So, one of the questions that writers get all the time is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Now... there are any number of snarky answers to this (including the title of this post), but the real truth is that ideas are everywhere. Ideas are like white girls at Starbucks during Pumpkin Spice season. You can't swing a tire iron without hitting one of them, they are often clingier than you'd prefer for a given interaction, and once you have one on hand you rarely know what to do with it.
This is just a note that as of September 1, 2017, I will be on hiatus from editorial work. I want to focus on my own work for a while, but will re-open to client submissions in 2018. I have room in my schedule for the end of this month and August. Any work started before September 1 will be finished in contracted time periods.
To learn more about my editorial services, or to contact me and get on the schedule, check out this page.
So last week I finally got to seeStar Trek: Into Darkness. Now it should be known that I look at the 2009 reboot as inspiration. I think that film was beautifully crafted in every way and it is a goal of mine to make something like that. So, I went into the sequel with high expectations. If you don't want spoilers or your own perception of the movie rocked by my strong opinions on the matter, please, click away now. Otherwise, join me below and we can hash out the pros and Khans of the latest in this iconic franchise. This movie is Shroedinger's Cat on celluloid. It is amazeballs. It is shit. At the same time. This movie simultaneously inhabits both spheres of a Venn Diagram describing epic movies and derivative drivel. It blurs the line between Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Unbelievable Bullshit.
I loved it. I screamed and cursed J.J. Abrams' name for being such a predictable bastard who couldn't write to his own potential.
So Star Trek has never exactly been a stickler for science fact, especially the original series. (If you want a show that prides itself on scientific accuracy, watch Babylon 5.) The reboot decided to follow in the original series' well-loved footsteps and ignore a few of the more obvious scientifically based holes in the story. Really, just go read this review. It's entertaining and pretty much sums up my problems as far as factual inconsistency.
Aside from my inability to understand why Dr. Carol Marcus is forced to strip on screen FOR NO REASON, most of my problems with the film are in the third act. J.J. Abrams is usually a very cunning storyteller that smacks me from behind when I least expect it. Into Darkness may as well be subtitled "Chekov's Arsenal" for all the smoking guns he left for us in the first act. So much of the climax was telegraphed! Seriously, cats wiggling their asses before pouncing on a catnip mouse are stealthier than J.J.'s climax!
For starters... now, I'd rather walk on my own lips than say a word against the musical genius that is Michael Giacchino. His scores are phenomenal and I adore his whole body of work. That being said...was it necessary to have the sinister BUMBUMBUMMMMM the first time we see Benedict Cumberbatch on screen? Yes, I know the trailers have set it up that he is the villain and all that shit, but come on. We see him and we have no idea in the context of the story why we should hate this man. He's saving the life of a dying girl. Is he a doctor? Is he The Doctor in some strange fanfic? Why should I hate someone who is saving a child? Allow the moral ambiguity to be there and fuck with the audience, dammit. (Soon, though, we see that Cumberbund Bandersnatch's still nameless character is a domestic terrorist. If we didn't hate him before, we do now because he's just killed Captain Badass Pike. We're sent off to avenge him in such a way that Heath Ledger's Joker would giggle at our adorability.)
Then we have a problem with the Warp Core. Oh, I've seen this one before. It ends with the sacrifice play because the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" WHICH MAY AS WELL BE SPOCK'S FIRST LINE! Come on!
As I said before, the real issues, though, come when we get to the third act. The Enterprise is on the ropes, "John Harrison" is Kahn, and Admiral Robocop is psychotic and flying the most badass looking dreadnaught of all fucking time. Through impossible physics and convenient timing, Kirk and Khan end up on the "Killerprise". Khan kills Peter Weller with his bare hands, turns on Kirk and sends the end of the movie careening inexorably toward Zachary Quinto screaming, "KHAAAAAAAN!"
So many people I spoke with said the end was unfulfilling and I think I have an answer as to why. To explain, you'll need to understand a bit about the Hollywood Formula of writing. (Listen to that podcast, authors, it is golden.)
So crash course. In any story you have 3 main characters:
- The Protagonist - this is the good guy. S/he wants something very specific and we are, generally, rooting for him/her to get it.
- The Antagonist - the bad guy. S/he is at odds with the Protagonist and is the one who keeps throwing roadblocks in the way of our Protagonist.
- The Relationship Character - This character takes many forms and is often played by Morgan Freeman. The RC typically has wisdom the Protagonist needs and serves to make the Protagonist's journey both more difficult and easier. Hell, if we just listen to the RC at the beginning, most of the time we don't need the rest of the movie!
A fulfilling resolution comes when the Protagonist and the Relationship Character have a deep/meaningful scene that adjusts the perspective of the journey, the Protagonist and the Antagonist have it out and the emotional wrap-up quickly follows.
Based on this, Into Darkness does not have a fulfilling ending.
Let's first identify our characters.
The Protagonist, I think we can all agree, is Kirk. He wants to be Captain of the Enterprise and he wants revenge on the man who killed his father figure, Captain Christopher Pike.
Now, who is our Antagonist? It is not who the trailer would have you booing. Admiral Marcus is the one who keeps Kirk from his chair. Admiral Marcus is the one who sabotages the Enterprise's warp core. Admiral Marcus is the one who keeps throwing problems at Kirk and his crew. The Admiral is our true antagonist.
That leaves the Relationship Character. This is Khan. Is he manipulative? Is he despicable? YES. But at no time does Khan lie to or attempt to hinder Kirk. In fact, he gives him the exact coordinates of the super secret bunker where the Dreadnaught of Badassery +1 is being kept. Khan is the one who delivers the antidotes.
As it is, this works. The characters are sound and fulfilling all of their roles, doing what they need to do to make the story work. The problem comes when Kirk and Khan board the dreadnaught. From there on, the movie is on a collision course for story disaster.
Like I said up there, satisfaction comes when our Hero defeats the Bad Guy. In this movie? He doesn't. KHAN kills Admiral Marcus while Kirk just stares in horror or picks himself up off the floor. Khan steps out of his role and takes up a new one. This is jarring to the audience in a way that they might not even notice, but it's there. So, Khan--in a way--steps into the role of Antagonist way late in the film. Okay, but then he gets everything he wants. He's killed a bunch of people at Star Fleet and exposed the program that ruined him. He's reunited with his tribe of popsicles and reinserted into the Matrix where he can have happy dreams of genocide.
Khan wins. So, Khan gets all the glory of the Protagonist, the wrath of the Antagonist and the heavy wisdom of the Relationship Character.
What does Kirk get? A blood transfusion. A 5-year mission. No personal sense of having avenged Pike. He gets to stay Captain Kirk (which he was at the beginning of the film).
So, while it is a fun film with pretty effects (lens flare!), a kick ass ship or two and some great one liners, Star Trek: Into Darkness fails at delivering an emotionally satisfying story. The promise is made in the trailer and in the first two acts that we have a clear Antagonist (and we do, it's just not the one we thought it would be) and that he will be dealt with by Kirk. That promise is broken. It's story-telling bait and switch.
So yeah. I loved it. I hated it. If I could tell J.J. Abrams one thing, it would be this:
Listen to Captain Pike from the first film. "I dare you to do better."
So last week was Phoenix Comic Con. I love PHXCC, and not just because it's a good show--which it is. PHXCC is my home show. Not only is it where I live, but a lot of the volunteers and congoers are personal friends. So when I see people I respect from my professional life flying in to hang out at this show, I feel like a very proud hostess. Check out my city, my people, and let us hang out for 4 straight days of geekery. (Unfortunately, it's hot as balls, so you get that part of my city, too. Sorry 'bout that.)
I had a very active, very productive and flat out FUN convention, so let's break it down.
My family and I checked in late in the afternoon. Registration seemed to have their collective shit together (for the most part), however, it did bother me to see people practically sitting on their thumbs just staring at lines get bigger. We did a quick pass through the exhibitor hall's back corner to see the Mysterious Galaxy booth well-stocked with all manner of books (including WILD CARD and UNVEILED) that I wanted to take home with me, and to visit the amazing Emma Lysyk at her booth.
That evening I had the pleasure of being on a Books and Authors kickoff panel with about 10 other Arizona authors including Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Aprilynne Pike, James A Owen, Austin Aslan and Amy K Nichols. I've met and spoken with Austin and Amy before, so it was a treat to see familiar faces. Also lots of fun getting to meet Yvonne and her husband Weston in person finally. Aprilynne started off by telling everyone she writes "fantasy and kissing" and it just snowballed from there. Next thing you know, Weston is touting his books as "military sci-fi and kissing". From there it just got loopy.
After that panel, I went to the Phoenix gastropub of the gods, The Taco Guild, to meet up with a metric fuckton of authors. The place was packed with penmonkeys of one stripe or another. Finally got to meet copyeditor Richard Shealy, reconnect with Stephen Blackmoore, Chuck Wendig and Leanna Renee Heiber.
Probably the most special part of the evening, though, was sharing it with my 9 yr old daughter. I was pointing out people to her to put faces with the names she's seen on my bookshelf.
"That's Cherie Priest," I said. "Oh! BONESHAKER. "And that's Chuck Wendig." "Blackbirds, right?" "Yup. Now you see that guy? That's Paul Cornell." She scrunched up her face. "I don't know what book he wrote." "Remember the episode of Doctor Who where 9 and Rose go back and she saves her dad... Father's Day?" "Yeah." "That guy is the reason that episode made you cry." Her eyes got huge. "Shall we go talk to him?" She just shook her head and hid.
Later in the evening, Mr. Cornell had a moment free and I pounced to thank him for his great stories. I mentioned that my daughter was being particularly shy. His eyes lit up, "Can I go say hi to her?"
That was awesome. He went over to where she was sitting, spoke with her for a few moments, but she was rather starstruck. My husband and I geeked with him about his books for a bit before Paul went off into the throng again. If you have the chance to meet Paul, I highly recommend it. He's a very sweet gentleman. (And he'll be at CONvergence, too. Hint hint.)
Day 2 of PHXCC began with a panel given by local author Eric Tozzi about adapting screenplays into novels and vice versa. It was very informative and Eric was a pretty cool guy. I'm interested in picking up his sci-fi novel THE SCOUT.
Afterwards I skeedaddled to a panel I sat on about Writers' Block with Andrea Phillips, Melissa Marr, Max Gladstone and David Lee Summers. The five of us talked with the audience about how we approach blocks and writing in general. It was a treat to hear that each of us have such varied styles and processes with what is essentially the same job.
Max, Melissa and I then boogied down to the exhibitor hall for a signing with Bennett Coles, ML Brennan and Wes Chu. Connected with some readers, talked with each other... but being down in the exhibitor hall is in and of itself a trip. There was a guy playing geek themes on an accordion, another gentleman walking around with a live macaw on his shoulder, one guys had a Darth Vader helmet with an Iron Man face and Mickey Mouse ears. And a small child who called me Pinkie Pie. (*glee*) Weirdest thing? Someone pointed to me and said, "OH! That's Jamie Wyman!" *shudder* Still feel like that means I've done something wrong and will get hauled off to the principal's office. Does that ever change?
Lunch with Melissa and Aprilynne... hang time and dinner with family and local friends.
I spent the morning roaming the halls like an uncaffeinated, pink-tressed specter before hitting the First Page Critique. Ann Leckie, James A Owen, Tom Leveen and myself sat and listened as about 10 authors read their first pages for us to critique. This was pretty damn awesome, really. Everyone in that room was a badass for even showing up. One girl was probably 15 or 16, and while she didn't get time to read, she was visibly terrified AND STAYED. (I'd seriously liked to have heard what she had written.)
That panel was interesting not just to hear what others have written, but to share opinions with the rest of the panelists. Sometimes we'd all agree, sometimes we'd discuss a piece for a little longer than the time allotted because there was so much to dissect. Very good panel for the brain matter. (And it even helped me figure out what's wrong with one of the stories I'm wrestling with at present. Thanks, gang!)
IF YOU CAME TO THIS PANEL AND HAD YOUR WORK CRITIQUED: Please connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. I can't promise to look at your work further, but I'd love to talk to you more. Especially you, young Ravenclaw in the second row!
Had another signing after that with Chuck Wendig, Stephen Blackmoore, Naomi Novik and Max Gladstone. Then we intrepid authors traipsed to the Sheraton for a Drinks with Authors event. Books were given away, conversations had, and livers destroyed. I was pleased to see many people from the earlier critique session come up and talk more about their works.
When they kicked us out of that ballroom for a Red Wedding event, a lot of us just went down to the hotel bar to continue the shennanigating. (It's a word.) Some goodbyes had to be said then as some folks were getting up early to head home on Sunday, but many were the slightly inebriated huggings. I knew it was time for me to leave when the following exchange occurred:
Random lady to friend with a pink wig: *points at me* Hey! She has the same hair color as you! Me: Isn't it embarrassing when two women show up to a party wearing the same tresses?
Fourth day of Con... that point where you're tired, loopy and running on little more than the last ergs of a high that can only be maintained with caffeine.
Weston Ochse, Yvonne Navarro, Bennett Coles, Kelley Armstrong and I started our day with a panel that was allegedly about Outside Influences. However, everyone in that room was more than happy to diverge into a free-for-all of conversation with the audience about any number of topics. We learned that Weston needs to produce t-shirts that say, "It's Billy Picket Time", and that when you've got a group of tired authors, wackiness WILL ensue.
Now, I was going to go get lunch, but I saw a friend pop into a panel about Social Media with Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, Sam Sykes and Myke Cole. Knowing that I've got more I could learn about social media, I thought, "Hey, I'll munch on some trail mix and stuff while I learn something! Cool!"
Well, I sat down in the crowd while the panelists were in pre-panel mode and they mentioned that Delilah Dawson was supposed to be on the panel, but couldn't make it due to her travel plans. The guys were apologizing that they were four white guys and that the panel had a distinct lack of diversity when I heard Chuck say, "Wait, Jamie's here. Let's get her on the panel."
There went my lunch. (My husband later gave me a side-eye when I told him I'd skipped said meal.) But it was so fun. I was the only one on the panel without a beard, so I made a bit of a pink beard for myself.
Radagast the Pink. That's what they call me. Fear my power and sleigh pulled by indignant cats.
Seriously, very special thanks to Myke, Sam, Chuck and Kevin for including me at all, but for also being welcoming panelists who didn't then just treat me like the token girl on the panel. Good times paneling with you.
After that, I stayed put for the Mythology panel with Kevin, Greg Van Eekout, Melissa Marr and Austin Aslan. At this point, I feel I should apologize. I was exhausted and my blood sugar was plummeting, so I stopped being able to word well. There were some great conversations, though, about cultural appropriation, privilege. We could've talked for hours about such a broad spectrum as "mythology", but we only had the hour.
I called my con done shortly after that and headed to a friend's house for a home-cooked meal. Ended up crashing early. Good thing I had a guard puppy.
Cons are always interesting to me. They're where I really feel like an author, not just some struggling scribe. I get to talk to others like me, see the people who have the kinds of careers I aspire to and get better ideas of how to improve what I do and how I do it. At the same time, it's easy to feel hilariously outclassed and small in the presence of creators like Paul Cornell, Cherie Priest and Ann Leckie. We spend 4 days geeking, sharing, drinking, talking, making connections... and at the end of it we're exhausted, but hopefully we've all taken something more than a business card or two.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Paul and Wes at CONvergence next month, and hope to keep building ties with some of the local authors I connected with this weekend.
If you were there, SAY HI! And now? I'm going to have some chai and fall down. And write. I've got stories to finish.