Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Hello Reader!  This week, I'm going on a Supernatural binge.  Both on this blog AND my other blog.  Yes, I have two blogs.  Supernatural is a television show on the CW that has been going on for five years now.  Count that, FIVE years.  Yes many of you will say: it's just two pretty boy, white-trash brothers gallivanting across America trying to kill a couple boogeymen.  And it kind of is just that.  Except the show has humor, cleverness, is self-referential without being preachy, and a beyond stellar recurring theme: free will is great, but it also has its consequences.

But the one thing that Supernatural does that I'm most in awe with is make the surreal wholly bland, and the bland a part of elegant drama, possessing a beauty wholly ethereal.  There's a good reason why I say this.  Take for example the episode "Hammer of the Gods" just this past season.  Despite its clunky mythology surrounding Odin, Shiva, etc. the show managed to do something brilliant: explain why humans are better than angels.  Without being cliche, melodramatic, or preachy in any way!

Forgive me for the bad quality.  On the left is Gabriel, on the right is Lucifer.  They're brothers and they're discussing how Dad, i.e. God (swt), loves Humans more than Angels.  And how God is right.  "Damn right they're flawed," Gabriel says, "But a lot of them try...and you should see the Spearmint Rhino!"  How beautiful is that?  That reference to the strip club is brilliant, underplaying the soft sad music hitting us over the head in the background.  And it balances the dark theme with an airy tone that alleviates some of the tension.

Am I getting ahead of myself in describing this show?  Absolutely.  It's a popular, mainstream TV show on the CW.  THE CW!  Home to such scions of civilization as Smallville, Gossip Girl, and The Vampire Diaries.  Yet somehow, despite the trappings of popularity that shackle it, Supernatural soars above everything else on the boobtube.  The last episode wasn't incredible just because it asks the audience what the nature of God (swt) is and never answers the question.  The season finale was frikkin' awesome mainly because the goofiness that makes the show unique remained intact.  It carried the finale away from the apoplectic storyline to a place of common humanity that we could all relate to.  Case in point: an Angel calls an Archangel an assbutt.

Why is this important to me though?  Why is this goofiness so crucial that I'm dedicating both of my blogs to this one television show?  Because I want to write Supernatural.  I want to so badly depict surreal situations populated with real characters whose flaws make them who they are, and have far running consequences.  Is that too much to ask?  I do not think so.

In fact, I think it's what every science fiction novel should strive for.  You can read my rant about science fiction here, but in general there are so many problems with the way the genre has been written over the past fifty years I can't just relegate them all to one post.  So I didn't, and a little bit of my ire has leaked into this post.  Speaking in a blanket manner, science fiction has become more a contest of who can create better, more scientifically accurate worlds than the other.  Authors have pried themselves away from what makes any and all stories good: the humanity of it all.

Flaws are rich pools for diversity to be created and maintained, for plots to develop and push forward, and for characters to interact with each other in both heartbreaking and uplifting ways.  Take those flaws away from us humans, and we're just like the angels:

Following destiny like dogs, never forgiving, never learning.  We all know that isn't human.  We all know that doesn't make for a very compelling story.  And that's the kicker: I'm still astonished that a show I started watching just last November has taught and inspired me so much in terms of my writing.  Both Supernatural and Battlestar Galactica are huge influences on me (more on Battlestar next week).  But what Supernatural does, and what Battlestar sometimes didn't, was give weight to each character through their flaws.  Dean Winchester confronts Satan, pictured above, and Michael, the one Archangel powerful enough to kick Beelzebub's ass, while playing "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard.  Goofy?  Stupid?  Reckless?  Unnecessary?  No, none of those.  That's Dean Winchester.

I want people to say that about my characters, about my story.  Briok just broke out into a fit of rage because someone yelled at him?  Was that childish?  Overdramatic?  Unnecessary?  No, that was Briok being Briok.  Can I get there?  Bakhayr, maybe.  Even if I don't though, I'd still be happy with myself.  Because I tried my very best to emulate a show like Supernatural, to paint a portrait of humans fighting aliens without pretension and heavy-handedness.  To tell a story, pure and simple.  Until next time then.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Science Fiction

Hello Reader!  Today I'm going to go on a rant.  Be prepared.

I'm incredibly mad at  Yes, it is a science fiction blog and thus may have a little bit more authority on what is and isn't science fiction.  But why is it that when a science fiction show decides to cross boundaries and morph genres, it is lambasted by the science fiction acolytes that once salivated over it like dogs?  Is it a classic case of the servant ruling the master?  Or is it just plain hubris on the part of science fiction writers and readers?

It could be both, but seeing as how I'm in the mood to rant I'm going to have to say it's the latter.  Science fiction does not and cannot box itself in, deliberately trying to restrict itself to the conventions of technology.  For if there ever was a time when religion is prevalent in society, it is now.  And all good art is a reflection of the time in which it was created.  Right?  I like to think so.

Anyways, I do not think that tossing religion into science fiction is heresy.  Rather, I think religion can strengthen a science fiction novel, tv show, movie.  It presents a dichotomy between that which can be explained, and that which cannot.  For those shows that are good, I mean.  For those shows that are great, science and religion intertwine to create a mishmash of the explainable and unexplainable.  Science CAN explain religion, and religion CAN explain science.  It's absolutely possible, and while Battlestar Galactica was an imperfect prototype of this model, it was by no means a betrayal of the genre.

By now, you're probably wondering what spurred this whole diatribe.  This article is what did it, as it bends over backwards to dump on God as a plot device.  The gist of it is that God in Battlestar Galactica is an improper device to explain many of the strange events that occur in the characters' lives.  God is unexplainable, that is the very definition of God.  It has rules, but can break them at any time.  It can even change its rules.  The writer of the article then compares this to Lost, and its God figure Jacob.  As a conduit for the show's mysticism Jacob serves as an explanation of the God-like powers that swirl around the island and is its stubbly, pouty face.

What beef I have with the article is that the writer states clearly that one path is better than the other.  That's only if you're a whiny kid who needs an answer to everything.  That's only if you approach the show, novel, movie as a work of hard science, grounded in steely contraptions and whizzing parts.  But Battlestar - along with Lost - has always carried with it a proud badge of mysticism, one that screams fantasy.  Does that negate it as a piece of science fiction?  Not in the slightest.

Because science fiction is not just the novelization of a scientist's greatest fantasy, or the serialization of a physicist's grandiose experiment.  Science fiction is the creation of a world programmed around its own internal history that seeks to answer questions about the essential elements of our humanity.  You do not need robots in science fiction, and aliens are extra credit.  What you need, and what is sorely lacking from many science fiction novels of today, is humanity.  Surrealism is perfectly acceptable, but if you're trying to say something about the human condition you had better damn well include a bit of humanity in your work.

To deny that the human condition involves religion or faith is stupid.  Just plain stupid.  Even the denial of religion is an involvement of religion.  If I'm going to write a realistic science fiction story, which indeed is my goal, I'm going to have to face the facts: religion is a huge part of people's lives.  Sure, you may say that religion is waning.  Atheists and agnostics are more and more Europe.  But in the rest of the world, religiosity is reaching a fever pitch!  (To debate whether this is wrong or right, go here).

Anyways, I'm digressing like no other.  My beef was with io9 complaining about God in science fiction, and not having answers explained with whizbang scientific theories that fit in snugly with logic.  Well, Battlestar was trying for something.  It was shooting for depth, it was shooting for characterization, it was aiming for that elusive hybrid story of religion and science.  Maybe it didn't get there, but it was damn near perfect when it swung for the fences. 

When science fiction blurs the line between logic and faith, and asks the audience to come to its own conclusions, rather than feed some mythos to the reader/viewer, that's art.  That's drama, and that's beautiful.  If there's anything that my story aspires to do, it's to throw surreal situations at real characters and depict in the starkest detail their reactions to the hurly burly surrounding them.  I want to be like Battlestar, I want to blur the line between God and the machine.  If I do, if I accomplish this Herculean task, I'll have created something that speaks volumes above a novel or movie or television show.  I'll have connected to reality.  To get there then, my success depends on you. Until next time then.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Updates, Updates, Updates

Hello Reader.  I promise next week will have a better post.  For now, I just have to update you on The Shirley Collier Prize.  Despite the restriction of the contest to just Humanities majors, I am applying.  I will be heading to Kinko's and will print out all 315 pages of my novel (I've reduced the size to 178 using a 10-point font and 1.5 spacing).  Wish me luck!  I'm also hard at work on The Coachella Review prize!  Pray for me, knock on wood for me, whatever it is you do, please do it!  Until next time then.