Some headcanon and thoughts on The Administration (warning: teal deer.)
I think one of the magical things about books (and to a lesser degree, other media) is the way they have the potential to provide more than *just* entertainment. They can make our imaginations work. Ideas get considered– and kept or discarded– and overlaid one another and strengthened and combined with other ideas, and something takes some sort of form… and that becomes headcanon. The next step, I guess, is to do something with it: to use it for fuel for discussion and meta, to write fanfiction, to develop a TV series and movie franchise or what-have-you– but even if it never gets there… even if it never leaves your brain, it’s neurons rubbing together and probably doing more than they’d be doing if you were sitting on the couch absorbing Jersey Shore. Words can invoke things, and they can make us create ideas and structures, even if they’re only abstract. And when we overlay and consider things even more, they grow stronger and richer. (And sometimes, I’ve found, especially with videogame fandoms, where backstory is often not spelled out clearly or considered very well for the consideration of gameplay, you can get this weird sort of “parallel universe” thing going on where you can have alternative headcanons about a variety of game-changing variables. What if one character actually did love another character? What if one of the bad guys had a shred of ambiguity about their actions? Or what if some component of something was more– or less– significant to the character it influenced than the narrative gives it?)
There’s a wonderful quote about how we don’t see things as they are but we see them as we are– and I suppose that contributes to our headcanon as well, and where we direct our focus when we experience something. And how do we get how we are? Experience, possibly genetics, quirks and flaws in our coding and environmental issues. We’re all chaotic masses of bits and pieces and information and history and chemical reactions and we become and do and think what we do.
Less abstractly, and sort of more to the point I was trying to get to, I guess I’ve got fairly strong– and vivid– headcanon surrounding The Administration. Whether or not it’s consistent with what Manna Francis sees and has written or what other fans see isn’t really the issue; I’m not seeing things necessarily as they are, I’m seeing them as I am. And yet my headcanon– or enjoyment of the series– isn’t fragile enough to be ruined by a different point of view (though extra information might make more sense than what my brain’s come up with and be assimilated into my headcanon); multiple points of view or suspicions or headcanons are possible for me. I don’t know if most fans do this, or if it’s my chronic indecisiveness at play or if it’s a writer thing– I’ve found the better writing I do tends to be the stuff where I feel like I am seeing multiple potential outcomes for things (and always keeping in mind that the one that happens first isn’t necessarily an endpoint).
(Maybe it’s because of a brief involvement in comics fandom, where I get that five different wrters with five different artists can all write about the same character and it’s all equally valid and still that character or it’as just fandom again for me: a bunch of different people can write, say, Phoenix, and because they’ve kept him recognisable even if they’ve focussed on different key points of him, he’s still a believable Phoenix.)
Anyway, me talking about vague headcanon in a broader sense in this series (rather than about specific characters, etc) makes me think about the whole setting thing, and the, well, Muse thing. I know I’ve mentioned the Muse thing before, but lately I’ve been giving thought to both the idea of headcanon and my own headcanon in the things I read and how everything tied together.
The Muse thing is kind of a more recent addition to my brainfeed stuff regarding the series.
Basically, I read Mind Fuck years ago. Then the subsequent books. Then I started reading them again. While all this was happening, my life was kind of unstable and chaotic and I was dealing with a lot of things, including for a while, living at my mother’s house after my family found ourselves homeless. Most of my things– including my books– were in storage. The first four, to be precise, so I couldn’t just go back and read the whole series all over again as I’d do when a new Harry Potter came out.
Anyway, we moved out of my mother’s house, I bought a heap of Ikea book cases (because despite everything being in storage and the room I was staying in being tiny, I’d still managed to grow the book collection while living at Mum’s) put them together, and filled them up and organised things a bit. And then got distracted with a whole variety of stuff, which meant that I didn’t wind up re-reading them. They were there, they were safe, that was good.
Muse released The 2nd Law towards the end of last year. A friend of mine on FaceBook squeed about the album, but to be honest, I was dubious. I’d actually quite liked– in that I had a couple of their albums and liked a few of their singles– Muse years ago, but then Twilight happened, and I couldn’t help but get a bit suspicious about them and wonder if they’d gone the way of bands like Radiohead and The Editors who I had previously Really Really Liked and then who’d gone kind of… floppy, for lack of a better term.
Anyway, I forget why– I think it might have been hearing people whinge about how Muse were now doing dubstep (I like dubstep, dammit!)– I bought a copy of The 2nd Law. And true to my friend’s words, it was amazing. (Why the fuck Survival was chosen as an Olympics theme is still an utter mystery to me though.)
And somewhere around that time, I started re-reading The Administration.
I can’t even remember why it was that specific point in time; I just did. The idea of doing a read-through on Shades had occurred to me for awhile since everyone was singing praises of the book and I thought it sounded kind of ridiculous, and something sort of clicked and I remembered how into the Administration series I’d been back in the day and how I thought of it as my quietest fandom and how… I dunno. Something clicked and I thought, “I want to fucking discuss these books because I need to talk about them with people and I want to explain why about them to people who don’t get it yet” and then everything sort of fell together.
And on the music front, I was head over heels in love with Muse, had completed my collection of their releases, and my brain had forged a connection between the series and the music.
Like, “Holy fuck: has anyone else noticed that Isolated System would be perfect incidental soundtrack music for between scenes because there’s that urgency and sense of burning out but it’s still so beautifully organised and there’s a real sense of it trying to remain calm when its vocals are doing something else…?” or “Madness was totally written about Toreth and Warrick.” Or “The Gallery would make the best opening title sequence music.” “OMFG, Supremacy is so confident and grandiose that how can this NOT be Carnac’s theme?” (And Citizen Erased is Toreth at those rare vulnerable points where it becomes evident just how damaged he really is.)
Combine this with the fact that Muse do tend to go in for themes of a dangerous, paranoid future and that they explore ideas surrounding governments microcontrolling people’s lives and a general all round dystopian thing, it seems like a really obvious connection.
So my head canon has this idea that if the series was made into a few movies and a TV series (because hey, let’s dream big and think the enormity and fanbase of something huge like Star Trek here) Muse would totally do the soundtrack. Even though I realise it will never happen because of copyright and costs and all the fucking rest of it, but while I adore the idea, I know that there’s always some sort of disappointment in knowing that it will never actually happen. But… it doesn’t *have* to, either.
So that’s the Muse connection that I keep hinting about, (and I’ve avoided being more specific about later spoilery things even though arrrrghIwanttodiscussthem) which has become a sort of head canon thing for me. Funnily enough, actually, the friend who’d told me The 2nd Law was awesome…? I actually facepalmed once I realised I’d been listening to Muse while reading The Administration for awhile and went, “Dude, have you heard of this series?” and wound up recommending it to her. I hope she’s gone out and read them, because even her reaction was “How did I not know about this?” when I explained it, and mine was, “How come I’ve known you for this long and it’s never come up in conversation?”
In the comments awhile ago, the question of “When does this take place?” came up, and it’s something that a few people have asked in IRL discussions. I think it’s clever that we done get exact dates, and it makes it even more eerily believable. I also think there’s something to be said for keeping time frames vague: naming a year dates things. Naming months means that retroactive inclusions can trip up a storyline (one of the Ace Attorney franchise’s weaknesses is that the post-script inclusions in later games really do warp the timeline a lot. [And not give much of a window for fanfic to occur within!]). We don’t get any of that.
As I said in the comments, my headcanon, for a variety of reasons, is that the time of the Administration sits somewhere between now and Blake’s 7. But far enough removed from our now to include political turmoil, and close enough to make it believable in light of what’s going on now.
I was trying to explain this all to the partner, and his response was, “So it’s fifty years after nuclear contamination” as was discussed in the comments.
My headcanon is more along the lines of things continuing on as they are now, with corporations basically making the rules, owning politicians, controlling the population, exploiting the poor and middleclass, and gradually tightening their grip on us while destroying the environment, exploiting the fuckery out of poorer countries and making that gap between the rich and the poor so wide that people at the bottom can’t even fathom what’s at the top let alone dream about getting there. Controlling the media. Making rules so that we can’t speak out after discrediting those who do. Things get pretty fucken dystopian.
And then there’s an uprising. Something happens. A bunch of things happen, we get Durkheim’s anomie, and suddenly no one’s got anything to gain– or lose– from fighting back. We get some kind of revoltion from the people but the corporations can buy foot soldiers and they have the money and technology to develop weapons…
Give it a couple of decades, and everything’s fucked. Maybe America’s got its own issues, but Europe and the UK and surrounding areas have been fighting each other– the haves versus the have-less– and biological weapons have been released. With a reduced population, these all-powerful corporations don’t have the strength to operate and they don’t have the control they did.
Give it a few more hundred years and things are mostly rebuilt. The world has changed. Maybe the powers that be have learned from the past and now there are tighter controls over what corporations can and can’t do. The system becomes fairer in many ways: there are less people, and an understanding that allowing corporations to control government, large amounts of people to live in poverty and get angry and bitter is a really fucking bad thing. (Hence the controlled birthrate.) The powers that be have kinder, socially-friendly ideas to stop things getting as bad as they did last time; racism, sexism, homphobia? No longer dividing issues. The legacy of what happened still lingers, though, but rather than the world being in a final state of utopia, it’s still populated with people. Some of whom have power. All of whom don’t want the chaos and horror of the war which preceded. They want order.. but they want to be the ones running it.
And in some ways, they’ve learned lessons, but they’ve forgotten or ignored earlier ones that they didn’t pay attention to, or they’re making entirely different mistakes because they’re trying so hard to avoid repeating the bad bits of history that they recall.
Give that a couple more hundred years, and there are, of course, shifts in power, people forgetting things, and corporations wanting their slice of the pie again, and the governments tightening up… and pulling out all measures to protect the system they have in place. I can also imagine certain policies and procedures shifting in popularity and coming into and out of fashion; political events causing shifts in beliefs about what’s okay or necessary to “protect” the Administration, then getting revealed and shut down as inhumane, something else taking the place of such measures, new “proof” that public (or the government’s safety) is more important than the rights or comfort or lives of a few people who are probably doing the wrong thing anyway, etc.
I don’t think it’s ever as simple as “the government becomes progressively more authoritarian and black-and-white in its ideas and thinking.” Government is organic and it’s people who shape and mold it over time, it shifts and changes according to the climate its in and the environment around it. Where the government is in the story at this point is the result of stuff that happened before… which is the result of stuff that happened before that, and so on.
It’s vague, and not really like anything I’ve seen anyone else come up with, but that’s my headcanon. (And I’m dying to know what the official version– or if there is a specific official version– is! I think this is one area I would automatically adopt clarified canon and discard my own vague ideas of what happened, which are sort of a filler to make it make sense to me– though the murkiness is kind of brilliant, too. I love that it’s simultaneously one of the most important questions about the series and that because ultimately this is a story about people living under the system, it sort of doesn’t matter at the same time. The series never gets bogged down by politics, nor does it ever feel like there’s a push in either direction towards left or right. The readers get to make of things what they will.]) I can’t really see aliens or artificial intelligence or even our own environmental destruction coming after us… just the blander notion of people being people and greed and power being too much. (All tying in nicely, by the way, with the idea touched upon frequently in The 2nd Law, that a system based upon endless growth is unsustainable.)
And now that I’ve written all this, I feel like a) I’ve probably gotten so much wrong and I sound really fucking stupid, but hey, that’s what discussing ideas is about, right… risking sounding stupid and then learning from, and getting it clarified when you DO sound stupid, right? And b) I probably seriously overthink everything, don’t I?
(Also, I hate formatting on WordPress and it hates me.)