I was trying to watch the movie Extraction (2020) last week when I accidentally watched the movie Extraction (2015). Both, true to their titles, featured extractions. Neither is going to win any awards. I don’t think action movies win awards anyway, do they? It pained me to see Bruce Willis suffering in the inferior of two mediocre movies, but we’ll always have the best Christmas movie ever made, Die Hard (1988).
Always is a strong word, isn’t it? We don’t know if we’ll have film or books in the future. Lately I’ve been consuming information through memes, neither film nor book nor article. Which version of a story makes it, and which doesn’t? Somebody had extractions on their mind enough to make two movies that feature them in the past five years. My book, Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply, also features an extraction. Whose extraction story wins the test of time? Whose extraction, if any, would last the ages?
Luckily we have some guidance on how stories survive thanks to a Neil Gaiman talk at the Long Now Foundation.
At its heart, each of our stories, Extraction, Extraction, and Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply, have one premise: somebody gets captured. Somebody else tries to rescue them. The fundamental difference between our three stories is this…mine is told in printed words. The other two are recorded audio and visual images. All three are electronic. (Paperback version coming soon. Stay tuned!) There are other differences that could be even more fundamental. My extraction is a comedy. Extraction and Extraction, on the other hand, appear to take themselves very, very seriously. Which will stick in the long term? Does drama outlast comedy? Is it a question of medium or of volume, coverage? If you hit a critical mass of listeners, does it guarantee your story will exist in the future? Are there particular features of the story that inspire replication, a set of markers that can predict successful symbiosis with humankind?
I don’t have any answers to these questions yet; I’ll get some and report back. I also want to talk more about the Long Now Foundation and how to think on a 10,000-year timeline. When I started to write Corporate Torsos in 1996, I wasn’t thinking much more than 20 years in the future, like a novice. Next I should make a few extraction memes, just in case that’s the winning story format.