Archive for January, 2014
Writing is a form of daydreaming. Actually, I like to daydream. I could spend my whole life thinking up and thinking about stories, fictional as well as non-fictional. Of course, it would be ultimately self-defeating because I’d never get anything else done, and there are necessities that have to be taken care of in order to live out the entirety of one’s life. Eating, sleeping, laundry, etc., etc. You get the idea.
But writing is a different matter. Writing puts down on paper or on a computer screen all those daydreams and makes them come alive. Outside the confines of a limited brainstorm. If I think up a good premise for a story, while I’m working on it in my head, I can’t visualize every little detail and nuance that makes the story real and logical, even if it is a science fiction piece. I have to work it out; I have to check each action of each of character against all those of the others to make sure everything is reasonable, and that the story proceeds in a convincing direction. Many times I’ve thought up a story or a part of a novel only to find that when I got it down on the com screen, it wouldn’t work either as a story by itself or as a part of a larger piece because in my mind I couldn’t take care of every detail. Small details can make a big difference. All of that takes time, sure, but it results in a story that not only makes sense but can be pleasing and entertaining to someone else. The satisfaction of that cannot be overestimated.
Some people get their kicks by drinking alcohol or snorting drugs or smoking pot or whatever. I get my reward from the feedback others give me about my writing. Especially if it’s good feedback. Daydreaming is just the first step. Probably all authors daydream to one extent or another. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if all people daydream. An author is simply a person who puts his/her daydreams down in a tangible format so that others can enjoy them. It takes a certain amount of time to master the techniques of writing so that a story is smoothly and logically told, but writing is basically just a way of taking what seems to be wasted time and making a living out of it.
Astronomers like to project. Now that sky studies have demonstrated that many other stars out there in our galaxy have planets orbiting around them, the race is on to find the first planet outside our solar system that can support life. Not necessarily life that includes intelligent, sophisticated, sentient beings like us, but any type of life. It may be life based on the carbon atom, as ours is, or based on some other element or molecule. Whatever it is, it’s going to be interesting to see where the first planet is that can support life. And the presence of life on another planet outside our solar system presupposes the presence of life on many other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. There could be as many as one hundred million planets in our galaxy that have the potential to support life.
But there’s more. The current estimate is that there are at least one hundred billion stars in our galaxy. That’s a 1 followed by 11 zeros. (I’d do the numbers in scientific notation using a 10 to the eleventh power, but as far as I know, Word Press doesn’t support exponents.) If we assume an average of five (5) planets per star, that’s five hundred billion planets. That makes an average of one habitable planet out of every 5000 stars. All of that is possible, although with the data we have now, that’s just an estimate.
There’s still more. Approximately one hundred billion galaxies exist in the observable universe. Every one of those galaxies contains billions of stars, in some cases a hundred billion or more. Let’s assume that the proportion of stars with habitable planets is about the same as ours, that is, one million to one hundred million, depending on the size of the galaxy. Take 10 million as an average. (These numbers are getting huge.) So, if we multiply 10 million stars with habitable planets per galaxy by 100 million galaxies, we get a figure of one quintillion planets that could possibly hold living organisms. That’s a 1 followed by 18 zeros. Can you wrap your mind around that? I have difficulty.
That’s just planets that could conceivably incubate life. Those that hold sentient beings would certainly be a smaller number, perhaps one percent of that, around 10 quadrillion planets. (1+16 zeros) Thus the chances that there is another earth-like planet out there somewhere reaches virtually 100 percent. There could be another you out there. Another me (God save us all.) A fifth Kardashian. Luke Skywalker may really exist (or have existed) in another galaxy far, far away. A planet like Krypton from which Superman came is less likely because the physics of that planet is different from the physics we know of for our universe. But who knows, perhaps the physics of the Andromeda galaxy is different from ours, though it’s unlikely. Is the charge on the electron in a galaxy billions of lightyears away the same as in our galaxy? In any event, the sheer size of the numbers makes anything a science-fiction author can come up with seem almost possible. It staggers the mind and fertilizes the imagination.
Jean-Luc Picard anyone?
If you’ve read much fiction, (or even written some of it), you may have noticed a common thread among all those stories. If there is any sort of crime committed, usually murder, but also robbery or treason or some such despicable act, or even something as minor as telling a white lie or a tiny fib, the bad guy who committed the crime must always pay for his/her act. Always. No exceptions. That’s the rule and the writer must follow it. No one is ever allowed to get away with committing any crime.
All crime shows end with a resolution of the case. In most cases, the perpetrator of the crime is arrested, though in rare instances that person may have been killed before the investigators find out whodunit. But justice is always served, in one way or another. By the end of the story, novel, movie, or TV show, the person who committed the crime is identified and given his due.
So, what would happen if you or I were to write a story where the bad guy gets away with the crime? Don’t look so shocked; it happens all the time in real life. (I won’t recount examples here, surely you know some yourself.) But suppose I were to write a novel where someone gets away with murder. Would a major New York publisher be willing to publish it? Not on your unnatural-born life. It doesn’t adhere to the one inviolable rule: the bad guy must be caught. You cannot violate that rule. (You could self-publish it, though.)
Actually, I’ve thought occasionally about writing a story where a character gets away with a crime. Not murder–I wouldn’t go that far–but something smaller, like a rich arrogant person who abuses his servants or employees and lives in lavish security away from any retribution, and he lives out his life in a penthouse on Park Avenue, with other homes in Switzerland and Cannes and Naples and Aspen, and owns yachts and airplanes galore, and dies a rich man after what he considers an extremely satisfied life and is buried in a lavish vault in a private cemetery. I haven’t written such a story yet because I’m working on several other projects that are far more important to my career, and a story like that is way low on my priority list. But it could be done.
So, why aren’t these stories published? Why doesn’t the art of writing reflect the reality of life? I guess it’s because we don’t want to recognize that such situations exist. It does happen in the painting arts: Pablo Picasso painted “Guernica,” a condemnation of the Nazi destruction of that city. But in our stories we want to get away from the inequities of life. Fiction should always be escapist and satisfying. It should raise us up out of our miserable life and show us that a better reality exists. The bad guy must always get his reward.