Science fiction and mythos

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Darwin
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Post by Darwin » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Although I try not to get too paranoid about the state of our society--I went through my freaked-out period in the 1970s, when I first read Orwell and later when I learned about Anna Mae Aquash--recent events have me pretty freaked out. Particularly I'm concerned with the detention camps at Quantamo Bay. It really does represent a line being crossed in the evolution of the American democratic experiment. From this point on, the people in control of our government can detain anyone they want without even having to pretend to respect individual civil liberties. Combined with the inconceivable ability of the government to intrude on every aspect of a person's life, this is a genuinely frightening development. The ideology of the governmental power structure waging war on the populace is not that much different than the ideology of the government during the Red scare. McCarthy, Ashcroft, not a hill of beans of difference between the two. What is different is the technology the government has at its disposal.

During the last period of institutional repression on a mass scale--the late 1940s and 1950s--the genre of science fiction flourished because sci-fi allowed writers to critique governmental repression withous suffering repercussions such as blacklisting. Ironically we are now living in a world very much like the world described in many of those Cold War-era sciece fiction novels.

I'm thinking that once again the time is ripe for writing political allegory in the form of science fiction. Writing about the class warfare that is our current governmental system is not allowed--as our developmentally disabled President said, people who try to discuss that are "divichers" (Mr. 87-IQ-President considers himself a "unitcher"). And the way we are going, if a person was able to reach a large audience with an honest assessment of our governmental system might just end up in a 6-foot-by 3-foot cage in Quantanamo Bay.

Did Campbell ever write anything directly about the genre of science fiction? It seems that the genre would have a perfect testbed for his ideas about mythology in art.
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Post by Clark » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Don't know. But here's my 2 cents on SF that is at least as prescient and disturbing as Orwell's classic.

"The War With the Newts" Karl Capek- Written pre-WWII, Czech writer Capek knows the Nazis are coming, and writes about them without actually writing about them. Smart, scary, darkly funny book.(If you like Capek check out his take on the dangers of an over-reliance on technology, the play"RUR'". Reading will result in your never being able to look at this smart typewriter in quite the same way again. This play also supplied the world with the term and idea, "ROBOT".)

"WE" or "MY"(Depending on the translation)-Yevgeny Zamyatin
Great anti-Utopian novel. Predates "1984" and once you read it you may get the feeling that George O read it, too.

"The Space Merchants"-Fred Pohl and CM Kornbluth Ever feel like our proud Free Market Economy is becoming a rampant greed Cancer? So did these guys, but they do as the Buddhists do, and as Joe said: they laugh, and fight by "participating". (Mmm..Mmm, that pasturized, processed, pristinely packaged slice of "Chicken Little"[Rtm.] sure is tasty! And habit forming!)

For Mythology in SF, there are many places to go, but I've gotta put Roger Zalazny right at the top. "Lord of Light" and "Ilse of the Dead" deal with future beings who incarnate themselves as Eastern gods. Zelazny had to have been a Campbell reader.

In John Varley's "Gaia" Trilogy there is a serious "Godzilla Vs. Megalon" level Throw-Down between Kali and a Giant Marilyn Monroe. That's a bloody hoot.

And, hey, if you're just curious about what the next 25 or so billion years or so might bring, take a look at the man that I gotta say I put right on par with Joe in the pantheon of 20th Century "Or you might want to look at it all this way...."Guys. Taaa Daa Da DAAAAH!!! Mr. Olaf Stapledon.
Not novels, or short stories, his "Last and First Men" and "StarMaker" are quite simply: The History of the Rest of This(As Well As All Other Possible) Universe(s). Nothing ever written like 'em. And they were written in the '20's!

Matter o' fact, most of these books are at least 50 or so years old. Like the man said, "The Future ain't what it used to be."

Hope you have fun with the list.

PS For something real Mythy, SFy, and recent, check out Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash": Computer hackers, Corporate Government, Catastrophic Pollution, Samuri Ethics, Sumerian Creation Myths, and a Purty Girl!










<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Clark on 2003-05-11 11:57 ]</font>
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Clemsy
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Clark,
Welcome to the JCF Forums! Wow! A bunch of SF authors I'm not familiar with! Thanks! I second the Zelazny nomination... and would add Stanislaw Lem to the list. He has been compared to Swift more than once. Some of his stuff is hilarious.

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Post by Clark » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks, Clemsy! Meant to check in for a while, but have been a B-Z B.
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Post by Clemsy » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:49 am

Bingo! I knew this was around here somewhere.

I'm currently reading a Roger Zelazny anthology and damn if I didn't find a mention of Campbell's Masks of God. A google confirms his familiarity with Campbell:
His early works were influenced by two things. The first was a
fascination with revenge stories and the revenge motif. This
can be seen in "Isle of the Dead," "Creatures of Light and
Darkness" and "Lord of Light." He also grew up with an interest
in myths, legends and folklore. He continued reading such
writers as Joseph Campbell and William Frazier, mixing
mythology with anthropology and psychology. The synthesis of
these three fields allows him to easily create systems of
mythology. It also helps give his stories resonance, scope and
an epic feel. All this can also be seen in his early works. He
deliberately exploited his strength with East Indian and
Egyptian mythology after he graduated in order to gain time to
fill in areas on which he was weaker. Mythic stories were
easier then and allowed him to gather expertise with other
material that could be used later. LINK
The last story in the anthology is 24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai for which he won the Hugo Award. The story is based on the collection of prints 36 Views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai Katsushika. This novella is very poetic. Wanting to see the prints naming each chapter, I found this website dedicated to the story. Enjoy.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Aunty Proton » Tue Jun 10, 2008 11:33 pm

Wake up out there, my fellow Slans.

The thing about sci-fi is that when kids are just getting curious about it and go to ask what they should read, librarians and such usually steer them toward the Greats -- Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury, etc. The thing is, and I'm not disparaging them in the least for they are Great for many many reasons, those all came from the 1940's - 1960's. Kids these days get bored with these classic stories. Not, I think because they're boring stories. I think perhaps because I don't think kids these days are willing to spend the time to really get into the story. This may be due to the current video culture, I don't know.

I'm reminded of the pitch Prof. Campbell made to his publisher for "Hero With a Thousand Faces" --They wanted another Bullfinch's, he wanted to write a book on how to read a myth. We need to teach how to read sci-fi just as Prof. Campbell taught people how to read myths. How are kids supposed to realize the wonder if they don't even know what they're looking at?


Also while we're at it, I'd like a slan shack and somebody to explain these new fangled post-Singularity stories to me.


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Post by Chrissurf » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:56 pm

Heinlein was a famous Libertarian and is probably turning over in his grave at the liberties we're losing daily. Privacy is already gone, war lost, but there are a lot of contemporary sci fi writer's who have put in their .2cents. Allen Steel is one who, I think, is very effective at appealing to the 'everyman's" idea of freedom and interpreting the historical significance vs contemporary views on the US constitution. Check out the Coyote books. Worth a look.
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Post by lancimouspitt » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:43 am

Aunty Proton wrote:Wake up out there, my fellow Slans.

The thing about sci-fi is that when kids are just getting curious about it and go to ask what they should read, librarians and such usually steer them toward the Greats -- Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury, etc. The thing is, and I'm not disparaging them in the least for they are Great for many many reasons, those all came from the 1940's - 1960's. Kids these days get bored with these classic stories. Not, I think because they're boring stories. I think perhaps because I don't think kids these days are willing to spend the time to really get into the story. This may be due to the current video culture, I don't know.

I'm reminded of the pitch Prof. Campbell made to his publisher for "Hero With a Thousand Faces" --They wanted another Bullfinch's, he wanted to write a book on how to read a myth. We need to teach how to read sci-fi just as Prof. Campbell taught people how to read myths. How are kids supposed to realize the wonder if they don't even know what they're looking at?


Also while we're at it, I'd like a slan shack and somebody to explain these new fangled post-Singularity stories to me.


Aunty Proton
Good point which reminds me of something that happened with my step-daughter recently. She watched Beauty and the Beast and school (the animated Disney version) and mentioned she thought it was somewhat stupid and funny in parts it shouldn't have been. Too much singing and was more for little children. Well let me tell you i'm not making this up but it's that funny,a few minutes later she turns around and mentions how much she wants to see the movie "Beastly" which is really just a different interpertation of the same story!!!!! :D
Which to me helps to show the imagery associated with a story can reallly make it or break it for some.Even if the two different images represent the same story,which in turn really to certain degree's shows how the different mask of the one mystery speak to some and others dont.
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