Sunday, November 04, 2007

Uncivilized behavior

I'm messing with a Hamlet-Meets-Perseus (in outer space, with happy sex) story. I have to "mess" with it, because it is a Romance, and therefore must end happily.

Although I have the perfect Fortinbras in Tarrant-Arragon, who could march in on the carnage and set all to rights, a Deus Ex Machina is one of the no-no's I do try to avoid.

Shakespearean and Greek heroes don't always act acceptably, do they?
Can futuristic heroes act unacceptably? Some very generous friends have told me, No, they cannot.

Or, do you, gentle Reader, want to debate that?
What is unacceptable in paranormal literature, these days?

Given that I want to follow a classical formula, with a happy twist to the ending, I'm wondering about dreams as a plot device in an alien romance. Hamlet had a lot of dreams, and they worried him so much that he decided not to commit suicide out of fear that the afterworld might be one of continual bad dreams.

I don't mean like "Pam's dream" where the reader goes along with an appallingly violent, but compelling story, only to find out that it all never happened, and is righteously outraged at being tricked.

Suppose Hamlet knew that he was dreaming, but dreamt about killing Polonius, Laertes, Claudius... and indirectly, his mother and Ophelia? Suppose a lot of Hamlet's other nasty dreams came true during the course of the play. What would his dreams do to the dramatic tension of the final fight, which cannot --for all sorts of Romantic reasons-- end with everyone dead?

(Unless of course, the ghostly father is the real hero, and it is a ghost romance.... and did you know that ghost hunter Jeff Dwyer told my internet radio audience that ghosts have been known to grope innocent women with their cold hands?)

We don't talk about our uncivilized dreams, probably for good reason. People might not like us, if they knew what "What-ifs" we worked through in our sleep, especially after eating cheese as a late night snack. Last night, I dreamed that I was responsible for breaking three ivory ornaments in the private apartment of an acquaintance's home. The adjectives make a difference, I think!

Another night, I dreamed that I called "The Man" to come and use a vaccuum cleaner on my deck, and he agreed to come at 7.30 am. The dream was so vivid that I was quite nervous the next morning, in case "The Man With The Vaccuum" turned up.
I do have a deck --quite a large one-- so he could have vaccuumed it, and with a bit of luck, the worst thing he would have sucked up from among the autumn leaves might be a bloody-beaked dead bird, or a stiff little alien.

Yeah, I'm chickening out of revealing the revealing dreams where I fight the boogy man.

I wonder what would happen if space-farers had vivid dreams in Hypersleep!

Rowena Cherry

1 comment:

  1. I think some of Cherryh's books (Alliance and Merchanter series) have dealt with dreams in hyperspace, Rowena. I think also that in SF/SFR/PNR, dreams as precognition or as an alternate universe peeking or leaking through is quite acceptable.

    Like you, though, I don't want the "Pam's Dream" it was all a dream ending. That's cheating.

    And where do you divide dreams, precognition and hallucinations? In the opening of the second chapter of FINDERS KEEPERS, my male protagonist, Rhis, is out cold in sick bay and hallucinating/dreaming (not unlike the kinds of things that run through my mind when I'm Nyquil'ed to the gills). The real and the unreal mesh. Conflicts heighten or become silly. Since FINDERS was a RITA finalist, I'm guessing the scene wasn't too sucky. It made sense with the plot and the character, and therein may lie your answer.

    As for how bad can the male protag get in PNR/SFR? Only to the extent that you can redeem him. Redemption is the key. See Susan Grant's HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS where she takes the antag from a previous book and makes him the protag in that one. Now, Ms. Grant didn't invent that ploy--it's been done before and will be done again. She just did it will and recently (so readers can find it and go, ah! that's what that is).

    I think in SAVE THE CAT! Snyder states that if you have a protag do something nasty and you want to get away with it, just make the antag do something nastier.

    Uncivilized behavior is a matter of comparative degree. Your hero may have to kill the mother and the baby, but if the mother is an axe-wielding murderess and the baby is Satan incarnate, your hero is now, well, a hero. ~Linnea