Apr 20, 2013
"Jellyfish in the Sky" clears that bar, but if were it a traditional pilot, it would flounder. What I've read of the show indicates that the selling point is that the rich kid upir (Eastern European flavor of vampire), Roman, teams up with the gypsy trailer trash werewolf, Peter, to solve a murder in the town of secrets, Hemlock Grove. Instead of leading with that, as a traditional pilot would, or at least showing the two characters separately interacting with that plot, "Jellyfish in the Sky" frontloads the episode with tortuous backstory, leaving Peter and Roman's first meeting for literally the last shot of the episode, and more properly, for episode 2. That didn't hook me, or make me eagerly tee up the next episode. It just frustrated me.
The episode begins chaotically by cutting between characters randomly. RICH KID AND WHORE! BOOBS! CHEERLEADER AND TEACHER! CHEERLEADR DEAD! GORE! TEACHER GETS A PHONE CALL! WE NEVER SEE TEACHER AGAIN IN THE EPISODE! There's no real overarching plot to the episode, which is in reality a character-building exercise for what are cardboard characters. Roman is Every Privileged Kid who doesn't even notice, say, servicepeople at an amusement park, even when his mother opened the park specially for him. His cousin is, well, Privileged Kid with A Conscience. His mother is a manipulative sort with dark secrets in her past (see Revenge, whose mom-bitch even shares a name with Hemlock Grove's, and pretty much any soapy drama). Peter is the Likable New Kid, and I think the episode would have been stronger if it had given him more to do. Christina is Precocious Girl. Etc.
The show is intriguing, but there wasn't a whole lot of anything going on in "Jellyfish in the Sky." I can only hope that it improves in later episodes. I admit that while I went from this to a couple episodes of Xena, if I'd been watching on an app that has autoplay (a feature that the Wii app lacks), I might have let inertia bring me into the next episode last night. I'll watch again, but I'm not too impressed right now. True Blood's pilot at least featured most of its characters engaging with the central mystery.
This, like next month's Arrested Development, is an important look at the paradigm for original streaming content. I'm not a huge fan of how it affected "Jellyfish in the Sky." It gave the writers more space to work with, and instead of serving up a compelling hour of television/film, we only get to what I would call a thirteenth part of a less than compelling story.
Apr 16, 2013
I questioned writing this post. For one thing, I haven't written anything for the blog since early February. For another, I questioned my motives. I felt like I was doing it because everyone else was, or because I knew it would generate traffic. But the more I considered it, the more my feelings about yesterday crystallized into thoughts and words, and ran through my head loudly clamoring to be put down. So, like the story I told myself last night, I think this post will help settle an unsettled mind.
Feb 1, 2013
I'm working through the commentary on "The Tale of Tinuviel," and intend to finish the books, but I have enough of an opinion to type it out.
The Book of Lost Tales, ed. by Christopher son of JRR, is a cleaning up and publishing of the elder Tolkien's short stories. Each story is set around a frame of Eriol, a Man among Elves, discovering their history. And the stories the Elves tell are not new. They are the first treatments of The Silmarillion.
As such, I cannot lie. It's a bloody mess. I haven't read The Silmarillion yet, but that's because my father's copy is lost. And the impression that I get is that I'm reading the first draft of one of the great modern masters. It feels to be a dirty thing. I have walked in on JRR Tolkien naked, drunk, and sprawled on top of his sheets. A pool of vomit dries next to his head. That vomit is The Book of Lost Tales.
Setting that aside, there is some value to worldbuilders (fantasists constructing worlds for their stories) in seeing the early stages of Middle Earth, and how they differ from the end result. I absolutely love the conception of God creating a pantheon of lesser gods to help him create the world. It has it both ways and it is glorious.
I'd always been led to believe that Sauron and his master Morgoth were THE DEVIL, but this places the Valar as angels, and not lesser gods. The clearer analog for Morgoth (or Melkor) is actually LOKI. Which is neat.
The Book of Lost Tales also comes from pre-Tolkien fantasy, which seems obvious at first, but compare "Tinuviel" to the corresponding Silmarillion chapters on Beren and Luthien. The clearest leap from classic to modern fantasy is the appearance of Sauron in the latter. Sauron's role in the earlier drafts went to Tevildo, the evil Prince of Cats. We've reached a point in modern fantasy where a Prince of Cats can either be a bold choice over the now stereotypical Dark Lord, or a cheesy bit of silliness. In pre-Tolkien fantasy, Sauron is new, and Tevildo would be the more standard choice.
Finally, approaching it as the seeds of The Silmarillion is more useful than approaching it in it's own right. Tolkien the Younger takes a too-literal view of the text of the Lost Tales in its varied pencil, pen, and typed formats, trying to find the final draft when the final draft is The Silmarillion! Most notably, and why I'm writing the post now, in "Tinuviel," Tinuviel has a prophetic dream about her love, Beren. The elder Tolkien refers to it as a dream sent by the Valar, much as one might refer to a prophetic dream that was sent by God. The younger Tolkien wonders at the Valar's power, sending dreams to Elves. It was obviously a turn of phrase! One gets the impression that if JRR Tolkien wrote "Valar forbid ___!" Christopher would comment that he could find nowhere in his father's notes where the Valar forbade that, and that it clearly pointed to a story his father never got around to telling.
But thus my point. The Book of Lost Tales is not Tolkien's lost tome of short stories. These tales were abandoned because they became The Silmarillion. To release it as a straight anthology is a terrible thing. Analyzing it as a fledgling worldbuilder is probably the best way to approach the book.
Darling wife, please burn my notebooks and magnetize my faithful USB Mab if you find me dead.
(To be edited for italics later.)
Jan 9, 2013
Just to keep them all together, here they are:
1. His Shadow So Long and Gaunt
2. Dreams in the Sunset City
3. Black Seas of Infinity
4. Forgotten Tomes of Lore
5. Facts Concerning the Late H.P. Lovecraft and Racism
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Dec 14, 2012
|Charlie X, obviously.|
|"He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him!"|
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