As I mentioned in Sunday’s Asimov Hour journal, I’m spending this week cramming Space Opera into my eyes (via books and movies). The goal here is to pick up on the obligatory scenes and conventions.
I am probably starting with the worst two examples I could have. Dune, the film, which is almost unwatchable (the designs are amazing but the plot, I hope, is glossed over). And now I’m reading E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series book prologue, Triplanetary. Of the latter, I am 45% through. Normally by now, I’d expect to have attached my loyalty to a main character, and that hasn’t happened. So as far as I can tell, the Arisians are my protagonist? Except they are working behind the scenes, as are the antagonists, and we watch their machinations play out through characters that then die (and sometimes take society with them). So it’s very hard to feel tension in the overall story because it’s delivered through small action sequences of characters that I then expect to die. I’m going to finish it – my kindle says there’s about 2 hours left – but I’m not sure what I’ll be able to take away from this story for my own use (at this rate). Now that I look it up on Wikipedia, I see this book perhaps is a bad entrance to the Lensman series. That’s what I get for trying to start at the beginning. Also, according to Wiki, the story I’m reading just got to the main portion, so perhaps I’ll get more out of the remaining 55%.
Back to Dune, the movie, I would break down the plot as follows:
- Political backstory set up of houses and economic forces. Boils and heart plugs.
- Paul leaves his home planet with his family. His father, a duke, is making a political move against the Emperor, son is training for intelligence and battle prowess. Mystic witch leader indicates he may be a chosen one (or may just die horribly). Tests Paul, and he passes.
- Paul shows natural instincts for Dune’s environmental oddities and suspects a connection between the killer worms and the spice everyone wants.
- Paul’s Father is killed in response to his political move. Paul escapes with his pregnant witch mother to the forbidden zone and are accepted into the culture of native Fremen people.
- Paul trains Fremen with sonic weaponry, falls in love, and develops his male-witch powers. His mom becomes the witch leader of the Fremen, and the little sister is super creepy powerful.
- Paul’s male witch powers stop working, so he drinks water that should kill him but because he’s the chosen one, it returns and enhances his powers.
- Paul senses the attack by the emperor and leads the Fremen to defeat them, his baby witch sister declares him the chosen one as it starts to rain.
- Also Patrick Stewart; also Gordon Sumner.
I still plan to read the book (and maybe finally finish it – I had trouble with it in high school when it was on the Summer Reading List). I now want the book to be better in defiance of the cinematic train wreck.
I was going to try and apply these stories to the Foolscap page I’ve talked about before, but I feel like Dune was too far dismantled from what must be in the book to effectively map out. And then there’s the disjointed story telling of Triplanetary. So… yup.
Possibly my time would have been better spent on more commercially successful pieces such as Star Wars: A New Hope, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ender’s Game. But here I am, and multiple Space Opera lists recommended these authors/series so here I am. Hard to know until the end of Triplanetary since apparently the story is about to shift.
Up next I will jump over to the short story books I grabbed. I want to get through as many as possible this week to start analysis and then get back to my own stories. I’ll also keep Googling for a list of obligatory scenes and hope I stumble on a winning search phrase.
In other story telling osmosis news, we watched Victor Frankenstein, Westworld (HBO), Misery, Ash Vs Evil Dead, and way too much DS9 for my own good. We want to watch Titan A.E. but are unwilling to spend the $13 for the HD digital file. I’m also listening to Hive Monkey (Ack Ack Macaque #2) from audible. And keeping up with my podcasts.
Wow. No wonder I’m feeling overwhelmed. I think I may actually suspend listening to my podcasts for the month of November, so my brain isn’t so crammed with other people’s blather while I’m meant to be brain deep in my own story.