Saturday, August 11, 2012

David Brin Nails It

I've not really read anything by Brin. The way I view David Brin is a clear depiction how even people with the same overall philosophy can have conflicts (Brin strikes me as being hypercapitalist/libertarian devoted towards a transparent society. I'm a hypersocialist/anarcho-communist devoted towards a transparent society. This is a far bigger gulf than it appears). However, most of the time - especially in the realm of popular culture - I find myself agreeing with him. Especially on matters of Romanticism in popular culture.

I recently discovered his essay on J.R.R. Tolkien and his take on the Lord of the Rings saga. I've read the Lord of the Rings - I think this is mandatory reading for any geek or nerd, so I'm good there - but at the time I read it, I didn't realize what it was preaching. I understood the fundamental anti-industry message that it sent, but being the person I am, I took it in a different way (unregulated, unwatched industry is not productive. Unregulated industry is destructive. Witness: the recent economic boondoggle that everyone keeps saying is getting better when it's really not. This was caused by unregulated banking industries; I view banks as enemies too, for what it's worth). I missed the aristocracy-promotion in the books initially.

Brin nails all that in more in his essay. This is probably my favorite quote from it:
Which brings us to another of the really cool things about fantasy — identifying with a side that’s 100 percent good. You can revel as they utterly annihilate foes who deserve to be exterminated because they are 100 percent distilled evil. This may not be politically correct, but then, political correctness is really a bastard offspring of egalitarian-scientific enlightenment. Witness the sometimes saccharine p.c.-sweetness of “Star Trek.”

Romanticism never made any pretense at equality. It is hyperdiscriminatory, by nature. (Have you ever actually read Byron or Shelley?) Whole classes of people are less worthy, less deserving of life, than other classes. The Nazis were archetypal Romantics.
I dislike the 100% good/evil. I think it's too simplistic. It's why I don't have classic supervillains in The Blue Pimpernel, and it's why I'm trying to make the Parties and the Families more sympathetic at the same time. There are no 100% good people. There are people who have motivations that are productive to society and those who have motivations that are destructive to society.

Take for instance, the Families. The criminal Families - there are more than one of them, but referring to them as one entity works, especially because Ari is there to bridge the gaps and attempt to help them act as one entity. The Families appear like traditional criminal families like the mafia. That's true to a degree, but the Families are also enterprises. They have an investment in the communities that they operate in. The Families support the local political machine because there's next to no tax base to support the Party at the local level. The Families, in turn, make their money by controlling the underground economy. They offered up - safe - medical services that were beyond the price tag of people or that were illegal. For instance, abortion; the Families brought aboard clinics and staffed clinics that would carry out this procedure. Birth control and other illegal materials were all for sale, you just had to know where to look. The Families would come in, kill off or absorb all of the competing gangs, and start to prop the community. They went so far as to help renovate areas and open up "banks" to help people get money they needed to pay off debt. Because the Families were primarily criminal enterprises, these were done with less-than-altruistic intentions. They were establishing a new economy based on the ownership of people who signed up for help. If you went to the Families for help you would get that help. But you would sign your entire life to them. So are the Families 100% evil? Or are they just a business? I personally can't see how the Families are any different from how banks operate today in the United States, aside from the fact that the Families appear to be more useful from a societal stand point. It's morally repugnant, but if you're offended by the Families and you vote Republican, you're a hypocrite.

The Party is not evil. The Party is pretty well and truly useless as a government; it's hopelessly compromised and corrupted at the local level, there's no legal elections anymore so there's no change of authority unless something drastic happens. At the national level, there are still those who believe in Democracy - these people tend to get elected from places like the North East, California, Oregon, and Washington. There are still agencies that work to serve - the FBI, while corrupt in some ways, still works with altruistic intentions, despite being crippled by the state's-rightists. Overall, it's so backwards-looking it's never evolved, and that stagnation has crushed it. They're also hopelessly divided and fractured; the Party is extreme by today's standards, but just remember the fringe expands with each year and what was extreme 10 years ago seems to be the norm today. The Party is actually moderate compared the elements that make it up. The first and most visible split in the Party in the party is between the Religious Extremists - who view the Party as not being extreme enough and not killing enough people in the name of God - and the Corproatists, who couldn't care less what God thinks so long as they continue to turn a profit. It's a collective of white men who couldn't be less unified if they tried; they've hopelessly failed the country, they've hopelessly failed as a government, but they continue because they are 100% certain that they're right and everyone else is wrong - with a certain value for "everyone else", because without their boogiemen, they fell apart. The Party requires the Families to even survive, especially at the local levels.

The 100% evil thing is cheating, in my opinion, and it often has negative implications.

Anyway, the essay is a great essay. You should check it out.

Also, an update: I finished my first rough draft (or came close enough to it for my own tastes) of the novella that bridges The Blue Pimpernel and Entropy. As I was writing Entropy I realized that Entropy was trying to do too much - rather than release Entropy as a crammed book, I went back to the drawing board. I hewed the first part of Entropy off and turned it into a novella bridging the two books; it's called Liquidation.

I finished the first rough draft of Liquidation. Now that I know what I want out of it, I've started work on the second rough draft (my writing style means I create at least two rough drafts of a work before I'm happy with it; I created 15 rough drafts of The Blue Pimpernel before I was satisfied, but I don't intend to do that again). I'll start posting sections from Liquidation in the near future, so watch this space.

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