Sunday, October 31, 2010

There Be Monsters

It is a convenient self-deception to think that the stories we tell ourselves -- the dreams and horrors of our fiction -- are not real.

Our fictional constructs are more real than we think, in some cases more real than were imagined by their authors.  Angels and demons exist, and they are us.

Our fictions are all around us, hidden in plain site. One need only tilt a little sideways to see the gleam of the unseen facets of the reality you missed.

Our culture is rife with obscure references, many lost in the mists of time, to cataclysmic events and ideological paths that led into or out of darkness.

In our zeal to challenge dogma, our modern sensibilities tend to reject the lessons learned, when jettisoning the moral valuations.  We should understand that  people and institutions with scars are rarely the monsters of a story.

Consider our modern mythos, with ancient and current phenomen that fit the archetypes: Zombies, Vampires, and cultural destruction stories by disease are no mere fictions. 

Look sideways at "I Am Legend" and you see a surprisingly literal interpretation.  There is an obvious warning about genetic engineering. Yet the warning is too late: reality is already over halfway through the plot, at least of the first act.

The Black Plague is no doubt one of the seminal events with respect to end of the world fiction. But we now have millions of people persistently infected with mutant strains of African viruses, only temporary treatments in hand, and a desperate hunger for solutions by those victimized by the ongoing epidemic.

Sean of the Dead had another sidelong look at the genre too. If you lived, loved, and lost to a chance happening of a virus, are you morally any better or worse than those who shuffle through the world in a virtual living death of consumerism and TV addiction?

Zombies and Vampires are not fake. They are here now. They are us.

And it isn't just monsters. Science Fiction stories often posit the existence of parallel worlds, of lives played out almost the same -- save for one not quite inconsequential turning point.

It is really the height of hubris to believe that, out of the billions of lives on the planet today, and out of the many tens of billions more in the past, your own life circumstances and genetics are so unique as to be an utterly distinct story and set of characters.

Are you a unique individual? No doubt. But there are others with almost your looks; almost your personality; almost your family and job; almost your history.

Parallel worlds are not imaginary. They are here now. They are our ancestors, our contemporaries, and our children. 

So the next time you see a silly science fiction movie, enjoy it. But when you want to enjoy it again, take a sidelong look. It may reveal the story in a whole new light.

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