edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer Hieroglyph is a publication, collective conversation and incubator for the “moonshot ecosystem” bringing together writers, scientists, engineers, technologists, industrialists and other creative, synoptic thinkers to collaborate on bold ideas in a protected space for creative play, science, and imagination.
Oppressive governments often lock up writers, artists, intellectuals. They lock them up because such people are dangerous to those in power. In the United States, we mostly don't have that problem. This is partly because of the first amendment, but also because American writers, artist, and intellectuals are mostly tame.
The lack of politics in art and literature is seen as a virtue as though there were a pure aesthetics that could only be tainted by the addition of politics. In the US, this is partly the legacy of McCarthism. While our arts are sometime offensive, they do little to change the structure of power.
And so it comes to me as a shock that in Paris there is a terror attack on cartoonists. Cartoonists? Really? Cartoonists.
Many of my friends and many people I admire seem to feel that is this is a good moment to engage their critical skills, to evaluate the worth of the long and successful careers of the recently deceased cartoonists. In other words, what did these artists do wrong that made people want to kill them? I don't think that's the right question.
Based on a cursory look, their cartoons are not something I myself would have published. But I don't see their Mohammed cartoons as racist. To call the Charlie Hebdo cartoons racist is to avoid the issue of what they really are: irreligious. While I am an athiest, as an adult, I have learned not to express myself in ways that are irreligious. To be an athiest as a public intellectual, you have to be willing to be sort of an asshole. You have to be willing to offend. To me, as an adult, this has not seemed worth the effort.
It is a terrible, terrible thing that gunmen burst into the Charlie Hebdo offices and shot all those people. While I see why some people felt the need to explain that Charlie Hebdo was offensive, the problem is not so much that they were offensive, but rather that most of the rest of us are so tame, so unwilling to give offense.
Our tameness, our passivity, has become so normalized that when something like this happens, people very much like myself ask of the bloody corpses on the ground what they did wrong.
We KNOW that if we have not already lost our democracy, we are on the verge of losing it. We KNOW that our governments are becoming increasingly invasive and oppressive. And yet most of us remain tame.
It is not that we would be willing to offend if things got bad enough, but rather that we have learned how not to break character.
If your art isn't worth dying for, what is it you think you are doing?
I'd like to take a moment to focus your attention on me, what I have done for the science fiction field, and what I am capable of doing if I have your help.
Hieroglyph came out on September 9th, and a bunch of us associated with the book had a wild time on the book tour. (If you have been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know all about this.) Now I'm home and planning what to do next.
When I mention the icebox of unpublished posts and articles to friends and colleagues, I do so with a forced smile, pretending that it’s a heady combination of academic perfectionism and fear of being attacked by bigots that leads me to suppress them. There is more than a grain of truth to this. As many of my friends, loved ones, and sisters in struggle have demonstrated and written about, there is a lot to fear from the 4chan-esque world of angry young men with ample resentment towards those of us they perceive to be purloining some birthright of theirs. My academic work is devoted, in no small measure to explaining their behaviour (more on this in a bit).
But I am lying when I say they are the sole source of my hesitation.
The rest, often as not even the lion’s share, comes from fear of something with the power to cut even deeper– my own community. I fear being cast suddenly as one of the “bad guys” for being insufficiently radical, too nuanced or too forgiving, or for simply writing something whose offensive dimensions would be unknown to me at the time of publication. In other words, for making an innocently ignorant mistake.
I live in New York's 21st Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Bill Owens, who is retiring. It was the 23rd District when Owens was elected, by there has been redistricting since then. Three candidates are running for Owens' seat. Aaron Woolf, the Democratic candidate, is endorsed by Bill Owens and also by Charles Schumer. Elise Stefanik is the Republican candidate. And there is also a Green Party candidate, Matt Funicello.
NY-21 congressional district has an adult population of under 600,000. When Bill Owens was first elected, there were about 150,000 votes cast. I don't know what the expected voter turnout is, now that we are the 21st District.
Outside organizations are spending about $4 per adult (not per voter) in the New Yor State North Country to pay for this election. And that's not including whatever the rich may have donated to individual candidates. In total, more than $10 per adult is being spent here.
Mapping for the masses : Nature Commentary: Mapping disaster zones
Google Earth software proved effective during relief efforts in New Orleans and Pakistan, say Illah Nourbakhsh and colleagues. Is there more to be gained than lost from opening up disaster operations to the wider public?