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  1. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    An inexplicable being

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Thanshin, Jun 15, 2010.

    I'm starting to think about a plot and I'd like to get some opinions about its viability.

    It involves characters that come from a place so alien to humanity and our universe that it's inexplicable. The needed terms to understand it will always be beyond the human mind to comprehend.

    The only way a character from that place to make himself understood is through a complex allegory. The question is: Will the required perpetual metaphor become tiresome? Will the reader accept never understanding the underlying reality?


    For example, the allegory could go something like this:

    "Imagine the entire World is a movie. One that’s being recorded at this very moment. The only difference is that actors don’t know they are on stage, they think the movie is real and they can’t see anything beyond it."

    "Imagine I’m a sound technician. I see the movie being recorded, I know the actors are actors and I see the stage as it really is; just a stage."

    "Now imagine that during the recording of the movie, an actress turns and smiles at me; nothing wrong with that, right? After all, in this movie actors are free to do whatever they want. Except she isn’t supposed to know I exist."

    "And yet here you are, hearing my voice, and staring at me as if I was right here in front of you."

    "But, you are in front of me," she said, oblivious of the profound impossibility of such answer.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Every attempt to explain them will seem flat.

    I'd suggest leaving them unexplained. As humans interact with them, they can show thorug their reactions they do not understand the aliens or the universe they come from.

    Conversely, the aliens, by necessity, will find us equally incomprehensible.

    Frankly, I question the value of this in a story. I'm not saying it cannot work, but a successful story is relatable to the human experience. Even stories like Arthur C. Clarke's Rama series draw their appeal from discovering the commonalities the humans discover with the aliens.

    The only way I see this working is as an excploration of how humans respond to that which is forever beyond their comprehension. Even God is viewed by man as a reflection of his own nature (ore vice versa).
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Entirely plausible, but difficult to maintain IMO. Not impossible though. As with anything it comes to down to individual author skill, but this is not the answer you want to hear. For what it's worth, it's an interesting premise, and a rare one at that due to the complexities in narrative.

    As an aside, perhaps check Vonnegut's beyond-excellent Slaughterhouse 5 for an alien view on predetestination and four-dimentional perspective. There, they posit a beautiful demonstration of Man's lack of comprehension and ability to comprehend their own complex views. It may help you frame your own arguments, if you've not already read it that is.

    If you can frame your leaps in comprehension with attainable strings of narrative, then the majority of readers will follow. If you are deep in experimental physics, which have a grounding in the attainable, many will nevertheless not follow. If you're one step beyond this even, and can get it to paper, you're either a genius or a madman. And I mean that in the nicest possible way! Good luck.
     
  4. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    They don't, for them we're but a projection of their more complex reality. We're like dogs to them, they can understand us and can tell us simple things ("sit", "good boy") but we are unable to understand their complex thoughts.

    That's precisely my plot. I plan on exploring the possibility of loving and being loved by an incomprehensible being.

    An insightful thought. I'll think about it.
     
  5. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I read it recently, but it was during a time I read a lot of SF consecutively, so I'll have to refresh my fuzzy memories.

    Thanks! I'll go for the one step beyond and hope my limited mind constrains the result into a comprehensible state.
     
  6. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    It's an interesting premise. The only issue is will it go so over the reader's head and be so unrelatable (I know not a word) that they'll give up on it? Will it be something that takes so much focus to read that it will frustrate the reader? Those are my concerns with the idea. You have to do your absolute best to find a way to make it understandable and where the reader is able to relate.
     
  7. Falconjudge
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    Falconjudge Member

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    Well, my story isn't very serious (if I get to doing it), but I have a similar being (in a backstory; one kid "sees" it while "teleporting" and gouges his eyes out), and I have him describe it like this:

    "Don't bother asking. We can only see, hear, and feel. We can only see in our 3 dimensions. Nothing else would register, that's why percieving it felt so... wrong. As far as you can describe it, it doesn't exist and never can. But it does. So stop asking."
     
  8. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Alien methinks, lol.

    It's interesting to me that they understand our very naunced and varied human perceptions of theater and possibly dramaturical sociology but not in a way that makes us remotely equal (dog and master and all)

    But then again, I'm also the type that believes humanity is the metaphsyical peak/maximum of intellectualism, so super smart aliens are a little alien to me. Prolly not your ideal audience myeslf. Good luck
     
  9. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    lol not that I'm aware of... :p

    Okay so I was thinking about this premise some more. If they view us how we view dogs then isn't it weird for him/her to fall in love with a human? If so wouldn't that make it extremely taboo and possibly dangerous for him/her to do so?

    Sorry one more question. How would such a relationship work when their mental capacities are so different? The relationship would be very difficult if not impossible if their mental capacities are so different.

    Not trying to shoot your idea down because I really like it. It sounds like it'll be a fascinating book. I think the above questions are things you should consider before you start so you can iron out any kinks.
     
  10. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Alien means "strange" originally, and etymologically, but more specifically means "unrelatable" as far as i understand the modern Marxist/sociological meaning of the word "alienation". An overly esoteric academic joke i guess, sorry.
    Very good point tho.

    Interesting story. Hope it works out; good luck!
     
  11. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Imagine we go to a planet and find there a race of dog-like aliens. Wouldn't we study every tiny detail of their behaviour?

    We don't yet know the most hidden depths of gorilla society, but we do have some insight that goes far beyond an initial impression.

    A dog may think his relation with bones is complex and varied, but we do use that relation to explain things to the dog.

    If one wrote only to his ideal audience, one would just need to publish a single copy, for his mother. ;)
     
  12. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I watch it from a different point of view. It's easy to imagine feeling a family-like love for a pet, and even easier to imagine a dog loving his owner as a brother. The jump from that to romantic love is a harder one to make. However, a great force in solving that conflict is the fact that, even while intellectually so different, the human is still self conscious, so he/she would understand the nature of the relation; which is one of the big conditions.

    It would be a taboo, but I need to explore whether is one of those that should be fought.


    It would be different. The human may, at times, feel as a dog loving his owner but knowing his owner considers himself an animal. For the alien, it would be hard to explain his inexplicable sensations in terms of feelings; but he may see the problem of cheating, somehow, the human making him/her feel loved while the feeling is so different in the eyes of the alien.

    It's not a perfect analogy but, if the dog that has lived with you since you were a kid, who's been there while everything else changed, who would've given his life for you without a speck of doubt; being already old and close to dying, could tell you how much he loves you, would you be able to sincerely tell him you love him, at least as a brother?

    Yes, that's indeed what I need. I want to think on it, weave each character's opinions on the topic, and then explore this very discussion in the story's world.
     
  13. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Good. :) I think it's good to get this sort of thing planned out before hand so you don't get stuck. It makes more sense now. I adore my pets they are like children to me. Probably because I can't have kids myself. So I get how you can love an animal so much. I don't get how it'll make the leap to romance though.. It'll be interesting though that's for sure. Glad you're thinking about how to work all this out. I wish you luck with this. It will really be something once it gets worked out I'm sure.
     
  14. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are people who actually feel romantic love for inanimate objects, like the woman who married the Eiffel Tower. So it doesn't seem unlikely that one could feel true love for a member of another species.

    But I imagine large parts of the relationship would be meaningless to the inferior species. For example, a human who loved a dog romantically might like to dress it up and have dinner with it. From the dog's point of view it would get food, appreciation and perhaps sex, but being covered in cloth and put on a chair in front of candle lights would have no meaning to it. Those parts of the relationship would be one-sided.

    In human terms, the human in the relationship might be asked to participate in things which are strange, incomprehensible and perhaps scary to him/her, in order to satisfy the alien's needs.

    Then again, you don't need to be realistic, you just need to write convincingly. If writers can get away with writing about romantic relationships with vampires, alien love shouldn't be a problem in itself.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Strangely appropriate that Cogito mention's Clarke's sublime Rama series.... :)

    Consider the way Hinduism handles the idea of the holy and the transcendent.

    In Hinduism there is a concept known as brahman. Brahman is the everything to include that which we can understand and, more importantly, all of that which lies beyond our human comprehension (starting to sound like your question?) Hinduism acknowledges that the thousands of deities within the religion are facets of the greater all which we cannot really understand. The deities, possessed of attributes we can understand, are a way for humans, in our humble state, to understand and relate to that which comprises the everything of everything.

    Just food for thought. :)
     
  16. rhsexton
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    Here's a parallel: The alien is like the English language, so complex that it takes some years to learn but never master. And humans are like numbers, so simple that children of all languages and cultures learn it (typically) by the time they're five years old.

    There is a relationship between the two. Even the aliens, so incomprehensible to us, have to have some way to communicate. Comparing himself to humans as humans are to dogs doesn't seem quite right. A dog in training litterally guesses what it is we want every time we give them a one word command. Once they figure it out, they just remember. The dogs are learning to our level of communication in that relationship. However, you do point out that the woman sees, hears, and communicates with a being she shouldn't be able to. She's stepping up to his level, so to speak.

    Their relationship, whatever it is to start and whatever it becomes, is what will really keep readers turning pages. It almost doesn't even matter that the aliens are so far beyond our comprehension that we would never understand them. The woman can. That's all there is to it. Readers will relate to her, and how she experiences what happens. So, you'll explain things once to really put it in perspective, but the actions of others who cannot see, hear, or interact with the alien will reinforce what you've already explained, leaving you free to tell the story.
     

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