FULL BLEED: THE GREGORIAN VOICES ECHO
Sick day. Hooray. My favorite. Played enough WORLD OF WARCRAFT to tire of it (and that's easy since it's level alts or do meaningless chores because this entire chunk of the world is going to be washed away in terms of importance in a few weeks). Considering taking a nap or sitting on the couch and watching UFO documentaries dated before 1985 (excepting MIRAGE MEN). But I'll work out some thoughts on recent reading and genre.
I just finished reading THE TRICKSTER AND THE PARANORMAL by George P. Hansen (recommended to me by I believe Ken Layne - he of THE DESERT ORACLE; unless it was recommnded to me by Erik Davis, he of the recent HIGH WEIRDNESS -- both are likely candidates.) TRICKSTER is an excellent book, unlocking a great many insights on not only the nature of magic and outsider phenomena, but looking at why the world is ever-increasingly like it is. Granted, a lot of Hansen's theories are modified or carried on from others. That's fine. Planck's Principle certainly applies. Though it may not be explicitly evolutionary, it is one that shows how ideas change, not because the best ones survive, but the dumb ones die off.
I won't go into a long digression about the book, mostly because I'm very tired, bordering on exhausted. But I will talk real briefly about the concepts of disenchantment and rationalization. Basically, they're what they sound like when applied to worldview. A world of interlocking bureaucratic systems (as ours is) cannot abide competition from charismatic powers (ie, powers that are non-rational, parnanormal for lack of a better word -- not meaning occult but without rational explanation.) So once a set of bureaucratic systems gets in place, there's an underlying process of rationalization and disenchantment that goes on. Unexplainable phenomena is minimalized. Rationality is given a privileged position. Inexplicability is weeded out of the world. Even in the religious practices that are allowed (miracles are minimized in importance and God is given power but it's an insubstantial power, unable to effect political change).
Broadly, those points are hard to disagree with.
But I want to talk for just a second about folks who go around stating that science fiction is better than fantasy, that fantasy is juvenille, etc. (And you can apply this to folks who run the same line only taking academic/mainstream fiction as their starting point -- *even when that fiction adopts the same literary moves as genre fiction*) The privileged genre is the only one that is rational. Science fiction is believed better than fantasy because of the supposed ascendance of rationality as its basis. Fantasy is allowed to traffic in crazy ideas and happenings that are irrational/paranormal. Science fiction always has the unspoken "this is based on science and therefore *could* happen" line playing just below your auditory range.
Lots of people are attracted by that. I've watched them attempt to hold sway in conversations. I don't have much patience for it. But then discussions of magic systems in which just the process of having a RPG-like set of rules for magic elevates a work of fantasy just drive me up a wall. Making a magic system is just science fiction lite and yeah I meant to spell it that way. I mean, if that's how you want to spend your time, great. Go do that. Far be it from me to tell you what to do in your fiction. That's not my job. Mine is to do the work that makes sense to me, even if it is irrational and has effect preceding cause and can't be boiled down to a simple set of if A then B and the bad guy explodes in a fireball. Infintely replicable magic isn't magic, right? It's just a different what, again? Oh, right. A science. Okay then.
Look, there's miraculous and strange things in science/nature (yeah, that's a troubled slash there). DNA being transliterated into the vast variety of lifeforms, not to mention humans not to mention individuals on the planet is pure miraculous. But we boil that down to science. The three pounds of neural mass in our skulls integrating the entirety of the universe so that we as personality constructs can interact with it is a set of cascading miracles that we've barely scratched the surface of. Not to mention what happens when we start playing with black holes (even if I don't believe for a second that we've measured the collision of two of them across the universe *OR* our conception of time/force is hopelessly and utterly wonky) and gravity and time from our limited perception.
Let the world (ie the universe) be wild. Let some of it be misunderstood (as we're doing right now, I guarandamntee you). And for god's sake, don't worry about one utterly artificial set of genre conventions being better than another.