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Posts Tagged 'babylon 5'

The upsides of collaborating

I really haven’t looked much, if at all, at Pascha at the Singing School since finishing the first draft back around New Years. There were some typos Megan pointed out that I fixed. There was the moment back in February where I thought to myself, “Hey, you know what the Chapel needs? A chandelier!” only to go back and realize that I had already, in fact, put a chandelier right there for all to see. There was the person who read it who very politely said nothing; somehow I managed to get out of them that a particular term was too close to a term used in a similar context in another book for their comfort. When I showed them my real-world source for the term I had used, indicating that I had not, in fact, plagiarized anybody and that the similarity was entirely coincidental, they loosened up and said some more useful things. (I am now getting around the uncomfortable similarity problem by using a different word that incorporates sound changes my wife worked out — and actually, I think I’m better off this way for a few reasons, some obvious, some not so much.)

Save these couple of minor details, I’ve really just let the manuscript sit in a drawer (well, okay, I’ve let it sit on my hard drive) for the last six months — but the time has perhaps come to see what the next step is.

See, I was finally able to sit down with the guy I’ve been trying to convince to draw some pencil sketches for it. I kinda had to wait for him to finish pesky things like his Masters degree. He’s done now, though, and he’s read the first draft. Happily, he also gets the first draft, and had some perceptive comments that indicated he understands what I’ve tried to do, and is interested in seeing how things might play out (both with the bigger story of which it is theoretically a part, and with the more immediate matter of trying to find an audience for this little window I’ve opened).

The thing is, for me, I’d hate to work with anybody on something like this and just say, “Here, draw this part, and this part, and this part.” I know I wouldn’t find that too terribly much fun to work on, and since John is actually a Real Artist and stuff (to say nothing of an iconographer who is maturing disturbingly quickly), I can’t imagine he would, either. I actually want him to be a co-creator, I suppose — somebody who engages the words on the page and maybe brings something to light in his illustrations that makes me think, “Oh, of course, John’s absolutely right, and that’s something that should be in the text, too”, even if maybe it’s a detail I don’t wind up using until down the road a piece. You know, the kind of thing that can only make the final product better in the long run. To that end, I’ve given him a number of details about the backstory of Pascha at the Singing School so that he can understand just what is actually happening in certain spots. J. Michael Straczynski is fond of drawing a distinction, with respect to certain moments in Babylon 5 that don’t get explained until much later, between knowing what happens and knowing what it means that something happens. I need John to be in on both.

Yes, I suppose it probably creates more work for me — but I think probably the submission draft will be far more cohesive in the long run for having a collaborator to force me to do it, so I can’t really say I see a downside.

With any luck, I may be able to send this out before the end of the year. Maybe I shouldn’t be in a rush to get my first rejection slip on this project, but there we go.

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Star Trek

Gotta admit it — never been much of a Trekker. I’ve seen most of the movies multiple times (save Nemesis, which I never saw at all) and most of the them in the theatre at least once, I’ve seen some number of episodes of the original series at one point or another, and same for The Next Generation. I could never quite get into Deep Space Nine or Voyager, and I didn’t even bother trying with Enterprise. In terms of Star Trek being any kind of an influence on me, First Contact inspired me to give a go at coming up with a story that would wrap up the Star Trek universe once and for all. This wound up becoming an original story called The Ascension, a sort of Fugitive story set in a space opera universe, for which I actually went through the process of writing a full screenplay, 120 pages, three act structure and all, and subsequently tried to pitch as a spec script. I was able to fast-talk my way into getting a few agents to read it (including one who is now a producer of some note), but of course it didn’t go anywhere. Still, it was a great writing exercise, it taught me a lot about story structure as used in movies (which in and of itself was a bestowal of charity for me when it comes to judging movie adaptations against their source material), and it prompted my good friend and sometime editor Matthew Murray to tell me, “Hey, there’s this TV series that I think is similar in tone to what you’re going for that I think you’d really enjoy — it’s called Babylon 5.” And, sure enough, he was quite right — so perhaps we could say that Star Trek‘s biggest influence on me was to eventually get me, via a rather circuitous means, interested in Babylon 5 and the work of J. Michael Straczynski in general.

But I digress (what a surprise — can you tell I read Ain’t It Cool News a lot in my late teens and early twenties?).

Anyway, point is, while my life doesn’t depend on Star Trek movies by any means, I was certainly intrigued enough by the trailers and the reported premise, to say nothing of the cast, to want to see it opening weekend.

I enjoyed it a heck of a lot; in particular, I admired a lot the ability of the new cast to inhabit the spirits of their various characters without ever devolving into impersonations (and in the case of Bruce Greenwood, the ability to create a great onscreen character out of somebody who has mostly existed as offscreen backstory), and appreciated the film figuring out a way to have an in-story reason for a reboot without going to Crisis on Infinite Earths proportions of ridiculousness. I’m looking forward to future adventures with this particular crew, and I’m looking forward to Chris Pine growing into the captain’s chair. I also loved that the movie was able to do something that the original series could never do — have an official handoff of the Enterprise from Christopher Pike to James T. Kirk.

Most of all, however, I loved that the movie was more than just a Star Trek story — it acknowledged, and referenced, much of what has happened that is important in science fiction TV and movies since the original series. The design of Nero’s ship sure looked to me like an homage to the Shadow vessels in Babylon 5, the planetary drills also seemed to be a reference to the Vorlon planet-killers, and then the fate of George Kirk (and even to some extent how they reworked the story of Christopher Pike) had overtones of Jeffrey Sinclair. Much of the camera work seemed to reference Battlestar Galactica (the new one). Certain shots (one in particular, but to say which one would be a bit of a spoiler) were definitely nods of the head to Blade Runner. Nero’s tattoos were Darth Maul-esque, and then the space battles to begin with were the first I’ve seen in a Star Trek movie which seemed aware that there’s a space opera series out there called Star Wars which sets the bar for space battles. On that level, the movie is a love letter to fans of science fiction film and TV of all stripes, and I think it succeeds marvelously.

Anyway — looking very much forward to seeing how this version of the five-year mission plays out.

Τι κάνω;

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the end of week 3 of a new semester has been reached.

I’m having fun with Modern Greek thus far; given that much of what has been covered is stuff that hasn’t changed much from Attic usage (with the exception of pronunciation), I’m having, shall we say, a relaxed time of it. The prof says that he will start getting together with me and the other grad student to pick up the pace a bit, so that we can jump to the fourth semester next term, skipping the 150 and 200 level classes altogether. This doesn’t altogether depress me; the class so far certainly has been hardly anything about which I would lose sleep, but it would also be nice to untether myself enough from the pace needed by a freshman who after three weeks is still struggling to read the alphabet so that I feel like my own time is being spent wisely.

Modern Greek has also opened up a new possibility for me; in my ongoing quest to not have 30+ graduate credits just sitting as an unusable blob on my transcript that won’t transfer anywhere, I’ve brought up the possibility with my Greek teacher of doing a Masters in West European Studies, looking at the Greek diaspora in places like Germany and examining issues of religious identity and so on. He was supportive of the notion, and is reviewing my personal statement. I have to say, I’m not totally in love with the idea, but I’ve got half of the coursework done, I’d be able to finish in about a year, and it is something in which I’m legitimately interested. If I leave IU with a Masters in a field that isn’t directly related to where I go from here, I’ll at least leave here with a Masters (and keep up the pattern started with my undergrad), as opposed to a boatload of credits that nobody will care I have and won’t transfer anywhere.

The demographic makeup of the class is interesting; I’d say it’s about 3/4 Greek-American kids. I can’t tell if they’re trying to (re?)connect with their heritage, shooting for an easy A after years of Greek school growing up, or just want to be able to talk to Yia-Yia.

We use “Greek names” in class. The professor originally suggested Ριχαρδός, which is just “Richard” with a Greek masculine ending added, but thinking about it, I decided to go with a name that had the same meaning rather than the same sound. “Richard Barrett” roughly translates to “King Troublemaker” (I’m not kidding, although it depends on which part of Europe your particular Barretts are from — it can also mean “hatmaker” or “fortress”); in Greek, according to my friend Anna, that can be rendered more-or-less as ο Βασίλης Ταραχοποιός, and thus I am now called in class.

(By the way, Anna has some interesting observations which are perhaps not entirely unrelated to some I have made before. I have a hard time relating fully to either person she describes for various reasons, but have certainly encountered similar people myself. The convert friend sounds like he’s exactly the kind of guy who needs to hear The Divine Liturgy in English. Anyway, her post is, as is typically the case with Anna’s blog, worth reading.)

I have finally started the notes for Hansen and Quinn Unit III; I hope to have them in done in a week or so (once I’ve got a particular writing assignment done this weekend). If you’re waiting for them and have that particular unit staring you in the face in class — well, I’ll do my best.

(And perhaps next week I’ll finish translating the Meyendorff article, too.)

If you recall a rather cryptic post from a couple of weeks ago, I’ll add only that another very interesting (and positive) dimension has emerged from this set of circumstances. More to come once it happens.

A couple of completely random bits —

I bought a treadmill about a month and a half ago, and except for days I’ve been out of town and two somewhat exceptional evenings, I’ve been good and have used it for a half hour every day since it was delivered. I watch episodes from the various series making up the DC Animated Universe; including stretching, I usually manage to watch two episodes in one shot. I started with the second season of Justice League (when it became Justice League Unlimited); since that season ends with what is, effectively, the chronological end of that universe, it seemed only fitting that I move on from there to the show that started it all, the very first season of Batman: The Animated Season. All I can say is, it never ceases to amaze me how good these shows are on an extremely consistent basis — and as much as I think Christian Bale has become the definitive live-action Batman, there is no question in my mind that Kevin Conroy is the definitive Batman of any medium. (You know what I’d love? Bruce Timm and Paul Dini to write the script for the next Christopher Nolan Batman. It’ll never ever happen, but just imagine…)

Anyway, it keeps me excited about exercising. It begs the question what I might do when I’ve burned through them all — but hey, I’ve still got the season box sets for Babylon 5. That’ll keep me busy for a few months once the Timmverse goodness runs out.

After an interesting reference to their singer on a particular celebrity blog I read, out of morbid curiosity I bought the eponymous first studio album by the so-called “Brechtian punk cabaret” act the Dresden Dolls. I’m an Oingo Boingo fan from way back, and this is certainly within that tradition; the artists involved are definitely talented and creative; nonetheless, I can’t quite figure out if it’s my cuppa or not. I may give Amanda Palmer’s solo album a shot and see if that convinces me; at the very least, the companion book sounds intriguing.

OK — have a good weekend. I’m needing to get some sleeping done, some writing done, and some birthday parties done by Monday; let’s hope.


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