Musings on the 21st Century

“Basic message repeats: V.G. Smith reports. Currently stranded in 21st century. Taking long way around. If possible, establish currency drawing accounts at pre-established banking institutions for living purposes; otherwise, return is set for 6 July 2129. Have Gardiston and crew ready at that date. Best wishes, James.”

Musings on the early 21st century:

Having been born into a particular era, I know a fair bit about the people and society therein. That’s not to say I’m an expert in psychology or sociology or anything; but I know people. Well, at least my own era’s people. People aren’t hard to follow. OK, think of it this way: what separates a man born in 2000 from a man born in 2100?

The man born in 2000 is mired in the muck that is economics and religion; he is trapped in a society that has its morals and priorities all mixed up. How, in all the world, did the human race not realize that you can’t practice religions with rules like, “Love thy neighbor,” while living in an economic system where one has to work for a third or more of a life just to survive?

The man born in 2100 has similar problems, but economics isn’t one of them. People are still, in a general sort of way, fools, ignorant and downright stupid. But at least the majority of them are decently educated, fed and are accepting of decent customs like privacy and an actual application of the Golden Rule.

Having to live through the 21st century for a second time has taught me something interesting about the time that whelped me: people believe only what they want to. Case in point, a man I work with (I picked up a part-time job to observe these people a little.) thinks research into Dark Matter and Kerr black holes will revolutionize science and energy production. Likewise, another man I work with thinks the election of a wealthy fascist into political office will revitalize the waning economy. Is either right? Not at all. But it’s OK to dream of a better tomorrow even if a dream is only a dream if it never comes to fruition.

Just the other day, I had stimulated a conversation with one of the scientists from the labrotory on the other end of town about the future of human exploration. I wanted to see where my coworkers would take the subject she and I spoke so heatedly about, so I kept prodding and playing advocate to the Devil in every point. It amused me, if only because I carry such foreknowledge to this century, that they couldn’t see past the accomplishments of the automobile and the mobile music player. These people seem to worship such small things.

Offhandedly, I gave an exact year to the first Solarian interstellar flight as being 61 years from the present date. Nothing but blank stares and a questioning throat sound; so I explained, “The first time we saw Alpha Centauri up close was in 2077, right at the end of the year. Nothing there, obviously, but the stars were neat to watch circle one another from only a few AU away. Been there myself, once, when I was a kid. It’s a tourist trap now. Come see the Earth-men dance around in zero-gravity. Marstarians and Ellegrans come and fuel the Solarian tourist market by taking in shows and enjoying delicacies of Earth and Mars. Ellegrans especially have a taste for North American grass served with a light soy sauce drizzle or a vinaigrette. Oddly, they don’t like lettuce or other human veggies served the same way. To each their own, I guess.”

More blank stares. To each their own, indeed.

The people of this time period are odd in other ways. They care about skin color and place of birth. If I told someone I have an Britannian/European best friend and his wife is French/Welsh nobility, they’d probably laugh at me. (On which part, I wonder: Britannia or foreign nobility?) If I expanded and made even the slight mention that the Martian Augustian Marquis or the Margrave la Albion had skin darker than a boring, sunless pink, they might even take violent offence. I don’t understand these people that were once my colleagues and peers. But at least I’ve grown away from that way of thinking, though I admit to once being such a close minded fool as well.

It should only be another few years before I can set up delay mail to myself – can’t set up too quickly, should Past Me take notice and start asking questions. 2037 should give me a nice margin for error and it’ll get me free of fallout from the last major war this century. Worst case: the letters don’t make it due to human error or data failure. Doesn’t matter really – I’m taking the long way home regardless of the assistance I get from the Method.

Tag 10 Friends and List 10 Books

So I see more and more on Facebook that people are filling out this “list ten books and tag ten friends” thing. I’ve done it and tagged ten people (and this is pretty much a pain on a phone). I don’t think I gave the full story of some of my choices, so I’m going to expand on that here.

My list will include traditional print media (DeadTreeForm books), light novels, manga, graphic novels and even fan fiction. Never let is be said that all media is equally treated. All lit may be equal, but not all is recognized. This list is in more order than random mixed with “Oh, that reminds me.” This isn’t everything, but a sampling of some of my favorites and the ones that stick with me.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) by Robert A. Heinlein

This, as many of my friends can tell you, is my favorite book. I’ve read it many times and feel as if I know it inside and out. This was one of the first Heinlein novels I read and it’s stuck with me for it’s fantastic way of engaging a reader to empathize with an inhuman character. The setting stuns me with every rereading with Heinlein’s rich descriptions of Luna and the cities and homes therein, Terran politics and the affects of one planetary body on another. This book has stuck with me and has changed the way I write my own work in many ways.

Time Enough for Love (1973) by Robert A. Heinlein

Yes, yes. Another Heinlein so placed on the list. If Moon changed my writing in terms of setting and intertwining sociopolitical story, then Time Enough for Love changed my character writing for the better. Lazarus is a man of experience and with each section of the book, you see both the same man and a different type of man. His is a stretched example of how people change with time and this is made easy to see by simply stretching the life span out.

The Boat of a Million Years (1989) by Poul Anderson

From a purely historical standpoint, this novel offers an interesting look at life from period to period – eon to eon. Following the story of a family of sort of ancient (and not so ancient) immortals while the world shifts around them… and the details! Oh, the detailed world. From BC when-ever-the-hell into the far future. Never before had I need a book with description of Roman street life and alien linguistics, and I may never again. Until some smart-ass recommends one to me on the basis of that statement.

The Call of Cthulhu (1926) by H. P. Lovecraft

How do I tell the ways of madness? Honestly, just read the story. It’s online, mostly legally, and is well worth the time to really dig through every word with a fine tooth comb. There is a reason the Lovecraft is considered one of the world’s best, if not the best, horror writer.

Not Simple (2006) by Natsume Ono

From chapter one I knew what I was getting in to, but I kept reading because I wanted to know how Ian got to that diner and why he was sleeping outside. It’s a powerful story that I suggest to anyone who wants to know that there will always be someone worse off. I know that’s a terrible way of looking at it, but it’s the honest truth.

The Vanishment of Suzumiya Haruhi (2004) by Tanigawa Nagaru

This volume of the Suzumiya Haruhi series sticks with me because it breaks from the usual “I’m in an alternate universe” trope by using the nature of the one character who realizes the world changed to point it out. The main character, contrary to the name of the novel series, is openly terrified at the new world and takes any help he can manage (including alternate version of his friends, cheating from the future and a world-ending trust password) to get his way. Causality? We don’t need any stinking causality.

Watchmen (1986) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

It’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery tied up with a physical god cooked in bacon. The first time through, I never saw the ending coming, let alone how the real villain was perfect. I won’t spoil anything, but his victory was ensured long before the heroes saw it coming. The next time through, and every reading since then, I’ve sought out every trick and red herring, every little clue that something was amiss. And I’m not disappointed.

Pedestal (2009) by Digital Skitty

I’m probably going to enrage any literary critics that happen by this post some day by having fan fiction on my list of favorite and most (personally) influential books. All I can say to them is “you don’t have to read my blog.” This story is unlike the usual “boy gets Pokemon, boy goes on journey” tale from it’s oftentimes masterful prose and ability to play off the terror of the world the Nameless Narrator finds himself in. NamNar is unlucky, a little bitchy and gets screwed over more times than any main character should. But I want to keep reading. There is never a dull moment and it sticks with me because through half a million words (proving that fan fic authors don’t use editors), I am never bored and I am invested in the boatful of named characters.

Questionable Content (2003) by Jeph Jacques

QC has a way with you. Honestly, I find some of the characters annoying, but only because they remind me of so many people around me (and sometimes myself in ways that I’m not going in to). The references go over my head sometimes, but it’s clever in how even the esoteric ones can be explained to laypeople (as I find myself here and there). For its accessibility and fun, versatile story, I can’t praise QC enough.

MegaTokyo (2000) by Fred Gallagher (& Rodney Caston)

I won’t pretend to be able to explain why MegaTokyo is one of my favorites. But the fanbase, myself included, must have the patience of God to be able to wait so long (sometimes months) for a new page. It tells an intense, maddening but relatable story of a couple of guys who move to Japan on a whim and for whom, the best way home is to be deported. Needless to say, it doesn’t happen and life ensues. I’ve read the whole thing through several times and I’m never disappointed. If I had to point out any aspect of my own work it influences, it’s definitely the randomness of life. Sometimes, a Zilla or a Magical Girl just drop in for no readily explained reason, and we just have to deal with that.

Misfile (2004) by Chris Hazelton

If you wanted a fan service filled, NSFW webcomic, you’ve some to the wrong window. If you wanted a well paced, long-terms story, step right up. If this story has changed by style, it’s in how to pace a chapter. Maybe it comes from running for ten-plus years, but the speed at which the story progresses never seemed slow, but never went too fast. And honestly, in today’s religiously PC (politically correct) world, it’s nice to see a story that tells a complex, gender-related topic without falling into H-game territory.

Nobody Dies (2009) by Gregg Landsman

Again, I won’t argue with lit critics. Nobody Dies is an alternate universe Evangelion fan fiction in which several principle characters who are dead (sorta’) in canon, are alive and still working with the Project Evangelion. This piece changed how I treat the multi-universe and how I can treat canon (as not meaning much). A similar change to when I read Number of the Beast (Heinlein) a couple years later.

Double Arts (2008) by Komi Naoshi

This is one of my favorite, short lived manga series ever. Granted, it was cut short just as the main plot was taking off, but it lives on in the hearts of the fans (of which there seems to be at least a few besides me). It’s straight-forward story-telling, to the point characters engage and enthrall. If I had to pick any part that’s changed in my thinking from this work, it would be in character interaction.