Topics Not Generally Relating to Me, Part Two

I asked for topics, you gave them to me, and they’re not about me! Go, not me.

Alan Kellogg: What is it about skiffy flicks and crappy scripts?

I should probably save this for an AMC column, because then I would get paid to answer it, but I’ll give a short answer here: when the movies are cheap SF, as they often are, they can’t afford a good script, and if they had a good script they couldn’t afford to do it right. When the movies are expensive, the script often bows to studio imperatives, production values and star egos. When the movie is a Star Wars flick, it’s because George Lucas can’t script his way out of a paper bag, but there’s no one around to stop him. It should be noted that excepting the Star Wars angle, these problems are problems for movie making in general. This is why people are happy when any movie gets made with a good script.

Anny Mouse: How about a post on your favorite element (like on the periodic table)???

Well, my favorite is oxygen, actually, since I would be dead in ten minutes without it. I’m also a big fan of hydrogen and carbon, since along with oxygen I’m mostly made of that stuff. But what tips it to oxygen is that it’s kind of a psychotic element: essential for life, yet the element is corrosive and causes all sorts of destruction through rust and combustion and what have you. It’s like the lover you can’t do without, but who you always worry is going to stab you while you sleep. I like that in an element (not so much in actual, real-life lovers, however).

Jeff C.: What are your thoughts on the direction the Wheel of Time series has taken since Robert Jordan has died? I would appreciate any comments you have on Brandon Sanderson in relation to his authorship of the 12th book; or of Universal’s acquisition of the rights to make movies of the series, or of the Dabel Brothers announced graphic novel renditions of the series.

I’m personally not a huge fan of the series and never have been; that said, I think Brandon Sanderson is an excellent choice to finish the series, because he is a fan (and thus wants to see it finish well) and he has the writing chops to make all the other fans happy. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather see finish the series, personally. As toward Universal and Dabel: Well, we’ll see, won’t we. I have nothing bad to say about either idea, but as with so many things, execution matters.

Dave Garrett: I am curious about the new Watchmen movie coming in I believe February 2009. Do you see it becoming a smash hit or just so-so?

Unless it is a genuine debacle, and it doesn’t seem to be heading in that direction, it’ll do $100 million domestic without a problem. The real question is whether it makes it to $200 million or beyond, and that depends on several factors, including length, critical reception, movie rating, fan reception (and repeat business), weather and whether audiences in general have superhero fatigue by the point or not. Remember that masses of fanboys aside, the Watchmen (the characters) are not actually well-known, and Watchmen (the movie) has to trade on the interest in and affection for the superhero genre in general.

Swampmaster: Isaac Asimov. He is one of my all-time favorite SF authors (I think his books introduced me to the genre). You often mention Heinlein (which I barely knew before I started reading you, but will be looking forward to reading now) and sometimes Bradbury, but I don’t think I ever saw you comment Asimov’s work. I’m curious to have your take on it.

Generally I like Asimov’s work quite a bit and fully acknowledge its (and his) importance to the genre, but speaking from a writerly point of view I don’t find his fiction writing skills hugely impressive. He is probably one of the best examples of a “classic” sort of SF storytelling that is heavy on very cool ideas but weak on things like character development — his writing is a vehicle to tell the story rather than adding to the story itself. There’s nothing wrong with it (I lean more toward that direction of things myself, after all), but on balance I wish there was more there there when it came to the writing itself. Asimov’s non-fiction, on the other hand, I think is great. Clear, easy-to-read, and full of information. I know a lot of SF fans were sad there’s a hole in Asimov’s fiction writing career where he largely decided to write nonfic full-time, but personally speaking I’m not complaining.

EricH: Oh great and masterful alpha fan – I attended a panel at the last Balticon that bemoaned the death of the Fanzine. The panelist to audience ratio was aprox. 1:1. Is the fanzine dead?

No, although I think as time goes on they’ll go online more than they already are and to some respects will become indistinguishable from blogs in terms of formatting. Fanzines were a good and simple way for fans to talk to each other about the genre they loved; these days there are simpler ways that reach larger audiences, and that poses challenges for the format. But the fundamental impulse that created fanzines in the first place — a love of SF and the desire to communicate about it — isn’t going away. The format may change, but fanzines one way or another will stick.

Range: Your perspective on microwaveable bacon.

That’s just sick.

Fiona: Obama and McCain veep choices—how much does a veep choice matter today compared with 50 yrs ago and who would be your choice of veep if you were running for president?

Since I don’t really think about being president I don’t really have my VP pick top of mind, so I can’t help you there. As for how important the VP is, I think it’s become more important since Clinton and Bush divested quite a lot of responsibility to their VPs, which is historically unusual, and in the case of Cheney somewhat problematic, but which has become a template since. So I expect whomever McCain or Obama pick will want to have a significant portfolio of their own. As to whom the two men will pick, I don’t know, although at this point I wouldn’t in fact be entirely surprised if they went to their primary rivals, specifically Clinton and Romney. We’ll know soon enough.

Thanks, everyone!

Reminder: Ann Arbor Appearance Sunday (and Dayton Tuesday) (Oh, and Lexington Friday)

If you live in Ann Arbor, and your Sunday is looking to be a vast expanse of nothingness punctuated bathroom breaks, I would like to take this moment to remind you that at 2pm Sunday at Ann Arbor’s Downtown Library branch, Toby Buckell, Paul Melko and I will be on hand to talk about the current state of science fiction and to sign books which will also be available to purchase, through the good graces of Nicola’s Books.

You folks are in for a treat, since I’ve done panels and presentations with Toby and Paul (who did a mighty thing by allowing himself to be roped in when Karl Schroeder had to step away), and it’s always a heck of a lot of fun. It’s hard to imagine you won’t be entertained. This is my only public appearance in Michigan for the rest of 2008; after this comes college football season and then anyone from Ohio is looked upon with suspicion until after the bowls. I suspect that Toby and Paul will be likewise embargoed for their Ohio citizenship. So get us while you can.

Folks in the Dayton area (and surrounding environs), remember that Toby and I will be making a stop at Books & Co at the Greene (that’s the big new one, in the big new shopping mall) on Tuesday, August 26 at 7pm. We’ll be reading and signing and schmoozing. And then Paul Melko joins us again and the three of us descend on Lexington, Kentucky on Friday, August 29 at 7pm at the Joseph-Beth there, for more science fictional hijinx and zaniness. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again about these two, probably on Monday.

Hope to see you at one or the other of these, that is, if you’re actually sort of near these appearances. I don’t expect you to fly in from, say, Phoenix or Anchorage. But if you did, well, I guess that would be fine, too.