I am a fan of the 1970's version of the Tomorrow People television series. Despite people criticizing the acting, I saw through many of the series flaws and really resonated with some of the ideas in it. In many ways, if some of the ideas had been developed a good bit further, I think someone could have made a blockbuster movie. I was further inspired by the book "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. I became so inspired, that I wrote a four part serial novel. This novel is not fan fiction of the original series but a completely separate story line. The story has some of the same flavors and themes of the series but is completely distinctive. So if you read it expecting to be another episode of the Tomorrow people, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a book series with some of the same feel and similar gadgets, then my serial is for you. The serial I have written blends fantasy and science fiction adding a much greater dimension to the story. If this description has made you curious, then I suggest you click the link and visit The Children of Sophista Book Series.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Philosophy of Stephen and Stefan


Part of the magic of the original 1970's Tomorrow People Series was how the character, Stephen, was portrayed. I think at the time they made the series, they really didn't understand how the character interacted with the minds of the audience and why he proved to be so popular. They mistakenly thought Stephen's popularity was due to him being the lead teen boy. After Stephen was ejected from the series, you can see an attempt to exploit this formula in the new character, Michael Bell. He had all of the right ingredients: in real life the actor was the lead in an aspiring teen band and his underdog characterization was exceptionally well done. But with all the star power behind Michael Bell, he just never really caught on in the way Stephen did. Later, toward the end of the series run, the character, Andrew, showed a great deal of potential of having the same popularity as Stephen. 


One trademark characteristic of the series was that as each character was introduced, a considerable amount of time was spent helping you get to know them, especially via showing the character's emotions and personality instead of telling in the dead-fish delivery fashion of the current remake of the series. Emotional feelings about a character takes time to develop. It can't be rushed. 


People always pick on a story for telling versus showing. I can tell you that it is not an easy matter to balance showing a character's organic development with keeping the story velocity at a desirable pace. Giving too much priority to the velocity of the story does, however,  make the story writer appear to not believe in the attractiveness of their own story. It's a difficult balance to strike.

Stephen in the original series was an undying pacifist. It was so strong that you could tell the writer had an agenda with the philosophy. Stephen was also extremely empathetic to the point that his sympathy for a person would make him take, perhaps, unwise actions. But his empathy was not confined to rescuing someone in distress as is the common trope in many stories. The magic of Stephen was that he also wanted to enable people struggling to succeed to be successful. It was a bit of character subtlety sorely lacking in many stories and because of its rarity, it subliminally made people latch onto the character. Everyone wants someone to be their advocate in life. 

When composing the character, Stefan, for The Saeshell Book of Time, I wanted to capture that which made Stephen special, distill it, and put it into Stefan. The distillation process was painful and long but finally the true underlying nature of Stephen came into focus: Stephen was an artist. Even if he did not do artwork at all (Stephen did do photography, see Episode 2), his outlook was very artistic. In the canvass of life, Stephen painted people around him into a positive role and then used his creativity to help shape them into that positive picture.

So when I created Stefan, I explicitly made him an artist and a pacifist. It is a powerful hook---a character that is nearly omnipotent yet he is reluctant to use his powers, except to change people's minds in order to improve them. He could have easily just killed all the bad people around him and burned a part of the Earth, if necessary, to convince people to obey him. Yet his approach was to gain power over people via making them love him. He didn't want to rule people and when he had to, he tried to rule by endearing himself to his subjects. His subjects were not fearfully intimidated into obeying him. Their hearts being endeared to him made them do things for him because they loved him. This plays upon a very strong emotion in middle grade kids in that they want people to do things for them out of a parental-like love for them. It is an unfortunate precept of human culture that Darwinistic competitiveness is the only way to human eminence. This infectious mind poison changes teens to want to dominate the people around them via fear and intimidation and to shun cooperative accomplishment.


Stefan is challenged by all those around him to be a more assertive, a more brutal ruler---the Darwinistic alpha. There is a great deal of irony in the story in that the Saeshells, the preservers of art,  see Stefan as the vehicle for expressing their power and influence through thoughtful, strategic, and violent use of his powers since they themselves are incapable of violence. 


His own mother, who professes to love him, attempts to develop those strategic and brutal powers in her son, who only wants to love and be loved. Its Stefan's struggle against those who would remake his innate pacifism, empathy, and love into power and intimidation that forms a key conflict in the novels.

In the end, people realize they should be careful what they wish for. But Stefan ends up fooling them all. He realizes that Magic is the key to ruling humans via his power but still being loveable. 



In some ways, The Children of Sophista is a memorial to the idealistic Tomorrow People Series of the 1970's. I knew when I watched it that any remake would strip it of its idealism, sacrificing it for action and sexual eye candy. In some ways, I pursued a different kind of an update to the series when I created Children of Sophista. In that update, I resolved the lead female character to someone different than the confidence lacking, eye candy female with a tip of the hat to equality via assertiveness. Tova2 is truly Stefan's equal in many ways, enhancing not obstructing his progress toward becoming King. She proves that the Queen need not be a parasitic character. King Stefan and Queen Tova2 are the custom-made rulers for a new era in humanity.

 



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Comparison Federation Police Officer Vs. Trisha from the 1970's Tomorrow People Series








I thought it would be interesting to compare Trisha Conway from the 1970’s Tomorrow People Season 4 (left side of picture) with the Federation Police Officer  character on the right side. The Federation Police Officer (FPO) is a major character in "The Saeshell Book of Time" and she does have a name but revealing it would reveal some of the plot of the book. When I saw Trisha while watching the series, it gave me the idea for the FPO.

Trisha is an interesting study because in the 1970’s, writers  were still having trouble understanding what a woman in a more dominant, driving character role would look like. Trisha started out being the secondary character to Col. Masters of the British military intelligence branch that did research into ESP. Their initial mission was to use ESP as a weapon and thus they attempted to intimidate and blackmail the Tomorrow People into being their weapon. This leads to a seemingly irresolvable conflict in that the Tomorrow People only have stun guns whereas the military has real guns. The resolution is most unexpected and I encourage you to watch the third season story, “Secret Weapon”.

In the fourth season, Col. Masters is killed and Trisha is thrust into a lead position (without a rank or a uniform). The character becomes very interesting because she becomes a mix of the obligatory female vulnerability and the strength of a leader, though the strength she is allowed is not nearly strong enough for such a lead role. Trisha eventually does become a Tomorrow Person and is sent off to be trained to be a Federation Police Officer and is thus dispatched to oblivion in the series.

There are all sorts of interesting things that were left on the floor in the series surrounding Trisha. Roger Price, the series creator, was facing the Zombie Apocalypse at this point as this one season series had failed to die. Now he was in season four and wondering where the story was heading next. Luckily, I have yet to reach that point.

So I approached my FPO a bit differently. She was born in the Federation as the privileged daughter to a leader of the Federation and her vulnerability as a prized (spoiled child) starts there. Daddy dearest decides that in the “violence free”, dystopian Federation, a soft daughter might have a limited lifespan. So he sends her off to the Federation Police Academy, which is the equivalent to Earth Special Forces. Her two tools are a stun gun and a device for sterilizing people against reproduction (covertly). So it’s only her toughness and infiltration skills that allow her to survive trips the uncivilized words, such as Earth. When she encounters the very emotional, sentimental, and overwhelmingly powerful Children of Sophista, her emotional side begins to reemerge. This turns the 1970’s problem with the Trisha character upside down, with my FPO having to rediscover her soft humanity while maintaining her capability as a Special Forces officer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stefan is Bullied in First Grade

“Why do you hate me, mean boy? Is it my poetry? Do you not like it? I know first graders are not supposed to write poetry. But my teacher likes it. I could teach you to draw. It’s fun to draw. You could draw my freaky hair—make fun of it in your drawing. I wouldn’t mind. I can show you how to draw aliens. I know you don’t believe me, but I can make you see lots of pictures of aliens in your mind. They are wonderful to draw—all life is wonderful to draw. If I show you, it will be like you could always draw. You would draw like a high school person, not a third-grader. Your teacher would be proud and show your artwork to everyone. Just stop hurting me! My mummy scares me. She checks my head every day. I am scared for you mean boy—scared of what my mummy will do. I haven’t seen the last boy who was mean to me in a long time. I’m so scared. Don’t make me cry. Let me touch your head and I can take away your pain. I don’t know why, but it works, I promise. Please mean boy. Please!”



 This character monologue is an expansion of the story surrounding this illustration. This illustration, by Matt Curtis, is from book #1, "The Saeshell Book of Time Part 1: The Death of Innocents." Buy book #1 now so you are ready for the release of book #2 on March 29th. The full color Kindle Edition is available for $7.99 on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Saeshell-Book-Time-ebook/dp/B009LEVKJQ You can get the black and white Reader's Edition paperback, $14.99, direct from the press: https://www.createspace.com/3645794 If you have the bucks, the full color Collector's Edition paperback, printed on a high resolution press, is really awesome. It's $44.99, direct from the press: https://www.createspace.com/3845611 The paperbacks are also available on Amazon.

Events and Status

The Saeshell Book of Time Part 1: The Death of Innocents was published October 1st, 2012. The second book, The Saeshell Book of Time Part 2: The Rebirth of Innocents will be released March 29th, 2013.


Here is the back cover for the book. Click to enlarge for reading.


  Buy book #1 now so you are ready for the release of book #2 on March 29th. The full color Kindle Edition is available for $7.99 on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Saeshell-Book-Time-ebook/dp/B009LEVKJQ You can get the black and white Reader's Edition paperback, $14.99, direct from the press: https://www.createspace.com/3645794 If you have the bucks, the full color Collector's Edition paperback, printed on a high resolution press, is really awesome. It's $44.99, direct from the press: https://www.createspace.com/3845611 The paperbacks are also available on Amazon.

Friday, March 30, 2012

When?

The estimated date of publication for book #1 is October, 2012.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Character Ty Actually Created Himself

I wanted to write an article describing how Ty came about. In that article, I would tell you how I watched this or read that and then added great stuff to create a wonderful character. Sorry, I can't. Ty created himself, literally. When I write, I am watching the novel in my head, like a TV show. It runs like a simulation. It's similar to that video game, Sim City, where you place people, plants, houses, necessary parts of a city, etc., and then you let the simulation run and see who has children and who dies a horrible death, who starves, you get the picture. The simulation of the book takes on a life of it's own. I'm along for the ride. I literally don't know where things are going to end up any more than the reader.

So as my volunteer editor was reading along the early stream of the novel, she told me, "Wow, you have a plot hole here. What happened to this guy?" "Uh, I don't know.."

So I bent the simulation. I forceably changed it's course. When you change the simulation's course and force it to go where it wasn't going, then you get what I call "an artifact". An artifact is a character that is created because without the character, the logical consistency and integrity of the novel is threatened. So when I changed the course of the simulation, out popped Ty. Who's this guy? Oh well, let it ride. I'll just let things unfold.

One of the early drafts of the novel was read by a gifted kid who was finishing up 6th grade at the time. As he reviewed part of there story, he told me, "Wow, Ty is cool. He is this smart philosophical character yet I wonder if he will 'turn to the dark side with some hidden powers'."

Hmm, really? I didn't write any of that. But now that you mention it... I restarted the simulation and put in the changed the setup. Pretty dangerous stuff because you could end up with a totally different story. So I removed the constraints on Ty and specified that Ty could bend the story however he wanted to. And what happened was amazing. The fairies literally constructed Ty. He became a major character in the initial and final novel installments. The character that was born right before my eyes: a kid born with telepathy and other talents but who does not understand what he is. Neither does his dad though his dad gives him lots of love and support. Ty becomes the very symbol of innocence, love, and power -- the power most of all to alter people's minds. If you didn't love before Ty met you, you will afterward. And if you are a creator of hate and disharmony, the shocking, dark side of Ty might do unspeakable things to you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Constructing Stefan in The Children of Sophista

I knew that before taking off on writing a long series such as I hope the Children of Sophista will be, I needed to create a main character that I could truly fall in love with. The first problem was determining what I like. Sometimes it is very difficult to be honest with yourself. The easiest way to see what you like in a character is to find one you like in something else and analyze carefully what you like about that character. So I chose two characters to analyze. The first one is Stephen in the 1970's Tomorrow People television series.

I actually got forced into analyzing Stephen when people asked me why I liked the Tomorrow People series (a number of people did not). One draw to me was the Stephen character. In Stephen, you had a boy who started out with special powers yet was vulnerable. He was a boy that held great promise for the future but today, must be protected and helped to develop his talents. And most important, he displayed unquestioning empathy for those around him. He had a big heart.

The British culture seems to pride itself on raising boys to be self reliant from a very early age. It can seem quite harsh to an American looking in from the outside. Yet this is what made Stephen stand out, a caring person surrounded by competing harsh boys. And when he was faced with those harsh boys, he didn't cower or pound them in a show of brute force. He used skill to prevail. For example, even though he was a strong pacifist, he was also an expert in saber duals. It also was interesting in particular in the saber dual episode that the series had a strong teen anti-drinking plank. As Stephen said when being criticized for not taking a drink, paraphrased, "you drink a glass of whiskey and I'll drink a glass of water. Then let's go to the gym and battle with sabers. I'll use my left hand, and we shall see who wins."

One of the problems with constructing Stefan from just Stephen was that although my imagination thought Stephen was a strong person, some people would recognize him as just being a weak and wimpy character. Stefan would also need some "punch" to avoid being tagged that way. When one thinks of a boy with intellect, feelings and punch, who comes to mind? Ender in Ender's game. So as Stefan grew and evolved, he becomes more like Ender: A deeply intellectual and feeling boy that has a dark side. His dark side ensured that even though he would never attack or start a battle, when attacked, he would leap to fight and made sure not only to win the battle, but to so totally devastate the attacker that the attacker could never fight again. The rules of civilization were very important to Ender right up until someone attacked him. Then there was only one rule: total commitment with no rules until the battle or war was won. Total ruthlessness. It was the magic of the character. He was a sensitive, passive, abused. But when there was no choice, he was a butcher.

So I mixed these two characters and then I stirred in a little unique spice. Stefan is an artist and a teacher of passiveness and cooperation. Stefan's total war had strong limits. He would respond strongly. But he would respond in a way that did the most emotional not physical devastation to the enemy. His goal was to try to change the mind of the enemy to never attack again. He demonstrated what he could do if he was destructive. His demonstrations were frightful. But he made sure that the enemy had no need to destroy him, that they would just respect him.

This conflict of power yet vulnerability makes Stefan a fascinating character. He can destroy whole planets with a single thought. Yet, he has trouble coming to grips with what he is. He is just a young teen who wants to sit somewhere quietly working on his art and being loved by people.