The other day while flipping channels, my wife and I happened on The Spy Who Loved Me, one of the three good Roger Moore James Bond movies (the others being Live and Let Die and For Your Eyes Only). We watched web-finger villain Kurt Jurgens do his thing for a while, and then I said something to my wife.
I said, “You know, they always have these villains killing off their own henchmen to show how evil they are. Someday I’m going to write a novel with an archvillain, and I’m going to have a scene where a henchman who has screwed up goes into his office to see him. He’s going to put his arm around the guy and say, ‘Y’know, Larry, you’ve been doing a lot of hard work for me and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re a little exhausted. Why don’t you take the rest of the week off? In fact, you could probably use a vacation. Why don’t you take your wife and kids on a nice cruise or something and get back to me in about a month and we’ll talk about getting you back to work.'”
She said, “It would probably inspire more loyalty than the traditional way of dealing with them.”
I mention this now because it is starting to look like al-Qaeda (or however it is being spelled this week) is treating their employees like a James Bond villain treats his henchmen.
This surfaced a few years ago when Usama bin Laden (or however it is being spelled this week) admitted that not all of the 911 hijackers knew that the planes they took were going to be flown into buildings.
Maybe it’s a good thing that these folks hate western culture. Having never deigned to sit through a James Bond movie, they don’t know that they’re going to meet a certain end as their secret world domination headquarters complex blows to smithereens (although some of them have already lived through this happening)
Art can imitate life, but oddly enough, it has to be within reason. In other words, there’s only so much you can ask of a reader when it comes to suspension of disbelief, and real life is full of such incredible coincidences that many readers wouldn’t buy into it as a plot element if you put it into a story.
There’s a greater danger in life imitating art. Witness all the jackasses who injured themselves imitating stunts seen on Jackass. I don’t think UBL and his crew got the idea for 9/11 from reading Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor, but I do know of writers who get ideas for perfectly horrific events, but refuse to write about them because of this… well, for lack of a better thing to call it, Jackass Factor.
In the wake of 9/11 I got some pretty creepy ideas. I didn’t even tell my wife what they were. I seem to recall some counter-terrorist experts brought in some fiction writers to brainstorm possible ways of further attacking the U.S. on our own soil. In some ways, that’s even creepier.
In any event, the upshot here is that life shouldn’t imitate art, except for maybe the good parts (marriage proposals on the top of the Empire State Building and whatnot). And art can imitate life, but only if it’s very, very careful.
There is, after all, only so much you can ask a reader to believe.
Listening: Something by Pat Metheny – I don’t know all the titles to his stuff – on the iPod Shuffle