Journal Archives - January 1-15, 2001
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January 1, 2001 ... Wow. I'm very good at staying up a lot later than I intended to, and not getting the things done during the day that I wanted to. As it is, here comes a last-minute "I'm posting because I want to write a journal entry, but this isn't the journal entry I wanted to write" post. Say that ten times fast.
Well, back to work tomorrow. Taking two weeks off has been good for me ... but staying on a consistent schedule, and giving a little incentive to my work ethic, will be good as well. I've spent most of my holiday sitting in front of the Playstation, finishing off Vagrant Story and putting in over 50 hours of work on Chrono Cross. (Without even leaving the first disc -- my god, what have I gotten myself into?) Being "off vacation" should get me started on errands and such again. Happy thing, that. But on the other hand ...
Truth be told, I have no idea how I'm going to deal with work tomorrow. I have to pick up a project that I haven't touched in two weeks -- one whose goals aren't terribly clear -- and make progress with it. Of course, it does me no good to dwell on this, because I need to get to sleep now so I can actually get something done when I do go in tomorrow morning. Ack. I should get to bed. I'm going to give myself a nervous breakdown if I sit here typing about how much I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning, and as a result, get no sleep on top of everything else that will be working against me obeying the alarm clock tomorrow morning.
I love my job. Ironically, that's a large part of the problem. I want so hard to give 100 percent that when I don't, or can't, I guilt myself over it. Badly.
... And I said I'd go to bed two paragraphs ago. Tell you what, I'll pick this up tomorrow.
January 3, 2001 ... Ack! Skipped a day. How'd that happen? Oh, right, I spent most of yesterday (which wasn't actually a work day ... yay!) working on bunches of new content for my site. No, really. Honestly. I may even post it as early as tonight.
I'd pick up where I left off on Monday, but a personal misinterpretation of something I said in passing in that entry has led me off on another tangent entirely. Bear with me, then, as I present the list of
SQUARESOFT GAMES FOR ADULTS ONLY
January 4, 2001 ... Things I've Done Tonight:
January 5, 2001 ... Some days ago, a member of a forum I participate in -- it doesn't matter who, and it doesn't matter where, because unfortunately it's not like the sentiments are unique in my community -- voiced some strong opinions about an entire race of people. This person held them collectively responsible for the perceived actions of a few of their members; suggested that the world would be better off without them; and lamented that they had to deal with members of such a "stupid, mean, uneducated" race.
Now, it's not like hearing this should have shocked me. Think about my environment: I realize that Washington state is, odd as it may seem, a relative stronghold of white supremacists, and the chances of me running into a neo-Nazi during a local social event are not insignificant.
Fortunately, I haven't actually had that experience yet. Unfortunately, as a member of the dragon community, I deal with bigotry far too often.
No, no. From dragons.
Now, I'm not the target of their overly broad frustrations. So? It still pisses me off. It pisses me off more that dragons are being bigots, for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that people who run into bigoted dragons get a mistaken idea of what draconity is all about. Some of those people are even dragons themselves -- and if their first exposure to the dragon community is "Let's all get together and whine about how much humans suck!" then the best and brightest of them turn away in disgust, and lose out on their heritage. Let me point that out: DRAGON BIGOTRY HURTS DRACONITY. This is the same reason that "white pride" movements are jokes: They've been painted so strongly with assumptions of racism that saying "I like being white" is a hate crime in 22 states. (Well, not yet, but you get my point.) Any dragons in the audience? Do you want people having the same reaction when you tell them "I'm a dragon"? I didn't think so. And yet we face that exact situation if our only spokesbeings are the ones who advocate the quiet and complete destruction of humanity.
I would like to put out an unequivocal call to not only the dragon community, but furries in general, because "furry lifestylers" of good conscience suffer just as much as we do over this: Human-bashing must be stopped. We do not tolerate outsiders who seek to destroy our community; we must also maintain the same diligence against destroying ourselves from the inside. We cannot afford to keep the idea of therianthropy on the fringe of the fringe by letting it be tied in the public eye with misanthropy. We must keep our community intellectually honest. Every cry of "Humans suck" must be met with a resounding "Shame, shame!" and a ready explanation of our alternatives to racism.
This does not mean that we can't ever say anything sucks -- what it means is that we have to learn to target our complaints at the actual causes. I have talked briefly about this in On Dragons and Hate, but I'll provide an example here, one that often comes up in the context of human-bashing: environmentalism.
How many times have you heard dragons (or furries) say something like "Humans are destroying the world because they're polluting the air with cars. Stupid humans"? Typical complaint. I'm always tempted to ask whether the complainer in question is one of the 90 percent of Americans that owns a car. This jab is a bit low, but it's the sort of question that needs to be asked to target the problem: Are humans the only ones who own cars? Compared to, say, banana slugs, that's true, but remember who's doing the complaining here: one who considers themselves to be not human by virtue of spiritual identity. By all rights, that makes me non-human too, as I'm one of the most vocal dragons I know. Quick question for you: Since I drive a car, does that invalidate my draconity and make me stupid? Or did I suddenly get a pollution exemption at the local Affirmative Action office?
Pollution is not a "stupid human" trick. Pollution is a problem common to everyone who participates in western civilization. Any attempt to pin the problem on "stupid humans" serves nothing but shirking one's personal responsibility, and getting humans angry at us. Environmentalism is no excuse to call humans evil.
On top of that, humanity is starting to do pretty well at cleaning up its own messes. One of the biggest problems with automobiles is air pollution, right? Los Angeles is a humongous cesspool because of its millions of cars, right? Well, consider this: The number of days per year there with unhealthy air pollution levels has declined steadily from over 300 to 80 in the years 1974-1996, and shows signs of continuing to decline. (Source: "It's Getting Better All The Time", Moore and Simon, 2000, Cato Institute) Every city they tracked has cut that value, in three decades, to a fraction of its 1974 level.
This is hardly an aberration. Take deforestation: Humans are destroying natural habitats at frantic rates, right? Well, as we speak, the United States is collectively harvesting 17 million cubic feet of wood per year ... and growing 22 million new cubic feet. Americans are adding one-and-a-third times as much forest to the world as they are harvesting, and have been replacing more than they've taken since the 1930s. (Source: "It's Getting Better ..." again.)
Those stupid humans, going off and solving all of their own problems without any help from superior old us.
Yes, there are still environmental problems. Big ones that I haven't covered here. But surely you don't think other people, humans, aren't working on those too? Where will we be with those problems in 20 or 30 years? Me, I'm rooting for the humans here. I think people are waking up to the necessity of sustainable living, and respect for the earth's other passengers; and I think our near future will show it. Yes, the rain forest is being destroyed: but "stupid humans" aren't doing it. Some people -- some people, be they humans-in-human-bodies, reincarnated bobcats, lawyers, or what have you -- are hacking them down, and a lot of the rest of us are feeling the short-term economic benefits instead of getting up off our duffs and protesting to The Right People. Again, this is not an issue which racism will solve. Or help. Or even touch. And we must not allow ourselves to get sidetracked that way if we do want to make a difference.
Hell, we must not allow ourselves to get sidetracked that way, period. Our community has too much at stake.
I firmly believe that our future lies intertwined with humanity. We're sitting here in human bodies, are we not? This is a world on the brink of growing up and spreading its inhabitants throughout the galaxy, is it not? Continuing to run away gets us nothing. Forging alliances, teaching our wisdom to humans, and equally learning theirs ... these are the things that will bring our race(s) forward. These are the paths to a draconic tomorrow.
And I'll be damned if I'm going to let that slip away through simple bigotry.
January 6, 2001 ... An often-quoted line from Nietschze -- although I'll have to paraphrase it, because a cursory search of my quotebook turned nothing up -- states "Fight too long against dragons, and you become a dragon yourself." How true this is.
Not in the dragon sense, literally. (Duh.) But the very nature of fighting something is to focus on your target; one cannot choose to defend without choosing to fight, and that choice places the fight above the thing being defended. The oxymoron "fighting for peace" comes to mind, and really, that's what it boils down to -- confronting someone on principle carries its costs.
I did post a reply to the individual mentioned in yesterday's post; it was, I must admit, about as blunt -- and yes, confrontational -- as you would expect. Which isn't to say that I tore into them; one of my main points was that they had a right to be frustrated with their prior experiences with humans, and I was more than willing to talk with them if they wanted to resolve their feelings about humanity or just wanted sympathy. I simply didn't want to hear stereotyping.
My reply was abrupt enough, though, that I felt it necessary to include a disclaimer at the end: "I apologize if this seems like an overreaction, but intolerance of any sort really pushes my buttons." Nietschze's dragon-fighting is a subtle effect, but not unrecognizable. Apparently, others picked up on it as well; Kerowyn offered the following observation:
I know how frustrating it can get having to fly over the same track again and again, believe me. And I understand how aggravating it can be to hear yourself think "here we go again." But isn't it the responsibility of those of us who have flown around the mountain a time or two to help those just coming to grips with their anger here, in relative privacy, so that they might go on to lead happier lives? ... Isn't that what many of us are here for: to provide support for our fellows rather than harsh recriminations?Indeed. I still maintain that one of our collective goals should be a community free of human-bashing (and other stereotyping). I stand fully behind yesterday's post. However, our methodology is as important as our commitment ... the therianthrope community is so small, and so fractured over such ideological issues already (can everybody say "Burned Fur"? Knew you could), that we also need to reserve space in our priorities list for "sticking together."
Thank you, Kerowyn, for filling in the rest of the story. I apologize, oh nameless person whose post started this all off, if my latest reply carried too much emotion. I'll be responding to your e-mail tomorrow.
For the rest of you reading this, I guess what it boils down to is this: We're all people. Humans are people too -- respect them. Dragons (and other therianthropes) are people too -- respect them. And singling out any one group for protection has the potential to do just as much harm as singling one out for punishment.
January 8, 2001 ... *blinks rapidly* Wow. I must have struck a chord with my last two posts. I've gotten four e-mails on my rant against human-bashing already, and been cited in a forum at Draconic.com. With so many different perspectives on the issue, this might be a good opportunity to sift through the ol' mailbag ... but I've got something else I want to say today, so that can wait.
As regular readers of Tomorrowlands may have noticed, the big news around here today is that I've got a new section of my site up ... the Tomorrowlands universe, a setting for myself and others to write fiction in. I had to think a good, long while before posting it. I sat on the idea of posting fiction on my site for a long time ... as the dates will show, some of this material has been sitting around since 1998. And even though I ended up naming my domain after the world (yep, that's the hidden origin of Tomorrowlands.org ... don't tell anyone; it'll be our little secret), it wasn't easy to actually associate the two in the public eye.
Part of the reason why is spelled out in the disclaimer that I plastered liberally around that section of the site. But I want to muse about my fears, and misgivings, and ultimate decision, here at greater length. Clear it out of my system now that I have taken that step.
* * * * *
One of my fears, as I outlined in the disclaimer, is that people will think I'm somehow taking my draconity less seriously. I'm not so concerned about other dragons thinking this as the "random people" who stumble across my site, and end up reading the Draconity FAQ; other dragons I know will at least have the benefit of being aware of my reputation in the dragon community (which I'm told is extensive, which consistently amazes me). But J. Random Public, when faced with a site that hosts numerous pieces of fiction about dragons in a world like today's -- and, elsewhere on the site, a description of what it's like to really be a dragon in a a world like today's -- may well end up associating the two concepts.
I don't know if there really is an effective way to "firewall" the two. This is why I balked so long. I never really did resolve this in my mind; I just kind of mustered up the courage to post the stuff regardless. This is probably why I sound so paranoid in the disclaimer.
Yes, I know this is an issue of other people's perception of me, which makes it an issue of insecurity. I don't think it's as bad as I make it sound -- I wouldn't shake out my beliefs just due to public opinion. But we're hard-wired, as humans (or even just living in humans bodies), to be social creatures, and public acceptance is, to some degree, important to all of us. (There wouldn't need to be a "dragon community" if at some level this weren't true.)
Another of my largest concerns, oddly enough, was that (regardless of public perception) it will make me take my draconity less seriously. Not in the sense of getting me "trapped in my own fiction" -- but in the sense of the time commitment I'm making on something that I wholeheartedly acknowledge as "fiction." This is something that all I can really do is keep an eye out for; if the Tomorowlands universe is a sudden and huge hit, and the work snows me under, I may have to subcontract or drop it. I don't know. I'll see. I've been fairly good in the past about keeping my priorities straight.
The other issue here is a little bit more personal. Kind of a combination of the first two. What really struck it home was part of a letter I received this afternoon from Tarcel:
The whole concept, while not exactly new, is nonetheless fascinating. ... For some reason, just from the feeling I got from your history of their world, this universe seems to be rather different from some of the others that have come before. It has such a feeling of authenticity, almost as if it had actually happened.Bluntly, the idea isn't new. (Let me point out here that Tarcel wasn't trying to accuse or insult me; on the contrary, all negative opinions here are purely my own, and I almost feel like I'm picking on him by quoting him here. Don't take any of this the wrong way.) It's one part comic book, one part complex moral questions, and two parts pure, unadulterated wish fulfillment. Back in '96, I was going through a period where I really did feel like The Changes were just around the corner; dealing with a life that stayed tauntingly normal was a big adjustment, and something of a learning experience.
I think that's where those "feelings of authenticity" came from. In a lot of ways, part of me stalked off from reality in frustration, and went and settled in a place where The Changes did occur. (I was already fully a dragon at the time; I just want to point out that this didn't create or affect my draconity.) That was the Tomorrowlands. Bringing this to the public is a great weight off my chest ... but also like ripping a little piece of me out. I'm going to lose it. It's becoming a part of something larger than me. It's gaining its own reality ... and it's not me, it's not mine, any more.
I think Tarcel's qualified optimism ("Well, it has been done before. But it still feels new. And it's cool!") very much mirrors my own. I'm happy to see the world that years worth of silent wishes were poured into break out of my head into the open. Still ... there's that little doubt I can't shake. This is, at a deep level, wish fulfillment. I can only hope that I've broadened its appeal enough to make it worth the effort of posting. I don't just want to make a repository for other people's similar wishes ... I want to build a place where serious real-life issues of therianthropy can be examined in a more removed context. I want to build a world with issues of its own, and stories that make people think. Of course, a little wish fulfillment is fine, too, but I feel like I've got to strike an appropriate balance. And I have no idea where to start.
On a different, and far more positive, note, I think Tomorrowlands does have great potential. Much of the stuff I've already written there has been very deep. And I've been getting a good chance to polish my own writing. My Tlands stories have been, relative to most of my other works, very character-oriented and dialogue-heavy, which is great practice at actually making characters; I'm also not used to dealing with treating the ideas in my head as fiction, and realizing that I can go back and edit things. So it's been helping me mature as a writer already, and if I stick with the universe and keep my skills up, I think I can make something really polished out of it.
Plus, my decision to make the Tlands a shared world was a very deliberate one. I tend to lurk at the edge of dragon forums these days, if only because I just don't have the time to throw myself fully into any one community. The first thing that tends to go, for me, is the small social interactions -- the food fights and role-playing of alt.fan.dragons; the chit-chat of Truewyrm-Fluff. I haven't hung out in a dragon IRC channel for years, and I drop by Alfandria maybe once every few months. So the idea of finding common ground to socialize with dragons was very appealing. I'm terribly happy to see people excited about writing stories already (it's been, what, 24 hours?) -- as mentioned in the site news, my next move (as quickly as possible) is going to be setting up a forum on this site, and one of the topic groups is definitely going to be a place to throw ideas around for Tomorrowlands Universe stuff. Interacting with fellow writers, developing a shared world, should be a great way to get me reconnected. And maybe even get me to cut loose a little bit more. Heaven knows I could use it.
Which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to my last concern -- one which has developed slowly and steadily, and which doesn't surprise me much, because it's kind of inevitable. That being, there's a large gap between writer's pen and audience's eye. People just won't take out of your stories what you put into them. This is a good thing, generally; good writers know how to manipulate it, and let the audience's imagination fill in the details that you omitted. But, inevitably, there will be people who read a story and just don't get it. Well, they get something, but it bears no resemblance to what you wrote.
I'm talking about the sort of audience that reads a laborious history of the Hundred Years' War, and says, "Gee, those kings sure had nice castles." Now, if they enjoyed the story, and if they were reading it for entertainment, this is no big deal. 'Course, this is therianthropy we're talking about here, and when my "day job" is introducing people to the idea that some folks really are dragons, it gets kind of awkward.
I think what I'm leading up to here is two-pronged. One: That popular fiction tends to draw (for lack of a better word) "fanboys" into the community. This isn't that big of a deal; the dragon community has gotten pretty good about re-educating them, and either watching them grow into mature, productive members of the group, or Get The Idea and get scared off. Two: that some people (real-life dragons, or otherwise) might start thinking, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice to live in the Tomorrowlands?"
This might sound like an odd concern. Especially given my monologue on the universe being personal wish fulfillment, above. But ... really, honestly, truthfully? It is by no means a dream world.
The world's so chaotic, it's not funny. Nonhumans are the target of so much popular hatred that many of the Tomorrowlands' therianthropes chose to continue living anonymously, in human form. Magic is poorly understood, quirky, and heavily regulated by forces that nobody really understood for decades. Although a very effective mage, Ash is seriously broken, a fact which should come out over the course of my stories, and a large part of his wanderings is trying to come to terms with himself. Living there would sure be interesting, but damn, I'm not sure I'd want to move there if offered the choice. Ye gods. I can certainly think of better ways for dragons to return to Earth.
I don't want people to want to live there. It's very visceral. It's very in-your-face. Not really my style. I don't know ... maybe there are people out there who are genuinely comfortable being -- well, what amounts to superheroes without the bulletproofness. If so, I'd be kind of scared of them.
Ash scares me. He's an alter ego, but he scares me. He's not me, or even "me as I would be in the Tomorrowlands," even though that's kind of how he started out. He's been too far shaped by what he's seen and done for me to recognize myself in his eyes any more.
Which brings me to the final reason I gave the Tomorrowlands universe a name and set it loose on the world ...
It's too damn real to be in my head any more.
January 9, 2001 ... I got kind of caught up in other work today. Where's a filler file when you need one? ... Oh, wait, here it is. Oh my gosh! It even has an unused entry in it! <shock> Happy thing.
Don't think any less of me because I'm not posting anything of great consequence. I love you all. Deeply and individually. Really.
* * * * *
Every once in a while I feel the urge to clear the smileys out of my
So ... please forgive me for the following paragraph.
Smileys! :) :) Neat. ;) ;P ;> };-* ARRRRGH! :@ :.-( :-' :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) 8) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) 8-. B-/ |-/ B-\ :) :) 8-l ;) ... nearly done ;P ;) :) THE HOME STRETCH: :-----------------------------------------------) ... :) ! :/ ! #,'%/ <-- Slept too long on one side. :)... Sheesh. That was like doing primal scream therapy in public. Now I'm all embarrassed.
January 10, 2001 ... D'argh! I lost a day somewhere. I know I posted a journal entry yesterday, but nothing's dated the ninth. ... *thinks back* ... That would have been the smiley entry. I dated that the eighth ... which means that the entry from the day before that, the huge ramble on the story section, was misdated too -- ah. That's where I screwed up. I got stuck in Sunday, the seventh, when I went to work the next morning.
Well, that's one way of avoiding Monday morning blues, I guess.
At least it would have been, if I were being consistent about it. As it stands, I correctly dated my news update and the blurb in my "Recent Changes" section; it was only the journal entry, posted much later at night, that threw me off. (And I typically just increment the date when posting the next entry, instead of checking the calendar.) Man. Well, the dates are fixed now, but I'm still somewhat disconcerted. I think I'm getting back into my old college sleep deprivation habits, and I think it's having the same effect on me now as it was then: general loss of coherence.
Let me tell you how bad I've been screwing with my sleep patterns. Let me explain how much lack of sleep is messing with my head. Yesterday, I drank a soda.
Yeah, yeah. "Gasp! Shock!" You laugh. (*grumble* caffeine junkies.) Everyone else I know goes through at least two per day; I am one of those people who remains resolutely soda-free. I fight the war against fatigue on my own terms. Hiring mercenaries to cover my flank is strange, and a little bit demeaning.
The root beer can on my desk here at work -- and yes, I know that root beer isn't typically caffeinated, but this is Barq's we're talking about -- stands proud and lonely, a single soldier on outpost in strange, foreign territory. I'm sure he'd like to go join his unit at Logan's "Fort Soda" across the room, and he'll probably be decommissioned there later today. But he's still guarding some liquid, and probably wouldn't feel right taking some R&R while his duties are unfulfilled.
Sergeant Barq is a stalwart, grizzled soldier. He has stayed at his post without complaining for 24 hours straight, enduring the unnatural heat of room temperature. Sure, he sweated at first, but any can coming straight from the fridge would have had that reaction, and he recovered quickly. I think the heat is finally getting to him, though. When he first arrived, he seemed very bubbly -- a rather refreshing companion. His morale has rather degenerated over his tour of duty, and these days he's rather flat.
Strangely, I like him better that way. He's more no-nonsense, more consistent. Most people would be turned off by that, but I find it brings out his deeper tastes, ones that don't often come out when he's still fresh. My attitude also allows me to enjoy his company at leisure, instead of feeling like I should get as much out of him as quickly as possible. Seeing others do that disturbs me. I watch them go through soldier after soldier, using them for all they're worth and then throwing aside their crumpled armor. These armchair generals seem to think that the only function of an army is to die for their leader; the carnage that surrounds them is often immense.
Such casualties the war against sleep causes!
January 12, 2001 ... We will, one way or another, have our myths.
Mythology is not to be taken lightly. I don't think it can be taken lightly. When I say myths, I don't merely mean stories; the difference between myth and fiction is that, while myths may not necessarily be true, they are real. (Subjectively speaking, anyway, and I still have my doubts about the "there is a single objective reality we all inhabit" myth.) We cannot verify them, we may not even consciously notice them, but they are building blocks as solid as observation.
Now, perhaps the things that we believe, the really profound things, are not just real but also literally true. We are being watched over by omnipotent being(s). I am a dragon in a human body. You can throw a fireball down Main Street if you try hard enough. These things would be pleasant to their believers, but it is by no means necessary that they are correct. They are myths, and it is not important whether they are "true" or not, because we want them to be true, and as I hope to show, that ultimately matters more than what reality is trying to shove in our faces.
Consider science fiction. Welles' moon ship; Shelley's "Frankenstein"; Capek's robots. At the time they were written, for most people, they were fiction. But some took them as myth -- as a statement of what was possible, not what was fancy -- and today we have NASA and Dolly the cloned sheep. The android isn't far behind, and ironically, it's probably science fiction that has slowed its development so dramatically: we've had the shit scared out of us by a lifetime of stories about the dangers of technology.
Consider fantasy. (Not the word meaning "imagination". The sword-and-sorcery writing genre. That is the meaning I will use in the rest of this entry.) Take the dragon, the fireball-packing wizard, the cleric whose god tears a chasm in the earth with a whispered prayer and mighty roar. Fiction, you say? Or perhaps ... a myth whose solid incarnation briefly eludes us?
We will, one way or another, have our myths.
Fantasy digs back at the root of human fancy, far closer to the stories that were told around the campfire millennia ago than to any creation of contemporary life. But it is no coincidence that fantasy as a genre has grown up only on the heels of science fiction. (Most critics trace SF back to H.G. Wells, around the turn of the 20th century; even connoisseurs don't see much fantasy before Lord Dunsany, 25 years later.) SF is about pushing the boundaries of our reality back with the power of ideas. Fantasy, I submit, properly goes even further: Fantasy not only expands our horizons, it pushes us toward the things we have always wanted, in the same way that science fiction does: with ideas. With myths.
Now, again, it is possible that our myths are literally true, that we're just stuck here in some not particularly real rut, wasting away under self-imposed limitations, a la Christian Science. But let's give the skeptical view the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume they're not. Let's assume that anything we want to be true, we're going to have to fight for, and create ourselves. I submit that, with this assumption under our belts, fantasy is still relevant as mythology. You just have to look at it as a very extreme branch of science fiction.
We will, one way or another, have our myths.
Dragons? Advanced genetic engineering. Take a man, mold him like clay until his form fits his spirit. Perhaps some hitherto-unknown alloy to reduce skeletal (and scale) weight, or perhaps some antigravity or electromagnetic lift force, and you've got self-powered flight. Fire breath is easy if you can keep the chemical reactions straight. Heck, I would submit that such a thing may even become possible this decade. Possible. Naturally it would cost billions of dollars, be completely illegal, and cause health complications that we didn't even know existed ... but every generation will get closer to the real thing.
Magic? How about this: Nanotechnology produces self-replicating, atomic-sized, massively networked robots; software engineering produces neural interfaces. Robots are released into the atmosphere and quickly multiply until they're in every breath of air. Those in your body tap into your nerves or brain, wait for certain "triggers", then activate with your desired effect. A fireball would just be billions upon billions of nanobots starting an exothermic chemical/nuclear reaction simultaneously. I doubt we'll see this one for a century or two, but it's comparable to some of the science fiction ideas being proposed today.
Gods? By the time we can build Larry Niven's conceptual "Ringworld", we have far more power available to us than we credit most supreme beings with. Localized earthquakes? A trifle -- just poke the right geothermal hot spots and guide the shockwaves to converge on a given spot. Eclipses? Just move something suitably large in front of the sun. Rains of blood, plagues of locusts? Back to the previously mentioned nanobots. What else do you want? Omnipotence? Oh, right. Head over to your local GalactoNet AI terminal. "I know what you're going to ask me, Dave."
I think it's fitting that science fiction sprang up before fantasy; it's going to be first to die. As our knowledge and technology keep growing exponentially -- Moore's Law doesn't just apply to motherboards, you know -- suddenly we're going to find that we've destroyed all of the frontiers, tamed all of our territory. The mysteries will disappear one by one; the universe will be condensed down to a bunch of bright, shiny maps; we'll first start predicting, then preventing, natural disasters, then accidents, then petty social gaffes. Technology will seem stifling ... life will provide no challenges for us ... and we'll turn to our myths. We will become our myths.
We will become the only unknowns in a universe of fixed rules. And we will create our own worlds, because the alternative is unthinkable, oppressive boredom. And people will go back to those first myths -- those tales of strange, distant worlds; brave explorers; and "here there be dragons." We will shape our world into a fantasy novel.
We will, one way or another, have our myths.
Now, I am a dragon because I believe that our myths have present relevance -- that they're not just old stories and future pipe dreams. (I may talk about this in more detail later; this has gotten long enough.) More than that, I think that the dragon myth happens to be true. But you know what? It honestly doesn't matter. I could be dead wrong about this -- I could be nothing more than a passionately deluded dreamer -- and I would still feel fully satisfied for tilting at windmills my whole life.
Because, in that worst-case scenario, I can at least claim credit for helping to keep our myths alive until the world is again ready for them.
January 14, 2001 ... There's nothing quite like a purring cat in one's lap.
Personally, I think it's an issue of enlightenment.
Seriously. A purring cat has life, warmth, and resonance. Particularly loud purrs can get your body tingling, shift you into an alternate state of mind, bring you to a place of peace. The closest parallel I've been able to find is to the Hindu mantra "Om". Try this along with me at home: Take a deep breath. Sit up straight. Say "Aum." Aa-oo-mmm. Hold the "mmm" out for several seconds, five or ten. Feel the tingle. (Especially if you've got a deep voice.) Clip the sound and sit in silence while slowly drawing in another breath. Repeat.
I'm not a very good Hindu, but I can feel what that does to you. It's a great self-realignment. And, for some reason that I cannot adequately explain, it gives me the same sort of feeling as harboring a purring cat.
January 15, 2001 ... While merging onto 520 this morning, I was directly behind a woman in a white car who showed rather a ... healthy ... level of caution for freeway traffic. "Healthy" in the sense of, "Well, you know, if I don't actually ever get on it, nobody can run me over there."
If only. I glanced down to adjust the stereo volume, and nearly rear-ended her when she stepped hard on the brakes, for no apparent reason, as the merge lane started entering the freeway. I mean, it wasn't like there was already a car in the lane she was trying to enter, or debris in the road; if I'd seen anything that had raised my "two cars ahead of me may run into each other" warning lights, I'd have been a lot more paranoid about the situation myself. Ultimately -- and in part, because of how she had been driving on the surface streets -- I concluded that she was just giving an extra-wide buffer zone to traffic already cruising at highway speeds, a buffer that ended up causing her to drive in a way that seemed, to me, erratic. I mean, you don't slow down to 30 in the merge lane and wait for an opening if highway traffic is moving at 55; you speed up to the flow of traffic, and negotiate for a space with other cars. It's only sensible.
I fumed about this for a while. The frustration, as is usual with traffic (since you have to deal with so many morons on the road, and so many people who drive at odd speeds and hamper your progress even if they're not being morons), spilled over onto drivers in general. I found myself thinking, "With so many people driving in so many different ways on the same roads, the real miracle is that our country hasn't died in one huge collective car crash yet."
Took a few moments for the irony to sink in.
Me, being bitter about people's lack of conformity? Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha. ... ... D'oh. I hate it when I do that.
So, you know what? To heck with it. Viva la difference. I'm grateful that I merged onto the freeway behind a moron this morning. I'm grateful that people swerve around me at 75, that motorcyclists white-line past me in commute traffic, that moms in minivans set the cruise control at 50 in the left lane. (I'm not grateful for hot rodders going 105 on the shoulders, or grannies in second gear in lane 2, or road rage; I draw the line at actions which are deliberately or obviously dangerous to others.) I'm grateful that people are so clueless that trucks and buses have to plan their lane changes a mile and a half in advance or risk missing their exit. I'm grateful for people who honk at me for making a lane change that I've signalled for five seconds in advance.
I'm grateful that American drivers, on the whole, suck. Because, as much as I would be happy with the alternative, it would be far worse.
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