Shannara

Reflections on the Shannara Chronicles

One of the very VERY first adult books I ever read was the Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I rapidly fell in love with his work, and have read most of his books (and I can safely say that I had read all of the Shannara books as of about ten years ago). I actually got to meet him when he was on tour in 2009, which was AWESOME!

I met Terry Brookes in Eugene, Oregon in 2009

I met Terry Brookes in Eugene, Oregon in 2009

But, then a funny thing happened. I realized as I picked up a new book from one of his series that I knew nothing about anyone in the series anymore. I wasn't picking up a book with familiar characters, characters that I had left at some cliffhanger, stuck in the midst of a plight that might have destroyed the world in the previous year since the last book was released.

See, Shannara is a series of books that, I would argue, is about the world of Shannara more than it is about the characters of Shannara. Sure, there are Ohmsfords, Leahs, and Elessedil's throughout, but they aren't the same ones. In fact, most of the "series" of Shannara books are written generations apart from the others. 

This is not to say the writing is bad. Quite the opposite. I think Brooks is one of our generation's best sci/fi writers. He tells brilliant stories, and makes engaging characters that I want to read about. And that's my problem! When a series wraps up, and I have only gotten to spend a couple of short-ish books (or in some particularly terrible cases, just a single book!) following those characters, I want more. I don't want to meet the next Elessedil. I want to read more about the current one. That original series of books I read, now called the Heritage of Shannara, was particularly tough for me to let go. Walker Boh, Wren Elessedil, Par and Col Ohmsford... to this day, I want to read more about those characters. I want a Wheel of Time level of material about that group of people!

This brings me to the Shannara Chronicles, the show that MTV piloted this year.

I was super sketchy on MTV of all places doing the show. Surprisingly? It was actually pretty good. IGN and IMDB both gave it pretty favorable reviews throughout. Like an 8, which is more than 'pretty good' these days. Sure, it's more of a YA show than the books are YA books... But that's to be expected on MTV. So yes, the love triangle is, perhaps, a bit more played up than it needed to be. They probably played up some of the technological things more than they needed to (both effects and things I shouldn't talk about becase spoilers). But that's alright. It was enjoyable. 

Enter my concern. Remember how I said I wanted to read more about the same characters? I'm kind of in the same place with the show. Season 1 explores the Elfstones of Shannara, which is the second book that Brooks wrote, part of the original trilogy. Guess what? Books 1 and 3 are about totally different people than Elfstones, and without giving spoilers, season 1 of the show effectively covers the content of book 2. So, where does that leave us with season 2? 

Sure, some tv shows swap casts (see True Detective) but I don't love the concept. I'm really interested to see where this goes. Will season 2 move into Legend of the Seeker territory and start making up entirely new material about the characters from the book? I sort of hope not. That worked great on Dexter. It didn't work so great most other places. Legend of the Seeker by the way, the TV show adaptation of Terry Goodkind's Seeker of Truth series, was... um... much less good. And, it totally bailed on the original storyline from the books (for no good reason).

Rumor has it there is a season 2 of Shannara on the way. I'm really interested to see how they handle what comes next.

A History in Three Parts

It's been a few weeks since I posted, my apologies for that. I'm continuing my revision on the book, I still have a few dozen percentage points to lob off in this read through, but I'm encouraged by what I'm reading. Amazingly, the newest material I've written is cleaner than much of the old material. I credit some of this to writing in Scrivener and not on my iPad. I'm a much more accurate typist on a laptop than I ever was on the iPad. I also I think, have to credit some of it to where I am with my writing now. I have a much firmer grasp on my characters and my story than I did even six months ago, let alone a year or more ago. The difference is showing.

This post is all about the past, and three instances of it.

First of all, I recently listened to a story on NPR about a rejection that Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House books, received. What was to be her first novel, was finally published decades after her death, and it's selling out like crazy. This book, unlike her others, wasn't written for children. It was a much more accurate memoir. I find it difficult to think of someone like Wilder as a novice writer, but it just goes to show, that not only does everyone start somewhere, even things that are rejected today might very well wind up a best seller. Eventually.

Next, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend a genealogy seminar hosted by a local chapter of Sons of Norway. I don't have any Norwegian blood in me... at least I don't think I do, but my wife does, and one of her co-workers put on the event. It was actually incredibly interesting, not only when thinking about working on my own family history (which is admittedly from other countries) and as a writer.

In Norway, there are many traditions that are quite different than modern American record keeping. For example, the date of birth was not actually the date of birth. It was the date of baptism. Many other records centered around the confirmation date in the local church. While both of these examples happen to be tied up in religion, I think they are both great examples of how a culture can be very different than the modern one that we are aware of.

Another example I found interesting was the naming structure. It's a Given Name, a Family Name, and then a Farm name. I actually, inadvertently started following a similar naming schema for my book, where people's last name is based not on their family lineage, but on the location of their birth.

You and I certainly won't be the first (or the last) authors to pull inspiration from old histories, so I'm not suggesting something novel here, but it might lead you down an interesting path. Besides, aside from writing, you might stumble across something cool about your own family.

Finally, I finally watched the first episode of the Outlander television show this evening. I don't typically read a bunch of historical fiction/fantasy, but it seemed like a really well done adaption. It's shot well, I'm super impressed by the acting, and honestly, more than anything it gives me hope. With Games of Thrones' success, this could well be another SFF television show that helps define the genre in a way we just don't usually get on TV. It also makes me hope that the upcoming Shannara television show (being produced by MTV of all places) is well done so that it survives more than a season.

OH, and I also discovered that my favorite production team is behind Outlander. Ronald D. Moore (of such awesomeness as the SciFi channel's Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek Deep Space Nine) created the show along with Ira Steven Behr. These gentlemen have done amazing work in the past, and they even brought in Bear McCreary to do the soundtrack for the show. I don't listen to a ton of symphonic stuff, or even soundtracks anymore, but I can just turn on Bear's music and listen for hours and hours and hours...