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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. Przemek
    July 19, 2017 @ 11:52 am

    Thank you. That was fascinating. And quite possibly the most interesting essay on Garfield I have ever read.

    It reminded me of Jacek Dukaj’s novella “Line of Resistance” (unfortunately not available in English). It’s about a near future where technology allows for the human psyche to be freely modified at will. You can deeply love organic hummus and Doctor Who one minute and pizza and Jersey Shore by the next one. You can induce deep religious experiences or ecstatic sexual pleasures whenever you want to. Human relationships become fluid: friendships, relationships and family bonds are created and dissolved on a whim.

    From this fluidity, a new problem arises: nolensum, deathly apathy born from the excess of choice. When you can feel anything, how do you choose what to feel? How do you enjoy pleasures you know are artificially induced?
    When you can enjoy every possible “game” in existence (adventure, relationship, internal experience), where do you find motivation to play any game at all?

    The protagonist of the novella stuggles with nolensum himself. Two main approaches to solving the issue are presented. One consists of seeking “the real world”, of trying to find something that’s not a meaningless game but rock-solid reality. Nature, perhaps, with its unavoidable pain and death. Or maybe just a life of literal slavery, where too many choices are replaced with not having a choice at all. But this is all just self-harm and despair, not a true solution.

    The other way is a strange inversion of the nihilistic worldview. Instead of desparing about artificial experiences and meaningless games, one needs to accept that there is no rock-solid reality, just our human world of social constructs and interactions. Yes, everything is “ultimately” meaningless, but you don’t need one true objective meaning to feel happy about participating in a “game”. One needs to become like a child: children are happy when they play even though they know perfectly well that it’s all “just a social construct” that will come to an end eventually. Having to create your own meaning and find your own happiness is not a struggle or a chore: it’s freedom. If Odie can be happy because of a bone – if there are millions of way to be happy – then surely everyone can find one such thing for themselves. Even Garfield.

    (Sorry if this doesn’t make much sense. It’s hard to summarize a novella and convey its main ideas in a few paragraphs, especially when English is not your first language).


    • John G. Wood
      July 20, 2017 @ 9:40 am

      No, that made sense – and it sounds like a fascinating premise for a novella. How well it works in practice, of course, is down to the craft of the writer (and translator, if it ever gets an English edition), but nobody can convey that in summary anyway!


      • Przemek
        July 20, 2017 @ 10:03 am

        Well, it’s one of my all-time favourite novellas (books, really) by one of my favourite writers and I think it works wonders in practice. Fingers crossed for a good translator somewhere along the line.

        (If you’re interested, you can check out Dukaj’s “The Old Axolotl”, available in English as ebook on Amazon – it’s a good novella that should give you a taste of this writer’s skill).


  2. Sean Dillon
    July 19, 2017 @ 7:32 pm

    “And may God us keep from single vision and Newtons sleep” as someone on this site put it.


  3. John G. Wood
    July 20, 2017 @ 9:46 am

    Can I just say, Josh, that Permanent Saturday continues to astound. It’s probably my favourite regular feature on the site at the moment (the closest competition is Jack’s Shabcast, but it’s a lot harder to find a time when I’ve got the concentration to listen to those, so I never get to comment before the announcement posts fall away into history).

    Long may you continue to surprise me!


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