Category Archives: Random musings

The Point of Science Fiction

Years ago, I read a cartoon strip that has stuck with me.  Sort of.  The caption was something like, ‘the earliest science fiction pieces,’ and it had four panels.  Panel one was a cave man with a stone hammer hitting a larger rock, while I guy behind him yelled out, ‘thag, you crazy, you play god!’ and the panel after that shows the earth being split in two, presumably from the cave man hitting one rock with the other.  Then there was another one, this time with a cave man trying to start a fire while another cave man warns him of his insanity, followed by a picture of the world in flames.

It struck with me because I’d never seen science fiction this way before, but looking at the images, it kind of made sense.  There is a theme in SF of someone pushing the bounds of science, being warned against it, and then the entire world is in jeopardy because of their hubris.

And I do, from time to time, find myself reading a comment online from someone commenting on some scientific experiment with, ‘Oh my god, didn’t you read Jurassic Park?  This is how the world gets overrun by dinosaurs!’ or someone talking about how cloning is a terrible idea because of all the ways it could go wrong, usually exemplified by some pivotal piece of science fiction.

So, it kind of make sense to look at science fiction as being anti-science.  But that’s not really how I’ve ever read it.

To me, science fiction isn’t about the dangers of science, it’s a reminder that no matter how far technology goes, people will always be people.  We’re always subject to the same flaws in thinking, the same impatience, the same hubris.

The problem isn’t what technology can do, it’s what people might do with technology.  Cloning won’t bring about the destruction of humanity, but the people who control it might.

Gutter Magic

Been playing around with an idea lately:

My name is Neville Stevens, and I am a wizard.

Barely.

There are standards you see, if you want to call yourself a wizard.  You have to be able to manipulate the five elemental magics, that’s one.  You have to be able to demonstrate mastery of all seven of the mental disciplines, that’s number two.  You need to be able to travel to all twenty-six of the neighboring planes in astral form, and all six of the overlapping planes, physically, which makes number three.  And last, but by no means least, you absolutely must be able to use your third eye.

The mage who scored me and confirmed my status as a wizard told me afterwards that I had the absolute lowest score a person could possibly get and still make the staff.  Making the staff is what it’s called when you join the order, and please, don’t make any jokes about it, I’ve heard them all and, after a few pints, made up a few more.

In the order, they call me the gutter mage.  At first they just said it behind m back, but eventually it become something of an open joke, and now I can’t get them to stop calling me it.  That’s alright though, being a mage is like being a doctor, once you have the diploma up on your wall, it doesn’t really matter what your actual grades were.

Okay, fine, it matters to all the other doctors, but when someone comes in needing a heart transplant, they don’t ask you how you did on your midterms.

Unfortunately that does mean that I find myself getting hired for jobs that I really nave no business getting involved in.

Stuff I think would be cool

So, it occurred to me today,and I posted this on facebook, that it would be very telling if you could get people to answer the question, ‘what do you warn your other friends about me before you introduce us.’  the problem, of course, is that nobody on facebook is going to answer with something like, ‘oh, he’s an asshole.  A good guy, but a real asshole,’ which is, in fact, what I warn some of my friends before I introduce them to other friends.  As for why I have friends who are assholes… it isn’t as though being an asshole is an entirely bad thing…. but back on point, very few people have the nerve to actually tell you your flaws to your face.  but many of us really want to know.  So I thought it would be cool if you could post something on facebook but categorize it in such a way that, a) only people on your friends list could answer but b) the posts were all kept anonymous.

The other thing that I really wish you could do for facebook relates to those stupid ‘which hogwarts house would you be in,’ or ‘which character from firefly are you,’ quizzes.  the thing that bugs me about that is that I already know how I see myself.  What would interest me is if I could set one up so that my friends could take the quiz about me and I could see how they perceived me.

Anyhow, just some stuff I think would be cool.

Rambling musings

So, one of the thing I find a lot in literature is the association of the north with the cold.  It makes sense, of course.  Most of the books I read were written by people from the U.S., or occasionally Europe, both places where traveling North does mean you’re moving into a colder climate.  Creating and explaining a new set of cardinal directions for a story is rarely worth the trouble, and our audience is mostly going to be people in our own country, so we generally just go with what we’re used to.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But I find myself wondering if that is going to change.

It’s the internet that makes me wonder.

We’ve been able to ship books to the far corners of the globe for a very long time, true, but on of the unfortunate problems we have had up until now has bee that, while it’s easy for someone in the U.S. who has a book published to get it to almost anywhere on the globe, there have been rather more obstacles to someone from, just for example, Nigeria to get their manuscript submitted to a publisher who can ship it to, I don’t know… Chile.

The internet, however, creates a platform that can change all of that.

And if that happens, does that mean that our cultural norms, whether they are based on geography or not, will be more thoroughly examined and more open to dismissal or interpretation?

Also, I made some nachos today, which included slicing up some fresh peppers.  later I touched my face and now my face burns.  Now I want to make a tribe in my post-apocalyptic universe who make peppers into a paste to scar themselves in cool patterns.  I’m sure someone else has done that at some point, but now I want to do it.