My life is going to be insanely busy the next few months —
My day job has kicked into its seasonal overdrive and my days have turned into 10 hour days. (Hectic but good I like the money)
I’ve committed myself to trying to write a one act SF play by Dec 15th
I’m working on a new short story in a branch of spec fic I have not done before. (The idea exploded in my head today and already I have 500 words of notes and concepts for this short)
And I am in the final edit pass of my novel ..
I am way too busy
Saturday night a friend and I sat down and watch the 2013 re-make of Carrie, based on King’s novel. The film was a very good adaptation, though it has been a long time since I read the book, I thought that the writers and filmmakers had captured the characters, tone, and heart of the piece.
Of course you can’t delve into Carrie without getting into one of king’s favorite tropes: the crazy christian character (C3.) He uses the C3 over and over again, plus he is not alone. The C3 is an overused stereotype through hollywood and television. Now, I am myself not a Christian. I am of the opinion that all regions look wacky from the outside and I seem to be outside all of them. HoweverI am a writer and I really get tired of seeing lazy, ignorant work.
The C3 is a lazy, stupid, stereotype, These ‘characters’ can very nearly be picked up and dropped in replacing other C3s in a plot and not one thing would really change. They are rarely handled with any sense on an individual with agency and background. as with Nazis, they are go-to bad guys that are used for plot connivence.
As I said before I am not a christian, this is not me taking personal offense at a stereotype. it is the artist in my really sick of the hack work. When we pay money for a piece of commercial art, we deserve the very best the artist could do at that moment, and the C3 is not the very best for many of these artist.
It is important for a writer to treat all the characters as fully realized human beings, with faults and talent, with hopes and dreams, with pain and joy.
Brian, Brad: this one’s for you….
There was an odd event during my family reunion that keeps circling about in my mind. to understand it you’ll need a little personal history of your host.
As a child I did not read fiction. I was much more obsessed with learning new thing than reading made-up stuff. this came to a crashing halt when as a school assignment I was struggling with a book report – the book was about Mars and I could not work out its plot or conflict – and my sister assigned me Robert A. Heinlein’s ‘The Star Beast.’ to read and report upon. This started a love affair with SF and reading fiction and the eventual drive to craft some of it myself.
Same sister made a comment during the reunion asking if she had done the right thing by starting me down that path. I think she might have been envisioning an alternate history where I continued with a tight focus on academic issues, gone on to college instead of the Navy, and ending up with a far different life.
It’s possible that might have happened, but I doubt it. Certainly by high school some teacher would have forced fiction upon me and there’s no reason to believe that my reaction would have been substantially different, but there a stronger case in my opinion that an academic path was not in my cards.
I did not have the discipline to succeed at college. Hell, I didn’t have the discipline to succeed in the USN where they have the legal power to jail you for screwing up. I do not doubt that I would have crashed and burned at college. I think that my life has worked out, on balance, for the better. Only time will tell what is left to come…
So, for quite a few years I have been entering the Writers of the Future contest. It a contest for SF and Fantasy writers, those who have not met the criteria for being a ‘pro,’ and I haven’t done terrible but neither have I won it. (three honorable mentions and three semi-finalist.) Now in addition to that I am considering something new.
Writing a play.
I have seen plays, I have read plays, I have studied — lightly– play structure, and I have even been in a play that people paid to see. (And I am not talking about a school play where the parent show up out of sense of obligation vs people coming for entertainment.) However I have never attempting the writing of a play.
A friend of mine — thanks Marc Biagi — shared a link on facebook to contest for original SF plays. It happened just as I was revising an older story of mine that as luck would have it, takes place in a single setting and pretty much in a single scene. (It’s a very short story a mere 1500 words.) My brain has been firing all day in an adaptation process for turning it into a single act play.
The deadline is far enough off that I think I could pull this off, even with the loads of OT I will be doing at my day job.
Dare I do it?
Life has been quite busy these last two weeks or so. I flew across the continent with my sweetie-wife to attended a family reunion that my sister had organized. That required flying San Diego to Orlando (and discovering my new favorite airline — Alaska Air), staying overnight in Orlando, then driving to the Tampa area to visit with my sweetie-wife’s relations, from there we drove across the state to the Vero beach/Fort Pierce for my relations and reunion. (during this time I discovered I really like the rental car a 2015 Chevy Sonic – it was a very decent car.) Then driving back to Orlando for the flight home, all with a five day time frame. The last day had plenty of stress, slow service at lunch, poorly selected routes, schedules missed, rough air all the way across the country, but in the end it was a good trip and good to see family again.
(Though Florida cooperated with high humidity to remind me why I live in San Diego.)
This past weekend was Conjecture 2014, a local SF convention. I participated as a panelist on four panels and had a real blast. Saw old friends, had good conversations, learned new researching skills. All in all a good, but slightly tiring weekend.
Now at work the busy season has started up and I’m expecting lots of overtime hours between now and sometime around March 2015.
Of all the possible works by SF Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein to adapt into a film this would have been near the bottom of my list. Not due to the quality of the story, it is a classic in time travel and it’s inherent paradoxes, but the mind-blowing inside-out nature of the plot is not something that lends itself to a film…
I had an amount of curiosity concerning this film when it was released. As a child I had watched the American-ized version of the television show and been entertained by the impossible antics of Speed and his racing family. My interest and fond memories people were not enough lure back into the theater for this baby-boomer bit of nostalgia. I had seen far too many properties from the baby-boom picked up and turned into utter dreck by producers, writers, and directors who had absolutely no respect for the original source material. So Speed Racer waited until I got around to it on Netflix, because that is one thing the service is great for, taking risky experimental leaps in your cinema viewing.
The Wachowskis; the sibling duo responsible for The Matrix franchise and the film adaptation of V for Vendetta, directed the film. Speed Racer displays all the visual style and experimentation one should expect from the Wachowskis. The story is simple, Speed and his family are a small independent racing team and motor car company. (Pops, play by John Goodman, builds the race cars in his home garage.) Speed’s older brother has been disgraced and killed in an earlier off road race. Speeds own inherent talent has brought him to the attention of a major motor-company mogul Royalton, played with villainous flair that seemed to strike a resonate cord reminiscent of the acerbic Christopher Hitchens by Roger Allam. Royalton tries to seduce Speed into signing on a corporate racer, and when rebuffed turns his energies to destroyed Speed and the Racer family.
If you have watched the 60’s animated show you know that the program constantly dealt in absurd impossibilities, cars that leap great distanced thanks to powered jacks, fantastic weaponry, amazing capable pet chimps, and so on. Adapting this sort of material into a film usually calls for eliminating as much as possible these cue that are acceptable in animation, but shattering to suspension of disbelief in photography; this was not the approach the Wochowskis employed. Rather they embraced the animated style, integrating into it the live-action performers, mixing CGI that had been rendered to reflect the style of animation and not photo-realism, while layering in the actors as real people. (Even Chim-Chim the chimp is real not a CGI character.) The final product is both mad-cap over the top, and layered with character moments and performances.
The film disappointed at the box officer and I think the stylistic approach is the final culprit. The animation elements, I believe in form the viewer the accept one level of reality and the live-action performances ask the viewer to accept quite a different level of reality. The dichotomy of these two very different expectations creates a jarring effect that is quite deleterious to suspension of disbelief.
That said, if you can find a way to let your mind work on the two levels simultaneously, the film has surprisingly entertaining moments. It was clearly crafted with an eye towards the source material. From my memory the Wochowskis nailed every major plot and character element of the show, while adding a level of story that the television program never explored. It was a bold, brash experiment that failed, but I salute them as artists for their vision and the risk taking. They could have made a bland cookie-cutter film, but instead that took real risks and that should be rewarded.
There has been a rather lengthy hiatus in this series as I dove into edits of my novel and composing a new short story, but I have returned to the topic, coming around to perhaps the most important decade in SF cinema except for the 1950’s.
First up I’ll discuss the moon-sized shadow eclipsing all SF films of the 70’s and later;
Star Wars (1977)
I think it is difficult for people who came of age later to appreciate just how monumental Star Wars was in the history of cinema. It is part of the triumvirate that created the block-buster phenomena that Hollywood continues to chase to this very day. (The other two films being JAWS and THE GODFATHER.) Science-Fiction simply had never been as big as Star Wars before and that sort of success casts a might long shadow.
Looking at SF films of the 70’s everything before Star Wars gets lost in the uproar of that space fantasy and everything after it is compared to it. While Hollywood had been moving in fits and starts towards adult science-fiction in the 1970’s with film such as The Omega Man, The Andromeda Strain, and Logan’s Run, the arrival of Lucas’ baby shunted all that aside for a generation as the studios chased after the next massive box-officer adventure.
However the influence of this movie reaches far beyond the pale imitations hurried into production and the senseless pursuit of massive runs, how we watch , hear, and make films changes because of George Lucas.
Today’s theaters packed with digital projectors, multi-channel sounds systems, and comfortable seating owe a great deal of their evolution to Lucas’ and his foresight and insistence on exhibition as well as film production. Behind the scenes, Lucas’ advanced the technology of film making more in the twenty years post Star Wars that in all the years following the introduction of synch-sound, Digital effects, digital processing, non-linear editing, these are tools that make todays production look vastly different to films short and edited traditionally. When you shoot a home video on your camera phone and edit it on your home computer you are participating Lucas’ revolution, it’s that massive.
Selecting a second film for the 1970’s is a very tough thing. Any film produced and released before Star Wars pretty much had any lasting impact erased by the tidal wave that is Star Wars, any film made after Star Wars nearly always is following and in some case just bolding stealing, from Lucas’ massive hit. Personally I came down to two post Star Wars films for my second choice; Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien. Alien has been copied endlessly since it’s stellar release in 1979, but I think the broader impact it had was that in theatrical films it pretty much, singlehandedly, destroyed the professional explorer set-up. Before Alien interstellar travel was the domain of military and para-military experts, after Alien’s ‘truckers in space’ approach the professional explorer for all practical purposes vanished from feature films.
However I am going to go with
Star Trek: the Motion Picture (1979)
After the success of Star Wars Paramount decided that the pilot that they had been planning for a new Star trek television series needed to be a feature film. The script wasn’t in great shape, and Roddenberry wasn’t an experience hand at feature film production. The $20 million dollar budget quickly vanished as the studio spent $40 million, the script was re-written as they filmed, and the production was troubled from the set to the special effects, but still the film was a hit, spawning a franchise of feature films that continue to this day, but I would argue that is not the lasting effect of Star trek: The Motion Picture.
The lasting effect came from the firing of Gene Roddenberry. Now out of the loop in the feature film department, he returned to his true love, television but this time with a Radical concept, a television show that would be sold directly to the stations, instead of a network, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The success of the show paved the way for a flood of directly syndicated programming, most of it genre, laying the ground work for the fertile and rich television landscape we have to day in SF and fantasy. I don’t think we would have any of this with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.