the needs of the many…

There are probably no authors setting out to have a star or planet named in their honor. That said, very few would decline such homage. Asteroid 4659 and a crater on Mars bear the name Roddenberry. The creator of Star Trek likely didn’t include earning this sort of acknowledgement while developing the series.

Gene Roddenberry did, however, attempt to get the science right. He consulted scientists and engineers on a somewhat regular basis. He was also a student of his times and wanted to present entertaining adventures about the future blended with relevant social commentary. Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura, famously tells a story that each episode was meant to be a modern morality play.

Countless people recount that original Trek inspired their choice of careers while not necessarily having achieving Roddenberry’s dream of humanity at peace with itself and unafraid of its future in mind. This phenomenon is not limited to math and technology either; I know of at least one lawyer who found the trial of Spock in the episode “Menagerie” fascinating enough to prompt study of jurisprudence. The humanism and idealism of Star Trek are very important facets of my long-standing desire to write and make art.

arrowhead

Many fans consider the reboot of the franchise to be less than worthy of the title and have branded it – somewhat pejoratively – as the “Abramsverse” or “NuTrek”. Paramount and CBS have recently attempted to get ahead of these descriptions. They’d like us to call it “The Kelvin Timeline”.

Chris Pine is the second actor to portray Captain Kirk. He has been quoted as giving the following response regarding the franchise shifting away from speculative futurism in favor of presenting an action thriller.

You can’t make a cerebral Star Trek in 2016. It just wouldn’t work in today’s marketplace. You can hide things in there – Star Trek Into Darkness has crazy, really demanding questions and themes, but you have to hide it under the guise of wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up. It’s very, very tricky. The question that our movie poses in ‘Does the Federation mean anything? And in a world where everybody’s trying to kill one another all of the time, that’s an important thing. Is working together important? Should we all go our separate ways? Does being united against something mean anything?

— Chris Pine, à la SFX Magazine

Star Trek was fond of Shakespeare references and there’s one that perfectly sums up the problem with the Abramsverse and the attitude expressed by Mr. Pine: “…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The last log entry by Kirk was wonderful fan service at the end of The Undiscovered Country and should now be interpreted by CBS and Paramount as exactly how fans would like to see Star Trek handled – rather than catering to a formula while implicitly demeaning the audience.

This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of a new generation. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man… where no one has gone before.

As part of a recent presentation by Claire Legrand, Megan McCafferty, and Leanna Renee Hieber all three authors recommended that any authors in the audience write what they loved reading as children. Write what they wanted to read.

Best Faction map

In broad strokes I plan to cover some of the same ground as Star Trek did: the destiny of humanity in space and to what extent human nature might be baggage carried along the way. It seems fair to say that a writer must be the first fan of his or her own work. So I’ve charted my world(s)-building – applying a different rotation to the same field of real stars used for the Arrowhead interpretation. Astral’s interstellar factions overlapped each other in a previously posted map. That’s not the case in this new one.

At a convention I once attended both Gene and Majel Barrett Roddenberry recommended that whatever I might wish to see in Star Trek I should write and tell Paramount. I never did follow their advice but I may hide it under the guise of thoughtful speculation and all the things the Federation still means to me.


Two for flinching…

zombie smearIf I’m honest, I don’t particularly care for the zombie story; I’ve never been able to become a fan.

It strikes me that I should, however, because I did quite like Aftermath: Population Zero (2008, National Geographic Channel) and Life After People (2009, History Channel). These semi-documentary series are not favorites because I’ve a misanthropic wish to be the last man on Earth. I like a little science in my sci fi.

Zombies seem to appeal to our collective sense that – due to responsibilities and commitments – we each have too little time to be ourselves. The wage slave metaphorically trudges from task to task to task in Sisyphean servitude. Ironically, if too late for the zombies, the apocalyptic pandemic triggers the utter collapse of obligations. This may explain the allure of the zombie story. But it is difficult, if not impossible, for walkers to usher us to a Utopian vista. Although freed of duty, the zombie is reduced to mere appetite. Time enough at last but what difference does it make?

Survivors should be completely free to be themselves, their true selves, 100% of the time. To preserve zombies as a threat, however, any would-be exemplars of ideal idealization are reduced to an equally Sisyphean sleep-fight-run existence. There’s never a definitive explanation of the onset nor is there any ever a real chance for a cure. It’s a no win situation. A Möbius stripping of potential.

Popular zombie fiction, in my view, has no moral. It could (and maybe should) be a fine environment in which to outline an eidolon; ultimately, we’re left with heroes that – though they may survive – gradually become indistinguishable from the monsters they fight. And when the characters give up, I follow suit. The closer to Hell a situation becomes, contrast should show how much closer to Paradise the characters might be, no?

All that said, I must admit I was following both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. When the first debuted, it hadn’t been very long since the pseudo-documentaries on collapse mentioned above. I may have started watching AMC‘s initial show out of curiosity and in hope there might be a similar exploration but with the overlay of fiction. The teasers of the prequel actually included the line, “When civilization goes, it goes fast.” But that’s not actually the theme of either show. Both have become a seemingly endless series of almost literal standees (as stand-ins for true plot) while the living use them as an excuse to be terrible to each other.

Zombie stories don’t have to be about small bands of survivalists wandering between one lord of the flies and the next – ever further from any semblance of civilization, restored or reinvented. If you’ve guessed that I prefer an uplifting end to even the most grim of stories, you’re not wrong. These stories ultimately fail, in my opinion, because they never reach a conclusion. They’re designed not to have one. The fiction itself is undead and mindlessly immortal so long as ratings and reviews permit.

Every crisis passes. We’re not supposed to merely muddle through a chain of largely indistinguishable days. That is not a mission. In essence, it could be said that solving problems – including crises – is our mission… our responsibility.

I’m not particularly satisfied by stories in which a smart hero can’t anticipate and try to avoid dystopia or, failing that, a diligent hero being unable to solve the problem. You might get some red on you but there should be an epilogue showing how life has changed and that life persists. What does it look like 28 years later?
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Seriously?…

seriously

Whether called reboot, reimagining, or remake – there is, at least, one almost guaranteed reaction when Hollywood makes the announcement: There is nearly always complaint by loyal fans of the quintessential (older) version.
And when the film is released, it never plays to a completely empty theater.
Nearly 125 remakes were released between 2003 to 2012. That would be one a month, on average. Said remakes brought in a combined box office gross of $12 billion.
The explanation for the remake frenzy is “the foreign market”. I’m not sure I buy that. Surely folks in The People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国) get just as bored by/tired of an endless chain or rehash as anyone else.
I think… I hope — that the people of the Republic of Nauru (Naoero) are desirous of new and original ideas and content.
Hollywood’s emphasis on the reliably bankable is a polite way of saying they are risk-averse. Similarly, when they want it accessible, that means they don’t want to challenge or offend.
But personally, I enjoy having my assumptions challenged and my knowledge expanded. A film can be both confusing (at first) and offensive (if for effect) – so long as the end result is teaching a valuable, needed lesson. And, yes, I do expect a message from entertainment. If there isn’t to be a message – fireworks displays are free and generally ubiquitous during blockbuster season.
Nearly all work by the motion picture industry is based on brand & franchise now. There were times – and not so very long ago – when filmmakers were just as interested in story and moral as I still am.
The above Hollywood preferences may have contributed to the opinion – voiced by many – that Hollywood is out of ideas. That’s absurd. There are new novels being published every month.
The solution is clear! Reward storytellers.
Don’t go a see a film unless the trailer, pre-release press, and/or critical reviews illustrate that said film presents a new idea.
Buy a book instead.
You probably know an author. You may be one. We craft stories that we feel make important observations about life and may offer the equivalent of life-hacks within our work. Sometimes telling these stories means a sacrifice or two in the life of the author. There are tales behind the tales a reader may never know. When you hold a new book, and before you start reading, try to imagine the heroic journey the author (along with her or his allies) have already been on to see it safely into your hands.
The novel is a kind of gift-with-purchase. What you pay for is that unknown adventure the author has been through to tell you something potentially important.
If enough people do this – buying a book Instead of seeing a movie – some studio is bound to option a story you’ve read. We won’t have wasted money on a disappointing two hour retread. We also actually own a book as an added bonus.
Everybody wins! You, the book store, the publisher, the editor, and the author all get to smile. The film executives will wonder why – until the buy and read it too.
Coming soon…