Tag Archives: Battlestar Galactica

Recent Projects

Though I haven’t posted much since the move, I have been extremely active in various projects; here are just a few.

  • MINDWRITERS is well underway. Scenes 1-3 have been sent to my known readers; if you did not receive them, you aren’t on that list. Send me an email to rectify: jason.r.peters@gmail.com
  • Designing Starcraft II and World of Warcraft themed tshirts on Zazzle. To my pleasant surprise, my very first SC2 design sold two shirts inside a week, which prompted me to tap additional creative juices. You can view my designs here:
  • Compiling two fan tribute videos for Starcraft II as an exercise in amateur film-making and an alternate mode of storytelling.
    • The first is a serious “teaser trailer” for the action and plot of the game, set to my favorite track of Bear McCreary’s compositions for Battlestar Galactica. The track is called “Prelude to War” and I thought it extraordinarily appropriate for Starcraft themes and images.
    • The second is a spoof on the serious nature of Starcraft II. Leaning heavily on the premise of WALL-E, I show a lonely SCV in search of love…and eventually finding it. I wanted to see how hard it would be to tell a “love story” just using music and images without dialog or even facial expressions. (Even WALL-E had facial expressions and body language.)

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Director who Understands Character

Each Saturday, Jason spotlights one person, product, service, or work of art he finds particularly amazing; the kinds of things that make you wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone have this?” (Read more at www. jasonrpeters.com.)

I’m not sure what they teach in film school. Judging by most of the dregs that make it screenward, not much. One wonders how an industry ripe with possibility can yield more garbage than industries which deal directly with garbage.

I suspect they teach a lot about camera angles. And integrating sound effects. And working with visual arts teams. And securing funding.

But not so much about story.

Take Science Fiction, for example. There are pillars of brilliant storytelling in the history of Science Fiction. Frank Herbert. Asimov. Heinlein. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. These individuals have created stories which form almost a canon for future storytellers, but more impressively, offer great insight into human behavior.But if you flip on the SciFi channel (or “Syfy” as it has egregiously re-branded itself), you won’t find these greats.

Instead, you will find Attack of the Giant Bees. Attack of the Mutant Spiders. Invasion of the Hot Babes From Other Planets. Oh, sure, “syfy” plays its share of Quantum Leap, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and a few blockbusters, but an annoying percentage of time is devoted to trashy monster movies with little premise and less plot.

This is not unique to Science Fiction. Turn on Oxygen or WE and you will find ten crappy romance flicks for every decent one.

The reason for this is that most directors copy the TRENDS of other directors without UNDERSTANDING what actually made a particular movie successful. What made a movie really come to life — every time — was the characters. This is why James Cameron’s Aliens was so amazing — you could feel the bond between Ripley and Newt and Hicks, and you wanted them to win. So when Dan O’Bannon and David Fincher decided to kill off everybody but the star even before the opening credits of Alien 3, fans were turned off. And non-fans never built the connection with Alien 3’s cast that they had with the prior two movies. O’Bannon tried to copy the premise of the first two films without understanding why they were so successful.

The most obvious evidence of this copy-catting can be seen in the plethora of epic fantasy titles which immediately followed Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson picked Lord of the Rings because it was a timeless story which already stood on its own. Fantasy fans exulted because of the previous dearth of good fantasy movies — poor writing or low budgets or both plagued almost everything we’ve ever seen in theaters. Lord of the Rings was the holy grail of big screen entertainment for fantasy. At long last, an epic movie we could tell our friends about!

The trilogy debuted with Fellowship to resounding success in 2001, and Return of the King hit theaters in 2003. What followed?

2002 – The Count of Monte Cristo, Reign of Fire

2003 – Pirates of the Carribean, Underworld, The Last Samurai, Timeline

2004 – Troy, King Arthur, Van Helsing, Hellboy

2005 – Kingdom of Heaven, The Brothers Grimm, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

2006 – 300, Apocalypto, Eragon

2007 – Stardust, Beowulf,

Woah…suddenly epic fantasy is cool. How’d that happen?

Hollywood wanted to mimic the success achieved by Lord of the Rings, but flung out blindly for any big budget epic fantasy that might work. Some true artistry (thankfully) shines through, but the bulk of these are as memorable describing a fairy tale to a friend.

It seems surprisingly rare for a director to understand what brings a movie to life. Which is why today’s spotlight falls on Christopher Nolan, whom I first discovered with the movie Memento.

Memento was a film with a gimmick. Gimmicks by themselves do not work. But Nolan put the gimmick to work in a brilliant way. He developed a character for whom you felt sympathy, suffering from severe short term memory loss. To force you to relate more closely to this character, and experience each moment through his eyes, Nolan presented the film backwards. So in each scene (just like the protagonist) you don’t know what just happened. You DO know what will happen in the protagonist’s future, and this allows you to piece together the overall story.

You might know Nolan better as the writer and director of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, both of which breathed Oscar-worthy new light into a franchise I’d never liked — but under Nolan’s guidance has become one of my favorites. These dealt directly with character motives in a way previous batman films never bothered.

Nolan’s most recent film was Inception, which I sadly have not yet seen, but is getting amazing reviews. That is to say, I have no idea what the so-called “critics” think, but wise individuals who I trust have ranked it very highly.

Thank you, Chris Nolan, for understanding that PLOT and CHARACTER as the necessary ingredients for a successful film; not big budget special effects chasing after the latest “market trends”. When you add cool ideas, now you have a film which broadens the mind long after it is done entertaining the eyes.

11 minutes ain’t bad

I’ve been trying to compile a gameplay video for Spore for a buddy at work…sort of the JRP version of “try before you buy” for a game that can’t be rented.

It’s far longer than I originally wanted, and I cut what felt like a metric ton of content for the video, and much of what’s left goes really fast. But I’m trying to represent hours and hours of gameplay (which itself purports to loosely represent 4 billion years of evolution and progress). DISCLAIMER: This video includes none of the Galactic Adventures expansion, mostly because I felt the video was too long already.

Video editing credit goes to no less than four different applications, none of which I’m going to name because I’m unhappy with all of them — else why would I have needed 3 more? Credit for capturing goes to Fraps, and no thanks to Gamecam which, although has served me well in the past, has recently proven very unreliable to me.

Music credit goes to Eric Johnson for Cliffs of Dover, and Bear McCreary, the score composer for Battlestar Galactica, for two pieces called One Year and Prelude to War. (You’ll know which is which, I think.) All remaining audio was taken directly from the game itself apart from one quote which I’ll disown you if you don’t know. And for your old(er) timers, I chose the version I remember best from my childhood; no offense to the original, eh?

Without further ado, then, this is what I have so far of the Spore Gameplay Video. (There are still a few takes I think could be done better, but this is my first attempt at a video this cohesive, and I’m out of patience to keep tweaking without sharing.)

If the embedded version doesn’t work, you can download the whole thing here. I hope you enjoy.

I can see it, but I can’t touch it.

I wasn’t simply trying to wallow in self-pity and defeat. (Though that’s fun, too.)

I’m genuinely frustrated. Because I can write.

Or to be more precise, I can articulate. Whether speaking or writing, even arbitrating between two opposed parties, I can clarify what is meant, distinguish the particulars of intricate concepts, et cetera.

How does that skill translate into becoming, through and through, a storyteller? How does one go from brickmason to architect?

Also, I’m a critic foremost. When my family went to see a movie, the first thing we’d do afterwards is pick it apart on the car ride home; love it or hate it. I was telling my buddy at work all the flaws in a particular arc of Battlestar Galactica, and he said, “Wow, I’m sorry you didn’t like it.”

Didn’t like it? Are you crazy? I loved it. But it still has gaping plot holes, continuity errors, and worse. So does Star Wars, and LOTR, and the Matrix.

But I cannot permit those imperfections to exist in my work. They must be purged with divine fire from on high.

I can identify even more subtle problems in my own work, like those mentioned in the last post. I really think Perfect Justice doesn’t work that well as a story because it’s very cold and dark without any warmth. How do I get the warmth and keep the story? I don’t know.

Woman’s Best Friend is a nice little campfire ghost story. But it has no depth. You’ll never describe it as a story that really made you think about the larger universe, examine your own life and goals. It doesn’t have that.

Fragile Gods is the worst for me right now. I can see the whole story unfolding in my head; epic battles, broken hearts, unexpected victories, the whole deal.

I can see it, but I can’t touch it. It’s ethereal, or maybe it’s just behind glass.

How do I shatter the glass?

How to write amidst the endless barrage of life

Thank you, Broaddus, for that much-needed kick in the pants to get me arse in motion once again. That is EXACTLY the reason I started this site; to get my friends to grab me by the arm and say:

“JASON! What are you working on now? Is it done now? Will it be done soon?’

Whether my work is good or bad, published or unpublished, lauded or hated, the only true failure is if I don’t keep writing.

The Excuses

They aren’t necessarily good excuses. But they’re still excuses.

I worked 9 hours of overtime last week; to some people, that’s going to sound like nothing. To others (those who log 40 but spend 20 of them at the coffee machine) it may sound excessive. To me, it’s just tiring. And when my workday is long, when I come home I kind of need to recharge my batteries. I can’t dive straight into writing unless I still have some energy.

Weekends are obviously a great time to catch up, but we had company Saturday…pretty much all day. I was also up until 2 AM, which is 5 hours past my normal bedtime, making Sunday a wash for any productivity.

New Hobbies and Old

The gathering Saturday was to create characters for a new 4th edition campaign, and one trying out some new house rules. It’s a different sort of campaign for me in that I’m trying to NOT DM — at all. My friend Rich is, for which I am very grateful. The hope is that this will leave all my creativity for writing.

The two new episodes of South Park so far this (13th) season have not disappointed.

Wizards of the Coast, with D&D Insider software tools for tabletop gaming, have disappointed. More on this soon in a full post on the subject.

A co-worker got me into Battlestar Galactica; I’m about halfway through the first season (no spoilers please) and so far I am monumentally impressed. Those who know me know that I am not easily impressed, especially by television, so this rapidly puts BSG in contention for one of my favorite shows of all time.

I finished Drood by Dan Simmons. It was really good but it could have been a lot better. There was loose ends that Simmons did not tie to my satisfaction. Still, Simmons’ real strength is his incredible ability to narrate extremely complex characters, and this shines through from the first sentence to the last.

Upon re-recommendation from dad, I have decided to give George R. R. Martin another try, so I am reading A Song of Ice and Fire from the beginning (A Game of Thrones). If I remember correctly from before, Tyrion was my favorite character. I still like Martin better than David Eddings or Terry Goodkind. (Sorry long-time fantasy buffs.)

The Writing

Most of the recent writing energy I have expended recently has been spent outlining Fragile Gods. This is an odd sort of process for me, intermingled with a lot of “wait and see.” I don’t just sit down with MS Word and outline a story end to end.

Instead, a thought occurs to me. “What if I did this?” I will ruminate and ponder the idea for several days, and it will spawn several sub-ideas; sometimes for characters, sometimes scenes, sometimes themes. If I like where these stray ponderings take me, I work them into the outline. Rinse and repeat until I feel like I have “enough”.

When is that? I don’t know. It’s the sort of thing I know when I know.

I will tell you one theme I am considering is abortion. Writing on modern topics can be deadly, and abortion is the most polarizing issue I know. “Handle with extreme caution.”

In my opinion, a good writer should not simply be pedantic about his own viewpoint. Rather he should explore the issue as fairly as possible from all angles. Straw Vulcans hold little appeal to me.

My idea for abortion in Fragile Gods is to combine the two types of magic in the world of the Drim and put them on opposite sides of the issue. It’s important that you know up front that neither the Drimmi priests’ magic nor the Sight is upheld by the story as the “right” magic over/above the other. There are good and evil practitioners of both.

My idea is that those with the Sight are sometimes called upon to See the mind of unborn children, and at early enough development when there is no neural activity, the Seer sincerely reports that the child has no mind to read. The proponents of abortion in this fantasy world cite this as evidence that abortion does not destroy human life.

The Drimmi priests, however, have a kind of pantheism which includes honoring all life; including unborn life. Their own power over the elements and the Drim lends credence to the idea that they may know more about the inner workings of the unseen universe than the common man, too.

This (if done correctly) can be moral dilemma at its finest. Two credible parties on opposing sides of an intense issue, each with dissenters among their own ranks.