Erikson, Star Trek and Beyond

Erikson, Star Trek and Beyond

 

Not so long ago Steven Erikson penned an open letter to Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, the creative team bringing the new Star Trek series to the small screen.  While the response to this online has varied between abusive and dismissive, to thoughtful and considered, it did raise some issues that go beyond Star Trek itself, and it is that which has piqued my interest.

 

In his extensive letter (parts 1, 2, and 3, or the whole thing here) Erikson attempts to explain what he believes are some of the core principles behind the success and the longevity of Star Trek: The Original Series, and how the subsequent series of The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and the prequel series, Enterprise, have drifted further and further away from the strengths of the original.  So below I am going to address my interpretation of what Erikson said and how it relates to what I consider a broader trend within SF and TV toward violence and conflict as action, and then, in turn, how that actually relates to a more significant general problem in terms of compromised morality.   Lastly, how I think this is related to a systemic and flawed understanding of narrative by producers and production companies.

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 5: Waylander by David Gemmell

 

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The Fantasy Equivalent of a Western Gun-slinger

 

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 5: Waylander by David Gemmell

 

 

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

I know, I know, last week I was banging on about Legend by Gemmell, and here I am singing the praises of another of his books.  Honestly, there are a lot of books that will come up in this series of Favourite Fantasies, and it just so happens that a few are Gemmell books.  Although I think I will leave a bit of a break between this one and the next Gemmell that I want to talk about.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 4: Legend by David Gemmell

 

Legend_Book_Cover

 

 

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 4: Legend by David Gemmell

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

Published in 1984, Legend by David Gemmell is one of those books that just captured my imagination as a young fantasy reader.  On paper it doesn’t seem like much; A youngish flawed hero seeking redemption, a grizzled veteran warrior™ drafted back in to save the day, a slightly improbable romance with a warrior maiden, a colony of mystical warrior monks, and an invading horde of barbarians™.  It even has the pseudo-medieval European setting, strange magical powers that don’t seem to adhere to any kind of rationalised system and a strange sort of theocratic, religious warrior cult.  Even the writing is more journalistic and pared down than one usually expects in fantasy.  So all in all it doesn’t really sound that impressive.  And yet… and yet… it blew my tiny little read-a-holic mind back then and made me become a devoted follower of Gemmell as he began to churn out novel after novel in the Drenai universe.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 3: The Belgariad Quintet by David Eddings

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 3: The Belgariad Quintet by David Eddings (and also Leigh Eddings as it was revealed)

 

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

The Belgariad (starting with Pawn of Prophecy and ending with Enchanter’s End Game) was a series I read as a young reader.  I devoured the five books over the first week of my summer holidays.  I absolutely loved them.  So much so that I got my local bookstore to advance order the next books as they came out.  But before I get into discussing them, this is a series about Fantasy books that I loved that may not have stood the test of time and that my more modern, jaded and cynical self sometimes cringes when I think back.  Annnnnd, yes, the Belgariad falls foul of the modern gaze.  So what I am proposing is that the first part of my discussion will be a little more about what I loved about them when I first read them, and then I will give a warning before I go on to discuss some of the more problematic areas of the series that I see now.  Fair enough?  That way if you love them you can enjoy reading the first sections, and can entirely skip my mean-spirited destruction of nostalgic childhood reading memories.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 2: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

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My favourite cover of Daughter of the Empire 

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 2: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

Following on from Magician, one of the books that really captured my interest as a young reader of fantasy was Daughter of the Empire by Janny Wurts and Raymond E. Feist.  Admittedly I picked it up because it was related to the Riftwar books, but to be honest I was captivated when I started reading it.  This is the first book of a trilogy that spans a time period slightly off-set but related to the first trilogy of Feist’s Riftwar.

 

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In the Dragon’s Den: Ian C Esslemont Interview

 

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Ian C. Esslemont Interview

Here we have my very first interview with an author, and I was lucky enough to get Ian C. Esslemont to agree to this.  So thank you ICE, and please forgive my unpolished interview technique.

TCD:    Your latest novel Dancer’s Lament (Path to Ascendancy Book 1) (currently available in the UK, and forthcoming in the US) is the first book of a prequel trilogy set in the Malazan world.  So, if you can forgive the bluntness, I wanted to ask a few questions about it and thought we would get some of the straightforward ones out of the way.  So what is Dancer’s Lament about?

ICE:    Firstly, many thanks for the opportunity to talk about the Malazan books. One of my main hopes for Dancer’s Lament is that any general fantasy reader who has previously never read anything from Steve or I can pick up the book and enjoy it, and perhaps become interested in the wider world portrayed.

For that reason what I will say about it is that it’s about character.  It is really, at its centre, a character(s) study – what choices they make and what the consequences are of those choices; how seemingly innocuous moves can have huge consequences later in life; and further, how the traditional history of “great events” and “great men and women” is to my mind completely misleading.

I will also say that I am very leery of the “prequel” word.  Don’t like it.  I see this as a new series in the Malaz world – the Path to Ascension – that (could) prove as long as it need be to tell its tale.

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History Repeating: A return of violent machismo to Fantasy and Science Fiction

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Image above shamelessly stolen from Mark Lawrence’s Blog

History Repeating: A Return of Violent Machismo to Fantasy and Science Fiction

At the 35th Annual Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in Orlando, March 2014, Stephen R. Donaldson, as a guest on a discussion panel, raised a concern about the apparent rise of violence, nihilism, cynicism, and darkness in modern genre fantasy writing.  In particular he singled out what is most commonly referred to as ‘grimdark’, a sub-genre of fantasy popularised and exemplified by authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and George R.R. Martin.  Although I should mention that he did not explicitly name those authors.

The common (mis)understanding of grimdark is that it is fantasy writing that eschews the tropes of hero, heroic quest and the simplistic morality of good winning out over evil, in favour of a much darker, more cynical fantasy world which is generally graphically and explicitly violent, morally bankrupt (or at the least deeply flawed), and celebrates the dirt, darkness and grittiness of the world.  Heroic characters are replaced by violent, sociopathic, immoral or amoral protagonists, who are not so much anti-heroes as villains but on a side less villainous than the other.  Good and evil have been replaced by evil and slightly less evil.  In many ways a fairly accurate rendering of what the news presents us with on a daily basis, on the hour, every hour.

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