J.J. Abrams can have his Star Trek Wars, but include me out.
I doubt I'm going to surprise too many people by saying this, but when news broke (however unofficially) that J.J. Abrams was in line to direct one of the new Star Wars films, my reaction was one of ... curious indifference. Curious, in the sense that I wanted to give more of a damn than I did, and failed miserably.
It's not that I think he's a bad choice. If anything, he's all too fitting a choice. It's that Star Wars, like Star Trek before it, has ceased to exist for me as a cultural entity of importance.
Ridley Scott's pre-side-quel to the "Alien" mythos has elements of great insight and wisdom coexisting with utter boneheadedness.
There are two films within Prometheus, one brilliant and the other inane. The brilliant film is preoccupied with questions about man’s place in the universe, and the ghastly indifference of the universe to such questions in the first place—much as Alien itself was before. The inane film is full of people running around like idiots and screaming at each other and getting killed horribly by space monsters. Sorry, folks, but that's the way it is.
It’s not impossible for two such wholly disparate films to coexist inside the same skin. In fact, the one movie that comes most readily to mind is not any of the previous Alien films, but the “Hellraiser-in-space” horror-SF hybrid Event Horizon. Buried within that mess of a film was either a great horror movie or a great SF movie, but the filmmakers tried to have it both ways and the studio a third, and the end result is one of those films that deserves a director’s cut that we’ll most likely never have. Prometheus, on the other hand, was the movie that Ridley Scott and his cohorts wanted to make, so none of them can fall back on the Terry Gilliam Tampering Clause to explain the results.
Let's not take this business of being serious about our art so ... well, seriously.
When I was younger -- I'll say high school, since that seems about the right mental timeframe for thoughts of this caliber -- I had the belief that science fiction and fantasy could be all of the things literature always seemed to be trying to be but holding itself back from being.
It wasn't until a little later on that I found the reason for this holding-back was, for lack of a better label, a fear of social ostracism. No one, or at least no one who cared about their credentials as a Serious Writer, wanted to be caught dead writing such juvenile stuff. It was the unseriousness of it that offended them, or rather, the idea that the only way a story could embody serious intentions was by being what people could label outwardly as serious, because how the hell else were they going to know what was what?
It's hard to write what you know when you don't let yourself know things.
... worse than a lack of diversity is people whose intellectual impulses lay elsewhere attempting to write that way. ... I think people believe artists to have more power than they actually do. You can only write what you want. In fact you must only write what you want. That isn't the problem. The problem is that only certain people get to write what they want.The problem isn't the Lena Dunham show is about a narrow world. The problem is that there aren't more narrow worlds on the screen. Broader is not synonymous with better.
Time and again, I encounter -- both in myself and in other creators -- the problem of "what you know". If you are inclined only to know about certain things in a certain way (which, really, is an issue common to all of us), you have that much less facility to speak about other things. Nobody believes for a second that a writer of thud-and-blunder fantasy actually lives in a castle and swings a sword, but we'd like to think he did some homework about what was involved in doing both of those things, and has combined that factual stuff with some of his own insight into human behavior generally.
On the notion that at its worst the filmed version of a book can become the cultural version of littering.
I find [Christopher Tolkien's] attitude refreshing in a time when crass commercialization is not only expected, it's essentially demanded. There is no purity to anything anymore, and fans demand endless waves of tie-in products to sate their desire to own a piece of their favorite book, movie or TV show. There's a place for that, but does everything have to become dolls and sticker albums and Coke cans and video games?
Here's where I find myself, once again, with a foot in each world. I felt a twinge of what Christopher was talking about while watching the first of Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, and watching the escape sequences near the end play out as if they were a particularly expensive variety of video game.
"It would be so weird if we knew just as much as we needed to know to answer all the questions of the universe. Wouldn’t that be freaky?"
It would be so weird if we knew just as much as we needed to know to answer all the questions of the universe. Wouldn’t that be freaky? Whereas the probability is high that there is a vast reality that we have no way to perceive, that’s actually bearing down on us now and influencing everything. The idea of saying, ‘Well, we can’t see it, therefore we don’t need to see it,’ seems really weird to me.
The quote is from Saunders himself (whose work has been compared to high-art SF), and for me it seems to sum up the difference between the sorts of people who not only read SF but take strong cues for their worldview from it, and those who don't. There is always more to our world, and it helps to know of it, even if our knowing is forever incomplete. It's not the body of knowledge, then, but the thirsting, the act of knowing how much or little we do know.
Writing what you would most want to read may be the best way to find an audience.
I'm pretty sure that the best way to get a toehold in writing is to start writing work that you yourself want to read. Then, see who really cares about it, and try to understand why.
(Quote: Sterling himself.)
Vajra got started for precisely this reason. I had a kind of story I wanted to read, and I couldn't for the life of me find anything remotely like it. So, I went and wrote it. It remains to be seen if I scratched anyone else's itch at the same time, though.
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Science Fiction Repair Shop for the month of January 2013.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind