Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Game of Shout-outs

Game of Thrones is a class act. Yes, the show is so eager to display the naked female form engaged in sexual acts whenever possible that I sometimes think Paul Verhoeven took over the camera to make a medieval version of Showgirls. Yes, the previous season’s depiction of how Theon was transformed into Reek (which took place mostly offstage in the novels) played like outtakes from Salo.

But in the second episode of the new season, King Joffrey (aka Caligula Bieber) brandished his new sword and wondered aloud what to name it. “Stormbringer!” someone shouted off camera. “Terminus Est!” someone else shouted, just as another called out the name used in George R. R. Martin’s novel — Widow’s Wail.

The plot rolled on and I rolled with it, but not before I had my little glow of appreciation for the shout-outs to Michael Moorcock and Gene Wolfe. What is turning out to be the greatest fantasy series ever made for television took time to give props to two other fantasy greats. Terminus Est is the massive sword used by Severian, the apprentice torturer in Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun.  Stormbringer is the soul-devouring weapon featured in Moorcock’s long-running series about Elric, the semi-human albino who needs the sword to keep himelf alive.  So — a class act.

If someone had also called out “Graywand” or “Scalpel,” thus referencing Fritz Lieber’s classic Lankhmar stories, the episode would have scored my personal heroic fantasy trifecta. Maybe another episode. I’m sure they’ll get around to it. This show is, after all, a class act.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday finds

New York City a century ago, as chronicled in photos from the city Department of Records. The images range from disturbing (two would-be robbers who met their end at the bottom of an elevator shaft) to beautiful (an unidentified man looking at Manhattan from the George Washington Bridge). Most have never before been publicly available.

The hidden rooftops of New York City. One in the Financial District sports a model of a World War I fighter plane.

What do women want? Author Beverly Akerman reads 50 Shades of Grey to find out.

Lock Neil Young into a listening booth with an ocelot? I am so there!

How to make medieval illuminated letter cookies.

Because it had to happen — The Wire: The Musical. With some of the original cast members, yo. So much awesome in one place.

While you’re waiting for next April and the start of the Game of Thrones third season, cool your heels on this replica of the Iron Throne. While you’re at it, you can ponder these scientifically plausible explanations for those highly variable seasons.

Planning to visit Germany? Be sure to spend some quality time at Ferropolis.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Run like hell

Too bad about those cheesy White Walkers at the end, but otherwise the second season of Game of Thrones ended on a pretty high note. I always wondered what the St. Crispian’s Day speech would have been like if Henry V’s inspiration hadn’t been firing on all ten cylinders, and now I know — as does Theon Greyjoy, whose future is going to be extremely grey with very little joy. Like Sansa Stark, he’s about to learn that in George R.R. Martin’s universe, the only sensible response to a reversal of fortune is to run like hell.

One of the side benefits of the HBO series is that its quality inspired me to return to Martin’s novels. I’d enjoyed the hell out of the first three books, but  A Feast for Crows taxed my patience well past the breaking point, so when A Dance with Dragons came out last year I shrugged and figured I’d get around to it. I jumped with both feet a couple of weeks ago found Dance to be pretty much a return to form, though the title verges on false advertising. The Winds of Winter better have some pretty hot dragon action to make up for this latest tease.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday finds

I couldn’t care less about the Emmy awards, but the nominees for “Outstanding Main Title Design” were pretty amazing. The design for Game of Thrones is my personal fave, but The Art of the Title has a rundown on them all. Beware: This beguiling site is one of the most fiendishly irresistible time-sucks on the Internets.

A handy guide to the characters of Charles Dickens.

Lectures by well-known writers, now available online.

No, Mr. G, no! I’ll be good, I promise! Just don’t play that country music again!

A set of Spotify playlists for writers, including Thomas Pynchon, Ann Patchett, and Haruki Murakami.

Have you visited the High Line yet? You really owe it to yourself.

Looking for Proust and finding Verlaine.

What All My Children has in common with the Icelandic sagas.

“I don’t recall all the particulars of my first [science fiction and fantasy convention], but it was held in Baltimore at some point in the early 80s, I believe, and coincided with Poe’s birthday. I attended with a friend of mine. One high point was watching Fritz Leiber read ‘The Raven’ at Poe’s grave. One expected him, when finished, to open up a casket and crawl inside. Another was attending a panel that featured Stephen King, among others. He sat down with a brown paper bag, opened it, and pulled out a six pack of beer, which he proceeded to drink from as the panel progressed. I’ve often thought in the years since, when I’ve been trapped on hijacked or just plain boring panels, that I should have followed his example.”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Snobs is as snobs does

If you thought the artistic and commercial success of the three Lord of the Rings films, capped by the 11-award sweep on Oscar night for The Return of the King, would finally earn the fantasy genre some long overdue respect, take a gander at this New York Times review of HBO’s Game of Thrones mini-series and think again.

I haven’t read George R.R. Martin’s underlying novel, or indeed any of the books in his Song of Ice and Fire cycle, but I have read enough of Martin’s other works to understand that the man is no joke. I was still an avid Analog reader when his early SF stories, such as “With Morning Comes Mistfall” and “The Second Kind of Loneliness,” helped serve notice that the John Campbell era was most definitely over, and I consider Fevre Dream a neglected Eighties classic — one of the most original and ingenious vampire novels ever written. I gather that the bulky A Song of Ice and Fire series is Martin’s bid to write a fantasy epic with the scale and ambition of J.R.R. Tolkien while avoiding slavish imitation (and even staking out higher literary ground). I have no doubt he’s the man for the job.

But, as Jeff Sypeck notes, Ginia Bellafante’s review is a sour-smelling landfill spilling over with the stalest, tritest cliches ever excreted about fantasy fans and authors. There’s nothing in the piece you haven’t read a thousand times already, from the gibes about boys with no dating prospects to the whining about having to keep track of so many names and characters. The craft of criticism is not well served by lazy hacks who disdain the effort of understanding a work on its own terms, and knock it for failing to rise to their limited expectations. A critic isn’t required to like a given work, but the critic is required to show at least some interest in what the work is trying to do. If Ginia Bellafante couldn’t be bothered with this task, she should have stepped aside and let a real critic show her how it’s done.

Bellafanate’s clueless wanking reminds us that one of the many blessings of the Internet has been the elimination of credentialism in arts reporting. The days when a Times copyhack could command respect simply by virtue of collecting a paycheck from the Gray Lady are over, and good goddamned riddance. Most newspapers have already dealt themselves out of the cultural criticism game by getting rid of book reviews — after all, why would an industry that depends on readers want to cultivate people who buy books? — and training their lenses on whatever dive Snooki has decided to pass out in. The most informed, passionate and worthwhile arts writing has been exiled to the Internet, and Bellafante’s piece shows why we should be happy about it. There was a time when someone like Edmund Wilson — a valuable and versatile intellectual, but also frequently a ridiculous snob — would take a few sniffs at Tolkien or Lovecraft before cocking a leg over them, and we were all expected to be grateful for the golden shower of attention from a Certified Big Time Critic. Well, in this wide-open arena, the credit goes to writers with wit, style, and knowledge, and none of those qualities apply to someone who writes something like this:

If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort. If you are nearly anyone else, you will hunger for HBO to get back to the business of languages for which we already have a dictionary.

I hope this doesn’t shake you up too badly, Ginia, but this Wire fan understands that stories where the characters wield swords instead of Glocks can have just as much to say about human values and instincts. My literary world is big enough to put Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance alongside John O’Hara and John Steinbeck. When the Game of Thrones boxed set of DVDs comes out, I’ll give it a privileged place in the bookstore rental collection alongside The Wire, Treme, and The Singing Detective. An artist engaged with real human emotions and actions, regardless of the genre he works in, is always more interesting than a two-bit critic scoring cheap snark-points.

Embrace your irrelevance, Ginia. You’ve earned that, if nothing else.

Tagged , , , , , ,