lord of the rings

Entertainment Designer

From Entertainment Design


The Hollywood Reporter has an article up about Will Wright's future as an Entertainment Designer.  While it was interesting, it got me thinking more about the future of creative works.

The Future of Fiction

I am reading What would Google by Jeff Jarvis do right now.  Well, actually, I am reading it over and over again, especially the chapter on books.  I love writing novels, but I feel a little limited by the format.

I love franchise fiction.  Delving into the worlds of Star Wars, Star Trek, the Dragons of Pern, or The Lord of the Rings, pulls me deeper into the world and characters than anything else I know.

What makes these work for me is the multimedia nature of these products.  I am just not sure how an independent creator like me can pull off anything like that easily.

Easy is the Key!

If we are going to movie forward in our attempt to re-envision creative works we need easy tools for content creators to make multimedia productions.  What kind of tools?

 

Simple mechanima maker.

  1. Character and setting creation as simple as the Sims.
  2. Good auto-lip-sync tool.
  3. No scripting required character animation and special effects.
  4. Easy unique setting creator for the 3D impaired people like me.
  5. Easy import of most if not all existing mesh and skin formats.
  6. Easy export into at least the most popular video formats.
  7. Low price point

Simple MMORPG Maker

  1. The same features as Mechanima maker.
  2. Easy story telling engine.
  3. Simple cut scene maker
  4. Setting time line that will allow players to decide what era they want to start in so they can play through the storyline in a dynamic and ever changing world.
  5. Certain setting elements are fixed over time as part of the over arcing plot, over setting elements would be dynamic and alterable by the players.
  6. The ability for players to move their characters easily from era to era through both play and choice.
  7. The software would allow users to visit any setting with 1 client and one monthly fee.
  8. Creators are paid for the amount of "player hours" their setting attains.

Hypertext Novels that relate to the text.

(I recently wrote more about this in my post: Making a Website an extension of Story)

  1. Web based and downloadable hypertext versions.
  2. The hypertext layer should be shown only by the reader's choice.
  3. Readers should be able to flow through stories via their chosen path, for example, when the reader discovers a new character they should be able to:
  4. pull up a biography of that character.
  5. see a list of other works containing that character and the size of their role in the story.
  6. navigate into those books/stories if they want to, then return to the previous place in the book and read on.
  7. This type of meta-book should be self updating and thus be treated as a service rather than a product.
  8. possibly as a subscription to the meta-book reader service, paying the author based on "reader hours."
  9. Books should be printable, sharable, linkable, and searchable.
  10. Authors should be able to add special features like outlines, setting notes, and general notes to the text.

Cross platform integration

  1. All of these platforms should be integrated one with the other.
  2. If someone playing the MMORPG wants to pull up the text, video, or audio relating to the era they are playing in.
  3. Locations in the MMORPG should be able to pull up context about characters, items, and locations from the other media.
  4. Readers should be able to switch between the text, video, audio, and game versions of the content at whim on multiple devises which are kept in sync one with the other.
  5. Fanfiction and Fanfilm should be integrated into the platforms.
  6. Fanworks should be community and creator curated.
  7. Fanworks should be community and creator rated.
  8. Fanworks should be promotable to cannon by the creator, and revenue sharing engaged at that point.
  9. Content should be importable and exportable from one platform to another.
  10. Content should take advantage of and if necessary create open standards.

 

The Creative Suite we need!

This is the creative suite we need, and that I am personally hoping for.  With state of technology, most (if not all) of these features exists in separate non-compatible applications.  What I want to see is for all of these features to exist in one comprehensive and affordable creative suite.  Once we move authors and other content creators into mixed platforms like this, we will see the birth of real entertainment designers, and I think we will see much more compelling content.

return to Entertainment Design

Racebending in The Last Avatar: Removing the Excuses

avatar: the last airbenderAs a fan of the series, 'disappointment' is a definite and deep understatement! I mean for Hollywood to do this is nothing short of a shameful big F**K UP! I agree with Eric about Speculative or Fantasy Fiction writing. I'm a fan of fiction both science and fantasy and you can't help but notice that the vast majority -- I'm talking close to 100%-- of fantasy worlds or planets inhabited by humans have people entirely if not predominantly white and have societies based on European culture!! The ONLY exception I could think of is the Earthsea novels by Ursula le Guin, but even then once her books get translated into movies (the Scifi channel), most of the leading roles are white!! Part of what made the series so popular was the uniqueness of having a fantasy world that is populated by NON-white people for a change and whose culture was NOT European based or influence!! And for Paramount to screw this up with white leads is as ridiculous as it is insulting!!

Racist Apologetics

By the way, I am sickened by the same racist apologist comments I've come across the net about this situation! Here are the three most common ones:

1. "It's a fantasy world, with no 'Asian' continent or people; why not have some racial diversity..."

2. "Wouldn't be unfair to whites to have all the lead roles go to Asians?"... (I laughed at this second excuse when I first heard it, but after a while of hearing over and over again these white idiots apparently were serious!!)

3. "The characters don't look white in the cartoon; look at their eyes"

It's a fantasy world

As for excuse # 1, I pretty much answered that above-- when it comes to fictional stories and how all of them are populated by white characters especially in leading or starring roles. I mean in J.R.R. Tokien's 'Lord of the Rings' series it was never stated that the peoples or characters were 'white' but what else were they suppose to be in a story based on Norse mythology?!! I mean you never saw New Line Cinema try to find "racially diverse" people even for the extras (save for the 'Arab-like' enemies) let alone leading roles, all of which were expected to non other than white!!

Would it be unfair to whites for all the lead roles go to Asians?

2. Is a no-brainer for anyone who has the most basic knowledge of Asians in the film industry. Even in movies and shows centered on or based on Asians the lead almost ALWAYS goes to whites! From David Carradine in Kung-Fu to the most recent movie '21' whose starring roles were based on Asian Americans but were still portrayed by whites, while meanwhile having Asian actors play their sidekicks!! So don't me about "unfair"!!

Look at their eyes

3. While the series is NOT anime, it was inspired by anime and manga/ Korean manwa drawing styles where the eyes are drawn large for convience of conveying emotional expression alot easier! As for eye color, the only reason why the characters Sokka and Katara have blue eyes is because they descend from water benders!! In the Avatar world, bright eye color is a sign of element bending-- air benders have gray eyes, earth benders have green eyes, fire benders have yellow eyes, and water benders have blue eyes. It is NOT a "caucasian" trait as they are NOT caucasian. And of course "the eyes" are the ONLY thing these white idiots like to focus on because EVERYTHING else about them is obviously Asian!!

I know that such racist white people are in the minority but apparently it's whites like these that continue to perpetuate this kind of bullsh*t in Hollywood!

DVD Releases: April 28th, 2009

Out this week we have 5 DVDs to feature: X-Men, Volume 1, X-Men Volume 2, Jetsons: The Movie, Castle Ghosts of the British Isles, and J. R. R. Tolkien.

  • X-Men, Volume 1:  I waited years for this to finally come out on DVD.  This is by far the best representation of X-Men beyond the comics.  I loved the animation style and the story lines were amazing.  I burnt through so many tapes of this series and now that it is on DVD it is a must own!
  • Jetsons: The Movie: This is one of those movies that was not that great but loved by fans of the Jetsons.  This feature-length animated film came out in the 90’s and is based on the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
  • Castle Ghosts of the British Isles: This program investigates the myths of ghosts associated with various castles throughout the British Isles.  I’m a sucker for these types of shows I love hearing the ghost stories from various places around the world.  Having not seen this production I will have to rent it to see if it is good.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien:  This film tells the story of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.  This 1998 BBC production is finally out on DVD.  I really enjoyed other BBC productions like this one and have high hopes for the contents.  A high recommendation for any fan of Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien.

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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.

The Fan Spectrum

February last year, I posted for the first time about the Three Types of SF Fans.  Reactions were mixed.  I have thought about it a lot, and I have realized that their are not really three types of SF fans, these are actually parts of a spectrum.

Fans of the Spectacle

Fans who are interested in action and special effects, typically of Space Opera, Disaster/Monster/Action Movies, usually watches movies, some series, rarely reads the books.

These fans are on the coldest end of the spectrum.  They are only interested in being entertained, and simply do not think too much about what they are watching.  Think about your friends who thought the Matrix was just a great action movie with cool special effects.  You know the ones who didn't see all the questions about the nature of reality and how we perceive it.  They are fans of spectacle.

The studios have geared their films more towards this type of fan because there are more of them and they are easier to please.

Admit it though, we all started here.  We may have been young, but each and every one of us first got into Speculative Fiction be we enjoyed the spectacle.  For me, it was dragons and vampires.

This is the first stage of development of every fan.  Our job is to move more people into the second and third phase.

Fans of the Specifics

Tom Cruise as Lestat in the 1994 film Intervie...
Image via Wikipedia

Fans who are interested in the nitty-gritty details and their accuracy or consistency.Typically of Hard Scifi, Military Scifi, and High Fantasy, usually reads the books, watches the series, and nit-picks the movies

For many Scifi fans, this shift happened with Star Trek or Star Wars.  For Fantasy Fans, it is usually Lord of the Rings, and for Horror Fans it was either The Vampire Chronicles or Mayfair Witches by Anne Rice or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Many fan bases stagnate here and die off.  The Studios have started blaming continuity and consistency for their financial short comings, thus the spate of remakes, reboots, and the dread re-imaginings that crop up every year.

Yes, it is easier to write a story when you don't have to worry about consistency or continuity, but they are not better stories.  They are just different.

To move a fan from Spectacle to Specifics, find something in a setting or character they like, and talk to them about it.  Encourage them to grow in their fascination, and soon they will delve into the setting more fully, and the spectral shift will happen.

Fans of the Story

Fans who are interested in the story, the characters, and Typically Soft Scifi and Sociological Fantasy, usually reads or watches the series, and watches the movies.

For Fans of the Specifics, the changes George Lucas made to the original Star Wars Trilogy and the prequels went too far.  Fans of the Story were able to see how these changes improved and tightened the narrative.

Fans of the Story are few in numbers, but they are the heart blood of fandom.  They write/perform the filk, the fan fiction, and fanfilms.  They make the fan art, run the conventions, and strive to keep SF on the straight and narrow.

It isn't easy to move from being a fan of Specifics to a fan of Story.  For this shift to happen, the fan has to see the complete series as a seamless whole.  They have to learn how to see past the trees to the forest.  There is no easy way to happen or to bring this about.

When it does happen, it is like magic.  Most of us have had this shift happen for at least one franchise.  Think about the one series that is closest to your heart.  The one you seek out every little tidbit of information about.  For that story, you are a fan of the Story.

Spectral Shift

It is not easy to ask people to make these shifts, or to help other move through the spectrum, but it is vital if fan culture has any chance of surviving.  So for the next thirty days:

  • Introduce your friends to filk.
  • Have a movie night at your house and show a fanfilm.
  • Start a role playing group and uses your favorite setting.
  • Start having friends over to watch your favorite shows.
  • Help just one person find a new series, book, or movie that they will fall head or heels in love with.

If we all do our part, fandom has a long and beautifyl future.

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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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What is Progressive Speculative Fiction?

"Progressive Speculative Fiction is a story told in any medium which has a “What if” at its core and is filled with hope for the future and promotes a sense of community (Project: Shadow Manifesto)." Of all the things I wrote in the Project: Shadow Manifesto, that one sentence has proven to be the most controversial.  Writers have emailed me asking if their work is Progressive SF or not.  Let's approach the question slowly.

What is Speculative Fiction?

Speculative Fiction is any fiction that has at its core a "What if?"  There are five main subgenres of Speculative Fiction:

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

What sets these stories apart from the mainstream?

All fiction asks the question, "Suppose X happened to this character, what would happen?"  Speculative Fiction asks, "What if X were true about the universe, how would this character react?"  For example:

  • Harry Potter: "What if magic existed in the world and it could do anything but bring people back from the dead?"
  • Lord of the Rings: "What is the prehistory of Europe where a mystic struggle between the powers of light and darkness over the nature of the world to come?"
  • Dune: "What if it were possible to alter consciousness enough for people to see the interconnectedness of all things"
  • Cthulu Mythos: "What if there were beings in the universe as powerful and incomprehensible as we are to an ant?"

The question is the heart of the story.  You cannot have a ghost story unless you ask, "What if ghosts interfered with the lives of people?"

That is why it is called Speculative Fiction.  It speculates about a world that is different from ours in some way.

What makes Speculative Fiction Progressive?

Hope for the future and promotes a sense of community.  Some have taken this to mean that dark fiction cannot be Progressive.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Heroes and Battlestar Galactica

i has BSG S3!!!
Image by Mostly Lisa via Flickr

Heroes is not progressive, but Battlestar Galactica is.  Both of these stories are dark, and at times bleak.  Why is one Progressive and the other not?

There is no hope in Heroes.  Nothing inspires the characters forward.  They looked into Kierkegaard's void and could not take their eyes off of the fact that the world is free from purpose and meaning.  They embrace their meaninglessness, and robs the series of any lasting merit it could have.

Battlestar Galactica looked into the same void, and the characters chose to carve out their own meaning in the cosmos.  They have hope for the future, even if it is challenged often, and they are continually struggling to build a viable community.

Hope for the Future

Hope is a necessary element of fiction that many post-modern writes/producers neglect.

  • Without hope, the characters have nothing to loose.
  • With nothing to loose, there is no tension.
  • Without tension, there is no reason to care about the characters.
  • If you don't care about the characters, there is nothing left but spectacle.

That is the primary problem with shows like Lost, Heroes, and Fringe.  All they have is spectacle and shock value.  They have no depth, and there is no reason for people to care about them.  People watch simply to see what crazy thing happens next.  They will be forgotten quickly.

Community

A side effect of the hopelessness and ennui that fills post-modern SF is the focus on the individual to the detriment of the community.  This factor alone was able to change my opinion of Battlestar Galactica.  I didn't used to like the show, but after I marathoned the boxsets, I could see and better still feel the communities that were trying to maintain themselves.

A sense of community is integral to Speculative Fiction because most if not all stories present a world that is different from our own, and without a sense of community it is hard if not impossible to understand the nature of the setting.  For example look at Legend of the Seeker:

  • The levels of mistrust amid Darken Rahl's soldiers
  • The submissive population of Brennidon
  • The reverence of the Confessors for each other and their outrage at sacrelige
  • The prevelence of hidden valleys and islands

All these and more add up to a better understanding of the world under Darken Rahl's control.  Through these communities and the relationships between Richard, Zedd, and Kahlan defines the setting.

Hope and community are part of what Progressive Speculative Fiction is, but they are also Why Progressive Speculative Fiction is important, which we will talk about in the next post in this series.

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Project: Shadow Manifesto

Project: Shadow Logo To mark the 10 year anniversary of the Project: Shadow Manifesto, we thought it was time to overhaul it again, but this time to open up the project to all of the like-minded fans out there who are tired of the status quo, and who are hungry for something new. Brian and I drafted the original Project: Shadow Manifesto in 1999 as an outline we saw in professional publishing.  The original draft was heavy on problems, light on vision, and even lighter on solutions.  We took years investigating the limited options available at the time, built the original Project: Shadow, and I started writing.

In 2004, we revised the manifesto, and re-launched Project: Shadow.  The new draft focused on the solutions possible through new technologies.  The world/culture presented us with newer challenges.


We are fans.

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

At heart, a fan is not someone who enjoys a movie, a song, a band, a book, or a show.  A fan feels an intense connection with the object of their love.  Fans decorate their homes, offices, and desktops with items that announce their allegiance with their favorite bands, movies, shows, and books.

The problem with our popular culture is that it doesn’t blink at a sports fan wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with their favorite team, or even a replica jersey, but wear a Star Wars shirt or dress like a goth and they think they have the right to mock you.

What is the difference between a fan wearing a jersey to a game or fan bringing a light saber to a movie?  Or for that matter, what is the difference between a sports fan painting themselves up to go tailgating or a fan dressing as their favorite character at a convention?

Perception.  Pop Culture has classified sports fans as acceptable and speculative fiction fans as geeky.  I have to say, it is just as geeky to now all of the stats for everyone who has ever played for a particular sports franchise as it is to know the stats for every creature in the Monster Manual.  The only real difference is one fan accepts they are a geek, and the other pretends their geekiness is proof they are a jock.

The disapproval is the least of the problems facing today’s fan.

From Storytellers to Copyright

Problem: People are natural storytellers.  We hear a story, embellish it, and pass it on.

Solution: We tell each other stories, sing songs, write books, make videos, and create art to share these stories with each other.

Every story we tell is not original.  We like to tell the same stories over and over.  We borrow stories from any where and retell them in our own vernacular.  It is intrinsic to who and what we are to share stories with each other.

Problem: The only constant in the world is change.

Solution: We ask ourselves the question, "What if," and share the answer with each other.

Problem: Artists and Writers need to make a living singing their songs, writing their books, making their videos, and creating their art.

Solution: We establish systems of Copyright.

The Cultural Cycle

Before the era of Copyright, stories, heroes, melodies, and lyrics belonged to the people.  Stories were told, and retold.  Numerous visions of each story competed against each other.  The best were remembered, collected, retold, embellished, and built upon.  The rest were forgotten.

Who told the first story about Hercules? Or Jason? or Troy?  Who started the legends of King Arthur? or Beowulf?  The first tales and their countless reiterations have been lost, but the best, most iconic stories survived.

Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, only a few comedies have no obvious sources, and even they rely upon well established patterns and archetypes.

This is the Cultural Cycle that keeps important stories alive.  Each generation must retell the tales of the preceding generations in their own context to keep them relevant.  This cycle has been broken.

  • Problem: Companies lobby to prevent Intellectual Property from reentering the commons of the culture.
  • Problem: Companies control the instruments of culture, making it harder to engage culture creatively.
  • Solution: Fans retell these stories as not for profit tales, films, and  songs.
  • Solution: Fans organize themselves into clubs and conventions.

These solutions are are not enough.  Fanfiction and film relies on the good will of the copyright holders and the fact that the fans do not make money from their works to slip through the thinnest of loop hole in copyright.  As a result, pop culture is unaware of the cultural developments and retelling of these new stories.  The subculture may be enriched by them, but the culture as a whole is not.

The Creative Commons and the Cult of the Dollar

Problem: Publishers and producers focus more on the commercial and popular value of a work, and the creative energy of the work suffers.  Readers/viewers will not become fans, and fans will not continue to accept passionless works of Speculative Fiction.

Solution: Placing honesty over consumerism, we fans must stake out our own home to create and share the works we love.  We must stand between the darkness and the light:  This is the purpose of Project: Shadow.

Problem: The Companies and Rights holders lashed out against the fair use of their properties.

Problem: Some Rights Holders have lulled fandom into a false sense of security by not suing and even encouraging those who produce fanworks

Creative Commons is one of many proposed solutions to this problem.  Others have lobbied for copyright reform.  Neither of these is a solution to the problems.

Copyright reform is a doomed enterprise while corporate lobbyists have the power they do over the congress.  While it is a goal to work for, it is just not realistic in the short term.

Creative Commons is closer to a solution, but the adoption rate has not been sufficient to even start chipping away at the problem.

The reason Creative Commons is an uphill battle is that it is a major evolution in the way rights holders handle permissions to use their work, and exists without an intermediary form.  Existing rights holders have not adopted it because they are unwilling to give up all the rights entailed under Creative Commons.

I approached the Creative Commons Foundation with a proposal for a Fan Works License:

Some of the rights holders I have talked to are reluctant to use the CC because they are concerned they are giving up too many rights to their works.  A Fan Works License would allow rights holders to clearly state what they will allow others to do with their characters, content, and settings.

It would be a bit more complicated than a standard CC, stating whether others may make original text, video, music, or art projects based on their works.  It would also allow them to set the content rating they would allow fan works to have.  This could be aligned with the MPAA ratings or the ESRB ratings system or an original system.  The reason for this is so a young adult novelist could set a max rating of PG-13, allowing others to know what standards they would apply to determine whether a fan work is legitimate or not.

The other terms would be the same as in the standard CC.

You may not think something like this is necessary, but the current state of fan works is hazy.  While few have been sued in the last couple years, at any time, rights holders could decide to start suing again.  By creating a license that covers works with the same characters and settings rather than a particular book or movie, I believe we could get more rights holders to use the license to allow for the creation of fan works, which is a step on the road to open up works to the commons.

They responded with a simple, “CC probably isn't going to be expanding the license offerings, and in fact, over the past few years CC has been reducing the number of licenses.”

I do not believe that a fanwork or Creative Commons license is the ultimate solution, but as a possible stepping stone toward an open culture.

Progressive Speculative Fiction

  • Problem: Modern and Post-modern fiction is antithetical to hope, imagination, and community
  • Problem: Success is easier through snark, hate, and discrimination.
  • Solution: We will promote, support and create Progressive Speculative Fiction.

What is Progressive Speculative Fiction?

Progressive Speculative Fiction is a story told in any medium which has a "What if" at its core and is filled with hope for the future and promotes a sense of community.

How can disaster fiction be progressive?

Watch a Godzilla movie or either The Day the Earth Stood Stills.  If there is nothing worth saving, then there is no tragedy.  The heroes must at least try to save someone or something worth saving.

How can horror be progressive?

Watch nearly any horror film made prior to 1990 or for the best example read The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker or anything by Anne Rice.  If life is not worth living or there is nothing worth defending, where is the horror.  If life is worthless, then death is merely a release from a nightmare.  There is nothing scary about it.  If there is no free will, nothing is lost by imprisonment or possession.  If sanity is not worth preserving, why bother.

What works are Progressive Speculative Fiction?

There are too many to mention all of them, but to offer a spectrum:

Just to name a few.

Mythos

  • Problem: The word "Myth" has become a marketing term.

Homogenized works are released more often by the industry every year.  Focus groups and market analysis have replaced quality work, but since the cultural cycle is broken, industry has no alternative.  It is safer to release works like the ones that sold last year than it is to seek out new talent/ideas that would be more of a risk.

They know what the fans want.  We want myths, stories that speak to us on a deep level while entertaining us.  Myths are hard to make.  It is easy to add in a wizard or a starship and call it mythology.  Fans see through it, but the masses are looking for little more than sex, violence, and humor.  Speculative Fiction has been watered down to little more than:

  • imitation space opera
  • knock-off cyberpunk
  • repackaging of the rings
  • martial arts boom-boom
  • torture porn

They, then, wrap it in a shiny box, slap the word myth, saga, legend, or reboot on it, and wait for the masses to spend their money on it... and they usually do.

We do not need another company driven by profit margins, or another author whose self-important propaganda obscures the art.

We need writers and artists that love what they are doing.

We need fans who are not afraid to speak their minds.

We need places in our towns/cities and online where we can meet and share the few gems that we find from the industry and from the independent artist, writers, and filmmakers who are still following their bliss rather than the dollar.

That is why we are here.  Project:  Shadow and dashPunk will provide a platform for writers, artists, filmmakers and fans to “follow their bliss.”  We are dedicated to finding and promoting the best Speculative Fiction out there: the little/well known writers, filmmakers, artists and works, fostering their talents, and helping them to not only follow their hearts, but to share that vision with others.

But we cannot do it alone!

Fandom Strikes Back

  • Solution:  We must seek out and support the writers, artists, and producers that encourage and support fan works.
  • Solution:  We must get writers, artists, and producers on the record about their position regarding fan works.
  • Solution: We must live according to our values of hope, imagination, and community.
  • Solution: We must build a community around hope, imagination, and community, and reject the rote cynicism that defines the faux-fandom that loves to tear things down rather than build things up.
  • Solution: We must spread the stories, videos, songs, and art that speak to us.

Together, We can make dashPunk and Project: Shadow more than an idea or a website, but a vibrant community of fans who share the things we love with each other.

Together, we can make it easier to find and share the things we love and find new things to love.

Together, we can build a community of fans who support and engage one another for our mutual benefit.

Alone, none of us can stand up to the corporate powers who control the music, video, text, and art that we love, but together, our voice will be heard.

Fandom is a vibrant culture with its own music (filk), events (conventions), games, and myths.  Until now, we have gathered periodically, or in disparate groups. 

Now is the time to bring the great multitude of fan bases together.

Now is your time!  Copy this Manifesto.  Print it, post it, email it, share it!  Tell a friend, and most importantly Make your voice heard.

Download

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Creative Commons License Project: Shadow Manifesto by Project: Shadow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at dashpunk.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://dashpunk.com/about/.

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New Line Cinema, That’s What Billbo Baggins Hates

onering Chip the glasses and break the plates, that’s what Bilbo Baggins Hates.  Have questionable spending practices on a big budget movie is what the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate hates. The Tolkien Estate took New Line Cinema to court for fraud claiming that they improperly claimed advertising expenses and improperly claimed expenses for the building of production offices and facilities in New Zealand.

In the suit the Tolkien Estate are seeking monetary damages and are seeking to terminate New Line Cinema’s rights to the Hobbit.  This week a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that there was a legal basis for the claim.

I find this interesting.  First, I wonder if this will bring light to and establish in official record the dirty little practice of padding expenses so that the net percent payout is much lower than it should be.  If it does it may help put that practice to rest.

Secondly,  this means that there might be delays or even canceling of the Hobbit movies.  Though I have had mixed feelings over the direction of the two movies I can say that the idea of seeing it through the direction of Guillermo Del Toro is an exciting prospect.

(via AP)

(image by Playadura*)

LOTR Online, or Where Have I Been Lately

Ok, ok, I did not blog yesterday, after I answered your email questions, I found myself lost again in the Lord of the Rings Online...  Like I need to expose myself to another MMO... What depresses me is how much better it is compared to Star Wars Galaxies.  To be honest, I like Star Wars more that the Rings (especially the films), but the makers of LOTR Online have found a way to capture the setting in a way that Galaxies has not.  The game has been very fun, and Brian and I are really having a blast running through the story and learning how to play (I am a Loremaster and he is a Hunter).

I have not decided to leave Galaxies, I hold out hope that a Chapter 6 will make Star Wars fun again... but I am having the some problem with LOTR as I am with Galaxies:

The people...  I want to enter these settings for the roleplaying and for the group play... so far, I have not ran into any roleplayers and the few fellowships Brian and I have tried, the other person had no interest working with the group to accomplish our quest.

Tonight, I will create a new character on the Brandywine server and look for the others who listen to SQPN in hopes to find people I want to spent times with.

I am still learning how the game works, I will do a fuller review of it later.

J.R.R. Tolkein Born

In 1892, J.R.R Tolkein, the master of Mythopeia was born.  I have mixed feelings about Tolkein since the Peter Jackson films came out. Ok, I admit that I  am a bit of a fanboy, but I am getting tired of all of the Lord of the Rings pop culture references.  I admit that the Family Guy poltergeist episode was hilarious, but LoTR used to mean something to me.  Now it is nothing more than a trilogy on the self.  I read the Silmarillion again recently, and pray that they don't make a film out of it.

These words are not going to be welcomed by a lot of people, but I have to say it: Sometimes the movies corrupt the books.  I am burned out on LoTR for now.  I can't wait of the day when the pop culture forgets about Tolkein and for his legacy to be returned to the people who care about the books, not the money.