Someone posted a link to this hilarious easter egg on Reddit. O’Reilly has a functioning Flux Capacitor on their online store catalog. You can’t buy it, it’s permanently unavailable, so I suspect that it may simply be in there for QA testing (darn you, nerds!). It’s funny all the same. Does this mean we’ll soon see parts for KITT, the General Lee and Mad Max?
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?
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.
DONE, DONE AND DONE.
It’s taken four months of grinding, but I’m happy to say that the first draft of ‘Victoria Crater’ is complete. Under normal circumstances, it shouldn’t take four months to write thirteen-thousand words, but VC was an experiment for me. I had to develop a whole new writing style to bring together new elements of storytelling. The process is kind of like reverse-engineering a Jackson Pollack to understand how you should mix paint.
For my part, I’m happy but exhausted – this was a lot more work than I thought it’d be! The fact is, I’m glad I did it. It was hard, it was a challenge, and I did it. Being able to say that makes me feel good.
Would you like to test-drive Victoria Crater? Go visit the thread on Reddit to learn how you can get a beta copy.
I’ve been a fan of Edward R. Murrow, ever since I saw ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ twelve years ago. Amazing movie, great cast, gripping tension. What’s always made it stand out as a historical drama is the fact that its director (George Clooney) more or less told the story as it actually happened.
I mention this, because Murrow is famous for saying “television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live … surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally.”
Murrow was more right than he ever knew. The world of 2017 is beginning to wake up to the reality he warned against. Humanity’s decadence, escapism and insulation from reality are starting to result in very real consequences we cannot escape. I just finished watching ‘White Helmets’ on Netflix yesterday. If you haven’t watched it yet, go watch it. Then you’ll understand why I say that the Western world has no business writing dystopian or post-apocalyptic science fiction anymore.
You might wonder why a guy with a diagnosed anxiety disorder chooses to watch such things but it’s really quite simple. The answer comes in yet-another Murrow quote: ‘in learning how others have faced their problems — this has given me fresh ideas about how to tackle mine.’ I learn something from every documentary I watch and yesterday, I learned something else.
Here’s the deal: we don’t have the market cornered on what the end of the world looks like anymore. Maybe we never did. The fact is, there are people who are living that nightmare every single day and none of them are as photogenic as Jennifer Lawrence. What a sick joke it must be for them to realize that we spend time watching actors pretending to survive while they struggle to survive every hour of every day.
Where dystopian stories fail is quite simple. They put protagonists in the center of the horror of their human society that all change rests upon. Plucky hero overcomes all odds to change the system. Maybe she even meets a cute boy or two! The stories have become stale cliches; Twitter lampoons them mercilessly and they deserve it.
Meanwhile, kids in Aleppo know better. The horror of human society that is visited upon them has nothing to do with them. They’re just the unlucky souls that bear the burden of being caught in the crossfire. The battle is being fought hundreds of miles away, by other men in other countries. The bombs that kill them come from men they will never see. They have no power to escape, or change the system. They can’t defeat the bombs with a compound bow. Those kids are made to suffer, and they do.
Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t think I have a right to ignore that. I don’t think it’s appropriate to write post-apocalyptic stories when other people are living it. Where dystopian fiction originally warned people of what could happen if certain authoritarian measures grew out of control, now it distracts us from the apocalyptic scenes happening all around the world.
It would be a disservice to those people, those suffers, if we continue to ignore them. It would also be a disservice to the the better men we descend from, and to ourselves not to recognize who we are, what we are and what we can be. Just as Robert Zemeckis was self-aware enough to realize that nobody wanted to see Forrest Gump 2 after 9/11, we ought to be introspective enough to realize that dystopian sci-fi ‘just isn’t relevant anymore … the world has changed.’
I’m not advocating that we stop writing stories. In fact, we should write more stories and we should write them for those people. If anyone deserves a story that can be escaped into, it’s them. We can be the persons who make those worlds they can escape into. We can make worlds that welcome them. We can make worlds that let them know that someone from the other side of the void hears them, knows them and cares about them.
I can’t solve the problem, but I can imagine a day when it’s behind us. Hopefully I can help you imagine it, too.
I’ve been remiss in posting here because I like to wait for the right spark to strike before I start slamming away at the keys. In general, I like to have something to say before I blog, and current events have trumped overall sci-fi discussions. I’m keeping busy; still tinkering away at the Battle of Victoria Crater, turning a stale story concept into something fresh for myself and for you, the reader.
Other than what I read in the papers, I paid no attention to the Oscars. La La Land won Best Picture, right? Yes it did … for one brief moment. Then life went on and the Oscars was exposed for being yet another institution full of imperfect humans and all the frailty that this implies. If something like this ever happens to me, I hope I can be as classy as Ryan Gosling:
— AP Images (@AP_Images) February 27, 2017
Gosling’s reaction got me to thinking. Not about movies, but about the journey each creator or creative person faces. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we recognize that we’re all innovators and entrepreneurs in our own right. Ignoring the people who innovate by declaration (‘I posted an article about Richard Branson on Linkedin, I’m an entrepreneur!’), we know the nuts and bolts of really going out there and doing it. It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable; true innovation means facing risk and defeat on a daily basis.
It’s important to say this, not just for myself but for anyone else considering the journey. Everyone is going to have their Gosling moment. Everyone is going to reach that mountain top only to find out that the victory wasn’t theirs to have. Who are we going to be when that happens? Are we going to accept our fortunes with quiet dignity or are we going to melt down, scream and demand to see the manager? No one really knows the answer until they’re at that moment.
Ryan Gosling got it right. May we be as tough, classy and professional to do the same when it’s our turn.
Two rejection notices for short stories. Submitting them elsewhere and refusing to give up!
Rejection never feels good, but if you’re a creative person, you have to learn to live with it. I remember an interview with Jerry Seinfeld in which he described the process of writing comedy every day. Someone asked if it was easy for him and he said, no … sometimes it was torture. But, Seinfeld continues, in life you have to find the torture you can live with.
That’s where I am. It’s torture, but I can live with it.
Late winter in Eugene is always a tough time of year. Introverts love it, though. As dark, wet and cold as it is out there, I have a perfect reason to stay inside. On with life stuff and writing. I’m getting good feedback about ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater,’ and I’m hoping to submit it shortly. I also started sending query letters out to book agents for ‘Mesh’ and I’ll keep you posted on how that is going. Meanwhile …
- I posted stuff to Instagram
- I talked to people on Twitter
- I talked to people on Reddit
- I said a bunch of stuff people liked on Imgur
I was talking to a sick friend about chicken soup and his comment was:
‘East Coast chicken soup > West Coast chicken soup.’
I couldn’t let that slide, and inquired politely how many squirrels and raccoons he used in his Southern Chicken Soup. Before we devolved into the Nerd Blue Collar Comedy Tour, I offered him my Oregon Chicken Soup recipe. He loved it, and I’m passing it along for anyone else who wants to cook like a real Oregonian:
Oregon Chicken Soup
- Bake chicken in pans at 350 degrees F for 20 min or until cooked
- Attend yoga class; achieve downward dog position while growing man bun Continue reading