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Posts Tagged ‘George Rr Martin’

  1. LitStack Recs: A Writer’s Notebook & Dangerous Women

    September 11, 2014 by LitStackEditor

    A Writer’s Notebook
    by Somerset Maugham

    Like most writers, I keep a notebook. It’s small and transportable, since the point is to record in the moment—things seen in passing, or sentences that arise unexpectedly, the kind that must be put down before they vanish. I also like to keep track of words, ones  unexpectedly found in the passage of a book or overheard in conversation, in hopes they might be of use in a current or future piece of writing. My brand of note-keeping is strictly utilitarian. The entries don’t hold up on their own. My notebook is more like a sketchbook, a record of fragments, images and ideas that in the moment glimmered up from the stream. One can only hope they’ll be useful later on.

    My quotidian process is far from the careful notations made daily by Somerset Maugham, an extract of which was published in 1949 as A Writer’s Notebook. Maugham’s work has fallen out of fashion, but in his day, the author achieved wild success, outselling contemporaries including Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson. The Guardian called Maugham “the first superstar novelist.” At the age of twenty, his plays were hits on the West End and later on, his novels were bestsellers, including The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage. Never having received critical acclaim, Maugham once observed his gifts may have been a result of what he considered a talent for “the colloquial note.”

    And yet, in these entries, the colloquial is keenly observed. In the volume’s introduction, Maugham writes, “I forget who it was who said that every author should keep a notebook, but should take care never to refer to it.” Daily note-making, he goes on to say, is essential for distinguishing the striking impressions from the “incessant stream of impressions that crowd across the mental eye.” A practice that sharpens the eye, and the prose:

    “When you know you are going to make a note of something, you look at it more attentively than you otherwise would, and in the process of doing so the words are borne in upon you that will give it its private place reality.”

    Somerset Maughm. Bain Collection, Library of Congress.


    The entries range widely, from proverb-like determinations, to authoritative pronouncements on the contemporaneous—on people, places, and things. There are longer entries too, meditations on ideas and events, such as Maugham’s refusal upon being asked to write on France for the French press, or his observation that American males have “acquaintances but few friends.”

    The book contains longer entries, often a few pages in length—scenes realized in and of themselves, such as the one that begins, “The Secret Agent. He was a man of scarcely middle height, but very broad and sturdy…” Or a two page entry on Maugham’s experience of early reading, which includes the novels Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, and the stories of Guy de Maupassant and Chekhov.

    There are brief entries too. In this vein, Maugham would be right at home on Twitter, enlivening the feed the way Alain de Botton, Teju Cole and Joyce Carol Oates do. Fragments, ideas, observations, the Notebook has plenty, such as these stand-alone entries:

    Radiant with health, like the persons of Venetian pictures in which the glory of living seems so comfortable a fact.

    Each youth is like a child born in the night who sees the sun rise and thinks that yesterday never existed.

    If it were possible decently to dissolve marriage during the first year not one in fifty couples would remain united.

    Many of the entries are passages written to clarify the process of writing, on inspiration, craft, and in Maugham’s case, the vagaries of success—which found a way to plague the author despite the notoriety he achieved in his lifetime:

    Readers do not know that the passage which they read in half an hour, in five minutes, has been evolved out of the heart’s blood of the author. The emotion which strikes them as “so true” he has lived through with nights of bitter tears.

    At times, the language can feel dated, with a certain mustiness of the author’s milieu, the early-twentieth century British upper classes, but all the same, A Writer’s Notebook can be read in any sort of order. Randomly opening the book to any page is virtual guarantee that you’ll be immersed into the writer’s stream of thought—such as this gem:

    …with Chekhov you do not seem to be reading stories at all…you might think that anyone could write them, but for the fact that nobody does.

    The entries in this edition date from 1892, during Maugham’s youthful training as a medic in London, through 1944, the year his companion Gerald Haxton died, and to whom the book is dedicated.

    —Lauren Alwan

  2. Gimbling in the Wabe – In Which I Make a Confession

    March 28, 2014 by Sharon Browning

    Game of Thrones Jamie

    I have a confession to make.  I’m a wimp.Game of Thrones Jamie

    Not in everything.  I’m a competent person; some who know me say I’m a very strong person.  I can put up with a lot, I’ve been able to handle a fair share of disappointment and heartache, and I’ve raised two children past the teenaged years – we’ve all come out of it relatively unscathed.

    But I don’t think I’ll be able to make it through HBO’s “Game of Thrones”.

    I love the books, passionately.  I’ve read all five of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books that George R.R. Martin has written so far, multiple times.  I’ve debated them with my son, who is also a big fan, and we’ve batted lots of theories and potentialities around as to motivations (on character and author alike) and what might happen in future volumes.

    So when I heard HBO was making a television series based on the books, I was cautiously excited.  Upon learning that George R.R. Martin would be involved in the production, I dropped the caution and was openly enthusiastic.  Although finances kept me from being an HBO subscriber, I nevertheless kept up on the progress of filming; I followed fan sites and hung on casting announcements, thrilled to the photos that were released and devoured every teaser and trailer.

    When the show debuted, I had to settle hearing about it from my son, who watched it (and still does) religiously.  He kept me filled in about the differences in the HBO series and the books, and we discussed their merits and drawbacks.  He gushed about individual acting performances, and how wonderfully the world of Westeros was being realized (and his disappointments -there were some, yes).

    When the first season was released on DvD, it was the one thing I asked for and received for Christmas. I watched the first episode almost immediately, and was amazed and thrilled.  But then a strange thing happened.  I put the boxed set aside.  The excuse I told myself was that I wanted to find the right time to really delve into it, but to be honest, watching the TV show made me uncomfortable.

    It wasn’t just the violence (which the books are known for) or all the exposed flesh (which HBO is known for) – I certainly was aware of what would be happening.  And there was so much to love about the series: the look and feel of the world was spot on, the performances were solid, the actors believable, the action, the dialog, the story – it all held together remarkably well.  So why, although I took great satisfaction in having the boxed set, was I so reticent in utilizing it?

    Finally, months later, I managed to watch that first season – most of it.  I got to 9 out of 10 episodes.  But towards the end of the 9th episode, I stopped, unable to finish.

    I doubt as if it’s a spoiler anymore, to say that the scene I could not watch was the one in which a main character is beheaded.  It’s not just the beheading that is hard, but that it was unnecessary and unexpected, after the reader/viewer had been led to believe there would clemency, where the situation demanded clemency.  I knew what was happening, why it was happening, what the fallout would be of its happening – yet I simply could not bring myself to watch that scene.  I hit a brick wall, and the boxed set went back on the shelf.

    Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  The third season of Game of Thrones has aired, and the fourth season is set to start soon.  Talk is that the television series might outpace GRRM’s writing of the books themselves, and speculation is that if that happens, it may signal the end of the world as we know it.  I, however, discovered that my local library had boxed sets of Game of Thrones to lend, so after a long wait in a virtual line, I finally had a copy of the second season in my hands, and a week in which to watch it.

    I had a game plan.  I returned to the first season and re-watched Episode 9, skipping the dreaded ending.  Yes, I just plain chickened out and moved past the scary part, the part I couldn’t face earlier, then proceeded to finish that first season and moved on to the second season in full anticipatory regalia.

    And again, I stalled out.

    This time, there was no good reason on why I couldn’t move forward after watching that first episode.   Certainly more horrific things had occurred earlier and far, far more horrific things would be occurring in the future – I knew that from reading the books.  Yet I found myself the night after watching that first episode pacing in the dark of my front porch, highly agitated.  I felt off, wrong, a feeling the extended to my bones.

    I returned the boxed set to the library the next day.

    Like I said, I’m a wuss.

    I honestly don’t know why I failed so miserably in being able to watch “Game of Thrones”.  It’s not that the action was more visceral than in the books; perhaps even less so, because while in the books you can stop at something particularly unexpected or sudden (or beautiful), you can go back and reread it again, to make sure you “got it right”, whereas on television there would be no stopping, no non-artificial ability to back up and go over it again (certainly not on broadcast viewing).  And usually in the show – not always, but usually – the most violent acts were mercifully muted, with quick cutaways or a change in point of view, a quick fade to black.  Not so in the books, they were clear in what was happening, no inference utilized.  So why could I read the horror and the gore and the bloodshed and the heartache in great detail, and not watch a modicum of it on the small screen?

    Perhaps it is due to how I process what I take in through my senses.  It’s always been easier for me to learn by watching than by listening; even more so, to learn by doing, even if that “doing” is an adjunct to the learning.  For example, in school I was a copious note taker, because that was how I absorbed the material.  When learning foreign languages – never an easy topic for me – I would copy and recopy reams of vocabulary words in order to absorb them, rather than speaking them out loud, often in exaggerated, large characters.  It was tying the visual with the mechanical where I did my deepest learning.

    Both watching a screen and reading a book are visual acts.  While reading uses the imagination far more than watching a screen, we take in both the print on the page and the pixels on the screen with our eyes.  Yet in reading, although the experience is far more varied, vast, and personal, it also gives us the ability to take a step back, to understand intellectually, even sensorially, without having to concretely visualize what is going on in specific detail (at least for me).  What detail I do supply is intrinsic and understood without an external definition, it flushes my experience fully dependent on the skill of the writer and how deeply I am engaged in the words on the page.

    Yet, I do not think I imagine in color when I read; it is both less visual and more personal than that.  I feel what I read rather than see what is happening, even though I take in the gist of the stimulus with my eyes.  I glimpse images, scenery, faces, colors, landscapes, but the “reality” of them as defined images is just not as important as the flow of the words and how they charge my deepest imagination.  It’s very hard to describe, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of you know of what it is I am attempting to relate.

    When I read, the impact of the words becomes real to me without hinging on physical images.  In this way, I am able to encounter the horrific, the graphic, the visceral, the painful – and the glorious, the beautiful, the achingly lovely or achingly sad – the colors and shapes and sizes, and the smells and tastes and touches that are carried on those words in a way that doesn’t blunt the heart or the mind with a concrete reality, but allows me to experience the written word in an intimately personal way.  So when the colors and shapes and sizes are flashed on a screen, all vibrant and real and thrumming, when that buffer between my mind and my mind’s eye does not exist, it’s almost as if what I care about becomes hyper-real.  It’s more than I can take.

    And I chicken out.  I become a wuss.

    But you know, enjoyment is not a competition.  I know my son is somewhat disappointed that I’ll be unable to revel in the finer points of “Game of Thrones” with him, but that’s a disappointment we both can live with.  We still have the books, and I’ll still be able to follow along with his rants, his raves, his theories and his reactions to the show.  And I’ll still follow the trailers when they come out, getting a glimpse of the fullness of that interpretation of the books, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll try checking the boxed set out again.  Someday.  Maybe it would be better to try to watch in the summer, rather than in the winter.

    Or maybe I’ll just wait to enter that world until the next book comes out.  That experience I will devour with bated breath.  With that experience, no matter what comes, I will be fearless and dauntless and even brash.  With that, I will be brave.

  3. Gorgeous New Season Four Game of Thrones Promo Posters

    February 27, 2014 by LitStackEditor


    Tuesday on Twitter, HBO released the promo posters for season four of its hit series, “Game of Thrones.” Check out a few of our favorites below and don’t miss the amazing trailer for the upcoming season linked here. You can find all of the promo posters here.

    “Game of Thrones” Season four returns on April 6 on HBO at 9 p.m. EST.



  4. Martin on His ‘Game of Thrones’ Inspiration

    November 13, 2013 by LitStackEditor

    george rr martin

    Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin describes the realities of human nature that george rr martinunderpin the success of the book series that spawned a hit television series.


    You can also watch the full version of this interview.

    CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: The land of Westeros is the mythical setting for the blockbuster book and mini-series that is Game of Thrones.

    It’s an epic fantasy, but one of the reasons for its runaway success is its central themes are deeply rooted in reality – power, lust, love, family, duty, disgrace and honour are timeless pieces of the human puzzle. And the man behind books and the mini-series it spawned is a great storyteller. I spoke with George R.R. Martin earlier today.

    George Martin, welcome to 7.30.

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN, AUTHOR: I’m glad to be here.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: Is your life a testament to the fact that there is actually a value in daydreaming?

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Actually, yes, I think it is, I think it is. I’ve been daydreaming and nightdreaming my entire life, from my childhood in Bayonne, New Jersey. I grew up in the projects in Bayonne, New Jersey. My father was a longshoreman. We didn’t have much money. Didn’t even own a car. I lived in a world that was five blocks long. But, Bayonne, New Jersey, my hometown, was a peninsula and there was a deep water channel right across the street from me where the big ships would go from Newark Bay to New York Bay with all the different flags – Australian flags and New Zealand and Scandinavia and China and Liberia, and I would dream about being on those ships and where they were going. And at a very early age, I started reading comic books and then science fiction and fantasy books and then books of all sorts.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: Well take us to Game of Thrones. When did you first start imagining this world?

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: 1991. I remember it very vividly. It was the summer of 1991. I was working a lot in Hollywood at the time. I’d been on a couple of shows as a writer-producer on Twilight Zone Revival, on Max Headroom, on Beauty and the Beast and I was doing development, trying to come up with my own concepts for pilots. But I didn’t have any immediate assignments in the summer of ’91, so I said, “Let me write a novel. It’s been four or five years since I had my last novel out.” And I started this science fiction novel that I’d begun – been planning for years. And it was going pretty well. I was, like, 40, 50 pages into it when suddenly the idea for the first chapter of Game of Thrones came to me, the chapter where they find the direwolf pups in the summer snows. I knew right from the beginning that they were summer snows, that phrase was one of the germs and that there’s something wrong in this world with the seasons and that these direwolves were important and that each one would have a connection with one of the children of the leading family and I started writing that chapter and it just poured out of me in about three days, and by the time I’d finished it, I knew what the second chapter would be and I went on to that and then the third chapter and so on and so forth.

    I like grey characters. I like people who have both good and evil in them ’cause I think real people have both good and evil. There are very few pure paladins in the world and there are very few totally evil people. We all have the capacity for heroism in us. We all have the capacity for selfishness and evil in us.

    How do you play this Game of Thrones, this cut-throat game? Do you play it according – clean and noble, according to the rules that you’ve been taught? You do that, you could very well lose your life and you could lose the lives of people that you love and your family or your children, because the other people that you’re playing with are not playing by the same rules. So then do you compromise your principles and get down and dirty with them and play it in the rough and mean way that you think might be necessary to win? Well then maybe you survive a little longer, but what have you become in the end? I mean, these are issues that I think are very much worth talking about, not only in fiction, but of course we see this reflected all around us in the real world, the constant struggle of ideals versus Realpolitik.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: The series is very true to the book.

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Yes, very much so.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: And you’ve got a lot of control over what happens with the series.

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: I wouldn’t say I have a lot of control, but I have a voice. I write the books, David Benioff and Dan Weiss are the showrunners. They write the majority of the scripts. I do one script per season. …

    … I’ve been very excited and pleased about what it’s done. And among other things, of course, it’s getting me millions of new readers through the books, ’cause the people who watch the show then go out and buy the books and I’m all in favour of that.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: Now of course on the books, the question all your fans want to know is: when will the next one be out?

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: When will the next one be out? Well that’s a good question. December. But it’s a book called Dangerous Women that I edited with my friend, Gardner Dozois, and it does have an Ice and Fire novella in it, a novella I wrote called the Princess and The Queen, about a Targaryen civil war 150 years before the events of the main books. So, that’s – that will have to appease them until I finish the Winds of Winter, which is still a ways. I mean, these books are enormous; they take me a long time to write. Someone asked me at Supernova this weekend, “What’s the hard part of writing?,” and my answer was, “The words. The words are hard.” (Laughs)

    CHRIS UHLMANN: So, look, you began your life as a daydreaming boy. Does your life seem like a daydream now?

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: A little bit, yeah, a little bit. But it’s worked out pretty well and I don’t think I’d change much of anything.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: Well George Martin, thank you very much for speaking with us on 7.30.

    GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Oh, my pleasure. I was thrilled to be here.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: And I told my teachers that daydreaming wasn’t a waste of time. And you can see an extended version of that interview on our website later this evening.

    You can also watch the full version of this interview.


  5. Gimbling in the Wabe – Happy Birthday to George

    September 20, 2013 by Sharon Browning

    Once upon a time (September 20, 1948, in fact) a baby boy was born to a longshoreman and his wife from the realm of Bayonne, in the land of New Jersey.  They named their son George, and the boy was full of stories and songs (well, stories anyway).  As a youngster,  he sold some of those stories to other children in the neighborhood for pennies.  Others, he kept.

    In 1977, I graduated from high school in small town Iowa, and left for the grand adventure known as college.  I attended Cornell College in beautiful Mount Vernon, Iowa, but for a short time I considered enrolling at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, because it also had a solid reputation academically and the bluffs were dramatic and divine, so unlike my normal experience of dreamy cornfields and expansive vistas.  (In-state tuition rates were, and remain, quite advantageous.)  Alas, though, Clarke was a Catholic college and I was from a decidedly Protestant background, with my father being a minister and all, so I left behind dreams of the bluffs in favor of perhaps the most gorgeous hilltop campus in the world.

    Had I gone to Clarke, however – had I taken that possibly fateful journey 65 miles to the northeast – I would have, in my sophomore and junior years, potentially taken journalism classes from a Professor Martin, George Martin.   Yes, the longshoreman’s son who was full of stories grew up to be a writer and a teacher.  How might my life have been changed had I studied under the man who has been deemed “the American Tolkien”?  How different would my circumstances have been?  Probably not much, because I was a music major.  But one never knows!

    Hey, that might make an interesting speculative fiction story!  Or…. not.

    Anyway, today is George R.R. Martin‘s birthday; today he turns 65.  Best known for his insanely popular series of books, A Song of Ice and Fire (five published thus far, with two more to come, and a prequel), and for their stylish and masterful (and lusty and brutal!) treatment by HBO under the series name “Game of Thrones”, he is nevertheless also well known for many other things.  Editing award winning anthologies of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, for one.  Having a no-holds-barred attitude towards his writing methods trumping the expectations of his rabid fan base (even while being amazingly accessible to them) ranks pretty high up there.  Killing off major characters, another.  A big one, in fact, because not many are brave enough to do so.

    He defends his refusal to write stereotypical sentimental fantasy thusly:

    As a reader or viewer of television or film, I always like unexpected things.  I always like the suspense to be real.  We have all seen the movies where the hero is in trouble.  He is surrounded by 20 people, but you know he is going to get away because he is the hero.  You don’t really feel any fear for him.  I want my readers and my viewers to be afraid when my characters are in danger.  I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the next character may not survive it.

    No matter how beloved they are, or how good or how noble.  No matter how fair it is, or unfair, as the case may be.  Anyone – everyone – is at risk.

    In other words, he wants his worlds, even in fantasy, to reflect the lives you and I live.  He wants us to  feel akin to his characters, for us to truly be caught up in his tale.  He gives us rich, sumptuous detail, he builds worlds where we can taste and touch and smell and see – and feel – everything so very deeply, and in these worlds, life is not black and white/good and evil/just and unjust.  His heroes are flawed, his villains can be admirable, very few of his characters can be easily summed up or dismissed as being one aspect of the spectrum or the other, or else they careen back and forth between the two.  And yet – and yet – the fantasy is lush, the worlds gripping, the lives unforgettable.

    To this avid reader, George R. R. Martin is about as good as it gets.  And that’s why I’m gimbling in his wabe today.

    If I had any doubts about the heart of the man, his quote about fantasy dispelled any of them.  For me, he hit it spot on, and speaks right to the core of what I believe.  J.R.R. Tolkien will always be my first and dearest love, but GRRM rides not far behind.

    The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.

    Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

    We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

    They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

    We should be so lucky.  Thanks, GRRM.  Can’t wait for The Winds of Winter.  Even if it’s months away; I can be patient because I know it’s going to be spectacular.

    Happy birthday.

  6. Potential New Cast Members for Season 4 of ‘Game of Thrones’

    September 6, 2013 by LitStackEditor


    Over at Den of Geek, there are several guesses, based on internet rumors and quotes from Game-of-Thrones-Season-3insiders on some of the new faces we could see in season four of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones.’

    Here’s a brief run down of those cast selections. For the full post, check out DoG’s article here.


    A good handful of newcomers to Westeros has been announced over the past months, so we thought it was time we herded them all up into the one pen. As new cast members are confirmed, we’ll add them to this growing list.


    Hafthor Julius Bjornsson as Gregor Cleganehapthor-giantspol_lg

    This marks the third casting of the Gregor Clegane in Game Of Thrones, as it’s announced Icelandic strongman and actor Hafthor Julius Bjornsson is to take over from season two’s Ian Whyte (who in turn took over from season one’s Conan Stevens) in the role of “The Mountain”. At 6ft 9″ and reportedly over 400lbs, we’d say he merits the moniker.

    Gregor Clegane is the hated, brutish brother to Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, (you know Gregor’s a wrong’un when he makes The Hound seem like someone you wouldn’t mind having a pint with). He earned his topographic nickname, as you can imagine, for his immense size. Absent from season three of Game Of Thrones, expect to see more of him in season four…

    Indira Varma as Ellaria Sandindira_varma

    Luther fans will need no reminder as to who Indira Varma is (and indeed, should Neil Cross’ prequel film come off, we should be seeing her again as the wife of Idris Elba’s character, Zoe). The versatile actress is currently appearing in BBC murder mystery What Remains, and was recently seen in Hunted and Silk in the UK, though is perhaps still best known around the world for her role as Niobe in HBO’s Rome.

    Returning to HBO, Varma is to play Ellaria Sand, who in the books is the mother of the four youngest Sand Snakes (don’t be concerned, it’s a nickname), and lover of Prince Oberyn Martell.


    Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn Martell, The Red ViperPedro-Pascal
    The Good Wife’s Pedro Pascal was the first newcomer to be confirmed for season four, and he seems a fine choice to play the “forceful, lusty man with a quick wit and a barbed tongue”, as his character is described in the novels. Salty Dornishman Prince Oberyn comes to King’s Landing with revenge on his mind in Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series.

  7. Phillipa Bornikova on Her Favorite Writing Advice

    August 12, 2013 by LitStackEditor


    We are honored to host this guest post by Phillipa Bornikova in celebration of her blog tour for ‘Box Office Poison.’ Be sure to check out Sharon’s review of this exciting title and enter for a chance to win a copy of this amazing book!

    Thanks for the post, Phillipa!

    The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Received

    I have to list two pieces of “best advice” because they have defined my writing BoxOfficeButtonever since these gems were bestowed on me by two extraordinary men.

    I had actually been writing for some three or four years before the first arrived, and it came as I was on the cusp of making the transition from prose to screenwriting.  My friend George R.R. Martin had gone out to Hollywood a few years before and he called one night and said “Hey, I think you’d be pretty good at this screenwriting stuff.  Want to try?”

    To quote CHARADE My mama didn’t raise no stupid children so I said “Sure.”  George told me I needed to write a spec script and he warned me that you never ever, positively never sell your spec script.  It’s just a calling card that will, with luck, get you a meeting with an executive on a television show.  I decided to take a crack at a Star Trek Script.  I had grown up on the old show and loved it so I started watching Next Generation.  George also told me I needed to come up with several possible episodes assuming I was lucky enough to be called in for a pitch based on the strength of that script.

    I came up with several ideas, but one in particular I knew was good… very good.  I went to George and said that since I wouldn’t sell this spec script I wanted to hold that really good story in reserve.  Save it for the pitch.  And George gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten.  He pointed out that if my spec script wasn’t great I would never get to make that pitch.  And then he said — as this is the important part —

    Never hoard your silver bullet.

    Meaning lead with the best thing you’ve got.  Don’t save something until you know more.  Or have a better editor.  Or see how this current book does before you give them the next book that has your really good idea.    So I wrote THE MEASURE OF A MAN.  It was bought, filmed, and landed me my first job in Hollywood.  It also earned me a Writer’s Guild of America Award for outstanding writing on a drama series.

    The other best piece of advice I got was from my boss on Star Trek.  Like a lot of novelists trying to make the transition from prose to script I tended to be a bit too clever, too subtle while at the same time too wordy.  There was a particular line of dialogue in a script that my boss, Maurice Hurley didn’t like.  He was giving me notes, and finally in frustration he asked me, “So what the F**k does this mean?”  I told him, and he said “So why didn’t you say that?”  I said it sounded so bald and simple.  He gave me that great grin, leaned across the desk while pounding on the pages of the script and said,

    “Just say the words, baby.  Just say the damn words!”

    It seems so obvious, but too often as writers we try to echo the turmoil in a character’s soul with opaque language, and sometimes you just need to say the words.  Another very fine writer, Walter Jon Williams, puts it this way, “There is often much to be said for a simple declarative sentence.”

    I have a box filled with the tools of my trade — how to hang a lantern on something, how to subvert expectations, but bring the readers to a satisfying ending that still meets their expectations, how to write a hook, and so on and so on.  But those two pieces of advice listed above; those are with me every day on every project, and they’ve never failed me yet.

    -Phillipa Bornikova


  8. Speculative Fiction Sucker Punches, Part 3 – Upper Cuts, Body Punches and Haymakers

    August 5, 2013 by Sharon Browning

    fantasy battle

    fantasy battle

    So we’ve covered convenient magic and uber leetness as speculative fiction sucker punches; the right hook and left hook, respectively.  Now we’re going to bring it on home.

    A strong corollary to the uber heroine is the female character written by a man who is clueless about women.  So many good male fantasy fiction writers just can’t write a good female character.  Take Robert Jordan, for instance.  His “Wheel of Time” books are wonderfully imaginative, and set the barre for many literary endeavors that came after (or so I’m told – I never got past the second book).  But his female characters?  Pul-eeze.  One dimensional, inconsistent, stick-women who were either getting into trouble, or using super powers (dare we say, convenient magic, eh?) to get out of trouble or waiting for their men to rescue them or berating their men for assuming they needed to be rescued.

    A big reason that I stopped reading  “Wheel of Time” after The Great Hunt?  I simply couldn’t take that triangle shallow female of stereotypes any longer:  Egwene (the magical virginal sweet thing), Nynaeve (the magical independent bitch) and Moiraine (the uber magical matriarch who seemed to have selective leetness, dependent on how guilty Jordan wanted her to be at not being strong enough to save the day).  Or maybe it was just Nynaeve’s hair twisting – that obsessive compulsive action of hers drove me crazy because it added nothing except some kind of bizarre fecklessness.  These women could be strong, frail, smart, stupid, independent, needing to be rescued, devious, guileless, and utterly at the mercy of whatever whim – or plot development – that Jordan gave them.  Rand, Perrin, Mat – at least they were consistent.

    And he’s not the only male writer with epic books that I feel don’t do his female characters justice, even if they are main characters.  Terry Brooks?  Hey, I loved Sword of Shannara, too (okay, maybe it had a little something to do with the Hildebrandt illustrations), even though it didn’t have women to speak of.  And actually, that might have been a good thing, because when I did read his books with significant female characters, I found those characters to be empty, plot driven avatars (and I soooooo wanted Wren to be special).  Terry Goodkind?  For all those words he puts out, he never seems to write anything different.  Damaged women, finding redemption (with a man), just to have it turn out totally wrong. Raymond Feist?  Again, great stories, crappy women – if he even has female characters.  Yeah, I actually would prefer that men not put female characters in their works at all, if they can’t make them believable.  Parity for the sake of parity may be an admirable sentiment, but only if it is give real effort, not just lip service.

    Now, before fans of these guys get all up in arms, I will admit that I haven’t read the entire canon of their works, so I’m willing to entertain the notion they may have written some really strong and intelligent, well realized female characters.  But I kinda doubt it.  I’d be more than happy to have someone tell me that I’m wrong, and suggest a volume that proves it.  But please, make sure the women really are great additions to the story – don’t prove my point for me just out of the sake of loyalty, m’kay?

    And I reiterate – this does not mean these guys are bad writers…. they just aren’t all that successful with their female characters.  (I guess it’s possible to have a female writer who writes her male characters poorly…. I can’t think of an example, but maybe I just haven’t read the “right” books.)  I’m not sure I can blame them for not being successful, it may just be one of those things where you either have a empathetic understanding of what makes a good female character, or you don’t.  But I, as a reader, can’t keep reading what feels to me to be disingenuous.

    Or repetitive.  I don’t need to be subjected to the same description of the same situation, even if it occurs more than once in the story line.  For instance, I enjoyed Jim Butcher’s “Codex Alera” fantasy series, at least the first few books (I read three).  I really liked the character of Tavi (although he really flirts with that uber leetness) and Butcher’s widely flung stage of Alera had enough twists and turns to keep me interested, even with the characters not having a lot of depth.  (Heck, I’m like a cat – keep the story moving, and I’ll follow along.)  But what finally kept me from picking up the 4th and subsequent books in this series was the utterly game stopping battle scenes.  Except for the circumstances, they were completely indistinguishable from each other – and there were so many of them!  The same actions, the same almost-escapes, the same descriptions of the sounds and the smells and the horror and tumult of battle.  The same automaton necessity of battle and the same shame and guilt associated with killing, even necessary killing.  Now, these are highly commendable sentiments – I applaud the sentiments – but the mind-numbing litany of them had me literally skipping pages of text without even caring about gleaning any kind of nuance from the monotonous action.  Why make the effort?

    Compare that to the countless battles that take place in the George RR Martin “Song of Ice and Fire” series.  Not one of his battles reads like another, possibly because he isn’t locked into describing the complete battle each time.  Instead, he zeroes in on one aspect of the battle, or concentrates on the aftermath of a battle, or even the moments before the battle.  He’s not averse to letting the reader fill in the blanks in the action with what has gone on before. Admittedly, Butcher’s series is pretty much a single-character vehicle, whereas Martin’s series covers a much broader scope so he has many more viewpoints that he can access.  Still, I can’t help but marvel at how fresh Martin’s narrative is across all those pages.

    But it’s not just repetitive actions that are show stoppers.  Belaboring emotional or moral points can also stall a good story (true in any literature, but I’m focusing on fantasy literature here).  For example, I absolutely adore Robin Hobb, and think that her works are some of the best out there.  But my disappointment in one of her more recent offerings, the “Soldier Son Trilogy”, can be laid to rest directly at the feet of her main character, Nevare, and his never-ending soliloquizing on his fate, compounded by his inability to comprehend what it was that was being asked of him.  I mean, enough already!  Cut the freekin’ trilogy down to 2-1/2 books – or less! – if you have to, but don’t go through that damned soul searching again!  I freekin’ got it, lady!  Move ON!

    (… a short pause while I compose myself…)

    Okay, sorry about that.  I didn’t mean to go off the deep end (hence the haymaker?).  I just can’t help myself.  I love my fantasy fiction!  But even with loving it so, I have to insist that the ends justify the means, literally speaking.   Part of the joy of fantasy fiction is that “anything goes” – but it still has to be appropriate and consistent throughout (or so different that what goes on keeps you off kilter from the get-go  – gotta love Terry Pratchett!).  Fantasy fiction is so wonderful because we don’t have the constraints of the “norm” – but we still need to believe.  If we can believe, then my gosh, it’s magical.

    Despite it all, because of it all, I still love fantasy fiction above all other genres.  It’s wide open, it’s no holds barred, it has something for everyone and a host of talented and dedicated writer moving it forward.  In a word, it’s magical!  My deepest thanks to all the writers out there who bring that magic into my life.

    Even if sometimes it’s sometimes kinda convenient.

  9. ‘Game of Thrones’ Characters “Simpsonized”

    July 16, 2013 by LitStackEditor


    Daenerys Targaryen. Image credit: ADN

    From Flavorwire:

    A year after The Simpsons poked good-natured fun at Game of Thrones, a Simpsons superfan has reunited the two beloved TV shows. A Belgian illustrator who goes by the handle ADN uses his Draw The Simpsons Tumblr to re-imagine various pop-culture types, from Veronica Mars to The Weeknd, as Springfield residents. But his magnum opus may be these “Simpsonized” portraits of Daenerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and other GoT favorites (spotted via The Mary Sue). And before you get too angry that there’s no Arya, know that ADN has implied that there’s at least one more Westeros-inspired series in the works — which means you should probably follow him to make sure you don’t miss it.

    See all the drawings here.

  10. George RR Martin Writing a “Ice and Fire” Coffee Table Book

    May 31, 2013 by LitStackEditor


    Via i09:Martin

    While we all eagerly, nervously, nailbitingly await the release of The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in A Song of Ice and Fire, rest assured that GRRM is writing plenty of Westeros-related material — just maybe not as much on TWoW as you’d like.

    UK publisher HarperCollins says GRRM has writen 250,000 words on a Game of Thrones coffee table book, currently nicknamed “The GRRM-arillion.” The book actually sounds completely awesome, in that it’s a very comprehensive history of Westeros, in the guise of a work presented to Robert Baratheon immediately after he takes the Iron Throne. Here’s the details courtesy of The Guardian:

    Martin himself has described the book as “the concordance … a compendium of the history and legends of the world of Westeros. A coffee table book, lots of gorgeous art from such talents as Ted Nasmith, Justin Sweet, and others”, and said last summer that he was “making good progress on this one of late, lots of great historical stuff that I think my readers will enjoy. Never-before revealed details of Aegon’s Conquest, the War With the Faith, The Dance of the Dragons, the Paramours of Aegon the Unworthy, etc.”

    His co-author Elio M García, meanwhile, of the fan site Westeros, said earlier this month that the compendium “won’t be out this year … but that’s because it’s becoming rather cooler. More pages, more new history and details, more art. Like the story of the fall of the Tarbecks and the Reynes, the surprising person from whom the Lannisters are descended, more history of the Vale and the arrival of the Andals, and a good deal more. We’re working quick as we can, but there’s also more art to commission and that means it’d be safest to aim for next year.”

    And here’s the money quote from Martin’s publisher Jane Johnson, regarding the coffee table book’s planned release in 2014: “[it’s] more to do with illustrative complications and global publishing schedules than the writing, and I certainly wouldn’t want fans getting the impression that George is working on [it] at the expense of The Winds of Winter.”

    I don’t know how anyone could get that impression. Actually, seriously, he probably had a lot of this written in order to figure out the backstory even before he first wrote Game of Thrones). On the other hand, if he’s been able to bust out 250,000 words on Westerosi history in just the past couple of years, then he should be able to finish The Winds of Winter right on time, right?


    [Via The Mary Sue]