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(io9)   So you're thinking about creating the next great sci-fi movie/book/TV show and are wondering just how hard it could be. Short answer: very. Long answer: very, but here are some useful tips   (io9.com ) divider line
    More: Interesting, television shows, Ursula Le Guin, deviantART  
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2105 clicks; posted to Geek » on 07 Mar 2014 at 9:45 AM (2 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-03-07 10:00:03 AM  
How to write a movie for the SyFy channel:

1) take a natural disaster or other threat
2) add sharks
 
2014-03-07 10:01:38 AM  
This is where I jump in with my standard spiel about the definition of real science fiction. The science or technology component of your story is such that, absent that element, the story is impossible to tell.  Another way to say it:  if you can replace your robots with Red Indians, your starships with Steam trains, your lasers with six-shooters, etc. and still tell basically the same overall plot, you didn't really write sci-fi, so much as write a fantasy story with some technological elements to it. Star Wars for example is not sci-fi so much as fantasy with a technological venerr over it. And that doesn't make SW any less entertaining, mind you, but it's not strictly science fiction.  Trek has the same problem in many episodes, but has a few good ones that fit into the formula I'm talking about.
 
2014-03-07 10:52:51 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: How to write a movie for the SyFy channel:

1) take a natural disaster or other threat
2) add sharks


3)and Ice
 
2014-03-07 10:54:35 AM  
you forgot 1.A:  be prepared to suck a whole lotta' network cock to get them to carry your new show. or at least have a family member on the Board.
 
2014-03-07 11:02:41 AM  
You can write well-thought-out, plausible, inspiring sci fi and make thousands of dollars, or you can write Twilight or 50 Shades and make millions.
 
2014-03-07 11:06:24 AM  
and judging by the Quality of sci-fi out there in TV land, its clear that who gets the green light and who does not has little to do with Talent and/or Good/Hard Work.
 
2014-03-07 11:06:55 AM  
Know your audience.
 
2014-03-07 11:09:14 AM  

Any Pie Left: This is where I jump in with my standard spiel about the definition of real science fiction. The science or technology component of your story is such that, absent that element, the story is impossible to tell.  Another way to say it:  if you can replace your robots with Red Indians, your starships with Steam trains, your lasers with six-shooters, etc. and still tell basically the same overall plot, you didn't really write sci-fi, so much as write a fantasy story with some technological elements to it. Star Wars for example is not sci-fi so much as fantasy with a technological venerr over it. And that doesn't make SW any less entertaining, mind you, but it's not strictly science fiction.  Trek has the same problem in many episodes, but has a few good ones that fit into the formula I'm talking about.


If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either.  Can you give some examples of what does qualify?
 
2014-03-07 11:14:49 AM  
A good article about writing sci-fi, as long as you don't expect to make a living at it.
 
2014-03-07 11:34:21 AM  

Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either. Can you give some examples of what does qualify?


some obscure bullshiat that is mostly made up technobabble.  pretty much all sci-fi could be made into standard stories by replacing the laser guns with six shooters.  it's why in general, sci-fi tends to ACTUALLY be social commentary.
 
2014-03-07 11:38:08 AM  
Tip #1: Harlan Ellison will find a comparison between anything you write and anything HE has ever written, and will sue your ass off.
 
2014-03-07 11:41:33 AM  

DubtodaIll: Know your audience.


...or just go the iO9 route and crowd source it from them. How many of their articles are reliant on the commentors supplying examples of things for them?
 
2014-03-07 11:43:21 AM  

frepnog: Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either. Can you give some examples of what does qualify?

some obscure bullshiat that is mostly made up technobabble.  pretty much all sci-fi could be made into standard stories by replacing the laser guns with six shooters.  it's why in general, sci-fi tends to ACTUALLY be social commentary.


You should read better sci fi...
 
2014-03-07 11:48:45 AM  

Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either. Can you give some examples of what does qualify?


My curiosity of his standards is... what if the "tested" sci fi movie / TV show actually uses 6 shooters as seen in Cowboys Vs Aliens, Outlaw Star and Firefly. Though CvA could be argued about being a fantasy. Outlaw Star and Firefly are sci fi with a western theme.
 
2014-03-07 11:57:58 AM  

Mikey1969: You should read better sci fi...


recommend me something good.
 
2014-03-07 12:35:34 PM  

spiritplumber: You can write well-thought-out, plausible, inspiring sci fi and


die broke and begging for work.  [John Brunner]

or you can write Twilight or 50 Shades and make millions.

I can't seem to let any SF-related thread go by without demanding that people should read Brunner's monstro-opus:
Stand on Zanzibar
The Sheep Look Up
The Jagged Orbit
Shockwave Rider

Every single day, something else from those books comes true (or is revealed).

It's too late to pay his medical bills, unfortunately, but read his books anyway.
 
2014-03-07 01:16:54 PM  

frepnog: Mikey1969: You should read better sci fi...

recommend me something good.


I've bought this book 2 or 3 times now... Wonderful coolection of hard Sci Fi, good description of what it is, and awesome writer bios/info pieces before the stories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ascent_of_Wonder:_The_Evolution_of_ Ha rd_SF
 
2014-03-07 02:53:36 PM  
Oh, don't i know it. Been working on my book for almost a year now. No real hopes for publishing, though, just felt like something new to try out.
 
2014-03-07 03:01:41 PM  

frepnog: Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either. Can you give some examples of what does qualify?

some obscure bullshiat that is mostly made up technobabble.  pretty much all sci-fi could be made into standard stories by replacing the laser guns with six shooters.  it's why in general, sci-fi tends to ACTUALLY be social commentary.


I guess that's my point - not very much popular sci fi DOESN'T fall into that camp.  Is there a good example of one that isn't?
 
2014-03-07 03:32:48 PM  

frepnog: Mikey1969: You should read better sci fi...

recommend me something good.


Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
 
2014-03-07 03:40:35 PM  

frepnog: Mikey1969: You should read better sci fi...

recommend me something good.


Ringworld. Or really anything in the "known space" series by Larry Niven.
 
2014-03-07 04:51:05 PM  

Any Pie Left: This is where I jump in with my standard spiel about the definition of real science fiction. The science or technology component of your story is such that, absent that element, the story is impossible to tell.  Another way to say it:  if you can replace your robots with Red Indians, your starships with Steam trains, your lasers with six-shooters, etc. and still tell basically the same overall plot, you didn't really write sci-fi, so much as write a fantasy story with some technological elements to it. Star Wars for example is not sci-fi so much as fantasy with a technological venerr over it. And that doesn't make SW any less entertaining, mind you, but it's not strictly science fiction.  Trek has the same problem in many episodes, but has a few good ones that fit into the formula I'm talking about.


I agree with this. The key component is the science -- it has to inform or advance the plot in some way. It doesn't have to be futuristic science or possible science (although that's its bread and butter), but it has to be integral to the telling of the story. More than just a McGuffin.

And science fiction does not have to be about space. A good example of this is The Fly. Technically it's a body horror plot, but it really involves the science fiction trope of teleportation and its ramifications on sense of self (ie: Ship of Theseus). Now, you might want to argue that it's not science fiction because the teleporter can be replaced by magic, however that discredits the extensive scenes of him actually interacting with the device and troubleshooting causes for his transformation. You gonna have a cauldron of potions and powders reveal that "brundle + fly = fusion"? That's just stupid.
 
2014-03-07 04:57:28 PM  

Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either.


Technically it isn't. It's more like a western -- a caravan traveling to parts unknown and interacting with the natives. In fact, that's how Roddenberry pitched it to the network: "Wagon train to the stars."

Of course, this has led to some further demarcations, between "hard sci-fi" (ie: Asimov, Dick) and "soft sci-fi" (Marvel comics).
 
2014-03-07 05:17:33 PM  

frepnog: Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either. Can you give some examples of what does qualify?

some obscure bullshiat that is mostly made up technobabble.  pretty much all sci-fi could be made into standard stories by replacing the laser guns with six shooters.  it's why in general, sci-fi tends to ACTUALLY be social commentary.


Schematically, the "harder" speculative fiction is, the fewer actual physical laws and conditions you change.  The hardest 'science' fiction tries to project an actual developing technology, and see how that changes things.  Slightly softer scifi will add a single change to the physical sciences (e.g. we find a way around the light-speed limit for interstellar travel, it's possible to make human-intellect robots, etc) and speculates on how that single change cascades into changing anything else.  Extremely "soft" fiction just changes whatever rules of physics are inconvenient to the author at the time, e.g. the rules governing wands in Harry Potter are different not just from book to book but from chapter to chapter, the force is a fungal infection or a mystical field depending on the movie.

It's possible to have hard sci-fi that just ends up being a western or whatever without it not being sci-fi, because the conclusion that we'd treat the new technology like we treated older analogous ones is a completely valid speculation.  Star Trek's conclusion was that if we would get around the light-speed limit, we'd probably just use space-ships like we used boats during the age of exploration, so they rewrote Horatio Hornblower in SPAAAAAAAAAACE.  That's actually pretty far toward the 'hard' end of the scale overall, individual stories and writers notwithstanding.
 
2014-03-07 07:06:05 PM  

Tyrone Slothrop: frepnog: Mikey1969: You should read better sci fi...

recommend me something good.

Ringworld. Or really anything in the "known space" series by Larry Niven.


This. If I had the money, I'd option "Known Space" in a heartbeat. Develop the ringworld prequels as made-for-TV films, or even mini-series, building up to major films of the 4 Ringworld novels, and continue to make TV "sidequels" of the ongoing non-Ringworld known space stories.

Needs:

One or more (but not many) thoughtful, skilled scriptwriters. Harlan Ellison is RIGHT OUT!
Directors with proven track records in Sci-fi. Perhaps Joss Whedon for the TV stuff, but definitely Ridley Scott for at least the first 2 Ringworld movies. James Cameron is NOT under consideration.
Principal actors on the youngish side - this project is going to take years and starting out with 40s-50s actors isn't going to end well. Michael Fassbender, anyone?

/ I can dream
 
2014-03-07 07:41:33 PM  
Sorry to be away so long.  Out of TOS episodes, for good sci-fi premises, I would point to The Cage, City On The Edge Of Forever, Trouble with Tribbles, A Taste of Armageddon, Space Seed, Amok Time, maybe Devil In The Dark, For the World Is Hollow, And I Have Touched the Sky, those stand out to me as having the right kind of "bones" in them.

Of recent movies, I love to point to "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" as an example of what I mean by a real sci fi movie.  The memory altering technique is an extrapolation of existing or theorized technology, but the story is about what happens to people and relationships when the choice of using this technology becomes available.
 
2014-03-07 09:00:16 PM  

frepnog: Mikey1969: You should read better sci fi...

recommend me something good.


Eon - Greg Bear
 
2014-03-07 09:41:46 PM  
I wouldn't want them to try to make any Ringworld movies.... the technology is there for the effects, but Hollywood doesn't know how to do the story justice.  Now, the books Niven co-wrote with Pournelle, hells yes, any of those would make a great movie - they already come with a "dramatis personae" in the original books, and were written more like screenplays to start with
 
2014-03-08 09:18:48 AM  

frepnog: Skwrl: If I'm reading you correctly, 99% of Star Trek isn't Sci Fi, either. Can you give some examples of what does qualify?

some obscure bullshiat that is mostly made up technobabble.  pretty much all sci-fi could be made into standard stories by replacing the laser guns with six shooters.  it's why in general, sci-fi tends to ACTUALLY be social commentary.


http://www.smashwords.com/extreader/read/354385/1/implied-spaces

i.kinja-img.com
 
2014-03-08 12:49:41 PM  

Any Pie Left: Star Wars for example is not sci-fi so much as fantasy with a technological venerr over it.


What movies are "real" sci-fi?
What examples are the technology not replaceable with something like magic making it more of a fantasy setting, or otherwise explainable or equally tellable with actual medical phenomena?

Hint: There are none.

Any Pie Left: Of recent movies, I love to point to "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" as an example of what I mean by a real sci fi movie.  The memory altering technique is an extrapolation of existing or theorized technology, but the story is about what happens to people and relationships when the choice of using this technology becomes available.


Been done, and not even with magic.  Amnesia(lack of memory) does not necessarily remove personal tastes, leading to the tendency for history to repeat itself.  It can also lead to a second chance trope, where a previously flawed person makes good.
 
2014-03-08 02:22:54 PM  
Argumentative. In Spotless Mind, the amnesia is specific and by choice, and a commercialized service, which totally transforms the society the characters live in. You can't  say that accidental amnesia is the same thing.That only affects one person, not a world. And that was my point about the "rule":  whatever the scientific or technological principle is that is being extrapolated, it fundamentally affects the world of the story and the characters, in such a way that the *specific* tale can;t be told without the enabling premise. "Magic", unless you're referring to a technology so advanced we can only understand it as such - doesn't enter the equation.
 
2014-03-08 03:56:08 PM  

Any Pie Left: And that was my point about the "rule":  whatever the scientific or technological principle is that is being extrapolated, it fundamentally affects the world of the story and the characters, in such a way that the *specific* tale can;t be told without the enabling premise.


Then why does Star Wars fail?

Light sabers. Droids. Space travel. Destruction of a whole planet.

Looks to me you've got a "rule" that you arbitrarily apply.

You say argumentative as if it's not a valid thing to do on Fark.
Welcome to Fark.
 
2014-03-08 06:09:31 PM  

omeganuepsilon: Then why does Star Wars fail?


Because it doesn't involve the technology -- it's not essential to telling the story. Here's a better explanation:

Fantasy: Story with implausible high technology
Sci-Fi: Story ABOUT plausible high technology (what happens if it breaks down, it's misapplied, misused or abused, or ruins things... and what the ramifications mean to humanity).

Refer to my earlier post about The Fly. If you remove the science, you cannot have a story.
 
2014-03-08 06:59:17 PM  

Ishkur: omeganuepsilon: Then why does Star Wars fail?

Because it doesn't involve the technology -- it's not essential to telling the story. Here's a better explanation:

Fantasy: Story with implausible high technology
Sci-Fi: Story ABOUT plausible high technology (what happens if it breaks down, it's misapplied, misused or abused, or ruins things... and what the ramifications mean to humanity).

Refer to my earlier post about The Fly. If you remove the science, you cannot have a story.


If you remove all of the science-y parts of starwars, you're left without a movie.  It's not about "removal" but replacement.

Sure, you can replace some things with mundane technology, but not everything, and some things only part way.

plausible/implausible:

If you think somehow that an actual teleportation machine is more plausible than the plot devices in used in Star Wars, that is a purely subjective opinion.  We are no closer to that than we are lightsabers that cut anything or destroying an entire planet or *gasp* space travel.

It sounds, to me, as if you guys are trying to come up with a hard rule to explain or rationalize/justify your tastes(and discredit that which you don't like as much), rather than establishing a rule by which to judge without bias.  The difference is akin to confirmation bias, making it  Subjective opinion vs objective fact.

You've looked at movies that you "feel" are "real" sci-fi, and custom designed a rule which you only apply based on your tastes and anecdotalinterpretations of the movies.

That's what it comes off as.

Either that or you're actually trying to be objective, and just failing miserably.
 
2014-03-08 07:56:51 PM  

omeganuepsilon: If you remove all of the science-y parts of starwars, you're left without a movie.


Star Wars is such an old farking story it's older than dirt. It's practically an RPG set in space: Hero, rogue, warrior and wizard rescue princess from the dark lord's castle. THAT'S what it's about. There is no science involved in telling that story. Each even have their specialty RPG weapons: Sword, bow, an actual farking crossbow, and magic.

The fact that it was ripped off from Akira Kurosawa shows that it's not science fiction. At no point does the plot revolve around the futuristic technology and its ramifications on society. There is no hardcore moralizing about the hazards of light sabers or the effects of hyperspace travel on health and cognition. The science is never explained, never developed, and its effects on humanity are never illustrated. It needs to do that in order to be true science fiction. 2001 does this (what happens when the tools we build are smarter than we are?). Silent Running does this (what happens when we forsake organics for synthetics?). THX-1138 does this (what happens when technology controls farking everything?). Logan's Run does this (pyrrhic utopia). Solaris does this (pyrrhic communication). A lot of movies from that era did this. Star Wars does not.

Why is this so hard for you to get?
 
2014-03-08 07:59:09 PM  
Where did I ever say I didn't like Star Wars, Star Trek, or any other movies/ shows you cited? I like them fine, they just aren't "pure" science fiction, or to use Harlan's more precise wording: "Speculative Fiction". Star Wars is absolutely a fantasy, decked out in a veneer of technology, but the story of a boy growing up without a father, during a time of political upheaval and civil war, who gains a mentor and fights the enemy? THAT's not doable in any other genre of fiction? Really?  Some time ago in your youth, when things were simpler, you associated high technology items like robots, rockets, and ray guns, with science fiction, but real science fiction is much more than that. Real sci fi asks a "what if? question based on extrapolating from known or theoretical scientific principles,  and then goes about telling a story to answer that question.

Just because we advance the idea of a "rule" defining what were's talking about, is no reason to get your jimmies rustled. It doesn't suddenly invalidate the positive entertainment experience you had with any movie or book.  Let's flip the issue to, say, crime and mystery books. There, the "rule" of a "good" mystery would be something like: "a crime is fully or partially described and the reader goes along on a journey with the protagonist to solve the crime, using motive, means, opportunity, and a logical connection of the stated facts."  A "poor" mystery would then be one where the real killer turns out to be somebody introduced in the second-to-last page, missing one or more of the MMO facts.  You as the reader, would probably be kind of pissed off that the writer just dropped this guy in from nowhere, making the entire book up to that point a meaningless diversion.

So it is with poorly- made sci-fi.  Like in most of Prometheus, where the characters do things that would be idiotic or suicidal for real spacers to ever do.  Following the "rules" can only make the experience BETTER. More believable. more enjoyable. More artistically complete.
 
2014-03-08 08:01:42 PM  

omeganuepsilon: If you think somehow that an actual teleportation machine is more plausible


It's not about the device itself, it's about its relationship to the plot. The teleportation machine is so essential to The Fly that it's practically a character. He works on it, troubleshoots it, and conducts numerous experiments with it, starting off with inanimate objects and eventually moving up to living ones, and finally himself. And when he starts changing, he talks to it, sourcing the problem for his ailment and coming up with a solution.
 
2014-03-08 08:06:55 PM  
Omeganuepsilon: you know how I know you've never read any John Campbell?
 
2014-03-08 08:27:06 PM  

Any Pie Left: There, the "rule" of a "good" mystery would be something like


Those rules were established decades ago. Writer Ronald Knox even canned out a "10 Commandments of Detective Fiction" back in the 20s:

1) The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
2) All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3) Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4) No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5) No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6) No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7) The detective himself must not commit the crime.
8) The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
9) The "sidekick" of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10) Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.


(note: the chinaman one isn't a racist jab, it's because too many novels back in the day featured a 'Yellow Peril' esoteric Mandarin villain so much it became a tired cliche. It can probably be ignored today)
 
2014-03-08 08:52:29 PM  
 See, Ishkur lays out the mystery rules, and almost every successful mystery from poe to Scooby_Doo works inside of that framework.

AS I said; if you write a mystery that breaks these rules, it becomes generally an unpleasant experience for the reader/viewer.   A great SF story works by a similar set of rules. The story needn't be directly *about* the lacuna brand memory-wipe technology, but rather, about people living in a world that has been changed by the existence of the ability to have selective memories erased at will... either voluntarily, or perhaps, at the insistence of the State. Introducing that tech creates all kinds of complications: if human memory is no longer infallible or trustworthy, what is the place of journalism, law, history, recording media?  How does society change and adapt to this reality? The film-makers chose to concentrate just on a few people and their personal relationships, using memory erasure to escape the pain of loss, but you see that the background goes way deeper.

By the way, in current science news, progress has been reported in the erasure or suppression of traumatic memories in veterans, using some chemical and psychological techniques.  And an MRI has imaged the actual thoughts of a zebra fish, tracking a piece of food, in real time.  So, extrapolating  these things, one could posit a time when these technologies are much more highly developed.  How WILL we use them?
 
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