Friday, May 15, 2009

A story has to encourage me to suspend disbelief

In my first blog post, I mentioned I was reading a book by Dan Abnett, called Eisenhorn, set in the Warhammer 40,000 science fiction horror fantasy universe. This universe is very much a "Soft" universe (soft/scientifically unrealistic as opposed to hard realistic), in my science fiction realism grading scale, with gothic fantasy added. The technology level is often like today but with "spaceships and rayguns" added. Okay I have no problem with that, but I expect consistency. So for example it is asusmed in this universe, as in Star Trek and Star Wars, that people have the same lifespan as today, unless augmented with cyborg technology. Thus the eponymous Eisenhorn's savant Uber Aemos is about 200 or so years old when the story opens, really ancient looking, with various cyborg implants to extend his life. Eisenhorn describes himself as in the prime of his life as an Inquisitor, mid 40s. Ok, no probs with either.

Anyway the book is actually 3 novels, plus 2 connecting short stories, in one. It's supposed to be (so the blurb says) all about how Eisenhorn has the stern orthodox type ends up using the very powers of chaos he is sworn to oppose. Cool, the classic Darth Vadar theme, beware the dark side of the force yada yada. I was actually looking forward to seeing how this unfolded, presumably Eisenhorn progressing from hunter to hunted.

But i was shocked to discover, when i started the second novel of teh book, that it i set over a century after the first, and yet there are all the characters Eisenhorn gathered in the first novel, along with himself, all doing fine, despite being over 100 years older. If life extension is so advanced, what's the point of teh aged savant in the first novel? Indeed, it contradicts the whole gothic sci fi fantasy present day with spaceships and rayguns type setting.

So I pretty much stopped reading at that point, which si a shame because Abnett is an excellent writer. But I need to be able to "suspend disbelief" if i am reading a book or watching a movie. If i can't do that, the whole thing becomes absurd. If it's a movie, i feel cheated for the rest of the film (this happened in I Am Legend where one of the supposedly mindless rabid zombies set an intelligently set up snare for Will Smith's character; after that, i absolutely hated the rest of the film, and only watched it grudgingly to see how it would end). If it's a book, i just put it down, which i did with Abnett's book. Maybe one day i'll take it up again, maybe i won't.

So i've gone back to my non-fiction book, and also written a little bit for Palaeos com on the Permian period. Actually I've lately become interested in the hypothesis of the end-Permain extinction as due to runaway greenhouse and huge amounts of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I did consider making this the setting for a post-apocalyptic novel, but no post-apocalyptic novel was ever that bleak. It's just like stories about outer space. The real outer space is a far more hostile environment then the "very soft" science sci fi shows like Star Trek and Star Wars would ever indicate. That is why all these sci fi books and movies and TV shows and role playing games and the rest are really fantasies, they are no more real than the Greek myths; indeed they are the modern equivalent. It is not really about the future at all; it is about telling a story, and if you can tell it well you can poertray a mythic hero such as Joseph Campbell describes. And if you can tell it very well you can portray profound spiritual truths, such as the Gnostic Hymn of the Pearl, Dante's Divine Comedy and Sri Aurobindo's Savitri.

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