Mediums of Storytelling: Movies

I have written a blog in the past about how I feel it is absurd for people to be surprised by the fact that movie adaptions of books are almost always different.  In that post I covered both television and movie adaptions, but here I would like to focus solely on movies.  Films may not have the length or depth of books, but they are viable means to tell a story, especially if there are time constraints.

Movies have a problem of time, something novels general don’t have to worry about.  Films typically do not exceed three hours because many people do not have time to sit through something that long or have that extensive of an attention span.  Books take time to consume, movies do not, and for authors sometimes we need quick bursts of inspiration.  Films fulfill this role.  Aside from the shorter length, the visual stimulation that comes from movies is unparalleled.  Reading is essential to being an author, but sometimes being well-versed in movies is as well.

With the advancement of technology, the cinematic experience has evolved and has enhanced movies beyond their campy, stilly status decades prior.  With these enhancements compiled with a different vision, directors almost universally decide to change their version of a story that originally was a novel.  Those who read the books typically get upset over the differences, and these changes can affect the movie’s critical reviews.  It blows me away that people still get upset over the fact that movies and books are usually different.  This has been the case for decades.  Why are people still surprised by this?  Just because there are differences doesn’t mean the movie is bad, sometimes the changes are good.  Movies and books are two completely different forms of art, and by extension of that reality inevitably tell stories differently.  Both are still equally legitimate.

In the writing community, books are praised, and movies are either forgotten as sources of inspiration or looked down upon.  I feel this might be partially because of the differences between movie and film adaptations of the same stories and the stigma that goes along with it.  It is possible to appreciate all forms of storytelling, including the old and modern.

My Thoughts on the Erotica Genre

As far as personal tastes go, I understand that everyone is different. Most people are into sports and that is something I couldn’t care less about.  There are people who feel the same way about my books and the fantasy genre as a whole. I respect there are different hobbies and different points of view.  That is what makes us human.  However, there is one thing in the literary world that particularly bothers me, the attempt to claim that erotica is not pornography.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph undoubtedly raised the ire of a few.  Questions such as “how can you claim to be respectful of other people’s interests and make that claim?” For me it’s simple. I am a logical person.  As the old saying goes if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. On twitter especially I have seen erotica authors (which seem to be a dime a dozen on there) make various impassioned arguments that erotica isn’t porn at all.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines porn as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” That sounds a lot like erotica.  After all, what is the point of a story that primarily centers around sex if not for the soul purpose of arousal?  Sex by itself is not a plot, other plot elements may be intertwined with the story, but if that was the focus it would cease to be erotica.

I bring this up because all other genres may not be enjoyed by all people.  I don’t particularly fancy romance, but at the end of the day it is still art.  That is what sets erotica apart from all other genres.  Strictly speaking, erotica isn’t art, it’s porn.  A quick search into the definitions of the two clearly makes a distinction.  This isn’t about me pushing my morality onto others or to insult those who read erotica, but I want us to drop the pretense that it is some sort of extreme romance and not functionally a literary version of late night Pay-Per-View.

I believe this is an important topic to discuss.  Especially considering the popularity of the genre and recent scientific findings of what porn does to the human brain.  As always though, anyone reading this is welcome to disagree.  I encourage everyone to research it themselves.  Especially the effects of porn and the differences between porn and art.  From my point of view the evidence is undeniable, but of course there are those who feel passionately that I’m wrong.

Faith and Fantasy Pt. 2

In my last post I touched on my journey reconciling writing and reading fantasy while being a Christian.  There is so much more that could be said on this topic.  It is true that many Christians do not have a problem with Fantasy as a genre, and many enjoy it just as much as I do.  Yet, there is a culture and expectation amongst certain circles that one should not engage in it.  Certainly, this isn’t a topic worth being a martyr over, but it is worth exploring deeper.

The first thing we should get out of the way is that the Bible has been used to justify or condemn every sort of behavior imaginable.  This leads to anything from judgmental Pharisee-like attitudes to downright destructive behaviors.  The condemnation of Fantasy comes from the Bible speaking out against magic users and sorcerers, and the call for us believers to use good judgement and discernment when it comes to our entertainment.  Not a bad intention.  On top of that there are those who have more sensitive consciences, which makes it difficult for them to comprehend why someone would enjoy something that appears so “evil” to them.

Putting blanket rules around entertainment is difficult for these reasons.  Often times people read into Scripture their presuppositions and try to impose them on others.  I understand that, especially since believers are called to rebuke fellow Christians if they are not following God’s commands.  However, it is easy to take it too far and become judgmental over things that ultimately do not matter such as enjoying a specific genre of books.

There is something important to note.  Most of the time magic and sorcery in fantasy does not even closely resemble occult/pagan magic condemned in Scripture.  Magic in ancient times often took the form of astrology and divination or summoning spirits.  Fantasy magic such as in Harry Potter is invented as a plot device and for fun.  Fiction authors don’t pretend their works are real either which is something that distinguishes itself from true occultism.  We are told right away these stories are fake and meant to teach lessons of friendship, love, and what it means to be human among other things.

As believers it is our job to discern what entertainment we consume.  Instead of cherry-picking Scripture to back up our biases, we need to look at the Bible in its entirety.  Yes, sorcery is condemned in Scripture, but Paul also makes it clear that different people are sensitive to different things.  Our only job as believers is to not create a stumbling block, not reign judgment upon other people.

Hope in Fiction

Note: This is a companion article to Cynical Fiction.

Why do people read or watch fiction?  Entertainment is the short and easy answer, but there is undoubtedly more.  After all, we can be entertained by non-fiction as well.  Fiction, particularly speculative fiction is a window into the possible.

Fiction shows us what happens if we allow evil to take control, it also offers shows the potential of the human spirit and hope.  Hope for what we can be, what our would and culture can become is the importance of fiction.  Ideally, fiction and stories will show us what we need to learn so that we do not fall into tragedy and oppression ourselves.  However, that is not always how it works.  For it is no secret that humanity has a great capacity for evil.  That doesn’t mean that some people do not pay attention.  After all, how many fictional stories written in the past are becoming increasingly plausible every day?

Through stories we teach and learn, ponder what it means to be good, evil, and human.  This is the point of fiction.  Therefore, hope is necessary in stories, even those that lack a particularly “good” ending, there must be meaning.  Otherwise, what is the point? Anything can accomplish the simple task of “entertaining” an audience, but meaning, hope, and truth is where true art is found in stories.  That is my goal as an author.  That is the sort of fiction that becomes timeless, yet these are the stories that are becoming less common and less popular.  We shouldn’t let cynicism and hopeless fiction become the new normal.