Imagination vs. Show

I watched Game of Thrones the other night, as have been recommended time and time again. Before you spoiler me, I saw only the first two episodes – ending where Bran woke up from his coma. Most beautiful – the scenery gorgeous, the sets supreme, and I hear that it’s like the books. Mr. Minty has expressed a want to read the books, so I got them for him. I’m sure that he’ll tell me where the show deviates from canon before I get to read the books myself.

It’s lovely – there can be no doubt. But then questions arise of why it is that True Blood isn’t a faithful representation of the books themselves?

I think the answer is relatively simple. And it doesn’t involve the word “sellout”.

Charlaine Harris, like George R. R. Martin is an author. She likes writing. It’s what she’s chosen to spend her life doing. And patrolling the set of True Blood is not writing. It’s going around the set, and being involved with all the casting decisions, the acting in each and every scene, writing the script. It’s basically, everything that authors don’t do every day.

Charlaine recently said to the LA Times that:

“I still love Sookie, but I’m beginning to want to write something else,
and Sookie’s kind of taken over my life. I was able to write other things
for the first few years I was involved in Sookie, but then after the start
of the television show she took over so much of my time because of
my increased publicity obligations that it’s been very hard to write
other things, and I really need to do that.”

You know what she’s not doing when she’s checking over scripts and the like? She’s not writing. It’s clear to me that CH doesn’t really care to do the publicity and press junkets, that she doesn’t want to appear in an endless role of hawking her stuff. She wants to write….kinda like writers do. She’s not the only one – one recently self published author who made a million dollars doesn’t want to spend her time not writing and stressing over things she doesn’t care to do. Source

So what is her alternative? Give up what she does love to do to babysit Alan Ball in all of his decisions? That’s what George R.R. Martin has done. Yes, his characters are true to the books, and everything is in order. But while he’s doing that, he’s not writing books. I don’t have any problem with him doing that – if he wants to be involved in every conception of his characters, and that makes him happy that’s good. But maybe CH doesn’t want to spend her time making sure that all is well on the set of True Blood. Maybe she really does want to write for a living.

I also think that it should be noted, that unlike CH, George R. R. Martin does not like fanfic. Source He guards his intellectual property fiercely. You won’t find a “Game of Thrones” section under “Books” on because G.R. R. Martin doesn’t allow it. There is only the TV show, and that may be shut down if the author hears about it, and dependent on what’s in his contract for the show. He may insist that it be cut down – one should only look at the True Blood section to see that a fairly high proportion of book readers write TB fanfic, often reliving book stories lines, but on the show instead.

As I’ve discussed before, there isn’t a fic on that doesn’t rely on CH being nice about the sometimes complete butchery of her characters, and I know I wouldn’t be reading if it weren’t for CH’s work laying the groundwork for me to entertain a fic based on her characters. That same lack of needing to keep minute control on her characters is what allows this section of fandom. Of course, that doesn’t mean that people don’t spit in her face for the privilege. A sure comfort to her indeed – her generosity is repaid with contempt.

I can’t bring myself to hate True Blood – without it, I would never have read the books. Do I think it’s a fair representation of the books at all? In parts. The overall theme of those outcast from society is surely present in the books themselves – I have whole LJ posts about how Eric is an outcast – and that it’s not so noticed through Sookie’s eyes, but it’s clear on the show he’s a monster pressed by the world – not drooled about universally, because he is, after all a dead immortal killer who actually kills things. Lafayette doesn’t seem to think once about how fucking sexy Eric is while throwing an arm across the room.

I think that CH chose AB because of the gay themes he could give to the subject matters, and his understanding of what it is like to be outcast from society, and not to fit in. Other than that, unless she wants to spend all of her time obsessing over the whole thing, then she is better served with choosing someone and letting them get on with the job, instead of ensuring a story she’s already written is faithfully represented on screen – and possibly writing it once again.

Does that mean that she’s fine with everything? Oh, look at her glowing praise of the show itself:

I am fine with the differences. Alan’s talented writers are doing a great job,
and they don’t need any help from me. I think the casting choices are great.

Most of these contracts have clauses in them so that the author can’t sink the ship like Anne Rice tried to do when Tom Cruise was cast as Lestat. Source So if you’re looking for CH to condemn the whole thing, she most likely can’t. The only thing she can do is keep writing, and clear up the questions where they come to her. She hasn’t raved about how true it was to the books, as George R. R. Martin can do, but then, while he’s been perusing scripts, she publishes a book a year, and an assortment of short stories – i.e. she’s been writing. Just like she wanted to do, when she chose to be an author and not a television show director.

In truth, I would do the same if I were in her position – there is stuff she can control and stuff she can’t.  Not only has she not shut down fanfic, isn’t hectoring Alan Ball, but she didn’t intend the angry tone to the what she wrote that appears on the audiobooks. Source Endlessly and obsessively going over it is important to some people – and to others it isn’t. Particularly since she wrote every word of the book already, and she likes to write new stuff rather than redo things she’s already written.

Indeed, she feels that her job is writing, rather than the endless rounds of pleasing fans every wish and desire. Source I personally, would prefer that she keep doing what she’s doing, rather than listening to the complaints of other readers who want more this or that. A great percentage of the time, what those readers want, I would not want. Much of the fanfic readers want Sookie weaker, and they have Alan Ball for that. If they can just persuade AB to focus that weakness on Eric, all will be well for them. I would complain most bitterly if that were to happen in the books. I wanted Bill to be happy with Judith, but it wasn’t to be – but that doesn’t mean that my wishes supersede all the other fans wishes. Reader entitlement is high – and as Neil Gaiman says (the author) is not your bitch. Source

Nor is she Alan Ball’s bitch. I know, I know. People talk about how True Blood is affecting how CH writes. I don’t see but a few in-text references, and that’s it, but others see some great schism. Usually, it’s because the ideas that they had about what would happen at the end of From Dead to Worse weren’t even slightly close to the mark – in that they expected a romance novel resolution, rather than urban fantasy. I didn’t, as I’ve spoken about before, so I don’t see the big schism that other fans do.

The biggest assertion is that Bill didn’t die because AB wished it. Except that AB was only one of the people who wished it, and one was her editor. Source I think killing Bill would have given him a martyr’s death, and I’m not sure that Bill warranted it, that Sookie wouldn’t have been set too far back by it, or that it wouldn’t have impacted badly on the Eric and Sookie relationship. I don’t think Eric fangirls would like the fact that Bill could actually prove he would die for Sookie. I think it wouldn’t have been the sort of ending I would want for Bill – his last act on earth to be selfless martyrdom for Sookie’s life. So count me as another person who thinks it was right CH didn’t go that way.

So, this is why True Blood doesn’t have the faithful representation of the books that Game of Thrones has. That doesn’t mean that CH is bound to give up the job she wants to do – writing – to make readers happy to see it realised on the screen. When the new season of True Blood comes to the screens here, I will undoubtedly complain about the differences, but as I see it, that’s laid firmly at the feet of Alan Ball, current controller of how it comes to the screen – good and bad. I won’t be bitching at the author to fire Askars (as he’s not my Eric) or Anna Paquin (as she’s not my Sookie) and do it over so that what I see in my head can come to the screen. I have the books and my imagination for that, and CH has given power to AB to translate it. It’s different, and my imagination and the show don’t match, but that’s why I continue to buy the books, now, isn’t it?