So, the BBC’s Atlantis has started – indeed, it’s up to episode 4. I thought it started off rather more confidently than did Merlin, with which is is most often compared (though it looks more like Sky’s short-lived Sinbad, from which it has borrowed the theme of “we cannot tell him who he truly is”). There’s a great explanation of why these characters may not behave exactly as to would expect them to, given their names – yet at the same time, effective use is made of the audience’s (and Jason’s) foreknowledge of the implications of names like Medusa and Oedipus, to create the same feeling of foreboding that the audience’s knowledge of the basics of Arthurian myth brought to Merlin. Mark Addy gives good value as a Hercules who is not the Hercules you’d expect. And I did like the atmospheric cave of the Minotaur in the first episode (at one point I thought they might suggest that this was an entirely psycological threat – that there was no Minotaur at all, and everyone was destroyed by their own fears – but in the end they chose the more obvious monster route).
I note in passing that an awful lot of the mise-en-scène of this Greek series is rather, well, Roman, particularly in the architecture. This comes out most clearly in the third episode, which has bull-leaping transported into an amphitheatre. I also note that Jack Donnelly is expected to take his shirt off at least once an episode. And that they seem to adhere to the Murray Gold school of incidental music.
Overall, though, I’m a bit disappointed. No cliché is left unturned, especially when Sarah Parrish is onscreen as wicked scheming Pasiphae. This might have been more easily born if we had more of Alexander Siddig’s Minos; Siddig is an actor whose natural instinct is to say “Scenery? I’ll have some of that, please. Nom, nom, nom.” But he’s really not on screen very often. And I just don’t think the series has the strength for the Saturday night alternative to Doctor Who slot it’s been placed in, as opposed to a Sunday teatime slot.
Lottie has also tweeted a picture from the set of Hercules: The Thracian Wars.
There is another Hercules movie coming up, Hercules: The Legend Begins, for which a trailer has been released for. This movie looks like an unsurprising mix of Lord of the Rings, 300, Gladiator, Percy Jackson and Clash of the Titans.
Cara Sheldrake has written the next part of her write-up of Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space .
Speaking of Cara, on 8 November she’ll be giving a version of her Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space conference paper, on “History, Identity and Independence: Children’s Time-Travel to Roman Britain”, as part of the Institute of Classical Studies’ Early Career Seminar for Classical Studies. In the same seminar series, Stephe Harrop gives a version of her conference paper, “The End of the World? On the Wall with Rudyard Kipling and George R.R. Martin”, on 6 December.
Meanwhile, Eleanor OKell gives a version of her paper, “Classical Names as key to The Hunger Games“, at Leeds City Museum in 31 October. The second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, goes on general release on 22 November. There’s a trailer here.
And a version of Liz Gloyn’s paper should be appearing soon in Strange Horizons.
In the latest issue of Vector, Andy Sawyer writes about I.O. Evans’ Gadget City, inspired by Nick Lowe’s mentioning of it at the conference. You can get hold of a copy of Vector by contacting the British Science Fiction Association.
In other conference news, registration is now open for Monstrous Antiquities on 1-3 November, and the programme is up. Lots of relevant stuff in there.
On 9-10 January there’s a conference, Antiquity in Popular Literature and Culture. They will be releasing their programme soon, and I shall look through it for papers relevant to our interests.
And there’s a call for papers up for From I, Claudius, to Private Eyes: the Ancient World and Popular Fiction, taking place in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. 16-18 June. They should be pretty receptive to our interests – one of the organisers, Lisa Maurice, spoke at Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space. The call closes on 31 December.
This coming Friday, 24 October, our fellow-travellers in the Mediaeval Science Fiction group have a roundtable discussion with some major figures, including Edward James and Andy Sawyer, both of whom were on the conference committee. I shall be going, and will report back here.
I picked up from Facebook a link to Janet and Chris Morris’ The Sacred Band, part of a larger series of Greek-inspired fantasy novels. This came out in December, but I wasn’t aware of it before now.
There’s a consistent idea that our favourite Greek-inspired superheroine, Wonder Woman, can’t be made to work on screen, for reasons that are, frankly, bullshit. To disprove this, Rainfall have made a short and rather wonderful Wonder Woman film. Meanwhile, former Wonder Woman writer Gail Simone waxes lyrical about the Amazons on her Tumblr, and DC are reprinting their first New 52 Wonder Woman stories as a DC Essential.
In other comics news, not strictly fantasy, but Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly have launched Three. What is particularly interesting is that Gillen has gone out of his way to consult members of the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Spartan and Peloponnesian Studies. He’s also posted some writers notes on the first issue. As if there weren’t already enough reasons to love Kieron Gillen.