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All my life, I've found true inspiration in only one source: Science fiction, especially its literary form.  When everything else in the world seemed pointless, vapid, and nihilistic, I would immerse myself in the worlds of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert, among other, lesser talents, to rediscover the wonder in myself that made everything meaningful.  Because through them my mind was freed, in my dreams I roamed across time and space, seeing things and having extraordinary experiences that I only barely remember today as my imagination has waned.  And yet I remember enough to feel awed whenever I smell the pages of those books.  

Science fiction makes prophecies that come true - e.g., air flight, spaceflight, the communications satellite, the Star Trek communicator, solar panels, the internet, men on the Moon, etc. - and casts dire warnings about retribution from on high if we do not change our ways when we're behaving stupidly.  It offers Ways Out when humanity is trapped, and Ways In when Humanity is excluded by an elite.  It celebrates the lives of people who celebrate life by exploring its larger mysteries boldly and intelligently.  It drives generations of children into scientific and technology careers in order to reach for the visions it puts in their minds: Visions of a utopia for those willing to build it, and of a sad, impoverished world for those too weak, foolish, and distracted to keep their eye on the ball.  

But always the choice is theirs to take one road or the other, because science fiction liberates the human mind and spirit rather than trying to silence or pacify them.  The technologies all around us, running all through our bodies in advanced pharmaceuticals, and mediating our ability to communicate in vast webs of electronic abstraction are the proof that science fiction is the Word of the Cosmos, to be adored, studied, and yet unlike other "Words," challenged and built upon.  Science alone tells us the What but cannot by itself feed the yearning soul to seek new horizons, because its numbers and statistics are hard to translate into the human-level stories that connect with us on our most basic levels.

For that, there must be storytellers to reveal the universe by revealing the people in it traveling Roads Less Taken, living in future worlds where the right or the wrong choices have been made (or somewhere in between).  As we the reader breathe in the soft, nurturing Elysian sunlight from the Good World we read where intelligence, humanity, and curiosity conquer all obstacles, their light shines inside us and propagates into the real world, if only a little bit, in our attitude to life.  

When I am in the hospital with someone unknown ailment, I'm not praying to Santa Claus to magically deliver me: I'm hoping that in the ten years since the last time I was in a hospital, medical technology has advanced enough that whatever's messing with me is quickly and painlessly treatable - or at least that their Happy Drugs have fewer side-effects.  I don't see a world of things that shouldn't be: I see a world that is painfully lacking in things that should be, and every once in a while, one of them becomes real because another person saw it too and made it happen for the same visionary imperatives that drive all human progress.

So I don't begrudge people with low IQs their illiterate goatherder's campfire tales, if that's the best they can understand.  But I have my own Good Book written by dead men.  Looks a little something like this:

Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke

Spare me your stories of Levantine barbarians committing genocide because their leader has a schizophrenic voice in his head telling him to Kill, he's not that interesting a villain and even worse as a hero.  Spare me your Christ's Hellenistic plagiarism of philosophies invented in India thousands of years before he was born.  Spare your Waiting for Godot routine of an Apocalypse that either already came when the Roman Empire ended - and in the slowest, most boring ways imaginable - or will never come.  You don't inherit paradise - you either build it, or deserve whatever you get that others who don't care about you choose to build in order to take your money.

Scientists and engineers are humanity's true leaders, not the ciphers in flag lapel pins haunting the halls of government or the monied parasites who own them from their yachts and private islands.  And science fiction authors are humanity's true prophets and priests, its conscience in metaphor where it has not yet manifested openly.  Its apotheosis is a universe of infinite surprises, infinite freedom, infinite diversity in infinite combinations across infinite time, where all things become, and all things are created, and all things create in turn.  

Compare that with the eschatology of religion: A "paradise" like a painting on the wall of a tomb - superficial states of unchanging joy, forever under the absolute dictatorship of some Master.  So while it will have no effect, I highly recommend that anyone who puts emotional stock in the Bible should read the Foundation trilogy, read the colleted works of Arthur C. Clarke, and read the core tetralogy of the Dune novels (do not read the author's son's prequels and sequels, they are blasphemy).  Step into a world bigger and more joyous than the one your primitive ancestors imagined.

/Geek out

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Comment Preferences

  •  With L. Ron Hubbard, you get both! (12+ / 0-)

    Except that they don't tell you that the origin of your religion is Hubbard thinking that over 75 million years ago, space aliens who looked like John Travolta flew billions of Thetans over to Earth on DC-8's, strapped them to volcanoes, and blew them up with H-bombs until you've already given the Scientologists $100,000 or so.

    That, or until you watch that episode of South Park.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Sun May 12, 2013 at 01:01:03 PM PDT

    •  Hubbard was a con artist (13+ / 0-)

      and a mediocre, cliche-happy science fiction author.

      Today's trivia becomes tomorrow's sacrament.

      by Troubadour on Sun May 12, 2013 at 01:03:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  From my research (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, ferg, Aunt Pat, RiveroftheWest

        L Ron Hubbard had a total mental breakdown due in part to his service in WWII. He was a genius, but veterans' mental health services were, well, inadequate. He tried to put himself back together. He became functional, but remained delusional. Add in a great talent for hucksterism and, well, we know what happened. Tragic all the way through.

        Peace

        Zen is "infinite respect for all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility for all things future."--Huston Smith's Zen Master

        by Ree Zen on Sun May 12, 2013 at 02:10:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Con artist? BS you better believe that shit bro-- (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raboof, Troubadour

                                            LITE  
                                 You read that book I gave you?

                                             OTTO
                                 What book?

                                             LITE
                                 Dioretix. Science of matter over mind.

                                             OTTO
                                 Unh uhg

                                             LITE
                                 You'd better read it and quick. That
                                 book will change your life. Found it
                                 in a Maseratti in Beverly hills.

        A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life  as abunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll Give you an example, show you what I  mean. Suppose you thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like plate or shrimp or plate of shrimp out of the blue no explanation. No point  in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.
         Repo Ma
        n.

  •  So if I write Sci-fi, (3+ / 0-)

    does that make me a priest or prophet?

    ('cause I know profit ain't part of the writing gig!)

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Sun May 12, 2013 at 01:24:00 PM PDT

  •  I disagree. (6+ / 0-)

    SOME science fiction is better than SOME religions. But Dune? The most boring science fiction book I've ever read? Hardly. Nothing HAPPENS in Dune! /unpopular opinion that only my father, so far, happens to agree with

    Read Lois McMaster Bujold's Curse of Chalion instead.

  •  I like your premise, Troubadour. (5+ / 0-)

    Certainly, for me, I find great hope in some Science fiction, and sometimes a hint of what mankind could be. (but probably won't)

  •  Paul Krugman wrote about sic/fi in his blog the (6+ / 0-)

    other day and reminded me how long it has been since I read the Foundation Trilogy. And how much I enjoy Ursula LeGuin.

    It would be interesting if you would write about science fiction for the Political Book series. Either an overview of certain authors, or an individual book/series. What do you think?

    We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun May 12, 2013 at 02:19:55 PM PDT

  •  well said, i agree! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Aunt Pat

    i used to read a lot of it, mostly books i bought in the used book stores. still have a lot of those, but i regret not reading it much these days. been writing it instead but i'm slow and that takes a lot of my spare time. some day when i can quit my day job....

    one of my most 'valuable' possessions is a an old TV screen/tube that i  got harlan ellison ( "The Glass Teat" and Glass Teat" 2) to sign when he came through town.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Sun May 12, 2013 at 02:21:56 PM PDT

  •  Mindscape by Andrea Hairston-best scifi I've read (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    I've read a lot of science fiction and have not found anything to compare with the amazingness that is Andrea Hairston's Mindscape.

    Truly amazing work.

    Also, Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis and Patternist series are wonderful (but truly, nothing compares to Hairston's Mindscape, in my perspective).

    •  I wish I'd kept up with more recent authors. (0+ / 0-)

      I've got so many just sitting on my shelves waiting to be read.

      Today's trivia becomes tomorrow's sacrament.

      by Troubadour on Sun May 12, 2013 at 02:27:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dune is good... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        I could never get into any of the others.  I loved it as a teen and had a more muted reaction as an adult.  

        Still an incredible work.  I doubt the taste of anyone who cannot appreciate dune.

        Octavia butler is also incredible.

        Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

        by No Exit on Sun May 12, 2013 at 03:03:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  My Experience Was Slightly Different... (6+ / 0-)

    ...but then, I'm weird.  I wrote about it a while back, and I'm never averse to linking to my old material:  Exploring the Outer Limits

    But although I don't think SF and Faith need to be antagonistic, I still enjoyed you piece and I'm adding your diary to my Nifty Sci-Fi/Fantasy Index.  Thanks for sharing

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun May 12, 2013 at 03:01:12 PM PDT

  •  I love sf and I think it is difficult for anyone (4+ / 0-)

    To love and appreciate sci-fi and still take religion seriously.  

    It happens.  People do.  

    I just don't get it.

    Blind faith is no different than willful stupidity.

    Who can contemplate the grandeur of the universe and comprehend in even the smallest measure our insignificance in the universe and persist in believing their particular brand of religion holds any truth?

    It's difficult to get a man to understand something...

    Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

    by No Exit on Sun May 12, 2013 at 03:20:05 PM PDT

    •  Because not everyone who is (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, Troubadour, niemann

      religious participates in "blind faith".

      My late father-in-law was a professional engineer, an amateur scientist, and a committed Christian (Episcopalian) -- he saw no conflict between science and Christianity.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sun May 12, 2013 at 04:28:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What am I supposed to derive from this statement? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        He had some slight shred of evidence that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead among other articles of blind faith?  

        I don't believe it...  I have no reason to believe it.  

        I like your sig though your father in law would disagree with it.

        Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

        by No Exit on Sun May 12, 2013 at 05:34:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Childhood's end was a fantastic short read (4+ / 0-)

    I thought it was a great allegory to cellular biology and the way that our cells function and interact with foreign substances or different parts of our own body to produce a whole that is both far greater than their individual selves, yet that they also cannot comprehend.

    Even ignoring the ending, I really wish we had the will to embark upon a radical societal effort towards collective goals, namely the prevention of climate change, eradication of poverty and disease, and a classless society where we realize our prime purpose in this universe is to explore both the natural and social sciences whether that be research, investment, production of the arts, etc. Call it the Star Trek version of Earth if you will.

    Instead we get parasitic capitalists like the Koch brothers who are intent on preserving their right to destroy the habitability of the Earth for future generations, and "communist" states like China which, surprise surprise, are really parasitic capitalists intent on the same damn thing.

    I fully believe that the next stage in our 'evolution' is the unknowns we can accomplish through cooperation for the collective good. Technology is our evolution even though it is not necessarily based on our genes, it is the natural next phase of natural selection. Those who were able to better cooperate with each other survived while those that didn't were less successful for much of human history

  •  Be still my heart. You mentioned 1 of my favorites (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TerryDarc, Aunt Pat, Troubadour

    The Foundation series. Sci fi was my safe place for much of my life

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Sun May 12, 2013 at 03:58:37 PM PDT

  •  "Scientists and engineers are humanity's true... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, dream weaver, Troubadour

    ...leaders, not the ciphers in flag lapel pins haunting the halls of government or the monied parasites who own them from their yachts and private islands."

    Really?
    So when Oppenheimer actually realizes the destruction that he has wrought, when he has already picked and consumed the forbidden fruit, he turns to the Bhagavad Gita:
    "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

    Then again consider the life of  Fritz Haber:

    Fritz Haber: Jewish chemist whose work led to Zyklon B

    ...t has been claimed that as many as two out of five humans on the planet today owe their existence to the discoveries made by one brilliant German chemist.
    Fritz Haber Fritz Haber's inventions both saved millions, and were eventually used to kill millions

    Yet this is the same chemist denounced by young German students today as a "murderer".
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/...

    No-one personifies better than Fritz Haber the debate over science's capacity for good and evil.

    And there is more to his dramatic life even than this. For Haber personifies too the tragedy of a Jew desperate to be a patriotic German, whose life was destroyed after the Nazis came to power.

    And in the cruellest of all the ironies, his work was developed under the Nazis to create the gas used to murder millions in the Holocaust - including his relatives.

    ....Crops needed better supplies of nitrogen to produce more food. Previously this had been supplied in a limited and laborious way by ships full of bird droppings or nitrates mined in South America.

    But in 1909 Haber found a way of synthesising ammonia for fertiliser from nitrogen and hydrogen....

    ...when World War I broke out soon afterwards, Haber - now working for the Kaiser's research institute in Berlin - was desperate to prove his patriotism.

    He began experimenting with chlorine gas which, he said, would shorten the war.

    The first attack using his methods was at Ypres in 1915. Haber was promoted to captain in the German army - but on the night he celebrated promotion in his villa in Berlin, his wife committed suicide.

    Clara Immerwahr, a trained chemist, had become increasingly frustrated with her life at home looking after their son, and with the military direction of her husband's research.....

    ...By the end of the war he had re-married, but his reputation was as uncertain as ever. Awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on ammonia, he also feared arrest as a war criminal for his poison gas research....

    ...Despite the significance of his discoveries he remains much less well known than his friend and colleague Albert Einstein - perhaps because his reputation is so disputed.

    It was not just the poison gas. There was one other area of research in the 1920s in which Haber and his colleagues were successful: developing pesticide gases.

    Of Haber's legacies, this was the bitterest. For this research was later developed into the Zyklon process, used by the Nazis to murder millions in their death camps, including his own extended family.

    •  Many scientists fit thier science to thier income (4+ / 0-)

      needs or political beliefs or urges or fears. They are human after all. I love sci fi because it frees me from the issues that make me blind with rage or fear and allows my mind to fly free of my genes. It allows me to see other points of view. It is enlightenment work. I also read mysteries, classics, and even a few of what I consider trash. Mostly the trash is wallowing in primate issues...  I truly hate the latest fad in reading : vampires and werewolves... The booksellers classify that crap as sci fi which is truly maddening.  Now I do love McCaffreys work and a few others who explore relationships (not sexual - geesh) between species. Though there was  a series of books by Francine Mezo about a woman and an alien that I found extraordinary in its ability to explore what love and caring is.... and what price is it worth.  

      Some sci fi is pure fantasy, some is like seeing into the dreams of a child that needs to feel special and powerful, some is awesome like Clarkes or Asimov or McDevitt ...

      If we are ever going to rise above our primate past it will be with our minds functioning at full power...

      Fear is the Mind Killer...

      by boophus on Sun May 12, 2013 at 04:22:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What utter rubbish (0+ / 0-)

      Without wishing to say that Haber was a good person -- I frankly don't know -- the charge that he somehow originated Zyklon B is driveling absolute bosh.

      Zyklon B is not some esoteric chemical. It is none other than good old hydrocyanic acid with a few non-poisonous additives to make it easier to handle. And whatever else Haber did or didn't do, he didn't discover hydrogen cyanide.

      Next time, try to understand what you read before you blatt out a load of nonsense.

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:53:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A person can be both a fan of Scifi and still be (7+ / 0-)

    religious. I've been a fan of Dune and works of high fantasy for as lone as I can remember and I'm a Christian. I like science fiction and fantasy because they show a humanity that doesn't exist in the real world. In my favorite stories the villain is punished, the hero succeeds and there is peace in the end. That's not how reality usually works and it is very easy to lose hope when confronted with the darkness of day to day reality.

    My hope comes from my faith. It got me through the darkest periods of my life, a time when I thought there would never be a good day. Even now it gets me through the hard times, and reading good stories helps to elevate my mood. I'm not less intelligent than another because of my faith, and I'm not smarter than anyone else because I like to read. I'm just me, and in the end that's all anyone can be.

    “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton

    by bayushisan on Sun May 12, 2013 at 04:32:40 PM PDT

  •  Sience fiction becomes science fact. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    I have a positive view of them mostly I think because they are a very cool technology and I am always attracted to neat new gizmos that can do things our ancestors couldn't have dreamt. The idea that a person in Washington sitting at a computer terminal can guide a weapon (or camera, or whatever) right into the house of a person living in Botswana or whatever is, you have to admit, very cool. I just have the feeling that on balance these things are going to be helpful to us and will end up saving lives, net net.
    So, how long before I can just print out a predator drone on my 3D printer?

    Those things are way cool!

  •  A few books changed the way I think of faith (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Oh Mary Oh

    One was the Speaker for the Dead/Xenocide/Children of the Mind collective of OSC.. I like to think at some point, he drove off the cliff and went nutbar, but the ideas presented in those three books really is a very humanistic way of looking at the world.   At one point, he argues something I have used against those with strong anti-gay religious belief:  is a soul inherently "male" or "female" ?   Or, in the example of Xenocide, when a society backs away from science because they want to believe in faith, they let themselves be used for evil; but once they know the truth, through science, their faith falls apart in one way.. but in another becomes a much more fond, loving memory that moves their society without controlling it in any way.

    The other book that really gets me as a matter of faith isn't so much scifi as fantasy/fiction: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.   I've read it several times, and everytime I do I think: if the Bible was written more like this - where it was clearly parable but also an example of what we wish was true with such a heartfelt message there would be a lot of religious people who would be a lot happier.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sun May 12, 2013 at 07:43:58 PM PDT

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