This follow-up post is part review of Avatar, and part continued discussion of my story, A Far Sun. (Hey, it's my story; I'll talk about it if I want.)
I've read a few reviews/commentaries on James Cameron's newest movie blockbuster, Avatar. Some guy on Reddit posted "$300 million, and all we get are Native American space elves?" I responded sarcastically, something to the effect that I was sure he's done much better. He seemed to feel that for the money a better story could have been written, but one tends to forget that putting butts in seats is the primary objective of any movie--i.e., it's entertainment--so we will just have to forgive Mr. Cameron that he made his native people so ... human.
There will be no spoilers in my review, so don't worry. I really enjoyed the movie, and I highly recommend it. Visually it's stunning, and (almost) worth the ticket price on that basis alone. I suppose 3D is an added bonus. (There is one point where you'll be swatting insects--it's a real immersion moment.) Visually quite stunning. I almost even said 'wow' at a couple points (but then I'm old, and easily impressed. Huh).
The story is not as strong as many would have liked. John Scalzi, in his blog Whatever, felt that way, but I think he also gets it, too. The most thorough review/comparison I've read is on chud.com. That guy read Cameron's earlier treatment, called Project 880, and notes many differences between the movie originally envisioned, and the finished product. It's a rather long blow-by-blow comparison; I won't recap it here, except to say that Avatar is more streamlined and even less preachy than Project 880 would have been.
Now on to my favorite subject: A Far Sun. Both my wife and stepdaughter mentioned the similarities between it and Avatar. I don't paint a picture highlighting the evils of technology, which I think could be inferred from the movie, but I do have gentle native people (who even speak a little English. Both writers plausibly handle the reasons why). My natives aren't 10' tall with blue skin (no spoiler there--the movie trailer shows this clearly). Instead, they're regular-sized and orange-ish. No, the sun-skins aren't oompa-loompas, and quite honestly I never even thought about that when I envisioned them. Of course, I can see why you might think that. (I did think of sun-skins as 'native Americans meet the Amish,' but with a slightly orange tint to their skin. Just enough to make them different. That was the point. Besides, I really liked the name 'sun-skin.')
I have an evil bad guy--the 'Head Librarian' (of all the titles for him to have!)--though by the end of book 2 I've hardly done more than introduce him. All his evil has come out by proxy. His 'minion' in the story, the 'chief ambassador' is a powerful, ambitious man who is following his master's orders very faithfully. We don't find out why he's doing this, yet, but I have certainly set up this promise. In fact, we don't really know why anyone would be following the Head Librarian, but we do know how afraid they are of him. Perhaps they have good reason.
So, I'm now sitting on a blank page at the beginning of book 3. Some might be wondering how I could possibly have an entire novel still to tell (especially some of my friends and family who have been patiently listening to me talk about this for forever), but actually, having reached this point in the process, another 100K words feels about right. It gives me a chance to more fully flesh out the insanity of my big bad guy and more thoroughly draw out the distinctions between sun-skin philosophy and 'pale-skin' philosophy. Oh, and plenty of knuckle-chewing action. The 'cold war' between them will become a hot, shooting war, with the potential for more death (and destruction).
The inhumanity in my story is not 'big' inhumanity the way it is in Avatar. Mine is small, on the scale of just one person. Though, to be fair, this one man's hold over the others could not have been accomplished without help, or at least 'inertial neglect'. Or, perhaps he's really not so different from them, after all.
With my decision to keep on truckin' with the story (I had intended to end it with this second book), it now means I can also extend the time line, somewhat. I had always wanted to write about their survival over a winter, since in primitive conditions it can very trying. Also, since at least one of my heroines is pregnant, with more time to fill in a third novel, we get to follow her over a much longer period during her pregnancy. Also, being 'with child' will heighten the tension, later, when things are coming to an exciting climax. There are other motivating factors, as well, that I must, alas, continue to keep secret.
On a final note: last night my wife was talking about this current work in comparison to the one I had been writing back about 2004-ish. I know that other work isn't very good, for several reasons. She likes the current one, a lot, and says that not only am I a better writer, but that my story is also much, much better. I've read both works; it's not hard to see why she says this.
That's all for now. Maybe sometime I'll talk about how one turns a very rough story idea into a fully fleshed-out work, because that's about all that's required to write a novel. Everyone comes up with story ideas that could maybe fill two chapters. How you turn those two chapters into fifty is the trick. But, it's not that difficult. Or, then again, maybe it is. We'll find out.
Labels: A Far Sun, entertainment, Writing