Worlds Apart

So I’ve given Tron Legacy a lot of crap.  I admit it.  I just don’t like the movie.  In fact, I think it’s a hollow shell of a film.  It’s a disservice to the original film.  It’s a train wreck all on its own.  And, worst of all, it manages to make light cycles and disc battles kind of boring.

You might disagree.  You’re free to.  Whether or not Legacy is a good film is entirely up in the air.  My opinion is valid because it comes from my perspective.  You may not have my perspective.  In fact, you probably don’t.  Even if you dislike the film, you’ll probably dislike it for different reasons.  And that’s okay.  That’s fine.  I am not calling anyone a bad person for liking Legacy.  I don’t think someone is dumb for enjoying the movie.  And, though I find the film to be little more than an empty music video without characterization or plot, I am not right.  Or wrong.  Because it is in this particular subject impossible to be right or wrong.

As a novelologist, I learned long ago that people will have opinions.  I’ve accepted that many people will not like my books.  And those reasons run the full spectrum.  If you read negative reviews of my books on Amazon, you’ll see that it’s entirely possible for two people to hate a book for exactly the opposite reasons.  There are reviews that say “This book is insubstantial and silly” right beside reviews that say “this book is too serious and not nearly funny enough.”  From a logical perspective, these two reviews can’t both be right.  In a logical universe, a book can’t be guilty of being too funny and not funny enough.  But we are all trapped in our own small universes, and you can give the same book to different people and end up with wildly different opinions and interpretations.

Just about every holy book ever written down is proof of this.

It always seems to come down to emotional resonance, a concept I find myself brushing up against more and more.  If something strikes a chord, triggers an emotional response, then it works.  There are those who found Legacy to be a visual treat.  Yet I found its universe to be flat and dull.  There are those who only see Godzilla as a guy in a rubber suit.  Yet I see him as the embodiment of pure destructive power.  Trying to bridge those kinds of gaps isn’t easy.  It’s often downright impossible.

We don’t share emotions.  We don’t create them in others.  Only they can do that.  No matter how often or loudly I extoll the virtues of giant fightin’ robots, if someone doesn’t like them, they probably never will.  If I haven’t grown fond of Captain Jack Sparrow at this point, I doubt On Stranger Tides will be the film that does the job.  And if someone finds Tron Legacy a film with watching more than once, they aren’t wrong.  I’m just not going to watch it again myself.

It’s easy to be insulted when people disagree with us on our favorite things.  Probably because it can seem like a dismissal of the very emotions that give those things value.  It might not be intentional, but there’s a certain subtext.

Writing about something like this, I realize just how difficult it is for human beings to communicate on the most important and primal level.  There’s a gulf between us, and we’re constantly trying to reach across that gap.  It’s probably why we love to introduce our friends to things we love.  The only way I can really share my excitement with you is by giving you the same thing that triggered mine, and hope it works for you too.  And if it does, then suddenly, we’re magically connected in a way that talking just can’t accomplish.

Recently, I was speaking to someone who thought Edgar Rice Burrough’s Mars books were among “the worst books ever written.”  Considering how much I love those books, I immediately sensed a divide that we could probably never cross.  I knew it was true when that person described one of my favorite scenes in the series (where John Carter kills a giant green Martian with one punch).  Only instead of being excited by it, she found it absurd and comical.  I thought, “I just don’t know how to relate to you.  Telling me John Carter of Mars is bad is like telling me oxygen is bad.”

She wasn’t wrong in her opinion.  She was just coming from a very different place.  And while we could have had some common ground elsewhere, I also had to wonder if that was really possible.  The longer this person and I talked, the more I felt that distance grow between us.  By the end, it just seemed like we were coming from entirely different universes.  That’s not a judgment on which universe is better.  I like mine.  She likes hers.  And there was enough respect between the two of us to live and let live.

My goal as a novelologist is to create stories that stir emotions in others.  Maybe it’s as simple as trying to make them laugh.  Or maybe it’s trying to get someone to see how awesome a battle with a slime monster can be.  I tap into my own emotions and hope that we have enough in common, somewhere where emotions are spawned, to share an experience.  And when it works, it’s a beautiful thing.

More often, it never quite lands where I expect.  Even when people like what I write, they hardly ever like it for the reason I wrote it.  Maybe I’m not a good enough writer.  Or maybe I’m coming from another place.  I can’t hazard to guess.

It’s like people who play delicate little blood elves in World of Warcraft when they could be playing hulking taurens.  I might not be able to relate, but at the end of the day, we can all kill Alliance scum together.  And that’s good enough for me.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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2 Comments

  1. Posted April 8, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    I entirely disagree with you.

    Your opinion is what we get when we embrace moral relativism.

    Your are WRONG! Anyone who disagrees with your (correct) opinion is WRONG! Not only are they wrong, they’re DUMB for being wrong. Stupid. Probably illiterate. More than likely they have a hidden agenda, such as wanting to keep other folks from agreeing with you, or encouraging them to read things that you think are wrong and stupid, when they should be reading the things you like. The good stuff, not the crappy wrong stuff.

    There is a solution, though I doubt after reading your wishy-washy, weak-kneed position that you’d be willing to embrace it:

    Every time someone with a wrong, dumb opinion opens their mouths to vomit their stupidity upon us, bash them on the head with a mallet.

    It won’t take long before everyone will be agreeing with you.

    I have a mallet in case you need to borrow one.

  2. Dewsterling
    Posted April 9, 2011 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    As our society relies more and more heavily on new technology that allows people to insulate themselves from differing perspectives, our ability to communicate devolves accordingly. We txt and twt in short-hand, a format that diminishes the emotional resonance of both the written and spoken word. Why bother trying to “convince” someone of something that they are not already willing to try already?

    It’s why the film industry is over-relying on re-makes and sequels. And why so many television shows allow fans hitherto unprecedented level of input. Callenging material is unpalletable and, therefore, discarded. (Speaking of which, have you optioned your books yet? At a minimum, Monster would make for an awesome series). We feed our needs for instant gratification and, like any drug, we need more of it faster to elicit the same desired response. Why have a conversation when one can get the cheap shot? Why make a good movie when a shoddy remake gets a profitable return?

One Trackback

  1. By Mind Sieve 4/18/11 « Gloria Oliver on April 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

    [...] Lee Martinez talks to us about Emotional Resonance, Writing, and Other Complicated Stuff – Worlds [...]

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