His Dark Materials trailer polar bearnalysis

I've written before about how I'm a big (but not uncritical) fan of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. If I were to have a pop cultural "thing" akin to Star Wars or Harry Potter like lots of other people have, this would be it. It was hugely formative for me and has massively influenced everything I've ever written.

I also run the premier trailer analysis website on the internet. Since HBO just put out a longer teaser for the first season of the BBC's big-budget TV adaptation, these two interests are now dovetailing nicely. Let's get out our alethiometers and dive in!

 

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How to write a Stephen King novel


Many people think that only Stephen King can write Stephen King books. This makes sense at first glance--his name is right there on the covers, after all--but in fact, anyone can write a Stephen King novel or short story.

It's true! By following these simple rules, you too can create stories about dysfunctional people getting eaten by monsters.

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And now, my Game of Thrones predictions

Over the last few years, I've featured a variety of content on this blog. We've covered political thriller, zombies, Star Wars, even Harry Potter! But I know my loyal fans have had one burning question in thier hearts: Ronan, how is Game of Thrones going to end?

 Now that there are three episodes left in the entire series, I'm here to tell you. No, I don't have insider knowledge*, but these 100% accurate predictions are guarenteed to come true. Trust me.

(Spoilers for the entire series up to the third episode of the last season, and I guess the last three in the extremely unlikely even that I'm actually right) 

*Fun fact: I did actually have insider knowledge of a major spoiler from a previous season, almost a full year before it leaked online through other sources, but I never spilled the beans in order to maintain my flawless record of journalistic integrity, and also to avoid getting someone fired,

So season eight, episode three ended with the Night King getting mega-stabbed by Arya Stark, ending the long-awaited White Walker invasion of the Seven Kingdoms at Winterfell about a day and a half after it started. A lot of people aren't pleased with this. Given how fucking long it took for the Walkers to finally breach the wall and march north, I can sort of understand the ire, although I personally liked the episode.  There are only three episodes left in the entire series, the White Walkers were always going to end up in a big climactic showdown with the heroes, which the heroes were always going to win (come on, yes they were), I don't get what the point of delaying it by another episode or two would have been.

 I have a feeling that nothing could have satisfied the die-hard fans. Almost no long-running sequential stories wrap up in a way that satisfies their most ardent followers; partially this is because bringing a big, unwieldy story to a satisfying climax is difficult, but it's also because the writers are busy actually writing the story (and working within a multitude of constraints) whereas the fans have a basically infinite amount of time to pick over previous installments for "clues" that may or may not have been intentional, make theories, and come up with directions the plot could go in. What the writers eventually deliver is almost never going to live up to the fanfiction penned by a thousand fans at a thousand internet message boards.

But I digress. The point is, the White Walker threat has been dealt with and now the show can get back to the only thing it's good at: pulpy Shocking Twists and soap-opera-with-blood-and-tits antics where people backstab and betray each other.

With the White Walkers out of the picture, Dany's alliance with the North no longer makes any sense from the North's perspective. They've defeated their common enemy, and Dany has made it repeatedly clear that she won't consider giving the North independance once she's in power. She's now asking them to fight solely to put her on the throne. 

Sansa is going to be like "actually no" and will work out a plan to pull the North out of the war by making a sneaky non-aggression pact with Cersei, thus leaving Dany and her greatly-reduced forces high and dry against Cersei's Golden Company. Dany will catch wind of a plot against her (let's say due to Varys), but her growing paranoia over Jon's claim to the throne will cause her to suspect him and not Sansa.  

At the same time, Cersei fully intends to break her pact with Sansa as soon as Dany is taken out, and Sansa knows that Cersei is going to do this, so she sends Arya to assassinate Cersei once Dany has been defeated, thus tying up all loose ends. Maybe Arya kills Jamie and steals his face to do it. 

Also, Sansa will ask Tyrion to make the deal with Cersei. This will let Tyrion do something important for the first time in three seasons, as he'll be forced to choose between Dany, who he's becoming increasingly alienated from due to her browbeating him and her willingness to burn people alive, and Sansa, who this season has been really heavy-ended on Tyrion reconnecting with. 

So, we get a fun situation where everyone is furiously fucking everyone else over, just like in the old days. A bunch of our favourite characters turn on each other due to suspicion and paranoia, it'll be a grand old time. I am almost certain that some version of what I've outlined above will happen in the next episode. 

Then, sailing into more speculative waters, there are two routes the show could take, depending on precisely how hacky the writers decide to be.

It's hard to remember now, but Game of Thrones was initially famous for subverting expectations with its red weddings and its beheading Sean Beans. The message was clear: this ain't your grand-daddy's fantasy, with heroic good guys defeating black-hearted villains. The bad guys win. Anyone can die.

Then all the important characters got plot immortality and the show decided that it was going to be about a Special Destiny Lad who bones hot women and gets cool swords and discovers his secret royal lineage, just like every generic fantasy brick published since The Lord of The Rings came out. In its final three episodes, Game of Thrones has two options: keep on this course, or pull one last, glorious subversion of expectations. 

In option one Dany and Jon manage to patch things up, they defeat Cersei and Pirate Guy and get married and rule peacefully over the Seven Kingdoms.

In option two, Dany's paranoia and lust for the throne get the better of her and she fucking kills Jon. 

I badly want option two to happen. Partially because I hate Jon Snow down to my bone marrow and I want him to die like a total chump, but I also think it would make for a genuinely more interesting and impactful story. 

And I actually think it might happen. The story has been teasing Jon with death over and over again for half its runtime, up to actually killing him and bringing him back with spooky dark magic. This all feels like that bit in Mars Attacks where the alien ambassador keeps pulling something out of his pocket and the government representatives get  increasingly more relaxed each time, only for the martian to whip out a laser gun and vaporize them all once they've let down their guard.

You all remember that specific scene from Mars Attacks, right? 

My point is, the show has been lulling us into a false sense of security that all of our favourite characters are going to make it out okay, just to make it hurt that much more when it finally kills them (and also Jon). Think of the social media reactions. It would be glorious. 

As for the actual ending: Tyrion gets the throne and rules over Six Kingdoms with Sansa as queen of an independant north. Tyrion being king has been foreshadowed to hell and back ever since the beginning of the series, usually in a "pffft there's no way this guy could ever come out on top, give me a break" tone, which in fiction usually means that the thing being discussed is definitely going to happen.   If Game of Thrones was actually the subversive masterpiece people claim it is then this would all be a red herring, but the show has been playing fantasy tropes straight for so long that going the obvious route now feels like a surprise. 

 

  

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Crime Police, doing Police Crimes


(Note: I intended to post the next Oscar Debate this week (it's about BlackKklansman!), but I've been a bit under the weather and haven't been able to get that post together. Instead, I pulled up something that's been sitting on my hard drive since early last year and polished it off. Enjoy!)

Living in Ireland, I watch a lot of British TV shows. Because what am I going to do, watch stuff made here? PFFFT.

I also, like a large proportion of the world's population, regularly unhinge my media-jaw and consume vast quantities of American entertainment. The differences between the two are deeply-baked and striking; for example, serious “prestige” TV series (as opposed to soap operas, sitcoms and things like Doctor Who) in Britain tend to be extremely short, running four to six episodes per season and frequently having no more than two or three seasons at most. Often they don't even get that, being conceived from the beginning as a discrete story with no intention of continuation once the initial batch of episodes is over.

This makes Line of Duty something of an anomaly. A relatively big-budget police drama produced by the BBC, it feels very much like something that was intended to be short-lived, with the first season telling a stand-alone story and the next two forming a distinct arc with a definitive climax and end-point. But the show was unexpectedly, wildly popular and was renewed multiple times; a fifth season is currently airing, with a sixth expected some time in 2021.

Unfortunately, it might have been better if the show had stuck to the British formula and ended early. Today we're going to look at each of the first four seasons seperately and pin-point where it all went wrong.

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Captain Marvel ramble-a-thon


I saw Captain Marvel, the latest frontier in the Marvel Extended Beach House Fund. It's gotten what you could call "mixed" reviews (81% on Rotten Tomatoes, but 65% on the more granular Metacritic), which instantly dampened by expectations since I apply a 20% reduction to the critic score of any Marvel movie (the elusive and mysterious Ronan Factor).

Well, surprise: I fucking loved Captain Marvel. It's now hands-down my favourite MCU movie, beating out last year's Infinity War.  To explain why, I have prepared a rambling, unstructured (spoiler-free!) list of thoughts.

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Let's Read World War Z Pt. 4: Is that a Desert Eagle in your pocket


Out framing story this time is kind of strange. Taking place in THE AMAZON RAINFOREST, BRAZIL, fictional Max Brooks arrives at a secret settlement built by an indigenous tribe who survived the zombie apocalypse because they build houses suspended in trees. I have no idea if this is based on a real culture, although they may have been inspired by these people.

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Let's Read World War Z ch. 2: Zombies Unlimited

Before we get back into the origins of the zombie apocalypse in China, I want to go back and mention something from the book's opening. See, WWZ presents itself as taking place in our future, but there's a really obvious clue indicating that this is actually an alternate universe:

It is no great secret that global life expectancy is a mere shadow of its former prewar figure. Malnutrition, pollution, the rise of previously eradicated ailments, even in the United States, with its resurgent economy and universal health care are the present reality;

Universal healthcare? In America? What's Max Brooks trying to suggest here, that proud freedom-loving Americans would let the zombies win  by giving up the open marketplace of private insurance that George Washington personally fought and died for? I think I'm going to be sick .

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Let's Read World War Z pt. 1: When zombies were cool

Who's ready for a new let's read series?

Yes, The Overton Window remains unfinished. My fun neurological condition has fluctuated to the point where I feel like I can work on something, but I'm still not able to handle Glenn Beck's prose or the somewhat complicated political hot takes that responding to it entails. Instead we're going to sink our teeth into the lean, nutrition-free corpse that is Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War.

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The crimes of The Crimes Of Grindelwald


The narrative crimes, that is. Of the movie.

I have this odd tendency to get swept up in pop cultural "moments" in a way that's divorced from my actual appreciation for the pop cultural work in question. I can't resist clicking on Marvel theory clickbait articles despite not really giving a shit about the actual movies. I'm fervently awaiting the ending of Game of Thrones even though I've spent the last few seasons mostly being annoyed or uninterested in it. I went along with the pre-Force Awakens hype train even though I was never a fan of the original movies.

So a few years ago, when Warner Bros cleared some space in their bank account and said "Harry Potter is back , y'all!", I couldn't resist.

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Grindelwald.mp3 (feat. unannounced guest appearance by my cat)

Merry Christmas, everyone! Please enjoy this extra bonus content, which I recorded on my phone and put very little effort into.

Trying something a little different for the dawning of a new year. Writing blog posts is great, but I rarely have the energy for it these days. So what if sometimes, I could just deliver my opinions directly from my brain to your face? Over the internet?

Let me know if you enjoyed this and I'll do more like it. Maybe I'll even get a real microphone! And a camera! 

Spoilers for The Crimes of Grindelwald by the way.

Let's Read The Kingkiller Chronicle sex comic

No, this is not a joke.

I check in occasionally on r/KingkillerChronicle to see if there's been any news on the third book, or if that big ambitious multimedia adaptation is any closer to being an actual thing (it isn't). Usually it's just the dedicated fans becoming collectively more and more fed up with the failure of Doors of Stone to materialize, but today I found something different. Something both terrible and wondrous.

I found a sex toy review/sex ed webcomic featuring a strip written by Patrick Rothfuss, in which he interviews his characters about their sexual identities.

Reminder: still not joking. This is real. Link is NSFW, in case it wasn't obvious.

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The State of Ronan's Brain 2018

Whoooooooo's ready to get an in-depth update on the state of the neurological disorder that prevents me from posting on this blog as much as I want to????

As I've detailed several times on this blog and my old blog and my twitter, I've spent the last two years dealing with a complicated and not very exciting Brain Problem brought on by a relatively minor traffic oopsie (which was not my fault, in case anyone's wondering). I've been out of work since March of last year and lost my income earlier this year, although neither of these were the disaster they could have been thanks to an unusually generous manager and the fact that I live in a  corrupt socialist European welfare state and not the glorious land of productive industry and rugged individualism that is the USA, where I would most likely be homeless or dead by now.

Man, that got kind of dark. 

Anyway, I spent most of this year on medication that didn't do a whole lot for me, but did make me super lethargic and tired and unable to really put effort into anything. Back in October, I went into the hospital for treatment that I hoped might lead to a dramatic improvement. It...did the exact opposite, in that I came out significantly worse off in terms of basic functioning and quality of life than I was before I went in. So that was kind of a bummer.

Just like in the movies, this experience has led me to several important realizations about, like, life and stuff. Such as the fact that cars are really  fast and that chronic migraine conditions are a way bigger deal than most people realize. Humans are wobbly sentient jelly piles encased in brittle robots, and we're all one confluence of bad luck away from breaking down or malfunctioning catastrophically. 

This is getting depressing now. Why did I start writing this post? 

Oh, yeah. So 2019 is just around the corner, and I'm determined to make it another Year of Accomplishments. Here are the things you can look forward to, in rough chronological order:

  • A few people have asked me if I'm doing a post on Fantastic Beasts and The Criminals of Grundelwall, aka the new Harry Potter movie that's apparently bad. I said I wasn't going to see it in the cinema because of Johnny Depp; I have attained the means to see it without financially supporting it, and thus will be writing a review sometimes before the new year (hopefully). 
  • Did you know that in addition to writing this blog, I also write novels? Several of you read one of them a few years ago! It was awful. I have another one sitting on my hard drive right now that's less awful. You may get a chance to read the first chapter and give me feedback on it, at absolutely no additional cost. This is a deal you can't afford to miss.
  • Maybe I'll put other writings on here? I'm paying for this domain, I might as well use it. 
  • My dissection of the Overton Window is not cancelled and will resume some time in the early new year. I also have tentative plans to re-formulate and re-write my thoughts on everyone's favourite lute-focused fantasy duology, as I started doing back when this site first launched, although that will take more time because it involves reading the damn things again and my symptoms make it hard enough to get through books I actually like.

Who knows what other fun things will come along? Not even I know! Literally, my creative output is dependant entirely on the vagaries of an ever-shifting medical condition over which I have no control oh God help me

 

Only these sharks understand me

Only these sharks understand me

Voxing about Vox

You may not remember this, but 2016 was kind of a wild time. The US election in November, which was expected to be a mere formality before the inauguration of the first female president, instead saw the nomination go to a former reality TV show host who had been repeatedly caught bragging about committing sexual assault. The juxtaposition of these events led to what political scientists refer to as a Big Mood.

Two years later, enough time has passed for the arrival of post-Trump literature, and the first one I laid my hands on was Christina Dalcher’s Vox, a much-ballyhooed bestseller described somewhat confusingly on a front cover endorsement as a “re-imagining of the Handmaid’s Tale”, implying some sort of direct connection between the two works (there isn’t one).

In case my use of the word “ballyhooed” didn’t give it away, I did not like it very much.

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Winter housekeeping

Just a quick note on upcoming blog content.

I had intended to resume Overton Window posts last month, but unfortunately the hospital stay back in October that I mentioned here didn’t go the way I was hoping… in the sense that I’ve been feeling significantly worse ever since (this was not the intended outcome, needless to say).

I’m slowly getting my strength back, but until then I’ll be sticking to one-off reviews and the like. I’ve already got a post about a very bad book lined up for later in the week/early next week so please look forward to that.