Thoughts on Fiction

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I went into it expecting to dislike it (as I disliked BR2049 on two viewings, and thought Arrival was fun at first but dropped quickly as I had time away from it) but I loved it. I have read the book but also disliked that - it was 12 years ago, I remember nothing, and don't think I got any of the intended meaning about it being a deconstruction of white savior narratives or whatever.

Because of reading recently about Herbert's supposed intentions, I had a far more interesting perception of the events of the film. The Atreides are scumbag imperialists just like the Harkonnen. Paul I read as beginning to embrace the messiah thing because of the ego high this would naturally give to anyone. There are subtleties in Chalomet's performance that I believe indicate this, as well as little hints such as him supposedly "knowing their ways" - he knows their ways because he's been studying film strips in his room a lot, not because of an innate destiny. The people on Arrakis have been primed over centuries to expect a messiah, so they're ready to believe.

So to me it's more Lawrence of Arabia, which is about an egomaniac who acts like a god (with some skills and strategic/tactical knowledge to back it up), rather than a straightforward fantasy story. If it was the latter I'd lean towards agreeing with you on a lot of things.

The aesthetic also did work for me very well and I was sorry I didn't see it in IMAX.

J.P. McDevitt, Friday, 3 December 2021 08:08 (seven months ago) link

three months pass...

A superb thread, with a lot of interesting discussion. It almost feels like we got the USC class for free.

Peter, when you say "art's function is to exercise the mind's capacity to find meaning" what's meant by "meaning"? A traffic light gives meaning but we don't call it art. Is there a specific sense of the word?

(My view is that art must be created with the intent to be art. Maybe that's tautological, but I don't believe that art can be "found", or is something that naturally exists. A person can drop LSD and gain deep cosmic realizations by staring at a plate of mashed potato. So what? It's not enough for something to have meaning - there has to be an active creative process for it to qualify as art.)

Coagulopath, Tuesday, 29 March 2022 21:22 (three months ago) link

re: Dune.

The books actually share some ideas with AF. "Okay, you're free. Now what?" It's about a person who becomes the chosen one, completes his Hero Quest(tm) and then has all the walls collapse in on him anyway. Paul's rise and fall in Dune Messiah has the air of a Shakespearian tragedy.

I haven't read them since I was 15. They're quite old and some of what they do (like lengthy expository monologues from inside the hero's head) certainly isn't in vogue these days. I think Dune was published within a couple years of Lord of the Rings.

The movie was good. Some great shots etc. Just relieved to see a SF movie that tries for a tone and doesn't ruin it with SNL comedian improv and "dialog" consisting of quips and one-liners.

Coagulopath, Tuesday, 29 March 2022 21:51 (three months ago) link

two months pass...

"when you say "art's function is to exercise the mind's capacity to find meaning" what's meant by "meaning"? A traffic light gives meaning but we don't call it art. Is there a specific sense of the word?"

This is a good question. When someone asks "what is the meaning of life?", they are in fact asking "what is the meaning of meaning?"
The word can mean different things at different times. A data point that signifies a scientific fact can be said to carry meaning, but I'm not talking about that kind of correlative property.

I don't believe in the existence of God. Neither absolute nor objective morality exist. In the same sense that moral goodness can only exist because there are conscious beings, meaning can only exist if there are minds capable of appreciating it. Humans invent meaning. Humans can also be said to "find" meaning as an instinctive impulse to detect patterns. It's what makes us human.

Peter Chung, Monday, 27 June 2022 23:32 (one week ago) link


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