The Game of Thrones is About to Jump the Rails

I don’t really watch GOT. I’ve seen the first season, which was very enjoyable, but I have neither HBO or the patience and talent to obtain the series in a more illicit manner, nor the finances to buy each season. Nevertheless, I have followed how the series progressed. I, like most readers, loved watching people’s reaction to the Red Wedding, along with the other major moments like the Red Viper’s death. The memes have been great and watching the world learn to love and appreciate the Imp has been something I never really thought I would get to see.

So, even though I don’t watch the show, I’ve kept up with it.

There have been a lot of articles about what GOT will do if it catches up with the books. This is a valid concern, one that is stressed by the way A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons is constructed. For the uneducated, it breaks up the POV characters into two novels. Basically, you have all of Westeros in Feast and the Wall, Dany, and Tyrion in Dance. For the books, this was a little hard to chew. A lot happens in Feast, but it lacks Jon Snow and Tyrion, my favorite parts. A lot happens in Dance too, but focuses very heavily on Dany, my least favorite part.

Let’s take a quick break for that, since everyone is always so surprised that I hate Dany. She is an idiot but that’s not really my problem with her. My problem is her dogged insistence that her family was betrayed, usurped by the “rebellious” lords of her father’s kingdom. I get that this is a world that has never seen democracy, so I’m kinda supposed to approach this with a certain amount of fealty, but the Targaryens that were overthrown in Robert’s Rebellion were monsters, descended from an inbred line of lunatics. Now, I can get behind much of that lunacy, but their actions have continuously ripped Westeros apart, and every single horror that has befallen their bloodlines was earned through years of faulty rule.

Oh, but Dany doesn’t know that?

She would if she would listen to anyone! All of her advisers come along and say, “you know, you’re dad wasn’t all that great” and she throws a hissy fit. Maybe, just maybe, she should remember her psychotic incestuous brother who her Sun and Stars crowned with a pot of molten gold? Maybe she should think about where her horrible sibling got some of those traits?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I understand she’s a child queen and barely into her teenage years. Who cares! This is a series that has many child characters (Bran, Sansa, Arya) and they get along just fine without being morons. Well, not Sansa but I don’t think anyone thinks that has anything to do with age.

Anyway, the books split up the POV characters. The series has to deal with that. It looks like they’re already incorporating elements from Feast, such as Bran finding the last Greenseer, but it’s still one hell of a task to tackle. Probably, the best way would be to take all the POVs from Feast and Dance and cut it in half, making that a season.

Here’s the problem with that, that’s a lot of content, more than a Storm of Swords. Some people have said it’s a couple seasons in that book and a half, I think it’s more like three or four, depending on how much they want to retain. Then you will have Winds of Winter and whatever comes after that, unless Mr. Martin decides to go ahead and do an eighth. That could be a good, solid decade down the road, if not fifteen years, and by then there could be a ninth and tenth!

Based on some of the changes they’ve been making in the show, and some of the talk from the cast, I’m willing to make a hypothesis. I could be wrong, and honestly the only reason I’m writing it down is so I can say “I knew it!”.

Game of Thrones is about to jump the rails.

What I mean by this is the show is going to diverge from what the books are doing. It might not scoop any of the elements from the series, but it’s about to become its own thing. The stories we know from Feast and Dance…

SPOILERS!!!

…with Tyrion going over to Essos, getting kidnapped by Jorah, Jon dealing with Stannis, Arya becoming an assassin, all that stuff, I think is going to get boiled down to some essential elements. From this point on, it will be a separate entity from the books. I know over the years, A Song of Ice and Fire has become more than what George R. R. Martin originally saw it as. That makes me think, based on my own ways of writing, that he had other ideas that he abandoned for this sprawling epic the books have become. This could be an opportunity to go with one of his earlier drafts, when it was still envisioned as four or five books.

But what about his plan, you might ask? He was on the cover of Vanity Fair talking about his plan to wrap things up, doing interviews on talk shows, blogging about how the show will still follow the books.

That, my friends, is a lie.

That’s what I’m really boiling this down to. Next season and for the rest of the series, I think the readers who watch the show are in for a few surprises. We’re going to hit a point where Martin looks at us through the screen and say, “What, you though you were safe?” We will see some surprises as the show begins to veer, much to his malicious enjoyment, I’m sure, and readers and watchers are united in their surprise as the Game of Thrones separates itself from the paper and ink that birthed it.

My Review of Skin Game

I have to admit, I’ve been a bit worried about the Dresden Files. It started with Turn Coat, which was one of my least favorite in the series. I don’t know what it was, it just never scratched that itch I have for the Dresden Files. Then there was Changes, which was good, but the whole point of that book was to be purposely out of sync with the tropes, tone, and style of the rest of the series (hence the name, Changes). Ghost Story was a mix of really bad and really good. I thought Corpsetaker was an odd villain to revisit, but she/he/it really just seemed to serve as a backdrop for Harry’s out of body experience and flashbacks, where the story really shined. Cold Nights was good, but it had a few problems for me, I could take it or leave it.

So, yeah, I’ve been a bit worried…

Not anymore.

Skin Game is fantastic, easily one of my favorite in the series. Maybe it’s because the Denarians (always one of my favorite villains) play such a big role, or because it leans so heavily on my favorite supporting characters (Murphy, Michael, Butters), I don’t know, but it works. Unlike any of the other stories, Harry finds himself surrounded by, and even aiding, the villains he has fought so hard against in the past. In any of the other books, he would be investigating the very events he’s involved with. I won’t go into too much detail, just to say that it gives a perspective we’ve never seen before, and provides some character interaction that is really, really well done.

As usual, the Denarians are sociopaths of the best possible flavor. Nicodemus is equal parts suave and lethal, but we get a more intimate look at him. The other Denarians, utilized as monster fodder in the other books, don’t don’t play as big a role (I’m thinking back to Small Favor when they all fought it out with Kincaid, one of my favorite scenes in the series), but that’s because it focuses deeper on those that do show up. Part of the reasoning too is because there are a number of other, non-Denarian villians, each unique and interesting in their own way. Goodman Gray in particular went a surprising direction, but all the rest have interesting and unique parts in the story.

As far as allies go, you can’t really do better than Murphy or Michael and they both get some fantastic moments. This isn’t really a story for them to show their dangerous side, Michael especially, but they do things for Harry on an emotional level that I think will bring him back from the turmoil he’s been experiencing since Changes.

And actually, that’s one of the things that I enjoyed so much about Skin Game.

You can watch throughout the series as Harry has his ups and downs. The period between Blood Rights and White Night, leading into Small Favor, is pretty rough on him. He’s fighting Lasciel, his hand’s all messed up, people around him are getting into trouble or getting hurt, and until Small Favor things don’t really move in a more positive direction. The last few books, Changes, Ghost Story, Cold Days, have been downers, with Harry struggling with what all this is meaning for him. Finally, in Skin Game, we get a bit of a break, with things looking a bit more up. Sure, they’re still plenty of danger and Consequences, but I’m very interested in seeing where things go, not just with his situation, but with the relationships he’s nurtured and given new life in this story.

I’ll leave it with this.

Hades, man, Hades.

This isn’t a spoiler, he’s mentioned in the freaking jacket cover, so it’s safe to assume he shows up. I was really interested in how Butcher was going to portray him, partly because I’ve been working on my pantheons for my world (I won’t be introducing Virgil to Hades anytime soon, so this doesn’t matter as much, but he does meet a few other gods briefly in FayTown Calling) and been thinking about how I would portray Hades. I know how I’m going to portray the rest of the Greek gods in my world, they gambled on Rome and lost, but I’ve also been keeping Hades (and coincidentally Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, hint, hint) separate from that.

Anyway, Hades is probably my favorite portrayal yet of ancient beings in his stories, better than even Odin, Kringle, or the Erlking. It’s subtle, and short, but very well done. I wouldn’t be surprised it he continues to show up, but at the same time is was done so well that if we never see him again that would be fine too.

Now, I’ve been completely ignoring my writing to do this, so I’m going to go take care of that. Happy reading.

 

 

 

Sherlock Holmes: He Belongs To Everyone

At least now he does.

Last week, a judge ruled that the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle concerning Sherlock Holmes were, in fact, in the public domain. Up until this point, stories about the the world’s greatest detective (except for possibly Batman, but I’m willing to see the arguments on both sides for this) could only be written by those who paid a license fee. Apparently, a $5,000 license fee.

Wow.

Now, if you’re making a blockbuster movie with Robert Downie Jr., that’s chump change. Downie’s bottle water probably cost more than that. If you want to reimagine Mr. Holmes’ adventures though, well, you were probably shit out of luck.

On the one hand, all for the Conan Doyle Estate for being able to reap the rewards of a classic character. Doyle created him, put the work in, enjoyed the benefits and then passed those benefits onto his family after his death. I sincerely hope to be able to do the same, and furthermore, I hope to leave a big enough one that it can be referred to as an estate, not just that jar of pennies he had under the bed, insulated by the forgotten, worm eaten pages of his failings.

But! It has been a long friggin’ time since the last Sherlock story was published (1927) and a long time since Doyle passed (1930). It is about time for this to pass out of copyright protection, but that’s not really the point.

The point is that last week, one of the most beloved characters ever written passed a milestone. People can, for the most part, freely interpret him any way they see fit. Sure, we’ve been doing that for years. The Sherlock movies, Cumberbatch’s fabulous Sherlock show and the…other one. Neil Gaiman also has a pretty awesome Lovecraftian interpretation, but now individual authors, directors, developers can do it. It’s more important than being in the public domain, more important than the business. How many interpretations are there of King Arthur? Plenty are bad, but even more are great.

That’s the step Sherlock Holmes just took.

The step into legend.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Every once and a while I pick up a book that makes me want to quit writing. It’s so good, so well thought out, so incredibly written, that I can’t help but think to myself that I will never, ever be this good and I can just quit. I love these books. The Name of the Wind is probably the best example of this.

Promise of Blood is another.

The basic premise is about a coup that ends with the execution of a nation’s king. There is a lot about why they overthrew him and how bad he was as a ruler, but that has little bearing. It seems like the people who overthrew him were really just sick of his shit, and had their own personal vendettas to boot.

Everything is well written and the characters are great, but what I love, absolutely adore, is the magic. The world is pretty simple (from what I can see in the first book) with nine nations who were supposedly founded by nine saints and a god. It’s a world just entering its industrial age, with themes of English colonialism, etc. Pretty basic stuff, but the impression I got was that there is a great deal more to all of this and we were just getting a glimpse. That is a powerful world building technique, because it feels natural.

But the magic is what sets it apart, and Mr. McClellan sets it up so well. In the first chapter you are presented with the aftermath of a battle, introduced to all the characters, and all the magic is laid out for you. There are a few different classes of mage, but in those first few pages they give each class their distinction, spending the rest of the book fleshing everything out.

I won’t ruin the premise of the magic, just know that they’re unique, fun, and powerful. It has a very cinematic feel, a lot of action, and excellent buildup for all these incredibly destructive moments. Very little feels over the top, and eve the most powerful mages are vulnerable.

I greatly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the second.

Violence In Fantasy

Adam Callaway at A Dribble of Ink has a great article that dissects violence, particularly in relation to fantasy. He makes some great points (especially using BioShock 3 where the violence there is ridiculous). The entire time I read it, I was trying to think of novels I loved that didn’t employ violence. I have a few, but none of them are fantasy.

And it got me thinking about my own story. In the first novel, Sorcerer Rising, I have a good bit of violence. I think of it as action, but really, that’s how we as a society put a nicer label on violence. That’s not really a problem for me, I’ve always handled that rather well and I think it has a point. Virgil isn’t dark or an anti-hero, but his reaction to horrible things is to throw a whole bunch of horrible right back at it.

Very rarely in fantasy do you find a story that doesn’t involve some type of fighting, often times coupled with horrible, gratuitous violence. With the popularity of the Song of Ice and Fire, people have gone to extreme violence for its visceral quality, not realizing that there is so much more to its success. I like the idea of some fantasy with no violence or fighting. I’d be interested in seeing what kind of stories could be produced. How much are we ignoring by stating that a story has to have combat?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll be the trailblazer on this. I’ve always been, I guess I’ll call it “open”, to violence in fiction. It’s rarely bothered me, depending on the context. It’s always been what appealed to me in fantasy, and until Virgil has a life changing event (or kills everyone why might want him dead) I don’t think I’m going to write this.

My second novel (Currently referred to as DITF, and no, you don’t get to know what that stands for) is chocked full of “action” and there are a few instances where he does some truly horrible things. I try to make it clear that this is an unpleasant part of his personality, but justified violence is still violence and people will disagree about what is acceptable and what is not. But it’s something I’ve had to curtail with this one. It seems like every time I need to move the story forward, someone attacks, or is attacked, or they attack someone else. A lot of my fleshing out of the story has been adding the consequences to this violence, and in parts scaling it back.

I wrote a scene last night that I really enjoyed (by the way, a little over five hundred words last night) and it’s something I want to continue. Virgil is an explorer, and before everything went horribly wrong, that’s what he loved. He loved seeing amazing things, the joy of finding something new. He was an educator as well as a soldier, and an explorer long before he was a criminal. That’s one of his driving forces, not what was taken from him, but what he was prevented from doing.

I don’t even think I realized that until writing that scene, and neither did he as a result. Nothing violent or disturbing happened, if anything it was pretty and serene. Violence gets the adrenaline pumping, but eventually it wears thin. I love the monsters and magic I have thrown around in this story, but this scene meant more to me and my character than most of that.