Psuedo Live Blog of Bill Nye-Ken Ham Creationism debate

I foolishly live blogged the near 3 hour Bill Nye-Ken Ham creationist debate. It is done in live style, so bare that in mind. It is conversational.

We begin with a commercial for Ken Ham’s creationist museum. Full of cute cartoons to draw in the kids.

It is amazing how much of a fuck you this is to non Christian creationist faiths. Ham’s early slides mention Jesus. Too bad for any of the other faiths that have the same idea. So it’s not just a creationist belief, but Christian creationist.

Ken Ham is Australian. I bet Mel Gibson loves him. His creationist museum had 2 million visitors. That makes me sad. The debate is hosted at his museum.

It is not as much of a debate, point/response. It is more like two people presenting polished presentations.

Bad logic: the guy who invented the MRI is a creationist, thus it is true. Of course the million of other scientists disagreeing are not mentioned. This reminds me of climate change deniers. He does this consistently, bringing up scientists who are creationist, some who are chairs at US universities. I need a list of those schools to make sure nobody I like ever attends them.

A big argument Ham forwards is that science about the past is impossible because we cannot see it/were not there to witness it. I’m still unclear who witnessed the creation of God on day zero. This is the observational vs experimental science argument. But Hams view of observation is things he can see with his eyeballs. Because he cannot see carbon dating then it is experimental. I am starting to believe he does not believe in microscopes.

He keeps arguing the point that Nye can not show any science that also could not be created by god. Of course, an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent god is an easy out. My god can do anything, so all your facts are useless.

He points out flaws in Darwin’s finch theories of evolution. But Darwin wrote that in fucking 1859. We didn’t know that blood types existed then. We know more now. His argument that Darwin believed in racial superiority as part of evolution is a disgusting and specious argument against our modern scientific beliefs.

I hate how much Ham focuses on public schoolbooks. That is the point of this debate. He is trying to get creationism taught in all public schools. Fucking disgusting.

I am unsure this high profile debate will have any effect. It’s not going to change the minds of creationists. But it sure is fun to rip apart.

Hmmm. He implies the dinosaurs were all killed by Noah’s flood. I don’t know creationism so closely that I was aware of this belief.

Holy crap. He brought up the primacy of heterosexual marriage as proof of gods post lapsarian introduction of sin.

Homophobia mentioned, everyone DRINK!

“The battle is about authority” he says. Who is in charge, God or man? He relates this to Texas laws. He basically wants a biblical government. Fuck democracy. He ends this segment with “died on the cross for your sins”, so fuck you to the Jews and Hindus and Arabs and shintos etc.

Fuck this is long. I’m 1 hour in and all they have had is opening statements and then Ham spoke for like 30 minutes.

Bill Nye counters. There are 680,000 layers of seasonality in a recovered piece of ice. That means we needed to have 170 seasons per year under a 6000 year belief and says “wouldn’t somebody have noticed that.” Too funny. There are trees that have more than 6000 rings. You can go see them at a fucking museum. Haha.

He says about “observational” science. Go and visit the layers in the Grand Canyon and “observe” those.

Hahaha. Nye says if all the animals were on the ark, and the arc landed near babel, how did kangaroos get to Australia without leaving any evidence of their travel. They only exist in Australia. Where did they come from if not evolution.

This audience is almost 100% creationists. They don’t laugh at any of Bill Nye’s stupid jokes (non partisan super bowl jokes for example). Get the sticks out of your ass people. Bill Nye makes 7 year olds chuckle, but not adults with the minds of 7 year olds.

Hmm, fascinating. the biggest wooden ship ever, a New England ship called the Wyoming, was incapable of being sailed by its 14 extremely awesome sailors. Some of the best sailors humanity has ever had. The tensile strength of wood could not keep the hull from bending. The arc had 8 sailors and 7000 creatures on it. (Did I use tensile correctly?)

He is talking about fish sex. Asexual minnows who can have sex with themselves have more diseases than the same minnows who have the sexy time with other minnows. The reason is two creatures create new DNA that is able to defend itself better. I think a few bible thumpers heads just exploded at the mention of the icky sex talk.

In Kentucky (home of this debate and the creationist museum) there are zero universities that cover nuclear medicine. How sad.

Finally!! Rebuttals and debate time. Each gets 5 minutes per point. Ham has a little joke and everyone laughs. This audience is depressing.

Ut oh. Ham is raising questions about mt St. Helens. Bill Nye is on the Mt St Helens research commission. Don’t step on super mans cape dude.

Wow. Ham is slamming any Christian who does not believe in creationism. They are all misled. 6000 years or nothing!

Ham talks about how “Death is because of mans sin.” What is the sin of the innocent children who die in natural disasters? (This is the Deism vs Theism argument.)

Ham talks about how carbon dating is not perfect. He shows where dating placed a tree at 45k and the rock above it as 40million. Nye says “well maybe the rock just slid over it, seems a simpler explanation than a supreme being”. Ham counters that the rock surrounded the tree. Yah, I’m sure there is no other explanation.

Lol. Nye talks about Hams belief that we cannot see the past. All astronomy is the past. We see light from years ago. In fact we see each other in the micro past as it takes light time to go from the back of the auditorium to the front. Nye makes a good joke about the people at the back looking younger to him. I think these people do not believe in the existence of light. Nobody laughs.

Ham uses the term “biblical” a lot. But he is always referring to the Old Testament. Strange.

My god. Why am I doing this. My mind is becoming mush listening to this idiocy. You can’t argue with these people. There is a fundamental gap in belief that can never be bridged. If people don’t believe in any science not visible to their eyeballs we can’t get very far.

Ham basically says he does not believe in the light distance measurements because of the horizon issue. Sigh.

On the arc, ham says maybe Noah was the best ever. Nye replies with “maybe you believe in superheroes but I don’t”. Haha.

There are pyramids older than the flood. Lol. Ham probably doesn’t believe Egyptians exist. It’s not like that area or those people were in the bible or anything.

I wish Nye was stronger on the bible. He doesn’t know it very well and it inhibits his ability to make a great point about Hams constant mixing of old and New Testament.

Holy crap. Oh no. 45 minutes of audience questions. I am losing my mind. This is going to be scary.

This is the whitest audience ever. Michelle Bachman has a more diverse turn out.

How arrogant and narcissistic a belief it is that god created the earth first. He creates it for us. Me me me me me.

Where did atoms come from? Nye says that is why we do science, to learn, to find such answers. Ham says it is already clearly answered. There is a book about it, da bible. We are all doomed if these people get in charge. His belief implies we don’t need to do science. We already know the answer.

This is a basic problem. Scientist understand that we do not know all the answers. New discovery explains and changes and resets our beliefs based on new knowledge. Creationism is a closed book. All is set and can never be changed.

This is a debate about creationism and the 6000 year time frame, not about Christian belief. Most Christians are not creationists.

“Could anything ever change your mind.” Hams answer. “I am a Christian … No, no one is ever going to convince me that the word of god is false.”<— the problem with this debate.

Ignorance. That is what this is all about. It isn't about Christianity. Millions of believers, Christian, Jew and Arab, believe the earth is 45 million years old.

Best question so far. "Favorite color, one word answer". Nye says "green, because green plants reflect green" Ham asks if he can get 3 words "observational science blue". That was actually funny.

Hams creationist argument is all based on observational science. He can never be proven wrong because we cannot go back in time to prove anything. It is a denial of discovery and exploration.

Ham has argued in the past that we should not go to mars and search for life because we already have the answer, which is no.

Ham gets asked if all the bible should be taken literally. He waffles. Says some shit about some being fact and some, like psalms, are parables. Other parts, like its support for multiple wives show sin and the New Testament declares one man one woman.

Homophobia reference, DRINK!

Intelligence design discussion. I wish Bill was better at arguing this point. He basically says fuck that shit. He would have been better off given a "we don't know" answer like he did for the creation of matter or the genesis of conscious thought.

Lol. "beyond museums or carnivals is there anyone using creationism to create anything in this world." Great question. He uses false logic by saying historical scientists who were creationists produced wonderful product. But none of them "used" creationism to make those products.

Omg. I saw a black person in the audience. DRINK!!

Final question for the Q&A. 2 hours and 38 minutes of torture. Your all welcome.

Is there any single thing that drives you. A lame question.

Ham obviously says the bible. He says if you believe in god then god will reveal himself to you and mentions riches of gold and silver.

Capitalist Christianity. DRINK!!

Nye says it's the drive of why are we here and are we alone. And notes that hams beliefs are a drive to stop looking for answers and we stop inventing. So a move to kick out science from out schools is dangerous for America as it competes in the world.

Holy fuck. It's over. Wow. The one thing I can say is that the creationist view is a minority, but the anti science beliefs of too many Christians in America is not. It is dangerous. It is a walk back from progress. It is a belief that leads to a more brutal world, more pain, more tears, more death, more hatred, more bigotry, more sadness.

I know this was long. I hope, if anybody actually made it to the end, that my live blog was at least fun.

Thanks for listening,

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The Toys of Imagination

MonsterManualTony DiTerlizzi has a fascinating post up about the visual creative origins of some classic Dungeons and Dragons monsters and the power of play and imagination. Tony worked on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual and talks about how some of the monsters were based on a set of cheesy plastic monster figures from Hong Kong.

He has included some great pictures of his personal collection along with some history from Tim Kask. Well worth checking out here.

(via BoingBoing)

Storytelling and American Horror Story

american-horror-story-coven-2Why are novels so often around 300 pages?

Why are fantasy series so often trilogies?

Why are TV shows so often 20 episodes to a season?

Do stories inherently fit into this structure? Obviously not. These common structures are rarely ever driven by story. They are driven by outside factors, the story twisted and contorted to fit into these semi-arbitrary boxes. Dickens wrote his stories knowing they would be serialized in chapbooks. Novel lengths have always been restrained by the physical size of the printed book; over one thousand pages and the book falls apart and if a book is too large it may be too expensive for readers. Thus, long fantasy epics are broken into trilogies.

Television has imposed the same artificial story structure on its creators. The season length is driven by advertising revenue streams and promotional schedules.  More importantly, television also has a unique structure that has demanded a story never actually ends. Most shows tell a story for a season, 20 or so episodes over 8 months, and then find some way to continue that story the following season. And then the season after that, and that, and then ratings or creative ideas or actor contracts make the creators introduce some conclusion to the story, if that is even possible.

This works great for some types of story telling. Procedurals like Law and Order work well since they are not telling a long form story. But those longer stories with a defined beginning and end have always had to twist their stories into the format of the medium.

But the times they are a changing. Technology has the ability to free creators from these artificial restraints. Book length means less in the e-book age and yearly TV schedules are less important with NetFlix, YouTube and on-demand viewing.

This is a huge boon for the horror genre, specifically classic horror stories. Horror tropes have been used in successful teen shows like The Vampire Diaries and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and long running shows like Supernatural or shorter lived shows like Twin Peaks.

The short run of Twin Peaks is indicative of the historic problem of the TV schedule on a story.  David Lynch asked us to follow him in finding out “Who killed Laura Palmer?”  Terrific story telling followed. It was weird and creepy. It was filled with amazingly unique personalities. It was full of the supernatural and the mundane.

But the story was about “Who killed Laura Palmer?”  Once that story was told, one we knew the answer to that question, Twin Peaks was not sure where to go. They were a television show and every season assumes a following season. There was no appetite for investing in a series that would automatically go off the air in only 1 or 2 seasons, killing any chance at syndication, the holy grail of television.

So Twin Peaks continued on. It puttered about and then eventually came a movie. It was at one time the most exciting show on television, but it had petered out. But this was caused not by David Lynch, but the structure of television itself. The show should have ended after the original story of Laura Palmer was told. That was the story. It was fascinating and didn’t need more.

This brings me to American Horror Story and why I am so excited about this admittedly over the top show. Each season is a single story. This singular, contained story structure allows them enormous freedom. Do you want to kill off the most popular character on the show? Sure, why not. She can come back the next season as an entirely different character. Want to chop off a characters legs? No prob.  Who are the bag guys and who are the good guys? American Horror Story keeps us guessing because each season we are following new characters played by the same stable of actors.

This structure is perfect for the horror genre. Everyone should be in danger in a classic horror story. Horror, or at least a certain type of horror, does not work if you know they will never kill off a popular character. It is impossible for Supernatural to kill off, at least permanently, either Sam or Dean. True Blood cannot kill off Sookie. They are the stars. The shows dies without them. But when telling a singular story, with a defined ending, and then allowing those actors to come back the following season for a new story (which pulls fans in), American Horror Story is free to do whatever they want.

This upcoming season we have the third installment, American Horror Story: Coven. The first season was the classic haunted house and the second about a twisted insane asylum. Now we get witches. I love witches. The Salem Witch trials have always been a deep pool for horror to draw from. It is also wonderfully american, much like the southern gothic of Faulkner or the New England terrors of Stephen King. And we get Jessica Lang, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. We get Salem styled witches and southern Voodoo. We get great actors from previous seasons like Lily Rabe and Denis O’Hare. It does not matter whether their characters were killed off during Asylum or Murder House (the first two seasons). And we have no idea who might live and who might die. We don’t know who is good and who is bad.

All we know is that over 13 episodes we will get a singular story with a concrete ending and everyone and everything else is up for grabs.

DC goes Batshit crazy! Batwoman, Harley Quinn & Card.

Oh, if DC could contain its morally bankrupt practices to screwing over its creative heart for every penny they can. But no, DC seems to be run by a cabal of super villains hell bent on self immolation.

Here are just three ways that DC has, in the past few months alone, tried to build their fan base.

  • Hired hate-monger and vicious homophobe Orson Scott Card to pen the greatest superhero every created.
  • Refused to allow Batwoman to marry her lesbian partner.
  • Solicited art for new Harley Quinn artists that must show her attempting to commit suicide, naked.

Beyond horrible creative decision making, these decisions are so myopic it is actually amazing that a company so large could allow them to happen. The optics alone on each of these are horrible. They should have known that people would be outraged that hate monger Orson Scott Card would be penning beloved Superman. And then a few months later to deny a gay marriage seems almost purposefully spiteful.

And if alienating the entire LGBT community and its allies wasn’t enough, the big brains at DC decided to throw a bit of misogyny on top. Who could possibly be so blind as to think it was a good idea to take the beloved super-villainess , Harley Quinn, and base the artist decision on who can have her commit suicide in the most erotic manner possible. As Alyssa summarizes:

As the rules for the contest explain, entrants have to draw Quinn in four situations: trying to be electrocuted by lightening, “sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on,” attempting to be eaten, trying to get a whale to swallow her, and “naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death.”

Because DC does not care about women. It doesn’t care about the sexualization of women and violence. It does not care about diversity. It does not care about inclusion. It does not care about complex storyline. It does not care about creativity. It doesn’t care about retaining great writers. It doesn’t care about artists who don’t want to sexualize female characters.

What DC seems to want is raging homophobes who enjoy viewing female characters through a lens of sexual violence.

One thing is clear. As a reader who wants to see dynamic new stories that explore the great mosaic of humanity, DC doesn’t seem to care about me.

SFWA, hate speech, and standing up for what is right

Just the other day, in response to sexual harassment in the Australian military, Lt. General David Morrison said,

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us. But especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.”

This seems a standard that, so far, the SFWA has not lived up to. If you aren’t aware of the current firestorm surround the SFWA, you can start by reading Foz Meadows. And you should, her (very appropriate) anger rips through the page.

You see, N.K. Jemisin deigned to address racism in the SFF industry. Can you imagine that, a woman and person of color trying to address such an issue. I’ll let Foz summarize,

Last week, author N. K. Jemisin delivered her Guest of Honour speech at Continuum in Melbourne. It’s a powerful, painful, brilliant piece about racism in SFF, and racism elsewhere; about the barbaric treatment suffered by the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, my home, at the hands of white invaders, politicians, and most of the rest of the populace for the past two hundred-odd years. It’s also a call for Reconciliation within the SFF community: capital R, much like the Reconciliation our government has so belatedly and underwhelmingly – yet so significantly – attempted to make itself. She wrote in response to not only the recent strife within SFWA, but all the endless scandals of racefail and sexism and appropriation which have preceded it within reach of our collective memory; a memory she rightly names as short.

And as a result, Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day – a man whose man affronts to humanity, equality and just about every person on Earth who isn’t a straight white American cismale are so well documented as to defy the utility of cataloguing them here, when all you need do is Google him – has responded to Jemisin with a racist screed so vile and unconscionable that the only surprise is that even he, a man with no apparent shame, felt comfortable putting his name to it.

Wow, those are some harsh words. Some people can get heated about others views, misreading them or interpreting them in ways they didn’t mean. What might have sent Foz (and a legion of others) to raise their voices so loud, to scream to the rafters, to engage in twitter conversations that last an entire weekend?

It is vileness like this, (emphasis from Foz, this is her extract of Beale’s hate speech),

“Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious reason that she is not.

She is lying about the laws in Texas and Florida too. The laws are not there to let whites “just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self defence laws have been put in place to let whites defend themselves by shooting people, like her, who are savages in attacking white people.

Jemisin’s disregard for the truth is no different than the average Chicago gangbanger’s disregard for the law…

Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support. Considering that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilised after their first contact with an advanced civilisation, it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do so in less than half the time with even less direct contact. These things take time.

Being an educated, but ignorant savage, with no more understanding of what it took to build a new literature by “a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys” than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine, Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity with SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance…

Reconciliation is not possible between the realistic and the delusional.

Holy Fucking Crap, that is some racist bullshit right there. How can this man continue to be a member of SFWA? He not only wrote this hate filled screed, he then pushed it to the SFWA twitter feed. By pushing it to the twitter feed, he not only violated the SFWA rules, but he made it seem if this was a view promoted by the organization.

In following the many discussion it is disheartening to see that the SFWA has remained mostly silent, Beale has not been removed. It is also disturbing to see the (mostly, if not all, white male) apologists try to defend his actions. They claim that his views are allowed because … uh … FREEDOM! Yes, it seems that a whole swarth of people do not understand what freedom of speech is. They mistakenly believe that we, the public, in our social groupings must allow unfettered speech. This is false. It is ignorance of what free speech is. When we speak of Free Speech (in the U.S. 1st Amendment sense) we speak of the governments ability to suppress speech. We, as individual social groupings, have the right to include those who we feel represent our standards and exclude those who do not.

A group like SFWA is a community of many people. A diversity of views is a positive and dynamic way for us all to learn about others, about those unlike us, about those that have lived different lives, in different bodies. These are interactions that benefit us all, they make us all better people, by understanding that which is not within our own narrow world view.

The use of hate speech (and that is the proper definition of this), trucking in racism, misogyny, and personal attacks is not only disgusting, it is HURTFUL. It is speech that is meant to diminish and denigrate others. It is an attack on other members of the SFWA and the entire community of hard working writers, publishers, editors and readers, and it is up to the leadership of the SFWA to immediately address this.

I am unsure if the leadership actually understands how big an issue this is becoming. It is moving from a single hate filled man, to a belief that the SFWA leadership is somehow afraid to confront him, to kick him to the curb, to say “You are not welcome here.” This soft response enables more hate, it is a tacit approval (through silence and inaction) that alienates new writers of all shapes, colors, sizes and gender. It hurts readers, who won’t see SFF as a place that is welcoming to them. A place where they can find fantastic stories about the wondrous diversity of existence.

Beale diminishes himself with his hate speech. The SFWA diminishes us all with their silence.

To crib from Lt. General Morrison’s comments, applied to SFWA:

the [SFWA] has to be an inclusive organization, in which every [writer], man and woman, is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so. Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in [the SFWA].

Get it done. You can fix this. You can stand up for right! You can stand up and say that Science Fiction and Fantasy are places of amazing vitality and a welcoming place for those who are not white, middle class, male, cisgendered, straight, and of course western.

* and hey, if you claim that YOU are one of those white cismales, guess what … you are already welcome. Hell, you dominate almost everything in the west, including the largest demographic of writers in the SFWA. That means it is YOU who must speak up!

Where Art and Ethics Meet

enders-game-movie-poster-191x300The other day I saw the new trailer for Ender’s Game, the upcoming big budget adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s beloved classic novel. My reaction to the short clip was mostly revulsion. I was angry that this movie was ever made. I was disappointed that so few have any idea about the author’s abhorrent views. I was sad that actors like Harrison Ford and Sir Ben Kingsley would join such a project.

You see, Orson Scott Card is a horrible bigot. He is a vicious homophobe, a man who has hatred in his heart. As Ben Kuchera said  in Penny Arcade when discussing the decision Card’s personal bigotry places on the consumer, this is who Orson Scott Card is:

In 2009 he joined the board for the National Organization for Marriage to work to pass California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. It’s not that he believes certain things, it’s that he actively fights against equal rights and writes in detail about why being gay is terrible. In 1990 he argued for pro-sodomy laws in order to punish same-sex couples should they dare to not hide their relatioships [sic].

From his own words:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

This is the man the studio put $110 million behind. This is the man who will profit off your ticket purchase (assuming back end points, which given his producer credit seems likely). He can then use your money to spread his message of hate to more people, especially the young and impressionable youths who have devoured his novels in the past.

This gets to the point Alyssa Rosenberg discussed a while back about consuming art by horrible people. In it she points out that there is a difference between the art itself and the artist. Our relationship to any art is individual. So what do we do when our purchase of art directly profits someone (or some corporation) with such abhorrent views. Alyssa phrases it this way, “So what’s a customer who wants to consume ethically to do?”

This is a big question. This is the question that Sam addressed a while back in discussing his decision not to support Marvel’s superhero movies. It is a broader question in how we, as consumers, use our own power, and it is one that goes well beyond entertainment. Alyssa notes how such projects are actually works of thousands of people. By eschewing a product fully, we may hurt people who are simply trying to get by, the grip and the construction worker and the makeup artist, all of whom may have no idea abou the politics of the artist.  Yet, we must make our own personal ethical decisions, and Alyssa suggests four possible ways to do so.  Check out her excellent full discussion here, but this is a short summary of her thoughts,

We can (1) simply “stay home”, or we can (2) “employ political moral offsets”, or (3) “reaffirm your support of progressive media”, or (4) “commit to a discussion.” I like her argument because it places some choice back onto us as consumers. We do have different ways to engage in media, enjoy media and remain ethically true to ourselves. There is nothing wrong with refusing to support a product and sitting at home. If the art itself is not problematic, and your concern is the profit given to the bigot, you can take the same amount of money (or double it) and give it to the competing cause. You can proudly eschew those project for other, more progressive works. And always, you can (and I believe should) engage in a conversation. Communication is how we end bigotry and hatred.

It is also important to understand where profits go, and there is a big difference between classic literature by people who we know where racists and anti-semites and misogynists, and contemporary writers of today . My main problem with supporting Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is that he will directly profit from the project (similar to supporting a Roman Polanski project). It is common knowledge that H.P. Lovecraft held bigoted beliefs, he was a racist and anti-semite (and he is not alone, greats like T.S. Elliot and Charles Dickens have been accused of bigoted views). Yet, any current production of his work would in no way benefit the long dead writer. But, Orson Scott Card is still alive and directly benefits from each ticket stub. Does it matter that his novel shows very little of his bigoted views?* I don’t think so.

I am going to go with option (1) and (4). I simply refuse to give him any of my money and will stay home.  But I will also engage vigorously with anyone contemplating giving their hard earned dollars to a man so filled with hate.

* I find it fascinating that his books have so many scenes that have been viewed as homoerotic. It seems almost cliche, the classic thou “doth protest too much, methinks.”

Epic Fantasy needs to explore Epic Ideas

A Dribble of Ink has a great post up about epic fantasy.  The G., from Nerds of  a Feather, Flock Together, dives into the perceived  conservative strain that is claimed to plague epic fantasy. This conservatism is natural in the structure of epic fantasy. The genre has certain tropes of structure that inherently define it. But this structure, with its journey and great epic struggle on top of a fantastical second-worlds setting, does not demand similarly conservative takes on perceived social norms.

In fact, I’d suggest it is the area most ripe for new storytelling. Epic fantasy has a role to play in exploring creative and deep looks into how society and individuals can exist. It is the very existence of new rules, of a second-world that only needs to conform to its own internal consistencies, that allows epic fantasy to break those societal tropes. Mr G. stresses the value of the possible impossible (magic) :

What’s more, epic fantasy worlds are by definition places where the unreal becomes real. Sometimes there are dragons in the mountains, or elves, orcs and gnomes living amongst us. Occasionally there are malevolent gods who want to come back to rule; more often there are malevolent sorcerers who wield god-like powers and seek to do the same. Nearly always there are powers beyond the control of regular folks, though some gifted or enterprising young types might learn to master them. These are, by definition and in name, fantastic spaces where magic and metaphysics render the impossible possible. Epic fantasy worlds do selectively borrow from real world histories, mythologies and cultural norms, but they are rarely comprehensive or terribly accurate in those borrowings. The ideal aim is for authenticity and internal consistency, because realism is pretty much off the table.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the a) invented nature of epic fantasy worlds; b) heterogeneity of what falls under the epic fantasy rubric; and c) presence of user-definable systems of magic, metaphysics and the otherwise made-up would, taken together, also encourage authors to adopt a speculative perspective on social arrangements. Yet somehow keep going back to the same old medieval European settings and patriarchal, ethnocentric and heteronormative assumptions of how societies “should” look like.

As he continues to say, while acknowledging that there is nothing inherently wrong with euro-centric epic fantasy, that there is more to explore.  He is right to note how “Nora Jemisin, Doug Hulick, Saladin Ahmed and Elizabeth Bear signal that epic fantasy has discovered that worlds beyond the geographic, mythological and sociological borders of alt-Europe can be just as, and often more, compelling than the stuff we’re used to. Scott Lynch, Catherine Valente, Kate Elliott, Trudi Canavan, Daniel Abraham—these authors and others like them are effectively using the medium to ask complex questions about human nature.”

These are the types of authors and stories that will help expand the genre of epic fantasy and keep it vibrant into the future. The grand romantic tradition of epic fantasy is ripe for deep and complex storytelling. It can morph and change and twist into anything the imagination can conjure. The time is ripe for more epic fantasies to escape the clutches of gender and power norms, to explore new ways for a society to develop, to explore how such changes would alter a civilization. It is time to explore new ways for societies to resolve conflicts at the epic scale and to resolve power struggles. Epic fantasy has all the structure to tell powerful and compelling stories.  By mining the full possibilities of existence, outside the trappings of human prejudice and ingrained structural normas (along side magic and the impossible), these stories are capable of exploring all kinds of exciting possibilities, ones that can more keenly reflect and look back at ourselves.

In many ways, epic fantasy is still in its infancy, and that is a good sign. It shows that there is more to explore, there are new stories to tell, there are new readers and there are new writers. Let’s hope they dream some more, and imagine new worlds and new heroes, ones that will surprise us and make us laugh and love and cry and then, ponder what it all means.

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