Monday, April 25, 2011

Popular Fantasy and HBO's "Game of Thrones"

Alright HBO, you win. I will pay* to watch you...

After watching the first two hours of the Game of Thrones , I cannot express how grateful I am that a  fantasy  adaptation could get this kind of treatment.  Having not read the series, I cannot comment on how true to the first book the show has already been, though the premise seems familiar enough (note, that I now have in my possession the first novel for devouring).

These last few years, I have bounced around most of the most popular fantasy series; they have ranged from the sketchy as hell Sword of Truth  series, through the wholly original yet heavy-Mormon- handed Mistborn  series, to well written but rote Runelord  novels.  Being that they are all pretty derivative of the grandaddy of epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings ,  all of these series seem to not-so-subtly bear similar conceits to LotR  that have somehow become ubiquitous amongst popular fantasy.

So far, Game of Thrones seems no different. Published in the 5 year window (what epic strain of weed did these authors get their hands on in the early 90s?) that saw the release of The Wheel of Time  series, The Sword of Truth ,  and The Runelords ,  I can say that there are already some striking similarities that are pervasive and familiar:

Fantasy author, or sex offender?

  • Weakened/Powerful enemies in the "distant" East that seek to rule the world. 
  • Enemies that, if not monsters, bear striking resemblances to some very...ahem...historically Arabic cultures. Oh and they also have an insatiable appetite for raping/incest/child molestation - you know, because they are EVIL .
  • Hidden primal forces that ultimately use said bad humans to do their dirty work, often with promises of power - thus weakening the human race to the point of annihilation. 
  • Formerly ignorant/ambivalent heroes in the remote reaches of the known world that are forced into action and acts of heroism. 
  • Batshit insane amounts of magic. Often, this magic is used several times as a plot device to get heroes out of tight spots. Most of the time, the heroes do not even know how it even happened. Just go to the next chapter - by then the author will have come down off the peyote to explain it better. 
  • All the main heroes are  male. They usually start out as virgins, but go through so much hell saving the world that the main female heroins, who also happen to be the hottest babes on the planet, have to pretty much just give it up. Saving the hot babe form the hell-spawned rape demon for the third time in the middle  of the book is mere blow-job currency in modern fantasy realms, as these guys only get laid AFTER  they save the entire world. 

Begone, you blue-balling harpy!

If you have seen the first couple of episodes in the Game of Thrones , you can already check off a good portion of this list. Not to say that these similarities will yield predictable or familiar results by the shows' end, but there has been little deviation from standard modern-fantasy norms in the first couple of episodes.

Yet, the subtle attention to detail, the production quality, the acting (I mean they even got Sean Bean, aka "BOROMIR" for Sauron's sake), and the plot twists have already been enough to garner a second season and the dubbing of "best T.V. fantasy ever." I have to agree that it is damn  good, and I hope it marks the beginning of the golden age of the modern epic fantasy genre.

It's been almost a decade since The Fellowship of the Ring , so perhaps the technology has caught up to be affordable enough for the small screen to start picking up more of these stories. For now, I am going to enjoy this surprise while it lasts.

Aw hell, I have to kill ANOTHER  rape demon?

*By pay, I mean trick Time Warner into giving me free HBO.

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