The State of the Blog: February

Friends, Romans, lovers of monospaced courier 12pt typefaces. Welcome to the state of the blog for the end of February.

Spitball! is now officially two months old. If you search "spitball" on Google, we make the front page. This month there have been over 60 posts, mostly dealing with the ongoing plot battle. It started last month when Shockah suggested that we come up with 25 each "in a world" scenarios that revolved around the idea of the Prison Planet, which we decided would be our jumping off point.

After picking our personal 8 favorites, we paired them together to have blowouts. Currently, we're on round 7 of 8, which has taken up most of the month. Although the going is slow, I think it's very fruitful, with lots of good ideas being thrown around and lots of ideas being challenged. When this round is done, there will be four heats to pair the 8 down to 4, then 4 to 2. Then, the battle for the plot of the screenplay that we will write in full on the blog.

Round 7.5 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear

Good job with that synopsis -- that's much more interesting than what I could come up with. One thing, though: I think that, if the house is representative of Gabe's madness both literally and figuratively, then Gabe himself needs to come across as rational and sane as possible -- even when (or especially when) dealing with the house. I don't think Gabe is aware of his madness, in the same way that that guy from the Sacks book isn't aware that he's blind. My point being, I don't want Gabe to be one of those Mu-wah-ha-ha! villains. He's sick, he's sad, he's messed up, but he's not Fu Manchu or some-frickin'-body. In fact, he probably tries to save her, but is tripped up and consumed by the house (i.e., his madness).

Oh, and great call by Spitball! reader Tippy Canoe: she suggested that Rachel also be an architect, and allow her to architect her way out of her situation. I'm not entirely sure how to implement the idea at this point, but that's probably because I don't really know what the house is like. But still, that's a wonderful idea.

Talkin' 'Bout Structure, Part III

Annnndddd... we're back. Thanks for joining us.

So again, we're talking about the sequence method of structuring a screenplay, as expounded by David Howard and Paul Joseph Gulino, in their books, How to Build a Great Screenplay and Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach, respectively . Back in Part II, I talked about the first four of eight important "qualities" (I couldn't think of a better word) that make up a screenplay using the sequence method: the Point of Attack, the Predicament, the Main Tension, and the Point of No Return. If you haven't read it (especially the part about not having the books in front of me), you may want to before continuing.

Round 7.4 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear

I think you're dead on talking about horror that is really not horror at the base. I see this one differently than you, at this point. I think that this is a story of a mentally disturbed man and his new bride who doesn't know about his illness until it almost kills her.

I would say something like this: Rachel and Gabe are engaged. Rachel is a partner in a small public relations firm. Gabe is a partner in a small architecture firm. They met, live in the city, but dream of a weekend house out on an island / in woods / nearby but far-enough away. Gabe has been working on a house for Rachel on a tract of land they bought together. Rachel knows this much, but she's never seen the house and Gabe won't let her near it. He's holding it as a surprise for their wedding night.

Re: I've Made A Terrible Mistake

If you're not confused, then you don't understand Tip Scum. I think that's my new motto. Basically, every screenwriting technique book I've ever read ends up with complex diagrams (McKee is particularly fond) to explain ideas that really don't need them. Everyone has you tracking threads of information that, if mapped on corkboard with string, would look like one of those airline diagrams that shows worldwide flights. Everyone is so complex that even people who understand it can't succinctly explain it, because if they could then they couldn't charge so much for seminars.

So, in retaliation, I think that it would be appropriate if Tip Scum is all about confusion, because if you're not confused than your plot isn't complex enough. If you're not confused, then you're not relating to your batter, er, protagonist enough, because if your protagonist isn't confused, then there is no drama in their life worth exploring and therefore no story.

In any case, the Sandshoe Crusher, if expressed in mathematical terms, would be: Sandshoe Crusher = (Inciting Incident + Predicament) / Point of Attack. Does that help confuse things better? Good! You're catching on.

Round 7.3 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Great post, dude -- you made me excited about both ideas. Of course, that just makes things harder, dudn't it?

I've Made A Terrible Mistake

D'oh! I got confused. For some reason (even though it's perfectly clear what you wrote), I thought the Sandshoe Crusher was the supposed to be the equivalent of the Point of Attack, not the Predicament -- I guess cuz it was the first definition you put up there, and I immediately thought of it in terms of the first part of the sequence method, the Point of Attack.

So, unless I'm still confused, Predicament = Sandshoe Crusher = Inciting Incident.

(I know, the audience is just swooning.)

Re: Talkin' Bout Structure, Part II

which, contrary to what Burley said below, I think is the equivalent to McKee's Inciting Incident, but then again, he's got the books, not me

So he got them out to look it up. I present you with:

THE INCITING INCIDENT VS. THE POINT OF ATTACK / PREDICAMENT (aren't you just juiced about this?)

First, the definitions.


From Story, by Robert McKee, pg 189:

The INCITING INCIDENT radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonists life.

pg. 190

...the Inciting Incident is a single event that either happens directly to the protagonist or is caused by the protagonist. Consequently, he's immediately aware that life is out of balance for better or worse.

So, to sum up, the Inciting Incident is the event that really kicks the story in. Everything before is for empathizing what life would be like without the event.

Talkin' 'Bout Structure, Part II

Now where was I? Oh right, the so-called sequence method.

(Again, as Burley mentioned, I don't have the books in front of me, so what follows is based on memory, along with stuff borrowed from other writers [like McKee] and my own additions. I probably won't delineate between what's from the book and my own crazed imaginings, so take all this stuff with an added pinch of salt.)

Round 7.2 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear (Shockah rank: #15, Burley rank: #2)

v.

Methane Madness (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #9)

54-40 OR FIGHT!

Round Seven [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear (Shockah rank: #15, Burley rank: #2)

v.

Methane Madness (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #9)

AND THE ANCHORPERSON ON TV GOES LA DEE DA DEE DA...

Hear ye, Hear ye!

Let it be known that on this day, the 21st of February 2006, our humble blog has broken the front page barrier on Google. We are currently 8th on the page for a search on spitball--one above the Wikipedia entry for Spitball!

Thanks to all of you that made it possible, and I'm a little shocked it happened so fast. The Google gods are good, indeed.

Oh, and tomorrow (February 22) is Shockah's b'day. Make him feel good. Sign on to the forums and wish him a happy b'day in the comments for this post, which is here.

SimpsoBurley!

Because it had to happen...

I'll See Your Simpsomaker...

and raise you -- The SimpsoShockah!

links for 2006-02-21

February 20, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Tip Scum Is Here!

Shockah will be happy to learn that I've finally started reading the books he loaned me on the sequence method. This means two things: 1. He'll get his books back eventually (we have an ongoing thing, where we dump tons of books/dvd/comics/whatever on the other guy and then watch him squirm under the weight of the borrowed pile. Somethings are read/watched quickly and returned. Some are in a holding pattern for processing, and still others are being held in the quiet suspicion that one of us might turn out to be a rat and hold out on returning everything he has. In the interim, one of us will occasionally ask "So, have you read/watched blank yet?" and watch the other one guiltily come up with reasons why they've neglected our impossibly large duties. The asker will stand and nod and wait....), and 2. I'll be able to join this conversation while actually, you know, talking about what I'm talking about.

Since I'm beginning this, I thought I'd also start, little by little, to put together The Patented Spitball! Cricket Method (TPSCM, or tip-scum) of screenwriting.

All scripts begin when something happens to someone and starts the imbalance in their lives. The sequence method calls this the point of attack. The McKee method calls this the inciting incident. In TPSCM this is called the Sandshoe Crusher. This fine page about cricket has defined a Sandshoe Crusher as a ball that actually hits the batsman on a foot. In my mind, getting a hard ball thrown at your foot would certainly set you off your game. If you were playing a game, and the normal course of the game would be a boring life, but the game being thrown off would create drama, a Sandshoe Crusher would seem to do this. So, formally:

TPSCM Definition #1

Sandhoe Crusher: That event which causes the primary character's normal life to be unbalanced, and that they set to rebalancing.

(please note: I know nothing about cricket. I may have well made the curling method of screenwriting, but I worried about finding the proper place for the term "broom." If there are cricket fans out there who would like to correct me on proper usage of terms, I would be most appreciative, and will do my best to make sure the TPSCM does its best to respect the language of the game, in context of the game being used a metaphor for writing a screenplay).

links for 2006-02-20

February 19, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Re:[3] Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

Also, I don't want to totally box us in with a treatment that is the final heat winner.

Ah, once again, I'm not clear. I don't necessarily see us using either treatment for the final winner. The final winner will have two treatments, and it will be up to us to find a compromise between the two (by either combining them or starting from scratch) to create the final treatment that will be the basis for the first Spitball! script.

But I do think that each treatment should be as detailed as we can make it, within a certain word limit. I think the more info we have, the better choices we can make when it comes to actually writing the screenplay.

But like you said, this is going to need more discussion, so when I get my thoughts together, I'll post something more comprehensive about how I see us dealing with the winning idea.

Coming up: Round Seven!

Re:[2] Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

It cannot be said that Reminiscence did not get its fair trial. I also vote for Time to Die.

In the end, I'm suckered in by the clarity of the action lines, and even though I didn't totally connect with your version of Reminiscence, to tell the truth I didn't totally connect with mine either.

This might be scary, but I'm thinking the treatments in the final heat should be at least twice as long, if not longer

I'm open, but I don't see length as a necessarily great measurement of the expression of the idea. Sometimes, good treatments are dense and hit the high notes in short form. Also, I don't want to totally box us in with a treatment that is the final heat winner. What I suspect, is that things will become a mixture of both of our ideas. That is, after we pick the winner, I see us re-writing the treatment more than once.

But, we've talked a lot about what our process is to get our idea, but maybe now we need to begin the dialog about what happens after we have it? How are we going to approach writing it? What should our process be? I would like to hear if you have any of your so-called needless, but actually fun, rules to impose on us, and let's see if we can map the process out a bit. That might give me some more specific ideas of how I personally would like to approach the final heat and the treatments we write for it.

Re: Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

Anyway, I didn't realize we were doing treatments during this heat!

Yeeeeahhh... Couple things about that:

1. I really had no intention of writing something so long. It was just an idea that I was trying hard to express, and in order to do it justice, it got longer and longer. I'm not particularly proud of the length, and I'm going to try not to do that again for the remainder of the heats. Well, until the last one that is...

2. And yet, I don't really consider what I wrote to be a treatment. This might be scary, but I'm thinking the treatments in the final heat should be at least twice as long, if not longer. I think they should be detailed enough that we could write a screenplay from them with little difficulty -- the only things, really, separating it from a screenplay would be dialogue and whatever "style" we bring to the storytelling. Since I'm sure we'll be discussing the final heat later on, I'll explain what I mean by that later.

I'm not totally connecting with yours.

Oh well, I tried! At the very least, the exercise was bracing.

And so, after spending four days laboriously trying to communicate a vision of Reminiscence that I think I could get behind, I rise to vote for....

Time to Die.

Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

Clearwater Shockah?
"...and I gave so much more credence to the idea than clearwater Shockah here, that I feel a bit obligated to bring it up again. [i.e., revival]"

Okay--that last bit was a real stretch, but I'm practicing my conspiratorial and hidden word play in hopes we'll gain some of the Dan Brown market.

Anyway, I didn't realize we were doing treatments during this heat! A for effort. No, that sounds pejorative--A for achievement, Mr. Shockah. Very good ideas, clearly told. But, like my brief synopsis didn't bowl you over, I'm not totally connecting with yours. I think we should go to a vote and see what happens. All members rise!

Round 6.4 [Reminiscence v. Time to Die]

Reminiscence (Shockah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

CATCH THE SPIT!

links for 2006-02-18

February 17, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-02-17

February 16, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-02-16

February 15, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Structure Doesn't Only Hold Up Buildings

I decided to pipe my own few cents on the structure questions, after Shockah's fine post on the matter.

I was reminded, reading his description of his college writing experiences, of the Mamet quote that "the Avant Garde is to the left what jingoism is to the right. Both are a refuge in nonsense." This is not to downplay abstraction or disregard completely avant material, but what I took from Shockah's point about his college experience is much that I took from nearly every writing class I've experienced: They don't teach you how to write.

Instead, they teach you to think as abstractly as possible. They try to get your mind into creative spaces. Often, there is flowery talk about personal self-expression, which millions of writers take to mean that the only craft in writing is just to express their feelings. Just ask the editors of any poetry magazine about how many unpublishable entries they receive every day (thus giving rise to the guaranteed-to-be-published poetry anthologized subsidized by the authors themselves).

links for 2006-02-15

February 14, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Talkin' 'Bout Structure, Part I

See, although we plan on writing a screenplay in front of the entire internet and his mom and everything, for me, this is the real screenwriting without a net. I'm going to expound on an issue of screenwriting technique -- structure -- without any sort of professional credit to my name. What's more, I'm going to be talking about a method of dealing with structure that's the focus of two pretty good books -- David Howard's How to Build a Great Screenplay and Paul Joseph Gulino's Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach -- without benefit of having the books on hand. Mistakes will be made, laughs will be had, cease-and-desists will be delivered.

But -- But! -- since, as mentioned earlier, we plan to use the sequence method in the writing of the Spitball! screenplay, some kind of introduction is necessary for those that don't know, won't show, or don't care what's going on in the hood.

Round 6.3 [Reminiscence v. Time To Die]

Reminiscence (Shockah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

BEND DOWN AND TOUCH YOUR TOES!

Round 6.2 [Reminiscence v. Time To Die]

Reminiscence (Shockah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

EN GARDE!

Re: [4] The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

Oh, that's right -- the cheese. Always with the cheese.

Yeah, all right, some sort of discussion about the sequence method is probably in order. I'll get on that ASAP. Of course, having the books as reference would keep me from making all sorts of blunders, but seeing as someone hasn't read them yet, I guess I'll have to make do.

(Seriously, tho, the Howard book is a pretty good read -- friendly and conversational where McKee is hectoring.)

Re: [3] The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

How ya like dem apples?

I like my apples baked into a pie, with a slice of cheddar cheese and all heated up first thing in the morning, thanks for asking.

Oh the ideas--sure, sounds good. For Heat #3 let's stick with Sequence Method--I should get to know it better. It certainly can't hurt, but I'll follow your lead. How about it, then, a post about the sequence method? Interested? I'll post my version when I read the books finally!

Re: [2] The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

Answers of Clarification (er, hopefully):

Heat #2

I imagined that we'd both write character studies for both competing ideas -- so there would be a total of four character studies per battle. I figure the more info to use and work with, the better.

Heat #3
We don't have to use the Sequence Method here; although I'm more comfortable with it than you, I'm game for anything. All I'm really looking for here is some idea (that will inevitably change) of how the piece is structured. And again, just to be clear, I'm not looking for more than a paragraph, total -- I just want a taste, maaaaan.

How ya like dem apples?

Round Six [Reminiscence v. Time to Die]

Reminiscence (Shokah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shokah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

SET 'EM UP AND KNOCK 'EM DOWN!

Re: The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

I accept your joyfully needlessly complex rules, Shockah, but I have a few questions of clarification.

Re: Motion for Consolidation [The Infected v. If It Pleases The Court]

Yea, I second the motion. Motion passed.

Motion for Consolidation [The Infected v. If It Pleases The Court]

And now I'm thinking: why have drugs, when you can have hallucinatory telepathy? (And I'm also thinking of a world not unlike Bester's The Stars, My Destination -- super-privacy, not because of teleportation, but because of telepathy.)

I, Urban Shockah, move that we combine The Infected and If It Pleases The Court into a new story idea entitled Terminal Connection.

What say you, Burley -- yea or nay?

Round 5.4 [The Infected v. If it Pleases the Court]

Terminal Connection! Yeah! I'm on board with that. A great title, sir.

I like the idea of the drugs and the terrors of isolation. There's a lot of fertile ground there. And, just to be totally crazy--what if there was a little of The Infected thrown in? Terrorism would be one reason to retreat, but imagine terrorism combined with telepathy? How could you have a fair trial if everybody in the court could read your mind?

Maybe we don't stand to vote here, but stand to combine the two ideas to birth a new one. In title math: The Infected + If it Pleases the Court = Terminal Connection.

Round 5.3 [The Infected v. If It Pleases The Court]

Note: think of this as having been cut & pasted over the original entry for If It Pleases The Court.

First, thanks for clarifying IIPTC -- I think you pretty much swept my cons right over the edge, and now they're falling, forever falling, without end...

Round 5.2 [The Infected v. If it Pleases the Court]

The Infected (Shockah rank: #10, Burley rank: #4)

v.

If It Pleases The Court (Shockah rank: #5, Burley rank: #2)

GIVE ME ONE FOR THE GIPPER...

Round Five [The Infected v. If It Pleases the Court]

The Infected (Shockah rank: #10, Burley rank: #4)

v.

If It Pleases The Court (Shockah rank: #5, Burley rank: #2)

UP AND AT THEM!

Re:[5] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrals

Did I call you out?

No, you didn't--I don't think you had a problem with it, but some readers did, and also I think some people made comments during a live reading we had, although I'd have to dig through my notes to remember. But since we're talking about this more, I thought I'd dig up the scene and put it out there, let people judge for themselves. It was longer originally, but got shortened when for the version that was actually submitted.

Re:[4] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

Good post, and it reminds me of a discussion that happened between some professional screenwriters, a few months back. I'm pretty sure the order goes like this:

1. Alex Epstein

2. Craig Mazin

3. John August

And of course, there's plenty of interesting comments underneath each entry.

Also: You got called out on the hiphop/jazz scene? I don't remember that. Did I call you out? If I didn't like it, I suspect it had more to do with a digression in a script that was already full of digressions. But the content of it -- I remember it being solid, and no different than what, say, Robert Christgau or Charles Aaron might say. Huh.

Re:[3] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

I wanted to post a few more notes about this short, but interesting, round. The way I see it, we had two very strong choices, and in the end we chose one over the other because it was much less daunting. We both agreed, I think, that Chimerica would have been dirt cool, but would have taken a level of cultural knowledge and sophistication that we either lack, or were daunted by the research.

I was thinking about that tonight, as I went to see a production of August Wilson's Radio Golf. Wilson was a Seattle writer who wrote a 10 play cycle, each one about the African American experience during a decade of the 20th century. Radio Golf--the play set in the '90s-- deals with a good man, trying to do the right thing in the face of moral odds. He's not caught by his own dirty pool, or caught trying to pull a fast one, but when circumstances he can't control make lemons, he turns on the juice press. Well, at least until somebody tries to cut the electricity.

This, of course, an amazing play (although tonight's performance was just off a notch--a great cast doing a great play on an okay night), that serendipitously speaks to exactly what we were facing. That is, writing racial identity authentically. August Wilson was a black man writing about black issues, but writing about histories he himself didn't live. He didn't live the black experience of the 1920s, but he wrote about them (ostensibly--I'm a bit shy to say that this is the first of his works I've seen) from a cultural understanding. Is it less authentic if he wrote about white characters? Is it less authentic if Shockah and I wrote about black characters?

Re:[2] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

Yeah. The Atheist.

More on that later. 4 for 4 we are!

Re: Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

No need to apologize, sir. I was ready for this one before it began. (There's one coming up that's like that, too.)

I, Urban Shockah, the ever-lovin' mic rockah, vote for:

The Atheist.

Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

At the risk of feeling like when I'm leading we go to vote fast, I think we're ready to roll on this one. Urban Shockah--stand up and declare your intention. Rise to vote, sir.

The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

Seeing's how we're about half-way through the first heat of the competition, I thought it might be a good idea to look ahead and see if there's anything we want to change for the next three heats. I had a few ideas -- tell me whatcha think.

Round 4.2 [Chimerica v. The Atheist]

Chimerica (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #5)

v.

The Atheist (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #1)

C30, C60, C90, GO!

Round Four [Chimerica v. The Atheist]

Chimerica (Shockah rank: #5, Burley rank: #8)

v.

The Atheist (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #1)

BATTLE!

n. A method of untying with the teeth of a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.
-Ambrose Bierce

Re: [3] Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

I, Burley Grymz, also vote for:

Little Black Stray.

So far we're 3 for 3! Next round will start, most likely, tonight.

Re: [2] Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

I, Urban Shockah, vote for

LIttle Black Stray.

Re: Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

You had me at "round." I'm ready.

Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

I think I have enough to info to move on.

What say you, sir?

Round 3.8 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

Okay, I get you. On Exodus, you need something solid to hang the plot on, and feel that this is the requirement for proceeding. I say that we either move forward under the assumption that we can do that, or go with Little Black Stray because that one already, as you said, has a strong enough plot that we will likely not run into the same problem there.

Obviously Little Black Stray isn't perfect yet, but I'm feeling much more confident about us being able to figure some of the things out that it needs.

Round 3.7 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

I would argue, as I am right this very second, that we don't need to decide on the plot exactly right now.

Ah, but I'm not at all talking about plot. I'm simply talking about a one- or two-word idea that would hold the concept of the space stations together. I don't need to know what it's about in terms of "what happens to the characters", I just would like to know what it's about in terms of theme. (And to contrast, I don't really know what that is for Little Black Stray either, and I don't feel I need to know, because I feel like the conflict will suggest something concrete soon enough.)

That assumption is that the event of the girl showing up is the (to speak McKee) is the inciting incident, and therefore the plot has to rise precipitously into some magical realm of genius that we may not possess.

Actually, I have been assuming that, to use the sequence method of structuring, that the girl is the predicament (the thing that happens on or around page 30), not the inciting incident, or, as I prefer, the point of attack, which is the thing that happens on or around page 15. So, that, yes, the bulk of the story (the second act) is about the girl. I think what I'm looking for is, what is this third act, and what makes it cool? Or in other words, I think I agree with everything you said, we're just using different terms.

Round 3.6 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

The horror. The horror.

The horror is on fire. We don't need no water let the mo....

Ahem. Yes, The Exodus

Upon which, I sir must raise an objection. Quoth you:

...I think one strong idea, theme if you will, needs to be selected for this one to move on.

Wrong, I say, wrong! I would argue, as I am right this very second, that we don't need to decide on the plot exactly right now. That there is potential for the plot is enough to know, for me, whether or not it is worthy of moving along to the next level. To be too selective about it at this stage would be to start practically writing the thing. I say we vote on the ideas on the table. I say we move it ahead, or leave it to the dogs of history, who may chew on its gristle or grab a keyboard and write the first great dog-in-space story. In other words, if you need to refine this story more in order to vote on it, then I say that such needs indicate weakness in the story itself.

And just to completely counter everything I've just said, let me offer an alternative for Little Black Stray

Round 3.5 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

Sorry for this half-assed entry -- I seem to have come down with a cold, which I can only assume is some kind symptom of post-Super Bowl depression, and my energy is pretty low. The smart thing would be to rise and vote, but I'm not ready to throw down just yet. Hell, I don't even know who I'd vote for right now. They're both pretty good if not quite great. (This is where a sizeable, rowdy forum would be very handy. *ahem* Come on, people!)

I'm going to pose the same question regarding both story ideas, and try to answer it, and I'm going to challenge Burley, in a half-assed, sickly kind of way, to do the same thing with the same question. (Unless he wants to vote. Or he just doesn't want to. What can I do? I'm bundled up on the couch.) Here we go:

Re:[2] Reading List: Alfred Bester

February 03, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · comment on this post in the forum · Category: Original Version, books

I am shocked that nobody has ever made these books that Shockah lent me into movies. But then again, neither was Neuromancer which always seemed like a shoe-in to me. The difference here is that Gibson wrote 20 years ago, and Bester was writing 60 years ago. Neuromancer, as prescient, important and influential as it was, will probably never be made now. The reality of the Internet trumps some of the concepts that were so mind blowing in the 1980s. By the same token, I suspect that books like Snow Crash will never be made for similar reasons (of technologies to come). But Bester's work is much less about specific technologies, and more about human conditions. Or, when there are technologies, they are either natural extensions of reasonable '50s technologies, or they are fantastical human technologies, such as teleportation (the conceit of this book), or telepathy (the conceit of The Demolished Man, and this book as well). Whether by plan or luck, Bester picked items that age gracefully.

Round 3.4 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

Exodus. Oooooh, movement of the people (in geosynchronous orbit around a charred earth...).

I agree that characters are where this is at. Here are some vague ones from my idea of it.

1. An older man who is resigned to the responsibility of life. He knows that an ounce of fuel can be stretched out for x amount of hours. Let's call him the accountant. He is by the books. The idea of an alien signal to him is anathema. He can't let himself be excited by it, for fear that the carefully considered and reasonably sustainable society they have created will crumble into utter chaos and selfishness. If people started consuming more because they were assured of salvation, they could overplay the short run and not live to the long run. If the aliens come, so be it, but until then we should toe the line.

2. The teenage boy who is wild. He sneaks into space suits and goes out of the air locks. He turns little broken parts of ships into mechanical beasts that threaten to puncture the thin skin of the island in space. He fixes things when they break, but more often than not breaks them first so they need to be fixed. He tries to snag satellites as they fly by to see what secrets they hold. He is in love with a girl who was his playmate when they were children, but has now decided that he is too annoying to deal with.

3. A devout woman who worships the alien signal. She is convinced that it is God coming home to take the saved to heaven, because God obviously saved them once already, and was keeping them alive for good reason. She mostly hides her religion in this secular society until the alien signal comes, and then she starts leading a church service, forming a political force to be reckoned with.

Round 3.3 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

You bring up some good ideas for The Exodus (the idea that there would be an unholy pressure to conform is astute, and intriguing), but I'm still not quite feeling it. You say it's ripe for characters (and it is, or at least, it has to be), but then what are those characters? (Obviously, that question is directed at me just as much, if not moreso, than you.) I put up some ideas in my first post, but I'll be the first to admit that they're uninspired at best. Let's brainstorm spitball a few characters for The Exodus:

(Did I really just write "brainstorm"? Shame on me!)

Round 3.2 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

The Exodus (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #6)

v.

Little Black Stray (Shockah rank: #3, Burley rank: #4)

GET IN THERE AND LET THEM SEE YOUR TEETH!

Round Three [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

The Exodus (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #6)

v.

Little Black Stray (Shockah rank: #3, Burley rank: #4)

DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT!