Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Good and Bad Luck

I proposed this topic because of all the various different things we associate with luck. Is luck a lady? Is it personified? Is it held in objects like rabbits' feet or horseshoes hung above doors?

Luck is sometimes related to trickster deities, or to folk practices intended to influence luck in the context of religion, like relics, etc. Some religions feel that there is no such thing as luck, only circumstances brought on by moral or immoral conduct. Others believe in propitiation of deities or somehow creating auspicious circumstances.

Khaalidah urged us to define luck, which was a very good idea. Our general consensus was that it was about a preponderance of events going in your favor or not (for good and bad luck). It could also be called "statistically unlikely streaks of events."

Cliff mentioned that in Pratchett's Ringworld, the luck of a single character, Teela Brown, influenced the entire world. Over time, the significance of that changed such that what was good for her and what was good for the whole world was not necessarily the same.

Some people like to invoke "bad luck" as a way of minimizing or negating their own responsibility for events.

Do people believe in luck or destiny? Can you believe in both?

In Greek mythology, you sometimes see people who are predestined to have bad luck.

People who believe in personal control often downplay luck. But perhaps having good luck is about being able to see opportunities. Humans like randomness to look like our expectation of randomness, but a string of similar events can be random even though it doesn't look that way.

Islam maintains that some things that will happen are already written. It's one of the things that leads to religious discussions of free will.

Are the things that happen to you in your life, like whether you are rich or poor, which spouse you meet, etc. luck, or are they destiny?

Wikipedia says that "luck" means a string of notably positive or negative events, and that it can be ascribed to the operation of deities.

What does luck look like in secondary world fiction, or in far future science fiction? Do people maintain their talismanic luck objects and rituals? Battlestar Galactica portrayed such a ritual when pilots touched a photo before taking off, mimicking the historical behavior of pilots in the world wars.

What characters think of as luck may not match the author's view of luck.

Absurd levels of luck can be used for comedy.

Pratchett asked what good luck would be for a demon.

We talked about the role of authors in establishing good or bad luck for a character. There's a common view that it's all right to have the bad guys get good luck, but the good guys should not be helped by circumstance. Kat noted that this is a preference of "Western rational" perspective. Bad luck is seen as a test of character for protagonists.

People of privilege often have their paths paved for them, but won't acknowledge this as luck.

Is it good luck if a flying bird poops on you? What if you were mauled by a tiger at home, or a dinosaur? We agreed that if you cloned a dinosaur and it mauled you, that was your destiny.

There are a lot of superstitions in the West, like bad luck that can come from sidewalk cracks, ladders, black cats, broken mirrors, etc. Salt is considered good luck if you throw it over your shoulder. Spitting over your shoulder can also be good luck.

What is the line between good etiquette and superstition?

Kat told us about some of the things she had perceived as a child to be bad luck (imagining that a flying pot might come and smack you in the head if you did wrong). Shaking your foot/leg at the table, or making a walrus face with chopsticks, or mishandling chopsticks. She is not sure whether these ideas have any connection to a Japanese concept of bad luck.

If you create a secondary world and don't consider issues of luck, it's a missed opportunity.

Evil eye is a malediction that causes bad luck.

Naming practices have often been aimed at influencing luck. Sometimes children have been given undesirable names to keep bad luck away. Other times you get names like "Good luck Jonathan" in Africa.

Are there lucky days? Lucky directions?

Do you have your characters explain their beliefs about luck? Not necessarily.

When you see a correlation, does that mean causation?

We mentioned all the stories where a child ends up with a lucky object, like Dumbo and the magic feather, and then is shown that they don't really need it in order to accomplish what they were doing.

We felt that if you are pessimistic, you might miss seeing opportunities because you might not be looking for them. Similarly, if you are optimistic, you might be more likely to be looking out for, and see, opportunities.

Openness to new information might be considered good luck.

When people have a lot of good luck, they develop an expectation of the beneficence of the universe. This can be a character issue.

Douglas Adams loved creating circumstances of mundane people experiencing improbable events.

I asked people about stories they had worked on which might have featured luck.

Kat said that for her it was mostly in the case of a character pondering the freak occurrences of life, such as "what if we hadn't met?" etc.

Morgan told us her kid had had an idea of an island that you can't get to deliberately, but only by luck.

Cliff said his protagonist was predisposed to think about luck, and does things unconsciously to keep good luck.

Kat told us she's predisposed to avoid doing things in fours, even cutting sandwiches into pieces.

In Japanese, the number 9 is associated with suffering because of a pronunciation similarity.

13 is bad luck in the West.

If you are a member of a vulnerable population, you might take care and do safety practices that others might consider paranoid.

Do we avoid certain things as a cultural practice?

So we have language habits that refer to deities we don't believe in?

Thank you all for participating and bringing up so many interesting questions. Dive into Worldbuilding meets today at 4pm Pacific to talk about Food Production.


#SFWApro

from Kate:
   “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt


 “Mere existence is already the result of incredible luck. Such was the case on Earth in the past, and such has always been the case in this cruel universe. But at some point, humanity began to develop the illusion that they’re entitled to life, that life can be taken for granted. This is the fundamental reason for your defeat. The flag of evolution will be raised once again on this world, and you will now fight for your survival. I hope everyone present will be among the fifty million survivors at the end. I hope that you will eat food, and not be eaten by food.”
“Ahhhhhhh—” A woman in the crowd near Cheng Xin screamed, slicing apart the silence like a sharp blade. But a deathlike hush immediately swallowed her scream."
"Death's End" by Cixin Liu
Translated by Ken Liu
Series: Three Body, Book 3
This is related to the OCD bread matching thing from earlier in the week, Kat
I think one of the things we tend to forget is that we're talking about writing, not necessarily our personal beliefs about things, but --how we are going to use said belief systems in our worldbuilding--. I don't believe a certain colour of cat means anything at all, but I am certainly willing to play with other people's beliefs or not in superstition in my writing. 
I am currently running a series of discussions on my page about how "what you believe" is not necessarily the center of the conversation being held. When we are talking about abortion policy and I say it's about national policy, I don't care if you've had one or not, I don't care what your God thinks about it, I want to talk about how policy affects the nation, and what we can do about THAT. Does that make sense?