Our mistake with intelligence was to consider it as possession rather than a skillset.
Brain droppings, continued:
Peter Woit: "Often very smart people are not good at realizing they were wrong about something and admitting it. Perhaps being smart even makes things worse: you lack experience at being wrong."
One of the worst things we ever did vis-a-vis intelligence, as a society, was think of it and talk about it as it were a possession rather than a skillset. We end up saying "I'm a smart person" instead of "I am trying to do the smart things". Intelligence becomes a matter of identity and not behavior.
How consistency, foolish or otherwise, can be the hobgoblin of small minds in SF&F.
Yet more brain droppings until normal service resumes:
You probably know by know the theories about what the Kessel Run was in Star Wars. Namely, that because it was calibrated in parsecs, it was something you gauged by how short the total distance was, in the same way a lower score in golf was a better one. Of course there was a simpler explanation — "parsec" was just some word George Lucas had thrown into the screenplay to sound all science-fantasy-y — but that would have been no fun.
Why I find the obsession with "prescience" in science fiction to be misguided.
I find the obsession with "prescience" in science fiction to be misguided. Not wrong, just ... maybe left of center. The B-sides and remixes, as it were, not the album tracks or the singles.
When you have so much fiction being written, of all different kinds, it's not hard to trawl through it and pull out a few examples that square, sometimes quite precisely, with current events. We then label such a work "prescient". I've done this myself, talking about how John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider predicted not only the Internet but its second-order effects (e.g., WikiLeaks)! Exciting, no?
It's great when a work ends up being uncannily spot-on about what's to come, but I think it's foolish to contrive a work in this light — to try and make predictions with it, as opposed to just speculate and see what arises. The former is closed-ended; the latter is open-ended.
"Just depict, don't also imagine" is a poor program for art.
More brain droppings until service resumes:
A thought that arose from the previous post. If there is any aesthetic program that has served artists most poorly in recent decades, it is the notion that they aren't obliged to imagine alternatives or suggest new possibilities as long as they just depict the problem in all its painstaking, excruciating, soul-numbing totality.
The exact problem being depicted is not important; it could be environmental collapse, or emotional violence, or the Disintegration Of The Social Fabric, or The Failure To Communicate. Let someone else think of the solutions; the artist's responsibility ends with them holding up a mirror. Or giving the suffering a few crumbs in the form of having their misery seen and immortalized. Or et any number of other, equally lame ceteras.
On the lack of stories with moral authority and narrative force about life in the vacuum of reactionary postmodernity.
More brain droppings until service resumes:
For decades we have received narratives about life under totalitarian or authoritarian regimes: Norman Manea's Captives, Slavenka Drakulić's How We Survived Communism And Even Laughed, Hans Fallada's many novels and autofictions about life under the Nazi regime. We do not as of yet have stories with the same moral authority and narrative force about life in the vacuum of reactionary postmodernity, and I suspect that's because reactionary postmodernity is a mode that eschews the concept of moral authority in the first place.
Too many times I've started a project only to shelve it because it was nothing but putting some attitude on display. And a bad attitude at that.
More interim brain droppings until normal service resumes:
I can't count the number of times I've started a given project only to shelve it because it didn't consist of anything but putting some attitude on display. And an unconstructive, regressive attitude, to boot.
One of my original forays into this dead end was a project that ended up being an unconscious plagiary of Notes From Underground. (I threw it out.) Nothing in it but the demonstration of a monolithic attitude, one that (or so I told myself) would justify its existence because of the unflinching and total way I delved into the material. I don't even want to read books like that anymore, much less write them. By the time I encountered, for instance, Michel Houellebecq, I was already quit on such an approach; reading his work convinced me twice over I had dodged a bullet by not trying to cultivate such aesthetic immiseration.
When is "Write the story you want to read" not good advice? When you're not much of a reader.
Still wrestling with real-life events, but here's something to gnaw on in the interim.
"Write the story you want to read" is a common piece of advice, and worthy of following. Most of the time. I find it's bad advice for people who want very much to write but are disdainful of reading much. Yes, such specimens exist.
If you aren't much of a reader or your reading tastes are narrow (and thus not very broadly informed), writing what you want to read is going to produce something equally narrow — and by that I don't mean "something confined to a given genre" but "something lacking the breadth of input that makes even genre entertainments satisfying".