Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hello World

When I was 10, or maybe 12, my mother gave me a copy of I, Robot and made me a science fiction fan for life.

Asimov is a good way of introducing children to SF. He's not a great stylist, but there's an immediacy to his prose. He doesn't use ten words where one will do and doesn't bury himself in description. His robot stories conform to a very simple formula - the three laws of robotics assure the complete safety of humanity. The system is flawless. Here's how it went wrong.

Kids like formula, and Asimov knew his audience and gave them exactly what they expected, in clever and unexpected ways. These same qualities are probably what attracted him to mystery writing, in particular his Tales of the Black Widowers.

The Black Widowers are a gentlemen's club who meet every month with a guest. Each time, the guest introduces some trivial but vexing puzzle (the one I remember involved a chemistry grad student whose thesis advisor was threatening to scupper his career if he didn't name the one unique element on the periodic table). In every story, the Black Widowers are flummoxed. Without fail, the Widowers' faithful waiter, Henry, solves the mystery.

The Black Widower stories are fiction as a puzzle. They have the same weight and literary merit as a crossword, and are probably a little less challenging. Still, after more than a decade, they've lingered in my mind because of one small detail.

At the end of every meal, The Black Widowers ask their guest to justify his existence. That's a tall order, and one that I've always struggled to answer. Asimov, being an educated white male in the 1950s and 60s, has his guests justify their existence through their professions - they were policemen, doctors, scientists. That's probably not an approach that would fly nowadays, and anyway I don't have a profession yet. When I do, it's hardly going to save the world. I suspect most people would have to admit the same.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, I resisted the notion of starting a blog of my own for a long time. The internet doesn't seem to be in desperate need of yet another weblog, especially not the kind I'm going to write. I'm going to talk a lot about books and television and movies - things I tend to think about too much and formulate complicated opinions about for which I have no outlet. I'm a science fiction fan, as previously mentioned, although I read plenty of other stuff. By the standards of 95% of the population of the planet, my reading tastes are hopelessly esoteric. By the standards of most of the remaining 5%, I'm stuck in the mainstream.

I'm Israeli, but I don't think I'll be writing about politics too much. I'm 24, and one semester away from a degree in Computer Science from the Technion institute in Haifa. Every six months or so, I dig out a copy of a short story I've been working on for years, tinker with it relentlessly for a few weeks, realize it sucks and put it away for another six months.

I am female. I belong to the Reform Judaism movement and up until a few years ago I attended synagogue regularly. I still go on holidays, light candles on Friday nights and keep kosher. I have two dogs.

This blog exists because I wanted to post a comment on another blog and needed to register with Blogger to do it. I have no idea if it will justify its existence. I have no idea if anyone other than my mother will read it. I have no idea if it'll still be here a year, six months, a week from now.

I'm casting my words out into the ether with the full knowledge that they will be lost in the din. The sheer arrogance of the act is overwhelming.

Should be fun.

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