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.

30May/12Off

Ethics in SF #17: Damien Storm

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.

Damien StormDamien Storm is a photographer, writer, poet and web designer. He is an artist whose inspiration comes from the depth of the id. His creative fire gives voice to his inner darkness, and his work is often laced with violence, lust and darkness. He originally hails from Montreal, but now makes Vancouver his home.

Please visit him on facebook and follow him on twitter @damienstorm69!

ps: He has a black cat named Wicca, so he can't be all bad.

Is Ev'rel Really So Bad? A BDSM Perspective

There’s an infamous chapter in Throne Price where Ev’rel binds her son and spends the night inflicting horrible sexual tortures upon his helpless body. It is quite harrowing, and is one of the strongest representations of Ev’rel’s depraved sexual nature. Lynda does not provide many details as to what actually happens that night – fade to black – but we are led to believe that was it not for his Pureblood constitution he would not have survived his mother’s sweet attentions.

But what made that chapter so bad? Why was it such an indictment of Ev’rel’s twisted nature? Was it because she inflicted unspeakable torment upon Amel through measured doses of Rush? Was it because she tied him down and mutilated him?

Yes, of course, he is her son, and incest is wrong. But let’s assume for a moment that he was not her son. Was she evil because of her actions?

No. There was nothing inherently wrong with anything Ev’rel did. The only reason what she did was wrong was that Amel did not want it.

Huh?

Welcome to the world BDSM, an acronym generally recognized as meaning Bondage Domination Sadism Masochism. Our culture is also referred to as kinky and fetish, and is composed of explorers in the worlds of sex and sensuality. Once locked away in the dungeon, BDSM has become almost mainstream, with images of leather-clad dominas and bound submissives appearing in advertizing, movies and TV shows. Rhianna has a hit called S & M, and has a video on regular rotation filled with fetish imagery.

But what has any of this to do with Amel?

In kinky circles sex is often referred to as play. The reason for this is that for BDSM practitioners the sexual experience is a journey to foreign shores, an ongoing voyage of sensual discovery. We spend a large part of our lives perfecting new skills, learning new philosophies and broadening our horizons so that we can travel further and further afield into the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual realms. It is a journey without end, a neverending story.

Ev’rel’s skillful use of Rush is a prime example of the dedication many people in the community devote to their dark arts. As I read this chapter, I could not help wishing I could lay my hands on this stuff!

But what keeps all this sexual exploration in check? What are the boundaries that keep us kinksters from going completely off the rails and appearing on the front page of the newspaper? What keeps all this sane?

Consent.

The golden rule of kink, one that CANNOT be broken, is that nothing can be done without the full consent of all parties involved. This bears repeating: nothing happens without consent. The most vicious act of sadism is hot with the full consent of the masochist, but a caress or a grope becomes monstrous when inflicted against someone’s will. The definition of abuse is damage done to someone against his or her will. Great care is taken in BDSM culture to ensure that everything that happens is consensual. Play sessions are negotiated in detail before they occur, and contracts are often drawn up and signed. We are trained to watch for non-verbal cues that something is wrong, and safewords are usually used so that a scene may be stopped at any time.

There was no negotiation between Ev’rel and Amel, no contracts signed. Amel truly and deeply did not want to play, and Ev’rel proceeded anyway. That was her crime. It was not what she did, but the fact that Amel did not consent.

Had Amel welcomed the bondage, the Rush and the ensuing agony, it would have been a very different chapter.

Filed under: Ethics in SF No Comments
28May/12Off

Courtesan Prince: Chapter 2 Summary

Re-reading Okal Rel: A series of chronological summaries of chapters of the Okal Rel Saga, written by friends and fans.

The Courtesan PrinceThe Courtesan Prince by Lynda Williams is Part One of the Okal Rel Saga, a 10 novel series published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

When Earth’s first attempt to conquer the far reaches of space was thwarted by the failure of a faster than light transportation system, the first colonists were abandoned.

Subsequent colonizations were successful but ideological differences in cloning caused renegade scientists to sever their contact with Earth and establish their own unique world. Now, thousands of years in the future, the scattered descendents of humanity have evolved into two distinct planetary societies: the Reetions of Rire, who rely on advanced computer technology to regulate every aspect of their lives, and the genetically superior and honor bound Sevolites, of Gelion.

With one conflict already behind them, these two cultures are once again on the brink of war. But one last desperate mission is launched and somewhere within a dark region of space, Reetions and Sevolites find themselves torn between their own alliances and the inexplicable desire that constantly draws them closer together.

Chapter 2 summarizer Michelle Milburn is a graduate of the UNBC/Emily Carr fine arts program who has done cover art for Okal Rel Legacies titles and will be doing saga titles for the remaining books in the main series starting with Part 7: Healer's Sword. Along with Lynda Williams, she is co-editor of Reality Skimming.

SPOILER ALERT!
The following summary contains spoilers for Part One of the Okal Rel Saga: The Courtesan Prince. Continue reading with this in mind...

23May/12Off

Ethics in SF #16: Leonid Korogodski

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.

Leonid KorogodskiLeonid Korogodski graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Ph.D. in Mathematics and a C in English as a Second Language. That didn’t stop him from writing, first in C++ and Java, then in English. He lives with his daughter Anna in Sharon, Massachusetts.

Visit his website at http://www.pinknoise.net and read his thoughts on Optimism and Darkness in Science Fiction!

Can Science Solve All Our Problems?

Not long ago, on my blog, I took a look at the subject of Optimism and Darkness in Science Fiction, arguing the benefits of progress from the perspective of the science of complex systems. That prompted the author Lynda Williams to pose this question to me: Can science solve all our problems?

Yes. And no.

It bears repeating the gist of my earlier argument first. You may be aware of the second law of thermodynamics: entropy of any closed system grows in time. The state of entropy maximum is that of undifferentiated chaos, where everything is the same: the same density, the same temperature, the same everything. When applied to the entire universe, this portends the Ludwig Boltzmann’s so-called “heat death” scenario. The second law of thermodynamics seems to lead to pessimism.

But Boltzmann was studying systems close to equilibrium (in essence, those that are “almost-closed”). Fortunately, Ilya Prigogine discovered that in open systems that are sufficiently far from equilibrium, entropy statistically goes down through the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization. An open system can do that by exchanging entropy with its environment, thus satisfying the second law of thermodynamics within a greater whole.

This tendency to spontaneously self-organize is universal, constituting a generalized evolutionary principle that applies beyond biology—essentially, to everything. This is the origin of all structure in the universe, from clusters of galaxies to stars to planets to life to consciousness to social structures to technology—and to who knows what comes next. At every step of this spiral of self-organization, the systems become smaller and the energy flows in them faster, so that the smaller system could sustain itself within its environment. A galaxy has vastly more energy than a single star does, but it develops more slowly. The geological processes are faster still, but they appear to stand still next to all living things. And so on. The energy flows within a computer chip are the fastest that we know of—yet.

Although it is often stressed that evolution does not have intentions (it is, philosophically speaking, not teleological), the fact is that, through a variety of entirely unintentional processes, the ever-rising levels of complexity end up being achieved. One can’t deny that the variety of life now found far exceeds the original multi-cellular life in complexity. And this is a manifestation of the universal principle discovered by Prigogine. The only truly closed system is the universe itself; and if its entropy is infinite, then the spiral of evolution can keep rising ad infinitum, non-stop.

And that is grounds for some optimism.

The same principle, of course, applies to our society, for it too is a spontaneously self-organizing system. Although we often appear to titter on the brink of yet another catastrophe, we also seem to keep going forward in many ways. The more complex a system is, the higher is the potential for a catastrophe to take place. But if Prigogine is right, then the potential for improvement is statistically greater.

It’s like a child, growing from being an infant to adulthood, graduating from the smaller dangers to the ever greater ones: from having to cross a street to riding a bike to driving a car to going to college, and so on. But no sensible parents would lock their son or daughter in a prison just to keep them safe from life—because potential for the good is better still.

I often hear cries for us to go back to the earlier, more primitive ways. But must we keep our entire society in prison?

Life is an inherently complex process. Being in balance doesn’t mean a state of static equilibrium—which is the maximum of entropy and, basically, death. And so, every time that we step back or try to stop the progress, we necessarily bring death, in one way or another. Often, literally.

My first example is the problem of our dwindling energy sources. We keep consuming more and more—consistent with the picture I have just described, for the advances in complexity require ever greater flows of energy and entropy exchange. But what would happen when we run out of our current prime energy source—hydrocarbons (oil and gas)?

Some wax nostalgic for a more primitive life. But, in reality, going back—or even stopping to advance—would ultimately mean less food, less medicine, less services for everyone—translating into death for billions. If we are looking for a right solution, then we must be looking forward and not backward. The best minds of our planet are already looking for new, more efficient, longer-lasting sources of energy, by using science. And they’ll find them—and the next new sources, too, when these eventually run out. And so on, as long as we keep moving forward.

In another example, the modern agricultural approach seems to be reaching its limits. The drive for efficiency required automation, which ushered in the monocultures of today. But these unnatural environments required intensive application of fertilizers and pesticides, which in turn bred more resistant strains of pests, not to mention contaminating our environment (even killing the pollinator insects, such as honey bees) and deteriorating it in other ways.

Many now understand that the natural biomes have evolved the way they are for a good reason. The interlinked web of relationships within a biome works toward increasing the environment’s complexity, its health. Even parasites help the host species to evolve higher resilience by killing off the weak; too virulent parasites would kill off all their hosts and die off themselves. Contrast this with pesticides helping to develop more virulent forms of parasites.

But does it mean that we should stop the scientific progress and fall back on the old ways? It’s tempting to think that if it’s science that’s responsible for our scientific agriculture, then we should stop doing it.

The “go back to nature” calls sound appealing, but there is a rub: we wouldn’t be able to feed the current population if we just revert to a more primitive society. To stop would, once again, bring death to billions. Instead, we actually should invest more into science—although, perhaps, a somewhat different one. Until recently, our science limited itself to studying simple systems, isolated properties—which was, in fact, the science in its infancy. But lately, a new kind of science, the science of complex systems, has begun developing—or, shall we say, our science is maturing. We now know, for example, how those natural biomes actually work—or, at least, some of that.

So, once again, the key lies in increasing the complexity—in this case, in finding a way to grow our food in natural, complex biomes but on an industrial scale. Take the self-evolving natural biomes—and then help them evolve faster and be more efficient but without sacrificing their “naturalness” (which never means a static equilibrium but is a highly complex, dynamic process churning in the system).

It is not for nothing that I called the spiral of the generalized evolutionary process a “spiral,” because in many cases it revisits earlier states to improve on them. Indeed, in my second example of agricultural progress, the suggested way lies, on one hand, in using natural biomes; on the other hand, in doing this on a grand scale beyond anything seen in the past. It means more science, not less science. It feels right.

But does it mean that science can solve all of our problems? Probably not. After all, only the knowledge that can be tested experimentally is subject to science. Yet there are other kinds of knowledge, the kinds that one has to take on faith. A case in point: no experiment can prove or disprove the existence of God, in principle. Some basic assumptions about the universe must always be made. Even an atheist has to believe that God does not exist.

Ideally, one could argue that the domains of science, on one hand, and those of religion and philosophy don’t intersect: the former being those that are subject to experiment, the latter being those that are not. When either side try to step onto the other’s territory, that is when the conflicts between them arise—and only then. Unfortunately, that will probably keep happening, for the ideal can be never reached in finite time—or else, we wouldn’t have the room to go forward, then.

So yes, we’ll keep encountering some problems that cannot be solved by science. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use it. At the very least, we must keep trying to go forward, fighting entropy. We mustn’t fall into a static equilibrium, which is abhorred by life, but mustn’t stray from harmony of a complex, dynamic process, rising in a spiral. Because any society that stops progressing will decay.

Filed under: Ethics in SF No Comments
21May/12Off

Courtesan Prince: Chapter 1 Summary

Re-reading Okal Rel: A series of chronological summaries of chapters of the Okal Rel Saga, written by friends and fans.

The Courtesan PrinceThe Courtesan Prince by Lynda Williams is Part One of the Okal Rel Saga, a 10 novel series published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

When Earth’s first attempt to conquer the far reaches of space was thwarted by the failure of a faster than light transportation system, the first colonists were abandoned.

Subsequent colonizations were successful but ideological differences in cloning caused renegade scientists to sever their contact with Earth and establish their own unique world. Now, thousands of years in the future, the scattered descendents of humanity have evolved into two distinct planetary societies: the Reetions of Rire, who rely on advanced computer technology to regulate every aspect of their lives, and the genetically superior and honor bound Sevolites, of Gelion.

With one conflict already behind them, these two cultures are once again on the brink of war. But one last desperate mission is launched and somewhere within a dark region of space, Reetions and Sevolites find themselves torn between their own alliances and the inexplicable desire that constantly draws them closer together.

Chapter 1 summarizer Nina Munteanu is the author of five novels and short stories, translated into several languages throughout the world. Her latest book Outer Diverse, the first book of her Splintered Universe Trilogy, will be released October 2011 by Starfire World Syndicate. Nina teaches writing online through her website NinaMunteanu.com and conducts workshops throughout North America. Her fiction writing guide The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! (Starfire World Syndicate) is used in several North American universities and schools and will be published in Romanian by Editura Paralela 45 this fall.

SPOILER ALERT!
The following summary contains spoilers for Part One of the Okal Rel Saga: The Courtesan Prince. Continue reading with this in mind...

16May/12Off

Why SF? #1: A Chat with Angela

Why SF? Asking kindred spirits in the SF community the story of why they give back and create forward.

AngelaAngela of scifichick.com A lover of SF since she encountered Star Wars and Star Trek, Angela works for a Fortune 500 company as a career. But she is also mistress of scifichick.com, a site that reviews science fiction and fantasy novels and movies/tv, as well YA/children’s books in the genre. In this role, she plays host to a creative campfire bringing together audience, fans and creators..

Visit scifichick.com!

A Chat with Angela of scifichick.com

Lynda: What inspired scifichick.com??

Angela:When the whole blog craze first started, I wasn’t really interested in journaling or blogging about myself. So I got the idea to just start talking about my favorite books and movies – which, of course, were science fiction/fantasy. This eventually led to buying SciFiChick.com and started a hobby of writing actual reviews and having a place for other fans to visit and give their two-cents as well. When I started receiving books from publishers and authors, I was ecstatic! I used to spend a ridiculous amount of money on books. And I’m actually reading a lot more than I ever had in the past.

Lynda: A favorite moment for me in Star Wars is when Han comes back to support his friends, making the impossible survivable. Can you share something similar from one of the series you love that touched your heart?

Angela:Quantum Leap. Every episode. But you probably want something a bit more specific. ☺ So, the episode/scene that sticks out in my mind the most is “The Leap Home: Part 1” when Dr. Sam Beckett leaps back into himself as a teen. He’s finally able to right some wrongs in his own past and tries to keep his brother from going off to war. When Sam plays his favorite song (from the future) “Imagine” by John Lennon to his sister – it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I’m not really a fan of the song, but the story was so poignant. And it was so easy to get emotionally invested in the characters each week.

Lynda:The gallery (http://scifichick.com/2-2/) on your site features your own art work. Tell me about yourself as an artist.

Angela:As a child I always loved to draw. But it wasn’t till I was in 5th or 6th grade when I found a small picture of Leonard Nimoy as Spock in a TV Guide, that I decided to try drawing a portrait. And to my surprise it didn’t look half bad and was told I had a natural talent. That started a love of drawing portraits, and of course I practiced a lot on favorite actors and actresses that happened to be in scifi shows. My formal training really began in college, while majoring in Art/Graphics Design & Illustration. That’s when I found out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did! But I still coasted through college without much of an idea of what I was really going to do with my major. So, after my first job in graphics design, I quickly got burned out and left the field. Now, drawing is enjoyable again, and I still occasionally do commissioned works (portraits of people/pets or renderings of homes/buildings) and some just for personal enjoyment. But with as busy as I’ve gotten with my 9-5 job and SciFiChick.com, unfortunately I haven’t focused as much on art as I should. To most artists “it’s all about the process.” But when I’m working a piece, I don’t really start getting into it until I can start seeing the end result. I love attention to detail and shading. Capturing the expression of someone is what I’m really going for.

Lynda: It wasn’t until the “dark movement” in SF got under my skin that I realized I relied on SF – both as a fan and an author -- to keep my batteries charged for dealing with the tough stuff in life. What role does SF plays in your life?

Angela:It’s certainly my biggest outlet! I would rather read a book than watch television - just to let my imagination soar. Obviously, science fiction takes up a huge chunk of my day-to-day life. I’m almost always reading or watching something scifi or fantasy. Usually more than one book at a time. I rarely find myself getting stressed or down. But it’s no wonder since I have my dog Lois Lane (no one could be stressed after a few minutes with her), and I have a constant source of escape through a genre that is truly a passion in life.

Lynda: What difference to you want scifichick.com to make in the world?

Angela:Well, from the beginning, I took the moniker “SciFiChick” to let people know that there are women who enjoy science fiction. When I was younger, I didn’t know many other girls who did. Not only do I want young girls to know that it’s okay to like scifi and fantasy, but that it’s cool too.

Filed under: why SciFi? 2 Comments
12May/12Off

Privacy today and Rire’s Solution

Like Half, I've noticed the news overlapping with ideas I wrestled with in Part 5: Far Arena and elsewhere that the Reetion Administration is discussed. For non-ORUites, the Arbiter Administration is a social transparencey answer to how to prevent blowing yourselves up if you have the technology to do it. See whole thing on facebook.
Facebook mention from Riesen

Facebook mention from Riesen

515f981ae6" />