Independent science fiction is the shape of things to come.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way bagging writers that have agents, editors and publishers, as they help refine the quality and presentation of a novel/movie, but independent science fiction has a raw, gritty value that shouldn’t be underestimated.
As an example, recently, someone sent me a link to a podcast about the dire state of Hollywood, and why the only movies coming out at the moment are:
- Blockbusters (or blockbuster wannabes like The Lone Ranger)
- Franchises (Fast & the Furious 64)
- Token art-house films as candidates for the Oscars
Hollywood has been backed into a corner. Costs are so high, the risk of failure so great, that no studio can afford to take a chance on a novel, unique concept. Safe movies are the only winners. And it’s a vicious cycle, Hollywood is trapped in a self-fulfilled prophecy, that no other movies can succeed. They’re wrong, of course, as demonstrated by independent movie producers.
Essentially, the movie industry has been out-played. All forms of entertainment are in the throes of going virtual: The music industry was overhauled by Napster and iTunes, while the publishing industry is in the process of being transformed by Amazon and the popularity of eBooks. Hollywood has held onto its cinema empire, but the advent of VOD (video on demand), which bypasses theatrical releases altogether, means the writing is on the wall: The End is Nigh.
Hugh Howey and Matthew Mather have both sold movie rights to their books, and I hope their books are made into movies as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both Wool and CyberStorm, but given that the slow torturous process of transforming a novel into a screenplay and producing a film can take a decade, I wonder how much the Hollywood landscape will have changed by then.
In the same way indies are taking the publishing market by storm, I wonder if we’re going to see Hollywood undermined by independent movies. The term “low budget” no longer describes cheap B-grade movies but rather slick, lean, high-quality productions without any of the Hollywood bloat we’ve seen in movies like Battleships.
Already, movies like Monsters and Europa Report are blitzing Hollywood in terms of story depth and suspension of disbelief. We’re at a tipping point. Going forward, Hollywood is going to become more and more alienated in much the same way as music stores and bookstores have staggered under pressure from iTunes and Amazon. Hollywood is going to have to adapt to survive.
From a writer’s perspective, competition is good, it drives innovation and resourcefulness.
In some regards, books struggle to compete against movies, TV, games, social media, etc, as these other mediums are more directly engaging, but the strength of books is their ability to immerse you in an entirely different world.
The level of immersion in a book is beyond what can be achieved by these other mediums. As an example, I’m currently working with scifi-publishing to convert my dystopian novel Monsters into an audio-book. Initial estimates suggest it will come in around 10 hours in length, and having listened to two samples I’m already blown away by how the narration captures the subtleties a movie would be hard pressed to match.
The other advantage writers have is they’re not constrained by budget. My CGI budget is a bazillion dollars. I can do anything I want, ANYTHING, and I often do. In my latest novel, Xenophobia, there’s tens of thousands of grotesque alien creatures floating through Earth’s atmosphere, bizarre spiky aliens that can shred a man in seconds, and a mothership the size of Connecticut. As exciting as it would be to see one of my novels turned into a movie, books are an awesome medium and not to be underestimated because they tap directly into the imagination of the reader.
Maybe one day Monsters or Xenophobia will be available as independent movies, but even then I doubt they’ll ever compete with the books and audio-books for depth.