I want Science Fiction Magnets

I feel like my first post of the new Escape-Pod-has-a-real-blog era should be full of originality and in no way derivative of prior works, but we just don’t have that kind of time out on this arm of the spiraling blogosphere.

So this morning I read The Guardian’s quite interesting profile of Insane Clown Posse, which I had honestly thought was actually in the vein of Weird Al Yankovic when I first saw the Miracles video (“F#cking Magnets, how do they work?”) oh so many months ago without any of the needed context (actual Weird Al Yankovic-esque version here). The reality is, as it is so often, much worse.

“Well,” Violent J says, “science is… we don’t really… that’s like…” He pauses. Then he waves his hands as if to say, “OK, an analogy”: “If you’re trying to fuck a girl, but her mom’s home, fuck her mom! You understand? You want to fuck the girl, but her mom’s home? Fuck the mom. See?”

I look blankly at him. “You mean…”

“Now, you don’t really feel that way,” Violent J says. “You don’t really hate her mom. But for this moment when you’re trying to fuck this girl, fuck her! And that’s what we mean when we say fuck scientists. Sometimes they kill all the cool mysteries away. When I was a kid, they couldn’t tell you how pyramids were made…”

“Like Stonehenge and Easter Island,” says Shaggy. “Nobody knows how that shit got there.”

“But since then, scientists go, ‘I’ve got an explanation for that.’ It’s like, fuck you! I like to believe it was something out of this world.”

Now, I’ll hazard a guess that if you’re taking the time out of your busy week to listen to a science fiction podcast that you’re probably a big believer in Science as a source of wonderment.  I mean, it’s given us things like CERN and the National Ignition Facility, both of which have to be some of the coolest science happening within a few dozen parsecs of Earth. But really what the profile reminded me of was Jo Walton’s post over at Tor about the Moon landing and a backyard party:

I was at an outdoor party once. There was a beautiful full moon sailing above the trees, above the whole planet. And there was a guy at the party who proclaimed loudly that the boots of the Apollo astronauts had contaminated the magic of the moon and that it should have been left untouched. I disagreed really strongly. I felt that the fact that people had visited the moon made it a real place, while not stopping it being beautiful. There it was, after all, shining silver, and the thought that people had been there, that I could potentially go there one day, made it better for me. That guy wanted it to be a fantasy moon, and I wanted it to be a science fiction moon. And that’s how the day of the moon landing affected me and my relationship with science fiction, twenty years after it happened. It gave me a science fiction moon, full of wonder and beauty and potentially within my grasp.

Which is is an observation that I’ve turned over in my head many times since I first read it so many months ago. Though I’m quite skeptical that the opposite of science fiction is actually fantasy and not a more modern mysticism¹, but the point is that the stars are no more tarnished by our ability to begin to identify the planets among them in than the myths of the great sea monsters of old are tarnished by our discoveries of the real monsters of the deep. But for some the thought that all is not explicable is comforting, and I’ve always thought that part of science fiction’s job is to break down that belief that wonder is only found with a lack of understanding.


¹Overseeing the slush pile here at Escape Pod I know we get a lot of stories that are edge cases between us and Podcastle, and I’d argue that fantasy as a genre doesn’t really tolerate stories where the explanation for events or occurrences is truly lacking, it’s just that fantasy’s toolkit is a spellbook, and ours is a physics text. The explanation still has to exist in fantasy, whereas with these more modern mystics they seem to prefer no explanation whatsoever, merely the end product at which to marvel.

Comments (1)

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  1. Brett says:

    I must admit that pop music and the hip-hop phenomenon (which seem, to my untutored ear, to be much the same thing at this point) have ploughed a nastily-cynical furrow through the soul of this one-time music fanatic…who once dared to imagine himself “eclectic” because his LP collection contained Vince Guaraldi and The Kingston Trio and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. I don’t recall who first suggested that popular music is the soul of a generation, but there’s no denying it: pop music IS Pop Culture, and so with each succeeding year, I grow less relevant, and yes, just a little more bitter. Is it the same sort of generational rift that had dear ol’ Dad and me at odds so often, as he ordered me to ” for the love of Christ A’Mighty, turn that racket down and while you’re at it, get a haircut? Maybe so, but I kind of think not. Every generation is bound to suppose that the next one is headed for Hell- it’s a venerable tradition- but I contend that the unadulterated stupidity of shit like Insane Clown Posse really is symptomatic of a deeper nastiness- not your garden variety anti-intellectualism, but a nearly-religious contempt for anything smacking of ANY thought or consideration. “Keepin’ it real” is one of the less-offensive catch-phrases of the movement, and it still chaps my ass sorely, since the translation, as I understand it, is “Thinking and caring about important things is contemptible”. The proselytizing thing with those rapping clown assholes is scarcely a surprise, since Evangelical Christianity has invested a LOT into trivializing Science and scientists, and Heaven help us, the strategy has paid off, in that majority-percentages of Americans claim to believe that the Earth is a few thousand years old, that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to Sunday School, and whatever other patent absurdities that their clergymen tell them to accept and regurgitate. It’s a damned embarrassment to read the Guardian or LeMonde these days and realize that a lot of Europeans are convinced that we are all bigoted, fundamentalist dumbasses. While I enjoy picking on the Frogs as much as anyone, I am hardly prepared to dismiss evey Gaul as a cheese-eating surrender monkey, and the British? Hell, they used to love us, and I for one am heartbroken that they no longer do, dammit. The prevailing political climate of recent decades hasn’t helped, of course, though at least we don’t still have an Executive authority openly hostile to Science. It could be a hell of a LOT better, but it’s an improvement and I’ll take it. I realize that some of my kvetching about the low status afforded poor, much-maligned Geekdom is old hat; if there was ever a high school where the rocket club guys and the Mathletes enjoyed wild popularity and the football team’s quarterback couldn’t get a date for the Prom, I’ve sure never heard of it. Science geeks have fared better and worse at various times, but even during the Apollo missions when we were ALL space nuts, the Homecoming Queen was still the foxy head-cheerleader, and her date was an athlete with a bad-ass GTO. I think it was probably a law or something. But while proficiency at translating Latin or playing chess, or later, Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t getting you on the A-list, such things weren’t the outright liability that they seem to be now, thanks to this perplexing, all-out assault on Thinking. The cool kids of decades past mayn’t have cared much about Science, but neither did they BRAG about being dumb-asses, which is what so much of this rancid shit amounts to. How do a mudderfuckin’ BATTERY work, yo? Who da fuck knows? It’s all fuckin’ Mirackolus n’ shit. Hey clowns! I’m no physicist, but damn you, I can give a fair explanation of electromagnetism, and most 11th or 12th graders ought to be able to manage the same, without being ridiculed by you illiterate misanthropes. I encourage everyone to read the entire Guardian piece, as the author deftly addresses just how fundamentally ignorant Dopey Shag and Virulent Jay really are, and don’t miss the SNL parody either- it’s hysterical. I started this intending to just call whatever ICP has to offer about Science trifling and irrelevant, but I guess my rant has taken a different tack, and I guess it turns out I’m bothered way more by this shit than I ought to be. Still, I doubt that CERN will halt further work as they consider the implications of the clowns’ revelations. Zoologists are unlikely to re-evaluate giraffe phylogeny to accomodate Dopey’s conviction that it be a mudderfuckin’ miracle, yo, and I’m confident no scientist will pause his or her research in order to answer the imperative to suck theys dicks (sic). No one who beat the challenge of 9th Grade ought to give a flying fuck, and I ought to be ashamed of myself for all this invective, but hey dawgs, I’m just keepin’ it real, and them clowns, yo, they can suck THIS scientist’s dick. Word, Peace, owt.