While searching for music to inspire me, I found something interesting. I’ve been working on a short story to submit to this anthology that required an overall theme of music and needed to find just the right kind of music to really drive me. But when I asked for suggestions, I found something else to inspire me that I hadn’t expected. I found a little piece of my own memory.
The human memory is a funny thing. When I was younger I had a lot of moments that stuck with me forever, never the ones I’ve wanted to keep. I remember the first time someone spat in my face, the first time I was knocked out in the middle of a scuffle and what it feels like to be flipped upside down by a clothesline. (Strangely peaceful, actually.)
The thing is, most of these memories should have been knocked out of my head by whatever cataclysmic event befell my skull in the next few seconds. I did not land from that back-flip gracefully. Though people did clap because apparently I tumbled twice over the course of it.
Still not sure how that happened in flag football.
But, the point is, I never remember the really important things like why I would want to write sci-fi and fantasy of all things. Surely, there are more practical genres. I’ve read that the advances on non-fiction typically eat fiction alive. Which is ironic because that sounds like an excellent Sci-fi story: “A monster devours all cultural artifacts to break the human spirit…then writes a memoir.”
I’ll call it “I, Morbo”
Anyhow, a search for music led me to a rediscovery of one of my old favorite films and reminded me why I chose such a risky pair of genres. Gattaca is a rarely seen film (so rarely, it came 20 million short of the 30+ million budget). But it really blew me away as a teenager. It was critically acclaimed and yet…no one ever saw it.
Sadly, over the years, I somehow lost the memory of ever watching it. But when I was told to look into the music of one composer I found that he made the soundtrack for that movie.
Gattaca is the best of what sci-fi should be. It’s understated in a lot of ways and yet the theme is overwhelming. A world driven by genetics becomes a place where just being you isn’t good enough anymore. So a man proves his worth by taking a stolen identity (blood and all) and living up to the profile of perfection he’s taken.
Having been a dumpy child and an exceptionally awkward and isolated teenager, I saw a message of “it’s okay to be imperfect so long as you keep pushing.” And, more importantly, it taught me that sci-fi and fantasy allow you to really study humanity in ways that you’re not allowed to do any other way.
Figure this, when you try to study humanity through a more mundane genre, you’ll always find that there are too many gray areas to really get a clear picture. Every character will have a message and story of their own, naturally. And you can contrast these characters against each other as much as possible, but you’ll never escape one truth. No matter how much you write a human character as a person of their own, they’re still human and still just like the rest of us at some base level. Yeah, you’ll have different opinions, and some of them may know things that others don’t. I know what it looks like to watch a car burst into fire while you’re riding in it. But I’m sure anyone else who sat in that same seat that I did would have a similar reaction to it.
Well, maybe not everyone. I kind of suggested roasting marshmallows while walking home. I’m, admittedly, a bit of a smartass.
But see, in sci-fi and fantasy you can present contrasts that just simply can’t exist elsewhere. Someone may not be human, someone may be the only human, some of the humans may be raised in a religion that doesn’t exist in this world. Through dealing with the unfamiliar, we can find the things that should be so familiar to us and yet are taken for granted and forgotten.
Spock is allowed to sit back and be bemused by the psychotic apes’ behavior without looking like a dick. Vincent, from Gattaca, is allowed to steal someone’s entire life and appear completely justified in doing it. Hell, you even root for him. Sure, you could pull a lot of this off in other genres. But the genres I chose are perfect for examining the human condition through inhuman means.
Oh, and Data is allowed to make this scene funny:
The point is, through the extremes of these genres, we can explore abstracts. Sure, it’s a great place for androids, wizards, and everything in between. But it’s also a place to reflect on what it really means to be human and how far that humanity can go.
Then again, when it’s all said and done, maybe this is just my justification for liking a genre that appeals to me. Conversely, I might have just landed on my head too many times as a child and need serious help.
Only time will tell!
And, thankfully, I’ve contributed to the genres I love finally. So I’d love it if you were to read my books.