Thursday, March 24, 2005

What stories would a peaceful world tell?

I'm wondering about the fiction of the future. If we get to the kind of future I'm hoping for and working towards -- one where conflict is resolved through talking, not fighting -- will they still enjoy the stories we write today? Or will our plots and characters strike them as distastefully violent and conflicted, the way the unexamined racism of much 1930's pulp fiction grates on our ears today?

The barest skeleton of plot is: problem, resolution. Our best-selling novels pile one problem on another -- the lead character sets out to solve one problem, and then things get worse. And worse. Until finally everything is resolved, usually quite close together, in the last small portion of the book.

Would this look stilted, tortured, and unnatural to a world of peaceful people? Will they make some breakthrough and look back at us as though we all lived Idiot Plot lives? Future readers might pick up our novels and say, "Hey! This guy's violating the 3rd law of How to Get Along! And there his love interest goes violating the 4th law! And now they're both breaking the first law! Are they both idiots? Man, I just can't relate to this. Why'd anyone read this stuff, anyhow?"

See, maybe the future will be better, because people will learn something that seems simple and obvious to them -- even though we don't know it yet. The way it seems simple to us to wash our hands before eating. Or that the world is round. And then, when they look at how we ignored this glaringly obvious principle, they'll find it hard to empathize with our problems.

And maybe -- since I'm postulating peaceful people -- the whole idea of problem, resolution -- will just not interest them all that much.

1 comment:

Doug Weathers said...

Hmmm, interesting. Although almost everything else has changed - technology, social structures, knowledge, the planet itself - human nature seems to be largely unchanged since we began telling stories to each other. Our stories all seem to involve conflict of some sort.

You postulate a future where conflict is distasteful, and therefore all of our previous stories become distasteful too. This seems to imply a fundamental change in human nature, which makes it hard to talk about what happens next. We can't really see past this singularity, so us primitives can't imagine what stories our descendants will tell to each other around their equivalent of a campfire.

But I don't know if we'll ever completely outgrow the "problem, resolution" format. We read and enjoy murder mysteries today, although the vast majority of us find the idea of personally murdering someone extremely distasteful. Perhaps tomorrow's conflict will seem more like today's murder than yesterday's racism.

That would be good - I'd hate to lose all of our heritage as we grow up.