Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Star Trek / Loveboat Mashup And Soulmates Part VI

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.

I recommend reading previous Parts first.






As requested by some readers of this blog, I'm breaking this very long (abstract) post into parts to make short posts. If you don't like this approach, do please let me know.

Follow this thinking, argue against it, find the flaws, find different data, concoct your own Concept, and generate your own premise as we work through this. This is an exercise, like a pianist practicing scales to prepare for a concert. Writing is a performing art. This is the exercise that makes the performance smooth. 

--------Part VI-----------

So we ended off Part V with the question:

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

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

The answer to those questions, regardless of what era you ask them of, produces a "concept" which is what Hollywood calls "edgy" -- right at the edge of "too much pain" comes laughter.

Since this is an exercise, you don't need to find "the right answer" or even a plausible one.  Any answer will work to strengthen your imagining process.

Look at the list of data in Part V on Worldbuilding premises that a large number of popular books have in common. 

For this iteration of this exercise I'm going to pick "The Soul Is Real" as the thought a generation is subconsciously afraid to think out loud.

"Soul" of course implies that all those hard-science folks we started out inspired by in Part I of this series are wrong about the structure of "reality." 

Since we're looking to entertain (and get paid for it) those hard-SF folks, we'll build a world out of the best that hard-science has to offer today.  Since this is a TV show, we'll expect the deep-pocketed producers to pay for some high-powered consultants to work all that out and then dumb it down for general audiences.

To build a Science Fiction novel world, you need 3 elements operating:

1. "What if ...?" 

2. "If only ...?"

3. "If this goes on ...?" 

So for our "What if?" we'll choose a galaxy-spanning civilization with space/time travel and say, a FEW alien species, not necessarily a lot. 

We now know there are a lot of stars with big planets, implying there have to be many Earth-size planets, some of which are in the liquid-water zone of their stars.  So there are probably a lot of non-human civilizations that have existed, but probability favors only a few at any given "time."

Theory has it (Hawkings) that there's no such thing as simultaneity.

2011 may see the hunt for the Higgs Boson (key to understanding gravity) abandoned for lack of funding, but lots of data has been collected and theory will be advanced over the next few years. 


That web posting says in part:

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—Thunderstorms produce beams of antimatter. That's the surprising finding reported here yesterday at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Scientists already knew about flashes of high-energy gamma-rays from Earth, which are associated with large thunderstorms. Every day, about 500 of these terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are produced worldwide by accelerated electrons interacting with air molecules.

You all remember that Star Trek's space drive uses "dilithium crystals" (magic) to mix matter and anti-matter just exactly so.  At that time, "anti-matter" was something only theoretical physicists and writers like Isaac Asimov (positronic robots; positrons are anti-matter electrons) talked about, even more mythic than the Higgs Boson. Roddenberry made anti-matter famous, only at that time it was still a joke.

Well, here we are - anti-matter has always been a part of our world, coming out of bursts of lightning.

So for this mashup, we'll assume there are aliens out there who have found and mastered the Higgs Boson and other arcane structures of the physical reality and know all about anti-matter and how to handle it. 

For our "If only ..." we'll pick the existence of a space-drive that can let humans dart around the galaxy in weeks or months, not lifetimes, and turn up at destination within a time-frame such that all their friends haven't died of old age.  That is - this is a space/time drive as facile and fantasy-based as Star Trek's. 

For our "If this goes on ..." we'll pick Earth's Ecology collapsing.  For backstory -- some wild-eyed independent college kids send out a distress signal into the galaxy using some crazy-new invention of their own (without even asking any government permission to attract alien attention).  Make that High School kids with a college friend they convince to hook their device up to some university power-generating system.  Maybe the Fermi Collider's power source? 

So "The Aliens" (our version of The Arrival Of The Vulcans) come along and "adjust" Earth's ecology whether we-all like it or not, and bring Earth into the galactic economy. 

Our story is set about a hundred years later, maybe two hundred - it pays to be vague about it.

Now, as I've discussed previously The Romance Story has certain fixed parameters, and remember we're writing a Romance here.  This is Star Trek / The Loveboat mashup, so we need a Romance Premise.

In the following post I sliced&diced the Romance formula and drilled down into the HEA - the Happily Ever After ending.  (remember a TV Series can't have "an ending.")


In that post I noted:
Romance Genre is distinguished by specific choices for the elements that a novelist can fill in with a number of different choices when writing other genres.

Those choices for a Romance are:

A)In a Romance the Relationships IS the plot, and all else is commentary on that relationship.

B)The conflict is the Relationship, what creates the attraction and what blocks the attraction.

C)The story is all about how each person is changed by the need for the Relationship.

D)The beginning is where the couple first become conscious of each other.

E)The ending is where the Relationship roadblocks are removed and it's full speed ahead into a Happily Ever After life for the couple.

The "all light up" point of the Romance is that HEA - that moment is the blow-off of all the tension, the release, the climax.  No other moment can substitute for it, and that moment is the defining element of "Romance." 

So to create a Science Fiction Romance for television, we have a problem.

We could choose a Soap Opera structure like the TV show Dallas.  That show was the first to put the story-arc on Prime Time TV, though it had little "romance" (lots of relationship, not much real romance) it had lots of Relationship, and varieties of social-combat disguised as Business.

We could choose a closed-end story-arc like Babylon 5 which took the Dallas breakthrough and added SF to it.

We could do a Hung Hero situation like Beauty And The Beast where if the romance plot moves at all, the premise is destroyed and the show peters out.  That happened with Lois And Clark also.

We could do musical partners as they did with Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

We could do the eternal tension between philosophical adversaries, like X-Files.

Think about it and make your choice, and we'll continue next time.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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