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Posts Tagged ‘world building’

Science Fiction has had a tough go of it over the decades, and oft-times it’s been with good reason.

Back when I was cracking paperback spines and dreaming of writing my own novel, a lot of SF readers only cared about the science. If you got the science right, if you got all your gizmos, franistans, and spindizzies in a row, even if you drew your world in crayon, wrote dialogue as wooden as an oak, and populated scene after scene with stereotypical characters hired straight from Central Casting, you could still win awards and have a healthy readership. While I gravitated toward the “social” science fiction of Le Guin, Zelazny, and Cherryh, the genre had a strong and ardent following of the “hard” science fiction style, where the gimmick ruled and “What if?” was the only question worth asking.

In visual media, it was often worse. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and the Six-Million-Dollar Man gave us mindless matinee-serial pablum served on a foundation of whiz-bang gimcrackery.

This, however, has changed. (more…)

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I’ve just seen what is possibly the most ridiculous premise for a television show, ever.

It has long been a fact of life in my house that, if we like a show, it gets canceled. If a show is sharp and well-written, it will probably get the mid-season axe (Yes, shows like “Firefly,” and yes, I am a Browncoat, but let’s not even go there.)

Well-written shows are thin on the ground these days. Ironically, broadcast television and the major networks—once the movers and shakers of primetime—are sinking to new and totally unimpressive lows, scything back scripted shows like Death himself, while pumping the pabulum of competition and so-called “reality” shows into our living rooms like cut-rate meth. Basic cable is the new frontier, and it’s doing some great work, but examples are few and far between.

As a consumer of television fare, I’m a tough market, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief—a lot—if you give me a good plot, some good writing, and some good acting to carry me along. Shows like “Awake” and “Journeyman” (both defunct) came with the sort of setup that required a healthy suspension of disbelief, but they both paid great dividends in the writing and the intricate plots. The writers for these shows put some serious effort into building a basis for the shows, and as incredible and hard-to-believe as the premises were, they had a logic that was integral to the worlds they inhabited. They made sense, and you didn’t have to dump a trainload of fundamental truths in order to go along with them.

Every story, every novel, no matter how bizarre the setting, must have an internal logic. If it doesn’t make sense, we won’t buy it. You can have wizards and dragons and disc-shaped planets and time travel, you can break every rule of physics and change the course of history, but if you don’t explain it or worse, if you can’t explain it, your reader/viewer will be lost to you. If you don’t respect the reader enough to craft a believable plot, you just don’t respect the reader.

This weekend, while watching the Olympics, it was impossible to avoid the ad blitz for the new NBC show, “Revolution.” The JJ Abrams nametag was intriguing, as was Jon Favreau’s direction for the pilot, and post-apocalyptic setting (thankfully sans zombies) looked okay. But what was the premise? That suddenly all the electricity stopped working? No, seriously, what’s the premise?

I did a search to find out exactly what I was missing. I found that the show was set fifteen years after

…an unknown phenomenon permanently disabled all advanced technology on the planet, ranging from computers and electronics to car engines and jet turbines and batteries.

Oh my.

So, NBC has postulated a phenomenon that was somehow smart enough to know what it was going to disable (Batteries? Really?) I don’t know about you, but an old car engine isn’t “advanced technology.” The internal combustion engine is, essentially, just like, fire, you know? And not only is it smart enough to know what it’s going to disable, it’s completely undetectable, and the entire world is unable to figure out what it is or where it came from or how it did it. This big thing happens, and that’s it. Nothing else happens afterward; no alien invasion, no nano-technological Brownian machines ravage the world, no super-criminal demands a ransom. Nothing. So, this “lights out” moment is totally natural, totally unknown, and totally arbitrary.

But, it’ll probably be a hit because it’s got pretty people swinging swords.

k

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