Cleaning Up After the Storm: Reflections on Black Widow in the Age of Ultron

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This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron

 

Natasha Romanoff, better known as Black Widow, is a strong female character and role model in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

Throughout the movies so far, she has held her own as an agent of SHIELD and as an Avenger. She has capably stopped threats both on a planetary and galactic scale, ranging from Justin Hammer’s robot army and HYDRA to Loki and the Chitauri. In the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, her status remains unchanged.

Both critics and audiences have responded phenomenally to the newest installment in the record-breaking franchise, but complaints have still arisen about how Black Widow has been treated by marketing and the film itself. Chief among those grievances is the phenomenon of “Mommy Widow,” a claim that writers and directors are betraying the character by spotlighting her maternal instincts.

In the film, Romanoff and Bruce Banner (human alter-ego to the Incredible Hulk) have developed a relationship. During a peaceful interlude at Hawkeye’s pastoral farmhouse, Romanoff and Banner are discussing their future together, and Banner laments that they can’t have the life that the archer does: a happy nuclear family. The roadblock, he claims, is the Hulk, which is always one angry moment away and, in all likelihood, is now a genetic curse.

To defend her position – a woman who is proactively seeking companionship instead of being the lustful target of the male gaze – Romanoff shares the details of the backstory the audience discovered minutes before thanks to the induced hallucinations of the Scarlet Witch’s mental sorcery.

Natasha became the assassin she is today in a place called the Red Room. In the flashback, we see that her training was intense (to say the least), and that part of that training was taking human life. Romanoff’s graduation ceremony was her own mutilation.

“You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you’re the only monster on the team?”

Romanoff wasn’t calling herself a monster because she couldn’t have children. She simply wasn’t. The agency behind the Red Room, presumably the KGB, cut her apart in an effort to create the perfect killing machine. As seen in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, Romanoff is trained to use her sexual allure as a weapon. One can assume that this makes KGB assassins similar to secret agents like James Bond, a man who is famous for having sex in every one of his nearly 25 films just to get to the target.

This is the origin of all that “red in the ledger” that Widow wants to erase. She’s not lamenting the loss of her motherhood, but rather the lack of free agency that chains her to her work. She considers herself a monster that was created the moment her freedom was taken away.

The “Mommy Widow” argument continues in a discussion of her role on the team. In Age of Ultron, she’s racing to the rescue and picks up Captain America’s discarded shield, stating, “I’m always picking up after you boys.”

That snarky line is more of a window to her role on the team than it seems. Since her debut in Iron Man 2, Romanoff has been saving the Avengers or delivering a critical hit in every film. In Iron Man 2, she pretty much single-handedly took out Justin Hammer’s guards and helped to shut down his robot army. In The Avengers, she brought Hawkeye back from his Loki-induced stupor and wielded the scepter to shut the Chitauri portal. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she literally guided Captain America to not only avoid capture by Hydra but was also instrumental in stopping their genocidal plan. She is, in every sense of the phrase, always picking up after the team. She’s the deal closer.

From the very beginning, Romanoff and Coulson have been the guardians of the Avenger Initiative. They were the front line, courting and babysitting Tony Stark, pushing the right buttons to incorporate Banner, investigating Thor’s arrival, and integrating Captain Rogers to the current era. In essence, they were the parents of the movement, always working for and reporting directly back to Fury. That is a huge amount of development for two characters who started out as secondary non-solo-film roles. They may not have major leading roles, but they are the heart of this universe, and continue to be in their respective roles as team leaders in different branches of SHIELD.

Part of that character development comes back to the relationship with Banner, a pairing that critics claim is Mommy Widow’s arrival at motherhood with a bouncing baby Hulk to nurture.

In The Avengers, it was plainly obvious that Romanoff had only met Banner on paper. She respected the man and outright feared the power of The Other Guy. She set up a typical martial sting operation, complete with a strike team, to take Banner down if necessary. Admittedly, that’s a 180-degree spin from where they stand in Age of Ultron.

However, the film clearly establishes that the Avengers haven’t just been sitting around waiting for the next movie premiere since we saw them last. They explicitly mention that it has been a long hunt for Loki’s scepter, and that means that the team has been working together for a significant time off-screen. The Avengers have developed a great sense of teamwork, as evidenced in the film’s opening gambit at the Hydra base, as well as a way to tame the Hulk when they need him to “Code Green” against a threat.

This wasn’t the only development that occurred off-screen: Stark built more suits after he “Clean Slated” his entire line in Iron Man 3, and overcame his PTSD from the Battle of New York; Rogers and Stark developed a new uniform for the captain, including a short-range retrieval system for the iconic shield; Stark Industries built at least one new model Quinjet (since SHIELD no longer has the capability) and a series of automated armor-bots; the world has come to resent the Avengers and the havoc they wreak; and Hawkeye had a family.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is so vibrant and alive that it continues to breathe and evolve even though the cameras are off.

The fact that this team picked Romanoff, the character who feared the Hulk the most, to be his handler speaks volumes about her character and role on the team. It is reasonable that the Romanoff/Banner relationship has grown beyond Widow being petrified of the Big Guy because their lives have continued between the films. That makes Widow more than just a swooning love interest with mommy issues and even more than just an ass-kicking blunt instrument to deploy in battle.

Romanoff is three-dimensional, and therefore a truly strong, living and breathing female character instead of the typical comic book trope of a pair of absurdly large walking breasts in spandex waiting for a fridge to fall into.

Even without a solo film outing (which is no excuse for her not to have one), Natasha Romanoff’s status as a strong female character and respectable role model in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe remains intact and promises to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

 

 

Cross-published to RevolutionSF on May 13, 2015

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Protecting our Childhoods

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If there’s one thing fans treasure, it’s the memories that their favorite franchises helped them develop. Science fiction is a metaphor for the human condition, and those memories have the power to develop fans into caring and productive members of society starting at childhood. It’s understandable how placing those personality building blocks into another creator’s hands can inspire immediate feelings of revulsion and fear, but it’s far less understandable how a reboot or reimagining is comparable to a violent personal violation.

 

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Let’s presume for the moment that fans actually mean what they say in this case. Rape is a serious crime, and not simply through the books of law. Rape is a physical, mental, and emotional assault that has long-reaching effects in the victim’s life. Rape is a personal violation and an exercise of absolute power over the powerless.

The statistics on sexual assault are staggering. In the United States, another person is sexually assaulted every two minutes. One in six women are victims, as are one in thirty-three men. Sixty percent of sexual assaults are not reported to authorities, and a staggering ninety-seven percent of rapists will never spend a single day in jail for their crimes. Rape victims are three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, the same disorder found in war veterans), and are four times more likely to contemplate suicide. The effects are so long-reaching that survivors of sexual assault who see references to rape are viscerally reminded of being helpless and powerless and completely at the mercy of a hostile (and often well-known or trusted) force.

There are cases of childhoods that were lived and survived around rape and incest. Those are real lives affected by real crimes, not the pettiness of a bad adaptation of a favorite Saturday morning cartoon. Using rape terminology to describe the latest attempts by Michael Bay, Will Ferrell, George Lucas, or J.J. Abrams to do their jobs trivializes the traumas of real rape victims, as if voluntarily watching the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation matches in any way with being sexually assaulted.

Using rape terminology to describe feelings over a cherished franchise being revisited is disgusting and insensitive.

 

Next, let’s presume that when these fans say “rape,” they really mean “ruin.”

We live in an era of geek renaissance. Between the cultural awakening in the mainstream with The Big Bang Theory (one of the most popular panels at conventions) and the financial success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, geek culture is being catered to with a golden tea set. It’s a digital era dominated by rebirth of cherished franchises once thought dead. Almost anything fans could want to revisit exists on physical or digital media, including BitTorrent. Linked childhood memories are only a click or two away.

Unless the evil creative of choice has a time machine (or fandom are collectively taking mind-altering drugs), both the memories and source material are safe. Quite honestly, the concern behind “ruining” a franchise or childhood memories is a hollow first-world problem dominated by a sense of narcissism and a false sense of ownership over entertainment productions.

As fans, we aren’t owed anything by creators. Hollywood and other entertainment venues are businesses, first and foremost, and those businesses have no contracts to make things exactly the way we want. Entertainment must appeal to the general audience first in order to earn a decent return on investment. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the domestic performances behind Pacific Rim, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen, all of which were niche films designed to attract genre fans and failed to meet their budgets.

Producers, writers, and directors have one job in their fields, and that is to make a generally accepted entertainment product that sells well. To that end, fans are consumers and nothing more, and are not even required to take in entertainment they don’t want to see. Everyone has the freedom to skip entertainment choices that don’t appeal to them.

The argument that modern creatives are ruining properties or memories is a false one. If childhood memories could be destroyed by a lackluster adaptation or vision, there are deeper problems with that childhood than entertainment choices. In that case, I recommend seeking help.

 

The worst part about either of the arguments about childhood memories being defiled is they both contribute to toxic cultural atmospheres. Both claims infer a personal assault, an act that never truly occurs against any of us, and transform a community based on enjoying, analyzing, and celebrating entertainment and its deeper meanings into a group of pessimists and cynics who tend to find the negative in every minute of film and paragraph of news.

The rape claims do even worse damage by trivializing the horrors of sexual assault and enhancing a culture that uses sexual assault as a punchline. In a community that decries racism, homophobia, and bullying, and is constantly haunted by the stigma of pedophilia and sexism, it is odd that we would so easily laugh off rape.

Science fiction and fantasy often speak of the need for tolerance and open-mindedness, and it is possible for genre fans to be critical of favorite properties without casting themselves as the victims in a fanciful morality play. Modern storytellers won’t have to destroy our childhoods because we are the ones betraying the lessons we claim to have learned.

Our community needs to return to the spirit of acceptance beneath the banner of celebration and wonder, and it needs to stop suffering from prejudice against new perspectives and ideas. We need to stop destroying ourselves in a misguided effort to protect ourselves. Only then will we truly have upheld the legacies of our childhoods.

My Thoughts on Lost

One of the American television shows that I heard a ton about but never had time to watch was Lost.  My wife borrowed the season sets from her brother, but only made it as far as season three before life took over.  During that time where we weren’t watching, fan groups and some of my trusted friends were still abuzz about the series, so when the complete series boxset came available after the series finale in 2010, I knew that it was a series that I had to invest in.

For those who don’t know about Lost, this post will involve spoilers.  If you intend on watching the show and want to experience it without knowing what’s coming, you probably want to stop reading and come back afterward.



What is Lost?
Lost was billed as a drama series, and ran on the ABC network from September 22, 2004 to May 23, 2010 over six seasons.  The show is centered on the survivors of the crash of Oceanic 815, a commercial passenger jet traveling between Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, California.  The crash occurred on a mysterious, unnamed tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.  The show was told in episodes that primarily focused on the events on the island, with secondary stories that amplified events in the life of the central character for each episode.  Lost was the brainchild of Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse.

When I say that Lost was a drama series, that classification is a very generic brush stroke to apply.  On its face, Lost was a character drama, but once I got invested, it was apparent that the show was part-drama, part-science fiction, part-fantasy, part-supernatural, part-hero quest, and part-mythological.  The blessing and the curse of the show was that the mythos brought up a plethora of questions that spanned all six seasons before being answered.  It was both frustrating and intriguing, and that was what I loved about it.

The frustration was amplified by the broad spectrum of cast members.  In the show, of the 324 people on Oceanic 815, 70 people and one dog survived, spread across three sections of the plane.  Season one focused on the survivors of the middle section, predominantly Doctor Jack Shephard, fugitive Kate Austen, con-man James “Sawyer” Ford, heroin-addict rock star Charlie Pace, former Iraqi soldier Sayid Jarrah, paraplegic John Locke, lottery winner Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, construction worker Michael Dawson and his son Walt, Korean couple Sun-Hwa and Jin-Soo Kwon, fueding siblings Boone Carlyle and Shannon Rutherford, and Claire Littleton, who is eight months pregnant.  As the show went on, some characters died, others were introduced—especially after the discovery of the tail section and the people who were on the island before the crash—and links between all of the characters are established from their lives before the show.

What starts as a simple show about people stranded on a desert island starts getting into the science fiction within the first few episodes with the introduction of a monster made entirely of smoke.  Characters also start seeing visions of dead friends and relatives, and eventually discover a mysterious hatch in the middle of the jungle.  Also woven throughout events of the show and the characters lives before the island are The Numbers:  4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42.

As the show went on, we discovered that the survivors were not alone.  First, there is the hostile seemingly primitive group known as The Others.  Second, there are the remnants of the mysterious Dharma Initiative.  Finally, there are the almost otherworldly inhabitants who have a greater purpose on the island.

Why I liked Lost
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for epic mythology.  Lost had that in spades.

One of the major complaints I heard about the show was that it was a victim of meandering stories that eventually headed in a somewhat decent conclusion, and I think that was a benefit to watching this on the DVDs.  Watching without the waiting between seasons or over writers’ strikes helped me to see this more as a mini-series rather than a six-season series.

Seasons one, two, and three of the show were standard American seasons with 25, 24, and 23 episodes, respectively.  Season four was supposed to have 16 episodes before the Writers Guild of America went on strike, and eventually ended up with 14.  Season five went with 17 episodes, and season six ended the show with 18.  The latter three seasons capitalized on the fact that the showrunners limited themselves to six seasons, particularly after the storylines started to wallow in stagnation in the third season.  The ratings show how the show started to suffer in season three.

Lost had an overarching mythology that, once it finally got assembled, really kept me rolling.  All the talk of The Numbers and Jacob and The Man in Black really came to a head for me with the eighth episode of the last season, when the show finally explained why everything was so important.  Sure, The Numbers were retconned in to correspond with the remaining survivors of Oceanic 815 who were potential candidates to replace Jacob, the guardian of the island and protector of the world, but I didn’t care because it made sense to me.  Jacob was a man who was forced into a sacred role and immortality without a choice, and a mistake he made in the nascent days of his role unleashed a great evil that had one goal:  to take over the world.  To get there, the evil Man in Black has to kill his brother, which he cannot do directly.  The rest of it, from the button that has to be pushed every 108 minutes to prevent the destruction of the island to the quest to control the energy at the heart of the island speaks to me as the folly of man.

While a great deal of the show’s events relied on destiny and fate, that’s what myths depend on as well.  Epic fantasy and science fiction, driven by powers outside the control on man, be it God, the Force, or whatever you want to call it, depends greatly on the possibility that certain things are destined to occur.  In Lost, the candidates were destined to arrive and be tested on the island, and they were selected not because they were strong or smart, but because they were flawed.  Only a flawed person, one who recognized and was willing to improve their shortcomings, could fill the role of protecting the island.  More so, Jacob wanted his successor to choose to be the protector, not be pushed into it.  Jack chose to take the responsibility directly, and Hurley chose indirectly by his continuous empathy and caring for his fellow survivors.  Jack continually jockeyed for the leadership position with Sawyer and Locke, but everybody truly loved Hurley, and relied on him for support.

Religion and faith also played a major role from day one in the show, and I had no problem with the final resolution of the “sideways” storyline being nothing more than a waiting room for the Oceanic survivors before moving on to whatever lies beyond this life.  Simply put, it was a method for each person to resolve any unfinished emotional business in their lives and remember the most important thing they did in the living world.  Watching all of these people, who had fought each other while struggling to survive, come together with a common goal in mind moved me, and I thought the intent was beautiful.

But the thing that moved me even more was the poetic ending for Jack.  He ended his journey exactly where he started it, and I bawled like a baby when he collapsed on the ground and Vincent—the dog who always had a knack for progressing the storyline when it needed a motivational kick—laid down next to Jack to ensure his last moments were not spent alone.  I’m getting weepy even now as I put these words to the page.  When a television show or a movie has the power to move me to tears, it takes a special place in my life.  I can count on one hand the media that has accomplished that.

That was the effect that Lost had on me.  It wasn’t just a drama series about survivors on an island with sci-fi and fantasy elements tossed in.  When I partake of any story, but in particular science fiction, I look for how it applies to the human condition.  Science fiction has always been an examination of the human condition by use of metaphor, and Lost did that.  Each character was three-dimensional in my eyes, and character motivations were, for the most part, genuine.  What solidified the characters for me was not only that genuine flavor, but the fact that they could evolve in believable ways as the plot progressed.

I know that the writing wasn’t always stable, and that there were problems with retroactively adding new characters into old situations as if they’d always been there, but for me, what I gained from experiencing the series far outweighs those minor quibbles.
Lost is a series I will go back to again in its entirety, and is a series that I feel has made a profound impact on my life.


Ratings graphic sourced from Wikipedia, © www.mysona.dk.  Image is used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Unported 3.0 License.
Lost title card image is copyright ABC, intended for use under terms of Fair Use for review of the series.

The Glory of Being a Nerd

Last week, podcaster and Chicago radio producer Jimmy Mac covered the topic of being called a nerd on The ForceCast. His position was that the term nerd is derogatory and shouldn’t be used to describe fans of Star Wars. I couldn’t disagree more.

The crowd at Wikipedia have defined “nerd” as “a term that refers to a social perception of a person who avidly pursues intellectual activities, technical or scientific endeavors, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests, rather than engaging in more social or conventional activities.” That got me thinking. Based on that, why shouldn’t we embrace the term nerd?

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The Cycle of Repeated Foisting

Story-teller and general wordherder-for-hire J. C. Hutchins tweeted about a blog entry by Charles Stross that got me thinking. In the blog, Mr. Stross talks about how he’s annoyed with “glut of Steampunk that is being foisted on the SF-reading public via the likes of Tor.com and io9.” Particularly, he’s upset because he believes there’s far too much of the genre on the market, and that the genre is running the risk of obsolescence due to the “second artist effect.” Apparently, that’s basically copycat storytelling.

Now, here’s my disclaimer: I don’t read steampunk, mostly because I’ve never had the opportunity to pick up anything in the genre. I’m not disinterested – in fact, I’m rather interested based on the costumers I see at Dragon*Con – but rather swamped in higher priorities. But, in fairness, it wasn’t the genre aspect that captured my attention with this blog post.

My first contention is the idea that anyone is “foisting” anything on anyone. Last time I checked – which was one paragraph ago for those keeping score at home – no one was holding a 9mm Beretta to my temple and forcing me to read anything, let alone io9 or Tor. While this isn’t his chief complaint, I’ll still coming back to it later.

My second contention was that this complaint, however well-researched and thought out it may be, is a reminder of the short-term memory issues of the internet and the cyclic nature of markets in general. I quite clearly remember complaints of a similar nature about vampire fiction, military science fiction, urban fantasy (particularly those with “headless” women on the cover), sword/sorcery/epic fantasy, and even bodice-ripping romance novels. Let’s face it, folks: Any market, whether it is stocks or novels, will balance itself out by the principles of supply and demand. If you put a lot of widgets on the markets, the cheap low-quality versions usually get snapped up first in the initial rush.  After R&D takes over, higher quality widgets hit the shelves, people buy those, the reviews show how much better they are, and the cheapos are dumped. Replace “widget” with “book” and see how it works.

Since io9 and Tor aren’t holding me hostage, I’m not obligated to buy and/or read every steampunk/vampire/zombie/whatever novel on the market. I am free to choose the ones I want to based on reviews and advice, resulting in the best bang for my buck when it comes to entertainment in a different world. As I mentioned to J.C., the crap will settle to the bottom and eventually get buried while the stars rise and shine. This goes for every market, not just books, which is why houses nobody wants are eventually torn down, lemon cars don’t go very far, and craptastic movies usually don’t make back their budgets.  There are always bottomfeeders who love the refuse and keep our ocean clean, but they’re not the prime market.  They just keep Tor’s lights on.

I don’t disagree with Mr. Stross that there is a lot of junk out there, but the truth is that there always will be, just as there will always be posts like his and mine that highlight the pros and cons of that constant. What I do disagree with is that it is the end of the world. Cyberpunk and vampires will return, just like James Bond and bellbottoms. If there is a demand, supply will eventually catch up to match it, and no amount of garbage will prevent the diamonds in the rough from eventually surfacing and shining.

The junk is a necessary evil.  Wade through it, pick out the good bits, and keep moving.  If the shelves are full of junk and you want something better, then do something about it.  After all, necessity is still the mother of invention, isn’t it?

Religion in Science-Fiction

Tiffany Vogt at Airlock Alpha recently asked, “Is Religion Killing Good Sci-Fi Shows?”  In her article, she uses three recent series – Lost, Caprica, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot – to prove her point. Now, before I go too much further, I have to admit that I haven’t watched Lost beyond the first season, although I do have the complete series set waiting on me to dive in. I also haven’t had the chance to watch Caprica beyond the pilot, although I do hear mixed reviews from friends.

But, from my experiences with Battlestar Galactica, from the 1979 and recent versions, along with entertainment like Quantum Leap, the Stargate franchise, Star Wars, and Star Trek, I have to argue no. The first thing we have to do is eliminate the “us vs. them” concept of religion and science-fiction. The important part isn’t the gadgets or technology, it’s the story. That’s what religion is based on, isn’t it? Read any holy text and you’ll find it chock full of parables with a lesson attached, much like Aesop’s Fables. Even the trope of preachers delivering the typical fire and brimstone sermon focuses on telling a tale and learning a lesson from it.

So what is science-fiction? It’s the same thing: A story with an embedded lesson or speculation on a topic with a setting different than ours. Star Wars has a mythic story arc based around the Hero’s Journey with a focus on the mystical Force, which may or may not be religious in nature. Did the element of the Force ruin Star Wars? No, it didn’t, and most detractors argue that the series wasn’t harmed until 1999 when George Lucas tried to put a scientific spin on it.

Here comes the counter-argument: Star Wars didn’t tell a story without the Force and then tack it on at the end as a convenient way out of the plot. Fine. What about Quantum Leap?

Quantum Leap tackled this overall concept by changing the setting every episode for five years, while skirting the core issue of whether it was God, Fate, Time, or a botched science experiment that was responsible for bouncing Sam back and forth within his lifetime. The only real matter was that Sam was putting right what once went wrong, and the concept of potential religious ties came second. It only really came to a head in the finale when Sam came face-to-face with what may or may not have been God, who told him the truth about his Leaping. What that a cop-out? I don’t think so at all. First, it was supposed to be a turning point for the series, leading to a sixth season with harder trials for Sam without a guide. Second, as a finale, it works because Sam finally confronts what’s been happening over the last five years and grows from the experience. He gained the confidence to take on the extra challenge that lay ahead of him, whether we saw it on screen or not.

Battlestar Galactica in its original form made no claims to be anything but a show based on religion. Every episode made reference to gods and faith; entire episodes were based around the Colonials battling an incarnation of the Devil and interacting with Beings of Light with god-like powers. The quest for Earth was based on divine prophecies and guided by the Lords of Kobol. The reboot may have been rooted deeper in scientific storytelling, but it did not refute the genesis of the story. Characters on both sides of the conflict prayed to deities and talked about faith. Roslin had drug-induced hallucinations that showed the Colonials and Cylons the path to Earth, and even if the quest was undertaken as a hollow pursuit, it became a voyage of exploration for the psyches of each character. Some characters gave up along the way, some tried to use failures and setbacks as tools for personal gain, and some, like Admiral Adama, discovered potentials that they did not know existed. Even the concept of “what has happened before will happen again” is based in mythological roots of destiny and fate that reach back beyond the religions of Ancient Greece.

Star Trek, which has always shunned religion, even took a stab at religion in a seven-year arc with Deep Space Nine, which I argue is the best of the franchise. I can’t forget the religious threads of Babylon 5, either, but having only seen the series once, I can’t comfortably explore that territory.

I think that most modern views on science fiction are built around the staples of Trek and Stargate, which have inflicted considerable and irrefutable damage with numerous stories of persons with godlike powers who are evil or corrupted, and I believe that to be one of the longest tentpoles in the “us vs them” philosophy.

Religion is, at its base, a mythology. Faith is man-made creation, built around believing in that mythology and adapting it to everyday life. Science-fiction, part of the larger genre of speculative fiction, is a mythology, whether it tells of trips through a portal that takes you to a different planet or a quest based on faith. I can’t speak for Lost, but Galactica has always been an exploration of the human condition through the strength of faith, and I don’t believe that following that exploration to Ronald Moore’s conclusion ruined the journey.

We’re not talking about proving the existence of God here, but rather the basis of sci-fi which was exploring new fantastic frontiers with the power of human ingenuity. I, for one, want to see more science-fiction that goes back to the human condition, which includes faith and religion. Removing faith and religion only serves to strip an aspect from humanity that feeds into everyday decisions, and an exploration of that result ignores crucial motivations. Faith and religion need to be a core element in explorations of human nature because they are a core element in each man, woman, and child, even if they don’t believe in a higher power.

We can’t ignore the science in science-fiction, that’s true, but not every human being is motivated purely by science, and I refuse to believe that the answers to the speculation will all immediately come from science. The religious belief that Earth was the center of the universe motivated scientists to prove it otherwise. The same stands true in part for scientists seeking life on other planets or exploring the mysteries of evolution. Religion and faith are powerful motivators and cannot be ignored or cast aside.

Books like Contact, a well-regarded science-fiction story written by a scientist, have made me realize that neither brute force method of science or religion have all the answers to the questions about humanity. I believe that an exploration based in logical reasoning with an open mind and a faith that not all the mysteries have readily observable answers will reveal more than either approach would by itself. After all, theological exploration by the main character in Carl Sagan’s only fictional work didn’t destroy the story. It made the story complete.

Dragon*Con Schedule

Here’s where I’ll be during Dragon*Con this year.

Friday
Military in Sci-Fi: 4:00p, Marriott A704
I’ll be a panelist for this discussion about the use of military in science fiction and if it is a crutch or good planning.

Saturday
The 2010 Parsec Awards: 4:00p, Hilton Regency V
The Scapecast is up for their third Parsec against some pretty stiff competition.  I’m also there to support my fellow podcasters.  The ceremony runs 2.5 hours.

“Browncoats: Redemption”: 7:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
The world premiere of a highly anticipated fan film set three months after the events of Serenity. (2.5 hours)

Mighty Fine Shindig!: 10:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
I had a lot of fun last year at this party for Browncoats.

Sunday
Scapecast Live Show: 11:30a, Hilton 204
I’ll be on the panel with my friends from the show, Kevin Bachelder, Lindy Rae, and Wendy Hembrock.

“Farscape: Uncharted Territory?” 4:00p, Hilton Regency Ballroom
Fellow Scaper Angela Dean has the opportunity to interview Ben Browder, Raelee Hill, and Virginia Hey.

Geek Radio Daily Live: 7:00p, Hilton 204
I’ve recently become a fan of GRD, and I look forward to meeting this lively bunch.  Rumor has it that Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Stargate SG-1) will be a special guest.

Imagine Greater: 8:30p, Marriott A704
I’ll be on a panel with fellow sci-fi fans discussing the merits of Syfy’s Saturday night B-movies.

Aside from that list, I’ll be attending various other panels, hanging out with family and friends, and wandering about having a grand geeking time.  For those of you who can’t be there, I’ll miss you and hope to see you next year.

If you will be there, come on by and say hello.  I’m always willing to meet new friends.