Friday, September 2, 2011

Playing Nat King Cole On Your Own Face

For part of my holiday reading this year I chose Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku.*

* I also ran my eyes over a fair few restaurant menus (though never in bed for fear of prompting langoustine-riddled nightmares).

The premise of the book is that there is going to be a future — a future that will be happening soon.

In the spirit of Jules Verne, Kaku has taken his insider knowledge of the latest scientific breakthroughs and mapped out what the possibilities for the coming century might be if they work out.

Electric cars, magnet-powered telekinesis, morphing bras and mankinis: it’s all in there.

Some of the possibilities (like space tourism) seem perfectly plausible and are already happening in fledgling forms, and Kaku’s analysis of the demise of ever-increasing Silicon chip computer power seems sound. However, my concerns were prompted by the number of times Kaku referred to Star Trek, specifically in that “look how a lot of gooky sci-fi ideas from said hit TV show have evolved into science fact” kind of a way, and I’m reminded of all the hopeless inventions and innovations flagged up on Tomorrow’s World which died a horrible mid-70s death.*

* Like the Brian May detector box which kept going off in Judith Hann’s hand even though Queen were thousands of miles away live on stage in Detroit.

I have no wish to claim Kaku isn’t an expert (though if he does turn out to be a deluded fraud, there’s definitely a place for him in a future prequel series of Dr Who playing the first incarnation of everyone’s favourite time lord), but my experience of predictions of the future is that they are generally wrong.

The very best ideas falter and fail or are scuppered by chance disasters, weird things happen which no-one could have predicted, and the universal constants of the cosmos shift and change and turn around like Graham Norton playing a serial transvestite in a West End farce on a revolving stage lit by a zillion stroboscopes.*

* Why don’t physicists know that the one universal constant is Dulux magnolia emulsion?

Whether Kaku’s speculative expertise turns out to be right or wrong, I don’t particularly care. As I read the book my intention was never to bone up on the latest in theoretical physics and pump action nanodildos; primarily I read it to fill myself up with fiction fodder.

The point I’m getting to (because there is one) is that I don’t tend to get a lot of ideas for fiction from reading fiction. Fiction isn’t a raw enough material for my tastes. It’s too polished, too finished, too final — like a Barbie doll you can only play Barbie with — and I’ve always found it tends to feed back into real life more than into new real fiction. Like the nanoscientists Kaku mentions in his book, I prefer to start from the bottom up, with all the stuff that has zero to do with fiction.

As Son of Whirl would have it, I’m an “Elemental Mage” rather than a “Sorcerer Savant” or “Bloke With A Ridiculous Bloody Hat”.

So what about you, fellow writers? Do you recycle fiction into more fiction or start from scratch elsewhere? Or do both? Neither? Something else?


Scarlet Blue said...

No, I don't get ideas from fiction... although sometimes when I'm reading I often think: I wish I'd thought of that!

Scarlet Blue said...

Sometimes I often????

Whirlochre said...

Better than frequently rarely, I suppose.

Old Kitty said...

I still say the Time of Tribbles is yet to come.

Take care

Whirlochre said...

Old Kitty
Let me guess — Charlie is deluging you with furballs right now...

stacy said...

I don't get specific ideas from reading fiction, but some writers do inspire me to write. But my ideas tend to come from nonfiction and life.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

"future prequel" indeed - you have the gift of sight and already know what the future will bring!

SECTOR C definitely started out in the real world with the idea of endangered species being repopulated thru in vitro fertilization and surrogate moms. Then the leap to similar with extinct animals. Then the leap to why they were extinct. Then the leap to fiction and the conventions of the mystery and the thriller because while the ideas were cool, I needed a plot to hang them on.

Whirlochre said...

I bet everything looks kind of crazy through those specs of yours. Dinky.

The return of seemingly extinct species now looks to be on the cards thanks to advances made in mapping genomes. Problem is, will we wage the great eugenics war upon ourselves before we get to see jumbo the mammoth in the zoo?

Alternatively, of course, everthing will continue just like normal in a millennium-long Coronation St type of vein.