Thursday, July 20, 2017

What is magic? What was the most optimistic SF series? And other Questions!

Passing along news for anyone who is heading to Helsinki, for the World Science Fiction Convention. The week before, on 7th of August 2017, the Russian SF community (partly at my urging) is helping to host an International Futurological Conference “Book of the Future” in St Petersburg. "Speakers will discuss the future of literature and the transformation of the book concept because of technological changes in the creation and circulation of literature works and in access to the books, as well as structural changes in information consumption in society. Participation is free, but the organizers kindly request you to register right now." Write to magister.msk@gmail.com

== What is Magic? ==

Over on Quora, someone asked: “What is the most interesting magic system from fantasy, sci-fi or anime?

You are all welcome to chime in! I have spoken about defining both "magic" and "fantasy" frequently. For example here. (I conclude that a sci fi novelist is the greatest magician, ever!)


But this Quora question was about magical systems and methods. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in. Most magical systems rely upon a short list of basic fulcra:

1- Similarity — make something similar to the object you seek to control. A recognizable or realistic voodoo doll of a person. Or a  model of the valley where you want rain to fall.

2- Contagion - add something that was part of the object you wish to control, e.g. add a person’s real hair trimmings to the voodoo doll.

3- True Names. Related to similarity. You gain power if you know the object’s full (or hidden) names.

4- Appeal to powers. Invoke mighty spirits - or God - by offering what they want. Something valuable, ranging from a human sacrifice all the way to promising to be a good boy or girl. (Or try appealing to Tim Powers.)

5- Art. A florid- dynamic-dramatic verbal incantation helps… it is the technique used by cable news and politicians to dazzle millions into magical thinking and hostility to fact-based and scientific systems. Other art enhancements could be visual or musical. Heck, my incantation called Existence uses one million little black squiggles (letters) in a long-winding chain to cast an incantation that takes you on spectacular adventures in space and time!

Note that all of these seemed to be reasonable things for our ancestors to try, even though magic almost never worked in the physical, objective world. Why did they keep doing itthen, in every culture? First, because these are all methods that work… on our fellow human beings! Persuasion uses all of them and other humans are the most important part of the environment. It was just an extrapolation for people to believe they could also persuade the capricious and deadly forces of nature.

Second, pattern seeking. We invest our hopes into an incantation… and shrug off when it fails, but shout with confirmation, if the thing we wanted happens.

All told, magic has been a horrid sickness that hobbled humans for ages, preventing us from honestly separating what works from what doesn’t. But we are all descended from priests and shamans who got extra food and mates because they pulled off this mumbo-jumbo really well. Their genes flow through our brains, today. No wonder there’s a War on Science!

But if you truly want a different system of magic -- one that departs from all of the above -- try my fun novel The Practice Effect ;-)

== More from Quora ==

Another Quora science fiction question: What is the best sci-fi film/television franchise? Please do answer something other than Star Wars — mainly because it is more fantasy than sci-fi, regardless of the midi-chlorians.”

Okay, I'll bite:

Stargate was by far the best and most thorough exploration of a science fictional premise. It was tightly consistent and episodes all correlated with each other in a series of very well-managed plot and character arcs, while always striving to at least nod in the direction of scientific plausibility. It was also successful at engendering massive numbers of hours of diverse stories at a fairly low budget.

A final point about Stargate… it is one of the only SF franchises to revolve around a motif that is essentially optimistic. Yes, Earthlings emerge into a cosmos rife with danger -- but logic and goodwill and courage generally combine well in a can-do spirit that encourages hope and belief in ourselves. 


Of course, the equally good Star Trek had all of those traits, with a bit lower score (though still pretty high) on consistency, with even more hours and even more optimism.

Ranking in the same general area - with similar qualities - would be Babylon Five.

See where I explain why optimism is so hard to do in sci fi, and hence so rare: The Idiot Plot.

An excellent SF TV franchise at the opposite end of the optimism scale would be the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The premise and universe remained kinda dumb. But it had the best damn writing team imaginable. You had to watch.

The new The Expanse has similar qualities. Of course Firefly was wonderful, filled with zest and joy of life.

See where I dive into a lot of similar topics, in articles and postings about sci fi media and dystopias: Speculations on Science Fiction


Oh, and there are other ways to ask me questions, than Quora. (And this blog's comment section.) I give one minute answers - by voice, on your phone - to your questions via the Askers App


== Visions of the future ==

Some of you may have noticed the cool – if somewhat cryptic – advert campaign from Arconic Corp., giving us 60 seconds of lavish-filmic updating of the most famous future-utopian family. The year 2062 reimagined by filmmaker Justin Lin.

If you haven’t seen it, drop everything for some badly needed cheering up about tomorrow… and a glimpse of how advertising oughta be. And more about Arconic.

For a more in-depth exploration, listen to the podcast Novum: the intersection of science fiction and advertising. Best show about Science Fiction out there. Do leave a comment!

How to See Star Wars for What It Really Is: This article from Big Think reprises and discusses my impudent assertion that Star Wars has become relentless propaganda against civilization, in favor of feudalism and demigod-worship. Even the "rebels" buy in to the assumption. In this reflex, Star Wars isn't alone. Almost all fantasy stories before 1800 preached demigod worship, as did the Nazis, the Confederates and (scratching the surface) recent trends in U.S. politics. Certainly almost every single story by the gifted dazzler Orson Scott Card in the last 25 years preaches handing all power over to some mutant chosen-one, as do 90% of Fantasy tales and (alas) a large fraction of so-called "science fiction" stories. 

The contrasting mythos of Star Trek has been a rebel against this ancient and deeply sick meme. But lately, Star Wars is winning. See how the Chinese agree with my interpretation. 

Another Star Wars vs Star Trek contrast – by Manu Saadia (author of Trekonomics, The Economics of Star Trek) in the New Yorker - describes what might be the premise for Peter Thiel’s  anomie versus Trek and his preference for the rule by tyrants and demigods, in George Lucas’s cosmos. (Critiqued in my book Star Wars on Trial.) While Thiel’s devotion to the Randian-Ubermenschian wing of libertarianism is well-established, I think this author may be over-reaching, in this case. Moreover, the notion that a generous and free post-scarcity society will lack competition is a flaw in Saadia’s entire construct. Indeed, no realm of human activity has ever been more competitive than the two that flourish in a Trekkian world – the arts and the sciences. 

Still, one thing is amply demonstrated by this article… the fact that the New Yorker, along with the Atlantic, Harpers and the rest of the New York liter-artsy community, have completely dropped their former, reflexive hatred for science fiction! Back in TwenCen, these zines used to issue hit pieces against SF in regular rhythm. Now, all of that is gone, and no one seems more eager to discuss SFnal concepts, using SF'nal tropes to make comparisons.

If this transition to future orientation would only rise within the halls of literary academe – the English and Literature departments that still fester with resentment toward the most fecund and creative (and most-American) genre – then perhaps the side of our society that dreams of progress will be united at last, and ready to take on the real enemies of progress. 

Sharing my dismay over Lucasian silliness, though for different reasons…. Here’s a fascinating and fun reminiscence by legendary author Michael Moorcock, of his friend Arthur C. Clarke, with insights into the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

And here, we've established UCSD's new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, where the sciences and arts come together to explore humanity's most unique gift. 

OK SciFi take yer bows. You predicted this! Giant, Man-amplifying waldo robots are here!

Reality TV with a better than average premise. Contestants try to drop out and hide  as if being hunted… and they are!  By retired or profession cops and such, on HUNTED. Of course science fiction has been there.  

Final note... spread the word to your nerdiest Science Fiction scholars!  Those with shelves that groan under rows of old Astounding and Amazing magazines. Those of you who remember plot gimicks and twists you read as a teen.  Society needs your deep memory of past SF thought experiments!  Stay tuned for something called TASAT ("There's a Story About That.") Your nerdy memories may wind up helping to save the world!

Hey... it culd happen!

124 comments:

matthew said...

This excerpt -
"Moreover, the notion that a generous and free post-scarcity society will lack competition is a flaw in Saadia’s entire construct. Indeed, no realm of human activity has ever been more competitive than the two that flourish in a Trekkian world – the arts and the sciences."

flies directly in the face of your assertion, from two blog postings past, that there is no competition in socialism. I called you out, doc, for the statement at the time, and now, here you are, claiming the opposite.

Consistency, hobgoblins, etc, I get it. But still, in less than a week, you've made diametrically-opposed arguments on the subject of competition and socialism.

Well, duh, I agree with you this time. And hope the last one was a fever-dream induced by too much kimchi in your ramen or somesuch.

Mark said...

Any sufficiently understood magic is indistinguishable from technology.

occam's comic said...

This is the definition of magic that occultist use:

Magic is the art of causing changes in consciousness to occur in accordance with the will.

For them magic is not about throwing fireballs or flying though the air or causing any physical change -- engineering is much more useful for that kind of stuff.

For them magic is about deepening your understanding and strengthening your consciousness and will.

matthew said...

Oooohh, I hadn't heard this before -

"President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, urged his boss to scale down [the ACA] with something narrow and targeted, like expanded care for children."

David had been suggesting this approach all through the fight to pass ACA. First time outside of here I've seen it mentioned. Think how different our lives would be if Rahm had won this argument.

From this Slate article http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/07/obamacare_repeal_failed_because_of_trump_s_inaction.html

David Brin said...

Matthew bah! (1) there's no proof Trek is socialist. All we see is that they are so rich that poverty is nonexistent. (2) Robert Heinlein himself prescribed socialism for certain basics (food/shelter) while anything creative should feature cutthroat competition.

Re Healthcare: the one thing that would fix Obamacare swiftly is to up the insurance mandate tax, to force young people to buy insurance. It was the GOP's own idea! Now so hated that they'd never let it pass.

The current solution. The Dems should make an offer.

"We'll offer you Republicans a federalist approach. LET red states end the individual mandate and crappy plans. But also pass a rule letting blue states work together and expand the I.M. Then we'll see where Obamacare "blows up and fails." Okay? Will that draw five Republicans?"

LarryHart said...

Star Trek (TOS, anyway, and TNG too, for that matter) takes place on what is essentially a naval vessel exploring uncharted territory. On a real-life naval vessel, do individuals have to pay for their bed and board or medical care?

Rochrist said...

Interesting system of magic in books by L Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt beginning with The Mathematics of Magic that used symbolic logic.

Carl M. said...

I'd vote Jack Vance as a strong contender for both optimistic science fiction and best magical systems.

Vance's more pure science fiction tends to be stories within a world vs. stories about a world. The Demon Princes is a mystery/revenge set of stories set within a very interesting utopia. It's a utopia where interstellar travel is relatively cheap but the Singularity didn't happen -- by intent. It is a future where humans remain human -- warts and all.

Even when Vance went dystopian, he kept it light and comic; and played fair. "Wyst" pokes fun at what today's hippie-communists really want when they say True Marxism vs. State Capitalism.



---
As for his fantasies, the magical systems are not fully revealed. Magic remains mysterious -- which is most of the fun of good fantasy. Magic is about secrets, dark forces, and irreplaceable relics. His magical worlds are not places you want to live; they are places to dream about.

I think part of the attraction of fantasy is that this is the world humans long lived in: a world of powerful outside forces and lots of particulars: this plant is toxic; this one is edible; this one heals the creeping crud... Our dreamtime prehistory is more one of finding than building.

----
Another contender for optimistic SF would be Norman Spinrad's "Child of Fortune."

Alfred Differ said...

I think it is hard to know whether the Trek universe has socialism win among humans. It isn't directly addressed, so one has to piece bits together from separate writers. Try it and you'll find the pieces don't fit. One will say in a story involving a time traveler 'oh... we don't do it that way anymore', but it isn't clear how they do it.

What IS obvious is that Trek humans are extremely wealthy in a real income sense. When prices for basic needs collapse to near zero, your income and savings go farther, thus you are wealthier. Only out on colony worlds were they still in pursuit of basic needs like food, shelter, medicine, and all that. I wouldn't say Earth was a post-scarcity world, but it sure looked like prices for stuff that fulfills Maslow's lowest needs were essentially non-existent. What's left but to chase the higher needs?

Where competition isn't needed, though, I wouldn't be surprised if future humans displace market rules and use family rules which is all socialism really is down deep. Perhaps they will use gift market rules instead, though. It's not like there is just the one rule set for markets that we recognize as capitalism.

Laurence said...

Might British sci-fi offer a third pole to the star trek/wars dichotomy. The four best regarded British sci-fi shows Doctor Who, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf and Blake's Seven all take a pretty consistent line on authority: it is to be outright rejected in nearly all circumstances, and above all, it is to be mocked. (note how two of the shows I listed are outright comedies, and the other two make heavy use of humour) Blake's Seven in particular is worth a look, although less well known than the other three its one of the most influential Sci-fi shows of all time, inspiring Batlestar Glactica (the remake) firefly, Deep Space Nine and Farsacape. Basically, if you see something "dark" in a post 80's sci-fi chances are it was influenced by Blake's Seven.

Rob said...

The magic system I'm currently intrigued by is the one in the Japanese light novel/manga/anime series The Irregular At Magic High School. In Tsutomo Sato's universe, "magic" is defined as the ability to restructure reality by "overwriting" the information that defines physical phenomena (called "Eidos" taken from the ancient Greek concepts of Plato and Aristotle) with a new set of values. This is accomplished by application of thought particles ("psions") in a predefined program (called a "magic sequence") that is manifested by the magician's Magic Calculation Area, a little-understood aspect of the subconscious mind that relatively few people inherently can access. Magical ability varies in strength by individual and tends to run in families, with different families specializing in different types of magic. Magical ability is relatively rare; only 1 in 1,000 children begin with any potential for using magic, and ultimately only 1 in 10,000 adults end up having any magical ability at all (this is an aspect Dr. Brin will dislike, I know!).

Magic effects have been subdivided by those studying magic into 3 general categories ("Ancient" magic that has existed for centuries, "Modern" scientifically systematized magic, and "Superpower" or inborn magic that can be used without conscious thought), with "Modern" magic further subdivided into "Systematic" magic that conforms to a rigid taxonomy (with 4 "systems" and 8 "major types") and "Non-Systematic" magic that defies such classification.

It's really a very sophisticated system. If you're interested, here is a fandom wiki page that goes into it in more detail:

http://mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com/wiki/Classification_of_Magic

Carl M. said...

Star Trek, the original series, had a market economy. Recall the Harry Mudd character.

It also shares the Vancian rejection of the Singularity. The Enterprise has no robots other than the ship's computer, and when that computer gets too powerful an upgrade, Bad Things Happen.

In TOS, humans had explicitly rejected genetic engineering, thanks to bad experiences during the Eugenics Wars. And notice how ineffectual the ship's doctor is.

The pilot episode presented the dangers of virtual reality.

Several episodes present the crew with the opportunity to live easy -- and the opportunity is either rejected ("I Mudd", the veritol rays episode, the Apollo episode) or made temporary ("Shore Leave").

And notice that one of the few times Kirk doesn't violate the Prime Directive is when he gets used to provide a disease for an overpopulated planet that refuses to use birth control.

Jumper said...

In the Star Trek future, they have eliminated idiotic labels such as "socialism."

You guys are writing all my comments for me. A proper definition of magic by occam's comic, and mention of Spinrad's "Child of Fortune, although I see it as more deeply sarcastic than optimistic. I read at the same time his The Void Captain's Tale. A nice pair.

Interesting interview with Moorcock; thank you. I find today the movie very flawed, but the visuals and the major sub-plot with HAL puts it in the top tier anyway. Clarke seemed unable to grasp Kubrick's adamant desire to tell story visually, a common fanaticism of filmmakers. Voice-over tends to kill a movie dead, wounding Blade Runner as well. (Some movie makers find sneaky workarounds, such as in Jurassic Park.)

How does the Discworld series stack up on the magic ratings? They're on my list.

A.F. Rey said...

To go off-topic again (I always seem destined to do so)...
From the previous comments: A.F. Rey, do be our spy at the Scott Card’s http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com !! Let us know when that wing of things says stuff that merits reply?
I will be happy to dust off my old cloak and dagger—so long as the cloak isn’t too moth-eaten—but I’m not sure there will be much to report on, or else too much. :)
Orson Scott has dived head-first into the Right-wing-o-sphere, from what I can see. For instance, he wrote an essay a while back on science and evolution, referring to some scientists as “Darwinists,” a term only hard-core creationists use. He also made a list of “what we know for a fact about the attack on the U.S. Consulate on 11 September 2010” back in November 2012, that can be seen here: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2012-11-01-1.html. I disproved, to my own satisfaction, about half the list a few months later, based on reports from the never-ending hearings on the subject, but fairly recently he was still standing behind it.
He has toned down his political writings, though. He had a column called “Civilization Watch” which he had been writing since 2001, but hasn’t added to it since 2014. Now the only political comments I see (although I don’t follow everything he writes) are mainly asides in his “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything” column, in which he talks about movies, plays, and anything else on his mind. Those asides are pretty much the standard rhetoric you can hear from the Right.
Asides like:
This is why the thought police of Global Warming are so powerful: They spread the word that somebody is a "climate change skeptic" (i.e., a real scientist who rejects dogmas and asks hard questions), and suddenly he gets no grants from anybody, period. Soon he's out of work and without a university or think-tank credential attached to his name, nobody listens to him, nobody publishes him, he's dead. http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2017-05-11.shtml
The Left has no concept of a "loyal opposition." They would rather tear up the government than simply work out compromises with the majority party and do their best for America until the next election. The Left has a right to be in power, and it's obviously ignorance, bigotry, or other evils among the body politic that has led to this gross miscarriage of ... of ... the universal order, to have the Left out of power.
The Right is still blamed for being violent and dangerous, hate-filled and bigoted. But when the Left flooded the streets with dangerous, hate-filled, violent demonstrators who vowed to destroy Trump, not for anything he had done, but for the crime of not being the corrupt, vain, arrogant elitist that they had nominated, somehow we were all supposed to watch that without losing our belief in the myth that the Left does "peaceful" demonstrations and "civil" disobedience.
How stupid are we, really? Right now the party of violence, hatred, bigotry, pouting, and name-calling is the Democratic Party, and the Left's determination to find a Trump-Russian Leaks connection makes Joe McCarthy's lists of Communist agents in government look rational and orderly.
http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2017-06-01.shtml
I can certainly report on stuff like that, but then you could also hear it on Hannity or The Five.
I’ll certainly keep my eye out for any outstanding screed from that side, unless you’d like reports on stuff like that, which could mean your comments section could become “Hatrack West.” :) I’m not sure that’s what you envision for your site. ;)

Tony Fisk said...

The Doctor sets great store in not needing guns, preferring to let his enemies hoist themselves on their own petards (although the rule is a bit bendy-wendy, depending on the writer) Space Patrol (the UK version that may have inspired some of Elon Musk's transport fantasies) had a similar attitude toward weaponry, preferring a future with non-lethal forms of deterrence.

The magic system depicted in Vance's Dying Earth stories (discovered formulae) was the basis for the one in D&D. Vance's underlying thinking is given away in the first story, when Turjan is studying under the great mage Pandelume and comes to know of a system of brilliant insight which underpins all magic, and which the Ancients called "Mathematics".

David Gerrold & Larry Niven had a bit of fun in "The Flying Sorcerers", which tells the story of a shaman of a tribe of aliens, his young apprentice, and an interloper with strange powers of his own. The shaman's magic is clearly... well, sham (even the apprentice isn't sure the chants that allows his bicycle to move are strictly necessary) but, sometimes, it can be put to good use.

Richard Dawkins teamed up with artist Dave McKean to produce "The Magic of Reality". Dawkins interweaves traditional legends of how things came to be, with how science sees them.

Jumper said...

Spinrad:
''Providing hope is something science fiction should be doing. It sounds arrogant to say it, but if we don't do it, who the hell will? One of the social functions of science fiction is to be visionary, and when science fiction isn't being visionary, it hurts the culture's visionary sense. And when the culture isn't receptive, neither is science fiction. It's a downward spiral.''
http://www.locusmag.com/1999/Issues/02/Spinrad.html


I ought to mention a friend I respect found Child of Fortune and The Void Captain's Tale awful. As one reviewer put it, you have to be willing to meet Spinrad halfway.

David Brin said...

The Next Generation was far more sophisticated. One episode Picard vacations with his brother in the family vinyard and we see the brother's contempt for anything synthetic, which can have no price. But their vintage has to be bought! With money!

Zepp Jamieson said...

Best SF TV series? I'll make a case for Farscape. It had a unique universe with aliens that rivalled Brin's efforts in the Uplift universe, and the same gleeful combination of malice and wonder. The main characters were engaging, even the two that were puppets (Pilot and Rygel). Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) was one of the best television villains ever seen, and the show managed to steer effortlessly between the goofy and the sublime. (Australia has another superior SF/Fantasy series now, "Cleverman" that mixes the tropes of superior aliens and subjugated indigenous people.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

I'll also nominate Farscape as most optimistic. It features a universe filled with wondrous civilisations, most of which humanity can at least interact with. (The most hostile and aggressive are humanoids called Peacekeepers, and [spoiler] they are horrified by one of the last reveals of the show--that they are, in fact, human.

J.L.Mc said...

In the compilation of short stories called "rynosseros" by the australian author terry dowling, the aboriginal people develop a "mental science" which allows them to perform certain feats such as mind reading.

donzelion said...

"Note that all of these seemed to be reasonable things for our ancestors to try, even though magic almost never worked in the physical, objective world."

Magic 'worked' beautifully, just not as it was typically sold.

A 2000 BCE 'astronomer' - after mastering a calendar and explaining how it works is out of a job - but in an agrarian community, the star gazers can 'sell' their 'magical divinations' (and achieve both a social status without breaking their backs farming, and also, invite 'interesting company' to join in their stargazing, and thus participate in procreation too).

A 20,000 BCE 'artist' may not be able to make the mammoths return by painting them on a wall, BUT simply paying close attention to which materials made which colors and which ones lasted, as well as the storytelling, created a process of increasing community knowledge that was vastly more effective than competing species.

donzelion said...

As for most 'optimistic' science fiction, hmmm...

Thunderbirds?
Six Million Dollar Man? (Think how many investments into bionics followed from that one...even if it took a few decades to start moving towards useful prosthetic limbs)
Futurama - Earth gets destroyed, comes back, gets destroyed again, comes back again, just never make out with a robot...
Space:1999 (how can anyone not laugh their heads off at this one?)

But in terms of the 'best' science fiction, my vote goes to 'Black Mirror.' Not very many episodes, only 1 is really 'optimistic' - but ingenious, beautiful, and well-told tales that fully capture much on the cutting edge (of even our host's own recent shorter works).

David Brin said...

JLM… a fine SF trope is to take something that had been mystical and ineffective, but see it blossom when tech aided. For example, Epiletics often get “auras” like deja vu, just before a seizure, so I made that the basis for “neuroconvulsive hyperdrive” in my story “Toujours Voir.”

One author had Australian natives as the star sail riggers, because only they (not Africans) were black enough to withstand the radiation.

I’ve long wanted to do a story in which most astronauts are Pima Indians, because they can live for a month off a handful of parched corn… which is why the modern diet kills them.

Hey donzel, don’t rag Space 1999 just days after Marin Landau died….

Zepp Jamieson said...

Donzelion wrote: "But in terms of the 'best' science fiction, my vote goes to 'Black Mirror.'"

I tend to see BM as futurist, rather than SF (and my distinction is whether the technology already exists but is not yet implemented into social mores, or is something we are likely to see in the next decade).
That said, it's an utterly brilliant series. Charlie Brooker is also England's best social and political satirist IMHO.

Carl M. said...

Most optimistic SF television series: UFO. We have multiple moon bases by 1980, officers can drink on the job and openly ogle the bodysuit clad females without a sexual harassment suit. Now THAT's utopia!

And you gotta love the purple wigs -- worn only on the moon.

donzelion said...

Was I ragging Space '99? It pops into my head every time I hear a Republican talk about going back to the Moon. But watching an episode nowadays (if you can find it), I just can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. It may not be the best, but was surely the most 'disco' SF (and surely, there are people who would regard those as synonyms).

Zepp: I thought '15 Million Merits' wasn't one of the stronger episodes of Black Mirror (but liked it even so) - yet if it launches Daniel Kaluuya and creates a variety of race/trope inversions and reconsiderations (see 'Get Out'), I'm all for it. It is ultimately more psychologically/sociologically concerned than most sci-fi - less, 'what if?' and more, 'what are we (becoming)?' I'm not sure I buy the distinction between 'futurism' and sci fi. Still, a damn good show. Like Twilight Zone, but with the filler omitted. But is it franchiseable...? Hmm...

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I wouldn't say [Star Trek] Earth was a post-scarcity world, but it sure looked like prices for stuff that fulfills Maslow's lowest needs were essentially non-existent.


How much of contemporary earth did we ever see in Star Trek, especially outside of Starfleet Academy? It's become accepted wisdom that Star Trek earth is post-economic, but it seems to me that there's a lot of "reading in" that goes into that.

In TOS, I don't think the subject ever comes up. It seems that people are reading into the fact that the stories don't involve characters spending money, but people don't tend to spend money on a naval vessels or in uncharted territory, and that's where many of the episodes took place.

In TNG, yes Picard is overly sanctimonious toward a 20th century capitalist, and they look down on the "Yankee Trader" Ferrengi, but there's a lot of leeway there to say that the people on the Enterprise aren't obsessed with economics without concluding that it doesn't exist at all.




LarryHart said...

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of this until just now, but is it mere coincidence that John McCain, who opposed the Trump/Putin stance on NATO last summer is now conveniently dying of aggressive brain cancer?

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Six Million Dollar Man? (Think how many investments into bionics followed from that one...even if it took a few decades to start moving towards useful prosthetic limbs)


I was a big fan of the show as a teenager in the 1970s. Because I was already big into comic books, I always thought of Steve's augmentations as a grown-up stand-in for super powers rather than as actual prosthetics. As prosthetic is generally something that you get because it's better than nothing, but you'd rather have kept your real limb. The Six Million Dollar Man on the other hand was "better than he was". He didn't just have replacement limbs--he had powers like Superman.

(I did wonder how a bionic arm allowed him to lift a car without snapping his spine)

Kal Kallevig said...

Jonathan Sills from the last post:
Kal, you (surprisingly for someone reading this blog) ignore the fact that the limitations of this one Earth are not necessarily the limits humanity must face.

Yes, if we survive as a high tech society for long enough to truly exploit all those resources, that changes everything. If that is the magic we are counting on to escape the trap we find ourselves in, then I would like to see policies adopted that would accomplish same. Policies complete with well criticized models that show a clear path and at least some attempt at consensus building to achieve those policies.

Erin Schram said...

matthew said,
This excerpt ... flies directly in the face of your assertion, from two blog postings past, that there is no competition in socialism. I called you out, doc, for the statement at the time, and now, here you are, claiming the opposite.

David Brin had said in the comments to Surviving Apocalypse:
“America is the land of freedom, opportunity, generosity and enterprise!” Each word cancels out the zero-sum aspects of one of the others. Enterprise means that socialism isn’t a goal and that competition is implicit while “opportunity” implies everyone should get a chance to participate....

To which matthew responded:
Doc, Socialism does not mean no competition. I guarantee there is still competition in socialist nations.

Further discussion of socialism and completion was drowned out among the other topics of discussion. However, this short discussion started me thinking about the nature of competition.

Back when I worked for a U.S. government agency, I saw many good projects die while still useful. Some died because a better project superceded it or because the budget became too tight to support a minor success, but far too many died because management simply no longer cared about it, regardless of its degree of success, and ended it.

Competition exists among the projects, though. New ideas were always in competition with the old ways. Sometimes several projects start at the same time--often by separate offices--to solve the same problem. Eventually, upper management would trim the duplication, preferably not too soon.

At its core, competition is letting a person or team prove that it achieves better performance. When management kills a duplicate project too early, it cuts short the proof. One mistake by management can strike competition dead. A mistake can be as trivial as moving key people to another task. Success can be irrelevant. I have seen management accidentally kill a successful project because different offices fought over the resources to claim that success. Monopolists and feudalists would love to have the same control that managers have, because the better performance proven by competition could take away their privilege.

Socialism is like inside an agency or corporation. Management, i.e., the government, controls many projects. Free enterprise is different. I don't need permission to start my own project with my own resources. A business is a self-supporting project, though it might need investors to prime the pump before it becomes self supporting.

Yet competition does not require capitalism. Competition in sports is about individuals and training. Competition in science is about evidence and theories. If I weren't lazy in retirement and distracted by health problems, I could be spinning out new mathematical algorithms from my kitchen table and competing to have them adopted.

Therefore, Star Trek could have a non-capitalist economy and still have competition.

Shane Mallatt said...

I don't know if it qualifies but not mentioned among the optimistic sci-fi series yet is Quantum Leap. I know it lacks a lot of the futuristic elements of most but it was a favorite of mine growing uo.

J.L.Mc said...

Speaking of magic.....
David brin, what do you think of the fact that jack parsons, a man instrumental in the development of rocketry, was also an occultist?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Erin
Having spent most of my career in large engineering companies I can assure you that all of the ills that you claim for Government Agencies are also present in private enterprise
In fact I believe that they are WORSE in private enterprise because big government does attract more altruistic people than private industry

As far as "free enterprise" being different - if you restrict yourself to things that a single individual can do then YES

BUT that is a HUGE restriction and would eliminate 99.99% of the improvements that we have made in the last half century

If you are making improvements you need;
Expertise in several areas, metrology equipment, manufacturing equipment
You can outsource some of these - but you need access to $$$$ worth of equipment

So "Government Agencies" tend to be better at doing things - I would note that in the USA you do get more interference from politicians and lobbyists than in other countries

Carl M. said...

Donzelion: UFO is even more groovy. (Same production company.) But it lacks the extreme pessimism of Space 1999.

Erin Schram said...

Duncan Cairncross said,
As far as "free enterprise" being different - if you restrict yourself to things that a single individual can do then YES
BUT that is a HUGE restriction and would eliminate 99.99% of the improvements that we have made in the last half century


I suspect that that is part of the appeal of magic systems. Magic lets the lone hero replace the large support organization with a few spells.

One of my favorite magic systems is in Piers Anthony's Xanth series. Plants, animals, and people are simply born with magic. For crossbreeds, such as centaurs, the magic is that the crossbreed occurred and has the best abilities of the original species. For purebreeds, such as humans, the magic is a random spell (or related familiy of spells) that the person can cast. Other species are magical mutations based on puns, such as shoe trees that have pairs of shoes as fruit. The stories involve a lot of exploring, because the humans don't know the rules of magic beyond what they observe. In the 4th novel, Princess Irene, who spent her scenes in the 3rd novel irritated that she lacked powerful Magician-level magic, learned to combine her magic with a clever use of natural resources to gain Magician-level results.

The king of Xanth had to be a Magician, because apparently the government was unfunded and the king needed a lot of magic to accomplish anything.

Having a Gandalf-like character explain the rules of magic in a novel often irritates me. The One Ring can be destroyed only by throwing it into Mount Doom, the volcano where it was forged. Would some other volcano, not located in Sauron's domain, be enough instead? In Narnia, Aslan explains that the White Witch knew the Deep Magic but not the Deeper Magic. This confidence often drives the plot and creates tension; after all, would the trek to Mount Doom be as dramatic if the characters were unsure whether the heroic dangerous mission was necessary?

Nevertheless, I like a magic system that people can tinker with. In the Quora answers, Paul Mannering mentioned Master Of The Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy, and its sequels Secret of the Sixth Magic and Riddle of the Seven Realms. When circumstances forced the protagonist Alodar to abandon Thaumaturgy and study Alchemy, he suggested to his alchemy teacher that thaumaturgy could eliminate a lot of the drudgery in alchemy. His teacher recommended against mixing separate schools of magic, and Alodar agreed with him after his experiment exploded. I was disappointed.

occam's comic said...

“officers can drink on the job and openly ogle the bodysuit clad females without a sexual harassment suit. Now THAT's utopia!” Karl M

Now that is a quite revealing statement from a “libertarian”, I have found that if you talk with a libertarian long enough you eventually get to the point where he (almost always a he) reveals that what he really wants is freedom for himself and subjugation for others.

So Karl, on behalf of all the women in my life who have had to put with harassment from misogynistic A-holes like you, F...K Off!
And learn how to control yourself

Carl M. said...

I see that occam's comic is one of those people who lack a sense of humor.

A.F. Rey said...

(I did wonder how a bionic arm allowed him to lift a car without snapping his spine?)

As Donald said to Mueller's team, "You ask too many questions!" :)

occam's comic said...

It is such a typical response from Karl M.

When someone is call out on their misogyny or racism they respond that the other person doesn’t have a sense of humor. Sorry bucko but there is nothing funny about sexual harassment in the workplace, it does enormous harm to the people you harass and to the company that you both work for.

And the fact that you think being able to sexually harass women you work with is a Utopia, says something pretty unflattering about you as a person

Jumper said...

"The urge to believe drives people to trade in part of their soul in exchange for the comfort of being a rebel."
On moon shot hoxes and magic
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGXTF6bs1IU&feature=youtu.be

I hardly ever post YouTube links. This one is a goodie.

David Brin said...

Easy does it, Occam. We need to apply forward pressure against things like ogling. But not because glimpse/appreciating is harmful in its own right. Carl's remark merited a wince or even a light chide, not a fulmination.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

"(I did wonder how a bionic arm allowed him to lift a car without snapping his spine?)"

As Donald said to Mueller's team, "You ask too many questions!" :)


I don't particularly try to ruin enjoyable fiction by probing it too deeply. That particular thing, though, just "felt" wrong. Watching Steve Austin lift heavy objects, I could feel the crush of the weight on his shoulder and back. "The arm isn't what's doing the lifting."

Didn't stop me from enjoying the show because I wasn't taking it literally anyway. To me, Steve Austin was really Superman as presented for an adult audience.

occam's comic said...

Bullshit David,
I have seen first hand what sexual harassment does.
I have seen how it effected my Mom when she was working in the 70's and 80's.
My younger sister first job was in a place that tolerated sexual harassment and it made her life miserable until she was able to find another job.

It is easy for you to say it is no big deal because you don't have to put up that kind of sexist bullshit.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

We need to apply forward pressure against things like ogling. But not because glimpse/appreciating is harmful in its own right.


I second that, and not only because I'm a confirmed ogler myself (though not a harasser). I'd defend Carl there on the same basis as "watching violent movies doesn't mean you actually want to hurt or kill real people." Being enamored of a woman who doesn't return the affection and perhaps imagining sex with her is not the same thing as "wanting to actually rape that woman." And likewise, a fondness for fictional depictions of innocent enjoyment of the aesthetic pleasure of an attractive woman hardly rises to the level of "harassing women he works with."

matthew said...

Best system of magic - Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind." Hands-down. Since it deals with the education of a young mage at the magical academy it gets into the rules of his system. Highly recommended.

Thanks for the comments Eric. That's exactly what I was driving at. Our esteemed host and his "Bah" shows precisely that he needs some CITOKATE on this matter.

Berial said...

Hey Jumper,
I enjoyed that youtube video. Thanks!

I love the reversal of "In 1969 we had the tech to go to the moon but we DIDN'T have the tech to fake it."

LarryHart said...

@occam's comic,

No one here including Carl is defending sexual harassment.

I think you "heard" this differently from how I did:

officers can drink on the job and openly ogle the bodysuit clad females without a sexual harassment suit. Now THAT's utopia!


You hear "without a sexual harassment suit" as "They are immune from due process, so they can bother the women at will and get away with it." I heard "...without it bothering anybody." That's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

A.F. Rey said...

I don't particularly try to ruin enjoyable fiction by probing it too deeply. That particular thing, though, just "felt" wrong. Watching Steve Austin lift heavy objects, I could feel the crush of the weight on his shoulder and back. "The arm isn't what's doing the lifting."

At least you knew enough to think about it.

Reminds me of a story I heard from someone involved in the creation of the cartoon series "The Bionic Six." One of the guys in charge was going off about the characters--"one could have a bionic arm, one bionic eyes, one a bionic stomach"--and the person suddenly realized that this guy didn't have a clue to what bionics actually were. They were just magic to him.

Which, of course, is the most popular type of magic in fiction--lazy science. :)

occam's comic said...

Yes Larry that is it exactly

I hear "without a sexual harassment suit" as "They are immune from due process, so they can bother the women at will and get away with it."

Because that has been the actual situation that women have faced in the workplace before they could sue for sexual harassment (and women are still putting up this kind of shit form their male coworkers even though they can sue - see UBER).

From my experience when a man is complaining about sexual harassment suits it is because they get their jollies off playing sick little dominance games with the women who work with them.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

At least you knew enough to think about it.


Not so much thought. It would be more appropriate to say I had enough kinesthetic sense to feel where the weight would be resting while Steve was lifting a car.


Reminds me of a story I heard from someone involved in the creation of the cartoon series "The Bionic Six." One of the guys in charge was going off about the characters--"one could have a bionic arm, one bionic eyes, one a bionic stomach"--and the person suddenly realized that this guy didn't have a clue to what bionics actually were. They were just magic to him.


I don't know if the word "bionic" was actually around before The Six Million Dollar Man, but if it was, it certainly wasn't widely known among the general population. I heard that the show might have been called The Bionic Man, but they figured no one would know what that was supposed to mean. A few weeks into the show, everybody knew.

Likewise, I'm old enough to remember when the term "Kung-Fu" was so generally unknown that people thought it was the name of David Carridine's character instead of the name of a martial art. Even though Bruce Lee was already famous--everyone just assumed he was doing Karate.

And to complete the trifecta, after seeing "Star Wars" on Memorial Day weekend 1977, there were still two more weeks of high school, and I went back telling everyone who would listen that they should go see it. And most people had no idea what I was talking about.

It's weird trying to recall a time when "bionic", "Kung-Fu", or "Star Wars" were not terms that most people recognized.

Robert said...

Larry on McCain. So Trump can metastasize?

As far as favorite shows go, I was twelve and lived in England in the days of the First Doctor. Given that, there was no question. I must have Exterminated my parents, sister, and friends dozens of times at least.

Authors - Vance and Anderson. Also the best fantasy authors except (maybe) for Tolkien himself. You can tell in the Lyonesse trilogy that Vance liked kings and priests just as much as David does.


Bob Pfeiffer.

LarryHart said...

occam's comic:

From my experience when a man is complaining about sexual harassment suits it is because they get their jollies off playing sick little dominance games with the women who work with them.


I think this is one of those situations in which "There are two types of people in the world...". In this case, "...those who enjoy making others feel bad and those who enjoy making others feel good."

I like to appreciate what Dave Sim called "the aesthetic moment" of momentarily viewing a beautiful woman, but I have no intention or desire of making her feel uncomfortable, threatened, dominated, etc. In fact, the times when the woman smiles back appreciatively are the ones that make my day.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Larry on McCain. So Trump can metastasize?


I was thinking more of polonium, but whatever.

Jumper said...

On privacy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDBBefGpX_M
Just a few minutes.

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :


f the health-care bill goes down in flames, as seems likely now, conservative groups that have opposed it for 7 long years are going to be apoplectic, and much of their anger is going to be directed at three Republican senators: Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH). In fact, it already is, as they have created a website called ObamacareRepealTraitors.com featuring these three senators. Interestingly enough, they seem to have forgotten Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is the Republican most opposed to the Senate health-care bill. They also missed Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), who also oppose it. It is unlikely that the website or other conservative activities are going to change any minds, though, and none of the three "traitors" is up for reelection in 2018, so they can't be primaried next year. In short, the conservatives can seethe, but they can't do much else. (V)


Posting this to note that certain conservatives (*ahem*) go apoplectic when liberals use the word "traitor" to mean anything less than "someone who should be hanged", but conservatives throw the term around willy-nilly to mean "someone who doesn't capitulate to everything I want." Just sayin'

Also, from the same page:


Trump (and his lawyers) are also asking anyone and everyone about the extent of his pardon power, and whether or not the President can pardon friends, family members, aides, and/or himself. These discussions are, to be blunt, very stupid for two reasons. First, everyone knows that Trump can pardon his friends/family/aides he sees fit (though not for state offenses), while nobody knows if he can pardon himself—that's almost certainly going to be a question for the Supreme Court. Asking around, then, yields no useful information. But it does give fodder for leaks, and those leaks make the President look like a guilty man.


Who can Cheetolini pardon before it becomes acceptable for me to consider him an illegitimate president? His son? Jared Kushner? Himself?


Lenny Raymond said...

What do you (David) think about Rogue One? I took it as a significant departure from the Monomyth ubermensch Star Wars formula. The heroes were normal people who rose to the occasion and sacrificed for the greater good.

Jumper said...

I think Carl (and Larry, too - sorry) don't get much of the ogling thing. occam went into overkill mode, however, unnecessarily.

The attractive woman who recorded her long walk a while back proved her point very well, I thought. The superficial come-ons seemed endless. After the hundredth ogle, shout-out, whistle, and "oh, baby quit breaking my heart!" you asked yourself if these guys realized how cheap they seemed, and why it all became maddening, and how the cheapness seemed designed to smear off on her, and how clueless the guys seemed, never realizing they weren't the only ones doing this and had reached a point where it comes off as unwanted pestering by numbers alone.

That said, I have noticed when an attractive woman makes me break out in a completely unplanned grin, with no accompanying roving eyeball-feeling-ups, and no attempt to start talking each time, it seems it's appreciated. And may even be an opening.

David Brin said...

Occam, we are arguing over a boundary of types and categories. You are pushing a boundary between acceptable and unacceptable far, far beyond the behaviors that injured your sister and mother, and you know it. You are doing it mostly for right and proper reasons… because the boundary between “innocent appreciation” and “harassment” needs to shift!

I do not argue against the direction of that shift or its necessity. Indeed, I have been a champion of such shifts all of my life. Whatever their socio-economic-cultural-evolutionary reasons in the past, all of those old habits must be re-evaluated and the ones that limited human potential in this modern world must be cast aside.

But the RAGE - when aimed toward males who were excellent and respectful fellows - compared to their eras, at each phase of this process, but had been raised in an era that promoted and did not repress glimpse-appreciation - is just unfair.

Oh, let me now add fuel to your wrath.

It seems clear that male humans are both visually stimulated and reactive to whatever is the boundary of the permissible. In earlier times, a flash of a trim ankle was considered highly provocative and even obscene. (Geez, listen to the Cole Porter song “Anything Goes!”)

I quite believe the Muslims and Orthodox Jews who claim to be disturbed by exposed feminine hair or a bare neck. They set an extreme boundary and then are disturbed by that boundary. Today, most western males can ignore degrees of exposure of the female form that would likely have driven earlier generations nuts — because we’re used to it and it is normal.

And it’s contextual! A bikini at the beach is much less arousing than lingerie that is even less revealing. Those who claim that we must be utterly oblivious to these effects, WHILE they deliberately toy with these boundaries, as their right to “wear whatever I want,” are correct politically and ethically. But seriously, is it completely fair?

Whatever boundary of style is agreed upon, males will remain visually reactive to exposures that skirt whatever boundary they are used-to. Yes, absolutely, we should control ourselves and not exhibit that reaction in ways that impinge on a woman’s right to be left alone, or to be taken seriously, or to exercise personal sovereignty in perfect safety and so on…

…but grand declarations that we must be eunuchs internally? While those boundaries are deliberately teased? I promise you that future, liberated and scientific people will look back upon that as one-sided PC-bullying, and as having been deeply unfair.

David Brin said...

Lenny, here's my earlier piece on Force Awakens:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2015/12/jj-abrams-awakens-force.html

''Rogue One was an improvement. Less midichlorians, though still some mysticism. And one ofre case of tiny ships blowing up a big ship from the inside.

donzelion said...

LaryHart/A.F. Rey: I was a bit too young to realize physical limitations of a bionic arm, but still think that this sort of 'bionics' in the '70s has changed public receptivity to bionics 30+ years later. To me, a claim like - "How many of the folks who authorized Apollo budgets early on saw Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), but couldn't be bothered to read Jules Verne?" - is quite plausible. The premise in the film is silly; but the 'magic' in terms of film-making and special effects is amazing (not to mention whether it influenced budget priorities).

'Knightrider' is another - hammy, silly, implausible, yet how many people's fears of 'talking cars' were alleviated by watching one of the very few good AIs in mass fiction> "Useful sci fi."

Contrast with the 'superhero' story, a modernized variation on classical gods and demigods. Ideas are interesting psychologically, but almost never actualizable (often, they retard useful work). Years of aeronautics research wasted replicating Daedelus' wings, years of work on biology wasted chasing the migration flows of animals post Noah's ark - and how many years of social work will be wasted building a 'Jedi council' (because we can't trust Congress to get anything done...).

Aside: Last year, I challenged our host's views about the Jedi (Brin's claim: they just sit around in seclusion doing nothing! cowards! - my claim, Yoda, Ben, and now Luke are 'existentially depressed' and uncertain whether they should continue or not), could actually be a premise in 'The Last Jedi' (Luke's words about whether the Jedi should exist...). Again, 'interesting psychologically' - but in this world, any attempt to create a Jedi Council will hurt as bad as wax wings (probably worse - justifying secretive cabals that have so often come into existence).

"Which, of course, is the most popular type of magic in fiction--lazy science."
In my mind, science is rigorous and demands effort. So does writing anything worth reading. How can I accuse an author of 'lazy science' without implying sneeringly they needed to work even harder? Hence, I don't see 'hard' or 'soft' as useful judgments about how authors use science in their works - rather, specific authors have quirks and curiosities they pursue in some works, but not others. Everyone wants to believe what they love is worthy of love...for whatever reason.

Deuxglass said...

Carl M,

I think the Star Trek universe learned through trial and error the dangers of AI, physical and mental enhancements, virtual reality and excessive use of robots. Obviously they must be strict rules concerning that stuff since we don’t see any in the episodes and when we do they are usually evil. All the other space-going races were the same. I suspect those races who did not reach space had been detoured into the dead end behaviors and their tech. Vulcans don’t bother contacting a new race if it doesn’t have warp drive. Having gadgets and VR does not really make a civilization in their eyes. The only civilization that had embraced the Tech Singularity was the Borg and no one liked them. The enthusiasm that some people have for the Singularity today reminds me of the Borg. They too say “You Will Be Assimilated”. “Resistance is futile”.

David Brin said...

Carl M I see you have cited your book at http://www.carlmilsted.com/

Good. I will mention it at Freedom Fest.

Treebeard said...

To me magic is the opposite of science: the art of creating one of a kind, non-repeatable, powerful phenomena that we don’t have rational explanations for. Rutger Hauer’s improvised “tears in rain” soliloquy in Blade Runner was magic. A computer-generated voice following a script on the other end of the phone is science. Science without magic produces an unbearable hell-world. Things like tarot cards or the I-ching or temple rituals are techniques to try to create magical experiences, but it’s not a science and never will be. And the main target of magic is the consciousness of the participants; causality over the material world is secondary (though it did get some impressive structures built). Magic clearly works, or we wouldn’t have all these temples, religions, works of art and occult traditions still around and impressing us after thousands of years, despite the best efforts of the anti-magic jihadists to erase it from history and treat it like an ancient curse from the pre-Enlightenment World of Darkness.

occam's comic said...

David you are focused on the ogling part, I am focused on the stripping away of the rights of women.

Yes I am sensitive to this kind of bullshit, because women I love dearly have suffered humiliation, shame, self doubt and serious depression from a bunch of male a-holes who they worked with. Sexist jerks who told them that they are too sensitive, that they can't take a joke, that they don't really know how thing work at the company etc. etc.

I don't expect men to be eunuchs, but I do expect them to treat women as real people not submissive sex objects.

Treebeard said...

^^ Humorless PC puritans who think men enjoying the sight of attractive females is an evil to be stamped out are an example of what happens when you have no magic in your society, and try to reduce everything to rationalist algorithms. It doesn't work; it's spiritual and cultural death (how much great, timeless culture did Communism produce? Same goes for the PC propaganda-art being produced today. No one will care about in 5 years, let alone 500).

J.L.Mc said...

Strange how a conversation on magic veered into sexual harassment...

Anyway way, I like what you say, treebeard. What do YOU think of jack parsons?

Deuxglass said...

Magic. The first time I ran into it was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and that got me hooked. I was very young, about 8, at the time and it was just a high school play but it mesmerized me. I like some of the early sword and sorcery works like Poul Anderson’s “The Broken Sword” written in 1954 the same year as “The Lord of the Rings”. They both have the same Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian origins but they are very different.
Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series are fantastic in my opinion. They contain something very rare in sci-fi and fantasy and that is humor. The stories are full of it. I hope one day to see some producer put the novella “Lean Times in Lankhmar” on the screen but I doubt it will happen because it would be very hard to pull off.

Jumper said...

occam, the things you mention, " humiliation, shame, self doubt and serious depression from a bunch of male a-holes" is just as reprehensible to normal guys with decent manners who term their own thoughts as "ogling" because they aren't in the habit of lying to themselves.

Those further bounds of transgression you despise, and I do too, are further out and we could name or list them. One is when groups of males gang up and do "group ogling." That's beyond rude; it's a threat and bullying not to be countenanced by the civilized. Corporate swine are prone to this. Stalking is another.

Then you have others, who refuse to do any self examination at all, and when they get ostracized for eating their mashed potatoes with their hands, they get angry and claim to be victims.

David Brin said...


Once in a long while, Locumranch and Treebeard say sapient things. Hence my use of the names. Yes, magic is about creating vivid subjective realities in other peoples’ heads. And I am one of the top, industrial grade magicians who ever lived.


Argh, then the ent reverts to form.

Jumper said...

I'll make it rain now, so you can see the difference.

A.F. Rey said...

In my mind, science is rigorous and demands effort. So does writing anything worth reading. How can I accuse an author of 'lazy science' without implying sneeringly they needed to work even harder?

Some writing advice I recently re-discovered (from The Onion, no less!) said to "Know what you write." (Much better than to "write what you know," IMHO.) You need that to write something worth reading. So when a writer uses terms like "bionics" or "radiation" or "nanotechnology" to justify magic, he shows he doesn't really know what he is writing about and is just usurping the term to steal unearned legitimacy. It is laziness.

Which does not mean the work can't be entertaining, or wasn't hard to do. But it does take away from the work, and make it less "worth reading." Because like any subject that is written about, it will jerk the reader out of the story when he comes across something that is obviously (to him) false. Just like having Abraham Lincoln stepping into a Continental Congress debate would jerk anyone familiar with American history out of a story.

Understanding science is not that difficult. And you can always ask experts if you need to. Or use a made-up term like "Omega radiation" if you have to (although something better would be better). ;)

Russell Osterlund said...

I would like to put in a word for the seven volume Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony. The characters and stories move effortlessly between a technological society and a magical society - one side mirrors the other. A nice chapter included a ping-pong match between one character in the magic realm with a magic paddle that would never miss a shot and the other character (a robot!) possessing a technologically advanced paddle that could impart any adjustments on the ball. This series is one of my all-time favorites.

Alfred Differ said...

@Occam | Your sensitivity is understandable, but you undermine your own goals when you take things too far. You make opponents of people who would actually take your side if presented with an actual case of the egregious behavior.

Carl was obviously being sarcastic. Yah. My wife would have responded much as you did. She is sensitive too. I'd bet Carl would take your side, though, when the time was right. Until that time, his humor offends you (and my wife), but not all of us.

Keep your goal in mind and recognize that expressions of indignation makes opponents of some of your natural allies.

Alfred Differ said...

I see the fifth magic category by the name ‘phantasm’, but not of the summoning kind. It’s more about a mental representation of a real thing or of a possibly real thing. Believable illusion. Of course, what is believable depends on the subject, so an apparition might make some sense to someone who believes in an after-life. However, it’s the other believable stuff that I find more interesting.

When little Cody decides he wants to be a major league baseball player someday, he uses this form of magic upon himself. If it works, the illusion becomes reality and he gets to knock baseballs out of the park and we get to watch.

When a young man named Steve decides he is going to sell computers that don’t exist yet, he uses this form of magic upon himself and those near him turning a corporate illusion into the real thing. A smoky vision becomes one of the highest valued companies if the magic works. If it gets a foothold in the minds of those close to him, they spread it to others and call them customers.

In my own case, I wanted to be a physicist. I suspect that is easier than being a major league baseball player, but it took a stubborn and deliberate desire to override reality to impose my illusion. I had to work the magic on my graduate professors to get them to sign off on my work.

The construction of phantasms is a kind of similarity magic and we ALL do it. Even science makes use of this style of magic. Newton’s ‘forces’ were quite bizarre to those who saw the universe as Aristotle described it. Most of us believe them today, though. The illusion is real in our minds.

Love IS this kind of magic. How else can we think we understand those dear to us without constructing mental representations of them and then believing?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Occam's Razor wrote: I hear "without a sexual harassment suit" as "They are immune from due process, so they can bother the women at will and get away with it."

I think you are overreacting to a rather innocuous statement.

It reminds me of the comments sections in most liberal concentrator sites, where an embarrassingly high number of posters are in moral high dudgeon over the news that DeWeiss and Benoit are planning a new HBO series based on the premise that the Confederate States of America survived the Civil War (or possibly won it) and exist in the present day.

There's howls of outrage that this glorifies treason and endorses slavery--sight unseen. It's pretty non-sensical, especially sense the producers of "Game of Thones" suggest strongly that the new show isn't going to be magnolia blossoms, mint julups and President Sessions going, "Why I declarh! suh!"

More likely the show will be pretty scathing. In any event, why not wait and see what these two gifted men actually do before howling?

And why not assume that a silly comment about ogling girls is an endorsement of rape or subjugation?

Brin is already convinced that anyone left of centre is a howling doctrinaire nut who is utterly unbending and strident. Why feed into that silly stereotype?

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

I think Carl (and Larry, too - sorry) don't get much of the ogling thing. occam went into overkill mode, however, unnecessarily.
...
That said, I have noticed when an attractive woman makes me break out in a completely unplanned grin, with no accompanying roving eyeball-feeling-ups, and no attempt to start talking each time, it seems it's appreciated.


See, I do get that.

Maybe "ogling" doesn't mean what I think it means. I was not trying to defend catcalls, loud whistles, forcible advances on someone who is clearly not interested. What I practice and defend is strictly visual. And not even obvious, pointed, drooling stares either.

Do I have to state the cliche that I'm a happily married man? One who uses his real name on a blog belonging to a sci-fi author of whom my wife is a fan and may very well be perusing here? I don't indulge in any behaviors that are going to threaten that relationship. If Hell froze over and a beautiful woman other than my wife actually did more than return a glance and actually offered herself to me, I'd be in quite the dilemma. Two of the biggest motivators in my life are "Don't let an opportunity pass, especially one not likely to repeat itself" and absolute loyalty to those dear to me. I'd like to think the second wins out, buttressed by the unlikelihood of the first coming to pass anyway.

All that to say, I'm not trying to initiate contact with strangers, let alone force anything more.

But it's summer in Chicago, and downtown where I work is full of very beautiful women in various states of skimpiness. I'm not going to not enjoy the view. And as Jumper said, that return glance of mutual appreciation is all sorts of icing on the cake.

Dr Brin:

…but grand declarations that we must be eunuchs internally? While those boundaries are deliberately teased? I promise you that future, liberated and scientific people will look back upon that as one-sided PC-bullying, and as having been deeply unfair.


Yeah, you mostly get it too. It rankles just a bit that you seem to think of women wearing revealing clothing (if they're not actually trolling for sex) as being unfair--something they have the right to do but probably shouldn't--instead of a gift that literally makes life worthwhile. But maybe that last bit is just me. :)

Dave Sim called it "the aesthetic moment". And I immediately understood what he was referring to.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

Humorless PC puritans who think men enjoying the sight of attractive females is an evil to be stamped out are an example of what happens when you have no magic in your society, and try to reduce everything to rationalist algorithms. It doesn't work; it's spiritual and cultural death (how much great, timeless culture did Communism produce? Same goes for the PC propaganda-art being produced today. No one will care about in 5 years, let alone 500).


Holy crap! I didn't think I'd ever put these words in this order, but Treebeard makes a good point.

(BTW, reCAPTCHA is getting REALLY effing annoying!)

Viking said...

Since we're talking about sexism:

One of the funniest SNL skits I can recall is a fake commercial for Viagra:

It shows a before and after picture:

Before: Bob Dole
After: Bill Clinton

Ageist, non PC, and incredibly funny.

Today's TV is so boring! I haven't used my TV to display network Broadcasting since the Olympics.

Alfred Differ said...

I think it is pretty clear Trump can pardon everyone but himself.

Let him. It will have consequences.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

So when a writer uses terms like "bionics" or "radiation" or "nanotechnology" to justify magic, he shows he doesn't really know what he is writing about and is just usurping the term to steal unearned legitimacy. It is laziness.


It depends on the nature of the story. For exmaple, The Six Million Dollar Man was not a science-fiction story about the logical consequences of a man being fitted with artificial limbs. It was a barely-disguised superhero story that used pseudo-science as an explanation for the premise. Because of that, I didn't worry about whether artificial limbs really work that way (or whether they could really be atomic-powered) while enjoying the show.

Likewise, badly-defined gravity and blasters don't bother me in "Star Wars" the way they would in "Star Trek" or "2001" because "Star Wars" isn't really about space travel. It's a pirate movie set in space for the coolness of the effects.

Likewise again, I don't need a plausible historical timeline of what came before in order to enjoy the original "Foundation" series. The point is the adventures that follow from a failing Galaxy-wide empire and a science of psychohistory. Questions like "How did humanity spread to the stars?" or "Why aren't there non-human aliens?" just don't occur to me to worry about, any more than the Russian novella Metamorphosis feels the need to explain the mechanism by which Gregor became a giant bug.

LarryHart said...

Russel Osterlund:

I would like to put in a word for the seven volume Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony. The characters and stories move effortlessly between a technological society and a magical society - one side mirrors the other. ... This series is one of my all-time favorites.


Was that the series where each book had a protagonist become a personification of Death, Time, and other such concepts? I only read the first two of that series before other things drew my attention away, but I especially liked the first one in which a guy accidentally kills Death and thereby becomes Death. There were several "really makes you think" moments in that one.


Carl M. said...

@David: double plus thank you for the mention at Freedom Fest.

@all: Rather suprrised that my little joke stirred the pot so much. I have been trying to behave and not go political. Glad to see that not everyone has gone liberal-Scudderite. (In truth, I dare say that the Colonel Freeman character gets forward enough on a couple of occasions that I cringe a bit, but the ladies in question successfully rebuff him without calling in the police.)

If you haven't seen the show, it's worth looking at. It's VERY different from most television. The perspective is quite impersonal -- rather like the movie version of MASH. And for all the special effects and groovy costumes, the plots are mostly driven by the moral and logistical issues of running an incredibly secret government agency which has incredible power. If the series were more popular, David would have written a half dozen essays about it. Lots and lots of tie-in with the Transparent Society, and some with Existence as well. (A rather gruesome, but logical, reason why there has been no overt First Contact. The UFOs are flown by life extended human[oids?] who are using Earth humans for spare parts.)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I think it is pretty clear Trump can pardon everyone but himself.


I'm not at all clear that he can't pardon himself. The fact that such an act would be unprecedented is simply the new normal.

I'm not as certain that a pardon can be granted ahead of a conviction. I'm pretty sure that a pardon implies guilt.


Let him. It will have consequences.


I'm not at all sure that it will have impeachment-type consequences. The Republican Party is too busy making excuses for him. His supporters would see it as a shrewd victory over the lamestream media and Democrats who have persecuted poor Donald.

One perhaps-unintended consequence of a pardon for his inner circle is that it would remove their ability to hide behind the Fifth Amendment. They could then be compelled to testify against Trump.

Carl M. said...

Regarding Trek, I have stuck with the original series. And yes, the message is not that humans should never cross the Singularity; it is that we should delay doing so.

In the Next Generation humans seem to have come closer to the Singularity. I know not how far, as I found the show unwatchable. The writing -- especially the dialog -- was just too atrocious.

--

(As for the British SF mentioned: loved Red Dwarf and have them all on DVD; I need to get the DVD of Blake's Seven, as I have only seen a few episodes. But those are hardly optimistic shows!)

LarryHart said...

I just googled "Can a president pardon himself?" and the links to the top three responses are not reassuring.

The CNN headline is simply "Can President Trump pardon himself?" I haven't clicked further to see what their answer is.

The Washington Post has "No, Trump can't pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so." That would be reassuring if it were true, but it sounds more like wishful thinking. The Constitution prohibits him from pardoning himself over an impeachment, but the Republicans in congress aren't going to impeach him anyway. Meanwhile, there's nothing to prevent him from shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and then pardoning himself for the action.

The Los Angeles Times has the more honest "Could Trump pardon himself? No president has ever done it." As if "unprecedented and unpresidented" hasn't been routine day-to-day since last summer.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

In the Next Generation humans seem to have come closer to the Singularity. I know not how far, as I found the show unwatchable. The writing -- especially the dialog -- was just too atrocious.


Did you stop watching in the first season? The third and fourth seasons were much better, although maybe still not to your political liking. But the adventures were more interesting.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Occam's Razor wrote...


Heh. Was that a joke?

:)

Jumper said...

I see it was a simple error. I thought ogling means exactly "obvious, pointed, drooling stares" or equivalent.

Tim H. said...

Recently read something optimistic, Linda Nagata's "The Martian Obelisk" at tor.com
http://www.tor.com/2017/07/19/the-martian-obelisk/
Begins in a dour fashion, ends in unexpected hope.

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

I see it was a simple error. I thought ogling means exactly "obvious, pointed, drooling stares" or equivalent.


And I never saw the tv show Carl was talking about, so I have no idea how blatant that captain was.

Lots of "telephone" going on in this communication.

Erin Schram said...

LarryHart asked,
Was that the [Piers Anthony] series where each book had a protagonist become a personification of Death, Time, and other such concepts? I only read the first two of that series before other things drew my attention away, but I especially liked the first one in which a guy accidentally kills Death and thereby becomes Death. There were several "really makes you think" moments in that one.

That was the Incarnations of Immortality series. It was interesting in how it gave a human face to how death, time, fate, war, nature, evil, good, and night affect human lives. Such illustrations are one of the greatest strengths of fantasy.

The magic system in the series was undefined. Later we learn that the gods had retired and passed their roles on to humans, so the incarnation magic is what the gods had decided. The pseudo-Earth setting also had a mix of technology and wizardly magic, perhaps so that the incarnation magic seemed less out of place against a background that already had magic. Wizardry allowed the creation of magic items for sale in common stores and specialty shops, just like technology could be purchased.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: "Heh. Was that a joke?

:)"

Alas, just a typo mine, unfashed by superior wit.

David Brin said...

Zepp: “Brin is already convinced that anyone left of centre is a howling doctrinaire nut who is utterly unbending and strident.”

Response: Bah and feh and you know it’s a lie, sir. Maybe 1% of my political jibes are aimed at the FAR-left. And if you can’t take that crit… um… ain’t you proving my point?

LH: “It rankles just a bit that you seem to think of women wearing revealing clothing (if they're not actually trolling for sex) as being unfair--something they have the right to do but probably shouldn't--instead of a gift that literally makes life worthwhile. But maybe that last bit is just me. :)”

That’s a fair assessment of the situation for the vast majority. Pushing that boundary a little bit… and forgiving if that makes me stare for a brief, appreciative moment, before I shake myself out of it and scrupulously turn my gaze… and noticing what happened with a very slight smile, instead of rancor? That’s a double gift and it happens a lot more often than the cliche that treebeard and locum complain about.

“I think it is pretty clear Trump can pardon everyone but himself.”

I dunno. Depends on how fed-up and American Alito and Roberts decide to be.
There’s a lot of room for “Framers’ Intent.” And they clearly did not intend pardons to be used to thwart justice for treason.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

But it does take away from the work, and make it less "worth reading." Because like any subject that is written about, it will jerk the reader out of the story when he comes across something that is obviously (to him) false. Just like having Abraham Lincoln stepping into a Continental Congress debate would jerk anyone familiar with American history out of a story.

Understanding science is not that difficult. And you can always ask experts if you need to. Or use a made-up term like "Omega radiation" if you have to (although something better would be better). ;)


I dunno, the use of the term "unobtainium" kinda took me out of "Avatar", at least for that moment.

And any series set in the future has the problem of "Why don't re-runs of the 'Star Trek' tv show still exist in the world of 'Star Trek'?" Heck, before Marvel Comics re-introduced the Captain America character in the 60s, they teased it with some of their characters reading old WWII-era Captain America comics which revealed Cap's secret identity, but then a few months later that information was conveniently forgotten.

greg byshenk said...

Regarding the 'ogle' and 'sexual harassment', David notes:

"Whatever boundary of style is agreed upon, males will remain visually reactive to exposures that skirt whatever boundary they are used-to. Yes, absolutely, we should control ourselves and not exhibit that reaction in ways that impinge on a woman’s right to be left alone, or to be taken seriously, or to exercise personal sovereignty in perfect safety and so on…"

I found the 'joke' something of a problem, as well. And the problem is the connection of 'ogling' (however one might choose to read that) with 'sexual harassment'. This is becaus just seeing something, in a way that does not "impinge on a [person]'s right to be left alone," etc., cannot possibly be 'sexual harassment'. Which means that, if you think that what you are doing might be construed as 'harassment', then you are doing something more: something that does impinge on the other person.

Think about it: if all you are doing is some internal noticing, then how would anyone else even know?

greg byshenk said...

A quick followup, since someone already mentioned the films of street harassment.

No doubt there were others in the vicinity who might have seen some woman walking down the street and thought her attractive in some way. But they don't appear in the films because they simply noticed and then went about their business, without imposing themselves on the woman walking down the street.

Zepp Jamieson said...

AF Ray wrote: Understanding science is not that difficult. And you can always ask experts if you need to. Or use a made-up term like "Omega radiation" if you have to (although something better would be better). ;)

SF by its nature has a certain amount of technobabble built in, along with the necessary McGuffins and magic boxes. It's when it is overused and a device for lazy writers that it becomes a problem. Star Trek relied on it far too often, to the point where it became a joke.

Larry Hart: Yeah, "unobtainium" was a jolt. It wasn't the sort of movie where you expect it to flagrantly break the fourth wall, and yet it did. It wasn't wrong, necessarily; just out of place.

Russell Osterlund said...

LarryHart:

Here is a reminder and synopsis of Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apprentice_Adept

Erin Schram provided the correct information on the series you were thinking about. (I have that series too!)

David Brin said...

greg b: with augmentations we will become better able to zoom in on each others' faces and record/evaluate reactions. So what today a normal fellow might not deem "ogling"... taking a quick glance and smiling before studiously lookin away, might become the next generation's swiftly detected Trigger Warning. There must come a point where science rescues us and says "teach the sons self control and maturity and respect... but grant just a little slack for harmless internal things the fizz from cro0magnon instincts, hm?

LarryHart said...

Consolidating posts because reCAPTCHA is becoming a real pain in the a$$...

greg byshenk:

Which means that, if you think that what you are doing might be construed as 'harassment', then you are doing something more: something that does impinge on the other person.

Think about it: if all you are doing is some internal noticing, then how would anyone else even know?


No doubt some of that is going on. "Oh, for the days I could squeeze a girl's butt without consequence." But it is also the case that sometimes an innocuous glance can be taken the wrong way and in this litigious age, yes, "construed as 'harassment'".

As for how anyone else would even know, you'd be surprised how easy it is to discern what someone else is looking at. There's a reason Secret Service agents wear sunglasses.

Zepp Jamieson:

Larry Hart: Yeah, "unobtainium" was a jolt. It wasn't the sort of movie where you expect it to flagrantly break the fourth wall, and yet it did. It wasn't wrong, necessarily; just out of place.


It's like having a character named Jack Daniels in a non-comedy film. It's not that it's impossible, but it makes you think that even the characters themselves should be commenting on it.

@Russel and @Eric,

Thanks for the reminders of the Piers Anthony series. It was the "magic technology advanced to 20th Century equivalents of science technology" that got me interested, but there were many incidental observations of human nature that I really liked as well.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

with augmentations we will become better able to zoom in on each others' faces and record/evaluate reactions. So what today a normal fellow might not deem "ogling"... taking a quick glance and smiling before studiously lookin away, might become the next generation's swiftly detected Trigger Warning.


A good point. It's similar to the Fourth Amendment issues involved with X-Ray Specs. If you go looking into someone's bedroom, is what they do there "in public"? If what they do is offensive to you, who is really responsible for that?

I used to ruminate on such things walking along the lakeshore paths in Evanston. I'd be stuck behind some slow old couple and think uncharitable thoughts about them. It occured to me that if they had perfect knowledge about what was going through my head, it would be of benefit to no one and only harmful to us all.

Laurence said...

Regarding Trek, I have stuck with the original series. And yes, the message is not that humans should never cross the Singularity; it is that we should delay doing so.

In the Next Generation humans seem to have come closer to the Singularity. I know not how far, as I found the show unwatchable. The writing -- especially the dialog -- was just too atrocious.

--

(As for the British SF mentioned: loved Red Dwarf and have them all on DVD; I need to get the DVD of Blake's Seven, as I have only seen a few episodes. But those are hardly optimistic shows!)


Blake's seven is available here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLIv-DVrjhZJqb7hvTVgL_w

No, they're not optimsitc at all. My point was that they are radically different from either Star Trek (peaceful democratic federation = good, warlike despotic Klingon/Romulan/Cardassian empire= bad) and Star Wars (mystical conservative Jedi= good, emotional fascistic sith= bad)In British sci-fi all authority is held in contempt, and subjected to constant ridicule, (consider how much luck Blake has trying to keep his crew in order, or the way Lister and the Cat ru rings around Rimmer in red dwarf) whereas in both Star Trek and Star Wars one authority is deemed to be legitimate. A jedi or a Star Tek officer wouldn't last five minites in the worlds of Blakes Seven or Red Dwarf!

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/us/politics/donald-trump-jeff-sessions.html


President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”
...

LarryHart said...

Oh, here's another trick that could be pulled to get a pardon for Cheetolini:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/us/politics/trump-pardon-himself-presidential-clemency.html


What about the 25th Amendment?

This part of the Constitution provides a mechanism for temporarily making the vice president the “acting president” when a president is disabled from carrying out his duties.

In her 1974 memo, Ms. Lawton argued that it would be lawful for a president to declare himself temporarily disabled, receive a pardon from the vice president, and then resume his role as president.

Under such a scenario, Mr. Trump could put his pardon on firmer legal footing by getting Vice President Mike Pence to do it for him.


In the world I grew up in, such shenanigans would guarantee that no Republican could be elected dog-catcher in the next election. But in the world of today, the usual 35% would continue to support Trump, claim the pardon means he did nothing wrong, and declare that a Democrat would be worse. And Democratic voters will still eat their own for not being pure enough.

I'm afraid I'm metaphorically beginning to...lose faith in the Dynamic Duo. My fellow Americans aren't going to fix this.

Paul SB said...

I'm coming to this discussion pretty late, but I thought it would be fun to throw a little science at the idea of magic. My favorite use of magic in fiction would be Terry Pratchett's witches - both the Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching books - where magic is more about psychology than wishful thinking. But for the science, there is a classic paper called "Baseball Magic" that concludes that people use what they believe to be magic in cases where the stakes are high, but there is a large element of chance to the outcome. He got the idea from an observation Malinowski made a century ago about the magic rituals fishermen used when fishing in rough, shark-infested waters, but not when fishing in safe lagoons. Baseball players have all sorts of weird rituals, mostly involving scratching themselves and spitting tobacco. But these rituals are only really performed by pitchers and batters. When a ball is flying at 90 mph, there is a huge element of luck around whether the bat connects with it or not. Basemen & outfielders, on the other hand, catch or miss a ball depending more on their skill and speed. They feel much less need for magic. In other words, magic is a stress coping mechanism.

http://sociology101.net/readings/2-Baseball-Magic.pdf

greg byshenk said...

LarryHart wrote:

No doubt some of that is going on. "Oh, for the days I could squeeze a girl's butt without consequence." But it is also the case that sometimes an innocuous glance can be taken the wrong way and in this litigious age, yes, "construed as 'harassment'".

I'm curious if you have any evidence of any instance of such occurring (that is: "an inocuous glance [...] construed as harassment")?

greg byshenk said...

And David, maybe at some point in the future "what today a normal fellow might not deem 'ogling'" might be construed differently. But that's obviously not the case now, so that can't be what one is "joking" about now, can it?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

There is a classic paper called "Baseball Magic" that concludes that people use what they believe to be magic in cases where the stakes are high, but there is a large element of chance to the outcome.
...
In other words, magic is a stress coping mechanism.


Superstitious rituals are invoked, not because you have certainty that they work, but because you can't be sure whether they just might work in the pinch, and there is no real downside to not doing them. If you perform the ritual and lose, well, that was just one of those inscrutable things, whereas if you don't perform the ritual and then lose, you'll always wonder if it would have turned things around.

LarryHart said...

grey byshenk:

I'm curious if you have any evidence of any instance of such occurring (that is: "an inocuous glance [...] construed as harassment")?


Me personally? No, but then I don't know anyone personally who is accused of sexual harassment at all. I'm sure there are anecdotes, and that conservatives are convinced that such things happen all the time.

LarryHart said...

BTW, if it were a Democratic president in there right now threatening to pardon his co-conspirators and himself in the middle of an investigation, don't you think Congress would be ramming a Constitutional amendment to prevent that so fast it would make your head spin?

Then again, maybe Trump just sets a new precedent. From now on, on his way out the door after his term, every president will pardon himself for any crimes he may have committed or will commit in the future.

locumranch said...


Assuming that certain characteristics are inheritable, then Meritocracy & Aristocracy are both virtually indistinguishable constructs that purport to accumulate & concentrate desired characteristics (over time; in subsequent generations) through the use of competitive darwinism, progressive incrementalism & selective breeding, insomuch as there is little qualitative difference between progressive attempts to 'perfect humanity', construct an Übermensch, establish a hereditary aristocracy or breed Belyaev's foxes.

Note also how Meritocracy & Aristocracy (proto-feudal constructs) are incompatible with modern 'Equalism', a pro-democracy philosophy that argues that 'all human beings, regardless of gender, race, age, ethnic origin, or any other factor that defines our individual differences, are totally equal' (with the possible exception of post-natal indoctrination & nuture), and their philosophical incompatibilities become irreconcilable.

The progressive attempt to reconcile the two mutually-exclusive concepts of Feudalism & Equalism shows true 'wackadoodle' Magical Thinking worthy of even Pratt & de Camp's "Land of Unreason":

All humans are perfectly equal & equally perfect (Equalism), but some progressive humans are more perfect & more equal than others (Feudalism), and those who are not-progressive are not-perfect, not-equal & not-human (Progressivism).


Best
____
@Greg_B: Ogling, joking about 'ogling' & dehumanising others are thoughtcrimes. So is climate denial. But Trump & his supporters are fair game because they're not human anyway. Cutting their heads off is big joke. Like #KillAllMen. Ha ha.

Jumper said...

Your own beliefs in drowning babies don't stand up too well in comparison, locum.

greg byshenk said...

So, LarryHart, if I'm reading your response correctly, when you say:

"But it is also the case that sometimes an innocuous glance can be taken the wrong way and in this litigious age, yes, "construed as 'harassment'".

What you actually mean is:

"I'm sure there are anecdotes, and that conservatives are convinced that such things happen all the time."

That is, you don't actually have any idea of whether "sometimes" -- or even ever -- "an inocuous glance" can be "construed as harassment". Or am I misinterpreting?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB:

Did you ever see a movie called "Major League"? It was a dumb comedy that worked far better than it should have, and it's pretty much necessary watching for anyone who loves baseball.
In the movie, Dennis Haybert plays the role of a baseball player from Haiti who has a long list of fetishes and hoodoo worship and the like. They include a Kewpie doll named Jobu, shots of rum, incense of dubious provenance, live snakes and an assortment of other rituals. One of the funnier elements of the movie is the other players, who either try to emulate his approach, or are affected adversely by denigrating his fetishes.
Even Clayton Kershaw has a wide variety of tweaks that are part of his obsessive game prep, and given that he is a rationalist, I'm not sure how much of it is superstition and how much of it is OCD.

LarryHart said...

greg byshenk:

That is, you don't actually have any idea of whether "sometimes" -- or even ever -- "an inocuous glance" can be "construed as harassment".


Nope. Just hearsay.

Now that we know that, what do we know? Seriously, I'm not sure what we're arguing about here.

LarryHart said...

Curious about whether there is actually any kind of issue, I googled "innocuous glances construed as harassment" This was the first link that came up.

https://www.quora.com/When-does-staring-at-a-woman-become-sexual-harassment

There's plenty there to support your contention that staring is not generally accepted as harassment, and there's also enough of a conversation there to support my supposition that there is at least a minority opinion out there that it very well can be considered harassment. Or at least that one has to keep that opinion in the back of one's mind.


Eye contact is a pretty important component of flirting.
But I am concerned by Samantha Wolov´s answer.

So whether I am harassing someone by looking at them is determined by whether they like me?
If she doesn't like me then I am "leering" or staring, but the same action is fine if she likes me?
...
Men especially are put in the position of breaking social convention among strangers in order to create a connection. And some women will respond very positively to this. But I guess I have to risk "harassing" women and if they don't like me then we could even add that I am "assaulting" them.
...
I guess by your thinking I should just accept that "harassing" people is a required risk of flirting. For me, I think a continuous gaze is not the best. Better to be caught looking at her, then look away. Then look back and perhaps find her gazing at me. She looks away. A couple exchanges like that can indicate that I should amble over and have an excuse to say hi. Or it could be that she thinks I am "sexually harassing" her if I misread the signals.

These words seem like the wrong ones to use.
Like back in the 1980s when some people advocated that in college that every sexual action we take with each other must have explicit consent, otherwise it is rape. That weakens the meaning of "rape" and makes pretty much everyone a rapist.

locumranch said...



Because MERIT, David writes intelligently, wins awards, achieves financial success, has children & lives in a nice home.

Because SELECTIVE BREEDING, he has nice, intelligent, successful & award-winning children who have inherited his natural MERIT.

Because feudal NATURE, his children are more likely to pass on David's many fine inheritable qualities to their children.

Because feudal NUTURE, his children are more likely to benefit from David's many successes, financial largesse & nice home.

Because EQUALISM, David's merits & successes are immaterial. His relative intelligence is an unfair advantage; his financial success reflects (income) inequality; his living situation represents an uneven playing field; and his children are undeserving of their nutured, natural & genetic inheritances.

Because EQUALISM, there can be NO trans-generational accumulation & concentration of desired characteristics over time and, without trans-generational accumulation & concentration of desired characteristics over time (aka 'Feudalism'), there can be no PROGRESS.

Because PROGRESS, there must be some FEUDALISM that allows for the trans-generational accumulation & concentration of desired characteristics over time.


Best
_____

'Ogling' is now a criminal offence in India:
http://www.theweek.in/features/society/staring-eve-teasing-criminal-offence.html

The initiation of any unwanted contact with women -- the key word being 'initiation' as no actual contact is required -- is now considered a Misogyny Hate Crime in the UK:
http://www.newsweek.com/uk-police-force-misogyny-hate-crime-479941

Zepp Jamieson said...

Congratulations, Doctor Brin! Through the miracle of feudalism, locumbranch has declared you and yours to be members of the Master Race!

David Brin said...

Zepp it's okay. Locum engages in magical incantations. It doesn't matter that most of his assertions bear no relation to objective reality and that his "logical" steps are bizarre and crazy.

Anonymous said...

I did wonder how a bionic arm allowed him to lift a car without snapping his spine

In the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, which the tv series was based on, he couldn't do that, because he would tear his arm off. I liked the novel much better than the tv show because it was much more logical.

Disclaimer: I last read it in the 70s, so it probably has flaws I don't remember, but I DO remember that it handled the super strength much better.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Trust me, Doctor Brin: I figured that out.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

koi seo said...

Thanks for the reminders of the Piers Anthony series. It was the "magic technology advanced to 20th Century equivalents of science technology" that got me interested, but there were many incidental observations of human nature that I really liked as well.

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