(1) LEAVE SOMETHING TO THE IMAGINATION. Adweek takes us behind the scenes of the Blade Runner 2049 marketing strategy,
How do you get audiences interested in a new film without pumping out trailer after trailer? If you don’t, they might not know about the film. But if you do, you’ll likely give away more and more of the film’s detail, leaving little to the imagination, and ultimately make audiences less likely to actually go to the theater.
This gorgeous new short film, Nexus: 2036, is over six minutes long and serves as the perfect way to establish the atmosphere and tone of the next Blade Runner installment. While Warner Brothers is certainly using trailers to entice the audience, this short, which stars Jared Leto and introduces his character in Blade Runner 2049, takes a franchise that has been dormant for the past 30 years and fills in some of the gaps between the two films.
This spot, from Ridley Scott’s content marketing agency 3AM, was shot in Budapest during principal photography for Blade Runner 2049 and was directed by Luke Scott.
(2) THE HEIGHTS OF FOLLY. Although Luc Besson’s Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets is pretty much in everyone’s rear-view mirror by now, C. E. Murphy’s review is eminently readable:
The dialogue, specifically the dialogue between leads Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, was excruciating. They had roughly the chemistry of two wet paper towels (although that may be doing wet paper towels a disservice), and the attempt at a romantic storyline between them was very possibly the worst I’ve ever seen on film.
…Aside from the total lack of chemistry, DeHaan and Delevingne were desperately mis-cast in terms of size and physical attributes: they literally looked like children with their waifish forms, big eyes, delicate bone structures, and teensy tinsy heights. Everybody else (including the obviously very young and very, very pretty Kris Wu as a young sergeant that my companion and I said sadly to each other, “He’s obviously going to die,” as soon as he came on screen) looked like adults and towered over them. It was genuinely bizarre.
(3) LISTENING TO THE GOH. Murphy also wrote several fun posts about attending Worldcon 75. The final one in the series is “Worldcon 75: Day Five”. It begins —
*I’d* gotten up because I wanted to go to Walter Jon Williams’ guest of honor interview, which I did (although I went into the wrong room first and was pretty torn about leaving what proved to be an astronaut’s lecture, but did anyway). The first half of it was full of what I thought were really great general questions for a writer and I wanted to be answering them! The second half got more specific about his career, but as he said at the end of the hour, “Well, that got us up to 1985, so please come to the next convention for the other half…” 🙂
(4) SFWA ACCEPTING GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America have put out a “Call for Grants” that reminds people they provided $24,000 to deserving genre-related programs last year:
Recipients included: the LaunchPad Astronomy program; Alpha, the science fiction, fantasy, and horror workshop for young writers; the African Speculative Fiction Society; a Philadelphia reading series; and others.
SFWA encourages programs supporting and promoting fantasy and science fiction writing and writers to apply for a 2017 grant. We look for non-profit, diverse projects that span a range of ages and publishing approaches and that reach a large group of individuals.
The guidelines and application form are at the link. Decisions will be announced by mid-December.
(5) KILLING SPOCK. Steve “Frosty” Weintraub (that’s his byline) in Collider,com’s piece “William Shatner Shares Some Great Behind-the-Scenes Stories About Making ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’” has a chat with “Shat” about the making of The Wrath of Khan, soon to be shown in Regal theatres as a one-night showing from Fathom Events.
That scene is obviously one of the most iconic in Star Trek history, but speaking of another iconic scene is, when you scream “Khan,” it is one of these scenes that everyone knows that it’s probably the most iconic Star Trek scene that’s ever been done. At the time when you were making it, did you have any inkling that this was going to be such a memorable scene?
SHATNER: No. I was, nobody told me that there was some thought about bringing him back and that Leonard [Nimoy] leaned over, McCoy [DeForest Kelley], and whispered “remember.” I said, “What’s that all about? Why are we killing Spock? Why are we killing Spock?” And they said, “Well, Leonard doesn’t want to do it anymore. I was thinking god, if Leonard doesn’t want to do it anymore, what’s going to happen to Star Trek? If we were to make another film? Well, that’s the way that went. They never told me.
(6) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. Hell, when you put it that way….!
These petty children fighting over awards on MTV while a zombie dragon we've been waiting 6 years to see was on HBO. Which 1 would you pick? pic.twitter.com/m2fjjg3IvF
— Yasas Vithanage (@yasasdahotsauce) September 1, 2017
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL
- Born September 1, 1942 – C.J. Cherryh
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born September 1, 1875 – Edgar Rice Burroughs
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
- September 1, 1954 – Tobor the Great premiered.
(10) NEGLECTED WORKS. While John Scalzi is in DC for the National Book Fair he decided to look up some old friends.
Went to the National Archives and visited with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Thought these days they might be lonely.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) September 1, 2017
He’s also researching the origins of SJW credentials:
This is a real exhibit. pic.twitter.com/216j0W3eEj
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) September 1, 2017
(11) IMPRESSIVE. It looks like a movie, til you get to the last frame. Destiny 2 Official Live Action Trailer – New Legends Will Rise.
(12) THE LAUGHING CARTOGRAPHER. Camestros Felapton finds a way to keep riding the fantasy map bandwagon by tying that topic to his jokes about the award most favored by puppies and frogs (but not pandas): “Map of the Dragon Award Lands”.
The mysterious lands of Inkshares have appeared out of the mists, as have (since yesterday) the newly discovered Red Panda Land. The Islets of Confused Nominees are famed for being inhabited by authors saying “I’ve been nominated for a what now?”
(13) PICARD FORGOT. Andrew Moseman, in “Here’s a Fun Math Goof in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation'”, says that Some Nerd on Reddit found that in the episode “The Royale,” Captain Picard mentions how Fermat’s Last Theorem remains unsolved whereas the problem was solved by Andrew Wiles in 1994.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation writers probably figured Fermat’s Last Theorem would go on being a mystery for many centuries more. So they introduced it into the 1989 episode as an excuse for Picard to comment on how even the marvels of 24th century tech aren’t enough to solve a problem posed by a Frenchman with no computer. But in 1994—five years after “The Royale” first aired on TV, when TNG was about to end its run—Andrew Wiles released the first successful proof of the theorem.
There is a YouTube video called “Star Trek TNG Fermat’s Last Theorem.” accompanying the story.
(14) ISLAND GIRLS. In “Hollywood’s Woman Problem”, author Libba Bray says her Beauty Queens already explored the ground that putatively will be covered in the Lord of the Flies remake.
Wednesday night, Twitter came to my door with a take-out bag of “No Thanks” marked: Two Dudes decide to make an all-female version of Lord of the Flies.
And I sighed heavily and thought, “Oh. Really?”
Because I’m fairly certain I wrote a book like that in 2011. It’s a satire called Beauty Queens, and it follows a group of girls — teen beauty contestants in this case — who are stranded on an island and thus removed from the patriarchal rules that shape their daily lives. It imagines the sort of world they would begin to build. (Spoiler: It does not involve the chant, “Kill the Pig.” But it might involve Napalm hair remover.)
(15) FUTURE CHOW. How will you keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve eaten these? “Ants, Seaweed, Chocolate Beer And (Maybe) Less Meat: The Future Of Food”.
Pleasing our palates matters too, right alongside addressing serious environmental issues. That brings us back to ants, plant power, and fake meat: All those foods will have to taste good for people to embrace them in large numbers. As I told Tapper in the interview for Borough Market, at my house this has been a summer of experimenting with vegan ice cream — and I’m having a blast finding out that my own sense of ethics and of delicious taste co-exist.
Earlier this month, I turned the tables on Tapper, and interviewed him. He’s created some cool-sounding beers in recent years, including — with a nod back to Knight’s wild foods — what he calls “a sour beer brewed with raspberries foraged around the Yorkshire countryside.” As a chocolate fiend, it’s the beer he’s currently creating that I’d most like to sample: a “chocolate and coffee imperial porter brewed with hops grown in Borough Market’s entrance.”
(16) WATCHING THE MARKET. Who buys? “The women in Scotland championing comic books”.
[Tanya Roberts:] “I think the differences in attracting a male/female readership is subtlety small. Because I go to conventions and sell my material to people I get feedback and notice who is buying my artwork.
“Females seem to appreciate character relationships and that emotional connection between them a bit more. I know I do, as a female reader, get inspired when there’s great characters in the story with interesting relationships to others.”
Roberts believes there to be a healthy female audience for comics.
She says: “Girls don’t only seem to cosplay as their favourite characters they also buy comics too.
(17) WINTER IS HERE. At Nerds of a Feather, The G has written a SPOILER-FILLED lookback at the just-completed Game of Thrones season: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Watching GAME OF THRONES Again”.
You see, it’s impossible to capture all the detail of a 700+ page book in a 10-episode season, and that was doubly true once the scale of the drama shifted from the closed-door intrigues of A Game of Thrones to the cross-continental wars of A Clash of Kings. So the writers and producers had to pick and choose what they would bring to screen, as well as take some shortcuts. All quite understandable, really. Unfortunately, they chose to emphasize what are to me the most problematic and least attractive elements of the books, namely, their excess of cruelty and sexual violence. And the show didn’t *just* emphasize these elements; it made them more central, upfront and over-the-top. Meanwhile, I was getting less of the things that made reading the books a magical experience for me–less than I wanted, at least….
Summing up my feelings about Season 7 is basically a fight between heart (which likes it) and head (which does not). Heart wins out, in the end, for the simple reason that head’s been increasingly lonely since the end of Season 1.
[Thanks to The G, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]
And this makes me angry all over again for Star Trek Into Darkness, which did a cheap and tawdry rehash of the scene.
13) Well, we already long since know Star Trek is in an alternative history. So they didn’t solve it in their world.
(15) Ain’t nuthin wrong with seaweed. And a good porter goes very well with chocolate.
Someone else can eat all the ants.
(3) LISTENING TO THE GOH.
Always leave them wanting more?
(12) THE LAUGHING CARTOGRAPHER.
But it’s geologically improbable!
@soon Lee. This is why I am not going to point Alex Acks at this map, as much as I love and respect them 🙂
Title credit, woohoo! I’d dance around joyfully but it’s ninety-whatever degrees here in San Francisco and the fog has forsaken us and we’re all melting. My large fluffy SJW credential is much displeased, even after I was kind enough to put him in the tub and pour cold water on his head.
Going to SF Comic Con tomorrow, woohoo! Hope the AC can handle the crowds, we’re kind of inexperienced around here when it comes to sweltering.
“…Beauty Queens ready explored…”
Is that supposed to be “already explored”?
“I Put a Scroll on You, Because You’re Mine” — Scrollin’ Jay Hawkins
@2: Murphy has a point (further down in the review); the first few minutes were wonderful (in multiple senses). In at least one way that makes the rest of the movie worse: the future could welcome all of these aliens but sideline half the human race?
@Paul Weimer re @13: it’s far from the only alternate future. I know Stross had to give up on at least one promising near-future line because events (tech?) went in another direction. My bitterest example is May’s Galactic Milieu; the earliest-in-chronology book (Intervention) came out a few months after the Boskone from Hell, but has a scene set 5 years later (but presumably written well before, given publisher schedules) in which the crash never happened — the convention is still big enough to take all of the biggest hotel in New England. (OTOH, it also requires that the replacement convention center never open … that’s probably more smofish neepery than needed.)
Hiya gang! I have recently read some really good fantasy (Winter Tide by Ruth Emrys is on my Hugo longlist, for instance) but I am *jonesing* for science fiction. And by SF I mean SPACE. Any good new SPACE novels to recommend?
16) Until I clicked through I was jazzed at the thought that Tansy Rayner Roberts was being quoted by BBC Scotland. But OGH had correctly named an entirely different talented woman!
In the Star Trek universe, during the 1990s we were too busy fighting the Eugenics Wars to solve math theorems. (Including freezing Khan, tying together the two Trek scroll items!)
C.J. Cherryh, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Martha Wells, Harold Lamb — 09/01 is certainly a banner birthday day.
Well, I just read Starfire: A Red Peace by Spencer Ellsworth a few days ago, which is a fun pulp space opera type thing, although probably more planets and stations than actual space. It’s a short novel (50k-ish words) starting a trilogy. It’s not anything special as such, but just did that pulp thing of being fast and zany.
(3) LISTENING TO THE GOH
I listened to the youtube of the WJW interview, which unfortunately seems to pick up partway through, and the interviewer did indeed seem intent on going through every story in sufficient detail that he just ran out of time in the mid 80s. WJW did gamely declare he’d take audience questions in the corridor though!
(17) WINTER IS HERE
My very rough thoughts on the latest GoT is that they’ve still got the ability to do big impressive battle scenes, but pretty much everything else requiring decent scripting has gone to heck.
(15) Seaweed, ants, chocolate and beer – the new four basic food groups? I’d prefer that menu with a comma between “chocolate” and “beer”, based on my (long-ago) experience of chocolate beer, though tastes will vary. If there’s going to be a combination of two of the four, how about chocolate-coated ants – I could see a market for those.
And in a Meredith Moment to boot, REVENGER by Alastair Reynolds may fit your bill, and is $2.99 on Kindle:
Ooh, and only 99p for right ponders too!
was gonna mention the missing “al” in 14 and appertain myself, but Xtifir beat me to it.
Seaweed & ants…add cockroach paste to that mix: a professor at my university was working very hard on turning roaches into to the “food of the future”.
Already read it! We found it reasonably amusing, though it was a little hard on the old suspension of disbelief. Even “just” the Solar System is *really* big, and travel seemed too easy: moving Inward should have involved a *lot* more tacking.
But enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to more!
Did you read Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty yet?
Sean Danker’s Admiral and Free Space are fun space operas, which get very little attention for some reason. Warning: Free Space ends on a cliffhanger and I have no idea if there will be a third book.
I’m also fond of Elizabeth Bonsteel’s Central Corps series. There are two books out so far, The Cold Between and Remnants of Trust, with a third out later this year. Unless I have you mixed up with someone else, you didn’t like the first one very much, because it was too romancy for you. The second book is less romancey, though.
For good space set SF by indie authors, try Patty Jansen (Ambassador series or the Shifting Infinity/Shifting Reality duology) or C. Gockel’s Archangel series.
I liked the short, a good idea if you sequelling a milestone work I Presume.
I also agree with (2) and Im quite upset how much Besson has botched the casting (and the review is right: The romance is completly tacked on an adds negative numbers to the plot)
Fermat: They probably should have went with the Riemann hypothetical, but of course Fermats theorem is much easier to understand.
Doctor Science: If by “space” you mean “Space marines fighting in Space” , how about some Fatal Boarding? Its by one ER Mason and its a free ebook and it was a pleasant surprise. Nothing that knocked me off my feet or changed my Life, but it entertained me well while reading it. More than “Jack Vance and the scroll of a thousand pixels” in any case.
(7) Happy birthday, CJ Cherryh! Thanks for all the terror, fun and education.
@Doctor Science: How complicated do you want to get, and can you wait for a conclusion? I’ve been very impressed by Ian McDonald’s Luna (out so far: New Moon and Wolf Moon); big concepts (a smeltery that focuses the Sun), social changes (dashing across vacuum is a ~adulthood rite in some circles), and so on. May not appeal if your idea of space SF centers around Doc Smith (or if you want the story finished, which will take at least one more book), but I found them fascinating. (Warning: notice the dates in the 2nd one.) Elizabeth Moon has started a new Kylara Vatta series, but Cold Welcome doesn’t really get going until some time after planetfall, so that may not answer your yen.
ooo, Elizabeth Moon! Do I need to re-read the Vatta’s War books to catch up, do you think? Other planets are just fine!
Mr Dr Science read “Luna: New Moon” and found it too much of a soap opera, so I gave it a pass.
One might give McDonald’s Luna sequence another chance–while “soap opera” might apply (I prefer “multigeneration family saga”), what makes the books for-real science fiction is the way human social and biological machineries interact with technological change and the economic-political systems that arise from those changes. I suspect that one of the things that interests McDonald is the plasticity of gender roles and sexual behavior, which accounts for a good bit of the attention to domestic arrangements and affectional connections. And dynastic marriage is part of a social system that runs along lines of clan rather than, say, nation-state loyalties. Think of it as The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress meets Jacobean revenge tragedy. And the hard-SF stuff is really striking.
Doctor Science: ooo, Elizabeth Moon! Do I need to re-read the Vatta’s War books to catch up, do you think? Other planets are just fine!
I hadn’t read the five Vatta’s War books before, so I read them (and massively enjoyed them) before going on to Cold Welcome — but I think it stands quite well on its own.
I also highly recommend Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, and I really enjoyed K.B. Wagers’ Behind the Throne and After the Crown, and am impatiently waiting for the third book, Beyond the Empire, to be released in November.
Like Cora, I really enjoyed Elizabeth Bonesteel’s The Coid Between and Remnants of Trust and am looking forward to Breach of Containment in October. The romance aspect (thankfully) definitely drops down after the first half of the first book.
Melinda Snodgrass’ The High Ground is very good — it’s definitely an “18-year-old cadets stop terrorists” competency porn, but the second book, In Evil Times, picks up 10 years later, so there’s lots of character development and adulting going on. It’s a five-book story arc (which she has already plotted out), but each book tells a complete story. The third book, The Hidden World, will be out in the first half of next year.
I also have Wagers #3 on pre-order. They’re not the greatest thing since sliced bread or anything, but they’re consistently entertaining.
I’m very interested to see what she does after this, with the lessons of a trilogy under her belt.
Mark: I’m very interested to see what she does after this, with the lessons of a trilogy under her belt.
I agree that Wagers has got significant talent. I had her on my Campbell ballot this year, and I will be nominating her for the Campbell again next year.
Just got back from seeing Close Encounters in the theater. Still a good movie, although the pacing is kind of glacial by modern standards and although the structure seems kind of weird — no easily-summarizable plot or through line, but a bunch of weird events that only eventually show their interconnectedness.
And a Meredith Moment: John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider is $1.99. (Speaking of authors I need to investigate more fully — the only thing of his I’m certain I’ve read is the Complete Traveler in Black, which I think is pretty uncharacteristic.)
@ Joe H
Though I haven’t read it lately, Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar has always been a fave and I believe it will resist visits from the Suck Fairy (once future, now near-future).
Stand on Zanzibar is set in 2010, so it’s not near-future–it’s near-past.
That said, it’s an astoundingly good prediction of what 2010 actually turned out to be like. They say that science fiction isn’t really about predicting the future, but if it were, I think Brunner would be the current record-holder. To get 40 years ahead with the amount of accuracy he did is really astounding.
On top of that, though, it’s just a really well-written book full of fascinating ideas. It’s one of the only books that’s remained on my top-ten list for multiple decades.
eta: Shockwave Rider is pretty good too, but I don’t think it holds up quite as well, judging on pure story. But it’s good.
We read Six Wakes, and thought it was OK. I was distracted by the fact that I guessed whodunnit *really* early on, and also because the clone-immortality setup only worked the way it did because pybarf xrrc gurve cebcregl. Tvira gur bgure erthyngvbaf nebhaq vg, V qvqa’g haqrefgnaq jul uhznaf qvqa’g qb gur boivbhf: fnl gung lbh ybfr nyy lbhe jrnygu naq cebcregl rnpu gvzr lbh qvr, whfg yvxr nalbar ryfr. (rot-13 to be on the safe side; does that count as a spoiler?)
I’m definitely waiting for the Wagers book, too! But a lot of books are less appealing to me this year because the protagonists are the children of wealthy, powerful people, and all I can think of is this.
The ability to organize, plan, and motivate a large group of people — whether a company or a government — is definitely NOT strongly heritable. It is extremely rare for very successful leaders to have children who are also great leaders; regression to the mean for charisma is abrupt. In the case of royalty, you can add the fun of inbreeding to the mix, too. You might get a “good king” or a “bad king”, but most of the time you’ll get a damn mediocre king.
I’ll still read books with royalty and hereditary rulers (including family corporations), but these days I’ll be grumbling. Harder in SF than in fantasy: I can sorta accept “competent hereditary rulership” as a fantastic element, like dragons.
In the case of royalty, you can add the fun of inbreeding to the mix, too.
With the Europeans, the problem was the social rules that required marrying someone of the same or similar rank (especially in Germany, after the middle ages). The British were less constrained. (In the middle ages, the Church had consanguineity rules that severely restricted who you could marry – I think that you couldn’t marry even a third cousin, which would be a shared great-great-grandparent.)
(I read soc.genealogy.medieval. This stuff comes up.)
Off Topic, but there are a lot of smart people here. I have a question, plus looking for a good source of answer in the future so I don’t have to pester people here.
I’m writing a fantasy fic. 19th century, northern Europe, fictional country. King has two daughters, kingdom uses absolute primogeniture. But king decides to take eldest daughter out of the line of succession, leaving the throne to the younger daughter.
1) does he has to be specific that eldest daughter’s kids are out, too, or is that understood?
2) is there a way to make eldest daughter’s kids stay in line of succession, but subordinate to daughter #2’s kids?
Look, I realize I could just handwave it and say, “My fantasy kingdom, my rules, make it so” but I TRY to maintain a modicum of believability in these stories.
Is there a website or two that’s a good source for this sort of thing?
Thanks for any insight or help you can give.
Techgrrl1972, you might want to contact Heather Rose Jones; I seem to remember that she’s done a lot of study of historical laws and culture, especially Regency and Medieval, for use in her own novels.
Scroll out the Pixel, we’ll have a Pixel of puns…
I can’t recall a case in Europe where removing someone from the line of succession left their children in. Removals were due to: a) physical/mental disabilities (not often); b) *severe* disagreements with current ruler. For the ruler’s child to be removed and the grandchildren left in, the grandchildren would have to publicly break with their parent and side with grandparent. Never happened (AFAIK).
If the child developed a disqualifying disability as an adult (after having issue), they might be removed by having the ruler designate the grandchild as heir. I’m pretty sure this has happened.
Despite its popularity in fiction, in European history since the early middle ages it has been very rare for siblings to directly struggle over who gets to be ruler. As Corin says in A Horse and His Boy when he learns he has an elder brother, “I shan’t have to be King. I’ll always be a prince. It’s princes have all the fun.” — this was quite accurate. Being the Prince was a much nicer life than being the King: great wealth, but responsibility only if you wanted it, and MUCH less stress.
@Doctor Science — thanks. That helps. And your comments also help with some of the plot points. 😉
There’s also the old favourites of disqualifying on the basis of religion, or declaring someone illegitimate.
The Act of Succession 1701 specified Sophia and her heirs, unless Catholic, and later on there was an amendment to declare Edward’s hypothetical heirs out of the line of succession after his abdication, so there was clearly a perception there that specificity about heirs was necessary, but that’s just one country so others may vary.
You’re welcome! I look forward to see the result!
@Dr. Science: I agree with JJ’s assessment on backstory; the new book gives enough for current events to make sense without reading the previous set. And I’m annoyed I didn’t think of Wagers before; serious space opera in a real story. (Only issue is, as noted, it really is one novel in 3 volumes, the third of which isn’t out.)
Anyone reading The Shockwave Rider should also read The Stone that Never Came Down; another probably-not-this-future (Ireland is a smoking ruin and the sectarian struggles are now in Scotland), but a fascinating comparison of fixes (US superhero vs UK-Wellsian miracle).
@Dr. Science re Six Wakes: Orpnhfr Ynssregl pubfr abg gb ercebqhpr Unyqrzna, be orpnhfr ol gur gvzr fvatyr-yvsref ernyvmrq jung jnf tbvat ba gur pybarf unq gur npphzhyngrq rkcrevrapr/argjbexvat/… gb cerirag fhpu yrtvfyngvba?
And Wagers has a plausible answer to regression: the heir is dragged back home after building her own life (not a spoiler, this happens in chapter ~1). Regression happens at least partially because heirs are sheltered from learning experiences (even ones less fatal than materializing miles above a planet); a number of SF stories have explored how this might be avoided without the extremes of Dickson’s “Call Him Lord”.
Regression toward the mean is a technical term from statistics (and genetics). If a person has an extraordinary level of a (multi-gene) quality, like height or intelligence or charisma, then their children will tend to display that quality at a level between the parent and the population average (technical details redacted).
So if you take a person with unusually high leadership abilities and say, only their direct descendants can be the leader, over generations your leaders will tend to be people with (at best) barely above average leadership ability. If there’s inbreeding depression too, as happened in a lot of European royalty, then you probably end up with leaders with *worse* than average ability.
(Sorry for the delay in chiming in, my brain has been melting in the heat the last couple of days.) Regarding rules of hypothetical succession, you asked:
The main problem that you’ve set up is that “absolute primogeniture” is absolute primogeniture. If a monarch could eliminate a specific eldest child from the succession just because they decided to, an awful lot of European history would look different.
Consider, for example, that for England’s Henry VIII to shift the succession to Elizabeth (before Edward was in the picture) it wasn’t sufficient simply to divorce Catherine of Aragon, he needed to legally proclaim the marriage null and void, making Mary a bastard. With somewhat better rationale than thinking with one’s codpiece, there were any number of occasions when the default candidate was mentally, emotionally, or physically unsuited to rule, and yet…there you were.
Now, of course, the ideal way to eliminate a specific default heir from the succession is death. But that doesn’t remove their descendants from the line of succession unless the death is associated with some sort of disqualifying state (e.g., execution for treason sometimes works). After the reformation, an heir (or ruling monarch) could take themself out of the succession by conversion to an unacceptable religion, as Queen Christina of Sweden did when she converted to Catholicism in contradiction to Sweden’s Lutheran requirement. But individual conversion wouldn’t necessarily exclude descendants if they did not also convert. This could easily have been the case in England in the later years of Charles II if the Exclusion Bill had passed to forbid Catholics from succeeding to the throne (thereby excluding the man who became James II in our timeline, but not his protestant daughters). Instead, Catholics weren’t excluded from the British succession legally until the Succession Act of 1707 which precipitated an entirely different train of affairs.
Established laws of succession were not easily contravened, especially not against a single individual and not by the authority of the Crown alone (certainly not in the 19th century when any illusion of absolute monarchy had been quashed). It seems to me that the best way to set up your worldbuilding might be to define what plot-requirement you’re trying to fulfill and work backward from there to set up a plausible history. For example, a religious conversion by the eldest (perhaps in connection with a marriage?) and a later separate allowance for that person’s descendants might work. Or treason-execution-exclusion-pardon-reinstatement might work. A lot depends on what other consequences there would be and how that would work with your plot.
There are a lot of different succession models at various times and places you might explore if the only requirement is a shift in the succession. When I was worldbuilding the Alpennia political structure, I borrowed a bit from Polish electors and a bit from the early Irish concept of selecting the most qualified candidate from among a kin-group, and a few other details. My end goal was to establish both a tradition and legal structure where inheritance (both of the crown and of lesser titles, as well as for ordinary property) had a “default heir” in the absence of specific binding decision, but where inheritance could be displaced onto someone else, with the legal/social resistance to that displacement increasing the farther the heir was from the “default” succession.
@Doctor Science: don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs. I’m quite familiar with the term and its common use; my point was that it is not inevitable (it is, after all a statistical observation rather than a rule — cf the Mule weakness in Seldon’s psychohistory), and that there have been several stories involving ways around the observation, on anything from a personal to a galaxy-wide scale. You can discard a category based on statistics if you wish; some of us treat books individually.