That Personal Touch

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    H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds in the late 1890’s. If you haven’t read the book, there are no spoilers here, but the book is written on a global scale-meaning, how the invasion effects the entire world and what do governments do to combat the threat.

    On Halloween in 1938, Orson Welles sent the nation into a panic by reading a radio adaptation of this book. Many listening believed it to be a factual news broadcast about Martians invading Earth. You can read all about the hysteria it caused. Like the book, the radio adaptation was written from a global perspective.

    In 1953, the first film version was released, featuring generals planning attacks, world-wide strategies, and the dropping of atomic bombs.

    Fast forward to 2005 when Steven Spielberg made a film version of this book starring Tom Cruise. For the first time, there were no war maps, no global initiatives, and no public addresses from POTUS. It was the same story-Martians invade-but told from the perspective of a dad trying to keep his kids alive in that kind of environment.

    All of the adaptations are great works of science-fiction. I’ve read the book, listened to the radio broadcast, and watched the films. However, until 2005, none of them scared me.

    That isn’t to say that Spielberg’s version is scary-or even meant to be a horror film. It’s not. It wasn’t the film that scared me, but the concept of it finally hit home. I stopped thinking about what would the military do or what would the government do, and I started thinking about what I would do. How would I protect my family? Where could I hide? If it seemed completely futile to do so, would I fight anyway to save loved ones?

    These questions have led me to more than one nightmare watching the tripods from Spielberg’s film destroying cities while I tried to stay alive long enough to find the ones I cared about in the carnage.

    I recently read a book in which the choices made by a small cast of characters had far reaching implications-namely the end of the human race. The build up was excellent (if a little long and bloated) but at the moment in which that fateful decision was made, the author spent almost no time on the impact of the action. He spent hundreds of pages discussing the culture of dead civilizations and possible scenarios for the true story of Noah, but when the switch was to be pulled that would blink billions of lives out of existence-barely a whisper. It took the impact out of the critical moment of the story.

    When I wrote The Last Archide it was originally very big and sweeping in its scope. Yes, it still is, but the original story focused more on big battles and decisions by governments, etc. and how it impacted the world at large. I found myself disconnected from the characters because I was focusing on the big picture. When key moments came (you know what they are) it felt necessary, not sad or happy.

    Then, this concept of the impact of the big on the small came to my rescue. Did I really understand the impact of WWII until I talked to veterans who survived it? Did I really feel the weight of the Holocaust until I spoke face-to-face with a survivor? Did I understand hatred, envy, compassion, or mercy until they were direct influences in my life? The answer to all of those things is a resounding no. Nothing really matters until you make it personal and the only way to do that is to narrow the scale from the many, to the few, to the one (anyone sense a quote from Spock here?).

    So, Last Archide and now Legends of Vandilor have become more about the individual characters than a war or even the conflict at large. Yes, those things are present, but I try and focus on the reactions of individuals slogging through it. I try to write about the decisions that the average person may have to make in extreme circumstances. Consider the end of Of Mice and Men. That’s a story about 2 character of absolutely no consequence to anyone but themselves and yet, when that moment comes, you feel it.

    One day, I hope to write the epic with galaxy spanning battles and really big moments. The 10-year-old version of me can’t wait. When it happens, I won’t be the destruction of an entire planet that gives you pause for concern, but the loss of a single character.

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