Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not Hooting Over the STAR TREK Reboot

So I should first say that I'm writing this entry using Adobe Contribute for the first time.  I actually have no idea how this will work.  My guess is either perfectly or so horribly that I'll end up losing the entire blog in a fiery crash.

Speaking of fiery crashes, I saw the new STAR TREK movie a couple of weeks back and have had the chance to digest it and all I can say is that if someone wants to give me $200 million, I can get you a better movie, or at least a better script.

Not that I thought the movie was terrible.  It just wasn't GREAT! in the way that all of the other reviewers seem to think.

What I'm curious about is whose idea was it to completely break with the past, rather than reinvent the past.  You see, in all other Star Trek movies that involve time travel, the goal is always to "restore the timeline," lest you create alternate timelines that alter history and create paradoxes that could, ultimately, tear apart the fabric of time and space.  In fact, in ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST: VOYAGER, and even in ST:  ENTERPRISE, there appeared references to and appearances by Federation time cops, whose job it was to get the timeline restored.  Yet the movie ignores all this.  Maybe they are saving it for the sequel?

Hey!  Bill Shatner, I just figured out how you can be in the next movie!  Since a completely alternate timeline has just been created, maybe you didn't die in the arms of Patrick Stewart in this one.  Hence, you can come back in the next movie.

You see, unless you are pretty much a Star Trek geek, you probably don't get this, but this movie is not a "reboot" or "new origin" story.  By including Leonard Nimoy as old Spock, complete with Spock's memories and experiences of the old timeline, they didn't start fresh, they just, literally, changed history enough so that everything that happened before didn't (or might not) happen.  Now they can have Kirk and Spock meet Q (calling John de Lancie), rather than have Q's first encounter be with the Next Generation.  They can encounter the Borg.  They can pretty much do whatever they want because what came before doesn't matter.

And this pisses me off a bit.  It's a cheat.  Ironically, it's like Kirk's treatment of the Kobayashi Maru test.  He couldn't beat it, so he reprogrammed it.  JJ Abrams and his writing partners couldn't overcome all of the history of Star Trek but they also couldn't overcome their desire to get Nimoy into the picture, apparently, so they cheated.  They created an alternate timeline and then ignored what is literally known as the Temporal Prime Directive.

For those who are not deeply immersed in the shows and prior movies, this is no big deal, but for the fan base that kept Star Trek alive long enough to be worth making this movie, this is pretty much an insult.  There is so much about Star Trek and its universe that has never been explored and rarely touched upon, and so many options to explore, even using Nimoy as a framing device in some fashion, that I just don't see why they couldn't have been more original and creative than they were.

From a script perspective, my biggest issue was with the dialogue of the Romulans.  The Romulans have always been presented as a proud and intelligent people.  I wonder, sometimes, if they were based on the Japanese.  But Nero comes off as a thug and not even that intelligent a thug.  And would he really come on the view screen and say, "Hi, I'm Nero"?  I didn't imagine that, did I?

I'm not sorry I saw it and I'm sure I'll watch it on cable again sometime, but I really had higher expectations and wish the reviewers were being a bit harder on these guys so they'd know to try harder next time.

Z

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can Publishers be Easier than Agents?

I have been on your newsletter list for a year or so, and I enjoy reading your sometimes agent-wisdom, and sometimes agent-chiding to absentminded writers.

Which brings me to my point. I have for some time now been wanting to tell an agent my story, having been trying for about 4 years to find an agent having written queries, proposals, et al up the wazzoo. I finally got tired a few years ago, and started querying publishers. I had my book on Costa Rica picked up and published hardcover. (That publisher's query was the same as to the agents.)

So then I tried 15 agents on a fine biography by a famous sculptor who wrote of his travels in the west in the 1870.s - Indians, grizzlys and a lot more - but no agent was interested. I sent the same query (adjusted by the word "publisher" instead of "agent") to 5 publishers. HarperCollins, and a major University Press asked to read the ms.

Yesterday a publisher picked up my 3rd book after trying to get an agent for 6 months. I solicited interest from 8 publishers.

My question for you is "Why did every single agent of all stripes and sizes have no interest when publishers were prompt to ask for "more". The three books are narrative non-fiction. And yes, I did my homework, and solicited only agents who had the specific subject matter as a primary interest. If anyone were to ask me I'd say "Query publishers, agents are too tough to interest."

My kindest personal regards,
Alfred Stites

Dear Mr. Stites:

Agents are usually looking for fairly low common denominators or at least books that will appeal to a wide number of editors and readers and, ideally, elicit very large offers or at least offers that will pay the bills. Not knowing more about your books, I can't say why agents weren't interested and publishers were, but I'd guess that the agents you queried simply didn't see the market or thought the potential market was too small and that the offers they might get wouldn't justify the time and effort required to find a publisher for the works.

After all, agents are in this as a business and to make money. I regularly turn down perfectly fine material or just don't request material because my feeling is that the number of hours I would have to spend trying to sell the book would not warrant the return I would receive. And plenty of books that I thought would be "easy" sells turned out to take years.

I guess there's no good answer to your question, because if I had one, I'd only take on books that were easy sells, just like every publisher would only take on books that would be best-sellers.

Z

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not My Two Cents, Please

In case you haven't noticed, the postage rates just went up and much to my surprise I'm still getting query letters with SASEs bearing only a forty-two-cent stamp.

Folks, the US Postal Service announces these things waaaaaaay in advance. And no agent responds to every query the day he or she gets them, so you really need to anticipate and put the right postage on your self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE). Don't expect the agents to be making up the difference. Do you know how many queries some agencies get? Dozens a week; sometimes hundreds. We may not, but our time is valuable, also, and running down to the PO to get two-cent stamps to make up for authors who didn't plan for the increase is not currently on our to-do list.

If we've had your sample chapter or manuscript for a while and need to respond using the SASE, we will certainly pop for the two cents, but if you queried us on Friday, May 8th, and the rates were going up on Monday, May 11th, and you just put a forty-two-cent stamp on there, don't blame us if the USPS brings it to you postage-due.

Z

Friday, May 08, 2009

The SCRUBS Finale, Please

So I was watching the "season" and perhaps "series" finale of SCRUBS and I have to say, they may have done the best job of any series I have ever watched in coming up with a last episode. In fact, I seriously hope that it is the series finale and not just the season. I say "perhaps" above because there has apparently been no final decision on whether or not to renew it for next season. My hope is that they won't. Not because I don't completely enjoy the show, but because that last episode was the perfect note to go out on and trying to pick it up next season would be as dumb as AFTER M*A*S*H. Remember that cluster-frack? Oy, it's so sad they even tried.

But SCRUBS got it right. Nearly perfect, except that in the long list of guest stars that came back to say goodbye, they left out a few that would have been amusing to see. But, hey, people are busy.

So, good-bye SCRUBS. Now please do us the favor of enjoying your millions in syndication fees and go off and write and star in new and entertaining projects, instead of trying to come up with something that will top this season.

Z

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The April Submissions Round-up

Greetings from Corrie, your favorite TZC intern! I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for our April round up, and here it is!

In April 2009, We….

* Received 31 queries and declined 25
* Received 5 sample chapters and declined 8
* Received 1 manuscript and declined 2

We also:

* Requested 8 sample chapter
* Requested 1 proposal
* Requested 2 manuscripts

As of May 7, 2009, we have on hand to read the following:

* 6 manuscripts
* 3 proposals
* 40 sample chapters

We are also waiting to receive the following:

* 12 sample chapters
* 2 proposals
* 2 manuscripts

We have read all sample chapters dated through January 15th 2009. If your cover letter on your sample chapter was dated before that and you sent an SASE and you have not heard back, please contact us.


CB