Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Animation: The Underrated Adaptation

mc_animated03If you are a fan of long, epic fantasy, there are plenty of series that either you or others will describe as “un-adaptable.” They even said it about A Song of Ice and Fire at one point. In fact, George R.R. Martin, disgusted by Hollywood at the time, specifically wrote the series to be impossible to adapt. But as big-budget as Game of Thrones has wound up being, it has one major advantage over a lot of other fantasy epics: very little magic, and none of it used day-to-day. That lets the creators splurge on big moments where needed. Other series like The Wheel of Time, where magic is used almost constantly from early on, would be much costlier to adapt.

But there is a way.

The Wheel of Time is reportedly heading toward a television adaptation. I would like to humbly suggest that any attempt to adapt such a vast and sprawling series do so via animation.

Animation doesn’t get used as an adaptation technique all that often. Despite The Simpsons being almost 30 years old (ugh), it still often carries a stigma of being “for kids.” Star Wars has bucked the trend, with the animated Clone Wars and Rebels scoring well with both kids and adults. And no wonder, for animation has several advantages over live-action, two of which factor heavily into adapting a sprawling, multi-volume epic.

  1. Budget Leveling:Let’s say you’re making Star Trek: The Animated Series, and you are lamenting the fact that the aliens in Star Trek almost always look like humans with various ridges on their faces and heads. There were very real budgetary constraints on the low-budget live show when it aired in the 1960s, and humanoid life was the easiest alien life to achieve, because actors in makeup were easier to manage than puppets or nascent visual effects. But in an animated series, Captain Kirk costs as much to draw as an alien that bears no resemblance to a human. Thus do you get Lieutenant Arex, the three-armed, three-legged, long-necked Edosian who would have been impossible to realize in live action at the time. Thus also do you get scenes with the characters wearing “life support belts” that enable them to explore areas of open space and hard vacuum, because one setting costs as much to animate as another, giving the writers far more options to play with.So imagine an adaptation of The Wheel of Time as an animated series. The budget for visual effects is the budget for the entire show. Animating Rand al’Thor battling Ba’alzamon in the sky above Falme costs the same as having them fight in a forest. Having characters channel (use magic), something that a live action series would have to depict sparingly, could be treated as the everyday occurrences they were in the books.
  2. Actor Aging:Above I discussed the first big problem in adapting sprawling epics, the “epic” part. Now I’ll tackle the second: sprawl. Specifically, I’m referring to temporal sprawl, or rather, the amount of time it takes to translate multi-volume epics to the screen. For reference, let’s look at Harry Potter. The series spans seven years in the lives of the characters over seven volumes. The movies (there are eight of them in the main sequence) were released over ten years. Now believably saying that child actors aged only seven years when in fact they aged ten isn’t difficult. Audiences have long been conditioned to accept older actors as younger characters.But consider this: the events of The Wheel of Time take place over the course of approximately three years. The series is fourteen books long. Even with the inevitable paring down of the number of seasons, it’s a much taller order to convincingly look as though only three years have passed when a decade has.

    Or, you could not even bother, because animated characters can stay the same age forever, and when the only element of the actor required is their voice, you needn’t limit your casting decisions by adding a “must look young for their age” requirement. To once again reference The Simpsons, perpetually ten-year-old Bart Simpson is voiced by 59-year-old Nancy Cartwright.

I would love to see more “un-adaptable” series I love find new lives in animation. It’s the best way of bringing a complex, effects-heavy story to life without cutting it to the bone or rendering it a pale shadow of its true self. Here’s hoping that more creators will follow the lead of Star Wars and Star Trek and explore this sadly underutilized adaptation option.

The Princess Bride: A Book and Movie Made of Wuv, Twu Wuv

the_princess_bride_first_editionMy husband and I have a long-standing conversation regarding movie adaptations of books. Should you read the book first or watch the movie first? After years of discussion, countless examples as evidence for both sides, we came to the conclusion. It happened because of Game of Thrones. I had not yet read any of the books and he had. Let’s just say the Red Wedding was a very big, fantastic, horrible surprise to me. For my husband, not so much. Because of that episode of Game of Thrones, we both agreed that it is best to see the movie (or TV show) and then read the book, because, we agreed, the book will almost always be better. So it’s important to go to a movie and be able to enjoy it instead of sit there comparing it to the book you remember reading. That way, you can enjoy yourself while watching the movie, then read the book after and enjoy it just as much because? The book is almost always better. 

It’s extremely rare when I think a screen adaptation of a book (or books) is better than the book. I actually can’t think of one example… oh wait. Legend of the Seeker was about fifty times better than the first fifty pages I was able to get through of Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule. That exception aside, it’s almost just as rare when I like the movie just as much as the book. And at the top of that list is The Princess Bride, book by William Goldman, movie directed by the great Rob Reiner.

imgresIs it worth your time? It’s absolutely worth your time, and that’s really all I have to say by way of argument for you to read it. If you loved the movie, you will find a multitude of reasons to love the book (although alas, we can’t see Mandy Patinkin, but you can just imagine him as Inigo Montoya). However, I’ve heard some blaspheme whispered near and far about how the book was okay, but the introduction was weird.

Let me dispel any fears by saying the introduction is a work of genius. In it, Goldman tells a fictitious account of how the book got made. It’s not even real. Who writes a fictitious introduction? No one that I know of. When I first started reading the introduction, I thought, “Is this quirky little beginning really Goldman? Is this part of the book? What’s going on?” So to you I say this: just enjoy. It’s Goldman poking fun at himself and the classic needy writer stereotype.

This holiday season, do yourself a favor and curl up with a classic. “What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex. In short, it’s about everything.”

Oh, and:

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Game of Thrones and the Permission to be Unpredictable

*Contains no spoilers for the current season, but does contain some spoilers for past seasons.*

 

I love Game of Thrones for the reason everyone seems to hate it: no character is safe. You can’t be sure if your beloved favorite character will survive the entire season, or will die in a completely unexpected way. And at the same time, you don’t know which awful character will be victorious in his or her pursuits, making it that much harder for your favorite character to survive.

Game of Thrones started off innocently enough. Sure, I screamed “Noooooooo!” at my television along with everyone else when Eddard Stark was beheaded, but that’s not enough to make me quit watching (although, can someone write Sean Bean a character that doesn’t die, please).

Fast forward to season three. I’d been enjoying a fantastic season so far, updating my husband as it went along. He had read the books years ago, and I knew he had read at least the first two or three. The first time he had thrown one of the books across the room, he had just read Eddard Stark’s beheading.

So my husband surprised me when he asked if we could watch Game of Thrones together one Sunday night. And like a naive fool, I felt excited my husband actually wanted to watch it with me! As the episode went along, I almost felt guilty because it was turning out to be a so-so episode, not the most exciting I had seen. Then, we came to the part of the episode with a wedding. Robb Stark was supposed to wed one of Walder Frey’s daughters, but handed that *honor* over to his cousin or somebody.

Violin music started, and I said out loud, “You know, I have a weird feeling about this.”

“Oh?” my husband asked innocently.

As we watched on, the insanity unfolded. My husband watched me as I gaped, horrified, to the end, through the credits, and continued to watch me as I stared at the blank screen in total silence.

“And now you know why I threw the third book in the series across the room,” he said and turned off the television.

For days after, my mind reeled with possibilities, replaying the scene in my mind. I felt horrified, shocked, and so very sad.

But I didn’t feel betrayed. I felt satisfied because George R. R. Martin, the show’s creators, and cast made me feel, and feel very deeply.

Think back to the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through in your life. A blind-siding break up. The death of a loved one. Losing a part of yourself, whether physically or emotionally.

Now consider the reason it happened. Chances are, and more often than not, the reason doesn’t feel good enough. It feels flimsy, unbelievable. Sometimes, there is no reason. No reason at all. It just is.

During the Red Wedding and all subsequent twists in Game of Thrones, I didn’t feel betrayed by George R. R. Martin, or by the writers and producers of the show David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. The moments they create continue to shock me, and the story continues to captivate me and draw me in. Because, just like life, just like the real world, the show and its creators promise nothing. Sometimes people die. Horrible, unspeakable things happen to some of the characters. But the story keeps on turning, keeps on spinning. Ironically, that’s perhaps that’s why so many people feel betrayed by Game of Thrones. They expect entertainment, but instead are shown too many situations true to life in the real world.

Although Martin wasn’t the first author to do it, I’d argue Martin is paving the way to make unpredictability of mortality acceptable in epic fantasy. In the coming years, I’ll expect to see many more deaths of main characters because that’s what keeps readers and viewers on their toes. It’s what bridges the gap between fantasy and the real world: unpredictability.

As writers, we often feel that certain things aren’t allowed. We aren’t allowed to make our readers sad at the end of a book – it’s almost taboo. You’re supposed to leave them with a lift, right? Leave them with hope, closure. But life doesn’t always close a chapter with hope and happiness. George R. R. Martin knows this and teaches us an important lesson with Game of Thrones: It’s not your job as a writer to make your readers (or even your editor or publisher) happy with your story. It’s your job to make them feel.

Hell in an Elevator

A guest post by Scott Eder.

When asked to write a post for The Fictorians on the “stranger than fiction” theme, I paused before accepting. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of an incident in recent memory that would qualify, but I love The Fictorians blog and figured I’d come up with something. Instead, something came up with me.

Fake Aladdin had to go, or at least shut his mouth. Hell, he was the reason we were stuck in the first place. I knew the downtown hotels were packed during DragonCon, but geez. I can handle a crowded elevator, but this?

I’d grabbed an elevator up from the nineteenth floor thinking it would top out, and I’d be set for the ride back down to the lobby. Claiming a spot on any of the vertically moving conveyances provided a challenge, so I grabbed one when I could. Easy peasy.

Freakin’ Aladdin slid aboard on the twentieth floor in a flash of purple silk, baggy pants, and goofy grin, trailing a crew of Agribah rejects—a sleepy-eyed, barely dressed ninja with iridescent lip gloss, a Tom-Baker era Dr. Who trailing a long scarf, and his companion, a red shirt wearing Starfleet officer. The red shirt should have been my clue to exit, but I wasn’t attuned to the signs.

In my opinion, the elevator was full. We had a little room to move without intruding upon our neighbor’s personal space. A few of us had forgone costumes, but the majority represented the universe of sci-fi/fantasy fandom. Pressed against the elevator’s glass wall behind me, another Whovian, this one bearing a striking resemblance to David Tennant, and his Rose Tyler matched well. Orcs, knights, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones characters stood shoulder to shoulder, passing flasks and laughing. So what if the temperature started to climb? We wouldn’t be on here long enough for it to become a problem. No worries.

We stopped on eighteen. The doors slid open. Aladdin beckoned to the folks waiting outside, and in a loud voice invited them to join us. Smiling, those waiting shrugged and pushed inside.

We stopped on seventeen. The doors slid open. Aladdin beckoned to the folks waiting outside, and in a loud voice invited them to join us. With a shrug, more people joined the “fun.” We were full before, but now we were packed. The mass of humanity crushed the short, lithe ninja against my side. Her diminutive world had narrowed to elbows and armpits. Poor thing. I wanted to throttle the street rat for being too affable, but the press of the other characters locked my arms at my sides.

The heat rose, and so did the stink.

We stopped on sixteen. The doors slid open. Aladdin beckoned to the folks waiting outside, and in a loud voice invited them to join us. Those waiting eyed the dense crowd, and backed away. Thank goodness.

Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, the same thing. At every stop, Aladdin did his thing. Nobody took him up on his offer again until the eighth floor. The doors opened on a pair of voluptuous young girls with flowing hair and too-tight corsets jacking up (and almost out) their ample breasts. The guys near the doors sucked in their guts. The ladies squeezed in, and the doors closed.

We dropped four feet, and the doors burst open then quickly closed again as we jerked to a stop. Dead on the vine.

Freakin’ Aladdin.

Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Voices grew louder. Tempers flared. Sweat streaked down my face. Bodies crushed against me. The poor little ninja against my chest wilted, having trouble catching her breath. The woman near the doors mashed the emergency call button again and again and again. No response. Security guards lined the balcony of the eighth floor. A few talked through handsets, while others took pictures with their cell phones. Other guests followed the situation as we became the hit of the moment.

Thirty minutes. Bodies shifted an inch so the ninja could breathe. Grumbles. Accusations. Damn, it was hot.

The doors popped open, letting in a cool, fresh breeze, and a grim-faced hotel representative poked in his head. He said that the elevator would not budge even after several restarts. They were going to have to lift us out by hand.

Really? By hand? I thought this crap only happened in the movies. Damn.

One by one, a crew of the hotel staff unceremoniously hauled us out on our butts. Nice. What a great way to start the Con.

Guest Writer Bio:
Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor, and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life. Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida. Check out Knight of Flame on Scott’s website.