The Best Reason to Skimp on Site Updates

So this announcement has been pending for some time, but I went and had a baby boy back on July 14th. Coupled with my two-year old girl life has been busy and unpredictable!

Abby & Sebastian

Now I’m just softening you up. Is there a cuter pair? Doubtful.

Lots has been happening with regards to Imbalance, and a more business-minded follow-up to this post is forthcoming, but hey, as Aronan would say, ‘Family comes first.’ As it stands, this is a pretty good reason for the site’s silence in June and July (and likely August, I’m on very little sleep and the place is a mess).

JM

Grimdark

Just a quick post to note that the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers group is doing a wicked online AMA session today featuring some of the best current fantasy authors – and even giving away signed copies of some of their excellent books!

I already missed Michael R. Fletcher, but I’m excited to pop in for Marc Turner and Jeff Salyards.

In the meantime, I have been working on Grip of Dust as well as a few other things, but with my wife due in under a week things will be pretty quiet on the site. I will, however, post a link to my final Dork Shelf Fan v. Fan videos at some point.

JM

Discussing 609

Game of Thrones Episode 609 ‘Battle of the Bastards’ SPOILERS ahead.

Lots of people hyped about the latest episode of the best fantasy show on TV – and with good reason. It was one of the most consistently intense hours of episodic drama you’re likely to find, and with an entire season of preparation to support it – not to mention paddy wagons full of money. It is something when the unleashing of three amazingly-rendered dragons to burn a fleet of ships is the LESSER sequence.

While I make my thoughts clear in my Fan vs Fan segments for Dork Shelf, and you can watch myself and co-host Brian Crosby break the episode down by clicking this link, there are a few things about the episode I wanted to mention first – mostly to do with people’s reactions versus actual content (again, see above).

This was not the best episode of Game of Thrones.

To say so is to conclude that this show is, at its roots, a machine for big spectacles, and that is not what has brought Game of Thrones so far – for it is not of the game. No one doubts Michael Bay movies are pretty. Everyone doubts they achieve quality storytelling.

Game-Of-Thrones-season-6-episode-9-Battle-Of-The-Bastards-trailer-image

Bolton men press back Snow’s army.

Episodes like “Blackwater,” “Watchers on the Wall” and “Hardhome” are important. They are big moments with big consequences. They show off the show’s budgetal bloat. They bring the gritty nature of medieval warfare to the small screen in a way as yet unparalleled – but they are heavy clubs of awesomeness. There is nothing deft to them. There is no artful tact or careful acting or subtle direction. They scream, “Are you not entertained?” like Maximus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.

Episodes like “Baelor,” “Rains of Castamere” and “The Mountain and the Viper” do something else entirely. They take individual moments – essential moments for essential players – and show off the show’s far more impressive ability at achieving genuine surprise and heart-wrenching grief simultaneously. They are the delicate dance of the needle. They are the artful tact, the careful acting and the subtle direction that brings the show to another level. They are the unforgettable moments. They whisper, “Am I not merciful?” like Joaquin Phoenix.

After Season Two ended everyone thought “Blackwater” was truly an epic episode. Now it seems more a failed attack by a character bypassed by fortune. The ghost of Joffery’s decision to off Eddard Stark, and the painful witness of Arya, remain a sudden and unconscionable course of action. As someone who had read the books, the wait leading up to the Red Wedding had me fitfully gripping my cuffs and clamping my mouth shut – then the payoff ruined the night for everyone. “Watchers on the Wall” lost us a fiery Ygritte and is fun to rewatch, but it changed little.

The short is this. This episode had a near-to-perfectly executed battle sequence that challenges any movie for impressive filming – something incredibly fun (and excruciating) to watch – but it still had ugly little problems. Jon’s divine intervention (either he’s crazy lucky or he’s boringly ‘looked after’), Ramsay’s sudden ineptitude one-on-one, the minimal time given the numerous key Mereen scenes, Davos’s coincidental find, a body pile that was a bit on the ridiculous side… These all amount to points that pull the episode way from ideal. No amount of visuals should undo that. There are other episodes – big ones as named above, or smaller, simpler episodes that move the story along and provide for some great lines and acting – that have fewer negative qualms and are more worthy of the mantle. Even in Season Six one could argue “The Door” held a much weightier punch.

Of course, for me the best episode of all time is the pilot.

I still can’t get over how perfectly they got everything – and the rest flows from there.

Game of Thrones -FvF- 609- Battle of the Bastards

JM

My Interview for Fantasy Faction’s ‘Superfan’

Fantasy Faction – a wonderful online community for fantasy fans and authors alike – recently interviewed me about the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and it was posted as the first in their ‘superfan’ series. Check it out!

Here’s a sample:

So, what exactly is this series about?

The decay of gods. The history of those whose deaths shape the passage of time. The burden of suffering upon those who would create beauty. The longevity of the land’s spirit beneath the rigors of man. The plight of the unwitnessed whose struggle has been lost in the annals of memory.

If that seems poetic, heavy or massive in scope, as if I did not answer the question, then WELCOME to the Malazan Book of the Fallen!

JM

Unruly Behaviour

Game-of-Thrones-joffrey-margaery-thumb

Pretty ridiculous article making the rounds today. Just wanted to add a few thoughts about his champion Romantic Poets: Shelley, Wordsworth and Keats. I am certain I recall the broad details of my university degree as well as I think I do (?).

First of all, they all wrote poems, not novels. So it’s kind of like saying ‘don’t watch this TV show, see these movies!’ Apparently the hundreds of years comprising the canon of English literature could not provide one actual book for Whiting to offer up in contrast. Second, none of these poets taught children complacency. While Wordsworth may have had his support for the French Revolution tempered by the methods of the Jacobins, they all pushed for revolution at various points in their lives, particularly Shelley. Naturally, the zeal to cast off what they saw as oppressive weights in their society is evidenced in their works, particularly Ozymandias or The Mask of Anarchy. Third, notably absent from the list is the firebrand William Blake, whose works offer us the first instance of the word ‘Orc’ and are alive with both the fire of mystical fantasy and condemnation of the Catholic Church. Blake clearly advocated for making free and independent choices, and behaving in ways that would upset any governing body demanding subservience.

 

Now, I don’t live in England. I have heard rumour that the school system is in dire straits, but any insight I might offer is surely hearsay. Suffice to say, it seems like there is plenty of bad behavior and I understand the desire to point fingers. Rotten attitudes can snowball throughout a school year, and one bad apple can definitely spoil the bushel. If underage students are delighting in the adult content of the books A Song of Ice and Fire (or, more likely, just watching the ribald show itself) it is easy to assume pulling out the root will kill the weed.

 

But it will also kill the flower. Lumping all fantasy into one category and making broad generalizations is ridiculous. This actual argument is likely the death throes of a bleating puritan, and as such not worth addressing. Further, while I do not live in England, I am a teacher, and one who appreciates that how a teacher wishes students to act is not always parallel to what is best for them. While I’m teaching a lesson, it would be ideal for me to have 100% engagement and participation, 100% effort once the work starts. That would teach the meter of Ozymandias to an excellent degree. But social understanding is as big a part of the school system as formal education, and while challenging to listen to, cope with, suffer through for a results-bent teacher of 30 pupils, it translates into growth for the young individual. This dichotomy comes down to respect: they respect your time while imparting new information and ideas, you respect their time when they push, pull and revel in their generation’s congealing identity. As long as they are not overlapping, butt out.

 

After all, it bears mentioning that Percy Bysshe Shelley himself was expelled from Oxford in 1811 for not following the rules. He was yet to publish anything of note.

 

JM

Fan vs. Fan: Game of Thrones 601, 602

So my friends over at Dork Shelf keep up with their favourite shows by having fans hurled into a pit together and given a smattering of tools loosely identified as weapons. Or, more accurately, we argue and joke about episodes of dorky shows we love. They do it for The Flash and as well for Game of Thrones. Lo and behold they asked me to be their resident book expert.

Flawless victory! I love A Song of Ice and Fire and almost remember most of it, so I’m a perfect fit. Plus Brian’s actually funny, which also helps. As a co-host of the show, I would be bereft of conscience if I did not pimp the FvF franchise – thus week by week I will be dropping new episodes here for your viewing enjoyment. They will definitely contain spoilers from the episodes in question, as well as questionable speculation about future episodes.

Game of Thrones -FvF-601- The Red Woman

Game of Thrones -FvF-602- Home

JM

New Pricing / Amazon Releases

So everything is finally set up on Amazon, even if some of their cover art jpegs have not updated since 19-dickety-2. It breaks down thusly:

Amazon.com

  • Purge of Ashes on Kindle: $5.08 USD
  • Purge of Ashes in lovely paperback: $15.95 USD

Amazon.ca

  • Purge of Ashes on Kindle: $6.49 CAD
  • Purge of Ashes in lovely paperback: $20.21 CAD

We managed to drop the price of the physical copy, mostly in an effort to make a sane price for the book in Canada. This is added incentive for anyone who has been on the fence about a purchase. It’s a great deal on a great book.

As well, to illustrate the above statement, I have added a ‘Reviews‘ section to the site that can be found here.

JM