Fantasy/SciFi

Memories from my TV/Movie Experience

19 November 2018

From Rick Riordan:

Recently I asked you guys what kind of team you’d like to see in charge if a Disney-led Percy Jackson reboot were to happen. Again, I have to warn you this is completely HYPOTHETICAL, just wishful thinking, not based on any concrete plans in the pipeline. Even if some reboot happened someday, I would have ZERO control over it, because those rights were signed away before the first PJO book was even published and, like most authors, my contract was very standard in that Hollywood controls all things and all decisions about the movie. The author may or may not be consulted, but the movie folks have final say on everything. There is a widespread myth (ha!) that authors have much more control over movie decisions than we actually do. Even the most powerful authors (yes, the ones you are thinking of right now) have WAY less influence and control than you think they do. Nobody talks about that though, because when a movie is just coming out it is in the studio’s interest for it to SOUND like everybody was very involved and pleased with the final product. In reality, the best we authors can hope for is a good team effort, where everyone gets along, has the same vision, and works together well. Sometimes, that happens . . .

Thinking about reboots even hypothetically made me remember the process I went through with those Percy Jackson movies. I was indeed consulted at some points, about some things. I did my best to give feedback that would help. At the time, obviously, I couldn’t really share any behind-the-scenes information with you guys, the readers, but since these conversations are now almost ten years old (yikes!), I thought you might like to take a look at some of the correspondence and suggestions I sent to the producers while they were planning THE LIGHTNING THIEF movie. I hope this will give you a sense of what I was trying to do behind the scenes. Whether/how much the producers listened to my ideas, I will let you be the judge. As I’ve said many times, once I saw the final script and saw what they were doing on the set, I realized I had to step away for my own peace of mind. I never saw either of the movies in their final form. What I know of them, and how I judge them, is based entirely on my experiences with the producers and on the final scripts. The SEA OF MONSTERS movie is a whole ‘nother story, but it followed basically the same process.

. . . .

Should a reboot happen some day, in some fashion, I would hope, like you, that it would be a great adaptation that is faithful to the books and fun to watch. The fact that Disney has now acquired the rights from Fox may be hopeful news, but it doesn’t change my contractual powers (which are zilch). Still, I’ve let it be known that I would be happy to consult and advise IF they want me and IF the new project was undertaken by a completely different team than the one which made the movies. I think that would be important. Fresh eyes. Fresh ideas. Hopefully people who know and are passionate about the books. I have no desire to go through my first experience again and see the same results. If I felt like that was going to be the case, I would have to stay away from the project completely. In the future, if some project actually does get underway, I may not be able to comment on it for contractual reasons, but you can tell how I’m feeling about it by what I do or don’t say. Am I talking about it? Promoting it? Sharing cool things? I am probably happy. Am I completely ignoring it and never mentioning it on social media? Yeah . . . that’s probably not a good sign. For instance, check out my website, rickriordan.com. Do you see any indication there that the Percy Jackson movies ever existed? No. No, you do not.

. . . .

From January 2009 note to producers

Hi XXXXX,

I understand that a decision has been made to age the main characters in the film to seventeen. As no one wants to see this film succeed more than I do, I hope you’ll let me share a couple of reasons why this is a bad idea from a money-making point of view.

First, it kills any possibility of a movie franchise. I don’t know if you or your staff have had the chance to read farther than The Lightning Thief in the Percy Jackson series, but there are four other volumes. The series is grounded on the premise that Percy must progress from age twelve to age sixteen, when according to a prophecy he must make a decision that saves or destroys the world. I assume that XXXX would at least like to keep open the option of sequels assuming the first movie does well. Starting Percy at seventeen makes this undoable. I’m also sure that XXXXX (for) the first Harry Potter movie, some in the studio argued for making the characters older to appeal to a teen audience. Fortunately, they took the long view and stayed true to the source material, which allowed them to grow a lucrative franchise. This would’ve been impossible if they’d started Harry at seventeen. The same principle applies here.

Second, it alienates the core audience. I’m guessing those book sale numbers are important to XXXX because you’re hoping all those kids show up at the theater. The core readership for Percy Jackson is age 9-12. There are roughly a million kids that age, plus their families, who are dying to see this film because they want to see the pictures in their imagination brought to life. Many of these kids have read the books multiple times and know every detail. They are keenly aware that Percy is twelve in the first book. By making the characters seventeen, you’ve lost those kids as soon as they see the first movie trailer. You signal that this is a teen film, when the core audience is families. I understand that you want to appeal to teens because they are a powerful demographic, and conventional wisdom says that teens will not see movies about kids younger than themselves. Harry Potter proved this wrong, but aside from that, deviating so significantly from the source material risks pleasing no one – teens, who know the books are meant for younger kids, and the younger kids, who will be angry and disappointed that the books they love have been distorted into a teen movie. I haven’t even seen the script yet, so I don’t know how much the story has changed, but I fear the movie will be dead on arrival with a seventeen-year-old lead. (At this time I had no idea who might be cast)

I’ve spent the last four years touring the country, talking about the movie. I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of kids. They are all excited about the movie, but they are also anxious. Most of these kids have no idea which studio produces which film, but everywhere I go, they say the same thing: Please don’t let them do to the Lightning Thief what they did to XXXX(another movie from the same producers) Don’t let them change the story. These kids are the seed audience for the movie. They are the ones who will show up first with their families, then tell their friends to go, or not go, depending on how they liked it. They are looking for one thing: How faithful was the movie to the book? Make Percy seventeen, and that battle is lost before filming even begins.

Thanks for letting me say my piece. I care too much about the project to see it fail.

Link to the rest at Rick Riordan

Cli-fi

9 November 2018

From The New Yorker:

As part of its ongoing “Original Stories” series, Amazon has assembled a collection of climate-change fiction, or cli-fi, bringing a literary biodiversity to bear on the defining crisis of the era. This online compilation of seven short stories, called “Warmer”—containing work from a Pulitzer Prize winner (Jane Smiley) and two National Book Award finalists (Lauren Groff and Jess Walter), among others—offers ways of thinking about something we desperately do not want to think about: the incipient death of the planet.

There is something counterintuitive about cli-fi, about the fictional representation of scientifically substantiated predictions that too many people discount as fictions. The genre, elsewhere exemplified by Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy and Nathaniel Rich’s “Odds Against Tomorrow,” brings disaster forcefully to life. But it is a shadowy mirror. Literature has always been a humanist endeavor: it intrinsically and helplessly affirms the value of the species; its intimations of meaning energize and comfort. But what if there is scant succor to be had, and our true natures are not noble but necrotic, pestilential? We have un-earthed ourselves. Yet we claim the right to gaze at our irresponsibility and greed through fiction’s tonic filter. The stories in “Warmer,” which possess the urgency of a last resort and the sorrow of an elegy, inhabit this contradiction. They both confront and gently transfigure the incomprehensible realities of climate change.

. . . .

Here, work from Jesse Kellerman, Edan Lepucki, and Sonya Larson conjures the oppressiveness of the heat, the desperate thrill of opening a freezer at the store. (“It used to get chilly right before dawn, Daddy told me. . . . Shiver was a word you could use.”) There are economies in which water is replacing cash; the lone, brilliant apparition of a tree; school classrooms where teachers of an older generation pine for what they lost, preaching activism and environmental responsibility to dirt-poor students. The stories think through details. (What would the billionaires do? Start a space colony.)

. . . .

Kellerman’s entry, “Controller,” takes the form of an experiment, with climate as the independent variable. The same story unfolds three times, on the same January day, but at different temperatures. The subtle gradient alters details, down to whether a dog is alive or dead, and determines the pitch of the characters’ rages and resentments. (“The air had changed, no longer a palliative billow but deafening and full of wrath. . . . He might yet bend her to his will.”) The mechanics of the piece gesture at one reason that climate change can prove so tricky a literary topic. We metaphorize nature endlessly, converting its phenomena into reflections of ourselves.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

PG notes that TPV is not a blog about climate change (and he recognizes opinions vary), but he was interested in climate change as a writing trigger.

Science Fiction: A Bit of Magic Isn’t Always Enough

13 October 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Two thingsthe best modern fantasies have are a distinctive setting and a defined and preferably novel technology of magic. In Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside” . . . the magic tech is “scriving”—controlling the world by means of sigils, or inscriptions. As for the setting, it is unusual both in being industrial and in being post-medieval. Mr. Bennett’s city of Tevanne is like something from Renaissance Italy, with merchant clans preserving an uneasy balance from their fortified campos.

The balance is upset by Sancia the thief. She steals an object, which turns out to be a sentient key called Clef. Clef can open any lock, and Sancia can sense scrivings. Between them they can defeat almost any security system. In the background are whisperings of even greater masters who created the Clef by experiments now forbidden. If ordinary scriving speaks the “language of reality,” the old scrivers were fringing on “God’s coded commands,” to alter reality.

Dark history returning, a Thing of Power, a waif entrusted with it: so far, so Tolkien. Not a bit. Sancia is more tormented and more streetwise than any hobbit, and Clef builds a rapport with her, unlike Bilbo’s Ring. She too, it turns out, is a left-over experiment with much to avenge, and her street-companions seem sometimes oddly modern and hacker-like. As the story unfolds, so do both the potentials and the limitations of scriving technology.

. . . .

The heroine of Jennifer Estep’s Kill the Queen” . . . the first installment in a new series, is a princess sure enough. But she’s only 17th in line for the throne, and worse, in a magic-dominated society, poor Everleigh is just a “mutt” who can’t do magic at all. At the start she’s baking pies in the palace kitchen. That and dancing are her only known talents.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

12 Unforgettable Sci-Fi Movies About Memory

24 September 2018

From io9:

Filmmakers love to explore memory problems—in the form of amnesia, dementia, manipulation, conflicting recollections of the past, you name it. And this thematic fascination isn’t limited to any one movie genre; it’s the one thing OverboardMemento, and Rashomon all have in common.

But for our purposes today, we’re specifically looking at science fiction movies—so, sorry, fans of the Bourne movies, Shutter Island, Angel HeartSpellboundDesperately Seeking SusanThe NotebookThe Manchurian Candidate, and on and on. And while there are tons of sci-fi movies that use memory as a plot device, here are 12 of our favorites.

4. Blade Runner (and Blade Runner 2049)
Do memories count if you’re not actually human? Both Blade Runner movies (like Total Recall, inspired by Philip K. Dick) feature replicant characters who fervently believe their memories are real. In the original film, Rachael (Sean Young) doesn’t initially know that she’s not a real human, in large part because her recollections of her childhood are so vivid. In Blade Runner 2049, K (Ryan Gosling) is well aware that he’s a “skin job,” but begins to suspect he might be the sought-after child born to Rachael and Deckard (Harrison Ford) when he visits an orphanage and finds a small toy horse stashed exactly where he (seemingly) remembers leaving it. Both Blade Runners point out how important memories really are in constructing individual identities; it’s no wonder its characters are devastated when they realize their minds have been manipulated to believe things that aren’t authentic.

9. The Giver
A robust cast (Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, and there’s even a somewhat distracting Taylor Swift cameo) elevates Phillip Noyce’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel. It’s about a society where the pursuit of order and perfection has come at the expense of emotions, free-thinking, and creative expression—basically, anything that might upset the status quo. A teenaged boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, soon to be seen as Dick Grayson on Titans) is informed that his prescribed career will be taking over from Bridges’ character as “receiver” of the community’s collective memories. But once “the Giver” begins to pass on his knowledge, the kid realizes exactly what his life has been missing—not just the power of memory, but also things like fear, joy, love, and excitement—and he can’t suppress his urge to share what he’s learned with everyone else. (The Giver illustrates his awakening literally, shifting the movie’s palette from monochrome grey to lush and colorful.) Bridges is great as the gruff, weary teacher, and the story offers a familiar yet earnest cautionary tale about the perils of conformity—with suppressed memories representing the greatest loss of all.

Link to the rest at io9

The House With a Clock In Its Walls

23 September 2018


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And the book

Surviving The Stupid

21 September 2018

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Imagine my surprise, as I scanned through Twitter a few weeks ago, to see a writer I follow go after Tor for its library policies. Um…what?

Turns out that Tor, through its parent company Macmillan has started a program in which libraries cannot get ebooks of the latest Tor releases until four months after the book is released.

Remember this is traditional publishing, so velocity is important. How fast a book sells has an impact on whether or not that writer’s next book will even get an offer from the publisher. And here—stupidly—is a publisher that has decided that library ebook sales aren’t worthwhile.

Tor/Macmillan’s reasoning? To see if library ebook sales are the reason that the company’s ebook sales are so low. That thinking is so damn stupid that I can barely type the words.

Rather than go into the reasons Macmillan’s ebook sales are low which I can digress on for hours, let me share what Nate Hoffelder said on The Digital Reader in July, when this news initially broke:

Macmillan  has poor ebook sales because they have adopted a policy of discouraging ebook sales in favor of print sales. Macmillan adopted this policy in late 2009 when they conspired with Apple and 4 other publishers to violate antitrust law by forcing Amazon to accept what is called agency pricing, a system where the publishers set the price and retailers are prohibited from deep discounts and sales.

That is established historical fact, and so is the antitrust suit brought by the DOJ, Macmillan settling the lawsuit,  its punishment, and Macmillan’s return to agency in 2014.

Apparently, corporate think has decided that it’s better to decrease sales to increase sales. (How Orwellian.) They’ve also got on the bandwagon of punishing people with budgets and limited income. The enthusiastic readers on a book budget—folks who provide great word of mouth during that crucial velocity period—are not worth Macmillan’s time.

The problem is that these enthusiastic readers aren’t going to be able to purchase the books themselves. Many library users are unable to make regular ebook purchases, especially if the ebooks are priced at $9.99 and up, like the Tor books. I’ve seen arguments that the libraries will still get the paper books, but that doesn’t mean that these readers want paper books.

Tor/Macmillan believes that these readers can and should wait. Which is risky on the one hand—there are always new books to read—and idiotic on the other. The readers who want a book now are the book’s most dedicated consumers. Word of mouth has become even more important in 2018 than it was ten years ago, thanks to the advent of social media, online book sites, and all kinds of blogging.

. . . .

Let me tell you, as someone whose novels were traditionally published for decades, it sucks when your publisher makes a totally stupid decision that’s going to have a negative impact on your career.

If you’re a smart author, you’ll know what the impact will be. Most traditionally published writers happily know nothing about the business of publishing, so when they get their royalty statements and their sales are down yet again, or when they are unable to sell the next book in the series, or when their publisher cancels their fat multi-book contract because sales are down, those writers are surprised. (See my blog post on “Learned Helplessness”  to understand some of this.)

. . . .

This comes at a perilous time for Tor. Their founder, Tom Doherty, moved upstairs into an honorary position in March, and was replaced as President and Publisher by a long-time corporate middle management guy who might or might not do a good job. If this library thing is any indication… well, you already know how I feel.

I feel somewhat bad for the writers stuck in this library situation. Not entirely bad, mind you, because if they had learned business, they would know that their publisher has a habit of chewing up and spitting out writers like crazy, and has for decades. Three books and out, usually, unless something takes off. And it used to be that awards and award-nominations were enough to save a writer at that company. That changed as the bean counters rose to the top of the business, and will probably get worse now that Tom is gone. He loves science fiction, and would occasionally swoop in to save a great voice that wasn’t selling well.

I doubt that will happen anymore.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Crypto – A Bitcoin Horror Film

11 September 2018

Not exactly about writing, but short and (for PG, at least) interesting.

Making fantasy reality: Alan Lee, the man who redrew Middle-earth

3 September 2018

From The Guardian:

For artist Alan Lee, nature has always provided a gateway to other worlds. Now 71, Lee remembers growing up in Uxbridge, on a council estate that bordered a wilder landscape. It was what you might call a liminal childhood – on one side, the recently minted avenues and structures of social housing, on the other, “a short walk into this strange landscape of canals and fields and woods”.

It’s that sense of crossing from one world to another that has informed his work, especially his association with JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which has formed a large part of Lee’s oeuvre over the past quarter of a century.

His latest project is just released: the third “rediscovered” Tolkien novel, The Fall of Gondolin. Edited by Tolkien’s 93-year-old son Christopher, this volume – like its predecessors, The Children of Húrin and Beren and Lúthien– has been assembled from the author’s detailed notes. Tolkien, who died in 1973, always intended to publish these prequels to the main Lord of the Rings trilogy.

. . . .

Lee first encountered Tolkien aged 17 while at Ealing Art College. A fellow student gave him a copy of the first in the Lord of the Rings sequence, The Fellowship of the Ring. “I was just amazed,” he says. “I had grown up reading a lot of folklore and mythology, and this had elements that I recognised – elves and dwarves and dragons and magic rings. I just devoured it.”

. . . .

While he was working the graveyard shift, the entire faculty at Ealing College had departed and been replaced, and when he returned to finish his course he found a much staider atmosphere, heavy on graphic design and advertising. But reading The Lord of the Rings had reignited his childhood love of folklore and myth. “While everybody else was working on campaigns for Volvo, things like that, I was quietly sitting there illustrating ancient Irish folk tales,” he says.

. . . .

Lee also created a series of illustrated books on fantasy, which came to the attention of Jane Johnson, an editor at Allen & Unwin and responsible for the Tolkien list. She showed his work to Christopher Tolkien, who agreed that Lee was the perfect choice to illustrate a lavish edition of The Lord of the Rings, to be released in 1992 to mark the centenary of Tolkien’s birth.

That was the start of Lee’s 20-year association with Tolkien’s world.

Link to the rest at The Guardian


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