Category Archives: Fandom

Is Star Trek Better Than Star Wars? Is J. J. Abrams The Saviour?

Yoda shows disrespect to Star Trek

Yoda shows disrespect to Star Trek

In this month’s GQ magazine (May 2013 issue, p. 68 in my print copy) John Ritter has an article about J. J. Abrams, the Lost creator-director whose speciality has becoming reviving old franchises like Mission Impossible and Star Trek. About Star Trek, he opines–with an opiate reference–in relation to J.J. taking on the challenges of building the new Star Wars Disney franchise:

  • “The idea that the same man can mainline both Gene Roddenberry and the Force is mildly alarming. Think of what opposite Star Trek and Star Wars are. We’ve been defined since childhood by which we prefer: rationality vs. mysticism, robust and morally complex characters vs. good-and-evil archetypes. A guy who can reunite the two halves of the Great Sci-Fi Schism shouldn’t be making movies, folks–he should be our envoy to the Middle East.”

This is an incredibly rich paragraph. A veritable treasure trove.

Let me first offer my opinion on whether Star Trek and Star Wars are actually opposites or, more accurately, oppositional poles. Although I know many fans will choose one franchise over another, or that fans often say that they are “Star Trek people” or “Star Wars people” like they say they are cat people or dog people, I also know that there are many people who, like me, have worshiped at the altars dedicated to both Spock and Yoda since they were children (and yes, I am also both a cat person and a dog person—jeez, I wonder if there is a correlation).

But I think the dichotomy that Ritter sets up in this paragraph is incorrect, particularly on the Star Trek side. Star Trek is “rationality” devoid of “mysticism”. Um, not so fast. Have you seen what’s inside Mr. Spock? Like, telepathy and mind control. How many times has a false god been mistaken for the real thing: Apollo, Vaal, Q, Trelane, the Metrons, and on and on?

As numerous authors have written (for three strong examples, see Porter, Jennifer E. and Darcee L. McLaren (1999), ed., Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion, and American Culture, Albany, NY: SUNY Press; Wagner, Jon and Jan Lundeen (1998), Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos, Westport, CN: Praeger; Jindra, Michael (1994), “Star Trek fandom as a religious phenomenon,” Sociology of Religion, 55 (Spring), 27-51), Star Trek in all of its vainglorious iterations is chock-full of mysticism and spirituality. Many, many episodes in the original series could, for example, be seen as symbolizing humanity’s ongoing quest for God, or gods, and an overturning or ambivalence towards this seemingly inescapable yearning in modern times. And as Wagner and Lundeen’s book demonstrates, Star Trek has plenty to do with mythology and archetype. As has any great story.

Which franchise do you think Ritter favors? My bet is that he sees himself more as a rational type than a mystic, and prefers “morally complex” characters to “archetypes” (or is that fictional stereotypes?).

But comparing fan debates in the fictional space to long-standing territorial and religious conflicts in the Middle East is particularly revealing. The fact that a writer can devise and a publication can publish such comparisons can only point to some deep resonance of belief, belonging and identity that comes from fan identity, particularly this, one of the core fan identities of our time.

J.J. Abrams is a master director who plays with mysticism and ambivalence to science. Like creator Chris Carter of The X-Files, his works often peer into the (small v and plural) existential voids, they look at the holes and gaps in technoscientific rationality and human society (even its sciencefictional reflection) and find there the ever-unfulfilled need for certainly and belief, and even spirituality and mysticism.

His works vividly portray this ambivalence and fear and hope and desire, which burns at the very heart of our society. And that is exactly why he is such a good choice to continue to tell these precious modern myths which so many of us hold so dear.

Social Media Marketing Book Review: The Culting of Brands

My theory has always been that social media marketing is the latest manifestation of a trend in brand creation, management, and reception that has been going on for at least a decade. It is simply maturing and growing as the interactive possibilities of the Internet mature and expand.

Here is another book in the MKTG 6900 Social Media Marketing book summary and review series. This is a summary and review of “The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers into True Believers
by Douglas Atkin. The book was reviewed by Schulich School of Business MBA Student Richard Rabkin.

Why Utopia Got a Reboot: Reflecting on the New Star Trek Movie

startrek_movie_poster.jpg

There is a point towards the end of the successful new Star Trek movie where the Enterprise is stuck in a black hole’s gravity well and can’t escape, and Captain Kirk gives the order to jettison the ship’s warp core, its main source of fuel.

It is a climactic moment in a movie full of cliff-hanging intensities. And it’s also symbolic of what has been done with the Star Trek franchise.

By God, Jim, they jettisoned the Warp Core.

I’ve waited long enough to comment on J.J. Abram’s long-awaited adaptation of the Star Trek, intended to revive the flagging and much-loved franchise. I waited so that I can include all the spoilers I want. So if you don’t want me ruining the movie for you, and you haven’t see it, then Stop Reading Now.

I’m not going to offer a detailed review. I will say that I thought the move was very entertaining. The key thing I like about this reboot is that the script and the director really capture the essence of each of the main characters. I loved the casting, and really enjoyed the acting and the script. For the first time in a long time, a lot of fans feel like the franchise is in good hands.

But I’m writing here not so much to praise J.J. as to wonder about what was lost. And I don’t actually mean LOST. I mean lost.

Overall, I think the utopian future message of Star Trek, which many fans would claim to be at the heart of Trek’s appeal, appears in only very faded out fashion. Like a pair of faded old dungarees, tried on for size at the very end of the show, with Nimoy’s sonorous voicing over the retro old Star Trek soundtrack. For the old timers, who made it to the end.

I know, I’m old school, but I was disappointed. With so much going on in the world today, the film doesn’t really offer any sort of vision of a future where we can actually see a united Earth, with people actually united together. A guy with a Russian accent on the bridge doesn’t for Diversity make. And lots, and lots of white people everywhere. Turbans? Burkas? Nah. The occasional alien appears, just as the occasional non-white person appears. But the basic canvas, the mass, the average, is lily white.

And how about that 23rd century environment? Am I supposed to believe that we are still driving cars down dirt roads in the 23rd century? No public transportation?

The idea of a para-military force that unite the Earth? Nah, not really. Star Trek looks a lot like Starship Troopers. “Join Star Fleet, see the Stars.”

Ditto with the idea of “credits” and Star Trek’s veiled socialist utopia, where people only work by choice. The economics of the future escape me entirely. They’re just kind of irrelevant. This is entertainment, not philosophy. Yes, Star Trek’sgrand messages could sometime get a little annoying. But they also were inspiring. Especially, I think, to kids.
If there is any big message here that Gene Roddenberry would have put his stamp on, I don’t see it. In fact, I’d venture to say this isn’t the same Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry created. It is “loosely based upon” some of the ideas in Star Trek. It lacks the authentic Star Trek cred. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me. But I don’t see it. Casting Leonard Nimoy to deliver a few old lines about his friendship with Kirk doesn’t make this “real” Star Trek. Then again, maybe “real” Star Trek died along with Gene Roddenberry.

This is a gutted Star Trek movie, a Star Trek without ideology. It isn’t about technological utopianism. It isn’t about a united earth. It isn’t about an optimistic, hopeful, guiding vision of the future. This is all about relationships, special effects, suspense, entertainment, humor, and adventure. That’s what J.J. Abrams does well with Lost. That’s what he does well in this movie. But it’s not really all that Star Trek is about. This is Star Trek as space opera. Star Trek as Star Wars without the mysticism.

Compare that with my favorite Star Trek movie, the 4th one, called The Voyage Home. Aka, “the whales” Star Trek movie. Although its fashion and references are dated, the message in that movie is just as current as it was when Leonard Nimoy directed it. In our time of environmental crisis and culture clash, I was thinking that a new Star Trek movie had an opportunity to make a statement about a positive future. Maybe even insert some insight into the difficult relationship between the environment and technology–something that the original series avoided.

But, clearly, Gene, that’s what got jettisoned. The hope. The long speeches. The worn-on-the-sleeve optimism. The difficult, ever-imperfect struggle to work through a troubled past to an idealistic future.

And it’s interesting to wonder both how and why this happened.

How does one universe shift into the other? Well, through a weird kind of reboot. We are told that this movie is set in an alternate universe. So it’s not really the “real” Star Trek that we all know and love, but something new.

An alternative reality explanation basically gives the producers the latitude for lots of riffing: “Shut up, fanboy, it’s an alternative universe. We can do what we want here”

But that doesn’t really account for major disjunctures like personal cars and motorcycles in use.

What is amazing to me is how many little a-ha, nice, compact, meaningful, character-laden explanations for original series mysteries manage to get stuck into the film, even though it’s supposed to be an alternative universe. Kirk as a bar-brawler makes sense in light of the original series. It explains why there are so many fist fights in that series. Maybe it even explains why Kirk is always part of the landing party. Because he’s the best fighter on the ship, dammit.

Bones as a desperate, divorced alcoholic also makes sense. Actually, Kiwi actor Karl Urban’s portrayal of Dr. McCoy was among my favorites. It was a worthy tribute to DeForest Kelly. Spock’s schooling is also very right. I also really liked how young and bright they made Checkov, and how they made Sulu an expert sword-fighter–that explains his swordplay in series’ episodes. The new, hot, purring Uhura is also a great extension of the original character. Huge plusses for these characters. There’s a new authenticity to them, their accents, their demeanor, their backgrounds.

Kirk and Spock hating each other at first also makes great sense, and although fans seem to dislike it, I loved the confrontation scene where Kirk makes Spock break down. How many times has he done something like that in the original series. Jeez, what are friends for?

So there are these interesting intersections of this Star Trek 2 universe–which are fun and explanatory–and the old Star Trek that we all know. Why are they there? If Kirk’s dad dies, and changes the whole universe and the way that this story progresses in the process, then we don’t actually need those connections.

That leave the Why question. Why don’t we have Gene’s utopian vision in this movie?

  • Because talk is boring? Who needs another set of big long speeches, the kind that Star Trek became infamous for? Because action leaves no time for reflection? Because we don’t need Hope and Change anymore?
  • Because you can’t have everything in a sequel?
  • Because the producers and director decided to make a big, clean break from the fan base in order to wider the franchise’s appeal and aim for a young, hip, target that doesn’t worry about the future like those Boomer and Gen X kids of the past did?

Maybe Star Trek the Franchise was stuck in its own gravity well, its own black hole. That’s probably true.

But I keep wondering if the optimistic utopian vision of Gene Roddenberry was what really needed to be jettisoned for the series to get unstuck? It seems to me that, like the 60s, we are entering a time of crisis where we crave powerful myths and visions of the future.

Or maybe not. Maybe we’re just living in the moment. Enjoying the relationships. Willing to jettison whatever to get wherever. And to me, that’s a very scary thought.

Earth to NASA: Do NOT Name the Space Shuttle After Stephen Colbert

As Reuter’s reported today, NASA is in a bit of a pickle after they ran a contest to name the new space shuttle.

Supporters of Stephen Colbert (and nerdy pranksters of all stripes, I’d reckon), cast 230,539 write-in votes to name the new shuttle the “Colbert” after Colbert used his show to get the prank going. 230K votes = not bad organizing. NASA supported the name, “Serenity,” which finished a distant second. Peace, Prosperity, Liberty, and Victory all come to mind as equally yawn-inspiring. Serenity ran more than 40,000 votes behind. Um, Serenity is a brand of adult diapers.

But so what? NASA, have the guts to do what you want. Don’t be cowed by a silly online vote.

Does anyone else remember the 1976 write-in contest by Star Trek fans to name the first shuttle “Enterprise.” Then-President Ford interceded on behalf of the Trekkers and made it so. Amazing. Democracy in action. An unelected President casting another deciding vote. Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek stars on hand at the dedication ceremony. Cheers and euphoric spectacle-drenched imaginings all around.

But is this current case democracy, or another successful demonstration of the fan-power of the traditional media? It doesn’t seem all that different from the Star Trek case, to be honest, except that the Star Trek fans were really serious about NASA, technological utopianism, and the bright shiny space-faring future that the space shuttle was supposed to usher in. What does Stephen Colbert stand for? Right-wing political parody? Is that how the New NASA rolls?

Maybe a better exemplar for NASA would be Threadless, the online community t-shirt company. Although Threadless is pretty democratic, and promotes itself as listening to the voice of its community, every so often people organize to promote a t-shirt that is silly, violate Threadless’ rules, or is just way too damn ugly to have that many supporters naturally. Threadless management long ago gave up any slavish adherence to the outcome of their online voting. They use the results as a guide, but they make the final deicsion. The managers, whose careers are decided based on the sales of the shirts. The managers. Period.

NASA has the same option. They’ve already written into the contest rules that the outcome of the contest is non-binding. No duh. So, you mean, maybe they didn’t need to have named the first shuttle Enterprise after all?

NASA, think about the intention of the contest first, rather than simply the outcome.

Nevermind that a Congressman is calling for a “democratic” result that names the multi-billion dollar machine after a TV comic. Well, at least the contest is garnering publicity. With that mission accomplished, NASA now needs to show who’s boss.

So NASA, please, do the right thing. Use your power, use your integrity and name the shuttle properly.

Name it something catchy, something powerful. Maybe after a great astronomer or scientist. Or something high tech and wonderful.

I know, NASA. You can name it the Netnography.

MIT’s Futures of Entertainment 3 Conference coming up

Well, after that super-long and intense posting on poetry and hypotheco-deductivetheoretical transmutation, I thought I’d offer up a pretty short little announcement.

I’ve got lots to update you on as I’ve been traveling around to speak in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, and England.

I’ve mentioned my affiliation to MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium. They’ve put on a variety of fascinating events and this year’s looks to be one of the best. If you’re going to be in the Boston area, or if you are motivated to come, I can vouch that this is one of the best venues anywhere for practical networking between peiople in industry and academia.

Here’s the announcement.

NOV. 10, 2008   CAMBRIDGE, MA–The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Futures of Entertainment 3 conference will take place Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Wong Auditorium in the Tang Center on MIT’s campus.

Futures of Entertainment 3, an event sponsored by the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium ( http://www.convergenceculture.org/ ), is the third annual conference bringing together media industries professionals and media studies academics to discuss the current state and ongoing trends in media.  This year’s conference will include panels on how value is counted in the media industries, understanding audiences, social media, the comic book industry, franchising and transmedia, media distribution in a global marketplace, and the intersection of academia and the media industries.

Speakers at the conference include Kim Moses, executive producer of  The Ghost Whisperer ; Alex McDowell, production designer for  Watchmen;  Gregg Hale, producer of  The Blair Wtich Project  and  Seventh Moon ; Lance Weiler, director of  The Last Broadcast  and  Head Trauma ; and Tom Casiello, Daytime Emmy award-winning former writer for soap operas including  As the World Turns One Life to Live Days of Our Lives , and  The Young and the Restless ; Peter Kim, a founder of the Dachis Corporation; as well as representatives from HBO Online, World Wrestling Entertainment, and other innovative media companies and projects.

The conference will also feature academics such as Henry Jenkins (MIT, founder of the Convergence Culture Consortium and author of  Convergence Culture  and  Textual Poachers ), Yochai Benkler (Harvard Law School, author of  The Wealth of Networks ), John Caldwell (UCLA, author of  Production Culture ), Anita Elberse (Harvard Business School, author of “Should You Invest in the Long Tail?”), and Grant McCracken (author of  Transformations ).

More information on the conference, including the program and registration, is available at  http://www.convergenceculture.org/futuresofentertainment/

Back in the USA: Obama Propaganda and Meltdown Realities

I am writing this entry on an airplane riding out of San Francisco towards Dublin, Ireland. I was in San Francisco for the 2008 Association for Consumer Research Annual North American Conference. I’d like to report a few things about the conference to you.

But first, for today, given that I’ve been out of North America for about eight weeks, I wanted to reflect on a few things that I noticed in my five days back in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

First, I have to mention the incredible energy and excitement that permeated San Francisco surrounding the upcoming Presidential election. On the corner of Market Street and Embarcadero, the active little streetcorner situated next to my very architecturally elaborate and beautiful conference hotel, The Hyatt Regency Embarcadero (whose wireless Internet service in the heart of Silicon Valley was absolutely the worst I’ve encountered anywhere, ever), was set up a big table with Obama buttons, t-shirts, and other items for sale.

Obama in red white and blue. Obama done in traditional African ochres, oranges, and browns. Obama in Peter Max ’60s style silkscreen with the simply evocation “Change”  beneath him. Obama, hand raised, eyes forward and gaze lifting upward, trailing waves of hope as evocative as any poster of any powerfully propagandist political figure. I can’t help but think of Chairman Mao, Stalin, and Lenin when I see these posters. Check them out.

Obama poster 1 obama-change.jpgbarack-is-hope.jpg

I have to say that I find the parodying of these posters pretty apt and funny. Here are a couple that tickled me, courtesy of thepeoplescube.com, which made them and retains all rights to them. They’ve got some very funny stuff on their site…much of it dedicated to skewering the Obamamania sweeping the nation.

obama_poster_hitler_yesweca.gif                obama_poster_clinton_grope.gif

The posters and buttons I saw on the Streets of San Francisco were not, as in prior elections, being given away to supporters with the promise of their vote of support, used as a form of inexpensive WOM and attention building, a visual popularity count.

My conclusion is pretty simple. In the time since I’d left North America, Obama has become an icon.

The imagery marketing Barack Obama is propagandistic, yes. But it’s also just good plain branding. Simple images, simple messages. That’s potent, effective branding. It’s no wonder that it looks like propaganda, since the early PR and advertsign industries actually were founded based on the model of persuasive mass communications honed to perfection by the fascist propaganda of WW2 (anyone ever heard of Edward Bernys?). Good mass marketing, particularly of the political variety, is indistinguishable from propaganda.

And in San Francisco, at least, and I suspect in much of the country as a whole, perhaps even dare I say it across the globe, the air of ecstatic anticipation, the building soaring thrill of the possibility of real change was all-but-palpable.

With the many California propositions being actively touted, pamphleted, debated, shouted-down, and counter-argued on the streets-I was educated about one against Gay marriage (“Prop 8″), and another one supporting animal rights (“Prop 2″)-there was an enlightened carnivalesque quality to democracy spilling into the streets, forming the chief locus of visual imagery, activism, and spectacle.

These propositions were the key places there was debate about politics in San Francisco. Walking the streets, overhearing people, conversing with people it was obvious that the McCain-Palin ticket had very little chance of presiding in this area. Obama buttons, t-shirts, and stickers were almost all that I could notice. I spotted perhaps four or five McCain buttons and bumper stickers, as compared with literally dozens and dozens of Obama images and buttons.

The second thing I wanted to reflect on was the sense that something has shifted, or was shifting, in the world of finance and business. Away in Australia and New Zealand, I’d certainly heard about and followed the financial crisis or meltdown. When I spoke to my family in North America, I’d also gotten earfuls about how bad the stock market was, and how it was affecting everyone’s savings, particularly those on fixed incomes, and those who were depending on the market or mutual funds for retirement or pension income.

But the financial crisis really never quite hit home like it did when I got to California. The meltdown is all over the news. People seem genuinely chastened, Dopwn but not out, certainly. The general talk I heard about the economy is fairly doom and gloom. Although in California there also was some upbeat optimism about the upcoming positive effects of regulation.

But actually, in my district, around the tourist shops of Union Square and Chinatown, there didn’t seem to be much of a slowdown. In fact, shopping for some clothes yesterday at Ross Dress for Less, the Shoe Pavilion, and the Discount Shoe Warehouse (all discount stores), there were massive unbelievable, twenty-minutes-plus, snaking-right-through-the-store-up-to-the-entrance-sign lineups and at Westfield Mall, and at Nordstrom and other high-end stores there was plenty of hustle bustle and capitalist adrenaline evident.

But I was told that this was the tourist section, and it wasn’t typical. And the real enthusiasm and buying was in the discount stores. And, gosh-darn-it, I’ll be darned if Americans like me don’t just love Love LOVE to shop. Why would they slow it down? This hedonistic excessive, contagious, and seemingly unquenchable sense of fulfillment through spending is something that has served America and Americans well through past crises. I suspect it will serve us well again.

What I am detecting is a real sense that something has shifted, that the glory days of making money the way it was made in the last twenty years or so have come to an abrupt, skidding halt. It seems like the eighties all over again, with the easy post-Reaganomic  deregulated money and Gordon Gecko materialism and Charlie Keating banking scandals all being nostalgically challenged by current events.

Something is very different. And one of the speakers for the Doctoral Symposium that I co-chaired at ACR absolutely nailed it in his speech. I’ll be happy to tell you about it in my next blog entry, tomorrow.

For now, goodbye to my friends at ACR, to dramatic mountain-ocean vistas and picturesque dining at Waterfront. Goodbye to Fisherman’s Wharf walks and to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge, to Union Square and the surprising lineups, Obama buttons and No to Prop 8, and the whizzing retro-Bladerunnery  glass elevators of the Hyatt on Embarcadero.

Goodbye to wonderfully, energetic, surprisingly sunny San Francisco.

Synchronistic Science: Ilium and Me

Jung, Zeus, or God–take your pick

I’m still planning to write some stuff about the CCT conference last month, but I just wanted to share something strange with you. As some of you know, I started this blog, and named it, based on the sense that what is missing from a lot of the discussions about marketing and consumer culture is a deeper appreciation for the sacred, even mystical, elements of marketplaces and consumption.

I’ve been writing a lot about this lately in my own idea journals, and will have a lot more of this topic to share with you in future blog postings and other writings. I think something is in the air. A number of my colleagues in England and Italy are researching and writing about the connection between magic (as in nature magic, paganism, witchcraft) and marketing. John Sherry and I have written a bit about neo-paganism and neo-shamanism, building on the work of anthropologists like Graham St. John (whose excellent blog is here).

We have barely even begun raising the topic of the mystical and magical side of markets, marketing, and consumption. Not in the “symbolic” or “consumers think this is sacred” sense, but in the way that Jung would write about the Mystical-as a genuine Force operating in the world.

This brings me to my little story.

Do you remember over a year ago I posted the original story that I wrote for the Brown and Sherry “Time, Space and the Market: Retroscapes Rising” volume? An unpublished science fiction story that combined my ethnographic research on Burning Man, but developed it within the literary framework of a science fiction story? Here’s an internal link to the beginning of that post on Super Hyper Ultra Post-postmodern Primitives.

Now, I had posted that post (and written that chapter, originally) as an illustration of the variety of resonant forms of representation that were possible in marketing and consumer research.

But something really pretty freakishly weird just happened.

In that story, written and submitted in December of 2001 (as John Sherry and Stephen Brown would attest), I set myself up autobiographically, as myself a professor in a Midwestern university (Northwestern’s Kellogg), but I cast the tale in the far future. I had been forcefully reincarnated using future technology, my consciousness and memory brought back into a physical body by people in the future who had need of my scholarly ability. These people, future groups of warring tribes, in fact, had need of my knowledge of Burning Man. Which sets up the tale and allow me to position my ethnographic reflections on Burning Man as a retroscape, a place that evokes the primitive past even though it also partakes in a timeless sense of the future.

Okay, that was kind of fun and I liked the result. Here’s the weird part.

Ilium by Dan Simmons–with altered colorschemeI recently started reading the book Ilium by one of my favorite science fiction authors, Dan Simmons. In the book, godlike people in the future forcefully reincarnate a Midwestern professor in order to use his scholarly abilities for their own purposes.

Reading that was totally strange. It was almost the exact same idea of using professors from the past and bringing them into the future for the purposes of these future people. I was really struck by that Jungian synchronicity, that unexpected concordance.

Synchronicity, if you aren’t aware of the concept, was Carl Jung’s word for coincidences that are just too strange to be coincidences. Too weird, or repeating, patterned, or just so weirdly impossible that they give us a sense that everything in reality (“reality” or, maybe, Reality?) is connected somehow by forces larger than ourselves (cue Twilight Zone music, right?). It suggests a different notion of causality, a causality linked by meaning rather than brute physical elements.

The story gets odder.

As I’m reading this book about the reincarnated professor in the far future, I come across page 76. Some of the characters are trying to locate a strange, ancient woman, and are asking one character, named Daeman, about her.

“Where did you meet her?” asked Ada.

“The last Burning Man. A year and a half ago….Lost Age ceremonies never interested me very much, but there were many fascinating young women at this gathering.”

“I was there” Hannah said, her eyes bright. “About ten thousand people came.”

Burning Man? In the far future? I did a double, then a triple take when I read that, my heartbeat loud in my ears.

What the heck was going on here?

This was just a pileup of coincidences. A causal connection and concordance of meaning. Consider these facts:

  1. Both science fiction stories are set in the far, far future.
  2. The central character in the book is Thomas Hockenberry, a future-science reincarnated professor from the Midwest. My story’s central character is Robert Kozinets, a future science-reincarnated professor from the Midwest.
  3. Both stories involve the idea of “posts.” In my story this is a post-postmodern primitivism that deeply involves the sacred. In Ilium “posts” are post-humans who sponsor a type of primitivism involving ancient gods.
  4. Burning Man plays a peripheral role in Ilium, but a central role in my story. But this book is probably the only major science fiction book I know of that involve Burning Man at all. Burning Man in the far, far future. AND for some strange reason it occurs alongside the reincarnated Midwestern professor thing, just like my story.
  5. The Ilium book was first published in 2003. That is two years after I wrote my story. There was no way I could have seen it before. The Retroscapes book was finally published in 2003 as well (with the edited, amended chapter, which had the science fiction elements excised.

Maybe the creepiest thing, the creepy coup de grace that sent a shiver down my spine is this. I started reading this book during the Olympics. Not intentionally, really, but maybe all of the Greek references in the book made it a bit more attractive to me during this time. It has lots of Olympian references, because it is about Greek gods living on Olympos Mons on Mars and an incredible re-enactment of the Homer’s Iliad.

I just went back to bookmark and re-read the sections on the story that I posted on the blog. And then I find Renan Wagner’s old comment post at the end of my story where he talk about being “in ancient Olympia” taking a course on “Olympic Studies.” And then he links up the Olympic Games, a giant burn, the lack of a marketplace, and Burning Man. Just like the book does.

This is just too weird.

Now, if you believe me that I did indeed write this story in 2001, and that I didn’t read Ilium before I wrote it, how would you explain these convergences? Doesn’t this seem to be too much intersection and patterning of meaning to be a random coincidence?

What’s your explanation? Am I missing something? Or is this just the way the universe winks at us and tells us that there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye?