May 2005

Fat Fluffy Fiends

A mischievous master lurks under my bed
With lint for a body and hair for a head.
His diet is dust so he's very well fed
Like all of his fat fluffy fiends.

He's planning a party to rage through the night.
He'll sniff my wet socks and get high as a kite
And scoff on dried skin-flakes and toenail delight--
Just him and his fat fluffy fiends.

He'll fall about laughing at lewd people-puns,
Make fun of our feet (big warped knobbly ones),
And dream about dandruff cascading in tons
To build up more fat fluffy fiends.


Because each scar invites me to explore
This convoluted sculpture of the past,
I can't resist; I must come back for more.

In every game one name is left till last--
A victim of the school of youthful crimes.
This convoluted sculpture of the past

Wears tangled thorns that still draw blood at times,
Revealing tales not shared except in trust.
A victim, of the school, of youthful crimes,

Of days in fear all hopelessly unjust,
Lives on despite the numbing of the years,
Revealing tales not shared except in trust

To those prepared to understand the tears.
A story dressed in memories of a youth
Lives on despite the numbing of the years

And tells us that we never know the truth.
Because each scar invites me to explore
A story dressed in memories of a youth
I can't resist, I must come back for more.

Fictionology Faction Friction

I suppose it was inevitable that the odious comparisons of the Bush administration to a Sith-controlled Star Wars galactic empire would prod at dormant questions in the Fictionology community. Old arguments are being revived. Again we're forced to address the question: "What Fictions can one legitimately believe?"

The two factions involved in this fracas are the conservative canonist Fictionologists and the extreme spontanist (or improv) Fictionologists. I'll try to summarize their positions.

- George Lucas had the whole Star Wars story, including script, worked out thirty years ago.
- George W Bush played out the whole of the WMD Fiction based on a dominionist script written thirty years ago.
- The apparent similarities between the two are coincidental but very instructive.

- George Lucas had a rough story plus script ideas worked out thirty years ago. He's been winging it ever since.
- George W Bush just makes shit up as he goes and refuses to admit that he could have been wrong.
- Lucas decided to nail Bush in Revenge of the Sith because he couldn't find any other way to inject fun into the movie.

The conflicting world views shine through in their different interpretations of the same set of observations. Why is there such a heated discussion? Can't they just believe what they want to believe? That solution only addresses the superficial nature of the debate.

Looking under the surface from a Fictionological philosophy point of view, the bone of contention is still the legitimacy of believing in a Fiction that you (or your close colleagues/family) write for yourself. Most conservative Fictionology thinkers see this as a sure way to isolate yourself from reality and alienate anyone who is smart enough to understand what you're doing. It destroys any hope that you'll even be able to recognize other people's Fictions, and inevitably leads to conflict rather than communication.

Revenge of the Smith

As PZ Myers points out in Obligatory Sithiness we're looking at an overload for the irony meter here. (Cross posted from PhaWRONGula.)

Orson Scott Card-castle
Pokes at religions the
Movies reveal,

Then as a Mormon he
Notes that the Jedi Force
Cannot be real!

Fictionology on the Radio

I know a few people are anxious to see a transcript of my Sunday morning interview on Victorian Community Radio, 3-VCR. I hope to get permission to post a recording of the interview on my website, but until then, a transcript will have to suffice. Matthew Collins made me feel right at home during the interview. I'd given him drafts of a number of chapters from my forthcoming book. You'll see from the interview that he'd obviously taken some time to understand them.

Matthew: This morning we welcome Virgil Keys to Religion, Respect and Ridicule. He regards himself as a lifelong student of Fictionology. Virgil, not too many people are familiar with Fictionology. Tell us a little about it.

Virgil: Thanks for inviting me, Matthew. Fictionology is a religion that embraces and transcends almost every other known religion. A true Fictionologist chooses which Fictions to believe and holds to them, drawing meaning, instruction, moral guidance, entertainment and comfort from them. It taps into the essence of what makes us human: stories. It's the foundation of human society, making sense of our existence and giving purpose to these collections of organic molecules that we call bodies. Fictionology is the single unifying concept that gives meaning to life.

Matthew: Those are extraordinary claims, Virgil. Does it worry you that other religions have made similar unifying claims?

Virgil: No. In fact Fictionology accepts those claims without reservation, and yet still embraces its own broader claim. Fictionology is a meta-religion, but at the same time is itself a religion. In that sense, it even encompasses itself, but let's avoid the more abstract concepts for the moment.

Matthew: Definitely. I think my brain just turned inside-out. What does Fictionology mean to the average person?

Virgil: It means peace of mind, understanding who you are in this chaotic universe, and making sense of how people behave. It means having access to role-models, mentors and companions in your journey. It broadens your outlook, makes you think outside the box, exposes you to new paradigms, and frees you from artificially constrained thought patterns.

Matthew: So far, you haven't said a lot about what Fictionologists actually believe. Is there some secrecy?

Virgil: Far from it, Matthew. The problem with trying to say what Fictionologists believe is there are too many widely varying beliefs. Adherents of Fictionology are free to choose their Fictions. The most important parts of Fictionology lie not in what you believe, but how you believe. It's a difficult topic and one that I don't think we can do justice to in the space of one interview.

I'd love to be able to give you and your listeners a five minute "fix" that could transform your lives, but it can't be done. That's why I'm putting so much time and effort into my book.

Matthew: Let's talk about your book for a couple of minutes. I hear it's been generating a lot of interest.

Virgil: Indeed it has, Matthew. Since I published that brief Fictionology FAQ on my journal, I've been stunned by the flood of emails. I'm not sure that I'll be able to answer them all personally. I figure the best thing I can do is complete the book.

Matthew: Yes. Thanks for the draft chapters you sent me last week. In chapter 4, I found your descriptions of the way Fictionology was changing people's lives very moving. It's been a running theme here on Religion, Respect and Ridicule that many forms of religion can have an extremely negative impact on individuals. Your examples present Fictionology in a very positive light. Is this realistic?

Virgil: It's true, most of the stories I've included are of positive life experiences. I've tried to present a cross section of Fictionological life without bias. My experience in studying Fictionology shows that the stories are, on the whole, good news stories. People aren't perfect and they can hurt one another very easily, but Fictionology minimizes the effects of these imperfections. Life is a storm of harsh uncaring physical reality with tiny shelters of communication and support. Sharing a Fiction opens up a channel of communication between people, allowing them to be really human. For most people, this is a positive rewarding experience.

Matthew: But you acknowledge that some people try Fictionology and then give it up?

Virgil: Fictionology is not for everyone. It requires imagination, and sadly, there are people who show a staggering lack of imagination. There are people who just can't get much out of reading a book.

Even imaginative people can have difficulties with Fictionology. In chapter 7, one I'm currently working on, I tell of my encounter with a lapsed Fictionologist named Barry. Barry had some bad experiences in a Sailor Moon Fiction group which left him bitter and dejected. Interestingly, he still regards his time in the group as the most connecting and fulfilling experience in his life, but he blames himself for lacking imagination: he couldn't imagine himself not actually being Sailor Mercury. It caused friction within the group and also ruined his promotional prospects as a taxation auditor. The only way he could cope was to cut himself off from Fictionology altogether.

Matthew: You make a point in chapter 2 about problems that arise when people try to live out the lives of their chosen Fictional characters.

Virgil: Yes, Matthew. It's a common mistake made by people who haven't understood Fictionology. Being in a role-playing group doesn't make you a Fictionologist. It's of paramount importance that you understand your own identity. You are one person. You cannot be anyone else whether you believe they exist or not. Role playing does have its uses in Fictionology as an aid to understanding your chosen Fiction, but at the end of the day, you are yourself.

We see this exhibited even in Naive Fictionology. Take, for example, the WWJD meme in Christianity. Its adherents try to base their decisions on the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" This is role-playing without any hint of a suggestion that the devotee could think of themselves as Jesus.

Matthew: So you'd conclude that Barry's problem with Fictionology amounts to a lack of understanding.

Virgil: That, and some unresolved identity issues. Yes.

Matthew: You said that Fictionology is not for everyone. Is there any hope for these people?

Virgil: There will always be those who are condemned to misunderstand life, just as there are people who can never detect sarcasm. I dream of a world of understanding, where everyone embraces their own Fictions while allowing others to have theirs. Most people are intelligent and imaginative enough to be a part of this world. Some will never be.

Matthew: I'm afraid that's all we have time for this morning. Thanks for coming in, Virgil.

Virgil: My pleasure, Matthew.

Matthew: Don't forget to look for Virgil's book, Fictionology: A Panacea for the Information Age (Part 1) when it's released later this year. Until then, I'll keep struggling to untangle my own Fictions.

Delicious Irony

PABAAH (Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood) win my boundless admiration for raising their flag over Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Sure, try to get everyone upset about a movie that allegorically criticises GWB's war. How anti-American can it get?

Lucas wrote his story (and the dialogue too) years ago based on his observation of a recurring political pattern. He had the Vietnam war in mind. That it so closely matches GWB's modus operandi, his black/white "for us or against us" polarization, his war initiated on false assertions of danger, should have made them engage their brains first. Was Lucas so prescient that he could criticise the Bush administration for what he knew they would do? Or, dare we consider that it is anti-American to tell of the dangers of absolutism?

If the black helmet fits, wear it.

End of a Space Opera

Star Wars Episode III.

Surreal scenery. Scintillating cities. Sensational stunts.

Script sucked.

See spoiler.

But the Tale Goes On

In years of happy ever after
Even geese could dream
Of singing songs of light and laughter,
So she hatched her scheme.

She raised her voice in wacky wit
And wondered if some day
She'd ditch this gold-egg-gig and split,
Forgoing steady pay.

But Jack was gentle, Jack was safe,
And jobs like hers were rare.
(That years of choking eggs could chafe,
Her chum seemed unaware.)

The more she sang the less he listened;
Little would he hear,
Contented that the gold still glistened,
Growing year by year.

And so she knew her dreams were dead--
Her ditties: bland and trite.
The goose, too bored to leave her bed,
Then bade the world good night.

OEDILF Temporarily Down

I've just had a message from Toxic to say that the OEDILF server is down at the moment. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Update: We're up and running again with a new server power supply. Thanks Toxic.

Parody Can't Compete

I was reading a satirical article in the Swift Report about Americans being scared of activist judges. Within the article there was a link to an Agape Press article (which was not so much news as a big plug for a book, but that's nothing new in any news source). Within that delightful piece of "Reliable News from a Christian Source" we read the following quote:

Another part of the strategy the conservative activist recommends is something she calls "starving" the courts; that is, limiting their power by limiting their money. "Now, we can't cut the salaries of the judges," she explains, "but we certainly can cut their budgets and cut off some of these perks, like traveling to foreign conferences where they get a lot of bad ideas about foreign law." [Emphasis mine]

Was there ever a clearer statement of the xenophobic undercurrent of the religious right? The other issues about jurisdiction over "the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, the definition of marriage, and the Boy Scouts" are just more of their program to limit freedom to their own definition of it--freedom for everybody to be Christian and to equate being American with being Christian. One could describe those as an ultra-conservative reluctance to change and an attempt to cling to the perception of a Christian society. It's the open denigration of "foreign" stuff that shows Schlafly's real fear and ignorance. Parody can't compete with these public displays of bigotry. Maybe slapstick would be a better tool.