Archive for Diane Duane

Strange in Context: Six Industries

Posted in Politics and Society, Things You Should Read with tags , , on March, 2014 by melendwyr

Okay, so Diane Duane posted an essay entitled ‘The Eyes in the Peacock’s Tail’.  She also posted a link to a The New York Times article by Mark Bittman.  Interestingly, she did so without further comment.  It is reasonable to presume that she intended to showcase it positively, though, since there’s not a word of displeasure, condemnation, or the slightest hint of disapproval.

Mr. Bittman asks whether children have the right to a healthy diet.  Couldn’t we just as easily ask whether children have the right to a healthy intellectual diet as well as a comestable one?  Or even a moral one?

Whether Ms. Duane considers her childhood to have been a healthy one with the benefit of hindsight isn’t the issue.  Nor is whether we happen to agree with her assessment.  Nor is even the retrospective opinion of her parents, if they were able and willing to have one, truly relevant.  What matters is that Ms. Duane’s younger self took the matter into her own hands and negated her parent’s (or parents’) efforts to keep her away from what they perceived at the time to be a danger to her well-being.

Under no circumstances am I questioning a parent’s right or responsibility to protect his or her children from danger.

Nonsense.  Her younger self rejected the concept of an absolute parental right, as does her current self.  As I do as well, as it happens.  I agree that trying to keep kids away from certain kinds of knowledge, trying to establish a ‘forbidden fruit’ that will dangle tantalizingly out of reach, is inevitably self-defeating and usually ineffective.  ‘The Eyes of the Peacock’ clearly establishes that Ms. Duane believes there are significant practical and ethical limits to a parent’s right to protect.  But that’s not the point.

I may advocate for giving people knowledge as they become capable of seeking it, but I don’t delude myself that there will never be negative outcomes from acknowledging the power of choice.  Some people will make poor decisions, and as long as it’s possible to be hurt, someone will choose paths that result in injury or harm.  And that applies as much to teenagers’ reading habits as to everything else.

I find it easy to grant for the sake of argument the teenaged Ms. Duane’s smarts and good judgment, and consider it most probable that her literary interests were healthy and harmless – at least, by my standards.  But knowing something about human nature, that will not always be the case.  Knowing something about teenagers – how their repressed drives towards self-determination tend to overcompensate when they steal a bit of freedom, how their relative lack of experience informs their choices, how their ancient genetic inheritance leads them to take risks that are unreasonable outside the perspective frame of Darwinism – makes the case even stronger.  Many people’s interests are neither healthy nor harmless, to themselves and others.

This is a particularly salient point in the case of Ms. Duane, whose website once included a chat room that had to be closed because too many young adults used it for chatter of a sexual nature.  And as she is a former psychiatric nurse, I cannot imagine that she’s not intimately familiar with the human ability to make poor choices.  Even more so in the case of teens.

So:  how is it that a person can so powerfully make the case for freedom of choice and the futility of restrictions, then turn around and either condone or approve of the exact opposite thesis in the slightly different context?

Is it merely that she doesn’t care about food as much as books?

The Eyes in the Peacock’s Tail

Posted in Politics and Society, Things You Should Read with tags , , on March, 2014 by melendwyr

I am a longtime fan of the works of Diane Duane.  Not merely her novels, which are frequently excellent, but in other genres as well.

She’s written a worthwhile essay called The Eyes in the Peacock’s Tail which she recently reposted to her Tumblr feed.  In addition to its inherent value, I think the points it makes are thrown into valuable relief by something else I saw in her feed a little while later.

Give it a look, and consider what it has to say.

Dumb Starbucks

Posted in Things You Should See, Weirdness with tags , , , on February, 2014 by melendwyr

I caught this from Diane Duane’s tumblr feed:  ‘Dumb Starbucks’.

No, it’s not a criticism.  It’s marketing itself as parody.  And its coffee as an art form.

I have no idea whether this can possibly endure, particularly given our totally sane and reasonable legal system.  But I find myself rooting for the little guys here.  Even though this flies directly in the face of the intention of trademarking… it’s not just inviting a confusion between products, it’s practically demanding it.

Omnitopia Dawn

Posted in Reviews, Science Fiction, Things You Should Read with tags , , , , , on January, 2013 by melendwyr

Fans of the beautiful and mysterious Myst computer games series will probably know that an online multiplayer version called Myst Online: Uru Live was attempted and, tragically, closed after some time.  What fewer people realize is that MOUL continues to exist and is actually the first open-source multiplayer online adventure game.  The games’ creators made it possible for players with enough knowledge of the scripting language used in the game to write their own rooms and worlds, adding them to the exploratory space available to everyone.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade, you’ve probably also heard of World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment’s quite successful MMORPG.  I hardly need to write anything about it, it’s so well known – but if you’re not familiar, although many parts of gameplay have arisen from interactions within the player base, and more based on feedback, the world is very much a creation of its developers.

What if things had gone differently, and Myst Online had not only survived in its original incarnation, but also allowed its players to design it?  What if it created its own culture a la WoW, and been as far-reaching into our own general culture?

That’s more or less what’s happened in the near-future Omnitopia Dawn by Diane Duane.  Fifty million people connecting to a sensory-immersion world that’s expanded not merely by the game’s nominal developers but by players selected for ethical probity and love of the game.  A world of worlds created to fit niches and fill needs that the original creator didn’t anticipate… as long as it’s legal and safe.  People from all over the world interact in real-time in ways and in forms of their choosing.  Actual history reenacted, possible histories explored, implausible and impractical fantasy worlds generated and a thousand different sorts of games delighted in.  It’s a dream given form.

And there are forces gathering who would like nothing more than to destroy it all.

Duane takes her trademark theological speculation – in which the Powers responsible for creating and maintaining the world delegate some of their own power and authority to created beings – and makes the metaphor literal.  Omnitopia is a self-modifying system made ever richer by those who participate in it.  Yes, there are links all the way back to Tolkien’s ideas about subcreation.  The game is one person’s subcreation that invites others to continue to elaborate and develop it, within a reality that Duane has suggested is just such a system.  MMORPGs used to explore the nature of the concept of the divine and how we should approach our own responsibility in participation within reality itself, touching upon ethics, morality, and the nature of evil.

If nothing else, it’s a fascinating exercise in how to present an old-fashioned idea in modern terms.  I can’t help but think that Tolkien would approve.


Posted in Science Fiction, Things You Should Read with tags , , on February, 2010 by melendwyr

I stop by the local used bookstore every once in a while. Today, I found two gems: Sea of Glass by Barry B. Longyear, and Support Your Local Wizard by Diane Duane, constituting the first three volumes of the increasingly-inaccurately named Wizard’s Trilogy.

Eeeee! I’m too excited to discuss at length why I’m so excited. So that will have to wait for a while.