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The Witcher: Soon to be a Netflix Original

The Witcher! Geralt the Riv! Ahhhhhhh!

Okay. Sorry. I’ve calmed down now.

So here is the deal: Netflix is producing a television show based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Polish dark fantasy series. I know, I know – old news. But I’ve been out of the loop (aka in training camps) for about eight months now, so it’s new for me since I missed the initial announcements.

The Witcher Assassin of Kings

Promo poster from CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher II: Assassin of Kings.

For those of you who don’t already know, I am a huge fan of The Witcher novels, as well as the critically acclaimed video game adaptations that helped the enormously popular fantasy series gain major traction here in the U.S. The Witcher novels are fantastic in their own right – I’ve read all the books several times and I love them – but they were famous mostly only in Poland because they never received translations into other languages. CD Projekt Red (a Polish video game company) changed all that when it bought the rights to produce a RPG franchise based on Sapkowski’s novels. That could have been the end of it. After all, many ambitious projects have flopped horribly upon release. But CDPR was different. They had great respect and love for the books behind the project. That passion and dedication to stay true to the source material produced one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in gaming history. (The Witcher III alone won over 250 Game of the Year awards). The world, characters, cultures, and politics felt so real, deep, and complex for a video game. RPG gamers around the world were mindblown. The Witcher universe exploded in popularity among English-speakers, and the book industry capitalized on this, rushing to put out translations for the books so that fans could get more Witcher – so they could get the original Witcher.

What fantastic novels. What incredible games. What real characters and what powerful themes. In my personal opinion, from Sapkowski’s first short story about Geralt to the last game, the Witcher universe has been handled very well.

Which leads to my extreme excitement for a television series.

Despite the author’s recent departure from the Netflix project, I have high hopes that this could be one of the best television shows ever. It just has so much potential behind it. (Sapkowski is notoriously hard to work with when it comes to his books, so I’m not terribly concerned that he is not participating in the television production. The fact that he has not completely denounced the project is decent proof to me that the adaptation is being handled with care.) Many of the people who were involved in the book-to-game adaptation process are also at the helm of the Netflix production. They clearly care deeply about the source material, as shown by their dedication to bringing the essence of the books into the games, and I can only hope that they will continue to show the same fervor.

The Last Wish - amazon

The Last Wish – The first of The Witcher tales by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish is a collection of short stories about Geralt of Rivia, and a must-read for fantasy readers. (Caution: Don’t give these to your kids. The Witcher novels are quite dark and can be very graphic.

Of course, I’ve been let down by people I’ve trusted before. (Peter Jackson, what happened between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies? Seriously? Talk about losing sight of the intrinsic soul of a story. I’ve never seen such a 180 degree turnaround. LOTR was a masterpiece adaptation; The Hobbit movies were traditional Hollywood letdowns.) BUT I’m choosing to believe we’re going to get a great translation for The Witcher. It’s all right there on a silver platter in the books.

Netflix, don’t mess this up for us. Geralt is important to many, many people. He is such a unique character. DO NOT turn him into just another macho, monster-slaying, wench-laying, tough guy. Does he have those characteristics sometimes? Absolutely. But he is so much more than that. Such a nuanced, wonderfully-written, complex character. Just like all characters in The Witcher. I can’t wait to see them all brought to the screen.

Anyone else out there Witcher fans? I, for one, am ecstatic Netflix is trying to capitalize on HBO’s success with Game of Thrones. Do you think their adaptation will be loyal to the source material? Or will it be another Hollywood book mutilation? Let me know!

Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin

News for all my fellow science fiction and fantasy fans: it has come to my attention that one of the great sci fi and fantasy writers – indeed one of the founders of modern fantasy – passed away in January. Ursula K. Le Guin’s death was as markedly quiet as her work, though her writings somehow managed to combine that quiet success with insight, lyricism, and a world’s worth of endlessly compelling themes.

Unfortunately, I’ve not read many of Le Guin’s contributions, but the few I have experienced had special influences on my journey both as a reader and a writer. In particular, A Wizard of Earthsea, that classic of fantasy literature on par both in style and prose with The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, touched me deeply. It was perhaps the first book where I realized what profound meaning, symbolism, and import could be infused into the pages of a written work. I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from the powerful conclusion of that tiny volume, which managed to hit me as hard as any thick tome.  What a powerful tale she wove with Ged, one that mirrored in many ways my own, as I’m sure it has for many a reader over the years. That struggle of growing up, at once both unsure and utterly confident, climbing to the top of the world only to fall upon reaching the zenith. Pride has knocked the wind out of me on many occasions, just as it does Ged. But confronting our faults and continuing on is one of the true themes of Earthsea, and I found myself bettered by the experience. Truly great stories remind us of powerful lessons we already know, and the reminder is often beautifully given. A Wizard of Earthsea gave me a great many such touching reminders, and for that I will always be grateful to Mrs. Le Guin. If you’ve never read Ged’s tale, I encourage you to pick it up. It is a lyrical, poignant journey delivered in sparse but haunting words (and it’s the original book to introduce the “Hogwarts concept” of a wizard school made famous by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter). Other groundbreaking works by Le Guin include The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven, and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.

Thanks for all the wonderful stories you brought to the world, Mrs. Le Guin. Your ability to touch us both emotionally and intellectually will be missed.

Have any of you been moved by Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories? Which are your favorites? Are there any that affected you as Ged’s did me?