I hope this reading finds you enjoying the latest installment of "Revenge of the Squid Queen". There's more to come. But for today, I'd like to reflect a bit on events of the day in a context of the place of escapist adventure in the face of reality.
This week we saw some pretty horrible things in the news. I'm not trying to start a political debate. I'm leaving that discussion for another time and place. We do need to look at the events of the week as a humanitarian problem, where we as human beings should at least lift a single finger to help end the suffering of others. I don't know if missile strikes do that. I do believe that if all seven billion of us decided to do one tiny thing with the goal of making the world better, we could. Some would say that's the biggest fantasy I've ever contrived.
As a writer, I am always torn between the writer I want to be and the writer I often am as Ignatius Hondo. Many of you have read and appreciated my more serious work. Literary fiction is actually my deepest love, my deepest aspiration. Often I think that if I'm going to respect what's going on in the world, I need to write more seriously and explore the suffering and confusion that is endemic in our lives as people.
Thing is, there's a place for a cracking good yarn. And one could posit that it's even more important. How many people in the world connect with Stephan Deadalus? Tom Joad? Aloysha Karamozov? Now ask yourself, how many people know Sherlock Holmes? Captain America? Han Solo? Miss Marple?
Much of the reason for this is simple relief. We all need a break. Whether we find that in following our favorite sports team or anticipating the season premiere of our favorite show (my two faves are coming up next week), or comic book or latest detective story or stand-up comedy special.
But here's the thing. What makes these things good, or at least enjoyable? I think it goes to a common thread I'll call the unexpected, but logical result. For example, Wile E. Coyote and the catapult. This is hilarious because of the logical rules that Chuck Jones used to guide his writers. The expected result is simple. Coyote pulls string, catapult launches rock, rock squashes roadrunner. But we never get the expected result. We get novel results that make logical sense int he context of the cartoon's world, which is what makes it funny.
The same with comedy. The comedian sets up a situation, then delivers a sensible resolution with he novel use of a word, or a shift in context. Take a look at the work of Mitch Hedberg, he was amazing with this. Or Brian Regan's recent Tonight Show appearance, where he talks about waking up as the president of the United States.
Likewise with escapist fiction. When we see protagonists prevail despite adversity, it usually follows a similar construct of using a novel approach to a tough situation. When we see our hero or heroine make an amazing escape, we become inspired. They solved a problem that seemed unsolvable.
Think of the most frustrating meeting you ever attended. Most likely it was frustrating because the people around the table were either unable or unwilling to arrive at a solution for the problem at hand.
Now think of the best meeting your ever sat in. Conversely, it probably had a group of people coming to consensus around an approach that utilized the available resources in a new way that made sense.
I truly think that one of the benefits of escapist fiction is that it constantly exposes our brains to this kind of creative thinking, whether it's Deadpool breaking the fourth wall or Sherlock Holmes utilizing the minutia of his extensive knowledge applied to the facts before him. When we allow ourselves to be open to these kind of things, I think it has an unconscious effect on our ability or at least our willingness to see things in a new way.
Now is escapist fiction going to help the suffering people in Syria or solve the political dysfunction that was pervasive in the Congress and has only gotten worse since January? No.
But I do know that history moves forward through unconventional thinking. Equal education for all, voting rights for women, civil rights for all Americans, these were novel ideas that became reality through creative thinking and application of ideas and resources.
I do think that unconsciously, good escapist fiction opens us up to unique solutions, perspectives on humanity and inspiration to be like our heroes. Even if we all just lift a finger, it can help us do just one tiny thing that moves the world toward a better place.
So be inspired. Bring that inspiration into the world and help leave it, even microscopically, a better place than it was when you woke up this morning.
Take care of yourselves, True Believers, and remember, as Mitch Hedberg says, rice is great when your hungry and want two thousand of something...