A while back, I came across a Youtube channel discussing a book series I was looking to get into. That book series was the Wheel of Time, and the youtuber is Daniel Greene. A rising voice in SFF, Daniel Greene discusses his favorite fantasy book series, ranging from Brandon Sanderson’s epics, to grimdark fiction like the Witcher series. As a fellow fan, and a writer myself, I reached out to Daniel to get his opinion on all things SFF, Youtube, and more!
MARTIN: So Daniel, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your channel?
DANIEL: When I was a very little kid, I was diagnosed with fairly severe dyslexia. It was so bad I had to get special tutoring for many years. I was fairly embarrassed by having this error in my brain’s processing so I began to overcompensate by reading non-stop. I would go to Barns and Noble, or Borders (remember that glorious store?) and pick up book after book to work on. I guess over the years it slowly transformed from work to a passion. I still remember the first fantasy book I picked up on my own. “The Eye of the World” the first book in The Wheel of Time series. That book changed my life. Reading that series honestly influenced parts of my life I cannot even begin to put into words. I believe I reread the series about eight times by the time the last book came out and three more times since then. In my channel, I will set my biases aside and recognize how other fantasy books can be better than The Wheel of Time in some ways, but in my heart, nothing else will ever come close to the experience I had watching the Dragon be reborn.
I also have a bit of an obsession with rhetoric and public speaking in general. Something about it fascinates me. The ability to captivate people by the words you choose and their delivery (cadence, tone, etc,.) seems like a glitch in the human brain. The information is the same, but the packaging transforms how you receive it entirely. This has resulted in me studying everything from Aristotle to stand-up comedy to try and best understand what makes rhetoric so damn important to people without them even realizing it.
Those three things seemed to have come together to be the basis of my channel.
MARTIN: There’s lots of “lore videos” about games and movies (Vaatividya, Arch Warhammer, etc), but not as many about fantasy novels. Where there any notable Youtubers that inspired you? Or was it something you just personally wanted to do?
DANIEL: I had never even heard of “BookTube” before I started. That community is awesome though and so many people deserve so much more recognition for their awesome content. It annoys me seeing people doing such creative things talking about books and only having 5,000 subs, while other YouTubers will millions of subs…. do what we see in the headlines.
I have been watching Philip Defranco for about 8 years and love that man’s channel. Don’t agree with him on everything (most things), but he always gives a trustworthy perspective I respect. So I would say he is the most influential YouTuber to me in terms what I respect most.
Other channels inspire me to raise the quality of my content. Filmjoy, for example, does stunning work on his movie breakdowns.
KittyG gave me my first sub boost and I will forever love her for that. I was about to quit, then she got me to 1,000 subs, a community was born, and now I have followers I engage with on the regular and encourage me to keep going.
The internet is amazing.
MARTIN: You cover a lot of books on your channel, but one series stands out in particular. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I recall coming across your channel when I first started reading The Eye of the World, and really enjoyed your summaries and character analyses. But why The Wheel of Time in particular? As someone who’s read a lot of fantasy, what do you feel that series nailed that other books (both vintage and modern) struggle with?
DANIEL: The series was responsible for my baptism into fantasy. I have read it so many times The Wheel of Time is now brain candy for me. When I have gone through hard times, it turns into my comfort food. The detail Robert Jordan put into that world goes above and beyond what I believe any other fantasy author has achieved. Just like Harry Potter holds a special place for so many people my age, The Wheel of Time holds that spot for me.
On a side note, Harry Potter is still great. The recent trend of hating on it is just a part of any fantasy series life cycle. Calling it now, in five years it’s going to be cool to hate on Game of Thrones.
MARTIN: It’s kind of funny you mention that because I’m kind of one of those people that’s not as stoked on Harry Potter. I think it’s really good as a kid’s book and later on as YA, but pales in comparison to adult-oriented series like Stormlight or The Witcher, which it often gets lumped in with. And well that’s like, my opinion, man. Everyone’s got one, and sometimes even beloved series (like say, a certain story about a red-headed music kid) might not click with you. for whatever reason.
So as someone who expresses these opinions sometimes, do you get blowback for them? Has criticizing a really popular book ever felt like stepping into a minefield?
DANIEL: Well, I get loads of constructive criticism for my opinions and I really enjoy the dialog that creates. In the comments, I have the opportunity to get down and nerdy with my community and they often have been able to change how I view certain aspects of various series. I rarely get negative blowback for criticizing a fantasy series, in the sense that people seem genuinely upset.
Even the scathing review I did of ‘The Name of the Wind”, was generally well received, even by the fans. People just like talking books and disagreement just leads to more interesting discussion. Of course, there have been a few people who seemed actually offended by my opinions, but they are usually kids so it’s understandable. The adults who seem upset… they have their own problems they need to work on. I will never understand a grown man or woman getting angry about a work of fiction.
All of that being said, just yesterday I got a comment on my Wheel of Time Vs. Game of Thrones video calling me, “idiot scum.’ So that was nice.
MARTIN: Overall though, it seems the community is really receptive to these videos, particularly the ones where you compare different characters. As someone who’s read a few of these books, it’s nice to see familiar faces compared to protagonists and secondary characters I’ve yet to read about. Even if it borders into spoiler territory, I personally find it motivates me to check these books out all the more.
…Speaking of your “versus” videos, which character match-up was your favorite to make?
DANIEL: One that has yet to be released and would spoil a lot of outcomes for me to say. It will be in the final four of the bracket and deciding between these two literally made me lose sleep. I can’t really say to much more, but I will make a note at the beginning of video when it comes out letting you know it is that comparison.
MARTIN: As someone who’s covered a lot of different traditionally-published fantasy series, do you think you’d ever consider featuring books from indie, or even self-published authors? Certain books like Master Assassins have garnered quite a bit of praise recently, as have self-published works like Rob J. Hayes’ Best Laid Plans series. Is that a space you might look into some day?
DANIEL: Unfortunately, I had a few very bad experiences with ‘indie’ authors who had asked me to review their books. Basically, because I did not give their writing a 9/10 or above, one particular author demanded I removed the video and emailed me about every 30 minutes until I did. After I took it down they proceeded to write me a long letter basically calling me an idiot for not thinking they were the next Tolkien. It was about a fifty-fifty chance that the author would act in a way similar to this. I had an author complain I was not reading his book fast enough after having it for less than two weeks, and another claim I needed to read the 600+ page book he gave me three times minimum before I reviewed it.
Those experiences resulted in me just having a default, ‘Thank you, I am flattered, but no.’ response to authors reaching out to me.
MARTIN: Despite putting in a positive word for indie authors, I guess stuff like this just proves how it’s kind of a mixed bag still. I mean, I personally think it’s gotten a LOT better in recent years, and I still swear by authors like Dyrk Ashton and Rob Hayes. There’s some utterly fantastic stuff to be found in indies. But sometimes you still get those authors who just need an editor and a reality check in a MAJOR way.
Speaking of authors, what advice would you have for anyone wanting to write a fantasy novel (indie or otherwise) of their own? What stories have you as a fantasy reader been itching to read, but never had the chance to?
DANIEL: Just this… do not care what I, or your audience wants to read. Write what you want to write. The greatest reads are the ones that were written with passion. If it feels like you are shaping your writing to what others want to hear, you will not stand out from the massive crowed. You may get some credit for mass appeal, but the books that have shaken up a genre, did not do so by reaching a common denominator. The authors wrote from a place of pure creativity that reflected themselves. This sounds corny, but it is so true. Many authors do want to write something that has mass appeal as, which is also completely fine. That is how something like Harry Potter comes around you make a billion dollars if you do manage to get momentum. But that is much more all or nothing in terms of success in my experience.
I really want to sit down and read the Sword of Truth series, because my subscribers have been so split on it, but I just have not had the time to. It will be fun to see what the comment section terns into. Hopefully well reasoned discussion. The internet is known for that right?
MARTIN: That’s great advice, and something I think a lot of new readers will want to hear. Obviously not every series is gonna be huge, but that’s really for the readers to decide. If no one takes any risks, what’s the point of spec fic?
Also…Sword of Truth. Jeez, I can already picture the flame wars.
Anyway, last question! And this isn’t a serious one by any mean, but just for the fun of it. If your current top 3 fantasy series were flavors of ice cream…what flavors would those be?
DANIEL: Sword of Truth should be coming sooner rather than later, so we shall see.
To be honest not entirely sure how to answer that one. If pressed, I would have to say, The Wheel of Time is rocky road, Lord of the Rings is classic vanilla, and The Witcher is chocolate chip cookie dough. It has elements of past and presents blended perfectly.
And that’s a wrap! For more of Daniel Greene’s thoughts on the Fantasy genre and books, subscribe to his channel on Youtube. I personally recommend checking out his Wheel of Time retrospective if you’re curious about that series and not averse to spoilers. His VS videos and series reviews are also excellent, and a must-watch for any fan of the genre.
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