|Posted on April 8, 2009 at 8:20 AM|
One of the best things about having friends like Karyn Knight is the input they can give to your craft. Even though she’s a good deal younger than me, her youthful exuberance and viewpoint sometimes makes me think through what I’m saying. In response to my first blog, she pointed out the darker side of science fiction, a subject I intended to cover in a few weeks. But since I’m starting out with broad elements often confused with sci-fi—particularly horror and fantasy—it seemed good to deal with this earlier as well.
I said sci-fi was positive while horror was negative; that was a general statement. It is true that some speculative fiction gives us worlds where a nuclear holocaust has wiped out the population, and what remains is tainted food, mutant mobs, and a barren wasteland. How can this be positive? Usually these stories show someone prevailing over such circumstances; if they don’t, I would class them in the horror genre, or at least disaster.
In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the “positive” note is a revived Buck making a difference in the future world, and fighting off Draconians. In the rather ill thought-out and short-lived series Logan’s Run, it was a former Sandman becoming a Runner in search of a place called Sanctuary. On the cartoonish side, there’s also Wall-E, featuring a salvage robot who eventually shows overweight humans what empty lives they lead, and encourages them to start cleaning up the garbage dump of Earth.
Another popular image is a world which remains ethically unchanged from today, even though the technology may be different. I have all four TekWar movies, though not the series; I didn’t have cable TV when it ran on the Sci-Fi Channel, and could not record the episodes. But how can long-term moral morass be positive?
These movies follow Jake Cardigan, a former police officer accused of using Tek—a strange electronic drug that makes one high on virtual reality—and he's accused of murdering several colleagues. After four years of cryogenic incarceration, he is released and starts chasing bad guys again. He learns who framed him, going through a maze of high technology with his former partner, Sid Gomez, in the process.
The city streets are still dirty and the denizens still grungy in this vision of the future. Crime is still rampant, as are sexual dalliances, theft, divorce, betrayal, murder, and many other corruptions. But to William Shatner, the author, it must’ve seemed positive because the tech level is higher. Shatner himself even appears as Jake’s new beneficent boss, Walter Bascom.
Now, I don’t pretend to know what Shatner was thinking; I can only guess. But from talking to several unbelievers who enjoy science fiction, especially the darker kind, I discovered they don’t consider moral factors. Human nature never changes, I’m told, so it’s perfectly feasible our future could look like this. Our only hope for the future is advancing computer technology. I cannot agree. Their attitude is confirmed by reading comments about the show on-line; they always talk about the futuristic stuff and the acting. To the pundits, that’s what’s so great and positive about it.
Okay, granted, the CGI effects are way cool, especially in Jake’s search for his estranged wife and son, or for Sonny Hokori, the head honcho of the Tek cartel. Slummy looking people sit in a chair wired for the Net, swiveling and bouncing around as though in a Tilt-a-Whirl car. The equipment is complete with headgear and a glove, and they have names like Cowgirl and Wildside. They take roller-coaster rides through the electronic maze, dodging ever-changing shapes and colors, and risking fried synapses to find the answers.
Other wild rides can be found in the Star Wars franchise, particularly the “first three” episodes. Who did not hold their breath when young Anakin Skywalker ran the pod races through rocky canyons and sandy stretches? What about teenage Anakin dodging futuristic skyscrapers, fast sky traffic not unlike the Jetsons, and electric barriers? Or Anakin and Obi-Wan fighting each other while floating down a hot lava river—with increasing singe marks on their clothes, but with almost no sweat, burning skin, or sulfur asphyxiation.
But here, too, nothing has really changed from life on Earth. Even set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, crime and corruption are the order of the day. Unlike TekWar, there is a religion of sorts, embodied in something called the Force. I will examine this more next week, but for now I’m only looking at its two sides: good and dark.
I’m sure this makes perfect sense if one adopts the cultic idea of yin yang, symbolized in a circle occupied by two tadpole shapes wrapped around each other. It comes from the Chinese Taoist religion, where nature is essentially god and worship of ancestors is encouraged. Yin yang represents two opposing forces (popularly called “good and evil” ), which nevertheless need each other for existence and balance.
So in Star Wars, we have the good side of the Force, and the dark side. Frankly, I could never distinguish the two, since they both rely on the same powers and have basically the same tenets. It’s just that one side is perceived as evil, and the other good. Some have suggested the Force represents the spirit world, where there actually is such a division, but in reality, each side of the realm operates differently.
God and Satan do not need each other to exist, nor are they equally balanced. “I have overcome the world!” declares Jesus in John 16:33. The Bible is replete with promises that Jesus will one day govern the world in the future kingdom, in total peace and righteousness. Wickedness has no chance to encroach (Psalm 37:9-11; Proverbs 10:30).
Satan tried to short-circuit this by offering Him all the kingdoms early, before Jesus came near Golgotha (Luke 4:5-8 ). Not only are the kingdoms not Satan’s to give away, but Jesus already owns them by default. As the incident shows, Jesus (God) is far more powerful than Satan, defeating him with Scripture. He was the Victor then, and one day He will return as our conquering Hero (Revelation 19:11-16).
Satan’s job is to deceive, frightening us away from God. God’s job is to give comfort, drawing us away from Satan. Demons bang on ceilings and walls for fearful attention, or make objects fly around. Angels assuage fears when they appear with the words “fear not.” Satan delivers darkness, uncertainty, and ultimate death, while Jesus delivers light, hope, and ultimate life. So which would you rather have?
Beware of the Dark Side!