Let me first say that Lev Grossman is something of a inspiration to me. The series is loosely based on the novels but it's also amazing.

Childhood was not a pleasant time for me, nor was it for a lot of us, especially fans of speculative fiction. The term escapism was always tossed about in English classes (where incidentally we didn't learn English, we read books. The first time I heard what a gerund was in Spanish class) as a lesser form of serious literature. Any serious consideration of the "literary canon" will reveal this distinction to be completely arbitrary.

And God forbid anyone read anything because they enjoy it.

Quentin Coldwater, the main character in the magicians is a bit of a fuck up, who grew up reading books about a magical land called Fillory (which is a like Narnia). Many times in the series he states that the books saved him from killing himself. And this is where I love the Magician's critique and homage to the fantasy genre.

A troubled child escapes from reality for many reasons. For some, there is a heroic purpose and a clear cut definition of good and evil. For me, I felt unsafe and powerless. At school, bullies were always a looming threat. At home I found myself in trouble for infractions. So I really liked the concept of having special abilities that would even out the unfairness of what others could do to me.

Magicians_hero_tour_01The Magicians offers both an escape and reflection of painful reality. As a lover of the books, I was already sold on the TV series and the last episode (11) has lingered with me all week.

There is an amazingly acted sequence when the characters literally bottle their emotions that includes one of the best lines ever delivered, "I concur. Feelings are bullshit." This bon mat is followed by the immediate return of emotion, where each of the actors gives a stunning (and character specific) performance as they are overwhelmed by their bottled up feelings.

It was one of those rare over-the-top scenes that actors live for.

What I like so much about the series and books is that there is a real dimension to the characters. They're flawed and irreverent, but they feel real and surprisingly grounded. The real action comes from their struggles with themselves and arguably the series could stand well enough on its own without all the magic.  But it's just so great. But the magic is really cool.

The hand gestures deserve a special call out -- they use a choreographer for "tutting" which is intricate hand motions. It's quite amazing when the characters cast spells.

All in all, it's a show you should be watching.

I've included a tutting video for your pleasure and amazement....




I've been a fan of the Fallout franchise since the first one where I was able to get gay married to the farmer's idiot son Davin. Davin was useless and you couldn't get rid of him unless you shot him (or sold him into slavery for 300 caps) but I spent endless hours exploring the wasteland.


And so it was with the enthusiasm of a post college graduate without a regular job that I downloaded Fallout 4.

I pulled an all nighter... that went into the next day. Nearly 36 hours later I finally convinced myself to go to sleep. Over the course of November when all my writer friends were writing their November novels, I was glued to my screen. I took only the occasional break to attend to functions essential for existence: urinating, buying more beer, and watching The Good Wife.

If you've ever said to yourself, "Self, I want to do nothing but play video games," my  only word of caution is be careful what you wish for...

I have done zero publicity for my second book. My third book, meanwhile has been sorely neglected; as has my blog, personal hygiene, and living conditions. I went days without talking to another living soul as I searched for my imaginary son in an virtual wasteland and looting garbage like someone on Hoarders.

I've gotten the faint hint of a pot belly from my lack of physical activity. To be fair, my busted knee kicked off the whole sitting around all day habit but my metabolism is showing the first signs of finally slowing down after nearly forty years of flawless performance.

But, after 62 levels, eighty hours of game play, and two of four possible endings... I'm ready to return to society. I got a haircut, put in more hours at work, and started writing my next chapter.

Book 3 (no working title yet) is a major departure from the first two, focusing on the Travelers and their secrets. I'm very excited to see how everything from the first two is finally fitting together. Stay tuned.


Okay, I'm going to be real with y'all for just a second. When I'm not working on my next book I'm a TV junkie. I have literally watched every episode of every show, to the point that I have run out of things to watch.

I'm hardly alone. At an average of 90 minutes a day Americans spend more time on Netflix than they do eating or having sex. Netflix alone accounts for a third of all internet traffic. Of course I don't get all this stuff from Netflix... I also have Prime and the "other" streaming service.

It's ironic because I used to pride myself on not owning a television. To be fair, television in the days of the major networks was generally terrible. It probably still is... I still don't own a TV but it has through various ways and means found me and it's Good. There are so many awesome shows on nowadays people complain that you can't see them all.

Those are obviously people with day jobs and families. By the time most people are hitting their 2PM slump, I've caught up on everything that aired the previous day. If Netflix or Amazon dump a series in it's entirety I clear my schedule. (There are some shows I didn't get into-- Amazon's original programming is a little bit hit or miss for me.)

I tell myself that it's good practice for understanding character, plot and dialogue. And in a way I think it is. The Queen of Lies was an ambitious undertaking for a first novel-- most authors stick to a central character and a subplot or two. My brain doesn't work that way and I think I owe that in part to binge watching and seeing plots that don't have neat summaries unfold in the course of ten uninterpreted hours.

Obviously there's a diminishing return. I have a stack of books that lie neglected, which is shameful because I am after all writing books. I've read maybe ten since april.

Below, in purely alphabetical order, is every show I could come up with in under ten minutes that I have seen in it's entirety within the last year-ish. How does your viewing stack up to this list?  ...continue reading "I Have a TV Addiction (70 Shows in the last year)"

GoT is not to everyone's taste. It's dark as fuck, and maybe it makes for a better critique against Disney-esque fantasy tropes of benevolent male-dominated monarchies than it does sexual violence against women. I've written about Sansa's rape in a previous post, but it's a vexing story line for me in other ways. Mostly because it's kind of uninteresting.

She doesn't change dramatically as a character at the end of Season five. Maybe a little. But even from the perspective of a story, what was her purpose at Winterfell? I may have watched that episode drunk but it was allegedly because Littlefinger told her to. She, and by proxy Littlefinger, accomplished literally nothing except marrying Bolton and reuniting with Theon. Presumably so she can be hunted all through season six? I hope not. I don't know-- the show has gone completely off book. The whole premise for her story (i.e. going to Winterfell) is fucking stupid.

Sansa-Stark-sansa-stark-34733427-2362-3543How on earth can she take back her home if she's married to the man she needs to kill? She's not an assassin. She's not a character who can use her beauty and wiles to lure him into a trap. There is in fact, no plan after she shows up aside from the candle in the window thing, which presents itself later. Incidentally that action accomplishes nothing because Brienne is off killing Stannis.

And maybe it seems stupid because it's not really her story. In the book, Theon was the main character at Winterfell and he escaped by jumping into snow with another girl, Jayne. It's really his story, which is much more interesting given the amount of dehumanizing mental abuse and torture he suffers at Bolton's hands. Jayne is a damsel-type character who spurs Theon to finally take action and reclaim some small measure of personal agency. It was never about Jayne. In the show, Sansa finds herself in the role of Jayne. The focus is on her when it's really about another character entirely.

Putting all of that in perspective, I want to have a satisfying resolution to her arc. We've followed her numerous trials and tribulations through five seasons now, all the while expecting some kind of payoff. There is no guarantee of that in GoT... She has every possibility of dying ignominiously at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. The debt of tragedy incurred is starting to look like it will not be paid.

But let's discuss the real elephant in the room. Sansa, sadly, is just not that interesting of a protagonist. You root for her, you feel bad for her, but you never really get to cheer for her. Yes she survives, and she is learning intrigue at a glacial pace. But nothing so far indicates that she will ever become as conniving as Littlefinger or as manipulative as Cersei. She certainly won't attain the badass gravitas of Brienne, Danaerys or Arya. Her defining attribute is her perseverance through quiet courage. So her story so far is just how much terrible shit can she put up with and this season added rape to the pile of horror she's endured.

In the books she's set to become Queen of the Aerie and retake Winterfell with an actual army. It's a bit of a snooze but she shows some talent at deception and the ever faintest a glimmer of hope at being a major player. Because the TV writers clearly want to condense the casting and convoluted subplots of the books, they sent her to Winterfell. It does not feel like an artistic decision, more than a constraint for a story that has outgrown its ten episode a year format.

That's what's really tragic... and why season five felt like a refrain of seasons 2 & 3.


Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out September. Sign up for the mailing list for more info.