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Michael Livingston

Fiction and Excerpts [3]
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Fiction and Excerpts [3]

On Finishing Origins of The Wheel of Time

I don’t know how other authors feel when they finish a book. But, having written quite a few now, I can tell you how it usually goes for me.

First, I let out a long sigh of relief. It’s a lot of work to write a book, and it’s nice to have that work done. The same with any big project, really. Lots of work, lots of pressure, and then—big sigh—it’s finished. I don’t throw myself a party or anything. I don’t pat myself on the back. I just hit “send” on that last thing and then, Ah, whew.

Next, I enter a recovery period. Nerves are frayed from the final push. Fingertips are drummed to red. Diet and daily schedules have been sub-obtimal for a civilized human being. The synapses of the mind are crispy fried from focusing fretful day and fitful night on The Book. It takes awhile to let it all go.

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Marvel at a Minimum: Or, How to Introduce the MCU to My Parents

My parents are awesome people. They’re loving and kind, generous and supportive. To say I owe everything to them is, well, to tell the truth.

Near as I can tell, their only deficiency—and it’s a Damn Small Thing against the priceless joys and insights they’ve given me over a lifetime—is that they know next to nothing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I honestly think they’d quite enjoy the combination of action and humor that the movies feature, and I’d love to share it with them. In particular, I want them to experience the absolute magnificence that is the culmination of Avengers: Endgame.

[Trouble is, the MCU is huge…]

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Alfred the Great, and Viking History

A couple years ago on this site I “reviewed” Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which takes place in Cleopatra’s Egypt, the same world in which I set my first historical fantasy novel: it wasn’t a gameplay review so much as it was an extended expression of my astonishment at the amount of history that Ubisoft wedged into the game.

Today, I’m going to take a similar approach to the latest Assassin’s Creed game: Valhalla, which is set (mostly) in early medieval Norway and England.

[Read more]

Series: Medieval Matters

A Knight’s Tale Is the Best Medieval Movie (No, Really)

If you followed the Medieval Matters column, you know that I enjoy teaching folks about the history of the real Middle Ages by pointing out the real issues with the reel Middle Ages.

This often leads to the misconceptions that I don’t “get” that many movies are meant to be “just fantasy” or that I hate most medieval movies. To such keen criticisms, I would reply that I totally get that fantasies aren’t meant to be historically accurate (though they clearly utilize that history and, fantasy or not, “teach” audiences about it), and oh my god I totally enjoy most medieval movies.

No. Scratch that. I adore most medieval movies—even the ones that cause me to roll my eyes at their historical inaccuracies.

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Robert Jordan’s Legacy and Warrior of the Altaii

I met him only once, in the spring of 2007, though in some respects I felt like I’d known him for many years.

Being a fan is like that.

I’d moved to Charleston less than a year earlier to take a position as a professor at The Citadel, the alma mater of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., the man the world knew as Robert Jordan. Indeed, it was in the biographical blurb on the back of his books that I first heard of The Citadel: for many years, his graduation from the institution was one of the only things I knew about the man.

Jim was already ill when we met. He’d announced his diagnosis of cardiac amyloidosis in the spring of 2006. But when I wrote him with an aim to establishing creative writing awards in honor of him and Pat Conroy (The Citadel’s other famous literary alumnus), he was kind and helpful. And in the spring of 2007, when we gave out the first awards to our students, he surprised me by showing up for the presentation. We chatted briefly. He posed for pictures with the award-winning cadets. I met his extraordinary wife, Harriet.

[Read more]

Myke Cole and Michael Livingston Reveal Their All-Time Favorite Aliens

If you haven’t heard the news, military historians and Tor authors Myke Cole and Dr Michael Livingston are starring in Contact, a new show premiering Wednesday at 10pm on Discovery and Thursday at 9pm on Science Channel. They lead a team investigating UFO and alien-related phenomena around the world.

To mark the occasion, we asked them to come up with a Top Ten list of their favorite aliens across the media landscape (spacescape?). Their discussion was…eclectic.

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War Crimes on Westeros and Daenerys’ Missing Character Arc

The general consensus is that a lot has gone wrong in this last season of Game of Thrones. To quote a friend of mine, “Jon can’t pet Ghost, but Drogon can set fire to Twitter all the way from Westeros.”

And, look, Game of Thrones has done a lot right. The ratings are chart-breaking. The cultural footprint is ginormous. The money trucks backing up to HBO HQ are heavily loaded. All that is great and wonderful for all those involved. As amazing as it is, though, Game of Thrones isn’t as good as it could be. Both things can be true.

So spoiler warning, folks.

[Read more]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Breaking Down the Battle of Winterfell from a Military Perspective

Aside from being great TV, Game of Thrones has been a wonderful way to bring academic expertise and public engagement together, and this most recent episode was no exception. So let’s talk about “The Long Night” and history. Put on your helmets, folks. (Should be plenty around, since most of the cast doesn’t use them…)

Warning: Spoilers to follow.

Also, let me preempt a whole line of comments by noting that, yes, I know this is fantasy. Real history doesn’t have dragons and undead and spells and all that jazz.

But you know what? Having all that fantasy stuff actually makes the real-world oddities of the Battle of Winterfell all the more glaring.

Again, spoilers to follow.

Seriously.

[Read more]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Medieval Origins of Easter Traditions

Have you ever wondered just what a rabbit has to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Or what the word “Easter” really means? And, for that matter, what’s with all the eggs? Could it be, as Jon Stewart once wondered, that it’s because Jesus was allergic to eggs?

Alas, no. But how we got to all this egg and bunny business is nevertheless a cool and rather medieval story.

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Kingdom of Heaven’s Disappointing Crusade Against History

In both my scholarship and my fiction, my mind has been on war of late.

I think that’s why I’ve decided to take a breather from my workloads by queuing up Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut (2006).

First, I must tell you that I saw Kingdom of Heaven when it first came out in theaters in 2005. It was both disappointing and exhausting: the main arc of the protagonist made no sense, the pacing was odd, and the historical events were portrayed, well, super wrong. Also, and I must get this out of the way upfront, I’m not a fan of Orlando Bloom in this kind of role. I don’t know what Hollywood was thinking by casting him as a crusader knight. It’s especially odd when so much of the rest of the cast is perfection.

Anyway, I saw it in the theaters, was very much not impressed, and that was that.

But then you, my dear readers, in comments to previous Medieval Matters columns, asked me again and again to review Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut. It’s better, y’all insisted.

So fine. Let’s give this a shot. God wills it!

[Read more]

Series: Medieval Matters

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