FUTURE PROOF

We went to London this weekend. My wife Jo had been keeping the details of the day, a belated birthday present, very close to her chest even though I was the one who did all of the driving. As it turned out, she’d booked tickets for us to attend the screening of Back to the Future at The Royal Albert Hall, accompanied by an orchestra performing the score throughout. This was the second such event we’d attended, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek last year was the first, and I can’t sing the praises of the experience enough. If you have the chance to attend a screening of this kind (Indiana Jones next year FYI) give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

But watching the film poked my mind.

Back to the Future is 30 years old. Just let that sink in. We are now the same distance from the original film as the past time storyline is from the ‘present’ of the hero. Indeed, the second film shows Marty’s future time line as this year. Aside from some odd stuff on Facebook, Hover Boards still aren’t real and we don’t have flying cars.

So I sat watching the film and tried to think how I’d create elements of a future world which carry levels of where the world today could end up.

I’m writing a short story, well short-ish, at the moment as well as working on The Circle of Duty, which is based in the future. Yes there is a spaceship. Yes there is all kinds of new tech and yes there are differences in what the characters call ‘normal’. My concern is, if I write ‘whatever’ along the way, will it drag someone out of the narrative if elements of what I’m saying sound just too out there?

I understand that there really is no way to future proof any story but how far can you push the boundaries before it just seems like some random ‘man from space’ nonsense? Star Trek had the ships move away from just the numeric naming and instead stuck with the more recognisable naval links. They still had the transporters as the far off tech but the military framework kept the story more real/believable. If I just let my mind go and pushed my imagination as far as I could, I’m pretty sure it would be almost unrecognisable as a world that the reader could find themselves. There’d be nowhere to get a grip on things leading to a lack of engagement.

I suppose, all of us read and insert ourselves into what we read in some way. We can understand the context of what we read because there are elements of our world in there which ground us. Trying to future proof the stories isn’t possible but we do our best, but having our world in there somewhere gives us the anchoring familiarity.

Maybe we shouldn’t even care about the future proof.

AGING GRACEFULLY?

“Aren’t you a bit old to be dealing with all the make believe stuff?”

“Isn’t all of that just for kids?”

“Grow up!”

I’ve heard them all. When I was a kid I loved it all. Stories of large robots battling even larger monsters. Magic and mystery. Space aliens and creatures from the future. All in all I couldn’t get enough. The problem came when I continued to enjoy all of these things as I began to age.

How many people have been told that they need to stop ‘playing with toys’ or any variation of the same as they’ve added on the years? There’s even a Bible verse just for the occasion. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.1 Corinthians 13:11. Not a direct fit but close enough to be used to guilt people into behaving differently.

How many people have then done exactly that and put away their ‘childish’ pursuits in favour of the more socially acceptable drinking, watching the news and driving cars?

Science Fiction and the like are not a condition to be cured. They aren’t just a phase that people go through (although for some, they are and if you’re happy to put them down, go right ahead). Science Fiction et al is never to be viewed as something to grow out of.

Every single one of us on this planet has the imagination to conjure so many spectacular and terrifying things. Music, art, architecture and literature give us a multitude of ways to express ourselves and the far off lands of outer space, deep in the ocean or in ancient mystical lands hand us the opportunity to escape but also to make sense of the here and now. We as a species can explore situations of morality in far off lands and allow the best or the worst to happen without there being the chance of social upheaval around us as we make our collective points.

So I say that to view all of these things as being childish or silly is to happily miss the point. Star Trek made huge comments on the world we live in but is so often seen as the show with the guy and his funny ears. Doctor Who has done much the same but is so often dismissed as the pepper pots with the plungers on them.

Stand up one and all and declare that these things are so much more than merely childish games. We have a duty to the human race to keep the minds of the future generations inspired and challenged. We should never just think that ‘At my age I should be more grown up.’ You’re never too old to expand your mind and think, to create.

After all that I need a deep breath and maybe a sit down. I am knocking on a bit. The Big 4 – 0 is only a year away today!

DIRTY BOY

I’ve discovered a slightly odd problem recently. Setting the tone correctly in the story I’m writing.

How to create the correct age rating on what I’m trying to say.

For me, to set the tone in a childrens book, just don’t swear and avoid talking about willies. By the same token, the reverse is true when setting up an adult story, boobs and a liberal sprinkling of curse words and you’re good to go.

I know that’s more than a little over simplification but what about that grey area between the two?

I’ve been writing to appeal to everyone, spreading the love as far as I can but that means I’m forever playing in the no mans land between sounding like I’m writing a kiddies cartoon or dodgy porn or horror.

Now I recognise that the topic I’m playing with allows me the largest scope to be able to make sure I can appeal to everyone but there still remains the pitfalls of violence described too graphically or with so much fluffiness to make it painful.

So what to do?

I need to try and get the point across without including huge swathes of Clive Barker-esque brutality or repeated examples of ‘gosh darn it’. I need to ensure there is enough meat to the story that any discerning adult will be engaged without delving too deeply into topics and phrases which younger readers either wouldn’t understand or shouldn’t hear.

Those of you out there who’ve been reading what I’ve got to say on here for some time will have read a small collection of my short stories. I didn’t pick those stories specifically for this reason but there seems to be a decent show of my writing for different ages. Forced New Life makes you think but isn’t nasty, The Power of a Book feels to me to be more of a teenage flavoured tale, Make Believe Friend is more adult in its tone but still not totally off limits to younger readers, maybe some though, and True Love is certainly meant only for grown ups.

Trying to ensure that you say the right thing at the right time is vital to making the overall tale as compelling as possible. Using the wrong phrase at a given point can crush the fragile environment you’re making so the appropriate language is a must. The age of the reader is just another consideration.

I’ll just have to avoid loads of talk about characters going to bed to have a ‘special cuddle’.