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?

Precision Takes Time

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.

 

Painting

As you can see, I updated the header for Inkican.com – I’m experimenting with some visuals to help feed my writing. From time to time, I’ll show you what I’m up to. For right now, please enjoy this free wallpaper.

Please Make Your Own Universe

Ugh, no … please don’t.

Just heard about this new fanfilm of ‘Blade Runner,’ and I have to say that I’m not thrilled. Then I started reading about how production of ‘Axanar’, the Star Trek fan film is also moving forward. I know I’m just one voice, but I want to take this opportunity to say to anyone out there in the sci-fi community: please don’t be a part of this.

The Verge may be drooling and Reddit might be upvoting this, but seriously: it’s a horrible idea. Ironically, Blade Runner itself is one of the reasons why. Continue reading

Dear Sci-Fi: We Need to Talk – Part Two: The Purity Test

In the week since I posted Part One of this train of thought, I had a couple of conversations that reinforce what I’m saying about the sci-fi community messing itself up. One conversation took place on Reddit itself and the other took place with one of the friends I can – because of my disability – have a normal chat with. “What did you think of Rogue One?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said. “I liked it … but there were a lot of people who were disappointed. They felt like all it did was focus on the one plot point and then …”

“Oh man,” I shook my head. “There it is again, the purity test.”

“What purity test?” Continue reading

It’s About the Story, Stupid

I’m going to avoid adding onto the ‘Dear Sci-Fi: We Need to Talk’ discussion today. I don’t want to add to overall discord of the world, there are way too many scary things going on out there and we come to sci-fi to escape them.

That, in and of itself, may be *why* we argue so much about the state of science fiction. Sci-fi feels fixable, as opposed to the world outside, which looks more like a dystopian nightmare every day.

So although I’m working on something to say because I’m passionate about sci-fi being an open, inclusive world where ideas are free to flourish, I want to do something today to counteract the negative energy. I’m going to just sit here quietly, and be somebody that enjoys science fiction with you. It’s important to be comfortable sharing this space before we do anything else.

Ssh … it’s going to be okay.

 

Sci-Fi: Rebooting the Reboots

Sci-Fi: Rebooting the Reboots

Yes.

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:

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.

Dear Sci-Fi: We Need to Talk – Part One

As promised, a special comment about the direction of sci-fi and how it might avoid some of the community-killing habits experienced by other groups of people in 2016. No one argues that science fiction is a genre, a medium of art, that is built upon imagination. However, it has become apparent to me, and perhaps to you as well, that our genre has been overrun by bad habits that will ultimately lead to its own demise.

No community is too big to fail. I’m sure you can think of some recent examples where grass-roots organizations have suffered crises of identity as core beliefs were challenged and then obliterated. Science fiction is also a community, and while it has repelled bad actors in the past, there is no doubt about their intent. Some men, as Alfred reminded us in Dark Knight, just want to watch the world burn.

Each of us have the capacity to become the white blood cells of our ecosystem. We can work together to identify threats, neutralize them, and keep the body healthy. It’s hoped that this Open Letter – a document that I frequently find distasteful – will foster some conversation and perhaps some self-awareness within the sci-fi community. If I am wrong, then count me the first to say that I am happy to be wrong, for this is a community that I both love and want to be a part of for the rest of my life.  Continue reading

Rogue One: Now *That* Was a Star Wars Movie

So briefly, before I get into this topic, let me say this: If you think Rogue One was bad, then you are wrong.

I’m no Lucas apologist, but that movie was awesome. It had everything going for it that Episode One *should* have had. No references to THX 1138, no Wilhelm scream’s, no throwbacks to old lines, just focused on making it a well-told, autonomous story. They broke with the conventions of the other Star Wars stories to create a movie that took its place by the side of the original trilogy. Bravo.

If you need more validation on why Rogue One was amazing, you can check out this Reddit thread. Inevitably, some will find fault with different aspects of the movie but that’s to be expected. In fact, that’s why I’m writing this blog post – it’s time to draw a line in the sand between the people who love science fiction and the creeps who use science fiction as a purity ritual.

I won’t get into all of it now, but it’s something to think about. Sci-fi has this weird orthodoxy attached to it, where a sci-fi movie isn’t a SCI-FI MOVIE unless it conforms to some byzantine equation that only exists in the mind of the angriest geeks. It’s killing sci-fi, it’s why Hollywood yawns, smiles tolerantly at us and ignores us until it’s time for us to open our wallets.

 

 

 

The JK Rowling School of ‘How to be Famous.’

The JK Rowling School of 'How to be Famous.'I’m going to make you a promise right now: If I become a successful author, it’s because I’m a successful author. Nothing else. There are so many other things in life that are important, far beyond what they’re saying we should care about.

If nothing else good comes for 2016, maybe it’ll go down as the year when we finally learned to stop paying attention to what does not matter. Each of us has experienced a personal loss, whether it’s some famous person we cared about, or someone we knew personally. Maybe it made us pull back for a moment and ask ourselves: do we really need to hear what Susan ‘Cindy Brady’ Olsen thinks about politics?  Do we really care what Barbara Walters thinks about ‘the legacy of The View?’ The last thing I want to become is another semi-famous person who thinks you’re entitled to my opinion.

The landscape of famous people has become so toxic that even Steve Martin can’t try to say something nice about Carrie Fisher without drawing a backlash. It’s a twisted world that defies even A-listers to navigate … what hope could I have?

Then there’s JK Rowling.

Now, I’m not a fan of the Harry Potter books, but I am refreshed to see one thing: JK Rowling keeps her opinions out of the press. Quick google searches show that she has some personal opinions, but no one is inviting her onto CNN or MSNBC to discuss the topic du jour. I can respect that. In fact, I’m reminded of Cary Grant’s famous line: “I’m opposed to actors taking sides in public and spouting spontaneously about love, religion or politics. We aren’t experts on these subjects.”

Gant and Rowling have the right idea: we’re in the business of bleeding onto the screen or page. Fame doesn’t mean that we know any more than anyone else. Navigating these waters still fills me with dread. I’m glad to see others share my opinion of focusing on what matters.