The Warrior Lives: Remembering Rosenberg

I was a fan of Joel Rosenberg’s work long before I ever met him, but I eventually came to admire him more as a man than as an author. I wasn’t a close friend of his, more the friend of a friend, but I did have the good fortune to get to know him over the last 15 years. It was a privilege for an SF/F fan, but more than that, it was a genuine pleasure. Growing up in Minnesota, which at the time felt rather like the cold side of the back of beyond, I had no idea that there were Real Live Writers living there, never being much inclined to read the author bios at the back. Like many a teenage boy in the Eighties, I had dabbled in role-playing games such as AD&D, Gamma World, and Traveller in the Time Before Girls, and so The Guardians of the Flame were a real revelation to me. Rosenberg’s novels were gritty long before grit became fashionable; he made a distinct impression on a young reader by killing off a major character practically at the beginning of the first novel, then went himself one better by killing off the lead character in only the fourth book in the series. I can’t recall being more shocked while reading fiction any time before or since. Karl Cullinane is dead? But… but what about the series?

Continued at The Black Gate

Layers within layers

I was reading Umberto Eco’s book On Literature the other day and his essay entitled “Intertextual Irony and Levels of Reading” caught my attention, particularly in light of Matthew David Surridge’s intriguing series of essays on Tolkien. (I haven’t commented upon them yet because they are sufficiently deep to require a second reading before opining, Matt, so my apologies for the tardiness.) Because the flip side of readers, presumably non-Ideal, who read things into the text that are not there are readers, definitely non-Ideal, who fail to recognize the deeper layers of the text that are, in fact, there.

Read more, including a minor revelation about one of my past novels, at the Black Gate.

At the Black Gate

I have defended HBO from charges of attempting to gay up A Game of Thrones over at the Black Gate, even though I don’t think the producers handled one significant relationship in a particularly adroit manner. The relevant literary case is not quite as overwhelming as Fight Club, but it is sufficiently strong as to be conclusive.

Hex or CDG?

I consider my options with regards to a wargame set in the world of Summa Elvetica over at the Black Gate.

At the Black Gate

Now, I recognize that this is an announcement that will appeal to approximately 12 people on the planet. But, since one of them is me and another one is our well-loved Publisher and Editor, that makes this announcement of particular relevance for this blog. As I mentioned some time ago, one of my less obtainable objectives in life has been to actually play a certain space wargame that is virtually unplayable by anyone who happens to either lack a large quantity of floor and/or table space that can be left safely unmolested for weeks or has what passes for a reasonable modicum of a life. The problem with monster wargames, you see, is that they combine all the worst qualities of gaming in one intimidating product. Not only are they far more complicated than the average wargame, thus significantly reducing the number of potential opponents, but they take an incredibly long time simply to set up, never mind play. As an added bonus, the large quantity of constituent components usually means that they are more expensive than the norm, but they make up for being more expensive by being less graphically elaborate than most games because no game publisher in his right mind is going to go to the risk of printing what is usually something between a labor of love and a labor of lunacy on the part of a detail-oriented monomaniac.

Read the rest if you are among the few, the proud, the well-travelled.

A few more thoughts

I was wondering what series HBO might consider televising next… and I’m hoping it’s not anything based on Robert Jordan material. It’s over at the Black Gate.

Considering the AGOT Cast

I very seldom approve of book-to-film translations. I still absolutely refuse to watch the Disney destruction of Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron or the abomination that passes itself off as the cinematic version of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Despite my skepticism, I thought the first installation of A Game of Thrones was very good. Apparently I was not the only one to think so, since HBO has already decided to renew AGOT for a second season thanks to the 4.2 million viewers who watched the premiere. This is good news, as the series promises to be the most successful cinematic adaptation of a fantasy novel since Peter Jackson put The Lord of the Rings on film. It would have been hard for the producers to go seriously wrong, so long as they stayed faithful to the source material – one of these days Hollywood is going to figure out that having their cliche factories “improve” a much-loved literary tale actually harms their pocketbooks – but the casting is one crucial component that can ruin even a perfectly faithful adaptation. My take on the what has surprisingly turned out to be a really good cast is posted at the Black Gate. WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD Do not read further if you have not read or seen AGOT.

HBO’s A Game of Thrones reviewed

It is no secret that those who imagine themselves to be serious literati tend to despise the science fiction and fantasy genres. While it is increasingly true that there is a lot to be despised about the present state of SF/F literature, it is not at all difficult to discern that there is a big difference between those contemptuous critics who are actually familiar with the genre and those who are not. Strangely enough, the literary contempt for SF/F, which was originally based on the thin characterizations and juvenile appeal of Golden Age science fiction, has apparently now expanded into the cinematic world as well. This is a little strange given the way in which the same historical deficiencies of classic science fiction literature clearly apply to the cinema, to say nothing of the present state of television drama.

The New York Times review of A Game of Thrones, which begins tonight on HBO, is remarkable for the reviewer’s complete lack of familiarity, not only with George R.R. Martin, with the last 30 years of the fantasy genre as well. Read the rest at the Black Gate

Overly fantastic military history

Being a fan of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and Roman history, I didn’t hesitate to read through his Codex Alera series as each book came out. They are good, entertaining books, if not necessarily as absorbing as his demi-noire urban fantasy series. But it is not my purpose to discuss the Alera books as to note a common error that is made in them as well as in many other fantasy novels. By my admittedly inattentive count, the indomitable Aleran military lost no less than six complete legions in the span of 25 years. And by complete, I mean absolutely complete, in one battle, the number of survivors can be counted on a single hand. Contrast this with Roman history, in which only four Imperial legions were recorded to have lost their aquila, three of them in the same battle in the Teutoberg Forest under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus. Since Butcher’s Vord exterminate literally everything they encounter, there is perhaps sufficient room for literary license to permit this exaggeration for effect. There is, however, little room to excuse similar exaggerations of martial lethality committed by other fantasy authors.

Read the rest of the article at the Black Gate.

A Song vs The First Law

Like many George R.R. Martin fans, I have re-read A Game of Thrones in order to refresh my memory prior to the advent of the HBO television series. I actually wound up re-reading all four books, as you do, which should come in handy with the scheduled release of A Dance with Dragons later this summer. But since I’d so recently read four of Joe Abercrombie’s books, which have occasionally been compared with Martin’s series due to their similarly dark and violent nature, I thought it might be interesting to compare the similarities and differences between the two epic fantasy series.