The Wheel of Time Midseason Impressions

Having watched the first four episodes of The Wheel of Time, I offer my impressions and respond to some of the critics.

TV shows, movies, and video games can be like a fine meal. The preparation can take a long time, but when it comes time to indulge, it is over in a matter of moments. The Wheel of Time is no exception. Season 1 began production over 2 years ago. Sure, there were some delays due to a little global issue that got in the way, but the amount of work, effort, and money that went into creating it. Nonetheless, it has been a long time coming.

Season 1 finally premiered about 2 weeks ago (give or take depending on whether you got to see the special screenings). Now, with last weeks entrée, we are halfway through the season. So far, it has been met with tremendous praise from book-readers and newcomers alike. But also, it has been criticized by newcomers who just don’t get it and book-readers who call the whole show blasphemous.

The season hasn’t completed yet, so it can’t be fairly judged. I’ll certainly give it until the end before I come up with a final verdict. However, we have had a healthy taste of the show. Episode 1 made an excellent appetizer while episodes 2 and 3 served up as a good 1st entrée. Episode 4 was the second entrée, preparing us for the main course that we shall savor over the next few weeks. With that in mind, I want to look at how it is going, what my takes are, and how I feel about what is being said by others.

If you have been following my reactions and deep dives, it is plain to see that I have generally been loving it so far. Yes, there are a lot of changes from the books (I’ll get into momentarily). And some people have pointed out flaws like the pacing being a little too fast (especially the first episode). However, what we have received in the show is a treat for the senses. And the bonus is that it has the potential to act as a gateway for newcomers who may have been put off by the length of the series to crack open the books and give it a chance.

Moiraine is not feeling good.

Back to the changes, they are abundant. Some are minor but many are quite big. Since I began watching, I have held reservations about a lot of them in my mind. As the season has been playing out, I have been starting to ease my feelings towards them. Since the beginning of production, there have been repeated cautions from the show makers that the show would not be a one-for-one adaptation. They have said repeatedly that there has to be changes to reflect the different medium being utilized.

One suggestion has been to look at this adaptation as a different turning of the wheel from the novels. That is a good way to look at it. However, the counter to that is that it feels like a cop-out to justify making such significant changes from the source material. Many fans have wanted to see the pages of the book come to life. And these changes have altered the source material too much. I understand that point-of-view and I hold nothing against those views.

For me, it has been a mixed bag. While I have been a little taken back by some of the changes, others I agree with 100%. Now that I have seen a few episodes, I am beginning to accept those changes as I see where they are going. While I can’t say for certain, there are certain elements that I think they are playing with the idea but have full intention of sticking to the source. For example, the identity of the Dragon Reborn. This is a big element of the first book, but the answer is pretty clear who it will be.

The show is keeping it a little more ambiguous and allowing for speculation and discussion as the season progresses. The format of a TV show practically demands this effort to keep viewers engaged. With a book, since the revelation of who it is becomes revealed at the end, there is no need for speculation. But a serial show wants viewers to ponder the question. To that end, I believe they are keeping the identity the same. I don’t believe the long-term story would work otherwise. The showrunners have even said that they want to keep the heart of the characters intact and that can’t happen if they change their roles.

In the end, we still have four more episodes this season, so I am trying to keep an open mind with how they are going. There are certainly changes that they can make that would truly be criminal. Be they scenes omitted, or arcs changed that completely change the dynamic of the story at large (or even some of the sub plots). Perhaps I’ll do a (book-spoiler filled) blog in the near future that will cover this. For my mind, I feel that there are many changes in the first couple of books that would benefit from alteration, condensing, or even cutting. Book four, however, leave that one alone.

White Cloaks (Children of the Light) looking “fierce”

It is hard to cover the TV series and where it stands with the fandom without touching upon one element. It is a complaint that many viewers are glossing over and rejecting outright. That is the complaint that the series is too “woke.” Why even address it? Well, somebody needs to tackle this head-on instead of just brushing it aside. In a nutshell, the complaint is that some of the changes have been made to cater to certain people. This covers the gamut of including a multi-ethnic cast, same-sex relationships, a flip on the gender dynamics, etc.

Before I go any further, I feel that I need to come clean about my political standings (I believe for the first time on my blog). I am right leaning. I’m not going to delve deep into what that means. However, I will say that I believe that the world is more complex than “one or the other” and is reflected by the major themes of The Wheel of Time. In the case of this show, and the arguments that I hear against it, I hear them. I don’t like when it feels like companies, be they film and TV studios, universities, or businesses, are going through a list and checking off boxes. If there is hate when a Japanese character role is filled by an American actor, I also hate it when the situation is the other way. But enough already.

When the cast was announced, there were shockwaves. Initially, that shockwave was felt by most of the fandom. However, it was because the actors did not reflect the head-canon developed by numerous images, cover art, fan art, etc. The author, Robert Jordan, even had his own dream cast list for many of the major characters. When the dust settled, many found that the casting was good or, at least, they were willing to give them a chance. That said, the case has been laid out many times through character descriptions and the setting itself.

For me, I am fine with it if it makes sense to the setting/world, and it is not forced. I feel as long as it is not feeling like they were checking off a list, let it be. I believe that the setting and worldbuilding justifies diversity in the characters. And that includes sexuality. The world of The Wheel of Time has always felt more like the classical period in that regard where bisexuality and homosexuality were generally accepted or at least not frowned upon. So, I am ok with the nods that have been in the show so far. Even in the books, there were indications, even though it was not explicitly explored.

Finally, the last of the “woke” complaints is in regard to the female dominance of the world. It is true that in the books, there is a large matriarchal feel to the world. Women hold a lot of power throughout the land, even in the book. I feel that the complaint is that men who have some power seem to be getting demoted or stripped of their power altogether. For example, The Two Rivers (Emonds Field specifically) does have the Women’s Circle and they hold great sway over the village (it really is a small town, really). However, there is also a mayor and a village council that is made up of men. The mayor is Egwene’s father (and the innkeeper), Bran al’Vere. In the show, he seems to have been stripped of his mayoral role and reduced as the “lesser partner” of the inn.

Applaud for your Gleeman

Another example is that Raen, of the Tuatha’an (Tinkers) was the primary speaker for the group. It feels like he and Ila were switched as the “leader” of this band of Tinkers. These are both elements causing some people to complain. There are other concerns such as the removal of the saidin/saidar dichotomy. For all these gender-based complaints, I am holding a wait and see. First, one of the core themes of The Wheel of Time centers around gender dynamics. I do believe that they are keeping that intact. We have already seen it with some of the less savory characters and their disdain. But also, I feel that they are slowly feeding us elements of the world building and characters so as not to overwhelm viewers (especially newcomers) too much. They have a lot to cover and only 8 episodes to do it. It is better to space things out and introduce the characters. I a sense, think of season one as the tutorial for the world before things really start to heat up.

My final word on this is that I hear the complaints and I don’t want to shut them down immediately like so many are doing in the fandom. In the end, though, I don’t feel that the show has gone too politically charged in either favor. There will be elements that hit home. That’s the nature of literature and especially fantasy. But I have always felt that The Wheel of Time has far reaching appeals even with different perspectives and ideologies and can have a resonating tone. The greatest appeal is that it does not necessarily say that one is right or wrong but shows the mistakes that both sides make when engaging with one another… particularly communication. As the show goes on, I will be looking for this aspect and hoping that it stays true to this perspective.

Other newcomers may be coming from another show or franchise in fantasy or sci-fi and feel it is beneath their favorite or trying too much to be like their favorite or whatever. It sounds like they are just there to justify their favorite series and find fault in whatever is NOT their favorite. Again, we don’t care about your opinion. To that note, I welcome people who want to honestly give this show a chance. If they still don’t like it, that is totally fine. But you can generally tell who is dismissing it genuinely and who is dismissing it for their own glorification. Myself, I have checked out other shows and properties (The Witcher, Shadow and Bone, etc.) and I am still considering others (Cowboy Beebop) to check out. I do not feel I am betraying my loyalty to the franchise I love if I happen to enjoy the other shows. So, get off your high horse, relax, and enjoy things for what they are, not what you want them to be or what they are not.

With the politically charged accusations dealt with and out of the way (and hopefully put to bed), there is another group of critics that I have seen bashing the series from the get-go. Well, two groups really, one the hard-core fans that are furious that the story is not one-for-one. The other group is the newcomers that turn their nose up at it and insist on putting it down. Maybe they don’t watch or read fantasy and they feel that it is beneath them (as many who hold disdain for the fantasy genre as a whole). To those people I ask, why are you even watching. We don’t want your opinion if the only reason that you are watching is to bash it and make yourselves feel good.

My biggest problem is the critics. I suppose as I am preparing my novella for the world, I should be nice to critics, but I have always had (as a consumer) a mistrust of critic reviews. Especially when it came to the mainstream. I have always been of the mind of enjoying things for what they are and not putting too much stock in the opinions of egomaniacs. And that is what I think of most film and TV critics. Too many times have they bashed things that I loved and hailed things that were absolute garbage in my opinion. This often reflects in critical duds that appeal to the masses and/or develop cult followings. So, take critical reviews for what they are worth, guidelines from the opinion of (often elite egomaniacs) one person.

Back to the fans of the books who are outraged over the changes, well, I addressed a lot of that already. Some of the complaints I agree with to an extent, but I am waiting to see how things unfold throughout the season. I have been watching a few reaction videos and I have been loving watching their reactions. I’ll try to link a few below. But a couple of them have been pretty harsh on the series so far. Some I agree with and others not so much. Knights Watch is one of those that has been going pretty hard. It is from a Youtuber I like to watch for their historical facts when it comes to weapons and such, Shad of Shadiversity. Shad and his fellow watchers (Shad has read the books, his companions have not) have ripped apart many aspects of the show. He has given it some praise and benefit of the doubt. The reaction to the 4th episode has been overwhelmingly praising, however. (He didn’t like Stepin’s axes, though).

Tori Talks TV (YouTube Review of Episodes 1 – 3)

There has been some fairly harsh criticism of the show. As I have said, some of it is (at least somewhat) justified. There is certainly room for improvement. After my initial take, I have begun to see some of the pacing issues that others have been complaining about. Some of the effects have come through a little wonky. Others have looked great. And some dialogue has some holes or come off a little cheesy. But for the most part I do like the dialogue and feel that it is mostly filling its purpose. If anything, my biggest complaint so far is that it doesn’t have much in the way of “WoT swears.”

This Fade isn’t Happy

CONCLUSION

The show has a long way to go and is facing some growing pains right now. Troubles are to be expected as it finds its footing and establishes this world and its complexity. Having made it through the first half of the first season, I feel it has a lot of promise and, while taking different approaches to the story, can get through to the story points that we area all waiting for. I am happy with the overall direction and while I question some of the decisions, I am waiting to see how they turn out before giving a final verdict.

That said, for those who are upset, give it some time. Let’s see how they take the show and if they can get it on course. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of scenes and events that I want to see from the books and as long as they have those scenes, I will be happy. Until then, I will ride this wave and enjoy it while it lasts. I will likely revisit this when the season is over and give my overall impression. The only thing that I have left to say to the showrunners is, for light’s sake, can we get some bloody “blood and ashes” thrown in? Maybe a “woolhead” and a “mother’s milk in a cup” too?

Links

THE WHEEL OF TIME TIDBITS – WOT casting by Robert Jordan (tumblr.com)

Wheel of Time Casting Controversy RESOLVED! – YouTube

KNIGHTS WATCH – YouTube

Shadiversity – YouTube

Reactions

Tori Talks TV – The Wheel of Time Episodes 1-3 Review (Haven’t Read the Books) – YouTube

pReviewed (with Jay and Adam) – The Wheel of Time – Season. 1 Eps 1 Reaction – YouTube

Matthew V. Haynes – WHAT!? – The Wheel Of Time Ep 1 “Leavetaking” REACTION!! – YouTube

Father Roderick – My reaction to The Wheel of Time episode one! – YouTube

Knights Watch – The WHEEL OF TIME episode 4 FULL REVIEW and discussion – YouTube

Back on the Writing Train

I am finally back on track with my book. Updates on my progress and status.

Well, finally, after a long period sitting on a half-written manuscript, I am finally back on track with writing my book. I started writing it over two years ago. Originally, it was a short story that I submitted for a class assignment. Then I decided to expand it and turn it into a novella. Early last year, when I started my job, I put it on the back burner and have struggled getting back the creativity to return. I have finally reached that place and am chugging along.

When I wrote the short story that became my current project, I had little time to write it. We were given the assignment and I drew the lot of only having two weeks to complete it. The assignment was to write a Utopian (or Dystopian) Horror and thus, I knocked out “The Monsters Within” in the allotted time (extended by a snow delay by a couple days). I plan on expanding further on this in a Forward to the novella. In the end, I was surprised by what I was able to come up with and was even complemented during the peer-review on my world-building and story given such a short timeframe.

Months later, when I published my story “The Hedge Maze”, another story that I wrote for a class assignment (a different class, though), I knew that I needed something more if I wanted to get my writing career going. I was satisfied with The Hedge Maze, but being a short story, it is hard to market it by itself. I needed something that I could publish in print. I didn’t have enough short stories for an anthology, and I was intrigued by my short story “The Hedge Maze” and wanted to expand it. So, I set out doing just that.

For a while, I was on a role. I used an old program I had, called “Dramatica Pro,” to help fill in the story. I wrote an outline that went beyond what I had already written to try and further world build and make room for greater character arcs. I then began writing the novel. Then life got in the way. I started a job which left me little time for me to work on my writing. I had to shelve it for the time being. I picked up again, briefly, after the holidays of 2019 while I was transitioning to a different job. But that job, too, made things difficult.

That job was working as a Patient Transport at a local hospital. Little did I realize what was coming shortly after I started. Working at a hospital during the pandemic was stressful. My creativity took a hit. It didn’t help that my fiancée caught the thing. That was a scary time. At that time, we still knew nothing about the virus and what it would mean. Fortunately, she recovered, and we trudged through the pandemic. But I was off track.

Part of the reason for starting this blog was to help me with getting my “writing edge” back. I hazard to say that it has been working. It has ignited my creativity as I think of topics to write. And other projects have come along which has added to the fire. That said, last week I began the work of rewriting my novella. I took what I already wrote and started rewriting it, reworking bits here and there as I go along. I am nearly caught up to the point I left off at when I originally wrote it. Incidentally, much of the second half is already written as well, being a big chunk of the original short story. So, while I am still working on my first draft, I already have revisions in progress.

That said, my goal is to have it completed and ready for Beta Reading by the time my second daughter is born. She is due in the middle of October. I will begin at that time (if not earlier) to recruit beta readers. If all goes well, I should be ready to find an editor by the winter. During that later winter, I will set up my publishing house and work on the cover art (I have somebody in mind, already). That should mean I’m ready to hit the presses by spring. It seems a long way away, but I am optimistic that I can hold to the schedule. And having a new baby should help the later months go by in a breeze.

So, what does that mean for this blog? Well, I suspect that I may be a bit silent for the next couple of months, at least. I may pop in from time to time (like when the trailer for the Wheel of Time TV show… or other shows I am looking forward to… drops). But, barring any derailments, I intend to focus most of my writing on my novella. After I finish the main draft, I may begin work on my next writing project, hopefully a full-fledged fantasy novel. I have several in mind, but we will have to see how things go to see which direction I go.

Other projects on my list have been moved to the back burner for the time being. Unfortunately, my regular work schedule has not been compatible with the Amazing Tales with my daughter. I would like to get more into that again, but only time will tell when that will be feasible. The game that I was working on for my daughter in RPG Maker is also on hold. While I made a lot of progress, it has been an overwhelming experience. I am weighing out my options with it. Should I try to enlist help? If I do, I certainly want to make it a marketable product. I like the story I outlined for it and would like to see it through. Any interests in helping (artists, musicians, programmers, designers… amateur or professional alike) feel free to reach out. I would like to resume it soon. It may be my next project after my book is complete. Who knows, maybe a collaboration on the game could lead to another game collaboration of grander proportions.

phoenix clipart Unique Phoenix Free Download Clip Art Free Clip Art

Whatever the case, I am excited for the possibilities. It is time for this phoenix to rise from the ashes.

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part II –

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

Civilization VII

What would make the next evolution of Civilization stand out? Each iteration of the series featured something that changed it from its predecessors. Yet it retained the core of what made the game. Resources, Wonders, Eras, and many more aspects have arisen and became staples in the franchise. From my following suggestions, some aspects would be removed as they are replaced by the “new” systems that I lay out. Others that I mention will naturally carry over, though possibly altered to fit with the new systems. This is NOT a design document, just a fun exercise of my own personal vision. Of course, I would be extremely happy if any of my suggestions are implemented in the next (or future) versions of Civilization.

CIVILIZATIONS

Dynamic Civilizations

The first major change is to have dynamic civilizations. What that means is that the traits that are usually associated with civilizations are no longer so. Instead, they are general traits that can be selected. As the player progresses and reaches certain milestones, new traits can be selected that are context sensitive to the situation. For example, if the player begins in a desert region, one of the possible traits could be “Desert Folk” which would give them bonuses to that environment. However, civilizations not in the desert would be unable to select the trait. Also, once a civilization has selected a specific trait, that trait would no longer be available for other civilizations. This is how the player defines their civilization’s identity.            

Clearly, this is inspired by how religions have worked in both Civilization V and VI. It develops a more natural flow of development as the civilization progresses through the ages. But what would this mean for selecting Civilizations? Wouldn’t this mean that whether you choose Rome, Egypt or Japan would be irrelevant? Well, these civilizations could have one basic trait that goes along with their civilization. Unique Units, buildings, improvements, etc. could also be associated with the civilizations allowing for some variety between civilizations, along with likelihood of civilizations spawning in certain areas. Also, the traits are permanent, even if the civilization is downgraded in level. Though new traits can be selected should the civilization reach a level upgrade threshold again.

Civilization Levels

That leads to the next big change. Gone are City-States and Barbarians. Yes, you heard that right. However, they are not truly gone, just integrated into a “level” system of civilization growth. Each civilization begins at a basic level that could even predate the traditional start of past games. As they develop, they can be “upgraded” to greater levels that expand their capabilities and interactions. Depending on map size, limits can be inposed as to how many civilizations can be of a certain level. That said, the levels are:

  • Tribal – A nomadic civilization that essentially take the place of barbarians. There is minimal diplomacy available with tribal civilizations and often war with them carries no penalties. The player can play a Civ in this state (or even be reduced to this) as per the “Prehistory Mode” to be discussed later. After a certain threshold, the civilization can found a settlement which lays the foundation of the next level.
  • City-State – This is the foundation of Civilizations. It is the earliest stage with increased diplomatic ability. They can send out colonists to form settlements that are independent yet subservient to the founding City-State. Two or more Colonies or allied City-states leads to a Pact.
  • Pact – Formed through early alliances of City-States, some increased diplomacy with Civilizations that are part of the pact. When a particular civilization becomes dominant in the pact, they gain full control and become a State.
  • State – This is the level where a civilization can truly begin to establish themselves on the world stage. Formed when a civilization becomes dominant of a Pact and is chosen as leader (or through conquest) the State level allows for greater diplomatic options.
  • Empire – An Empire is a more powerful form of the State. It encompasses a large area but starts accruing penalties that could cripple the empire if left unchecked. However, there will be tools that can be used to counter these penalties and maintain stability.
  • Superpower – The ultimate level of civilization. Superpowers are at the top of nearly all lists. A Superpower typically won’t be achieved until late game. They may receive special benefits; however, lesser civilizations may admire or fear the superpower, causing problems with diplomacy and politics.

These 6 levels are milestones of achievements. However, they are not necessarily secure once you reach them. What goes up can certainly come down and civilizations are no exception. And since the starting map is removed of city-states (in the V and VI incarnations) and barbarians, there is room for more civilizations overall. This gives way to a feature that had somewhat been implemented in IV, related Civs.

Related Civilizations

As stated, this was seen before to a certain degree in the franchise. However, I look deeper at the various civilizations big and small throughout history that could be included. Civ VI includes Athens and Sparta both as versions of Greece. In this version, Athens, Sparta, Troy, and many others can be “civilizations” at the start of the game. Tribes that roam the world looking for a place to prosper. When they settle, similar “tribes” may settle nearby. These form the basis of later civilizations like Greece.            

This could also lead to variety of gameplay. In one game, you could come across the Civilization of Rome. In another playthrough, you could meet the civilization of “Etruscia.” Both are the same basic civilizations but depending on which related civ came to dominate the area. Later civilizations could be shattered and form smaller states, city-states, or tribes. This will lead to another topic which I had alluded to earlier.

Prehistory Mode

This mode is a sort of “prologue” to the main game. It could be an optional mode that leads into a full game where the player starts out a Tribe (as opposed to a City-State). You wander around the map establishing “camps” that serve as your base for a few turns as you gather supplies from surrounding areas. Wild Animals could make their return in this mode and be part of the quest find a suitable location. Oh, and fog of war clouds over any area out of sight range. In other words, you cannot see where you have been, only where you are. Ultimately, you must settle your first settlement, and this is where the main game begins.

***

This is just the beginning of my examination into the future of the franchise. Tomorrow, I will take a look at Leaders and their new role in this hypothetical version of Civilization. A small look at the only graphical change I would implement (at least that is relevant to the rest of this examination). Until then, let me know what you think so far.

Links

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6