Tuesday, December 25, 2012

There's Nothing New Under the Sun

This post was inspired by a thread in the AbsoluteWriters forum. It really hit home with me, since I've had my own experience. It went something like this:

Where do I begin? How do I begin?

Over the last year I've had three fans, four counting my publisher, compare my book, Planet Janitor Custodian of the Stars, to the Firefly concept/world. The last fan asked me if I'd ripped off Firefly to create my now planned series. I told him I didn't even know what Firefly was, having never seen the TV shows. Strange, I know, for a die-hard SF writer to not keep up to date on such matters is beyond reason. But honest to gawd, crucify me on the Tree of Woe if I'm not telling the truth. I'd only had time to watch most of the New Generation Star Trek stuff, and not much else since my time was strictly dedicated to punching keyboard plastic and getting pixels on the screen for new books. And I had no cable TV from 2001 to 2005.

I broke down last night and watched two episodes: Heart of Gold and Objects in Space. Then I saw a 10-year reunion interview with the cast, and later the full Serenity feature movie. I had no idea that Josh Whedon was directly tied to the franchise in a producer capacity.

I was totally blown away--haunted, disturbed, endeared and very shocked in a happy way to have discovered this phenom. It seemed like my book had been brought to film, but not in its full scope with all the details. But the similarities were so striking, I wondered who in the hell had been channeling who for an idea like this. Then I discovered that the series began in 2002 and my story was written in 2006. I was late to the game--Whedon beat me to it! But the story lines and settings were far enough apart to distinguish both of these titles as separate concepts. I was deeply humbled and honored when I saw what the writers, director and producer tried to accomplish with this series. Then I discovered that it was canceled in 2003! But Why?

I can't even begin to list all of the similar concepts, ideas and hardware that crossover between PJ and Firefly. I'll try.

My ship, Shenandoah, is a broken down used Russian Ore freighter that is described as an insect: a "big fat beetle." She runs on hydrogen drive within close solar system jumps. Her name, Shenandoah, means Daughter of the Stars. Captain Zaz Crowe adores this old girl and keeps working on her to improve the systems and interior. This ship is always on the move.

Serenity, a Firefly class ship that is described as looking like a Firefly (insect). This ship also looks like a used freighter. It appears to run on hydrogen fuel (non-FTL), just from my observations. Serenity stands for comfort, peace, calm, etc,. Serenity's captain also loves his ship. This ship is always on the move.

The interior of both ships looks like an oil refinery had coitus with an executive suite--both are rather grungy, worn, and dark, but very lived in. Both ships are equipped with small shuttles--mine are called "zip shuttles." I also have metal staircases and similar bunking arrangements. My ship is about 1,000 feet long--don't know the dimensions of Serenity, but it looks close to that. The fuselage of Shenandoah and Serenity could pass for near duplicates. Mine has no airfoils or tail structure.

My crew of Eight

Zaz Crowe--Captain--40 years old and handsome.
Dendy Dollar--Botanist/nurse, 20 years old, black hair and petite
Galoot--Mechanical engineer/security officer. Eight feel tall, 500 pounds
Carl Stromboli--Demolition expert--excitable and brash
Carybell--stowaway whore
Samantha King--Nav officer and pilot--extremely intelligent and buxom.
Paddy Jackson--Geologist--old
Lyle Wagner--Cryptozoologist--old

You all know the crew of Firefly; I believe there's nine living on board. My crew also calls the ship their home. Firefly's crew will work for hire, just about any job that comes along. But something always seems to go wrong with a simple mission, often transpiring the plot into a fight for their lives. And this sometimes requires mercenary action. Most of the mission assignments are very strange.

My crew is also for hire and will tackle any job assignment, but they're primarily space junkers, picking up all kinds of flotsam like broken sats, discarded fuel stage tanks, abandoned ships, and frequently hunt for asteroid minerals. They are environmentalists, primarily. But something always goes wrong with a simple PJ mission, forcing them into a mercenary status. Both crews used old or new percussion pistols/rifles. PJ has very strange, out-of-the box mission assignments.

Both crews are devastatingly loyal to each other, willing to sacrifice their lives at a moment's notice to save another. The main theme focuses on a loving family unit, cooperation and coordination. Falling in love with the characters comes before falling in love with the adventures of space. None of them are above pulling some illegal stunts for gain, but both captains really have Boy Scout personas and prefer to do things the right and moral way. PJ has three romantic relationships going on at once, and I think Firefly has an equal number of attractions and passionate underpinnings cooking just underneath the surface. Secrets abound with both crews.

BTW, the official PJ website and the FireFlyfans.net character logos are almost identical. I mean the cartoonish type renderings of the crew. As soon as the domain is reinstated, I'll list it. It's a shocker. Looks like the same artist was used.

I could go on and on, but this isn't really about me. I would like to give tribute to Firefly in some way--pay my respects. Because, obviously, it's near and dear to my soul in kind of a double whammy way. I'm writing the sequel to PJ right now. So I'll construct a complete acknowledgment and dedication page for Firefly. Hell, I can always say I was inspired by FF, and even do some subliminal tagging in the sequel.

After my marathon night with all things Firefly and Serenity, I admit to being a little misty eyed when it was all over. A profound sadness came over me that's hard to describe. Especially when I saw the emotion on the cast's faces as they talked about their brief run, the joys, pitfalls and accomplishments. It's like I'd just met an intriguing friend and they were whisked away from me before I could get better acquainted. Why do I now yearn for 2002? So, in a very intimate and private way, I understand the loss of this potential franchise.

Anyway, it just goes to show you that there's nothing new under the sun.

Thanks for reading. I'll red-shift now and get back to work.