Archive for September 2009
As you may have gathered, one of my hobbies is Live-Action-Role-Play-ing, or more usually, larping. We dress up and hit each other with rubber swords; or, to put it another way, we engage in extended sessions of collaborative improvisation, with a framework of rules to accomodate combat without breaking role.
In these games, religion tends to feature heavily. By various methods the gods of the games interact with their worshippers and their worshippers talk about and pray to them.
Which is all great fun, and I very much refer playing religious characters to nonreligious ones, because it gives me more to work when I’m constructing the character and it makes their head a more interesting place to be.
But I get irritated with some of my fellow larpers, and their tendencies to bring Christian language and imagery into their game religions.
The most common offences are asking for things ‘in Your name’, and speaking as if the gods love their followers. It’s easy to think of these things as being common to all religions, especially if you aren’t a believer in your real life, but they aren’t. They’re specific. The power and importance of God’s name, and the idea of asking for things through the power of God’s name, are specific to the unnamed god – the God of Abraham, whose name cannot be known by mortals. And the idea that God is Love, and even that God loves, is specific to Christianity. God loves us. But unless it’s specifically written into the setting – and it rarely is – it irritates me when people import it.
For instance, and I apologise for the let-me-tell-you-about-my-character nature of this instance, and since the point has been made you can feel free to skip the illustration – For instance, my character Irska is a member of a religious order dedicated to the god Mina. She loves Mina’s teachings and serves Mina wholeheartedly. And Mina does not love her back, because it is not in her nature to love. She is the god of justice and of law. Love is a temptation to leniency, to mercy, and so Mina is free of love. She rewards her followers according to what they deserve, for she is justice personified and her servants are given their wages, but she does not, cannot love.
And Irska is certainly not a child of Mina. People who talk like that really need to do some research into the religion they aren’t following.
Climate change. That’s the spectre that most of us think of when we think of burning oil and wasted fuel. And climate change, and therefore the emission of greenhouse gases, matters, no doubt about it.
But climate change isn’t what gets me riled up, as many of my friends can tell you. When I see fossil fuels being wasted it isn’t the thought of melting ice sheets that gets me incoherent with frustration.
It’s the fact that we’re burning the feedstock.
Say you’ve got a limited supply of something incredibly useful. You can make it into machines, medicines, clothes, furniture, huge numbers of things and new uses get invented every day. What do you do with it?
Why, set fire to it, of course!
It’s not like we need plastic. It’s not like medicines are useful. It’s not like complex hydrocarbons are hard to synthesise from scratch*.
Why are we burning the feedstock? Why, when we have a dozen other ways to generate electricity, are we instead taking irreplaceable raw materials and setting fire to them?
*Incidentally, some chemist is going to save the world within my lifetime, and they will do it by figuring out how to catalyse the reduction of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which is much more reactive and can be used in syntheses. But that still makes burning the feedstock stupid.
There’s been another resurgence of the sporadic discussion of whether Orson Scott Card is homophobic. The general consensus appears to be yes, and either we should therefore boycott his work, or his work is therefore of no possible worth.
My general reaction to this is confusion.
As a rule I do not care about the personal views of fiction authors. I care about whether they are good writers, about whether they write things that interest me, about whether their writing depresses or inspires or amuses me. But I don’t care what they, personally, think about gay people or immigrants or rape or Cheshire cheese. It’s not that it doesn’t matter what they think; it matters a great deal to them and to the people who have to deal with them in person. But it doesn’t matter to me.
The private views of authors matter no more to me than the private views of any other stranger.
I don’t worry about their writing becoming contaminated by their vews on this or that. Everyone’s writing is affected by their views in some way. It’s not as if I have to agree with them just because I’ve read the book.
It’s the same thing that makes me unable to care very much that in ‘Dragonflight’, a main character is raped and nobody, in the story, minds very much including her. She goes on to have a lifelong partnership and romantic relationship with her rapist, and this also doesn’t bother me, although without the specific circumstances surrounding the rape I might care more. I don’t care very much becase I can disagree with views expressed and actions taken in a story and still enjoy the story.
I’m not trying to argue that I’m superior to people who find themselves distressed by authors and characters who possess unpleasant opinions. I’m just confused because, of myself, it would never have occured to me that it could matter.
As for boycotting books because of what the author thinks, it sounds to me like a waste of a good story. I like stories. I’m not going to stop reading stories because they’re not ideologically pure.