Sunday, March 15, 2009

Randomness in Print

One of the books I should have included in the last post (about space SF I liked) was Mary Russel's The Sparrow and Children of God. The tag I remember as best describing The Sparrow was "Jesuits in...SPPPAAACCEEE".

There was a bit of a dust up, if I recall correctly, about The Sparrow being 'real' SF or not. (IMO, any thing with problem-solving space travel, unknown worlds and two aliens species is SF.) The world building is on the weak side, I think, and the earth-like biology of the alien world just a bit too pat. But Russell's characters were very well drawn, heart-rending in their humanity, and the story was full of a sense of discovery. It was also one of those rare SF novels that was very comfortably set in a world where faith and God were real.


About ten or fifteen years back, I read a short story in one of the SF magazines about the concept of 'leap of faith'. The story's protagonist was a preacher who survived the crisis literally by making a physical leap into the unknown. The background was a world whose native species could not see the stars in the nighttime. The theory was that the natives, who developed neither religion nor space flight, were prevented from doing so by lack of the sight of stars - that is our knowledge of 'unknown', our concept of 'out there, beyond' which drives both our outer quest for knowledge and our inner quest for God.

Or, at least, that's how I remember the story.


Law article: Is it really possible to do the kessel run in less than 12 parsecs? And should it matter?

I think, yes, it does matter when movies (and tv shows, and novels, and even poetry) get things wrong. (I'll also argue that Solo was trying to be a wiseacre at the farm boy, and I think the look on Kenobi's face showed he caught the error, and wasn't amused.)

Literature - which I will use to cover both print media and film, and which can probably cover a lot more - has a remarkable ability to influence our perceptions and shape our thoughts. I'm not about to call for factual accuracy in every fragment of writing or theater - that would be boring, and, until we actually can film Star Trek on location, far too limiting. But we-as-writers need to be aware of our power.

It's not for nothing that they say "the pen is mightier than the sword".

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