Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Theme-Character Integration Part 3 - Why Did Spock Become Popular

Theme-Character Integration Part 3 - Why Did Spock Become Popular
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Last week, in the context of the criticism of Science Fiction Romance novels,  we looked at the TV Series Vampire Diaries, a Fantasy, and Gray's Anatomy, a mundane Series, so now let's look into a Science Fiction series.  Of course, Star Trek leaps to mind.


Part 1 of this skill integration sequence is here:


Previously we discussed What Does She See In Him (an essential ingredient in firing up a love life)


Note there is a rising attempt by David Gerrold and many folks long involved in the series to create a new Star Trek TV Series, and it's rolling along, even though it fell just short of it's Kickstarter goal.

Here is the Kickstarter for Star Wolf email sent out on June 3, 2013, (or thereabout).

----------QUOTE ----------------
...we almost made it... Just almost!  (Well, maybe we were a little further off...)

It has been heartening to see so many people pledge their support for

I want you all to know that I absolutely consider you all honorary members of our official Launch Crew, and will tell you now, that we will go on! 

Although the Kickstarter is over, we want to keep all of you...our fans of great Science Fiction involved.

By the end, we received an incredible amount of media attention and letters of support (from including Bill Prady (BIG BANG THEORY) and of course Spock himself (Leonard Nimoy)! This well help greatly in our next steps.

We're 100% dedicated to launching, and the success of the series and we will be updating you on our progress in making it happen.

Presently, we're starting our own mailing list to make it easier to reach you, and will soon be converting 'http://www.thestarwolf.com' as our headquarters for the series, and will be posting updates as we proceed...

You're support here touches our hearts, and as a thank you for your enthusiasm, those who pledged, AND sign up for the mailing list will receive the PDF of the pilot episode script on Wednesday (to give people time to send us their e-mail addresses. When we send out the e-mail, the link to the PDF will ONLY be available for a 24 period, so please send us your e-mail address soon!  (If you send us all of your contact info, mailing address, etc., you may get a surprise in the mail in the future.

So please... send us an e-mail right away to: thestarwolfseries@gmail.com


As for those hard earned dollars you're still holding onto, we would of course ask you to pledge again if we were to start another campaign but as for exciting projects being funded now, we'd like you to take a look at:



Our friends at Alec Gillis, Lance Henriksen, and Dennis Skotak (ALIENS, TITANIC, X2), (The Star Wolf's VFX Director of Photography). Are working to make a great practical effects sci-fi horror film that celebrates old-school animatronics and Makeup FX.

They are taking a stand for great live-action visual effects, and are truly a great collection of talent.  We love them, and you'll love their work too.  So PLEASE... seriously consider showing them the great support you've shown us, and we'll all enjoy their terrific work soon.

From the bottom of all of hearts, thank you for your pledge, your time and your support.


Thank you again!  We love you guys!

-- David C Fein
----------END QUOTE------------

So we'll be seeing and hearing a lot more about Star Trek coming at us from every direction. (good, I say!)

You all know I'm primary author of the Bantam Paperback, STAR TREK LIVES! which blew the lid on Star Trek fandom and ignited the revival campaign at the time the fan-run conventions had just begun.  At that time, no way on Earth would any professional in Hollywood (movies or TV) ever listen to a word any mere viewer said.  Nobody cared what we thought.

There was no feedback loop from consumer to producer that could guide them in creating entertainment that people would pay for.  They thought what they thought because of statistics generated by phone-survey firms and the TV set-top devices that Nielson used to monitor what a couple hundred select houses watched.  Statistics was just in its infancy.

Today we have that giant data center the US Government just fired up to collect all the internet traffic -- it will eventually be able to mine out exact numbers of how many watch what, and maybe even track what you, yourself, actually watch or spend time on.  Hollywood (if it can afford the fees) will be able to determine in advance what will be popular.

Today, there's all the streaming stuff -- audiences are wholly fragmented, but that gives new writers a chance to break in and create an audience for the stuff that author really wants.  Of course, the technical bar keeps getting higher.  To get your writing "out there" you need a full time tech specialist (or 10). 

So let's look at what a writer can do that replicates what Star Trek did to change the entire world of entertainment, and make "them" pay attention to "us."  The thing is, (considering the SFWA Bulletin Controversy we discussed last week), this is exactly what we need to do with SFR.

Star Trek actually launched the SFR genre via fan fiction -- fiction mostly written by women for women, and all about the real lives of the Enterprise crew and other crews of other ships in Star Fleet.  Today, all that fanfic pours online, all mixed up with beginning writers immature attempts.

Many people scoff at young writers writing about how the adult emotional world seems to them.  I don't.  I see these initial attempts to communicate what's important about life as the absolutely necessary work of training up a writer's mind.  All the best writers I've ever met started in childhood writing exactly what you see flooding fanfic online (nearly drowning out more mature attempts). 

Listen to the scoffing at young writers -- that's the scoff being aimed at Science Fiction Romance novels!  Same attitude.  Really.  Think about it.  If you have that attitude about young writers, can you seriously ask working SFWA members not to scoff at you?  Karma can be an issue in life.

So How Do We Replicate Star Trek?

The key question is why was Spock so popular?

He wasn't expected to be by Hollywood TV crafters, not even Gene Roddenberry! 

The "Spock" that gripped the world was originally two characters, a woman First Officer called Number One who was from a culture that was emotionless.  And the half-Vulcan Science Officer who was called Spock but behaved with obvious emotional reactions (especially the appreciation of beauty.) 

The Network wouldn't allow a woman to be in command on the bridge, to boss men around.

There's that sexism that exploded all over SFWA earlier this year!  It is not FROM SCIENCE FICTION, despite what SFR writers think.

That sexism is from OUR OWN CULTURE.

That sexism isn't gone, and it isn't just a few remnants inside SFWA that harbor this toxic stew.

So Gene Roddenberry's solution to that problem (he was the least sexist man of his age I ever knew) was the classic solution every beginning writer learns.

What you do when your THEME isn't "working" can be one of three things:

a) divide one character into two
b) combine two characters into one
c) add a new character

In TV and Film, adding characters adds expense, and that can prevent production from ever happening. 

GR wanted ST to get on the air.  He COMBINED TWO CHARACTERS -- and it made that one character much more powerful.

GR combined Number One and the original Spock into ONE CHARACTER -- our emotion-challenged Spock.

GR saw this new Spock as having emotions that he repressed. 

That is an anti-science-fiction premise that I rejected long before I met him and got to ask what he had in mind.  I wrote my fan-fic universe, Kraith, to explore "What If Spock Really Is What He Says He Is?"  Taking people at their word always leads to interesting territory and always generates great science fiction! 


I did a very deep analysis of what makes Spock popular in STAR TREK LIVES!  I stand by that analysis, and it's still working today.

But today's world (as I've spent many posts here describing) is in massive shift due to new communications channels -- the web being only one.  Lately, Verizon (which provides fiber optic TV feeds as well as landline phone and cell phone) is offering TV channel feeds direct to your phone or other mobile device.  Take your TV shows with you, watch any time. 

The un-tethering of the world is going to affect what fiction gets popular enough to afford expensive productions, and that will change everything -- except the core essence of what makes a story gripping and energizing.

That core essence is theme-character integration -- and all the theme integrations with other story elements.  But what really grabs and won't let go is character. 

How do you build a gripping character for today's media distribution methodology?

You do what has always worked.  You look at what is popular today, and ask WHY? 

The TV show The Vampire Diaries is very popular -- as are other Vampire works.

OK, why are Vampires popular and what is it about The Vampire Diaries that is rattling teen minds?

As noted last week, the element of The Vampire Diaries that is drawn from the deepest (and thousands of years old) depths of human psychology is the combination of Good vs. Evil with Emotion vs. Logic.


Remember last week we noted how the THEME-CHARACTER integration in The Vampire Diaries is a perfect "show don't tell" for the philosophical discussion this entire world is having (with guns blazing all over the Middle East) about the place of EMOTION in the scheme of LIFE.

Vampire Diaries modified the Vampire myth so that when these vampires turn OFF emotion, they become the typical Evil Menace type of selfish, power-hungry, dominating, tyrannical, human-eating, remorseless, force of evil that Vampires used to be in the standard myth.

If they turn ON their emotions, they become pretty ordinary humans, spanning the spectrum of good, bad and who-knows?

The thematic statement is woven into the Worldbuilding seamlessly and thrusts up into the characters as they play out the plot-events. 

Emotion = Good.

VULCANS are depicted as having the reputation of looking like the Devil (they're greenish instead of reddish -- the remake Spock isn't so greenish), and of being Emotionless.

That premise arose in the 1960's and ignited sexy-panting-furor.

Spock was the sexiest thing EVER on TV or in Film, and that's proven by all the non-fiction now being written analyzing the appeal of Star Trek and the history of it.

In fact, I have an essay in yet another book on the topic of Star Trek fandom.  When it's published, it will appear on my amazon page


And at the top of the right column you should now find an 'EMAIL ME WHEN THERE ARE NEW RELEASES BY JACQUELINE LICHTENBERG"  -- so you can keep up without effort.


Hmmm, and that dates back to the 1960's and 70's - the sexual revolution begun by the "Hippies" and then carried into adulthood and the workplace in the 1970's by "Women's Lib." 

And it still works today.

EMOTION = GOOD has surfaced now into explicit, on the nose style, dialogue. 

But it works even better when sunk deep into Worldbuilding as in The Vampire Diaries (which now has spun off THE ORIGINALS, the older and most Evil of the Vampire-Siblings with a leader who wants to be King.)  We're talking major success for EMOTION = GOOD on the commercial markets. 

Here's a link-list index post to Theme-Plot integration


I'll have to collect Theme-Worldbuilding Integration at some point.  Here is #6 with links to previous parts to that series.


And here is my post on Star Trek: Into Darkness:


It has links to prior posts in that series.

It is followed by Part 12 about a Tom Clancy book/movie.


The essential ingredients to creating your "Spock Character" are as follows:

1) Use the techniques I've been illustrating for studying our "real" world, the world of your reader, from an angle and at a depth the reader will not be aware of.  See my posts on THE ART OF WRITING.


2) Extract the THEME of your reader's world that's bugging them mightily and encapsulate that theme in a simple statement (like EMOTION = GOOD and THOUGHT = EVIL, but pick one of your very own, something that has true meaning to you personally) (this is what Gene Roddenberry did, but came up with 2-characters to state that theme, and the sexist thing really bugged him.)

3) CAST that theme into a Work by building a character, then building his/her world out around him from the essence of that character's internal conflict.  Remember Spock's EMOTIONLESS exterior covered a BURNING CURIOSITY -- and so he chose (against parental will) a career in Star Fleet to go where No Man Has Gone Before (sexist -- read last week's post on sexism).

4) Write your story to speak to your chosen audience in their medium of choice.  

5) Come back here next Tuesday for more.  We have barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn about fiction. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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