Sunday, September 04, 2011

Risk Takers In Fiction And Life

Risk-taking is in our DNA.

It is valued in times of crisis (war, exploration) but not so much in local emergencies when the authorities fly red flags on the beaches and urge folks to stay out of the surf and the rip currents.

I stood instep deep in the surf as Irene passed north west Florida, and I watched people around me take breathtaking risks. Persons in loco parentis took toddlers thigh deep. Tanned teenagers with broken noses and surf boards paddled far out (among the whales and dolphins and who knows what else) to ride the biggest waves. One at least was parted from his board and visibly struggled not to drown before staggering out of the water tens of yards down the coast. He retrieved his board, moved south of the rip current, and went back to surf some more.

To some extent, that surfer's behavior reminds me of one of our society's strictures. If you fall off your bike (or horse) you must get right back on again, or you will lose your bottle and may never ride again.

Aside: Have you ever noticed how many popular proverbs cancel out one another?

Presumably, the "Type" of person who ventures into space will be one of the risk-taking types, unless he or she is a mild-mannered abductee or conscriptee. Or, do you think that spacefarers and their descendants will be "all sorts", just like us?

Here's an interesting blog listing the most popular professions for romance novel heroes.

How much does it differ from the most popular alien romance novel heroes? We probably have more captains, generals, commanders; more resourceful fugitives; more pilots, pirates, and smugglers. Not to mention professional demons, dragons, angels, vampires and vampire hunters. Risky jobs all.

An author has to up the ante. Therefore, each consecutive risk must be more dangerous, more costly to the risk-taker, and the stakes must be ever higher. The trick, perhaps, is to remain plausible. Or is it?

If, in the middle of a chase scene and desperate fist fight, the American hero picks up a secret note written by a foreign spy who generally speaks his foreign language among his fellow foreign conspirators, and a vital note dropped by the villain is in English, does anyone mind?

If one shady hero was shot in the shoulder and fell off a two-storey building the fictional day before yesterday, and his unwilling, geeky side-kick is shot in the shoulder yesterday and also in the foot today (and neither received more medical attention than one can pick up in a cut price supermarket first aid kit) can they really climb tall chicken wire fences, leap ditches, and triumph in several consecutive bouts of fisticuffs?

Does The Risk trump everything else? Serious question. Has the audience changed in a faster paced world? Does it matter only that the reader keeps turning the page, or virtual page, until the end? Or does it still matter if there is that "Hey, how is that possible...?" reaction as the reader closes the book?

1 comment:

  1. You know, the first people who went to Australia were criminals. It's just possible the first person in space.... will be an escapee or as in the old TNG episode, sent to spend like in spacejail.