Category Archives: Media

A Spoonfull of Action Makes The Mythology Go Down

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Serdar recently wrote an excellent re-look at the seminal film The Matrix. I have nothing to say about his essay except to go read this fine piece of work. However, I do have something to say about The Matrix and how pieces of media work together.

In some ways, The Matrix seems to be two films.

One film is an exceptional action movie with a near-perfect cast. As of this writing in 2021, it still influences the styling of movies, television, and games. The film showcases the talents of various actors and actresses, each well-fit to their role. Were it just an SF action film, it would be an accomplished one.

However, the film’s heart is that another movie: the story of a not-quite Chosen one on a journey about reality and physicality, machines and humanity. One can – and many have – spilled ink and moves electrons to going over the mix of Gnosticism, Buddhism, bodily identity, and more in the film. Later revelations about the transgender experience and the film only illustrate how much is in it.

Some films may be riddles wrapped in enigmas. This is a film of a philosophy wrapped in a stylish hail of bullets and punches to the face.

Both sides of the film are enhanced by the other. The stylish action catches our attention, grabbing us by the visceral parts of our brain. The deep thoughts and many sides of it reach our hearts and mind. The Matrix creates deep engagement by having these two facets.

There are many lessons to derive from The Matrix, and certainly more to be found. One lesson that I see as I look back on the film is that seemingly unrelated concepts can enhance each other. You can have your philosophy and gun-fu at the same time and be better for it.

A creative work can have “unrelated” ideas that come together for richer results. Let no one say to you “your ideas don’t work together.”

Genres are not limited by what they are “supposed” to be but can deliver any kind of payload in the right person’s hands. There is no “wrong” genre, and sometimes the “wrong” genre may be the most right one.

A “tightly focused” work may become too limiting, whereas other ideas, even conflicting ones, may enrich it. Sometimes focus is another name for “narrowness.”

If the Matrix taught us to break free from many forms of conditioning, let it also be a reminder to break free from simple ideas of what “genre” and “themes” are for.

Steven Savage

The Pandemic In Fiction

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We know, inevitably, the Pandemic of 2020 (and sadly, 2021) is going to eventually work it’s way into fiction. Humans use fiction to make sense of things, humans use real events in fiction to ground them, and known things sell books.

But what will the Pandemic of 2020 do, specifically to American media and fiction? I asked myself that recently – and then found myself standing on a precipice of imagination, looking into the unknown.

The Pandemic of 2020 is, for America, an unmitigated disaster, with 200,000 people dead as of this writing. We’re humiliated in the eyes of the world, our politics in chaos, our social media clogged with conspiracy theories, and no end in sight. Right now the biggest source of Pandemic fiction is people lying about the situation or making up stories to grift money or excuse our failure.

How do we fictionalize this?

If we step back, the Pandemic of 2020 looks like a badly written novel. If you had composed this a decade ago, would anyone have believed it? America having the worst outcome in the world? The CDC losing face? 200,000 deaths? This would be a made for TV movie or hack novel at best.

I asked myself again, how do we fictionalize this?

So as I stared into this abyss of the unexpected, I’ve come to a few shaky conclusions. Perhaps this is in my own head as I try to cope with the insights as well as the Pandemic.

First, I don’t expect to see “Pandemic In Fiction” as a theme for awhile. We’re still in the middle of it, and crass and exploitative as some media is, I don’t see this becoming widespread. Also we’re sick of it, and there’s little market for it when you’re living it.

Second, I expect any fictionalization of the Pandemic of 2020 will be politicized or seen as politicized. You can tell the most honest researched story, and some hack pundit will decry it for hits and to push products. In time this may pass, but not for a few years.

Third, I expect to see many a fiction piece that are political fiction of the Pandemic of 2020. Some will indeed have agendas, pundit ranting aside, and you can expect plenty of apologia and non-apologia. It is my hope this is minimized in the face of harsh reality, because even if I agree, crass fictionalization of important things may not do any good.

Fourth, I expect fictionalization of the Pandemic will have no middle ground. It will be done in wild metaphor or fantastical parallels in world of magic and science fiction – or it will be tales based on real life. The uncomfortable middle ground where we mix hard fact and big dreams will be too ambiguous, too uncomfortable. We’ll want the abstract fantastical – or the painfully familiar – because that middle ground is where speculation runs and harsh truths emerge.

We’re ready for Godzilla and Alien Plague, or for two people at a coffee shop decrying the state of life. We’re not ready for fiction with enough fact that the speculation cuts us.

The near future of Pandemic Fiction is going to be not much different than we have now, a mess of politics and agendas, the fantastic and the on the nose, and people arguing over it. It is my hope in time we can confront our experiece and our history with the power of imagination, but for the short-term I fear a muddle is where we’re headed.

May we reduce the time we’re in that muddle so our writing may clearly illuminate the human experience, our lessons, our losses – and those responsible. Because we’re doing it half-assed now.

Steven Savage

Sharing Interesting Things

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

One thing I did this Christmas was to gift some people various games that deserved their attention as they were:

  • Indie games that were original or interesting.
  • Early access games that deserved support – and were usually Indie games as well.
  • Games that broke the mold or redid things in smart ways.

The reasons for this may seem obvious, but to be obvious:

  • I want to support Indie games so that the games industry continues to innovate. There’s fantastic stuff out there.
  • I want to support Early Access so games can evolve with proper feedback. I know what good feedback can do.
  • It’s fun to blow people’s minds, so they think outside of the box and experience new things.

I want to strongly encourage this behavior because there’s enough sameness out there, enough watered-down media. If you’ve got something good, share it – and a gift is a great way to share it. Hey, if nothing else, people feel obligated to try it.

Besides the obvious benefits of sharing and so on, remember this includes giving people cold, hard cash. That dev probably needs every cent spent, and you can pay a few extra cents to help out.

Steven Savage