This post’s title is a bit vague. Someone familiar with my interests might suppose it has something to do with the Well World series by Jack L. Chalker — I’ve posted about it before. I won’t draw out whatever suspense you might have — the well in question is humanity’s wellspring of stories.
The revisiting is our love of nostalgia in all the sequels, serials, remakes, reboots, adaptations, borrowings, homages, parodies, and pastiches. To name but some. And make no mistake, all stories have elements of other stories. Boil stories down enough and the reductions begin to look similar (the infamous seven plots).
But I find myself bemused by how obsessed we get about drinking from the same well over and over when there are so many other interesting wells.
19 Comments | tags: reboots, remakes, sequels, storytelling | posted in Books, Movies, TV
The previous post focused on a single, to me key, aspect of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011), by Yuval Noah Harari. This post focuses on the other aspect of the book I found compelling. The last one was about the power fiction gave homo sapiens. This one is about the Agricultural Revolution (the AR).
And other important Revolutions that followed, but the AR wrought a profound change on the human race. It was our first step towards societies and civilization. It ushered in the first cities and led to kingdoms and empires.
It also led to materialism, greed, health issues, theft, and war.
14 Comments | tags: history, homo sapiens, humanity, storytelling | posted in Books, Society
While not usually my cup of tea, Amazon Prime offered Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011), by Yuval Noah Harari, and I thought I’d give it a try. I’d never heard of the author, and don’t usually read anthropology or sociology books, but the blurb made it sound interesting (don’t they always).
I did enjoy the first third. The author discusses two aspects of our ancient past that really grabbed my attention. Unfortunately, he went on to lose it. In a big way. For me, the latter two thirds of the book added little and missed what seemed some key connections.
So, three posts (at least): one each for the two attention grabbers; one more for the book overall. This first one is about our special ability as storytellers.
19 Comments | tags: history, homo sapiens, humanity, storytelling | posted in Books, Society
Last night I decided to enjoy a special double feature: Blade Runner (1982), the Ridley Scott classic (final cut), followed by Blade Runner 2049 (2017), the Denis Villeneuve sequel. I’ve seen the original many times, although not in years, so it was great to see it once again. For a 40-year-old science fiction movie, it’s stood the test of time well and is rightfully considered a modern classic.
The Villeneuve sequel, I think, will never be more than a forgotten footnote. It comes out the gate suffering from being an attempt to ride the coattails of an original work by another (better) artist. Stir in Villeneuve’s self-indulgent excessively languid pacing and tendency to put image over substance, and the result is (at least to me) unmemorable.
I started fast-forwarding scenes and ultimately turned it off 45 minutes from the end. I only lasted that long because I wanted to see the part with Harrison Ford.
32 Comments | tags: science fiction, science fiction movies, SF, SF Movies, storytelling | posted in Movies
I don’t know if this is age, experience, or truth (likely a combination), but it feels as if storytelling in the new millennium has become superficial and shallow. Many of the movies and TV shows I’ve seen appear to be mere strings of icons so well-worn we don’t even think about them.
It’s as if the vocabulary of storytelling has expanded into LEGO® pieces connected to build colorful plastic stories lacking in nuance and detail. Special pieces (like little people or wheels) make the model a bit more real-seeming, but those same complete parts get used and reused.
And some of them have started to really annoy me…
5 Comments | tags: cliches, icons, memes, storytelling, troupes, Zippo lighter | posted in Movies, TV, Writing
Last week I did a little jazz riff on the idea of “story space” — where all the stories live — and how the interesting stories we want to hear are all improbable to the point of having zero chance of actually happening (unless, gasp, statistics can lie).
I thought I’d return to that basic story space idea and, in the process, finally deal with a note that’s been on my idea board for years. My problem has been that, while the idea the note expresses seemed interesting enough, I’ve never quite seen how to turn it into a post. I’m not even sure the idea makes any real sense, let alone is worth trying to write about.
However that’s never stopped me before, and it’s (almost) Chillaxmus, so cue the music, it’s riff time again…
7 Comments | tags: Chillaxmas, googol, Jorge Luis Borges, Kurt Gödel, Max Tegmark, Mind Tools, Rudy Rucker, storytelling, The Library of Babel, The Simpsons | posted in Writing
Yesterday I was re-watching Arachnids in the UK, the fourth episode of the latest season of Doctor Who, and a somewhat goofy idea popped into my head about how to respond to the charge that sometimes stories are just ‘too improbable’ to enjoy — or to have happened at all.
That certainly is an accusation that seems to apply in many cases. In order for some story to have happened at all, certain events had to happen just so and in the right order. It’s easy to shake your head and think, “Yeah, right. As if that could actually ever happen.”
For many years I’ve had a generic response to that accusation, but yesterday I realized it can be justified mathematically!
4 Comments | tags: Doctor Who, Hilbert Hotel, infinity, story plots, storytelling | posted in Writing
At one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.
The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.
Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…
7 Comments | tags: facts, false, Fiction, lies, storytelling, theory of mind, true, truth, wisdom | posted in Books, Movies, TV, Writing
Here’s something that caught my eye: Researchers at the University of Vermont, in the Computational Story Lab (!), did an interesting word content analysis on 1,700 stories downloaded from Gutenberg. Each story had been downloaded at least 150 times by readers.
The researchers used “sentiment analysis” that measures the positive or negative emotional impact of words. Using a sliding window they attempted to characterize the “emotional arcs” of each story. Their goal was to see if there were common patterns.
Turns out, there are!
26 Comments | tags: emotional arcs, printed word, seven plots, stories, story plots, storytelling, text, words | posted in Books, Writing
Last fall I kicked off a series of math-y posts with On the Count of Three, some thoughts about the groupings of three that occur around us, both naturally and in things we create. The idea of triplets is an obvious progression from the idea of binary opposition — quintessentially expressed in the metaphor of Yin and Yang.
Ever since that post, I’ve been noticing (and then noting) various instances of triplets. It really is a fundamental way reality expresses itself. (And more than just metaphorically — matter literally has three-ness!)
Here are some of the other triples I’ve noted…
34 Comments | tags: musical chord, musical key, Night Court, rule of three, storytelling, three, transistor, trinary, triple, witches, Yin and Yang | posted in Basics, Philosophy