Dear Netflix: Here’s How You Do ‘Reverse Iron Fist.’

Was all set to say something about how to save Netflix’s beleagured show, Iron Fist, but then theMarySue.com beat me to it. All I have to say now is ‘that’s what she said.’ But then I thought about how you would do it. That’s where my juices got flowing.

First off, I can totally imagine this show as a period piece produced by Quentin Tarantino, starring some underknown Asian martial arts actress. The premise is super easy: Plane goes down in Texas in the 20s and she comes back to China in the thirties as this gunslinging martial arts warrior princess. It’d be an awesome way to talk about history that’s a blank space to Western high school history classes:

The more I thought about it, the more obvious it becomes. Sam Elliot already works on Netflix projects, so you cast him as ‘the cowboy as samurai master.’ Then you cast Michelle Yoh as her elder sister and either Donnie Yen or Jet Li as ‘The Bad Guy.’ First eight episodes write themselves: all about her training to be a gunfighter while maintaining her stance as a martial artist. Last four episodes are about her returning home and kicking butt.

Imagine how cool this would be. Take all of these worn-out story tropes and give them a completely fresh take by flipping them, it’s easy! Not only would the show have an instant market overseas, it would overcome all ‘whitewashing’ complaints in one swift move and reinforce Netflix as the driving force behind entertainment innovation for the next three or four years. I’d be happy to jump on board as a screenwriter, too. I’m an unknown talent so I’ll work cheap.

C’mon, Netflix, what do you say?

Fame and Money Velocity

Fame and Money VelocityWas reading an interesting tidbit on the Internet yesterday about the misbehavior of the CEO of Chipotle. I’ve never cared for or about Chipotle, personally. You don’t need them after you to go the El Paso Taqueria on Blair Street, anyway. The negative notoriety reinforces something I’ve known for a long time about fame and why it’s not something I’ll personally chase, regardless of what happens with the writing.

To help understand this, I drew from something in my high school economics class, the velocity of money, or VoM for short. VoM measures the speed at which money changes hands, and is an indicator of the health of any economy. You can actually make money off of the VoM, if you time it correctly. If you understand that, you can also understand that fame also has a velocity, and that people make money off of this, too. The speed at which the public becomes aware of something, positively or negatively, is about 99% of the infotainment industry.

Fame and Money VelocityTMZ, Radar Online, Perez Hilton … they all make their money off of turning scandals and lurid stories into news. The teen pop superstars of 2016 are the teen diva meltdowns of 2017. ‘Cause Marketing’ turns cancer victims into a profit center. Now, as the unfortunate CEO of Chipotle demonstrates, companies and corporate execs fall into the same bucket. Yesterday’s Wall Street darling is next week’s Bernie Madoff. Yesterday’s Jared from Subway is today’s Jared from Subway. Media outlets time their activity so they profit either way. The news cycle is designed to make money when your star rises. They’ll be back when your star is ready to fall.

I could easily fall into this mess and I don’t want to. So yeah, even though I want to get my name out there, and for people to read my work, I need to hold onto my skepticism and cynicism of media. I want to be precise about how I engage with people. Viral media is a bell you can’t unring. Precision takes time.

The Path to the Dark Side

Sigh …

Another week, another round of stories about reboots. Disney is planning to reboot TRON and Scarlett Johansson is starring in a reboot of Ghost in the Shell. Despite my hopeful words about reboots a few weeks ago, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that reboots and legasequels are still a thing. The ship of our genre doesn’t corner on a dime.

I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. Reboots. Why? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what rubs me the wrong way about the situation. Part of my personal recovery is about being mindful. If I like something, or dislike it, I try to understand what’s going on in the background. What am I really trying to say? How do I really feel? That exercise has led me to some conclusions, and some of them aren’t pretty.

All too often, the science fiction community acts in hypocritical ways, to their deficit. We’ll complain that ‘Hollywood running out of ideas’ on one day and line up to see the new Spiderman reboot on the next. I don’t mind if you’re hypocritical, let’s just be honest about it, okay? I don’t mind having an open dialogue about it. Clearly some people are okay with reboots. That’s okay. Some people can also be happy with an ‘official Thomas Kinkade reproduction’ in their home, too. I’m just not one of them.

Here’s the thing: Art means a lot to me, and therefore I have some pretty high standards. Science fiction is an art form and a form of creativity. Art and creativity are expressions of the human experience. In this endeavor, laziness will not do. I use MY art to to speak in MY voice and when I experience YOUR art, I want to hear what YOU are saying in YOUR voice. I don’t want to hear YOUR interpretation of what someone else said, I want to hear what YOU are saying.

Reboots are speaking in someone else’s voice. Reboots and legasequels are the tribute bands of sci-fi. Reboots may be great cash cows for movie studios, but they’re lazy in terms of creativity. Reboots are also a form of creative cheating. Reboots cheat your audience out of that a-ha moment when a new stories and characters resonate. You’re cheating yourself out of the opportunity to grow as an artist. You’re cheating new sci-fi out of the opportunity to find its place in the sun. Arguing for reboots is like telling me I should be spending my money on an Elvis impersonator when I can be out discovering new music.

Now look, I’ve heard the arguments in favor of reboots. Too often, the argument in favor of reboots boils down to ‘this is good because it’s popular and therefore it’s popular because it’s good.’ It’s cool if you want to use an argumentum ad populum, but that’s a logical fallacy. Some of us need more out of life.

History will not be kind to our era of reboots and legasequels, but all is not lost. It’s actually a simple fix. Sci-fi needs to take the advice of Dr. Ian Malcom: now is not the time to be preoccupied with thinking we could. Now is the time to consider whether we should. Reboots are the quick, easy path to money for the studios. They’re quicker, seductive ways to immerse yourself in classic stories without investing the time or effort. That path, as Yoda told us, leads to the Dark Side.

So yes, the fix is simple, but the choice will be hard. We – the sci-fi community that we are – only have so much time, energy and attention. We’re taking the stage in the drama about life, the universe and everything else. This is our moment in the spotlight. What will our story be?

Precision Takes Time

Some brief thoughts after finishing the first draft of ‘Victoria Crater.’ It took me MUCH longer than I expected to write this short story. I took breaks to re-focus my brain on telling the right story and use the right style. It’s harder than it looks. I asked myself over and over again, am I losing my mojo? Am I losing steam on writing? I think the answer is no, and here’s why.

I’m not sure if it’s a personal thing or not, but the words aren’t flowing like they used to. That might not be a bad thing. In the past words when flowed out like water from a broken faucet, I didn’t like what they said. I took Bruce Lee’s mantra about ‘being like water,’ to heart but I wasn’t cutting stone so much as I was making a mess on the kitchen floor.

Starting over again has renewed my appreciation for doing things the right way. So I’m focusing on the fundamentals. There’s no point in writing a hundred-thousand words no one will read. Writing Tweets helps me remember that much can be conveyed in a small space. Now I’m trying that discipline on the page.

Weight lifters have to focus on getting their form correct before adding weight. Writers do, too. There’s a certain level of precision involved, and it takes time and effort to master. I’d love to say that all of this comes as naturally as golf does to Tiger Woods, but the fact is that this is actual work. Calories are burned. So while I don’t want to be that guy who hangs out at Starbucks with his Mac Air in a turtleneck and calls himself a ‘writer,’ I want the work that I do to mean something.

So to sum up, this is a process. I’m not there yet, but I’m learning to love the ride.

 

Painting

As you can see, I updated the header for Inkican.com – I’m experimenting with some visuals to help feed my writing. From time to time, I’ll show you what I’m up to. For right now, please enjoy this free wallpaper.

Dear Sci-Fi: We Need to Talk – Part Two: The Purity Test

In the week since I posted Part One of this train of thought, I had a couple of conversations that reinforce what I’m saying about the sci-fi community messing itself up. One conversation took place on Reddit itself and the other took place with one of the friends I can – because of my disability – have a normal chat with. “What did you think of Rogue One?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said. “I liked it … but there were a lot of people who were disappointed. They felt like all it did was focus on the one plot point and then …”

“Oh man,” I shook my head. “There it is again, the purity test.”

“What purity test?” Continue reading

It’s About the Story, Stupid

I’m going to avoid adding onto the ‘Dear Sci-Fi: We Need to Talk’ discussion today. I don’t want to add to overall discord of the world, there are way too many scary things going on out there and we come to sci-fi to escape them.

That, in and of itself, may be *why* we argue so much about the state of science fiction. Sci-fi feels fixable, as opposed to the world outside, which looks more like a dystopian nightmare every day.

So although I’m working on something to say because I’m passionate about sci-fi being an open, inclusive world where ideas are free to flourish, I want to do something today to counteract the negative energy. I’m going to just sit here quietly, and be somebody that enjoys science fiction with you. It’s important to be comfortable sharing this space before we do anything else.

Ssh … it’s going to be okay.

 

Sci-Fi: Rebooting the Reboots

Sci-Fi: Rebooting the Reboots

Yes.

Yes, yes and *YES.*

Had to blog about this: read something very encouraging this morning from one of my favorite directors, J.J. Abrams. Like me, he’s tired of sci-fi reboots:

You know, I do think that if you’re telling a story that is not moving anything forward, not introducing anything that’s relevant, that’s not creating a new mythology or an extension of it, then a complete remake of something feels like a mistake.

On behalf of writers and geeks everywhere, let me extend a salute to Mr. Abrams. His as a filmmaker and storyteller have already won my admiration and respect, but now he’s going further. He’s continuing to pivot and innovate, even as he celebrates the reboots he’s already been a part of:

You know, I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten involved in things that I loved when I was a kid. In fact, even Westworld, which we’re here for tonight, is one of them. But I don’t feel any desire to do that again. I feel like I’ve done enough of that that I’m more excited about working on things that are original ideas that perhaps one day someone else will have to reboot.

In one deft move J.J. Abrams is giving himself, and us, permission to reboot the reboots. Bravo. It’s like, enough already. Like mango chutney, reboots are perfect in small doses. The problem is that they’ve gotten out of hand. Even Conan O’Brien openly mocks them:

This comes back to what I was saying earlier – the world is ready for original sci-fi. Yes, we were born to make, not take. But making reboots always felt like we were making by taking and that isn’t fair to the audience. Hopefully this represents a new direction in science fiction that writers like me can be a part of.

Dear Sci-Fi: We Need to Talk – Part One

As promised, a special comment about the direction of sci-fi and how it might avoid some of the community-killing habits experienced by other groups of people in 2016. No one argues that science fiction is a genre, a medium of art, that is built upon imagination. However, it has become apparent to me, and perhaps to you as well, that our genre has been overrun by bad habits that will ultimately lead to its own demise.

No community is too big to fail. I’m sure you can think of some recent examples where grass-roots organizations have suffered crises of identity as core beliefs were challenged and then obliterated. Science fiction is also a community, and while it has repelled bad actors in the past, there is no doubt about their intent. Some men, as Alfred reminded us in Dark Knight, just want to watch the world burn.

Each of us have the capacity to become the white blood cells of our ecosystem. We can work together to identify threats, neutralize them, and keep the body healthy. It’s hoped that this Open Letter – a document that I frequently find distasteful – will foster some conversation and perhaps some self-awareness within the sci-fi community. If I am wrong, then count me the first to say that I am happy to be wrong, for this is a community that I both love and want to be a part of for the rest of my life.  Continue reading