My friends, welcome to the coming golden age. We have not had such a fertile ground for unfounded speculation since the JFK assassination. I mean they tried with Bill Clinton, but you really can’t come up with vast global conspiracy theories with principals who are so obviously venal, narcissistic and politically motivated. I mean, blow jobs and land deals, yawn. Bush the younger upped the ante just by having Rove and Cheney as the dual bogymen in every Liberal nightmare scenario. Still, our conspiratorial feast relied only on cronyism and blood for oil. While there’s a germ of genius in claiming the administration had a hand in 9/11, but that jumped the shark when Uwe Boll made a movie about it. When Uwe Boll is making movies about your conspiracy theories, it’s sort of sad. (Not in the OMG they’re using him to discredit the idea sad, no, just plain old sad.)
No. Truly great conspiracy theories require inexplicable events of such magnitude that they demand something more than a mundane explanation. They require the official explanation be so lame in the face of the facts that there’s little other option then to assume grand plots at work to evil ends.
Try this one on for size. A US president visits a foreign country that shortly afterward becomes the center of a potential pandemic. An outbreak where one of his tour guides subsequently dies. (Though, they claim (wheoever they are) that the victim did not die of swine flu.) Within a few days (remember, in things like this, temporal proximity always implies causal proximity) we have Air Force one buzzing New York in what has been portrayed as what could be kindly put as the most asinine insensitive and ill-advised photo op in the history of asinine insensitive and ill-advised photo-ops.
The kind of event that makes you think; no-one is that stupid.
Think of what you can do with this sequence of events. Maybe the crew was infected down in Mexico? Maybe Air Force One is a vector for germ warfare experiments and everyone in Manhattan is going to start coughing up blood? It’s gotta be something, right? As any conspiracy buff knows, things like this don’t just happen.
Alas, one I have no time to write. However, combine the cheap availability of computing power, the rise of stateless actors (terrorists, pirates, drug lords) mix in a little dissaffected youth in the EU, salt liberally with anarchic nationalist Chinese hackers, and you have the makings of a new world cyber-war where nation-states might not even be involved. (I mean, what else are all those EU kids going to do?)
This weekend I wrapped up the first draft of Wolfbreed 2. We have it clocking in at about 84K which explains finishing about a week ahead of schedule. This doesn’t mean that the book’ll end up that short. Inevitably my revisions end up long. (Even Raven, where I cut 30K from the original draft still ended up about 10K longer in the final.) Also, I’m evolving as a novelist, since when I started this, 80K seemed just about right. That’s the length of the first three, as well as everything I wrote up to around 1999 with the exception of the Hostile Takeover Trilogy. Now 80K seems barely adequate, though that might have something to do with the complexity and the number of POV characters I’m using nowadays.
I’ve sent the draft on to the Hamsters and my agent looking for first-reader feedback on the revision, which I promised to get in to Spectra by the end of June.
Ok, first we had the NY Times, the NY Times, explicitly comparing the Obama economic program to Nazi Germany, and saying that this wasn’t a bad thing. Then we have the Huffington Post, that right-wing wingnut rag, calling out Jeanine Garafolo for being an asshat for calling the April 15th Tea Party protests “racism straight up.” We have the AP skewering Obama’s desperate attempt at saving a whole $100 Million from the budget as being more or less pathetic. And now, just in time for Earth Day, we have the NY Times telling us that we can all save the planet if everyone just gets to be rich enough.
Interesting times folks.
What is it about “sense of wonder” that seems to set some people’s teeth on edge. We have a recent rant on io9 that pretty much gives the distillation of the argument in the title: Is “Sense Of Wonder” Just A Code For Returning To Childhood?
To quote said rant:
Whenever people talk about “sense of wonder,” it seems like they default to talking about childhood. And there’s a certain nostalgia for that time, and a desire to recapture it or hold onto it somehow.
Thing is, there are things you cannot see if you’re too busy looking at everything with a “sense of wonder.” And those things are often the stuff most worth talking about. I like science fiction that’s gritty but hopeful, and politically realistic but still idealistic at its core. And it’s hard to write science fiction that deals with complicated human problems, and stark political realities, when we’re constantly pausing to admire our own ingenuity.
Is it possible that the only way we can keep “sense of wonder” alive for the veteran reader is by turning to posthuman protagonists, who have seen it all before — except for the latest wonder? In other words, by clinging to “sense of wonder” so hard, do we end up jettisoning everything else, even the humanity of our protagonists? Even the foibles and emotional complexities that make people, well, wonderful?
The post hits all the touchstones of this argument; “sense of wonder” is juvenile, “sense of wonder” is somehow antithetical to actual characterization, and lastly “sense of wonder” is a trope used primarily to detract from the serious issues that SF should be addressing.
Last one first. That argument annoys the hell out of me. It is basically the same idea as Mundane SF, but actually used as a value judgment. Frankly if you think that my fiction has to address a particular laundry-list of “complicated human problems, and stark political realities” in order to be found worthy, well you can kiss my hairy white ass. That doesn’t even count as an argument vs. “sense of wonder,” its just the same old pedantic assertion that “good” fiction has to be “good” for you.
Characterization? I pointed out that canard in my prior post, and this one. Short version: Characterization is a story element independent of setting and genre. IF IT SUCKS, THE STORY SUCKS, REGARDLESS WHAT THE STORY’S ABOUT.
Finally, the idea it is juvenile? Hyperion anyone? What this argument is actually about is the dismissal of literature attempting to engage an emotional effect. Some folks think that if the emotion is a positive uplifting one then the work is naive, childish and fluffy. This is not limited to SF and sense of wonder, it is also the stick wielded against all romance, it is the snooty attitude that all pretentious literati take toward the idea of “entertainment” in general. This isn’t a value judgment on the literature, it is a value judgment on what the literature is trying to do. It is akin to complaining that a microwave doesn’t do your dishes.
We are in interesting times at the moment. We are about to have the first trial for piracy in a century (if you discount RIAA lawsuits) and it brought home to me what may be the greatest challenge the modern nation-state faces in the 21st Century, and that is the breakdown of the state itself. If you take the Libertarian definition of a State (and why wouldn’t I?) as the entity with a monopolistic control over the use of force in a given geographic region, Somolia has no state. Nor do large parts of Mexico and Pakistan. It is likely that these “stateless” areas of the world will grow and multiply in the current global economic crisis, spawning pirates, drug-lords, terrorists and other heavily armed non-state actors that attack state interests for political and economic reasons, perhaps both.
As the war in Afghanistan shows, it is difficult and costly to impose a state into a stateless region. I suspect “fixing” the problem is not going to be pleasant. In fact, we might see the west finding the idea of paternalistic no-Imperialism so distasteful that it will cede the state-building to regimes less squeamish, say China perhaps?
Spring is here, and Bow-Wow Beach is back open.
Passed 75K on Wolfbreed 2, which means I’m very close to wrapping up the first draft of this novel. Now all I need is a new title. (Haven’t we been here before?)
I promise to get back to writing posts and inane music videos soon, but politics this week has just about made my head explode. I don’t even have the energy to rant anymore. I’m just going to bullet point some highlights:
Americans may not know or care that the UK Government is having a bit of a PR meltdown, which is crystallized in the following qute from the troubled PM Brown: “I take full responsibility for what happened. That’s why the person who was responsible went immediately.” This quote sounds like it came from a alternate reality where Yogi Berra was Nixon’s speechwriter.
Second, if you are a school of journalism, giving a journalistic award to an alleged journalist, should you then be arresting journalists who are covering your event?
Third, if you are a representative in congress, should you be calling current “tax” protests despicable and shameful when your husband pleaded guilty to tax violations and bank fraud in 2005? (via Instapundit)