Saturday, March 5, 2011

Show & Tell Saturday with Gwendolyn Page


What is a “seminal idea”? It has nothing to do with sex (not this time at least, but you’ve got to love the suggestivity of certain words?)

What I mean here by seminal idea is a pregnant concept that gives birth to ongoing creativity.  It was the seminal idea involved that first attracted me to Decadent Publishing’s “One Night Stands” series.  My contribution is the forthcoming novelette The Middlesex Suite.  If you’re picking up some of that “suggestivity” in my title, you’re tracking with me.

 “One Night Stand” is a series of a particular kind—call it a type of anthology.  Rather than the work of a single author and an ongoing protagonist, the series invites multiple authors to participate in the process, providing just enough basic structure to spur the imagination.  This is what a seminal idea does.

As a lifelong cinematophile (including “TV-ophile”), I love to bump into one of these gems.  I have a few examples that come to mind from both the big and small screen.

Classic seminal idea: The Fugitive.  This 60’s TV series had an elegantly simple premise: a freak accident frees Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly convicted of murder, who must avoid recapture long enough to find the real murderer, the elusive “one armed man.”
I liked the 1993 Harrison Ford film “remake,” but I have to say spending this seminal concept on a one-shot project seems like an exercise in missing the point.  The TV Kimble spent four seasons needing “to hide in lonely desperation, to change his identity, to toil at many jobs.” As a result the series told an ongoing narrative, yet each episode was a story to itself, the cast of supporting players changing each week.  The set up was a gold mine for creative minds to explore a plethora of scenarios.

Another example that springs to mind is the Mission Impossible film series (1996, 2000, 2006), which has been of variable quality, but is notable for one intriguing element: each installment was intentionally given to a different director, each noted for his distinct style: respectively Brian de Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams (yes!).  As a result, the series has basic continuity, but also significant stylistic variation, each auteur tossing in his individual flavors.
For a third example, perhaps the closest analog to the “One Night Stand” anthology-style series, I have to beg forgiveness for tapping into cheesy 1970s television but… “Da plane, da plane!”  Yes, I am citing Fantasy Island.  As unwatchable as it might be for  many today, the underlying concept was a classic seminal idea.  Here each particular “fantasy,” two or three per weekly episode, could be a world to itself, with virtually unlimited variety in the story it tells.  Add a central, mysterious, even preternatural host, and the series can veer in almost any direction.

This is the quality that show shares with “One Night Stands”: just enough definition, a canvas to paint on—one single night, and just enough freedom, a mysterious “how does she do it?” hostess, providing an open door to the fantastic.  The result, I am predicting, will be exciting—and I have not yet read any installments but my own.  

For my part, I accepted the open invitation by borrowing a character and concept from my own imaginary world, the basis for a planned series of novels, the first of which is nearing completion.  That brings me back to the suggestivity of the name Middlesex, which historically comes from the middle Saxon region of Great Britain, but which today invites a double entendre which just begs to be played with, don’t you agree?

So the “One Night Stand” series may be something like a large central hall off of which a large number of doors open, each to a different world.  One may be contemporary romance, another sci-fi, another urban fantasy, another maybe steampunk, you name it.
So I’d like to invite you to keep an eye out for my own little effort, The Middlesex Suite, and as well, in days to come, open that door and explore what else that world has to offer.



Maureen said...

Personally, I loved Fantasy Island, especially the remake with Malcolm McDowell... Loved the premise and the episodic formula of all the shows you mention!

Looking forward to reading the book!

Kathleen said...

Your description of a seminal idea really held my interest. Great post, Gwendolyn!

Congrats on your upcoming release,The Middlesex Suite!