Dark Tower Redux

 

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You know, I’m almost sorry that I posted that I was conflicted about the failure of the Dark Tower movie to connect with fans.  I mean, this very blog takes its name from a line that Jake speaks in the first book (paraphrasing): “Go then, Gunslinger.  There are Other Worlds Beside this one).  My point being simply that Stephen King DID NOT invent the Dark Tower or the mythos that has grown up around it.  His story is but ONE of MANY out there–yes, it is the most popular, but it is NOT the only story that has been told or will be told about the Dark Tower.  He doesn’t own the Tower anymore than J.K. Rowling owns “Magic.”

However, some really ugly arguments and memes have sprung up around the failure of the movie and just want to take a moment to address some of the most problematic ones.

SCRIPT
So this is where most of the critics and fans have expressed most of their disappointment.  The movie is only approx. 90 minutes long, but tries to infuse 7-8 books worth of material (from my understanding–haven’t seen the movie yet) into this (very) short time-frame.  However, the element that really concerns is the fact the movie writers are essentially “work-for-hire” contractors and considered the lowest on the totem pole for the creative endeavor of the movie.  This is where the problem lies–a movie is a creative endeavor, true, and you need all parts to work, but the script (the story) is the most important part.  Without a solid script, even the best actors and directors are going to struggle.  Yet, writers of screenplays get no version of royalties if the movie does really well nor is their input sought (usually) for rewrites as in many cases they are replaced with other writers and movies become written essentially by committee.  Another thing that hurts writers is the fact that it is a closed system that privileges only a few.  Even in today’s internet connected world, you still have to move to Hollywood if you really want a serious chance at writing a screenplay–how is this even still a requirement in 2017?  If there’s an awesome screenwriter in Wisconsin, the internet is MORE than robust enough to allow that writer to write wherever works for them.

IDRIS ELBA AS ROLAND
This one is the most troubling.  Yes, King based Roland on the “gunslinger” archetype made popular by actors like Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner.  However, nothing precludes Roland from being portrayed by an actor of another race, even though King’s description may have indicated/favored another race.  There is a tendency on the Internet today to label a person, or group just to be able to belittle said person or group.  Everyone wants a winner, or wants to be associated with a winner.  However, in a capitalistic structure such as the American movie industry there HAVE be winners and losers–there’s no way around it.  You can do things to help swing the pendulum in either direction, but there are no guarantees in a creative endeavor.  If it doesn’t “win,” then there’s this need to find a scapegoat and the Internet is currently on this kick where a diverse person/group gets the blame irregardless of whether or not its fair (I direct your attention to the 2016 Ghostbusters movie as prime example of this).

SONY
Speaking of Sony, I should probably note that Sony also has taken blame in this from many circles.  Sony, as a huge faceless conglomerate, tends to get a lot of blame for things that are beyond their control.  We (probably wrongly) think of the director as the most important component of a movie (I would argue it is probably an equal weight between writer, director, and movie talent), but I haven’t seen or heard anyone criticizing the director, but the studio.

We all hope for our favorite properties to “hit it out of the park” (a la The Lord of the Rings), but at the end of the day–is it the studio that failed to deliever on the story you wanted or was it the script?  Which of the two is more intricately tied to “story” and “story” formation, ideation, and creation?  For me, opening up the system and allowing it to be based on merit (good writers) and not location (living in Hollywood) or more importantly, networking (good a “pitching” a story instead of good at “writing” the story) would be a far more equitable system that might result in a rise in quality in the stories being told, and as a result, increased satisfaction from fans who just want their stories “done right.”

 

 

When the Writing Life gives you Lemons, make Lemonade.

So, the reviews are in – Faerie Knight has been reviewed in Tangent, an online publication devoted to reviewing short fiction when they reviewed the anthology Fae (edited by Rhonda Parrish).

So, these are my first reviews (professional) and suffice to say, while they are not bad (on the whole), they do offer criticism, both deserved and (in the mind of a writer) probably some that’s a little . . . well . . . nit-picky.  If you want to read the whole review for Fae, you can find it at Tangent Online, but I’m only going to talk about the reviews for my story, “Faerie Knight.”

John Sulyok had this to say:

“Faerie Knight” by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Though Thomas Theron was blind, he never let that hinder him from knowing when one of his student’s was misbehaving. He’d honed his other senses over the years and has become quite adept at understanding his surroundings. And that makes him a particularly good Knight of the Fae. Once a year, on Halloween, he accepts his Queen’s boon—the gift of sight—so that he may watch over the little trick-or-treaters, protecting them from the Unseelie Court that tries to swap human children with changelings. Thomas, old now with aching joints, must use all his senses, including his sense of duty, to fight the evil on this night.“Faerie Knight” cuts to the chase, almost literally. There’s very little set up, so it feels almost like the entire story is a third act. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s exciting, but the story also wouldn’t have hurt from more. Thomas and his history with the Seelie Court fighting the Unseelie court begs for more screen time. But it hits the spot if you just want a little action.

C. D. Lewis remarked on the story in this way:

Sidney Baylock, Jr. sets “Faerie Knight” in a world of good faeries and evil faeries, where the dark and the light are clear and the reader easily believes the depicted wrongs that need righting. The protagonist, a blind schoolteacher when not serving his Queen, thrills to do her bidding but worries advancing age and physical decrepitude have dulled his edge. “Faerie Knight” begins as the ageing servant undertakes One Last Ride. And the evil he’s asked to fight? It’s bad Fae, and they’re not just stealing children, they’re turning them bad. Once in a fight, the old Knight seems for the first time to rely on his hearing to do for his Queen what he does for himself the rest of the year, and soon his Halloween performance begins to look like Rutger Hauer’s in Blind Fury. His weird Fae weapon seems crafted for style over function: it’ll cut anything, perhaps, but apparently only if hit by both blades on opposite ends of the handle. On the upside, it’s a safety blade: it won’t easily injure bystanders accidentally. Since the protagonist takes care to keep fights outside the crowded high school Halloween party, though, we don’t see that feature in action. What we do see is an action hero who displays a pleasant degree of thoughtfulness, who carefully avoids provoking unnecessary conflicts, and whose sense of duty ultimately convinces him to keep up the fight as long as the kids need him. Bad knees, or no.

So, there are elements in both reviews that I love and that I . . . don’t love.  But this is NOT a gripe post.  I’ve highlighted the parts of the reviews that really stood out and made me think.  I’ve been wanting to write graphic novels and add that in as sort of a triumvirate of media to work in (short stories, novels, and graphic novels) as I try to discover how to become a professional writer.  What I took from these reviews is that:

  1. I’ve already done the hard work in creating the character (the “Who Am I?”) and found a compelling story.
  2. I now have a character that I can build more stories for and can give my characters (as John Sulyok says), “more screen time.”
  3. Work Smarter, Not Harder: if I’ve done a story that is good enough to be published, then there is something in there that is special and I need to focus on it.  If I’ve written the story as a short-story, that doesn’t preclude the story being expanded, added to, adapted, and enhanced to bring it to another medium.

To that end, I’ve decided that all my short-story projects that I get published, would probably make good Graphic Novels as well.  The first chapter of the story has already been written.  I can use that as a “stepping stone” to add on and create a story that furthers the character and gives him/her “more time on the stage.”

I’ve also realized that plans are great until they get in the way of execution.  The past 3 or 4 blog posts have been about plans and changes and introspection and reflection, but haven’t really been about execution.  Since I’m no artist, I’ve joined and created a profile on DeviantART, a well-known and established website for artists.  I’ve investigated some artists whose style I like and I’ve favorited them and set my profile to follow.  I will be asking them what their rates are for creating artwork for characters as I want to see how they interpret my main character for “Faerie Knight.”  I’ve also started writing/adapting the published story for “Faerie Knight” into Chapter 1 of the “Faerie Knight” Graphic Novel.

Look for updates on this new project in 2015!  Oh, and if anyone knows of any good publishers for fantasy graphic novels that I should keep an eye on, please leave them in the comments.  Thanks!