“And then what happens?”
This is the question I’ve been hearing in my head a lot lately. When talking to other writers trying to get going with their first project, or more importantly, with my own work. It’s the question at the heart of every Stephen King novel (by his own admission during an interview) that drives him to completion. It’s driven me through every tabletop RPG I ever ran. If the characters have a lot of stuff, steal it/break it/lose it. If they are sitting around doing nothing, attack them. Basic D&D fare, but it keeps the players entertained and gives hooks to hang a plot on.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the little brushes I’ve had with Post-Modernist philosophy as I sit there watching the world burn around me in this soon to be Post-Covidiocy world with monetary collapses, market collapses, and the death of western civilization staring me right in the puss.
“And then what happens?”
As a spec fic author, this is really important when I start considering the future. How much of it will be Mad Max? How much “1984” or “Brazil”? Will it be “A Brave New World”? Anyone for “Soylant Green”? Or will it be all of it with a side of “Hunger Games”? My money’s on “A Brave New 1984 in Brazil while having Soylent Green for Tea with Mad Max”.
But it’s also got me thinking more deeply on the roots of creativity thanks to a video by “The Quartering” who talked about the new “Cruella” film being a female version of “Joker”. Mind you, I’ve seen the spoilers and went…. really? Not my cup of tea, but at least the fans seem to like it so who am I to criticize too severely (of course to laugh yourself silly, See the “Pitch Meeting” video on Youtube lampooning it… come to think of it, that’s really what got me into the question I’ve been facing lately.
BTW, all this pop culture jargonist mish-mash has been in service to my point today.
What all this spawned in my head lately was this: If Post-Modernist philosophy posits the smashing of the old symbols, semiotics and semantics in which to create new things out of the wreckage (think mashup music, crossover films, retellings, trope twisting and pop culture pile ups like “Ready Player One”… none of which am I criticizing because I LIKE much of these things) at what point are the symbols so broken down that they become the fertile soil for the creation of NEW ideas?
Yes, yes. Stop there now. I know “there’s nothing new under the sun”. This has all been done before. I, for one do not believe that history repeats itself, but lean more to the “but it does rhyme” school of thought. I’ll go so far as to say it will also riff and ad lib too. The broad tropes/genres/mediums will always exist to some degree for they speak to the human experience, but consider the evolution of how mankind reacts. How does it cycle through history? There’s always been horror stories for instance. But what was once cautionary fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm have evolved to slasher films and torture porn of today thanks to mankind’s memory and boredom for the familiar.
So, now that I’ve committed to using up my allotment of “Quotation Marks” for the month… I’ll sort of get to the point of what I’ve been pondering. When will we start seeing some new and “truly unique” creative endeavors in entertainment? When will it stop being a recycling of “Star Wars”, or a perversion of “Superman”? Is it possible to break free from the Pixar Formula? Will we finally be far enough removed from nostalgia porn to want to put something great and new that can thrive on the silver screen instead of just crappy imitations of the masters who came before? Are there any masters left or do we have to wait till we are sufficiently removed from them to finally have new ones show up on the scene again?
How many people know or have read great authors or playwrights from the Roman empire? Beyond Cicero that is, but that also belabors my point. There’s a good chance that the tens if not hundreds of thousands of artists who existed then, and may have created great works are lost to time. Destroyed by neglect or burned up in the destruction of institutions like the Great Library fire. Some may say that’s the same conundrum looked at by sci fi in dozens of books/shows/movies as they try to save mankind from becoming extinct. But that type of extinction seems to be central to existence in this world. Species go extinct. Houses rot away and are reclaimed by the land. We are just dust in the wind, and so are our ideas.
I look at my own work and wonder if it will stand the test of time? In 500 years, assuming the Rapture didn’t happen, will my books be remembered like “Pilgrim’s Progress”? Or even “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Now that would be the real achievement! The real blessing of God. At least in heaven I may know the true impact of my work. But on earth?
I mean, consider one of the greatest films of all time that was on the verge of being forgotten till someone missed the deadline to renew the copyright and it lapsed into public domain: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Thanks to that mistake, the movie was run almost non-stop at Christmas in the US because it was cheap and nobody wanted to work in the TV station on the holiday so it was discovered by a whole new generation of viewers, and was reborn without ever having changed. An artistic resurrection.
So what fertile soil is coming from the grinding down and emulsification of the symbols of western civilization as multi-culti-green-globalism tries to roll over everything? What new fronds will grow up from the digested mass media and symbols that once were considered holy and proud? Even my own “Tales From the Dream Nebula” is supping on small pieces and inspirations from dozens if not hundreds of sources, drawing itself a new vitality from the loam of creative history. Am I making something new and fresh, or am I making a mosaic out of the pieces of entertainment symbols as I dance in the graveyard garbage dump that is the current state of pop culture?
Early in my writing endeavors that I realized there was a chance my books would be my only bid for immortality in a world where there is no immortality. With no prospects for progeny, this was where I would grasp the mane of eternity and attempt to hang on as long as I could. But in the end, just like every artist that came before me, how long would it be before I was forgotten. Would it be the day after I died and my manuscripts were thrown into the trash? Would my tombstone wear away in the rain? The internet is not forever. It must have electricity and human desire to persevere… or would (as some would believe… not me) some A.I. rise up and delete all of man’s history in a microsecond? None of us know for sure, but we who create all hope to be the exception to the rule, and are re-discovered like “Beowulf” or never forgotten like Homer’s “Odyssey”.
So we circle back to the original question, but now standing on top of a giant societal “Butte Des Mortes” and cry out to any who will listen:
“And then what happens?”