Saturday, February 4, 2012

it's really nothing new, the others had it too

First, an update on mesh versus sculpts from Miss Shichiroji. It's not a long article, and it's well written; you should take the few moments to go read it.

I only have one issue, really, and it comes down to graphics, as usual. To be more specific, it's that 70% figure of mesh-adapted viewers. That's a great number if it's accurate, but that also means that 30% of all residents on the grid still can't see mesh. And I think it's also important where that 30% resides. (Granted, these days, I tend not to go anywhere, because I've hit the second bout of "figure your life out, this is ridiculous"...but even so, if I walked around in a full-mesh avatar, who'd see me? If I went to Curious Kitties, would everyone see me? If I went to Caledon, would everyone see me? How different are the adoption rates between the Curious Kitties sim, and the Caledon sim, for instance?)

That's the big problem, and it's only going to increase with the implementation of visual "muting" mentioned earlier. Because, silly me, I was thinking the visual loss of other avatars meant that they weren't being downloaded into our potential viewing buffer; I forgot that's now how textures and sculpts (and mesh) work in SL. So that's a solution to a problem that actually doesn't touch the problem at all. Not only do we now have to worry about folks that can't see mesh, at all; now we have to worry that if we do adjust our visual settings, that we're still being hit with high-attachment/high-sculpt residents, before the muting can get in.

I don't have her optimism, but I'm glad she does. And to be fair, I've seen some impressive work from the makers who've converted to mesh.

Next, a long (long long, LONG long long) time ago, I was (briefly) part of the SL Bloggers' group. Right before the group folded, so I think I met all of three people in the group before I went on my meandering, unmerry way.

Now, apparently, it's back. Glad to hear that, and really, I think there should be more blogger interaction, it would keep us all better up to date on the happenings. But I'm annoyed enough by the group chats I have now, so I'll have to consider this carefully.

Next up, something I've been meaning to address for a while: io9's latest opinion post on rethinking steampunk. While I understand the point they're trying to make, I am a dogmatic thinker. Given time with a concept, and some mental crowbar work, I can ponder issues as a whole, and see the grey between black and white. But my first reaction always tends to be a starkly polar one: good/bad; white/black; yes/no.

Add to that the fact that (while I've spent the last several months waffling on this) I've been doing my best to codify what makes a certain sound steampunk, as opposed to another style of music entirely. While I've pondered many "grey" options, at the end of the day I still want to be able to say yes or no to that question.
Rather than assembling a list of elements which a work must have to qualify as "steampunk," we can say that as long as a work has some of those elements, it is steampunk. This frees us from having to define the list and number the elements, which might include "Victorian setting," "alternate history," "steam-powered technology," and so on. Any combination of those will do to make a work "partially steampunk," and a large number of those elements together will make a story "mostly steampunk."
According to the article, I'm a pretty staunch prescriptivist, and while I see the value in adopting definition states closer to "fuzzy logic" than dogma, it still makes me twitch a bit. And while I can definitely see the benefit of refusing to define something as wholly steampunk, or not, but instead to concentrate our efforts on what that particular work brings to steampunk (sound, culture, literature, film) as a whole...I'm still stuck in the desire to have things A or B.

To me, there's no question: Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age is a powerful work, but it's not steampunk. If anything, it's closer to cyberpunk, because of its reliance on transformative technologies (to say nothing of the transhumans within the book). And it has plenty of dystopian touches for the critics who deride any cyberpunk work that's not a grim view of the potential future. There's a lot of grim to embrace in The Diamond Age.
Now, though… Neal Stephenson's science fictional novel The Diamond Age, which is full of nanotech and a radically altered future history, is "steampunk." The fantasy tv series The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra, which has superpowered humans on a different planet, is "steampunk." Martin Scorcese's Hugo (based on a YA novel by Brian Selznick), which is entirely mimetic apart from a marginal unreality involving a writing automaton, is "steampunk."
And to me, it's painfully clear that none of these things fit any traditional criteria to be steampunk, so I'm woefully confused trying to figure out why these three, in particular, are even under discussion as steampunk works.

Maybe I'm too dogmatic to embrace "fuzzy logic" where steampunk is concerned. But if we're going to move from an understanding of what works define this genre to what general tenets of steampunk do these works reflect...well, shouldn't we pick works that have more than modern-day buildings in a magic setting, or perfectly acceptable automatons which were operant in the time period, or a future culture clash so severe that half of the working poor have become a linked hive mind, and half of the ruling class have embraced the stiff gentility of (what they, at least, understand to be) Victorian class restrictions, to recommend them?

Oh, and there's a new Hunger Games trailer out. Do watch.

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