A large part of Copout’s subject matter is dreams. Half of the book’s text takes place in dreamscapes. So what do I think of dreams, you must surely want to know? Why did I write a book that gives so much time to them?
I’ll answer the second question first. I wrote the book in this way because I had an idea for a story — an inspiration, you might say — and this was the only way I could write it. It’s certainly not because dreams are a particular fascination of mine, nor because I have anything passionate to say about the importance of dreams. I like dreams, some more than others, but I don’t attach significance to them.
Which leads back to the first question. My view of dreams is this: they are things our minds make up while we sleep. No more, no less. As such, they reflect our psychology. The things that are going on in your head will sometimes manifest themselves in your dreams. They can occasionally help you to understand things that your conscious mind can’t work out, which relates to why a picture is worth a thousand words. During the day, you’re working with facts, figures, data, and things that are fed into your brain from outside. When you sleep, all the influences upon your mind coalesce into images and situations. If you’re feeling particularly stressed in your waking life, you might dream about a terrible storm, translating the stress that you feel into an image. As a writer, I believe I tap into that same ability to translate feelings into pictures (albeit word-pictures), perhaps because my mind is able to work in that way even while awake.
What I do not believe about dreams is that they carry any significance beyond anything you can know consciously. They are not mystical communications from spirits, nor are they precognitive predictions about the future. These things are just illusions springing from the law of averages. If you have a hundred dreams, one or several of them will seem to come true at some time. If you’re the kind of person who wants to see precognition in dreams, then those three out of a hundred will be the ones you latch onto. But if you counted all the dreams you’ve had that never became reality in any way shape or form then you would realise that your track record of accurate dreams was pretty poor. The same reasoning applies where dreams are thought to the communications of useful information from outside. Again, take the negatives against the positives and the law of averages will emerge the winner.
I also do not believe dreams are to be interpreted. There are any number of books, websites, and psychologists today who purport to be able to interpret your dreams. Encyclopaedias of dreams will take common dream images and attempt to translate them into something meaningful. Do not buy into this. All people are different, and what is a meaningful symbol to one will not be meaningful to another. For example, the storm I suggested you might see in a dream if you were stressed, to some people might suggest a grounded connection to nature’s majesty and wonder. To some people, a dream about snakes suggests deception, danger, or subterfuge. But my feelings are quite different. One night I had a dream in which my flat was infested by snakes. Everywhere I went, snakes were on every surface. I had to step over them carefully and move them off the chair before I could sit. I woke up from the dream and, that same day, went to the pet store and took home a python. To me, a snake is an ideal pet. An encyclopaedia of dreams won’t tell you that.
The exception to the rule is prophetic dreams. The Bible contains a number of examples of people who dreamed, and the dreams were significant in some way. These were the exception, not the rule. Whenever such a dream occurred, the interpretation of it was given by a prophet or apostle. These biblical dreams also dealt in life and death matters, issues pertaining to the future of God’s kingdom, or pivotal moments in world history. They were not given as guidance in the minutia of everyday life.
The significance of dreams in Copout is manifold. For Donovan Stone they function as an escape from the depressing reality of everyday life. For the reader they are hopefully exciting and entertaining forays into the imagination of the main character, as well as re-imaginings of some of favourite classic films, and solid entertainment individually and as part of the whole. They also allow Stone to work out solutions to one of this book’s central problems, on the premise that our subconscious minds are always at work when we are consciously doing other things, and perhaps even more strongly when we are asleep.
Dreams are fascinating. They can be beautiful or ugly, scary or reassuring, clever or stupid. They can seem vivid and real, or outrageous and fanciful. One thing they demonstrate for certain is that every person is gifted with an imagination.