The great old stories break and bend rules modern audiences take for granted. For example: Journey to the West, which I talked about last month, is a story of high-flying magic, transformation, kung fu, divine war, and so on—that, for all its epic scope, reads more like Sword and Sorcery.
That is, to borrow Liz Bourke’s definition of S&S: Journey to the West is a story of encounter, in which central characters going about their daily business keep running into strange, fascinating, terrifying things—and befriending them, or beating them about the head and shoulders, or both.
By contrast, let’s talk about one of the best war-and-intrigue novels of all time, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. At first glance, Three Kingdoms seems an epic fantasy, in that it describes the fall of a massive empire through the lens of central characters with dynastic ambition. But, though set in a time of miracles, Three Kingdoms relies on the traditional Sword & Sorcery mix of cleverness, combat, and betrayal rather than prophecy or magic. Continue reading
Last week, news spread that George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire, signed a new two-year contract with HBO, including his continued participation in their ASOIAF adaptation, Game of Thrones and the development of new projects. On February 10th, in response to a question from a fan on his personal blog, Martin confirmed details about those ‘projects,’ including a potential prequel series to Game of Thrones.
Tuf would be fun. Dunk and Egg are being discussed. Robert’s Rebellion is part of Ice & Fire, won’t be a separate series. Sandkings was done by the OUTER LIMITS; I retain feature film rights, but television rights are gone.
While he speculates about his other properties, he admits specifically that discussion has taken place regarding Dunk and Egg, the heroes of his A Song of Ice and Fire off-shoot novella series. They would be a fun concept for a show, but I wonder if there is proper mass appeal for two characters that most fans of the series likely don’t even know exist. As he says, Robert’s Rebellion would be perfect, but nearly as big a production as Game of Thrones itself, and it’s integrally tied to the events in the series and might be redundant by the time the series/show ends. Non-A Song of Ice and Fire properties is an interesting idea, but, again, I wonder about the mass appeal. Me? I’m curious where the rights to the Wild Cards series rest.
Fantasy should be the broadest genre in existence. Fantasy writers get to create and transform to our hearts’ content. Not even the laws of thermodynamics bind us. Our imaginations are our only limits.
The problem is, the imagination’s limits are often harder than physical law. Writers are formed by experience, and interpret that experience into story using instincts developed reading, and hearing, stories, from early childhood. So, when a lot of Western folks turn to writing fantasy, Arthurian and Greek and Norse myths are the seeds they use to people and structure their imaginative worlds.
Which is fine! Each generation needs to remake the myths received from the previous generation. But sometimes writers and readers feel the limits of their traditions, and wonder, what else is out there, other than kings and earls?
In this three-part series I’m going to be writing about stories I think all fantasy writers and fans should know, other than the standard Celtic, Greek, and Norse sources. If you know these stories already, then good! I hope there’ll be something cool for you here anyway. If these stories are new to you, maybe these few posts will expose you to some amazing worlds. Continue reading
Pop Culture is full of phenomena. These phenomena capture the imagination of millions, and dominate talk around water coolers, Internet forums, Twitter and pub tables. Many factors lead to the formulation of such zeitgeists, such as focussed marketing, fresh storytelling that taps into flash-in-the-pan societal fears and interests, a bold take on traditional concepts, or, well, because they’re just damn easy and accessible. Such phenomena, by their very nature, come and go. They sweep through fans like a fever, and burn out just as quickly.
Lost was a cultural phenomenon… until the second and third seasons when the show-runners jumped the trails and lost control of their script. As I write this, “Gangnam Style” is sweeping America, Europe and the rest of the world, yet Psy, the Korean musician behind the hit, will likely never release another song which significantly impacts Western pop music.
There are phenomena like Pokemon: a weird, complex Japanese videogame and television series that captured the attention of children fifteen years ago and still hasn’t let go. Each new iteration of the video game series sells millions of copies, and the animated series is still running today. Most famously, there is also J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. When it first rose to wide prominence at the turn of this century, it was easy to dismiss Rowling’s work as a fad. But then it kept on going, and going, and going. Harry Potter and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are now literary staples on the same level as Bilbo Baggins and the Pevensies.
There is nothing in the world so easy to explain as failure – it is, after all, what everybody does all the time.
If HBO hasn’t already won over the Fantasy crowd with its award-winning adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris’ popular Sookie Stackhouse series, and upcoming adaptation of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, they’re looking at some potential competition from the BBC, which recently announced the acquisition of Susanna Clarke’s beautiful, bloated and baroque Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
Of the acquisition, the BBC says:
[The series is] based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Peter Harness. Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an England where magic once existed and is about to return.
Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is produced by Cuba, the production arm of leading literary and talent agency Curtis Brown in association with Feel Film and Farmoor.
Toby Haynes directs, Nick Hirschkorn will produce with Nick Marston, Justin Thomson-Glover and Patrick Irwin are executive producing. Matthew Read is the Executive Producer for the BBC.
Cuba is also the production company behind BAFTA-winning Boy A and critically acclaimed Broken.
So, not much, beside a bunch of names which most non-British fans probably won’t recognize, but it appears to be a project worth keeping an eye on. I attempted to reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell several years ago, when it was first released, and found it bland and almost impenetrable and didn’t finish it; but it’s always been on my bucket list, as my tastes have evolved significantly since then and I expect I could better appreciate Clarke’s work nowadays. This television series might be just the kick in the pants I’m looking for.