Plenty of genres will remain relevant in the future:
Horror, because we still like to be scared. Fantasy, because magic retains its fascination since it can’t materialize in the real world. Romance, because we still love, long for, and lose. Humor, because we need to laugh. Historical Fiction, because we want to experience other times and places.
But what about Science Fiction? During its Golden Age, this genre presented the perfect opportunity to extrapolate on emerging technologies and speculate where they might take us in the future. Some of those postulated futures turned out to be eerily prescient. But now we live in an age where automated cars and soft AI are becoming reality. Where we carry powerful miniature computers in our pockets that connect us to virtually any person on the planet. Where 3-D printers create entire houses in a matter of days and drones deliver packages directly to your home. Everything keeps getting (or seems to be getting) faster, sleeker, and more efficient, changing the social and economic landscape at an astonishing rate.
DISCLAIMER:This entry is onlyathoughtexercise! I am not proposing that one stance is better than the other, nor do I condone extreme positions either for or against the diversification or homogenization of any culture(s).
Project Orion: one of the coolest ships that was never built. (Artwork by Adrian Mann)
I recently read an article about NASA testing equipment and programs that will theoretically carry humans to Mars. Part of me was really happy about it, but at the same time, I was also disappointed because the federal space program is pretty much dead due to lack of funds. NASA is getting just enough to play around with ideas and reinvent the wheel, but not enough to actually do anything substantial. The private sector may yet succeed with companies like SpaceX, but the lack of interest in space exploration is so discouraging that I sometimes fear we’ll never reach beyond our planet before the next great extinction.
This is the fourth part of a series of entries discussing various books that deeply influenced my writing and outlook on stories. You can read the Introduction here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. Please note that discussion of these books may contain spoilers.
The next round of influential books didn’t come until I entered college. Granted, I found lots of books that I loved between the age of 12 and 18, but truly influential books are much rarer. In my freshman year, I discovered anime and manga. Last Exile was the first anime I ever watched (I’m not counting random Pokemon episodes I saw when I was little), and reading manga soon followed. A six-year obsession with all things Japanese had begun. During that time, I read and watched so much anime that I needed a list to keep track of them all. Three series stick out in my mind from that time that remain favorites and powerful influences.
Image via mangahere.com
The first of these was Pet Shop of Horrors by Matsuri Akino. This 10-volume series is a horror manga, not my usual genre of choice. It’s both beautiful and eerie, revolving around a pet shop in Chinatown run by the enigmatic, androgynous, and amoral proprietor known only as “Count D.” Each volume contains about four stories of various people who come into the pet shop and leave with a pet…under certain conditions. Like in Gremlins, disobeying D’s instructions as to the care and feeding of their pets often results in calamity. Sometimes the pets are helpful to their new owners, but most of the time it ends in tragedy. Weaving through these tales alongside D is Leon Orcot, a detective who is sure that D has something to do with the various mysterious deaths throughout the city, but is unable to come up with any proof.
Okay, time for another rant about movies. I know, this is a writing blog and I keep talking about films. But really, if you want to learn how to write tight, self-contained, highly visual stories, then study screen writing. Good screen writing, that is. And there seems to be less and less of that out there these days, at least in the realm of Hollywood.
CAUTION! THIS ENTRY MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
I recently had the dubious pleasure of viewing John Carter and Green Lantern. Aside from having a pulp fiction background and a male protagonist sent into space, these two movies might appear to have little in common. But actually, they have a lot in common. They suck. They don’t suck so bad that they are unwatchable, but with such rich source material it’s almost a crime how not-good they turned out. The visuals are excellent (as always, with the benefits of CGI) and the acting wasn’t horrible (although Carter and Dejah Thoris had no chemistry whatsoever, which made their romantic scenes laughable), but the screen plays were unfocused and muddled, like no one could decide exactly what movie they wanted to make. There were actually several similarities between John Carter and Green Lantern that probably contributed to their dramatic failure:
These are the reasons I love to read and still love the older, archaic pulp fiction stories…and my primary motivations for reading at all. After watching Marvel’s The Avengers this weekend, and seeing all of the comic book characters coming to life on the silver screen recently, I thought this passage from the end of Richard A. Lupoff’s interesting book was rather apt: