Monday, March 28, 2005

My Big Dream

I'm going to get grandiloquent and voluble for a while here. Because that's what dreams are for…

My name is Joshua Caleb Foreman. In the Bible, Joshua and Caleb were sent into hostile territory to survey the land that God had promised them. Out of 12 spies, they were the only ones to say "We can take it!" Not because they felt like they had superior forces, but because God told them they would. Joshua is best known for the battle of Jericho. God used his leadership to destroy what was thought to be an impenetrable wall.
Well, today this Joshua sees a wall that needs to be knocked down. This wall is keeping a nation, and much of the world hostage. I'm talking about Hollywood. Who has the power to shape the culture? Politicians in government? A little. But rules never change hearts. Religion? Most of it is fake, and the stuff that isn't has been marginalized. The media? Sure, they have a big impact. They show us the world through their own distorted lens. But I think the real big culture-shaping forces are the story tellers. The artists, musicians and movie-makers. They don't convert people. They seldom convince people. But they lay the foundation for those who do. Stories impart value, often so subtly that you can't notice. And it's an accumulative effect. But the values they impart are like a tsunami: in the deep ocean they appear to be no more than a ripple, but by the time they reach the shore, the momentum and compression creates unstoppable mountains of water. I'll use an example. Susan sees Superman 3 when she is 6 years old. In one scene, Superman and Louis Lane wake up in bed together, clearly insinuating that they slept together out of wedlock. Can this one little detail in one little movie she will probably forget really impact her life and the decisions she will make. Not by itself. When she's 8 she stays up late with her older sister and watches The Breakfast Club. It's a story of a group of High School kids stuck in detention on a Saturday morning. They all hate each other and are fighting, until they finally come together against the authority of the teacher in charge, sneak off and smoke marijuana together. By the end of the film they are all friends and understand each other. I could go on listing movie after movie replete with these wonderful lessons, but I think you get the point.
What do all of these stories have in common? Absolutely no negative repercussions for immoral behavior. In fact, nothing but good comes from it. Again, I'm not saying that people consciously walk through the logic like, "The kids in Breakfast Club did drugs and had fun and became popular, therefore if I do drugs the same thing will happen to me." Of course not. Susan probably won't go seeking drugs out. Most kids don't. Drugs come to them. She won't start looking for sex, boys will be pressuring her for it. And that moment is like the shore compressing the years of 'lessons' they have learned into a tidal wave of temptation that can easily overpower a person. There is no logic to it. It's pure habit at that point. They have been wired to accept a certain way of thinking by a lifetime of bad story consumption. Drugs, casual sex, vengeance… I can list on one hand the number of films that actually show realistic consequences for these things. (The move Requiem for a Dream springs to mind.)

These examples are about basic morality. Morality is nice, but it's not salvation. As a Christian, my goal in life is for others to spend eternity with Christ, not just be good, moral people. Morality is a standard of conduct, and salvation is a matter of the heart. Morality is outside-in, salvation inside-out. So why should one care about both? Because the heart can be deceived so easily. It can be made to hear only certain messages, and block others out. No matter how open-minded, (or empty-minded) you are, your heart still directs your mind. It sets the path that your thoughts travel. It puts up the lens through which you see, perceive, categorize, and judge everything. So when the message of salvation is dropped on a heart that has been hardened and deceived, it does not take root.

Mark 4:
3 "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."…

13 And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them. 16 And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."

How is the soil of the heart prepared? What makes the ground rocky, thorny, shallow, or fertile? The answer of course is manifold, and far too complex to cover here. But I do know what can change it. The language of the heart: the story. Jesus spoke directly to hearts through the story. Every society throughout history recorded its mores and morals in stories to imbue them in the next generation. And Hollywood is doing it now. So what kind of a job are they doing? Well, how many people think that drugs and casual sex are a good thing? Well, more do now then ever. But I submit it's a far smaller percentage than what the storytellers imply. So why does the public continue to consume stories that they disagree with? Because it's all done under the table. It's about leaving things out, not preaching. Very few movies state their moral underpinnings explicitly. The characters never say, "Gee, drugs are great, and nothing bad seems to come of its use!" No, they are just shown having a great time having fun, witty banter with the other characters while doing drugs.

Hollywood just keeps pumping out this execrable miasma, poisoning popular culture and choking out most hope of a revival of the souls of those caught in it. Content with teaching their anti-lessons, and parading around in front of each other each year in the form of the most detestable, pompous, self-congratulatory ceremony ever created. Their demonic masturbatory grins as they pat each others backs sicken me! UGH! But I supposed that is neither here nor there. The point is that I want to TAKE DOWN THAT WALL! How? Well, I've seen some good news on that front. I've seen some cracks. Witness The Lord of the Rings phenomenon. As I write this The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (The fantasy novel by my favorite author) is in production. Here are two stories with a basic Christian ethos and understanding of reality. I believe they slipped through the cracks because they are shrouded in fantasy garb. But that is OK. The story still strikes the heart. It still rouses truth and goodness.

So with these successes in mind, let me tell you about my plan. My big dream. I've never heard of anything quite like it, which means it's either brilliant, or stupid. Time will tell I suppose…


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New World Vision
By Josh Foreman with contributions from Lelia Foreman
Started on September 15, 2003, using ideas from as long ago as 1990
~


Introduction

~

This is the first document created to record my concept for a fiction world. It will doubtless undergo countless revisions over the course of several years until I have things nailed down, and then a more formal document will be created. This doc will be informal and conversational in tone.
The basic idea is to create a fictional world for artists to create art in. A world that will have as much popular culture weight as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I want to build a company around the idea of an ever-expanding, super detailed universe that maintains consistency in all of its iterations.
And an overarching goal is to imbue each story, character, and song with a basically Christian ethos. An underlying understanding of reality as it is revealed in the Bible. This does not mean that I want sermons. In fact, quite the contrary. The goal is not to be the seed-planters, but rather the field-plowers. As paul said: " 6 I planted, Apol'los watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."
I see my job as neither planting or watering, but rather, preparing the soil of the heart to receive the seeds when they are planted, so it won't be like Jesus' example: " 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8"

I believe that by creating compelling entertainment that is imbued with truth just under the surface, I can do what God has called me to do, and begin to reshape my wayward culture.



Vision
~

Note: I have not named anything yet. I can’t until I have the world’s first proto-language. For now we will call the planet New World.
I intend to approach the creation of this ‘universe’ and its inhabitants with a scientific perspective. If a fairy’s body mass is disproportionate to its wing’s tensile strength or the caloric intake would be insufficient to power it, the fairy will not happen. Chemistry, biology, physics, etc. all work the same on this planet as they do on earth. I believe that utilizing a known, standard set of rules will allow for a consistency and depth that has never been achieved in a fantasy-oriented fictional world before.

“What are you talking about? Sci-fi worlds are usually scientifically accurate, right?”

Why yes, they are. But no world has ever achieved the depth and detail that the New World ‘universe’ will have.

“More than Tolkien’s Middle Earth? He was a brilliant linguist and author who created scores of languages and thousands of years of history. How can New World possibly compete with that?”

Tolkien did it alone. I will not. I plan on utilizing the shared knowledge and creativity of hundreds of scientists, authors, linguists, song-writers, artists, and Roman Plumbing experts to forge this world of unsurpassed depth. You see, New World is not being created as a backdrop for a story or two. It is being created to be the springboard for a thousand stories, songs, sculptures, games, and poetry. The creation of this world is not a means to an end. This work is my art. I don’t want to make a franchise with it; I want to build a company around it. New World will not be a book that was turned into a movie and a video game. It will not be a video game that was turned into a book and a movie. New World will be a genre-less creation. (Unless world-creation is a genre.) It will provide the backdrop and tools for hundreds of artists to work in, expanding it.

“Like Star Wars has its Expanded Universe set of books, comics, and games?”

Yes, like that. But unlike George Lucas, I will not be focused on only one story and medium in the universe to the exclusion of the others. Lucas completely ignores what the other artists have given to his universe. That bugs the snot out of me. Why license your stuff if you don’t keep things consistent? I don’t get it. Well, actually I do. It’s about pride. I don’t think Lucas can admit that there are better story tellers using his world. Well I don’t have that problem. I know I suck. I am a jack of all trades, master of none. That knowledge empowers me to put specific tasks in the hands of more capable people.

Anyway, the main reason most fiction universes get inconsistent is that many people in many companies have to make up a bunch of stuff to make their stories happen. Why do they have to make stuff up? Because the universe was based on one story or medium. And many things about the world just weren’t necessary for the telling of that story. But when someone else makes new characters or places within that universe, they usually have to fill holes. You have enough different people in different places at different times filling holes and you are sure to get inconsistency. It’s a top-down solution to creating a universe. I propose a bottom-up solution.



The Short-term Plan

~

Start the way God did it. Since creating a world is just like a baby imitating its father, I will look at the way God did things. Of course, I have it easy. He already made up the physics, chemistry, math, geology, and every other system that makes up our physical reality. So I will just look to those who understand those systems for feedback as I begin to form this universe.
As I began to put my various ideas together one thing became apparent very quickly. There is an enormous amount of interdependencies when it comes to making up a world. The first one to pop up was the problems of names. What do I call this world, its inhabitants, its land masses, and everything else? I can’t just make stuff up. That’s not how our world’s stuff got names. So I realized I need a proto-language. Something like whatever was spoken before Babel. I figure that with beings that live millions of years, (the Ancient Ones, a giant, deep-sea dwelling people.) there could actually be one, ancient language that most of the others have roots in. And that ancient language could be the base for naming many things such as the world, moons, oceans, continents, races, etc. So now I need a linguist. But what do I tell them? To make a convincing language, they need to know a lot about the culture that created it. That means I will need to provide a history of the planet going back to the dawn of civilization. Take into account that there are around a dozen sentient races and we have a lot to figure out. The environment shapes cultures in huge ways. So I need to figure out stuff about the environment they come from. Which leads us back to geological considerations. How many continents are there on this world. Where are the oceanic conveyer belts? How many tectonic plates? Which way are they sliding? How fast? How old is this planet anyway? What happens to the tides if there is more than one moon? That is where I am at now. The geological level.
So how do I get the information I need? I’m still figuring that out. I am currently studying geology so that I can make a good guess at an appropriate design. Once I have that, I will want to check it with scientists who can correct any mistakes and assumptions I have made due to my ignorance of the field. I have not had any luck in contacting the university professors that I have solicited in this matter yet.
That is simple consulting work. I think many would do that just for fun. But what about a linguist who has to put considerably more time and effort into creating a language? How do I compensate them fairly, when I have a current budget of $0.00? I can’t really promise them a share of the profits when I am a millionaire. For starters, I’m pretty sure I never will be one. For seconds, even if I did become successful with this idea, the sheer amount of individuals I will need to get to that point will probably be far too great to be sending profit percentages to. I can certainly trade art services to some. (I have offered one linguist a sort of Rosetta Stone carved with the language he creates for me in return.) But I doubt that will work with everyone. This matter has yet to be resolved. It is possible that I am overestimating the amount of individuals that I will need in order to get New World started.



The Long Term Goal

~

My goal is to be Creative Director at New World Headquarters in Bend, Oregon. I will oversee -on the high level- the production of every product associated with the New World universe. I, along a small team, will ensure that a common vision is carried out through each story, game, toy, etc. Companies will contract with mine to create products based on New World. I will have a team of experts to consult at these companies, to make sure every aspect of their story fits into the world. One of these people will be the Official New World Historian. They will be the main continuity specialist. The skeleton of the history of New World will be available for fleshing out by anyone deemed worthy to do so. As these details are made and approved, the Official New World Historian will add them to a growing database that can be accessed by all the New World contributing artists. They will be able to cross check facts with their own ideas.



How to get there

~

Uuuh… Um. Hmm. Well, I’ll need a business-savvy, trustworthy individual to partner with eventually. I’ll need a business plan. I assume the best rout to building a brand is to start with the cheaper products, such as comics, books, music, animation shorts, and maybe toys. (As opposed to making a movie or television series.) Though there are still considerable amounts of work and money involved in getting these kinds of things rolling as well.
Personally, I will need experience organizing and leading a group of creative individuals. I have some experience, but probably not enough. Fortunately, I have enough artistic skill to do most of the early conceptual work, so I can lay a lot of ground work before I need to involve anyone else.
At some point I will need to find enthusiastic contributors who are willing to work hard for a possible pay off in the future.

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So there it is. My big dream. Big enough for you? You wanna help?

1 Comments:

Blogger bigya said...

yes and yes.

10:16 AM  

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