My name is Charlie, but if your looking for my work, I go by C. E. Dorsett. I write scifi, fantasy, and a touch of horror. I like to play with gothic, steampunk, decopunk, epic fantasy, and wuxia. I love to tell stories and talk about books, movies, series, and music.
Fans vs Haters
I am so sick of the haters. Unfortunately they are turning me to the dark side...
I started dropping RSS feeds that "Why I hate..." and "Which do I hate most..." posts. Now, I feel a little mixed up about a post over at Club Jade.
Obey me or I hate you!
It is a plague, an epidemic. Like a zombie outbreak where the zombies look like regular people, feeding off the brains of the unaffected- the chattering class of haters posing as fans roam the world chanting, "Obey me or I hate you!"
- Fans are driven to seek out and discuss the things they love.
- Haters are driven to seek out and discuss the things they hate.
Every day, I find so called fan blogs that are trying to profit from the controversy they gain from hating something that is either easy to complain about or that will stir up controversy. They are easy posts to write and they generate traffic, but the are corrosive to the dialogue and our collective dignity.
I feel bad writing this...
because I risk becoming one of them, but I just couldn't take it anymore.
Life is far too short to spend it in pointless sniping and complaining about every little thing in the universe that doesn't go your way.
I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness. I know I am not alone. From your emails and comments, I know that there are more Fans than Haters. We are just a silent majority. It is time to rise up!
Fans are not Emos!
It is time we stood up and took fandom back from these people!
- People are not stupid for liking something you don't.
- People are not stupid for hating something you like.
- A Franchise is not ruined because you don't like a parts of it.
- The creator has the right to do whatever they creatively with their work and don't require your approval.
- Homogeneity is not required for a series to be good.
- Objecting to the morality of a work may say more about you than the work. Examine that first.
- If you don't like a certain type of story, you are not a fan of that genre/subgenre.
- Respect the opinions of others unless they are racist, sexist, homophobic or bigoted in some other way.
The genesis of the problem
I stopped reading io9 a long time ago because there is nothing of value on their site. I have dropped several blogs from my feed reader because they cited io9 too often and started becoming as full of venom. I don't believe that Club Jade is their yet, but it is exhibiting some of the early signs of contagion. I hope they don't contract the disease.
Review: Star Trek
I was a little afraid to see the new Star Trek Movie. All of the materials they sent me to hype the movie either bored or annoyed me. I started getting a little excited about the movie after the early screenings started returning good reviews. Sitting in the theater as boring trailers, my anticipation ramped up as film crept ever closer. I love Star Trek. It is probably my favorite franchise. I really hoped they wouldn't mess it up.
It took me a while to write this review, because I wanted to make sure I got past my fanboy response to the movie and was able to talk about the movie with a bit more distance and clarity.
What should Star Trek be?
Gene Roddenberry's concept of Star Trek was a simple formula:
- Basic wants and needs
But it should also tackle all of the most important issues of the day. (You can read more about this in my post: More Proof J. J. Abrams Doesn’t Get Star Trek). The early publicity left me with many concerns.
Addressing early concerns
Prequel/Sequel/Reboot [reus name="Star Trek iFrame"]
I was really confused about the nature of the film when they started calling is a prequel/sequel/reboot.
That is a strange thing to say, and alone, a statement that doesn't make sense, but for this film it works.
- Spock starts on Romulus like he is in the Next Generation
- The first Federation uniforms we see are right out of Star Trek Enterprise.
- Time travel story
- Young versions of the characters
- Establishes an alternate timeline for Star Trek
I am not sure I like the classification of this movie as a reboot. Battlestar Galactica was a reboot, this was more of a return to the core of what made Star Trek great in the original series. If this is a reboot so was:
- The Animated Series (added more exotic alien races)
- The Motion Picture (changed the Kligons forever)
- Wrath of Khan (Brought back the Action/Adventure quality of the series.
- Voyage Home (The crew of the Enterprise mess with the timeline)
- The Next Generation (updated the series for a new generation of fans)
- Deep Space Nine (Star Trek without exploration but with more military elements)
- Generations (Kirk is ripped from the timeline)
- Voyager (Star Trek without the Federation)
- First Contact (The Borg and the crew of the Enterprise mess with the timeline)
- Insurrection (The Federation is not perfect)
- Enterprise (Star Trek before the Federation without superior technology)
If you would count each of these major revisions of the setting as a reboot, than this movie is a reboot. To me, this sequel/prequel.
Turning Star Trek into Star Wars?
Abrams, Kurtzman anf Orci all said they wanted to turn bring more Star Wars into Star Trek, but I don't think they got there. I love both series, and I am familiar with the main qualities of both, and I don't think they brought much if anything from one to the other.
I was afraid that is was going to be more of a Lethal Weapon in Space, Speed: Warp 10, Star Wars: The Vulcan Chronicles, or Cloverfield 2: The Future of the Beast (WTF Star Trek Super Bowl Ad!?!). There is not a scene in this film that I could see easily fitting in one of the earlier films or the original television series.
Maybe they originally thought of Nero's ship as a sort of Death Star, but it is no more than Probe from The Voyage Home, V'ger from the Motion Picture, or the Son'a ships from Insurrection. Other than that, I just don't get it.
Uhura in her off hours
I was excited when I saw the clip of Uhura telling Kirk off in the bar. I hoped Kirk would get his butt kicked and he so did. I was concerned about the stripping clips of Uhura in the trailers but I love the way the dealt with her.
I loved the relationship between Uhura and Spock. It made sence, and it served to dehumanize Spock in an interesting way. The juxtaposition of her emotions and his total lack of emotions really hilighted the difference between humans and vulcans.
I know there are a lot of people who didn't like her depiction in this movie, but Uhura was always a more laid back member of the crew.
Addressing new concerns after seeing the movie
Kirk's Vaccine reaction
I loved the adverse reaction that Kirk had to the Vaccine that McCoy gave him. It was a flashback to the kind of humor the original series thrived on. It was silly, light hearted and interfered with the characters ability to do what they needed to do.
The Engine Room of Doom!
WTF were they thinking when they designed the engine room. It was funny, but I agree with Gwen DeMarco regarding the fate of the writer who came up with the idea for these scenes...
I could go off on a long string blue words, but I will let the others who have already done that do it. I just thought this was a blemish on an otherwise great film.
Nero's ship armament
Brian and I argued about this fro a long time after the movie. Personally, I think Nero was just a MacGuffin to give an excuse for the story to happen. Neither he nor his crew are intgral to the plot and could have been replaced by anyone else with any other motive using any other means. Nero is not important. They obviously didn't give his subplot any thought, and frankly, the movie would have been better without the distraction.
I wish the film would have had a real 3 dimensional villain, but I honestly didn't expect one from a J. J. Abrams movie. He has never done villains well. Every movie and show that he has ever touch has had a weak, impotent, or flat villain. A better director would have insisted on a better antagonist, but the story didn't matter, the action did.
Kirk's Exile from the Enterprise
Some people have complained about Spock having Kirk put in a life pod and jettisoned from the ship. If I really wanted to defend the movie here I would say that this was a symptom of Spock's frustration that Kirk should not be on the ship at all. I think that could be argued.
Once more, this is another symptom of Abrams' half-assed directing style. He needed to have Kirk on the planet to meet Spock and this was the quickest and most "visually exciting" way to do it. Let's be honest, this was an excuse to have Kirk chased by a Cloverfield reject so he could talk to Spock in a cave. It was not thought out.
Nero's motive for attacking Vulcan are nothing less than laughable. He was a stupid man on a stupid ship with the horridly named "Red Matter" who wants to destroy Vulcan rather than save his homeworld.
Maybe he thought he could do both. Rid the Empire of the threat of the Federation and save his homeworld. I think the reallity is a lot simpler.
Like most of the annoying things in this film it just wasn't well thought out. It was a flimsy excuse for a Nero to be a villain and commit a terrorist act without having to think about whether or not he has a good (or at least understandable) reason or not.
Nero is a flat, empty character and I can tell you why. This movie is nothing more than:
Wrath of Khan, take 2
This story follows the plot of Wrath of Khan beat by beat with several notable exceptions:
- Nero is not as scary as Khan.
- Nero does not have a motive for revenge.
- "Red Matter" is not as scary as the Genesis Device.
- Wrath of Khan had better writers and director.
This movie is to Wrath of Khan what the Next Generation episode "Naked Now" is to the Original Series episode "Naked Time." It is a good remake, but it is not as good as the original.
Is this Star Trek?
Let's measure it against Gene's definition
√ Action √ Adventure √ Basic wants and needs √ Tackle all of the most important issues of the day.
That last check might be a little controversial, but I thought the show dealt with the random nature of terrorism and the emotional cost it has on people.
Star Trek's New Phase
I am glad to say that Star Trek has been reborn, much as it was when Wrath of Khan came out. I loved the movie.
- Canon Uniforms
- Spock's relationship with the Romulans
- Characters were perfect
- Not just an action film
- great FX
- sense of humor
- The Engine room
- Lack of a serious villain
- Nero's Ship
- "Red Matter"
- The Alien Monster
- Kirk's marooning
Rating = 10
The Future of Star Trek
Orci and Kurtzmen have already signed on to write the next movie in the series, but that are not sure if it will be a Prequel, Sequel, or Reboot to this movie. They said they are waiting to see what the reaction to this film is. And there is one more thing:
Kurtzman: The very last scene when Spock and Spock meet each other, finally. And elder Spock is convincing young Spock that he couldn't interfere, because it would have diverted [Kirk and Spock] away from their friendship. And that their friendship is the key to the whole sort of shebang.
Orci: He gave him a recorded message from Kirk.
Kurtzman: He [elder Spock] said, "Don't take my word for it." And he handed him [younger Spock] a little holographic device and it projected Shatner. It was basically a Happy Birthday wish knowing that Spock was going to go off to Romulus, and Kirk would probably be dead by the time... (Topless Robots)
That could be the set up for the next movie. Personally, I don't want another movie. I want a TV series.
Project: Shadow Manifesto
To mark the 10 year anniversary of the Project: Shadow Manifesto, we thought it was time to overhaul it again, but this time to open up the project to all of the like-minded fans out there who are tired of the status quo, and who are hungry for something new. Brian and I drafted the original Project: Shadow Manifesto in 1999 as an outline we saw in professional publishing. The original draft was heavy on problems, light on vision, and even lighter on solutions. We took years investigating the limited options available at the time, built the original Project: Shadow, and I started writing.
In 2004, we revised the manifesto, and re-launched Project: Shadow. The new draft focused on the solutions possible through new technologies. The world/culture presented us with newer challenges.
We are fans.
We love our music, stories, characters, and settings. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.
At heart, a fan is not someone who enjoys a movie, a song, a band, a book, or a show. A fan feels an intense connection with the object of their love. Fans decorate their homes, offices, and desktops with items that announce their allegiance with their favorite bands, movies, shows, and books.
The problem with our popular culture is that it doesn’t blink at a sports fan wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with their favorite team, or even a replica jersey, but wear a Star Wars shirt or dress like a goth and they think they have the right to mock you.
What is the difference between a fan wearing a jersey to a game or fan bringing a light saber to a movie? Or for that matter, what is the difference between a sports fan painting themselves up to go tailgating or a fan dressing as their favorite character at a convention?
Perception. Pop Culture has classified sports fans as acceptable and speculative fiction fans as geeky. I have to say, it is just as geeky to now all of the stats for everyone who has ever played for a particular sports franchise as it is to know the stats for every creature in the Monster Manual. The only real difference is one fan accepts they are a geek, and the other pretends their geekiness is proof they are a jock.
The disapproval is the least of the problems facing today’s fan.
From Storytellers to Copyright
Problem: People are natural storytellers. We hear a story, embellish it, and pass it on.
Solution: We tell each other stories, sing songs, write books, make videos, and create art to share these stories with each other.
Every story we tell is not original. We like to tell the same stories over and over. We borrow stories from any where and retell them in our own vernacular. It is intrinsic to who and what we are to share stories with each other.
Problem: The only constant in the world is change.
Solution: We ask ourselves the question, "What if," and share the answer with each other.
Problem: Artists and Writers need to make a living singing their songs, writing their books, making their videos, and creating their art.
Solution: We establish systems of Copyright.
The Cultural Cycle
Before the era of Copyright, stories, heroes, melodies, and lyrics belonged to the people. Stories were told, and retold. Numerous visions of each story competed against each other. The best were remembered, collected, retold, embellished, and built upon. The rest were forgotten.
Who told the first story about Hercules? Or Jason? or Troy? Who started the legends of King Arthur? or Beowulf? The first tales and their countless reiterations have been lost, but the best, most iconic stories survived.
Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, only a few comedies have no obvious sources, and even they rely upon well established patterns and archetypes.
This is the Cultural Cycle that keeps important stories alive. Each generation must retell the tales of the preceding generations in their own context to keep them relevant. This cycle has been broken.
- Problem: Companies lobby to prevent Intellectual Property from reentering the commons of the culture.
- Problem: Companies control the instruments of culture, making it harder to engage culture creatively.
- Solution: Fans retell these stories as not for profit tales, films, and songs.
- Solution: Fans organize themselves into clubs and conventions.
These solutions are are not enough. Fanfiction and film relies on the good will of the copyright holders and the fact that the fans do not make money from their works to slip through the thinnest of loop hole in copyright. As a result, pop culture is unaware of the cultural developments and retelling of these new stories. The subculture may be enriched by them, but the culture as a whole is not.
The Creative Commons and the Cult of the Dollar
Problem: Publishers and producers focus more on the commercial and popular value of a work, and the creative energy of the work suffers. Readers/viewers will not become fans, and fans will not continue to accept passionless works of Speculative Fiction.
Solution: Placing honesty over consumerism, we fans must stake out our own home to create and share the works we love. We must stand between the darkness and the light: This is the purpose of Project: Shadow.
Problem: The Companies and Rights holders lashed out against the fair use of their properties.
Problem: Some Rights Holders have lulled fandom into a false sense of security by not suing and even encouraging those who produce fanworks
Creative Commons is one of many proposed solutions to this problem. Others have lobbied for copyright reform. Neither of these is a solution to the problems.
Copyright reform is a doomed enterprise while corporate lobbyists have the power they do over the congress. While it is a goal to work for, it is just not realistic in the short term.
Creative Commons is closer to a solution, but the adoption rate has not been sufficient to even start chipping away at the problem.
The reason Creative Commons is an uphill battle is that it is a major evolution in the way rights holders handle permissions to use their work, and exists without an intermediary form. Existing rights holders have not adopted it because they are unwilling to give up all the rights entailed under Creative Commons.
I approached the Creative Commons Foundation with a proposal for a Fan Works License:
Some of the rights holders I have talked to are reluctant to use the CC because they are concerned they are giving up too many rights to their works. A Fan Works License would allow rights holders to clearly state what they will allow others to do with their characters, content, and settings.
It would be a bit more complicated than a standard CC, stating whether others may make original text, video, music, or art projects based on their works. It would also allow them to set the content rating they would allow fan works to have. This could be aligned with the MPAA ratings or the ESRB ratings system or an original system. The reason for this is so a young adult novelist could set a max rating of PG-13, allowing others to know what standards they would apply to determine whether a fan work is legitimate or not.
The other terms would be the same as in the standard CC.
You may not think something like this is necessary, but the current state of fan works is hazy. While few have been sued in the last couple years, at any time, rights holders could decide to start suing again. By creating a license that covers works with the same characters and settings rather than a particular book or movie, I believe we could get more rights holders to use the license to allow for the creation of fan works, which is a step on the road to open up works to the commons.
They responded with a simple, “CC probably isn't going to be expanding the license offerings, and in fact, over the past few years CC has been reducing the number of licenses.”
I do not believe that a fanwork or Creative Commons license is the ultimate solution, but as a possible stepping stone toward an open culture.
Progressive Speculative Fiction
- Problem: Modern and Post-modern fiction is antithetical to hope, imagination, and community
- Problem: Success is easier through snark, hate, and discrimination.
- Solution: We will promote, support and create Progressive Speculative Fiction.
What is Progressive Speculative Fiction?
Progressive Speculative Fiction is a story told in any medium which has a "What if" at its core and is filled with hope for the future and promotes a sense of community.
How can disaster fiction be progressive?
Watch a Godzilla movie or either The Day the Earth Stood Stills. If there is nothing worth saving, then there is no tragedy. The heroes must at least try to save someone or something worth saving.
How can horror be progressive?
Watch nearly any horror film made prior to 1990 or for the best example read The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker or anything by Anne Rice. If life is not worth living or there is nothing worth defending, where is the horror. If life is worthless, then death is merely a release from a nightmare. There is nothing scary about it. If there is no free will, nothing is lost by imprisonment or possession. If sanity is not worth preserving, why bother.
What works are Progressive Speculative Fiction?
There are too many to mention all of them, but to offer a spectrum:
- The Matrix/ The Matrix Reloaded/ The Matrix Revolutions/ The Animatrix
- The Dark Knight
- Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within
- The Lord of the Rings
- Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned, and The Tale of the body Thief
Just to name a few.
- Problem: The word "Myth" has become a marketing term.
Homogenized works are released more often by the industry every year. Focus groups and market analysis have replaced quality work, but since the cultural cycle is broken, industry has no alternative. It is safer to release works like the ones that sold last year than it is to seek out new talent/ideas that would be more of a risk.
They know what the fans want. We want myths, stories that speak to us on a deep level while entertaining us. Myths are hard to make. It is easy to add in a wizard or a starship and call it mythology. Fans see through it, but the masses are looking for little more than sex, violence, and humor. Speculative Fiction has been watered down to little more than:
- imitation space opera
- knock-off cyberpunk
- repackaging of the rings
- martial arts boom-boom
- torture porn
They, then, wrap it in a shiny box, slap the word myth, saga, legend, or reboot on it, and wait for the masses to spend their money on it... and they usually do.
We do not need another company driven by profit margins, or another author whose self-important propaganda obscures the art.
We need writers and artists that love what they are doing.
We need fans who are not afraid to speak their minds.
We need places in our towns/cities and online where we can meet and share the few gems that we find from the industry and from the independent artist, writers, and filmmakers who are still following their bliss rather than the dollar.
That is why we are here. Project: Shadow and dashPunk will provide a platform for writers, artists, filmmakers and fans to “follow their bliss.” We are dedicated to finding and promoting the best Speculative Fiction out there: the little/well known writers, filmmakers, artists and works, fostering their talents, and helping them to not only follow their hearts, but to share that vision with others.
But we cannot do it alone!
Fandom Strikes Back
- Solution: We must seek out and support the writers, artists, and producers that encourage and support fan works.
- Solution: We must get writers, artists, and producers on the record about their position regarding fan works.
- Solution: We must live according to our values of hope, imagination, and community.
- Solution: We must build a community around hope, imagination, and community, and reject the rote cynicism that defines the faux-fandom that loves to tear things down rather than build things up.
- Solution: We must spread the stories, videos, songs, and art that speak to us.
Together, We can make dashPunk and Project: Shadow more than an idea or a website, but a vibrant community of fans who share the things we love with each other.
Together, we can make it easier to find and share the things we love and find new things to love.
Together, we can build a community of fans who support and engage one another for our mutual benefit.
Alone, none of us can stand up to the corporate powers who control the music, video, text, and art that we love, but together, our voice will be heard.
Fandom is a vibrant culture with its own music (filk), events (conventions), games, and myths. Until now, we have gathered periodically, or in disparate groups.
Now is the time to bring the great multitude of fan bases together.
Now is your time! Copy this Manifesto. Print it, post it, email it, share it! Tell a friend, and most importantly Make your voice heard.
Project: Shadow Manifesto by Project: Shadow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at dashpunk.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://dashpunk.com/about/.
Fandom, Porn, and a Culture of Dreamers.
When I stumbled across trobadora's The Internet is for Porn? I was initially uncomfortable with the discussion. The frank discussion of fannish sexuality is not something I am used to seeing in writing... but it is all too familiar a topic around the table over the weekends and at the cons. I am not sure why I was so uncomfortable with the subject. It is not like I have not mentioned in on the show or in conversations with others, but this direct approach, insightful comments, and probing questions made me squirm a little in my seat.
In our fannish circles, porn is very much ... normalised, for lack of a better word. It's part of the everyday landscape, and writing it or posting it is not in any way, shape or form remarkable. (Except for the "oooh, shiny!" factor, of course.) It's even an ordinary social gesture – the "bake you cookies and write you porn" aspect (The Internet is for Porn?).
That is the moment that I started squirming. Why is it normal to talk about slash without a thought about what it is we are really talking about? It is not uncommon for the conversation to get started and in the right fan circles, the participants are open about their favorites. Is this because our fan culture is more coarse, crass, or jaded than the mainstream culture?
I don't think so. While I have been accused of having an overly bright view of the fan culture, I think it is a result of the very nature of Speculative Fiction Fandom.
- Fans are generally liberal. It is easier to look forward when you are not tied to the past
- Fans truly love. They do not simply like the characters, settings, and series, they have a deep love for them.
- Fans are dreamers. We are not satisfied with merely watching or reading, we dream up other stories. We are constantly asking, "What if?"
- Fans share. We are not content with these ideas living in our head, we share them with each other
As a result of these things, it is not surprising that we ask ourselves what it would be like if two of our favorite characters hooked up, we write the story and share it with the community.
Why are we not ashamed of the sometime sexually explicit stories we tell? I am not sure. For me, it is probably because I am gay. I am used to people looking down on me for who I love. Why would I care if they found about anything else? They already think I am a pervert. I have no where else to go from there.
Now, many of you are probably going to say, "I don't even know what your talking about."
Say you're participating in one of those other fannish spaces as well, and you're (for whatever reason) writing porn in that fandom. What do you do with it? What would you feel comfortable with?
Would you feel comfortable posting it in its own fandom, even though it would not be a normal fannish activity there?
First of all I would say there is a difference between porn and erotica. I am not parsing words, there is a very real difference. I apologize for the crass language here, but it is better to be blunt than verbose:
- Porn is fiction that contains a lot of sex for the sake of getting you off.
- Erotica is fiction that contains a lot of sex but the story and characterizations "cannot be summed up in diagrams" to quote Stephen Moffat.
Most of the fanfiction I am talking about is erotic because it does the latter and not the former. On that note, to answer the question, I am not sure what fan communities are being discussed where the conversation of slash does not pop up from time to time.
The only time I would not feel comfortable is if there were minors in the conversation. It is not my place to introduce these kids to a discussion of sexuality they may or may not be ready for. Other than that, I am not sure what would prevent me.
What if that fandom were mostly populated by fanboys?
Well, I find popular heterosexual male sexuality to be abrasive and overly crude. It is something that should be discussed. The flirtation present in the stories is something I think most heterosexual males would be bored by. I hope I am wrong.
The types of fanfic we are talking about are:
- slash: male/male erotic fanfic
- femslash: female/female erotic fanfic
- hetslash: male/female erotic fanfic
- PWP: porn without plot
Does it really matter who you're writing for? How much, how does it matter?
I think it does. I know I am not the only one who has wondered about the relationship between Ivanova and Talia or Sirius and Lupin. These questions are unanswered in the canon, so we are left to fill in the blanks with fanfiction.
The audience matters because well written fanfic is about the characters. Whether it is slash or not, if the story is bad, then why would I take time to read it? There are some audiences that just want PWP, and I am not in that crowd.
How much of a difference would it make whether it was an explicit sex scene in a longer fic or an all-out PWP?
Just as the audience matters, so does the content. If the story is good, and the sex is integral to the plot, the better the story will be.
Would it bother you more if the porn in question were slash or het?
A lot of the slash and het I have seen is more of an odd fantasy of the writer than a story worth spending any time with.
What if it were, say, het with a dominant male character?
This is where the problem comes in. A lot of the male dominant fiction, fanfic or not, is little more than a dose of male bravado with a side order of nudity. I prefer stories about equals.
What makes Smut
I read a lot of Speculative fiction, and sex is not absent from the "mainstream" fiction. It is hard to miss it in Anne Rice, Christopher Golden, Clive Barker, Anne McCaffrey... most SF not written or inspired by Tolkien.
I think we work ourselves into fits because, as with everything, there are some people who take it too far. Nothing can be down about these people except to ignore them.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about when we are talking about sexuality or erotica. Honestly, I think this has more to do with our popular culture and its perception of us.
In Pop Culture, sex is inherently smutty. It is a tool used to sell a product. Many movie trailers have become little more than "Watch this film and see these people naked." Under those conditions, we tend to allow ourselves to see all sex as smutty. What we have to do is establish certain personal rules:
- Sex is natural.
- Sex is not a game or a contest. It is not about collecting trophies.
- Respect is a prerequisite. If we do not respect ourselves or our characters, it shows and it degrades everyone.
- Sexually explicit stories or scenes without a grounding in character and plot are porn.
Did I make you uncomfortable? I hope not. I think it is time for some frank conversation. Now let's all sing Slash Wallow.
Interview: Chris Cowan and Lex Randleman from Elseworlds
I interviewed Chris Cowan (Cyborg/Cameraman) and Lex Randleman (Mister Teriffic/Writer) from the brilliant new webseries Elseworlds.
Why did you choose to make webseries in the Elseworlds setting? While it is one of the most fascinating DC setting, it is not as popular as their other setting?
Lex Randleman (LR): Elseworlds provided a malleable way to craft a story about a universe I, otherwise, wouldn't have been able to depict. Knowing I could twist and turn things however I wanted gave my imagination some room to wander. We (Cowan and I) would never be able to make a DC Universe like what's seen in comics and other media.
Also, I get a sense of ownership out of this that I couldn't get from another kind of story. Sure, these aren't MY characters, but this is MY vision of them. It's funny to me that your review mentions casting (Praise I TOTALLY appreciate) and what kind of process that must have been for us. It's funny because we didn't match the cast to the characters--we matched characters to the cast. The characters we were confident we COULD portray well are the characters we chose to play out the story. They ARE the story. That was our jump-off point.
Chris Cowan (CC): We’re only planning to do 6 episodes for this story. As much as we love doing this, we also have MANY more projects planned (mostly all original and a few being fan fiction works). But I mean if DC/WB would want to fund a project like this then I’m sure we could do quite a few more episodes <wink> <nudge>
LR: Yeah, 6 episodes. That's not because I couldn't make this story stretch, no. It's because we've set a pace that I can't completely halt. Given free reign, I would basically restart and show SO much more of the action and events that preceded the present action in this story. Cowan can attest to the fact that I've built up a whole history for this world and all of its characters, but reality (a.k.a. $) dictates that I must exercise some restraint.
Are all of the episodes written ahead of time or are they being written as the series progresses?
LR: The episodes have been written one by one as my time allows. I put episode 2 in Cowan's hands. He filmed it. I put episode 3 in his hands. He filmed it. He just got episode 4. I took my time with that one. And he'll film it soon. It's played out that way because this whole project was sprung on me by Cowan (Yes, man, I am taking a dig at you) with the release of the 1st episode (incomplete, at that!) a YEAR after the project had been conceived. Since then, I've had to rethink a lot of the things I had originally intended.
I know it sounds like I'm blaming Cowan like he did something awful. That's not the case. He actually challenged me in a way that I just hadn't expected. In the end, I can't be mad at that. After a long period of not writing the way I should have been, I can feel my blood pumping again. This project has reawakened some of my dormant creativity.
CC: Hey, It’s not my fault that he liked the cut of the first episode. I edited it randomly out of the blue a few months ago and showed it to him and he said “Cowan, that was hot.” Haha. So I said lets keep going with it – and we have. Besides, if I hadn’t, Lex might have never came up with the story that he’s created (which I think is a really good and original one).
But yeah, the episode scripts are given to me one by one. In fact, the Episode 2 script was put in my hands not even 5 minutes before filming hah. We’ve always been a sort of run & gun crew of filmmakers though (when budgets not involved – because it usually isn’t for our personal projects ha).
Episode 3 is over 8 minutes as opposed to the 2 - 3 minute length of the previous episodes, what is the target length for the remaining episodes?
CC: At first, we thought it’d be a good idea to keep the episodes under 4 minutes. One reason being that we were gearing this towards youtube and usually 2-4 minutes is the avg. length of most videos – and I figured that’d be the avg. youtuber’s attention span (because it is for me ha). Not to mention, it would have been a smoother editing flow for me. Now, after seeing how episode 3 came out, we realized that we prefer the 8-10 minute run time. There was a thought to break up Episode 3 into two parts but we liked how it ran all together, so we kept it – and the response towards the runtime was a positive one.
LR: The thing about targets is that you either miss them or they get shot... That's my way of saying I don't know. Even after I write the script and we "should" know how long an episode will be, it all gets muddled in the production. A lot of last minute changes and improvements happen ON SET. That's our creative process.
Do you have any plans to make them available for download/ podcast? (with the abundance of companies like Mevio who offer free hosting I hope you do)
LR: I don't know. Cowan, do we have plans like that??
CC: Haha honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t thought about doing that already. I’ll definitely make them available for download.
What software are you using to make the special effects?
LR: I have this awesome special effects program called Triple C...Christopher Clark Cowan.
CC: Hah and I this awesome special effects program called Adobe After Effects. In terms of any other technical questions that anyone might have – I edit on Final Cut Pro and shoot on the Panasonic DVX100a. I’m hoping to be able to shoot the finale in HD – More on that to come though.
How long does it take you to produce an episode?
CC: It always depends. Script writing and scheduling are the biggest time consumers – even more so than with the shooting an editing. Shooting is fairly easy because after reading the script, I can already see what I want to do (let me rephrase – I can already see what I’m able to do haha). Editing usually takes me 2 days because after we have it all shot, I clear my schedule and sit in front of my computer for 2 days straight and edit. There’s usually food/sleep and some Xbox 360 spliced throughout those 48 hours.
LR: That always varies because of the time I might take to write the script and the scheduling that needs to get worked out for the actors and such. When everyone works for free, it's hard to put a demand on anyone's time-- except, of course, for mine. Cowan is always making demands on my time... I'm so disrespected...
What is your production schedule like?
LR: What's a schedule?
CC: Yeah we don’t really have one. It all depends on all of our work schedules. I call a friend and ask “can you film today?” they say “no.” I say “what about tomorrow?” they say “sure” and then we film. That seems to be the extent of our “schedule” ha.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to make their own webseries?
CC: Just go out and do it. You don’t need a huge budget to do everything (it helps – but it’s not always necessary). One of the most fun parts for me is reading a script and challenging myself to come up with ways to achieve a certain shot and/or effect that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do with out a lot of money. Even if you do have the funds, it’s always nice to keep a “that look for less” type of mindset.
LR: Don't be afraid to do take the time to make things RIGHT. There's no profit to be made, really, but the chance to share your passion and your vision. If you compromise those two things, then you've wasted your time and your project will suffer. I find that when I look back onto our older projects, the things I regret are the decisions we made for any reason other than "that's how we want it." Compromise = Regret.
Also, embrace your dorkdom. I don't write for the masses. I write for myself. I write for other comic book nerds like myself. They're the only people I hope will truly "get me." Everyone else can catch up. That's what Google is for.
LR: Have we thought about it? We did it! X3i is the name of the series we produced in college at The Ohio State University. We diverted our attentions from that series to do a feature based off of the series...Long story short...We didn't finish either the series or the movie.
Don't look at me! The scripts were written! The culprit is always the same: RESOURCES. Resources in the form of money (or lack thereof), casting, sufficient time, and ALL of the stuff that can derail a zero-budget project. It also goes back to our policy to not deliver crap. If it wasn't going to get done RIGHT, why do it?
Here's some good news: even though the project was never finished, I'm sure my dearest buddy Cowan can provide you with some fancy footage of our stuff. ;)
CC: Yeah, we’ve definitely done that already ha. X3i was our first shot at an original webseries – And one of the most fun filmmaking experiences I’ve had. Our crew is actually doing another webseries called “Komikarate” which is a sketch comedy based show (dealing with original skits and fan spoofs). All of which can be found on youtube. If you’d like to know more about X3i, you can visit: www.myspace.com/X3i
Aaaand lastly, to keep updated with the Elseworlds project, you can go to: http://dcelseworlds.blogspot.com
No more links haha.
I am enjoying the series, and will have a review of the first three episodes up shortly.
LR: I'm happy you've enjoyed our work! Your interest and excitement is what makes it all worthwhile.
CC: Many thanks to everyone for viewing and supporting! Also big thanks to Eric and Project: Shadow for the review, interview and overall interest. We’ll have episode 4 out to you all shortly!
Thank you for your time.
LR: If you made it through all 3 episodes, we should be thanking you for YOUR time.
Two nice guys and amazing artists. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my review of Elseworlds. I think we can expect great things from them in the future.