Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups…So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
–Philip K. Dick, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later”; courtesy of Wikiquote.
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
–Robert Burns, “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough”
This is famously misquoted in standard English (as opposed to Burns’s Scots dialect) as “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.” In any case, the sentiment is true enough. How often do we plan something only to have events seemingly conspire to screw it all up? How often does the most meticulous planning crash and burn before our eyes? It’s not for no reason that we have the American idiom “Plan B”. This is, of course, what you do–or attempt to do–when your original idea, Plan A, fails. Sometimes we seem to run through the whole alphabet of plans and still things “gang agley”. Then again, we’re not God.
The point I’m getting at here is something I’ve alluded to numerous time over the course of this and other series of posts at this blog. In this post, I want to address the matter in a more direct and explicit manner. The matter at hand relates to the interpretation of the Fall of Man, as described in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis. My main purpose in “Legends of the Fall” has been to try to find a way to understand the aforementioned Fall given our current understanding of human origins and the impossibility of reconciling that understanding with the Genesis account. I’m still pretty far out from coming to such an understanding, admittedly. Nevertheless, I think it is useful to look at issues which, while partially tangential, nevertheless have implications for the course of the main argument.
Someone I follow on Tumblr had a post recently discussing what makes for good writing in a fan fiction context. The conclusion was “good technical skills”. The idea is that, while writers and readers of fanfic may have different criteria of what makes a fic “good” than do the gatekeepers of “mainstream” fiction, and while those differing criteria are valid, good technical skills are universal, allowing you to develop the story you want to tell and to say what you need to say. Technical skills may not be the end-all and be-all; but you have to be able to control what you’re saying if you want to get anything across to the reader. I totally agree with this.
Anyway, I reblogged and added a response dealing with an aspect of fanfic that I think isn’t often realized or understood. It occurred to me that it might be worth putting up here, too, especially since I’ve been discussing pop culture–which of course includes fanfic–in the course of writing my series “Religion, Role-playing, and Reality“. I have edited it very lightly for publication here, but it’s substantially the same as the original form. Enjoy!
Each of us assumes everyone else knows what HE is doing. They all assume we know what WE are doing. We don’t…Nothing is going on and nobody knows what it is. Nobody is concealing anything except the fact that he does not understand anything anymore and wishes he could go home.
–Philip K. Dick, In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis, courtesy of Wikiquote