Submitted: Article for 2017 Comic-Con International Souvenir Book

Just finished writing an article for consideration in the upcoming Comic-Con souvenir book. I’m not attending, but I like being a part of it. This year, they’re celebrating one of my favorite cartoon series – Batman: The Animated Series. It took Batman: TAS for pop culture and Hollywood to realize that cartoons were a serious storytelling medium. It wasn’t enough for Scooby and the Gang to rip the mask off the villain by the end of the show. Batman: TAS showed us that when you rip the cover off, there’s still a world of pain and joyful anarchy underneath.

I love that show and it brought back a lot of happy memories to write “Dark Deco and Neo-Noir for Kids – Batman: The Animated Series at Twenty-Five.” I look forward with fingers crossed to see if it shows up in the Comic Con Souvenir Book – I’ll keep you posted! 😀

Wartime vs Peacetime Scifi

These are some comments about science fiction as a community and culture. If that isn’t your thing, feel free to ignore this post.

I caught a plane down to LA this week to see some friends from the old life. On my way back up, trying to ignore the incredibly loud lady behind me in 3E, I saw the guy next to me reading from Ben Horowitz’ book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. He has some incredible insight about the world business and CEOs. I’ve read it before, but this time, I focused on his discussion about a ‘wartime CEO’ vs a ‘peacetime CEO.’

Applying his logic, one can see a few underlying causes of the tension within the sci-fi community from the past few years. We largely operate under philosophies of a peacetime-type culture: we have protocol, we talk about consensus-building and we think about the big picture. No one is ‘leading’ the community because the community is both self-organized and self-regulated, but the similarities in culture are obvious.

This culture has made our community successful for over a hundred years. However, as Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel said, “success contains the seeds of its own destruction.” The lessons learned from other enterprises absolutely apply to the science fiction community, since both groups include the carbon-based life forms of our wacky little planet.

We experienced what it felt like to have those seeds exploited when we read Laura Mixon’s report on Benjanun Sriduangkaew. We experienced those seeds poking out the ground when we saw the likes of Vox Day and the Sad Puppies attempting to ‘burn the Hugos down.’ Cynicism and disdain for science fiction as both an art form and community became a toxic distraction to the past couple years of sci-fi. Life has moved on, thankfully, but I can’t help but wonder where the next outbreak of toxicity will come from. Why did these toxic actors (TA) succeed, though, if they were so bad for us? Let’s go back to the ‘Wartime CEO’ example, because the answer is there: Continue reading

State of the Art – 03/24/2017

I took a little bit of a beating from what I said about writing sci-fi dystopias, but I’m not worried. You can’t be an artist if you aren’t willing to take the hits. Then Matthew Kressel said something and it represents a bit of a mic-drop on the topic:

In that spirit, I’m probably going to write my own dystopian entry for the Boston Review and I’ll let you know how that goes. People liked Superhero Shrink on Imgur and that made me feel good. Interacting with people via social media is a challenge unto itself, but it’s also therapy for me. Currently working on a number of short stories, articles, and submission entries. Would you guys like to hear about those, too?

 

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?

New Short Story: The Superhero Shrink

I’ve been amused to see how sick people are getting of superhero stories:

It reminds me of the call that went out last year for short stories featuring superheroes. I sent in a submission but it didn’t make the cut. Rather than complain, I decided to release it as a free short for new readers and am happy to announce that The Superhero Shrink is now available to the Inkican Crew. Here’s a quick description:

Dr. Christopher has a very difficult, unique job. He’s a psychiatrist who works with superheroes. Some legendary warriors come with baggage and his job is to help ‘keep ’em flying.’ Half-serious, half-dark comedy, ‘The Superhero Shrink’ is “‘The Avengers’ Meets ‘Ordinary People,'” an honest look at the people behind the masks.

I’m also releasing it to Amazon on March 27th if you’ve got a Kindle. If you’re sick of the typical ‘superhero’ story, this might be your jam.

Looking Out the Window

On a personal note, experiencing some setbacks on therapy. Sometimes I think my epitaph is going to be ‘well, at least you tried.’ Depression and social anxiety are real issues – more than two hundred thousand cases are diagnosed in America every year. For some people, it’s manageable through therapy and medication and then for people like me, it can become the house you live in.

I try to have perspective about it. I was reading a story about a teacher with young boy for a student with brittle-bone disease. He was confined to a wheelchair and one day during recess, he told his teacher that ‘he just wanted to be a normal boy, to run and play like the other boys.‘ If that doesn’t break your heart, then you have no soul. So I’m not saying that my disorder is the worst thing in the world, I’m also not saying it’s nothing. One day I might be able to say that it’s behind me. Until then, I’m just trying to say ‘I have a condition, but my condition doesn’t have me.’

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.

O’Reilly Auto Parts Hid a BTTF Easter Egg in Their Catalog

Great Scott!

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?

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?