Few things that I say on this blog happen to get proven so clearly that I can actually point at it and say “called it”. For all the analysis and predictions that you can make in the creative industries, it’s still a wild animal that’ll defy your expectations without an inside source. But in recent news I saw something that was just so in line with one of my posts that I just had to point it out. Because, frankly, the backhand in this decision was so loud that no one could interpret it any other way.
Lionsgate, the studio behind the Divergent films, recently announced that the final film in the series wouldn’t be getting a theatrical release and would instead head to TV. Worse, they didn’t even tell the cast and word has it that most of them probably aren’t even an option for returning. Supposedly, this is to try to backdoor a pilot for a series like with what the Mortal Instruments series did, but the writing here is clearly on the walls. To me it stands as probably the greatest evidence of something I’d said not too long ago on this blog. With the previous film doing “okay” and several others in the genre doing about the same, it’s becoming painfully clear what’s starting to happen with this move.
YA adaptations just took a shot to the kidneys, and the studios are getting ready to bail.
Rising and shining with the get up and go of a zombie after the rigor sets in, I glanced at my blog calendar and realized quickly that it wasn’t in the cards. Today was to be an Alternative Mythologies day, but that requires a lot of research, double checking, and most importantly – the ability to read and write at the same time. I sit here now able to to type stream of consciousness but otherwise unable to do most other things. Why? Because the air quality has taken a nosedive, the entirety of my body hurts, and I turned to my one true friend in this time of need – Benadryl.
Not the good stuff, mind you, that’s ramen money there. No, I take a cheap generic version in a little pink pill. And because of this, I often refer to these times in my life as “the pink haze”. Yes, the pink haze, the closest I get to actually “high” in my life. Between waking up face down on the futon and the eventual return to the embrace of darkness, I stare into space and have random thoughts for a good few hours before rising as a pink fueled clumsy monstrosity detached from the concerns of the mortal world. This entity I have become drifts from thought to thought while being consumed with an insatiable hunger and a desire for everything to stop being hot. This beast shall soon consume all ice cream within the house, I fear.
But as I drifted from thought to thought, one felt like it was worth sharing: What happens to all the shitty art?
Ah, plagiarism, crutch for the underachievers and the hopeful slackers. Years ago, when the internet was still new and things were harder to search, there was a bit of a boon for plagiarists. You could look up almost anything if you had the time and dedication (well… time) to search the “information super highway” as we called it before we collectively realized that sounded stupid. From there you only needed to copy and paste it into a text document and get blitzed for the rest of the weekend. It was a golden era right up until Google and other web crawlers made searching so simple that anyone could just quote lines right out of your work and find where they originally came from. Hell, there’s even software that’ll do it for you.
But unless you’ve been living under a rock you can probably guess why this topic came to mind for me this week. Melania Trump, wife to the future emperor of the wastelands of North America, gave a speech at the Republican national convention which was quickly noted to have lifted a significant block of text out of a speech given by Michelle Obama a few years ago. The internet was swift to not only spot the plagiarism but provide documented evidence and eventually go so far as to pick apart the rest of her speech until discovering there was a chance her speech writer might have even Rick Rolled her.
Now, of course, Melania probably didn’t write-plagiarize this speech herself. She had a speech writer like most of these people do and someone within the organization has already taken credit for this humiliating mistake. Hell, a few days later, her chief rival Ivanka said the same line about “let you down”, so it’s entirely possible they had the same writer. But if it had been Melania we couldn’t really say it would have been much of a surprise. Plagiarism, despite the ease of detection, is still well alive today.
Especially from people who don’t think they’ll ever get called out on it.
One of the big debates I have with myself every day is just where do I draw the line between science and magic in my work. As anyone following this blog or my twitter would know, I like to world build. But every detail I add to that world (which I’ve long ago declared was Sci-Fantasy) has that question of which direction I should go. I’m a firm believer in Clarke’s Laws so I could go either direction depending on what I feel works best. It’s not really an inconvenience, I like to contemplate it, but it does mean I think about it a lot and about why my world is shaping the way it does.
In all honesty, despite how much I like fantasy worlds and love to delve into the mythologies of our own world, I’m a huge sci-fi nerd at heart. I love me some technobabble and I’ve spent way too long on some wikis about sci-fi worlds. I know, deep down, that I shouldn’t know the fundamental differences between the real world theory of the Alcubierre Drive and Star Trek’s Warp Drive. But I do, and that’s my embarrassing cross to bear.
I like when things have explanations, even if they’re bullshit. I like to see the world as a tangible thing, and I really love to have that feeling that something is possible, even if it’s not quite here yet. I know I’ll never see a real dragon on Earth or ride a unicorn. And, while I’ll never go into space either, I know someone can. Sci-fi and Sci-Fantasy by extension give me a new twist, however, because there’s totally a chance Unicorns live on another planet. So I like to put sci-fi in my fantasy as a little chocolate for my peanut butter.
But despite my love of the sci-fi, I know the fantasy is a hell of a lot more accessible for mainstream audiences. People debate why all the time, from arguing that sci-fi strips the magic out of the world, to the idea that there’s an anti-science slant in our culture. But truthfully, it’s the technobabble. It’s not that people dislike the science or explanations either, because a lot of complex ideas have been loved by people and we do have whole communities devoted to “fucking loving science”. Rather, the issue is the delivery.
In the Alters’ World (and the series of books found here), creatures of legend reveal themselves to the world. Born through genetic abnormalities, defects and mutations, the Alters have lived for centuries as outcasts of human society, hiding their true nature from the world while colorful stories have been written by many to describe what they’ve seen. How are these creatures different from what was described in the stories? What relationship do they have with humanity? Every entry of the Alterpedia will delve into a new creature from around the world. This week we cover:
Spoken of in fairy-tales and epic fantasy alike, Ogres and Orcs have a long history as the savage brutes of our fiction. Though today generally depicted as two very unique races, the words were once actually interchangeable until more modern entries began to differentiate the two. Still, despite this modern division, the truth remains that they share much in common. Large, ugly brutes with a taste for human flesh, these creatures torment and terrify those who manage to stumble upon them. Whether it be one lone Ogre sitting upon a throne or an entire army of Orcs storming the gates. These creatures stand as intimidating figures no matter their setting.
But how savage are they really? How true are the stories of their immense size and strength? How much like an onion are they really…?
Writers have a difficult balancing act in a lot of situations. There’s always a question of what’s too much vs not enough or too soon vs too late. Timing, substance, style – it all depends on whether or not we can actually put the right plot points at the right times and the right place. Honestly, we’re always having to question our every damn move because people are fickle and rarely as forgiving as we’d need. This is probably a good reason why so many of us are known to start drinking with the right stimuli. And, for some of the greats, the right stimuli happens to be sunrise or a lack of wanting a hangover.
One of the most important moments to be cautious about is the death of a character. If done poorly a lot of audiences will reject it all together, done well and they may begrudgingly love you for it. But when is a good time to do it? How do you make sure the death actually matters in the grand scheme? How do you make sure the audience feels this loss and doesn’t hate you as a writer for it? There is a lot of consideration that goes into building up these monumental scenes.
So, of course, most of us ruin it by letting everyone know what we’re about to do.
As I mentioned before, I rarely understand hostility towards fan productions. So long as they aren’t making a profit and aren’t doing something that negatively impacts your own work, the idea of a fan going out of their way to honor your work seems like a wonderful thing. Some properties are even kept alive by the passion of such fans, kept afloat between major productions by the fact people just genuinely love them. Allowing these people to trade creations and nerd-out together only means you have that fan-base still happy when you’re ready to show them a new installment.
The two biggest names of Sci-Fi today, Star Trek and Star Wars, easily demonstrate this. In Star Wars case, the expanded universe and the continued support by convention goers allowed the franchise to go on hiatus for 16 years before the Phantom Menace came back and was an instant blockbuster. In fact, despite their protests, Star Wars fan loyalty has meant that not a single Star Wars film has been a commercial flop – even as they’re decried for ruining childhoods. And Star Trek? They owe way more to the fans than Star Wars could ever hope to.
Many people don’t realize this today, seeing as most on the internet weren’t around for when the original series first came out, but Star Trek didn’t actually do that great in the 60s. Starting off with relatively soft ratings to begin with, it spent the first two seasons slowly heading towards cancellation. In fact, by the end of Season 2, William Shatner was already planning to jump ship to other projects. The only reason you know of the show today is because as that second season came to a close and was about to be cancelled, the fans began an overwhelming and surprising letter writing campaign to get a third season.
The fans saved the entire franchise, getting not only that third season but eventually the movies and future series installments. And for their efforts, in recent years, they’ve been getting a little… slapped in the face.
This was a rough week. Waking up and getting ready to get ahead of my schedule Tuesday, I discovered that there were computer problems which had corrupted my operating system. The next few days had me making multiple mistakes and hitting several snags that I would kick myself over repeatedly. When all was said and done, I had the computer back, but my hard drive had to be erased and my most recent backup was sorely out of date due to another mistake I had made.
These are the times when a man needs a time machine.
But this week I also had a chance to watch Project Almanac, a film that I had heard of once before but had not actually taken the time to see. Not being a huge fan of found footage and wary of most time travel movies (more on that later), I wasn’t in a huge rush. But, frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot to do at that particular moment and it was there. This is basically how most things happen in a writer’s life, you get used to it.
What I found was that Project Almanac, having an interesting premise of being a found footage movie about time travel, had a very predictable and cliche plot littered with a lot of nonsense about time travel. There’s something a lot of critics and writers understand, and it’s something we don’t mention often, but it is terribly easy to fuck up a time travel story in ways that aren’t clear to you until long after it’s too late. Plot holes, convoluted arcs, and conclusions that make no sense to the audience are incredibly difficult for most creators to miss along the way. But few people ever really pin down why.
Today, I’m going to tell you: it’s because most people don’t realize there are more than one set of instructions…