Marco Polo – Political Intrigue and Inspiration

Steph_2 copy (2)By Stephanie Stamm

After a couple of experiences of post-binge mental hangovers, I don’t so much binge-watch Netflix these days as engage in serial monogamy. On any given day, I usually watch only one episode—occasionally two—of my current amour, but I watch only that series until I’ve seen every episode.

My most recent Netflix affair has been the Netflix original series Marco Polo (find out more on Netflix or IMDB). Over a period of a week to 10 days, I consumed the first season’s 10 episodes, enthralled by the show’s visual, emotional, and intellectual impact. Set in the time of Kublai Khan’s conquest of southern China, the show is gorgeously presented. The costumes, sets, scenery, cinematography, writing, and acting are all top-notch. And the plot contains so much political and personal intrigue that I could use a second watch to tease out all the tangled threads.

Portrait of Kublai Khan

Watching Marco Polo made me wonder about the difficulty of living in a world where every action is about obtaining or maintaining power—or, alternatively, trying to keep from losing your life. I suppose in some ways we are all involved in power struggles on one or more levels—whether we are trying to gain more control over ourselves or our work, or to rise in our careers. But this political arena, where conquest rules, and everyone looks for weaknesses to use against everyone else, is not the world I inhabit. And a good thing too—I wouldn’t fare well there.

Which is why I sometimes wonder what possessed me to build a certain level of political intrigue into my Light-Bringer series. Perhaps it was a desire to stretch those mental and emotional muscles and then give them a workout. The more relationship-based, emotional scenes come more easily for me. I have to work harder to enter the minds and hearts and motivations of those manipulating the people around them for political gain or power. Marco Polo gives me a window into how others have done it—how the writers took those characters and their history and gave them heart and motivation, and how the cast made those characters live.

As I work on the third volume of my trilogy, I need to delve more deeply into the politics of my world and tease out the longstanding power plays that have shaped it. Like those in Marco Polo, some of my characters have been playing the long game. Now I have to figure out how to call their shots.

What aspects of your work do you struggle with most? What other works/media do you turn to for help or inspiration?


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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:




I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover