SERIES SATURDAY: The original Planet of the Apes franchise

This is a series about … well, series. I do so love stories that continue across volumes, in whatever form: linked short stories, novels, novellas, television, movies. I’ve already got a list of series I’ve recently read, re-read, watched, or re-watched that I plan to blog about. I might even, down the line, open myself up to letting other people suggest titles I should read/watch and then comment on.

 

Apes Original Franchise Banner.png

I have no idea which of the original Planet of the Apes movies I saw first.

Given that they were released in theaters between 1968 and 1973, when I was at the tender ages of two through seven, I definitely encountered them on television. In the mid-70s through mid-80s, New York City-area television stations WNYW (Channel 5), WWOR (Channel 9) and WPIX (Channel 11), all then local and not network-affiliated, aired a wonderful weekend mix of genre and genre-adjacent movies: everything from the Apes to Japanese kaiju to wire-fu martial arts to classic Universal monsters to Abbott and Costello and the Bowery Boys. Somewhere in that mix, I encountered the original Planet of the Apes franchise. I may have seen them in release order or haphazardly. I may even have seen episodes of the live-action 1974 television series before any of the original movies, since the TV episodes were chopped and combined in 1981 into five two-hour “movie” presentations (but the TV series is a discussion for a different post).

Whatever order I saw the movies in, I fell immediately in lifelong love with the concept, the campiness, the make-up. And that love has only grown as the franchise has been re-worked and re-launched across movie and print media. (One of my greatest regrets is selling my Marvel Comics Planet of the Apes magazine collection; another is throwing away the Mego Planet of the Apes action figures I played with until they’d be worth nothing on the collector market. Hindsight is 20/20, or something like that.)

I recently re-watched the original five movies in release order, and I still love them. The ape make-up may be unrealistic compared to the motion-capture effects of the newest Apes trilogy, but it has such charm, and such consistency across the franchise (slight differences in the facial structure for chimps, orangutans, and gorillas, less diversity between individuals of a sub-set). I did always find the stratification of clothing (all chimps wear the same color, etc.) a bit less realistic. Why is it that SF (definitely in the 50-60s-70s, and even somewhat now) can imagine complex alien races but not imagine that they might have thriving clothing industries similar to our current day? I wonder if any writer has explored the idea that part of the Apes structured society was a dress code? (I’m not as up on the comics and prose canon-adjacent material released in recent years as I am on the filmed/televised canon.)

The body language of the various ape characters, especially in the first two movies, also fascinates me: the way most of the chimps are more hunch-shouldered and subservient despite being the obviously smartest ones in any room (even the teenager Lucius comes across as smarter, if not less impetuous, than the adult gorillas); the orangutan characters always seem to walk with their heads held high and shoulders wide; the gorillas all move like spacially-unaware linebackers. This changes a little bit in the fourth movie, when all of the apes are subservient and non-verbal, but it’s otherwise consistent.

As a kid, the cold war and racial strife allegories went right over my head. As an adult watching with a slightly more critical eye, they’re obvious without being too ham-fisted in the delivery. I can’t accuse them of being subtle, especially in the fourth and fifth movies, but I also don’t feel like every other line of dialogue is telegraphing the issue to the viewers.

Other things I didn’t notice back then but picked up on now: the fact that Roddy McDowell did not play Cornelius in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” the only live-action Apes entry of the 60s-70s that he missed out on; that the timing of Cornelius, Zira and Milo fishing Taylor’s original spacecraft out of the sea it crashed in, getting it working, and getting into orbit just doesn’t add up based on Cornelius, Zira and Lucius’ location in the first half of Beneath (there’s a recent novel that tells this story; I haven’t read it yet but I hope it doesn’t just hand-wave the time component); that Natalie Trundy is the Mark Lenard of the Apes franchise, playing a mutant (in Beneath), a human (in Escape), and a chimp (in Conquest and Battle). (Mark Lenard was the first, and maybe still only, actor to hit a similar trifecta in the Star Trek franchise, playing a Romulan, a Vulcan, and a Klingon) …

And the geography. Oh my god, the geography: at the start of the first film, Taylor’s crew crashes into a large lake in a canyon area. (I don’t know where they filmed it, but it sure looks like the American southwest.) At the end of the film, of course, we get the famous reveal of the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand of the ocean as Taylor finds out he’s been on Earth the whole time.  In Beneath, Brent and Nova track Taylor into the underground city, and we see mock-ups of famous NYC landmarks, including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where the Omega Bomb resides.  In Battle, we find out that the city Caesar led the rebellion in in Conquest is … New York City? Because Kolp is ready to launch that same Omega bomb… but the city we saw in Conquest and Battle looks absolutely nothing like Manhattan or any of the boroughs. I still can’t, even with my willing suspension of disbelief, figure out how the American northeast changes so drastically between the 1991 setting of Conquest and the 3978 setting of the first film. I’m still not even sure of the distance Taylor and crew travel on foot at the start of the first movie: are we to assume the lake/river they crash in is a transformed Hudson River Valley? That feels too close considering the number of days they seem to travel before the landscape changes to greener and they enter Ape territory. Is it the Delaware? That might be a little more plausible. The Susquehanna or Ohio? I just don’t know. it does occasionally keep me up at night.

The things I did notice, even as a kid?

1) The very clear shift in who the audience was supposed to be rooting for. In the first two movies, we’re clearly meant to root for (if not identify with) misanthropic Taylor and chivalrous Brent, lone speaking humans aided, mostly in secret, by one other non-verbal human (Nova) and at most three chimps (Zira, Cornelius, and their nephew Lucius) working in secret against their own obviously oppressive government and a hidden city of mutants. The third movie isn’t subtle about flipping this dynamic on its head: now we’ve got three chimps (Zira, Cornelius and poor, doomed Milo) trying to escape the clutches of an increasingly-oppressive human government with the help of only three humans working in secret (Dixon, Stephanie and Armando). Conquest is almost a complete flip of the dynamic of the first movie, with our solo hero (Caesar) and his non-verbal female interest (Lisa) being aided by only one sympathetic human (MacDonald). Battle completes the transition by relegating even the friendliest humans to supporting cast status (at best) and centering on ape vs. ape politics and those pesky evil mutants again.

2) Those apes looked nothing like the real chimps, orangutans and gorillas in our world. Even then, I wanted some kind of explanation as to how they evolved. How did chimps become human-sized? How did orangutans and gorillas all become so slim? And how did they all become so uniform even within species? It’s what I now call the “one line of dialogue” rule – if it can be explained in one or two lines of dialogue (and this certainly could have been), then the writers need to make that happen. But obviously, in the original Apes franchise, none of the several movie (or TV series) writers cared enough to postulate some kind of human gene-manipulating interference.

And I think that’s the interesting dichotomy of the original Apes franchise: while it did try to comment on weighty topics of the day (not just the Cold War and race relations, but the treatment of women and human abuse of nature vs. stewardship of it and fears of a threat from outer space wiping us out), it also didn’t really expect to be thought about too deeply, and so some gaping plots holes sit in plain view without a patch-job in sight.

Still: plot holes and weird geography are a part of the original franchise’s charm, and I will never stop loving it. It will stay near the top of my Favorite Movie Franchises list, always.

(Since it’s not a part of a series and thus doesn’t really fit into any of the posts I’m planning, this is probably the place to mention Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake/reboot/whatever-you-call-it. I didn’t see it until just last year. I found that it had a lot of the original franchise’s charm in terms of make-up and costumes and plot-holes and that it seemed to be trying to tackle some weightier subjects like the original franchise (militarism in particular, this time). I didn’t hate it as some people did. But I did find the “twist” ending to be gratuitous and unnecessary, almost as if someone (Burton or the studio) thought that in order to make this the start of a new franchise, they had to twist the original twist. And it just didn’t work, on any level. Even as meta-commentary, it fell flat. But I am glad I finally watched it, and I had fun watching Tim Roth and Michael Clarke Duncan chew the scenery.)

Catastrophic Attraction Complex: Book Edition

“Catastrophic Attraction Complex.”

I’m not sure where I first heard this phrase. I’ve done Google searches that only bring up the times I’ve used the phrase in my own blog posts and guest blogs, so I might even have made it up myself. Who knows. What I do know is: it’s the phrase I use to describe those attractions that are so intense, immediate and pervasive that common sense and logic fly out the window. We all have them, but they’re different for everyone. Usually when I refer to my Catastrophic Attraction Complex, I’m about to talk about my attraction to men (and occasionally, yes, women) with red hair, from the strawberriest of strawberry blonds to the most merlot of wine-dark gingers. In fact, a look back at a 2012 guest blog about My Literary Crushes on Roofbeam Reader’s site shows a preponderance of redheads. But that’s a whole different post from today’s topic, which is….

My Catastrophic Attraction Complex to Matching Book Cover Designs.

I’m sure at least some of my fellow bibliophiles will be able to empathize with me here.

Now, I’m not talking about books by the same author in the same series that have consistent cover design elements (like every volume of the Dresden Files having Harry, with hat and staff, in a dramatic pose above or below the book’s two-word title, or Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael books all having a nicely-painted medieval dead body in a box under the book’s title). It’s a given that readers of such series want all the titles in said series to match, and get very upset when, say, the publisher decides to start issuing the series in hardcover after years of issuing it only in paperback.

I’m also not talking about an author’s non-series books all being reissued with common cover design elements (as seems to happen every few years with the works of Stephen King). If I own most of the author’s non-series works in earlier editions, I’m usually not interested in buying newer editions just to get the covers to match. (Now, if I don’t already own most of those works, sure – a few years ago Lawrence Block brought some of his long-out-of-print crime fiction out as LB’s Crime Classics, with a very simple matching cover design, and I ate that up. Likewise if the re-issues have new material added, as when Titan Books re-issued a bunch of Philip Jose Farmer books with matching cover designs and new forewords and afterwords by Farmer scholars.)

What I’m talking about primarily is publishers bringing out themed sets of books by different authors all with the same front, spine, and back cover design. (I recently asked the hive-mind on Twitter if there’s an industry-specific term for this other than “trade dress,” and so far the response seems to be “no,” but I look forward to hearing if there is one.)

I fall, and fall hard, almost every time.

The most obvious examples in my personal library right now are the ever-enlarging collection of slipcased hardcovers from The Library of America, which I started purchasing intermittently several decades ago and which I may never successfully complete as a collection, and several bookshelves worth of the complete-to-date run of titles from Hard Case Crime with their matching spine logos and painted retro-crime-pulp covers (there is still hope, however dwindling, that I will someday read every HCC title; at least I’m keeping up with current releases).

And this doesn’t include the shelf of Lawrence Block HCC titles!

And this doesn’t include the shelf of Lawrence Block HCC titles!

My friend Dave (who enables and encourages my weird “must have them all” book-buying habits) can tell you all about my frantic NYC bookstore searches to find all the volumes in HiLo Books’ “Radium Age of Science Fiction” after discovering all but TWO of the series in a book store in Chelsea Market. Yes, reader, you know me well – I bought them all, then spent months tracking down the remaining two. (My obsession with buying books in actual book stores as opposed to ordering online is the topic of a whole different post.) Something similar happened upon discovery of Knopf Doubleday’s “Vintage Movie Classics” series, although I didn’t find the majority of those in one store to start with.

Vantage Classics covers.jpg

When I first started traveling the country for my full-time job twelve years ago, I also started haunting used-book stores. Mostly to fill in or rebuild paperback series I’d lost over the year (Perry Rhodan, Doc Savage, Tarzan, and the like). But then I started seeing these Wordsworth Editions anthologies of supernatural stories, all with sleek black/grey trade dress covers.  Now I have a bookshelf of them, although I’m pretty sure I’ve a long way to go to have all of them.

Wadsworth Editions covers.jpg

About a year ago, I found Melville House’s reissue of George Eliot’s “The Lifted Veil” in a bookstore in Newark Airport, and found it was part of their “The Art of the Novella” line, all with matching cover designs. Yep, I’m a subscriber now.

Art of the Novella covers.jpg

I try to resist. I really do. I asked myself recently, “Do I really need to buy the complete Otto Penzler “American Mystery Classics” re-issue series when I have so many of the titles in dog-eared paperbacks I found in used-book stores over the years?”  The answer seems to be “Yes,” because I have a bookshelf with the full run Penzler has issued to date. (And it looks like a third series will be issued in Fall, 2019!)

Okay, the cover design changes from Set 1 to Set 2. Sue me.

Okay, the cover design changes from Set 1 to Set 2. Sue me.

There are, I think, far worse Catastrophic Attraction Complexes to have. And of my two, it’s probably better that this is the one I act uncontrollably and impulsively on (I may be catastrophically attracted to redheads, but that usually manifests as an inability to complete simple sentences around them; no rash impulses getting out of hand there!). Of course, the friends who have helped me move house in the past few years may not agree with this assessment!

2018 Holiday Poem

‘Tis The Season…

 

 

To set the table and lay the feast

However plentiful or meager –

The intent matters more than the amount

 

To welcome those who bless us with their presence

However long or short the stay –

The quality matters more than the span

 

To celebrate the good and acknowledge the bad

As they affect us in equal measure –

What matters is how we grow from them

 

 

So lay out the cookies and milk for Santa with cheer,

And fruit and nuts for Dasher and the reindeer;

Lay out bread and water for the holy husband, mother and child,

And wine and cheese for the roaming revelers wild;

Lay out fishes and meat for the loved ones living,

Leave equal amounts for the dear departed, midnight-visiting.

 

Light a candle in the window,

Leave a seat at hearth or table,

For the homeless wanderer or

Neighbor in need, as far as you’re able.

 

“For whatever you do for the least of these,

You do for me.”

May the light and love of the season bring you

Love, Hope, Peace and Prosperity.

 

 

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS,

 

HAPPY HANUKKAH,

 

JOYOUS SOLSTICE,

 

AND A PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!

FEBRUARY 2017 BY THE NUMBERS

I did a horrible job of posting to my own blog in 2016. My intent is to do better this year, by at the very least tracking my own writing and reading. Hopefully some of these posts will inspire folks to comment and chat a bit. Today’s post is basically a “by-the-numbers” accounting of my writing, editing, submitting and sales in February.

WRITING

At the end of 2016, I set myself a challenge for 2017: write at least 5 days a week, and write 1,000 words a day. I’m using a pretty simple spreadsheet to track “new words written” by day and week, with a column for notes (about projects worked on, totals for week/month, etc.). I’m tracking my writing week as Sunday to Saturday.

February started in the middle of a week, so:

February 1 – 4: I wrote on three days, and totaled 2,639 words.

The first full week of February: I wrote on five days, and totaled 4,696 words.

The second full week of February: I wrote on four days, and totaled 5,224 words.

The third full week of February: I wrote on six days, and totaled 5,358 words.

February 26 – 28: I wrote one day, and only 300 words.

I decided, after advice from various writer friends who weighed in, to give credit to some editing time as writing time: if I in fact, during edited, wrote new paragraphs into a story (regardless of how many words I may have deleted at the same time), then I count those paragraphs as writing time. For instance, the 300 words on February 28 were added to a story I was editing from the previous month.

Each month’s goal is roughly 20,000 words (1,000/day x 5 days/week). In February I wrote 18,217 words. That’s a few thousand up from January’s total, which is a good thing. In the process, I completed two stories that had stalled in 2016, wrote a brand new story from scratch, and started another brand new story (that I’m still working on in March).

EDITING

I did a much better job of working in editing time in February than I did in January. Part of that was because I allowed myself to count some of the editing time (when I found myself adding entirely new paragraphs or scenes) as writing time. And part of it was the realization that if I don’t go back and revise/edit my first drafts, then they’ll never be ready to send out to editors.

According to my notes, I did fairly heavy editing on two different stories, including the one I mentioned last month that had received detailed feedback as part of a rejection letter from a very busy editor.

SUBMISSIONS

On average, I had 6 stories out at any given time throughout the month of February, which was a step up from January. My goal by the end of March is to have 10 stories out making the rounds at any one time, reprints included. I have nine stories out on submission right now, including the two I spent part of February editing.

SALES

No sales made in February, although there were a few very nice personal rejection letters that make me think maybe I got close.

And that’s about it for February’s writing, editing, submissions and sales numbers.

2016 WRAP UP POST

A couple of folks have asked, so I’m finally putting together my wrap-up post for 2016: what I wrote, what was published, and what I read.

WRITING

Not much to report on this front. 2016 was not my most consistent year for creating new content. I didn’t blog much, and I didn’t really track how much writing I was doing, other than knowing that there were a majority of months where I didn’t write or edit at all. I finished a couple of stories, including “Chasing May” which sold to the anthology Kepler’s Cowboys from Hadrosaur Productions. I sent out a few attempts at getting reprints sold, as well, but not much came of that. (Admittedly, I didn’t make the strongest effort I could possibly have made.)

PUBLISHING

2016 saw the release of three anthologies with my work included:

  • “Threshold” appeared in One Thousand Words For War from CBAY Books
  • “Stress Cracks” appeared in Galactic Games from Baen (My first professional-rate story sale!)
  • “Yeti” appeared in Robbed of Sleep, Volume 4 from Troy Blackford.

I also sold one story, the aforementioned “Chasing May,” which releases in just a few weeks from this writing.

READING

I set myself a variety of reading challenges in 2016. I managed to complete a few of them.

On Goodreads, I challenged myself to read 100 books. I read 105.

Here’s the breakdown of what I read:

  • Fiction: 97 books
    • 4 anthologies
      • 1 noir
      • 2 horror
      • 1 fantasy
    • 1 single-author collection (1 urban fantasy)
    • 17 graphic novels
      • 11 super-hero
      • 4 YA adventure
      • 1 YA comedy
      • 1 comic strip collection
    • 12 magazines (all issues of Lightspeed magazine)
    • 43 novels
      • 1 crime
      • 1 mystery
      • 1 noir
      • 1  Fantasy
      • 1 historical fiction
      • 1historical fantasy
      • 2historical romance
      • 3historical urban fantasy
      • 3alternate history
      • 3 horror
      • 1 literary
      • 4  pulp adventure
      • 2 science fiction
      • 13 urban fantasy
      • 1 YA urban fantasy
      • 1 YA science fiction
    • 8 novellas
      • 2 horror
      • 3 fantasy
      • 1 science fiction
      • 1 urban fantasy
      • 1 mystery
    • 1 picture book
    • 1 playscript
    • 10 short stories published as stand-alone ebooks
      • 4 urban fantasy
      • 3 mystery
      • 1 modern romance
      • 1 thriller
      • 1 historical fantasy
  • Non-Fiction: 8 books
    • 5 Memoir/biography
    • 2 History
    • 1 Writing Advice

Other Book Stats:

# of Authors/Editors: 86 (including graphic novel artists); 34 of these were female authors. (I didn’t do a good job of tracking other sub-group metrics, such as writers of color, queer writers, etc. I’m going to make a better effort this year.)

Shortest Book Read: 20 pages (Forbid the Sea by Seanan McGuire)

Longest Book Read: 496 (Feedback by Mira Grant)

(Interesting that the shortest and longest read were by the same author, albeit one under a pen-name.)

Total # of pages read: 24064

Average # of pages per book: 229

Format Summary:

  • 4 audiobooks
  • 28 ebooks (5 Nook, 23 Kindle)
  • 73 print
    • 17 hardcovers
    • 56 softcovers

On my Livejournal, I challenged myself to read 365 short stories (1 per day, basically), but I only managed 198 this year. I did not read as many anthologies or single-author collections cover-to-cover as I have in previous years.

Those 198 stories appeared in:

  • 5 Magazines
    • Asimov’s
    • Cemetary Dance
    • Daily Science Fiction
    • Disturbed Digest
    • Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
    • Lightspeed Magazine
    • One Story
    • One Teen Story
    • The Dark
    • The Strand
    • Three Slices
    • Unbound
  • 10 Anthologies
    • Candle in the Attic
    • Clockwork Phoenix 5
    • Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop
    • Dark and Dangerous Things III
    • Ghost in the Cogs
    • In Sunlight or in Shadow (Stories based on the paintings of Edward Hopper)
    • Robbed of Sleep Vol 4
    • Shattered Shields
  • 1 Single-Author Collection
    • Two Tales of the Iron Druid by Kevin Hearne
  • 8 Stand-alone (self-pubbed or publisher-pubbed in e-format)
    • Seanan McGuire (mostly from her website)
    • Jordan L. Hawk (email newsletter)
    • Lawrence Block (purchased in e-format via Amazon)

Those 198 stories were written by 166 different authors. 82 of those were women (again, didn’t do a good job of tracking any other author-identifying metrics). The work was published by 26 different editors, roughly (there were a few for whom I’m not sure who the editor was / who to credit).

So there you have it: my writing, publishing and reading, by the numbers, for 2016. (I was going to include other media consumed, like music, movies, and television, but I didn’t do as good of a job compiling those numbers in 2016. Oh well!)

 

JANUARY 2017 BY THE NUMBERS

I did a horrible job of posting to my own blog in 2016. My intent is to do better this year, by at the very least tracking my own writing and reading. Hopefully some of these posts will inspire folks to comment and chat a bit. Today’s post is basically a “by-the-numbers” accounting of my writing in January.

WRITING

At the end of 2016, I set myself a challenge for 2017: write at least 5 days a week, and write 1,000 words a day. I’m putting together a blog post about why I made this particular challenge, and why the same challenge might not work for anyone else.

I’m using a pretty simple spreadsheet to track “new words written” by day and week, with a column for notes (about projects worked on, totals for week/month, etc.)

The first week of January I wrote 3 out of 5 days, and managed 2,198 new words.

The second week of January I did no writing at all.

The third week of January I wrote 3 out of 5 days and managed 4,833.

The fourth week of January I wrote 5 out of 5 days and managed 5,225, words.

In the three days of January 29-31 I only wrote 1 day, but wrote 2,580 words.

Each month’s goal is roughly 20,000 words (1,000/day x 5 days/week). In January I wrote 14,836 words. In the process, I completed a previously stalled short story and wrote a complete second story.

I’m feeling pretty good about those numbers, given how little I wrote in the second half of 2016.

EDITING

Where I’ve dropped the ball in January is in editing/rewriting. I have three stories that I received really valuable feedback on from beta-readers/critiquers in Nov/Dec., and those stories are still waiting to be reworked with that feedback in mind. (One of them, the feedback was actually part of a rejection letter. Not a “revise and resubmit,” but still very personalized feedback fromvery busy editor!).  And of course, I now have the two stories written in January that will need editing/revising. First drafts are great, but they’re rarely ready to send out.

I clearly need to find a balance between the writing time and the editing time. I’m going to work harder on that in February, as I continue to work on that writing goal mentioned above.

SUBMISSIONS

I have three stories out on submission right now, one of them something I co-wrote with a more well-known author. I could have more, but I was as bad about submitting stuff in the second half of 2016 as I was about writing or editing. Hey, at least I’m consistent.

SALES

A few days ago, the ToC for KEPLER’S COWBOYS, edited by David Lee Summers and Steve B. Howell for Hadrosaur Productions, was announced. I’m very glad to be able to say that my story “Chasing May” is included, alongside work by authors like David L. Drake, Jaleta Clegg, Gene Mederos and others. You can preorder the Kindle version here, or the print and other ebook versions here. I loved Summers and Howell’s previous anthology, A KEPLER’S DOZEN, and anticipate this new anthology will be just as fun.

And that’s about it for January on the writing front. A separate post about January’s reading will follow tomorrow.