“It has begun.”
July 16, 2015 8:51 AM   Subscribe

The Shannara Chronicles [Official First Look] [YouTube]
Watch an exclusive first look at ‘The Shannara Chronicles,’ a new scripted series based on Terry Brooksbest-selling fantasy books, coming to MTV in January 2016. This preview originally debuted inside "The Shannara Chronicles" panel discussion at San Diego Comic-Con 2015.
The Shannara Chronicles is an upcoming American television series by MTV set to premiere in January 2016. The filming of 10-episodes series wrapped in New Zealand in June 2015, and the first trailer was debuted on July 10, 2015. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar created the series, based on the Shannara novels series. Stars are Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett, Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton, and John Rhys-Davies. Terry Brooks has stated in interview that he is happy with the way his story has been adapted. [wiki]
- The Shannara Chronicles author Terry Brooks on what fans can expect from the new MTV show. [Entertainment Weekly]
EW: Was it always going to be a TV show in your mind?
TB: This is something I always thought was a good idea because I think it needs more space. You’re talking about a 600-page-plus book. You really need a lot of space to sprawl all over and make it come in under three hours when you’re doing that.
EW: What was behind the decision to start with your second book in the series?
TB: I’ve always thought Elfstones was the right choice. It’s the second book in the series. It’s probably the single most popular book. It’s the one I hear about most of the time, when readers are talking about the different books. The demographic is real strong. It’s good strong female characters, strong male characters. It’s got a love story. It just felt to me from the beginning that this was the one that should be the starting point. Luckily, everyone agreed with me, so that went along just fine.
EW: Is the series a straight adaptation of Elfstones, similar to how Game of Thrones is adapted?
TB: Don’t mention Game of Thrones to me. We were saying, “We don’t want to go that route.” That’s not what the Shannara books are. They’re a family-oriented fantasy and always have been. That’s been one of the strong selling points. Anyone from 10 years of age up that has the reading skills can read these books. We’ve always talked about it as a family drama that anyone can watch. I thought of it as a straight adaptation. I told Al and Miles early on, “I know you’re going to have to make changes. Just hold the bones of the story together.”
- Austin Butler And The ‘Shannara Chronicles’ Cast Reveal The Dark Side Of Being An Elf. [MTV.com]
“We did have some interesting elf ear moments,” Drayton said. “Because they’re made of gelatin, so when you go in water, they tend to have a bit of a hard time. There was a time when [Butler’s character] Wil had to be in a stream, and your elf ears just sort of went [drooping noise], like sad little puppy ears.”
As for Davies — who had to make an adjustment to the ears after years of playing an elf-opposed dwarf in the “Lord of the Rings” movies — he’s just glad he was able to surpass the status of LOTR’s most famous elven heartthrob. “Let me reiterate the point that I’ve been trying to make my whole year: from dwarf to elf king,” he joked. “Orlando Bloom, eat your heart out.”
- Meet The Magical Characters Of MTV’s New Series ‘The Shannara Chronicles’ [MTV.com]
- Amberle, played by Poppy Drayton
- Wil Ohmsford, played by Austin Butler
- Allanon, played by Manu Bennett
- Eretria, played by Ivana Baquero
- King Eventine, played by John Rhys-Davies
- Catania, played by Brooke Williams
- Bandon, played by Marcus Vanco
- Arion, played by Daniel MacPherson
- Ander, played by Aaron Jakubenko
- Cephalo, played by James Remar

- Terry Brooks: MTV is Doing The Shannara Chronicles Right [Paste Magazine]
posted by Fizz (79 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been a member of the Terry Brooks forum for 10+ years and this is something I'm very excited about. It has so much potential and from what I've seen so far, it is being treated with lots of respect for the source material and passion from everyone involved. I am very hopeful that this series succeeds. Even if it ultimately doesn't. I'm just happy to see Terry Brooks' vision set to life. Thanks for letting us into your world Mr. Brooks. Good luck.
posted by Fizz at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, look, more pretty white folks in New Zealand. Complete with John Rhys-Davies.

I'll just drop this essay by N. K. Jemisin about white apocalypses.
posted by suelac at 8:56 AM on July 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Note she links to this MeFi post as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2015


this is something I'm very excited about.

So you're saying that this magic kingdom for sale

(•_•)
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■)

...sold.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


Not having gotten around to reading either one back when I was reading a lot of fantasy, I have this problem with keeping Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind straight. So, my big relief here was realizing that this wasn't the Objectivist one.
posted by Sequence at 9:05 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I thought it was a Piers Anthony book for a second.
posted by Nevin at 9:07 AM on July 16, 2015


Piers' show would be on late night Cinemax.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:09 AM on July 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


The Shannara series is set in a fictional world called the Four Lands. The Genesis of Shannara trilogy reveals the Four Lands to be located in the modern Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada. Much of the landscape has been changed by a future holocaust, but some landmarks remain. For example, the Columbia River still exists.

Hmmm, so these books take place after the Big One, the big subduction zone earthquake that is supposed to take out Vancouver, Seattle and Portland?
posted by Nevin at 9:10 AM on July 16, 2015


my big relief here was realizing that this wasn't the Objectivist one.

That's actually already been adapted as "Legend of the Seeker." They only did a couple seasons, stopping well short of the evil chicken.
posted by Iridic at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2015


Nevin, *spoilers*

One thing that hooked me into the Shannara universe was that it was a kind of future de-evolution into a more traditional medieval fantasy universe. A thing called 'The Great Wars' happens and we lose all our technology. So how do elves, dwarves, goblins come into it.
The wars became extremely serious when they broke into full scale combat between different groups. The uncontrolled energies unleashed by the sciences Man had developed over the years tore across the earth, drastically altering the landscape and killing most of the life in the world. However, a small percentage survived, among them remnants of the race of Man. The Wars had caused such upheaval that Man had divided into four races, only one of which remained seemingly unchanged. The rest, however, were different.

One race had fled beneath the surface of the earth to escape the effects of the Great Wars. Thus they became accustomed to underground life, their eyes adapting to darkness while their bodies became short but strong. When they emerged, they were nearly blinded by the light of the outside world. Because of their new appearance, they were called Dwarves, after a mythical race of the Old World.
posted by Fizz at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


For those that read the original trilogy way back when - - the TV series is based on the second book in the series The Elfstones Of Shannara published in 1982.
posted by fairmettle at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


1. I somehow thought that Terry Brooks was dead, so that was kind of a revelation.

2. I read these books as a kid, and missed the whole technology devolution, so the shot of the Space Needle in the trailer was really jarring.

3. MTV's refusal to show us any actual acting going on, for the most part, gives me concern.
posted by TwoStride at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


the TV series is based on the second book in the series

...presumably because they couldn't get the rights from the Tolkien estate to film the first one.
posted by Slothrup at 9:30 AM on July 16, 2015 [43 favorites]


I love how they have to specify "scripted series." I'm up for a Shannara reality series!
posted by rikschell at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow some pretty serious snarking/hate-ons early in this thread.

However, 11-year-old me just cried watching this trailer and seeing their depiction of the Ellcrys, and now I'm remembering things I thought when originally reading these books, like "oh, I bet the Demons are like super-mutated Morlocks whose bodies are assembled entirely out of shiny, taut black sinews, but instead of blood they bleed this thick, poisonous ichor" and godDAMN if it isn't really just breathtakingly gorgeous of a world MTV's managed to build for us to explore...

Yeah, it may be disappointing. And yeah, Brooks is no Tolkein. Isn't that kind of the point? Fandoms gonna fandom, and I loved the LOTR film adaptations, too. Why not both?

Think I'll go reread the trilogy and get excited for more sexy Manu Bennett on my TV soon.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


RE: Tolkien/Shannara comparisons -- I loved author/critic Adam Roberts's largely-friendly comments when he read the first book last summer (2014).
posted by easement1 at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the books, in part because early on I learned at least the first book is a pretty big rip on LOTR. Hence the Tolkien references so far. Obviously, he moved past that first book quite successfully.

With the above in mind, I'm definitely going to give the show a chance. I'll be interested to see the production values involved and how well MTv treats it. Being an MTv product, I kind of expect it to have more in common with The 100 versus LOTR movies. That's not a bad thing, but it'll be interesting to read the Fanfare posts for the book readers!

Also, anything with Rhys....I'm in!
posted by Atreides at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Elfstones a lot when I was younger; what I remember interesting me the most was the ongoing War between the Elves and the demons, and I suspect - for budgetary reasons - we won't see much of that. Big battle sequences, hordes of extras and CGI; probably we'll get glimpses rather than any of the set pieces.

But I guess I'll give it a go and see.
posted by nubs at 10:00 AM on July 16, 2015


Yeah, it may be disappointing. And yeah, Brooks is no Tolkein. Isn't that kind of the point? Fandoms gonna fandom, and I loved the LOTR film adaptations, too. Why not both?

In every discussion I've ever had about Terry Brooks/Shannara, someone mentions how the first book: Sword of Shannara is a rip off of Lord of the Rings. And then it just turns into petty criticism of that. I'm not denying that there are obvious parallels and similar ideas, but people who stopped reading after that book, have to their own detriment, missed out on a number of great stories told after.

I came to Shannara in my 20s, somehow missing him during my more formative fantasy reading years and it was actually refreshing to pick up a fantasy novel that wasn't all grim-dark. There's a kind of lightness and hope in his novels that I find is missing from some of the more contemporary fantasy series that are written today.
posted by Fizz at 10:01 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh my god, I remember reading these when I was 9ish. My father hated them and made fun of them constantly as inferior Tolkien. (He didn't have any real problem with most of the other schlock fantasy I was reading around then, but the Shannara books are so blatant about it.) I loved them, though, especially the third one.

I too missed the technology/de-evolution piece. I do remember that when I read Anne McCaffrey around the same time and realized that you could have dragons and science fiction, it just blew my mind. I didn't even like Anne McCaffrey but, like, whoa.
posted by Frowner at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2015


So can you just read Elfstones as a standalone novel?

Asking for my niece, whose hot take on the trailer is "Someone crossed The 100 with LOTR and Nightmare On Elm Street," but who, being 15, is currently poring over publicity photos with her friend so they can decide what ships they support before the show even starts.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


So can you just read Elfstones as a standalone novel?

Yes, you can. I know many people who started with Elfstones and then went backwards. There are some small family references to a character's great-grandfather or something like that, but it will not detract from the story in any significant way.
posted by Fizz at 10:14 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Speaking of Piers Anthony, I'd love to see a dramatized version of the Apprentice Adept books.
posted by echocollate at 10:14 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the NK Jemisin:

And that is precisely what we end up with, when this kind of fantastical exclusion gets layered onto the site of real historical exclusion: racist wish fulfillment fantasy. (Way to go, MTV.) Narratively, the exclusion suggests some Shit Went Down after the collapse or the plague or whatever it was that created this future world. What kind of shit? Genocide, apparently, on an epic scale. Eugenics, maybe, since apparently the orcish folks are some sort of mutant; that touches on the long, ugly history of medical experimentation in this country.

That is super interesting, and it's why really white (and/or straight) futures are almost always incredibly creepy - you know that according to the logic of the story (even if the author didn't think of it that way) something must have happened to all the people of color (and/or queer people)....and what might that be, I wonder?

There's an otherwise interesting set of books by Suzette Hayden Elgin set on a remote planet colonized by people from the Ozarks - and Elgin just has this throwaway line about how these Ozarkians got sick of all the pollution and awfulness on Earth and built their own generation ship, and no Black people wanted to come with. And we're just supposed to shrug and be like "oh, I guess that was just personal preferences, eh?" I mean, that explains what happened to the Black people in this particular future - they either built their own ships and went somewhere else or stayed behind on earth - but Elgin just doesn't seem to notice how fucking creepy it is.
posted by Frowner at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


or the incarnations of immortality!* :P
posted by kliuless at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read most of the Shannara books when I was a kid and can remember absolutely nothing about the plot. But I think that says more about my memory than the books.

3. MTV's refusal to show us any actual acting going on, for the most part, gives me concern.

I've been hoping for an eyecandy fantasy series that's less brutal than GoT but...I suspect this is not it. And that's not even counting the only-white-people-survived-the-apocalypse angle.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2015


Glad to see Middle-Earth TV breaking out from their All-Tolkien programming box.
posted by GuyZero at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2015


Piers' show would be on late night Cinemax

Piers' show would be on Tor, and you'd be put on a watchlist if you searched for it.
posted by Kreiger at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


what fans can expect from the new MTV show.

As a person of a certain age, that's the most startling thing to me. A sci-fi-ish/fantasy series! On MTV! Why I can remember The Time Before when there was nothing but reality shows from here to as far as you can see!

(Not long ago I joked to a friend that there was probably no one left at the company who even knew what the "M" in "MTV" stood for.)
posted by octobersurprise at 10:44 AM on July 16, 2015


easement1, great article, thanks! It's spot-on about the adjectives. I suggested skipping over Sword to my husband, but alas, he's a completionist.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I suggested skipping over Sword to my husband, but alas, he's a completionist.

Whenever I share my passion for Shannara and someone asks where to begin, I tell them to start with Elfstones and then try Sword after they've read a book or two or three. It's a bit easier. Sword was very much a Terry Brooks that was learning how to write, it is not perfect but it is still very enjoyable. It holds quite a bit of nostalgia for me.
posted by Fizz at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sword works when you are in the mood for some Tolkien, but don't want to deal with full Tolkien, if you get what I'm saying.
posted by nubs at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Do you know when packing this last weekend I realized that Sword was book 1 myself? That's how forgettable it is compared to the greater storyline, Fizz, in my mind. But people condemn Brooks' entire oeuvre for that single piece of writing.

Let's be honest: It's kinda Tolkein fanfic with some Camelot stuff thrown in, right?

Still have my hard copies of Magic Kingdom for Sale -- SOLD!, The Black Unicorn and Wizard At Large on the shelf, despite selling/giving away 5 boxes of books recently.

Brooks is a good transitional fantasy author for readers going from Tolkein and McCaffrey to YA/serialized novels with more violence, like James Dashner or Margaret Atwood. In my mind, the Landover and Dark Tower series could easily share a few Realtors.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:59 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I read this book repeatedly as a child, but I don't remember there being any emphasis whatsoever on "this is a post-apocalyptic Earth" beyond maybe a throwaway sentence in the exposition. No moldering aircraft carriers, no Space Needles. Nothing but high fantasy. Also, Allanon was old and kinda scary, not young and sexy. And the Demons weren't a bunch of orcs running around, but a vast host of killing machines of all shapes and sizes.

I am certainly interested in seeing the Reaper, but the Dagda Mor looks a little too much like one of these guys for me.

grump grump grump
posted by Existential Dread at 11:10 AM on July 16, 2015


I heard an interview with Brooks on a Kindle podcast, who knew we've been pronouncing "Shannara" wrong all these years?
posted by MikeMc at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2015


why really white (and/or straight) futures are almost always incredibly creepy...

And worse if you imagine their influence on the real future.
posted by sneebler at 11:17 AM on July 16, 2015


I read this book repeatedly as a child, but I don't remember there being any emphasis whatsoever on "this is a post-apocalyptic Earth"

Weird, that's like the only thing I remember from those books.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember loving these books as a kid, particularly Elfstones and Wishsong. I also remember feeling like the series really started to lose its charm around Book 6 (The Elf Queen of Shannara). I wonder if they actually got worse or it was just that my critical capacity had increased between starting the series at 13 and giving up on it at 18.

Regardless, I am excited to see that the predicted copycat big budget fantasy TV shows are indeed coming to pass. I vote someone does Earthsea next. (Yes, I know about the 2004 miniseries. I mean do it right.)
posted by 256 at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


My impression of the Shannara books goes like this:
First three books: Flawed but fun books.
The Heritage of Shannara: Brooks stretches a story that would normally fit into one of the first books into four. He mostly manages to make it work, though.
First King of Shannara: "The Contractual Obligation Novel of Shannara".
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Begins with some very interesting world building, gets too dark (complete with sexual abuse) in a jarring way by the end.
Took a break, years later decided to give him another chance.
High Druid of Shannara: Read the first book and another female character was "defiled" within the first chapter or two. I was done.
posted by charred husk at 11:43 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


A sci-fi-ish/fantasy series! On MTV! Why I can remember The Time Before when there was nothing but reality shows from here to as far as you can see!

And I can remember The Time Before The Time Before when MTV was an actual music video channel instead of another generic cable network. I fail to understand how a scripted big-budget fantasy series is even vaguely in the network's purview; at least the reality shows seemed to have some kind of connection to music and teen culture, but this has me stumped.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:45 AM on July 16, 2015


Even as a (privileged, oblivious) kid the racial component was problematic, not just with the lily-white humans and elves, but also the trolls and most especially the gnomes, described as "...They are short, twisted and yellow-skinned, are very superstitious, and are united only under a chieftain or sedt, one for each clan."
posted by Existential Dread at 11:45 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


My first impression of the trailer is that it is very very very very white. Oh so white.

I'm looking forward to the apologists arguing that there were no people of color in the geographical/historical period Shamatra is based on, so it's just being realistic.
posted by happyroach at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sword of Shannara is the second-most blatant rip off of LOTR I've ever read. The most blatant being, of course, Dennis McKiernan. It's crazy how much of a rip off it is.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2015


Has anyone in this thread mentioned/noticed the similarities between Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara?
posted by Fizz at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Not all that is over is past, Fizz.
posted by nubs at 12:34 PM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


While I'm not arguing with the oh-so-white complaint overall, it's a little weird to me that the only thing that's even vaguely interesting to me about this show is Manu Bennett, who plays Allanon, and is of Maori descent. He was so awesomely fun in Arrow. (I would normally also be interested in John Rhys-Davies, whom I generally love, but the trailer gave me bad vibes about that.)
posted by immlass at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2015


It's weird, I read a lot of Extruded Fantasy Product as a kid/tween (McCaffrey, Eddings, Weis/Hickman etc) and still couldn't garner anything more than "well at least that's a few hours that weren't quite boring" in response to Shannara. I think I gave up after the third or fourth.

The LOTR ripoffery extends to the trailer--check the shot of Minas Tirith Fantasy City.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


rikschell: " I'm up for a Shannara reality series!"

I don't know if you ever happened across ABC's short-lived reality series "The Quest" but DUDE THEY TAKE A BUNCH OF NERDS AND PUT THEM IN A FAKE MEDIEVAL FANTASY WORLD AND IT IS THE FUCKING AWESOMEST. Every week the Fates eliminate someone on their quest to find the One True Hero who can defeat ... I don't even remember what the were defeating, I just remember this was the greatest television show I have ever seen you really have to go watch it, some of the contestants cry from happiness.

(Apparently there's still a possibility for ABC to bring it back at some point in the future OH MAN DO IT ABC.)

PS, it's on Netflix, you can watch the whole thing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:51 PM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I can say from personal experience that you can skip Sword of Shannara entirely -- I started with Elfstones and read several books beyond that, and never felt like anything was missing.

Also, the story I heard was that Brooks was basically asked to write something "just like Lord of the Rings" when writing Sword, which would make it hardly surprising that that was what he in fact did. In Elfstones and beyond I never really got a strong LOTR vibe apart from Allanon, who was a holdover from Sword in any case.

Also, there are no interminably long/silly Elf songs in the Shannara books -- I always counted this as a big plus in their favor.

Regarding the whiteness, in my head there were a lot of characters of different hues, so I assumed this was in the text (since I was a white boy living in whitebread USA). At the very least, I don't recall anything quite as obvious as LOTR's conceit of human swarthiness as a signifier of evil.
posted by bjrubble at 12:53 PM on July 16, 2015


Also, the story I heard was that Brooks was basically asked to write something "just like Lord of the Rings" when writing Sword, which would make it hardly surprising that that was what he in fact did.

bjrubble, the following wiki entry might help you out:

Terry Brooks has said that Tolkien's works were a major influence in his writing, though he has also said that Tolkien was not his only influence. Other influences included the many different books he had read over his life and his editor, Lester del Rey. Also, mythology and ancient civilizations that he had learned about in school gave him a wealth of knowledge from which he drew. Many of these influences are reflected in Brooks' works.

In a 2001 Interzone essay, the author Gene Wolfe defended Brooks' derivation of material from Tolkien:
"Terry Brooks has often been disparaged for imitating Tolkien, particularly by those reviewers who find his books inferior to Tolkien's own. I can say only that I wish there were more imitators -- we need them -- and that all imitations of so great an original must necessarily be inferior."
In a commentary for The New York Times Book Review, the author of the science fiction novel Dune, Frank Herbert, also defended Brooks, saying:
Don't fault Brooks for entering the world of letters through the Tolkien door. Every writer owes a similar debt to those who have come before. Some will admit it. Tolkien's debt was equally obvious. The classical myth structure is deeply embedded in Western society.

That's why you should not be surprised at finding these elements in The Sword of Shannara. Yes, you will find here the young prince in search of his grail; the secret (and not always benign) powers of nature; the magician; the wise old man; the witch mother; the malignant threat from a sorcerer; the holy talisman; the virgin queen; the fool (in the ancient tarot sense of the one who asks the disturbing questions) and all of the other Arthurian trappings.

What Brooks has done is to present a marvelous exposition of why the idea is not the story. Because of the popular assumption (which assumes mythic proportions of its own) that ideas form 99 percent of a story, writers are plagued by that foolish question, "Where do you get your ideas?" Brooks demonstrates that it doesn't matter where you get the idea; what matters is that you tell a rousing story.
posted by Fizz at 1:10 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't mind that Brooks entered the world of letters through Tolkien. So did Guy Kay. And yet one of them wrote a Tolkien rip off and one wrote something original if very unpolished. And then moved on to become one of the best living fantasists. Which is which should be obvious.
posted by Justinian at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2015


Yes, my fave is problematic, but ZOMG, Elfstones and Wishsong were both so bizarrely formative for me, this whole thing is making my heart flutter girlishly 'neath my breast.
posted by kythuen at 2:27 PM on July 16, 2015


the young prince in search of his grail; the secret (and not always benign) powers of nature; the magician; the wise old man; the witch mother; the malignant threat from a sorcerer; the holy talisman; the virgin queen; the fool...

...the truculent golfer; the haunted tankini; the shuttered bowling alley; the gossipy hot dog chef; the post office worker who never smiles because he's ashamed of some botched dental work; the sinister second cousin once removed; the color puce; the coffee that cools way too quickly...
posted by Iridic at 2:27 PM on July 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


There was a paperback of The Sword of Shannara kicking around my house growing up, and long before reading it I was absolutely fascinated by the Brothers Hildebrandts' fine illustrations.
posted by usonian at 2:41 PM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


MTV just ran a special about White privilege. Less than two weeks later, they announce a high concept big budget series that only has one non White actor out of ten roles.
posted by Beholder at 2:44 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I can remember The Time Before The Time Before when MTV was an actual music video channel instead of another generic cable network.

I loved that "Portlandia" episode.
posted by thivaia at 2:50 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember reading the Shannara books around the same time as I got big into Dragonlance. They sit together in the same space in my mind: generic but fun. If you'd asked me before the announcement, I'd also have said that Dragonlance would be a more likely pick for anyone looking to do another big-budget fantasy TV series.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:03 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remember reading the Shannara books around the same time as I got big into Dragonlance.

Yes, this. I grew up reading Dragonlance and it was like a gateway drug into larger more complex fantasy series. I missed Shannara growing up and only found him during my under-grad days. And I think I like him so much because he brings back some of that nostalgia that Dragonlance and those old school RPGs had. They're also just fun, and too often the fun is lost in the grim-dark fantasy of today.

They did make an animated version of Dragonlance Chronicles. It was not very good, despite having the voice talents of Kiefer Sutherland. You can watch it on YouTube.
posted by Fizz at 4:06 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


...the truculent golfer; the haunted tankini; the shuttered bowling alley; the gossipy hot dog chef; the post office worker who never smiles because he's ashamed of some botched dental work; the sinister second cousin once removed; the color puce; the coffee that cools way too quickly...

The sudden desire to print my own tarot deck...
posted by Leon at 4:17 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Frank Herbert, also defended Brooks, saying:
Don't fault Brooks for entering the world of letters through the Tolkien door. Every writer owes a similar debt to those who have come before.


Mmm, but wouldn't you agree that some of those debts are a a bit larger than others, father of Brian Herbert?
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:08 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


easement1, great article, thanks! It's spot-on about the adjectives.

The only thing I know about the Shannara series is that it contains this line:
"His cold hard eyes turned dark."
That's the proof quote my older brother's friend gave to convince me against reading it myself. All these years later I'm glad to learn that he was right.
posted by scalefree at 6:15 PM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The only thing I know about the Shannara series is that it contains this line:

"His cold hard eyes turned dark."


Classic beginner mistake, he should've called them "orbs".

I do have to admit that I never read a Shannara novel. And it certainly wasn't about quality or anything like that, as in my fantasy journeys I've read not only D&D novels, but novelizations of D&D adventures. I do need some good commuting stuff, as I'm not quite up to quantum physics sci-fi when I'm barely awake on the train, so maybe I should get to it before the TV show comes out, so I can number myself amongst the haughty "book reader" faction when debating them.
posted by pseudocode at 1:25 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to the apologists arguing that there were no people of color in the geographical/historical period Shamatra is based on, so it's just being realistic.

The Pacific Northwest is whiter than Michelle Pfeiffer eating a mayonnaise sandwich.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:43 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Quite intentionally, as it turns out.
posted by XMLicious at 4:53 AM on July 17, 2015


My brother read Sword of Shannara when we were kids in the 80's; I think it took some convincing from him before I would give it a try. I had read and loved The Hobbit, but had never made it very far into the first Lord of the Rings book before giving up. So, Shannara being Tolkien-lite worked on me perfectly, I loved it. And it was always nice when my brother and I could geek out over the same thing - he got into David Eddings & Robert Jordan around then too, which I didn't.

I haven't re-read the books in decades, so my memories of the specifics are very hazy (except for the big spoiler about the Ellcrys tree). The thing I remember most is the weekend that I had walked downtown to the pizza place, and found there was a brand new Shannara book in the local bookstore, not having enough cash on me to buy it, calling home frantically and telling my brother it was here and to come to the bookstore with more money. We spend the whole walk home arguing about who would get to read it first; I won by default because he had some huge report due for school.

I loved the first trilogy, but quit after the 4th book, because it seemed to have turned into an interminable quest series. I don't know if I'll try re-reading the trilogy now, probably best to leave it to nostalgia. But I'll definitely be checking out the TV-series.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:29 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remember that the last book I read was the Wishsong one, which I read when I was ten. I thought the cover was so beautiful at the time. (Although my personal prize for Most Beautiful Early Eighties Cover would have gone, at the time, to the paperback of The Kestrel, which is a pretty good book and was politically formative for me.)

I also remember reading the Elfstones one and being SO UPSET by the ending.

My favorite character was Eretria, though, and I remember distinctly assuming that she was some kind of person of color, because I used to draw her and I remember coloring in the pictures. Admittedly, "the character of color is from a sort of parody-Romani background" isn't that great, but for me at least it wasn't an all-white-people book.
posted by Frowner at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2015


Sword of Shannara is the second-most blatant rip off of LOTR I've ever read. The most blatant being, of course, Dennis McKiernan. It's crazy how much of a rip off it is.

According to Wikipedia (and oh how I hate writing those three words), he started with what was overtly a sequel to Lord of the Rings, had to change details when the Tolkien estate of course refused permission, then had to write the prequel which of necessity would resemble LotR. All of which makes it seem like a frightful waste of time for a reader, but I'm not really in the target group for this thread so I'll stop there.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:58 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a comment purely about the quality of the trailer.

GOOD GOD these types of trailers need to stop. The quick cuts, the deep bass thrums, the inexpicable-but-supposed-to-be-menacing leaf/tree/house on fire/burning, then random sweeping shots of (new zealand) landscapes, with bits of dialog that you've heard from a dozen other apocalyptic stories thrown in. I appreciate a non-spoilery trailer, but that was either way over marketed or they should've waited till they have actual scenes to show. At least Jupiter Rising had a couple of funny quips. I want to blame Inception so much for starting the trend on these types of trailers, but it's not even that film's fault, they just did it first and did it well, and that trailer actually fit that movie. Even the trailers for the first season of The 100 wasn't this jumpy and random.

/old-person
posted by numaner at 8:34 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved the first trilogy, but quit after the 4th book, because it seemed to have turned into an interminable quest series. I don't know if I'll try re-reading the trilogy now, probably best to leave it to nostalgia. But I'll definitely be checking out the TV-series

You could also satisfy your nostalgia by reading The Annotated Sword of Shannara.
posted by Fizz at 9:40 AM on July 17, 2015


The Pacific Northwest is whiter than Michelle Pfeiffer eating a mayonnaise sandwich.

And yet living here, I see people of color on a daily basis! Very few of whom are orcs! HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN THIS SCIENCE?
posted by lumpenprole at 2:04 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know, honestly it doesn't matter if the Pacific Northwest is white or not, because no one is aiming to produce a racially realistic documentary. And:

1. Even within-world, we don't know how or when the apocalypse happened. Nothing says that it happened in 2015 - what if it happens in 200 years in a POC-dominated West Coast? There's not even any in-world "accuracy" involved in this. It has to happen while the Space Needle is still standing, I guess, but you might as well assert that it happens in 2500 and the Space Needle is a treasured artifact of the 20th century, lovingly preserved, while everyone lives in ever-changing biodegradable pod buildings which have vanished by the time the books take place.

2. The story doesn't hinge on the race of the characters, so the lack of representation can't really be justified. You could have an entirely Latin@ cast, for instance, and it wouldn't change the story in any way.

3. Big fantasy block-busters are basically supposed to be for everyone. Unless we want to say "this is being spun as a major show but by "major" we mean 'white audience'" it's very worthwhile to be representative.

I mean, why can't we have a swashbuckling fantasy - with all the trappings, castles and faux-British accents and EEEEEVVILL and so on - with a cast of only POC actors? I know, because racism....but you would think that if there ever were a genre where white people could handle seeing a POC-dominated story, it would be a story where it's all about the swashbuckling.
posted by Frowner at 2:14 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that was rhetorical but the answer is that they don't think it would make money. Whether that's because of racism on the part of the producers or racism on the part of the audience or some of both I'm not sure. And "it's not me that's racist, it's my customers" has never been a decent basis for making bad decisions.

That reminds me of a scene in the first (or second?) episode of the excellent unREAL where the producer says "It's not my fault America is racist, people!". Let's just say that she isn't intended to be an object of admiration at this point in time.
posted by Justinian at 4:15 PM on July 17, 2015


Eyebrows McGee: I want you to know that in the last three days I have binge watched the entire first season of The Quest and am now scouring YouTube for interviews with the cast.
posted by 256 at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yet living here, I see people of color on a daily basis! Very few of whom are orcs! HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN THIS SCIENCE?

What's to explain?

On the one hand, Jemisin laments that there's no plausible route from the current Pacific Northwest to a land that looks like medieval Europe. And that's fine - even high fantasy should hang together somehow if we're to suspend our disbelief. But on the other, she laments that there are few or no people of colour. Except there's a perfectly plausible route for the latter, which is that there are very, very few people of colour there now. You don't get to call for plausibility when it's convenient for your argument, then ignore it when it isn't.

White washing is a thing. It's a thing in science fiction and fantasy. It's a bad thing. But if you want to be able to call for the presence of people of colour on the basis of plausible geographical and demographical forces, then you need to accept that there are a lot of places in the world - and an infinite number of imaginary worlds - where those forces mean that people of colour are a tiny minority. And in a lot of those places, unless you're talking about a massive ensemble cast - we're talking 100 people to see three black people, for example, in the case of Washington State - then there are entirely rational reasons other than racism or genocide why there mightn't be any people of colour when you choose a smaller cast. (I mean, the fact that the PNW is crawling with white people in the first place rather than First Nations people is obviously because of genocide, but this isn't what Jemisin is talking about. She's saying you can't get there from here, despite there looking an awful lot like here to begin with.) Equally, it's possible to write perfectly plausible fantasy and science fiction wherein there are no white people, or only Asian people, or only Papua New Guinean Mormons.

By all means, argue that you prefer to read science fiction and fantasy set in places with a more diverse populace. I know I do (although I also enjoy stuff like Vikings). But you can't automatically say 'if there are no or very few people of colour, then ipso facto this is racism / tokenism'. There needs to be some sort of evidentiary burden, or it's witch burning.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:22 AM on July 18, 2015


The one time I went to Vancouver on a business trip, the chain hotel I stayed in provided free copies of both The Globe and Mail (Canadian national newspaper) and World Journal, a Chinese language paper published in North America.
posted by XMLicious at 12:51 PM on July 18, 2015


But besides that, even in circumstances where you could, uh, evidentially prove that there would only be white people in a particular fictional setting, isn't it at the very least a case of acceding to societal racism to leave out anyone who isn't white from your cast or dramatis personæ? And once you're down to rules-lawyer about whether something is itself racism or is merely acceding to racism, it seems like the battle is already lost and you're participating in racism one way or another.

Another thing this makes me think of is, the cultural genocide element of the genocide of First Peoples you mention there isn't something in the past but rather is still unfolding - North American languages are still going extinct at the rate of several per decade in my understanding, for example. Since we're talking about mass media here, it seems like that has some relevance, as far as absence of First Nations people in mass media depictions.
posted by XMLicious at 1:23 PM on July 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


White washing is a thing. It's a thing in science fiction and fantasy. It's a bad thing. But if you want to be able to call for the presence of people of colour on the basis of plausible geographical and demographical forces, then you need to accept that there are a lot of places in the world - and an infinite number of imaginary worlds - where those forces mean that people of colour are a tiny minority.

Seattle demographics, 2010 Census Estimates

2010 Population Count: 608,660
Race:
White - 69.5%
Black or African American - 7.9%
Amer. Indian & Alaska Native - 0.8%
Asian - 13.8%
Native Hawaiian & Other Pac. Islander - 0.4%
Other race - 2.4%
Two or more races - 5.1%
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (of any race): 6.6%
Persons of color: 33.7%

I guess what gets me , as much as the whitewashing, is the distortion of facts in order to support this worldview of "people of color don't count because they don't exist."

OK, granted, maybe in your small town of Redneckville, or your exclusive gated all-white community, the demographics are different. One can always make a case that This One Time it's justifiable. And then do it again, and again and again, so that nearly all SFF is "that one time" so that it's all white.

Because the larger issue is exemplified by the Science Fiction and Fantasy museum in Seattle, with its list of "The great authors of Science Fiction". Which had no writers listed who weren't white. This is more that whitewashing-this is telling people of color that they aren't wanted in SFF, and more, that SFF is increasingly irrelevant in the world of today.

And the bottom line is, I'm tired of people making excuses for the racism and sexism in SFF- either commit to diversity and making SFF Rhett progressive genre it could be, or go all out and support the regressive elements like Beal and the Rabid Puppies. Because if you aren't doing the former, you're doing the latter.
posted by happyroach at 1:06 PM on July 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because the larger issue is exemplified by the Science Fiction and Fantasy museum in Seattle, with its list of "The great authors of Science Fiction". Which had no writers listed who weren't white.

The list only inducted 4 members a year (starting from 0) and Delany was in the, I believe, 5th round of inductees. I mean, maybe you could argue he should have been one of the first 12 inductees or whatever but then you're leaving off Williamson or Heinlein or Asimov or someone of equal stature.

If the list had been presented fully-formed with 50 members and neither Butler nor Delany had been present I would agree with you. But it wasn't, it was gradually built up 4 members a year and, yes, the first black member wasn't inducted until a few years into the process. But that's not the implication of your comment I think.
posted by Justinian at 2:14 PM on July 19, 2015


(Having checked, Delany was inducted in 2002 and Butler in 2010).
posted by Justinian at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2015


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