I will sometimes, in the course of reading a book or watching a movie, demand that the story explain itself. Not that the thing that I’m questioning really affects the plot, just that the idiosyncrasy of it will have pulled me out of my immersion in the world. The Boyfriend likes to remind me of the time I verbally chided a Harry Potter movie because ‘water doesn’t work that way’.
“They have wands,” he said. “They’re doing magic and you’re worried about the water?”
“I can’t speak to the magic,” I said, “but the world of Harry Potter is grounded in our world and outside of magic the physics should still apply and water does not work that way!” At which point I probably threw up my hands and decided to forget about the whole thing. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but that was the gist of it.
The point is that I freely admit that I have very little logical reasoning for the things that do bother me and the things I let slide. It basically depends on what kind of story is being told and how I’m feeling that day. Pulp scifi I almost never question, because from my standing point in the future it appears to be as tongue and cheek as old comics stories and it appears that it’s meant to be that way. Scope and breadth of imagination are the things that I find most important in those stories. Fantasy is next, depending on what kind of world it’s set in. The Xanth novels are entirely ridiculous, so most of that passes by unnoticed, but urban fantasy might get a few eyebrow raises from me if some part of the ‘real world’ is broken without reason.
The whole point of this is so you’ll understand that last night, while watching Alien for the first time, I spent the whole movie going:
“Why is there a cat?”
“Does the cat get frozen too?”
“How do we know that cats need to be frozen the same way as people?”
“If the cat doesn’t get frozen, what does it eat for six months while everyone is asleep?”
“OH CHRIST, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE IN SPACE, JUST LEAVE THE FUCKING CAT BEHIND. YOU CAN LITERALLY GET TEN MORE FOR FREE OFF THE STREET WHEN YOU GET HOME.”
There was also some girly shrieking and throat clutching and falling over, because seriously, giant killer face eating alien, but that was what most of my commentary was about. And I realize it’s a little silly that I so freely accept the conceit of deep space travel and mining and evil freaking robots and then draw the line at the cat.
I think I focus on these things because I’m still trying to figure out where some of my more grand notions really need to go. I think that the Big Damn Existential Scifi Novel, for instance, should be realistic. I want it to be realistic so that when the alien consciousnesses start flying it feels like they could be an extension of our world. Volunteer Vampires, on the other hand, should be as tongue in cheek as the name suggests, but I’m having a hard time allowing myself to do that. Strangely, it’s not the science-built-vampire portion of that scenario that’s holding me back, either. I feel stuck. I want to write science fiction like the science fiction I admire, both pulp and more realistic, but I don’t think I’m capable of it right now. I would settle for writing science fiction like the science fiction I enjoy, if only I could get past the nagging questions. It’s probably a good thing overall that I want to hold myself to the same standard I hold everything else to, but it can be frustrating.
The thing is, last night while I was peppering the movie with questions I felt more prepared and able to write my silly vampire in space story than I have been in a while. I felt like I might even be able to get over myself and just enjoy writing in some of the elements of the genre, as silly as I sometimes find them. It’s getting to ask those questions that so often makes me love science fiction as a genre at the end of the day.
I really enjoyed, Alien, by the way. A lot more than I thought I would, considering I hadn’t ever planned to actually watch it. The set is amazing and intricate and tight. A friend of mine pointed out to me some time ago that H.R. Giger did a lot of the design on it, and I can see that. So much of it holds up to time really well. The computers are probably the things that aged the worst, but I find that charming. I especially love that they make noise when they’re running calculations, as if they were merely flashy boxes around a tape calculator. I kind of wish my laptop would make that noise.
Heck, now that I’m thinking about it, I wish my laptop would sound like a mechanical typewriter when I was using the word processor. I wonder if there’s an app for that.