Friday, April 10, 2009

The Problem with Sci Fi

The productivity did at last slow a bit. I got more work done on the tax organizing, which also resulted in cleaning out a space. But I came to a crashing halt on the writing when I realized I'd created a McGuffin. A McGuffin, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the object the people in the story are seeking, and the details of what it is don't really matter all that much to the story because the important part is what the people are willing to do to get it. One of the more famous McGuffins is the Maltese Falcon, or else the letters of transit in Casablanca. In spy stories, it's often "the papers," and it doesn't matter much what the papers really are, just that everyone in the story is desperate to get them, and the consequences will be dire if they fall into the wrong hands. But in my story, the nature of the object everyone's seeking does matter because it plays a role in the plot. My problem was that I hadn't figured out all the details yet, so I was treating it as a McGuffin. And then I reached a part where it starts to matter what this thing really is, what it can do and what people know about it. Even worse, it's the kind of thing where there are legends about it, and then there's the reality. So I had to work all that out in my head before I could write another word, and then once I worked it out, I realized I was going to have to totally rewrite the last scene I'd written because a character's reactions were all wrong for the situation (which could partially explain why the villain was being too nice). By then, it was almost dinner time and I had a headache (which could have had something to do with the yellow haze in the sky from the smoke blown here from the wildfires), so I called it a day and figured I'd sleep on it to re-plan my scene.

In other news, it looks like tonight is the season (and maybe series) finale of the Sarah Connor Chronicles and the season finale of Friday Night Lights (which made me bawl like a baby last week -- it didn't help that the big game was played in my university's stadium). But I'll be out singing for a church service. And then Sci Fi starts showing Primeval, which I've already seen, but which I may watch again.

Speaking of Sci Fi, they announced a few weeks ago that they'll be changing their name to "Sy Fy" (or something like that). Part of their reasoning makes some sense -- since "sci fi" is a widely used, general term, they can't trademark it (though you'd think that might have come up when they were naming the network in the first place, and then you do have to wonder about the Food Network, since the word "food" is also pretty widely used in a general sense). But then the rest of their reasoning is utterly baffling. Apparently, they feel that the name of the network is keeping people who might like some of their shows from watching those shows because those people don't think they like science fiction. They seem to think that there were a lot of people not watching Battlestar Galactica, in spite of all the critical raves and awards, because it was on a network called "Sci Fi."

That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If someone thinks they don't like science fiction and therefore are avoiding a show just because it's on the Sci Fi channel, I don't think they're any more likely to watch something called Battlestar Galactica on any channel (especially not one called "Sy Fy," where it sounds like Sci Fi when you say it). And then even if you change the name of the series to something that doesn't sound like it has anything to do with space battles, they're still going to see the spaceships and robots and figure it out. I couldn't even think of a series description you could put in a TV Guide that left out the science fiction elements and didn't sound boring.

Then there's the fact that, apparently, people who actually like science fiction aren't good enough for the network, and they'd rather make a futile effort of tricking people who aren't into spaceships into watching than make a good network that their audience will watch (which would probably not include wrestling). It's like the nerdy boy in high school who gets a crush on the cheerleader who will never give him the time of day and attempts to change his image so she'll like him, but it doesn't work because she still knows he's a nerd. Meanwhile, he's completely disregarding his cute and nerdy female best friend who likes him the way he is. Ultimately, he'll end up never getting the cheerleader and also losing his best friend who would have liked him. It's like a John Hughes movie from the 80s, as played out by a television network.

Though, actually, I suppose that if it were a John Hughes film from the 80s, the network would be an awkward girl chasing the high school stud while ignoring her dweeby male friend, and she'd actually end up with the stud and still be friends with her friend, so perhaps the problem is that the executives have seen too many John Hughes movies from the 80s.

Memo to the Sci Fi Channel executives: Your network is not Molly Ringwald. You will never catch the "popular" audience, no matter how many wildly creative prom dresses you wear, and when you change your image and ditch your nerdy friends, we won't forgive you and stick around. Give us spaceships and robots with good scripts and acting. Give us Doctor Who (and while we know you have to put in commercials, you don't have to use a chainsaw to do so). I'll even take Mansquito (because that was actually rather entertaining, in a ridiculously silly, drive-in on the TV kind of way). Hire someone in programming who is actually a fan. And we'll be there.

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