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Elf M. Sternberg - Oh, what the harsh light of reason hath wrought:
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Oh, what the harsh light of reason hath wrought:
Harsh, but true:
Hollywood has done something even more depressing: It's revealed the "Chronicles of Narnia" books to be what they actually are: a rather lean slice of delightfully wrought but fairly simpleminded, largely hobbled fantasy for the imagination-deprived single-digit set.
You want to have bad dreams? Read Lewis's The Great Divorce and Ted Chiang's Hell is the Absence of God back to back and realize that both Lewis and Chiang are telling the exact same story.

Really.

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caprinus From: caprinus Date: January 11th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Context please?

W. T. F.

*blinks*

What the hell was that? Ted Chiang's Hell is the Absence of God, I mean -- I just scrolled through it and I am completely stupified. Who is that? Why? Wha Huh Gaaaah? Is this satire? Earnest philosophy? How did you find it? Buh... This really made my brain hurt.
elfs From: elfs Date: January 11th, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Context please?

Chiang is one this generation's foremost "What if... ?" writers, and Hell is the Absence of God is one of his most poignant stories. HitAoG is a telling of the story, "What if the Christian mythos were true and manifestly visible?"

In our world, some events are mere accidents, and some are described as "acts of God," incomprehensible to men. What if, in those "acts of God" we literally saw the hand of God, or his agents, at work? Chiang takes that "what if" idea to its extreme conclusion.

The funny thing is, if you've read The Great Divorce, you more or less have the same story. Admittedly, the Great Divorce is set in the Foothills of Heaven, where everyone is given one last chance to see the Hand of God at work, but Lewis is telling the same story: What if the Christian mythos were not only true but manifestly visible?

Lewis is clearly rooting for God, so his story comes out as propaganda, as he intended. Chiang is far more ambivalent.
caprinus From: caprinus Date: January 11th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Context please?

Thank you very much! That explanation makes the reading much more approachable -- I'll read it more thoroughly after work.

OK, maybe sooner. ;)
tagryn From: tagryn Date: January 11th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I assume Morford got paid for the column, so it served its purpose that way. Otherwise, just a regurgitation of the same stuff that was said ad infinitum about why adults who were WOWed by the first Star Wars films as kids were disappointed while watching the second batch.

Children look at things differently than adults? "I'm shocked, shocked!"
pixel39 From: pixel39 Date: January 11th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to read his column, but he's too constantly jaded and cynical for me. No sense of awe in that one.

I enjoyed the movie. Twice. And I will probably enjoy it again.
scyllacat From: scyllacat Date: January 11th, 2006 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe they're right. I didn't get as much out of the movie as I expected, but my going-on-8 niece thinks it's the bomb. I got her the "real" book for Christmas. I couldn't believe her parents bought her one of those dumbed-down picture books. We should have a bedtime reading.

On the other hand, children need such things, too. I remember being a baby-geek (and didn't even know I was, therefore, nearly complete alienation from my peer group) and how those books excited my imagination, and made me wonder about motivations, and understand consequences, and that sort of thing.

Lewis himself says in the introduction that they're written for children. And, as for the movie, I'm waiting for the sequels.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 12th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yeesh!

Ted Chiang's world creeps me out... sentients at the mercy of capricious, powerful beings, people in the ultimate abusive relationship telling themselves "He didn't mean it.", "I made Him do it.", "He is really good."

Brrrrrrrr
elfs From: elfs Date: January 12th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yeesh!

To which Chiang's dispassionate reply is: just how different is the world he depicts from the one in which people like Jerry Falwell and George Bush believe they live?

From: (Anonymous) Date: January 13th, 2006 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yeesh!

That particular story of Chiang's reminds of Robert Charles Wilson's "The Perseids and Other Stories". I'm not fond of R.C.Wilson's novel-length fiction, but his short stories are immensely creepy in a similar way.

Speaking of Chiang, have you read "Understand"? I think he also wrote a great story about golems (and God, and Godel), but it might have been someone else.


-Malthus
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 13th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yeesh!

Hardly different at all... but while they suffer under their delusions (and the rest of us suffer from the actions they take which are driven by those delusions), the rest of us don't have "Acts of God"(TM) going off like tack nukes every so often.
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