?”Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job / Even though he could have smashed through any bank / In the United States, he had the strength, but he would not” – Crash test Dummies, Superman’s Song

InceptionI want to see Chris Nolan’s new movie Inception, though due to time constraints I want this in the same way I wish to learn how to play the solo from Rock and Roll perfectly from beginning to end — vaguely, hopelessly. The way things have been going, I’ll likely see it on pay-per-view in 2015.

Which might be for the best. My lust for Inception reminds me of a fundamental rule of the universe and a fundamental question of the ages: 1. The movie playing in my head right now called Inception is waaayyy better than the actual movie (even if the actual movie turns out to be a 5-star masterpiece, the movie in my head is 15 stars, easy) and 2. Why does every good SF idea have to be filtered through a crime caper story?

Now, full disclosure: My own damn SF ideas are usually filtered through a crime caper, so I’m not framing this as a bad thing, really. Just an observation.

So, let’s start with the question/observation: Why does every SF idea seem to be fodder for tales of FutureCrimeâ„¢? Well, of course that’s not even remotely true, it’s just an easy/lazy way to ruminate on the subject. There are an awful lot of stories that take fantastic SF ideas and plant them right on top of caper plots, or other plots involving gunplay and/or cops and robbers et al. One big reason for this, I think, is that it grounds the fantastic in something familiar, which makes the story a little more easily accessed by audiences that might otherwise sneer or fear SF tropes. Another reason, though, is simple: People are evil bastards, and I think the vast majority of people would use SF power for evil. In other words: If you had the ability to enter someone’s dreams and examine their subconscious, you’d likely use it to your evil advantage. In other other words, SF ideas get applied to criminal tropes so often because that’s exactly what we’d all do with SF ideas.

Let’s face it, the more thoughtful the SF story, the fewer guns and explosions, the less interested people are in general. Solaris? Try as you might, its audience will remain relatively small. The Matrix? Guns, Kung Fu, and fucking-A bullet time? It’s the national sensation of 1998, Bub.

The fact that no movie will ever match the epic masterpiece in my head of the same name is a familiar quirk of the universe to everyone, I think, and while you might want to blame your rampaging imagination or the severe lack of imagination in Hollywood, what you really ought to be blaming is trailers.

The art of the trailer is mysterious and arcane: Every single trailer created for a movie is better than the movie itself. Obviously this is because you’re cherry-picking the good bits, but also because a skilled editor can take lines and sequences out of context — hell, as the fans of the new Predator movie can attest, they can take scenes that aren’t even in the goddamn film at all — and fashion something wholly new and alien out of it. And talented miscreants all over the Internets have gifted us with remixed trailers that make The Shining into a romantic comedy and shit (genius!). Trailers are magic, and you watch the ninety seconds of genius and the movie you extrapolate from it in your head maintains that level of genius. The actual movie, being something completely different and concerned with things like plot mechanics and how much of Leo DiCaprio’s naked ass they are contractually allowed to show, can never ever live up to that.

So, one of these days I will leave the house, wearing just a tattered old bathrobe and tissue boxes for shoes, and I’ll buy a ticket for Inception using a jar of pennies and some Burger King coupons, and then I’ll sit there and be very, very disappointed despite giving the movie a likely four-star review to the people who sit down in front of me for the third or fourth consecutive showing. And then I will be removed from the theater by security, as usual.


  1. Andrew Bellware

    I think the reason for “futurecrime” being so prevalent is that a crime creates instant dramatic conflict. Whether dream criminals or cyborgs-on-the-run, we get set into an exciting world where there’s all this cool stuff but ALSO a big problem (hopefully caused by some of this cool stuff.)

  2. Elisabeth Black

    Tissue boxes for shoes? You’re so funny.

    My husband will roll his eyes after a particularly egregious trailer and say, “Now that you’ve shown me all the good parts.”

    Speaking of my husband, he told me a long time ago to tell you he wants to buy you a liquor cane (he’s a fan, you may remember), and I keep forgetting. Now you know. I feel much better, now that’s out of my head and into yours.

    I want to see Inception too.

  3. jsomers (Post author)

    Beth: Please tell your husband to give in and do it. I don’t receive nearly enough unsolicited gifts from readers.

  4. jsomers (Post author)

    Andrew: You’re right about conflict. NB I’m not complaining about the trope, just observing it suddenly.

  5. Elisabeth Black

    I realized after I wrote this that a liquor cane might be a little arcane. Are you saying you know what it is? The JS fangirl in me is dancing. 😉

  6. jsomers (Post author)

    Beth: You kidding? I’ve already broken a leg and refused to have it set so that I can realistically use the gift. Send it soon. The pain is excruciating.

  7. Mconge

    I also am looking forward to seeing inception and have come to terms with the fact that 80% of the movies highlights are disclosed in trailer. Green Zone is a great example. Billed to be another blockbuster like the Bourne series and pretty much a Sunday afternoon movie when nothing is on. I guess I am just a spoiled reader who loves the time spent in character development, that is always lost in movies due to time. Ok, off my soap box and on to better things. Loved the first three books in the Avery Cates series, chomping at the bit waiting for the fourth, I even entered the book giveaway on Good Reads. Very excited at the possibilty it may go to movie, I hope they don’t try and jam all the books into one film. Keep up the Great work, I have recommended your books to many. I havent been this wrapped up in a series of books since the Alex Cross series by Patterson.

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