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Saturday, October 25, 2014

On #GamerGate -- Final Thoughts Before I Find Something Else to Do

If you have no idea what GamerGate is, the Wiki page gives a decent enough summary of the major events.  Additional details can be found at RationalWiki.

This is the only post I will write on this subject.  At this point, I'm basically "over it."  The whole thing is a monumental mess.  There's abuse on both sides, accusations flying everywhere, and, once more, a lot of hard divisions.  If GG had a purpose beyond its 4Chan origins, I think it's now over with, either because the well-meaning people within it could not control the narrative or because GG was always a hijacked movement whose membership, in part, was about attacking women (I lean more towards the latter).  For example, here's a rough statistical analysis of what GamerGaters have been talking about in the last month; hint:  ethics in journalism is pretty low on the list.

So this is all I'm saying on GamerGate.  I will not Tweet about it again.  I will not write more blog posts.  If someone decides to create an organized body of folks who are against corruption in games journalism, I'll support it, but I cannot in good conscience support GG.

These are my final thoughts:

Friday, October 10, 2014

On Language and Reinforcing Bigotry

[Note:  statistics will vary considerably depending where you are in the world.  I'm using statistics and studies which are mostly relevant to the United States, and so this post will focus accordingly.  This is my comfort zone, but I encourage others to take a look at these same concerns as they relate to their cultural contexts.]

Language is our responsibility.  How we use it determines everything from our ability to communicate with one another to how we talk about other people to how we describe the world we all share.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

I didn't really have high hopes for The Maze Runner (2014).  Sure, I looked forward to seeing it on the off chance that it would be a lot of fun, but I didn't expect it to be a particularly "good" movie.  And it's not, but neither is it "bad."  The Maze Runner is just another entry in a long line of YA dystopia adaptations, one which never seems to escape the confines of a cinematic formula.

At its most basic, The Maze Runner can be summed up as follows:
Thomas wakes up in a mysterious elevator cage without any memory of who or where he is, only to be thrust into the company of a ragtag group of boys who have learned to survive in the Glade, which rests at the center of a massive, murderous maze.  But Thomas isn't as willing to accept the status quo as the rest.  Desperate to understand why they are in the Maze and who designed it, Thomas tries to piece together his fragmented memories and find a way out of the Maze.  Doing so, however, may threaten the entire community...
The premise of the film is fairly standard YA dystopia stuff, although what apparently separates Thomas from the rest of the boys is his curiosity, which sounds less like a magic skill than some kind of behavioral conditioning that the film barely acknowledges.  Fans of the books have been raving about this film, as to be expected, which might explain why it has earned nearly $200mil worldwide as of Oct. 5th, 2014.  But I'm not convinced that The Maze Runner will have a lasting impact.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Dear DC: Little Girls Play Board Games, Too

The folks on Sword and Laser recently had a brief discussion about the Justice League:  Axis of Villains board game, which apparently includes no women.  Peter V. Brett has a post about it here.  In short, his daughter didn't want to play the game because it didn't even have Wonder Woman.

WONDER WOMAN.  The single most important female superhero in the entire DC canon is not in a fucking board game meant to be played by children.

I cannot express how angry and disappointed I am in DC over this.  Every single time I hear something about DC, it's shit like this.  DC saying something dumb about women.  DC releasing creepy suicide PSAs w/ Harley Quinn practically nude in a bathtub.  DC not including women.  DC bad.  DC bad.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

No, Repetition Does Not Mean Science Fiction is Stagnating...Per Se

(This is going to be a bit ranty.  Be prepared.) 

There's been a bit of talk lately about Project Hieroglyph, an Arizona State University anthology (and website) which attempts to address the argument in Neal Stephenson's "Innovation Starvation."  I recommend reading that essay yourself; it makes some compelling points about science fiction and the failure of contemporary culture to meet the demands of the 1960s imagination.  Here, I'd like to talk about Ed Finn's (editor of Project Hieroglyph) article at Slate.com:  "The Inspiration Drought:  Why Our Science Fiction Needs New Dreams."

In fairness, I came to this article via a wildly misleading headline on io9.  Finn's actual argument concerns the recycling of ideas within and outside of science fiction proper and its impact on science.  Finn argues that

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Purpose of Science Fiction (and, Technically, Fantasy)

In the 200th episode of The Coode Street Podcast, the hosts (Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe) and guests (Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Silverberg, and Jo Walton) briefly discussed the seemingly nebulous question, “Does science fiction have a purpose?”  It's worth a listen.

I would respond initially by saying that the question is somewhat malformed.  In what sense does any literary product have a purpose except that provided by the author, which is necessarily individual?  Even if the author defines a purpose, should that have any bearing on whether the text is perceived as having that defined purpose?

I personally subscribe to the view that in matters of interpretation, intent is irrelevant.  What the author meant to do, insofar as we can even know it, has no bearing on how the work can or should be perceived, in no small part because what a reader perceives is more valid than what the author thought they were creating.  Perception is the conversation.  I also tend to think that unless we can have universal access to intention, by which we would need not only biographical and personal writings, but also actual access to the mind, then an author's intent is useless to us.  How am I supposed to know what the author really intended to do?  This is not to suggest that we can't discuss intent, mind; rather, I'm suggesting that we shouldn't assume intent as the sole arbiter of interpretation or perception.

However, purpose is something quite different from intended-reception.  whatever the author intended as the purpose of a written work need not determine how we interpret that text’s purpose.  Intent and purpose, in other words, are different beasts, as the former concerns the activity of production while the latter merges production and perception together.  We can, after all, discuss the success of a text in its presentation of a message while also discussing the other interpretative possibilities of a given text.  Indeed, the purpose, insofar as one is defined, only offers possibilities, as it does not suggest "this is the only way to read the text," but rather that "the author meant to do Y, but what we see are A, B, and Q."  (Alternatively, it might be helpful to avoid the total linguistic separation and simply make a distinction between "purpose" as an intention" and "purpose" as an end product.  But maybe that's abstract, too.  Oh well.)

To return to the question of science fiction's purpose:  as I noted in my post on the taxonomy of genre, science fiction doesn't seem to me to fall under the traditional category of genre anymore because it lacks the narrative devices which define all of the other market genres (crime, etc.); science fiction, in other words, is a supergenre because it is conceptual, though it s possible to think that at one point, science fiction had a narrative practice.  In a similar sense, I think the purpose of science fiction has been obscured by time.  At one point, the most obvious purpose for the genre might have been to entertain (as in the Pulp Era) or to expound upon the radically changing world of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and so on and so forth.

Now, I think the genre's purpose is less apparent, and perhaps for good reason.  It can entertain, experiment, extrapolate, examine, elucidate, and encapsulate.  There is no singular purpose anymore than there is a singular narrative space.  And that's another reason why I think science fiction is one of the most important literary genres, as its narrative spaces, purposes, and perspectives exist in an endless sea of variations.  One can write science fiction for any number of reasons -- and one should feel comfortable doing so.  Entertainment, experimentation, whatever.

The idea that we can identify a singular or minute number of purposes for this genre is an exercise in futility, because science fiction cannot be a genre of limits if it is to also be a genre of endless narrative possibilities.

What do you all think?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Video Found: John Brunner on SF

This is making the rounds: John Brunner talking about genre classification, sf poetry, and so on. What it reveals, I think, is the cyclical nature of the sf community. We keep coming back to the same questions, but it's surprising how little progress we seem to have made in these matters. At least a good number of academics have stopped trying to define sf.