John C. Wright on the Canon of Fiction

An Essay in the form of series. Part 1 and Part 2, and a footnote.

The question is, can fanfiction – sub-writings in a fictional universe, by fans – become Canon, i.e. officially a part of the story?

I myself would err on the side of “no, not really”, without making a categorical claim on it. But more important than the answer to that question is whether a story, any kind of story, follows its own structure consistently.

My last podcast was a discussion of sequels that did not respect established lore. Not fanfiction, mind, but canonical sequels. When people talk of “respecting the fans”, they really mean “respecting the lore” – i.e., not ignoring what has been previously established in order to Subvert Expectations. You can’t just give Bran and Sansa crowns because that feels good and completely ignore the political realities in the published Song of Ice and Fire canon, for example. So for me, the greater question than “can fanfiction become canon/” is “can sequels become canon?” or even “can the later series of a TV show avoid destroying its own canon?”

Wright discusses the points of internal consistency in Part 2 of the essay.

Birds of Prey Eats the Seed Corn

What does it mean when a movie doesn’t do well?

It means it didn’t “find an audience” it didn’t appeal to enough people. Not that it doesn’t appeal to anyone. How much is “enough”?

To make money.

Now, I suppose that Christian Toto is right enough in his overall explanation for why Birds of Prey didn’t find its audience. Get Woke, Go Broke and all that. You can’t build an audience by deconstructing it.

But I’ve got a more direct explanation for why no one went to see Birds of Prey:

Nobody Cares.

Real quick, what’s the difference between Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn?

Wonder Woman is a hero. Harley Quinn is nuts.

Harley Quinn is not a character to build a movie around. She will not stay put in a protagonist’s role. Like the Joker she serves, she is at her best when protean and chaotic, performing cunning tricks for dastardly purposes. She’s not the Good Guy.

Now, you can make a story for how people become Not Good Guys. Joker had a big success with that. It can be done. People like Harley Quinn because she’s murderous and silly, an entertaining package in a Rogue.

But she’s not a hero.

So you end up putting a bunch of secondary characters around her, to give it that Avengers vibe that everyone loves. But The Avengers works because everyone knows Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, etc. They are top-tier Marvel characters. Who the hell is Cassandra Cain? How niche is Black Canary? These are not box-office draws.

If Suicide Squad had left people with good feelings, there would have been a bigger audience for Birds of Prey. But even though Suicide Squad made money, it was a disappointment. So as much fun as Margot Robbie is in the Harley Quinn suit, the audience for her movie among fans is not as big as it could have been. Throw some sMaSH tHe pATriARchY on there, and you’ve got a recipe for “nah…”.

The Bradley Font and Classic Pulp

I found this today on Twitter:

And it’s entirely in line with the whole Pulp Revolution indie scene, in which classic pulp fantasy tropes are lovingly dusted off and embraced. Cirsova Magazine is a good go-to (I’ve bought an issue; it’s excellent if you like that sort of thing), all hail the spirit of Robert Howard.

It’s a bit over the top, frankly, and I don’t know if I’d want to use it for my big fantasy project that I keep telling myself I’m going to start. But I might like to throw down a longish novella for 2020, along lines earlier alluded to. Since this would be a self-pub, I’m fine with playing up the glorious pulp-cheese of it.

You might ask why I’d even think about such a thing when the story’s in outline form. I say unto you, the spirit of composition matters. I think in the next few days I’ll start jumping on the first chapter.

Here’s another look at the Bradley font.

The Four Categories of Oscar, Or Why I’m So Tired of Holocaust Movies

I have been tired of them, in fact. I was bored of Holocaust flicks when I saw the trailers for Jakob the Liar. None of them are as good as Schindler’s List, and they have all the plot creativity of a 19th century melodrama. I’d be surprised if Jojo Rabbit does’t include pauses saying “You Have One Second to Hiss the Fuhrer”.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Formula still works: Jojo Rabbit is an average film that would never get 6 Oscar noms if it wasn’t about the HOLOCAUST

The link describes the Four Categories of Oscar: the subjects that the Academy loves to rain Gold upon, which are as follows:

1. Holocaust and/or Nazis

2. Slavery/civil rights/race

3. The AIDS epidemic and LGBTQ themes

4. Hollywood

Examine the Oscar winners, and most of the nominees, of the last ten years, and one of those 4 pop up. They are the expectations of our rulers.

To be fair, there are good reasons why these films tend to do well in Oscar season:

Another reason these subjects are employed is because the Holocaust and slavery are monuments to human depravity and suffering – and as uncomfortable as it is to admit it, both subjects are chock full of dramatic potential. The same is true of the AIDS epidemic, which was its own kind of Holocaust. The bottom line is, any subject which has death as a constant and contains a foreboding presence is going to be loaded with drama… and hence has the potential to be a good film.

They give the most hackneyed story structures a historical weight, elevating them into what voters believe to be classy award-winning pictures.

Tropes work because people respond to them. However:

But the suspicion is it’s even simpler than that.

The two cities at the heart of the film industry, Los Angeles and New York, are the cities with the largest Jewish and gay populations in the US, which most likely translates into a solid number of Academy members being Jewish, gay, or both.

Which is why we don’t see films about the Holdomor, or Sherman’s March to the Sea. Hollywood will never ever shove Communists into the role of cartoon villainy that Nazis play, and Hollywood doesn’t give a damn about the South except when using them as a backdrop for films about Race. That doesn’t flatter the sensibilities of the Academy, so you won’t see them.

The other reason than boredom is that films about Nazis have a tendency to be political hatchet jobs in disguise. I haven’t seen it, but I’d lay good odds that once or twice in JoJo an off-hand comment in the mouth of a bad guy will suspiciously echo the sentiments of someone on the American Right. They’ve been calling us Nazis since the time actual Nazis were a thing, so how can they resist the chance? Especially when it be waved away as “just a joke”.

Maybe if JoJo gets shut out, we’ll see fewer of these. But I’m not betting on it.

Some Thoughts on Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Finally sat down and watched it. I would put it squarely in his Western Phase, that he’s been on since Django Unchained. It’s more of a meta-Western, but it has that tone and that feel to it, and the main character is a down-on-his-luck Western Star. Anyway, here are my thoughts:

  • Quentin Tarantino is the Last Great American Director. He’s the only big-name auteur left in town, and we’re gonna miss him when he’s gone, and talk about him the way people talk about Kubrick or Hitchcock.
  • Hippies turning on a dime from quirky to feral makes 1969 real in a way that no other film I can think of ever has.
  • Everyone who complained about Margot Robbie not getting enough lines in this movie absolutely missed the point. She’s meant to play an elegy of Sharon Tate, and she nails it. Call this objectification/iconography if you will, but that’s what we’ve been doing to Sharon Tate for 50 years. Tarantino gave us a look at her observing her imminent iconostasis, and he did it with the language of cinema, which is primarily a visual medium.
  • I would totally watch a DiCaprio and Pitt in a buddy cop movie.

“Mindhunter” is going on ice at Netflix. Variety has confirmed that the show’s cast members have been released from their contracts. The streamer is not ruling out a third season of the series, however, depending on executive producer David Fincher’s schedule. Fincher is currently working on directing the Netflix film “Mank” as well as executive…

via ‘Mindhunter’ Cast Released From Contracts, Season 3 Put on Hold — Variety

Womp womp.

A link to my Quick Review.

Quick Review: The Rise of Skywalker

SWsplatterEverything in here is SPOILERS, because we’ve reached that reality in Star Wars movies. The guys at Red Letter Media have been saying since Rogue One that there are only so many things that can happen in Star Wars, so even if you technically haven’t seen the ninth (and final?) episode, you’ve seen most of the things it has on offer. There are escapes and jumps to lightspeed and blasting stormtroopers and epic lightsaber fights and grand space battles. Heroes will be tempted to turn to the dark side of the force. The villain who’s been THE villain will be THE villain again, and he will do the same villainous acts. There are one or two mild surprises, but even these are predictable. This is a Star Wars movie that approaches an almost mystical reverence for itself as such.

Thus, it veers hard away from whatever Rian Johnson was attempting to move towards with The Last Jedi, almost apologetically giving the fans every emotional touchstone they could want. Of course, such a course precludes any possibility of expanding on the Saga. What we are left with amounts to a do-over of Return of the Jedi, minus the Death Star (or with a million Death Stars, depending on your point of view). The only real emotions in it are feelings of being haunted by the weight of past actions and past glories, an unavoidable meta-commentary on the state of the story and the fandom and everything else. This movie, and Star Wars itself, is a run-down mansion haunted by ghosts.

Just to beat this point home, the climax of the movie is determined precisely by the past flooding back in to save the world from the past. Just as THE Villain (yup, it’s Palpatine), is back, standing in for *every* Sith, so Rey hears the voices of *every* Jedi. No one at Lucasfilm can think of doing things any other way. It’s either desperate or cynical and possibly both.

None of which is to say that it’s a bad movie. It moves along snappily. You’re not ever confused as to what’s happening and why. You never have a scene end and think “what was that all about?” J.J. Abrams’ trademark visual energy is very much present. I’ll even cop to one or two moves bringing about genuine emotion. But once it’s over, it feels entirely forgettable. It’s Star Wars: A Star Wars Story: Featuring Star Wars. It’s exactly what Scorcese was talking about with movies becoming theme park rides.

Which leaves us with that show about not-Boba Fett and not-Yoda. I’ve heard its pretty good. If they can keep that going a few more seasons, that galaxy might grow after all.