Star Trek and Vampires

It’s cold, unhealthy it’s snowy, and we’re not going anywhere today. Yesterday I came across the greatest two questions ever, and so in honour of this very quiet, lazy day, I thought they would be great questions for the Cheese-Wearing community.

Here they are:

Could the Enterprise beam a vampire into a house she didn’t have permission to enter?

Could the Borg assimilate a vampire into the collective?

What do you think?

Science Fiction in China

Let me say that I am impressed with this book. James McGrath has done an awesome job pulling together different scholars to examine the interaction between science-fiction and religion.
Check out my previous posts:
‘Sorcerers and Supermen’ in James’ McGrath’s Religion and Science Fiction
From Dr. Frankenstein to Topher Brink
Mis-Reading Star Trek? Exploring Danna’s Chapter in ‘Religion and Science Fiction’.

Today, hospital we’re looking at Eriberto Lozado’s article, sale “Star Trekking in China: Science Fiction as Theodicy in Contemporary China”

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The thing I love about science fiction is that it does several things. First, it explores what will happen in the future because of policies we have now. It asks the question, “What will our society look like in x-number of years because of this worldview, this technology, these ethics?”, and explores both the good (world peace) and the bad (apocalypse) possible outcomes. Second, it reflects our dreams for the future. It asks the question, “What do we want our society to look like?” Third, it examines what makes us human. It asks the question, “how are humans unique?” And fourth, science fiction is ultimately a reflection of where we are in the present, just projected onto the future.

In his essay, Eriberto Lozado looks at the science-fiction of China, and how it is both different and similar to western science-fiction.
Early on, Chinese science fiction was influenced by translations of western sci-fi imports, largely due to the May 4th movement, which rallied the imperialist ideologies of the Chinese government.

By the 50’s, Chinese sci-fi was beginning to be influenced by Russian sci-fi:

…science fiction from the Maoist period was heavily structured by Soviet science fiction styles and techniques, such as the preference for stories that explore the uses of current science and technology instead of hypothetical scientific advances…science fiction stories were part of an effort by the [Maoist] state to popularize science. (67)

Overall, the main difference between Chinese science fiction and western science fiction is that the former is nationalistic in orientation, where the latter is universal.

To put it this way: In the west, we have the Star Trek ethos. One day in the future, all peoples will join together to be apart of a Federation of planets and the goal is to live in peace and harmony with each other. Our equality is more important than our individual cultures. Chinese science fiction, on the other hand, is about “the search for a modern Chinese society and its place in the world.” (pg 70).

While I have not been exposed to much Chinese science fiction, it is interesting how this theme of nationalism is prevalent in much of China’s current story-telling.

Take movies. I have been impressed with the quality of story that can be seen in Chinese films over the last couple of years. Movies like Bodyguards and Assassins, Fearless, and Legend of the Fist, are all action/kung-fu movies in which a main theme is the establishment and preservation of Chinese national identity in the face of internal strife and external threats.

Lozado talks about the various media that are used to explore science fiction, (including the ever-growing popularity of video/computer games), saying that “Science fiction movies are well-represented among the Western and Hong Kong movies that people watch in China…” (pg. 73), and he mentions Star Wars as an example.

Does anybody know if there are any good Chinese science fiction movies or television shows available on this side of the world?

Mis-Reading Star Trek? Exploring Danna’s Chapter in ‘Religion and Science Fiction’

First, diagnosis let me say that I am awesomely impressed with this book. James McGrath has done an awesome job pulling together different scholars to examine the interaction between science-fiction and religion. Stay tuned for several posts on this book as I work through the various essays.

Today, buy viagra we look at Elizabeth Danna’s essay, diagnosis ‘Looking Out for No. 1: Concepts of Good and Evil in Star Trek and The Prisoner.’ I suggest that Dr. Danna has mis-read, or over-read some aspects of Star Trek in two places in particular: her analysis of the episode “Mirror, Mirror”, and second, her analysis of Captain Kirk’s name.

But to do justice to this analysis, I must call on my resident TOS expert. My field of expertise lies with TNG and DS9, and so I turn to one more qualified to look at these issues.

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In the classic TOS episode “Mirror Mirror,” Kirk et al. find themselves in a parallel universe, switched with their counterparts by a malfunctioning transporter. In this mirror ‘verse, the Federation of Planets never existed, and a tyrannical Empire rules in its place. The crewmembers from “our” universe cope with life in the cruel mirror universe (promotion by assassination, Spock with a beard, etc.) while their Imperial alternate selves fail to cope with the Federation’s way of running a starship (and a beardless Spock). Federation Kirk talks Imperial bearded Spock into leading a revolution, while Imperial Kirk rants and rages at Federation beardless Spock. Once everyone is eventually returned to their native universes, beardless Spock gets to take yet another verbal jab at human nature (“brutal, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous; in every way splendid examples of homo sapiens. The very flower of humanity.”), and everyone learns a valuable lesson (such as avoiding the dang transporter; that thing is more trouble than it’s worth).

It seems to me that Elizabeth Danna saw a valuable lesson that wasn’t there, and it had nothong to do with avoiding the transporter. In her chapter, Danna contrasts the presentations of evil (and how to deal with it) in the TV shows Star Trek (TOS) and The Prisoner. Most of her TOS analysis is unproblematic: The episode “The Enemy Within” (oh look, another transporter malfunction) tells us that humans’ “negative side” is the source of our drives, and that the solution is for reason to rule and properly order it. “The Alternative Factor” creates the powerful image of a man locked in eternal battle against his evil self. “The Savage Curtain” shows that the line between “good guys” and “bad guys” is not as clear-cut as an alien rock-monster might want it to be. “Day of the Dove” shows us that racism can be overcome by a sufficient quantity of hearty manly (and Klingon-ly) laughter.

My disagreement involves her treatment of “Mirror Mirror.” Danna argues that “Mirror Mirror” is a lesson in the necessity of an outside force that will defeat human evil. In this case, Imperial bearded Spock must overthrow Imperial Kirk and take command of the Enterprise; in essence, deal with Federation Kirk’s evil twin for him. I see this as reading too much into the episode. “Mirror Mirror” does provide us with a couple of opportunities to reflect on human evil (if Federation beardless Spock is right, then we are savages at heart, and it is only the laws of civilization that keep us from that fate), but the most salient message appears to be one of identity: Spock is a man of integrity in both universes, but Imperial Kirk is quite comfortable as a merciless thug. What does that say about the factors that make us who we are? And there is some commentary on society and the inherent instability of tyrannies. But using Federation Kirk and Imperial Kirk as representatives of the good and evil within the human heart goes too far beyond what is written.

Speaking of reading too much into things, there is the matter of Kirk’s name. Danna claims that “James Tiberius Kirk” represents ambition and deviousness (“James” as an Anglicized “Jacob,” he of the stew-for-birthright scam) balanced with moral discipline (“Kirk” being the Scottish word for “church”) with a touch of Roman profligacy tossed in the midst. The fact that Captain Kirk was named “James” after Gene Roddenberry’s uncle (and also for an old boyfriend of his mother’s), and that “Tiberius” was chosen because GR’s grandfather was fascinated with Roman history (and that Kirk’s middle initial was “R” instead of “T” in the second pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) seem to lessen any possible deep symbolism implanted by GR in the name. The formal “meaning” of characters’ names does not always provide us with a peek into their souls. After all, “Gomer” means “famous battle,” but that doesn’t provide any insight into Gomer Pyle.