Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Dog Video For You

For those of you among my readers who like dogs, here's a special treat. My parents' Doberman Duke, who is usually hostile toward other dogs, is chasing (in a playful way) the other dog, a little yappy terrier-mutt named Coco, around the yard.

Parental commentary included. Enjoy!

"Everybody Is The Hero of Their Own Story" -- STAR WARS and Writing Villains

On my Twitter feed this morning, I found this article in which Adam Driver and J.J. Abrams discuss the villain Kylo Ren, whom Driver plays in the upcoming science-fiction (science fantasy?) film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The first article links to this article here in Empire, which goes into more detail. The gist of it is that according to Abrams, both devotees of the Light Side and the Dark Side are the heroes of their own story, while according to Driver, Ren is more a religious zealot who's doing what he thinks is right rather than someone who is truly evil by nature.

(I'm guessing by "evil" he would mean selfish and malicious. Someone can have the best of intentions, can honestly think they're doing the right thing, and still be evil. I was researching an alternate-history project in high school and college and, while reading about the Russian Civil War, learned about Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky. According to future Polish leader Józef Piłsudski, who went to school with him, Dzerzhinsky "did not know how to lie," another source described him as being strict toward himself as well as others, and the quotes I found indicated he was wracked by guilt about the horrors he oversaw as the Bolsheviks' hatchet-man.)

A long time ago I discovered the quote that "everybody is the hero of their own story." I have taken pains to apply the principle when I write villains, and I cited it before in my blog post about Roose Bolton from the fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire and its HBO adaptation A Game of Thrones. Dzerzhinsky thought he was building a utopia and that would justify breaking a few (or many) eggs along the way, while Roose Bolton could justify his treachery against Robb Stark by claiming it in the best interest of the North and the realm as a whole that the Lannisters win as quickly and bloodlessly as possible. The warlord Grendel of my Wastelands series wants safety, security, and power (to better ensure the first two) for his family and friends--which he seeks through imperialism and aggressive warfare. Meanwhile, the cult leader Phil from my Lovecraftian novel The Thing in the Woods wants to protect the town of Edington from corrupting outside influences--which he does by kidnapping people he doesn't like and feeding them to an alien monster.

And now we get back to Star Wars. One of the most interesting blog posts I've ever found was called "The Tao of Sith" and was posted on a blog that's essentially the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from the point of view of Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith and apprentice to the Emperor Palpatine.

(The post initially went to some "Star Wars Webring" site, but I clicked on it again and it went to the right place, so have faith.)

The gist of it is that Vader believes the Sith were justified in their various misdeeds and creating the Empire because galactic civilization was in danger of collapse. Furthermore, the Jedi were neglecting their responsibilities and denying their emotions in favor of idle contemplation except in a few circumstances ("trivia that offends their effete sensibilities"), despite allegedly knowing that "an age of barbarism" was nigh. The Sith, in contrast, embrace life, embrace emotions, and embrace the actions necessary to save civilization.

(Given how the prequel-era Jedi demanded their adherents forsake emotional attachments, relationships, etc. a lot of Vader's comments ring true.)

Vader as depicted in the blog post is NOT a simple monster using politics as a cover to indulge his appetite for sadism, power and control, etc. My article on how fictional villains should not be sociopaths acknowledges such people exist, but they don't make for interesting bad guys (or girls). So if you're writing a villain, try to see things from their point of view. What is their story, and why are they the hero in it? Not only will you have a much better-developed villain, but you might also have a much varied and "grayer" world if it turns out the villain has some good points.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Netflix Producing a LOST IN SPACE Remake?

I just found out via my Twitter feed that Netflix is putting out a remake of the classic television series Lost in Space. Given how I defended the 1998 movie for the podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood, this was something of especial interest. Here's the article the original one links to, which has more detail about the project.

As I said in the blog post associated with that episode of the podcast, one thing I liked was that they attempted to use Lost In Space as the basis for a serious, coherent science-fiction story. There's a dark future, the still-ruling West is squabbling with various terrorists and Third World types over what little remains on Earth, and space colonization is the only hope. I posted some ideas about how Lost In Space could have been a much better film (it was incredibly boring, despite the good concept) and most of them could be applied to a television series:

*The film touches on the family drama that a prolonged family space mission would bring--the children who don't want to leave their lives on Earth, the husband and wife separated by too much work, etc. A television series could elaborate on this aspect of the story a lot more.

*Why exactly are they going on this colonization mission? The television series made it seem like this was an ordinary space mission, but the movie raised the stakes by depicting the Robinson family as the key to establishing a hypergate that will transport humanity off the dying Earth.

*The film depicted human political rivalries--the treacherous Dr. Smith is an agent for the terroristic Global Sedition--undermining the space mission, elaborating on the original series. If they retained Dr. Smith's canonical characterization and the Robinson family tolerates him--I suggested he could be a Token Evil Teammate whose skills as a doctor are too important for them to kill him despite his treachery--we could learn more about just who wanted to sabotage the mission and why.

The second article suggests the show will be about a family of explorers trying to stay together in the face of a hostile universe. That gives off Star Trek Voyager vibes to me--although the show had the hostility between the Federation and the Maquis crews stranded in the Delta Quadrant, the main focus was surviving the dangerous, unknown universe. That could be pretty cool too. And if they encounter other humans out there, it won't be something prosaic like some random space cowboy, but something more akin to the film's time-displaced spacecraft or my idea of a group of human rivals like Global Sedition.

The article suggests that Netflix's Lost In Space is intended to be more family-friendly, unlike its offerings like Hemlock Grove, House of Cards, etc. One can still tell a cool science-fiction story without excessive swearing or violence, sex, etc. -- Star Wars is a great example, as are most Star Trek offerings -- but I'm concerned that in trying to make it more family-friendly, it'd be too much like the goofy, campy original. They'd be better off trying to make it the next Battlestar Galactica, which wasn't for the younger set.

It won't be out for awhile yet. We'll see how it goes.