Hunger games

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Let’s you and him fight! One of the most effective strategies in battle is to pit factions of opposition against each other. Politicians do it so that opponents stop bothering the people in power, or the people who want power. They view government — whether local, state, national or international — as “playing the game” of politics.

When I saw the first of the Hunger Games films, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed watching such a violent idea come to life through the wizardry of Hollywood. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on neo-Freudian transactional analysis to understand drama (“A Transactional Analysis of the Plays of Edward Albee,” Loyola University of Chicago, 1975), and I think games can sometimes be dangerous even if they aren’t immediately lethal.

Regarding a sporting event as a game can make fans blind to the suffering of others. I have been watching the debate over football players and their higher risk of dementia at a young age, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Playing games in personal relationships can prevent you from enjoying the tension release of intimacy and trust.

I’m not sure whether I feel less comfortable with those who view human life as gamesmanship in a zero-sum game (if one wins, another must lose), or with those who view the abstract qualities of life as battles, declaring war on poverty, drugs, or terrorism.

Ordinarily, games can be fun, but they can get to be tedious when they are unrelieved by work. And sometimes wars must be fought, especially if others pick the fight.

Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl, ca. 1977.

From the blog team:

We see that sf critic Dave Truesdale, well-known gadfly, is once again stirring up controversy. But we have long memories, and recall when Truesdale was just another neofan, pubbing his fanzine and gushing about the pros he met.

Truesdale recently reprinted an interview with Fred from his early zine, Tangent. See it in Tangent Online.

In this paragraphless introduction, Truesdale recalls interviewing Fred at a Howard Johnson’s in Eau Clair, Wis., in 1977:

I had learned that Fred Pohl was engaged to speak at one of Wisconsin’s small state colleges in Eau Claire the evening of February 1st and was determined to interview him there. My ladyfriend and I drove nearly halfway across the state from Oshkosh, then sat through the talk where something like 30 students were in attendance. I was getting nervous because it was getting very late and we had to drive home. The talk ended and my hopes for an interview were fading. Fred then suggested we repair to the nearby Howard Johnson’s, get something to eat and do the interview there. We ordered our meals and ate while the tape recorder was running. It ran for well over an hour as we talked and talked. Sometime after midnight the recorder clicked off, we were all tired, and so agreed to call it a night. The separate checks came, but before I could reach for my wallet Fred made it clear that he was going to pickup the check, which he did. We paid the tip and drove Fred to wherever he was staying (I forget exactly where now, after 36 years.) It was a wonderful evening, getting to spend time with Fred and ending up with such a terrific interview. It was much more than I’d hoped for. Reading it for the first time, I hope you come away with it feeling much as I did — and did once again after working up this transcription, getting the chance to relive that night of so long ago. I was 26 years old in February of 1977 and had just discovered fandom and conventions a mere two years earlier, but much of that early period — and the memories like the one Fred gave me that night — they still seem very much like yesterday.

—Dave Truesdale, Tangent Online.

toilet paper public domain image

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

An article I read some time ago in The Week (my favorite print replacement for the now online-only World Press Review) reassures me that “No, paper isn’t dead.”

As I’m buried in paper in various forms — greeting cards (ones received as well as those not yet sent), photographs, wills, old and new contracts, spanking new passport, officially notarized documents, old correspondence, even junk mail, and yes, books and magazines and newspapers — I looked at the facts mentioned in the longish essay with more than a little interest. A theory says that we learn more thoroughly by reading print than we do from electronic media. I’d like to believe that, but don’t know if I do. More research, please.

Coming at the question of paper’s obsolescence from another angle: Most retail stores no longer offer much choice of how to protect our food and other purchases on the way home. Upscale department stores seem to favor paper bags with handles, tony boutiques sometimes use a light-weight cotton bag, discount department stores use mostly plastic; Costco provides optional repurposed cardboard boxes with the tops razored off; outside California, most grocery stores offer only flimsy plastic, while Trader Joe provide paper for those who don’t bring their own bags.

But we give very little thought to the real costs of old sources of carbon (oil, coal, natural gas and fracked gas) versus new, renewable carbon (trees, plants, animal furs and hides, etc.), and the unintended consequences of our choices. We have yet to make a good realistic assessment of the overall cost of producing energy and plastics by consuming fossil fuels that took many millennia to form.

I don’t doubt the potential and immediate benefits to the planet from preserving the dwindling forests of the globe, but there also may be sustainable ways to farm trees and other raw materials, like cotton and hemp, etc. that make pretty good paper. The earth is certainly making new oil; the problem is, it takes such a long lead time in human perspectives.

Another consideration in sustainability might be the petrochemical products involved in creating electronic devices. I know I prefer writing on a computer to writing on paper. Much easier to revise. But nothing does as well for me as paper for jotting down a daily to-do list. Easier to triage and prioritize and let my daughter add to as she thinks of suitable stuff. And of course, we still need women’s sanitary supplies and American toilet paper!

So I’m quite convinced that paper is not dead — yet.

Pig-roast-by-Leah A. Zeldes

Cook pork well to avoid disease. (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Apparently largely because farmers feed regular doses of antibiotic to pigs to make them grow to salable weights faster, many pigs harbor the food-poisoning bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica. One study found that some some 69 percent of supermarket pork was tainted with Yersinia.

How to protect against infection? Always cook pork to at least 145 degrees F. That’s not so high as the 170 degrees that used to be recommended for cooking pork to when Trichinosis was a serious threat.

Bill Gates predicts an end to  poor countries by 2035.

An optimistic Bill Gates predicts an end to poor countries by 2035. Pessimists fear the U.S. will be one before then.

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

Billionaire Bill Gates‘ recent prediction that by 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world caught my eye. I can’t help wondering how much attention Mr. Gates has paid to theshrinking middle class in the United States, let alone how much understanding he has about what it’s like to be a member of a family with greatly diminished expectations, or that’s slid into poverty within the last five years.

Mr. Gates has every right to be an optimist. He’s taken great risks and, against the odds, come out a winner, at least financially. Throughout my lifetime I believed that most Americans were optimists, having faith in a better future. I’m not so sure a majority still feels that way, considering the state of the economy, our political paralysis, the proliferation of weapons in private hands in the U.S., shootings, and violence at home and abroad. For a number of reasons, we do not seem to be growing safer or more secure.

I once made a similar assumption for a story, “Standard Deviation” (originally titled “The Midler,” and dramatized for radio in Germany but never published in the U.S.). It was based on a December 1978 Analog science-fact article by John Gribbin, “Science Fiction is Too Gloomy,” which asserted that in 200 years we’d no longer have any of the problems we worried about at the time. Gribbin qualified his claim by assuring us that we’d have problems galore in 2178, they just wouldn’t be the same ones we fretted about then. All those problems would have come to a crisis and been solved, assuming the human race had survived at all.

So, for the purposes of my story, I waved the writer’s magic wand and assumed that major issues like global warming, pollution, overpopulation, food shortages and distribution, nutrition, access to education and technology, diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, all had been solved. What remained as a major problem in the story was the need all human beings seem to have to feel “special.” I might take a different tack if I were doing the story today, Although I’m still into food issues, these days I’m far more interested in feminism, human cultures, economics, politics, etc.

Pessimists worry that we won’t solve our problems and it will be the end of us, at least as we know human civilization and culture. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a comic novel, Galapagos, about human survival in a physically devolved state, wherein we had lost our big brains that had given us so many problems, and our progeny were now happily frolicking like porpoises in the water. It’s every bit as funny as Cat’s Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five. We have to laugh so we don’t cry.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

 

Q: “In your novel Gateway how much of the character Robinette Broadhead is autobiographical and how much is therapeutic?”

A: Well, in a sense every character in every story I ever wrote is autobiographical. That is, every character is basically what I think I would care about, do, and wish for if I were that creature, with that creature’s makeup and history.

That’s not hard for me to do when the character is human, like Robinette. I know what kind of a world he lives in, that he’s been raised by his mother (autobiographical? maybe), what his hopes are for the future (not much, until the chance to go to Gateway comes along for him) and so on, and I can pretty much imagine what my feelings would be like if those things were true of me.

When the character isn’t human, and sometimes isn’t even organic, like Wan-To in The World at the End of Time, it’s harder. Wan To is a ball of energy living in the core of a star. But still he has feelings — like self-survival, maybe jealousy, probably vanity, probably curiosity and so on — enough to make him a character instead of a prop.

(That’s a distinction all we sf writers owe to Stanley G. Weinbaum. Almost every alien creature in every science-fiction story written before the creature named Tweel in his “A Martian Odysseyin 1934, from H.G. Wells’s invading Martians on, was a prop. Only Weinbaum’s Tweel was a character.)

At least I think that’s about what I would be like if I happened to be a ball of radiant energy instead of a human being.