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GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘Snapture vs. Rapture: Where Avengers: Infinity War Sticks With Biblical Lore, And Where It Departs’ by Leah Schnelbach

“Why the obsession with the end? Christianity began life as an apocalyptic cult, and people believed that the world was going to end any moment. A lot (like a lot) of early Christian writing is about living a pure life in order to be ready for the end. There were also (probably) at least a few waves of persecution, which led to writings like The Revelation of John, which was (probably) a coded account of the Emperor Domitian and/or Nero, and many of the earliest Church writings and oral culture in general revolving around public torture and executions. (I’m adding all of these ‘probablies’ because it’s extremely hard to confirm what really went on in those centuries, as the intervening histories have all been written by the winner, Christianity.) As the decades rolled on, though, the young religion had to find ways to fold itself into ordinary life, which necessarily meant losing some of its initial urgency. This in turn meant that every few years a reform movement would rise with the intention of taking Christianity back to its roots. Over the centuries this has happened on giant scales and tiny—the one you’ve probably heard of is the Protestant Reformation. But even that Reformation has since inspired wave after wave of groups who have decided that Protestantism needs to be reformed all over again—which is why if you look Protestantism up online you’ll find roughly 12 billion different denominations.

The emotional core of the Snapture is the same as its religious counterpart: people we love vanish because of the actions of an almighty being. Morally, however, things get far knottier. Where The Rapture is based solidly in a predetermined system of judgment, the Snapture is random. Thanos has no personal grudge or favor toward any of them, and they didn’t break any rules he set—that would be his minion Ronan’s bag. The Mad Titan just wants to dust 50% of the population, and in his mind it’s a benevolent act. Where the people of The Leftovers have no idea why the mass disappearance has happened (at least at first) we spend the entirety of the MCU’s arc watching the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and assorted other heroes work to hide the Infinity Stones from Thanos, knowing all the while exactly what will happen if they fail. Infinity War is a Rapture movie where we watch humanity fight against the god rather than accepting its will. And where in a Rapture film (and even in The Leftovers) there is some solace in the thought that those who have been Raptured are, or might be, better off, in Infinity War we have no idea what’s happened to them.”


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BookTuber Tuesday – Adrienne Mayor ‘Gods and Robots’

Ursula K. Le Guin on God:

“Fantasists are childish, childlike. They play games. They dance on the burning-ground. Neither arrogance nor modesty is a very useful term, in this context. Even when they are making entire universes, they are only playing. But they are not playing God. It looks as if they were, to the rational mind; but the rational mind notoriously cannot see what’s happening in fantasy, or why it happens. How can you play God, after all, when you have understood what the intellect cannot understand — that God is only playing God?”


Ursula K. Le Guin on the “Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction” :

“Where intellect fails, and must always fail, unless we become disembodied bubbles, then one of the other modes must take over. The myth, mythological insight, is one of these. Supremely effective in its area of function, it needs no replacement. Only the schizoid arrogance of modern scientism pretends that it ought to be replaced, and that pretension is pretty easily deflated. For example, does our scientific understanding of the nature and behavior of the Sun explain (let alone explain away) Apollo’s remarkable sex life, or his role as the god of music and of the divine harmony? No, it has nothing whatever to do with all that; it has nothing to do with sex, or music, or harmony, or divinity; nor, as science, did it ever pretend to — only scientism made the claim. Apollo is not the Sun, and never was. The Sun, in fact, ‘is merely’ one of the names of Apollo.

Reductionism cuts both ways, after all.

So long, then, as we don’t claim either that the science in science fiction replaces the “old false” mythologies, or that the fiction in science fiction is a mere attempt to explain what science hasn’t yet got around to explaining, we can use the slogan. Science fiction is the mythology of the modern world — or one of its mythologies — even though it is a highly intellectual form of art, and mythology is a nonintellectual mode of apprehension. For science fiction does use the mythmaking faculty to apprehend the world we live in, a world profoundly shaped and changed by science and technology; and its originality is that it uses mythmaknig faculty on new material.

But there’s another catch to look out for. The presence of mythic material in a story does not mean that the mythmaking faculty is being used.

Here is a science fiction story: its plot is modeled directly upon that of an ancient myth, or there are characters in it modeled upon certain gods or heroes of legend. Is it, therefore, a myth? Not necessarily; in fact, probably not. No mythmaking is involved: just theft.

Theft is an integral function of a healthy literature. It’s much easier to steal a good plot from some old book than to invent one. Anyhow, after you’ve sweated to invent an original plot, it very  often turns out to be a perfect parallel to one of the old stories (more on this curious fact later). And since there are beautiful and powerful stories all through world legendry, and since stories need retelling from generation to generation, why not steal them? I’m certainly not the one to condemn the practice; parts of my first novel were lifted wholesale from Norse mythos (Brisingamen, Freya’s necklace, and episodes in the life of Odin). My version isn’t a patch on the original, of course, but I think I did the gods of Asgard no harm, and they did my book some good. This sort of pilfering goes on all the time, and produces many pleasant works of art, thought it does not lead to any truly new creations or cognitions.

There is a more self-conscious form of thievery which is both more destructive and more self-destructive. In many college English courses the words ‘myth’ and ‘symbol’ are given a tremendous charge of significance. You just ain’t no good until you can see a symbol hiding, like a scared gerbil, under every page. And in many creative writing courses the little beasts multiply, the place swarms with them.

Scholars can have great fun, and can strengthen the effect of such figures, by showing their relationship to other manifestations of the archetype in myth, legend, dogma, and art. These linkages can be highly illuminating. Frankenstein’s monster is related to the Goldem; to Jesus; to Prometheus. Tarzan is a direct descendant of the Wolfchild/Noble Savage on one side, and every child’s fantasy of the Orphan-of-High-Estate on the other. The robot may be seen as the modern ego’s fear of the body, after the crippling division of ‘mind’ and ‘body,’ ‘ghost’ and ‘machine,’ enforced by post-Renasissance mechanistic thought…

On this level, science fiction deserves the title of a modern mythology.

Most science fiction doesn’t, of course, and never will. There are never very many artists around. No doubt we’ll continue most of the time to get rewarmed leftovers from Babylon and Northrop Frye served up by earnest snobs, and hordes of brawny Gerbilmen ground out by hacks. But there will be many mythmakers, too. Even now — who knows? — the next Mary Shelley may be lying quietly in her tower-top room, just waiting for a thunderstorm.” – Le Guin, “Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction”

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