empathy

Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately. Scrambling to write a few short stories and finish editing a novel. Something more regular should resume soon. But in the meantime, I thought I’d direct you to particularly moving post about the intersection of a very personal loss and the more abstract knowledge of the loss several orders of magnitude larger occurring right now in Iraq. It’s a much noted facet of the human condition that while we are capable of profound empathy for those close to us and with whom we share certain in-group bonds, we are also adept at distancing and dehumanising those with whom we don’t share ties. Thus, the million-plus Iraqi deaths are disputed and trivialized and the death of the 4,000th American soldier is met with appropriate solemnity and mourning.

But before you think humans are hard-wired into this destructive combination of in-group empathy/out-group demonization, read IOZ’s post. We’re capable of overcoming the tendency with enough self-examination.

I once had an idea for a (dys/u)topian science fictional society where the Great Overlords simply enforced empathy on the population, thereby ensuring that they’d be reluctant to fight bloody, tragic, costly things like wars. A little like in Buffy, actually, when Spike’s chip zaps him every time he feels predatory. Would that be a free or fair society (terms of arguable use, but fine)? If every time you hurt somebody you felt that same hurt, would the choice to abstain be your own? But maybe I’m being too Puritan. What does Personal Responsibility matter when countless millions are dying in wars across the world, and billions are starving and suffering in the kind of extremity I can only imagine? If most humans can’t extrapolate their own pain onto others, then maybe it’s to the greater good to make them.

But then, I’ve always had this thing for benevolent tyranny.

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because I got high…

First, drop absolutely everything you may be doing, and listen to this.

I mean it.

Really.

Back? Yeah, sorry, I should have warned you that it might induce stomach cramps due to uncontrollable laughing. “Now I’m jerking off and I know why…” Whew, I’m wiping tears from my eyes.

Speaking of dissolution, I should mention that I have become so addicted to that website (online karaoke called Singsnap) that I think I might have to quit cold turkey. There is something sadly seductive about karaoke, let me tell you. I actually hauled my laptop into the bathroom this morning just so I could get some manual reverb on my microphone. Yes, I’m that sad.

But I’ll have a new round of reviews up soon, since I’ve also been reading. It’s the writing that’s taken a bit of a hit for the last week, but I’m gonna have to get back on that saddle immediately (finally got a due date for Book 2 of Spirit Binders). Way too much to do, as usual. I almost like deadlines, because they give me a last minute to project myself against. Otherwise it’d be nothing but singing joints and eating…chocolate snickerdoodles.

In case you were wondering where I’ve been.

(Semi)Weekly Reviews: The Course of True Love

A large review installment to make up for missing the last two weeks. I’ve been on the road and so didn’t have much time to sit down and read. But now I’ve had a chance to catch up, and for some reason all of these books made me loquacious. Perhaps because the theme of this batch (excepting Lord of Light) seems to be the ever-frustrating Disappointing Romance. Well-done romance reads effortlessly, but it’s incredibly hard to write. Brandon and Dianora in Tigana, Mating by Norman Rush, The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee…maybe I should create a big list of my favorites. And I’d adore any suggestions, of course.

Inside this issue:

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
To Feel Stuff by Andrea Seigel
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcombe
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
The Winter Mantle by Elizabeth Chadwick

Continue reading

Lord o’ the Ladies

I’m reading Zelazny’s Lord of Light, which I’m actually enjoying quite a lot so far. However, I plowed to a stop when I came across this:

(For context, Sam has just ascertained that the person reincarnated into an aggressively male body of the god Brahma was originally female. You’d think these distinctions would cease to matter after getting dumped into dozens of bodies over the course of centuries but, hey, what else were the sixties for?)

“Yes, Madeleine,” said Sam, “and did anyone ever tell you how lovely you are when you’re angry?”

Brahma sprang forward off th throne. “How could you? How could you tell?” screamed the god.

“I couldn’t, really,” said Sam. It was just a guess, based upon some of your mannerisms of speech and gesture which I remembered. So you’ve finally achieved your lifelong ambition, eh? I’ll bet you’ve got a harem, too. What’s it feel like, madam, to be a real stud after having been a gal to start out with? Bet every Lizzie in the world would envy you if she knew. Congratulations.”

[Skipping the bit where he’s angry and about to curse Sam for mocking him.]

“Nay, my Lord. I did but jest with you as any one man might with another when discussing these matters. I am sorry if you took it amiss. I’ll warrant you’ve a harem I’d envy and which I’ll doubtless try to sneak into some night. If you’d curse me for being surprised, then curse away.” He drew upon his pipe and wreathed his grin in smoke.

Finally, Brahma chuckled. “I’m a bit quick-tempered, ’tis true,” he explained, “and perhaps too touchy about my past. Of course, I’ve often jested so with other men. You are forgiven. I withdraw my beginning curse.”

This passage features such breathlessly backwards gender politics, that the only thing I can give Zelazny credit for is the courtesy of at least using a masculine pronoun in his reference to Brahma.

So, apparently, you’re only a real man when you can bandy about sexist jokes and compare harems along with penis size. Oh, and such desires are of course the innermost wish of every man-hating “Lizzie.”

I guess that’s golden age fiction for you. I can only hope that Zelazny got out a bit more after he wrote this.