The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


And, of course, the downside to something like Facebook" getting bad news you wouldn't have otherwise heard. There was a fun, lovely lady I knew some years back, incredibly vivacious and always impeccably dressed. I saw her name on Facebook and put in a friend request, hoping that this was the same lady I had known. It was. Unfortunately, when the response came it was from her husband with the news that she had died of a stroke last year. Damn, damn, damn. That actually bummed me yesterday, a day when I otherwise would have been celebrating: we sent off FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE, and think it really smokes.

But my friend. Her poor husband is in an emotional tailspin and is afraid he might never emerge. Life is tough...I want to say something that is no fun to say at all. When I look over my acquaintances, friends and family who have died young, a totally disproportionate number of them have been overweight. Please, people...take better care of yourselves. Love yourself a little more. Find other ways to feel safe. Please.


A question was asked about collaborations. When it comes to Tennyson, all basic plot aspects are discussed thoroughly with Tananarive. Then we run it all past Blair. He has tons of input into Hollywood history, Tennyson's psychology, and other aspects. Tananarive and I rework the outline, flesh it out, and then Tananarive begins to write a first draft, in the "Buzzword" online editor which makes it possible to . I follow along behind, reworking, researching, keeping her on track. This is no joke: when you are right up against the tree, it can be hard to see the forest. There are aspects of the story or story world that are more mine, and others that are more hers. I rewrite her text, she re-writes my re-writing, and so it goes. Blair gets chunks of the books along the way, and provides input and critique. There have also been a couple of very special advisors on certain aspects of the book, people who would rather not have their names associated publicly, for reasons of their own.

Technically, FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE was finished week before last, and then we cut it into two chunks on BUZZWORD and just dove it with magnifying glasses. That meant morning to night we're both in the manuscript, swapping chunks and fighting over details, themes, psychology, dialog and whatever else we haven't agreed on totally. In every collaboration, someone has to have the final word in case of an unreconcilable disagreement. In this case, T has final say. Broadly, I create structure and story, she executes first draft, and we both work like hell on everything, trying to create a character who is tough enough to survive genuine peril, but with a very vulnerable heart beneath the skills and muscle. So far, we seem to have walked that line well. I honestly believe CAPETOWN to be the best of the three. The added espionage element is just more fun than I could believe.

In a very real way, the TENNYSON books are the movies I wish I could see on the big screen. It is possible that such films might have been successfully made as long as ten years ago, but I can't blame Hollywood for being gun-shy. I certainly think that they could be successful now, if the right combination of vision and talent can come together. SOMEONE is going to create such films, such images, and reap success. I'd love for it to be me, but would be ALMOST as happy to simply put my money down, munch popcorn, and enjoy the show.


What images would you guys like to see onscreen that you haven't seen (or rarely see)? Why do you think you haven't seen it?


Mike R said...

When I was in college, I used to go to these conventions in New Orleans and had an absolute blast. There was this one girl I hung out with at those conventions. Nothing serious, but it was a nice memory. About six months ago I stumbled across her webpage whose front page was "In Memory of." and what not. She has been dead for about seven years, and I had no clue. She was older than me when we hung out, but now I'm older than she was when she passed away. It felt really weird and sad learning that.

The images that I have never seen on the big screen that I would like to see is an unambiguously pro-Iraq War movie. Something very basic whose plot would boil down to, "We are the good guys. They are the bad guys. Now it's time for the good guys to kill the bad guys." I don't think I've seen this because Hollywood is full of humans, and it is very hard for humans to band together and make a product promoting X, if 90+% of the group making it thinks -X.

Scott said...

Someone here suggested Michael Jai White as Aubry Knight; yeah, I'd buy those DVDs in a blink.

David Tanner said...

I second the Micheal Jai White as Aubrey. Also Steve, I have to say I love the Tennyson books so I hope they keep coming and that they get made into a movie and/or tv series. Ten rocks.

I also like that he's very much a sexual being. For some reason a lot of current fiction seems to shy away from that. And I'm not saying just black characters, a lot of fiction I've read lately seems 'sanitized.' I've been reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy lately, maybe that's why.

Joseph said...

I'd like to see stronger pro-family, stable-family, stable-marriage portrayals in action or SF films. Usually these aspects of any film are riddled with inter-personal conflict: The spouse sneaks away to be a spy, everyone is lying to each other, the marriage is falling apart and needs to be saved, etc. Why can't the stable family be the foundation for the rest of the film?

The only example of this I can think of is the end of Farscape series, when John and Aeryn have gotten over the will-they-won't-they romantic phase and have become a devoted action hero couple. I love their battlefield banter in The Peacekeeper Wars.

Pagan Topologist said...

I want to see more Wesley Snipes movies. I want to see more Spike Lee movies. I especially want to see another movie--ANY movie--with Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks starring together. I want to see a faithful-to-the-book movie of Heinlein's Star Beast.

As to why I have not seen these, I suppose the reasons vary, but have something to do with the fact that my tastes are not mainstream.

Come to think of it, I want to see a movie version of Great Sky Woman.

Marty S said...

Pagan:We can't seem to be in complete agreement on anything. I'm a big Denzel Washington fan, but tend to avoid anything with Tom Hanks in it.

Unknown said...

Let's take Men in Black, for example: There's a pathologist love interest for the Will Smith character, that I like. She's smart, she's brave, she gives as good as she gets in the flirting and bickering department, and she's generally fun. At the end of the movie, it's suggested that she and Will Smith head off into the sunset together as colleagues, and presumably, now that she's been freed of the plot device that makes her keep forgetting him every five minutes, lovers.

The time rolls around for a sequel, and, wouldn't you know it, the bright, funny pathologist is gone, so that Will Smith can nobly sacrifice his love for some other woman.

What I'd like to see more of, is, if you're going to have a woman in an action movie series that I maybe could kind of identify with, can she actually survive as a character from one movie of the series to the next? I understand that James Bond gets a new woman or two each movie; that's a basic part of his character. But would it have hurt too much to leave Will Smith the same love interest from one movie to the next? Or, if not Will Smith, somebody else? Because it would be easier to like action movies if the people who look like me didn't keep getting switched off the cast every time the sequel comes out. Usually for a love interest that I don't enjoy as much as the one I lost.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Off topic: Steve, I just started reading "Think and Grow Rich" on your suggestion. So far, it is great book and packed with info on realizing your dreams. I'm starting to apply some of the early tips to my million words of crap project (which until recently would go in stops and starts).

Also, if anyone is interested, it is widely available as a free pdf download. Just google it.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Lynn: You're absolutely right, but most Hollywood movies that deal with a romance between two characters focus on the initial meeting rather than anything more than a week into the relationship. The exceptions seem to be 1) characters with previous relationship get thrown back together by fate, 2) characters with long standing relationship break up, and 3) characters with long relationship go through a major relationship challenge.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"She's smart, she's brave, she gives as good as she gets in the flirting and bickering department, and she's generally fun."

I'd love to see more brave, brilliant, confident, take-no-prisoners women. I'd love to see a explosion of hard-ass, confidence and strength-intoxicated Angela Jolie-type women driven to conquer in career, sex, power, all aspects of life. I'd also love to see strong People of Color take love and life by the throat. Here I'm envisioning the magnificent performance of the late Henry Cele in Shaka Zulu multiplied severalfold across all genres.

I'd love to see brown-skinned people in general depicted far more frequently and favorably. I'd love to see a Bollywood extravaganza showcasing delicious dark-skinned Indian women and Australian films featuring Aboriginal characters.

I'd also love to see intellectual prowess glorified beyond brute physical strength. I want to see action flicks were heroes or villains use cunning and smarts to destroy adversaries or save the day. I'd love to see more "nerdy" characters like Jodie Foster's Ellie Arroway in Contact.

I'd love to see films ADVOCATE evolution and rationalism and denigrate and ridicule Creationism and other magic-based world views. I'd love to see the well-nigh impossible: a mass-market version of Theo van Gogh's and Hirsi Ali's Submission that confronts and condemns Islam without apology.

I'd love to see a movie version of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's memoirs Infidel were her rejection of Islam and embrace of Atheism and the Enlightenment is depicted as heroically and revelatory as Muhammad Ali's or Malcolm X's rejections of Christianity and American Racism were by Will Smith and Denzel Washington.

Finally, I'd love to see cinematic versions of Phillip K.Dick's The Man in the High Castle and (strange for a staunch Atheist) Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. And I want to see more films in the vein of 2001: a Space Odyssey that strive to capture the magnificence and awe of the Cosmos.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Might just be coincidence, but most of the people I know who died young were thin.


I'd like to see a movie based around klezmer music. Fiddler on the Roof is all very well, but as far as I know, the music was a style developed for the movie, and klezmer is much stronger stuff.


And I've been reading more about the 10K hours of directed practice that it takes to get really good at something. I'd like to see movies that show the process of conscious learning required, instead of just celebrating effort.

Steve Perry said...

Lynn --

In the case of MiB, probably the actress, Linda Fiorentino, read the script for the sequel and wanted no part of it. It tanked, as I recall, and rightly so. Most of what made the first movie work wasn't in the follow-up ...

Marty S said...

Nancy: Its very probable that the fact that most of the people you know who died young were thin is not a coincidence. Many people who die young have a family history of early deaths. I personally knew two such people, who were very health conscious and fit because of their family history, but in the end they suffered an early death. Although they did make it to a greater age than their father and uncles.

Unknown said...

Most of the people whom I've known personally who have died young (pre-middle-aged) have died young either as the result of their own drug and alcohol use or someone else's.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, not a bad guess, but they died of cancer before they were forty, and I think they were naturally thin.

BC Monkey said...

* A good fantasy movie, asides from LOTR.
* Continuation of the Blade franchise with your very valid complaints addressed.
* The Dollar sign over Galt's Gulch
* A good werewolf movie. ( I mean come on, how hard can it be?)
* An end to the current crop of pretty boy vampires. Defanged tigers just aren't threatening, which for the current brand is somewhat the point really....
* Mess ups between genres. Best example to me is "Brotherhood of the Wolf". It was a mystery, a horror movie, and action adventure, a romance and a political thriller all in one package. Why not a mystery in a fantasy setting, or a mystery in ancient Egypt?
* A well done dragon. Dragons are not your friends a la Dragonheart and Eragon.

* pioneers in space. Not Star Trek where the characters are representatives of a faceless omnipotent government in a spotless huge spaceship, but small parties of free people launching out into space for exploration, riches and adventure. A real story of how humans could venture out into the great unknown once again. Our first astronauts got to the moon on 1970s tech and we've gotten locked into the current megaprograms. Given occurances like the X-Prize program and the Spaceship One, how implausible is it that individuals and families might eventually try the new frontier? The frontier is a human experience that has been missing from our experience since we essentially turned our back on Space after mapping the globe.

Pagan Topologist said...

Interesting comment, Marty. I am not terribly fond of Tom Hanks, either, overall. However, Apollo 13 was, I think, my favorite movie of all time, and Philadelphia convinced me that Hanks and Washington have just about perfect chemistry when acting opposite each other. Washington I certainly prefer without Hanks to Hanks without Washington.

But, I like Snipes better than either of them alone.

Marty S said...

I think I'm one of the few people who didn't like Forest Gump. Also believe it or not I don't think I've ever seen a Wesley Snipes movie. My favorite black actors are Washington and Samuel L. Jackson.

Pagan Topologist said...

I have never seen Forest Gump. The concept just did not interest me and still doesn't. Same is true of Titanic.

As to Samuel L. Jackson, what he does, he does extremely well; but I feel as though he is more limited in the range of roles he does. Having written that, I cannot give a concrete example to back it up; it is just an impression.

My absolute favorite Snipes film is Passenger 57.

Ronald T. Jones said...

I want to see Charles Saunders' Imaro on the big screen. I want to see more action adventure sicence fiction/fantasy blockbusters with strong black male and black female leads.