ReBelieving (e)

On its own, slice of-life is boring; it’s just average people talking about their average life.  And there’s nothing wrong with boring.  The success of the old comic series “American Splendor” is predicated on the fact that it was just average people and their average lives; the tagline for the American Splendor movie itself was, “Normal life is pretty complex stuff.”  Half the webcomics on the internet seem to be about the college roommates making jokes about everyday things, and while plenty of them are nothing to write home about, plenty of them are, too.  Slice-of-life can carry an immense amount of weight, because it’s a fictional account of reality, and there’s nothing heavier than reality, because nothing hits closer to home.

And yet, those throwaway phrases I mentioned yesterday won’t get out of my head.  “Why are you worried about your Master’s degree when there’s a ghost in our apartment?”  “The confirmed existence of mermaids is not going to magically pay this month’s rent, nor is it going to end hostilities in the Middle East.”  I am beginning to realize that these are actually both valid statements, and they can both exist in the same world.  If aliens landed tomorrow, there would be some people who would drop everything and run out to meet them; this is a realistic reaction.  There would be other people who would be compelled to question their religion, or their interpretation of all of existence; this is a realistic reaction.  There would be some people who would try to capture and study the aliens, either for scientific or for monetary purposes; this is a realistic reaction.  And there would even be some people who wouldn’t care and go to work the next day as if nothing had changed; this is a realistic reaction.

The fact is, humanity has shown itself to be an amazingly fickle and complacent entity.  Terrible natural disasters and terrorist attacks are forgotten within months, even weeks.  Everyone watches the first moon landing, and everyone watches baseball instead of the second moon landing.  Nobody even knew they wanted a portable tablet before the iPad came out, and now everybody is angry when a new tablet isn’t announced for six months.  The future is now, and nobody cares, because they’re too busy keeping up with the Kardashians.  At the end of the day, an amazing discovery doesn’t change much simply by existing; how you react to it changes everything.  So why does it necessarily have to be a big deal if a fantasy turns into a reality?

That is how I can insert fantasy into Believer without making it absurd:  by not making a big deal of it.  No fanfare, no conspiracies, and no saving the world with your newfound magic power.  It’s just sort of there: a next-door neighbor, an article buried on Page 8, or an undeniable but improvable one-time event.  The million-dollar question is not, “What can fantasy do?”  The million-dollar question is, “What are you going to do about it?”  How will fantasy affect your day-to-day life, or will it at all, and should it?

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