May 30th, 2008

ozarque figure

Sf poetry being made; cyberdragons; summing up...

There are things I expect when I post a science fiction poem. I always hope that some people will like the poem, I know that some people won't, and I appreciate the feedback from both groups. I'm pleased, always, to have flaws pointed out and suggestions made about possible changes. I expect and welcome questions about the fictional universe where the poem takes place, and I do my best to answer them. What I didn't expect, when I posted the cyberdragon poem, was that it would turn out to push a lot of buttons on controversial topics, like...

whether the urge to have children is or isn't "hard-wired" in women

whether having children is or isn't a desirable thing to do

how to react to other people's children who are being pests and nuisances

the problem of parents who believe that their adult children somehow owe them grandchildren, and who don't hesitate to say so

whether having no adult children to look after you in your old age is something to worry about

If I had posted a political poem -- maybe something about the Democratic-primary-votes-for-Michigan-and-Florida fandango -- I wouldn't have been suprised, but I never thought that "Choosing" would have that sort of effect. I'm sorry if I upset anyone or triggered painful memories.

My feeling about the fictional universe in the poem (and in the interviews) is that people would tend to "anthropomorphize" their cyberdragons, and would quickly start treating them as if they did have emotions, did feel pain, and did really love their owners. However irrational that may be in sober fact, we already see it happening in the real world today, even in people whose only cybercritter is one of those "Roomba" robot vacuum cleaners. People name their Roombas, and make little costumes for them, and worry about their tumbling down flights of stairs. That's why, in one of the fictional cyberdragon interviews, a woman was frantic about having her cyberdragon's limbs ripped off. She does know, intellectually, that the cyberdragon can't feel pain, but she's lost her emotional recognition of that fact. I'm guilty of that myself, and in an even sillier way; I'm very careful not to "hurt" stuffed animals. I do know they can't feel pain, for sure -- but if I kicked or hit a teddy bear, I'd feel guilty.

Finally, I understand the comments about the improbability of the word "cyberdragon" keeping its full form instead of turning into an abbreviated item like "cybie" or some such thing, the way "automobile" became "car" and "submarine" became "sub" and so on. And I agree; those comments are an accurate expression of a principle of language change. I'm just not ready yet to decide what that abbreviation might turn out to be.

And there are some counterexamples. For instance, people in the U.S. still call an elevator an "elevator" after all these years, even if it's an elevator they ride up and down in several times a day. They still call an escalator an "escalator." [I will not be surprised, however, if I get a batch of comments telling me that once again I'm showing my age and my isolation, and that everybody knows elevators are called "Ellies" and escalators are called "Eskies."]

I have very much enjoyed the discussion of the poem and all its associated topics; thank you, one and all.