A Station Eight Fan Web Site


The Phoenix Gate

Ask Greg Archives

REJOINDERS 2005-03 (Mar)

Archive Index

: Displaying #1 - #10 of 37 records. : 10 » : Last » :

Posts Per Page: 1 : 10 : 25 : All :

Bookmark Link

Punchinello writes...

<<Well, let's start with the "buffet"/game-playing writing style. I think it's awful. >>

I agree.

<<Having said that, I have this friend, a garg fan who's now a pretty darn successful writer. When I read her first book, I felt that the first half of it was written in that way. As if rolls of the dice determined who each character was, what he or she could do and what happenned to them.
When I asked her about it, she confessed (if that's the word) that I was dead on. The first half of the book was her almost literally setting to prose a game of D&D that she had played.
I don't recommend doing that, but look at the result. The second half of the novel, inspired as it was by the first half, was wonderful. And she's moved forward with these characters into other books as well. >>

When I indicated that I thought this game-players writing style could be exploited profitably, I wasn't really thinking of more mature, conventional writing emerging from it. Although, that obviouly works too. I was thinking, if you were writing something, for instance, where there was a consistent theme of game-playing, then maybe you could exploit it as a device. I'm thinking of game-playing themes more along the lines of George Perec than dungeons and dragons. So maybe there would be subtle games embedded in the text. But at the same time, maybe there could be a section of the book, or a certain character, which you treat in the game-players writing style. Sort of in the way you could mimic the writing style of the Victorians. I have given no serious thought to what properties make game-player writing read the way it does. But it _is_ recognizable. You've identified it, yourself.

<<But your second question is more serious. Does this process in fact impair the reader/audience. Forget that some of these guys will never be great writers, will this make them bad readers?
I don't know. But my guess is that it's the same (or similar) percentage of people who would have been bad readers in the first place. The good ones will transcend. The others won't. That's my hypothesis.>>

I suppose so. It's just that I keep on detecting subtle trends in the way people in our culture think about things. And I worry this game-players thing will worsen. It's like that business of an incomplete idea of "sentience" invading popular culture. It seems ridiculous to speculate that the idea migrated into the culture from star trek, but if you observe carefully, you can see it. I think people in our culture, are less and less informed by critical thinking today.

Ten years ago, for instance, I don't think I saw game-player writing anywhere. Now, even before this conversation I had, in which we began to put a name to this thing, it seems pervasive. I think the novelty has become the institution. Consider that twenty years ago, aspiring authors could not have seen this in literature. Today, I have waking nightmares that the kid who would have been the next Paul Auster is going to become intellectually deranged when he picks up a dungeons/dragons book for the first time and gets the idea that "this must be how people write."

I'm probably thinking of something along the lines of memes here. Ideas enter the culture and become dominant over time. Usually, stupid ideas. They begin to define the way that people think about things and even the way they value things. It doesn't just erode our intellects. It can erode sensible ethics. Consider this...

I saw an episode of star trek recently, and it really alarmed me. The premise was that the characters travel to a planet where the human population reproduces exclusively by cloning. For some ridiculous reason they could no longer continue cloning themselves, so they ask the characters to donate genetic material so their culture can survive. The characters hostility to the idea is so irrational that I wouldn't know how to describe it. And when the clone people sneak away some of their genetic material to make clones of them anyway, a demonstration of some of the most demented rationalization of science fiction occurs.

The characters go to the lab where their clones have already developed into full grown reproductions of themselves, and use their death rays to obliterate them. And I should be clear that these were not blastocysts in test tubes. These were obviously fully grown and autonomous people. And this is all treated by the authors as though it were the most natural thing in the world. It's simply understood that being cloned "diminishes you" as a human being, and that their absurd indignation was somehow righteous. Precisely how this diminishes a person is never elaborated upon, and I'm sure that the authors never even thought about it. They assume, with remarkable vacuousness, that the cloned people in the lab do not possess any type of intrinsic worth. I know that star trek authors have never picked up a science text, but the poverty of ethical thinking here, compelled me to think they had never read a book or had a thought about anything.

Of course, it's just a silly TV show. Right?

And yet, it's conspicuous that the range public debate about bioethics is defined by these concepts. I'm not talking about the range of debate in the literature of science or philosophy. That remains very isolated from the public forums where most people in our culture consider these issues. In popular magazines and network news journalism, the dominant logic is that a person is rendered somehow, "lesser" by having been cloned. The idea has been in ascendancy for a decade despite the depth of it's ignorance. The people who define and limit public discourse about it have certainly never thought about it critically. Their positions frequently contradict themselves and more frequenly rely on popular myths and emotional appeals to people's superstitions.

And it gets worse. Something far more sinister has emerged from popular, misinformed dialogue about cloning. In popular disputes about it (I heard the notion resurface on CNN about a month ago) the question of "what kind of rights would a clone have" is routinely brandished about as though it were an intelligent thought. To practicing ethicists and scientists, this notion probably would not have even entered the dialogue if it had not been thrust upon them by popular culture. That the question is being asked at all assumes, uncritically, that there is something meaningfully distinguishable about a cloned person which would compel us to assign a different worth to them. A worth, lesser than a person who came into the world by conventional means.

I have a suspicion, that the people most vocally shrieking about the moral dilemmas of cloning, are actually theologically threatened by it. I have no evidence of this. But a few inferences they have made, have got me thinking that their theological picture of "personhood" follows a very rigid prescription, and their indignation may originate with some inept idea that a clone would not have a soul.

"Soul" becomes a good parallel to "sentient life." One is from religion and one is from science fiction, but both of them are shortcuts people use instead of actually thinking about the internal properties that imbue something with intrinsic moral worth.

I hope it's apparent why I think this is important. Magical thinking can be dangerous. The worth of a being can't reasonably be described in these terms. If the distinction between ruling class and underclass or the difference between pets and meat is being determined by distinguishing one as sentient or soul-containing, then we have not really distinguished anything. We're just making things up. We might as well assign moral worth based upon who has stars on their bellies.

I don't remember what Goliath's reaction to Thailog was precisely. I remember that he was alarmed by the prospect of there being another version of himself. How would you describe his feelings about the issue. I suspect since he would have no concept of cloning technology, his perception of it would be unique.

Greg responds...

Goliath's initial reaction was horror and anger. Not at the clone per se, but at Xanatos for having stolen something -- Goliath's uniqueness as an individual, at least. I think that's a legitimate fear (not a rational, ethical response). And certainly, there's no ethical justification for Xanatos' actions.

But as Elisa shortly points out, it's too late to simply be pissed at Xanatos. The clone, Thailog, exists. He's alive. As much a Gargoyle as Goliath is. In a very real way, he is Goliath's son. Goliath quickly agrees. (Of course, by this time, he's already pissed off Thailog -- a victim of nurture as opposed to nature -- and there will be no reconciliation.)

Look, let's take the Star Trek episode you described. I've seen it, though it's been years, so I'm going to have to rely on your version of it.

I think it's completely legitimate to have reservations about loaning your genetic material so that they can make clones of you. It's legitimate to be generous too, but you must acknowledge that it must be a personal decision.

A friend once hinted that she'd like me to donate sperm so that she could have a baby. I truly believe that this person would make a great parent, but it's just not in me to help in this way. Mostly because I know how I feel about my own kids. And the knowledge that there was another child of mine out there and not part of my life would drive me nuts.

So I buy into Riker, et al, rejecting the request from the Clone-Society. It MUST be a personal choice. Also, medically -- by the rules they set up/made up -- the point was made that cloning would always be a stopgap solution. So there's a certain pointlessness to participating. But whatever. You MUST have the right to say no. Goliath should be able to say no to Xanatos.... "Thanks, David, but I don't really want a clone of me out there, particularly since I don't trust your parenting skills."

Now of course, what I believe your really objecting to is Riker and company killing living viable beings... and of course Elisa, Goliath and I would totally agree with you. If the clones are completed, the clones are completed. That's that. They're alive. TOO LATE!!!!

Now, there's another Riker episode where he discovers that he has a clone -- in fact it becomes unclear which is the clone and which is the real Riker (i.e. the guy we've known all these years, or the guy that's been trapped on a distant planet for years). Both wind up surviving, which I thought was novel. The "clone" later became somewhat Xanatosian, which I also appreciated.

But to take your argument to something more general than cloning... I mean you need to keep in mind that when cloning is used in SF (or at least good SF) it's just a metaphor. Clones are regarded as second class citizens because the history of humanity is rife with second class citizens based on criteria equally as dopey.

Now, agreed some SF doesn't get it.

And, agreed, now that actual cloning is becoming closer to actual reality, people may be adopting the jargon of SF because -- what else do they have?

But lazy thinkers have ALWAYS existed. On bad days I certainly think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but if I'm being more honest, I can't exactly look back on the world and go : "HEY, NO PROGRESS!" There's been a lot of progress. We'll never wipe out ethics-free humans. Ethically, well, we're just not allowed to.

The memes you discuss may be a problem. But they're just replacing old memes that are even more devastating because they're WAY TOO REAL.

It's another old Sci-Fi notion... In a very real way, wouldn't it be great if the ALIENS did attack. Because then FINALLY, humanity would realize how little differentiates black from white, male from female, gay from straight, etc., ad nauseum. Of course, that would immediately present us with the new racial challenge of learning to "just get along" with the aliens. But wouldn't it be nice for just a moment to get past the pettiness that we own ourselves?

Or something like that.

Response recorded on March 31, 2005

Bookmark Link

Punchinello writes...

Hello Mr. Weisman.

<<So sometimes, it does get annoying. But mostly I enjoy doing this. (I do think that doing a little a day has been a much better system than trying to do big batches of questions all at once. I get less annoyed when not burdened with the cumulative effects of annoyance.) Do I wish this could be more of a forum for ideas and discussion? Well, yeah, duh. I've invited that in the past, and, P., I always enjoy reading and responding to your posts.>>
<<I hope that 18 months later you're still checking ASK GREG and reading this. I hope that you'll compose your response and hold on to it, submitting it when we finally get things back up and running. But even if you're not, even if you're long gone, thanks for raising some interesting issues.>>

All this sort of diminishes some of my apprehensions about submitting things to this forum. Most of the time I have assumed it's a huge hassle for you.

<<(Although what you quoted at the head of your post:
<<You idiot! Did you not read the no ideas clause on the main askgreg page or are you just pretending to be stupid!>>
is a bit lost on me out of context. I can't believe I wrote the first quote.) >>

You didn't write it. I'm sorry. That must have seemed strange to you. When I submitted this post (all those many years ago) there were two posts in the list directly before mine. The first was from someone who I don't think had ever posted a message here before. I don't remember his name or what he wrote, but I do remember that he was speculating about something you did in the show. His post seemed pretty benign to me. He was just curious about something.

The second post was from...some anonymous idiot. He was the one asking the curious guy if he was "pretending to be stupid." I got the impression he was trying to demonstrate his superior knowledge of "gargoyles forum culture." I found his invective incredibly offensive. Apparently so did your mr. Gorebash, because he deleted his post after I responded. That's why you didn't see it.

I think the guy rematerialized shortly afterwards, as Master Debator, who had never posted before and most likely never will again. I almost regret you decided not to dignify his contest for "king of the garg fans" with a reaction, as I'm sure your reaction could have been very amusing.

<<So a lot comes down to the intent of the questioner, and you can usually tell, if not in a single post then in the range of posts that that person submits. If I get 16 posts in a row asking something like, "Who is Maggie's father?" followed by "Who is Claw's father?" followed by "Who is Fang's father?" or if I get requests for laundry lists of things, "Name all the ancient heroes who have encountered Oberon," then you can bet that the questioner was looking for a question to ask, as opposed to trying to deepen his or her understanding of the show or character.>>
<<And again, I think you can often (though not always) tell by the question itself if that's what the questioner is seeking. A deeper understanding about some aspect of the show.>>

I understand. I think part of the reason that I responded to the anonymous character in the way I did was because I had gotten the idea in my head that it was the same anonymous character that is persistently demanding that you elaborate on the most trivial minutia. From my perspective, it seemed like someone had just asked where fox got her tattoo six times in a row, then had the unmitigated gaul to call someone else an idiot for asking an innocent question.

Greg responds...

I so wish I could just catch up. It's so hard to raise this forum up to its potential when I'm two years behind responding to a post that's responding to a post that's two years even further back.

Hopefully, we'll have the opportunity to repair the system sometime soon. But in the meantime, I just keep plugging away. And I hope you (all of you) stick around too.

Response recorded on March 31, 2005

Bookmark Link

Arwen writes...

just wondering... i havent seen all of TGC, so if this comes up in the show & i missed it... well, ops but

1)anyway, after hunters moon, what hapens 2 robyn canmore? does she keep tracking "the Demon" or what.

2) does jon canmore/castaway blame elesa at all for what hapened 2 jason

Greg responds...

1. No, she's arrested and forced to join the "Bad Guys".

2. He's not fond of her.

Response recorded on March 31, 2005

Bookmark Link

jillvevea@hotmail.com writes...

Why did they end gargoyles? I mean, in the late show,after they save the train and everone see their point of of view and then LOVE them. But why did they conution on from their?

Please e-mail the anwer's...I don't know how or when to get back here to see my anwer.

Greg responds...

I'm just going to refer you to the archives. I'm not going to e-mail you. That's not what this forum is for. And I'm not going to answer a question that I've answered over and over again, particularly for someone who basically had no intention of checking back even assuming she would still check back two years later.

Response recorded on March 31, 2005

Bookmark Link

Question writes...

What does the moon look like when it is viewed on Avalon? By that I mean does it wax and wane more often when viewed from Avalon because of the 1 hour for 1 day rule? Can you see the waxing and waning of the moon on Avalon in one night because of the time acceleration outside Avalon?

Greg responds...

That's a real good question... one that I haven't given a lick of thought too. (See, I'm happy to admit it when I don't know something.)

What do all of you think?

Response recorded on March 30, 2005

Bookmark Link

Stanley writes...

Greg responds...

So, if I'm getting you right the Hunter's Moon (a.k.a. the Blood Moon) is the first full moon of October. (Or the only full moon of October, most years.) Right?

Thanks. That's very helpful and useful. I'm writing this down.

So a couple more questions...

Do you know the origin(s) behind these names? And if so, what are they?

And what is a Wyrt?

recorded on 08-01-03

The lore of the names of the moon are posted at various sites around the net. Here's a few:


Not sure about the origins though. And "wyrt" is an Old English term for "wort", a generic word for "a plant" I believe.


Greg responds...


Response recorded on March 30, 2005

Bookmark Link

Annie Onimous writes...

Was up!
At the end of the episode "the mirror", before Puck got all ticked and did the whole human by day thing, did he seem to sort of loosen up to Demona a bit to you? I thought he started to kinda like her near the end. What do you think greg?

Greg responds...

I think that he had had a good time, and so was genuinely feeling a bit more charitable toward her. And one might argue that his "gift" -- as much as she initially was horrified by it -- was still helpful.

Response recorded on March 29, 2005

Bookmark Link

Todd Jensen writes...

I was just looking through the archives again, and noticed a question about what Goliath's favorite books were. You mentioned that "Great Expectations" was one that came to mind.

This actually amused me a little, for there was one aspect of the book that reminded me a lot of "Gargoyles", in the way that Dickens connected the two convicts whom Pip has to help hide at the beginning of the book with the Miss Havisham and Estella part of the story (warning to those who haven't read the book: spoilers follow): it later on turns out that Magwitch (one of those two convicts) was Estella's father and that the other convict (whose name I forget) was the man who left her standing at the altar. That element of interconnectedness definitely struck me as something straight out of "Gargoyles" in terms of the way that everything turned out to be linked to everything else eventually.

I don't know if you had that in mind when you mentioned the book in your answer, but it did make me see its inclusion as appropriate.

Greg responds...

I think of the Gargoyles Universe (and genre fiction in general) as being very Dickensian. Certainly nothing is more Dickensian than Darth Vader being Luke's father, and Leia being Luke's sister (a revelation that still disappoints me).

That connectivity that you mention is a cornerstone of most cohesive Universes. And the Gargoyles Universe in particular.

Another influential book along those lines, is HOWARD'S END by E.M. Forster.

"Only connect.."

Response recorded on March 29, 2005

Bookmark Link

bassiste bourre writes...

where i can find gargoles picture? (i'm french sorry for my english) :-)

Greg responds...

Your English seems fine, but I don't have any pictures for you. Check in the comment room.

Response recorded on March 28, 2005

Bookmark Link

Lawrence Matheson writes...

Hi I was wondering even though you don't read fan fic what your opinion on the idea is?

Greg responds...

You mean the general idea of people writing fanfic?

As I've said MANY times before, I have mixed feelings. It's very gratifying that people are that into the characters and series to want to create their own. But I'm also a bit territorial, so I also find it disconcerting.

It works out well, then, I think, that I don't read the stuff. But keep up the good work!

Response recorded on March 28, 2005

: Displaying #1 - #10 of 37 records. : 10 » : Last » :