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Sid_Fallon
March 21st, 2006, 12:01 AM
What do all of you consider to be the pros and cons of film vs the written word for science fiction and/or fantasy? Obviously most of us have already chosen the written word via novels, but is there anything in film that you envy or don't think you can fully elaborate on in a novel as well as film does? Do you think fantasy and sci-fi films help or hinder the sale and popularity of sci-fi/fan writing?
This may have been talked about before, but I haven't seen it and I would like to hear your thoughts.

simon woodhouse
March 21st, 2006, 02:09 AM
I think Sci-Fi works much better in written form than it does on film. Sci-Fi movies have come to mean special effects and very little else.

My favourite Sci-Fi author is Iain Banks, and I don't think any of his books would work as films. They're too complex, with subtleties that can only be expressed in written form. His conflicts aren't black and white either, something which probably wouldn't go down well with cinema audiences. Of recent Sci-Fi films, only Solaris scores with me. There weren't any laser guns or green skinned monsters, no square jawed heroes and no scenery-chewing villains.

Dawnstorm
March 21st, 2006, 04:14 AM
They're different media, plain and simple.

If, as a writer, you find yourself describing every minute detail, if you want your reader to know exactly what your character's look like; if you want them to look that ancient crumpled church in just the right angle of light; you may just have chosen the wrong medium. Film is better at that. Visual power you get from visual images (underscored by soundeffects/music). You can have an endless amount of detail; no matter how much work you put into a shot, the viewer still takes it in in one moment. No danger to bore your readers with endless descriptions, no danger of them getting the wrong impression (visually). (You can overload a picture with colours and shapes, though.)

All of this boils down to taste. I've never been able to read LotR, yet I love the movies. It's the power of the visuals that carry the awe for me much better than Tolkien's writing. Interestingly, I take "good vs. evil" much better in film; this may be because the visuals (acoustics) take over and bypass my scepticism of such concepts. I suppose. Much like church architecture, really. ;)

When reading, imagination is a lot more important. In books, I tend to want more ambiguity in my focus. As a reader, you have more freedom on what you accent in your reading (the speed at which your read; the concentration; the depths of the images the text evokes...). The strength of a written text often lies in what is not said. In the way the writer arranges the blanks.

Since reading is consequential (one word after the other) rather than immediate (all the image at once), scenic descriptions are almost by definition more open in writing than in film.

Of course, you can achieve similar effects in writing and film. Compare, for example, interior monologue and voice over. Or third person limited PoV and the PoV shot (where the camera simulates the eyes of a character; favoured in Horror movies when the victim unsuccesfully flees). But by comparing how these devices work, you'll also see the difference.

pcarney
March 21st, 2006, 09:08 AM
What do all of you consider to be the pros and cons of film vs the written word for science fiction and/or fantasy? Obviously most of us have already chosen the written word via novels, but is there anything in film that you envy or don't think you can fully elaborate on in a novel as well as film does? Do you think fantasy and sci-fi films help or hinder the sale and popularity of sci-fi/fan writing?
This may have been talked about before, but I haven't seen it and I would like to hear your thoughts.

I think that film helps the popularity of genre writing. I started ready fantasy after seeing trailers for the first Conan movie. I was too young to see it in the theatre, but I read the novelization of the movie- which brought me to the Howard books, and the genre as a whole.

I think the pros and cons for film/word in our genres are the same as in any category- action and movement work better on film, but subtly and characterization work better in print. Obviously the scope of the tale is much larger in a book- you have time to 'hang out' in your world, and let visitors get used to the scenery, before thrusting them into the action. (within reason, of course).

As far as reading genre vs. watching it- I've always been delighted by really bad scifi/fantasy movies- I love cinematic cheese. But I can barely tolerate it when it comes to reading. I think this has to do with the investment of time required to read a novel vs. watch a movie.

KatG
March 21st, 2006, 06:18 PM
What do all of you consider to be the pros and cons of film vs the written word for science fiction and/or fantasy? Obviously most of us have already chosen the written word via novels, but is there anything in film that you envy or don't think you can fully elaborate on in a novel as well as film does? Do you think fantasy and sci-fi films help or hinder the sale and popularity of sci-fi/fan writing?
This may have been talked about before, but I haven't seen it and I would like to hear your thoughts.

I love both and to me, they are different mediums and not really versus one another. I agree with pcarney that films have the opportunity for lots more cheese, but I don't see that as a con. Novels and written fiction are far more versatile than film. There's nothing you can do in a film that you can't do in a novel, whereas there are plenty of narrative devices you can use in a novel that you couldn't really turn into film. Films are limited to the visual and auditory planes, and have to make everything external, unless they use some narrative voiceover. Whereas books can go anywhere, any time, any dimension, and deeply into the human mind. Films do have the ability of offering visual spectical, combining storytelling with the visual arts, that is not reliant solely on the viewers' imagination. It produces a different, visceral experience, but both can inspire strong emotional responses.

SFF films have enormous impact on books, because books are the smaller market, and because the success of sff films helps the genre markets by getting people to try out the books. The interest of the film world in genre authors, as opposed to just the genre itself, can also have great impact. But books have impacted right back on film. The majority of films made today, of all types, are adapted from books, short fiction or essays, and filmmakers have been using books since the beginning of the film industry. A large number of the seminal or successful films of the past century have been drawn from books. In the 1970's, Hollywood's partnership with science fiction helped the genre enormously. And while the Harry Potter books kick-started the explosion of fantasy and children's fantasy in the 1990's, the film versions and the LOTR films undoubtedly helped fuel it, and made possible a number of film adaptations of sff works that might not have happened otherwise.

Interest in sff authors, as well as sff projects, is also likely to make publishers treat sff authors better and give them more marketing support. But the downside is that if there are some big sf, horror or fantasy flops, and enough of them, Hollywood may desert the genres for a time. Their doing so of westerns, for instance, helped kill westerns as a distinct genre market. So they benefit each other, but the mutual dependence can have some less fortunate consequences too.

Lemur_Girl
March 22nd, 2006, 03:32 PM
This is my first time outside of the Alison Croggon sub-forum, but this topic really interests me. First and formost:


Of recent Sci-Fi films, only Solaris scores with me.

I own that movie, my dad bought it one day...I don't know why, but I really liked it...very deep stuff, and the music whenever it zoomed out to see the planet was very good. I found it to be a sort of new breed of sci-fi, dealing alot with human emotions and other topics, but my sci-fi movie and book experience is not very wide-spread. I'm comparing it to a movie like Starwars.

The movie versus book thing...I agree with DawnStorm and KatG, movies have a visual impact that books can't quite acheive, I mean they can describe everything in an image and make you see it in your mind, but the ability to see it...I've never encountered any similar feeling in writing. It might be because I am a visual thinker, but I stick to that notion. I also think that books have it way better when it comes to making you feel the feelings and think the thoughts of a character, and the greatest accomplishment that any author can achieve with a character/characters is to make you cry without something sad or horrible happening. To do that in a film is near impossible. I have alot of faith in film though, and I beleive that one day, some one will be able to do that. Probably not any time soon. One thing still remains the same, they are both methods of storytelling.

And when it comes to the thought of adapting books into films, there is always the unavoidable fact that long books will have to be edited to peices. I always find that sad, because if you miss basically half of the emotion then there's no point, is there? Then there is the thought that you could make a show. That is a whole different idea though...and not widely used.

Sir Yorkshire
March 22nd, 2006, 04:36 PM
Darn! Pretty much all my views have already been posted!
Books- Great to use your imagination
Movies- Visuals you can't get with books

Dawnstorm
March 22nd, 2006, 05:48 PM
And when it comes to the thought of adapting books into films, there is always the unavoidable fact that long books will have to be edited to peices. I always find that sad, because if you miss basically half of the emotion then there's no point, is there? Then there is the thought that you could make a show. That is a whole different idea though...and not widely used.

Many people don't like tha adaption of Dune by David Lynch. But that's one of the few cases where I actually remember the film more fondly than the book. Probably because I like Lynch's visual style, and the music. I've never managed to finish LotR, yet I love the movies. I'm more easily awed by films than by books, really; and perhaps that's why I prefer many epics in film.

Then, there are those movies that are quite different from the book, but do capture some of its essence. There's Bladerunner: Ridley Scott made Dick's more domestic tale into a noir action movie, which worked splendidly. I also like what Cronenberg made of Burrough's Naked Lunch. (I wondered how he'd do that, since the book has little plot and fewer characters...)

Then, there are those films where it's simply fun to see actors acting out the book. Most of the Jane Austen films fall into the category for me. I recently saw a movie version of Keep the Aspidistra Flying (an early George Orwell book about a "poor artiste"). Richard E. Grant and Helena Bonham-Carter were perfect for that movie.

And then there are those films who get just about everything wrong the could get wrong. Probably the biggest disappointment was the fiasco Nicolas Roeg made of Walter Tavis' The Man Who Fell to Earth. Pity; Roeg can make great movies, and David Bowie would have been perfect for the title role, had they let him play the book.

***

Now, what about the reverse case, novelisations? I don't tend to read books based on a movie, so I can't really say anything about that. It's a fascinating topic, though.

How would you render something like Being John Malcovitch? Or Lisztomania? Or Erazorhead?

Now, that's an interesting question.

KatG
March 22nd, 2006, 10:43 PM
Novelizations are interesting. We know a movie is only going to take impressions from a book, and probably make changes to it to fit it better to the movie form. A novelization, though, is trying to render a film into a book, and has to flesh it out and give it more of an internal grounding, basically. Often, the writer is working with an early version of the script, and changes are made in the finished film, so the novelization, like a film adaptation, may end up being a good bit different from the source material.

I find that by and large I can't read novelizations too well, and I think that's because the film does plant such clear pictures in your head, that then visualizing from the novelization text -- a text that may not match or has additional dimensions to the film -- doesn't fit, and so I can't sustain it or something. My husband loves the Star Wars books, both the novelizations and the spin-off original stories, and I tried to read some of them because of course I love the characters, but I just couldn't manage it.

On the other hand, I read Alan Dean Foster's novelization of "The Last Starfighter" before the movie was out. Then when I went to see the movie, I enjoyed it a lot more because I had extra info on the characters from the novelization. So in that case, it was more like I was watching a film adaptation of a book. And I've seen other films based on books, then read the book for the first time afterwards, and enjoyed the book. So it seems to be just a one way problem for me. I haven't tried any tie-in novels from comics; I wonder if I would have the same problem or not.

simon woodhouse
March 23rd, 2006, 01:10 PM
I used to read a lot of film novelizations when I was a teenager. The only one that sticks in my mind is Alien, also by Alan Dean Foster. Even though the film is a masterpiece, I think I prefer the book. The encounters with the alien are even creepier in the novel, and it's portrayed in a slightly different way, with a suggestion it's intelligent rather than just a snot-dribbling meany. The character of Ash has more to say as well, especially at the end during the scene where his head is plugged in and he talks to Ripley. I definitely recommend it.