June 04, 2010

Building The Next World

So, this is an open call among my various Macroscope readers.

Given all of my belly-aching recently about the general weakness of sci-fi films these days due to their lack of sci-fi lit foreknowledge, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is.  I've had a bunch of different sci-fi story ideas bouncing around in my head, and I think I'm just going to write one of them as a short story.

Who wants to join me?

In other words, I'd like to challenge my other screenwriting fellows out there (and, frankly, anyone else wo wants to jump on board), to write a sci-fi short story between now and, say, the start of Comic-Con 2010 on July 22nd, 2010.

And by "sci-fi" I mean based on some sort of actual science speculation or imagination.  And that's a really broad term.  I mean, technically speaking "Flowers for Algernon" is sci-fi.

And by "short" I mean less than 7500 words (the limit to be eligible for the Nebula Awards, I might add).

I'd love to get a head count to see who's in, and then we'll figure out what sort of forum or format we want to share these stories with the public (maybe some sort of blog governed under a creative commons license, perhaps).

And feel free to share this with whomever else you like that you think would be up for the challenge.  The more the merrier.

So, show of hands?

June 01, 2010

Some final thoughts about "Lost"

So, I know many of my readers out there are fans.  Here are some things that come to mind, now that the finale's been marinating in my mind for a week now.  Beware of spoilers.  Brain dump commencing:
  • First of all, I thought the finale was beautiful, and recasts the entire run of the show in an entirely new light.  Done right, I think the way you end a story tells you what it's actually been about from the beginning.  Just like Battlestar Galactica: they told you in the very first episode what the whole series is about when Adama asks "why are we, mankind, worth saving".  In the same way, "Lost" told you very early on in the catchphrase "Live together, die alone."
  • Then again, I'm a bit bothered by the shifting motivations for Jacob & The Man in Black.  I mean, is Jacob trying to convince the Man in Black that humanity is worth saving to convince him not to leave the island?  Good luck with that.
  • I love the intermeshing (if that's really a word) of the mystical and the sci-fi.  Electromagnetism as a catch all for all the weird time & space distortions on the island.
  • I really love the resolution of Ben's story.  After all the horrible things he's done, he ready does still have some work to do, doesn't he?  :-)
  • So, Miles, Kate, Frank, Sawyer, Claire, & Richard all escape.  Somehow, I don't think this "Ajira Six" is going to get the same treatment as their predecessors.  Can you imagine Frank trying to explain what happened to the other 40+ passengers on his plan?  Can you say "jail time"?  And, really, where are these others going to go from here?  I suppose Kate becomes Claire's nursemaid, which means Sawyer probably won't stay to far away, which means Miles won't stay to far away either.  Richard's path would be the most interesting after this.
  • Jack's story, while triumphant, is, ultimately, a very sad one.  I mean, yes, he sacrificed himself and saved the world & all that, but only because he realized that he had nothing else.  Whatever Jacob had set in motion for Jack at the very beginning had stripped his soul completely naked and left it laying in the street.  Of course he'd take that job!  Hurley still has a family that loves him.  Kate has a child.  Sawyer's too bitter.  I felt really sad about what he'd come to by the end, despite his resolution in the afterlife.
  • And don't even get me started on John Locke!  I suppose his demise ultimately served the purpose of catalyzing Jack, but, man, talk about the suffering of Job!
  • I LOVE the final confrontation with the Man in Black.  May trump Sayid vs. Keamy as the best fight in the series.  Just absolutely epic.
But, at the end of the day, the true triumph of the show is that they could accomplish something so vast & complex, but still make it ultimately in service of character, above all else.  In many ways, Lost is the opposite of "The Wire", where story trumps all, especially character.

In short, a masterpiece of TV story telling.  As far as genre shows go, very little can even touch it.

But, if you're a fan of Lost and you haven't watched the new "Battlestar Galactica", you are really doing yourself a disservice.  The plot is not as complex, but the seriousness of the storytelling and the authenticity of character & performance are on the same level as "Lost".  It's equally spiritual, and, like Lost, you don't realize just how much until the end.

Actually, now that I think about it, "BSG" is kind of the mutant love child of "Lost" and "24", because it's just as ruthless as Jack Bauer's home town, and just as political, but still is a good solid genre show firmly based in characters.

Lost rocked.  I'll miss it.

What are your favorite sci-fi novels?

Statement of the obvious:  I'm a geek.

Always have been.  Always will be.  And I wear it proudly.

Heck, when I was in middle school, instead of joining Columbia House, I joined the Sci-Fi Book Club, where a new science fiction novel was shipped to my house to read every month.

Last week, the New York Times magazine published an article where the interviewed top authors in various genres and asked them to list their favorite books in their own genres.  The one that caught my eye was William Gibson, author of the famed cyberpunk novel "Neuromancer"and his list of science fiction novels.

Now, long time readers of Macroscope know I've had a bit of a bee in my bonnet over the years about how modern day science fiction film seems stuck in "Blade Runner", largely because most sci-fi screenwriters today only reference other films instead of actually reading sci-fi fiction like their predecessors in the 60's & '70's.  And, frankly, I criticize them because I am one of them.  I've not read nearly as many classics in sci-fi as I would like, and I would really hope to change that.

If nothing else, how can you go beyond what's been done if you don't know where the edge is?

So, with that in mind, I'm curious to know, among you folks out there, what are your favorite science fiction novels out there?

And, by science fiction, I mean fiction that is in some way referencing some actual scientific theory.  Fantasy like "Lord of the Rings" or "Chronicles of Narnia" don't count.  And neither does "Star Wars", since there's really no underlying science at work in those stories.

And, with that in mind, here are some of my favorites.  Not in any particular order, but, of course, the order the come to mind probably indicates a level of preference:

  • Frank Herbert's "Dune" series (I've read 4 of the 6 of his original series.  Working on "Heretics of Dune")
  • Arthur C. Clark's "Rama" series (the 1st one is a bit dry, but after he teams with Gentry Lee for "Rama II" and the rest of the series, it's a pretty amazing treatise on evolving human society, literally in a bubble)
  • Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series
  • "The Demolished Man", by Alfred Bester - perhaps the best prose depiction of telepathy I've ever seen or could even imagine.  Just on a totally other level.
  • "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and its sequel, "The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul", one of the most underrated sci-fi comedies, courtesy of Douglas Adams
  • Mary Shelley's original "Frankenstein"
  • H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds"
What about you?  Feel free to contribute.