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.

9Jan/13Off

Good vs Evil by Lynda Williams

Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Universe books

Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Universe books and Blog Extraordinaire

Good vs Evil and the Greenbeard Effect

Do you have a gene for ‘good’? I think I might. And if you do, then we just could constitute the only effective biological weapon in the war against evil. If we keep the faith.

I’m not talking, here, about religion although I no longer have a quarrel with kindred spirits who work for the cause through any number of spiritual organizing principles so long as the results are something I can recognize as good. And I realize good, like evil, is a complex philosophical idea. But I think we all know it when we see it. And I want to get back to a place where cheering for the good guys doesn’t leave me feeling childish or naïve.

Remember Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek? Frodo Baggins? Princess Leia? Think of Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Delenn of Minbat and Dr. Who. Now equate them, for the sake of argument, with people we want to see win because they share our gene for ‘good’. That’s the secret weapon in the war on evil: unrelated people acting through an evolutionary mechanism known as the Greenbeard effect.

First proposed by social evolution theorist W.D. Hamilton in the 19060s, the greenbeard effect explains how a trait shared by non-relatives can act to perpetuate itself through cultural competition. In short, if a bunch of us have genes for banding together to defend good against evil ,then we can win the game of life despite the edge given evil by dispensing with moral handicaps. There are complications such as Hamiltonian spite, but that’s a subject for another time.

The point I want to make here is to give a cheer for heroes, because morale is a key part of any fight. And whether you are agnostic or a theist, the war on evil by those of us who favor good, is very real. We’ve explored the ironies of that war, recognized its complexities and mocked its conventions. And we shouldn’t stop thinking.

But we need to keep the faith. Because if we surrender to the empowering temptation of mocking those who struggle for good by portraying them as the victims of those with fewer principles to defend or as fragile in the face of indifferent fate, then we risk talking ourselves out of the courage to do good in our own lives. And when that happens, we will find that we have more to lose than we might think.

References:

“The Green-beard effect” Wikipedia (Dec 23, 2012)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-beard_effect

Filed under: Ideas No Comments
1Aug/12Off

Ideas #4: Tony Shin

Ideas: Thoughtful Musings on SF and Beyond.

...do we all have the atttention span of gerbils?

For a contemplative person who enjoys quiet hours of communing with a friend, book or a computer, the twitch-age phenomenon can feel like a demand for personality make-over. Tony Shin's image-essay below focused the feeling for me. You can follow Tony on twitter at @ohtinytony (Lynda 2012)

Created by: OnlineGraduatePrograms.com

11Mar/12Off

Stimulus/Response: Klout & artists

Lynda WilliamsLynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing) and editor of the Okal Rel Legacies series (Absolute Xpress). Part 7 of the Okal Rel Saga, 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. She also works as Learning Technology Analyst for Simon Fraser University and teaches a introductory web development course at BCIT.

Stimulus

Taken from an exchange on the Broad Universe mailing list, in which Justine Graykin replied to a post by T. W. Fendley (@twfendley on Twitter):

On Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM, T. W. Fendley wrote:

Hi -- Some of you may be puzzled by a Tweet from me about Klout, so I'm attaching a link that explains it. [...] Anyway, this is supposed to be a great way to build your social media presence. Please let me know if you join so I can add you to my network.

Justine Graykin replied:

I went to the Klout site and read as much as I could until MEGO set in. I don't know, this kind of social capitalism makes me a tad uncomfortable. Turns my relationships into commodities. I feel like there's enough of that going on already in the dark underbelly of Facebook and the like that I have no control over. Don't think I want to deliberately go there.

But good luck to anyone else who wants to try this out. Hope it works for you.

(After the below response was already written, Justine also pointed to an article by author John Scalzi, "DeKloutifying," which may be of interest.)

Response

Does “clout” intimidate or aid creative thinkers? Like Justine in the dialogue above, I’m uncomfortable with the business of social capital. Human beings already seem so wired to focus on rankings and ratings that it makes my heart sink knowing there is now a way to reduce someone’s web presence to a number. People will focus on the number as all important, distorting the nature of relationships and the mission of art. (An interesting contrast is the concept of “cold” literature, arising from the work of Gao Xingjian, which focuses on the aesthetic fulfilment of the author in stubborn disregard for one’s klout, however measured. See this article.)

At the same time, I cannot deny desiring clout if that is what it takes to make my own art meaningful. And I need to keep abreast of web trends as best I am able, both as a writer and as an educational technologist. So I joined Klout, and credited T.W. Fendley for it as my influencer. But, increasingly, there is the odd day when I seriously contemplate becoming a recluse if I can’t figure out how to be myself, comfortably, on the web: neither driven by unseemly clout-greed, nor intimidated out of using my voice by those more successful than myself.

But just when I think it is all new, the Okal Rel Universe saves me again by reminding me this is just a new arena in an old war. I have faced this struggle before--when I felt my approach to writing threatened by the greater bragging rights of other authors, and the only way to mimic them forced me against the grain of my values, personality and motivations. Naturally, I wrote a story to wrestle with the problem, which can be summed up in Ann’s admonishment to the young Reetion pilot, Gadar, to “fly for your own reasons!” (see “Going Back Out,” an envoy period story featuring Amel Dem’Vrel).

15Feb/12Off

Stimulus/Response: Reading Fiction Builds Social Skills

Thinking and feeling with characters can "strength social ties and even change your personality." - Keith Oatley

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.

In The Mind of Others by Keith Oatley

Stimulus

Keith Oatley's article "In the Minds of Others" (Scientific American) describes research on how "getting into character" by reading fiction develops social skills valuable in dealing with others in real life.

Response

Years ago, it occurred to me that the reason many people failed to find reading as rich an experience as watching a movie or playing a video game, was because they couldn't construct the world of a novel on their personal "brain ware" as well as I could, so the magic didn't happen for them. I have still never met a video game that moved me like a good novel. And while movies trump verbal descriptions, words trump images at allowing a reader to share the complex emotional life of a character and their relationships to the social world. A comment by a video gaming fanatic clarified the situation for me. It was at some conference or other, and he was defending the narrative potential of his preferred form of entertainment: "The heroine has a father," he told me. There was a lot more, but in essence his idea of a story was a catalog of facts used as a backdrop for the action. Which is fine for gamers who appreciate a little atmosphere, but it irks me when the "deaf" -- so to speak -- see fit to argue that a two-penny whistle is as good as a symphony orchestra.

In his Scientific American article, “In the Minds of Others”, Keith Oatley describes what readers do as hosting social simulations in which their brains practice the hard work of seeing the world from another person’s point of view. Readers literally feel with the characters they are reading about, as evidenced not only by post-test experiments but MRI brain scans.

“Reading fiction can strengthen your social ties and even change your personality,” is the article’s subheading. I think that’s a strong message for authors. And one that bears thinking about carefully.

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?

14Nov/11Off

Stimulus/Response: Author Responsibility

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

From a discussion on Google+:

"If a writer has any moral responsibility concerning his work, it's the responsibility to give the readers their money's worth."

Response

Lynda on Google+If writing (or any art) is nothing more than a commodity, then, indeed, no moral responsibility exists beyond customer satisfaction. Even commodities, however, are morally (or at least legally) responsible to be honest about their claims. Commodities for sale that target nothing but serving customer satisfaction include child prostitution and drug dealing. Personally, as a writer, I don't want to align myself ethically with those models. Sex is a legitimate subject for literature. But all experience shapes us, and the stories we tell each other have to push for influencing us to make the world a better - not a worse place. Or what will?

Filed under: Ideas 3 Comments
   
515f981ae6" />