Who Is Mistral Dawn?
Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016
#Ripples & #Consequences
The other day, I started a conversation on Facebook with the question, "If Bernie Sanders were a Vulcan and Hillary Clinton a Ferengi, what would Donald Trump be?" As you might imagine, the answers were quite amusing. ;-)
But why would such a comparison even occur to me? Well, because art does reflect reality. Anyone who has watched Star Trek knows that the various alien species often personify a specific aspect of humanity. The Vulcans of course represent logic, reason, and rational behavior. The Klingons represent competitiveness, aggression, and honor. The Ferengi represent greed, acquisitiveness, and cowardice. And on, and on.
The same is true of any fictional character, though the symbolism isn't always quite as stark. When writing a character with specific personality traits, what author doesn't try to imagine someone they know, or know of, who possesses those traits? By visualizing how that person might act in a given situation, it's easier to determine how the character will act.
And fiction doesn't spring from a vacuum, either. Historical events, current events, politics, society, culture, personal experiences, etc, all influence and inform art. One of the most popular questions that I've found in author interviews is, "Where do your ideas come from?" Next time you read one of those interviews, pay attention to the answer. You might be amazed.
What's even crazier in some ways is that fiction also influences reality. This isn't my opinion; this is actual verifiable fact. For some examples of this, check out the Smithsonian Magazine's article on Ten Inventions Inspired By Science Fiction. Everything from submarines to cell phones started out as speculative fiction. Of course, these are just a few examples. And it's not just technology that can be influenced by fiction.
Right here in the Good Ol' US of A, there are a couple of dramatic examples of fiction influencing political events. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin is widely credited with hardening popular resolve against slavery, just in time for that moral outrage to be used to help generate the energy needed to propel the American Civil War forward. Upton Sinclair's depiction of the meat packing industry in his novel The Jungle helped lead to the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.
Now, the accuracy of Ms. Stowe's descriptions of slavery in the American south have certainly been challenged. And Mr. Sinclair's actual intention was to incite people's indignation against the deplorable working conditions employees of the meat packing industry were forced to endure, not towards the state of the food product. But the influence was real, regardless of the accuracy of the story or intentions of the author.
So, why is it that society can be so heavily influenced by what are, after all, only stories? Well, part of it is undoubtedly a receptive environment. The stories were told at the right time and place for them to resonate with the populace. But part of it is also that resonance. If a fictional character is well crafted, they seem "real" enough for us to identify with them. Then, all that's left is for the story to be engaging enough that we "live" through the same trials and challenges as the protagonist. We experience their dilemmas, feel their pain, and share their anger in a way we rarely do with real, live people we don't know personally and intimately.
Does that make us more empathetic towards fictional characters than human beings? Maybe. Or maybe it's just that we rarely slow down and listen to other people in the way that we'll give our attention to a story. Whatever the reason, the phenomenon is real.
And it's not limited to just positive change. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is thought to have helped prime the populace of much of Europe for the anti-Semitism of the Nazi party to find fertile ground. Was anti-Semitism already a problem in that population? Almost certainly. But again, right time/right place. And as the experience of Mr. Sinclair with The Jungle illustrates, what people will take away from a story isn't always predictable.
So, why consider all this? Well, it seems that we may be at another crossroads in history. A lot of changes are taking place. And a lot of people seem to be pretty angry, at least here in the US. What changes will take hold and by what method remains to be seen. But I certainly think we might want to consider both how our leaders, and prospective leaders, are portrayed in art and what, if any, fictional characters they resemble. It's worth a thought, anyway.
So...what Star Trek character did we settle on for Donald Trump? Well, we didn't. It seems that Star Trek villains are all either too intelligent, too honorable, or not vicious enough for them to represent Trump. However, we did agree that The Beast Rabban from Frank Herbert's Dune is a good likeness. ;-)