gene roddenberry

Glee: Words of Hate A Moment of IDIC

I was so amazed and proud of Burt Hummel Kurt’s father in Glee ep. 120 Theatricality.  He says so succinctly the problems of using words of hate and the hope for a new kind of dude.  Watch the clip of the scene Below.

Why can't you work harder at blending in

This is a softer question of hate.  Denying who we are lessens us as a whole.

The person who is “working harder at blending in” is spending most of their energy on that instead of creating a better life for themselves, their friends and family and for their community.  It’s like saying mow the lawn but we want you to work harder while doing it so use a push mower instead of a riding one.  By the end of the lawn one is more tired from the extra effort and does less in their day for it.

Then there is the psychological damage.  Knowing ones true self is an amazing liberating thing that opens up so many opportunities to experience life.  This is after all what we all seek, moments of being truly alive.  Denying one’s self is the opposite of that.  The person in denial misses those experiences of being alive. This leads to depression, increased drug use to get the feeling of being alive and suicides which is a major problem in the gay community.

Words of Hate

I was so proud of Burt for not tolerating Finn using the word Faggy.  In addition to that he really puts the word into it’s true context as a word of hate.

Saying a word of hate toward an inanimate object when it is meant for an individual in your head is still saying it at a person.  The hate is still there.

He asks Finn “Do you use the N word?”  “Do you call Becky (the girl with down syndrome) a retard?”

Words of hate don’t loose their hate just because it’s against a different group of people.  After all it’s really what’s behind the words hate and that is the same from word to word.  That is the poison that hurts the one spouting it and those who come into contact with it.

Before you use a word, think: ‘Does this word come from a source of hate?’  ‘What am I really saying when I use the word?’

New Kind of Dude

“I thought you were some kind of new dude who was cool about it.”  The disappointment in Burt’s voice was so poignant.

It’s always about evolving, growing both as people and as a society as a whole.  We all benefit when removing hate from the situation.  Finn could have addressed his lack of comfort with Kurt, his need for a more private room, and been more engaged in the decorating coming up with a productive solution if he would have left hate out.

Gene Roddenberry is a great example of the new kind of dude that Burt talks about.  His concept of IDIC is a great example of that

IDIC comes from Star Trek meaning Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.

The New kind of dude:

  • Celebrates our diversity as a cultural strength
  • Knows ones self and continually seeks to know ones self
  • Stands up against hate and it’s poisoning effect.
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Roddenberry Productions To Work On The Questor Tapes

CEO of Roddenberry Productions Rod Roddenberry announced today that Roddenberry Productions has entered into a deal with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television to develop the Gene Roddenberry pilot “The Questor Tapes.” The announcement was made at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame induction ceremony where Rod Roddenberry accepted the posthumous honor…

“The Questor Tapes” was originally conceived as a television series pilot about an android with incomplete memory tapes who searches for his creator and his purpose. The pilot ultimately aired as a 1974 television movie. (The Questor character became the inspiration for Data, one of the most compelling characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation.)  (via Roddenberry)

With so many of us out there searching for who we are and what our purpose is in life The Questor Tapes has a lot of potential to resonate with audiences.  Gene Roddenberry felt “that the show had the potential to be bigger than Star Trek.”  I can see the potential in it but as Dollhouse has shown us there will be two main obstacles to overcome to get bigger then Star Trek with this theme.  First, the delivery will have to be subtle but not too subtle or else the audiences won’t get what is really being addressed.  Secondly, getting the major broadcasters to play ball.

More on The Questor Tapes here

Remembering the Glory Days

The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

I find myself thinking about the “Good Old Days” a lot lately.  This is not just a condition of thirty-somethings like me.  A surprising number of twenty-somethings I know are doing it to

Telling War Stories

There is some value in sitting around with your friends telling stories about our pasts.  It is how we come to know each other.

With increasing frequency, I have noticed that stories are not shared as memories, but as a wish for a return to our glory days.

Times Arrow

We are propelled forever into the future, writing ever more moments of our lives into the past.  Everything changes.  What is important is that we do not allow ourselves to become mired in the past.  We can learn from our past, but there is no known power in the cosmos that will allow us to return to a time already lived.

When a chapter closes, we have to turn the page and write the best words we can on the page.

The Best is yet to come

Believe me.  Several times, I have thought my best days were behind me.  The though enters all of our minds from time to time.  The fact is, it is easier to look back than it is to look forward.  We know the past.

Might I suggest we learn how to know the future.

  • Plans help
  • Goals motivate
  • Hope enlivens

We have to find a way to have all three.  That is why I am thankful to Gene Roddenberry.  Star Trek gave me a vision of the future that is hard to strip away from my eyes.  The world I want to live in doesn’t exist yet.  I have too much work to do to waste time looking back.

How do you keep yourself looking forward?

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Review: Star Trek

startrekfanposter1I was a little afraid to see the new Star Trek Movie.  All of the materials they sent me to hype the movie either bored or annoyed me.  I started getting a little excited about the movie after the early screenings started returning good reviews. Sitting in the theater as boring trailers, my anticipation ramped up as film crept ever closer.  I love Star Trek.  It is probably my favorite franchise.  I really hoped they wouldn't mess it up.

It took me a while to write this review, because I wanted to make sure I got past my fanboy response to the movie and was able to talk about the movie with a bit more distance and clarity.

What should Star Trek be?

Gene Roddenberry's concept of Star Trek was a simple formula:

  • Action
  • Adventure
  • Basic wants and needs

But it should also tackle all of the most important issues of the day.  (You can read more about this in my post: More Proof J. J. Abrams Doesn’t Get Star Trek).  The early publicity left me with many concerns.

Addressing early concerns

Prequel/Sequel/Reboot [reus name="Star Trek iFrame"]

I was really confused about the nature of the film when they started calling is a prequel/sequel/reboot.

That is a strange thing to say, and alone, a statement that doesn't make sense, but for this film it works.

  • Sequel
    • Spock starts on Romulus like he is in the Next Generation
    • The first Federation uniforms we see are right out of Star Trek Enterprise.
    • Time travel story
  • Prequel
    • Young versions of the characters
  • Reboot
    • Establishes an alternate timeline for Star Trek

I am not sure I like the classification of this movie as a reboot.  Battlestar Galactica was a reboot, this was more of a return to the core of what made Star Trek great in the original series.  If this is a reboot so was:

  • The Animated Series (added more exotic alien races)
  • The Motion Picture (changed the Kligons forever)
  • Wrath of Khan (Brought back the Action/Adventure quality of the series.
  • Voyage Home (The crew of the Enterprise mess with the timeline)
  • The Next Generation (updated the series for a new generation of fans)
  • Deep Space Nine (Star Trek without exploration but with more military elements)
  • Generations (Kirk is ripped from the timeline)
  • Voyager (Star Trek without the Federation)
  • First Contact (The Borg and the crew of the Enterprise mess with the timeline)
  • Insurrection (The Federation is not perfect)
  • Enterprise (Star Trek before the Federation without superior technology)

If you would count each of these major revisions of the setting as a reboot, than this movie is a reboot.  To me, this sequel/prequel.

Turning Star Trek into Star Wars?

trek-newlogo-lg.jpgAbrams, Kurtzman anf Orci all said they wanted to turn bring more Star Wars into Star Trek, but I don't think they got there.  I love both series, and I am familiar with the main qualities of both, and I don't think they brought much if anything from one to the other.

I was afraid that is was going to be more of a Lethal Weapon in Space, Speed: Warp 10, Star Wars: The Vulcan Chronicles, or Cloverfield 2: The Future of the Beast (WTF Star Trek Super Bowl Ad!?!).  There is not a scene in this film that I could see easily fitting in one of the earlier films or the original television series.

Maybe they originally thought of Nero's ship as a sort of Death Star, but it is no more than Probe from The Voyage Home, V'ger from the Motion Picture, or the Son'a ships from Insurrection.  Other than that, I just don't get it.

Uhura in her off hours

I was excited when I saw the clip of Uhura telling Kirk off in the bar.  I hoped Kirk would get his butt kicked and he so did.  I was concerned about the stripping clips of Uhura in the trailers but I love the way the dealt with her.

----------Spoiler Alert!!----------

I loved the relationship between Uhura and Spock.  It made sence, and it served to dehumanize Spock in an interesting way.  The juxtaposition of her emotions and his total lack of emotions really hilighted the difference between humans and vulcans.

I know there are a lot of people who didn't like her depiction in this movie, but Uhura was always a more laid back member of the crew.

Addressing new concerns after seeing the movie

Kirk's Vaccine reaction

I loved the adverse reaction that Kirk had to the Vaccine that McCoy gave him.  It was a flashback to the kind of humor the original series thrived on.  It was silly, light hearted and interfered with the characters ability to do what they needed to do.

The Engine Room of Doom!

WTF were they thinking when they designed the engine room.  It was funny, but I agree with Gwen DeMarco regarding the fate of the writer who came up with the idea for these scenes...

I could go off on a long string blue words, but I will let the others who have already done that do it.  I just thought this was a blemish on an otherwise great film.

Nero's ship armament

Brian and I argued about this fro a long time after the movie.  Personally, I think Nero was just a MacGuffin to give an excuse for the story to happen.  Neither he nor his crew are intgral to the plot and could have been replaced by anyone else with any other motive using any other means.  Nero is not important. They obviously didn't give his subplot any thought, and frankly, the movie would have been better without the distraction.

I wish the film would have had a real 3 dimensional villain, but I honestly didn't expect one from a J. J. Abrams movie.  He has never done villains well.  Every movie and show that he has ever touch has had a weak, impotent, or flat villain.  A better director would have insisted on a better antagonist, but the story didn't matter, the action did.

startrek20081015025340385.jpg

Kirk's Exile from the Enterprise

Some people have complained about Spock having Kirk put in a life pod and jettisoned from the ship.  If I really wanted to defend the movie here I would say that this was a symptom of Spock's frustration that Kirk should not be on the ship at all.  I think that could be argued.

Once more, this is another symptom of Abrams' half-assed directing style.  He needed to have Kirk on the planet to meet Spock and this was the quickest and most "visually exciting" way to do it.  Let's be honest, this was an excuse to have Kirk chased by a Cloverfield reject so he could talk to Spock in a cave.  It was not thought out.

Nero's Motives

nero-characterposter-72dpi.jpg

Nero's motive for attacking Vulcan are nothing less than laughable.  He was a stupid man on a stupid ship with the horridly named "Red Matter" who wants to destroy Vulcan rather than save his homeworld.

Maybe he thought he could do both.  Rid the Empire of the threat of the Federation and save his homeworld.  I think the reallity is a lot simpler.

Like most of the annoying things in this film it just wasn't well thought out.  It was a flimsy excuse for a Nero to be a villain and commit a terrorist act without having to think about whether or not he has a good (or at least understandable) reason or not.

Nero is a flat, empty character and I can tell you why.  This movie is nothing more than:

Wrath of Khan, take 2

This story follows the plot of Wrath of Khan beat by beat with several notable exceptions:

  • Nero is not as scary as Khan.
  • Nero does not have a motive for revenge.
  • "Red Matter" is not as scary as the Genesis Device.
  • Wrath of Khan had better writers and director.

This movie is to Wrath of Khan what the Next Generation episode "Naked Now" is to the Original Series episode "Naked Time."  It is a good remake, but it is not as good as the original.

Is this Star Trek?

Let's measure it against Gene's definition

√ Action √ Adventure √ Basic wants and needs √ Tackle all of the most important issues of the day.

That last check might be a little controversial, but I thought the show dealt with the random nature of terrorism and the emotional cost it has on people.

Star Trek's New Phase

I am glad to say that Star Trek has been reborn, much as it was when Wrath of Khan came out.  I loved the movie.

Likes

  • Canon Uniforms
  • Spock's relationship with the Romulans
  • Characters were perfect
  • Not just an action film
  • great FX
  • sense of humor

Dislikes

  • The Engine room
  • Lack of a serious villain
  • Nero's Ship
  • "Red Matter"
  • The Alien Monster
  • Kirk's marooning

Rating = 10

The Future of Star Trek

Orci and Kurtzmen have already signed on to write the next movie in the series, but that are not sure if it will be a Prequel, Sequel, or Reboot to this movie.  They said they are waiting to see what the reaction to this film is.  And there is one more thing:

Kurtzman: The very last scene when Spock and Spock meet each other, finally. And elder Spock is convincing young Spock that he couldn't interfere, because it would have diverted [Kirk and Spock] away from their friendship. And that their friendship is the key to the whole sort of shebang.

Orci: He gave him a recorded message from Kirk.

Kurtzman: He [elder Spock] said, "Don't take my word for it." And he handed him [younger Spock] a little holographic device and it projected Shatner. It was basically a Happy Birthday wish knowing that Spock was going to go off to Romulus, and Kirk would probably be dead by the time... (Topless Robots)

That could be the set up for the next movie.  Personally, I don't want another movie.  I want a TV series.

DVD Releases: May 5, 2009

Out this week we have three DVDs to feature:  Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict - Season 1, Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy, Doctor Who: Battlefield.

  • Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict - Season 1:  I loved this show Gene Roddenberry put an interesting spin on the invaded earth story.  The Taelons show up as benevolent neighbors with technology that has solved pollution and many of Earth's other problems but under the surface is up to something.
  • Classic Doctor Who on DVD!!!!!!!
    • Doctor Who: Battlefield:  From the Sylvester McCoy era.  In this four-part storyline the Doctor, Ace and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart team up with UNIT to battle the evil Queen Morgaine and throngs of Arthurian opponents who think the Doctor is the legendary wizard Merlin.

Netflix, Inc.Netflix lets you rent, watch and return DVDs from home - Try free for 2 weeks

Star Trek is not a reboot?

startrekfanposter1After pushing the new Star Trek movie as a reboot of the franchise, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are starting to push back. It's clear that most people are not interested in yet another reboot, and even less are interested in a reboot of Star Trek.  It is interesting to see how they are changing the context of the film from a reboot to a prequel/sequel.

From Reboot to Prequel/Sequel

Orci said, "We couldn't imagine not having this movie somehow fall within some degree of continuity. We don't accept the word reboot. Reboot does not actually describe the fact that this movie would not be possible without the 10 movies that came prior to it. The very events of the movie themselves are caused by Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and his story, which picks up essentially after the last movie, Star Trek 10 [Nemesis]. ... So our movie is both a prequel and a sequel. It's a sequel if you're a fan, and a prequel if you're not (SCI FI Wire)."

Honestly, I don't know what to think about this.  I am not sure if it is:

  • the writers starting to revolt against what they feel is an unfair characterization of this movie
  • a new marketing push to rebrand a movie that is not gaining much traction

I want to be hopeful, and believe they are telling the truth, but the good feeling doesn't last long.

Star Trek "fan" PosterTime Travel and Canon

Why is the time-travel element necessary?

Orci: I don't think that fits into the classic definition of a reboot. So it was necessary for that. And it's also necessary in order to both connect the world to the original Star Trek, but then also to then give us the dramatic license and the dramatic stakes of having an unknown future in the movie.

Kurtzman: Yeah, the biggest thing I think we all hiccuped on, just conceptually, when Trek was presented to us was, "Well, we know how they all died. We know what happened to them." And when you know that, it's very difficult to put them in jeopardy in a way that feels fresh or original. How do you ever have real stakes to your characters?

...

This also conveniently allows you to violate canon, such as it is, if necessary.

Orci: Well, again, it's a continuation of canon. If words have precise meaning, it's not technically a canon violation (SCI FI Wire).

They are going out of their way to try to keep this movie in the prequel/sequel category.

I find it hilarious to see any Star Trek writer talk about cannon.  Every fan knows that ever since Gene Roddenberry died, continuity has not exactly been a preoccupation of the continuity.  Whenever it was convenient, they have abandoned canon.  Kurtzman does make a good point that by adding an element of time travel, it does mean that no one is safe.

Star Wars in Star Trek

I have already gone into detail about my fears that they are going to make the new Star Trek film too much like Star Wars (see it here), so I won't repeat myself, but Orci and Kurtzman have given me more to chew on:

Orci: Well, my short quick answer on that up front is Star Wars had a little bit more of an archetypal, mythological structure. That differentiated it from Star Trek to a certain degree in that Star Trek was a little bit more classical science fiction. Star Wars is fantasy, really.

So, as a result of it being fantasy, the story, I think, was a little bit more mythologically drawn.

Kurtzman: I think what we know is that ... Star Trek is about naval battles, and, at its best, is always about out-thinking your opponent. ... But there's a reality to the way that people watch movies today. ... Which is that you cannot honestly expect ... a 12-year-old boy to walk into a theater and to go sit through two hours of very slow naval battle. It's just not going to work.

... There has to be an updating there. And yet you have to stay entirely true to the spirit of Trek. So the challenge then becomes "How do you marry those two things?" And ... the way that we put it is that there's plenty of naval battles in a way that's familiar and a way that seems very Trek. But ... the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars is that Star Wars has always been about speed. ... It's dogfights versus slow ship fights (SCI FI Wire).

Ok, I am not sure what to make out of this.  I really want to remind them of the space battles from the Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or in Voyager, or Enterprise.  You don't have to look outside the franchise to find fast paced action.

I also have a problem with the invocation of the 12 year old boy.  They have been dumbing down entertainment for so long, that they now feel that they have to cater to the short attention spans they created.

I suppose I should be comforted that their contribution to the franchise will be to remove what little science fiction remains.

Forget everything you know

So remember:

  • It's not a reboot
  • It's a prequel/sequel
  • It will be fast paced
  • It will not by Science Fiction or Scifi
  • It was made just for 12 year old boys, not for general audiences
  • It is true to cannon

Wait?? What?? Forget everything I know?  Ok, I will.  I will expect:

  • wooden 2 dimensional characters
  • no plot
  • nothing thought provoking
  • lots of shaky cam
  • lots of explosions
  • fantasy creatures around every corner

I didn't expect the sequel to Lord of the Rings to be a Star Trek film but game on...

PS: J. J. Abrams' "Creativity" and "Imagination"

Facepalm left a great comment on the original post on SCI FI Wire.

The History of J.J. Abrams:

Lost: It's time travel across dimensions Fringe: It's time travel across dimensions Star Trek: It's time travel across dimensions.

Can't wait for his version of Romeo and Juliet.

Most of the comment were negative against the film..

Check out my Star Trek Review.

What makes a fan a fan?

In August last year had a bit of back and forth over the definition of a Fan with Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare:

Eoghann Irving has posted an interesting rebuttal to my post, Fandom v The Scifi Channel, where he tackles the question What makes a fan? The critique of my position is an interesting one, and I have to say, I agree with his assertion that it sounds like I am trying to say that fans define themselves by their interest in SF.

While there are some who have adopted the fan culture for themselves, cultural adoption is not a requirement to be a fan.

What is a Fan?

We are fans.

We love music, stories, characters, settings, and images. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.

Fans are special.  We are more than just enthusiasts who enjoy a piece of work, fans connect with the work.  We feel it.

Fans love

Fans share a bond with the works they love and with one another.   Fans' passion is infectious, spreading the the works they love to others.

The love of a fan is a blessing to a responsible creator, but it is a curse to the reckless.

  • Farscape fans kept the series alive despite the many attempts by the network to cancel it.
  • Star Trek fans helped kept the series alive until the death of Gene Roddenberry when studio pushed the franchise away from its heart.
  • Heroes and X-files fans fell in love with disparate aspects of their respective franchises, but when the series lost their way through a lack of focus on the part of the studios.

If a fan's love is scorned or goes unappreciated, the fan reacts in the same way a jilted lover would.  If a fan's heart turns cold, it is almost impossible to rekindle it.

Fans Know

Ulic Qel-Droma
Image via Wikipedia

Fans know things about the things they love and enthusiasts don’t.

Anyone can quote Star Trek or Star Wars because many of the aphorisms have gone mainstream, but a Star Wars Fan knows who Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun are.  They have become such an important part of the Saga.  They know the Chewbacca died on Sernpidal during the Yuuzhan Vong war trying to save Han Solo's youngest son.

Fandom is not defined by obscure knowledge.  On the contrary, a fans love for a franchise causes them to seek out everything they can from that franchise.  We read the books and watch the OVAs.  A fan remembers the details and more often than not knows the minutia.

Fans participate

Fans create and enjoy filk, fanfiction, fan films, fan art, costumes and conventions.  We often play role playing games, video games and MMOs in the settings we love.

Fan participation is the most commonly mocked aspects of SF fandom.  No one mocks a music fan's attendance of a concert or a sport fan attending a game.  They don't even mock the wearing of band shirts or sports jerseys, or fantasy football or rock and roll camp.  These are not different from conventions, or filk, or role playing, or cosplay.

Fans support

Fans support what we love.  We buy the books, DVDs, and games.

This is where modern fandom is in the most trouble.  The studios and publishers have not offered fans the options they want for media they consume.  DRM (digital rights management) and region codes restrict how and where media can me viewed.

International fans often have few options for obtaining media other than piracy.

Media companies have to listen to the fans and make media available in as many ways as possible to they do not drive money away.  They also must learn that they are not owners of their franchises, they are caretakers and conservators.  The tighter they hold on to outdated and outmoded concepts of ownership, the smaller market they will have and the most desperate they will become.

What we love supports us.

"Never give up, never surrender!"
Image by barcanna via Flickr

Fans often gather insight and inspiration from the franchises they love.  In moments of fear, I have found myself reciting the Bene Geseret prayer from Dune.  It is also not uncommon for fans to quote dialogue to make a point.

These franchises are not just shows or books we like.  More than we realize they are the myths that help us:

  1. talk about the aspects of life that are impossible to discuss straight on.
  2. see the connections between our lives and the transcendent mysteries.
  3. develop a pattern of living with honor, integrity, and purpose.
  4. react the trial, tribulations, and joyful moments of life.

This is why fans embraced the movie Galaxy Quest.  It is a love letter to fandom, showing at its most extreme, but also showing it for what it is.  A culture that gives hope and inspiration to millions.

Are you a fan?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.  The more times you answer yes, the better the likelihood you are a fan.

  • Have you ever connected with a work on a deep level?
  • Have you ever enjoyed something so much you rushed to tell someone?
  • Have you ever played a game, watched an OVA, or read a book that is part of the extended universe of a franchise you love?
  • Have you ever debated or conversed with someone about an aspect of a franchise's setting or the minutia of a setting?
  • Have you ever dressed up as one of your favorite characters?
  • Have you ever attended an SF convention?
  • Have you ever bought a boxset?
  • Have you ever quoted SF to make a point?
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Why Progressive Speculative Fiction?

Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today- but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept about which resolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all. Isaac Asimov, "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

While Asimov was interested solely with Science Fiction, I believe the same can be said about Speculative Fiction as a whole. Many of the problems we face cannot be faced solely by working to fix the present conditions. If we do not explore the possible futures our choices could produce, we walk blindly into the future.

It is change, continuing change inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the word as it will be - and naturally this means that there must be an accurate perception of the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our Everyman, must take on a science fictional way of thinking, whether he likes it or not or even whether he knows it or not. Only so can the deadly problems of today be solved.

Isaac Asimov, "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Again, I would broaden his words out to all of Speculative Fiction.

Lovecraft's Mythos

Cthulhu in the lost city of R'lyeh
Image via Wikipedia

Numerous horror novels/movies have shown us the problems eugenics would unleash upon our societies. Lestat's hope that there is some good in the universe heightens his fear and motivates him to find the answers.

H. P. Lovecraft's fiction had a simple message behind the supernatural horror.  Humankind's chief sin is hubris.  We think too highly of ourselves, and as a result blind ourselves to the fact that somewhere in this vast cosmos, there are creatures who are infinitely more powerful than we are, and whose motives are unfathomable by human logic.

Cthulu, Nyarlahotep, Azathoth, the color out of space, and the color out of time are all horrifying warnings that if we lie to ourselves, pretending there is not a bigger fish out there, we will eventually be devoured by it.

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an all too familiar cautionary tale about scientific and technological advance without the restraining forces of morality and common sense.  The tale has been told and retold, spawning an entire subgenre of horror about the dangers of dabbling in things not understood.

The Resident Evil franchise, Godzilla, and so many others I could spend the rest of the year naming them have picked up the mantle and and shared the horrific future we could create for ourselves if we are not careful to think ahead and not blindly rush into the future.

Star Trek

star-trek-crew-tm.jpgShowed us a future we could hope for.  Imagine a world  where hunger and poverty were removed from the equation.  New challenges would raise their heads, some of which would threaten to return us to the barbaric world we had left behind.

Gene Roddenberry kindled a vision in the hearts and minds of his fans of a world of limitless possibilities.  A world were our only limitations were our imagination and our character.  It is a world to strive towards.

Lord of the Rings

In the Lord of the Rings books, J. R. R. Tolkien showed us a world on the cusp of transition from one age to another.  His mythic prose illuminated the choices that people have to make when culture finds itself on the crossroads of history.

The basic choice is demonstrated through the characters of Sauroman and Gandolf.  Their world, their age was ending.  They had the choice to either embrace the future and try to make the new world a better place to live, or to hold on the past and seek the destruction of the new world before it comes.  Gandolf chose the first path, Sauromon chose the latter.

Star Wars

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Image via Wikipedia

Anakin Skywalker is faced with the same choice in the Star Wars saga.  At first he fights the future out of his attachment, but when he is faced with the ultimate decision, watching the future be destroyed in the person of his son, he learns that he must let go of his attachments and help the future come.

I wonder if that is why more people don't love the prequel trilogy.  It touches a nerve in them, and despite our bravado, no one really wants to think of themselves as Darth Vader.  No one wants to entertain the thought that they could destroy everything they believe in and care for as a result of trying to protect it.

Like all great stories, Star Wars holds a mirror up to us and says, this could be you.

We need Progressive Speculative Fiction

Many things are hard to talk about.  Stories can often show us things we would not or could not have seen otherwise.

Next time, we will discuss the differences between Positive Scifi and Progressive Speculative Fiction.

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Speculative Fiction: The Lost Art of "What if?"

I feel alone lately as a fan of Speculative Fiction.  Many of the people I talk to have never heard of it, and others have had a hard time wrapping their head around the concept, so I have decided to talk about the lost art of speculative fiction.

Art of the Imagination

Speculative Fiction (SF) is the art of the imagination.  Any story, video, image, or song that answers the question, "What if?" is SF.   There are five main subgenres of SF:

  • Science Fiction
  • Scifi
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Alternative History

I meet a lot of people who lack an imagination.  Most are not fans of SF, but what frightens me more than anything is the number of writers/would-be writers who don't have an imagination.

Many people believe that SF is easy to write, when nothing could be father from reality.  Great SF requires more imagination and work than any other genre of fiction.  Not only does the writer have to create a good story, but they also have to construct a new world that is internally consistent and filled with an immaculate reality that will engage the reader/viewer/listener in the setting and story.

The problem with the industry is that too many writers with little to no imagination have found employment making SF because their work is commercially viable to the mass market and lacks any of the qualities great or even good works should have.  They too often forget the one thing that SF should do:

Transcend Limits

Stellar Spire in the Eagle NebulaThe last time SF was popular in the mass market, a spirit of activism, adventure, and dream pervaded the works.  Not all of them, but enough for the the majority of SF fans to be satisfied with many of the films and series launched.  Since then, post-modern fiction styles have dominated print, television and movies, as a result the recent SF works have lacked any depth.

Pioneering SF writers/creators like Frank Herbert, Gene Roddenberry, Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, et al, believed that SF could challenge peoples preconceptions and inspire them to transcend the limits imposed upon them by their upbringing and culture. They wrote and produced SF that attacked our sacred cows, presenting the world as it could/should be with all of the ambiguity and possibility that this world offers us.

This is the SF I love, produce and support. The trite cynicism that has again become en vogue is antithetical to this spirit of transformative fiction that inspired so many to fall in love with science and hope for a better world. It does not have to go this way. We must reclaim the spirit and art that made SF great.

The Search for Meaning

The root of the problem is simple:

  • We hope for a meaning and purpose for our lives and when we find that nature does not provide us with an easy answer we can slavishly follow after, we assume life is devoid of meaning and purpose all together. Nihilism is an easy trap to fall into, but is also an easy one to escape.

Sure, life has no grand overriding purpose... or does it? Life seems to exist to survive, thrive, and evolve. With the exception of evolution, these are not very inspiring goals, but the urge to better ourselves and grow throughout our life is a fundamental function, if not purpose of existence.

This is no reason to despair. The fact that life does not impose a purpose on us allows us to find or invent one for ourselves. What a liberating gift from the universe! We are free to choose our purpose and to find meaning for ourselves.

Now, I won't lie to you. This is a burden to bare, there is no doubt about that, but it is a burden that is easy for us to take up, if we choose to live boldly.

For too long, we have lived our lives under the constraints and limitations placed upon us by society. We have to rise above the nihilistic stupor, and make the world we want to live in.

Let's All Dream Again

We have to rise up, stand up, speak out, and most of all dream. If we do not, then the future is indeed lost, but not because of destiny, but because we have let it follow that path.

Dream again, and dream big. Find something to be for, not something to be against. We are strong and imaginative enough to rise above any darkness that comes upon us. Rise up! Let's take our future back!

This post was inspired by The Lost Art of Speculative Fiction, which I originally posted on March 14, 2008.

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Gene Roddenberry's Favorite Star Trek Episodes

To better understand Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek, here are the ten episodes he told TV Guide were his favorites.  He listed these episodes just two months before his death.

Amok Time

Balance of Terror

The City on the Edge of Forever

The Devil in the Dark

The Enemy Within

The Menagerie, Part I and Part II"

The Naked Time

The Return of the Archons

Where No Man Has Gone Before

The Trouble with Tribbles

More Proof J. J. Abrams Doesn’t Get Star Trek

startrekstory They launched the new Star Trek Movie site today, and it provided me with all the proof I need to see how little J. J. Abrams does not understand Star Trek at all. As you can see on the right, the story is that an egotist and a bunch of people who have never done anything that could be described as good or great have come together to overlay their vision onto a classic series that they have mistaken as nothing but a space adventure.

I have talked at length about how little the new team seems to understand about the depth and power of the original series in their attempt to turn Star Trek into Star Wars (read it here).  This very problem has plagued Trek since Gene Roddenberry died (read more on that here).

Gene Roddenberry on idea of Star Trek, it had action, adventure, wants and needs, but it also tackled all of the most important issues of the day.

This has always been what set Star Trek apart from all of the other Space Operas that have been on Television before or since with the sole exception of Babylon 5.  Action/adventure shows are fleeting.  No other show has engendered the devotion and admiration of so many people.  It didn’t accomplished because it had an action episode from time to time.  It did this because the shows stood for something.

Gene talking about how he resisted the studio's push for Star Trek to be nothing more than an Action Adventure series. It had to be about so much more.

It wasn’t easy for me to listen to Gene talking about Star Trek.  I hope it will not be as bad as it could be, but so far, Abrams and the rest have given me no reason for hope.  This feels like the forces that wanted Star Trek to be a vacant series, devoid of merit have taken advantage of Gene to slowly bleed out of the series everything Gene fought to keep in.  This film, if it is what it looks like, would be the second film to betray Gene’s vision.

Check out my Star Trek Review.

Fan Works and Creative Commons

In Reply to my post "Dream of a Fandom Economy," Clive from Fan Cinema Today wrote:

It's an interesting idea, but it takes such efforts out of the realm of fan production, making them more akin to independent contractors. Would a studio license out its intellectual property if the money was right? Could a franchise survive an avalanche of sub-direct-to-DVD product if people were asked to pay for it? Perhaps, but if money is involved, then they’re pro productions, regardless of how qualified the cast and crew may or may not be. Professional work is measured on a very different scale by studios and viewers (not to mention unions), so if someone holding the purse strings is saying ‘no,’ they likely have their reasons, whether it’s that the franchise is too valuable, or that even high-end amateur work just isn’t pro enough.

Not that many studios threaten to sue anymore, although it does happen from time to time. Lucasfilm fired off a Cease and Desist order to The Dark Redemption in 1999, so you won't see them buying that one any time soon! Meanwhile, Shane Felux, who made Revelations in 2005, won the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge the following year when he made Pitching Lucas; the result of that is that Lucasfilm owns the rights to it for the next 10 years--it's part of the contract that all nominees in the contest have to sign.

You can read about both these stories in-depth in my upcoming fan film book, Homemade Hollywood, which incidentally, goes into the topic of whether studios should buy or license fan works as well (to be honest, that first paragraph at the top of my reply was cut-and-pasted direct from my manuscript!)

Originally posted as acomment by fanfilmbook on dashPunk using Disqus.

I am not sure that it would move these productions from the realm of Fan Works to the realm of professional work. What I am proposing is a reinvention of both the models of Production and the relationship of copyright to fandom.

Toward A Creative Commons Franchise

Creative Commons License

If a writer or company truly wanted to leverage their fanbase, they would license their content under a Creavite Commons or similar license.  Such a license would spell out in simple, human readable terms what the fans are allowed to do with the copyrighted work(s) in question.  For my books, I use a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.  This means others may modify my works so long as they give me attribution, share the work under the same license, and do so in a noncommercial way.

Licenses like this are important for both the copyright holders and the fans.  What would this offer the copyright holder?

  • They empower their fans to give them free promotion through derivative fan works.
  • They allow their fanbase to become more involved with their property which will allow they to become more involved and deeper connected to the original work.
  • By allowing their fans to produce derivative works, they are able to fill in the gaps between releases at no cost to them.
  • They increase their footprint which will help them to convert more casual readers/viewers into fans.  An increased fanbase will increase sales.
  • With fans providing them free advertising, they will be able to focus their efforts more on content than marketing.

Fans would benefit from this approach nearly as much as the copyright holder.

Star Trek and Fandom

After Star Trek was canceled in 1969, Gene Roddenberry allowed fanfiction to thrive.  In reality, he probably saw no future for the series, and saw no reason to enforce his copyright, but whatever his reasons, the flowering of fanfiction reinforced the love fans felt for the series.  It also kept these fans activated until the animated series premiered in 1973, and again from the end of the animated series in 1974 until the first movie in 1979.

Fanfiction filled the gaps between releases of official content, and played a large roll in growing the fanbase of the series so the movies and subsequent series were even possible.  Fanfiction continued to serve this function until the death of Gene Roddenberry in 1991.  In the years following his death, the studio reminded fans what precarious footing they had as Paramount began sueing fan publications and fan sites for copyright infringement.  I know many people who were sued for simply continuing activities they had been allowed under the gentleman's agreement.

As a result of these prosecutions, and the decreasing quality of the show as it suffered from a lack of vision and leadership in the absence of Roddenberry, the fanbase began to dissolve.  Ratings fell, and attendance in the theaters fell with it.

The Status Quo

Now, all fanfilm and fanfiction exist with this same legal sword of Damoclese hanging over them.  New gentleman's agreements have been brokered, or studios have simply stopped suing over fans' infringement of copyright, but there is nothing ensuring that they will not begin again.

As Clive pointed out, "Lucasfilm fired off a Cease and Desist order to The Dark Redemption in 1999, so you won't see them buying that one any time soon! Meanwhile, Shane Felux, who made Revelations in 2005..."  What is stopping them from sending out the Cease and Desist orders again?  Nothing but the feeling that it is presently not in their best interests.

The Moral Argument

The financial argument for adopting Creative Commons or similar licenses are clear, but I think there is also a moral argument as well.  In my post, Fanfiction and Culture, I take the creative commons argument to its extreme:

Most of what we consider classics today were written by people who wrote in a setting they did not create with characters created by others, in other words, FANFICTION! All primal storytelling is fanfiction, telling retelling, embellishing and adding to that characters and setting that the storyteller enjoyed. This is the art of a story teller. Virtually every folktale and myth falls into this category (read the rest here).

This is the cultural cycle stories used to flow through.  What enrages me most about popular media is how often they use terms like myth, mythology, mythos, legend, and saga to describe their works, while simultaneously keeping them from entering the cultural cycle real myths do.

Copyright holder have a responsibility to culture to allow their ideas to follow the natural flow tales historically took and Creative Commons is a way for them to do this while maintaining their right to be the sole content creator allowed to make money off their ideas.

Creative Commons and the Fan Economy

What I proposed in "Dream of a Fan Economy" was that copyright holders should either purchase or license the best fanfilms and fanfiction and release it in a way so that both the original copyright holder and the producer of the fan work can both profit.

It is too easy for any franchise to become bogged down by group think, and if they infused fresh ideas from the fan community into their official releases they could discover new avenues they had never realized were their before.  Many franchises utilize rooms full of writers to crank out content for them.  It is strange to me that any company would turn down any possible source of revenue.

Dream vs Reality

I am not as naive as I might sound right now.  I do not expect any established franchise to adopt the model I am proposing, but that does not mean that I do not see it as something future franchises might use.

I put my money where my mouth is.  My books, Liquid Sky and Shine Like Thunder are both released under just such a license, and I know if I saw a fan work I loved I would try to bring it into the fold to reward its producer for their great work.

As media becomes increasingly fractured, new business models have to rise up to fill the void left behind by the failing studios and publishers of today.  I am not sure this is exactly the right model, but it is a proposal in the right direction.

I am curious what you think.  How could a copyright holder set up a viable, symbiotic relationship with their fans?  We need to find a path ourselves, because the big boys are not even looking.  Before you comment, read Clive's brilliant piece at Fan Cinema Today in response to my previous post

Star Trek After Roddenberry

generoddenburry-240x320 As the news about the new Star Trek movie dips out, including Kevin Smith’s recent reviews about the flick he is not saying that he has seen, I find myself thinking a lot about how Star Trek has listed since the death of Gene Roddenberry in 1991. With the exception of Deep Space Nine, all of the Star Trek Series and Movies have drifted further from Gene’s vision for the series.  They no longer focused on issues and ideas, and instead devolved into nothing more than a generic Space Opera with little under the surface to hold onto.

Voyager and Enterprise, not to mention all of the Next Generation movies continued to drift further away from brilliant series that so many of us fell in love with.

Gene’s genius was to discuss complex social and philosophical issues through the action, adventure, and mystery of the series.  He also created archetypal characters who were so personable the viewer longed follow the twists and turns of their lives.

After Gene’s death, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine struggled to stay on course, and fortunately had to compete with Babylon 5 for viewer.  This competition forced them to deal with issues more often and the probable cause for the Dominion War.

Once Babylon 5 was no longer on air to challenge Star Trek, the show quickly fell into little more than action adventure space opera.

On film, First Contact and Insurrection flirted with depth, but erred on the side of action and adventure.  As Star Trek drifted from the storylines and motifs that made it popular, the studio questioned why the audience was falling away.  Their solution: forget the original fans, add more spectacle and hopefully we can attract a new audience.  The tactic failed…

Now, J. J. Abrams is making a new Star Trek film, rebooting the original series:

Paramount synopsis: From director J.J. Abrams ("Mission: Impossible III," "Lost" and "Alias") and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci ("TRANSFORMERS," "MI: III") comes a new vision of the greatest space adventure of all time, "Star Trek," featuring a young, new crew venturing boldly where no man has gone before (IMDB).

Since very little has been said about the plot of the upcoming film.  What we do know is that the Enterprise in Unchanged and they are spending more on this movie than any other Star Trek film has made, but I would not be surprised to see them follow the same formula that has not served the franchise well to date.  I hope I am pleasantly surprised.

I know I have been accused of taking Star Trek a little too seriously, but it annoys me when a company corrupts such a good idea.

The Lost Art of Speculative Fiction

fiction-thumb.pngWhen I was first getting into Speculative Fiction, it had a spirit of activism, adventure, and dream to it that so much modern fiction simply lacks. Pioneers in this field, Frank Herbert, Gene Roddenberry, Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, et al, believed that SF could challenge peoples preconceptions and inspire them to transcend the limits imposed upon them by their upbringing and culture. They wrote and produced SF that attacked our sacred cows, presenting the world as it could/should be with all of the ambiguity and possibility that this world offers us. This is the SF I fell in love with and endeavor produce and support. The trite cynicism that has again become en vogue is antithetical to this spirit of transformative fiction that inspired so many to fall in love with science and hope for a better world. It does not have to go this way. We must reclaim the spirit and art that made SF great.

The root of the problem is the basic existential quandary we each experience in our time. We hope for a meaning and purpose for our lives and when we find that nature does not provide us with an easy answer we can slavishly follow after, we assume life is devoid of meaning and purpose all together. Nihilism is an easy trap to fall into, but is also an easy one to escape.

Sure, life has no grand overriding purpose... or does it? Life seems to exist to survive, thrive, and evolve. With the exception of evolution, these are not very inspiring goals, but the urge to better ourselves and grow throughout our life is a fundamental function, if not purpose of existence.

This is no reason to despair. The fact that life does not impose a purpose on us allows us to find or invent one for ourselves. What a liberating gift from the universe! We are free to choose our purpose and to find meaning for ourselves.

Now, I won't lie to you. This is a burden to bare, there is no doubt about that, but it is a burden that is easy for us to take up, if we choose to live boldly.

For too long, I have lived my life under the constraints and limitations placed upon me by society. I allowed myself to fall under this nihilistic stupor, but I have had enough.

This is why I am not a fan of Battlestar Galactica or Heroes. They have followed this cynical path into a nihilism I find neither sophisticated nor mature. It is solipsistic and puerile. Yes, life can be dark, but no one benefits from wallowing in that darkness.

When I was growing up, I became an avid fan of Goth Rock, Deathrock, Punk, and Metal. At their bests, these genres are about rising up and railing against these cynical worldview foisted upon us. "Only Theatre of Pain" (Christian Death) is the music of defiance, not acquiescence. Black Sabbath sang in anger at the darkness of life. At their best, these are songs about standing up and not about being trodden under foot.

We have to rise up, stand up, speak out, and most of all dream. If we do not, then the future is indeed lost, but not because of destiny, but because we have let it follow that path.

Dream again, and dream big. Find something to be for, not something to be against. We are strong and imaginative enough to rise above any darkness that comes upon us. Rise up! Let's take our future back!

Star Trek Supports the Writers

star_trek_xi The Spirit of Gene Roddenberry rose up and tried to return Star Trek to its core values:

As the Writers Guild of America strike goes on, "Trek Day" has been declared by the WGA for Monday, December 10, to picket outside the main Melrose gate at Paramount Pictures — and supportive Star Trek fans are being asked to take part as well as writers, directors, crew and actors from any incarnation of Gene Roddenberry's world from the past 42 years (STARTREK.COM)

It will be interesting to see if any of the actors, writers, or the director of the up coming prequel will take part in the demonstrations. I doubt that they will, but I hope to be delightfully surprised. With the strike on going, and the rewrites on the script canceled because of the strike, the new film is a true product of the WGA action (for better or worse).

I am just pleased to see a little social conscience out of a franchise that had been reduced to little more than cliched action films. The Great Bird smiles on this. May the writers win their demands and prosper.

Taking Star Trek Seriously

In a recent interview with BBC, Stuart Baird director of Star Trek Nemesis said:

I know the fans take it hugely seriously. I took it very seriously to give you two hours of entertainment, with as much bang for your buck, and thrills, spills, emotion, and humour. That was my task, and not to get too precious about it(TrekWeb).

What Mr Baird does not understand is that Star Trek is not just a franchise to write in, Star Trek is the mythology that many SF fans grew up with. The characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy were not just people I watched on TV, they were role models who taught me what it means to be a responsible person.

Gene Roddenberry is responsible for the morality and ethics I still live my life by. The philosophy of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination) is the cornerstone of how I see the world. It is the philosophy I try to promote in everything that I do. My personal character was shaped by the logic of the Vulcans and the honor of the Klingons.

Star Trek is not just a group of characters that it is fun to watch, they are the archetypes that taught many of us how to live. These characters to us are like the Greek heros, or Beowulf. They are part of our culture. We are upset when we see our culture misrepresented and misused in an attempt to make a profit. It is even worse when that scheme fails.

I do take Star Trek too seriously, but these are the stories that taught me how to live. I do not like to see them denigrated. I would think that would be easy for people to understand.

Gerrold on Trek

My hero, David Gerrold recently did an interview with the Courier Mail on his thought about the original Star Trek Series.  First, he explained the two factors that he believes lead to the success of the original series:

"First, we had such a remarkable cast...  Gene Roddenberry picked three very, very good actors and they fit together so beautifully," he says.

"And then the second thing is, the context of Star Trek is that here's a world where everybody is respected and everybody has a place in this world and people are all big enough to handle their problems, and so they focus on problems of a much larger scale and challenges of a much larger scale (Courier Mail)."

I have to agree.  I think the phenomenon of Star Trek is that we fans really do want to live in that world and try to live in accord with the values we see in the series.  The vision of a world where people are free from their relatively petty problems to delve into the deeper meaning of life and justice resonates within us.

Gerrold also points to the creativity of the original series:

"And they would come up against new people and new planets that would challenge their definition of themselves, it would make them ask the question 'what does it mean to be a human being? What are we up to here?' And I think that was part of the appeal of the show: we're discovering not only what's out there but what's inside ourselves, and that the final frontier is really the human soul, not space – space is just where we're gonna meet the challenge," Gerrold says (Courier Mail).

Gerrold hit the nail on the head.  I know the stories that I enjoy writing most are the stories that did into why people are the way they are and why they do the things they do.  The potential of the soul is truly the final frontier.

News that the next Star Trek feature film... will revisit a young Kirk and Spock is heartening for Gerrold.

"If it were my choice I would reinvent the original series," he says.

"Wipe the blackboard clean and you go back to Kirk, Spock and McCoy and the Enterprise, with new actors to find different interpretations of the characters. And I think there's a possibility, just as we've see different interpretations of Superman and Batman, maybe that's how Star Trek is gonna survive (Courier Mail)."

Well... I like the new Superman.  I think the creator of the new Batman should be horsewhipped until they beg for forgiveness.  And while the new Battlestar Gallactica is technically brilliant, the story is so dark I want to kill myself at the end of each episode... I just stopped watching the series.

Like any good myth, I know there will eventually be new versions of Kirk and Spock, but the brilliance of Star Trek was the optimism and adventuresome nature of the characters and the setting.  If it were to loose that it would become Voyager or Enterprise, and suffer their fate.  Gerrold opened my eyes to the possible benefits of a remake, but I would prefer to meet new characters in the time of Kirk and Spock.