Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dreams Are Not For Sleeping, They're For Flying

A few days ago, I finished reading a semi-autobiography of Federico Fellini, a book I picked up in a bookstore in Windsor last month, one of the best impulsive literature purchases I've ever made. Everything in the book except the forward and afterword are transcripts of interviews the author, Charlotte Chandler, had with Fellini talking about his life during their fourteen years of friendship. All you read, though, are Fellini's rants, and none of the questions he was asked that inspired those rants. They cover recollections of his entire life, and while you don't discover much trivia about the production of his individual films, you learn a great deal about the conceptions of the films, the thoughts, philosophies, and imaginations that went into them. It was like reading Fellini's blog entries, as if this loud, huge, joyous man were in the room with you telling these stories.

For the sake of full disclosure I will tell you that I have only ever seen one Fellini film, 8&1/2, and nothing more. But now I want to see them all. Intervista especially seems fascinating. It's his second last film, a meta-film about filmmaking itself. A Japanese documentary crew is making a film about Fellini while Fellini himself is directing an adaptation of Franz Kafka's Amerika. And at one point, Fellini begins to fly over the studio sets he's built in Cinecittá. It's a recurring image throughout the book, that Fellini flies in his dreams.

Listening to Fellini's voice, I've reconsidered the importance of dreams and dreamlike images in the works I'm planning to write in the future. A Small Man's Town is a very realistic book, its narratives all taking place in solidly ordinary life. And my Undesireables project fits my realist leanings neatly as well. But my untitled cyberpunk project has considerable room for this kind of perceptual bending.

I imagine realistic conversations shifting seamlessly into frightening dream logic, as the protagonist Gina is confronted by a novel idea and sets off exploring her psyche and her memories. She has a dark past of which she knows nothing, and her rediscovery of that past is terrifying, a great shock to her suburban sensibilities. Her fugues of rediscovery are to be explorations of a strange place in her brain and in the past of which she knows nothing, yet are disturbingly familiar. She eventually becomes comfortable in her strange surroundings, though what surrounds her is no less strange, and she is just as alienated from her dry dull life at the end of the story as she was from the terrifying dreamscapes at the beginning.

The story has changed quite a bit since its original conception, introducing the dreamscapes and science fiction elements, as it now takes place in a community I think of as cyberpunk suburbs. I'm not yet sure what they'll look like. There is a character of a detective who becomes Gina's unwitting guide to her past, who in my initial conception of the story was a regular jaded ex-cop. But now, I see him as a cross between Nick Fury and Dirk Gently. See if that makes any damn sense.

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