Of Creative Influences and Interstellar Travel

Two weeks ago, my manager at my day job invited me to work night shifts for the month of March so I could better round out my technical skill set. I said yes, and I start tomorrow night, so I’m currently in the process of transitioning to a nocturnal sleep schedule. If my blog posts for the remainder of this month have eyebrow-raising time stamps on them, that’s why. I will state right now that I will do my best not to let this temporary schedule change prevent me from keeping up with my creative endeavors, nor will I let it stop me from blogging about them.

As part of my transition process, last night, I decided to keep myself awake longer by going to a late-ish showing of the movie Interstellar at my local discount movie theater. I’ve been a fan of director Christopher Nolan’s work since Inception set my imagination on fire for several months back in 2010. My novel The Dreamers of the Dreams is a product of that period. Interstellar didn’t capture my imagination quite as powerfully, but I did enjoy it very much, and it gave me some direction and inspiration for some of my own projects.

Spoilers ahead for Interstellar (and I think it’s well worth seeing), so I will put the rest of this post behind a “Read More…” link.

One of my novels-in-progress, Vescaris, centers around humans (well, humanoids on an imaginary, distant, Earthlike planet) who are involved in their world’s first manned missions to explore the worlds orbiting other stars. However, in my novel as it currently stands, that project is not a way to “rage against the dying of the light;” it’s not a necessity for the species’ survival. It’s a celebration of the species’ (apparent) triumph over international conflict and a public display of the great achievements that can be attained through international cooperation. The concept I had for the world of Vescaris was a world that had overcome its internal conflicts and begun to look outward, much like the Earth of the TOS and TNG-era Star Trek series. Interstellar made me start to rethink that storytelling choice. Not that I don’t love Star Trek, because I do, but Interstellar is a great example of how much dramatic tension can be drawn from the need to save one’s entire species from imminent extinction. The motivations for space exploration in my own novel seem weak and flimsy by comparison. I think my story would be better and more effective if my characters had a motive for exploring space that was a bit more urgent than the traditional mission statement from the Star Trek opening titles, noble though that mission may be. I’m not sure what I want it to be, though. It might be finding a new source for a finite resource, or finding a new home for a particular nation that no longer has one for one reason or another. That would raise the stakes in my story.

In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan returns once again to his signature storytelling technique of revealing a whole bunch of information during the story’s climax that finally explains what’s really been going on this whole time. I knew it was coming, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy his work so much, but it still amazed and delighted me this time around. I absolutely loved the idea that the mysterious “they,” whom all the characters (and the audience) had previously assumed to be aliens, were actually highly-advanced humans living far in the future. The idea that humans have great potential to do amazing things is one I really do stand behind, in real life as well as in fiction. It’s at the heart of the Star Trek universe, and I intend to place it at the heart of my own novels, especially Vescaris and Samira’s Nation.

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