Schizophrenics sometimes talk a lot but say little of meaning or substance, and this is typically referred to as poverty of content. Well, our culture, especially the media it seems, is in the middle of a serious poverty of content phase, and along with that goes a poverty of imagination. Two of the last three movies I’ve seen were 1408 and The Number 23. These are recent movies and it turns out they were both based on Stephen King stories, as is the soon to be released The Mist. I also saw some other film with Kate Beckinsale in it, Vacancy. Now, Stephen King is a fine writer, but there are other writers doing the horror/thriller thing. There is plenty of original work available but the film companies just keep coming back to King over and over, despite a certain sameness to many of these films. And Vacancy while OK as a movie, was a virtual remake of many previous films. A couple of years ago they filmed Jack Finney’s Body Snatchers for like the fourth time. And now I hear there is going to be yet another Incredible Hulk movie. They just made one a couple of years back. It sucked. Why do we need another?
Why isn’t some filmmaker bringing Wayne Allen Sallee to the screen, or Del Stone Jr., or Dennis Etchison, or Ramsey Campbell, or the late Karl Edward Wagner? What about the works of virtual unknowns like T. Chris Martindale, or Del James? Sidney Williams has books like When Darkness Falls or Blood Hunter, which could make terrifying films. And why aren’t emerging talents being nurtured, like Stewart Sternberg or Bernita Harris, or many others here in the local blogosphere? No, the companies go back to the same old wells over and over and over.
I’m afraid we writers have to face the fact that the real money in entertainment these days is in the pockets of TV and Filmmakers. And that is a largely closed club with admission allowed only to a few prose writers like King, Thomas Harris, Clive Barker, and now Neil Gaiman. I feel very fortunate myself that I have a good job and don’t have to depend on writing income for my survival. And no one said the world is fair or that the breaks should go to the deserving. In fact, I honestly feel most sorry for the “consumers,” for folks like myself who would enjoy a good movie if one were to be made.
They say there is a dearth of truly good passing quarterbacks in the NFL these days. That’s because colleges are no longer nurturing them but are focused largely on fielding a quarterback who is a glorified extra running back. In the same way, the dearth of good new ideas in Hollywood is a direct result of thirty or more years of neglecting the development and nurturing of promising prose writers, and the blindness to any talented writer other than the few anointed ones.
Don’t look for it to get better anytime soon.