Saturday 24 January 2015

One cover, many books!

Someone sent me this image of the Czech editons of two of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (by Fantom). The US cover art for Prince of Fools and the art for the cover of an edition of Stephen Erickson's Gardens of the Moon are serving in a rather different capacity over there!

This is nothing new of course. Last year a Polish publisher were going to put the King of Thorns artwork on a Brandon Sanderson book!

None of this is unusual of course. On Mazarkis Williams' blog we see one cover being used for four different authors!

Friday 9 January 2015

Films that were better than the book

Canvassing opinion this topic reveals that passions run deep on this one, perhaps even deeper than in the books we love/hate stakes.

Every film/book combo on this list I've seen argued in both directions with equally blank incomprehension at the idea that anyone could hold the opposite view.

I've made three contributions here. Partly because there aren't that many cases where I've both read the book and seen the film, and partly because generally I tend to think that the books are better!

I'm going to keep the focus on fantasy.

#1 How to train your dragon.

I read the book to my daughter and reviewed it on Goodreads. I enjoyed it, it was a good enough read. The film though, was (in my own humble opinion) much better.

The fundamental changes made for a better story. A bunch of boys training small dragons as part of the test to qualify to become full members of their clan - is changed to - a bunch of children training to battle large dragons to help preserve their clan. Our hero then becomes a ground breaker by befriending a (very well characterised) dragon and learning how to befriend/train others (all in secret), rather than a more modest innovator who in the book learns it's better to talk to your dragon and negotiate than just to shout at them as loudly as you can.

The addition of a love interest and both girls and boys into the fighting mix also helps make the film a better experience than the book (which to my mind lacked a little heart).

#2 The Never-Ending Story

Here I also read the book to my daughter and reviewed it on Goodreads. I watched the film probably 25 years earlier.

This one was a much closer call, with the film helped by the fact that I watched it so long ago. I wasn't a big fan of the film ... it was all right. I wasn't a big fan of the book, the first half (which the film was based on) was better than the film - but the second half (which I've seen one person praise to the sky) was for me as an adult reading it out loud, a dreary, repetitive, slog. I give it to the film in this case.

"That" song!

#3 The Shawshank Redemption

The last of mine, and not fantasy. This was a very good short story by Stephen King ... and a brilliant film directed by Frank Darabont - the highest ranked film of all time on!

Other film-better-than-book suggestions include:

The Princess Bride
American Psycho
Blade Runner vs Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Die Hard vs Nothing Lasts Forever
The Green Mile
Fight Club

I can't comment because with the exception of The Green Mile I've seen the film but not read the book. For The Green Mile I've seen and liked both, with no clear favourite.

If anyone wants to put forward a brief case for or against in these cases then I'm happy to move it up into the blog.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

The Stabbies - reddit r/fantasy awards 2014

It's all about the Stabby. The award handed out by r/fantasy in many categories, including Best Book, Best Debut, and Best Self-Published Book. 

Check out the official results and the nominations

The book results 
(unofficial rankings - the ordering can vary with time and these were gathered a short while after the official time)

Best Fantasy 2014

Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson
Prince of Fools - Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ..... eeeeeeeeee ...eeee!

The Broken Eye - Brent Weeks
The Crimson Campaign - Brian McClellan
Skin Game - Jim Butcher

Best Fantasy Debut 2014

The Emperor's Blades - Brian Staveley
Red Rising - Pierce Brown
Damoren - Seth Skorkowsky
Nameless - Mercedes Yardley
Clockwork Dagger - Beth Cato

Best Self-pulished Fantasy 2014
Ten Thousand Devils - S.A. Hunt
Fae - The Wild Hunt - Graham Austin-King
Construct - Luke Matthews
The Shadows of What Was Lost - James Islington
(3-way tie for 5th place:)
The Way Into Chaos - Harry Connolly
Clarity - Christopher Kellen
Pennsylvania - Michael Bunker

Congratulations to all!
Many thanks to everyone ... except... y'know, those guys who didn't vote for me, and I promise to wield my Stabby (see below) with reckless disregard for health and safety regulations.

See the results of the 2013 Award and the 2012 Award.

Reddit r/fantasy has 69,000 members (up from 45,000 last year and 25,000 the year before) and is the most active fantasy forum on the internet. Well worth checking out - though the interface is a steep learning curve at first.

But wait! There's more. I won a Stabby this year too!

... it's not for best book ... and I'm sharing it with Potterhead42 ... but I have (half of)(hopefully the pointy end) the Stabby for r/Fantasy Community Achievement Award!

I like to think I earned it through my general tact throughout the year as I poured oil on various troubled waters and promoted harmony.

Monday 5 January 2015


What Would Jorg Do?

Introducing a new online counselling service wherein Jorg offers advice on matters as diverse as relationships, careers, and the destruction of one's enemies.

You're welcome to enter your questions in the comment section below, and Jorg will address them in a thoughtful and sympathetic manner when and if he can be bothered.

Watch this space.

This one here ---->

A Question from Denmark:

Dear Jorg,

My nefarious uncle killed my father, married my mother and dispossessed me of my rightful inheritance I initially planned to stab him while he prayed in church but thought "you know.... that's probably too good for him". Now I mope about the palace and get all emo with my crazy girlfriend. I think I could be happy if I forget about the past. Who knows, maybe i could go to dental school! Should I get on with my life or embark on self-destructive roaring rampage of revenge?

Prince H. 

Jorg says:

Three things, Prince Hamlet. First, do not under any circumstances accidentally murder your girlfriend's father. Probably best not to do it on purpose either. These crazy types can be unstable. Secondly, watch out for poison. In the ear, in a cup, on a sword, wherever - just make sure you have a big jug of antidote on hand at all times. Thirdly, killing is always too good for treacherous uncles. Any good castle should have a nice deep torture pit somewhere. If you have trouble locating yours try consulting the manufacturer's website. Often they're on the underneath.


Dear Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath,

My professor of medieval literature gave me a B when I should have received an A. However, I am fond of the little man. I want him to suffer but I also want to have him live. I have thought about putting laxative in his coffee or perhaps to slash the tires of his car or perhaps I'll put some sugar in his gas tank. You know, things that would spoil his week but not hurt him too much. What would you do? 

Warmest regards,

Vivian's evil twin sister.

Jorg says:

Vivian - you're thinking in the right direction but lacking finesse. Firstly it's important the the error that has occasioned your anger is corrected. Secondly, context is always important in revenge situations. 

Capture your medieval literature professor and take him to a suitable medieval torture facility - such as the London Dungeon after hours. Strap the prisoner into a suitable correctional device and offer him the chance to regrade your paper. Remember to use the line given to us by the immortal Marcellus Wallace  I'ma get medieval on your ass.. Once the A has been delivered you may proceed to give as much correctional torture as you see fit.


Anonymous says

Dear Jorg,
I've recently become a manager in my job as an archivist. I have a compulsively lying disobedient fool on my team who will do pretty much any task other than the one I have assigned him. How should I handle this? Perhaps igniting a builders sun over his part of London?

Jorg says:

If you're the kind of archivist they have in the Natural History Museum, the kind that stores lots of little samples away in thousands of tiny drawers, then the solution is simple. Cut the offending team member into a great number of small pieces, label each, and store them in the appropriate drawers, ensuring that the labels are sufficiently boring to dissuade inspection, and that the reference codes don't appear in the main index.

An alternative, if you're the boring paper-based kind of archivist, is to tell the team member that they have been promoted, and that their new official job title is Compulsively Lying Disobedient Fool. The physical side of the punishment will have to rely on the tools of your trade. Immobilise the CLDF with sticky tape, then administer an appropriate number of paper cuts. You may have to use the stapler and scissors too if the problem continues.  

Sunday 4 January 2015


Specifically sex in fantasy novels.

I'm moved to blog partly by this review of The Liar's Key, which contains the surprising line:

I now have a favourite literary sex scene! 

And partly having read a discussion on reddit r/fantasy, "do you think sex is hard to right(sic) in fantasy?"

Now, my own scene was probably the reviewer's favourite because it's funny and there are cows. But there are more general points to make - and here's George RR Martin making one:

“I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”

And it must be said that George's books have more sex in them than many fantasy books do. Though far less than is on screen in the TV adaptation, and perhaps not very much on a per-page basis ... he just writes a lot of pages!

I'm sure that, as many people have said, the causes for the imbalance are several in number and prime amongst them are society's irrational prejudices and prudery. Violence (generally illegal, cruel, and destructive) is lauded and spot-lighted, sex (generally legal, kind, and productive) is considered shameful and hidden.

However, I have a couple of additional thoughts on the subject - not perhaps the prime causes but possibilities to be considered:

I wonder if one factor might not be that when it's violence we're reading about we're generally interested in the outcome - we want to know who will win, who will survive. The protagonists haven't just said, "let's have a spot of violence, shall we?" ... it's about something. Whereas sex is an end unto itself, and if you're not a participant, one might wonder what the point of being party to it is.

Another thought runs thusly: Most of us have sex and because real sex (as opposed to porn) is private, we have a particular and private experience of it. Very few of us kill people with swords or watch people burn. So when describing the latter the writer is leading - they are describing something about which the reader is unlikely to have strong expectations. When describing the former you risk running roughshod over the reader's expectations/sensibilities ... or giving them porn.

A sword-fight has to be pretty unrealistic before many of us complain because few of us have any real experience of sword fighting. Similarly with GRRM's axe-entering-skull - how many of us will be jarred out of the story by the sudden thought that 'no, the last time I put my axe through someone's skull it was rather different'? Sex, on the other hand, is more difficult to get right on the page - people have opinions, experience, and it's far more easy to lose them with a clunky line or an image that for them is unintentionally funny.

After all - get it wrong and you might find yourself starring on the Worst Sex Scene lists that crop up every year!