When it came time to choose this week’s villain to showcase, I knew I needed to talk about a Lannister, because Game of Thrones is back, baby! And what Lannister is more hated than Joffrey Baratheon?

Answer: none.

King Joffrey’s mother, Cersei Lannister, is also a feature of this week’s post. Why? Because I love to hate her.

Property of HBO
Property of HBO

The House of Casterly Rock

They’re Lannisters. If you don’t know them, you must not be from the Seven Kingdoms.

Hear Them Roar

The officially sigil of the Lannister is a lion on a field of crimson, with the words “Hear me roar!”

Unofficially, we know they always pay their debts and are known to ruin most weddings.

I have heard often enough that ‘art is truth’ or that fiction is a lie which presents truth, and in considering why this is so, I propose that it is suffering which resides at the heart of the novel and creates the bridge between reality and art. The experience of suffering, which is universally relatable, provides realism. Hence suffering inspires the reader’s sympathy to create reality in the novel.

Source: goodreads.com

Chuck Palahniuk, whose most famous work to-date is Fight Club, wrote an epistolary work entitled Diary which follows Misty Wilmot, a middle-aged wife, mother, and hotel waitress, as she deals with life after her husband’s attempted suicide. Palahniuk writes Misty’s perspective as a diary; each entry is addressed to Misty’s comatose husband, making the correspondence decidedly one-sided. The plot of Diary is intricate and implausible—and requires several suspensions of belief.’ Misty, according to the inhabitants of Waytansea Island, is the fulfillment of a prophecy:

Someone…would marry a woman who’d make the Wilmot family and his whole community wealthy enough that none of them would have to work…every four generations, a boy from the island would meet a woman he’d have to marry. A young art student. Like an old fairy tale. He’d bring her home, and she’d paint so well it would make Waytansea Island rich for another hundred years. He’d sacrifice his life, but it was just one life. Just once every four generations. (Palahniuk 206)

This ‘prophecy’ is fulfilled when Misty’s mother-in-law poisons her, convinces Misty that her daughter has drowned, and traps her inside the Waytansea Hotel with her art. Like Pamela, Misty attempts escape, but this ends in disaster. This postmodern twist to the familiar plot of a damsel in distress has the female protagonist, the “damsel,” not saved but rather controlled and mentally, emotionally, and physically destroyed.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting YA novelist Malinda Lo at an academic conference (it may or may not have been a conference about Tolkien…). She sat at my table once during lunch, and after my initial fangirling period, she was very kind and patient as she answered my numerous questions about the writing life and publishing. She told me that she hadn’t started out as a writer; she was once enrolled in Stanford for a PhD in Anthropology!

Do you know how comforting it is to hear–as an aspiring writer–that an established writer didn’t always know what they wanted to do? That they changed their mind, that they got degrees that they don’t really use?

It was at that moment that Malinda Lo became a personal hero, because the writing life is brutal. You may or may not ever sell a novel. You may end up waitressing/teaching/assisting for most of your adult life, with only a few minutes here or there to scribble down a sentence that pops into your brain. Or you can take that leap of faith, and hope that you don’t crash and burn like the Hindenberg.

Not only is Ms. Lo a successful novelist, she is also founder of Diversity in YA which celebrates “young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability.” She is also involved in the Lambda Literary Foundation, and recently served at their Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices

I was recently asked, “What do you like to read?” I listed the last five novels I’ve read and–to the shock of no one–3 of 5 were dystopian. Even if you’ve never heard the term “dystopian,” you’ve probably seen/read/heard about it. A “dystopian” society is one characterized by suffering, oppression, or extreme poverty, and it is usually a future that society has brought upon itself. Think of it as what happens after the end of the world.

So if you’re looking for some new reading or looking to explore a new genre, here’s my favorite dystopian novels, ranked in no particular order.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

1984Nineteen Eighty-Four is the foremost example of dystopian literature, as far as I’m concerned. This was the book that changed my view of how and what I could write, and even now, the creepiest phrase ever written is, “Big Brother is watching.”

This book is also considered a political novel as well as science-fiction, but it serves as a terrifying reminder of what could  happen. It seems that dystopian writers share a similar fear: a government too powerful and too involved.

The film was later adapted into radio programs, and even a few films were adapted. Also, David Bowie wrote a song called “1984.”

The Giver by Lois Lowry

the giverThis book was the first one I read after I had completed grad school. Now, if you’ve ever studied literature, you probably understand that “burned out” feeling when you think about reading for fun. Having studied literature for seven years, I was tired of reading. But, I wanted to write dystopic fiction and as any good writer knows, you have to read the genre you want to write in.

I read this book in a matter of hours, and afterward, I’d never been so glad to see the world in color.

A film adaptation is due to be released later this year.

HBO released “Vengeance”, a new trailer for the hit series, Game of Thrones, this week, and it is INTENSE.

If you’ve read the books, you know that book 4, A Feast for Crows, because of it’s sheer size, was split into two parts by the man himself, George R.R. Martin. This split resulted in two novels taking place at the same time, focusing on two different POVs. In book 4, we read the stories of the 7 Kingdoms, focusing on the Lannisters, Starks, Greyjoys and the kingdom of Dorne.

This week, my villain of choice was the Dark Lord before there was a Dark Lord (wasn’t that just hipster of him?).

Man esselya ná?

Originally known as Melkor of the Ainur (which is Quenyan for ‘He who arises in Might), he is more commonly known as Morgoth or Morgoth Bauglir. He has been known by many names such as:

  • the Foe of the Valar
  • the (Great) Enemy
  • the Dark King
  • the Dark Lord (sometimes called ‘the Lord of the Dark’)
  • the Dark Power of the North
  • the Evil of the North
  • the Black Hand
  • the Master of Lies
  • the Hunter and the Rider
  • Dark Enemy of the World
  • Black Foe of the World

His faithful servant, Sauron (yes, that Sauron) referred to him as:

  • the Lord of the Darkness
  • the Lord of All
  • the Giver of Freedom

Morgoth referred to himself as “the King of the World.” Me thinks he had a bit of an ego trip.

Ma istanyel? Or, Morgoth in 10 words or less:

Evil. Insatiable lust for power. Megalomaniac. Dark Lord.

original

1984.

A novel by George Orwell chronicling life under the watchful eye of Big Brother. A chilling look at a far off future when the book was penned in 1949, it is now a text that reveals a frightening future, 30 years past. The story, about a totalitarian society that feigns peace through terror and war and the man who questions it all, changed the way people look at politics and government while revolutionizing the science fiction genre.

I’m enjoying a vacation from work (sometimes I really love the academic calendar) and like any good Tolkienite, I’m marathoning the films once more before I go back to work on Monday. This time, as I work my way back through Middle-earth in the books and on screen, I am noticing things I never noticed before. Perhaps I should blame my graduate-level education for being unable to enjoy a book for its own sake any more, but the intricacies enrich the world and make the story so much richer for me.

Throughout my re-reading of The Lord of the Rings, it is repeatedly seen that Frodo, and other Fellowship members, have thoughts in their heads that are not their own–a narrative tactic that I wish I could duplicate in my own work. Oftentimes these characters will make exclamations in languages in which they are not fluent, usually Elvish, and have visions of things that may or may not have already happened. These foreign thoughts can be good or evil, and are influential in the actions of the main characters (particularly the hobbits), especially Frodo in his dealings with the One Ring. I mention Frodo specifically, because of the burden of his Quest. Any influences on the hobbit could make or break Middle-earth.  Could Frodo be hallucinating and delirious under the effects of the Ring, or is there a Higher Power playing in the turn of events in Middle-earth?

source: councilofelrond.com
source: councilofelrond.com

Sometimes, I like to answer my own questions, and so I took a look at the origins of Middle-earth (my obsession has led me to have my own Tolkien library). If you’ve never read The Silmarillion (and I think that everyone should), Middle-earth was created by Eru, or Ilúvatar with the help of the song of the Ainur, but after the creation of Eä, or the world, the Creator is conspicuously silent and absent from the cycle of events that unfold in his creation. He places select Ainur in the role of the Valar (think of them as deific beings who watch over Middle-earth, like the Norse gods and goddesses); they are the protectors of Eru’s creation. In The Silmarillion,  the reader repeatedly sees the intervention of the Valar in the course of the history of Tolkien’s secondary world, particularly in the battles against Melkor, AKA Morgoth (the first Dark Lord, and Sauron’s master). The Valar actively go to battle with Melkor, restrain him for three ages, and then later cast him out into the Void.