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Apr 172014

by Laura Davis, managing editor

Redshirts_800At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFOB) this past weekend, I got a chance to sit in on a panel moderated by Pamela Ribon (writer and producer of Mind of Mencia, screenwriter, actress, and best-selling author), with John Scalzi and Jon Shestack (film and television producer, executive producer, and actor) discussing the progression of Redshirts from John Scalzi’s brain to the pages of a book and on to its upcoming iteration as a limited television series on FX. Or, as Ribon put it, “I’m here with two johns. Yeah, I picked up a couple of johns on the way to the book festival.”

If you’re not familiar with Redshirts, Shestack explained, “When Redshirts came out, I thought it was going to be about Bolsheviks. I didn’t really understand.” After a burst of hysterical laughter from the audience, he continued sheepishly, “That’s true! I really did think that … It was about a group of young recruits on a starship who discover that they’re dying at an alarmingly fast pace, and they don’t really understand why. Then, they think they understand why; they think, ‘Oh, if you go on an away mission, you’re going to die. If you go on an away mission with a senior officer, you’re definitely going to die.’ They keep thinking they know what it is, and that they can trick it, maybe, and game it and not die. But that really is, sadly, not that possible. And then, they start to discover – well, somebody tells them actually –  that [their] lives are linked to a science fiction television show made 300 years ago. That’s quite bad news, but then on top of it, you’re not even the main characters, you’re the extras!”

Scalzi adds, “Even worse is that that television show? It kind of sucks!”

It’s always a pleasure to hear John Scalzi talk about writing, because he has such a great attitude and a really nuts-and-bolts-level understanding of both the business and the craft of writing. As he puts it, he is a “real, working writer,” and he’s “not precious about himself.” He understands that while it’s fantastic and amazing for someone to give you money to write novels, most working writers also do their fair share of copywriting, movie reviews, and whatever else pays the bills. And he’s really open in his acknowledgement that luck has had a hand in his success. He told last year’s LATFOB audience, “Yes, I am a good writer. Yes, I have good business sense, but one of the prime drivers for where I am now was luck. All these other things matter, but let’s not pretend luck didn’t have something to do with it. As with many things, luck favors the prepared mind.”

Scalzi explained how the novel Redshirts came to be. “It was almost accidental. I had gotten in my brain that I wanted to write three very short novels: like 40,000-word novels. Which was about the size of a novel back in the 1950’s and 60’s, back when they were all produced in pulp and put into supermarket racks. So, I was going to put three of them together, and I was going to call it Triple Feature. Two things happened. I started writing the Redshirts one … It ended up at over 40,000 words; it ended up at 50,000 words and then I wrote the three codas [these are essentially short stories that build on the reader’s experience of the novel]. So it became its own novel.”


Ribon asked whether Scalzi wrote his books with adaptation in mind, and he said,  “You have to be kind of careful about that. Because if you are writing something with the assumption that [you’ll be selling it] to movies or to television, then usually, you are either a little bit delusional or a little bit of a jerk. If you’re looking too far ahead on what you think should be happening to the story, you’re not actually paying attention to crafting the story. The first thing you have to do is make it a really good novel. Because if it’s a really good novel, then someone will want to buy it and adapt it … hopefully. But unless you have everything that needs to be in that book to tell a really good story in that particular medium, it’s going to fail. You will not have written a good book, and that will not recommend you to be adapted to any other medium. I’m mindful of the possibility, obviously that would be great, but the first thing really has to be first; you really have to write the novel first.”

Pamela Ribon, John Scalzi, and Jon Shestack at LATFOB 'Redshirts' panel.

Pamela Ribon, John Scalzi, and Jon Shestack at LATFOB ‘Redshirts’ panel.

So, how is the transition of Redshirts from novel to television series going to play out and how true to the book will the TV series be? Scalzi continues, “The book is the book. It will always be the book. It’s not going to change. I own the book. I own the copyright on the book, and everything in the book is as it’s going to be. But the book is designed for this medium: to be a novel … What will come out of this will not be Redshirts [the novel], because it’s going to get turned upside down and inside out.

“You have to understand when you get on a Hollywood train, that your book is a source; it is not the TV series … If you don’t understand that, in the words of South Park, ‘You’re gonna have a bad time,’ right? [Some authors] are like, ‘Why are you destroying my art?’ Well, your art is not meant to be the same in all media. It’s just impossible to have that happen, and it is going to change. What you want to do, in my opinion, is to manage the change so that what you get in the TV series … is something where all the high points of the book are addressed, all the themes are addressed, the characters are important and we care about them, so that when you get through the experience of Redshirts the television show, you have had a very similar emotional experience like you’ve had of Redshirts the book, with all the realization maximized for all the advantages of the television medium.”

So, now the book has a TV deal, and the television series has an Executive Producer (Scalzi), a Producer (Shestack), a Director (Ken Kwapis), and a small group of writers in contention for the show. Scalzi notes, “So, it’s like a group of six finalists, and then they go after each other with Sharpies. Because I’m not gonna lie: that would be awesome. That’s a limited edition reality series right there.”

Have they made any casting decisions, yet? Scalzi rolls his eyes. “I love it when people ask me ‘Hey, did you know you sold something to Hollywood?’ Did I know? Well, yeah, actually, I did. And then immediately after that, they’re like, ‘Oh. So, who’s going to be in it?’ And they have casting notes all ready for you. That’s a thing that authors always get. ‘You should have this person or this person.’ You realize, right, that these aren’t just fictional characters that you can just sort of slot in? ‘Oh, you should have Brad Pitt as Jenkins.’ Right. He’d really have to come to us. [He does his Brad Pitt voice] ‘Dude, so you guys are doing this Redshirts thing? Dude, that’s cool. I wanna do that.’ And I’d be like, ‘Oh, Brad. Fine. Fine. We’ll find some way to get you in if you really want.’ [heavy sigh].” He can barely get the last line out, he’s trying so hard not to laugh.

John Scalzi and Pamela Ribon at LATFOB book signing.

John Scalzi and Pamela Ribon at LATFOB book signing.

The interplay among the three of them was very entertaining all the way through the discussion, but the hilarity reached a peak when Ribon asked, “If you went back in time to talk to people controlling your narrative, and you met your doppelgänger, would you have sex with yourself?”

Scalzi barely missed a beat. “See, I know me. Right?” He pauses. “There’s not a lot of surprises there.”

Ribon shoots back, “I thought you were commenting on your abilities.”

The panel and audience are all in fits of giggles.

“Oh, no. Don’t get me wrong, it would be fantastic. But … no, I don’t think so. I mean quite honestly. Mmm … no.”

“Even you wouldn’t have sex with you!” Ribon is bright red by this point.

Scalzi is cracking up. “NO! I would find some way to let myself down gently. I would Friend Zone me … I don’t know that I would actually like myself. And I don’t mean that I’m a disagreeable person, but if you meet you, you know all your own tricks and ticks and everything else like that. I think that seeing me would be really unsettling and some part of my brain would be like, ‘Is that really me? Am I really that annoying? Is that what I really say and do? Am I that really that way? Why hasn’t anyone frickin’ killed me, yet? Because I should be dead. I should be pushed in front of a bus.”

Oh, please, no.

Referring to the yeti who roams around the ship in Redshirts, an audience member asked Scalzi, “Why a yeti?”

“The person I had in mind as the physical model of Jenkins was fantasy author, Patrick Rothfuss, and if you’ve ever seen Patrick Rothfuss, he looks like a yeti. He looks like a yeti crossed with a Muppet, crossed with Brian Blessed from Flash, you know the hot guy. Patrick has this jaw that hinges all the way back here [points behind his ear], it’s like a reticulated jaw, and he can swallow up a Mini, and you can see all 700 of his teeth. So, when I think of Jenkins, I think of Patrick Rothfuss, and he’s a beard-y, hairy dude. The short term for someone like that would be a yeti, so that would be the answer.”

I wonder if the TV series will include the yeti? Or possibly a cameo from Patrick Rothfuss? I really hope they go ahead with the screenwriter Sharpie melee … and post video … or at least photos! Details on the series release haven’t been announced yet, but I’m sure when it airs, it will have premium geek appeal, and be every bit as entertaining and satisfying as the novel.


We’d love to see your photos from LATFOB! Tag us on Instagram or Tumblr (#kryptonradio), post on our Facebook, or email us.

Aug 312013
Walking in Circles, now in its second production season, is about a misanthropic group of adventures who get in waaaaaay over their heads. Do you have a mental image of Legolas, Arwen, Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and Gimli?  Good.  That gives you a frame of reference.  Because this lot is nothing at all like them.

Walking in Circles, now in its second production season, is about a misanthropic group of adventures who get in waaaaaay over their heads. Do you have a mental image of Legolas, Arwen, Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and Gimli? Good. That gives you a frame of reference. Because this lot is nothing at all like them.

Five heroes.  One quest.  No clue.

Walking in Circles Co-Creator, Writer & Producer Jim Rodehaver and Director of Photography Jared Hoy join us this week as special guests on The Event Horizon this Saturday evening  August 24 at 9PM PDT / 12 AM EDT.
This episode of our show was recorded at the historic LASFS Clubhouse before a live audience.

Join your hosts, Krypton Radio station manager Gene Turnbow and Executive Producer Susan Fox as we talk with Jim and Jared about their popular comedy / fantasy web series.  They’ve just finished their second season, which debuted last week at Gen Con to a local convention audience of only about 60 or so, but to a realtime web audience of more than 40,000 people.

If you miss our episode of The Event Horizon, it will air again on Sunday, August 25, 2013 at 4PM PDT / 7PM EDT.

The Event Horizon - It’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-Fi!

By the way, if you like what you hear, please come to Facebook and “like” us, and/or follow us on Twitter. There’s so much more in the offing, and you won’t want to miss it – and of course, bookmark this page!

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Aug 292013

Five heroes.  One quest.  No clue.

Walking in Circles, now in its second production season, is about a misanthropic group of adventures who get in waaaaaay over their heads. Do you have a mental image of Legolas, Arwen, Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and Gimli?  Good.  That gives you a frame of reference.  Because this lot is nothing at all like them.

maxresdefaultLOS ANGELES, CA - The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, Inc., welcomes the creators of Walking in Circles, “an Epic Tale about Dragons and Stuff”, for the recording of a special episode of Krypton Radio’s The Event Horizon at the LASFS clubhouse in Van Nuys at 7PM on August 29th, 2013, with a short meet & greet session in the clubhouse lounge beginning at 6:30.

Our guests will be Jim Rodehaver, co-creator of the series, and Director of Photography Jared Hoy.

Come see Krypton Radio’s The Event Horizon recording live! The LASFS clubhouse is located at 6012 Tyrone Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91401 (Google Map), on the corner of Tyrone and Aetna (a block north of Oxnard and a block east of Van Nuys Blvd.). Admission is free to LASFS members and non-members alike, though donations are suggested and cheerfully accepted at the door. Seating is limited, so admission will be on a first come first served basis.

The Event Horizon – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-Fi!

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May 072013

The caption on the YouTube video we found reads “What happens when old school goes head to head with new school in a battle of speed and wits? Leonard Nimoy takes on newbie Zachary Quinto and his all-new Audi S7.”

Okay, yes, the car is cool. But frankly, all anybody’s going to remember is how much fun these two cultural icons have playing off one another in this epic Battle of the Spocks over who has the better car.


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Mar 022012

Giggling-Jiggling Bears, Dancing Fish, and Danny DeVito. It’s a Dr. Seuss Movie Alright

By Staff Editor & Film Critic, PK.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you undoubtedly have seen some of my posts. Pondering the question, are modern day 3-D movies worth all the hype I keep hearing about? Well, after taking perhaps a little too much cold-flu medicine and feeling my eyeballs vibrating out of my skull, I decided the logical course of action was to go see a movie. After bouncing out of my car at the theater, I stopped and read the signs carefully. Of all the movies I could see today, which one would appeal the most to a cynical, sarcastic, and slightly high, yet cranky radio editor. Ghost Rider : Spirit of Vengeance 3-D was available, but I thought, “nah”. I’m in pain already, that’s overkill even for someone who enjoys the occasional slap and tickle of a bad movie.

I admittedly have yet to see the new Ghost Rider movie, but it’s one of those rare sequels that gives off the ripe cheese odor straight from the previews. I’ve seen some of the old school 3-D’s using the headache inducing glasses with bright red and blue lenses. But life events and my being a cheapskate had prevented me from seeing a movie using the newer tech. Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax would be starting soon, and I thought it would be good to review a family movie for a change. I also want to extend my sympathies to the lady working the ticket booth, who was being mobbed by a small army of young girls ranging in ages from 5-14, and the parent/guardian of the group who was using the opportunity to teach them math problems while giving them money to buy their own tickets.

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Feb 102012
Iron Sky Poster

Finnish WW2 Science Fiction Dark Comedy “Iron Sky” to Hit Theaters April 4th

By Staff Editor Critic, PK


World War 2 is no laughing matter, unless you happen to be Finnish Director Timo Vuorensola and Producer Tero Kaukomaa, the makers of the new WW2 inspired science fiction dark comedy Iron Sky. Star Trek fans and dwellers of the net, may remember Vuorensola for his break out Trek parody sensation Star Wreck: The Pirkinning. In his new big budget project, Vuorensola introduces us to the idea of “what if Nazis’ had escaped into space just as Germany was losing the 2nd World War?”

I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan of Star Wreck, it was impressive as far as the CGI used in it but you could tell it was more of a major fan project. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some fan work that far surpasses Hollywood’s attempts at film-making, but the acting made me shiver in pain a bit (although that could have been the point). That being said, after seeing some of the previews for this movie, I’ve gotta say that this looks like a 5-Star winner. Being a lover of science fiction and general weird and dark humor, I’m calling this a must see!.

In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by fleeing to the Dark Side of the Moon. During 70 years of utter secrecy, the Nazis construct a gigantic space fortress with a massive armada of flying saucers.

When American astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) puts down his Lunar Lander a bit too close to the secret Nazi base, the Moon Führer (Udo Kier) decides the glorious moment of retaking the Earth has arrived sooner than expected. Washington claims the mission is just a publicity stunt for the President of the United States (Stephanie Paul), but what else could the man be but a scout for the imminent attack by Earth forces? The Fourth Reich must act!

Two Nazi officers, ruthless Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and idealistic Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), travel to Earth to prepare the invasion. In the end when the Moon Nazi UFO armada darkens the skies, ready to strike at the unprepared Earth, every man, woman and nation alike, must re-evaluate their priorities.

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