Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sci-Fi Movie Mash-Up

I’d like to start a game here on Spandex Monkey. I realize that with virtually no readership, this game will probably become a geeky version of solitaire but I’m going to throw the idea out there any way.

Naming suggestions will be welcome as part of the game but for now, I’ll just call it the “Movie Mash-Up Experiment” or “Everything’s Better with Sci-Fi.”

Here are the basics:

1. Think of a terrible movie that you’ve had to endure either at the request of a significant other, friends or someone you hardly knew but wanted to impress with how sensitive you were in hopes that they would be turned on by that. It can be any genre except sci-fi or fantasy. You must remember enough of said movie to offer an intelligent synopsis. If it was so bad that your mind has blocked all detail except the knowledge that Movie XYZ = pain, go to imdb.com for a refresher unless professional therapy counsels against empowering the suppressed memories.

2. Think of a science fiction movie, good or bad. Same rules apply for Step 1.

3. Combine the premise of the two movies to make something else, something fantastic, something magical


1. Terrible Movie – ‘Runaway Bride’ starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, a movie so bad that the only justification in making it was to give Ms. Roberts and Mr. Gere roles to fill in order to cash in ten years later on the success of ‘Pretty Woman’.

Basic story: Ms. Roberts gets engaged a lot and then when walking, riding, trampolining or whatevering to the altar, she gets scared, turns tail and runs. Mr. Gere’s character writes about her in a newspaper which leads to hate which naturally leads to love because women are great at the forgive, forget and fall in love with the man they hated thing, which results in him getting jilted at the alter, Ms. Roberts finally figuring out how she likes her eggs (I am not kidding. That is a major plot point.), and finally, the two of them getting married because they understand each other even though she is a country girl that makes lamps out of electrical conduit and junction boxes (how quirky) and he is a jaded New York City columnist.

Let me just say, I love my wife very much.

2. Science Fiction Movie – ‘Species’ with Natasha Henstridge, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker and Alfred ‘Doc Oc from Spiderman 2’ Molina. Already shaping up better, huh?

Basic plot – Aliens make contact with directions for combining their genetics with human genetics, resulting in Natasha Henstridge with an over-the-top reproductive drive that makes a twenty-seven year old single girl at BYU look like she’s luke-warm on the whole baby thing. So Ms. Henstridge goes on a run of seeking possible mates only to kill any man that has a ‘genetic’ weakness like diabetes or uneven baldness. Unable to find a better man in a city of several million, she ends up hooking up with Doc Oc, has his baby after about thirty minutes of gestation and is then killed by the rest of the crack scientific team.

Not the best sci-fi movie but it deserves points for trying.

3. Super Fantastic New Movie – “Runaway Species” starring Natasha Henstridge, Richard Gere, and Sir Ben Kingsley.

Now, instead of trying to destroy little girl Ms. Henstridge when ordered to by the army, Sir Ben takes her and hides in a rural farming community where she learns to love and respect mankind. And since she was raised with old fashioned American values, she decides that she must be married before she can mate. And because she has American values, she doesn’t kill her suitors that don’t meet her criteria; she just leaves them at the altar. Enter Mr. Gere as a conspiracy freak obsessed with tracking down Sir Ben and Ms. Henstridge. He meets her and falls in love/lust with her before discovering that she is the alien mating machine. Romantic hilarity ensues for about thirty seconds before she kills him for the genetic failing of being Richard Gere. Enter Jason Statham, who Ms. Henstridge decides is good enough for her eggs (eggs? Eggs? Like Julia Roberts? nevermind…) despite his male pattern baldness because it’s Jason “The Transporter” Statham and they get married on a mountain top and then their offspring goes on to destroy all of humanity because it's one quarter alien, one quarter Henstridge and one half Statham. Mankind would not stand a chance.

See, everything is better with Sci-Fi (and Jason Statham).

So there it is. Simple enough. Follow the blog rules (keep language, sex and gore to a PG rating) and have fun. Post your Mash-up in the comments and when we have fifty entries or once I realize nobody else is playing, I’ll post the top five and open voting to the public for a winner. The prize will be determined at that time but don’t expect too much.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ultimate Query Fail - A.K.A. Something to help you feel smarter

I am an idiot. Please bear with me as I give a little back story that will illustrate the full magnitude of my stupidity.

In the summer of 1997, I had an idea for a story. I jotted down the idea that continued to improve and expand with every ink mark on the page. It wasn't the right time in my life to write a novel, so I forced myself to wrap it up and promised myself that I would write the book tentatively titled 'Moonfire Movement' in two years.

In late 2008, I finally finished my manuscript. After eleven years of thinking, writing and further developing the original idea, I typed word 170,177. (Figuring 250 words per page, my novel was a hefty 681 pages.) Pleased with myself for finally completing the monster that had randomly consumed my attention for over 1/3 of my life, I went online to figure out how to get it published and be lavished with awards, accolades and of course the riches that only science fiction authorship can bring. Sixty plus queries were sent to any and all agents I could find that accepted science fiction submissions and over two months, sixty plus form rejection emails filled my inbox.

I tried to take it in stride. I really, really tried to be understanding. Rejection is just part of the publishing world. Everybody collects rejection letters at the start of their career. But I still felt like I had in the seventh grade when the basketball coach called me into his office on the last day of tryouts and told me that I needed to work on my physical conditioning, my left hand dribbling, my right hand dribbling and my shooting. I walked out of the locker room that day thinking, “What else is left?”

None of the agents gave me any details of what I needed to improve but by the speed of rejection, it was apparent to me that my whole ‘game’ needed to improve.

So, I researched the writing industry and agent practices. I became a regular reader of the linked blogs (to the right) and a contributor to small writing exercises and contests. I sat down with my 'Moonfire' manuscript and a red pen, slashed it to pieces and threw the whole thing in the trunk of my car after deciding rewriting was more expedient than revising. I found peace in telling myself that I was improving as a writer and had a solid story that just needed better story telling.

Then, Wednesday night, July the 15th, knocked my optimistic work off line. It was late evening, my wife was painting and I was drooling in the corner with the flu, mindlessly clicking around msn.com. I found an article about ten science fiction books that should be made into movies. (Here’s a link to the article for anyone interested.) I gave it a look. I’d read several of the books and had most of the others on a ‘must read’ list. But one in particular caught my attention.

Before I tell you what that book was, let me give you a synopsis of 'Moonfire', a bullet point version of what I’d sent in my query letters.

The story takes place in re-activated volcanic chambers under the surface of the moon.
Our hero escapes from his slavery in the mines and once free, he leads a revolt against the government of Earth and the shadow organization behind the government to put an end to the prisoner/slave mining of Moonfire.

(That’s it in a nutshell. I’m sure all of you are now desperate to read more.)

Back to Wednesday night, book number two of the writer’s top ten books to be made into movies is Robert Heinlein’s 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' and the synopsis of the story is…

“…a future penal mining colony on the moon decides to rebel and declare independence, with plenty of talk about government leavened by tough, tense scenes of armed revolution as the moon's residents fight back against Earth's jailers and governments.”

If my wife had not been in the room and my children had not been sleeping peacefully upstairs, I would have screamed a string of profanities so obscene that a new level of hell would have been created as a punishment for my outburst.

Eight months of telling myself I just needed to improve as a writer, needed to work harder, needed to evolve my style went out the window. Twelve years of writing, adjusting, studying and thinking were completely destroyed. This was so much worse than believing my entire ‘game’ needed to change. I now knew why agents had been so quick to reject. It wasn’t just because I couldn’t write or had written a manuscript far too long to be published as a first time novelist – It was because I was querying a novel that had been published in 1966 by one of the greats of science fiction. I was querying a story that was over FORTY years old and was a Hugo award winner. (If you don’t know what the Hugo Award is, here’s a link but let me throw out some other titles for comparison – Dune, Ringworld, Neuromancer, Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

Imagine some idiot sitting around in 2050 and sending out query letters that reads something like this:

Dear Superstar Agent,

Larry Plotter is a wizard but doesn’t know it…

That’s what I did SIXTY TIMES!

That’s me.

Dan. The idiot.

I wish that I had written my queries in crayon and sent them on the back of post cards with a return address to ‘Wee Britain’. I wish that I had been content to print my manuscript and wait another ten years to start rewrites in the hope that I might read more of Heinlein’s work between now and then. I wish at the very least that I had used a pen name and had worn a fake moustache when querying just to throw the agents off my trail of ignorance. I wish for so many things right now that if I listed them all, this blog post would never end.

Who knows, maybe the agents I queried didn’t equate 'Moonfire' with Heinlein’s book. Maybe they really did reject Moonfire because my writing is horrible and the story is pedestrian and boring. Maybe nobody passed my email around the office so everyone could have a good laugh at the idiot querying a forty year old award winning novel. Maybe…

That being said, I have a copy of 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' now and will begin reading tonight. Based on some book summaries I’ve read, it appears that Moonfire has very little in common with Harsh Mistress. At this point, all I can do is read and hope that I really, honestly and truly just stink at writing and that nobody else made this connection. But, if a dimwit like me can make it, odds are somebody else has already.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Zero-Matter Novel Excerpt

Novel Excerpt – Zero-Matter

Pebble number two. Follow the link below or to the side to the first four chapters of my 71,000 word novel Zero-Matter.

Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Short Story - Soul Jumping

Here we go! Dropping a pebble into the bottomless pit. Follow the link below to a pdf of my short story (20,000 words) Soul Jumping. Please read, hopefully enjoy, and post comments, opinions and suggestions in the comment section of this post.

Thanks to any and all of you willing to give my writing a chance.


Welcome to Spandex Monkey’s Variety Hour.

For those of you who have known me for a long time, you might recognize Spandex Monkey as the name I’d hoped to use for a) a production company or b) an alternative rock band. As I’ve grown, I realized that ‘Spandex Monkey’ would be better for a punk band so option ‘b’ went out the window. There are still hopes for option ‘a’ but since I live nowhere near L.A. or New York, have no contacts in television, film, or the music industries, odds are I won’t ever have a production company either. What I do have, however, is a fresh new blog that needed a name so I went with what I had.

As for the ‘Variety Show’ part of the name, that is a direct reference to the content of this blog. There may be anything posted here from tips on preparing roast beef to memories of obstinate pygmy goats, roosters with duck fetishes, or stupid dogs named Molly. But mostly, I hope to use this blog as a tool for writing.

I love writing, always have but have never done anything but play with ideas, jot a few notes and occasionally pounded out an unpublishable novel read only by my wife who hates sci-fi.

The things I think when I finish a piece - What if it’s awful? Not just bad but really excruciatingly, teeth-grinding terrible? What if I am so lost and deluded that I can’t recognize the torture I am putting to page? What then? Am I wasting my time? Is it time to get a better hobby? Am I an idiot? And so on until I find myself watching P90X ads at two in the morning.

These thoughts keep me from sharing with as many people as I should and consequently, keep me from improving as a writer.

I need feedback. I need lots of feedback - Good and Bad. Good to keep me writing what works and bad to help me fix what doesn’t. So many of you are wonderful, cuddly, considerate people and are just too nice to tell the whole truth. I appreciate you all for your kind souls but it’s not what I need. If your response to my writing is positive, of course let me know. If it is negative, absolutely LET ME KNOW. If a character is unrealistic, if a logic jump is too great, if dialog sounds like five renditions of the same person arguing with themselves, I need to know.

By the time I think something is ready for others to read, I’ve been through it so many times that I lose perspective. I don’t recognize what’s on the page because I see my thoughts and can’t remember that you don’t see what I see. You have only the words on the page or screen and I need to know what those do for you.

So, basically, this blog is me begging. I am begging for your help. I am begging for your honest opinions. If you don’t want to read science fiction, you don’t have to. Stories and chapters will be posted to the side if you do care to read. If you don’t care for sci-fi, but are curious as to what goes on in my balding head, please read. If you like sci-fi, definitely read.

I need your help and I hope, sincerely hope, that if you take the time to read you will enjoy it. If you don’t, then take pleasure in giving me your honest opinions. I may sulk. I may whimper. But in the end, I will be grateful.

Thank you for your time and please, be honest. Remember, this is for posterity. (Okay, maybe not so much but it seemed like an appropriate quote to end with.)