Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Media: Post-Cataclysmic Experiences

I've recently begun re-reading The Gandalara Cycle by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron, and have see something of a flood of commercials for the British drama "Life on Mars." In both of these, though the genre and stories are very different, there is a striking similarity.

In both of these (and in many other stories, visual, literary, and otherwise) the primary character suffers a cataclysmic event; in "The Gandalara Cycle", it is a meteor, while in "Life on Mars," it is a car accident.

Following that event, the characters find themselves in a setting that is not their native one. Ricardo appears to be on an alien world,  Sam appears to be in an earlier decade. The puzzle is presented to both the characters and the viewer/reader: are the new "worlds" real, are they coma-dreams, or are they pre-death hallucinations?

The answer is... it doesn't matter. All three options present as the same experience, that they are real to the character presenting themselves, and they should behave in a responsible manner as if they indeed are. Just as in any dream you should always perform reality checks before trying to do something that may pose a risk to yourself or others, so too should you behave in these circumstances. If a post-cataclysmic experience should happen to you, regardless which of the three is really happening, it is very likely that the reality check will fail.

Now, there is a point at which it matters. Don't be convinced that I believe it never matters. Nay, it doesn't matter while you're living the experience. It doesn't matter at all... until you wake up. That is, if you wake up at all. I have not watched Life on Mar, so I cannot say if Sam Tyler's post-cataclysmic experience is ever verified. In "The Gandalara Cycle," it is never definitively stated, but the reader can make a good guess by the end of the seventh book, and is freely welcome to defend that stance to their heart's content.