Indie Writing, Film & Culture
On occasion, writers try too hard to write a twist at the ending of the book. It comes in the form of a cliffhanger or departs from the audience-capturing content already written in prior chapters.
The important issue at hand is don’t. Forget the cliffhanger unless you’re planning a sequel, and forget the plot twist unless it jives with the other 70,000 words just written. Unless you’re planning to write an ending that’s true to what came before, then the book will fall flat.
Hemingway once noted how he rewrote A Farewell to Arms’ ending over 40 times. Why did he do it? Hemingway understood the importance of “getting the words right.” He took advantage of human biology, where our brain function is primed to remember the last thing seen . If the ending tanks, then despite the book’s high quality, the reader is less likely to return to future works written.
Contemplate some movies of the past, where the movie was exceptional but the public’s perception of the ending opened debate for years to come.
I Am Legend (2007) is a fine dystopian movie featuring Will Smith, and is an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same title. The novel itself inspired many great movies over the decades, but the 2007 adaptation’s ending leaves audiences feeling deflated. Seeing the hero blow himself up in the name of martyrdom (when he didn’t actually need to), has left many a fan of this movie shaking their head.
Alice in Wonderland (2010) is admittedly a favourite of mine, but the ending! Urgh. The book, for which they base the movies, had so many unique aspects that captivated readers twice over . . . and then hit them with the but it was all a dream ending. A cliche that killed the story’s impact.
Hemingway understood how the brain generally attaches the quality of a piece of work to the ending. It’s no different to the Olympic gymnast executing the best performance of their life and then stumbling on the landing. Writing works on the same premise.
I’m a big believer in the dystopian genre representing a society in which we can avoid. (Everything else between is post-apocalyptic). It’s becoming incredibly difficult to find a reliable list of dystopian entertainment true to its definition without seeing the same old things. Believe me, I’ve looked. Unless you want incredibly heavy topics to weigh your thoughts down for weeks on end, or zombies left, right and centre, the lists are few and far between.
So with this in mind, I compiled my own list of books and cinema for your own amusement.
1. Childhood’s End — Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke’s biggest seller is a science fiction tale about the pitfalls of utopia. Greeted by a benevolent alien dictator, Clarke delves into the human psyche to see what makes us tick. Childhood’s End reflects on a utopia bestowed upon the human race, but there’s a catch: “the stars are not for man” and never ask important questions. Will boredom end in cataclysmic tragedy or is there such a thing as triumph in transcendence post an apocalyptic destruction?
This is an easy dystopian or anti-utopian read, even for the fussiest of readers.
2. The Death of Grass — John Christopher
Published in 1956, The Death of Grass is an easy but somewhat brutal read about the psychology of survival. Following a 3 day journey of main protagonist John Custance and his family, this psychological thriller will have you questioning your own ethics.
The nature of the story isn’t so far-fetched either, and is arguably with as much foresight as Orwell, and as frightening as Stephen King.
3. 1984 — George Orwell
If you claim to be a dystopian fan and have yet to read this literary feat, then stop claiming.
The book that coined the term “Big Brother is Watching” is a guide to what is fast becoming reality. Orwell saw the writing on the wall after his time with the Imperial Forces and his journalism, and knew better than to keep it to himself.
Ahh, not the rats!
4. The Wool Trilogy — Hugh Howey
Three books of sheer thriller in a small confined space in a time ahead of ours. I read “Shift” in one night—all 565 pages. The others in the trilogy are equally impressive.
This series has it all: from 3-dimensional characters to the landscapes and dystopian plot. Men are evil brutes, politicians are far worse; their schemes, incredibly cruel. Humanity is flawed and weak. What can only happen next is anyone’s guess.
5. Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
The easiest read by far and the most fetching, Fahrenheit 451 documents a society where the intelligentsia are evil brutes and their tools, their books, the single cause of societal corruption.
Bradbury delves into our own history where book burning occurred, and turns the narrative into a work of art. The educated are the enemy because thinking causes misery—or is it they dissent against illogical governments?
Firefighters now run to alarms where neighbours rat out neighbours for their beloved book collections. It’s a page out of 1984 going one step further to ban the written word and to broadcast lies to a gullible, now feeble-minded population.
Relevant to today’s ‘memory-holing’ of Internet media, and the prevalence of ‘Double think’, Bradbury’s warning is stark.
Read the book before viewing the movie if you can. . . before we burn this to ashes, too.
6. Red Dawn – both the original and the remake.
In the original film, Patrick Swayze leads the fight against the Russian invasion on American soil. In the 2012 remake starring Chris Hemsworth, they’re fighting the North Koreans. Either way, the Wolverines kick foreign ass in a patriotic, yet sometimes gut wrenching fight for freedom. These movies remind us of the fine line between reality and the dystopian world, and have us questioning our own integrity.
7. How I Live Now
This Oscar nominated movie depicts yet another nuclear war; however the backdrop is young love. Get the tissues out—this one’s a real tear jerker, too. As you shake your head at the suffering and misery one can cause the other, and you’re reminded of the Nazi atrocities of the past, you’ll mutter “no” in utter disbelief more than once as this dystopian tragedy unfolds.
This movie depicts AI and its effects on society’s middle classes in a hauntingly real outlook. One single mother is faced with a gruelling choice of self-sacrifice for her family’s survival.
A truly dystopian movie, where “getting older is [simply] not an option.”
What feels like something taken from the pages of Stephen King’s The Dome, Netflix’s Between offers insight into youth’s desperation when all those above the age of 22 die from a mysterious virus. The kids can’t leave their small town due to quarantine restrictions and eventually the world forgets their existence.
But not all’s as it seems as the scientists swoop down on this dystopian experiment.
Gamer has received many a negative review since its 2009 release, and leaves me scratching my head as to why. This fast-paced movie warns of the dangers inherent to AI technology and our addiction to gaming. This very avoidable society is perhaps closer than we think with Musk’s labs currently designing chips for our thumbs and our heads.
Although the script could’ve done with some fleshing out, the movie is well worth the sacrifice for any dystopian fan.
Are our thoughts really our own?
Aral Bereux is a freelance journalist, author and editor. She has written on many topics including AI, climate change, geopolitics, history, finance, religion and philosophy. Bereux’s writing has appeared in various online publications including Zero Hedge, AnonHQ, and Antimedia.com, and she was the only Australian author shortlisted by Lulu for her short story contribution to the Anthology.