SciFi Needs an Ashleigh Banfield

Whoa …

I stay out of the Breaking News section of the paper, preferring to focus on sci-fi and my personal work. At the same time, can’t ignore what’s happening within various social movements like #MeToo. It’s leading to some very positive change, and it makes me think about what that could do for the scifi community and genre. More notes below the video:

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Why We Need Sci-Fi

Oof.

I know watching the news is its own form of torture but last night was … wow. Hard to contemplate that this is where we are as a civilization in 2018.

When I first created the tagline ‘Because you need a break from reality,’ I never imagined how right I was going to be. I need a break from reality. You probably do, too. It’s terrifying. It’s soul-crushing. It’s just … wow.

That’s when I started writing again. Started typing right here at the keyboard. Turn off the TV. Turn off Reddit. Get back to work.

Reality can be very dark and depressing sometimes. For a person with my personal issues, it actually puts me back as far as recovery and progress. So I have to turn it off. I have to get back to imagination … it’s the only weapon in the war against reality, as the Cheshire Cat said.

Where our world isn’t what it should be, we can fight back. We can imagine what it should be. That’s the first step toward making it so. Science fiction fills that niche for me. It’s not just about pure fantasy, it’s about a place we can get to.

Dare to dream. Dare to imagine. Dare to create. That’s what I’m doing right now. I hope you’re able to do the same.

Attention ‘The Last Jedi’ Haters: This Guy Dropped the Mic on You [SPOILER ALERT]

Attention 'The Last Jedi' Haters: This Guy Dropped the Mic on You [SPOILER ALERT]

 

I’ve been struggling with something ever since I saw The Last Jedi a few days ago. What do you say to the haters? How do you overcome the bile and the negativity toward what you thought was an amazing piece of cinematic mythology?

The novel deserves my attention. I don’t have the time to be Roger Ebert about this. I bit my tongue and shut my mouth, all the while screaming inside. This is beautiful, I wanted to yell. This is amazing. This is what we need and you’re missing it!

Happily, another Star Wars geek heard me. I read Nicholas’ takedown of every hater argument and it’s too beautiful not to share. Here follows his post from Facebook, which I reprint with his permission:


It took me ten days and a second viewing, but I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on “The Last Jedi.” It goes without saying, but just in case… spoilers aplenty below!

Attention 'The Last Jedi' Haters: This Guy Dropped the Mic on You [SPOILER ALERT]

This movie is f#%&ing brilliant, in ways I never could have imagined. The “Star Wars” films have always been more than movies; they are a mythology, and the strongest mythologies serve as a reflection on current times as well as provide guidance and lessons on creating a better future for ourselves. They force (pun intended) reflection, introspection, and challenge us to subscribe to concepts which may be a bit more advanced than we are used to. Continue reading

Turns Out There’s a Scientific Reason People Dislike Sci-Fi

That’s wild.

After many years of sci-fi authors complaining that ‘Hollywood hates sci-fi’ and ‘sci-fi isn’t taken seriously as a genre,’ we now have scientific evidence to support their claims. The Guardian just published this yesterday, and it’s already got my fellow sci-fi authors hopping:

In a paper published in the journal Scientific Study of Literature, Washington and Lee University professors Chris Gavaler and Dan Johnson set out to measure how identifying a text as science fiction makes readers automatically assume it is less worthwhile, in a literary sense, and thus devote less effort to reading it. They were prompted to do their experiment by a 2013 study which found that literary fiction made readers more empathetic than genre fiction. Continue reading

The Only Two Articles on Hollywood Sex Scandals You Need

I love Bryan Cranston.

Not only is he a great actor, he’s just a fine man. Intelligent, thoughtful, and extraordinarily talented. I’ve been hanging back during the news cycle, watching to see what happens to Harvey Weinstein. Watching what happens to Corey Feldman. Is this the time? Is this the moment? Will people take this seriously now?

Overcoming sexual abuse, and moving on with life … those are topics near to my heart. I still don’t know what to say or how to say it. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I have my own limitations to deal with and those are challenging enough. Continue reading

Everybody Starts Somewhere and Other Notes

Hello sports fans …

Some quick notes while I take a break from being a writer to get over this bug I came down with. Re-watching Season One of Stranger Things in preparation for the next season that releases in a couple of days. I know I’ve talked about it before, but really … I’m filled with professional and creative jealousy when I watch this show. It’d be the highlight of my life to write something as good as what the Duffer Brothers came up with.

Go See Blade Runner 2049 While You Can

Blade Runner 2049 is being called a ‘disappointment’ for not making more money than it should have. I have my thoughts on why it doesn’t matter, but so does everyone else. Let’s not discuss or waste time. This is simply a movie you need to see in the theater. So go do it, while you can.

Last Point

Someone on Reddit just posted this and I love it. In 1984, Steven Soderbergh submitted a tape to Lucasfilm, showcasing an idea he had for a project.

Now, in the world of ‘Behind the Music’ and other biopics, this is supposed to represent a kismet moment. The moment that the Director of ‘Oceans Eleven’ meets the makers of ‘Star Wars.’ Music swells. The Journey Begins. Honestly, how cool would that be?

Yet for all of that coolness, the reality is much more ironic. Lucasfilm rejected Soderbergh out of hand, and this rejection letter is the proof. I’m showing you this, not to judge, but to say that ‘everyone starts somewhere.’ Before Steven Soderberg was THE Steven Soderbergh he was a guy living in a crappy apartment two blocks from the LSU campus and light-years away from the bright lights of Hollywood. He was a nobody, just like you and me.

Don’t fear being rejected. Don’t fear being unknown. Everyone starts somewhere. Just like you and me.

 

New Free Wallpaper

In celebration my new short story ‘Body Issues,’ I’m releasing the book cover as a free wallpaper. Made this from Unsplash and a few hours on Photoshop. I love sci-fi and so I make photoreal pictures in addition to writing stories. I made this as a cover but expanded the work to show everything outside the cover’s vision. Hope you enjoy ‘The Future of Beauty.’

Benefits of a Creative Sci-Fi Life

Sorry, not sorry – I like Taylor Swift. For the most part, I find her music fun to listen to and her lyrics can be jaw-droppingly insightful.

Benefits of a Creative Life

When I heard the buzz about “Look at What You Made Me Do,” I scooted over to Youtube and checked it out. No offense to Ms. Swift or the millions of her fans, I turned it off after about a minute. Stunning visuals, but the music didn’t light my fire. Then I started working on another short story.

That, in a nutshell, is one of the key benefits of living a creative life. You get to turn off the torrent of ‘buymebuymebuyme’ coming out of your television or phone. Your attention is focused on a key human experience, one that is guaranteed to give you some type of satisfaction. I’ll be honest: consuming only seems to make me happy until the next upgrade comes out.

This is nothing new. Political news shows keep their audience in a lather for the next election cycle, too. What I want to talk about is the how science fiction is now on the same hedonic treadmill. Since 2002, we’ve chased an endless Superhero Movie / Star Wars release cycle now. A new Star Wars movie coming out every year? A new Marvel movie coming out every year? When do we get a chance to step back from the rollercoaster ride of anticipation followed by release followed by discussion followed by anticipation for the next movie?

Our role as consumer/commentator has taken on a life of its own and it’s getting weird. For example, after watching ‘The People Vs. George Lucas,’ I’m firmly convinced that the makers of that film – and many of the sci-fi/geek community – missed the point of the exercise. Simply put: if you don’t like what the kids in the sandbox are doing, then go find your own sandbox! Is it too obvious to say that if you’re disappointed in an artists’ work you can simply go to another art gallery or, God forbid, paint your own pictures?

This should be a reflex action in humanity but it isn’t, and here’s why: modern culture conflates the act of consumer commentary to be an act of creativity itself. Chris Hardwick is a great guy, but he started out as a radio DJ and stand-up comic, only to create the Nerdist media empire, whose business model is based entirely on people talking about movies or shows they like.

Benefits of a Creative Sci-Fi Life

Does anyone else feel this way? Seems odd to be experiencing a Thoreau-esque epiphany like this in my Oregon apartment, but I’m finding that simple living has become ‘The Road Not Taken.’

I don’t simply live for its own sake, I’m doing it so I can focus my attention on telling stories. A surprising ancillary benefit to creativity is how free I feel to let go of the acidic newspop cycle that blares forth from every outlet. And don’t kid yourself: this isn’t a call to arms for anyone. If Edward R. Murrow could not stem the tide, I hold out no hopes for myself. This is being written for me, you, and anyone else looking for an anodyne to the deafening roar of Pop Culture, Inc.

Creativity is a curative act. Forget the health aspects of creativity, and focus on this: Creativity keeps you grounded. Present. Humble. When you make it and you step back, there’s a sense of satisfaction that nothing else on this planet can give you. The little voice that says: I did it. I made this. Nobody can take that away from me. 

Additionally, creativity gives you license to focus on what matters to you. Do Brad and Angelina matter to you? Does the ‘Monkey Selfie’ matter to you? Does the Chargers v. Broncos game matter to you?* Of course not! None of those things really matter, but Pop Culture Inc. thinks they should matter. They pump it out and you we get sucked into paying attention, every single time. Rather than spewing another Jerimiad entitled: ‘why are we paying attention to this nonsense,’ I can simply say: “I’m working on my next project, I don’t have time for that.”

  • That means I don’t have to care about who directs Star Wars: Episode IX.
  • That means I don’t think about the next installment of Marvel Magic Punching People.
  • That means I don’t get sucked into the drama of the current season of Game of Thrones or the HBO hack.

Being creative means I no longer have to search for the answer to the question: “This isn’t worth our time, why are we focused on this?” I can say “if that’s your thing, you do you. I’m focused on this.” And let me tell you, it feels great. Focus on big ideas. Invent new universes to play in. Mess around with concepts and put them together in fresh and unique ways. Take a chunk out of the universe. After all, that’s really what we’re to do.

I’m posting this as an option for those of you that are burned out on the perpetual commentary/outrage machine that we’re plugged into. If you feel the same way, then welcome home. You’ve found a place here.

* These were the stories I plucked off my Facebook ‘News Feed’ this morning in preparation for this post. I’m keeping them here so that in six or twelve months, we can all have a laugh at how dumb they really are. Maybe that will help us understand how dumb the current scandals-du-jour are.