Scale

scale“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke.

Scale and scope.

When did the scale and scope of speculative fiction become so obsessed with the unimaginable?  This question came to mind the other night when I was watching Star Trek Into Darkness, after having just seen a re-run of Doctor Who‘s “The Eleventh Hour” (s05e01) the day before.  Both shows, so completely different in theme, character, and setting, do have something in common: The stakes are so high that the action — both physical and dramatic — has to be quasi-supernatural in order to … in order to … in order to what?

Keep our attention?

  • Is it really necessary to have a fist fight with a genetically engineered god on top of an air-car traveling at 100 miles per hour?
  • Is it really necessary to have Mr. Spock from two different universes?
  • Is it really necessary to climb through an unimaginably large warp core that’s eerily reminiscent of a famous British police box on the inside?

Speaking of which …

  • Is it really necessary to hack into a global video teleconference?
  • Is it really necessary to have an villain who can shape-shift (clothes, and dog collar, and all) into anything, anything at all?
  • Is it really necessary to program a planet-wide computer virus?

Maybe it is.  I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, because both of these shows charge me with that sense of wonder that’s enchanted me since I was old enough to know what genre is.

Vast scales and scopes are nothing new to the mythos of speculative fiction; not when you had shows like The Twilight Zone telling you that there was a fifth dimension “as vast as space and as timeless as infinity” right there in the corner of your eye; not when you had The Outer Limits telling you that “we will control all you see and hear”; not when you had spaceships traveling to Jupiter so humanity could become star children.  And all of that was a generation ago.

But if we take away today’s themes of the universe-is-going-to-implode-and-all-of-spacetime-is-going-to-get-flushed-down-a-Planck-scale-toilet, then what are we really left with?  We’re left with questions.  And those are the hardest things of all.  Do we seek justice, or do we demand revenge when we see crimes of utter devastation?  Do we trust the man in the bow-tie when he was really only figment of our childhood?   Do we believe there is absolute good and absolute evil?  Or do we believe there’s a spectrum in between?

The struggle to save humanity — the galaxy, the universe, the mutli-verse itself — really pales when compared to the questions that these shows ask.  The visual candy is there — oh, yes — and I will gladly pay the price of admission time and time again to consume it.  But I want to ask these questions.  I want us all to ask questions.  In my opinion, that’s the only way we can grow.  I want to know if there’s moral absolutism or moral relativism … or both.  I want to know what we do when morality changes, if indeed it can.  I want to know how to ask these questions.  I don’t look for answers much anymore, but I don’t think that’s the point anyway.  I think we, as humans, have to ask them.

By the way, a Star Trek fan gave me two hand-made Tribbles.  They’re sitting on the mantle next to a Waterford crystal wine decanter, in stark contrast to one another: The sublime and the ridiculous.  The trouble is, I don’t know which is sublime and which is ridiculous.  That’s another question I’ll have to ask.

Until next time, years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013, Keith Parker, except as noted below:

Doctor Who is copyright © 2013 by the BBC. No infringement upon the rights of the BBC is intended.

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5 thoughts on “Scale

  1. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

    – said by some smart guy, supposedly.

    ;-}

  2. Hi, Keith – I couldn’t find an “About” button on your blog, so I had to post this notification here.

    All the best!

    We live in a period, happily unique in human history, when we are at the cusp of greater communication among all the Peoples of the world. Will this greater communication bring greater understanding, divided as we are between rich consumers and the poor, who struggle in appalling conditions to supply us with our affordable products, with religious and national ideologies filled with extremism and loathing, who wish to destroy those who call for moderation, and those who wilfully go through life unconcerned, with their eyes closed, only taking notice when forced to, or those across the world struggling not to have a decent life, but to merely survive in hope that their children will have a better chance, while wanton waste and greed exists right beside them, a world where irrational hate leads to the mass expulsion and murder of human beings while the international community wrings its hands and does nothing?
    Oh, bugger – I just realized I shouldn’t read Winston Churchill speeches before I write anything. Sorry. Not that I’m comparing myself to Churchill, or anything – far from it. My writing tends to be more “pie in the face.”
    Anyway – I’ve just recently found out that Kendra, at http://sunshinefromshadows.com/ has nominated me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award, for whatever reason. I suspect she was overcome by fumes caused by one of my postings, succumbed to a momentary delirium and nominated me. Whatever reason this lapse of sanity occurred, I accept.
    Now comes the tricky bit. In order to receive the award, you must thank the blogger who nominated you (Thank you indeed, Kendra!), answer five questions (see below, please), include the Super Sweet Blogging Award in your posting (I trust I’ll figure out how to do that momentarily {DAMN! can’t figure out how to put the picture in comments to other blogs. Please pretend it’s there and go to my blog to see the actual thing – thanks!}), nominate a baker’s dozen other bloggers for the post, and finally, notify the nominees in their respective blogs.
    And now (for something completely different) the envelope, please!
    Question #1: Cookies or Cake?
    Answer: Yes, please.
    Question #2: Chocolate or Vanilla?
    Answer: If they’re high quality, yes, please.
    Question#3: Favourite sweet treat?
    Answer: Both real halva and a properly made Napoleon (Mille-feuille).
    Question #4: When do you crave sweet things most?
    Answer: Usually when I’m only mildly peckish with a way to go before a meal and I need some energy, I’ll have a bit of chocolate.
    Question #5: What is your favourite colour?
    Answer: Green. No, blue – AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
    Actual Question #5: Sweet Nick Name?
    Actual Answer to Question #5: Empty-headed-animal-food-trough-wiper? I can’t actually recall having a nick name that stuck. Sorry.
    Now for the nominations (these were a bit difficult, as I didn’t want to make dual nominations with Kendra):
    1. I’d have to say Keith Parker at https://keithparker.net/ with his “Fish and TARDIS Sauce” blog is my number one. He writes a mean (as in really good, as opposed to socially nasty) blog that is primarily themed around Dr. Who, but not so much about geeking out on Dr. Who as discussing aspects of the series and how they reflect society. Or he’ll write whatever he darn well pleases, which is also a good read.
    2. Next along is Katy at http://bonesdontlie.wordpress.com/. Bones Don’t Lie is a fascinating, well researched and well written blog about death, but not in a gross way. Katy’s blog is about death from the perspective of “mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology,” taking different aspects of death and how societies, past and present, approach and appreciate the final sleep. Really interesting and not gross at all, I promise!
    3. Keeping with the cheery theme of death comes http://www.executedtoday.com/. Jason at Executed Today has a compendious compendium (?) of who was executed on any given date, with an often fascinating history and lots of side notes. It’s one of the first things I read in the morning, reminding me no matter how bad my day may be, it could be worse.
    4. My next nominee is Joachim Boaz’s blog http://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/. Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations is primarily (but not just) themed reviews of (mostly) science fiction books past, with extensive examples of cover art. Neat stuff!
    5. Raud’s blog, Gnawing the Bone (http://gnawingthebone.wordpress.com/) is a great blog about dogs, but not in any cutsey way (OK, there are some cute pictures). Included gratis in the blog are imaginative stories of the world from a canine point of view.
    6. Brain’s Idea (http://brainsidea.wordpress.com/) is all about people and their brains – in a non-zombie fashion. Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought otherwise.
    7. Something New Please (http://somethingnewplease.wordpress.com/) is written by someone who may be as disturbed as I am. Needless to say, I am a big fan.
    8. Wrong Hands (http://wronghands1.wordpress.com/). Another seriously disturbed blogger also with a talent for drawing.
    9. The God Project (http://thegodproject.net/). Does God Exist? This guy’s trying to find out.
    10. Eric Hyde’s Blog (http://ehyde.wordpress.com/). God exists, but how does this reflect on Believers?
    11. Books Around the Table (http://booksaroundthetable.wordpress.com/). To best describe this blog, here’s what the authors say about it: “Books Around The Table is the blog of Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Laura Kvasnosky, Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis. We are a critique group of children’s book authors and illustrators who have been meeting monthly since 1994 to talk about books we are working on, books we have read, and our lives. We invite you to sit down with us around the table and join the conversation.”
    12. The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice (http://thechirurgeonsapprentice.com/) also deals with the macabre in a tasteful way. Well sourced and well written professional stuff.
    13. 1pointperspective (http://1pointperspective.wordpress.com/) is a guy with a sarcastic soul. He may be the reincarnation of the demi-god Sarcasticus. Enjoy!
    OK, now to figure out how a proto-Luddite sticks the Super Sweet Blog Award picture on posts he’s got to send to thirteen nominees … where the heck did I put my stone hammer ….
    Apologies to Monty Python, Winston Churchill, and all the other great bloggers not on the thirteen steps … errr … that didn’t come out properly …

    1. My most heart-felt congratulations! I had a feeling your blog would get the recognition it deserves. You’re too good of a writer, and your blog is too original, not to get the accolades it deserves.

      And FWIW, Monty Python gave up blogging around 1974 or so when he failed to adhere to rule number 6, which of course, doesn’t exist :)

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