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What Realities Will You Accept?

A number of weeks back, I changed up what I was listening to during my various travels from Radio 4 to some gaming podcasts. While the majority of these discussed old topics with traditional solutions that anyone of any experience has solved the world over, one of them did discuss something interesting.

The degree to which you’ll accept certain realities of a milieu?

What was interesting about it is I’m very accommodating in this area. In that I don’t expect the ‘setting surround’ of my fiction to be realistic, just internally consistent…enough. This means fiction can get away with a heck of a lot when it comes to me, especially if the ‘setting surround’ throws a nod to consistency and uses its constructs to drive good story, drama and character relationships. The setting can even start to break apart at the seams if the story and drama are good (and while I realise for some the whole setting thing is intimately part of that, it isn’t for me).

This is why I can really like shows like Lost. First, I don’t care about the ‘mystery being solved and concluded’ I’m happy that it sets up a journey that changes the characters the mystery behind the island could have been left ‘unsolved’. I like the journey, conclusions are often less important in certain setups. Second, it means the shifting nature of the show as a crucible to tell character studies and relationships with flashbacks and flashforwards and actual time travel was all good.

This also means I’m perfectly willing to accept ‘unrealistic limits’ and anachronisms. In fact, I’d rather revel in them then try and make something more ‘realistic’. The perfect example of this is a lot of classic Cyberpunk, at least as it’s served up in role-playing games. The ideas in a lot of these tales are now anachronistic and, in some cases, have gone from prophetic to oddly quaint.

This brings me back to the question, let’s run with the classic Cyberpunk elements of off the 80’s. Would you be willing to revel in the setting as is, with all its ideas and genre conventions or would you find yourself rebelling against the fact it now feels old, out of date and just ‘not right’? I’d revel in it, because I’d not see it as a fictional setting that no longer seemed relevant, but more as a sort of period piece which as a result of being such a thing had the mores, ideas and technology of the time. It would be fantastic. Better for it. It’s just a period that never actually happened, though the fictional period did.

Not everyone would be the same, some would find playing in that setting ludicrous and they’d feel the need to ‘fix it’. If you tried to update it would lose something, for me. The problem is, of course, at least in gaming terms, when you have a group that is split across these lines.

You can ask the same question about types of science fiction, space opera or superhero stuff? Anything that relies on acceptance of its own ‘setting surround’ that is in some way disconnected from the now, the then or the future it predicted or its very existence hangs on accepting a range of conventions that just are.

About Ian O'Rourke

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