Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It can happen here

My byzantine, nearly published, SF novel revolved around a global peace movement protesting a war that didn't exist. The protests were a form of historical reenactment in a world addicted to simulation. Protest as dress-up and play-acting. Nostalgic, trendy role-playing, without any sense of what the reality actually means.

A clever idea. A little on the smug, snarky, snotty side, maybe. But clever.

I never for one freaking instant imagined it would actually happen.

Free information!

Bullshit wants to be free. Information wants to be really, really, really expensive. 

Allow me to elaborate ...

Up until the mid-1990s, LexisNexis had a very expensive lock on decent, searchable articles and legal and public records. Then the Internet stomped onto the scene like Godzilla! By the early 2000s, lo and behold, the floodgates opened, and a world of free research opened up – first-rate stuff, just there for the taking, I’m telling you, like thousands of suburban homes ready for glue-huffing teenagers to strip bare. 

Like Pynchon’s Zone, this anarchy didn’t last long. By the mid-2000s, the informationally propertied got smart and bought expensive locks. Suddenly, all those free newspaper and magazine articles weren’t free no more. After a brief appearance, the free accessmylibrary.com vanished into the gelatinous blob that is Cengage – which politely suggested you open your naked eyeballs to the glare of HighBeam Research and pay a subscription for the formerly free stuff. JSTOR, meanwhile, maintained and expanded its Great Wall of Academia. (Including the fracking article from 1990 in Film Quarterly for which this blog is named.) Aaron Swartz tried to drill a hole in said wall. JSTOR sicced the feds on his ass. Facing 35 years in federal prison, Swartz hung himself. But relax, kids ...

An army ant carpet of snot-nosed thieves with no political agenda are ripping off all the meaty bits of pop culture you could ever want. Free -- if illegal. And a global septic tank of legally free information remains – from data-mining social networks to an infinitude of asshole opinions and choirs preaching to choirs. As to original research, if you want, say, detailed explanations of the Flat Earth Theory or why pointy headed Lizard People are behind chemtrails and the Illuminati, a wealth of steaming data awaits. Yes, all the stupid stuff is free! And most of the smart stuff that’s just there to distract you. The smart stuff that actually matters … well, that’s not for everybody.  

There’s a story here, damn it. It’s worth a book, a movie … a freaking magazine article. But nobody’s paying me to research it.

So you’ll have to settle for my unsupported speculation instead.

It's free.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Conspiracy Theory vs. Chaos Theory

It's fool-proof. What could go wrong?
Chaos Theory explains how order emerges out of chaos and vice versa. There's complicated math involved, so let's keep it simple. The closest analogy is Film Noir. Specifically, the Heist Gone Wrong.

It always happens. Yeah, you might have a few clean getaways. Sooner or later, everything goes to hell.

Because there's no such thing as a perfect plan.

Somebody talks. The henpecked bagman blabs to his cheating wife about the racetrack job. The boss' twitchy friend who just got out of prison slaughters everyone in the jewelry store. The lookout drops acid, goes on an apeshit killing spree, and the clean bank job spirals out of control. The bank job goes like clockwork, but the getaway car gets stuck in traffic.

Film Noir/Chaos Theory maps perfectly to politics, the economy, everything. A neo-conservative cabal starts a war to turn Iraq into an American client state? They wind up with the Islamic State instead. The fatcat Saudis pay off the mullahs to keep the peasants in line and the oil money to themselves? One fruit seller in Tunisia sets himself on fire and everything goes to hell.

Something always goes wrong.

Chaos Theory is scary. Nobody's in charge. There's no great plan. The universe is literally out of control. The good guys don't always win. A happy ending is not guaranteed. Nothing's guaranteed. A freaking asteroid could wipe us out tomorrow.

The Blind Watchmaker creates order. The Blind Watchmaker smashes the watch.

Scary, huh?

Have a nice day.

Conspiracy Theory, on the other hand, is oddly comforting. The deck is stacked. But there's order behind the seeming chaos. A simple explanation. A unified field theory that explains everything. The game is rigged. Life is unfair. But it's not random.

Now here's a fun fact ...

Chaos Theory explains Conspiracy Theory.

Conspiracy Theory is a spontaneously emerging phenomenon. It's an urban legend that converges around a strange attractor and grows. A rumor that grows and grows like a game of telephone.

Some building contractor in Topeka watches footage of 9-11. The guy thinks, shit, that looks like a controlled demolition. He tells his friend.

Who passes it on to his buddy.

I know this guy in Topeka. He says 9-11 looks like a controlled demolition. 

The next call up a notch. 

This guy in Topeka blows up buildings for a living. He knows for a fact 9-11 is an inside job. 

On and on it goes in a game of one-upmanship.

What if Bush let 9-11 happen?

No. Bush made 9-11 happen.

Al Qaeda works for them.

There is no Al Queda. Airy compositions with lots of white space. 

There were no planes!

The planes were holograms. 

No demolition either!

They used missiles.

OThe story gets better and better.

Each conspiracy theory gets more and more specific. One conspiracy theory converges with another conspiracy theory. And they all come together like raindrops on a car window.

9-11 Truthers talk to UFO cultists talk to Flat Earthers talk to Bible-thumping end-timers talk to Vaxxers talk to deadender militia nuts talk to the sons of the John Birchers (who rave about the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations). Without even trying, the lunatic fringe gets the story straight.

And they've all got a pretty damn good idea who's really running the show. Either the Lizard People from Space. Or those pushy people who control Hollywood and the banks.

It's all fun and games. Until six million Jews wind up in the oven.

The loonies blindly build their delusional architecture. Bloody consequences aside, there's a reason they do it.

The spontaneously emerging theory is a specific model for a collective hunch. It's a hunch that everything is not what it seems. No, man. The scrum of politics and economics only looks random. There's a small group of conspirators at the top pulling the strings and running the show. The Puppet Masters. They've rigged the game so the house always wins.

Hey, somebody has to win.

Conspiracy theorists can always say the winners cheated, then work their way backwards to explain how. It's all part of the plan, man. Something happens? They wanted it to happen. ISIS wasn't a colossal screw up. The Illuminati planned it all along. No, we don't control the oil in Iraq. The war was all about disrupting the oil supply. You think the crash in oil prices is a freaking coincidence, man?

When a lousy thing happens, somebody always cashes in. Conspiracy theorists can always say the profiteers made the lousy thing happen. Cui bono. That's Latin for follow the money, man.

Yeah, the heist went wrong. You're not seeing the big picture, man. The bank's gonna dump the security company, get a new one. Not just the bank they hit. Whole chain of banks from Maine to Florida. Big contract, man. Millions and millions of dollars. Think about it. 

It's a theory that can't be disproved.

By analogy, think of an obsessive-compulsive, jealous guy who thinks his wife is cheating on him. Every random act, every casually dropped word fits into that theory. Why'd she hang up the phone when I walked into the room? OK. She had six clean panties yesterday. I counted them. Now there's only four panties in the drawer. Jesus. Now it's six panties again! The same panties, but in a different order. I know she's cheating on me!

The guy's out of his mind.

That doesn't mean his wife isn't cheating on him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fiction is Fiction and that's a Fact

Take the premise seriously. Fugate's first command of fiction writing. I come down from the mountain and hurl this marble tablet on the head of shucks everywhere.

My beef was what with Hollywood hacks who write in terms of Car chase/explosion/fight/sex scene/foot chase through narrow alley/gunfight/explosion/sex scene -- troweling in plot, character and motivation into the cracks of said story beats like Bondo in the wounds of an old Chevy. The indifference to logic pissed me off mightily. Indignation no less than righteous. 

Goddamnit. You're interrogating a dangerous alien who can turn into gaseous form and the fracking alien is on the other side of a plexiglas sheet with holes in it. Seriously?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: The Man in the High Castle

Finished the Amazon.com adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle.

I'm impressed. The adaptation could easily have been lurid, cheap and exploitive. Red dawn-— with Nazis! They didn't go that route.
Yes there are chase scenes, skullduggery and so on. But hey also communicated the deep dark oppression of living in an occupied country. The resistance does its thing. But they also have jobs, boys and girl fiends to worry about.
spycraft, mass graves and betrayals.