50 Shades, Alien 5, book snobs: weekend writing links


Because I love writing, and books, and studying how storytelling works, I presume you do too. So here are a few links to writing about writing.

First: Jeet Heer writes a quick and insightful Twitter essay: 50 Shades, Romantic Comedies, & Keynesian Economics.

As a teacher of story structure, a lover of myth, and an Econ major, I eat this stuff up.

Second: the best Alien-related news I could ever have hoped for. Alien 5 to Ignore Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.

“Neill Blomkamp’s new Alien film will be picking up the story after James Cameron’s Aliens…”

Weaver told Sky Movies that “I would love to take Ripley out of orbiting around in space and give a proper finish to what was such an excellent story. So when somebody like Neill Blomkamp suddenly said ‘well, I’m interested in finishing the story’, my little ears perked up.”

It was Blomkamp who dropped the big revelation though. “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens. So it’s Alien, Aliens, this movie.”

Yep: the new Alien film is seeming going to wipe Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection out of the series’ continuity.


Alien scared me to hell. Aliens is one of my top five favorite movies of all time. And ninety seconds into Alien 3, I wanted to torch the movie screen. After the thrilling, tragic, heroic story in Aliens, I hated what the filmmakers did to Newt and Cpl. Hicks. They tossed them into an ash heap, almost casually. And to my livid, frothing mind, they did it because they wanted to write a story set on an ore mining planet, and that story didn’t have room for the characters Ripley had fought nearly to the death to save. So Newt and Hicks were disposed of.

I walked out of the theater with clenched fists. I’ve spent more than 20 years determined to convince myself that the Alien 3 story NEVER HAPPENED. Sweet motherloving Jesus, I am still angry about it.

But now Sigourney Weaver and director Neill Blomkamp have a chance to set things right. JUSTICE AT LAST.

This is how writers feel about the importance of story. Just so you know.

Finally, at Hey Dead Guy, Erin Mitchell explains How To Be a Book Snob.

1. Use the phrase “transcends the genre” frequently and in a complimentary fashion. […]

2. Damn genre authors with faint praise at every opportunity.

3. Choose one or two popular genre novels and refer to them as your guilty pleasure. You need not have actually read them.


7. Should you happen to encounter a writer of said genre novels in the course of your fabulous life, be sure to educate him or her all that is wrong with genre fiction.

From personal experience, I’ll add: If you speak to a mystery author…

(a) Always state this disclaimer: “Normally I would never read a mystery — I only read Aristotle, and histories of the Napoleonic Wars — but I must admit that your novel was good.”

(b) Pull us aside and — quietly, like you’re performing an intervention — tell us: “You have real talent. Promise me that some day you’ll stop squandering it and write a real book.”

Read books that you love. Don’t feel guilty. Do occasionally stretch yourself. Read new authors and new genres. Switch from fiction to non-fiction, or vice versa. Occasionally pick up a classic. But books should be a pleasure. Never let people dissuade you from loving them.

10 responses to “50 Shades, Alien 5, book snobs: weekend writing links

  1. Ok, Meg, I’ll take your advice and come clean. Normally I never read romance novels (!), but recently I re-read The Thorn Birds which I’d loved at age 20. Forbidden love. The harsh, unforgiving Outback. A perfect male specimen to pine for, albeit priestly. Achingly sad. Pure pleasure. There, I feel much better now.

  2. That’s the spirit!

  3. Wait… You were an Econ. major?! And just when I thought my respect for you couldn’t go any higher! I can’t wait until your bio includes the Evan Delaney, Jo Beckett, and Pareto Optimization series.

    • “This MacGuffin is fungible yet price-inelastic. That means the killer must be… Keynes, the butler!”

      • “I have deduced that the killer increased her utility by murdering the victim, and simultaneously, the victim’s husband increased his utility as a result of the murder. Therefore the murder occurred in the colorfully-named cigar-shaped-area of the Edgeworth Box I’ve sketched out here in chalk on the top of the trunk in which the body is hidden. For the murderer and the husband, this crime was a win-win.”

      • Forget it, Jake — it’s Capitalismtown.

      • Shouldn’t that be, “Forget it, Jake – it’s Made in Chinatown” . . . ? Sorry, couldn’t resist . . . I’ll show myself out.

  4. My mom (Ransom River bad girl) told me about this post. Just wanted to say, re: your comments on Alien 5/3: Amen! I was reading Tolkien’s letters recently and he mentioned having to satisfy outstanding narrative debts as he brought The Lord of the Rings to a close. I think “debt” is an excellent way of thinking about it. The second Bourne movie begins by killing a major character, but you are rightly meant to feel her absence throughout (and still in the third movie). It’s manipulative, but they *pay* *their* *debt*. The makers of Alien 3 blithely said, “You know what, I really don’t like that color [Hicks and Newt]” and assumed they could just as blithely paint over them. And then they killed Ripley at the end. That fundamental lack of decency toward loved characters was – even more than the rampant pretentiousness on show – what made that movie terrible. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s been nursing this particular First World wound for the last twenty years plus. This storytelling thing is a serious and dangerous business . . .

  5. “Having to satisfy outstanding narrative debts” is a great way to look at wrapping up a story. (It’s also why Return of the King seems to have at least four endings.) And I agree with you about the Bourne movie.

    Glad I’m not the only one who feels that it’s time for Ripley, Hicks, and Newt to receive justice. Fist bump, my brother-in-narrative-arms.

  6. I also was a big fan of alien. But in the end it was a guy in a suit. True the mouth inside the mouth was a twist, Tough to get a dentist thou. But it was different and yet the same. They say you cannot scream in outer space but to the myth no one has done the experiment. You need to spacemen to take off their helmets and one to howl and the other to listen. Any volunteers from NASA?

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