Category Archives: Writing

Farscape and Mental Health

I’ve mentioned before about my love of the space opera Farscape even going so far as to detail many of my reasons to recommend it.

While I touch on the writing insofar as their episodes move at a rapid clip that puts many older TV shows to shame, one aspect I haven’t dwelt on was how the show deals with mental health in general and trauma in particular.

There are tangled webs and sci-fi tangled webs. This is the latter.

Enter James Hoare’s piece for The Companion. With an assist from Commander Crichton himself (Ben Browder), the article delves into the traumatic events that befall Crichton and how he deals –and is unable to deal– with them.

Frankly, most characters in adventure series experience trauma that would overwhelm those of us who don’t have a writers’ room to prop us up. And traditionally, in many an adventure series, the writers conveniently sidestep the consequences of said overwhelming trauma in the name of preserving the status quo. People being reflective and being affected by the events of one episode bleeding into subsequent episodes is not something one saw in the adventure tales of yore.

Thankfully, Farscape was part of a series of said adventure shows that began to push the envelope of serialization — something we take for granted in the era of streaming and “prestige TV.” And while I always appreciated the different voices and perspectives of the characters –many of Moya’s crew really didn’t get along with one another– reading the article made me realize how much the writers addressed mental health, asking for help, and helping. I suppose just as sci-fi and speculative fiction in general helps explore ideas more easily or safely in its fantastical wrappings, it helps when said sci-fi has been given the mandate to “be as weird as possible.”

But, in the end, how weird is it? After all, as Browder points out, all of us have a ‘Harvey.’

(Note: that last line and the article itself are chock full of spoilers for the series, so if you’re planning to dive into the show for the first time, maybe hold off.)

Ending the Story in Flight

One of my kids has, wisely, picked up on the fact that Disney tends to kill off characters’ parents.

We talked about it (they weren’t disturbed, they just found it odd) and I mentioned that it was one way to “raise the stakes.” I’m not sure if that expression means much to a child who doesn’t know how to play poker, but I’m sure we’ll also get to that in time.

Painting by N.C. Wyeth

Another aspect of stories we haven’t discussed, but I’m sure we will eventually will be when heroes die… and in many cases why and how they die.

Robin Hood was one of my favorite characters from folklore growing up, but it was years of reading tales and watching the films before I got to his death, which, upon reading it, made me sick and angry. And so when I read this piece by Lance Mannion, who sadly left us himself just earlier this year, it resonated.

There’s a lot to unpack in that short piece — from how a hero’s work is unfinished to how their end might be unfair compared to their feats of heroism. However, the idea that sticks in my brain is that notion of a story ending even as it continues, even as it begins again.

Comics Are Not Lucrative for Writers or Artists

Okay, so it’s not the most uplifting article to link to, but I recently read Gita Jackson’s article for Vice about how comic book writers and artists get paid, and I had to share it.

Warning: this does not happen.

Perhaps because of my time producing indie video –and now audio– works, I am quietly obsessed by the kind of data Jackson gets into. How much does it cost to make a comic book? How much should it cost? What’s sustainable?

Sadly, when it comes to the main creators, writers and artists, it’s not particularly sustainable in many instances. No solutions come to mind, though summoning the ghost of Harlan Ellison to mete out justice might not be a bad idea.

The Hear Now Festival: Celebrating Audio Fiction

Our move to make more events virtual these days thanks to the pandemic, making them easier to attend, also means it’s easier to forget to attend them.

That was the case for me and the Hear Now Festival, an annual celebration of audio fiction put on by folks over at NATF (National Audio Theatre Festivals, Inc.).

I missed some of the events, but luckily for me –and possibly for you– there’s a few sessions that are available to re-listen to, including a great hour-long intro to Norman Corwin, a true master of audio fiction as well as a panel on making modern audio fiction with Fred Greenleigh and many others.

As I’ve mentioned many times in regards to Jabberwocky Audio Theater, I grew up listening to vintage radio fiction — one of the reasons there is a Jabberwocky Audio Theater. I’m glad events like this exist and hope to attend some in person in the future.

Comparing Galactic Empires

Continuing from the musings about the soon-to-be Foundation TV series, I thought about the different series that have massive, interstellar empires… and it turns out I’m not alone.

Quinn (who’s videos you should check out if you want to know waaaay more about Dune before that film adaptation comes out later this year) does some comparisons of three literary biggies:

Video

How Might They Update the Foundation of Foundation?

Just a little over a year ago I posted the teaser trailer for Foundation, a TV series adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s highly influential work of the rise and fall of galactic civilizations.

Well, we’ve got a new trailer and a premiere of September, so gird your space opera loins!

Already, I’ve seen chatter on the interwebs about some apparent departures from the books, some of which is also hinted at in the io9 piece on the trailer. However, as much as I enjoy the books, the initial ones are episodic to an anthological degree. After the initial part with Hari Seldon, the man who predict’s the empire’s collapse, we are thrust forward decades and centuries to a new generation of characters grappling with Seldon’s predictions and grand beats of the aforementioned galactic waxing and waning.

It’s all engaging, because Asimov enjoys cunning characters and a good plot twist, but it does mean we don’t get to grow to love the characters like we would in other ongoing novel series.

And yet, part of the whole magic of the Foundation series is seeing that centuries-long storyline unfold.

So I’m very keen to see how they approach the adaptation to make it engaging in the TV medium while being thought-provoing as it was in the books.

Fewer Lightning Strikes and More Slow Burns

Besides the inevitable barbecues in the U.S. this long weekend, it’s a good one for reflection (not the least given the reason for the long weekend).

So that got me thinking about ideas and inspiration and a recent article by David Robinson for the BBC about how people get ideas… and how a certain professor is testing some assumptions of how people get and choose ideas.

But, maybe don’t try and connect all the ideas to one another? That could get bad.

The article goes a lot into brainstorming and business settings, but there’s plenty to mull over for creative work — and working together creatively.

Reckless, Truthful, & Clean as a Bone: James Baldwin on Writing

I’ve been meaning to get back into the groove of posting motivational material on Mondays — as well as tackle some larger writing projects as well, so this list from Emily Temple over at Literary Hub of James Baldwin’s observations on writing is most welcome.

James Baldwin (Photo: Allan Warren)

If you’ve read some of his work or seen some of his interviews, the directness and clarity of his observations and suggestions will come as no surprise, but it could just be that one or three of the sentiments is just what you need to hear right now.

Beverly Cleary: An Appreciation

Beverly Cleary at home in Carmel Valley, California in April, 2006.
Christina Koci Hernandez | San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Author Beverly Cleary has died at the astounding age of 104. There are remembrances and obituaries all over including:

While the comic creations of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Goscinny & Uderzo, Carl Barks, and HergĂ© loomed large in my childhood, I’m hard pressed to think of a single author whose chapter books I read more as a kid than Beverly Cleary. This fact was probably aided by the fact that my mom was, like Cleary herself was back in the day, a children’s librarian, and I am of an age that some of the Ramona books were still coming out new when I was of prime age to read them. I also read all the Henry Huggins books, my favorite probably being Ribsy, and also quite liked the tales of Ralph and his motorcycle, which at least one of my kids has now read as well.

If life is indeed something that happens while you’re making other plans, it’s nice to know you can create some magic along the way.

Your Next Favorite SFF Sitcom?

With the release of WandaVision, we got to see a new genre mashup from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: superheros and sitcoms.

Certainly this isn’t the first time there’s been a mashup of superheroes and outright silliness (The Tick is the one that pops in my mind most concretely as it has had several TV incarnations). And the sitcom backdrops in WandaVision actually lay a foundation for some distinct non-comic plotlines (that’s the limit to how much I’ll spoil things).

However, it did get me thinking about other science fiction and fantasy treatments of sitcoms — and Leah Schnelbach over at Tor.com takes that same thinking and has a bunch of suggestions. I’m partial to Steam and SpaceNewsSpaceRadio myself, but what do you think?

(Personally, I’d also love to see an Ambush Bug animated series).