Well, there you have it: two different movies in the theaters that show the full range of science fiction in all it’s glory.
I won’t spoil either movie for you, but I’ll say this much. If you want to learn how different science fiction can be from itself, you need look no further than the movie theater right now. The Arrival and Doctor Strange show how you can combine elements of the Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy genres to make a basic three-act story or a thoughtful, moving tale that asks ‘if you had it to do all over again, would you?’
I’m happy, because it means we get to experience the full spectrum of sci-fi again. We’ve needed that for a very long while.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against the Marvel Comic Universe. It’s just that, well let me put it this way: I love pizza … But I don’t want pizza every day. I love blues music, but after a while I need something in my life besides Stevie Ray Vaughn. ‘Variety may be the spice of life, but don’t look for it in the movie theater,’ we’ve been told over and over again.
It took directors like Christopher Nolan making movies like ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ to smash through the conventional wisdom that hard sci-fi didn’t appeal to mass audiences anymore. Now we’re seeing more and more science fiction … real science fiction … coming at us and to that I say “Bravo!”
Now, as much as I love real science fiction, I want to add some caveats:
- Stories are designed to be enjoyed, not categorized
- Not every hero has an ‘origin story.’
- Sci-fi doesn’t have to follow the typical three-act story arc
I’m going to talk more about those thoughts later on but wanted to get this thought pushed out to make room for everything else I’m thinking about. Happy Monday, go make something awesome.
I see you.
The nerd. The geek. The forgotten. The ignored.
You were different, you knew that, but it wasn’t supposed to matter. Chubby cheeks, frizzy hair, funny glasses and ratty sneakers. A nose that goes on for days.You were last to be picked at kickball but the first to get picked on. Who decided that, you asked. No one could tell you why. You wanted to play with them, but you didn’t know how. Nobody had a crush on you in school. You danced to a different drum, but no one would ever join in.
It wasn’t just the kids – the adults were in on the game, too. Silent, cruel legions of moms with warm smiles and cold, calculating eyes. Their children were to be pushed forward while you were held back. Nothing personal, kid, their eyes said, you can get ahead, just as long as you aren’t ahead of me. You saw it happening, but you didn’t know why. You had learn to be strong, to stand up for yourself, on your own.
I saw you when you woke up that morning. You were what, twelve? Fourteen? You knew you were different. The aching beauty of blossoming youth … what was that? Your body wasn’t made for designer clothes. Your budget wasn’t made for expensive shoes. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram filled up with pictures of your peer’s amazing adventures. Parties, ball games and concerts. First dates and camping trips … bittersweet events that will eventually make up the nostalgia of childhood are not to be yours. The adventures and romantic experiences in coming-of-age movies were interesting, academic ideas … but you never knew them for yourself. … someone was having the time of their life, but it wasn’t you.
I don’t know about you but I love those ‘For Dummies’ books. They make so many complex topics accessible and they do it in a non-judgemental format. In fact, I remember buying the first book Dan Gookin wrote, “DOS for Dummies” and picking up other ‘For Dummies’ books as time went on. I know I’m not the only one who likes the ‘For Dummies’ books – they’ve got 2700 titles and they’ve sold 200 million books.
The one thing that got me thinking was the ‘A Reference for the Rest of Us’ tagline. I think this might be significant to the evolution of science fiction. As it stands, science fiction is rigidly stratified, filled with class warfare and there are many cringe-worthy examples of ‘teachable moments’ on all sides. I’m not here to point at the problem, I’m here to talk about a solution. Here goes:
My life is something of a science project, and I think I’ve stumbled onto something. Let me start out by expressing this in appropriate nerd language:
Question: How do you maintain creativity over time?
Background: Many writer friends talk about ways to avoid or recover from burn-out. It seems like you can’t do one kind of creativity forever, you need to switch it up from time to time to remain fresh. How do you do that?
Hypothesis: I think the three-field system of crop rotation can also be used for human creativity
Test With an Experiment: This is where it gets tricky … Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about publishing some sort of snarky rant about the state of the sci-fi community. It’s well-known that we’ve got some growing-up to do, but I don’t think of myself as The Sheriff of Sci-Fi. So rather than laying claim to any position of power, I think it’s fair to say that my job is to apply Ghandi’s famous quote to how I want to interact with the sci-fi community:
“You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.”
There’s a logical fallacy taking place in the world today, which assumes that the only opinions worth listening to are the ones you’re willing to fight for. While I’ll grant you that there is such a thing as righteous conflict, it happens much more rarely than people realize.
It’s also been my experience that the scifi community has a nasty habit of getting distracted from the business at hand. I remember reading the tweets of a recent con and their business meeting … they’re literally bringing together geeks, nerds and auteurs to debate what ‘North America’ means. I kid you not: Continue reading
… William Gibson tweeted at me:
I need to go re-contemplate my life now.
Okay, I don’t want to gush but I do love Stranger Things. There, I said it.
At first, I didn’t want to talk about the show. I felt it would push me into the ‘buying instead of being’ aspect of geek that I want to avoid with Geekquinox. That said, I saw Gaten Matarazzo talk about living with cleidocranial dysplasia and I had to speak up. Gaten’s revelation and the show itself revealed a core aspect of science fiction to me. Here it is:
In science fiction, there are no weaknesses … there are only strengths you haven’t discovered.
I’m scared to talk about this. But I need to talk about this. Here goes.
One of the things I want to do with my science fiction is avoid doing what everyone else is doing. That makes sense, right? I can’t call myself creative unless I’m pushing into new territory. The question is, what territory? Where does creativity stop and thoughtfulness begin? These are all the questions I’m thinking about as I work on a new short story.
‘Body Issues’ is a short about a teenage girl and the new social issues coming our way. I don’t want to give away the plot, but the main character is a girl and she’ll be non-white, too. For those of you saying, “So what?” let me say this: Thank you. I think this should be a no-brainer, myself. Given the current landscape of humanity, I’m afraid of negative repercussions. I don’t think it’s right to let that stop me.
I saw that and thought ‘bingo.’ So the times I post about geeky topics, that’s the perspective I’m coming from. Yes, there are other ‘geekquinoxes’ out there and I celebrate them all. If the name of this category becomes too much of a distraction, we’ll find a better name to use.
Raise a glass, lads.
We lost two of our own in the past seven days. I was saddened to hear of the loss of two of our elder geeks. You won’t see trending #RIP hashtags on Twitter for them. They won’t make the Oscar’s ‘In Memoriam’ reel either. Yet, their contribution to science fiction is both significant and enduring. These two geeks’ names are unknown except to a precious few, but their achievement is immortal. Like Steve Jobs said, they put a dent in the universe.
To me, it’s infuriating that two celebrities and their personal lives dominate the public consciousness. It shouldn’t be that way. Perhaps things can change. Let’s bypass that debate. Instead, let’s simply remember our friends for the amazing people they were. C. Martin Croker and David Kyle changed the way you see science fiction. Let’s take a moment to examine why that is:
C. Martin Croker
You didn’t know him but you loved him. Clay Martin Croker was both an animator and a voice actor. You enjoyed his work on the seminal Space Ghost show … he was the voice of Zorak and Moltar. It didn’t stop there: Croker was also an animator for the show. That made him a bit of a unicorn: animators rarely do voice work. Continue reading