Experiments in Ontological Relativism

and Other Brain Farts

Posts Tagged ‘Non-Fiction’

Thoughts Spurred by the Recovery of the Dune Encylopedia

Posted by Jason on September 3, 2010

This is a comment I originally posted on this article at tor.com. The article, in brief, points out that the incredible–and incredibly neglected–Dune Encyclopedia has emerged online. If you haven’t already, go download it now. Now! I’ll wait.

Alright. So anyway, the mention of the canonicity (or lack thereof) of the Encyclopedia set off more than a little nerd rage for me, and I spilled the below thoughts and memories. It occurs to me that I might have been a bit unfair. But then, only a bit.


I came here to say more or less what’s been said. I consider the Encyclopedia to be more canon–or at least truer to the original works–than the horrid schlock now clogging SF shelf space.

I remember that I bought House Atreides when it first appeared, and was incredibly enthused at the idea of new Dune material. I breathlessly read the introduction, with its mention of Herbert’s newfound Dune 7 notes, and became even more excited.

Then I read the rest of the book.

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Posted in Non-Fiction, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

On Hipster Irony, -isms, and Sea Monsters

Posted by Jason on December 14, 2009

In her review of Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, Jaymee Goh made a wonderful, precise summary of a trend that has been bothering me very much lately:

“Modern humour apparently requires some jaded, cynical worldview in which we are to say something we know is an -ism in order to show how in touch we are with the bad, horrible world. But you know what? Knowing something is racist, and saying it while knowing it’s racist doesn’t make it any less racist. Or sexist. Or ableist. It’s still an -ism, no matter how you wrap it.”

Context is an amazing tool, to be sure. It can entirely change the meaning of a word, a phrase, an entire text. But context is a funny thing: it can be easily missed, and it can be changed. And I think the ironic hipster “oh-I’m-being-offensive-but-not-really-because-I-know-I-am-and-see-how-enlightened-I’m-being-by-acknowledging-it?” is on the verge of falling afoul of both.

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Posted in General, Non-Fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

On the Virology of Thought

Posted by Jason on September 29, 2009

[This post started as a comment on Mur Lafferty’s post for Banned Books Week. As it grew, I realized it was probably too long for a single blog comment, and probably deserved a home of its own. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!]

Ideas are dangerous. In a way, most of the last 2,500 years (and especially the last 500 or so) has been nothing but a war of one idea against, or occasionally alongside of, another. Whether that idea is a religion, a scientific principle, an economic theory, a philosphy, a system of government, or something else entirely, people in recorded history have done more harm and good in the service of ideas than for any other reason. It’s little wonder, then, that so many people feel that society needs to be protected from these dangerous, intriguing ideas.
And the best way to remove a danger is to eliminate the threat, right? So if we ban all these strange radical ideas, then they’ll go away and not bother anyone ever again, right? Right?
Well, no.

Ideas are dangerous. In a way, most of the last 2,500 years (and especially the last 500 or so) has been nothing but a war of one idea against, or occasionally alongside of, another. Whether that idea is a religion, a scientific principle, an economic theory, a philosphy, a system of government, or something else entirely, people in recorded history have done more harm and good in the service of ideas than for any other reason. It’s little wonder, then, that so many people feel that society needs to be protected from these dangerous, intriguing ideas.

And the best way to remove a danger is to eliminate the threat, right? So if we ban all these strange radical ideas, then they’ll go away and not bother anyone ever again, right? Right?

Well, no. Those who think this way profoundly misunderstand the nature of ideas. Ideas, as anyone who has spent much time on the Internet will tell you, are viral.

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Posted in General, Non-Fiction | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The SF Ghetto

Posted by Jason on August 8, 2008

This is a response I posted today on an old entry in Mur’s blog. I figured I’d throw it in here, too.

I’ve always found there’s an odd schizophrenia in the literary community when it comes to speculative fiction. It’s mocked, derided, and, yes, ghettoized; and yet, our society holds up works which are undeniably part of the genre as some of its most treasured works.

I think I’m cribbing a bit from Orson Scott Card here, but it seems that whenever a “mainstream” writer has a particularly important story to tell, they reach for the speculative fiction toolbox. The same people who look down their noses at the genre section of the bookstore genuinely cherish works like Farenheit 451, 1984, Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, Slaughterhouse Five, The Chronicles of Narnia… The list could certainly go on. But, they say, those are works by real authors. Huh. Apparently Shakespeare was wrong on that whole rose/name thing.

Or to come at it from another angle, take Star Trek. Sure, not one of the great literary accomplishments of the field, but even so, look at how visionary it was. People laugh at it as kids’ stuff, what with its communicators and tricorders and voice activated computers and happy humans in space, at the same time as they’re talking on their cellphones, using their PDAs and voice dictation software, and chatting with their multicultural friends.

The real world we live in every day is boring, and often depressing. I’m much more interested in exploring what the world could be, for better or for worse.

Posted in General, Non-Fiction | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »