Archive | June, 2021

Stupid Sexy Smeagol

15 Jun

I pitched this topic for Keycon and got zero interest in talking about it, so I’ll talk about it here.

There’s a lot going on about Amazon’s Middle Earth series in development, and I wanted to talk about adaptation of media and author intent, mostly by weighing in on the smut factor, or why some of us are upset that there’s an intimacy coordinator. I’ll eventually weigh in on fandom and promoting diversity, but this got long enough with just the sexy.

My relationship with smut is complicated.

On the one hand, I believe in freedom of speech and expression.  I think in order to criticize something, you need to be able to be free to talk about it.

On the other, I see a culture that talks a lot about sexual freedom and not about exploitation and sex addiction.

We don’t talk about sex addiction because I think it strikes different people in different ways; and I’ve studied anatomy for both art and healthcare related purposes, sometimes I forget how normies react to not only nudity, but trauma and things that are generally upsetting. I could go on about how desensitized I’ve become, but I noticed it even back in High School that some people reacted strongly to essentially body building magazines and classical art. One of my favourite animated films, Fire and Ice, is basically a study in anatomy in motion – rotoscoping, I highly recommend the film for artistic purposes.

My attitude is to be honest about what you’re trying to make. If you want to make adult material, make adult material. It’s not like there isn’t a need or a demand for it. No one complained about the sex scenes in Game of Thrones when they were warranted (and mercilessly ridiculed when they were not). In fact, there’s plenty in the history of fantasy that is thinly veiled fetishism. Sticking to material that is older than my father:

Conan, not going to call him The Original, but certainly a well known marauder and ravisher.

The characters in Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian series are naked except for jewellery.
Conan C

And there is so much bondage in the average Wonder Woman comic, I’m certain other people can step in and do a better job than me.

Thing is, I grew up reading about John Carter and Conan and think Frank Frazetta is an amazing artist to which I should aspire. I’m not saying any of this shouldn’t exist.

I’m saying making the sexy adventures of beautiful elves and humans and maybe the odd sexy dwarf smashing isn’t the purpose of Tolkien’s work. Tolkien was a staunch Catholic and while we could argue that story lines concerning Beren and Luthien and Turin and Neinor were suggestions of Classical Romancism (and in the latter’s case, tragedy), the point wasn’t voyeurism and the epitome of love was seldom eros. There’s plenty of works that aren’t as… let’s just say in depth as Tolkien. Let us nerds who like more complicated ideas have our variation of fun.

Most people generally adore the Peter Jackson trilogy, and I’m not a purist, so there’s talk about whether or not Tolkien or his estate would have liked the films. I had a prof in University bash the films, stating that they were altered for a modern audience and not true to the work. If I’m okay with that adaptation, what’s a little more alteration?

I get that there’s never going to be 100% faithful adaptation, because usually if the author intended for a specific actor, odd are even if everything goes super quickly to publication and then adaptation, the actor the writer envisioned will likely age out of that role. To be fair, some adaptation makes sense for the medium. I’m currently watching The Expanse. I’m less than half into the second book, and the first season introduced and regularly featured the character of Chrisjen Avasarala who I don’t think I’ve met in the books yet. There’s quite a few let’s just say… interesting choices that aren’t 100% faithful to the books, but make sense given that it’s a series of 40ish minute episodes, the story lines will be changed so that you have proper arcs within the show, so that we don’t have ‘the boring episode everyone skips’ or what have you – also I love it when actors take a character and make them their own. We saw that in TLotR films, where in the second movie we cycled through the story line to story line as opposed to keeping it like the book where we followed Aragorn and co. In the first half, then the second half was The Taming of Smeagol. I can only speak for my own experience, but I’ve found certain story telling techniques work better in visual form as opposed to written word and vice versa – and it’s learning to use them to their strengths (as well as artist strength) that is important. I think a director or whatever can be faithful to the spirit of the story and still make it their own interpretation of said story. At a certain point, the adaptation becomes its own thing, and isn’t a proper reflection of the work. And I’m saying this as someone who grew up with countless retellings of A Christmas Carol and not caring one iota.

I’m starting to think all that classic music I learned listening to these old cartoons was because it was in the public domain…

Do I expect future installments to stay stagnant? Yes and no – when a series becomes something it never was supposed to be, I notice, but stories are funny because they do change over time; even if we have them written down and have the original, you see authors taking ideas from Tolkien and running with them – I’m reading The Witcher series, the cast of elves, dwarves, gnomes is likely a reflection of Tolkien’s established universe. Warcraft has similar features. I could list the stories and games that are either subtle nods or more than borrow from him for pages and still miss something. Until we get to specific tales such as Gawain and the Green Knight, stories like Robin Hood and King Arthur have no definitive canon although there’s elements that most would agree upon, even though there’s reason to believe that characters such as Lancelot and Maid Marion were added centuries after the stories are already popular. It’s not a game of telephone; oratures and oral history have a tradition and can be taken very seriously, but occasionally people add into the story and it’s added to the canon. This happened to Harley Quinn to the DC universe, but we have Tolkien’s notes and letters. We know his intent. Basically what I’m saying, is can we not pick one of the many, many other inspired stories to interpret if we want smut? Because calling something Middle Earth and pretending it was always like that isn’t really fooling anyone.


Review Tour Wind Up

14 Jun

Thank you to every one who hosted and has been following along for the tour. If you haven’t, check out the following bloggers, enter to win the draw for a $50 GC to the online book seller of your choice. You’ll be contacted and asked by Marianne of Goddess Fish Book Promotions, I really don’t mind what book format the winner picks.

As always, a special thank you to anyone who takes the time to review my work. I know there’s a lot out there and I never, ever want to pressure anyone into giving a favorable review or anything to that effect. I love to argue for the sake of discussion, but your opinions and reviews are your own.

The Stops:

Bibliomaniac Aza (Promo)

Gina Rae Mitchell

Harlie’s Books

The Faerie Review

Jazzy Books Reviews

Kit N’Kitbookle

Travel the Ages

Read Book. Repeat

The Avid Reader

Thoughts on Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” so far

10 Jun

So I meant to do this at the end of Book 4 The Rising Shadow– and life’s busy. Life’s always busy. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ll probably do an entire series recap once I’ve finished The Witcher. A quick recap:

Someone recommended Wheel of Time to me when I was in first year University, and the course load was pretty intense, and I just couldn’t get into it. I got into Malazan and Game of Thrones about a year or two later, but I was initially turned off with the infamous slog that apparently starts around book 6 or so (almost there. Almost). I thought, compared to the aforementioned other titles, that Wheel of Time was more childish and I would get around to it, but people kept recommending me different series and I never circled back to WoT. I can also be a little hipster and prefer titles that aren’t mainstream. Thing is, last year I haven’t been able to go to book shows and see what the locals are doing, so I figured I would take a stab at my Goodreads ‘to-read’ list and see what I could get library-wise via ebooks.

My workload was heavy last year, but i still have downtime at work and really enjoy audio books for driving. I like setting reading goals and analyzing what I’ve read and what I ought to do in the following year, and at the time, I thought there were 12 books in The Wheel of Time, so why not do a book a month? I technically started last year, and I’m a little behind, but I suspect that I’ll be getting the later audio books quicker as there’s more of a demand for the earlier books at any given time. I could be wrong, so we’ll see how this prediction holds out.

The premise is about a hero predestined to rise up and save the world from the enemies of not only humanity but light itself, and the terrible cost associated with that role, including madness and his own personal destruction. The story incorporates some eastern philosophies concerning reincarnation and duality in a traditionally western fantasy setting (at least at first), and takes its time examining how the rules of the universe would play out. Some readers might be put-off by ideas such as male and female having different ways to access the True Source (channeling) and the first book does come across as very familiar to other classical material, notably The Lord of the Rings. However, because the author is in no real rush to get to the plot points, ideas are very fleshed out and the world is fantastically developed.  If you’re going to be put off by chosen ones or characters having plot armor (Ta’veran, ones whom around the pattern weaves) or you want a most post-modern look at fantasy, or don’t want to commit to a 14-book series, this probably isn’t for you. I think those who want to write fantasy should at least give it a shot when they can handle the time commitment. Sometimes you start out thinking something is going nowhere, and it’s actually set up for something that comes later. I’m roughly 1/3 into the series, and about to start the famous slog, so I’m going to commit to more commentary when I get through that part.

One of the most common phrases stated in the story is, “The wheel weaves as the wheel weaves” and to me, this is exemplified in how ideas are introduced and shown for a while, and then a viewpoint or idea is seemingly dropped only to reappear or be shown in a different way. The pattern isn’t always apparent to the reader, although I don’t think the ideas are super complicated that you have to be very familiar with tropes that have come before. If anything, this shows how fantasy does extremely well at showing how different peoples and cultures examine ideas.

When the main story begins, only women have the ability to become channelers safely. The male half of the source has become corrupted, and every man who can channel but be cut off from it, lest he go mad and hurt folk. This corruption has led to not only the female channelers themselves being weaker, but for different societies to view the ability with magic in different ways. You have the Crusaders/Inquisitors of the Children of the Light who think all ties to magic as evil (regularly calling women who can channel Tar Valen witches and highly suspicious of anyone outside the regular world as Dark Friends) and the Seanchan who have devised ways to control women who can channel by collaring them and treating them like chattel, to cultures who go out of their way to keep their daughters from being taken by the White Tower to be trained. The White Tower is slowly revealed to not be a safe haven, where personal politics and ambitions plague the simplicity of what should be defeating the great evil. People all may want to defeat the dark one (unless they’re on the other side, obviously) but they have different ideas on how to go about it. For instance, among the female mages (Aes Sedai) once you’re raised you chose an Ajah, or dedication of field, be it education, or logic or healing. One of the more hated and feared among the public is the Red Ajah, a field dedicated to finding men who can channel and ‘gentling’ them, something that’s ultimately a death sentence but it saves the man from hurting someone. They’re portrayed as a group that hates men, but logically a red sister has a terrible duty, because to allow a man to channel (and he almost invariably will) isn’t just a death sentence for him. He’s not evil, he’s insane, and depending on his potential, can level villages. Thing is, they’re not established as evil – there’s an entire Ajah, the secret Black Ajah, who are sworn to the Dark One. The reds vary in methodology and philosophy, but it’s suggested that proportionately, there’s no more reds in the Dark Sisterhood than any other Ajah.

The big beef is the portrayal of women. I’m used to the more dated ideas, insofar as writers trying to portray their women as, “not being like others”. I’m not talking about characters that embrace their femininity or anything to that extent. I’d think that, even if magic is highly regarded as something to be wary of, women only really being able to access it safely would result in a more divisive role between the genders, as there’s plenty of women who aren’t using the Big Guns but still able to use their almost innate abilities channelling as village wise women, healing and helping with the weather, showing in one culture as a job designation that allows sailors to get favorable winds. It’s more of the, “she had a stare that could melt you” clichés over and over again. I don’t mind women who are rough around the edges (I kind of liked the Head Cook of Tar Valen, her name escapes me and it might be three volumes before we see her again) it’s just so… there’s a lot of posturing, let’s put it that way.

I get it; Jordan is establishing that these women can be atypical or different from other women, even among their culture. But when 80% of them are more steel than silk, it becomes the norm. Another aspect of it is that the female aspect of magic is that they have to submit to it, so the idea shows up again and again in the woman’s roles in society. Women are told they must give up and do as they are told, obedience is expected, meanwhile we’re hit over the head with the woman in question wrestling with being headstrong in her own mind. Ultimately this leads to women who become full fledged channelers (almost always Aes Sedai, but it’s more complicated) governed by laws designed to keep them from opposing their will on others, but ultimately they find ways to circumvent their oaths and they come across as manipulative.

Men, meanwhile, must embrace their masculinity and seize, and they call women out for essentially being sneaky instead of forthright, even though I suspect if Moraine laid everything on the line when she first met the boys, she would have been run out of town on a rail. I kind of understood why Rand is wary of those who would try to manipulate him, but given he’s known Egwene since they were kids and Moraine is dedicated to a cause not a person, you’d think a guy worried about his own mental state would use them at the very least as guiding posts. So far my favourite female character is Nyneave, who I probably would have hated if I started reading the books in junior high, but now I have a writer brain not a reader brain.

Anyway, this is getting long enough so I’ll wrap it up. There’s tons of characters, but it’s really not that bad to remember who is who. Jordan takes his time to name characters who have roles, and because it might have been half a book if not books since we met them, they’re quickly reintroduced. Really, I never mind having a sprawling cast and they’re memorable enough that you quickly remember even if it’s been a while. Could it be more precise? Sure. Do I care? No.

I’ll probably finish The Witcher (minus the anthologies, they seem to be more in demand than the main series, haha) in about a month or so and I’ll do something similar. I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would, but the same went for the Netflix show. Until next time.

6 Jun

Coming 21.06.21