Monday, May 30, 2011

Science Fiction =/= Fantasy

I was browsing through the threads on a forum, and there was one about the Christy Awards. I clicked on the link to see who the nominees were, and I noticed there apparently wasn't a fantasy category. I did a little research, and came across this, which gives a deeper explanation of each category (the categories being Contemporary Romance; Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas; Contemporary Standalone; First Novel; Historical; Historical Romance; Suspense; Visionary; and Young Adult).

The explanation says for the category of visionary:

Visionary - Imaginative fiction including allegory (fiction in the form of extended metaphor in which objects, persons and actions are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative itself), fantasy (fiction that deliberately breaks free from reality, setting the story in a nonexistent and unreal world or concerning incredible or unreal characters), futuristic (fiction whose action, plot, and characters occur in a future period of time), and science fiction (fiction in which scientific facts or hypotheses form the basis of adventures, often in the future, on other planets, or in other dimensions of time).

And so I became aware that once more fantasy had been grouped together with science fiction as one genre. It seems an odd phenomenon that fantasy and science fiction are always lumped together simply because they both present worlds that break from reality. Aside from that one detail, they are not really that similar at all.

One genre tends to be about worlds that possess fantastical creatures (read: not aliens) and there is always at least one character with some form of magic. The other genre is about hypothesizing a world in which science may have become more advanced than we currently think possible(or has digressed to a point of cavemen-like qualities). Magic is not at all relevant in such a genre. One genre tends toward taking place on nonexistent universes (though it can take place in an alternate Earth if we are dealing with Urban Fantasy or something of the sort). The other tends toward taking place on earth, or at least acknowledging Earth's existence. One is generally always about defeating some nefarious foe (especially in High Fantasy, such as Lord of the Rings), while the other is sometimes about defeating nefarious foes and sometimes simply about teaching lessons (The Giver or Fahrenheit 451) or postulating about what the future may entail.

Certainly you will find quite often that people who like one genre tend towards liking the other as well in books, but just as often you find that people who like one genre don't particularly care for the other (in High School, I knew many boys that were Sci-fi nerds, but cared little for fantasy. Likewise, I rather enjoy fantasy, but I don't tend to read much sci-fi).

Perhaps this is something that only bugs me for the simple reason that when looking for fantasy books, I have to dig through science fiction books, even though I am not a fan of reading sci-fi (I do enjoy watching it, though), because people don't seem to realize that sci-fi and fantasy should not be grouped together in bookstores or search engines.

What is even more troublesome is that romance can often be divided up into multiple sub-genres (even for this Christy awards things they have contemporary romance and historical romance as two different categories), yet science fiction and fantasy are lumped together. As someone that has read a fair share of romance novels, I can tell you that it doesn't matter where or when the story takes place. They all have the same plot line: woman is alone, meets a man that needs fixing, something climatic happens that makes it seem like the two cannot get together, the woman and man get together in the end. The only difference between historical and contemporary is that one of the woman is wearing dresses.

For sci-fi and fantasy we might say some of the plot lines are similar: there is something wrong in the world/universe, and someone(s) must step forward to put things to right, battle, successful victory by the hero(es). However, as I have already pointed out, not all sci-fi and fantasy stories follow that plot line. Many sci-fi novels are critiques of modern society or warnings against what society may become. Some are simply fanciful tales about what the future may be like. Some are about what might happen if science is used for nefarious reasons (nanotechnology seems to be a favorite theme). Many fantasy novels are endless series that simply follow the life of one character without truly encountering some evil foe or all-out war/battle.

Basically, the two are not very comparable. I mean, imagine if someone said to you, "Pick which is better in the sci-fi/fantasy genre: The Giver or Prince Caspian." What exactly am I supposed to be comparing between those two stories? Sure, it might be a little easier if someone said "Pick which is better in the sci-fi/fantasy genre: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings." but even then it is an unfair comparison if one is predisposed to dislike sci-fi and like fantasy, or vice versa.

And to read at your leisure to further display the differences between sci-fi and fantasy, wikipedia articles!!!! ... because everyone know Wikipedia is the go-to source for reliable and accurate data: sci-fi v. fantasy

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why it is not inconsistent to be pro-life and anti-big-government

One critique of people who are pro-life is that we allegedly only care about saving a baby’s life, but then stop caring about that baby once it is born. That the fact that we generally do not support government-funded education, welfare, health care, etc means we are not “pro-life” when it comes to the actual everyday life of citizens.

The problem with this argument is that social welfare is not as analogous with abortion as people are trying to make it. Personally, I am pro-life because I think abortion is murder, and I believe murder should be illegal. When I vote for pro-life candidates or argue for pro-life legislation, the only thought on my mind is “I do not support abortion, because it is murder.” It would be the same as me thinking “I do not support a husband killing his wife in a fit of jealous rage, because murder is a crime.”

I am not thinking about how the wife should be treated if she lives. That is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is whether a husband should be allowed to kill his wife in a fit of jealous rage or not. Why on earth would I be concerned about her life after or before this occasion (assuming her husband did not kill her) when that is not the issue at hand? Likewise, when I am voting on abortion policies, why should I be concerned about the welfare of a baby after he is born if that is not the issue at hand?

Certainly, I do care about the welfare of the baby, but I am not going to form my opinion about abortion based on my opinions of government involvement in welfare, education, etc. I do not support Big Government. I do not want government-funded health care. I do not want billions of dollars a year spent on education. I do not want a person unable to currently get a job to get welfare from the government.

In a society that does not condone murder, I would prefer the legal system at least try not to be hypocrites and make sure all murder –including abortion- is illegal. What happens to a person after they have been guaranteed a right to not be murdered is not my concern when it comes to that specific policy.

However, people think that just because I do not support the murder of unborn babies then I must also support liberal policy options in order to show my continued concern for the life of the baby. The general stereotype is “Pro-lifers are the only people that care more about a baby being born than they do about the life of the baby after it is born.” The fallacy of this stereotype is that people assume that simply because a person does not support government-funded programs that help “improve” life means that person does not care about the lives of their fellow citizens.

That most certainly is not the case. I do care about the life of a baby after he is born. I simply do not think the government needs to tax me in order to show my concern. If a baby is abused as a child, I do support government interference that will stop violence. I believe that is the right venue of regulation for government. Their role is most certainly to stop violence and abuse.

If the baby that was not aborted is raised in a home that is unable to provide him with the “necessities” of life, I do not think it is the role of the government to tax me so that the baby might have food and health care. I think it is the role of the community to help each other. More specifically, as a Christian, I think Christians in a community should set up charities to help people in their communities. Just because I am not a supporter of government-funded welfare does not mean I am not a supporter of human charity.

As that baby that was not aborted grows into an adult and finds he cannot find a job, I do not support the government giving him unemployment benefits. This does not mean I do not care for the man. Once again, I support local charities and communities. Friends or neighbors can help this man, provide him shelter, loan him money interest-free, help him find a job.

As the man grows older and his health fails him, I do not support government-funded health care. This does not mean I have stopped caring for the man. I still think his community can help him, show him compassion and charity.

Yes, I am pro-life. No, this does not mean I stop caring for a baby as soon as it is born.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What "pro-life" really means

I intend to write a blog right after this one about how being pro-life does not mean a person stops caring about the baby once it is born, but before I make that blog post, I feel like I should define what “pro-life” means to me.

“Pro-life” is a political term that has no meaning if ones takes it out of the specific political context created for it to exist in. That specific political context is the issue of abortion. The term was never created to be used in application to any other political issue (war, welfare, medical care, etc), and so any use of the term in application to political issues other than abortion is a misapplication of the term.

Specifically, "pro-life" does not mean “a right to live an eternal and healthy life.” It does not mean “a right to never be killed.” It does not even mean “right to life.” Pro-life is basically just an emotional term that was created to mean “anti-abortion.” That is it. Nothing more, and nothing less. When someone says “I am pro-life” all they are saying is “I do not support abortion.”

Sure, the pro-life movement could have labeled themselves the “anti-abortion” movement, but we must all admit that “pro-life” simply sounds better. Politics is a tricky and sneaky business. Loaded, emotional language is the name of the game. A clinical term like “anti-abortion” does nobody any favors in trying to win over sympathy votes. It simply sounds better for someone to say “I’m pro-life,” because then it sounds like you are implying anyone that is not part of the pro-life movement is “anti-life.”

Don’t be fooled. The person that came up with the term “pro-life” was thinking about all of the implications of the term, and how it could be used to smear anyone that was not part of the pro-life movement. It is for this very reason that the “pro-abortion” movement is called the “pro-choice” movement. By calling it the “pro-choice” movement, pro-choice supporters are implying that anyone that is not part of the pro-choice movement is “anti-choice.” Loaded, emotional language.

So, now we are clear that all “pro-life” means is that a person is anti-abortion. Nothing more, and nothing less. Being pro-life does not imply a person wants people to live long and healthy lives, does not want people to ever be killed, etc. All it means is that a person does not support abortion.

And now you can go read my next thread on abortion.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conservatives can, in fact, be charitable

[Disclaimer: the thoughts put forth in this blog post are disjointed and not as refined as they might have been if I actually took the time to write them out and organize them. As is, I keep on putting off organizing my thoughts on the matter (because this is something that has been on my mind quite often over the past couple months), so I thought I might as well just write this all down and put it out for you to read even though it isn't organized and whatnot. I'm sure you'll be able to get what I'm trying to say well enough.]

As I read more and more opinions from Liberals, I have gotten the distinct impression that Liberals tend toward thinking Conservatives are uncharitable, greedy, money-grubbers that seem to have some sort of vendetta against charity of any sort. And where does this impression come from? From the fact that Conservatives do not tend toward supporting social welfare government programs, and somehow a disdain for social welfare programs paid for by big government translates as "uncharitable, greedy, money-grubber."

The thing is these arguments usually come from articulate people that are very good at forming logical debates. They can put forth debates and arguments that appear rational and reasonable, and so it leaves me wondering why these apparently intelligent people come up with such an illogical conclusion about Conservatives. That is to say, just because a Conservative does not support big government does not mean a Conservative is uncharitable. Such a belief is a misunderstanding of what Conservatives believe.

I am obviously not about to argue for every Conservative in existence, because I am positive there are some Conservatives that are indeed uncharitable, greedy, money-grubbers. Of course, I do not think this is a result of them being Conservative. I think it is a result of them being human, and humans are naturally inclined toward base actions and thoughts. As such, as sure as I am about there being uncharitable Conservatives, I am just as sure there are uncharitable Liberals, because uncharitableness is not limited to any one political party.

In any case, I will now address the argument of Conservatives being uncharitable. I'm not really going to touch on the politics of why Conservatives tend toward not supporting government-funded charity. Instead I am going to deal with the belief that not supporting government-funded charity somehow makes a person uncharitable. (I also will not express how contradictory I think the term "government-funded charity" is... which makes me wonder why I'm even saying it.)

Charity, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, is:
"a: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need
"b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor
"c: public provision for the relief of the needy"

Of note in that definition, government is not mentioned once. Just something to keep in mind.

[sarcasm] Liberals may not be aware of this, but there are charitable organizations founded not by the government, but by regular, ordinary American citizens[/end sarcasm]. Now I do not know the intricacies of every single one of these organizations, but the general idea is that the programs are run by the people, for the people. That is to say, the government does not pay for their programs. They get private businesses and citizens to pay for it instead. In general, Conservatives are in support of such organizations. Conservatives did in fact phone in after the earthquake in Haiti to help send money to the Haitians. Conservatives did recently send relief efforts to the tornado-ravaged south. Conservatives did help build some of those 6,000 homes built by Habitat last year.

But as per the general Liberal argument, none of this matters. Helping out local charities, or even nationwide or worldwide charities, means absolutely nothing if you are unwilling to support government-funded charities. As per the general Liberal argument, you can only be a charitable person if you support government-funded charities.

But that does not make sense. That is not what Merriam-Webster's definition of charity says at all in definition 2, parts a or b or c. It says "generosity and helpfulness." It says "institutions engaged in relief of poor." It says "public provision for the relief of the needy." Helping out charities not funded by the government is being generous and helpful. Charities not funded by the government are "institutions engaged in relief of poor." Charities not funded by the government are "public provision[s] for the relief of the needy."

Now I realize a liberal might see this, and say "Why, that is not what I think at all about Conservatives. Yes, I call them uncharitable, but I do not call them uncharitable simply because they don't support welfare programs." To which I would be inclined to ask, "Well then, what is it that makes me an uncharitable person?"

Conservatives do not tend toward supporting government-funded charities, yes. At what point does that make us uncharitable?

I will admit here and now that I am not, at the moment, an actively charitable person. This is not because I am a Conservative. This is because I am lazy (which, I am sure there are some Liberals out there that are too lazy to be charitable as well). I have given money to charities before. I have volunteered at charitable programs before, but I don't make a habit of doing it (the former because I'm broke, and the latter because, as I said already, I'm lazy). However, I have nothing against charitable organizations not run by the government. I love Waterfront Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity, those seasonal charities the Southern Baptists are all about. It makes me exceedingly happy that Habitat for Humanity is doing so well. I was pleased when two of my friends told me that when they were homeless they were able to find community-run soup kitchens and shelters (not funded by the government) that would give them food and shelter until they were able to find an apartment. I am not some evil person that wishes all charities would disappear and poor people would suffer and die. I do in fact want people to get help if they genuinely need it (and hopefully will not abuse it). I simply do not want the government spending money on these programs.

I would say the general Conservative view is similar to my own (minus the laziness and brokeness factor). Conservatives do want to help those less fortunate than themselves. They simply do not need, nor do they want, the government to organize charitable institutions for them.

So, Conservatives can, in fact, be charitable.