Monday, May 23, 2022

A Few Quiet Words of Praise for Philip Gelatt



So I have seen the Netflix/Blur Studio animation of my story “The Very Pulse of the Machine” in the third season of Love, Death + Robots, and I love it.


Great praise is due to Polygon Pictures, the Japanese studio responsible for the beautiful and occasionally hallucinatory animation, and to the director, Emily Dean, who put it all together.  They’ve been receiving it, too.


Less often mentioned is the writer, Philip Gelatt. I imagine that most people think he had a relatively easy job, since all he had to do was put what was in my story in script form.


Boy howdy, no! “The Very Pulse of the Machine” was written in what’s called “third person close point of view.” Third person, of course, is when the protagonist is a “they” rather than an “I” (first person) or a “you” (second person). When the reader is given access to the character’s inner thoughts, that makes it "close" as opposed to the more distanced “limited point of view.” In both the animated and print versions of the story, Martha Kivelson (Kivelsen in the original) is exhausted and occasionally hallucinating. From time to time she lapses into stream of consciousness.


This would not work in an animation. The constant jabber would drive the viewer mad. So the animated version showed MK from the outside. Which created a new set of problems. Without access to her thoughts, her actions had to be made self-evident. A good example of this is why she’s dragging the corpse of her friend, Juliet Burton, behind her. In the print version of “The Very Pulse of the Machine,” Martha has personal reasons for doing this. In the animated version, her oxygen is depleted and so she plugs her suit’s breathing tube into her friend’s suit.


That’s very neat, quickly done, instantly comprehensible to the viewer—and not at all easy to come up with.


As I watched the episode onscreen, I was alert to every change that had been made—everything that was left out, everything that had been invented. They were all good decisions. Which required a good writer.


So I thank you, Philip Gelatt. Great praise be unto you.



And speaking of Easter eggs . . .


I got an enormous kick out of the quick glimpse of a poetry anthology titled Poems of Old Earth. That wasn’t mine, but it was a sly reference to my short fiction collection Tales of Old Earth. Kudos to whoever it was who came up with that.





JJM said...

Tales of Old Earth -- of course! I knew that title of the poetry anthology sounded familiar, but its being poetry distracted me from thinking of prose anthologies ... (Or perhaps I was just too tired.) Thanks for clearing that up, Michael.

You're right, though: the animated short was an excellent translation of your story from one medium to another. I wish people who criticize movies for not adhering slavishly to the books on which they are based would just understand the necessity of changes. Kudos to Philip Gelatt! (And to the author of the original. Of course.)

Chudi said...

Wholeheartedly agree, it was a wonderful episode. I watched it over the weekend and just got done reading your story, both were phenomenal. This kind of art inspires me as a writer in a way I can't quite put into words, ironically enough. Thank you.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

I've just seen the Netflix _The Very Pulse of the Machine_ and it's *ridiculously* beautiful. The art, the layout, the colours, the visual storytelling - your story has been very well served.

I'm also so happy to see some written SF - and better yet, short written SF -getting adapted for once. So far I know of you, Alastair Reynolds and John Scalzi. I hope there will be more.