Monday, January 07, 2008

Plenty of Ideas For the Taking

So first Mark Harris writes "Is Sci-Fi Out of Ideas?" on EW.com, using the occasion of I Am Legend and its proposed sequel to lambest Hollywood for all the remakes. He writes, "It's one thing to revere and refresh a genre's history; it's another to live obsessively in the past, especially if science fiction's whole purpose is to extrapolate elements from today's world to create a future we've never imagined. When it comes to spaceships, giant monsters from afar, cloning, and robots, we've now been there, done that, remade it, added new CGI, seen the director's cut, played the videogame, read the fan fiction, and bought the collectibles. Where do we go from here? The answer always seems to be that we jump backwards, into the same old Cold War/Apollo-mission-era tropes."

I agree whole-heartedly with his diagnosis of the problem. I'm not 100% in agreement with his solution: "Perhaps science fiction needs to be saved from the very people who love it the most. Nostalgia for a form can be annihilating to creativity, so while its devotees are swamped in their own canon, trying to mine now-sacred texts for any new material, I wish a great writer or director with no particular affection for the genre would let his imagination loose and see what it yields...Ideally, sci-fi's next rescuer should be someone whose ideas about the future derive from somewhere — anywhere — other than old sci-fi. ... Sci-fi desperately needs filmmakers who are interested in bending the form toward their own passions and obsessions as artists. 2001 has come and gone, and right now the future looks too much like something we've already seen."

It's not that I disagree with this. It's that I think there's another part of the solution. Fortunately, Marc Bernardin pops up on EW's Popwatch Blog with "An Open Letter to the Sci-Fi Channel," in which he charges, "Why aren't you engaging today's premiere purveyors of genre material and giving them ten episodes to do whatever the hell they want? I'd watch contained, BBC-style series from folks like Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charlie Huston, Neal Stephenson, or China Mieville. The names alone would attract viewers by the truckload. And even if what they produced were failures, they'd be interesting failures—marked by reaching too far, instead of not far enough."

I hope someone is listening. Since this is on EW, I think there is a good chance someone is.