Catastrophe Writing and Carnival Rambling

So life is a whirlwind. We all know that, I guess. Most of us are writers. And writers swirl in whirlwinds. So we know how it feels. It feels both exhilarating and desperate. So my life is a whirlwind right now. Things are just messy and challenging and almost overwhelming. Today is Carnival day here in Portugal (dunno how it goes in the rest of the world). Chaos and fun are supposed to run the streets even though it’s raining. As for me, I’ll run through the pages. This will be a different post. It will be mostly a ramble. I don’t have a particular structure in mind, which is unusual for me, but I believe I’ll speak about disasters and hope.

MV5BMTk0NDQ4MjE5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODgzMDczMzE@._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_I’m not a particular fan of disaster-writing, even though there are a few instances in the genre I enjoy. James Clavell, for example, had the habit of finishing off some of his novels, like TAI PAN, with characters dealing with a typhoon or something of the sort. It does give them something major to overcome, no? And instances where characters deal with real disasters, some that are much larger than them, project that feeling of being overwhelmed we often feel in life, no? That’s the appeal, right? Characters that face and overcome overwhelming odds. So how come so many disaster-fictions miss this simple premise? I was watching today Roland Emmerich’s 2012 movie and all I could think of was: what a lousy movie. I feel much the same way about things like Leder’s DEEP IMPACT.  They just over do it. They paint such a picture of the catastrophe and over reach in its impact that the survival of the characters hardly feels like victory (even if you accept the ridiculous premises). Something like Stone’s WORLD TRADE CENTER falls into similar traps – they feel stale.

And then there are those who do it right, like Gillermin in THE TOWERING INFERNO or, of course, Cameron in TITANIC. In these, characters are bigger than life. Even when life almost beats them, they act as true motors, as people rising through. As people ‘making it’. Hope is an integral part of our lives. Maybe it is at the core. And it is at the core of these movies.

I was writing last night and one of my characters said the darnedest thing: ‘He who controls hope, controls the world.’ The scenario this character moves in is a ‘zombie’ post-apocalyptic world similar to something like THE WALKING DEAD, but without proper zombies. The reason I write about this kind of scenario is probably the same reason disaster-fiction appeals to many: because I wanted to write about hope. Against overwhelming odds, the characters find hope and overcome disaster. That is also the reason I don’t enjoy most of THE WALKING DEAD fiction: most of the time it is devoid of hope – there seems to be nothing but survival in the horizon… and survival is not good enough.

cheshire-cat-alice-in-wonderland_2048xIf sometimes we feel lost and not knowing where to go and we feel we hear Cheshire cats in every tree saying: ‘If you don’t know where you’re going any road will do’; then we feel we are losing hope. And hope is actually a valuable commodity. Something that is worth dying for, I believe… or live for. That is probably what appeals to us all in disaster-fiction.

And hope is a part of our lives as much or even more than disasters. We overcome one obstacle and another and another, and the cumulative effect of overcoming more and more obstacles leads us closer to what we want and/or need. That is what I believe in and that is, in a nutshell, what I call hope – that particular belief. Disasters only come every so often. And hope should be here all the time. Even if it falters every so often.

Well, anyway… It’s alright to feel tired, I guess. And this is me rambling, I guess. This past week was a strange week. Things keep falling apart and I keep rising up. The world is turning in a strange way as well. Presidents who are criminals, tyrants who burn humanitarian help trucks, politicians discussing follies. You would think that we would be used to this, but I’m still taken aback by the sheer madness we’ve been seeing in these past few years. So what keeps us going? One step after another, one obstacle after another. Optimism. Hope. Each other. The fact that you get back on your feet after getting dragged down once more.

The-MistThere’s a very interesting movie about this that I often think about. I only saw it once. It’s Franck Darabont’s THE MIST, based on Stephen King’s novel. For all intents and purposes, it’s a disaster-movie: it’s about the way characters deal with a total disaster going on around them. The apocalypse has come and the survivors don’t know what to do. They are thrown into the brink of despair. Actually, they are thrown into the depths of despair. But when you expect that bad surprises will happen you can also expect that good surprises will happen. It’s when you lose that vision of a positive outcome that you actually lose it. The characters in this movie just lose it. And that’s when they are overcome. We know so little, my friends. And the Universe is so much larger than us. We just don’t know what’s coming next. It could be bad, it could be good. Assuming one or the other makes us unprepared for the rest.

Well, that’s it. That’s my ramble for this Carnival. Forget about it. See you next week. You’ll have me at my best again. I promise.


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