He Sells Sanctuary

Trade news today: Web series Sanctuary, created by Stargate alumnus Damian Kindler, has just been picked up for 13 episodes by SciFi.

I actually interviewed him about it a while back, so nice to see it’s all working out well.

This is the second web series within as many months that’s been acquired by a TV channel, the first being Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz’s Quarterlife. You may have heard of them before, too. They created thirtysomething.

Criswell predicts that this will not be the last web series picked up for TV.

Strike no-news

The AMPTP and the negotiating committee continue to talk behind the scenes about what they might talk about at the negotiating table when they get back to negotiating.

Nikki Finke is positive but, hell, we’ve been positive before just before the AMPTP tried to fuck us in the ear. (You’ll note that, as predicted in that post, many overall deals have now been cancelled.)

But there’s a press blackout now, so there’s no real news to be had.

The silence is a good thing.

Away from the duelling press releases of the last round of negotiation, maybe the various negotiators can start getting a deal together that everyone can live with.

In the meantime, the pressure is still on the AMPTP with picketing, more side deals, and the Oscars coming up.

And let’s be clear, the Oscars are a big incentive to get a deal made.

No SAG actor will cross a picket line outside the Oscars ceremony, because they know this deal is all about setting a precedent for their negotiations about payments for Internet series too.

Losing the Golden Globes cost NBC somewhere between 15 and 20 million dollars. If the Oscars are cancelled, the financial hit will be a lot higher, and not just to the broadcaster – there’s the loss of all that free advertising for films as people tune into the show to see the stars accept their awards.

So the 24th February is the next big deadline.

Good luck to all.

Science Fiction / Double Feature

Two things.

Thing the first: This year, I shall be going to Eastercon, and I think you should too.

Every year, there’s a british national science fiction convention, held over the Easter Weekend. (Thus the imaginative name).

People who like SF gather, talk, drink, listen to the guests speak, and generally have fun. There’s pub quizzes, games, dancing, videos, and academic talks for those that wants them as well.

This year’s guests are The Mighty Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, and China Miéville.

If you’ve never been to a con, you might have the impression that it’ll be full of people dressed as Klingons. If you’re lucky, out of the thousand or more people who’ll be there, you might meet one or two. On the fancy dress night.

I’ve been to a couple of conventions (otherwise known as cons) run by the people who are organising this year’s Eastercon, and I can guarantee that it’ll be good fun.

To attend will cost you 55 quid for the four days. It’s out in Heathrow – so commutable to London if you’re very very poor – but it’s more fun to stay in the hotel with everyone else. And because there’s so many people staying, the rates are about forty quid per person per night, breakfast inclusive. And this is a five star hotel, mind.

To find out more about Eastercon, check out the introductory page here. And hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

Thing the second:

Loli will be joining me at the con. And she’s not yet a science fiction afficionado. So the question is this:

What should she watch or read beforehand? Assuming no more than one novel (or, say, three short stories) from any writer, and no more than one episode from any TV show, what are the best bits of SF that everyone should see?

Pilot season is on the Internet this year

So…

You’re a working writer. Only you’re not at the moment, because you’re on strike. (See pavements passim.)

You’ve got a lot of friends in the industry working as camera operators, riggers, teamsters, and so on who can’t work at the moment because you’re on strike.

How can you support them?

Well… given that this dispute is all about the Internet, it’s occurred to a couple of people that maybe they could put their talent to use in the meantime.

It’s called Strike TV. An Internet Channel created by professional writers and crew to raise money for the strike fund. So that people in difficulty due to the strike – everyone, not just writers – will be able to support themselves.

And they’re going to do this by advertising within their videos. On the Internet. Apparently you can get money for that these days.

Their MySpace page has the details, but the deal is basically this:

If you’re an active WGA member who wishes to contribute, send a proposal. You’ll then need to make a pilot, which will get shown on the Internet on the Strike TV channel. Any money from ads made goes to the Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund.

And if it’s a hit?

You own it. It’s yours. Set it up as a web series, sell it to a TV network (it’s been done already), spin off novels, comics, DVDs… Make money from it.

It’ll need to be a Union production, obviously. But that’s what this all comes down to, in the end, and they’re already working on ways to make it affordable.

The channel starts in February. Sweeps. That’s when the advertisers in the States decide where to spend their money.

There’s one condition: someone in the production has to be an active member of the WGA.

Being an inquisitive chap, I got in contact and asked if active members of other Writers’ Guilds were allowed.

The answer was yes. And they’re really looking forward to seeing what we can come up with.

So if you’re an active member in good standing of any of the following Writers’ Guilds, you should get going. There’s not much time before sweeps.

  • Australian Writers’ Guild
  • Irish Playwrights and Writers Guild
  • New Zealand Writers Guild
  • SARTeC – Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma (French-language Canada)
  • Sección de Autorres y Adaptadores de Cine (Mexico)
  • Union-Guilde des Scénaristes (France)
  • Writers Guild of America, East
  • Writers Guild of America, west
  • Writers Guild of Canada
  • Writers Guild of Great Britain

If you’re in Los Angeles on the 9th January there’s a free event at the WGA Theater where you can find out more, and hook up with production crew.

Here’s that MySpace page again.

Elegance, and solving the Pun-Pun problem

One of the things that gives me immense pleasure in the world is solving a problem.

It’s why I do cryptic crosswords.
It’s why I started out as a programmer.
It’s why I became an internet strategist, then a website editor.
It’s why I write.

In writing, it’s finding the right line, the right character, the right plot twist, the right set piece.

As every hacker, writer, strategist, and crossword-setter knows, there are many acceptable solutions to a problem. But only a few are elegant.

Which brings us to Pun-Pun.

You may, if you’re reading this blog, be aware of my fondness for role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. A selection of rules which allow you to create characters, who can then go and fight monsters.

As with any set of rules, you can find places where they allow you to do things that the creators might not intend. In hacking and MMORPGs, these are known as exploits, or (sometimes) just sploits. Where you take advantage of someone not seeing all the consequences of the rules they’ve made.

And, just like in hacking or MMORPGs, people have found exploits in D&D. Sometimes to get an unstoppable character, but more often just for the sheer hellacious fun of it all. It’s problem solving at a very pure level. Given this set of rules, what’s the most powerful character you can build?

Well, here he is: Pun-Pun the Divine Kobold, created by Khan the Destroyer.

For those of you who don’t want to work through the reasoning: A Kobold is one of the crappiest monsters in D&D. They exist purely to have the shit kicked out of them by first-level adventurers. But, thanks to some hard thinking, Pun-Pun can become a God.

By fifth level.

It’s the elegance that makes it great. (Of course, if you’re not going to read it you’ll just have to trust me on this one.)

Think of it: A simple Kobold! With the power of a God! Surely humanity is Doomed!

But no! On the horizon: a Saviour!

LordOfProcrastination has found a way for a simple Elf to raise themselves to Divinity.

By fourth level.

And the way they achieve this divine power is by hiring a few assistants, casting a few spells, and then throwing themselves off a cliff.

Elegance. I love it.