athelind: (Default)
Okay, kids. Politics time.

First: On Elections.

[ profile] rodant_kapoor just said everything that needs to be said about yesterday's special election in Massachusetts.

Second:On Activism.

I've heard some comments that there's more to participating in democracy than just saying, "I voted; now it's their turn to sort things out."

I really want to do things. I really want to make my voice heard. I really want to do that activism thing.

Unlike Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man", I haven't "passed the age / of consciousness and rightous rage". I just don't know what to do with it.

The only leads I've found in that direction have been canvassing, either door-to-door, on the phone, or stuffing envelopes.

You cannot convince me that this is significant or effective.

I don't treat political solicitors any differently than I do commercial or religious ones. At the door, on my phone or in my mailbox, they are an uninvited intrusion on the sanctity and privacy of my home.

I will politely turn away a political canvasser on my doorstep. I will rather less politely inform an unsolicited caller that I am "not interested". I will briefly glance at political mail to see if the candidate in question expresses views that coincide with my own, and if so, I'll put their name on my list of candidates to consider.

I almost always assume that the claims being made for or against Proposition X or Candidate Y are unreliable, at best, and flat-out lies, at worst. When election time rolls around, I troll the web looking for independent analyses and recommendations, but I don't trust unsolicited opinions.

And this is my reaction for the canvassers that I agree with. I have a hard time believing that this kind of activity is actually going to change anybody's mind.

Am I just stubborn? Am I too cynical to believe that J. Random Doorbell might be swayed by the presentation of reasonable arguments and evidence-based debunkings of misinformation? Or, despite my adherence to Colbert's memorable statement that "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", am I too cynical to believe that "my side" will provide me that kind of good, solid data to present?

Am I just an antisocial jerk who likes to hang up on people and slam doors in their face?

Really, are independent voters any more eager to have zealots idealists concerned citizens pounding on their door or ringing them up in the middle of dinner or the latest episode of Supernatural than Your Obedient Serpent is?

Heck, if I were an "independent" rather than a liberal technocrat, I'd probably wind up voting for the party that bothered me the least.

I suppose this boils down to two questions:

One, are my door-slamming habits atypical?

Two, what kinds of "grass-roots activity" are out there that don't include pestering the neighbors?

athelind: (Default)
[ profile] eggshellhammer and I just had an online conversation about gaming and pop culture that might be worth sharing, at least for my own future reference. It started out being about gaming and pop culture, anyway ... .

[ profile] eggshellhammer:
I've been in this noir DnD game, for... I dunno. Maybe 20, 24 sessions now.

And it's getting hard.

Not that it isn't fun -- but it's hard to endure it.

Because the world I exist in when I go there is such an agonizing moral vacuum. and even though my character has such great power to kill and to endure suffering, I can't make things better.

I don't have anything I can punch that will make a better day rise.

Because in noir, there are no good decisions.

And my only power is violence.

I'm constantly trapped in cycles of violence, and I can't escape them. I can't resolve them.

Your Obedient Serpent:
Sounds frustrating.

The secret in noir is to play the Hard Boiled Detective: do the best you can, help who you can, and maintain your own integrity in the face of a hopelessly corrupt world, because, if there's any moral dimension to that existence at all, it's what you bring to it.

Your quest is noble because it's futile.

The difference between Philip Marlowe and Don Quixote is that Marlowe knows that he's not going to win in the long run, and that even his little victories are often Pyhrric. But he keeps pushing on, because there's an important difference between "Not Winning" and Giving Up.

When you give up, you've lost.

If you keep pushing, and fighting, and striving, then even if you haven't won -- you haven't lost.

If you were playing in a Gothic-Punk game like the old World of Darkness, that would be part of it. Part of playing that game is embracing the Emo. Noir isn't too far off from that. You're a Tragic Hero, and you know it -- and that's what gives you strength. You're standing in front of the tank in Tiannamon Square, and flipping it off.

The Hard Boiled Detective doesn't back down, doesn't compromise, and if he gets the shit kicked out of him or gets killed, he does so knowing that he did it on his terms.

The people who look at an "agonizing moral vacuum" and decide it doesn't matter what they do, that they can kill and torture and do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals?

They've already lost.

The people who curl up in despair because they're not Saving the World? They've lost, too.

...and somewhere along the line, I think I might have stopped talking to Eggshell about his game.

And no, I didn't realize the inherent pun in advising "Eggshell" to play a "hard-boiled" character until I was almost ready to post this. Observing this in the Comments is both redundant and unnecessary.
athelind: (Default)

Upper Mismanagement

Quick Summary: American manufacturing is in trouble in part because American business schools focus almost exclusively on finance, rather than production.

-- found via Boing Boing.

This thesis jibes with my impressions -- or perhaps it just plays into my prejudices.

You see, I've never really believed in money. I never have. I know it only has meaning and value because everyone agrees that it has meaning and value, and I've always found it difficult to buy into the consensual hallucination.

I design games for fun. I model real systems for a vocation. When I look at the financial world and derivative markets and all the rest, it all looks a lot more like the former than the latter. It's made up. It's arbitrary. And it bugs the hell out of me that, over the course of my lifetime, the people playing these made-up number games have managed to arrange the world so that their Game is somehow the Only Important Thing. no matter what else you do, no matter what else you know, you have to play their Game to have any measure of stability or security in your life.

And yet, they have no reciprocal obligation. If you have solid, useful, tangible knowledge, you also have to know their rules at the most basic level, and the more you pick up, the better off you are -- but if you focus on nothing but the Game, you have distinct advantages, economically, socially, and politically.

And, adding insult to very real injury, they constantly pat themselves on the back for being "hard-nosed" and "practical" and "only looking at the bottom line".

In short, they're Munchkins.

And yeah, the idea that their inbred, detached-from-reality number games have eviscerated the economy, leaving nothing but a hollow shell, a junk-bond paper tiger, a ghost made of numbers -- that makes perfect sense to Your Obedient Serpent.

On the other claw, as valid as these points may be, at this juncture in my life, I am forced to ask: Hey, Athe, how's that workin' for you?

I need to reassess my own attitude toward their razzin' frazzin' Game, and my own participation in it. Right now, when someone says "investment" and "mutual funds" to me, what I hear is "gambling" and "scam" -- and that's not useful.

athelind: (Default)
I just read a BoingBoing article entitled "Heavy illegal downloaders buy more music", and felt compelled to respond. I'm copypasting my response here.

The particular passage that prompted my participation was in the final paragraph, where someone defending file sharing is quoted as saying:

"The people who file-share are the ones who are interested in music," said Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research. "They use file-sharing as a discovery mechanism. We have a generation of young people who don't have any concept of music as a paid-for commodity," he continued. "You need to have it at a price point you won't notice."

Even Mr. Mulligan doesn't quite get it, when he says things like "We have a generation of young people who don't have any concept of music as a paid-for commodity". It still presents the Net Generation as somehow lacking, somehow qualitatively different in their ethos than those who came before.

My generation and my father's generation didn't think of music as a "paid-for commodity", either. All you needed was a radio. If you had a good-quality stereo with a tape deck, and a station with a reliable request line, poof! It was yours. The Net improved the quality, reliability, selection and simplicity of the process, but that's it.

And who went to that kind of trouble in the Eight-Track era?

People who really loved music, and also bought a lot of it.

Free music and free downloads, like free radio, are primarily "discovery tools", and always have been. They're the best advertising any musician could ask for.

When Napster first arrived on the scene in the '90s, I said, "this is the 21st century version of radio." When the record companies freaked out about it, and about, it wasn't because of their products getting distributed for free, no matter what they said. It was because independent bands without big label contracts were getting just as much exposure as the indentured servants that the labels had put so much marketing machinery behind. People were getting music that wasn't being vetted by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx.

That's the big threat to the music industry, and all this talk about "piracy" is just smoke and mirrors.

athelind: (Default)
I announced today, to my FurryMUCK clique, that I didn't want to see any more trailers for Monster Hunter 3. The game doesn't just annoy me: it actively pisses me off, and worse, it makes me think badly not only of gamers in general but of Japanese culture, in wide, bigoted swaths.

The game is beautifully animated, and the eponymous monsters of the title are magnificently designed. Every trailer looks like a wonderful Discovery Channel nature documentary of a world that never was, full of dinosaurs and dragons and even more exotic creatures -- right up until you get to the gameplay, which involves killing things and dismembering them for their body parts to make cheesy, tawdry consumer goods kewl weapons and armor and magic items.

It's jarring.

The generation that grew up on Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters has graduated to Heroic Head-Bashing Harp Seal Hunters. Look at these marvelous creatures! The loving detail that went into their creation! The magnificent, balletic fluidity of their motion! LET'S HIT THEM WITH CLUBS!

This is a game that comes from one of the last whaling nations on Earth. I'm sorry -- this is that "wide, bigoted swath" I mentioned -- but I can't help but see a connection.

This doesn't piss me off as a guy who pretends to be a dragon online. This pisses me off as an Environmental Scientist, and a human being raised with some semblance of decency and empathy toward the natural world.

I don't put much credence into combat games as "murder simulators", but I do think the prevalent attitude these games have that animals serve no purpose other than to exploit, enslave or slaughter provides a bad example.

I wish I could believe that this was meant ironically, or as a commentary on the exploitation of the natural world. The unambitious modeling and jerky animation of the player avatars certainly suggests that; they're raw, brutish intrusions on the elegantly savage ballet of the "monsters". A decade of Happy Cartoony Cockfighting Games For Little Children makes that hard, though.

And after all that self-righteous ranting to my homies about how terrible it is to brainwash kiddies into seeing the slaughter and exploitation of magnificent animals as something fun and exciting, I announced that I was gonna go grab a burger before work.
And then, at work, I was chatting with two of my regular customers, and one of them said, "you really need to get a PSP. Do you have any consoles at all? There's this game..."
"Funny thing, that", said I...

athelind: (Default)
It was a Wednesday. I was 5.

This was the fourth time I'd watched one of those impossibly immense Saturn Vs lift off from Cape Kennedy. My mother insisted on watching every televised moment she could of those flights, and I was right there beside her, as much as I could. During 9 and 10, the school was dutifully notified that I was staying home, sick; I suspect that "Moon Flu" was a common strain in 1969.

I remember -- or I think I remember -- Walter Cronkite's deep, reassuring voice; I've heard it so many times since that I can't really be sure if I remember it from the broadcast, or from the LP record that CBS released and I played regularly through the '70s. I do remember, vividly, the NASA animations that played over his descriptions of the various stages of the launch and the space flight, precise and technically detailed cut-outs that would nonetheless seem crude by today's standards.

I remember the official NASA release images my father, a newspaperman, brought home, the flimsy thermal paper just off the facsimile machine, already browning. Somewhere, I may still have a notebook full of them, mostly from Apollo 13's ill-fated flight; they were in my possession as recently as my days at Cal State Monterey Bay.

I remember the excitement, the tension. I knew, even at the age of 5, that I was witnessing the single most important event of the century, the single most important event of human history.

Forty years ago today, three men leapt off the edge of the world into the Black.

I was watching.

athelind: (Default)
Easter is a holiday that almost escapes my notice. I observe the Equinox, of course, and I've been quietly raising a glass to Yuri Gagarin every evening, but when I drifted away from being even nominally Christian (around age 12-13, honestly), Easter was just one of those things that went with it.

Christmas, now... Christmas has been embraced so thoroughly by the secular culture and, more significantly, the consumer culture that it's acknowledged and sometimes observed by people of entirely different religious faiths.

Easter, in contrast, has always seemed thoroughly Christian to me. Not that I think that's a bad thing: unlike many of my peers, I don't have the knee-jerk reaction that Organized Religion Is The Enemy Of All That Is Just And Good. Believe me, if there's one thing about the Christian faith that resonates with me, it's the themes of Sacrifice and Redemption, of Rebirth and Renewal.

I even, these days, practice Lent, in an entirely secular manner: there are things that I want to cut down on, and it's easier to give up something when there's communal/social reinforcement -- even if you aren't in any direct contact with the actively-practicing community.

Easter is such a thing of nails and crosses, though. It's so specifically religious that its secular/commercial aspect of hard-boiled eggs and cheap bunny fursuits never really seemed to have the same cultural import as the Jolly Fat Man and his Bag Full of Presents. It didn't even occur to me that the comic store might not be open on Easter Sunday until my boss asked me, apologetically, if I would mind working on a day that I normally work anyway.

Even my expectations for the day reflect this quandary: The bosses expect it to be slow, since most of the mall will be closed, because it's Easter. I expect it to be swamped, because we're gonna be the only open store in a mall with a major cinema complex on a day when Families Go Do Stuff.

I just don't think of Easter as a "real" holiday anymore -- that is, one celebrated for reasons besides its religious signficance. For the last couple of days, I've been pondering this cultural disconnect -- my complete lack of recognition of Easter's apparent importance as a secular phenomenon -- and I think I've finally hit upon the core of the issue.

Cut for socio-religious metaphysical maundering... )

So, let me ask those of you who aren't practicing Christians -- what does Easter mean to you? What parts of the holiday do you still recognize and acknowledge?

athelind: (Default)
Solstice Greetings, everyone, and peace and good will to one and all!

On this, the shortest day and longest night of the year, let us remember that it is, indeed, darkest before the dawn, and in the cold of winter, embrace each other in a spirit of love, fellowship, and joy.

"Praise be to the distant sister sun, joyful as the silver planets run."

athelind: (Default)
It doesn't matter if you call it Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, or Veteran's Day.

It doesn't matter what you think of the current war, or war in general.

What matters is that every day, there are those who put their lives on the line for others, on the battlefield or on the streets, in raging fires or in the face of raging storms, or striving to reach beyond the sky.

Some of them don't come back. Some of them do.

Honor them all. They've honored you.

athelind: (Default)
In response to my post about "throwing the moneylenders out of the temple", [ profile] toob asked:

I suppose a comment on how perverse it is what we consider a "temple" nowadays would not be out of order?

Generally, I confess, I have little patience for rosy-hued visions of the "Good Old Days". However... I would argue, to the contrary, that it is perverse that we no longer consider the halls of government a temple.

The 18th and 19th centuries were really the heyday for perceiving such abstracts as Liberty and Justice as benevolent goddesses, and the halls of government as temples of civic virtue. However failed that may have been in practice, I find the ideal far preferable to the modern perception of those ladies as commodities to be bought and sold.

So, yes, throw them out of the temples indeed, and rescue Lady Columbia and her sisters from the streetcorner! Put paid to the quick-fisted procurer in his top hat and his fancy zoot suit, and the plutocrats and zealots to whom he panders!

athelind: (Default)
Since it's Friday the 13th, it seems an appropriate time to explain a phrase that I use with great frequency:

"Coyote Loves Me."

I often utter it in situations where other folks might invoke "Murphy's Law" or "Finagle's Law", which leads many people to assume that it's entirely about, well, bad luck.

That's not it at all -- or not the important part.

It's a philosophy -- and one that requires a backstory.

Though I didn't coin the phrase until many years after this incident, the definition comes from my mother: "For all the bad luck we have, we have a lot of good luck."

She said this around 1980 or so, after my stepdad -- who had been working long hours with a long commute -- fell asleep driving home on the twisting, turning country road in the backwoods of Northern San Diego County. He veered out of his lane, and had a head-on collision with another vehicle -- kind of.

The glancing impact peeled all the bodywork off the driver's side of his little blue Toyota -- and that's it. The Toy was still drivable after the panels and windows were replaced.

Nobody in either car was injured at all -- except for little cubes of safety glass in Papa's hair.

His tight, curly black man's hair.

So... a potentially fatal tragedy turned into a comically annoying nuisance.

Coyote, you see, loves us.

God is a prankster with a slapstick sense of humor, desperately trying to get a laugh... and the harder it is to get you to laugh, the harder he tries.

If you see the joke, and laugh... well, he might not go easy on you, exactly, but he might not try so hard to get a reaction.

And all the random, wonderful, serendipitous good things that happen? Those are part of the joke, too.

(For the record, my relationship with Coyote made the transition from "catch phrase" to "something akin to religious faith" after the 2004 "re"-election of George Dubya Bush.)

For further reading:
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein ("Man is the animal who laughs... we laugh because it hurts, because it's the only way to make it stop hurting.")
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons ("Hey... I never said it was a good joke! I'm just playin' along with the gag...")

athelind: (Default)
This was originally a response to a comment in a previous post. At the suggestion of several people, I'm expanding it to a full post.

I have heard from several sources -- including [ profile] hitchkitty's Congressman -- a reluctance to use impeachment as a "political tool" -- by which they mean a partisan tool, a means of vindictive retribution against the opposition.*

That boat sailed ten years ago, dear reader.

After achieving control of the House for the first time in forty years, and spending more than half of that time seething bitterly over the resignation and disgrace of Richard Milhouse Nixon, the "Grand Old Party" immediately turned their vindictive pettiness on the current Democratic President. Four years of a concerted witch hunt over matters long preceding Mr. Clinton's term in the White House followed. In the end, the most vicious, ruthless, take-no-prisoners political minds in this nation could find nothing more compromising than a hesitation to be entirely candid about a sexual indiscretion that had nothing to do with the original investigation.

And now, we have reached a point where this single, frivolous impeachment has so compromised the validity of the process that there is reluctance to invoke it in a clear-cut case of multiple offenses against the laws and the Constitution of the United States.

If the highest officials in the land cannot be held accountable for their actions using the legal framework set in place for exactly that, then they are, in fact, above the law, and the pretense of Democracy in the United States is a shadow play.

Other questions have been raised in regard to the timing, so close to being rid of the Current Occupant through the normal order of things. But consider this: Mr. Bush has 224 days left in office. If memory serves, they impeached Mr. Clinton in 181 days.

Even if this action does not get him removed from office, even the first phase -- getting the Congress to confirm that, yes, at least some of these offenses listed are, indeed, "an impeachable offense, warranting the removal from office" -- is important.

It is a valuable precursor for bringing the criminal charges these actions so richly deserve, be it in a United States court, or, if I may engage in a wishful fantasy of our country ever seeing fit to grow up and join the community of civilized nations, in the International Criminal Court.

Even if it amounts to no more than a symbolic gesture, we have to make it clear, to ourselves, to the rest of the world, to posterity -- and above all, to the power-hungry motherless savages, past and future, who seek to wring the public coffers dry to polish their own tick-bloated egos -- that sacrificing all that is right and good about the American experiment for any cause is simply not acceptable.

For more than a decade, we blockaded and starved the people of Iraq, because of their stubborn refusal to rise up against a leader who initiated a war of aggression, detained citizens and foreign nationals without due process of law, and maintaining and practicing tortue as a matter of official policy.

How can we not hold ourselves to the same standards?

*[ profile] hitchkitty has more to say on the subject here, at the culmination of this thread.
athelind: (Default)
I don't often talk about religious, metaphysical or philosophical matters. My contemplations in these arenas are elusive things, and words are a poor and coarse net in which to attempt to snare them.

On rare occasion, however, I encounter something that drives me, however briefly, to attempt to communicate something of my opinions.

There is nothing I consider greater evidence for the existence of a benevolent divinity than a reminder of just how amazingly, elegantly miraculous the laws of nature that govern existence are.

I understand neither the fundamentalist religionists, nor the fundamentalist atheists; the more I learn about the world, the more deeply I understand the principles that govern it, the more keenly aware I become of the Divine.

How is a Supernatural Entity assembling each individual creature in a static, unchanging world more inspiring or miraculous than a cosmos where such things spontaneously arise from the very nature of information itself?

How can you not see the Hand of God in evolution, when He has granted us the privilege of watching his fingers mold the clay of reality itself?

Emergence reflects Immanence.
athelind: (Default)
Easterners like to snark about how the Golden State "doesn't have seasons."

Of course it does. They're just different than East Coast seasons.

We have:

  • Air, when the hills are green, the flowers bloom, and the wind is a pleasant, offshore breeze.

  • Earth, when the hills have turned brown golden.

  • Fire, when the hot devil winds blow from the mountains, and the wildfires bloom.

  • Water, when the rains roll in.

The seasons may start earlier or later, and they may be more intense in one year than another, but, by golly, they're there.
athelind: (Default)
If there is a single lesson in all the world's religions and philosophies that is more important, more useful, and more conducive to benevolent living and spiritual soundness than The Golden Rule, it is this:

The finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon.

Stop mistaking your models for reality. The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing.

This has been a public service announcment.
athelind: (Default)
As most of you know, I dabble in RPG design, mostly as a sounding board for [ profile] normanrafferty. Some of you may also know that I am (like three out of four people in the fandom) working on a "fantasy epic" of my own. Thus, many of my conversations revolve around the Theory and Practice of World Creation.

Last night, the conversation took a startlingly familiar turn. I opined, as I often have over the decades, that "The best fantasy is written by people who do research, who don't just shrug and say, 'well, it's a fantasy, I can just make stuff up.' Too much fantasy these days is written by peole who think that reading Tolkien counts as 'research'."

The response: "Why does fantasy have to be based on research into what happened? Isn't true fantasy stuff that is Completely Made Up From Scratch? The only difference between basing your game on research of ancient myths and Tolkien is that their books are older."

(I haven't attributed the source because a) I don't want the person in question to feel like I'm "picking on them" in a public forum, and b) the sentiment is so often expressed.)

The obvious comparison is SF, of course. I've read a lot of science fiction, and it's not hard to tell the difference between the stuff written by people who know something about science and are willing to do some research on a topic before writing a novel around it, and the people who just read a lot of Star Trek and Star Wars novels and copied what they did.

However, a better comparison is comic book art.

I've read a lot of superhero comics. The medium has a lot of stylization, a lot of visual shorthand.

The most adept comic book artists have a deep-seated understanding of human anatomy. Their stylizations are based on that knowledge. Jack Kirby was famous for his impossible, dramatic poses -- but the man knew how the human body worked, and how to exaggerate it for effect.

When a comic book artist learned exclusively from reading comics, it shows. He applies the stylizations and conventions without really understanding the underlying structures. He uses the shorthand without grasping what it stands for. His exaggerations become more exaggerated, until his figures are so defomred and distorted that they bear only a painful resemblance to the human form. On the surface, the art may look slick and cool and cutting-edge, but on closer examination, it just doesn't hold together.

There's also... well, as an environmental scientist, I think of it as a "bottleneck effect". When you rely on second- and third- and fourth-hand sources for inspiration, you lose nuances and concepts and ideas with every successive iteration. Writers and gamers often proclaim that doing research just trammels on their Unfettered Creativity -- but so much of their output just winds up looking the same.

You want "Unfettered Creativity"? Our ancestors spent generations coming up with all manner of, well, wacked-out shit. I guarantee you that twenty minutes in the library skimming the Motif-Index of Folk Literature* will give you more useful, inventive, exotic ideas than reading the complete works of Robert Jordan, R.A. Salvatore, and Margaret Weis put together.

It will certainly get your farther than reading the Dungeon Master's Guide or the Eberron sourcebook.

I should also say, by all of this, I am not advocating that All Fantasy Must Look Like Old Fairy Tales. To the contrary, I'm protesting the sameness of the bulk of the genre. Doing research, immersing yourself in folklore and history, serves two purposes: not only will it give you a richer, deeper reserve of concepts from which to draw -- it also will help you break away from the endless litany of cliches and do something genuinely different and innovative.

*True Confession Time: I discovered the MIFL through a "Recommended Reading" article in Dragon Magazine, c. 1978-80.
athelind: (Default)
A recent thread in [ profile] chrissawyer's LiveJournal discussed the "decline" of SF Fandom. In particular, [ profile] shockwave77598 said,

"The young who would have found their way into SF and SFantasy a generation ago have instead moved into Anime and Manga. DragonCon and Project Akon are huge, even by Worldcon standards (5000 people or so). The result of this is that there's less new blood coming in and SF is growing increasingly older and smaller.

A couple of us have wondered what the cause is without pointing blame; a small answer is that SF doesn't appeal much to a generation that has never known a world without a computer on their desk or been unable to call someone with their pocket telephone. They've been handed the future on a silver platter and don't seem to care much about what's ahead for them anymore.

"SF is growing increasingly older and smaller"?

Now, wait a minute.

  • You rarely see a Top Ten Bestseller's list that doesn't include an SF or Fantasy novel anymore, even if you don't include Horror as part of the "Speculative Fiction" supergenre (and Old Time Fen like Forry Ackerman certainly would).

  • It's no longer a wait of three to five years between big-budget, A-List F/SF films -- now you get three to five of them every year. And this time, I am leaving out horror.

  • The current television line-up is crammed full of shows SF/Fantasy shows, and has been since the early '90s. Not a lot of them are Star Trek-style Space Opera, but I can think of at least two that are, even if I don't watch either of them. Almost every broadcast network has fielded an SF/Fantasy show that has done well in the ratings and enjoyed a run of several seasons.

Sure, SPACE OPERA is taking a downturn in popularity, at least on the large and small screens, but I think that has as much or more to do with the excreable quality of recent entries in the Star Trek and Star Wars mythoi. Enterprise and Episodes 1 and 2 have driven people away from Space Fantasy.

SF isn't "growing smaller". Exactly the opposite is happening: SF has grown larger. It's no longer an isolated little fandom -- it's MAINSTREAM. As [ profile] normanrafferty likes to say, "The Underground Has Become The Establishment". And that means that it no longer suits the psychological needs of the alienated and disaffected outcasts who need some sense of identity to distinguish themselves from the people who alienated them in the first place. "Fans Are Slans" holds little comfort when everyone's a Slan.

To find that same sense of Unity In Persecuted Superiority, Those Who Would Be Fen must delve more deeply into the fringes of Fandom. They hook into Anime and Manga, though even those have become increasingly mainstream. They go Goth. They become Furry.

(I'm speaking as a Fan, by the way. As a teenager, I comforted myself that I Was Fan and They Were Mundane, that I had the imagination and the creativity and the insight to look at the future and dare to imagine its shape, to ask questions and make speculations that Mundane minds wouldn't consider, and as such, I was better prepared to face the World That Was Coming. When I hear some Furries talk about how cruel and narrow-minded "humans" are compared to the animal-in-spirit, it all sounds so familiar.)

Yes, I, too, have always enjoyed tales of an optimistic future, that innocent faith that Progress Will Save Us All. Despite the current popularity of dystopian settings, I don't think that kind of optimism is gone from the genre. Most of those dystopias show people struggling to improve things, to challenge the rotten establishment, to undermine the oppressors.

We live in the future, now and today. Reality has caught up with speculation, and in some ways, sped ahead. SF has changed its focus accordingly: rather than dreaming of a wonderful tomorrow... it depicts the struggle to create the future of those dreams.


Oct. 17th, 2002 12:47 pm
athelind: (Default)
While working on an Environmental Ethics paper just now, I went out and took a walk out into the hills to clear my mind and get some thoughts straight.

As I wandered and pondered, I found myself thinking about the whole animism thing, and how I thought the idea of whimsical, unpredictable nature spirits all with their own agendas made much more sense to me than the monotheistic concept of a single All-Wise, All-Knowning, All-Benevolent All-Father.

In the midst of this musing, I crested a hill-- and about a hundred feet or so ahead of me, a grizzled gray shape came loping and bouncing out of the woods, then arced gracefully back in. I couldn't identify it at first, but as I caught glimpses of it in the trees, I had no trouble.

Coyote, of course.

He stood in a clearing in that clump of woods, looking at me, then looking off across the trail, not quite wanting to disregard me, but not quite having the attention span to focus on me.

I waved, and called out, "Hello, Grandfather! Am I on the right track?"

And then I turned and let him be, grinning cheerfully.

Do monotheists have this kind of fun with THEIR god?

March 2010

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