My name is Charlie, but if your looking for my work, I go by C. E. Dorsett. I write scifi, fantasy, and a touch of horror. I like to play with gothic, steampunk, decopunk, epic fantasy, and wuxia. I love to tell stories and talk about books, movies, series, and music.
Why Progressive Speculative Fiction?
Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today- but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept about which resolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all. Isaac Asimov, "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
While Asimov was interested solely with Science Fiction, I believe the same can be said about Speculative Fiction as a whole. Many of the problems we face cannot be faced solely by working to fix the present conditions. If we do not explore the possible futures our choices could produce, we walk blindly into the future.
It is change, continuing change inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the word as it will be - and naturally this means that there must be an accurate perception of the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our Everyman, must take on a science fictional way of thinking, whether he likes it or not or even whether he knows it or not. Only so can the deadly problems of today be solved.
Isaac Asimov, "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Again, I would broaden his words out to all of Speculative Fiction.
Numerous horror novels/movies have shown us the problems eugenics would unleash upon our societies. Lestat's hope that there is some good in the universe heightens his fear and motivates him to find the answers.
H. P. Lovecraft's fiction had a simple message behind the supernatural horror. Humankind's chief sin is hubris. We think too highly of ourselves, and as a result blind ourselves to the fact that somewhere in this vast cosmos, there are creatures who are infinitely more powerful than we are, and whose motives are unfathomable by human logic.
Cthulu, Nyarlahotep, Azathoth, the color out of space, and the color out of time are all horrifying warnings that if we lie to ourselves, pretending there is not a bigger fish out there, we will eventually be devoured by it.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an all too familiar cautionary tale about scientific and technological advance without the restraining forces of morality and common sense. The tale has been told and retold, spawning an entire subgenre of horror about the dangers of dabbling in things not understood.
The Resident Evil franchise, Godzilla, and so many others I could spend the rest of the year naming them have picked up the mantle and and shared the horrific future we could create for ourselves if we are not careful to think ahead and not blindly rush into the future.
Showed us a future we could hope for. Imagine a world where hunger and poverty were removed from the equation. New challenges would raise their heads, some of which would threaten to return us to the barbaric world we had left behind.
Gene Roddenberry kindled a vision in the hearts and minds of his fans of a world of limitless possibilities. A world were our only limitations were our imagination and our character. It is a world to strive towards.
Lord of the Rings
In the Lord of the Rings books, J. R. R. Tolkien showed us a world on the cusp of transition from one age to another. His mythic prose illuminated the choices that people have to make when culture finds itself on the crossroads of history.
The basic choice is demonstrated through the characters of Sauroman and Gandolf. Their world, their age was ending. They had the choice to either embrace the future and try to make the new world a better place to live, or to hold on the past and seek the destruction of the new world before it comes. Gandolf chose the first path, Sauromon chose the latter.
Anakin Skywalker is faced with the same choice in the Star Wars saga. At first he fights the future out of his attachment, but when he is faced with the ultimate decision, watching the future be destroyed in the person of his son, he learns that he must let go of his attachments and help the future come.
I wonder if that is why more people don't love the prequel trilogy. It touches a nerve in them, and despite our bravado, no one really wants to think of themselves as Darth Vader. No one wants to entertain the thought that they could destroy everything they believe in and care for as a result of trying to protect it.
Like all great stories, Star Wars holds a mirror up to us and says, this could be you.
We need Progressive Speculative Fiction
Many things are hard to talk about. Stories can often show us things we would not or could not have seen otherwise.
Next time, we will discuss the differences between Positive Scifi and Progressive Speculative Fiction.
Fandom as Culture
Back in December, I took on Meg Guroff in my post, Fandom is not Obsessive Weirdoism! for saying:
One distinctly modern form of obsessive weirdoism is fandom: becoming so devoted to a work of art that you want to augment or even inhabit it. Out of this impulse was born the Klingon Language Institute (www.kli.org), the phenomenon of “fan fiction” (unauthorized stories by civilians advancing new plotlines of beloved films and TV series) (The Urbanite Magazine),
She responded by saying:
Hey, thanks for the shout-out, but anyone who reads the essay—or even just the rest of the sentence you truncated—would know that your outrage is misplaced. This passage is not an attack on fandom, it's a defense of it. I'd invite the curious to read the essay for themselves or visit my (built, obsessive, weird) site at powermobydick.com. Best wishes.
The rest of the sentence I truncated simply said: "and also, one might argue, my ever-growing Moby-Dick website, which now includes not only a full annotation but also links to artwork, poems, movies, and even cartoons based on the book (The Urbanite Magazine)." I am glad she enjoys working on a fan site, and I am sorry if I offended her by intimating she had attacked fandom, but the fact remains that characterization of fandom as obsessive and weird obfuscates the fact that what we are seeing is the birth of a new culture, not merely a niche cultural phenominon.
History of Fandom
Hugo Gernsback forged the modern Science Fiction genre in 1926 when he founded Amazing Stories magazine. In the letters section, he published the addresses of the fans who wrote in. Readers began to organize themselves into local clubs. In 1934, Hugo founded the Science Fiction League, a correspondence club where local clubs could apply for membership.
Chicago's Science Correspondence Club published the first known science fiction fanzine, The Comet, in 1930. The first convention was held nine years later when at the 1939 New York World's Fair, when the World Science Fiction Society held the first WorldCon.
Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, members of a New York fan club called The Futurians, wrote the oldest known filks in the 1950's by taking the music from folk protest songs and changing the lyrics.
It wasn't until the 1970 that the conventions grew in popularity as a result of Speculative Fiction taking on the role of mythology. More people found Speculative Fiction gave them a set of values, goals, and practices. Through our conventions, filksings, fanfic, and fanfilm, we have developed a culture that is uniquely ours.
Pattern of Behavior
Fans don't just watch the shows they love, or read the books, they devour them. We take in these stories, critique them, and rush to share and discus them with our friends. We often watch the shows or read the books multiple times to see if we missed something.
We flock to conventions to meet the stars, creators, and authors of the works we love, and to spend time reveling in the series we love. We roleplay, craft fan works, and some even engage in cosplay and LARPing (Live Action Role Playing).
It is not hard to spot a fan. The t-shirts we were, the calendars on our walls, the tchotchkes on our desks, and the phrases we like to use. Many of us use fanspeak around mundanes and not realizing it until we see that confused look on their face, and realize we need to translate into English.
Shared attitudes, values, and goals
The one thing I have always found most intriguing about fans is how a true fan is not hard on new fans, and wants to make sure everyone is having a good time.
Most of us grew up with Star Trek, and took to heart the idea of IDIC (Infinite Diverity in Infinite Combination) to heart. Where ever we are, we try to bring IDIC, foresight, and community with us. Life is to be enjoyed, and nothing cuts off the fun quicker than bigotry, ignorance, or that one guy who is looking to have a good time at the expense of everyone there if necessary.
Fan culture is always developing.
I wish you the best of luck with your Moby Dick site, and I hope I didn't upset you further. My complaint with your article was merely that you used the phrase "Obsessive Weirdoism."
Any culture is "Obsessive Weirdoism" when viewed from the outside. You have a fannish heart, and I think it is time you stopped talking in a way that excuses your fannish tendencies to the mundanes. You are a fan. Be out and proud about it.
At any rate, I am a little jealous, I can see the merit in Moby Dick, and I can understand from where your passion derives, but I don't think I will ever share it. You see something most of us don't. That is a gift. Relish it.
Why The Hero's Journey Simply Is
When idiots speak, I tend to ignore them, but when they make it worse, then I cannot stay silent. I felt that I had to say something, especially since it is the last time I will ever read or site io9 for anything.
When Charlie Anders wrote, New Proof That Every Scifi Epic Is Based On Joseph Campbell, I thought, "No one could be that stupid." The Hero's Cycle described by Joseph Campbell is the underlying structure of folk tales, legends, and myths found around the world. In fact, every well crafted story will follow the cycle, as it is the natural progression of events.
Then Charlie poured salt in the wound with, Eight Reasons Why the Hero's Journey Sucks. Let me take them one by one...
If Charlie had not been stoned while reading Hero with a Thousand Faces, something might have sunk in... O that is not me attacking this poor blogger, to quote the article:
Hey, we got stoned and read The Hero With A Thousand Faces in college, just like everybody else, and we thought it was super deep.
At any rate, let us examine the eight points.
It's a formula.
All story telling is formula. Beginning, middle, end. Inciting event, rising action, climax, denouement.
But over time, lazy writers like George Lucas have used it as a checklist.
While I will never defend the multitude lazy writers that are ruining fiction, it is equally lazy to blame mythopoeism for lazy writers. There is no story that does not follow the Cycle, so to say the the formula is boring is to say that every story is boring. Bad writers are boring, put the blame where it is due.
It discourages originality
To prove this point the author claims that Firefly/Serenity is original and as such does not follow the Heroes Cycle. Lets test that using the plot description from Wikipedia:
Call to Adventure
The crew of Serenity lands on an Outer Rim planet, planning to rob a local security firm of its payroll. Serenity's captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds is accosted by Simon, irate over Mal's decision to include River in the heist and expose her to danger. Mal overrules Simon's objections and the heist proceeds. All goes according to plan until River detects the arrival of the Reavers, a horde of feral, spacefaring cannibals. As the Reavers massacre the town's inhabitants, the raid-team narrowly escapes back Serenity, where Simon, outraged over River's near-death experience, declares that he and River will be leaving Serenity at the next spaceport.
The crew disembarks at a trading post and enters a bar to meet with Fanty and Mingo, the men who hired Serenity for the heist. River wanders into the bar and observes a television advertisement, which causes her to immediately and brutally attack the other patrons. As she prepares to shoot Mal, Simon arrives and utters a code phrase, immediately rendering River unconscious. Thoroughly confused, Mal takes River and Simon back to Serenity, where Simon reveals that River was conditioned to be an Alliance assassin.
Mal contacts Mr. Universe, a reclusive techno-geek who analyzes the bar security camera footage and discovers a subliminal message in the advertisement that, based on the quality of the encoding, reveals the involvement of the Alliance.
Crossing the First Threshold
Unknown to the crew, the message was placed by the Operative, a self-described monster with no name or rank, dispatched by the Alliance to retrieve River at all costs.
The Belly of the Whale
Mal receives a call from Inara Serra, a former passenger asking for help with local unrest. Despite recognizing the request as an Alliance trap, Mal visits Inara and meets the Operative, who offers to release Mal if he surrenders River. Mal refuses and, after being saved from defeat by Inara's quick thinking, escapes with her back to Serenity.
The Road of Trials
Aboard the ship, River reveals the existence of "Miranda," an Outer Rim planet deemed uninhabitable by the Alliance and located on the far side of a Reaver spacefleet. After the Operative wipes out all of Serenity's ports of refuge, Mal overrides his crew's protests, disguises Serenity as a Reaver vessel and sneaks through the Reaver spacefleet unmoleseted before landing on Miranda, a planet that while fully habitable contains only corpse-filled cities.
The Meeting with the Goddess/Atonement with the Father
A holographic diary entry from an Alliance officer explains the Alliance attempted to bring peace to the population by filling the atmosphere with an anti-aggression drug. The drug's effects were drastic, completely suppressing the population's motivation to self-sustain, except for the 0.1% who had the opposite reaction and became the hyper-violent Reavers.
The Ultimate Boon
Mal declares his intentions to broadcast this message to the solar system via Mr. Universe's powerful transmitters, aware of the Operative and the certain trap that awaits them.
The Magic Flight
As the Operative mobilizes an Alliance fleet above Mr. Universe's planet, Mal provokes the Reaver fleet into pursuing Serenity and leads it into a massive space battle with the Alliance. With both sides distracted, Serenity, pursued by a Reaver ship and the Operative in an escape pod, crash-lands at Mr. Universe's station. The Reavers kill Serenity's pilot Wash, the crew evacuates the ship and sets up defensive positions against the arriving Reavers, and Mal descends into the station to transmit the Miranda audio diary.
Rescue from Without
The crew's defense begins to crumple beneath the Reaver assault, while deep in the station, the Operative ambushes Mal. The crew retreats behind a blast door, which jams before it can close. With everyone wounded and ammunition low, River dives through the blast door and seals it, and immediately begins fighting the fierce Reavers.
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Meanwhile, Mal narrowly defeats the Operative and leaves him to watch the broadcast of the audio diary.
Master of the Two Worlds
As a wounded and exhausted Mal rejoins the crew, the blast doors open to reveal River standing victorious amid piles of dead Reavers. Alliance troops burst onto the scene, but the Operative, his faith in the Alliance shattered by the Miranda message, orders the soldiers to stand down.
Freedom to Live
The crew buries their deceased friends and repairs Serenity. As the ship prepares to leave, the Operative approaches Mal and warns him of certain retaliaton by the Alliance. Mal returns to Serenity's cockpit and with his new co-pilot River, blasts into space.
Oops... it follows the hero's cycle too... So was it original or not?
Why is one hero so special anyway?
The author thinks there can only be one hero... forgetting about the round table and the fact that even Star Wars had multiple heroes. This point cannot even be taken seriously.
The "hero" is always a d00d
In the limited sample the author chose, but as always forgetting the historical context. Most heroines have only come about recently. This is something that changes with time. The hero marries the goddess and finds atonement with the Father, because the goddess is the symbol of the beneficial powers of life and the Father represents the judgmental universal punisher.
It's cheesy as hell
The author takes Campbell out of context and mocks him. That is just lazy.
He shoehorned a lot of myths into his theory
In complaining that Campbell ignores East Asia and Africa is to pretend that he never wrote the Masks of God books among others. This point is too ignorant to discuss any more.
It confuses personal growth with solving problems
Campbell's monomyth is unrealistic and spreads the idea that war is therapy.
Campbell's monomyth makes the claim that we project our inner problems on others and that we cannot fix the problem until we see what it actually is. Yeah, this is unrealistic. No one would start a war with another nation for no real reason other than that they see their own personal demons in the other nation... that has never happened.
The Hero's Cycle does not describe fiction, but also the patterns in our own life. This author has obliviously done that with Campbell's work.
This is the last time I will read io9. Most of their posts have been bad since they started, but their intellectual laziness is too much for me to take anymore. I just had to defend Campbell from these idiotic and hollow arguments.
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Shrek the Third
Everyones favorite green ogre is back, and the trailer is out: (see it here) This is one of the funniest trailers I have every seen. A good time had by all.
I am a huge fan of the first two flicks, and can't wait to see this one.
When Shrek married Fiona, the last thing he had in mind was becoming the next King. But when Shrek's father-in-law, King Harold, suddenly croaks, that is exactly what he faces. Unless Shrek (with the help of his trusted companions Donkey and Puss In Boots) can find a suitable King for Far Far Away, the ogre could be stuck with the job. The most promising candidate, Fiona's cousin Artie, an underachieving Medieval high school slacker, proves to be a more of a challenge than they bargained for (Moviephone via AOL).
BTW: Justin Timberlake is playing cousin Artie... I hope he does a good job, but I am a little concerned about that.
Transgender and Androgyny in Speculative Fiction
- Image by VOLPE1981 via Flickr
My new story is in trouble. A lot of trouble. I can not figure out what I want it to be about. I really want to do something different, something I want to read, something I want to see, and I've learned that I am a hard target audience.
I only know one thing about the story, I want it to have a drag cabaret in it and I want to play around with gender in a way I've never done before. I want the character list to include at least 1 drag queen, 1 transgender, and 1 androgyn. It is hard to deal with this in a way the average reader will be able to cope.
Pronouns and gender words are posing a problem for me. Also introducing the characters in a way that tells the readers who these characters are without a "coming out" scene or using unflattering language.
When I read iambic kilometer's META: Five+ Ways Being Transgender in Fandom Really Sucks, and Why I Stick With It Anyway, I felt an ache within me to work even harder to get this right.
The trans character is to one I am having the more trouble developing, so I might drop her from the roster. Is it better to do a questionable job with a character or to leave them out? I'm not really sure, but I need to figure that out.