Trailer Fatique

So I was planning on writing some long, drawn out thing about sequels and series and how (while I respect writers who do them) I have no interest in doing anything like that right now.  It was going to be eloquent and convincing and everyone who read it was going to understand completely my position and philosophy.  They’d hoist me on their shoulders and chant my name, and the call for sequels would disappear, replaced by glorious revelry and songs of joy.  Fans would realize all the wonderful things a non-series, standalone book can offer them, and the world would glow with incandescent hope that would usher in a new golden age.

But, y’know what?  You don’t really care.  What’s left to say that hasn’t already been said on either side of the issue?  By now, almost everyone in the world knows how I feel about this, and if they haven’t been convinced by now, they never will be.

Bottom line:  Series are good and fun and worthwhile, and I’m glad they’re out there.  But I’m also glad I’m out there with my standalone novels too.  There!  Now can’t we all just get along?

But if I’m not going to ramble on about a thoroughly explored subject, what am I going to talk about?  Good question.  Dunno.  Let’s find out together.

Am I the only one who is really annoyed by movie trailers?  More and more, they’ve become mini-synopsis of the movie.  And in that way, they’re perfectly crafted.  Heck, some of them give you the play-by-play of the movie, it’s like watching a Cliff’s Notes version.

The obvious examples are found in the recent horror movies ORPHAN and THE FINAL DESTINATION.  Both movies show nearly every important scare or shock.  It’s like they took the movie, cut out all the boring stuff, and just gave you the stuff you go to see.  But how can something be scary if it’s not surprising?  They might as well give a handout at the ticket booth that reads, “Scene 14: Evil Orphan pushes girl in front of car.  Be ready for it!”

Every new trailer for The Final Destination shows one more surprising death.  So far, I know GIRL A is hit by flying debris, GIRL B is killed by a rock flung by a lawnmower, GIRL C is killed by a carwash, GUY A is hit by a bus, GIRL D is killed in a movie theater explosion.  What the hell?  What’s left?  If the trailer for The Sixth Sense had said, “Bruce Willis is a ghost!” why bother seeing the movie?

But this problem is bigger than just horror movie trailers.

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE is just as guilty.  While the initial previews did a decent job of giving the premise and offering a few tidbits, every additional trailer just gives more and more away.  (And I do know that it’s based on a popular book, so surprises are kind of unimportant, but I still don’t see the reason for giving away everything.)

But, like it or not, this is the way it works.  And it works more often than not.  Because people don’t go to be surprised.  They go to be comforted.

If you’ll recall a few posts ago, I suggested that the zombie genre exists not to shock and surprise, but as a safe, predictable comfort food for the soul.  Zombie movies are not surprising or original and haven’t been in a long, long time.  But zombie fans don’t care because that’s not why they’re there.  (And if you disagree, that’s cool.  I’m just one guy with one opinion.)

The Final Destination movies have a similar pattern.  They’ve become something we see just because we see them.  Just like seeing Saw on Halloween or buying Spider-Man comics.  Like Christmas Carol remakes at Christmas time.  We don’t need them.  They have nothing new to offer us.  But we’re not looking for new.  We’re looking for the familiar.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

But can we just admit it?  Can we just agree that, for the most part, we’d rather not be challenged?  That most of what we do is just something we do because we’ve always done it.  It’s true for what we eat, when we sleep, how we relate to one each other, etc., etc., etc.  So why would it be different for our entertainment?

This isn’t implying that there will never be a groundbreaking, surprising, and genuinely refreshing zombie movie in the future.  Or that the latest sequel of The Fast and Furious is automatically stupid.  I’m looking forward to G.I. Joe, for instance, and I’ll admit that it’s a fondness for the entire concept of G.I. Joe.  But I’d like to think it’s also because it looks like a thrilling, jam-packed, actionfest.

Notice how I’m like everybody else here, gang?  I assume that zombie fans like zombies because they’re complacent, but I’ll like G.I. Joe because it’s a great action movie!  I’d call it hipocracy, but I’m just being human.

A friend of mine recently remarked that he was enjoying Blackest Night by DC.  Blackest Night is a zombie movie with some incidental superhero stuff in it.  But my friend really likes Green Lantern, and Green Lantern is part of the story.  My friend also has more affection for zombies than I do.  But he still is there because he likes Green Lantern.  And since this is the only Green Lantern that DC will give him, he takes it.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I’ve never been that forgiving.  I have a tremendous fondness for Thor, and it was tough to give him up.  Yet in the last 10 years, I haven’t found anything about Thor that’s impressed me.  I still like the character, still love the idea.  But the stories just aren’t speaking to me.  So I leave Thor alone.  Occasionally, I pick up a Thor comic at the store, glance through it, and realize that it’s just not for me, no matter how much I wish it was, no matter how fond I am of the God of Thunder.

Man-Thing is another character I love, and for a while, I had a vow to buy anything with Man-Thing in it.  But then a few years ago, Marvel came out with a horror mini-series for Man-Thing that was so uninspired, I stopped about halfway through.  Man-Thing made a recent appearance in the new Marvel Zombies mini.  (Damn zombies.  Am I the only one sick of these guys?)  As much as I wanted to buy this, I just couldn’t talk myself into it.  Because Man-Thing is great, but he’s in the middle of a story I couldn’t give a damn about.

The same thing happened during the last Howard the Duck mini.

So that’s just me.  It’s how I roll.  And maybe it’s why I have no interest in writing a series.  Because I’m quick to abandon my icons.  Perhaps too quick, but we’ll leave that to future generations to decide.

Well, another long, rambling blog post.  If you made it this far, I hope you got something out of it.  Or at least don’t feel as if you’ve wasted too much time.  Or have the time to waste.

Catch you later, gang.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. josx77
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Does that mean you will not be writing a sequel to The Automatic Detective?

  2. A. Lee Martinez
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid that a DETECTIVE sequel is out of the question right now. Not only because I’m not interested in writing one, but because since I’ve switched to my new publisher (Orbit) they have no investment in anything I’ve written before MONSTER.

    I’m sure that one day sequels will pop up, and DETECTIVE will probably be one of the books I’ll be up for writing a sequel to at some point. But that point is a long way off.

  3. jonquest
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    You know, one of the things that caused me to pick up my first of your books (A Nameless Witch) a few months ago was the fact that it was not a part of a series that I would have to invest a ton of money and time into. That, and the delightful back cover summary. I walk into a bookstore and head to the Sci-fi/Fantasy section and sometimes get overwhelmed by all the series I haven’t read yet that look good or that everyone says is good, but I’m just not ready to grab something that I know I will need to get 5 other books to feel like I’ve completed the story. As you’ve also said, I don’t mean that to deride book series, just that it is nice to pick something up that I can read as a stand alone.

    That being said, I also really want an Automatic Detective sequel… go figure.

  4. Goodness
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    It sucks that you hate sequels. I was just coming to ask if they’d be a sequel to ‘A Nameless Witch.’

    I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was charming and witty. I wrote a review of it recently.

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