Interview: Scott Alexander
Posted by Literary Titan
Author and screen writer Scott Lawrence Alexander answers some questions about his new novel, Science Fiction. We talk about the golden days of movie theaters, sharing his name with another successful screen writer, and his upcoming projects.
In the beginning of your book, Science Fiction, you list several old science fiction movies (The Queen of Outer Space, Beginning of the End, etc) that may have inspired you. How did those movies inspire this novel and your writing in general?
Those films represent the state of the art of Science Fiction movies in the time I became aware of movies in general. I’d go see them when new ones came out in our local theater. We had only one screen in town back then, so they changed films twice a week. Starting when I was ten years old, there was a program in our town where parents could buy a ticket for $1.50 and it was good for 12 admissions on Tuesdays during the summer. I remember one program was The Colossus of New York and The 4-D Man! I remember seeing Gog on TV, as well as The Invisible Boy and The Brain from Planet Arous. I just soaked up any film like that, as well as any war movies about WWII. As time went by I became aware that ‘messages’ became more important, almost the justification for writing a particular story. Back when a big studio made a SF picture in the 50’s, the idea of adding God into the mix became apparent. In the 60’s, it was simply that man was screwing everything up and the result was zombies or a Planet of the Apes. This is why 2001: A Space Odyssey was largely ignored during its initial release. Kubrick decided to tell a story about evolution that no one could follow, or expected to be asked to follow, given what SF was normally about. In the 70’s, those doing SF looked back on 2001 as a benchmark to be followed and we got things like Silent Running, Westworld and Logan’s Run. Then in 1977, Star Wars hit and changed SF forever. Now that is a really long intro into the inspiration for something that is deliberately a story that wants to join the others written back in the 50’s. The short answer is I always had the idea that if I could become a film director and had my pick of projects, I would do Mars Attacks. I wanted to do the story contained in the cards, not just use the imagery as the basis of a different story. When I found out Tim Burton was in production with Mars Attacks, I was pissed. But, not for long. I decided I could do my own version and never identify where the invaders came from. Ultimately, I saw a way to make something I had not seen in years—a SF movie from the 50’s that I had not seen yet! I also decided that this would not be a spoof or satire, or even an homage. It is a tale that does not really owe its roots to something already seen, but by necessity there would be some things someone might see as coming from one of those films. I think I’ve managed to bring this to fruition.”
You have a central scientific theory in the book, Collapsing Ring Field Theory. This sounds like some fancy science. What kind of research, if any, did you have to do for that and other parts of your book?
This being the science fiction genre, the necessity for research is not all that important. Things like the date of an historical element is definitely researched (like when Einstein died), but in this case I relied on my imagination and knowledge of certain events to carry the story. I’m not saying research isn’t necessary in general, it just depends on the subject.
The ending of the novel reveals why the aliens came to Earth in the first place; sort of chasing the Norman Rockwell idea of life. How did you find this idea and how did it develop?
The story originally ended with the detonation of the atomic bomb and the fate of the world was not revealed. A few test reads told me I was cheating the audience. They were right with me until that point and then felt cheated. My goal was to be dramatic and do the Twilight Zone thing. So, I figured out the ending that is used in the book now. When I finished converting the script into a book, I got the idea for the Prologue and the Epilogue that are in the book now. I should also say that I originally kept the look of the aliens hidden until the turkey dinner at the end. That changed during the conversion to the novel. That was because writing the description at that point killed the moment that was being made. It was necessary for the reader to already know what these people looked like, so the Norman Rockwell moment could be established.
The next question is due to faulty research on the Monster’s part (the result of a night of Scooby Snacks and sucking up a jar of powdered Tang through a coffee straw), but it still yielded an interesting response. Q: You’ve already helped bring some great movies to the silver screen. What is your dream script to write in the future?
You may be thinking of films like Ed Wood, Man on the Moon and The People VS Larry Flint. I did not write those pictures. They were written by Scott Alexander and my authorship uses Scott Lawrence Alexander. I am registered with the Writer’s Guild of America by that name. It is confusing and I’m the harder guy to find by using a search engine! My sole screen credit is Spaced Invaders (1990, Touchstone) This confusion is the result of a phone call I got one day, from Scott Alexander. His first movie, Problem Child, was in post production and the credits had to be locked. He had heard of Spaced Invaders and that his name was on it, somehow. So, he and I decided that I would include my middle name so that we would be in compliance with WGA rules. Ultimately, I probably should have just reversed my first and last names, to be Alexander Scott, but I was thinking that one of us would wind up dropping out of the writing game. He became wildly successful and I did not. Had nothing to do with the name, just the way things worked out. He could get anything he wrote read by important people; I could not even get an agent.
My dream script is whichever of my stories get sold first! SCIENCE FICTION is the first of those I have converted into a novel, hoping to get some kind of exposure to the motion picture community. I have another story I am writing solely as a novel right now, called The Legend’s End. It is best described as a ‘personal’ story taking place in a world similar to that Tolkien created. I am writing this using what I call ‘pseudo-Shakespeare’. It is almost poetry, mainly because it is a love story.
What is the next project in the works for you? Script? Book? What should your fan’s look out for next?
The other two scripts I have are not science fiction stories. One is a WWII story about a group of 5 women that discover an evil Nazi plot and, when no one takes them seriously, they wind up stealing a bomber so they can take out the threat themselves and save the day. That’s the short, not-so-complete description of what is ultimately an action-adventure for women!
The second is a straight drama, called Private Miracles. All I can say about this one is it is about a 55-ish homeless woman who is emotionally 11-years old. Not of limited intelligence, just emotionally handicapped. The hook is she can heal the sick and injured, but doesn’t really understand this. The conflict in the story is what happens to her when this ability is discovered by the world and those who would seek to influence her. The ending is quite a twist and it isn’t until this twist is revealed that the audience will realize exactly what the story is about. This one is a true tear-jerker!