Saturday, September 19, 2009

461. Untitled Shifting Baselines Syndrome + Information Overload Fiction Story

As usual, when I am exposed with too many stimuli for my brain to handle, it starts to collapse, cave in, and invent a bunch of novel, whacko story ideas... I just finished the first round final draft of The Mountain's Last Flower, and my mind is hunting for novel storyline structures, and most recently since I had accomplished my dream of finally meeting... and surf filming... and eating Mexican food with... my science-film-maker hero Dr. Randy Olson (for Roadtrip Nation), and since two nights ago I lost sleep because I finally watched "What the Bleep Do We Know?!!" after about 31 people independently told me to watch that film (including my first film production instructor Michael Hanrahan, interviewed writer-director Betsy Chasse in Washington yesterday for Roadtrip Nation)... so now I am in this ultimate, ape-chest-beating-ego-maniac mood of hunting and crafting the most radical storyline involving the Shifting Baselines Syndrome, in a more generic definition meaning: the structure and end result of your story is a product of its original premises (its boundaries in space, and time, and units of organization, that being one or several lines of data collection, either numerial, or the point of view(s) of a specific character). In a more simple definition, humans "forget" and disconnect in their ability to coordinate in space and in time. Humans have one ability to do well: transmit stories mostly in the symbolic language form, and incorporate this language into individuals memoiric repertoire. Two lines of information that humans are NOT well able to transmit are (1) visual/cognitive maps (2) emotions. So for example, I take a United States history class. I memorize the entire textbook like the Bible for my National Standard exams. BUT, I have no emotional affinity to any of the dead dudes, e.g. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, etcetera, except for the ones that are alive or recently gone (Nixon, that grrrr... Reagan, that grrrr..., Bush that grrrr..., Clinton, eh? whatever cool enough) In addition, I really don't have much of a visual history of America in my mind whatsoever... except for VERY SMALL FRAGMENTS. A few cool images in the textbook, plus I watched that "Glory" civil war film with some hot dude in there that all 13-year old girls would get a hormonal kick out of. So... this FILM actually implanted emotions and some sense of visual experience of history, and suddenly my ability to remember has been heightened... ahemmm... interesting.... And the worst part about History Courses is that they focus on people in power and great wars and debates and inventions and plagues and blood and gore, etcetera. They don't focus too much on the lives and worlds of the common folk, and they ESPECIALLY DON'T FOCUS ON ECOLOGICAL HISTORY, how landscapes have changed and how humans have interacted with these landscapes. SO, OUR COLLECTIVE AMERICAN ECOLOGICAL HISTORY IS LIKE A GHOST and scientists are currently working on trying to collect data and work with historians, anthropologiss, and geologists to figure out a major gap in how we know and perceive history. Go Jared Diamond! Woohoo!

So, here ya go. A major problem in the entirety of the humanity. The ability to tell language-oriented stories without transmitting visual, nor emotional continuity amongst each other and to the next generation... except through films. And since Hollywood has become victim of a sell-sell-sell-your-soul capitalist system with exceptional technological capabilities, any form of emotions left in any human being has been desensitized and beaten out due to overexposure and information overload. EMOTIONAL DESENSITIZATION.... So now we have THE SHIFTING BASELINE SYNDROME + INFORMATION OVERLOAD. The speed of technology increasing the speed of the average human life to the point of being almost in a liquid state does not help in processing nor passing visual and emotional connectivity.

Having all this being said, how do I take this fundamental shifting baseline syndrome + information overload problem and package it in a thrilling, enticing, paradoxically hypocritically ironic storyline that would grab anyone's attention, from the drooling five year old kid to the bratty teenybopper to the skeptical academic to the cynical ol' hoagie next door?


I was telling my sister JenJen about the storyline in the car. Same for my cousin-aunt Jeri Lyn. It all started when I told my dad I wanted to write a short story (which end up being novellas) about the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. And then I had this conversation today with Jeri Lyn, who has been spending a LOT of effort in scanning old slides of our family (the Minnich family) and I told her that these never-seen-before photographs have really been opening my eyes and mean a lot to me. I told her that I have several files detailing family history information--particularly the timeline of my grandfather Ray, and that this information means so much to me that I like to use this information as the personal backbone and/or cartilage for the stories that I write. And then I told Jenny about this poem I wrote called "Two Generations Removed from the Land" detailing my relationship with my father and my grandfather, and how we all had this deep-rooted attachment to our environment/surroundings, but how it shifted and transcended over time (from farmer/geologist/adventurer to ecologist/climatologist/geologist/adventurer to still scientist/artist/political involvement) (my poetry professor Barry Spacks liked this poem in particular, so it gives me a little confidence umpity umph).

And then I told Jenny that I need to write this Shifting Baseline Story that has to be cross-generational, three generations, and it what has to be at stake is an environmental problem. But the setting would be a strange micro-earth-like-plane with aliens that are insect like, but are actually human derivatives (as displayed by their level of "intelligence"). I was thinking maybe it would be more like an asteroid belt that was just at the right point in which water could form and coagulate and essentially moss and weird biological scum was growing all over these fragmented asteroids. I'm not sure yet. But anyhow, there is this population of insect like-exo-skeleton-shaped creatures that have a very strong mutualist-oriented ecosiocracy (aka "society) on one of the largest asteroids and they had been able to co-exist together on the asteroid for hundreds, unaccountable as the story goes, but perhaps there was some kind of disease that went through the population and shrunk it to incredibly low numbers, such that certain individuals with certain mutational traits accidentally became prevalent. The trait was that they could communicate through symbols but could no longer successfully transmit visual nor emotional information, and so individuals could construct their own visual maps of the world and generate their own information, they had very poor ability to transmit visuals-emotions to others. Their symbolic language allowed them to pass on a vague sketchy history to the next generation and among their peers just to keep the ecosiocracy up and running, marginally running by unquestioned linear protocols in the passed on books, but without much nonlinear visionary history and projection into the future (kind of like American Culture minus Obama and my dad and me and a few other people as of right now). But then what happened is that amidst this collapsed, but then now expanding society (in which three generations typically live all at the same time, one around 30 "years" (for now, I'll change time units later), 60 years, and 90 years (then one passes on and the youngest reproduces aparthogenetically? (bad word, parthogenesis? what's that word? lemme consult an invertebrate zoology book). I like this cross-generationality stuff. It reminds me of the whole Alien movie series! So, all these creatures with this expanding mutation passed around (no external factors at the time to account for this "fatal flaw") are ultimately left-appendaged and right-brain dominant (I am reversing the roles of right and left handed so people pay attention).

But then what happens over time is that there is some UNDEFINED ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM (OR SUITE OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS) that the alien society is creating for themselves on this habitable macro-asteroid through their expanding population that can only be "perceived" as a problem from a cross generational perspective because the onset of the problem is so slow and creeping from a single generations point of view. So, THERE IS THIS CUMULATIVE CROSS GENERAITONAL MUTATIONAL TRAIT THAT IS SETTING UP A POPULATION TO WIPE ITSELF OUT. THIS IS SOOO COOL!!! But when what happens is that amidst this still rather small population, another REVERSAL MUTATION HAPPENS within one character, and the onset of the disease to collapse the existing larger population, THIS MAN HAD SOME REGRESSIONAL ABILITY TO TAP INTO THE GHOSTS OF THE PAST, the emotional and visual information carried on from the ancestrally sustainable society. But the disease had distorted the memory of the past, and the man had to learn more of the history through the symbology left behind, amplifying his memories form lower vague resolution (Monety) to higher resolution, but never got very high. The collective emotion of the plague is extremely painful for one person to tap into, so he mostly blocked out visual-emotional continuity from the past and started gaining high resolution in his own life. Then he had a family and gave birth to a few kids. His son acquired the same mutation except his son close to when he was born was rapidly garnering the symbolic, visual, and emotional map of his father and integrated / interweaved his experiences very tightly with his father's. Both father and son had professions very closely tied with the nature of the asteroid, and they were in the fringes of the grid of the major dense population of their alien kind. And then the son made a family and had a daughter who passed on the gene, and so the daughter, as soon as she was born, was acquiring and synthesizing the collective visual-emotional-symbolic maps of her grandfather and father, in very high resolution, and she intertwined this regressive continuity with her present experiences. The grandfather gained experiences from the son and granddaughter, and the father gained continuity from his father and daughter. All three of them were the only right handed people in a left-handed-dominated society. Very frustrating logistcally. No one in the society thought much of it. It was the most intensive threesome of exchanged in which all three had a continual interweaving mental map of three lives (lots of information) that spanned 100 years, in which most all the others had mental maps (or memoiric movies of the landscape and people) for just 30 years. 30 years began decay of memory to a point of 60 years become a linear machine and 90 years a veteran living vegetable to keep around for the kids marginal comfort. (For some reason right now I am picturing this Dark City kind of landscape).

Now that I have complexingly set up this whole scenario in which this mutant lineage has regressional abilities back 100+ years, and gives them much foresight progressionability much farther than the typical 30-year linear mutational type. So what happens is that all this time, in the 100 year expansion of this society, the grandfather, the father, and the daughter start to detect a most noticeable creepingly slow environmental problem that would ultimately lead to the doom of the society on this particular asteroid. At that point, the technology was rudimentary but still feasible enough to escape to isolation in another asteroid, but fundamentally these are mutual, sociable creatures. The issue is, though the past society was sustaining its existence on the asteroid, and though it left its instruction manuals for how to run the society, there were missing instruction manuals, and certain individuals with certain roleplays had to whimsically invent protocols on the spot to fill in for missing information. Some of these whimsical protocols ended up being "bad habits," expanding and spreading around, to like some kind of malignant tumor of society structure (much like the Office of Budget and Planning of UC Santa Barbara, given their caniving developments violating certain environmental codes). The "bad habits" may go around the notion of my father's Smokey the Bear fire suppression scenario, and this mutant lineage of three somehow saw the gradual negative shift of landscapes (requiring scientific, investigative scrutiny) that called to urgent attention in terms of leading to a massive wipeout conflagration (figurative or literal). The threesome had this INTERNAL ABILITY to be like GIS / GPS units in their heads and reconstruct movies of shifting landscapes in any point of the land where all three had been in the past, combined with struggling to input outsider information--translating existing symbolic code into visual and emotional continuity. The grandfather was quite old and could not do much physically, but the father and daughter came to realize within a matter of their own lifespan the wipeout would occur, and at first they decided to testify to the leaders of the society, without much luck because everyone has fallen into their rut, and it was very difficult to change people's habits. And then the threesome plus their more convinced family considered escaping with a rudimentary space-travel ship to another distant colony of aliens the grandfather had an echo memory of.... But then the daughter had this great idea, realizing that talking to these other parts of the colony was useless because their chit chat was sloppy and meaningless to them 20% direct visual and emotional meaning so most 80% of the symbols was filler chatter to nothingness. While the father and grandfather were making arrangements to fly to another asteroid, renovating the spaceship with technologically savvy relatives, the daughter was adamant and decided to make all the knowledge that all three of them had in their minds externalized into a visual and musically emotional, three-dimensional story in the art gallery, which is rarely used anymore, since most of the alienst are technically linear. And through this cinematic art display she was trying to show everyone the concern and allow them to simply see what the lineage of three could see.... an expanding technocratic society was losing its ability to transmit visually and emotionally... and everyone was so overwhelmed by this means of expression that they were shocked. The question is as to whether the story was compelling enough for the mutualist ecosiocracy to change its course of action, and whether the mutational lineage of three ultimately had to escape to the plan B faint echo fo another potential society on an asteroid. Post New York destructive universe like "I am Legend" with Will Smith.

The question is, what in the hxll do I call a story like this?! I NEED A TITLE!!!

Well, all y'all people out there gonna take this idea, go ahead and be my guest! It took a while for my mind to wrap around this idea. Imagine anyone else's head. I'm not to concerned about anyone stealing my ideas. All the better! I'd like to consider it SHARING!

Notes: Perceptual/Emotional Discontinuity across generations, vertically and horizontally, the only history remained in the landscapes, no one synthesized too much they were very linear, through the remains, the grandfather had to figure out the history of the past society and their ways of doing things to figure out the missing protocols in the failing operations of the society. I told my sister that environmental problems are fundamentally social problems and political problems. Given that, writing nonfiction narrative is walking a fine line of things. If I want to illustrate a universal concept, I would rather like to portray this concept in an adventurous fiction story, because not only I am sharing a concept or a structure, I am actually APPLYING the concept to a specific narrative! And I can write freely because I disguise reality into really dense, juicy fiction. AHA! I like it. I JUST STARTED THINKING ABOUT THE TRUMAN SHOW BUBBLE EFFECT AND THAT CHANCE GARDNER MOVIE. I THINK THAT ALSO NEEDS TO BE INCORPORATED INTO THE FILM. THERE IS AN EXPANDED TRUMAN SHOW BUBBLE AROUND THE MUTATED LINEAGE AND THE BUBBLE AROUND THE OTHER MUTATED PEOPLE WITHOUT TRANSCENDENT COLLECTIVE MEMORIES IS MUCH SMALLER AND MUCH MORE CHOPPY, MESSY, FRAGMENTED, PIECEMEALED, AS IF THEY WERE SURROUNDED BY SOME TANGLED BALL OF SNIPPED UP PARTLY ERASED YARN OR RUBBER BANDS.