Question Everything

It’s a necessary quality in any writer that they be curious. It’s a circular thing really; you’re curious about life, so you write about it to help you sort it out in your own head and communicate those thought processes to others. And once you’re in the habit of writing, you look for more things to write about.
But it’s not just about questioning the things around you – you also need to have an interest in human nature, and some of us can become obsessed with the idea of perception, and how real our world is, or our experiences within that world. Writers like Philip K. Dick have based whole careers on those kinds of questions.
It’s a theme that seems to have become increasingly popular in our entertainment, the more we engage with virtual worlds in our everyday life, and the boundaries between the virtual and the real begin to thin out. Moon-Sam RockwellIt could well happen that, at some time in the future, perfectly sane people might not be able to tell the difference.
A few stories have tickled my interest in this kind of thing lately. ‘Moon’ is a subtle, quietly creepy story of one man working in a mining base on the dark side of the moon, with only a computer for company. The character, played by Sam Rockwell – one of those effortlessly versatile actors who can switch character with ease – suffers an accident while outside on the surface. The events that follow make him question if everything his employers are telling him is true or indeed, even the course of his own life.
‘The Box’ is directed by the man who brought us the excellent ‘Donnie Darko’, and starts with a normal middle-class couple being made a simple offer with far-reaching consequences: The Box-Richard KellyThey are given a box with a button on top by a polite and enigmatic man with gruesome burn scars to the side of his face. As observers, we know that this man is somehow connected with the CIA. If the couple push the button, they will be paid a million dollars in cash. But pushing the button also means that someone they don’t know will die. What follows is not only a search to learn the story behind this mysterious man and his box, but also an exploration of the consequences of decisions that change our lives, and the lives of other people.
‘Exam’ is a film based entirely in one room, not unlike ‘Twelve Angry Men’, except that here we have eight ultra-ambitious candidates going for an extremely high-powered, but unknown job. Exam PosterThey have eighty minutes to provide one answer, and there are a few simple rules they cannot break, including not being allowed to talk to the examiners, or leave the room. But when the clock starts and they turn over their sheets of paper, there is no question. Investigation and scheming ensue as they build to a dramatic stand-off between each other and ultimately, the faceless company. A brave, intriguing, but quite simple film that kept me gripped until the end.
Cory Doctorow’s book, ‘Little Brother’, is a bit heavy on technical detail (which I found interesting – and useful – but others may not), but it’s the best novel I’ve read yet on the modern surveillance culture that’s creeping over us. Set in San Francisco, it tells the story of a teenage hacker named Marcus and his friends who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a massive terrorist attack rocks the city. Little BrotherThey are picked up by Homeland Security and subjected to imprisonment, interrogation, isolation and torture. Marcus comes out a changed young man, determined to fight this paranoid, dangerous and counter-productive new culture of suspicion. Doctorow proceeds to lay down a tense, fast-paced story that opens the reader’s eyes to some very dodgy modern surveillance techniques and how they can be fooled by a bunch of motivated teenage kids or the terrorists they’re designed to stop, but they make life a misery for everyone else.
I was going to include ‘Inception’, Christoper Nolan’s new film, in this post, but it really deserves a section all on its own.