SF Authors (and editors) saying more smart things…

We’ll grab a couple of them today:

Will ShetterlyWill Shetterly talking about Mormon underwear:

Here’s one way to tell a faith from a racket: If it makes you think you’re better than everyone else, it’s a racket, not a faith.

I kind of love that. It’s the answer to all the “One True Religion” and “Chose People of X” things that drive me nuts.

In an older post, Will has a discovery about a cliche among writers. Will talks about writing a lot, but I don’t think he’s ever been more undeniably accurate than this:

Today, I spent six or seven hours shoveling. You know that stupid thing writers say about how writing is harder than shoveling? It’s stupid.

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Jeff FordJeff Ford, using Netscape’s “vote on the news” feature to illustrate what’s wrong with western civilization:

Most recently they’ve gone back to featuring the news, but the new gimmick is the readers get to vote on what news stories show up on the page. A day or so ago, the lead story — now keep in mind what’s going on in the world — was a story about a woman whose ass got stuck to a toilet bowl in some place like Idaho or Iowa. Her ass needed to be rescued from the grasping bowl. […] So there you have it. America speaks out. Give them a choice as to what they want to know about — cause the news has something to do with being in the know — and they’ll take a good ass gluing story over the one about 100 Iraqis a day dying as a result of a conflict perpetrated by their own government. Am I being too heavy here? Maybe I’m skewed in my perception. This does give you a good idea as to how Bush got elected and elected again, doesn’t it.

That line is not in bold in the original: emphasis is mine. I feel the same frustation that is so manifest here. On the other hand, I am so tired of constantly running around screaming at people to wake up, and take notice of what happening in the world.

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SKZBA post over at Making Light about some absolutely atrocious behaviour in Delaware has had its comment section explode with a discussion about the incompatibility of religion and science, the utter failure of the Democratic party, and Trotskyist social analysis. Unsuprisingly, much of this is the result of some entertaining pot-stirring by one of my old poker coaches. If you have time to read the whole thread, and a relatively high tolerance for “you said this, I said this, then you said that” discussions, you should read the whole thing. Here’s a couple of the high points of Steve‘s postings:

There is today no political party in America that is able to answer the attacks of the extreme right, and is able to defend the mass of the American people against the loss of basic rights, and continued economic attacks. [link]

We can’t understand these things in isolation. The attacks on our freedom come at the same time as attacks on your living standards, and at the same time as, let us just say, international events motived by naked drive for profits, and at the same time as the complete collapse of the Democratic Party. [link]

A few people have remarked that we are always learning more, therefore the unknown will always exist. True, but beside the point. The unknown that begs for a supernatural explanation has not grown, nor will it grow. I suddenly have an image of a physicist saying to a colleage, “We have discovered the existence of a new subatomic particle. We know almost nothing about it. It must be God.” [link]

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PNHOne of the principals of Making Light, the previously mentioned PNH, also hits one out of the park this week in a discussion of the BoingBoing post on some of Scott Adam’s recent blathering.

Science fiction and hipster bohemia are full of this kind of thing. You can’t get a cup of coffee in a con suite, or spend five minutes in an internet cafe, without overhearing somebody rhapsodizing about the stupidity of the masses. Two things are always apparent about these perorations. First, there’s almost always a sadistic, dominationist glee in demonstrating that other people deserve nothing from the speaker. Second, the argument, such as it is, almost always hinges on some survey showing that a majority of those questioned had been soft-headed enough to believe a lie they’d been told by someone in authority.

In other words, people are too stupid to resist authority, and therefore the only real question is who the authorities should be. The idea that people–even people we think are foolish–ought to have any power over their destiny is as foreign to Scott Adams as it would have been to a Czarist noble.[link]

I agree utterly with Patrick’s underlying sentiment, which might surprise some people, since I spent most of my teens and early twenties thinking that the masses were unredeemable, and only the elite (of whom I, of course, considered myself one) were fit to lead them. So I find this attitude particularly annoying because I recognise it.

  5 comments for “SF Authors (and editors) saying more smart things…

  1. jeff ford
    August 8, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Chris: The point is, yeah, these people are stupid. Unwilling to be outdone in the fog of lefty verbiage,Patrick is playing his most recent sanctimony trump. He, himself has spent so long pointing out people’s stupidity and now it has become an American past time, so he has to trump everyone else by confabulating the point that pointing out stupid people’s stupidity is stupid. I think he’s right about that, but it’s still fun and nothing scratches that itch like a good
    sanctimonious finger pointing.

  2. August 8, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Jeff!

    My take on Patrick’s comment–and I could be reading it wrong–is that there is a distinction between “Damn it, how can you be so ignorant as to not see this!” and “You are so stupid you are never going to be capable of understanding this.” The important distinction there is that the first case is theoretically correctable and the second one isn’t. Number one leads you to argue for education, debate, and open media. Number two leads you to argue for a class of empowered elites and class of marginalized masses. However you see the current situation, I would argue that the direction you want to push in is the first one. (And that’s the change in me since my 20s–back then I wanted to be in the empowered elite. Now I want everyone to be empowered citizens.)

    That being said, it’s sometimes hard to maintain optimism when you see things like ass-gluing outweighing what’s happening in the Middle East, or when you read about how half the U.S. still believes Iraq had WMD, I have to admit. And pointing out that these people are stupid is definitely still fun! (And yes, I realise that I just quoted “some survey showing that a majority of those questioned had been soft-headed enough to believe a lie they’d been told by someone in authority”. Heh.)

    There’s no question the Big Lie works, but does that mean we write off the people it works on, or that we redouble our efforts to make people it won’t work on? At some level it’s either “keep trying” or “give up”, and I’m not ready to give up on that many people just yet.

  3. jeff ford
    August 8, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Chris: I think you and Patrick are right, as I said before. But, you know, discerning which is which in the two choices you state above is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. Bitching is free and I think people should bitch however they want. Sometimes it’s not the content of the bitching that is so important but just the act of bitching. The other day on my board somebody wrote in an erroneous comment about the Israeli and Lebanese conflict, and Patrick’s quick response was, “Where do you get your news, from comic books?” There was a chance for education, but instead he chose to basically say, “You dope.” Whatever I write on my journal, I always request that people with different opinions write in, and when they do, I treat them with respect. A good example — see Doug Laine’s response to my entry and my response. Do I need to be told, or does anybody else need to be told by Patrick whether they should bitch about something or not? Or which way is the appropriate method? Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy his points of view both on Making Light and especially when he comes over to 14theditch to make a point. My problem with this particular situation is it sets him up as moral arbiter to what makes a worthy bitch. I just say bitch at will.

  4. August 8, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    Jeff, I completely agree that we don’t need anyone playing the role of moral arbiter of bitching.

    Also, I note for the record that pretty much the last job I want is “apologist for Patrick’s style of argumentation”. Many other good reasons aside, my house is a little too glass, you know?

    My plan is to take PNH’s comment (or at least my interpretation of it) to heart and try to make sure when I bitch that I’m not at the same time writing off a bunch of people. Or at least that when I do it’s only occasional, and that I acknowledge it as a guilty pleasure. 🙂

  5. jeff ford
    August 8, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Chris: That sounds very sound. I’m with you.

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This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.