dead like me

To Wainscot or Not to Wainscot, that is the question

To Wainscot or not to Wainscot– that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the tale to create

The beings and world out of nothing but my page,

Or to take with some of its history

And, creatively change them. To write, to make...

Ok, that's enough at that, but as a genre writer, it is a question that crops up from time to time, and when it does, oy, what a headache.

If you don't know what wainscoting is, it is creating a paneled off world within our real world.  Think Harry Potter, or Bleach, or

  • Charmed
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Dead like Me
  • Dollhouse
  • Percy Jackson series
  • Stargate SG-1
  • Stargate Atlantis
  • Stargate Universe
  • Underworld movies

I think you get the idea.  The basic idea is that in a Wainscot story there is a secret world which is kept from the eyes of the average person.

When you are writing a sci-fi or fantasy world you have the choice between a wainscot world and a secondary or new world.  The decision is not always as easy or clear-cut.

Could Lord of the Rings take place in a wainscot world?  Yes, it honestly could.  The only part of the story that would be changed is that the story would no longer be a prehistory, unless it was set early in Earth's history.  Honestly, if you set the story during the time of Rome, and made Mount Doom into Mt Vesuvius, then the story would be just as poignant.

So why Wainscot?

Honestly, the only reason to choose a Wainscot world over an Invented world is control.

When you create a new world/cosmos, you have total control over every aspect of the world.  You get to decide what is and isn't natural, as well as extremely precise control over the cultures and histories of the people who populate your world.

A Wainscot is helpful when you want to call up cultural, ethnic, or historical references.

Why is Harry Potter a wainscot?

  1. It is easier to understand quidditch when you can reference soccer.
  1. Rowling didn't have to explain wizarding education or politics, because she could reference its British equivalence.
  1. It was easier to hide Harry outside the Wainscot than within it.

Think about it: Terry Goodkind had to put up a magical barrier in his world to hide Richard.  That is a lot more work than dropping him off with a group of muggles.

So which is better?

It depends on your audience.  Genre readers are used to flipping back and forth from between fantastical worlds, but the average reader is not.  If you look at the best sellers charts (granted they have their own problems), you will see that most of the best seller are Wainscots.

I might be suffering from a perception filter, but it really does seem that way.  Just because it is easier to mainstream a wainscot world than an invented world is not a great reason to choose to write one, but it is something to consider?

Do you have any thoughts?  Questions? Comments about wainscot stories?  If so, leave me a comment, and I will do my best to answer them.

My Top 10 Favorite Television Series, I Didn’t Watch On The TV Box.

You know how it is. You see the ads for a new TV show and then never catch it. Or the network pulls it before you can really get a grip on the characters. Or they keep changing times and you can never figure out when it’s on. Or you like it, watch the first or even second episodes, and then one night you miss it and bam… you’re out of the loop. Now with places like Hulu.com and Netflix streaming online, you can catch a lot of your favorites online. Here are my top ten favorite television shows I didn’t watch on the TV box, in alphabetical order:

movies

  1. Cleopatra 2525 - Complete Series, 2000 Ok, so I know this is a little corny, but I love it. An exotic dancer in for plastic surgery in 2001, wakes up in the year 2525 to find the world has been taken over by evil robots. This show brings you scantily clad beauties with arm bands that shoot lasers and help them repel down giant elevator shafts and a freaky bad guy in clown makeup and extensions. It doesn’t get better than that.   Watch it streaming online on Hulu
  2. Dead Like Me, 2003 A college dropout is killed by a toilet seat that falls from a space station on her first day at a temp agency. Upon death, she finds out she is has been chosen to be a grim reaper and take people's souls just before they die. The bad news? She still has to work for a living! Some of these scenes are so close to real office life, it's scary. Can anyone say collate?
  3. Eureka, 2006 The best minds in the US are tucked away in a remote town where they build futuristic inventions for the government's benefit. A US Marshal gets stranded there and decides to becomes the next Sheriff after the old one is injured from a science project gone wrong. Quirky, fun.  Watch it streaming online on Hulu.
  4. Firefly, 2002 In the distant future, Captain Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds a former soldier for the independents, is now a smuggler and commander of a small spacecraft with a loyal hand-picked crew. They travel the far reaches of space in search of food, money, and anything to live on.  Along the way, they encounter life-threatening missions and a cast of interesting characters. Must see. Watch it streaming online on Hulu.
  5. Jericho, 2006 When bad boy Jake returns to his Kansas small-town home, Jericho, everyone is preoccupied with petty private business and family matters, but that changes drastically after an unexpected explosion hits. It soon becomes clear there has been a nuclear attack, but no one knows by whom or to what scale. Jericho inhabitants gradually discover the USA is disintegrating. Life becomes complicated for these small town folk when needs such as food, fuel, and self-defense against invaders become the main task. Jake proves extremely resourceful and a smart hero saving the town many times and changing the resident views of him. Watch it streaming online on CBS.
  6. Kindred the Embraced, 1996 Julian Luna, prince of the kindred (vampire), clans in San Francisco, has his job cut out for him as he must try to keep peace among them while not being afraid to apply ruthless justice against those who would break kindred rules. Infractions that merit "final death" include the taking of human life and changing humans into vampires who have not volunteered for the transformation. This show was an exciting and perplexing moment for all of us hard core vampire LARP'ers.  We were thrilled at the fact that mainstream took notice of something we enjoyed, puzzled the changes they made, and disappointed when it was cancelled just as the series started heating up!  I remember being upset that my favorite clan, Tremere, was not represented and hoped that season 2 might have brought them out of the woodwork. The tragic death of Mark Frankel (Julian) after Season one, caused all of us Masquerade RPG'ers to lose faith in another season.
  7. Moonlight, 2007 A vampire is a private investigator and falls for mortal woman who he saved from dying as a child.  This show has been ridiculed by fans of the 1980's series Forever Knight.  It does seem like some of the shots used in Moonlight are very familiar to us Forever Knight fans and even some of the themes they use are very close to the other show.  However, I feel that Moonlight brings a sexier, up-to-date feel to our favorite "do-good" vampire role. I'm not saying it's better, it's just more vampire fun.
  8. My Own Worst Enemy, 2008 As an agent for a top-secret government agency, Edward agrees to let the government insert a chip in his brain that can be turned on and off.  When he is turned off, he is Henry, an efficiency expert, who lives a typical suburban life right down to the wife, two kids, dog, and minivan. In contrast, Edward is a lethal, multilingual operative. Somehow the chip breaks, making it impossible for the government to control when Henry is "on" or Edward is "on".  I caught this on Hulu.com and loved it so much, I bought the DVD.  This is sort of a 24 meets Alias meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. TV aficionados will recognize many members of the cast and Christian Slater does a brilliant job of playing the innocent family man who could never harm a soul trying to come to grips with the fact his life is a sham and the lethal killer who will do anything to stay alive. Watch it streaming online on Hulu.
  9. Red Dwarf, 1988 Three million years ago, a radiation leak killed the crew of the mining ship, Red Dwarf. The only survivor was Dave Lister, the chicken soup machine repairman. He spends his time on the ship with a holographic projection of Arnold Rimmer (his dead bunk mate), Cat (a life-form that evolved from Dave's cat), Holly (the ship's senile computer), and Kryten (a service mechanoid).  BBC comedy good for hours of fun.  If you haven't heard of this one, you've been under a smegging rock.
  10. Sanctuary, 2007 Amanda Tapping stars as a unique woman (possibly immortal?) who runs a Sanctuary for all kinds of creatures and monsters.  This show follows her and her team as they find new species and try to help them.  They also have their enemies.  I'm anxious to see what this show becomes... if it's renewed. Watch it streaming online on Hulu.

You can check out a lot of these gems at Hulu.com.  If you'd like to purchase them, you can do as I do and shop Amazon.com.

So, now that I've given you some to catch up on, what are your favorites?

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Dead Like Me: Life After Death

Dead-Like-Me-Life-After-DeathRelax all you Dead Like Me fans!  You can now place this movie on your Netflix queue.  I am officially endorsing Dead Like Me: Life After Death as a positive addition to  the Dead Like Me fan collection.  I'm not saying that every one of you are going to love it or that they didn't make mistakes, but all in all it was an enjoyable watching experience. One tip before you watch:  Don't expect this to be a blockbuster film that answers every question and inspires you to write a sonnet.  Dead Like Me: Life After Death needs to be viewed as a sort of lost episode.  Now let's get to all the burning questions you fans who can't wait want to know.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW**

What they did right:

  • The loss of Rube and the waffle house were felt, but the characters were just as puzzled as the viewer.  This made it a little easier to handle because as you watched, you shared their confusion and anger.  This movie could not have taken place with Rube in the picture.  Why not?  Well, he'd eat a piece of pie and then kick their butts in line, that's why!  He would have never stood for all the trouble our favorite grim reapers get into.  So, although I missed him immensely, the loss was explained well and the scriptwriters left a slim opening for his possible return in future works.
  • I was excited to see just a little bit more into the world of lights.  Often on the series, you would see the lights the ghosts were walking into but not quite understand why or what they were seeing.  This film gives just a little bit more info about their "heaven".
  • George's family is once again in the mix and Reggie is an integral part of the story, but in a way you would never guess.
  • Crystal the freaky co-worker, Dolores "HerBig" George's boss, and Dolores's cat, Murray, all return to the cast.  Mason, Roxy, George, George's mom and sister are all returning actors as well.
  • Overall this film had the same feeling, comic sarcasm, and plot twists that we have come to love in the two-season series.

What puzzled me:

  • The opening and several transitions in the film showed comic book drawings of the cast.  However, the drawing of Rube looked nothing like Mandy Pitinkin and George also looked strange.  I was wondering why they made it like a comic book?  Is there a Dead Like Me comic somewhere out there I missed out on?  Are they trying to make it look like Heroes?  Are they trying to appease the comic book fans?  Why didn't they draw Rube as Mandy Patinkin in the comic?  Were they bound legally not to use Mandy's face?  Did they draw George strangely because Rube was strange looking and they were pretending to show the face of Millie who we never see?  If after watching you know the reason or care to speculate, I'd love some comments.
  • George's mom was really kind in this movie which was a little like Wednesday Addams smiling, strange and uncomfortable.
  • All the reaper's are now able to see the gravelings.  In past episodes, I remember George being told, "No one can see the gravelings."
  • Daisy, Daisy Adair.  Not much to say here.  Although a new actress took the role, there wasn't much of a difference for me.  I liked this one just a little less than the last actress.  It seemed she wasn't as annoying as Daisy should be.
  • Too much slow-mo.  It seemed like every time George spoke to someone, slow-mo was used as a sort of "a-ha" moment guide.
  • I found this show to be very emotional.  It had a sort of sit-com, sappy ending that although I enjoyed it, it felt weird at the end of a Dead Like Me production.

Netflix, Inc.

    If you'd like to add Dead Like Me: Life After Death to your Netflix queue, click here:

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DVD Releases: February 17th, 2009

dead_like_me_movie Out this week we have one movie to feature: Dead Like Me: Life After Death

  • Dead Like Me: Life After Death:  I really enjoyed Dead Like Me the show and can’t wait to watch the movie.  Unfortunately Mandy Patinkin was not able to return for this movie but the rest of the cast is back.  The story is about how a new assignment hits home for grim reaper Georgia when her latest reaping, Hudson Hart, turns out to be the secret love of her sister, Reggie. Meanwhile, Calvin Kane takes over as Head Reaper, but he's not highly regarded by his undead underlings Daisy, Roxy and Mason.

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Dead Like Me: The Movie

deadlikeme I was stunned when I came across this swag poster while going through pictures from San Diego Comic Con.

I knew they were making a film, but I didn’t know when and how it would be coming out.

Most of the original cast has returned for the movie, with the notable exceptions of Mandy Patinkin (Rube) and Laura Harris (Daisy).  To get around this, they replaced Rube with a different boss and recast Daisy…

I am relieved they did not recast Rube, but I am not sure how I will react to a new actress playing Daisy.

After the departure of Rube Sofer, a new head reaper named Cameron Kane takes over. He's a slick businessman who couldn't care less about helping the newly dead. Chaos ensues and brings out the worst in Daisy and Mason who begin drinking anew. George and Reggie re-connect for the first time when George reaps a new friend of Reggie's (IMDB).

The trailer looks interesting, and the story sounds interesting.  Dead Like Me was one of my favorite shows on TV.  Season 1 blew me away.  After Season 2, I waited for the show to return and when it didn’t, I got rid of cable.

I cannot wait to get the DVD.  It is still a mystery as to when it will come out, but it sounds like it will be sometime in 2009.  There is a different trailer on their Official Site.

Fandom v The Scifi Channel

fiction Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare has written a post claiming, “There’s No Such Thing as Science Fiction Fandom.”  His main point:

It would be more accurate to claim that there’s no such thing as a single unifying science fiction fandom.

I think there’s a strong case to be made that historically there used to be one. The one that formed around the pulp magazines, that essentially created WorldCon and the Hugos. Members of that fandom were at one time a pretty good example of the average science fiction fan (Solar Flare).

Is Fandom splintering?

In February, I wrote Three Types of SF Fans, in which I explored the major divisions within SF Fandom.  I do not believe that Fandom is splintering, our problem is Pop Culture exposure and a misapprehension about what fandom is.

The Source of the Problem:

  • Fans are fanatics!  They eat, drink, breathe and live SF.
  • Enthusiasts think they are fans.  They get excited by the release of an SF film, maybe play some games, but are not defined by their interest in SF.

As SF has made its flash into the Pop Culture, many new enthusiasts have been created and a few new fans.  Every flash in the pan has this effect.

We are at the point in the cycle when SF has past its peak in popularity and is falling out of favor causing the enthusiasts to stay interested in the series that turned them on, while talking trash about other SF so they can hold on to an image of coolness, the image of a fracturing fandom is born.

The Scifi Channel is to Blame

The Scifi Channel and the major studios have fed this seeming division by conflating futuristic action films and series with science fiction leaving many enthusiasts to believe that SF is synonymous with futuristic action films.

This makes it almost impossible for any non-action based series or film to have any sort of traction.

To make this point clearer, I have debated with people whether Dead like Me and Eli Stone are SF.  The group I was talking with insisted that they were not because they were not action packed...

Promoting Fan Culture

But the scale of the genre now is such that you really can’t assume that another science fiction fan will like or even be interested in what you are interested in. The sheer number of fandoms within the science fiction fan community results in a huge diversity of opinions and tastes (Solar Flare).

Our biggest problem with multiple fandoms is that fans have failed to communicate fan culture to the next generation.  We have allowed pop culture to parody and ridicule our lives without offering an alternative take for people to see.  The beauty and power of a filksing, the humor of a masquerade, or the basic comradery of a convention.

As long as we allow pop culture to define fandom, true fans will continue to find themselves pushed further and further out of the picture.  So keep the faith, and spread the word.