Monday, February 27, 2006

Watch my “other” (awful) movie adaptation

Want the good news first, or the bad news?

On Tuesday night, the FX cable channel will air my “second movie”... and one that makes Costner’s adaptation of The Postman look like Casablanca.

imagesI am talking about the 2003 B-classic The Core -- about a crew of brave aesthenonauts who board a new style of submersible and dive through solid rock down to the superheated belly of our world, in order to set off a few well-placed bombs and restart the circulation of Earth’s core. (Kind of like using a cap pistol to budge an aircraft carrier, but ah well.)

Yipes! And yes, it really is that bad. Alas, though, it gets worse. For the producers and director blatantly ripped off two much better books, either of which would have made terrific films. And maybe someday they will! Because The difference in quality is so great that I doubt the well is poisoned at all.

What two novels are those?

Well, first, a comment on how Hollywood steals from authors, nowadays. What they do, in order to evade legal action, is take a Chinese Restaurant approach. Grab a little from column A and some more from column B and so on. Spread it around.

51lAD6IAKsL._SL500_AA300_Hence, my friend Paul Preuss -- author of a wonderful book titled CORE -- has more to complain about than I do! Not only is the title thing pretty glaring, but the whole premise -- intervening to reverse a slowdown in the deep convention currents driving Earth’s protective magnetic field -- is a direct “borrowing” from his vision. Of course, Paul deals with this problem in his book by offering something remotely plausible, a deep drilling project that does not try to put human beings down where the pressures and temperatures turn steel into the consistency of boiling pudding! Yes, in film you must put characters in jeopardy. But there are better ways to do that. Better than... well, just watch, Tuesday night.

Oh, it goes on. Both Paul’s novel and the movie screenplay have as subplots the military use of earthquakes as weapons; in both, spies for the military are part of the drilling operations. (In both, the spies are even of Slavic origin!) This strains coincidence. The entire sequence of a dive into a deep trench in the Western Pacific, including underwater earthquakes, whale sightings, etc., was taken from the novel in a way that cannot plausibly have had a common, independent origin.

So why am I calling this my “second movie”?

EarthHCJust watch, while remembering your last reading of my novel Earth. Recall the female shuttle pilot, struggling to save her spacecraft after it is damaged by a wave of something emanating from the Earth’s core? Also overlapping is the shuttle pilot's subsequent role as the co-protagonist, co-survivor, and love interest of the male scientist lead.

My novel Earth partly involves the unprecedented and innovative idea of interacting with the planet on the level of software. In publicity for The Core – though not in the released version of the film – a character relates that he is "going to computer-hack the Earth". Further, in the Preuss novel, the initial calamity was natural. In the Brin novel, and in the movie The Core, catastrophe was triggered by a human-made object dropped deep into the Earth, requiring human intervention to correct and eliminate the first cause. Previews of the movie tell of a mission to eliminate the deep manmade object causing disaster on the surface.

Other overlaps with Earth include the theme, at the end of both the novel and the movie, of fighting the fallacy of government secrecy by releasing all information onto the internet. And... oh, the list goes on and on.

Fortunately, Earth is so full of great stuff (ahem) that this ankle-biting won’t damage its genuine film prospects, over the long haul. (Who can beat the image of several good and evil powers fencing each other with gravity lasers within the Earth itself, blasting whole city blocks into space! Makes those Jedi light sabers look like harmless pinking shears!)

Why am I laying all this out right now? Well, I suppose I’m doing it in part to distance myself from the bad bits of the film you’re about to watch, and to wax philosophical about what kind of minds would throw away great dramatic elements in order to turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear.

On the other hand, one grows a thick skin, a capacity to shrug. Hell, I grew up in Hollywood. You gotta be a realist.

I suppose I’m telling all this because - all told - it’s good publicity even to have been ripped off even to make an awful film. In Hollywood, if it is widely known that you are the kind of guy with ideas worth stealing, others in town will muse that you also have ideas worth buying. And indeed, I can tell you that a major studio recently purchased a nice option on one of my other books, which a top screenwriter is currently adapting! I cannot say any more. But hope springs eternal. There is a chance that justice and good art may prevail.

The-Postman-1997-movie-posterWant irony? I’ve always considered myself to be a team player, not a prima donna -- at least about movie adaptations. After snubbing me  at the beginning (a Hollywood tradition that I did not take personally), Costner’s folks expressed delighted surprise when I backed the film and helped in all sorts of ways.

See an article on my website about my personal response to Costner's movie adaptation of The Postman.  And still, I defend it, to this day, as a flawed and slightly dumb work, that is nevertheless visually stunning, rambunctious, hugely unabashed and as bighearted as all outdoors. The Postman has grown on people over the years. (See my next posting for more about this.)

But that won’t happen with The Core. All I can do is milk this doozy for all the sympathy that I can get.... and let’s all hope for better things in years to come.

David Brin
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Big C said...

Hey David,

You should put spoiler alerts at the top of this post! I'm only halfway through Earth! Yeah, yeah, I suppose it's *my* fault for waithing 16 years to pick this novel up. I'm greatly enjoying it by the way. I'm looking forward to any possible movie adaptation. I haven't seen or read The Postman, so I'll have to put that on my list. Can I (gently) ask my fellow commenters not to reveal any major Earth plot points? Thanks! ;)

Rob Perkins said...

We watch movies like "The Core" for the comedy, akin to the comedy in "The Day After Tomorrow" in which the lead characters found themselves running from cold air...

It was the funniest part of that movie. And sure, there were ideas from _Earth_ stolen for "The Core", but there were more ideas stolen from Verne than from you to make it happen. But I did think the geode scene was far superior to finding dwarves or troggs or whatever.

heh. heh. heh.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...


I loved your book, "The Postman" and I loved the film adaptation. Costner kept much of your book's community-coalescing essence (though he missed the feminist subplot by a mile and completely ignored the mutuant soldier angle).

I am glad people are starting to give the film some credit. I recall the LA Times' reviewer dissing the film by calling it "'Mad Max' meets 'Frank Capra'"--as if that was a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I thought the film adaptation of The Postman was pretty good; the critics just didn't get it, and the advertising really didn't get across what the movie was about. (I saw the movie before I knew it was a book.) The only problem I had with the film was the ending in which the hero and villain fight each other while the armies watch. (As though that ever happened in real life, or the leader of the survivalists wouldn't have a way to ensure his victory in any "challenge" beyond simply being able to beat everyone else up.)

Anonymous said...

Loved your book "The Postman" and hated the movie with Costner. I had to fast forward it many times. I tried explaining to my husband why I thought the movie was so vastly inferior to your book, but it fell on deaf ears. He doesn't read sci-fi (or most fiction) so we always have this running conversation a lot about how I always think the book is better than the screen adaptation (of anything). I guess if you have nothing to compare it to, the movie version of some novel might be OK, but if you have read the book first, nothing beats it, no matter how excellent the film version is. Just MHO.

Tony Fisk said...

I'm sure it says something about my psyche when I can happily swallow weird tales about soccer hooligans on broomsticks, or half-pints who evade the entire armed might of the 'evil empire', or undead pirates. And then see an ad for a movie about kickstarting the earth's core, or holding back lava flows with LA skyscrapers and think 'get *real*!'.
I guess it comes down how openly we are expected to swallow silly premises and, if the producers are sharing the joke, then fair enough.

I recall Clarke had a light hearted grouch that 'Abyss' came out at about the same time he and Gentry Lee published 'Cradle'.

You could always try patenting your storylines. Like 'dolphins in space'. Or 'Transparent Societies'. Go on! Be evil!

Alternatively, it might be more fun to see how many Brin stories could be cobbled together into one plot.
(That's not meant to be read as 'How many stories does it take...?';-)

So, I guess we could have sub terrestrial explorers encountering a race of magnetovorous magma beings that are threatening the planet with their black hole power sources, (no big c, that's not a spoiler...for Earth, anyway)

Thor's vs the Tandu battlefleet!
(...darn! Dan Simmons is doing this stuff in 'Ilium')


Meantime, I notice that whistle-blower Stephen Heller is receiving his just desserts for bringing the reputation of Diebold into disrepute.

And here's an interesting article on the pros and cons of open source and security, particularly wrt electronic voting. Personally, I'm surprised that everyone still thinks in terms of voting machines rather than voting websites. Who wants to stand in queues for hours?
Ah! Who wants *you* to stand in queues for hours? Tactics!

Xactiphyn said...

Interesting to see one of my favorite bloggers attack one of my other favorite bloggers. Yes, "The Core" was written by Mr. Kung Fu Monkey himself, John Rogers, the author of the now classic post I Miss Republicans.

I'm sure only Hollywood 'borrows' ideas from others. No author would ever do such a thing!

Anonymous said...

Yes, "The Core" was written by Mr. Kung Fu Monkey himself, John Rogers

Ahhhh . . . this reinforces a notion I've been having, that Hollywood is being infiltrated by Media Geeks, And It's A Good Thing Too!

When I was growing up, most TV & Movie Sci-Fi was written by (for the most part) guys who had never read a SF story. Sure, Star Trek and The Outer Limits had scripts written by Ellison or Sturgeon, but for the most part it was Golden Age of TV teleplay guys. So, we got parables and awful warning stories and Ironic Twist stories.

The new generation, your Whedons and Strasynskis* and such, they grew up watching Trek and The Outer Limits, but they also read SF novels and played D&D and are far more scientifically literate.

So we get shows like Stargate and Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, which are not only brimming with ideas but, *damn,* are some of them heartbreaking, nail-biting dramas.

(Anyone catch "Battlestar" last week? Damned if Cylons aren't turning out to be loony posthumans.)


* Yes, I'm sure that's spelled wrong.

Anonymous said...

Re tonys point about website voting - way to disadvantage the poor im afraid.

But here is a question - WHY DO YOU NEED ELECTRONIC VOTING - in the Uk we use paper and a pencil it works fine.

we deal with counting issue by having the votes counted infront of the reps from all parties.

Xactiphyn said...

On electronic voting: We all know that surveys have some sort of margin of error. One of the big lessons from the 2000 election was (for me, at least) the realization that elections themselves have a margin of error -- and it's pretty large. People make mistakes when voting all the time.

Electronic voting clears up many of these problems. You can make an interactive touch screen that is virtually impossible to screw up. For this reason, electronic voting is a good thing, it reduces the rate of error.

The problem, of course, is the system can be hacked and there is no guarantee that your vote really went for the person you choose -- a HUGE problem. Because of the enormity of the problem we've given all electronic voting a bad name, but this problem is completely preventable. All you need is a voter verified paper trail. A simple ATM like receipt you drop in a box on your way out will suffice.

We should assume whoever makes the voting systems are absolutely and completely corrupt and we should have a system so open an verifiable that we don't care.

Tony Fisk said...

In making that remark, I left out a few steps in my reasoning.

The poor don't necessarily have to own a PC and an email account to access the web (think mobile phones, internet cafes and, yes, the occasional public booth). Furthermore, think of the disabled (although postal votes help there).

I agree that pencil and paper works fine (as it does in Australia), and using pencil and paper every three or four years is a minor inconvenience. OTOH, if you want to persuade people to contribute to a democracy more (eg every 3-4 weeks, or even days), then the process needs to be streamlined. In terms of providing a greater opportunity for popular expression, I think electronic voting offers possibilities.

But not the Diebold way!

teflonjedi said...

The Postman wasn't so bad...I think there's been more of a Costner backlash than is really deserved.

Here's hoping that they've optioned Startide Rising...and that they plan on doing a good job of it!

David Brin said...

Yeah Stefan, Battlestar rocks. I hate that! Why can't such good writers be paired with good new ideas? Still, I am hooked.

As for the script for The Core, please, Mark. This is not a matter of overlapping general ideas. Like that fellow who is suing Dan Brown because the Da Vinci Code had some of the same overall notions. This is a case where actual scenes, gimmicks, plot devices, situations and eerily similar characters are rife from beginning to end, either from Paul Preuss's novel or my own. There were even more in the original script, of which I have a copy. Paul and I decided not to sue. But that doesn't mean we lacked the means, motive and copious cause.

Just watch the darn thing. Decide for yourselves, in the court of public opinion... the one that matters over the long haul. Wherever you find something interesting, rising above the dross, you can bet you'll find a "coincidence."

Too bad. I liked the "I Miss Republicans" posting, too. And I know what Hollywood can do to the soul of a screenwriter. It is a rough town. Still there is a debt of honor on the ground. And I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that it will never be paid.

Mark, the biggest lesson of 2000 is that the old "hanging chad" cards were pretty darn good. The real scandal has been outright fraud at the Secretary of State level, in a number of statehouses in this great land. The office has become a scourge upon the citizenry, nearly everywhere. The target of conspirators-of-opportunity.

teflonjedi: Startide has a screenplay from a few years ago, but the studio decided it would cost #200M to make. I guess we await new technology. But - ahem - given your nickname, I hope you will forgive my infamous Star Wars Essay, indicting that universe of many crimes, from plot inconsistency to anti democracy propaganda. It will be the lead piece in a book that comes out next June, from BenBella Books’ “SmartPop!” series of books on popular culture. (The same puplisher as for my latest book: King Kong is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humungous Ape.) The new book -- Star Wars on Trial -- will feature essays written by eminent and fun authors, taking both sides in a zesty “mock trial.”

Finally! , here's a statistic from the Wilson Quarterly issue about The Future that I'll discuss with you all soon.

From 1950 to 2000, world percapita GDP in constant 1990 dollars has risen by a factor of three to reach $6,000. In Asia it has tripled, in latin america it has more than doubled... but alas... in Africa it has stayed constant. That is the average percapita income. Yes, all of you get more so there are many poor folks. We need to solve that. Still it's hard then to say that fully a third of all Earth's people earn less than $700/year.

Unknown said...

Damn, it's like I finally get to meet Willie Mays, and he punches me in the neck.

Hey David, John Rogers here, one of the two credited (out of I believe six total) writers on The Core, and a big fan of yours. Imagine my large, pained Watteau-like eyes at your thrashing.

I wouldn't mind clearing up a few things, if you can spare the space. This is actually kind of interesting, for anyone curious about the screenwriting process.

Having spent two years as the last writer on The Core I can assure you, at the cost of immense psychic pain inflicted upon me by the luddite executives, I was not ony the single person in the entire development process who read Earth, I was damn certain the only person who had read any. science fiction. At all.

Cooper Layne, a perfectly nice fella,usually a movie producer, the original writer, got the idea from a special on volcanoes he was watching back in the day. The movie was sold on the pitch "Armageddon ... but down." The subsequent drafts reflected that level of enthusiasm for actual science. The draft before I showed up, the vessel had a windshield. Oh, a diamond windshield, but a windshield.


So geek-boy Rogers shows up, and starts digging in. I assure you, although I'd read Earth some ten years earlier, it hadn't really stuck with me (no offense) to the point I could remember plot points a decade later. And I'm damn well sure Cooper hadn't read Preuss, nor had I -- although I may well pick him up now based on your recommendation.

So how did we wind up with the overlap? Well, as far as the tile goes, that was dreamed up by Paramount studio's publicity -- although one might point out that there's not a lot of other titles you could give that movie. The electromagnetic field issue was mine -- because I pointed out that every other problem they had was complete bullshit. The version before mine, actually, the Earth was going to SWING OUT OF ORBIT, and be spun out into space. Because its mass (yes, stay with me) was changing.

Again ... yeah.

So the suited ones said "Fine, Mister mockety-mock, what problem would make sense if linked to a problem with the core?" I piped up with "Well, you know, the core drives the earth's electromagnetic field ..." It wasn't plagiarism, it was parallel development. Makes sense, when you think about it -- given the first part of the word problem, what else would any decently educated science-fiction guy come up with?

As for the trench/whale business, I believe that came from one of the middle writers, so I can't reference whether that was a lift. I doubt it. I did, at the time, mention it seemed kind of needlessly dangerous, as it shaved maybe five miles off a several-thousand mile trip ... but all the directors dug the image, so it stayed.

The military project coincidence, again, I can testify directly to. For my entire time on the project, I wanted it to be a radically accellerated pole shift. The whole point of my take is that we are very lucky monkeys who have just had a long bit of favorable conditions -- and it will fall to our brainiest monkeys to save us when the bad things happen.

This led to one of my favorite Hollywood moments. After I turned in my next-to-last draft, the executives looked at me, very seriously, hand on knee, low subdued tones: "John, we really like this last draft, but one thing bugs us. The whole idea of the north and south pole switching places -- it's WAY over the top and unbelievable. It just reeks of bullshit."

Deep breath. Okay, I shrug. What did you have in mind?


... This, by the way, is why screenwriting pays so well. They don't pay me to write. I'd write for free. They pay me NOT to punch people in the neck.

From there, it was up to me to cook up WHY somebody would shoot energy into the earth. Targetted earthquakes seemed the most logical choice, my messy pressure bandage on the spurting aorta of logic. Unless we're going to assume then-Paramount President Sherry Lansing is a secret sci-fi fan, we can write that one of as coincidence.

As you acknowledge, you have to put people in peril in these situations, but that meant we had to send people down where no-one could survive. Again, when I showed up, they had people lava-walking like space-walking. Sweet lordy. So I nixed that, and also solved the ship-building issue with the unobtanium in-joke. I'm actually kind of hurt you didn't dig the joke, but that was the least of my worries. Imagine my joy, after constructing a large-scale version of a crystal (the biggest one is a quarter-mile, I think, I just extrapolated up) so the characters could leave the ship for a brief moment, and my long explanations to the execs of why we had to do this, because there was NO WAY that ANY suit could withstand the pressure, imagine my joy ...

... when during the screening, I see the suits have dubbed in the line "At least now we know the suits can take the pressure."

Gahhhh .... gahhhh .... don't even get me started on why we were stuck with nukes. I postulated at least five other solves, all of them tossed aside because execs could never understand anything but the nukes.

Now, as to the Earth crossovers -- unfortunately you're misinterpreting the "hack the earth" line. That was Rat's line, and it referred to a big section of the script that was dropped -- the cover-up of what was going on. Ironically, a big part of why I took the movie in the first place was because I wanted to explore the emotional ramifications of even knowing this was going on. Yeah, that went away, What Rat's referring to there is his assignment of monitoring the entire world's information networks and killing any references to the increasing symptoms of the core's instability. That's what he meant by "hack the planet". I doubt you want to waste you time reading the early draft, but I can send it if you want.

As to your heroic female shuttle pilot -- well, we needed a crew for the ship, and a shuttle crew made sense. Having a hyper-competent female character, though, comes from my personal life -- my first serious girlfriend went off to the Air Force Academy and became a combat chopper pilot (hey there, Emily, wherever you are). I thought Josh dealing with a woman who was far more competent, in so many ways, in traditionally more male fields would be fun. I landed on the dynamic for, probably, the same reason you did -- I was sick of screaming girly scientist being saved by macho military guy.

So all in all, there are two things to come out of this: first, I think that you're going to see more "overlap" when movies tackle similar situations to sci fi novels, as more science-literate writers, more guys who started out as sci fi fans, enter the world. Overlap because the movies (I hope) written by such people will drift closer to the nataural science extrapolations good sci fi novelists do as a matter of course.

Second -- I like The Core. When I came on, I set out to make one of the 50's/60's "science hero" movies that inspired me to go into physics (it was those movies and Lucifer's Hammer actually, that led me to my field). I probably should have told Paramount that's what I was up to, but it's more likely for the best they had no idea what I was up tp. The Core is an explicit rejection of the "scientists bad, blue collar/soldier boys good" ethos that seems to have taken over current cinematic science fiction. There are some damn fine acting moments in there, and snark be damned, most of the science is not just as good as you're going to possiby accomplish ih in the mainstream moviemaking process, it's actually damn good on its own merits. Compared to the sci-fi movie pantheon of the last ten years, I think we did okay. It's developing a lovely little DVD following, much like The Postman. If one kid sees physicists saving the day with wave-interference formulas fer chrissake, as in our big finale, and thinks it's cool, we did okay.

I'll take my ribbing, but I'm still fond of it. In the same sense that you defend and love Costner's Postman and mention it's delayed following, I've got to reclaim The Core from your grasp -- that's my good-hearted, flawed movie, not your anklebiter. Keep your mitts to your own legacy. Earth is a frikkin' masterpiece, leave my my little movie.

And you'd never sleep again if you knew how close I came to being the guy who adapted Uplift. :P


Anonymous said...

Hey, way cool! Now I have to go watch "The Core."

Now I've forgotten what I was going to write before being interrupted by the appearance of John's post.

Instead, I'll note that anyone who can say . . .

The Core is an explicit rejection of the "scientists bad, blue collar/soldier boys good" ethos that seems to have taken over current cinematic science fiction.

. . . is OK in my book.

Amidst vast seas of awfulness, the one thing that utterly infuriated me about "Armageddeon" was the scene where Willis' character meets the expert team NASA selects to go on the drilling expedition. They all appear to be feebs. Wills dimisses them, and demands NASA bring in his team . . . of sociopathic oil platform workers.

Yeahhh. It's easier to teach a bunch of misfit slobs to become astronauts than it is to train astronauts to drill holes.


Tony Fisk said...

Welcome, John.
Thankyou for sharing your side of the story, and those hollywood moments with us.

That is...that is... errm! I enjoy brainstorming with the best of them, but, unlike those 'suits', it serves a purpose, and the wackier notions are put in the back of the folder the next morning.

Unknown said...

Stefan --

I forget which version of the Armageddon DVD it is, but Ben Affleck's commentary is fantastic. He relates how at one point, "I walked up to Michel Bay and asked "By the way, why Is it easier to train oil drillers to be astronauts than it is to train astronauts to operate a drill? Michael thinks about it a minute, then says 'Shut the FUCK up and get the FUCK back on stage.'"

David Brin said...

John Rogers, thanks for coming here with a good attitude of collegial argumentation. Still, please understand that, as I naturally see myself as the injured party, I deserve even more credit for taking such a tone. However accurate my sense of injury may turn out to be, you'll not find many other people who would have such a view, and express it so politely.

So let's leave it to this community onblog to rule whether I am "offended too easily." Or whether I deserve to be called an ambusher.

Fine, neither of us is a sacred screeching monster... and thanks for the kind words about my books. (Also, you have a good blog.)

Still, I have to say that your argument is thin. Let's take your word for it that you had never heard of Paul Preuss's book CORE, and that the details of EARTH had sunk below conscious memory, and that studio execs are... well... studio execs (nuff said). For the sake of collegiality I will stipulate all of those things in this discussion. I will allow you that it is plausible that you were the only one on the team who ever read a book.

Still, writeups and summaries of both EARTH and CORE had been circulating in Hwood for years. All of the studios had commissioned them, and I've seen several. Moreover, I happen to know that one of the treatments for EARTH was six times the normal length. Patrick Read Johnson commissioned it, after he made the hit SPACED INVADERS, when he was briefly the town's wunderkind.... shortly before BABY'S DAY OUT changed all that... sigh and alas. So isn't it just a bit disingenuous to simply write off the possibility that your predecessors on the project had full access to SCADS of dollops from both books?

Yes, I chuckled at unobtanium. Was I required to mention it here? Especially since Paul used a not too dissimilar joke in CORE?

I sympathize about the lava walks. I thank you for your efforts on behalf of sanity, though they were only partially availing. Alas, Hwood has avoided setting up systematic methods for finding out which dumbnesses offend audiences... and tracking which doofusses thought up which dumbness. (There ARE potential methodologies to do this, BTW. Folks someday remind me to inveigh about new tools that could revolutionize film making.)

Here, for now, I will take your word for it that "hack the planet" was orthogonal to the vastly more interesting meaning in EARTH. Fine.

My credulity is strained almost beyond neuronal stretching coefficients by the coincidental similarity of Teresa Tikhana and your shuttle astronaut. I doubt many of the readers of this blog who read Earth ten years ago will have forgotten her enough not to notice this, when they watch the film. In any event, girl scientists have not screamed for twenty years... except in order to surprise audiences who are utterly used to Sigourney types. Where have you been living?

Please, I appreciate the point you raise about the heroic archetype of the scientist. I hated the romantic jerks of ARMAGEDDON as much as Stefan. (Nerds save the world and the beer-swilling thug-jocks who bullied us in school get all the credit, once again.) Moreover, anyone on this blog list will tell you that I'm the BIGGEST promoter of enlightenment/modernism around. See:
and the new STAR WARS ON TRIAL book referred to just above.
Moreover, I like H. Swank. Have ever since she leaped onto that car in TNKD. Been trying to get my black belt daughter to do that....

Still, I am left, in the end, with very little choice other than to divide up my brain into capsules.

One in which I can detect in you a kindred spirit and wish you well.
Another in which I reserve judgement about this whole thing, and take pains to make clear in public that I am not attacking you personally.

Another in which a debt of honor still feels unpaid....

And one capsule in which, all told, I take everything into account, look at that movie and say come on. Gimme a break.

Fact is, given all those treatments floating around town, I feel fully justified in calling this "my" second movie.

Not as much as it is yours, of course, John. But I'll leave it to others to rule whether or not that is a good thing.

Xactiphyn said...


I thought you agreed to fight David behind the cafeteria after school! All you did was try to explain everything. Sheesh, what a nerd.



Your right about the 2000 fraud, but if every ballot that had a check mark next to Al Gore's name and also had the name Al Gore written in actually was counted as an Al Gore vote, Gore would have won.

Assume everyone is corrupt and make the system strong enough to not care.

teflonjedi said...

But - ahem - given your nickname, I hope you will forgive my infamous Star Wars Essay, indicting that universe of many crimes, from plot inconsistency to anti democracy propaganda.

Heh. No worries here. My moniker isn't of my own doing; one of my former co-workers gave me the nickname (A professional assessment, I gathered). When I decided to venture into the blogosphere last year, in an effort to re-awaken old writing muscles, I adopted the name to preserve some anonymity.

I enjoyed the movies, for what they were, and what they tried to be, and because ESB changed my life (well, c'mon, I was 10 years old), but I'm all for critical review, and fun review. Done some of it myself.

But, er, I'm not going to forgive in advance...ain't seen the essay yet! :)

Unknown said...

Well, David, I'll have to take what I can get, I guess, and I certainly don't take any of this personally. You will I hope, however, not be offended if I point out that in my experience in Hollywood is considerably more extensive than yours, and although you may find it significant that many long pieces of coverage of both novels were done, I can assure you that such documents that seem very weighty to the unitiated sit in, literally, dozens of three-foot high stacks, unread, after the initial furor of the novel's buzz dies down. Although your work (quite rightfully) carries enormous weight in sci-fi literary circles, those breakdowns are right now just little stapled pages in someone else's vast neglected development library. Every now and then a smart director or producer digs them up, but only when they specifically want to check the provenance of that particular novel. Even when my job is to adapt a novel that's been in ownership for long periods of time, I never read breakdowns or coverage, personally. Bad luck.

There is a chance Cooper Layne or one of the other fellows dug that stuff out and I have made myself the fool, a catspaw, but frankly, they were so un-sci-fi, they'd have no idea where to start. As I mentioned, pretty much everything you found similar came from my rewrites, and all that came about because I followed the ideas out to their logical science-oriented conclusions, as any good sci fi writer would. You mentioned you have an original script of The Core. Is it Cooper's first draft, one of the middle fellows, my first draft, my second, my third, fourth or one of the interim greenlight drafts to shooting? I'm actually curious to see which one. If you say that Earth is even more similar to one of those early drafts, then, and I say this as a big fan, you are doing Earth no small disservice by the comparison.

No, you didn't have to mention the unobtanium joke, I just thought you may have blown by it, as part of your poke at The Core was about the pressure and heat turning steel to soup, implying that was one of the mistakes we'd made. Of course Preuss came up with a similar device -- it's necessary for any reasonable story in the setting to work.

Your point about screaming girl scientists is well taken but you forget, I spend a lot of time reading unproduced scripts. The amount of shit you don't see is quite startling, but you're right: now almost all female scientists are frigid ice queen bitches rather than screamers. I cede the stereotype. The Ripley phase, however, died out almost as fast as it began.

One thing I forgot to mention, about another "coincidence" you noticed between Earth and The Core. The bit about releasing the secrets to the world, via the internet -- that wasn't the original ending (I actually pitched that Aaron and Hilary die). That ending was spliced on AFTER we shot the movie, after the audience testing indicated they found it unsatisfying that the characters they'd come to like had died in obscurity. We created the internet ending in reshoots (or it may have been a safety shoot right at the end of production, it's a bit hazy now).

That's right -- a test audience at a mall in Burbank is the reason The Core is more like Earth.

As for the Teresa parallel ... well, I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating my senior prom date. This does lead us, again, into an interesting writing exercise for the Spec Monkeys. You approach material, as a novelist, with an infinite canvas. I'm taught to work at film with an act structure, and knowing we have to work within budgets, and with a distinct cast. So, follow me out for a moment ...

Here, we are, screenwriter, rewriting this little opus. We begin to assemble our characters.

It's a science-guy movie, not a heroic oil-rigger movie, so we have our lead scientist, right guy wrong place. Okay. We're going to need some romantic steam, or at least a woman on the poster, as the old wags used to say. The best relationship, too, comes from opposite vocations/callings within the movie's structure. But put a pin in that. Let's build out the rest of our cast.

Best friend won't be a woman. Well, she could be, but the main thrust of that relationship is showcasing sacrifice for family. Could be a mom, then, but she won't be a romantic lead for the hero. It could also confuse the non-platonic relationship with whoever we decide is the female lead. Two science co-leads isn't horribly interesting, there's less conflict in attitudes or backgrounds for the romantic sparks. (In retrospect, that would have been a really interesting choice. Huh. Keep in mind for next time)

We need someone to have been working on this vehicle for a while, since just inventing the damn thing in a year strains even what tiny credulity we have. We also need someone who's the doubting thomas, the weasel, the authority figure for our young guy to go up against. Either could be, oh, Kathy Bates types, because the timeline that seems to work is a decades old rivalry. But again, neither is a romantic lead, and the focus of their relationships is with each other. We could make either men or women, but again, neither's an appropriate female love interest.

We need technical crew. In the old days, they'd have been test pilots for fighter jets, or Apollo astronauts, but now -- well, who the hell ELSE would they be but shuttle crew? I toyed with deep-sea operators for a microsecond, but What was sexy and innovative in '91 when you wrote Earth ten years later is the default choice.

So we have our shuttle crew, pilot and navigator (Hilary was the navigator of the shuttle, only became captain of Virgil when Bruce died). One of those better be our damn female lead, because we are officially out of characters. Unless this experimental ship to the Earth's core seats slightly more than a Metrobus.

And now, because it's a disaster movie, we figure out who's going to die. The best friend, the old hand who sacrifices because he loves the ship, the villain redeeming himself -- toss all those reasons in with the fact that every character should have some sort of individual story, and the navigator's arc is one of arrogance evolving into responsibility ... AND the idea that in the end, with only two characters left, you need your science hero to solve the brainy problems and one of the two crew left to pilot ... you end up with, almost inevitably, your vehicle pilot being both female and your co-lead. QED.

You may nurse your injury, if you want, but I can not assure you enough, there's no cause.

As you mentioned, Earth is so infinitely more complex than The Core, the movie in no way impinges upon the former's chances for adaptation. As a matter of fact, a mini-series my be far more appropriate ... you know, I know some people you could call ...

Oh, and I would like to see your doofus-responsibility-assigning system, although I would say that the faster way to stop this sort of silliness is to re-invent the way we produce entertainment, rather than fix the old broken way wherein so many egos and careers are staked. Hence the 4GM movement (pimpage alert!).

Thanks for the time and space, and so many fantastic stories over the years.

teflonjedi said...

OK, I read the follow-up comments to your Salon article on your site. You're forgiven, no questions asked. I'm probably kinder than you in this respect, but I have pencilled out thoughts in the past as to some of the illogic in the way that things play out.

Rob Perkins said...

I'll say it again: If you want a fraud-free election, you can abandon the secret ballot and ask everyone to sign affidavits as re who voted for whom.

Lots of people suppose that is a tool in the hands of tyrants. I agree.


You can simply provide two very distinct ways to count the votes. One paper, one electronic. The paper one is easy for humans to read, and maybe even prints out a barcode number sequence representing the votes cast, and prints that on the paper. That way an independent auditor can hand-count with a barcode scanner, and eyeball the differences between what is on the paper and what the computer recorded.

The electronic one should absolutely be audited and scrutinized by competent professional analysts. Before the election, preferably. And it's possible the very best and most appropriate use of open-source methodologies is in the arena of elections auditing.

I think it's healthy for the likes of and others to call for such a thing. Now if only we could get them to abandon the silly conspiracy theories along the way. (Sam Reed here in Washington State runs stellar elections; I don't know if I like the Secretary of State's office maligned quite so generally.)

And as to "The Core", well, I'm glad I got the jokes, and *happy* to hear from the guy who put the geode scenes in. And I sit in agreement on the general tenor of the movie; the hero scientist etc.

But I did think of Tikhana when Hilary Swank's character was introduced. It seemed like their plot progressions were more than accidentally similar.

Kelsey Gower said...

Hey, John Roger is here. Cool. I've always had the feeling that some of my favorite bloggers were lurking around here.

Moving on, David, I think I understand why you consider yourself the injured party. I'm also very protective of my art.

But, I notice how both of you have similar ideas and viewpoints on many subjects, especially when it comes to defending your works and ideas.

In fact, when I see two people who are so alike confronting each other like that, I want to say, "Hey, what if both of you joined forces. You could both work together to create a great science fiction sceenplay."

That would be totally awesome.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that Mr. Rogers has responded here. It's this type of thing that makes blogging so interesting!!! Mr. Rogers, though what you say makes perfect sense and is compelling, might it be possible that your unconscious mind allowed you to recall events/details from Dr. Brin's book Earth? (this is my psych degree asserting itself) Not that you intentionally lifted material from the book; this you have made clear and hopefully Dr. Brin believes you. But the power of the unconscious mind in our daily lives is underappreciated, especially in this day and age when any kind of Freudian psych is pooh-poohed. Another interesting note: Dan Simmons says originality is an illusion and although a writer's job is to bring freshness into the material, most ideas, devices, tools, etc. (esp in sci-fi) have been done before. He could be wrong, but who knows? And since I consider Simmons one of the more original writers out there (Dr. Brin is right there with him in my opinion!), that's says a lot. So... well, so.

Anonymous said...

I put the plot of a Lois McMaster Bujold story to music and thought - really, truly thought - the music was coming to me out of my head. I was very, very proud of it.

Far later I popped in a borrowed CD and there was my tune, an old traditional Irish tune I did not remember hearing. Memory is a strange thing.

P.S. I *liked* the movie The Postman. And alas, I found the villains as two-bit survivalist losers a bit more plausible than mutant soldiers. "I used to be a copier salesman." Priceless!

Anonymous said...

""Hey, what if both of you joined forces. You could both work together to create a great science fiction sceenplay."

That would be totally awesome."

I concur! I have been waiting my entire life for a genuinely GREAT science fiction movie.

Unknown said...

I concur! I have been waiting my entire life for a genuinely GREAT science fiction movie.

So have I, mate, so have I. I pissed away two years of my life on FOUNDATION too.

saxa82: Hmm, I can honestly say, no, I don't think Earth was even a subconcious influence. When I think back on that book, as insane as this sounds, I don't even remember the female astronaut (I have to go reread the thing again, now that we've been talking about it) on effort. The section that always had the most impact on me was the bit about the three teenagers who develop the friendship with the elderly fellow, and then the one who becomes a soldier, has the death cry "For Earth." You've got to remember, I'm a fan, it's literally one of hundreds of books I read when I was a road comic for ten years, and had nothing but time on my hands.

You've got to understand, too, how differently Hollywood works from the normal world. All the conditions David sets as grudging parameters to be convinced are the DEFAULT SETTINGS for Hollywood. While in the sci fi literary world it's highly unlikely anyone's not readEarth or Preuss' book (and as big a fan asI am, I never read CORE), we are talking about executives here in Hwood who have coverage written of scripts. That's right, they have summaries written of 100 page generally double-spaced scripts, because they don't even have the time/willpower to read those. Who are we to believe was the secret Brin/Preuss fan -- the 54 year old Hollywood careerist or the spectacularly snotty faux-intellectual who wanted the movie to be more like Das Boot, or the producer who insisted I find a way to put dinosaurs down in the Core?

As for the coverage of novels, not only is damn near every single book in the US afforded such a treatment, but every few months I receive from my agency a hundred page document of all the interesting magazine articles that have recently been published. Hollywood, if one were to Fermi Problem it out, has about 10,000 ideas in various stages of development at any given time.

Also, it's just easier not to steal things. The pissant (to them) amount of money they usually spend on optioning a book gains them not only source material but cred and a built-in audience. This is why there are so many adaptations in Hwood, by the way. A property with even a tiny built-in audience is seen as far more valuable than a new original.

Case in point: my friend Andrew Cosby had an idea for a movie, but realized that as a genre concept it would be almost impossible to pitch. So he contacted Dark Horse, wrote the comic book based on the idea, then sold the comic book with great ease, with a deal for him to write the movie.

Josh Friedman has an interesting post about another aspect of that situation here

Literally every time I have found a book I wanted to adapt, I sold it with nothing short of surprising ease, while every original idea has been a long uphill slog. If I'd said "We're not going to do the Core by anonymous schmucks with no following, we're going to do David Brin's Earth, it's close enough to fold the two in together (and it really isn't but what the hell do you execs know)", the studio would have been nothing short of delighted and cut the check. And rape the classic book.

The Simmons idea is interesting, although I prefer Grant Morrison's (or was it Alan Moore, shit) concept of "Idea Space". He's just prettying up the Jungian tropes, but he puts a very shiny futurist vibe on it. I will agree with Dan Simmons in a somewhat (and now I am stealing from David, as I love the turn of phrase) orthogonal manner, in that I postulate given plot problem X to solve, there are infinite choices but only Y probable choices working under the physics of dramatic construction. You see this in stand-up, also -- once you're a stand-up, you very rarely laugh at jokes anymore, because as soon as you hear the first few words of the setup, your brain does the joke math and you arrive at the most-probable punchline. As laughter is predicated on surprise, or at least a mental disconnect -- no joy. That's why comics themselves tend to like really loopy, unpredictable (or transgressive) comics who often don't do well with mainstream audiences, the most famous example being Larry David.

Anonymous said...

Pat Mathews said:
I put the plot of a Lois McMaster Bujold story to music and thought - really, truly thought - the music was coming to me out of my head. I was very, very proud of it.

Far later I popped in a borrowed CD and there was my tune, an old traditional Irish tune I did not remember hearing. Memory is a strange thing.

Your comment put me in mind of Spider Robinson's short story, Melancholy Elephants, which is about copyright protection, but has almost that exact thing happen to a famous composer.

But as I haven't read Earth yet (still in the middle of reading A Deepness in the Sky, or seen The Core, I don't have anything to add to the other conversation.

Anonymous said...

Dinosaurs at the core of the Earth.


There are certain types of SF movies that I've entirely given up on. Short of a faithful adaptation of KSR's [Red|Green|Blue] Mars, or of Landis' grim Crossing Mars, I'm going to save myself money and precious life-hours and never again go to see a movie about a trip to Mars.

The last three trip to Mars stories had to throw in stupid stuff to make them commercial:

* A robot gone dingo.

* Ancient precursor ruins yielding the secret of life on earth.

* Zombies?

An actual journey to Mars, and the dangers faced on the surface, just doesn't qualify as exciting enough, I guess. Realistic space travel tales don't offer enough places to add crowd-pleasing idiot plot elements.

Anonymous said...

This is a fasinating look into the process of making movies.

Anonymous said...

"Realistic space travel tales don't offer enough places to add crowd-pleasing idiot plot elements."

Which is why I not only went to the movies to see Apollo 13, but own the video, and why it is so often rerun on cable, I suppose. It's my candidate for "Best Heinlein-type science fiction movie of the century," with "The Right Stuff" running it a close second, and "October Skies" as the "Best Heinlein Juvenile," ditto.

I don't remember either Right Stuff or Apollo 13 bombing in the theaters, but you'll never convince the Hollywood producers of that!

Anonymous said...

Rogers said [a while back]:

""I concur! I have been waiting my entire life for a genuinely GREAT science fiction movie.""

"So have I, mate, so have I. I pissed away two years of my life on FOUNDATION too."

Care to spill the calendar years those were?

I remember after finishing the "Foundation" trilogy thinking how much I'd like to see a good movie treatment of the story, and thinking that it would be impossible to make one. I didn't know anyone ever tried.

What was most difficult about it? I guess whatever that was is what stopped you.

Tony Fisk said...

I guess one reason why they might think knuckle dragging d'rillers are easier to train as astronauts rather than vice versa is that, while nobody's actually asked an astronaut to try drilling, there have been quite a few dumb animals launched into space!
(Haven't seen Armageddon in full. Nice effects, but the dialogue in what little I did see consisted mainly of 'Yeehaw!', which is a line that has never been bettered since Slim Pickens uttered it in 'Dr. Strangelove'... Ugh! Give me 'Deep Impact' any day: plot might have dragged but it had superior pathos and, even if they didn't get the science quite right, at least they tried!)

Pat Mathews, you're in good company: unconscious plagiarism is everywhere, even from talents of unquestionable originality, such as Mozart.

Trivia time: On a consultancy course I was on, Apollo 13 was used as a training video on team dynamics (both in the crew, and in the ground staff)

Off topic, on cool things. There's a neat photo in the Planetary Society weblog showing an occultation of the Moon by the ISS. The detail visible is astonishing.

David Brin said...

There is so much ground to cover about Hollywood. I don't want to get into sober matters here, like how technology could liberate writers and empower new forms of moviemaking, or the notion of a summer weekend course by SF authors for film students in LA area (something I have been trying to organize for years.) Remind me about those things later.

Here. Let me just quickly cover a lot of lesser points.

1. Regarding the reasons that Costner/Helgeland & co were so weird and rude, never even talking to me in person*, or inviting me to have a beer, while creating their own interpretation of the Postman story: I am sure that they felt justified, having fabricated a narrative in their minds, partly fed by a little vicious slander spread around town by a previous screenwriter. For example, they doubtless expected me to hit the roof (the standard Hwood cliche about unrealistic prima donna authors) over any excisions from the book. Like when they decided not to include the riff about augmented future super-soldiers.

(*Brian Helgeland was kind enough to once phone me. Once. And mind you I am glad he is in the world. Bright, uselful, sometimes inspired and certainly less evil than most. Still, read up someday about how director Phil Alden Robinson treated WP Kinsella when they made Field of Dreams. Dang! Proves that there are a few bona fide mensches in that town! Robinson even spared more time to talk to ME, when I called him out of the blue, than Costner did in three years.)

Ironically, the things that they excised -- the soldier-augments, the faux-AI computer and the weird-uberfeminists -- are all plot elements that I would have excised for a movie, too! I totally agreed with the general choice of plot simplifications that KC and Helgeland made, after they trashed the demoniacally horrific script of Eric Roth. (A truly evil mishmash that reversed every moral message from the book; after that, alone, I was positively disposed toward KC and BH! And I remain grateful for it.) If they had not nursed a ridiculous expectation about me, they might have brought me in for a beer and actually found out that I agreed with all of those choices!

(This is the one thing I find simply offensive. Even if I had been a screeching harridan, what could possibly justify not even having me up there for a conversation, a dinner... or even a BEER??? If for no other reason than to find out if the rumors were true, or if I might be a reasonable guy? Hell, common courtesy would have made any decent person take the original author out to dinner once, even if he were a drooling slime mold from Aldebearan Six. With fangs, yet. As it was, everybody seemed so surprised when I turned out to be a nice guy, a team player, and eager to be useful. Indeed, can anyone doubt that my input, especially about the movie’s disappointing ending, might have helped lead to a better final product?)

Instead - while nursing that absurd caricature and never giving me a chance to disprove it - they actually aimed a little DIG at me, buried in the movie! I’ve never mentioned this publicly before. Interested? It’s hilarious!

Did any of you notice how the Holnist soldiers at the copper mine encampment kept demanding to watch THE SOUND OF MUSIC over and over again? Unlike some critics, I was charmed by that Costnerian notion. It humanized the soldiers and showed that they were almost as much victims of the re-feudalization of America as the peasants were. They remembered that there had once been something better. A world of ideals, hope and possibilities. Confused and afraid, they did not imagine that there might be a path to restoring what once was. (The Postman would offer that path.) But they still yearned for it, and voted for that better world with the only franchise they had left, by kicking and screaming for that glimpse of a better life. Hey, it wasn’t in my book. But I dug it!

Only... remember what movie it was that got them screaming in outrage? It was Dolph Lungren's UNIVERSAL SOLDIER... a dismal piece of dreck about... cyborg augment soldiers in the future! In other words, Helgeland and Costner sent a zinger at me, at a level that nobody noticed but me. Cute! In fact, over beer, I would have shared a laugh over that. (Do I sound like a Wizard of Oz character, plaintively wailing --“If I only had a beer.....”?) Ah, well. Mighthavebeens.

2. Back to the CORE. I’d really like to let this go now. Having drawn attention to this, all we can do now is let people watch the film, read both books, listen to the explanations given here... and draw their own conclusions about what’s plausible... and what isn’t. I do want to finish though, with a couple of points.

First, John R dismisses the influence of coverage summaries, claiming that they make high stacks at every studio that are ignored. Hm. Maybe. But that doesn't keep an exec from scrawling COOL IDEA or NIFTY GIMMICK in the margins of one and telling his assistant to put it in the stack called THINGS TO STEAL WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE.

So option money is inconsequential? Hey, it isn't just the money. I can tell you that there is every incentive in town to diss and/or remove the original novelist from peoples' consciousness. Ego is a greater motivator for theft than money will ever be.

I will give John this. Last year, with ONLY Ridley Scott's film containing even a scintilla of originality... and nearly all of the other film releases being remakes of older flicks or TV shows... Hwood sank to its utter nadir of cowardice. THE CORE at least has the attractive feature of seeming to try something new. Even though John seems to be also saying that his plot and characters arose out of some kind of dialectical historical necessity arising from sequential logical arc needs and nothing artistic at all. (And certainly, absolutely, we can rule out anything erupting from the unconscious!) So, the first female shuttle pilot ever portrayed onscreen saving her ship from an Earth-generated beam happens to appear because of the need for a gumption-packed romantic chick-tech with pilot training. Um.

I appreciate that John feels he knows far more about Hwood than I do. But he portrays it as far easier to sell a book than to push an "original" idea and I don't buy that. At my level, book deals are rare because I am expensive and yet not a household name. A very awkward combination that leads to long droughts between movie deals. (In fact, I have about EIGHTY cool movie ideas, but I gave up pitching ages ago.) I just had my first book optioned in five years. EARTH has gone the circles a dozen times with countless coverages yet only PR Johnson ever actually broached a deal. What a tragedy. he was enthusiastic about doing a grownup and super inspirational "world-changer" motion picture... until a flick about a cooing, crotch-hitting baby killed his career.)

Alas, have I accomplished anything by raising this issue? Other than to make one more bunch of guys instinctively want me discredited? (No sweat there. I have openly pointed out storytelling sins of billionaireGeorgeLucas, so really, was there any chance left for me in Hwood, from now on? You mean David “blackballed” Brin? Fuggetaboutit!)

All right, there's one good outcome. Some of you will pick up copies of Paul Preuss's book CORE and maybe flip thru EARTH again. Dat's good.

And hey! This micro blog-ferment generated a little buzz to get some more people tune into FX tonight! Pumping up ratings a bit. So, John, that's one more beer you owe me. (And two more to be paid for out of your unconscious.) The rest can rest in abeyance, at least till the adjusted gross pays out ... in 2212?

Anyway. Go forth and thrive. Apparently you were liked here by my folks, so come back any time! Just expect a few “yeah, right” smirks. Live with it.

3. Finally. Ah yes, "Melancholy Elephants". I am convinced this scenario is absolutely true. Probably half of all the melodic forms available for Rock n Roll got used up tin the 60s 70s, when the baby boomer kids were the first generation in human history to get however many music lessons they wanted. Never before had more than 1% of a generation's raw talent actually been given a chance to reify. Unleashed, it was like a swarm of locusts, explaining the fecundity of that era... and also explaining the dearth today, when it takes genius to come up with new melodies...

...which also explains rap.

Anonymous said...

"In other words, Helgeland and Costner sent a zinger at me, at a level that nobody noticed but me."

Secret messages? Don't be getting paranoid on us DB! #B^)

John Rogers could provide a reality check here, but my understanding is that H'wood treats writers like dirt. I don't think Helgeland and Costner would have cared enough to zing ya!

I really loved that scene, though, for the reasons you mention.

* * *

It would be interesting to think of what would survive from the FOUNDATION books in the process of making a filmable story. And what Hollywood's gatekeepers would think of the sweep-of-time changing-cast-of-characters aspect of the trilogy?

David Brin said...

Dragged back in.

Stefan, yes, Hwood FILM industry treats writers like crap. TV is very very different. The best route to become powerful in TV is to slave like hell on the writing staff for a successful series. Alas, the end result is the same, since drugs fry neurons in either side of the biz. But it's interesting.

Oh, and writers like Helgeland, who rise up to become polymaths, like William Goldman. But those are exceptions.

Naw, they needed a crappy "warrior" film for the holnist soldiers to reject. Still, their choice of WHICH one struck me as - well - interesting.

There ARE ways you could capture the sweep of FOUNDATIOn while focusing on hero-jeopardy. But alas...

Anonymous said...

A diversion from TV and movies . . . can you pass a 8th Grade math test?

I got 10 out of 10, but I had to guess at one of the questions. (Well, I eliminated 2 out of 4 choices, but still . . .)

Rob Perkins said...

9/10, and I guessed at the statistics question. Then I went back and corrected myself for a 10/10 retest!

Anonymous said...

This is the fortieth post, and still nobody's done it... I can't take the suspense any more!!

Welcome to the neighborhood, Mr. Rogers. May I take your cardigan?

Actually, in fairness, I can see where the similarities might occur. Heinlein once said that there are no original stories - that a writer's real job is to file off the serial numbers, change the body lines a little, repaint it, and get it across the state line without anyone noticing.

(Bordering on irony, the best adaptation I've seen yet of Heinlein's classic "Starship Troopers" is "Aliens". I don't know what he thought of the Colonial Marines and their dropships, but it would have been fascinating to hear...)

As best I can tell, the best sci-fi in movies or TV is being produced by people who are really fans. For example, apparently one of the reasons "Star Trek: the Next Generation" and "Voyager" tended so badly toward suckage was because the executive producers after Roddenberry's passing, Berman and Braga, were not Star Trek fans - in fact, they prided themselves on never having watched the original (this may also explain why "Enterprise" was so abysmal, so frequently).

Ron Moore, the executive producer of "Battlestar Galactica", on the other hand, was an old Trek fan, and cut his teeth on "Deep Space Nine". (Any similarities between DS9 and BSG, of course, are purely coincidental!) :-)

I'd love to see "Sundiver", or "Startide Rising", adapted by someone who had actually, I dunno, read the book first, but maybe that's just me.

Anonymous said...

"can you pass a 8th Grade math test?"

"If .4 < x < 1/2, x could equal:" 45% ????

What is that, a trick question?

Anonymous said...

Stefan Jones said...
A diversion from TV and movies . . . can you pass a 8th Grade math test?

Question 7 is wrong - if you're going to say "None of the above", please put that option at the bottom of the list...

(Other than that I got 10/10 as I damn well ought to (math graduate and professional statistician).)

What age is 8th grade meant to be? 13-14?

Anonymous said...

@ Francis:

Yup, 8th Grade is typically 14, good eye. What's the equivalent on your side of the pond?

@ Dr. Brin:

Whilst I can't knowledgeably comment on what idea was borrowed by whom, I can say that I've been astounded at the number of times I've come up with an idea or had some revelation, only to discover that some miscreant stole my idea before I even had it.

So I don't find the notion of convergent story-telling beyond belief. Indeed, Mr. Roberts depiction of Hollywood pitch sessions matches many others I've read. "This is supposed to be science fiction? It needs more aliens and dinosaurs... I don't think you understand what science fiction is. And this ending is going to test lousy, it needs to be more up-beat. Plus there needs to be a teen-ager for kid-appeal."

Ugh. Someday I'm going to have to start my own movie studio. With blackjack and hookers.

Anonymous said...

Yup, 8th Grade is typically 14, good eye. What's the equivalent on your side of the pond?

Depends where you are in the country. The two most common are Second Year (based on the old 11+ exam) and Year 8 (reasons should be obvious). I think year 8 is comfortably the more common one now. (Although Sixth Form Colleges are still invariably called Sixth Form Colleges (and only take years 12 and 13).

For comparison, I've linked a couple of UK specimen maths papers. Key Stage 3 Key Stage 3 Mark Scheme. Key Stage 2. Key Stage 3 is 9th grade, Key Stage 2 is 6th grade.

Rob Perkins said...

"If .4 < x < 1/2, x could equal:" 45% ????

What is that, a trick question?

No. It measures whether or not you can "see" a number no matter what form it takes.

Anonymous said...

"It measures whether or not you can "see" a number no matter what form it takes."

But 0.45 is not the same as 45%...which is what the question (and its answer) suggests when actually 0.45 times 100% equals 45%. Very misleading I think.

Sean Dustman said...

Now Earth would have made a good film, now if they only gave you a percentage of the profits for the idea! The guys from Battlestar or Firefly could have done a great job with your story.

Anonymous said...

Question 6: On a math test, be very careful using the word "set". In particular, {2,2,3,4,5}={2,3,4,5}.

frank said: "But 0.45 is not the same as 45%...which is what the question (and its answer) suggests when actually 0.45 times 100% equals 45%. Very misleading I think."

Actually, 0.45 is definitely the same as 45%. "A number such as '45%' ('45 percent' or '45 per cent') is shorthand for the fraction 45/100 or 0.45." Wikipedia Percent

Also, Stolen board game ideas

David Brin said...

Well, I watched the film last night. After two years, I do admit genuine surprise at the well-written cogency of the first 20 minutes or so.

Alas, starting with the torching of the peach with ignited air freshener, I began to lose hope that I had been mistaken. What we often see (and this happened to The Postman) is that the later parts of a work tend to control our memories of the whole film or book. The lesson is that it is important to end well.

I will leave it here, convinced that (1) Paul and I are owed more than a beer, (2) that "beams from the Earth" have yet to see their most exciting use onscreen, (3) that onscreen SF won't see its true renaissance till new technologies meet coalitions of bright folks who are determined to make it happen, and (4) that I should drop the subject now. What is there to be gained?

Mr. Rogers is welcome to drop by here any time. I am content to leave the rest for AI or sapient adjudicators to decide.

Anonymous said...

GreedyAlgorithm said: "Actually, 0.45 is definitely the same as 45%. "A number such as '45%' ('45 percent' or '45 per cent') is shorthand for the fraction 45/100 or 0.45.""

okay... I guess it's a matter of context then. 45% is AFAIK never used on its own (like 45% times 12 = ??) where 0.45 times 12 = 5.4. Whenever I see the expression 45% used I think '45% of what? 100? 1000?' whereas when I see the number 0.45 , it needs no further information. .45 means .45, 45% could refer to any number depending on the context.

Rob Perkins said...

It misses the point, I think. The test question measures several things at once.

First, can you recognize an algebraic expression with more than one comparison operator?

Second, can you recognize an use all of the three different ways that a rational number is expressed? (percentage, decimal, and integer fraction)

And finally third, can you "read" the "algebraic sentence" and choose a correct answer?

It's in the sense that only a madman would attempt to *communicate* with math expressions in the way that test question does it, is it a bad test question. If you're coming from that kind of practical standpoint, hey, I agree wholeheartedly. It's cleverly written, but practically useless.

My daughter's "No Child Left Behind" tests were similarly filled with such silly questions.

Anonymous said...

@Rob Perkins: nice analysis of that question and I think your probably right about what it was supposed to test.

All the other questions are pretty straightforward math questions though. I guess that wrong-footed me.

Anonymous said...

From the Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant Department:

Tape: Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina

WASHINGTON - In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, risk lives in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage of the briefings.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final government-wide briefing the day before Katrina struck on Aug. 29 but assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

Later . . .

Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility and Bush was worried too.

Yeah. Really worried.

Tony Fisk said...

Ooh! Piping hot! (10 minutes old)

Further transcript:

The White House and Homeland Security Department urged the public Wednesday not to read too much into the video footage.

"I hope people don't draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing," presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. "He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times."

Which, from my reading, makes it even worse! Even after multiple briefings, ole Wobbly can state with pokerfaced earnestness: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"


No, not any one body. *Every* body!

Meanwhile, the resident Neocon of Oz is celebrating his tenth anniversary of ascendency (although, while a number of things spring to mind when describing Howard, 'incompetent' isn't one of them.)

David Brin said...

Thanks Chas.

Anyone who mentions me in the same breath with Stephenson is being about as nice to me as possible. NS has a rare ability to see the world at many levels, and to appreciate how hard it has been to get this far.

Rob said...

The first thing that came to mind when I saw "heroic female shuttle pilot" was Jean Grey piloting a shuttle back to earth and sacrificing herself for the X-Men. I think that was back in the early 1980's. So maybe you both owe Chris Claremont a beer. :)

Speaking as a layman and fan, I've long thought that the best way to faithfully adapt a science fiction book series (like the Uplift novels or Foundation) is do what Joe Straczinski did with Babylon 5. It would probably take about 20+ hours of video to tell one book's worth of story and hit all the details. Witness how much more faithful the miniseries adaptation of Dune was than the Alan Smithee/David Lynch film (and how much better the 3 and 6-hour versions of that film were than the heavily cut theatrical release), though I do think Lynch's film did a better job of capturing the atmosphere of the novel. The 12 episodes of Firefly were much more detailed and a richer experience than the Serenity movie. The more time you have, the better an adaptation you can do.

I would really really hate to see Startide Rising cut down to a 120-minute "feature film". There's a reason those novels are 400 pages long; everything in them is relevant to the story, whether it's building a message, fleshing out a character, or just setting the scene. There's very little you can cut out and not affect the story. Again, in my fannish opinion.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of a good version of the Postman being made? It is one of my favorites.

Better yet, a mini series. Get some of the bigname egos out of it, and make sure all the great stuff gets into it.

Frankly, it would be great to see anything these days that shows the power of people to make their world better, instead superheros at every turn.

Thane Morgan