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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old March 12 2011, 03:06 PM   #91
Christopher
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Re: TrekLit politics

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
There's a SHARP difference, though, between political polemic (annoying) and using your writing as a playpen where you can off a sitting president (disgusting).
And it's been firmly established that any such accusation about Dave Mack's intentions in writing A Time to Heal is at best a fundamental misreading of the text, at worst a malicious lie. For one thing, just because Zife was influenced by Bush doesn't mean he was literally meant to be George W. Bush, or that the situation was meant to exactly parallel 21st-century events rather than simply reflecting them to an extent. As I've already pointed out, it is grossly oversimplistic and wrong to assume that a writer's only motive in telling a story is political commentary or allegory. That may be an influence, but it's merely one of the many factors that shape a story.

For another thing, it was clear that the assassination of Zife was presented as an evil, horrifying thing. Yes, getting him out of office was for the best, but it required a disturbing moral compromise to do it, and what really underlined that compromise was that final act by Section 31 that took things way too far. If anything, that was intended as a cautionary statement, pointing out the dangers of crossing the line in the name of what you think is right. It was saying that if you compromise your principles at all, even for the best of reasons, you can't pretend you haven't been seriously tainted.

I can't understand how anyone can read a David Mack book and see only a simplistic, black-and-white moral parable. His books are full of unnerving, ambiguous situations, stories where the heroes have to make uneasy moral compromises and questionable choices, stories where the nominal antagonists can be sympathetic and admirable, stories where it's unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing. If you think Dave is endorsing or celebrating any of the dark actions taken against the antagonists of his books, you're not paying attention at all. What Dave is doing is not letting his characters off the hook. That's his trademark as a writer. He doesn't pull his punches. He doesn't just bring characters to the brink of death, he kills them hard. He doesn't just have characters flirt with the line between good and evil, he shoves them across it and down the slippery slope, so that they have to face the full, horrifying extent of what it means to make an ethical compromise. He doesn't leave them, or the readers, the comfortable recourse of pat, easy answers. Mirror Spock has to become as ruthless and violent as the Empire he hopes to overthrow. Bashir has to shoot to kill in order to survive on his spy mission. Lonnoc Kedair has to live with a friendly-fire mishap that she caused. And Admiral Ross has to face the knowledge that when he made a deal with the devil for the good of the Federation, he wasn't as able to control that devil as he'd fooled himself into thinking.
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Old March 12 2011, 04:18 PM   #92
Greg Cox
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Re: TrekLit politics

^ You know, it's a shame that Dave never got to write any of the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA books. He would have been perfect for them.
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Old March 12 2011, 04:36 PM   #93
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Re: TrekLit politics

Well said, Chris.

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
[And before anyone asks, I got mad at someone (not a Treklit author) who wrote that kind of story involving Obama. Even though they did a "reset button" at the end and fixed it...God, it made me sick. And angry. I don't care how bad my disagreements with Obama are...I find that so horrifying and sickening I absolutely cannot read it.
There are many possible good reasons to write a story involving the assassination of a US President without portraying it as a good thing.

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Eh, no big. I figure local stuff like that is supposed to be hard to pick up on. Let's them know who's an outsider.

Tell me about it! I'm convinced the local papers are written only for people who have lived in the area for generations. They seldom give directions, addresses, or phone numbers for anything, but just assume you know where the "Solanco Fairgrounds" or "Redman's Pavilion" or "The Octararo Inn" are!
Well, considering Lancaster Co. is home to so many Old Order folks and people that are somehow associated with them (especially in South Lancaster Co.) I'm not surprised there's a bit too much assumption of familiarity.
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Old March 12 2011, 05:34 PM   #94
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Re: TrekLit politics

Christopher wrote: View Post
I can't understand how anyone can read a David Mack book and see only a simplistic, black-and-white moral parable. His books are full of unnerving, ambiguous situations, stories where the heroes have to make uneasy moral compromises and questionable choices, stories where the nominal antagonists can be sympathetic and admirable, stories where it's unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing.
I think that happens when a reader believes that Mack crossed the line between it being "unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing" and "clear that the characters have done the wrong thing".
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Old March 12 2011, 05:38 PM   #95
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Re: TrekLit politics

Ensign_Redshirt wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
Ensign_Redshirt wrote: View Post

Eh, I was merely trying to rebut Sci's argument that the United States is the only country in the world where a minority candidate could become president.
Except that that wasn't my point per se. I was referring specifically to a member of a minority group that has traditionally been horribly oppressed, and in particular to black people, and I thought I had made that clear in my post.

I'm no expert on Peru -- does it have a history of persecuting Japanese-descended persons as extensively as the United States persecuted African-descended persons?
I'm not an expert on Peru either, but in that case it's still a bit far-fetched to say that Turks are "presecuted" in Germany the way black were in the United States (since you made a direct comparison between a black U.S. president and a Chancellor of Turkish descent in Germany).
A bit? I'd take offense with the notion that people of Turkish descent are in any way persecuted here in Germany. Granted, there are prejudices and private discrimination and I wish our immigration and citizenship laws were a lot more liberal but that doesn't amount to persecution at all. In fact, they have more religious freedom here than they'd have in Turkey, for one.
I'm also pretty confident we'll see a Chancellor/President of foreign descent in my lifetime.
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Old March 12 2011, 06:11 PM   #96
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Re: TrekLit politics

ATimson wrote: View Post
I think that happens when a reader believes that Mack crossed the line between it being "unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing" and "clear that the characters have done the wrong thing".
No, it happens when they falsely assume that depicting the characters doing the wrong thing is the same as endorsing it. That is a mistake that anyone who's been through high-school English class and read Huckleberry Finn should know better than to make. Lots of fiction portrays things in order to question them, to critique them, to expose their wrongness or folly.
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Old March 12 2011, 07:54 PM   #97
Greg Cox
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Re: TrekLit politics

It's also worth noting that sometimes the "politics" of a story are determined by the characters and genre. I don't necessarily agree with the Federation's hard-line ban on human genetic engineering, but felt obliged to stick to the Star Trek party line when writing the Khan books.

On the other hand, if I was writing a CONAN novel, I'd wouldn't try to sneak in civilized, progressive values. It would be all blood and thunder and barbarism by Crom!

One more example: I recently wrote a PHANTOM story set during the French Revolution, in which the Ghost Who Walks rescues a beautiful young countess from the guillotine. Does this mean I'm a closet monarchist and counter-revolutionary? Of course not. I just wanted to write a swashbuckling adventure in the vein of the Scarlet Pimpernal . . . .
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Old March 12 2011, 08:01 PM   #98
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Re: TrekLit politics

Christopher wrote: View Post
I can't understand how anyone can read a David Mack book and see only a simplistic, black-and-white moral parable. His books are full of unnerving, ambiguous situations, stories where the heroes have to make uneasy moral compromises and questionable choices, stories where the nominal antagonists can be sympathetic and admirable, stories where it's unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing. If you think Dave is endorsing or celebrating any of the dark actions taken against the antagonists of his books, you're not paying attention at all. What Dave is doing is not letting his characters off the hook. That's his trademark as a writer. He doesn't pull his punches. He doesn't just bring characters to the brink of death, he kills them hard. He doesn't just have characters flirt with the line between good and evil, he shoves them across it and down the slippery slope, so that they have to face the full, horrifying extent of what it means to make an ethical compromise. He doesn't leave them, or the readers, the comfortable recourse of pat, easy answers. Mirror Spock has to become as ruthless and violent as the Empire he hopes to overthrow. Bashir has to shoot to kill in order to survive on his spy mission. Lonnoc Kedair has to live with a friendly-fire mishap that she caused. And Admiral Ross has to face the knowledge that when he made a deal with the devil for the good of the Federation, he wasn't as able to control that devil as he'd fooled himself into thinking.
Perfectly well put.
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Old March 12 2011, 08:06 PM   #99
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Re: TrekLit politics

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
It's also worth noting that sometimes the "politics" of a story are determined by the characters and genre. I don't necessarily agree with the Federation's hard-line ban on human genetic engineering, but felt obliged to stick to the Star Trek party line when writing the Khan books.

On the other hand, if I was writing a CONAN novel, I'd wouldn't try to sneak in civilized, progressive values. It would be all blood and thunder and barbarism by Crom!

One more example: I recently wrote a PHANTOM story set during the French Revolution, in which the Ghost Who Walks rescues a beautiful young countess from the guillotine. Does this mean I'm a closet monarchist and counter-revolutionary? Of course not. I just wanted to write a swashbuckling adventure in the vein of the Scarlet Pimpernal . . . .
I think there is a difference when you write a historical piece set in an established era of the past vs. "creating" a new era in the future (Khan perhaps being a bit different; but that future/past seemed established - parameter wise - somewhat in TOS TV). That said, I imagine there are some editorial decisons that have been made about the paramaters of the ST universe for writers to follow. Ultimately, STAR TREK is a progressive, inclusive vision of the future. I do agree that the politics of the characters themselves can and should come in. And in most of the ST I have read, both sides of a thorny modern day political issue projected into the future seems to be depicted/presented. Unless a writer is heavy handed, typically readers can make their own minds on right and wrong.
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Old March 12 2011, 08:20 PM   #100
Greg Cox
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Re: TrekLit politics

Janos wrote: View Post
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
One more example: I recently wrote a PHANTOM story set during the French Revolution, in which the Ghost Who Walks rescues a beautiful young countess from the guillotine. Does this mean I'm a closet monarchist and counter-revolutionary? Of course not. I just wanted to write a swashbuckling adventure in the vein of the Scarlet Pimpernal . . . .
I think there is a difference when you write a historical piece set in an established era of the past vs. "creating" a new era in the future.
Perhaps. But it could be argued that I was taking sides in a contentious historical controversy. And at least one reader did take me to task for not giving a more "balanced" view of the Reign of Terror and the politics surrounding it.

To which I shrugged and pointed out that, hey, it was a Phantom comic and not a serious history lession. The point being that sometimes it can be a mistake to try to read any sort of political statement into what was meant to be just a rippin' yarn.
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Old March 12 2011, 08:48 PM   #101
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: TrekLit politics

ATimson wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
I can't understand how anyone can read a David Mack book and see only a simplistic, black-and-white moral parable. His books are full of unnerving, ambiguous situations, stories where the heroes have to make uneasy moral compromises and questionable choices, stories where the nominal antagonists can be sympathetic and admirable, stories where it's unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing.
I think that happens when a reader believes that Mack crossed the line between it being "unclear whether anyone has really done the right thing" and "clear that the characters have done the wrong thing".
Part also has to do with the universe that this is set in.

If this were nuBsG, then to be blunt, the worst behavior would be expected at all times and there would be no pretensions of anything being presented as an ideal. nuBsG as a universe is presented as an apocalyptic, worst-case scenario, a showcase of the absolute worst human behavior. Star Trek, on the other hand, is supposed to be an ideal universe in certain ways...playing out the way that we wish things could be, in many cases.

Given that the majority of the readers, and possibly authors, are indeed left-leaning, then what we have here is indeed a case of wish-fulfillment that is playing to an audience that is considered likely to "enjoy" it.

As for the person who made the comment that there are times when depicting a fictional assassination is a useful plot point, yes--there are indeed cases where it can work. Even alternate-history works can be written, after there is sufficient distance between the person's life and the writing of the work in question (we have, for instance, sufficient distance from the lives of the leaders of World War II to do this). But NOT when it is an intentional, deliberate parallel to a living person and (at the time the book was written) a current office-holder. That is inexcusable, because it constitutes gloating about the possibility of a currently-living person's violent death. And worse considering that the democratic system thrives on the orderly, non-violent transition of power, and we cannot let violence anywhere near that process, regardless of the person or politics involved. An assassination attempt is a de facto threat to not just that person, but to the peaceful transition of power itself and thus becomes doubly inexcusable when combined with the fact that Zife/Azernal were written as a direct, blatant parallel to Bush/Cheney.

I would NEVER, EVER DARE write such a thing about a thinly-disguised Obama, especially while the man is still in office. That is a line that should never, ever be crossed, even in fiction. A president is to be VOTED out, or in the case of misconduct, impeached and removed from office PROPERLY. NOT assassinated. And that includes when lefties are indulging in such fantasies just as much as it does when people on the right do. It's inexcusable regardless of who does it or takes delight in the possibility.
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Old March 12 2011, 09:05 PM   #102
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Re: TrekLit politics

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
The point being that sometimes it can be a mistake to try to read any sort of political statement into what was meant to be just a rippin' yarn.
I agree with that too. Sometimes there are deliberate political elements by the writers, sometimes I imagine with writers it might just slip in by accident, and in other cases its figment of a reader's imagination.
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Old March 12 2011, 09:10 PM   #103
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Re: TrekLit politics

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Star Trek, on the other hand, is supposed to be an ideal universe in certain ways...playing out the way that we wish things could be, in many cases.

Given that the majority of the readers, and possibly authors, are indeed left-leaning, then what we have here is indeed a case of wish-fulfillment that is playing to an audience that is considered likely to "enjoy" it.
First, the "ideal" ship has sailed (and you yourself note it's only "in certain ways"). Second... umm, . Did you miss where Zife was assassinated by Section 31, who have in all 24th Century appearances been depicted as self-righteous villains more concerned with their own power than anything else? And this without the knowledge of Our Heroes - with the exception of one compromised Admiral who feared the same would happen to the new President if she ever found out. The assassination was in no way presented as a positive thing, so how could it be wish-fulfillment?

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
As for the person who made the comment that there are times when depicting a fictional assassination is a useful plot point, yes--there are indeed cases where it can work. Even alternate-history works can be written, after there is sufficient distance between the person's life and the writing of the work in question (we have, for instance, sufficient distance from the lives of the leaders of World War II to do this). But NOT when it is an intentional, deliberate parallel to a living person and (at the time the book was written) a current office-holder. That is inexcusable, because it constitutes gloating about the possibility of a currently-living person's violent death.
Bolding mine. Writing an assassination - even of a thinly disguised current office-holder - is not necessarily gloating, especially if it's portrayed as an overwhelmingly evil and negative thing. If you're trying to make the point that assassination is an evil, despicable threat on the foundation of peacefully transferring power, then including an assassination would be a powerful tool.
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Old March 12 2011, 09:20 PM   #104
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Re: TrekLit politics

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Given that the majority of the readers, and possibly authors, are indeed left-leaning, then what we have here is indeed a case of wish-fulfillment that is playing to an audience that is considered likely to "enjoy" it.
If anything, it was exactly 100% the opposite of this. If any kind of political statement about Bush was intended, it was more like "hey all you people that wish he was assassinated: here's what that feels like. Not so comfortable with the idea now, are you?"

How many times do people have to say: it was MEANT to be horrible. It was MEANT to be awful. It was MEANT to be profoudly disquieting. I don't think anyone - ANYONE - read the ending (or wrote, or edited it) and thought "hell yeah! Asshole is dead!"

You're assuming the worst of your fellow fans, for no reason I can see.
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Old March 12 2011, 10:09 PM   #105
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Re: TrekLit politics

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
If this were nuBsG, then to be blunt, the worst behavior would be expected at all times and there would be no pretensions of anything being presented as an ideal. nuBsG as a universe is presented as an apocalyptic, worst-case scenario, a showcase of the absolute worst human behavior. Star Trek, on the other hand, is supposed to be an ideal universe in certain ways...playing out the way that we wish things could be, in many cases.
Yes, and it often illustrates that ideal in contrast to the bad things that are going on in the universe. And sometimes those bad things are perpetrated by members of the Federation: Lt. Stiles being racist against Vulcanoids, Cmdr. Maddox trying to declare Data a piece of property, Adm. Layton trying to stage a military coup, Adm. Cartwright and Adm. Pressman engaged in conspiracies of their own, etc. As Kestral said, Section 31 has never been portrayed as an embodiment of Trek's ideals, but as a compromise of them, an exception to the Federation's usual righteousness, just like all those others. How can you possibly read a story about Section 31 and think they're meant to be the good guys?


Given that the majority of the readers, and possibly authors, are indeed left-leaning, then what we have here is indeed a case of wish-fulfillment that is playing to an audience that is considered likely to "enjoy" it.
Bullshit. That is unadulterated bullshit, and a gross insult. Maybe there are a few fanatical idiots out there who take their political rivalries so seriously that they'd wish for the assassination of a president whose policies they disagreed with, but it is a monstrous, horrible thing for you to accuse the rest of us of thinking in such hideous terms. I may have hated George W. Bush's policies and his politics, I may have considered him a dangerous incompetent who never got legitimately elected in the first place, but I would NEVER wish for the assassination of anyone, ever. Have you forgotten that part of being liberal is being opposed to capital punishment and warmongering? Liberals don't think problems are solved with killing. And for that matter, no remotely decent human being of any political leaning would wish for the death of someone they simply happened to disagree with on political issues. Decent people of any political stripe want to resolve their political disagreements through discussion, through compromise, or at the very least through outvoting the opposition. And it's indecent of you to accuse those you disagree with of being so vile in their attitudes as to see assassination as a desirable fantasy. You should be ashamed of yourself.


But NOT when it is an intentional, deliberate parallel to a living person and (at the time the book was written) a current office-holder. That is inexcusable, because it constitutes gloating about the possibility of a currently-living person's violent death.
Lies. You've been told over and over that this is a lie, and yet you keep repeating it as if repetition could change the facts. Fortunately most of the people in this thread seem to know better.
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