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Archive for September, 2013

As a fan of Stargate from its beginning (it was the reason we got Showtime, all those years ago), I was interested in this article about how they could continue the franchise. Then I saw this quote:

“The fact that the last Stargate episode aired only two years ago suggests the fans are still out there and, if a movie or series is produced sooner than later, one could count on their support – in addition to the potential support of new viewers. Strike while the iron is hot! Then again, the ratings for SGUs final season could suggest viewer fatigue and maybe waiting is advisable.”

“Viewer fatigue”? Like the “franchise fatigue” the Star Trek people keep complaining about? What is this “fatigue” we’re all supposed to be suffering from? It can’t be an ennui brought on by sameness, or episodic television would have died in the 1970s. Besides, James Bond is on his, what, 25th movie? I don’t see any “franchise fatigue” weighing down Daniel Craig, do you?

How about, Hollywood, you call it the way the rest of us all see it–lousy writing. Face it, Stargate: Universe was dull, bland, and peopled with thin, unappealing characters. You can get away with cardboard characters, but something has to happen–see, for example, any Dan Brown novel–and in SGU, nothing ever did. The same goes for Star Trek. When we were watching the Next Generation or DS9, there was no “viewer fatigue.” But Voyager never really took off, and Enterprise was cut off at the knees, not by an audience too tired to sit in front of the tube, but by inept storytelling. No one watched because they didn’t want to, not because they were too exhausted to do anything but lie in bed and read a book.

I know taking responsibility is unfashionable, but blaming the viewers for your bad ratings is like the local team blaming its lack of scoring on fans who leave in the seventh inning. We pay you to entertain us, and if you don’t, we’ll get tired, all right, tired of you.

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For those who are not of that particular persuasion, allow me to start off by explaining that the Worldcon is the World Science Fiction Convention, held each year around the end of summer in various cities across the globe. This year’s Worldcon was in San Antonio, Texas, a lovely town with far too many resemblences to an Amazon rain forest for my comfort. (To wit, heat and humidity at nearly the same numbers. I saw no pirahna nor anacondas, so there’s that.)

Worldcon is on my mind because it is the first convention I have attended as a professional writer, after attending dozens as a wannabe writer. The difference is striking, if only because SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) offers a members-only suite with complimentary refreshments for virtually the entire convention. This alone is worth admission in my book.

But I digress. The weeks before the con were frantic, because I was trying to organize promotional materials for The Invisible City to set out at various tables where conventions let you do such things. I also commissioned a T-shirt with my cover on the front and web site on the back, which I could and did wear. Given that paid attendance for the Worldcon was nearly 6000, this loomed as a big opportunity. (I didn’t get the bookmarks I wanted, but it turned out the only place for them would have been in the midst of several hundred other sets of bookmarks and post cards. They almost certainly would have been lost in the crowd. So that was a wash.)

One night at the SFWA suite, however, I was talking to some other writers, and one mentioned a friend who was a new author and hoping to get big traction at this, her first Worldcon. She was hoping, in fact, that it would “change her life,” and we veterans sadly agreed that this was not likely to happen; although we all approach these meetings with high hopes, in the end they are always pie in the sky.

It hit me that I was in the same boat as that author, thinking that this convention could catapult my book to a higher level of sales if only I could take advantage of it. And I knew better (or should). Building a writing career is no different than any other. It is a process. It takes time. Like the pyramids, it may not be done in your lifetime. I spent a lot of time talking to other writers, a chance I probably would not have had before. I volunteered at the SFWA table, helping to sell merchandise and answer questions. These are the things that will help me get somewhere in this business (oh, and writing some stuff).

Which does not mean I won’t still wear that T-shirt. You gotta advertise…

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