Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Achmed and Antimatter

I wonder what the first story ever told was about. Did God tell it? Did He whisper it into Adam's ear while they were strolling through the garden? Is it even possible for the Almighty to tell a fictional story? He's gotta be careful speaking, anyway -- since from His lips creation is born.

I ask again, what elements composed the first drama? Was it supernatural? Was it formed to fill the gaps of that which man couldn't understand? Where did that imagination come from? It's a tricky game. As soon as one invents a story, immediately that story can be broken down into component parts. Inevitably, all those parts have a basis in reality, that is, in truth, that is, in nonfiction. So is then a necessary truth to say that all fiction is just different nonfiction truths assembled together?

Perhaps the only true wholly pure fiction is that story which is derived fully out of nothing. Ex nihilo.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed was released in 1926 and now stands as the oldest surviving feature length animation film in history. It's a German retelling of 1001 Arabian nights. The 67 minute film is bombarded with fantastic sights, sounds, and creatures. There's a Pegasus, a witch, a genie, and all sorts of spiritual harbingers. Oh, and let us not forget; there is love too. 

1001 Arabian Nights, the source material for the animated film, found its genesis somewhere between the 9th and 14th century. It seemed to stand as a sort of known-fictional compilation of legends. Did the Romans and Egyptians look at their god soap operas in the same light? Yes? No? Certainly they worshiped those statues of Zeus and Amen-Ra, but did they really buy into all those crazy legends? How did people come to accept those? What experience convinced the masses to take these supernatural stories into their being as quantitative fact? 

And then some fiction now appears to be something more than that... antimatter! for example. Apparently, this stuff is no joke. Antimatter! exists. Antimatter! is real. God created antimatter. Antimatter! is that stuff which is the opposite of the stuff we are used to. So then, there is such a thing as antihydrogen! and antineutron!. Scientists don't seem to know much about this anti-particle business, besides that not many of them appear to exist in our neck of the universe.  

Now, here's where it gets tricky. Antimatter is not like those unpronouncable elements at the end of the periodic table. By no means: antimatter! is stable! It's as stable as you or me. When it exists in its own domain, the li'l contradicter does just fine. The problem, you see, is that whenever antimatter touches matter, the result is annihilation. Kaboom.

 I reckon this annihilation bit would be a severe problem for us, as atomic wars tend to be. But our God is not a God of fairness. He doesn't give us what we deserve... and he hasn't yet given us much antimatter! to play with in this world. There is very little antimatter! around to be found, and as soon as it is, the poor sucker just happens to run into some bit of matter. And that ends it. Lights out.

The line between fiction and nonfiction is perhaps made of the same dichotomy. What is a truly fictional thought look like? What form does the creation of a truly fictional story take? As soon as we imagine just about anything, our previous experiences, our knowledge of our reality, causes that thought to take some form that can never be entirely built out of nothing.

Antimatter!... it's a hell of a nonfiction.


  1. As I read this, each different idea reminded me of something else, sending me on multiple rabbit trails and ending rather messily.

    fiction vs. nonfiction is something I've thought about quite a bit lately. i think you went a little crazy with the breakdown – you can deconstruct pretty much anything, but that often destroys meaning instead of simplifying something to its essence.

  2. But I think my point (and yeah, I pretty much get overwhelmed with rabbit trails anytime I try to discipline myself to think about anything), is that the essence of fiction is birthed from familiarity.

    I don't know, what would you say is 'the essence' of fiction storytelling?

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  4. Yeah, I actually agreed with your point – all fiction is based on some sort of reality/truth. it's almost impossible for me to read or listen to something without questioning it and picking it apart. It's just how I relate to new info. I usually squash this impulse because it doesn't work too well in relationships (ie. your friends don't get to thrilled at having every word sifted through).

    so I actually liked most of what you had to say, though I think some of it was a bit beyond me.

    "the only true wholly pure" fiction is ex nihilo – interesting. Sort of visceral. Would that be God creating from nothing? creation? But that came from him. So then it comes down to everything being based in God and therefore no such thing as "pure" fiction.

    And then if there's no such thing, you question the term. But the term exists because there is something, even if its never in its purest form.

    um yeah. so I have no answer to your question.

  5. "From Him" you say? Is that true? God made creation, yes, but what does it mean to say it came from him? That makes me think of him taking out excess stomach fat and forming the cosmos from that. And that sounds rather pantheistic to me.

    Is it appropriate to say that God spoke the world into creation from his imagination?

    If we can say that than the this pure (perhaps Platonic) form of fiction can be maintained. Otherwise, perhaps not?