Straczynski’s Back

Netflix has ordered 10 episodes of Sense8, a science fiction drama produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski in partnership with J. Michael Straczynski.

Just what it will be about has yet to be made public. The Wachowskis only toldThe Hollywood Reporter –

“We’re excited to work with Netflix and Georgeville Television on this project, and we’ve wanted to work with Joe Straczynski for years, chiefly due to the fact his name is harder to pronounce than ours, but also because we share a love of genre and all things nerdy,” said Andy and Lana Wachowski. “Several years ago, we had a late night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us, and out of that paradox Sense8 was born.”

The show will debut in late 2014.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Before Watchmen Panel at C2E2

James Bacon said in an e-mail, “I got the opportunity to see a Before Watchmen presentation, so I told the Vice President I was pissed off.”

“Biden?” I wondered. But no, James’ report for Comic Buzz shows he meant someone with real power — in the comics industry:

I waited a little, then approached the stage…trying to catch Dan Didio [Co-Publishers of DC Comics]…. He leaned over, and I said; ‘I’m one of those angry guys, you’ve pissed me off with this, and I didn’t want you thinking people like me are not here’.

The panel also featured several of the talents who are working on Before Watchmen. One of them addressed the controversy in fandom about enlarging on Alan Moore’s creation:

JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] fields the question about how he is dealing with criticism. He explains that on an ‘Emotional level’ he ‘gets it’, but goes on to state that DC ‘Legally and contractually have the right.’ to do this. As an analogy for the use of Watchmen characters, he makes mention of Hyde from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and wondered Robert Louis Stevens approve of Mr Hyde raping a character to death. He of course makes light of this analogy, saying it will be reported out of context, but I don’t think the specific is the issue, rather that this is a weak argument, Stevenson is dead, and the copyright for his character is available, Hyde is used cleverly in another work, not rewritten as a whole novel. Its a poor comparison, and one that sits badly with me, but the crowd lap it up.

Check the report for more information and reaction about DC’s new project.

#4 With a Bullet

harlan with birdWhen Harlan Ellison learned he was ranked fourth in my list of Top Newsmakers of 2011 he gave me a call.

I was away, so he gave Diana the number and promised “He’s not in trouble.” I don’t believe a science fiction writer has ever said that about me before. Readers of this blog will be amazed one has said it now.

When I returned his call Harlan said he was pleased to have appeared in the list of Top 10 Newsmakers – and told me a great many more things I should have reported about him last year. Very true. And here they are.

In 2011 Harlan was voted his fourth Nebula by the members of SFWA, for “How Interesting: A Tiny Man.” At the age of 77 he is the oldest person ever to win the award. He’s the only author with three Nebula-winning short stories. (Harlan won his other Nebula years ago for a novella, A Boy and His Dog.) He’s also a past recipient of SFWA’s Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award (2006).

Last year one of my favorite writers, Robert Crais, dedicated his latest Joe Pike mystery to him. Harlan says over 200 books have been dedicated to him in his lifetime.

He’s been blessed with a revitalization of his writing after being diagnosed and treated for Clinical Depression – ending a stretch of time when he believed he was simply dying and had announced his last convention appearance.

Last year Harlanbooks.com produced four Ellison projects.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison, Volumes One and Two collect his television scripts, which appear exactly as they did when he pulled them from his Olympia manual typewriter, before any alterations by the shows’ producers.

A limited edition of Volume One with special material, signed by Ellison and J. Michael Straczynski (author of the introduction), made over $70K he says.

The second volume of Brain Movies features an introduction by Patton Oswalt and six more Ellison teleplays. Among them are “Mealtime,” an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that resulted in an ABC censor having his pelvis broken by a model of the Seaview (and was aired under the Cordwainer Bird pseudonym); plus two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Then there were two “101” books. Harlan 101: Encountering Ellison, which boasts a foreword by Neil Gaiman, is an introduction to Ellison’s work and advice to writers. There are seven essays on the craft of writing and short stories including his latest Nebula winner, “How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” and five Hugo Award winners “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” “The Deathbird,” “Jeffty Is Five,” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour.”

Harlan 101: The Sound of A Scythe and 3 Brilliant Novellas is notable for the reappearance of Ellison’s second novel (The Sound of A Scythe) in a substantially revised and expanded form and using the author’s preferred title (the original publisher renamed it The Man With Nine Lives without Ellison’s consent). It’s 25% longer than in the 1960 edition, which Ace chopped by 40,000 words.

In one week in December he had 5 books come out. One of them, Bugf#ck: The Worthless Wit & Wisdom of Harlan Ellison, has already sold through two printings – something like 70,000 copies. The small-sized hardback book (128 numbered pages with a 4 x 5.5 inch trim size) gathers Harlan’s best bon mots.

There is more on the way in 2012.

Harlan has a story in the forthcoming Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle. There will be a numbered edition limited to 500 signed by all the contributors except Bradbury, priced at $75, and a lettered edition limited to 26 copies, which is signed by Bradbury, going for $500. For more information and to order, click this link. Among the other contributors are Margaret Atwood, David Eggers, Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman, and Joe Hill.

In 2012 Kicks Books of Brooklyn will reissue the gang stories he wrote as Paul Merchant in the late 1950s.

Without a doubt, Harlan’s already hard at work securing a spot at the front of the field of this year’s newsmakers.

In the Original Babylonian

The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his (and Cordwainer Bird’s) legend. So naturally many fans will be intrigued to read the master’s own versions of these scripts, the prose as it came directly from his Olympia manual typewriter, when the publisher releases a three-volume set this fall titled Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison:

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 1
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his scripts for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (two different drafts!), The Outer Limits, The Hunger and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” (featuring the unfilmed original ending) and “Crazy as a Soup Sandwich” from The Twilight Zone, along with their original treatments.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 2
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his scripts for Ripcord, four episodes of Burke’s Law—weighing in at an average of 75 pages each—and the Flying Nun teleplay (and treatment) written in the hopes of landing a date with Sally Field.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 3
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his unmolested teleplay for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, two episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Cimarron Strip, the pilot for Ellison’s own series The Starlost (recently adapted into a graphic novel by IDW) and a bonus treatment for the Logan’s Run tv series.

Volume One presents six of Harlan Ellison’s teleplays reproduced from actual file copies, including his handwritten deletions and emendations. Readers also have an immediate opportunity to order the “Limited Babylonian edition” of Volume One signed by Ellison and J. Michael Straczynski which features three documents Straczynski commissioned Ellison to write at the outset of Babylon 5:

(1) A detailed manifesto explaining to potential writers for the series what not to do in science fiction television.

(2) The UNABRIDGED opening narration to be read by Michael O’Hare as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair over the beginning of each episode, written in collaboration with Straczynski and never featured in its entirety in the finished episodes.

(3) Thirteen never-heard humorous voice overs written to be spoken over the Warner Bros. logo that ended each episode. What you heard spoken was, “Babylon 5 was produced by Babylonian Productions Inc. and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.” But Ellison had other ideas.

Straczynski has written an open letter to Babylon 5 fans plugging Ellison’s collection:

In many cases, the book contains both the script and the treatment, something almost never seen outside the studio. Most amazing of all, the book contains not just the shooting script for Harlan’s HITCHCOCK episode, it contains an earlier draft filled with his handwritten annotations and changes.

When an episode is broadcast, you don’t get to see the writer’s mind at work, don’t have the opportunity to experience the moment he decided to make a line of dialogue or a scene go this way instead of that way, how a turn of phrase was altered in just the right way at the last moment, you see only the end product. By including the draft with the handwritten annotations, you can see the creative process being enacted right before your eyes. The opportunity to see inside the writer’s mind is unspeakably rare.

Best of all, these are not re-typeset versions of the script, they are painstakingly scanned reproductions of the ORIGINAL SCRIPTS, exactly as they were written.

And for the budding science fiction writers out there, what better than having Harlan Ellison break down in his manifesto how to write effectively in the genre, how to avoid various kinds of traps and make your writing better?

Not just those budding writers, many fans who have followed Ellison’s print and media work over the decades still have infinite curiosity about Harlan Ellison’s writing process. What a window this will be into his creative process.

It’s a characteristically bold move, Ellison giving any interested reader the opportunity to compare his original vision to the aired episodes and understandably betting on himself.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

New Forbidden: Not a Breath Mint,
Not a Candy Mint

Slowly but surely we’re learning what the new Forbidden Planet project isn’t. It’s not a remake. And it isn’t a continuation, either, says J. Michael Straczynski. The writer has denied the recent Ain’t It Cool News report:

That report is totally incorrect. It’s not going to be retro, and it’s not going to be a continuation. When Altair 4 blows up, it blows up. I have, however, found a way to honro [sic] the original movie without in any way besmirching it in order to do this iteration. Once folks find out what we’re actually going to do, I think they’ll be most pleased.

[Thanks to R-Laurraine Tutihasi for the story]