Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Warded Man, I feel as If I've fallen for it again.

So, after reading and reading how great this book was.. ( I know ).. I decided to buy it.. and I'm about 10 pages in and am already getting the sneaking suspicion I'm not going to like it.

This despite the fact that it's got a cover blurb by Terry Brooks.. an Author I generally like.. because he writes books that are just about in my comfort zone..

I generally stay away from any books which have "new" author cover blurbs.. In other words I tend to trust people like R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist, Tad Williams and Glen Cook's blurbs. I generally figure.. they all write books that I more or less like so this book should be similar.. Its not always the case but is a pretty good indicator. But a "New" Author, such as Patrick Rothfuss.. I have a difficult time caring if he likes a book or not because I don't know anything about his (1) book. And because of his brevity in the field, I don't really associate him with the Fantasy Genre the same way as some of those others.

This behaviour in itself is strange since I know that these blurbs are not endorsements by these authors but are just cynical marketing.. but It obviously works as I fall for it every time. The problem is, some part of my brain actually then feels betrayed by these other authors when I don't like the book that I've just spent money on.

Back to the Warded Man though, I don't think I can put my finger on it exactly what it is about it I don't like. Thats leading me to worry that it might not be the books problem, but my problem. If some how I'm allowing my inherent distrust of all new authors override my ability to actually enjoy new authors. In other words, one new author pissed me off, therefore all new authors are crap, so they piss me off and then it just grows from there.

I've expressed before that I have difficulty pinning down exactly what it is I don't like about new Fantasy releases, Its rarely that I find the authors are poor authors.. usually more to do with the chosen subject matter. In discussing these 10 pages to a friend I made the comment that by 10 pages in the obvious main character should already be talking to the obvious main magical helper before beginning to set out on the quest. Then I realized how silly that sounded. Thats a trope, not a guarantee. But some how or another, whether from reading too many fantasy novels from the period which falls roughly between The Sword of the Shananra (1977) and The Eye of the World (1990) I've come to equate Good Fantasy with books that follow through with those tropes.

Maybe I just really really liked "The Lord of the Rings" and want to keep reading the Lord of the rings, but not re-reading the Lord of the Rings as that would be a tad eccentric to just re-read the one book 100 times in a year. Maybe thats the reason so many people are drawn to the really really long epic fantasies, it delays you having to find another group of characters (or Caricatures depending on whos writing it) to become invested in.

Maybe I'm yet again over thinking it and I'm simply the fantasy novel equivalent of the little old man shouting at those darned kids to get off his lawn.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Which is more Howardian, Barbarian or Destroyer?!

I've really really got to stop reading forums.. I'm not joking.

The people at are having a debate over which is more faithful to Robert E. Howard, Barbarian or Destroyer in the guise of a thread for "Worst Fantasy Films Ever".. It's not surprising so many posters don't understand Howard's writing though.. Judging by the normal sort of fare which they seem to enjoy, I guess maybe Howard just dosen't have enough minorities, non consensual sodomy, or socialist rhetoric for their tastes.. Maybe some one (I don't) who has an account, will see fit to hoist a shield against this nonsense?

Half their posts just make me wonder why any of them even like GRRM...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Things shared.

Today is the 100th Birthday of C.L. Moore, the brilliant woman who created Jireal of Joiry. I was born 98 years after her on the same day.

I find it funny how many writers that I love share the same birth month, with each other and with me. J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Clark Ashton Smith. I've referenced before that the month of January is named for the god Janus, the opener of doorways. And I feel its one of the odd quirks of the universe that these 4 individuals would all choose to be writers of Fantastic tales, that take the reader to unknown places, through doorways unopened and unexplored. The Sort of doorways that other, more sensible people would tell you to pass by, for your tale dosen't concern them.

But these individuals could and did open those doors, perhaps tremulous at first.. or with a sudden pull leaving you tumbling onto the mat. Either way, my own life would be a lot more dull without them. So I've got a great deal of gratitude towards them. I've not got the imagination or drive that they have, so I get to live vicariously through their efforts while reading the product of their efforts.

So Happy Birthday to J.R.R. Tolkien, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and C.L. Moore.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The pickings are a little slim.

With the holiday rush at work mostly subsided, and caught up after the Great "Let's all freak out over the snow and wreck our cars" of 2011. And as I generally do when I have the free time/money, I've been hitting up all the local Goodwill's looking for finds.

Generally following the Christmas season is a great time to do this.. and if I was looking for a tube-TV or a DVD player I'd have been in luck.. But everything else has been slim pickings indeed. The book sections at the stores are fairly denuded.. unless you are in the mood for some Harlequin paperbacks or college textbooks that none of the vultures (book re-sellers) can get money for.. you are pretty much out of Luck.

In years past, I could go in just about any goodwill and find at least 1 or 2 books or albums I wanted but didn't have, or didn't know I wanted at all.. but with these three trips over the last week I barely found anything at all. Certainly nothing worth noting. I'd thought I'd lucked up on a volume of Medieval Illuminations.. until I got the book home and realized some one had neatly sliced all the full page prints out. Highly depressing.

I'm hoping this isn't a portent of things to come, especially after how good the book sales were last year. I dunno, maybe my area is just denuded of people who have anything left to donate.. Maybe I need to widen my search area a bit.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fantasy and economics

Reading forums is a dangerous business, you step into the wrong thread and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling how high your blood pressure will spike.

The current topic is one "Fantasy and Economics" where in all of the forum attacks how Unrealistic The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, et al are for not endlessly discussing economics, but brushing aside the problems inherent in the Song of Ice and Fire.. but then it is a forum dedicated to fawning over how marvelous GRRM's Masterpeice is... *gag*

The important question isn't how the economies of these FANTASY worlds work, but Why is it important enough to question? Why does it matter how the Dwarves acquire their food? (though its explained in the Hobbit that they bought their food from the men of dale, and had no need to grow it themselves) It's another example of people not being able to shed modern ways of thinking about geopolitics, religion, race, gender etc. If your book set in a fictional pseudo-feudal construct dosen't match my 21st century mores.. then its clearly wrong!

I could understand it perhaps if your main character is a King's exchequer and uncovers a plot to secretly fund a shadow army to overthrow the barons or something similar.. a real Tom Clancy sort of Fantasy novel.. it could be filled with Tallies, divisions, and sums of all sorts.. so long as it was important to the plot..

However, If the issues of economics are not central to the plot or characters being developed in the story, who would want it? Examples such as I've made in the past about the ludicrous size of the D'haran armies are minor quibbles. I don't really care how they can maintain a force that large.. I'm well versed enough in how real armies function not to need Goodkind to explain it to me again. Just as I'm fairly well versed in the functions of the Feudal system not to need the bulk of Fantasy economics laid out bare for me. My contempt for that particular book series is that the very idea of having a massive army is counter to the authors own economic philosophy, not that he didn't explain how it worked.

If, and this is a stressed if, the economics of a specific fantasy book are based on something, for instance, womens undergarments, like the Xanth books.. then I could understand perhaps wanting a teensy weensy bit of clarification.. on the other hand it's so silly already that I don't really want the explanation.

I've really got to stop reading forum posts..

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fantasy and Reenactment

Just finished reading a thread on SFFworld, discussing a book series from an author I've not bothered to read because he dosen't write the sort of books I like. And obviously that position is unacceptable. Since the poor guy who started the thread, to say how he didn't like the series (which of course is wildly hailed amongst the blogosphere as being "Good") got jumped on by basically the entire forum trying to deride him for not likeing it. In other words, He's not to be aloud to have an opinion which is at odds with the group think of the forum.

It's no secret that I dislike the current trend in Fantasy. It's almost as if every author has decided they will up the misery and muck quotient and see who can make the nastiest world in which to force their characters to try and survive in. I'm sure it makes it a lot easier to come up with more believable incidents along the way in your plot.. certainly more believable than a random goblin attack or something.. but it sure dosen't make for an "entertaining" read.. at least not for me.

I don't read a lot of "Literature" I simply don't have enough hours in my life to be concerned with some fictional persons Mommy issues, or daddy issues, or erectile dysfunction or whatever it is that "Literature" is written about. I have my own problems, I have tooth ache and back ache and money troubles of my own. And I'm expected as part of a functioning society to care about the troubles of those around me as well. Modern humans are supposed to care about the troubles of others on the other side of globe, I do, but no more than anyone else.

I reject the idea that in order to be good, fiction has to be "Challenging" or "Make you think" when in reality what anyone who parrots those saws back at you means is "Makes you think like I do". You aren't supposed to read a book which is "Challenging" and think about it differently than them. And you certainly aren't supposed to dislike it. If you dislike it, then you are clearly too stupid to understand it. In other words, its dogmatic thinking. Everyone who dosen't like what I like and dosen't understand what I think I understand is an idiot. It's the same Emperor's New Clothes way of thinking which forces people to convince themselves into liking broad red brush strokes on white canvas #6.

Digression over, the point of this was that, in the thread in question. Some one made the comment "You wouldn't like living in the middle ages, Good, neither would I" and It made me think for a minute, surely the middle ages were a bleak period.. though modern research is beginning to cast doubt on the "Lovely muck over here" mindset. This of course is true. None of us alive today would want to live in the middle ages, so why do read books about pseudo middle age societies and not expect them to be just as brutal as the real middle ages were?

On the Society for Creative Anachronism's website they have a paragraph which, for me, explain the situation. Italics added by me.

You will frequently hear SCA participants describe the SCA as recreating the Middle Ages "as they ought to have been." In some ways this is true – we choose to use indoor plumbing, heated halls, and sewing machines. In the dead of winter we have more to eat than King's venison, salt pork and dried tubers. However, a better description is that we selectively recreate the culture, choosing elements of the culture that interest and attract us.

The process of picking and choosing which elements to include, is of course one of the greatest aspects of writing fiction. You can choose to exclude something which rankles your modern sensibilities and ostensibly those of your readers as well. You needn't purposefully include things which you find objectionable if you don't want too. Maybe modern readers really do want all the death and rape and mayhem and destruction. Maybe they do want all the muck and disease and rampaging anti-heroes.. I dunno.. I can't answer for them. Obviously some one wants them.. since there seem to be a lot of them. That or the publishing industry is spending too much time reading blogs and is thus becoming convinced this is what people want because it's what the group-mind of the blogosphere says is good.. thus creating a rather obnoxious loop and allowing some seriously deranged, cynical and nihilistic authors to get published..

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Big Blu Ray release for the year.

The Extended cuts of Peter Jackson's Adaption of the Lord of the Rings will be making their way to Blu Ray later this year hot on the heals of Star Wars. This makes obvious sense in order to keep the brand awareness for the run up to the first Hobbit movie coming out hopefully December of 2012.

I however am not terribly enthusiastic about it. I've already got the extended Editions on DVD, and the early information suggests that the blu rays will simply be higher definition transfers of those original Extended edition with no additional material.. be it extra scenes or supplementary material.. of which there exists at least 4 sets so far.. From the Theatrical 2 disc sets, 4 disc extended cuts, 2 disc extended cuts, and Theatrical blu ray set.. thats a lot of supplementary material that requires a lot of extra helpings in order to collect together.

The Rumoured "Ultimate Edition" box set, which presumably would contain all of this material is still just that.. Rumoured.. much like the enormous box set of the Howard Shore scores.. which was supposed to be released 2 years ago but has not yet surfaced.. I think I can be patient however.

It's a reasonable certainty that there are at least a few more scenes finished, mainly from Fellowship and from the Two Towers.. and these are scenes which explain why characters appearances change from one scene to another. The disheveled appearance of Legolas on the platform in Lorien in obverse of his relative cleanliness upon leaving Moria is explained by a running battle which they barely survive only because of Haldir's intervention. And another is an extended version of the "Orc Count" after Helm's Deep. You can see some stills from both of these, and indeed scenarios for replaying them in Games Workshop's rulebooks for the miniatures games that they released for those two movies.

I'd love to see these two scenes added into the film, they are scenes which make sense and would add to the overall experience.. certainly more so than a drinking contest with dwarven farting or pot jokes courtesy of Cheech Merry and Pippin Chong. But what I would really want, and would have to have, in order for it to be considered an Ultimate edition by me.. would be a completely new edit of the 3 films, into one multi-disc film.. And all of the supplementary material from all of the difference versions... thats what it would really take to get me to rebuy the movies for a 3rd time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Pacific

Got this DVD set for the holidays and over the last few nights I've watched through it. I don't have HBO so I'd not seen any of it previously, but bought it based solely on it being produced by the same team who produced Band of Brothers. I really really liked Band of Brothers when it came out. My relationship with the Pacific however is not as good.

I should probably take this time to own up to the fact that I really just don't find the Pacific theatre of World War II to be that interesting from a purely historical perspective. And having said that, it isn't because the stories of the men and women, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Civilians, etc who were involved aren't intriguing or worthy of being remembered. It's simply because they were fighting over small, inhospitable specks of land surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean. They were strategically important, but not particularly historically important. This bias of course followed me into the film, just as it followed me into Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Windtalkers, The Thin Red Line, and basically every film I've ever watched about the Pacific War.

I can tell you Ira Hayes' name only because Johnny Cash wrote a song about him.

The Landscape can't make the story, the people have to make the story. And unfortunately if, as the saying goes, War is Hell, then I really don't know what to call the Pacific fighting.. since Hell really isn't strong enough. The Brutality and doggedness of the soldiers on both sides, disease, filth, reckless loss of life. Flamethrowers alone move it well beyond "Hell" being fitting. Some of the scenes in The Pacific were disturbing even, and rightly so. I can't begin to be conceited enough to think I have even an inkling of what it was really like. And to be truthful, I don't want to.

So, while the scenery didn't do anything for me, monotonous vistas of tropical paradises turned into blood soaked cinders of pain and misery.. The pacing of the episodes was good, it never became overbearing the way films such as Black Hawk Down do, where by the time your finished watching you feel worn out. As if you have been through an ordeal. None of the episodes felt that way, until they got to Okinawa, which made all of the horrific scenes from the previous 8 episodes pale in comparison, but it felt like what it was, the last gasp of the war, where the Japanese would rather be destroyed than surrender.

The actors in this film, they did a great job. They made you care, and filled you with revulsion. Often the same man fulfilling both roles. But even with this, even with these actors giving it such a tremendous effort, I still found myself not feeling the same thing for these men as I did for those of Easy Company. You saw easy company men looting Hitler's flatware. But you didn't see Easy Company men cutting the gold teeth out of still living German casualties.

Thats the big thing about this, is that war dosen't just rend bodies, but as one of the main man's father remarks, it rips out their souls. And thats why I'm so glad that at the end of the film, Episode 10, had an entire episode dealing with these men moving on from their ordeal, showing that they were still human, and Humane, and would slowly recover what they had lost.

I'm probably not giving this Miniseries justice in my review, just as the Miniseries dosen't give the actual events the gravitas they deserve.. but everything has its limits. And while I cannot rank it as highly as I do Band of Brothers, I still give it a solid 7 out of 10, based entirely on the strength of the actors.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Star Wars on Blu-Ray

Its finally happening, a big monster of a box set with all 6 films and 30 hours of bonus materials.. is going to come out in September.

I've held off buying the films on DVD, I owned the original trilogy on Laser Disc and am rather ambivalent towards the prequels.. I don't dislike them as so many seem too, but I don't have to have them either.. And my favorite of the original 3 is Return of the Jedi.. I don't really care for Empire at all.. I say this because I want to go ahead and get all the Cheeto smeared T-Shirt wearing basement dwellers, aka about half of the internet, good and riled up for what I'm about to say next.

I hope Lucas Changes some more stuff, and I support him in his quixotic quest for perfection. It's his movie and he can do whatever he wants to do to it. And if you don't like it, don't watch it, but if you enjoy a really fine example of Space Opera.. then by all means, come on over and we will watch it on my 19" TV.

I may not like all the changes he makes, some of them, like Greedo shooting first, are asinine.. and some, like the musical number in Jabba's palace, are just pointless.. but some of them, for instance, beefing up the space battles.. really add to the scope of the films. I really hope they fix the Lightsabers..

In the past, blu-ray hasn't interested me much.. I didn't really think that it could improve on a lot of films.. and the idea of constantly having to update the firmware to watch new releases caused me some concern.. But I think Star Wars is a big enough deal to make me finally break down and buy the player.. I'd really had to fight temptation not to get one after 2009's Star Trek... As it had some fantastic visuals.. But it was mainly less about appearance than cost.. I didn't fancy paying out 30$ a movie on top of a 200$ player.. but now.. its roughly comparable to DVD costs.. some cost more.. some less than the DVD.. and with's daily and weekly specials.. you can build up a fantastic blu ray library for not a whole lot of money..

So September, I'm going to splurge and get my TV, Blu Ray and Star Wars Megaset.. and drag them all back to my mom's basement and watch them while eating Cheetos (hopefully without getting any dust on my T-Shirt) and enjoy every minute of it.. at least until the credit card bill comes in.

As a complete side note, I hope Disney completely replaces all of the visual effects in 1982's TRON to match Legacy before they re-release it.. And with that I've just pissed off the other half of the internet..