Friday, July 24, 2015

Ready Player One and Physicality

   Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a fascinating book. It tells the story of a kid inside of a virtual world attempting to win a scavenger hunt. Of course, the world was created by a lover of the 80's and pop culture, so there are references to Star Wars, Back to the Future, and anything else from that time period that you can think of. That stuff didn't draw me in that much (being a child of the late 90's, early 00's), but the story itself is pretty fun.
   That's not what I want to talk about. What I found particularly interesting was the idea of a virtual world (spoilers ahead) and the ramifications of such.
   See, the world in the 2040's (when the book takes place) is pretty crappy. And, unfortunately, racism, sexism, and homophobia are still present. However, in the virtual world of the OASIS anyone can look however they want. All it takes is creating an avatar and voila: I can look like a buff, white male; a thin, Venezuelan supermodel, or a tall, hairy Minotaur. This is incredibly helpful for the minorities of the world. No longer is someone looked down upon for the color of their skin, because they can change it to look however they wish. No longer will a woman be made fun of, for she can make herself look as manly as she wishes.
   That's an interesting concept (how the internet can help minorities), but the most interesting idea of all is what Cline says at the end. The man who created the OASIS comes to the main character and says, "It took me a long time to figure this out, but the OASIS is not all that there is to life. Only in the real world can one be truly happy." (paraphrased)
   Why? Why is physicality something that important? I can make friends online. I can have wonderful relationships online. However, is there something about physicality that is necessary? Maybe it's not even that. Maybe it comes down to the point that true vulnerability, true relationship can only happen face to face. Yeah, I can spill my guts on the internet, but I could be making it up. I can talk to people on the internet, but my tone or words can be twisted out of their meaning. There is something about physical, face-to-face relationships that are better than online ones. That's not to knock online relationships. I have cousins who are overseas and I can only talk to them through the internet. That's great. But that enhances our face-to-face relationship. Then there are relationships that I have with people on the internet that I've never met. That's not bad. But were it possible to meet with them face to face, wouldn't that be better?
   The problem is, as an introvert: I say, "No. I'd prefer to only talk to people on the internet. I'd prefer to never have to talk to someone face to face." But is that healthy? Aren't relationships necessary for healthy human life? Even if it is awkward, isn't awkward learning better than no learning at all? And, as great as internet relationships are, for me there is something about face-to-faceness that is so much better.
   So is all this stuff in the book? No. The book had little to say on this subject other than offering up the question. But ever since I've read that book it has been in my mind. So there: now it's out.

   What do you think? Is there something inherently better about face-to-face relationships, or is any relationship (whether over paper, screen, or in real life) equally good? Comment below and tell me what you think!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Writing Update: July 17 2015

   There's a particular feeling of despair that comes over one when it is Friday night and I have no ideas for a blog post. When I have no idea what to write about, I go for something simple. Which is why I aimed for a writing update.
   See, there's this thing I'm supposed to be: an author. I've even come out with two books (that's what that 'Books' tab at the top of the page means). The issue is this: the second book in my Kitten Mysteries series came out last July. And it's been a year (that's how time works, sadly) which means that the next book (The Kyge in the Mist) should come out soon if not now. The issue is that the book doesn't write itself and writing has been very slow recently. So I have almost nothing to say about the writing. So I'm not sure why I'm doing a writing update. Logic would dictate I would do something else, but, well, writing updates are easy and I haven't done one in a while. Maybe I should combine this with a reading update...

Reading Update: July 2015
I recently finished the audiobook of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Very interesting book. I should do a review of it soon.
I am currently rereading The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien. It's a fascinating book with amazing writing (as most people already know). I may even have a post coming soon about the scene where Gandalf, Theoden, and Saruman converse about Saruman's betrayal of all that is good. Look for that coming up, er, soon.

Back to Writing Update
Anyway, the writing is slow, but blog posts are continuous! Though, they may be a little late. So, I guess that's all I have to say for this week. If you want to encourage me to write more, comment below or yell at me on twitter @jesseorice.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review of Iscariot by Tosca Lee

   The current culture is obsessed with antiheroes. Dexter, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, all have villains as the lead(s). They are the ones viewers are focused on and, possibly, rooting for. I watched the first two seasons of Breaking Bad and found that this obsession with villainy wasn't something I was interested in. I don't want to be watching a man's descent into evil. I am fine with flawed heroes or conflicted heroes. But there are some things which push a flawed hero into villain territory and that makes it very hard for me to want to continue with the story. Then I picked up Iscariot by Tosca Lee. In case it isn't obvious by the title, the story is about the life of Judas Iscariot: possibly one of the most famous traitors in history. This brought me to a tricky point. Why? Because I loved the book.
   This was a tricky thing for me. Because Judas certainly isn't a good person. He betrayed his best friend (though, in this version, the story isn't as cut and dried as all that). Yet I really connected with the character. From when the story starts with Judas as a child to when he betrays Jesus, I felt a connection with the character. I felt sympathy for him. I didn't agree with his actions: but I could actually feel like that was a choice I could make.
   Here's the difference: Judas starts out as a good person. He strives to do good. And even when he's doing ill, he is still trying to do good. I have not watched Dexter, I haven't watched or read Game of Thrones. But I did watch the first two seasons of Breaking Bad and I only once felt a connection with Walter White. Then, as the series went on, I was more and more disconnected with the man because I never felt like that could really happen. Sure, it makes compelling storytelling and it was brilliantly executed. But I didn't care about someone who was out there to destroy the world, because really what he was doing didn't seem like an option that people that I knew would make. Of course, I could be wrong. Other people love the show, and I say great.
   So if you're looking to encounter a tragedy and Breaking Bad isn't your cup of tea, may I suggest Star Wars Episodes I-III (though, the quality is lower than the other two I've mentioned). Or read Iscariot by Tosca Lee. It's well-written and well-told, a good read and a very thought-provoking book.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Best Part of a Book

   Ever thought about what a book smells like? I was in a Barnes and Nobles recently and, to my surprise, I smelled a book. It was as if something unconscious inside me was interested not just in the feel of the story but the scent of it as well.