I once heard a story about how Steven Spielberg refused to blow up a truck. It was early in his career, and he had finished shooting the climactic ending for Duel. The scene involved a tanker truck that had been terrorizing a motorist for most of the story meeting its destructive death, and indeed it was artful, first plummeting several feet off a cliff through clouds of dirt, then showing its last signs of life; smoke rising, fluid leaking, overturned tire and fan turning their final spins, until all comes to a permanent stillness.
Studio executives wanted to follow the new trend of blowing things up, so after seeing Spielberg’s cut they insisted he do the same to the truck. His response: “I won’t blow up the truck.” Eventually he got his way, leaving the viewers with images that would stay with them a lot longer than a clichéd explosion. Leaving them with substance, not superficial fluff.
Superficial fluff – the deeper time makes its mark on my hands, my hair, face, eyes, mind, spirit, the less tolerate I find myself being of trivial content, and yet the more these indelible imprints are etched into me, the more saturated the world becomes in such nonsense. From so-called reality shows to the bubble gum tunes of today that passes as music and sticks itself into your brain like a spore setting in to form mold.
I admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for substance, even preferring powerful films such as Amadeus and Ghandi over cartoons and the explosion-filled A-Team during my formative years. So yes, perhaps I’m biased to some degree, but am I really alone in believing the world has become infested with just as much metaphoric plastic as actual? (With the internet infinitely magnifying such?!)
There used to be a time when one had to physically go out into the world to learn something more about it, even if that initially only meant going to a library. Something about that tangible book that encouraged you to embrace your surroundings with all five of your senses, propelling you to then do just that.
How amazing life must have been back during the Renaissance, all five of those human senses bursting among such artistic change.
Now we live in a much more instant noodle culture, wanting to get from A to Z in the span of a tap, and in so doing we lose out on the profound journey it once took to actually get there.
This isn’t a coincidence. There is definitely a correlation between living life through a screen and how superficial the world has become. A lot less eye-to-eye contact, a lot more dismissing via the delete key. A lot less understanding and acceptance of diversity, a lot more hate and finality with the new power of the swipe.
The cold dystopian future of yesterday’s Science Fiction is absolutely on the horizon, but this doesn’t mean we as artists have to assimilate so willingly. Our kind may be dwindling with every new birth of both human and app, the infants of today being conditioned as soon as their eyes can focus on a screen, but such overwhelming odds shouldn’t deter us from being soldiers of substance. At the very least we are leaving our mark on history, the so-called advanced societies of the future at some point using us as examples when trying to introduce their people to old long-forgotten concepts such as creative passion.
I once dreamed of ‘making it’ as an artist of words, a storyteller to the masses, and although a small part of me still believes such an ambition isn’t entirely impossible, my present goals mainly consist of ‘making it’ enough to where I can provide for my family. But even with such watered-down aspirations, there’s always some modern monster trying their damnedest to grab hold, chew me up and spit me out. Giant monsters that go by such names as Viral, SEO, Keyword, and so many more, the overwhelming majority fighting for the side of superficial fluff.
But as long as my artistic heart is beating I will not give in to the pressure. I will not compromise meaningful storytelling for cheap momentary thrills. I will avoid at all costs cliché content, even if it means only reaching a small readership.
This is what I set out to do with The Flash Fiction Ponder. Through the blur of fluff which currently plagues our existence I can be found if one looks hard enough, sharing my stories of substance through a beacon of hope no matter how saturated in nonsense the world becomes.
I won’t blow up the truck.
About the author
Rico Lamoureux has been practicing the art and craft of storytelling for three decades. Specializing in the short form, most of his work can be found on his blog, theflashfictionponder.com.