The Doctor is in and more random geekery

• “Lots of planets have a North”: Scottish actor Peter Capaldi will be the next Doctor Who. He starred as Malcolm Tucker in In the Loop — a hilariously profane satire of the marketing campaign for a war of choice in Iraq. And he was apparently once in a punk band with Craig Ferguson called The Bastards From Hell.

• “While it’s certainly not unusual for small children with active imaginations to tell fanciful stories, Clark was rather more insistent that his funny story was actually true than seems appropriate for his age.”

• Emma Caulfield takes online quiz: “Which Buffy the Vampire Slayer Character Are You?” Finds out she’s Willow Rosenberg.

He is noble, abundant, and fills the universe. (And He is in trouble if Congress doesn’t do its job.)

• “2^7 Nerd Disses.” From Phil Plait and Zach Weinersmith. A sample: “You’re so unlettered … You mistake the word malapropism for other similar sounding words.”

• Variations on a theme: Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones theme by cello quartet Break of RealityThis guy does a cool metal version, which is what I imagine it would sound like if GoT were on Starz instead of HBO. Here’s what the show’s opening credits might look like on NBC. See also: “The Rains of Castamere” from The National.

• David Gibson’s Religion News Service piece, “Can a Christian watch Game of Thrones?” revisits the question of the show’s moral vision. (I’ll cut RNS some slack for the pseudo-pietistic tribalism of that headline because Gibson and his editors still seem to be in shock after the Red Wedding.) It’s a good, thoughtful piece that highlights Scott Paeth’s Niebuhrian take on the show, while also giving Paeth the final word on the final word about this topic: “How he ends his story will tell us much about the moral world in which he dwells.” As with everything, it’s hard to say what it means unless we know how it ends. Gibson also mentions Jim McDermott’s “Bastards and Broken Things,” which has a nice Ragamuffin-ish take on GoT.

• Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark, lends a bit of support for the Niebuhrian reading: “I feel it’s a really apt ending because he has been outsmarted and it all comes from his good heart.” (If Reinhold Niebuhr is too hoity-toity for you, Scott Paeth also shares this: D&D alignments of Game of Thrones characters.)

• These articles could have trolled for clicks with headlines modeled after that RNS one above — “Can a feminist watch Game of Thrones?” The answer, in all three cases, is yes.) “How the Patriarchy Screwed the Starks.” “Gratuitous Female Nudity and Complex Female Characters in Game of Thrones.” “Yes, Women Really Do Like Game of Thrones (We Have Proof).”

 

Via PNH: “Twitter API returning results that do not respect arrow of time.” Very cool merging of form and fiction: “After a thorough review, I can point to the spot in my code where a bad calculation expanded the scope of the search to days after today’s date, but I cannot tell you how it’s possible that the thing returns results.” Read the whole thing.

Mark Evanier remembers the great Ray Harryhausen.

• Iron Man, Iron Throne — the Starks of Winterfell.

• I don’t have any problem saying that Batman is from New Jersey, but Gotham shouldn’t be in South Jersey.

• “Some details of advanced technological designs, architectural blueprints, family recipes, occult summoning rituals, state secrets, and alien anatomy have been changed in order to avoid providing readers with world-endingly dangerous knowledge.” (via)

• Desperate Acts of Magic: “Congratulations, I hereby appoint you as the newest member to the third most-mocked profession, right behind ventriloquists and mimes.”

• OK, two more Game of Thrones items: Kathleen Geier on historical inspirations for the books; Max Read on how accents support and undermine the show’s geography.

Adam Parker’s post on theologian Jonathan Edwards contains a big-time spoiler for the movie Oblivion — so be warned about clicking that link. I can’t say I follow the whole argument, but Parker is certainly right that “the following quote shows that Edwards had a science fiction writer within him.”

It is possible without doubt in the nature of things for God to annihilate me, and after my annihilation to create another being that shall have the same ideas in his mind that I have, and with the like apprehension that he had had them before in like manner as a person has by memory; and yet I be in no way concerned in it, having no reason to fear what that being shall suffer, or to hope for what he shall enjoy.

Can anyone deny that it is possible, after my annihilation, to create two beings in the universe, both of them having my ideas communicated to them with such a notion of their having had them before, after the manner of memory, and yet be ignorant one of another? And in such case, will anyone say that both these are one and the same person, as they must be if they are both the same person with me? It is possible there may be two such beings, each having all the ideas that are now in my mind in the same manner that I should have by memory if my own being were continued, and yet these two beings not only be ignorant one of another, but also be in a very different state, one in a state of enjoyment and pleasure and the other in a state of great suffering and torment (Scientific and Philosophical Writings [Yale Works, Vol. 6] p.386-387).

• “10 Characters Who Got More Interesting After They Died.” Good list, but it’s too short. So here are 10 More Characters Who Got More Interesting After They Died.

  1. Gladys Crabtree
  2. Jacob Marley
  3. Officer Alex J. Murphy
  4. Kenny
  5. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington
  6. Lestat
  7. Beric Dondarrion
  8. Dr. Malcolm Crowe
  9. Large Marge
  10. Buffy Anne Summers

 

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  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    David Gibson’s Religion News Service piece, “Can a Christian watch Game of Thrones?”

    I wasn’t very enthused about it after watching a couple of episodes. The very male-gazey camera views, for one thing, made me really uncomfortable.

    (Content warning: mention of rape) Nyfb, gur fprar vaibyivat Qebtb naq Qnrarelf fgebatyl vzcyvrq encr; ng orfg, pbafrag bognvarq haqre rkgerzr qherff.

    So yeah, that pretty much was “I’ve had it up to here, no more kthx”.

    EDIT: That said, I have heard by Season 3, the show has begun focussing a lot on the female characters, Daenerys in particular, since she has out-gambitted many others to be able to stay in power. But to get there I’d need to watch S1 and S2, so mmmyeah. (-_-)

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    The books are significantly better in that regard, for what it’s worth. Less male gaze-y, at the very least.

    Regarding your content warning: Va gung fprar va gur obbxf, V jnf cercnerq sbe n ubeevsvpnyyl hapbzsbegnoyr fprar bs ab pbafrag – vg’f znqr n ovg pyrnere gurer gung ur’f abg jvyyvat gb sbepr ure gb qb nalguvat. Vg’f abg… cresrpg, naq fgvyy cerggl hapbzsbegnoyr, ohg vg’f n ybg yrff fxrril – V nyjnlf tbg gur vzcerffvba gung unq fur gbyq uvz ab, ur jbhyq’ir onpxrq bss be jnvgrq.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah. I looked that up myself later and was like “But WHY?”

    I guess it didn’t make for as much dramatic tension, which, to be fair, as written could’ve been hard to convey on-screen.

  • general_apathy

    Interesting. I actually found the book version worse—at least in the sense that:

    gur fubj frrzrq gb cynl vg nf n encr fprar. Va gur obbx vg’f jevggra yvxr n fgnaqneq frk fprar, juvpu (tvira gung vg’f ure crefcrpgvir) znxrf vg frrz pbafrafhny, jura fur pna’g ernyyl pbafrag va gung fvghngvba (ure ntr, gur ntr qvssrerapr, ure oebgure guerngraf gb orng ure vs fur qbrfa’g pbzcyl, Qebtb yvgrenyyl bjaf ure, rgp.).

  • Kubricks_Rube

    YMMV on how well the books/show accomplish this, but to me, the way the story and characters are developed over time suggests that the encr fprar serves as world-building and theme establishment more than any kind of titillation or endorsement of that behavior.

    Put another way, I felt very icky after the pilot, but much better about things as the show progressed.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Sometimes I wonder if my mind will rewire itself so that I can read ROT13. And will I also be able to speak in it?

  • Loquat

    Oh sure, that’s an automatic perk after 3 years with the cult of Cthulhu.

    Mind you, by that point you won’t be able to speak in anything else.

  • AndrewSshi

    I just want to note that I’m mighty sick of the trite commonplace that Martin is so much better than Tolkien because in Tolkien’s world morality is in black and white while GRRM allows shades of grey. I can only figure that the people who say these things haven’t actually read Tolkien. Do they miss the dwarf/elf fighting of The Hobbit? Boromir’s fall? Denethor’s throwing a monkey wrench into everything Gandalf does and dying unrepentant? And that doesn’t even address the issue the Silmarillion, where the forces of good start with a massive kinslaying and then follow on with further degredation, betrayal, and failure. But no, it’s always, “Tolkien draws simplistic goodies and baddies, Martin is realistic.”

    Grumble.

  • Fusina

    I would like to say here that I like both worlds–although I’d rather live in Middle Earth than Westerfall (I hope I got the name right). And at that, Middle Earth during peacetime. I don’t like war. On the other hand, I have read the books and watched most of the show–I have a bunch of the last season DVRd waiting for the kids to go back to school so I can watch uninterrupted.

  • Fusina

    Westeros–just went and looked it up.

  • Alix

    I think a large part of that is familiarity, at least in a sort of cultural sense. We are in a general sense so used to Tolkien we don’t entirely see his actual story/world anymore.

    Also, frankly, the way Tolkien writes is a bit distancing, imo. It’s been a while since I read LOTR/Silm (never read Hobbit), so correct me if I’m wrong, but he wrote from a more distant 3rd-person POV, didn’t he?

    (That said, I still like Tolkien better. GRRM is too over-the-top for me, and it … grates that people think he’s ~so much more realistic~ than other authors, just ’cause they like his style/story/world better.)

  • AndrewSshi

    Oh, yeah, compared to GRRM, Tolkien is much more distant. Martin, after all, basically tells each chapter from inside the skull of a certain character, which is much more intimate with the characters than Tolkien. And of course, Silmarillion is more distant still…

  • The_L1985

    Silmarillion was a bit too distant for me. Once humans started appearing (and dying, and their similarly-named sons appearing, and dying), it got too repetitive and confusing for me to follow. OTOH, it does make a good case for why the elves would have stopped paying much attention to humans–darned mortals just age and die too fast!

  • caryjamesbond

    Tolkien has the moral ambiguity of any other good fairy tale- brave lords with tough choices, who, even when they fall, fall big and nobly and not….butchering and raping peasants. What Martin set out to do was to portray the middle ages as they actually WERE- IE, at no point in Lord of The Rings does Aragorn shit into a bucket and throw it out the window into the middle of the street. There is, apparently, not a religiously motivated massacre or a teenage marriage from Hobbiton to Gondor, despite the real middle ages being absolutely lousy with both.

    One of the the things Martin does brilliantly is portray the morality of that period to a T- for example, no one at all, even the good guys, think twice about trial by combat (except to think its a bit silly- its not immoral), or would think that a noblewoman’s consent had anything to do with her marriage (or sex within that marriage), or whether someone should be killed for violating some fine point of honor, or that someones blood is the most important thing about them.

    Hell, Robb Stark, the goodest of the goody-goods, routinely talks about marrying off his baby sisters without even a hint of their consent- his primary concern is making GOOD matches, politically speaking.

    I’m actually just finishing up Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle- three novels set from about the 1650s to 1720’s. He does an excellent job, like Martin did, of expressing exactly how different their morals were from ours. Taking offense at a comment was reason to kill someone, legally. Slavery was just a thing that happened- even to white people. Half-hanging, drawing, and quartering was a legal punishment, no more notable than the electric chair. Burning people alive was the same thing.

    Even the good people, the heroic people- people like John Locke, don’t see anything odd about a lot of this, because its just…the way things are.

    Which is not to say that I agree with the people that say Martin is the only good/realistic fantasy author. He was trying to do a specific thing- the real Middle Ages but with dragons and Ice Zombies. Tolkien was trying to do something else- write a heroic saga with Rings and Orcs and Ents. Both are great writers, but with very different goals.

  • auroramere

    Where do the hobbits, with their materialism, conformity, and complacency, fit into the heroic saga? And what’s big or noble about Saruman’s fall?

    Of course Tolkien’s work is problematic in all sorts of ways. But it was a light in the forest to a lot of people over a long time.

  • caryjamesbond

    The hobbits represent, or stand in for, modern humanity, which is essentially in a fallen state. Notice how the hobbits go from laughable comical characters to respectable, heroic characters- by becoming more like the heroic figures of Aragorn et al. They change, and in changing, become the same sort of dark, mysterious, heroic figures they saw Strider the Ranger as. (See the scouring of the Shire.)

    And Saruman fell because he desired power- to ally himself with the dark lord to become a thing of uncanny power. Compare that to Stannis, who ally’s himself with the Lord of light to become a thing of Uncanny Power…..because he desired getting laid. (and Heirs….but getting laid was really a big part of it.)

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Huge disagree about Stannis’s motivation. Stannis is an excellent example of a Lawful Neutral character — note that our first introduction to him (in the books at least) includes that anecdote about Davos’ fingers: “Yeah, you saved my life, but I’m still supposed to punish you for being a criminal because That’s The Law.”

    Stannis wants to be king not from a desire for power, but because he thinks he’s the only legitimate candidate for the throne. The business about getting laid doesn’t show up in the books at all, and even in the show, well, ISTR Stannis hesitating when Melisandre takes her dress off. It’s like, “I really want her, but I’m married, but I really want her, well, she says this is what the Lord of Light wants… okay.”

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Congratulations – this comment just got me to give in and read GoT. Well done.

  • caryjamesbond

    It’s a hell of a ride. I’ll be very interested to hear your take on it. Like I said, I’m totally getting an “real middle ages with DRAGONS!” vibe.

    Another thing I like- the way he handles magic. It’s very Tolkienesque. At the begining, there is no such thing as magic, although there are some remnants of it scattered around. And when magic does start to exist, it’s mostly subtle, and comes at a very, very high cost.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    This, and also I’m sick to death of “Fantasy is supposed to be about epic battles between Good and Evil, so GRRM isn’t a real fantasy writer.”

    It’s as nonsensical as trying to pigeonhole literary fiction through constant comparison to Dickens.

    Also, Tolkien was one of Martin’s inspirations. http://io9.com/10-sources-that-george-r-r-martin-borrowed-from-for-ic-511679817

  • caryjamesbond

    Well, ASOIAF IS an epic battle between….well, people and Ice Zombies (maybe. Eventually. We think.)

    It’s just all the people are reacting like people- they don’t care about tomorrow Ice Zombies, they care about today’s struggle for the Iron Throne, even though it is destroying an already bankrupted nation. They care about power, and their families, and honor and money and not just The Good of the Land and Protecting the Innocent.

    Although if you read between the lines, and make “Orcs” into “people from Over There” and “Sauron The Evil Spirit” into “distant king worshipped as a god, a la the Sultans or Pharaohs” and the “ring of power” into “A vial of poison to kill said sultan” and read between the lines- LOTR is a much nastier tale. Suuuuuuure you “slew all the orcs,” Aragorn you massacring bastard. And who says Arwen WANTED to marry this mortal man? Awfully convenient that her father, on the verge of sailing over the sundering seas, plants his daughter on the throne of Gondor. And what really happened to Balin in the Mines of Moria? Some say fire-demon, but Lothlorien right on their doorstep, and Galadriel didn’t have a clue about this ancient Fire Demon slaughtering the neighbors?

    And lets not even get into the courtly intrigue that lead to the fall of Grima, who’d advocated nothing but peace and co-existence with these new immigrants, only to be replaced by the warmongering Mithrandir, who was a close friend of Aragorn the Butcher.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Nooooo, don’t spoil LotR for me! It’s a childhood favourite! *sobs*

  • caryjamesbond

    So I guess you don’t want to hear about how the Silmarillion is essentially the British invasion of the Congo/India/Anywhere really? What with the natives who are evil for no reason, the belief that White Man God wanted the Men and their allies the Elves (probably the Dutch) to have all this land for themselves.

    Morgoth is essentially the Chinese in the Opium war- scary, foreign, the white people claim he kidnaps his enemies and uses his foreign witchery to make them his slaves, gets besieged for years until he’ll give up the “simarils” (IE, opium sales rights). He’s the king of a foreign but industrialized nation that got in the way of the Eng…I mean, elves.

  • J_Enigma32

    And don’t forget Sauron the Uniter. Sauron united all of southern humanity, the orcs, the trolls, and anything else I’m forgetting, under a single banner to rise up against the corrupt and decadent (and mostly western influenced) courts of Rohan and Gondor.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    Have a google for the story ‘The Last Ringbearer’ by Kirill Yeskov. It’s a shortish novel that tells the War of the Ring from the POV of an orc. Those elves aren’t anywhere near as virtuous as Tolkien would have us believe, and don’t get me started on Gandalf…

    (Your summary fits perfectly with Yeskov’s. Well done!)

  • MarkTemporis

    You want a pretty creepy re-reading? “Dune” before 9/11 – basically a Laurence of Arabia pastiche in space; post-911, Paul Atreides is clearly Osama bin Laden, and the Harkonnen occupation of Arrakis mirrors our occupation of Iraq. (Complete with Uday Hussein having his own elite fedakyn guard!)

  • caryjamesbond

    ……..HOLY SHIT. But the Harkonnen attacked first and with no good rea….

    HOLY SHIT.

  • J_Enigma32

    That would be epic fantasy. Fantasy in general is every bit the pain in the ass to define as science fiction. They share so many tropes it’s ridiculous, and when you crank the dials up to 11 on Science Fiction, you get something that can be more fantastic than fantasy itself – see Eclipse Phase, where you can upload your mind from the body of a genetically engineered superhuman to a dragon or a swarm of microbots, where the rubber forehead aliens are all human, and “stranger things” include a clade of autistic humans who uploaded themselves into these morphs best described as “WTF are those?” Where talking apes, dolphins, corvids, parrots, and other animals are as smart as humans, if not smarter, and can upload themselves into human bodies.

    See also Orion’s Arm, where the WTF factor is cranked up even higher than Eclipse Phase, complete with intelligent fractals and AI Gods. And both of these are rather hard science fiction settings.

  • phantomreader42

    Sounds interesting, and very, very strange.

  • J_Enigma32

    Here, you can see them first hand:

    http://www.orionsarm.com/ – set 10,000 years in the future, and the world is a very, very strange place. Wormholes are used to travel between the stars, and half the stuff that would be considered aliens in more traditional science fiction are actually humans here, or trace themselves back to earth-life or earth-mythology, as it the case with dragons, Neanderthals, and even weirder stuff. The Terragenic sphere is ruled by Sepheratic Powers, each one controlled by a God AI that has undergone six singularities to achieve an intelligence well beyond what “baselines” like you and mean and near-baselines can even comprehend. You can find everything from Grays to uplifted fungus. There are multiple alien species, but these are very alien.

    http://robboyle.wordpress.com/eclipse-phase-pdfs/ – set anywhere from 100 to 200 years in the future (the date is indeterminate), Eclipse Phase posits a universe where every human is post-mortal, survives by digitizing themselves into a cortical stack, and can jump and swap out bodies depending upon the job. The Solar System is split between the inner system powers, the belt, and the outer system: the inner system powers are all capitalist in some sense, or have some governmental entity and are transitional economies. The belt is Libertarian/Extropian, while the outer system tends to be Anarchist, with the exception of the Jovian Junta (the bioconservatives in the setting) and the Titanian Technosocialists. The backstory had Earth get leveled by a runaway singularity triggered by Seed AIs called TITANs that were infected by an alien multivector virus that’s as smart as Stephan Hawking and capable of reporgramming itself called the Exsurgent Virus. Because of mind uploading, bodies are a dime a dozen, and you can swap bodies to accomplish what you need to do. We’ve encountered a bunch of aliens, but the only only ones still alive are the Factors, best described as sentient slime molds, while hanging just off screen is a Type III civilization called the ETI which designed the exsurgent virus and may have greater plans for the galaxy that don’t include transhumanity or any other lesser civilization at all…

    Orion’s Arm is more optimistic and idealistic, and reminds me of Transhuman Space cranked up 20

    Eclipse Phase, on the other hand, is more cynical and pragmatic, but that’s because it’s also a horror and conspiracy setting.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    My personal definition is that fantasy is literature exploring the mythic, while science fiction is literature exploring the possible. But even that’s not a perfect definition.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Particularly when science fiction abandons all attempt at maintaining plausible limits to the setting (Star Trek is particularly guilty of this).
    I mix the two. One of my most thoroughly established settings acts like a hybrid of Harry Potter and Stargate. I challenge your genre defining heathenism!

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Yeah, shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who do a certain amount of exploring the mythic, too. And most superhero settings feature a mix of science fiction and fantasy elements — though by the simple fact that most of them* are basically doing hero myths for the modern day, I’d place them more in the fantasy camp.

    Star Wars, to my mind, is fantasy in a science fiction setting; it started out as a deliberate retelling of the hero myth, and cued us in to that with the “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” title card. Unfortunately, Lucas seems to have started thinking it’s science fiction.

    *With a few exceptions such as Watchmen.

  • J_Enigma32

    I dunno if I’d say Star Trek is mythic. When you say “mythic” on context of pop sci-fi, I think Star Wars, like you said. I feel Star Trek is more down-to-Earth than Star Wars was, and the heroes were less powerful demigods chosen by fate and more closer to everyday folk, or pulp style Doc Savage-like individuals – superhuman, but not demigods. There’s a huge gap between Doc Savage and Agamemnon, Achilles, or Ajax, and I feel the cast of Star Wars tend to be closer to the latter than they do the former, were as the cast of Star Trek is closer to the former.

    Edit: Although, now that I think about it, Dune has a number of qualities to it that fit it firmly in that mythic category.

    Now, as far as Homeric Spear carriers go, both series can be just as bad. The worst thing to be stuck in on Star Trek was a red shirt; my understanding is the Starfleet Academy had a class called Redshirt 101: Amping Up Storytelling Drama, mandatory for all non-named characters…

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Star Trek doesn’t usually do explorations of the mythic, but they have made rare forays into that territory.

    As for Doc Savage and the protagonists of Star Wars being of a different type than the Greek heroes, well, I’d put that down to the different needs and expectations of each society when it sets out to tell a “hero myth”. In Classical Greece, one cultural expectation was that a hero would be god-blooded; that’s no longer the case.

  • J_Enigma32

    My imperfect definition is based on the emotions they inspire.

    Science fiction is about hope and fear. It’s about the hope and the fear for what the future might bring; hope that the future will be positive, fear because everyone has a different definition of “positive”. Science fiction, generally speaking, is focused on the future; near future or distant future.

    Fantasy is about longing and wish fulfillment. It’s about longing for a past that never happened, or a present that will never exist. A desire for a far off place where the restrictions of our everyday life don’t necessary exist. Fantasy, generally speaking, is focused on the past or the present.

    Of course, that’s not a perfect definition either, but it tends to nail the genres down in a bit more solid terms.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Heh. I’m a regular fantasy reader, and there’s waaaaaaaay too much that definitely does not fall into “longing and wish-fulfillment” for that definition to work. On the other hand, there are as many elements of horror in folklore and mythology as there are of wonder.

  • LoneWolf343

    I think that comparing Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones are comparing apples and oranges. They have obviously different goals.

  • J_Enigma32

    Tolkien wrote epic fantasy (hell, he practically drafted the genre). Martin writes what’s called “low fantasy.” If I recall the knowledge that I osmosed from surfing the intratubez (fantasy isn’t my thing; I don’t really like it and I prefer to read hard or hardish science fiction), his stuff hits all of the traits for it.

    Just about anytime I hear a nerd use “realistic”, I wince. There’s a newsflash for those of you who think realism is a good thing, from someone who prides himself on writing relatively hard science fiction: realism is bad. Realism is the last thing you want in a story. What you aim for, and what you should always try to attain, is verisimilitude. Verisimilitude is the word you want – no fantasy or science fiction setting, no matter how hard, could ever be “realistic.” Because if it was, it wouldn’t be fantasy or science fiction.

    Verisimilitude is the “life-like” quality of the world. Do it well and the world seems very real, very natural, and very believable. Do it poorly and you produce something like Left Behind. Do it just well enough but not that well and you’ve drifted into the Uncanny Valley of verisimilitude; the world seems like it should be right on the surface, but scratch a little deeper and you find things just don’t fit together (Fountainhead fits here; at first blush it seems like a normal world, but the more you read, the more unnatural and uncanny things seem to be). Given the confines and the conceits of Tolkien’s world, his stuff could invoke the same verisimilitude that fairy tales and old myths invoked, which is what he was after. Martin wants a darker world, more ambiguous world to play with. Neither is a better choice, neither is a worse choice.

    Which leads me to something else that gets under my skin: dark and edgy = “realistic”. C;mon, folks, didn’t we learn anything from the 1990s and comics therein? Is Warhahmmer 40k “realistic”? Just because something is serious and kills characters right and left doesn’t make it “realistic” anymore than Tolkien’s work. Just because a setting is darker and more ambiguous doesn’t make it better or more “realistic”.

    Heh. Looks like I went on a bit of a rant, too.

  • Alix

    Just because something is serious and kills characters right and left doesn’t make it “realistic”

    Thank. You.

  • The_L1985

    Indeed. You can have a “realistic” story in which none of the characters examined die. You can have a fantasy where a powerful sorcerer, oh I don’t know, destroys an entire planet by dropping its own moon on it.

  • caryjamesbond

    I completely agree- but Martin is doing more than just Grimdark or bloody slaughter- as I explicated below, he is specifically searching for REALISM.

    Verisimilitude is how well your story holds together within the bounds of its own conceits. But Martin is very specifically trying to create a realistic, medieval world. The fundamental question that drives his world isn’t “What if fantasy was darker and bloodier?” The question is: “What if our real medieval world, as it actually was (more or less) had some fantasy tropes added in?”
    I’m not saying there is anything wrong with different approaches- I like them as well. I’m saying that dismissing ASOIAF as merely an attempt to be dark and edgy is missing the point of what he’s trying to do. He isn’t just going with bloodier- he’s creating a fairly good vision of London/England/France circa 1100 AD, and gradually adding some fantastic elements.

    There’s a difference between “And then Jamie Lannister spinstabbed twenty Starks with his magical powerblade before going to stab-kick 20 more” and “here is a medieval army. Note the butchering, torturing, and raping of innocents…..and these are the “good” guys!”

  • alfgifu

    He isn’t just going with bloodier- he’s creating a fairly good vision of London/England/France circa 1100 AD, and gradually adding some fantastic elements.

    I disagree.

    The thing is, when you get to 1100 (the sort of time period where we have continuous written history in some detail), all the main sources we have are about the things that people were disproportionately interested in.

    Yes, there’s a lot of violence, blood, guts, betrayal, and nasty sex related stuff – and it’s fair to say that (particularly during some civil conflicts) this is the bulk of what a) people at the time were interested in reporting and b) modern people find most interesting to discuss. It’s like reading the Daily Mail for an accurate picture of daily life in modern-day UK.

    This kind of vision only works as a portrayal of ‘what life was like during the medieval period’ if you focus on a small subset of the people who lived in those days (ie those in armies / in powerful political factions) and look at them during the most unbalanced times. If you take into account the ongoing fabric of life, the regulated towns, the trade, legal systems, cities, fashion and other mundane concerns – well, you don’t get Lord of the Rings either, but you don’t get such a violent grimdark world as GoT sets out.

    To be honest, part of that is scale. GoT is early medieval politics sprawled over a population that appears to be late medieval or even modern in proportions – and the conflict utterly engulfs a continent. Since it’s apparently based (at least in part) on the Wars of the Roses, which took place mostly on one very small island, the upscaled destruction is definitely ahistorical.

    None of this makes GoT bad or wrong in any way – it just doesn’t ring true to me in the way that (for example) Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion novels do.

    For what it’s worth, I spent four years studying the early medieval period in Europe (languages, literature and history), and have two degree on the subject (focus being pre-Norman Conquest, however, so slightly earlier than the world I think GoT is chiefly referencing).

  • esmerelda_ogg

    That Johnathan Edwards quote reminds me of a (very depressing) science fiction novel – I think it’s by Jack Williamson – which starts with the main character agreeing to have a duplicate of himself sent to a far-off space outpost to figure out why things there are falling apart. He steps into the transmitter booth and, after a few seconds, steps out again and goes on with his life. No biggie.

    And halfway across the galaxy, he steps out of a different transmitter booth. Then he spends the rest of the book struggling to understand and correct the disasters Way Out There, gradually coming to realize that he can’t solve the problems and he’s going to die there, slowly, unpleasantly, and alone.

  • NelC

    Sounds like Frederick Pohl & Jack Williamson’s Farthest Star. Pohl can be a bleak writer, sometimes.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Yes – I just hunted around in the stacks (a bunch of shelves full of books in our basement – we have a LOT of books) and found Farthest Star. The part I remembered seems to be just a sort of prologue, and some details are slightly different, but that’s definitely the book. (Or maybe I read that first section as a standalone short story, once upon a time??)

    Anyway, the bleakness is very effective. And I can understand an artistic and/or moral point in making us take a close look at disaster, even though it isn’t enjoyable. But after glancing at the rest of the book, I see that the overall story wraps up with an Official Happy, or at least Successful, Ending; and that seems to retroactively make the hopeless fate of the first main character into something more like failure porn.

  • NelC

    Yah, I seem to recall that FS was an expansion of an earlier story. My brain wants to say ‘Cuckoo Star’ but I’m not sure.

    It’s been a long while since I read the book, but I remember being somewhat unconvinced by the Official Success ending. These days, I’d be inclined to ask how anyone expected a suicide mission no-one involved wholeheartedly volunteered for to succeed at all.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    That would explain why I don’t remember reading the rest of the story, or even being aware that there was a “rest of the story.” Thanks!

    (Also – interesting point about the overall mission. I may go ahead and read the rest of the story to see how the others are bullied (or whatever) into volunteering, and how the alleged success is pulled off.)

  • Lori

    I haven’t read the books or seen the show Game of Thrones (I know. I know.) so I’ll stick to Buffy. I am amused that Emma Caufield & I are both Willow ( I strongly suspect this points to a flaw in the test) and I disagree that Buffy got more interesting after she died. This may be mostly because I was never a Buffy/Spike shipper.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    Yeah, but that was her *second* death. Was she more interesting after her first death than before?

  • Lori

    I think I could argue both sides of that one. Her first death definitely focused her, but I’m not sure that it clearly made her more interesting.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Well, the SHOW got more interesting after her first death. I still can’t bring myself to rewatch most of S1.

  • Lori

    That first, abbreviated season was not the show at its best and it got better in season 2, but that was standard “show finding its feet” stuff and rather than something that can be attributed to Buffy dying.

  • Plarry

    I’m a huge Buffy fan and Buffy was equally interesting before and after both of her deaths, unless you want to argue that that the musical episode was the best of all. :)

  • myeck waters

    Since Peter Capaldi will always be That Scots Lad from the movie “Local Hero”, part of me hopes that the first time he flies the Tardis he’ll hit a rabbit, take it in as a pet and he and his companion will give it different names.

  • Lori

    So you’re the other person who saw that movie.

    OK, more than 2 people saw it, but most people have not*. I’m always a tiny bit surprised when someone else makes a Local Hero reference.

    *ETA: Most people in the US haven’t seen it. Being USian I do most of my chatting about movies with my fellow USians and the vast majority have never even heard of it. If you’re one of those folks, it’s worth finding it (curse you Netflix streaming for not having it). It’s really good.

  • Ethics Gradient

    It’s a regular film on British TV – well loved.

    So, this is the first Oscar winner to play the Doctor

  • myeck waters

    Oh, that sounds like something I HAVE to see. Netflix only has it as a DVD though…

  • Tehanu

    One of my favorite movies ever, and startling to realize that that sweet innocent lad turned into Mr. Foulmouth — or rather, that Peter Capaldi is such a good actor that he could be totally convincing both ways. Actually the whole movie is full of wonderful acting, not least from Denis Lawson and Peter Riegert as well as the great, great Burt Lancaster. Now I’ve got to go and see if I can find it on Netflix…

  • Lori

    It’s not on Netflix streaming. And now I have a sad.

  • Tehanu

    Rats! well, you saved me an hour or so of aggravation. Still, there’s probably some way to find it. I never get to see Denis Lawson very much any more either — he had a small part in Parade’s End but that’s the only thing I’ve seen him in for a while. I saw him once in London as the star of the musical play “Lend Me a Tenor” and it was just about the best evening I ever spent in the theatre.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    I saw it years ago and loved it…

  • mattmcirvin

    Local Hero was one of the first indie/art-house movies I ever saw (I don’t know if it really fits 100% in that category, but at the time I recognized it as something very different from typical Hollywood product). I loved it, though I haven’t seen it in a very long time.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Isn’t that the movie that Dr. F offered to let Joel and the Bots watch instead of Monster-a-Go-Go if they won his rigged contest?

  • myeck waters

    I had to look it up, but yeah.

  • Lori

    That is truly cruel.

  • mattmcirvin

    Indeed it was. That was even more monstrous than the trick Pearl and Brain Guy pulled with “Hamlet.”

  • auroramere

    I hope that means they’ll slip a bit of the theme from the movie into the music…

  • LoneWolf343

    Well, I’m glad I read American Gods BEFORE the last link spoiled it for me.

  • Amaryllis

    I don’t know, how can you discuss books without discussing what happens in the book? Unless a space is by policy and clearly labeled spoiler-free, reviews and lists and such are read-at-your-own-risk, aren’t they?

  • Lori

    Especially for books that are a decade old. There has to be a statute of limitations. I’m chronically late to the party on lots of books, but I figure that after a certain point the burden of remaining spoiler-free is on me.

  • Amaryllis

    Of course, there’s always the trouble of the movie/TV version being newer than the book. I was going to add a GoT reference to the dead-character list, from the books, but I don’t think the show has gotten there yet.

  • Lori

    GoT is a tricky case & I’m sympathetic to that. The fact that it’s a long book series and an ongoing TV show, on premium cable, instead of a single movie makes it tough.

    Some people read all the books (so far) years ago, others are just picking them up now and it’s a lot of pages so it takes many people a long time to read. There’s also variation in where people are with the show depending on how they watch it. And I gather the show started to differ from the books in some important ways in season 2. That’s a recipe for a spoiler mess since you have active discussion involving large numbers of people at very different places with both the books and the show.

    Since I don’t follow the discussion I have no idea how people are handling it, but if I was writing about the show I’d clearly label “Contains spoilers through X point in the books & Y point in the show” and from there it’d be caveat emptor.

  • Hexep

    Somebody once got very upset with me for spoiling Gilgamesh. At some point, one is just nekulturny.

  • Hexep

    Somebody once got very upset with me for spoiling the end of Gilgamesh.

  • Jamoche

    People complaining about “spoilers” like “the Titanic sinks” pop up regularly on places like failblog.

  • Amaryllis

    Goodness.

    I suppose it’s a good thing that they were so invested in the story, as a story, but that’s carrying things too far. Next thing you know, they’ll be refusing to be told whether Noah survived the Flood.

  • aunursa

    Can anyone deny that it is possible … to create two beings in the universe, both of them having my ideas communicated to them with such a notion of their having had them before, after the manner of memory, and yet be ignorant one of another?

    Something like that occurred in Star Trek: The Next Generation eight years prior to this episode.

  • Amaryllis

    Gotham City is in south Jersey?

    No.

    There’s alternate-universe, and then there’s just plain unbelievable.

    ETA: and, whatever one thinks of Thomas Cromwell, I refuse to believe that he bears any resemblance to Peter Baelish aka Littlefinger. (And furthermore, Cersei Lannister reminds me more of Elizabeth Woodville than of Margaret of Anjou, but that’s probably just because most of the history that I know I learned from fiction, so my ideas may not be the most well-founded.)

  • Lori

    Gotham City is in south Jersey?

    No.

    There’s alternate-universe, and then there’s just plain unbelievable.

    Amen to that.

  • auroramere

    Oh, do you have that problem too? Too much of my knowledge of history is from fiction. The problem is that fiction is better than reality: not necessarily happier, but it makes more sense.

  • Amaryllis

    ‘Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange;

    Stranger than fiction.

    And you and Mark Twain* would reply to Lord Byron,** “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”

    * asterisked because on a quick google, the first source I found to check the workding of the quote doesn’t source it. As Wikiquotes and BrainyQuotes and all those quotes sites never do. That bugs me. If you know who said it, then you should know where it was said.

    ** double-asterisked because that always makes me think of Ogden Nash’s response to Byron’s historical imagination.

    Anyway, with historical fiction it’s not so much the history, as the personalities. It makes you thing you know what the people were really like; I will never again be able to believe that Richard III (may he rest in peace) was a murdering usurping tyrant. And after reading Mantel… Thomas Cromwell, sure he was ruthless, sure he was ambitious– but he was NOT to be compared to the kind of slime that is Littlefinger, climbing to power on the over the backs of abused women.

  • Antigone10

    I will never stop believing Gotham City is anywhere but Chicago. It doesn’t even feel right to have it be New York.

  • mattmcirvin

    There seems to be a lot of feeling about that Metropolis is Chicago (though the Christopher Reeve movies clearly depicted it as yet another New York-substitute). I’ve heard speculation that Siegel and Shuster were thinking of Cleveland, or some similar-sized Midwestern city.

    Gotham City, though, I always pictured as much more definitely East Coast (if only because its name comes from an old nickname for NYC).

    The difficulty the DC folks run into is that they’ve got all these characters in a shared universe, and it’s established that New York and Chicago and such also exist in that universe. So they’ve got to put the genuine article and the metaphoric substitute on the same map somehow, and something about that is never going to fit quite right.

    It happens with things other than comics: John Updike’s “Roger’s Version” takes place in a metro area that is clearly Boston/Cambridge with the serial numbers filed off, at a university that seems to be a fusion of Harvard and MIT, but the characters refer to Boston as being someplace else. It leads to distracting speculations about just what the map of the Northeastern US looks like in this world.

  • mattmcirvin

    …but the weirdest thing to me about the “Atlas of the DC Universe” choices is that they put Metropolis at Lewes, Delaware. I’ve been there a couple of times; it’s a pleasant, somewhat touristy small beach town. It’s odd to imagine a…metropolis plunked down on the shoreline there.

  • Amaryllis

    What?

    That’s worse than putting Gotham in south Jersey. There just isn’t room. Not to mention spoiling one of the last relatively unspoiled shorelines in the mid-Atlantic region.

  • mattmcirvin

    If it’s as big as generally implied, greater Metropolis would basically have to fill all of southern Delaware, and probably spill into Maryland. The Eastern Shore would be a very different place.

  • Amaryllis

    * sob*

    More beaches, fewer cities, is my motto.

    Or no, that’s not right. Cities are perfectly fine, in their place. Their place is not on the beach. Especially not on my beach.

  • Carstonio

    Yes, you would see Clark and Lois dining on steamed crabs and Smith Island cake.

    “Smallville” placed Metropolis in Kansas about a two-hour drive from the small town. Hell of a commute to the Daily Planet for Lois when she lived on the Kent farm, although many people do this in real life.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Wait, what? Does that turn Superman into some equivalent to Barney Fife? Because you and Amaryllis are right, there just isn’t room in Lewes – heck, in all of Delaware – for Metropolis as we picture it; so it has to be a tiny place whose inhabitants delusionally consider it a big city.

  • Michael Pullmann

    “Metropolis is New York above 14th Street. Gotham is New York below 14th Street.” – Denny O’Neill

  • Loquat

    So apparently this DJ did a riff on Rains of Castamere. I can’t decide whether to squee or cringe.

  • caryjamesbond

    Cringe- but only because that person is not a good rapper. At all.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    On characters that got more interesting after they died:
    Where the #$%& is Spock?

  • Alix

    He was already interesting. :P

  • caryjamesbond

    Spock got less interesting after he died. He turned into supervulcan for a while and by the time he was over it, the good movies were over. Star Trek IV was a great movie, but it wasn’t the best airing of Spock’s character.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    But what about Star Trek VI? “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.” I’ve always thought that movie showed such growth of the character. Spock wasn’t struggling so hard to repress his human ancestry. He was willing to let himself be who and what he truly was.
    And then, there’s that whole “cowboy diplomacy” arc from TNG. That’s not something pre-mortem Spock would even have considered.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Parker’s post makes me think of a story I was writing which eventually incorporated itself into the background canon of a larger story, but which was never finished (recurring problem). A sorceress undertakes a charge by the gods to journey into another world to ascertain and sabotage any efforts to bend magic to the purpose of entering the plane of the gods. To make the transition, she must die and be reincarnated in mortal flesh on that world.

    Problem: When she gets there, she discovers that there is already someone in her place, a person so like herself that the universe considers them one and the same person — and so she is unable to be spun out into mortal flesh again, because by the universe’s standards, she already lives. She is forced to haunt this person, hoping that their limited ability to communicate is enough to guide the young woman to complete her task.

    Of course, the sorceress didn’t much expect her doppelganger to be a perfectly ordinary young woman on Earth.

  • The_L1985

    I’d read that.

  • Wednesday

    So, I don’t know enough about current cultural tensions in the UK to know if it’s progressive or just ordinary to have so many Scottish actors get leading roles in a show like Doctor Who (Tennant, Gillian, and now Capaldi). Anyone want to fill me in?

    See, from my USian perspective, the show has gotten less progressive under Moffat than the RTD era, when we had POC companions in Martha and Mickey*, a queer companion in Jack Harkness, and two older women playing major roles (Donna and Professor River Song — River being cast before Moffat took over). Not to mention Rose, Martha, and Donna all got to save the day in seriously epic ways. But I am also aware that the UK has a very different history with race than the US, including English attitudes towards Ireland and Scotland, and my US notions of what’s progressive may be inapplicable.

    *Yeah, the Ninth Doctor’s initial treatment of Mickey was a little bothersome, but Mickey did get to become a respected badass.

  • Daniel

    “So, I don’t know enough about current cultural tensions in the UK to
    know if it’s progressive or just ordinary to have so many Scottish
    actors get leading roles in a show like Doctor Who (Tennant, Gillian,
    and now Capaldi). Anyone want to fill me in?”

    It’s pretty ordinary. It’s been quite common for a long time to have people from everywhere in the UK in tv programmes. What is comparatively new (only about 10-15 years) is having those actors speak with their actual accent- it used to be that wherever you were from in the UK you had to speak like you were from the south. Also, Peter Capaldi has been in so many programmes and is an Oscar winner (for a short, but still) he’s one of the most established actors to ever take the role. What’s interesting for me is to see how his Doctor behaves- Capaldi has been so iconic as Malcolm Tucker it’s hard now to imagine him as anything other than a total monster.

    The race thing is different from the US, it’s not really seen as a big thing to have ethnic minority characters- except by right wing commentators who seem to insist that it’s being done just to be PC.

    Personally I don’t like the Moffat Doctor Who as much as the Russel T Davies (who is Welsh, and gay) because I thought Moffat’s story lines tend towards saccharine sentimentality and weren’t as fun as Davies’.

  • NelC

    Funny, people are going on about Malcolm Tucker as though that (and Local Hero) were the only things Capaldi’s ever done. I’ve been a fan of his since LH, and I remember him for the transvestite in Prime Suspect, Uncle Rory in The Crow Road, the Angel Islington in Neverwhere, narrating the audiobook of The Wasp Factory, and a zillion other roles all over British TV, not to mention narrating a bunch of documentaries and the odd advert (I’m so in love with his voice).

    He’s a versatile actor, and will bring the same abilities to his Doctor, making him as unique a character as Malcolm Tucker, such that we’ll all forget Tucker inside five minutes, I’ll lay odds on it.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    See, from my USian perspective, the show has gotten less progressive under Moffat than the RTD era

    On the other hand, I’d say that Madame Vastra and Jenny are more interesting and dynamic characters over time than Jack, and their sexuality is treated as a character trait rather than a running gag.

    But in general, I think Moffat takes a very old-fashioned approach to equality issues — a lot of his stuff comes off to me as a kind of 80s-style American Sit-Com progressivism. He approaches issues of gender, orientation (and to a lesser extent race) not with a modern “They are us” approach but instead with an old-fashioned “They are not us, but they’re still okay” approach: you are supposed to like the non-straight-white-male characters, you are supposed to respect them, you are supposed to feel bad for their struggles, but you still think of them as a them and not an us.

    I’ve thought recently that a big part of the issue is that Moffat’s primary storytelling mode for Doctor Who has been a Victorian Children’s Literature concept of a separation between the “real” world and the Magic World of Faerie where Adventures Happen. Where it’s fine to go off into the world of adventure, and meet exciting people who aren’t straight, and have adventures and fight aliens, even if you’re a girl. But some day you have to go back to the real world, and get a proper job and marry someone of the opposite sex and make babies. The tension between those two worlds is basically what Moffat’s Who is about: a madman in a blue box turns up in your ordinary real world, extends his hand and says “Come away with me to Never-Land,” and the character arc for the Ponds is all about them trying to find a balance between those worlds and live with one foot in each of them (And, of course, in the end, they are forced out and have to go live in the real world)

    And all of this is mostly fine. It’s an immensely attractive mode of storytelling, which is why it’s used by so many of the best-loved children’s stories. But Moffat does this very awkward thing, which is that all his non-heteronormative characters live in Wonderland. So there is a sense in which Jenny being a lesbian is a trait that is the same in kind as Vastra being a reptile.

  • Wednesday

    The trouble with Jenny is this: I initially assumed you were talking about the titular character from The Doctor’s Daughter (season 4), because that Jenny got more screentime and narrative focus than the Jenny-and-Vastra Jenny. And since her being a lesbian was definitely treated as a Quirky Wonderland Inhabitant Trait in the same way Vastra being a lizard-lady was, it felt like a token “oh, right, DW is supposed to be progressive, let’s put in a lesbian character as one of the Quirky Friends that the Doctor calls up to aid him.”

    Jack’s sexuality was definitely played for humor, but he got a lot more screentime, got to help save the day in a more significant way, and got his own spin-off. (That said, I didn’t watch Torchwood but I would watch the hell out of a Jenny and Vastra spin-off, so long as the showrunner was, um, not Moffat.)

  • Abel Undercity

    I just say that Metropolis is New York, and Gotham is Philadelphia. If you ever saw a shot of the Philly skyline on a full moon night, you’d believe it.

  • Caravelle

    I like this “Anya turns out to be Willow” idea. After a very unfortunate combination of events in the far future Willow turns dark, ends up a few millennia in the past, and becomes a vengeance demon (those three could happen in any order). Time passes, stuff happens, she loses her memories of her past life and confabulates a new past history based on the experiences of her new life, including calling herself “Anyanka” for some reason (could be a subconscious memory of that vengeance demon she knew long ago). Then time rolls back over to the present, she loses her demon powers and is pretty much totally reset as a human being (no witchy powers, no sexual orientation or understanding of human emotions), but she’s still drawn to Xander, who’d been her closest friend and first crush.

    Obviously she doesn’t recognize herself-in-the-past even though they both feel deep antagonism towards each other, as they subconsciously recognize everything they don’t want to be in that other woman. I haven’t decided whether D’Hoffryn figures it out, knows it all along or just thinks there’s something intriguing about that Willow girl he can’t put his finger on.

  • Vermic

    Personally I found Boromir to be more interesting and likable after he died. Post-mortem, he gained a lot of depth through the reminiscences of others. Alive, he was only Not-As-Cool-As-Aragorn Guy, whose job consisted of alternately complaining, boasting, complaining, and lusting after the Ring in a cartoonishly conspicuous manner.

    Once the action moves into Gondor, we gain some perspective on Boromir’s point of origin, the situation he faced and his place in it. Faramir draws a sympathetic but realistic sketch of the man to Frodo, and it’s really only here that we “get” what Boromir was about and see the motives, in different measures noble and loyal and self-serving, that made up his personality. I only wish some of that depth had been in evidence when he was alive. (Sean Bean brought it out, and the characterization of alive!Boromir is IMHO one of the points where the films actually improved on the book.) But it’s possible that Tolkien himself didn’t have a good grasp of Boromir until he started writing the Gondor scenes.

    I love LOTR, but one of the smartest choices Tolkien made was breaking up the Fellowship as early as possible; he seemed unequal to the task of fleshing out nine characters simultaneously. (To say nothing of the parade of facelessness that was Thorin and Company; but Hobbit gets a pass because of its more explicitly fairy-taley tone.) Everyone in Middle-Earth got more interesting in groups of twos and threes.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Keeping with the theme of the post, one of the characters I find more interesting after their death is Ned Stark.

    This clear cut upstanding noble guy gets a lot murkier as the story goes on. Especially considering the fact that his sister’s relationship was likely consensual, but he didn’t stop his best friend from going to war over who had the right to her vagina.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Especially considering the fact that his sister’s relationship was likely consensual…

    I didn’t find that clear at all. Wasn’t there something about Lyanna Stark looking frightened when Rhaegar dropped the wreath in her lap, because she knew she was in no position to refuse him?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Frightened? I can think of a few more reasons why she’d be frightened(like they had sex already when he tracked her down as the Knight of the Laughing Tree, and placing the wreath in her lap pretty much announced it to everybody)

    It’s been a bit since I’ve read it, but it’s also made clear by Ned she didn’t want to marry Robert, who was a philanderer, the Kingsguard was protecting her(and possibly Rhaegar’s chosen heir, which is their job, why weren’t they protecting Rhaenarya, Aegon and Elia?).

    Also, as fierce as she’s established(wolf’s blood like Arya), whether she can meaningfully consent or not, she can surely castrate him when he’s vulnerable*, and I wouldn’t put in past her.

    *A man can have a knife or a wife, but he can’t have both, to quote Ygritte.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I suppose the rest of that is possible, but I really, really don’t see Rhaegar having been the Knight of the Laughing Tree. He had no vested interest in reprimanding the squires, and his absence from the tourney would definitely have been noted.

  • Loquat

    No, the theory is Lyanna was the Knight of the Laughing Tree – she was fierce like Arya, couldn’t fight openly as herself anyway, and had an interest in punishing the squires for harassing a Stark vassal.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Ohhhh. Sorry, I totally misunderstood. Yes, Lyanna makes sense as one of the candidates for KotLT.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    And Rhaegar was ordered to track down the KotLT, leading people to feel he found her, and fell for her right then, which was why he gave her the wreath.

  • Loquat

    Arguably, the war was less over who had the right to Lyanna Stark’s vagina, and more over whether the king had the right to summarily execute anyone who complained about anything a Targaryen did.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Supposition says the rebellion was already coalescing around deposing Aerys for Rhaegar(that’s why Aerys demanded he be at Harrenhal, to prevent Rhaegar from plotting) but that went out the window when Lyanna broke her engagement to Robert.

    If you look at the marriage alliances being proposed, there were too many Northerners allying with Southron lords. The rebellion was beginning before Brandon and Rickard Stark were executed.

  • Amaryllis

    Queen Hermione of Sicily. Where was she during those sixteen years?

    Miles Vorkosigan. Not that he wasn’t always interesting, but he grew up after that.

    Ista dy Baocia (while I’m on Bujold), after either of her “deaths.”

    The Corinthian. Standard slasher-movie nightmare in his first incarnation; oddly compelling the second time around. Also, probably, Matthew the Raven; although I never read Swamp Thing and know nothing about Matthew Cable the man, Matthew the Raven is pretty cool.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Definitely with you on the Corinthian. But, having read both Swamp Thing and The Sandman, I’m pretty sure Matthew the Raven isn’t Matt Cable. Matt Cable was near death when Anton Arcane possessed him, and died shortly after kicking Arcane out. But unless you’ve read something I haven’t, there were no indications that he went on to become Dream’s raven.

    Whoever Matthew the man was, he’s far more interesting as a bird. The same is likely true of all of Dream’s ravens — from what I can gather, he picks very ordinary dead guys for that role.

  • Amaryllis

    Hmmm, I could have sworn somebody told me that…

    * google *

    Ah. Wikipedia, anyway, thinks it’s canon:
    Since Matthew technically died while in the Dreaming in Swamp Thing #84, Morpheus/Dream of the Endless revived him to a form of life as his raven.

    Maybe it was a retcon? I haven’t read much in the comics world, but from what I understand, Gaiman took a lot the of DC stock characters and turned them to his own purposes. I guess this was one more instance.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Huh. According to that, the ravens weren’t always ordinary people. Okay.

    ETA: I’d completely forgotten about Matt Cable going into a coma, but I remember it now.

  • Greenygal

    SANDMAN itself only made allusions to Matthew’s prior identity, most notably when Matthew says he doesn’t drink anymore and Lucien quotes from the issue where Matt had his fatal drunken car crash. But it was explicitly confirmed in an arc of THE DREAMING, where Matthew is temporarily changed back into a human and meets up with Abby again.