Month: May 2013

A True History of Bacon and the Celtic Gods

A True History of Bacon and the Celtic Gods

glossarypictboar2Let me tell you a story about the Celtic gods.

Being immortal (and bored) the gods of the Celts often held contests among themselves and made wagers. Being the Celtic pantheon they were always hungry, and so the gods decided that one food must be chosen to represent their greatness. A wager was struck, and the gods agreed that Man would decide. Celtic tribes from all over Europe were gathered together to vote for which food would be the fit for the gods.

Each god spoke in turn to the people…

Lugh, the great thundering voice from the sky, declared, “The Bull of Heaven provides the heroes portion and STEAK is the food of the gods. because the cow can turn simple grass and straw into a meal fit for a king.”

Danu, goddess of Earth and Sea, laughed from her place among the waves. She declared, “SALMON is the food of the gods, because it always returned to feed the people each year. sacrificing itself for the good of all mankind.”

Morrigan, the goddess of death, sent a raven and it spoke to the people. “No my friends, the lowly CHICKEN is the food of the gods, for it gives not only meat for the table, but eggs, and when you are ever in doubt about what something tastes like it always tastes like chicken.”

Math, being the god of trickery and magic, knew that his voice would not be heard above all the great thunder from the sky,  or the crashing of waves, or even the caw of the raven. So Math said not a word. He waited until the tribes had argued about which god or goddess had said the wisest words, and then he announced that, since he had not chosen a food for consideration, he would instead cook a meal of each dish and allow the people to taste the choice of each god in turn, so they may know which is truly the food of the gods.

So Math cooked hundreds of steaks, prepared piles of salmon, and thousands of chickens were baked, fried, and BBQ-ed for the people assembled. Each dish was perfect and the people could hardly contain themselves for the smell was maddening.

Math then said….”People of the Celts I have cooked only enough food for you to take one bite of each of the three dishes. You then must decide which of these is to be the food of the gods.”

The people came and waited in line, taking only one bite from each type of food…steak, salmon, and chicken.  The arguments rose and fell. An entire day went by but no one food was judged the best of them all.

Math heated up the grill once again, because the people wanted another taste, but this time Math secretly laid one strip of BACON on each piece of Steak, Salmon, and Chicken. Again the people lined up and took one bite each of the three foods.

A cry went up. Something was wrong. The food had been perfect the first time. It had been the greatest mouthful of food that anyone had ever eaten… but this! This time the food was even better: Perfection had turned to heavenly delight…

Math stood before the people in his apron triumphantly as the people shouted, “BACON is the food of the gods, for only the pig can turn shit into sugar, and a perfect meal into something divine.”

The pig has since been the most holy animal of the Celtic people.

The End

The Most Dangerous Game: Progressive Liberals and Social Conservatives Want a Civil War

The Most Dangerous Game: Progressive Liberals and Social Conservatives Want a Civil War

civilI am just going to come out and say it openly – this is going to piss off some of the more socially conservative readers here, but it must be said: Both the Progressive Liberals and the Social Conservatives are praying for a civil war in this country.

Not only that, both sides are licking their lips to murder each other. You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at any left wing blog or site. The death threats, open displays of anger, and vitriol is everywhere. These are people who have been brought to a boiling point. Social Conservatives are a little more restrained. There have been some incidents but for the most part they are playing it close to the chest, but the hatred is just as deep. I know that side better as a Libertarian, and I can say for sure they are preparing for the liberals to come for them.  Something very simple could boil this over into open conflict.

If it comes to pass, this conflict could well be even bloodier than the last time. The battle lines are even more pronounced, the hatred is much more intense. The last civil war was not as personal. People on either side might actually have liked each other but went to war one upon the other as a matter of doing their duty. They may have hated each other by the end, but that was not how it all started. This time, though, the two sides are going in with real vivid hatred, even bloodlust.

Currently, the left has the military advantage. Obama has been systematically culling the military for the past five years. Replacing key conservatives with hand-picked loyal liberals across the board and retiring or firing anyone who disagrees with him. His current weakness is the mid-level officer core that is still largely conservative in outlook, but even they are being slowly forced out in favor of the new breed of soldier. The right on the other hand has millions of trained soldiers who are now out of the military. This group is becoming more and more agitated as Obama pushes us further left. I know many of these men and they will only be pushed so far before they push back. They may not have the heavy weapons that the Left possesses, but they are well armed. Their training was better in the past than the current crop of recruits (that army of one). They also know the weapon systems and how to defeat them better than the raw new guys. This is not the push-over revolution that the Left believes they have engineered.

One group could stop this burgeoning civil conflict tomorrow if it wanted. The mainstream press could do its job and bury the Obama administration as easily as it created it, but they won’t. Most of them are as far left and as socialist… No, I take that back most of them are outright Marxist, and as ideologically pure as any member of the Obama administration. They believe that the glorious revolution is upon us, and that they are going to finally defeat all those bourgeois capitalists they have been taught to hate for all of their effete, privileged, and affluent lives. They have no intention of even reporting how far left Obama is taking this country. Preferring to belittle and mock anyone that dares say that Obama is a socialist or -God forbid!- a Communist. No, they instead call him “moderate” and almost as “conservative as George Bush”. These people are living in a dream and are dragging the country into a nightmare.

The utopia that the Progressive Left is searching for would be that totalitarian nightmare. We would see Stalinist purges in this country now, if they could get away with it. You can call me crazy and say I am wrong. A man like Obama does not pal around with someone like Bill Ayers and not pick up a few ideas. The left is ready and willing to see bodies dumped in open pit graves, by the millions. In fact there are many on the Left who use this image as masturbatory material. The media, Hollywood, and the educational system have done a masterful job of portraying anyone on the Right as subhuman. Jews were not more hated in 1930s Germany. The only thing preventing open murder of conservatives at this point is 200 million privately owned firearms. I know some people on the Left are calling me a lunatic right now for believing this. That’s OK, you guys believe that if you print enough money it will fix the economy. Only one of us is wrong.

The utopia that the Social Conservatives are searching for is just as bad as that of the Progressive Left. These SoCons believe we need to “return” to a Bible-centered country and -by God!- we should make the Bible the law of the land. I have even seen some of the sub-groups within the Social Conservatives openly say that freedom can only be had within the confines of God’s law… of course God’s law is whatever interpretation and nonsense that the Preacher of the moment thinks it is. These people would see The Handmaid’s Tale made real. They scare me just as much as does the Progressive Left. Some others on the Social Right see the Confederacy as a symbol of the utopia they are looking for. Both of these Social Conservative groups are batshit crazy.

The rest of us are caught in the middle. I don’t want either side to win. I want to be left alone. Neither of those groups will agree to that simple request.

I like to think that, come the revolution, the Lawyers would be the first people up against the wall. I think the reality is that it will be the socially liberal conservatives and Libertarians. I said a few days ago that the curse of being a Libertarian is that people on the Left hate you, but that there are those on the Right that hate you even more…

“Who Will Rid Me of This Troublesome Priest”: Obama’s Second Hand Murder Incorporated

You can argue all you want whether ObamaCare puts into place “death panels” or not. What we can all agree on is that ObamaCare has provisions which allow a government review board to decide if you receive treatment or not based on your “need”. The existence of this review board is not in question. Thousands of pages have been written on this subject both pro and con, and these arguments have established two basic ways of looking at this process. One side is straight logistics and economics: Implementing this kind of healthcare on a massive scale can never be cost effective if people are receiving any procedure they request without review. The other side argues from individual rights and ethics: Many people believe the individual should have a choice, and that the individual should decide what is right for himself or herself.

Let’s put all that aside for a moment and reflect on what we learned about the government in the last week, ending on 16 May 2013. In this week, the IRS admitted that they had targeted groups considered antagonistic towards the President. These groups, all conservative, were singled out for added scrutiny, extra paperwork, and outright intimidation. This is absolutely egregious. Not only is this illegal and immoral, it may well have swayed the election to the favor of Obama. Even if you side with this administration, you must realize that this kind of thing is unethical, and that it undermines the very foundation of our government. It also invites people to believe that we have become a tyrannical state – and for good reason. If you are a liberal, imagine yourself under this same abuse of power from the other side. I know that you guys are not very tolerant or open minded, but -just this once- stop foaming at the mouth and screaming “the Republicans deserve it” and try to think it through honestly. Admit it, it is ok, we already know: You would be livid. You would be marching in the streets and demanding the heads of anyone involved, and that is just the IRS… Now imagine if these same people that targeted these Tea Party groups had even more power.

You don’t need to imagine – just a few minutes ago I read this from ABC news.  “IRS Official in Charge During tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office“. The very person in charge of intimidating Obama’s enemies is now in charge of one section of ObamaCare implementation. A woman who has no trouble using the power of her office to attack her boss’ political enemies has found a new office with even more heinous powers. Forget the ability to audit or to throw you in prison. She now has the legal right to take away your ability to receive healthcare. Does anyone really believe that she and those who placed her in this high office have any compunction about second-hand murder?

Even if this woman is removed, who is to say that this administration will not appoint an even sterner ideologue. That has been the pattern so far, and I don’t see Obama changing his methods now. It is really easy to look the other way… if you put the right people in charge. You never have to actually know what your underlings are doing… if you put the right person in the office. The right word here or the right word there and they will do all manner of mischief in the name of the chief executive. No need for him to dirty his hands… the right people are in place to do it for him.

That kind of unrestrained power reminds me of someone.

The Real Thing: An Intellectual Defense of Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World

The Real Thing: An Intellectual Defense of Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World

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If you were to survey most of the reviews on the Internet, you probably wouldn’t realize that The Thing From Another World has not only long been considered to be a classic, but is one of the most important science fiction films ever made. And if you’re using the Internet exclusively as a resource, that’s part of the whole problem. Although even the very best science fiction films of the Fifties have had to struggle against unfair blanket criticisms and mischaracterizations, the case of The Thing from Another World is especially tragic, as not only is it a landmark film in the genre, it was one of the few science fiction films to attain a high degree of acclaim and respectability from mainstream critics and fans alike. Whereas it used to routinely be on the top of all-time best lists in the genre, it now rarely does so; instead it has become the object of sneering derision and contempt by genre snobs who are upset that it’s not exactly like the original novella and by amateur armchair critics who have an ignorant and uninformed bias against older films in general and older science fiction films in specific. A portent of this shift in perspective came when the film’s 50th anniversary rolled around in 2001, an occasion that should have merited a special edition DVD; instead, it received a bare-bones release, which is inexcusable considering the DVD was released by Warner Brothers (the film was originally released by RKO), which is well known for giving its classic films library the deluxe treatment. That this oversight was not rectified for the film’s 60th anniversary only further compounds the injustice being done to a film of such recognized historical and artistic importance, that it had previously been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

 

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Ironically, much of this decline in reputation stems from a tribute paid by some of the film’s greatest admirers. Like many other science fiction films of the era it was remade in the 1980s, and the reputation of John Carpenter’s The Thing has since gone from being merely gross to grossly overrated. Thanks to a combination of nostalgia, the baffling cult for director John Carpenter, and the contemporary attitude that views special effects and shock value as being more important than story and intellectual content, it may now be the most overrated science fiction film of all time. The attitude of fanboys across the Internet appears to be that this is one movie that is completely above criticism and is to be regarded as sacrosanct, and that one is obliged to share this opinion if one wishes to retain one’s credentials as either a science fiction or horror fan. Not satisfied with merely rescuing the reputation of “their” movie, they have also engaged in a spiteful campaign of denouncement against the 1951 film, waged on blogs, message boards, and review sites, not just aimed at diminishing its reputation but defaming its champions. When defending the original film, I have been personally attacked and told that I am not a “true” science fiction fan for preferring it, ostensibly because a “true” fan would only prefer that adaptation which hews more closely to the original premise in the source material for both films, John W. Campbell’s novella “Who Goes There?” Almost invariably, during these discussions, it becomes clear that either the Carpenter/Campbell adherent has obviously not seen the original movie at all or are basing their judgments on a single viewing many ages ago, riddled as they are with factual inaccuracies about the film and featuring the same tired, unsupported talking points, repeated over and over again without a single original thought provided.

  I will not, however, concentrate on comparing the two movies. For one thing, too much has already been written about the 1982 film; one of the most annoying habits of its cultists is the way they seemingly insist on making the movie the subject of every piece of film commentary on the Internet, and try to shoe in the most strained or ludicrous comparisons simply as an excuse to mention it. More importantly, I am far more interested in praising than burying, and so my primary focus will be in the defense of the original 1951 film, and in addressing the major criticisms that have been levelled at it over the years. As shall be seen, most of these are wrongheaded in nature, borne out of either misinterpretation or ignorance. The major controversy over the film, for many years, was over whether it was directed by the name on screen, Christian Nyby, or its producer Howard Hawks; it has now been well established that Hawks was not just the director of the film but supervised the entire creative process of the film closely to its completion. With the knowledge that one of the greatest American directors of all time is responsible for the film, it’s possible to provide a defense of the film based on its artistic merits in order to demolish other controversies swirling around it, which have to do with its qualities both as a film and as a work of science fiction.

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The most controversial change, one which science fiction fans have debated for years, is the elimination of the Protean, shape-changing nature of the alien in the original novella. Literary purists, of course, abound everywhere and tend to be extremely sensitive whenever a cinematic adaptation fails to be literally faithful to the letter of a particularly beloved or acclaimed literary work. In the realm of science fiction, The Thing from Another World is hardly alone in setting off purist hackles. To use two more examples, the film version of Starship Troopers is notorious for angering Heinlein fans by turning a thoughtful and profound social and psychological mediation on the role of military duty in society into a gory, cartoonish action film, and George Pal’s adaptation of Charles Finney’s The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao has been criticized for watering down the dark and sardonic portrait of humanity into a family-friendly fantasy film. But maintaining that a film adaptation must be completely faithful to its source material, and that it’s otherwise worthless if it fails to be so, is a thoroughly unrealistic assumption that belies a cultural and cinematic illiteracy. What a good adaptation should try to do is be at least as good as its source material, and I repeat, at the very least. Ideally, it should also improve upon it in the transition to a new format. On these grounds, The Thing From Another World ranks with Casablanca, The Godfather, Jaws and The Treasure of Sierra Madre as examples of film adaptations that are superior to their source material. Furthermore, along with Blade Runner, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes and not least of all, 2001: a Space Odyssey, it demonstrates that an outstanding science fiction film can be made from a highly loose adaptation as well.

Those attacking the 1951 film for deviating too much from the original story are being not just hypercritical then,  but hypocritical; the same denunciation only gets launched against works such as Starship Troopers and Dune which were not only widely read by a mass audience but had massive cult followings surrounding them or their authors.  This hypocrisy is further evident by the way younger film buffs often list the remake of The Thing alongside those of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fly (1986) as a trio of re-toolings of 1950s science fiction films that are allegedly superior to the original while repeating that fidelity to the original is one of the reasons to prefer the Carpenter film (why not call it John W. Campbell’s The Thing instead, then?). Yet not only are the original film versions of The Fly and Invasion of the Body Snatchers much closer to their original source material than their subsequent remakes, they’re arguably even more faithful than Carpenter’s film is to Campbell’s novella! Even more disingenuous is the way some of these same people will praise Paul Verhoeven specifically for being unfaithful to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers by choosing to “satirize” the material instead of filming a respectful adaptation! Regardless of genre, what ultimately matters is if an adaptation works as a movie, no matter how loose the treatment. The notorious 1995 film of The Scarlet Letter wasn’t a bad movie because of its ill-advised “modernization” of the film’s themes; it’s a bad movie because it was badly done on most levels. On the other hand, the 1939 film of Wuthering Heights (adapted by the team of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, who also wrote many of Howard Hawks’ greatest films is a great movie in spite of covering only the first half of the book and making significant alterations to both the plot and characters.

As it should be evident by now, when you translate a story from one medium to another, accommodations and modifications must be made, and this is something the more uninformed and obsessive members of the fan community never seem to learn. These criticisms of The Thing From Another World, which have dogged it since its original release, are among the first manifestations of the so-called “fanboy attitude” which has become all the more obvious in our Internet era, where comic book movies have become their own genre and regularly incite vitriol from fans who grow upset at the slightest deviation or artistic liberty taken with “their” books. A common thread with these discontents is the insistence that film adaptations must be made for the original audience or fanbase for a book instead of taking the broader public into account, a suicidal move for any film production.  The attacks on The Thing from Another World by certain members of the science fiction community are particularly revealing of their insularity and how out of touch they can sometimes be with outside concerns and realities (granted, this is true of the members of any fan movement that grows too obsessed and inward-looking).  The reverence accorded to John W. Campbell at the time, for his role as the editor of Astounding Science Fiction in which he discovered and mentored many of the great science fiction writers and helped push the genre towards literary maturity, was certainly a reason why hostility was so high; note that The Day the Earth Stood Still was itself a very loose adaptation of a story by Campbell’s predecessor at Astounding, Harry Bates, yet it has received almost none of the same criticism (except for dropping the story’s famous final line).

As for the changes made to nature of the alien, one must take into account that this was the first science fiction film to take the notion of extraterrestrial life seriously, and was being made not primarily for science fiction fans, but for the mass audience which was largely unfamiliar with written science fiction, much less the variations of alien biology that science fiction writers had already explored. Despite being derided for the abandonment of the shapeshifting motif, it was the right movie at precisely the right moment to introduce the wider public to what science fiction fans had been reading for the past twenty years. The alien not only did not need to retain its metamorphic nature, but to have done so would have been a distraction, too eccentric for an audience not yet familiar with the notion of extraterrestrial life. Subsequent films, beginning with Jack Arnold’s outstanding 1953 film It Came From Outer Space, would run with the idea, but nearly every science fiction film making use of the premise of alien possession or physical assimilation of human bodies, even those of such quality as both the 1956 and 1978 versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, has run into narrative or logical roadblocks and loopholes that are more easily avoided in the prose fiction format.

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It is now known that at least one point early in production, Hawks did consider using the shape-changing aspect before discarding it, wisely so given the reasons given above, as well as the technical limits of the era and the budgetary limits afforded him. Those who claim it could have been done easily are frankly uninformed of the great difficulties involved in film production in any given period. The early drafts of the script also describe an alien very close to that featured in the novella, albeit taller, blue-skinned, with three red eyes, a sucker mouth, and a Medusa-like tangle of writhing tendrils for hair. Add a third eye to Star Trek‘s Salt Vampire, and you’ll have a good idea as to what the original script’s Thing looked like. Obviously, a much simpler creature was chosen; it turned out that in order to have it interact properly with actors, they needed to go with the man-in-suit-and-makeup route. This is a plain fact numerous later films would find out as well, much to the consternation of science fiction writers who point out the unlikelihood of humanoid beings evolving elsewhere. Ignorant and uninformed temporal snobs have condemned the film for featuring a humanoid “lumbering monster,” although curiously, the humanoid aliens of Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate SG-1, etc. don’t seem to provoke similar reactions from them, for the most part (nor do they seem to mind the “lumbering monsters” of all of today’s unimaginative and lookalike zombie movies, all of which owe at least a partial debt to The Thing From Another World, given that George Romero has credited the film as an influence on Night of the Living Dead ). Moreover, special effects technology had not advanced to the point where the sort of on-screen transformations demanded by the original story were possible, and even if they had been attempted, the multiple special effects and make-up jobs on different actors would have pushed the budget and schedule beyond the realm of economic viability. The sort of time-lapse effects that had transformed Lon Chaney into The Wolf Man, or the tricks with colored filters that turned Frederic March into Mr. Hyde were hardly up to the task, and even the late Ray Harryhausen, in his autobiography An Animated Life, claims he had offered them his services, although the obvious expenses involved in using stop-motion resulted in his getting brushed off early on in production.

One also wonders how many of those condemning the film for being an overly loose adaptation of its source material have actually bothered to read the original novella or indeed, to actually watch the original film. Although outwardly having seemingly little to do with “Who Goes There,” The Thing From Another World is more accurately described as an expansion of the first act of Campbell’s novella; nearly every aspect of the novella that reappears in the film is to be found in the first five chapters. It is during this act that the alien is retrieved, thawed, rampages through the Antarctic base, and is finally dispatched when it’s simultaneously torn apart by dogs and fried in an improvised electrical trap. Even such aspects of the film as the arguments over what to do with the frozen body of The Thing, the rapid clicking of the Geiger counter signaling its approach, and the suggestion that it can read minds are to be found in these first few chapters. What you won’t find is the shape-changing aspect that the fanboys hype as the whole raison d’etre for the entire story, and the absence of which supposedly makes the movie worthless. It is only during Chapter Six that we learn after the fact that the creature had been transforming itself during its fight with the dogs in the midst of a long-winded discourse on its physiology and biochemistry, making for some decidedly sloppy storytelling. The entire novella, in fact, suffers from severe deficiencies throughout: flimsy characterization, flat and unrealistic dialog, and the aforementioned sloppy story construction, as well as a simplistic three-act structure that results in a disjointed narrative where both the pedantic and the over-abbreviated mix uneasily. The 1982 film not only carried over many of those weaknesses, but wound up bungling the remaining strengths in the name of shock value and story expediency. Although parts are admittedly reasonably suspenseful, much of the lasting reputation of “Who Goes There” rests on that of Campbell’s as an editor (where he had no equal) and the central concept itself. Sad to say, but Campbell was much better at conceiving story ideas and assisting other writers than he was at writing himself; even his best works (this one and “Twilight”) are highly flawed, heavy on description and exposition, and dependent on the momentum of their ideas while being feather-light on characterization and narrative.

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Those same areas where “Who Goes There” is deficient in, The Thing From Another World excels at. Despite the criticisms leveled against it by purists, the screenplay of The Thing From Another World is considerably better written than its source material. Thanks to the formidable team of Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, the characters are realistic and vividly drawn and their conflicts, motivations and personalities form the crux of the drama and the thrust of the narrative. The dialog, as one would expect of a Hawks film, is rich, snappy and if not exactly realistic, fulfills our expectations of how great dialog should sound like. The story keeps running non-stop with barely a moment’s breath, and while the film has its share of technical explanations, it never stoops to long-winded discourse. It’s surprising that seemingly no film scholar has made a study comparing Howard Hawks and Joss Whedon, because everything fans consider original to Whedon can be found in the Hawks canon, and nowhere is it more obvious than in this film: an emphasis on ensemble casts instead of leads; a running theme on the need for teamwork and cooperation in the face of adversity that results in a focus on group dynamics and conflict as a source of drama; strong female characters that wind up taking dominant positions in male-dominated organizations; swiftly choreographed action scenes, and of course, sparkling, witty dialogue delivered in a fast, overlapping style. Beyond the script and direction, the film also features marvelous performances by the entire cast (my personal favorites being those by Dewey Martin as the enthusiastic and ingenious crew chief, and John Dierkes as the physically and intellectually imposing Dr. Chapman), outstanding cinematography by Russell Harlan, and a chilling score by the versatile Dmitri Tiomkin. It’s no wonder then that the film has not only been beloved not just by a generation of science fiction fans, but revered by film critics and cinema buffs who are not necessarily themselves fans of the genre. Any film which is able to cross several different spheres of fandom and artistic interest to gain not just an avid following, but critical respectability must be doing something right.

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While The Thing From Another World is not just good but great film making, and on that level, an improvement on its source material, is it good science fiction? This is where the discussion gets particularly controversial, and even more interesting. Some have opined that the elimination of the shape-changing element also robbed the film of its credibility as science fiction, but such assertions belies not just a wrong-headed attitude toward assessing the genre but a profound ignorance of it as well. A novel premise is not enough to make something good science fiction; it’s the execution of the premise that counts. When someone sneers at the “intellectual carrot” of The Thing From Another World while pointing to the shape-changer in the novella as an example of what constitutes “good” science fiction, you can rest assured you’re dealing with the sort of attitude Kurt Vonnegut satirized with his character of Kilgore Trout, where a bad writer gains a fervent following amongst simple-minded and unsophisticated fans due to his wildly imaginative ideas. If they dislike the vegetable alien of The Thing, do they feel the same about those in Day of the Triffids and At the Mountains of Madness, to say nothing of Zhann from Farscape or Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy? In his collection Before the Golden Age, Isaac Asimov calls the film “financially successful but science-fictionally contemptible,” yet in the same volume, he rhapsodizes over how he was scared by the humanoid plant monsters conceived by Murray Leinster for his story “Proxima Centauri” and how they seemed like such an earth-shattering concept to him. So apparently, this snobbish attitude towards the film has little to do with its actual merits, and everything to do with its not being exactly like the original story (or not being the Carpenter film).

As indicated by its name, science fiction should deal in some way with science itself, but good science fiction is not about ideas per se, but science’s relationship with individuals and societies, and its speculations need a firm ground in scientific reality. On these grounds, the film version of the story more than passes the test. The Thing From Another World is the thinking person’s monster movie, the first film to seriously contemplate the nature of extraterrestrial life, and it remains one of the most intelligent and adult treatments of the subject matter. On the surface, the reduction of the original alien to an intelligent humanoid plant seems base and simplistic, but such a simplification made it more approachable to viewers in 1951, and further allowed the film makers to explain the possibilities of extraterrestrial life to members of the audience unfamiliar with the concept. The script uses the same elements of analogy and induction that Darwin used in The Origin of Species to make the idea of intelligent life evolving elsewhere in the universe seem credible and believable. It first draws an analogy from the biology of its titular alien to plant life found on Earth, making comparisons to carnivorous plants, as well as drawing on then-current speculation about the possibility of communication between plant life, and then extrapolates from this to create a scenario about another planet where intelligent life evolved from vegetation instead of from animals. One of my greatest annoyances regarding criticisms of The Thing From Another World come from those who literally consider the alien to be a giant carrot based on a single line that was not only obviously intended as a joke (had it been in a Joss Whedon film, they would have considered it the pinnacle of wit), but in a sequence that makes it clear that the alien is not literally to be regarded as a walking vegetable, but that it has its closest Earthly equivalent to terrestrial plant life. Hawks and his writers had been responsible for both some of the greatest comedies and some of the finest dramas Hollywood had produced up to that time; they not only knew what was funny and what wasn’t, but when it was appropriate to interject humor into a drama. They also understood that when writing science fiction for the screen, you can’t have characters go at length explaining the technical background for your story without sacrificing dramatic effectiveness in the process. The type of lengthy discourse on alien biology in Campbell’s story, if translated word for word on film, would stop the movie dead. Good science fiction writing tries to find a way to capture the “shop talk” of actual scientists, as it would of any class of working professional, as a means of almost invisibly making the science understandable, and keeping it firmly grounded in realism (the best example of this technique for the screen probably being Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain, scripted by Nelson Giddings).

 

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Another major annoyance comes from the other major controversy swirling around the film, that it is somehow “anti-science” on the basis of the Carrington character. According to some critics, the film posits an ideological dichotomy between science and the military, rather like that in Robert Wise’s The Day Earth Stood Still from the same year; more often than not, they negatively compare the Hawks-Nyby film, where the scientist Carrington stubbornly tries to protect the obviously dangerous alien from destruction, to the Wise film, where nationalism and militarism, particularly the American variety, are openly attacked and Michael Rennie’s benevolent visitor finds a kindred spirit in Sam Jaffee’s gentleman physicist. What they may really be objecting to is not an unrealistic portrayal of scientists in the film, but one that is too realistic. Carrington had his real-life counterparts in the likes of Linus Pauling, whose commitment to pacifism resulted in blindness to the very real dangers presented by communism and the atrocities it perpetrated, or even outright traitors such as physicist Klaus Fuchs who sold nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union out of ideological zeal. Additionally, critics always seem to conveniently forget the positive depiction of the other scientists in the film, particularly John Dierkes’ heroic Professor Chapman, who almost immediately allies himself with Hendry and his men once the facts are made obvious to him, and Professor Voorhees, who starts out apolitical on the issue but soon sides with Hendry and Chapman as well. They may be viewed as standing in for such patriotic scientists as Vannevar Bush, who re-oriented American science policy after the war by linking it with national defense, and Robert A. Millikan, the Nobel Prize-winning conservative Republican physicist who bucked much of his party by being a strong anti-isolationist and advocating early entry into World War II.

Furthermore, the scientists in The Thing From Another World are regarded as equals to the military, both by the film and the characters themselves; they are every bit as brave and resourceful as the soldiers themselves, who in turn are in awe of their knowledge and expertise and realize that they have an immense responsibility in protecting the nation’s most valuable citizens at this remote base.  Certainly, the scientists in The Thing From Another World fare much better in their depictions than not just the one-dimensional antisocial malcontents in Carpenter’s remake, but than the lone scientist character in Ridley Scott’s Alien, who turns out to not only be the film’s true villain (or rather, a proxy for the actual bad guys), but not even human! Both scientific and military cultures work closely side by side in Hawks’ film, and ultimately with each other once they reach common consensus among most of their members (even Carrington winds up siding with the military top brass, when it opposes Hendry’s actions), and demonstrate a respect for each other’s work and abilities. Lying between these two worlds is my personal favorite character in the movie, the crew chief played by Dewey Martin, who enthusiastically makes use of the latest technology (radar and Geiger counters) and plays a pivotal role in building the trap that destroys the monster. The supposed ideological dichotomy between the forces of science and reason and those entrusted with defending and protecting the country is shown to be a false one in the film, as much as it is in real life.

 

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The Thing From Another World is not only not anti-science in specific, it is not anti-intellectual in general, as its critics also claim. As Jacques Rivette has noted, a running motif through Hawks’s film oeuvre is the celebration of pragmatic intelligence, where educated professionals must use their intellectual skills in confrontation with the external world (like Frank Capra, Hawks had an engineering degree from the California Institute of Technology), and try to make sense of it. Some of his other films also featured intellectuals or academics as main characters, often times in a group or institutional setting: zoologist Cary Grant who works at a museum in Bringing Up Baby, Gary Cooper and his fellow encyclopedia researchers, who all live together in a single home in Ball of Fire, and chemist Cary Grant again, at the university in Monkey Business, Hawks’ only other foray into science fiction. Characters also reveal their own hidden intellectual talents underneath a veneer of seeming normality or simplicity, even vulgarity, as do Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire and Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Although Margaret Sheridan from The Thing From Another World may fall in this category as well, the male characters in The Thing From Another World also reveal a heretofore unrevealed intelligence, that becomes more apparent once they work in concert with other highly-trained and skilled specialists towards their common goal.

 What makes this film particularly pertinent to the Hawks canon is this emphasis on group intelligence and teamwork, the pooling of intellectual skills and abilities to finish a task or goal upon which their survival hinges. Although Kenneth Tobey’s Pat Hendry is the nominal hero, he finds himself reliant on the rest of his men, as well as the scientists on the base, to stop the menace before him. Carrington, meanwhile, symbolizes not the dangers of intelligence but those of hubris, not realizing that in a time of crisis, he must cooperate with those he considers “below” him. For all his extolling of pure reason, Carrington, like many other such real-life individuals (as well as fictional characters up to and including Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory), is incapable of being reasoned with by or cooperating with his fellow man, although he expects to be able to do so with the alien creature who has already killed his colleagues (again, the allegory of the “useful idiot” who despises his own country but thinks of the Soviet Union as a great utopia rears itself)! The failure to cooperate, or inability to reason, is regularly punished in the Hawksian universe. The criminal gang in Scarface: The Shame of a Nation falls apart because of the collective stupidity of its members, particularly titular gang boss Paul Muni, whereas in Red River, the stubbornness of John Wayne’s character and refusal to face facts threatens the survival of a cattle drive.

Another blind spot in criticisms of The Thing From Another World is that they focus exclusively on Carrington’s failures, and not those of the military, whose individual and collective errors are what results in the creature’s thaw and impedes its capture, and whose higher command actually instructs to preserve the alien when individual lives are at stake (an idea which would be revived in both Alien and its sequel Aliens). Nor is Carrington a completely unsympathetic figure; Andrew Sarris has described the prototypical Hawksian hero as a “learned man concerned with the quest for knowledge…subjected to the inhuman excesses of the modern world” and this makes Carrington the perfect definition of a tragic hero in the Hawks lexicon. He is someone who cannot grasp that in this particular situation and environment, he must adapt to and confront these “inhuman excesses” instead of working against those who fight them, and put aside his quest of knowledge, even temporarily, so that the battle must be won. In many ways, this is in itself reflective of the tragedy of the contemporary intelligentsia, resisting social and economic realities in the name of high-minded ideology, with often tragic results for themselves and the rest of the world.

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We have in The Thing From Another World perhaps the best example of this thematic motif of “pragmatic intelligence” that Rivette identifies as running throughout Hawks’s work, and it is a shame that he ventured only once again into science fiction (and this time, for purely comedic purposes), as it is a theme that particularly invites a science-fictional treatment. While it may be regrettable that Hawks only turned his talents twice to the cinema of the fantastic, it is perhaps not coincidental that when he did so, it was in the field of science fiction, a genre as dependent on story realism and logic as Hawks’ own brand of cinema. As Rivette himself notes, the Hawksian universe is one of rigid laws whose inhabitants must learn to navigate through rational means; logical thought in this universe, according to Rivette, “is not some cold intellectual activity but proof that the body is a coherent whole, harmoniously following the consequences of an action out of loyalty to itself.” But as Rivette further notes, The Thing From Another World turns this universe upside down: “the mask is finally off: in the confined grip of the universe, some men of science are at grips with a creature worse than inhuman…and their efforts are directed toward fitting it into the logical framework of human knowledge.”

The conclusion we can draw from Rivette’s assessment is provocative. Every character in The Thing From Another World, regardless of their occupation or level of education must ultimately learn how to think like a scientist in order to survive. Since this creature does exist in this universe, it must follow its laws, and it must be possible to place it in the aforementioned “framework of human knowledge.” To defeat it, one cannot rely on muscle, but on intellect, and the application of the scientific method, as the team finds out, investigating the nature of the enemy, finding out through trial and error what its strengths and weakness are, what can and cannot kill it, and ultimately applying scientific knowledge to a final feat of engineering (such as in the case of The Manhattan Project itself) that will allow for a decisive victory. Although the film is certainly right-of-center in its implicit politics (Hawks, Nyby, and co-writer Lederer were all prominent Hollywood Republicans), it ultimately defends science and reason, both as the weapons of defense and tools of survival needed to win this Cold War.

Despite its shoddy DVD presentation, the current owners of The Thing From Another World have nonetheless made it readily available through regular airings on Turner Classic Movies, seemingly the only channel with integrity, where it is the frequent favorite of guest programmers (including John Carpenter, of course) who rhapsodize over the impact it had on them as children. It has even more to offer for the intelligent adult viewer who demands that their science fiction be thought-provoking as well as entertaining; they will find a witty, exciting and frightening thriller awaiting for them, one that stands up not just to multiple viewings, but multiple readings as well. Hopefully, someday, one of the few truly great science fiction films will receive the deluxe home video presentation that it richly deserves.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Di Fate, Vincent (2012). “It Crept Out of Bob’s Basement.” In Filmfax no.129.

 

 

Hardy, Phil (1984) The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction (1st edition).

 

 

Harryhausen, Ray and Dalton, Tony (2003). Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life.

 

 

McCarthy, Todd (2000). Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood.

 

 

Newsom, Ted (2000) “Retrospect: The Thing From Another World.” In SPFX no.9

 

 

Rivette, Jacques (1972) “The Genius of Howard Hawks.” In Focus on Howard Hawks, (Joseph McBride, Ed.), pp. 70-77.

 

 

Sarris, Andrew (1972). “The World of Howard Hawks.” In Focus on Howard Hawks, (Joseph McBride, Ed.), pp. 35-64

 

 

 

The Greatest Challenge to the 1st Amendment: A Follow Up

The Greatest Challenge to the 1st Amendment: A Follow Up

3D-printed-gun-modelsThe Government has forced Cody Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, to take down his designs for 3D printed firearms. I can’t say I’m surprised, and if you had read my other article earlier in the week you would understand why: This is a blatant attack on the first amendment. Forget, for a minute, that these plans can be used to create guns. What is the difference between banning these plans from distribution, and banning a book? There are quite a few books out there that could be considered just as dangerous. I downloaded a PDF book on building machine guns last night. Will we see books like that banned next?

Just this week Obama gave a speech in which he said, “Reject voices that warn about government tyranny.”

Let me quote the words of a document that president Obama would have you reject.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”

Is this computer file any more dangerous to the government than the words of the *actual* Declaration of Independence? Will these words also be banned?

I am not saying that we need to rise up in armed revolt, and I am not saying that we have become a despotic state. I am saying that, when a government feels it has the right to censor public information and ban the people from looking at what are, at their most basic,  just “drawings” of an item that the government fears, we are not far away from the very tyranny that the founders warned about.

I quoted the movie Serenity at the end of the last article, “You can’t stop the signal”. The file was downloaded over 100,000 times before it was taken down. I was able to find the file in about a minute with an online search this morning.  The real irony is not that the government is helpless to stop the signal. The irony is that the government has the gall to even try. Banning knowledge is the hallmark of desperation and a stepping stone to true tyranny. So, yes I am one of those voices warning you about tyranny, but don’t listen to my voice, listen to the much more eloquent voices of history…

 

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
Robert A. Heinlein

 

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day
Thomas Jefferson

 

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.
Maximilien Robespierre

 

The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.
Hugo Black

When I researched these quotes, I did not look for quotes that linked censorship and tyranny. I merely typed in tyranny and hundreds of quotes linked the two. Try it for yourself. Tyranny and the suppression of knowledge are invariably linked. Censorship is ever the companion of despots.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Author C.J. Cherryh

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Author C.J. Cherryh

The Enquiring HitchhikerThe Enquiring Hitchhiker is proud to bring you this interview with multiple Hugo award winning Author C.J. Cherryh.

1. I discovered your writing in 1985 with the publication of Cuckoo’s Egg. I really loved the detail you put into the world building, and “fish out of water” stories are my favorite type of fiction. Where do you find your inspiration for these unique cultures?


I’m a linguistics major with a specialty in Roman Law and Bronze Age Greece, and I’ve knocked around the world quite a bit—been IN that position a lot.

2. At the time you first started submitting your work, science fiction was a very male-dominated genre. What was it like being a female in such a testosterone-laden club?

No problem at all. The very earliest meetings in the Ivory Tower in NYC were co-ed, and the field always has been. I found absolutely no problem except reader and reviewer assumptions that because I was female, I’d be writing fantasy.

3. While I agree with what I have read you have said about grouping science fiction and fantasy into one category, why do you think that hard science fiction tales are lagging behind tales with more of a fantasy/horror orientation?

They’re harder to write when science is nipping hard at our heels. And we lost the businessman with the sf novel in his briefcase when we lost Heinlein and Asimov and the industry simultaneously lost Don Wollheim, Lester del Rey, and other editors with hard sf experience. At the very time the industry should have been promoting new ‘hard science’ writers—it was reeling from purchase by oil companies and the stupid decision (Thor Tool) that equated books with other goods in warehouse.

4. The future belongs to those who show up. I seem to see a very disturbing trend in the science fiction community towards fiction that depicts the human race as either degenerate or not worthy of inheriting the future. What happened to the optimism of the genre?


Not lacking in me. I think it’s education that’s let people down—and a push for ‘individual survival.’ Industry takes multiple people, and technology takes multiple industries. The largest sort of organization is what we need, not fragmentation. There’s nothing going on with the climate or anything else we can’t address technologically, but the people grabbing media attention are trying to get the deniers to get their heads out of the sand and waaaay overdoing it in scaring the rest of the public into believing we can’t solve this. We certainly can—but not if we each retreat into our bunkers.

5. The Freehold as a publication is dominated by a libertarian ideology, so we often like to gauge the political leanings of the people we interview. What are your political beliefs, and how do you see your beliefs affecting the future?

I don’t discuss those, out of respect to my readers, who have their own. I am pro-technology but no believer that corporations are always right, pro-history but do not believe it has to repeat unless through stupidity, pro-magic but not magical thinking, pro many things but not pro-abandonment-of-responsibility, and I hold so many opinions on both sides of so many lines I’m not comfortable advocating any single party as right, since none are entirely right.

Thank you for the interview, and I hope to meet you in person at a convention soon.

Ancient Curse, Modern Cure: The Horror of Victorian Sexual Repression

Ancient Curse, Modern Cure: The Horror of Victorian Sexual Repression

 

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The social aspects of nineteenth century Gothic horror are a study in the dichotomous nature of the Victorian mind. This period, characterized by its sexual repression, gave rise to some very salacious fiction, especially of the horror variety.  Early in the century The Second Great Awakening had renewed religious fervor in both Europe and America. This is juxtaposed against eighteenth century cultural trends that had seen great strides towards intellectual, scientific, and sexual enlightenment. The reemerging repressive attitude seems to have been a reaction to the more libertine nature of the previous century and it is possible this grew out of advances in female empowerment. The temperance movements and the social purity movements of the period acted as a political outlet for women in a time when they were locked out of more traditional political activity. These movements worked hand in hand with the newly empowered religious institutions to counter any and all things they perceived as sexually or morally deviant.  Sexuality had to go underground and find new outlets of expression safe from the burgeoning social nanny state. One of the most obvious of these outlets was the convergence of sexuality and literature specifically as found in Gothic horror fiction.

Gothic horror became a cloak under which the Victorian who wished to explore ideas of a more sensual nature could feel free to do so with abandon. From the first half of the century we have such works as The String of Pearls (better known today as Sweeney Todd). Here, ideas regarding sex are completely disguised in the form of a cannibal, his victims, and his accomplices: The sex is merely suggested and never acted upon openly. However, the very act of eating human flesh is one of the most intimate acts one could possibly imagine and becomes a means through which the author relates the deviancy of the characters. It also doesn’t take much imagination to link the horror created by Sweeney Todd to many sexual practices that would have been considered deviant at the time such as bondage and elicit affairs between married partners. The story is full of semi-hidden double entendres, but it was far from the open bucking of cultural conventions when compared to later more explicit works. These later authors touched on subjects as varied as physical seduction, bestiality, and very surprisingly frank depictions of transvestism. Two late Nineteenth Century novels represent the peak of this trend towards sexualization in Gothic horror literature, Bran Stoker’s Dracula and Richard Marsh’s The Beetle.

The two novels explore sex in a very open and frank way. While it is still depicted as deviant and dangerous, there is no doubt it was meant to titillate the reader.  Not only did these novels seek to express sexual themes, they also took shots at British imperialism and conformity. To the modern reader sex and imperial rule would seem very disconnected but, to the Victorian sensibility, sexual prowess and imperial might were intimately intertwined. Inserted into this mix, the villains of both Dracula and The Beetle seek to overturn British hegemony through “means of the appropriation and destruction of symbols of the moral, spiritual, and racial superiority of England’s ruling class- its women.”(30). Thus the two novels explore the ideas of sexual deviance through the domination of racial “others” over pure British womanhood. This interracial aspect of sex acts depicted in both books feed into both fear and arousal. 

      In the article, “Purity and Danger: Dracula, the Urban Gothic, and the late Victorian Degeneracy Crisis”, Kathleen Spencer seeks to explore the sexual undertones of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the perspective of the body of literature available during the Victorian period. It is her belief that the novel should be read in context with the other novels that explore sexual and supernatural situations, in order to form an overall synthesis of how sexual mores are expressed in these works. Spencer breaks these works down into their composite pieces to illustrate how abnormal sexual situations could be presented through supernatural aspects without causing the Victorian reader to reject the works outright. This would be important in inoculating the literature from conventional social forces that may seek to ban these novels.

 Authors like Stoker set their works in the contemporary period to lure their readers into a sense of the normal. Spencer states that, “First and most important, the new authors insist on the modernity of the setting not on the distance between the world of the text and the world of the reader, but on their identity. A modern setting means, most profoundly, an urban setting, as by the end of the Nineteenth Century well over half the population of the British Isles lived in cities.” (200).   The authors of the time were intent on relating to their readers and to bringing them into their stories. They used a variety of techniques, from using familiar settings to creating intense emotional content, to capture the reader’s attention. This increased the tension within their narrative and resulted in much more vivid storytelling. The authors then introduced fantasy elements to shock the reader out of their normal lives, allowing them to embrace ideas and situations that would not appear in mundane society.

 Spencer then goes on to explore further how sexuality is expressed in Dracula and other novels of the period. She contends that, “the crucial distinction between Dracula and his opponents: he is degenerate.” (213). Dracula represents the opposition to the sexual norm. He and his creations are monsters of the fantastic and illustrate the dangers of degeneracy and sexual deviance. These monsters are powerfully alluring, but they can be defeated. Men and even woman can hold out against their sexual power, at least for awhile, and those that can’t are doomed. It is important that those characters shown to fall prey to the sexual deviant are damned, as this plays into the themes that protect the novels from conventional social criticism. If these novels are seen as cautionary tales against evil then they could break social/sexual taboos without fear of reprisal by moral authorities.

The Beetle, published the same year as Dracula, delves even further into what Victorians would have seen as sexual aberration. It was so successful that it outsold Dracula into the first decade of the Twentieth Century.  Victoria Margree calls the novel The Beetle “an extended homoerotic and masochistic fantasy.” (76) The book focused on the strict attitudes against female empowerment and women acting as men. We, as a society, may not be as concerned with female identity as we once were, but the interplay of homosexuality in the book fits well into the fears and anxiety of our own society and its struggle with the idea of gay marriage and rights. This is a novel that broke all the rules regarding sex and morality of the period and managed to be one of the best selling novels of its day without raising an as much as an eyebrow among the religious elite.

The horror genre continues to be a place in which authors, artists, and especially filmmakers can explore the fringes of human experience. Attitudes toward sexuality may change, but horror fiction continues to push the boundaries of society on that front. My generation often attended horror movies just to see the scantily clad bodies of the girls who would be menaced once again by those eternal supernatural creatures. Those movies taught us that having sex would surely result in decapitation or a bloody death in a lakeside cabin. It never prevented me from returning each week and it certainly never really turned anyone off sex. We were just playing the same century long game of hide and seek with the puritanical among us.

 

Works Cited

Garnett, Rhys. “Dracula and the Beetle: Imperial and Sexual Guilt and Fear in Late Victorian Fantasy”. Science Fiction Roots and Branches. New York: St. Martin’s, 1990: 30-54. Print.

Kathleen L. Spencer.Purity and Danger: Dracula, the Urban Gothic, and the Late Victorian Degeneracy Crisis.”ELH, 59.1 ( 1992): 197-225 The Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Margee, Victoria. “Both in Men’s Clothing: Gender, Sovereignty and Insecurity in Richard Marsh’s The Beetle.” Critical Survey 19.2 (2007): 63-81. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

Why the 3D Printed Firearm Will Be the Greatest Challenge Ever to the…..1st Amendment?

Why the 3D Printed Firearm Will Be the Greatest Challenge Ever to the…..1st Amendment?

3d gunYesterday when I saw the picture of the first fully 3D printed gun (I realize the firing pin is a nail and was not printed) I almost wept for joy. This is a first important step away from the dominance of the state over their citizens in many parts of the world.  Americans enjoy the protection of Second Amendment, but many places that purport to be free countries have banned all guns outright or have made ownership so restrictive that getting a firearm is almost impossible. Other parts of the world are not so free as even that. Firearm ownership for people in places like China or North Korea could mean the death penalty. This new technology makes it possible for anyone anywhere with access to a certain level of technology to take the power of the state and place it into the hands of the people. The 3D printed gun is either the beginning of the end to those repressive regimes or the beginning of one of the largest and most sweeping crack down on civil rights in the past fifty years.

The argument to restrict these rights will not be over firearms. Oh, guns and violence will be used as an excuse, but the argument will be over the right to freedom of speech and expression. This 3D printed weapon and each subsequent generation of it is a triumph of information technology. It has been made possible by the revolution in information sharing that has taken place in the last thirty years and in the ease and ability to pass information about technology freely between people. This ability of information to be exchanged will become a battleground and the government’s goal will be limiting the freedom of speech. This goal will at first be packages as only limiting information that the state finds dangerous, but it is the ultimate slippery slope. Never underestimate the willingness of government to push its subjects down that hill.

The battle lines are already being drawn and in the United States. Don’t immediately expect the Republicans to side with freedom. They have often been much more willing to censor information available to the public than the Democrats (although Obama has certainly given them a run for their money). Both sides will ultimately unite against 3D printed weapons. This is a prediction you can take to the bank. You can expect them to see this in more broad-reaching terms than just firearms. If either side can convince the public that this information is too dangerous to be allowed to freely be passed from hand to hand, and they are able to limit it, then expect them to broaden the definition of what is dangerous over time. Enjoy your internet while you have it. The government has long been trying to find an issue that resonates with the public so they can use it to limit information on the web. The public is also likely to fall for any and all scare tactics the government decides to employ.

The good news is they will not win. This is a genie that will not go back into the bottle easily. This is a Manhattan project level event in terms of personal self defense and the ability of a people to arm themselves. This simple one shot pistol is just the tip of the iceberg. In the long run there is just about no small arm that can’t eventually be build with a 3D printer. One might equip an entire army with a combination of plastic and metal printers. I foresee a day not too far off in which our own military will print their weapons as they need them…that is the future reality. We are living in an exciting time. This must be similar to what it felt like to those first peasants in Western Europe that figured out that firearms made them equal in power to the most well armored knight. The day we moved from the strangle hold of feudalism to just a hint of representative republic. It is not something to scorn. This is a technology that embraces freedom and puts power back into the hands of the people. How many police state Nazi bullies would have had second thoughts about dragging the Jews out of their homes had they known that the citizens of the Warsaw Ghetto had armed themselves and would resist? How different would the civil rights movement have been had blacks in the South had access to quick cheap 3D printed guns to defend themselves from corrupt local sheriffs? Would there have even been a need for a civil rights movement at all?

The government can try to stop it. They can shut down the internet at the risk of global economic collapse, or they can try to limit the spread of this information in other ways. If they think that people can’t find a way around any restriction the government tries to put into place to limit data….then they don’t know much about computers or those that program them. They will also try to restrict the physical 3D printers, but even that is folly. They might slow down the growth (don’t bet on it), but the technology is far to useful to be stifled for long. It is also a technology that will eventual be able to replicate itself fully. That technology is still in its infancy, especially when it comes to the metal and computer parts, but it will not be long before even that hurdle is overcome. 3D printing is the future and it is going to change the world in ways that the government and those who want control can’t even yet imagine. I often quote this line from the movie Serenity, “You can’t stop the signal.”        So why even try.

Modern Science Fiction: The Downfall of a Once Great Genre

Modern Science Fiction: The Downfall of a Once Great Genre

ar12819814138667I was suckered into looking at IO9 this morning. I know, generally I avoid that place like the plague. I was enticed in by an article about science fiction fonts. The article wasn’t even actually on their site. Some writer there had just written a story about a blog that had links to classic science fiction cover fonts. I honestly wish the person that posted the IO9 story had cut out that particular middle man. That is neither here nor there at this point because once on IO9 I saw article after article of the most pernicious and condescending left-wing constipation. From anti-Human environmentalist rhetoric to socialistic political screeds disguised as science fiction commentary. The problem at IO9 is not an isolated case. It has become all but the norm. For instance all the major science fiction awards are dominated by liberal political hacks, who pick the winners based on how well they write polemics on ludditism masquerading as fiction. Writers like Robert Heinlein would not even merit a mention among our modern scifi elite.

 How do you write a disparaging sigh into an article? “Uuuuuuuuuuuugh” I know better than to read the drek on IO9 or even look at the state of modern science fiction because it depresses me to no end. The once great experiment in literary freedom is now the bastion of socialist nonsense and home to environmentalist green weenies. Forgive me when I say screw those mother fuckers. Science fiction has always been socially liberal, but that social liberality was married to the belief in individual liberty and the aggrandizement of the rugged individualist. Science Fiction has always been the home of the libertarian, even before the word was coined. Today it is a sad shell of its former glory, overcome by schlock pseudo-science fantasy and vampire romance fed to an increasingly ignorant, apathetic public. The state of the art mirrors the state itself.

Why am I being so harsh? Well let me summarize the entirety of current elite science fiction in one sentence…

It is too bad that humans, who are destroying the Earth, are so adaptable that they will probably survive and pollute space with their ignorance and bigotry.

Do these idiots understand science fiction? Do they realize that the vast majority of that fiction is about humans surviving against all odds and overcoming obstacles through inventiveness and adaptability. Science Fiction is the cheerleader for the human race. While there is depressing science fiction in which humans make mistakes, it almost always ends with hope for humanity. Hope that we become better and learn a lesson from our mistakes. Sometimes a great science fiction classic works with a bleak premise about human nature, for instance 1984, but these are few and far between and the authors of these are universally warning the audience not to follow that path. The writers of today aren’t warning us of our folly. They are lamenting our very existence as a species.

Do people on the “Left” know what species they belong too? If they are so interested in our extinction is it possible they could do us all a favor and lead by example? I can not understand the mentality that leads someone to think that humanity is not the most precious gift evolution has given the universe. We are the beings that will take life to the stars. We are the gardeners of forever. We are life’s vessel, the pinnacle of evolution with the ability to turn the universe green. This is what science fiction should be about. It is the fiction we should be basing our future on. A future we will never realize if the environmentalist agenda is realized, or if the socialists turn our world into what they believe is utopia. We can not give the Universe the gift of life if we remain tethered to this pile of rocks. If that means the extinction of 90% of the life on this planet, or that there will be inequality due to capitalism then I am willing to make that trade so our descendants stand on distant shores…free and proud.

(This is not a blanket condemnation of science fiction today. There are authors working hard to live up to the true legacy of the genre over at Baen books and other places. They are just outnumbered by those who don’t deserve the title of science fiction author)