Walk Away from Love

Wednesday and I am being betrayed, left and right, by idiotic technology.

I had to take my fucking phone back to factory settings because despite updating my phone the other day, last night my computer didn’t fucking recognize my phone again. (You can certainly tell Steve Jobs died…the quality of Apple’s overpriced products has gone into steep decline since his death. This kind of shit never happened on his watch.) And my email inbox is also having some issues today as well.

I don’t have time for this nonsense.

Seriously.

I’ve not written hardly at all this week, because I got sucked down into a rabbit hole regarding the crime fiction community these last two days–yet another train wreck I can’t look away from. I hope to get back in the writing saddle again today, though; fingers crossed there won’t be any more developments of nonsense! But the way things have been going…it certainly wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

I watched another episode of Chernobyl last night, and seriously, this is some extraordinary television. It’s depressing and horrifying as all  hell, but like the crime fiction kerfuffle or a train wreck, I simply can’t stop watching. The fourth episode–if you’re a pet lover, do not watch. The show is doing a terrific job of showing the disaster from the point of view of every day citizens affected, and what the disaster has done to them and their lives; episode four is particularly ghoulish and while true, it was awful and heartbreaking to watch: you see, all the people had to be evacuated out of the hot zone, but they didn’t take the contaminated animals with them…including pets. So, a team of people were assigned to go around and shoot all the cats and dogs the citizens had to leave behind–they were contaminated and it was a mercy, rather than letting them die a horrific, slow painful death from radiation. The part of the episode dealing with this was all shown from the point of view of an eighteen year old newly inducted soldier who volunteered to help out in the hot zone. I had to pause and get up and walk away several times during the episode because it was, frankly, too much. There’s one scene in particular…Christ, I can’t even write about it.

Chernobyl, despite the incredible acting, writing, and production values, is not an easy thing to watch. It’s filmed like a horror movie–very bleak and hopeless–and what makes it worse is something I realized after Hurricane Katrina; that no matter how bad something looks on television or in a film, the reality is so much worse. I will never get the images of what the lower 9th ward looked like that October of 2005, and how television didn’t even capture a fraction of the actual horror and devastation.

And on that note, I am heading back to the spice mines.


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Young Hearts Run Free

I continue to watch Chernobyl, which is mesmerizing as it is horrible. I am now up to episode four, and can’t look away. It’s horrifying and amazing and terrifying and so bleak, and perhaps the thing I can’t get out of my head is you were alive when this happened and was being reported in the news and I don’t ever recall knowing it was this bad–it was bad, but I never knew it was THIS bad.

And that is terrifying, so terrifying that it upsets my stomach and makes my blood run cold.

It is also a very cold, analytical look at what happens during a major disaster in a country where the news is under government control, and when a government is not only authoritarian, but where everyone is afraid to tell the next person higher up in the chain the truth when it’s bad news. It’s heartbreaking, and done in an almost documentary style. There was a point last night when watching that I thought, why are they all outside around the facility without any kind of shielding from the radiation? 

And then realized at that time, it no longer mattered; they were already so badly exposed their lives were essentially over. “Within five years,” is what they were told, and what they tell each other.

Absolutely horrific.

I didn’t get much writing done yesterday because I am at the point in the book where social issues come into play, and I am struggling because I don’t know how to make the points I want to make without sounding preachy or too “ABC After School Special”; I suppose the thing to do is not worry about any of that stuff because I can tighten and clean it up later, but when I am in the midst of writing I never think that way until the following morning, as I gaze bleary-eyed outside my windows into the grayness of the early dawn–you know, after I squandered my writing time the day before struggling.

Heavy sigh.

But in other good news, I have now slept well for two successive nights, which is lovely, and I woke up this morning without a problem when the alarm went off. Hopefully, that means not only will I make it through this long, long day, but won’t be bone-tired and exhausted when I get home. Of course, it’s Tuesday which means it’s a Real Housewives night, but frankly I find the Beverly Hills franchise to be rather boring this season. Perhaps some day I’ll write an entry about these shows and why I watch them, and what entertainment I get from them–but as Camille Paglia (whom I utterly detest, she is completely vile) once said, these shows replaced soaps, and the viewers are the same people who watched soaps; there is something camp and over-the-top about these shows, and the line between entertainment and reality has become so blurred with them that it is, actually, very soap-like; soap characters were like real people to their viewers, who talked about them like they were the people down the street. I don’t think Paglia’s analysis–it was part of a longer interview about culture in general–was particularly deep; it was kind of off-the-cuff and she hadn’t put much thought into the analysis, but she did strike a vein of truth with this, one that bears deeper thought and analysis and comparison (although I really disliked her comparing Tamra from Orange County to Donna Mills’ Abby from Knots Landing), and maybe someday I will do that.

When I have time. Because I have so much free time these days.

I also fell down into a rabbit hole yesterday–which, while a lot of fun, was also an enormous time-waster. This morning, the curiosity I had about the rabbit hole which was so intense and couldn’t be ignored, somehow doesn’t seem quite as intense as it did yesterday in the heat of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am still quite curious…but I don’t need to be refreshing social media to see new theories or discoveries.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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Let Her In

Yesterday was simply lovely.

I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I also suspected as much would occur–I know myself all too well–but I got the laundry room cleaned, even the baseboards–and all the bed linens done, vast arrays of dishes, and filing and organizing and other general duties that probably don’t get done as often as they should. I am really the most horrible housekeeper; my apartment would never pass muster, and the way my mother would react to it sends chills down my spine. I don’t like have a slovenly home, but there simply isn’t enough time for me to keep up with it all, let alone do the deep dive it really needs.

You learn to live with the dust.

I shudder to think what the tops of the cabinets look like, or what’s under the refrigerator.

But it was lovely, I enjoyed doing what I was doing and I listened to music and I made progress on answering my emails and I even looked over the revision of “The Snow Globe” I had begun. I also discovered that–utter Luddite that I am–that I can broadcast the screen of my computer onto the living room television. The mouse also works in there, but not the keyboard; I am not sure what the problem is there, but it’s probably solvable. Imagine, me being able to write on my computer while seeing it on the television screen while I recline in my easy chair with a lap desk.

How much fun would that be?

Pretty darned fun, methinks.

We started watching the new Renee Zellweger show on Netflix, What If, but lost interest in it about halfway through. Paul fell asleep and I was scrolling through my phone, and when he did wake up I really couldn’t explain what was going on because I hadn’t been paying attention–so off it went. We may try it again later, but we’ve never been big fans of hers, and while I hesitate to comment on the way people look, particularly people in the entertainment business, she’s had some work done and she doesn’t look quite right, if that makes sense. She looks pretty, but now there’s a kind of artificiality about her face which wasn’t there before, if that makes sense? Maybe not. Maybe I am being too hard on her and too hard on the show, but I was hoping for something good, particularly since one of the male actors was stunningly good looking and had a nude scene in the first few minutes, appearing again later in just some boxer briefs.

We may try again later.

I also watched another episode of The Spanish Princess, which is entertaining enough, if not as well done as other similar type series about royalty. I never did finish The White Princess, but I rather enjoyed The White Queen, and am really looking forward to HBO’s Catherine the Great with Helen Mirren–although that may be just a film. But watching The Spanish Princess, I was struck by how very different this take on Katherine of Aragon is then anything I’ve ever seen (or read) before. Katherine is primarily of interest to filmmakers/playwrights as an old woman, past menopause and having lost the love of Henry VIII, while desperately resisting his attempt to divorce her to marry Anne Boleyn. She is always portrayed sympathetically–the tragic devoted wife, deserted and abandoned for a younger model (the age-old story), proudly holding on to her dignity and fighting for the inheritance of her daughter. I’ve always kind of been more #teamAnneBoleyn, to be honest, and the older I get and the more I read the more suspicious I am of the kind of person Katherine was–and she doesn’t really have my sympathy. Don’t get me wrong, neither does Henry; he was an idiot and a fool and he didn’t understand his first wife at all. They were both willful and arrogant and too proud. Katherine should have understood her duty better; Henry should have known better than to ask his wife to say she’d lied to the entire world in order to invalidate their marriage.

Simply stated, there wasn’t any way Katherine was ever going to do that, and that he even asked guaranteed she would fight him to the end.

But it’s amazing how well she has done in the court of public opinion over the centuries; the “wronged woman” getting all the sympathy. One of the things I loved about Carrolly Erickson’s biography of Katherine’s daughter, Bloody Mary, is that she wrote about the influences constantly at war within Mary’s nature; her role in the world as a woman, and how that came into conflict with her role as princess and later Queen. (Her sister Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a master of playing both conflicting roles to her advantage, based on the situation at hand; Mary could have learned a lot from her much younger sister.)

But the interesting thing about The Spanish Princess is that we are, just as we can never be certain about the truth in history, not certain whether or not Katherine’s first marriage, to Henry’s sickly older brother Arthur, was actually consummated. The way the show was filmed (and I could be wrong), it implies that they did consummate the marriage–and she changed her story later to fulfill what she believed was her destiny: to marry a prince of England and bring the two countries into alliance against their common enemy, France. This is a very different take on Katherine’s story; usually it is pretty much taken for granted that she was telling the truth and she and Arthur never had sex.

I like this entire concept of telling the story from the perspective that she actually lied in order to become Queen of England; and I’ve always believed, from the very first time I read the highly sympathetic biography of her by Mary M. Luke when I was eleven (Catherine the Queen), that she may have lied because it was in her best interest to do so.

And having lied, she could hardly admit, thirty years later, that she had.

Such a fascinating woman, really. I still am not certain any biography has truly done her justice.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. There’s cleaning and reading and writing to do; and I need to run some errands later.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Wake Up Everybody

Well, I finished reading Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things yesterday (spoiler: it’s terrific and you should pre-order it, like right now; more on it later) and then started Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which is also off to a terrific start.

You really can never go wrong with a crime novel written by a woman, frankly.

So, of course last night Game of Thrones ended, and I have to say I was satisfied, if not thrilled, by how it ended. Some of it was inevitable, and to be honest, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how it would all end; I absolutely hated the idea of Jon as king–he’s not the type, quite frankly, but will admit I was also all in for Sansa. So, in a way, I got what I wanted with Sansa being Queen in the North–but having a separate kingdom to the north will inevitably lead to problems with the Six Kingdoms; and what exactly ever happened to the cities Dany conquered in Essos? I was more sad to see the show end than I could ever be disappointed in how it ended; as I said to Paul, “You know, when we first started watching this show, we still had cable, didn’t stream anything, and we watched this on DVD’s that came in the mail from Netflix before giving in and paying for HBO again. We didn’t have Scooter yet, and we still  had our old television with a DVD player.”  Game of Thrones, no matter what you thought of it to begin with, whether you watched it or you didn’t, was a cultural event in this country (I am reluctant to say world, as that reeks of American exceptionalism, but I do believe the show was a world-wide phenomenon) that had everyone talking about it almost from the very beginning, and maybe was the last show of its kind–the kind where everyone waits patiently to watch, week after week, and everyone talks about and discusses and argues about. I don’t think we’ll see its like again; I doubt another show will ever take up as much room in the public discourse as Game of Thrones did.

And while everything was sort of tied up nicely with a ribbon last evening, as the credits rolled I turned to Paul and said, “What happened to the Dothraki? We know what happened to the Unsullied…but they never said what happened to the Dothraki.”

I guess they are just loose in Westeros?

I started working on one of my short stories yesterday; I couldn’t find the motivation to do much else of anything, to be honest. I did clean some and get some things organized, and of course, I was also busy reading, as I mentioned above, and I am kind of excited to be reading They All Fall Down, which is off to a really good start. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed this past weekend, if I am going to be completely honest, and while I am not feeling as overwhelmed this morning as I’ve been feeling, I am still in one of those “how am I going to get all of this done?” places this morning. But you know, it will all get done and I will handle everything that needs handling because I somehow always manage to do so.

As you might recall, I sold my story “Neighborhood Alert” to Mystery Tribune magazine; I am proud to say it appears in the quarterly issue that is now available as e-magazine or print editions; you can order it right here.

I like the story, and I hope you will like it, too.

I really need to get more stories out.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

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Welcome Back

I managed fourteen hundred words today, and then came up blank. I hate when that happens, but I just can’t force the creativity, you know? And those fourteen hundred words were hard to do, frankly. But I printed out the next chapter (Chapter Seven, to be exact) and will reread that at some point before getting to work on it, perhaps later, before Game of Thrones airs. I am planning on making this weird combination Swedish meatball/beef stroganoff dish for dinner (I’ve made both, and then one time when I was making Swedish meatballs later I realized I’d used the stroganoff recipe, but you know what? I also liked it. A lot. And I’ve made it that way ever since) later, and the kitchen is relatively clean already (and my goal is to leave it clean when I finish cooking; the worst thing is to go into my two long days at work with a messy kitchen, knowing it will most likely stay that way, getting worse, until Thursday–unless I somehow have more energy during the week than I usually do). I’ve filed stuff, cleaned the floors, paid the bills, made groceries, mailed things that needed to be mailed, and I wrote fourteen hundred words on the WIP today before running out of steam. Perhaps someday I’ll work my way back up to those halcyon days of three thousand or more I used to do routinely, but having a nice, relaxing weekend where I am actually able to get started writing and get caught up on things and have a clean home is a lovely way to start, don’t you think?

I certainly do.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones when it ends, and I doubt very seriously I will ever go back and watch the entire series again. It’s a tempting thought, to be honest, to devote several months to rewatching it in full, from episode one to its conclusion, in one massive binge and think about what I am watching, in terms of what I know is going to happen and watching for possible foreshadowing. I’ve always loved history, and that’s part of why I love Game of Thrones so much; it’s kind of like history where you don’t know how it all ends. When I was a kid I used to redraw maps of Europe and create countries and change the way wars ended and try to create my own Eurocentric history of the world; who knew that what I was actually doing wasn’t simply a waste of time but rather an incredibly creative experiment in world building via alternative history. Every so often, when I’ve been caught up in a science fiction or fantasy epic series, I wonder at the world building/universe building creativity of the author and think I could never do that. I’ve always wanted to, but never have; but perhaps that was simply a failing of my own. Of course I could do it, but whether I could do it well would be an entirely different thing.

I don’t read as much science fiction and fantasy as I would like–I’ve always geared more towards crime and horror–but I’ve certainly read and enjoyed the Dune series, The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Shannara Chronicles, and Azimov’s science fiction novels about the robots and the empire and the Foundation, which wound up in the end all being one great big long series. There are writers out there now that I am looking forward to reading–I am not only diversifying the types of stories I read by race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, and sexuality, but I am also trying to read more broadly across genres. Reading science fiction, fantasy, romance, even what is condescendingly called “chick lit”, and even some literary fiction will influence me and help make me a better writer in the long run. I read primarily for enjoyment, yes, but I also want to be a better writer, and reading different stories and different perspectives can only serve to make me a better writer.

I guess in reality when the show ends I won’t be saying goodbye completely to Game of Thrones; I still have the books to finish reading, and there will undoubtedly be spin-off shows–but seriously, is anyone at HBO listening? Your next big series should be Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern. Her dragon books would be fantastic television, and for that matter so would Naomi Norvik’s (which I need to read; I started reading one a long time ago and was completely enthralled; something came up and I never finished and I never got back to it, and I’ve always regretted that).

I am also, in case you haven’t noticed, not only in that stage of writing where I never want to do it, have to force myself to do it, but when I finally do I am not happy with what I have done. I am completely convinced this book isn’t going to be what I want it to be, what I envisioned it to be, and its entirely due to my own various shortcomings as an author. It’s all part and parcel of the same neurosis, really; the endless cycle of Imposter Syndome, where you think you’ve somehow managed to con people for years that you can write but eventually the gig will be up and the marks you’ve been conning all along will finally wise up. This all too frequently translates I need to work today into what’s the point of writing? This book is shit, anyway, and no one is going to want to read it which very easily becomes let me get watch Youtube videos of Game of Thrones fan theories and listicles or highlights of exciting LSU football games or really hot well built muscular professional wrestlers or old music videos or clips from old episodes of All My Children–yes, those downward Youtube spirals can be quite frightening sometimes.

But I did make myself get those fourteen hundred words done today, even though I didn’t want to do it, even though I thought I should do three thousand, even though I currently think the words I wrote are crap and the chapter is crap and the character is two dimensional and I don’t know what I am doing, I FUCKING WROTE THOSE GODDAMNED WORDS TODAY.

And that’s fourteen hundred more words than I did yesterday, or Friday, or Thursday.

And I bet tomorrow I can do more than fourteen hundred.

Watch closely now.

What do I say to the God of Imposter Syndrome? NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT TODAY.

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Shannon

Friday night, while dinner was in the oven and the laundry was finishing, I sat down in the easy chair, and rewatched last week’s episode of Game of Thrones. I wanted to watch “The Long Night” again; knowing how it ends, and what is coming, I could pay more attention to what was going on and view it from a story perspective, rather than riveted to the screen, barely able to breathe, watching in nervous apprehension and building tension as literally anything could have happened.

(Aside: While I get why they called it “The Long Night,” I kind of wish they’d called it “Not Today.”)

And I did notice several things, and appreciated the episode much more than I did on first viewing.

I didn’t, for instance, think it was too dark. There were a lot of complaints and commentary that it was shot too dark for anyone to see anything; and yes, there were times when I couldn’t see what was happening. But that was intentional, and it wasn’t all the time. I also thought it worked for the dramatic arc and helped amp up the tension for the viewer. I was aware of who was fighting every time the camera was on them; the action was also moving so quickly it was hard for the eye to ever focus. I did keep mixing up Gendry and Podrick, and am still not entirely certain I was correct every time I saw one or the other.

In some instances the cinematography was so beautiful it was like looking at a painting. Dany and Jon on the dragons, flying in place above the clouds watching for Viserion and the Night King–that was breathtakingly gorgeous. There were so many iconic images–the lighting of the Dothraki scimitars and watching the flames spread across the army in the darkness; the lighting of the fire moat surrounding Winterfell; the battle of the dragons in sight of the Godwood; Drogon surrounding Dany as she wept for Ser Jorah. And the opening three to four minutes are all one continuous shot following first Sam, then Tyrion, through the courtyard of Winterfell as it prepares for the battle. Visually, I thought the entire episode was an extraordinary achievement.

I also was a little disappointed, on first viewing–and actually, when I thought about the season and how the episodes were scheduled to play out, really, since it was announced very early on that the big battle between the living and the dead would air as Episode 3, leaving three episodes to go; it had always seemed as though this was battle, this war, was the actual point of the entire series. I thought the way everyone ignored the imminent danger while they squabbled amongst themselves for wealth and power and yes, the Iron Throne, was a metaphor for how these things occur in reality–the real danger is ignored as it grows until it is too late, or almost too late. But the name of the series is Game of Thrones, and while the book series they are based on is called A Song of Fire and Ice, the show didn’t take that title, rather taking the name of the first book in the series and sticking with it. This show has always been about the struggle for the Iron Throne; the Night King and the Army of the Dead were simply yet another threat, another obstacle, that had to be faced by our heroes before they could focus on the final struggle for the Seven Kingdoms. I’ve also gone back and forth many times while viewing the show about the title A Song of Fire and Ice–originally I assumed it meant the struggle between the dragons and the people of the south–fire–and the Night King and the Army of the Dead–ice. I then began to think Dany was fire and Jon was ice…only to discover, as I wondered deep down, that Jon is actually both fire and ice. The revelation that Jon Snow, the bastard of Winterfell, treated like a second class Stark for most of his life and held down for his illegitimacy, is actual Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne–particularly since Robert’s Rebellion was also based on a lie in the first place–had me convinced that this was simply another retelling of the Arthur story; almost to the point where the world of Westeros was an easy stand in for the Britain of the Arthur tale (I’ve always thought Westeros was shaped like Great Britain; and of course Hadrian’s Wall is there as well), but Westeros is much bigger.

Now, though, after last week–is Game of Thrones Arya’s story?

But the thing about Game of Thrones, and what this latest episode has shown us, is that there is no one hero; Jon Snow would probably come the closest to what would be considered a traditional hero, but he has so many flaws…his sense of honor, and that nobility, often causes him to make bad decisions and get in trouble…rather like his uncle, Ned Stark. The main characters are clearly Jon, Daenarys, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei; the question now is which of them will fall in the Last War, which is now coming.

The character arc of Theon Greyjoy also isn’t talked about enough in the aftermath of last week’s episode, and Alfie Allen has, over the years, given a stunning performance in the role. I cried when I originally watched, and did again on the second watch, when Bran grants Theon the absolution he so desperately wants before he tries to take out the Night King and dies.

And seriously, shouldn’t we have known all along that the obvious choices for killing the Night King–Jon and his sword, Dany and her dragons–wouldn’t be where the show went? The chills I got when Arya’s flying form appeared through the murk behind the Night King; the gasp as he grabbed her by the throat, the instant thought when she dropped the knife (no no no no!) and the sudden realization that the drop was deliberate as it fell into her right hand…on first watch the elimination of the threat seemed too sudden after all the misery and horror of the entire episode (as I said to a co-worker the next day, “Classic storytelling; make everything look as desperate and hopeless as possible and then at the very last second good triumphs–think the Death Star, Starkiller Base, etc.”) but on a rewatch–knowing it was coming–you can see how it was foreshadowed throughout the entire episode; so many things, so many small touches in an epic episode full of them that it’s easy to forget them as the action moves on; Melisandre looking up to the castle walls as she rides in at the beginning and locks eyes with Arya; Arya taking out a wight about to kill the Hound with an arrow fired from the wall and their eyes meeting; Jamie and Brienne fighting back to back like the true equals they’ve always been and finally are; Sam, shivering in fear as he lies on his back on a pile of the dead killing everything that comes near him despite his quite obvious terror; and finally, the amazing epic filming of the collapse of the Army of the Dead.

Simply extraordinary.

Tonight is the aftermath of the battle, and the beginning of the final arc of the show, and then it’s goodbye to a cultural event like few this country ever sees.

It’s going to be hard to wait until Thanksgiving week to read Book Two.

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Show and Tell

So, audiobooks and A Game of Thrones.

I am, of course, a huge fan of the HBO program Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice. 

As I explained to Paul when we started watching, “It’s like medieval history, only with magic and zombies and dragons.” The first season was incredible–I had not read the books–and I remember thinking, in the season finale, as Dany walked out of the smoking ashes of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with baby dragons perched on her, my god, this entire season was simply set-up, before we get to the main story.

Little did I know what we were in for–although I liked, with the execution of Ned Stark, whom it seemed was the main character, the reality that anyone can die at any time–which of course increases the dramatic tension; if any character can die at any time, the stakes are much higher–and Paul and I have thrilled to the ups and downs and highs and lows. The show has done a wonderful job of weaving his story as well as forcing us, as viewers, to understand that, ultimately, life isn’t fair and good doesn’t always win over evil in the end.

I had been resistant to reading the books, primarily because they aren’t all written and published; I despise having to wait for the next book in a series, particularly when it’s very possible that by the time that book has come out you’ve lost the thread of the story and forgotten who is who with the characters (I’m looking at you, Stephen King and The Dark Tower); this epic series, though, is a bit different precisely because there’s a television show, which would make the remembering easier. But still…I hate waiting for another book. I did order a paperback set of the series books currently available, but when I saw how long they were and realized the time commitment that would be involved, I just didn’t think I could do it.

Flash forward to week before last, and my decision to give listening to Audiobooks a try on long car trips. As I may have mentioned before,  the concept of Audiobooks wasn’t something I was terribly keen on; I’ve always hated being read to, and I also had no idea how long audiobooks were and how long it would take to listen. But I did think, “I bet A Game of Thrones would be long enough to last the entire drive” and I set about looking for an audio book I could download. Nothing from the Public Library, and so finally, after trying out some other options, I finally went with the thirty-day free membership to Audible and downloaded A Game of Thrones…only to see that the recording lasted just over thirty-three hours. I also knew that if I really got into the story, I wouldn’t want to wait three days to finish listening, so I decided to go ahead and take my physical copy of the book with me, so I could finish reading it.

Which I did, in a lot less than the over twenty-one hours that was left on the Audiobook.

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“We should start back,” Garen urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

“Do the dead frighteb you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.

Garen did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”

“Are they dead?” Royce asked softly. “What proof have we?”

“Will saw them,” Gared said. “If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough for me.”

Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. “My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” he put in.

If you can remember back that far, the very first episode of the TV series opened with this exact scene; members of the Night’s Watch, in a frozen cold forest north of the wall, investigating…only to encounter the horror that is coming. The story then switches to the epic power struggle in the seven kingdoms of Westeros, primarily the set-up of the bad blood between two of the major houses: Stark and Lannister. The Starks are of course set up as the good guys; the Lannisters, with their deceit and money and incest, the bad. As I listened–and later, read–I found myself getting very caught up in the story, even though I knew most of it already; the book is more layered and obviously has more backstory and information than the television series. Also, as I read along, I was reminded of my original comment to Paul: its medieval history with magic and zombies and dragons.

I’ve always loved history; I’ve read a lot of historical fiction and I’ve read a lot of history. I mentioned before Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series, recently reissued and marketed as the “inspiration for Game of Thrones!” , with introductions by Martin himself. (I took my new copy of The Iron King with me on the trip, and started reading it after I finished the Bibliomysteries Volume 2 and A Game of Thrones.) I’ve always wanted to write my own history, with countries and lords and ladies and so forth all invented in my fevered brain; primarily because I wanted to change the way some histories ended. (What if the Babington Plot succeeded and Elizabeth I was assassinated?, for one example) This is kind of what A Song of Fire and Ice is; and I am of course the perfect audience for this.

I’ve not read much fantasy fiction. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, of course (who hasn’t, really?), and I read the first few books of the The Shannara Chronicles many years ago; I’ve also read a few volumes of David Eddings’ The Belgariad, and of course McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern (hello, Showtime? This series would be perfect for a television show). One of the common themes of all of these series, along with Martin’s, is a lesson we never heed: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In each of these series, there was an enormous and great threat from the past that everyone has forgotten or dismisses as “legends”; but the threat is very real, the stories are true, and in the present day, the threat is reemerging and everyone has to remember how to fight it.

Another theme of A Song of Fire and Ice is also history, and politically, related: people will always put short term gain ahead of long term success; instant gratification, apparently, being far far more satisfying that careful and strategic planning; selfishness often leads to doom.

I am really looking forward to reading more of A Song of Fire and Ice.