Another wallpaper for you … experimenting with different processes to achieve photorealistic sci-fi
Along with everyone else, I read the Facebook clickbait (I know, shame on me) about Fox being willing to ‘reboot Firefly.’ As the article indicates, Fox would consider rebooting Firefly “if Joss Whedon himself wanted to revisit it.” Then they admit that they are in fact yanking our chain by saying: “Madden suspects Whedon is now too busy with movies, and he would not consider doing Firefly without Whedon.”
So there you have it. This is the sci-fi equivalent of Lucy going “come and kick the ball, Charlie Brown.” For all kinds of personal and professional reasons, I feel comfortable in saying that a reboot of Firefly will not happen. Not that I should have to revisit this same territory. God knows, we’ve raked over this endlessly since the show ended fourteen years ago. But let’s go over it again. Hey, it’s Friday. Continue reading
I know I said dystopia is no longer relevant, but I saw this Reddit comment and it jibes with an element of my upcoming short, ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater.’
We’ve become conditioned to the idea that we NEED to have jobs. Not just to feel useful, but in the sense that if we don’t have jobs we won’t be able to survive, and if you can’t survive it’s your fault … Instead of not having to work being the future we’d all dreamed of, not being able to work means we’re going to starve in the streets.
All sci-fi stories have some kind of ‘what-if’ premise baked into them. Victoria Crater’s premise is: What if this happened on Mars, out of reach of earthbound nations?
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:
Every generation just wants their kids to have a better “Spiderman” reboot than they did.
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) April 15, 2016
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.
Here’s the highest praise I can give Passengers: I started the movie in a really bad mood, I finished the movie in a really great mood. The best films take you to another place for a while. Passengers does this neatly, with elegance and charm. Make no mistake, this is a love-letter to authentic science fiction masquerading as a big-budget star vehicle.
So as promised, here’s my review of the movie. I’m fascinating by the craft of both storytelling and science fiction. I don’t mind celebrating when somebody does it well. Passengers has enough going for it that both mainstream audiences and hardcore scifi nerds will find things to love. The scifi orthodoxy may find fault with the lightly-handled technology questions, everyone else will settle in to enjoy the ride. Jon Spaihts, straight off his success as the writer of Prometheus and Doctor Strange, knocks it out of the park by taking an otherwise tired ‘what if you were the only human alive’ trope and using the natural charm of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence to breathe fresh new life into the concept.
That’s one thing that Passengers does well: blending concept with character, ideas with action. Chris Pratt pulls a great turn in the first act, playing the outer space version of Tom Hanks in Castaway. Then, with the help of amiable android bartender, Michael Sheen, he dives headlong into several’what-if’ survival scenarios you pray never happen to you. Jennifer Lawrence enters the picture, and then we’re hooked until the very last frame.
The chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence approaches Bogey / Bacall levels of critical mass. Even as they muster the courage to save the day, both characters wrestle with the baggage of impossible choices and unforgivable sins. Morten Tyldum uses the talent he displayed in ‘The Imitation Game‘ to pull tremendous amounts of gravitas from Pratt and Lawrence. Everyone is completely invested in their roles and comfortable in the skin of the story.
Passengers is chock-full of stunning galaxy-sweeping visuals that line up neatly with quirky, human moments. I loved Laurence Fishburne‘s character. He arrives later in the film to provide necessary plot development and conflict resolution as we go into the third act. He deftly judges and forgives character’s mistakes as neatly as a surgeon performing open-heart surgery. We’re so invested that we forget that it’s really our heart being played with. Passengers is reaching in to remind us that we matter. Science fiction has been treating its audience like a walking cash register for too long. Passengers is telling us that we matter, both as the audience and as human beings.
Fishburne and Sheen supply the emotional core of the movie, driving the ‘To err is human, to forgive, divine’ message home with everything except a jackhammer. The quiet genius of Passengers comes through how it takes otherwise disposable roles and makes them indispensable. Those characters give Lawrence and Pratt – and us – a chance to view the universe we’re trapped in through wiser eyes. By the time the credits roll, we’re thoroughly pleased and entertained.
Passengers is a rare treat in the modern landscape of science fiction. It’s a one-off, a non-franchise, a movie that takes interesting concepts out to play for a few hours and then puts then back in the box in better condition than they were found in. We haven’t seen movies like this in a while, but in a world where the outside world is looking more and more like a sci-fi dystopia, it’s a welcome tonic. People need the ability to escape from the bad scaries creeping across our TV screens, and Passengers does this for us. In closing, go see it; it does not disappoint. Passengers may not be the best sci-fi film you’ve ever seen, but it’s a perfect movie.
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.
Remember what I said about building audiences for fun and profit? How about that part where I said ‘use your powers for good?’ Now it’s time to put that into practice. I just finished watching this video and it’s an amazing explanation of neurolinguistic programming, emotions and how videos become viral. Understanding how people think is the first step toward ensuring that you engage with them correctly when building your audience.
Recent current events highlight the truth that many people will use this information to manipulate others and harm them. That must never be your goal. Remember, kids, when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you. Happy audience building.
Continuing this discussion about building audiences. All artists are entrepreneurs, and all entrepreneurs are artists. Real artists ship. The game of professional creativity was never for the faint of heart. This blog series is simply about accepting the art and process of building an audience. It’s just as necessary to authors as a copy of The Elements of Style. You’ll never be in a place where you can afford to only listen to your inner creative voice. Audience building is integral to the Author Trip, full stop.
So let’s continue that discussion. Keep in mind, though, that it takes much persistent and gentle attention to build an audience. You need to understand the mechanics, but you’ll still need to apply them and everyone does this in their own way. Just like our matchstick Minas Tirith, you’ll be working at the micro level while being painfully aware of the macro. You’ll push through the ambiguity and doubt with a blind faith that your effort will lead you somewhere. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should we believe in you? Let’s now consider some more ideas about audience building: Continue reading
I watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy about once a year. As a fantasy series, there’s a lot to recommend. One thing I enjoy about the films are the sweeping, epic visuals of cities like Minas Tirith. Like me, you probably saw the matchstick sculpture of Minas Tirith that I use throughout this post. To me, it’s the perfect metaphor for the process of building a sci-fi audience. As with this matchstick sculpture, you’ll find that audience building is a slow, painstaking process made out of many small pieces.
Now, before you write me off because I have less than 200 followers on Twitter, let me establish a few things: I’ve built audiences before. Before I pivoted and started the business of telling scifi stories, I had a side business in social media marketing. SEO, blogging, inbound marketing, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … you name it, I’ve done it all. I’ve had Twitter audiences in the thousands … I’d love to tell you more but am forbidden by the NDAs that I signed. 😉
So when I started InkICan, I wanted to make sure I did the job right. No paying for clicks, no buying fake followers … I’ve watched people go this route and I’ve also watched them crash and burn. I’m an author and an entrepreneur. I’m trafficking in dreams, emotions, hopes and fears. This is too important to me. I’d rather take my time and get the job right. I apologize in advance to any of the bubbles I may be bursting with this breakdown. Please keep in mind that I have zero skin in the game, it doesn’t matter to me if you sell your book or not.
What follows are some lessons learned about the process of building that audience. It’s not a step one-step two-type process, it’s more of a state of mind. Believe me, there are plenty of “How to Build an Audience” blog posts out there that do just that. This isn’t one of them. One thing I want to stay very far away from is the formulaic ‘Do this to get 10,000 followers’ posts you often see on author blogs. Anybody can get 10K followers on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t believe me? Google ‘Buy Fake Followers’ and follow the instructions. All you need is a valid credit card. After you spend the money, you’ll quickly understand the truth: bots don’t equal audience. Let’s now cover a few basic ideas so that you can start building your own ‘matchstick castle.’ Continue reading
Ran across this on Reddit and wanted to share. Every author faces potential backlash when they discuss controversial subjects and rarely do you find an authentic story that does not have some sort of controversy. I’m not planning to play Mafia III, but I do plan on using this as a template to handle any potentially wounded sensibilities. I’m passing it along because you, as a writer, might find it useful, too.
P.S. – It turns out Warner Brothers did something similar with Tom & Jerry.