Saturday, 16 January 2077

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Sunday, 22 September 2019

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

The fires of industry are smouldering. The Union, the great federation of kingdoms centred on the island of Midderland and the city of Adua, is industrialising and modernising at a frightening rate. Great factory districts, squealing with machinery, now sprawl for miles as they pump out vast quantities of goods. It's a brave new world, one in which the little person is at risk of being crushed. Seething discontent at joblessness and the new order threatens to erupt into outright rebellion. As the Union tries to strangle the nascent revolution in its crib, another crisis erupts in the North when the armies of Scale Ironhand invade the Protectorate, controlled by the Union's allies.

As war and revolution threaten the Union on every front, the fate of the Circle of the World falls upon a handful of unlikely figures: Savine dan Glokta, the daughter of the royal inquisitor and a shrewd investor; Crown Prince Orso, a wastrel and drunkard; Vick, a young woman in the Breakers, the would-be working class revolutionaries; Gunnar Broad, a military veteran trying to get his life back; Stour Nightfall, a Northern warrior with a ridiculous name and evil ambition; Rikke, daughter of the Dogman, blessed (or cursed) with the magic of foresight; and Leo dan Brock, the Young Lion, a brave and reckless warrior who cannot see the big picture.

It's been - somewhat startlingly - seven years since Joe Abercrombie last visited the world of his First Law saga with Red Country. Since then he's been moonlighting in YA (with the Shattered Sea trilogy in 2014-15) and short fiction (with the Sharp Ends collection in 2016), but his return to the First Law world with not just a novel, but a full trilogy (entitled The Age of Madness) is welcome news.

A Little Hatred is very much just what most readers are expecting from an Abercrombie novel. It's fast-paced, violent, lusty and intelligent. Not keen on resting on his laurels, the novel also sees Abercrombie moving into new territory with a lot of socio-economic musings. A Little Hatred is a novel about a world in turmoil, not just from war or religious schisms but from its own Industrial Revolution. This isn't totally new ground for fantasy, with Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels and China Mieville's Bas-Lag series both delving into industrial chaos, revolutions and modernisation, but it's still an under-explored idea for the genre.

The book is also concerned with the next generation, the children of great characters growing up in the shadow of their famed parents, whilst those parents face the truth that the great exploits of their youth haven't led to long-lasting peace and happiness. The North and the Union are still at each other's throats over the North's conquest of Angland and the Protectorate, whilst (in the wake of the events of Best Served Cold) the Union and Styria have fought three bloody wars to no satisfactory outcome. Even the collapse of the Gurkish Empire, removing a key threat to the Union's southern flank, has caused its own problems as hordes of refugees flee to Midderland, sparking a wave of racist xenophobia. A Little Hatred is about a world in change, not from the typical epic fantasy stand-bys of ravening monsters and evil sorcerers, but from the changing page of history itself.

Characterisation is a key strength of Abercrombie's and he gets to exercise that skill with aplomb here. Most of the protagonists are complicated people, with admirable and detestable traits, and it's to Abercrombie's credit that he makes them all interesting and compelling, even when you want to smack them for making dumb decisions. Focusing on new characters is a good idea, as it makes the book an easier entry point for new readers. The book is certainly improved if you've read the seven previous First Law books (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings, Best Served Cold, The Heroes, Red Country and Sharp Ends), but they are not strictly necessary given that the novel does a good job of establishing the situation and characters.

The book is excellently paced. Abercrombie's never written huge doorstoppers, but some of his previous books have been quite big. At just over 400 pages in hardcover, A Little Hatred is focused, fast-paced and furious, taking in revolutions, battles, betrayals, stabbings, flights through the countryside and political intrigue at the highest levels, with a reasonably large cast. The pace never flags and leaves the reader eager for more.

If there are weaknesses, they are minor. The Union's industrial revolution is impressively vivid and impeccably-researched, but some may feel that it's also hugely unrealistic, given that in the First Law series the world was more like a 15th century late medieval/early renaissance setting. It jumping forwards about 300 years of technological development in less than 30 years feels a little like a contrivance so the author can have fan-favourite characters still showing up rather than dealing with a whole new generation. However, this bug is also something of a feature: as the novel ends, it becomes clear that this massive, rapid progress may be explained by other means, which opens more questions for the sequels.

As it stands, A Little Hatred (****½) is vintage Abercrombie, being smart, funny, brutal and compelling reading. It is available now in the UK and USA. The second book in the series, The Trouble with Peace, will be released in 2020.

Kate Elliott's BLACK WOLVES series dropped by publishers

In disappointing news, Orbit Books have dropped publication plans for the second and further books in the Black Wolves series by Kate Elliott.

The first book, Black Wolves, was a semi-sequel to Elliott's earlier Crossroads trilogy, set in the same world. The second book, Dead Empire, was half-finished and cover art already prepared when the publisher made the decision to drop the series.

The news is somewhat confusing, as Orbit in the UK and Commonwealth territories has been Elliott's publishers for over twenty years. They released the Crown of Stars, Crossroads and Spiritwalker series, all of which sold well for them. Assuming that the reason for dropping the new series was poor sales, you'd assume that they would give the series more of a chance to prove itself, given the author's form and the sad but inarguable fact that many modern fantasy readers are now waiting until series are complete before reading them.

You won't be seeing this in the shops any time soon.

Elliott is currently working on extricating the novels from the contract so they can be shopped elsewhere, although long-term fantasy fans will know this can be a laborious task, such as the case of Paul Kearney's Sea-Beggars series, where the original publishers Bantam dropped the series after two books some thirteen years ago and he still hasn't be able to free up the rights, despite his new publishers, Solaris, being keen to publish the concluding volume of the series.

Hopefully it won't take as long as that before we series this series concluded. Meanwhile, Elliott is working on a new SF series for Tor Books, The Sun Chronicles, which she has described as "Alexander the Great in space" with a female lead. The first book, The Unconquerable Sun, will be published in July 2020.

Updated Timeline and Map from Joe Abercrombie's FIRST LAW world

With Joe Abercrombie's first First Law book in eight years, A Little Hatred, in stores now, I thought it was worthwhile revisiting the setting for the books with a refreshed map and timeline.

The map shows all the lands that lie within the known Circle of the World. Midderland, the island in the centre, is the heart of the Union and the location of Adua, the capital city. Styria, the setting for Best Served Cold, is the island or subcontinent to the east. The North lies to the, er, north with the Orsrung Valley (the setting for The Heroes) located in the mountains and hills south of Carleon. The Far Country, the setting for Red Country, is located to the west of Midderland. Dagoska and the Gurkhal Empire are to the south.

For this map I added the city of Valbeck, a vital location in A Little Hatred. The city lies inland, north of the lands of Isher and somewhat north of Adua, although there's not a huge amount in it.

Also at the time of A Little Hatred, Styria has become a unified nation-state with its capital at Talins (to the disquiet of the Union), the Old Empire has been (somewhat) reunified and the Gurkish Empire has fallen to internal dissent and civil conflict, although for the purposes of clarity on the map it can still be said to exist. Dagoska is now more of an independent city-state, although it remains reliant on the Union for its economic status (as seen in the short story The Thread), so I have marked it as remaining part of the Union.

A map of the Circle of the World. Please click for a larger version.

The timeline of stories and books is as follows, with novels in bold and short stories in italics. These short stories can all be found in the new First Law collection Sharp Ends, which was published this week.

565 (summer): Made a Monster
566 (spring): A Beautiful Bastard
573 (autumn): Small Kindnesses
574 (autumn): The Fool Jobs
575 (summer): Skipping Town 
575 (spring-autumn): The Blade Itself
575-576 (autumn-spring): Before They Are Hanged
576 (spring): Hell
576 (summer): Two's Company
576-577 (summer to winter): Last Argument of Kings
579-80: Best Served Cold
580: Wrong Place, Wrong Time
584 (summer): Some Desperado 
584 (autumn): Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden 
584: The Heroes
587 (autumn): Three's a Crowd
590 (summer): Freedom!
590: Red Country
592 (spring): Tough Times All Over
605: The Thread
605: A Little Hatred

Previous lists and Sharp Ends list "Made a Monster" as taking place in 570. This was an error, as noted by Joe Abercrombie, and the book has to take place around 565 to better fit the narrative references in the books themselves. A precise date for "The Thread" (the short story that accompanies some editions of A Little Hatred) is not given, but it appears to be relatively shortly before the events of the novel.

Note: this is an updated version of a post previously posted here.

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RIP Aron Eisenberg

News sadly broke this morning that Star Trek actor Aron Eisenberg has passed away at the age of 50.

Eisenberg is best-known for playing the role of Nog in 44 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the nephew of Ferengi bar-owner Quark. Nog was originally conceived as a recurring guest character, a foil and trouble-making partner for Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton). As the show progressed, the writers took delight in exploiting Eisenberg's excellent comedic timing and also his more dramatic side, turning Nog from comic relief into a more serious character. In Season 3 the character expressed a desire to join Starfleet Academy and was accepted (with Captain Sisko's recommendation. Despite Eisenberg's fears he might be written out of the show, he returned several times in Season 4 as part of a subplot about an attempted coup on Earth by Starfleet officers rendered paranoid by fear of the changelings. Nog was stationed back on DS9 in Season 5. The show's final two seasons he appeared more frequently (appearing in half the episodes of both seasons) as a bridge officer on the USS Defiant.

In the Season 7 episode, the DS9 writers broke an unofficial Star Trek rule that had been in place since the third season of The Next Generation, that each episode had to revolve around at least one (if not several) of the named, regular actors whose names were in the lead credits. In the episode It's Only a Paper Moon, Nog, having lost his leg in battle, retreats into a fantasy world on the holosuite a as a coping mechanism and has to be helped through the trauma by hologram Vic Fontaine (another recurring character played by veteran Hollywood star James Darren). The studio were highly dubious of letting an episode ride almost entirely on two recurring guest stars, but the producers did it anyway, resulting in one of the most critically-acclaimed episodes of the series. Eisenberg was praised for his performance in a difficult and very atypical Nog storyline.

Eisenberg continued to act on stage and on screen, and also worked as a stage director. He also returned to Star Trek in the role of Karden in one episode of Star Trek: Voyager. One of his loves was photography, which he made a living from and also exhibited his work several times. With renewed interest in Deep Space Nine in the 2010s, when the show had cemented its critical reputation as the finest Star Trek show, Eisenberg starred with Lofton and several other DS9 actors on the 7th Rule podcast. He also played a role in the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind.

Eisenberg was born with only one kidney, partially functioning, which was cited as a reason for his short height (Eisenberg was 5 feet tall). At the age of 15, he underwent a kidney transplant and at the age of 46 had a second transplant.

Eisenberg is survived by his wife and two children. He had a reputation as a kind man, always laughing and willing to talk to fans, and was popular with his co-stars. He will be missed.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

SF&F Questions: Does human religion still exist at the time of Star Trek?

Star Trek is the most extensive live-action science fiction franchise of all time, spanning 762 episodes (as of July 2019) across seven distinct television series, along with thirteen theatrical movies and countless novels, video games and comics. The Star Trek timeline extends from the near future to more than a thousand years in our future.

In all of that time, Star Trek has somehow managed to sidestep the question of religion, specifically human religion. Alien religions are covered, sometimes in exacting depth, with multiple episodes focusing on the religious beliefs of races including the Bajorans and Klingons, and the ideological attitude and spirituality of the Vulcans. But the show tends to shirk away from answering questions such as whether humans still believe in God in the 23rd and 24th centuries.

Word of God
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, a committed atheist, secularist, optimist and humanist, was unequivocal on the matter: he believed that by the time of Star Trek (the 23rd and 24th centuries), human beings would have come to the realisation that religion was outdated superstition and would have embraced a philosophical and ideological point of view that rejected both religion and the pursuit of money as the motivating factors of the human race.

Of course, such a viewpoint was fairly radical for 1960s American television, and it seems that Roddenberry didn’t enforce this POV on his writers, who frequently adopted more traditional viewpoints, with characters affirming a belief in God at several points. Later Star Trek producers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore confirmed that Gene’s tenet on religion remained in full force on the 1990s Star Trek shows (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager). “On Roddenberry's future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it.”

In addition, it appears that humanity has abandoned the use of the Anno Domini (After Christ) or Common Era calendar in favour of non-denominational Stardates instead. In fact, it took twenty-two years after the airing of the first episode of Star Trek for a current year to even be mentioned in this system (in The Next Generation’s The Neutral Zone, when the current year is identified as 2364 AD).

Evidence in The Original Series
In Balance of Terror it is revealed that the Enterprise has a non-denominational chapel on board where religious ceremonies can be held, including weddings and funerals. This suggests that human religious faith still exists and all beliefs are catered to on the ship.

However, in Who Mourns for Adonis? Kirk seemingly contradicts this by saying that polytheistic religious beliefs are considered outdated as “we find the one [god] quite sufficient.” This seems to suggest that Hinduism and any belief not centred around a single god (such as Buddhism) no longer exists. It also suggests that most humans still believe in a single god at this point in history.

In Space Seed, Lt. McGivers reports that Khan is of Indian descent and may be a Sikh, although when he wakes up, Khan does not identify himself with any religious belief. However, given that Khan originates from the late 20th Century, that doesn’t mean that the Sikh culture and faith is still extant in the 23rd Century.

In Bread and Circuses, Septimus asks the crew if they are “Children of the Sun,” to which McCoy replies, “If you’re speaking of worship of sorts, we represent many beliefs.”

In That Which Survives, navigator Lt. Rahda is shown wearing the bindi (a traditional Hindu symbol on her forehead), contradicting Who Mourns for Adonis?

Evidence in the movies
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a funeral is held for Spock after his death in the battle with Khan. The funeral is apparently non-religious, with no prayers offered, although Scotty does play the 1779 Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes. It should be noted that as a Vulcan (a half-Vulcan, but raised on the Vulcan homeworld as a full Vulcan), Spock would presumably not have requested any kind of human religious funeral anyway. Several characters also exclaim “My God!” at various points in the film, but Dr. McCoy also refers to the story of Genesis as “a myth.”

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, religious faith and fundamentalism is a key theme and it is even hinted that the hostile alien entity imprisoned at the centre of the galaxy may be the inspiration for numerous real-world religions (as Kirk memorably points out, “What does God want with a starship?”).

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Captain Sulu yells “My God!” upon seeing the shockwave from the Klingon moon Praxis approaching his ship, the Excelsior.

In Star Trek: Generations, Picard celebrates Christmas, although Christmas is of course considered a secular holiday by many.

Evidence in The Next Generation
In Who Watches the Watchers the crew of the Enterprise interfere with a preindustrial civilisation and inadvertently create a religion based around their activities, to Picard’s evident horror. He describes the age of religious belief as a primitive “setback.”

Several weddings take place in the series, most notably the marriage of Miles and Keiko O’Brien in Data’s Day, but these are non-denominational weddings. However, in the same episode Data notes that the Hindu Festival of Lights is currently ongoing and there will be celebrations of this on the Enterprise.

In Sub Rosa, Dr. Crusher’s grandmother is given a Catholic funeral.

Evidence in Deep Space Nine
In The Ship and The Sound of Her Voice, wakes take place. However, they are not overtly religious ceremonies.

In the episode Penumbra (taking place in AD 2375), Captain Kasidy Yates says that her mother would expect her to be married by a minister.

Evidence in Voyager
Commander Chakotay is of Native American descent and frequently mentions his spiritual beliefs.

Evidence in Enterprise
Taking place a hundred years before Kirk’s times, Enterprise features much more overt references to religion still existing. Dr. Phlox is a student of human religion and in Cold Front mentions taking mass in St. Peter’s Square and visiting a Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Evidence in other materials
Various Star Trek books and comics make more overt references to religion still existing: A Small Matter of Faith focuses on the career of a Starfleet chaplain and Guises of the Mind features Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu believers in Starfleet. The video game Star Trek: 25th Anniversary features a group of religious separatists living on a breakaway colony, and Kirk can respond to their beliefs either respectfully or sardonically.

However, none of the Star Trek comics, video games or novels are canon, so these are not germane.

How could religion disappear in just 240 years?
Given that many of the world religions are thousands of years old, the idea that religion may disappear in just the next 240 years appears to be fanciful. Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore notes that he considers it to be impossible, but could not overrule Gene Roddenberry’s rule.

One possibility is related to the fictional World War III. In Star Trek’s timeline, WWIII erupts in 2026 and rages until 2053, although there are apparently lulls and ceasefires during the conflict. The war involved both conventional military activity and nuclear strikes, which eliminated many of the world’s major cities. One reason San Francisco becomes apparently the biggest and most important city in North America in the Star Trek timeline is that many of the other major cities of the continent were destroyed. The death toll from WWIII is about 600 million.

It is possible that this war was so devastating that entire religions were wiped out, or driven underground or to the point of extinction and that the post-WWIII rebuilding process, especially after First Contact with the Vulcans in 2063, was undertaken specifically with the idea of uniting humanity under a single humanist banner.

It is also possible that the discovery of intelligent alien life resulted in a massive philosophical shift on Earth which contributed to the decline of religion.

So, has human religion disappeared by the time of Star Trek?
Based on multiple data points, it appears that religion continues to endure even by the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine: Dr. Crusher’s grandmother is a Catholic, Captain Yates and her mother appear to be Christians of unknown denomination and a Hindu religious festival is observed on board the Enterprise-D. There are also Hindus serving in Starfleet at the time of The Original Series.

As a result, we can conclude that although religious worship among humans is much less widespread in the late 24th Century compared to now, it remains extant and people do continue to follow the major world religions, albeit in much smaller numbers than at present.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

A band of friends meet at the Inn of the Last Home in the town of Solace. Five years ago they went their separate ways, searching for evidence of the lost gods. Their findings were inconclusive, but their reunion is interrupted by the news of vast armies allied with dragons on the march and the arrival of strangers bearing a crystal staff...and the long-lost power of healing. The continent of Ansalon is riven by war and it falls on this band of heroes to save it from destruction.

The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy is one of the most famous works of epic fantasy of the 1980s. Published in 1984 and 1985, the trilogy and its immediate sequel series (The Dragonlance Legends) have together sold almost 30 million copies, making them one of the biggest-selling series of that decade. Millions of fantasy readers started out in the genre by reading these novels.

The question arises, then, is it a good idea to revisit these works as an adult and risk ruining nostalgic teenage memories in the process?

The answer is mixed. The paradox at the heart of enjoying the Dragonlance Chronicles is what age group it's actually aimed at. The generally jovial tone (even when quite dark things are happening), the casual dialogue (this is a trilogy where medieval fantasy characters say "Yeah!" a lot) and the extremely breezy pace make this feel like a series aimed at children. I don't mean YA, I mean 7-10 year olds. The prose is simple and easy to read, and it feels very much like a work aimed in writing style at the same kind of audience as The Hobbit. There's moments of whimsical humour, stirring action and intriguing worldbuilding which do withstand comparison with Tolkien's work, despite the less-accomplished writing.

However, there are moments when the series abruptly goes much more adult. There are several sex scenes (albeit mostly of the "fade to black" kind) and female characters are threatened with sexual assault on a fairly regular basis. Tanis Half-elven also can't even meet a stranger on the road without carefully explaining how his mother was assaulted by a human man, leading to his conception and outcast status from both communities. The trilogy is also painfully 1980s in how it tries to have both strong female characters (Laurana, Tika, Kitiara, Goldmoon) and then gets them into situations of undress, or wearing revealing armour or clothes (Tika, at least, gets to make some wry observations on this that makes me suspect Margaret Weis was rolling her eyes as she wrote to market requirements). There's also a quite spectacular amount of violence, including characters being beheaded, turned to stone or set on fire on a fairly regular basis, and some psychological horror in the form of Berem, who is cursed to die and live again so often that he is going insane.

If you can overcome the tonal dissonance - the gap between the lightweight, juvenile writing and sometimes darker, more adult content - then it's possible to enjoy the Dragonlance Chronicles as a fast-paced, popcorn read. The trilogy does have another key feature (or bug) which is that it is an attempt to adapt no less than twelve Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules into a coherent story. Several times the narrative cuts away from our heroes embarking on another side-quest only to come back to them after that quest is completed, leading to the heroes thinking wistfully back on adventures that the reader never experienced (such as the journey to Ice Wall Castle, or Raistlin's completely out-of-nowhere return to the main story in the closing pages of the third book). This does make the story feel somewhat incomplete. It also means that the stories are extremely fast-paced: the Chronicles trilogy features a bigger story and more characters and events than The Lord of the Rings in about 50,000 fewer words. Some will enjoy the breakneck pace, others may lament the lack of character and plot development this results in.

The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy (***) is fast-paced, fun and easy to read. It's also simplistic, juvenile in tone and has not aged fantastically well. Truth be told, there's much better options available for both adult and children fans of fantasy these days. But if you can overlook the issues, there is still some fun to be had in revisiting Tanis, Raistlin, Caramon, Flint, Goldmoon, Riverwind, Tas, Kitiara, Sturm, Laurana, Gilthanas, Lord Soth and the rest of this memorable bunch of archetypes. The trilogy is available now in the UK and USA.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA reboot to be rebooted, for some reason

The Battlestar Galactica reboot is getting a reboot, because that's how things work now.

NBC has tapped Sam Esmail, the creative genius behind Mr. Robot, to take charge of a third iteration of the Battlestar Galactica franchise. The series will spearhead NBC Universal's new streaming service, which has the decidedly underwhelming name of "Peacock."

Battlestar Galactica was created by Glen A. Larson and aired as a single season on ABC in 1978-79, followed by a half-season, mid-season replacement sequel series called Galactica 1980, which is best being never watched or remembered. The original Battlestar was quite popular, but the absolutely titanic budget for the series prevented it from continuing.

In 2003 the Sci-Fi Channel, as it was then called, rebooted the show with Ronald D. Moore as executive producer and showrunner. The rebooted Galactica was a darker, moodier affair, much-informed by 9/11 and the War on Terror. With its low-fi aesthetics (no lasers, cute kids or robot dogs) and gritty attitude, the show won a whole new legion of fans as well as widespread critical acclaim, including Hugo and Peabody awards and multiple Emmy Awards in technical categories. The New York Times declared it one of the twenty best shows of the 21st century so far - a peer of The Wire, The Americans and Breaking Bad - just a few months ago.

Battlestar Galactica 2.0 concluded in 2009 with a highly divisive finale - one arguably even more polarising than Game of Thrones' or Lost's - before following it up with an unsuccessful spin-off show, Caprica, and a one-off TV movie, Blood and Chrome, in 2013. This iteration of the franchise has continued to be developed in video games, such as the excellent Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock, and a well-received board game and new miniatures game.

News that a third version of the show is in development has already been met with scepticism. The original 1978 version of the show was promising but cheesy, so the idea of rebooting it was quite valid and Moore more than delivered on the promise inherent in the premise, even if he didn't quite stick the landing. The question arises what a third version of the same idea could deliver.

The one interesting thing about the idea is the creative talent involved. Previously, X-Men director Bryan Singer had been attached to a film reboot (for the second time, having previously worked on a TV version in the late 1990s and early 2000s that was superseded by Moore's), which would have been the wrong medium. Sam Esmail is also a genuinely provocative and talented writer and director, whose Mr. Robot (which concludes with its fourth season early next year) is one of the best shows currently airing. Esmail's take on BSG could be very interesting, although it remains to be seen what he could bring to the table that is genuinely different. Certainly Ronald D. Moore seems intrigued by the idea, and has given Esmail his blessing to develop a fresh take on the franchise.

Battlestar Galactica 3.0 remains in development, but if NBC pull the trigger it will likely be fast-tracked to debut next year.

UPDATE: Sam Esmail has taken to Twitter to confirm that the new show will not be a reboot of Moore's version of the show, but will instead "explore a new story in the mythology whilst remaining true to the spirit of Battlestar. What this means precisely remains to be seen, but it may be an indication that the new show could be set within the Moore continuity but in a previously unseen time frame, such as the original exodus from Kobol to the Twelve Colonies, or the settling of the Thirteenth Colony. More information as we get it.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Showtime passes on THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE prequel series

In a somewhat surprising move, Showtime has halted development of the Kingkiller Chronicle prequel TV series and returned the rights to Lionsgate Television.

The news comes as a surprise after a period in which a confident Showtime seemed eager to take the fight to old rivals HBO and newcomers Netflix and Amazon, all of them have big-budget fantasy shows in development, shooting or getting ready to air. With HBO prepping two Game of Thrones spin-offs and getting ready to air a Watchmen sequel show and a new version of His Dark Materials, Netflix preparing to launch The Witcher and Amazon beginning filming on both The Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings: The Second Age this month (albeit only preliminary shooting in the latter case), Showtime seemed well-placed with their new TV project.

However, reports suggest that Showtime may have over-committed to its ambitious, top-dollar TV version of the Halo video game franchise (which recently began shooting) and no longer have the financial bandwidth to commit to Kingkiller at the same time. Releasing the rights voluntarily, especially after the significant amount they paid for them at auction in 2017, suggests that the network may have been at fault in the issue. Lionsgate are now shopping the rights around, but are finding the market glutted with high-budget fantasy projects, with no room at the inns of Netflix, Amazon or HBO.

Lionsgate now seem to be targeting Apple TV, which is still on the lookout for high-profile projects to bolster its launch lineup (which includes a TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation saga and a new project from Battlestar Galactica and Outlander showrunner Ronald D. Moore). Apple have not committed to the project so far.

The Kingkiller Chronicle TV series is set some decades before the books and explores the lives of two characters, widely believed to be Kvothe's parents, on the world of Temerant. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, His Dark Materials) is set to executive produce, create music and possibly act, whilst John Rogers (Leverage, The Librarians, The Player) is writing and showrunning.

The original plan was for the TV series to launch alongside a big-budget, direct movie adaptation of the first novel in the series, The Name of the Wind. However, progress on getting the movie made stalled earlier this year after would-be director Sam Raimi passed on the project.

Some fans have speculated that studios may be sceptical of the project given that the source material remains incomplete, with the third book remaining incomplete after at least nine years of work. However, the prequel series is not dependent on source material and seems to be a work of passion for the in-demand Miranda, increasing the likelihood it will find a new home elsewhere.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

HBO to order second GAME OF THRONES pilot about the Dance of Dragons

According to an exclusive story from Entertainment Weekly, HBO are close to ordering a second Game of Thrones spin-off pilot. This second pilot would be based on the Dance of Dragons, the devastating civil war that almost wiped out the Targaryens and did kill most of their dragons about 170 years before the events of the main series.

Ryan Condal, who was recently developing Amazon's Conan the Barbarian TV series before they passed on it, is developing the pilot. According to some rumours, he may have taken over development of this project from Bryan Cogman, who was working on a Game of Thrones project before being poached by Amazon to work on their Lord of the Rings: The Second Age series. This remains unconfirmed.

HBO is currently assessing the completed pilot for the first spin-off, with the working title Bloodmoon, before deciding to move forwards with a series order. It is unclear if this second show means that the first is dead, or they will consider having two spin-off series on air at the same time.