November 20, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS – OCCUPY Portland, Science Fiction, Writing and Faith…a Volatile Combination

(The photo above is of Jeff VanderMeer who, when you GOOGLE “activist science fiction writer” pops up first. Second place is awarded to Cory Doctrow.)

Last weekend, I was in Portland, Oregon becoming more educated on the philosophy and changes of a program called International Baccalaureate(; which is a methodology and framework for delivering a world-class, globally-aware education for kindergartners through seniors in high school. My daughter was in the IB program from 6th-12th grade. The training she received both philosophically and academically have been very helpful in her college education.

OCCUPY Portland was there as well and provided me with a different kind of education.

I confess that I had no idea what was going on. I’m an old guy and protesting is, as Captain Kirk once said, “…a game for the young, Doctor.” The first time I heard the Occupants chanting, I couldn’t make out the words OR the placards (it was late at night). I thought they were advertising Wendy’s – “…something…something…something…99 cents!”

Yeah, I know. What a dork.

As the weekend spun out, though and the IB conferees completely ignored the protest (because they were, after all, globally-minded teachers); the news reported on the unusual peacefulness of the confrontation between police and protesters and the metaphysical prophecies of a man who, while meditating with a rock that was purported to produce sympathetic vibrations of peace, had had a vision of rain and peaceful protesting (and had offered the crystal to a police officer in the riot line – who had significantly accepted it); it all began to sink into me.


In fact to my knowledge, protests do not happen very often in science fiction. Two scenes I can recall are from David Brin’s SUNDIVER in which people wave placards protesting the extra-terrestrial presence on Earth; and the mob scene in the movie CONTACT which exhibits the absolute worst of Humanity.

In both of those scenes, the scientist-types scoff and shake their heads in disbelief at the insanity of most of Humanity (except for the unanimous scientific part). In neither case did the main characters join in and in neither case are the protesters objections addressed.

I suppose the same thing has happened with the OCCUPY movement – while investment in the sciences is (at least peripherally) controlled by large corporations like 3M, Boston Scientific, Bayer and Monsanto; while there certainly are scientists who participate ( those same scientists (upon whom the stock exchange depends – MMM, BSX, BAYRY, MON) eschew OCCUPY: “‘The Occupy Wall Street movement recently has drawn criticism, however — particularly from those who view the protest as disorganized and unsophisticated,’ The New York Times' Nelson Schwartz and Eric Dash say. ‘Without a coherent message, the crowds will ultimately thin out, Wall Street types insist…’”

Christians have a clear, ecumenical presence in the OCCUPY movement (

So what am I trying to say? Just this: SF writers are typically made up of individuals who have a scientific bent (if not always degrees). They can have a profound impact on the scientific community. They should be writing to influence, not just entertain. They should be writing to empower change and not maintain status quo. They should encourage challenging the status quo – of COURSE while entertaining!

Where are the protesters in SF?

Excuse me while I get to work on a protesting scientist who happens to be a Christian as well (and no, it is NOT an oxymoron).


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