Thursday, January 24, 2008

Five Places I Wish I Could Work

This should, in no way, lead anyone to believe that I don't love where I work now. You'll notice that none of the places I list here are other magazines; that's because I'm exactly where I want to be, as a journalist. It's just that these other places are/will be doing very special things, and I'd love to better myself for being part of their process.

1. Pixar
As close to a perfect brand as there is. Think about it: They've never made a bad movie. Never. They're batting 1.000. No one does animation with the same attention to storytelling detail and craft like Pixar. They follow where the story leads, and they're not afraid to fix it when it's broken. Egads, what a fella could learn from them.

2. Rockstar Games
I'm a gamer and these guys have pumped out more groundbreaking videogames than anyone. While Bungie created the defining shooter in Halo, Rockstar has done more—the Grand Theft Auto series, Table Tennis, Bully, Manhunt—and done more right.

3. Bad Robot
J.J. Abrams seems to have taken the baton from Joss Whedon and become the geek factory. He knows what people want to see before they do and, maybe more importantly, he knows how to tease them into wanting it even more. As a company, flush with Cloverfield success, they can do whatever they want to.

4. Production I.G.
I almost put down Hayao Miyazaki's Ghibli anime studio but, while all accounts point to that being a terrific place to work, it seems like Ghibli is in the Miyazaki business. Which is great but feels a little like Lucasfilm in that regard: a company set up to execute the vision of one man. Production I.G. has been churning out terrific anime for years now—it'd be great to learn to learn to tell stories in that format from the folks who did the Ghost in the Shell cycle, the toon segment in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and Blood: The Last Vampire.

5. Cartoon Network
Why? Because they gave The Venture Brothers a third season. Obviously, they know what time it is. And it's the last place on TV for original animation for grown-ups.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Man Who Knew Too Much

I love my job. I'm an entertainment junkie, so this is the perfect place for me to be: the eye of a perfect pop-cultural storm. I am, as they used to say in the '60s, "in the know." I know, before most people, the latest developments with this show or that movie, or which star dropped out of which name it, and if I don't know it, I've got the access to find out.

But there are times, every once in a while, when I wish I didn't know. When I wish that I could come to a piece of entertainment and be surprised by it. Not to say that I don't get taken unawares, but those times are far and few between. (My favorite time was when, on a lark, I went to a pre-release screening of The Iron Giant. It was a toon, and I'm EW's resident geek, so I figured it was my solemn duty. I came out of that screening room—I was alone in that room, like so many people were when it was released to deafening indifference to theaters—having to shammy off my face. The end of that movie wrecked me, all the more because I didn't see it coming.)

I watched the pilot for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles—which I quite liked, by the way—and wished I didn't know a goddamn thing about it beyond having seen T2. If I was truly ignorant of the show itself, I could've been genuinely surprised when it's revealed that the teensy brunette that John Connor meets in his new school is actually a Terminator, sent to protect him. But, since I knew that Summer Glau was cast in that role, all I could do was sit there and think, "That was pretty well done; I'll bet there's a rube somewhere with no internet access and who only turns on the tube for fishing and football who was completely blown away by that."

Sometimes, I miss that ignorance. S'why I can't wait until my kids are old enough to be able to digest movies—I've got thousands that I want to show them and vicariously revel in their eyes opening to the possibilities.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is it Wrong...

...that, at least twice a week, I earnestly, seriously, intentionally try and use the Force? You know, in the way that you did when you were a kid: concentrate intensely on, say, the light switch across the room; furrow your brow; reach out a hand and try and turn it off.

It's a vestigial part of my childhood, one that hasn't atrophied and withered away in the years since. But I vividly remember sitting in my childhood room, giddy with Star Wars fervor, trying to become one with all things and make stuff move with my mind.

I don't know what I'm expecting, trying it today, because I know that it will never happen. But I try just the same. (Not that I make time for it or anything. Tuesday, 3:45 pm: Use Force.) Otherwise, how would I know that I didn't develop telekinesis overnight? Seriously, how would a superhero know he was superheroic unless he tried to perform superhuman feats on a regular basis? Unless you tried to lift a bus, how would you know you could? (Again, I'm not an idiot: That logic does not extend to jumping off shit to prove that I could fly or taking a hot round to the chest.)

I guess I'm just waiting for the world to surprise me. In a good way.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Digging It

So that post, about how awesome the Sci-Fi Channel should be, the one that's two posts below? It got Dugg in a serious way, and drove a ridiculously immense amount of traffic to Which is great. Because they pay me to write stuff that drives an immense amount of traffic.

But I know that if I'd have posted it here, it would've vanished into the ether. Which just goes to show how important a platform is. Which is why my first webcomic, when it launches, ain't gonna launch here.

I'm just sayin'.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Monday, January 07, 2008

An Open Letter to The Sci-Fi Channel

[Crossposted from]

Dearest Sci-Fi,

Why are you not way more awesome?

Don't get me wrong, when you're good—like with Battlestar Galactica or Eureka (and I'll even give you credit for Doctor Who, despite that being a BBC show you just imported)—you're a phenomenal destination network. But let's be honest here, there's not a lot of "good" on your schedule. The Stargate franchise is stale, Flash Gordon is a derisible, stillborn remake, and ECW Wrestling is…wrestling! (And I swore an oath never to speak of Who Wants to Be a Superhero again.)

The thing that infuriates me is that you have so much potential. We're living in the Age of the Geek, where pop culture has finally come around to our way of thinking. Where the most-watched shows on TV are geek-nip like Heroes, Lost, and Bionic Woman; where we buzz about movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Spider-Man, I Am Legend, and Iron Man. The audience could not be more primed for this material, so why are you offering them Ghost Hunters International and crappy "original movies" like Mansquito?

Again, why aren't you more awesome? Why aren't you adapting more classic sci-fi texts—like you did with Dune—into miniseries events? (Ones that, hopefully, will fare better than Tin Man.) Where's the Foundation saga, or Ender's Game, or Footfall, or The Man in the High Castle, or The Forever War?

Why aren't you engaging today's premiere purveyors of genre material and giving them ten episodes to do whatever the hell they want? I'd watch contained, BBC-style series from folks like Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charlie Huston, Neal Stephenson, or China Mieville. The names alone would attract viewers by the truckload. And even if what they produced were failures, they'd be interesting failures—marked by reaching too far, instead of not far enough.

Why don't you try a daily sci-fi soap opera? Airing late at night, so people could actually be home to watch it—or DVR it. Why can't the same kind of serial storytelling that's worked for 50 years on shows like General Hospital be marshaled to create compelling science fiction? (Actually, I've got to give Evan Narcisse a tip of the hat for this one. Because I'm just that kind of bloke.)

Mark Harris was right when he said that science fiction needed to ditch the nostalgia if it's going to reclaim its integrity. Lucky for those of us who love sci-fi that there's a whole network devoted to it. I just want them to fulfill their mandate.

Imagine that. (No, seriously. Get to work imagining.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Coolest Thing I've Seen in A Long While

Eric Tan's poster for the Stan Lee exhibit at LA's Gallery 1988 later this month. As others have noted, I'd give someone else's left nut for a poster of this.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

I guess. Right, that's what we do this time of year, mark the passing of one into the next? Reminds me of my grandfather. Every time I'd have a birthday, he'd ask me, "So, how do you feel?" And I'd always say, "Same as I did yesterday, but with a couple more presents."

So, hey, Happy New Year.

In other news, The Highwaymen was just nominated for Best Limited Series by Broken Frontier. (And Rob Leigh, our letterer, also got a nod...though I suspect it was more for his work on Justice League of America or Green Lantern. But, hey, good for Rob.)

Also: Scott Pilgrim is almost criminally good. I know, I'm like the last dude to discover it, but holy dog shit. I pulverized all four volumes in three days. Someday, my writing will follow its own muse like that. Bryan Lee O'Malley just fucking goes for it and pwns the shit out of it in the process.

Also also: Rock Band is more fun than should be sold in a box. My hands actually started to callous up from whaling on the drum kit.