Categories
society

Rubbernecking

To rubberneck or not to rubberneck. Care about the latest pop culture scandal? The latest murders by terrorists? By a state? The political gaff that might end a career? Nude celebrities? How much of rubbernecking is about curiosity? Moral superiority? Schadenfreude? Money for the advertisers? Bragging rights?

Cultural phenomena are participatory. Even those that steer clear of them are participating as the steelnecked eyes-forward crowd. For another, they inevitably color other aspects of life, so in some cases becoming unavoidable.

I still hold to my definition of general news as something that raises a general issue in society (and therefore can be discussed in that context). Subculture news is any news that isn’t applicable to the whole society. Sporting news, business news (where it’s about specific industries and not their impact on society at large), etc.

Most open source news does not pertain to the public, but Heartbleed did. It raised the specter of insecurity due to lack of maintenance of infrastructure. As have countless other scandals, which is to say there is an accumulation of evidence that as a society we need to place greater focus on secure computing.

The problem with these bleed-through stories comes in how they get retargeted. The media knows our buttons, and if they can retarget a story that might provoke social change to one that will simply devolve into a frenzy, they will shamelessly spin away. A story that should drive improved security might sink to the level of schoolmarmery, imaming about immorality. A story about a politician running away from home to join the Wall Street does not obtain scandal, but is framed as local hero makes good.

So even if you rubberneck, what you see is not what happened. What you see is the antibiotic-fed, deboned, technicolor TV dinner version. The camps do not look in on each other, to try to understand or find the process of events developing. They simply rely on stereotypes and facts be damned. They don’t need facts, they buy pesticides to kill facts. Infacticides.

The first step is to make sure you have something to look at. The rules are just like writing fiction. Give them a question, give them a conflict, some sort of tension they want resolved. Is there a bad guy that we can pretend to hunt down and bring to justice? It’s a narrative form.

The second step is to just keep pointing to that first step. If you get closure, great. If not? Well you can still pump the story for awhile yet, until something better comes along. It won’t matter to the readers or viewers or listeners. They love a randomized reinforcement schedule. You’ll have them hooked indefinitely.

So rubberneck with caution, if at all. You don’t want to give them a chance to addict you to their fantasy reality version of the world. Arm yourself with the question, “does this really matter to me?” If you find out that it doesn’t, don’t ask for your money back, just walk away.

Categories
tutorialist

Zombies in Fiction

If you ever create a work of fiction that includes zombies please make explicit as early as possible:

1. The cause of zombification. This includes time from infection to turning and whether an infected person can escape infection via amputation, bloodletting, tourniquets, etc. Can non-human animals become infected/become zombies? Is infection possible via saliva or just blood?

2. The result of zombification. This includes what if any special requirements there are for slaying zombies, whether zombies can die of natural causes, their ability to learn and/or retain memory from before they were zombies. This also includes what desires zombies have. Do they wish to consume non-zombie flesh or merely attack non-zombies? Will a zombie fight another? Do they have an instinctive detection of non-zombies (via pheromones or other means) or is it purely a judgmental decision (and thus deception is possible)? Does the flesh itself become zombified or is the CNS essential to the zombie?

3. If an antidote to zombism exists does it inoculate the recipient from further infection or merely stop current infection prior to turning? What dose is required and can it be diluted? Must it be taken orally, intravenously?

4. Whether any rules exist in zombie “society.” Are there “head zombies” or are they all equals? Will zombies protect each other? Attack each other? What senses do they retain? Are they normally copacetic, but they will fight over my brains?

Zombies in reality are a completely different story, of course. I’ll cover that in a later post. But in fiction it’s okay to deviate for dramatic effect. You should strive for consistency, and strive for believability.

Zombies are not a game. They must be treated with every bit of the seriousness you’d use on a subject like Indoctrination of Youth by Aliens or Interdimensional Tax Law. Fiction is supposed to give the reader or viewer or listener a taste of a world that doesn’t exist. For their tongues to really grip that world it must have enough substance behind it or it will not evoke salivation.

Please, think of the zombies.