Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wild Dreams

Dissertation update: Chapters 1-5 have been sent to the committee. They are now officially procrastinating over reading it. So, marginally more regular posting may or may not ensue. Sorry, I like to keep y'all guessing.

I'll admit to an absurd fondness for dystopic stories, in either written or cinematic formats. They don't even have to be particularly good stories, mediocre will work. Most recently, I watched The Island. It's actually not bad and is generally considered underrated entertainment.

If you haven't seen it, it's a story about clones being created and used for spare parts for the rich and famous. Two discover what's going on and escape. Eventually they come to realize that their clone friends are going to be killed and…well, I won't spoil it. Suffice it to say, there are enough sci-fi cliches involved that you could play cliche bingo with it. Good special effects though. Shiny. Colorful. Predictable. Not going to strain your brain if you need something flashy to watch on a Friday night.

There's a lot in the movie to work with if you use movies to start discussions in classes. You've got the ethics of cloning, questions of who gets to live and who dies, what does it mean to be human, and what does it take to regain one's humanity. Lots of deep thoughts and you get explosions to boot. It got me thinking about paths not taken, about how I miss a good story.

Good stories can be read all different ways. A group of people can read it and all find something different in it that resonates with them. I always wanted to write such stories. Stories of complex characters, none entirely good or evil, just people with their own agendas trying to survive in a complex world not of their own design. Recently, I've entertained the idea of writing a dystopic novel of academia. It wouldn't take much imagining, it's pretty dystopic as is. A novel where perceptions and expectations do not match reality, of the prices and consequences of hard choices.

What would you do if you lost everything and ended up in a place worse than any you had imagined, only to find that it may be the one route that offers true freedom? What if you got all you could hope for, only to find it a prison where you were both guard and inmate? What if your identity was built on your self-reliance only to find that your life hinged on the kindness of strangers?

I cannot write good stories of life and death struggles, the quest for civil freedom, or a life of hardship. I have not experienced those things and feel such stories should come from those who have. I cannot speak to the emotion and power of such trials. Those who have should be given a voice. I honestly believe that knowing such stories, seeing the worst and the best of our species, would make us all better human beings.

I can write of smaller struggles though. I used to be good with words. With a little practice, I think I could again write of the small victories in everyday life, of the emotion of silence, of our ability to deceive ourselves, of losing pieces of ourselves and the price we must pay to re-member them.

The last nine years took a lot from me. But it gave me a lot too. It gave experience, if not always a life. I think if I were to write again, the words would be better. They would do more. Stories bring us hope. Maybe my words can one day bring hope to people. To know that whatever situation they've gotten themselves into, they can survive it and find a way out. That's the kind of story I want to write someday.

There are two chapters left to write in the dissertation. Then I can begin the hunt in earnest for a job that'll leave me with the mental energy to write. Good luck to all the post-acs out there hunting in earnest already. May what you find far exceed your expectations.

No comments: