author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On the Imperfect Daenerys

Daenerys Targaryen "Game of Thrones"

As a fan of George R. R. Martin’s books “A Song of Ice and Fire” and the cable series “Game of Thrones” I follow other fans in cyberspace, with spoiler Facebook pages for we readers (don’t worry, not in this blog), and the numerous fun fan pages with hilarious memes.  Like it or hate it, Game of Thrones to me, as a series doesn’t take itself so seriously that they cannot have fun.

Most fans I know, which agree with a fan video that pointed out the four most popular characters:  Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen.  When asked who do we want to see on the Iron Throne?  Many, like me, are #TeamDaenerys. 

To be brief for the Daenerys fans, why do we like this character?  Answer: We’ve seen her grow from a naïve, fragile girl to the wife then widow of a Dothraki savage, hatch three dragon eggs, and accumulate followers and armies as she marches her way across Essos to decide the fate of any place she lands by the power of her followers and her growing dragons.  To quote ASOIAF Tyrion described her as “Aegon the Conqueror with teats.”  She’s anti-slavery, anti-rape, anti-cruelty, with the disclaimer unless you’re her enemy.  However, if her brother Visterys had hatched the eggs instead, he’d likely be doing more and worse as far as atrocities go.

A favorite Facebook fan page is “Stannis Baratheon, the new Chuck Norris.”  I like Stannis, to me the most underrated character in the series.  Some posts come from the page Daenerys Targaryen is Overrated” FB page.  The non-team Daenerys fans find her to have a sense of entitlement, thinking everything should belong to her; that all people must bend the knee to the “Queen of (so many names I forget)", I can see how people get frustrated.  She’s also thought by some to be protected by the author, though I’ll say living a Dothraki lifestyle by eating a raw horse heart isn’t particularly protective. 

Martin’s writing does bring us a bit of pain in the Mereen chapters.  Daenerys takes many baths, has her eye on Daario, and is pampered by her servants everywhere.  She makes the decision to stop in Mereen and rule.  Is that wise?  Answer:  Tywin Lannister gave us the answer in the most recent HBO episode, when he pointed out Robert Baratheon thought winning the Iron Throne and ruling were the same.  Daenerys is trying to figure this out.  As far as her dragons, no she doesn’t have the book “How to Train Your Dragon” as noted in the memes.  She is still young, and will make mistakes. 

To me, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is a story about imperfect characters.  Very few are not without their faults, mistakes, or dark places in their histories.  Daenerys Targaryen is a child from a longstanding dynasty, so yes; she feels every bit as entitled as fifteenth century England where some of this series is inspired by (War of the Roses).  Fans, pick your heroes and go for it.  Just because Daenerys is a favorite doesn’t mean other characters aren’t great also.  Great stories have great characters.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Catelyn’s Cause

Catelyn Stark "Game of Thrones"

Catelyn Stark meets with the lead character of the Gastar novellas.

A tall wingless demon stood outside of Shevata’s hideout in Hell; a comfortable apartment with gilded velvet furniture.  A desk stood in the middle for some bookkeeping and the few rejections Zermon had her review before exiling souls from eternal doom.  “She’s waiting inside.”  Shevata rolled her eyes.  “Stay outside.”

A lovely woman with long auburn hair sat at her desk, and stood when Shevata entered.  “I am Lady Catelyn Stark.”
Shevata sat across from her at the desk.  “Please sit, Catelyn.  We’re not highborn or baseborn here.  I am Shevata.”  The woman nodded respectfully and sat.  “You have no business here.  Anyone making a mad journey to Hell risks his or her soul.  What do you want of me?”

“I lost my whole family.  Why can’t I seek revenge?”
Shevata sat back.  “I know what happened.  Your husband, Eddard, was a good man as was your son Robb.  One underestimated the Lannisters, and the other was betrayed by his bannermen.  How can I help?”
“You have the power to kill.  I want those that destroyed my family to be destroyed.”
“In Hell, we get them all.  Believe me, the fire pits of Hell destroy like nothing else.”
“That isn’t enough!  I want them to feel the pain!  I want them to feel loss!  I want them to know what I lost!”  Tears welled up in her eyes. 

“If Zermon and I went to Westeros to put to torture and death every person that wronged another, we might as well allow what he wanted in my home city and create an extension of Hell itself.”
“You know a great wrong has been committed against my family!”
Shevata nodded.  “Yes, I know but I can’t give you what you want.”
“You’re an assassin!”
“Yes, an assassin.  Meaning, I kill individuals for specific reasons.  As tempting as it is, I’m sorry, I cannot take up your cause.”
Catelyn did not back down.  “Why not?  I can give you the names so why can’t you kill them like you do in your world?”
“I can’t spare your world from Zermon.  If I’m involved, he’s involved.  There’s enough Hell in Westeros already.  I won’t let him make it worse.”

She calmed herself in disappointment.  “You’re just like the rest of them, just as uncaring, and without honor!”
“Honor?  Of course there’s no honor here.  We’re not noble families with houses and sigils.  We’re below what you would call ‘baseborn.’”  I was born not just a slave but also a slave soldier.  Don’t tell me about honor.”
Catelyn nodded with respect.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Shevata leaned towards her.  “If you want revenge for your family then you must take it on your terms, not in Hell. This is not a war zone for feuding families.”
“What would you do then?”
Shevata thought for a moment.  “Go back.  Think backwards carefully.  Don’t stop.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Afterlife of the Viking

Ragnar "Vikings"

Ragnar of “Vikings” faces judgment in the Underworld before Gastar characters Shevata and Zermon.

Shevata leaned back on the armrest of the obsidian throne.  “Zermon, no more savages!”
“I’ll remind you that you released the last one?”  Zermon rolled his eyes looking over a short man brought before them in chains. 
“If you want to drop this one in the pit, then do it.” Shevata attempted to jump down to leave, but Zermon held her back. 
“No, little devil.  Let’s meet this man.”  He handed her the scroll.  She glanced a scowl as she unrolled it and read aloud.  “Ragnar.  You’re a savage.  Throw him in.”  The demons lifted him.

“Wait!” Said Ragnar.  “How can you call me a savage considering what you do here?”
Zermon leaned back.  “Keep him up a minute.”
Shevata looked over Ragnar.  “You are an idiot for saying that.  This is hell.”
Zermon looked at the scroll at roared in laughter.  “He expected to go to Valhalla!”  Shevata snatched it back from him. 
“There’s no Vahalla Ragnar.”  She looked over the page.  “But you’ve been a great warrior, traveled far, and led your men to great victories in battle.”  She smiled.  “But it’s always the details, isn’t it?”  She continued to read.  “You led you men to Northumbria, captured the King’s brother, and killed him when you said you wouldn’t.  Nice.  Let’s see.”  She looked further down the page.  “ You abandoned your family for your own gain, took and impregnated another woman, causing your wife to leave you for another man and later separating her from her son she bore for you.”

Ragnar stood with pride.  “Anything else?”
Shevata looked over the page again.  “No Ragnar.  Nothing else.”
“So why should I be condemned?  I needed another wife to bear me more sons.  As for Northumbria, we never met them before.  It was war.”
Shevata looked back at Zermon and he nodded.  She slid off the armrest of the throne and walked toward him.  “So perhaps we have it all wrong down here in the Underworld, is that right, Ragnar?  That you’re just a good man, misunderstood?”
“I’m a man that lived in a violent world.” 
“You’re a man that committed treachery, murder, infidelity that lead to the death of one of your children.”  Shevata withdrew her dagger.
“My child died of illness!”

Shevata motioned to the demons to pin him down on his back.  With the dagger she cut down his breastbone from top to bottom.  She stood up and looked down at him.  “Now Zermon will take over.  This is the custom of your people that treachery bears this punishment.  Only a savage would think of something like this to do to another!”  She kicked him hard in the groin and walked away. 
She heard a scream in the distance and Zermon say “Oh, I guess that’s why they call it the Blood Eagle.”

On High in Infidelity


Regardless of the story, is it historical romance, sci-fi, Dark Fantasy, or documentary, somewhere in a marriage if there is infidelity, there will be controversy.  Even in the most accepted of cultures of arranged marriages and multiple wives, one wife “trumps” another wife usually over when they married and how many sons were born, depending on the culture.

So when I see historic series on television, it’s interesting to me how human feelings transcend the centuries; because not matter what, if a man chooses another woman, the first wife will not be happy about it in most cases.  Why should she?  After marriage and supporting her man, giving him children, and taking care of things while he’s away, he brings home another woman?  What gratitude!

But am I being too hard on men?  I’ll point out the Victorian period and a Churchill biography I read where a woman told him if he didn’t take a lover then he was “selfish.”  Really?  Wow, that’s an interesting take on things.  However, the upper classes had their own agenda, certainly not to exclude Winston’s mother, known for her lovers. 

I’ve had a few men (very few) give me the argument that a single man is really needed to “provide” for many women for breeding children.  OK, I get that.  But for most societies, the population is generally 50% of each gender.  I’ll take the high road for that discussion and leave it for the sociologists.

What does infidelity have to do with the writer?  Answer:  If you’re writing about marriage, everything.  One has so many possibilities in character development and taking in a culture to consider the risks and consequences of the behavior.  Generally it’s thought women don’t have the upper hand and depending on the time in history, they didn’t.  But I don’t believe it made things easy for men with integrity.  Men needed wives to raise their children, and most of us understand the importance of a parent’s relationship to a child, and when the father is away, the mother is paramount. 

It’d be convenient to say there should be marriages that are completely open without jealousy and if so, that’s great.  But so often, marriage vows are considered sacred, and breaking them breaks more than just a ceremonial promise.  It breaks hearts, breaks families, breaks relationships, and sometimes forms opportunities. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Prince in the Underworld

Tom Kane "Boss"

It’s time for the ultra-Machiavellian character Tom Kane of the Starz series “Boss” meet the lead Gastar character after living his philosophy to the end of his life and now faces judgment of his eternal soul.

Shevata sat at her desk in her hideout in Hell, finding a bit of time to escape Zermon’s hideous job of sending souls to eternal doom.  She closed a book she’d finished reading entitled “The Prince” Zermon sent with a scroll about a visitor she will be meeting soon.  “Send him in.”  She nodded toward the tall demon standing at the entrance of her office. 

Shevata felt underwhelmed by one of the most unassuming men she had ever seen.  The tall, balding man strolled in with quiet confidence, wearing a button down shirt and trousers, with no weapons.  Other than taking directions from the demon that led him inside, he seemed completely unafraid.  He motioned to the chair in front of her desk.  “May I?”  She nodded and he sat, crossing his legs. 

He smiled as if he were to calm her down.  “Look, I realize the awkwardness of it all.  Tell me, what can I do for you?”  He placed his hands open on his lap.  Shevata rolled his scroll to the side of her desk. 
“Zermon wanted me to meet you to teach me some kind of lesson, as if I need to learn anything from the likes of you, Mr. Kane.” 
“If I may say, Lady, the world I know is a place of deals.  There’s no reason it be different here.”
Shevata feigned amazement.  “Really?  What can you offer me Mr. Kane?”
“Well, the..” he motioned toward the demon in the doorway, “those guys talk about you a lot.  It seems that you’re here against your will.  So am I.  Maybe I can get us both out.”
“You will not be the first to try to talk me into overthrowing Zermon, so save you story for the fire pits.”
He chuckled and shook his head.  “You’re just like the others that serve, always thinking small.”  Shevata raised an eyebrow.  He leaned toward her.  “You can put me in Zermon’s place, I can give you freedom, any leftover humans freedom, and will work with you once you establish yourself back in your own world.
Shevata leaned back in her seat.  “So from now on, with Zermon out of the way, all of my problems will be over?”  He nodded. 
“Don’t you agree?”  He said.   

Shevata reached back and hurled a chain at him, binding him tightly to the chair.  “I agree with Zermon that all Machiavellians think they’re the smartest in the room and find their own way to the fire pits.  You, Mr. Kane, are no different.  Take him away.”  After the demon carried him away, she picked up “The Prince” and resumed her reading.

On the Love of Intrigue

"House of Cards

So many aspects of stories reel in the readers of books or viewers of films or shows, be it action, fantasy, drama, horror, but on the short list of it all is the lure of intrigue, when we must know what happens next and a few hours sleep or loads of laundry won’t stop us.  Many daytime television dramas I recall watching as a kid not missing them so much when school started, but during summer I hated missing what would happen the “next episode,” far before my mature days of speculation.

Being an unapologetic fan of gangster films like “Goodfellas” and “Casino” I’ll admit intrigue glues me to the screen and served as migraine headache companions many years ago.  Other films like the Dutch film “Black Book” kept me on the end of my seat, and as shown, political intrigue, when done well, reels me in when the Machiavellian lead character sticks to the rules of the Prince and takes his (or her) hits but manages to come out on top in the long run, by any means possible.

Intrigue, I believe is what makes series so popular, even if the story isn’t the cloak-and-dagger secrets waiting to come out.  We just want to know what happens next, which is part of intrigue.  During the Harry Potter mania, I remembered exactly when I started reading the final book, stopping only for short bathroom breaks until finished.  When “The White Queen” series came out, my poor kindle was on almost non-stop the weekend I ate all three novels the show was based upon.  I consider myself a very impatient reader, so once I start a book, I consider myself already finished it; everything in between are words keeping me from finishing it.  If I miss something, it’s time for a re-read.

For books to be intriguing I don’t believe they require being a series, being gangster or political stories, or Machiavellian lead characters.  What I like is for the story to make me turn the page.  Usually writers will achieve that with their strengths; some write great action, others write great character development, others write great non-fiction, and we all know some are great at it all.  I say, go for it, and tell us about it.  The readers decide.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Judgment of The Khal

"Game of Thrones" Khal Drogo

Khal Drogo now stands before Shevata, the lead character of the Gastar novellas, awaiting judgment for eternal doom in the fire pits of Hell.

Shevata’s face froze as she read the length scroll.  One of the higher demons sat a stone table beside the obsidian throne where she sat and placed an elaborate goblet of gold and filled it with a green liquid from a silver pitcher.  She shook her head at the demon.  “Only Zermon can make this happen.  Only he can create a higher demon.”
The demon completed his task, making certain the mug was completely filled.  “You killed Kuvern.  Now he must be replaced.”  He walked away.

A pair of huge winged demons, larger than Zermon, brought in a large, muscular, powerful man, with dark skin, scant clothing, and a long braid down his back.  She read down the scroll.  “Khal Drogo of the Dothraki, is that right?”  He mumbled something and one of the demons twisted his arm backwards.  He did not show pain. 

“Khal Drogo, we all speak the same language here.  Just look at me and speak clearly and I will understand you.” 
He glared at her.  “All of you can fuck yourselves.”
Shevata raised an eyebrow.  “Well, I’m afraid you’re past the battles of insults, battles for gold, battles for blood.  You’re in a dark place, Khal.  In Hell, Zermon decided all savages that go through lands mindlessly killing women, children, and other innocents will see their afterlife here.  Now you, only you, have a chance for redemption.  So you can either tell me to fuck off, or offer something for the lives you’ve taken.”
“It is known they are ours to take!”  Shouted the Khal.  A demon hit him hard in the mouth.

“It is not known here.  Don’t prove us right by being stupid.  You will either offer something of worth back to those you killed or you will become one of those that hold you now.”  She motioned to the goblet.  The Khal relaxed.  “The moon of my life.  Daenerys.  I give everything.  To her.”
Shevata leaned back and read through the scroll again.  “She has dragons.  She lost your son.  I’m sorry.”
“If anything left of me, I give to her.”  He said again. 
Shevata handed him her golden-jeweled dagger.  “Killing yourself here won’t help her.”

He took the dagger and cut off his braid to his scalp and threw it into the fire pit.  He reached down with it and cut his Achilles tendon then handed the blade back to her.  “No more Khal.  No more battle.”
Shevata felt her mouth drop open with awe.  She reached into her pocket and handed him a clear gem, glittering in multiple colors, like a prism.  “Take this and it will guide you out of Hell.  Your soul will go to your Khaleesi.  Rest well, Khal Drogo.”