Scandinavian Journeys

I decided to write a blog post rather than the more ephemeral Facebook post.  I’ll go back and grab Helsinki, but right now I want to talk about Stockholm and my first day in Copenhagen.  So far Stockholm still has my heart over both Helsinki and Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is a lovely city, but despite the colorful older buildings lining the broad boulevards it has a very modern feel.  Stockholm’s Old City and the walk along the river past City Hall was more charming.  Not as old as Taillin, but people were living there so it didn’t have the feel of a Disney set despite the main street filled with shops and restaurants and tourists.


Once you got off onto the side streets you discovered charming little squares with sculptures such as this St. George & the Dragon. 

On our final full day in Stockholm we returned to the royal palace to tour the armory.  We had seen the crown jewels and the apartments the day before, but the armory was the most interesting for me.  A lot of horse tack and clothing as well as weapons.  I want this cavalry outfit.  I also want these aigrette’s for Vento.  The got on the forehead and the tail, and I think my vain boy would approve.  .










The Swedes seemed to lose a lot of kings in combat (as well as one to assassination Gustave III at a masked ball which  became the basis for a Verdi opera Un Ballo in Maschera.  (I sang the page boy Oscar in that one.)  Anyway you get to see Gustav’s blood stained waistcoat and the pistols used by the assassin.  There is also King Gustav II Adolph’s horse he was riding at the time of his death in 1682.  No, not a model of his horse — the actual horse named Streiff.  There was also an elaborate bridle, but check out the vicious curb bit with its incredibly long shank.









There was also a beautiful 18th century coat with breathtaking embroidery, but it was impossible to capture the sheen and the workmanship through the glass.  There were a couple of 18th century ladies dresses with absolutely absurdly wide panniers.  I really loved the armory, and in the coach exhibit there was a beautiful sleigh.  Because of course there would be a sleigh in a northern kingdom like Sweden.

More on visiting the Vasa museum later.

Dunkirk — A Meditation on the Nature of Heroism

I cannot talk about this film without talking about specific scenes.  SO THERE ARE GOING TO BE SPOILERS!  IF YOU CAN’T STAND SPOILERS DON’T READ THIS!  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!



I loved this movie.  Of course I am a massive Anglophile.  I’m also a student of World War II.  I wrote a screenplay set during the war that turned into a novel that, sadly, I haven’t been able to sell so this film was catnip for me.  I’m a writer who loves dialog so this was an interesting lesson in how to tell a story with virtually no actual dialog.  My friend Kate Elliot said the film was a tone poem, and I think that is a perfect description.  Nolan allowed the chatter of machine guns, the scream of planes diving and bombs falling and the subsequent explosions as statements.  Most of the characters are not named.  They are presented as humans with whom we can all identify who find themselves in a terrifying place.

About halfway through the film I realized this is a movie about heroism, but real heroism not the fake, plastic version that we’re offered in most summer movie fare.  I love the big Marvel movies (and at least one DC movie), but they present a world in which people with near god-like abilities react to stress and fear and danger with a quip or a growl.  Where a fall from a ten story building is shaken off as the fight continues.  It’s fun, it glossy but it’s not real.  Dunkirk was real because the moments of heroism and basic human decency were so small and yet so significant and powerful.

And nobody starts out brave.  We often see them doing the small and craven thing first.  The young soldier who takes the uniform off a dead man.  Who joins with another soldier to carry a man on a stretcher in an crass attempt to get aboard a medical vessel carrying the wounded of the beach.  Eventually we discover he’s a French soldier who has gone AWOL and is trying to escape with the retreating British.  There is a young Brit who join up with a group who try and take a beached freighter.  His attitude is to hell with everybody else.  I’m getting out of here.  Then when a debate begins about who to force off the ship so it will float on the incoming tide he defends the French soldier when all the other frightened men are trying to throw him off the boat.

It’s the old man (the amazing Mark Rylance)  and his son taking his pleasure boat across the channel because our boys are trapped there.  It’s the young friend who goes along not for any patriotic reason but because his chum is going.  It’s the spitfire pilot who knows he has to take out this German bomber before it can sink another ship.  He’s running out of fuel, but with no drama, no bombastic speech he just taps the fuel gage, sighs and gets on with the business at hand.  He is able to bring his plane down safely on the beach in France knowing he will fall into the hands of the Germans and will be a prisoner for the duration of the war.

There is the frightened soldier who none-the-less stays as a ship is sinking after being struck by a torpedo to open a hatch so some of the men and the nurses below decks can escape.  That was a particularly haunting scene for me.  The battered, frightened young men were in the hold being give bread smeared with jam and tea.  Like little boys in the nursery.  Thinking they were safe and then… disaster.

That same soldier who helps free the trapped men ends up alone on the keel of the capsized ship and is rescued by our elderly man and his son.  The soldier is deeply shell shocked and he tries to force them to turn the boat back, return to Britain.  In the struggle he ends up pushing the young friend down the stairs into the hold where he is badly injured.  Rylance’s character has a choice to make; return to try and save the boy or keep on heading for France.  He makes the hard choice.  As they sail closer and closer to Dunkirk they rescue a pilot who has ditched, numerous men in the water.  Eventually the young friend dies from his head injury.  And when the soldier who pushed him asks how the boy is doing we see Rylance’s son hesitate, then say his friend was fine.  Rylance gives his son the tiniest nods of approval.  Because that was an act of heroism too.  Not to lash out and lay this guilt on an already emotionally devastated man.

The scene where the son lies was a powerful moment for me, but the real gut punch for me was when the son remembers a conversation with his dying friend.  About how the friend had always hoped to get his name in the local paper so the son goes to the paper and has his friend’s picture and an article naming him a hero placed in the paper.

Back in France the unnamed British admiral chooses not to leave on the final boat, but stay “for the French” as he puts it.  Another act of understated quiet heroism.

Much has been made about the way Nolan played with time in the editing of this film and it was great and innovative, but for me the power of this film was in its celebration of the human spirit in small acts of kindness and bravery.

At Last – Wild Cards to Broadway

In case anyone missed it.  Big news on the Wild Cards front.

Wild Cards to Broadway

Some Wild Cards Goodness

We have a Wild Cards Website, and every so often various writers who play in our shared sandbox write blog posts.  Stephen Leigh who has been with us since the beginning of the series has done a blog post about one of our most iconic villain — Senator Gregg Hartmann.  It certainly feels relevant at this particular moment.  You can read it here:

Pulling Strings; the Saga of Gregg Hartmann aka Puppetman

Guarding the Ephemeral

A Man for All Seasons – Act One

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Written by Robert Bolt (1924-1995)

This is the major reason I fear a Donald Trump presidency.  Not the outrageous tax cuts or the trade war he has threatened either of which will crash the economy.  Not the ridiculous spats he will launch against world leaders.  Not even his control of the nuclear codes because I have to believe that the people around him are smart enough not to want to die in a nuclear conflagration.

I fear him because he has displayed a fundamental disrespect and lack of understanding of the Constitution of the United States, and about the role of the judiciary in our country.  Without faith in the rulings of our courts and the primacy of the Supreme Court everyone’s personal safety is at stake.  If a president says he can flout the rulings of a court then political opponents can be thrown in jail (we’ve seen this attitude on display at Trump rallies).  Unpopular minorities can be harassed, arrested, deported without regard to our laws or our founding documents — a stated goal of Mr. Trump’s and one that has been vigorously applauded by his supporters.  Voting rights can be eroded and ultimately removed.  Remember it has been the courts that over the past few months have reversed blatant attempts by politically motivated legislatures to deny the franchise to vulnerable segments of society.

There is a crises of faith in all of our core institutions, but I think this constant assault on the judiciary is the most alarming.  It can be seen in a Cliven Bundy who refuses a court order to pay the required grazing fees.  In a Senate who will not seat a ninth justice to the highest court in the land in direct contravention of the Constitution that they swore to uphold.  A supreme court justice in Alabama who refused to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States as regards the right of LGBT people to wed.  A county clerk (a government position) who refuses to issue marriage licenses and placed her religion over the law of the land and the rights of minorities.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We can achieve none of these things unless we all agree to honor certain core institutions.  This is not to say they can’t be improved, the rights expanded, the meaning of “we the people” broadened, but we all have to agree not to burn down the edifice that has been built for us with the sacrifice of those who came before us.

I fear that Donald Trump believes he can fly above the flames and use them to propel him to what he wants, and that many of his supporters have forgotten in their anger that oft times the arsonist can be immolated along with the building.


A Man For All Seasons

An Armed Society is….Terrifying

I can’t believe I’m writing about this again, but as I type three more police officers have been killed today. Three others are in the hospital.  As the shooting was occurring the Baton Rouge police were putting out warnings about men armed with long guns — _In a state with open carry_.  I know this is going to earn me howls and objections, but can we stipulate that in a civil society open carry is crazy? 
At this point police forces around the country are worried if not down right terrified.  If you are wandering down to the Starbucks or Target to do a little shopping and you are packing you are adding to the tensions rising in the country.  You are making the work of the police so much more difficult.  Apparently this tragedy today was the work of a single gunman, but for a long time they thought there were three shooters.  How can the police tell if the armed man they see on the street is just a guy “exercising his second amendment rights” or one of the shooters?  In this climate can we reasonably expect them to wait to find out?
This is not to diminish the problems of overly aggressive policing in minority communities.  Too many people on all sides of this discussion are ending up dead.  We’re the United States of America not downtown  Mogadishu.  I shouldn’t be afraid that if I go out to Starbucks or shopping at Target that some citizen is going to decide to stop a shoplifter by pulling their gun and shooting up a parking lot.  Bystander Firing at Fleeing Shoplifter.  Or a man looking at an air rifle in Walmart ends up killed by the police.  Man with Air Rifle Fatally Shot.  I shouldn’t be afraid of dying in a movie theater because some mentally ill man can buy an arsenal.  And god help me if some bystander decides to whip out their gun and start shooting in a dark theater filled with terrified people in an effort to stop the shooter.  I have no confidence in the NRA’s vaunted “good guy with a gun”.  I’m pretty confident they’d just add to the death toll.  Apparently neither does the police chief of Dallas.  Armed Civilians in Texas ‘increasingly. challenging’.
We have got to have a serious conversation about race, about guns, about how we face the future.  We have a President who has asked for careful and judicious words, to bring down the rhetoric.  In response we have the presumptive Republican nominee who has used racial anxiety to win the nomination Tweeting — “Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!”
I am a liberal and a gun owner.  But this is madness.  The rule of law does not mean that we take the law into our own hands.  That we answer grievances with a bullet.  Let’s try words.  They can be very powerful.

When Guns Replace Words

Over on Facebook I’ve been nattering on about horses and the World Science Fiction Convention  because I truly cannot make sense of Dallas.  Or perhaps it’s all painfully obvious and understandable, and I’m trying to avoid facing it.
We have a divided society with economic and social inequality. We have a fraught history as regards race in this country which we have never honestly faced. We have an increasingly militarized police force and minority populations who feel separated and disenfranchised from their country, government, society.   Who feel that their lives don’t matter as they are denied decent housing, education, and protection.
And we have guns.
So many, many guns and people who have come to think that guns are how you solve disagreements. Or get yours. Or make a statement.  Or prove you still have power.
We desperately need to learn to put away the guns. Pick up words again. Learn to talk. Learn to listen. Learn to hear.  Learn to look past superficial differences and see the common humanity braided in our very DNA.  

Enchanting New Mexico

I am so glad to be home. No moon, so the sky is like black crystal. The Milky Way looks like a gossamer shawl thrown over Heaven’s shoulders. The longer I look the more stars seem to appear. There are the big, bold ones trying to see who can throw the most light, and then the small, shy ones peeping out from behind them like elf children.  There is a soft breeze carrying the scent of piñon and juniper, and making the trees sigh and dip. My wind chimes are singing to each other.   Together they create an A sharp major chord.

And the quiet.  Oh god, how I’ve missed the quiet.

X-Men Apocalypse

**************************************************************HERE BE SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!*****************************************************************************************

Saturday night I took myself off to the Cinepolis to see the new X-Men film rejoicing in the rather ominous title X-Men: Apocalypse.  I’ve greatly enjoyed X-Men First Class and Days of Future Past.  I’ve been a big James McAvoy fan and Fassbender is perfect as young Magneto so this wasn’t going to be a hardship. However, I was dubious about this new film because it looked like character proliferation which usually leads to a frenetic mess as they try to service all the characters.  I’m also getting really tired of apocalypses.  I’m reaching the point with these superhero movies where I’m like — “Okay, just destroy the world already!”

I came away from the movie feeling like it was two films that had melted together, and I liked one of the films much better than the other.  The small, personal stories were lovely.  Scott’s brother, Alex, getting him to Xavier’s school.  Mystique/Raven being a hero to mutants around the world. Magneto having made a life for himself.  Quicksilver in search of family and father. Charles as gentle mentor and wise teacher.

I liked the dark underbelly where mutants are used and abused in fight clubs.  (We went there in the last Wild Cards novel Lowball, and it makes sense), but I didn’t buy that there was all this mutant hate and distrust after the events in Days of Future Past.  Also the time line between the final scene in Future Past with Wolverine back at the school and everything fine and dandy, and this new timeline where entire cities had been destroyed and millions killed had my head spinning.  How exactly did that happen?

But I get ahead of myself.  So our big villain, Apocalypse, arrives and once again we had a megalomaniac determined to destroy the world because…. why?  Exactly?  And after the destruction of major cities and the deaths of millions we’re going to all end up back at the mansion with the school just humming along…..?

Character motivation was another problem for me.  I didn’t get why the three kids joined up with Apocalypse so willingly?  I could buy it with Magneto.  He had lost everything so Let It Burn seemed like a place he would go, but Storm and Angel and Psylocke ?  Wouldn’t they want to get an eight track, and some tapes and go on a date?  I guess there was some hint they were mind controlled but it felt very forced to me.  Rather like the engineered conflict between Batman and Superman in what had be this year’s absolutely, positively worst superhero movie.  It’s like nerd wet dreams — Wouldn’t it be cool if Batman and Superman fight.  Even cooler if various X-Men fight just ‘cause.

There were points where I thought I was going to end up liking Apocalypse better than Civil War, but ultimately X-Men lost me when it went to a very comic book place in the final scenes.

Putting aside for the moment  the fact that Cairo was completely destroyed and millions of innocent people were killed not to mention other cities with massive destruction, we have Eric murdering six or seven cops because a terrible accident occurred.  The cops had come to confront Magneto because of the events from 10 years before.  He was, in fact, a wanted criminal.  It wasn’t just mutant hate.  Then things go pear shaped his daughter dies, and he kills them.  Next up the whole world destroying thing, and then the school gets rebuilt and Charles wistfully suggests that he wishes Eric would stay.  We once again have the “farewell, old friend” moment.  Your old friend just murdered a gaggle of cops and then wiped Cairo off the map!

I’m all for redemption and salvation, but there are some crimes that are beyond forgiveness.  Magneto’s actions fall into that category for me.  But again, no consequences, no revulsion from Charles or Quicksilver, or Jean, or the pious (and darling) Nightcrawler. 

I understand these movies are fantasies, but at least nod toward the bigger issues.  And that’s where ultimately Civil War ends up being the better film.  I still felt like the fight between Ironman and the Cap was forced, but at least they were discussing big issues about a world in which there are superpowers.  Ultimately in Apocalypse the blood of innocents cried out from the sand and rubble, and no one answered.

Stasi Anyone?

If only it were a delicious frothy drink.  Or a fun game to be played at picnics.  But it’s not.  The Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit) was the secret police of East Germany.  The organization that had neighbors spying on neighbors and citizens reporting each other.  It’s a common creation of authoritarian states.  Stalin had the NKVD.  Nazi Germany had the Gestapo.  I wonder what President Trump will call his secret police?

Here are a couple of quotes from the presumptive Republican nominee for president made on Monday June 13th, 2016 —

“If it can be proven that somebody had information about any attack, and did not give this information to authorities, they must serve prison time.” 

“We need to make sure every single person involved in this plan, including anyone who knew something, but didn’t tell us, is brought to justice.  These people need to have consequences, big consequences.” 

An entire class of American citizens has been deemed guilty and worthy of suspicion solely on the basis of their religion.  That is the very definition of unAmerican.  It is contrary to our founding documents, our ideals, our sense of ourselves.

If it doesn’t send a shiver down the spine of any thinking citizen then the grand experiment that was American representative democracy is truly ending.

And The Dreams Die

I’m still trying to process yesterday’s horror. What I can’t understand is the retreat to the political corners and simplistic binary choice — it’s either guns or it’s terrorism.  As the President pointed out this morning in his statement from the Oval Office — it can be both.  It is both.  In fact it’s a three dimensional mess because it’s also blatant homophobia. Yes, this gunman had been self-radicalized. Yes it was ridiculously easy for him to purchase an assault rifle. But he picked Pulse for a reason. Because that nightclub was a place where LGBTQ people found friendship, and community and a place to dance and have fun.  In short safety in a world that still doesn’t accept them as equal citizens, and where major religions still demonize and attack them and some more outrageous voices call for their deaths and deliver those deaths.
Why are these people who commit these ghastly acts so afraid?  Why do they hate so much?  At the most basic genetic level we are identical whether we’re black, white, asian, gay, Muslim, Christian, male or female.  Each time this happens — a Planned Parenthood clinic, an elementary school, an African-American church, a movie theater, a Christmas party, a college campus…… (There’s too many to list) my hope that a united humanity will reach the stars dies a little more.
Apparently we are going to choke on our own bile on a world we are systematically poisoning.

Fast Forward

When I was five or six grownups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I said a jockey.  They laughed at me and told me “girls can’t be jockeys”.

When I was ten grownups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I said an astronaut.  They laughed and me and said, “girls can’t be astronauts”.

When I was thirteen or fourteen grownups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I said President of the United States.  They laughed at me and said, “Girls can’t be President.”

Tonight I’m watching history being made.  And perhaps more history will be made in November.  The world has certainly changed since I was a little girl and a teenager.

More Magicians

I guess my blog is viewed by more people then I realize because my lyrical post about The Magicians landed me an interview/discussion about the show for Wired.  Here’s the link where you can listen in while David Barr Kirtley interviews Andrew Liptak and me about the show.

Wired Geeks Guide The Magicians

A Heartfelt Plea

I generally don’t get political here.  I talk about movies and games and books, writing, riding, etc.  But as this long (too long) campaign season winds toward its conclusion I have to speak up, and plead with Democrats and Independents and progressives to think very hard about wounded feelings.

I have repeated stated that I am team blue.  I will vote for which ever candidate wins the nomination.  For the record I will vote for Secretary Clinton in the New Mexico primary, but if Senator Sanders takes the nomination I will happily vote for him for president.

There have, however, been many calls — from both sides, though my personal experience has been more calls from Senator Sander’s side — that if their preferred candidate doesn’t take the nomination they are going to take their marbles and go home ie not vote, or vote third party, or vote for Trump or Senator Cruz because that will show them!

First, it’s a great tragedy to not exercise that right.  Countless numbers of Americans fought and died so we would have that right and even now we are seeing that precious right being rolled back by Republican state legislatures and we have a Congress that won’t re-authorize the voting rights act.  So please vote, but think about the power of that vote and use it wisely.

Which brings me to the plea.  Please, please do not allow your personal feelings to have potentially dire consequences for real living, breathing Americans.  If we don’t unify and come out in strong numbers to vote in November we make it far more likely that a conservative will win the White House, and in the worst case scenario have control of both the House and the Senate.  Please consider what that would mean for —

The poor woman in south Texas who can not afford to make the drive to San Antonio and wait days to have an abortion.  There are already woman who have endangered their health by trying to self abort.  Consider this exchange —

Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health… tells the story of a woman who called her clinic in McAllen to schedule an abortion. It was the day after HB2 had taken effect, and the clinic was unable to provide abortions under the new law.

A clinic worker told the woman that she would need to travel 250 miles to a clinic in San Antonio, get initial counseling, and wait 24 hours for the procedure.

Ms. Miller said the woman responded: “I’m a working mother, I have a job, I have two children at home, and I absolutely can’t travel to San Antonio.” The woman added, “But I need this abortion, I can’t afford to have another child.”

Miller recalled the woman’s next words. “She said, ‘If I tell you what is in my medicine cabinet and what is under my sink, can you tell me how to do my own abortion?’ ”  Effect of Texas Abortion Rules

Think about that for a minute.  This is a real person.  Maybe a neighbor who is willing to risk her health and possibly her life.  How much worse will it get if a Republican fills that vacant seat on the Supreme Court?  I’m old enough to remember when women went into back alleys for illegal abortions and they died.

Or the minimum wage.  There are millions of Americans working two and three jobs to try and support their families and keep a roof over their heads.  Do you think they’re going to get that minimum wage increase if we stay home and don’t vote?

There are children whose only meal is the lunch the receive at school.  The Congress would like to cut funding for those programs.

There are elderly people who are no longer allowed to vote because they can’t gather the proper documents or can’t afford them even if they can locate them.  Students whose college Id’s aren’t considered valid identification, but by god you can vote if you have a concealed carry gun permit.  (Perhaps we ought to start a fund so every minority voter, elderly voter, or college kid can apply for the concealed carry.)  Consider this situation in North Carolina — North Carolina’s Voter ID Law.

And how about health care?  The Republicans have sworn to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  If they do that and roll back the medicaid expansions millions of people are going to lose access to doctors and hospitals and many of them will die.

Immigrant families that are going to be torn apart, separated by borders, and if Trump has his way, walls.  Or our Muslim citizens who are going to becomes The Other in their own country and subjected to more and more suspicion and harassment.

The LGBT community that will find their right to marry rolled back and disallowed.  Or find themselves unable to adopt.  I can’t imagine how that must feel for a family.  And then there are the so called religious liberty laws that are merely an excuse to discriminate.

What I’m saying is taking a “principled” stand and staying home because your guy or gal didn’t get the nod from the voters and the delegates might make us feel good or happily bitter (I’ll show them), or noble, but it might very well have dire consequences for our fellow citizens.  Real world consequence as in hunger or death.

I also don’t buy the argument that by allowing a man like Donald Trump into the White House will “bring the revolution sooner.”  First it’s not going to happen and second revolutions usually don’t turn out well.  We have a constitutional system in place that has allowed us to work toward a more perfect union.  Do we wish certain things could have happened more quickly?  Of course.  Were there missteps?  Naturally.  But overall it’s a system that has allowed for progressive change without violent upheaval.

So please, let’s all of us swallow our resentments and set aside our personal feelings and think about people outside our own circles who are hoping we’ll all remember them and their needs.   I think the motto of our nation sums it up pretty well.

E pluribus unum — Out of many, one.

Adaptations — The Magicians

I’ve done a lot of adaptations.  It’s a tricky skill, but fun.  You have to take from the underlying material the essential themes, the emotional sense of the work, keep the characters relatively intact, but be willing to make changes because film and print are two different mediums and they tell stories in different ways.  The emotional impact is ultimately the same, but how you get there is different.  You have to know what to cut and what to expand.

Right now I’m watching a master class in adaptation.  It’s a show called The Magicians, and it’s on SyFy.  Yeah, I know, crazy, right?  I started watching the show which has great production values, excellent writing and overall a very fine cast.  I was so impressed that I bought the first book and started reading.

This is a case where the filmed version is better than the book.

Okay, I’m going to talk specifics from the book and the show which means there are going to be SPOILERS!!!!!!! so stop reading now if you hate SPOILERS!!!!!!


I’ve only read the first book and I have to be honest.  While I found the world and the characters interesting the book read more like an outline then a well plotted narrative.  It felt like the author was exploring his world, but didn’t totally have a handle on the story he wanted to tell.

Enter the writing team who adapted the book series for television.  Right away they made a number of changes.  The characters are all older — heading to graduate school rather then high school kids heading to college.  That has worked well.  They have also slowed down the action.  In the book Quentin rushes through Brakebills.  In the show he’s still in his first year.  It’s working far better.

Apparently the entire story line about Julia, the girl who didn’t get into Hogwarts… er Brakebills, and so becomes a hedge witch begins in book two, but the screenwriters rightly decided to weave her story in with Quentin’s adventures at the school.  They find ways to have the two former friends cross paths, and there is an interesting echo in that both of them take casual actions that start to have dreadful consequences.

The show is much darker in tone then the book and the villain far more horrifying.  In the book his face is obscured by a tree branch.  In the show they use a cloud of moths.  Now whenever I see a moth I find myself shuddering.  Again as a visual cue it’s brilliant.

A recent episode of the show is the one that really made me hope I have the opportunity to meet with the creative team behind The Magicians and shake their hand.  First a bit of context.  In The Magicians there is a beloved fantasy book series about a magical place called Fillory and the three children who got to travel there.  Yes, very much a call back to C.S. Lewis, but that’s the set up.  At the end of book one our heroes defeat The Beast, and have a conversation with the sister who tells why her brother turned into this monstrous figure.  In the book she casually tosses out the information that the author of the Fillory books molested her brother when he was a boy.  It is literally almost a throw away line.

The show found a far more powerful and interesting way to give us this information.  Out of a sentence or two in the book the television writers crafted an entire episode and it was a damn good one.  Our heroes have gone to tour the author’s home in search of a magical object.  They break in after-hours, and since they are all magicians they begin to see ghostly scenes from the past.  They see the author coercing the brother into undressing while the older man takes photos, and then it’s very clear they go off to have sex.  Quentin who has adored and revered this writer is sickened, horrified and we see him start to lose some of his geeky innocence and self-doubt and become a man.

As for this magical object.  In the book one of the characters just buys it from a magical junk salesman and it happens off stage.  He then just turns up and says, “Hey, I have this magic thingee and it takes you to a different world.”  Again the adaptors allowed the protagonists to “protag”.  They go in search of this object after they’ve discovered that it exists instead of it all being by happenstance.

Bottom line if you’ve toyed with adapting take a look at this show.  In its own right it’s a terrific hour of television, and for writers it’s an inspiration and, like I said, a master class in adaptation.


  • Helsinki Worldcon August 9th – 13th
  • GoH at Tuscon November 10-12, Tucson AZ
  • Boskone February 16-18, 2018
  • GoH at Convergence July 5-8, 2018

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