Posts Tagged ‘books’
Another chapter from the GRRMArillion? You betcha! Rogues, the latest cross-genre anthology edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, is out, and you know what that means: another long short story/novella set in the world of Ice and Fire and written by Martin himself. As was the case with Dangerous Women‘s “The Princess and the Queen,” Martin’s contribution this time around is an excerpt from the larger history of the Targaryen dynasty eventually to be published in expanded form as Fire and Blood. And it turns out it’s a direct prequel to “The Princess and the Queen”‘s tale of internecine Targaryen civil war — like, it ends the moment “TPatQ” begins. As such, it casts many of the events and characters of that story in a whole new light. And like that story, it strrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrretches the boundaries of the rubric for its inclusion in the anthology in which it appears. Is it worth it? Listen and find out! (And try not to be perturbed by the sounds of chaos in revelry in the background, as Stefan’s native Germany defeats a rival in the World Cup whilst we record. Just imagine we’re discussing this over a bowl o’ brown in the stews of Flea Bottom. I know I always do!)
The bodies haven’t even been removed from the battlefield of our last podcast, but Stefan and I are back already with a brand-new BLAH! Today we’re talking about the excerpt from George R.R. Martin, Elio García Jr., and Linda Antonsson’s The World of Ice and Fire about the Rhoynar, which was posted a few weeks ago on the latter two writer’s seminal Westeros.org website. Its title, “The Ten Thousand Ships,” is somewhat inapt given that it doesn’t in fact cover the naval exodus of the people of the Rhoyne from that Essosi river to the southern lands of Dorne in Westeros. But there’s plenty to talk about up until that point, from the sudden revelation that an entire water-based form of magic exists (or existed) to the wartime conduct of Old Valyria and its allies. Saddle up a turtle and enjoy!
Another week, another sample from something Good King George has got cooking — if, of course, by “another week” you mean “last week.” Yes, since Stefan and I recorded this episode, yet another excerpt from George R.R. Martin, Elio Garcia Jr., and Linda Antonsson’s worldbook The World of Ice and Fire has been released. No matter! Like the modern-day maesters we are, we stay focused on the matters at hand, specifically the sample unveiled on GeorgeRRMartin.com regarding House Targaryen’s flight from Valyria and Aegon’s Conquest of Westeros. The sample raises many intriguing questions — indeed, more than it answers — on everything from the bloody century the Targaryens spent on Dragonstone between the Doom and the Conquest to Aegon and his sisters’ adoption of the Faith of the Seven. After Stefan and I discuss these matters, we follow up on a related Tower of the Hand roundtable and ask what place supplementary materials like this should even have in a work of narrative fiction. Saddle up, dragonlords!
I referenced this in my review a bit, but the Craster’s Keep sequence in the most recent Game of Thrones episode is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it’s Hostel, two of my favorite horror films of all time. (Texas Chain Saw is one of my favorite films of any kind, period.) The spectacle, the excess, the relentless primal-scream tone, it’s deliberate, it’s meant to be shattering, it’s meant to concretize the experience of cruelty and moral degeneracy. Under normal circumstances I’ve had responded quite favorably to that, I think, particularly as it segued into the supernatural/cosmic horror of the White Walkers. That too is a spectacle of a kind — the endlessly long takes in which you’re just rooted to the spot with a screaming infant in the cold as monsters gather to snuff out its life. Excruciating, and communicative in a way more subtle filmmaking can’t be.
The thing was, though, that the (mis)handling of the Cersei/Jaime scene the previous week, and potentially into this week depending on how you view the follow-up sequences, had thrown me for a loop, making it difficult for me to process the Craster’s Keep material the way I normally would have. What might normally have read as Salo-style forcing your face into the filth instead made me think that, for example, either some of the nudity or some of the on-screen visible rapes should have been elided.
Which tracks back to the Cersei/Jaime scene, which I believe to be a failure of filmmaking, not of morals or ethics. As a basic platform for discussion, I should note that I think the change from consensual to nonconsensual, if indeed that was the intention, is a valid choice. I don’t think it “ruins” Cersei or Jaime as characters, I don’t think it ruins their future arcs (which for the purposes of the show don’t even exist yet); I don’t think it’s inherently misogynist or reflective of misogynist thinking — I think it reflects the misogyny of the fictional society being chronicled. Be all that as it may.
Right, so. The more I think about it, the more I watch the episodes, the more interviews I read with the involved parties, the more I suspect one of two things took place. Possibility number one is that they tried to show a sex scene between two very fucked-up and violent people in which power exchange and the violation of taboo is a huge part of the sexual dynamic, but they screwed it up, and it came out as a rape scene. Because everyone involved was, well, involved, no one saw it. A secondary possibility is that while the writers intended the scene to be rape, the director and the two actors involved on the day read it and played it differently (there’s famously little background preparation done by the cast in terms of comparing notes with the books or with other characters’ storylines, so it’s not inconceivable), and the result is muddled and flawed. In neither case do I think the scene is reflective of a disgusting misconception that rape is okay, that sometimes no means yes, that it’s fun to insert rape scenes for no reason, or anything similarly depiction-as-endorsement rape-culture supportive. I think that while the apparently HBO-mandated use of nudity needlessly muddied the waters, the show has been as strong in its condemnatory presentation of this fictional world’s morally and practically disastrous institutionalized misogyny as the books. (I still prefer the books as a work, for whatever that’s worth.) If the scene failed it’s a failure of execution, not ethics.
But ultimately, using authorial intent — or textual absolutism, or adherence to a specific set of sociopolitical ideals, or the use of a favored set of aesthetic signifiers (in my case, my much beloved heads on sticks) — as a pass/fail metric is a fallacy when it comes to responding to art, an attempt to objectivize what is inherently subjective and prohibitively complex. So in the end what Benioff, Weiss, Cogman, Graves, MacLaren, Headey, and Coster-Waldau thought they were doing matters much less than the sum total of their work on screen. The text is everything and these are some thoughts about how I read it and why.
Finally, far to the East, Daenerys Targaryen delivers the speech of a lifetime. Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about the uncomfortable image of bleach-blonde Dany crowdsurfing above the uniformly brown heads of her adoring ex-slave followers. The show’s creators have attributed the uniformly un-white skintone of the slaves to the pool of available extras on location (the books made a point of how people of all colors and nationalities had been pressed into servitude by the cities of Slaver’s Bay). But they’ve also argued that the ickiness was intentional – that Dany’s emancipation celebration is quite possibly both presumptuous and premature. That argument’s certainly strengthened here, as Dany mouths “Your enemy is not surrounding your country; your enemy is ruling your country” — the sort of rhetoric straight off of George W. Bush’s Iraq War teleprompter. Look at the other leaders on this show who’ve shown Dany’s level of cocksure comfort with command: Robb Stark (early on, anyway), Theon Greyjoy, Renly Baratheon, Joffrey, even Dany’s own brother Viserys. How’d that work out for everyone? “Pride goeth before the fall” might not be a saying native to Westeros, but the sentiment is universally applicable. All who find themselves beneath the shadow of her dragons, may have to learn it the hard way.
I also wrote about the very troubling and controversial scene between Cersei and Jaime, and have continued to do so throughout the day in response to reader questions and comments at All Leather Must Be Boiled, my Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire tumblr.
Valar Dohaeris or what have you — I ranked 40 major characters from Game of Thrones from worst to best for Rolling Stone. I never do this kind of thing, which is why I had to do it. I think I’m gonna do one of those supermarket “you’re our millionth customer” prizewinner things in the comments, only for people who say “obviously you’ve never read the books.”
It is a weeping, and a moaning, and a gnashing of teeth: Hot on the heels of our last installment comes yet another BLAH about yet another Winds of Winter sample chapter! For all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s about Arya Stark, this one’s pretty clearly the most talked-about yet. Should we believe the hype, or is this often disturbing chapter chronicling Arya’s further Faceless adventures in Braavos edgy for edginess’ sake? And if we see it as the latter, who’s to blame — an author pushing the envelope, or an audience out for blood? It’s our most conflicted sample-chapter discussion yet. Bone up on some recommended reading referenced in the ep first, if you’re up for it, then tune in and see where you come down.
[WARNING: A PODCAST FULL OF SPOILERS AHEAD]
Once more unto the breach, dear friends: George R.R. Martin has unveiled a new sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, this time ensconced in the World of Ice and Fire app on your friendly neighborhood smartphone, and Stefan and I are back to pick that sucker apart! The POV character is Tyrion Lannister, the place is Meereen, and the scene is a slaughter — the Battle of Fire is now fully underway, so via the Imp we get a picture of how the fight is going, who’s involved on what side (the Windblown! the Ironborn! the Second Sons!), and how Tyrion feels about it all. From the strategic situation to Tyrion’s own psychological battles, there’s a lot to talk about. And with GRRM promising much more ASoIaF material on the way at a pretty rapid clip this year, we’d better get cracking!
Last week I posted the latest installment of my A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones podcast. This time out my cohost Stefan Sasse and I talk turkey with Adam Feldman of The Meereenese Blot, one of the best thinkers about this stuff around.
Go ye and listen to the landmark 25th episode of The Boiled Leather Audio Hour, in which Stefan Sasse and I discuss the recently released preview chapter for The Winds of Winter. War, huh, good R’hllor y’all, what is it good for?
I think I’ve neglected to mention it for a while now, but my comrade Stefan Sasse and I have resumed episodes of our podcast on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. You can find the new episodes here — the one that went up today discusses Martin’s new novella set 200 years before A Game of Thrones, “The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens.” Enjoy!
Don’t call it a comeback! Stefan Sasse & Sean T. Collins return with our first BLAH since June, and we’re bringing our chum Amin Javadi of the mighty A Podcast of Ice and Fire along for the ride. It’s basically two episodes in one: For the first half hour or so, we discuss Stefan’s essay “Savoring the Taste?: On the Role of Revenge in A Song of Ice and Fire” from the expanded Collector’s Edition of Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows — TotH‘s excellent collection of essays by various luminaries in the ASoIaF community. Stefan argues that quests for revenge, no matter how horrendous the crime being avenged, are self-perpetuating engines of violence that have had awful consequences for these characters and their culture. Please note that the Collector’s Edition — a print book, no less — is only on sale through the end of this Friday, November 1st, after which it will disappear forever. Buy it now and let’s talk!
In the back half of the ep, we get exquisitely nerdy and discuss various what-if scenarios, predicated on major events and decisions going a different way than they had before. I had an absolute blast teasing out the consequences of each of these divergences and hope you’ll enjoy it too. It’s good to be back!
Over at Vorpalizer, I wrote about A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, and how it derives much of its strength from its depiction of physical and emotional isolation, a relatively rare thing for fantasy. I think it struck a nerve with people.
I also wrote about Gabrielle Bell’s July diary comics, 2013 edition. I think they’re the best she’s done.
Over at Rolling Stone, I spoke with writer/showrunner Brian K. Vaughan about Under the Dome, his ambitious summertime 13-episode adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. I’ve interviewed Brian for a pretty wide range of publications — Wizard, Maxim, a cover story for The Comics Journal, and now RS — and the local-boy-made-good feeling I got when I saw his name listed right after Stephen King and Steven Spielberg in the executive-producer credits was pretty delightful.
Two great tastes that taste great together: Over at BuzzFeed Music, I wrote about the ways in which the music and career of the great Scottish eletronic-music duo Boards of Canada, whose excellent first album in eight years Tomorrow’s Harvest came out this week, mirrors the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones phenomenon.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve written about Memory Palaces by Edie Fake, “The Sea-Bell, or Frodo’s Dreme” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Ghoul Man” by Jaime Hernandez, and “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe for Vorpalizer. Check them out.