to the twenty-fifth issue of Galaxy’s Edge. We’ve got some fine stories
by newcomers (and relative newcomers) Tina Gower, Samantha Murray, Alex
Shvartsman, Andrea G. Stewart, Brennan Harvey, Sunil Patel, George
Nikolopoulos, and Yaroslav Barsukov, as well as a few by old friends Robert
Silverberg, Kay Kenyon, Kevin J. Anderson, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. We’ve
also got part two of the Robert A. Heinlein novel we’re serializing, Double
Star, plus our regulars: recommended books by Bill Fawcett & Jody Lynn
Nye, science by Greg Benford, literary matters by Barry N. Malzberg, and Joy
Ward’s interview (this issue with Ye Editor).
lots to enjoy. Just dig in.
* * *
hear of Joe Esterhaus?
reason why you should. He doesn’t know that Galaxy’s Edge exists. As far
as I know, he’s never read a word of science fiction.
know about him, though. The reason I know is because he makes well over
a million dollars a screenplay, often multiples of a million, and is one of the
very few writers, even in an industry that seems to play with Monopoly money,
to pull down that kind of fee.
hear of Tom Cruise? Brad Pitt? George Clooney? Harrison Ford? Julia Roberts?
you have. They make ten million or more per film, plus a piece of the gross –
and that, of course, has nothing to do with the quality of the film. Film
bombs, film makes no sense, film has an IQ that would freeze water (and they’ve
all made their share of them), they get their money anyway.
what does this have to do with science fiction?
with me while I explain.
Carol and I rented some Tales of Tomorrow DVDs from Netflix. That’s a
show that was run from 1951 to 1953, starting when we were nine years old. It
was in black and white, of course, always performed live (and you wouldn’t
believe how many professional actors, from Lee J. Cobb on down, muffed their
lines), and boasted a series of young actors like Paul Newman who became
one in every seven episodes was pretty good, always allowing for the minimal
budget and live performances by unprepared actors. About one in seven was
acceptable. And about five in seven were unwatchable.
if the story is dumb, an actor, no matter how good he is, can’t make it any
we tried Suspense, from 1949. Another nice batch of actors: kids like
Newman and Charlton Heston, established stars like Lilli Palmer and Boris
just bad, but embarrassingly, snicker-out-loud bad. Even those brilliant actors
couldn’t save it.
for her birthday, I got Carol a complete set of bootleg DVDs of the
fondly-remembered but never-released two-year, seventy-eight episode run of Science
Fiction Theater from 1955 to 1957, a time when most purported science
fiction movies were actually anti-science and usually ended with lines such as
“There are some things man was not meant to know.” Science Fiction Theater
was like a breath of fresh air, because it was clearly of the opinion that
there is nothing man wasn’t meant to know or learn. Each of these shows
was introduced by Truman Bradley in a state-of-the-art lab (circa 1955) that I
would kill to play in. He’d show a couple of related cutting-edge experiments,
and then explain that the episode you were about to see extrapolated from the
experiments he’d just demonstrated. No stars at all. Probably the biggest names
were Warren Stevens and John Howard, a couple of journeyman B-movie actors.
the shows were pretty damned good. Hell, for the time they were remarkably
they were good for a simple reason: the producer understood that without a good
script, all the stars in the world can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
principle still holds true today. Take a look at the latest Indiana Jones film.
Got a huge superstar – Harrison Ford. Got the most powerful director in history
– Stephen Spielberg. Got the most successful producer in history – George
Lucas. Got a laughably bad script. End result: a laughably bad film. So bad it
gave rise to a comment among screenwriters: “Nuke the fridge.” Which is to say,
when you run out of things to do, lock the hero in a refrigerator and nuke it.
was true in 1949, and in 1955, and it’s true today: every play and every movie
starts with The Word. You ignore the words and you’d better be making a silent film
or a ballet, or else you’re in deep trouble from the get-go. Writers know that;
television and movie executives still haven’t figured it out.
me close with a wonderful (and true) story:
great director Frank Capra was giving an interview to a few members of the
press back in the 1940s, talking about how he put the famed “Capra Touch” on
this scene and that…and finally his screenwriter could stand it no more. He
walked over with a ream of blank paper, tossed it on the startled director’s
desk, and snapped: “Here! Put this Capra touch on this!”
lesson worth remembering.