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the future is a comin': atheist paradise.

so, i've been thinking.

people get up and say what the future will be like: the cure of death, a society of gadgets, bright, shiny, shuttles, beaming, clones, the list is endless. it does appear, however, that when people talk about the future, they talk about it as if it's going to be an amusement part for us, a place of laid back joy, shooting pool, getting drunk, and waking up the next morning and cleaning your system out with one thought. (your brain being, by then, more wires than pulpy flesh.) this kind of future is the stable diet of science fiction novels, and it was while reading cory doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom that i realised how much spirituality it lacked, and how one could imagine it as an atheist's paradise.

(doctorow's book is flawed in many ways, i might add. it's not bad. i like to think of it as pop science fiction, having a lot in common with pop music: enjoyable on a listen through, a simple three act structure, catchy chorus, but breaks down the moment any thought is applied to it. it's light, digestible, undeniably positive, and an afternoons amusement. you'll not think about it afterwards.)

but, back to my thoughts: an atheist's paradise. i like that.

Science Fiction, the Atheist's Paradise.

the idea that you could cure death is, fundamentally, a strange thing when considered next to the concept of an everlasting spirit. what possible need is the cure for death if you believe that you will go on in some shape and form? (i'm a reincarnation believer myself, following, if anything, that idea that each life is the path to enlightenment, whatever that may be. it's just where i fall.) but if you believe that there is something after, the notion of staying here, staying 'alive' forever (certainly an unrealistic term) appears to be unnecessary. and if you do believe in spirituality, then what use does your spirituality have in the future? if you dump your personality into a backup, and it is booted back in once you die--leaving aside what i view as the logic flaw that a clone is not you, and thus you have died, and what exists is not you--how can you capture that essence from which you define yourself?

there is the theory that we, as people, are nothing more than our learned experiences, but i've never bought that. experience does alter us--i have no doubt of that, but experience alters each of us differently, and, speaking from a personal space, i've always felt that there was a centre to myself, where 'i' (ignoring all id thoughts and those relating to the ego aside) have sat from as far as i can remember. this awareness of myself is what i think of being essentially me, and if it's not created by experience, then how is it possible to 'save' this, to ensure that death could not claim me?

i don't know.

anyhow, more of these thoughts as they continue. i am particularly interested in the idea of a spiritually lacking science fiction genre, even though i know that such a concept is not the beginning or end of the genre.


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May. 11th, 2003 10:46 am (UTC)
When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, which I read...wow, a very long time ago now in deed. I was in lust, and the object of my lust suggested that I read them, so I did, so my memories of the books are kind of tied up with thoughts of that.

But anyway...as I recall, the books tell of a world where everything has been fixed: no death, no illness, any product you desire at your fingertips, and the result being a (mostly) childless, amoral society, because if you have nothing to fear, why should you have morals?

This is something that I have thought about playing with, perhaps, in one context or another. Does morality come from the fear of death, or pain, or poverty, or whatever, or is it created from experience? And in either case, what happens if we do evolve the ability to constantly replicate ourselves, or stave off death, creating genuine physical immortality? I can to an extent give a conservation biologist's response to this (bad idea), but a full response? No.

I've never felt a real draw to write science fiction, but if I think about this too much, I might start feeling that draw.
May. 11th, 2003 07:57 pm (UTC)
now you see, i think it's ideas like that that are what make science fiction interesting, and it's also, to my way of thinking, what science fiction needs to do more of. which, you know, leads me straight down the path of hard science fiction, which i generally don't like because it's (on average) written with all the style of a very cheap block of cheese. i'm also more interested in the psychological ideas behind it, and not what one would need to do such things.

but that's me, and to be fair, i only write very small amounts of science fiction, most of it verginginto other genres at the same time.
May. 12th, 2003 04:55 am (UTC)
I have avoided writing science fiction because of the twin hells of a) ignorance and b) laziness. I simply don't have a good science background, although now that I'm taking courses in oceanography, that might change. I also have never had the dedication to create a working alternative universe based on scientific wondering/bemusement. It's considerably easier to go through high school and create an alternative universe based more or less on Tolkien, Greek mythology, and (sorry) Eddings, then to pay attention in chemistry class and actually learn something that could help you put together a believable science fiction world.

I also have to say that since my major robot days as a kid, when I read pretty much every robot book that ever existed, I really haven't read much in the pure science fiction genre. The only exceptions are for Octavia Butler and Shari Tepper, both of whom are really using science fiction to deal with feminist and gender issues, issues I've so far been playing with in the erotica genre.

May. 12th, 2003 05:09 am (UTC)
most of the science fiction background deal can be overcome by killing of ignorance, i reckon, but, really, i can't say too much, because i spend more time creating the kind of worlds you'd see in a tolkien/eddings/whatever kind of world. (well, relatively speaking. i have hot air balloons, and middle eastern cities populated by faerie kin who've been kicked out of the faerie in my current project or interlinked stories. i've sold one, but i mainly write them for my own amusement, and 'cause they're a nice break from the thesis/novel.)

i do like a good robot story, though. (and a good octavia butler story.)

i should also say: i've never attempted to write a hard science fiction story in my life. the things you can do in that genre part have no interest to me whatsoever.
May. 12th, 2003 05:22 pm (UTC)
Hot air balloons are cool. I've never done anything with hot air balloons (well, in fiction -- I flew in one over Kenya once, but that's an entirely different story...) but perhaps I should.

May. 22nd, 2003 10:10 pm (UTC)
In my opinion anyone who claims to be interested in backing themselves up in order to be uploaded elsewhere, clone or machine, is suffering from some serious philosophical confusions.

These people can only perceive of the self in one of two ways.
Either this 'self' has as one it's qualities the fact that it is separable from the physical body (a philosophical position called Cartesian Dualism and which has been proven logically inconsistent many years hence)


that the self is simply the result of
reproducable physiological patterns in the brain (philosophical materialism) which is also inherently illogical given that the death of the body would be the death of the entire phenomena referred to as the self.
May. 22nd, 2003 10:30 pm (UTC)
see, that's kind of what makes me think of atheists. though i do have to admit, saving myself so i can see the future is kind of interesting, from a 'what will happen' point of view.

i just doubt that 'i' would be there.
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