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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Gardener

   
Author Topic: The Gardener
Grumpy old guy
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Well, I need some help. This short story is still in the development stage of crafting and moulding plot, character, and the details of the milieu.

The idea behind the story is: In a world where accidental death is almost impossible, what about Darwin’s Law?

The outline of the plot, up to the bit where I need help is: Bartholomew Prinn is forced to leave his one-room apartment for the first time in fifteen years to have his Alert Wristlet replaced. As soon as he leaves the Centre, his wristlet begins to tingle. Stopping dead in his tracks, he looks down at the small screen on which the letters TSTL flash ominously. Racking his brains to remember what the acronym stands for he is horrified to realise he has been reported to the Genetic Police for being Too Stupid To Live. He will be tested to see if he is fit to survive or will be removed from the gene pool.

Three strikes and he’s out of the game permanently.

The help I'm asking for is three tests Bartholomew might need to pass. Oh, a hint. The game is rigged and no matter what he does, he'll fail all three.

I hope some of you have some good ideas, 'cos I'm stumped at the moment.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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The three tests I assume would test the concept "survival of the fittest." A question then is what is meant by survival and fittest. Darwin meant a survival of species best adapted -- fitted -- to a local setting's circumstances. A short-winged finch fits best in a tightly wooded forest. A long-winged finch best fits an open meadowland.

Others have taken survival of the fittest's intent to mean strongest competitor -- physical strength, financial strength, business strength, attractive appearance strength, intellectual strength, moral strength, spiritual strength, etc., and to use the strength to abuse, outcompete and destroy less strong individuals' competitive status.

A third approach to survival of the fittest bases upon a cooperation principle, that a whole is served by individual participation in and contribution to a common good. The whole is fittest when individuals cooperate.

Within those three corners are potential three tests for Bartholomew. Bartholomew struggles to fit the local setting of his one-room apartment taken to an extreme. To survive, he must leave the room, though to leave the room fails the test.

In other words, each test has two potential outcomes that must be accomplished in tandem. Each outcome individually is a fail. Only from reconciling the two mutually exclusive, irreconcilable outcomes can Bartholomew pass each test. Impossible!? More anon.

The second test could, likewise, bear upon a strength Bartholomew possesses. Though is shown to be a shortfall -- a weakness. Imagine Bartholomew's strength one of appeals to pity -- emotion. He's handicapped by an emotional lack, perhaps lacks empathy, outright pathological indifference toward the suffering of others. He's pitiful for his inability to appreciate his helpmates need for him to give them support; meanwhile, he takes support by severe manipulations of others' compassion. The test then would be a measure of his emotional responsiveness, say to a fatally wounded child. He cannot succeed because the child is terminal; he cannot succeed if he does not aid and succor the child. Logically, he should attempt to give help and console, neither one of which he can do, though attempts to give help. The only way to succeed is to do both.

The third test then orients upon cooperation, again, with two possible identical, though mutually exclusive outcomes. Bartholomew could be placed in a situation where he must accomplish two tasks through the assistance of two separate individuals, only one of which he can complete satisfactorily. He must accomplish them simultaneously, not sequentially. He cannot.

Each test is an idiot test with two obvious though wrong answers and one answer that is obtuse and correct.

Now anon. In order for readers to realize the tests are at the same time impossible to fulfill and with only one successful outcome, the tests must show a way to succeed. Though that one way be obvious to readers, Batholomew is too stupid to realize the way, too stupid to live.

In order to avoid the dread preachy sermon lecture of a philosophical narrative's moral law assertion, a moral truth discovery must be the central intangible action, what the narrative is really about. Bartholomew must discover at the end a moral truth he has heretofore overlooked. The platitude no individual is an island seems ripe for his discovery. Also, that premise is apt for each and all of the meanings for survival of the fittest. No individual can long survive in social isolation, let alone fit in socially. No individual can compete with no one to compete against. No individual can survive without the cooperative contributions of others.

Of course, the above examples are only illustrations. The three corners, though, of how people take survival of the fittest to mean are a strong basis upon which to construe the three tests of Bartholomew: species best fitted to an environment's circumstances, individual strength best suited for competitive superiority, common good best served by cooperative individuals.

[ July 11, 2015, 10:03 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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I like the idea of the three corners, extrinsic, but there are alternate test options to consider within those confines. For example:

If the first test is the case of species best fitted to an environment's circumstances, they're probably not actually testing him for his environment so much as the environment of their society in general. If he's supposed to fail the first test anyway, it would make sense that this be the one to use. After all, if he's a shut-in, most of what he's learned about society is through things like TV and the internet rather than actual interaction with people. If society as a whole is more outwardly social, well...

Random note: I could totally see a society like the one Phil has described airing 'Too Stupid to Live' as a Reality TV game show. Game shows tend to be weird anyway, and let's face it--people used to watch hangings for fun.

[ July 11, 2015, 11:12 AM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

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JSchuler
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In a world where accidental death is almost impossible, what about Darwin’s Law?

As Darwin's law is natural selection, it is non-operative. Any attempt at an intentional survival selection method among a human population is, by definition, eugenics.

Or, to put it more accurately, without a means to weed out otherwise self-destructive tendencies, Darwin's law would be put towards the death of the society, not the individual, as society is increasingly burdened by a population that does not have to face consequences. A eugenics program is needed for society to survive. However, a maladaptive eugenics program will still lead toward society's end. The problem is, adaptive and maladaptive programs are difficult to distinguish from each other until it's too late.

As for your story, test zero is "does he show up at the eugenics center?" Knowingly and willingly entering the slaughterhouse is a stupid thing to do. Of course, such a society would be unlikely to allow such disobedience, so the authorities will be dispatched to bring him in. He must now outsmart the people who were dispatched to kill him.

Dramatic complication: TSTL has two meanings: one public, one classified. The classified meaning is "Too Smart to Live."

[ July 11, 2015, 12:28 PM: Message edited by: JSchuler ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Ah! Thanks guys; great fertiliser for the "idea garden". Please, keep it up; it could be useful to others too. [Smile]

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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Just curious how this is coming along. Any progress? [Smile]
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Scot
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I can't tell from the discussion so far whether you're framing this story as a comedy or tragedy. And that direction would affect the survival tests, I think. However, the facts that the character can remember what TSTL means and what will now happen to him suggests that he is NOT actually too stupid to live. In which case, there's a much larger question at stake - why has he been identified for elimination?
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Scot
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Does TSTL have other meanings? Too Safe To Live? Too Single-minded To Live? Too Sexist To Live? Too Singular To Live?
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Grumpy old guy
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Disgruntled Peony, check out the NSG threads for the last few weeks in the Groups area.

Scot, the story is a dramatic 'coming of age' tale. The term Too Stupid To Live doesn't refer to a person's IQ per se, it relates to a persons social selfishness and ineptness and/or their isolation--they stand apart because society can't tolerate their self-obsession. [Smile]

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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Awesome! I will freely admit I'd been ignoring those threads for the last few weeks out of somewhat misplaced guilt. XD I'll pay them more heed now. (Every time I've tried to poke at anything longer than a short story in the last few months I end up balking within a week or two because it's so much harder to focus on. XP One of these days I'll manage to overcome that. I'm still trying to figure out what all Fred is up for. He's shy.)
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Grumpy old guy
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If you feel you're not quite ready to write that story, or that character needs something or other, but you're not quite sure what it is; that's Fred.

If you abandon yourself to his annoying habit of just sitting silent until he has solved the problem, all your worries will slowly fade away and you'll be happy to just wait for inspiration to come knocking--no matter how long it takes.

Phil.

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