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Game of Thrones

Musings

Game of Thrones Series Drawing to a Close

April 19, 2019

The final season of HBO’s smash hit Game of Thrones is coming to a close, and if you’re not watching, believe me when I say that you’re in the minority. The show has seen viewership not rivaled since The Sopranos, and it would be entirely accurate to say that it has had an impact on TV shows in general that has not probably not been seen since the debut of Tony and his New Jersey buddies some twenty years ago.

Game of Thrones has opened up a world of possibilities in the fantasy genre that were unheard of before. The sheer amount of money that has been spent on the later episodes is staggering, especially when you take into account the special effects budget for the dragons, the White Walkers, and the enormous battle sequences. Those battles rival anything that has been seen on the big screen, whether you want to talk about Braveheart, or the Lord of the Rings series, or anything else you care to name.

Being someone who has always loved fantasy, I have enjoyed the show immensely. I love the visuals, the scope of it, the sheer breadth of the world that has been created, and there are so many unforgettable characters, classic moments, and one-liners. There are so many tragic deaths and rebirths, so many turns and twists, and the show has launched so many careers, from Sophie Turner to Peter Dinklage to Kit Harrington.

I’m going to be sorry to see it go, and of course I’m dying of curiosity to see how they they can possibly tie up the million-and-one loose ends in the next five episodes. Is there any possible way this show can have a satisfactory conclusion, or will it end up being like The Sopranos, where only a small portion of the viewing audience was satisfied with how things finished up?

Then there’s the issue of what’s on the horizon. Game of Thrones might be ending, but what about all of the sequels or prequels that are under discussion? And what might replace it in popularity? Presumably the likeliest contender is going to be the proposed series that takes place in Tolkien’s Middle Earth to which Netflix now has the rights. Visually it’s supposed to be like the Peter Jackson movies, and it’s going to have a budget to rival them. Being as big of a Tolkien fan as I am, needless to say you can count me in.

In the meantime, though, I’m very much looking forward to the debut of Good Omens when that comes out on Netflix later this summer. Indeed, there are multiple big-budget fantasy epics in the works, and they’re all intended for TV rather than the big screen. That’s the way things are going, and I must say that it’s nice to be able to watch such ambitious projects from the comfort of my bedroom where I can pause to take a leak or get a snack whenever I so choose.

As for the conclusion of Game of Thrones, I’m sure I’ll eagerly soak in every minute of the show’s remaining episodes. There has never been anything like it in the history of television, and whether there will ever be another fantasy saga to match it’s awesomeness remains to be seen.

Musings

World-Changing Writing

October 18, 2017

What is it that truly marks a writer as being successful? Is a successful writer one who is making a living exclusively through their writing, as I’ve tried to do for so many years? Are you a successful writer when you’ve hit the New York Times bestseller list? When you’ve optioned a book to Hollywood? When you’ve written what is considered a classic novel? There’s no wrong answer to this question, I think. It’s subjective. Some writers consider themselves to be a success when they’ve managed to publish a short story in an obscure online literary magazine for the first time. There are many different kinds of writers, and we all have different goals…some of us are much more ambitious than others.

There are some authors, though, who literally change the world through their writing. These are authors who are runaway success stories; they’re superstars. They’ve made it, regardless of what milestones one uses to define such things. One such author who I want to talk about today is George R.R. Martin. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, better known by the title Game of Thrones, as in the long-running show on H.B.O., first appeared on my radar perhaps seven or eight years ago. I knew he was a fantasy writer, and that he was well known, but I hadn’t actually picked up one of his books before. The first several novels in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series had been New York Times bestsellers, but I don’t think I understood just how good this guy was. I saw the first season of Game of Thrones by pirating it online. I wasn’t exactly making a ton of money at the time, and I wasn’t about to add H.B.O. to my cable package. I couldn’t afford that sort of luxury, but there was so much buzz around this show that I felt like I had to check it out somehow. I knew that Sean Bean was in it, an actor I much admired. A big-budget fantasy series geared toward adult viewers, and one that was sure to feature plenty of sex and violence, since it was on a premium channel? Count me in.

The show was engrossing, spellbinding, better even than I’d thought it would be. And so it went from there…I found the entire “Song of Ice and Fire” series at secondhand bookstores, and caught up with what had become, in truth, a cultural event. Martin’s writing was probably the best fantasy I’d ever read, with the exception of Tolkien. It’s hard to say who’s better, between the two…I guess I would just say that their writing styles are very different, so it’s hard to compare the two. Tolkien is “high fantasy,” his prose more flowery. Martin’s writing has a more modern feel to it. One thing that the two share, though, is the ability to create unforgettable characters, characters about whom the reader grows to care. They’re both master storytellers, the difference being, I think, that Tolkien belongs to another era. Martin is getting up there in years, but he’s still alive and producing, and able to see the effect his creation, the Seven Kingdoms, is having on society. I would hope that he’s proud of his accomplishments.

Game of Thrones is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen on television. It’s production values are fantastic, which is unsurprising, considering it’s literally the most expensive show that’s ever been produced. It’s unparalleled in its time, just as The Sopranos, The Wire, and Breaking Bad were in theirs. It’s must-see T.V., it’s groundbreaking…call it what you want, there’s never been anything else like it on the small screen. The books, meanwhile, have had an equal impact. Martin’s creation, the Seven Kingdoms, seems to be the world in which his literary talents truly flowered, and I know this, because I’ve read some of his earlier sci-fi and horror efforts now, and they show promise, but it’s nothing like his fantasy. Just as Terry Pratchett created the “Diskworld,” and did his best work there, just as Brian Jacques created “Redwall,” and felt most at home there, so to did Martin devise the Seven Kingdoms, and, as a reader, I’m thankful he did. Lots of people are. Literally millions have read his books, and millions more have seen Game of Thrones.

That’s what I’m talking about when I mean real success as a writer. There’s a certain pinnacle that can be reached where the language of the books you’ve created has leaked into the popular vernacular. If you’re into Game of Thrones, you know the significance of the phrase “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” You know all about the Red Wedding. You know that “winter is coming,” you know about “bending the knee,” and you know how important it is to hold the Iron Throne. If you’re reading this and you’re lost by now, then you’re behind the times, good reader. Trust my literary recommendation, here…pick up the first novel of the “Song of Ice and Fire” cycle. You don’t have to be into the fantasy genre. If you’re a fan of just good writing, period, you’re going to appreciate these books. I won’t say millions of people can’t be wrong, because look at the success of the Fifty Shades of Gray series, or look who’s currently in the White House. But here’s one time that they got it right. George R.R. Martin is a master. His success is well-earned. Become a citizen of the Seven Kingdoms. Bend the knee.

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