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Month: March 2013

Christianity and science fiction

It’s almost Easter! So how about a little post on Christianity and science fiction?

I recently read this article: Christianity vs. Science Fiction

I must admit, with all the political correctness going on the sci-fi world (perhaps from the strange recent mainstream popularity of “geekdom”, mostly comprised on wannabes who consider themselves geeks because they have an iPad, use social media, and enjoy some sci-fi based thing (not that I mind sci-fi going mainstream in and of itself, only that the new crowds are helping to shape sci-fi’s future in ways I find inane)), I was expecting this to be an article about why Christianity is somehow incompatible with the enlightened scientific progress of sci-fi.

But, thankfully, no! The article reads:

On the other hand, I have to wonder where all this Christian animosity in Science Fiction & Fantasy has come from. Sure, I realize there are a lotta overzealous religious types spewing hatred on a daily basis, instead of the compassion and respect Jesus preached. But c’mon, has it really been that bad? No one alive today was ever tortured to death in the Inquisition (unless you believe in reincarnation) so why is it often used as an example of how bad Christians are? Shouldn’t non-Christians take the high road and not follow in the footsteps of history’s worst “Christians”? Get some compassion, not some contempt.

I’m digressing… the point here really is, where has Jesus gone in the Science Fiction & Fantasy world? He was once there, you know.

SF/F fans, what really is so bad about Christianity? (The Biblical teachings of Jesus, not the televangelist pleas for donations). There seems to be a recent trend to exclude or discredit Christianity in Science Fiction.

I think it’s really part of an ancient trend of trying to exclude or descredit Christianity in general.

But in terms of Christianity vs science (and sci-fi by extension), I think there are a few common fundamental misunderstandings of what both actually are.

“If Christianity teaches that I am a sinner, then it condemns me, and that is evil!” No, it calls you to recognize your sins in order to redeem you, because you are worthy of it.

“Science explains things!” No, science is a method of correcting incorrect explanations in order to do something useful, not a system of creating or verifying explanations. Science fiction seems to suggest that Science! somehow provides some magical systems in and of itself that makes scientific progress achievable. So if only more people would do some Science! life would be easier and there’d be more technology, and maybe more world peace. It’s a bit like thinking Math! will build skyscrapers. Sorry, no. Progress still relies on human ingenuity, imagination, and interest.

“Christianity doesn’t explain things!” No, it does not explain physical phenomena, nor does it seek to. It calls you to have faith in what you already feel in your heart: that love is real, that there is a real moral difference between right and wrong, and that you are worth something and will live forever. You will never be able to experience any physical phenomena that can prove or disprove this to you; you can only choose to believe it or not.

I reckon there are darker reasons Christianity is frowned upon, such as pride and self-righteousness and the worshipping of money, fame, the physical body, etc. They have to condemn Christianity lest they condemn themselves. And they are masters at self-deception, like alcoholics in denial, so they see themselves as the honest ones.

So the anti-Christian sci-fi author thinks: “We are smarter than people were hundreds of years ago, so in the future, people will be smarter still! So, since Christianity is obviously false, it will be much more apparent in the future. Either people will be smart and less Christian, or what Christians remain will be very obviously stupid.”

Which amounts to little more than a pat-myself-on-the-back “I told ya so!” story.

The coming blacklist?

This is pretty sad and ugly:

Orson Scott Card: Blacklisted for Defending the Family

(via Orson Scott Card Blacklisted for Christian Faith)

I can’t comment much; I think these posts and the articles they link to speak for themselves.  Is it going to get worse?  Or do you think Mr. Card is the last and only man people will ever have a problem with?

Offices vs freedom

This interesting article on Cartoon Brew features a look at Disney’s Burbank studio back when it was being planned.  Blogger Amid Amidi writes:

But more than the lack of charm, the Burbank studio’s ostentatious in-your-face luxuriousness suggested a certain tone deafness on Walt Disney’s part. It rankled the hundreds of artists who were struggling to get by on $15-per-week salaries, and who now realized that the company cared more about its films than the well-being of its rank-and-file employees. It hardly mattered to the artists that Walt had had to borrow money from the banks to pay for the construction of the studio. Labor tensions began to escalate just months after artists moved into the studio, and within 18 months, the nasty Disney strike that threatened to destroy the entire studio had begun.

I think what artists desire is a we’re-all-in-this-together comradery sort of feeling.  We’re all on the same team, we’re all working together to produce something we can all be proud of.

But the atmospheres of some offices (including the pics featured in the aforementioned blog post) kind of make me sick.  Instead of a comradery feeling, they evoke a factory feeling.  The artists are just cogs.  Uncle Walt will get all the power and glory, and you sit at your desk and do the work your superiors tell you.

I think creative artists in the entertainment industry can struggle with this feeling a lot.  On the one hand, creativity demands the freedom and power to pursue one’s creative interests.  On the other hand, creating something as big and complicated as a film, especially an animated film, demands a level of conformity, a level of sacrifice of control.  This is one of the reasons I can’t pursue a career in animation with as much fervor as I once thought I could; I just find the prospect of a studio life somewhat intimidating.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for those artists who can keep their sanity while bringing these awesome new and wonderful worlds to life.  I’m not sure I’m humble enough for that sort of work.

OK, I don’t know what this post about.  I think I’m hinting at another post I’d like to write sometime soon about how creativity and art require humility.

What online video needs

YouTube

I was thinking about the differences between TV and YouTube.  Some differences are obvious.  YouTube’s videos are mostly far shorter than an average TV program, and YouTube’s offerings have very low production value, being made by home users who simply wish to share a small comment or piece of art or something.

But the experience of watching a YouTube video is also different.  Not just because it’s watched on a computer screen rather than a TV screen, but the experience is framed differently by audiences.  That is, audiences expect a different experience when clicking on the TV and when watching a YouTube video.  Even though YouTube vids are short and have low production value, it takes audiences more work to get to them.  They have to load up the browser, go to YouTube, and search or click around for their desired vid.  TV, however, only takes the click of one or two buttons on a remote.  TV broadcasters are continually pumping out content.  TV audiences often ignore a lot of TV content, leaving it on in the background, or tuning in when they are bored, just to “see what’s on.”

So, if online video is to compete with traditional TV, we need an online service that will pump out video automatically, without the user having to make a conscious effort to decide what to watch specifically.  Online video needs a way for audiences to just “see what’s on.”  A first-time user could setup a custom channel depending on his interests, and YouTube would load the selected videos automatically.  If the user doesn’t like them, he can go find his own videos.  Meanwhile, there are plenty of people settling for boring stuff on TV simply because it’s more convenient, because it takes less work to get to.  It’s worth competing for their attention.

So somebody go make that.

Saving is objectifying?

I couldn’t watch this whole video because the host’s arguments are just too completely insane. It’s probably too insane to even be worth commenting on, but I’m going to anyway. (I like how ratings and comments are conveniently not allowed on the video.)

The argument is that the “damsel in distress” trope in video games objectifies women by portraying them as objects to be won. If this were truly the case, any game involving a damsel in distress could replace the damsel with a bag of virtual money as the ultimate prize, and the story should still work. It doesn’t, because the bag of money can’t love the main character in return. The prize is not the woman’s body, it’s the woman’s love, the return of the mutual love between the two characters. These stories are founded on relationships.

Claiming that wanting to save a woman is objectifying her is like claiming that giving a gift to someone is a form a objectification, because someone is being acted upon. “Honey, I got you a new necklace!” “How dare you act upon me!” We might as well never do anything for anyone else, less we objectify them.

An annoying argument tactic

There’s an issue going on in the writing / publishing world involving Random House’s e-book imprint Hydra, as mentioned in this recent post from the Writer Beware Blog.

I have no comment on the issue itself, but on something mentioned in Random House’s open response letter.  They write:

While we respect your position, you’ll not be surprised to learn that we strongly disagree with it, and wish you had contacted us before you published your posts.

I’ve seen this sort of defense before in the blogosphere.  “You should’ve talked to me before you said something negative about me!”  No.  Obviously you have every right to defend your opinions, but it is no breach of etiquette for someone else to publish his dissenting opinions without running them by you first.  Your original deeds and writings are what he is publishing an opinion about.  If his opinions seem to be based on a misunderstanding, you can correct him, but it is not his job to run his opinions by you first.

I doubt whoever wrote this letter meant much by this sentence, but this way of thinking bothers me.

Media consumption log

I have started a new blog called Media Consumption Log.  I will post my comments (for they are often too short and inane for me to consider them “reviews”) on the media I consume over there.  My comments on films I’ve watched will also appear over there.  I wanted to keep a log of my own consumption and commentary for my future reference, but I didn’t want to bog down this blog with such posts.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m also not linking my media consumption blog to Twitter or Facebook, so I won’t be inadvertently spamming friends every time I update it.