On occasion, the fine people at SFSignal run something called the Mind Meld feature in which they ask important players in the SF community – and me – to respond to a specific scifi-related question. In the past week, I took part in the Mind Meld not once but twice. What follows are the questions I was asked, my answers, and the links to the responses of a very diverse group.
Q: As a reader, can you enjoy a story that is pushing a different viewpoint from one that you hold (religion/politics)? If the author is prone to holding, and writing about, views opposed to yours, can you enjoy their works or do you stop reading them?
As a writer who got his start in the wonderful world of animation at a time when “edutainment” was the industry buzzword (Hey Kids! Rockin’ Rhino says “It’s not cool to lock your little sister in an abandoned refrigerator!”), I’ve always taken issue with stories that spoon fed their audience a specific viewpoint. Seriously. If I wanted to be taught a “powerful lesson“, I’d tune into the ABC After School Special or pay to attend one of those self-help seminars where the speaker extols the virtues of positive thinking, clean living, and the benefits of paying to attend more of his self-help seminars. However, that’s not to say I won’t read books or watch shows from authors/creators who hold opinions radically different from my own. In my opinion, successful writers do two things well: entertain and challenge, often by presenting ideas that are, at times, out of the comfort zone of their respective audiences. But subtlety is the key. It doesn’t take a genius to offer up a thinly-veiled critique of the social issue du jour, yet great skill and fair amount of finesse are required to contextualize an argument within a narrative framework that doesn’t hit the audience over the head with the glory of its self-importance. Off the top of my head, China Mieville is a wonderful example of the latter, an author whose works are, on the surface, smartly written, pleasurable reads and yet, at their core, charged with provocative, even revolutionary ideas.
Follow the link to check out responses from our buddy Lou Anders and author Charles Stross among many others. http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/007167.html#comments
Q: What makes a successful sf/f book adaption? Why do adaptations sometimes fail?
The instinctive reaction to a question like this would be to stress the importance of remaining true to the original source material but, truth is, two of my favorite SF movies were adaptations that strayed significantly from the books upon which they were based. The film version of Children of Men was markedly different from the P.D. James novel and, while I enjoyed both, I have to say that I was able to appreciate them as separate entities. The same can be said for the movie Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?. I recently read Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!, an excellent work of noir dystopian SF, and was shocked to discover that while the book makes mention of soylent steaks, there is never any suggestion these rations are anything but soy/lentil-derived protein. In the film version, however, the protagonist makes the horrifying discovery that “Soylent Green is people!”. The movie spun the story off in a different direction and it worked. In a similar vein, while very similar in terms of story, the original Planet of the Apes and Pierre Boulle’s book Monkey Planet contain different but equally enjoyable twists. And then, on the other hand, there’s the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes with it’s nonsensical plot, deus ex machina ending, and memorable salute to the Great Emanchimpator Ape Lincoln. In this case, the adapatation failed miserably. Why? Well, simply put – because it wasn’t any good!
People need to accept the fact that books are books and movies are movies, each to be appreciated on their own merits. In a best case scenario, they compliment one another and, hopefully, draw potential fans from one to the other. In a worst case scenario, they are utter tragedies that leave fans bemoaning the fact that, say, David Lynch was ever given the green light to make Dune.
My advice to filmmakers is to avoid getting caught up in the details of the source material and just concentrate on producing a good movie. Make the movie, not the book because, let’s face it, if you go down that route, you’re just begging for direct comparisons and, at the end of the day, the book is always better.
So what makes for a successful sf/f book adaptation? Piece of cake. All you need is a great script, a visionary director, talented actors, a terrific crew, and, more often than not, a lot of money.
Follow the link to check out the responses from the likes of authors Jennifer Pelland and John Varley: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/007185.html#comments
Your questions have gone out to author Justina Robson. Now, we move on to our next guest – Stargate Atlantis Stunt Coordinator James Bam Bam Bamford. If you have questions for Bam Bam, let’s see ‘em. Upcoming guests include Playback Supervisor Krista McLean, Editor Brad Rhines, actor and occasional wraith Tyler McClendon, and the magnificent maestro himself, Joel Goldsmith.
Today’s video: Script Supervisor Terry Murray packs up my office.