harlan ellison

Creative Control and Red State

John the Rouge Demon Hunter asked me on

Facebook

:

What is your thoughts on Kevin Smith's Red State Tour?

To which I replied:

Anything a content creator can do to take more control over their work and its distribution is a good thing.  I long for the days when the movie studios, television networks, and book publishers all go out of business and we get our content directly from those who made it.  I wish him luck.

I probably shouldn't be talking about this right now.  I watched a documentary today about Harlan Ellison called Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth.  God of I love Harlan, and he really gets my blood boiling.

He talks a lot about how bad writers are treated by the powers that be, and all I could think was, "Thank God for the interest!"  to which he would reply, "Fuck you, there is no god."

We are living in a magical time when technology is allowing creative people to reach out directly to the people.  We can cut out the middle man, and I think that is a wonderful thing.

Harlan would probably disagree with me about this, but I think the creative business is changing.  We still need to get paid for our work, but I think we have more choices now than ever.

Kevin Smith is doing what he can to cut the studio out of the distribution of his film, and that can only be a good thing.  I live in a town where, if we are lucky, we get his movies for a week or two.    I can only hope that his efforts will be a vanguard in the tearing down of the chain monopoly on theaters.  That is probably too much to hope for, but I like to dream big.

I am working on a new novel, and we are debating what we want to do with it when it is done.  Should I seek out a distribution partner or not.  Right now, I just don't know.

I have a few ideas, but everything is difficult when you have to consider bank rolling it yourself.

Creative Independence is something I think we should push for every day.  We just need to know that the audience is there.

The really real reason why science fiction is dying

Speed Reading Class
Image by iBjorn via Flickr

Paul Jessup thinks he knows why Science Fiction is dying:

Heinlien. Asimov.  At the latest, Orson Scott Card (but mostly just for Ender’s Game). I don’t see anyone ever looking for something new...

This is why SF is spiraling downward in sales. It’s fans just aren’t buying it anymore. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. I love Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, etc. so I don’t mind that it’s popular and selling. But some part of me wonders- is SF meant to be kept in the past? Is that why Steampunk is so popular right now, because it’s an emulation of the past? I’m not sure. But this is a problem (Paul Jessup).

Is classicism the problem?  Well, it is part of it, but it is only one of many.

Lessons Lost

The biggest problem SF has is that the industry didn't learn from the New Wave SF of the 60's and 70's.  These authors, most notably Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury, didn't allow themselves to be constrained by the limits of industry enforced genre.  There stories were a little bit science, a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror.  The incorporated whatever they thought they needed into their stories to make them good.

Genre has become increasingly rigid.  Publishers forgot that Speculative Fiction is the literature of the imagination.  It once explored the question, "What if" without any limits save those of the author's imagination.  As the genres stiffened, sales have continued to go down.

Lack of Imagination

This genre lock is not the only problem facing SF.  Have you seen any of the marketing for new fiction?  No?  You are not alone.

If a new classic is published and no one knows about it, will it make any sales?  Yes, among the author's friends and family.  That is about it.

Publishers and authors need to find new ways to generate excitement about new titles, but that is not enough.  Fans need to find better venues to share and spread the word about their favorite new books.

Bless me, for I have sinned

I have to admit that I really haven't read any new books in a long time.  With the exception of Night's Knights, Brave Men Run, and Burning Skies.  These don't count because I read them after meeting the authors.  I also don't count the Harry Potter books or franchise fiction.  Personally, I find it too hard to find new books to read.

As a writer, I feel like I am confessing a mortal sin.  I want to read more, but I am not sure where to find new books.

I've thought about reviewing books myself, but I don't feel like I have the time to wade through the weeds to find the books.

So, I ask you.  Where do you find out about new books?  How can we promote SF books better?

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The really real reason why science fiction is dying

Speed Reading Class
Image by iBjorn via Flickr

Paul Jessup thinks he knows why Science Fiction is dying:

Heinlien. Asimov.  At the latest, Orson Scott Card (but mostly just for Ender’s Game). I don’t see anyone ever looking for something new...

This is why SF is spiraling downward in sales. It’s fans just aren’t buying it anymore. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. I love Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, etc. so I don’t mind that it’s popular and selling. But some part of me wonders- is SF meant to be kept in the past? Is that why Steampunk is so popular right now, because it’s an emulation of the past? I’m not sure. But this is a problem (Paul Jessup).

Is classicism the problem?  Well, it is part of it, but it is only one of many.

Lessons Lost

The biggest problem SF has is that the industry didn't learn from the New Wave SF of the 60's and 70's.  These authors, most notably Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury, didn't allow themselves to be constrained by the limits of industry enforced genre.  There stories were a little bit science, a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror.  The incorporated whatever they thought they needed into their stories to make them good.

Genre has become increasingly rigid.  Publishers forgot that Speculative Fiction is the literature of the imagination.  It once explored the question, "What if" without any limits save those of the author's imagination.  As the genres stiffened, sales have continued to go down.

Lack of Imagination

This genre lock is not the only problem facing SF.  Have you seen any of the marketing for new fiction?  No?  You are not alone.

If a new classic is published and no one knows about it, will it make any sales?  Yes, among the author's friends and family.  That is about it.

Publishers and authors need to find new ways to generate excitement about new titles, but that is not enough.  Fans need to find better venues to share and spread the word about their favorite new books.

Bless me, for I have sinned

I have to admit that I really haven't read any new books in a long time.  With the exception of Night's Knights, Brave Men Run, and Burning Skies.  These don't count because I read them after meeting the authors.  I also don't count the Harry Potter books or franchise fiction.  Personally, I find it too hard to find new books to read.

As a writer, I feel like I am confessing a mortal sin.  I want to read more, but I am not sure where to find new books.

I've thought about reviewing books myself, but I don't feel like I have the time to wade through the weeds to find the books.

So, I ask you.  Where do you find out about new books?  How can we promote SF books better?

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Sci-Fi Round Up: Star Trek 2 , Iron Man 2 and The Black Hole

War Machine
Image via Wikipedia

Star Trek

Iron Man 2

  • War Machine movie poster. (via /film)

The Black Hole

  • Disney started a project to Remake their 1979 classic “The Black Hole”. I barely remember the movie and am curious where it will go. Watch a trailer for The Black Hole below. (via /film)

Harlan Ellison sues Paramount

Harlan Ellison is suing Paramount, again, for residuals and royalties for products and derivative works based on his script for the original Star Trek episode, ""City on the Edge of Forver." While Ellison could never be confused with a quite, introverted person, his recent statement on the suit is just priceless:

And please make sure to remember, at the moment some Studio mouthpiece calls me a mooch, and says I’m only pursuing this legal retribution to get into their ‘deep pockets,’ tell’m Ellison snarled back, ‘F- - - -in’-A damn skippy!’ I’m no hypocrite. It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money (Trek Movie)!

The Principle of the Thing

While Ellison may not be doing this for the principle of the thing, we should support him on principle.

Paramount's actions give lie to their claims that they are so interested in extending, expanding, and developing copyright to protect the writers and artists responsible for the work.

The truth is: They are looking to protect their own financial interests at the expense of both the writers/artists/creators of the works and the audience.

Maybe this will help more people see the truth, and help us reverse the trend toward empowering these companies are harming the producers of and audiences for these works.

(via Beam Me Up)

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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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