Freedom, Imagination and Story – Essentials of Good Entertainment.

I am at a loss sometimes.  Here I am writing for a Science-Fiction and Fantasy site and I suddenly realized the last such movie I actually saw in a theater was Inception.  Maybe I am just getting old, but there has nothing that has inspired me to get up and go to a theater and spend the money to watch it.  I suddenly realized that I watched this movie with my daughter in Mackinac City on a vacation two years ago, I think.  I watched it not because I was particularly excited about it, but it was filler time before we were going to do something else. I liked it.  It had some originality and entertainment value.  I really felt they used CGI to tell the story and not be the story at least to a point.  I wasn’t sitting there saying ‘cool’; I was trying to follow the storyline which was actually a challenging thing to do.  It was a smart movie that made me think.  It also happen to have a high “Wow!” factor.

This whole situation and trip down memory lane got me to thinking, what then makes for good entertainment and what qualities does that entertainment have?  What causes me to like something when I watch it?  What excites me enough to drop money on something and go watch it?

Freedom – No writer of any kind should be constrained by — “you can’t do that!”.  There are many forces in Hollywood and the other entertainment meccas like New York that spend a lot of time saying “you can’t do that!”  Write a story that doesn’t have a woman or love story in it — you can’t do that!  Have a woman who is portrayed as weak and needing a strong dominant male to help her out — you can’t do that!  Have a strong male character that isn’t also sensitive — you can’t do that!  Add in the restrictions of political correctness and the rest of the touchy-feely atmosphere that exists and it is no wonder Hollywood has to turn to old writers and stories.  The most free writer I have ever read was Heinlein.  His books offend people and he didn’t care.  He was about people having a reaction, hopefully one involving thought, but a reaction nonetheless.  He would rather be free and write something that offended others than write something where people just shrugged their shoulders.  Maybe, that is why I find John Norman’s Gorean Saga so appealing to me right now, because it so cuts against the female dominated and wimpified culture we possess.  To be free a writer must make you want to think, not be worried about what you are going to think.

Imagination – I swear all the imagination in entertainment has left the writers and entered the programmers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the possibilities of CGI to help tell a story.  Stuff in science fiction and fantasy that couldn’t be put to film before is now well within reach.  I also realize that there is truly ‘nothing new under the sun’ but for the love of God could you please at least try to find something better than Abraham Lincoln — Vampire Hunter.  A couple of people tried to get me to go see The Hunger Games and I balked as soon as they gave me a synopsis.  Hmmm. Same basic theme as The Running Man only without Richard Dawson as the host of the death game.  Sorry, I will pass.  Maybe when the DVD comes out. Imagination of course requires freedom to be genuinely imaginative.  You can’t limit yourself to what has done before.  You may have to build on previous stuff, but that doesn’t mean you are actually being imaginative just because you link Abraham Lincoln to Vampires.

Story – There are two sub elements here: plot and theme.  I like a plot that makes sense.  It can be complicated or simple; that is not the issue.  The issue is that it actually has a plot and that plot is sensible.  I hate any writer who thinks up his plot last.  I also hate something that falls too completely into the plot pattern where plot twists are predictable.  I don’t mind some predictability, but I like to say somewhere in the story – “I didn’t see that coming.”  Theme is the message of the story and I think this is where Hollywood is failing the most.  How many different themes are actually used? This goes back to freedom.  If you are not allowed freedom in being a writer, you then limit the themes available to you to create your story with and that is going to kill you.  If you never allow a story to have a positive theme about capitalism, guns, patriotism, etc. you are limiting yourself.  If you never go negative on socialism, gun control, lack of patriotism, etc. you are also limiting yourself. You force yourself into the same mind numbing path and trying to go somewhere different.  You become the living definition of insanity.

Of course, I could just be getting old. I simply could be in the pattern of ‘I have seen this before’.  I too, may just be getting nostalgic for the good old days.  Except, I was like this even in the good old days — there were some things I thought were entertainment trash back then too.  Maybe I too am trapped by what I think is good entertainment and I have gotten to the point I wish someone would show me something truly original and maybe it just is not to be found.

To my readers, I beg then your pardon.  You will probably not see much in the way of me looking at new things to review.  I like classic science fiction and fantasy because it is where I feel most at home.  I like writers from the era before the world-wide web made access to writing commonplace.  I think people wrote better back then because they were just thinking about telling a great story and not about whether there would be movie rights, merchandising or a great CGI scene. Forgive me, I happen to like good entertainment that makes me think.

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