Well, that was a bit of a hiatus, wasn’t it?
I will not bore you with the details. Suffice to say that life got a little busy. Some of it was fun; some wasn’t. Some of it involves events unfolding for other people who probably would just as soon I didn’t blab about their private affairs. Was there some death in there? Of course there was. There’s always death and it always brings me up short. Death takes it out of you, even when you’re not the one doing the dying.
And, yes, there’s plain, garden-variety inertia. The introspection this process requires is sharp and intrusive, though I’m pretty sure it’s good for me — like allergy shots. Jabby, jabby, ow, but I breathe better. You stop doing it, though, even for a little while, and it’s hard to get started again. Enough — I’m back and will attempt to be faithful. Or more faithful, in any case. (Is that even possible? Isn’t faithful an absolute state: 1 or 0? Positive or negative? Are there shades of faithfulness? Discuss.)
Light Fantastic will be available in one week. I received my comp copies last week — Yay! — and it’s a nice, solid chunk of a book. I am pleased. I’ve had reports about the book being spotted in the wild, pre-official release date, which feels wonderfully naughty, even if it is just book store stockers not paying attention to the calendar.
One of the reasons I haven’t posted for a while is that any writing time I had was devoted to developing an outline plot for a new Trek book. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t happening. I think the story has all the required moving parts, but I just couldn’t get excited about it. Plot-master pal Josh Macy and I took the story out for a spin this weekend and he suggested a couple ideas that may tune it up (to burden an already overtaxed metaphor). The problem, kids, was the villain. I do not know him well enough.
One of the conveniences of writing licensed fiction is that, with the protagonist, you usually have a good sense of who they are and what motivates them. The antagonist is where the heavy lifting has to be done. The writer is required to create an antagonist with enough verve to intrigue the reader AND make the (well-known, well-understood) hero appear to have agency.
Treat your villains with respect, kids. Make sure you know what they like. Prepare a light snack, even if they’re unrepentantly evil. Having talked this over with Josh, I realize that one of the problems I was having with my Trek outline is that the villain was kind of flabby and uncertain. This problem often plagues me because I have a weakness for villains who don’t consider themselves villainous. If I let myself get lazy, my antagonists are only mildly antagonizing — nuisances, really — which leads to inertia. Anyway, I may have a better handle on it now. I’ll keep you posted.
As an aside, I want to mention something Josh brought up when we were discussing the plot. Namely, that Star Trek in particular is filled with antagonists (and outright villains) who sincerely believe that what they want is for the best, even if not for the good of all. That phrase from Wraith of Khan — “The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few.” and all of it’s corollaries — is the mainspring that drives so many Trek stories. Okay — it drives lots of stories — but since it was a central conceit in so much of Roddenbery’s work, it comes through very strongly in Trek. Interestingly, Khan, generally considered among the best of the Trek villains, was one of the few who had no self-delusions about whether what he wanted would benefit anyone other than Khan and his Elite Few. The rest of humanity — or, from his perspective, the effete cattle represented by Kirk & company — really didn’t matter. He had no illusions about presenting them with any gifts (other than Order).
Even the Borg, the great inhuman boogie man of the Trek universe (Yes? Generally agreed?), when they said, “Resistance is futile,” it always felt to me like there was there was also a sotto voce, “We’re doing this for your own good.” right underneath. Am I right? I’m immersed in David Mack’s Destiny trilogy right now — about as Borgified as a book can get — so I’m sure I’ll have an answer soon. If you haven’t read it yet, do so. Good stuff.
I’ve started working on a new Kirby story. I’m not very far in yet. I don’t know where it’s going. I feel like I’m precariously perched at the crown of a very tall tree and looking across the treetops toward a misty vale. What’s there? I have no idea. Unexpectedly, Kirby is very much older in this story and it seems he’s seen a lot of the world. Too much, perhaps. He has a friend with him — a young lady named Chloe who can fly — float, really — when she relaxes and lets the ground slide away from beneath her. I quite like Chloe, though I’m a little worried for her. Of the pair, Kirby is the less impetuous, and isn’t that a frightening thought?
Saw some movies. In no particular order:
Godzilla – Liked it a lot. Would have liked it more if not for some weak performances by the homo sapiens. It’s always their fault, isn’t it? The effects were amazing. I love big, dumb Godzilla movies — I own all of them — but I like the idea of a serious (though not grim) monster-fest. More please.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – I don’t think it’s great cinema, but it was the most fun I had at the movies this summer. I’ve loved the X-Men since I spotted a copy of issue 41 in a barber shop reading rack in 1968, but, let’s face it, there’ve been a lot of dumb mutant stories over the past 40+ years. This was not one of them. I’m not the first person to say this, but it was the most authentically super-heroy super-hero movie made to date.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 – My son and I have a very special place in our hearts for the first one, so we were really looking forward to the sequel. Early reports were that it was going to meet our expectations; for Andy, I think it did. For me, not so much. My major complaints are that 1.) It lacked some of the unexpected choices of the first one. The sequel felt much more paint-by-numbers, film-school 3-act structure constructed. Also, remember what I said earlier about well-rounded antagonists? This villain – not so much. I appreciated that in one of the better scenes he actually admitted (more or less), “Okay, yeah, I’m an ass.” and had no other motivation other than he liked telling people what to do. That almost redeemed it Almost. Also, the ending didn’t feel earned. A lot to like, but a lot that disappointed, too.
I’d like to catch Edge of Tomorrow before it disappears from theaters and am very much looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy (which was a favorite comic of mine as a young man, so I’ve got that going for me). Also, Helen and I subscribed to HBO and Showtime recently, so, uh, yeah — wow. All kinds of stuff there. On the down side, we’re almost out of episodes of Columbo on Netflix. *Sniff*
Enough for now. Before I go, here’s a clip of Groucho Marx singing the title of this column, which has been going through my head a lot lately for reasons I’ll explain next time around: