Where do we go from here?
As a species? As a culture? As storytellers?
Where does the answer lie? In words. The words that drive us or haunt us or both.
I just finished watching the disturbing horror DVD, PONTYPOOL :
Shut up or die Shock jock, Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), has been kicked-off the airwaves and now works at a small-town morning show.
Another mundane day on the job quickly turns deadly when reports pile in of people developing strange speech patterns and evoking brutal acts of violence.
Before long, Mazzy discovers that the behavior is actually a deadly virus being spread through language. Does he stay on the air in hopes of being rescued, or is he providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world?
It got me to thinking ... as all good science fiction and fantasy does.
When the last raven has taken flight from the final corpses of humanity, will the word be to blame? Short answer? Yes.
The deadly words flashing over the computer screen in dark missile silos : commence launch sequence.
The whispered words of Moslem extremists urging their volunteer warriors to expose themselves to deadly viruses and then stroll through the world's airports.
The false assurances to the United States President that the budget to scan the stars for incoming asteroids is much too high to continue.
Most likely, the words will be something entirely different ... but altogether just as lethal.
As a science fantasy writer, my view is much more provincial :
Where will my genre go next? THE PASSAGE suggests it will go in the expected direction : after the dollar.
LORD OF THE RINGS, the three that was really only one, took us back to the mythic beginnings of literature. The ghost of blind Homer probably stood at Toilken's shoulder as he wrote.
It was the time of Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft. An era of legend and dark threat from beyond the ken of Man. The wave of those tales broke upon the cold, uncompromising atomic age.
Then, with the advent of Einstein, the hard science tale took over. Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein wrote tales where the scientific idea overshadowed the narrative.
Freud, Jung, and B. F. Skinner finally had their due. And other ideas of science took prominence : psychology and sociology. Philip Jose Farmer, Clifford D. Simak, and Ray Bradbury. Mankind was no longer sure of who was heroic anymore.
The fifties brought us THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Who could we trust?
The sixties brought us Philip K. Dick who suggested we couldn't even trust ourselves or what we viewed as "reality."
Dick's famous statement overshadows that period and its darkness even reaches up through our times : "Reality is that which refuses to go away when I no longer believe in it."
And now fantasy's mist enshrouds us : TWILIGHT, HARRY POTTER, LORD OF THE RINGS, HARRY DRESDEN, ANITA BLAKE. Darkness has encircled us, murmuring it was always there in the shadows of our souls.
Which leads us back to my original question : where do we go from here?
Hollywood seems to think it is the time of the adventure story, gilded with fantastic trappings. Do we do a H.G. Wells and go to an unsure near-future as in INCEPTION?
I choose to do a synthesis, involving solid storytelling with an understanding of technology's affect upon Man with psychological probing of what it means to be human in an uncertain present.
Fantasy appears real when there are firm rules, where darkness dwells in the corner of every soul, and the heroic protagonist finds the greatest battle is within.
It is opposition which sculpts the best fiction : the heart pitted against the mind, the spirit struggling against the flesh, and fragile hope outmatched by overwhelming hate.
The best stories are the ones that are concerned least with what I've been talking about. Their main goal is to touch the heart and to haunt the soul. In essence, their authors just want to tell a good story.
What do you think fiction is heading? What do you want to do with your stories? And for whom do you write? All of us reading these words would like to know.
Words. Careful. They worm their way into your consciousness like an antibody ... or a virus.
Speaking of which :
All I Ask Is That You TRY!
1 hour ago