Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery -- Lazy Writer Syndrome

Star Trek: Discovery 

Lazy Writer Syndrome


Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Science Fiction fans are focused on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY these days.

Before the debut, a lot of publicity was released, some of it misleading by accident and maybe some by design.

I have not seen any of the trailers or episodes yet -- I will, no doubt, devour them with special attention.

Alien Romance readers should think long and hard about how it came about that Star Trek (a much scorned and sneered at TV Series) became Iconic.

We discussed Icons and how to create them:

If you want to create an Iconic Science Fiction Romance that becomes a Classic, think long and hard about this discussion thread that emerged on Facebook in June, 2017.


A comment dropped on that post drew my attention because it mentioned Kraith (my Star Trek fan fiction series)


Maurice Kessler · Friends with Michael Okuda
DS9 fulfilled the promise of lead Trek characters at odds with each other in interesting ways, IMO. Perhaps this show will emulate that level of work; we're only now seeing marketing-filtered descriptions of how this show will be written. I'll wait until seeing the pilot to assess.

One thing I don't need to assess: How much I miss your Kraith storyline, and how sad I am that it was never finished. The best non-aired Trek, ever.

----------end quote----------

To which I responded:


Jacqueline Lichtenberg Maurice Kessler Thank you for the nod to Kraith -- keep in mind that there were 50 creative contributors to Kraith. I built the universe and set a main story-line, then invited everyone to play in my sandbox. I was honored by eye-witness reports of worn, well read copies of Kraith Collected sprinkled around Gene Roddenberry's office waiting room. You may find that the Sime~Sime – Gen Universe video game under contract to Loreful via Aharon Cagle will meet your "best ever" criterion as we are inviting and luring many writers into the Sime~Gen Universe on the pattern of Kraith. Loreful has licensed 150 years of the Sime~Gen Chronological timeline and has the target of telling the story of the gigantic SPACE WAR that lies ahead of the Sime~Gen Civilization. The idea is that HUMANITY has actually changed - that the average human has more inherent compassion than the average Ancient (us). We are collecting current science articles on the SIMEGEN GROUP to depict the "current" state of the world when the mutation takes down our civilization.

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As I was reading the other comments, more comments kept appearing.  So I reread the comment I had put at the top of the link to the article about Star Trek: Discovery

On the original re-posting I wrote:

--------quote by JL------------
Lazy writers can't write interpersonal conflict without showing one of the characters in a negative light. Two perfectly righteously people (human or not) can be at odds, and generate amazing stories without either one being "in the wrong" or operating from a baser motive. Lazy writers don't bother to plumb the depths of the Characters or the Issues. So this show written by lazy writers might not be "my" Star Trek.

And under that a link to this item:

Star Trek: Discovery to ditch a long frustrating Trek rule


------end quote of JL-------

The article on ew.com says:

As part of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future (and one that Trek franchise executive producer Rick Berman carried on after Roddenberry’s death in 1991), writers on Trek shows were urged to avoid having Starfleet crew members in significant conflict with one another (unless a crew member is, say, possessed by an alien force), or from being shown in any seriously negative way.
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The article also notes what I've been hobby-horsing on in these blog posts -- Conflict Is The Essence Of Story.  I didn't make that up, you know -- I was taught it, then discovered how it had been used consistently down the ages by the best story-tellers.  Drama is conflict.

For writers on Trek shows, the restriction has been a point of behind-the-scenes contention (one TNG and Voyager writer, Michael Piller, famously dubbed it “Roddenberry’s Box”). Drama is conflict, after all, and if all the conflict stems from non-Starfleet members on a show whose regular cast consists almost entirely of Starfleet officers, it hugely limits the types of stories that can be told.
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A bit below that is the quote that defines LAZY WRITER SYNDROME:

“We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions,” Harberts said. “People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.”

“The rules of Starfleet remain the same,” Berg added. “But while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.”
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"...none of us are perfect."  There it is folks, the source of the reason Romance Genre is not as respected as it should be, and the reason for the popularity of the scorn heaped upon the Happily Ever After ending.

This may also be the philosophy that has eroded the Family Structure of society as a whole.

"Family" is composed of relatives -- and it is true that humans generally just do not get along with all their blood-relatives.  In fact, the most acrimonious and life-long-grudge-holding conflicts naturally occur between blood relatives.

In-laws is yet another problem - the people you love probably fall in love with people you hate at first sight.

The Philosophical idea that is actually untrue, and thus prevents people from achieving a "Happily Ever After" life (or if they do achieve it, they do not recognize that they have, indeed, achieved happiness) is that PERFECT PEOPLE DO NOT CONFLICT.

But the most perfect, or perfected, people do conflict with each other, often adamantly, vociferously, publicly, and emphatically.

Humans are a mixed bag -- very complex -- very complicated.

It is possible for one component of a given individual to be PERFECTED while other components are sadly screwed up.

Some of us have achieved maybe 90 or even 99 percent perfect -- and such people become Historic Figures (such as Moses, Miriam, Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, Joseph,  and a few other Biblical Figures.  Every culture has these Iconic Historic Figures held up to children to emulate - Buddha, etc.

We all have our Ideals, and one or two examples to emulate.

And we have living examples in every generation of people who have perfected one or two aspects of human nature.  We discussed a biography of one such individual of the 1900's known as The Rebbe.  Different people who knew him personally saw different aspects of human nature that he had perfected.  This biography we discussed (and there are a lot of biographies!) pinpointed some of his most famous disagreements with others of similar stature (not fame, stature).


And previously mentioned here:


Such people who have finally "got it" very often come into conflict with others who have likewise perfect that certain aspect of their Nature.

But they don't lock horns as ENEMIES -- they don't go to war with each other, or deride or denigrate each other.  They may not wholly respect each other or each others' opinions on certain specific matters, but they do argue (a lot).

Sometimes, they even change their positions as a result of arguing.

That, more than any other evidence, indicates the individual has perfected some aspect of their Nature -- the ability to persuade another to change a position on an issue without gloating or counting coups (without WINNING, thus rendering the one who changed their mind a LOSER).

And likewise, the ability - willingness, even eagerness - to change your position on a matter because of the influence of another person's views.

Such change is not just change to accept new information as fact.  It is more akin to Spiritual Enlightenment than to scientific proof.

If you need a real world example of how such people, who have perfected some aspect of human nature, interact and argue, read The Talmud which is a series of excerpts delineating the disagreements among great Rabbinic Scholars of various epochs.  Comparing the opinions of different generations across hundreds of years with more contemporary commentary, lets you watch how such people drill down to expunge every last tiny contradiction from a view on a given topic.  There is a podcast of the Orthodox Union's Daf Yomi that is very revealing on this subject.

You can find similar examples in every known civilization.

So, humanity has produced a few notable examples of perfected humans.

The statement "nobody's perfect" is untrue.

A Lazy Writer would never notice that commonly held untruth.  A Lazy Writer does not do the homework necessary to discovery examples that contradict commonly held beliefs.

A Lazy Writer is only interested in affirming or confirming the Lazy Reader's ideas of how the world is.

Science Fiction is the Literature of Ideas (by some definitions), and like all Literature exists for the purpose of challenging any or even every idea the reader/viewer has.

"What if ...?" everything you think you know is actually wrong?
That is the essence of what makes science fiction fun reading -- and fantasy, and especially Paranormal Fantasy -- what if what you are most certain of is actually totally wrong?

What is "the real world" really?  What is reality?  And who cares? Why does it matter if you're wrong?

So Einstein theorized that it is not possible to "go" faster than light.  Therefore, science fiction writes about galactic civilizations using FTL transports like The Enterprise to explore.

The scientific community universally accepts a theory because the proofs look solid and they seem to work when applied experimentally.  Science Fiction takes that theory and builds a world where that theory has been proven wrong.

That is how you write science fiction.  You read (and comprehend) science articles, research papers, speculation by theoretical mathematicians, etc., and the more reliable the thesis, the more widely accepted that thesis, the better it is for a building block of a "different" universe.

Biology studied life on Earth, and from decade to decade, revised the opinion on whether the can or can not be life on "other planets" (especially extra cold ones, ones without water, etc.)

When the majority is certain there can not be any "life as we know it" on other planets, science fiction writers tell stories about Aliens.

When the majority is convinced there must be life everywhere, science fiction will be telling stories about Humans Alone In The Galaxy.

The same technique applies to human nature.  When all your readers are convinced "nobody's perfect" -- write stories about a few perfect people.

The problem the writers of Star Trek Discovery are having is a lack of imagination.  Gene Roddenberry could imagine -- and he imagined "the impossible" which is what made Star Trek both Iconic and Classic.

He imagined that HUMAN NATURE HAD CHANGED -- and the reasons implied in his world building were A) the Genetics War of the 1990's and B) the impact of technology on the economy.

Most human misbehavior is rooted in the economy -- "Gold or Money Is The Root Of All Evil."

OK, so "What if ...?" nobody uses money any more?  What if everyone can have any "thing" (material objects, food, clothing, shelter, education,) they want in abundance.  What would "people" do?  So Roddenberry showed us people who worked (and took risks) voluntarily.  They didn't join Star Fleet because they needed the work.  They were there because they wanted to go beyond the horizon.

Roddenberry's postulate, often repeated in the speeches he gave, was that "When We Are Wise..." we will do, work, see, learn, and be very different.  We will have plenty of conflicts, but we won't have an inner need to conquer and control.

He showed sports with score keeping, but no shame in losing.

We are now very close to the kind of technological "singularity" which could releave all humans of the necessity to work for a living.  Artificial Intelligence may reproduce itself, run the factories and farm the land, and bring everything you ask for to your door.

Then what will you do?  Die of boredom?

Stephen Hawking says we must explore the stars now, settle other planets.


From that article - down the page --

More From BGR
NASA just found 10 new Earth-like planets
Elon Musk is planning a city on Mars, and here's why
NASA wants to probe Uranus in search of gas

"The human race has existed as a separate species for about 2 million years," Hawking said. "Civilization began about 10,000 years ago, and the rate of development has been steadily increasing. If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before."
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And it also says Hawking knows it is currently impossible to colonize the stars - we don't have the technology, know-how, political will, whatever it takes, we do not have it now.

Look back at history and pre-history, and you can detect very little (if any) change in human nature.  Culture and technology, values, religion, varieties of government come and go, but humans still produce geniuses and the learning disabled, with a majority in between.

We all, each and every one, belong to some 1% demographic, and to varying degrees to all the other 1%'s -- we are each unique, yet all the same.

And the distribution doesn't change much over millennia.

Lazy writers don't study all that history, pre-history, archaeology, anthropology, biology of animals, plants, life in boiling water at volcanic vents under water, or preserved in permafrost.  Lazy writers can't write science fiction because they don't study enough science -- or for that matter, often they don't study enough fiction.

Yes, Lazy Writers don't read widely and deeply enough in fields other than their specialty.

If you are going to write the Literature of Ideas, you have to know Literature and you have to know the history and present state of Ideas.  I often use the word, Philosophy, to indicate Ideas of all sorts.  In truth, that word represents the Ideas of just one Ancient Greek.  The actual word might be epistemology.

Hard Working Writers learn a lot of extant epistemologies, invent and create a raft of original epistemologies, and spend most of their time studying what might be termed, Comparative Epistemology 101 for non-majors.

This is hard, time consuming, tedious, even on occasion boring.

Hard Working Writers study the phenomenon of boredom very closely -- because it is a good idea to avoid boring your readers.  If you just throw in a sex scene every time the action drags, the sex scenes will become boring.

Writing is hard work, but most of that work is done long before, "I've got an idea for a story!"  The hard working writer spends little time writing and lots of time learning, dreaming, and thinking.

The hardest part of a writer's job is cultivating the habit of "thinking outside the box."  Or maybe the hardest part of that process is finding the box.

You are inside a box, a group-think, a consensus reality, and you don't even know it exists, nevermind how to get outside it.

You see news articles indicating climate change will destroy human civilization as we know it, and you think, "Oh, the A.I.'s will be thrilled to have the place to themselves."

"What if God ordained that human souls must shift from anthropoid bodies to Artificial Intelligence Hosts?  Robots?"

What if humanity decided to shift ourselves into Robot bodies against the Will of God?  What would happen then?  What if we could prove that God does not exist?

Being a Science Fiction Romance writer, perhaps you would think, "How could Love conquer that All?"  What would an HEA ending for an A.I./Human Romance look like?

"What if ..."  What if human nature changed?  What if some aspect of human nature became "perfect" for everyone?  How would that change the forms of government possible, the laws, the kinds of work, talents, skills most valued?

Gene Roddenberry postulated that human nature would change in the area of Wisdom -- we would all be wiser.

STAR TREK: Discovery is worth giving a chance.  Roddenberry was locked into the economic model of old Broadcast TV which made enough money only on Anthology format shows (where each show in a series was a stand-alone, so you could view in any order).

Babylon 5 broke that business model, following up on the Prime Time Soap "Dallas."  Actually, Dallas is getting a remake!  No new ideas under this sun.

So now we have many TV Series, especially in the Streaming Originals, that use the series format of Soap Opera -- where to get the real meaning of the Characters' lives, you must view the shows in the original order.

Thus STAR TREK: Discovery breaks out of the anthology format into the story-arc format where the episodes build on one another.  To make that work best, they want to start with flawed Characters in conflict, and resolve the conflicts.

The handling of these inner-Starfleet conflicts will still draw inspiration from Roddenberry’s ideals, however. “The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts,” Harberts said. “So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”
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Working Writers should read and ponder this illuminating article on ew.com.

Now imagine what story possibilities might emerge with the next fiction purveying business model.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:19 PM EDT

    I agree it could be 'lazy' writing, but I think it could also be a case of writers not truly 'listening' and trying to learn. Listening is such a neglected skill nowadays across all segments of society. People hear only to reply. Few actually listen, or read, to try and learn something new that they can then put to use. People like this are impatient, but also they 'want' to believe that they already know what they need to know. In fact, for some it's terrifying to accept that they may not be correct, even if being incorrect is dangerous in some way. The way they do things may get them to a point, but never to the iconic, pioneering status of Star Trek. For that, a person needs to be so hungry to learn that they're willing to get hurt and embarrassed. Come to think of it, the characters of Star Trek are the same way. They have to go where no one has gone before and that's a very dangerous thing.