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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Friday Challenge - 2/27/09

We got clobbered with a snowstorm last night and had a good deal of digging-out to do, so I'm clicking the Post button a bit later than usual this morning. We have a really strong field of entries this week, including two—well, I'll just have to explain them when I come to them.

In approximately LIFO order, then, the entries in consideration for the 2/20/09 Friday Challenge are:

torainfor: untitled

Arisia: "Johnny and Megan"

snowdog: "The Kiln"

the bandit: "Hansel and Gretel v. Agatha Hexe"

Henry: "Mr. Fox"

Ben-El: "Snow White and the Red Queen"

KTown: "A Sleeping Beauty"

Jen Stuck: "Leda and The Pigeons"

And then, in something completely new to the Friday Challenge, we've received the following non-entries, which their respective authors do not want considered for judging but are hoping you'll enjoy reading all the same.

Arisia: "Another Kind of Pain"

Imnay Udosay: "The Supermodel's New Clothes"

As always, even if you haven't submitted an entry you're encouraged to read, comment on, and vote for your favorites, with the winner to be announced Sunday night.

And now, without further ado, I turn the microphone over to Vidad.



This turned out more philosophical than I originally intended, but here’s my challenge, with a rather lengthy set-up. (In advance, I apologize for the fact that this challenge doesn’t involve headless romances, bees, were-seals, Counselor Troi, politics, clogs, the Eighties, or all of the above. Feel free to work them in, however.)

In case you missed it, many of the luminaries of science fiction were devout humanists. People like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke (not to mention Gene Roddenberry) had glorious visions of a human future, where man had overcome his superstitious past and learned to work together in the furthering of his evolution.

As a child, my dad instilled in me a wide knowledge of worldviews. If I remember correctly, there are basically three root views.

1. Naturalism (The material world is all there is. There is no spiritual realm. All can be explained by natural processes.)

2. Pantheism (All is spiritual and interconnected, we are all one, everything is God.)

3. Theism (There are both physical and spiritual realms. An infinite and personal God created the laws of nature and the material world. The spiritual is eternal, the physical temporary.

Or… more simply put:

1. Sorry… there is no God, monkey-boy!

2. Shirley MacLaine is God, and so are you, your houseplants, and everything else.

3. God is out there and might be mad. Do you:
A. Bow to Mecca?
B. Put on a Yarmulke?
C. Worship Satan and hope he’ll protect you?
D. Follow Jesus?
E. Do all of the above to cover all your bases (or backside) and hope for the best? (Final exam after death!)

Humanism, of course, falls under category #1. It’s a confusingly positive spin on a set of underlying assumptions about life. (Note: I’m using the term in the current sense, which is inherently secular. This is the Humanism of the “Humanist Manifesto” and not the early humanism of someone like Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.) Seriously, though… why is it so dang positive? There’s no belief in God, an afterlife, the human soul, etc. We are the result of randomness, born of chance, of no inherent worth, un-designed, living in a universe that’s going to burn away into the ultraviolet…

Enter Hari Seldon!

Through Science, he charts the course of history! For the moment, things are cool! Don’t think too hard about the beginning or the end, and you’re good! The Foundation is saved (though in difficulty… thanks to The Mule! Oh no!).

Or maybe you prefer 2001 – where a previously evolved race cares enough about us to erect a giant black thing on the moon, like a monolithic rest stop lighting our way to the stars (and incomprehensible film sequences).

Since many pages of sci-fi have been written about Man’s glorious future and perhaps eventual evolution towards a Naturalistic Godhood of some sort… I had an idea. And it became…

This Week’s Friday Challenge.

Here’s the challenge! Divorce sci-fi from Humanism! That’s right. Go ahead, throw Humanism’s clothing out on the lawn and take away its visitation rights! I’m not asking you to write a Theistic/Religious/Christian/Mormon/Deistic sci-fi tale… oh no, that’s been done before with varying degrees of effectiveness. (A few of particular note would be “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr., “Out of the Silent Planet” by C. S. Lewis, and “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle)

No, I’m asking you to take a DIFFERENT tack on Worldview Option #1. We’re going over to the dark side!

This challenge is now officially titled:

NIHILISTS IN SPACE!

Why bother being positive? I mean REALLY? Take some H-bombs to the FREAKIN’ stars, man! Only the strong survive! (Darwinism works in space too, right?)

I expect lots of grim, death-oriented, jack-booted Wagnerian awesomeness. Time to bust out your inner √úbermensch!

(Alternately, if you’re feeling squishy, give us your best take on Worldview Option #2. It might make the Oprah Book Club selection… you never know! Zen Buddhists in space? Is your rocket an illusion? Is space an illusion? Is this challenge an illusion?)

The deadline is Thursday, March 5th by Midnight CST.

Paint it black!

-Vidad
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