Which New Show Will Become Your Obsession?

io9’s Charlie Jane Anders tells us about some s-f pilots:

crack

by Charlie Jane Anders

Genre television is thriving on cable, with shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones making waves, but it’s struggling on the networks. Could 2013 be the year that science fiction and fantasy TV strikes back? We got an early look at seven scripts for pilots that are currently filming, or just filmed. Here’s what we found.

What’s Next on TV? The Lowdown on 6 Pilots Now Filming
Is genre television an endangered species? Terra Nova’s canceled, and some other network… Read…
Just like last year, we got hold of some script pages for these show’s pilots that were released for casting calls. These pages appear to come from the actual pilot scripts, and include large chunks of them.

As usual, though, some disclaimers are in order. First of all, it’s possible (but not likely) these pages aren’t from the actual pilot script. They may be from an early draft, and in any case the final pilot may differ dramatically from what’s in these pages. We’re not making any sweeping judgments about these shows based on these pages, and this is not a “review” or anything. We’re also not going to include any huge plot spoilers below. Just give a general impression of the show’s format and characters, and vague first impressions. You can judge how close we came last year.

With that out of the way, here we go…

Super Clyde (CBS):

In a nutshell: We’ve been covering this show because it’s ostensibly about superheroes — but really, it’s just about a guy who comes into money and decides to help people. Clyde’s eccentric Uncle Bill invented Silly Putty and used his fortune to help random people. Clyde is an agoraphobic misfit who works in a fast food restaurant, and even after he comes into a fortune he keeps working there. He finds out about how his Uncle Bill used to help people in secret, sort of like a superhero, and decides to follow suit.

Stephen Fry will play Alfred to Rupert Grint’s Bruce Wayne
Super Clyde, the CBS comedy pilot in which Rupert Grint gets rich and decides to become a… Read…
Memorable characters: Clyde (Rupert Grint) is a cute misfit who has a heart of gold. His siblings, Duke and Faith, are both sort of obnoxious in different ways, and they take advantage of all the opportunities to be ridiculous that money accords. But really the standout character is Randolph (Stephen Fry), the family butler who is the Alfred to Clyde’s Batman. He’s wacky and kindly, and provides counseling Clyde with “the Doctor,” a sort of puppet he’s drawn on his hand. He’s the “farting bedpost”-playing glue that holds the whole thing together.

Why it could be your new crack: It’s a silly, occasionally witty take on superhero tropes, in which money is literally a superpower, instead of simply giving you superpowers in the case of Batman and so many others. Plus Stephen Fry as Alfred.

Delirium (Fox):

In a nutshell: Based on the young-adult novel by Lauren Oliver, this series takes place in a future dystopia where love has been classified as a disease. And on your 18th birthday, you receive the cure — an operation that makes you incapable of falling in love. Young Lena (Emma Roberts) is due to receive the cure soon, but she meets a young man named Alex who secretly hasn’t had the cure at all. There’s a resistance against the oppressive order, and they are plotting to find an antidote to the cure and free people from the evil anti-love establishment. Meanwhile, the ambitious Senator Hargrove (Michael Michele) wants to be president — but to win, she may have to support curtailing civil rights further, with random searches and more government surveillance. Besides Lena, a few other young people struggle with their impending surgeries.

Read it all

How to Tell if a TV Show is Probably Not Going to End Well

Charlie Jane Anders knocks it out of the park again:

ST Enterprize

by Charlie Jane Anders

Many of us have commitment issues with television, because we’ve been burned so many times by weak or overblown endings. (And no doubt, a lot of us are anxiously praying that Fringe gets the powerful conclusion it deserves tonight.) But there’s no reason to give up on long-form series television because of some past bumps in the road — after all, TV has also given us some powerful endings. Instead, the next time you launch a long-term relationship with a TV show, best to go into it with your eyes open.

With that in mind, here are 15 signs to watch out for, that a show you’re falling in love with may leave you disappointed in the end. None of these are definite signs that a show is absolutely going to stumble in its final hours — but they’re omens we’ve noticed over the years.

Top image: Star Trek: Enterprise, “These Are The Voyages,” probably the worst finale of all time.

We all know it’s hard to end a long-running TV show — most shows either get cancelled too early or drag on way too long, eventually running out of steam well before they reach their final curtain. TV writers are at the mercy of network interference, bossy actors, real-life contingencies like strikes and cast departures, and random quirks of fate… all things that a novelist never has to worry about. And yet, some shows have cracks that are apparent long before the end.

The show tries to sweep the most interesting questions under the rug in its very first episodes.

Like if you have a show about people time-traveling to the past, and the show inserts some technobabble to try and explain away why they’re not changing the future they came from. Or if you have a show about people who travel from 1963 to the present, and there’s some handwaving to explain why they’re not confused by cellphones and the internet. When a TV show tries to sweep the most interesting implications of its premise under the rug, that’s a clear sign it’s never going to be able to follow through on the ideas it raises.

There are kids, and you can tell they’re not going to age well

This is another one that you might be able to tell from just the first few episodes of a show. If there’s a little kid, or a teenager, and the show is building a lot of mysteries and suspense around him or her — WAAAAAALT! — and making him or her seem really important, that might be a red flag. Because A) kids are really hard to do right, and it’s a rare child actor who can carry a major storyline on his or her shoulders, and B) this kid may not age well, and may not stick around long enough to pay off all the stuff that’s being set up. Especially if there are teenagers who just whine all the time, that’s a honking big red flag right there.

Read 13 more warning signs

 

Aw, Charlie Jane, please, please, please come work for us. You can run the whole shebang. We’ll give you anything. (Except $$$, after all, this is the interweb.) Call us!

LB: “The Only Writers Who Haven’t Sold Out are the Ones Who Haven’t Been Asked”

Nope, I’m not quoting myself. The above are just a few words spoken to me by Norman Mailer back in the day. (I.e., when he was alive and holding court in Manhattan and I, as a young writer, had just been introduced to him by – I kid you not – an NYPD detective. (No, not one who’d ever arrested him…yet.)

Mailer’s words to me come to mind because of this invigorating article from one of my favorite sites, io9.Com. I like io9 a lot. (Mostly because from time to time they mention me and seem to like me too. Just call me the Sally Field of TV writing.)

what does this have to do with selling out

How to Write for Money Without Selling Out Too Much by Charlie Jane Anders

This past weekend, it seemed like all of the Twitter conversations were about fiction writing, and selling out. It’s a weird conundrum: Most advice for writers assumes that you’re doing this as a business, and you want to make money at it. But you shouldn’t want to make money too badly.

Is there a line between trying to sell your fiction, and just plain selling out? And what’s so bad about being a sell-out, anyway?

So like I said, there were multiple Twitter conversations about art and commerce this weekend, that I noticed. One of them was on Friday, when Wind-Up Girl author Paolo Bacigalupi tweeted:

What’s the point in writing, if you don’t get to write whatever the fuck you feel like writing?

— Paolo Bacigalupi (@paolobacigalupi) January 4, 2013

And Tim Pratt and John Scalzi, among others, responded that sometimes they need to buy cat food, and sometimes people want to pay you lots of money to write something, and that works out well. This turned into a really interesting back and forth about art and commerce, and how the two aren’t really a dichotomy but feed off each other. In particular, Bacigalupi clarified that “I tend to think of it as a formula of Fun + Learning + Cash + Politics + Creative = Whatever-the-Fuck-I-Want-to-Write.” And Scott Westerfeld chimed in, saying: “Writing for a big audience can mean more than $$. Some lit experiments improve when put in front of more readers.”

(Seriously, you should read the whole thread, which you can probably see here. It won’t take that long to read.)

Read it all

FWIW, I love the way Charlie Jane writes, and Mailer and I agree wholeheartedly with much of what she says, including these little nuggets:

Everyone’s a sellout

At least, if you write creative stuff for money, and hope to get an audience for it, you’re a sellout to some degree. There’s no getting around it….

this stuff is hard to talk about, in large part because artistic choices are often indistinguishable from commercial ones….

How do you know if you’ve compromised too much? Maybe if you get a sick feeling in your stomach. Or maybe if people come up to you and say your last book sucked, and they liked it better when your characters were more flawed and less sympathetic. Maybe you’ll never know, for sure. There’s a reason writers don’t always sleep that well.

Why “Asterix the Gaul” is Important

…And not just because it’s one of our favorite comics:

Asterix: The Great Unsung Fantasy Hero – by Charlie Jane Anders

When people in the United States talk about great fantasy heroes, it’s all Conan, Bilbo, and Harry Potter. Nobody ever talks about the little French dude with the wings on his head. Asterix the Gaul has a huge following in Europe, thanks to decades of adventures in the Roman Empire and the rest of the world. But he’s never gotten his props in the United States, and few people recognize his importance in the fantasy canon.

Here’s why Asterix deserves more props as a fantasy hero.

Who is Asterix?

Asterix was the hero of a comic strip by Goscinny and Uderzo in the early 1960s, which later became a popular series of books in France, which took off massively in the U.K. thanks to some witty translations by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge. In a nutshell, the comic takes place in an alternate history where the Romans failed to conquer one tiny part of ancient Gaul — a single village where the inhabitants take a magic potion that gives them super-strength.

Asterix is a story of resistance — and it’s probably no coincidence that it came to popularity for the post-World War II generation that still remembered the German occupation. But the little Gaul and his best friend, the large and dim-witted Obelix, also go on tons of adventures together, traveling to various parts of Europe and elsewhere. The typical Asterix adventure has to do with the Romans (or some other group) trying to outwit the Gauls, or steal their supply of magic potion, or mess with one of Asterix’s friends. And Asterix has to use his wits and cunning — as much as any magical powers — to win out.

It’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy about the underdog beating the giant unstoppable armies of oppression. But it’s also a story of a wily hero making his way through a series of adventures, in the tradition of Odysseus and countless others. And it’s a super-satirical look at things like bureaucracy, war, boxing, and cultural differences, filtered through a very French wackiness. The downside, of course, is that it’s a product of its time and a lot of that satire is pretty darn racist, especially whenever African people show up.

Besides Asterix and Obelix, recurring characters include the vain and shouty chief Vitalstatistix, the lovable druid Getafix and the ear-bleedingly-terrible bard Cacophonix. Plus the cute dog Dogmatix. There are tons of recurring jokes and motifs in the series, and part of the fun is seeing the same gags in every book, like Obelix devouring an entire wild boar by himself and Asterix’s cartoon uppercut.

Goscinny and Uderzo did 24 volumes of Asterix before Goscinny died — and even though the series continued after that, it’s probably best to ignore all of the later stuff. Their penultimate Asterix volume, Obelix & Co., is probably my favorite —

Read it all (especially if you loved Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge because Asterix is filled with the same sense of wonder)

Yep, they’ve made Asterix movies too!

A Serious Look at How to Come Up w/Awesome Sci-Fi Ideas

The most helpful post of the month so far:

10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas – by Charlie Jane Anders

Science fiction is the literature of big ideas — so coming up with an amazing story idea often feels like the biggest stumbling block in the way of your dreams of authorship. Unfortunately, most of us can’t just have Robert A. Heinlein mail us $100 and a couple dozen brilliant ideas. So what do you do?

The trick is not just to come up with a great idea, but a great idea that lives in your mind and leads to characters and situations that inspire you. So here are 10 pretty decent ways to generate your own amazing story ideas.

And it really is true that ideas are dime a dozen in science fiction. Take the idea of “first contact with an alien race.” There are a million possible variations of that idea alone: They come to us. We go to them. They’re super-advanced. They’re not using anything we’d recognize as technology. They communicate using only colors. They think emoticons are our language, and all the other stuff is just punctuation. They’re giant. They’re tiny. They’re invading. They’re well-intentioned, but troublesome. And so on.

The hard part is finding an idea that sticks in your head and starts to grow weird angles and curves. In a sense, it’s not about finding a good idea — so much as finding a good idea for you, personally. So here are some tips, that may or may not be helpful:

Read it all

The really good stuff is at the link above. We want you to experience it in its full glory on its original site. You know, the way God (and Charlie Jane) intended.