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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Froborr
    December 23, 2015 @ 6:29 am

    Herbert did not "literally write the textbook" on anything. He wrote a crank pop-sci book that got attention because it came out just as the snake-oil magic du jour was shifting from "electronic" to "quantum." (Followed later by "genetic" and now "nanotech.")

    There is zero reason whatsoever to believe that quantum effects have significant impact on the operation of the brain; conventional chemistry adequately explains everything any brain has ever been observed to do. We don't quite understand how that activity becomes conscious thought and feeling, no, but I've always felt that saying "I don' t know" is preferable to just making shit up.

    (But then again, I find animism to be chauvinistic–we're conscious, therefore consciousness is good and its absence is bad, therefore consciousness must be everywhere–and find it much more likely that the existence of consciousness is a tiny blip in a universe of mindless, purposeless chaos.)


  2. Adam Riggio
    December 23, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

    A wonderful entry, though I came to a similar conclusion about the importance of interconnectedness and interdependence through a quite different route. It was my studies of ecological science – from a disciplinary perspective of the humanities, and philosophy of science in particular – that led me there. A pragmatic calculation, actually, when I realized that a civilization whose general belief about their world was that humanity and all the other systems of Earth were deeply interconnected, would be a civilization much less likely to kill itself and most of its biosphere in an explosion of pollution and litter.

    And the roots of this idea are in ecological science – the science of studying how different processes are always dynamically interacting, and how those interactions all fit together to constitute an actual ecosystem out of all this randomness. With your idea of what animist metaphysical thinking is, you could almost call ecology a scientific rediscovery of that fundamental idea.

    Without having to use metaphors of consciousness or self-understanding being present throughout reality. Only the creative energy of action itself – even dissipation and death.

    I feel like this is an idea that inspired your original pitch of Vaka Rangi, the image of the Polynesian wayfarer who knew the stars and the tendencies of the Pacific's currents so well that they could travel by canoe to islands hundreds of kilometres apart. A rebirth of the storytelling that can point us toward a way of engaging with the world that intuits better its structure and our place and powers within it.


  3. Froborr
    December 24, 2015 @ 8:12 am

    Without having to use metaphors of consciousness or self-understanding being present throughout reality. Only the creative energy of action itself – even dissipation and death.

    See, this I can get behind.

    I arrived at the oneness of everything via a slightly different route. I am a person, which is conscious. I am also a collection of organs, none of which are conscious except maybe my brain (though even that is only conscious when supported by the others). I am also a collection of cells, none of which are conscious. And those are made of molecules, none of which are conscious.

    And then go in the other direction–I am part of communities, which are made of people, all of whom are conscious, but the community itself is not. And those communities are part of a culture, which is part of our world, which is part of a galaxy, which is part of the universe.

    And the truth is, it's a choice what scale you view it on. You can look at cultures if that's what interests you, or you can look at worlds, or cells, or molecules, or individual people. It's just a choice of how you want to divide up the universe, or a choice of how you want to group your sense impressions–in fact, it's a choice which of those two things you want to perceive it as!

    There's one universe, slowly evolving over billions of years. There's a flux of constantly shifting particles and fields that never stops changing. And these are the same thing; which is everything. The distinction between them, and anything which seems to exist as an individual entity in between those scales, is an artifact of how we're choosing to look at it.


  4. Daru
    January 10, 2016 @ 4:36 am

    "There never was any divide in the beginning, but we believed that there was, and thus we found one."

    Great article, and one that is a real highlight for me that absolutely nails why Star Trek was basically a fundamental element in my personal journey exploring consciousness, nature, creativity and spirituality. Initially the stories whispered to me that there was more, if only I looked further, and in my twenties tales such "Emissary" blew me away with the consciousness expanding journey it laid bare.

    There is a great article in last August's issue of UK magazine Pagan Dawn (no.196), where there is an interview with Alan Moore entitled "The Art of Magic", where he is interviewed exploring his ideas on the links between magic, art, creativity and consciousness. There's a section where he discusses his ideas developed with the late Steve Moore, which will be soon published in their book 'Moon & Serpent Bumper Book of Magic'. He talks about a time theoretically, when "all of human thought was subsumed within the magic worldview" and and that for him magic is a "purposeful engagement with the phenomena and possibilities of consciousness".

    In relation to the concept of a divide, Moore speculates that this occurred with the rise of urban society, which brought about specialised professionals who gradually "stripped magic of it's social functions", and he proposes ways in which the sciences and the arts could be reconnected. Fascinating article, especially in his conclusion where he gives the advice that people approach their work "with as much awe, compassion, intelligence and practical caution as you would bring to an encounter with a supposed angel, god or demon."

    Thanks Josh.


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