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Posts Tagged 'j. michael straczynski'

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.


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