29 July 2010

Evil Comparisons! (Part I)

I finally got to see the new film Inception and I enjoyed it. When I first saw the trailer I knew I had to see it, though I did not really know what it was about. Just before seeing it, however, I happened to read a review online which gave more of the premise, dreams within dreams, etc., which made it even more intriguing for me. Having that set of tips in my mind, I could follow it very well. Also, I like to believe, I have developed skills in temporal dexterity as I created the Dream Land worldscape and so I could follow the plot twists better than the average movie-goer.

In Dream Land, the theme of dream vs. reality is constantly poking readers. Is our hero really experiencing this other world, or is he merely dreaming it? In Dream Land I, we tend to believe Sebastian Talbot, a.k.a. the Professor, may be an unreliable narrator who is fooling his coworkers into believing he can travel through an invisible doorway to another world, the planet Ghoupallesz. As the adventure develops we begin to believe him but when he returns after the big "mission" and is questioned by police regarding his missing coworkers, we are nudged back to disbelief. The guy is crazy, obviously.

Inception plays along the same lines, lines that I have to say I enjoyed. The universe created in the film is one in which we believe the fantastic is possible. I have tried to create a similar pseudo-realistic environment in the Dream Land series. Real people doing believably unreal things. In Inception, we travel with the cast's dream-selves into a dream they all share and interact in, then into a dream within that dream, and finally some of them travel into yet a deeper dream to finish the mission. I have personally had a few dreams that involved me dreaming I was dreaming within my dream--that's two levels from reality. That's the best I could do.

In Dream Land I, I began consciously creating a reality in which my hero does find a portal to another world; hence, what he finds is real. As I wrote, however, I began to realize that the plot also worked on another level: he is dreaming, not living, the experiences. So I allowed that dual-view to continue in a more deliberate fashion. I thought it might be fun for readers to keep guessing whether or not our hero is dreaming it all. Of course, that could also become frustrating to some, especially those who may be less patient with twists and further twists of the plot.

Now I worry that when this gets published, people will be saying "Oh, that's just like what happened in that movie, Inception." So I will be forced to declare that I had the idea for Dream Land back when I was a child. I have it documented. And the germ of the actual writing of the story was still back in 1993. Also, well-documented. Well, coincidences do exist, more so in the sci-fi realm. Nevertheless, there are plenty of differences between the dream theme (or "dream team"? plenty of opportunities for further play on movie and novel titles!) of Inception and my Dream Land series.

In the movie the dreaming is declared up front (well, after the opening teaser). In my novel, the dreaming is only a question: 1) the protagonist wonders if his experiences were just dreams, 2) the police question whether he was making it all up, i.e., dreaming it, and 3) the protagonist identifies some episodes as dreams, waking dreams, or even hallucinations. In the end, however, what is dream and what is reality is ultimately left to the reader to decide; I like to play both possibilities as fully and for as long as possible--an admittedly redundant statement, sorry.

The movie uses "dream" as a vehicle for solving DiCaprio's character's dead wife problem--which is reminiscent of his turn in Shutter's Island; he may be starting to be type-cast as crazy widower characters--and the corporate espionage scheme, which should be shocking to us, making us fear the technology that can insert ideas into our minds and make us act on them, believing that our thoughts are our own. Truly disturbing stuff.

(Part II is in regard to the original film Stargate and the subsequent television series.)

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