Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Nod To The Neighbours South Of The Border

Seeing as how it’s the Fourth of July (at least when I started writing this entry), I figure it’s only fair to give a tip of the hat to our neighbours south of the 49th Parallel.
To be sure, I’m admittedly one of many Canadians who are somewhat suspicious of the Americans. That whole business where we had to drive them off in 1812 leaves a bit of a bad taste, especially when they deny the facts and claim they came out on top. And let’s not even talk about that “Manifest Destiny” crap written into their Constitution. Then there’s the current administration’s foreign policy madness, willful violation of NAFTA and WTO rules, unwillingness to acknowledge our relief efforts for disasters in the US over the past 5-and-a-half years, and a bullying attitude to try to force Canada to change its social and legal policies. There’s the disturbing rise in religious zealotry. The persistence of a frightening gun culture. The lack of adequate funding for education or a workable health care system. The paranoid armed camp that’s being created along what we all used to brag was the “World’s Longest Undefended Border” (now stalked by trigger-happy “Minutemen”), as if Canadians jacked up on maple syrup and Newfoundland Screech, with mighty blizzards from the Arctic roaring at their backs, might suddenly come storming across on snowmobiles, armed with hockey sticks and leashed polar bears, bent on forcing Americans to start using “eh” at the end of every sentence. The rest of the world is coming together into political and economic trading blocks and the US wants to build walls at its northern and southern borders. Real foresight there. There’s an inscription on the Peace Arch border crossing between White Rock and Blaine that reads something to the effect of “children of the same mother”. Well, we’re nowhere near as bad as Romulus and Remus, but one of the kids here has a tendency to throw tantrums like a spoiled brat and it’s getting stale.
BUT don’t get me wrong… I’m NOT saying that all Americans are bad. On the contrary, I’ve known many Americans over the years who are/were great folks – warm, intelligent and open-minded.
And the people of the US should be applauded for their many positive contributions to the world. One of the tops on my list is barbeque. Many cultures around the world have engaged in that finest mode of cooking meat using similar, yet often regionally unique techniques for thousands of years. But there’s just something about good old fashioned, down-home American barbeque, in all of its regional styles that just grabs you way down deep inside and makes you feel good. Let’s hear it for the pit masters!
And of course, for a speculative fiction-obsessed site like this, there must also be a hearty shout out for all the American contributions to science fiction, fantasy and all genres in between over the years.
Three cheers for Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) for his wry chestnuts like “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, “3,000 Years Among the Microbes” or “The Secret History of Eddypus, the World-Empire”.
Kudos to Edgar Allan Poe for “Some Words with a Mummy” and “Mellonta Tauta”.
A hearty handshake to Isaac Asimov for building a “Foundation” and for casting off the shackles of Frankenstein and showing us that his robots with their Three Laws (four, if you count the Zeroth from “Robots and Empire”) could grow beyond their human masters while still caring for them.
And bravo to Ray Bradbury for putting us aboard rockets to Mars where the journey was as much into the soul as across space, and for taking us on a lark back in time with “The F. Scott/Tolstoy/Ahab Accumulator” to comfort dying authors, or to hang a jack o’ lantern on the “Hallowe’en Tree”.
How about a high-five for George R.R. Martin for dealing out the “Wildcards”, but most especially for singing us “A Song of Ice and Fire”?
Let’s give a hand to Kim Stanley Robinson for his breadth of vision for a world that might have been if the plague had been just a bit nastier in the middle ages in “The Years of Rice and Salt”.
And then there’s Dan Simmons, who’s “Hyperion” should be ranked as one of the most intelligent, one of the most gripping, one of the most touching – one of the best novels in the English language.
On the big screen, let’s acknowledge the mastery of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and yes, even some of the crews at the Disney factory over the decades.
On the small screen, a nod to the geniuses (both behind the scenes and on the screen) involved with the new “Battlestar Galactica”, and an honourable mention for Gene Roddenberry, who’s “Star Trek” franchise may have been the height of cheese at times, but also provided us with solid entertainment, a social conscience that gave us some long-overdue television firsts, and a vision that’s inspired many people to get into science with the dream of taking us to the stars.
Thank you, America for your great contributions to SF. Happy birthday this July 4th!
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