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.