Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

The Origins of Epic Fantasy

This month’s fantasy genre is “Epic Fantasy” but where did it begin? We’ll talk about that today!

To start, I think it’s a good idea to break down the term Epic Fantasy into its two separate definitions. These definitions were taken from Dictionary.com

Epic [ep-ik] = heroic; majestic; impressively great

Fantasy [fan-tuh-see] = imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained.

Put them together and what do you get??? An impressively great imagination. This is a great short definition for what we would consider Epic Fantasy today. Just naming a few epic fantasy books off the top of my head: George R. R. Martin’s, A Song of Ice and Fire; J.R.R. Tolkein’s, Lord of the Rings; Robert Jordan (pen name), Wheel of Time; Steven Erikson, Malazan, Book of the Fallen etc.

All of these books are MASSIVE. They’re tomes. Literally. Every single one of these authors has, what I would consider, an impressively great imagination. I’m not saying that no other authors do, because every author needs to have a great imagination to write, I should know I am one 😉 But, the scale of these books is just phenomenal. There is so much depth and richness and history behind all of these series. I want to go into detail about how each of them have a lot of depth but chances are if you are reading this then some of those books are already on your bookshelf (and if not put them there) and you know firsthand how much depth there is to them. Just a few quick examples, Tolkein’s series Lord of the Rings is made up of elves and dwarves but he took the time to create an Elvish language for them to speak in his books, he plotted out their history, etc. In Martin’s ASOIAF the story itself rotates around 7+ character perspectives. Each of them is needed in order to tell the essential parts of the story that is Westeros and Easteros.

Okay, so where did this all begin then? Well, although I find it common knowledge because I’m an English Major, many people do not know that the word epic actually has another connotation. Here is another definition of the word:

“noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style”

Classics of literature such as Beowulf, The Odyssey, or The Iliad are examples of “Epics” usually referred to as Epic Poetry. These epics were preserved orally despite that they were long and complex. They had heroes and battles and wars and, most importantly, a world different than our own. They told of stories that made the people listening imagine they were there, fighting the war with the hero. They talked about the mysterious, the mythic, and the magnificent and, like most stories do, they helped explain the nature of the world.

The three examples I showcased also have another great commonality, and this, I think, is where the difference should be noted from epic fantasy to other genres of fantasy. The time period. No, I don’t mean when they were written, I mean the span of time the story takes to be told. These events take place on a world historical scale. Things just don’t happen in one year, they take several years to progress and the heroes find that parts of the world they know are gone or changed at some point in the book. For example, when Odysseus returns home, Troy has been destroyed and the mythic age of heroes is over. In Beowulf he needs to kill Grendel and he does so in one night and then battles the mother soon thereafter. However, Grendel had been a problem to the town for years and years beforehand. Also, it doesn’t stop there, the final battle (with a dragon) takes place 50 years after Grendel is slain when Beowulf is now king of the Geats.

So, when we talk about defining Epic Fantasy, it should be noted that these stories do take place on massive scales not only with the people involved, but with the time involved as well. Also, we should look at a few questions: How significant is the change it marks on its world? How big is the scope of its conflict, and how significant the power of its eventual resolution?

In the next blog post we’ll be looking at answering some of those questions but using some of the more modern epic fantasies that I have acquainted myself with and others that I’ll research online. If you want a particular Epic Fantasy novel researched a little more or you have a book that you think may fit into this category, comment below I’d be happy to take a look into it and see what I can discover.

Hope you enjoyed the blog post. Until next time!!!

February – Epic Fantasy Month

So, in light of the recent trailer for the newest season of Game of Thrones (season 5) which is featured above, I have decided to make February “Epic Fantasy” month. Now, again, this is no world official month for “epic” fantasy, but in terms of breaking up the fantasy genre a little bit more, I wanted to go more indepth with them all so each type of fantasy will have its own month.

What does this mean for you as readers?

It means that I will be discussing the ins and outs of the “Epic Fantasy” genre throughout the month. I’ll be describing it’s origins, it’s traits, and at the end, I’ll have reviewed either a movie or book for you that is in this particular genre.

In terms of Game of Thrones (written by George R. R. Martin), many people consider this an epic fantasy for its depth. If you haven’t read Game of Thrones, I will be the first to tell you that it is a GREAT series. Great actually may even be too diluted of a word for it. I remember my first time reading Game of Thrones, I was completely lost for the first 200 or 300 pages. This style, as an author, is not one you want to live by because many readers wouldn’t stick with you for that long. But, on a friend’s advice, I stuck it out through the end and I’m glad I did because as soon as I was able to decipher and place the massive list of characters George R. R. Martin includes, I was able to enjoy the book.

Not only was this book a tome, yes a tome in the literal sense (the first book was around 900 pages long), but it was huge in terms of characters and places and imagination. The depth and detail given to Game of Thrones and its subsequent books is quite spectacular and the series on HBO does an epic, pun intended, job at capturing it. Although, I do admit to pondering what they are going to do after this season because Martin hasn’t released book 6 yet and this is Season 5 which is going to cover books 4 + 5. I assume they will have enough material for at least another season after 5, but I am not sure at what point they are going to surpass the books because Martin, dreadfully and painstakingly, takes FOREVER to come out with his books. Which, I guess, is fine because its a high quality product, but as readers we just want to devour these and see how it all ends.

Also, in terms of Game of Thrones, there are multi-faceted plots that are interwoven throughout the series that also gives it a touch of its epicness. Not only that but the series span over several years. In fact, in an author’s note in the third or fourth book I believe he mentions the chronology of the book and how this series is spread out over several years of in-book time, not real time. So, that is something else we will need to look at when we decide to discuss the origins and characteristics of epic fantasy, which will be in the next two blog posts.

With all of that said, I hope you enjoyed the trailer, and if you haven’t begun reading the storyline yet, I highly highly highly recommend you start reading Game of Thrones. Like I said, you won’t fully enjoy the first book until like 200 or so pages in, but stick with it, the ending is fabulous and probably one of the most poetic last lines I have ever read.

Where Does Fantasy Stem From?

So, as I outlined in the previous blog post, this is going to be a blog mainly about science-fiction and fantasy novels and the genre that is science-fiction and fantasy. Although, I should warn you all, I have a tendency to formulate more ideas on the latter so expect more on fantasy than science-fiction.

When I think of the term Fantasy my mind immediately goes to Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin and even Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. All of these are huge fantasy novels, and all of them different. LotR is High Fantasy, GoT is Epic Fantasy and Harry Potter is a more modernized fantasy. You may disagree with these categories that I’ve placed them in and that’s fine. Much of these blend together to multiple types of fantasy in general. To add to the confusion, here is a definition of the fantasy genre I found from www.findmeanauthor.com

“Any book that contains unrealistic settings, or magic, often set in a medieval universe, or possibly involving mythical beings or supernatural forms as a primary element of the plot, theme, or setting. Something magical is almost always part of fantasy and magic may be seen in the setting or in the plot. It may even be practiced by the characters.”

Because of such a broad definition there are a bunch of subsections of the Fantasy umbrella. These include, but are certainly not limited to,

  • Romance Fantasy
  • Fairy Tales
  • Alternative History
  • Arthurian Fantasy
  • Comic Fantasy
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Epic Fantasy
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • High Fantasy
  • Mystery Fantasy
  • Magic Realism
  • Modern Fantasy
  • Sword and Sorcery

To provide the definitions for each here would be very tedious, not to mention probably boring for many people reading the blog. Also, probably redundant you can find much of this information on the internet. Here is a great blog that goes through not only the sub genres of fantasy listed above, but also many many more: http://bestfantasybooks.com/fantasy-genre.php

With so many genres of fantasy it is quite hard to really nail down the starting point of fantasy. Is the Old English tale, Beowulf, an epic poem or fantasy? Or both? If we define it as an epic poem, which it is most often referred to as, then what would the next possible choice be? Perhaps some of Shakespeare’s works like A Midsummer’s Night Dream, or Arthurian Fantasy (as listed above) with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

If not them, then maybe Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein novel (1818), George MacDonald and The Princess and the Goblin (1858) or Bram Stroker and Dracula in the late 1800s. All of these contain fantastical elements and fall into one of the genres listed above and pave the way for other, more modern authors today. Since Stoker there has been a plethora of vampire tales and even the whole paranormal fantasy section has come about since. MacDonald was a serious influence on the likes of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis in the 1900s and it is because of their works that I thoroughly believe that fantasy got the fuel it needed to become the epic (pun intended) genre it is today. In fact, it are the works of these two authors that propelled me to write my own fantasy novel. Growing up with the Harry Potter series my whole life has had an affected me as an individual and I thoroughly believe that that series helped to foster my love of writing and reading even more.

Still, despite these literary classics like Frankenstein and Dracula and Beowulf, I think, to some people, there is a certain stigma about fantasy. Many people claim they don’t read fantasy, but yet, have devoured up works such as Twilight and Harry Potter, that, although are definitely modernized versions of fantasy, are still fantasy. If it’s not the readers, I know I definitely experienced some bias in my creative writing courses at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire as teachers did not let us write and take part in the fantasy genre. I never really knew why this was, and to claim, as it were to them, that the fantasy genre is a “lesser” genre because of those very fantastical elements that make it unique is unfair.

Anyways, the treatment fantasy is dealt in terms of academia is a whole ‘nother topic entirely, and probably something I’ll address further into my teaching career. But, that isn’t what this blog post is about, it’s about showing everyone reading that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact date that the fantasy genre began. Some may even argue the Bible for all of its fantastical elements.

What I wanted to do with this post is to show you that the fantasy genre can’t be pinned down. And, to avoid dragging on this post any more than I have already done so by means of periphrasis (okay that word was a word of the day on dictionary.com and I thought it fitting), I am going to end by telling how to tackle this problem of depth.

What I want to do is perhaps have a fantasy “genre” of the month, suggested by you, the readers. I would take a vote at the end of the month and then announce the winner the following month. So an example would go like this. If a majority of people wanted to learn more about let’s say, Magical Realism, and how it relates to fantasy then I would dedicated a month to Magical Realism. First, I would describe what form of fantasy we would be tackling for the month and I would take suggestions for works in that said category. In the following posts I would discuss more of the history of that particular genre and try to find some interesting info and I think a good way to conclude the month is by reviewing something of that particular genre and taking a poll for the following month. Given the depth of fantasy as I made apparent above, this would definitely be a way to keep this blog lively and new and fresh each month for all of you. And it would also shed more light on the specifics of a genre then merely glossing over it.

With that being said, I guess I would like for your feedback on that idea. J Since we are already halfway through January I am not going to tackle a specific genre now, rather, just merely priming for the rest of the year.

Michael E. Thies

P.S. I would like to thank Leila for commenting on my first post and giving me a good starting point for this idea. So, thanks!

Ender’s Game: From Book to Movie

enders_game_2013_movie-wide

Alright, so I am disappointed to admit this but until the movie gained popularity, I had not read Ender’s Game even though it is considered to be a staple in the science-fiction genre. Needless to say, I bought the book on my Kindle and I read it before seeing the movie. I always find it fascinating when books get turned into movies and I think that is really any author’s dream (or nightmare if your book gets murdered as much as Christopher Paolini’s Eragon did). With that being said, this is my review of the book and movie as a conjoined identity.

Compared to the book, the movie falls short. Not even falls short. Falls into an ABYSS. It’s very sad to see such a great book that has a lot of potential to be a great movie, end up not being that great at all. I would have to say it’s the second word book-to-movie translation I have ever seen, behind Eragon (I’m convinced those people didn’t even read the book cause of how awful it was). Anyways, before you start criticizing me for badmouthing the movie, let me get a chance to explain the problematic elements the movie offered.

  1. I thought the movie was too short. I look at the time and it says that it was 114 minutes long, but it did not seem like that for me. I could have sworn it was only around an hour and a half and definitely could have been improved by being increased by at least another half an hour. If this length is correct than this movie suffers from misdirection in defining what is truly important in the storyline. Those are the next points that I will be addressing.
  2. Technically I guess the largest flaw of this movie is the fact that they did not describe the anscible or what it does. They make reference to it but do not make an effort to tell us what it does and simply assume that everyone watching the movie knows what it does. This I would consider the biggest flaw in the movie because it is the crux of the whole ending of the story! For those of you who haven’t read the book, the anscible is a device that allows people to communicate faster than the speed of light. This is the dues ex machina that allows Ender to control the entire star fleet at the end that are universes away. Also, when we find out that it was no simulation that Ender was facing, but the real enemy and the ansicble is the thing that made his directions seems to be in real time, it brings a certain sense of realism to the science-fiction element. With this element not being explained thoroughly we, as viewers, have no clue how this “simulation” ended up being real or how that can even happen without removing ourselves really really far out of the story (suspension of disbelief at its finest).
  3. The battles that made up a majority of the story, end up hardly making up any of this movie. Ender is shown doing one battle in the movie. Then all the sudden he is ready to take on a whole fleet of alien without any more training. That is too contrived. I understand you need to cut things to fit a book into movie form, however, a few more battles would have engaged the audience more and also would have shown Ender’s skills develop as a tactical genius. Plus, it would have created emotional unrest in us as we see all of his friends graduate (although we really know they just graduated to command school to where Ender meets them again). Because of this brevity we don’t get to see the strain it is putting on Ender and therefore cannot really connect with him as a character and so when he is having a hard time going to command school and needs to go home and his sister Valentine talks to him, we don’t really understand why he is so distraught.
  4. One last change that really made me upset is the fact that this “Giant’s Game” that is also a considerable part of the book, is skimmed over. The game is described in great detail but the “End of the World” part is not. What Ender struggles with is this, and he doesn’t struggle with it in the movie. In fact, he solves it the first time. And the “End of the World” that actually ends up being a whole different planet in the book, ends up being on the same planet where the Space Command School is set up. A site where they said they had traveled through all the tunnels and exterminated all of the “buggers” as they are called. Little do they know they missed one bugger and her offspring (which is going to repopulate the race that Ender just genocided). Okay, this may be believable if the fact that the place that they didn’t scope out fully is the one that is located as close to the Command School as possible. How does this one go without being looked at extensively??? Really??? Come on now producers, think that through!!!
  5. And finally just a few pet peeves that annoy me when it comes to translating anything from book to movie or tv show. Why do you need to change names if they are going to be the exact same characters? Granted this didn’t really happen a lot with Ender’s Game but there is a man named “Dab” who I am pretty sure isn’t in the entire book and just thrown in there as a filler character. But, for example, an issue where it becomes more prevalent is when Game of Thrones changed Theon’s sister from Asha to Yara (which I guess would have been too confusing with Bran’s wilding mentor Osha).

Now, as in any review or critique there needs to be some positive elements, right? Yes, that is right and Ender’s Game does have some moments of brilliance here.

  1. I thought the cast was appropriate minus Bonzo who I thought was going to be taller (especially since he’s older) than Ender. Also, I pictured him to be bigger. Was not expecting such a scrawny kid.
  2. I thought the fact that they did not choose to include the internet domination of Ender’s brother and sister is a good thing. I don’t think this really carried the book story any further and it definitely would have caused a drag in the movie if it were allowed to sneak in. That was an excellent choice by the producers.
  3. The graphics and animations were really well done. The buggers were shown very well and I though the “Giant’s Game” that Ender plays in the book was translated very well to the movie screen minus the fact that they didn’t go into enough detail with it.

All in all I would give this book to movie translation a 3/10. The graphics and cast are what got in the three. But not defining the anscible clearly and demonstrating a clear lack in Ender’s training which is probably 75% of the actual book just shows a clear negligence on the part of the producers. I would still have to say that my all-time favorite book to movie translations would have to be the Harry Potter series. The producers and directors did a fantastic job at those, and if my book, The Trials of the Core, ever gets chosen to become a movie someday, those are the people I would want to have it done.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you read the book? Have you seen the movie? Both? How would you compare the two?

MY FIRST REVIEW!!! :)

Okay so I’ve been sending out galley copies for a while now and I finally got my first review back from one of the readers. I am so excited that I’m posting all of it here! It’s kind of long but I like it all and I am hoping the other reviewers will feel the same way. This is for the book, The Trials of the Core, the first book in the series, Guardian of the Core, which you can like at www.facebook.com/guardianofthecore 🙂 Anyways, here is the review!

“If fans of science-fiction or fantasy are looking for something unique and unconventional, The Trials of the Core blends the two genres in a way that is simple yet elegant.  Michael Thies creates a universe that is sort of a cross between Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.  Written unpretentiously and with clear character voices, this is the first installment of a series that has potential to speak to both young and mature audiences alike.

In a faraway solar system known as Gladonus, twelve distinctive planets – each with its own culture of inhabitants – form an intergalactic kingdom.  Presiding over this collection of nations is Edwyrd Eska, a “Guardian” who protects and rules his republic with stoicism and gumption.  Underneath Eska’s firm exterior, bits of softness shine through as he searches for an Apprentice who will ultimately become his successor.  Six young warriors compete in a series of trials to prove who is worthiest of accompanying Eska during the twilight years of his reign.

Among them is Eirek Mourse, the “everyman” who rises from the mundane life of a pauper to embark upon a journey that leads him to seek out a greater purpose for his existence.  Although Eirek is far from robust in the brawn department, he compensates for it with compassion toward others and brainy resourcefulness.  Unlike the typical hero, Eirek’s path meanders in several unexpected directions as he attempts to reconcile his long-term desires, lack of self-confidence, and abandonment issues in the absence of his uncle and onetime mentor, Angal.  Battling his competitors as well as natural elements, Eirek – who has been unable to cast Power – finds that his inner demons are his greatest adversary as his quest concludes in a surprising manner.

Eirek’s main adversary – as well as a common foe to many of the other characters – is Prince Hydro Paen.  The son of a royal lord on the planet Acquava, Hydro brings an entirely new spin to the concept of the “antihero” as his delusions of grandeur impede the genuine affection he harbors toward his fellow countrymen and his family’s legacy.  As he intends to stop at nothing to seize the reward of becoming Eska’s Apprentice, Hydro loses sight of some of the greatest qualities that a leader should exemplify; yet, he remains a strong contender for the coveted title even as a final showdown ensues.  The prize Hydro eventually captures proves to be alternately filled with both promise and darkness, leading the reader to ponder what it could mean for the future of Gladonus as a whole.

A third finalist in the trials, Zain Berrese, exemplifies some of the deepest character complexities imaginable.  Saddled with guilt for failing to save his former lover, Ava, from death, Zain struggles with his role in the apparent demise of his best friend, Zakk – a fellow gladiator who was also slated to compete in Eska’s trials.  Haunted by visions of the comrade he fears he has killed, Zain finds himself distracted throughout the trials by the sexual wiles of a female warrior, Gabrielle, along with a battle of egos against several of their male rivals.  It’s often tricky to get inside Zain’s head, but that only goes to show how immensely conflicted he remains over what qualities Gladonus will require from its next generation of leadership.

In addition to the seductive and cheeky Gabrielle, numerous secondary characters pepper this saga of Guardian Eska’s grueling competition.  Cain, a suave-yet-cerebral prince who vies with Zain for Gabrielle’s affections; Cadmar, the beefy and often-bullheaded Garian soldier who craves the apprenticeship as a matter of honor; Tundra, a wise but outspoken elder who serves as one of Eska’s closest advisors; and Senator Numos, the portly, seemingly jovial politician who observes the trials with tight lips and keen interest.  Each of these characters has a perspective to share, causing the astute reader to theorize what role they might individually – or collectively – play in later editions of the series.

The author oscillates between fast-moving action and slower moments of rich character development, never truly revealing his hand in terms of which character is destined to come out on top by the end of the trials.  These young competitors display a nice balance of elemental magic, physical strength, and mental prowess to battle the various creatures thrown in their paths as they strive to prove their merit to an enigmatic ruler.  A variety of supernatural creatures come into play throughout Eska’s trials, my personal favorite being the fairy-like Windies.  Other antagonistic species – reminiscent of ogres and centaurs – create life-threatening obstacles that turn our young warriors inside-out to show what they are truly made of.

A common quality linking all of these diverse characters is their perseverance; the six ambitious personalities jockeying for Eska’s favor individually value either wisdom, honor, compassion, power – or some combination thereof.  Their interactions result in a compelling series of alliances, feuds, friendships, and grudges.  One cannot help but anticipate that their future paths may become continuously intertwined even after Eska’s newly-minted Apprentice finally assumes his or her mantle of power.

Michael Thies has created a colorful and action-packed world that taunts the genre-lover into delving beneath the surface of what a character initially appears to be.  While several mysteries embedded within the plot are left dangling, the story concludes with the implication that this battle was only the beginning for Gladonus – and that more ominous, and much more complicated days await its future.

I highly recommend The Trials of the Core as an introduction to a cosmic saga that challenges adventurous readers to leave one’s assumptions and expectations at the door.  This nebulous narrative dares you to pick a side, reinforcing the menace of how no character is safe from confronting an untarnished destiny.”

Thanks for reading and I hope to have plenty more of these to come in the following weeks!