Author Topic: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"  (Read 550 times)

Hopscotch

"How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« on: July 17, 2021, 07:12:12 AM »
The Rise Of Must-Read TVThe Atlantic

“If you want a preview of next year’s Emmy Awards, just take a walk past your local bookstore….literary adaptations to television have been on a steady climb….What qualities—of genre, structure, or style—make a novel seem most adaptable?...the plots and premises of “complex TV” are structured primarily around characters and their development: Viewers want to identify with, relate to, and follow characters. Given that, the adaptation economy may well be one of the driving forces behind the proliferation of what literary critics call “multiprotagonist fiction,” books with not a single protagonist…[but] a collection of main characters whose stories intertwine in surprising ways over the course of a single narrative….Novels with ensemble casts adapt easily to the episodic structure of television; a chapter from the point of view of Arya Stark in the books becomes an episode about Arya, and an opportunity to explore that character’s unique identity. And if the goal of character-driven TV is audience identification, then multiprotagonist novels…provide the greatest potential for maximizing viewership and boosting ratings….Episodic plots, ensemble casts, and high-production-value settings—these are the features that, although not at all new to the novel (as flipping through George Eliot’s Middlemarch will quickly remind you), are newly central to fiction’s anticipatory relationship to the realities of streaming TV….[and have] started to mediate the form fiction takes even if it’s never adapted at all….[It] also places the novel, long reported dead, at the center of contemporary culture, where “must see” and “must read” TV are often one and the same.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2021/07/tv-adaptations-fiction/619442/
 
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Post-Crisis D

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2021, 07:36:59 AM »
Wait?  "Multiprotagonist fiction" is a new thing?  It wasn't normal before?  So, I'm ahead of the curve?  And have actually published books like that before it became a thing so I don't look like I'm following the herd?  Is this real?  :icon_think:
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
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Mike_Bravo

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2021, 11:44:02 PM »
An interesting comparison in how this plays out is to compare Terms of Enlistment with The Expanse.

The first one is a 47 North imprint, 7 books deep, with the first book coming out in 2013.
Book one has about 55 hundred reviews and George RR Martin gives a blurb:
“There is nobody who does [military SF] better than Marko Kloos. His Frontlines series is a worthy successor to such classics as Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and We All Died at Breakaway Station.”

The second example is an Orbit property with 9 books, the first coming in 2011.
Book one has just passed 10 thousand reviews.
George RR Martin also gives a blurb:
"Interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written."

Terms of Enlistment is a first person POV and while there are, of course, other characters, there's only one protagonist and pretty much 100% of everything gets filtered through that lens. It did, for me, get a little tedious --- that said, the storyline also got tedious because it tended to be the same thing over and over after book one, which was brilliant, in my opinion. What ends book one -- the introduction of a new foe/threat, which is very similar to what happens in The Expanse series --- then gets endlessly repeated in each subsequent book (I quit at book 6).

The Expanse starts with only 2 main character POVs (in the 3rd person) but quickly adds more in book 2 and beyond. This was a little jarring, but in the end it plays out well for how the series developed because with a rich cast of characters to draw from the series was able to do what makes good serial television so good --- give you various people to root for (or hate) and more than just one storyline to follow. Vastly more interesting, imho. As a sidebar, I haven't finished The Expanse either, but unlike Terms of Enlistment which is in Kindle Unlimited, part of my slowing down is that to binge The Expanse you've got to make a $90 commitment. 

I know for sure this contrast is both important and anxiety producing. Well, at least for me...

I do love 1st Person and single POV -- which has some history in military sci-fi -- but it's for sure harder to maintain over a series. I think it was part (not the root) of why Altered Carbon failed as a series on Netflix (although season one was pretty darn good, season two was an unmitigated disaster).


 

PJ Post

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2021, 11:57:02 PM »
+1 about Altered Carbon

Thanks for sharing Hop, but yeah, I'm not seeing anything new here. Taking a successful IP and reproducing it in every medium imaginable has been business 101 for a while now. Chasing the long tail by copying and pasting those specific tropes has been around even longer. The abject fear of original ideas is a newer thing, though.
 

R. C.

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Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2021, 12:06:25 AM »
...The abject fear of original ideas is a newer thing, though.

In today's "marketing new world order," if the product cannot be distilled into a short social media video AD, there is no chance of success.

If "trending" is a timeline, find a point of divergence and veer slightly off the line with your "new" idea.

Now, back to creating videos ADs, for the very few in 16-28 demographic, who read...

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Mike_Bravo

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2021, 12:38:03 AM »
I'm not seeing anything new here.

It's not new, of course. The Bourne Identity was made into a successful miniseries in the early 80s...

That's not the point --- when there were 3 networks and much of that programming was committed to things like the nightly news and established sit-coms and dramas like Dallas, it was exceeding rare for a book to be picked up and made into a series.

Now it's so common that previous miniseries (another Richard Chamberlain hit, Shogun, for example) are being re-made, by FX in this case --- there's so many outlets now out there hunting for properties that it's something to consider in planning a new project.

If you'd said in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and probably even the 00s that you were specifically outlining and planning a series so that it had a good chance of being optioned for a series, people would probably would have rolled their eyes and thought "yeah, okay, and I'm planning on asking Paris Hilton out on a date," whereas today it's just smart business. Imho.
 

Mike_Bravo

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2021, 12:50:52 AM »
As another side bar, the next project for Kloos is a 4 character series.

I haven't read it, but a lot of the early reviews are negative due to the fact that he obviously outlined this as an ongoing series and thus left everyone's story in flux...more reason in my opinion to hold off on publishing something like this until it's finished (if you can afford to do so).

Or at least get deep enough that even though everyone hates you for not finishing, the HBO series and book sales made you so rich you don't care.

In any case, unless it's just some odd coincidence, I'm going to assume Mark Kloos had this very discussion with himself (and perhaps his agent and publisher and maybe with George RR Martin and group).

 

PJ Post

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2021, 01:41:38 AM »
The basic problem - across the board - is that these corporations are putting 'story' at the end of the product development process instead of at the beginning. All of the bazillion dollar IPs over the years were the original ones, not the rip-offs. This is so basic business, it baffles me. But the name of the financial game these days is risk-avoidance. Unfortunately, risk is the land where most great writers live - that's where the edges of the envelope are. Star Wars, Alien, Apocalypse Now, Rocky - none of them would get made today. Maybe that's why we're getting dumber stories these days...writers are adapting.
 
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Crystal

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2021, 02:39:14 AM »
TV has never been riskier. Well, maybe a few years ago. Netlifx used to give shows more time to find an audience.

But streaming really did expand the types of TV (and, to a messer extent, film) content available.
 

Mike_Bravo

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2021, 03:34:27 AM »
The basic problem - across the board - is that these corporations are putting 'story' at the end of the product development process instead of at the beginning. All of the bazillion dollar IPs over the years were the original ones, not the rip-offs. This is so basic business, it baffles me. But the name of the financial game these days is risk-avoidance. Unfortunately, risk is the land where most great writers live - that's where the edges of the envelope are. Star Wars, Alien, Apocalypse Now, Rocky - none of them would get made today. Maybe that's why we're getting dumber stories these days...writers are adapting.

What?

Everything you named is derivative...

Star Wars was original only in the delivered format --- what we see as cheesy special effects today were cutting edge then. I saw Star Wars in the theater, btw, it was amazing, but hardly original at all.  In fact, there's scenes in Star Wars that were copied almost exactly from spaghetti westerns, they might as well have used the same story boards.

Alien is just a monster movie, it's great, absolutely, but it's a monster in a locked room story, done many times before.

Apocalypse Now is Heart of Darkness adapted for Vietnam --- so, sure, there's original things about how it's presented, but original? Hardly.

Rocky was an adaptation of a real story, highly fictionalized of course, but what's original about a boxing movie with an underdog? 

I think the issue is that it SEEMS like there's no risk and nothing original because there's so damn much being produced. There's big money in making Rocky IV and Jaws 17 like was mocked in Back to the Future 2 and etc., etc...

But so what if studios capitalize on Marvel or DC or Rambo and make 27 Batman, Superman, and Rocky meets Rambo movies?  We're still seeing an explosion of new things, more than you could ever watch in all your lifetime.

I just finished Peaky Blinders, the writing is superb, it's not really fair to compare, but no way does the writing in Star Wars hold a candle to Peaky Blinders, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, The Wire, or dozens (maybe hundreds) of series that have been made post network and major studio domination of film and television.

none of them would get made today.

^ that statement is better served like this:

None of these amazing series could have been made previously for a variety for reasons not the least of which was censorship requirements for television (and it would have been impractical to make Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad as a series of full length motion pictures).

 
 

Hopscotch

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2021, 12:41:14 AM »
Seems to me you all are saying that pop culture repeats the thing that sells until it doesn't sell anymore, then takes a break before trying again (and again) - because producers have no more imagination than most consumers and are not motivated (or spurred by consumers) to create something fresh.  Hard not to agree.
 

PJ Post

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2021, 04:47:37 AM »
What?

Everything you named is derivative...

Yes, Star Wars was incredibly derivative, the list of influences is long - but that doesn't change how original it was (completely new IP), how completely different it was thematically from the movies at the time (hopeful, not dour) or how risky it was to make (they had to invent new technology). Neither does it doesn't change the fact that back then studio management invested heavily in talent - in this case, Lucas - not just market trends.

By contrast, The Force Awakens was nothing more than a reboot of A New Hope. That's how bad it has gotten. Even with rabid Star Wars fans ready to give all of their money to Disney, Abrams actively rejected anything new. And that was a financial choice at the corporate level. Even seemingly new IPs like Raya, which I enjoyed, is still Avatar adjacent.

And how much is being produced has nothing to do with it. The big money is in proven IPs. Full stop.

My other point was the films that are being made suck because the story is not central to the planning; spin-offs, merchandise, streaming opportunities and international distribution are the profit-oriented goals. In the old days, the formula was to make a great movie people would flock to, now it's about marketing a familiar concept. I have no problem with capitalizing on IPs, I have a problem with sh*tty writing.

Anecdotally, I didn't enjoy any of the shows you listed, and while I'm pretty sure it's a taste thing - they were all just as derivative as Star Wars or anything else. And, to be fair, they could all have been made with way less sensationalism. I love darkness when it serves the story, not a fan when it serves no purpose other than to show how edgy the showrunner is. HBO has been making edgy stuff for decades. Also, as an aside, I really enjoy long-form series/serials and think that's where a lot of really great writers have been working. However, I'm not sure if that's still true, the format has been slipping lately.

As for none of the movies I listed getting made today...I stand by my statement. They were all original IPs - and far too financially risky for today's climate, especially since they could just reboot Ghostbusters or Charlie's Angels (for the second time) or make another comic book or anime adaptation instead.

___

Seems to me you all are saying that pop culture repeats the thing that sells until it doesn't sell anymore, then takes a break before trying again (and again) - because producers have no more imagination than most consumers and are not motivated (or spurred by consumers) to create something fresh.  Hard not to agree.

Well, I'm saying it - sort of.

In the old days, whether it was art or books or music or movies or even televisions shows, it was all about new ideas and pushing the envelope. Now it's about producing fifty shades of the same old familiar crap that sold well once upon a time.

I'm not sure it's a lack of imagination, though, it may just be greed.
 

Mike_Bravo

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2021, 05:09:18 AM »
Anecdotally, I didn't enjoy any of the shows you listed, and while I'm pretty sure it's a taste thing...

Well, yeah, it's taste --- and if you find you don't like the things the majority of people do enjoy, it'll decrease your options.

Some people want cozy mysteries with recipes --- if someone's tastes run that direction, they'll have less options in books and series and movies than those of us that love crime drama with violence and sex.

Both can have good writing, however, let's face it, the best writers are going to face a really strong temptation to forego thinking about writing the next Murder She Wrote with the Cleavers and Gillian when they could be writing the next Gone Girl meets Breaking Bad and the surviving Sopranos who want revenge.

- they were all just as derivative as Star Wars or anything else.

Sure, but also had originality in some form that made them attractive -- just like the things you mentioned.

The underlining story in Orphan Black was pretty standard cyberpunk with evil corporations and clones --- but how many series have you seen with the same actor playing like a dozen roles, often in the same scene with herself? It would have been impossible to pull off in the past, just like Jurassic Park and The Matrix, however, anything good has to be good for more than the effects, I think we'd agree on that...it needs writing to be great and acting and directing.

I guess if you like Mad Max better than Fury Road, then you're going to always be feeling disappointed in current trends.



And, to be fair, they could all have been made with way less sensationalism.

Well, maybe. This is a taste thing, of course.  I mean, Jaws could have been made with less blood as well.

Watching it now, it's so damn cheesy, but seeing it as a child of ten, well, I was terrified the next day when my dad, with perhaps a sense of sick humor, took me to the ocean to swim.


Anyway, we'll have to agree a lot of this is taste (good or bad, I'm not saying my tastes are good tastes, maybe they suck, but if I'm entertained and spending money, well, I'll be catered too).

Not liking Breaking Bad?  Really?

The writing in that is top notch, imho.

 

PJ Post

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2021, 05:28:21 AM »
Breaking Bad was...yeah, nope.   :shrug

But don't get me wrong, I have no problem with current trends, or even social/political agendas. I just like good writing and production that puts the story first.
 
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Crystal

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2021, 11:21:46 AM »
Breaking Bad is really overrated. It's not a bad show, by any means, but it's not nearly as original as people say. It's a crime drama with an anti-hero. It's a drug story. It's about a white guy suffering when he works with the cartel.

Dark dramas aren't inherently better than fun or sweet or cute shows. Murder, She Wrote is a great show. It's just as good as Breaking Bad at delivering on its formula. It's just a different formula. And Breaking Bad is working a formula. It's a soap opera.

There's actually a lot of cozy mystery TV. It just doesn't get a lot of press because it's not "cool." The average CBS procedural gets a lot more viewers than the average prestige TV drama.

I stand by my claim about risky TV, but it's not that simple. There's more TV now than ever. The stuff on the major networks is still middle of the road. And plenty of Netflix stuff is middle of the road too.

But there's also a lot of streaming TV doing weird stuff. Heck, the three shows I'm watching now on Paramount + are all really dang weird, and it's great (The Good Fight, Evil, Why Women Kill).
 

PJ Post

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2021, 10:25:26 PM »
Paramount+ is doing well, creatively. Lots of good shows. But Evil is losing me. It started out with a good premise - supernatural investigators from a religious perspective -  but it seems to be having a hard time finding it's lane. I think they're trying to be too edgy.
 

Crystal

Re: "How your Netflix habit is changing contemporary fiction"
« Reply #16 on: July 29, 2021, 04:19:10 AM »
See, I didn't pay any attention to Evil because the premise isn't interesting to me. Religion, supernatural... blah. But I heard it was The Kings, so I watched. It was a little too spooky for me at first, but they eased off that. I'm enjoying this season, but I never expect it to be my favorite. I don't really care how far they get from the premise, as long as they keep it interesting, keep following the characters, don't go overexplaining things the way a lesser show would.

I don't think they're struggling to find a lane. I think Evil is a Kings show, with all the hallmarks: quirky ensemble, playful tone, rich characters, Broadway actors, big questions posed, bittersweet/twist/there isn't one right way to think about this answers, wonderfully weird, willing to experiment and fail and try something else.

But, I don't think Evil is as subtle (or good) as their other shows. Take the latest episode. I do love a good Kings smackdown of a content creator (Darkness at Noon... classic), so the shots fired at Dick Wolf were great, and, really, they do hard talk better than 90% of other shows, but the discussion of institutional racism is clunky compared to TGW or TGF.