Rutger Hauer Destroys Reboots and Sequels in One Sentence

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Blade Runner 2049.  However, I can’t ignore the wisdom of Rutger Hauer on display in this Hollywood Reporter interview posted a couple of days ago. Even though he hated BR2049, he put a finger on why reboots and sequels aren’t working for me anymore. While everyone seems to agree that the recent trend of sequel reboots and franchises are killing original sci-fi, it really boils down to this:

Don’t lean with one elbow on the success that was earned over 30 years in the underground.

You know something? He’s absolutely right. Sequels and reboots are absolutely leaning with one elbow on other successes. I know we’re all locked into the mad gauntlet between art and commerce, but flawless execution can only take us so far. Ultimately, we’re looking for stories and ideas that take them to other places. We can only go back to that sequel/reboot well so many times.

What if you like a reboot? Or a sequel? Nothing wrong with that. Some of them are pretty good, and that’s ultimately what I’m looking for and maybe you are, too. Rutger Hauer is simply suggesting we have room in our rodeo for more than one-trick ponies, and I happen to agree.

 

Some Tough Love for Barnes & Noble

Some Tough Love for Barnes & NobleBookstores are my lifeblood, both as a reader and as an author. Their survival, therefore, is something I’m keenly interested in and that’s why I found this post on Reddit to be particularly interesting: How Barnes & Noble is killing itself, partially quoted here to save you a click:

“Zero sympathy for sitting on their laurels and refusing to innovate for a decade. Now it’s too late. I only have sympathy for the workers, it’s terrible for them.

But B&N has a horrendously lazy business model. They stopped innovating after adding coffee and their tablet (both great ideas).

But off the top of my head:

Where is there official YouTube channel? Where’s the podcast? They have enough clout to do long form interviews with any author in the world. But they didn’t. Where’s their free online workshops for aspiring writers? Nowhere.

Why didn’t they attempt to have their own knock-off awards ceremony for writers? Best debut novels and all that. They don’t even need to have a ceremony, just a letter in the mail and the books in a curated space in the store. Do you know how many authors would kill for the tiniest amount of recognition and publicity?”

The post has more detail and it’s an interesting breakdown so I encourage you to look into it if you’re interested in the business of bookselling.

The key takeaway is that bookstores are a business, and need to turn a profit to survive. Book stores (and authors!) must continue to innovate their craft to meet the changing needs and interest of their readers. Blaming Amazon is lazy, and also patently untrue. Barnes & Noble has only itself to blame for its success or lack thereof.

Write For Your Readers

I wanted to wait a few days to simmer on Charlie Stross’ ‘Why I barely read SF these days’ blog post. He makes some solid points as to it’s hard to write good science fiction and I encourage anyone who’s trying to create their own sci-fi universe to take note. That said, I wanted to respond to it because my first thought about his post was ‘Is it still okay to write sci-fi, if this is how people feel about it?’

I thought about that for a long time, and then something occurred to me that set my mind at ease. I’m passing it along in case you had the same question:

It’s okay if Charlie Stross doesn’t like my stories. I’m not writing them for him. 

Let’s face it: Charlie Stross is an immensely talented author and writer, but he isn’t my ideal reader (see this blog post for more info on who an ‘ideal reader’ is). My idea readers are boys and girls ages 11-13, of various ethnic and economic backgrounds. I remember many happy hours at that age, discovering new worlds and ideas. When I started to write Mesh, I wanted to write a book that kids could enjoy in the same way.

Not everyone will enjoy Mesh, and that’s okay. I wouldn’t expect Mr. Stross to enjoy my reading, just like I wouldn’t expect a child to enjoy ‘The Laundry Files.’ As ambitious as it would be to say ‘I want to write a story for every sci-fi fan,’ that’s silly. That’s saying ‘I want to be the Budweiser of sci-fi’ and we can all imagine how bland a story that might be.

That isn’t to say that his advice isn’t useful for us. Stross gave me a great way to look at world-building in sci-fi and I plan to take it with me as I continue to edit Mesh: “Worldbuilding is like underwear: it needs to be there, but it shouldn’t be on display.” You may find gems of your own that help you develop your storytelling craft and I hope that you do.

Another gem to pass along is the idea behind the picture to the right (->): don’t write for yourself, unless you plan to be the only one that reads it. 99% of storytelling’s fun comes when your words translate into a picture in someone else’s head. Don’t rob yourself of that. Tell stories that others can relate to.

In closing, take Charlie Stross’ essay with as many grains of salt as you need, and then move on. Nobody gatekeeps your awesomeness, except you.

You Should Check Out Paul Chadeisson … Like, Right Now

 

Sometimes you run into an artist who is so good that it makes you question why you’re bothering to make your stuff at all. For me, I had one of those moments when I saw Paul Chadeisson’s work over at Artstation. His work is so detailed and evocative, that it reminds me a lot of Simon Stålenhag, another favorite sci-fi artist.

Artistic envy is nothing new. It’s good sometimes to look out there, beyond your horizon, to see what other people are doing. It reminds you to focus on delivering your best, while constantly refining what your best can be.

And then you get back to work.

“What’s Your Novel About?” – A Quick Intro to Mesh

Churning away on edits, I want to take this opportunity to talk about what Mesh is about.

So far I’ve only published short stories, but I want to do more. It’s great to pull off a 6-12K word tale, but what about an epic novel? Can I do it? Will people enjoy it? Writing a full-length novel has been on my bucket list since I was 12. Now, several decades later, I want to give it a shot. Here’s what Mesh is about and I hope it’s something you’ll enjoy:

“My name is Roman Diaz. One day I was a nerdy kid. The next day I’m on the run. Everyone thinks I’m a terrorist. I just wanted an ‘A’ on my science project.”

Fourteen-year-old Roman only wants two things out of life: out of this wheelchair and away from his dead-end school. A prestigious technical high school is offering a chance at both. How can Roman and his geeky best-friend Zeke say no?

Miramar High isn’t just a magnet school: it’s an incubator for the next Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. They give Roman cybernetic links and an exo-skeleton to get out of his wheelchair. Now Roman’s new mentor gives them a new project: The Mesh. Can kids create a new form of communication to save the world? That’s the challenge, and along with the Snow Foxes, Roman and Zeke are making it happen.

Suddenly, secrets get revealed. All is not as it seems. Friends become enemies. Truths become lies. Rockstar students are now criminals. With no other choice, Roman uses his robotic legs to start running. He must destroy the Mesh, before it destroys him.

Currently editing and improving with Beta readers, MESH is the first novel a science fiction YA series that will appeal to readers of Ernie Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE and binge-watchers of STRANGER THINGS.

Mesh is a celebration of many different stories, people and ideas that I’ve collected over the years. Parsing ideas down into a readable story is an interesting challenge, and I’m finding it to be personally rewarding.

I’m still in search of an agent – I want to publish Mesh through the traditional market, as opposed to self-publishing. I can always use more feedback from sci-fi readers on the material, and from writing professionals on how to get published. Please contact me via Reddit if you’d like to be a part of my team.

You can read more about Mesh’s journey in these blog posts

Awesome /R/Writing Threads You Should Be Reading Right Now

Say what you will about Reddit, there are some talented people out there, chasing the dream just like you. In writing Mesh, I’m running across many questions that have no clear answers. Swinging over to Reddit, I have my heart in my mouth knowing that it’s difficult to make connections some times. How happy I was to see that many other writers are struggling with the same questions. Maybe these will strike a chord with you, too:

Your first draft will suck. I guarantee it.

How do you fix ‘Show, Don’t Tell?’

How do you write protagonists that appeal to teenage boys? 

Short stories and breaking into the publishing world.

Reading some of these threads reminds me of the timeless advice given to Link in Zelda: It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.

Kids on Saturday Night – New Free Wallpaper

So here’s something free for February – a quick cyberpunk wallpaper that I’ve been tinkering with for a few weeks now. I think the original picture came from Unsplash and then I started reimagining it in a scifi context.

Free wallpapers are part of the Free Stuff I give away from time to time. All sci-fi, all made by me, because making stuff is important. Hope you enjoy Kids on Saturday Night.

Don’t Hate. Create. – Part II

Hannibal from the A Team may love it when a plan comes together, but he never told us what to do when that doesn’t happen. As I said before, there are powerful emotions at work when your new creative project fails to launch. What do you do with all that energy and passion? Let’s break the recovery process down into some simple action steps:

Success is Not a Linear Path

Hollywood is obsessed with this idea that success starts out with a simple idea and then through a single path – usually a montage – all the stars align and everyone falls in love with you. This is false. Success doesn’t work that way. Not even in Hollywood.

If you aren’t familiar with this reality, you may feel like the negative reactions you’re getting are personally directed toward you. You may be tempted to react angrily. After all, you have an idea and you want to share it with people. Why all the hate?

It’s important to decouple yourself from your idea. Ideas come and go. Projects come and go. I remember Robert Downey Jr. talking with someone after The Judge came out, and it wasn’t doing well. His only comment was, ‘well, it stings … but then you’re onto the next project.’ If Iron Man can accept his setbacks without a meltdown, what’s our excuse?

Don’t take it personally. Brush yourself off. Realize that your path is not linear. Start creating again.

Make sense? Let’s keep going: Continue reading

Don’t Hate. Create.

Maybe it’s me getting older and wiser, but I’m starting to understand more about where to spend my energy as an artist.

I admit: all of this is a black box to me. When I was a kid, I acted and I got paid. That’s as far as I took it. Understanding all the pieces and parts to a major creative enterprise like a feature film, that was beyond me. I don’t get the luxury of that ignorance today and neither does any other indie artist.

We’re forced by necessity to be intensely focused on all the moving parts of a successful, monetized project. Fair or unfair, that’s our reality. It’s hard to get it right. Easy to get it wrong. We’re all figuring stuff out for ourselves.

And here’s the other part: We’re all passionate. In exchanges with other artists, and creative people, I’ve become aware how passionate people are and how that passion manifests itself. Some (I’m looking at you, @Scalzi and @HamillHimself) are bright shining stars that beckon.

Others are warning lights, saying ‘Watch out … I’m trouble.’  We’ve all had exchanges like that. Sometimes we’re the offender. Sometimes the offendee. As easy as it would be to poke fun, I don’t want to do that. I can’t point fingers. I’ve been that guy. I can’t judge too much. It’s bad for recovery … When You Point a Finger at Someone, There Are Three More Pointing Back at You and all that.

When an exchange goes south, it becomes an interesting personal exercise for me. What can this exchange teach me about how I interact with other people as I find new readers? As I mentioned, I still have a lot to learn. Many others do, too, apparently. Let’s distill our thoughts into one simple idea: Don’t hate. Create. The rest of this blog post is about unpacking those three words.

Continue reading