Scribbling in Someone Else’s Sandbox

This summer, a couple of potential writing projects fell on my plate. One was the newly-launched Dark Crystal website, and they were looking for authors for an upcoming prequel novel. The second was a writer “casting call” for an anthology collection called Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. I just about shit a writer’s block.

The Dark Crystal was one of the most influential movies of my childhood – up there with The Neverending Story and Krull. Clive Barker’s Nightbreed remains – to this day – my all-time favorite horror movie. (Only Cabin in the Woods comes close to tying with it.) Both of these opportunities presenting themselves seemed much more than a coincidence. And the fact that their respective deadlines were within a day of each other was far too perfect.

It was fate.

Or so I thought…

As a writer, there was one avenue I never went down. I’d never written fanfiction. Okay, both of these assignments weren’t exactly fanfiction in the strictest sense, but it was writing in some other creator’s universe. A feat I’d never attempted. There were times when I was tempted, but a sticky thing called “pride” got in the way. That and I was unsure as to whether or not I could write in someone else’s world. I’m kinda glad I didn’t. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll air out the literary laundry.

Fanfic Idea #1.


Honorblade: A Star Trek Novel

It was no secret that Powers That Be behind the Star Trek franchise were open to new blood. Untested screenwriters were brought in all the time for the TV show(s), and new authors were given opportunities to pitch non-canonical novels. My idea, however…

I didn’t want to deal with the Federation at all, or space for that matter. My idea went back…way back. No human characters, either. Instead, I chose to focus on the Klingons.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was established the Klingon “messiah” figure – Kahless – showed up roughly 1,500 years before the 24th century – when the show took place. So, about the 9th century to humans. In Deep Space Nine, Worf mentioned in passing that his race “killed their gods over a thousand years ago”. In another DS9 episode, it was established that the Klingon homeworld was invaded by a race known as the Hur’q (“outsider” in the Klingon tongue). That also occurred over a thousand years ago.

There was a story in there somewhere.


Five hundred years after the death of Kahless the Unforgettable, and the forging of the unified Klingon Empire, Kronos – their homeworld – was invaded. Having never seen an alien race before, the superstitious Klingons believed their gods were descending upon them on the backs of metal dragons. (In reality, starships that looked curiously like bird-of-prey.)

The invading race used their superstition against them, fashioning themselves as rulers of the Klingon people. A few stood against them, however. Yivar, Son of Tarn – a young thief – was one of them. After witnessing an execution, he flees the Klingon capitol.

In his travels, he encounters a wanderer named Bul’roth. The stoic Klingon hailed from the line of Morath, Kahless’s dishonored brother. The two form an unlikely friendship and set about sowing the seeds of revolution against these so-called “gods”.

Why I Never Started It:

In 1997, author Michael Jan Friedman released a TNG novel simply titled Kahless, which…completely ripped apart the Kahless mythos. In so doing, my story was also rendered moot. Sure, even if I did want to publish it, Star Trek novels weren’t considered canon. More than one novel could contradict each other. Still, it was enough to dissuade me from even fanfic-ing the damn thing.

Fanfic Idea #2.


Serenity: From Operative to Shepherd

Like a lot of geeks in the early 2000s, I was completely enamored with a little show called Firefly. It didn’t last very long. (FOX canceled it after a few episodes.) But the DVD box set sold well, justifying the need for a movie outing to wrap up any loose plot threads. Serenity came out on the week of my birthday, and I chose to see it for my birthday party.

In short, it was amazing. Sure, it tanked at the box office, but I could think of no better send-off for that little ship that could. There was one unanswered question, though: What was the deal with Shepherd Book?

Throughout the show and movie, the mysterious preacher spoke cryptically about his past. A few moments occurred that revealed he had ties with the dreaded Alliance, but it was never established in what capacity. I had a guess, though.

The primary antagonist in the movie was a character simply known as The Operative. No name, no history – he was a ghost. And a monster. I theorized that Shepherd had been one as well.

The Plot:

Taking place during the time of the Alliance slaughter of Shepherd’s home colony of Haven, The Operative arrived to oversee the final culling. He witnessed a lone man with braided hair singlehandedly felling an Alliance troop deployer.

Shepherd and The Operative faced off. Both were evenly matched. As they parried attacks, they also parlayed words. It turned out that The Operative used to be Shepherd’s protégé. Eventually, The Operative succeeded in killing him…but with regret.

Why I Never Started It:

In 2010, Joss Whedon’s brother, Zack Whedon, and artist Chris Samnee penned a comic dubbed Serenity: A Shepherd’s Tale. It finally revealed Book’s true origins. Unfortunately, he wasn’t an Operative.

Besides…who am I to compete with a Whedon?

Bottom Line

As I write this, the deadline for Midian Unbound has already passed. I never even put fingers to keyboard. There was an idea kicking around about a night auditor who was really a member of the Breed. It involved a priest stuck on the crapper, a secret about the Knights Templar, and a Baphomet statue. But I never thought it was any good.

The Dark Crystal “author quest is still alive and well. They’re still accepting submissions until December. I have some semblance of an outline that is equal-parts Dark Crystal and The Seven Samurai. At one point, a McGuffin called a “Conjunction Cannon” shows up. I’m still not sure this novel is a good idea.

Perhaps it’s sheer laziness or stubbornness that are keeping me from playing in someone else’s sandbox. Or maybe I’m just second-guessing myself. Chances are, though – paid or not – a subconscious kernel in the back of my mind would be constantly berating me about writing fanfiction.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Monday, September 30th, 2013 Musings 2 Comments

Fixing Franchises

As a self-disrespecting geek, one thing above all things angers me to no end; that being the slow death of very good franchises. The most prominent example of this would be the Star Wars line. While most of us still have a soft (maybe, wet) spot for the original – and some lurking respect for the third prequel – we can all agree that George Lucas anally raped his own creation with an acid-lubed power drill. Being a writer, and/or someone involved in the filmic arts, some of us wince in even deeper agony.


One thought escapes us as we view the cinematic abortion through tear-stained spectacles, “I could’ve done better.”


While that may not be true in actuality, in our minds we believe a masterpiece could be crafted by our own hand.


I’m no different.


While I can’t think of any particular way to save the plummeting air-whale that is Star Wars, I do have suggestions for the creators of other ailing franchises, even those that have already concluded. I present to you three franchises I believe I could resuscitate given time, money, effort, and my own private harem.




The Matrix


It’s pretty clear to most of us that the Brothers Wachowski never intended The Matrix to be a trilogy. Or if they did, they compressed said trilogy into the first movie. The first installment is a testament to Campbellian hero-epic storytelling at its finest. Wrought with action, pathos, and philosophy, it stands as a near-perfect example of what the cyberpunk sub-genre could’ve offered if given room to breathe.


Unfortunately, they spawned two sequels that were pale crack-whores in comparison. Granted, the action scenes were good, there were some surprises, and seeing Agent Smith sneer again was indeed a treat. But they felt like useless appendages on an otherwise perfect form, like a penis on a parrot…or something.


I mean, the main character became a god. How do you follow that up?


Here’s how…


First off, Neo should no longer be the main character. He should be a peripheral one. Okay, that’s near impossible given the Power That Is Keanu, but from a storytelling angle, Neo’s role is finished. The more interesting aspect of the Matrix-verse wasn’t him anyway. It was the background characters. The little guys, the underdogs, the Tanks, the Trinities, the programs! Move the Minor Leaguers to the Majors!


The most fascinating new addition made to the Matrix sequels was the rogue element, the independent programs that escaped reboot; Merovingian, Persephone, the Twins, and all the others that the Oracle stated were the source of modern-day vampire myths et al. I believe as Harry Knowles (of Ain’t It Cool News fame) does, that this plot thread was under-utilized. Thankfully, I have a way it could’ve been.


Get this…


Humans weren’t happy with the machines, but – at the same time – nor were some machines!


Rogue programs, the Oracle, and others of their ilk were proof of this. If the odds seemed stacked against humankind, with Neo along or not, what else could be done? Der! Side with the rogue element! Sew the seeds of dissent from within! Machine Civil War!


Maybe it’s just me, but that would’ve been damn cool. Agents vs. vampires and werewolves. Merovingian lackeys going ape-shit on suits. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t have garnered a “Fuck yeah!” from the audience.


It would’ve put a new meaning to the term Matrix Revolutions.


Star Trek


Oh, what to say about this floundering beast. Nothing has captured the imagination of geeks worldwide more than the adventures of a two-prong-dish-spoon-shaped ship and its alien whore-hound of a captain. Kirk and Co. were the epitome of cool from the 1960s and on; killing off red-shirted underlings, fornicated with really foreign women, and shooting first before making inquiries. Pulp sci-fi at its best. Okay, sure, there were some “morals” and “messages” laced somewhere in the paper-machet planet backdrops, but who wants to hear about those anyway?


Nothing was wrong with it. Sure, it was cheap looking. Sometimes the acting was stilted, but it was fun to watch. The bread and butter of sci-fi – to me, anyway – is Fun.


Fast-forward to the 80s and 90s. Gene Roddenberry decided to give the ol’ bird a second lease on life – new crew, new captain, new cracker-jack adventures. As an audience, it took us three years to buy into the new wave of interstellar travelers, but we grew to like the second child. Something happened mid-stream, though.


Gene Roddenberry died.


The task of helming his original creation fell upon a mildly Satanic looking fellow by the name of Rick Berman. None of us suspected anything at first. It was like being married. We didn’t know our spouse was a raving psychopath in the beginning, but as the years went by they got more and more…contemptible.


There was a spin-off.


Then another.


Then another.


And so on…and so forth.


After awhile, the audience breathed an impatient sigh, followed by a collective, “We don’t love you anymore.”


Rick Berman may be gone from the franchise now, but his stale fart-stench still hangs in the air. The proposed reboot of the series, while in the hands of the mostly-competent J.J. “Lost” Abrams, still has the stink of sucktasticism. Hell, the new series will deal with time travel. Time travel! Like that hasn’t already been done!?! What could possibly alleviate this potential train-wreck?


My answer? Change the emphasis. 


Star Trek has always focused on one thing, humans in space. Humans being peace-mongers in space, more to the point. That doesn’t quite fly in this day and age. Maybe in the 60s, but it’s an outdated (and outmoded) brand of ideology now. The answer lies in the aliens. The other denizens that populate the Trek milieu. 


The answer is Klingons.


Specifically, not Klingons in space. Let’s look at this fictional race for a moment. What are they? Well, the best way to describe them to a Lay person would be…um…


German-spouting Mongols with Scottish dispositions.


Yeah, that about covers it.


The most interesting aspect of these bumpy-headed barbarians wasn’t their prowess with pistols, or their harrowing starship helming, rather their swords! We didn’t care much about their society, or honor-based rules, as much they instilled a reaction of “Dude! They have swords!” Geeks and sword fetishism go way back. If you don’t believe me, go to a Ren Fair. Seriously.


So, we’ve established that Klingons – from a geek perspective – are cool. Bar none. Swords are also, by proxy, cool. Spaceships, yeah, those are cool too, but not entirely necessary. The solution is obvious.


Medieval Klingons!


This is an aspect of the Trek mythos that hasn’t been fully explored. The legends of Klingon lore have been alluded to time and again, but we’ve never seen flashes of a sword-and-sorcery, blood-drenched, Conan-esque landscape. I want that!


Here’s how I would do it, and – yes – for you shoot-em-up sci-fi nuts there’d even be spaceships. One thousand years prior to the current Trek timeline, it was mentioned that the fledgling (and still planet-bound) Klingon Empire was invaded by an alien nemesis called the Hur’q (Klingon word meaning “Outsider”). It was also mentioned that the Klingons “killed their gods over a thousand years ago.” What if the Hur’q were their gods? And what if the Klingons rebelled against this alien occupying force?


There you have it. Instant movie! Happy geeks! Aaand it wouldn’t disrupt the continuity (or lack thereof) of the current installations.




This portion of the entry will be short because there really isn’t much to explain about this franchise. The plot is about as deep as used diaphragm. Here’s the basic rundown:


There are a bunch of dudes (and dudettes) that live forever. The only way they can be killed is if their heads are cut off. If an everlasting dude cuts off the head of another everlasting dude, then the cutter-dude has a Giant Electric Orgasm!


I’m…not…joking. That’s the plot.


You basically have a bunch of hack-happy immortal fuckers crossing the globe trying to poke holes in each other. Small confession? If cutting off some dude’s head could give me a Giant Electric Orgasm…I might be tempted to. Alright, alright, that’s not fair. It isn’t really a Giant Electric Orgasm. They call it a “quickening”, and it’s the life essence and experience of the immortal killed. Wait…that sounds exactly like a Giant Electric Orgasm! I take that back.


Wow, I totally digressed.


For the record, the first Highlander was a decent movie. Not earth-shattering but decent. For some ungodly reason, it spawned four sequels, two television series’, a cartoon show, and an anime. The question is…how?!? The story ended with the first movie! The Scottish guy (played by a French guy) killed the last immortal. He was it. He won the Giga-Uber-Giant Electric Orgasm. Wheeee! Go Scotty-Frenchy dude!


So, why did it spawn so many butt-babies?


Blame the French.


For some reason, the French thought it was a dandy concept, then some retarded monkey thought it an even dandier idea to resuscitate the comatose prostitute for another party. However, instead of logically retelling the story, he decided to pick up where the first movie left off. Forgetting the fact that the first movie finitely wrapped up the entire story! The sequel featured aliens! YAY! The McGuffin of all McGuffins!


As you can tell, that didn’t go over so well.


But wait! It gets better! They made a third movie that disregarded the second! All the while airing a television series that didn’t follow the sequels at all! The only aspect of canon that any of these mutants could agree on was that the first movie was their jumping point. Finally, the television series finally put itself to rest…only to be reanimated again as a fourth cinematic installment that – in true fuck-up fashion – disregarded all previous sequels, yet considered the television series as true canon.


Then there was the cartoon, the anime, the fifth (and bloody final) movie…yadda…yadda…yadda.


It’s a mess.


How could one possibly repair this monstrosity?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s much to repair. As mentioned prior, the first movie was “fair” at best. Damn enjoyable, but not a masterpiece by any stretch. The one rule o’ thumb that all the installments shared was that the first movie was The Grail. This would have to change to even consider continuing this bloated beast.


Start fresh.


One thing the installments tried to do at one point or another was draw upon actual historical (or mythical) events and bring them into the story’s fold. They warped it badly, but they were on the right track. The answer lies with mythology. Think on it a second, then hear me out.


All mythical traditions speak of people that live forever. The Chinese had the Taoist Immortals, Sumerians had Utnapishtim, Christianity had the Wandering Jew and the Centurion. How about, instead of inventing new immortals, deal with ones that have already been documented! They are far more fascinating than some blank-eyed Scotsman (played by a French guy) following a Spaniard (played by a Scotsman)!


And get rid of the Giant Electric Orgasm.


Unless you seriously mean to turn it into a porn, just don’t use it.


Hrm…no wonder the Frenchies liked it so much.


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Sunday, November 30th, 2008 Musings 2 Comments

I work for tea money.


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