Sunday, June 12, 2022

The politics of cosplay

The genius of D&D wasn’t just the way it let players wield halberds, turn into wolves or cast fireball spells, though players (especially young ones) can use it to do only those things if they want. It turned out to serve as a perfect bridge from statistics-oriented, win-or-lose simulations of complex combat (like many video games, or fantasy football) to character creation and story-oriented play (like acting, or novel writing). You set out to find the caves and slay the Balrog, and ten sessions later you’ve fallen in love with Samwise, but Pippin’s fallen in love with you. (D&D’s revival piggybacked on the film-based Tolkien revival too, though the Tolkien estate may not have loved it: the first D&D sets had characters called hobbits, but the makers changed the name to ‘halflings’ after a trademark challenge.) The first role-playing games (RPGs) and the first popular video games appeared at nearly the same time: symptoms, if you like, of an emerging nerd culture, pastimes and ways of life made by, for and about people who preferred graph paper, basements and imagined monsters to what we have been instructed to call the real world.
A lot of those people turned out to be trans.

The writing of cosplay is speculative fiction, like John Rawls and Isaac Asimov. The writing of "literary fiction", detective fiction and romance novels, is formal and descriptive. Jane Austen described the experience of 19th century women of a specific nationality, class, and race.  Romance novels serve a function as a fantasy that readers build on. The "art" the "thick description" is after-the-fact, in the minds of the readers. Fantasy is thin by definition. 

I googled the author on a hunch before I finished the paragraph above. I won the bet.

The politics of D&D is reactionary. I've said it enough, as I've linked to the stories of women threatened with assault by bitter fantasists,  and the long record of liberal optimism and authoritarian technocracy. Wanting to be something you're not is as human as sadness. Playing along is a courtesy. Demanding that others accept your lies as their own is something else entirely. But rationalists rationalize.
The pathetic man above isn't a threat to anyone; not every fantasist is a fascist. But the first link above links to this, and to a few pathetic fantasists who are.
Now tell me why this smiling little man reminds me of Borges.
Musk is right of course. For anyone who sees himself, or herself or itself as happily non-binary, pronouns are irrelevant. But that's not what this is about.

Jeet Heer mocks Musk for his comment —"There are divorced guys and there are divorced guys. But as I said before, Elon Musk is the most divorced guy ever"— and then Stewart Brand, oblivious to the fact that Brand and Musk's hypertrophied individualism and futurism are part and parcel of the fantasies of all the various trans-humanists.
Unlike Forrest Gump, who jogged through the same period blissfully ignorant and unseduced by any particular line, Brand fervently believed in almost everything—at least for a little while. Born into an ownership-class family in Rockford, Ill., he was the youngest of four children. His father was a partner at an advertising agency, but the family money traced to the Midwestern timber boom. Stewart attended prep schools, boarding at Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where despite his intellectual disposition, he was an unexceptional student, especially compared with a standout older brother. It was here, Markoff writes, that Brand developed a “coping mechanism” that became an “operating manual” for him throughout his life: “Brand figured out that the best way to compete was not to follow the crowd but to instead chart his own iconoclastic path.” For an underachieving elitist, better to be incomparably strange than second-rate.

The author is Malcom Harris, another fantasist.

"For an underachieving elitist, better to be incomparably strange than second-rate." Not always underachieving. Narcissism takes many forms. Harris got his start at OWS, with Justine Tunney. Follow the bouncing ball from The Grateful Dead to techno fascism. Aaron Swartz and Scott Aaronson (and here) and David Graeber, and Stewart Brand, have a lot in common. My parents knew Brand in the 60s. They knew what he was. 

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