One of my works in progress is a science fiction novella about the creation of an artificial general intelligence (AGI). The story features a scene where the human programmers are amazed that the AGI can create original artwork of any kind on demand. I wrote the first draft in 2018. Yes, just four years ago an AI that could create art seemed like a speculative bit of futurism. Now it appears I will need to revise that scene, as what was “sci-fi” then is now just “sci.” Reality is progressing faster than I can publish science fiction.
When I wrote this post about DALL-E last May, I had only seen others’ generative-AI creations; I hadn’t gotten the chance to create my own AI art yet. Now I have and am utterly addicted. There was much hype around AI image generators like DALL-E and Midjourney when they were first released. Usually when something is hyped that much in the media it is overblown; the reality is far less dramatic. But after DALL-E became public, plus the release of the free and open-source Stable Diffusion, I have had the chance to create my own AI art (thousands of images at this point—and counting). While the initial hype was quite high, I would venture to say it was not nearly high enough. Most people still don’t realize how significant generative AI is/will be. In the future, people will look back at the world pre-AI art as a distinct, unrecognizable time. Generative AI is a total game-changer, an artistic singularity.
Storytellers often defend their work that is criticized for a poor ending (cough-cough LOST) by claiming that the story or plot didn’t really matter—it was about the characters all along. This is a cop-out. The most important part of any story is the STORY, not the characters, and a story is not a story without “The End.”
With 2022 winding down, it’s time for my seventh annual list of the ten best films (at least ten years old) that I watched over this past year. The list is somewhat random and arbitrary, based on the movies I happen to choose to watch (or re-watch). The only theme I noticed from this year’s list is that the 1970s truly were a Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking. Even some of the deeper cuts from that decade are great.
I would say they don’t make movies like this anymore, except they did—at least once with The Revenant in 2015, which was clearly influenced by Jeremiah Johnson. This is a powerful film, so different from most of the CGI-reliant movies made today. You can tell the cast and crew were actually there on location in the remote wilderness of Utah filming this movie—and simply seeing that natural landscape on the big screen was captivating. It makes you realize just how extraordinary the pioneers who ventured out West were, considering the lengths it took to survive mother nature. The film also portrays the tragic violence that took place between humans—the pioneers and the Native Americans. Sometimes I feel the desire to become like Jeremiah Johnson and move out to the remote mountains, build my own cabin, and live a quiet life alone in nature to read and write—but only sometimes.
Writing is my life’s calling, but I came to it relatively late in life. It wasn’t that late (my early 20s), but it was late compared to those who claim to have known for as long as they can remember that they wanted to be writers. They were writing short stories in grade school and submitting to magazines in high school. For me, it wasn’t until my final year of college—when two events coincided—that I realized I wanted to do with my life.
As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.
Tenet is Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious film conceptually to date, which is saying something considering he made Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar. Without spoilers, Tenet involves time travel, but it is a unique version of time travel—perhaps the most inventive form of time travel I’ve ever seen in a movie—and the most complex.
Work for Idle Hands was originally written in 2016 as a 9,000-word short story. At that time I was still pursuing screenwriting in tandem with prose writing, so I decided to adapt the story into a screenplay. But after unsuccessfully trying to pitch the screenplay to agents and producers, I decided to re-adapt it back into prose form, but longer since I had expanded the original short story when adapting it into movie form. This final version is a sort of amalgam of the short story and screenplay, which I expanded upon further. The final word count is triple the length of the original short story, at almost 30,000 words. I think this novella version is the best of the three. The novella may be my favorite form for a story. It is the perfect length to tell a full story and develop characters without getting bogged down by side-plots.
My first foray into creative writing was through screenplays. I always loved movies and thought in moving images, so screenwriting came naturally to me. After about four years of writing roughly ten screenplays, I decided to try shifting to prose. I decided to adapt my best screenplay into a novel. I already had all the plot and characters and world-building done. It should have been easy, right?
There have been many great television shows since, and the ending wasn’t perfect, but I’ve never had more fun watching a TV show than LOST. The finale was extremely divisive at the time, with many fans claiming it ruined the entire series for them. I won’t spoil any details of the ending other than to say that the dissatisfaction came from frustration that it didn’t provide enough answers to the many mysteries set up over the years. I thought the final episode was amazing in itself, but I was also frustrated that I didn’t get answers to certain mysteries—though ultimately that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the show.