Tweet of the Day: A Handmaid’s Tale Is a Warning to Conservative Women
“I am a Christian.”
Are not Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Mormons, Mennonites, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Quakers not Christians? Or are they not the “right” kind of Christian? Which means that those other denominations are “wrong” somehow. It is true that any statement of identity is but inclusionary and exclusionary, that is, it defines those that share the identity as those that do not. But some, like the statement above are more about exclusion than inclusion, about separating what is “true” from what is “false”.
I’ve come to see the next statement in a similar manner:
“I am Straight.”
Why? Well lets look at the definition of the word:
1a : free from curves, bends, angles, or irregularities straight hair straight timberb : generated by a point moving continuously in the same direction and expressed by a linear equation a straight line the straight segment of a curve
2a : lying along or holding to a direct or proper course or method a straight thinkerb : candid, frank a straight answerc : coming directly from a trustworthy source a straight tip on the horsesd (1) : having the elements in an order the straight sequence of events (2) : consecutive12 straight dayse : having the cylinders arranged in a single straight line a straight 8-cylinder enginef : plumb, vertical the picture isn’t quite straight
3a : exhibiting honesty and fairness straight dealingb : properly ordered or arranged set the kitchen straight set us straight on that issue; also : correct get the facts straightc : free from extraneous matter : unmixed straight whiskeyd : marked by no exceptions or deviations in support of a principle or party votes astraight Democratic tickete : having a fixed price for each regardless of the number soldf : not deviating from an indicated pattern writes straight humor a straight-A studentg (1) : exhibiting no deviation from what is established or accepted as usual, normal, or proper : conventional; also : square 5f (2) : not using or under the influence of drugs or alcoholh : heterosexual
Notice a pattern here? Many of these definitions are about moral character more than simple geometric description. Words like “normal”, “correct”, and “trustworthy” pop up. It becomes even more apparent when you look at the antonyms:
Near Antonyms improper, incorrect, indecorous, naughty, unbecoming, unseemly; corrupt, debased, debauched, degenerate, depraved, dissolute, libertine, perverted, reprobate; unprincipled, unscrupulous; atrocious, infamous, villainous; base, low, mean, vicious, vile; blameworthy, objectionable, offensive; iniquitous, nefarious; errant, erring, fallen
Antonyms bad, black, dishonest, dishonorable, evil, evil-minded, immoral, indecent, sinful, unethical, unrighteous, wicked, wrong
So when I use the term “Straight” I am not really saying anything about myself. However I am making a statement about others, a purely negative statement. I may have not meant it as such, and neither would you, but the more I think about it, the more it becomes apparent to me that it is an exclusionary word, a term of moral judgement more than a word that defines me in any meaningful capacity or with any accuracy.
I am not saying that you should not use the word, only that after some thought I have come to this conclusion.
So what do you think, oh gentle reader?
Tweet of the Day: Industrial Fantasies East and West
Asimov’s Three Law of Robotic Ethics are as follows:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
These “laws” seem pretty reasonable. After all we wouldn’t want our robot servants to turn into murder machines with a misspoken command or a press of a button. But if your goal is to create a interesting robotic character, then your robot buddy will simply say, “Second Law My Ass!” A perfectly obedient robot makes for a boring, and therefore, poor character. However, if you introduce time tested servant tropes to the mix, such as the snarky butler with little apparent respect for his “master” then you have a better dynamic. It also sides steps the idea that an intelligent construct who “must” obey every order given to them is essentially a slave.
Yes, it is as bad as it sounds, and then some.
So give the old law a swift boot to the rear and inject your robotic characters with a heaping dose of personality.
Tweet of the Day: Star Trek and Nostalgia
Synthwave, what we thought the future would sound like back in the 80s, but wait…it is the far away future of 2017!
I am confused. Amused? Yes, but also confused. If you remember the 80s (like old geezer me does) you remember the soft saxophones, the electronic beeps of early home/personal computers, and the ever present beats of a million Yamaha synthesizers. It was also the decade of Reaganomics, Red Scares, Cyberpunk ™ (by CD Projekt Red), war in the Middle East, and the last bloody hurrah of the Cold War. But like any retro-inspired movement, it not quite the 80s, just an above average imitation of the era. What sounded cutting edge back then now is quaint. Some of the sounds of the 80s were due more to the limitations of the technology as well as the colliding social trends that a deliberate attempt to create a genre. And as synthesizers plus electric guitars infused pop culture, there was a backlash that led directly to alternative rock music scene of the late 80s which then exploded in the first half of the 1990s.
But the reality is that like many rethreaded concepts of the not so distant past, it is people like me, who remember our childhoods as we pass through our collective mid-lives, that power such genres and those who are hearing them for the first time and sounds fresh to them. With so many other icons of the decade such as Aliens, Ghostbusters, Transformers, and Star Wars coming back a second time around, it is no wonder that memories of the music that served as a score for the decade also linger on.
Tweet of the Day: Becoming Deviant
How hard is your science fiction?
That is a question that lurked in the shadows of the genre since the beginning. For some anything beyond 20 minutes into the future is sci-fi, even if it had elves, psychic magic, and teleportation. For the futurist, science fiction was a window into our future, an extrapolation of what we knew into what could be. Today they stick to the Mundane Dogmatic, a set of self-impose rules that show case how hard or “realistic” their view of the future is or should be.
This raises a few questions:
- How accurate is the science employed in the work?
- What happens when science inevitably marches on?
- What narrative possibilities, if any, were lost in the pursuit of accuracy?
I find the whole concept a straight jacket, but other might like the challenge. It is up to each writer to decide how close they cleave to this set of self-imposed rules.
Tweet of the Day: Doggie Keepsake
When the giant robot craze started in Japan in the 1960s, the first robots were essentially gigantic robotic super heroes, a Japanese version of Superman but with missiles, photonic rays and piloted by teenagers with strange hairdos. In reaction to that, other animated shows, went the “real robot” route, where in the machines were treated as mass produced no different than say, fighter planes, and usually went up in flames just as readily. Only the superb skills of their pilots (and a heavy dose of plot armor) kept the hero from a fiery death. In reaction to that, American and British tabletop game designers countered with Walking Tanks, giant robots loaded with armor, heavy weapons, and ponderous gate. These were not more realistic than their Japanese counterparts, but seemed ever grittier while they turned fast robot duels into tactical matches that exploited terrain and superior unit tactics.
These trends might be influenced by history, especially the way the Japanese and Americans approached war equipment during WWII. Japanese aircraft were light, with long range, and heavy guns. Capable Japanese pilots flew circles around their slower enemies and delivered precise blows with a combination of cannon and machine guns. American fighters heavy machine guns, armor to protect the pilot, and self-sealing tanks that lower the chance of an explosion. Tanks on both sides followed a similar pattern, although the American Sherman tank was considered a medium tank at best in the Europe, in the Pacific it out performed the few Japanese tanks in every category.
That doesn’t mean that the these three types never mixed. Some fast mecha shows also featured slower ground units with heavier fire power, but not necessarily superior armor. At the same time, the tank on legs may look invisible until an infantry man, helicopter, or plane hits them in the right spot. And even fast mechs in space ended up being rather slow and ponderous on the ground. It was and still is up to the writer to decide which type or mix of type better fits their story.
Sometimes you can not separate one from the other so what are you suppose to do about it? I discuss my take on the situation below: