Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The Hedge Knight" and George R.R. Martin's "A Platter of Pork and Bacon"

Virtually nobody remembers that George R.R. Martin wrote "The Hedge Knight" in 1998, only two years after "A Game of Thrones" was first published.  It was a stark departure from the large number of character perspectives found in AGoT, instead focusing predominately on the misfortunes of Samwell Tarly's character.  In fact, because of the novel's bizarre (and frequently sadistic) infatuation with Tarly, Martin even had a working title for the book: "A Platter of Pork and Bacon".  

Years later, Martin expressed significant vitriol for Tarly's character, saying, "In virtually every way, I feel that he [Samwell Tarly] is a repugnant character.  He's fat, unclean and 'craven' and completely devoid of charm.  As he bumbles through Westeros, the only thing that keeps him alive is this overwhelmingly pitiful quality--it exploits our pathos and, although we might hold the rock above his head--and although we may hit him with it again and again--we cannot bring ourselves to deliver the killing blow.  

"Because of this, I'd like to think that I knew I was making a mistake when I first committed him to paper.  All of these characters who are slated for the chopping block, and here is one that transcends death.  You've heard of Pandora's Box?  Well imagine opening the box and finding it brimming with Samwell Tarly's shit, because he's been shitting in this box for a thousand years and just waiting for somebody to open it.  It's spilling over the sides and ruining everything it touches, including yourself.  You've released him into [Westeros] and you'll never get him back in, so now you just have to figure out how to hurt him--to make him pay for simply being."   



~*JON*~

"But we can't go out there!" Samwell protested, his pig-like jowls jiggling like heavy slabs of hog fat. Long after he stopped begging for Jon to heed his advice, his cheeks continued to wiggle back and forth. Finally he put his fat, clammy fingers up to his face and stilled them. When he pulled his fat sausage-fingers away from his face, fat sausage-shaped indentations covered his face.

"Gotta do what I gotta do," Jon brooded melancholy, wincing as the cold frost licked at his eyelashes.  "I'm thirteen, Tarly--and a man needs to know when to defend his honor and be a man."

The words were intended to cut Samwell down, yet he ignored them.  "But Ser Crowe! He'll catch us before we even make it to Mole's Town!" Spittle ran down his blubbery pink worm-lips.

"Quit bein' a faggot," Jon snapped, snatching Samwell by the ruff of his disgusting, sweaty cloak. "Ungh, Seven Hells!"  He instantly grimaced, loosening his grip and leaning away from the boy--months of grease and filth and grime had collected in the coward's clothing, making Jon think that he would go up like a candle if even a single cinder came in contact with him. Maybe it wouldn't even have to touch him, Jon thought coldly.  Maybe the craven pig-fumes would serve as all the tinder necessary to immolate this trembling chucklefuck. The thought of Samwell stumbling around, a living flame, made Jon smile faintly. It warmed his cockles. "We. Are. Going."

Samwell practically dug his hooves into the snow as Jon pushed him toward the gate, carving even-toed tracks into the earth. But Jon persisted.

"WHAT ARE YOU TWO SHITLICKS DOIN'?!" Alliser Crowe's growl rumbled through the air like a thunderclap, physically knocking Samwell off his feet. He gasped as tears welled up in his eyes. Jon looked over his shoulder and watched as Ser Crowe leapt over the third-floor balcony and--without breaking eye contact with either of them--landed in the snow like a white meteor.  He then got to his feet, an elegant creature, smiling terribly, eyes wide and wild and the color of frost. "Gonna make water in the fat one! You disgusting, fat fucking pig! You're my toilet now!"

Alliser strode up to them like a horrible blonde Golem, somehow making eye contact with both of them simultaneously.  At that moment, he reached down and pulled his wiener out, and Samwell gasped and wept.




~*ALLISER*~

Whimpering, Samwell grabbed handfuls of snow and rubbed it on his face. It instantly melted to slush as his warm piglet flesh came in contact with it. "Be gone...b...be gone..." he bleated. The stink of Alliser Crowe clung to him like a blonde phantom, haunting his every thought. It smelled like sweat and coriander, like old leather and black grease. If only he could wash it off--

"I beseech both the Old Gods and the New, grant me mercy and free me of Crowe!" Even as the words left his mouth, they were weak and unconvincing. His face was sufficiently drenched in frigid snow-melt, but still he could detect the odor. It formed a finger and flicked at his ear, causing him to jerk his head away and gasp. But when he looked over his shoulder, there was nothing--

"PIG BOY!" Crowe suddenly bellowed, materializing behind him. Half of his body was still invisible, wrapped in a magick cloak that turned the wearer transparent as air. Only the nude upper-half of Ser Crowe was visible, a torso floating above the snow like a ghost. "Prayin' to the God of Pork again, eh?" he sneered, practically chewing through his bottom lip.

Without warning, Crowe rolled his shoulders, causing the cloak to drop down to the ground and reveal the rest of him--creamy white skin and an endless forest of rough, tangled, blonde hair.

Samwell fell backwards into the snow and began backpedaling as Crowe stalked towards him. Alliser's eyes lit up as he watched the boy's reaction. "Ser Fatback the Craven Pork Chop," he hissed, his steely gaze piercing Samwell's feeble spiritual defenses. He could instantly feel the man invading his plump innards, dining on his soul-sap from ten paces.

And then Ser Crowe was upon him.


                         


~*SAMWELL TARLY*~

Saucer-eyed Samwell Tarly's lips quivered as he beheld the crate of delicate pastries that sat before him. Repulsive pig-men like Sam didn't experience the emotional milestones of ordinary men...except, here were these milky white legs spread wide, granting him unencumbered access to all the moist cakes, delicate cream horns, decadent strudels, and mouth-puckering tarts he could take into himself. This must be how other men feel when they first lay eyes upon a beautiful woman, or a glimmering pile of jewels, he thought to himself, tingling at the thought of how it must be feel to be a real human being.

As he stood there--a mere swine momentarily glimpsing over the trough, past the fence, and into the heavens and the impossible majesty of gods rendered as tender, flaky flesh therewithin--he began to breathe heavily, and a prickly heat swept across his fat face.

Samwell took one step forward, and then another. His feet felt as heavy as boulders yet, when he lifted them, they were simultaneously light as air; unseen kitchen-magicks drew him forward. He clumsily dropped down beside the crate and inhaled an intoxicating aroma of sugars, butters, and spices--it made him dizzy, and he had to brace himself against the box to keep from falling over.

The sudden rush of saliva made his jaw ache. "How did you end up here?" he asked in a voice had become slow and slurred, as if he were drunk. The crate was undoubtedly a mistake. It was intended for some lord or lady of the North, not for him, never for him. Yet it had somehow ended up at Castle Black.

With surprising speed and dexterity for somebody so corpulent, he plunged a hand into the crate and plucked a danish free from the pile. Wrestling with the excited tremble of his plump hands, he lifted the treat to his face until his nose was pressed against its gooey crimson innards. Go on, it said to him. Dine upon me, m'lord. Eat your fill.

An angel's kiss of sugar sat on the tip of Samwell's broad, upturned nose. He inhaled deeply and held his breath for what felt like an eternity, his secret prisoner, before grudgingly releasing it. It smelled of ripe strawberry fields, hot, bubbling butter, and...an indescribable noise escaped his lips without his consent.

He tested the quince cheese with a single fat finger and, sensing its vulnerability, continued to probe it with additional fingers. "There are...secrets--secrets hidden deep inside of you, and my mouth will...my mouth will release them," he nervously cooed to the pastry. His forbidden lover.

Suddenly the door burst open behind him with such ferocity that it broke free of its heavy iron hinges and collided with the wall, shattering into a thousand-thousand pieces that clattered noisily to the floor like wooden rain. "WHERE'S MY BOY-HOG?" a voice shouted. Ser Crowe's voice.

Tears automatically welled up in Samwell's eyes and his bottom lip began quivering. As fast as a craven piglet could move, he scrambled away on all fours. But corners and dead-ends met him at every turn. "You don't understand!" he cried, scooting under a heavy wooden table. "The food, it's never spoken to me before! It speaks! God is in the food! God is in the food!"

Ignoring him, Crowe announced "you're no real boy," in a tone that stood somewhere between raw contempt and wicked exhilaration. He strode towards Samwell, shaking the earth with each step and knocking dust from the rafters. But then he stopped short of the boy, and his expression twisted into angry disgust. "Ungh, by the Gods, you smell awful! Like a pile of dog shit passed through a sewer-pig." He paused, shaking his head. His eyes darkened.

"Ah, no matter--God's gonna be in you before long."


                         


~*KHALEESI*~

"Khaleesi, I beg of you, do not sacrifice yourself for the sake of your Khal," Ser Jorah Mormont pleaded with the nubile young albino girl named Daenerys Stormborn, stopping just short seizing her delicate wrists and shaking her loose of her intense determination.

Her pink rodent eyes were cold and her face was a mask of raw, youthful anger as she said, "I know what I must do, Ser." She practically spat the words at the middle-aged knight, causing him to visibly shrink in fear. How queer, she thought to herself, that the child becomes the man, and the man becomes the child. Their love was like that, though: It was a constant, restless swirling of reversed roles, a sexual chase of cat and mouse. Yet neither truly knew who was which.

Daenerys then climbed upon the Khal's funeral pyre, thrust the torch high above her head and held it there so that the Gods might see. The two made eye contact once more before she pitched it straight down into the straw beneath her feet.

Instantly the pyramid of kindling went to flames, surrounding the 9-year-old girl in a twister of golden flame. It swirled around her hypnotically, engulfing her for hours before finally sputtering and dying. In the end, all that remained was a diminished mound of blackened ash and the Khaleesi's tiny white figure, crouching in the dirt like a sun-bleached spider.

"By the Gods," Ser Jorah gasped as he approached her. Through the smoke, he could see that she cradled a small creature in her arms; two more clung to her hair and shoulders. They had the bodies of grotesque cherubs--fat, formless infants--yet their heads were enormous. Nearly adult-sized. As he drew closer, he could see more of their awful features. Each possessed the bloated visage of a frightened boy, with a wreath of twisted black hair ringing their necks where a chin and throat should have been. Their cheeks and eyes were obliterated by soft pigflesh, and a messy tangle of greasy brown hair crowned each of their gigantic heads.

One of them made fleeting, uncomfortable eye contact with him, and Ser Jorah's heart skipped a beat. "You frightened me, m'lord!" the creature stammered. "You haven't seen Ser Alliser Crowe, have you?" The mention of the name set all three of them into a hideous sobbing, and instantly Ser Jorah felt the overwhelming urge to bludgeon them against the hot desert stones.


                         


~*PETYR*~

"You might say this is a Game of Thrones-changer," the weaselly Petyr Baelish practically twirled his perfect mustache as he revealed his latest contraption, the "Combustible Metal Bearing-Launcher". It was a terrible device fashioned from riveted bronze and iron, with a long octagonal barrel and needlessly complex set of optical instruments affixed to the top of it. "I'm certain that it's gonna kill so many pissants."

Varys puckered his lips and gave an indecipherable mmmm, though neither could tell if it was in approval or doubt.

"Watch this," Baelish commanded, and began adjusting the various lenses and knobs. "Even got that twisted old man, Pycelle, to build me a miniature telescope for it. Such a foggie!"

After a few moments, he winced and yanked down violently on the trigger. A jet of flame instantly exploded from the barrel and a heavy brass ball launched across the Godswood. A second later, part of a Weirwood's face exploded in a cloud of splinters and smoldering pieces of wood. "GOT you, you fucking tree!"

Varys' eyes lit up and his jaw dropped. "AHhhhhhhhh!" he screamed excitedly, throwing his arms into the air and waving them frantically.

"You can't use it, though," Petyr said softly and in a matter-of-fact tone.

"What? Why!?" Varys sputtered, pawing at the weapon with pale, powdery hands.

"Because," Petyr growled, pulling it away from the eunuch. "You're a fucking gaylord."

"Well...at least..." Varys paused to search the Godswood before he spotted something, "...shoot that bird!" He thrust a finger toward the sky, pointing at a tiny black speck drifting on the breeze. "That one right there! Shoot it!" It would be the furthest Lord Baelish had ever aimed the device.

Evidently happy with that concession, Petyr chewed on his lip and began readjusting the optics. "Gods, Pycelle's such a foggie. He kept trying to warn me about the telescope, like it was complicated or magick or something. And then I totally pushed him and he fell over and I could see his dick under his robe and everything!" Petyr broke into whiny, ear-splitting laughter. "It was hella gross!"

Finally satisfied with his settings, he lifted the weapon and peered through the delicate lenses. "Wait...what the hell?"

"What is it? What is it?" Varys asked excitedly.

"That can't be right. That looks like...Castle Black?"

Varys pushed him to the side and forced his moon-face against the lens. What he saw took his breath away: It was indeed Castle Black...but he could also make out a paunchy, disgusting boy standing out in the snow, alone. As he watched, the boy seemed to look around and, after a moment, began meddling with his soiled black pants. A fat hand disappeared under the fabric before reemerging several seconds later and taking an immediate trip to his nose.

"Sorcery," Varys breathed, vexed.

"No! You mustn't use the 'Eyes of the Crone' like this!" Pycelle burst into the room. "The 'Eyes' are imbued with terrible magicks! You two fools have no idea what you are doing!"

Varys angrily shushed the Maester. "Quiet! Be still!" His licked his lips. "I think...I think he can see us!"

"Of course he can see us!" Pycelle continued, half-limping, half-running toward them. "When you peer into the 'Eyes'...the 'Eyes' peer into you! They open up a door between 'to' and 'fro' in a manner that mere mortals were never intended to use!"

"Speak true, old man!" Petyr snapped, slapping Pycelle with a vicious, downward strike that took the Maester down to his knees.

Varys held his breath as the disheveled pig-boy seemed to turn his head and look straight at him. He felt like he could even smell the boy, a foul stink of stale cheese and fear that burned his nostrils. It was almost like he was--

"Right there!" Petyr shouted. Varys stumbled back, still clutching Petyr's weapon in his now-clammy hands.

Somehow the boy in black was standing in the middle of the Godswood. His eyes were bright with terror, and he instantly lowered his head and hunched over like an ape that was trying to figure out how best to flee. His hair clung to his bulbous forehead in thick, greasy tangles, and his wobbly gut was visible even under the soiled black clothing of the Night's Watch. And the stink--the stink radiating off of him was rapidly worsening: Sweat, piss, and wet dirt mingled with other indescribable notes, causing Varys to reflexively cry out in pain.

"A black swine-cherub!" Pycelle wept.

Without thinking, Varys yanked on the trigger. The weapon barked once again; the boy's tremendous gut split open like an overripe peach. Slippery red entrails spilled out of the wound as the boy let out a soft moan, stumbled, and collapsed.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some excerpts from J.K. Simmons on "Magnus Monk" and the original Harry Potter universe

It's hard to believe that, back in 1994, Harry Potter was little more than a twinkle in the mind of author J.K. Simmons.  It wasn't until several years later that Simmons committed the character to paper and mesmerized the world--including more than a few "muggles" (re: "adults")--with the twisted tale of a wizard-child.  But there were several revisions along the way to the final product, many of which Simmons revealed in a candid interview after the series came to an end.  Here are some excerpts:    


     "Harry Potter was originally going to be named 'Magnus Monk'--a name I came up with while I was entertaining fellow passengers on the hour-long commute to work.  Like Potter, Magnus Monk was a precocious little boy who had a penchant for magical mischief, although his adventures were very episodic...almost like Superman or Batman or what have you:  A villain threatens London and Magnus flies in on his magic carpet and shoots the bad-guy with a 'haunted Luger', thereby saving the day.  They were very short stories, generally, because Magnus lacked a true 'weakness' and was astonishingly efficient..."

     "...It is true that 'Magnus' (Potter) and 'The Gunga Din' (Dumbledore) were basically carbon copies of Tin Tin and Captain Haddock.  For example, I'd have them running around, gunning down criminals, and the Gunga Din constantly smoked "oriental spices" from an elaborate brass pipe.  It was actually...in retrospect, it was actually pretty clear that The Gunga Din had a borderline personality, although that wasn't intentional..."

     "One day, my coworker said to me, he said, 'Why don't you start writing down all of these [Magnus Monk] stories and put together a collection that you can sell?'  I remember thinking that this was a fantastic idea, especially since I was tired of working at the steel mill where some obscure, Soviet-era Thatcherite policy had us working, quite literally, for beans.  Can you imagine such a thing?  Unsurprisingly, trains refused to take the beans as legal tender, which meant that you had to leave the mill and immediately, you know...sell some of your beans to afford the ride back home.  Nobody wanted to buy these beans.  I don't know where they found these beans.  You'd be lucky to get a single quid for an entire pound of them.  So then I condensed a lot of the [Magnus] 'episodes' into a single story and decided to rebrand the main character as something less 'religious' sounding, but still ridiculous.  That's where the inspiration to create Harry Potter came from."
 
     "Now, I've always seen Hermione as a sort of 'Prince Leia' character.  She's beautiful, but rough around the edges...and she plays a critical role to the resistance against the snake men, who were the original nemeses of the story.  And actually, I feel like I'm deviating from the question a little bit here, but the whole concept behind the snake men--which lives on in Slytherin, Voldemort, and so on--is rooted in concrete historical data.  For instance, there's a lot of reason to believe that our own Earth is hollow, and that the dinosaurs didn't really become extinct--certainly not from a comet.  Rather, they retreated underground and evolved into sapient life.  A lot of world leaders might even be snake men in disguise.  It's very shocking, once you open up your eyes, and discover the reality of our world."  
     "There was going to be an...intimate...scene between Malfoy and Potter.  It was going to be very progressive."

     "When Tom Felton was cast for the role of Malfoy, I would have never guessed that he would end up looking like he did by the end of the series.  If I had, I don't think I would have allowed it.  I don't think Chris [Columbus, the director] would have allowed it."

     "No, I made it very explicit that Malfoy was an attractive, brooding, sensual character throughout the series.  Then they cast Felton 'the Fivehead' and I think a lot of people subsequently lost track of who was supposed to be playing Malfoy in the films.  In fact, I remember somebody calling Matthew Lewis [Neville Longbottom] 'Malfoy' for a significant part of the Order of the Phoenix screening, and I actually had correct them.  I said, 'no, that's Neville.  Malfoy is over there,' and I pointed and they gasped, and their entire body language changed completely." 

     "They told me, 'J.K., we'd like to have your feedback on casting Ron Weasley' because, up until then, I had been quite adamant on the look I wanted for Ronald.  I had always envisioned him as this horrid Irish child and, looking back, there was certainly a lot of vitriol for him in the original writings.  For example, I frequently referred to his behavior as ignorant and 'piggish'...also, his dialogue was strictly phonetic (it was an accent I'd describe as a 'subnormal Kerry-Irishman') and readers had significant difficulty understanding him.    
     "Brian Jacques actually did this a lot in his Redwall series, which had anthropomorphic badgers and mice speaking at great length about food--that's where I got the idea from.  The difference was that Ron would launch into these half-unintelligible rants about unremarkable subjects.  Even commonplace items often mystified him, and his natural reaction was to grow angry.
     "So I discover that the film crew wanted a rather handsome lad to play the character...I think it was Logan Lerman, originally.  I thought the entire thing was ridiculous, and rejected [Lerman].  I kept saying 'more piggish!' and having to describe this awful creature I had created in my mind (and on paper).  Finally, after I thought I would be at an impasse with the film staff, in walks Rupert [Grint] and I remember, I threw up my hands and shouted, 'HIM!"