In the previous installments of this series, I talked about the many-years-long path Flight Of The Vajra took to congeal from several different ideas I had for it. Here, I'm going to talk about some of the other properties and influences that fed into it and shaped it.
This I covered in Pt. 2. Forbidden Planet itself had little to no influence on this project. But a proposed remake, and the things said about it, definitely did. When the remake came to naught, I decided to take the ideas bandied about in the brief discussions that surfaced about the remake and make them mine.
In some ways my pitch to myself, and others, for Flight Of The Vajra was, "This is my Dune." Not because it bore any resemblance to that project specifically, but because of its scope and its flavor. Frank Herbert's neo-feudal future, with its deliberately countertechnological stance, fed into my notions about a far-future belief system designed to resist technologization for the sake of a greater principle of life (not that they were successful at it, just that they tried). Also the various competing factions humbled by the presence of something greater than all of them put together.
George Zebrowski's far-future space opera doesn't get much discussion at all these days, which is something of a shame. It's a nifty meld of high-tech revenge-thriller style SF and the more spiritual side of stories like Dune. I encountered it first when I was a young'un, and I am certain many aspects of it helped shape this story.
Not for the story, but for the materials technology. The idea of "programmable matter" didn't really take shape until I saw the film and thought about how a whole real-world universe could be as fluid and dynamic as the one depicted in the film.
Gene Roddenberry's TV series, created mostly from notes the man left behind, had around two or three good seasons and then fell apart due to the baleful influence of star Kevin Sorbo on the production. At least, that's the story I heard. But for a while it was a pretty good show, a spacefaring version of the idea that we make our own families. The flavor of it stuck with me, and the way protagonist Henré Sim interacts with the rest of his circle of friends was unquestionably influenced by the show.
Maybe better to say this is an influence that only made itself clear in retrospect, when it was all over. Any story about people who can't escape their past, I'm a sucker for, especially when it comes with a snappy SF setting and with characters as sharp as the creases in their clothes.
There's no earthly reason this melting pot of Les Miserables and Flash Gordon should work. The plot is entirely driven by coincidence and operatic excess, the action is to make one's eyes roll, and the animation cost all of a dime. No earthly reason it works, sure, but plenty of unearthly ones: it has the absolute courage of every one of its nutty convictions, and not one shred of irony. Its influence is minor, to be sure, but it's there, if only because it made me once again acknowledge that if you believe hard enough in making something work, you can sweep others along with it.
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Other Lives Of The Mind