Friday, May 17, 2024

Science Fictional musings, a roundup and some preens!

Last month we hosted a memorial and celebration of our dear friend, prophetic author Vernor Vinge. Here is some video sampled from our farewell celebration of this wonderfully brilliant and sweet human being.  


Vernor’s Hugo-winning works include A Deepness in the Sky and Rainbows End, in which the UCSD Library is tech-persuaded to ‘get up and dance!’ His novella True Names foresaw the many vexing quandaries about identity and accountability, as well and many boons.


Vernor foresaw - by decades – so many implications of our world, including the Internet, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence (AI) and 'the Singularity,' with novels and award-winning stories translated into 25+ languages. Vernor was also a beloved professor of mathematics and computer science at San Diego State, since 1972. Here is Vernor speaking at a panel at Loscon39 about 12 years ago. 

 

Feel free to leave memorial messages there or under my blog tribute to Vernor. Or, on my video memorial honoring Vernor.

 

Oh, one last thing.  We hope to gather resources to establish an annual Vernor Vinge annual lecture to alternate at UCSD and SDSU, featuring great talks about plausible speculative futures. Please contact me if you are interested in participating.



== A couple of forgivable preenings ==


On Tim Ventura’s popular ‘cast – just released: “Legendary SF author David Brin discusses Dune! The new movies vs. the novels, contrasted and compared to Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Arthur Clarke and how certain obsessions of the 60s still resonate, affecting art & consciousness even today.” 


Especially this question: is Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant version questioning or even reversing some classic thematic elements of Frank Herbert's masterpiece?


Oh and this. My page devoted to both 250-word and 6-word stories. One of mine won WIRED's 6-word story contest a while back. Six words, containing three separate scenes! Action! Conversation! Love & loss and tragic irony!  A lot more story than 'baby shoes.'



== Others are pointing it out! ==


Are fictional dystopias blocking us from better futures? From Big Think

“Since the 1970s the prevailing vision of the future in popular culture has tended towards the dystopian. Commentators of all stripes — from celebrated movie critics to novelists and today’s "effective accelerationists" — have addressed the lack of blue-sky thinking. Michael Harris argues that dystopias are not a failing of their creators’ imaginations — and that fears about the future are rooted in the mechanisms of power and control.” 


Yes. It's one of the key points I make in Vivid Tomorrows!


…And yet, I also argue that some dystopias are not downers, but useful warnings! In fact, we are likely alive, today because of effective warnings by sci fi SPP… “self-preventing prophecies”! 

From Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove to China Syndrome and Soylent Green and Nineteen Eighty-Four, chilling tales drew attention to possible failure modes!

What is the difference between those effective ‘SPP’ dire warnings and dismal dystopian downers that only hurt our morale? Well, one difference is whether the warning is something we might DO things to help prevent! 


But the biggest difference is laziness. Dystopias or caricature tyrants with glowing eyes are trivially easy! Easy - for writers & directors – to write, to film, and to push at suckers!


Of course plotting a thriller becomes much harder, if the hero gets help from skilled professionals or even institutions... or neighbors! If the hero is a member of an actual civilization with skilled professionals eager to help. Can’t have that! The writer might actually have to work for a living, instead of just cloning every other lone-hero-and-pals-vs-Sauron cliché! Far easier to dismiss the plot complications that might impede the relentless slam(!) of vivid/implausible action sequences! 


Alas, there is a price we all pay for this betraying laziness. After generations of Hollywood flicks have preached that civilization never matters, it now feeds much of the propaganda that’s turning us into sullen pessimists. (For more see Vivid Tomorrows.)


And on that downer note, let's swivel back to fun!



== Science Fiction Updates ==


David Gerrold is being way-entertainingly vivid again! Chess with a Dragon – a revived classic from Open Road. Newly admitted to galactic society, naïve humans find out that the Galactic Encyclopedia has a user fee—and they are overdrawn! If the debt can’t be paid, humanity will be sold as slaves . . . or food.  


Check out this article: Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” predicted devastating climate change, inequality, space travel and “Make America great again” 31 years ago. I miss Octavia! As a friend and for her uncanny ability to encourage our active conscience. Only, unlike the Hollywood depression machine of today, she laced her warnings with hope.


Here's a recent bibliography of SF about the Law: “Bibliography: Law in Science Fiction,” by Stephen Krueger.


Here is an interesting and cogent appraisal by Noah Smith of the “Dark Forest Problem,” – the core driver of every plot element in Liu Cixin’s wonderful (and Hugo winning) science fiction epic The Three-Body Trilogy… or Remembrance of Earth’s Past. (I am mentioned several times. Also spoilers.) I must agree on many levels – (though the trilogy is still magnificent and fascinating!) – that the premise depends upon our galaxy being far more opaque to knowledge and observation than it actually is. And that the tale’s zero-sum premise is hard to support in light of either actual evolution or game theory. Still, this critique offers worthy insights about a magnificent epic so grand that it can take a little scrutiny!


Lightening the mood: We found the movie Future 38 to be silly and way-fun! A take-off from 1930s screwball comedies, with a sci fi twist, as we’re supposed to believe the flick was actually made in 1938, projecting a future 2018, getting a flurry of predictions both hilariously wrong and even more amusingly spot-on. As almost never happens in Hollywood, there’s optimism all over…and some real wit. 


(In the future, it’s perfectly normal for ‘jolly’ couples to get married. They demo'd the formica bomb on a useless Nevada ghost town... Lost Wages or Lost Vegas, I think.  ;-).  And so on. I expect there will be GPT personas offered soon that mimic Mabel the Operator.



== SF Miscellany ==


My novels - Earth and Glory Season - have just been re-released with gorgeous new covers by Open Road, along with my Uplift titles, such as Startide Rising


Audio tales? This one by Asimov - A Pebble in the Sky - is a lost classic that I refer to in Foundation's Triumph. (Though it ignores the novel’s main plot arc.) But there are lots more...


My colleague Bruce Golden has released a new collection. Everything Aliens Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Land and Ask) features short stories, satire, novel excerpts, and factual reports about love, sex, romance, lust, and the realm of human desire. Inside its pages you'll find tales both dark and humorous, romantic and passionate, weird and wonderful.


Lawrence Schoen’s story "The Panda's Dream" is moving and sweet.


An anthology of positive future climate stories and scenarios - The Climate Action Almanac - is available free from ASU's Center for Science & the Imagination.


== Finally, another preen… ==


Finally... a montage of photos from Panama... just before I keynoted the conference on Beneficial Artificial Intelligence (see my talk summarized here.) And okay, John Cena I ain't! But lucky at love!






162 comments:

Unknown said...

"Chess with a Dragon" is vintage Gerrold. Recommend. A good corrective to the old Amazing style of 'Humans are just naturally better, and everyone else had better watch out'; it's more 'humans need allies ASAP.' Reminds me of your Uplift stuff, Dr. Brin

Pappenheimer, off to whack the weeds in my rain forest/backyard.

duncan cairncross said...

Open Borders

That will work when every nation is at a "similar" level!

It works with the EU - and I remember when Spain and Greece were dirt poor!

We are all becoming (slowly) close enough to the same level that "Open Borders" will work!

AND it's a numbers game a big rich country can welcome people from a small poor country

So as more and more countries get to the "well off" level they will be able to open their borders even to countries below that level.

But as you say we need to get past the current right wing backlash.

David Brin said...

Duncan no one in the US -- right OR left -- seems able to notice or comment that almost none of the illegal border crossers nowadays are MEXICAN. Because (partly due to US policies and eht Pelosi bills reshoring industry) there are plenty of jobs in Mexico for Mexicans and they are risinf rapidly toward middle class. An event that should be a Top Five strategic goal for us!

John Viril said...

Your appraisal is a little unfair to Heinlein, I believe: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2017/03/looking-back-at-heinleins-future.html

Oh, I don't think of Heinlein as a right-wing fascist like the guy who adapted Starship Troopers as a movie (that film franchise was an abomination).

In fact, I'm a Heinlein fan. What I meant is some right-winger/prepper types emphasize Heinlein's Moon colony where they threw people out the airlock if they couldn't pay for their 02. They'd LOVE an open borders society where they could throw "useless eaters" into space without a suit.

Heinlein was a bit of an odd duck. Didn't seem to much like countries that get too "developed," hence his Lazarus Long character keeps emigrating to the galactic frontier as a planet gets too "civilized."

Yet, he very much was a creature of the Cold War who went on and on about how the most expensive thing on the planet was the world's second-best military. You don't get big military without big government.

I haven't read revolt in 2100 in a LONG time, but yeah, totally prophetic. When I read it in the late 80's, I could see his point, but I thought that religious fanatacism was fading along with church attendance.

Ummmm....well...actual church attendance has continued to fade to near-apathy, yet it's political utility has somehow become even more powerful. And yeah, who in the world could foresee that Trump could become the crux of such a movement when the guy is so obviously anything but religious himself.

Hell, he doesn't even make any reasonable pretense of faith.

Instead, it's a very blatant quid pro quo: elect me and I'll give you social power.

However, I don't think you could get Trump without some of the more extreme attempts to enforce left-wing ideologies in certain circles. Since "conservative" ideas get outright ridicule on campuses, you get bitterness among certain people who feel like intellectual outsiders.

Pair that with some unfortunate tactics that resemble '50's-era loyalty oaths among the left ideological fringe idiots trying to use social force to propogate their less-reasoned concepts, and you get a group of people who want to "stick it" to those they see as persecuting them.

Revenge is a horrible motive that leads to tragic outcomes when you pursue it as social policy.

Unknown said...

John,

"...right-wing fascist like the guy who adapted Starship Troopers as a movie...." is not quite correct. Paul Verhoeven was a young boy in Nazi-occupied Holland and is anything but right wing; his intent to satirize the material and the right wing that idolized it worked about as well as the Judge Dredd comic books. I wondered why it was so over the top when I first saw it; then I found out Verhoeven couldn't even get past two chapters of the book, considering it boring and authoritarian, and wanted the movie to be a deconstruction. Apparently nobody in America, including me, caught the intent.

I think Robocop did a better job of getting its message through (also a Verhoeven work, and definitely not pro-fascist - anti-capitalist, in fact).

Pappenheimer

P.S. If you're talking about Neumeier, who started the whole project he'd read the book at an early age and liked it but was 'aware of the controversy surrounding it'. Neumeier also worked on Robocop. Still doesn't sound like a fascist.

John Viril said...

"...right-wing fascist like the guy who adapted Starship Troopers as a movie...." is not quite correct. Paul Verhoeven was a young boy in Nazi-occupied Holland and is anything but right wing; his intent to satirize the material and the right wing that idolized it worked about as well as the Judge Dredd comic books.

Pappenheimer,

I didn't mean that I considered Paul Verhoeven a fascist, I meant that HE THOUGHT Heinlein was a fascist or considered Starship Troopers a fascist book.

Weird thing is, I rather liked Starship Troopers when I read it at 15 y.o. However, I'm sort of an odd sci-fi geek in that I have a strong "jock" meathead side that sort of likes competitive zero-sum physical games. I guess that comes from my competitive judo days.

When I was in middle school and played football, I was the smallest guy on the field but I LOVED tackling bigger players (i used my judo training about balance, leverage, and minimizing impact to take down much bigger opponents). Consequently, I was a tiny guy who often ended up at the bottom of piles. It drove my mom crazy.

To me, Heinlein was depicting a sort of evolutionary species competition where peace really wasn't possible. Two species required the same resources and weren't compatible with one another. The militarism depicted in Starship Trooper makes sense under those circumstances. Historically, you might face such a situation when confronted with a society bent on conquest.

However, more often, rich elites depict enemies as "mad dogs bent on conquest" in order to manipulate everyday schmucks into either 1) fighting wars which only benefit elites, or 2) reordering society into a top-down hierarchy due to the threat of such an attack---which seems more like Verhoeven's take on the material.

,

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin under previous comments:

...the only coalition that can save the world.


At least some liberals get it.

Stephanie Miller and friends have literally named their multi-city tour for this year the "Sexy Liberal SAVE THE WORLD Comedy Tour"

https://sexyliberal.com/

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

Weird thing is, I rather liked Starship Troopers when I read it at 15 y.o.


I just read it a few years back, on the recommendation of this group. My "weird thing" is I am not into military stuff at all, but I did not take away any pro-fascist intent on the author's part. What I saw was a society and a situation in which the military itself was a fact of life, and a story about someone who found a home in the institution.

My guess is that some detractors find that very idea to be pro-fascist. I did not.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

When I read it in the late 80's, I could see his point, but I thought that religious fanatacism was fading along with church attendance...


I had that same experience with The Grapes of Wrath a few years ago. In high school, I felt like, "Thank goodness we've evolved well past this sort of thing." In the 21st century, it felt more like "Torn from today's headlines."

In a way, my whole life has comprised a string of disappointments over my generation (I'm at the very tail end of the "baby boom" ). I used to think our age group had repudiated racism. I used to think we all understood that religion was a form of fantasy. I used to think we held as self-evident truth that all humans, male and female, are created equal.

My daughter's generation seems much better at all of that.

scidata said...

Larry Hart: My daughter's generation seems much better at all of that."

I'm counting on it. The most valuable use of my free time is to cultivate and advocate for citizen science. Not because of some abstract or academic fealty to rationalism or the scientific method (I'm neither qualified nor motivated for that). But rather because of the audience that is most profoundly and positively affected: young men.

A society with competent and optimistic young men is a vibrant garden. A society with discouraged and humiliated young men is a barren patch or worse. Fortunately, I'm more qualified for this as we raised two sons.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Of course plotting a thriller becomes much harder, if the hero gets help from skilled professionals or even institutions... or neighbors! If the hero is a member of an actual civilization with skilled professionals eager to help.


Soylent Green certainly did have some of that--the movie anyway. Despite the cliched conspiracy from above, the cops (of which Thorne was one) were the good guys and helped save his life at the climax. And the "book" group of which Edward G Robinson's character was a member was a real threat to the conspiracy.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

A society with discouraged and humiliated young men is a barren patch or worse.


Maybe more like an invasive species.

Alan Brooks said...

The New Republic,
‘Revenge and Freedom From Fact’:
https://newrepublic.com/article/181244/revenge-freedom-fact?utm_medium=social&utm_source=Facebook&utm_term=Autofeed&utm_campaign=SF_TNR&fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAR23d7asUNcPjQFfvnOvkgeJoYOiRbZu7_vo0KKqdWbhoLAPUmuBvtDXCKo_aem_AdT8KEdmX7aDzjl5qTAoywjbMF6piQjO8XIzjvPf14IDC26wZzGl0JmAF8P4vNcOFCsCVjzdKd20eweck4eWcEpx

David Brin said...

LH good point re Soylent Green.

John Viril said...

Of course plotting a thriller becomes much harder, if the hero gets help from skilled professionals or even institutions... or neighbors! If the hero is a member of an actual civilization with skilled professionals eager to help.

David,

Ya know, this makes me think of the original Terminator, where James Cameron DID have his protagonist seek out help from skilled professionals (Sara Connor seeking help from the police and the police psychiatrist).

One of the interesting plot points is how it doesn't work. The psychiatrist thinks Reece (the man from the future) is crazy, and the police make a valiant attempt to protect her from the Terminator but die attempting to stop him.

Soiid story-telling from James Cameron in what is today considered a sci-fi classic.


Larry Hart said...

@Alan Brooks,

I sound the alarm over Trump's potential for authoritarian fascism as much as anyone, but that New Republic article seemed designed to whip readers into a terrified frenzy over a series of hypotheticals.

It reminded me of my daughter and her friend working each other up into aa panic the night before they would take their driver's test. "What if he fails us for thus-and-such?" "I hate that teacher." "We should have gone with a different driving school." My wife and I finally had to throw cold water on the conversation and assure them that the most likely outcome was that they'd pass with no problem--which is what in fact happened.

Full disclosure, I couldn't make it through the entire article, so if there was a better point later on, I missed it.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

what is today considered a sci-fi classic.


I'm not a fan of The Terminator the way a lot of sci-fi fans are. I don't hate it--I just don't find much special or memorable about it. But I'll throw the question open to the group at large:

Is The Terminator really that great of an addition to sci-fi lore? Or didn't it just get big because it had Arnold Schwarzenegger engaging in a lot of cool violence?

If the former, can someone please explain what makes it so?

(Fun fact: At the time, DC Comics had a completely different character called The Terminator. This might seem a big so-what, but in that time period, long before blockbuster films based on comics, there seemed to be a thing about movies with titles that reflected names from comics even though they had nothing to do with the comics characters themselves. "Cloak and Dagger" and "The Karate Kid" are others that I can think of immediately.

I'm not sure if these were meant as homages or as trademark jumps, though Karate Kid actually acknowledged DC comics for the name during the end credits, suggesting the former. Anyway, calling a movie The Terminator in 1984 definitely fits the pattern.)

David Brin said...

JV :here are three levels:

- cheap/lazy action flicks that assume civilization is useless and/or uniformly oppressive and neighbors pathetic sheep. Examples: Arrow Girl and its ilk. SO easy to write and meanwhile chipping away at our confidence.

-Intermediate level - where protectors and/or neighbors try hard! But are futile against overwhelmingly clever (Joker) or powerful (Independence Day or Terminator) foes. In these cases the PURPOSE served by the protectors' frantic/sincere futility is to elevate the villains! So that the lone hero + pals can be seen to be extra super by confronting demigod adversaries.

- Top level - The thousands of skilled professionals are treated with respect and shown doing good work... including perhaps fighting against other skilled professionals who have gone BAD and constitute part of the villainous force (a perfectly legit plot device.) In which case the writer and director have to actuall, actually work for a living and come up with a good plot device to NEVERTHELESS keep the hero (+pals) in pulse-pounding jeopardy.

Great examples of the latter include SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, THE FUGITIVE, the Bourne trilogy and others I cite in VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood - http://www.davidbrin.com/vividtomorrows.html. Often the decent pros have made a mistake, but they will help if properly informed,

Alan Brooks said...

The piece makes one think about false-flag operations; and the scenarios are no more frenzy-inducing than imagining a McVeigh or two—are they?

David Brin said...

I greatly look forward to the day when House minority leader Jeffries gets to lead with a majority. Building on the spectacularly wonderful legislation Pelosi passed in 2021-2... bills that none of the frippy lefty preeners can acknowledge or admit knowing anything at all about, amid their howls at authority figure Biden. We must cite Bernie, Liz, Stacey, Hakeem, AOC & Jaime Harrison ... & Obama... all of them hugely busy herding cats back into the only coalition that can save the world... in cornering the frippers and telling them that flouncing off to the next Nader-Stein treason, this year, will NOT be forgotten.

https://www.youtube.com/live/1H_V2Yl4xyA?si=Nb_B4grTFTIpyu_V

Don Gisselbeck said...

Scifi idea (that probably has been.done) every budding civilization gets a Protector machine that is supposed to nudge it towards the good by subtly removing bad actors. The one assigned to us, by a one in a thousand trillion chance, broke down.

David Brin said...

DG... kinda like what Mother Gaia does, at the end of EARTH.

Larry Hart said...

The obvious...

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/17/opinion/trump-biden-polls-stop-steal.html

...
The Republican Party never moved on from Nixon’s “silent majority,” from the notion that it alone represents the supposedly authentic people of the United States. Democrats, no matter how many votes they get or how many elections they win, cannot, in this view, legitimately claim to represent the nation.

From the Tea Party to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” to Trump’s make-believe tales of fraud and illegal voting, Republicans treat Democratic voters and Democratic majorities as not quite right — not quite real, not quite American. No matter how many votes they earn or how many elections they win, Democrats cannot, in this view, legitimately claim to represent the nation.

We should not expect a Biden victory, if it comes, to end the threat to American democracy. With or without Trump, a Republican Party that cannot share this country with its political opponents is a Republican Party that will always look for one way or another to stop the steal.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

his one by Asimov - A Pebble in the Sky - is a lost classic that I refer to in Foundation's Triumph.


One thing I liked about that novel was the fact that the time travel gimmick involved simply a kind of "push" into the future. There was no mechanism for the traveler to return to the earlier time period, nor even any suggestion that anyone in the story considered such a possibility.


And okay, John Cena I ain't! But lucky at love!


You and me both. :)

Tony Fisk said...

I've been playing the Horizon games recently, and applying OGH'S system I'd say Zero Dawn is intermediate: the protagonist is trying to solve a mystery that no one else is even aware of (bar Sylens). Mind you, it seems to be assumed that taking down a thunderjaw is part of a day's work for some characters (um, lets just say I'm not using the harder settings, and take detours...)
Forbidden West, however, ups the stakes significantly. Characters Varl and Erand apply increasingly large cluebats to hint to Aloy that the task she's taken on isn't something she can do on her own. So a clan is born...

John Viril said...

I'm not a fan of The Terminator the way a lot of sci-fi fans are. I don't hate it--I just don't find much special or memorable about it. But I'll throw the question open to the group at large:

Well, the Terminator didn't have a particularly creative sci-fi story. I do appreciate the filmmaking in that Cameron made a little budget actually look pretty good on the screen. The computer screen overlays from the Terminator's POV was a simple and cheap effect that looked cool

Cameron shaved Arnold's eyebrows to make him look weird and just slightly "off." Arnold's acting was better than I remembered in that he did a lot little expressions and odd movement to look inhuman.

An "eh" sci-fi story was elevated by good execution.


Alan Brooks said...

Agree, and ‘Total Recall’
is even better.

Tim H. said...

DG, like the idea of "Nudging a society towards the good by subtly removing bad actors". Imagine how different the news might be if Anne Rice"s characters walked the earth, guided by "Feed on the evildoer". In some ways more positive then reptiloids in disguise.

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

if Anne Rice"s characters walked the earth, guided by "Feed on the evildoer"


Wouldn't that just turn them into immortal vampires?

duncan cairncross said...

LH

They only become Vampires if they survive the experience - cut their heads off and they don't survive.

Paradoctor said...

Larry Hart:
"Stop the steal" is the steal.

Unknown said...

Any responsible vampire understands the need to return their empties (to the earth) rather than creating a horde of competitors, any one of whom might spark a 'daylight naked parade' week through sloppy feeding habits.

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

Unlike most omnivores, humans have the intelligence to track down and kill whatever predates on them...unfortunately, the creation of hierarchies muddies this. Thus the 'Count', who is just another member of the ruling elite, and thus allowed to feed on lesser mortals, though the other aristocrats use less direct methods - usually.

Pappenheimer

Tony Fisk said...

In honour of SF editor Neil Clarke's 'instant reject' policy on zombie stories, I concocted a scenario concerning a small group of survivors barricading themselves against an 'undead' horde...

... who are a living mob seeking vengeance on the aristocratic oppressors that have been preying on the villagers, both economically and, er, traditionally.*

* Don't worry, I wouldn't dare submit it!

GMT -5 8032 said...

I listened to David's interview with Ventura...excellent. At one point I think David was talking about the elves being evil in Tolkien's Middle Earth and he mentioned that we don't get Sauron's point of view in the LOTR.

There is something close: a Russian fan-fic called THE LAST RINGBEARER. I mentioned this book a few months ago. It tells the story from Mordor's perspective: Mordor had been an enlightened constitutional monarchy under King Sauron VIII (or some silly Roman numeral). The Nazgul are philosopher/scientist. Mordor is on the brink of an industrial revolution that, if allowed to happen, will allow the realm to resist the elves. So the elves wage a genocidal war against the human population of Mordor (referred to by the ethnic slur "Orc").

The first third of the book was a lot of fun as it turned Tolkien's world inside-out. But then it turned into a tedious spy thriller about a Gondorian nobleman in a hostile city trying to plant disinformation to confuse and mislead the elves.

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

David Brin said...

Yeah, I know of The Last Ringbearer. A great what-if perspective, like Yudkowsky's Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality.

Various authors have tried to deal with the idiotic supposed 'lif-cycle' of the undead. Like "It takes 3 bites." or "It only happens when the victim is less-drained but injected with saliva." Or it's a disease with very few survivors and those few get hungry. George RR Martin went through permutations in detail, which traits were exaggerated (sun aversion) and which were just myths, like crosses or inability to cross past running water.

I have fun with undead concepts in my comedy novel THE ANCIENT ONES.
In a vast casino's movie-plex, vampire audiences are thrilled and terrifid by a new horror movie whose posters show mobs with torches chasing terrified vampires. It's called NIGHT OF THE LIVING.

John Viril said...

Hmmmm, sounds like some fun reading. Good to be back.

Anyway, LOTR was why I got into speculative fiction when I was 12. BUT....as an adult, I can certainly see David's criticism of traditional quest fantasy as glorifying medieval hierarchy.

Seems to me, that the siren song appeal of such tales is rooted in the desire to be "special" without effort. As we grow up, most people confront the unpleasant reality that they lack either the 1) talent, 2) opportunity, or 3) drive to develop exceptional ability in any pursuit. Thus, being "royalty," which means you are "special" simply by breathing becomes appealing.

While it's undeniably "good to be the King," (to paraphrase Mel Brooks in History of the World Part 1 ) it's a toxic way to order a society.

Though I can see David's criticism of LOTR, I do respect Professor Tolkien's writing craft, which captured me as a tween. Oddly enough, I was reading LOTR and Grapes of Wrath at the same time.

Grapes of Wrath was a school book, and I despised it as a miserable read (which it will be for most 12 y.o.) I struggled with the dialect and Steinbeck's heavy prose. To this day, I aspire to write more like Tolkien in that I admire his ability to tell a literary tale in accessible prose (enjoyable for a 12 y.o. to read). To this day, I'm unable to stomach Grapes of Wrath because of the multiple times I was forced to read that book in school and write laudatory papers about Steinbeck.

One big problem I have with Wrath as fiction is that I simply don't enjoy my main characters being caught in a "no win scenario" (paging Captain Kirk). While I understand that's the point, since Steinbeck was making the literary case for Roosevelt's New Deal social safety net, I think it's just not satisfying fiction. To me, reading Grapes of Wrath is like watching a Southern plantation overseer whipping a slave. Perhaps necessary to elicit change, but utterly appalling to witness.



GMT -5 8032 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Hart said...

@Darrell E, re: Terminator,

Fair enough. I really was asking the question.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Lazy writing. I have seen some stories based on real life events that people have survived. Real life has a good way of balancing out the protagonist who seeks out competent help to deal with an evolving situation.

We watched a pretty good thriller over the weekend, THE OUTFIT starring Mark Rylance. It was well written and entertaining. It is so focused on its location (a tailor's shop in 1956 Chicago) that it might as well have been a stage production. My wife and I only had one complaint...there was one plot point that seemed gratuitous and unnecessary. But this is a movie we are going to watch again so that we can see if the plot holds up after a first viewing.

Unknown said...

"Fevre Dream" was a decent alt-vampire novel where the vamps were just a nocturnal subspecies, no supernature involved. Which was hard on the novel's Renfield, Sour Billy Tipton, who SO much wanted to become one. He served his lord long and faithfully until, dying of his wounds, he came crawling to his master and asked to be made into one NOW. The vamp gleefully explained (in detail) it had all been a lie, and Billy was never going to become one of them. Sour Billy did not take it well, was very good with a knife.

Pappenheimer

Lesson = no monologing.

GMT -5 8032 said...

I have an idea for a vampire story...but the focus would be on a different evil, a real one. But writing fiction is so damned hard. David, you and your muse work magic.

GMT -5 8032 said...

I would love to do a satire of the John Grisham legal thrillers. There are so many tropes to abuse. I already have a title: PROBABILITY OF PATERNITY. I could put my experience as a child support hearing officer to good use. I remember some outrageous cases from those days.

John Viril said...

Imagine how different the news might be if Anne Rice"s characters walked the earth, guided by "Feed on the evildoer". In some ways more positive then reptiloids in disguise.

Uggg. I simply can't read Anne Rice. I bought Interview with a Vampire when Rice's fame was at its peak, and threw it across the room before finishing the first chapter. COuldn't stand her overworked prose which felt really pretentious to me.

I know lots of people RAVE about her writing...but I found it unpalatable. But, hey, we all have our tastes. I can't stand to watch professional wrestling due to its "lowbrow" storylines, but recognize lots of smart people find it fun. I can't get any "suspension of disbelief" because so many of pro-wrestling techniques don't work. In particular, those times when guys climb the posts of the ring and jump on prone opponents who are unable to move because they are writhing in pain on the mat just nauseated me.

But, heck, even David makes John Cena references, so I have to recognize that pro wrestling has long become part of mainstream entertainment.



David Brin said...

GMT Interesting premise.

The worst cliché of Grisham is idiot plot. There is always a point when the protagonist is on the run - badguys watching the airport, bus stations and credit card companies... anf it never occurs to her to simply WALK out of town! Via back neighborhoods. And or knock on some likely doors and get some gutsy NEIGHBOR to step up and drive her.

GMT -5 8032 said...

I still love this throw-away scene at the start of an early BABYLON 5 episode.

https://youtu.be/jhC_KHkihKY?si=eoCkfsdfw5i6TthY

"Why doesn't Ombud Zimmerman ever get these cases? Only me."

Ahhhh...John Grishmam. So true about his idiot plots. I remember when I first read THE FIRM. Why did the firm fire all of the associate attorneys OTHER than our protagonist? If they suspected that one of the associates was a leak and if our protagonist was the most likely suspect, they should have fired him FIRST.

Scott Turow is a better writer and another good source for legal thriller tropes. All I need to do now is mix in a little early Eric Ambler to get a story going.

John Viril said...

The worst cliché of Grisham is idiot plot. There is always a point when the protagonist is on the run - badguys watching the airport, bus stations and credit card companies... anf it never occurs to her to simply WALK out of town! Via back neighborhoods. And or knock on some likely doors and get some gutsy NEIGHBOR to step up and drive her

Early Grisham legal thrillers were popular among law students when I was in school, partly because they were about young lawyers (or students) as protagonists and they were trendy and new.

I was OK with "The Firm," but didn't think the whole mob lawyer was particularly creative. Seemed to take Mitch McDeere (Harvard law grad) way too long to smell a rat at his law firm, but I guess you could explain that as a sort of wilful blindness denial thing (people don't want to believe they've made such a grave error).

For example, Wilful blindness/denial is (I think) a big reason why many prosecutors refuse to accept some of their past convictions are defective when exculpatory evidence comes to light. No one likes to think they are responsible for putting an innocent person in prison for murder, or other serious crime.

Don't remember an "on the run" dilemma that could have been solved by knocking on a neighbor's door or walking out of town part in The Firm. But, it's been a LONG time since I read the book or watched the movie.

I did get tired of Grisham pretty quickly. Writes books that make OK movies, I guess, but I don't think he's really gifted as a writer. Don't see ANY interesting themes in his work, so his stories seem paper-thin to me.

Getting back to the "asking neighbors for help" point, I'm thinking of the movie "Limitless" where the female lead is getting chased by a baddie, and she does a "damsel in distress" thing by asking random guys she meets in the park to help her. The baddie kills them by pulling a knife and using lethal force, an escalation that shocked her would-be saviors. However, I guess all the people who simply watch the baddie chase a fleeing woman without picking up their cell phones is pretty dumb.

I must confess a weird affection for that movie, despite knowing how stupid it is. I don't know why I can stomach it. The whole "drug that enables you to use your entire brain" is such a tired, completely b.s. trope that bears no resemblance to reality that I don't know how I can tolerate it.

It could be that everyone has that little fantasy of suddenly discovering some hidden excellence after years of mediocrity. Maybe, I find the lead actress (Abbie Cornish) appealing. But, really, is she anything exceptional compared to any other Hollywood starlet?

So, fess up, people. What dumb fiction do you like despite recognizing how stupid it is?

John Viril said...

Ahhhh...John Grishmam. So true about his idiot plots. I remember when I first read THE FIRM. Why did the firm fire all of the associate attorneys OTHER than our protagonist? If they suspected that one of the associates was a leak and if our protagonist was the most likely suspect, they should have fired him FIRST.

Hmmm, didn't remember that problem with The Firm, but then again, I suspect milquetoast fiction can get a bit of a pass by not engaging me with any real strength.

scidata said...

John Viril What dumb fiction do you like despite recognizing how stupid it is?

My grade 1 reader, "Mr. Whiskers", kickstarted my grokking of the world. Everything since then is bootstrapping.

"tutus mundus agit histrionem"
No, I don't know Latin, but I do play a lot of Civilization.

Larry Hart said...

GMT...:

It is so focused on its location (a tailor's shop in 1956 Chicago) that it might as well have been a stage production.


It might actually be adapted from a play. I can often spot movies that are, even if I didn't know that going in.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

I know lots of people RAVE about her [Ann Rice's] writing...but I found it unpalatable. But, hey, we all have our tastes.


I liked Interview with a Vampire because the idea was kind of new back then.

When I read The Vampire Lestat, I kept thinking "This isn't the same character as he was in the earlier book."

I had a hard time slogging through Queen of the Damned, similar to your experience with the first book. Suddenly, the whole story was re-imagined as a feminist screed, with the title character performing atrocity after atrocity while Lestat watches from the background and moans about it.

Through the entire trilogy, I found the tales of immortal characters to be fascinating, but I was more and more disappointed with the main plot as the saga wore on.

Darrell E said...

Same premise as Limitless, which I haven't seen, one that I like despite the stupid is Lucy. I groaned, perhaps even sneered a bit, when Morgan Freeman was explaining his thesis. But even though I was predisposed by that to dislike the movie, for some reason I ended up liking it.

Darrell E said...

RE Queen Of The Damned, never read the book and the movie is mediocre at best, but the movie soundtrack is pretty cool.

A.F. Rey said...

But writing fiction is so damned hard.

Writing fiction isn't hard, GMT. I have a whole pile of stories to prove that.

Writing fiction well is damned-near impossible. Refer to the aforementioned pile of stories for proof of that, too. :)

John Viril said...

Same premise as Limitless, which I haven't seen, one that I like despite the stupid is Lucy. I groaned, perhaps even sneered a bit, when Morgan Freeman was explaining his thesis. But even though I was predisposed by that to dislike the movie, for some reason I ended up liking it.

Anything with Scarlett Johnsson gets a pass. That woman is distilled sex combined with formidable acting craft.

I first noticed a 21 y.o. Scarlett in a Woody Allen movie called "Match Point" and have been a fan ever since.

Hell, she even makes Marvel movies palatable.

Unknown said...

A. F.:

Tell it, fellow human.

I haven't finished many stories and have never sold any over 1000 words, but I keep pushing that boulder uphill....but hey! you can peruse my work cheap on Amazon Kindle! I uploaded 2 novels. Sold 1, count it 1, book to, gods love her, my Fullbright girl.

Oh, well...maybe the next one...

Pappenheimer

GMT -5 8032 said...

And Scarlett is Jewish! I don't think I saw her in anything before IRON MAN II. But Mae and I have seen her in lots of things since then. I am glad that she has not buckled to popular pressure and continues to take assignments in Israel.

I will have to read David Gerrold's book. I had a lot of fun with David back before Star Trek hit the big screen at a convention in Cleveland. Okay, not THAT kind of fun. I had breakfast with George Takei at that same convention. I was that cute, straight guy who no clue...

Humans aren't better. We are just luckier. At least we had better hope we are.

John Viril said...

And Scarlett is Jewish! I don't think I saw her in anything before IRON MAN II. But Mae and I have seen her in lots of things since then. I am glad that she has not buckled to popular pressure and continues to take assignments in Israel.


Hmmm, I had no idea. But, then again, religious/ethnic background isn't something I much think about when it comes to movie idols.

Don Gisselbeck said...

I'm a fan of Fred Saberhagen's treatment of vampires.

duncan cairncross said...

Second vote for Saberhagen's vampires!

Larry Hart said...

GMT:

Scott Turow is a better writer and another good source for legal thriller tropes


That takes me back to 1989, my first full year at an adult job. One night, I was so into Presumed Innocent that I couldn't put it down. I finished the last 150 or so pages, but paid for it in lack of sleep the next day.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

What dumb fiction do you like despite recognizing how stupid it is?


The 1960s Batman tv show.

Larry Hart said...

Don Gisselbeck:

I'm a fan of Fred Saberhagen's treatment of vampires.


Oh, yes. I'm quite a fan myself. When I was in college, my girlfriend's sister had me read An Old Friend of the Family because she knew I was from the Chicago area, and that my childhood suburb, Evanston, was briefly mentioned in the book. Many years later, I read The Holmes-Dracula File, which has become one of those books I can read and re-read more times than I can count and still enjoy.

I did get the feeling he was going somewhere after A Question of Time that he never got to finish. To bad Saberhagen himself wasn't able to arise three days later.*

* Never thought of this before, but is the notion of a vampire rising three days after death related to Christian mythology?

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

religious/ethnic background isn't something I much think about when it comes to movie idols.


Some, like Mel Brooks or Woody Allen wear their Jewishness as an essential component of their schtick. Others, not so much.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril redux:

"What dumb fiction do you like despite recognizing how stupid it is?"

The 1960s Batman tv show.


Oh, and the mid-1970s "Three Musketeers" films with Michael York and Raquel Welch. In fact, I came to realize that I like those movies because their campy adventure style bears a resemblance to the 1960s Batman tv show.

David Brin said...

Re Grisham: “Don't remember an "on the run" dilemma that could have been solved by knocking on a neighbor's door or walking out of town part in The Firm.”

Best example The Pelican Brief.

Lucy & Limitless were charmingly written, beautifully paced… and morally palatable, since the wonder is 1. Accessed by a normal person, not a born demigod… and 2. They at least imply that their intent is to share the miracle. In fact, in order to do the SERIES of Limitless (which was okay) they had to presume the drug is lethal except in a few cases, like the protagonist.

Papenheimer, give us the URL of your posting site.

Again, my sci fi comedy… The Ancient Ones: http://davidbrin.com/ancientones.html


Guys, again, my Advice to New Writers is at
http://www.davidbrin.com/advice.htm
and the more advanced tips are at https://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2023/12/advanced-tips-for-rising-writers.html

GMT I didn’t know that about Scarlett!

John Viril said...

The 1960s Batman tv show.

I LOVED that show when I was about 5/6. I had the Matchbox Batmobile with the little plastic flame that would move in and out at the back.

I cringe when I watch it today. I so campy. Still, the "crooked" angle for badguy hideouts was pretty amusing. Scenes where people would stick their heads outside their windows when Batman and Robin were climbing the side of buildings in Gotham City were amusing.

Barbara Gordon and the various Catwoman actresses were hot. But man, Adam West's jelly belly was pretty awful for Batman.

And the whole, Batman and Robin (his ward) just SCREAMS, "THEY'RE GAY!!!"

Back when I was in my 20s, that would have been spoken with contempt, but today with a sort of wry amusement at the sanitized TV of the 60s.
's

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

"1960s Batman tv show."

I LOVED that show when I was about 5/6. I had the Matchbox Batmobile with the little plastic flame that would move in and out at the back.


I had that one too.


I cringe when I watch it today. I so campy.


If I saw it for the first time today, I'd probably agree. But I can re-watch those episodes and remember what it was like when I was six or seven years old, when the suspense was real, the detective work was satisfying, and I had no idea that the show was mocking itself.


Scenes where people would stick their heads outside their windows when Batman and Robin were climbing the side of buildings in Gotham City were amusing.


Back then, I didn't know who most of those people were. It's more entertaining now.


Barbara Gordon and the various Catwoman actresses were hot.


Julie Newmar, along with The Avengers's Diana Rigg were largely responsible for my emerging heterosexuality.


And the whole, Batman and Robin (his ward) just SCREAMS, "THEY'RE GAY!!!"


That was a huge point in the 1950s book Seduction of the Innocent, which almost destroyed the comics industry of the time. But remember, comics of the time were aimed at prepubescent boys. The characters hanging out together wasn't about homosexuality--or any kind of sexuality. It was about boys who inhabit clubhouses and play sports together, for whom girls are an inscrutable and annoying alien species.

(Until the 1978 movie, Lois Lane wasn't so much a love interest for Superman as she was an annoying kid sister)


but today with a sort of wry amusement at the sanitized TV of the 60s.


One thing a modern audience can't understand is how new color tv was at the time. Perry Mason or Bewitched could transition from black and white to color without changing much, but Batman was made to show off the fact that it was in color. I wouldn't be surprised if that was a selling point to convince the network to pick up the series.

David Brin said...

Julie Newmar. Oy.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin, My two half-novels are at:

https://www.amazon.com/Echoes-Shadow-Sojourns-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0CB9Z43VN

Pappenheimer

P.S. They are really for a niche audience, though - D&D/fantasy readers. Are they good? Even I, the author, would have to say, at most, that I've read worse in print. A very low bar.



Unknown said...

John,

I'm thinking about fiction I'd cringe to admit enjoying...but did.

It's not really cringeworthy, but Alan Dean Foster's Flinx novels were pretty fresh and fun at the time of writing, but as reread - the main character should be the minidragon Pip, who was constantly saving Flinx from horrible fates, and when even Pip couldn't save the day, a deus ex machina (sometimes furry, sometimes leafy) would do the job.

That being said, the man has pretty obviously been everywhere and has an enormous vocabulary. I'll forgive a lot for that kind of writing.

Pappenheimer

P.S. Biggles novels were great when I was a kid...now, I'd have to step away. Too much of the old-style stereotyping. Now if Charles Stross could be persuaded to actually write Biggles on Mars...

duncan cairncross said...

The Biggles books! - Captain W E Johns

That takes me back to my childhood!

I loved them, then I progressed to C S Forester and Hornblower

I have reread some Hornblower and found it to be OK - I will have to try Biggles again

GMT -5 8032 said...

Here is a video of Scarlett tearing up as she reads about members of her mother's family who died during the Shoah.

https://www.jta.org/2017/11/01/united-states/scarlett-johansson-cries-when-she-discovers-her-familys-tragic-holocaust-history-on-finding-your-roots

Tony Fisk said...

re: 'Biggles on Mars'. As it happens, Capt W.E. Johns wrote a SF series as well as Biggles novels. If memory serves, his Mars had an advanced civilisation, brought low by a malaria-like illness.

My trash viewing is varied. I will give a shout-out to Robot Monster which, despite *that* suit, and some of the most hilariously ridiculous lines, had *something* going for it (unlike Ed Wood's "plan 9", which was just sad).

While I vaguely recall Batman, I was raised more on Gerry Anderson's marionation series, from 'Five Feather Falls' up to 'Captain Scarlet'. And 'Doctor Who', of course...

John Viril said...

Some, like Mel Brooks or Woody Allen wear their Jewishness as an essential component of their schtick. Others, not so much.

JEWS IN SPACE!!! from History of the World, Part I

So wrong, and yet, so funny.

Larry Hart said...


JEWS IN SPACE!!! from History of the World, Part I


Jewish space lasers! :)

John Viril said...

Pappenheimer,

My sister and I binged a bunch of Flinz novels when we were in our early 20's. They aren't exactly cringeworthy, but they weren't anything special. Can't recall why we found them appealing.

John Viril said...

Jewish space lasers! :)

MTG is just cringeworthy for getting elected to Congress. The only imaginable rationale is repubs trying to "stick it" to dems by electing the biggest/most offensive idiot possible.


Saw her recent "mean girls" exchange with two Democrat representatives. Saw how KC Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker seemed to get the idea that Congress had passed a bill that would "jail" someone for saying that the "Jews killed Jesus" which he considered Biblical.

Sigh.

Must confess, I'm hugely biased in favor of Harrison Butker since I was 1) raised Catholic, 2) am a lifelong KC Chiefs fan, and 3) my Dad was the personal physician for the nuns at Benedictine Convent in KC (many of whom were involved with the nearby Benedictine College in Atchinson, KS (where Butker spoke). None of those nuns would still be around, but I still have a sort of instilled regard for their order.

So, I don't want to say anything about Butker's speech, which has drawn all kinds of fire. However, that point about "Jews killing Jesus" is TOTALLY contradictory to current Catholic teaching---and seems to be something he got from MTG's comments on that bill.

That woman is a Jasmine Appleseed of bad ideas.

David Brin said...

"Jews killing Jesus" is Matthew, which was blatantly written >150 yrs after the last eyewitnesses died. By which time they were rival religions. Linguistically it's laughable to call it 1st century. The entire Jailyard scene is insane drivelcontradicting any logic and meant only to enflame. (WHO curses themselves and all their descendants?)

MARK is the only gospel with 1st century words & phrasings and it says in the infamous jailyard scene that 'the mob' failed to call for J's release. Mark & J considered themselves to BE Jews. Heck even the much later John of Patmos did.

Unknown said...

John,

Alan Foster is technically much older (as are we all), but he still writes Flinx as a guy in, at most, his early thirties. The saga ended, the OVERWHELMING EVIL(tm) destroyed, and Flinx is living on a water world with sentient cetaceans visiting his houseboat and his beautiful, intelligent spouse by his side. Also his and hers minidrags.

And he's bored. I suspect the author and the character are not far apart in their view of life.

Pappenheimer

John Viril said...

"Jews killing Jesus" is Matthew, which was blatantly written >150 yrs after the last eyewitnesses died. By which time they were rival religions. Linguistically it's laughable to call it 1st century. The entire Jailyard scene is insane drivelcontradicting any logic and meant only to enflame. (WHO curses themselves and all their descendants?)

Sounds consistent with the Theology instruction I received at my Jesuit High School. My understanding is that the current Catholic teaching on how the Catholic Church interprets Matthew's gospel comes from a 1965 document and instruction from Pope Benedict in 2011.

Basically, certain Jewish officials in Judea orchestrated Jesus' death at the hands of the Romans, buttressed by local supporters. However, this in no way implicates Jewish people as a race or ethnic group for Jesus' execution---especially since pretty much ALL of the early diciples were Jews, including Mary and Joseph, all of the apostles, and St. Paul who was primarily responsible for spreading the faith to "gentiles."

Since Catholic theology holds that "Jesus died for our sins," ALL OF HUMANITY bears collective guilt for Christ's death. Romans and Jews are no more responsible than you and I.

Butker, who grew up in Atlanta, and went to Georgia Tech, seems to have been listening to MTG when she claimed that the antisemitism bill recently passed by Congress could cause Christians to get jailed for saying "Jews killed Jesus." Of course, nothing of the sort would happen under this bill, which has nothing to do with criminal law. It only concerns federal funding for public universities.

So, Butker's reference to this is screwy from both Catholic theology and the legal implications of the bill.

John Viril said...

BTW, I'm not exactly Mr. Super Religious. In fact, I was the guy that liked to cause trouble in theology class at my all-male Jesuit High School. For example, 16 y.o. me had great fun pointing out that the continued existence of humanity depended on the Catholic Church failing to meet its goal of converting the entire world to the true faith upon hearing that Joseph was the model for Catholic manhood and Mary was the model for Catholic womanhood.

Since Mary was "ever virgin," she and Joseph never had sex, and thus the world would end in a single generation if everyone became Catholic and followed their example.

In such a scenario, the battle of Armageddon would consist of Catholic men and women resisting the urge to consumate their marriages.

Entertaining myself by punching holes in doctrine meant I needed to really understand it well.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

Since Mary was "ever virgin," she and Joseph never had sex, and thus the world would end in a single generation if everyone became Catholic and followed their example.


Uhhh, do you know any Catholic families?

Just sayin'

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

However, that point about "Jews killing Jesus" is TOTALLY contradictory to current Catholic teaching---and seems to be something he got from MTG's comments on that bill.


The notion isn't original with MTG. I'm sure she was echoing any number of far-right commentators raising concerns about policing of their religious liberty. And "The Jews Killed Jesus" has been a thing for near two millennia now. The Russian officials in the movie Fiddler on the Roof casually toss off a reference to "those Christ-killers".

John Viril said...

The notion isn't original with MTG. I'm sure she was echoing any number of far-right commentators raising concerns about policing of their religious liberty. And "The Jews Killed Jesus" has been a thing for near two millennia now. The Russian officials in the movie Fiddler on the Roof casually toss off a reference to "those Christ-killers"

Oh sure, that accusation has been around for centuries. It's an anti-semitic club that's been around probably going back to Roman days.

However, it's MTG that whipping up fear that the anti-semitic bill passed by Congress could put people in jail for saying it. It does annoy me when Catholics botch the doctrine and make everyone raised Catholic look like raving bigots.

John Viril said...

, do you know any Catholic families?

Just sayin'


Oh sure, that's part of the absurdity. Somehow, Catholic men and women are supposed to model themselves on the celibate Mary and Joseph, yet having 12 children is a "good catholic family."

However, seeing a celibate priest teaching a theology class to a group of teenage boys trying to explain this conundrum is far more entertaining than say, breaking down every line of the "Profession of Faith" (a prayer said every mass) and understanding its theological significance.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

Somehow, Catholic men and women are supposed to model themselves on the celibate Mary and Joseph, yet having 12 children is a "good catholic family."


I'm not Catholic, but I've dated many and married one. So I know something of the faith.

Somehow, I can't see the religious authorities expecting or demanding that married couples not procreate. Expecting or demanding large families seems more in character. More seats in pews and more soldiers to defend against heathens being the point.


However, seeing a celibate priest teaching a theology class to a group of teenage boys trying to explain this conundrum is far more entertaining...


Being a loyal reader of Dave Sim's Cerebus comic, I got to live through the opposite experience. A man who had been a womanizer and adulterer in his 20s and 30s finding religion in his 40s and then instructing young male readers that they're better off foregoing sex completely. As if someone who essentially burned himself out on women had something useful to tell young boys at the metaphorical starting gate.

David Brin said...

JV: for 2000years the official dogma re Jews was that they refused conversion out of “stiff-necked pride.” Right. 20 centuries of torment, out of ‘pride.’ Or perhaps instead…

…refusal to insult God by calling him a grudge-nursing maniac who would damn children for ‘original sin’ by a couple of ignorant teenagers long, long ago? Or a story based on human sacrifice, which was strictly forbidden and just plain wrong? And cannibalism.

While it’s quite plausible that some sub-groups had it in for Jesus and conspired against him, the Sanhendrin and Temple authorities are portrayed as evil for just doing their job, which was to test claimants as ‘messiahs’ in order to know the right one for sure, when he came. Leading to the most vexing and inconvenient question: WHY refuse to perform for them the same miracles as were presented to simple Galilean farmers and fishermen?

Seriously. If shown truly impressive miracles, what idiots would thereupon send to the cross a fellow who could make the priests MORE important and/or blessed, around the planet?

Nothing about it makes sense. But it is especially telling about our susceptibility to incantation that the narrative was this: the priests were EVIL for requesting proof.

Butker doesn’t mention that the bill he denounced came out of the GOP controlled House.

Good pt re eschewing sex. For almost 2000 years, the brightest Catholic boys were told not to reproduce. Yet Europe conquered the world. Go figure.

scidata said...

Perhaps someone can explain why 'globalism' is bad but 'unified reich' is good. A fascist is someone who proudly declares their certitude as they contradict what they said five minutes earlier. Just like their Dear Leader, a goldfish who chases food pellets all day.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

the Sanhendrin and Temple authorities are portrayed as evil for just doing their job,


Caveat emptor that I'm speaking as someone who learned Christianity from Andrew Lloyd Weber. But it seems to me they're portrayed as evil, not for testing Jesus, but for having him crucified.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

explain why 'globalism' is bad but 'unified reich' is good


Globalism, i.e., One World Government (tm), is what communists do.

A Unified Reich is for our country alone, and to heck with everyone else.

Larry Hart said...

I said:

...not for testing Jesus, but for having him crucified.


Which is not to dismiss the point that Jesus of Nazareth was not the only man in the neighborhood claiming to be a messiah at the time.

Christian evangelists tend to admonish us that once we've heard their message, our choice is to accept it or to willfully "rebel against God", as if their message is not competing with dozens of other messages for our evaluation.

Der Oger said...


Good pt re eschewing sex. For almost 2000 years, the brightest Catholic boys were told not to reproduce. Yet Europe conquered the world. Go figure.

We have a saying here: "The Church pays up to the third child", directed at catholic priests and their "Housekeepers".

Currently reading the Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler. Excellent Worldbuilding, so far. And uncomfortable familiar, close.

Unknown said...

St Augustine prayed to be relieved of his sinful urges - but not just yet.

Pappenheimer

Der Oger said...

Christian evangelists tend to admonish us that once we've heard their message, our choice is to accept it or to willfully "rebel against God", as if their message is not competing with dozens of other messages for our evaluation.

The judges in Iran call that moharebeh. To Wage War Against God.

Der Oger said...

St Augustine prayed to be relieved of his sinful urges - but not just yet.

The thing I took from the Catholic church was:
Of course we expect to try your best, but you are a human, not god, and if you ever think you are perfect, you are committing the sin of pride. And since you are a human, we allow you to party now and then, within confines, and overlook your lesser transgressions* and errors and put the cloak of love and silence over it.

*Though I am quite sure that the church and I differ on what exactly that means.

David Brin said...

The "unified reich" video posted on Truth Social was left up for hours so that TS subscribers could copy it and share it privately... then taken down with denials that it was the act of a 'lone staffer.' Perfect calibration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8kr5NI36xY

David Brin said...

LH: "Caveat emptor that I'm speaking as someone who learned Christianity from Andrew Lloyd Weber. "

The best song in the musical - sung by Herod with priests nearby - starts by sweetly asking J for miracles. Then nagging repeatedly in increasing sarcasm. Suggesting it was sinful to ask at all. But how?

David Brin said...

Elon re Dune... https://x.com/elonmusk/status/1792697418208956746

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Suggesting it was sinful to ask at all. But how?


The Jesus of Jesus Christ, Superstar never performed supernatural feats. My sense of it as a pre-teen was that it seemed important for his followers to have faith in the story without examining things so closely that the fourth wall would be broken. The mob turned against Jesus when they stopped believing the myth, which is foreshadowed in Judas's line, "And they'll hurt you when they think you've lied."

And the sense I got from Herod was that he knew that Jesus didn't have super powers--that he, Herod, was calling Jesus's bluff. From the point of view that maintaining the fiction was good, purposely bursting it is then evil.

In any case, to me, the best song in the musical was Jesus's soliloquy in Gethsemane. It was a lullaby for my baby daughter when she was too young to understand the words.

Larry Hart said...

Listening to the Tim Ventura interview about Dune and Foundation. About 58 minutes in, you're comparing a scene in Dune to the Burt Lancaster film I believe was later determined to be Elmer Gantry:


"And it was so blatantly what Paul was doing in that meeting to get all the Fremen to kneel before him...

...about the camp show moment when he [Elmer Gantry] convinces everyone to follow him, just by reading a couple of the angrier members of the gathering. Not show any powers or anything. Just by acting as though he was reading their thoughts."


That's the kind of thing I imagined the Jesus of Superstar was doing. And at the time, it seemed so duh-obvious that that was what the real Jesus had done as well.

My respnse to C.S. Lewis's dilemma that Jesus cannot be a wise teacher, but can only be "Lord, liar, or lunatic", my response is that there is a fourth choice: Storyteller.

Alan Brooks said...

Two Christians/would-be Christians told me Christ is “a destroyer.”
Might be analogous to Shiva, the God of Destruction/God of time/God of poison and medicine...

duncan cairncross said...

Elon Musk passed on an excellent joke

And the plonkers on Quora are whining that it was "plagiarism"!!

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

...we allow you to party now and then, within confines, and overlook your lesser transgressions* and errors and put the cloak of love and silence over it.

*Though I am quite sure that the church and I differ on what exactly that means.


When I was in college, the "quad preachers" were quite adamant that sin was sin, that all sin was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and that there was no such concept as a "lesser transgression."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The "unified reich" video posted on Truth Social ...


Listening to the gang on Stephanie Miller's show discuss that this morning, they actually made it sound worse than it was. The way their conversation had it, Trump was posting about possibly having a third term after he was re-elected this time, and that instead of "third term", he used the phrase "Third Reich".

I'm actually disappointed that that wasn't the case.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger redux:

...and overlook your lesser transgressions...


Transgressions against God should be safe, legal, and rare.

John Viril said...

Seriously. If shown truly impressive miracles, what idiots would thereupon send to the cross a fellow who could make the priests MORE important and/or blessed, around the planet?

Nothing about it makes sense. But it is especially telling about our susceptibility to incantation that the narrative was this: the priests were EVIL for requesting proof.


Dr. Brin,

You've achieved quite a bit as a storyteller, and I've (at least) tried my hand at the craft with some unpublished tales, so I think the answer lies in the sort of narrative problems faced by early Christians.

Consider the difficulties faced by the PR dept of Jesus Corp...

The Romans nailed your messiah to the cross. How, exactly, is He the divine messenger from God if Yaweh allowed that to happen? Either 1) he's not the messiah, or 2) the Roman Pantheon is stronger than Yaweh.

Both are unacceptable answers for your brand.

So, the narrative becomes that Jesus ALLOWED the Romans to crucify him in order to redeem the Sins of the World. This pulls upon multiple strands of the Torah, especially the story of Abraham and Isaac and the concept of sacrifice.

OK, if Christ is redeeming the sins of the World, then his crucifixion MUST be the result of evil. Of course, there's no problem saying the Romans are evil. But how to deal with the opposition of Jewish officials?

Well, they have to be evil, too.

The whole narrative makes sense once you assume beyond question that Jesus is the Messiah.

So now we come to the question of why would Jewish officials want Christ's head?

John Viril said...

Part 2

So now we come to the question of why would Jewish officials want his head?

It's my understanding that Israel didn't have the sort of distinction between law and religion that we do today. In fact, in the ancient world, it was typical for them to be mixed a blender. The sharp distinction between the two is more of a concept found in today's thinking than in the ancient past.

So, the Torah was both used for matters of faith (Yaweh's relationship with humankind) AND the practical realities of running the state. This, in fact, makes perfect sense when you understand the problems of an ancient King.

Say you rule a city and have, maybe 50k loyal troops. Once your domain extents beyond say 30 miles from central city, by the time you find out about a problem the opportunity to suppress it by force exerted by your loyal troops will have passed.

However, if you convince your subjects that God will zap them if they defy Divine will, and that the King rules due to Divine will, you've expanded the power of the King to influence the affairs of his subjects well beyond the baseline enforcement capability of his reliable troops.

So, the Roman method of subsuming local religious power into the conquests, was allow the locals to keep their gods as long as they added the Roman gods to their pantheon. This, however, didn't work with the Jews because they were monotheists.

Monotheism led to the quandry of Jewish faith how could they still be loyal to Yaweh while ruled by the Romans?

My understanding is that Jesus was proposing a solution to this problem by splitting off the parts of the faith that dealt with the man's relationship with Yaweh from the parts of the Torah more related to running the Jewish state.

Hence, "Give unto Ceaser what is Ceasar's, and give unto God what is God's"

Well, lots of Jewish officials didn't like his solution, which makes perfect sense because quite a few of them would lose worldly power under his proposal. Given the blending of governing and religious power typical in their society, it would be like some street preacher today asserting that his religious opinions had binding authority over the Supreme Court.

Yeah...no wonder they wanted his head. Try standing on a soapbox and proclaiming that your words supercede the current tax code. The IRS wouldn't be real happy with you. They'd get really torched if some rural courts started applying this new law.

Mainline Judaism rejected this solution and instead came up with another way to live under non-Jewish rulers, such that parts of the current Jewish Torah diverged from the parts that found their way into the Christian Bible.

The Jesus faction then started recruiting Gentiles, and guess what...ends up becoming a huge new religion. It became the ROMAN Catholic Church when it was quite useful in helping Constantine take the Empire.

David Brin said...

Glancing at EXISTENCE, I rediscovered this scene from very near the end. Not a spoiler...



Lacey stepped back a bit, her hand over her breast.
“Then Earth civilization hasn’t forgotten or abandoned us? Or blown itself up?”
The figure shook its head, conveying ruefulness.
“Millions of probes, and the virtizens in every one leaped to the same dark conclusion—assuming the worst. What a dismal bunch! If we do this again, we really must include more optimists. Or at least spare you AUPs some suspense!
“To answer your question, no, we’re still tottering along back here on Earth and the Settlements, uncovering failure modes just in time. Sometimes gaining a little breathing room and confidence. At other times barely avoiding panic. Doing some planet repair. Staving off tyrants and demagogues. Coping with both would-be godmakers and fanatical nostalgia junkies. Gradually learning to benefit from our multiplicity.”
Gerald Livingstone’s aivatar spread its hands in an open gesture.
“As for abandoning you and your mission? Now why would we give up such an important investment? You have a big job to do!”

David Brin said...

JV your exegeisis is intelligent an largely overlaps with my own, but you leave things out. Like:

1. James and the Jewish Christians were very uncomfortable with the recent convert and former persecutore, Paul. They sent him on an unimportant mission to convert grntiles... whereupon all the Jewish Christians died, defensing their assigned section of the wall of Jerusalem in year 70CE....

...leaving Paul free to concoct anything he liked, including incorporationg Greek notions of sacrificed young gods and human sacrifice and god-eating.

But right. JC could not have FAILED so his mission must have been bigger and more important that restoring Israel. Saving all of humanity from a 4000 year raging GRUDGE against two dimwitted teenagers and all their children... yeah, that's the ticket. Even tho James and the others would have found the whole set of innovations and incorporations nauseating.

Threaten everyone with HELL for even innocent babies? That's something I have found no precedence for. It was persuasive, I guess.

duncan cairncross said...

Re - Jesus

To the Romans the Jews were a major pain in the bum - they kept rebelling!

IMHO the Roman equivalent of the CIA decided to launch a "Psychological Operation"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_operations_(United_States)

They decided to de-fang the Jewish community by finding their "Messiah" and having him say "Render unto Ceasar"

In the short term this worked - the Jews became much less of a problem to the Romans.

John Viril said...

1. James and the Jewish Christians were very uncomfortable with the recent convert and former persecutore, Paul. They sent him on an unimportant mission to convert grntiles... whereupon all the Jewish Christians died, defensing their assigned section of the wall of Jerusalem in year 70CE....

Interesting. I never heard anything like this. Pretty much the only thing I was taught about this issue was AS an ideological battle in the early Church which Paul won. Thus, Christ's teaching was for everyone. What I got was the story from Acts of the Apostles where the issue was whether or not Gentile adults needed to be circumcised to before joining a Christian community. Which, of course, seems rather cruel to do to an adult male.

Never considered the sort of unconscious message transmitted by this tale to early Christians that imposing Jewish traditions on a gentile populations would be cruel and absurd.

Though, it's not like most people who won a debate due to such a historical accident would cop to the truth. Makes sense that they'd tell their descendants that "wisdom prevailed" rather than reveal they won by default.

Ya know, I never did learn how Jews interpret the Adam and Eve story. I just got the whole Original Sin schtick, and to tell the truth, the Jesuit education I got in high school is A LOT more scholarly than most Catholics in the pew get. It's a pretty solid grounding, but isn't exactly theologian-level training (though I've read quite a bit on my own, it's not like I'm rabid about studying the complete body of Catholic dogma and doctrine).

In fact, a lot of my subsequent reading has come about because I hear a proclaimation from the Catholic Church that seems questionable to me, and I'll go back and read the published encylicals on the subject.

Robert Heinlein had LOTS of fun with the ritual cannibalism aspects of Christian communion traditions in Stranger in a Strange Land. I must confess, after reading that book then looking at the Abraham/Isaac story in theology class, the whole Lamb of God sacrifice theology seems to contradict Yaweh's command that his followered WEREN'T supposed to offer human sacrifice.

A Christian would say it isn't a 4000 yo grudge against randy teenagers, but more like cumulative sin committed by all of humanity in the past and into the future get "redeemed" by Christ.

Though why humankind needs a divine scapegoat before God the Father can forgive human sin isn't really well explained. Plus, how Yaweh becomes a Trinity isn't exactly clear either. Question this too much, and Catholic clergy will just tell you, "It's a mystery," probably because most of them don't get it themselves.

Theologians have some rather extensive and esoteric explanations for the Trinity, but even they will resort to "it's a mystery that must be accepted on Faith," when pushed.

John Viril said...

Threaten everyone with HELL for even innocent babies? That's something I have found no precedence for. It was persuasive, I guess.

Hell is a Christian concept, but I thought it was somewhat related to the Jewish Gehinnom. I suspect most Jews know far more about Christianity than Christians know about Judaism due to their long residence in Christian-ascendant societies---it's simply a matter of self-protection.

And, yeah, a WHOLE lot of Christians (including Catholics) have questioned why an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God requires an eternal torture chamber. The best justification I've heard is that see, God doesn't impose torment on condemned souls, it's just that well they're so damaged they reject God's truth and cannot be fixed. Thus, it's their own free will that condemns them not that God imposes torment upon them. Any agony they suffer is due to their own spiritual defects.

However, I think a strict Catholic wouldn't accept that. When I was a altar boy, one of the priests at my grade school liked to give sermons about how Hell had "real flame," which suggests God actively punishes the sinners in his eternal torture chamber.

As for the innocent babies going to hell, St. Augustine of Hippo (the guy that wrote City of God, City of Man), did say that in the 5th century. By the middle ages, the Church started teaching unbaptized babies went to "Limbo" (an in-between place that wasn't heaven but was free from torture).

Of course, the existence of "Limbo" isn't anywhere in scripture, so a lot of Protestants don't accept it.

While St. Augustine did have a pretty regressive view of unbaptized babies, he did write extensively about how it's hubris for man to attempt to establish "heaven on earth," thus it is perfectly acceptable for a Catholic to advocate for mortal rules on earth that promote worldly order that might divirge from Catholic theology.

LOTS of "God and Government" types could use some St. Augustine.

The concept of Hell does have its benefits. I mean, hey, it gave us Dante's Inferno. C'mon, admit it, it's LOTS of fun imaging the eternal punishment waiting for public figures you don't like.

I'd LOVE to see Kim Kardashian condemned to watching Kardashian reruns until the end before she is promised salvation from Hell, except God has created immortal dopplegangers of her entire family so the show never ends.

Paradoctor said...

My theology is that no valid theology exists. There is no such thing as a science of God. God is either nonexistent or transcendent, and in neither case fits the scientific method. What's more, if there were a science of God, one that could accurately describe and predict God, then it would yield a technology to control God, for knowledge is power. From valid theology, working theotheurgy; and from working theotheurgy, profiting from God. God would be the slave of men. But if God exists, then God is free. Therefore valid theology does not exist.

Note that the above refutations of the existence of valid theology itself assumes unprovable statements: namely, the transcendence and freedom of God, if God exists. Therefore the above denial of valid theology is itself not scientifically valid!

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

Ya know, I never did learn how Jews interpret the Adam and Eve story. I just got the whole Original Sin schtick,


On the old Cerebus list, I used to point out that the Biblical Genesis story doesn't equate the serpent with Satan. It's just a snake. The way I learned it in Jewish Sunday School, the whole bit was a kind of Aesop's Fable. "This is why women are scared of snakes." "This is why snakes crawl on their bellies instead of walking upright."

Dave Sim, the writer/artist of Cerebus came to religion late in life. He's always been a sort of iconoclast, looking at things without the usual preconceived notions, and he did that with Scripture as well. He noticed that Eve is never actually expelled from the garden. From Genesis 3, emphasis mine:

22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So He drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.


And yes, I know that the term "man" can refer to all of mankind, not just the male half. However, when a story only has two characters, one man and one woman, and the narrative refers to "THE man", or to the singular "him", it's pretty clear which of the two characters is being referred to.

Darrell E said...

All this religious talk brought to mind Herbert's The Godmakers. Anyone remember that one? I kind of like it. Not a great novel, but quite interesting.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

suspect most Jews know far more about Christianity than Christians know about Judaism due to their long residence in Christian-ascendant societies---it's simply a matter of self-protection.


In some sense. However, Christians seem to know an awful lot about Leviticus. And the ones who insist on posting the Ten Commandments in public places never seem to want the Sermon on the Mount so displayed.


And, yeah, a WHOLE lot of Christians (including Catholics) have questioned why an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God requires an eternal torture chamber. The best justification I've heard is that see, God doesn't impose torment on condemned souls, it's just that well they're so damaged they reject God's truth and cannot be fixed. Thus, it's their own free will that condemns them not that God imposes torment upon them. Any agony they suffer is due to their own spiritual defects.


The way I've heard that put is that Hell is just what happens to humans when they die. God actively saves those who ask His forgiveness. The others simply default to Hell. God doesn't put them in Hell.

To me, that still dances around the fact that if God is both omnipotent and omniscient, then everything is His doing and everything is intentional. One does not have the option to assert that God would like to do something, but His hands are tied. Those who insist that God can do anything have the onus on them to explain why God can't forgive those who don't ask him to do so.

Tim H. said...

I presume Hell was carried into Christianity by Pagan converts, along with other things, likely a plus at the time to have a little daylight between them and Jewish populations on the outs with Imperial Rome. In the present, this provides ammunition for some of the more ...intense "Fundagelicals", but I see it as no more than interesting history, since people of good intent find ways of doing so in most religions. Those intent on modeling their lives after a Dennis Leary novelty song are, as always, a different matter.

Larry Hart said...

A very early episode of The Simpsons imagined a scene out of The Ten Commandments where Moses has gone up into Mount Sinai and the Hebrews wait for his return. A character very much like Homer is greeted as "Homer The Thief" by "Someone The Adulterer" and "Someone The Maker Of Graven Images". The three characters chat for awhile until Homer warns, "Moses is back! Everybody look busy!" At which point, they respectively double down on pilfering objects, carving a golden calf, and chatting up a woman.

The punch line is when Moses reads the Ten Commandments, at which the three realize, "The party's over."

It's funny in its absurdity, imagining that those "professions" were not condemned as wrong until a prophet brought down the law on a tablet. Sure, carving graven images probably isn't objectively "wrong" without God saying so. But murder, adultery, and thievery are counter to functioning society, and the very words have "wrongness" baked into them. Not just "killing" (perhaps in self-defense), but "murder" seems to imply killing when it is wrong. Same with "adultery" and "thievery".

scidata said...

"If you want to get good people to do wicked things, you need religion."
- Christopher Hitchens

Deeper discussion of ideology in general is provided by Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, and especially IMHO Bronowski.

locumranch said...

In what Woody Allen would describe as being "too jewish", the excessively literal nature of the above discussion, along with an inability to grasp the figurative, is most commonly associated those who fall on the autism spectrum.

As Tim_H mentions, it was the Romans who created the notorious anti-jewish 'blood libel' in regard to Christ's death & introduced the idea of a hellish pagan underworld into the Christian mythos, followed by official adoption of Christianity as the Roman state religion around 300 AD. The Romans even adopted other pagan holidays into Christianity which you know as Christmas, New Year's, Easter & All Saint's day.

Also, it's practically a trope that to deny someone's immortality, relative worthiness and/or resurrection is tantamount to KILLING THEM in a purely figurative sense.

We see an identical process occurring today as the progressive left elevates the rainbow flag as a sacred symbol, turns the 'right to choose' abortion into a sacrament of child sacrifice & commits similar hateful blood libels against its conservative political opposition.

It would therefore behove you to realize that there has never been a culture that has been more accepting & protective of the Jewish people than the modern Christian West... with the exception of a few historical hiccups... insomuch as your ongoing attempts to undermine the Christian ethic will only hasten your destruction by an onslaught of ethnic & cultural diversity.


Best

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

"If you want to get good people to do wicked things, you need religion."


Watch the personal behavior of the authority figures who convince you that the disposition of your immortal soul depends on you're adhering to behavior that they prescribe. Do they act in their own lives by their own choices as if they buy what they are selling?

David Brin said...

JV have you watched my theological PLAY ‘The Escape’? It is highly pertinent.

“why humankind needs a divine scapegoat before God the Father can forgive human sin isn't really well explained…”

zactly.

The Trinity is easily explained. When the Big Councils were collecting varied documents to canonize they found three kinds of ‘god’ and needed to find rationales for why they all amounted to the same thing.

Yeah the recent rationalization is that God respects the individual’s free will choice to reject him and thereafter their soul’s tormented separation from Him is entirely their choice, not His. Except, again, why no Great Big Sky-Opening Sermon to TELL US the rules so that 99.99% of us can thereupon make an INFORMED choice?

One of my favorite to ponder Christian notions – attempting to wriggle out of some unpleasant implications - is the Harrowing of Hell… THE theme of the rim figures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling… wherein, after centuries of sad waiting, the souls of Aristotle etc are gathered from the outer circle of hell and taken upwards, conveniently solving the problem of salvation for good folks before JC. It’s a theme I take up in THE ESCAPE.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

why no Great Big Sky-Opening Sermon to TELL US the rules


Apparently the rule is: "You have to believe that you have to believe in Jesus Christ in order to get into heaven in order to get into heaven."

Alan Brooks said...

Lambs are sacrificed so that their blood washes away sins.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Lambs are sacrificed so that their blood washes away sins.


I'm sorry, I know that's a cliche, but to me, those words don't make sense in that order.

If we take them completely literally, the liquid from the lamb's bloodstream somehow cleanses the souls of the people who sacrifice it. Since the blood never actually washes their souls, I don't get the connection.

If we go a little more metaphorically, the environment is being cleansed of the sins that humans polluted it with. But again, I don't see how this is accomplished physically.

Perhaps, the blood itself is somehow valuable to God, so by sacrificing a lamb to give that blood to Him, we're essentially paying Him back for the harm we caused by sin. We give up something of value to us (meat, wool) in order to give something of value to God which makes Him whole after we harmed Him by sinning. That works story-wise, except that the Judeo-Christian God doesn't seem the type to lack anything, let alone lamb's blood in particular.

Or is it just that the act of humility--giving up something valuable to ourselves to express atonement to God--that wipes out or redeems the sin? That seems closer to the spirit of the sacrifice, but again, I don't see why it has to be a lamb or specifically its blood.

Alan Brooks said...

It was addressed to Loc, as he knows if one wishes to learn something that is written in the Physicians Desk Reference, one opens it and reads.
If one wants to learn something written in scripture—any scripture—one opens the tome in question and reads.
All scripture says there need be sacrifice. There is self-sacrifice, and also the sacrifice of others; including innocents.
In wars, to this day, innocents are sacrificed.. one might say from a scriptural perspective, that their ‘blood’ is shed for our sins. Perhaps so; maybe not. Don’t know, yet I do know from reading scripture how the ‘blood’ of innocents is a factor.

My grandfather was a preacherman. When very young, we thought it was all about feeling good and being happy and saying nice things. Later on, it became apparent that sacrifice was necessary—even death. The death of oneself and the death of others.

Alan Brooks said...

A lamb is grass-eater; humans are omnivores, and kill. Christ as The Christ-Lamb is a grasseater (ahimsa) written large.
He gets everything dumped on Him—the buck stops there.

Unknown said...

There's an old argument based on Phoenician religious practice - and exemplified in the story of Abraham - that the first born son used to be sacrificed, but this was changed to a mere animal sacrifice. Look up 'tophet' and be prepared for the archaeological flame wars. Remember that Abraham was fully prepared to offer up his son, as demanded, before God threw him an out. That tells me all I need to know about Abe and his LORD. The correct answer to 'kill your child' is the same one the Old Guard replied at Waterloo when offered surrender.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

That tells me all I need to know about Abe and his LORD.


Everything that I saw when I looked up 'tophet' sounded as if God abhorred the practice of child sacrifice, and had the Hebrews destroy the Canaanites because of it.

Dave Sim, as usual, had an unusual take on the whole "LORD" thing--the King James English translation of the Hebrew YHWH. Dave believes that YHWH isn't really the same thing as God. The theory is that he, or maybe she, is a kind of earth spirit who only thinks itself to be equivalent to God. I don't know if Dave was influenced by C.S. Lewis's depiction of "the bent Oyarsa of Earth," but it sounds like a similar concept.

He, Dave, claims that the ancient Hebrews meant to worship God, but they were tricked into thinking that YHWH was the same thing. So when the Bible has "the LORD God" (i.e., YHWH) give instructions that don't seem quite right--like "Kill your son,"--well, that's not the real God speaking. It's the delusional, fake God.

Alan Brooks said...

You wrote yesterday how when you were in school, religion was considered fantasy.
It is. However it can be reified so that we can make some sense of it.

David Brin said...

I know (by now) way too much about Dave Sim. No offense! Just sayin'....

Unknown said...

Oh, each of us contain multitudes, and Dave Sim let a lot more of his multitudes out of his skull than most of us...my best friend followed Cerebus for decades. He also collected beer cans. Takes all kinds.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

In the 1980s, there was a compilation of humorous excerpts from actual history papers circulating on the (text) internet of the time. One of them I found particularly amusing was:

"Homer was not written by Homer, but by someone else of that name."

In that spirit, Dave Sim didn't quite say, "Parts of the Bible were not spoken by God but by someone else of that name," but the sense is the same.

* * *

Different topic, but another hilarious excerpt was:

"Sir Francis Drake circumcised the Earth with a fifty foot clipper."

A.F. Rey said...

People think that lawyers make up stuff and create convoluted logic to justify whatever they want, but they ain't got nothing on theologians. :D

Larry Hart said...

@A.F. Rey,

The conservatives on the supreme court check both boxes.

Alan Brooks said...

Which developed first, Law or theology?

David Brin said...

The legends of Gilgamesh and the Vedas and Egyptian mortuary theology and homer all predated Hamurabi's code. Gods and demigods were exempt from accountability to law.

John Viril said...

Which developed first, Law or theology?

In the ancient world, they really were the same thing.

John Viril said...

I read Gilgamesh extensively because my baseball novel uses it as its mythological base to get across the idea of athlete as modern myth hero...been done before of course, but I agree it is still true today.

Though, the current flavor is that we have a WHOLE lot more data about our social icons, which creates a bit of a different relationship.

And when they diverge from our cultural expectations, we have great fun flogging them in the public square (internet).

Are we really that different from the people who held the Salem witch trials?

Alan Brooks said...

We are worse, as we can destroy the biosphere many times over.
The witch trials didn’t even ruin Salem.

Larry Hart said...

John Viril:

Are we really that different from the people who held the Salem witch trials?


Well, we usually don't actually hang the fallen celebrities. Not even O.J.

John Viril said...

Re: Law and theology

Since the King drew his legal authority due to approval by the divine, law was simply a codification of divine will.

The Torah, for example, was BOTH a book of law that ran the Jewish state but also used as a means to convey the Jewish religion.

The Romans segregated law and religion, because they didn't compel conquered people to conert by the sword. Instead, they let them keep their gods as long as they added the Roman pantheon and adhered to Roman law.

Other conquerers insisted the conquered convert to their Gods, because worshipping a different God or Gods implied lack of loyalty to the ruler.

John Viril said...

Re; Law and Religion 2

Even the Romans blended the two. While Roman legal codes were distinct from religion, in the Roman Republic, the Chief Priest (Pontifez Rex, literally "King of Priests" in Latin) had to be a former Consul to get the post.

It's easy to see the reason why when you recall my earlier point about how if you convince the schmucks that you rule God will zap them if they disobey, it vastly expands the power of the King.

In this context, misfortune is an act by the Divine to punish or reward the worshipper for their conformity to divine will. Thus, you got sick BECAUSE YOU WERE A BAD PERSON. This thinking is why Jesus' "blessed be the poor" was so revolutionary (and popular).

Consider that conquest by the Romans implied either the Jews were unfaithful and thus were being punished by Yaweh, or the Roman pantheon was

more powerful than Yaweh.

Remember the Old Testament story about how Yaweh turned Aaron's rod into a serpent? Pharoh's sorcerers also turned their staffs into serpents, but Yaweh's serpent consumed them. Thus, Yaweh was stronger than the Egyptian Gods.


So, apparently the urge to whip it out to see who has the most powerful rod goes back thousands of years.

In a sense, Jesus is saying that the Jewish people are blameless for the Roman conquest, as well as asserting the moral virtue of healing the sick and giving to the poor.




Unknown said...

"Pontifez Rex" is the best typo I have seen in weeks. "King of Bridge-Little Red Hats." I thank you from the bottom of my harp.

It even beats DeCamp's novel where a character trying to dress as the Roman god of war wore a "ball-baring kilt". I always wondered if that one was deliberately snuck past the editor, but only a seance could find the answer now, and DeCamp would be too rationalist to attend one as a spirit, except perhaps to make pointed marks about the gullibility of the attendees.

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

A pontifex is, literally, a bridge between gods and men; so, yes, a priest.

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

wow:
https://bigthink.com/starts-with-a-bang/physicists-question-fate-universe/

duncan cairncross said...

As if it wasn't strange enough before!!

Darrell E said...

Let me interject a complete non sequitur here.

It's not a head transplant, it's a body transplant. Jeez people.

reason said...

I think this is slightly wrong - "If you want to get good people to do wicked things, you need religion."
- Christopher Hitchens

What you need is not religion as such, it is to get people to accept the idea that blind obedience is good.

David Brin said...

MSNBC: the GOP House has stricken from the Congressional record any mention of Trump’s charges or trial that does not call it a sham. https://youtu.be/BUbtCWoTB-A?si=-l8WasTj6fX7FWYP

---
Alas, four years after I published it, to help in the 2020 election, there's not a single chapter or page of my book about political tactics that is obsolete.  Roughly 100 proposed methods that would likely be useful right now, at this critical time...
...and not one of those proposed tactics has been taken up or used. Not by any blue politicians or leaders. Not one of the 'generals' on the blue, Union side in this desperate phase of the recurring, 240 year US Civil War. As appalling as the confederate side's treasonous madness is the blue/union/democracy side's utter ineptitude at polemics... and dullard refusal to consider any fresh ideas.

I'll offer my book again, online. I can promise it'll be entertaining and eye-opening!  Moreover, if you can get anyone on any Dem campaign - even the assistant staffer on a race for city council - to ASK me, I'll send a PDF for free.  But I'll not put in the same kind of effort as I did in 1019 and 2020.  The book it utterly pertinent as ever.  I do have more to add... but why should I bother?

Polemical Judo, by David Brin: http://www.davidbrin.com/polemicaljudo.html

Alfred Differ said...

reason,

It feels good to be 'absolved of ethical responsibility.'
Blind Obedience is another term for 'Just following orders.'

I think Hitchens was too focused on religion when it came to these matters. Truth is about 40% of us are highly inclined to follow (mostly blindly) a strong leader. Religious leaders are just one type.

scidata said...

Those who use religion to make good people do wicked things are not necessarily 'religious leaders'. Indeed, many of them are cynical grifters.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Religious leaders are just one type.


Yes, but only religion claims that disobedience endangers your immortal soul for eternity.

Unknown said...

Scidate,

I'm not sure what the ratio of 'cynical grifters' to 'genuine believers in the religion you lead' is, but my random survey of 14-15th century popes leads me to some grim conclusions. Also, even the true believers, such as China's 'Younger Brother of Christ', were quite happy to glom the riches and groupies for themselves and order massacres of unbelievers. Difference that makes no difference is no differences.

Pappenheimer

scidata said...

Pappenheimer,

Point taken. I should have use the term 'sincere theologians' instead of 'religious leaders'.

Paradoctor said...

Dr. Brin:
Send a copy of "Polemical Judo" to the Lincoln Project. They have attitude and drive, and already know many of the techniques you suggest. Some differences: they're more into polemical karate.

David Brin said...

Are some 'Libertarians' remembering liberty? A few resist Forbes & other would be feudal lords who turn Cato & every 'libertarian' whore-institution into lackey tools of oligarchy. Some are even starting to read that anti-feudal rebel Adam Smith.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/may/26/no-wannabe-dictators-donald-trump-booed-at-libertarian-convention

Unknown said...

Re: the Libertarian convention - I'm going to assume that many Libertarians are still going to vote for rumpt and his authoritarian malefactors of great wealth (AMOGW, I guess?), because in 2016 I was surprised that so many Moral Majoritarians were willing to vote for a NY real estate con artist with a moral compass set at zero. There is a strong sense in the US that the middle class has lost ground. I don't believe that the 50's were some sort of Golden Age, but a lot of white folks think that. The fact that the rest of the world got its industry trashed in WWII, and that a lot of nonwhite folks remember or have read or heard something different, is immaterial.

Pappenheimer

P.S. did some Renaissance fencing yesterday after nearly a year off and I'd forgotten how it feels when muscle memory kicks in without mental assistance. Of course I was rusty as heck, but a seamless parry in quarte, foin over foible*/bind into octave/riposte up surprised both the opponent with a point at his gorget and me, at the other end. (Note - if this had been a match, he'd have won on points...but it felt exhilarating.)

*this means 'I had the leverage'

David Brin said...

At Caltech I coached the women's fencing team to their 1st victory.

onward

onward

Larry Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Hart said...

I went past the "onward". I'll delete from here and repost in the next comments.

onward!