Mad Uncle Zip

Mad Uncle Zip

While you’re waiting for Part 2 of the Star Trek: Picard analysis, I thought I’d throw down another original piece of writing. This one is a brief, and I hope sufficiently scathing, response to M. John Harrison’s rambling 2007 post, “very afraid,” wherein he absolutely savages the concept of worldbuilding, calling it not only “technically unnecessary,” but socially dangerous, a “smallish and contributory subset” of corporate, religious, and political branding campaigns and propaganda. These, in his mind, are the truest examples of “worldbuilding” to be found. Now, while fragments of an interesting argument lie scattered throughout his post1I’m certainly sympathetic to its anti-corporate, anti-establishment sentiments, for example., to my mind at least, the whole thing comes of as somewhat unhinged and paranoid. One day2I won’t say when; I don’t know myself, and so far my attempts to cover specific topics at specific times haven’t exactly panned out–yes, I refer to the elusive Dwarf Fortress stories and Red Dead Redemption 2 essays I promised a while back, neither of which (to my surprise as much as anyone else’s) have materialized., no doubt, we’ll take a deep dive into these ideas, but for the time being, I present this little allegory in the hope that it captures that sense of ludicrous, almost comical paranoia.

M. John Harrison: An Allegory

There once was a man who lived in a mansion alone, surrounded by fine and glittering things. But on a time, a beast found its way inside, and it stalked through halls of luxury until it came to the sitting room. The man stood by the mantlepiece, examining a fine glass goblet wrought to refract with playful heart the colors of the liquid within.

Suddenly, with jolting heart, he perceived therein a monstrous face reflected; and thinking it no mere image, but a fiend residing in the glass—and anyway, such a cup might hold poison as readily as wine—smashed the thing to pieces, and fled.

The beast pursued, and seeing its image leering out from all his glorious wealth, the man broke his perfect mirror, burst glittering jewels hung from chandelier against the walls; the polished wood of the banister he marred and mangled; he threw the brass knobs of his dresser drawers through the windows, and ground the shards to sand.

All the while, the monster watched, bemused, too stunned to attack and eat this maddened thing. It halted its pursuit, and the din of breaking glass and tearing metal grew faint. Then it turned and slunk away, perceiving in this man its own perfect image.

Thanks for reading, everybody.

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