a BRILLIANT read, and even more incentive for me to make my own wizards trope-defying and excellent.
God it’s fascinating to look at the timestamp on this one and then realize that Pratchett went on to write his Witches Series and Granny Weatherwax, who’s strong and fierce and brilliant and austere and so achingly, bitterly, intensely good. I think Granny Weatherwax would give Gandalf a hard look and Gandalf would remember he had a very urgent appointment three shires away and stroll off really fast.
Holy fuck, everybody go read this right now.
Pratchett is one of the people whose work is not only hilarious, but legitimately brilliant. I learned so much from reading his books. Even this talk is peppered with the kind of thing that makes you snort out loud and get stared at by coworkers:
No wonder witches were always portrayed as toothless — it was living in a 90,000 calorie house that did it. You’d hear a noise in the night and it’d be the local kids, eating the doorknob.
And he fucking nails the witch/wizard dichotomy. Wizards = wise, powerful, organized, educated; witches = crones who give you warts. The Tiffany Aching series addresses this directly, as do the regular Discworld books focusing on the Lancre witches. Like Roach says, Granny Weatherwax is achingly, bitterly, intensely good, and that’s partly because she’s constantly aware of how easy it would be to be bad. How someone has to do the mucky jobs and help the obnoxious and stupid and never, ever take credit for anything you didn’t do; how the hardest thing is to stay balanced just on the edge between extremes, maintain that equilibrium, do what needs to be done no matter how awful or difficult it may be. Wizards never have to think about this. They just forge straight ahead, eating big dinners and squabbling amongst themselves and taking their power for granted.
Come to think of it, that’s one of the most significant divisions of power in Discworld: the men all gang up into this big elitist mob and loll around indolently, specifically not doing magic. Their magic is so powerful and dangerous that it’s a better use of their time to all keep each other down, all the wizard books basically revolve around ‘Oh no, someone’s doing magic, we’d better stomp them flat and then go home for second breakfast’. They keep the world from turning inside out but not much more than that, and they’re kind of a bunch of assholes about it too. Meanwhile the witches are just grimly slogging along, delivering babies and rousting out vampires and changing compresses, like, they stake out territories and then take care of everyone in it… while everyone still thinks that wizards are respectable and witches are shady.
“Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura” was one of the greatest RPGs of the 90s, and yet little known. The story itself was so so, but the setting was amazing.
It was set in a magical world that was undergoing an industrial revolution. A human adapted a dwarf design for a steam engine and changed the world. Elves, dependent on magic, retreated to their forests, orcs became subsistence miners and factory workers, an oppressed lower class.
Your character has the option to pursue a focus in either technology or magic, but cannot do both. A larger technological presence has a way of cancelling magic out, and technology malfunctions in areas of strong magic. Such is the case that in trains there is first class, second class, and the “mage’s coach.” Magical people have to ride in the crappy coach at the back, the furthest away from the engine to prevent it malfunctioning.
Perhaps one of the most interesting side quests involves your research into the faded ruins of an old civilization, where you discover that the balance between magic and technology is actually cyclical: there are times of technological power, which turns to magical power, and so on. Like the rise and fall of empires.
Along the way you meet orcs protesting against unfair working conditions, gnome entrepreneurs, feudal cities losing their competitiveness against industrial cities, and so on. It’s a fascinating setting.
The main story itself sadly doesn’t entirely run along with this theme of circular rise and fall of magic and technology. It is a pretty standard fantasy story of good, evil and old secrets.
But I still highly recommend it for fans of old school RPGs.
Female Armor Sucks
That old double standard in video games regarding the surprisingly substantial differences between male and female armor.
Of course, this is because most game developers are male. And most of their player market is also male. Not exclusively, but mostly.
Zipped right through Season 1. It’s really good, I can say that already.
Though, as a politics/history buff, sometimes it’s a bit difficult. I guess I’ve also read too much Discworld and, more recently, Game of Thrones. Both depict fantasy universes which have constraints of reality. The Song of Ice and Fire books are brutal, but in many ways realistic. Armies don’t appear out of nowhere, and battles aren’t nice or pretty.
Discworld is more whimsical, but takes into account something very important: magic doesn’t come cheaply. Wizards are well aware of how destructive their power can be, and learned that the most important lesson to learn about magic is not to use it. On the Discworld, there’s industry, farming, trade. Sir Terry imagines a fantasy world where people seriously go to work every day. They have ideas, innovations, and build things which change the world.
In both, economics is important. What is the price of bread in King’s Landing? How does Vetinari finance his Undertaking? It’s all of interest, and all relevant.
Avatar is a nice, light-hearted adventure, with strong characters and character development. It’s fun and I enjoy it, but there’s this little voice in my head which wonders how the people of each nation get balanced diets, how they farm, how they build. The water tribes live in snow, ice and tundra, where there aren’t really any vegetables. The air monks live up mountain tops, with similar disadvantages. There doesn’t seem to be any trade. 100 years is a very long time to fight a war, and the changing generations must surely have changed their attitudes in various ways. And so on.
I find it funny how the benders often say “It’s not magic, it’s bending!” and I’m forced to wonder what they consider magic, if bending is not magic. It may as well be. And it obviously seems to come cheaply, and there’s no cost to it. And that means they seem to use it for everything, and when they fight, it’s incredibly destructive. Can that much wild destruction from all sides possibly allow for stable societies?
In any case, it’s fun and that doesn’t bother me much. But it’s still there.
The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.
Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to Middle Earth.
|—||George R. R. Martin, author of the “Song of Ice and Fire” book series, which is now the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”|
Several years ago, I finally got around to watching Babylon 5, and was hooked. I had been introduced to the series way back in Indonesia, when the only part of it I could watch were the made-for-TV movies.
One of them featured prominently the Earth-Minbari war. For those not familiar with Babylon 5, it was the conflict which defined the series. In it, humanity loses horribly, but it saved at the very last moment… strangely.
The interesting thing is some statistic which came out, in which humanity lost probably took down 7 ships to every 30 the Minbari shot down of theirs. While still one-sided, it was said to be higher than any other conflicts the Minbari had.
At the time, this was nevertheless a strange sort of pride. It wasn’t a real conflict, it lived only in the people who created and watched the show. It had no real world significance… and yet the fans of the show would probably feel the same.
This is a phenomenon not uncommon. We often identify so strongly with characters or events which are, at the end of the day, make-believe. We talk about Helm’s Deep, or Hogwarts as if they were real. We find significant lessons from fictional characters.
In essence, we ascribe so much importance to… fiction. Yet somehow the very fact that it’s not real somehow makes it more believable. In a lot of ways, reality is less believable because of how real and complex it is. It’s easy to believe in simplicity.
Woodkid - Iron (fan-made music video tribute to Game of Thrones)
Also, I love this song, and have loved it since I saw the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations trailer.
Gandalf or Dumbledore?
Frankly, I vote Rincewind.
Just because he always survives, while saving the world.
For me, it’s hard not to compare the two.
One must think “What? How? Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” is mostly positive, is funny, and runs on narrative causality. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” books are generally quite depressing and is widely populated by amoral characters.”
It’s true, they have those differences. But there is a significant similarity.
They both aspire to be believable and realistic.
Terry Pratchett once described Discworld as a setting as if a thousand years had passed in Middle Earth after the events of the Lord of the Rings. The big wars were over, and everyone was settling down, trying to make money, raise a family, and get on with their lives. And that’s a consistent theme in his books. Characters feel real because they all pursue happiness, through work, money, and the promise of opportunity.
As a result, Vetinari’s Ankh Morpork invites all races to come and make a life. Female dwarfs decide to declare themselves female, and start making female fashions. A market for high heeled iron boots starts, among lipstick, and braiding for beards. Dwarf women still have beards. Vampires take jobs at butcher shops, trolls get sold lichen under their armpits to be attractive, all the rest.
The world feels real, because in Lord of the Rings, orcs, goblins and trolls have no purpose but to be the enemy and to hunt the fairer races. When the war is over, what happens to all of them? Would they eventually make towns, farm fields, love, marry, work, and build cultures?
It’s a worthy question.
In it all, Vetinari himself is what makes it possible. He is no saint, but it is at his rather ruthless hands-off direction that makes wealth and opportunity possible. It is not a democracy and democracy wouldn’t work. As they say, “One man, one vote, and we all know who the man is.”
In “A Song of Ice and Fire” time and again good characters make mistakes. A man can be a good man and a bad king. His characters are similarly human, but in their limitations. Sometimes the choice to do something bad in the short term is good in the long term, but a good man might find that cost too high.
All in all, I think Westeros could use someone like Vetinari. But the circumstances were to be made ready for someone like Vetinari, if he were introduced to Ankh-Morpork too early, even he might have failed.
Would Vetinari succeed in King’s Landing? Presuming that there were no king, perhaps. If he could survive, I’d wager he’d provide the peace and prosperity which seems so lacking in that world.
Syrio Forell teaches Arya Stark swordplay, in A Game of Thrones
“What do we say to the god of death?”