Sword & Laser ep. 11 - Interview with Gary Whitta

Uploaded by geekandsundry on Aug 31, 2012


TOM MERRITT: (DRUNKENLY) Coming up, how books can force
you into love of their stories.
VERONICA BELMONT: Are you drunk?
VERONICA BELMONT: And we kick off the September book,
Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Our 1,000 year plan for Sword and Laser book club domination
starts now.
That was louder than expected.

Hi everyone, welcome to the Sword and Laser.
I'm Veronica Belmont and I'm Tom Merritt.
And we are all about the science fiction and fantasy
here on this show.
And we will bear our swords to prove it to you.
TOM MERRITT: Or our lasers?
Can't really bare a laser.
Put it this way, all you have to do to join our club is
enjoy science fiction, or fantasy, or anything similar,
like Elf-punk, for instance.
VERONICA BELMONT: That is actually a real thing.
TOM MERRITT: A real thing.
VERONICA BELMONT: And today we're talking to Gary Whitta,
an author, podcaster, and screenwriter who's adapted
some sci-fi awesomeness for the silver screen.
TOM MERRITT: But quickly, we take a look at some of the
hottest things happening in sci-fi and fantasy.
Hence the name Quick Burns.

VERONICA BELMONT: Io9 is putting together a science
fiction story and you could be one of the writers.
Once every two weeks, they'll post original concept art from
the Framestore art department and invite anyone to write 800
words or less about what's going on in the pictures.
The Framestore folks will choose a couple of the pieces
and create the next two frames for folks to write about, and
so on, and so on.
TOM MERRITT: I actually posted something.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, it better not suck or you're
going to embarrass us all.
TOM MERRITT: I know, right?
Sadly, Ray Bradbury did not live to see his 92nd
birthday last week.
But NASA gave him a present anyway.
In honor of the author of The Martian Chronicles, the area
where the Mars Curiosity Rover landed will be known
officially as Bradbury Landing.
VERONICA BELMONT: Aww, that's really nice.
That's very exciting, too.
But Tom, I do have some bad news for you.
VERONICA BELMONT: You know that movie version of Stephen
King's The Dark Tower that you were so excited about?
TOM MERRITT: Mm-hmm, yeah.
VERONICA BELMONT: So well, you know how it
got dumped by Universal?
VERONICA BELMONT: And we were bummed about that.
But then Warner Brothers picked it back up again.
TOM MERRITT: I know, I was excited.
VERONICA BELMONT: And that was exciting.
But, yeah, Warner Brothers, they dumped it.
Yeah, Deadline reports that Media Rights Capital may be in
talks to pick it back up again--
VERONICA BELMONT: --which is great.
But knowing how things go, they'll probably dump it too.
TOM MERRITT: Will I ever love--
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm not trying to be--
TOM MERRITT: Dark Tower again.
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm trying to be positive
here, a little bit.
TOM MERRITT: And sober.
TOM MERRITT: Icons of science fiction and fantasy Emma Bull
and Stephen Brust, coincidentally had surgery at
almost the same time recently.
Emma had a thyroidectomy on August 8 and Steve had a
defibrillator implanted on August 22.
Both were struggling with medical bills, so author Scott
Lynch published his name-your-price novel Queen of
the Iron Sands with 2/3 of the proceeds going
to Steve and Emma.
Find out more about it at scottlynch.us.
VERONICA BELMONT: The folks who wrote Star Trek 2 and
producing Ender's Game are about to bring you a movie
about dragons and those who study them.
Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci are set to adapt the
children's book Dragonology for Universal.
Universal acquired the rights to the book back in 2008.
And hopefully they won't dump it the way they dumped The
Dark Tower.
TOM MERRITT: Oh please, you're just like sticking--
you know what?
We're going to let Gary Whitta dock with us in just a second.
So while we bring him aboard, please enjoy this look at
today in alternate history.

VERONICA BELMONT: We're very happy to have Gary Whitta with
us today, writer of The Book of Eli, former editor in chief
of PC Gamer magazine, and an all-around great geek.
Lem, have we cycled the airlock?
VERONICA BELMONT: Can we let him in?
Let's bring him in.
VERONICA BELMONT: Hey, welcome to the show.
Gary Whitta.
GARY WHITTA: Hi, Veronica, Tom.
TOM MERRITT: Good to have you.
Thanks for coming.
VERONICA BELMONT: Have a seat, please.
GARY WHITTA: It was my first time
stepping out of an airlock.
I've always wanted to do that.
TOM MERRITT: Do you feel decontaminated?
I feel very clean and yet dirty at the same time.
TOM MERRITT: Perfect, that means it's working.
VERONICA BELMONT: So first of all, thank you for coming all
the way up here to our pub in space.
So tell us a little bit about After Earth, the new project
you're working on with M Night Shyamalan?
GARY WHITTA: There's only so much I can tell you, because,
as with a lot of Night projects, it tends to be kind
of shrouded in secrecy.
VERONICA BELMONT: And lots of twists.
GARY WHITTA: Well, maybe, maybe not.
Maybe the twist is there is no twist.
Who knows?
You never know.
But it was a really fun project for me work on.
I got to work with Night, who's the director.
And I got to work, obviously, with Will Smith and Jayden,
who are in it together, playing a father and son,
again, which they've done before.
But now doing it on a much bigger scale--
1,000 years in the future and humankind now lives across the
galaxy on other planets.
They've colonized other planets and left Earth behind,
because Earth has kind of kicked humanity off of Earth.
And Jayden and Will are taking a spaceship trip together, and
the ship crashes back on Earth-- the first humans back
on Earth in 1,000 years.
And Earth doesn't really want them there any more.
Humans aren't welcome there anymore.
And Will's very injured.
And to rescue him, Jayden has to trek out into this
incredibly dangerous--
kind of gimmick is, the most dangerous place in the galaxy
now, for humans, is Earth itself.
And Jayden has to kind of go on this journey and survive
pretty much everything that this newly evolved Earth can
throw at him to save himself and his dad, and fire off this
rescue beacon to get a ship to come and save them.
VERONICA BELMONT: Now is this a scenario where you come up
with the idea for the screenplay, or is it something
where they come to you with an idea, and then you write it?
How does this kind of situation work?
GARY WHITTA: It was Will's original idea.
Will was actually sitting around watching one of these
I-shouldn't-be-alive type TV shows about people that
survive terrible life or death type situations.
And he wanted to do a thing with Jayden about an estranged
father and his son who, through this catastrophe that
they survive together, they kind of heal their
And originally, it was a much smaller movie.
I think they were taking like a trip, like, in the Colorado
Rockies, and there was an avalanche.
And the car was buried.
And Jayden had to trek off.
And so it was really kind of a much smaller, more
contemporary movie.
And then Will said, how about if it was 1,000
years in the future?
So the budget went up.
As it does in that scenario.
GARY WHITTA: A little bit.
But with Will you have the luxury to do that to make it a
much bigger movie.
And he just had the idea.
But he didn't have it fleshed out.
And I was invited to come in and pitch him my broader idea
of what I thought the movie was.
And I pitched it to him.
And he liked it.
And he hired me.
And then he and I got to sit around a long time, many story
sessions, kind of developing the movie and geeking out
about what the world in 1,000 years might look like.
And then I went away and wrote it.
And then Night came on as the director.
And then he and I rewrote it together.
So I go to work with Night, and Jayden, and Will, and all
these super awesome people.
It was really, really fun.
TOM MERRITT: You get to work on so many cool things.
We're all big Walking Dead fans here.
Tell us a little bit about working on the
Telltale Games episode.
GARY WHITTA: That's actually what I'm doing right now.
I literally just came from a Walking Dead voice recording
session a few miles away to come over here today, because
we're just kind of putting the finishing
touches on the script.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, they're also in space?
GARY WHITTA: Uh, no zombies in space.
Maybe season 2.
VERONICA BELMONT: No, but I mean, the VO sessions, they
have a studio up in space as well?
GARY WHITTA: Oh yes, of course.
I had to take a shuttle pod over here.
VERONICA BELMONT: We'll have to go visit.
GARY WHITTA: In order to get here from across the galaxy.
So Telltale's doing the Walking Dead video game
adaptation of the original comics.
No relationship to the TV show at all.
And really not much relationship
to the comics either.
Because they've been given license by Robert Kurtzman to
go off and kind of tell their own original story with a new
set of characters.
Which is cool, because you don't have to tell Rick's
story again.
And you're not bound by--
TOM MERRITT: You don't have people are saying, well, Shane
did this in the comic.
But why is Shane doing that?
GARY WHITTA: Absolutely.
And we can kill anybody we like.
Because you couldn't kill Rick in the TV show because,
obviously, he needs keep going and there's a comic story they
have to kind of adhere too.
But we created a whole new set of characters.
And we can, and do, kill anybody that we like on a
regular basis.
TOM MERRITT: Which is true to the spirit of the comic.
GARY WHITTA: Yeah, of course.
Anybody can die.
And anybody will die.
And it's very, very bleak.
And we've tried to stay true, really, to the tone, which is
just relentlessly brutal.
And what you get to do with a video game, which I think is
even more fun than in a comic or a TV iteration is you're
not just torturing the characters in the story, your
torturing the player.
Because the player now has to make those agonizing choices.
And one thing that we've worked really, really hard on
doing is there's no good or bad option.
It's really just that you're constantly picking the lesser
of two evils.
And I think it was Jerry from Penny Arcade that wrote my
favorite thing about the game.
He said I'm not sure these guys are making a
game you can win.
You can just define the manner in which you lose.
Because it's a very grim story.
And there may be a grim ending in store, depending on how you
play the game.
We've had a tremendous amount of fun with it.
I'm writing episode four right now.
And there's a lot of pressure on me, because episodes one,
two, and three, which actually just came out today as we were
recording this, have all been getting these incredibly
stellar reviews.
They keep saying, each episode is better than the last.
So I'm thinking, oh my god, I'm going to be--
GARY WHITTA: I'm going to be the one to mess it all up.
They've set the bar very, very high.
But I'm also very fortunate, because I was also a story
consultant on the whole thing and got to help them craft
where the story went on a bigger level.
I didn't know which episode they were going
to give me to write.
And then four turns out to be the one--
I don't know if you've noticed this, but it almost seems like
the penultimate episodes of shows now, is where all the
really crazy shit happens.
Like Game of Thrones, the penultimate episode is always
crazy weird one.
TOM MERRITT: "Blackwater."
GARY WHITTA: Walking Dead does it, Mad Men.
It used to be the season finale.
Now it's the one before that.
And the season finale is used to just kind of
mop everything up.
So I get the one before the season finale.
And it is the one that we think is,
maybe, the most insane.
One of the guys at Telltale said it feels like going from
Alien to Aliens, because it gets much
bigger and much grander.
And we get to have a lot more fun with it than we have had
in the previous three episodes.
So they're building it now.
And we'll see how it comes together.
But I'm really happy with the script, and we've got some
really fun new characters.
I think we're going to have a good time with it.
TOM MERRITT: Sounds like a blast, yeah.
VERONICA BELMONT: Now we don't talk about comic books and
graphic novels too much on this show.
But you have had some experience writing for those
in the past, with Death Jr. But you're also working on a
new spin on a classic tale, which I
believe is about Oliver.
GARY WHITTA: Yeah, Oliver Twist.
GARY WHITTA: When I have more of it, I've got to come back.
And you should do more comic stuff.
Because there's so much crossover.
I think reading a great graphic novel these days is
just as valid as reading a great novel.
Like Watchmen is in Time's 100 greatest novels of all time,
as it should be.
TOM MERRITT: There's excellence like The Unwritten
out there that are, like, right in the vein of sci-fi
and fantasy.
GARY WHITTA: Yeah, they're so much more literary than
they've ever been before.
And they're much more of a legitimate literary form than
they've ever been.
And I don't know if my little contribution to it is going to
sustain that.
But certainly, we have great literary roots in taking a
story from Charles Dickens.
But we've set it in kind of a post-apocalyptic, steampunk,
Victorian future England.
And we've done crazy stuff like given
Oliver super powers.
Like Charles Dickens is probably spinning in
his grave right now.
But it's public domain.
So he can't do anything about it.
And we're having a lot of fun with it.
I'm working with Darick Robertson, who was the
co-creator of
Transmetropolitan with Warren Ellis.
He co-created The Boys with Garth Ennis.
He's drawn Wolverine, X-Men.
He's a really, really wonderful artist, extremely
talented guy.
And so I was very fortunate to get him to kind of believe in
this idea and come together.
And we just got to announce it at Comic-Con a couple of
months ago.
And I knew I was on to something, because I was
sitting around a table.
We had lunch with all the other Image Comics.
We're doing it through Image Comics, all the other talent
they have there.
They've got an incredible amount of talent.
Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, and Matt Fraction and all
these guys.
And then Brubaker said to me, so what's your story?
And I told him.
I gave him that 30-second pitch.
He was like, I should've thought of that.
GARY WHITTA: OK, if Ed Brubaker likes it, then maybe
we're onto something.
So I'm pretty excited about it.
And we're hoping it's going to be out sometime next year.
TOM MERRITT: We've got some questions from the audience.
Peter saw Book of Eli in the theater when it came out.
Loved it.
And wanted to know some of your inspirations for the
story, especially what made you choose a blind
GARY WHITTA: Oh my goodness!
Spoiler alert.
Oh, well it's been out for a couple of years.
And if you haven't seen it by now, you deserve it.
TOM MERRITT: I think there's rules on spoilers
GARY WHITTA: There has to be a statute of limitations on
these things.
Originally, it had kind of pulpy roots.
I grew up on Westerns and samurai movies.
And I've always wanted to do one of those lone, wandering
badass, kind of Zatoichi-type--
TOM MERRITT: Like Caine from Kung Fu?
GARY WHITTA: Yeah, like Caine.
That guy in the desert who's not looking for any trouble.
But if you try to cause trouble, he'll kill everybody
in the room.
So I wanted to do that kind of man with no name, like you
said, Kung Fu kind of guy.
But also was trying to kind of find a way to elevate it
somehow and try to make it about something.
I always think movies that really are worth something are
the ones that you can think about long after you've left
the theater.
They leave an idea that troubles you or makes you
think beyond just what you saw on the screen.
And I don't know why, but at the time I was writing it, I
was thinking a lot about religion and the positive and
negative aspects of religious faith.
I'm not personally religious, but, obviously, it's one of
the most fascinating forces in the universe.
And it is very interesting how--
I don't I think it's an absolute bad
or an absolute good.
I think people that people that have personal faith and
believe in something, I'm actually
quite envious of that.
I think that's a wonderful thing.
But I think that organized religion and big, monolithic
religions and evangelism can often be quite dangerous and
turned for purposes that are counter to what they
originally intended to be.
And so that was kind of the duality
that we tried to explore.
That Eli was this very quiet, personal man of faith that
kept his faith private.
And that's what really powered him
through all these hardships.
And then Gary Oldman's character, Carnegie, was
really just like a modern day televangelist.
And it was really, really funny, because I think like
Glenn Beck or someone associated with him tweeted
something that he liked the movie.
And I was like, don't you get it?
You're the villain in that movie!
You're watching it and not appreciating that this movie
is supposed to be about how what a scumbag you are.
And it's funny how it goes over some people's heads.
And a lot of people think it's a Christian movie.
It's really not intended to be.
But I got to work with Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman,
and just had an insane time working on it.
And it opened a lot of doors for me.
So it was good experience.
TOM MERRITT: I think that's a great thing, that you can
approach that movie from lots of different perspectives,
even if you're Glenn Beck, and get something out of it.
I think that's a testament to great writing.
GARY WHITTA: Yeah, it's interesting.
Well, one of the themes in the movie is that, I think,
people bring to--
there's a line somewhere in the movie where Denzel says
something about like, in the Bible, that everyone takes
something different from it.
And I think, for example, that if you're a charitable,
kind-hearted person, then you'll read the Gospels, and
if you take anything from it, you'll probably take, like,
Jesus' message of, you should do more for other people than
you should do for yourself.
If you are a bigot or a homophobe, you'll probably
find the one part in the Bible that kind of speaks to you and
go, well, look, Jesus said this.
So you can take anything from it.
People will take from a movie the same thing.
Like really hardcore atheists hate the movie.
They think it's Christian propaganda.
Christian people love it, because they see the positive
side of it.
They don't necessarily see that the movie is also talking
about the negative aspects of religion.
But I still get emails and Facebook messages to this day
from people of faith and people that really saw
something in the movie that are like, this did something
for me and my faith.
Or thank you for writing this movie.
And it sounds silly, but that is really why we write.
That's the kind of stuff that means everything in the world
to me to get messages like that from people that the
movie in some way touched them.
Alden O'Neil wants to know, hey, ever played Fallout?
GARY WHITTA: I get that a lot.
GARY WHITTA: I played the original.
A lot of people make comparisons between Eli and
Fallout 3, because there was a visual--
I guess, aesthetically , it was similar.
I never played Fallout 3.
And, in fact, the script for Book of Eli was written two
years before Fallout 3 even came out.
But Albert and Allen Hughes, who directed the movie, I
think had a very kind of video game, graphic.
They always said they wanted it to look like a graphic
novel come to life.
And they did crazy things to make that happen, like,
there's no real sky in the movie at all.
Every single sky in the film is a digital sky replacement.
And they did all this crazy stuff like the clouds are
always moving in the same direction that Eli is going.
Things that you would never notice, but that visualists
like Allen and Albert would really geek out on those kind
of little details.
But it did have this kind of video game look to it.
And it was really inspired more by some of the darker,
post-apocalyptic fiction that I've seen.
There's a great BBC TV movie from the 1980s called Threads
about what would happen in a nuclear war, like one atom
bomb falling on a small English city in northern
England, how it would affect.
And it's silent.
They made us watch it in school.
And I had nightmares for weeks afterwards.
And it was really inspired more by the kind of
hyper-realistic fiction like that.
But by the time it went through the Hollywood machine
and you get very big, visual guys coming and put it through
their process, their filter, it ended up becoming a much
more kind of visually rich thing.
And it's a beautiful-looking movie.
A lot of people say they think it looks like
it was shot on Instagram.
Because it's so heavily filtered.
And they desaturated the color out of the movie.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's also pre-Instagram.
Instagram should be paying me something.
TOM MERRITT: Prior art.
VERONICA BELMONT: Post-apocalyptic filter.
GARY WHITTA: Absolutely.
TOM MERRITT: Casey wants to know what you feel the best
medium for storytelling is.
I mean, you work in so many different media--
films, comic books, games.
He wants to put your back against the wall.
He says, "no fair saying it's relative to
the story being told.
Pick a platform." I don't know if you can.
GARY WHITTA: Yes, but in fact, that's bogus, because that's
the only answer that makes any sense.
When I first come up with an idea, the very, very first
question I ask myself is, what medium is
this best suited for?
Like Oliver, when I first had the idea, I really went back
and forth for a long time on whether or not was a feature
film or a comic book.
And it actually was originally first written
as a feature film.
It was actually the first piece of material I wrote that
got me representation in Hollywood.
But the only reason I wrote it as a movie, because I felt
like it could be equally both served as a comic book or as a
movie, was I slightly, at that time, more familiar with the
language and the syntax of writing a film.
I didn't know how to write a comic book at all.
So I wrote it first is a movie.
But then years later, it kind of emigrated back into being a
comic book again.
But you do that every time.
I'm writing a thing right now, which will be my first novel,
simply because the story doesn't conform to a
traditional feature film structure.
I want to be able to tell it my own way without having to
worry about, oh Hollywood will never buy this because it's
too weirdly structured.
So, in that case, it went into the novel box.
And something else might be appropriate for a video game
or a comic book.
It really is--
I'm sorry to kind of throw the premise of the question back
in the guy's face.
But that really is the only true answer.
TOM MERRITT: Do you have a favorite medium to write in or
to create in?
Or are there favorite things about particular
media that you enjoy?
I like, I guess film is kind of where I'm most comfortable,
because that's where I've done my most work.
If I have kind of a base, default, home medium, it would
be film, because I've done most of my work there.
I've done television.
I've done video games.
I've done some other things.
I'm actually becoming increasingly attracted to
video games, because even though it's nightmarishly
like with the Walking Dead, the way that you can branch
the story, and tell lots of different versions of the
story is really attractive to me as an author.
Oftentimes, when I am writing a scene, I'll be like, well,
I'd love it if it went this way.
But this way would also be interesting as well.
But in a movie, you kind of have to pick one.
In a video game, I can write all of them and force you to
pick which way you want to go.
VERONICA BELMONT: Choose your own adventure.
GARY WHITTA: It's very much like a choose your own
adventure game.
TOM MERRITT: I'm glad to heard your working on a novel.
I've been looking forward to it.
VERONICA BELMONT: If you want to do NANOWRIMO with us, by
all means, that will help.
GARY WHITTA: With place that I write, I don't
think I'd get anywhere.
But I do actually have to thank you for inspiring to get
back to it.
Because I started writing it.
I wrote 30,000 words of a novel.
And then just The Walking Dead and After Earth and other
things got in the way.
And it just sat in there for six months.
And then when you said, do you want to come on Sword and
Laser, and you made that little Goodreads page for me,
I went and looked, and said wow, there's nothing on here.
I should write something.
I should write a book.
And so I finally, yesterday, I finished a chapter that had
been sitting there unfinished for like six months.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, that's great.
VERONICA BELMONT: Happy to help.
GARY WHITTA: Sword and Laser, I have you to thank.
But you won't get any royalties.
TOM MERRITT: Good job, Bellmont.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, we actually have a pretty good
follow-up question about video game writing from Everett, who
asks, "I'm wondering what the game-writing process is like,
specifically, when Gary was working on Gears of War.
Is it more writing by committee,
which is what I imagine?
Or does it have more in common with screenwriting and the
pitch-draft-polish paradigm?"
GARY WHITTA: Well, with Gears of War I was really just
involved very, very early on in the conceptual stage.
And I don't think anything that I actually wrote wrote
ended up in the finished game.
But I did help Cliff in the early days of, kind of,
figuring out what the parameters of
the universe were.
Walking Dead is really a much better example like
from soup to nuts.
I was there in the initial meetings where they were
figuring out what the parameters of the overall
story were.
And then, episode-by-episode, oh, wouldn't it be cool if
this happened, and kind of pitching different ideas.
And then I went away and wrote an episode.
And then, having written a massive, like 500-page
document, because, again, you have to write eight versions
of every different scene--it's crazy, actually spending like
two weeks in the Telltale office, taking that and then
plugging it into their proprietary dialog tool.
It's so complicated.
It's like no other kind of writing.
Because you actually have to engage the creative, right
side, and then the logical left side of your
brain at the same time.
Usually you only use one half.
But it's like so, if Lee says something to this character,
and in episode three, he pissed him off, so that flag
is triggered.
And then he doesn't have this item on him, then only this
can happen.
TOM MERRITT: It's multi-linear.
GARY WHITTA: The tool is like, you get to write the script
down in this little side bar.
But the actual main tool looks like just this impossibly
complicated flow chart of all these different flags and
triggers and cascading possibilities.
And there was some times, after writing incredibly
like this one scene, I think there's at least eight
different ways it can end.
And then there are multiple permutations within each of
those endings.
And by the time we had it all in place, I had to go sit in a
dark room for like 20 minutes, because my brain was just
killing me.
TOM MERRITT: That sounds insane.
GARY WHITTA: It's incredibly satisfying for the player,
because they can go back and experience the game multiple
different ways.
TOM MERRITT: One last viewer question from Aiden wants to
know, you get into a barroom brawl, greaser style, who do
you take as back up--
Will Smith, the other Will Smith, or Norm?
GARY WHITTA: Well, first of all, I need to know which one
is the other Will Smith.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's what I don't know.
GARY WHITTA: I don't know.
TOM MERRITT: Well, one is Will Smith the actor.
And one is Will Smith--
VERONICA BELMONT: Well we know that, but which is the real?
GARY WHITTA: But which one gets to be Will Smith A, and
which one has to be the other Will Smith B?
Because I feel I have divided loyalties here.
GARY WHITTA: I actually saw actor Will Smith more recently
than Tested Will Smith.
TOM MERRITT: We'll say, yeah.
Then you can pick whichever Will Smith you want.
VERONICA BELMONT: Now, Will Smith from Tested is going to
take this very personally.
VERONICA BELMONT: We'll call Will Smith, the actor.
TOM MERRITT: Pick Norm, it's easier.
GARY WHITTA: One of our most famous moments on Tested-- you
can find the clip on YouTube--
is talking to Will about how he would do in a fight against
a bag of raccoons.
And he didn't really acquit himself very well in that
So I wouldn't trust Will terribly well.
Other Will Smith, the movie Will Smith, usually has a
pretty big entourage with him.
So you can probably rely on all of that backup--
TOM MERRITT: That's smart.
GARY WHITTA: --if that were to occur.
But what is greaser style?
Does that mean you can just break bottles and stuff?
VERONICA BELMONT: Probably means you can tie your wrists
together with switchblades.
GARY WHITTA: Like in "Beat It"?
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, exactly.
I would probably take the movie Will Smith.
Because I think people would just be less likely to give
him any trouble.
And also, he's so super nice that he would
just defuse the situation.
GARY WHITTA: Whereas Will has a way of
just irritating people.
TOM MERRITT: He'll just charm the Jets into
dropping their beef.
GARY WHITTA: That's exactly what he would do.
Everybody would buy each other a Coke.
Yeah, so we have some general questions that we typically
ask our guests who come up to the pub.
VERONICA BELMONT: So what book would you recommend to someone
just starting off with reading genre fiction?
GARY WHITTA: You know, it's kind of a cliche at point, but
you can't really go wrong with Game of Thrones, I think.
It's a great series.
Here's why.
Game of Thrones, I think, is brilliantly plotted.
And it's got so much intrigue.
And it's so interesting.
It almost doesn't need the fantasy element.
And the fantasy element, obviously, is dialed way back
in those books.
I think the prose style, it's good.
But if you want to read really great fiction, I would read
Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind.
And the sequel to that, Wise Man's Fear.
I mean, that is just such a beautifully elaborate--
I remember the first time I told you, you
were like, get out!
You've read that too?
You were so happy that you'd found someone else
who had read it.
Because it wasn't terribly well-known at that point.
VERONICA BELMONT: It wasn't huge back then, yeah.
GARY WHITTA: But now it's getting bigger.
And it's an incredibly good book.
Not just in terms of the world-building, but the prose
is just-- oh, it's like syrup.
You just want to eat it all up.
It's so beautifully constructed and written.
But that was probably the best time I've had
reading a book recently.
So I definitely would recommend that.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, you know he's doing a writer's
show, a Google Hangout, here on Geek and Sundry.
GARY WHITTA: Oh, really?
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, same night Sword and Laser's on.
GARY WHITTA: Because he's a super, super nice guy, too.
I liked the book so much that I sent him an email.
It's kind of like we say, you've have to complement the
chef on meal, it was so good.
But I found him and sent him an email.
And he was gracious enough to write back.
And he ended up sending me some books.
And I sent him a copy of my movie.
And we became friends.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, that's wonderful.
GARY WHITTA: Yeah, because he's just one of those guys
that's like super approachable and super nice.
And I have to admit, I haven't read the second one yet.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, it's worth it.
GARY WHITTA: I'm going to get to it.
TOM MERRITT: It's almost exciting to know you haven't
read it, because it means you get to read it.
A really great movie, a really great book, like once you've
read it, you kind of wish you could wipe it.
You only get to read it for the first time once.
So I'm looking forward to the second one.
TOM MERRITT: Last question, we have a lot of folks in our
audience who are aspiring writers.
Who love the genre.
They want to get into writing.
You are a greatest person to ask this because you've done
it in so many different mediums.
Do you have any tips, any advice for folks are just
getting started?
GARY WHITTA: Just write.
Just write, and write, and write.
And don't get bogged down in instruction or method or
reading too many books about how to write.
Stephen King wrote a great book about writing.
There are great books out there that will help you.
Especially in screenwriting, there's a whole cottage
industry of people that will try to sell you their
particular brand of snake oil, of here are the top 10 tips
that you need to know to write a blockbuster screenplay.
Meanwhile, the guy that wrote that has never written
anything in his life.
If you actually had those tips, why not apply them to
writing you own blockbuster screenplay and make millions
of dollars?
There's a lot of people out there that will tell you a
screenplay has to be this.
A screenplay has to be that.
Something has to happen by page 10.
Here's the structure.
And there are rules about structure and guidelines and
things that are really useful.
But you can tie yourself up in knots thinking that things
have to conform to a certain way.
My thing is I always say that if you write a movie or a book
according to a formula, you'll end up with a formulaic story.
And things like Memento, and Inception, and things that
have really kind of interesting, twisty
structures, they would never exist if the author had felt
shackled to those formulas.
So, by all means, read the books, and go to a seminar,
and learn how to do it.
But the best thing you can do is read.
If you want to write screenplays, read a lot of
If you want to write novels, read a lot of novels and learn
from how they do it.
And you will just absorb it.
And then just write, and write, and write.
Because there's no excuse.
I get tons of people going, oh I want to write
something one day.
Well, why don't you?
Anyone can find the time at some point to sit down and
write something.
And the more you write, the better you'll get.
The first 10 screenplays I wrote were atrocious.
But I had to write those 10 to get to the 11th one that was
the first one that was maybe good
enough to show to someone.
So you have to keep churning it out.
TOM MERRITT: Gary, thanks so much for coming up to the
space castle today.
GARY WHITTA: Thanks for having me.
How do I get back down?
Is there a shuttle back down?
VERONICA BELMONT: Lem will help you.
Just hang tight for a second.
TOM MERRITT: Don't worry.
We have some hot new books coming out in
next fortnight, folks.
So let's take a look at the calendar.

VERONICA BELMONT: On September 3, we have Clockwork Angels
the novel by Kevin J Anderson and Neil Peart--
yes, that Neil Peart, the one from the band Rush.
Expect steampunk, alchemy, lost cities, pirates,
anarchists, and of course, exotic carnivals.
TOM MERRITT: What, no Tom Sawyer?
September 4, we have The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory
Doctorow and Charles Stross.
Only a billion people are left on Earth.
And they all get spam from the post-humans.
Also Slow Apocalypse by John Varley, wherein scientists
turn all petroleum solid--
slowly, I presume.
The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Volume One of Bobby Dollar
kicks off Tad Williams' new series about a real angel who
can't trust his superiors.
Also, the Spirit Well by Stephen R Lawhead, Lord of
Mountains by SM Sterling, and The Time
Keeper by Mitch Albom.
VERONICA BELMONT: OK, are you done now?
Because I have to do all the books from September 11 now.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, I'm good.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, there are actually two.
First, The Blinding Knife, Lightbringer Series Number 2,
by Brent Weeks.
Magic is running wild, and it may
destroy the Seven Satrapies.
Also, The Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Lanagan,
about men who pay a witch to pull wives out of the sea.
Sounds very Greyjoy-ish.
TOM MERRITT: Sounds too easy.
TOM MERRITT: Pay a witch, you get a wife.
Pull her out of the sea.
What's that about?
TOM MERRITT: All right, this is the second to last of our
white board reviews from Aaron, who's
been so darn awesome.
So y'all better be thinking of your own submissions to fill
his shoes, OK?
Because he might be tired.
He did a dozen of these.
And this one features a special guest.
AARON (OFFSCREEN): OK, sweetie, tell everybody what
you asked Daddy?
YOUNG GIRL (OFFSCREEN): What's that book?
AARON (OFFSCREEN): And what did Daddy say?
AARON (OFFSCREEN): And what did you say?
YOUNG GIRL (OFFSCREEN): I want him to come to a tea party.
AARON (OFFSCREEN): OK, the tiny tyrant's confusion
between author and character aside, The Black Company is
the gold standard for military fantasy.
It's gritty without pessimism, the action is definitely left
to your imagination, but you don't feel shortchanged.
And you don't even have to read the whole series, though
I highly recommend the first trilogy.
OK, say, bye-bye sweetie.
YOUNG GIRL (OFFSCREEN): He's pretty like Darth Vader.
AARON (OFFSCREEN): Pretty, like Darth Vader.
TOM MERRITT: Padme probably thought
Darth Vader was pretty.
TOM MERRITT: Although that would Anakin, not Darth Vader.

TOM MERRITT: Not really a spoiler.
I don't think.
VERONICA BELMONT: OK, well anyway.
TOM MERRITT: We needs videos like that.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yes, Tom is not kidding.
We want your videos.
So please send them.
And if we use them on the show, we'll send you a package
of prizes, including books and stickers.
Just upload your message to your favorite video hosting
provider, like YouTube for example, and email the link to
us at [email protected].
You can even keep it as secret if you want.
Just send us the link, and no one will see it until they see
it on the show.
TOM MERRITT: That's right folks.
If you'd like to read along with us, be sure to watch our
book club episode.
Next week we kick off Foundation by Isaac Asimov.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
It's that green button up there in the corner at
YouTube.com/geekandsundry, and send us email to
[email protected], or just jump into the
Goodreads forum and start talking to other folks in the
club at goodreads.com.
That's it, we're done.
We can't.
Now we're done.