Technology and Magic

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
― Arthur C. Clarke

 

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Better have a dragon, Joffrey.

Fantasy and science fiction share some elements, particularly the need to build a world for a reader. One thing that’s true for either genre, though, is that you can have so many things be true for the world depending on the level of technology.

Transporters = Teleportation Spell

Faster than light space travel = Cosmic ships following the time flow

Blasters = Wands

Seriously, if you told my great-grandmother about smartphones, netflix, and the internet, she’d have looked at you like you were crazy. Even my grandmother hasn’t gotten past basic television.

I can see how technology can very easily appear magical. As a reader, I am absolutely willing to suspend disbelief when I pick up either genre of books.

I will caveat this with some science fiction gives little lee-way for made-up science. One particular author I read years ago refused to use faster-than-light travel as it didn’t conform to what we know about space travel. Interestingly, however, the same author had cryogenics in the story to compensate for the long flight times to Jupiter where they were going to terraform moons.

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Terraforming in process. Or is that a magic spell…

Neither cryogenics or terraforming are exactly proven science, but it was a still a good story.

For me, that’s what it’s about. A good story. I want to read something and be immersed in it. I want to care about the characters and what they’re doing.

Start bogging me down in too much scientific detail or the minutia of your magic system, and I start skimming. If I can’t find the good bits again pretty quickly, I move on to the next book.

Both genres also have to be careful how they handle gender differences. I have seen too much misogyny masked in, “But that’s how it was.”

In some cases, it could be an accurate portrayal if medieval Europe, though frequently it isn’t. But here’s the thing, this is a fantasy world. The religion. The norms and mores. You can choose a Judaeo-christian society, just as you can choose to create one like the Mosuo.

Still, it’s interesting how certain themes come through both science fiction and fantasy.

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Okay, so maybe some we’d rather not see.

It’s fun to explore the impossible, and both genres do that. I enjoy reading both. Of course, there is that one thing I see in fantasy that science fiction has yet to tackle: dragons!

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

How about you? Do you see magic and technology as interchangeable? Perhaps indistinguishable? Why or why not?

What I Really Want

I’ve been reading a lot of craft books. Things that tell me books should be all about plot, and tension, and making characters miserable until the very end. But maybe, just maybe, that’s not what I want to read.

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Please let it be a kissing book!

Yeah, I know. Kind of a revelation to me, too.

But the deal is life has been pretty stressful.

There’s hurricanes like Irma and Harvey, issues with North Korea, Las Vegas shootings, NYC terrorist attacks, trade concerns, Russia investigations, debt ceilings, border walls, and whatever else is gobbling up the news. It feels like a constant stream of ugliness and negativity. Maybe it’s always been there, and I was better at not noticing.

There’s family and work and health issues and . . . Well, you get the idea. You probably suffer from all of it, too.

So maybe, just maybe, when I slip into a fictional world, I’m not looking for heart wrenching agony. I’m not looking for Game of Thrones level treachery, betrayal, and angst. Maybe, I just want a nice romance with a few obstacles to overcome and then a happily-ever-after.

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Yeah, that’s kinda ugly to admit. But it’s true.

I have a rather large stack of books to read. Most of them romance, so I should get my happily-ever-after. Yet, I don’t want to read about a lot of things in them. I never have the stomach for rape. I’m really not looking for characters that keep making bad choices as we watch the suspense build.

I don’t really want to be on the edge of my seat. I just don’t have it in me to care. Or, if I do care, I’d rather save it for something else.

I want to slip into a book and let it be a nice ride. Give me some bumps and challenges to overcome, but that lets me escape into it. I don’t find fear or horror relaxing. Or suffering.

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While maybe it’s not good storytelling and doesn’t follow the rules of craft, this is what I want right now. What I’ve been reading. What entertains me. And for me, that’s all that matters at the moment.

Maybe I’m alone. And that’s okay. It won’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last.

 

How about you? Ever find yourself too wrung out for high-intensity fiction? Am I the only one that watches reruns of Bob Ross to relax some evenings?

When Hollywood Gets It Wrong

I recently read this post by Eric Goebelbecker, and he links to an article where Hollywood attacks the movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes.

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Too much truth here.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Rotten Tomatoes is an online site where they aggregate critic reviews and give a total rank. The NY Times article above goes into more detail as to how they choose who is and isn’t included in the reviews they aggregate, but it sounds to me like Rotten Tomatoes does a pretty good job. Especially as they try to include a more diverse group of reviews that the traditional middle-aged white male perspective.

Still, the whole things does reinforces the term “la la land” for Hollywood.

Because, rather than them taking a hard look at the movies they’re making and asking themselves why they’re flops, they’re blaming a rating agency for giving those who go to their site the truth as a wider array of critics, and eventually viewers themselves, sees it.

And this is what people want.

Rotten Tomatoes gets more than 13 million unique visitors every day.

If Hollywood were honest with themselves, they’d take a hard look at the competition. And I don’t mean just other movies.

They are competing with so many other forms of entertainment that they really have to bring their top game.

 

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Too much truth here, too.

Let’s face it, our choices are more expansive that ever:

  • Reading books
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Video Games – whether phone, console or PC
  • On Demand TV – Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc.
  • Whatever the heck it is millennials do on their phones

Many of these forms of entertainment are “free”. Once I pay for my Netflix subscription, I can watch what I want when I wish.

For my husband and I to go to the movies to see a single movie costs more than my monthly Netflix subscription. Add to that the cost of a babysitter, and the fact if I wait a few months, I can rent it or buy it for less than the cost of going to the theater, and we just don’t go. Especially as home theater systems and big screen TVs have become a whole lot more affordable.

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Way too much truth.

And while Hollywood is bemoaning their “plight” with Rotten Tomatoes, HBO was laughing all the way to the bank as they cashed in on Game of Thrones.

So yes, people are watching “TV”, although the seventy-plus minute final episode of season 7 bordered on movie-length.

Yet, people were lining up to watch it. Waiting in eager anticipation. Talking about it all week before and after the episode. Building enough anticipation that the show has only gotten more popular, despite the gap of a year or more between seasons.

Yes, Game of Thrones has Drogon, and that’s hard to beat.

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But there’s a lot more to the show than Drogon. There’s a list of characters pages long that viewers have come to care about. Come to love. That we tune in to see what happens to them even they aren’t fire-breathing reptiles.

And yes, HBO spent a lot of money of those special effects. But it wasn’t all about special effects. How many of us were right there with Tyrion as he cursed Jamie for being an idiot as he charges Dany?

Perhaps if Hollywood could distill that and give it to us, they could make movies we want to see.

All in, I hope places like Rotten Tomatoes stick around. They give us what we want. If Hollywood would do the same, they wouldn’t have such an issue.

 

How about you? Do you go to movies? Ever used Rotten Tomatoes guides?

 

 

Game of Thrones Coward

There. I admitted it.

While I follow Game of Thrones, I’ve never actually seen an episode.

I know, I know, but here’s the deal. I’m a coward.

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When GoT first came out, I was super excited. I was trying to figure out how to get to see it even though we don’t have cable when a couple of close friends took me aside. See, they know me pretty well, and they’d read the books.

They proceeded to tell me some of the plot, the horrible things that happen to some of the characters, and to bring it all home, they told me about the Red Wedding. At the time, they didn’t think HBO would actually show a lot of what was in the books (boy were they wrong!), but they wanted to warn me about what was in it.

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Just that conversation gave me nightmares.

I don’t wish to see graphic violence, murder, death, rape, incest or gore. Among other things. I’m even less interested in the weeks of nightmares I have after seeing them.

I get that some people like to be afraid, but I can’t even sit through cheesy horror flicks from the 80s. Sure, everyone in it is too stupid to live and Darwin demands his due, but I just can’t handle it. I’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs. I made myself sit through Aliens in the theater to impress my boyfriend. I paid for it with weeks of nightmares.

I can’t even read scary stuff. I know Stephen King is an amazing author, but after reading Salem’s Lot, I kept peaking at my curtains for far too many weeks to make sure nothing was looking back at me. (No idea what I’d have done if a neighborhood cat would’ve looked in my window at the wrong time.)

And yet, I’m drawn to Game of Thrones. I eagerly await the day after the airing of a new episode to find out what happened.

I’ve learned to be careful. Sometimes just hearing about what happened from a gifted storyteller can trigger my over-active imagination.

So I “watch” from the sidelines. Enjoy the sumptuous costumes, the incredible story line, and the amazing characters at a distance.

And yes, I was very happy when Ramsey Bolton got what was coming to him. Karma also demands its due. I’m interested to see what Sansa does now, and I don’t want to love Lyanna because I don’t want her to die…

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How about you? Anything you’ve ever been interested in but too afraid to watch? Maybe too embarrassed? Did you watch anyway? Hang out on the sidelines? Or just move on?