Monday, 8 June 2015

J. Michael Straczynski, I expect better of you...

When I had heard that JMS was working on a new series, I was excited.  I adored Babylon 5, and enjoyed Jeremiah - the story lines were well crafted, with engaging plots, addressing diverse subjects with intelligence, and wit, drawing the viewer in, thoughtfully presenting ideas to be mulled over and considered rather than pushing a particular agenda.  They were original treatments of some fundamental questions all civilizations wrestle with, and like all good stories, they stand up to re watching.  Not a lot does these days.

When I heard that his new venture was working with the Wachowskis, I really wasn't too sure what to think.  The Matrix started off well, but was (in my own opinion) 2 movies too long. I had to admit that I didn't mind Speed Racer, but I was familiar with the source material and appreciated their adaptation.  Then came Cloud Atlas - aka 2 hours and 52 minutes of my life that I will never get back - which lead to my trepidation.

Sense8 is the result of that collaboration, and as of being 2/3 of the way through I am currently unimpressed.  I understand working to build the foundations for a sweeping storyline.  What I didn't expect was basically an unaccredited rip-off of Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human with a few alterations/adulterations (two extra characters and an elephant sized dose of every SJW cliche known to modern man - 'anysexual (except cis-normative) good/cis-normative (especially males) bad', 'socialism good/capitalism bad', 'social justice warrior good/ conservative EVIL').  Did they think that just because Sturgeon died in 1985, and the book was written in 1953 that no one would notice?

The man who wrote: 
"Understanding is a three-edged sword." 
"You and the rest of your kind take blind comfort in the belief that we are monsters, that you could never do what we did. The key ingredient in the anti-agapic cannot be synthesized. It must be taken from living beings. For one to live forever, another one must die. You will fall upon one another like wolves. It will make what we did pale by comparison. The billions who live forever will be a testimony to my work. And the billions who are murdered to buy that immortality will be the continuance of my work. Not like us? You will become us."
"Every damn patient who comes through that door, that's who. People come to doctors because they want us to be gods. They want us to make it better…or make it not so. They want to be healed and they come to me when their prayers aren't enough. Well, if I have to take the responsibility, then I claim the authority too. I did good. And we both know it. And no one is going to take that away."
"When I was 21, I visited Tibet. I went to see the new Dalai Lama. Uh, you do that sort of thing when you're 21 and the son of a diplomatic envoy. We had a simple dinner. Rice, raisins, carrots—steamed, not boiled—and green tea. When it was over, he looked at me and said, "Do you understand?" I said no, I didn't. "Good beginning," he said. "You'll be even better when you begin to understand what you do not understand." After reading some of your reports, I begin to understand what I don't understand about Babylon 5. But I couldn't wish for a more capable and skilled group of people to learn from. It was an early Earth President, Abraham Lincoln, who best described our current situation. He said…
[he gets interrupted by a security alarm]
. . .
[delivering the rest of his speech to an empty C&C] It was an early Earth president, Abraham Lincoln, who best described our situation. "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. We cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves. The fiery trial though which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the last generation. We shall nobly save or meanly lose our last, best hope of Earth." [He looks around with a satisfied smile.] Five minutes to spare."

is so much better than that.   I would like to believe the man who wrote those things would not have had any hand in the...words fail me...complete and utter gong-show that was episodes 1 - 7.  I don't think he was allowed near the word processor until episode 8 - it was the first episode that actually had dialogue and plot development.  I will reserve final judgement to the end, just to see how it plays out and if they'll actually give Sturgeon the credit he's due.

Good science fiction should make you think, not push an agenda so blatantly it verges on propagandizing.  The JMS of Babylon 5 and Jeremiah did this; the responsible parties for this plagerization of a classic SF masterpiece do not.

Will the real JMS please stand up?

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Power of the Narrative

The world I grew up in was one of infinite possibility.  The stars were in reach, new discoveries seemed to happen with stunning regularity and there seemed to be no limits to what could be accomplished.  Sure the world wasn't perfect - no one denied that there were people less fortunate, and places less developed - but the assumption was that it would only be a matter of time before they would be equally as developed and prosperous.

The youngest of three, I was fortunate to be raised by in a family of voracious readers.  It was only natural to want to know what those black lines on the crisp white pages were, so I worked to understand how this whole reading thing worked.  As my skills grew, and vocabulary increased, I gained an appreciation of the structure of stories.  That appreciation did not translate, however, into an appreciation of English classes - I preferred reading and thinking about the story itself over attempting to psychoanalyze the author or divine any deeper meaning within the words.

To me, barring an ability to transcend time and space, how should I know what the author was thinking when they put pen to paper?  It seemed both presumptuous and futile to try second guessing what was going on in someone else's head.  Further, it was too subject to interpretation for my tastes.But the structure...why things were put together in certain ways, and how a different turn of phrase or interpretation of a word could change things...that was important.  It was far more important than my younger more idealistic self could conceive.  It has taken years for me to realize, to recognize the importance of what can loosely be termed as the narrative of life, environment, community and society.

The narrative I grew up with was that life, in spite of my circumstances, was full of possibilities. There was no reason that I couldn't go as far as my ambitions and abilities would take me.  I still feel that way, but somewhere, somehow, between the time I grew up and now, something changed.  What changed was this unrecognized but pervasive narrative, the one that provides our communities and our society with a common framework and bond. Within this narrative, self determination, individual accomplishment and empowerment have morphed into determinism based on group identities and a hierarchy of victim-hood; a moral compass has been seceded by moral equivalence, to the detriment of everyone. What permeates the education system and the media are that there are victims and oppressors, and those who belong to the victim class can never be oppressors.  Those who dare question the orthodoxy are heretics fit only to be publicly burned in effigy.  Free Speech is only for speech that is approved by the self-appointed arbiters of all that is right, good and true, irrespective of reality.

This narrative needs to change.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Trying to make sense of the Universe, one piece at a time...

As much as I'd like to deny it, most humans are creatures of emotion first.

When a logical argument comes up against an emotional appeal, nine times out of ten it's not logic that wins.

When the inevitable consequences occur, once the smoke clears the ones who drove the emotionally laden decision solemnly swear that this was not what was intended.  They declare it will never happen again and go off in an emotionally driven campaign in the opposite direction.  Santayana was right.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

I would like to be more optimistic, but every time that I try, reality tends to come back and whack the sense back into me.