"oh god oh god, I am going to die"
or "a pox on all those bloody liars who claim this gets easier or fun"
), I thought of Tad Williams and wondered what he is up to these days.
Specifically I wondered if he ever feels cheated when he sees stuff like A Game of Thrones
and those terrible Terry Goodkind books scored telly adaptations in the wake of the Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy craze, and his own work didn't. He's probably way too cool for such tacky thoughts but I'm not, so I'm more than happy to munch some sour grapes on his behalf ;)
Who the hell is Tad Williams and why should you care? Tad Williams is one of my long-standing favourite fantasy authors and an all around Very Cool Dude.
He's written some excellent "traditional" high fantasy (those quotation marks are there because he's great at putting a fresh spin on traditional things), as well as Otherland
, a fantastic series about virtual realities, and War of the Flowers
, a steam-punky novel about a fairie realm that's moved on into the industrial age and beyond.
His fortes are character depth and world-building; whether the setting is medieval fantasy, gothy/urban/retro folktale or highly sophisticated virtual reality, his characters are always layered and their development throughout their stories is real and engaging. He's fantastic at putting you in his characters' shoes, and especially accomplished at doing it with diverse cultures. Whether it's the ageless hauteur of an elf society, the tribal memories of the Bushmen or an Inuit-based people, or a consciousness embedded solely in artificial intelligence, he puts you in their heads and hearts; he does away with the concept of "other". It's a remarkable talent that not many writers have; off the top of my head, the only other two who I think do the same as well or better are Neil Gaiman and Robin Hobb.
Tad was also one of the first authors to fully embrace online fandom and the possibilities it opened up for telling stories in new media. Long before the rise of Facebook and its ilk, he was interacting with fans on now-ancient message boards, kept them updated on his current projects, personally answered emails and encouraged active fan participation. His Shadowmarch
novels began as an online interactive project
where he would post new chapters of the first novel as he was writing it, while encouraging and using fanart for the project, constantly engaging with fans as the story evolved, and being an active part of building the community surrounding it. The project was subscription-based, and unfortunately it eventually petered out (due to lack of funding, if I recall correctly), and the Shadowmarch novels were later published the traditional way; but I'm a sucker for artists who try to do something new with every new project they take on, and I admire Tad hugely in this regard.
Which is why I can't help feeling a little sad/miffy at seeing the current hullabaloo over the Game of Thrones adaptation and the ensuing renewed attention for the books. Not because I think A Song of Ice and Fire
isn't interesting - it's good, solid entertainment, or at least it was before George R.R. Martin got so bogged down in detail - and I am
genuinely pleased that one of my favourite genres is getting mainstream attention. I don't think GoT was the best choice for a TV series, however; not while there were better-quality options around.
And that's where I think Tad Williams, among others, got robbed. His Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
series (The Dragonbone Chair
, Stone of Farewell
and To Green Angel Tower
), written a number of years before A Song of Ice and Fire
, has all the elements that presumably landed GoT its TV deal - medieval setting, large-scale supremacy conflicts between a multitude of royal houses, battles and politics and magic and dragons and wolves, sinister religious/mystical happenings including an extended summer/winter conflict, a vast diversity of settings and cultures, an intriguing set of characters and relationships, and even (oh-so-importantly) a throne made out of unconventional material (dragon bone here instead of swords, lol). ( Let's look at pretty covers: )
In addition to those things, the books have excellent pacing and momentum (something that especially the later books of GRRM's series lack), greater depth, humour and poignancy and some fantastic friendship stories, and OH LOOK AT THAT, THEY'RE ACTUALLY FINISHED. What they don't
have is massive amounts of sexploitation and gratuitous porn (there are
sexytimes, but Tad generally fades to black).
So yeah. I'd love to be able to not compare and not feel a little annoyed, but the parallels are just too there
to ignore. I love that the Lord of the Rings movies opened up fantasy as a genre to screen adaptations that appeal to a wide audience, but I do wish the projects that were filmed in their wake had been chosen for more than what essentially boils down to "oh look, there's battles and kings and DUDE, ALL THE TITS! SIGNED!"
That... was a much longer intro than I had planned. Actually, during that half-hour run I was mostly daydreaming about who I would love to see cast if MS&T ever did
get adapted to the screen, because I love those books and I think they're eminently filmable. So I, like a proper nerd, ended up fan-casting a bunch of the characters and wanted to put it somewhere I could remember, and then somewhere along the way I apparently got wrapped up in a Tad Williams pimp campaign instead.
Anyway, here is the actual purpose of this post: ( Fan-casting MS&T (dopey kitchen boys, tomboyish princesses, evil priests and tortured noblemen, oh my) )
There's a whole host of other characters that I didn't get to or didn't have anyone in mind for (the other Sithi, all the Norns, Ineluki, Deornoth, Isorn, Vorzheva's father, Camaris, Strangyeard, etc etc) but there's no way I can do all of them. I had fun matching up faces in my head, though. Procrastination: ACHIEVED!
The other week, while I was running and desperately needed something to occupy my brain (something that wasn't