Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Proliferating Television and Visions of Airships Over the Jungle

A by-product of my trip to Ecuador was another idea for a novel, which I think is the most promising I’ve had, with at least equal or higher potential than Write My Name In Hangul, my story about English teachers in South Korea. Travelling around Ecuador from city to city seems rather difficult, because it’s such a mountainous country with wide swaths of protected jungle area. So land transportation consists of tricky mountainous roads, which often take an entire day to travel the distance which would be only a few hours’ journey on Canadian highways. The most efficient way of getting from one city to another is by plane. Ecuadorians are very ecologically minded people, so this high carbon footprint of travelling around their country is a little paradoxical.

I realized the best kind of inter-city transit industry for this country would be airships, blimps, zeppelins. Helium gasbags with large passenger and crew cabins, spacious enough for a small ferry with the capacity of a standard inter-city plane, but much more comfortable. It would move at maybe half the pace, but could still get you from Quito to Cuenca to Loja in three hours. And it would be much more comfortable than a cramped airplane.

I don’t really have the entrepreneurial acumen to start this business myself, but I definitely have the creative mind to write a book about it. I already have most of my main characters, a couple of which I’ve used already in other projects, and the bare outlines of a story. Really, in terms of story, I just have the framework of everyone’s lives bumbling along while they fly from city to city on the flagship, L’Altavida. And there’s one incident that I want to include.

There’ll be a drunken documentary filmmaker, Norberto Krieger from either Argentina or Chile, who basically makes a home out of the airship, specifically the airship bar. About two-thirds of the way through the book, he’ll be comically thrown out of the airship over the jungle, but about a week later, he’ll walk back onto the airship when it stops in Cuenca. When asked how he survived the fall, he’d say “You have to tuck and roll.” When asked why he came back, he’d say, “I left my laptop in my crew cabin.”

And I have a title: The High Life.
One of the things that I find pretty cool about television today is the degree and obviousness with which a franchise migrates from country to country. Now, this has happened pretty much ever since television existed in multiple countries, with executives licencing remakes of shows that have been successful in other countries, and the success rate of the new shows being reasonable at best. The Office is probably the most obvious example, with eight versions now existing (the original UK, the United States, Quebec, France, Germany, Chile, Russia, Brazil). I find it interesting how differences between the shows can reflect the differences in culture between the different countries, but that’s not the piece of news I’ve discovered now.

No, what I found out is that a much more mediocre American sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, has been ripped off almost exactly by Belarus. The characters even have the same name, the scripts are practically translations, and the actors are disturbingly old compared to their US counterparts. It’s completely unlicenced and absolutely impossible for anyone to get them to cease production. All television in Belarus is owned by the authoritarian state, which exists outside all international legal systems.

No comments: