Open Literary Universes

Has anyone noticed the recent trend of remakes, sequels, prequels, and anthologies flooding the market? How often have you sat and thought something up, and then realized someone already beat you to it? It seems like there is no original thought these days. Creativity can be stifled, because people feel like they can’t be innovative. We are trapped because we get told no, or know someone will say no. Every day, you can find a story of someone or some company claiming that someone else stole his or her idea. Sometimes, they are absolutely right, however, there are times when people just have the same great idea and are a bit slower on the draw.

Now, I’m not here to talk about all the instances of this. I am here to talk about the world of fiction, and an idea I have that really isn’t a new one. In fact, this idea has been around for quite a while. Comic books began the idea of a universe in which many storytellers could weave the tales of different characters. This allowed the creativity of different people to shine in their own way, and could tell different stories. They could be explained as alternate realities, and to this day, comic books are the largest example of fictional literary universes. The stories have branched in to radio, books, TV shows, movies, and games. The possibilities for the universes they created are endless because it is an open field. Larry Niven allowed his Known Space universe to be utilized by other authors, but he began the process of building a strict timeline. As each book was written, it had to be in line with the previous novels. Star Wars mostly followed this pattern as well, but there were some issues that arose with the creation of the prequels and now with the sequels. There is some question as to how the universe will be handled now, but as it stands, there is the pre-Disney universe and the Disney universe. Star Trek follows more of the comic book approach of having an open playing field. Many popular TV shows have serial novels written, which has created an alternate literary universe to fill the gaps from the shows. There are several more examples I could use, but you can see that a literary universe is an outlet for someone to express themselves within an existing story, but with their own twist.

My idea would be to have more of these literary universes. There are hugely popular fictional worlds out there that people would love to add their own ideas to. I once contacted an author about doing a story set in the world of his book series, but would not be related to his story or his timeline, and I got shut down hard by his agent. I was very put off by this, but I understood that he didn’t want anyone tinkering around in his world or causing any possible copyright issues. If more authors allowed their fictional worlds to be an open, I think they could really add some depth to their creations. If you, as an author, aren’t done with the series, you could limit the interaction by other writers to certain time periods, and ask that certain things be included. You wouldn’t be hamstringing them, and you also wouldn’t be closing yourself off. Personally, I feel like I would love to see another writer’s take on a world I create. I think that it would be a good collaboration.

Now, I know that this idea is a bit of a tough thing to pull off. Each author is different, and some of them are very defensive about their work. I am not saying that every world can be open, but I’m saying that it would be nice if there were more willingness by authors to let others work in their universes. It works for comic books and many others. I think it could give some novice writers the courage they need to start on ideas of their own. Sometimes you need a starting point, and being a part of an existing universe can be a big help. I get stifled sometimes because I feel like I can’t come up with anything new, but if I was allowed to give it a go in the world of some of my favorite authors, I might be able to really get going. You would learn from an experience like that, and it would help you learn the processes of being a new author, and then all you have to do is fill in the blanks the next time you write. More open literary universes could be advantageous to young aspiring authors, and I would love to see it happen. What about you?

My View On Star Wars Episode VII

The Force Awakens (or possibly, now that it is domestically the highest grossing movie in history after on 21 days, Disney’s Golden Vaults Awaken) has finally brought Star Wars back. FINALLY. For every kid who grew up on it as I did, this was a wondrous moment. Love Disney or not, but they granted our wishes. No matter which decade you were a part of, we had our brush with the galaxy far, far away. This is my take on the newest addition to Star Wars. This isn’t just a casual take, either. This is a life long fan’s look at the redemption of a franchise that could have been left to die slowly if not for the Mouse.

As I said, I have a life long history with Star Wars. I was raised on the original trilogy, being a child of 1984. I watched those movies on VHS so many times that we had to buy them multiple times due to the tapes wearing out. To fill the gaps, I would read the books that told the many stories of the extended Star Wars Universe (SWU). As many kids did, I thought that the trilogy was the end for the movies. I thought the mythos of Star Wars would always continue on in books or later in video games. Then came the the remastering of the trilogy. I was in awe of being able to experience the movies in the theater. This, of course, came with the news that George Lucas was going to make the prequels. So we all waited, like kids outside a candy store for them to arrive. When they did, we were in awe. We took them in, and for most of us, we enjoyed them because we were young enough to appreciate them for being of the Star Wars legend. We didn’t pay much mind to the glaring flaws or frighteningly bad acting. We were just enthralled with the fact that Star Wars was again in theaters. As that trilogy ended, the bad aftertaste settled in. We realized that the prequels did not sate our hunger for Star Wars. For some people, it soured them completely. For as grand as Mr. Lucas’s effects were, it did little to hide the truth of his inability to properly manage a storyline. It was widely considered that the two best Star Wars movies were Episodes V and VI, which he did not direct. His love of spectacle and grand sweeping visual effects seemed to sap his attention from the importance of the plot and acting, which is terrible to think about, considering the actors and actresses he had to work with. So those of us who still loved Star Wars, soldiered on, accepting these new additions grudgingly. I continued reading the books, playing the games, and even watched the Clone Wars cartoons. Again, things looked bleak for the return to theaters for the maligned SWU. In rides Disney, fresh off saving Marvel! Mr. Lucas finally relents and sells the rights to the franchise, and the ball begins rolling that leads us to today. Here we are folks. $760 million plus domestically in 21 days and still rolling. So let’s talk about the movie, now that I’ve talked your face off about all the back nonsense.

The Force Awakens was a good movie. I would rank it easily in the top 3, after only seeing it once, and not really being able to truly analyze it with a substantial number of viewings as I have the other six. I went in to the movie knowing more than I wanted to about the storyline because people can’t keep their mouths shut, which really disappoints me. That being said, I will be posting no spoilers here. I tried to avoid everything I could about any major plot lines or spoilers, but people have to ruin things for everyone else. Anyways, I still went in and appreciated the movie for what it was. It was the first time in uncharted territory for a director and having to really work from scratch, besides having a storyline 30 years old to work with. I give major amounts of praise to J.J. Abrams for having the courage to do this, and for being able to pull it off. He could have taken the easy route, or let another director handle it. He chose to do it in a very classic sense with more practical effects, and he did the most with what he could. He had a double edged sword of having to stuff 30 years of storyline in to 2 hours and 19 minutes, and having to try and make is somewhat sensible. He wasn’t going to please everyone. I’ve read some rather scathing reviews, which I find unfair on a ridiculous number of levels. Then again, I will point to the money that this movie has made, and say that far outweighs anything negative that has been said.

Ok, I would like to share some of my personal pros and cons for this movie. This is me just being nitpicky. As a whole, the movie was great, but there are a few things I would like to point out as a little sketchy, and some things I would like to applaud.

I will start with the cons. They could have spent just a little more time telling some back story. While they did get a good amount of back fill in, there are still major MAJOR gaps. I am assuming that those will be filled in as the next Episodes and the one offs come along, but I still feel like people without a decent knowledge of the original six movies would be really lost during this movie. I spent a lot of time explaining things in the SWU to my wife while she got caught up on the movies and the things surrounding the stories. I shudder to think how someone would feel without any prior knowledge would be going in to that movie. The screenwriters also borrowed HEAVILY from from the original trilogy. In an odd sort of way, it was like seeing a weird, shifted remake. I get the need to lean on previous ideas because of Disney’s decision to not use any of the existing stories out in the SWU (now the alternate SWU?), but it was pretty blatant at times, and almost off putting. I also think that J.J. Abrams brought a little goofball humor into the movie, which prior to this, wasn’t really done in such an overt way. It really wasn’t a detraction, but it was unexpected and it felt out of place. Oh and Finn is a little bit Jar Jar to me. I am truly sorry if this ruins your view point of him, but he just has this awkwardness about him that screamed JAR JAR BINKS at me. My last complaint is that because the extreme amount of things that had to be packed in to this movie, so many things had to be truncated. I feel like there were points that didn’t get wrapped up or explained very well within the scope of the movie. I hope that they do an extended version of the movie so that maybe they can rectify that.

So I want to finish up on the good points. I am so happy that they picked a woman to be a true central character in this movie. Let us not get things confused with the six other movies. Leia and Padme played major roles, but they were always second behind the males. This is the first time where I feel like a female is a true lead character, and Daisy Ridley’s Rey is awesome. Yes, they screwed the pooch on the whole Monopoly game mess, but that was just bad planning. I really look forward to seeing how her character grows in the upcoming movies. As I stated before, Disney chose to not use the existing stories already out in the SWU, but I did notice that they did pull some general ideas, which I thought was incredibly smart. I hope that they don’t ignore the existing Young Han Solo Trilogy books if they pursue making any movies based off of a young Han Solo. If Disney has learned anything from their partnership with Marvel, it should be to use the resources that are readily available (Captain America: Civil War for one). The last good point I wish to highlight is the fact that this movie does a fantastic job highlighting the new characters. It does not rely too heavily on the original cast, but uses them to enhance and support the new characters. Some directors and screen writers would have used the old cast to carry the movie because it would have been easier, but the Force Awakens team did a wonderful job taking Star Wars in a new direction which I truly applaud.

All in all, I think The Force Awakens was a great way to bring the Star Wars Thematic Universe back to life. It wasn’t going to please everyone, but it was going to please a hell of a lot more people than it didn’t. For what they had to work with, and the huge time gap, they did a pretty good job giving us a true Star Wars movie. People will grumble, question, rip and tear this movie apart because everyone with an internet connection and social media believes that their opinion is the right one. George Lucas took his own shot at it as well, which I think was a little low brow. Based on the consensus viewpoints of his films, I’d say that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I liked the movie, and overall I think that most people will too. Judging by the fact that it surpassed $760 million in 21 days, when it took the one other movie (Avatar) two releases and seven months to do so, means that people are more than happy with what they have brought to us. Be a prick and disparage the movie if you like, but you would miss the biggest point that the movie intended to make: Star Wars is back, and Disney is going to ride this X-wing for all it’s worth. I’m going along for that ride. Are you?