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.