Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Westeros (just a bit)

True confession time: There are better people than I to talk about Westeros, the setting for George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. There are people talking about the geology and the food and the weather There are wikis and google maps of the place.There are games of all types.  All of these speak of the continental setting of the Game of Thrones better than I ever could. Chiefly because I never finished the first volume.

Heck, I've not even seen the TV show, even though it was streaming on Netflix for a while. My full exposure to this incredibly popular setting consists of seeing other people scream and rend their garments every time something happens or does not happen regarding the series. Whether it is complaints of the timeliness of the most recent volume, season, or episode, or cries of pain regarding the any recent episode (I mean, does ANYONE invite Mr. Martin to weddings anymore?) or merely the wait between volumes, or seasons, or even episodes.

So what's the deal? How did A Game of Thrones gain entrance into my ever-growing collection of unfinished books? I have a lot of them, more than I would let on - books that for various reasons, I would lay aside, never to return. It is in good company - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Europe by Norman Davies, the Posionwood Bible. Against the Day. The Buccaneers. I have Lamentations by Ken Scholes on my Kindle, a perfectly fine book, along the complete works of Mark Twain, but am bogged down in his The Innocents Abroad. These works were not abandoned in the heat of the moment, nor tossed across the room in disgust (there are ones I have done this with, which is a recommendation AGAINST having a Kindle). How did Game fail to engage?

Westeros. This is Westeros, right?
I mean, I LIKE Mr. Martin's work. His Sandkings was brilliant and creepy, and the Wild Cards series, which he edited with Melinda Snodgrass, started strong before descending into a darkness that makes A Game of Thrones look like a Disney production. So it is not the darkness.That's been part of his brand for years, and is backed up by strong writing.

I suppose I could claim that, in my line of work, I read a LOT of this particular type of fantasy, mostly with an eye to towards continuity and content. Worse, I read books by friends in the genre, usually when I am keeping up on a particular Intellectual Property. So traditional fantasy, even dark trad fantasy, is a bit of a push to start with. I will read it and enjoy it, but its really got a couple marks against it.

So with A Game of Thrones, part of it is just the base plot of court politics and feuding families. While I write of kings, I tend to prefer the company of commoners, so this was not my particular pipe of tea. And I am sufficiently well-versed in the traditional tropes of the field that all but the most severe gets a "Ah, I see what you did there" before I press on. But when I got to the "Young girl sold into marriage with a desert barbarian, but tames his savage heart with her feminine wiles" scene, I just closed the book and put it back onto the shelf for another day. It wasn't that it was bad, it was just that I had other things to do.

And I think that's why I don't ask for book reports from friends about my work. If they read it, fine. If they liked it, even better. But so many of my compatriots are engaged in the biz that I don't require it, and in turn they're pretty good with the fact that I am not up on their latest work. Indeed, if one volunteers that they had not finished it, I feel the need to ask where they bailed. At what point did I fail to deliver, or lost them, or worst of all bored them? Which is one reason I don't ask.

So, what about Westeros? I don't know if I will be back. I do not envy its popularity and success and the rows that it causes because it shows that this sort of thing can be done and done well. It makes me smile to see other fantasy and science fiction authors suddenly become rock-star popular, if only because it means there is hope for us all. And if everyone is over looking there, that means there is time for me to sneak off and do a bit more writing.

Well, that's the hope. More later,