Old is New Again

I am a bit bewildered by the surge in remakes and spin-offs of old TV shows in development. First, there was NBC’s KNIGHT RIDER pilot/Ford commercial last month. Now comes news that the CW is developing a BEVERLY HILLS 90210 remake, ABC is reviving the short-lived series CUPID from a decade ago,  SciFi is crafting a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA prequel series called CAPRICA, and producer Bill MacDonald, actor Roger Moore (as a producer) and director Barry Levinson are independently financing a pilot based on THE SAINT and shopping it around themselves. Meanwhile, movie versions of GET SMART , SPEED RACER, and SEX AND THE CITY are on tap for this summer and director John Singleton’s A-TEAM is coming in June 2009. What is spurring this renewed interest in old TV? It’s not like the last wave of TV remakes did so hot (MIAMI VICE, BIONIC WOMAN, I SPY, etc.).

(In a related note, based on the success of THE OFFICE and UGLY BETTY, the networks are also on an over-seas shopping spree, developing U.S. versions of the UK series SPACED, LIFE ON MARS, and THE ELEVENTH HOUR, as well as formats from Australia).

Mr. Monk and the Out-of-This-World Review

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but James Reasoner gave MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE a very kind review on his blog today. He said, in part:

[…] his Monk novels
are some of the most consistently entertaining mysteries to be found these days.
They’re tightly plotted, laugh-out-loud funny, and the voices of the various
characters are as pitch perfect as they can be.

[…]Regular readers of Lee’s blog will recognize where some of
this material comes from, but he’s not content just to poke affectionate fun at
the worlds of fandom and cult TV series. The plot turns out to be considerably
more intricate than that, and Monk has to have the help of his brother Ambrose
to sort it all out.

Thanks, James. Speaking of Mr. Reasoner, you may remember that he recently lost his home — and his everything he owned — in a wildfire. In addition to reconstructing his library, he’s trying to recover copies of the books that he’s written. Here’s a list of what he’s looking for.  You can also find it on Amazon. If you can help him, I know he’d appreciate it.

Vote for Russell Davis for SFWA President

I have only been a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America for a short time, but it’s clear to me that only one of the two candidates for President is actually qualified for the post — and that’s Russell Davis. So I won’t even bother talking about the other guy.

Russell isn’t only an experienced writer, he is also an experienced editor. He knows the business from both sides of the table. He’s also been an active member of the SFWA, and knows how the organization works…and doesn’t work. On top of that, he’s smart, affable, and enthusiastic — he can make the kind of changes that are necessary to stream-line the SFWA  and make it a more professional, and respected, organization. As he says:

SFWA is an organization at a crossroads and the path we choose now will have significant consequences in the future. Continuing on our present course may lead to the fracturing of our organization, while using the past as our only guide may lead us into permanent irrelevance in the much-changed world of publishing.

I know Russell and I’ve talked with him about his vision for the SFWA. He also knows how important it is to network with the other major writing organizations on issues of common interest to ALL writers, regardless of whatever genre they toil in.

The other guy running for President is a step backwards and a vote for mediocrity and irrelevance. You’d  be putting someone in charge who has no significant writing or publishing experience on either side of the table. It would be like hiring your gardener to remove your brain tumor.

Vote for Russell Davis. He’s the right guy at the right time.

Mr. Monk and the Two Nice Reviews

There are two more nice reviews for MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS out this week in the blogosphere. Barry Ergang of Futures Magazine said, in part:

This is the fourth of Lee Goldberg’s Monk novels that I’ve read. I’ve
enjoyed all of them, but this one is the best to date, in no small
measure because of its fairly-clued solution. The clue, I might point
out, is kept in front of the reader throughout the book, but is
nevertheless elusive—a sign of excellent authorial misdirection. Recommended without reservations.

Debra Hamel at SpikeBooks and at BookBlog says, in part:

I love this series. Sure, Monk is an unrealistic character, and some of
his feats prove a little harder to swallow than others. But they’re
good light mysteries, and more intricate than you’d expect. (This one,
in fact, was so intricate that it became a little confusing at the
end.) What makes the books shine, however, is Monk’s dialogue, which is
spot on and often hilarious.

Thanks Barry and Debra!

Poking a Sleeping Tiger in the Eye?

Lately, fanficcers seem intent on testing how far they can claim "ownership" of their work before the authors/rights-holders of the original media properties take legal action (just look at the Organization for Transformative Works or the Rowling dispute).

But now there is a new wrinkle. For many years now, a group of ardent STAR TREK fans have been producing STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES (aka STAR TREK: PHASE II), their own, hour-long version of the original series. Original cast members like George Takei and Walter Koenig have "guest-starred" on the web-broadcast episodes and FX experts from the various "real" STAR TREK series have donated their talents to the project. So far, Viacom/Paramount has turned a blind eye to the project, presumably since it’s a "fan production" and nobody has tried to make any money off of it.

That could change.

I just got my 2007 Nebula ballot from the Science Fiction Writers of America and among the movies & TV shows vying for the Script award is "World Enough and Time," an episode of STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES written by Marc Scott Zicree & Michael Reeves that "aired" on 8/23/07.

Here’s the problem. The  Nebula Rules state that to be eligible for the award that it must be "a professionally produced audio, radio,
television, motion picture, multimedia, or theatrical script."
But the fans behind STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES have claimed repeatedly that what they are doing absolutely isn’t a professional production, it’s just for fun, the video equivalent of fanfic:

cost of the production is being paid out of pocket by the producers/crew. Yes,
it is expensive, but we’re fortunate to have many talented people donate their
time and money for a worthy cause and a once in a lifetime trip around the
galaxy! We in no way make money from this show and we all volunteer our time,
effort and our own money to bring these shows to the internet. If you desire to
help us in that capacity, please see "How can I donate" below

[…]Due to copyrights, there are no stations broadcasting our episodes.
Star Trek: Phase II is a web-series. The episodes are available for
ANYWHERE, WHAT YOU HAVE FOUND IS AN ILLEGAL COPY. We cannot and do not make any money from the episodes. We ask you to inform us if you find anyone selling our work.

If they are now claiming to be a professionally-produced program, it puts their "fan" status in doubt…especially if they are now hiring writers…and it could bring Viacom/Paramount crashing down on them.

There’s no question that all the other nominees in the Script category were paid for their screenplays. The inclusion of the script by Zicree & Reeves among the nominees (CHILDREN OF MEN, THE  PRESTIGE, PAN’S LABRYNTH, etc.) suggests that they were paid for their work, too. If they were, that’s a big no-no… and would also seriously undermine the claims by the producers of STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES that they are just doing the Internet equivalent of putting on a show in the barn for their friends.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.  Could Zicree & Reeves’ submission of their script for a Nebula spell the end of STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES…?

UPDATE:  I’m not plugged in to the SF scene so I had no idea that a controversy about this was already raging. See the comments section for statements from Marc Scott Zicree, who says he was paid for the script so it’s a professional job, and ST:NV producer/star James Cawley, who emphatically maintains that his show is not a professional production and should not have been nominated. It will be interesting to see how this affects the future of ST:NV, not just with Paramount but with SAG, DGA, and WGA…

Mitzvah for Tod

My brother Tod’s story "Mitzvah" in Akashic’s anthology LAS VEGAS NOIR got a shout-out in a positive Publishers Weekly review today:

Columnist Tod Goldberg’s
“Mitzvah” makes good use of the Las Vegas myth that people come to the
city to bury their past identities and reinvent themselves. His
antihero, mobster Sal Cuperine, has for years posed as Rabbi David
Cohen, managing to handle the demands of the pulpit until the strain of
his charade becomes too much to bear. 

Tie-ins Dominate Bestseller Lists This Week

IAMTW Member Karen Traviss’ REVELATION, a STAR WARS tie-in, is number  one on both the New York Times and the Publishers Weekly mass market paperback bestseller lists. Another tie-in, TOM CLANCY’S ENDWAR by David Michaels (a pseudonym for an IAMTW member) is number nine on the PW list and number ten on the NYT list. Congratulations to them both! This just goes to show that critics may scoff at TV and movie tie-ins, but the public loves them.