I WONDER. DO YOU?

It’s fair to say that all of us who enjoy reading or watching genre fiction have a reasonably stretchy imagination. We can read stories of far off lands, mythical creatures and outer space and find ourselves fully immersed in the experience. We all know that the specific details of the far off planets are nothing more than the creation of someone’s imagination but we can all let our mind soar as we try to keep pace with the words on the page.

So why is it so many people can’t?

I’ve asked a great many people about their reading choices and all kinds of answers came back detailing an almost inexhaustible supply of books which drew people in, but a very common response was that genre fiction didn’t appeal to them because they just couldn’t suspend disbelief. They may have enjoyed the potential ‘whodunnit’ aspect of a book or the descriptions of a relationship but the surrounding details of the sword and sorcery stuff just crush the connection.

So why are certain genres appealing to some and not others? Why is it that you enjoy the books you do and not others? Just how possible is it to draw people in despite a genre bias?

I ask because I’ve always wondered how to bridge gaps with people.

I look at the way my niece acts around all of the very run of the mill objects and activities and marvel at the sheer exuberance she displays as she goes about her explorations. Looking through the eyes of a cantankerous forty year old, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when everything which is commonplace was once new and exciting. My niece loves animals and the sheer delight on her face when she sees the family cat is amazing. Whether or not she thinks all animals can actually talk because they all do in her cartoons may have something to do with it but I guess we’ll never know.

Kids always seem to look at everything with an amazing wonder at the possibilities that could be before them. Games of make believe and all manner of pretending and role playing are the par for the course for kids and at no point does anyone involved think there’s anything wrong with the whole situation. All kids get stuck in and are able to envision all kinds of landscapes or activities and they see all types of possibilities around every corner.

So when do they stop?

For vast swathes of the population, there will come a time where they no longer view the world with the same wonder they once did and instead of seeing boundless possibilities reality becomes rigid and set. No longer can adventures be summoned from thin air and as such, the reading material for adults is a very different landscape. Very often there are whole genres which seem to be passed over as being only for kids but don’t we all still have that flickering flame of wonder lit inside us which can just step us out of the relative drudgery of the day to day and send us off to wherever we could imagine. When was it that so many of us put away the mind set of letting go of the ‘real’ and running around with our imagination just soaring? Why should seeing the world as filled with wondrous possibilities be so easily dismissed?

The world is an amazing place but surely that doesn’t mean we can’t add to the picture inside our own heads?

NEAR OR FAR?

I watched Chappie over the weekend.

If you haven’t seen it yet I’d recommend it. I found it to be a compelling story about what goes into being human and how artificial intelligence would be treated. There were classic images which looked to be an almost direct copy from Robocop and the robot itself carried a very odd similarity to the droid army in The Phantom Menace but all in all I enjoyed it a great deal.

The film deals with issues of societal sub-cultures and battles for power but it does it in the very near future.

As with Neil Blomkamp’s earlier film, District 9, the human race is placed in a position of relative power over another species. Aliens or sentient robots are the ones that are marginalised and distrusted and the stories happily hold up a mirror to what the behaviour of the bully in a society looks like, but, it wasn’t the overt steps that made the story more powerful.

The narrative of the under class of people/aliens/robots has been explored in many stories in the past with Star Trek being a great example of a ‘property’ looking at how these things could play out but action is very often set in the far off future. Almost as a way to take a look at the details of how a race of people can be marginalised but without the need to look too close to home. What stories like Chappie do is take a single step rather than a mighty leap into the future. Rather than these things happening in a completely alien locale all of the horrible things are taking place in all of the environments we’re far too familiar with.

It’s by putting the horror of these stories in a world that’s only just beyond the reach of now, in a world that looks, feels and smells like the world outside our window, that so often makes the discomfort even more unsettling. We know the story is fiction but there’s so much that we can recognise that maybe, just maybe, there could be more to it.

The near future allows the far off stories to be told in a much more recognisable setting. There’s no chance to write off the actions as just being about aliens when everything is going on in the very world we can see out of the window.

All of the stories find their way much closer to you and if you stand still long enough, I’m sure that you’ll feel them breathing down your neck.

IT’S ALL A CONSPIRACY

I watch a TV show called Ancient Aliens quite a bit and I drag out loads of information to use in stories. Facts and speculation gets my mind ticking and things as simple as a location can find their way into what I’m writing.

Now I’m not saying everything that goes on around us is all about aliens (although don’t tell Giorgio) but having had someone else think that such things aren’t beyond the realms of possibility does help when I put the narrative together. The thing that nudged me this week was the question of why we as a species seem to be so keen to take any given data and run off in the most bizarre direction possible? How is it that rational thought and investigation can be almost outdone simply on the assumption that strings we can’t see are being pulled in ways we can’t know to achieve goals we can’t possibly comprehend.

Why the conspiracy?

You type ‘conspiracy theories’ into any search engine and you’ll be bombarded by all manner of ideas covering anything you could possibly conceive. The faked moon landings. Elvis is actually alive and well. JFK. Creationism. There are people lined up to give their opinion on any and all of these and so many others as to make even the hardest of hard nosed sceptics take pause. What if, buried amongst all of the outlandish claims and ideas concerning everything and anything, someone is actually telling the truth or has worked out what’s really going on? We have to be sure that we don’t just believe everything we hear, instead questioning and researching but surely there comes a point when we can accept details of what we’re being told?

Is it just that we have a curious streak running through us? Are the conspiracy theories being driven by an inherent distrust of systems of power? Do we think we’re being lied to?

I have no doubt that governments around the world will have very dark secrets of all kinds that they keep from the population as a whole for the health of the public but that doesn’t mean that every single fragment of information which comes from ‘the system’ is automatically to be thought of as a lie.

Every time we hear anything we have to apply critical thinking and assess it on its merits. I meet someone and they say they work in banking I’m likely to believe them but if they say they’re a multi-billionaire playboy who fights crime at night then I’m likely to need some proof.

Watching Ancient Aliens I find it remarkable when the various talking heads on the show run through their logic and everything is going fine until the final step when whatever point they reach on the road of logic, the last one is always ‘Aliens’. No matter where the evidence is taking them, ‘Aliens’. In every step along the way there is a reasoned application of logic until ‘Aliens’.

Maybe the conspiracy theories are just so many people wanting the stories to be true and are doing everything they can to squeeze the merest hint of possibility out of the barest scrap of plausibility. Don’t we all want there to be a little magic and wonder left in the world?

Even if we have to blame Elvis or Aliens to do it?

ALMOST OVER

For this post I only have a single point to make.

I feel that after the 2016 we’ve all witnessed, where division and anger seem to have exposed the gruesome heart of the human race to the light, I open my arms to everyone out there, regardless of all those defining characteristics we all cling so very tightly to, and which seem to be always pulling us apart, and say to each and every one of you,

“Let’s celebrate our humanity and do what we can to make the lives we touch every day a little bit better. Let’s make sure 2017 is the perfect antidote to what we’ll soon be leaving behind us.”

Have a good ‘un all.

LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND

David Attenborough is a hero

I’m one of the millions who’ve watched any number of the TV shows which he’s been involved with and the majesty and wonder that exists at all corners of our planet is so far beyond just looking at animals etc.

In the latest series so many different environments all over the globe come under the spotlight and the lives of all kinds of creatures are shown in all of their beauty and horror. If you haven’t been watching Planet Earth II I’d absolutely recommend hunting it out and taking a look. So much sheer life to marvel at as it just takes place regardless of the people with the cameras, it brings to the attention of all of us that the human race makes up a tiny, tiny part of what’s happening every day.

Now my mind started to meander at the understanding of how very much is happening all over the place that it made me wonder about the story telling idea of leaving the planet behind and heading off into the great unknown of outer space.

Very often there is a storyline of the human race having done something steadily or indeed cataclysmic, which has caused us to have to flee the home we’ve all known. Sometimes there are outside forces which come in and force us to leave the Earth behind but very often it’s something that we’ve done to our own home. We have to make choices that send the human race into the stars, leaving the planet behind and to do that, the planet is so easily shown as a burned out cinder which can no longer sustain the life which remains. It becomes a no brainer that we as a race would jump ship when it was sinking.

The problem becomes the reality of what we’d be leaving behind.

The understanding is inherent that we could be technologically advanced enough to transport at least some of the population from the planet and in many cases there’s the addition of the idea that we would be leaving with a collection of the Earth’s wildlife in an attempt to colonise another planet somewhere and restart the life we had. So often the point is the struggle of doing all that can be done to save the few and as many of the creatures which surround us that the fact that the same technology which is being used to offer salvation has been that which has driven us to our downfall.

We’re quick to accept the thought that we as a species would not only destroy the planet we live on but that we’d then be more than willing to leave the mess behind and head off to another spot in the universe to just start it all over again.

Why is it we’re happy to accept that?

We focus on the fact that we’re amazing in how we can escape the horror we’ve created but why would we not be concerned that it’s likely we’d just be doing exactly the same thing at our next stop? How can we be content with the thought of upsetting the possible natural evolution of another planet just because we trashed our own home?

I don’t have the first idea about the logistics which would have to be employed to collect together samples of all of the life on Earth and then to be able to transport all of that off into space but I’d suspect that we’re some way away from being able to do all of the amazing things we see in the movies.

We have a story already which deals with the destruction of almost everything on the planet because of the actions of the human race and the efforts made to preserve everything do nothing but show that we have a need to endure and that we can. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we’ve made along the way, we can just pick up and start again but as the story of Noah’s Arc is a myth meant to show the importance of adherence to a supreme being, what this story says to me is that there’s an almost extreme complacency that no matter what happens, the human race will go on.

We assume that we’re the absolute pinnacle of life and we have the power to do whatever we want but watching the constant struggles which are taking place all over the world with every form of life imaginable on planet Earth puts us into perspective.

We have an amazing intellect and that intelligence is what’s allowed us to advance in the ways that we have but we have to accept that there is so vastly more to life on Earth than just us. We’re happy to consider the fact that we can leave but we’ve all got to understand that we can’t just leave all the other life on Earth behind.

I watched the wildlife programing and there were so many amazing images which fired my mind in terms of action set pieces all the way through to inter-relationships within groups but it really concreted in my head that the need to all come together and work together spreads beyond just the human race. We have to consider so many more things to be able to always achieve the best we can for all of the life on the planet.

David Attenborough knows.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

I’ve been working on my latest book recently and can present you with the cover for my soon to be released anthology of short stories.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the cover for “Tall Tales for Dark Nights”.

cover

I’m really pleased with the book and I’m looking forward eagerly to the release.

Watch this space for the date.

DIS

During last week’s post I gave my opinion on YA books and some of the titles I mentioned had distinct similarities. The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Divergent all have the coming of age story running through the core of them but the other thing they all have is the dystopian future where the struggle against a system built to keep people down flavours everything.

So why does the horror view of the future seem to be so enticing to us?

A Utopia is the perfect world and a dystopia is the perfect opposite yet we see so often, depictions of the dark side as our societal destination rather then the more pleasant option. Don’t we want to see the world where all of our problems have been resolved? Why is it that we seem to gravitate to the thought of there being a monster waiting for us in the future ready to enslave us rather than the relative happy ending?

Star Trek can be held up as showing the human race in a positive fashion in the far future. We’re treated to a world where money is no longer an issue and that humans work for the betterment of the whole rather than the singular accumulation of wealth. Everyone gets on with the work they have to do as a piece of the society and they all just lean on each other in terms of maintaining life. They look beyond the planet, almost as if the issues of Earth have been solved yet when we get out into the void we start having all the familiar conflicts and problems as humans meet with all the other races. Indeed, the main antagonists in each of the series are there to conquer and enslave. Now we’re back into the land of fighting against the power to maintain our humanity.

Do we thrive on the thought of overcoming conflict? Do we want to see ‘the man’ be beaten by the relative underdog as a way of reassuring us that all of those problems we experience on a day to day basis can be overcome if only we apply ourselves. If governments can fall in those tales, surely we can find a way past our nasty boss? Can we all use the images of a society corrupted by the few, as a way to look at the world we live in now and help us prevent us making those mistakes? If we see all these stories of the broken future, will we be moved to do enough to stop it becoming a reality?

It could be easy to look at the world that we all live in now as heading in the direction of a dystopia where our lives are more and more controlled and fear is everywhere but we need to remember that there can be so much more. In 1984, The Hunger Games and the other books that I spoke about at the start of this post, the bleakness of the world needs to fought whereas in Star Trek, where the human race has resolved those issues, we’re out exploring the galaxies. Surely that’s got to be a good enough reason to look for the positive.