Hub Magazine was founded by Lee in 2007. It was an innovative and exciting publication that accepted three of my stories, five reviews, and three essays.
I owe a debt to Lee Harris, Alasdair Stuart, Ellen Allen, and Phil Lunt – all of whom worked on Hub and at various points had a hand in bringing my work to a wider audience.
So… you can now read my work again! Just access the directory and select a relevant issue – I’ve listed my works and the issues they were published in below.
Some of it I might write differently now. I’ve been writing and editing professionally for years and I’d hope my style has developed over that time. But I’m still very proud of my work published by Hub. Especially the stories and the essays.
I know a lot of people who couldn’t attend Nine Worlds last year wanted to hear my thoughts on The Dark Tower. Due to ill health, I haven’t been able to upload a web version like I’d promised, but you can read early versions of my thoughts on the The Dark Tower and the modernists in Hub 137, along with my thoughts on The Dark Tower and epics (Homer, Virgil, and Tolkien) in issue 141.
‘The Twelfth Day’, in Hub, Issue 135
‘The Harvest of the Machines’ – in Hub, Issue 72
‘Bereavement’ – in Hub, Issue 40
‘Tron: Legacy’ – in Hub, Issue 143
‘The Incredible Hulk Season Three DVD Box Set’ – in Hub, Issue 89
‘The Incredible Hulk Season Two DVD Box Set’ – in Hub, Issue 80
‘The Incredible Hulk Season One DVD Box Set’ – in Hub, Issue 73
‘Coming to Terms with the End of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Part II – Epic: Homer, Virgil, and Tolkien’ – in Hub, Issue 141
‘Coming to Terms with the End of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Part I – King and the Modernists’ – in Hub, Issue 137
‘On Being Scully, and SyFy’s new series, Haven‘ – in Hub, Issue 126
(Index to previous A Dance with Dragons posts, here.)
Chapter 25: The Windblown
OK, I’m officially bored with the names that aren’t actually the names of the people whose point of view the chapter is from. Yes, it reflects the shifting identities they’re adopting, and there’s something kind of interesting about that. Also, ‘The Windblown’ is sort of appropriate, from that perspective, but ‘The Windblown’ isn’t even the new name of the person whose point of view the chapter is from, it’s the name of the company he’s joined. His new name is ‘Frog’, so, if we’re following the more interesting name-shift adopted for Theon Greyjoy, ‘Frog’ should be the new chapter title, as ‘Reek’ is for Theon.
It’s just messy, is all I’m saying. I’m used to looking at a chapter title and going ‘Oh, hurrah! A Tyrion chapter!’ or ‘Oh, A Daenerys chapter – is this going to be good or bad?’. Maybe that’s something Martin wants to undermine, but I rather like how my expectations for a chapter are sometimes formed by the name and then upset if the chapter goes in a different direction to what I expected.
Anyway, in case you were wondering (because it is a bit frustrating, isn’t it, when you’re trying to work out who exactly is being talked about whilst you’re trying to get into a piece of writing) this chapter is actually from Quentyn Martell’s perspective. Now he’s travelling with a company of mercenaries called ‘The Windblown’. They solved their dilemma about how to reach Daenerys without getting greyscale or dying on the Demon Road by signing up to fight in an army… that’s going to fight Daenerys. And that’s most of the dramatic tension for this chapter. Quentyn’s all worried because he’s off to fight the woman he’s meant to marry, but if they have to break their oaths and run away from the Windblown they’ll not only be oath-breakers, they’ll have a bunch of deadly mercenaries who know the land on their tails.
There’s something rather sweet and naive in the way they’re worried about breaking their oaths. Just about everyone else in these books has broken at least a dozen oaths or turned their cloak or something similar along the way. Usually they’ve decided to square it by adopting a new, slightly grimmer code of honour. These guys are all new and shiny.
Well, not quite so shiny anymore. The other purpose of this chapter is to let us know that sweet Quentyn has been exposed to the horrors of war at Astapor, which is a city that’s really, really gone to Hell. He’s levelled a bit in fighting, and also bit in War-Is-Hell. Bless.
Here be my new pet theory: whilst Young Griff is swanning off in the wrong direction making initially plausible but ultimately stupid tactical decisions in the game to win Daenerys’s hand, Quentyn is going to have seen the rougher side of the world, fought bloody and dirty and been thoroughly disabused of the idea that Daenerys is some pretty little princess waiting to be claimed. We see a little bit of that in this chapter, as he starts to hear the rumours that have been spread about her. He’ll arrive at Meereen having served time as the lowest of the low, changing himself to suit the needs of his situation, just like Daenerys. He’ll still be a little bit green, because he couldn’t possibly go through all the things she has, and I suspect he doesn’t have quite the inner command that she does, but that’s OK. She’s attracted to powerful, domineering men (I may not like it, but I can’t deny it), but we’ve already seen that she’s more prepared to make deals on marriage with men who are less imposing. She sends Daario away from her because she knows he’s a distraction and not good for her rule. She accepts Hizdahr’s offer as a business deal that has nothing to do with lust and all to do with striking the right deal. I’m also sure that part of what she responds to is his thoughtful and unpresumptuous manner. Whatever her desires are, she’s agreed to marry a man without half as forceful a personality as herself, and conscious or not I suspect that is a part of her choice.
Quentyn also isn’t so unfortunate as to have a better claim to the throne. Instead he offers money. Daenerys makes the deals that take her to her goals. She needs money. She has armies, but cannot feed them. She has cities, but she cannot keep the peace. She’s made one deal in favour of peace, I think she’d make another in favour of money. I don’t think Quentyn will win her with physical prowess or charisma, but if he’s shown himself competent and flexible – adaptable – and learnt a thing or two about fighting along the way without becoming arrogant… yeah, he might be in with a chance.
I’m Team Quentyn again. Yes, I changed my mind – these books do that to you, that’s why I like them.
Anyway, Quentyn also has good luck, which, as Machiavelli said, is an important part of being a good leader. The company he’s in has chosen to take both sides in the upcoming battle and sends all its Westerosi members out as defectors to greet Daenerys. Which actually means that Quentyn et al don’t have to defect at all! Hussar! Honour intact.
I enjoyed this chapter, but it’s not without flaws. The many and varied mercenary companies are interesting and colourful, but not always convincing. One is led by a girl, younger than Daenerys, who apparently bred and raised her slave-warriors. Something doesn’t scan, there. Might it be plausible that some enterprising young maid would set up her own company in mirror of Daenerys’s triumph? I don’t know. Maybe. She might try, I’d be surprised if she succeeded. But I’m pretty sure she couldn’t breed up men older than herself to fight for her.
Similarly, the stilt-walking Herons are completely implausible. That someone might breed up a company of abnormally tall slaves, even display them sometimes on stilts? Yeah, I buy that. I also understand the idea that these other companies are supposed to be representing the follies of people playing at war. But I can’t see them lasting a day being asked to march on stilts, let alone fight. Maybe someone will pitch up with links to examples of something like this from history, but right now it’s stretching my credulity.
Oh well, can’t have everything.
Chapter 26: The Wayward Bride
See, at least Quentyn has a reason to not go by his name if he’s being presented as a chamelion, but can’t we just call her ‘Asha’? No? Bah.
Asha Greyjoy is holed up in Deepwood and has just heard word of the fall of Moat Cailin. This leaves her very vulnerable. She can’t go back to the Iron Islands because her uncle has usurped her claim to the throne and married her in absentia to some old guy she has no interest in wedding. She’ll be disowned by everyone if she kneels to Stannis, and now she’s wide open to both Stannis and the Boltons. As she waits for attack and fails to decide what to do she has sex with some guy called Qarl after she repeatedly refuses him because she’s too tired and is not in the mood. But apparently she likes being taken by force after she’s clearly and firmly said ‘no’. I’ve already talked about the problems I had with this scene, so I won’t go into it again – I’m as bored with discussing this sort of thing as I’m sure you are.
After the sex, Stannis attacks, with the clansmen one assumes he won over, following Jon’s plan. They’ve dressed themselves in trees to hide their approach. Part of me likes the Shakespearean call-back to Birnam wood coming to Dunsinane – it’s a good idea, why not re-use it? But, on the other hand, I knew exactly what was going to happen the moment she noticed that the trees were making a lot more noise than they should have been. It felt a little obvious.
Asha makes the decision to flee into the woods rather than surrender or get slaughtered in the castle. She plans to make for her boats, but is attacked by the clansmen in the night. We’re left on a cliffhanger, with things looking very bad for Asha.
I hope she survives. Asha is a good character, and I enjoy her arse-kicking adventures. I suspect she will. Shortly before the attack Tris Botley tells her a tale of someone who challenged a kingsmoot because he could not be there to make a claim. This apparently tips off something in Asha’s brain that can better her situation, but we aren’t told what – only that it doesn’t apply to her claim to rule the Iron Islands. I’m kind of hoping it’s that she’s realised that you can’t be married to someone in absentia, which seems blindingly obvious, to me, but maybe they do things differently in the Iron Islands. In any case, the very fact that we don’t get to see what it was she realised suggests to me that she’s not dead yet. She better not be. That would be very annoying.
All in all, a solid couple of chapters, and I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed the chapter that followed them very much indeed! But, alas, I have not the time to review it now – you’ll just have to tune in for the next Read Along with Rhube to find out why!
You may recall that I blogged six months ago at the precise moment when my squee for the proposed HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones reached a level at which I felt I could say with conviction ‘This is going to be AWESOME’. Since the show started airing, I felt like I should blog about it, but didn’t feel I had much to say beyond ‘So, I was right, then’, which is both dull and off-puttingly self-satisfied. But now that it’s over I find that I do have some points of reflection that might be worth sharing, even if those points are still largely in the ‘Awesome, wasn’t it?’ spectrum.
First off, let’s just talk about what an incredible and inspiring achievement this is. It actually sort of feels like it marks a shifting point in the dynamic of how we view television and what we use it for. There have been other successful TV adaptations of books. Plenty of them. It’s not even HBO’s first. From that perspective, Game of Thrones is just riding the crest of the groundswell of book-to-TV adaptation that has been popularised by the success of such shows as Dexter and True Blood. We’re all familiar with the film adaptations of books that have gone horribly wrong because the plot was necessarily butchered to fit a 90-120min slot. It’s evident that TV executives have discovered the retrospectively obvious fact that a TV show offers the opportunity to preserve much more of the original material whilst capitalising on the interest of existing fans. On the other hand, it’s still rare to see a television show that sticks so faithfully to its source material. If there’s one comment people will have heard over and over again about this show from pre-existing fans of the books it’s their surprise and joy about how faithful it was.
Mr Darcy in a wet shirt: This never happened in the book, it was just for cheap titillation to keep the women interested.
Now, again, this isn’t entirely original to Game of Thrones. We’re all quite familiar with successful mini-series adaptations, especially for historical novels. For the most accurate and enjoyable TV adaptation prior to Game of Thrones I probably would have pointed to the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice from the mid 1990s. (Not that it didn’t have its minor deviations.) On the other hand, Game of Thrones is a substantially longer book, and it’s probably a lot easier to make an accurate TV adaptation if you can use existing stately homes for your settings and don’t need to worry about the special effects necessary to represent dragons and walls of ice several hundred feet high. In other words, fantasy has not always fared quite so well, even in the mini-series. I’m still trying to apply sufficient brain bleach to forget Stephen King’s It.
Game of Thrones was an ambitious undertaking. It has more main characters than most TV shows would attempt to comfortably accomodate. Much of its tension centres around complex political situations in a world that isn’t our own, and can only loosely be said to call upon the Wars of the Roses for reference points. It jumps about to wildly different settings, from a far north that would place the Scotland-analog in the arctic circle to a distant south where the France-substitute looks like it might be in north Africa.* It’s violent, risque, and morally ambiguous. In short, it’s a lot for producers to take a gamble on, and many would have hauled on the reins for at least some of it. Admittedly, there is slightly less nudity in the show than in the book (no, really – they made the very wise decision of cutting the ‘Catelyn forgets she’s naked’ moment, for instance), but that’s about it. This was a fat book, and very, very little was cut from it. And it works.
I feel like this has opened the doors to other fantasy novel adaptations in a way we really haven’t seen before. I rather hope so. I have been eagerly eyeing my shelves, thinking of all that might be. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell anyone? Assassin’s Apprentice? Maybe even Perdido Street Station? It gives you hope for the mooted Dark Tower project, at the least, although the latest rumour-mill suggested it may be a no-go.
Not that every single thing was just how I pictured it. Ned Stark still wasn’t right, for me, although Sean Bean did a good job on the vision that was clearly handed to him by the producers, and it works as an alternate view that plays up the North/South divide. I was also not as inspired by Jon Snow as I had been in the books – the lad’s just not how I pictured him. A bit too old and stocky. But as he seems to be a firm favourite with my mates who hadn’t read the books, I guess he’s still working the required magic for new eyes. Overall, these are minor gripes in what was, in general, phenomenally appropriate casting.
I don’t think I can go any further without mentioning this fine figure of a man: Peter Dinklage. I stick to my original comments that he’s far too attractive to play the Imp as he is portrayed in the book, but I can’t honestly say I mind. And it’s not exactly a bad thing to challenge our stereotypical conceptions of male beauty by casting an attractive man to play a character with dwarfism. But enough about his looks. Although Tyrion Lannister was always a firm favourite of mine in the books, Dinklage undoubtedly adds an element of charisma that effortlessly makes this character centre-stage of any scene he’s in. There’s been a lot of noise in the blogosphere and twitterverse about him deserving an Emmy for his performance, and I can’t really help but agree.
Over and above Peter Dinklage as an actor, though, this is a great part. As a member of the most wealthy family in Westeros, Tyrion is uniquely placed, by virtue of his dwarfism, to commentate both from a position of education and privilege, and as an under-dog outsider figure to whom we can relate. These characteristics culminate delightfully in such moments as when he is able to both verbally and physically lay a smack-down on the crown prince, Joffrey – probably one of the most unlikable characters in literature. Apparently people like that sort of thing:
But Tyrion isn’t the only stonkingly well-cast character. Much credit should be given to Nikolaj Coster, who plays Jaime Lannister. This is a difficult and subtle role to play. Jaime is one of the most complex and interesting characters I have ever encountered, not least because he initially struck me as unutterably shallow and despicable. One of the first things we see him do is an unspeakably horrible act, yet we are gradually brought to see that this is a character of many facets. His duality is neatly encapsulated by the nickname by which he is frequently insulted ‘Kingslayer’. He stabbed a king in the back. It casts him as traitorous, cowardly, and untrustworthy. He is almost universally despised… except by those who have fought with him. We see this in fleeting conversations long before we ever see him fight, and the build up to his demonstration of skill does not leave one disappointed in its climax. In his confrontation with Ned and Ned’s men one thing is clear: Ned is good, very good… but Jaime’s better. He is neither cowardly nor unskilled, and though he may have betrayed his king, he also killed a madman who had cruelly murdered innocents when no one else dared stand up against him. There’s a lot of complexity to convey, here, and we see little, in the first season that allows Jaime to show a more sympathetic side, yet I felt Nikolaj Coster achieved this nonetheless… without losing Jaime’s inherent insufferableness, either.
Credit is also due to Emlia Clarke. Daenerys Targaryen was probably my least favourite character in the books, as much of her role seemed to revolve around her use as an object of male gaze. However, despite the fact that I’m not as sold on her acting as I am by Peter Dinklage’s, say, I actually became involved in her story – even rooting for her and her rapist-cum-husband, Kharl Drogo.
But the true joy was watching Arya flower into the beginnings of the forceful woman she will become. Miltos Yerolemou is fabulous as Arya’s ‘dancing master’, Syrio Forel, and Maisie Williams is just perfect as Arya. To the New York Times journalist who thought that women would only watch this for the sex, all I can say is that you clearly didn’t have enough role-models like Arya growing up. She’s awesome, and she’s still the sort of woman I want to be when I grow up.
I really could go on and on, but I suspect this review would lose all structure, so I’m going to finish on a note of fun: with the long break between now and season two under way it won’t be updating as often, but I still thoroughly recommend My Mom Watches Game of Thrones**, a comedy blog about a comedienne’s conversations with her mum about Game of Thrones. That link is to the beginning. Like many comedy things, some of the jokes build over time, and you’ve plenty of time to catch up between now and the new season.
And now it really is time to sign off. Long days and pleasant nights…
*As mentioned in my previous post, Game of Thrones follows a familiar tradition in western epic fantasy of being set is a world whose countries look suspiciously like the British Isles and Northern Europe. Moreover, there are more direct ties to British history as it relates to the Wars of the Roses, with the Lannisters making a fairly clear analog to the house of Lancaster, the Starks an analog for the house of York, King’s Landing a fantasy version of London, Dorne practically a portmanteau of Devon and Cornwall, and so forth.
** It has come to my attention that, because Tumblr is an unfathomable mystery to me, there is no stable link to the first page of the ‘My Mom Watches Game of Thrones’ blog – the page number increases as posts are added. If anyone is aware of how to solve this dilemma I will happily fix the link. In the mean time, if you click the link and scroll to the bottom and find a ‘previous page’ button… click that. In the mean time I will try to correct the issue if I spot that the page number has increased, but otherwise, you know… sadly, I’m still mortal.
So, things are somewhat less than 100% serene in Wombledonia at the moment, but one awesome thing that happened yesterday is that the second part of my article on the end of the Dark Tower came out in Hub. I’m still really proud of this and really grateful to the good people of Hub for getting it out.
In part II I get all epic on that seven volume colossus: Homer, Virgil, and Tolkien. I really hope people enjoy it, and would be really interested in any opinions you might have about my theories, or The Dark Tower in general.
Please go read it here!
You can find Part I, which concerns the modernists, and things of that nature, here.