The Spiritual Void at the Heart of Fan Fiction

The word fan, as in a fan of sports team or rock group, derives from the word fanatic, a word that more often than not refers to extreme religious passion, and itself comes from a Latin term for someone driven mad by a divine spirit. In recent decades, it has begotten the words fandom (a subculture of fans) and fan fiction, which Veronica Clarke describes as “stories about fictional characters or real-life celebrities, written by the fans, for the fans.” This genre is the subject of Esther Yi’s Y/N: A Novel:

Yi’s nameless protagonist, a lonely and bored twenty-nine-year-old Korean-American woman living in Berlin, becomes obsessed with a Korean boy-band star, or “idol,” called Moon. After she sees him perform live, her “world suddenly proliferate[s] with secret avenues of devotion.” In him, she finds her raison d’être.

Yi’s narrator lives in Berlin, a foreign city; she isn’t fluent in German. She is divorced from her past; she isn’t fluent in Korean. She met her roommate online. They share something that can only “almost be called a friendship.” Her boyfriend, whom she also met online, is merely “considering being in love with” her. No family is mentioned, except for an estranged uncle in Seoul. . . . “I don’t want real life,” she declares. “I don’t even want romance. . . . I need something else. Piercing recognition. Metaphysics. Byzantine iconography.” But those hints at a religious awakening go nowhere. Instead, she begins to write fan fiction.

“K-pop is a symbol that, in my opinion, traffics in displaced spirituality,” Yi told Publishers Weekly in an interview. . . . “To me, it’s a natural consequence of the sort of conditions under which she’s living.”

So, Clarke surmises, is fan fiction itself. The words here give away much: not just fan, but also idol, and a fictional location in the book called the Sanctuary. Yet, writes Clarke, “this kind of failed transcendence, which privileges emotional intensity—the more intense, the better—over truth and reality, easily takes a dark turn.”

Read more at First Things

More about: Decline of religion, Fiction

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy