Friday, October 1, 2010

Suspension of Disbelief

I'm sorry readers, but I have to geek out on you. This is a geek moment I am not proud of. This essay is essentially going to be the public washing of my metaphorical Speedo undies with skidmarks in them. I'm afraid it will end up being an imaginary discussion, but so be it.

On another comment forum of a neighboring electronic journal, a participant asked for suggestions about a science fiction story he was going to write which took place in the year 2030. He provided a synopsis of the setup, starting off with the fact that the US suffered a bioterror attack in the year 1996-

"Whoa, wait! A bioterror attack on the US in the year 1996?"

"Yes. It is a water-borne attach that wipes out 25% of the US population, and whites are suddenly a minority".

"So it's an alternate future history?"

"Well, wait, some of the survivors of the Christmas Plague, as I call it, become psychic".

"Okay, so it is an alternate future history fantasy".

"Um, yes, and President Gore attacks Iraq in retaliation".

"Ah, so Clinton dies in the attack".


"Just wanted to make sure. Can you kill off Newt Gingrich while you're at it?"


"Well, here's the problem. Aside from the fact that, if this was science fiction, it should have been written prior to 1996, it doesn't really seem that original of a scenario, don't you think? Terrorist attack - wait, domestic or foreign?"


"Okay, that helps. I could go all nerd on you and question just exactly what kind of disease organism we are talking about that can kill off 25% of Americans. Let alone the delivery method if it is water-borne, which would be quite complex and sophisticated and require large groups of people, precise coordination, a huge amount of communication somehow ignored by our federal agencies, split-second timing, and all the other unrealistic Hollywood movie script tropes that never work or even occur in real life".

"Well, urban water supplies are hit with a bacterial weapon, something that pumps an enzyme that messes up neurons".

"What did I just say about Hollywood plots? Look, 25% of 1996 US population is (googling) 66 MILLION people! And you are going to accomplish this by poisoning the water supply of urban areas? That's like practically every city in the US down to, places like, Sheboygan, Kansas City. That takes a lot of people to do that. And then there's your pathogen. That can only be a Soviet bioweapon. And the Soviets aren't around in 1996, and they didn't have anything remotely like that when they were around. And the Iraqis could not have come up with that. Even the bioweapons divisions of the Soviets, in their prime, in the 80s, would have had a hard time coming up with an effective water-borne pathogen, at least, one that is not virulent. You put something in the water that works the way you want, and kills of 25% of the US, it ain't gonna stop there. That is, as they say, a slate wiper."

"Well, see, they develop a vaccine, and -"

"No. No. Stop. Just stop." I uncross my eyes after coming out of nerd fugue.

"Have you any conception of what the reaction would be to the deaths of 66 million Americans? Do you have even the slightest notion of the history of our nation? Any clues at all as to our national characteristics? Did you notice what happened after, say 9/11? Have you, perchance, thought about Pearl Harbor? Remember the Maine? Remember the Alamo? The Boston Massacre? Any, oh, I don't know, consistent pattern of behavior come to mind in any of that?"

"...the Spaniards didn't blow up the Maine-"


"...well, I said we went to war with Iraq. Gore has a lot of the same problems Bush had..."

"Yes, yes. You did say that. So, 66 million dead, the largest death toll ever, in a cowardly, dastardly, sneak attack, and with the US military machine completely intact, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines practically tearing their teeth out in a white-hot urge to revenge themselves, with both conventional and nuclear forces unscathed and ready to be released in righteous wrath and anger against whoever did this, whoever is standing near whoever did this, for that matter, and you don't think there will be some over-reaction on our part? A nation that, in the best of times, is constantly teetering on the brink of isolationism and xenophobia, with a paranoid streak the size of a continent, and a sense of remorse worthy of a North Korean dictator? You don't think some mighty big smoking holes won't appear in the crust of the Earth? No. NO! All Hell would be unleashed. Rethink your story line".

"...yeah, but, see, if-"

"No. No. I don't buy a single bit of it. Go away!"

Phew. Sorry. I really should be more passionate about more important things. You should see me after I watch a really bad movie. Or maybe you shouldn't.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr Kurman,
    You are a sufferer of Smartman-Dumbmovie Syndrome. You have the instant ability to pick out what is wrong in a movie, story or manuscript scientificly or practicaly.
    It is treatable ,but only after several years of radical flavour enhancers and daytime TV watching. Also, it advised you dont watch Charlies Angels, StarWars, Die Hard or Harry Potter.
    Yours Sincerly,
    Dr. greencheapsk8