Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones pre-watching thoughts

I have yet to see the first episode of Game of Thrones, though I have every intention of watching it in the near future.
That said, reading one review of the first episode, this sentence resonated with me:

"It’s so taken up with making sure everything is set in place that it largely forgets to do anything other than offer up a long series of stilted introductions."

This was exactly why I was not able to get into the books when I tried to read it. I read about 150 pages and felt like I had met a bunch of people, but no one was actually doing anything yet. This problem crystallized for me when I was reading in public and some guy asked me, "What's that about?" and I had no idea how to answer.

I will fully admit that I would probably give an HBO series a little more latitude along these lines than I would a book, which is probably a terrible thing for me to say, but there you go. And, quite possibly, after this season is over and the show does really hook me, I'll give the book another go with a clearer sense of who the people are, and thus have an easier time investing myself in them.

One thing that occurred to me, after thinking about this for a bit, is how a book like this could not be picked up as an author's first book, not any more.  (Yes, I do know that when George R. R. Martin started this series, he was already a well established writer.)  Same, of course, can be said for Lord of the Rings.  In fantasy, from what I've seen and been told, you simply can't get away with the "Let me paint a scene for you for a while before things really get going" approach.  But it's an approach that, again, from what I've seen and been told, a lot of early writers keep trying.  (Raise your hand if you've heard someone say, or you yourself have said, "It really gets going at Chapter 10.")  But I can imagine it's hard to convince someone NOT to take that approach when it's exactly what several of their favorite works did.  


Abby Goldsmith said...

ARGH!!! I just wrote a HUGE response, but when I hit preview, it gave me an error page and lost the whole thing!!!

Grr. Anyway. "A Game of Thrones" impressed me due to its slaughter scene in the prologue, and I thought the plot moved fairly quickly--at least, it hooked me. However, I'd challenge anyone to boil it down to a logline or a paragraph. It's too complex. It's about outer beauty and inner ugliness, and the reverse. It's about how war affects the haves and the have-nots. It's about survival in a world where only a few people have the birthright of power. I could go on. But I can't easily tell you what it's about, because it defies easy description.

Unfortunately, I think you're right about the publishing industry of today. Publishers are shying away from doorstopper epics because they published a few duds, which readers avoided. Now it seems the only way "in" for an epic fantasy author is to have very strong connnections to a major publisher.

This is their loss, and it's to the detriment of everyone who enjoys epic fiction. I would read a new "Lord of the Rings," "Otherland," or "Game of Thrones" series by a new author. There's still a large market for epics, if the work is good.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Actually, someone else told me, "War of the Roses as medieval fantasy." So there's a quick logline for it.

Now, I don't think that there's no market for the Epic, or that you won't see more ever. It's just that it's not something a new writer can break out with. Unless you're essentially doing a "back door" epic, where the first book stands alone but can kick off the epic.