I haven't been alive for very long, so I don't know what hip people did back in the day. But today, in 2006, hip people love ironic media consumption. What does this unwieldy phrase "ironic media consumption" mean? It means that alot of people I know, my friends, will expose themselves to a work of entertainment solely for the purpose of laughing at it and deconstructing why it would appeal to an audience less sophisticated than themselves.

An example of this would be the person who reads Harry Potter and enjoys it, but not because they have been drawn into a wonderful fantasy world. Instead they enjoy it because they realize that the reason people like it is because it has all these essential wish fulfillment fantasies embedded in it (misunderstood kid who is secretly special, always succeeds, everyone loves him, etc.)

Another popular example would be Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is a show in which you watch viewers of a science fiction movie make fun of that movie and you take delight in how stupid it is.

I think that this is silly. I think that these people are cheating themselves by refusing to view these works of media on their own terms and derive an honest enjoyment from them.

To me, you might say, "Hey, if I can enjoy making fun of a movie, why is that bad?". To this I would reply that I don't think it is bad or wrong. I just think that you are shortchanging yourself. When you view large categories of work solely for the purpose of laughing at them, you are not exposing yourself to anything new. You are grasping for easy entertainment. All you are doing is reinforcing your place as someone hip, someone who is incapable of being made to feel emotion by popular media. You go into the movie or reading experience knowing exactly what you will feel, and you deny yourself the possibility of feeling anything different.

Personally, I find it difficult to view media ironically. When I watch a romantic comedy I allow myself to be swayed by the feeling that every person can find true love. When I watch porn, I allow myself to be titillated. I think that many smart, sophisticated people don't allow themselves to feel the intended effect of a piece of media because they want to feel better than the audience it is made for. They want to be above that. It is similar to the way people will claim that a band has "sold out" once it has become popular. The band's music has gone from being their private possession to the possession of the masses, and what they feel when they listen to the music is no longer unique.

But if you refuse to view a movie or book on the terms it is meant to be viewed, you are cheating yourself of diversity of emotion. You are making yourself jaded. You are creating a persona that views media for you instead of allowing it to directly impact you. I'm sorry that I don't know how better to explain it. But it is easy to watch a movie and make wisecracks about the things you think could be better. That gets an easy laugh from people who watch with you or talk to you about it. It's easy to vocalize what you find wrong with a movie or book. But it's much harder to talk about why a book was so great. Why it affected you so much, why you felt different after watching it. It's harder to let something change you, even a little bit.

I pray that the people who laugh and deride honest attempts to affect them are just joking. I pray that secretly, they treasure the way an action movie makes them feel powerful or the way a science fiction novel makes them feel wonder. But I just don't know.

EDIT: I take pride in being the least hip person ever. I'm not even non-hip in a hip Napolean Dynamite way. I love romantic comedies (in fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen every romantic comedy made between 1996 and 2004). I love musicals. I love top 40 radio. I love action movies. I love Nicolas Cage (I once made it my mission to see every Nick Cage movie ever made). I love Christian Contemporary music (despite being an atheist). I love Mercedes Lackey, David Weber, the three Terries (Goodkind, Brooks, and Pratchett). I just love the honesty of these forms. They don't make any bones about it, they're trying to reach out to you. They're like the really intense person you know, the one with the wide blue eyes, who will talk to you at a party for hours about something you'd never heard about...and it is utterly fascinating, because they care.

Well, those of you who still have me on your friends list out of slavish habit might be surprised to see an update. I've been accepted to the Clarion Writing Workshop (a six-week residency...or summer camp for those of us in the younger set, who are interested in writing science fiction and fantasy). In any case, a whole ton of clarion folks are busily web-stalking me, so I thought I'd give them more grist for the mill right here.

For those of you whose acquaintance with me stretches no further than a few days. I am twenty years old (and still not the youngest person at Clarion. That honor belongs to Jemma Everyhope). I'm a sophomore at Stanford University, majoring in Economics.. And every single hit you get when you google "Rahul Kanakia" is me, including "Profiles of a Diasporic Community". The latter arose when I was learning Stata programming two summers ago. I did the statistical analysis for an article whose primary author was my mother. Around half of my hits come from a Baldur's Gate II mod I made that was actually quite well recieved. It's sort of ridiculous actually. I spent maybe three days programming it and it ended up horribly flawed, but the standard of writing for mods is so poor that people were perhaps willing to overlook that.

My publications to date are quite sparse. I had a good run of Dungeons and Dragons publications, including one in Dragon Magazine. My only print fiction pub is in Fictitious Force, it should be coming out right around now. I also have stuff in AlienSkin, Fifth Di..., and Aiofe's Kiss (upcoming). Other than that, yea...not too too much.

Recently my reading has expanded beyond science fiction and fantasy and I've found myself returning to all the crap I was forced to read in HS (and hated at the time). Currently on tap are the "The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald", "The Great Gatsby", "Catcher In The Rye", and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Marquez. I'm nearly done with "This Side of Paradise" by Fitzgerald, which I have found to be one of the most sublimely perfect college novels I've ever read. This guy really seems to get what college is about (at least for me). His Amory Blaine, while being a huge git, is also struggling with the same questions I am. I'm also reading "Interpreter of Maladies", Jhumpa Lahiri's Pullitzer Prize winning story collection. Normally I detest immigrant narratives (and I was no huge fan of Lahiri's "The Namesake") but this one is amazing. For one thing, alot of the stories are not concerned totally, or even mostly, with the immigrant experience. They simply have Indian-Americans as the main characters. But she also portrays human relationships, particularly marriages, in a way I've never encountered. And I cannot help but attribute this to her Indian background (arranged marriages are common both in her stories and in our culture). Her stories are heartrendingly sad, even when the endings are happy. I love them.

As for our Clarion instructors, I have not yet tackled the insurmountable obstacle that is Dhalgren, but I have read Aye and Gomorrah, Nova, Babel 17/Empire Star, most of Joe Haldeman's stuff, most of Nancy Kress' books (I think I am going to buy Beaker's Dozen, one of her short story collections), and Magic For Beginners and Stranger Things Happen. I still need to buy Gardner Dozois short story collections (can you believe that he won two nebulas for short fiction before becoming an editor?) and one of Holly Black's books. In particular I loved Sam Delany's early works. In Star Pit (a novella in Aye and Gomorrah) and in Empire Star he does amazing things with the standard sci-fi tropes. He breaks all kinds of rules. He introduces irrelevant conflicts. He introduces characters very late in the story who turn out to matter alot. In each of these novellas I kept thinking to myself, "He's not allowed to do that!", but he did. And it worked! It is quite simply amazing how he can start out a story with such a normal-seeming construct and have it turn out to be completely different. And I'm going to need an entire 'nother post to discuss the greatness of his short stories "Time Considered As A Helix of Semi-Precious Stones", "Omegahelm", and "We, In Some Strange Power's Employ".