Sorry about the shouting, but I'm deliriously happy...
The postal service just delivered an Easter gift to my box: the first volume of the six-book series of interviews with cast and creators of Babylon5. In short, a look at the creation of this epic show during the 5 years of its production.
This would be a wonderful find in itself (and again thanks to the Babylonian friend who pointed me to it just in time to get a substantial discount on the issue...), but there is MORE.
Because included in the volume is a CD containing a 1997 interview with Peter Jurasik (Londo) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar).
That is some TREAT, oh boy, if it is...
Still flailing here...
For quite some time I have been thinking about a complete rewatch of one of my favorite shows, Babylon5.
I call it one of the two pillars on which my televised sci-fi addiction rests, the other being Farscape. The two shows are quite different in theme and development, and also belong to different – although almost overlapping – times. But what they share is what attracts me to them: a great original concept, great writing, stellar acting and a compelling story-arc. If asked to define what's the difference between them, I'd say that Farscape appeals to my emotions while Babylon5 appeals to my rational side, although it would be a gross oversimplification on my part.
Both shows balance quite well the two sides of the equation, but while Farscape is mostly an emotional rollercoaster, exploring the reactions of sentient beings to the trials facing them, Babylon5 builds over the course of time a complex tapestry in which politics and individual agendas play interweaving roles.
It has been said time and again that B5 could be performed as a stage play, since it's built more on dialogue (and what dialogue!!) than action, and it explores many philosophical themes. It's also been conceived like a novel and sometimes it reads as that, with the slow buildup of clues and the subdivision in the five parts of its seasons, each with a different theme.
All this long-winded and boring premise to arrive at the BIG question: would you be interested if I shared with you my musings as I walk once more through this complex story? Since I'm enjoying a great deal our discussions during the Farscape rewatch chats, I thought it would be interesting to... share the wonders of Babylon5 with old and (hopefully!) new viewers while I do that.
What do you think?
There's a new, awesome trailer for this equally awesome series
FOLLOW THE LINK TO YOUTUBE
Strangely enough, HBO this time did not employ the usual epic trailer music, but rather a song from Florence & the Machine (I confess never having heard of this performer...) and I've quickly fallen in love with it.
It's a haunting melody that stays with you for a long, long time.
And April 1st is approaching... Counting the days.... counting.... counting....
WINTER IS COMING (BACK)!!!!!
In my search for more of the "magic" that is GRR Martin's prose in his acclaimed saga A Song of Ice and Fire, I have been reading some of his other works, discovering what an accomplished story-teller he can be even outside of the realms of Westeros.
DYING OF THE LIGHT is one of these amazing finds. Published for the first time in 1977, it's a science fiction story set on the rogue planet Worlorn: hurtling through space in its aimless course, for the first time since its creation the planet crosses a region densely packed with suns, and gets a chance for warmth and life, however fleeting.
The 14 existing galactic civilizations declare a Festival on Worlorn, each of them building a city to showcase their culture and its accomplishments: when the story begins, the Festival is long over, the cities mostly abandoned, the planet headed once more into the cold blackness of space.
From Worlorn Dirk t'Larien receives a whisperjewel – a psi-encoded memory storage from his former lover Gwen Delvano. It's a summons, based on an old promise made when they both had the jewels crafted for them: never reconciled with the end of the relationship, Dirk departs for the rogue planet full of hope and dreams. Once there, though, Gwen welcomes him with puzzlement, looking distant and ill-at-ease, and soon Dirk discovers she's bound to another man, Jaan Vikary, a highborn from the aggressive and patriarchal society of High Kavalaan. Now convinced that the summons was Gwen's way to forever cut the ties with Dirk, saying a final goodbye, t'Larien slowly learns that Kavalar culture requires a woman to be little more than a chattel, to be shared between her mate and his teyn, a sort of blood brother, a bond that stands as the foundation of all things Kavalar.
The "marriage" is not an easy one, complicated by Jaan's peculiar customs and his society's preoccupation with racial purity and mutations, therefore Dirk slowly comes to the conclusion that the whisperjewel represented a mute appeal from Gwen to save her from the unhappy liaison. The situation becomes more problematic as we learn that other Kavalars on Worlorn practice a form of hunt whose prey are the creatures they deem inferior and non-human, which includes everyone else by their standards, so that Jaan's attempts at stopping the bloody sport and bringing his planet to a higher galactic standard further inflame the already volatile tempers.
Soon Dirk find himself enmeshed in a political and personal struggle, complicated by his feelings for Gwen and a slowly unfolding web of discoveries that create a fascinating cultural backdrop and change his world-view, leading to a breath-stopping open ending.
Even that early in his career GRR Martin could create spellbinding tapestries, dotted with beautiful characters that sport the many shades of gray I have come to expect from his writing. Kavalar culture is fascinatingly explored in the juxtaposition between Jaan Vikary, the equivalent of a Renaissance man, and his teyn Garse Janacek, a man torn between duty to the old customs and his ties of loyalty and friendship to Jaan. Strangely enough, despite the obvious shortcomings of their mind-set, I found them both more likeable than the "hero" Dirk t'Larien, whose stubbornness and sometimes childish pique offer an interesting contrast that reveals Gwen's unvoiced doubts and regrets. Gwen herself is a wonderful creation: a woman still in search of herself, she seems to be wandering aimlessly through her life (much like the rogue planet where the action takes place), taking life and warmth from the suns she passes by. But in the end she surprises the readers with an unsuspected show of strength, as ultimately does Dirk, whose changes and inner growth take us to the very last pages of the book.
If you like George Martin's works, this one will not disappoint you: you will find many of the themes he further explored in the ASOIAF saga, together with spellbinding writing that often touches on the lyrical, and a fascinating story that will reserve many revelations.
What a fascinating challenge! Focusing on non-canon pairings required a good deal of imagination, that's the reason I was surprised when this idea sprang, fully formed, in my twisted mind… Tighten your seat belts!!
( Follow the Link... )
...Joe Abercrombie might be the author you are looking for.
After finishing A Dance with Dragons, the last installment in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, I gave Abercrombie a try, on a friend's recommendation, and read his Best Served Cold.
Confession: with the exception of JRR Tolkien (who stands in a class by himself, IMHO) and George Martin, I don't read fantasy: too much of the genre is, in my view, stereotyped, predictable and ultimately boring.
When I started on ASOIAF, Martin's saga, some ten years ago, I came across a new way of writing fantasy: harsh, realistic, with little or no magic and characters that show many shades of gray. And until a few weeks ago I thought he was the only author using that kind of style. But I happily discovered he's not.
Joe Abercrombie's prose is just as gritty, stark and shocking as George Martin's and my first exposure to his writing has turned me into an enthusiastic admirer. My plan is to work my way through his other stand-alone book, The Heroes, and his The First Law trilogy: they should carry me over the long hiatus before the publication of Martin's The Winds of Winter – hopefully NOT another six years, please Mr. Martin!
In short, this is the premise of Best Served Cold (no spoilers – what I'm telling you is contained in the first chapter): Monzcarro Murcatto – Monza for short – is a successful mercenary leader working for Count Orso: she and her brother lead the band named Thousand Swords across the continent of Styria, conquering it bit by bit for Orso's undisputed rule. Unfortunately, Monza's success goes hand in hand with personal prestige and Orso – himself a former mercenary leader – fears the possibility of being overthrown in the future, so he orders his men to kill Monza and her brother Brenna.
But against all odds, Monza survives, although broken in body and spirit, never free from the pain of her wounds and the loss of her brother, the only surviving member of her family. From that moment on, her only purpose will be to take her vengeance on Orso and the other six people responsible for the murderous assault.
To this end, she gathers a band of misfits who travel across Styria to pursue and kill, one by one, Monza's designated victims: the group, part Magnificent Seven, part Dirty Dozen, is as far as possible from any ideal of heroism and gives life to a gripping, amusing and at the same time terrifying tale that keeps you glued to the pages from start to finish - people like Caul Shivers, the northern barbarian who traveled to Styria to become a better, less violent man, and finds himself drawn into a deeper vortex of blood and brutality, instead; or the master poisoner Morveer and his shifty apprentice Day, the autistic ex convict Friendly, endlessly and maniacally counting everything in sight, or the fascinating scoundrel, former General Cosca, a cheater and a drunkard.
What fascinated me, in these characters, is that none of them – not even the "heroine" Monza – is a likeable person, and yet I've come to care for them while I learned more about their personal history as the story unfolded, often presenting me with stunning revelations and unforeseeable twists and turns. At the same time Abercrombie gives his readers an in-depth picture of war-ravaged Styria and of the customs and way of life of these people.
If you get bored with dragons and magicians, if you can't stand pure-hearted heroes that always do the right thing, this author is perfect for you. Enjoy....