Posts Tagged ‘books’
In Hubbard’s native territory of science fiction, “worldbuilding” is a term used to describe the way writers construct the elaborate sociopolitical, scientific, geographic, and historical framework for the imaginary world in which their stories take place. In a way, Hubbard may well have pulled off the greatest act of worldbuilding in history. Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkien, or George R.R. Martin, or Stan Lee & Jack Kirby had not stopped at merely creating and writing about Middle-earth and Westeros and the Marvel Universe, but overlaid those fictional worlds atop our own until they became indistinguishable not just to their tens of thousands of followers and fans, but to the creators themselves.
It’s reminiscent of Going Clear’s showstopper scene, a Machiavellian game of musical chairs Miscavige imposed on disgraced Church officials to determine their fates, played to the tune of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Going Clear’s central assertion is that in art and life alike, thinking people must make that determination, and must be trusted to do it for themselves. It denies its viewers the certainty Scientology itself promises to provide, which may be its most subversive act of all. Heroes to be worshipped, villains to be eradicated—Going Clear asks us to leave them to the pages of fiction and the fever dreams of fundamentalists. Neither are in short supply, inside Scientology or out.
I reviewed Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief for the New York Observer, with a focus on how the film dismantles black-and-white thinking both as journalism/activism and as art. The movie airs tonight at 8pm on HBO, and I hope you’ll watch it.
Though it helps humanize many current and former believers, Going Clear pulls no punches against Scientology’s biggest “celebrity megaphones” — especially its superstar public face, Tom Cruise. Both the book and film allege that Cruise, a close friend of Miscavige (who was the best man at the actor’s wedding), has benefited for years from a labor force of Sea Org clergy members. “I’m singling him out,” Wright says. “More people got interested in Scientology because of Tom Cruise than any other individual, and he knows what’s going on. He could effect change, and it’s on his shoulders that he should.”
Gibney is harsher still. “For [Cruise] not to denounce, or at least investigate, what’s going on seems appalling to me,” he says. “He gets a lot of money and a lot of privilege from a lot of fans, and the idea that allows the vulnerable to be preyed upon in his name seems reprehensible.” In fact, Going Clear claims that Cruise’s own ex-wife, Nicole Kidman, fell victim to Scientology’s excesses herself. According to high-ranking defector Marty Rathbun, the Church wiretapped Kidman as part of a multifaceted campaign to drive the couple apart when Miscavige felt she was pulling him away from his faith. Even to readers of Wright’s book, this is breaking news.
“That was something Marty told me in my interview,” Gibney says. “When he spoke to Larry for the book, emotionally, he still had one foot in the Church. [Rathbun] had been a key enforcer for them. To unravel those big lies takes years, and to undo the psychological damage that was done to him by the Church is a slow healing process. He was able to say things now about how aggressive the Church was, in terms of trying to get Cruise back, that he might not have been willing to say before.”
I interviewed Oscar and Emmy–winning director Alex Gibney, Pulitzer-winning journalist Lawrence Wright, and high-ranking Scientology defector Mike Rinder about thir upcoming HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief for Rolling Stone. I’ve been working on this for a long time, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
A Song of Ice and Fire fans are a meticulous, scholarly lot. That first baby step into the wider world of fandom that we all take instantly introduces us to an eye-popping array of theories about past, present, and future events in the story that our fellow fans have painstakingly assembled from hints and clues embedded within the text. We all have our favorites and our least favorites, theories we think is a sure thing and theories we break out our tinfoil hats to discuss.
In this episode, Stefan and I vote yay or nay on many of the biggest, coolest, and crackiest — from R+L=J to fAegon, from Tyrion Targaryen to the Bran-tichrist, from “Oberyn poisoned Tywin” to the eternal question “Where do whores go?” — but with a twist. Our main metric: Does this theory make narrative and thematic sense?
Even the most beautifully constructed theories constructed from tantalizing tidbits in the text often fall apart when theorizers focus on how but ignore the why. Would this theory make for a satisfying story? Does it support the series’ primary thematic concerns or undermine them? Does it have a point at all beyond being a secret to uncover? Forget about why Roose Bolton or Obery Martell or Varys the Spider might do whatever’s being theorized about — Why would George R.R. Martin want them to do it? This has long been the approach both of us take, and we had a blast going full-throttle with it in this episode. Hopefully, you will too.
One quick note: Right at the end of the episode Stefan and I begin discussing a recently discovered note in the publicly available manuscript for A Dance with Dragons that appears to spoil a much speculated-about theory in a way neither of us are quite comfortable declaring was intentional on the part of Martin or his editor/publisher. We give ample spoiler warning at that point, so feel free to bail on the episode during those final moments if such a thing makes you uncomfortable.
Slate.com’s Jamelle Bouie joins us for the start of a project we’ve been planning practically since the Long Night: The BLAH Salon! In each installment of this series, we’ll be spotlighting a writer or artist whose work doesn’t normally touch on A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones but who is nonetheless a fan, exploring how the world of Westeros interests and influences them.
Our first guest in the BLAH Salon is Jamelle Bouie, staff writer for Slate. As a national political correspondent with a specific focus on race, he’s written with compelling clarity about the tumultuous, troubling year that just ended. He was also the first famous face I spotted in boiledleather.com’s followers. His insightful and enthusiastic commentary on the books, the show, along with other pop- and nerd-culture cornerstones, coupled with his insight into sociopolitics, made Stefan and I think he’d be the perfect guest for this inaugural installment. Our wide-ranging discussion hits on Slaver’s Bay, the role of Roose & Ramsay, the problem with privilege discourse, how good hip-hop and good fantasy both wear their influences on their sleeves, the bizarrely productive racism of H.P. Lovecraft, and the scene that made him a believer in George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus. Enjoy!
Celebrate Cyber Monday the old-fashioned way: in boiled leather! The Boiled Leather Audio Hour is back for our second episode in one week, and once again it’s our biggest to date. Since no one episode, and no two hosts, could contain The World of Ice and Fire, Stefan and I have tapped Race for the Iron Throne’s Steven Attewell and A Podcast of Ice and Fire’s Amin Javadi to join in the discussion of George R.R. Martin, Elio M. García Jr., and Linda Antonsson’s seemingly inexhaustible world book. We tackle many of the topics we missed in our first episode on the book, and double back on a few besides.
One more note and then it’s on with the show: Thank you so much for your generous donations to BLAH’s emergency tech-crisis fund. Your support has done a great deal to help defray the cost of the new computer and software I needed to continue recording the podcast. If you haven’t already, and you’re still in a spending mood after all those hot online deals, and if you enjoy the show or the blogs enough to warrant it, you can donate via paypal here. Any amount is extraordinarily appreciated.
Alright, that concludes our message from the Iron Bank. Check the links below for a host of posts and podcasts this fearsome foursome has already done on the book, then listen and enjoy!
We’re back, and a world awaits! Released with deserved fanfare a few weeks ago, The World of Ice and Fire, the long-awaited world book by George R.R. Martin and his co-authors Elio M. García Jr. and Linda Antonsson of Westeros.org, has proven to be an extraordinarily fecund source of information, speculation, and general wonderment. That’s a pretty fair characterization of this episode of The Boiled Leather Audio Hour, as a matter of fact: No muss, no fuss, just me and Stefan the best and most baffling moments of this extensive fake history in our biggest episode yet.
But before you begin, a quick housekeeping note: Stefan and I haven’t been able to record a podcast since July, as a series of professional, personal, and (most insurmountably) technical issues scuttled half a dozen different scheduled recording times. The resolution of these issues necessitated the purchase of a whole new computer and set of software, which I was happy to do, but which obviously took a hefty chunk out of the old Boiled Leather budget.
So if you enjoy The Boiled Leather Audio Hour, boiledleather.com, The Nerdstream Era, or any of our assorted projects, please consider clicking here to donate a few dollars to help offset the cost of the show via PayPal. (There’s also a Donate button at the top of boiledleather.com.) You all have been so tremendously complimentary and supportive, and we’re extraordinarily grateful that you listen!
2. Tywin Lannister was an even bigger bastard than we thought.
Before he became the not-so-proud patriarch of the dysfunctional Lannister clan, the future Lord Tywin was a fed-up heir trying to clean up his weak father’s messes. As you might expect from the future architect of the Red Wedding, this mostly involved killing a lot of people. The most famous incident involved Tywin’s slaughter of every last man, woman, and child from House Reyne, who’d risen in rebellion against their Lannister overlords. In both the books and the show, Tywin’s revenge was immortalized in the song “The Rains of Castamere”; the HBO series has featured versions by both the National and Sigur Ros, and when the band at the Red Wedding started playing it, that was the tip-off that the shit was about to hit the fan.
But we’d never learned the specifics of the massacre until now, and they’re somehow even more cold-blooded than the song made it sound. Castamere, the Reynes’ castle, was a mostly subterranean stronghold, extending deep underground into the old gold and silver mines through which the house had made its fortune. When Tywin attacked, the Reynes and their followers retreated underground, thinking the complex below was impervious to assault. It was — but it wasn’t waterproof. Tywin had his men redirect a river into the few remaining cracks and crevices. Tywin’s rain washed the Reynes right out of existence.
|The 10 Craziest Things We Learned From ‘The World of Ice & Fire’ | Rolling Stone
I wrote up a list of weird, wild, wonderful stuff from The World of Ice and Fire for Rolling Stone. In other words, the publication that gave us Hunter S. Thompson paid me to write about Sothoryos. This is bat country!
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!