SFF Archaeology: Excavating the Superhero World of the Wild Card Series

Really interesting! I admit, when I think archaeology and Wild Cards, the main thing that comes to mind is whether there’d be some way to figure out why it is that humans and Takisians are genetically identical. Although perhaps the archaeology would have to take place on Takisia. (I’d also guess that maybe mtDNA could explain a lot of what actually went on.)

The Flight of Morpho Girl

Always enjoy reading these Wild Cards stories. In fact, might it be possible to include a tag on these stories to make it easier to find them all if one wants to revisit them? The same for any other running series of connected/shared universe stories that you may be publishing.

5 Fantasy Duelists You Should Never Challenge to a Fight

Dariole, from Mary Gentle's Sundial in a Grave: 1610, comes to mind as a female duellist. Katherine Talbert, from Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword. I'd think there'd be a few women in Brust's books who might be considered duellists. Tazendra, for example, from the Khaavren romances, must have fought some sort of duel at some point. She certainly thought the painter who killed a critic in a duel did the right thing, and says she would have done the same but for the fact that she doesn't paint... (Sorry, still one of the funniest lines I've ever read.) Norathar probably fought some duels as well, come to think of it. Aliera and Sethra the Younger dueled at one point too.



A Wild Cards Tribute to Victor Milán

Great thoughts transfiguration, Katie. Milán's Captain Trips is right up there with Zelazny's Sleeper, IMO, in exploring the idea of transfiguration or transformation. If anything, Milán went even further than Zelazny, having Mark Meadows able to unleash wildly different personas that went along with the powers. Croyd is always Croyd, whether he's a bat-winged Joker or invulnerable Ace. He grows and changes, certainly, as time and experience works its will, but so does Mark -- and so, to some degree, do the personas. Very cool.

And I have to say that the transformation of the Radical from peace-and-love hippie to a militant revolutionary was a highlight of Busted Flush.


Death, Disguises, Centaurs, and Cat Ladies: Wild Cards V: Down and Dirty

The Turtle interstitial is fantastic. His whole arc has always been one of the stronger aspects of the series, as (for obvious reasons) he feels like the most lived-in character, the one closest to a shared reality. But Walter Jon Williams' Modular Man vs. Croyd is definitely a highlight of the novel. It's really hard to not get a great story out of Zelazny's character.

Get a Sneak Peek at Exclusive New Maps from A Song of Ice and Fire!
We've had several previews as well over at Westeros, which can be found back through http://www.westeros.org/ASoWS/News/Entry/6692/ (our previous preview, of Braavos, also linked MTV Geek's several preview images). There's also a great deal of discussion on the A Song of Ice and Fire forum at http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/63618-the-lands-of-ice-and-fire-a-new-map-book-out-in-oct-2012/ -- including a fairly reasonable construction of what the final world map will look like, thanks to a little teaser image RH posted on Facebook awhile back.
Vote in the Tor.com 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards
Best Novel: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin Best Comic: Criminal: The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Best Cover: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (Art by Beth White, Design by Peter Lutjen)
Firsts in Fantasy: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Regarding the focus on the TV series, when we were approached to write the article, it was noted that part of the impetuous for wanting it (and for why this B&N-Tor.com collaboration is starting off with epic fantasy series) was the buzz about the novels thanks in part to the success of the TV series. So, it seemed to make sense to acknowledge that and explicitly pitch the novel to those who were potentially interested in the book because they had seen the show, or were aware of it because of the buzz.
In the Game of Thrones Comic-Con Panel, Everybody Wins
I don't think they're boundary-pushing at all. I was suggesting the context out of which Momoa was speaking I think Momoa thinks that within the specific context of fantasy, it's boundary-pushing. Which lit-fantasy readers know is not, in fact, true, but his exposure to fantasy literature is extremely limited (and, it seems, fantasy film -- he has apparently never seen Conan the Barbarian). I think he is/was one of those people who equates fantasy to kid's stuff, to Disney, and so on, so it's no surprise if he'd consider it pushing boundaries to have graphic violence and the like in this genre. As I said, these were not the best examples he could have chosen. They were, at the very least, insensitive. To perhaps mitigate a little bit, in other interviews he noted that the rape scene with Dany was very hard for him to film because the idea that it bothered him, and if I remembrer correctly Emilia Clarke discussing the same scene said that Momoa was apologetic about having to act out the scene with her.
In the Game of Thrones Comic-Con Panel, Everybody Wins
A small bit of vanity leads me to note that the forum they were visiting for casting ideas was Westeros.org's forum. In fact, when the pilot was comissioned David and Dan both visited the forum and invited fans to start suggesting cast members, and we set up a Casting sub-section in an organized way. I suspect I even know which post David saw -- this one from way back in 2008. I'm so glad George finally asked Momoa the Conan vs. Drogo question -- I've been suggesting it to journalists for months, but none of them have gotten an answer out of him. Of course, whether the answer would have been the same if asked on the Conan panel, one must of course wonder... Re: Momoa's remark, In context, he basically said that he loved that the fantasy genre was no-holds barred these days, that one could do anything in it. So, yes, he said "rape beautiful women", but he also said "tear someone's tongue out through their throat." I don't think he wants to tear anyone's tongue out, and I don't expect he wants to rape anyone. He's talking about how the narrative can do things that push boundaries, that fantasy is no longer the domain of Disney on TV. Yes, the specific examples he used were not the best since there were doubtless people in the audience with experience of brutal violence (murdered family or friends) and of rape (personally, or of acquaintances) and at the least was insensitive. But he was trying to articulate something that wasn't really about those things except as examples of the sort of boundaries that HBO allowed the show to push.
Heinlein’s Worst Novel
To Sail Beyond the Sunset would certainly be my pick, whereas -- perhaps strangely -- The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is one of my favorite Heinlein novels. I vastly prefer the screwball comedy aspects of it to the later half when it's tied into the Lazarus Long and rescuing Mike storyline, but I always found it breezy and colorful. There were lectures buried in it here and there, but most Heinlein novels did. I've always respected Gharlane of Eddore's (RIP) reading of The Number of the Beast as a deliberate, nod-and-wink both to all the literature that Heinlein loved and the foibles and follies of writers (including himself), with a lot of buried lessons of what writers shouldn't do. The bit that always convinced me that there was something to his argument is that the stiff-legged, alien "Black Hats" who show up at random intervals to jerk the story along in a new direction all have names which are anagrams of Heinlein's various pen-names.
Artist John Picacio Posts Glimpses of His Song of Ice and Fire Calendar
@1 ThePendragon, She's not actually an albino. She's pale, yes, but it's never described as an unhealthy paleness -- and there are albinos in the books (the word is used), and it's never applied to her. Her eyes are red, but it seems to be a supernatural red (or maybe an example of art -- I still suspect she dyes her hair and uses some fantastical dye for her eye as a bit of theatre!) rather than an example of albinism.
Don Your Tights, Glitter and Goblin Horns—It’s Labyrinth Day!
Linda and I bought the DVD not long ago. It's really quite compelling, isn't it? The creativity and imagination behind it all... well, they don't make them like they used to. Have to particularly commend that last image, from what's probably our favorite scene: the goblin ball as Bowie sings, "As the World Falls Down". The set design is simply stunning, with its pale, floating columns conveying the atmosphere of "Faërie" more effectively than anything I've ever seen put on film. Connelley's costuming and hair for that particular scene, and the costuming in general for the extras in the ball, should have won an award. Finally, to show something of the film's impact, here's the Masquerade of Jareth, a yearly event inspired by the film. It looks quite amazing.
The Brothers Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire
sweetlilflower @ 1, Seems possible, but I'm not certain that book-Renly was really in the head space to do that. normalphil @ 2, True, they love Stannis... all two of them! Does anyone besides Cressen and Davos love him with any great fervor? And Cressen makes a quick exit... Megaduck @ 3, I'm not sure Stannis loves the realm. I don't think there's a lot of room in his heart for love. But he certainly feels his duty to the realm much more clearly than Robert ever did, and I imagine he felt it more than Renly did, to say the least. Unfortunately, his duty to the realm is directly tied to his right to be king, and he makes choices in pursuit of the just transfer of the crown to him that seem to directly contradict his duty to the realm. He's prepared to tear apart the realm to be its king so that he can protect it. It's rather troublesome. A man who put his duty to the realm about the law and his rightful inheritance might well have agreed to become Renly's heir, joining forces to rid the realm of the threat of the Lannisters. TWGrace @ 4, I can't think of any in pre-Modern eras. Modern media created the celebrity politician, as such. Counter examples would be interesting to discuss, though. I'm just not coming up with anyone who did anything comparable to what Renly did in a pre-Modern context. Yenvious @ 5, That's very kind of you to say! Thanks. NumberNone @ 6, He did have the hope Melisandre dangled in front of him, the sacrifice of innocent Edric Storm to wake the dragons from Dragonstone... but it definitely wasn't better. I'm glad Davos convinced him that he was putting the cart before the horse, and gave him an alternative so that he didn't have to do that. Because, no mistake, he would do it if he had no other options, and that'd be a tragedy.... Will be a tragedy, I suspect, actually. I fear for poor little Shireen, who surely has a king's blood...
The Wild Cards in A Song of Ice and Fire
For me, a wild card is just someone I have no real idea of where they can go -- their options seem wide open! Mountain @16, Good point. You know, Cersei is in a bind at the end of AFfC, for a moment thinking that UnGregor (as we tend to call him on the board) could save her... but then realizing that with seven Kingsguard in place, she's not safe at all. But. We have Ser Loras Tyrell critically wounded (yeah, yeah, quiet down, you Grand Tyrell Conspiracy fans!) and then there's the fact that Ser Arys Oakheart lost his head in Dorne. What will arrive first: news of Loras kicking the bucket, or Ser Arys having accidentally brutally cut his head off while combing his hair? If it arrives while the situation is still up in the air, concievably there'd be a spot free for UnGregor... But who in the world would put Qyburn's Monster in such a spot? Cersei doesn't exactly have the levers of power in her hands anymore, and the small council (such as it is) has turned against her. Down the road, I think UnGregor is going to meet Sandor "The Hound is Dead" Clegane, and meet his (its?) end that way. But maybe that's too obvious, too neat and tidy and cliché. But one can dream... Tektonica @17, I think the Wall's going to come tumbling down. That's what I think. And then there'll be nothing between the Others and their ice zombie minions and the humans. It will somehow have to end up as "us vs. them". I can't imagine only one part of the Seven Kingdoms being strong enough to deal with on its own.
The Wild Cards in A Song of Ice and Fire
Littlefinger and Varys are the subject of a future essay, promise! Yeah, Rickon... When Chris at Tor.com suggested the "wild cards" topic to us, he put forward Rickon, and he certainly picked a great example of a wild card. So good, we genuinely have no idea where he's going based on the first four books! So what follows is completely speculative, because really, he could be anywhere. So, for the sake of completeness... Rickon: The littlest Stark, he's sort of been shortchanged on the show so-far -- glimpsed laughing once, mentioned once. He's more present in the novels, not much so, but some. We haven't even learned his wolf's name is the awesome Shaggydog! With all that's happened to the Starks, he's grown wilder by the day. But, still, he's a little boy, all of four years old. A little boy with a temper and a mean direwolf, but still... The last we saw of him, he was heading with Osha to parts unknown. Where could he go? My guess ties into the fate of another character, Ser Davos Seaworth. We're told in the fourth novel that he's been killed by Lord Manderly, but I don't believe it. I think Lord Manderly's a Stark loyalist, that that was just a ruse to lull the Lannisters, and somewhere in the bowels of the Wolf's Den (an ancient fortress-turned-prison) Davos will be introduced to Rickon and his direwolf. Rickon's too young to matter, personally, but as a figurehead -- the only (uncontestedly) legitimate male Stark anywhere in the vicinity -- he could be used to rally the North behind whoever has him at their side.
How Seasons Work (Or Don’t Work) in A Song of Ice and Fire
Hah. A recent GRRM "Not a Blog" post had comments getting into the seasons... and George provided a snazzy new quote that succinctly explains his answer:
Uh... guys... it's fantasy. Magic, y'know? Astrology, not astrophysics.
A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 6
Jon may be less of a threat. Jon's children? We're talking dynasties here. All it takes is one capable, bad-intentioned son of Jon "Almost a Stark, Raised Practically as an Heir" Snow to cause trouble, one person who feels that the accident of his father's birth was all that kept him from being in line to be a great lord... One can say the chances are remote, but then, five generations of Blackfyre Pretenders (and tens of thousand of deaths) remind us that there can be very real consequences. Catelyn's issues with Jon are complex. They aren't, exactly, with him -- she even acknowledges this. But it's the idea of him, and what his upbringing means (in terms of her relationship to Ned, and Jon's relationship to her children and Winterfell), that's the real concern.
A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 6
@21: Catelyn Stark is my favorite character in the series. There's plenty of people who like her, I think. They're just not so loud about it as those who despise her. It gets tiresome, wrestling with those anti-Cat arguments, especially when some (some, I stress) of the most virulent haterss also seem to be among the more outspoken (and sometimes plain nasty) anti-Sansa and anti-Cersei sorts (not that it's odd to be opposed to Cersei; but "I wish someone would rape her to death" is never appropriate.) There is a trend, I'm afraid, among a certain segment of the fans of the novels, almost exclusively male, to harp on female characters who are not ... I don't know, awesome misfit fighter girls, or awesome tomboys, or what have you. Any woman that seems to work within traditional gender roles can quickly earn hatred among some. It's an unpleasant realization one gets. Look at the description we've had of post-fall Catelyn: She doesn't recognize Jon for a moment, her voice is "strangely flat and emotionless", her "hair was dull and tangled", she looks as if "she had aged twenty years." She really is in the depths of a black, bleak depression. She really is not in her right mind. What she says to Jon is a terrible thing, but it's hard to hold her responsible. Grief can make a person irrational. It's not their fault -- it's just how it is. It's nothing she'd ever said to him before, not even close. We're told by Martin that it's not as if she beat him or verbally abused him. It was abnormal.
A Dance With Dragons‘s Manuscript is Earth-Shatteringly Huge
@11: Ser Patrek of King's Mountain is the character named for Patrick St. Denis of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, after he finally won his annual football bet with GRRM. "King's Mountain" being a reference to Montreal, where I believe Pat lives.
Excuse Me, Your Worshipfulness: Five Unmarried Royal SFF Characters
Ahem. Éowyn and Éomer are Théoden's niece and nephew, respectively! OTOH, Théodred was his son, and heir to the Riddermark, so you're right, we definitely know Théoden was married. He was married to Elfhild, but she died before the events of the novels, so ... yeah, he's an eligible bachelor, provided his being 71 years old isn't a problem.
A Dance With Dragons‘s Manuscript is Earth-Shatteringly Huge
One correction, the last quote is actually about Yunkai, not Meereen. I erred! To expand on it a little more, it seems a man was crushed in the press of people trying to get away when a dragon allegedly was seen.
The Uncommonly Stable Records of History in A Song of Ice and Fire
@natfri, Same length of year. It's easier on George's book-keeping. Some have wanted to believe that a Westerosi year is half again our year or something, because they find it difficult to accept the kids... but I've never had that problem. Arya has a lot of little ways of reminding us that she's a child, despite her occasional precoucisness. @Breogan: The argument I've generally put forward here is that Westeros is a place where the family name matters so much, that people who are quite far-flung from the direct line will claim it for themselves if it proves useful. We do see examples of this in the book: a nephew of Lord Hornwood is offered as a potential heir, and they mention that he might even take the Hornwood name. So if you suppose that the Stark name matters so much in the culture, even if there's been many rebellions and murders and defeats, one supposes a successor may point out they have a drop of Stark blood and they're renaming themselves Stark, or they're marrying a Stark daughter and their children will be Starks, etc. I don't think it's ever claimed that the Starks are descended by direct line of descent from Brandon the Builder, although doubtless the family history claims they are in fact directly descended from him.
The Uncommonly Stable Records of History in A Song of Ice and Fire
700 foot wall, actually... I had a very interesting twitter conversation about the piece, discussing what it is in our history that has made historical reporting more rigorous. The argument was that it's not really the develoment of archaeolgy but rather the scientific method being applied to historiography. Which seems fair enough, really. We've had historians for many centuries, but if you look back in the pre-modern era, many of them used dubious techniques. Sourcing was poor, and sometimes non-existent. History was a web of hearsay, used to some purpose -- political, moral, polemical -- that wasn't really just trying to sort out facts from fiction. History is much the same in Westeros. It seems like the maesters may be the first to genuinely be applying something like a scientific approach to their studies, but there's only so much they can do to sort out the fact from the fiction. Let me add that I'm not sure we can take for granted that Westeros has been at a "medieval" level for eight thousands years. The First Men used bronze, and their ringforts certainly weren't inspired by medieval castles but rather by early Iron Age Celtic fortifications. Winterfell may be ancient... but it seems likely it's been rebuilt many times, a sort of organic sprawl of old buildings giving way to new. They call the oldest building in Winterfell the First Keep... but I'm rather dubious it was in fact the First Keep. How long it's genuinely been "medieval" is hard to say -- a couple of thousand years seems pretty likely at a minimum. But beyond that, we may be projecting the culture of the present day novel on to the past in a way that isn't quite right.
Game of Thrones episode review: “The Kingsroad”
One brief note: Catelyn was not for Ned leaving for King's Landing in the last episode. She was very much against it, even after Lysa's letter. Luwin was the one arguing for it, basically, and Ned was the one unhappily inclining to it for reasons of duty. This is a significant change from the book, of course. But ep 1 to ep 2, Cat is very consistent -- she doesn't want Ned to be Hand, she doesn't want him and the children taken away from her.
The Many Gods & Dark Faiths of A Song of Ice and Fire
Yes, there's definitely more. Only had room to list a few. The Dothraki seems to have a somewhat nebulous religion -- the Mother of Mountains is a holy place, the stars are the spirits of valiant warriors, and Irri and Jhiqui suggest that the moon is a goddess who is wife of the sun god. The Lhazreen worship their Great Shepherd. There's rumor of a Lyseni love goddess, and of course the Valyrian had gods of their own... The further east you go, the less we know -- who or what they worship in Yi Ti, in Bayasabhad, Shamyriana, and Kayakayanaya, in the Shadowlands, among the Jogos Nhai (though possibly it's the moon)... But interestingly, I believe shadowbinders are not innately R'hllorian. I've this theory about a certain shadowbinder who follows R'hllor, that that shadowbinding magic is something separate from the sort of fire-based magic we otherwise see associated with R'hllor...
The Surprising Growth of Magic in A Song of Ice and Fire
@1 As Rob said, it's all from the books, just scattered all over the place. @3, @8, I thought it did sound a bit wrong... but that's how George tells it. :)
Tiassa Giveaway!
Wow. I love seeing that Tiassa on the cover. Nicely done! Who's the cover artist, I wonder?
Best SFF Novels of the Decade: An Appreciation of A Storm of Swords
@13, Yeah, you're right. Linda and I wrote the post to avoid spoilers because we figured there will be people who have not read the book ... but we sort of expected that anyone who'd dig into comments probably has. However, shouldn't assume that, so we have re-written it. @15, Indeed.
Best SFF Novels of the Decade: An Appreciation of A Storm of Swords
You know, it's true, I probably should not assume that those who read on in comments have actually read the book. So, edited. Thanks for pointing it out! @11 DarrenJL, The fact that pretty much the whole realm is utterly shocked by what happened suggests that it's not so much stupidity , as the extremes their opponents are willing to go to. Now, it's true, the Starks are not politically astute or savvy as a whole -- but they made all the right moves under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. To go on a little bit of a tangent, I was thinking about the series recently, and realized that you basically have people with happy childhoods and people with somehow messed-up childhoods -- and that determines what sort of approach they take to a host of issues. So Ned and Catelyn and Robert, they led pretty happy lives as kids according to the standards of ther society... and they grow up believing pretty fully in the tenets of that society. Especially those things that have to do with honor and loyalty and trusting someone else's word if they're your blood, or if they were fostered with you. And then you have the unhappy or messed up bunch -- all the Lannister kids, and even back to Lord Tywin (whose father was a complete pushover, turning the house into a laughing stock), these are people who are disillusioned with the society and its mores ... and so they're able to just treat it as an artifice. The former group of people are completely incapable of dealing with the latter sort of people, because the former can't imagine things that they'd consider impossible: the depths that others will go to to win "the game of thrones". It's stuff that's outside the framework fo their understanding. So (to come back, circuitously, to the topic at hand) when someone has been pushed well beyond the bounds of civilized behavior, it's no surprise that morally upright people in the setting are completely blindsided. It's not a matter of being smart or stupid. It's a matter of expecting people to imagine what is utterly unimaginable to them.
Tons of Stills from the New Game of Thrones Trailer
Aren't these fun? So exciting seeing some of these scenes finally. Love just how massive Ice looks. More extensive gallery from all the prior footage at http://www.westeros.org/GoT/Gallery/ , for those who might be interested. The latest (this trailer) is at the end of the Previews gallery.
Best SFF Novels of the Decade Readers Poll
George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords Guy Gavriel Kay, Lord of Emperors Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Mary Gentle, 1610: A Sundial in a Grave Iain M. Banks, Look to Windward Iain M. Banks, Matter Daniel Abraham, the Long Price Quartet (A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, An Autumn War, the Price of Spring) Catherynne Valente, The Orphan's Tales (In the Night Garden, In the Cities of Coin and Spice) Richard Morgan, Altered Carbon Sarah Monette, the Doctrine of Labyrinths (Mélusine, The Virtu, The Mirador, Corambis)
Game of Thrones Already Gearing Up For a Second Season?
There's been talk of the 7 book series needing 10 years to film -- ASoS in particular needing 2 seasons to cover, and ADwD by the sounds of it. Plus, HBO is perfectly capable of spacing seasons out at various lengths. They moved to an 18-month schedule, IIRC, for the Sopranos at the end. You can say that it was their flagship, of course... but if the series is running strong enough to merit a sixth, seventh, etc. season, then it'll probably be their flagship by that point in time anyways. ;) But that said, George has said on several occasions that he's filled David and Dan on where the story is going and various major background points in case they catch up with him, one way or another. They can make up all they want after that. This is all hypothetical, of course. It needs to make it through quite a few seasons before one needs to worry about catching up to the series, and every season is going to be a gift. As far as these rumors go, I think they're a bit breathless. Key production people will doubtless be kept on hand (this is in fact normal, according to a former member of the production with a great deal of experience) and some prepatory work will be done because they'll want to be running out of the gate if they're greenlit (scripts, VFX breakdowns to go with them, preliminary plans for new set builds, location scouting, etc.), but the suggestion that they may start filming S2 come January or February is, I'm afraid, very optimistic. If cameras are rolling in January, it won't be for S2. I could see them getting in front of the camera in late April or early May, and HBO may loosen up its usual norm of having all episodes in the can before they start airing, which would certainly allow them to start airing in January (as some speculate is the desire)... But, first season greenlight first. I think it highly probable, of course, as it's hard to see how there'd be catastrophic ratings... but stranger things have happened, and because of that, I don't think HBO is going to over-commit itself when they have other ways of getting the same speculated result (January 2012 for an S2 start) without gambling everything on it being a substantial hit without any ratings results to go by.
The Man with the Knives
Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Ditto wealtheow @1 and thumbelinablues @2 about how it felt to learn how Richard died.
A Game of Thrones preview (updated for new clip)
Posted an annotated screencap gallery starting here over at Westeros.org. Lots of gorgeous images of late, including some high-res publicity stills of actors and scenes. For those who can't see this promo, try looking at it at HBO's official site for the series, Making Game of Thrones.
George R.R. Martin’s Westeros vs. Europe
GRRM on the question of Westeros's alleged similarity to Great Britain:
Some readers have likened Westeros to England because they see some general similarities in its shape, and in its location off the west coast of a larger landmass. The latter is true enough (I don't see the former, myself), but Westeros is much much MUCH bigger than Britain. More the size (though not the shape, obviosuly) of South America, I'd say.
As far as the size of the planet, GRRM has stated that he thought of it as somewhat bigger than our Earth, and was inspired by Jack Vance's Big Planet though not THAT large.
Zenda reimagined with sex: George MacDonald Fraser’s Royal Flash
I compare Flashman to a much more ribald Cugel. The pleasure of reading would-be tricksters like these -- they're both very bad men with no innate redeeming qualities -- is that they so often have their feet to their fire and you get a kind of schadenfreude about it. Unlike Cugel, of couse, Flashy often manages to actually get the better end of the stick, generally through ridiculous coincidences. I think Fraser's softening of Flashman later on actually had the effect of making it seems to me that some of the very conservative social/political positions -- especially those that seemed eerily to match contemporary politics -- were the author himself stepping into the story and turning a bit didactic. I didn't care for it. When Flashy was just this awful brute, liar, and cad, all the particular nastiness could be understood as the worst excesses of the depicted era deliberately put into one character for satirical effect. And so, I'm in the position of being one of those teenagers (14? 15? Going on 33) who apparently are the intended fans of the novels. My absolute favorite of the novels is probably Flashman at the Charge, with the ridiculous presence of Flashman at the Thin Red Line, the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, and the Charge of the Light Brigade all on the same day. (Also, yes, because of the scene where he throws his latest conquest, naked, out of a speeding sled in the vain hope that it'll let him outrace his pursuers both from their stopping to check on her and from the lightened load. It's funny in that horrible, 'I can't believe he just DID that' sort of way which is a large part of the series' humor.)
Announcing the 2010 Hugo Award Winners!
Congratulations to the winners, particularly Jack Vance for his delightful memoir, and China Meville and Paolo Bacigalupi for their tie! Things seem to go quite smoothly from the video and live coverage at the Hugo Awards site.
When literary authors slum in genre
I think it can be argued that Rushdie already has, at least, with Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
Knife of Dreams ebook cover by Michael Komarck
[email protected], I probably will. I've bought the paperbacks of the post-TPoD books, and have sort of skimmed, but haven't really brought myself to actually reading them cover to cover. Weird, eh? I remember the series up through ACoS quite fondly, but the story went directions I didn't care for after that. Maybe it's because of that fondness that I keep picking up the copies of the new books (though no longer in hardback). Some day, perhaps, I'll give them a proper read.
Knife of Dreams ebook cover by Michael Komarck
Ridiculous. Simply ridiculous. That amount of talent should be illegal. From when we first spotted Komarck's amazing renditions of the Lannisters for Fantasy Flight Games, where the company wouldn't tell us his name unless we half-jokingly swore to secrecy because they knew other publishers were going to be beating down his door, we've been watching him over at Westeros.org with an eagle's eye. I was bugging Irene about when this would be posted on Twitter, in fact, because I was really eager to see it despite not really following the series any longer. I would have loved to get more on his work process, as with some of the others (Komarck seems a bit more private, or at least mysterious, which may explain it), but this will do. Oh yes. It will do. Has Tor given any thought of releasing prints or a calendar or something with all this new, top-notch art on hand... ?
Provencal Fantasy: Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Song for Arbonne
Knowledge of the historical periods in question -- and by coincidence, I know a fair bit about the Albigensian Crusade, the Reconquista, and Justinian's Byzantium -- has ever been an impediment to enjoying these. Yet I know others who say it is a problem for them, so obviously, mileage does vary. I think in Lions, Kay chose to crunch the whole of the Reconquista into a very short timespan, to magnify the impact of it -- a sudden sea-change in the balance of power in the world, rather than hundreds of years of abortive, petty squabbles, territory going back and forth, and a long, slow gradual decline of al-Andalus -- and I think while geopolitically it doesn't stand up to a huge amount of scrutiny, that's not really the point of the exercise. But... I digress. A Song for Arbonne is the only novel by Kay where I was disappointed after reading it. I don't quite recall why, but I was not taken with it in my first reading. So I fairly promptly read it again -- because by this point in time, after having been introduced to the Fionavar Tapestry and Tigana, I was a massive fan -- and found I liked it much better than I initially thought I did. Strange, isn't it? I think, knowing the story the first time through, I was able to the strands of the themes of the story (and themes are a major part of what Kay is all about -- no simple plot-driven adventure from him) more clearly, picking up things I missed the first time through. Was it his failure, or mine? I'm not sure. I can never unread that book (short of self-inflicted amnesia) and try it fresh for the first time, with the addition of 15 years of greater experience as a reader (and as a reader of Kay). But in any case, that was my own history with the novel. I've re-read it several times since, I think, as I've re-read basically everything of Kay's, and my admiration for him as a writer only grows. (One quibble about the post, though: magic becomes rather more prominent in the books after The Lions of Al-Rassan, if not so prominent as the traditional wizards-and-spells of Fionavar or Tigana.)
Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D.
Manning was an incredible artist. I fell in love with the Magnus series in particular when Jim Shooter started up Valiant. There was something about the future that was depicted that was just so fascinatingly retro. It really was quite brilliantly executed, at least up to the point where Shooter was ousted from his own company. Then I drifted away. Notably, Jim Shooter is spearheading Dark Horse's new Magnus, Robot Fighter series, as well as the other Gold Key character he (and the incomparable Barry Windsor-Smith) did an amazing job with back in the 90's: Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom. Now, if only they'd revive Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger, and Rai...
A great castle made of sea: Why hasn’t Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell been more influential?
@32, It's definitely rules-bound, originating as it did from his old RP sessions. But it's true that the rules are both incredibly obscure _and_ incredibly permissive. :P
A great castle made of sea: Why hasn’t Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell been more influential?
It's sui generis. But, wow, what a beautiful work of art. I somehow fell into re-reading a favorite snippet (the scene leading up to the aside that men would smile and say Mrs. Brandy -- being a woman -- knew nothing of business, but that women would say she knew her business very well indeed: to make Mr. Black love her as much as she loved him), and somehow fell into re-reading the whole thing. It's such a rewarding, marvellous work, but I think the things that make it so rewarding may be very much bound up in the mode of storytelling. My very favorite scenes are those which just play that 19th century mode of writing and characterization to the hilt, but you know that beneath that is a modern writer's sensibility (so, for example, the moment Strange turns his back and is silent on receiving unexpected news, and Mr. Norell completely misses what's going on). The other memorable parts, related to the magic -- especially, I think, towards the end when everything falls together (hint: ravens) -- is in itself not new, I think. Really _magical_ magic -- not the rules-bound magic of so many modern fantasies (Jordan, Sanderson, Erikson, etc.)-- is still being written about, and quite well. But there's something about how it meshes with the sometimes deliberately-straightlaced nature of the narrative that just heightens the miraculous nature of it.
First Preview of Game of Thrones
Brilliant stuff. It's a proper teaser, because it reveals practically nothing! That said, over at Westeros we've posted a breakdown of the teaser which includes images grabbed by one of our forum members. Slightly spoilerish material therein if you've not read the first novel.
Charles Vess’ Drawing Down the Moon (and giveaway!)
Me me me me! Favorite artists ... hrm, in the genre, I'm very fond of Tom Canty and Alan Lee. Charles Vess ranks way up there too.
The Path of Daggers ebook cover by Julie Bell
David, I was just now going to post that. Well, Elayne -- and specifically her dress -- being very reminiscent to classic-era Phoenix (as here). I found this, I'm afraid, rather jarring. I'm sure it's utterly unintentional, but even just changing one of the tones -- make the yellow a red or a blue or a white -- would immediately deal with that. I suppose the colors may be described in the text... Don't really see Kitty, but Phoenix, oh yes. It's a nice painting otherwise. Particularly like Aviendha, for some reason, and Nynaeve's gown.
Creating Dothraki: An Interview with David J. Peterson and Sai Emrys
That's a terrific interview! Thank you, Ellen. :) There's a Dothraki sub-forum at Westeros.org where David and Sai lurk. As it's noted in the interview, they can't say too much more right now, but doubtless a few questions may be answered in the days and months to come. The Language Creation Society recently published an interview with Paul Frommer, creator of the Na'vi language for James Cameron's Avatar, with the interview conducted by David. Equally fascinating, and it gives some sense of what the process might be like for creating a language for film or television use.
An Email Conversation I Had Yesterday
GRRM's provided his write-up, with some fun for fans of WoT and ASoIaF alike, and there's a tribute to RJ there which I hope will help remind folks that this is all just fun and games, and maybe cheating or talking about killing people who vote the other way is at least a wee bit beyond over the top. ;) Also a nod to Zelazny, which is very awesome indeed. Myself, I had expected Tuf to take Popinjay out to some airless rock in the middle of interstellar space, let him out in an EVA suit so he could get really familiar with it ... and then return him to the tourney ground, where *pop* Rand ends up on said airless rock. Oh, he'd open a Skimming gate in a split second before his blood boils in the vacuum of space ... but how long does it take to travel a few scores of light years by Skimming, I wonder? Forfeit! A very cheap victory, though. I like GRRM's take better.
An Email Conversation I Had Yesterday
Oi, partisanship! Now, even in the quoted e-mails, you see the usual fallback of Rand's supporters: balefire! It all comes down to balefire. It's outré! It's cheap! It's scandalous! (To be fair, Brandon puts forward a more nuanced argument in his write-up, and does not lean on the balefire crutch so very much.) Let me then put forward the argument for why one might to consider Jaime in this competition: 1) Because he's awesome. Long-time Lovecraft afficando GRRM puts forward a mighty plausible way for just how Jaime could win a fight against Cthulhu, which is very clever, true to the source (and, I suspect, to quite a few sessions of Call of Cthulhu in days of yore). 2) Because his friends will make him yet more awesome. Rand has graciously (or arrogantly, depending on your perspective) allowed Jaime his six allies, drawn from the worlds and works of GRRM's imagination. What man, demon, or god can hope to stand against the likes of a Hrangan Mind, Haviland Tuf, or (*gulp*) the Great and Powerful Turtle? Though perhaps Tyrion has other individuals in mind... 3) Did I mention he's awesome? And oh so handsome, and as we all know, dashing good looks goes a long way in any battle... (Okay, that point may not be very serious. All the rest are deadly serious, I tell you! Deadly! Serious!)
Honour to your holdfast, honour to your teyn: George R.R. Martin’s Dying of the Light
@16, That story is "The Stone City". It is, indeed, terrifically atmospheric. Other of his "Thousand Worlds" stories that come to mind (besides the aforementioned "A Song for Lya") are "The Hero", "Bitterblooms", "And Seven Times Never Kill Man", "Tower of Ashes", "Nightflyers", "The Way of Cross and Dragon", the Haviland Tuf stories collected in Tuf Voyaging... You would have read most all of these in Dreamsongs, though. Maybe Windhaven, too, but I'm not certain of that one.
Honour to your holdfast, honour to your teyn: George R.R. Martin’s Dying of the Light
My own first encounter with GRRM would have to be Sandkings, in some collection or other that I read when I started reading SF in junior high school, and then I recall flipping through the Wild Cards series at the comic book shop and really wishing I had extra pocket money to start reading those. It wasn't until "A Song of Ice and Fire" that I had the wherewithal and time to delve into his earlier works, and since then I've read most of it. Fevre Dreamis perhaps my favorite of his novels outside of the big fantasy series, but I admit, Dying of the Light has always struck me as one of the more eerily beautiful of his works. Part of the interest is indeed Garse -- a terrific character, and one who is later mined for certain elements in two of the ASoIaF characters -- but it's also Worlorn itself. There's something very Vancian about the concept, about this beautiful, exotic place, stocked with life from half a hundred worlds, on the cusp of a entering a long, cold night. Its treated more seriously, and with a great deal more reflective melancholy, than is Vance's wont (though Suldrun's Garden first section comes close, I think). This may be the most romantic of GRRM's novels, all-considered, written at a time when I think it's fair to say that heartache and longing were very relevant to his writing. I have seen some describe the novel as maudlin, which I think is ungenerous, but I suppose everyone has a different tolerance for pathos. How do you feel about the ending, Jo? It's somewhat controversial, given reactions I've seen from those who've read it after coming across ASoIaF.
So We Have This Plot Hiccup, And This Deadline…
Writing under the gun must be ... exciting. Rusty's a great character, and I'm glad he became more central to the story. Not least because he got to feature on that Suicide Kings cover which is just ridiculously beautiful.
Almost Like We Planned It
The point system is fascinating. It's like some roleplaying game systems, where players can earn extra stuff if they allow certain things to happen to their characters... Although, maybe that's where the idea came from? RPGs? In any case, sounds very cool!
Beyond the Aryth Ocean: Part 1: A review of selected maps in fantasy novels
Speaking of ASoIaF maps, I think my favorite maps are not the ones published in the novels, but the fan-made maps based on them. This map by "Tear", for example, is easily the most beautiful straightforward interpretation. It's good enough to be published. But for my money, the coolest maps are this ongoing series by "Other-in-Law". Full of character and whimsy, he's slowly but surely working his way through all the regions, and he's intending to put the regional maps together to create one uber-map to rule them all. His latest is the map of the Reach, and I think it's his most impressive to date. The kicker for me is that he just uses MS Paint to create these. Outstanding.
LotR re-read: Two Towers movie re-watch
The response to Arwen's clearly a very individual thing. I find it interesting. For me, of all the elves in the film, Liv Tyler's Arwen and possibly Cate Blanchett's Galadriel are the only ones who feels like they're half way into some completely different world. Hugo Weaving's Elrond feels a bit too earthy and gritty for that, Orlando Bloom's Legolas is too ever-present, and so on. Maybe it's just because they're the female elves in the film, and so their physicality is not highlighted (with the exception of the scene in FotR). Hard to pull off otherworldly when you're shield-surfing, I guess. I, for one, am so very glad that Liv Tyler proved to be utterly incapable of performing in action scenes, so that they cut her scenes from Helm's Deep and let her remain rather more ethereal. @40, In elf years, 2,000 years old is like ... 14 years old -- OMG, Aragorn's robbing the cradle! More seriously, I think the tension between Arwen and Elrond is there as a subtext in the novel; Arwen may be 2,000 years old, but daddy still decides who she marries. Making it more explicit and comprehensible by casting it in the frame of more usual father-daughter tensions isn't such an awful choice. And it gives us that awesome sequence at Aragorn's death, so... I'll live with it.
“Bright the hawk’s flight in the empty sky”: Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea
@12 Bluejay, My one and only attempt at anything calligraphic was "The Creation of Ea". It was very inspiring. Speaking with my fianceé about it, she loves the book as well, but the thing she took out of it is a certain bleakness to the setting which leaves her feeling a bit depressed. I think it's the journeying across the empty sea, and then coming across quaint islands and nice people, but nothing really epic or grand, for much of the story. It's definitely a small-scale setting.
Playing With Others: Writing With a Partner or Two (or Three)
Shadow Twin's an excellent book. I know that the actual tools of collaboration on Wild Cards are, or at least have been, very traditional. I'm going to guess Shadow Twin, too. But this third collaboration you're working on, are you just e-mailing chapters back and forth, or are you using any of the new-fangled collaboration tools out there -- Google Docs (I know Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette used it for A Companion to Wolves), Etherpad, or (heaven-forfend) Google Wave -- to help speed it along? Wave currently doesn't have any good exporting method, so it'd be awkward to use for any lengthy writing. That said, for the planning stages of a collaborative story, it could be a pretty fantastic tool.
“Bright the hawk’s flight in the empty sky”: Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea
Absolutely, 100% agreed about how beautiful the prose is in this novel. It's pretty awe-inspiring. I still have very vivid memories of my first read. It was not my first introduction to Le Guin, but it was the first that really just blew me away.
LotR re-read: Two Towers movie re-watch
@Foxessa, Shadowfax was an Andalusian. Well, one of them was -- they had two or three horses for various scenes. The "hero" Shadowfax -- used in close-ups and non-riding scenes -- was an Andalusian horse named Domero. For riding sequences, like his galloping about, they used an Andalusian-Thoroughbred cross named Blanco. Andalusians are not as big as one might think, in any case.
LotR re-read: Two Towers movie re-watch
@snyderro21, "and thus did not desire the power the ring gave. " I don't think he wanted the power the ring gives in PJ's film. He wanted the esteem of his father. I actually liked the film's take on Faramir. It sucks the tension out of things if Faramir is so noble as to never really struggle with the issue that the ring is horribly seductive, as in the novel (on the flip side of this, I never liked that Frodo offered the ring to Aragorn near the end of FotR, and Aragorn was able to shrug it aside after just the briefest of hesitations). Better to keep that tension, channel it through an appropriate character narrative, and resolve it. At least in my book.
LotR re-read: Two Towers movie re-watch
I like The Two Towers as a film, but it's the second hardest of the books to film because of the split-up narrative (the worst is, of course, The Return of the King), and it was a challenge to adapt. Unlike with FotR, which I think Jackson and Co. knocked way out of the park, TTT is just .... pretty good, with some awe-inspiring moments (the opening made my jaw drop when I saw it in the theatre) and some... very ........ very ................... *HOOM* .......... Entish.............. bits. Which is, to say, slow. The structure's a tough one. I am a definite Rohan-phile, though, so that alone made me very, very happy. It's not quite how I would have done it, but it was magnficient, and the actors in the various roles of the Rohirrim were uniformly excellent. As far as Liv Tyler goes, beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. I think she's lovely and ethereal (in two or three senses) in the film. And the bit they pull from the appendices, seeing Aragorn on his bier and all that? Gives me chills. For a bit there, they capture the authentic tragedy that Tolkien intended. Re: Éowyn's song, I don't know if Otto sang it, but the words are authentic Old English, provided by David Salo. The opening lines are pretty much word-for-word from Beowulf. A translation of this, and other bits of foreign stuff in TTT (and its extended soundtrack), can be found here.
Almost Like We Planned It
This makes me wonder what the proportion of "gardeners" (organic) vs. "architects "(structured) writers is in the Wild Cards group, and how vicious the knife fights get. ;)
Gateway drugs: what books are good for introducing non-SF readers to SF?
The number of people I've seen who start, "I don't really like fantasy, but A Game of Thrones..." is not inconsiderable. Some of those just read GRRM and aren't interested in anything else, but I've seen plenty of others who branched out into other literature.
Neglected Books: the list
Lloyd Alexander's Westmark is actually fairly unusual as a fantasy series (for one thing: no magic or gods or anything of the sort, but it is a fictional setting), riffing as it does on the French Revolution.
Playing With Others: Shared Worlds
@19, Thanks for sharing that! The collaborative process can be really different, depending on the collaborators and the intentions behind them. @28, I find the subject interesting, but I'm afraid I can't really offer up much to discuss. I kinda-sorta do this already, if one counts roleplaying via text-based mediums a form of collaborative writing. It is, but the form and intention behind it is, I think, pretty different from the kind of collaborative writing you're talking about. I do wonder at how these ad-hoc collaborative stories that used to be/are being generated on the Internet are managed or "controlled". With Wild Cards, GRRM is obviously the person managing and fitting everything together. Same thing with Frank Wu's book mentioned @19. Perhaps some other shared-world uses a completely different process. I'm trying to remember what I recall of the Medea shared setting, which I read years ago. I'm sure Harlan Ellison explained something of how it was decided who would write what. Though, IIRC, the stories stood very much alone.
Playing With Others: Shared Worlds
Thanks for the post, Robotech_Master. That was an interesting read, if for nothing else than the nostalgia of seeing Usenet being discussed so much.
Playing With Others: Shared Worlds
Daniel, I'd like to see your views as to why Wild Cards drifted in a very dark direction. It's true that, when compared to the first handful, there was a marked shift in tone as it went along. This was endemic in the comics of the era, and I'll suppose a part of it was in response to the political climate and current events in the 80's. I didn't find it really off-putting myself, but there's certainly room for more the light-hearted narratives early on. I do think the latest triad is doing a pretty good job of mixing the tone up a bit.
Neglected Books and Authors
@jaspax, I read Pinto. Really liked the first, such a strange and imaginative setting, terrific atmosphere. I'm afraid I was so-so on the second, and I see now that the third was published, at least according to Wikipedia, this year. I fear the 8 year wait, in part because of the house fire that set him back so far, is a large part of why people have not read it. @toryx, Daniel has a devoted following at the Song of Ice and Fire forum's literature section. Plugging A Price for Spring for the Hugo. He deserves it. The author I wish had more attention is Judith Tarr. The Hound and the Falcon and Avaryan Rising are terrific fantasy series, and Lord of the Two Lands was a WFA nominee as I recall. I'm not the biggest fan of the turn to a more romantic fantasy that she's taken over the years, but it seems to me that that was more market-driven than by choice, because the waning fortunes that so many mid-listers have been facing. I'd love for someone to throw a contract to her to write a new entry in either of those series, or to write an excellent historical novel like Queen of Swords. Besides her, I would not mind more attention for Sarah Monette. And I'll ditto Sarah Micklem, mentioned in Kate Nepveu's thread. I had not realized the second book is out. Will be ordering it shortly. The first was quite beautifully written, I thought.
Lovely and undemanding: Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind
I read this one with some interest after all the hype, but I have to say it feels overhyped to me. Perhaps because of the fact that it's so undemanding. I expected something much more original, much more obviously flashy, from how people were responding to it but it's just ... a (generally) entertaining story (generally) well-told. I'll certainly read the next book, but I'm dialing back my expectations on boundary-pushing.
Announcing the Wheel of Time ebook artists for The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos
Excellent choices. For further books after that, I hope you consider Michael Komark (who's done the excellent WILD CARDS covers -- the Suicide Kings cover is especially awesome). And, obviously, if Michael Whelan could somehow be convinced to provide a cover ... but that's probable a pipe dream.
I have been asking for nothing else for an hour: Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards
For a long while, to the time I stopped posting at rec.arts.sf.written and using Usenet in general, this was my signature: [Upon a Dzurlord learning of the murder of a critic by a painter] "And it was well done, too. I'd have done the same, only-" "Yes?" "I don't paint." Great book.
A coachman’s tale: Steven Brust’s Brokedown Palace
Funnily enough, at the end of the document there's a quote from Brust in response to the person identifying Brigitta too much with art: "remember that binding a character to a symbol was something I did in the first draft, and found it didn't work, so well before I got to the final draft (There were four full rewrites with that book) all the characters had been given permission to stop being symbols and just be themselves."

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