Let me start by saying that generally speaking, I am not a fan of fantasy fiction.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t like it, it simply means that I prefer other things (like science fiction) ahead of fantasy and there is enough science fiction to keep me busy for a lifetime. Also, I have this probably erroneous notion (one that will irritate fantasy writers the world over) that all fantasy stories are essentially retelling of The Lord of the Rings, a book that I thought was phenomenal. In a way, Tolkein ruined it for everyone else by writing the end-all, be-all of fantasy stories..
I’ve tried to read others and they just haven’t taken, and with so little time to spare, I’ve mostly given up trying.
But I was curious about the new HBO series, Game of Thrones, based of course on George R. R. Martin’s series, because no one does series better than HBO. (People: I love Dexter, but as good as it is, it’s just not quite up to the same standards as HBO stuff.) I’ve never read any of the books, but I sat down last Sunday to watch the premier and I was impressed. I sat down to watch last night and I was even more impressed. Great cast, good story so far, intriguing characters, and Peter Dinklage (who was brilliant in The Station Agent, to say nothing of the first two episodes of this new series).
The fact is, the HBO series has be intrigued enough to want to at least attempt reading the first book. I won’t be doing this any time soon as my reading quote is full for the foreseeable future. But it is the first time I’ve felt the urge to read high fantasy in more than two decades. I think this is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve really enjoy and been highly impressed with the HBO series thus far. Everyone involved should be proud of the effort.
I finished watching Season 1 of the History Channel series The Universe a few days ago and I enjoyed it for the most part. The episodes were interesting and the computer graphics helped to illustrate concepts that might not otherwise be clear to a layperson. As a popular program on science, it does a good job. I think my favorite part of the show was seeing all of the scientists interviewed in each episode. I think there is a lot of value to hear about astronomy and physics and biology and chemistry from the people who actually do it and the scientists interviewed (some of them quite famous) seemed genuinely enthusiastic.
If I had one criticism of the show, it was that there was too much anthropomorphism in the writing. Galaxies were waging violent battles with one another. Black holes were swallowing matter as if they were living being with a consciousness. Ever present gravity always seemed to be “lurking” like some hidden beast, just out of sight. I understand the need for dramatics in a show on science, but it has been my experience that astronomy and astrophysics is exciting in its own right. It doesn’t need to be puffed up into something with humanlike characteristics. Toning down the writing in parts of the show might make it feel a bit more natural.
That said, the show is currently in its fifth season so it must be doing something right. At the time of this writing (last night) I am about to watch the first episode of the 18-episode second season.
And there is another positive side-effect of the show, from a science fiction writer’s perspective: from the first fourteen episodes, I got one solid story idea.
I’ve had a few people ask, knowing that I am not really a fan of fantasy, but also knowing that I think HBO does good series. My DVR is programmed to record the Game of Thrones (which I keep wanting to read as Crown of Thorns for some reason), but I cannot yet say whether I’ll watch it in realtime or not, especially since I start my new scheduled tomorrow. More than likely I will watch tonight’s episode when it airs, and watch the rest on DVR. I never read the books (although I met Martin once, briefly, when he was signing books at the now-extinct Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks, CA) so I will have to be careful to avoid spoilers.
You hear that people? NO SPOILERS!
ETA: Of course, the Yankees are the ESPN Sunday night game tonight at 8pm EDT so anything goes, I suppose.