I wrote this blog during the very first year of doing blogs, and it hit upon me as I was looking over it that I was just getting into the book that was released last year: The Echo Effect. This idea of how memories may mean different things for different people, and how we are all just made up of our own memories.
Normally when I’m writing something, there is a piece of me in there I’m trying to get a handle on. Or there is some need to write a type of story because it is the type of thing I would want to read. I’m not sure if The Echo Effect helped me get a handle on something specific, but it did help scratch that itch of Time Travel and Groundhog Day storytelling. Of course, having written about it once only means that I now have a half-dozen more ideas in similar veins.
People seem to ask writers one common question: “Where do your ideas come from?”
And while I’m still in my early writing career it is a very easy question for me to answer. It comes from answering what drives me as a person.
I’m obsessed with perception, memory, how time can distort both things, and what that means for a person (I am obsessed with other subjects as well: Time Travel, the future, alternate timelines, the supernatural, but I digress).
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is how my own memory contorts and changes as I get further and further from an event. Now, I assume that for most people this is the case. Especially if it is not the most important of events it is very easily forgotten (though I seem to retain the most useless of knowledge, a gift from my Father I think). Perhaps it remains in some recess of our minds, waiting for a trigger to allow it to rush back to the surface of our mind, but mostly I think our brain just deletes that old, unused data. Kinda like my wife’s pack rat solution she (attempts to) employs upon me. “If you haven’t touched it in 6 months, then you can throw it out.”
Here’s the problem, there are moments in my own life that I have a different memory than those of my friends and family. Sometimes they have been instants where I wish it had been me there because the person feels like we’ve shared this moment and are closer because of it. So I typically go along with it, hoping that at some point it does loosen the old memory and then… but it doesn’t happen.
I can never figure out if it is a ME problem or a THEM problem.
And unless there is audio or video recordings of the event, who is to say that they are right or wrong about these things. If someone tells a story that features you in it, you have already bent in their minds to fit their version of events. Given enough time and enough retelling of that story, why wouldn’t you suddenly adopt it as a part of your own narrative? At what point would you no longer be able to know your own truths compared to those of the story-tellers around you?
Is it gaps in my memory or is he just remembering the event wrong? What do I not understand about my own self? Which is the better outcome for the both of us?
One of my favorite horror movies of all time is In The Mouth of Madness (really, ask my friends Lee and Egg about watching this movie late on a Sunday night and Egg refusing to drive home to north Georgia because of the “guy on the bike”) (I also did not go home that night – dude on the bike is waaay creepy).
For those that don’t know, aside from being a John Carpenter flick (he of The Thing and Halloween to name only 2 classics), the main reason I love this movie, though, is that it postulates a very important question: If the majority of the world suddenly went mad, what would that mean for those of us who still had our sanity? Or, to put it another way, if reality is only this thing that we all have agreed upon, and then a large group no longer shares our same perspective… what happens then? When the inmates run the asylum, then are the remainder of us really the insane ones?
So does that mean that my reality is shaped by others because they remember things about me that I don’t? Should I take in their ideas of me and… and… what? What would I do with them?
These kind of thoughts keep me up at night, furiously typing away on the keyboard, trying to make some sense of my own world through the creation of new ones. Worlds populated with people that I can create and mold. Maybe through them I can try and work some of my own angst about this concept so that perhaps, somehow, I can find a small amount of solace in my own reflection of reality.
So yeah, that’s where I get my ideas from, rantings and ravings from the inmates within my own brain.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!
Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.
His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com