Dreams and Nightmares

An Elder’s meeting spend going over the blueprints for our new building kept me away from the keyboard last night, but hey – that was part of the deal when I signed on with God.

So no writing to report, but instead something interesting. Be warned, though – the content that follows has a high gross-out factor. It’s also pretty creepy.

I have vivid, interesting dreams. Some are downright bizarre – I’m a lucid dreamer, and so if I start having a nightmare, I can wake myself up (except for one memorable dream when I told the bad guy, “You’re not doing that to me because this is a dream and I’m waking up.” He said, “Like hell you are,” and had two goons grab me and shoot me full of sodium pentothol). Thus, it’s been decades since I had a true nightmare.

But that doesn’t preclude really strange happenings. Many years ago I had a dream where I was looking in the bathroom mirror and there was what looked like a pimple on my face. So I squeezed it and this blob hits the mirror. I looked at it, and it was a mass of little creatures like tiny brine shrimp (or Sea Monkeys, to those of you who sent in for offers from comic books once upon a time).

I filed that dream with the sodium pentothol episode and another dream I had (a doctor who was about to examine me cut himself with a scalpel, and this fluorescent blue liquid came gushing out as his skin shriveled down like a deflated balloon) with the intent of using them in a novel about a person who becomes unable to distinguish between dreams and reality. In fact, this project is a strong contender now in my notion to blog my next novel.

Anyway, there’s a running theme there about bodily invasion, but I’m wondering now if it’s too late to write this novel.

Case in point: this news story that I wish was fiction. Instead, it’s like something from a David Cronenberg movie – the enemy is inside of us and is desperately fighting to get out. It’s called Morgellon’s disease, and there’s even a foundation out there that’s dedicated to studying it.

If there’s a lesson anywhere in this, it’s that this is a hazard faced by writers of speculative fiction, whether you’re writing bleeding edge thrillers or far-flung treatises set centuries in the future. There’s always the risk that what you write is going to catch up with you.

I think this has less to do with the whole Art imitates Life imitates Art debate and more with history and/or technology catching up with our imaginations (cf. Jules Verne). One of my favorite SF novels is George Alec Effinger’s great When Gravity Fails. It came out in the early 80’s, and you know what my two favorite parts of the novel were? 1) The Muslim-dominated future he postulated, and 2) the fact that the main character had a telephone that he’d just stuck in his pocket and carry wherever he went. We don’t have the former, although it strikes some as a worrisome possibility, and the latter is, as it was in the novel, an every day occurrence.

Some SF reader blogs out there have pointed out how there’s a lot of research involving computer interfacing being done with animal brains, and a couple have kindly pointed out that I did in 1987 in The Company Man (where computers used dog brains – whether literal or algorithmic was left up to the reader – as processing power). But that’s not as close to the edge as what happened with A Death of Honor.

(Longtime readers, forgive me as I repeat it one more time: 1) My Soviet-dominated future was rendered moot by the fall of the Berlin wall (but you know what – it was a fair trade). 2) While the book was in the process of being published, scientists announced a new disease they’d discovered called AIDS – so before it even came out, Honor was unfairly considered (and criticized in some circles) for being a reactionary novel.)

Still, we keep dreaming. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2010 during the time that the Cold War was starting to whip into a frenzy of nuclear fear. It was his hope that the joint U.S./Russian venture into space would be something positive, and if he sent enough positive energy out, maybe it would happen.

On the other hand, I know writers who superstitiously feed us their nightmare scenarios in the hopes that, since they’ve been aired in fiction form, they won’t dare become a reality (although Morgan Robertson’s novel The Wreck of the Titan, written in 1889, didn’t keep the Titanic from sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic – and this story had both parallels and discrepancies).

I’m not advocating that creative work can save the world – I’ll leave believing that to the rock stars. In the work of the imagination, we’re bound to have hits and misses – we still don’t have our flying cars or zeppelin travel, although the latter may soon be a reality. Remember, too, that Honor had as many prescient misses as hits. It’s just really, really strange when the hits smack the target so close to center.

In the meantime, we keep presenting our visions to the world. And let the world do the job of sorting out whether they’re dreams or nightmares.

it’s a grey and yellow dress
so beautiful the bees
they followed you through the mall
to the clearing in the wilderness
and you lay down and I picked you up
and I said you must never leave
your beautiful hands like knitting needles
and I said – it’s Jane it’s me
she said – when you go that’s when you go
lighten up and pass the cup
fifty bucks and that’s all you got?
yeah I love you I love you a lot
(via iPod Shuffle)


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