Freak Out In A Moonage Daydream

When we’re asleep, we can do almost anything.   

spiralnature

“Is that all we see or seem just a dream within a dream?” – Edgar Allan Poe.

Whatever the mind can conceive, so it is said, the mind will achieve. With special visual effects achieving new heights on screen due to the amazing advances in digital technology, the astonishing – and deadly – images of what can be conjured from the oneiric zone are formulating with increasing style and complexity. This subject had to be tackled here at some point.

The greatest minds in Classic Science Fiction have conceived some of the most stunning literary visions in the genre, and the movies have tried, with varying degrees of success, to translate those visions to the big screen. Yet when the whole movie derives its entire structure from the content of dreams (and dreams within dreams) as the two diverse, yet inextricably linked, examples included here show, SF can explore neuroscientific possibilities.

Naturally, when rummaging around to find those movies most suitable for this Post, the first classic scenes that sprang to mind emanate from horror movies. This should come as no surprise; our deepest and darkest fears manifest themselves through the most common random creations of the subconscious brain: nightmares.

inceptiondreamscape

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate” – Cobb.

While we eagerly await Chris Nolan’s Interstellar later this year, his complex dream-invading noir opus: Inception (2010) deserves scrutiny here. It deals with planting an idea in someone else’s mind, rather than stealing them, which is the specialist skill of the main character: Cobb, played by the unlikely, yet rewarding, choice of Leonardo di Caprio.

While this movie should be celebrated for presenting a more cerebral adventure, for once the incorporation of CGI here is well utilised, and represents the benefits to be gained from them in modern movie-making. Deservedly praised for its technical achievements, there are some particularly mesmerising imagery on offer. As one reviewer aptly put it, Inception is: “the film by which to measure the density of all others.”

This instantly brought to mind that little SF thriller: Dreamscape (1984) which quite similarly brought in the talents of a young psychic who could break into other peoples dreams. The plot was very interesting: tormented by nightmares, the US President agrees to let Alex Gardner (played by the then seemingly ubiquitous Dennis Quaid) enter his mind and sort out the problem from within. The Defense Secretary sends a psychic loon to assassinate the President and his protector within the “dreamscape”.

Technically, some may say that its special effects have not stood the test of time, but then, for the early 80s – and considering its criminally undervalued status – they retain a charm all of their own. The script is pretty snappy too.

astro

“Psychotherapists… have developed innovative approaches to dreams beyond mere interpretation. These are grounded in the implicit assumption that waiting for a patient to produce a dream makes as much sense as keeping a computer off until it decides to turn itself on” – Harvey Greenberg.   

Is there room here for that modern classic: The Matrix (1999)? Perhaps, its main protagonists enter the titular system via sleep mode; and intriguingly, there is a central character named Morpheus – in Greek mythologyMorpheus was the God of Dreams who could manifest himself in the dreams of kings as a messenger of the Olympian gods.

However, the emphasis in these bleak, dystopian proceedings is on simulation – there is no inherent oneiric activity. Not to worry, there will be an excuse to feature this dazzling mix of combat, technology and philosophy in a future Post.

Where do we go when we dream? Ha, the many nights spent lying awake (or – more likely – propped up against the computer screen) trying to ponder that one out…

No prizes for working out whether androids do dream of electric sheep, but some Comments would be very much appreciated before you drift away to the Land of Nod.

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Sweet dreams…

 

 

A Matter of Time

Posted: 6 February 2014

Time to travel. Travel in time.
Time to travel.
Travel in time.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” – William Penn.  

It had to happen sooner or later. Time travel has languished within my imagination ever since my grubby infant mits got hold of science fiction books and comics.

Since the novella: The Time Machine by H G Wells was published in 1895, popularizing the concept of travel in time, a whole cascade of time-twisting tales has hit the shelves. To go back and relive a special time in one’s past, explore an ancient period in world history, or even delve into how things might look in the future present limitless opportunities for fiction.  Moreover, its popularity stems from the fact that a considerable number of people would jump (time leap?) at the chance of immersing themselves in a simpler, less stressful time.    

While Space is three-dimensional, consisting of length, width and height, Time offers the fourth dimension, a variable element which Einstein showed to be relative: moving forward; for the moment (whenever that is!) the ability to go back exists only in the realms of science fiction.

Wrestling frustratedly with such story-lines, fuelled by copious mugs of coffee, Bradscribe has ruminated over the notion that maybe – in time – there will be a device which allows the writer to slow the passing of time, spurring him on to increase the level of his productivity and conquer his deadlines…

“About time something was done about this.”

Time Vortex: go back go forward or just go bananas
Time Vortex:
go back
go forward or just
go bananas

“Leonardo… You remember Mona Lisa? That dreadful woman with no eyebrows who wouldn’t sit still, eh? Your  idea for the helicopter took a bit longer to catch on, but as I say, these things take time” – The Doctor.

For a recent fiction project, the quandary of whether to opt for a sci-fi or historical theme was swiftly settled… by combining the two together. Bradscribe concocted an awesome scenario: what if a select band of scientists had formulated “the system,” whereby (for a hefty price of course) people could “escape” into a time period of their choice. Therein lay the dilemma: the popularity of the virtual reality thus created (based on the most accurate historical knowledge) meant that real society was being severely depleted… For the time being, no more plot details will be dispensed here.

Mind you, this is just my twist on time travel, not a blatant distortion! And the working title? “Euhypnion”…

“…What?” you all cry out, in unison.

In the 2nd century CE, Artemidorus – a diviner from Asia Minor – produced a five-volume treatise: “Oneirocritica” (The Interpretation of Dreams) in which Euhypnion has been described as “a routine dream whereby the mind sorted, processed and computerised the previous day’s events.”   

This aptly represents the weird yet wonderful delights this writer aims to create. Amazing how the study of one discipline: history, can enrich the development of another: writing fiction. So many plot-strands to contemplate, and… (ahem) so little time with which to develop them.

Time is most definitely not on my hands.

By the way, what is the time?

Tom Baker  The 4th Doctor  1974-1981
Tom Baker
The 4th Doctor
1974-1981

“I never read the scripts at all carefully, and never wanted to know what was going on, because I felt that being a benevolent alien that’s the way it should be” – Tom Baker.

It seems inevitable that a Blog on this subject should mention a few words about a certain very British television institution. After all, when viewing my first Dr Who story: “Destiny of the Daleks” with Tom Baker (the best Doctor of course) in 1979, the dip into the bizarre arena of transdimensional engineering became an enjoyable and inspirational Saturday evening ritual for me – and countless other younglings. Something about that absurdly long scarf, or his amusing knack of offering jelly babies to the surliest of adversaries… 

Although the last three regenerations of everyone’s favourite Gallifreyan did not appeal to Bradscribe, it undeniably – and quite rightly – has become a behemoth of modern broadcasting, celebrating its 50th Anniversary only last November.  

You could say that time is running out here, but then again, there always seems to be plenty of it. It’s what you do with it that counts. Will time ever wait for us? How successful will this Blog be?

Only time will tell…