25 August 2013


Sliders: The Soviet States

"Think of a roulette wheel, with an infinite number of slots . . ." Then think of an infinite number of you: one for each slot. Wouldn't it be nice to find a version of yourself in every world you visit?

In the second hour of the two-part Pilot episode, it is Quinn's double who finds him. And it is the double who provides the gambling metaphor: for though he is a more experienced slider, even he can't control which slot he will end up in. (There is a famous quotation from Albert Einstein which could stand as a contradiction to this--and it's included, but not made much of, in a future episode. We'll discuss it then, okay?)

The double is the one with better dress sense. =P
(As my own double would be . . .)

When the main cast finally get together, the next world which they thoroughly explore is one in which the Communists won the Korean War, causing the rest of Asia, then Europe, then the Americas to succumb, like those theoretical dominoes, to the red menace. There are so many ways one could get into trouble in such a universe, but the writers either settled on the easiest MacGuffin available or realised that what had really driven the Cold War were not ideals like faith and freedom, but purely economic interests: in a plot point worthy of Ayn Rand, it is the commercial use of US dollars which gets one of them arrested and three others whisked to the relative safety and liberty of a guerilla headquarters.

I finished freaking out over that in time to learn about their doubles. It turns out that the smallest and cutest of the group is a high-ranking commander in the revolutionary army . . . and the Physics professor is a Citizen General in the Soviet military.

Do you find yourself squinting at the maths or at the military ribbons?
(Your answer helps to determine the kind of geek you are.)

How you get from mathy fun to military studies, I'm not sure, but to the Professor, it makes perfect sense. As he says after hearing the news: "Always a leader of men, no matter what the circumstances!" (That's the spirit, sir!)

That the state university has been turned into a federal penitentiary for political prisoners should give us more pause. (A pause to laugh, that is.)

The reason doubles--or to be more accurate, multiples--can be so fascinating is that we believe there is an essential part of every individual that would remain unchanged despite the world he is born into. If you dream of homesteading in this world, your double in an agrarian world might already run a successful farm . . . and your triple (?!) in a world where all farmland is monopolised by a single corporation might be an activist who flirts with biological terrorism--or even the evil corporation's COO! Bwahahahahahahahahaha! Although Sliders doesn't explicitly say so, it's obvious where it leans in the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Your Turn to Slide: In a world where an oppressive government has full control, would you actively fight the system or find a way to work within it?

What's that? You already live in such a world?
Then you won't have to think too hard for an answer, will you? ;-)


Sheila said...

I'm into minor subversion. Illegal chickens, sharing anti-government articles, sticking my tongue out at policemen when their back is turned. ;) Yeah, I know. It's not exactly revolutionary. For me, I guess the goal isn't to actually overthrow the government, but to keep solidly in my own mind the fact that the government isn't my friend -- and perhaps to take advantage of the freedom I have to dislike the government, which at least is still solidly my own.

I had a daydream, that I would turn into a book if I knew more about both current events and American history, where Thomas Jefferson was sent forward in time to the present era. Of course, a quick look around would assure him that the American dream was dead and that he no longer had any of the rights he had fought for, so he would put his own aphorism -- that every nation needs a revolution now and again to keep it healthy -- into practice. There was a lot about organizing the underground, starting a secret grassroots movement, obtaining weapons ...

The trouble was that I couldn't find a way for it to end except that they all get bombed by drones. Ah well.

The funny thing, though, is that I can easily imagine a double of myself that held completely different ideals from my own. It may not show, but I have a very moldable temperament and tend to adopt the opinions of those with whom I associate. Love of nature presumably would carry over, and pacifism, but when I think of all the stages of opinions that my actual self has passed through in a relatively short life ... well, I could be almost anything.

Enbrethiliel said...


My own subversion is even more minor, but I think that if I had no choice but to live within an oppressive system, I'd make the most of it rather than fight against it. I wouldn't go as far as Professor Arturo's double does, but I wouldn't struggle in a way that might get me martyred. (It feels a little hypocritical to say this.)

Your idea sounds interesting! Is there a special reason other than what Jefferson's famous quotation which made you choose him over any other of the Founding Fathers? I could see the story ending by completing what the Civil War failed to do, which is the secession of some states which no longer want to be part of the union. But that would be hard to pull off if the war to preserve the union were fought with drones. They're awful game changers, aren't they?

I could also see myself being almost anything, but what I think would always carry over is religiosity. If parallel universes exist, then there is a version of me for every religion there is--including fundamentalist atheism!

PS -- While I wouldn't say I always adopt the opinions of the people I happen to be around, I do end up trying them out for extended periods of time before I really have to act on them. For instance, thanks to all your posts on vaccines, I have a ball repeating your arguments to people who think that not vaccinating one's children is irresponsible toward the greater community! =D But that doesn't mean I know for a fact that I won't be vaccinating any children I may have. I'll still need to study the matter on my own for that, though my base position that it's better for them to catch something that is curable (like measles) than to end up with something that is not curable (like autism) will probably remain unchanged.

Sheila said...

I picked Thomas Jefferson because I agree with more of his opinions. He was rather a libertarian, compared to Washington or Hamilton. Also, he has some very interesting agrarian writings! His own farm and garden are a famous tourist spot not far from where I live; I'd like to go there someday.

It's not just drones, either. How many private individuals have fighter jets? Nuclear weapons? There are legal limits to what Americans can own, which means that we are always in a state of power imbalance against the government. Even numbers isn't the easy win you would think, when our military is so HUGE, plus the police force, plus the FBI and CIA and so forth. Meanwhile America has more people in jail per capita than any country in the world -- yes, counting totalitarian regimes.

Oddly, I feel like the Catholic version of me would probably be an exception. If I hadn't been raised Catholic, I doubt I would have sought it out. I'd be pagan or pantheist. Those appeal to me on a feelings level, and I'm not too insistent on logic where religion is concerned. Whereas my husband can hardly imagine not being Catholic, but if he weren't, he'd probably be solidly atheist.

Haha, now someone is going to say I'm a baby-killer because I'm spreading dangerous anti-vaccine hysteria. Uh-oh. I'm sure if you use your head and your gut, you'll make the right choices. The risks are pretty small either way.

Enbrethiliel said...


What I always found ridiculous was the US government telling other governments that they might not own nuclear weapons. Not that I think everyone should have them, but no one made the US the nanny-guardian of the world.

Now you have me wondering which kind of spirituality I'd find most appealing on a feelings level. It's really hard to guess, since my feelings normally follow where my thoughts go. My thoughts would feel much better (Ha!) in a traditional, apostolic community, so I doubt I'd have an Evangelical self--unless that self were pulling a Luther. =P But in recent years, I've mused that the medium is the message where Christianity is concerned not just in Tertullian's sanguis martyrum sense, but also in the sense of heritage and ethnicity; so if one of my multiples had been born into a non-apostolic Protestant community (or in something similarly cultural, like a Hindu community) that could trace its revolt from mainstream culture back several hundred years, I'd probably stay there. For the community's sake. =P

Finally, the last person I debated on the vaccines issue was more concerned about herd immunity and parents who imagine that they live in a vacuum. (Vaccines came up in the context of a discussion about people who imagine their actions won't affect anyone else.) I can imagine that she is arguing from a position of frustration, because there is nothing she can do about the issue except rant on her blog. (She can join the club, I say! What else have I been doing for years? LOL!) What I am sure of is that I don't want vaccines to be mandatory for children in the way that a lot of dubious choices have become mandatory simply because better alternatives have been pulled. Something as basic as being able to play outdoors is impossible in some parts of my city because of traffic or pollution. So the kids stay indoors and watch TV--or if they're old enough, they go to the mall. I could go on and on about this, especially the last part . . . but I'll spare you for now. ;-)

Shaz said...

Having spent several of my formative years enrolled in an ultra-conservative Christian boarding school, I'm more passive aggressive than subversive.

I have often wondered what it would be like to not have one's spirituality tied to one's employment. My father worked for the denomination for 38 years and, even though I swore I never would, I also work for the denomination. Because I'm constantly surrounded by church politics, it's sometimes very hard to find any beauty or joy in Christianity.

If I had a double, I hope she would flaunt the rules and live recklessly.

Enbrethiliel said...


Religion as a source of income was actually a huge issue for me a few months ago! I looked at some converts from Protestantism who are still trying to do the kind of work in the Catholic Church that they did in their former denominations. I'm sure you would be able to bring up other issues from your experience.

I guess we all have at least one really reckless double out there . . . because we all have that double inside ourselves now. ;-) What was that Walt Whitman line? "I contain multitudes"!

Belfry Bat said...

"therefore my name is legion" he didn't then conclude.

Enbrethiliel said...


Is this your way of hinting that Sliders is demonic? =P

Belfry Bat said...

Not Sliders, just Mr. Whitman. Maybe.