Wednesday Wanderings 1

Dave Hendrickson meshes John Wooden with writing. You may not know who John Wooden is, but to those of us who have followed basketball at all, Wooden is one of the most legendary coaches in basketball history. He’s the coach who said the only professional player he’d ever pay to see play, was John Stockton — and John Stockton just happens to be my most favorite professional basketball player of all time! (Hey, I’m from Utah, I bleed Utah Jazz, sue me.) Anyway, Dave — a very good writer in his own right, and a swell guy to boot — put together a very cogent post wherein he applies Wooden Wisdom to the writing life. I’d say Dave slam dunked it! Or maybe it was a layup off the UCLA cut?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch covers ‘giving up on yourself.’ Kris Rusch needs no introduction, and her blog is always excellent — like her husband’s — but this post in particular hit me hard across the forehead. Very often, giving up isn’t about throwing down the hardhat and toolbox and stomping off in one fell swoop; it’s about incrementally “settling” for less. Over time, the more you settle, the more you let the dream slip through your fingers like sand at the beach. Go read. It’s worth it.

Fred Reed contemplates Commentator’s Disease. I have enjoyed Fred’s columns for years, and not just because he is a brilliantly colourful wordsmith. He’s also an equal opportunity curmudgeon. Left, or Right, he effs the ineffable. This time he’s contemplating the detachment of the High IQ Class from ‘ordinary’ folk. Which inevitably leads me to wondering about how in Science Fiction, it’s so often presumed that the smartest people will inevitably be the heroes and the protagonists. My personal belief is that being smart is entirely different from being wise, and that you don’t necessarily need one to have the other. But SF so often rests on the notion that brains win, and the better the brains, the more correct, or moral, or otherwise ‘good’ the person. The older I get, the less I am convinced.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr., on the deeper barriers imposed by language. Lee makes some disturbing observations here, namely in that much of Western SF — perhaps Western philosophy as a whole — presumes that the only things impacting cultural assimilation and/or dialogue, are economic status, access to proper education, and gender or racial factors. Ergo, assuming everyone gets the same economic and educational status, and that racial or gender barriers get removed, everyone will find common ground. Lee deconstructs that notion, with disquieting results — so much of our disagreement as humans might boil down to how our language itself shapes the way we think, how we feel, and what concepts we’re even capable of grasping. Science Fiction has explored this theory before, but now science might be proving that theory is fact?

Via John Wright, discussing the book Marseguro. I’m not a huge fan of ‘mundane’ Science Fiction. I came up through the genre as a fan of the Space Opera: sweeping sagas populated by fantastically extraordinary heroes, heroines, villains, aliens, all engaged in spectacular wars, battles, using amazing technology, etc. And while I do love harder SF which at least attempts to adhere to scientifically grounded and plausible technology and storylines, I think it’s downright boring if this therefore limits us — too often — to the very near future. No spaceships. No space princesses either. Just droll and often dystopian fictional discussion about life soon before or soon after any number of ‘important’ modern crises: exhausted fossil fuels, bio plagues, environmental apocalypse, the so-called computer ‘singularity,’ and so forth. Not that these aren’t fodder for cool stories, I just hate to see SF as a written genre maroon itself in the tar pit of the mundane. That’s not what drew me to reading SF, and I doubt that’s what draws any of today’s kids to reading SF either.

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About Brad R. Torgersen

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author - Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell award nominee
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2 Responses to Wednesday Wanderings 1

  1. John Murphy says:

    Thanks for the Fred Reed link, I’ve been chewing on that all morning. He’s definitely on to something, though it jars a little with his excellent column a few months ago about IQ. Maybe “jars” is the wrong word, though. The two columns together form a more complicated picture, how’s about that?

    My own view of intelligence is that it is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for many kinds of success. Smart people are prone to some pretty crippling flaws: arrogance, laziness, unwillingness to face facts contrary to pet theories. Wisdom, as you say, goes a long way toward overcoming them.

    I’m not sure I agree with Fred’s characterization of the difference between conservative and liberal commentators, though: I think that one of the biggest differences between liberal and conservative commentators is actually their opinion of the role of luck in success (luck as in being born smart or with money, or coming along with the right idea at the right time, or knowing the right people, etc): the liberals tend to overstate it, and the conservatives tend to play it down too much.

  2. John, I agree with you about lib vs. con commentary.

    I’d say that’s a big contrast between modern American Liberalism and modern American Conservativism as a whole: Liberalism is a deterministic (mostly) philosophy which believes that people are “slotted” into situations (predicaments?) via race or gender or pre-existing economics in their home of origin, and only intervention by the government can change this ‘luck’, be it good or bad. Conservativism is a mobile (mostly) philosophy which believes that however people are “slotted” via luck, they can move out of that situation — up or down — through individual effort (or lack thereof,) versus needing to be ‘lifted’ (poor) or ‘leveled’ (rich) by the state.

    My own personal experience is that I was born into the upper middle class, but when I left home I sank with my wife into technical poverty — we made less than $10K our first year together, our weekly grocery budgets were $20 total, etc. — and it’s taken a lot of work on both our parts since 1993 to get back to technical middle class status: home ownership (modest) with decidedly middle income taxation. So I tend to side with the Conservative view that “slotting” is not permanent, and that individual choices and effort play a significant part in determining if people — ever — go up or down from their born-into state.

    However, I am somewhat sympathetic to the Liberalist view that the very-very-very-wealthy — those born into millions/billions, and whose children and grandchildren will also be born into millions/billions — occupy a whole other alternate reality, from ‘ordinary’ Americans, and that it’s disconcerting to see how often this super-rich class lives by an entirely different set of rules from the rest of us: social, economic, legal, and so forth. I’m not prepared to ‘level’ these people via estate taxes or other punitive measures, but I’m not convinced that the super-rich class is entirely healthy for the overall political or economic picture.

    And this is probably entirely too much politics for this ‘side’ of my dual-blog writing sphere. (grin)

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