Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LOST What Horselover Fat, Kilgore Trout, Stephen King, and the LOSTies Have in Common

Last season, in Eggtown, Locke gave the imprisoned Benry a book from Benry's own bookshelf to read.  It was Valis by author Philip K. Dick.

In the book, the main character named Philip and his alter ego named Horselover Fat (in Greek Philippos means "lover of horses" and the German word for Fat is Dick, so while in the book, the main characters are ultimately the same person, they are also both the Author) talk about the ability to travel through time without leaving your body.  Fat describes this as remembering the past and future.  His claim is that everyone is born with the DNA of those who came before and those who will come after combined inside of them, therefore you just have to access their memories in order to see scenes from the past or future, in essence traveling through time without your body leaving.

This is very similar to what Desmond does in the episodes "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "The Constant".

The episode "The Constant" actually has Desmond's present day consciousness traveling back and forth in his own timeline.  While this is, in part, a clear nod to the Series Finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation (or TNG as those of us in the know call it) it is also very similar to the novel Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

In Slaughterhouse Five, the main character is Billy Pilgrim who is unstuck in time.  His consciousness travels without regard to any linear constraints.  While he doesn't suffer the same lethal side effects that bother Desmond and Minkowski in the episode, the rest is exactly the same.  Desmond is (like Picard in the TNG finale and Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five) unstuck from time.

Another character in Slaughterhouse Five (and indeed in many of Vonnegut's books) is Kilgore Trout.  Kilgore Trout is often considered to be Vonnegut's alter-ego in the books that he writes, placing himself in the story that he's creating.

Because of this, last season, I hypothesized that one of the main characters was the "Author of the Situation" that everyone found themselves in.  This is still a very valid argument with strong cases to be made for Benry Gale and Charles Widmore.

But what does that have to do with what is happening this season?  After all, the time traveling going on at the Island now isn't like the time travel discussed by Horselover Fat or witnessed by Kilgore Trout, this is actual time travel.

As the LOSTies are moving about the Island they are traveling to different time periods.

When put like that, it isn't too different from The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King (a series that the creators have claimed, along with the author's The Stand, was a major inspiration for LOST).  In The Dark Tower series, the main characters travel and as they do so they move from one reality to another.  For those familiar with current time travel theory in physics, multiple (or sometimes referred to as parallel or alternate) dimensions plays a huge part in making time travel theoretically possible.  So traveling through multiple realities (or dimensions) in The Dark Tower series is similar to traveling through time in the mind of current scientific thought.  (Actually, it is exactly the same thing.  As, in reality, time is not linear as we picture it and react to it, it is hypothesized that perhaps traveling to a different time would in actuality be traveling to that time in a different dimension, which in turn would solve all of those pesky paradoxes popularized by films such as Back To the Future.)  Now I agree that what is happening on LOST right now is not anything to do with alternate dimensions, they are clearly traveling in their own timeline, but what occurs in The Dark Tower isn't exactly time travel.  The point is that there are similarities to both and the creators have said that The Dark Tower is an inspiration for the show.

So, what does that mean?

Well, in the series, one of the characters, who is instrumental in saving the Dark Tower, is none other then Stephen King.  That's right, the author puts himself into the series.  Even more directly then Philip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut did.  Alternatively, there was an unfinished book by C.S. Lewis as well entitled The Dark Tower.  It was the first attempt at the second book in his science fiction trilogy, but was abandoned and Lewis instead wrote Perelanda.  Both Perelanda and the unfinished The Dark Tower have a fictionalized Lewis as the narrator.  In other words, he has like King, Dick, and Vonnegut, placed himself in the story.  What is even more interesting, of course, is the fact that Charlotte on LOST is named Charlotte Staples Lewis, a clear reference to Clive Staples Lewis better known as C.S. Lewis.  Also, by the way, the unfinished book The Dark Tower is about interdimensional travel.

While I believe that the show has a character or characters that has "Authored" the entire situation (Benry and/or Widmore, I'm leaning towards the and) that are heroes are embroiled in, I also believe that our heroes themselves have the opportunity to be the "Author of Their Own Situations" as well.  In fact, a couple of them already have.  While traveling through time, the LOSTies have the chance to write the future (their own past). 

They have the ability to be the cause of events that have already taken place.

Going forward, this is going to be something I watch for in the other LOSTies, to see what effects they have while in the past on the future (and therefore their own pasts).

Until Next Time, are there any other instances of this that you have noticed and will being the Author of their Own Situation be able to save them from the disease that is now affecting Charlotte Staples Lewis, Miles Straum, and Juliet?

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