Tag Archives: Stargate SG-1

The Return of Stargate and the Prequel Trend

Hi everyone!

If you haven’t heard yet, Stargate is finally making a comeback!  And I’m not talking about a reboot of the movie franchise, which has either been fully cancelled or at least postponed.  Rather, this is the next ‘chapter’ in the SG-1 Universe.

…Except, it isn’t.  Announced only a few days ago, it’s called Stargate Origins (click here to check the announcement on Gateworld.net.)  It takes place…sometime before SG-1, though we don’t know when yet.  And reportedly follows an adventure of young Catherine Langford as she defends Earth against an unimaginable darkness…  More on why this is a problem for me further down.

Sci-Fi and the Prequel Trend

Image Source – http://www.techtimes.com

Back in 1999, George Lucas released the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace.  At the time, I was extraordinarily excited about it, I’d always wanted to see those first three episodes, to see the origin story of Darth Vader, and, well, I was excited to see more Star Wars on screen.

What I didn’t know was the trend that it would begin…and that is a trend in Sci Fi that has endured for nearly 20 years.

Prequels.  Though I don’t believe Phantom Menace was the first ever prequel, it was the biggest hit I’m aware of.  Since then, here’s what we’ve seen…

  • Star Trek Enterprise (followed by the 2009 Star Trek reboot, and now Star Trek Discovery.
  • X-Men Origins and X-Men First Class
  • Prometheus (prequel to Alien)
  • The Thing
  • Caprica
  • Oz The Great and Powerful

And that’s just a small list of well-knowns.  Now with Stargate Origins coming out, I find myself crying out “NOOOOO!”  I for one have grown tired of prequels.  Especially in Sci-Fi universes that are supposed to be about exploration and moving forward (Star Trek and Stargate both being examples.)

But why?  Why is this continuing?  Especially…well, do an experiment with me.  Go to google.com and type in the search parameter “Why are prequels so popular?”  I know that Google can tailor search results based on past browsing habits, but for me, the first 10 results talk about why the Star Wars prequels are so hated.

So if the first major prequel of a franchise was so horrible, once again, I have to ask…why is this trend continuing??

Theories of the Trend

One of the most common opinions I get when I ask people this question is “Hollywood can’t come up with anymore original ideas.”  An interesting theory, but I wonder how true it actually is.

Image Source – http://www.irishnews.com

In fact, until recently, I didn’t really have a response except “maybe that’s true.”  Until…Bright.  The name of an upcoming, Netflix-produced movie, Bright is about modern-day Earth, with elves and orcs and faeries living side by side with us.  Will Smith’s character is a police officer partnered with what appears to be a young orc.  This is radically different from any major sci-fi/fantasy movie I’ve seen in recent years.

But it’s Netflix.  It’s not a major motion picture studio, it’s a relatively brand new production studio.  And I think this is a key point.  Netflix broke the mold with movie rentals, and now is breaking the mold by producing it’s own TV shows and, now, movies.  Like Amazon, Netflix seems to be all about trying new things, innovating, and moving its company in an unexpected direction.  And it’s succeeding at it.

Major motion picture studios, however…it’s like an unknown author sending a manuscript to an agent or publisher.  You’re a big, big risk.  They are highly reticent to invest time and money into you, no matter how good your product is.  So more likely than not, you’ll be rejected.

I think the same can be said about major motion picture studios and TV production studios.  They want to invest money into something that has a proven history of making money.  And even as reviled as the Star Wars prequels are, they made a ton of money.  So prequels make money.

This, I think, is why we keep getting prequels and, for that matter, sequels, rather than truly original content.

This is also why I am becoming a big proponent of Netflix, and of self-publishing.  It allows those with innovative or new ideas to get their ideas out there.  They may not always succeed, but at least they can try.

Parting Thoughts on Stargate Origins

Image Source – http://stargate.wikia.com

I’m really really sad about the direction they are taking to try to revive Stargate.  I really want more Stargate, but a prequel?  A prequel that, at least at first glance, blatantly ignores established timeline?  For those who aren’t as familiar with it, before the Stargate was opened by Daniel Jackson in the motion picture, the Stargate was only opened one other time after it was unburied in Giza, with disastrous results.  It was subsequently shut down for decades.

Yet this premise seems to indicate that Catherine travels through the Stargate, either before or after Ernest is stranded off-world, to confront some darkness that, apparently, SG-1 and the SGC are never made aware of.

In essence, it’s making the same mistake Star Trek and Star Wars made in their prequels: ignoring continuity.

Worse still, the series is being released as 10 episodes…each episode 10 minutes long.  I can’t imagine why anyone thought this was a good idea…but then again…I’m kind of eating my own words now.  I released 10 short stories which will later be compiled into an anthology (The Orc War Campaigns.)  So…maybe this is a result of the trend of online and subscription based TV shows?

Anyway, I hope I’m wrong about Origins, but I really think this effort is going to fall flat on its face, and Stargate will once again be thrown into proverbial mothballs.  :(

What are your thoughts about all of this?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Self Publishing Success – The Martian

Hi everyone, welcome back to A Writer At Heart!  After a short hiatus, I’m back for more writerly goodness!  Please note that starting today, the posting schedule will be once a week every Sunday.  This will give me Friday night and Saturday’s to write new content for you all :)  And now, on to today’s post!

The Martian

Movie Poster for The Martian

In recent years, the movie The Martian has garnered considerable attention.  Based on a novel by Andy Weir, the producers and director of The Martian went to great lengths to ensure (mostly) scientific accuracy, working with NASA on an unprecedented scale, and creating what some critics call one of Ridley Scott’s best movies.

The novel itself was becoming a success before the options for the movie rights were sold in 2013.  However…what if I told you The Martian was self-published?

And not even self-published in the ‘traditional’ way, but in a rather unique way.

Chapter by Chapter – For Free

When Weir started working on the idea for The Martian, he had already been rejected by traditional publishers for other works, and decided to go a different route.  He published The Martian, for free, chapter by chapter on his website.

The Martian hardback novel

It was only when his growing number of fans asked him to publish the novel on Amazon Kindle that he started charging, at only 99 cents (the cheapest KDP allows authors to publish their novels.)  Within three months, he’d sold 35,000 copies!  In 2013, an audiobook publisher and a print publisher both bought rights to The Martian.

So how did he go from an unknown, posting his story for free on the internet, to making hundreds of thousands of dollars, and getting a multi-million dollar movie adaptation?

I’ve not actually read The Martian myself, but a part of it I think has to do with the quality of the story (based on reviews.)  Weir went to great lengths to make his novel scientifically accurate, and from some articles I’ve read online (including, yes, Wikipedia) he listened to what readers of his chapters said when they corrected scientific inaccuracies and had suggestions about characters.

Perhaps this is part of it, too.  Not only does he have a compelling topic in his novel, one which is growing in everyone’s mind as NASA prepares to send humans to Mars in 2030, but he listened to and engaged with his readers.  He didn’t dismiss them.  He didn’t belittle them.

To quote a character from Stargate SG-1, “Never underestimate your audience. They’re usually sensitive, intelligent people, who will respond positively to quality entertainment.”

What do you all think?  What was the secret to Weir’s success?  Is there another element that took him from an unknown to a best-selling author through self-publishing?  Curious minds want to know :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Kailar – The Unexpected Fan Favorite

Hi everyone!

Image source - onceuponatime.wikia.com
Image source – onceuponatime.wikia.com

What is it about chaotic, even ‘bad’ characters that we enjoy so much?  From Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time, to Vala Maldoran from SG-1, and a whole range of others, somehow these often become fan-favorites, often to the creators’ surprise.

For instance, I can’t help but wonder if the producers of The Walking Dead knew that Norman Reedus’s character would become such an overwhelming fan-favorite!  He seemed like such a minor, unstable element in the first season, but quickly become a much bigger character.  And fans have threatened to riot if they kill him off!

Kailar if Sword of Dragons was a movie :D
Kailar if Sword of Dragons was a movie :D

So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Kailar has become such a popular character in The Sword of Dragons…but I was!  As more and more people read The Sword of Dragons and Burning Skies, I hear more people tell me how Kailar is their favorite character, or at the very least the one that interests them the most.

It wasn’t until my girlfriend mentioned why she liked Kailar that I noticed the trend (and then the next day at work, a random person in the hallway stopped to tell me that she is his favorite!)

From Villain to Antihero

Image Source - www.pinterest.com
Image Source – http://www.pinterest.com

If you’ve read the first book, you know that Kailar was one of two villains in The Sword of Dragons.  However, when I first started planning out her character, I knew that I wanted to do something far different from any story I’d written previously.

I had a habit in all of my previous writings of never writing from the perspective of any of the bad guys.  In fact in Star Trek Dragon, the ‘villains’ were often entire species, rather than individuals.  I saw this as a failing in my writing, and I knew I had to change it.

So I started developing a villain who wasn’t bad just to be bad, but who had ambitions and desires, and who really thought of herself as in the right.  In fact from the very beginning, I wanted her goals to be the same as Cardin’s, but how she pursued them was what would set them apart.

I also never intended to have Kailar be a part of the series beyond book 1…but by the time I finished writing book 1, I knew that her story wasn’t done.  I enjoyed writing her too much, and I was already coming up with plans for what to do with her character in book 2.  So it would seem she isn’t just a fan-favorite, but she is becoming a writer’s favorite :D

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalSo she made her return in Burning Skies…only this time, her story, her journey was much more personal.  Imagine for a moment something you love to do, more than anything else…imagine that your ability to do it was taken away.  If you’re a pilot, imagine that you, for instance, lost fine motor control and could no longer control an aircraft.  A painter who went blind.  A singer who lost her vocal chords.

What would that do to you?  How would it affect you?  Would it tear you apart?

…and what would you do to get it back?  How far would you go?  Would you do anything, or would there be limits?

Kailar’s Journey is Just Beginning

Knowing now that so many people love her character so much, I’m really excited to announce that her journey has just begun!  But where am I taking her, you might ask?

Well…the thing is, she is a chaotic character, an antihero.  So if you’ve finished book 2 and you think you know where she’s going, you might think again.  Her journey will never be a simple one, and there will never be a clear path forward for her.  She will always struggle against the darkness within her, and as much as she wishes to do right by everyone…there will always be obstacles.

But that doesn’t mean writing her character won’t be fun.  She’s a chaos character, after all, they do the things no other character would dream of doing.  So expect more than a few surprises along the way :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!  Stay tuned for news about The Orc War Campaigns, as the series will be returning soon!

-Jon Wasik

Falling In Love With Your Characters Over and Over

Hi everyone!

I snuck it in last post, so here it is first-thing: I resumed writing The Orc War Campaigns last week!!  :D  And after only about a month and some change of not writing it, I realized something magical about picking up a story after putting it down for a while.

digital-cover-1When I first sat down to write the 6th episode, I found myself staring blankly at the screen at first.  The episode starts from Zerek’s perspective a few weeks after “The Seige of Valars”, and I’m sitting there thinking…who is this guy again?  I know I’ve developed him before, but I’ve been so focused on Burning Skies, I’ve forgotten.  The same thing happened when I switched to Amaya’s perspective.

But with each of them, once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.  In less than I page, I inhabited them once more, and I started smiling as thoughts streamed out through my fingers onto the screen, and before I knew it…I was in love with them all over again.

When I realized this, I also realized just how important it was that this happened.

Write Characters You Love

Think back to some of your favorite characters in your favorite books.  How you followed their actions with bated breath.  How you felt their heart breaks, experienced their joys, and absolutely adored them.

Could the writer have written such vivid and powerful characters if he or she didn’t enjoy writing them?  More than that, if he or she didn’t love them?  It might sound strange at first, because they’re fictional characters, right?  *raises hand* I fully admit to falling in love with fictional characters.  And I’m not talking just in a romantic sense (Oh Aerith, if only you’d lived…  ;) )

Image Source - http://clay-zius399.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://clay-zius399.deviantart.com/

I mean imagine a person, sitting next to you right now, and there’s no one else in the world you’d rather be sitting next to.  Your best friend.  Your sister.  Your cousin.  A random stranger you just met and connected to instantly.  They are your companions.  That’s what I’m talking about.

And while characters in a book may not be real…well, they are.  They’re real in our hearts.

Image Source - www.danaspef.top
Image Source – http://www.danaspef.top

This is doubly so for writers.  Can you truly write an entire novel about a character you don’t like?  Do you really want to?  And before you mention certain characters, you can also love to hate a character.  That to me describes the perfect villain, heheh.

Believe me, your readers can tell if you love a character or not.  This can truly make or break a story.   I also understand that every writer’s criteria for what they might or might not love about a character will vary.  Will vary by the writer’s personality, what’s going on in their life at the moment, and more.

Just please, for the sake of your readers and for your own mental health, keep this in mind when you create new characters.  Make them enjoyable not just to the readers, but to you.  Especially if you intend to spend the next 2 or 10 or 50 years writing them.

In my humble opinion, the best thing you could possibly do is write a character that you can fall in love with, over and over again.  :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Is History Repeating? Star Wars and Star Trek Together Again

Hi everyone!

A few days ago while at work, I overheard several coworkers discussing the upcoming Star Wars movie, as well as the events of the previous six movies.  And I thought to myself “I never thought to hear Star Wars talked so openly and frequently again!  This.  Is.  Awesome.”

A meme has started floating around the internet, with pictures of news articles about the new episodes of X-Files, the new Star Wars movies, and the recently announced Star Trek TV show.  The meme goes something like: “which nerd managed to find a genie’s lamp?”

mix-up

Wait, no, that’s not the one……  ;)

Any way, it got me to thinking about the history of two of those franchises, and how they seem to have been linked.  Star Trek and Star Wars.

Image Source - www.memory-alpha.wikia.com
Image Source – http://www.memory-alpha.wikia.com

In many ways, the revival of Star Trek that began with The Motion Picture owes its thanks to the release and insane popularity of Star Wars in 1977.  There’s a story, one that has been repeated in several interviews, in which Paramount Studios saw the success of Star Wars, and thought “What do we have that can compete with that?”  Other accounts say it wasn’t about rivalry, it was more “This has made the genre popular again, let’s build upon that opportunity!”

In either case, the release of The Motion Picture in 1979 was no coincidence.  And fandom saw a new surge in sci fi popularity that hasn’t quite died.

Unfortunately, despite that resurgence, both Star Trek and Star Wars eventually saw an apparent end.

Everything Has It’s Time, Right?

Image Source - blu-ray.com
Image Source – blu-ray.com

In 2005, just when it was finally starting to find its stride, Star Trek Enterprise went off the air.  For many fans, myself included, there was a genuine fear that this was the last time we would ever see Trek on TV.

Let’s face it, Star Trek had begun to lose its gusto.  Fans still loved Trek (myself included,) but many were very much disappointed in Enterprise, and ratings were crashing.

Everything has its time.  And with 5 series spread across 28 seasons (not counting the animated series) and ten movies, it seemed like Trek had reached its saturation.

What’s more, Star Wars Episode 3 came out the same year Enterprise ended, and Lucas promised no more new Star Wars.  Perhaps with good reason.  While the prequel trilogy had done well in sales, many fans despised the trilogy, and even today I have a difficult time finding anyone who enjoyed the new trilogy.

jarjar-fail

It seemed like the end of a mutually beneficial era.  The two franchises that seemed to build upon one another’s successes had come to an end at roughly the same time.

Here We Go Again!

Then something unexpected happened.  Star Trek made a come back!  With a new spirit, new actors, and a new timeline, the 2009 Star Trek reboot brought both old and new fans to the theaters, and once again, everyone was talking Star Trek!

Image Source - Amazon.com
Image Source – Amazon.com

In fact, I have this very distinct memory of seeing the new movie the first time with several friends, and at the very end, one of them leaned over and asked me, “Did we just witness the revival of Star Trek?  I think we did!”

It was an exciting time.  Star Trek was back!  Yes, there was no hint of a TV show coming, and we didn’t have Star Wars, but that was okay.  Some was better than none…

Image Source - starwars.com
Image Source – starwars.com

Or is it?  In 2012, the world was shocked to learn that Lucas was selling the rights for Star Wars to Disney.  And lo and behold, within days, Disney announced not just a new Star Wars movie, but 5 new movies!

Could this be real?

Yes…yes it is.  Both are coming back!!

Fast-forward to today, and what do we have?  A successful 2nd Trek movie, with a 3rd on the way, and previews of a new Star Wars movie that give many, myself included, great hopes for the Star Wars movies we’ve all only ever dreamed of.

To top it all off, Paramount has announced a NEW Star Trek television series is coming!

The Tapestry of the Stars

So what’s going on?  Are these two franchises somehow woven together in the tapestry of fandom?

Certainly they seem to be enjoying the very same fervent popularity they held for so long before their eventual apparent ‘demise’ in 2005.  And I really don’t think it is a coincidence that as one makes a come-back, so too does the other.  I think they build upon each others’ successes.

trekandwarsI will never argue over which is better.  I love both for the unique qualities they bring to such a diverse genre.  And just as Lucas and Roddenberry once shook hands and encouraged each other, I so hope that these two franchises continue to help prop each other up, so that we can enjoy another couple decades of amazing Science Fiction :)

(PS: Is anyone else out there hoping for Stargate to make a comeback?!)

oneil-wacko

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

A Powerful Beginning – The Sword of Dragons Web Series

Hi everyone!

I am so excited to announce that I’ve finally begun writing the new web series for The Sword of Dragons!  Yeah!  :D

Image Source - background-kid.com
Image Source – background-kid.com

I don’t have a GOOD title yet, but the working title is “The Orc Campaigns”.  But what I really love about this beginning is how much it surprised me, with how powerful it is.

Yes, me, the writer who was planning this story, was shocked by how I started it.  It happens.  I love it when a story I’m working on takes me in wonderful, unexpected directions :D

cardin2Although the key characters of TSOD (or should I write it out as TSoD?) are Cardin, Sira, Reis, and Dalin, I didn’t plan on focusing all of the new series on them, and so I actually start with a brand new character, one whom isn’t seen in books 1 or 2 (but I am definitely bringing him into later novels.)

And I’m about to introduce a second new character, one of those wrongly imprisoned by new laws set in place by Prince Beredis (for reference, see chapter 12 “Not Yet King” in The Sword of Dragons).  I think she’s going to be a fun character to write, too.  Don’t worry, more info on just who they are will be coming soon :)

The Importance of the Beginning

I don’t know about all of you, but for the most part, once I start reading a story, I have to finish it.  But only if I get past the very beginning.  That very beginning has to hook me somehow, whether through simple curiosity or by exciting my imagination.  One of my favorites:

“Man,” said Terl, “is an endangered species.” – Battlefield Earth

But the stories that really hook me at the beginning?  Those that create powerful emotional reactions in me.  Those that stir feelings – the stronger, the more likely it’ll hook me.

Image Source - www.stargate-sg1-solutions.com
Image Source – http://www.stargate-sg1-solutions.com

The beginning of the 2009 Star Trek movie, for instance, or Guardians of the Galaxy.  Well, Guardians did it in two ways, first with the emotional beginning, and then with the comical follow-on.  I LOVE stories that mix the two well (Stargate SG-1 anyone?  :) )

So I’m hoping the beginning of this new story will hook others in a similar way.  As the writer, it has me hooked, and that is just as important, if not more so.  I’ve noticed that stories I write only because I have to (IE: back when I was in college) were never very well written, because I didn’t care about them or the characters.  But when I am invested in the characters…I think that’s a recipe for magic :D

Your Turn!

When it comes to the beginning of a story, whether a novel, movie, TV show, video game, anime, what ever your choice, what are your favorite beginnings?  Please leave your favorites in the comments below!  :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Writing Under a Deadline

Hi everyone!

Image Source - http://www.rmfw.org/
Image Source – http://www.rmfw.org/

To begin with, I have some exciting news!  I’ve registered for the Colorado Gold Writing Conference hosted by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers!  This will be my first ever writers’ conference that I’ve ever attended…  *gulp*

Having said that, has anyone else who reads my blog attended a conference?  Any tips on what I might expect, and what I should have to be best prepared?  I’m going to research like crazy online too, but personal experiences would be helpful :)

One of the coolest parts about this is that I get a free pitch session with an agent!  Personally I think this will be a great thing!  It doesn’t guarantee that I’ll land an agent, but I think that my in-person excitement will help me sell my story.  Furthermore, I know that agents aren’t just looking for a good story, they’re looking to see if a writer is someone they could see themselves working with, and if that person would provide a positive image for their agency.

The Deadline

Image Source - http://infocus.emc.com/
Image Source – http://infocus.emc.com/

This does, however, bring me to the title of this blog.  You see, when I found out I would be able to pitch  to an agent, I had a decision to make.  Do I pitch The Sword of Dragons, currently my only completed manuscript?  Or do I try to finish Chronicles of the Sentinels in time?

When asking around, I pretty much got a consensus: the story of Chronicles (and its genre) combined with just how excited I’ve been for this story ever since I first thought about it makes it more likely that I’ll be able to convince an agent to at least ask for the full manuscript.

This puts me on a deadline.  I have to have Chronicles as finished as possible by September 5th!

I am no stranger to deadlines in general.  I was an English major in college, and that meant having essays due by certain dates.  Lots of them.  Including long and involved research papers.  I also took every creative writing class I could, and every single story we had to write was due by a certain date, as were revisions.

But I have never had a deadline for a novel before, so this is a new experience.  It is true that I could always fall back on The Sword of Dragons, but you know what?  I’m not going to.  I’m not even going to consider that an option.  Why?

First, I want the experience of writing a novel under a deadline.  I don’t know what kind of deadlines I’ll fall under when I am finally able to write full-time, but I don’t ever want to be late with a manuscript or revision.  But more than that, because I know I can do this.  I’m already well on my way to it.  I just started writing chapter 10 tonight, and it’ll be a 25 chapter novel.

So, I have created a schedule for myself, one which I believe I’ll easily remain ahead of.  It’s as follows:

17 August: First draft of manuscript completed
19 August: First proofread completed, print out hardcopy
22 August: Second proofread completed
23 August: Complete digital revisions based on hard-copy proofread.  Email copies to beta readers.
03 September: Final Revisions

I already have a few beta-readers who have volunteered to try to read as fast as possible once I get a copy to them.  I’d like to ask if anyone who reads my blog would like to volunteer as well?  I know a week and a half isn’t much time to read, but honestly I think I’ll have it ready much sooner than 23 August.  It is also my intent to make Chronicles a fun read, and being geared towards YA or YA Crossover, it’ll be relatively short.

Something Special

I don’t know how I know, but I know that this is the one.  The more I write this novel, the more I feel like this is something special.  I’ve kinda felt that way from the get-go, but now, 10 chapters into it, I am certain.

The story, the characters (especially the characters,) everything is coming together so well!  I think I’ve found that balance between serious and light, comical and emotional, the same kind of qualities my favorite novels, movies, and TV shows have always had (think Stargate SG-1 :) )

Image Source - www.stargate-sg1-solutions.com
Image Source – http://www.stargate-sg1-solutions.com

Even if I don’t get signed on to an agent in this conference, there will be valuable experiences and valuable contacts made.  But I truly feel like this is the novel that is going to make my career take off.

I’m certainly not saying that The Sword of Dragons isn’t a great novel in its own right.  Just this week two coworkers started reading it, and both of them were hooked in the first few chapters!  The email one sent me after just reading the first four chapters was so encouraging and made my day!  I know TSOD will do well once published, but getting that first agent, that first publisher, that is the hard part.

I think for the first time in my life, I truly believe that I can do this.  I can make it as a writer.  :)