Canon obsession

If you’re a fan of some long series of books or comics, games or TV-show, chances are that you’ve partaken in discussion pertaining canon. That is, discussion (or more often than not, flamewar) of events that happened within a given fictional setting and how these events relate to each other. It is the nerdy version of two historians or otherwise more well-versed people discussing real world history in its proper context, perhaps even debating different points of views past scholars have made.

Let’s be honest here; canon is something that can and will change however the author, group of authors or the property owner wants at any any given point in time. It is completely malleable, everything that has been put on paper or on screen can be waved away for whatever reason given. Retroactive canon is nothing new to any enthusiastic follower of a given story with multiple entries throughout the years. Small events are changed here and there, additions and retractions. Larger stories become a mess due to constant additions. New stories set in different time frame contradict previous stories either directly or introducing stuff that wasn’t there before for no other reason but to inorganically tie this new story to the older. Then you have remakes breaking the older canon by introducing all this new stuff and supposedly fixing what was broken in the old. Unless the work in itself is completely finished and the author is resigned from changing it, no fictional story is ever set in stone.

Silly Aalt, we just didn’t know they existed before the story told us about them. I don’t play the canon game like that. They didn’t exist in the canon until they were retroactively inserted there. Discussing things as they happened is fine and dandy. However, ignoring the real world situation and events when something new and out of place is introduced, like the aforementioned relatives, the thing muddles. The authority of course will try to play things in order to placate the fans, or in some cases, the investors. This doesn’t remove the fact that something like Spock’s adopted sister in Star Trek Discovery was pulled out from their ass. At this point oh so many fans will point out different variations of canon, how TV and silver screen events are only true canon and numerous books, guides, comics and whatnot do not count. Though even then, what’s on those screens doesn’t add up all the time, and then they have to issue a magazine article or a book to cover their asses.

Sometimes changing canon can change the whole motif of the work. For Muv-Luv, if you take into account the later explanations how the dimension travel and branching timelines work outside the main body of work, you’ll find out that there are multiple continuities within the BETAverse continuity itself, making Takeru’s sacrifice all but meaningless for all those other continuities. Takeru didn’t end up saving that world at the end of Alternative because of the timeline retcons, just one version of it. The literary motif of a person going through groundhog day loop to save in the name of true love was effectively destroyed.

Is that headcanon I see? No, that’s common sense. I said I don’t play these games. The obsession toward canon strong enough for people to invent new terms and ways to deal with it, like headcanon, i.e. a personal interpretation of events. In the current era of personal feelings and opinions being the height of argument, yeah just go with it then.

Though to be serious, that’s another issue with the whole canon thing. Unless the events are made crystal clear with no ambiguity, you’re more or less asked to refer to a source material like some book, or in modern cases, wikis that just list everything under the sun. Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wikia, is special spectrum kind of levels on the details they list in each entry. Things like how Warp Factor’s speed changed between The Original Series of Star Trek and The Next Generation. Nobody makes a fuss about it on the show or even acknowledges it, but writers’ guides changed how the speeds were represented. In The Original Series, you could go past Warp 10 speeds, but in The Next Generation Warp 10 was maximum speed you could go. The Star Trek Magazine did recognize this and made it work, but that’s not from TV or movies, so according to owner rules, it ain’t canon. It just stays one of numerous discontinuities between the two shows, but we fans are very apt at making excuses for sloppy writing and changed rules on a whim. For all we really know, Warp 10 as the max speed would apply to The Original Series as well and anything that went over Warp 10 should be corrected proper.

Star Trek is the most overused and driest example anyone could use for a discussion about canon, but its so persistent in our global pop-culture that there’s nothing like it. We know Spock, Kirk, Picard and so on. It’s easy. Not so much with Star Wars, but that’s a whole another topic. The fandom is known for its religious level of knowledge of the show and everything surrounding it that it’s become a living joke in itself. A respected joke, but a joke nonetheless. A Trekkie or Trekker, same deal.

While I’m at it, Ex Astris Scientia has a good article on visual (dis)continuity between Star Trek productions. if you got few minutes to kill, give it a look out of interest.

That’s not being fair. No, it it isn’t. The whole deal isn’t fair to the consumer and fans overall, and yet there is this obsession on canon, on what really happened. Well nothing really happened, but the question I always ask Why can’t we treat these as their own stories? What is it that makes fans so keen on sticking to canon? I really don’t know, and I doubt anyone has a wholly satisfying answer to give. Perhaps its the fact that these stories we love are modern myths and legends, that we find something to love and shower ourselves with the how interesting the world and its characters are. We want to know more about all of it and how it all works together as wholesome piece.

The obsession persists in every corner of each fandom. It can’t be escaped. Perhaps long-form storytelling became popular because of this, but even them most shows that try it are episodic in the end, allowing the episodes to have standalone stories within the larger line. Y’know, something some TV-shows like Buffy did well beforehand.

All this demerits each of these stories as a single standalone piece and as a totality. For whatever reason the holy pedestal of canon can’t deal with stories that stand and use the overall frame as the main part of the fictional world. For example, can’t we take all Star Trek series as their own work with works within them all the while dismissing the overlooming canon? Apparently not.  People get rivaled up for everything. Reality is, of course, that Spock did not have an adopted sister or a cousin looking for God in The Original Series, but the obsession to fit everything in a single fictional history overtakes this. This is very marketable. Perhaps time and effort would be better spend in discussing the merit of the work rather than its fictional history that is very much dependent on the whims of the author.

An era of hamfisted franchises

Using very sources or examples is never really a proper thing to do, but recently I can’t help but to feel that as of late more and more companies have been trying to expand their franchises at the cost of the core audience. I don’t mean the usual memetic way, but at the expense of the franchise themselves.

Take both Star Trek and Star Wars as an example. Hell, throw in Ghostbusters in there for good measure. I’m not wondering what the hell happened, because we know what happened in both cases. With Star Trek, we first had the Abrams’ reboot films, which weren’t great to any degree. He didn’t care about the franchise, he didn’t get it. Whatever he did wasn’t in the spirit of Trek and it showed on-screen. The same applies to the second movie, revisiting the same beats for characters like Spock being essentially reset to his original form in the first movie. The PR team directly lying to the audiences about the villain disn’t do any favours. After all, trying to remake what is considered the best of Star Trek movies is a tall task, something the writers and directors weren’t up to. Into Darkness is considered the worst in the series for a good reason, even if it hamfists the usual Trek message in like a truck. Third film may be a fan favourite from the reboot timeline, bu that’s little worth when the movie itself made the least amount of revenues.

All this is really ramps up with Star Trek Discovery, the least viewed Trek if we go by what Midnight’s Edge’s latest Trek video. The overall reaction to it has been less than favourable, but this is not surprising. Les Moonves micromanaged the show to the point of failure. He didn’t care for the franchise, but saw the potential in it to make money. What he or the rest of CBS’ staff didn’t seem to realise that failure would mean further losses on the long run. Any person running a franchise with fifty years of history and a cultural position will tell you that you don’t play the game for short-term gains. The Next Generation‘s later seasons, and the subsequent series didn’t dabble in current politics too much. Instead, good storytelling was at the front with the occasional thematic comment, much like how the Original Series had gone. Deep Space 9 had few episodes that were about racism and culture, yet these were woven into the story in a significant way. The same can’t be said about Discovery, which sadly pushes the politics over the story to the point of the main character Michael Burnham being unable to do anything wrong and comes out the most unpleasant main spot character across the franchise. Pretty much everything was driven by political ideology, with Klingons being turned into representation of political views.

Star Wars suffers from this same approach. Rather than tell a good story, a fitting story for the franchise, Episode VII gave us a terrible story that only got worse in the next mainline movie. The current Expanded Universe has seen vehicles for further one-sided agenda both in books and comics in a similar manner, and it all shows in the falling revenues.

There is no respect towards the franchises or the stories in either camp.

The best stories in either Trek or Wars have been fantastical character pieces. The comparisons of current politics have always been present, but largely in an allegorical method or as motif that is woven in to the overall fabric. You may not notice them, but your brain sure does. This is where so many modern stories fail. For example, the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire is an allegory to certain war with small and technologically weak group fighting a large and overpowering enemy, the Viet Cong against the United States. However, that isn’t emphasized to any degree within the Sequel Trilogy outside the setup.

The First Order from the new movies abandon this altogether and simply makes them sci-fi Nazi Germany, both in action and visuals. This lack of any sort of subtle approach undermines whatever the writer wanted to say to the point of making the First Order seem like Saturday morning cartoon villains, especially in Episode VIII.

The difference between the two isn’t just that Nazi Germany, or Nazis overall, aren’t just largely irrelevant nowadays as a political power, but also shows the fundamental misunderstanding of the franchise and its visuals. This applied to the older Expanded Universe as well, which explain clearly how the Third Reich marched into the cinemas. Abrams can tell us he is a fan of Star Wars how many times he wants, but the end result shows that he isn’t up to the task to write a good Star Wars movie like so many other before him. The same applies to largely almost every piece of SW fiction produced under Disney rule. It is understandable that Disney didn’t want to start making movies based off the Thrawn Trilogy or the like, as that would have meant they’d need to pone up some money for the original writers. The less they have to tie themselves to pre-existing stories and can make whatever the hell they can all the while milking fans’ affection towards characters like Thrawn, it’s all good to them.

Except when their movies are bombing and toys are barely selling. Disney is now trying to course correct the franchise with their next mainline movie, despite being adamant that nothing has been going wrong. Hollywood PR mandates a studio to keep their shit straight and tell nothing’s wrong, until sometime later they can just admit everything being gone to hell and silently try to fix stuff. It’d be better PR to admit they’ve gone wrong and are looking into ways to correct the matter. You’ll never see a studio do this though.

Trek is also taking a new direction, trying to capitalise on the success of The Orville of all things. ST Discovery‘s second season trailer already shows that they have a new direction, with emphasize on more adventure and fun, with Lower Decks being a straight out comedy from the writer of Rick and Morty. While we shouldn’t pass a judgement on series that haven’t even aired an episode yet, but an educated guess about their intentions isn’t hard to make. Discovery, by all means, has been a failure. Rather than looking at what makes a good Trek show and how to go on about it, CBS has opted to see what the direct competitor was doing and wants The Orville audience. Doing comedic Star Trek isn’t the way, doing proper Star Trek and not whatever Discovery ended up being should have been their first course of action, but that’s not how business is done when blind data is looked at without any consideration to the franchise.

Maybe all of these companies should look into making new IPs rather than bastardise existing ones to function as their vehicles. The Orville did it, against all the odds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBS should trek toward something new

With the recent new of Patrick Steward returning as Jean-Luc Picard in his own Star Trek spinoff after the questionable ST Discovery. With CBS now footing the bill for the second season after Netflix essentially paying for the ride for the first one, Abrams’ Trek movies effectively being dead in the water as main cast members are walking away from it and Les Moonves of CBS still wanting to screw things up to the point crashing the franchise. Midnight’s Edge’s recent video goes over the background events of the Abrams’ Trek movies, what the current license and copyright mess is and dire the situation for the franchise is overall. To put it short; the man currently in charge doesn’t like SF and wants to remove all the history of Star Trek by somehow collapsing timelines in-fiction to justify to do whatever kind of story he wants.

The thing is, he always could.

The worst decision that franchises like this do is writing prequels. By doing that, the staff is essentially tied to defined future of the story. If they break the future, the overall story and canon makes less and less sense with each little breakage. One drop doesn’t break a damn, but enough drops turn into a tidal whale. For long time fans of any franchise, they know how prequels often turn out. Not all that great, sometimes even sullying the story they’re based on.

The better option is to move forwards. If Star Trek Discovery had been another Trek show set in whatever time span after Star Trek: Nemesis, there would have been far less cacophony from the audience. No strings attached, no character references needed, no plot points to follow, everything can be made new and shiny.

But that takes effort and references seem to something Hollywood and TV writers and execs things are needed to bring in the fanbase. They seem to treat their audience as some sort of imbeciles.

References to past parts of a franchise is the easiest way to make sure the fans and general audience in the know understand that the series is part of it. For Star Trek, it’s the recurring species of Klingons and such with the occasional visitor from other shows, like how DeForest Kelley made an appearance in the first episode of The Next Generation as an older Leonard McCoy. While it supposedly gives legitimacy to the series as a sequel, it all really ends up being useless fan pandering. Similarly, Picard appeared in Deep Space 9‘s first episode to give it a sendoff, and that was about just as needless. The story had already tied itself to a past even, the Battle of Wolf 359. It can be argued that this was more a necessary cameo due to Picard’s role as the enemy in that battle, and to showcase the difference between Sisko and Picard. Problem of course was, the show could’ve done this by itself. At worst, a cameo like this makes a show look weak, as if it couldn’t stand on its own two legs. This was one of Discovery‘s worst weakness, as it was directly tied to the Original series through introducing yet another relative to Spock, and using Spock’ father Sarek prominently throughout the first season. The second season will have Spock in some role as well, meaning Discovery further loses its unique status as a show and as a story, making the world so much smaller.

Of course, it is financially more viable to do this. Referencing and using existing characters and actors ensures the fans, or at least part of the fandom, will flock and pay for these characters. This allows modern versions to be made of these characters and these modernisations then can be licensed onward to toy manufacturers and such. It makes money, and is a safe bet to give that aforementioned legitimacy. It’s a no-brainer why CBS told Abrams and Paramount that their Trek wouldn’t be the only game in town in terms of licensing. I don’t believe there ever was brand confusion among core fans, or even with general audiences to any significant extent, as the visuals between Abrams’ Trek and old Star Trek shows were like night and day, or rather, difference between well shot scene and one filled with lensflares. Any audience, fans or not, are willing to pay for products that they have connected with when it comes to franchise merch, and considering how low quality Abram’s Trek is, it’s no wonder why its toys and other merch didn’t sell. On the other hand, the culture at large has direct emotional connection to the classic Star Trek shows, especially in the US, which means its much easier to sell new merch based on those series.

And as I’ve beaten this dead horse, using those characters to which the audience has emotional contact with in other shows is just good financial sense.

In a way, it is always risky to start with new characters as they have no history or properly set path, and it’s a slight gamble whether or not the audience will like them. The audience may no connect with the characters. Neelix from Voyager is a great example how not to do a character in Trek, as he was never improved upon. He stayed a shithead throughout the series. Character like Bashir is a great example how to improve your character throughout the series, as he started as annoying prick, and then evolved into one of the more likeable and stronger characters of the show.

However, despite the risks, starting from a clean table with new characters and new stories without any of the baggage of old yields better rewards than tying things down. All it takes is proper planning and using the heart of the franchise to its fullest extent, and building up a new story with brand new characters. A new Star Trek should just be that, a new Star Trek, advancing what the series can be about and going toward the future, but ever since Enterprise, everything has just stepped backwards and stalling the franchise.

Behind the scenes theatre

After a long time, I had a moment to spare to watch some movies. Whilst my collection is nothing special and does not contain many flicks film buffs would tell you to watch, I noticed an interesting trend with then. Behind the Scene stuff changed across the ages. For example, with Star Trek‘s behind the scenes footage was quite honestly just someone on the set doing home videos, with the occasional Roddenberry-owned goof tape he used to sell at conventions without any approval of the studio or the actors. I think you can still find pirate versions of these tapes floating around the Internet. These are honest showcases of what was happening, all the flips and flops of the actors.

Television didn’t exactly have the same amount of documentaries about making of television or movies, all these were relegated to magazine articles and newspaper interviews. Something that the studios themselves didn’t do at all. The value wasn’t in there for them. Genre magazines shone with their exclusive contents, behind the scenes photos and such.

Things changed, albeit slowly. By the late 1970’s you began seeing more and more material on the television about movies being made, as studios began to recognize the PR value. Outside the usual interviews, footage was more often than not honest to the reality.

A paradigm shift began to take hold in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, where  some studios began to intentionally build a library of making of documentaries for documentary and PR use. While only Laserdiscs could really contain large amount of extras, television saw more of these Behind the Scenes stuff to a larger extent. These documentaries have a more professional feel and look to them, as they’re shot as intended for a purpose.

However, it wasn’t until the 2000’s when Behind the Scene documentaries lost pretty much all plausability. Star Wars Episode I; The Phantom Menace‘s footage is one of the last Making Of documentaries, where you see the director and his staff being completely honest. That footage is interesting, because it has no veil on it, and you can see all the little bits that would build up the movie, for better or worse. There are multiple moments of Lucas himself telling directly in a natural environment what he is doing and how. Him watching old silent comedy for Jar Jar Binks, using a marker to draw on storyboards or reviewing readied models, it’s all there.

Then jump to Star Wars Episode VII. By 2010’s, Hollywood has fully recognised the power Behind the Scenes and Making Of features have. DVD brought us an era, where discs were chock-full of specials features, something we’re starting to lack with BDs. While a lot of the special features were simply transfers from the LD versions, at some point you could find yourself watching a Making Of, where the actors, director and everyone else who is involved being interviewed against a backdrop, over a footage they act in or make models.

In effect, these features have become less about the reality of the situation and fully about the public relations aspect, and how the studio and its staff can promote each other to the fullest. These studios, Disney especially, exerts large control over what material gets out and how it should be presented. A book called Making of the Force Awakens supposedly would’ve revealed lot of the background while making the movie, including some of the details about the deal Disney and Lucas made. The only reason a book like this would get cancelled is because it had something negative, something that could’ve damaged reputation of Disney or Star Wars as a franchise. There would have been no questions about its potential sales, as Star Wars was at its hottest since Episode I at the time.

The design of these things have never truly been about what’s happening behind the scenes. However, with time these features have become effectively fraudulent, showcasing a reality that doesn’t exist. Well, perhaps this was to be expected, a documentary is one’s subjective view of the events after all, not the objective reality.

Overly busy, nonsensical and lacking in imagination

While I would love to dive into and give my two cents on the quality of Star Trek: Discovery as a show, the blog’s not really a place for that. I’ll comment on the designs of STD instead, similar on what I did for Star Wars. Well, the title really says it all, doesn’t it? Well, I’m going to give it a shot and aim to veer away from comparing too much to old Trek shows, mainly because this is a reboot all things considered and because all the designs are far too advanced for its time period. I’ll also concentrate on the Federation designs, because I don’t want to lose my mind with the Klingon’s.

I’ve seen some people on the ‘net using busy and complex designs as synonyms to each other. This isn’t the case. Busy design just means there is a high amount of unnecessary details, lines, cuts and whatever else elements that simply don’t sit right. There are some designers who can make busy work extremely well, but it’s usually the first way to fill in “blank” space rather than working over the designs overall.

The uniforms and force fields are probably a good example of this. The uniforms don’t look too bad at a distance, but whenever we get a close-up, we see that nothing on it looks set-in. Every surface has a texture of some sort on it.

The above shots shows three things; the areas on her sides are riddled with smaller Federation symbols for whatever reason, the Federation badge itself is split into two for no reason and houses ranking pips. Pips, which would’ve been great on the collar, but the collar is now wasted to look funky with its asymmetric design. This asymmetry forces the zip to be on her right side more, but as seen from this shot, it still angles towards the middle of the jacket. It looks stupid. If the jacket had been single-breasted, this would’ve worked. Hell, it would’ve looked great even. Now, with the symmetrical stripes on the shoulders and itty bitty Starfeet logos on the sides, it looks someone botched their day at the clothes workshop and called it a day.

Pants on the other manage to look like uniform pants a bit more, but the unnecessary zippers on the sides look stupid. This sort of vertical pocket is not very practical, so maybe it’s to let some air in. The stripes on the shoulders continue down the pants’ sides, which we don’t see here, but at least they’ve consistent with them. The boots look pretty terrible, with soles jumping out like they were just attached to a pair they didn’t belong to. Let’ not forget that even the boots have Starfleet logo on them. Twice.

Here also get to see the stripes running on the side of the pants.

The only time the uniform looks good is when it’s straight. Any other time there’s a wrinkle or its twisted by a body movement, it looks pretty terrible. All because all the things that should line up don’t, and the texture gets all messed up. The Starfleet symbols don’t help in this at all, and their removal would make the uniform look lots better. Centering the zipper would help a lot too, or at least making it straight.

The force field is a another good example of this. Let’s pass the whole thing that safety force fields didn’t exist at this point in the timeline like they’re portrayed here, and let’s ask why the hell it has all those little lines running in it. There is no logical reason for it other than separate it from other force fields we’ve seen thus far, and certainly does not look like the ones in any Star Trek. It’s a good example of business for its own sake. I could touch upon Klingon designs and all other examples I could muster, but we’re going to go over the word limit as is, so let’s move on.

If the designs aren’t busy to be filled with something, they’re nonsensical and impractical at best. Chairs are always a good example.

The chairs we see here are actually a contrary example of busy design, but they’re a good example of a chair that would be horrible to sit on. Because they’re made from one large piece, there is nothing to adjust on them. The edges are hard and the cushioning looks inadequate. These are the chairs used in classrooms and the like, where you have to have a universal, cheap as hell chair, except even those tend to have some angle to allow natural back curvature. These would make your back ache.

Then again, not everybody has a chair and there are no seat belts. That’s a terrible position to work your whole day. The fact that the station is not adjustable to height means it’s designed for human use, which is a terrible oversight in a universe where aliens serve on Federation vessels.  Also notice how  w i d e  the captain’s chair is

Also notice the paneling in the room filling each and every surface, except the floor which has a carpet, further mudding the scene down. It’s also in a Dutch angle, making it look terribly shot. Straightening it makes a better shot, even if you have to crop stuff out.

A trope in science fiction is that screens are transparent. Considering nobody really would like a transparent screen with high-brightness visuals on it, SF really should get away with it. But a massive screen with unnecessary borders, information and statistics you can’t even see?

Darkening the bridge is another trope that should be dropped, because nothing sounds better than having bright as hell panels in front of your face and then have the room darkened, blinding you for a time. Just like the Dutch angle.

There are two problems with screen like this. First is that nobody is able to see the information on the screen, not even the viewer. The only valuable information that’d be nice here is the meter running at the top of the screen, except it’s relevancy changes all the time, and all the people who needs this information sees it more relevantly on their station. The information on either side of the screen is largely irrelevant, just as is the larger information charts on the right. Hell, the square in the middle functions as some sort of shield against brightness differences, but it actually turns the brightness up, not down. I thought it was some sort of zoomed-in window, but the space in there clearly isn’t zoomed in and we saw that zoom-in function looked completely different. I don’t know what the hell it is, but it’s absolutely nonsensical and impractical. Drop the excess stuff allow the view screen function as a giant window. You get all the data on your stations.

I don’t really need to put different snaps up on how the design are lacking imagination. All the designs, from lighting to chairs, clothing and even colour choices scream of generic science fiction show. Without the Starfleet symbol floating anywhere, on the costumes, this would fit any science fiction show out there. The design work is lacking that heart. It’s not necessarily even lacklustre, but it’s very safe and sits nicely in the middle-ground of being forgettable. The photography and the way scenes are shot doesn’t help the matter at all. The series’ designs are already finished, and unless they managed to revamp things, it’s still gonna look terribly dull.

Let’s not forget the terrible desktop lamps we have here and that Sarek’s hologram is sitting on a table he should not know exists there. Does he know there was a table there and has an exactly same height table at the exact same spot at his house to sit on whenever Michael calls him? Maybe I should come back to this and do a comparative technology level review after the show’s over

Death of a World

I have been enjoying reading as of late. Not Visual Novels mind you, but books. I used to spend lot of time with books and used the library quite often, but nowadays I feel that I’d rather than something of my own in my hands, so I can do whatever I please with it. A creased page or cover (one of the many reasons I prefer hardcover) won’t bother when it’s fixed properly, something I couldn’t do to a loaned booked. While my bookshelf has its share of books outside comics, guides and other random assortments, I do have a wish to give something new a proper shot. This seems to be turning into a more personal post than intended, but hey, maybe that’s a good thing once in a while.

After some discussion with a book reviewer I across the pond I am familiar with, she came to a conclusion that I should go outside my field of preference, at least for a duration of few titles, and give Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books a go. I come to these things late, as usual. I can’t say I like Pratchett’s works, though the opposite is true as well. I simply have no relationship with Discworld to speak of, less anything to Pratchett himself. How I approach his works, or anyone else’s for the matter, is through neglect of the author. Pratchett doesn’t matter when it comes to his work, the works are enough on themselves. Just as I discourage idol worship with game developers, I extend this to directors, actors and writers. Though I must admit writers do gain a bit more respect from my part on how solitary their work is, but even then the best writers work with their editors or professionals in the field to build their book’s contents the best possible way. While pretty much all Pratchett fans I know have recommend to start elsewhere than from the beginning, I have always preferred to do so. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, for better or worse, shall serve my entry to the Discworld.

World that has, for all intents and purposes, died with its author.

Pratchett’s daughter has no intention of continuing his father’s work in any way or form. Licensing existing works are another thing altogether, but no new stories are to be written. All this seems a terrible waste. Discworld has been such an influence that even someone like me, who has never opened a book in the series, knows something about the disc-shaped world through cultural osmosis. Things like the world sitting on top of four elephants (one of which has to lift his leg to allow the sun to continue its cycle due to how complex it is), which sit atop A’Tuin, a giant turtle that is swimming across the space. The world has its own rules and magic is much a thing as anything, and bananas don’t grow on trees.

It is of course understandable. A lifework like Discworld garners respect on its own and expectations for each entry were astronomical, from an outsider’s view. Sales numbers probably talk for themselves when it comes to the success and popularity of the Discworld novels, though this would where the argument that it has succeeded because the series just has been that good steps in (and would not be applied elsewhere due to dislike.) Pratchett probably had incredible load on his back with each entry to meet up with the expectations and (apparent) level of quality of his works in general, and we could assume that only he could write what many would consider a true Discworld novel. This, of course, would be bull, as the probability says there is a writer who could match his level and could deliver a proper Discworld title, perhaps even better. It would be a tall order and difficult any way you’d look at it, especially considering how harshly fans of any franchise  with singular creator treat outsiders. Pratchett as a creator will probably stay a a unique writer in the history fantasy novels, but all in all he isn’t the only one, nor he will be the last one of his caliber. It’s largely a matter of time before his niche is fulfilled, though that may not be anytime soon.

Whether or not a world should be laid to rest with its author is a debatable subject with no one true answer. Star Wars, for example, did find better stories when it was outside Lucas’ hands, though Disney’s run with the franchise has left me a cold turkey. Similarly, while the original Star Trek is still a superb show, it was other writers like D.C. Fontana who made Trek more what it became than Roddenberry himself in the end. Then again, Roddenberry and Lucas were able to create worlds, but not write in them very well. That didn’t seem to be the case with Pratchett.

To take this into direction games, just to keep things more in-line with the blog’s tone, using a game’s main director as a comparison point would do. Much like people expect writers to deliver great novels after another, a star director is expected to deliver high-quality games. The most recent example of a complete outsider beating the original creators at their own game would be Sonic Mania, which some have argued to be the best 2D Sonic to date, though I’d give it few years to set in before supporting or opposing such a claim. Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime is another example, where a third-party beat the original creators, and the latest Metroid II remake shows further how Nintendo does not understand the franchise.

Perhaps it would be better the leave Discworld at it is as a monument to its creator after all.

I may come late to popular things, but if the two first novels manage to caught my fancy, there are forty-five other books for me to read. I can understand my friend never wanting to finish the last book in the series, as then she would have to face that there is anywhere to go afterwards. She may read a page or two per year, but even that pace would slow down as she reads on. Indeed, it is a sad thing to see something you love coming to an end.

Stuck in the past

What does Star Trek and Star Wars have in common? Both have slew of prequels to them. The idea really is solid; explore how things came to be and see what sort of stories could be made within a certain set of time. The problem with either franchise is that there are definitive elements within those worlds that dictate how certain things must be in their prequels, otherwise the stories would not make sense or even connect.

Star Trek Discovery is supposedly set ten years prior the original television series. One would expect them to follow how the series then should look, albeit updates here and there. After all, Star Trek is a pillar of modern western popular culture in many ways. However, pretty much everything was moved to the side in favour of visuals that follow more along the lines of the nuTrek movies, or the Kelvin timeline as its now called. For a common couch potato this all fine and dandy, and requires little suspension of disbelief. However, for even a light fan of the series, the visual just don’t sit right. All this is of course because the series is developed under a license intended for an alternate timeline Star Trek, not under one that’s meant for the mainline.

There is no problem in making a prequel in itself. The problems rise if the creators want to have freedoms that are not tied too much to pre-existing stories. Especially with stories that are set between set events. Essentially, you’re boxing yourself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to creative freedoms. If you’re not willing to utilise given tools and take advantage of the existing stories, then it’d be better just find someone who can.

This isn’t a hardcore fan’s perspective either. A story of any sorts requires at least some level of respect towards it, otherwise the end product will most likely end up being schlock at best.

A good example of a story shoved in-between two other stories would the Shadows of the Empire. While it was a well made marketing decision to create a Star Wars phenomena without a movie, it did stand on rather good story that utilised elements from Empire Strikes Back that would lead into Return of the Jedi. All the while creating something new.

Say you want to write a story for Star Trek without being hampered down by existing restrictions. That’s an impossible task, but the most freedom you would have if you were to create a sequel story. This would allow you to have pretty much all the freedoms to do whatever you want, with the only restriction being the overall history and relationships between factions. Nevertheless, you could still have Klingons as enemies with a good reason despite there existing an alliance between Federation and them.

Star Wars’ prequels movies didn’t exactly suffer from being boxed between stories, like STD does, but what they suffer from is spoiling and devaluing the original trilogy. For example, Empire Strikes Back has less impact when you’ve seen Anakin becoming Darth Vader. Vader himself changes as a character if you don’t make a mental distinction between trilogies.

Under Disney’s rule, we’re getting new prequels all the time, for the better or worse. Rogue One‘s story was something we’ve seen few times over already, and due to this SW‘s Expanded Universe had to reconcile how things went down between events and who really stole the plans. That, and you couldn’t have anyone alive at the end. That didn’t stop them mucking up the storyline though, as the end of the movie contradicts the opening of A New Hope.

The question that is required to be asked if we even need to see these stories unfold. The fact that Death Star’s plans were stolen isn’t an important story in the end, but what happened afterwards is. The same thing happened with Death Star II’s plans. We didn’t need to see many Bothans die on-screen to understand how heavy their losses were. Mon Mothma does that well enough on the screen with her acting.

For Star Trek, we don’t really need to see the Earth-Romulan war, despite plans existed for it during Enterprise and fans wanting it. There really isn’t need to see what happened between the period of the Original Series and the movies. These would be best explored in supplemental materials, where the fans could enjoy these events the most. This is due to the nature of Star Trek itself; it’s not a story about wars. Deep Space Nine being an exception rather than a rule. Even then, DS9‘s war was naturally developed aftermath of finding a stable wormhole.

Hell, if STD wanted to tell a grim story about Federation warring, the staff could’ve introduced a new enemy and make heavy questions if a society like Federation can exist in its high-horse haven like state when reality does not match it. The Original Series does this to an extend, especially with Kirk, who constantly has to fight to uphold his ideals in a human way. This is the exact opposite to early The Next Generation, where the cast was completely idolised without much shred of humanity. That all came down after the Borg invaded. In retrospect, it could be even argued that Federation was taken down a peg by the Borg and made them realise how their own society had moved towards a more terrible direction.

A natural progression of a story is forwards. Episode VII made the right direction to move forwards in Star Wars‘ canon, whereas we can debate if seeing a film about younger Han Solo was ever needed. If you’ve ever read Han Solo at the Stars’ End, the answer is Yes. However, those who know the book also recognize that Solo in this book is very much a different beast from modern Star Wars’ take on him, especially if the rumours of the solo Solo movie’s original take was to make him an Ace Ventura-like. Midnight’s Edge unsurprisingly has a vids up on the whole issue.

Boxing yourself tight into a prequel takes a certain set of mind, one that has to be able to to utilise given resources, not make up whatever shit you want. Whoever owns Star Trek in the end, be it either CBS or Universal, they really need to move forwards and do a new The Next Generation rather than trying to milk with remakes, prequels or reboots.

The hope for something better

When Star Wars was first time released in the theatres, it was a smash hit. Part of the reason to this was that it offered hope and reminded that there is more to life than bitter stories and grim visages. American Graffiti did this too, perhaps even more so that Lucas thought. Similarly, Star Trek came out at a time when America was still working out its heftier social issues. After the Second World War it was not uncommon to see hatred blazing here and there, but in Star Trek people could work together for a better tomorrow, despite their flaws.

After Star Wars and the fall of New Hollywood, science fiction, exploitation and high fantasy became entertainment to the masses as Hollywood itself began to produce what used to be regarded as low-budget, low-brow movies. For someone who has lived in post-Star Wars all of his life, it is hard to understand the impact it did. SF was essentially relegated to a lower tier of film making and all space adventures and such were meant for kids. After Star Wars, and to this day, science fiction and its fantasy brethren are mass entertainment to the point of long time fans of certain stories demanding that the stories should cater to them. After all, they’ve been consumers of a media for whole of their life.

I’m not sure when science fiction began losing its light in the mainstream media. Perhaps it was the 1990’s eXtreme that did it. The first time I began to notice it was when the 2004 Battlestar Galactica hit the scene. Certainly it is a series that demands its high acclaim, at least early on, but the show seemed to lack hope of sorts. Rather than hopeful like its originator, the remake series was grim and dirty. A friend quoted it to be Science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction.

This was around the same time I noticed the lack of hope was with the revival of Terminator franchise. The future couldn’t be stopped. The doomsday will come, it just got postponed. You can’t change your fate. Whoever decided to undo the core message that Terminator 2 had essentially shot himself to the leg. The Terminator franchise has more potential to it than just exploring the same old story of mad computer sending cyborgs to past to kill someone. One of these stories could’ve been what happened during the Future Wars, before it was prevented. How Kyle Reese fought in it and how he was ultimately chosen to go back to the past. There is no negative validation in telling a story that, in-universe, was unmade.

This sort of thing has continued with the zombie boom, especially with The Walking Dead. It’s not a secret that there is a sort of wanting for a modern man to be set free of society and all of its demands. In a world where everything just breaks down and we can become our own masters of sorts again, things are easier and more straightforward. Or at least that’s how some have argued for me. It’s a poor argument, much like the argument for returning to a rural simplicity to live with nature. Mankind created tools to simplify our lives and to get rid off mundane tasks that would take hours to complete. Hell, this has gone to the point of libraries suffering due to the Internet offering all the knowledge it can hold, knowledge that we all know is more often biased than not.

Star Trek more often than not offered the lighter side of things. Or in case of Voyager, the crazy ass side. Deep Space Nine may be the most morbid of the current shows we have, but even that hold hope for humanity. Dr. Bashir was an insufferable character, who grew up to be something better. This is a good example how show writers took upon themselves to make the series superior by organically allowing the characters to grow to a better direction, whereas in Voyager everything was left to rot.

The Roddernberry Box was a rule set that put limitations on the writers during The Next Generation era. One of the main rules was that the main cast of characters couldn’t have conflicts with each other as humanity had supposedly grown out of this. No grieving, death has been accepted a cold fact of life by all. It’s not a pleasant box to work in, especially if you’re doing drama, but it did wonders to Star Trek, especially in hindsight. Here we have, holier than tho people who get taken down a peg or two by force mightier than them, enslaving part of their people for their own collective purpose. By the end of the series, these stiff and poorly written characters had grown to accept their faults and yet striving for something better. In Deep Space Nine we see Benjamin Sisko, a single father and a man who’ve lost his wife in a new frontier, struggling against his own ghosts and wants for the future. Ultimately Sisko moves on with his life, just as everyone else does around him.

Star Trek Discovery, for all intents and purposes, is Star Trek in name only. In an interview Sonequa Martin-Green described the series as bigger, rawer and grittier. Pretty much all the leaks on the Internet are talking about the series another reboot to the franchise and is more in-line with J.J. Abrams nuTrek/Kelvin timeline movies, as the series was done under a license that allowed creation of a parallel Star Trek product. All the descriptions we’ve gotten thus far from any and all sites does make STD look like a generic modern science fiction than Star Trek. Nobody thinks Star Trek should be raw and gritty. Not by a long shot. That’s for Galactica or Blade Runner.

Traveling to the Moon gave humanity hope as a whole. Star Trek tapped to this same core. Space travel has always given us a chance to look beyond ourselves as we are know, towards a better future. If we want to make it. Star Trek recognized people’s differences, yet celebrated them and allowed each person to become something better.  You could become something if you worked for it, you’ve given all the chances. The world depicted is utopia for a reason, though not even in a post-scarcity world things would go like that. People still would like to trade, money would be necessary. There would always be people better than you. Nevertheless, there was hope that things would get better, if we would go for it. Not by taking people down, but by allowing them to flourish.

Where am I going with all this? I’m not sure myself. By all means, there seems to be a wanting demand for stories of grim survival. However, I can’t place this haunting need for something with more lighter side of humanity.

Music of the Month; Roundabout

I had idea what music to use this month. I honestly did. Then I completely forgot what the song was supposed to be. Not even a single note in my head. That music was supposed to be theme for this month, and you guessed it, I forgot what the theme was supposed to be. Well, I better gather something together. Ah screw it, it’s Yes time.

So, the Mega Man 2017 is now 2018. I’m not going to retroactively change that in the previous posts, because that’s how the date was announced then. Now is now, and from now on I’ll be referring the sub-franchise as Mega Man 2018. Maybe it’s the main franchise, because it’s pretty much the only thing Mega Man has going for now. His design also went well with the whole transforming mecha thing we have this year. Y’know, weapon changing and all that. A bit of a stretch, but I needed a slight break from the whole thing due to the amount of hours I’ve been putting in the workshop. I should be sleeping buy in reality I’m typing this out for you.

As for this month’s design thing, I may discuss the design og A-6 Intruder from Muv-Luv Alternative. Why? Because it’s a shape changing mecha, of course. Now getting some of the linearts or general images is a bitch, so I’ll have to resort what I have. Which probably is most than what others have due to my own devices.

Speaking of âge related stuff, Evan from the official translation side of things has translated one of the crack-head funniest bit âge’s produced, True Lies. Check it on his webzone. True Lies is a story of aliens, humans and antennoids and all the truths and lies that surround their existence. There’s a lot of love in there, and a hero we all don’t want but probably will get in the end. It’s a good bit and will entertain a solid hour, even when it starts to drag towards the end. Melvina Maniax was also pushed out and there’s Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv, a product that’s been coming out since forever. I guess good things are worth the wait, though personally I’ll have to wait for it myself a bit longer due to circumastances. Not that I have time to read anything currently, I still haven’t touched Schwarzesmarken properly.

As for reviews, this month will see release of new 8Bit Music Power Final, and because I love you marvelous bastards so much, I decided to go with the version that comes with an attachment that supposedly puts out higher quality music. Seeing their build quality got better with Kira Kira DX, I’m hoping that they’ll step up the quality once more with this one. I don’t expect any gameplay from them as this really is just a digital album released on a Famicom cartridge. If’ you’re a Touhou fan, you might want to pick it up as Zun has a piece in there. Not really sure what I should aim for the next review, but I guess I’ll find out later down the line this month. I’ll just need to dig up something a bit strange and game related, as that seems to be in-demand. Well, as in demand as anything can be relating to this blog.

I haven’t commented on game news recently much due to nothing too much of interest being out there. The Switch has sold over five million units, which is damn good number. Especially when you consider that we are not in holiday season. A console selling five million during Christmas or such season is nothing out of normal, but selling that well in March raises an eyebrow. The system launch library though is atrocious, but seems like it has found its spot in the niche. Now if the software would just keep rolling in.

That reminds that I should discuss the emphasize of game design over technological design now that it seems we’re in an era where each new generation doesn’t marvel with its leaps in technology. All consoles can output great graphics, but now it’s put to the design of the graphics and gameplay to make due. Graphics whoring is for PC side, after all. I don’t remember anyone going full gaga over a game in decades anymore due to its graphics, Crysis was the last one I remember having such an effect on people. Well, if you exclude Illusion’s titles, but I’m not here to talk about porn games. Not yet at least.

Perhaps discussing game collecting might be a topic worth visiting. That would be an anecdotal post, mostly form a personal point of view and as such I doubt that it would do well in grand scheme of things (though there isn’t one.) Perhaps something less serious for a change might be in place, though emphasizing on topics that get the most hits via search engines would be the logical things to do. As Spock noticed oh so many times, humans tend to be illogical beings.

Speaking of Star Trek, whenever we get to see stuff from Discovery in a more transparent way than just leaked shots, I’ll do a comment on the designs. I did so with Star Wars (and I’ve bitched about them quite a lot) and Trek will get the same treatment. However, the rumour mill has been saying that the behind-the-screen events have been pretty terrible and handled terribly. For example, despite the show being a prequel series to the original Star Trek series, the designers and showrunners were forced to make it look the most advanced series in the franchise due to executive meddling. Midnight’s Edge has a video on the whole thing. Honestly, I’m not terribly excited about Discovery, prequels tend to be terrible (just look at Enterprise) and apparently it’s going to have more sex, which is one to the things that killed Enterprise. Is it echoing here? It’s not looking good for the series, but maybe some series do require extended periods of staying away from the general view and stay within the fandom in order to renew themselves completely.

McQuarrie’s designs recycled

What common element is shared between Star Wars and Star Trek? Well, the title spells it already. With the Star Trek Discovery test footage revealed, the first reaction to many was Is that the Enterprise from Planet of the Titans? Those who are into Trek at least asked, and for a good reason. The title ship does indeed look like it was lifted from McQuarrie’s concept design for the refitted Enterprise.

McQuarryprise uss disco

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