Saturday, February 25, 2006

Podcast on Creativity, Writing and Science Fiction

Today we are talking with John Scalzi, author of a new science fiction book, The Ghost Brigades, and Tim Minear, Executive Producer and writer of such shows as Wonderfalls,Serenity, Angel and Firefly. Scalzi tells us how the internet has changed the way he works, writes and promotes his novels. Minear discusses his 13 hit wonders, his new projects and the aggression of girls (and talks about how violence can be a good thing!)

You can listen to the podcast here or subscribe via iTunes. You can also find a dialup version here, and there's an archive of our previous podcasts here.

As always, suggestions and comments are welcome.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting enough topic.

Of course, I'm eagerly awaiting the day you get Manolo the Shoeblogger on your show. I have so many questions.

--Arthur R.

5:49 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I am an ubernerd and enjoyed the podcast. Of course.

But Dr. Helen, you MUST read Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS (I have read that Minear is doing a screenplay of the old novel).

It is superlibertarian. Your kind of fiction, despite the Burgessian style language.

6:03 PM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Rick Lee said...

I haven't listened to the podcast yet. I got the DVD of Wonderfalls after Glenn talked about it and it was delightful.

6:49 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm downloading the mp3 now. When I read the description to my brothers there were exclamations of joy (especially over the screenplay of Heinlein's story).
We are looking forward to it.

Thank your for your effort Helen and Glenn


8:17 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen--This is the first podcast I've ever listened to. I'm still in the middle of it and it is very interesting.

I think you sound a lot like Roz from Frasier!

9:03 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen -- jeebus I hope Minear is allowed nowhere NEAR anything Heinlein did.

Minear and Whedon wanted a storyline on Firefly where one of the crew members was beaten and gang-raped; and Captain Mal was a raging a-hole about it.

Leaving aside THAT little gem of creative idiocy "Moon" is IMHO unfilmable. It works as a novel, it would not as a film. Too much of it is inner dialogue and voice overs just kill the action on screen.

Besides the worst thing about Minear and internet fandom is that the pressures creatively are to pander to the true-believers and a Jonestown dynamic. Everyone ends up drinking the Kool-Aide and what you get is ... stuff like Serenity (a bad rip-off of Chronicles of Riddick). Tim isn't a bad guy, but you can see how and why Wonderfalls failed (a derivative and even more twee version of Amelie, with an unlikeable heroine), or Firefly, or Serenity. Everyone worried about pleasing the hard core fans and no one worried about finding new ones.

That's the curse of the internet.

The very BEST sci-fi has a pulp not cult flavor and aims at a broader audience or readership. Moon has lasted as long as it has (the way Jules Verne novels still work) because Heinlein didn't worry about pleasing hard core fans but himself.

10:55 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks, Dr. Helen (and Glenn). This was the first podcast I've ever heard, and it was informative and entertaining. It sounded professional and was much better than most of the stuff I hear on talk radio or NPR.

I'd vote for theme music that's a BIT less idiosyncratic -- but it's YOUR show/podcast. (Give a listen to the fourth movement of Borodin's Second Symphony, for example.)

As an FYI, I first became aware of the work of Scalzi and Minear ("Firefly") through your InstaHubby's website, and I became big fans of both. I'm halfway through "The Ghost Brigades" and really should be reading that instead of being on the Net, but I wanted to offer my thanks for your podcast. (I subscribed to your 'casts at iTunes.)

11:15 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Addendum -- Tim's "Strong Female Characters?" Don't exist. Buffy? Raped by her boyfriend Spike and fell in love with him afterwards. Angel's female characters? Please. Evil and manipulative or crazy weird. Firefly? A prostitute, or mechanic (who also faced a rape threat on the show btw) or emotionless, psycho River.

Most of the "strong female characters" tend to embody the male nerd fantasies of women dropping these boring obsessions about relationships, fashion, family etc. and focus on cool guy stuff like blowing things up, guns, and kicking ass.

And yes, Lois and Clark was spectacularly bad. Two words: Frog Clone.

What makes a good series? Likeable characters, not the premise. CSI without the strong and likable lead characters wouldn't have lasted 3 episodes. It's ALWAYS the characters, not the premise or canvas.

Anyway, always interesting Dr. Helen.

11:29 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. Dr. Helen, maybe you are right about science fiction. Harlan Ellison used to get so annoyed with fans who believed that they knew better than the authors what was going on in a novel...well, he started calling the genre "skiffy" to make fun of it.

And before anyone corrects me on that, this is what Ellison told me himself about the subject.

The funny thing about SF fandom is how certain the fans are about the fiction. Here we have readers who reject a writer because of an unpleasant rape scene that never actually appeared in the movie or series version of FIREFLY. Heinlein did the whole "shocking rape scene" in his novel FRIDAY. Some fans are convinced that Heinlein was forever "evil" to them because of that, despite what Heinlein was actually exploring in that scene: what it is to be human or nonhuman.

I just bring that up as an example of how superheated people get about fiction. You can pick any number of topics and get the same kind of response.

If you ever want to start a giant nerd fight in an SF convention bar, just walk in and say casually: "Hey, I liked the movie version of STARSHIP TROOPERS."

I guess what I am trying to say is that readers like what they like, and don't like what they don't like. It is not possible to write fiction that pleases everyone. So the writer just does her or his best to please themselves..but still try to find some niche market.

Me, I like Joss Whedon's work. Sure, it gets old and weird when a series goes on for many, many years. But you know what? In series television, that kind of problem---being on the air so long that the good plots are all used up---is a GOOD problem to have!

2:39 AM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minear and Whedon wanted a storyline on Firefly where one of the crew members was beaten and gang-raped;


and Captain Mal was a raging a-hole about it.



Tim did not write for Buffy.

A prostitute, or mechanic (who also faced a rape threat on the show btw) or emotionless, psycho River.


What's wrong with mechanics? Is there something inherently weak about a female mechanic? What?

Does the threat of rape make women not strong? Again, what?

2:42 AM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great! The influence of movies on current culture can't be overestimated.

One can not understand current German pacifism without seeing the Gunner Asch movies (Hans Helmut Kirst) also called "08/15" named after the notoriously problem prone Maxim Machinegun. Deadly, but also hopelessly screwed up, a metaphor for the WWII German war effort.

12:02 PM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to hear an interview with Vernor Vinge. You mentioned that you were reading "Rainbows End" but didn't complete a review. I have read the novella at the end Vinge's "Collected Works" and the short story he publish a couple of years ago in IEEE Spectrum which, I believe, both take place in the world of "Rainbows End".

I have heard him interviewed before on NPR but the interviewer was clueless. As a matter of fact, it strikes me that having both Vinge and Ray Kurzweil playing off one another the way that James Dunnigan and Austin Bay do would be very entertaining. Not to mention, it would just be a killer podcast.

In any event, thanks for the podcasts. They have been very good so far.

8:26 PM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

anonymous 8:26:

Thanks for the great suggestion--Glenn had Vinge in mind already--we will see what we can do.

9:02 PM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Of course some of my favorite writers, when I could read more than a few paragraphs, were long and varied. Fred Saberhagen is a personable gentleman who has numerous stories about his life, fandom and his concepts behind his books. Listening to him talk about the conception he has of vampires for *his* Dracula books was fascinating. And then a year or two later, the stories he had of robots seeking revenge on him for the Berserker stories was side-splittingly funny. (and amazingly *none* of his works have been optioned off for movies!)

Jerry Pournelle is likewise very genial and has stories all over his site at which cross all over politics, science fiction, fantasy, computers and just about everything else.

David Drake is, perhaps, the best writer of military SF today (in my opinion only, and it has been nearly two years since I have ready any novel) and a complex and intriguing fantasy world.

Eric Flint is one of the foremost authors of alternative history and his entire open source collabarative 1632 series is not only a great set of reads, but has expert input on *every* aspect of life then from any that are willing to help at the bar in Baen books. He is the one tracking how *free* distribution of works is *increasing* book sales.

After that a plethora... Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Robert Lynn Aspirin (why do funny series turn serious so quickly?), Neil Gaiman...

I mourn the loss of Gordon R. Dickson and Hal Clement in recent years. Mr. Clement was a *staple* at conventions always peering out and over with a camera slung around his neck, just wandering around like any fan... and he was anything *but* that.

Energy and attention wane and I ramble... excuse me...

Thank you and your husband for your fine work!

3:10 PM, March 02, 2006  
Blogger Misque Writer said...

I'm a big fan of both Firefly and Scalzi. Thanks for this!

Misque Writer

7:05 PM, February 15, 2008  
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