Book Review: Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

Although I love the company I now work for (the company sending me to England this summer for “work”), there are times that I miss working at The Silver Snail, the world’s biggest and best comic book store.  I don’t miss having to take customers’ sweaty bags at the front cash in mid-August in an effort to dissuade theft.  I don’t miss the regular who used to smell my hair when I had my back turned.  I certainly don’t miss being treated like The Last Unicorn by men who had evidently never seen a woman within ten feet of a comic book.  I do, however, miss the conversations.  Going to work used to mean participating in heated discussions concerning Marvel versus DC (oh, how my tune has changed since the New 52 relaunch), discussing Catwoman’s animal activism with Bruce Timm himself, or attending pre-screenings of all three Lord of the Rings films (it was a mandatory part of my job, as I was the resident Lord of the Rings expert).

Yes, women read comics too. It is known.

Make no mistake; I’m wildly passionate about my current profession.  I love what I do and I love the people I work with even more, but gone are the days that I would be paid to rant about Catwoman’s ludicrous stilettos (COME ON) or encouraged to discuss Alan Moore’s latest whimsy, and deep down I miss being surrounded by my fellow nerds.  People who are genuinely interested in the latest episode of Dr. Who or BBC’s Sherlock or whether Katniss Everdeen should have picked Gale over Peeta in the end (of course not). I am fortunate enough to work with some like-minded men and women within my new profession, but the ability to discuss The Avengers at length is no longer a job requirement.

I suppose I do feel as though my nerdy side has been somewhat suppressed ever since I entered the realm of the “real world”, and in a turn of events as unfair as Lady’s untimely demise, I left my job at The Snail a year before Game of Thrones hit the airwaves.  Yeah, I pulled a Ned Stark.

Definitely did not think that one through.

Nowadays, finding someone as invested in the series as I am is nearly as entrancing as a baby dragon.  Nerds, like the dragons of Westeros, used to be common, but they’ve become quite a rarity, and so when I stumble upon one (a nerd, not a dragon) I latch onto them like Bran onto Hodor.  If you let me, I could discuss Jaime Lannister’s glorious mane or Jon Snow’s potential parentage for hours on end, and with all that being said, I believe I enjoyed reading Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as much as I did because it felt like I was back behind the counter.  Every time I picked it up I felt like I was sitting down at a panel at The San Diego Comic Con.  Reading it was like having a conversation with a group of people as passionate as I am about Game of Thrones, people who just happened to be extremely enlightened and well-spoken.  This compilation novel includes essays covering topics ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Direwolves and religion, and features authors ranging from game designers to psychiatrists.  Even controversial topics like the sexual violence depicted in the series is covered with a great deal of tact and insight.

When Jonathan Llyr initially asked me to review an advanced copy of the novel for Hardcore Nerdity, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat daunted by the prospect.  I have come to associate the name George R.R. Martin with heavy tomes, you see, and was therefore quite relieved to discover that this book was a feather light 200 pages.  At the time I had only just finished reading A Dance with Dragons, and my feeble arms were still recovering.

You know nothing, Jon…Llyr.

Now that I’ve finished, however, I do wish it had been 900 pages long!  Every essay provides an entirely different perspective.  Every one of them is thought provoking and informative, and although they were penned by highly intelligent and accomplished individuals, not a single one comes across as patronizing or far-fetched. It’s clear that the book was the result of a medley of fans coming together, and is therefore relatable and interesting whether you’re a new or old fan of the series. At times I found myself disagreeing with a notion put forward by one essay, but strong and well-rounded opinions can only be formed when others are first considered.

With that being said, Cersei Lannister is NOT evil, Susan Vaught!  When a lioness takes down a gazelle in order to feed her young is she considered evil?  I think not!

The best thing about Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is that it can be considered a collaboration of conversation starters.  It’s a forum without trolls, a convention without body odour, and an absolute treat for the fans of the series who are now patiently awaiting not only another epic novel, but the next epic season of Game of Thrones.

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How “The Walking Dead” is Going to Land me in Prison

All right.

I finally did it.

I watched the first episode of The Walking Dead.

I was dreading it as much as I imagine Catherine Howard dreaded copulating with King Henry VIII (he was ridden with pus-filled boils by that point in time AND suffered from an ulcerated leg wound- do NOT Google that, you will regret it). Why, you ask? Because a horse dies. I was still working at The Silver Snail when The Walking Dead first hit the shelves, and in an effort to spare my delicate disposition, all of my co-workers warned me not to pick up the first issue. Obviously I thumbed through a copy while I was working the front cash, because I’m still prone to the juvenile predisposition of wanting things I can’t have (like Batman and/or Khal Drogo because apparently they’re “not real”). I instantly regretted it- probably as much as you now regret Googling images of ulcerated leg wounds. I told you not to.

I was recently at The New York Comic Con with a few friends who just so happen to be big fans of the show. Outside the Javits Center hung a huge poster advertising the program, and I confessed that I refused to watch it because-

“THAT guy lets his horse DIE. How am I supposed to care about the plight of someone who let their horse get eaten? Good riddance, I say!”

They both staunchly defended Rick Grimes’ honour, assuring me that he “was surrounded” and in a delicate state to boot. I, however, remained dubious.

They told me I should give the show a chance, and even went as far to show me this photo-

in an effort to reassure me that the horse was, in fact, still intact. I, however, was having none of it. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I can’t even watch Humane Society infomercials, and so I remained adamant.

Until I saw the first episode of the second season.

It was so good. It was so good. I was in my hotel in New York, packing for my flight home, when the encore presentation just so happened to come on. My clothes and souvenirs remained strewn about the room as I sat in bed, enraptured. By the time it concluded it was nearly midnight; I had yet to truly begin packing and was forced to visit the front desk in search of scissors (for the purpose of packing- not protection). When I entered the lobby, it was deserted. There was no one sitting in the business area- and the doorman and the concierge were both notably absent.

Clearly, I had walked straight into the onset of a zombie apocalypse.

I backed away slowly, thinking of the policemen stationed literally right down the block (we were staying in a hotel in the financial district- and every night they would form a blockade to prevent the protestors from surrounding Government buildings). More than half of them were mounted, and I was about to run outside with a potted plant as my only weapon in an effort to spare a few horses when the concierge finally appeared (visibly weary but not undead).

I headed over to the desk and requested scissors, only to be informed that he “wasn’t allowed” to lend them to me. In an effort to assure him of my good intentions, I said- “I’m not going to murder my roommate, I promise.” For some reason he was not convinced, so I elaborated: “I need them for bubble-wrap! I was here for the New York Comic Con and I visited the HBO store yesterday and bought two “Game of Thrones” steins and I’m flying out tomorrow and I bought an entire roll of bubble-wrap but I have no way of cutting it and-“ and he gave me the scissors.

I made my way back upstairs, carefully packaged my steins (Stark and Targaryen, in case you were wondering), and hurried to return the scissors before the Concierge began to suspect foul-play. On my way back downstairs, I realized my jeans were undone (who seriously buttons their pants in the privacy of their own room?)- and was busy attempting to do them up one-handed when I stepped into the elevator. The doors had just begun to close behind me when I caught sight of someone- something– in my peripheral and reeled around, shrieking, scissors raised and button forgotten.

The man standing in the elevator was alive, however, so I refrained from severing his spinal column (thanks, Andrea!).

That was the first time The Walking Dead nearly landed me in prison.

Last night was the night I finally decided to watch the series premiere. I’d been following the second season since New York, and felt it was high-time I played catch-up. By the time it was over I was suffering from the worst tension headache I’ve experienced since University (I covered my eyes like a child- as far as I’m concerned, the last six minutes didn’t happen). I had done it, though. It was over. I breathed a sigh of relief, and had just begun to catch-up on my e-mails (far less thrilling), when I heard it.

A tiny whimper.

You know that moment in Fellowship of the Ring when in the midst of the council of Elrond fracas, Frodo pipes up with- “I’ll take it!”- and Gandalf has that beautiful moment where he just closes his eyes and sighs inwardly? No?

Skip to 5:09.

Cassie, my special needs fur-baby (I’m not being insensitive, she has allergies and she is prone to ear infections- at the moment she appears to be suffering from the mange, on account of her bald patch), had decided, at one thirty in the morning, that she had to pee. I immediately thought of Lam Kendal, warning Rick Grimes to keep away from the windows- because the “Walkers” were more active at night and drawn to light and OH GOD NO.

I ventured out into the hallway, looked down at her and asked- “Are you serious right now?”

She was.

She wagged her tail and trotted happily to the door (and simultaneously, I was certain, her demise). I warned her that it was every man for himself out there- that she was on her own if we were attacked. She’d be useless in the event of zombie apocalypse. Her response to threat is to show her belly. I even told her to brace herself for the most gruesome belly-rub of her little LIFE but she still seemed pretty determined to pee. So, I pulled on my jacket, put on my running shoes, got a knife from the kitchen and a bag in the event of poops.

What was that?

Oh, a knife.

Yeah, you read that right. I got a knife.

Despite my threats, I wasn’t actually about to let my dog be turned into a zombie. Who do you think I am? Rick Grimes? To get to her those Walkers would have to get through me, and honestly, that probably wouldn’t be that hard, but it’s my duty as a loving parent.

So I flipped on the porch light, held my breath for a moment, then slowly open the door- just enough to peek outside. Thankfully, no one seemed to be meandering mindlessly. I ventured down the stairs first (skunks are just as terrible as zombies), then let Cassie out. She pranced up the street, oblivious to the danger we were currently in, and I followed, making it down the block without incident (well, I nearly shanked a pylon, but that hardly counts).

While I surveyed the street like Batman she proceeded to roll in a leaf-pile, chew on a stick, itch, clean herself, and attempt to steal my mitten. I was beseeching her to pee when one of my neighbours turned the corner. I was relieved to see a person I recognized, and played it nonchalant; concealing the knife in the sleeve of my jacket (I cannot believe I just typed those words) as I followed him home. I bet he never even suspected he was being used as a human shield.

Thankfully, Cassie pee-peed before I stabbed anyone, but seriously. I awoke this morning to the dawning realization that I had been patrolling my street with a KNIFE mere hours prior, and for a moment contemplated adding The Walking Dead to my Married Movies List (a compilation of films/TV shows I will only watch when I have someone to share a bed with- not because I don’t feel I’m capable of defending myself, but because when I was little I told my mother I’d get married one day so that “the monsters would have another option”), but quickly dismissed the notion.

It’s just too good.

I wonder if I’ll get AMC in prison.

NYCC: New York, I Love You

I’ve spent this past week in The Big Apple, standing in queues. Mostly at the NYCC and/or Chipotle.

I was playing the part of publicist for Ariadne MacGillivray and Kim Belair, who were utilizing NYCC to showcase their transcendent debut novel, “Pure Steele“. I was also in attendance as a member of the press (like Lois Lane, except I can spell and I don’t have breasts). This NYCC in particular was an especially special one for me because it just so happened to be my first! Though I have experienced Fan Expo, The San Diego Comic Con, and Dragon Con, I could not have prepared myself for the absolute madness that is a New York Comic Con- and I mean that in the best sense possible!

On Sunday, for instance, I was standing off to the side, checking my messages when a man walked past me and remarked- in a wonderful Brooklyn accent- “Look at all these people! Look at all these people and no one is fighting! They’re all so happy!

It was true! When I stepped back out onto the floor a zombie walked into me and said- “Oh, shorrah!”- through a mouthful of fake, rotting teeth, placing a decomposing hand upon my shoulder in order to steady me. What a guy! It’s a shame he was decaying, because nice guys are hard to find and he had such good manners.

The convention floor was as organized as you could expect a crowded convention floor to be, though I personally believe that all of the major conventions should invest in some guidance from Temple Grandin. I’m only half joking.

"DC fans can only walk on the left-hand side!"

“DC fans can only walk on the left-hand side!”

Although I was at the Con to work, I did allow myself a well-deserved nerd-break, and set some time aside to meet Jason Momoa- and by “Jason Momoa” I mean Khal Drogo.

Honestly, I cannot express in words how devastatingly handsome this man is in person. Seriously, I can’t. I just tried and I can’t. I’ve been staring blankly at this page for a good five minutes, just reminiscing. I’m almost 100% certain he’s an Adonis who decided to forsake his gilded kingdom for the sake of us mortals, and the 1% of lingering doubt is caused by the fact that he is so incredibly kind and humble. The fact that he is so nice definitely only adds to his appeal. For instance, when he found out our photo was going to be a birthday present, he abandoned the classic “arm around the shoulder” pose and instead did this-

Drink it in.

When I left to join the queue for the signing, Kim asked me how it had felt to be held by him, and I believe my response was a succinct and dazed- “Hard.” When we met again he asked how our photo had turned out, and when I showed him he took back the Khal Drogo headshot he’d just signed (of course I picked the Khal Drogo headshot) and included- Moon of my Life­- beneath his signature. In Dothraki.

In. Dothraki.

Did I mention he spoke a few words of Dothraki in my ear? Because he did. I don’t know what he said and I don’t care. I could go on for days about how statuesque he is, but instead I’ll just post this again-

Shh, let it happen.

He was so remarkably personable and gregarious, which is always so nice to see at conventions. He was Hugh Jackman levels of nice to all of his fans, new and old, and I look forward to seeing what he goes on to do in the future. I know he’ll be missed in the second season of Game of Thrones. I still cannot believe I lost both of my boyfriends within the first season (Drogo AND Robert?!). I mean, reading the novels, I completely understood Daenerys’ decision to put him out of his misery, but now I feel like it was a tad premature. Couldn’t we have kept him around for a few more episodes? Just one or two or nine? Too soon, Dany. Too soon.

That being said, Jason Momoa was only one of the many awesome people I was fortunate enough to encounter this NYCC! Everyone at the Quirk Books booth was incredibly awesome, and I also ran into my SDCC bff, Gary! He totally Jay-Z’ed Kim and I by bringing us to the front of the enormous line to say hello to my good friends Kevin and Bruce. Oh, pardon me, Kevin Conroy and Bruce Timm. That’s right. We’re likethis.

In reality, they probably only vaguely recalled me as “the girl who requested I say her name in the Batman voice” and/or “the girl who actually had the audacity to bicker with me regarding Selina Kyle’s role as an animal activist”, but still, they were both nice enough to at least feign fond memories.

Andrea Romano just so happened to be seated between them, so I made a point to inform Bruce Timm that I was available for voice work (I’ll keep you guys posted).

Well, that’s all for now. It appears my plane is landing in Montreal, so I suppose I should wrap this up (as neatly as I did the Targaryen stein that is currently stuffed into my carry-on). I had a wonderful time at NYCC, and am so looking forward to returning next year. In conclusion I…I…

Wait. What?

Note: This post was originally written in October 2010. I’m moving it over from a different Blog, because…how could I not?!