Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's no Surprise...

I’ve been thinking about conspiracies.

Okay, here’s the thing: the secret’s out. Aliens crashed at Roswell, and the government has been working with the remains, or the survivors, or human-dog-fishbaby hybrids ever since. To make stealth bombers and particle cannons for use in Iraq, or somesuch thing. Everyone knows it, right? Or at least, everyone knows that it either did happen like that, or else if it didn’t a lot of people have got a lot of mileage from circulating the rumour. But by now, we’ve ALL heard the rumour, so if WE have, then so have our characters.
And Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a baby while touring England. The Catholic Church has secret Vatican Documents™ that trace the lineage throughout two thousand years of Templar and Freemason/Illuminati plotting and scheming. They’ve used gold from Solomon’s Temple to manipulate historical figures like puppets on a string. Da Vinci knew about it. He was the secret head of the Society of Left-handed Mirror-Writing Gnostics, and he used medieval alien-wreckage to build the first pedal-powered wooden stealth bomber to put the serious frighteners on Templar head-worshipping goat-fornicating heretics hiding out in an Ethiopian citadel built on the ruins of Black Jerusalem. Or was it a Merovingian citadel in Turin? Anyway, he told Michelangelo about it through the use of cryptic gene-ciphers tattooed on a young paintgrinder’s glans.
Surprised? Of course not. Everyone knows about it. Same as everyone knows that the Anti-Christ is going to be born (or has been born) with a curious mole-pattern shaped like 666 somewhere on his (or her) body. Except it isn’t curious, is it? Because everyone knows about it.
You can’t write horror or SF where the kicker hangs on the revelation of a conspiracy anymore, because we’re all overdone. X-Files saw to it. The Omen saw to it too, and so (now) has The Da Vinci Code. If a story hangs off a big ‘revelation’, chances are readers will have difficulty suspending belief. But not suspending belief in the revelation, but rather suspending belief that a character hasn’t already heard of something like that… er…already.
Which sucks, really, because if you can’t have a character act surprised when they are confronted with the revelation that vampires actually exist, or ghosts, or aliens or whatnot – one of the writer’s tools is taken from the tool-chest. If you do it, you’re just asking more suspension of disbelief(SOD) from your reader than you actually need. The best genre stories should ask no more SOD from the reader than they absolutely require.
We writers all just have to work a little harder and hang our stories off something other than the BIG REVELATION.
I hate those X-File wankers. They all need a damn good flogging with an Opus Dei monk-flail.