FEAR OF THE NOW

The current excerpt at Tor.com (and don’t worry – there is still plenty of book left to read once they’re through excerpting) features an overview of a condition some in society suffer from called “Fear of the New.”

While there is a theme running through “Fear of the New” which highlights the ever-evolving nature of communication (from pencils to printing presses to phonographs to computers), that is not the only type of new technology that had folks sweating: plenty were also once afraid of that big scary thingamabob called the steam engine.

As a tie-in with the Tor timeline we offer an update on the latest in terrifying tech: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Built between 1998 and 2008 – and then tinkered with for another five years – the giant device is designed so that scientists can throw particles together really really fast to test different theories of high-energy physics. The most common fear people have over this super-sophisticated (and super-expensive) science experiment is that once activated it would DESTROY THE WORLD!!!

Some (non-scientists) worried that the LHC could create microscopic black holes that would hang around long enough to lodge in the planet’s gravity well, thereby giving this mini-black hole the time and energy it would need to expand into a hole so big it would consume Earth inside out. So far, it looks like that hasn’t happened. But if you want to be sure you can check this website:

http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/

Even though the LHC has been fully operational since February, some panicked members of the public are still sending death threats to the poor physicists involved.

So, guess that means some people have a legitimate reason to be afraid.

 

Swallowed By The Dragon or Laughter in the Dark? Revisiting the D & D Moral Panic

As followers of this blog may know, Tor.com has been excerpting chapters from the forthcoming book BAD FOR YOU (releasing January 7th) as part of Banned Book Week. Now that the “celebration” is over, today’s offering at Tor features a section on gaming and is a bit more downbeat than previous ones. This excerpt focuses on how a pair of tragic events led to a moral panic about the Satanic power of Dungeons and Dragons. Since the original panic was over 30 years ago, we’ve decided to post some Youtube clips on just how silly the situation got back then. First off, does Dungeons and Dragons encourage human sacrifice?

If the process of just how D & D ensnares souls is as blurry to you as that video, it is all laid out in graphic black and white by  Jack Chick in his Christian comic:

Hard to believe how scared people used to be about D & D. At least those crazy days are behind us. No one has mentioned how the game could “literally destroyed peoples’ lives.” Actually, that’s a direct quote from Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club, which claims “approximately one million viewers” daily. A quote from this summer!

So stay away! Far away! Dungeons and Dragons is definitely BAD FOR YOU.

But if you find these warnings unconvincing and even laughable, it’s a pretty good bet you won’t be laughing alone given that comedians Stephen Colbert, Mike Meyers, Matt Groening, Rainn Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Robin Williams, David Cross and Weird Al Yanjovic are all either past or current players of D and D.

NO JOKE!!!

And because every claim can use a little evidence, here ours: Stephen Colbert did gave a tribute to D & D co-creator Gary Gygax at the end of The Colbert Report the day after Gygax passed away, March 5th, 2008. “Gary you will be missed,” Colbert said, then asked, “How much…?” Before he answered, he rolled a d20.

“20! May all your prismatic sprays bypass your targets’ Reflex saving throws.”

Proof that Colbert knows his game.

 

CHESS MESS

In the Tor.com excerpt on Friday, “Game Over,” readers learned that once upon a time Scientific American warned kids against playing chess, calling it “a mere amusement of a very inferior character which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements.” Being a “mere” science mag, the editors were limited in what they could do about it, recommending kids in the 1800s partake in “out-door exercises” instead of “mental gladiatorship”. But for such a cerebral game, chess can stir some deep emotions from those in power – leading to outright bans over the years. Here’s a partial list of all the governments and organizations who have outlawed chess since Scientific American‘s lament:

Late 1950s

Is there something about scientists and chess that just don’t mix? Russians in Antarctica had to stick with checkers following the murder of a Soviet scientist at a research station there. His colleague split him open with an ax after losing a game of chess (of course the cold, isolated environment of Antarctica could have contributed to the crime – or vodka).

Mid-1960s

During China’s Cultural Revolution, chess was considered as bad as capitalism. Ten years later, the Chinese were sending players to international chess competitions!

1974

The World Chess Federation (best known as FIDE, from its French acronym for the Federation Internationale des Echecs) decided to do some banning of their own – barring South African and Rhodesia from certain FIDE events because of the apartheid practices of their governments (in 1977 South Africa gets a full ban from FIDE for 15 more years).

1979

Chess – actually, games in general – have been looked on with suspicion by Islam for centuries. Games can lead to gambling, which is prohibited by Islam; and like many religions, amusements like chess are considered to be time-wasters (time better spent praying). After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Islamic clergy who take control outlaw chess from public places. But chess-lovers continue, going underground during the near decade-long ban. These days, the country’s chess federation has one of the most professional coaching centers in the Middle East and kids there recently won three world titles in the under-10 and under-12 chess categories.

1993

A confrontation between chess players and cops lead to American River College’s ban on the game in their campus library and cafeteria. Campus police are called into action after “disruptive behavior” is reported. When the game-gang at the California college refused to stop, authorities confiscated their board and their pieces.

1994-2001

Taliban edicts proclaim chess off-limits in Afghanistan; imprisonment or beatings can result from playing the game.

1996

Chess was but one of many non-academic clubs banned from Salt Lake City high schools. The game wasn’t the problem – an across-the-board ban was enacted to prevent teens from organizing a separate club for gay students.

2001

Rowdy chess spectators cause the game to be banned at the Minneapolis Public Library.

2002

For similar reasons, the game was banned from malls in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

2010

Game-bangers cause a chess ban in Emercon Playground, New York City; seven adult chess players receive summonses from police later that year.

2013

Games of chance (chess, dice, backgammon, etc.) are still prohibited from entering the country of Saudi Arabia – so don’t pack a chess set if you plan to travel there!

ARE YOU GAME?

There’s a lot of scary claims out there about video games: that they’re too violent, that they turn kids antisocial, that they’re just plain BAD FOR YOU. But if you’re a gamer who would like to address those claims for yourself, the National Coalition Against Censorship would like to listen. And watch. The NCAC has a new film contest and the theme is “Video Games in the Crosshairs.”

So here it is, a chance for you, the ones who actually play the games, to voice your opinion in a creative and fun way. Deadline for submission is December 13th. It’s free to enter and the top three winners receive cash prizes. Money! For more video games!!! Must be 19 or under to apply. The first place winner will received a free one-week digital filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy, plus a $5,000 scholarship toward any one-, two-, or three-year NYFA program .