The World That's Coming

November 2, 2015 Uncategorized

Over The Garden Wall

So let’s try this again, shall we?

I didn’t actually take last week off from writing this non-newsletter, despite what it looked like to outside eyes; instead, I wrote it as usual, and just as I was about to post it, everything disappeared. I’m not entirely sure what happened — all of a sudden, I had to log in again out of nowhere, and then when I did, everything was gone. This being the one place where I don’t write outside of the WYSIWYG window (even now!), that meant I had the option of saying fuck it and moving on, or starting over. I think I made the right choice. Anyway, what you missed was lots of pondering about social media in general and Twitter in specific, brought on by thoughts of what constitutes a “safe space” on the Internet these days. I didn’t come to any conclusions, so we’re probably better off all ’round that that didn’t come to anything.

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This was in last week’s edition of Warren Ellis’ Orbital Operations newsletter, which also tied in with where my head was at, at the time:

[I]n a more fractionated and less operable digital-social world, maybe newslettering is the fallback into a functional tribal living. People used to complain about “walled garden” technologies that weren’t on the open web, but, ultimately, people like walled gardens. Choosing to tend a small communal garden is preferable to being pissed on for daring to walk outside, or letting just anybody in and dealing with them pouring flat lager on your bushes and shitting in the cabbages.

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In the aftermath of all this, Bleeding Cool ran an exchange from a private email group for the purposes of… actually, I’m not entirely sure. Proving that there’s a smear campaign against the site, perhaps? But, of course, the exchange doesn’t prove any such thing, instead demonstrating that some people are concerned about the same thing and talking about it. Which… happens all the time, on a number of different topics.

The takeaway from the piece wasn’t the uncovering of a conspiracy, but that secret email spaces weren’t secret, if someone wanted to take that away from you. Which, I guess, we all knew already, because — and now I’m also thinking about the reported doxxing of Ku Klux Klan members’ personal information today, which turned out to be false info — there’s no such thing as a safe space online. And yet… and yet…

(The other takeaway from the Bleeding Cool story is that Bleeding Cool is petty and egotistical; the headline for the piece was even “Leaked, A Private Correspondence About Bleeding Cool,” underscoring the self-obsession of the whole thing. It’s not a good look for the site, especially as the subject that was being discussed was one of genuine concern — whether or not the former editor-in-chief of the site, who has now gone on to work as an editor at Dark Horse Comics, abused her position to downplay negative stories about Dark Horse in the waning days of her tenure. The combination of blanket dismissal and cries of paranoia really isn’t a good look for the site.)

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On an entirely different note: there’s going to be a new Star Trek TV show, it was announced today — although “TV” is one of these terms that’s increasingly inaccurate: it’s a show that’ll premiere its pilot on television, then switch to web for the rest of the series. It’s news that’s at once a no-brainer (It’s Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary next year, after all; leverage that brand!) and surprising, mostly because it seemed like it would never happen, with the franchise having moved almost exclusively to the big screen. The response has been amusing, because I’ve seen countless people offer up suggestions on what happened after Star Trek: Voyager, the latest television series in terms of chronology from the mythology, and I’ve just been thinking oh my God, people, there are entire novel series that go beyond that, we’re past the Typhon Pact already. I am a nerd.

And yet, I love the Star Trek novels. Part of it is nostalgia — I read them as a teenager, before picking them up again relatively recently, thanks to the library — and part of it is simply that I love the expanded universe of it, the political nature of the books as they go on, watching the writers spin out entire franchises based on throwaway lines or unexplained plots, knowing they can get away with it because no-one but the hardcore fans are really paying attention.

Along those lines, I can share something that amused me greatly about Star Trek fandom and licensed tie-ins recently; I was reading  The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, because I am a nerd, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin: a re-telling of Trek mythology from the point of view of the fictional Captain of the equally fictional U.S.S. Enterprise. The best part of the whole book, which is pretty lackluster overall, is the decision on behalf of someone in the production chain to declare that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier an apocryphal tale.

Actually, that’s not true; what’s great is the way in which the book spends a lot of time and energy not only telling you that Star Trek V didn’t “happen,” but also making fun of the movie. The conceit is that Star Trek V was a movie created within the fictional Star Trek universe, and as such is filled with inaccuracies and outright dumb moments that our real heroes would never have suffered through. It’s such a very strange, very fannish impulse that it was far funnier than it had any right to be, and for very different reasons than what was likely intended.

Thinking about it again, it’s petty and unnecessary in a similar way to the Bleeding Cool thing: an exertion of so much effort than saying “Oh, I’m not bothered at all” and playing it cool comes off as unconvincing and forced. Perhaps this isn’t just about the Internet and social media, email groups and whatever else we get from technology. Perhaps we’ve never really had the safe spaces I imagine.

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