denzel Washington going and picking out all the supplies he needs to wage a one man war on the Mexican cartel that has kidnapped the little girl he was supposed to protect.

It is an ominous and haunting song on its own. But when you add in the pathos of the scene where a still bleeding John Creasy is preparing to get revenge, it becomes almost depraved through its anguish. The music accentuates it to a near feverish pitch.

Of course, this is just my opinion, so your mileage will vary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monkeying around.

Phillipa Boyens (one of the writers of the Peter Jackson Tolkien Adaptions) made the comment that a Tolkien Purist is some one who is a self proclaimed guardian of the material.. I would argue that a Purist is a person who simply doesn't like her monkeying with the material... for her own shallow social engineering/politically correct reasons.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that certain changes must be made to adapt any novel to film or television. For the most part the changes to the Rings films were mild. This isn't some rant about Tom Bombadil being left out. The films also could have been much worse, after all the Hollywood financiers wanted them to kill one of the Hobbits! Make no mistake, bullets were dodged. But it was clearly the screenwriters choice to so drastically alter the entirety of Faramir's character. It was their choice to alter Theoden's character. It's there choice to add characters when they don't really need to be added. All of these things can and should be laid at their feet.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

5 weeks down, 2 years and 12 weeks to go.

I've just completed my 5th week back at school. So far it's not been nearly as daunting as I expected, though I'm struggling to get through my Math Class.

I'm hoping to come up with something more entertaining to post soon, but for the moment I'm just still concentrating on studying and making sure all my homework is done right.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Books read in the first nine months of 2011.

1. The Sword and the Satchel - Elizabeth Boyer
2. The Sea of Trolls - Nancy Farmer
3. Treasures of Led Zeppelin - Chris Welch
4. How to Train your Dragon - Cressida Cowell
5. The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett
6. The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett
7. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone - J.K. Rowling
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
9. Master and Commander - Patrick O'Brian
10. The Land of the Silver Apples - Nancy Farmer
11. Rifleman Dodd - C.S. Forrester
12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban - J.K. Rowling
13. The Crisis of Islam - Bernard Lewis
14. King's Dragon - Kate Elliot
15. Post Captain - Patrick O'brian
16. The Elves and the Otterskin - Elizabeth Boyer
17. The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
18. Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks - Ethan Gilsdorf
19. The Elfish Gene - Mark Barrowcliffe
20. Conan the Fearless - Steve Perry
21. H.M.S. Surprise - Patrick O'brian
22. The Wiseman's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
23. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
24. The Ironlords - Andrew J. Offutt
25. Shadows out of Hell - Andrew J. Offutt
26. Lady of the Snowmist - Andrew J. Offutt
27. Historiagraphy - Ernst Breisach
28. The Thrall and the Dragon's Heart - Elizabeth Boyer
29. The Islands of the Blessed - Nancy Farmer
30. The Dying Earth - Jack Vance
31. Harry Potter and the Order of of the phoenix - J.K. Rowling
32. The Mauritius Command - Patrick O'brian
33. Harry potter and the Half Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
34. Conan the Warlord - Leonard Carpenter
35. Prince of Dogs - Kate Elliot
36. The Eyes of the Overworld - Jack Vance
37. Wizard and the Warlord - Elizabeth Boyer
38. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
39. The Jewel in the Skull - Michael Moorcock
40. Cugel's Saga - Jack Vance
41. Shadowmarch - Tad Williams
42. Rhialto the Marvelous - Jack Vance
43. Kyrik: Warlock Warrior - Gardner Fox
44. Kyrik: Fights the Demon World - Gardner Fox
45. Guys write for Guys Read - Ed. Jon Sciezka
46. The Burning Stone - Kate Elliot
47. Kyrik and the Wizard's Sword - Gardner Fox
48. Kyrik and the lost queen - Gardner Fox
49. Baudolino - Umberto Eco
50. The Mad God's Amulet - Michael Moorcock
51. The Sword of the Dawn - Michael Moorcock
52. Conan the Victorious - Robert Jordan
53. Cry Havoc! - Beverley Nichols
54. The Runestaff - Michael Moorock
55. I hope they serve beer in hell - Tucker Max
56. Kick Me - Paul Feig
57. The Talisman - Stephen King
58. Desolation Island - Patrick O'brian
59. The Reader - Bernard Schlink
60. Shadowplay - Tad Williams
61. The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
62. The War Against Boys - Christina Hoff Sommers
63. The Hero and the Crown - Robin Mckinly
64. The Fortunes of War - Patrick O'brian
65. The Tower, the zoo and the tortoise - Julia Stuart
66. Subterranean - James Rollins
67. The Surgeon's Mate - Patrick O'brian
68. Excavation - James Rollins
69. Transformers: Vault - Pablo Hidalgo
70. The Ionian Mission - Patrick O'brian
71. Conan the Unconquered - Robert Jordan
72. Treason's Harbour - Patrick O'brian
73. Conan the Barbarian - Michael Stackpole
74. Shadowrise - Tad Williams
75. The Blue Sword - Robin Mckinley
76. Conan the Hero - Leonard Carpenter
77. The Far Side of the world - Patrick O'brian
78. The Year of the Hare - Arto Paasalinna
79. Lies my Teacher Told me - James W. Loewen
80. The World Swappers - John Brunner
81. The Last Magicians - John Jakes
82. Albion's Seed - David Hackett Fischer
83. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove - Chris Moore
84. Crazy - Benjamin Lebert
85. Fingerprints of the Gods - Graham Hancock
86. Sandstorm - James Rollins
87. Nine Princes of Amber - Roger Zelazny
88. The Guns of Avalon - Roger Zelazny
89. The Sign of the Unicorn - Roger Zelazny
90. The Hand of Oberon - Roger Zelazny
91. The Courts of Chaos - Roger Zelazny
91. Shadowheart - Tad Williams
92. Darkwalker on moonshae - Douglas Niles
93. Black Wizards - Douglas Niles
94. Darkwell - Douglas Niles
95. The Lost Kingdom of Burgundy - Christopher Cope
96. Conan the Valiant - Roland J. Green
97. India: What can it Teach us? - F. Max Muller
98. The Battle that Stopped Rome - Peter S. Wells
99. The Prophet of Lamath - Robert Don Hughs
100. Barbarians to Angels - Peter S. Wells
101. Trumps of Doom - Roger Zelazny
102. Blood of Amber - Roger Zelazny
103. Sign of Chaos - Roger Zelazny
104. Knight of Shadows - Roger Zelazny
105. Prince of Chaos - Roger Zelazny
106. Conan the Valorous - John Maddox Roberts
107. Fighting for Christendom - Christopher Tyerman
108. The Legacy - R.A. Salvatore
109. Starless Night - R.A. Salvatore
110. Secrets of the Hittites - C.W. Ceram
111. The Conqueror's Shadow - Ari Marmell
112. The Lord of the Isles - David Drake
113. The Barbarians Speak - Peter S. Wells
114. Clash of Civilizations - Samuel P. Huntington

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not the kind of Sexism you think of when you Think Conan.

Despite what some would have you think, Most Conan fans aren't sexist against women. They tend to be, from my interactions very welcoming to almost any thing that has a slash between it's legs. On the other hand, there is a decided anti-male sexism which the Conan fandom is absolutely rife. It's one of the reasons I started a blog rather than post at I'm putting this here specifically so as to not incur the wrath of the moderators at that forum. Most of the people there are perfectly friendly, but occasionally this sort of thing pops up.

There are many reasons that I think we all enjoy our favorite Cimmerian and they are as follows:
A.) He's a man's man. In today's American society it almost seems cool to be metrosexual, go to the tanning bed, and shave your chest. Don't even get me started on the emasculation of the American male in today's society. Gone are John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold ENTER Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and the era of the pretty boy.

I don't know about you, but I don't read Conan stories specifically because he's a big strapping guy with loads of hair on his chest. I also don't make it a habit to insult others just because their body types don't fit my ideal. What this poster is attempting to say is exactly what Chuck Palanhiuk said 100 times better in Fight Club. Brad Pitt was awesome in that by the way, So was Edward Norton come to think of it. Neither of them would fit this posters narrow definition of masculinity, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to run into Tyler Durden (Or Mickey the Pikey for that matter) in a dark ally. If you know anything about Palahniuk, you also know that being a small man dosen't make you weak or emasculated, and simply being a big strong man dosen't protect you. That criteria lead partially to the death of his father.

I'm sure a lot of women find Conan to be attractive, but just as many swoon over Daniel Radcliffe, Orlando Bloom, Robert Pattison, and your much derided Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It's a big world and theres room enough for all manner of body types. You and others like you seem mainly bitter at getting old. Your favorite actors aren't particularly important anymore, or are now directors rather than stars. It dosen't change a thing about them.

It's also unfair to compare people to John Wayne. No one else can be like John Wayne. The fact he was allegedly based on a hodgepodge of character traits culled from the stories of an aged Wyatt Earp (which is unfathomably cool if true) not withstanding, John Wayne was a character that Marrion Morrison made up. That dosen't change the fact he was a cool character, but don't mistake that for acting ability. He had one character and all other characters were written to be played by him. He was already divorced from the real man by 1. When some one attempts to act like him, they come across as a caricature. The same is the case with Stallone, Swarzegnegger, and even tom cruise and Brad Pitt. Just look at Saturday Night Live's Celebrity Jeopardy if you don't believe me. These celebrities you mention are every bit as fictitious as Conan himself.

I have a Y chromosome. I had to sign the Selective Service card. I am a Man. But since I only weigh 140 and am only 5'8". Which by your seemingly arbitrary list body and attitude types of what constitutes a "Man" I wouldn't count. Not every male on the planet fits these criteria of manliness that seem mandated by so many.

Many of those doing the mandating, if the photos from Howard Days are anything to go by, shouldn't be casting aspersions either. Spears and Grass Houses and all that. I'm not trying to be insulting, many people have valid reasons, no, uncontrollable reasons, for being like they are. Malnutrition, over nutrition, poor nutrition, genetics, childhood illness, the list goes on and on. As the recent film Captain America pointed out, it dosen't matter whats on the outside, but whats on the inside that counts.

One last fun fact, the "Average height" around the globe is between 5'2" and 5'5". Which last time I checked, Audie Murphy (who also had a "pretty boy" face), was right on the line for. I'd like to see you argue that he wasn't a Real Man(tm) because of it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In honor of the S.H.I.E.L.D. W.A.L.L.

Much like the tone of the video, my own feelings towards this film are pessimistic but with slight tinges of hope streaking the gloom.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bout' that time.

So in just 6 days, School starts.

For the last 10 years, when school started didn't matter to me that much. It meant it was safe to go to six-flags or go to a matinee movie again.. but that was about it.

Not so any longer.

On August 22nd, I go back to school. Hopefully in 4 years I'll graduate with some sort of degree, and hopefully without a huge amount of debt. In theory I'd like to plan to continue as a post graduate after the 4 years are up.. but right now I just want to make it through the next 4 months.

If I don't post a whole lot, thats why. I likely will slow down considerably here and at Hyborean Apocrypha.

For now.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Live Action Transformers fans are completely insane.

You may or may not know, that recently the Actor and son of Anthony Quinn, Francisco Quinn died. You probably remember him like most, for his role of Rhah in Oliver Stone's Platoon. He also, apparently provided the voice for some character named Dino in Transformers Dark of the Moon.

On TFW2005, One of the biggest Transformers forums on the internet, which undoubtedly makes a boatload of money from their endless click-throughs connecting to news about the live action movies. It has become entirely verboten to do anything that might alienate or offend the live action movie fans. Apparently just mentioning any of Mr. Quinn's other roles, is enough to confuse and infuriate the fans of the live action transformers films. Thats understandable, most of them are idiots to begin with. or Saddled with the nearly fatal handicap of being teenagers.

The worst affront though, is daring to call these ingrates on their insensitivity. The thread discussing his death, quickly turned into the same thread that all the movie threads do. Some one didn't "Respect" his role in the Transformers Movie.. so therefore it's time to riot and Smash crap and go cry to to the parents. The mods of course, not wanting them to get pissed and not come back.. quickly started editing the offending posts.

I remember when TFW2005 was the best transformers forum on the internet. It was a reprieve from the constant threat of being banned on Bottalk, one of the original transformers forums. On TFW, you could speak your mind, and be relatively certain that so long as you weren't trolling you could share your opinion freely. Now, if you don't two the party line, the mods edit your post. They don't tell you why they did it, or even explain what rule you broke. They simply edit your post, or issue a temp ban.

The Irony is, I've seen the Live action Movie fans, threaten physical violence against non fans and those posts get left alone. If you are a financial contributor to the forum, again, your posts will be left alone. There is a clear and marked bias. In other words, TFW has turned into Bottalk.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

King Conan wouldn't put up with this shit.

Apologies in advance. I'm going to get up on my soap box, I feel I'm entitled. I say this because the city which gave the world Speakers Corner, is currently under attack. It's under attack by hooligans and swine. Dead set on looting and pillaging, and if they can't tote it off, burning it to the ground. The politicians are doing nothing. David Cameron stayed in Italy for a few days while it was happening. His spineless Deputy Nick Clegg APOLOGIZED TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE RIOTING and is trying to hang it all on the Metropolitan police force.

London is, in my opinion, the finest city on the planet, barring only Oxford. It's a vast repository of learning and seat of many fine Museums and universities. It's the seat of a nation which has given the world so much. Longitude and Latitude, Time Zones, the Cornish Pasty. It gave us scholars who cracked hieroglyphics and held out on its own against the Nazis when no one else would. It offends me that this is happening. They are burning hundred year old buildings on a lark. Trashing businesses that have operated for decades.

It pisses me right the hell off.

Most importantly, It scares the hell out of me. My grandmother was born in North London, and she is near to tears over this. You cannot imagine how frustrating it is to have ones family under threat and be stuck 3000 miles away and not be able to even be with them. To have to read the distressed E-Mails, and hope they aren't the ones getting there houses burnt down. To see buildings which she remembers from when she was a child on the news. I still have family who live in north London. In fact I have a lot of family who live in north London. The Bulk of my family in fact.

Family who have to go to bed at night with the glow of fires in their windows. They are in a country who has decided they aren't allowed to own fire arms to protect themselves from these worthless curs. When it comes to family, It's time to fight all comers. Screw the water cannons and bean bags. It's time to bring in the Army and the Challenger Tanks.

"I'll Teach Them a Fearful Bloody Lesson in Slaughter!".

If any of my regular readers are offended by this, if my apology isn't sufficient, then I'll cheerfully bid you adieu.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Impossibility of the Hunt.

Over the last several days, reading more and more positive statements. Not only from reviewers whom I feel have good taste but also from the authors themselves. I have decided to try and read the massive Malazan book of the fallen series.

The problem arises when I go to actually try and purchase the books. You see, I own Gardens of the Moon in hardcover. It's my preferred format. I dislike mass market paperbacks, and Trade Paperbacks slightly less so. This shouldn't be that difficult of a task. Expensive maybe, but not difficult. That would be an incorrect and presumptuous line of thought however.

Apparently, much like a full sized Houghton-Mifflin copy of The Book of Lost Tales Part 1, Deadhouse gates dosen't exist in anything other than Book Club size. I know thats not true. It is difficult to believe though. I've ordered it three times. All three times it has been the book club format. All three times the sellers have claimed ignorance, or simply ignored my complaints about them not making it clear that I wasn't getting an actual hardcover.

Don't misunderstand, I have nothing against Book Club formatted books. I especially like the Omnibus format re-prints of various series. As nice as Tor's recent reprints of the Black Company books are, I'd happily trade them in a heartbeat for the 80's Book Club editions they are reprinted from. Simply put, I like hardcovers and dust jackets, and sometimes the only way to get a book in hardcover with a dust jacket is to buy it from the book club. Though I'm no great fan of his, the First Law series is a perfect example. If you buy it from Amazon, or any other book retailer, you will get the Trade Paperback set and no choice. However if you order from the Sci-fi Book Club, you get it in hardcover, with dust jackets.

So my inability to get the sellers to comprehend there is a difference between Book Club Editions and Hardcovers is hampering that quest. I moved on to Trade Paperback, I dislike it, but not as much as Mass market Paperback. It has the added bonus of Tor printing the books from both Erikson and Esslemont with very similar design cues on the spine. To sort of make them look like Iron Bound books.

The Problem is, while every single other book in the series is in print and available in Trade paperback format.. for some reason Volume #3, Memories of Ice isn't. The only way to get it in Trade paperback is to buy it used. Thats not that big of a deal, however if I'm going to buy it used, I should just buy it in hardcover used. Of course that runs the risk of getting the package in the mail and having it be the Book Club Edition.

I could of course simply buy the 114$ set of all 10 Malazan books from the book club. It's quite a good deal really. The problem with this idea is, though you can get two of the most recent of Ian Camereon Esslemont's books in this format.. and in a completely ironic twist from a few paragraphs ago.. the earlier ones such as Night of Knives are difficult and expensive to acquire in the Book Club Format. The thing is though, I could read the first 1-2 of them and decide I hate it. So that sort of is a big mark against spending the rather serious amount of money sight unseen.

This may see pedantic or quibbling over unimportant things, after all isn't it whats inside the book that matters the most? Are these real leather? Well they're real Dickens. Thats all true. But I enjoy the aesthetic qualities of a shelf with matching, equally sized books on it. If you have them jumping from one size to another, it reminds me of nothing less than a mouth full of broken teeth. As if some one walked up and punched my shelves.

The only way it seems for me to get the entire series, from both authors, in a single unifed format is to break down and buy the Mass Market editions. Which while yes they take up considerably less room.. just aren't as nice to look at. I've had to do that with quite a few series, but not out of choice. Simply because they aren't available in any other formats.

This is going to require some serious consideration, as once I've embarked on purchasing them in one format I have to stick with it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Clarkesworld, Epic Fantasy part 2

Just saw they had posted up part two, and thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes.

These especially get the heart of my problems with George R.R. Martin. Once again, Ed Greenwood really has a lot in common with my feelings. He seems to have an interesting perspective since he more or less wrote novels in order to get paid. It's also interesting to see how a lot of the authors who have answers to these questions I don't particularly care for, also tend to be authors I don't particularly care for.

This probably says more about me than it does about any of these individual quotes. but I've never been secretive about my opinions when dealing with any of these subjects.

After reading these two battery interviews, it really makes me want to give the Erikson/Esslemont duo a try. I may not wind up liking their books, but both of them seem to have their heads bolted on right. But again, the one person who really seems to have the closest opinions to me is probably Ed Greenwood. he's an author i've never read, though I've read maybe 12 forgotten realms books by other authors. I'll have to see if I have any of his and give them a try sometime.

Steven Erikson:
Every death needs to mean something—it's the one conceit authors possess: the one real fantasy in this whole mess. So it needs to be handled respectfully. When it isn't: well, we all succumb to cowardice every now and then; and if not cowardice, then laziness. If those excuses don't fit well, there's always senseless stupidity, which afflicts authors on occasion as much as it does anyone.

The risk with killing off main characters is, if you do it too often and too capriciously, you risk your audience deciding it's not worth emotionally engaging with any of your characters, and then you're screwed.

Peter Orullian: We've all likely read a novel where the death of a character felt like the writer was proving to us that he's got the chutzpah to do it, but the death didn't make sense in the story. I'm not talking about senseless death. It's rather like the rash of fantasy writers who admire George Martin for being able and willing to kill his characters, and so decide they're going to do the same. And that not killing a character becomes a fantasy cliché.

Truth is, trope-avoidance is the new trope. Very transparent.

Patrick Rothfuss: [Kill a character?] On page 603 of your third book.

I kid, I kid....

Never, really. A lot of people think that you need to kill someone to raise the stakes in a book, or build dramatic tension, or prove to your reader that the world is truly dangerous and that seriously bad things can happen.

Ed Greenwood: Writers should resist the temptation to kill characters on a whim or as the easiest way to write themselves out of a situation, but should always bear in mind that to some extent, writing is a service industry: your readers' needs should be paramount. Arthur Conan Doyle discovered the cost of eliminating Sherlock Holmes the hard way, and had to bring him back. I am not saying every beloved character should lead a charmed life, improbably surviving every sticky situation (because the character is thereby lessened in the reader's eyes, and the dramatic tension of peril in your storytelling lost, as the reader becomes aware that any peril isn't real).

Steven Erikson: If there's going to be tears, better have a few laughs along the way. Besides, it's almost impossible to sustain the heavy stuff without ending up wanting to top yourself, or sinking into mawkish melodrama. A novel's like a drug; sometimes for everyone's sake you got to cut it with something innocuous.

Terry Brooks: Violence is a key element in epic fantasy. Wars and battles are almost always involved. Conflict is the bedrock of sagas and of the changes brought about by life. I do have some self-imposed rules. I am not a fan of graphic violence, so I steer clear of elaborating on blood and gore and body parts and the like. I'm not saying it doesn't work; it just doesn't work for me. My emphasis is on issues. How do hard choices impact us? What is the nature of our responsibility to others? How do we balance right and wrong when it isn't always clear which is which? Violence is a part of resolving those dilemmas, but I don't want it to be the focal point.

Ian C. Esslemont: Violence in fantasy, epic or not, gets more attention than it deserves. If it is justified by the needs of the story then it has earned its presence. If not, then it is just shallow gore or juvenile pandering. It must serve the thematics, not just splash prettily.

Friday, July 29, 2011

George Lucas's Red Tails.

Found this trailer at Yahoo.

I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie. I hope it heralds the return of George Lucas to the quality and love he injected into the first Star Wars.

Terrance Howard looks like hes going to be bringing his A-Game to this. It's also nice to see Cuba Gooding Junior back.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Middle Earth and Mangroves.

I don't really care much for the Guardian Newspaper of Great Britain. I want to make that explicitly clear. I dislike them because of their usual insistence on being snobs (much like any newspaper) when it comes to books and films. So I was rather surprised when I found this rather glowing recommendation for The Lord of the Rings.

Generally when one reads a Guardian review of a Fantasy novel.. or especially of one written by such an unrepentant "Luddite" "Monarchist" "Religiously slanted" not to mention "Racist" author as Tolkien.. it's generally to point out how He (It's always a he) fails to live up to their glorious multicultural ideals, and thus why no one should bother reading them.. After all, they tend to inform you, there is a book about a quadruple amputee transvestite jihadist that you should read instead.

Occasionally however they do produce, or rather publish a writer who isn't quite so pretentious. This is one of them. It's a short tale, but it's interesting to see Tolkiens words framed around the herbology of Lagos. The mangrove swamps and lillies and bullfrogs.

It further illustrates just how massive a treasure trove Africa is as a setting for Fantasy. Not the old "white man interacting with savages" style.. but the type of Fantasy that Charles Saunders writes. Maybe one of these days we will get a fantasy author who takes full advantage of the abundance of magical resources at their disposal, and who is also lucky enough to get popular for doing it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dropping a series.

I'm sure we have all done it. You get to the point where you just cannot take the author's work anymore. Or, you simply cannot take the author any more. You have two choices basically when this happens, you can skim, flip forward, hope things get better, get back on track, get back to what you originally saw in the work to begin with.

Or you can simply drop the series. Abandoned halfway or sometimes even less. It's a very extreme measure, but I've found recently I've been doing it more and more.

Last year, I only abandoned one book without finishing it. Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself. I managed to soldier through Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth, but not without skimming huge chunks of the last four books. By the time I got to book 8 of that, I was forcing myself to read 50 pages a day of them. I had it marked on the calender when I'd finally finish that last page of Confessor. But I only abandoned one book.

This year I've already abandoned one book, without finishing it, David Foster Wallace's The Infinite Jest. Like Gravities Rainbow, better men than me have abandoned that. Worse, I've abandoned two series. Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin series, and Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars series. Both for the same reason. To much talk Wheeljack, Not enough action.

After the rollicking start that O'Brian's series had, and its eventual and meteoric pickup of steam leading up to the war of 1812 I read each volume faster than the last. Once the war was joined however, the author slammed on the brakes. They became distended plays dealing chiefly with manners. It suddenly took an entire book to say what he previously said in a chapter. He also began to subtly change the characters alignment. Maturin went from being Chaotic good, to lawful Evil. Aubrey went from Knight in shining armour to indifferent and apathetic. They quit being characters I liked. But they are living still, and its possible that some where buried in the depths of books 11-20 that their previous selves are waiting to be re-discovered by me. That may or may not happen. I rarely give a series a second chance.

Kate Elliot's series on the other hand, I never liked. I read it hoping for another series similar to Tad Williams. Her name is frequently mentioned as being "The Other author inspired by Tad Williams" The chief one being George R.R. Martin. The problem is, nothing ever happens in Kate Elliot's books. Originally intended to be a trilogy, the Crown of Stars grew to encompass 7 volumes. It's a shame too. It probably would have been a fantastic trilogy. Instead she bogs it down with countless diversions into the social standings of various underclasses in her pseudo invented world. I say Pseudo, because all she really seems to have done is replaced any instance of a Male name in history with a Feminine name. Constantine becomes Constance, Alexander becomes Alexandria, on and on, ad nauseum. I know too much about history, and that slap dash approach just kept forcing me out of the novels. The turgid prose, and constant discussions on arranged marriage and political machinations did it better though. In the first 700 page book, they treat two major battles with less than a chapter a piece. The main characters daily chores to her master, take up nearly 10 times as much page space. In other words, the books are boring.

In the past, the one series that I've abandoned that seems to irk the most Fantasy fans, is George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. I likely could have abandoned dozen's of other series, even the Ur-Fantasy The Lord of the Rings, and escaped without so much as the batting of an eyelash. Not Martin however. I've apparently become a heretic because of my refusal to acknowledge his supposed greatness. I tried though. I read the first one, shortly following the release of the fourth volume. Numerous people convinced me I needed to read this series desperately. I hesitated, I avoid long series that aren't finished. Thats the result of the interminable waiting for the later Wheel of Time volumes. I foolishly bought all four hardcovers for nearly full cover price, sight un seen. I nearly quit reading the first book, following Bran getting pushed out the window.

You see, had the series been a typical Fantasy series. Bran would have been the main character. The entire series would have followed him. He would have been the Frodo or Rand Al' Thor or Richard Rahl or Paul Atredies of the song of ice and fire. Martin chose not to do that. It made me angry. But with a lot of encouragement I stuck to it. By the time I finished the volume, I realized I should have gone with my gut and quit it hundreds of pages earlier. I vowed not to read any more of the series until I knew the ending. Any author who kills his main character (Surely, if not Bran then Ned must be?!) cannot be trusted.

Thats what I typically want from an author. I don't want challenge. I want sameness. I want to be able to read each and every volume knowing the main character will survive largely unscathed. Life is uncertain, and certainty is a fantasy only enjoyed by the wealthy. I can catch glimpses of it in novels, or so I had become accustomed to through a long diet of what would typically be termed "Mediocre" fantasy.

This decision tends to be met with dismissal, pleading, anger, or confusion. They just cannot understand why I wouldn't want to read such fantastic books. Maybe they are. I'll likely never find out. Since its highly unlikely that Martin will be able to end his series on a note with which I don't object.

A Specific and recent example follows:
Anonymous said...

Rex, I believe I speak for the many fans of the book, when I say that you made a really, truly, tragic, and stupid decision. I really urge you to pick the book back up- the whole series is excellent.

To which I responded:
I already feel as if I wasted my time on the first book. What's tragic would be wasting more time getting invested in more characters that I already know Martin kills off. What was stupid, was buying into the hype and wasting 120$ buying all four hardcovers, new, because people just kept on about them.

Another Quote I just came across, From Black Gate
Martin invites us again and again to withhold trust from the things we’re told, but again and again reveals to us how much we’ve accepted without realising it. It’s a nice trick; and it surprises me that he’s consistently able to pull it off without alienating his readership. I think the secret is that he plays fair with the readers. He puts his clues out there in the descriptions he gives; he shows us, by revealing a few minor mysteries, how his riddles are constructed. And if, given that, you’re still surprised by what happens — it’s hardly his fault, is it? Words are wind.

It's most assuredly his fault. He's the author. Any problems the reader has with his work, ultimately are the fault of him who built it. Just as surely as a defective car tire is the fault of the manufacturer. I don't enjoy being toyed with. I was alienated.

Don't lose heart however, Martin is in good company. I made up my mind to jettison the Dune series when Paul walked into the desert. Beyond finishing the second half of the book, being made up of Children of Dune, I have yet to venture back to Arakkis. Martin already has my money, so what does it matter if I don't venture back to Westeros?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

for all 6 of you who still mail letters.

The USPS is going to be issuing this Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp next year, featuring Tarzan.

It's a pretty attractive stamp, but I'd have liked them to have done a number of different characters. With John Carter soon to be released it might have increased sales.

Though Ultimately what I would love to have is a set of "American Pulp Icons".. I'd love to get a stamp of ol' Two Gun with a pouncing Conan super imposed in front of him.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The great Cimmerian Egg Race.

At first I was like:

But then I was like:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Borders, All remaining stores to close.

According to Yahoo Finance, All remaining Borders stores to begin closing, some as soon as Friday.

I have to say that this saddens me. I do try and buy books from both Brick & Mortar stores, as well as Local Stores. I don't read E-Books, I rarely check books out of the library. The only reason I turn to Amazon is purchase stuff that is out of print, or CD's/Movie's since nearly every dedicated store to them is gone, many before Amazon ever got as ubiquitous as it has become.

I enjoy book stores. I like the dingy second hand ones equally to the well let mega store. I don't enjoy book stores that don't seem to ever update their stock. Something I feel Borders, more than Barnes & Noble is guilty of. Borders tried repeatedly to diversify their stores. Adding in Toy Sections and Stationary. Gift Wrap Stations. All this did was subtract space from what they are. A Book shop. It's the same thing Books-A-Million did in the late 90's.

I remember when my local Borders first opened. It's not really "local" to me in the proper sense of the word.. in the Geographic sense of scale it is. I can get to two borders stores in less than 45 minutes travel, 4 in less than an hour. I can't walk to them, but I'm luckier than many. It was the place to hang out for us nerds and geeks in school. Walden Books in the mall was too tiny. Books-A-Million didn't have a cafe. There was no Barnes&Nobel. It was at least a bi-weekly ritual.

I appreciate the willingness of the big box bookstores to allow people do loiter. Sometimes for the entire business day, without ever requiring you to buy anything. Sure, Libraries will do this.. but you can't have a conversation in a library. Its against the rules. I can't tell you how many times I've conversed with people in book stores. The English Second Language Teacher on vacation from Taiwan, looking for a good long read for the plane ride back. Helping out the countless numbers of people who have mechanically been steered towards Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind by the hapless store employees.

Speaking of, Borders has nearly 11,000 employees. They will soon be added to the nations seemingly intractable unemployment problem. So really its them I feel the worst for. As some one who will soon be out of a job, I sympathize entirely. 6-7 years ago when I worked full time I spent hundreds of dollars a year on new books. As my finances have deteriorated I've bought more and more books second hand. It's like ripples on a pond. I wasn't the pebble, but I got caught up in its wake and thus played my unwilling part in adding to the violence of the distortion.

Caress of Steel.

I know this song came out a bit before the novel.. but every time I listen to them I wonder if Terry brooks had this album. Though it's probably also a bias on my part.. After all I some what consider RUSH's (a band I like btw)early albums to be pastiches of Led Zeppelin. So it makes them thematically similar to Brooks being a Tolkien Pastiche.

None of this is to say that some how the Band is at fault for the Sword of Shannara existing.. but I can't help but connect the three men of Willowdale to Shea, Flick, Menion Leah and Shady Vale.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


"Just once, I'd like to have encountered real literature."
"Is it literature?"
"I Think So."
"So whats literature?"
"Literature is where you read a book and feel you could put a little mark under every line because it's true."
"Because it's true? I don't get it."
"When every sentence is simply right. When it reveals something about the world. And Life. When every phrase gives you the feeling that you would have behaved or thought exactly the same way the character in the book does. That's when its Literature."

Crazy - Benjamin Lebert

Personally I find that to be a pretty good description. It casts no aspersions to genre or type or setting. It simply makes a statement. It's a statement I can agree with. It goes a long way to explaining why, for the most part, I don't read a lot of books that would be considered "Literary". If I can't identify with the protagonists.. The book doesn't touch me. It's the same reason I have difficulties with books that feature Anti-Heros or even Villains as their protagonists. If you make the character too murky, too ill feeling.. I can't identify with them. I can't feel for them or care what happens to them. I lose interest.

I've read through a lot of abysmally bad books because I like the characters. I've given up on a lot of really good books because I don't like the characters. Benjamin Lebert's 'Crazy' was both a good book and had good characters. It was a short novel, barely 200 pages, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. This section though was what really stuck out in my mind. Two teenage boys sitting on a train discussing Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. I knew it was exactly how I would have behaved, exactly how I would have thought. Enough so that, while I didn't deface my book by underlining the words.. I copied them here to share.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter, Movie Watch 2011. part 2

well that was.. Something.

Early on Thursday morning I woke up. Something about #5 just kept bugging me. Gnawing at my subconscious as I slept. I walked over to the book case and extricated the offending volume. I checked the page count. just shy of 900 pages. A truly huge tome. By far the biggest in the series. Eclipsing the first, by over 600 pages. With this knowledge I knew I was right in my ill feelings. I picked up the DVD cases and had it full confirmed. Harry potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a run time of 142 minutes. For a 300 page book. Harry potter and the Order of the Phoenix has a run time of 139 minutes.. for a 900 page book. This is ridiculous in the extreme, Deathly Hallows is 200 pages shorter than Order of the Phoenix yet it got a 5 hour long film in two parts. To make matters worse, They kept nearly all the annoying and bothersome bits of #5. They left out stuff that would haunt #'s 6 and 7 and require backtracking, or simply hoping no one asked about those Yucatan sized plot holes left by their excision. One can only hope that there will be an eventual extended cut which will include a number of these very important elements.

Starting about 11am I watched Harry potter and the Halfblood Prince. What an improvement this was. It was just as complex as the the book, finally began tying up loose ends and making reference to objects found back as far as Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets. Most importantly, it moved the story forward. It was an all around good film, except it has no ability to stand alone, something that the preceding 5 did have in some regard. It's too complicated to really summarize, or would spoil to much of the payoff for you watching the previous 13 hours of movies.

Skipping ahead to about 6pm. I left the house to get supper, then headed over to the theatre. I had tickets to see both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back to back starting at 9pm. 6 hours of potter mania where waiting for me a scant 16 miles down the road. I was not unimpressed.

Many people turned out in costume. Something I've not seen since The Return of the King came out. The demographics of the theatre were the most surprising. 6 out of 10 potterheads present were female. Had I known that, I probably wouldn't have put off reading/watching them so long. C'est la vie.

Movie #7.1 and .2 deftly continued the trend started with #6. Really the three movies could constitute a narrative build similar to a micro trilogy to cap off a series of standalone films. They did suffer slightly from the material left out of #5. Even to me, only an extremely casual reader of the series was able to point out a number of instances. Most of them revolved around the other orphaned boy residing at Hogwarts, Nevil Longbottom. The other thing the films did was try and soften the edges of Albus Dumbledore. To make him less of a Machiavellian schemer than he was in the last books.

The theatre cried over an animated elf, Cheered when Tim Burton's main squeeze bit the dust courtesy of Mrs. Weasley and booed audibly whenever Ralph Fiennes was on screen. The special effects were good enough to have me empathize with a particularly wretched dragon forced to work security in the depths of the goblin bank Gringotts. My dislike of David Thewlis, which stemmed from his character in Dragonheart, has been forgotten. But I'll say that even at a 5 hour run time, many many characters simply got fly-bys or were in group shots. I really can't say anymore than that without potentially spoiling the end. However I will say, I did find myself desperately wishing for Conan to run in from off screen and kill Nagini the giant snake.. after it having escaped death for the 4th or 5th time.

It was a good night. Consider me a Convert. But I'm glad I'm a convert on my own terms. Rather than having jumped on the bandwagon earlier, I chose to ignore it and let it pass me by. Only going to its last performance, slipping out before the final curtain call.


I forgot to add something else. It struck me as humorous that Ralph Feinnes plays Voldemort, while his brother Joseph portrays Merlin in the Starz show Camelot.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter, Movie Watch 2011. part 1

In the last few days I've watched films 1-5 for the first time. Just as I earlier this year read the book series for the first time.

When I read the books back in the spring, I mostly enjoyed the earlier books in the series. I found them to be relatively light pseudo fantasy fare in the vein of Roald Dhal's whole body of work. They really do remind me of James and the Giant Peach and Big Friendly Giant and all those sorts of things.. Having Flying Cars reminded me a lot of Ian Flemming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They are frightening, slightly demented.. but none of the villains approach the level of evil that the Child Snatcher or The Witches possess.

But starting with Book #4, this began to change. Almost from the very beginning when the death eaters attack the Quidditch World Cup. This is telling the reader/viewer that, the world is changing. Grab a helmet.

My feelings are that for the most part, I enjoy the films more than the books. Up to a point. That point is book/film #5. The Order of the Phoenix was by no means my least favorite of the series. That would be giving it too much credit. No I abjectly Hate, Order of the Phoenix. The book/films entire purpose is about the attempts of some individuals to reset the status quo. to put the genie that is Voldemort back into his bottle.

It forces characters to conform into molds they wouldn't conform too in any real life setting I've ever encountered. The character who really shines in the film is probably Alan Rickman's Snape. Who for the first time is really given a big part and we get a glimpse into his childhood and why he hates James Potter so much. On the other hand, the wonderful Gary Oldman is yet again wasted entirely in the 5th film. Having shown up in #3, and disappeared entirely during #4... it was nice having him back. But they just didn't do enough with the Black Residence or Kreacher or Sirius.. or frankly any of the Order of the Phoenix members. Choosing to almost entirely focus on the school.

It comes across in both places as excruciatingly stupid. It makes the characters themselves buffoons for drinking that koolaid. It denies us any knockdown dragout wizard magic fights for nearly 500 pages, or just about 2.5 hours. Along with that it at best plays down, and at worst outright ignores the momentous impact of what happened at the end of the last book/film. There is a distinct lack of feeling that, Though the world is different now. It's best if you keep calm and carry on. It's a seachange in the cultural undercurrent.

It didn't help that I really hate seeing Seigfried Farnon (Robert Hardy, who is an Expert at the Longbow in real life, having written two books about Agincourt and the Long Bow.. which makes him pretty bad ass in my book)as the worthless Cornelius Fudge either, or that I hate Helena Bonham Carter in just about anything she is in. It makes it difficult for me to even pay attention.

Tonight I'm going to watch #6, and tomorrow I'll be watching #7 & 8 in theatres.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sounds of Melnibone.

Blue Oyster Cult - Black Blade

Hawkwind - Elric: The Enchanter

Jethro Tull - Broadsword

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In which I attempt to explain String Theory to the drunks at Waffle House.

Having been some what miffed earlier in the day by the shockingly poor judgement of 12 of my countrymen.. I decided that I'd take a nap. That left me waking up rather late in the evening, and since I didn't feel like cooking I decided to go out to eat. Problem is, in this part of the world.. when one wants to eat after about 9pm, there is only one place to go. Waffle House.

I'm not proud of my choice of dining establishment. They generally serve overly greasy food that is best consumed after you have had one two many. At least that seems to be the popular conception. This one happens to be near a major truck stop as well, so you get a lot of drunk truck drivers coming in after sitting in their sleepers polishing off a 6-pack. Sometimes this results in fights in the parking lot.. and police involvement.. it can be highly entertaining. Most of the time though it just results in a lot of really odd conversation.

I've never had the kind of Bill Hicks experience when at a Waffle House.. but I've had plenty of run-ins with drunks. Tonight was one of those nights. As I'm, sitting there it begins to rain. Well I've finished my food and really am desperate to get out of the restaurant before any of the drunks start talking to me. But it's coming down pretty hard. The waitress comes over, and asks if there is anything she can get me.. I said no, only if you can stop the rain. She followed up with a questioning look and said something like "I'll think really hard on it".

What followed was one drunk shouting "Yeah just need to get the right vibes goin!" another shouted out "Like String Theory!" This lead to a screeching halt.. I swear some one dropped a plate and a record skipped. "Whats that?" the first drunk said.. "I don't know, I just heard it on TV" said the second.. then they both turned to me.. I have no idea why, perhaps, tying back in with the bill hicks reference, because I was reading a book.. and asked me did I know what string theory was.

Well my grasp of quantum physics and deep math is how shall I say.. scanty at best.. but I dug down into the darkest reaches of my brain trying to remember everything I'd ever heard in any Micho Kaku documentaries I'd seen.. I proceeded to ramble on about quantum entanglements and wormholes and quarks and neutrinos and all sorts of groovy stuff. I did it in a good Arlo Guthrie voice too. Eventually, whether they had heard enough or simply felt they now understood what string theory was.. they both sort of wandered outside to smoke a cigarette.

Thing is, I have no idea what I was talking about.. but they have no idea I had no idea what I was talking about. It's mutually assured ignorance when it comes to this sort of thing.

All I can take away from it is.. thank goodness I'm not drunk at the waffle house, asking stupid questions to complete strangers. I'm also forever indebted to those two drunks for giving me something to write about that I at least, find highly amusing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Who needs Nihilistic Fantasy

When you have the Florida Judicial system backed up by the idiotic jurors of America.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Throwing in the towel.

With today's completion of "The Far Side of the World" I've decided to cease reading the Aubrey & Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian. It's not that they are badly written, or that the characters annoy me. It's simply that, apart from their sporadic humour.. the books are extremely boring.

I've seen them described as Emily Dickinson with Boats.. I can't really comment on that as I've never read( and am extremely unlikely to read) Emily Dickinson. But they do seem to spend an awful lot of time on inane trivialities. Sometimes that works out well, it provides opportunity for cunning word play that often feeds into the humourus bent the novels have. When that hits, you get grand episodes such as a drunken three-toed sloth, or the Captain's hat being eaten by a pack of Wombats.. or who can forget the disgruntled honeybees which were smuggled on board. But as the series went on, these episodes became less and less common. Mainly being replaced by more and more nattering.

I enjoyed the first 8 books quite a lot. 9 and 10 however where different animals. The author himself admits that he's begun to have to play loose with time in order to keep writing adventures for his characters. Maybe thats why I didn't like it? I don't think its that its set during the war of 1812, and thus the Americans tend to be the foils for the heroic royal navy. Several earlier ones had Americans involved and they didn't turn me off the way that 9 and 10 did. Something about the tone of the books just changed with the move to the double digits.

I'll admit also that O'Brian's characters live and let live attitude to all manner of immorality has grown especially irksome. I'd rather they cast judgements I don't agree with, than simply abstain. It's a very modern way of looking at the world these characters in habit. It's one thing for certain things that I find objectionable to be considered no big deal in the 1700's.. but the characters simply refrain from coming out against anything. Well, except the French and Women on ships anyway...

The chances of me picking up #11 are not that great, but who's to say it won't happen. For the moment though I'm left with 10 unread books that I've got very little interest in reading. But at the same time, because I've not read them, and they are expensive.. I don't really want to trade them in.

I'm still left scratching my head as to why Penguin thought they needed to liken Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series to O'Brien. The two authors really couldn't be more dissimilar. The frivolities engaged in by Aubrey and Maturin and especially by those higher ranked than they are astounding. Things that quite simply only the villains of the Sharpe's books engage in. This is not to say that Aubrey is not an upstanding guy.. but I'd not turn my back on Maturin for a million Dollars. He's a stone cold killer who has immensely conflicting and complicated loyalties.

The closest equivalent to him in Cornwell's work would be Major Ducot.. the French intelligence officer. I'd very much like to see the two of these characters meet on a small stone table on a hillside. Two wine cups, and a bottle sitting on the table. Iocain powder in one, neither or perhaps both cups. Of course to really make the movie work.. you'd need Ingmar Bergman to direct it. It would probably sweep the Oscars. Oh, and both parts would be played by the same actor.. since the two characters seem to be the spitting image of each other.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Clarkesworld: Epically discussing, Epic Fantasy.

Found this really interesting article thanks to Sci-Fi Signal.

One of the writers from Clarkesworld has collected and collated interviews from some of the Fantasy Genres biggest, as well as from many mid-list and up and coming authors. It's only part one, but seems to be making fairly good progress in an attempt to adequately define the sub genre, epic fantasy, at least in broad terms. How exactly it differentiates from Sword and Sorcery, seems to be boil down to Scope. It also helps me to understand why some of the Conan Pastiches just don't feel like Conan stories (Despite them frequently being barely literate constructions).. is that they are infusing Epic Fantasy sensibilities into the Sword and Sorcery Hyborian world.

The Interviews also are nice in a way because several of these authors, far more effectively encapsulate a very close proximity of my feelings. They also do it in a much more concise and well worded way.

My esteem for Peter O'Rullian continues to increase with every interview I've read.. though I've yet to actually read his book.

Peter O'Rullian:For me, some things must exist for a fantasy novel to feel epic. And at least some of them would apply to epic storytelling in any genre. I think first of the stakes in the novel, which ties closely to the scale of the story. If my stakes are missing my morning cartoons because I've got to weed the garden, it ain't epic. Failure of my character to answer the story question has to have consequences that impact others besides the character himself. Could be, too, that my character fails. But there has to be risk on a broad scale. Yes, it's compelling to read about the risk of a single life, but for me that's a different genre of fantasy.

Peter O'Rullian: And related to the notion of stakes/scale, there needs to be an adversary. It needn't be the devil. But it's got to be more than a robber. I'm glad to have the motivations of this antagonist explained; I'm even glad to be made to sympathize (after a fashion) with the "bad guy." But at some point in epic storytelling there needs to be real conflict (which then plays against this idea of high stakes), and if there's no clear hero, however flawed, then I'm not invested in the outcome. Maudlin as it may sound, I want triumph of some resonant kind. I want to be thrilled. If I don't care who wins, what's the point?

Bolded to emphasize the part I'm specifically agreeing with. I hate to beat a dead horse, but he just summed up exactly what my problem is with a lot of modern fantasy novels I've tried to read over the last 3 years or so. Ranging from Abercrombie to Martin, even old standbys such as Moorcock. I frequently find their "heros" to be just as odious as their "Villains" if you can even define their characters in those terms. The base, 6th grade writing class "Antagonist" and "Protagonist" monikers seem to fit more simply because they don't carry any emotional baggage with them like the terms Hero and Villain do.

This article ties into another book I'm reading right now, "Lies my Teacher Told me", which features the basic thesis that American History textbooks remove the foibles and flaws of important historical personae in order to purify them into Heroes. This is done in order to give people ideals to live up too, But all it does is remake real people into unattainable paragons. They never fail, therefore we cannot help but fail in our quest to be more like them. I think thats a perfectly valid flaw in a lot of Epic Fantasies, But doesn't excuse the sudden and violent pendulum swing in the other direction. In reality, we should simply be going for more balanced characters, even though by pure emotional need some should balance slight more towards one or the other pole. They need not be violently magnetized to one or the other unless the story needs them to be. Nor do they have to fall for every weakness they possess. Galadrial didn't take the ring, even when it was offered to her. It helped her character in the context of the Lord of the Rings, but does it atone for her actions during the first age?

Boromir succumbed to the temptation of the ring, but after its influence was gone gave his life to protect those who couldn't protect themselves. Just because you have flaws dosen't mean you are irredeemable. It's the resistance to redemption, or rather resistance to realizing you have flaws, that is the root of the trouble.

As a specific example from the first chapter of "lies", it discusses Woodrow Wilsons heinous personal beliefs. Beliefs he never recanted. But that dosen't change the fact that he also passed a lot of important legislature which helped the United States become the great power it is today. But if he were a Fantasy character, I feel Martin would be better suited to write him than Brooks.

Further great quotations come from the likes of Ed Greenwood, summed up here.

Ed Greenwood: At the core of all good fiction, Epic Fantasy and otherwise, are the moral choices made by characters—characters the writer makes the reader care about. For good or bad, smart or foolish, these choices (Uriens in the movie Excalibur: "I saw what I saw. The boy drew the sword.") define the characters. They stand up for what they believe is right, or sacrifice themselves knowingly, or do "what needs to be done," and inspire readers. Scenes of heroic choices lift the hearts of readers, make them feel that there is good in the world, let them revel in moments of magnificence ("The boy stood up to the dragon! I saw it! I was there!"), and feel better for having done so.

No one wants to read a story of unrelieved gloom, wherein sordid characters the reader loathes or despises do nasty things to each other, there is no order nor moments of kindness or good triumphing in any way, and good doesn't win in the end. The happy, just ending is a cliché because it works, because readers want it and wait for it and feel somehow cheated if they don't get it (and very cheated if there's no glimmer of good or "rightness" at story-end, at all).

Elizabeth Bear: Beowulf and the dragon destroy each other: fantasy tells us he was right to have fought. I need stories that tell me it is right to keep fighting, when despair and capitulation are so easy.

I think current publishing trends some what disagree with Mr. Greenwood on what exactly readers want. It's clear from the sales push behind certain authors that the idea of unrelieved gloom and sordid characters doing nasty things to each other is popular. The question is why has it become so, now? As I said, its a truly fascinating article and I am very much looking forward to reading the next parts of it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Alrighty, so this is hopefully to be the last outing with helmer Michael Bay. You can sorta tell in the film. He wanted to go out with a bang. And he wanted to show up Christopher Nolan by trashing Chicago even worse than Nolan did in the Dark Knight. But really, Dark of the Moon shouldn't even be discussed in the same sentence as the Dark Knight.

It's not nearly as bad as Revenge of the Fallen. Not by half. On the other hand, its not half as good as 2007's Transformers. For one very important reason.

In 2007, when Transformers launched, and we were introduced to Optimus Prime and Bumblebee just a bit over the 1/3rd mark. You knew at least who they were. Their bodies were not the same, but their attitudes were. Bumblebee was the intensely brave, intensely loyal friend he was in both the Comic and the Cartoon, even though he didn't have his distinctive voice. Something I felt was a shame, as it would have been nice to hear Dan Gilvezan back just as much as it was to have Peter Cullen back as Prime.

Prime himself was, immediately recognizable as the same character who was quick to laugh and slow to anger. He would have done everything possible to protect his soldiers, everything that is except letting harm fall on the Humans. This is a character who chose death because he had accidentally killed computer game characters! Who let Megatron take a hostage and mortally wound him because he wanted to give the Decepticon Tyrant another chance.

Now, he just takes Faces, He's going to kill them all too. He butchers Decepticons like Hanibal lector butchers prison guards. Never once does prime mourn the lives hes taking. Apparently, Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.. unless they have red eyes.. then its butt kicking time.

Ok sure, in his defense, in the Films the Decepticons are almost unanimously shown as little more than mechanical beasts. Starscream and Megatron are basically the only ones who have any personality at all. This is something that actually improved in Revenge of the Fallen, and continued into Dark of the Moon. While the characters themselves were more correct in the first film, some of them have gotten far more dialog in the sequels.

Speaking of Megatron.. I feel his inclusion in this movie was more or less pointless. He didn't do anything except allegedly shoot Elephants in a scene that got cut out, and then get killed brutally by Optimus in the climax of the film. I feel it would have been far better to have scrapped him entirely, and given his dialog and screen time to Shockwave. An endlessly intriguing character who, they got my hopes up by Casting David Warner to voice in the Video Game.. I'd have bought 10 tickets if I got a conversation between Shockwave/Warner and Sentinel Prime/Nimoy.. it would have been like Star Trek VI all over again. Awesome. In other words.

Nimoy was the real standout of the film. His character was complex, but ultimately should have simply been Galvatron. I couldn't help but think of Galvatron every time Sentinal Prime spoke. That's how deeply Nimoy's portrayal of the upgraded Megatron was on me as a child. Even when I listen to Spock I think of Galvatron.

The Set pieces ranged from fantastic to bugf*ck insane. When I said they trashed Chicago I was not even remotely joking. Though they never really gave a reason why the Decepticons planned to take over Chicago.. It just happened.

The really unique thing though is that this is the first time that the plot was more or less copied from the Cartoon. Or rather, several episodes. It shared elements of The Ultimate Doom and of Megatron's Master Plan. But ultimately the Cartoons were far more fulfilling because both times they showcased complexity of many of the characters.

Oh well, I'd still rank this as the 2nd best in the series..