With the release of the second novel in The Telepath Trilogy, Immoral Telepathy, I find myself thinking about psychic powers as portrayed in the movies. Most such movies have … not done all that well. The Fury, The Power, Scanners, Push and the like had some success, but were never big hits.
There was a fairly recent exception though: Inception. Now that was a big hit. I couldn’t tell you how many people I’ve heard express amazement about it, and in some cases even speculate about whether such things were possible.
Me, I didn’t like Inception. Yes, I got it. I just didn’t like it. I could argue about the plot, or about the insanely loud machine guns chattering nonstop for the final hour of the film. (All right, probably about ten minutes.)
But my real complaint was far more basic. I was irritated at the film’s mundanity.
Yeah, the special effects were fancy, but what were they portraying? Movement and fighting in hallways. Mercenaries. Guns. Buildings. Safes.
Where was the creativity? This was supposed to take place in dreams! Where are the fantastic monsters? The wild locations? The chaotic transitions?
You know what movie had dreams that showed us monsters, chaotic transitions, and wild locations?
That’s right, a movie from 1984 showed more creativity in its dream scenarios than the big budget blockbuster released 26 years later.
Let’s talk about Dreamscape a little. Now in that movie, the main character can project himself into other people’s dreams and manipulate what he finds. He can even commit murder, by killing the host (or even another psychic who has also projected into the same dream).
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I mean, Rick Blackhall (main character of The Telepath Trilogy) might be able to manipulate people’s dreams, but could he kill someone that way?
Interesting question. I can tell you it hasn’t occurred to Rick to try. But there’s still a third book coming…
Anyway, Alex, the main psychic from Dreamscape, isn’t limited to dreams. He can read minds pretty casually. Surface level stuff – Zener cards, a woman’s interest – not the kind of deep work that Rick does. But Alex doesn’t have to hear anything he doesn’t want to either.
And that’s still not all.
Alex makes his living by winning money on horse races. He always picks the winners, with no errors.
Think about that a moment. That’s a pretty darned impressive talent for prediction. What else could he do with it?
I’m not just talking about roulette wheels or lotto picks. The core antagonist of Dreamscape wants to turn psychics into assassins. Why is he stopping there?
It’s not like he needs people murdered twenty-four-seven. Why not tap into that precognition talent for military information? Political information? The kind of thing that was actually researched by our government (usually through Remote Viewing and the Stargate Project).
Hmmm. Now that I think about it, we don’t know that the bad guy didn’t have plans like that. After all, the problem was that he didn’t just want spies, he wanted assassins. (That’s paraphrased, so it’s not in quotes, but it’s almost a quote.)
Of course, when you consider the depth of Alex’s talents, it’s a wonder he got himself into such trouble in the first place. And he was prone to trouble.
But then, his other powers were a sideline as far as the plot went, so perhaps they weren’t given their due consideration. Or perhaps he had a blind spot, for personal danger. After all, he met a psychic killer and didn’t realize it.
But that’s really the trick to writing psychic powers (or powers of any sort, really) – not letting the things you want the characters to do interfere with the things that have to happen to them.
I’d like to think that I’m consistent with Rick’s powers and limitations.
But then, if I’m not, I’m sure someone like me will tell me.
A couple of quick announcements:
1) Immoral Telepathy is out!
2) I have a new mailing list that kicks off this coming Tuesday. Get your weekly dose of free fiction from me, plus world-building and behind-the-scenes secrets about my stories, list-only offers, and more. Check it out!