On criticism and creativity

Why critique science fiction? I do get asked this question, after some years writing criticism on science fiction for The Guardian, BBC, Wired etc, and with the Science Fiction podcast in the Apple charts in a few dozen countries. So in the penultimate episode of season 1 of the Science Fiction podcast I give a few answers, and some suggestions for my fellow critics.

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Advanced Scifi & Fantasy Writing
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So. What did I think of The Rings of Power?

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Advanced Scifi & Fantasy Writing
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The Truth of Myth : JRR Tolkien and the return of the mythos

Lord of the Rings is the best-selling English langauge novel ever. And its close competitors – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter – share an important feature.

They are all works of mythopoiea…myths for the modern world.

JRR Tolkien had a very important insight. He saw that the modern world had lost its myths. Indeed, the modern world had run screaming from myths like god or heaven. Tolkien believed that was a mistake.

He wasn’t alone. When the philosopher Nietzsche said God Is Dead his point was that, without the old myths, men would invent new ones. And they would be much, much worse. Freddy was proven right as Communism and Fascism burst into the world, killing millions in war and genocide.

Tolkien lived through the wars and mass murder of the 20th century. He believed the world needed its myths back, so he wrote Lord of the Rings. The success of his great myth inspired many other creators, and sparked the return of the mythos to the modern world.

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Advanced Scifi & Fantasy Writing
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The Rhetoric of Story
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What does a metamodern future look like?

We’re in a civilisational war between the pre-modern, the modern, and the post-modern. Or to give them their “culture war” names – the Reactionary, the Neoliberal…and the Woke. We need a better future for our civilisation. A future some people are starting to call the Metamodern.

In this episode of the Science Fiction podcast I think about what a Metamodern future might look like. It’s a not a cyberpunk dystopia or a solarpunk utopia.

Instead I think our Metamodern future might look like…a theme park.

Watch my original critique of Hanzi Freinacht – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJpR-TwJ-gc

Read Oliver Amrowson’s full question – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJpR-TwJ-gc&lc=Ugx436_Gbl2ip_plwbd4AaABAg

Learn more at the Metamodern Spirituality community on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/metamodernspirituality

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Advanced Scifi & Fantasy Writing
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The Rhetoric of Story
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Why ‘The Boys’ failed – thoughts on mythopathic storytelling

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Advanced Scifi & Fantasy Writing
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The Rhetoric of Story
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Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman – The High Cost of Fantasy

There’s a reason why Neil Gaiman is the most famous writer scifi, horror & fantasy ever made. That rockstar reputation didn’t start with appearances on The Simpsons.

By the age of 32, when most writers are just getting started, Gaiman had already written a masterpiece of fantasy. The 75 issues of The Sandman are a tour through the mythos of humanity, and a masters thesis on the uses, and abuses, of fantasy.

But the origin of The Sandman in comic books kept it a cult classic for over 30 years. Gaiman became better known for novels like American Gods and stories for children. (The Sandman is NOT for children.)

Now a new Netflix adaptation, created by Neil Gaiman himself, is a chance for The Sandman to meet the mainstream. Will it succeed where previous adaptations of Gaiman have failed? I feel quietly confident the answer is yes.

Audio extracts from The Sandman audiobook produced by Dirk Maggs
https://amzn.to/3ox9qox

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Psychohistory : we are in a Seldon Crisis

Psychohistory is among the most important ideas born in science fiction.

A science that allows us to predict the future of human civilisation.

It’s tempting to ask…could Psychohistory be real? Algorithms can control masses of humankind. Complexity science and agent based modelling are already predicting mass human behaviour.

And as we face our civilisational “Seldon Crisis” can we learn a less from Isaac Asimov about the future of humankind?

00:00 We are in a Seldon crisis
01:48 Isaac Asimov’s Foundation
03:51 Why do civilisations collapse?
06:17 What is the Foundation saga about?
12:12 Psychohistory
17:50 The Metacrisis
26:07 Psyche & Civilisation
39:28 Resolving the Metacrisis

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The best book to understand Ken Wilber https://amzn.to/3NSwBnu

Read the Foundation saga https://amzn.to/3yp65MN

Our war with the algorithm

“How does one fashion a book of resistance, a book of truth in an empire of falsehood, or a book of rectitude in an empire of vicious lies? How does one do this right in front of the enemy?

Not through the old-fashioned ways of writing while you’re in the bathroom, but how does one do that in a truly future technological state? Is it possible for freedom and independence to arise in new ways under new conditions? That is, will new tyrannies abolish these protests? Or will there be new responses by the spirit that we can’t anticipate?”

Philip K. Dick in interview, 1974

#

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The anti-human religion of Transhumanism

Transhumanism makes grand claims about the future of humankind, from genetic engineering and artificial wombs to immortality and uploading humanity to the cloud.

Lead by pseudo-scientific thinkers like Ray Kurzeil, Transhumanism has become a popular ideology among Silicon Valley tech leaders including Elon Musk and Peter Thiel.

In recent years it has also become the focus of conspiracy theorists from Anti-Vaxxers to Qanon, who claim the ultimate goal of the “global elite” is to turn humans into post-humans.

The truth is that Transhumanism is a fantasy born in the pages of science fiction. While authors like Bruce Sterling and William Gibson warned against the terrors of Transhumanism, today’s Transhumanists see it as an inevitability, and have transformed the fantasy of Transhumanism into an anti-human religion.

00:00:00 The Torment Nexus
00:01:34 Welcome to the Science Fiction podcast
00:04:06 Beyond our ape brained meat-sacks – a profile of Elise Bohan
00:08:23 We are in a time between worlds & Transhuman conspiracy theories
00:13:14 Understanding Transhumanism as narrative, storytelling and modern mythos
00:19:15 ONE – Transhumanism is Utopian
00:24:06 TWO – Transhumanism assumes fundamental change
00:26:00 THREE – Transhumanism is a pseudo-science
00:29:34 FOUR – Transhumanism is a religious vision of transcendence
00:34:38 FIVE – Transhumanism is authoritarian
00:39:12 SIX – Transhumism wants to liberate us from our human bodies
00:44:38 SEVEN – Transhumanism is science fiction
00:48:04 EIGHT – Transhumanism believes technology is the force of progress
00:51:40 NINE – Transhumanism devalues the human
00:55:58 TEN – “We’re building God you know.”
01:06:53 ELEVEN – Transhumanism is a power structure
01:13:01 TWELVE – Transhumanism is dystopian
01:16:20 THIRTEEN – Transhumanism is anti-humanism

Beyond Our Ape Brained Meat Sacks – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/04/beyond-our-ape-brained-meat-sacks-can-transhumanism-save-our-species

Jonathan Rowson on Zak Stein and our time between worlds – https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Rowson/status/1532318004071084034

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I want Netflix The Sandman to be great. But.

I want Netflix The Sandman to be great.

But.

Adaptations to screen of the work of Neil Gaiman have been tough to pull off.

The same is true of other British writers with similar ironic humour like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.

Why is it so hard to capture the voice of these writers on screen?

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