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August 11 2010

Author China Mieville opines on J.J. Abrams & Joss Whedon. "[Joss] is on some cultural level my brother and comrade".

I am not posting this to further an anti-J.J. Abrams perspective. I like him quite a lot and while I never saw Cloverfield, LOVE the newest Star Trek film. I'm not sure where the feelings re Abrams spring, for Miéville, and I wish he had explored that more in the interview.

Well, I liked Cloverfield a lot but Star Trek very little. I feel like describing Joss Whedon as a friend to the audience is a little bit wishful thinking--but then, I sort of feel that way too. Abrams, I do really feel like he doesn't live in the geek world in quite the same way that Whedon does--he more or less admitted during the filming of Star Trek that he wasn't a big fan of Trek and was more of a Star Wars guy, whereas Orci and Kurtzmann were the Trek geeks. It's not a problem, but it does feel more that Abrams made this movie because it's a Big Movie Pop Culture Project! and not out of, well, love of the source material. Whatever, it doesn't mean he hates us. But he still seems more mechanical. I think ultimately Abrams is more of a producer than Whedon is, which is why he is the thing that sets LOST into motion but not, after season one, its primary creative force at all; same for Cloverfield, not written or directed by Abrams.

But we've all been through this loop before....
I'll comment on this once I look up all the big words he used.
I totally disagree with the bit about JJ. I loved his Star Trek and think that Fringe is going great. Talk about being character driven.........
There's a lot to like about JJ Abrams though I've never felt that kind of fan/creator friendship with him that Joss's work provides. I do want to add that I thought Kraken was excellent. There's a Buffy shout-out in the novel too.
Y'know, I like to watch Joss' work and think he likes me and loves me too, but probably in a different way than what China's talking about.
Creatively speaking Joss Whedon lives primarily in Trope Maker territory, whereas J.J. Abrams tends to work from the Trope Codifier realm -that's the essential difference between them that the author is identifying (a bit harshly imo.) Joss is a part of the risk-taking avant garde while J.J. follows at a safe distance behind. The one makes you feel deeply for his successes and his failures. The other has far fewer failures, but you're likely to find his successes less engaging as a trade-off.
I've never liked Abrams much -- never could get into his tv series, and both of the movies he directed (MI:3, Star Trek) left me cold. But I also could never see the connection between him and Joss.

To me, Abrams is like the lesser Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Chuck, Gossip Girl). Both make glossy entertainment aimed at a geeky crowd, and don't aim higher than moments when the audience goes: "ooh, cool!", plus funny moments, character beats, etc. Essentially fun entertainment -- brain candy. I generally think that Joss aims higher than that in all of his work, though he definitely enjoys the brain candy too.

Weirdly, I really like Schwartz's work, while Abrams leaves me cold. I regularly tune into Chuck, and Gossip Girl is my guilty-pleasure-on-DVD. Schwartz isn't ambitious, but he's consistently fun and I can feel the affection for his characters and his audience in his work. Everything Abrams has done has felt too calculated and emotionally manipulated for me to enjoy; I guess I agree with Mieville on this.
Wow. I've never been able to express exactly why I don't Abrams. This guy said it perfectly.

I did like Star Trek, though.
God, I love China. I totally recommend his work (unless you find an expansive vocabulary to be pretentious).
Very odd. He probably feels the same way about Spielberg and Zemeckis. Whedon himself has a very different view on Star Trek

[ edited by Andy Dufresne on 2010-08-11 23:11 ]
Quingting, I'm finally reading Perdido Street Station and I am totally blown away and absorbed by this novel, which is why I immediately perked up when I happened on this interview.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2010-08-11 23:17 ]
Tonya J, The Scar is my favourite. The first four pages are, in and of themselves, a Lovecraftian masterpiece. I haven't read anything of his that I didn't love, but I haven't yet gotten to his young adult Un Lun Dun, or his newest, Kraken.
I enjoyed JJ's Star Trek and thought M:i:3 was decent, but I really couldn't get into his numerous shows (save for Felicity, which I watched for Keri Russell and Amy Jo Johnson). Mieville's entitled to his opinion, he's not hurting anybody.
dottikin, yay! A Schwartz fan! The comparison between Josh and Joss seems much more apt to be honest. Josh doesn't pen many episodes himself, but he's always very well in the know about what's going in his shows and would most definitely pen stuff if he had the time, having wrote most of The OC's first season - he most definitely can. And as much love as Chuck gets, I could never ever put it over The OC. It went through its rough patches and essentially became the show it was parodying in Season 3 but it saved itself and became great again. Gossip Girl lacks the geek that both Chuck and The OC have, but you can occasionally tell its written by a few - though I wouldn't call it a show that was aimed at the geeky crowd at all. No more than Dawson's Creek was aimed at film buffs anyway.

As for this Joss/JJ blah blah. I understand the "friend" thing with Joss, I guess he's much more open and often recruits his friends for his projects. Something JJ only rarely does. But, I do love JJ - I've yet to be really disappointed by anything he does, whether he was heavily involved or only found the talent.
I'm with jesse. China sums up my feelings nicely.

I like some of Abrams' projects, but never love them. I'm entertained by them, but never really satisfied. Whedon's works, on the other hand, tickle my passions.

I should probably read something by Mieville.
I could not agree more.
It is a great feeling when my worlds intersect. I reading Kraken by China Mieville now. I highly recommend this book and The City and the City. They are both excellent audio books too. In fact, I suspect one of the reasons I like both the work of Whedon and Mieville is that both produce works filled with allusions to literature and philosophy.
Very deeply thought out and presented. I'm so glad he clarifies he is not saying these things to be venomous, just as a matter of fact of how he actually feels. I'm inclined to agree with the man. J.J. is cool and better than most of what's out there these days, but I honestly don't see in his works the blistering creative edge Joss displays time and again. On the other hand I don't know what J.J. has planned for the future or maybe some past projects he was unable to get off the ground.
I like the idea of JJ being more of a producer. Seems like most of the deep emotion in his TV projects has happened after his involvement dwindled, whereas in Star Trek (haven't seen MI3) I didn't get a whole lot of emotion out of it besides that needed for the overall arc. That could also explain why people had problems with the movie's villain, it was hard to connect with him because his hate seemed more clinical than earthy. Whereas with Joss, emotions and connections are the essence of his characters. Or something like that.
What JJ Abrams does is totally different to what Joss Whedon does. It seems weird to compare them.
Yep, oranges are not the only fruit. Neither are apples.

Quite enjoyed 'Cloverfield' and really enjoyed Trek '09 so I don't agree with his perspective on Abrams' work. That said, Miéville seems to be a person who dislikes what you might call "clean" world-views and prefers messy, human perspectives which is in keeping with Joss' take on things IMO. To use an old often false dichotomy, Miéville and Joss are "arty" type geeks whereas Abrams strikes me as being the other way, he seems like more the techy sort of geek (i'm sure I remember him talking about lenses and cameras and so on with some enthusiasm whereas I definitely remember Joss saying he wasn't really into all that stuff so much). Just different takes is all, as usual I totally fail to buy into this wholly manufactured 'vs' thing, I like both their work (Joss' moreso but that doesn't mean I have to dislike Abrams' stuff).

(his descriptions of his work make me want to bump him up my TBR list though, not read any - not through avoidance, just through finite time - but they sound interesting)
In waxing enchanted about China, I failed to comment on the article. While not exactly a fan of Abrams, I don't really agree with China's take on him. The only thing of Abrams' that I've loved so far was Trek. Never could get into Alias, wanted to get into Lost but couldn't get emotionally engaged, never seen Cloverfield as I tend to despise horror films. I wish China had expounded on his opinion of Trek... There were some laughable coincidences in it, but I can't imagine that those alone could spell an "intense dislike."
@daylight - I agree. I still don't get why they compare JJ with Joss. I also get confused when they make a poll and make me choose between the two of them.

I love JJ because he is the force behind Alias and Fringe (although I was a bit pissed with Alias' finale... moving on) and from Joss, Angel and Dollhouse. Isn't it possible to love them both and not put down the other one in favor of the other?
I think on Felicity, JJ's geekiness came out naturally and purely, and added a real sparkle to the show, which was about college kids, so helped offset the love triangle dramatics. But since then I think it has grown more and more affected, perhaps because he saw more people responding to it, or because geek culture is more in now than ever back in the Felicity days. Also--like Joss, he is beginning to repeat himself to a degree, but there's less depth in the ideas and dynamics to carry him through. To me, Star Trek was Felicity in space.
I am more in love with Mieville (in a literary way) than ever now. He's one of those authors I always thought 'yeah, when I get round to it' and then I finally did, and WOW. Very much recommend him.

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