Limyaael (limyaael) wrote,
Limyaael
limyaael

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On possession, mind control, and hypnosis

Tags: fantasy rants: spring 2007, world-building: magic
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2) Remember not to make any means of control infallible. Otherwise, these people would already have taken over the world, and even if you’re writing a secret-conspiracy-they-discover form of the tale, any battle the protagonists conducted would be foredoomed.

See, that's the problem I have with the Imperius Curse in the Harry Potter series. Basically, all you have to do is really WANT to control another person, then wave the way and say the word...and voilá, you have control over another person's mind. In most cases, the witch or wizard casting the spell can make his or her target do anything; being able to fight the spell is very very rare. And the caster can maintain the control for years.

Given the power of this spell, I don't know why Voldemort and his Death Eaters don't just cast this spell on various influential politicians, newspapermen, judges and so on, telling them that what the Dark Lord wants is good and right, and that from now on they'll work for his goals with unstinting devotion. I also don't know why, given the battles that have appeared in the past two books, that Death Eaters haven't hit members of the Order of the Phoenix with the Imperius Curse in mid-fight. Honestly, isn't making the enemy your friend one of the best ways of defeating the enemy?

But for some reason, this insanely powerful spell is only used on tertiary characters--characters who are little more than mere names mentioned in passing. It makes me wonder why Imperio exists at all.
IMPERIO you-are-not-allowed-to-use-IMPERIO!

gehayi

10 years ago

phasmas

10 years ago

boxfulofkittens

10 years ago

thricebornfenix

10 years ago

the_s_guy

10 years ago

l_clausewitz

10 years ago

ladysugarquill

9 years ago

gehayi

9 years ago

ladysugarquill

9 years ago

Great rant, really interesting.
Hmmm...not making mind control infallible. Right now I'm experimenting with an idea where the ability for mind control actually tempts the user to control his/her own mind and fold in to a "warm fuzzies," near-vegetative state. But that still sounds a bit too simple so I'm still trying to poke more holes in it. Fortunately, I don't have to find an explanation for why the mind-controllers haven't taken over the world because they have taken over this story's world.

What bothers me most about using mind control in a story, though, is that sometimes it's hard to keep it from slipping out of the fantasy area and into the realm SF. The need to make sure that it's consistent eventually leads to the temptation to describe it in an overly scientific manner, and I'm beginning to fear that it might dilute the fear and the shock felt by the victim of the mind control thing. What's worse, the story actually attempts to make a fantasy rendition of SF dystopias like the ones found in Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Bad plotbunnies.

And now, since Pratchett is the one I can usually rely on to get such things right, I'm wondering whether any of his novels include prominent instances of mind control other than that done by the talking dog in Ankh-Morpork. Can anybody give me a clue?
In Thud! there's a case of demonic possession that's played so subtly that it takes a while for the reader to even notice that a certain character is acting... not so much unlike himself, but rather more like himself than he usually acts. =]

phasmas

10 years ago

l_clausewitz

10 years ago

In my fantasy project, I have two characters to whom this rant could apply. One of them is an empath by contact, and can influence other's emotions as if they were his own, and the other character has a suggestion power over crowds. The more people being suggested, and the more gullible they are, the easier and stronger they can be suggested. For example, he has very mild power over single individuals and none over very strong people willing to resist, but he can easily convince thousands of people at a time that, yeah, they should do this or that. I think is is plausible because crowds are more easily convincable than single individuals.
-Beginning the process of healing by letting people back away from their own emotions for a time, or embrace those they’ve long denied. (Please don’t mistake this for an endorsement of instamagical healing, which I hate. Limitations, remember?)

This gives me an idea that I doubt I could do justice to. What if someone tried to help a friend by releasing a bunch of repressed emotions and/or memories and wound up making things worse instead of better?
Speaking as someone who is in the process of dealing with repressed emotions/memories coming to the surface I must say this result is far more likely than instamagical healing.
I have a situation that I've set up that's almost like that, except that Pree was neither trying to help nor hurt when she went and broke the barrier in Kyrie's repressed memories...she was just curious about the strong but strangely inaccessible feelings she was sensing in her new friend. I'm not sure if I feel like I can do justice to what Kyrie's feeling, though, so I'm rather nervous about writing her.

serpentrose

10 years ago

Also, it's like evil psychic spackle of doom.

Reader: Hey, how come the vizier helps the characters behind the scenes here, and could only do that if he knew this, but later on, does that, which seems counterproductive, and why couldn't he have arrested them in the *third* chapter.
Author: Oh, um, he was under mind control but it was intermittent.
Reader: Mind control, riiight. But what about...
Author: Ah, ah. *does finger wag* No questions, it's magic.

:)
*giggles* This reminds me of one of the characters that a friend of mine often lets 'take over' our chats. He has this magic keyboard that makes the other characters (and sometimes us, the Creators) do whatever he wants. It often leaves us with conversations along this line:

Boy 1: *dances around in pink tutu, kissing all the girls*
Boy 2: *shakes head, then looks at the Creators* Do you think he's trying to do that?
Creator 1: *starts following Boy 1 around room, begging to be kissed next*
Magic Keyboard Mastermind: *cracks up*
Boy 1 and Creator 1: We're gonna kill yo-- *stop yelling and start shooting sparkles at each other*
Random other character: *grabs magic keyboard and runs*
Interesting about describing mental battles. It's hard to do it in an interesting way. I'm thinking about cheating and make the battle all about avoiding saying and doing the things that will allow possession (like not asking direct questions to a dark deity, or directly ask for favours, give away you name etc).

In my world dark gods and powers can get control over mortals through deals and mistakes. If you know the name of a dark god, it gives you some power, but say that god's name three times and you are inviting possession and worse. Having sexual relationships with a dark power can prove really dangerous, as everything they say suddenly seems much more reasonable. Even agreeing with them too much will lead to slowly accepting things that you ordinary know would be insane. A willing possession is also possible, how pleasant it is depends on the power in question.
WRT hypnosis: I personally am persuaded by the real-world evidence that there's no such thing as a hypnotic state; hypnotism is a sort of role-playing by people who believe that hypnosis exists and that they have been hypnotized.

Nicholas Spanos's research in this area is - well, his writing is leaden, but his experiments were brilliant. In one, he gave "hypnotized" patients a sheet of paper with the number 8 written on it and told them it was blank. Patients described it as blank, acted as though it was blank, et cetera. After "waking" them from hypnosis, he told them that hypnotic subjects see the image on the paper disappear, and asked them how they had perceived it. Even though the subjects had previously claimed the paper was entirely blank, and that while hypnotized they couldn't see anything on it, they now correctly recalled what was on the paper and described it disappearing. In other words, they changed their stories from "I didn't know what was on the paper when I was hypnotized" to "I knew, and here's how it happened" based on their perception of what a "real" hypnotic subject should perceive.

In another experiment, Spanos "hypnotized" subjects to cough when they heard the word "psychology." He also arranged with a confederate to ask the subjects for directions to the psychology department. Spanos found that subjects coughed when they were in his office, but not outside it when talking to the confederate - in other words, the hypnotic suggestion only seemed to apply when the subjects were playing the part.

I should note that this wasn't necessarily conscious fraud on the subjects' part; it may have been a case of subjects responding in ways appropriate to their beliefs about hypnotism, analysis to behavior like speaking in tongues in some Christian churches or going into trances in some Caribbean syncretic religions - behavior experienced as uncontrollable and directed by outside forces, but clearly governed by social rules.

I'm not trying to suggest that classic "mind-control" hypnosis is offlimits for fantasy and SF - quite the contrary; genre literature by its nature makes use of non-real elements, and they're often more consistent if they're based on real-world ideas (whether those ideas are "here's what a manticore is" or "here's what hypnosis is".) Instead, I'm trying to point out another area where the popular idea of hypnosis doesn't line up with the research.
Er, "analysis to" = "analogous to". And I previewed it and everything.

Wow...

sinande

10 years ago

Re: Wow...

boxfulofkittens

10 years ago

Re: Wow...

sinande

10 years ago

Paranoid and violent organizations (such as are most criminal ones or security services under a dictatorship) are very vulnerable to subtle mind control subversion, because a clever mind controller can easily start an violent internal power struggle.
Except when those organizations are already led by or composed of mind-controllers in the first place--though that only leads to a different and no less exciting kind of internal backstabbing...
Yet another applicable rant! I have the antagonist controlling/influencing an important cleric who would would normally be opposing him politically, and it's noticeable to those who know her that she's acting differently. I don't want to make mind control too prevalent, though, and it's definitely forbidden, though I imagine some people use it anyway. Perhaps just needs to be too draining for most people to use often, though it'd be within the antagonist's power since he has special circumstances that others wouldn't know about :P Otherwise someone would figure it out too quickly...

I think in the first version of this novel, we actually had some kind of mental battle with the protagonist "interviewing" a guard whose memory had been wiped inside his head. I think it was like a conversation, but when he got to a certain topic he was suddenly blocked off. Of course, that was the crap version so it was kinda dumb, but it definitely has potential to recycle :P
Here's a question: Did you ever write a rant about amnesiacs?
I could have sworn she mentioned it ages ago...

l_clausewitz

10 years ago

yamamanama

10 years ago

I think the best use of mind control is the influence of thoughts. If you can influence somebody to murder someone, then when they get caught, they're the ones who committed the crime, they believe they wanted to. They know they did. And the mind controller is off scotch-free.
Iiiiinteresting.
It occurs to me that one of the best implementations of the "imaginative" power struggle I've ever seen didn't come in a mind control scenario. It was Dream's, ah, debate with a demon while in Hell, in Gaiman's Sandman.

Just a random thought.
I love the imagination battle- but why is it always the 'clever' people who are resistant to psychics?

Here's the concept: You can't bring anything with you when you invade someone's mind- no implanting of memories wholesale. You have to jump in, completely blind, and find something in your victim's psyche that can be made into a weapon, before his inner self boots you out of his mindscape.

So, Xelric the Misbegot has spent years honing his mind into an infinite library/crypt/clean room. Every thought, every memory, every emotion is kept in a locked, unlabeled vault- except for a display rack with eactly one sword, that he never wanders out of arm's reach of. There's no way for an invader to get a foothold- unless they were powerful enough to throw the walls around, and that's simply inconceivable.

Zack the Wild has a mind that's completely undisciplined- A thick, dense, old growth forest. It'd be a simple matter for Xelric to push over a tree and crush him, take command of one of the wolves and order it to rip out Zack's throat- but first he has to find him, and he's currently knee deep in thorny memories of ex-girlfriends.

Xelric jumps into Bob's mind, and it's an infinite field of dry dust, that Bob is enthusiastically plowing off in the distance. Xelric looks around, and sure enough, the only things at hand are Bob, Bob's hat, the contents of Bob's pockets, and dirt. Xelric gestures, clenches his fingers, and the earth buckles- a towering fist of soil spreads its fingers, leans over to flatten the farmer- and promptly falls apart under its own weight. Bob walks over and hits the man with his hoe.
This was quite a wonderful read since I was brain-storming lately on making a story about a psionic people, and I kept running into ruts when trying to handle their powers. Points 3 and 4 are particularly helpful, and the idea of an imagination battle was pure joy. Oh, and I enjoyed this:
It would be fun to see someone who wasn’t just a Machiavellian mastermind, say a religious hermit who wanted his privacy to meditate on God and used his gift to drive fear into the hearts of those damn kids who kept trying to sneak up into the hills in search of adventure.

Now there's an everyday use for your powers!

By the way, mind if I friend you? I've always enjoyed reading your rants even before I joined up on LJ, and, I gotta say, they're really refreshing. Not to mention inspiring. I always want to go off and write something new everytime I read them.
I also friended you.
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