Written by: Bryant Dillon, Special to CC2K
Fanboy Comics‘ Bryant Dillon reviews Beyond the Wall, the latest from Smart Pop Books.
For those in Geekdom who are not familiar with Smart Pop Books, I want you to know that you’ve been missing out – big time! Fortunately, I’m here to save your geek cred! Smart Pop Books is the pop culture imprint of independent publisher BenBella Books and offers a variety of engaging and thought-provoking, non-fiction titles focused on the discussion and exploration of the best of pop culture TV, books, and film. I was introduced to Smart Pop Books years ago when they stepped into the Whedon world with two must-read titles: Seven Seasons of Buffy and Five Seasons of Angel.
One of the things I had always loved about Buffy and Angel was the ability to jump online and debate and discuss the themes of the shows, the motivations of the characters, and more with like-minded individuals. The surface discussion was always fun, but the real joy came when the discussion evolved from fan gossip to academic exploration. It was something I had never experienced before, and I can still remember the excitement of finally finding a place where my serious and admittedly obsessive ruminations on these programs were not laughed at, but answered with zest! What Smart Pop Books does is to take that awesome geek-to-geek experience and forges it into an anthology of essays from bestselling authors, television writers, psychologists, and philosophers focused solely on a single geeky subject. In addition to Buffy and Angel, Smart Pop Books has released anthologies focusing on The Hunger Games, Firefly and Serenity, Mad Men, Lost, Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, The Walking Dead, The Matrix, Star Wars, Ender’s Game, Halo, Harry Potter, Dune, & much, much more! I cannot endorse Smart Pop Books enough, so be sure to stop by their website and check out the full extent of what they have to offer!
That’s not all, my friends! The Seven of Westeros have blessed Fanboy Comics with an advanced copy of their latest gem, Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Having already conquered the imaginations of readers, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones has taken the pop culture world by storm ever since it found a home at HBO. While my first introduction to the world of direwolves and dragons was through the television version, I quickly found myself sharing the hunger for more that I had heard described so often. I quickly devoured the available novels, finding them even more immersive and complex than I could’ve imagined. Smart Pop Books has obviously shared this passion for Martin’s work, and editor James Lowder assembled a Kingsguard of writers armed with an assortment of worthy essays covering an impressive amount of Westeros-lore. Beyond the Wall is a must-have for any A Song of Ice and Fire diehard and is sure to even make the casual Game of Thrones fan salivate at the feast of geek brain food set before them.
While the subjects of the essays included in Beyond the Wall are vast and varied, ranging from the unreliable verbal history present in the novels to how the age of the Nook and Kindle have affected Westeros lovers, here are a few select essays that stood out to me and made the book worthy of a place on my bookshelf of Ice and Fire:
– “Same Song in a Different Key: Adapting A Game of Thrones as a Graphic Novel” by Daniel Abraham – Obviously, given my comic book sniffer status, I’ve been following the monthly release of the Game of Thrones comic and was psyched to discover an essay in Beyond the Wall by Abraham, the man charged with adapting the novel for Dynamite Entertainment. The comic provides another unique version of the story, separate from the television show and the novels, and hearing the process behind its creation was a real treat.
– “Power and Feminism in Westeros” by Caroline Spector – Martin’s work has suffered under the attack that it’s anti-feminist at times, given the horrific events that often happen to them over the course of the novels, but Spector’s piece easily dismisses that notion, throughly exploring the feminist elements Martin features in the series through its most popular female characters: Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Brienne Tarth, Cersei Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen. It’s a fascinating read that dives deep into character psyche and motivations.
– “Men and Monsters: Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire” by Alyssa Rosenberg – As odd as if feels to include an essay with a focus on one of the most heinous of human crimes in my favorite pieces from Beyond the Wall, this contribution is an incredibly thought-provoking examination of how the act of rape informs the world of Martin’s series in a realistic and terrifying way and questions whether the author every strays into exploitation of the act and the female characters at his mercy.
– “Beyond the Ghetto: How George R.R. Martin Fights the Genre Wars” by Ned Vizzini – Ned Vizzini isn’t just a great writer, he’s a great guy as well (I had the pleasure of meeting him at SDCC last year.) and he wears his geek pride on his sleeve. He contributed an awesome piece to The Girl Who Was on Fire, Smart Pop Books’ compilation based on the The Hunger Games trilogy, and his essay in Beyond the Wall is an extremely gratifying read for any geek who’s struggled to be taken seriously due to their choice in fiction. Focusing on the effect Martin’s Ice and Fire series has had on the fantasy genre and the genre’s acceptance among literary critics, Vizzini makes a strong case against the dismissal of Martin’s work, and fantasy in general, by the literary elite and does so with out ever coming off as a bitter and frustrated fanboy. Way to make your fellow geeks proud, Ned!
As I stated above, there are many more fascinating essays in Beyond the Wall, and they are all worthy of your time and the affordable cover price. Credit must once again go to Editor James Lowder for assembling an awesome collection of Fire and Ice essays that end up feeling as a whole like a conversation with your most geeky and intellectual friends, obviously taking place in some small Westeros inn with a warm fire and a flagon of hot spiced wine. Whether you be Stark or Lannister, Dornish or Dothraki, Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is one book you can trust to feed your Thrones addiction until winter finally arrives.
You can learn more about Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire by clicking here, or by visiting Smart Pop Books at their official website. (Excerpts of the book will be sent to those individuals who sign up for the mailing list.) Also, be sure to stop by the Smart Pop Books Facebook page and follow them on Twitter (@SmartPopBooks).
Bryant Dillon is the President of Fanboy Comics, an online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Bryant and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at www.fanboycomics.net.