Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grand Themes

(Should our themes be as grand as this canyon?)
I enjoy novels of epic story lines.  Yes, the telling of someone's life story can be a welcome break, but the little kid in me is still reliving an X-Wing Fighter skimming down that trench towards a thermal exhaust port just below the main port, or running along the deck of the USS Cygnus with V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and trying to stay ahead of Dr. Reinhardt and Maximillian  There's something inside me that wants the epic story, the story that not only decides someone's life, but the very future of existence.

Of course, this can be problematic to a writer's career.  There are only so many ways to save the universe, and readers are likely to tire when driven to the brink of breathlessness time and time again.  Stephen King deals with great stories, but it's the rare exception, like The Stand, where the entire world is at stake.  King still manages to make us all feel as if lots of stuff is at stake, even when it's only the lives of a few individuals or a town.

However, despite the difficulties in finding new ways to save the world, I like to "go big."  Salvation Day is about the fate of the universe and whether God Himself would be destroyed.  Akeldama talks about whether or world will be run by humans or monsters, as well as how the betrayal of mankind fits into that box.  Schism asks if our nation can survive the current level of acrimony without splitting right down the middle.

These questions fire my imagination in ways difficult to describe.  I like stories that take us to the edge of destruction, where the consequences don't just involve one man or one city, but rather the entire fate of humanity.  It's these expansive landscapes that make me feel the most fulfilled for some reason(insert psychiatrist's comment about feelings of inadequacy).  Maybe it's because we all seem so insignificant in the real world that we look to our books to create a universe where we can deal with the larger questions.

JK Rowling saw a world where the world's most evil wizard tried to take over the wizarding world, and her hero had to figure out how to thwart him.  I believe that most readers loved getting swept away by that vision, just as they did with the implications in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.  It gives us a sense of being involved, of mattering.  It's the rare person who actually has real impact on a grand scale, so our books make us feel like we have influence over a world we often feel helpless to control.

What world changing scenarios do you envision or write about?  Are they ways to be heroic, or simply ways to control an uncontrollable world?

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