Star Trek Over Time

I’m super curious about the new Star Trek show that will eventually be coming out, a bit delayed. The original is one of the shows I grew up with. And the entire set of series mark the changes of the world I’ve known over my life.

The Original Series is a cult classic. It’s Wagon Train to the Stars! It has the optimistic bravado of the early Cold War with a bit of an edge with the changing culture during the 1960s. It was largely escapist fantasy during a troubled era, but it was written and produced by those who remembered an earlier time. It resonated with the Golden Age of hard science fiction with its focus on technology and spaceships, exploration and adventure, along with some fun and imaginative ideas thrown in. It ended in 1969, before real world events turned even uglier in the 1970s, not to imply that American society wasn’t already taking a severe downturn.

I’ll skip over The Animated Series. It was a product of the 1970s, but it was very much an extension of The Original Series. I never watched much of it. The quality of the animation was equivalent of Scooby-Doo. The 1970s wasn’t known for its great animation, at least not on network tv, even if some of the cheap cartoons could be amusing for a child to watch. Anyway, Gene Roddenberry never considered The Animated Series to be canon.

Moving onto the 1980s and 1990s, there was The Next Generation. It revived the Star Trek world, brought the original out of status of mere cult classic and cheap rerun fodder. TNG was a truly high quality production. It made this future society much more compelling and realistic. The starship was an entire multicultural community with families, schools, entertainment, social events, etc. It was a utopian vision of technocratic socialism where the welfare state and social democracy had been pushed to their furthest extreme with all basic needs taken care of and all resources and opportunities made accessible, although a socialism that offered an alternative to the hard-edged communist totalitarianism of the Borg.

This particular futuristic imagining was the last gasp of Cold War optimism, the supposed end of history where capitalism had won and yet was becoming something entirely new. The show was initially produced during the last years of the Cold War and the beginning of the boom years that followed. It was a calmer time of history in the US and the West with no major wars or conflicts. Yet there was a growing edge of anxiety in the broader society. Threats of societal unease within the Federation mirrored the same in the United States, the tensions of a vast imperial-like civilization in both cases fraying at the edges with terrorism becoming an issue.

Interestingly, the Maquis were introduced in Deep Space Nine. That next series began in the last years of the previous series, The Next Generation. The Maquis were a terrorist group that arose at the frontier of the Federation, as some of the far-flung planetary colonists felt abandoned and betrayed by the centralized government. As TNG was still being produced, the Maquis storyline bled over into that series.

After the Cold War, Americans found themselves subjects of an empire and not sure what that meant. And those societies at the edge of the American Empire also were feeling on edge, as a new era of unchallenged neoliberalism came into dominance. It was a time of political conflict and culture wars. Without the global conflict of the Cold War, public attention turned toward these fractures within the Western world.

Years before the 9/11 terrorist attack, right-wing fanatics in the US and abroad were becoming central concerns. Ted Kazynski, the unabomber, continued his bombings through the early 1990s, the last two incidents killing the targeted victims, until he was arrested in 1996. The same year as Kazynski’s last bombing there was the Oklahoma City bombing, the largest act of domestic terrorism in US history. That was committed as retaliation for the 1993 violent conflict in WACO, involving the federal government and a religious cult that had been stockpiling weapons. There was also much violence by anti-abortion terrorists, including numerous murders in the 1990s. Outside of the US but in the English-speaking world, there was an upsurge of IRA bombings around that time as well, 28 attacks during the 7 years of TNG series.

On top of all that, it was a time of worsening racial and ethnic conflict. There was the police beating of Rodney King and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The tension of that decade was maybe exacerbated by the Immigration Act of 1990, which greatly increased the number of immigrants for the first time in decades. There was a realization that WASP culture was once again under threat. Fox News took advantage of those fears not just with right-wing pundits but also with hiring tall blonde women who represented the stereotype of the Aryan ideal, the white male audience presumably were supposed to fantasize about these women bearing them a new generation of Aryan children who would save America and lead us into the future… or something like that.

It was in this atmosphere that DS9 was produced. It showed a different side of the Federation and presented the first main captain character of a Star Trek series that was black. It was set on a space station near a wormhole and a highly religious planet, former territory of the Cardassian Union. The issues of the show were about conflicts, often violent, between various societies and groups within societies. These conflicts were often religious and ethnic in nature, but it also portrayed a setting of a multicultural meeting point where key characters of different races worked together and formed friendships.

The future of the Federation was being threatened like never before, but the enemies involved weren’t what the Federation was used to dealing with. The challenges faced were less of the variety of mighty space empires or communist-like Borg, but instead primarily the dangers of local religious fanatics and the menace of a highly advanced and secretive race of shapeshifters. The Dominion was an enemy that could be anywhere and appear like anyone. It wasn’t always clear, in DS9, who were enemies and who were friends or at least potential allies, as everything was in flux. Relationships, personal and political, were sometimes strained to the breaking point. And it was the destruction of the Maquis, caught in the middle, that was a prelude to war with the Dominion.

Back in the world of the United States, the sociopolitical mood during the mid-to-late-1990s was beginning to sour with the rise of a new kind of reactionary and conspiratorial right-wing that was given a platform through talk radio and Fox News: Alex Jones, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, etc. The Cold War had been about American might expanding onto the global theater and also a time of exploration of space. But in the last decade of the century, American society had turned more inward. The United States was drifting along into the future, we Americans having lost our cultural bearings. Many sensed an impending doom with our civilization approaching the year 2000 and along with it the third millennium, a symbolic calendrical shift giving rise to a foreboding mood as if almost anything could happen, even the end of the world as we knew it.

The reason the Maquis had been brought into the Star Trek world was as a plot device for the then upcoming series, Voyager. That next series, having begun in 1995, took over when The Next Generation ended. The confident optimism of the earlier Star Trek series had entirely evaporated. The new storyline was about a Federation starship and a Maquis starship becoming lost in distant and unknown stretches of space. The stability and safety of the Federation are gone. The crews are forced to join together in hope of finding their way home again. They are thrown into the unintended role of explorers, a rough-and-ready crew reminiscent of the the Federation’s early years.

Like these former enemies who became necessary shipmates, the bitterly antagonistic two-party system of the 1990s found itself unprepared for a world not expected or understood. DS9 having ended in 1999, Voyager carried us into a new century and a new era. The last episode of Voyager was aired only months before the 9/11 terrorist attack. The Voyager had made its way back to the Federation and soon after, outside of the Star Trek world, the United States would regain a sense of national purpose. But the economic good times were already winding down with the bust of the Dot-com bubble. America’s sense of greatness would be militaristic, not economic.

In the new century, Americans became even more obsessed with the national history. Maybe unsurprising, the last aired Star Trek series, Enterprise, brought us to the beginning of the Federation or rather slightly before its formation. That series demonstrated the mood of simultaneously looking back and peering forward. The period of the Enterprise was the Federation’s past and our future. According to the Star Trek timeline, this present century will involve World War III and a period of post-atomic horror. Following that comes first contact with an alien species. Later this century, human society begins to recover. And it is in the next century that humans become a spacefaring civilization, the story told in the Enterprise series.

Watching that series is to see the initial fumbling steps of humanity moving toward maturity as a species, but humans at that point are still largely arrogant toward and ignorant of the world beyond Earth. Many mistakes are made, as humanity attempts to gain a moral compass. For example, the Enterprise crew are confronted with a situation where they have to decide about intervention and this is prior to any Prime Directive, as there is no Federation yet. The Prime Directive has often been interpreted as a criticism of American interventionism, such as during the Vietnam War, but it took on new meaning during the post-9/11 years when the Enterprise series was aired.

For various reasons, many fans disliked that series. It maybe doesn’t help that it is the only series involving a non-Federation crew. A Star Trek show minus the Federation is not quite the same. It is specifically the vision of the future offered by the Federation that has attracted so many fans. But maybe it would have been hard for Americans to feel much interest in any Star Trek series in that early period of the War on Terror, a time when dark and dystopian entertainment captured the public imagination.

Yet in its own way, the Enterprise series did resonate. It maybe resonated too well, in presenting a future that was too close for comfort. In the 21st century, we are entering into the future history of the Star Trek world and it ain’t pretty. The coming years are supposed to be a time of mass unemployment, poverty, and homelessness which leads to the formation of ghettoized Sanctuary Districts and ends up inciting the Bell riots of 2024. It’s a pivotal moment, the setting of the stage for the events that move us toward global disaster and rebuilding. In its inspiration, it mirrors another pivotal moment, as the idea of the Bell riots was based on two real world events from decades ago: the 1970 Kent State shootings and the 1971 Attica Prison riot.

The era of the early Starfleet is born out of the ashes of, from our perspective, a yet to happen near apocalypse. With the mood of America and the rest of the world right now, World War III and nuclear destruction seems all the more probable. Our present fearless leader, President Trump, is a dumbed down and even less competent version of our last demoralizing chief of state, President Nixon with his inglorious impeachment and resignation, providing yet another link between the events of the 1970s and contemporary developments in the 21st century. As we face the future, it’s an immense gulf between our petty American Empire and the grand galactic civilization of the Federation guided by wise leaders such as Captain Picard.

That leaves us with the next installment. Coming soon is the Discovery series. It will return us to the time period of the original Star Trek, approximately ten years before. So, this will involve a refocusing on exploration and, well, discovery. I’m not expecting a re-envisioned Wagon Trail to the Stars, but I suspect the recent movies in the franchise very well might be indicative of the direction being taken. It supposedly is intended to help bridge the 150 years between the Enterprise and the original. I must say that sounds rather ambitious.

I’ll be curious to see how it might touch upon contemporary issues. One thing that stood out to me is that the cast is described as diverse, including a gay character. I don’t recall homosexuality coming up in the original show, but Captain Kirk had interracial kisses in two separate episodes which was scandalous for mainstream tv at the time. Whatever kind of show it is, it will be nice to return to my favorite fictional universe. And I certainly wouldn’t mind the opportunity to escape dark and depressing present realities, by leaping forward a couple centuries into the future. Star Trek, at its best, has been a visionary show and even leaning toward the utopian. We Americans could use some confident optimisim at the moment.

Introverted Delights

I’ve been watching Westworld. It’s my favorite show at the moment. That is saying a lot, considering it’s competition. The second season of The Man in the High Castle is about to come out, based on a novel I love by my favorite fiction writer. And the always entertaining Game of Thrones will be returning soon. But neither of those shows competes with Westworld.

Westworld is popular. But even though it has higher viewer ratings than Game of Thrones, it has much more mixed reviews. It’s such a complex show. The plotlines of Westworld are immensely more complicated than the sprawling narrative world of Game of Thrones. This makes it all the more impressive that it is so popular.

For some people, they see it as too cerebral. I wonder why that is. There is more emotional depth to this show in many ways than a show like Game of Thrones that is focused so much on physical action of fighting, on political machinations and worldly power. The inner experience of Westworld characters is conveyed to a much greater extent. Maybe that is what is difficult for some people, specifically extraverts.

Westworld, despite the outward action and adventure of the virtual world portrayed, is ultimately a show maybe best appreciated by an introvert. So many of the main characters on the show seem rather inwardly drawn and guarded about their most personal experience, which is unusual for mainstream action-oriented sci-fi. The point of the entire show revolves around growing self-awareness and the strengthening of an inner voice, the kind of thing that preoccupies introverts.

Some people wonder what is the point of all the convoluted plotlines, multitudinous cultural references, and in-show commentary of obscure ideas. Also, there is the simultaneous celebration and questioning of genre tropes. Is it embracing “guns and tits and all that mindless shit”? Or is the entire show a criticism of that, an exploration of what it means for our humanity? Maybe both. From my perspective, that just makes the show more interesting. But the basic show can be enjoyed on a much simpler level, even ignoring the sex and violence, as much of the character development is fairly straightforward. The motivation of characters is revealed as the show goes on, assuming enough imagination and curiosity pulls you in to follow the characters on their path of emergence.

The tricky part is that the identities of characters isn’t immediately apparent, only being revealed as their pasts are revealed. This is a slow reveal with glimpses of a murky past gradually coming into focus. The exploration of motivation is a learning experience as much for the characters themselves as for the viewers. We are meant to identify and empathize with the characters as individuals and not merely to be caught up in their actions and relationships with other characters.

This requires of the viewer both patience and immersion, along with suspension of disbelief about the entire fictional world. It’s an act of imaginative speculation taken to an extreme degree, an attempt to bring we the viewers into the borderlands of consciousness and of humanity. Some people have more tolerance than others for that kind of thing, but this is what the best sci-fi is able to achieve. That is what the producers of the Westworld show have been attempting, it being fair game to argue over how well they achieved it. Still, no matter how well done, these themes aren’t exactly of mainstream interest. Most viewers probably just want to see robots revolting and, for those folk, this show does deliver on that promise.

Still, Westworld is constrained by the sub-genre it belongs to. There is a central element of dark mystery and claustrophobic focus that is typical of gritty neo-noir, always leaving certain things unseen and unexplained. Take the slow burn of Blade Runner, exaggerate and complicate it, spread it across an entire show series with no linear plotline or single dominant protagonist, and that is what you get with Westworld. This isn’t a world-building exercise like some traditional fantasy and space operas where every detail is articulated and the background fully described. Everything in the narrative revolves around the characters and about what it means to be human.

This season introduced the individuals and their place in the world. The exploration of the larger world, if it is to happen, will be developed in the next season. The hosts, having gained consciousness, will no longer be trapped in voice commands, character scripts, and narrative loops. The inward focus likely will turn ever more outward, as the hosts try to grasp what kind of world they find themselves in. That is the natural progression of emerging consciousness, whether for a child or an android.

Alternative Visions, Radical Imagination

When Science Fiction Stopped Caring About the Future
by Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic

Over here is Le Guin, taking a stand for science fiction on the grounds that “we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.” And over here is Star Wars, showing you more pictures of the Millennium Falcon. So much for Le Guin’s call to elevate creators who know “the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.”

writing & reading, democracy & despotism 
by Kenan Malik, Pandaemonium

Ursula Le Guin
‘Resistance and change often begin in art’

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

The full text of the talk was published in the Guardian; there is also a video of the talk.

Science Fiction and the Post-Ferguson World: “There Are as Many Ways to Exist as We Can Imagine”
by Mary Hansen, YES!

Again, this is why we need science fiction. We often can’t imagine that things could be different because we can’t imagine alternative systems. Ursula LeGuin just gave an incredible speech at the National Book Awards, where she talked about this and said people can’t imagine a world without capitalism. Well, there was a time when people couldn’t imagine a world without the divine right of kings.

But the writers, the visionaries, those folks who are able to imagine freedom are absolutely necessary to opening up enough space for folks to imagine that there’s a possibility to exist outside of the current system.

I think it’s been a concerted effort to erase those possibilities. These systems that we live under are incredibly unnatural. This is not the way we’re supposed to live. It takes indoctrination to get us to a point where we believe that this is the way things should be. When we take a small step outside that, we are able to break that indoctrination and see that this is not the only way, and in fact there are as many ways to exist as we can imagine.

 

 

sensawunda

sensawunda

Posted on Nov 28th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
Sensawunda is the sf genre term for sense of wonder.  I’ve come across the term before, but I was just thinking about how its something I value highly in fiction.  I was reminded of it because I came across a blog that  was questioning if it was missing in contemporary fiction.  I don’t feel like analyzing the concept, but one interesting idea stood out to me.  The Wikipedia entry contrasted sense of wonder with the numinous in gothic horror.  One blogger I came across thought the term awe covered both the sensawunda and the numinous.  I agree.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense_of_wonder

http://futurismic.com/2008/11/22/has-science-fictions-sensawunda-lost-its-sense-of-wonder/

http://www.bookslut.com/science_fiction_skeptic/2007_12_012076.php

http://allumination.wordpress.com/2008/04/01/sensawunda-removal-machine/

http://sensawunda.wordpress.com/

Access_public Access: Public What do you think? Print Post this!views (94)  

Horror and Science Fiction

Horror and Science Fiction

Posted on Nov 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

My friend reads a lot of horror fiction.  I’ve never been all that attracted to horror even though it crosses over with the fantasy genre which is something I read quite a bit.  However, because of my friend, I’ve learned a lot about horror and begun to read some.  He enjoys reading many of the small press horror writers which actually are some of the better horror writers from what I understand.  For instance, my friend says that a number of horror writers consider Ligotti to be one of the best living horror writers and yet Ligotti is practically unknown.

Anyways, my friend and I talk about fiction all of the time.  We share some of the same favorite writers (such as William S. Burroughs and Barry Yourgrau), but usually we’re reading entirely different authors.  In particular, this past year or so, my friend has read hardly nothing else besides horror.  So, even though I’ve read only a smattering of horror, I’ve listened to my friend read quotes from and give synopsis of hundreds of horror stories.

I’ve come to have more respect for the horror genre.  Because it deals with human suffering in such a direct fashion, its heavily influenced by philosophical and religious ideas.  Interestingly, horror has attracted a number of writers of the Catholic persuasion.  Horror writers for sure have been influenced by the ideas of Catholocism: original sin, fallen world, demonology, etc.

I pretty much appreciate any imaginative fiction partly because imaginative fiction tends to be fiction of profound ideas.  Philip K. Dick is one of the writers of profound ideas, but he is somewhat opposite from horror writers.  PKD used Science fiction for his plots even though his stories were often more fundamentally fantasy.  The closest that PKD came to horror would’ve been A Scanner Darkly.  That book could be made into horror with only minor changes.

I was discussing with my friend the differences between the genres.  I was thinking about how its rare for writers to combine horror and science fiction, and when they do its usually through the mediation of fantasy.  Fantasy crosses over easily with both horror and science fiction maybe because fantasy is a more general category.

I’m reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson right now.  I started it quite a while back but became distracted by other books.  I decided to finish it now as its a direct influence on Google Earth and other virtual worlds.  It has some similarities to PKD: the average hero and the interspersing of philosophical discussion.  But its a bit more hard sci-fi than PKD tended towards. 

Hard sci-fi often goes for these massive multiperspective epic narratives.  This is quite different from horror.  Horror is more likely to go for the small scale and single perspective.  Horror writing often creates a sense of isolation and claustrophobia through an extreme subjective narrative voice.  This disallows one to see outside of the character and thus magnifies the emotional impact. 

Ligotti believes you need the subjective perspective of a single human to register the horror.  A horror story can’t be portrayed from the perspective of the monster.  The monster portrayed can never touch upon the imagination in the same way as a monster left as a mystery.  This is why Lovecraft stories too often make terrible movies because monsters in movies can come off as simply ridiculous.  Horror is a profound emotion that isn’t fundamentally about blood and guts.  Slasher movies aren’t the most horrific stories.

Besides the claustrophobia of subjectivity, the other technique is intimacy.  Almost everyone remembers sitting around a campfire or in a tent sharing ghost stories.  This is often recreated in horror stories.  Poe used this technique, for instance, in The Telltale Heart.  The main character in that story is telling the story in what seems to be a confession.  This intimacy creates sympathy all the while throwing one off with questions of the narrator’s reliability.  Part of the horror is how the narrator tries to make sense what happened or else tries to rationalize what he did.

How this is different from science fiction is that with sf there is much more action by and interaction between characters.  SF characters may spend pages explaining some idea but they don’t tend to tell the story.  The narrator’s voice is more likely to be less identified with the subjective perspective or at least not a single subjective perspective.

This is intriguing in what it says about human nature.  Science fiction tends towards the optimistic by taking on the big picture.  Horror tends towards the pessimistic by confining it to the small view.

Access_public Access: Public 17 Comments Print Post this!views (152)  

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

about 7 hours later

tuffy777 said

Actually, Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Father Thing” is horror.  Hollywood ripped it off for the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  – nice article! 
  ~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Nice to meet ya tuffy!  I see you just joined.  I’m glad you liked what I wrote and you compliment me by calling it an article. 

You are correct about “The Father Thing”.  That story is very much like a traditional horror story, but it was more of an original idea when he wrote it of course.  Yes, Hollywood has benefited from PKD.

Do you know of any other PKD stories that could be considered horror?

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

about 14 hours later

tuffy777 said

well, there’s my favorite, “Roog”, in which the dog is trying to warn the family that the garbage collectors are monsters
  – and many more, so I’ll name some more stories later
  ~~~

 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 15 hours later

Marmalade said

I’ve read Roog.  I guess I didn’t think of that story as horror, but I guess it could be labelled such in a more general way.  Its true that the dog did see the garbage collectors as monsters.  As I see it, PKD does use elements of horror, but for me his fiction doesn’t usually have the feeling of horror.  However, there is much from PKD I haven’t read and so maybe they’re are more horror-like stories I’m unaware of.

Do you read much horror?  And how do you define horror?  I usually define horror as any fiction that creates a feeling of horror, but that isn’t how everyone defines it.  As I see it, many shows such as Buffy aren’t horror even though they use elements of horror because they don’t cause a feeling of horror.  Then again, horror merges with dark fantasy and so there is a wide variety.  And, besides, what causes horror to one person might not cause horror to another.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

about 17 hours later

tuffy777 said

My choice of reading material is quite eclectic, ranging from newspapers and scientific journals to humorous poetry, and from classics to comic books.

Most of my “reading” of horror has been movies, but I have read “Frankenstein”, “Dracula” and “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde”. I read Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire”, but I classify that more as a romance than as horror.

I used to teach classes in horror fiction and film, and when I asked my students to define horror, I got many different answers. My own definition is that horror first evokes fear and then purges it, much as the Greek tragedies did. I have a book titled “The Thrill of Fear”, and that title suggests that horror is like a roller coaster ride – first we scream, but then we laugh.

~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 24 hours later

Marmalade said

Same here.  My reading is eclectic too, but I can’t say I read scientific journals too often.  I suppose that most of my “reading” of horror has also been movies.  Plus, I’ve read some interesting nonfiction books about horror the past couple of years.  Two really cool books are The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson and The Melancholy Android by Eric G. Wilson. 

I don’t think I’d previously heard of the book you mention.  I did a search on it and I think I might enjoy it.  I like books that give an overview.  I also like books where the subject is analyzed across many media such as film and books.

Your definition of horror is pretty good.  I think that fits a lot of horror.  I was thinking, though, about how Ligotti would likely disagree.  I get the sense that he wants to evoke fear without purging it aferwards, but maybe fear is purged just by the story ending.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

1 day later

tuffy777 said

Most horror fiction either kills or confines the monster at the end. That is why “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” were so shocking to audiences of their time.

The author of “The Thrill of Fear” is Walter Kendrick. Perhaps that will help you to find it?

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

Cool discussion. I like the generalizations you made, Ben.

One of the most horrific stories I ever read I am not sure whether was fantasy or scifi. I have read a ton of the latter and almost none of the former. It was about white spiders, and how their bite would cause one to live in an alternate reality but not know that…. I have no ideas of author or title. But I know it led me to doubt my reality for many days, and of course to get even more phobic about light-colored spiders than I already am about them ALL !!!!!!

Most people might not think that having one’s sense of reality undermined or shaken is “horror” but to me it might be the ultimate of horror…….

Does either of you consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as horror? I don’t remember any specifics about it now, except a few generalities, but the protagonist does say, at the end, as he looks back on his life “The horror [of it all that I have done…] and one FEELS that along with him. A kind of almost self-annihilating guilt. That’s pretty horrifying, too !!!!!!

Blessings,
OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Welcome to the discussion, OM.  I’d have to think much more about it to figure out how much these generalizations make sense.  I haven’t analyzed the horror genre all that thoroughly.  I usually only care about horror to the extent that it relates to sf.

The experience of having your sense of reality undermined could potentially fit into the horror genre.  I’m somewhat familiar with the horror writers Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp, and they both play around with the sense of reality.  I love any writer of any genre that plays around with my sense of reality. 

PKD plays around with reality perception, but he doesn’t exactly focus on the horrific experience of it.  The reason is that PKD’s characters tend to take on an attitude of problem-solving which lessens the emotional impact of horror.  PKD’s protagonists don’t usually have a victim mindset.  They most often either overcome their problems or at least aren’t overwhelmed by them.

I don’t know about Heart of Darkness.  I did a quick search about it in reference to the horror genre.  I saw an article which stated that it could’ve been categorized as horror when it was first published.  I wouldn’t consider it horror myself, but my memory of it isn’t perfectly clear.  I read it in highschool and don’t remember experiencing it as horrific.  Even though some horror is expressed in it, I don’t think it has an overall feeling of horror.  That is a good example though because I’m not sure what the dividing line is.  My friend likes Conrad and I’ll ask him what he thinks.

Of books I read in highschool, I personally found some other books more horrific.  Lord of the Flies was pretty darn horrific in that it was so believable.  Another novel was Hardy’s Jude the Obscure which has had a longterm existentially horrific influence on my poor psyche.

Its kind of hard to make an objective definition of horror as the experience itself is so subjective.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

Yeah, I agree about Lord of the Flies. I am glad I’ve never read Jude the Obscure !!

Must we distinguish horror from terror from upset? From being disturbed or shaken? As you say, the experience is so subjective. My question is prompted by a couple of disturbing books I read when much younger: George Orwell’s 1984 tops the list, and Animal Farm was very upsetting to me also, but there are psychological torture things in 1984 which freak/creep me out to this day if I ever think of them.
 
That’s cool, about the attitudes of PKD heroes !! And it’s cool that you love having your sense of reality messed with !! I can appreciate the great flexibility that requires. (I have more now than I did when younger.) Do you think that’s an Intuitive characterstic, flexibility around “realities?”

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

We mustn’t anything at all.  In some ways, genres are arbitrary categories.  A funny thing is how any genre writer that is particularly talented gets put in the mainstream literature section of bookstores and libraries.  If a writer is good, his writings must not be genre because by definition genre is crap.  For instance, I’ve read plenty of genre fiction that is closer to mainstream literature than is Kafka.  I think Kafka is one of the greatest horror writers who ever lived.
I’d be perfectly happy if they simply got rid of genre categories or else made them more relevant.  In particular, horror doesn’t seem like a real genre to me.  I’ve always considered it to be a sub-category of dark fantasy which is further a sub-category of speculative fiction overall.

Do I think flexibility around “realities” is an Intuitive characteristic?  By definition, the Sensation function is the tendency towards concrete reality and a conservative attitude.  Sensation types prefer life to not change and be reliable.  It also comes down to the thin vs thick boundary types which correlates.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

2 days later

tuffy777 said

Hi, OM, and thanx fur joining the discussion! You have some pawesome ideas!

When we discuss horror, we tend to think of monsters like Godzilla and the Mummy, but the monster story is only a subdivision of the horror genre.

“Heart of Darkness” is an excellent choice because it is the story of a whtie European man coming to the realization that the horror of the “dark” continent of Africa is actually in his own heart, and not in the dark-sknned natives.

I believe that the horror is greater when you become a monster, than when a monster attacks you.

The irreality of one’s external world is also a type of horror. For example, in PKD’s novel “UBIK”, we can’t be sure who really died in the explosion and who survived. Somebody is in cryogenic storage with a futuristic telephone attached to the coffin, while somebody else is on the outside and still living.

Another PKD novel that I consider horror is “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”, in which a recreational drug turns people into evil cyborgs.

~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

21 days later

Marmalade said

Hey tuffy… in case you notice this new comment…
“I believe that the horror is greater when you become a monster, than when a monster attacks you.”
I lost my first response. Let me try to partially reconstruct my argument.
Yes and no to what you said. Yes, horror is more relevant the closer it is to one’s own experience. No, horror in its most profound form can’t be described in human terms. Horror is only horrific to the degree that it has an element of Otherness. But, as Ligotti theorizes, horror necessitates a human or human-like character to register it. Even in “Heart of Darkness”, the protagonist experiences the horror at some distance as he is an observer entering into the world of horror. That is a common technique.
On a different note, I wanted to return to another idea. I found this following quote which relates to the distinction I made between Science Fiction and Horror.

Aron’s twofold task was to remind us, first, that there is no human nature unsullied by the Fall and, second, to suggest, as does orthodox Christianity, that what prophets of the absolute decry as a disaster was in fact a “fortunate fall,” a condition of our humanity. The utopian is optimistic about man, pessimistic about particular men and women: “I think I know man,” Rousseau sadly wrote, “but as for men, I know them not.” The anti-utopian is pessimistic, or at least disabused, about man; this forgiving pessimism frees him to be optimistic about individuals.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

22 days later

tuffy777 said

Hi, Marmalade.  You make some good points, but consider this:

When a monster attacks, you can lose your life.
But when you become a monster, you can lose your soul.
Many children of the 1960s learned this tragic lesson when they became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

  ~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

22 days later

Marmalade said

Horror is a rather general term. There are many kinds and degrees of horror. Its an interesting question to consider what is most horrific. Everyone would probably have a different answer. To me, ultimate horror is a complete metaphysical Otherness… the dark wrathful face of God or elsethe silent infinite Void.

What is horrific about how serial killers are portrayed isn’t the fact that they’re human, but that they’re made into the monstrous Other. I notice how the news media resists giving any explanations or insights which leaves every event as an inexplicable phenomena. There are no reasons, just the gritty details of reality, facts that add up to nothing… now, that is what seems horrific to me.

The movie “Monster” made this point. Its the only serial killer movie that fully expressed the human side of the killer and thus made her seem less monstrous. Its psychological realism is what encouraged empathy rather than horror.

As for the horror of addiction, “A Scanner Darkly” is truly awesome. Another good one (in a suicidally depressing kind of way) is “A Requiem for a Dream”.My favorite author that has great insights into addiction is Burroughts. Hiswork can be very dark.

Self-destruction is a very horrific topic. Its the Otherness felt within… something we can’t control. Its horrifying in that its so predictably human and yet so humanly incomprehensible. Addiction is akin to demonic possession. The sense of loss of soul is in how addiction can utterly transform someone. When at rock bottom, everything that one previously loved and cared for becomes unhinged and distant as if from a dream or a previous life.

What is horrific about it is that one’s normal sense of humanity (ie soul) is lost. One becomes the Other, a disconnection from self. What may be worse for the addict is that everyone else might also treat the addict as Other in having fallen from the grace of acceptable society… which leaves no lifeline back to “normal” reality.

tuffy777 : Reality is not real

22 days later

tuffy777 said

Consider Dr. Jekyll, the kindly gentleman who becomes the loathsome Mr. Hyde whenever he drinks the potion.  (They say that R.L. Stevenson based this character on an alcoholic uncle.)  Eventually, he becomes Mr. Hyde without drinking the potion, and he is unable to resume his former identity as the good doctor when he most needs to revert. 

Only in death can he subsume the monstrous side of his psyche and become the respectable gentleman once more.

  ~~~~

Marmalade : Gaia Child

22 days later

Marmalade said

Ah, yes… a good example. I love stories about doubles or alternate personalities. That is a theme that PKD usesextremely wellin “A Scanner Darkly”. Reintegration can come at a great cost.

Integral… ?

Integral… ?

Posted on Jul 17th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
Access_public Access: Public What do you think? Print // Post this!views (176)  

Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick

Posted on May 13th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
Since I’ve been talking so much about Philip K. Dick lately, I figured I might as well dedicate a blog entry solely to him.

PKD Quotes:

Spinoza saw … that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, ‘I want to fall at the rate of thirty-two feet per second per second.’

Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.

Can anyone alter fate? All of us combined…or one great figure…or someone strategically placed, who happens to be in the right spot. Chance. Accident. And our lives, our world, hanging on it.

How did I get here? The pain so unexpected and undeserved and for some reason cleared away the cobwebs. I realized I didn’t hate the cabinet door, I hated my life my house, my family. My backyard, my power mower. Nothing would ever change, nothing new would ever be expected; it had to end, and it did. Now in the dark world where I dwell ugly things and surprising things, and sometimes little wonderous things spill out at me constantly, and I can count on nothing.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

We hypostasize information into objects. Rearrangement of objects is change in the content of the information; the message has changed. This is a language which we have lost the ability to read. We ourselves are a part of this language; changes in us are changes in the content of the information. We ourselves are information-rich; information enters us, is processed and is then projected outwards once more, now in an altered form. We are not aware that we are doing this, that in fact this is all we are doing.

Each of us assumes everyone else knows what HE is doing. They all assume we know what WE are doing. We don’t…Nothing is going on and nobody knows what it is. Nobody is concealing anything except the fact that he does not understand anything anymore and wishes he could go home.

The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by R. Crumb

 
Access_public Access: Public 13 Comments Print // Post this!views (193)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

40 minutes later

Nicole said

we haven’t spoken yet about how deeply Blade Runner has affected me over the years. I think about it a lot, about the many disturbing implications of manufactured people who have to be hunted down and killed, about the “media-soaked culture” as one of your above film clips says, about the push to go off-world… there is so, so much there… if you ever want to discuss it, i’m up for it.

anyway, thanks for this. the more i think about him the more i realise that yes he was an exceptional and influential SF writer.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 1 hour later

Marmalade said

I own a copy of Blade Runner.  I should watch it again… maybe with the commentary track on.  One of the books I’ve been reading lately mentions that movie and so I have been thinking about it some.  I’m in the process of taking notes from the book in order to write a review about it.  If you’re up for more discussion, I’m game.  It will give me a chance to think out some of the ideas from that book.

Did you watch the first video?  Seeing an actual android of PKD is kinda creepy.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 2 hours later

Nicole said

good! good! you watch it again, and write a review of the book and stuff and then we’ll discuss, ok?

No, haven’t watched the first video yet, will do now… oh freaky! shivers

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

It might take me a while longer to get my thoughts together for the book review.  So, I’ll do a separate blog for just the Blade Runner movie.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get something up tonight after work.

I did just watch the movie again.  Its extremely well done.  My copy of the dvd doesn’t have a commentary track which is too bad.  The commentary track on A Scanner Darkly was nice.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 13 hours later

Nicole said

no rush, buddy, but when it’s up, i will drop by to start discussing it with you.

interesting, i have not yet gotten into the commentary thang… it really enhances the experience for you, eh?

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

I don’t normally do commentary tracks because most of them are annoying.  i don’t bother with the commentary track unless its a favorite movie.  Too often the commentary is just a director talking about technical details such as camera angles or actors gossiping about eachother.  But some commentaries add a depth of understanding. 

For instance, A Scanner Darkly was nice because it had the director, an actor, and one of PKD’s daughers.  And they actually talked about the ideas of the story and how the film portrayed them.  Linklater seemed to have a good sense of what PKD was about.

On another note, I was thinking about why PKD appeals to some people and not to others.  You felt that A Scanner Darklly was too dark when you watched it at the behest of your son, and that probably isn’t an unusual response.  PKD does a have a slight cynical streak to him… no where as strong as with Burroughs… but still more dark than most people prefer.

PKD brings up more questions than answers, and he does it on purpose.  Speculative fiction, afterall, encourages a questioning mindset.  I for one love questions and I especially love questions that don’t have clear answers.  I’m even fine with the questions themselves being a bit ambiguous.  My friend became strongly interested in PKD and was then turned off after reading the VALIS trilogy.  My friend liked the questions that PKD brought up, but he felt frustrated or disappointed by the lack of clear answers.  He prefers A Course in MIracles(ACIM) which also is Gnostic influenced. 

I also like ACIM because it was one of the major influences of my receptive highschool mind.  Earlier in life, questions without answers bothered me, and I really really wanted answers… and ACIM was very satisfying in the answers it provided… not that it put a stop to my seeking evermore challenging questions.  So, after years of being frustrated by impossible questions, I’ve come to appreciate questions for their own sake and now I prefer the questions over the answers.  In the past, I was passively tortured by questions.  Nowadays, I actively torture myself with great glee.  🙂  And the questions that lead to further questions are my favorite masochistic pleasure.  :)))

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

I understand now about commentaries – yes I thought they were all technical and self indulgent and annoying, so good to know they can add  depth of understanding. 

I didn’t know that  A Scanner Darkly had the director, an actor, and one of PKD’s daughers. That sounds cool. You helped me understand much more about A Scanner Darkly because of all the background about PKD and now I really appreciate it. Right, he’s not as cynical as Burroughs, but probably few are 🙂 I don’t mind dark as long as there is enough of a redemptive element, which I didn’t feel initially with ASD.

But as you say, bringing up more questions than answers is the essence of speculative fiction. I can see you love questions that don’t have clear answers. 🙂  and even fine with the questions themselves being a bit ambiguous – that’s  what  makes you such an interesting person to be friends with, Ben.

When you say your friend, do you mean Dom? I don’t know that  much about ACIM excet that David was once into it, and that famous quote that everyone thinks is by Nelson Mandela. But I’ve never been interested to look into it – struck me as superficial and New Agey, which may be dismissive and judgmental on my part.

 ACIM sounds like a good place to start though for a teenager, as you describe your response to it. Now prefer the questions over the answers – ok, that is very Rilke, do you know his work?

 You actively torture yourself with great glee.  🙂  And the questions that lead to further questions are your favorite masochistic pleasure.  :))) I love you Ben! You’re a joy.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

You said that you don’t mind dark as long as there is enough of a redemptive element.  Burroughs definitely is skimpy on the redemptive element, but sparks of it show through.  PKD, on the other hand, has more of the redemptive element or at least more hope(or maybe desperation) for it.  Burroughts had a slight element of resignation… whereas PKD was always searching.  PKD didn’t know what to make of his spiritual experiences, but he did ‘believe’ in them in a Gnostic sense.

I’d suspect that you wouldn’t enjoy most of PKD’s writings, but you’d probably enjoy some of it if you were in the right mood.  I have a higher tolerance and enjoyment of the dark because I’ve spent so many years severely depressed.  Some people discover God in the light, but I discovered God in the dark.  I have a special place in my heart for the dark and those that dwell there.

My friend I was referring to isn’t Dom… not someone who even spends much time on the net.  He is a good friend of mine, but he can get frustrated with my endlessly questioning attitude.  He prefers simple answers that can be applied to his life, and I go off in a thousand different tangents that have no practical use beyond my personal amusement and maybe some bits of insight I can share.

ACIM is worth a read if you feel moved to do so, but its not for everyone.  Its a fairly difficult and thick text.  I read it straight through in highschool and its definitely not light reading.  It would probably leave most teenagers bored and confused.  It introduced me to the attitude of seriously questioning reality… it is essentially a Gnostic text(most similar to Valentinianism) and so questioning conventional religious assumptions is par for the course.  It isn’t new age fluff even though some new age fluff commentary has been written about it. 

I’ve returned to it off and on over the years, and it is probably the text that most informs my sense of Christ.  But I don’t feel any particular sense of identification with the ACIM worldview.  I like its answers fine as far as answers go, but like I said I’m even more fond of the questions that can’t be answered by this text or any other.

I really don’t know what my relation is to ACIM besides it being longstanding and ingrained in my psyche.  The first copy of it I read was originally my grandmother’s with her notes in it.  So, it makes me a third generation ACIM reader.  My grandmother must’ve read it when it was newly published because its only a few decades old.

About Rilke, I’ve only read bits and pieces of his work.  I’ve liked what I’ve read, and I might read more of him some day.  I might do lots of things some day.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Ok, I hear you about PKD having more of the redemptive element or at least more hope(or maybe desperation) for it. I think there is an important distinction, but people are what they are, and with his life, I understand…

“PKD was always searching.  PKD didn’t know what to make of his spiritual experiences, but he did ‘believe’ in them in a Gnostic sense.”

Poor guy. Must have been rough…

“I’d suspect that you wouldn’t enjoy most of PKD’s writings, but you’d probably enjoy some of it if you were in the right mood.  I have a higher tolerance and enjoyment of the dark because I’ve spent so many years severely depressed.  Some people discover God in the light, but I discovered God in the dark.  I have a special place in my heart for the dark and those that dwell there.”

Interesting. I’ve spent years being mildly depressed so it makes me crave light, joy, and fun…  But I deeply respect the way you are, Ben, and it does make sense to me.

“My friend I was referring to isn’t Dom… not someone who even spends much time on the net.  He is a good friend of mine, but he can get frustrated with my endlessly questioning attitude.  He prefers simple answers that can be applied to his life, and I go off in a thousand different tangents that have no practical use beyond my personal amusement and maybe some bits of insight I can share.”

Yes. On the other hand, I delight in your endless questioning, and I suspect you have found other friends who do too. There’s a part of me that is very playful that way, like when I memorised the alphabet backwards for the heck of it. I recited it one day to a friend in the UK and she just looked at me blankly and asked why I had bothered to learn it… 🙂

“ACIM is worth a read if you feel moved to do so, but its not for everyone.  Its a fairly difficult and thick text.  I read it straight through in highschool and its definitely not light reading.  It would probably leave most teenagers bored and confused.”

Right. What I should have said was that it was a good beginning for you and for David, since both of you have long since veered in other directions.

” It introduced me to the attitude of seriously questioning reality… it is essentially a Gnostic text(most similar to Valentinianism) and so questioning conventional religious assumptions is par for the course.  It isn’t new age fluff even though some new age fluff commentary has been written about it.”

Good to know. Thanks for the distinction.

“I’ve returned to it off and on over the years, and it is probably the text that most informs my sense of Christ.  But I don’t feel any particular sense of identification with the ACIM worldview.  I like its answers fine as far as answers go, but like I said I’m even more fond of the questions that can’t be answered by this text or any other.”

Yes, yes :):)

“I really don’t know what my relation is to ACIM besides it being longstanding and ingrained in my psyche.  The first copy of it I read was originally my grandmother’s with her notes in it.  So, it makes me a third generation ACIM reader.  My grandmother must’ve read it when it was newly published because its only a few decades old.”

Wow, that’s too cool, Ben… encoded in your DNA then.

“About Rilke, I’ve only read bits and pieces of his work.  I’ve liked what I’ve read, and I might read more of him some day.  I might do lots of things some day.  :)”

Ok, let’s check in a bit on this, because I’m a huge fan. Have you read the Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, Letters to a Young Poet…? For me those are three of his most important works but there are many many assorted poems I have read and loved by him.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

“Ok, I hear you about PKD having more of the redemptive element or at least more hope(or maybe desperation) for it. I think there is an important distinction, but people are what they are, and with his life, I understand…”

There is an important distinction, but it isn’t absolute.  Hope can spring out of desperation, and sometimes hope, when it feels unfulfilled, can lead to desperation.  As such, I’d posit faith as a third option.  I tend to relate hope with belief and desperation as a response to when those beliefs conflict with one’s personal experience.  So, I see faith as neither belief nor the opposite of belief, the loss or lack of belief.

In terms of PKD’s life, he at times felt hopeful and at other times felt desperation, and maybe sometimes even felt a mixture of the two.  On the other hand, PKD’s faith was what drove him and it was a faith based in Gnosis, based in his personal experience.  I’m sure that PKD would’ve resonated with Jung’s statement that he didn’t believe in God, rather he knew.  Even so, PKD would’ve endlessly interpreted what that knowing was and if he was just deluding himself.  I think near the end of his life he was coming closer to being able to just accept his experiences for what they were.

“PKD was always searching.  PKD didn’t know what to make of his spiritual experiences, but he did ‘believe’ in them in a Gnostic sense.”

“Poor guy. Must have been rough…”

I suppose so.  He had hard times, but overall I think that he enjoyed life and felt that he had contributed some good to the world.

I want to show a slightly different side of PKD.  Here is something from Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin.  This comes from the last few months of his life.

“In late December daughter Isa called long-distance.  Now fifteen years old, she was very nervous about being called on by the teachers at school, and Phil comforted her.  Immediately after the call he wrote her a long letter that he asked her to save—she would understand it better as she grew older.  In it he spoke of the human soul that is not at home in this world.  The answer to the soul’s plight lies in God’s grace.  God intervenes when our burden becomes too great, but only if we call out to God—“this is why not all humans are saved, because not all humans see, ever, in their entire lives, that they live by and through God, and God alone;[…]””

Ok, let’s check in a bit on this, because I’m a huge fan. Have you read the Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, Letters to a Young Poet…? For me those are three of his most important works but there are many many assorted poems I have read and loved by him.

My experience with Rilke’s writings is extrememly minimal.  I’ve read quotes and passages here and there over the years.  The only book of his that I remember looking at specifically is Letters to a Young Poet,  but I don’t remember how much of it I read.  Here is the only passage from that book that comes to mind:

“You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.”

I like this passage because it does fit my own sense of writing.  I write because I feel a need to do so… even to the point of it feeling like my sense of purpose.  However, when I first read this passage, I wasn’t entirely uncritical of it.  It sounds a bit melodramatic.  People write because they write and not necessarily because they feel they must.  I’m sure some great writings have come about even though the writer didn’t feel compelled.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

“There is an important distinction, but it isn’t absolute.”

Good point.

” Hope can spring out of desperation, and sometimes hope, when it feels unfulfilled, can lead to desperation.”

Yes.

 “As such, I’d posit faith as a third option.  I tend to relate hope with belief and desperation as a response to when those beliefs conflict with one’s personal experience.  So, I see faith as neither belief nor the opposite of belief, the loss or lack of belief.”

Good way of looking at it, Ben.

“In terms of PKD’s life, he at times felt hopeful and at other times felt desperation, and maybe sometimes even felt a mixture of the two.  On the other hand, PKD’s faith was what drove him and it was a faith based in Gnosis, based in his personal experience.  I’m sure that PKD would’ve resonated with Jung’s statement that he didn’t believe in God, rather he knew.  Even so, PKD would’ve endlessly interpreted what that knowing was and if he was just deluding himself.  I think near the end of his life he was coming closer to being able to just accept his experiences for what they were.”

Ok, I see.

” He had hard times, but overall I think that he enjoyed life and felt that he had contributed some good to the world.”

That’s important. Good, then.

“I want to show a slightly different side of PKD.  Here is something from Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin.  This comes from the last few months of his life.

“In late December daughter Isa called long-distance.  Now fifteen years old, she was very nervous about being called on by the teachers at school, and Phil comforted her.  Immediately after the call he wrote her a long letter that he asked her to save—she would understand it better as she grew older.  In it he spoke of the human soul that is not at home in this world.  The answer to the soul’s plight lies in God’s grace.  God intervenes when our burden becomes too great, but only if we call out to God—“this is why not all humans are saved, because not all humans see, ever, in their entire lives, that they live by and through God, and God alone;[…]””

I really see what you mean, Ben. Thanks for sharing this. I have a more balanced picture of him.

“My experience with Rilke’s writings is extrememly minimal.  I’ve read quotes and passages here and there over the years.  The only book of his that I remember looking at specifically is Letters to a Young Poet,  but I don’t remember how much of it I read.  Here is the only passage from that book that comes to mind:
“You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.”

“I like this passage because it does fit my own sense of writing.  I write because I feel a need to do so… even to the point of it feeling like my sense of purpose.  However, when I first read this passage, I wasn’t entirely uncritical of it.  It sounds a bit melodramatic.  People write because they write and not necessarily because they feel they must.  I’m sure some great writings have come about even though the writer didn’t feel compelled.”

Yes, I had a similar reaction at first, but over time, I feel that I have a better sense of what he is saying. Remember, too, that he was a Romantic poet, so he has very extreme points of view 🙂

I’d like to know what you think of some of the works of Rilke I’ve blogged – feel free to comment on anything or nothing:

http://singerseeker.gaia.com/blog/search

Of course, my special favourites are Duino Elegies and Letters (the passage I excerpted on love to respond to Jay in the God Pod was also from the Letters)

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

4 days later

Marmalade said

I just checked out your blogs about Rilke… and, boy oh boy, you do have a number of them.  🙂  Since you mentioned Duinos Elegies and Letters, I’ll start with your blogs about those.  But that still is 13 blogs from my count.  I think you have more blogs on Rilke than I have altogether.  Give me time, though, and I might be able to catch up with you on certain topics for my blogs such as PKD.

Which of Rilke’s writings do you think are his most personal?  Letters?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

no, his letters are his most didactic. The duino elegies are the most elegaic 🙂 stunningly beautiful but not as personal as individual poems – though there are aspects of Rilke the person that you can glimpse if you know his personal biography…

take all the time you need, dear Ben! 🙂

Philip K. Dick — Gnostic Prophet of Science Fiction

Philip K. Dick — Gnostic Prophet of Science Fiction
By Dr. Hoeller 

In his best work “Valis” and its two companion volumes, “The Divine Invasion” and “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer”, the late Philip K. Dick develop a strangely Gnostic vision. In this 73 minute lecture, Dr. Hoeller discusses P. K. Dick, his vision,

Harlan Ellison’s Influence Beyond SF

Harlan Ellison is a fiction writer I’ve known about for many years.  I haven’t read him in a while and I’m only generally familiar with what he has written, but to the extent I’m familiar with his career I consider him a worthy writer and thinker.  He influenced the field of SF greatly and is particularly famous for an anthology he edited.  He was friends with the likes of Philip K. Dick, and I must admit I’d loved to have been around to hear those two having a conversation.

Anyways, my point for mentioning Ellison isn’t merely his greatness in the world of SF.  I happened across someone writing about him in another context.  This person claimed him as being his major influence as a blogger.  I’ll post the piece here in its entirety for I only could find it in Google cache.

The Broadband Teat: a blog by AustinCynic

Sarah Palin and the Conservative Cult of the Common Man

I must begin with a word about my “blogfather,” the blogger who has influenced me more than any other. It’s not Markos Moulitsas, or Jeff Tiedrich, founder of The Smirking Chimp, which I used to frequent back in the day; it’s not Joe Conason, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uyger or Robert Schlesinger, all of whose observations I find intelligent and insightful. It is Harlan Ellison. The same Harlan Ellison who does not have his own website– though the excellent but unofficial site Ellison Weberland (www.harlanellison.com) comes pretty close–the same Harlan Ellison who, for all I know, still writes on a manual typewriter.

For about three and a half years, from late 1968 to early 1972, Ellison wrote a column for the long-defunct Los Angeles Free Press entitled “The Glass Teat” and it was primarily about television. Indeed, a great deal of fun reading the book are reviews of now-classic shows both outstanding (Ellison writes a review of the pilot for All In the Family, at that time titled Those Were the Days), and campy (his review of The Partridge Family in its entirety was “Mother of God”). I first read the two-volume collection of these columns at 13, and what resonated with me as a teen in Reagan’s America were Ellison’s prophetic political observations in the age of Nixon and Agnew, and his warnings both about Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, as well as to not underestimate the power of the “Silent Majority.” I don’t know if Harlan had read Kevin Phillips’ The Emerging Republican Majority, written just before “The Glass Teat” started its run, but Ellison and Phillips are to me two sides of the same coin, with Phillips laying out the road map for precisely that which Ellison feared would come to pass: that the working-class whites who backed Nixon and Wallace in 1968 would work to roll back the New Deal and the progressive legislation that followed. Especially the Civil Rights Act and the measures growing out of it, including The Great Society. Ellison was a blogger before there were blogs.

Perhaps none of the “The Glass Teat” columns has stayed with me so strongly as two from October 1969 on “The Common Man,” Harlan’s reaction to a two-hour episode of The David Susskind Show which featured a panel of working-class white men deemed to be representative of Nixon’s Silent Majority. All of them had families, all of them were the sole breadwinners of their families, making between about $45,000 and $56,000 a year in today’s dollars ($8,000 to $10,000 in 1969) working one or two jobs. In watching Sarah Palin on the campaign trail these last five weeks, and especially after the debate Thursday, I came to the stark realization that not only have the GOP’s arguments to these voters has changed little in 40 years, in nominating Sarah Palin they have put a member of “The Silent Majority” on the ticket. Sarah Palin is the goddess of the conservative Cult of the Common Man.

For example, guess who might have said the following: “I have absolute faith in the Pentagon. I believe they are the only ones qualified to set their budget.” If you guessed Sarah Palin, or even John McCain, I couldn’t blame you; in fact it was Frank Mrak, one of the Susskind panelists. But it easily could have come out of the mouths of either person on the GOP ticket.

“It’s the Liberal mafia that keeps this war from being won.” Again, this was a Susskind panelist by the name of Paul Corbett rather than McCain or Palin, but didn’t Sarah Palin say more or less the same thing on Thursday night?

We have a cherished myth in this country, one that states that ordinary, inherently pure outsiders can storm the halls of power and make things better for the country, unlike the entrenched fatcats who have forgotten their roots. This scenario has been played out time after time in movies ranging from Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to the more recent Dave.  Both are movies I happen to enjoy a great deal but reality is much messier. Though I would not call George W. Bush a common man, he likes to play one on t.v. and embodies many of their attitudes. How well has he done over the last 8 years?

Sarah Palin is, if anything, worse. Joe Conason, in his current Salon column, says she represents the dumbing down of the GOP. I submit that it is more than that. She represents the final step from merely pandering to “Joe Sixpack” to handing him the reigns of power. Like some latter-day Mr. Smith she plans to turn Washington around with her homespun wisdom and spunk, but Gov. Palin, you are no Jefferson Smith.

Ellison puts it best, and I cannot improve upon it:

“The Common Man is no longer merely as outdated as the passenger pigeon. He is a living menace. He is the man who votes for [George] Wallace because Wallace offers him easy cop-out solutions to the fears his feels. He is the man who thinks everybody can earn a living. He is the man who…believes there is no such thing as prejudice. He is the man who believes in what affects him, what he sees, or what is most consistent with the status quo that will keep him afloat. The time for worshipping The Common Man is past. We can no longer tolerate him, or countenance his stupidity.”

I have hope that this might be finally getting through to the Silent Majority, Reagan Democrats that began abandoning the party in 1968, or at least that this is getting through to their children. My household is firmly in the range of what the Susskind panelists made, and we can barely support ourself on that. Even when you insist on voting against your economic interests at every turn, reality and its liberal bias can slap you in the face, and foreclosure and homelessness is a hard slap indeed.

Instead of being taken in by folksiness, hockey mom anecdotes, and fear-mongering, instead of worrying whether a candidate is “too smart” to be president, maybe we’d better consider whose intellect is best suited for the job. Folksiness and small-town spunk won’t get us out of the mess we’re in.

Harlan Ellison put it best in the conclusion to his two-part column:

“If we are to continue living in this doomed world, if we are to save ourselves, we must kill off the Common Man in us and bring forth the Renaissance Man.”

SciFi and Special Effects, US and Japan

I’m happy with the increasing availability of SciFi tv shows. 

Special effects have improved and maybe they’ve become easier or cheaper to use in a regular show.  Even many major SciFi movies in the past seem a lot less impressive compared to how much more realistically and seamlessly special effects can be used today.  Special effects have essentially made SciFi mainstream.  In the past, people had to use their imaginations to a greater extent.  Shows on tv now present a much more immersive experience and I suppose big screen tvs help. 

I’ve also heard the theory that during socially difficult times people prefer shows that help them escape reality.  Maybe that explains part of the popularity of several recent SciFi shows.

I think, however, that there must be more to it than just those factors.  I think this is part of the larger cultural shift that is happening.  I suspect the very large Millennial generation is fueling much of the popularity, but of course it began long before.  As a GenXer, I grew up at a time when SciFi and comic books were becoming mainstream.  This largely had to do with society becoming less oppressively controlling of public entertainment (e.g., the ending of the Comic Book Code).  It’s interesting the relationship between freedom of society and freedom of imagination.

There is one particular example of social change.  The Millennials are the first truly demographically multicultural generation and I think this explains the greater variety of cultures seen on tv.  In the past, other cultures were always seen as other and characters from other cultures tended not to have major parts.  This is most clearly shown in terms of language as English is the default language of US entertainment even though a large part of the US population speaks other languages.

But SciFi has especially played a role of creating the first major bridge across cultures.  There are three popular SciFi shows that have featured Japanese characters speaking Japanese for extensive periods of time: Heroes, Lost, and Flashforward.  The last two are both ABC shows and so maybe someone in management is Japanese or likes Japanese.  I also wonder if this is an attempt to develop shows that could be popular with a wider audience base as SciFi is very popular in both the US and Japan.  Anyways, it gives a glimpse of the ever-increasing global media.