He was preceded by the president, setting a precedent which endures to this day.
Now there is a new superhero that could inspire and maybe even bring world peace… 🙂
Precedents are something few of us realize the value of until we’ve set them. They shape nearly everything we do: from what time your kids go to bed, to how the law is interpreted. Naturally they’re a huge part of writing too.
Setting a precedent is easy. “Okay, Susie, you can stay up to watch the end of Borkman and the Avengers.” When you try reversing that tomorrow, you’re in for all sorts of trouble. Even if you just say ‘no’ every time after, Susie – and – and Susie’s sibs, and her friends with their parents will now know it is possible and will throw the precedent at you endlessly. Trust me on this one: these are mistakes I have made. If you don’t believe me… ask any parent. The basic, sensible rule is: unless you want to set a precedent, and are prepared to accept the consequences – even the ones you haven’t thought of… don’t.
One of the most obvious of these consequences is that if you set a precedent with Joe (who you hate), circumstances may change, and that very precedent may be what happens to you, in your turn. Had you set a different precedent for Joe, that would have happened to you instead – which makes an excellent reason for being very, very careful about that precedent. It’s a not uncommon plotline in many books, particularly where the villain gets precisely the comeuppance he inflicted – or tried to inflict – on the hero.
It extends into real life too. To give two socio-politically pertinent examples – from Turkey (a country I watch as a geopolitical indicator, as a bridge between East and West.):
‘Hate speech’ – a precedent has been set widely is the idea of prosecuting someone for words they say or write which are deemed hurtful or harmful to another group is a good thing to do. So: for instance advocating genocide or claiming your race or religion superior because such-and-such is inferior or attacks on gay marriage… could get you punished for hate-speech and certainly accused of it. Maybe you think this sounds a good idea… Except… whoever is in power determines what arbitrary lines may not be crossed before it is ‘hate speech.’ Translated for meaning: “if we don’t like or want others to hear what you say, we can decide it is ‘hate-speech’.”
And that may not be what you think is hate-speech – or fits in the list above. As in the Turkish government have now deemed any pro-homosexual speech ‘hate speech’. You could end up in jail… for precisely opposite of what could end you in trouble elsewhere, where they also think it is a good idea.
‘De-platforming’ – Another precedent set and accepted and much beloved by the modern Left – those in power should be able to effectively silence any dissent, and isolate dissenters by denying them a public place – be that a convention, Twitter, or a book for sale to the public. The puppy-kickers and indeed SJW’s believe de-platforming an important and completely justified tool… in their hands. They’re in power and think it a great idea.
In Turkey, the Islamists are in power. They too think it is a great idea, and are de-platforming any dissent. Only the people being de-platformed… are the ones demanding it be done to others here.
I should imagine there are a few people in Turkey who wish the precedent had remained ‘I disagree with every word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.’
The defining characteristic of those who set precedents they’d hate to be on the receiving end of… is that they’re stupid or vain (or most likely, both) enough to be unable to even imagine not being in power. Every time I hit this in a book I cringe a little and say ‘can’t you see this coming at you like the certainty of the seasons or taxes?’ Real life doesn’t have to exhibit common sense, of course. One merely has to think of the precedents set with abusing the IRS and FBI for one party’s political gain, to see this ‘we will be in power forever, so we’ll never be on the receiving end of the abusive precedents we’ve set’ mentality. I’d guess some of those people would like to reconsider the precedents they set, now. I must admit I read about the various left-wing activist judges, and wonder how in hell you manage to be that stupid and ignorant of history – and still pass bar exams? Have the standards dropped so low that a grasp of history is no longer required?
Because that too is a precedent – one so strongly established through history that it is undeniable: Power does not endure. Sooner or later, even if it is not your current deadly foe, a new foe will arise and use your own precedents on you. They might set some new ones, but those are easier to wind down than your own, turned against you. Ask Harvey Weinstein. He thought he were right up there with those in power and could safely support various precedents set by their own side. Harvey obviously thought sexual harassment complaints and the idea that the victim must always be believed regardless of evidence, would never apply to him. I think we can safely say he was wrong. About the best you can hope for is dying before your power wanes – which is the sort of gamble that I’d say was determined by your age.
We seem to have been going through a ‘hold my beer’ series of stupid precedents in the sf/fantasy world – all based either on the works of super-beer-woman or else on the incredible hubris of ‘look on my works ye mighty’. Maybe we could consider renaming WorldCon OzymandiCon. First we had the David Gerrold Wooden Assterisk fiasco facilitated by Sasquan’s staff, to say nothing of the lovely precedent set at the awards.
I imagine MidAmericon II looked at that and said: ‘Hold my beer’ and invited the guy who managed to prove to world he knew the results of the Hugos while they were embargoed (so either he was part of an orchestrated cheat, or someone in the Hugo administrators had broken all the rules and informed him – so he could break that one) as their GoH, gave confidential voting records to a partisan group allied to people with a strong commercial interest in the outcome, and then kicked out Dave Truesdale on CoC violation accusations – which, when he made available the recording they were unaware he had, turned out to be a display of arrant dishonesty. Because this is hold-my-beer-precedent setting stupid, the perps suffered no penalty at all.
My mind’s eye sees WorldCon San Jose looking at this and saying: ‘Wow… tough one. But, hold my beer…’ And they promptly banned Jon Del Arroz for a ‘pre-crime’ (I think Philip K Dick would be horrified to find that it was the Science Fiction Establishment that first actually put into practice his disturbing vision – that is, punishing someone in advance because you ‘know’ they will commit the crime.) The ‘pre-crime’ turns out to be neither illegal nor in fact not allowed by the convention’s own rules. That’s besides undermining the fundamental principles of law: You can’t be guilty of a crime you haven’t committed yet. If you were thinking of blowing up a building, you can be arrested for conspiracy (but without any signs of tangible preparation, that would probably fail) but you cannot be arrested for blowing up the building… until you blow up the building. I doubt if there is a special exception for sf Cons, somehow. If the organizers could actually see the future, they’d be buying lotto tickets.
Ok, WorldCon San Jose wins. That has to be the single dumbest precedent set by any WorldCon committee, ever, despite stiff competition. What in hell are the next year’s going to do for their ‘hold-my-beer’ session? Even getting televised getting up on stage in the Hugo awards and setting their own farts on fire, while wearing nylon underwear… just wouldn’t cut it. Well done, chaps. You’ve just set a precedent whereby it is acceptable to refuse entry to any paid-up attendee… because they might possibly do something the people in power right now don’t like, on an arbitrary scale of ‘don’t like’.
Think Turkey (the country, not the collective intellect of this ‘hold-my-beer’ group). Power is transient. Does anyone seriously imagine this precedent will somehow magically not be a precedent when that power moves along? How you use that power while you have it, sets the precedent that will determine just how your – or your group – survives their time out of power.
So: using this as a foundation to get back to writing – which is difficult because if you make a villain this inordinately short-sightedly dim-witted, you’re kind of limited to flash fiction. That’s the problem with fiction: people have to suspend disbelief, and this sort of level of hubris and short-sighted arrogance is very hard to believe. Yes, I know: ‘But Hilla…’ the problem is in fiction you’d have to cover 40 years of building up such a level of hubris. That’s possible, but that’s what it would need. And even that would be hard to believe.
Precedent, however, remains your tool, if used well, and with thought. You see, pecedent is how you prime your audience. How you foreshadow the hero and the villain’s actions and behavior. It’s what we expect of the character, what we expect of the story. There’s bloody murder on page 3? We know there will be mayhem throughout. She’s an arachnophobe who runs screaming when she sees a spider? You have her making passionate love to the spider-god in the penultimate scene? You’re going to have set some serious precedents when it comes to conquering fear, or being aroused by it. If you like, all the lead up scenes in a book are really setting precedents in the reader’s belief of what the character is likely to do. If you don’t do that, I guarantee your book will follow another precedent, and be thrown across the room in disgust.
Don’t set precedents you (or your character) don’t want… if you’re suddenly on the receiving end, unless you’re really trying to punish yourself, or your character.
And, like watching a slow-mo trainwreck I have no way of stopping, I await the next WoldCon ‘Hold-my-beer’. Because that’s the precedent they’ve set.