Westerns and Sci Fi

I have a confession:

I love westerns.

A lot.

Sometimes, I sit and watch them for hours on the Encore Western Channel.

It may be a condition.

And what’s funny is that I like westerns more for the characters than the story. As I’ve written before, I’m much more about writing a good story than I am a “good” character. But it’s the strong characters in Westerns that draw me to them. From John Wayne playing John Wayne in all of his movies, to Val Kilmer and Kurt Russel in ‘Tombstone’, Robert Taylor in ‘Lomgmire’, and Emily Blunt in ‘Looper’ (ok kind of a stretch, but she was talking in a drawl and carried a shotgun…) this is what draws me to them.

And while Sci Fi tends to lean more heavily on story than character, at least the sci fi I like the most, the two are very similar. Let’s look at some comparisons to further connect my two favorite genres.

Frontier

The frontier of the American West is romanticized to no end in westerns. Sprawling open range with mountains in the distance, the threat of natives attacking the invading settlers or vice versa, and the quest to tame the wild ground found in the throws of exploration.

Or to put it another way,

“To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

When Gene Rodenberry pitched Star Trek to executives back in the 60’s, he billed the show as ‘a wagon train to the stars’. Because of this, James T. Kirk is your classic frontiersman, albeit with a space ship and laser guns instead of a covered wagon and a .45. This genius set up by one of the 20th century’s best creative minds has forever cemented Star Trek in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

Frontiersman

As stated about Kirk above, many Sci Fi characters share traits with the heroes of westerns. Mal and Zoe from Firefly come to mind. Han Solo and Chewbacca. The list can go on and on. All of these characters have a strong sense of themselves, and hardly waiver on anything. They know that their road is one seldom traveled and rarely conquered. But they do it anyway.

Guns Blazing

Everyone like a good shootout. Therefore Sci Fi Westerns have gun fights. Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Cowboys and Aliens, shoot even that one episode of Dr. Who was a western mash up with gun fights, fancy hats, and horses. The two genres are intertwined with enough mystery and romance regarding firearms as anything.

Breathtaking Scenery

There are two things I will never tire of:

Mountains and Space.

I runaway to the mountains every summer, and I love looking at new pictures from NASA and other space agencies that like to take pictures. In fact I’ve made several graphics from pics anyone can download from the JPL.

Infograph3

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Westerns and Sci Fi love to take advantage of beautiful scenery. ‘Longmire’ has quickly become one of my favorite shows because of the awesome mountain views, and Walt Longmire’s love of one liners and lever action rifles. Nothing consumes me more than stars and their dust the mountains are made of.

So go watch or read a western. I know you watch and read science fiction. If you like Native American culture and mysticism, then ‘Longmire’ is a good way to break into the Western Genre. Plus it’s set in the present so you don’t have to wade through an hour of how the settlement came to be before the action starts. It’s exclusively on Netflix now, so have fun watching ALL THE EPISODES!

Peace

Have you checked out the latest from The Silly Robot?

Uncanny Divide

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What kind of music do people in space listen to?

So we’ve all seen those episodes of Star Trek TOS when Spock is playing that ridiculous instrument right?

By the way, RIP Leonard Nimoy. That guy was awesome. I think my tweet on the day of his death summed up how I took it:

But back to my question: you’ve seen it right? It’s weird. And totally just 60’s music ‘played’ on a weird instrument. There’s even one episode with a whole band of hippies. Look it up.

And I’m sure it was a product of the era that particular Sci Fi was made. Huxley has his ‘Malthusian Blues’, not in a space ship but in a weird future. Riker just plays his trombone. I’ve been told that some of our US Navy ships host bands made of their sailors. Do they do the same thing on starships? And do they have access to current music, or are they stuck with whatever they take with them?

Why are most aliens humanoid?

This week will see a series of short posts that ask a question and give a short, simplified answer. Like the blog series baseball joe at fox sports, too short for a full post yet too long for the twitter…

Why are most aliens humanoid?

In a lot of mediums, aliens are mostly humanoid. (see: Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, Predator, The Marvel Universe, etc. etc.)

Why is this?

I simply think it’s because we can’t imagine anything else. And don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of stories with wildly different aliens, including some of the ones I mentioned above.

But it’s also this:

It’s hard to imagine anything else and make it work in a story. Even the some of the weirdest aliens are still more or less humanoid.

So what can we do to fix it?

All I want for Christmas is…

Well it’s that time of year. Winter has come through the solstice, and soon Christmas day will be upon us. I’ve also been celebrating Hanukkah this year, lighting my menorah religiously and eating way too many chocolate coins…

But Christmas is the big holiday celebrated in my family, and the holiday has become the high point of the year for many. With gifts coming from all around, one can be bombarded by all sorts of things that are either lame, useless, or awesome. Here is a list of some of the things I would love to have for Christmas…

Star Wars VII not to suck

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I can’t stress enough how much Star Wars means to millions of people. Much like Star Trek is so important to millions of people. And JJ Abrams turned ‘Into Darkness’ into ‘POO’. I hated it.

So here’s what i want: I want Star Wars 7 to be original and awesome. No remaking an old movie in the name of ‘fan service’. Boo. Make it good. I want terrible dialogue, lightsaber fights, and some sweet X wing action. Think you can handle that JJ?

Jetpacks

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So this thing is real. You can watch a video here. I mean seriously, we’ve been waiting for these things forever. And this one can be made for about 20-25 grand depending on how fancy you want to get. That’s as much as a car. A CAR. When are we going to get a reasonably priced version of this? I wants one. In the worst way.

Firefly

Please Mr. Whedon? Please? Just sell the rights to Disney and I bet you could get another deal…

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody. See you after the New Year!

Robots Make Me Cry

I have this problem:

I’m weird. I tend to be stoic in a lot of situations, particularly my day job as an education disciplinarian, but sometimes I let myself go. I’m religious, and I have moving experiences in church. I laugh with my wife and son as we play games with each other around the house. When I was younger I cried a lot at funerals. I don’t cry at weddings. They’re boring.
But the one thing that never made me feel anything were characters on television or in movies. At least not human ones. Or animal ones. But you know what kinds of characters really make me feel gut wrenching sorrow and pain?

Robots.

AI is still I

I was reading Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” recently, and I was reminded again of my penchant for loving machines. Spoilers for a nearly 50 year old book ahead. If you get mad it’s your own fault.
Mycroft is a supercomputer that has become alive, and like’s to be called Mike by his friends. He is a wonderful character, and the whole book build him up and builds him up, to the point that he has to do most of the work during the book’s 3rd act of revolution. But at the end he is no longer speaking, or communicating at all for that matter, he has returned to his normally programmed functions.

And I was sad.

No! I thought. Mike can’t be gone, he drove this whole book! Why Heinlein? Why?

The answer is, of course, elementary. Heinlein knew losing Mike would be the ultimate stab. Everyone loves Mike. You have to kill him to make him memorable. He sacrificed everything for the revolution, and in the end he really was just a pile of circuits and wires. Sad.

Not a Gun

I love “The Iron Giant”. The only thing I don’t like about it is the anti-gun sentiment. I own guns, I use them to feed my family, and I’m not an idiot about when and where I use them. We should have anti idiot activists, not anti gun activists. Just my two cents. If you want to argue, email me.

Back to topic:

The giant is an awesome character. He is an artificial intelligence that can learn and grow and become more than his original purpose.

I’m a sucker for transcendentalism.

But at the end of the movie, he has to save the town— because surprise surprise, the government bureaucrat screwed everything up and launched a nuke on U.S. soil. So the giant flies up and runs into the missile in space, thwarting the threat and averting the crisis. And it made me sad. Because I like robots.

Honorable Mentions: To Boldly Go

Two deaths that made me cry, actually cry, were my high school football coach and my great uncle. I spent lots of time with these two guys, and their deaths devastated me. I literally stole a truck to drive to my coach’s funeral, and I skipped the better part of three days of class in college to attend my uncle’s services. Just to show you that I am in fact, NOT an actual robot myself. At least that’s what they tell me. But here are two humanoid examples that made me sad, but they are pretty much just like robots.

Commander Data

Data kind of is a robot—he’s an android— but he strives to be human in every aspect of his life. This makes him clumsy with comedy, turns of phrase, and even relationships. And I spent years with Data. And then they killed him in that crappy “Nemesis” film. Clone Picard and dead Data? Who wrote that garbage? Oh Brent Spiner has a writer credit…kind of killed his character and a Star Trek writing career on one blow…

Captain Spock

Oh Spock. Leonard Nimoy Spock, not Zachary Quinto’s pseudo Spock. When they play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at the end of Wrath of Khan I tear up every time. EVERY TIME! It’s crazy. I even teared up when Stewie Griffin did the same spiel with his teddy bear Rupert. I hate it.

What Gives?

So why do I get sad when robots die? Or stoic Vulcans who hide their emotions? It’s because I connect with them. On the Meyers-Briggs spectrum of personalities, I am known as an INTP. I’m the thinker. I rarely use emotion to decide things; I’m the human equivalent of a logic processor. If you want to read more go here: http://www.truity.com/personality-type/INTP

But I feel sorrow for them because I understand Data’s constant analysis of everything, Spock’s emotional detachment, Mike’s unhindered intelligence in problem solving, and the Giant’s logical conclusions about how to save everyone. They aren’t these emotional meatbags who have to think about how they’re going to make others feel about something. They don’t care, and I like that. That’s what makes them appeal to me. I couldn’t care less about other characters.

Except Kirk. He doesn’t care either. He just shoots stuff.

What characters appeal to you? What Meyers Briggs type are you, and how does that affect your love for characters?

The Worst Ending

It’s been a while since the last post.

But that just means there’s more stuff to write about.

Get ready…

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

I don’t know if you saw the new Hunger Games movie yet, but I did. It was ok, really just a setup for the next movie. Almost nothing happened, save for a sweet scene where a bunch of people storm a dam and blow it up. Hardcore. And Katniss blowing up a freaking jet with an arrow shot from a recurve bow is pretty  sweet.

But here was the problem: first and foremost, this movie is the first of two movies, that are comprised of one book. Which raises the question: where do they split it?

I thought they split it at a really good spot. A recently rescued Peeta looks like garbage as Katniss moves to embrace him. and then he jumps up and starts strangling her! For no apparent reason! (unless you read the books. then none of this is news.) Katniss gets slammed all over the room by Peeta, her eyes red and starting to bulge, Peeta has thrown off everyone else in the room, it looks hopeless, our heroine is going to be killed by our hero, THEN BOGGS JUMPS IN AND KNOCKS PEETA OUT WITH A BLOW TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD! Screen goes black for several seconds, long enough for me to think:

Yes! Awesome. That’s the perfect place to end it. All these non book reading moviegoers have no idea what’s going on, and they have to wait until the next movie to see if Katniss and Peeta are ok. Brilliant. I love it. I…wait. Why is the picture back? What’s going on. They’re explaining everything? What the heck? This sucks.

Worst.

Ending.

Ever.

No suspense. No time to deal with all of these conflicting emotions. Nothing left but a bunch of crappy dialogue about tracker jackers and fear conditioning. That anyone with half a brain can figure out. Because normal people don’t choke their girlfriend.

It was a letdown.

I had regained my faith in hollywood for like 3 seconds. And I was promptly let down.

So what can we learn from it?

Ask the questions

Is it part 1? Is it stand alone? Is it asking questions rather than giving answers? Is it giving answers rather than asking questions? Is it creating suspense? Is it resolving suspense?

These are important questions. And the people that made Mockingjay part 1 didn’t ask them. They were supposed to create suspense. They didn’t. They were supposed to ask questions. They answered them. It was horrible.

Stick to your guns

I know that fans are important. Fans are the lifeblood of any entertainment. Fans are not stupid. You think that you’re making them happy. You aren’t. Case in point:

Star Trek: Into Darkness

He’s not Khan. Why would we do that? That’s already a movie.

But he was Khan. And this “new” movie, was an old movie, and the new version sucked. All because JJ thought that fans would love it. And we didn’t. People who haven’t seen Wrath of Khan like it. Because they hadn’t seen that movie yet. Lame.

Stick to your guns. If it’s good, fans are gonna love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cliffhanger, or muddy or whatever. As long as it isn’t bad.

Rant over.

See you when I see you.

My Biggest Problem

As writers, specifically sci fi writers, we face many challenges. They range anywhere from ‘what to write’ to ‘how to write’. I find that sometimes I have so many ideas that I can’t choose one and I end up writing nothing at all. Other times I have one specific idea, but I can’t turn it into a story.

When these things happen, I often shut down and i don’t write for a long time. The problem is, I don’t come back rearing to go. In fact it takes me several weeks to get back into a writing mode.

This is not a good thing.

If you don’t know – and you really should by now, unless this is your first read of this blog – I am a HUGE baseball fan. I liken these writing problems to a slump for a hitter in baseball. It’s not that they’ve lost their talent or all of a sudden forgotten how to take a ball or swing at a strike. They’re just not able to connect well. They aren’t able to perform to their level of talent. So what do they have to do?

Beat the Slump

How do you beat a slump?

You hit through it.

Hitting a writing slump means you have to write to get out of it. You have to write crappy things. Awful things. Terribly horrible things. Things with adverbs modifying verbs that mean essentially the same thing as the aforementioned adverb. For example, I wrote a story about a human space commander running away with an alien princess. It’s funny, but hardly a winner. Email me and I’ll send it to you if you wanna read it. If nothing else you’ll get a good laugh.

But if I hadn’t written that piece of garbage, I never would have written some of the stories my readers really enjoy. I had to hit a few line drives right at fielders before I hit one in a gap and got a few RBI.

Roll With the Hot Streak

When you have a good thing going, keep it going.

If you wrote a good story, write another good story. Maybe it isn’t as good as the first one, but it’s still good. Keep it rolling until you write a bad one. Or go into another slump. Either way, it’s always good to keep writing. And writing. And writing. Because if we stop writing in a slump, we get to the mega slump I mentioned earlier.

Beating the Mega Slump

Don’t take this as gospel, but here’s how I tend to get out of the mega slump:

I watch and read a whole stinkin’ bunch of science fiction. I get on Netflix and flip through the scifi/fantasy genre and just pick one. I go to a comic book store and grab a bunch of singles or a graphic novel. I hit up the bookstore or the Kindle store and grab a novel or a short story anthology. I go through my program guide and watch hours of Star Trek TNG on BBCA. I grab my Star Trek TOS DVD’s and go to town watching that junk. I grab any one of the movies on my shelf and watch it.

I saturate myself.

Do you know what happens when you saturate something?

It begins to leak.

It creates runoff.

And eventually, something comes out that’s as good as anything else.

And then I’m back.

 

 

It’s Funny Like That

So I’m sitting here watching ‘Farscape’ and I can’t help but wonder:

What happens when we meet some alien species and they’re nothing like the ones in Science Fiction?

Star Wars and Star Trek have so permeated our culture that there is a certain sense of what aliens are like. We think that they will have universal translators, unspeakable technology, and civilized manners.

Or they’re like the extra terrestrials in ‘Independence Day’ and they just want to strip mine every planet they find.
What I like about ‘Farscape is its tendency to make fun of Sci Fi and its view of alien species, even to the point of the main character saying, “Boy…was Spielberg ever wrong.” He goes through a wormhole and ends up in the middle of an interstellar society governed by a ruthless military force.
So here’s the question for the week:

If you write aliens into your stories, what kind of aliens will they be?

Evil or good?

Humanoid or other?

Highly technological or primitive?

There are many different categories to choose from; all of them great.

1. Do some research

If you haven’t yet, you should go check out my guest post at Live Hacked. It has lots of cool stuff about researching for Sci Fi writing. But the main point is that you actually do some research. In the quest for what alien life form to use, do some research. Watch some shows, and see what actual scientists think.
2. Write them plausibly

If the aliens in your book just happen to speak English, or whatever you’re writing in for that matter, I’m gonna call shenanigans. Aliens will not speak English. But if you explain a universal translator or have someone that speaks their language and English, I’ll probably buy it.

Also, aliens aren’t from Earth at all. They won’t act like humans. They will do weird things. Write them into your story.

3. Follow the leaders

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we have no truly original ideas. Someone has always broken ground before us. So when you’re researching for your alien species (see step 1) make sure that you follow others’ examples. Unless the example you want to follow is lame. Then don’t do that. I once read a novel where the main characters were supposed to be super-intelligent humans with alien DNA. Therefore they could just magically do whatever they wanted. I mean anything. The male read a book on sword fighting then beat someone who had trained their whole life in the sport.

Lame excuse for writing.

But take the ‘Old Man’s War’ universe. Some alien races are friends with the humans, others are enemies. They all have evolved differently and are of different intellect levels. The humans are constantly trying to further their knowledge of each species so they can fight for survival.

Good writing.

Follow the leaders and see what works for your creation.

I hope some of these tips are helpful. Let me know.

I’m also hoping to get a short story collection in time for Christmas, so keep room open on your Kindle!

Interview with Kenneth Barker

Twitter is a wonderful medium.

Through it you can see the thoughts and dreams of others, their aspirations and hopes…

Or you can meet very interesting people!

Meet Kenneth Barker, a film maker and writer from the UK who writes and directs, you guessed it, Science Fiction! I was able to ask him a few questions (some serious. Others…well silly. Or awesome. Use whichever adjective you prefer) and here are the results.

Spoilers: he’s not really a sports fan and he has the most interesting pick for a starship captain. There are links to his work throughout the interview and at the end, please go check it out!You can also find him on twitter: @KennethBarker1, and at his film studio website Water on the Rock http://www.wotr.co.uk

Here’s a video detailing the making of his latest film, then the interview.

Enjoy!

Will: Tell us a little bit about yourself

Kenneth: I had the best possible childhood in my opinion – firm boundaries set by my parents for behaviour but total freedom to play, read and discover the world around me. When I was primary school (around 5 years old) they were dumping old books (around 1972ish)  I got a small green box with that lovely waxy-feel paper; it had fairy stories in and I particularly remember one being about Jack Frost. The illustrations were fantastically detailed. Of course from that moment I was hooked to a life of creativity. In 1990 I saw Robocop II and came away unimpressed and thought ‘maybe I could do better.’  Shortly after I produced my very first short film which was loosely inspired by Beowulf. That film was good enough to get me into film school in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK and I’ve never looked back since.

WF: I’ve watched your trailers and I’m reading your novel right now, and I have to say that I’m very impressed with your work. What do you put into your Sci Fi writing on a weekly or even daily basis?

KB: Thanks for taking the time to look at my work. I was out of paid work for a while in the late 90’s after leaving film school (heard that before!) and the big production companies were all saying “great screenplay Kenneth….but it’s not for us…ever considered using it for paper mache!!”  That made me realise I should be making films for myself because Digital Video (DV) cameras were exploding onto the scene. Costs had plummeted so now the only deciding factor was ‘do I have the drive to do this or just remain an also-ran.’  I have story ideas constantly – I call it “mental diarreah.” The really good ideas recur and are jotted down on a near daily basis. Once I get the initial spark for a screenplay I will spend weeks intensively researching it and planning the narrative. The actually screen writing process from there usually only takes a few weeks because of the detailed plotting and preparation beforehand. The novel for Kingdom has the advantage of me already producing the film and having a feel for what I want the backstory to be. Duration-wise, the writing was mostly completed in a six month block with a typical writing day being from 7:30am – 2pm Monday to Friday.


WF: What sort of Science Fiction and Fantasy has shaped your love of the genre?

KB: The old trusty BBC infrequently (in the days just before VHS and DVD) would have “and now a season of science fiction films…” All the classics such as Forbidden Planet, War of The Worlds, This Island Earth, The Day the Earth Stood Still, When Worlds Collide, Them – heck, I’m giddying just typing this list. Those films were hugely formative to me. I also read some cracking science fiction texts and fell totally in love with the work of illustrator Chris Foss. He produced conceptual work on the originally planned 70s version of Dune, Superman and Alien amongst others. I have been to the end of the universe and back with Foss’ work.
WF: What is your favorite part of being a film maker?

KB: Warm smile stretches across Kenneth’s face.

The initial spark – it becomes “this is a story I have to tell. But I have no budget! Well think of a way around it and just tell a great story.”  Once I have the kernel of an idea it usually starts my brain firing off in all sorts of directions. Ideas/concepts, bits of dialogues, story beats become attracted to the central premise like iron filings to a big magnet. Some stories start writing “themselves!”   I also get very excited in post-production when all the hubbub of production has cleared – I can focus on finding the story through editing and adding the necessary visuals. It is a mesmerizing evolution. I implore anyone reading this, who has idea the inkling of a notion to make their movie, just do it.


WF: How long did it take you to make your film?

 KB: 2 years and 10 months for On The Shoulders Of Giants (youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/OTSOG2012)  I don’t want to go through that duration again any time soon. I live as a “struggling artist” but the toll of sacrificing so much to get the film made must be a considered decision. In my mind it was worth it though; I’m immensely proud of what my production team achieved on our “femto” budget.

WF: What is your favorite film of all time?

KB: The Blues Brothers still kills me. Close Encounters. Hilary and Jackie tears me up. I salute Armageddon. What Dreams May Come – oh! Moby Dick – poetic adventure. Coen’s True Grit – bravura work across the board. Barry Lyndon – totally captivating. This could become a very long list….


WF: What are some of your favorite television series?

KB: Do you know anybody that didn’t like original Star Trek as a kid! Space 1999 then a raft of UK non genre stuff. X-Files had an appeal along with Project Blue Book. I stopped watching TV around 2008 and only use my widescreen for DVDs and Blu-Rays.
WF: If you were stuck inside of a spaceship for two years on a scientific mission, who would be your preferred captain?

KB: Ahab for his determination.

WF: Favorite food?

KB: If I’m working on stuff on a Friday – Barker’s (nearly) World famous Burger night with a beer. Saturday is a curry. I love cooking. A good roast methinks. I know my way around a kitchen. Diets – sorry, what are they??
WF: Words uttered at the sight of a dying star? (from a safe distance of course)

KB: Wow! Thank you. Joni Mitchell said “we are stardust” and I tend to believe her.


WF: Favorite fictional weapon?

KB: The photon torpedo cures most evils. My third film Catalina: A New Kind of Superhero featured a weapon that could boil off a planets atmosphere. Pretty despotic I would say.
WF: Could enough Dragons take down a star ship?

KB: Cool concept Will 🙂  Yes – and I have a pretty cool story in which something like that occurs.
WF: If you could build a robot to do one thing perfectly, what would it do?

KB: Tidy and decorate my house. Two concepts that are not nearly as interesting as creating something with 3D software or a word processor.
WF: Favorite football club?

KB: Over my head sir. I don’t play it or watch it. I will root for Brazil at the next World Cup mainly because they are so colourful and passionate – the football might get a look in too.
WF: If you had unlimited money to make a film, what would the story be and who would you cast as the lead role?

KB: Assuming the ‘limited money’ is nothing: Cast a professional actor looking for a great showreel piece. Some actors may baulk at not getting paid and I wish them well while they “rest” between paying gigs. With a little savvy – digital effects can be used at very low cost to enhance the story. I’d like to riff on something by Jules Verne perhaps or a Woody Allen style sci-fi piece??  Damn; so many ideas and not enough time. Thank you Will.

Some links to Kenneth’s work and press:

Yorkshire Evening Post – http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/divine-inspiration-for-leeds-man-s-homage-to-1950s-sci-fi-classics-1-4928997

Kingdom – http://www.wotr.co.uk/page15.html

On the Shoulders of Giants: http://www.wotr.co.uk/page18.html

OTSOG Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/On-The-Shoulders-of-Giants/383469958384829

OTSOG youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/OTSOG2012

Comic Relief

Who likes the jokes?!?!?!
I likes the jokes!!!!!

 

Ok, let’s do something that’s a little more fun than being a ‘serious’ writer.

I tend to find the comedy in all situations. To quote my father, “Life is too serious to be taken seriously.” Therefore, I try to fit comedy into all of my writing, and consequently the rest of my life.

We see this all over Science Fiction too. Comedy permeates such episodes of Star Trek as ‘The trouble with Tribbles”, all of the Star Wars movies, Doctor Who, and the list goes on and on and on….

Comedy is what makes something likeable, loveable.

Case in point: Firefly.

Firefly has dramatic moments, political undertones, and all sorts of commentary on society, but do you know what sticks in my mind about the show?

Jayne’s hat. And Vera. And Mal’s whit.

The funny things.

And it’s no secret that ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is one of my favorite sitcoms. They take scifi comedy to the next level! (you can hate me for that, but the show is really funny and my wife loves it too. As with the card game Citadels…)
So let’s talk about jokes:

1. Make it appropriate

An out of context joke is like watching a train wreck. It’s terrible, but you can’t look away. So use the context to make a good joke. If you’re hero (or anti-hero) is stuck in a dire situation, a joke about a trip to San Francisco is in order. Or about never marrying. Or something like that. It’s funny.

2. Make it accessible

I have a wife, whom I adore. We have several inside jokes. If I make these jokes in my stories, NO ONE WILL KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. If you have an inside joke with someone, it’s probably not ok for public consumption. Stay away from these things in your writing.
3. Other SciFi is always open for fun!

If you take yourself too seriously, you shouldn’t be an artist. Art, occasionally gets made fun of. Not always in a demeaning way. Take the show Castle. Nathan Fillion is the lead, he was also the lead in the aforementioned Firefly. In a Halloween episode of Castle, he dressed up as his character, Mal Reynolds, and even referenced his role in Firefly. There are several other things he’s done in reference to the show, but you get the idea. If we can learn to reference things in fun and not take it seriously, it will make everything funnier.

4. Make fun of yourself

Make fun of what you’re writing inside of the story. I wrote a terrible novel and in it I make fun of some of the ideas that I present. Because they’re ridiculous! If I can’t make fun of my ridiculous ideas, then they aren’t worth writing down. Learn not to take yourself so seriously. I love hard scifi, but sometimes it gets on my nerves and I have to stop reading or watching. Laughter directed at your own work can be a wonderful thing!

 

I hope this helps you out a little. I know that being able to laugh at myself and other things is a great joy, and it makes me actually like writing. So let’s all start laughing!