I have a huge issue with writing. I am good at it. Sure I am one of those guys that needs an editor, but at the end of the day I have stories. A lot of times these stories are born into life as art pieces themselves. But there are a few cases where art is only a side effect of a story, not the best way to tell the story itself.
Two examples, would be City 7 The Movie, and the ever expanding world of Savaged. In both cases there is a certain amount of “art direction” involved with each process. In the case of City 7, I was largely responsible for all the special effects/make-up and props; in the case of Savaged I tend to have an idea, illustrate it and then fill the blank space of the sketch page in with quotes, notes, and bits of history.
Savaged is my science fiction world. Well maybe more a collection of inspired designs, ideas, and illustrations done by an artist who was largely influenced by his parents love for Star Wars and Star Trek. My influences expanded as a teen, moving into some of the more fringe culture works, such as Tank Girl and later the illustrations that graced album covers of Punk Rock bands like Operation Ivy and Dead Kennedy’s. As time has gone on I have continued to collect inspiration from the world at large, and count about 5 artists in my all time tops… but we are talking about writing fiction here.
Science Fiction, has long been a genre that has fascinated me, and it has taken me some time to realize the how and why. Sure, gleaming cities of endless splendor, near perfect cultures, robots, and the idea of what technology might become, are cool; but it takes a deeper look to find out why a genres inspires and drives you. Added to this mix is the fact that I have this desire to start writing a novel. Time for a bit of soul searching.
I have been writing short stories since high school, playing around with ideas ranging from a Genetic “Frankenstein” to the idea that the Dust Bowl of the 1930s never ended and swallowed the world. A lot of times these stories are personal accounts, almost like reading over a collection of Civil War letters, they give a picture of a wider world but that’s it. Savaged is the exception, for whatever reason I continue to return to this idea of an immensely rich and dynamic Galactic Culture, on the verge of complete collapse.
The question has become: why? It is a question that can be posed to our wider, cultural, obsession with a dystopian future. From films that predict the end of the world like 2012, to video games like Bioshock and Modern Warfare, to the massive success of The Walking Dead. As a culture we are on a dark steak when it comes to entertainment. The Space Opera is dead. In away even shows like Star Trek no longer have any relevance. Just looking at the massive success of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, it is easy to see, we like the idea of it all ending in tears.
But we don’t. Two nights ago, myself, along with every other science and science fiction geek, sat glued to live feeds of JPL and NASA as Curiosity made her crazy 7 minutes of terror, plunge to the surface of Mars. Some of us cheered, even though we were completely alone in a dark living room. Achievement is still something we strive for, so why is dark fiction such a draw?
More importantly, why do I want to tell this story, in a Space Opera setting, that has massive implications on our modern world and way of life? Why am I currently writing the next screenplay that is set in the City 7 world? The Gulf War, China, The Middle East, 9-11, the Patriot Act, Police State tactics… does any of this make sense? Does any of it scare you? 22 years ago we went to war in the Middle East. I remember it well, my dad being deployed for the majority of that “Military Action”.
Sure by 1991 the War was over, but it really wasn’t it had just started. In fact we are still at war with the Middle East, don’t let recent events confuse you. Sure Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq, but read a blog, turn on the radio, just don’t watch the news. We are still at war, we still have troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Sure you could argue that we have always been at war, but think about how the last 22 years have re-shaped our culture and our brains. Look at when violence and darker stories became interesting.
Add on top of that that our Government now reads our mail, listens in on our phone calls, makes judgement on who we are through blog posts. By the time this is posted I will have been flagged on someones list, and for what? Exercising my right to free speech, and a way freedom of the press. Things pass, without notice, that look like Police State tactics. Gun laws, established for the very reason that we can defend ourselves from a rising monarch, come into play to “protect us” by the same people that have become the 1%, America’s Royalty.
Here’s a little hint, those guys, they still have guns, remember when Dick Chaney shot some dude. Then there is China, and maybe more importantly North Korea. Some crazy guys, that are not American, who do not share our values, who may be able to take us down a few pegs. But how does it relate to Entertainment and my writing project specifically?
These fears, these events, these uneasy truths, burn at the back of our minds. Fueling a need to escape, but that escape quite often shows it all ending. Of course the Hero or Heroes are always okay, and in most cases that is the key. As humans we are selfish and we see ourselves as these heroes. “Sure the world might go to shit, but I will be okay.” Now how do these fears effect a writer? How do the effect an artist? They drive my need to show a world in parallel to our own, an outline of a decedent and lost people, on the verge of collapse.
But also to outline a fantastic world, full of ever expanding wonder and discovery, a silver lining, a path to redemption . Even as I continue to write in the City 7 setting, striving to continue a story about a Zombie Apocalypse, is that my real aim? No. I aim to outline a rugged, colonial people, who have to change everything about our modern world to survive. I aim to show a world where neighbors are neighbors again, where a community cares about those that make it. A world where the SUV is a tool used for a job, not a status symbol of a gas-guzzling egotistical culture. A world where we grow our own crops, share our resources and coexist with our world, rather than thrashing and harvesting her.
This is the dream of a writer and artist, not only to entertain but to educate. To enlighten, to outline a possible better path.
- Kickass Space Opera, Anyone? (steventhowell.wordpress.com)
- Total Recall (carriev.wordpress.com)