Blog Archives

Relativity For Your Mouth

Our perceptions are WAY more dependent on our expectations and preconceptions than we like to think.

Do you think, perhaps, that this extends beyond food to our social and political worlds? I’m wondering, too, how it has colored my perception of short stories and novels I’ve liked or disliked in the past.

Hmm!

Pessimism in Science Fiction: The USA is Worried It’s Over the Hill

CuinnOnionEnhanced

Is this my future? A big stinky onion future?

—–

There has been a lot of talk about the pervasive pessimism in science fiction recently. Notably in the last couple of years, but there have been grumblings on the subject all the way back to the dawn of Cyberpunk with its dreary skies the color of television tuned to a dead channel. You know, before a dead channel was an eye-searingly vivid blue.

The dawn of science fiction tended to be pretty upbeat. Yes, there was rampant sexism, pretty much every important character was an heterosexual, able-bodied, highly intelligent, male Caucasian, imperialism was the savior of space civilizing exotic alien noble savages, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was a nice automated house with a yard and a white picket fence in the suburbs, or at least within flying-car range of the suburbs. But it was upbeat. Medical science was constantly solving inconveniences like infectious disease, cancer, and aging. Easy travel to friendly worlds around other stars relieved the problems of population pressure and resource wars–or at least moved the wars to desolate asteroid belts and the deeps of interstellar space where the collateral damage was lighter. The average schlub on the street, if we saw him, was educated and clean and on his way from his nice safe 9-to-5 where his wife would cook dinner by pressing a button and afterward tossing the dishes into a receptacle to be disintigrated and reconstituted sparkling clean in the automatic dispenser for the next meal. There were no worries about the electric bill or rising gasoline prices or the wholesomeness of food and water being compromised by deregulation.

Everything in the life of the USA, which is and was the author of the bulk of science fiction collectively, seemed to be on an inevitable upward trajectory that would easily carry the future into a better and more expansive place.

And then things stopped peaking. They started heading downward in many regards, and the longer this reversal continued, the more people–including writers of science fiction–noticed it. The point of view of the US science fiction writer wasn’t naturally upward anymore. It was downward. Imagine the view from a car on a rollercoaster. Heading upward, you’re looking to the sky. Once you roll over the top, pause, and then plunge downward, you’re looking down the hill. And you’re screaming; even if you can see you’re not likely to plunge straight into the ground and die, it feels like you will.

The US middle class has been shrinking for a while. The space program has contracted; we don’t talk about when we will build a colony on the moon anymore, not seriously. We talk about the next automated probe we’re going to land on Mars for a look around the dust. When Kennedy said we’d go to the moon, people mostly believed him. When Obama said we’d go to Mars, even enthusiasts said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We don’t feel secure in our jobs anymore, if we have them. Our incomes have gotten smaller after inflation adjustment over the years, not bigger as we once, in the halcyon years of optimistic science fiction, assumed they would continue to grow forever.

Maybe when we find the bottom of this decline we’re in, in terms of the collective prosperity of ALL US citizens, US writers will cheer up a bit and science fiction will grow an upbeat consensus again–hopefully with the racism, sexism, and imperialism absent. Or perhaps the heart of science fiction will shift.

Science fiction, after all, has been a world literature from the beginning. US writers may have and may still comprise the majority, but if SF is to teach us anything, it is that the future always brings change. And SF has been growing, I understand, not just in other English-speaking nations, but also worldwide and outside the traditional Western bastions.

Literature belongs to the world and all its people. I welcome all the cheer the other writers of the world can lend us US writers in climbing out of our funk.

Operation Moon The NSA

Preface: this is childish.  I still like it.  I encourage those of you who use Twitter to use the #OperationMoonTheNSA hashtag.

 

Here’s what I’m talking about, in a series of my recent tweets kicked off by my passing along a message from @RevBobMIB:

 

MoonTheNSA

 

Here’s a link to the petition that Robert ‘RevBob’ Hood was referring to.  Signing it is probably WAY more effective than my followup of a crudely rendered facsimile of a butt.

 

Not sure what I’m talking about?  It has been recently confirmed, what many suspected: the NSA archives pretty much everything every single US citizen does via any sort of telecommunication.

Info link 1: Wikipedia on NSA monitoring program PRISM.

Info link 2: The Washington Post shows us an NSA slideshow explaining NSA telecommunications eavesdropping.

Info link 3: A somewhat editorialized explanation at ExtremeTech.

 

In closing, I would like to add:   (_|_)

 

 

Norfolk, Virginia: Do You Care?

I just minutes ago drove through an intersection near my home. There had obviously been an accident there very recently. How do I know this?

Because, although the stricken cars are gone, there are big hunks of metal and plastic littering the intersection. They are right in the path of traffic. Perfectly placed to puncture tires.

Public servants and city employees of Norfolk: I know some of you care. But when I see something like this, this ‘screw cleaning up, it’s not my tires that will be punctured by this trash’ attitude…

…how am I supposed to BELIEVE you give a damn?

The Windows Need Cleaning

So, I’m on a bus heading from Norfolk, VA to Washington, D.C. The bus is nice enough; decent seats, a place to plug the phone in, wifi.

The windows, on the other hand… there’s a nice thick film of yuck to filter out any bothersome sunlight. Or view. It comes through very nicely in the picture, I think.

Personally, I tend to be a skeptical sort. A bit of a cynic, sometimes a little pessimistic.

It’s nice to see a metaphor in person like this, to remind myself that the world viewed through a layer of cynical yuck isn’t really accurate. It’s a little blocked out, muted, not as rich as it really is, like the view through this dirty bus window.

The dirt really is there. Things happen in the world that justify some of my cynicism. But I don’t always have to look through the dirty glass, either.

I hope that makes a little sense to someone out there.

Like Arguing on the Internet

AdVintageMarijuanaKiller

 

This post isn’t about legalizing or not legalizing marijuana, despite my choice of picture—that’s a topic that’s way off topic for this blog.  Suffice it to say that I’m in favor of applying rational thought to our various concerns.

 

The reason I used this image is that it employs hyperbole.  Many of us know enough about marijuana to know that it doesn’t cause “Murder!  Insanity!  Death!”  And that reminded me of arguing with people on the internet.

 

I check in on Twitter every day.  I probably check in on it a bit more than I really should.  One notable thing about it is the same thing that is notable about other social platforms and discussion forums online.  As well as much of our politics.

 

Over and over again, people resort to hyperbole.  Overstating their various cases for effect— or, very often, on the assumption that the person who reads the hyperbole won’t investigate for themselves and might be fooled.  People tell themselves that hyperbole serves a purpose, that it’s a good idea if the cause is good, and other nonsense like that.  It has its moments when used for comedic effect, but when it’s presented as truth to deceive it’s a different matter.

 

The fact is that hyperbole backfires in the long run.  Because it’s a lie, and people don’t like it when they discover they’ve been lied to.  It’s easier than ever for people to find the facts for themselves since the internet became a big thing.   Maybe it’s time to give hyperbole tactics a rest.  Maybe it’s time to admit that persuading people with half-truths and overstatements and distortion may be part of the advertising arsenal that we’ve been culturally trained in, but they’re ultimately unproductive.   They produce cynical and jaded minds.

 

Sometimes I feel pretty cynical myself, wading through the sea of propaganda that is a large part of the online (and offline) world.

 

And I’d rather not.  So do it for me: calm down, and let the truth speak for itself.