New idea to get down on ‘paper’

Jesus shit, September? I thought sure I’d posted more recently than five months ago. Amazing how time flies. Although I’m making no indication that I’ll post any more frequently than that, I’d sure like to. We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway. Had another of my trademark fucked-up dreams (it had been a while), and got it down to paper. I’m pretty excited about this one. Working title is The Device, though as you’ll read, that’s not gonna end up being the title.

Not-too-distant future. Something like 2065. It’s our world, but with one small but major difference (sort of Philip K. Dick-ian in that way). Hung juries are a thing of the past thanks to a device capable of scanning the accused’s mind and seeing if memories of committing the crime are present. It’s extremely expensive to operate and has side effects in the subject, so it can’t just be used anytime anyone’s suspected. Other than this one option at trial, an option of which jurors are specifically discouraged, the police and the courts work exactly as they do in our world.

In a drunken haze, Our Hero wound up being involved in a murder. He doesn’t think he actually committed it, but the memories of that night are too foggy for him to sort out (this is specifically not a problem for the device). Conventional evidence puts OH at the scene and the weapon in his hand, but it’s not conclusive. The jury deadlocks at 8-4, and then votes to use the device.

The device reveals memories of OH committing the murder. He is sent to prison. Case closed.

Ha, no. Not case closed, full stop. More like case closed, dot dot question mark. Hero’s Lawyer is deeply convinced of his client’s innocence, and is certainly worried about his quality of life in prison after the device has been used on him. Both OH and HL think the device may have been rigged, to secure a conviction. HL butts heads with antags in law enforcement and the justice system, who think plain and simply that the case is indeed closed.

In a rarity, this all kind of crystallised for me into a viable third act. I usually don’t get those from my dreams. My dream is one vivid scene, usually from Act 2. It’s not hard for me to figure out how we get to that point, but where we go from there is usually not as clear as it was in this case.

The resolution is that OH is indeed innocent of actually committing the murder, though he’s guilty of a lesser offence, one which the conventional evidence also supports. But the device wasn’t rigged, nor did it malfunction. The thesis of the story is the frailty of human memory. Memory sucks, people. OH heard himself be called a murderer so many times that he, even in just his subconscious, started to believe it and started to remember the hazy drunken night that way.

The only thing I’m worried about is having this come across as a luddite wet-dream, a “DOWN WITH TECHNOLOGY~!” piece. Because it’s not actually about the device at all. It’s about memory. Realistically, the only way the story ends is with the device being used in the judiciary substantially less than before. I’m not sure how to make it clear that it’s not because it’s a big bad evil machine, but rather because the machine’s purpose is inherently flawed in the first place.

But on the whole, I’m looking forward to fleshing this one out. Thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “New idea to get down on ‘paper’

  1. Perhaps you could nip the luddite wet dream factor in the bud by having The Device clear OH by being used on some other person who was at the murder scene, unbeknownst to the jury during the trial. Then again, you’ve probably thought of that already.

    • I think there’s just some additional beats I need in the denouement that will help. I thought at first that law enforcement resolving not to take the device as gospel any longer (rather than discarding it entirely) would be sufficient, but if it’s so expensive to operate and causes side effects in the subject, that would have result of it pretty much never being used again. It’s something to think about it, but it can wait until drafting.

      Do you like the core idea? I don’t think sci-fi and legal thriller have crossed paths too often, so I’m a little excited about that as a potential novelty. I hope I don’t sound arrogant comparing my 90% formulated, utterly undeveloped idea to a genre touchstone like Philip K Dick, but I really do think the parallel exists. It’s very much classical sci-fi, using technology to almost allegorically comment on something very much extant in contemporary real life, while the legal thriller aspect is fairly self-explanatory.

  2. Yeah, it seems like a good idea to me. It definitely looks like you’re interested in injecting some actual SCIENCE into your science fiction, which is nice. (Star Wars is not sci-fi. It’s sword & sorcery with lasers and spaceships. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

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