Mini-Review: Dark Matter, Season 3 (No Spoilers)

Without realizing it, I finished Dark Matter (DM) Season 3 (S3) last night, and overall, I liked it.  In my mind, it was a little more uneven than the previous two seasons were, but I think it is because they are trying to set-up multiple story threads to touch on in upcoming seasons (if the show has been renew–need to check as I haven’t looked to see if Syfy has renewed it yet).  Otherwise, the season had some ups and downs–more so than in the previous two seasons.

Permadeath & Exit Stage Right
They used death in S3 much as they had done in S2 to emphasize the (I guess) the capriciousness of the universe and to illustrate that they universe that the characters inhabit is a dangerous place.  The problem is, they used the deaths throughout the series, rather than at the traditional places where one might expect it, in order (again, guessing here) to keep viewers on there toes and to emphasize that no character is safe in this narrative.  However, they also had a fairly robust cast of “side characters” who existed in the world for a few episodes (or played a major part), who often left the ship for whatever reason, while others (new ones) would come on-board.  So this gave the episodes a less stable feel and very few characters on the ship were actually stable.  This contributed very much to the uneven feel of the episodes.

No Single Narrative Thread
There were many different plot lines running through DM: S3.  One such plot line (an important one that I won’t spoil) literally got introduced two episodes before the finale.  I think it (and another related “prophecy” plot line) should have placed earlier in the season, perhaps even in the first or second episode, and I think that would have gone a long way to giving the show a consistent plot “through line” to build on throughout the season.  As it was, there were many different elements going on–from double and triple crosses, to colonists rights vs corporate rights, to the idea of a good ruler vs a bad ruler, to searching for vengeance, to surviving, and et. cetera, that it all just came off just a bit jumbled.  A good kind of jumbled (for me, at least, as I love it when plots get convoluted), but still jumbled when compared to something that has a full season long arc that all the episodes have been building to (say, the final season of Star Trek Enterprise or Deep Space Nine).

Humor and Characters
One of the things that I really like about the show is that while DM can be a “dark” show (i.e., perma-death and all that), it isn’t all about blah, blah, world is such a bad place, blah, blah, blah, “Red Wedding,” blah, blah, blah, “hate all my characters, let me kill them all of in horrible ways,” blah, blah, blah.  (Yes, I know that this is a very unsubtle dig at Game of Thrones, but I’ll take any shot I can to restore a more “balanced” view of Fantasy that is more in line with tradition High Fantasy a la Tolkien, than the dreary, grim dark muck that we mostly have right now, even if that includes cheap shots).  DM allows its characters, particularly the character of the Android, but other characters as well, to inhabit an almost comedic space that one might find in a sitcom, rather than a drama.  Make no mistake, this is a sci-fi action show with the requisite space battles, warping, light speed, AI vs human conflict, etc., show that you might expect, but there are some truly hilarious moments that all characters get to participate in.  However, the Android gets to have some of the funniest lines, reminiscent of Data from Star Trek The Next Generation.  The actor’s deadpan delivery makes some of the lines truly laugh out loud funny.

Overall Rating: B (Above Average): Okay, so I was going to give it a B-, but then I got to thinking about all the fun that I had with the characters, especially the Android and I raised the grade slightly.  All it needs is a single through line for the season and less of a “revolving door” secondary character policy–let them stay on for an entire season.

Edit: Just discovered that Syfy has cancelled Dark Matter.  There will be no Season 4.  To be honest, I’m not really surprised, although it has more to do with Syfy than it does with DM.  To me, Syfy is just the television equivalent of EA at this point, with executives who care more about their investors and share prices that their audience.  I learned this the hard way when Syfy cancelled Star Gate: Universe just as it was finding its footing.  It put on the show Alphas as a replacement (only to cancel it after just two seasons).  Too bad, I really liked DM and thought it had room really grow.  I should let anyone know who might be interested in starting it though (a potential minor spoiler, but I don’t really guess it matters now): S3 ends on a cliffhanger (that is now likely to go unresolved).  Just thought you should know.

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Unplanned Project=Project Skies

So, I tried really hard really hard to write a Character Sketch for Skye that I could be really proud of, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t figure out a way to encompass all facets of her character–feelings, physical description, likes and dislikes.  I finally resorted to something that I know and am familiar with (even though it earns me little to no money): a short story.  Yep, I’m writing a short story in the world of Project Skye with Skye as the protagonist in order to nail down her character–how she looks, how she acts, how she responds under pressure.  I do intend to market the story, but even if nothing comes of it, I’m hopeful that it won’t be for naught.  The goal is to take what I’ve learned int the story and transfer it a novel length work–hopefully, the character work that I do with the story will translate into a deeper understanding of her character so that I can work with her on a longer, more intensive work.

Jonny Quest “movie idea” as Inspiration
A white back–late 90s, early 2000s–the character of Jonny Quest became hot again.  He was a character created in the 1960s, who along with other Hanna Barbera, had a resurgence of popularity in the early/mid 80s and again in the mid/late 90s.  A live action movie was mentioned in the trades (my library used to have a subscription to Variety, a movie trade magazine & remember seeing mention of in there, if memory serves), but it never came to pass.  I remember thinking how cool it would be to write the movie adaptation of it, and as I’ve seen all the episodes, for both the original and the subsequent sequel series, I set about developing a “plot line” for the “movie.”  I really liked the original title sequence and wanted to update that for my JQ “movie,” so I developed this elaborate flight intro sequence around Air Racing (yes, alert readers can see where I’m going with this).  Well, the movie never happened, Hollywood (for now) has lost interest in most Hana Barbera projects (the two live action Scooby Doo movies are probably the best known movies that came from that collaboration) and even if it had, as an unknown writer with no written or produced feature length scripts, Hollywood wouldn’t have been beating down MY door for the idea anyway.  I never used that flight sequence or even wrote it down–it has existed in brain all these years.

Fly Free
Lester day I realized that I would never be able to write a traditional character sketch for Skye–that I was just beating my head against the wall.  Instead, I turned my attention to what would happen if I put her in a stressful situation–maybe not the one I’d been working on for the novel, but another one.  In fact, what would happen if I put Skye, instead of Jonny Quest, into the scenario I’d devised all those years ago for the “movie.”  Well, I tried it and . . . it worked!  I’ll have to check with my Writing Consultant, but Skye seems now like a living breathing person, a fully round three dimensional character who has wants, drives, needs, and feelings.  She emotes, she feels, she does everything a good protagonist should do.  Again, maybe I’m too close, but not only did I finish the first major “plot element” before I stopped writing, I was also able to outline all of the rest of the plot elements out to the “climax” of the story, which I left intentionally vague for myself (I have a feeling based on her character what’s going to happen, but I want the ending to feel “organic” and not overly plotted).

Still Committed to Project Star
Yes, I will be working on Project Star as well (where, o where will I find the time?), but I simply HAD to stop and draft Project Skies.  It was necessary (IMO) to understand Skye’s character and without it, I don’t think that the novel would ever get off the ground.

Finished a Story: All Tomorrow’s Children

So, last night I finished the rough (very rough) version of my Working Draft of a new story that I’ve been working on.  I’ve referred to it in previous posts as Project Children.  It’s full title is All Tomorrow’s Children.  It is a Science Fiction story and it is in the “punk” genre.  In today’s parlance, many non-traditional sci-fi stories that are set in the current to near future and have a speculative element to them are labelled with some sort of label describing the setting and then “punk” added to it.  Gothic turn of the century technology = “Steampunk,” while a dystopian world set in an icy/cold environment = “Frostpunk.”  True story, as I’ve seen things as exotic as Magepunk.

All Tomorrow’s Children falls into the category of “Mindpunk.”  I’m not sure that there’s even a current “punk” associated with the mind, but “Psiberpunk” sounds too much like “cyberpunk” (the original “punk” genre) and too pretentious (for me) even though the story deals with Psionics and mind-powers.  I think “Mindpunk” best describes the story and is how I intend to market it: Sci-Fi Mindpunk story set in the near future.  While it is a different world (in my mind) than that of Skin Deep, it shares some of the same themes and deals with a story about those who have “mind powers” and those who don’t.

I don’t have time to do a full Author’s Note for the story, but I will definitely do one for it when I think I have the story fully revised and edited and I begin to submit it to publishers.  Right now, I’m just trying to bask in the satisfaction of having finished a (short) story after a long time, probably not since Silence Will Fall.  Now if I could just get the Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) and Project Skye stories off the ground, I’d be a really happy writer dude–but for now, I’ll guess I’ll stick with plain old happy writer dude!

Fae going on sale today!

Also, I just discovered over the weekend that FAE (the anthology where my story “Faerie Knight” was published) is going on sale today (11/13/17) at BookBub.com.  The email I received said it would be on sale on Monday, but I don’t know how long the sale will last, so if you’re at all curious about my story (and the story of other fine writers), you might want to head over and check it.

Writing a Scene

So last week I began to create a tentative “Bible” for the world of the novel.  It wasn’t much, I just put down on paper some of the ideas floating in my head and fairly hastily sketched out the ideas for the world that I needed to know such as the history, important people, and the important institutions of the world.  Again, nothing major, but all of it is helping me to refine my process of thinking about the larger world and Skye’s relationship within it.

This week, while I finally have decided on how Skye should look, I still don’t have a clear handle on her personality, so the consultant and I decided I should write a scene with her in it.  I know next week is going to be hectic for me so I actually wrote out the scene write after I the session.  I’m not sure that it accomplishes my goal.  It is an action scene, so it has Skye doing a lot of things and being clever, but she doesn’t really say a whole lot, nor does she really emote.

I think I’m going to have to try to find time to write a non-action scene that is heavy with dialogue as well to see what that looks like.  I can’t seem to find the emotional resonance with her character.  I’ll see what the response is next week, but I think the action scene doesn’t show enough of Skye’s emotions or feelings to really give an indication of who she is and how she acts in real life.  I really need to know more about her personality and what makes her tick in order to do this story correctly.

EDIT: While search for a heading image for this blog post, I came across this interesting Infographic about 5 ways to write a scene.  Considering that Infographics was one of the “genres” that I taught this semester, I thought it only appropriate to include one in my blog post–also, since I’m still having issues, maybe if I try writing a scene in each of the 5 “ways” that the graphic suggests, maybe by the end of the process, I’ll have a better understanding of Skye’s personality and who she is as character and person.

Building the “Bible”

So this is the post that I’d intended to write yesterday about the progress on my novel based on my time in the Writing Center.  This will be a shorter post, but hopefully informative.  Basically, we dived a little more into the character of Skye and I discovered that I don’t really write “deep” character sketches.  I write them on a surface level, so over the weekend, I plan to revise the character sketch and add in more details if possible about Skye and her personality.  I also hadn’t settled on physical characteristics for Skye yet, but I think that I have now, so I’ll add those in as well.

My consultant wanted to know more about the world and how the “rules” of the world operated.  I told her about some things, but she suggested that I, like Tolkien, commit them to paper instead of trying to hold them all in my mind’s eye.  I told her that I’d tried to do that earlier in my career.  There’s a term that series TV uses for it: “The Bible” for that series.  Most Television shows (& some movies and graphic novels–probably even some novels) have “Bible.”  I know that Babylon 5 had one as I heard about it through a history site of the show.  Apparently, the B5 used to sell copies of the show’s “Bible” during its run, but now that the show (& I’d assume the fan site) is no longer active, it is unavailable.  I even went to eBay to see if someone might be selling a copy that I could purchase just to see how it was put together (no luck though–at least as of a year or two ago when I last looked).

My consultant decided that I should go ahead and try to create at least a nascent “Bible” of the world, the politics, the history, etc., just to get all of my ideas out of my head and on to paper.  Even if I never use them in the story, at least I would have them down and “codified” on paper in a tangible way so that I could refer back to them as necessary and so the consultant might be able to read them and understand both the backstory and the motivations behind the various people, institutions, and world that I had created.  So that’s my homework for this week: to create a nascent “Bible” that begins to explain/explore some of the concepts that I’ve created for my world.

Finally, we talked a little bit about how the story (plot) is developing.  It is Science Fiction, but as the protagonist is young, we talked about how it could be a Young Adult story (or perhaps marketed as Young Adult).  We talked about some of the possible advantages and pitfalls of the YA market at the moment, and discussed some of its conventions.  We decided to wait and see how the story evolved organically before deciding where and how the story could be marketed, but even at this early stage we are looking at the audience for this story and trying to decide which audience is most appropriate for it.

Anyway, that’s it for this week.  So sorry for yesterday’s diversion, but when life throws a curveball, I fell compelled to play the umpire and call it as I see it.  Not sorry for the baseball reference, however, as the World Series has just wrapped up–wish I could have seen more it, but maybe next year.

Finished Star Trek Deep Space Nine

So, last week I wrapped up the seven seasons of Star Trek Deep Space Nine in my continuing goal to watch all of the Star Trek series.  I suspect that much like Disney movies, Paramount (the owners of the Star Trek brand) will probably want to move their shows over to their fledgling streaming service CBS AllAccess when their deal with Netflix is up (no concrete info on that, but it does seem reasonable given their desire to withhold their newest show Star Trek Discovery “hostage” in order to get CBS AllAccess into more homes–and to dig deeper into their audience’s wallets.)

Sorry, I digress.  Corporate shenanigans really make me a little irritable.  Back to the issue at hand: Deep Space Nine.  As a Star Trek show goes, I really liked it.  I thought that it was pretty intriguing.  One might think that being stuck on a space station would limit the writers’ toolkit for creating meaningful stories, but that wasn’t the case.  Mainly, the writers are able to create tension by using a “war” motif for most of the run of the series.  Either we are recovering from a disastrous occupation by the Cardassians in the early seasons or we are engaged in a war with the Dominion in the later seasons.  Either way, war and its after affects plays prominently as a key component of the show.

The characters are engaging.  I actually enjoyed, on the whole, most of the cast.  I thought they were an interesting and varied bunch.  I wasn’t a fan of the Doctor’s portrayal in the last season–as I feel his relationship was rushed and forced in order to give his character a happy outcome at the end of the series, but before that, his character worked just fine for me.  I also felt that Cisco’s character was pretty intriguing.  Now Cisco gets a lot of heat because Avery Brooks changed Cisco’s demeanor mid-way through the series to better reflect another character Avery Brooks played, Hawk from Spencer for Hire.  I actually didn’t mind as I had watched and enjoyed this series with my uncle (and the spinoff series, A Man Called Hawk), but as it is a strong portrayal of an African American man who moves from more of a mild and understated command to a more forceful and brash command style, I know that Avery’s change in performance likely rubbed some fans the wrong way–especially after the “diplomatic” portrayal of Jean Luc Picard by Patrick Stewart.  I found it refreshing, actually (and familiar–remember I watched Avery Brooks in the Hawk role growing up).  There are also some pretty insightful nods to race, race relations, and racism in the stories told here, both interspecies racism and racism based on skin color (via Time Travel and Time Travel-like stories) in this series.

The plots were mostly good.  Like other Star Trek series there are some really good episodes along with some really bad ones.  On the whole, the stories were mostly good and I found I fast-forwarded through about the same amount as had for Star Trek Voyager.  I did notice that this show seemed a lot more grim than other Star Trek shows.  Death is very common among many of the minor characters and not just “red shirts” even.  These are characters who might have a few episodes or even a full season’s worth of character development, but they still are killed in fairly grim ways.  If you’re expecting Gene Roddenberry’s original, more hopeful view of the Star Trek universe, you might not want to stop here first.  However, even with the grimness, Deep Space Nine is a destination one should visit at least once–and who knows, you might even find a nice home somewhere on the Station’s promenade.

Series Grade: B (Above Average)

I am Yeva (Short Story Protagonist)

if-life-gives-you-lemons_wearethecitydotcom

So I started a new science-fiction short-story yesterday.  The protagonist of the story is Yeva.  She is a Psionic (a person able to use the power of her mind to do wonderful or horrible things).  Think of the character Carrie from Stephen King’s work and you’ll have a rough idea of the what the character might be able to do.

I wrote a rough outline of the story yesterday.  Yeva lives in a rough world and has gone through a lot.  Just like I have this summer.  I decided to take all of the frustration and anger that I had because of this summer and put it into a character.  Yeva was supposed to be that character, but she surprised me.  Yeva hurts and she is angry, but she is not full of rage.  That honor goes to her sister.  Yeva can see that her sister is on the path to self-destruction, but Yeva doesn’t want her sister to go there.

Will Yeva succeed in saving her sister and herself?  I’ll have to write the story to see (& you’ll have to read it to find out).  If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  If life screws you out of a restful and restorative summer, turn it into a story.