Avatar Franchise Creators Walk Away from Live Action Netflix Show

If there’s one thing you should know about fans of the Avatar series, it’s that they really, really, really love Avatar. And why wouldn’t they? The show was amazing. Even the sequel show—The Legend of Korra—was really well done. Both the original and Legend of Korra had great writing, great characters, great dialogue, and fantastic world-building that was a unique mix of Chinese, Tibetan and Inuit culture.

Avatar fans were thrilled when they heard that the original Avatar franchise creators (Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko) were involved in making a live-action show on Netflix.

However, Avatar’s original creators now say that there were too many creative differences with Netflix. And unfortunately, DiMartino and Konietzko have walked away from the project.

“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago,” Konietzko wrote in his Instagram post, “they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. … [T]he general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment (Vox).”

“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” DiMartino added on his own website. “So, I chose to leave the project (Vox).”

Netflix responded in an emailed statement, noting that the production would continue with Nickelodeon still attached. “We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series. Although they have chosen to depart the live-action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation (Vox).”

So…Netflix is committed to making the live-action Avatar WITHOUT the show’s original creators?

I’m not sure how that’ll go. I guess we shall see.

LINKS

Netflix soured the live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its showrunners say (Vox)

‘The Last Airbender’ Creators Exit Netflix’s Live-Action Adaptation (Indie Wire)

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Creators Exit Netflix Live-Action Adaptation (Variety)

Fan Opinions on New Star Trek (Reddit Edition)

As a fan of the older Star Trek shows, I was curious to hear what fans thought about the newest stuff. I’m talking about Discovery (2017), Picard (2020), and Lower Decks (2020). So I went to r/scifi to investigate.

See the Reddit thread here!

I’m not saying Reddit is representative of what all people everywhere think. People on the internet tend to be more critical than people in person (as I know being a fan in random communities). But Reddit offers a good way to get the opinions of a sample size of random fans of a particular subject, especially when I’m stuck in quarantine and can’t exactly go interview a hundred random people in person and hope that they watch Star Trek. With Reddit’s system of upvoting, you get to see which comments resonated with people more than others. So I find it a more valuable medium for opinion gathering than Facebook (where I’m limited to people who are my friends) and Twitter (for the same reason).


So let’s get down to it! What did the hundred+ random Star Trek fans I interviewed on Reddit think about the new Star Trek? 

The top-voted comments on the Reddit thread disliked both Picard and Discovery overall. And the most downvoted comments were the ones that voiced approval.

I decided to take a tally of the comments and break it down into like, dislike and neutral (for people who had mixed reviews). This is my count as of now (8/11/20 11:03am), it doesn’t account for new comments added after this. I also only counted the parent comments. This does not follow the nested comments of those parent comments (because those are discussions that involve the OG commenter elaborating on their point).


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A general theme I noted is that people in r/scifi felt that the new Star Treks lacked continuity with the older Star Treks. They felt that the science in Discovery was not as robust as it was in previous generations (with the questionable Spore Drive). Some people said Discovery and Picard would have been good if they were a completely separate scifi series that wasn’t connected to the Star Trek universe (because of the consistency issues and departure from canon). Other people had issues with the writing and felt that these series focused on explosions and action while missing out on the deeper philosophical questions that originally made Star Trek great (so basically becoming Transformers?). A lot of people felt that the mood of Discovery didn’t match the optimism of Star Trek in general, that it was cynical and filled with betrayal.

There weren’t many comments on the animated series Lower Decks (2020), mainly because people either hadn’t watched it or were focused on discussing Discovery and Picard.


Here are some of the top comments on the thread: 

“They are very disappointing as a long term mega-fan since childhood. Seems the essence and spirit of the trek series is basically gone…I’ve lost complete interest in the franchise.”

“The problem with Picard, and all of nuTrek, is that it doesn’t seem to feel like it has to respect any of the rules that the existing canon created, and then on top of that it doesn’t even seem interesting in respecting the new rules they have created even within a season. That is just top to bottom bad writing.”

“They completely lack what made ST unique. Picard might as well be a gritty FX drama and Discovery some generic sci-fi show with Marvel elements thrown in. There’s no imagination, no wonder, no optimism for the future. Teamwork, bonding, shared experiences and friendships are almost non-existent. We’re left with betrayal, backstabbing, and general mean-spiritedness. The futuristic setting has been abandoned. The characters all wear what looks like 20th century clothing and have 20th century problems and use 20th century slang. Everyone’s bitter, depressed, addicted, cynical. I find it hard to watch just based on this.”


How about the people who liked it…or at least liked some of it?

“Just to be a contrarian against the one other post, I loved Picard and am very lukewarm on Discovery. Picard certainly deviated from canon and had a few story beats I didn’t agree with (I really dislike bitter, cynical starfleet), but the core of Picard’s optimism, his ability to inspire and get people to follow him loyally, and his core belief in the goodness of people is there. I enjoyed it a lot. Plus the fully HD re-render of the Galaxy-class was worth the price of admission. Discovery does not feel like Star Trek at all to me. It’s not optimistic. It’s bitter and combative, full of betrayal, horrible outcomes, fighting, insults. It’s also heavily serialized which makes one-off episode watching feel pretty pointless. That’s also true of Picard, to be fair.”

“They were enjoyable. Could have used more Star Trek flavor, but still good enough to watch.”

“I like them. I was actually growing tired of episodic format and prefer short seasons with one big story arc. Some of the best Trek episodes are two/three part episodes, so I’d rather see more of this. Sure, Discovery and Picard have flaws, but the production is so different, writers are squeezing so many easter eggs into every episode, I honestly don’t care if they make another movie based on Jar Jar Abrams universe, Simon Pegg can’t fuck right off.”


So some people liked it and some people didn’t. But a majority of the comments seemed to dislike the newer Star Treks, while those who did like them were downvoted into the basement.

On Rotten Tomatoes for Picard, critics gave it an 87% while the audience gave it a 57%.  If you add the Picard likes to the Picard neutral comments of the scifi reddit thread, you get a similar percentage, that 51% of the people who commented didn’t hate it.

On Rotten Tomatoes for Discovery, critics gave it an 81% while the audience gave it a 42%. If you add the Discovery likes to the Discovery neutral comments on the scifi reddit, you get a similar percentage, that 48% of the people who commented didn’t hate it.

On Rotten Tomatoes for Lower Decks, critics gave it a 63% while the audience gave it a 31%.

Now what’s interesting, is if you look up Orville (Seth MacFarlane’s parody of Star Trek) on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that critics gave it a 65% while the audience gave it a whopping 94%!

One reddit comment stated: “The spirit of Star Trek is alive and well in The Orville.”

What’s interesting to me is that critic scores are completely different from audience scores. Are they right? Are they wrong? Art is subjective. So that’s not for me to decide. I simply set out to find out what a sample size of people on r/scifi thought about the newer Star Trek, and it seemed that their opinions were fairly consistent with the audience’s views on Rotten Tomatoes.

But of course, if you want to find out what you really think about the newer Star Trek, watch it yourself on CBS All Access.

Tron 3 is Finally In The Works!

After ten years, Disney is finally moving forward with a new Tron movie after being in a state of cryogenic production freeze. Tron 3 will be starring Jared Leto.

Jared Leto has said the following. “I’m struck with such gratitude for the opportunity to bring this movie to life, especially as both the original video game and the film affected me so deeply as a young child. The fact that I get to be a part of this new chapter is mind-blowing.” (Games Radar)

“I am so very excited and proud to confirm that YES – I will be starring in TRON. We will work as hard as we possibly can to create something that I hope you all will love.  We have some very special ideas in store for you all…” (Games Radar)

Tron 3 will be directed by Garth Davis, whose experience up until this point has been indie dramas. This came as a surprise to many who expected Joseph Kosinski to return as the director. But who knows, maybe Garth Davis will pleasantly surprise us.

“Kosinski helmed Legacy and had long been attached to the third Tron movie. The project sputtered around Disney in the years following Legacy‘s release, with Kosinski saying in 2017 the movie was in a “cryogenic freeze” and thus, signaling to fans a threequel may not have been so sure a thing.” (Collider)

“While Kosinski is not set to return, we can’t say the same for Hedlund, Wilde, or Bridges. There are no plot details on the third Tron movie to spare and so, in combination with Legacy‘s ending, the door is very much open when it comes to any of these actors possibly returning. Then again, whether or not any of them is actively interested in returning in another matter entirely.” (Collider)

It’s worth noting that Disney has been going back and forth, saying they won’t make the movie, that they will, that they’ll make a show on Disney+, that they won’t. So who knows what could happen.

What’s interesting though is that when the original Tron came out in 1982, it was a box-office flop. But in the years following, it became a cult classic.

As to the release date for Tron 3, no date has been given yet.

‘Tron 3’ Moving Forward With Jared Leto to Star, Garth Davis to Direct (Collider)

Tron 3 has been announced and Jared Leto may have just leaked the title (Games Radar)

Tron 3 Back in the Works with Director Garth Davis (Den of Geek)

Watch Singer Perform Fifth Element Song Once Deemed Impossible to Sing

Amazingly talented singer, Jane Zhang, performs a song once deemed impossible to sing: The “Diva Dance” song from Fifth Element.

In an interview, the composer of the Fifth Element song said it was impossible for a human singer to change so quickly between some of the notes, given the range. The notes were recorded individually and digitally combined for the song. However, the singer Jane Zhang accomplishes this seemingly impossible task.

For more information, go here.

New Star Trek Animated Series – Lower Decks

For the first time since 1974, there is a new animated Star Trek series, “Lower Decks.” It follows the characters who have the less glamorous jobs within Starfleet. I myself have often wondered what the rest of the crew does on the massive Enterprise ship.

Lower Decks is available on CBS All Access. It’s described as the “sillier side of Star Trek.” (Keep in mind that there is also The Orville if you want Star Trek with humor)

The reviews for Lower Decks are mixed. Some people really enjoyed it. Some people described it as out of touch baby boomers trying too hard to write humor for Generation Z. Some people asked, “Who is this show for?”

On Rotten Tomatoes the critics gave it a 61% and the audience gave it a 31%.

But of course, the only way to truly know if you like a show is to check it out yourself.

LINKS

Watch Lower Decks on CBS

Star Trek: Lower Decks makes “Second Contact” with its first episode…(Musings of a Middle-Aged Geek)

Lower Decks on Rotten Tomatoes

Lower Decks Reviews on Reddit

Coping with Global Pandemic – Thoughts From a Cancer Survivor

What’s strange to me is that it seems everyone is now going through something similar to what I went through about two years ago. The fear of the unknown. The fear of death.

In November of 2017, I was only 29 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first, when the doctor found the lump in my left breast, I told myself that it was just a cyst. After all, I was young and about 80% of lumps usually were cysts. That day I didn’t even bother telling anyone about the lump (except my boss). Even my boyfriend and family didn’t know at that point.

Yet when I got the ultrasound and mammogram a week later, the tech said, “This doesn’t look good,” and left me to go sit in a carpeted room alone for two hours. My only companions the fake potted plants beside me. They didn’t offer much solace.

That was two hours of panic and grief and being in my head fearing the worst. The tech’s words replayed over and over in my mind, “not good.” In the car afterward, I cried, and cursed God and punched the steering wheel. Wondering what I did that was so wrong to deserve this.

After that, I had to wait a couple of days to get the biopsy (which was kinda like having your breast stapled with a giant staple gun…don’t even get me started on cervical biopsies), and then there was another week of sweating and panicking before the biopsy finally revealed that I did indeed have cancer. And yet even then, my fate was unknown, because I had to go through another couple weeks of tests and (yes) more waiting before it was finally revealed what kind of cancer I had. In the whole process, I learned a new word that was native to the cancer community. “Scanxiety.” The anxiety of sitting around and waiting for one’s unknown diagnosis. That was a whole month of not even knowing if I was going to be alive or dead by the end of the year.

And now, two years later, I see the world struggling with a collective Scanxiety.


All I can do is tell you some of the things that helped me get through that difficult period where I thought I might die: 

Focus on what is in your control: I can’t say this enough. This helped me so much during cancer.

In terms of COVID, the reality is unless you’re an expert epidemiologist or a person with political power, there’s really not much you can do about the fact that COVID 19 is spreading around the world like wildfire on crack.  All you can do is focus on what is in your power to protect yourself and to protect others around you.

In this case, wearing A FUCKING mask, social distancing, and washing one’s hands like it’s going out of fashion have been shown to be the best ways to limit the spread of the virus.

The following study shows that wearing a mask (even a homemade one) is better than no mask at all.

Avoid engaging in denial. Face reality: While obsessing too much over bad news and gloom and doom isn’t helpful, going in the other direction and engaging in denial is bad as well. One of the first stages of grief is denial. This is why you see so many people engaging in the whole, “The Coronavirus is a Hoax,” narrative. Or the narrative that it’s just as harmless as the seasonal flu. Or people even refusing to wear a mask.

People generally don’t want to believe that the world is a malevolent place where bad things can happen.  People in Western developed countries have relatively safe and comfortable lives (compared to the rest of history and what other people in the world deal with). Many of these people are not used to dealing with something like this. They’re not psychologically prepared for it.

So part of this need for normalcy makes people believe in conspiracy theories and magical thinking in the face of a real crisis because magical thinking is more palatable than the reality of death.  However, magical thinking can end up getting people killed.

For instance, in the cancer community, I’ve heard stories and seen situations where people threw their lives away because they didn’t want to make the tough choices and sacrifices necessary to treat their illness. Sure my veins are damaged and I nearly destroyed my liver, but I’m alive! I’ll take that trade off any day. Yet many people with cancer want to believe that they can be cured by banana leaves instead of chemotherapy. Steve Jobs is a  cautionary tale for us all. If one of the richest men in the world can’t survive a deadly disease by avoiding scientific facts, you probably won’t either.

When faced with conspiracy theories, it’s important to employ the principle of Hitchen’s razor—”What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Therefore, it’s very important for people to learn how to engage in critical thinking. Anecdotal stories on a blog are not “evidence” that certain things are a hoax, or that certain home remedies can keep you safe. The scientific process is important because what the scientific process does is test hundreds of people, over a long period of time, controlling for variables and a multitude of factors. These tests are conducted and evaluated by experts who have spent their lives devoted to the subject matter. Such things are more reliable than anecdotes on a blog.

And given that the experts are using the scientific process to tell us to wear masks, social distance and wash our hands, we should probably listen to them.

Focus on what is meaningful: The whole world is freaking out. People are getting sick and dying. But in life, you don’t want to be “reactive.” You want to be “proactive.” After doing what is in your power to avoid getting the virus or spreading it, all you can do after that is focus on what is meaningful.

Will bombarding yourself with bad news and feeling miserable help anyone? Probably not. It’s good to stay informed, but there’s also a such thing as overdoing it. And I’m starting to see people torturing themselves (and thus those around themselves) by taking in too much news. It’s hard to avoid when we’re attached to a 24/7 news cycle via cell phones and social media. According to a very informative episode on The Patriot Act, the news isn’t even really news anymore. It’s gossip and sound bites. So you’re not being that much more informed by watching it all the time. You’re often plugging into psychological torture. The news is designed to generate outrage and fear in order to boost viewership. Not very productive feelings in the long run.

I ran into the same thing by doing too much research on my illness, to the point where it was boosting my anxiety and making me stressed. I had to enforce some healthy boundaries on myself and stop doing this research. And when people started complaining to me about how worried they were about MY illness, I had to enforce my boundaries once again and tell them to stop doing this for my own sanity.

So, once you start doing what is in your power to make the situation better, and enforcing healthy psychological boundaries on the information you take in (for your own sanity), try to think of other things you can do to make yourself and then the world better. Even if it’s just a little better. Do you have any creative outlets? Does spirituality or religion help you (it helps me)? Can you volunteer? Can you buy food for a local food shelter? Are you willing to drop off food for the elderly who can’t risk exposure at the store? There’s plenty of ways to make the world better (malevolent as it may be). Even if it’s just posting a positive quote on your twitter. Or calling a lonely relative. Or exercising because it makes you healthy.

I know it’s hard to stay positive in times like these. But life is hard. Life is a challenge. And perhaps life is even a test, to see how good we can be despite negative conditions. Keep in mind that you are here today because you have ancestors who survived much more challenging conditions than COVID 19 (famine, war, genocide, slavery, conquest, mongols, etc.)

Humanity has survived tough times before. We’ll survive this.

George R.R. Martin’s Early Sci-fi Stories

Opening pages of George R.R. Martin’s novelette, “A Song for Lya,” from microfilm

Many of us are aware that George R.R. Martin is the fantasy author who first started writing the epic Game of Thrones series more than twenty years ago (the first book of the series was published in 1996).

Yet not many people are aware that before that, George R.R. Martin was a science fiction author whose first short story, “The Hero,” was published in 1971 (he was only 21 years old when he got this published). He also dabbled in the horror genre as well.

“The Hero,” which appeared in the February 1971 issue of Galaxy, features a soldier who is matter-of-fact and accomplished in the field, yet politically naïve. “Readers might see some hints of Ned Stark in the story’s protagonist (New York Public Library).”

Finding these short works can be difficult because George R.R. Martin had his stuff published in pulp magazines. However, a large collection of his shorter works was published in Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective  which is available on Amazon.

LINKS

Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective (Amazon)

Finding George R.R. Martin’s Earliest Work (New York Public Library)

A Thousand Casts (Podcast devoted to reviewing George R.R. Martin’s earlier works)

George R.R. Martin (Wikipedia)

“Raised by Wolves” Trailer – New Post Apocalyptic Show Directed by Ridley Scott

“Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.”

The show is directed by Ridley Scott (at least the first two episodes) and will appear on HBO Max, September 3rd, 2020.

After binge-watching most of the good TV while stuck in quarantine, I’m experiencing a television drought. So I’m excited to see that there will finally be some new, quality television out there (I hope).

“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions,” Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. “What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”

LINKS

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves is giving us strong Alien vibes (Ars Technica)

Raised by Wolves American TV Series on HBO (Wikipedia)

Raised by Wolves (IMDB)

Watch Trailer on YouTube

How to Get A Literary Agent – Gen Con Online Panel 2020

This year Gen  Con went online. As a result, they had a lot of great online FREE panels. Including many great resources for writers. I myself went to the “How to Get an Agent” panel that starred Lucienne Diver (Agent with The Knight Agency) Maurice Broaddus (Fantasy and Horror Author), Toni L. Kelner (Mystery Author), E.C. Ambrose (Fantasy and other genres author), Chris Bell (Panel Host and Managing Editor for Indie Press)

I took some notes about the most critical things mentioned in this panel.

This came from How to Get an Agent Panel Live (On YouTube)


Why Should You Get an Agent? 

Why not just wing it on your own?

Toni L. Kelner replied, “For the big bucks. For the money.” It was further explained that an agent can help your book get into a bookstore, into an international book store. Agents know what’s selling and how to market your work.

E.C.Ambrose added that agents are also important for understanding contracts.

Maurice Broaddus added on to this by saying he first realized he needed an agent when he got a 14-page contract and needed someone who could decipher it.


What Do Agents Do? 

Lucienne Diver made the point that many people are not aware of what an agent actually does. A big part of their role is career planning. Especially for people who want to become career authors and aren’t just treating their craft as a hobby. An agent can figure out which is the best line to launch an author’s particular work. So it’s not just about the agent getting the writer money, it’s about the agent figuring out what the best position is for the writer. It’s about trajectory. “We are career managers as much as we are negotiators and contract managers…agents wear many hats (Lucienne Diver).”


How Does Someone Just Starting Out Get an Agent? 

Social Networking: Lucienne Diver explained that writers conferences are a great resource because you are meeting people there. You are networking. Maurice Broaddus confirmed this by saying he met his agent by wearing “a very loud red suit” at the bar.

Writers Organizations: Another useful tool for getting an agent are professional writers organizations. These often have a list of agents who are reputable in that field. Such as Science Fiction Writers of America. The Association of Authors Representatives. Etc. Not all agents will necessarily be members of these associations. 

Do Your Research and Follow Guidelines: Lucienne Diver explained that it’s very important to follow an agent’s submission guidelines. Don’t try to be clever or cute. Agents have a whole mountain of slush in their inboxes every week. An easy way for agents to reduce the slush pile is to ignore the submissions that don’t follow the rules.


Warnings About Bad Agents

One point made in the panel is that agents are only human. So sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they are not doing the best job representing your work. Sometimes they are experiencing a mid life crisis.

Maurice Broaddus talked about an agent he had who was not reading his stuff or sending it out in a timely manner. What good was she doing for his career if she wasn’t even reading his stuff?

E.C.Ambrose said it is worse to have a bad agent than no agent, because you think your agent is doing their job but they’re not.

Aside from the writer’s panel, I myself made friends with a writer on Twitter who said she did get a book published, but the sales were abysmal because the agent didn’t do the best job representing her. Her agent had a lot of stuff going on in her life and took about two years to even get this author representation. This author I know was writing vampire romance. In the year she wrote the book, vampire romance was hot. But by the time it got into the bookstores, the genre was passé. 

So long story short, if your agent is not communicating with you in a timely manner, it’s best for your career to find alternative representation.

Absolute Write has a good “Writers Beware” section. 


How to Obtain an Agent Through a Query Letter?

A query letter is a letter an author sends to a prospective agent to get that agent interested in their book.

E.C.Ambrose went into detail about what a query letter is.

Keep in mind that agents are readers first, so you want to get them excited about reading your book. You want to show them you’re capable of hooking a reader’s attention and writing something that has a beginning, middle, and end.

A query letter should answer the following questions:

  • Why are you approaching this particular agent (what is it about them that would make them a good fit for your work)?
  • What is the concept of this book?
  • How does it fit into the marketplace?
  • How is it different than the marketplace (How is it unique)?
  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the conflict?
  • What is the setting?

Example: “In 14th century England, a barber surgeon discovers he has the magic of death.” This tells you a lot about the book in one sentence.

The end of the query should explain more about you as a writer:

  • Who are you as a writer?
  • Have you gotten anything published?
  • Have you attended any workshops?
  • MFA?

ONLY Send Out a Query if Your Manuscript is COMPLETE

Lucienne Diver even said “make it a fifth draft at least.” Get multiple eyes on your work. Get beta readers. Get lots of feedback. Revise based on feedback. Provide the most polished version of your work you can provide.


Will Self Publishing Hurt Your Chances of Getting an Agent? 

This is the one million dollar question. A question I wonder a lot about myself, and that I have heard asked multiple times before.

Lucienne Diver said that there is no one path to getting published. She’s had authors who started out self-published. She also has hybrid authors. However, her biggest piece of advice is that if you are going to self-publish, make sure you do a professional job of it, because what you do leaves a track record. Get a pro to edit your work. Get a pro to make your cover. If an agent sees that you self published something full of typos that gets bad reviews, they’ll think you’re not ready to be a professional author.

LINKS

How to Get an Agent Panel Live (On YouTube)

Gen Con Writers Panel Collection (On YouTube)

Gen Con Online 2020

Lucienne Diver (Agent with The Knight Agency)

Maurice Broaddus (Fantasy and Horror Author)

Toni L. Kelner (Mystery Author)

E.C. Ambrose (Fantasy and other genres author)

Chris Bell (Panel Host and Managing Editor for Indie Press)