The Library Fantastic

The -Ismy

Shrill, crazy, laughable. And, at the same time, almost enough to make me sad and ashamed to be a woman. But, I happen to derive much enjoyment and pride from being a woman (which for me includes finding Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy very hot indeed as well as appreciating it for an interesting story and engaging characters), so I am not about to have that affected by a pathetic creature who clearly suffers from a serious case of twisted panties. Talk about providing an excellent explanation for why the Greeks made a national pastime of misogyny and made all their monstrous mythological creatures female. This particular breed one might call the “-Ismy”. Its sort of like a harpy but it just goes on and on and on about its favourite -isms. Its not really dangerous unless you have issues with your blood pressure, however.

Reading Not Required

So, we have a new interview with a cast member, this time Liam Cunningham who plays Davos. Unfortunately, one part of the written interview stood out in a very bad way… The producers now say that they prefer it if the actors do not read the books? Lovely. I guess it was too good to be true having so many of the actors reading and enjoying the books before and during the first season of Game of Thrones.

If an actor personally feels that reading the books isn’t compatible with how he or she prefers to work, well, that’s one thing. Its their work and I am not going to question how they approach it in the sense that this is just one of many parts in their career. However, I vastly prefer it when an actor says “oh yes, I read the books and I really like them” because I do think it can improve the performance if an actor is a fellow fan who has had a chance to fall in love with the same aspects of the books that fans have fallen in love with. I also feel that if an actor comments on differences from the books it puts those differences in a better light if the actor has read the books and can speak of the how’s and why’s of the changes from a position of knowing what the original story was.

In fact, I believe there were some instances of actors who had read the books pointing out bits and pieces during the first season and I am also reminded of how apparently Christopher Lee did the same during the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Having actors that have read the books adds more people who may have insight on a scene or may be able to point out little slip-ups and unintentional changes. Perhaps they won’t be able to argue against most intentional changes, but I’ll take any little crumbs we can get in terms of getting more of the actual story into the show.

If this truly is what the producers recommend to the actors I am afraid my respect for them and my trust in them has taken a serious plunge. I had really hoped that success for the show wouldn’t mean that it no longer matters to them to stay true to what those who love the books want to see, but its looking pretty bad.

Teased

So, we have the first more substantial trailer/teaser for season 2 of Game of Thrones. Still very much liking the look of Melisandre. Conleth Hill’s Varys continues to impress—his voice is perfect and I definitely heard it in my head when I read the last chapter of A Dance with Dragons—and so does Sophie Turner’s Sansa. Do like the use of that particular piece of dialogue from Varys, the riddle has long-term implications. Fake Aegon, anyone?

On the other hand, I am dreading what Margaery will be like and I really hope they’ll leave it up in the air as to whether Renly has bedded her, though it sure didn’t look like it would be left ambiguous from that one shot… But it could still be the case.

I am also, I am afraid, dreading their take on Dany for this season even more after her little bit of shrill, hysterical yelling. That just isn’t Dany in A Clash of Kings.

More Early Thoughts on the Season

While it is true enough that I am a lot less optimistic about season 2 than I was about season 1, I shouldn’t give the impression that there’s nothing I am looking forward to. In terms of casting, I think Melisandre and Brienne have the potential to be really good. If that turns out to be true, that will be very enjoyable as those are two characters I really like. I wasn’t really taken with Brienne until she became a viewpoint character and I downright disliked Melisandre until her chapter in A Dance with Dragons, but now they are definitely among my favourites and what I know about the characters all together will still affect how I see them in the second season. So, I am keeping my fingers crossed for those storylines.

I also have hopes for the Beyond the Wall storyline, though likely it will (once again) be sad to see how little the wolves will be used. That’s one of those unavoidable changes that I can’t fault anyone for, however.

As for the rest…Sophie is a great Sansa, so any scenes with her (but without the trainwreck that is Cersei on the show) should be something to look forward to. Maise is also a great Arya, but Arya is not a character I like to read about at all and it colours my feelings for her on the show. Given the lack of any casting for the Bloody Mummers, I am also left feeling dubious about the final execution of her storyline in general. Robb…well, no. Not happy with this expansion of his story. Again, doing the typical thing. Theon and Bran we’ve not seen or heard much about, nor Asha (except that idiotic name-change), and the same really goes for Renly’s court. We won’t get a huge melee and a spectacular fight between Loras and Brienne, of course, but that’s another of those sad, mostly unavoidable facts.

And I very much fear that, once again, we will be cheated out of most dreams, visions, etc. However, I’d forgive a lot of things if it turns out they’ve secretly brought back Harry Lloyd to play Rhaegar for the scene in the House of the Undying.

First Rant of the Season?

Having just finished listening to the interview with Nonso Anozie who is playing Xaro Xhoan Daxos in the second season of Game of Thrones, I feel as if all my worst fears for the season have been at least halfway confirmed. Of course, one shouldn’t go entirely by what an actor says, we’ve had some odd reports in the past that way, but it really sounds as if HBO has decided to change Daenerys’s storyline quite considerably.

Oh, and beware of spoilers.

On Fan Fiction

The topic of the week appears to be fan fiction and there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides. For my own part, I find it difficult to write in detail about my opinions because I see it as a very clear-cut issue: if the copyright holder doesn’t permit it, you don’t do it. I am of the opinion that it is both legally and morally wrong to do so.

But, the issue does perhaps deserve a bit more time and thought than that. As an initial caveat, let me add that any opinions stated here concern fan fiction that is distributed more or less widely, primarily on the Internet. If someone writes fan fiction for themselves, there’s clearly no harm done.

My Casting Concerns

I split this off from a post mostly about our MUSH, but some of the discussion of the facts from the books remain in that post.

I have said this before, but I’ll make the point again before going on to the meat of the post. I am a purist when it comes to seeing these books translated to another medium. If it was possible (and yes, I know it isn’t), I wouldn’t want a single change. Actually, that is my opinion for other books too, but these books are obviously special to me. I didn’t like the changes in Lord of the Rings either, but I don’t run a site devoted to those books. I don’t discuss those books every day. Its very, very hard for me to just shrug my shoulders and forget about anything that relates to ASoIaF because it is a constant presence in my life.

Male & Female Authors

A few days ago, Kate Elliott and Katherine Kerr both posted on their LJs about women and fantasy. Now, gender issues aren’t perhaps my favourite issues, but this time the subject caught my attention because I do think we’ve seen a frustrating development of fantasy in the last decade. Male writers write more and more “macho” stuff (gritty, violent, bleak, etc) and female writers write more and more romance.

I like the middle ground. ASoIaF is, for me, part of the middle ground, though it seems clear that certain aspects of it are the reason for the male writers going towards one end of the spectrum. The reason for the female writers moving towards the other end seems like it is often publisher-driven; they are being told its the only thing that sells.

I used to read a pretty equal amount of male and female authors. I didn’t care (and I still don’t) about the gender of the author. But what has happened over the last years is that I’ve pretty much stopped picking up new male authors. Not because they’re male but because they don’t write anything I am interested in.

Elio and I used to read a lot of the same things. Now it pretty much only happens with authors we were already reading, not with new authors. And it seems to be harder and harder to find the sort of middle ground fantasy that I like.

As a bit of an offshoot of this train of thought, I ended up considering the authors that get discussed (and that post) on the Westeros forums. I rather wish we had some female authors show up as well. There are plenty that ought to appeal to readers of ASoIaF, unless they are of the variety that never reads any other fantasy.

Formative Books

Everyone who is a Reader has them, I think. Formative books that, even though we may not have read them for many, many years, loom large in our imagination. If they are hard to find, they often become a nagging voice at the back of your mind, cropping up when you least expect it. Given my obsession with making lists on paper or just in my head for various experiences (I suppose one has to call it rather OCD to have this constant urge to catalogue ones life), I have had a habit of constantly revisiting—at least in memory—various books from my childhood. I hate forgetting any pleasant experiences (the unpleasant ones I never seem to forget anyway) and books certainly fall under that.

Some books, however, take very little effort to remember. Such as the quartet of YA fantasy books from Geraldine Harris called The Seven Citadels. The first part was published in Swedish in 1985, so I was 11 then. I wasn’t, if I recall things correctly, much of a fantasy reader as of yet. Though, it was close; I was a voracious reader of myths and legends, with a good helping of children’s and YA historicals on the side. My heroes were Achilleus and Sir Lancelot and I could list all the principal Norse, Greek and Egyptian deities with ease. In fact, I believe I owned a book on Egyptian mythology by the same Geraldine Harris, but I don’t think I noticed this until much later.

Then I spotted the cover for the first book, Prince of the Godborn, among the new arrivals at the library. It caught my attention and I borrowed the book. And fell in love with it. I vividly recall how the third book,

The Dead Kingdom, was a release that I waited eagerly for, perhaps for the first time. I also recall reading it at school during the breaks and when someone threw a snowball at me that hit the book, they found out they had made a big mistake. I loved those four books so much and after those I could not get enough of fantasy.

So, what sparked this trip down memory lane? Well, I have hunted for English editions of these books for some years, but the second-hand volumes on offer at Amazon tend to be listed in the range of a 100 dollars… I do have the Swedish books still, and to some extent those are the books of my childhood, but I really do want to read the original as well. Today, my random search struck gold. Just this year the books have been republished as e-books and on-demand print editions (the last part is coming out now in November). Mind you, they are e-books with incredibly awful covers, but who cares. I can finally get to read these books in English.

I’m a Forum Now?

Apparently, there was a reaction to my earlier post.

I made the choice to post my complaints on our personal lj and personal website rather than on Westeros, so I am not sure how this translates to “upset people on a Game of Thrones-forum”. I have no doubt there would be a lot of eyes rolled if I did point the board to that post, but this was all about me rolling my eyes, not trying to set a pack of hounds on anyone. ;)

Oh well. Nice bit of attempted martyrdom there, by making it sound as if she was set upon by rabid fans upset by her complaints. I wonder if the assumption is also that its mostly male fans?

So PC it Hurts…

I already wrote some about the complaints regarding supposed sexism and racism in Game of Thrones, but with more and more commentary along those lines cropping up—not the least from, alas, overly PC commentators in Sweden—I find I have more to get off my chest.

Take this little gem, for example. Of course, its in Swedish, which makes it a bit odd for me to write this in English, but…its just a habit of mine. The gist of it is that while the book is exciting plot-wise, its horribly sexist and clearly written by a man, with an awful lot of focus on how good it is to be macho and manly. Oh, and it doesn’t “problematise” any of the gender roles it presents.

Can I start by saying I am somewhat allergic to the word “problematise”? Its one of those handy words that teachers—especially Lit. teachers—love to throw in when they don’t have other, more specific instructions to give about an assignment. It makes it all sounds so important and academic. Which is fine, for the most part, in an academic setting, but that’s the place for taking apart books and ascribing meanings to them by studying them through an arbitrarily chosen literary theory which you’re determined to make use of, never mind how poorly suited it is to the task. And where authorial intent doesn’t count for anything. Oops, is my annoyance with my current class showing? Just a little, maybe. But in any case, I do not want every book that I open to “problematise” whatever subjects it deals with. I want it to present those subjects as part of the story and without the addition of big red flags to draw my attention to them. Instead, I want my involvement with the characters, the plot and the world to lead me to think about the underlying themes of the story. I hate being preached to.

So, no, I do not think it is a problem if there is a lack of “problematising” of gender issues in A Song of Ice and Fire. In fact, I am glad there isn’t any overt attempts to do so. I do not need to have it pointed out to me that from a woman’s point of view (or from a peasant’s point of view, for that matter) the world of Westeros can be a pretty sucky place where the fact is that you are often reduced to just a brood mare. If you are interested in the characters and their stories, you will be affected by their plight, whether they are women or men, lords or peasants. The story can speak for itself, especially when populated by characters who are anything other than one-dimensional. Yes, some of them may seem that way initially, but the whole story is very much like an onion; layer by layer, you learn new things and your early perceptions are challenged.

Then all the complaints about the prevalence of rapes and of whores in the story, and the complaints about the language (what’s wrong with “manhood”, anyway?)... So, what do we want? Do we want sexless fantasy or do we want gritty fantasy that doesn’t shy away from the realities of war? Or does it have to be middle-of-the-road? How about we’re allowed to have a bit of everything, actually? Combining the high and low in the way that is done in A Song of Ice and Fire, how is that not an interesting stylistic and narrative choice? One that goes through much of the story? This ties into the complaints about the “macho” feel of the story. Uhm, hello? Medieval-inspired world, a heavily chivalric culture? What the heck do you expect? And that, I might add, places demands on female as well as male characters. In fact, earlier during my current class (Literature B, at the University of Gothenburg), we read an early Swedish biography by a woman and one of the articles discussing it noted how sexist towards men the chivalric ideals could be. Living up to the demands placed on them by other men as well as women was probably not easy and we see that in A Song of Ice and Fire as well. There are scenes that one could say glorifies the knightly culture of courage and violence and there are scenes that clearly show it in a very different light.

Oh, and when it comes to Dany’s scene with Drogo…I don’t have any problems with seeing how that scene works in the books. She’s a woman—albeit a very young woman—in a precarious, frightening position. Someone taking their time to make her comfortable, when she was fearing something terrible, would make a big impact on her. But she would still be frightened and emotionally sensitive, which means she would be very easily influenced. I have no problem at all seeing how Drogo could, essentially, seduce her, even if it wasn’t with a romantic dinner for two.

The final nail in the coffin of “is this reviewer worth listening to” for the post linked above would have to be the conclusion, a recommendation to read Robin Hobb. Contrasted with note right before, that GRRM is a man, it stinks of sexism. I love Hobb, but please, can we not care about the gender of the writers?

First Look at Namaah’s Kiss

Jacqueline Carey has updated her official site and posted the first chapter from her next Kushiel book, Namaah’s Kiss. Its due out June 24th, which of course feels like far too long a wait.

Books Ordered

Amazon needs to start teleporting books. I just placed an order of some things that are out now and that I want right off, and some things that aren’t out yet but that I still want right now. A delivery estimate for May 1 to May 21 for Corambis makes me all sad. The reading of the first chapter that Monette put up a while ago on her lj really whet my appetite. And speaking of her livejournal, right now she’s auctioning off three ARCs of Corambis.

I also ordered The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop, The Last Paladin by Kathleen Bryan (aka Judith Tarr), Lace and Blade, Lace and Blade II and another unreleased item, Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins. Now, if I could only have all of these to curl up with right now, I’d be a happy girl. I am in the mood for fantasy with a good dose of romance and angst.

Translations, Fantasy, Etc

I should have been spending most of the day on a subtitling job, but I’ve found myself distracted by a few things, such as a couple of posts on a Swedish blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy. One is a longer essay about the two Swedish translations of Tolkien, which raised some very interesting points about how non-native speakers may perceive a language and about the role of the translator, and another is a shorter commentary about fantasy in general.

News of Naamah

Perhaps this is only new to me, but there’s a cover and a summary up at Amazon for Jacqueline Carey’s next book, Naamah’s Kiss. June is too far away, I need something like that to curl up with right now..