Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘star wars’

It is widely disseminated that if you can take the science out of an SF story and still tell the story, it’s not truly SF. (For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume the same theory holds for fantasy.) I myself have believed for a long time that this is a valid, albeit somewhat simplistic, test. But now I wonder.

You see, there has been a lot of “science fiction” that does not really contain any “science.” So what do you call it? Star Wars is a prime example, with many characterizing it as “science fantasy” because it has the trappings of SF, but upon any review its science is well, bad.* Look at the spaceships: They don’t fly right. They act as though they’re in an atmosphere instead of a vacuum. (We’ll ignore the sounds. That’s artistic license.) And it’s based on “the Force,” a mystical energy field (later retconned to be some kind of micro-particles in your blood, but no one believes that). So is it science fiction? Or is it fantasy with spaceships?

I’m a fan of the 50s B&W monster movies I used to watch on “Creature Features.”** Giant ants, spiders, gila monsters, teenagers… Really, even I wasn’t buying it. But it was considered science fiction. Why? The science was worse than what you see in Star Wars. You couldn’t take the science out to see if the story could still be told, because there was no science. And yet we call it SF to this day. (And yes, that applies to Godzilla, too–all the versions.)

The question becomes, then: How do you test a story for being science fiction if there is no recognizable science in the story in the first place?

I guess you could try to recategorize Them! and Tarantula and Village of the Giants as science fantasy, but good luck.*** That ship has sailed (or launched). Better, I think, to avoid ironclad definitions and hope that the next generation of SF is better than some of the things that have gone before.

Or has that ship launched, too?

*When I say Star Wars, I mean the original. Since the first trilogy, it’s only gotten progressively worse.

**Creature Features was cancelled, and years later, revived. Ironically, the host of the new show was a friend of mine.

***These three movies share a distinction: Each had an actor who went on to achieve fame. (Them! actually had a couple.) Points if you can name them.

#SFWApro

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Those who have followed this blog faithfully (and I appreciate both of you), know that I am a man of sober mien. I run a factual, serious, and intellectual site.

Except when I don’t.

Everyone knows there are two kinds of people in the world: writers and those who think they can’t. But that’s not the only division–I’m sure if you think hard you can come up with other dichotomies, types of people divided down the middle, each equally certain that their way is the only way…okay, you laugh, but really, they exist.

Just to save you the trouble, I’ve come up with a few examples.

  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like math, those who hate math, and those who failed calculus.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who understand comic books, and those who think the Fantastic Four is a Beatles cover band.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think a man stomping around in a rubber suit is some kind of weird fetish, and those who like Godzilla movies.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think George Lucas should have stopped after one movie, and those who think he should have stopped after three.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think William Shatner is experiencing a career renaissance, and those who are glad that they do not live in an alternate world where he was cast as Batman.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who argue the minutiae of the ramifications of time travel in Outlander, and the men who married them.

I could go on, but I’m inclined to believe that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like this kind of stuff…

 

Read Full Post »

I’ve heard that actors like to play villains, because it really lets them get into a part and play it to the hilt. Besides, an enjoyable villain is rarer than an enjoyable hero. But there are some villains you enjoy not because they are so bad, but because they are so annoying you just want to slap them. So I’m running a poll: Who do you most want to slap? Or is there someone else in genre films/TV you think deserves it more?

  • Walter Peck (William Atherton), Ghostbusters (1986). You remember, the mayor’s flunky who wants our heroes locked up?
  • Professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), Real Genius (1985). No, this is not going to be a William Atherton marathon. He just plays these jerks so well. (We could include Die Hard, but I’m trying to limit it to genre films.)
  • Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), The Force Awakens (2015). Seriously, even if you don’t hate the movie, you have to agree that somebody should spank this kid!
  • Syndrome (Jason Lee), The Incredibles (2004). I know he’s supposed to be annoying, but he’s Kylo Ren with money, so he qualifies. And it’s so satisfying to see him get what he deserves.
  • Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), Lost in Space (1965-1968). There were many reasons this show fell far short of what it could have been (and was at the beginning), but in my mind Dr. Smith was no. 1.

So please give me your responses in the comments section. Does anyone on this list really make you want to say, “Oh, grow up, already!”?

 

Read Full Post »

With the onset of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is no longer quite so embarrassing to admit that one was reading comic books all through one’s youth and beyond.* I quit about 20 (!) years ago now, but I still follow the genre (and watch the movies). So it’s not surprising that my mind still goes down those roads on occasion (okay, all the time). And that has lead to the following question:

In that world, with superpowers, mutants, AIs, self-contained battle suits, aliens, time travel, superweapons,  and everything, how does anyone write science fiction? SF consists of stories that extrapolate from known science, or at least scientific theory. But if you know that mutants and superweapons and aliens exist because you can see them fly by your window, what is there to extrapolate? By definition, everything you’re writing is simply “fiction.”**

Does that mean that writers like me would be in Fiction & Literature at your local Barnes & Noble? Would there be a reason for a SFWA to exist–and would I not have to regret the fact that I’m not at Nebula weekend right now?

And what about the liability issues? What if some hulking green guy comes up to you and says you’re defaming him in your latest story–which just happens to have a large, green character? What if he claims you’re appropriating his image? And if you write a story about the Skrulls invading the Earth, will the real Skrulls take umbrage and actually invade the Earth out of pique?

Even if you started with the concept that none of the above existed, and then created an SF story, would anyone read it? Science fiction isn’t supposed to be about a world more boring than your own. The only choice left would be alternate history, and that field would get crowded fast.

What would happen, I think, is that all those writers would migrate to another genre, like romance, or mystery. Mystery would be a fertile field in that world, with questions like: What’s with those capes, anyway? How do those young sidekicks explain all those bruises without social services investigating? And why are there so many super-powered people in the world, anyway? How did they get that way?

Oh, wait, that veers into science fiction. And then we start all over again.

*The same thing happened to science fiction with Star Wars, and fantasy with Lord of the Rings.

**Fantasy writers would have the same problem.

Read Full Post »

I’m sitting looking at a picture of an original Star Wars movie poster–and when I say Star Wars, I mean Star Wars, not A New Hope. I put the “old” in old-school; I saw Star Wars the night it premiered–because I saw the poster featured on “Antiques Roadshow,” and I thought the appraiser under-valued it, so I looked it up. And now I’m looking at it, and I see three pretty much unknown actors listed, followed by Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness, who were anything but unknown. It follows that George Lucas paid a pretty penny to get them. Which leads to the question:

What did he think he was doing?

I don’t mean that pejoratively, as in, “Was he crazy, spending that kind of money on a space opera?” I mean, really, what did he think he was accomplishing? What do any of us think we’re accomplishing when we write a story or make a movie or paint a painting? And more to the point, should we be proud of what we’ve done?

You look at Star Wars now, and it’s gone way past “global phenomenon.” But back in the day, we didn’t know it would do that. Certainly when that grandiose poster was printed, nobody knew if the darn thing was going make a dime. It could easily have been laughed out of the theater–and would have, if it hadn’t made so much money. So it’s easy to say now, “That’s something George Lucas can be proud of!” But what about before?

You’d hope no creative person would release story or movie  that he wasn’t proud of, but we know that’s not the case. (Where there’s a buck, there’s a way. And someone who is proud of it–proud of making a buck, anyway.) But is that legitimate? Are we allowed to be proud of a story if no one ever publishes it? I mean, seriously, are we allowed to be proud of a story that sucks? Are we allowed to be more proud of it if someone publishes it–and then it wins a Hugo? On the other hand, are we allowed to be proud of writing a story that wins a Hugo–even if we ourselves don’t think it was worthy?

It is said that, “Pride goeth before a fall.” But it’s also said, “Don’t submit a story you wouldn’t want others to read.” So pride is bad, but without it, nobody knows you exist. And in the end, you may be the only person who even thinks you should be proud of what you’ve done–which sounds like a great recipe for a fall to me.

I sent a story yesterday to a major magazine. I had real hopes for it. I was proud of it. I thought this could be my chance to break into a new market. I went to bed happy. Fifteen hours later, it came back. A form letter, not even a personal note. I was proud, now I’m fallen.

But I sent it out again immediately. Because I’m proud of it? No. (Although I am.) I sent it out again because I like it. And that’s even more important. You can be proud of doing a job well even if it’s a job you don’t like. But to do a job well enough that you like it, well, that’s something to be proud of.

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

As everybody who is not living at the bottom of the sea knows, we have an election in about a month.* And along with most of my fellow citizens, I plan to vote.

Wait–let me rephrase. Along with many of my fellow citizens, I plan to vote. Whether “most” will is a matter of speculation. If you do plan to vote, you can skip this post. But for any of you out there who plan not to vote, I have a story to tell you.

When I was a child, back in the Middle Ages, we of the nerdish persuasion eagerly awaited the new fall line-up of TV shows, because every year there was one (sometimes a couple) that qualified as SF or fantasy. Usually it stunk, but it was what we had, so we watched. Then, in 1966, something changed. We didn’t know it then…in fact, it didn’t actually change for some years, but the seed was planted. In 1966, Star Trek premiered.

Star Trek was one of the first intelligent SF shows on TV, along with The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. It lasted two years, but was not on the network’s schedule for a third season. Fans got into an uproar, there was a famous letter-writing campaign, and a third season was granted. Then Star Trek went away.

For nearly ten years, we were back in that pre-Trek desert. SF was once more a ghetto. Then magic struck, this time in the form of Star Wars. Suddenly SF wasn’t so geeky; millions enjoyed it who weren’t SF fans. In the years since, our field has grown to the point where now there is an entire channel devoted to SF and fantasy (and wrestling, which really fits better than you’d think). But none of this would have happened without Star Wars, and Star Wars would not have happened without Star Trek.

So what does this have to do with the election? Just this. Nerdism is so pervasive that you could probably find more people who can tell you why Captain America should be allowed to lecture the NYPD on crowd safety than can tell you what Mike Pence said about the border fence a few nights ago. Nerds are no longer in a ghetto. Everyone is now a nerd. We’ve won.

And how did we win? By a small group of like-minded individuals demonstrating for what they wanted. Although it appeared at first they only won a small, limited victory, they ended up taking over the world. Not just the comic book world, or the Star Trek world, but the real world. Where things cost real money and the movies create real jobs.

Now how long do you think it would take to affect change if you started in the real world? If fantasy can affect reality, how would real votes affect reality? Your vote doesn’t count? It isn’t enough? If Star Trek fans had thought that, we wouldn’t have Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe–both of which are worth billions.

Think your vote won’t matter? Small actions have big consequences. I won’t say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” But I will say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t help make your dreams come true.”

*Those people at the bottom of the sea are, I will admit, probably happier than we are.

Read Full Post »

Writing is a lot like a romantic relationship. As I was talking about with a friend, a writer can take you places you would not normally go, if he or she establishes trust first. For example, we all know that in Star Wars, the spaceships and explosions make sound–in space. And we all know that can’t happen; space is a vacuum, “no one can hear you scream,” right?

But by the same token, we don’t care. We don’t care because George Lucas created such an entertaining universe that we’re willing to let him have his little idiosyncrasies. Somehow,  he established our trust in him almost immediately (for me, it was the scrolling letters that always remained in focus. That was the mark of a man who cared.)

A writer can establish trust by his canon of work. You know he will tie the story together, no matter how weird it gets, because he’s done it before. But a new writer doesn’t have that luxury. He has to earn your trust by laying that groundwork in front of you. And if he fails, he may fail to have a career. In romantic terms, he may never have a relationship.

So maybe take a chance on a new writer once in a while. After all, he can’t rest on his laurels; he has to prove himself every time. I’m not saying that high-selling authors don’t try any more, but that new writer, he might just be trying a little harder.

And who doesn’t want a partner who’s willing to go the extra mile to impress you?

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »