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That door should stay shut until I want to read what's behind it, shouldn't it?

1/10/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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There was a newspaper story a couple months back declaring that people felt happier if they knew the story endings than reading blindly from the start. Apart from anything else, this tends to go away from our reviews policy where we try to avoid giving too many spoilers, especially those relating to the storyís ending, so as you can experience surprises for yourself.

Hello everyone

There was a newspaper story a couple months back declaring that people felt happier if they knew the story endings than reading blindly from the start. Apart from anything else, this tends to go away from our reviews policy where we try to avoid giving too many spoilers, especially those relating to the storyís ending, so as you can experience surprises for yourself.

Iím not entirely sure if that idea is a universal norm. People wanting to know the end that is and not us giving away spoilers. In many respects, all stories follow an expected format with one of only two endings. You thought there were more? Then read on.

Introduce likeable characters. Put them in a dangerous situation or three and get them out of it. Thatís the basic mechanics of story plot. So what about the endings? The first is stories have an optimistically happy ending so itís the journey there that is important. You might have concerns for the lead characters but rarely for any secondary characters who tend to be expendable.

Alternatively, the story ends badly and very few do that unless thereís an ironic or desired fatal ending. You are hardly likely to read such stories and expect to come away overjoyed.

Of course, the main exception is when it comes to the horror genre, where the monster or antagonists can win and some people actually enjoy the no-win situation. Maybe thatís the real horror.

It isnít that difficult to anticipate what it can be but is that the point of the story? Once the characters are safe or doomed at the end, then we lose interest because the author decides to end the story there. Weíre not really interested in them going back to a normal life as stories are supposed to be about a significant event in their lives, not spending time watching them recovering from their injuries, in rehab or in a padded cell or even just walking into the sunset. Well, maybe, if youíre reading a book series which just escalates the problems. Letís not even go into formulaic plots just now.

You would think with Science Fiction, the endings should be more random and harder to identify. However, there are equal measures of post-apocalyptical and successful futures as well as in whatever else SF will turn to. I suspect if you examine your book collection, youíll find they are there in equal measure and very few of you side with one type or the other. We like some optimism. Something that makes the future look bright. Something that lightens the way from current reality. Some times, we see things going wrong as a morality play to learn something to avoid in our own present. Then again, we also have a disaster streak in us as well which probably displays some fatalistic aspect of ourselves. Maybe it is something more akin to those of us who are attuned to SF, especially when they can be so much bigger. We recognise the fatality of certain situations that donít allow for happy endings. Ultimately, though, the endings arenít any different to any other genre, we just have a preference to something out of the ordinary. Which, as Iím commented frequently in the past, our current reality has met Science Fiction for real. Except that it doesnít have as many adventures happening to it. Well, except predicting having a post-apocalypse somewhere twenty years down the line from now. If that happens, we can all write our life stories but who will be there to read them?

But does that mean we want to know how the story is going to end before we get there? After all, as I pointed out above, a lot of the time we know the kind of ending weíre going to be dealing with, itís the journey and cost to the characters that draws our attention and whether we care for them. We expect characters to change and learn from their experiences, just as in real life. We also expect to be changed along with them. Mind you, if you donít know the state the characters are in at the beginning or the problems they have to resolve, reading the ending doesnít mean very much. Whether itís the writer or the reader embedding that into the framework is up to the individual and probably defines whether we like the book or not.

I digress. This doesnít mean that there arenít some people who read the ends of the books before they start from the beginning. Someone I once knew did it not so much to know if it was an optimistic or pessimistic ending, but merely to know if it was going to be worthwhile to read the book. Itís not a practice Iíve ever tried, mostly because it wouldnít make any sense in regards to how the characters get there, let alone get a proper grasp of the rules of a reality the SF author is using.

I suspect the spoiler is knowing all the obstacles and their resolutions. It isnít so much knowing how theyíre going to beat them, itís probably knowing that they can be beaten. Of course, they have to if theyíre going to survive to the end of the book but then you lose the suspense. Itís an interesting call on our sensibilities.

But letís go back to the opening question. Does knowing whatís going to happen spoil your enjoyment of a book or a film, come to that? Is there an assumption that people remember what theyíve read about the story or can put that aside when reading or viewing? I suspect the answer to that depends on the individual but I would be inclined that people note whether something might be to their taste and have selective amnesia until read or seen. Whether you would agree with a reviewer as to whether the material is good or bad depends largely on yourself. For that, I have no answerÖyet. However, if youíre asked a few years down the line whether you enjoyed a film featuring blue-skinned creatures would you think they are referring to the or NaíVi or the Smurfs? Then you would be doubting your memory or do what any SF fan does and go in for repeat screenings.

Thank you, take care, good night and if selective amnesia works, does that mean you wonít remember this editorial? Well, you can always read it again.

Geoff Willmetts

Q: What credit card does the Terminator use?
A: Hasta Visa, baby.

A Zen thought:Memory is something that passes for what you thought was reality.

Anyone interested in reviewing books for me, especially fantasy and military SF, as we have a surfeit of books, and lives in the UK should contact me through the normal channels in the contacts list at the top of on the opening page. Iím always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page and in the SFC Forum. If youíve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. Itís a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences.

PPS Donít forget to join on in the new SFCrowsnest Forum. Join up and express your thoughts in leaving typed words that make sentences. Iíve noticed many of you are joining up but the Forum isnít supposed to be a passive site. Remember the editorial above. Iím not advocating a vow of silence. Are you going to be a lurker or a typer??!! Remember the editorial above, passivity is for sheep not a sentient species. Write something and others will respond. Equally, you could just be a guest and look around but the more the merrier when you have something to say. We havenít been spammed since inception with this new version now so you should feel safe to come and communicate on anything Science Fiction. Iím dying to see you people fill in the survey polls. They wonít bite yíknow and are active when you sign in and you must be dying to find out why I consider Element Lad the most powerful Legionnaire. Itís postponed another month due to my knee hitting the ground after slipping on some ice and canít get in the attic to check some vital information.

Speaking of the Forum, if you want up-to-date info of book signings and such, have a peak. You donít have to sign up to have a look as to when these things are happening and Iíve yet to hear of a flash crowd turning up for such things but thereís always the first time. Weíre not libel if you do such a thing, just to keep my boss happy.

Donít forget, Iím always on the lookout for new reviewers as well as articles, interviews and stories and after some recent changes, letís see if the full details about that appears below. If they donít then look in the new Forum or on the link line at the top of the main page. For potential book reviewers in the UK, itís a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you donít think youíre up to scratch, youíll discover why Iím the dutch uncle.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and arenít likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

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