In My Day
Growing up one of my favorite movies was Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. Cool archery, great fencing, that movie brought my family’s house to a stop whenever it showed up on tv. I also read Greek and Roman mythology like a mad fiend. Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, Bernard Evslin’s The Trojan War and Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths gave me tons of tales of magic and heroics. So it was only natural that when I came across The Lord of the Rings and Conan I would be swept up in some truly awesome shit.
Fantasy is the bomb. And sword and sorcery is the laser guided precision munition of that literature (I know, munitions doesn’t have the singular, fuck off). Sure Tolkien gave us the epic story of fighting the Evil That Wants To Enslave Us All, but before I read that story I was reading about Theseus and Jason trying to claim their kingdoms. I was learning that after Achilles, Diomedes was the baddest ass on the Greek side of that ten year skirmish on the Dardanian plain (Odysseus was the smartest, and baddest isn’t a word, I know, fuck off). Herakles (Hercules for you latinphiles) was a tortured soul who routinely fucked up, but tried to make right.
Ok, Boromir was tortured and Aragorn was a grimy ranger, points for Professor T there. I like swords and I like sorcery. But I’m not truly interested in stories of Chosen Ones saving the world from That God Awful Evil. I love stories of that bastard who got in over his head, whose great achievement is getting his ass out of trouble, and maybe helping his friends as well. I’m not a Ren Geek. I don’t moon over days of chivalric excellence and I don’t have that painting of that chick knighting that kneeling dude (The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton, get some culture for Christ’s sake). Chivalry was a hypocrisy that attempted to keep privileged spoiled brats with swords from killing off the poor saps who fed the kingdom. Feudalism was a patchwork ad hoc solution to reign in chaos during the Western Roman Empire’s collapse. Not my cup of tea.
Speaking of tea, I’m a little tired of all the Merry Olde England fantasy too. Yeah, yeah, I know, Robin Hood was in Merry Olde England; maybe that’s where it ends for me. Medieval Europe technically runs from the 500s to the 1500s, but most people think of Europe post 1066 when they think of Medieval Europe, and fantasists are no different. Do the math, 1000 to 1500; five hundred measly years. England; an island off the northwest corner of the second smallest continent on the planet (Europe beats Australia by a little more than ten percent, and motherfucking Antarctica is bigger than either). An overwhelming amount of fantasy is set in this time and place. Is that the best that can be done? Thousands of years of human history and a whole world and that’s it? Oy vey.
But (didn’t see that coming, did you?) I like good fantasy when it rears its majestic head. And any chance to get the great unwashed masses a glimpse of what our mighty arsenal of literature can do, I favor. That’s why I call on everyone to watch Game of Thrones on HBO. It’s good. And we need it. Ten years after Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, with Return of the King being one of the most Oscar honored movies in history, and we still have to deal with condescending shit like “Why is HBO doing Game of Thrones?” So fantasy needs all the help it can get, still. And help this series does. Well directed, well written, good to great acting (Peter Dinklage is fan-fucking-tastic, and watch little Maise Williams – she sticks with acting, she’ll go somewhere) this show gets the job done and how.
George RR Martin’s books didn’t quite do it for me, relentlessly grim and the guy takes a while to get to the point. Plus for a story inspired by England’s War of the Roses, it has plenty to make Kommander K roll his eyes and reach for a Conan anthology. But the condensing nature of Hollywood script-writing, even for a slower paced cable series, helps things along and makes for a captivating story. And Emmy rumors are already brewing. I’ll take that for fantasy, even in Merry Olde England, any day. And if you don’t care, why the fuck are you reading this blog?