When Imagination Becomes Reality

How does fiction back up its bold statements of unreality?

When Michael Crichton wrote Timeline (a time-travel novel), he provides the basics of a quantum accelerator that forces matter to subatomic energy levels created by an advanced science firm. The accelerator in question breaks down matter and shoots it back into time so the modern-day characters find themselves back in the Dark Ages.

When Stephen King wrote 11/22/63 (a time-travel novel), he created a time portal stuck in the pantry of a greasy roadside diner.

This begs the question of suspension of disbelief. What is important here? Crichton’s adherence to theoretical physics to back up his plot or King’s insistence that the story itself should suspend disbelief?

Both works are a lie. They are fiction; even when Crichton throws pages of theoretical physics at us (note: THEORETICAL), there is no proof with modern know-how the actual function or invention of a quantum accelerator. It’s feasible, but still science fiction. Crichton also adheres to the supposition that one could go back in time and confound the famous Grandfather Paradox (you know, the one where you go back in time and kill your grandfather and therefore making it where you cannot be born to go back and kill your grandfather) by slipping in the idea that going back in time is akin to slipping into an alternate universe. He supposes, in his novel, that when you use this quantum accelerator, you are “killed” and an alternate you is created to go back in time. So, if you killed your grandfather, it wouldn’t really be your grandfather, but an alternate one.

This is not an argument on this theory; GAWD knows I’m no expert in theoretical physics. I’ll leave that to Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein and their colleagues. The argument is, does it allow the reader an easier go of it to suspend disbelief by having actual facts to back up fiction?

I am currently reading Stephen King’s time-traveling novel, 11/22/63. King takes on the same argument that Crichton does in Timeline, however, the mechanics are more esoteric and metaphysical, as is King’s nature. The device – the plot catalyst to get his character to answer the fictional question of what could be if? – is a time portal of dubious origins. Now, that doesn’t mean that natural time portals could be real; speculative documentaries have been all over that cheese, especially in regards to the Bermuda Triangle. Anyhow, King says, all right – the time portal is in a greasy diner and damn theoretical physics.

At one time I read speculative fiction as if it was a life blood swelling within me; as I get older, my tastes changed. I began to demand more substance to the literature I read and I wrote. I didn’t care if a dinosaur was going to somehow appear in the modern day and gobble up a bunch of scientists; I wanted to see how it could be plausible in the course of a fictional story. Therefore, I got a kick out of Crichton’s Jurassic Park rather than Edgar Rice Burrough’s The Land that Time Forgot.

These two novels are very similar. They possess the same central plot: people stranded on a deserted island being chased by hungry dinosaurs. The difference? Just like the previous two examples, there is Crichton’s science. It’s still pure fantasy, but the story has become plausible based on scientific theory than pure imagination.

This begs the question of suspension of disbelief. What is important here? Crichton’s adherence to theoretical physics to back up his plot or Stephen King and Edgar Rice Burrough’s insistence that the story itself should suspend disbelief?

It’s interesting to note the different type of protagonists in these two novels. King is more subjective; time travel reflects more of the MC’s (Epping) reaction to time travel while Crichton is less subjective to his MCs and broadens the theory of time travel rather than how it affects the characters personally.

 

 

M Cid D’Angelo’s novels can be found at ~

Dead Reckoning: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Reckoning-ebook/dp/B00BJ8AW9Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361986545&sr=1-1&keywords=m+cid+d%27angelo

Electric Monkeyland: http://www.amazon.com/Electric-Monkeyland-ebook/dp/B00BKNMKN6/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361986545&sr=1-3&keywords=m+cid+d%27angelo

A few of his short stories are published by various for print and online literary magazines. Here are a few:

“Thumbs Up” (Midway Journal): http://www.midwayjournal.com/Oct10_Fiction-ThumbsUp.html

“Don Quixote de Las Vegas” (Moronic Ox): http://www.moronicox.com/don-quixote-de-las-vegas-dangelo.html

“In the Garden” (decomP magazinE): http://www.decompmagazine.com/inthegarden.htm

“Chad and Willie Break a Leg (March, 2013 – The Legendary): http://www.downdirtyword.com/

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About mciddangelo

"I write because I believe in literature; I believe that the art of words is louder than sound, more colorful than paintings. My novels are written not because of the pursuit of money or even success, but in the FAITH that they exalt our experiences; that not only do they give us enjoyment to read them, but they are meant to open worlds that a reader may not ever imagine." M Cid D'Angelo is published in Aiofe's Kiss, Calliope, Eureka Literary Magazine, Third Wednesday, Midway Journal, and many others. He is the author of Dead Reckoning (J Ellington Ashton Press, 2015), available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
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One Response to When Imagination Becomes Reality

  1. RJ Cratyon says:

    I think it depends on who your audience is and what type of story it is. If your audience is science minded, they’ll appreciate a science explanation and it better make sense. If your audience isn’t science minded, they won’t care.

    Whatever you do, you shouldn’t include wrong information because people in the know hate authors who get it wrong.

    I think if the story is overall believable, audiences will go with the flow. However, if it is internally inconsistent, no one will enjoy it.

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