RSSCategory: Writing

Heinlein and the Problem of the Present

September 12, 2010 | By | Reply More
Heinlein and the Problem of the Present

Having read the new biography of Robert A. Heinlein, I indulged myself in dipping back into some of the novels. Heinlein worked out a Future History in which he set many of his stories. Obviously, any writer who attempts predictions is usually in for a bit of embarrassment—it’s difficult at best to know what might happen next week let alone next century.

But Heinlein had more than the usual “horse sense” when it came to sociology and the way in which history unfolds and he often nailed the essence of a coming period if not the specifics. (He tagged the Sixties the Crazy Years all the way back in the Forties.)

One of his chillier stories is a short novel called If This Goes On— in which he depicts the Second American Revolution. This time it occurs in response to a homegrown despotism—a theocracy, established by the First Prophet, a combination of Huey Long and Billy Sunday named Nehemiah Scudder. (You can find it published with two other stories in the book Revolt In 2100.) I reads this in seventh grade, while attending a Lutheran school, and it had a lasting impact on me.

In the early Fifties certain publishers started packaging the better SF novels in hard cover for the first time and this was one of Heinlein’s. He wrote an afterword to it and I just reread that. In view of our current social circumstances and in light of so much that gets discussed here at Dangerous Intersection I would like to quote two paragraphs in particular. Mind you, Heinlein wrote this in 1952.

Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country—Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva’s Zion, Smith’s Nauvoo, a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.

Could it be otherwise? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not—but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday’s efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening—particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington.

I was very much struck by that. Looking around, it made me even sadder, since obviously there have always been people with foresight enough to see what might happen and how and yet they are often ignored. In Heinlein’s case, because he was just one of those “Buck Rogers guys” with all the cookie ideas about space and aliens and such like.

But obviously even then the shortcomings of our “voting system” raised a possible red flag for some.

Anyway, I thought I’d share that little near-forgotten gem.

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Buy Dangerous Intersection

July 22, 2010 | By | Reply More
Buy Dangerous Intersection

Apparently you can buy a subscription to Dangerous Intersection for only 99 cents at Amazon. I registered DI at Amazon about a year ago, but I had forgotten about this way of reading DI.

I’m curious, though. Does anyone out there read DI on a Kindle? If so, do the layout and photos translate well on the Kindle?

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Mark Tiedemann speaks

July 18, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
Mark Tiedemann speaks

Mark and I have been friends for 20 years. I’ve celebrated his many successes as a science fiction writer, and I was delighted when he showed interest in being one of the authors for Dangerous Intersection. I just checked the stats here, and I see that over the years, Mark has contributed 187 posts to DI. I’ve read every one of them, and I am repeated struck by the fact that there isn’t a “cheap” post among them. They are all well-crafted and carefully considered.

Every one of Mark’s posts is still available at this site. Click on his name on the bottom right corner list of authors to see them. But perhaps you are not in the mood to read substantive posts tonight. If that is the case, you are in luck.

About a year ago, I sat down with Mark at his St. Louis home and videotaped a long conversation with him. We covered many topics, which I am in the process of breaking into individual YouTube videos. I’m including the first three as part of this post. In Part I, Mark discusses his personal goals and the importance of art. In Part II, he discusses reading, heroes and censorship. In Part III, Mark discusses the blogosphere, including his impression of what goes on here at Dangerous Intersection. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Mark through his spoken words, at least as much as you’ve appreciated his written work. Without further ado . . .

I’ll be posting several more Mark Tiedemann videos later this week.

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Books for freethinkers

July 15, 2010 | By | Reply More
Books for freethinkers

The Center for Inquiry has published this list of books for freethinkers recommended by well-known freethinkers.

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Summer Memories

May 19, 2010 | By | Reply More
Summer Memories

Few times as a kid did I wish for a teacher to ask, What I Did on my Summer Vacation? The school year beginning in 1971 would have been one of them. I recently wrote a bit about one day that summer at one of my other venues:

TheObjectAtHand: Balloon Memory
Ballast magnetically splayed on contemporary penny

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Diluting the Internet

May 17, 2010 | By | 13 Replies More
Diluting the Internet

My pet peeve today is Answers.com, which runs “WikiAnswers” (I refuse to link to these sites). They are apparently run by marketing geniuses who founded these deplorable companies thanks to the ability to have their vapid link-less “answers” appear high up on Google searches. I have learned my lesson, though–no more will I follow a Google page to these sites. They have quite clearly been created to gain market share by jamming key words into barely thought-out “answers.” In short, the idea is to pump the sites full of link-barren word-salad garbage authored by know-nothings purely for the purpose of selling ads. I base this opinion on reading dozens of such “articles,” but no more. I’m finished with answers.com. I refuse to be one of the 54 million monthly visitors to these sites any more.

Barely better is ehow.com, which has published one million articles. I’ve got to give a little bit of credit to ehow, however. At least you’ll find at least ONE link in these barely helpful “articles.” The end result is always the same, however. Thousands of ehow “articles” are dashed off in one sitting by non-experts who are whoring their writing skills so that ehow can gain market share for its buckets of ads–enough ads to take in $200,000,000 in revenue in 2009. Consider an example – do you think that this took more than five minutes to write? Do you think anyone reading this article didn’t know how to shop at a grocery store, but now knows? Here is the inside scoop on ehow published by Time Magazine. In this article, we learn that the authors of ehow articles are paid between $3 – 15. And it shows. Don’t trust me on this. Go take a look.

By the way, the above article about ehow was written by a guy named “Dan Fletcher” who seems to crank out an endless stream of tiny articles for Time (plug his name into Time’s search field and you’ll see what I mean). It’s quantity over quality for Dan, who sometimes writes 5-10 articles in one day for Time. I’m sure that he’s thinking, “Well, it’s a living.”

I know that the Internet doesn’t belong to anyone in particular. People have the right to write anything they want and I have the right to try to not read articles that are created solely for the purpose of filling web pages with keywords that attract Google. More and more, however, serious sites are being shoved downwards on Google’s results pages by keyword laden ad-machines that are portraying themselves to be journalistic endeavors, and it’s a shame.

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Call For Interest

March 30, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
Call For Interest

This is a link to my own website. The post concerns the career of a writer of my acquaintance—me. I’m taking a moment and perhaps a few liberties to do a little personal business here on DI and I hope you all forgive the (somewhat) commercial intrusion.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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Can you tolerate NAMBLA?

January 25, 2010 | By | 12 Replies More
Can you tolerate NAMBLA?

image courtesty of the Federal Art Project, via Wikimedia Commons

You think you’re open-minded? What if the North American Man-Boy Love Association wanted to distribute a newsletter in your town? What if they wanted to hold a local parade celebrating pederasty?

I am currently studying social psychology in graduate school, and I’m particularly interested in political psychology. One of my present research interests is political tolerance. “Political tolerance” refers to individuals’ willingness to extend equal civil liberties to unpopular groups.

When political scientists and psychologists measure political tolerance, they often probe individuals for their ability to withstand the most offensive, outlandish groups and speech possible. For example, a liberal-minded person may be asked whether they would be willing to allow a rally for the Klu Klux Klan or some extremist, militaristic group. Paradoxically, a truly tolerant person must be willing to allow racially intolerant speech.

Political tolerance plays a cornerstone role in functioning democracies (at least, we think so). If voters can strip away the civil liberties of disliked political groups, those liberties lay on precarious ground indeed. If we cannot tolerate the words of anarchists or members of the Westboro Baptist Church, then we do not really believe in the boundlessness of speech at all.

Academics say as much. In reality, voters are not so tolerant.

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Time for a new look . . .

January 4, 2010 | By | Reply More
Time for a new look . . .

Mark Tiedemann has come up with his new look at his new look blog, “Distal Muse”.

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