Tagged: Roger Zelazny

Dennis O’Neil: Ecclesiastes

 

There, on the mountain and the sky,

On all the tragic scene they stare.

One asks for mournful melodies;

Accomplished fingers begin to play.

Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,

Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

— William Butler Yeats • Lapis Lazuli

Here we are, having our last visit before the big hokey pokey on the Potomac and I am being reminded of post-apocalyptic fiction. If you can’t guess why I’m suffering this brain scratch, maybe you can be excused.

Now, for those of you still with me, hey gang – let’s talk end of the world!

Time was when apocalypses were rare, if not nonexistent, on theater screens and – I’m taking a flyer here – utterly absent from video. Today, though, IMDB’s entry lists 50 films that qualify as post-apocalyptic and surely there are more on the way. Why the deluge?

I can think of only four movies that dealt with them when I was callow and skinny: The World The Flesh and the Devil, On The Beach, Fail Safe, and our black comedy masterwork, Dr. Strangelove. I paid good money to see all of them and I didn’t feel cheated.

A quick look at them, one by one: The World The Flesh And The Devil, released in 1959, has a radioactive dust cloud killing almost everyone on Earth. Harry Belafonte plays a mine engineer who was underground during the catastrophe. He meets two other survivors and events proceed to what I guess is a happy ending… or at least a hopeful one.

On the Beach, first widely seen in 1959, gives us a world devastated by nuclear weapons. Unhappy ending. Enough said.

And Dr. Strangelove: another nuclear war story, adapted from a much more conventional novel and released in 1964, best described as broad satire. I won’t go into detail here: Strangelove is unique and if you haven’t seen it, remedy that.

To conclude this probably incomplete catalog. Fail Safe. Plot very like Strangelove’s, minus the satire.

Three of the four entertainments under consideration carry strong anti-war messages and the fourth, the Belafonte flick, delivers the same warning a bit more obliquely.

This kind of plotting certainly has its uses, allowing writers to create situations for their heroes to have adventures in without worrying about those pesky facts, a boon print guys were enjoying before the movie guys got around to it. (It might also allow misanthropes jolly-dreams, but we’ll ignore that.)

I guess that the most socially useful element of the doomsayers is as modern incarnations of whoever wrote the Bible’s Ecclesiastes. I hereby paraphrase/translate: Everything’s hopeless and besides it sucks. The original is more elegant.

If you’d like to see how a really good science fiction writers handles this theme find a copy of Roger Zelazny’s short story “A Rose for Ecclesiastes.”

I should find a copy myself. Maybe reading it again will brace me for a post-hokey pokey America. Couldn’t hurt, anyway.

See you next week. Maybe.

John Ostrander: Going Walkabout

GrimJackThey grow up so fast.

I’ve worked on/created a number of characters in my writing career, trying to define them through my writing. They exist first in my head and then become incarnated through my words and stories and the depictions by the artists. In some ways, they are like my kids – my murderous, nasty kids.

In the movie Stranger Than Fiction (one of my Mary’s fave films and the most atypical Will Farrell movie ever), the writer of a novel finds that her lead character – who she was planning to kill off – is a real person and comes face to face with him. I don’t think I’d ever want to do that for the main reason that I tend to make the lives of my protagonists pretty miserable. If I’m their creator, I’m a pretty asshole god. I have very good reasons for doing these terrible things – it reveals character and makes a better story. At the same time, I’d never want to meet any of them face to face. I’ve given them cause to do really nasty things back to me.

This is not a situation likely to come up… except that every now and then one of the characters goes walkabout. They slip away from my stories and show up elsewhere, doing and saying things that I never gave them to do or say.

With Jan Duursema I’ve created lots of characters for Star Wars in the Dark Horse comics I did for almost a decade. Two of them – Aayla Secura and Quinlan Vos – have shown up elsewhere. Both of them have shown up on the animated series, The Clone Wars, and Aayla went live-action in Episodes II and III of the Prequel Trilogy. In the animated series they gave her a French accent which threw me a bit – I never heard her that way in my head when I wrote her. In Episode III she was gunned down by her own troops who continued to fire shots into her back when she was down. That was harsh to watch. My baby!

Even my character GrimJack has done walkabout a bit. I was – and am – a big fan of Roger Zelazny’s Amber series of novels. Evidently, Zelazny was also a fan of GrimJack. In one of the later books, he introdued a character called Old John. Oh, you might have been using an assumed name but I knew it was you, Gaunt! Zelazny described him to a tee and caught his personality perfectly. We later got Mr. Zelazny to do an introduction to a GrimJack graphic novel. That was so cool!

The character that I created who has done the most walking about has to be Amanda Waller, the leader of the Suicide Squad. She has had the most incarnations in a variety of looks of anyone that I’ve created. Amanda has shown up in animated features on both TV and in films, video games, and television shows. On Smallville she was played by Pam Grier – which is beyond cool – and in Arrow she is considerably younger and more svelte. Hey, it’s the CW.

She’s also been in movies. Angela Basset played her in the Green Lantern movie. Okay, I know mostly no one liked the GL movie but – Angela Basset?! That’s amazing right there.

And, of course, there’s the Suicide Squad movie that starts filming any day now where she will be played by Academy Award nominated, Tony award winning star of How to Get Away With Murder actress Viola Davis. Boo-yah!

Amanda also sends home money. Every time she appears outside of the comics, I get what they call “participation”. If they reprint my work with her in TPBs, I get money. My Star Wars kids? Not so much. GrimJack? He would but so far he hasn’t. But the Wall? Oh yeah. Mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money – you bet. I love that Amanda.

It is interesting to see characters that you created or defined show up elsewhere (for example, I defined Deadshot although I didn’t create him). Sometimes it feels a little surreal. As I said, they started up in my head and then to see them and hear them walking around doing and saying things that I never wrote can be weird. It’s also nice. My kids are out in the world with their own lives. That’s interesting to experience.

Of course, would it kill them to call home now and then? Well, maybe not Gaunt.