Monday, April 12, 2010

My Pop Culture Subconscious

I have a very poor memory for fiction. I have to watch several episodes of a t.v. series before I remember the main character's names, six-months after reading a novel I'll only remember a rough outline of the plot, and not even a year after seeing a movie I'll retain a scene or two in my head but the context of what they mean is often lost. For example, I saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie on opening day (Christmas), which was now just over three months ago. What do I remember of the story? Well, there's some murders see, and they look supernatural but they're not, and a guy who was hanged at the beginning wasn't actually dead, and there was a big fight at a shipyard and a big fight at a bridge, and Holmes ends up handcuffed to a bed. That's pretty much it. Who was the bad guy? Whom did he murder? Why did he do it? How was he stopped? I honestly couldn't tell you, and that's something I watched just a few months ago.

My wife, on the other hand, has an amazing memory for character names, plot details, and even dialogue. She can recite, nearly verbatim, entire scenes from episodes of her favorite t.v. series and movies, remember obscure details of shows she hasn't watched in years, and recognize ordinary character actors from one role to the next.

However, just because I have no conscious memory of this stuff doesn't mean it's not cluttering up the back of my mind somewhere: Jhaeman's Detritus, if you'll allow me to be so bold.

This all comes to mind because of a couple of funny things that have happened in the role-playing games I direct. One of the things my wife teases me about a lot is that in the beginning of the Star Wars game, I had a strange silver, massive, cylindrical anomaly appear in space that blocked all transmissions and made it impossible to enter hyperspace. Although I knew that the idea of a strange anomaly that needed investigating was an SF trope, I honestly had absolutely no conscious recollection that, to the last detail, that's the exact opening of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Now, I definitely watched Star Trek IV when it first came out, and probably once or twice soon after on VHS. All I consciously remember is the famous scene with Spock on the bus sitting next to the punk rock dude, and I think Uhura or Scotty sneaking around on an aircraft carrier looking for titanium sheeting or something . . .

And then last night, I ran a Call of Cthulhu game for the first time. I just read H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls a few weeks ago and really dug it, so I knew I would swipe part of that for the game. But I thought to myself after finishing the short story that what it really needed was an awesome, horrific ending--in the basement of the house, the investigators should stumble upon a massive, elephant-sized breeding rat, incapable of movement but repulsively and grotesquely feeding thousands and thousands of rats. [in the game, a butler tried to stab it with his bayonet, while a Catholic priest tried to cast unholy magicks, but that's a story for another time!] After the game, I learned that a massive, grotesque breeding queen rat appears in Stephen King's The Graveyard Shift, a story I know I've read and (I'm pretty sure) saw the movie version of several years ago.

My wife thinks it's quite plausible that, as the climax to the big Star Wars campaign, I'll be like "Okay, I've got a great idea. There's this massive moon-sized sphere, see, but it's actually like a battlestation, and it has this weapon capable of destroying planets, but the only way to like, destroy it and stuff, is to fly though this canyon/trench sort of thing and make a really difficult shot. I call it the Star of Death. Brilliant, huh?"

So the bottom line is, I'm a thief! An unwitting one, mind you. It's good I don't write fiction, because I would be sued several times over for copyright infringement . . .

Has something like this ever happened to you?

1 comment:

The Wife said...

Heh. The best part with the anomaly/space probe which was close to The Voyage Home was that we kept making references to things like "There be whales here" and it went RIGHT over your head.


PS: Scotty went with McCoy & Sulu to get the material to house the whales. Uhura went with Chekov to the nuclear reactor, which, coincidentally was the Naval Ship "The Enterprise".