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.

 

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.

 

 

Easter Eggs in Books


Girl in pink shirt looks behind rock for three Easter Eggs
Treasure hunt!

Hollywood’s pretty well-known for Easter eggs,.  It’s something that’s put into a movie or a TV show that only a diehard fan will catch.  Like these visits from the movie producer in a brief cameo.  They did miss one though–Donald P. Bellisario shows up in the episode with Mariette Hartley.  You can see him walking in the background in the hospital waiting area, near the end.

Some other examples I’ve run across:

  • In Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “Escape From Venice,” Admiral Nelson stays at the Hotel Dandelo.  That’s the name of the cat from David Hedison’s film, The Fly.
  • In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, there’s a scene where Captain Christopher Pike gets paged.  Pike was a nod to Star Trek.

They can take the form of pretty much anything, especially if you’re familiar with the genre or the actors.  But books have them, too.

Clive Cussler did one in his later novels. Dirk and Al run into a crusty old character with the strange name of…Clive Cussler!  I know a lot of people thought it was hokey and silly, but it’s really kind of a fun nod to the fans of the books.

In fact, there was another action-type novel series where the writers were clearly a fan of Cussler’s, so that crusty character showed up in their first couple of books (not the later ones…).

Have you spotted any in your favorite books?

(And yes, I’ve used some in mine.  They really are a lot of fun.)

Uniforms for space travel


Woman soldier playing a guitar for a cat
Kitty likes being serenaded!

One of the things that’s always struck me about science fiction films is how unrealistic the uniforms sometimes are.  Star Trek’s was pretty cool for its time–color was a new thing on TV so everything had to be shiny and colorful.  They were iconic, if not always practical.

Then there was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century with Gil Gerard.  I watched it not too long ago, and it surprisingly still holds up.  Or at least the first season does.  The characters wore white, one piece bodysuits.  How do you even go to the bathroom?

Now there’s interest in the real thing–the military’s space force uniforms.

Soldiers have a love-hate relationship with their uniforms.  They have to wear them at least 5 days a week, more if deployed.  Then the senior leader of the service wants to make his mark, and uniforms are easy changes.

Of course, that was how the Air Force ended up with uniforms that made them look like airline pilots–hugely unpopular.  It was also how the Army ended up with the beret.  I got the tail end of that one.  The hats were expensive and had to be dry cleaned.  For a uniform where you might be working out in the rain all day?  Really?

I think the military ought to have one like the battle dress uniform we wore.  It’s practical across the board.  We had buttons for everything, so no expensive zipper repairs.  Big cargo pockets for holding gloves, or paperback novels (sneaky person that I was).

And …

Technology to make the camouflage changes colors and patterns.  It’s really the next step on a uniform to have some kind of tech like that.  Be pretty cool, too.  Wander around the post and stand next to things and watch the uniform change patterns.

Could that be done by embedding chips in the cloth itself?  Maybe threads that are very tiny chips?  But then what would happen to it if it was washed?  And, of course, the military wants everything pressed to a sharp crease.

Can you imagine a squad going to a planet and Private John Smith’s camo on one part of his uniform is stuttering and misfiring because he ironed it.  Oh dear.

What do you think the Space Force uniform should look like?

Apologizing for What’s in Our Stories?


Kitten sleepily looks up from wool scarf

Last week, Tamora Pierce’s new book Tempests and Slaughter came out.  Long-awaited for me.  I love reading her books.

But animals also die in her books.

I don’t mind that because she portrays them as characters.  They carry the same weight as human characters.  If we mourn the loss of a human character, we mourn the loss of an animal character.

Are others offended that animals die in her books?

Probably.

I’ve had problems with thrillers.  If a cat or dog makes an appearance in one of those, I’m done.  I stop reading.  Most the writers of those books kill the animal to show how evil the kill is.  In one book, I was pretty sure the writer was fictionally killing off the cat his wife had forced him to have.

Do other people read through those books and enjoy them?

Probably.

Chihuahua holding a pink rose in his mouth, giving a soulful look.

It’s part of writing stories that we have to push at our boundaries.

And sometimes make people uncomfortable.

Star Trek also did that.

It’s one of the reasons the show has endured despite 50 years.  No one apologized.  They simply did.

But as I was driving into work this morning, I heard a story about the new Peter Rabbit movie.  Seemed that a scene offended people so the movie company apologized.

I haven’t seen the film, but the scene sounded like teenage bullying…with rabbits.  So we can’t use movies to bring up bullying?  Or that it should only be in a certain way?  That the readers aren’t capable of figuring things out for themselves?

Sometimes books and movies are a safe place to push at a boundary.  Star Trek was great because it was set in the future and could be escapist at the same time.  But now, somehow, it’s become the thing not to offend.

Yeah, there are people like artists who do something for the shock value.  Then there are those who bring their experiences to the story and show us a different perspective.  They make us think.

Problem is that people can be offended by pretty much anything.

Tiny man standing on laptop, pointing at screen, horrified

So we rob our society of the ability to do social commentary of differing viewpoints.  We end up with the watered down “committee” stories because people are afraid a reader will call offense.

Star Trek is still relevant today.  Yet, Chris Pine, the “new” Captain Kirk says we couldn’t make show like that today.

Think about that.  Think about that a long time.

 

The Evolution of Space Opera


When I was growing up, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea aired at 4:00 on KTLA, and then Star Trek followed it.  We also had Lost in Space. I also had this big yellow book of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century comic strips.

All of these started with the pulp magazines in the 1930s, which introduced space opera.  They paved their way for the shows above.  But Star Trek did something different:

Another popular sci-fi show with a strong space opera flavor to emerge during the Swinging Decade sought to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Star Trek differed from the fare that came before as it coupled the action-orientated characteristics that were commonplace within the genre with philosophical, thought-provoking themes. For a brand of science fiction that was introduced to pop culture discourse as “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn spaceship yarn,” Star Trek proved that this type of accessible entertainment could contain substance as well as pure entertainment.

In “The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction,” Westfahl notes that Star Trek was the first on-screen space opera to successfully combine the classic pulp adventure elements with “Ruritarian” themes. The Ruritarian space opera is distinguished by sophisticated characteristics which often entail romance sub-plots and solar systems governed by their own political establishments. In these stories, alien lifeforms tend to be three-dimensional and driven by their own personal motives — such as greed, thievery, etc.

There’s a lot of interesting history that starts with the pulp and how it goes not only into our reading of books, but also TV and movies.  We move so fast forward that we sometimes forget how things originated and what we can learn from it.

Read the rest at Film School Rejects: https://filmschoolrejects.com/adventure-awaits-brief-history-space-opera/#ixzz51Rioo5Ri

More Adventures at the Book Sale


This week’s book sale was the big one at the library.  They have one in October and another in April.

The sale itself is located on a floor in the garage.  It’s a permanent fixture in the garage, but closed off behind a gate except when there’s a sale.  The sale was advertised as having 75,000 books!

The books:

  1. Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence (it’s about shark attacks)
  2. Drilling Through Time: 75 Years with California’s Division of Oil and Gas
  3. Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the 20th Century
  4. The Island of the Colorblind (about a place where everyone is colorblind)
  5. The Man Behind the Magic: The Story of Walt Disney
  6. Law and Order: The Unofficial Companion
  7. Looking for a Ship: U.S. Merchant Marine
  8. My Secret Life as a CIA assassin
  9. The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in U.S. History
  10. Plot
  11. Shirley Jones: A Memoir
  12. Star Trek Memories
  13. Star Trek Movie Memories

I had to be creative about where to look for these books.  Military was where I found the spy books, though I don’t think they have anything to do with military.  I found the California one in the science section.  Plot showed up in the Performing Arts.

The one that caught my attention the most was the Law and Order book.  It’s just got the first 10 seasons of the show.  But in scanning through it, the book made me realize why I like the show. It’s a lot like Star Trek, and also The Orville  It presents stories that don’t always have easy answers, and often have a lot of differing opinions.  It’s entertaining and makes you think a little.

5 Fun Facts You Don’t Know About Me


  1. During a science fiction convention, two women and I ate lunch in the hotel restaurant with actor David Hedison (James Bond) and watched two cats play outside the window.
  2. I went to my first science fiction convention in 1976 costumed as Lieutenant Uhura and got trapped in a parking garage.
  3.  I’m a cat magnet.  When I visited my grandparents, I went outside and saw this beautiful white cat.  Started petting the cat, who acted like no one ever paid attention to.  Suddenly I was surrounded by cats!  And my grandfather hated cats.
  4. I’ve ridden in a pace car for a race.  It was just after the first Persian Gulf War ended, and a local race track in Washington State was looking for soldiers to ride in the pace car.  I went in my class A’s, and one of the guys was grabbed to join me.  I sat in the front seat and watched that speedometer.  We hit 100!
  5. The first computer I wrote a story on was a Heathkit H-89. Heathkit was known then as having kits of electronics you could put together in your house.  My father built the computer.  It was all one piece and booted off a 5 1/4 disk.  It’s hard to believe now that my tablet has more computing power than that big computer!

 

Adventures around the web July 29-August 4, 2017


Manu Saadia on The New Yorker

The Enduring Lessons of Star Trek

Very interesting article on how Star Trek The Next Generation went away from Star Trek’s original concept.  It mentions one of the things that I always had problems with: people all got along with each other.  That made it hard to do stories that were about the crew, without having some outside influence intervene.  I know that idea originated with Gene Roddenberry, but still…

Joris Nieuwint for War History Online

When His Landing Gear Failed, This Harrier Pilot Made An Emergency Landing… On A Stool

The primary thing the military does is train.  Because in war, training’s all you have when things go wrong.  All the training comes in handy in this video.

Zack Walkter on Do You Remember

Meet the First Woman to Cycle Around the World (in 1895)

This is a pretty cool story–and it’s got photos.  This actually started because of a bet two men made!

Josh Jones on Open Culture

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Writers today tend to diss the pulp writers as “hacks,” usually stories unseen because they produced a tremendous amount of stories.  Somehow speed has become equated with poor writing, though this era produced Dashiell Hammett.  If you haven’t read any of his stories, those are really good.  Link from Harvey Stanbrough (spell checker gave me Gainsborough for his name.  Weird).

Gary Grayson

Gary and the Seal in the Scilly Isles

A charming video from Rhonda Hopkins. The seal wants a belly rub and a chin scratch!