Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dreamers - A Short Story

I'm honestly not sure where this came from. One second I was sitting down thinking about homework, the next I had banged out over 1000 words. The story ended not much longer. I'm honestly not quite sure what to do with this, it has no character, no plot, just a sequence of events. It seems almost a little politically charged and heavy handed. I don't know, what do you think? At least it is a quick read at 2,072 words.


Look, I know what you’re thinking: what’s a pretty boy like me doing up on this roof, looking like I’m about to jump? I’ll tell you, but it’s a long story, ok? Do you know what a Dreamer is? No? Well then, I guess I’m going to have to start at the beginning, or damn near it anyhow.

This started back in the late 1900s. No, not my particular part of the story, but you need to see where it started to get an idea of where it is now. Some time in the late 1900s, some say the eighties, some geniuses had the bright idea to make a network between two computers. Kids’ stuff, sure, but it was a big deal back then. Their idea grew, and in twenty years their so called internet - the progenitor for what we still just call ‘the net’ today - was taking the world by storm. It was so effective that by 2010, not only did many people consider access to the internet a right and not a privilege, but the big corporations were doing everything in their power to either keep up, slow it down, or find a way to hold onto their cash while people discovered the joys of instantaneous communication.

Still with me? Good, because at that point things started to stagnate. The internet got faster, the corporations got greedier, and a feeding frenzy ensued as those who had legal and financial power went after those that didn’t. I’m not going to say who was right or wrong, but you don’t have to be a genius to realize that the law was on the side of those with money and power, not youth and zeal. But like I said, things stagnated, and they didn’t really heat up again until Internet 4.0.

What was so special about 4.0? That’s easy, Hard Jacks. Yeah, those archaic pieces of shit, but, again, it was a big deal back then. People no longer needed a computer to access the internet. They just needed to plug something into their head and away they went. In what was becoming a quickly repeating trend, science fiction had once again become reality. Next came the Soft Jacks, pretty much the same thing as the Hard Jacks, just wireless. You no longer needed to plug in, you just found a place with some reception, pulled up a chair, and surfed away.

More people were accessing more information at quicker rates than ever before, and it still took years for someone to notice what had happened. For the first time in human history it was the entertainment industry, not the military, that was defining where the cutting edge was in technology. Not that the military was out of the picture, but they weren’t the top dog anymore. People just cared more about how they were going to catch the next episode of their favorite show than how a soldier was going to kill an enemy from umpteen trillion miles away. We probably should have worried that luxury was now a higher priority than survival and defense, but we were all too busy praying at our new corporate daises to care.

It wasn’t until the number of people that were Soft-Jacked crossed the fiftieth percentile that the Entertainment Industry started to change again to match the times. The problem was the same that it had been since the 2000s; people were busier than ever and had little time to get their media consumption on. Convenience and speed were the chief desires. They were desires that the entertainment industry had been fighting for years though, and they had a plan. In a strange move for the corporations, they decided to take the next step forward rather than try to fight the tides of change for as long as possible.

Do you know what the problem with a movie is? Yeah, that’s right, it takes too fucking long, and costs way too much. Who is going to sit there for two hours and watch some over paid hack get thrown around by CGI effects? Well, everyone would at one point in time, but that time has long since past. The answer the big execs somehow came up with came from the kid brothers of the industry, namely comics and video games. Comics had a long history of combining mediums to deliver an entire product and pull people into worlds others wouldn’t even dare to touch. Video games had the edge in pulling their audience into the experience and making them feel a part of it. The execs took both, slammed them together, and Dreamers were born.

See, the average dream lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, but in that time you can experience years of story. It was this that the execs wanted to capitalize on, and so they brought in some of the best creative minds they could find. The results were almost instantaneous; the people loved it. A fifteen minute break at work could now be used to feel like you’d been gone for far longer and had done something far more significant than just lounging around. The thirty minutes you spent waiting for your wife to get ready to go out could give you enough time to watch an entire Space Opera. The sky was the limit, and the only way to get a taste was to pay for the proprietary format.

It only took a few years for the other forms of entertainment to choke out and die. Sure, the odd movie still gets made, same with the odd book, but the industries behind them are half devoured skeletons of what they once were. They collapsed under their own weight as the mob switched to synthetic dreams practically over night. And why shouldn’t they have? Where else were you going to get the visuals of a movie, the interactivity of a video game, and the depth of story of a book in one neat, easily consumed little package?

My part? My part comes soon, I promise. Just a bit more patience ok? See, the idea of selling dreams didn’t take long to become a household desire. Sure, the format was proprietary, but it only took a few more years for someone to crack the code and figure out other ways to give the exact same experience. Suddenly, anyone who wanted to could sell their dreams on the net, or just give them away. Many people didn’t even take the time to fully craft the experience; they would just record their own dreams, watch it to make sure nothing too embarrassing or identifiable happened, and then slapped it online with a price tag. People paid top dollar to see them too. Raw dream footage set psychologists into a frenzy with excitement, and others just watched the spins for kicks.

However, these amateur dreams - Speed Spins they call them - are also where the problems came from. The subconscious is a funny thing, and it’s not unusual for it to take just about anything that is on your mind and plop it down somewhere in a dream. Historically, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but now people were making money selling their dreams. So, John Smith watches the new Spider-Man story, and then two nights later plugs his head in for some Speed Spinning. Well, what do you think is going to happen? Yeah, that’s right, Spider-Man makes an appearance in John’s dream, and suddenly he’s guilty of Intellectual Property Infringement, and you’re lying to yourself if you don’t think someone is going to notice that.

The lawsuits ripped through the headlines, and copyright law became the word on everyone’s lips once more. In the 2000s it had been a bit easier to define, after all no one was selling the material, just distributing it on peer to peer networks. Now though, there was money involved, but there were other problems as well. The stories were new and the characters different for one thing. Lawyers had a field day with that; were there enough changes to make it something similar but different, or did it still count as a derivative work? How could you stop it from happening when you were selling bottled dreams? No one has control of their subconscious, not to that degree.

In the end, the courts ruled that if the companies did nothing to protect their rights, then they had no grounds to prosecute over them. In short, you can’t sue people for dreaming if you yourself can take no steps to prevent it from happening. That’s where I came in.

Like I said, I’m a Dreamer, not one of those Speed Spinners either, but an actual Dreamer. I’ve always had lucid dreams, a bit more control than the normal person would have, and I’d use that control to finely hone and craft the experience of my dreams. I’d sometimes work months, or even years, on a single project, refining it with each pass. People like me were...are rare, but the control we have is invaluable.

I think there were twenty of us in total. We were all brought to a big corporate think tank, and paid egregious amounts of money to come up with a way to prevent what was effectively ‘Dream Copying’. We tried just about everything we could, but the simple truth remained: you can’t make someone un-see something without massive consequences.

Just when we were all about to be released and the project abandoned, one of us, one of the techs to be precise, had an idea. She was a beautiful woman, Shauna was her name. Her idea was simple, instead of trying to stop the person from re-producing the content they’d seen in the consumed dream, you just suggest and ask that they don’t copy it. The idea was sound, and with my help we were able to get it working; the brain, it turns out, is a lot more reasonable than most people. A fact that every double blind test confirmed.

The corporate big wigs couldn’t have been happier. They took the idea to the courts the next day, along with the results from their trials, and the idea was approved in record time. Everyone was so proud of themselves for doing the impossible; we were so busy clapping each other on the shoulder that no one saw the danger until it was too late.

The mind is an incredibly adaptable and resourceful piece of machinery. It can take ideas, twist them, shift them, and spit them out looking like something totally different. This is how story telling works. Did you know that there are less than 100 plots in the entire world of stories? It’s true, if you boil them down to their simplest element, you have less than a hundred unique obstacles for characters to face. Because of this, authors and creators have been claiming that everything is cliche for hundreds of years, and they’re right to do so. Everything is cliche, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put an interesting spin on it. The only problem is, that is exactly what we were stopping. We asked the brain not to reproduce the specifics of what it saw, and so the brain didn’t reproduce the dream. The brain still remembered what it saw, it even still enjoyed it, but it refused to reproduce or play with the experience, because we had asked it not to.

The effects weren’t seen for a while, but slowly the creators of the world’s stories began to dry up. Their brains simply wouldn’t process new ideas, because they had been asked not to by every story they themselves had consumed. Eventually, a lot of us stopped dreaming all together. With every new story that came out, every new dream that we had, more and more of our brains were locked down.

It’s fear you see. Fear that what we come up with might have already been done. Fear that we’ll do something wrong. That is why I am up here on this ledge, because I am afraid. I’m afraid that nothing I do will be original, but more than that, I am afraid to live in a world in which I can not dream for fear of not being original. They took my dreams away to protect their own creations. Don’t let them do it to you.

1 comment:

  1. nice, another great piece.
    hard jacks and soft jacks made me laugh a little, i'm a fan of both haha.