Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Star Trek / Loveboat Mashup And Soulmates Part V

This series of posts illustrates the thinking process inside the writer's mind. The exercise here is to target an audience and develop a jaw-dropping TV Series premise from a very vague concept.

Again I recommend reading previous Parts first.





Here we're looking to define an overall generational CONFLICT on a massive philosophical level, as the core engine to drive a new TV show concept, a Star Trek / Loveboat mashup.

--------Part V--------

So in Part IV we ended off mentioning Mary Tyler Moore.

I learned something watching that show, and I don't know how to teach it.  You may not learn it from that show, but from say, Saturday Night Live, or something similar.

The essence of humor is pain.  Laughter is a faint scream of pain.

If you can stand far enough away from the herd of elephants (metaphor discussed in early parts of this series), you can find the point where pain and sexuality meet, where they are back to back manifestations of something.

Heinlein had his computer-intelligence say it in MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS -- "orgasm is when they all light up."

It's a total nerve-load response.

But humans can get that nerve-load response without being touched.  Imagination can supply the load and the trigger.

We can look at something beautiful - a sunrise, a flower, a painting - and gasp in paralyzed delight, all lit up.

A woman on a (rather awful) television screen can say a few words, strike a pose, and have millions of viewers in stitches without laying a finger on them.

MEANING gets transmitted by words.

Something in a human being resonates to those words, creates within themselves a meaning all their own, and REACTS to their own personal experience, their subjective experience.

Back to our audience of Hard-SF folks who would run screaming from a Star Trek / Loveboat mashup.  People trained in the scientific view of the universe, who are studying their part of "the elephant" (do please read the previous posts) don't want to mess with subjective reality.

A lot of such folks don't acknowledge psychology or sociology or cultural anthropology etc as "real" science, and thus in the survey of "what is the most fundamental branch of science" those sciences were discarded. 

In subjective reality, anything goes, anything might be real, whatever you think is fine and facts don't matter.  Those who've attempted to parse our subjective realities into some kind of sense still haven't gained the respect of the hard-science audience.

In the objective reality science works in, only facts matter.

Very often in these posts on writing craft, I've mentioned that I learned from my first mentor, Alma Hill, the first professional writer I ever knew personally, that writing is a peforming art.

WRITNG IS A PERFORMING ART - and is therefore an ART.

In the realm of human knowledge there are the arts - and the sciences.

The hard-SF crowd I'm aiming for with this mashup concept won't mess with "the arts" -- there's nothing real there because it's all subjective.

So we won't tell them. Mary Tyler Moore didn't tell them, so why should we?

So let's look for the conflict embedded so deep in the subconscious of a generation (a 20-year span of new kids).

To get a clue, look at any cross section of fantasy novels from 2010, 2009.

We see Vampire novels - (yeah, and Twilight) - and Romances of various sorts.  The universe building is intricate, detailed and draws on an astonishing breadth and depth of classical mythology.

With notable exceptions, a trend emerges if you look at these novels just from the Universe Building point of view.

Here's a list of premises, (the data in my non-scientific observation) I see repeated:

a) the universe is fragile
b) human activity can destroy the integrity of the universe
c) human inactivity (i.e. not performing a ritual) can destroy the universe
d) The universe as we know it, our World, sits atop a thin crust below which seethes with immense Evil totally dedicated to breaking through that crust.
e) ONLY one person or one kind of people, (think Buffy The Vampire Slayer and/or Supernatural ) can prevent Evil from breaking out into our world
f) Only a small (sometimes chosen) group knows the truth about Reality, that things that go bump in the night are real.
g) Evil is REAL and must be FOUGHT, but can't be destroyed
h) The Devil is Real
i) Some Evil Beings are not so bad as friends go (shades of gray rather than absolutes) The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
j) God is not real. Good is relative. There is no action that can't be justified in fighting Evil. No punishment.
k) Anything you and I would recognize as Good Enough is losing the battle against Evil - there's nothing to do but accept Evil into our ranks. (Laurell K. Hamilton started this with legal rights for Vampires, Werewolves etc.)

OK, like I said, lots of notable exceptions, but enough novel series (large books, large numbers of titles per series) to indicate sales levels for Worldbuilding including at least half the elements from that list are solid enough to support mass market production and distribution.

Something in this view of the universe is fascinating to a generation of readers.  Endlessly fascinating.

Fascination on that order indicates a submerged philosophical conflict.

This age-group has an innate human need to GET OUTSIDE OF the strictures the parental generation is trying to impose.

What are those strictures?

Your answer to that question will guide you into creating your own mashup/concept, and you just might sell the thing if you can nail it as accurately as Marion Zimmer Bradley and Gene Roddenberry did.

Here's one idea for SUBJECTIVELY interpreting that data.

The parental generation (baby boomers & X-ers who had their kids in the 1990's - kids born in 1990 (there was a baby-boom that peaked in 1996) are now 21, right at the top of our target demographic) grew up in the 1970's when the Women's Lib movement turned the world inside out.

In the 1980's High Schools and Universities changed curricula drastically, political correctness became vogue.

The central Event for that parental generation is the VALUE SHIFT, a total devastating earthquake of a value shift.

It resulted in restructuring of the family, a skyrocking divorce rate and lots of couples not marrying because of the tax penalty.

The current teens have been raised by a generation which has no "blinders" (as I discussed in previous posts)




"Blinders" can be either a good thing or a bad thing, as the blinders on a race horse protect from flying mud and help keep the horse from being distracted, keep the horse on course.

Humans being Humans - ethical blinders can likewise be either good or bad.  They can keep you pointed in "the right" direction - (the direction chosen by your parents?) - or they can keep you from noticing the right direction is "over there."

So what happened in the 1980's as the Women's Movement took hold was a dissolution of values that had been the only way to live -- the only ethics and morals visible right in front of us.

The whole culture plunged into formless mists and trackless wastelands of values -- no other culture that I know of in human history bestowed real equality on women.  Science freed women from unwanted pregnancy.  Marriage is now considered irrelevant by a substantial fraction (there was a survey) in America.

So we had to make new values because humans do that obsessively.  Political Correctness has become a value.

The children of the Value-melt-down generation are now describing the world as without a "beacon" (God) up high on a Hill somewhere above dictating Values of right and wrong, but a world under siege and losing to a mishmosh of destruction seething up from below.

Perhaps this generation sees itself as fighting a rear guard action against value melt-down?

I think there's a major dividing chasm in our culture.

Mass Market paperback Fantasy doesn't sell to a very wide market at all.  It's not just the number of "readers" that has declined under impact of videogames, but the percent of readers who read SF/F has also appeared to decline (I don't have a survey to prove that; it's just a feel for the market and anecdotal evidence from other writers.)

But the SF/F readership is a bell weather, or always has been, for the future direction of a generation.

So looking at the data, I see a generation fighting to define the Values that matter, to create a system they can agree on to determine good from bad, right from wrong.

And apparently what feels plausible to them is the feeling of losing that fight.

Values are not firming up in this culture.

So one way to look at the conflict generator for this TV Series Mashup would be as Firm Values vs. Adjustable Values.

Remember X-Files.  Aliens Abduct People vs. No They Don't because They don't exist.

So think about it. Do you have to know what you're doing to find your Soul Mate and have kids? Does it matter whether you have your kids with your Soul Mate (do the kids turn out differently if you marry the wrong guy? Or don't bother to marry?) Values: is it about kids or about having fun?

Now remember Mary Tyler Moore. Acting out on the stage the UNSPOKEN AND UNSPEAKABLE dialogue the audience would be thinking in that situation makes people laugh. Saturday Night Live does about the same thing - so did I Love Lucy. Comedy is about the unthinkable, and so is SF/F.

Laughter, sex, and pain all have something in common - Heinlein said it, "orgasm is when they all light up" - nerve overload.

What is it today's audience is AFRAID TO THINK OUT LOUD?

What concept freaks people out? What parental stricture is being rebelled against?

We'll have to work on that in Part VI.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. I shall mull it over. Thanks, Jacqueline!

  2. Your alphabetical list reminded me strongly of a TED talk I saw about a month ago on the current generation growing up with video games, what attributes this generation has because of it, and how people might be able to tap into those attributes to effect positive change in the world:


    (The video is nested in an article about making Jewish education interesting, theorizing that games could be used)

    It's a similar list, from a different angle - according to the video, this generation wants to feel that they, as individuals (or in teams), can make a positive difference, but without immediate feedback/reward, it's easy to get discouraged.

    In your list, the EVIL is something tangible they can fight against to feel like they're making a positive difference. The "just simmering under the surface" and the "by inaction you fail" are a kind of kick in the pants, so to speak - as somebody at the older end of the generation we're talking about (I was born in 1984), I've realized about myself for a while now that I have a tendency to be lazy unless inspired (I suppose you can see that elements of that in the Jay and Silent Bob movies or, for a more contemporary example, the movies made by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost).

    Also, I suspect the reason for the COMPLETE EVIL is that we've grown up so jaded by politics and everything (Daria was popular in my friend-group in high school), and yet life goes on for most people despite it all, so it takes something major to shake us out of our apathy. Shaun of the Dead is a good example of this, but I can see how it could be adapted for religion or romance, since my generation tends to be skeptical about those, too.

    So I suppose to put it into conflict form, it's jaded apathy vs wanting to make a difference(idealism).

    Though there's also nonconformity vs wanting to feel like you're a apart of something bigger than yourself - which intertwines with the previous conflict when mixed with corporate culture/the working world, or even religion.

    I know for me, the "wanting to be part of something bigger than yourself" was a major part of what drew me to Star Trek and wanting to be an astronaut. When I started getting involved in Chabad, though, it satisfied the "wanting to be a part of something bigger" in me, and so while I still enjoy Star Trek, it's for somewhat different reasons than before, and I don't feel the drive to go out into space so much.

    I suspect that for a lot of people, science fiction supplies that sense of wonder, that sense of Something Bigger, when belief in G-d is absent.

    Anyway, I seem to be rambling at this point. Thought you'd find the link interesting, in any case.