The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Preface To Some Thoughts

Posted by BigWords on March 29, 2010

Back in October of last year I began, in earnest, collecting data for a story idea which hadn’t yet fully formed in my mind. Amid the usual nuggets of near-future optimism I uncovered were concepts which were to shift my focus from the then-brewing story, much as I wanted to focus on plot. The world-building was as interesting as the story (for me) because I was able to apply everything which already exists (in some form) to the reality which limits our day to day existence. Building a future from current technology is a game which many (better) writers have played, but setting out a stall where those ideas can be openly discussed has always had limits – at any point in a forum discussion where feasible technological solutions play a major role, someone will always jump in with the stock SF variety answer. Not that there is anything wrong with unbridled optimism, but I like to play with things in SF which (to me) are possible – not necessarily probable, but possible all the same. The way the world ought to appear was really inconsequential to me, but the underlying society became very important.

My first goal was to interpret the media surrounding individuals in, say, a hundred years or so. How the characters in the story would approach the mass communication of the era played a vital role in determining their reaction to events unfolding in the city around them. I had a hard time trying to figure out the ways in which the internet and television would (and could) co-exist until I realized that I was taking a modern view and trying to attach it to a futuristic world. The origination of the next few posts lies in my eventual realization that the nascent media groupings of modern multimedia will, at some point, reach a generational shift into a fully cohesive form which will supersede such modern ideas as ‘internet’ and ‘television.’ Televisions are already on the market which are able to browse the internet, but most (if not all) require the viewer to shift away from one function to utilize another. This, to me anyway, seems a makeshift feature, neither wholly separated nor wholly integrated. I thought about the ideas which became the basis for the world I had created more, and slowly realized that there were bigger questions.

Backtracking a moment, to my long-standing WIP regarding a group of secret agents: There are thirteen (possibly fourteen, if the abortive drafts are to be considered) plots which are completely incompatible with one another, but which are equally solid tales. I like all of the variations, and to pick one (which will then define those characters in the eyes of readers) is damnably difficult. The truth is this – I don’t want to pick just one path through the story… Add to that my insistence on doing things out of sequence in the first place, and you have a good reason why the tale has notched up so many variations. The differences aren’t merely changes to motivation, or tone, but completely different goals and settings wherein the same basic threat is tackled by similar means, resulting in a similar goal. The only major connection which holds the versions together is at the start of the narrative, wherein several elements are slowly revealed to form a pattern for the heroes to investigate. The puzzles are important, and have (in these last few months) taken on even greater importance for me.

Flashback done with, I’ll get back to a semblance of continuity of thought. The research on SF stories, and the world-building involved in getting them to hold together with some degree of stability, drove me to some strange corners of the net, following (Hänsel and Grethel-like) bread crumb after bread crumb of tantalizingly vague links. Quickly moving past the corporations promoting their current gadgets, I looked at the pages where ‘what if’s’ were discussed, and through them to the sites where cutting-edge technologies were being paraded. The breadcrumbs never did reach any useful gather-all sites, but I did soak up enough information along the way to decide that I was going to start paying closer attention to a few of the ideas which had, by and large, been ignored by the mainstream. I’m not sure if any of the concepts have been attempted, mostly because any searches for specific instances served merely to turn up material out of my area of interest, but there are probably a few brave pioneers out there embracing the fullest potential of the multimedia landscape which I am now obsessing over.

The mutimedia stuff? Don’t worry, I’ll be posting about that soon enough. In the meantime, while I’m busy refining thoughts, collecting links, and sorting out the impossible from the improbable, I’ll leave you with several thoughts which have been the source of much personal consternation for me over the last months:

  • I’m reading fewer new comics than ever before. It isn’t that DC and Marvel hold zero appeal, it’s merely the fact that the older material I have been buying (Gold Key, Dell, Whitman, and an array of Alan Class titles) seem to have better value for money. The stories (quick, to the point, and never outstaying their welcome) make me think more about their storytelling techniques than most of the current releases I have flicked through.
  • The games I have bought has almost universally contained mini-games, or are themselves collections of simple arcade games – not to say that I am turning away from the more complex releases altogether (because GTA‘s pool game is addictive), but I feel that I need something which isn’t dictated by an arbitrary script, whose ending was written before I even bought the game. I want to contribute something towards the story.
  • I have been buying more short story collections than I have been buying novels. This has had the unexpected benefit of introducing me to the work of hitherto-unknown authors, but has caused me to think upon the rampant verbosity I am capable of when let loose on a subject. How do people manage to cram so much into such a short space?
  • My new television has sat idle for nearly a month. The earache and overwork made the beginning of this sabbatical from the idiot box a necessity, but now that I have no reason to avoid the output of British television I realize that there is nothing I can be bothered to watch. When Doctor Who returns (next week) I will tune in for the first episode of the new series, but other than that… I really can’t summon up the strength to sit through one more episode of Law & Order. Ever.
  • DVDs are, increasingly, taking the place of my other pastimes. I like the way the more complex examples are put together, and their construction has been fueling some of my thoughts on where I want to take my writing. I really like the ‘Follow The Rabbit’ bits in The Matrix, and a lot of the extras in the 3-disk Hellboy edition are giving me things to think about.

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