Editorial – May 2018: Decisions, Decisions

I used to be indecisive

Now I just make my mind up.

You were expecting a different answer from me?


Hello everyone

We live and die by the decisions we make in life, even more so from ones we have to obey a consensus on. It’s becoming less about good and bad decisions and more like the best ones for our own welfare and even for others. As I’ve always lived by the General Semantics creed that there are multiple choice answers and decisions to questions and employ that in my stories and then try to use them all in some way so not to be wasteful. From the geek perspective, it also allows thought on some unorthodox thinking and additional choices, depending on how good your imagination is. At that, it’s a matter of having some sound judgement as to picking out the best choices or rather the ones that have a chance of working. Based off of that, it should hardly be surprising that I apply the multi-choice option in real life as well, it makes for a more balanced look at what are all the options than just have two and, above all, makes any decision one of consideration. That doesn’t mean I can’t think fast through the choices, but experience also shows I also tend to choose wisely as well…mostly. If you can’t learn from a bad decision how are you going to know what a good decision is? It means I consider everything. Doesn’t mean I cover all the options and can still be surprised but the odds tend to be in my favour…mostly. I make no claims to being perfect.

When it comes to seeing how characters do this in fiction, it’s hardly surprising that whether we like it or not, we do learn from the decisions on the page as well. A certain amount of ethnics is absorbed when you read good versus evil, so it’s hardly surprising a similar thing happens when the hero does something we could deem wrong but for the right reasons. It brings understanding to the scenario more so if you, the reader, can be sympathetic to the situation.

In practice, writers therefore have a vested interest in studying how other people make decisions in real-life. It’s a study lesson of people out there and whether it can be used. It’s even more important in our genre as, after all, our tropes are often set in the future or in worlds not quite our own. Saying that, the same decision structure still exists and still tends to follow the same western ethical system although others are out there, just not so well publicised.

Rarely, on this side of the world, do we see anything radically different in anticipated choices. The first option is to protect yourself. The second option is protect your family and friends unless something about them changes and that happens a lot. Depending on ethics, probably your nation next. Sounds a lot like Asimov’s Laws Of Robotics, but in reverse, depending on circumstances. It just becomes part of a bigger family just means more people to protect so scales up to town and country and, in SF, the world and star system. It’s more amazing why some people can’t get Science Fiction considering so much of the decision-making is the same but they probably can’t get past the detail and setting.

For dramatic effect, decisions should never be easy. In fiction, it is possible to test regimes that an ordinary person might not necessarily choose. Would they do so in real life? Without naming the example, would you stay on the farm or go into space to deliver a message? Which sounds the most insane? Mind you, being barbecued had you stayed behind might not seem a good option neither had you known what was going to happen and might have shortened the film or given it a new sub-title.

The whole point of stories is that the extreme choices tend to be made than play it safe. That’s why fiction is often one step away from real life and the options we probably wouldn’t choose. The art of escapism is to see what happens from the safety of wherever you’re reading or watching your film or TV series. However, would we do the same thing in a similar situation if it happened? Consciously, given the choice, we would run first. Self-preservation.

Close-up, we might be spurred to react, more so if we’ve been trained for such circumstances. It would be interesting to see the number of stories of the average person and professionally trained protagonist over the decades in such situations and see how things have changed. It saves the writer a lot of back story if the protagonist can keep going despite all the odds against them. Then again, rarely has the writer had any practical experience for real neither and each to out own as to the decisions made. Just chosen a particular course of action to get the most thrill out of it to keep your attention. Hardly a good role model to follow, especially if the villains would probably be more vicious in real life. Would we expect the villain normally to tell the plan knowing you’d turn it against him the first chance you got? Fiction is fiction. Not necessarily the way of life to think it is copied faithfully, hence we have certain fictional acceptances.

Fictional decisions often depend on how much you should tell the reader or viewer. If all the characters kept things to themselves, we’d never know what is going on. An author who does that is internalising. A fairly common problem these days in fiction. No doubt writers are looking for something different these days but it is a bad decision.

Don’t confuse internalising with obscuring clues for the sake of a story. Anything that has a level of detecting, means you have to play with the full gamut of misdirection and misinterpreting clues to fill out the story. It also needs a lot of planning. If anything, plotting detective stories relies on multiple-choice answers. How else can you have one thing mean something else? Well, except for Victorian melodramas. It took me three stories to figure out that unless they were the villain, everyone else told the truth with no hidden agendas which happens with modern fiction. No wonder the likes of Sherlock Holmes (other detectives are available) could work out what was really going on.

But why bring this up? You probably know the above anyway. After all, we all live and hopefully not die by the decisions we make. Something that did occur to me is that as we’re living in a Science Fiction world now is why aren’t people wanting to live the Science Fiction life? All right, we have some people who do extreme sports but they are in a small minority. No one else seems to want to do anything more adventurous than social media.

So much for the renaissance hero to solve any of the multitude of problems we have today. If anything you have to wonder why we accept the convention of the single hero or heroine to sort out a problem in fiction. Someone somewhere had to have made the decision and the rest of us have taken it for granted it’s the right decision. Mind you, it could also be because we can’t focus on more than a couple major characters at a time and that includes the villain. With so much pulling our attention in different directions these days, I’m not entirely surprised that there is far more stress in the population. I think we’re getting pretty close to the point where more people are having to prioritise what specific interests they have. One can only hope there’s enough diversity to ensure all options are covered.

Going back to Science Fiction realities, unless it’s a major war in lots of people involved, the normal lives of most people is to do normal things. That sounds familiar to what we have today but with a modern slant. The real problem there is we’re becoming more acceptable of the things done about us and don’t take in the implications of what other people are often doing, like using your information for their gain and not yours. It isn’t as though there weren’t warning flags about this years ago but people thought it didn’t matter that much.

I was going to talk about bad decisions and came up with one without thinking about it as this editorial developed. This is a complex subject that I doubt I could cover all the options in one editorial and I suspect I might have lost some of you along the way. Oddly, decisions don’t follow a Gaussian graph, they just seem to happen in the herd effect. Can we be that haphazard in what we choose for collective solutions?

I’m often amazed how decisions become community agreements as if there are no dissents from a particular decision, especially as its based on emotion and wrong or bad information. Just goes to show that we aren’t all well informed which is worrying. Some have to be arbitrary if we are to get on with other people and these inevitably become laws and often become harder to repudiate if they no longer apply or something better comes along. But then, humans don’t like to change things unless it’s done in a radical way and, sometimes, not even then.

Funny old world. All dependent on one decision or another or three. It’s amazing the world works whether it’s in fiction or in reality. In fiction, we can avoid some things about a society that isn’t the focus of the story. We can’t do that in real life or on a day-to-day basis. Be more aware of the decisions you make and think about long term consequences. Hopefully, these errant social media companies (other sites shouldn’t be neglected as well) change their policies and don’t make it a requirement to fill in all details. After all, think about what government agencies and banks ask for verification that you use in your history profiles on-line. I suspect that will become the next big worry. Then you will have to ask yourself where do I draw the line and curse any conventional website that won’t let you omit details when filling in their forms. If they don’t, the only policy that will work is not to tell the truth and then where will we be?

Thank you, take care, good night check the question before deciding how many answers you want to apply.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info


A Zen thought: Everything has a balance unless it’s in a bell-shape statistical curve.


The Big Question: Whatever happened to the Jupiter 1? Don’t say it also got lost in space.


What Qualities Does A Geek Have: I am more than the information about me.


Observation: There is now a bacteria that can eat certain plastics. For those who remember the 1970s BBC series ‘Doomwatch’ will remember the pilot episode showed what happened when some was spilt in an aircraft. As much as I like an easy way to break down plastic, be a little worried that we aren’t looking at all the consequences.


Observation: Remembering that Superman used to declare he was for ‘truth, justice and the American way of life’, does this make the Kryptonian a capitalist?


Observation: Suddenly seeing my email server window get large and how quickly it is to solve, it did make me wonder if any of you here might want to live with it or just adjust it to the size you prefer. This will affect all website views.

Ensure you have your menu bar showing. Right mouse press on the top border will show all the menu options in case it isn’t showing and turn it on.

Select ‘View’ and ‘Zoom’ and select your preference. Easy as that. Often forgotten, easy to fix.


Feeling Stressed: The weather affects our mood but doesn’t do so deliberately. Just bounce with it until the better weather comes along.


Feeling Stressed 2: I’m as surprised as you how heavy my editorial is this month. If you’ve gotten this far, feel free to read it again.




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