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Well after they jumped ahead of the published books in last week's episode in revealing information about the White Walkers, I said I would be foregoing further predictions to the ends of each episode.  One friend actually asked me to keep doing them, but as it turns out I'll soon be giving up my write-ups as well, but we'll get to that later.

So I don't recall any new characters being introduced this week, and we bid farewell to quite a few in Locke, Karl, Rast, and the rest of the Night's Watch renegades.  So with that we can get right into the episode.  As always, spoiler warnings are in effect for the books as well as the show.

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I feel like this validates my inner fan-boy for George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. :)

Oh, man.  Do I have some shit to say about this episode.  First of all, I missed out on my prediction to the end of the episode.  Of course, if you want to go by the books, I did correctly figure out what would be the last scene from the books.  Everything afterward was either new storylines created for the show, or possible spoilers from future books! (but more on that later).  But due to the way the last twenty minutes of this episode unfolded, I am retiring my weekly predictions concerning how the episodes will end.  When they are creating new material not in the books and drawing on possible spoilers from future books, it takes the fun out of making these guesses, because it feels like playing against a stacked deck.  So going forward, I'm afraid it will only be the write-ups, sorry.

So with this said, let's get into this week's episode.  As always, spoilers will abound for the books and the show, so be up to date or immune to being bothered by spoilers.  No new characters of note to report this week ...well, beyond Ser Pounce and that possible White Walker Witch King we glimpsed at the end of the episode.  There were also no new deaths or locales on the map during the opening credits, which means we can jump right into this episode.

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Once again I'm going to use the upcoming title to dictate my prediction.  The title of this upcoming episode is "Oathkeeper," which is the name Jaime gives to his Valyrian blade when he gives it to Brienne and charges her with finding Sansa.  So given this, I'll go ahead and predict this week's episode ends with this scene.

Also, I'd like to post a few more thoughts on the now infamous rape scene from this past episode: I've read a number of articles from prominent venues about this topic, and I've noticed a number of them have pointed out how this isn't the first time HBO's Game of Thrones has taken a cavalier attitude with rape, changing a sex scene in the books into a rape scene.  The other notable example was in season one when Khal Drogo has sex with Daenerys on their wedding night (episode one, I believe).

This is a fair point, certainly one worth bringing up.  What surprises me though is that of all the articles I've read, while several of them have noted what a mess the showrunners have made of Jaime's character arc, not a single one has pointed out that last season Jaime saved a woman he loathed from being raped (Brienne), while this season, as we're continuing to witness his transformation from the reprehensible man who threw Bran from a window, he decides to rape the woman he cares about most in the world.

By what metric of storytelling does this character arc make any sense?  Jaime was never on his way to becoming a saint, not in the books or the show, but he was walking a tightrope as he navigated duty to his family vs. the person he wanted to be.  And along the way, he was becoming a person we could identify with, at least to an extent.  He was no longer the ruthless sexual deviant interested in nothing brute force and incestuous sex. So by dialing up the violence up to 11 as the showrunners are wont to do, in one fell swoop they have not only brought Jaime back to the beginning of his character arc, but in all likelihood they have made him more hated than ever by a significant portion of the viewing audience.

And why?  Probably because the showrunners asked themselves their usual rolodex of questions: "Can we make this bloodier?  Can we make this more violent?  Can we make this more sexual?  Can we make this more disturbing?"  Never mind if it actually makes sense to the story.  Sex and violence sells!  It makes EVERYTHING better.  Right?  Umm, ever hear of that little saying called less is more?  The original scene in the book depicts consensual incestuous sex between twins in a  house of worship near the corpse of their love-child.  That is plenty disturbing, especially the way George depicts it in the book, because he made the brave choice to allow the reader to witness the unique passion of this completely fucked up relationship.  It was abhorrent, but we understood it as readers.  We didn't start hating Jaime again because of what happened (we just squirmed something awful).

The HBO scene amounted to little more than being provocative (or edgy if you will) for the sake of being provocative.  Had they followed the source material, people would still be talking about the scene, but there would be no blow-back.  Instead, everyone would be saying what a sick fuck George R. R. Martin is ...only George is such a genius that when we can call him a sick fuck we mean it as a form of praise (and rightly so).  Instead, a lot of people are going to be left with rather ambivalent feelings in this coming week's episode of "Oathkeeper" when Jaime charges Brienne with finding Sansa: "Oh, so you rape your sister while being close enough to piss on your dead son last week, but this week you're talking about keeping your oaths and I'm supposed to give a shit?  Fuck you!"  I'd imagine this will be the reactions for a lot of viewers, and the showrunners have no one to blame but themselves for completely fucking up Jaime's arc, for completely ignoring common sense, and in this instance for failing to understand what constitutes good storytelling.

Going forward they would be wise to have a new rolodex of questions on hand: Will changing this scene really improve it or we simply massaging our egos?  If we do change this scene, what's the worst that can happen?  If we write a scene involving rape, does our director understand it's rape?  And perhaps most importantly, if we're changing this scene, did we consult George R. R. Martin so that he can kick our respective asses if we're making a sad and ugly joke of his source material?

These would be some good starting points.  I'm looking at you David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
       

Realms of Fantasy: October 2010 (Issue 96)

  • Apr. 22nd, 2014 at 10:08 PM

096-october2010

Part ninety-six in my comprehensive retrospective as I read the fiction in Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts, right up to the final issue.  This time around I’ll take a whack at the October 2010 issue.

It was while this issue was out that I learned from Warren Lapine that the December 2010 issue would be the final issue under Tir Na Nog Press.  Warren had plans to put the magazine up for sale, but being as it had suffered one death already back in 2009, neither Shawna nor myself were expecting much to result from this.  I’ll get into this more with the December 2010 issue, but for now we’ll keep the focus on October.

The cover to this one is a reprint of an illustration by John Jude Palencar.  Two things I’ll always remember when I think of this cover: first is that when I emailed John about acquiring reprint rights of this illustration, he emailed me his phone number so we could talk, and he proved quite generous with his time, far more than you would expect from someone so successful (not to say there aren’t other folks in the industry like this, just that you never expect it). And second, while I’ll refrain from mentioning names, I’ll always remember how a certain literary critic referred to this as a “BDSM cover” when reviewing this issue.  I wonder what s/he would say if s/he were to learn this illustration originally appeared on the cover of a YA novel?  But never mind that: apparently magical tattoos equal kinky sex.  Who knew? J

In the masthead, the only change to report is that the Folkroots editor is no longer listed.  Ari Berk and Kristen McDermott finished their run with the last issue.  I had already hired Theodora Goss to take over the column, but if memory serves correctly, while she was interested, during that time was working on a thesis paper for her PhD.  So our solution was that I would oversee the column on an interim basis, and Theodora would take over with the February 2011 issue.

A number of candidates were considered to take over Folkroots—all of them quite good—but the truth is that when I learned that Ari and Kristen were stepping down, Theodora’s name immediately came to mind as their replacement.  The reasons for this are myriad, and Theodora had enough ties to the magazine on different levels that is actually worth sharing my thinking here.  First, I had known Theodora since we both attended the Odyssey Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing Workshop, all the way back in 2000.  Both of us were newbies to the professional scene at this point, without a writing or editorial credit to our respective names.  This workshop runs six weeks, so during this time I got a pretty good deal for a number of interests, which led me to believe in 2010 she would be an excellent fit for Folkroots.

Of course, this is just the beginning of Dora’s connections to the magazine.  A year later in 2001, she attended the Clarion Writing Workshop.  Shawna McCarthy, the magazine’s longtime and founding editor, was one of the teachers that year, and she actually decided to purchase one of Dora’s workshop stories for the magazine, which resulted in Dora’s first sale. (That story was “The Rose in Twelve Petals” in the April 2002 issue.)  She ended up selling three more stories to us, so in addition to being to her being a known quantity to both Shawna and myself, this also made her a known quantity to the magazine’s readers.  She also wrote a Folkroots article as a guest columnist in an earlier issue, providing further proof she would be a good fit for the position.

And if all this wasn’t enough, she also had a connection to our publisher at the time, Warren Lapine.  When Dora applied for the Odyssey Workshop back in 2000, Warren wrote a recommendation for her, as she had submitted to the magazines at his old DNA Publications several times.  While Warren hadn’t bought anything from her, he was familiar enough with her writing that he was comfortable writing said recommendation.  Put all this together and despite the other excellent candidates Dora and the Folkroots column was clearly a match made in heaven.

Moving on, a rundown of this issue’s nonfiction is as follows:

In the Movie/TV section, Resa Nelson provides a rundown of the fall movies; in the Artists Gallery, Karen Haber covers the work of Tiffany Prothero; in Folkroots, SatyrPhil Brucato writes about the androgyne lover in fantastical fiction; in the Books column, Paul Witcover reviews The Bird of the River by Kage Baker, The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer, Blood of the Mantis by Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Office of Shadow by Matthew Sturges, and Matt Staggs reviews Pariah by Bob Fingerman, Metrophilias by Brendan Connell, and Our Lady of the Absolute by Resa Nelson; in the Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy books column, Elizabeth Bears reviews Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner, Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts, White Cat by Holly Black, and Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn; in Young Adult Books, Michael Jones reviews The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, Passing Strange by Daniel Waters, Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev, The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan, and For the Win by Cory Doctorow.

Andrew Wheeler’s Graphic Novel column was moved to the website for this issue, and he reviewed Graphic Classics, Volume 1: Edgar Allen Poe, and Melvin Monster; and in the Games column, Matt Staggs reviews Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! The Shumanti Hills for the iPhone, Contagion Infected Human Zombie Cards, the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Strategy Guide, and Tony Sims reviews Prince of Persia of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for the Xbox 360, Legio for the PC, and Darkness Within 2:The Dark Lineage for the PC.

This issue also marked the last one for columnists Matt Staggs and Tony Sims.  Matt was with the magazine since the April 2009 issue, a run of eight issues as a book columnist, and a run of seven issues as a gaming columnist.  Tony was with the magazine since the April 2010 issue, a run of four issues.

On to the fiction …

The lead story this issue is “Cutter in the Underverse” by Daniel Hood, which marks his second appearance in the magazine.  This one is an urban fantasy about the Underverse of NYC, a place of memories, ghosts, and monsters.  Detective Cutter is one of the few from the real world that is able to visit the Underverse without complications, but in this story he ends up going there somewhat against his will when someone from the Underverse buys up all his gambling markers in the real world.  The buyer turns out to be the ghost of Arnold Rothstein, a criminal figure out of history best known as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series.  He wants Cutter to do him a favor, but as you might imagine when dealing with such a shady character, all is not as straightforward as it seems.  Art to this one was provided by John Kaiine, which marks his third illustration in the magazine.

Next up we have “Middle” by Eilis O’Neal.  This one feels like magic realism to me, and it deals with the classically neglected middle family, only her family is a bit extraordinary, as her older perfect sister has fallen asleep and won’t wake up while her dreams remain visible in a kind of cloud above her while she sleeps.  Meanwhile, her younger brilliant brother has a pretend llama for a pet that might not be so pretend.  Nothing fantastical seems to be going on with the middle child, which of course would only add to the classic neglect …and also lead to a cry for attention in rather spectacular fashion.  Art to this one was provided by Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon, which marks their third illustration in the magazine.

Then we have “The Fall of the Moon” by Jay Lake, which marks his tenth appearance in the magazine.  This one is quirky high fantasy tale about a man who builds a boat with the bones of his dead grandfather so he might sail the Sea of Murmurs and live forever.  Along the way, he must overcome obstacles such as monsters, neighbors, and family.  Art to this one was provided by Allen Douglas, which marks his tenth illustration in the magazine.

Next up is “Saint’s-Paw” by Alan Smale, which marks his fifth appearance in the magazine.  This one takes place in a medieval Europe that portrays an adolescent girl on the run after curiosity led to her dissecting her dead father, which in turn led to accusations of witchcraft.  When she takes shelter in a church housing the hand of St. Stephan while fleeing some vengeful soldiers, we learn that the hand is not what—or who—it seems to be.  Art to this one was provided by Alan M. Clark, which marks his third illustration in the magazine.

Finally we have “Halloween: Comprising a Cautionary Acrostic of Nine Bedtime Stories for Reading to the Tiresome or Disobedient Child” by Euan Harvey, which marks his sixth appearance in the magazine.  Euan is also hereby given the unofficial award for longest fiction title to ever appear in the magazine.  Right before the story begins, Euan included the following note: “To Jack Slay, Jr., with respect. (And apologies.)  A quick search online revealed that Jack Slay, Jr. had a story appear in the magazine Cemetery Dance called “Halloween: An Acrostic of Little Horrors.”  So presumably Euan took his inspiration from this story, and perhaps followed a somewhat narrative structure.  As to that structure, it features nine loosely connected flash fiction pieces about kids in the same neighborhood on or around the day of Halloween, with each kid’s name beginning with a different letter from the word Halloween.  (For example, the first flash piece begins with “H is for Hugh …”)  Art to this one was provided by Jill Bauman, which marks her second illustration in the magazine.

So that wraps up this issue.  And my favorite story?  Euan’s Halloween Acrostic tale.  And my favorite artwork?  Jill Bauman’s illustration to the same story.  Next time around I’ll put a cap on the 2010 publishing year, as well as the era of Tir Na Nog as publisher.

Until then …      

Well other than correctly figuring out where the character focus would end with this week's episode, I swung and missed on that prediction.  Of course, I were a baseball player my current .333 average would be outstanding.  No new characters were introduced this week, and in the death department we bid a bland farewell to Ser Dontos, who was far more interesting in the books.  So with that said, let's dive into this episode.

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This is a tough one.  Part of me wants to guess once again that Ygritte will die this episode, which I would imagine would happen at the end of an episode.  But the title to this coming episode is "Breaker of Chains," which is referencing Daenerys.  Being as she's already freed two of the three slave cities, to reference this nickname suggests to me that she's going to free Mereen this episode.  If they follow the method in the book, Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan make their way through the sewer system.  Soon afterward, Dany exiles Ser Jorah for his betrayals.  So I'll put that out there as my guess: Ser Jorah is exiled by Dany for his treasons, meaning we won't be seeing him again for a while.  

Sorry to be getting to this so late this week--I've been running around since Sunday.  As always, there are spoilers aplenty in my write-ups, so unless you don't mind such things, don't read my write-up unless you're current on both the books and the show.  So before I get into episode two, there is actually something from episode one that I forgot to mention in my last write-up: when Jon Snow undergoes that hearing at the Wall, the equivalent scene happens much later on in A Storm of Swords, and the Wall is already under siege by the wildlings.  Ygritte at this point has been dead for some time.  But I suppose it makes sense to introduce them earlier, as it allows the viewing audience to reacquaint themselves Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt.  All right, on to episode two ...

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Mind Meld

  • Apr. 16th, 2014 at 12:55 PM

So I recently participated in my first Mind Meld, a feature on the SF Signal website wherein they pose various questions to a group of science writers/editors/etc. and post their answers.  This week's question: If you were imprisoned for life and your genre-loving (but slightly deranged) warden allowed you to read work from the bibliography of ONLY ONE author, who would you choose?  Why?

Livejournal is acting all glitch-y at the moment and won't let me use the link feature, so I'll paste in the entire link the old fashioned way if you'd like to read my and everyone else's answers: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/04/mind-meld-sentenced-to-read-one-author-for-life/

OK, I like my chances of getting this week's prediction right because if you're reader of the books you realize after the trailer for episode that it's damn near impossible for it to be anything else.  Read on for spoilers people:

Episode two will end with Joffrey's death at his wedding (woo hoo!)  That is the obvious stopping point, but more specifically I would imagine it will end with Cersei accusing Tyrion of killing Joffrey.

And speaking of Cersei, this brings me to something I forgot to mention in my write-up of episode one that I feel is worth mentioning.  In that first scene between Cersei and Jaime, Cersei thanks Qyburn for helping with some other matter.  When Jaime asks what it is, Cersei becomes evasive.  I don't recall any interactions between Cersei and Qyburn last season, so I think we have to puzzle out what was going on here.  It seems to me that the likeliest explanation is that Cersei discovered she was pregnant and Qyburn gave a tincture to kill the child inside her womb.  In the books (and I believe in the show as well at this point) it's been established that Qyburn was stripped of his maester chain after conducting experiments to understand the nature of death.  If Qyburn was fascinated with the nature of death, killing an unborn babe with a potion would almost certainly fall under his expertise.  As to Cersei, Jaime noted how surprised he was that she let Qyburn touch her.  This would suggest that she needed a damn good reason to let him--a pregnancy would qualify.  And that is a baby she would need to get rid of, because with the king dead and rumors flying about her incest with Jaime, the last thing she needs is suddenly becoming pregnant about a child that likely belongs to Lancel.  Cersei's pregnancy would be a deviation from the books, but it does fit in rather neatly, and it would tie Cersei and Qyburn together closely early on, which sets things up for later.

More from next week after episode two. 

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