In 2022, Top Gun: Maverick was an exceptionally good movie to me, and many of the film critics whom I respect seemed to agree. Unfortunately, it was also a good movie in a sea of disappointments, which is another thing many people seem to agree on.
I am not politically conservative and I believe inclusive – or “woke” – movies can be good if written properly. Ripley in the first two Alien movies and Sarah Conner in the first two Terminator movies were great female protagonists. There is no reason a movie with an inclusive cast or a story with an inclusive theme (the Harry Potter series come to mind) can not be successful.
But recently, I find myself more and more in agreement with old style nerd commentators on how the enthusiasm toward infusing social justice causes in the script of genre movies is depriving them of fun. I still think there could be a balance where a script could be both inclusive and entertaining. But sloppy and careless attempts to infuse social justice viewpoints into genre movies have had some pretty awful results. Commentators like the Critical Drinker have made some pretty compelling points about how a careless fusion of the two have not only ruined the entertainment value, but have also projected some questionable moral values.
One of my favorite nerd commentators, the YouTuber Peter Paul Chato – aka Former Network Executive Reacts – has been encouraging creators to make new stories that could become the next nerd fantasies. Long story short, I have decided to take up the challenge.
I have been struggling to finish my English language samurai novel. I am going to put that on hold, again. But this time to go back to my roots. I am going back to writing the sort of science fiction fantasy stories I was writing in my friend’s attic room when I was twelve years old.
Andy Weir’s The Martian was serialized on his blog and provided to his readers for free until it was finally collected and self-published on Amazon Kindle. I am going to take the same approach and publish right here on my blog, available for free for anyone willing to read it.
I never actually outlined a story before. I am what writers call a “pantser”. I write and let the story take me where it will. For this reason, I have often preached against elaborate world building. I am going to have to make an exception to that. I am going to build out an elaborate fantasy world.
This will inevitably become the fusion of my favorite science fiction adventures, namely Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dune. So in order to keep the comparisons from becoming too on the nose, I will have to keep the story on Earth and avoid making it a space opera. I like the general look of Future Boy Conan, an early work by Hayao Miyazaki, in which the post-apocalyptic future looks like a sunny beachside suburb. I think I will start with that aesthetic.
There also needs to be a conflict of philosophies. The main character belongs to a tribe of egalitarians who believe all things related to technology will destroy humanity. They have good reason to, because every attempt to revive the age of technology has ended in catastrophic world wars. The first verse of their creed is “Thou shalt not revive the Golden Era”. They live in a pre-industrialized agricultural community with mostly medieval weaponry, class system, and religion. “Technology” is a dirty word that everyone abhors. The tribe is known as the “ant breeders” because they are known to collect various chemicals and foods from genetically modified bees and ants left over from the technological past. Among the many products is the Borooah, derived from leaf-cutting ants that specifically collect coca leaves and grow fungi on them to feed their larvae. Borooah is a psychedelic substance extracted from the juices of the ant larvae that enhances mental ability.
In diametric opposition to them are the Skyfarers, a technology driven group who believe in the revival of the industrialized world.
The story opens when our protagonist, a mild mannered girl, witnesses the execution of a group of Skyfarers who accidently crash landed on their island. As custom dictates, all who were found on the ship were beheaded. The crowd cheered when the men of the ship were beheaded one by one, even when they shouted curses to the crowd. But the last one to be killed was a little girl, not any older than the protagonist, who had to sneak into the square to see the execution. The crowd was silent when the girl was killed, but the priest explains that there must be no exceptions.
Then the protagonist and her brothers go to the trader’s island where they sell their honey and some of their medicines. The trader’s island is neutral ground where the egalitarians and Skyfarers keep an uneasy peace. When our protagonist is wandering through the back alleys, she is accosted by a Skyfarer woman who wants to know what happened to her family who landed on the ant breeder island. She shows her a glass tablet on which pictures of her daughter appears. The protagonist breaks free as she tells her everyone aboard has been beheaded and that she should not be looking at an evil piece of technology. Some Skyfarer men overhear some of this exchange, beat the woman, and chases after the protagonist with intent to kill her. Her runs to her brothers and urges them to push off the boat. The Skyfarers pursue in their flying ship and shoot explosives at the boat. The ant breeders fight back with a crossbow mounted on the boat and manage to shoot down the flying ship then return back to the island.
Once returned, they tell the elders what had happened. The elders initially attribute the behavior of the Skyfarers to their inherent barbarism, but as they listen further they realize that the girl must have seen something that the Skyfarers wanted to keep secret. After some discussion, they realize that the glass tablet the girl saw must be a connected device rather than a stand alone, which means that the Skyfarers must have revived the dreaded Thinking Machines. They must now send an army to the land of the Skyarers to destroy the Thinking Machines before it destroys the world.
In order to find where the Thinking Machines are located, they sail back to Trader’s Island to find the Skyfarers and question them. They find out instead that a much bigger enemy, an emerging empire, is in control of the Thinking Machines and are preparing to take over the world.
I have to give each character a name and flesh them out a little more before I start writing. I also have to think about the theme and general trajectory of the story.
Maybe its a lousy idea. I think I will sleep on it.