Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.

21Dec/11Off

Reality Skimming in the New Year

Michelle MilburnMichelle Milburn is an illustrator who occasionally flirts with graphic design and creative writing. She has contributed covers for several Okal Rel Universe Legacy titles and will be doing covers for the main saga beginning with Book 7: Healer’s Sword. She has also created artwork for friend of the Okal Rel Universe, author Nathalie Mallet. Along with Lynda Williams, she is co-administrator of the Reality Skimming blog.

In September of this year, Lynda contacted me and asked if I would be interested in helping her develop the Reality Skimming blog. The blog would not only continue to be a platform for sharing information about the Okal Rel Universe specifically, but would also become a forum for discussing various topics in speculative fiction. The chance to be more involved in a growing exchange of ideas was really exciting for me, and after the first four months I'm beginning to see even more possibilities for where I'd like to see the blog go in 2012.

Of course, I'll have to consult Lynda on this one, but let's imagine for a moment and take a tentative look at my New Year's "resolutions" for Reality Skimming:

  • Bonus ORU material - Excerpts, articles, unpublished snippets, etc. There is so much material developed over the course of the lifetime of the Okal Rel Universe, and this blog is a great place to share it.
  • More multi-part guest features - Though I love the mini essays we've been doing, I want to continue to reach the depth we've been getting with our multi-part features. Most of our contributors have a particular area of interest, so let's delve into them!
  • Even more ORU Contributors - The Okal Rel Universe is arguably bolstered by the incredible support it has received from many creative people, and featuring them is an honour and a privilege.
  • Continuing Characters who have been written by multiple authors - The Okal Rel Universe contains a wide cast of characters who feature not only in the main saga but also in the Okal Rel Universe Legacy novellas and anthologies written by other authors. Not only would I like to bring the Okal Rel Universe to the Continuing Characters series, but I think it would be fascinating to explore different authors' perspectives on writing the same character.

These are just a few inklings I've been having lately, as I ponder how Reality Skimming can grow in the coming year. Let me know what you think! Next, we'll have to ask Lynda about her New Year's resolutions for 2012.

Filed under: ORU News 2 Comments
18Dec/11Off

Stimulus/Response: Neo-opsis Review of Avim’s Oath

Lynda responds to a review of Avim's Oath in Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine.

Lynda WilliamsLynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga, published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Part 7: Healer's Sword arrives in 2012. Lynda's work features moral dilemmas in a character-driven, multi-cultural setting with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science.

Stimulus

Avim's Oath has been reviewed in Neo-opsis by Stephanie Ann Johanson:

"Don't believe the descriptions of this novel, even the book's own blurb has the reader thinking this book is something else than it is. Avim's Oath is not about vengeful princesses, it's not about two half brother princes vying for the love of the lovely princess Lutharain. This story is about the growth of Amel. Throughout the other books in the Okal Rel saga Amel has been a beautiful soul, perhaps even a Golden Soul, who has lived and lives through one tragedy after another. Amel has managed to find moments of love and caring, but has always been afraid to enjoy these openly, because of the powers and jealousies of others. This might not have been as much of a problem, but Amel also often cared about his tormentors."

(Read the full review.)

Response

There are few joys for an author as great as when someone "gets" it, except maybe when the person writes a review explaining it. Avim's Oath is, indeed, the novel in which Amel gets his act together and I could just kiss Stephanie Johanson for seeing it so clearly. I, too, had a problem with the "vengeful princesses" blurb Stephanie refers to. It was recommended by someone with marketing flare. I'm not certain, but I don't think the person concerned read a line of the book. The always wonderful Brian Hades let me negotiate the blurb to "power-hungry princesses" before the print run, which works better for me. "Power-hungry" appears on the back of the book. Seeing a reviewer familiar with the series connect with the spirit of the book is a gift. Thank you, Stephanie and Neo-opsis.

14Dec/11Off

Ethics in SF #11: Ethics Systems for Now and the Future (September 2003)

From the archives of the Okal Rel website, an article on ethics in the Okal Rel Universe written by Lynda Williams. Originally published in September 2003 under "Research and Commentary."

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Lynda WilliamsLynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga, published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Part 7: Healer's Sword arrives in 2012. Lynda's work features moral dilemmas in a character-driven, multi-cultural setting with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science.

Stimulus

An extract from the an essay by Kirdendal, referenced below, elicited a spontaneous comparison with moral philosophies of the Okal Rel universe. - ljw

The extract gave four pillars for a moral system, reproduced in their essentials below.

  1. Should serve to insure the survival of mankind. Survival, however, should be interpreted as more than mere existence. It should be survival with joy and satisfaction; both physical and mental...
  2. Must rest upon a logical, rational, openly-acknowledged framework. Ethical decision making must have an authoritative basis. Otherwise it is likely to be capricious and inconsistent, often contradictory. This means more, however, than simply balancing one research fact against another. It requires a respect for the intuitive wisdom acquired through the ages...
  3. Should be applicable universally. Increasingly we are living in a world where cross-cultural contacts are more readily experienced and communication between people and groups is becoming easier ...
  4. Should rest upon the basic need for enhancing altruistic experience, both in giving and receiving. The desire for edifying associations, both immediately and in the long run, is highly important and a deeply ingrained human need...we should not neglect the greater moral universe.

Response

Okal Rel Universe

Okal Rel meets the four criteria as follows:

  1. Should serve to insure the survival of mankind. This is Okal Rel's key tenet. That conflict between groups and individuals within groups must not escalate to the level of destroying the ability of planets or artificial environments to support life. Such habitats are intrinsically fragile and survival impossible if groups or individuals are able to exert maximum force or indiscriminate use of biological science in pursuit of their self-interest. Restriction of conflicts to personal combat is the Okal Rel solution, allowing the fortunes of individuals to rise and fall according to their prowess and connections without threatening society as a whole.
  2. Must rest upon a logical, rational, openly-acknowledged framework. Belief in reincarnation of the soul in descendants of one's own line underpins Okal Rel, explaining why extermination of a blood line is so much more serious than killing individuals and the horror of becoming "lost" during space warfare. Space warfare is, of course, an evil that Okal Rel strives to minimize. The role of the Watching Dead, also known as the Waiting Dead, who influence the living world and have a stake in civilization surviving for them to be reborn into it, is the spiritual threat meant to keep believers in line. Apparently irrational events are explained in terms of the moral struggles between the Watching Dead, who are likewise partisan, and the Gods of Earth, widely believed to be mad. Great Souls are those with special force of will and wisdom, re-born into lines to correct life-threatening imbalances and show their followers the way to survial for the good of all, both dead and living.
  3. Should be applicable universally. Variations exist between bloodlines and tribes of Sevolites about details as esoteric as whether new souls are a common or rare occurence, or as sweeping as who does and does not count as a moral being. On the whole, however, at least among the powerful (Sevolites), there is general agreement that sustaining a world for souls to be reborn into is the ultimate good, and that even enemies must unite to crush and exterminate the okal'a'ni -- those who put their own ambitions or desires above risk to the carrying capacity for life in the universe.
  4. Should rest upon the basic need for enhancing altruistic experience, both in giving and receiving. Okal Rel legitimizes murder in the context of duels. But it promotes altruistic behavior towards the children of enemies, and the avoidance of inflicting harm on by-standers or an enemy's dependents. Killing a leader is a triumph (provided it is done by the rules governing Sword Law). Exterminating a bloodline is a grave sin. Killing anyone could mess with the plans of some member of the Watching Dead, and should not be undertaken lightly.

Okal Lumens, and the Orthodox Nesak interpretation of Okal Rel, are variations cultivated by specific groups. Okal Lumens focuses on the pol, or "gentle" virutes. Orthodox Okal Rel excludes "inferior" classes of humans and promotes the goal of a universe populated by a single population of "souls", but not so much by "soul death" but by absorbing worthy enemies into the One True Line. Elements of both extremes are echoes in related, but less purist cultures. For example, Nersallian views are closer to those of their Nesak cousins than, for example, the Red Vrellish. And the Silver Demish value most of the works and beliefs of Okal Lumens, at least as an ideal too rarified for any but true Goldens to adhere to.

Okal Rel Universe

The Arbiter Administration of Rire meets the four criteria as follows:

  1. Should serve to insure the survival of mankind. Rire, too, must contend with the imbalance between the potential for destruction inherent in both reality-skimming in particular and the malicious use of science, in general. Surrendering the administration (although not the creation) of governance to arbiters, and living in a transparent society in which any kind of information hiding not of a strictly personal nature, is the solution they have struck on.
  2. Must rest upon a logical, rational, openly-acknowledged framework. Reetions are humanists who adhere to an egalitarian ethic making privacy a privilege, not a right. Misuse of everyone's ability to access nearly everything about nearly everybody is tracked via complaints and intervention by counselors or "first responders". The existence of arbiters makes this hugely complex system practical. Arbiters are symbiotic AIs with high intelligence but little or no self-awareness which administer all Reetion law. The laws are created and adjusted by human councils. About 10 per cent of Reetions, at any given time, are "Voting Citizens" who serve on these councils, devoting a large portion of their time to keeping the system in balance. Jurisdictional conflicts constantly introduced by lobbies for change from the populus or adjustments made by councils which impact other legislative bodies, are a common challenge.
  3. Should be applicable universally. All citizens of Rire must be willing to be governed by the arbiter administration. Pilots must concent to pre and post flight psychological profiling in order to be allowed to fly. Transparency is not an option.
  4. Should rest upon the basic need for enhancing altruistic experience, both in giving and receiving. The certainty of even minor misdemeanors being logged and shifted by arbiters able to act to correct the behavior or refer up to council of humans, tends to mold behavior as desired. The certainty of reward for acting in an altruistic manner, however small grained the "coin", is likewise motivating. For example, a person who does his or her share in keeping the neighborhood tidy is automatically observed doing so and credited accordingly. Defining what is credited and against which social "account" is, naturally, a challenge for those setting the behavior of the arbiters who administer the details.

reference:

Kirdendal, Lester A. "An Ethical System for Now and the Future". 1980. Humanist Ethics: Dialogue on Basics. Ed. Morris B. Storer. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980. p. 193-209

Your Turn: Comment with your own reaction to the questions.

Filed under: Ethics in SF No Comments
13Dec/11Off

Stimulus/Response: Zombies Haunt the Classics

What is the meaning of mockery? Does it honor or belittle the emotions that classic works inspire?

Lynda WilliamsLynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga, published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Part 7: Healer's Sword is the next anticipated title. Lynda's work features moral dilemmas in a character-driven, multi-cultural setting with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science.
Pride and Prejudice - Zombies

Pride and Prejudice - Zombies

Stimulus

Zombies in contemporary settings mock the preoccupations of our daily lives. In this mode they express a longing for the heroic in the face of relentless mundanity. I enjoyed Shaun of the Dead (2004). But I find the drive to zombify classics disturbing. As if the stories were being turning into fast food and discarded in a balled up wad of grease and cheese blotted paper.

Response

What makes it amusing to turn Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into something akin to a B-class zombie movie? What tension is being unknotted here? Is it just fun, or a guilt-free trashing of respect for the book and its message? Certainly it is always a pleasure to revisit anything well known in a different manifestation. It can be a pleasure to be affectionately mocked, too, as the Okal Rel Universe has experienced in the "crack art" of Mel Farrow, in particular. Mel took the edges off Di Mon's uptightness through her "character mockery". And maybe the people who mock the classics with zombie versions of them also love the characters they are lampooning. But I wonder if there isn't also an element of surprise at how completely helpless characters are to defend themselves. And, in the aftermath, a devaluing of the message bound up in the original. Historically, priesthoods punished mockery harshly because they knew it undermined their authority. Are we seeing, in the zombification of classics, the overthrow of ethics in literature? The revenge of the "anything goes" element in all of us against the authors and influences that have successfully impressed on us, in the past, that some behavior is less acceptable than other behavior, that might is not necessarily right, and that things deserving of respect should get it?

10Dec/11Off

Okalrelsdaughter Rides Again! With sister.

Okalrelsdaughter, aka Angela, ropes her sister into guest staring on her latest vblog appearance Who is that?. Apparently this all makes sense if you video blog! And for Okal Rel enthusiasts, there's her latest installment in her podcast of The Lorel Experiment to enjoy. The ORU loves to be performed. And lived in. And shared. Sounds like maybe Tegan could have done with a little less of it as a kid, though. 🙁 Ah well, some mothers teach their kids nursery rhymes and that can be a little gruesome too, right? Just go ahead and click on the nursery rhymes link, above, and see what I mean. Really! Sevolites, Demish, Vrellish, Sword Law and Reetion visitor probes are nothing compared to the origins of that stuff.
Filed under: ORU News No Comments
7Dec/11Off

Ethics in SF #10: Gwen Perkins

Gwen Perkins examines the disconnect that can occur between civil obedience and individual morality.

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Gwen Perkins Gwen Perkins is a fantasy author and museum curator with a MA in Military History from Norwich University. Her interest in history fueled the creation of the world of The Universal Mirror, to be released in 2012 by Hydra Publications. Her website is located at http://gwen.ironangel.net.

From Antigone to Ender: Civil Law versus Sacred Law

Among the oldest conflicts in fiction and science fiction alike is the choice between doing something that the protagonist knows or believes to be morally right and following the law. While several recent science fiction and fantasy novels have focused on young heroes challenged with this obstacle, these works bear witness to a much older tradition.

One of the earliest examples of this conflict is the Greek drama Antigone. A young woman of Thebes, Antigone's brothers have both died fighting for the throne but only one is permitted an honored burial. Her rebel brother is sentenced to lie unburied on the battlefield. Antigone, knowing that his burial will result in the death penalty, accepts this challenge and buries him regardless. She makes the knowing choice to do what is right in the face of the law.


The Universal Mirror
artist: Enggar Adirasa

Orson Scott Card's Enderverse stories play out the same conflict in reverse. In Ender's Game, Ender attends Battle School, a children's training ground for war run by the government. At the end of this novel, Ender realizes that all of the simulations he has played were actual battles and that his unwitting choice to play these games resulted in the genocide of a race of people. The series deals with his guilt for having disobeyed his own moral imperatives to act at the behest of the government. Rather than confronting his government openly, Ender allows himself to be sent away from Earth to prevent problems for those he loves back home. It is a moral choice but not on a grand scale.

It is also not a choice that he makes himself but rather, one that is made on his behalf. It brings us to this question--does modern fiction present heroes, even children, as being capable of making moral decisions on an epic scale? If the answer is no, is this due to societal shifts that give children responsibility at increasingly advanced ages? Or is it a reflection of a society in which we, as readers and citizens, feel progressively more disenfranchised and without the capacity to make decisions that will impact many others?

The choice that both Antigone and Ender are presented with, in the end, is whether or not to confront the question of what is right. Antigone makes that decision while Ender, throughout the course of the series, is never truly able to do so. Which is correct--to follow the path of civil authority or to follow one's own heart, whatever the consequences for society? As writers and readers, it falls on us to cast the final judgment.

Your Turn: Comment with your own reaction to the questions.

Filed under: Ethics in SF 1 Comment
   
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