Thursday, December 16, 2004


What's Long, Boring, And Full Of Earthseamen?

I love this Slate piece about the recently-aired Sci Fi Channel miniseries Earthsea, based on the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin.

In it, Le Guin, launches a broadside against the producers of the miniseries, complaining how they changed everything in the adaptation of her books.

What's so funny? Her biggest complaint is that they changed the skin color of her characters.

Sheesh. If that's the worst thing you can imagine in an adaptation, you've got problems. Just look at David Lynch's Dune, or the film version of The Sum Of All Fears; Le Guin should be thrilled with her miniseries in comparison.

Now, full disclosure: I've never read the books. Fantasy bores me, unless we're talking about hot sword-wielding chicks on the cover of Dragon Magazine.

As for the miniseries, after watching the painfully obnoxious commercials for the show every time I came early to a movie theater, I was sick of Earthsea without ever turning on the TV.

So, I'm unaware whether race is integral to the Earthsea story, like some sort of magical version of Do The Right Thing. Reading Le Guin's comments, however, it seems to me that it's nothing conscious, just something she chose to sprinkle through the story to make it different than others, but nothing emphasized.

Nothing emphasized, that is, until the miniseries went ahead and ignored skin color in its casting. Then Le Guin flipped out, like she's the Mary Frances Berry of the sword-and-sorcery set.

Whatever disturbing things Le Guin's screed says about perceptions on race, I think it's more interesting simply as an indictment of Comic Book Guy Syndrome.

I love books. I love movies. I know movies change books for a lot of reasons, some good, some bad. I, too, shrug my shoulders at unnecessary changes, but I'm more interested in the movie as a movie.

For instance, The Hunt For Red October wasn't an entirely faithful adaptation of the Tom Clancy book. Didn't matter, however, because it was a great movie first, and a good adaptation second.

Likewise, many people felt that the Lord Of The Rings trilogy represented pretty faithful adaptations. However, I remember having nasty arguments with one friend of mine who felt, in her words "betrayed" because of all the changes to The Two Towers, and despite being a tremendous Tolkien fan, boycotted Return of the King based on the changes there.

Yeah, good call there, pal. You just missed the Best Picture Of The Year because Christopher Lee was edited out of the beginning of the flick. Kinda like biting your nose to spite your face, I think.

Anyways, at least with Return Of The King, purists can get a whole lot more movie in the Extended Edition DVD, as Jennifer over at Demure Thoughts discusses more here.

As for Earthsea purists, if there are such things. . . I can only offer them the immortal words of William Shatner.

try piers anthony. apprentice adept or xanth series.
The Piers Anthony novels mentioned are good. Also "Bio of a Space Tyrant". The man is a writing machine, and I mean that literally.

I read the Earthsea novels a long time ago. She usually mixes fantasy themes with psychological drama, often very effectively. Looking back, she is almost certainly a leftist in outlook, probably an ardent one, although that is pure speculation.

Can't hold a candle to Tolkien or Herbert though. Hell, even Clancy's books were more engaging and exciting. Still, she was pretty good.
Hey I linked you up and ranted a bit about this as well. I am with you on the thought of as long as the movie is good first it doesn't matter. However I do not want to see the much talked about "Enders Game" come to fruition. I do not want to see what hollywood does to Orson Scott Card's masterpiece.

Anyway I tracked back here but dunno if your blog supports those pings :)

Forgot to post the link :) Here you go!

Demure Thoughts » Book to Movie, Why Some Adaptations Do Not Work.Jen
Thanks for the recommendations, but no, really: fantasy does nothing for me. I've tried reading a lot of different books, and it's never clicked.

Which is surprising, given how much I loved Dungeons & Dragons growing up-- methinks it just has something to do with a visceral distaste of Renaissance Fairs.

Oh, and Jen-- thanks for the trackback, but nope, I don't have it set up to ping. My understanding is Blogger doesn't support that stuff yet.

Man, that miniseries sucked. I like fantasy novels, Glen Cook's Black Company and Garrett series being my recent favorites, but I would never, ever want to see them put on the big screen.

My rule of thumb for fantasy is that throat slitting must outnumber pansy ass nature new age crap by at least 3 to 1 to be readable for me.
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