writing

Science fiction is not science fact

Keyboard warrior rant: Round Two

People often believe that gamma rays, hover cars and alien life forms are possible. Then there is the grey area of time travel, telekinetic communication and the human zombie virus. State, however, that dragons, gods and magic are just as plausible as aliens and the “hardcore science” fans glare at you (before returning to watch The Big Bang Theory whilst chatting with their virtual/Facebook girlfriend). Nobody has, to date, suggested that dragons may well be aliens. The people who believe that science fiction is truly educational probably also believe that the world is about to end.

1. Brainiac: teaching kids that dangerous chemistry is fun

I am not sure how the BBC managed to air myth busters for kids with science, but it happened. Maybe it’s that the Brainiac cast used goggles, or that some of their explosions had to be enhanced – most notably, the alkali metals experiment.

Admittedly, not all of the experiments were dangerous, and the crew (probably) knew what they were doing. But, nearly every stunt performer says “don’t try this at home”, and it’s never been said on the show. Let’s not mention the scantily clad attractive women on the show – Remember Thalia Zucchi from “How Hard Is Your Thing?”? What about John Tickle’s busty nurse? If you’ve never seen the show, or don’t remember, here is a brief montage:

 

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Anyway, Brainiac was 1/3rd boobs, 1/3rd explosions and 1/3rd actual science. For this reason, it may as well be science fiction.

2. Doctor Who

Don’t  get me wrong, I LOVED this show (especially with David Tenant as the Doctor). And, considering the large number of crappy science fiction out there, there’s definitely been worse. But there are some concepts in the show that are just plain ridiculous. The sonic screwdriver has a few flaws, namely being that it can open any door…..except a traditional one with a doorknob. Also, the TARDIS defies the laws of physics in just about every way – the reason scientists believe that you can only travel forwards in time is because of the speed of light, and there are no wormholes in space to take you back to the past (which is the only hypothetical way you could get there).

3. Star Wars

I’m probably going to get hate mail for this, but here we go. I honestly believe the mass appeal from Star Wars comes from two things: physics students’ geeky desires to build a light saber and spacecraft, and mass marketing. In the original films, I had a bit of a problem with Han Solo’s attitude towards Leia. As for the more modern films, the main thing wrong with them is their over-dramatic plotlines. So Anakin Skywalker was actually once a good guy and became evil, so what? Othello and Hamlet both do the same damn thing. Then we have Kylo Ren, who is not actually evil but instead is living a narcissistic fantasy after idolising his granddad.

4. Jurassic Park

Ever since this film was made, the planet went nuts for re-creating dinosaurs from amber tree sap. So, dinosaurs are fascinating because they’re extinct. But absolutely nothing is scientific in the movie whatsoever – if  it was, we would’ve already done it. Sometimes I think that movie was only created so someone could make an actual theme park.

5. The Draenei in World of Warcraft

Yes, because satyrs and fauns are actually aliens from outer space – not dissimilar from Scientology logic about divine deities. I’ll admit that the WoW franchise is less sci-fi and more fantasy, but the Draeni are not their strongest race. I’m going to classify the Draeni as sci-fi because they’re alien beings with advanced technology. Why I don’t like them? They’re more original than the other races, but their design as extraterrestrial fauns bugs me.

6. Digimon

So, this is virtual pet; a Tamagotchi combined with Pokemon evolution. How original, just combine two Japanese franchise from competing businesses and merge them into a single toy. Admittedly, Digimon wasn’t anywhere near as popular Tamagotchi or Pokemon, because there’s nothing original about them. So, why is Digimon classed as sci-fi? Apart from the apparent use of gadgets and digital world (just like in The Matrix and Spy Kids) in the anime, I really have no idea.

7. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

I’ve heard far too often that dolphins are sending warning messages by cackling, and it’s all thanks to Douglas Adams. Infamous for coining the answer to life, Everything and the Universe as 42 (from a mathematical point of view). Adams was only joking, but scientists have insisted on proving the phrase to be true. In all fairness, i don’t think Adams was trying to make his book sound like actual science fiction, but the readers have taken it far too seriously.

So, what do you think of all of this: is my pronounced judgement too farfetched, or does this post have a point? Share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

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Discover Challenge: Writerspiration of the week

I’m going to participate in a Daily Prompt I saw originally on Participating in Prompts and Challenges. The author who has inspired me this week is Stephen King, and I’ve been reading his novel Carrie online. I really like his teenage protagonist, Carrie, even though it’s not a teen fiction book. However, this has inspired me to write a piece of teen dark fantasy fiction after reading his novel. The scene where the protagonist starts menstruating is quite bold and dynamic, yet Carrie’s isolation provides a sense of dissonance for the audience.

Since adolescence is often a traumatic time before a budding individual begins to bloom, the main theme of my project will be about catalyst events which shape us into the person we become. Since it’s my first time reading a Stephen King novel, I’m quite excited to see how the plot unfolds as a reader, but also understand what makes Stephen King tick as a writer. You can expect the occasional update on how I’m finding the book, but this will be an exciting new experience.

Which author inspires you the most? Comment and share!

 

The commercialisation of books 

This post is going to explore how books are commoditised by the media (regardless of their genre or literary status). Because, nearly anything can be advertised – and if it raises an author’s publicity profile, then that’s even better.

The condensation of words goes something like this:

Oral speech > written word > visual medium

Reading books is extremely unpopular, largely because they’re viewed as academic/literary. This means that they’re unappealing to the masses, and that too much brain power is required to read a book. Whereas you can watch a film or TV show regardless of your IQ, and still enjoy what’s happening.

How does merchandising happen?

So, we have big blockbusters, and we have serious art films. Then we have merchandise. Merchandise combines everything – spin-off to shows, dolls, costumes, toys, albums from songs sung, musicals, and just about everything else. The more heavily franchised something is, the more financially successful it becomes. The prime target audience tends to be children, because children are often dazzled by sparkly dresses and don’t have to worry about money.

The first commercialised film: Star Wars 

Star Wars is said to be the first  merchandised movie – with prequels, sequels, lego toys, action figures, and the Star Wars motion simulator rides in Disneyland theme parks. Since then, nearly every film series has done the same thing. Targeting children and young people does seem to be a recipe for success. Let’s look at a few popular franchises and see how they’ve gotten famous.

Some good examples:

Harry Potter 

Harry Potter has just about everything you could want to merchandise a series – quirky sweets, famous film locations such as Alnwick castle, Quidditch broomsticks, odd facts about Hogwarts for Top Trumps and Trivial Pursuit, and there’s even 4D motion rides and Butterbeer served, and you can even travel between parks on the Hogwarts Express. Universal Studios can make money out of just about any movie, such is their huge influence.

Twilight 

There are many reasons why Twilight has become very successful. Firstly, at the time it was released, teenage vampire and dark fantasy fiction was all over bookshelves. Secondly, its cast is fairly high-profile thanks to Robert Pattinson. And thirdly, the romance genre appealed to the masses.

The Lord of the Rings

Like Twilight, LOTR had Orlando Bloom to raise the status of the films with his sex appeal. But fantasy is something people can really get on board with – both geeks and ordinary folks love it. After a large following due to books, the films took off due to their wonderful special effects, GCI and graphics.

Frozen 

Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time. The Little Mermaid film, by Disney, had bouts of success with a Disney theme track, Ariel costumes and dolls, also by Hans Christian Anderson. But Frozen outdoes The Little Mermaid  100xs. The last time I visited Disneyland Paris, there were outfits for both Anna and Elsa, Frozen parades every 30 minutes, and the logo on every object with a price tag on it.

Frozen, Harry Potter and Twilight have three selling ingredients: social triangles, magic and a troubled past (Lord of The Rings is a bit of an odd one out). First, a trio of characters usually adds drama in either the form of a romance or a third wheel friend. Magic usually comes in the form of either costume or mystical creatures (usually both) that can be eventually sold on as plush toys. And a troubled past – whether it’s the death of parents, bullying or just being different – plays on the sympathy note.

Other fictional formats: comic books

Good grief, in 2016 there is absolutely no way of escaping the adaptation of comic book characters (much to the delight of cosplayers attending Comicon). The latest version of action movies, these films have witty side humour, actors and actresses oozing sex appeal and plenty of CGI.
An unusual middle ground: Alice in Wonderland 

I’m going to use this story over Greek myths like Hercules and Cinderella, because Alice in Wonderland has one clear author: Lewis Carroll. I’ll admit that perhaps the novel’s adaptations have been more faithful than other tales, but this is in part because French Surrealists have snapped up the story, as well as Tim Burton.

Once again, after Disney snapped up the movie, the teacups ride in the Magic Kingdom, Alice plush toy and movie soundtracks came running along with the franchise. However, niche markets such as the Steampunk community, cosplayers and followers of the lomita fashion movement have seen its appeal – leading to Victorian and Edwardian clothing stores, independent teashops and even Alice-themed alternative events. The trouble is, though, that Alice doesn’t have a pretty factor; most of her appeal lies in her personality, and it’s usually adults who want to cosplay as her. The point being, that Lewis Carroll’s book has turned into a hybrid platform between niche and mainstream.

 

Web mania 

Webcomics:

Combining memes with traditional comic books, webcomics are images which illustrate humorous topics in short panels. Whilst traditional graphic novels, comics and and manga are surely kept alive – albeit either help of ebooks – webcomics are easy. Cyanide & Happiness, The Awkward Yeti and Cheer up Emo Kid are just a few artists who are trying the movement.

Webseries: Netflix and YouTube 

YouTube:

The Annoying Orange originally started as a series of mini clips on YouTube in 2009. Because talking fruit with human faces was rare, it was intriguing (which also made the scenes fairly easy to animate). The orange in question was more of a recurring character rather than a central one, because there was no plot. The basic story shops originally set out with videos around a minute and a half with Orange trolling a new fruit or vegetable, before they were cut up in a mock horror movie ending.

Over time, as DaneBo gained more popularity and views, the Annoying Orange gradually expanded with more characters who originally had cameo appearances. In turn, the characters orange met were not just fruit a veg, but other foods too – sometimes even objects like footballs and iPhones. There were even special spoof episodes of Mario, PacMan and Saw.

Eventually, Cartoon Network snapped up The Annoying Orange, and made it into actual TV show. The cast of  characters include Grapefruit, Passionfruit, little apple, marshmallow and Pear.

Twitter: Six words story

This trending movement  involves quote pictures and tweets telling the shortest story possible, in just six words. The short sentences often pack a mighty punch, and can sometimes have a depressing tone. Sometimes, in the comments section of a social media post, commenters write their short replies in response to either a post which says “you’re driving along in the back of a cop car. You turn to your best friend and say….” or to another commenter.

What do you think of the new web medium, has it killed the book? Or is the book dead because it’s old fashioned?

 

 20 facets of transformative writing 

Transformative writing is different to other forms of writing. Coined by my lecturer Chris Thurgar-Dawson, transformative writing is unique. Creative writing is purely original, biographical novels are the fictionalised events of a real person, and fan fiction is a spin-off of different fiction. Whereas transformative writing is the power of retelling a story. Some may think of it as being re-creative writing, different aspects can be reinterpreted – characters, point of view, plot, language or even settings. Some works of fiction are already transformative writing. But there’s a few guidelines to follow. I’m going to share these guidelines I learned:

1. The story is closely based on a source text

2. Around 50% of the of the original story and 50% new elements are used. So there is room for some creative license, even though the text is adapted from its original. There’s a direct source text, rather than just an author with similar ideas  to you. This is probabily to ensure you aren’t just ripping off another writer’s work, but it can also make for interesting conversation.

3. The source text can be any media

Painting, poetry, photo, sculpture, life story…. The list is endless. Despite creative be work being original, every writer has their inspiration. Also, there is no limit to the number of source texts you can use, but any more than three might be hard to balance, as a rule of thumb.

4. No story is 100% original

There’s a theory stating that there are seven types of story. Postmodern writers believe that stories are collages of other stories. This is important for transformative writing, as transformative writing is a special kind of writing. To make a tale one’s own is a very special talent indeed.

5. Creative journals are important

Creative journals document any feedback, drafts, photos or personal thoughts whilst writing. Keeping drafts, illustrations, annotations, feedback and photos can all be useful for documenting progress. Mood boards, traditional notebooks, OneNote and even memos on the phone are all useful features.

6. Critical analysis is important

To criticise your own work is particularly difficult. Nobody likes pointing out or admitting the flaws they have.  Honesty is the best policy when writing  an essay on  your own work. Plus, does everyone know their own style? What you pick up on will be very different to what other will pick up on, and very few people can be honest and diplomatic at the same time.

7. Creative reflection

The reflection indicates the transformation through the drafts and decisions made when writing. Any influences or inspiration would occur here, along with various topics such as language.

8. Transformative writing is re-creative writing

Creative writing is pure imagination involved in fiction. Transformative writing is rewriting another piece in your own style. Think of it as a reboot of another piece of fiction. It can be hard to develop your own twist on the story.

9. It’s not something you learn outside the classroom

Meaning, you’ve probably  never thought about adaptations as transformative writing. Just recently, Russell T. Davies adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream for TV, and changed the setting to what the Telegraphed termed as having a “megalomaniac dictator Theseus”, and the nymphs appearing more like alien life forms from outer space.

10. You as a writer also transform with your story

11. Drafting is important, since many key changes to the characters and story is seeing progressing in drafts. As you continue to write the chapters in the book, your ideas will probably change over time with feedback.

12. Plagiarism is a difficult issue

This is probably one of the most difficult issues to talk about when discussing transformative writing. If you’re writing for an academic assignment, use a bibliography and remember to cite your influences in your critical reflection. Use critical footnotes if there’s a direct quote or reference in your story.

13. And so is maintaining originality

Okay, so it’s probably a fair comment to say that nothing is 100% original. As I said earlier, nobody likes a copycat. So, staying fresh can be tricky whilst balancing being trendy. However, here are few helpful tips:

-Setting

-point of view

-Genre

-narrative voice

-Language e.g. txt T@lk, Middle English, a foreign language

-Character gender and/or race

Ideally, there should be a mix of these things to make your story different. But, if you ant to stay faithful to the story, this is also fine – just shake up the plot a bit.

14. There are some features which are not suitable for adaptation

It’s very difficult to adapt poetry into visual formats, and there are a few lines to be drawn when attempting to convert a story into a new medium. I wouldn’t recommend trying to write in a different style if the source text is from social media, because the only medium that could effectively convey the message would be photography.

15. Transformative writing is suitable for any genre

Having said this, history and fantasy genres do work especially well. this is because nobody really knows what actually happened, so creativity is much easier. Don’t be limited by writing style or medium, just go with what feels natural 🙂

16. Nearly every story is transformative writing

17. Keeping up with trends is key

Social media can be a great source of inspiration – from Facebook reactions, #CreativeWriting on Twitter and popular comments in news articles, there are hundreds of ways to be inspired. Metafictional webcomic artist Dorris McComics recently posted a comic about how people “react” to their content round them, from the character’s perspective.

18. A few recommended authors

Angela Carter

Salman Rushdie

Italo Calvino

These guys will put you in good stead, but there’s probably more notable writers. If you can think of any, just drop them in the comments section.

19. Autobiographical writing

I suppose you could interpret this as a form of transformative writing because nobody’s life is quite like it is in memoirs. Plus, some writers prefer to fictionalise life writing so they remain somewhat anonymous.

20. Authorship

There’s a quote which goes: “it’s not who did it first but who did it best”. This is normally applied to songs, but the same does apply to writing. Technically, you wrote your version of the story. but if it’s a translation or modern adaptation, there’s still some credit to the author.

I really hope you enjoyed this post.