I remember the days when I used to get excited from watching a sci fi fantasy trailer – the boom of an impossible explosion, the scatter of stones as an enormous spaceship lands, thousands of swords slashing in battle, that low-pitched blare as some monster rises from depts.
And when it’s finally released, as I sit to watch, all manner of cruddy snacks within reach and a sufficiently large sugary drink at my feet, I crave the next image that comes up on screen. How are the characters introduced? How does the story progress? What mysteries will unfold?
Becoming a sci fi fantasy writer has upended that entire thrill.
Movies Just Don’t Make Sense Anymore
My research has taken me through the three acts of stories, world building, character traits and believable actions. And because I’m always tuned for inspiration, I mull over every word, every scene, every event, unable to miss a second. Closed caption is always on whenever possible, and sometimes I rewind a scene three/four times, whether because it’s that amusing or riveting.
You can imagine this is timely, where some people binge an entire season in one night, it takes me weeks if I’m lucky.
As a result, most movies just don’t make sense anymore. Actions and situations suddenly happen for the sake of progressing the story, almost like calling a lightning attack in some childish pokemon battle. And the nonsense of it all has dulled my excitement of anything new.
I groan every time a sword slashes through a breastplate, killing men encased in armour as if they were only wearing cloth. Or when aliens capable of faster-than-light travel cross the vast distances of space to land on earth armed with machine guns.
I remember in Pacific Rim, a giant robot is getting thrashed by a monster when the pilot presses a form-sword button, leaving me thinking “Wait, he had that sword this entire time, after being forced to use an oil tanker as a make-shift club, after getting his ass kicked all the way into space, and only now decides to use it?”
Sometimes the entire movie could have been avoided, like in the Tomorrow War where soldiers are taken from the past to a desperate fight in the future, when they could have simply warned the past generations about the war and trained an entire world-wide army for the impending battle.
In the medieval-based Wheel of Time series, when a wandering bard known as a gleeman pulls out a guitar, I literally paused the show and Googled, “When were guitars invented?” 15th century Spain was the result, which would imply so much more about the world. They should have used a lute.
And what’s up with other medieval movies and gatling guns?
Also jarring was when I first saw a coloured elf in Netflix’s adaptation of the Witcher. Some fantasies establish races like night elves and wood elves having darker skin, but when this coloured, pointy-eared character first showed up among his pale-skinned peers, I started thinking about elves from Africa versus elves from Europe, wondering if there was discrimination or oppression involved.
Books haven’t escaped either. “Show don’t tell!” my story editor Jesse constantly scrawled all over my work, and I could just feel the rasp on a knuckle every time. “Active not passive!” and the disciplinary tap came again as he red-lined every “was” that ever existed. Meanwhile published writers are telling and was-ing all over the place.
Now when I read the great stories of other amazing authors like William King, Joe Abercrumbie, and Brandon Sanderson, I come across scenes where I think, “Damn, that was amazing, but it would have had even better impact if the sentence was reworded like this,” and I pretend it was written in my “better” way. Or in my mind I might delete an entire paragraph, thinking the writer should have shown the plan in action.
So What’s a Sci Fi Fantasy Writer to Do?
Put away the pencil (or close the laptop), acknowledging that I’m just being a jealous nitpicker, and take new movies, TV shows, and books for what they really are – entertainment.
I could only wish that I had a billion-dollar TV series deal, or even accumulated thousands of readers.
I have resolved to overlook the negative and absorb the inspiring stuff. Yes, Skyline was a terrible alien invasion movie, but the last 5 minutes were more interesting than half the alien invasion movies out there. I enjoyed Pacific Rim for the sole fact that it’s the only movie in decades to feature giant ass-kicking robots (no, the Transformers weren’t big enough).
You want coloured elves just to have an ethnically diverse cast? Sure, I’ll look at it with the acceptance of a 10-year-old. Guitars and gatling guns in medieval times? Certainly, bring it on. Promise I won’t think about it. Passive sentences everywhere, and telling that someone looked confused? I’m not judging. Your story is still awesome.
And I can only imagine when my book comes out how many people will comment it’s just terrible stuff haha.
Do you find yourself disappointed by new movies or novels, or is everything still amazing like when you were younger? Let me know in the comments.