Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

How NOT to take a story to the next level.

Oh man. Just finished watching a truly awful movie, Star Trek First Contact, about the frontier of space. The upside is, you can deduce from this movie how NOT to be creative. Here are my pointers.

1. Use a truly absurd time-travel device.

2. Use only tropes that are hackneyed at every point. Awards for most notable cliché is the Borg Queen as a glaze-eyed, campy version of the Mama Alien in Aliens. Her motives - like, she wants a boyfriend to co-rule humanity, are inelegantly trite and totally inadequate to the supposedly ancient and wise character she is said to be. But of course she acts like a teenage girl because this movie is truly stupid and she must fit in. Which is point three.

3. Don't do anything new. The 2061 S-Trek Earth is tragically dull. The only glimpse of reality we get is through the script thrice using the word 'factions'. Oops, there's rule four.

4. Ignore social, political, and moral reality. Instead, focus on image and superficial references to moral granduer from past seasons of the TV Show your story is based on. The brief reference to having no money in the 24th century from Captain Picard is not what he would be saying whilst defending a ship to the death, and does not constitute a reference to social reality because it is not a TELLING DETAIL, but rather a VAPID GENERALISATION.

As a consequence, the only serious sense of moral engagement is second-hand through the past associations to magnificent earlier achievements of Star Trek. Oh, and through characters raising their voices a bit. Truly a movie for die-hard fans alone, this is cheap trash which plays on the inspirational values of Star Trek for money.

5. Ignore and misuse cool ideas.

All the good ideas from earlier Star Trek stories are wasted here. The Doctor, a truly cool character, is wasted on an bad joke. The Holodeck, another cool idea, is wasted on wasting Borg; the only good aspect of the Holodeck scene is that it clumsily illustrates the Captain's desire for vengeance, but it follows the movie's pattern of evoking profound ideas (you can fabricate play-realities in the holodeck) in order to make a cheap shot, literally in this case, because Captain Picard guns the Borg down.

Another creative idea turned into an absurd point for the fans: if the Borg can tune out their phasers, why not use spears and bullets instead? Duh, because it might actually risk showing some originality to have tribal-style conflict on the Enterprise.

My conclusion: everyone in Star Trek has toilet paper permanently wedged deep in their anal crevices as far as I am concerned and it is not coming out soon. In other words, it might be actually sad and even bad if it were not already full of shit. Which is point number six:

6. If you're gonna do something mediocre do it sincerely and honestly.

The only good fresh bit was the five second vision of 24th century Earth turned into a Borg hive. That was cool and fresh. What to do next? The answer to that question would mostly likely have forced Star Trek to the next level. That is, the next level above “sellout”.

7. To summarise, in order to not take a work of art to the next level, you must ignore the really exciting leads off the beaten track, and not explore scenarios.

Here then are a few thoughts on taking a story to the next level:
1. Avoid time-travel or jumping about in time. Stay linear. Stories are best linear.
2. Avoid cliché and cleverness. Stay simple and fresh.
3. Deepen the moral drama and spirit of a story. Delve into your motives and intention more fully.
4. Catch cool ideas and use them more fully than your market could.
5. Do your best. Don't try to be better than you really are. Know how good you really are.
6. Explore radical trails of character and plot.

All pretty basic storytelling unless you're a Paramount executive or Jonathon Frakes.


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