Gone, but Not Forgotten

18 02 2010

Fifteen years ago, one of my favorite things in the world came to an end. Bill Watterson’s comic strip creation “Calvin and Hobbes,” vanished from newspapers, retired after a seemingly too-short run from 1985 to 1995.

Watterson, who has always shied away from fame in a manner similar to the late J.D. Salinger, granted a rare interview this week to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a newspaper near the author’s home. Reading the piece led me to reflect on my own affection for the blond-haired 6-year-old and his tiger.

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A Public Service Announcement

8 05 2009

My early endeavors in reading were largely based in the realm of epic fantasy material, a habit which I still indulge every now and then today. For some reason, I’ve always been obsessed by the idea of swords and sorcery, reading authors and books good (Tolkien) bad (anything Dragonlance ), and good at first then bad (Robert Jordan). However, there is a modern fantasy author who, I believe, stands way above his peers and completely transcends the conventions of the genre, thus accessible to a larger audience. So, I take every chance I can to try and recommend this particular series of books to anyone and everyone. I thought I would take the time in this space and explain to all what makes it the greatest fantasy produced in recent memory.

While George R.R. Martin has written horror, science fiction, short stories and edited many anthologies, his current project and most famous work is a series called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” The first book is “A Game of Thrones” and GRRM has said he expects to finish the story in seven book, with four currently published.

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The name has a familiar fantasy ring to it, but his greatest strength is the way he defies the well-worn stereotypes of the genre. There are no elves or dwarfs, no righteous hero of pure heart, no wizened old wizards or epic prophecy to be fulfilled. The setting is most similar to a medieval Britain and the story can be graphic and violent as those times in human history often were. This helps give it a great authentic, historical feel that is lacking from flighty, feel-good fantasy.

His saga is a rare thing among fantasy authors as it is character-driven, with a memorable cast filling the pages. The characters are captivating because all of them possess shades of gray and undergo profound shifts with the events of the story. Many times, it’s hard to tell exactly who is the good guy or who you should be rooting for.

Beware, if you decide to read, GRRM has no qualms killing off main characters.

Part of the reason the characters are so interesting is in the specific manner in which GRRM write his chapters. Each chapter is given the title of a character and then follows that character from their point of view in third person. This allows readers to observe the story’s conflicts from various perspectives and get to know all the characters more intimately than an overarching narrative voice would allow. The effect is something similar to that achieved by gripping TV dramas, like “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica,” which juggle several different plot threads at once and often end with cliffhangers.

Another reason to give GRRM a shot is that HBO has recognized the series’ potential and given the green light for a pilot to be produced. Casting has just gotten started for the pilot, so it still remains to be seen if HBO will actually go ahead and order a full season. I believe, like many fans, that GRRM and HBO would be a perfect fit.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s a very mature saga and many sequences or characters would have to be signified altered for a PG-13 rating. Further, the writing style of the series is a natural fit for TV given its pacing and focus on character development over epic battles. Imagine “Rome” or “Deadwood” in a medieval setting. It’s an exciting possibility and I really think HBO could do the transition from book to screen proper.

Unlike this adaptation, which I’m not excited about at all.