Casting Characters

by A.M. Justice

We’re two weeks in to the new season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and I’m still feeling the love for this television adaptation of G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to take the best from the books and put it on screen, with enough new characters and plot streams to keep the avid readers on the edge of our seats. I wonder, will we get to see where Sansa is going? In my recollection, she disappears from the novel’s narrative after Petyr takes her from the Eyrie. And Jamie Lannister most certainly does not hook up with Bronn and ride off to rescue Myrcella from Dorne.

actors_game_of_thrones_tv_series_tyrion_lannister_peter_dinklage_house_lannister_wallpaperGOT works because the writing is so solid and the cast is packed with great actors playing great characters. The casting choices are spot on. Peter Dinklage is too handsome for Tyrion (in the book, Tyrion’s ugliness—a sign of his Targaryen blood—separates him from his exquisitely beautiful brother and sister even more than his dwarfism), but we can forgive Dinklage’s good looks because he so perfectly captures Tyrion’s empathy, intelligence, and pathos. And it’s not Gemma Whelan’s fault the GOT writers and producers robbed Asha Greyjoy of all her swashbuckling joie de vive when they changed her name to Yara and made her sober and dour for the television show. This is the single misstep taken by Benioff and Weiss: Asha is one of the few fun characters in the books; on the show Yara is just another pissed-off noble.

What about other casting choices when books became films? In the early Harry Potter movies, I was disappointed with Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. At first, Watson wasn’t at all convincing as the rule-bound teacher’s pet smart girl. It didn’t help that she was far too pretty for the role, when much is made of Hermione’s awkwardness and plainness in the early books. But as the films went on and the children playing Potter and friends grew up, Watson came to embody the character, and now I can’t imagine Hermione played by anyone else.

MV5BMTIzMTIxOTg1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTM0OTcxMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR8,0,214,317_AL_It’s been a while since I’ve been really incensed about a casting choice; I generally give film producers the benefit of the doubt. Back in the last century, when Neil Jordan picked Tom Cruise (Tom Cruise, of all people!) to play Lestat in his adaptation of Interview with a Vampire, my friends and I held forth for hours about how Top Gun boy could not possibly capture the blond, sophisticated, French allure of Lestat. Then we saw the movie and Cruise blew our objections away.

One adaptation that did get my blood boiling was the SciFi miniseries Legends of Earthsea. Ursula LeGuin is my literary idol, and Ged, the central character of the Earthsea Cycle, was my first love. When I was young, Ged epitomized what a man ought to be—intelligent, courageous, and loaded with self-awareness. (Luckily I found a man with those qualities, and I married him.) Ged is also not white, a choice LeGuin made because she wanted to create fantasy and science fiction worlds populated by diverse peoples, to better reflect the world we live in. The fact that the majority of Earthsea’s population looks like they come from earth’s Southern Hemisphere was a deliberate and important choice she made. SciFi tossed that aside and picked blue-eyed Shawn Ashmore (better known as Iceman in the X-Men movies) to play Ged. Not only was Ged white in the TV miniseries, he was too young, at least for the episode based on Tombs of Atuan. In the book, Ged is twice Tenar’s age. He mentors and rescues her, but he does not become her lover until much later, when they’re both adults and social equals. By casting a young, white man as Ged and turning the story into a romance, the producers undermined the entire spirit of LeGuin’s masterwork. Or, in her words, they wrecked it.

FanFour2015The next big casting brouhaha surrounds the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. I’ll say right off: the idea of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm doesn’t bother me at all. Sure, he and blonde Sue Storm are siblings, but step-sibs or half-sibs or adoption are all perfectly plausible explanations for their phenotypic differences. It’s Kate Mara who worries me. After watching her smolder and brass her way through House of Cards, I can’t quite see her playing a Grace Kelly–type ice queen. But, note to Hollywood, when The Woern Chronicles are adapted for the screen, Mara would be the perfect actress to play Vic.

A.M. Justice amuses herself by playing casting director for her novels, when she’s not rewriting them. To keep abreast of her doings, sign up for her mailing list or follow her on Twitter.

Welcome Back to the Blog

by Bruce Blake

The time has finally come…the return of the Guild of Dreams.

After a lengthy hiatus (if you choose to read that as ‘Bruce got lazy for an extended period of time’, I would probably be hard pressed to argue the point), the motley blog crew have returned to entertain and enlighten. Returning to the Guild are myself, Autumn Birt, Chantal Boudreau, Scott Bury, Joshua Johnson, AM Justice, Steven MontanoGuild-wglow 300, and Benjamin X. Wretlind.

So here’s the set up: we’re paring things down a little, with regular posts scheduled for Mondays and Fridays. That’s not to say you won’t see the occasional post on other days…special guests, book announcements, cover reveals, and the like may pop up at any time, so be sure to sign up for email updates over there on the top right if you haven’t done so already.

And what can you expect from the posts you’ll find on the Guild? The easiest way to figure that is to have a look back through previous posts. If you’re too lazy or preoccupied to find the time to do that, then let me fill you in: you’ll find pointers on writing, editing, formatting, publishing, and the like; you’ll find out where ideas come from, how characters are developed, and how to promote your own work. If prior patterns hold, you will likely also get to see some cool pics Steven uses to draw inspiration, stories of Autumn’s travel adventures, Chantal’s artwork, and Scott’s perspective on what the hell is wrong with the publishing industry and how to fix. Throw in Amanda’s writing chops (and Game of Thrones analysis), Benjamin’s creativity, and Joshua’s love of the writing process and tools, and I know there will be something here for everyone.

So sit back, pull up a chair, and the let the Guild of Dreams take you to worlds you never knew existed.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi You Should Watch

Ok. I’ve spent the past couple of posts harping on about cheesy fantasy movies you should avoid…but what about some stuff you should watch?

Rather than movies, I’m going to switch to television here, and broaden the discussion to include science-fiction (because, let’s face it, there’s a hell of a lot more sci-fi than there is epic fantasy out there in TV land).

Here’s a brief list of some good stuff on TV that, in my opinion, every fan of sci-fi or fantasy should be checking out (not all of it current).

Supernatural

Supernatural

I’m not always a fan of urban fantasy/horror, but Supernatural does it right. For 10 Seasons now the Brothers Winchester have been chasing ghosts, ghouls, vampires, demons, and all sorts of other stuff that goes bump in the night, and the results are often scary, at times funny, and always entertaining. Some may argue the show has started to wear thin (as one could argue for any show entering its monstrous tenth season), but you could do worse than check out this series from the beginning and watch the low-key, creative, and engaging manner in which each week’s plot plays out.

Battlestar: Galactica

Battlestar

Arguments can be made for the original 1978 series, which I remember watching quite a bit when I was younger, but in this case I’m referring to the brilliant 2004 re-imagining. Dark, brooding, at times downright disturbing, Battlestar chronicles the voyage of the survivors of the Twelve Colonies as they struggle to escape the grasp of the robotic Cylons, an artificial race that seems hell-bent on replacing humankind and evolving to a near divine state. There’s no question the series gets a little strange the longer it goes, but for the first three seasons its brilliant military sci-fi entertainment.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

Not only an epic fantasy show, but the epic fantasy show. A brilliant re-telling of George R.R. Martin’s best-selling novels of the noble houses of Westeros and their struggle for power, Game of Thrones manages the extremely difficult task of telling a very multi-layered story with an immense cast of characters without losing track of any of the important events of the books or shortchanging any of the plot lines. The show is well cast, beautifully filmed and expertly paced. While Game of Thrones does suffer from a bit of excess (it often feels like they’re struggling to insert sex scenes when none are really called for), it’s still one of the best damn shows on TV.

Torchwood

Torchwood

You thought I’d say Dr. Who, didn’t you? Well, no offense to Whovians, but I’ve always preferred Torchwood, the Dr. Who spin-off which focuses on a U.K. based organization responsible for battling alien threats to Terra Firma, some of which can be quite horrifying. Torchwood isn’t quite as tightly written as Dr. Who, but the characters are engaging, the plots are original and the show is irreverent and sometimes quite dark. And I always enjoy watching Captain Jack Harkness, one of the more intriguing TV heroes in many years.

Deep Space 9

Deep Space 9

You could probably pick any of the Star Trek series – I actually prefer the characters in Enterprise, while my favorite overall Trek series is Voyager – but from a writer’s standpoint you have to appreciate what they did with this one. Deep Space Nine has an inevitable direction, and while the show isn’t consumed by the overriding plot of the war against the shadowy coalition known as the Dominion, the writers plant the seeds for that eventual conflict early and often, and the show does a wonderful job of conveying a subtle sense of dread as the countdown to the conflict grows shorter and shorter. Throw in the usual nicely layered social commentary and some truly remarkable stories and it’s easy to see why DS9 quickly became a favorite among the fans.

I’m only scratching the surface here: what fantasy/sci-fi shows do you recommend, and why?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

It’s been well-established Steven Montano watches way too much TV. If only he spent as much time writing as…wait, his third book of 2014, The Black Tower, is coming out next month? OK, never mind.

Learn more at http://steven-montano.com/

A Moving Story

by Bruce Blake
—–

The building they're destroying

The building they’re destroying

Two weeks ago yesterday, I did one of those things we all dread…I moved. It was something the family was forced into rather than a choice, and by that I don’t mean we were bad tenants and the landlord expunged us from the building. No, the cute little 8 unit 1940s building we were in is being knocked down to make way for a three-story apartment building and, though moving is a pain in the behind, it is still preferable to living under a pile of rubble.

The last time we moved was a horrible experience. My son (seventeen at the time) and I did it ourselves. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the truck I rented broke down and we had to be towed over 80 kms. On top of that, it was my birthday. After that comedy of errors, I promised myself I’d hire movers the next time that particular Hell came around.

They say women forget the pain of childbirth so that they will have more children; I say the same is true of men when it comes to moving.

As the date approached, my wife urged me to call one of the local, short distance moving companies (we were only hauling the contents of our lives 8 blocks),

The new one they're building...we don't live there.

The new one they’re building…we don’t live there.

but I resisted. My faulty logic kicked in and I realized that I now have a son who is almost twenty…I didn’t need a couple of sweaty fellows with a big truck and a dolly, all I needed was a U-Haul, a case of beer, a couple of pizzas, and Erik and a few of his buddies. What twenty year old wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to help move with the promise of a couple of brewskies and slices of ‘za? Truly, it was a foolproof plan…until it turned out Friday was the day the move needed to happen.

What are most twenty-year olds doing on a Friday? That’s right: Working or going to school.

Undaunted, I picked up the truck, followed by retrieving my son from his grandparents’ house. His friends were still coming to help–the lure of free beer and food is too much for most men–but we would be on our own until late afternoon, so we formulated a plan. Since it was just the two of us, we’d move the smaller things, hoping to kill enough time that his friends would show and help out with the larger items.

By four in the afternoon, when his first buddy showed up to help, we had completely loaded and unloaded a sixteen foot truck and had arrived back at the old place for a second go. Coincidentally, this was also about the time my age started to make itself apparent–sore knee (I swear it’s from an old football injury), aching back (lacrosse?), and a variety of scrapes and contusions. With the addition of this third warm body, things went minutely faster, though the friend–in school to become and engineer (and not the type that drives a train)–was set on being the guy who Tetrised everything into the truck.

No way, pal…that’s my job.

The new digs

The new digs

An hour later and most of my belongings were set in the road rather than being brought into the truck. Apparently this is the best way to figure out how to pack them. Along about then, young man number three shows up, and that’s when things take a turn for the worse. It seems even with beer and pizza in the near future, three young men who have been friends for years (one them tired from moving all day) would rather monkey about and draw penises on the walls of the building being knocked down a la Superbad. Big penises, small penises, flowers with leaves on their stem that look suspiciously like male genitalia, even a figure strategically positioned over a light switch.

My three helpers found all this several levels beyond amusing. Me? Not so much. All I wanted to do was finish and put my weary body to bed (if there was still enough time to put a bed together by the time we finished).

Magically, six hours later, the job was finally finished. It had been thirteen hours since I picked up the truck. The sun had long since set, the crickets began chirping, and at least one helper gave up and went home to his girlfriend. Fear not, though, all the pizza was consumed, and with relish. The part I find most difficult to believe out of the entire adventure is that my young helpers only imbibed two beers between the three of them.

No wonder it took so long to move…my helpers weren’t human men, but some kind of robots or clones.

What 20-year-old doesn’t want an ice-cold beer?

An example of the tasty brew my helpers chose not to drink

An example of the tasty brew my helpers chose not to drink

You may be wondering right now if you’ve stumbled on the wrong blog; isn’t the Guild of Dreams normally about writing? It is, but we all need a break once in a while, don’t we?

What horrible moving stories do you have to share?

—-

On a side note, if you haven’t gone to see Guardians of the Galaxy yet at your local cinema, do yourself a favour and get out to do it soon. Funny, entertaining, warm and fuzzy, and only a couple of swear words. Worth every penny of the $312 it costs to take the family to see a movie.

—–

Bruce Blake is the author of 8 self-published novels and has moved way too many times in his life. Normally you can find him frequenting coffee shops putting pen to paper, but don’t look for another week or two, as he is still recovering from his ordeal.