Hollywood, Remakes, and Maybe the Reality


Last week, the new Lost in Space TV series premiered on Netflix.  Lost in Space was one of Irwin Allen’s TV shows, though I never liked it much. It seemed like all the bad things about Irwin Allen converged into one place.  But I tuned in any way.

Didn’t stay long.

I want to see new ideas.  We have all this fantastic change, and so incredibly fast, and yet, Hollywood is pulling stories from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  Lost in Space was fifty years ago.  Even The Brady Bunch, another remake was over forty years ago.

And I’ve heard it said–and said it myself–that Hollywood is lacking creativity.

But is it an actual creativity problem or is it something else.

Problem #1 is that they are allowing money to make all the decisions.  The same thing is happening in the publishing industry, and it makes them risk-averse.  They’ll look at a TV show like Lost in Space or Star Trek and see how popular it’s been and then look at something really new and different…and want to go the safe route.  Safe means it will probably make some money.  New and different means it might fail.

And it also means that despite the number of films and TV coming out, not a lot of it will have the staying power of some of these old shows they’re trying to imitate.

Hollywood’s been doing this for decades.  If another studio came out with a blockbuster, everyone rushed into to do the same type of movie, hoping for that blockbuster.

So why are they focusing on all these old TV shows and movies?

I think that’s where the second problem comes in.

I grew up in Los Angeles. I read Variety at the college library.  Even studied film.  That Hollywood is not the same one today.   Today’s has shot so far out of the boundaries of really pretty much everything that they’ve lost touch with audiences.  They want a show like Star Trek that people talk about fifty years from now, and yet they don’t know how to do it.

They’ve lost that skill.

I used to work with someone who would try to game the marketing in his fiction by picking the right word, as if happy would be more marketable than glad.  The problem is that doesn’t work.

And they’re really stuck.  Getting involved in public opinions has not helped their cause because it alienates too much of the audience.  Trying to trigger the nostalgia doesn’t work if they don’t understand what people liked in that old film (especially given they tend to say “we’re going to improve it”).  Finally, simply shooting for the visuals to get one part of the audience forgets that people want to see good stories.

Something new please, Hollywood.

 

5 Futuristic Women


Cover for 5 Futuristic Women

Five stories of futuristic women, from an artist who makes a first contact in “Sky Hair,” to the private who finds herself in hot water after aliens eat her officer in “Rejected by Aliens.”  In “New Robot Smell,” a female soldier has to choose between the military and her life.  In “The Scientist’s Widow,” a detective tracks a woman she thinks murdered her husband, and in “Theater Ship,” actors defend a planet from an alien invasion.

This science fiction collection is available from your favorite bookseller.

Men From the Horizon


Tall ship sailing against the sunrise - cover for Men from the Horizon
This was inspired by disability and steampunk. I thought about what it was like for the Hawaiians when the first missionaries came to the island and what they might have offered.

Men visit Rewa’s island with monstrous automatons and promises–and the ability to help her walk normally again.  They just want to farm the sugar cane fields for Rewa and her people.  If one farmer agrees, everyone will agree.  The decision hangs on what Rewa does.  And no matter what her decision Rewa makes, it will cost her.

A science fiction short story available from your favorite booksellers.

Naming Names and Other Muse Misadventures


Computer sticking a tongue out
The muse be misbehaving

I confess.  I hate naming characters.

 

I’ve working on one short story this week (Story #2, about superheroes) and looking at doing two others.  The week started out trying to find names for Short Story #1 (a fantasy story).

The naming process involves looking at the setting and picking the names based on that.  So a secondary world fantasy is going to have names of a certain origin, and a contemporary story will have modern names.

Meaning?  Phht.

The INTP part of me has never understood writers who look for names based on meaning.

The reader me scratches her head.  How would the reader know the importance of it?  It’s not like I would see the name Mary and run to a baby book to look it up to see if I could figure out any hidden meaning that might lurk in the story.

But naming I must do, and even the muse concedes that they have to picked at some point…

Story #1 is a secondary world fantasy (which I optimistically thought I would write first, but muse had other ideas). I used to use a baby name book.  The problem is when people see me reading the book.

“When are you expecting?”

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

Sigh.

My process has always been to scan through the names and write down a handful of that I like until something clicks.

Muse nearly always tries to head for the Ks.  It really likes K names.  So it looks at some of the other names and goes, “I don’t like that name.”

So somehow the result of this is that I start the story without the name.  Muse is like “I don’t care,” so I wind up with XX for the main character–do you know how hard that it is to type?!

It won’t take very long before muse grudgingly realizes the character does need a name.  It does have an effect on how the character develops (the cool, nerdy stuff muse likes).

But muse wants to spend almost no time on it.

We both agree that surfing baby name sites is really annoying.  They usually have this tiny window where you scroll through the name while all these ads for baby products flash at me.  An ad with a cute baby pops up over my name searching, asking me if I want to sign up for a newsletter.

I’ve been known to hop over to the Navy website and grab last names from the admiral’s list.  It includes all the retirees, so it’s quite long and a diverse list.  First name?  If I’m at work and need a name, I open the newspaper and start looking through the writers.  This is hit or miss, given that most of the writers are men, so I’m missing out on half my characters.

So muse pops a placeholder name in the story, intending to change it later.

Sometimes that happens.

Sometimes the doesn’t.

And sometimes the placeholder name annoys muse, so it changes the name to another placeholder.  For the superhero story, I end up starting it in first person so I don’t have to deal with the name.

Except that I do.  The reader me always finds it annoying when a writer does first person and never mentions the character’s name.

Muse sighs and plops a nickname in it.

But that gets all manner of questions, like why the character has it.  And that’s not important to the story.

Muse sighs again and plops another name in.  Adds a last name from the newspaper.

I’ll probably change it again before the end of the story.

Or not.

 

First Lady of Desert Storm


First Lady Barbara Bush passed away tonight.

She was the First Lady of the United States during Desert Storm.

Rest in peace.

Recalcitrant Muses and Sometimes Writing Misbehaves


Dog standing in front of a fan
I wish it were this warm in DC. We’re still bouncing around in very un-springlike weather.  The cherry blossoms are blooming and it’s 30 degrees in the morning. Yeesh!

This week I finished the redraft of Cursed Planet (previously 49er Planet).  A redraft is pretending like the first version doesn’t exist and starting new…in this case from what I learned in the Novel Structure, Teams in Fiction, and Secondary Plots workshops respectively.

Did I mention after all that learning, I thought my head would explode?

I hit a certain point in the story and my muse declared that it wanted to cycle through the whole book.  For me, cycling is usually going back through a chapter or two and shaking out the wrinkles in the story.  It’s not revision–everything’s done in creation.  I might add more description, take out a stub (an idea that came in that didn’t go anywhere), and continue shaping the story as it evolves.  When I do a full cycle of the entire story, I’m about to finish it.

For this, I also did a reverse outline.  It’s different than a normal outline because it’s done after the scene or most of the story is done.  It also doesn’t focus on plot.  I wanted to do it because I had some gaps and I wasn’t sure where I was going to fill them in.   I also wanted to learn more about my secondary plots, since that was a new thing for me.

Muse jammed on the brakes.  Whoa! Outline!

And it wanted nothing to do with one. You’d think I was taking muse to the vet.   So something that really should have taken me a day or so took over a week.

Worse, I had to change the chapter numbers at least three times.  I started out splitting one in half (one of the gaps), and I’d go through and label the next one as Chapter 12A.  Then once I cycled to that one, it became Chapter 13 and the next one 13A.  Then I found two previously unaccounted for chapters that I somehow managed to skip over in my numbering.

And then there was the chapter would not die.

As I was writing towards the ending, muse put in this chapter.  But I didn’t quite know what to do with it, so I just noted the two character names and went to the next one.  It nagged at me to be finished, and then when I went back to do it, muse was like “What do you want me to do with it?”

So I took it out.

Muse prods me.

Muse whispers:  The chapter needs to be in there.

I put it back in.  Muse looked at me and said, “What do you want me to do with it?”

This time, I thought about it for a while, turning it over and over.  I don’t do the final validation scene until the whole book is pulled together.  This chapter that wouldn’t die was the only thing holding the validation back.  So whack.  I chucked it, renumbered the last few chapters and did the validation.

So far, muse has wandered off to go sniff something else (it’s thinking it would like another workshop), so hopefully that chapter really is dead.

Muses be fickle.

Your other left, private, and military habits


Black and white historic photo of little girl saluting the flag
Little girl salutes the flag. Photo from Clipart.com

Some things I learned in the military have really stuck with me.  Others dropped off easily, and some resurface occasionally just to mess things up.

The one that has stuck with me is using my left hand though I’m right-handed. Right and left turns up a lot in the military.  During training of marching, we would have to hold up our left hand so when the drill sergeant called for us to turn left, everyone actually turned left.

Sometimes someone would get it scrambled (me), and the drill sergeant would yell, “Your other left, private!”

Then there’s the salute.  It’s done with the right hand.  That means if you’re out walking about with a bag in your hand, it has to be in your left hand.  Your right hand needs to be available if there’s officer so you can salute.

So in civilian life, I use both hands interchangeably.  I’ll take garbage in my left hand outside.  Sometimes I shift it to the right, but I find that my left is a little stronger.

Anyway, one day I was loading paper into the copier with my left hand and felt this little twinge.  Didn’t think anything of it until later that evening…suddenly it REALLY hurt.

Every. time. I. moved.

Off to the doctor who told me I had golfer’s elbow (should be copier’s elbow, since no golfing was involved).  I was making an effort not to move the arm too much because it was so painful.   But I couldn’t not to.

Doctor asked me if I was left-handed.

I didn’t realize how much the military had changed this until then.:)

Who Knew There Was a Plant Pathologist?


Sign for NASA at 60

 

I went to the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival this weekend, at the Washington Convention Center.

The festival was focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and more particularly on drawing girls into the sciences.  And it was packed with lots of kids checking out the displays.  This was a huge facility, and people kept coming and coming.  There’s definite interest in science, despite what feels to me like we’ve veered away from it with big companies influencing the results of studies like in the food industry.

Some highlights:

Most popular section:  NASA and space travel.  This was more crowded than anywhere else.  Maybe we’ve got some future scientists who will figure out how to get us off the planet with artificial gravity.  Right now, to leave our gravity well, we have to put a lot of explosives under our space craft.

USDA’s job table was pretty cool.  They had jobs like:

  • Plant Pathologist: They figure out causes and controls of plant diseases.
  • Remote Sensing Specialists: Analyzes satellite images
  • Marine Scientists: Researches problems facing Marine life

I was grabbing those up, and it also told me that I could check on some of the government job listings in the science areas for research.

Probably the most interesting was a visit to a table of a man who had been out in the Arctic three times.  He had on display the boots he had to wear “Big Red,” which was the coat.  The boots were very heavy–you’d get a good workout just from them.  I was also able to put on “Big Red,” which was a goose down coat they wore.  It also was quite heavy.  Between those two, you’d get quite a workout!

Military was also there as well.  This is from the Air Force:

Air Force Plane on display

It was a lot of fun!

Star Trek and the Marine Corps


Orange kitten perched on a tree branch, green in the background
We’re not as green as the background yet. The flowering trees are just blooming and the maples are letting loose…soon. Now if it would stop snowing!

I’m in the process of using cycling writing throughout my nearly finished book, Cursed Planet.  In the past, it’s been a pretty routine thing.  Clean up typos and sentences that I thought made sense that now have me scratching my head trying to figure out what I was trying to do.  Or removing what I call stubs–something that my creative side brought into the story and then, like a cat, got bored with it and abandoned it.

But there was an interesting article on Star Trek and how the new Marines Corps Commandant is a fan.

It’s a long ways from what it was when I was growing up, but a good, evolving change.

When I was growing up, fandom was just starting snowball.  Star Trek was in reruns on KTLA (first Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea at 4:00 and Star Trek at 5:00).

We had a gym uniform for PT in school, white shirt, blue shorts.  Some of the other students wrote on the back of their shirts their favorite sports teams.  I did Star Trek.  No one made fun of the sports team, but they did of me.  There was one boy who openly sneered and said Little Rascals was so much better than Star Trek. (Little Rascals was also running on KTLA at the time.  I’d watched it, but I never thought it was particularly good.  I think it was more of a nostalgia thing for the adults who had grown up watching it).

Even my guitar teacher got in on it.  Since this was L.A., it wasn’t hard to run into people who worked in the film industry. Her son had worked on the set of the show.  Did she tell me how they filmed the show?  Did she tell me what it was like for him to work with the various stars?   Did she gossip about the stars?

No!  She told me the sets were fake.

Of course I knew they were fake.  Phhtt!

But it was like all this space stuff was just toooooo fake and really I shouldn’t bother.

Star Trek cons were just starting to really get popular then, too.  I attended several of the ones called Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Conventions (I believe these are what is now Comic-Con, but don’t hold me to that).  I remember walking to the hotel where my first con was held, and there was this man costumed as a a Klingon.  Just…wow!

Qapla’!

And reporters would show up at these cons, too, evidently told by their editors to get a story to fill an empty space in the newspapers.  The disdain the reporters had for the cons was pretty evident.  They would look at all the average people standing in line, and home in on either the little boy costumed as Spock or the craziest looking adult fan,  dressed sloppily, and festooned with buttons.

Then the picture would appear in the newspaper, identifying us as Trekkies with the implication that Star Trek was for children or crazy people.

Now it’s gotten a lot of respectability over the last fifty years since it premiered.   Now a Marine senior leader is a fan.

How cool is that?

And for your viewing pleasure, a mashup of MacGyver and Star Trek The Next Generation.

Behind the Scenes: Star Trek’s Khan as a Viking?


Pirate looks out telescope
Ahoy! Spaceship off the port bow!

One of the things I always liked to read is the behind the scenes of a TV show.  Reading about how a show is made is fascinating.  Sometimes it’s easy to wonder how shows come together at all, and yet some of the greatest chaos turns into something spectacular.

Like Star Trek’s “Space Seed” episode, which starred Ricardo Montalban.  And it seems like just about everything has been written about Star Trek.  Those sites that say “10 Things You Never Knew About Star Trek” are always things I know already.  But this Me-TV article had one I didn’t know.

The first was that the now legendary character Khan was originally going to be a space pirate!  Though space pirate sounds kind of cool (at least the fictional ones), it certainly doesn’t fit the actor.  Stellar writing, stellar directing, and stellar acting made this into a classic episode.

While a script can be really good, bad direction or bad acting can botch the whole thing up.  But Ricardo Montalban brought a delicious evilness to the role that makes it memorable even today.