Stephanie S. on Science Fiction literary quality:
It also matters what the pretty words actually say.Style does not necessarily indicate substance. Style can, in fact, be used to cover up an author’s complete failure to imagine the Big Idea that is supposed to be one of science fiction’s hallmarks. I decided to jump in and become a Hugo voter around Sad Puppies I; since then, I have seen a number of stories – particularly in the short fiction categories – that use fantastic elements as superficial glosses over what, in truth, are extended ruminations over characters’ emotional states in which nothing of any consequence actually happens. In many of these cases, the emotion is very well-rendered, but digging deep reveals a foundation of sand. The textbook example of this phenomenon is “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” in which the event that inspires the “content” of the story is based on an improbability and the point-of-view character is left powerless to do anything but rage at her plight.
I read science fiction for ideas. I’m an ideas man. Characters are nice, and I certainly wouldn’t want to read a story without characters, but a story that is “character” driven, in the traditional sense, is terrifically boring. That’s because what often passes for “character” is really quirkiness, overlaid on top of a Myers- Briggs randomizer. Then we just watch the emotions play. That’s like fireworks: red, green, blue. I need a reason to be there besides just to see the show.
For me, the most recent sweet spot was actually Ancillary Justice. What a lot of interesting ideas to follow! and yes, there was some work involved in verifying it all added up at the end. The sequel, Ancillary Sword, just didn’t cut it. An older book that also knocked my socks off recently was The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Again with the ideas, and not that much with the plot.
On the other hand, I just can’t read Kevin J. Anderson, so I guess style has to count for something.
The foundation for the humanities is preaching and synagoguery. Take away the gospel and you have some metaphysics, but no reason for literature and history. You still have the stories people like to tell but no Keystone keeps it altogether.
What I mean is that every narrative has a central point of view or set of values to hold the plot together. No cohesive values means no cohesive narrative: there’s just no human way to even care. But the only way you can have a cohesive narrative that covers all the stories – all of human history and the whole human race – is if you have a single cohesive set of values that are true for all peoples in all places.
The study of the humanities is teasing out of that set of cohesive values. If there is a keystone concept, a singular idea that encompasses all narratives and holds them together, that idea has to be the gospel. If it isn’t the Christian gospel, it must be some other gospel. If there is no gospel, then we are stuck with that other most basic idea that crowds into all questions of right and wrong, and truth and beauty: “sez who?”
Great quote here about Economists trying to be cool like physicists:
The success of mathematical physics led the social scientist to be jealous of its power without quite understanding the intellectual attitudes that had contributed to this power. The use of mathematical formulae had accompanied the development of the natural sciences….Very few econometricians are aware that if they are to imitate the procedure of modern physics and not its mere appearance, a mathematical economist must begin with a critical account of these quantitative notions and the means adopted for collecting and measuring them.
Apparently, the hard sciences were a real kick in the gut to every major branch of study – from economics to literature to psychology to art. It’s as though math was so impressive that they all developed inferiority complexes and went off on quests to prove they were just as good. So economics went all Keynesian and literature went all deconstruction and reader response. But across the board, every major field of study that didn’t have something hard to measure either faked it, fudged it, or abandoned all pretense of logic. What I don’t get is how people forgot that numbers aren’t the only way of thinking. Rhetoric and inductive logic predate calculus by thousands of years. These things don’t wear out with time; they just go out of fashion.
The Primary Error of Early English Education | Front Porch Republic.
Ironically, she dissects why it is that dissecting literature keeps you from knowing anything about it.
This is sort of a catch-all of observations on being unemployed. I suppose I could tie it all together into a cohesive essay, but the effort would take a few hours, and those two hours are intimidating enough at the moment to persuade me not even to begin. Thus:
We’ve pretty much decided at this point to move to Knoxville. The reason being that I’m not finding any work here, and that in Knoxville, at least, we can mooch off of relatives rather than testing the eviction laws in the state of North Carolina. The “pretty much” part means that there is still the option of something unexpected happening in the Charlotte area. We’re being strictly mercenary about the whole thing. We go where the money goes. But frankly, in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area, the money has already gone. I think it has something to do with the fact that Charlotte is primarily a banking town. Nearly every company I’ve done any serious research on has been in a perpetual hiring freeze/attrition mode. Quite literally nobody is hiring.
Actually, when looking from outside our situation, the “nobody is hiring meme” is quite humorous. Continue reading “Catch-all”