The Edgy Thrills of Extreme Storytelling

By George Heymont

Although it’s convenient to think of a ride on MUNI as a gift of free theatre, nothing compares to the wonders that transpire while you’re asleep. Whether taking a nap or going for a full eight hours of shut-eye, the periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep offer some of the most startling and imaginative visions a person is ever likely to experience.

Dreaming involves a lot more than merely emptying your brain’s cache. Images that have been warped, shaded, and revised in ways that go far beyond Photoshop go streaming through one’s imagination with a rapid-fire gusto that easily outstrips conscious thought. Wildly improbable scenarios transport the mind into weightless (and often fearless) realms of possibility that, in more traditional forms of storytelling, would rely heavily on magical realism.

Some dreams are quiet and sardonic. The other day I awoke from a dream sequence in which I was seated on a toilet in a large room as Woody Allen and a famous actress stood in front of me, waiting to use the facility. In an attempt to act polite and seem accommodating, I said “Look, I’m squeezing extra hard just for you……”

On other occasions, the sheer physicality of one’s dreams can be so intense that it makes the best CGI scripting seem downright puny. One night I dreamt that I was looking through an apartment’s glass window toward downtown San Francisco when I witnessed a gigantic explosion. There was no sound and everything else stayed perfectly calm as I watched a huge conflagration engulf an entire city block.

With spontaneous bursts of creativity that can make a person feel like he is traveling in new dimensions, dreams offer the kind of visual and dramatic thrills one rarely finds in real life. Yet many miss out on the magic of dreams because of their need to quantify and control the experience. I once had a roommate (a huge science fiction fan) who insisted that he could program his dreams by deciding what he wanted to dream about. He totally missed the point.

The developers of two new mobile apps are urging users to record their dreams so that their input can be stored in a huge database of dream material.

What these engineers fail to grasp is that most users will lack the language skills, vocabulary, clarity of vision or force of memory to accurately describe what transpired in their dreams. Why? Because the power and magic of dreams can neither be bottled nor digitally preserved.

Nevertheless, someone who is a heavy dreamer probably has had his powers of imagination stretched and toned like a dancer’s muscles so that it can be used as a powerful source of inspiration. From Homer and Aesop to Voltaire and Tolkein, writers have created incredible tales capable of provoking fantastical visions.

My own taste favors the kind of author whose perverse sense of humor joins hands with a ribald talent for magical realism. For the past two decades Christopher Moore’s comic novels have introduced readers to talking fruit bats (Island of …read more

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