The first step away from earthly vanity is cosmic humility.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013/02/25 10:00
Our sciences (in which I am including history) don't ennoble us. They don't reflect well on humans, instead they confirm a kind of powerlessness, a deep moral weakness, and sense of futility.
At least that's the start. I'd argue that when we can get past our own vanity, as scientists, there comes something else--Wonder.
The sword of knowledge has two edges. One of them cuts you down, because it lays bare the staggering insignificance and irrelevance of human endeavor and ego. The other edge, though, also cleaves through everything else around you -- if it dissects you so ruthlessly, that is only because it is so good at dissecting the rest of the universe. You are, after all, as much of it as it is of you.
Why J.G. Ballard didn't write just "SF" or "litfic", but stories for and about our age.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013/02/08 10:00
"No one in a novel by Virginia Woolf ever filled up the petrol tank of her car. ... No one in Hemingway’s postwar novels ever worried about the effects of prolonged exposure to the threat of nuclear war."
Said Ballard, who wrote "science fiction" the way Kurt Vonnegut did: only because other people insisted that was what he was doing. Ballard was most widely recognized outside of that category, in part because he'd done enough things to avoided being pigeonholed as "just" an SF author. Not that such things still don't happen, only that back then escaping the SF ghetto was all but impossible once people saw you had that as your mailing address, so to speak.
Not great drama or great filmmaking, but it might well be darn good cinema.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013/02/04 10:00
When Dennis Miller got up on stage sometime circa the mid-Nineties and lampooned Al Gore by saying “The man’s favorite movie is TRON, for Christ’s sake,” and got massive laughs doing so, that more or less summed up the man-on-the-street view of both Al Gore and TRON. The former more or less redeemed his eggheadedness with An Inconvenient Truth, which single-handedly brought awareness of the impact of global warming into the public mind; the latter had a harder time rehabilitating itself. Fellow fans who had a positive opinion of the movie kept their mouths shut about it lest they be branded fans of Playskool Cyberpunk.
Eventually, the generation that had not only secretly grooved on the film but actually seen remarkable things in it (nifty premise, groundbreaking visual effects processes, first full-blown use of CGI in a movie, more adult and thoughtful than it seemed on first glance, etc.) was able to come out of the closet. By the time TRON showed up in Kingdom Hearts as a playable level, the stigma was fading fast; by the time a certain hush-hush short film played in Hall H at Comic-Con 2010 to massive audience reactions, the stigma was all but gone. A fan culture that had learned to live with the likes of Edward Cullen looked back over its shoulder and realized Kevin Flynn—The Dude, man!—and his binary buddies had been a lot cooler than they had wanted to believe.
Science fiction, rebooted.
Other Lives Of The Mind