“The plausible impossible” is a term Walt Disney used to describe the way cartoons will often bend the physical laws of the universe while still maintaining a convincing (or plausible) semblance to real life.
It’s primarily used for comic effect, and it’s what underpins the cartoon logic of how animated characters will keep running in thin air (after blindly racing off the side of a cliff face, for instance) and only then next start to fall when they inadvertently happen to look down.
And kids absolutely love it! The plausible impossible appeals to their overall fascination with finding ways to bend the rules without every actually breaking them, I suspect.
This idea isn’t just confined to cartoons, though. Works of literature like Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels, for instance, use exactly the same kind of logic for comic effect. Ironically, both of these books have long since come to be seen as “children’s” classics, probably for this very reason. Even though, in reality, they are arguably both actually fairly advanced works of philosophical and satirical speculation.
Be that as it may, my own interest in the plausible impossible stems directly out of my being a writer of surrealist fiction. Surrealism relies on both the logic and language of dreams and the unconscious to convey its messages. And my novel Missing Zero functions as a kind of surrealistic dream of how one man, seemingly unknowingly, averts the Apocalypse and thereby saves the world.
A simple example, then, of how I’ve incorporated the plausible impossible into the writing of my surrealist tale can be seen in the character of Dualia, who just happens to be a hermaphrodite.
Now, my understanding is that true hermaphroditism is not actually possible within the human species. And consequently in modern times the word intersex is instead used to describe individuals of ambiguous gender due to biological anomalies and the like.
Whatever, I wanted Dualia to be truly equal parts female and male and therefore an actual hermaphrodite, in the literal sense. But I had no model from reality on which to base him/her. Which meant I was forced to rely on the plausible impossible, in order to fully imagine and render into words my own vision of what an hermaphrodite might be like to meet in person.
The most interesting detail, for me, to unexpectedly come out of this creative process was the idea that Dualia possessed something I later named the “third voice” (a speaking voice that’s neither male or female but a rather combination of the two).
Here’s how Dualia’s gift is ultimately described in the novel:
“It was the strangest thing. But Verity confessed afterwards she too had found the silkily seductive tones of Dualia’s “third voice” incredibly irresistible. She described hearing Dualia speak as it being the closest she had ever come to experiencing true aural sex. What’s more, she remained convinced every other woman in the room that day felt just as enthralled as she did. It was almost as if Dualia was French-kissing each woman present with every word that left his/her lips. Dualia’s speech sounded at once both mellifluous and devastatingly masculine. Although there was still more to it somehow, allegedly. Sure, he/she spoke with charisma and charm and authority, but he/she somehow also spoke with a woman’s delicate inflection and subtlety and sensual earthiness — for this evidently was the special boon of the adult hermaphrodite. Verity went so far as stating that she believed Dualia could have talked not only her but every other woman in the courtroom to the point of orgasm, if he/she’d so desired.”
Sure, it’s a bit steamier than what Walt Disney might be famous for producing, but it’s still an example of the plausible impossible in action. And besides, my novel’s strictly not for kids. Well, maybe not now, at the present time, after all who can say what will become the next crop of children’s classics a few hundred years hence? Nah…