One unexpected Christmas gift I received this year was from a SF writer friend, who sent me the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica, the updated series (technically it was a swap; I sent him my P.D. James/BBC movie collection. The idea was to give each other something we loved that we knew the other person hadn't watched.)
I admit, I had serious reservations on my end, but he convinced me to give it a go. I think my hesitancy came from remembering what I didn't like about the original series with Lorne Greene. Back then the Cylons were pretty cool, but the rest of it was very family-oriented, made-for-TV stuff.
Not so with the updated BG series. It's probably, no, it is the best SF I've seen since the Sci-Fi channel updated The Children of Dune. I rarely recommend watching anything on TV because I think too much of it rots your brain, but this series is actually worth the potential cell damage.
Whoever took on Battlestar Galactica and decided to update it did some dangerous things. Starbuck is now played by a woman, Katee Sackoff, who blows the lid off the role in just about every episode. Richard Hatch, the original Apollo from the old series, now plays a cagey criminal dissident. Adama is played by the not-very-pretty Edward James Olmos (who is beyond brilliant, btw.) Even the Cylons, who were the ultimate tin-can villains of TV back in the eighties, have been updated in a very scary way. The most audacious change is the storytelling, which is no longer humans-good Cylons-bad black and white. You see the fairy dust and the warts on both sides, in all the shades of gray you can imagine.
A few of you writers out there have been pursuing publication or have worked in the biz as long if not longer than I have. I was shocked the first time someone referred to me as "being around forever" -- how is ten years forever? -- but in the released-today remaindered-tomorrow world of publishing, I guess I have been.
We dusty old-timers may not be as glam or exciting as the latest flavor of the month, but we do gain an advantage. We are around long enough to see how the industry adapts, shifts and changes, both in the short-term and long-term. Those of us who survive what my friend Holly Lisle calls "the three-book death spiral" do so only because we adapt, shift and change with it.
I do have one more resolution for 2008, other than that list of things I'm not going to do. Along with the work I have already sold, I'm going to write one dangerous book this year.
I've done this a few times before, but never when something I'd already written was working well on the market. It's not a safe thing to do. This book has such a strong, demanding concept that I'm not sure I can do it justice. I'm also fairly certain it may not sell because, like other dangerous books I've pitched in the past, it has nothing to do with I've already done (and when what you're doing is selling like hot cakes, the last thing publishers want to see is something that won't fit on the griddle.)
I need to do this. Because the only thing worse than failing to sell is to sell oneself into complacency. And if it doesn't work, I'll blame it on Battlestar Galactica.
What do you guys think of writing dangerously? Is it worth the time, effort and trouble, or is it better to play it safe?