Why You Love ‘Stranger Things’

Why You Love 'Stranger Things'

Stranger Things. I was hooked in sixty seconds – you probably were, too. Let me stop talking about me and starting talking about this show because it’s awesome. It put me back on production of Iron Mountain while I binge-watched the entire first season. Stranger Things is an indication that the renaissance of science fiction is underway. Let’s talk about why.

As a person who really cares about science fiction, I’ve felt like I’ve been raging against the machine too long. Science fiction has been failing us as fans for quite some time. No actual science in my sci-fi, franchises spoiled by reboots, burying us with graphics and starving us on stories – this has been a leitmotif of FlotillaOnline for five or six years now. It now turns out that I’m not the only one crying out for a return to sci-fi with a pulse. Stranger Things is on Netflix and it’s a glorious return to the science fiction I grew up on as a kid.

Why You Love 'Stranger Things'

But what makes Stranger Things work so well? I’ve been thinking about this ever since Force Awakens came out, because J.J. Abrams captured something with Episode 7 that had been missing in Episodes 1-3. The animated movie Iron Giant captured it. Firefly captured it. Super 8 captured it. But what is it? I jotted down some ideas … see what you think: Continue reading

This is a Politics-Free Zone

Just saw that Pete Thiel is in the news again with this election cycle.

This is a Politics-Free ZoneAs you may know, Mr. Thiel is well-known for his political views and connection to seasteading. Therefore, I wanted to reiterate something I said before about the complete disconnection between my stories and any political discussion. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I stay away from any topics regarding current events. At one point, I had a blog post talking about this, but I grubbed around WordPress, and I couldn’t find it. So let me restate a key fact of Flotilla and the rest of the Pac Fish series.

Survival is about Humanity, not Politics

I envisioned a future beyond our current political squabbles, one where people still have their own struggles, hopes and dreams. It would be dishonest of me to speak of a human future where only one perspective, only one school of thought existed. Our fuzzy, messy clashes of humanity will always be interesting, so I wrote about how that might play out in a futuristic context. I picked a technology that has proved to be a hotbed of politics for some people, but political discussion isn’t who or what I am. It isn’t what my books are about, either.

Now having written this statement of purpose, I hope to return to matters of greater importance.

 

The Nicest Thing My Mailing List Ever Said to Me

Got a nice email back from Team Flotilla that left me with warm fuzzies and I want to pass it along to you. After I reached out to everyone to participate in the Beta Readers program, one member said this:

Good afternoon Dan,
Finding good readers is always a challenge.  I would be happy to help you out as a beta reader — for whatever my input and opinion are worth.
As a side note, I have been quite impressed with how you’ve handled your emails.  I have felt connected to your community, engaged in your creative process, and never said, “Great, another email from Haight.  Where’s the delete button?”  You’ve really nailed the balance between engagement and spam.  Well done.  I wish you continued success.

Been sitting like this all day …

The Nicest Thing My Mailing List Ever Said to Me

Now please excuse me, I have a novel to edit.

Professional Storytelling – An Intense Discussion About Tenses

Wow, who knew that grammar could be so dramatic?

Professional Storytelling - An Intense Discussion About TensesTaking a moment away from editing Iron Mountain to talk about an intense discussion that took place over the past few days. It brought together a lot of the groups I travel in: My beta readers, other authors and well-established, best-selling authors like Celeste Bradley and Allen Steele. I’ll get to the gory details in a moment but here are the key takeaways for you, the professional storyteller:

  • Novels are creative works, with many styles that can be considered ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect.’
  • Writing everything in present tense, past tense or future tense may be grammatically correct but mixing them is a perfectly valid writing style.
  • The thing about art is that it challenges your perceptions … sometimes it illuminates a Big-T Truth as a little-t truth where you didn’t see it as such.
  • As Allen Steele says, “Bad books don’t people cranked up like this. So consider this letter to be a compliment.”

I’m serious about this, people got upset. The idea that the novel has interchangeable tenses led to some blunt criticism and I suspect it may be responsible for some of my one-star reviews. But still, part of me is worried. Part of me is curious, part of me is upset. OMG, I think. Have I been screwing up on this all this time? People’s responses were mixed. My peer authors were split, 50/50. Some people wrote: ‘As I’m reading it, I hardly notice the change in tenses because it progresses with my train of thought.’  Others said: ‘Doesn’t work for me. Distracting and pulls me out of the narrative.’

As a writer who cares about his work, this nearly brought me to tears.

Continue reading

Flotilla is Dystopian Scifi But Without the Crap

Ran across this hysterical review of Divergent on Reddit. Click it for big-big screenshot. It’s hysterical. It illustrates one of the challenges that Flotilla has in finding its audience but frankly, it’s a problem I’d rather have than read a review like this of my work.

Flotilla is Dystopian Scifi But Without the Crap

By definition, dystopian science fiction includes stories of dehumanizationtotalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. In that sense, the Pac Fish Series is *definitely* dystopian fiction. The problem is that in 2016, readers of dystopian scifi have been bombarded with ultra-simplified problems for their protagonists to solve. Dystopia, according to them, is a one-dimensional characterization of human society that is easily overthrown by anyone with an IQ higher than 75.

Nothing wrong with Divergent – it’s a fast, fun read and if that’s what you’re down with – mazeltov. Some readers, some people, aren’t content with that. They need a story with more meat, characters with more depth and a story that’s more compelling than ‘we have to fight the system!’ For those readers, for those people, I say “welcome aboard. The Pac Fish Series is waiting for you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to edit.

Why I Unpublished ‘I Am Patient Zero’

Why I Unpublished 'I Am Patient Zero'

Rest in Peace, Patient Zero

This is going to be a tough post, so please bear with me.

After struggling with an important decision, I made a tough call and pulled the plug on ‘I Am Patient Zero.’ This is a really painful choice, but I think it was the right one and I want to explain it to you now. Here’s what’s going on: Ever since I wrote the short story, even as I was drafting it, something didn’t sit right with me about this tale. Chuckie is the guy who made all the bad choices. Chuckie’s the guy who sees the world on fire and says “Burn baby, burn!”

Here I am, trying to be the Best Version of Me, and I’m writing about a man that completely self-destructs as the world crumbles. That bothered me. As the short went to press and I asked for feedback, I had friends telling me “Great horror story!” and that bothered me. Then I read an article about how Stephen King unpublished one of his early novels because it was found to be an influence on a number of school shooters. That got me to thinking.

If I really believe that I’m going to be successful as a storyteller, I need to think carefully about the kind of creativity I pursue. Will it inspire people to be the Best Version of Themselves? Will it encourage them to justify self-destructive behavior? It’s been something I’ve been aware of since the very beginning: Once I publish a story, it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to the readers. It belongs to the universe. We already know that stories change the world. Therefore, storytellers have a responsibility to think about their words in those terms. Words have power; we have to use that power with responsibility, integrity and accountability.

This isn’t conjecture, by the way. I was just skimming the Internet and came across this news story about a teen who murdered his girlfriend because he wanted to imitate Dexter, that show about a serial killer. I can’t imagine how awful the writers of that show must feel, knowing that something they did creatively inspired one person to murder another. That wasn’t the purpose of their creativity, but it was a result. I would never want to put myself or my readers in that position.

Where some might feel that this is an example of censorship, the reality is quite different. Exercising self-control is not censorship. Where our actions can have unintended negative outcomes, sometimes we must forgo our personal preferences.

 

Your thoughts and feedback are welcome. I’m going to move forward with other stories that need to be told. I’ll keep you posted when they are ready for your eyes.

‘A Rollercoaster Ride is Not a Story’

Well, there you have it. Independence Day: Resurgence is out in theaters. Meanwhile, critics everywhere lined up to beat it like a red-headed stepchild. I had forgotten that it was out. Am I that out of touch? So I skipped over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what everyone thought of it and that led me to some insights. Here’s some truth: Movie critics an interesting job. A good movie’s creativity will inspire you to wax poetic about its virtues. A bad movie will inspire you to great depths of creativity to talk about how much it sucks. It’s not enough to say it sucks. You must find a new way to discuss its suckage. In doing so, you deliver a passive-aggressive slap to the lack of artistic energy you saw.

The reviews for Independence Day: Resurgence are no exception. You can hear the rustling of feet and clicking of pens in the critics response. They’re jocking for position to deliver the single killing blow. Yes, it’s bad … so I better made this look good. Knock out the creature with a single punch. That’s why my review will get reposted to Reddit and/or Linkedin and other avenues of traffic.

Interesting point that one critic made, and it’s the title of this post. “A roller coaster ride is not a story,” says Tim Martain from The Mercury, Tasmania’s largest newspaper. I perked up when I saw this. People are starting to see the truth. Story matters. Big-budget blockbusters are not the box office gold they are purported to be. Continue reading

More Sea Stories! DiCaprio Producing Netflix ‘Seafaring Action Thriller’

Well that’s cool!

More Sea Stories! DiCaprio Producing Netflix 'Seafaring Action Thriller'Today I learned that Leo DiCaprio is producing a ‘seafaring action thriller for Netflix.’ It’s based on the true story of a vigilante crew who stalked a notorious fish poaching ship across three oceans. That’s exciting news for a series like Pac Fish and a book like Flotilla. Given the cyclical nature of Hollywood, it’s easier to be popular when you’re doing something that’s seen as ‘similar’ to other productions (Please see Armageddon / Deep Impact, A Bug’s Life / Ants, Abyss/Leviathan, etc.). If DiCaprio’s production is popular, it might introduce new interest in other ‘wet stories’ and pave the way for Flotilla to reach new audiences.  So yeah, that’s exciting – I’ll be watching how this develops.

No matter what, the battle for survival on our oceans is no laughing matter. I’ll be excited to see this real-life drama when it hits the small screen … hope you’ll see it, too!