Friday, June 02, 2023

Shadows of the Pure Story

I was watching Season One of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds again, in anticipation of the Season Two. Someone had mentioned some issues with the established Original Series canon and that was swimming around in my brain. I don't care all that much about canon, generally. In fact, unless you're a theologian or something, I will probably tune you out as soon as you say that word. Anyway, I found myself thinking through prequels and the changes they inevitably make to the storyline.

Strange New Worlds is about the Enterprise's travels before the Original Series. If you try to pretend you're watching a continuous series starting with Strange New Worlds, though, inconsistencies start to show up. There's the strictly visual parts, of course, like the way the various locations inside the ship look, that everybody seems to have much roomier quarters now than later, the different uniforms, and stuff like that. 

There are actual story issues too. Like, in "Amok Time," (original series) everyone is shocked that Spock is sort of married. Uhura and Chapel are both there, and they shouldn't be surprised at all. Chapel, especially, after "Spock Amok" (current series). Nobody seems to have heard of the Gorn in "Arena" (original series) and they show no recognition even when they see who Kirk is fighting. Lots of people talk about the Gorn throughout Strange New Worlds, though. You'd think someone might have said, "Hey, isn't that one of those guys who used to lay eggs in us all the time?"

I don't see these things as weaknesses, though, and I think I've figured out why.

Imagine telling stories as a sort of Plato's Cave scenario. Somewhere outside is the pure story, the story everyone is trying to tell. Neither the original episodes nor the prequel episodes are the pure story; they're just the closest their writers (and special effects people) are able to get to it. It's okay for minor inconsistencies to pop up as long as you're honestly trying to translate your part of the story, because it's impossible for any medium to convey the pure story; our stories are only shadows. 

I've been percolating the idea of a pure story behind the story for a while, because, in a slightly different form, it was the idea behind the next novel I want to do and, to a lesser extent, The Nameless Way. (I'm still working on The Nameless Way. I've just organized some notes about the other one in a Scrivener file so I can write down ideas  as I come up with them.)

Anyway, there was this space opera comic strip I did when I was eleven or so years old, just a grid on sheets of notebook paper. There's a considerable stack of those that I've somehow managed not to lose over the years. What I've been planning to do with those is study it like it's a bad translation of a great story, a transmission I was trying to relay, but couldn't get right. 

Obviously, that's not what happened, but the conceit takes some of the pressure off. I don't have to make up the story; I just have to translate it.

That's the idea, anyway. I've gotta finish The Nameless Way before I can go start something else, and, at the speed I've been going, who knows if I'll ever pull that off.

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