OMEC: Discuss Firefly with SL Huang

Editor's Note: You can check out the forum topic here, but you'll need to log on to post.

There’s a fantastic essay by Hugo-winning writer John Chu about using non-English languages in English-language fiction. I come back to it every time I include multiple languages in a piece. John details the challenge of how “nonfluent readers must never feel as though something is missing but fluent readers must never feel as though anything is extraneous.”

The whole essay is very much worth reading, but there is one section I find myself thinking about during so many other creative circumstances as well, not just multilingual ones. And that’s the parallel story John tells about the composition of the musical Carousel:

The new theatrical orchestration of the Carousel Waltz obviously had to match Carousel‘s existing pit instrumentation, but Rodgers also needed an orchestration suitable for an upcoming concert performance. […] Rodgers wanted one orchestration which incorporated a set of additional instruments. Without those instruments, the instrumentation matched that of the Carousel pit. With those instruments, the instrumentation matched that of a concert orchestra.

The result had to be an orchestration that sounded complete and satisfying either way. Those additional instruments had to sound integral to the waltz when they were used. The waltz couldn’t sound like it’s missing something when they weren’t used.

Don Walker is quoted as saying, “This was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”

I think about this story when I’m writing about anything some of my audience will have a background in and others won’t, like math. I also think about it when I’m writing sequels, or other books in the same universe—how it has to make sense to people who know nothing and also not bore people who’ve read everything.

And I think about it when watching the first two episodes of Firefly.

When the network declined to air episode 1, both episodes 1 and 2 had to act as a pilot episode, letting the audience know exactly what was going on with the world and exactly who the characters and relationships were. But they also had to function sequentially, so that on an eventual DVD release, it wouldn’t seem like episode 2 was repeating information.

And they had to do this using the media techniques of film—namely, dialogue and audiovisuals—to accomplish all of this exposition.

In my opinion, they do a smashing job of this. Whatever other criticisms can be made of Firefly, the fact that the first two episodes are both able to introduce and establish an enormous main cast of characters and relationships—in addition to the world they live in—is a heck of a feat. And it doesn’t feel at all repetitive.

When I think about writing those teleplays, I almost faint with how difficult it feels. In both, it’s specifically established that Kaylee is the ship’s mechanic and also that she’s the sunny heart of the crew. In both, it’s slipped into conversation that Zoe and Wash are married, without it seeming like an “as you know, Bob” bit of dialogue. In both episodes we get told very clearly that Book is a preacher, and in both episodes we’re also given hints of his mysterious past. We get the history of the world and Mal and Zoe’s role in the war and long history together, and we’re shown and told exactly what kind of world we’re signing up for. And with nine people who function as a found family, we get many, many relationships established, sometimes visually, sometimes through dialogue, sometimes both.

If I were to make a list of everything they were clearly trying to establish and squeeze into each of two different episodes, ones that had different stories but that also had to function as one following the other, and tried to write those…well, I’d melt into an intimidated mess. But Firefly manages to leverage the techniques of filmmaking to do all of this to great effect, without it being at all obvious to the casual viewer.

I could keep going with examples, but instead, I want people to come discuss it with me! How does Firefly do this level of establishment of character, story, relationships, and world, and do it twice, using the techniques of film? Come nerd out about it! Or about anything else Firefly-related or film-related you’d like to talk about!

Let’s get our geek on and tear apart exactly how those two episodes drew so many of us in so effectively.

Editor's Note: You can check out the forum topic here, but you'll need to log on to post. Personally I'm excited to talk about Firefly any chance I get! I look forward to seeing you there.


Inside the News

Industry News, June 2019

Jason Sanford's publishing news will return in July, but for now we hope you'll enjoy this shortened edition of the news from around the speculative arts community.

Video Game News

FromSoftware Announces New Game in Partnership with George R. R. Martin

As reported in The Verge, the makers of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoftware announced at E3 that they have teamed up with George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series , in making a new game titled Elden Ring, which will be published by Bandai Namco and available on Xbox One and PC. No release date has been announced at this time, but a teaser trailer from E3 is available, and has been raising a lot of speculation.

You Can't Catch Them All

NintendoLife reports that, based on information revealed by a game developer during a recent Nintendo livestream, it will not be possible for players to acquire a full set of all available Pokémon in their new game, Pokémon Sword And Shield. The game will feature a completely new set of Pokémon as well as some old fan favorites, but only monsters from the Galar Pokédex can be ported over into the new game via the new cloud service that will allow transfer of monsters from previous games.

Video Game Fashion

Kitfox Games' Victoria Tran discussed fashion in video games -- and how it could be improved -- in a 2019 Game Developers Conference talk now available on Gamasutra.

New and Upcoming

Continuing the long-running Zelda series, Gamasutra reports that Nintendo is working on a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The trailer revealed a darker direction and more open world that should be an interesting departure from what fans have come to expect from the series.

Meanwhile, according to io9, a Dark Crystal video game will be coming to Nintendo Switch, intended to tie-in with the upcoming Netflix TV series that will release on August 30. The title of the game, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics, reveals that rather than being an open-world concept, this title will be borrowing heavily from the style of Final Fantasy Tactics.

TV & Movie News

An Animated Pratchett Possibility, and a Petition Faux Pas

Following on the success of Amazon's Good Omens miniseries, showrun by Pratchett's coauthor Neil Gaiman, Variety reports that The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is now set to be the first of Terry Pratchett's novels to become an animated feature film.

In other Pratchett-related news, apparently a number of conservative Christians were upset by Good Omens. So upset, in fact, that, according to The Guardian, they addressed a petition to cancel the series to Netflix, which had nothing to do with its production or distribution. This author can only think that such a mix-up would have delighted Terry Pratchett just as it has visibly amused Neil Gaiman on Twitter.

More Nostalgia Fear is on the Way

You might have thought that the upcoming third season of Stranger Things was the most terrifying bit of nostalgia headed your way, but there's more where that came from! Per Deadline, Nickelodeon has announced the cast for their upcoming limited series reboot of Are You Afraid of the Dark? which scared the pants off many 90s kids back during its first iteration. This time, the stories that torment the Midnight Society will be coming to life in their world over three episodes, so we anticipate even more terror than before.

Dune: Sisterhood is Coming to TV, and Dune Back to Theaters

According to Hollywood Reporter, Denis Villeneuve will direct the pilot for an upcoming female-focused take on the Dune universe, based on Frank Herbert's novel, as well as writing and producing the new take on the main novel that is slated to premiere 2020. The TV series will be released on WarnerMedia's upcoming but as-yet-unnamed streaming service, and will follow the machinations of the Bene Gesserit through the complicated politics of the Imperium.

More Streaming Horror Strangeness

In a new quirk on streaming, Variety reports that Stephen Spielberg is writing a horror series for Quibi that viewers will only be able to watch when their phone detects that it's dark outside. "A clock will appear on phones, ticking down until sun sets in wherever that user is, until it’s completely gone. Then the clock starts ticking again to when the sun comes back up — and the show will disappear until the next night." Spielberg has reportedly written five or six of the "chapters," as Quibi refers to its shorter episodes, so far.

We Just Can't Have Nice Things

As reported in io9 and on producer Ben Edlund's Twitter, the comedic superhero adventures of The Tick are once again without a home or hope for immediate continuation. As Edlund said on June 14, "We will look for other opportunities to continue this story with this cast, but the current series must I'm afraid come to its end."


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