Does Anyone Remember the Future?

I've begun watching Extant, the CBS Halle Berry vehicle on Amazon Prime. Like The Whispers, it's another of Steven Spielberg's attempts to conquer TV (television was in fact Spielberg's first love, not movies), and also like The Whispers, yet another example of his alien obsession.

His obsession seems to have gotten a lot more sophisticated since War of the Worlds, and seems to deal more with forces that seem more akin to Poltergeist than E.T.. It's not the greatest science fiction I've ever seen, though it's keeping my attention far more effectively than most TV shows seem to be able to these days. And it is a fairly typical example of what's going on in the genre. 

A lot of science fiction seems to have taken upon itself to be what Bruce Rux described Star Trek: The Next Generation as, a reincarnation of Soviet Socialist Theater from the Stalinist era. Drama is secondary to the inculcation of correct thought, in this case, adherence to the totalizing, reductionist scientistic agenda.

In Extant's case, people who believe in things like the immortality of the soul are ridiculed as "idiots" and parents who worry about their kids going to school with an experimental robot are painted as knuckle-dragging yokels. 

I'm still early into the series so I can't yet tell whether this is just a setup for Scientistic orthodoxy being subverted (a distinct possibility in a show about aliens). But it rankles nonetheless. 

But that's not what bothers me about this show. There's a deeper issue here, one that undergirds the crisis within our science and technology and by default, our science fiction.

Even if the series is fairly entertaining, what I am struck by is how derivative Extant is. So far what I'm seeing is essentially a simple recombination of A.I., Solaris and The X-Files (the latter not surprising given that former X-Files staffer Greg Walker is an executive producer). In fact, the pilot episode rather blatantly lifted a scene from the X-Files episode 'The Calusari', so blatantly I was left wondering if it was tribute or just simple plagiarism.

But the major impression I'm left with is how dated the show's futurism is, how it merely lifts the gizmos and gimcracks from Minority Report, A.I. and Solaris and to a certain extent from William Gibson's Bridge Trilogy. 

What's wrong with that, you may ask? Well, think about it: those stories are all fifteen to twenty years old now and we're no closer to seeing their prophecies come to fruition than we were then (well, the poverty and inequality of the Bridge Trilogy are certainly here, most certainly in California, the most economically unjust state in the Union). 

That you can transpose futurism from two decades ago to 2015 points to a serious problem in the presumed inevitable March of Progress™.

Things may be getting faster and smaller but we're still talking about technological concepts that are decades old now. And forget those gee-whiz headlines, we're nowhere near- I mean not even close- to the kind of Haley Joel Osment androids you see in Extant. Even the space exploration in Extant is downscaled- routine LEO stuff, "astronauts" futzing around on space stations. So in that regard, we're not even near Solaris' jaunts to distant star systems.

There are a variety of little details, animated photographs and talking toasters and that sort of thing, in Extant meant to embellish its vision of a Tomorrowland. But at its heart it's no different than the futuristic worlds presented as a sop to depressed populations since the 1890s. Even with the X-File-ready secret jostling, Extant's future is clean and orderly and harmonious, absolutely nothing like the future that seems to be taking shape outside your door today.

Does anyone buy that? 

I'm watching Extant because I want to see where the alien storyline is going. The futurism isn't only a distraction, it's kind of an irritant. And the materialist/atheist brainwash certainly doesn't help either. But the futurism? It just makes me feel kind of wistful. Younger people may not even process it but certainly in the late 80s and early 90s some of us were foolish enough to believe technology might actually be liberating.

No such luck.

For most of us now, the Future® is a gated community and we don't have a passcard. And even the kind of future we assumed 15 years ago would be here by now seems farther away than ever.

X-Filemania takes the Satellite! (UPDATED)

With X-Filemania reaching a new peak these days, Amid Night Suns maestro Raj Sisodia and I have worked up a major analysis of the sixth and seventh seasons of The X-Files (known in fan circles as The LAX-Files or X-Files Lite) on The Solar Satellite, with historical overviews and detailed capsule reviews of all the episodes from the 1998-2000 era. If you ever wondered what happened in those seasons, why the show seemed to take such a radical turn, you may find some answers here. It's rather huge, so please be advised.

Don't forget my previous entries on the eighth and ninth seasons of the series, which you can read here and here, as well as the three-part series on the X-Files Mythology, which you can check out here.

I'd be remiss if I didn't remind fans there's also an in-depth series on the very deep, dark and very well-researched conspiracy and parapolitical themes explored in the X-Files' sister series, Millennium: check out parts one, part two, part three and part four. Very heavy, very thought-provoking.

And lest we forget, the piece that started it all, "Nebet-Het Gish: An X-Files X-Egesis."

And the definitive analysis of the Lone Gunmen pilot: "Nine Eleven Ten Thirteen." 

UPDATE: Matt Allair explains "Why We Believe."

What You Bring Forth...

Sometimes it seems hopeless to blog about the things I do, since it feels as if we're all watching a hurricane looming on the horizon. Some people have battered down emotionally and psychically, as every day seems to bring fresh reason for worry, some humanitarian crisis, economic convulsion or local atrocity having to do with guns and some individual who everyone knew needed psychiatric help all along but no one bothered to do anything about it until it was too late.

It certainly doesn't seem like the time to pull up the old rabbit ears and see what you can pull off the Collective Wireless.

But to assume as much is assume that all you'll bring forth from the whereafter is happy-fluffy-bunny vibes. This is based in popular New Age misconceptions as well as popular notions that clenching up is a sign of strength and not weakness.

One of the side benefits of my trance work is that my dreamtime is a generally positive experience and puts me in a stronger physical and emotional state to face whatever challenges face me during the day. I don't record my dreams any more for the simple fact that they're not particularly memorable, just like I don't keep a journal to record my day's events ("Dear Diary, that cup of tea was delicious! Well, back to work. Oh, look; an email from Gordon...").

But sleep is very important for people with my condition (that is, the "rabid dog of chronic pain conditions") and having had a history of sleep disorder in which dreaming played a part, the work I've done with trance has made a major difference in my overall well-being.

I think the same holds true with your basic centeredness. Tension and anxiety aren't just unpleasant, they are brutal on the immune system. This becomes a very, very real hazard as you reach middle age. Not only does meditation and exercise help to reduce the inevitable stresses life sends your way, getting a sense of where you stand in the overall scheme of things does as well.

A lot of people will look at the vastness of the Universe and feel insignificant. I find that contemplating the vast stretches of emptiness has the exact opposite effect on me-- it makes me feel grateful. I'm part of this unique drama. Whoever you are on this planet, you've been let into the cosmic VIP room.

Moreover, it's settled science that people who strive towards a deeper connection with whatever it is you care to call it-- the Infinite, the Ineffable, the Eternal, Doug, Ashley-- are able to deal with crisis and major life challenges more effectively than those who do not. I don't think it's rocket science here. It can be as simple as having a sense of mission, a sense of purpose. Goals are totems in and of themselves.

I think it's the same with magic and myth and all those other endlessly-discussed but poorly-understood phenomena-- they open the mind to realities beyond whatever mundane problems the individual is dealing with and create a sense of communion and community with something outside the self.

So, no, I don't think all of this stuff I blog about is inconsequential in times of crisis. On the contrary, I think it's designed for crisis, it arises from crisis and finds its fullest flowering in times of crisis. It's why the reality I wrote about almost 10 years in Our Gods Wear Spandex holds true today. And for better and most certainly worse, we may be just at the beginning of it.