“Gimbal Lock” – What Went Wrong on Cloverfield Paradox

First and foremost: Quit whining. ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ wasn’t that bad. Wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t that bad, either. If you’re interested in a nerdly takedown of Netflix’s third part of the Cloverfield universe, you’re in the wrong place. Go to Youtube. If anything, Paradox should be discussed in terms of storytelling. It’s a story that achieves ‘gimbal lock.’ Let’s talk about what that means for the rest of us.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a huge fan of Paradox. I sat through the third act feeling like I was grinding loot in a video game. You don’t wanna walk away, you’ve lost a ton of time already, but you aren’t having fun. Watching scifi movies is supposed to be a fun activity, and I wasn’t having fun with Cloverfield Paradox. What went wrong with a movie that was supposed to have everything going right?

I thought a lot about the answer, and it eventually came to me as the good guys save the day: Cloverfield Paradox pushed me through so many twists and turns that I went into gimbal lock. Just like an airplane, or a space craft, stories can experience gimbal lock – their basic premises can get stuck. Then your story, like your space craft, will lose its sense of direction.

I waited a long time to watch Paradox. After all that hate, I didn’t want to see it. Loved Cloverfield, loved 10 Cloverfield Lane … I didn’t want to be disappointed. Finally, one rainy afternoon I fired it up. ‘Fine,’ I told myself. ‘Let’s see what all the hate is about.’ I found myself sucked in after the first ten minutes, and that interest kept me grinding forward until the credits rolled many millenia later.

It felt like that, anyway.

Paradox threw so many plot and tone shifts at you, on top of the idea that you’re in the middle of a complex topic: quantum multiverse travel. Is this about time travel? Is this about the characters I really couldn’t connect with? My lizard brain kept trying to make sense of what I was making sense of and eventually it shut down. As much as I love a complex scifi film about time travel (Primer, anyone?), I couldn’t keep up with Paradox. I think it had wonderful aspirations, but it couldn’t overcome its overbalanced center of story gravity. Requiescat in Pace

That’s not to say the movie was bad. I loved the ideas, loved the execution. If you want to see a movie that features a self-aware disembodied arm, this is your show. The main thing for storytellers is, avoid the ‘story gimbal lock’ you saw in Cloverfield Paradox. It’ll kill a great premise, it’ll kill a great movie. Don’t let this happen to you.

Cloverfield Paradox might enjoy some success if they re-release it with a different edit. Some of those story elements simply did not belong; most of the third act scenes felt like they were tacked on just to give the characters a reason to be in the movie. All in all though, Paradox does what a good scifi movie should: It takes some ideas out of the box, plays with them for a couple of hours, and then puts them away again.

This was me, when they told me I couldn’t leave the theater.

Not only that, Paradox is an interesting model for future scifi projects by Netflix. As you can read in the Wikipedia article, ‘the film was based on God Particle, a spec script from Oren Uziel.’ J.J. Abrams decided to re-work the script, like he did with 10 Cloverfield Lane, to line the franchise together. That’s brilliant for several reasons. Number one, it gives Cloverfield fans more of the universe to explore. Number two, it gives a scifi script that would have otherwise died in development hell a chance to live and breathe. Number three, it’s another stick in the eye of anyone who says Hollywood hates scifi. Hollywood loves scifi, it just doesn’t like losing money.

To sum up – Cloverfield Paradox is an okay scifi movie. For us, the storytellers, we want to avoid the gimbal lock that prevented it from being a great scifi movie. Keep that in mind as you write, and you’ll never go wrong.

New Scifi Short Story – Foreverest

I’m pleased to release Foreverest to Amazon and other ebook outlets – it’s a scifi noir story and you’re going to love it:

“When a middle-aged housewife wins $600 Million in the Lottery, everything in life seems possible. Her ‘new wealth counselor,’ is there to indulge her darkest desires. Arranging a murder isn’t a crime, it’s a unique value proposition.”

Buy Foreverest on Amazon

Buy Foreverest via Draft2Digital

More details later – thanks for supporting Inkican!

Advice on Publishing from Published Authors

If you want to be successful, the saying goes, study successful people. Not that I go around creeping on authors or anything, but when one of them starts talking shop, I want to shut up and listen. That’s why I was quiet when I saw two bits of advice on publishing from published authors that popped up on Reddit this week.

First up, some real talk by Michael J. Sullivan on which is better – published, or self-published, and why. Everybody is chasing a book deal – including me – but is it the right move? He makes a compelling article either way, and the ensuing discussion is rather helpful, too:

Should I Self-Publish, or Be Published?

Next, grab a cup of coffee and read this discussion. Janny Wurts breaks down book sales and how selling too fast is actually a bad thing for authors. The counter-intuitive world of book printing and sales comes alive in:

How Selling Too Fast Can Hurt Your Book

Woo – failure comes in many colors, including success!

Sorry, too much coffee today. The point is, that I try to capture interesting pieces of information that cover my chosen vocation. I pass them along because, hey, someone was kind enough to do the same for me. Pay it forward, and stuff.

And if you’re looking for other ‘success habits,’ you can also study this article by Inc.com. I found some useful insights in there.

Tokamak – My Stories Are Coming to Life

This is pretty cool – I talked about tokamak fusion reactors in ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater.’ It turns out now that scientists have taken a step forward in making ‘stars in a jar.’ Here’s more:

“A tokamak (Russian: Токамáк) is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine a hot plasma in the shape of a torus. The tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power. As of 2016, it is the leading candidate for a practical fusion reactor.” – from Wikipedia

Looking at a tokamak, you can make the connection to Iron Man’s ‘arc reactor.’ The cool thing about this is, we might be able to see one of these come to life in the next few years. I’m glad I got a chance to talk about this idea in TBoVC before I read about it in the paper. Always cool to see your ideas coming to life. 🙂

The Future Shouldn’t Suck

The Future Shouldn't Suck

No, no … I said future *suck*

I found this article on Techcrunch to be interesting. The suggestion that technology has become a ‘dark forest’ is nothing new. We’ve been discussing the potential dangers of technology since we first met a guy named Doctor Frankenstein. The problem is that the article, like most everyone else, keeps ignoring the elephant in the room. If you don’t want technology to be a ‘dark forest,’ then start flashing some light in there. Remember that the future shouldn’t suck. Remember that the future is whatever you make of it, and then make it a good one.

Don’t ask me why futurology discussions continue to discuss life, the universe, and everything like they’re academic. We live here, people. We used to be the kids who said “wait until I grow up. I’ll show you!”

Well, folks. We’re here now. It’s up to us.The main thrust of the article is, that human society mistrusts new technology and disruptive business models. As well they should. I mean, duh. After fifty years of predatory capitalism, show me one major disruption where a tiny group people got rich at the cost of a lot of others. As we move on in the timestream, those disruptions get more and more sociopathic. Even Elon Musk gets some shrapnel, since he’s building this Brave New World while horror stories leak out from his current and former workers.

The point is that we’re the ones in charge … perhaps not as a whole, but at least of ourselves. Our priorities – and people prioritize what they want to – show what kind of future we want to have.

As for me, I’m want to build a future that I can be proud of. I hope you are, too.