Popular Culture and the rise of Fantasy

Has there ever been a better time for the Fantasy Genre?

See my guest post on Fantasy Author Terry Ervin’s website here.

 

Will Game of Thrones Lose Fans?

(Don’t read ahead if you are not up to date with the show. No spoilers for future episodes contained.)

I have heard numerous people this week cry out that they are only one character death away from never watching Game of Thrones again. This has caught my interest. I am one of those smug people who has read the books and likes to give people those all knowing grins whenever they cry outrage at a new twist. I kept reading the books after every setback, every shocking death. It actually only made me want more. 

However, I too was shocked at the end of the latest episode. I knew what was coming but I felt the same profound sense of loss that others felt. I can only tip my hat to the producers and applaud their ability to arouse such feelings in someone who knows what is going to happen. However knowing what is coming makes it easier for me to keep watching.

Those who are pulling their hair out at last weeks events and cursing to the old gods and the new have a right to be doing so. The show isn’t heart-breaking, it’s heart-shattering with a side of disintegration. But have they gone too far. How many more times can viewers be shocked before they throw in the towel and declare their constitutions can take no more? For many people I know they probably only have one more shock in them.

I am very interested to see what happens next season. Whether the producers can continue to keep the gigantic viewer base or whether people will slowly break off, nursing their wounds and saying to HBO, Not today! 

Give us more Red Weddings!

blood

One could not even begin count the collective gasps and jaws that dropped upon watching the infamous ‘Red Wedding’. As soon as the episode had finished, social media and the internet were ablaze with comments ranging from outrage to hilarity to anguish and everything in between. Over 5 million individuals in the US watched this particular episode as it aired on HBO, and millions more watched it around the world thereafter. The response was universal. “That didn’t just happen!”

Even those who had read the books before watching the show watched on with wide eyes, mesmerised and horrified by an intensely graphic depiction of a famed literary event. And though so many people cried out in anger, the Red Wedding only drew more people in to watch the next episode and read George R R Martin’s books.

It is a little bit of schadenfreude that draws us to continue to watch and read or is it a futile hope that somehow things will turn out for the best. It could be that society has shifted its taste in literature and media to allow for the more debased and extreme elements of life. One only needs to look at the most popular television shows of the last few years. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead and Boardwalk Empire show us over the top violence, sex, drug and alcohol abuse and general indecency. Yet they do so with gripping storytelling, and we love them.

The current trend in television is towards the long story arc that leaves a viewer hanging for more at the end of each episode. And viewers are now so saturated with content that they are seeking new thrills. We are all searching for the next high. The Red Wedding was essentially an overdose and now everyone is waiting for that next hit.

So what does this mean for the writers out there? What is the true power of killing off a main character? Does writing need to adapt to the changing marketplace, or is this a fad that will work its way out over time? My answer is write what you feel will help you best tell the story. We should not need to turn to extreme violence and sex to sell, but if that helps you to convey your message in the best possible manner then do not shy away from using them.

Shock and awe is a powerful creative tool but must be used with care. Give us more Red Weddings but don’t make them the norm. Sometimes the tried and tested formulas are the way to go. Why? because they are tried and tested. And I ask all those writers out there currently plotting their next story, when you do choose to include that jaw dropping event, provide a warning to all those out there with heart conditions. Not everyone has the constitution to survive such a scene.   

Game of Thrones syndrome

Time for a rant!

Has the modern consumer lost the ability to find a good book? Or have we all become victims of the almighty, unstoppable band wagon? Most people I know are watching game of thrones. Most of those people are now reading game of thrones. Far be it from me to shake my head at this. I’ll be honest, I absolutely love the books and having read them some time ago am glad that the show does them so much justice. However how many of those people reading the game of thrones series now would have picked up George R. R Martin’s novels without the HBO series?

This game of thrones syndrome has been around for some time now. You may have seen people with other forms of it over the past decade. There was the Hunger Games malady recently, you still see a few cases of it on the trains and buses. Before that there was twilight disorder, a rather unfortunate disease, (I have been told there is no known cure). More recently I have noticed people with a bad case of the Gatsby epidemic (Currently #1 best seller on Book depository), the threatening life of pie disease and the slightly rarer Warm bodies plague.

These afflictions manifest themselves in many ways. First signs are a media hype before a soon to be released show or movie. Then patients see a sudden rush to purchase the said book that, unbeknownst to them, has been around for some time prior to the screen rights being sold. Before anyone realises the full blown syndrome has caught the publishing world in its villainous grip. Soon our top ten bestseller list has been diluted by ten books that are currently made into a movie or show, and those few books that are trailing behind them, that have not yet sold their rights to a movie studio are left holding on for dear life, whilst the syndrome looks for its next target.

Credit to the authors of these novels. I tip my hat to their creative genius. (Ok, sparkling vampires, does not qualify as creative genius). Yet it saddens me that prior to the movies/shows, few people would have walked into a bookstore and picked up these books.

Ok I admit, the situation isn’t that dire. Sometimes I just wonder if future generations will remember that the books come first. They should try walking into the bookstore for a change and finding the next victim of the syndrome before its collected by the band wagon. Then again, where do you even find a bookstore anymore 😉