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Millennial Mythmaking

01/02/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Millennial Mythmaking edited in the USA - or Buy Millennial Mythmaking edited in the UK

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Millennial Mythmaking edited by John Perlich and David Whitt. pub: McFarland. 202 page indexed small enlarged softcover. Price: GBP 29.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7864-4562-20).

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The sub-title of this book is ‘Essays On The Power Of Science Fiction And Fantasy Literature, Films And Games’ although the division of this isn’t comprehensive, the subject choice is. For books, we have fantasy with Harry Potter and ‘The Wizard Of Oz’. For films, we have the original ‘Planet Of The Apes’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ with anime in the form of ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Ghost In The Machine’. Games are actually computer games in the form of ‘Second Life’. Of the remaining chapters, one deals with a selection of films and the other more to do how actors get associated with the roles they play citing Shatner in his various casting and ‘Doctor Who’. There’s a bit for everyone here although you would have to have an extensive range to have caught everything used here. Some of the topics were outside my expertise so I’ll only comment on those that are.

The examination of the various stories is more up-to-date than in some books I’ve read of this nature. If you’re familiar with the film then you should hit all the recognition points. The problem comes from how much is synopsis and how much is interpretation. In many respects with the latter, it’s more second-guessing what the story is about and any deeper meaning and yet no one ever quotes the writer or director themselves on that particular aspect. This is a common gripe, just thought I ought to mention it with one of the books.

An examination of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ in chapter two points out the differences between L. Frank Baum’s novel and the film which really made the Wicked Witch of the West really evil. Mind you, if you are called ‘wicked’, wouldn’t have something to live up to? I think the problem here is that Baum’s book was written in an age when things were a lot more black and white than they are today and even more so when the film was made and people were defined by the titles they were given. You could well believe W.C. Fields with his saying, ‘Anyone who doesn’t like children and animals can’t be all bad.’

The examination of the TV series ‘Heroes’ and the ‘Star Trek’ connection in chapter seven is actually an inside joke by the former’s creator because they made Hiro a fan of American culture. It was a cherry on the cake when they had members of the original Trek cast involved. The same with getting actor Chris Eccleston in for a couple episodes. What writer Djoymi Baker tends to under-estimate that not all actors want to be in SF shows, let alone work extensively with blue or green screen and having guests from such shows continued the inside joke. The same also applies with the differences between US and UK actors as we have less of the star status. There are very few who have series built around them over here.

The look at the anime film ‘Ghost In The Machine’ was more to do with the acceptance of cyborgs coming into our society in chapter nine than the anime film itself and how reality doesn’t measure up to fantasy.

One of the problems I have with books of this nature is the various writers dependence on Joseph Campbell’s books, specifically ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’. What they seem to forget is the fact that Campbell researched stories up to the 1950s when he released the book and drew his conclusions. He DIDN’T actually create the basic plot scenario, writers had been using a similar thing for eons. More recent authors, not to mention a now well-known film director, have created from his template than go with the flow and forget that there are more plots around. Yes, there is an argument that you can write stories based off plot formulas. My own research has come up with nearly eighty basic plots now even though the shake and mix of them is only limited to a few of them which tends to suggest writers aren’t thinking deeply enough. However, for any writer is what you do with the plots that makes them different from each other and a smart author will try to avoid being too predictable.

I always find the measure of an interesting non-fiction book is how much I react it to it in my reviews. The fact that I’m argumentative shows there is some interesting thoughts presented in this book and if you have any inclination towards the subjects above, you might well learn from it.

GF Willmetts

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