Saturday, November 25, 2017

Science Fiction News & Updates and... yes... Bladerunner

Starting off, on NAUTILUS, Brian Gallagher interviews me on whether Star Wars got any better, after George Lucas handed the franchise over to Disney. Brian did a great job riling me up to give another choice rip on that wretchedly evil and unwise little green oven mitt… Yoda.

(Here's a funny re-dubbed Star Wars pastiche.)

Jerry Pournelle, RIP. News can simultaneously be both unsurprising and shocking. He had been in ill-health for a very long time, yet seemed forever perseverant - determined to diagnose what his nation and the future needed. None of today’s activists - any stripe or polemical persuasion - could teach Jerry Pournelle a thing about passionate dedication to the long term success of the human experiment.

I was supposed to sit on a Mars Society panel next to him last month, in Irvine.  Larry Niven, Geoff Landis, Greg Benford and I were disappointed that Jerry sent his regrets, being too tired to come down. There will be no reprise of the panel-that-might-have-been… though JP’s devoutly envisioned heaven would likely feature less harp strumming and more endlessly fun disputation… an ever-changing sci fi convention.

In the 1980s, Pournelle's Byte magazine column powerfully influenced the developing world of consumer computing, perhaps more world-affecting than even his epic science fiction collaborations with Larry, such as Footfall and The Mote in God's Eye.

A unique American, in so many ways. We differed over many - perhaps most - policies, but never over the fundamental -- that we must be a forward looking people, negotiating fairly (if often loudly) with each other, ready to admit mistakes and move on, peering ahead in order to make fewer new ones, but bravely enduring and admitting those, as well. And moving on.

And while we’re on post apocalyptic themes … an interesting article on how many ways you can spend your doomsday prep money.

== SF News ==

I love this short-short, Legale (published in Nature) - especially the abstractly future-computer voices. Vernor Vinge is at the top of his form.

Available for free download: Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere, a collection of near-future stories collected ASU: Center for Science and Imagination, edited by Ed Finn – with tales by Karl Schroeder, Brenda Cooper, plus one I collaborated on with Tobias Buckell. “Each story presents a snapshot of a possible future where the stratosphere is a key space for solving problems, exploring opportunities or playing out conflicts unfolding on the Earth’s surface.” It was sponsored by one of the new strato-balloon companies - World View - founded by Pluto pioneer Alan Stern.

== Podcasts worth a listen ==

Newly posted… here’s a podcast interview packed with a wide range of future-oriented topics, ranging from transparency and privacy, future societies, political systems and cultural renaissances, all the way to science fiction, and fermi paradox.

And consider "Masters of Scale," the podcast about Venture Capitalism and the tech-innovation world, run by Reid Hoffman, founder of Linked-In. Top interview guests. Very well-produced and always forward-looking.

And until the Novum podcast comes off hiatus, its backlist of shows remains one of the very best, ever, about science fiction.

== SF Cinema ==

Netflix has announced the episodes for “Black Mirror’s” fourth season, to premiere on the streaming service later this year: “Arkangel,” “Black Museum,” “Crocodile,” “Hang the DJ,” “Metalhead,” and “USS Callister” (an apparent Star Trek takeoff).  Anyone know these guys? I have acouple of concepts that could change world politics overnight.  I mean it. The very day after an episode aired. Worldwide.

At the Burbank International Film Festival, on September 10, 2017, Mark Hedges won the award for best adapted screenplay, for the adaptation of Glory Season by David Brin. An accomplishment, even if it never sees the silver screen. Watch this book trailer for Glory Season.

My wife & I blame each other -  while each of us denies responsibility - for PIXELS appearing on our Netflix dvd queue. Like most Adam Sandler flicks, it was just divertingly stupid enough to play in background while we exercised and did paperwork. Though, also as usual, there were two or three rock-you-back moments. Like when the paranoid conspiracy theory guy explains what really happened in Dealey Plaza, November 1963:

"They altered the Zapruder film to frame Lee Harvey Oswald. JFK shot first!"

Whaaaaa? I dropped my papers and guffawed. An involuntary spasm. 

And I pondered --

== -- the roots of humor ==

Innumerable have been the attempts to theorize what makes things funny. My own notion builds upon earlier insights.

The best humor has shock value, made more delicious by the shame/guilt of laughing harmlessly at something so awful. Example, we watched the wonderful 1960s flick The Great Race, last night and adored Jack Lemmon's campy, hammy "Professor Fate," simultaneously rooting for the villain to achieve his next, slapstick comeuppance... and... well.. actually rooting for him

But jokes are another matter. What stands out is how the joke assertion is entirely logical within its own framing, tempting a fast-reacting part of your brain with "that's logical; why did I never think of that before?" ...

...while the much slower grownup brain takes several extra milliseconds, flails and sputters, refutes the assertion, then surrenders in a bark of laughter. For more on the origins of humor, see Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why, by Scott Weems.

I think I have plenty of funny stuff in my newly finished sci fi comedy! And so far, no publisher offers. Ah well. Your loss.

Speaking of which, Seth MacFarlane is interviewed about his new science fiction show “The Orville.” And dang, he is part of the revolution against dystopia addiction.  Can’t help liking this guy. Tempts me to re-attach my cable.

== A Hugo nominee, for sure ==

I mean it, consider this genuinely sci-fi-ish piece for nomination in the short dramatic subject category. Incredibly fun and tightly edited to match the wonderfully apropos music, with themes that are simultaneously sexy and feminist.

I'm talking about this homage to Diana Rigg (Mrs. Emma Peel) weaving images with Cake’s great song ‘Long Jacket.’ It reminds me of everything we adored about her, back in the 1960s. Rigg's predecessor on The Avengers was the first female character who fought and spied and kicked-butt on screen -- a breakthrough moment that led to Xena, Buffy and Gal Gadot. But for most of us, it was Emma Peel who pioneered the wave of kick-ass heroines.  

And yes, someday you should watch a few episodes of The Avengers.  We cavemen did have a few way-cool things, way back then.

== I promised my reaction to Bladerunner 2049... == 

Spoilers are present!  Overall, a terrifically enjoyable and top notch film! Though maybe a hair's breadth flawed and below utter classic.

Ambience and music -- grade A.  Not quite A+.  Oh, the visuals and depressing urban scenery were cranked up effectively and the music was excellent.  It just didn't rock me back quite as much as Scott & Vangelis did, way back when. Likewise, the (spoiler) final scene with Joe lying back on the steps? The music intentially recalled the death scene of Roy the Replicant, Rutger Hauer's character in the original, who stole the show in one of the 10 best individual scenes in all of cinema history... and I'd have liked to tweak that scene with Mr. Villaneuve. I think we could have done slightly better.

Don't get me wrong!  I meant that grade of A!

Acting? Grade A throughout! I am miffed that the five actors who deserved to appear below the film title -- all of them women in a voluptuously female-centered film -- did not appear that prominently.  You expect and get a lot from Gosling and Ford. Those women made the film, though.  (Seriously, Gosling is good enough we didn't need so many long reaction takes. A few seconds from each one and we'd have saved 15 minutes. Trust your actor.)

Plot? Oy. Villaneuve, Fancher & Green had a tough job. They can be forgiven for bending a bit too hard on homage-ing the earlier Bladerunner. (Though it was great seeing Olmos as Gaff!) Less would have been better.  

Likewise, have we had enough of the chosen-one child thing, yet? Jiminy. And what kind of people would consign their chosen-one to that orphanage? And why don't we see the new slave race at work, being exploited? And with all that free labor, why isn't this world rich? And I could go on. And on. Seriously, the fact that I'm not used as a plot consultant more often than I am is ... well... a tragedy for you film lovers!  ;-)

And yet, well, they had a tough job and they obviously worked very hard to make a logical path. Plot grade B+. 
  
I respect these folks. But give those fine actresses better billing.

== Valerian ==

Oh, we also watched Luc Besson's mostly French (with American actors) production (with Chinese funding), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, an adaptation of the classic French graphic novels, Valerian & Laureline. And like all Besson films, it is filled with light and joy and fun and hope.  Like Spielberg, Besson refuses to buy into the dystopia cheat! As in The Fifth Element, humanity is shown at least a bit better than we presently are, but with dangerous faults. 

Each individual scene conveys Besson's energy, color and entertaining verve. Again, I wish these fellows would consult someone about stitching it together in a cohesive story arc and plot.

== Miscellaneous updates == 

El Comics: Here’s a pretty good web-comic, nicely paced with a heavy but bearable moral. Of course, the fact that we’re a people who would create tales like these… (See my earlier roundup of Science Fictional webcomics.)

The Saskatchewan Center for Science and Religion invites submissions of paper proposals for its inaugural conference on “Spiritualities of Human Enhancement and Artificial Intelligence.”

All you ambitious would be writers with a manuscript in process… Alex Bear - talented literary heir to both the (Greg) Bear and (Poul/Karen/Astrid) Anderson legacies -  is also a dynamo editor. Here is a link to Alex’s skilled fiction editing service. 

A worthy cause if you can help! Author Lezli Robyn, on Shahid Mahmud’s staff at the Science Fiction publishing house Arc Manor has a rare eye disease which is progressive and she is now legally blind...and her eyesight is getting worse every year. If you have a monthly tithing and are looking for something worthy within our “tribe,” have a look at her fundraiser. See When Parallel Lines Meet, her recent collaboration with Mike Resnick. 


186 comments:

Laurence said...

that nasty little green oven mitt Yoda is pretty much, inarguably, the most evil figure ever in the history of any human mythology.

What about God?

David Brin said...

The deaths tallied in the Great flood were impressive, but could not have been more than a few millions. Yoda's causal body count rises to trillions, possibly quadrillions.

Yes, the doctrine of Original Sin and the nasty Book of Revelations are pretty darn evil. Still, those were ad ons... like novelizations or fan faction slapped onto star wars, without decent provenance. OTOH, the Main Sequence of Star Wars contains nothing but relentless Yoda evil, without one moment of positive. The Bible contains lots of moments when He is positive.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

A movie version of Glory Season? I'll postpone my hanging to wait for it.

No, seriously, I don't think a 90 minute film could do it justice, even in the hands of our finest directors. 3 hours might do it, though it has enough plot twists I would be happier with 4. But as much as a movie, I would love to see a sequel. I know, I keep razing you about this one. I understand not having time, though the other, scientific issues you raised can be worked around easily enough. The founders of the Stratos Colony could have used deliberate disinformation on the assumption that they would be risking the long-term survival of the colony if they left out the random element completely. Perhaps Maia could find a lost trove of documents? You could also have visitors from another world - one that tried going all the way with the experiment - show up.

Pretty please?

Pretty please with sugar on top?

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

The only format that would do "Glory Season" justice would be the extended tv miniseries. Something on the order of "War and Remembrance".

@locumranch from the previous thread, wait until politics comes up on this thread (or the next one) and I'll answer your late missive from before. You're on a roll, dude.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

... the Main Sequence of Star Wars contains nothing but relentless Yoda evil, without one moment of positive.


To me, the original movie (no Yoda) is the "main sequence". The entire rest of the series is add-ons.

Lucas is great with imagery, but the problem is with his writing. Thinking of stories the way Kurt Vonnegut described--as something that can be graphed as "good fortune" vs "ill fortune" over time--the moments in the story where the writer (Lucas) wants you to feel good or feel bad don't match up with how I actually feel watching the movies. I have to consciously remind myself that I'm expected to feel good when Anakin and Princess Amadala (sp?) get together, or when Vader shows he has good left in him after all, or when Jar-Jar Binks does anything.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

He's on a roll repeating very old stereotypes? This time the "bleeding-heart liberal" stereotype? When has he ever done anything more sophisticated than twist words around to confirm the stereotypes of his tribe?

I would love a miniseries, but does anyone make them anymore? They were popular back in the 20th C., but I haven't heard of them happening in a long time. That might just reflect how insular my life has been, though. I haven't actually sat down and watched a TV show since the year I got married.

David Brin said...

LH it is tragic when a dictator does not know his limitations and a movie director is a dictator. Spielberg and Zemeckis are whole package geniuses. Luc Besson has some plot arc problems but these are so forgivable because each scene is glorious.

Lucas was abysmal at plot, morals and dialogue... which did not matter when he hired others to do those things and fit them onto his harmless skeleton and gorgeous aesthetics. When he tried to write... oh, my.

JJ Abrams is a freaking GENIUS at characters and dialogue! Why, oh, why can't he hire a consultant to craft the outlines of actual story for him?

Cameron would be the full package, if he just understood the implications of what he wants to say. He comes THAT close!

Costner? He makes movies that are among the most gorgeous - visually and musically - the world has ever seen. Despite his having been a jerk to me, personally, the moral sensibility of his films is quite good and I thought he was faithful to the heart-essence of my book! Helgeland gave him a fairly solid script that lacked a director's sense of story in the last - and crucial - 1/3. I could have been so much help. But it's a rare dictator who can listen.

TCB said...

Errbody that Star Wars parody is good, but HELLO all y'all need to see the 5 part, 130 minute Auralnauts prequel saga. You will piss your pants, or pay someone to do it for you. The story begins with two Jedi, feared everywhere because they are frat-boy assholes guaranteed to start trouble...

STAR WARS EP 1: Jedi Party

STAR WARS EP 2: The Friend Zone

STAR WARS EP 3: Revenge of Middle Management

STAR WARS EP 4: Laser Moon Awakens

STAR WARS EP 5: Attack of the Phantom Past

TCB said...

Also, re: directors who are the full package: Christopher Nolan, full stop. He is Kubrick AND Spielberg in one... and he works with his also-brillig brother Jonathan (creator of the Westworld series) so yes, it's completely unfair to the competition. Imagine if Philip K. Dick or Asimov or F.W. Murnau or Orson Welles had a second brain.

TCB said...

Also also, re: the Orville. Yes, I approve! And remember, MacFarlane did the very nice Cosmos 'reboot' a couple of years back. He's vey future-positive.

Re: humor, one of my favorite quotes is from George Bernard Shaw.

“When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.”

― George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

He was a very great man, not remembered enough today. In my opinion he has placed his finger presciently on the exact reason 'conservative humor' is practically NEVER funny. It does not contain a hidden truth! 'Conservative humor' is instead based on two things: punching down, and telling a lie as a 'joke'.

Example: "Haw haw haw, how about crazy Al Gore claiming he invented the internet! And now he thinks humans can overheat the whole world with a few cars! Maybe he should sell his jet airplane and walk everywhere! HAW HAW HAW!"

I have heard versions of this very 'joke' and there are two lies here. 1.) Gore never claimed he invented the internet(he recognized its potential and got it a lot of early funding while in the Senate). 2.) He has never owned an airplane of any sort and rides in other people's planes just like the rest of us do. Seriously, these facts can be checked and still I had to argue them with people...

But anyway: Shaw good!

David Brin said...

How long has he been an agent of – or at least a target for recruitment by – the Kremlin? Have a look how far back.
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/19/trump-first-moscow-trip-215842

Now combine that with the reasoning I lay forth here: that by far the favorite recruitment tactic of intelligence agencies is not bribery or ideology… but blackmail.
http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/blackmail.html

TCB said...

It's like former CIA director John Brennan said back in May: “People who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”

Until there is kompromat. And then it's a matter of "Oh, crap. I'll go to jail if I report this now... so maybe I just play along..." According to lore, the Devil lures people the same way. If you don't say no at the very start, it gets harder and harder to say no, easier and easier to say yes....

Steven Hammond said...

David Brin said: ,
Now combine that with the reasoning I lay forth here: that by far the favorite recruitment tactic of intelligence agencies is not bribery or ideology… but blackmail.
http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/blackmail.html

That is an extremely well-written and interesting article. Thanks for linking to it (and writing it).


On the subject of Kevin Costner, I look forward to the new series, Yellowstone, starring him (though apparently written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who directed the movie Wind River). I'm hoping it includes much of what Justin Farrell (a sociologist) discussed in his book ,The Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict. I live not far from Yellowstone and, I think , the "wicked problems", which is actually a technical term I hadn't heard before reading the book, that Farrell describes are very applicable to the current divide in the US. I suspect those "wicked problems"--those unsolvable by scientific means as the are not about true or false, but about "moral rights and wrong"-- that this series will serve up and deal with, may provide a tiny bit of perspective on our national "wicked problems." These are the types of problems that we discuss with Locum, Treebeard and others on this forum all the time. In any event, I suspect the show will at leastl be applicable to local issues here in Montana.

locumranch said...


Emma Peel: Devil-may-care in zippered leather, beautiful, limber, peel-worthy. Jonathon Steel: Titled, dapper, metrosexual. Fictional, the first twist in a false consciousness culture spiraling into self-delusion.

Women on a Cult of Mary pedestal; David discussing the size & merit of various male director 'packages'; High School for eternity; and Star_Trek Catholicism meets male toxicity.

Galaxy Quest & Orville as Protestantism, fictions made true by faith; Quark & Dark Star as heresies; a non-choice between human unpleasantness, an inhuman future or a future without humans.

Engage default setting or Insert Quarters to resume play.


Best
____
Susceptibility to blackmail presumes shame, an extinct concept dependent on moral absolutes, a truly foolish presumption in a culture wherein sex tapes & all-form deviancy are celebrated, sodomy is considered an appropriate subject for primary school students, and serial killers are considered desirable & marriage-worthy. What fantasyland do you live in?

Steven Hammond said...

Locum said:

Susceptibility to blackmail presumes shame, an extinct concept dependent on moral absolutes, a truly foolish presumption in a culture wherein sex tapes & all-form deviancy are celebrated, sodomy is considered an appropriate subject for primary school students, and serial killers are considered desirable & marriage-worthy. What fantasyland do you live in?

No it doesn't. In the case of military service members it presumes the existence of the UCMJ and JAG lawyers who will put your ass in Leavenworth for violating it. What fantasyland do you live in?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH it is tragic when a dictator does not know his limitations and a movie director is a dictator. Spielberg and Zemeckis are whole package geniuses. Luc Besson has some plot arc problems but these are so forgivable because each scene is glorious.


I think they all want to be Alfred Hitchcock when they grow up. Talk about genius. I just recently re-watched "Rear Window", and everything in a shot was there for a purpose. Even the expressions on someones tiny face in a window across the courtyard could help tell a story.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

He [George Bernard Shaw] was a very great man, not remembered enough today.


A few years back, I read "Man and Superman" for the second time. Considering Shaw wrote at a time when the 19th Century was still clearly visible in the rear view mirror, I was amazed at his forward-thinking about freeing humans from artificial constraints (race, religion, class, etc) about who should have sex with whom and just letting nature take its course. BUT, I was kind of horrified at his goal for doing so--that by allowing natural selection to take its course, humanity would give birth to the Superman who would be stronger and smarter and rule the world wisely. Libertinism in service of the ultimate authoritarianism.

Also, a kind of in-joke with my wife here, but I wanted to write a sequel to "Man and Superman" which would be titled "Cat and Catwoman".

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Susceptibility to blackmail presumes shame, an extinct concept dependent on moral absolutes
...
What fantasyland do you live in?


That doesn't even make sense.

Susceptibility to blackmail only presumes that one will face negative repercussions if the sensitive information becomes widely known. It has very little to do with a personal sense of shame. In fact, blackmail is not necessarily about the victim having done something immoral or illegal. If someone gets ahold of proprietary information such as the secret formula for Coca Cola, he can blackmail the owners under the threat of making the secret public. The reason that would be bad for the business in question has nothing at all to do with their being ashamed of anything.

You probably don't widely disseminate the passwords you use to log onto internet accounts. That's not because you're ashamed of them.

Tony Fisk said...

Bladerunner: the dystopic elements that had to be carried over from the original film are mixed in with an interesting set of counter-elements. I had a little chuckle at those massive CST vistas that loom out of the ever-present gloom. They're going to work well! Even so, the persistent rain seems to have become cleaner in the intervening 30 years.

It occurred to me (and others) that BR2049's city scenery contained a lot of obsolete imagery. Future visions of a former time. The message I took from this was that this is no longer our future, and nor is it meant to be.

Joi is superb, as are Agent K's poignant efforts to 'uplift' her.

These are not the replicants Deckard was looking for. The 'slave race' has, by now, mostly replaced Humanity, and their value is seen in Wallace's casual disposal of those who do not come up to expectations (btw try re-running the 'happy birthday' scene with a male replicant). The bars of their enslavement are not visible, but can be perceived in the main character's passive acceptance of everything that he is told to do, and at what happens. Up to the point when he finds he has a real memory.

I found Agent K's final scene to be delightfully ambiguous. Is he dying? Do tears in snow wash away so readily?

Time to thrive.

Anonymous said...

The strange thing about Yoda is he is wrong even within the Star Wars universe. Luke defies him, yet is right. Yoda’s adoption of the clones (storm troopers) backfires on him in cannon. And yet... Even though Lucas wrote the plot to make Yoda wrong, he never noticed.

It vaguely looks like the next movie might finally acknowledge that. Or at least get close.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I would love a miniseries, but does anyone make them anymore? They were popular back in the 20th C., but I haven't heard of them happening in a long time. That might just reflect how insular my life has been, though. I haven't actually sat down and watched a TV show since the year I got married.


I'm very much like you in that, although it was my kid's birth rather than my marriage which kinda made me give up all but kids' tv for about 10 years. By then, I wasn't missing anything enough to bother watching again. When the tv is on at all in my house, it's usually for news or baseball.

I think the 21st Century equivalent of the miniseries is the entire season of a series collected on DVD.


He's [meaning locumranch] on a roll repeating very old stereotypes? This time the "bleeding-heart liberal" stereotype? When has he ever done anything more sophisticated than twist words around to confirm the stereotypes of his tribe?


Well what I found new toward the end of the previous thread was the complete reversal of the meanings of words--the claim that what conservatives want to conserve is the free spirit of 1960s hippies who want legalized drugs and free sex. The poor guy just can't admit that there is already a word for what he advocates: "liberal".

sociotard said...

I've always been skeptical of Brin's assertion that red America resents the blue for stealing their young. But, this article mirrors it rather closely, with the exception they don't say the cities take their kids, but the Universities.

Elitists, crybabies and junk degrees

The amusing thing was that the article referenced Democrats with some of the same views (needing more kids to attend vocational training) and plans for addressing them (Obama trying to boost Community College attendance) but red America doesn't really notice. More evidence that neither side is making much of an effort to understand the other.

Paul SB said...

Sociotard,

That's the problem with a two-party system - they only have each other to scapegoat, so over time the rhetoric ratchets up and up. They are not interested in understanding each other. The party elites want to scapegoat each other, and the rank-and-file mostly regurgitate what their side says both uncritically and angrily.

Larry & Steven,

You can see that our faux rancher continues to paint himself into a corner. Rather than attending to the contradictions in his own worldview, and in the rants he types here, he goes with immaculate perception and ignores it, either trying to twist his meanings into logic pretzels or just ignoring criticisms he has no answer for and disappearing for a day or two, until he finds something in someone else's words he thought he heard a clever retort to. Notice how he keeps coming back to shame and absolutism? It shows what is bothering him. There's that old Tori Amos line that goes, "Got enough guilt to start my own religion."

" ... a culture wherein sex tapes & all-form deviancy are celebrated, sodomy is considered an appropriate subject for primary school students, and serial killers are considered desirable ..."

Serious obsessions here, and entirely the product of religious scapegoating. Last I checked, sex tapes are still use dot shame people, teachers get their licenses revoked in a heartbeat if they even mention things like this, and serial killers seen their lives in prison. But the US is full of hellfire preachers who lie about this stuff every day, and people who are stupid enough to believe them. We can talk about why religions are so focused on sexuality, but later, I want to do a little reading before I go to bed.

George Bernard Shaw was living through the Eugenics Movement, when Spencerian ideas were thick in the conversations of the movers and shakers of society, especially in the US, where it was becoming increasingly clear that our unions were no match for the ruthlessness of our captains of industry.

David Brin said...

Indeed, one can feel for the rural(ish) trauma that happens every June, when the local High School -- center of all life in most towns -- holds graduation. The teens who are the pride of the community hug and cry... whereupon the best and brightest then streak out of town as fast as their legs can carry them, heading toward the city strongholds of The Enemy. That implicit rebuke happens every single year and it must wear on the souls of those who stay behind, who thereupon create a mythology of the city-as-Mordor. A cesspit of iniquity, lacking all the wholesomeness of small town America...

...despite the real truth about which America has higher rates of teen sex, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, divorce, STDs, unwed mothers, dropouts... and if you leave out a few truly dismal cities, higher crime rates. 97% of the poorest counties in America are in Red States, though they have been net recipients of largesse... and much MORE so under FDR and LBJ than under Reagan or the Bushes.

Colorado offers free birth control and got a 40% drop in teen births and 35% drop in teen abortions. Texas teaches abstinence-only and has the 5th highest teen birth rate and the very highest rate of repeat birth among teens. Oh, and Child Maltreatment Death... what could be more fundamentally immoral? More fundamentally a sign of deep sickness? That you are in no position to lecture to us? That horror maps perfectly onto the Olde Confederacy plus neo-confed Indiana and Nebraska. (Plus purple Nevada and New Mexico, which have excuses.)

Blue America pays vastly more taxes, gets less back (yet whines far less) while Red America net-vampires and suckles and sucks net benefits, and then dares to bitch about taxes.
Oops! Facts are inconvenient to the narrative . And hence...

... while we should all become aware of the psychological roots of the hatred, that does not behoove us to sympathize. Universities are not Mordor and the cities are not Niffleheim or Hades or satanic. If young people choose to come, maybe it's because of the Flynn Effect... each generation getting smarter than the one before. As GOOD PARENTS SHOULD WANT!

The confederate narrative isn't just stupid and treason. It is insulting even to that face - purple with rage - that you see in the mirror. Calm... down...

TCB said...

I read something about the Greek financial crisis which explained much of it as follows: although Greece, like some other poorer European countries, is part of the EU and bound by all sorts of EU regulations such as using the Euro as a common currency, which hurts its economy. If your nation has a separate currency you can raise or lower its value to attract business, improve competitiveness, improve trade balances, all the usual things the Fed might do here in the US. Before the Euro it was all drachmas versus marks versus pounds sterling versus francs and dollars and rubles, etc. Since Greece now uses the same currency as an economic powerhouse like Germany, it can't do any of that, falls behind economically, faces increasing dire austerity measures (imposed by the Germans mainly, not the Greeks themselves! Ouch.)

So why don't US states like California maul weaker ones like Mississippi economically in the same way?

Federalism. Stronger states subsidize weaker ones with tax dollars for highways, military bases, welfare checks, food stamps, education money, and anything else that falls under the federal budget. Federalism is why Oklahoma and South Carolina are not the Greeces of America. The EU does not have federalism.

That's why it's not at all 'unfair' for Blue states with strong economies to pay more into the federal budget than they will ever get back (directly). Because we Americans are all in this thing together.

What's not fair is that Red state conservatives act like we are not all in this thing together. They want to be assholes about it, to take even more and never an ounce of gratitude. If we didn't have a federal system in the US they would KNOW it, and they would actually have a GOOD reason for seceding.

Without federalism, their best and brightest would not even wait to graduate school to leave, because the good schools would all be in Blue states. Oh wait, the Red state conservatives want to bugger up the schools too.

Tim Wolter said...

Am I the only one to respect the Politics/No Politics dimorphism?

Let me say a few nice things about Seth McFarland and The Orville.

McFarland has, by all reports, the usual political predilections of the Entertainment Industry. Which is to say Progressive/Leftist/Woke or whatever you prefer.

But he can still make an above average show while including this world view. His social commentary is deft, not a blunt instrument. He can have messages about acceptance of gay and transgender beings...but his captain is still wounded deeply by his ex wife's infidelity. He gets some anti-religious tone across (very Gene Roddenbury btw) but with understanding as to how somebody cooped up in a Colony ship might develop such a system. It took me most of the episode dealing with the religion of the Bad Aliens to figure out that is was a metaphor for Jihadism.

He is also a serious Trek fan, which is in his favor.

And those who have met him suggest he is actually a very nice guy.

Nuance and intelligence. It is not just the entertainment industry that could use more of it.

TW/Tacitus

TCB said...

@ Paul SB, yep, eugenics was considered respectable a century ago. I just remembered the very good show The Knick, which ran only two seasons (with Clive Owen, and directed by Steven Soderbergh; Soderbergh wanted to hand off to another director but the plan fell through; no matter, the two seasons tell a good story that ends in a satisfying place).

Anyway: Owen is the self-destructive star surgeon of New York City's fictional Knickerbocker Hospital circa 1900. Doctors are competing to invent new procedures and treatments.

One of his subordinates, an arrogant racist of only middling talent, suffers one catastrophe after another in both career and personal life (mostly by his own fault). At the end, his career at the Knick in tatters, he is invited to do lucrative lecture tours extolling the scientific virtues of eugenics.

In Germany.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

If you look at what you wrote about arch-conservative Ranch whining about not being able to have his '60s hippie freedoms, what you see is that his self-contradictions are not just in his own mind, they are a product of the inescapable individuality of the human mind in a huge population full of competing interests, all trying to persuade the masses to their own benefit. American conservatives have this almost schizophrenic delusion that their values are "pure" and internally consistent, but they are not even close. This nation was founded on the idea of social progress, where the rights of the ordinary citizen are guaranteed by the government, which was a reversal of nearly every nation-state before, where the focus was always on the rights of the government to rule the people and deny the people rights. This was radical stuff for the 18th Century, but centuries later it is a huge part of the American tradition and its charter myths. If you claim to be conservative here, then freedom and justice are a fundamental part of what that is supposed to mean.

The contradiction comes in the form of much older ideas that we tend to cling to, ideas that really have no place in a free country of equals. These ideas are bound in our traditional religions, though to be anthropological about it, those religions all coevolved with statehood, so it has as much to do with the needs of nations as supernatural claims. That is, supernatural claims essentially rubber stamp the social order of the state. These antiquated faiths are full of restrictions on freedom, restrictions which were needed to keep the politically powerful of the distant past in power. But those restrictions contradict the Enlightenment ideal of personal freedom. That contradiction should be obvious enough - it was the Enlightenment that championed personal freedom over dictatorship in the first place, and yet these right-wing nut jobs who go on and on about their freedom curse the very Enlightenment that legitimated freedom in the first place. But between segmentary opposition and the sunk cost effect, you can expect these people to obfuscate and lie to themselves about this, if they even have the wits to see the contradiction in the first place.

Our faux rancher has often shown an obsession with sexuality, an obsession which is entirely consistent with a religious upbringing. All of the world's religions place restrictions on sexuality, even at the level of the very smallest, band-level societies, so restrictions on sexuality have likely been a part of human existence stretching into prehistory. But there are some significant differences between the restrictions you see in the religions of nation-states and the restrictions you see in pre-state societies. In pre-state societies you have much more specific restrictions, but fewer of them. There is no human culture anywhere that does not have an institution of marriage, and none that lack incest taboos. We retain these at the state level. Beyond that, most small-scale societies demand sexual abstinence while a mother is breast feeding. This makes good sense in terms of limiting population growth, especially in marginal environments where population growth can be disastrous. It is also smart in terms of protecting the health of both mothers and children.

Paul SB said...

Larry con.t,

Get to the level of nations and what you have is something much more general - sexuality is regarded as sinful, impure, corruption. As old Geoff Chaucer noted many centuries ago, when something is forbidden it becomes obsession. Thus we have so much sexual violence and predation in state-level cultures where this is rare in smaller scale societies (with a few notable exceptions). Thus the obsession with sexuality - state-sponsored religions try to suppress a drive as fundamental to human live as breathing and eating. If you don't have food, what else are you going to think about except food? If you don't have air ... you get the picture.

Why do state-level societies all try to suppress natural instincts? Is it because reproduction is inherently evil or impure? No, concepts of impurity are created by cultures, not the other way around. It boils down to inheritance rights. It's easy enough to tell which baby belongs to what mother, you just need witnesses to the birth. But paternity has always been much more problematic. This makes trouble when it comes time to inherit in a patriarchal society, because males who did not pop out from the official spouse of a man can claim to be his son and demand an inheritance after his death. This is especially problematic when what is up for grabs is the Kingdom, or a barony, earldom, etc. Succession crises can tear kingdoms apart. Solution: insist that the process by which babies are made is sinful and will be punished by all-knowing supernatural forces to try to remove some of the motivation for women to cheat on their spouses. This also explains the double standard. Ultimately it is women's reproduction which has to be controlled, making it easier for men to get away with cheating. So even if officially all sex is sin, since abstinence is a painful war against instinct, those who have the power (powerful men) will tend to cheat in the rules and make up justifications for it later.

So American conservatism contains a built-in contradiction: they are trying to conserve a 200 year-old tradition of personal freedom created by the values of the Enlightenment and democracy, while at the same time trying to conserve the traditions and values of dictatorship, expressed largely through the religions that have always propped up dictatorship.

Paul SB said...

Tim,

Sorry, but maintaining the politics/no politics taboos isn't always easy, and generally when we are on an entertainment-related thread, if it doesn't stray into politics it doesn't get a whole lot of commentary before moving on to the next thread. Obviously the many blood-sucking parasites have infected us quite thoroughly.

it would be nice if I had both cable and the time to keep up with the latest Treks! I'm so far behind I never even finished watching "Voyager" and only caught a couple episodes of "Enterprise."

A question for you, though, regarding McFarlane's approach. If he is able to communicate his ideas in ways that are not sledge-hammer preachy and create fictional scenarios that are believable and show that his ideas are reasonable, does that mean you can concede that he might have a point? Sure, we are talking about fiction, here, not interpreting current or past events. Nonetheless, can he persuade you?

When I saw the reboot of "Cosmos" I knew that there was a huge segment of America that would close their eyes and plug their ears to it, because they have been taught that science is evil. Never mind that it is true whether those people believe it or they don't, people have sown their eyes shut against reality for as long as there have been people. But if you look at that episode about Patterson and his fight to get lead banned, it's a little hard to justify the conservative agenda to keep government out of business and let the rich and powerful do as they please. That does't mean endorsing the entire progressive program or subscribing to the most extreme ideas on the left, but common sense combined with a little science does suggest that allowing greedy and powerful people to do as they please can have very negative consequences.

Being rather middle-of-the-road myself (though that expression doesn't really cut it, as I follow sense where it takes me rather than toeing anyone's party line) these points might be kind of predictable.

Paul SB said...

TCB,

It sounds like art imitating reality. It has been a very long time since I read Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" but I recall one of the villains of Eugenics having the last name of Goddard. I wondered if he was related in any way to the much more famous rocket scientist, and thought it would be interesting to write a story that contrasts the two men, one trying to help people fly, the other trying to chain people down.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

Am I the only one to respect the Politics/No Politics dimorphism?


I think you're being schoolmarmish about a "rule" that doesn't exist.

Of course, our host can declare otherwise any time he thinks appropriate.

I tend not to be the first one to inject politics into a purely science-oriented post, but these days, the two subjects keep overlapping no matter what. Just as www.electoral-vote.com used to use more normal journalistic language in their articles, but now can't help injecting sarcasm at Trump. The times are what they are.


LarryHart said...

TCB:

...
That's why it's not at all 'unfair' for Blue states with strong economies to pay more into the federal budget than they will ever get back (directly). Because we Americans are all in this thing together.

What's not fair is that Red state conservatives act like we are not all in this thing together. They want to be assholes about it, to take even more and never an ounce of gratitude. If we didn't have a federal system in the US they would KNOW it, and they would actually have a GOOD reason for seceding.
...


TCB, if it were up to me to decide, you'd get post of the day.

David Brin said...

Wisdim from Tim!

I've been re-watching Bronowski's The Ascent of Man on YouTube. And channeling a micron of locum's cultural resentment over the way I twitch, when he uses "Man" and "he" for all humanity. Context of the time, indeed!

Tim H. said...

The replicants in Bladerunner trouble me, they're so obviously modified humans, and treated as property. Reminiscent of the granitic slavery in David Weber's "Honorverse", where a corporate entity "Owns" genetic material and whatever comes of it is considered property.

Tim Wolter said...

Paul SB

McFarland makes his points in a way that provokes thought. Very Trek. I like that his worldview includes consequences to actions. His protagonist is far too dedicated to his career...his marriage breaks up as a consequence. His (ex) wife is unfaithful...it has a negative impact on both of them. As real people would, they work to overcome this. Devotion to duty saves lives. A reconciliation, if uneasy, is working. I have to confess to being only a moderate fan of the show. So there are a couple of relevant eps that I started and did not finish. So when a major cultural difference between species becomes a source of conflict I don't need to watch to the end to see how they resolved it (forced gender reassignment of an infant yes/no). I'm willing to give the points for being honest and setting the question at all, complete with uncomfortable moments all around.

So much better than loading your screeds up in a sack, whacking people on the head with them and proclaiming the deplorable if they don't agree with you immediately and in all particulars.

"Ensign....alter heading to avoid further exposure to political radiation field".

Captain Tacitus

Paul SB said...

Tim,

You funny, I kill you never.

Any story is better the more easily you can suspend disbelief. People have to be people, "warts and all," as they say, and reality is always much more complex than a Medieval morality play would have you think.

Question: how different is whacking people on the head and declaring them deplorable from firing people right and left and declaring anyone who is not a billionaire losers?

"Captain, that radiation field is following us! Every time I alter course it matches our speed and heading."

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Thus the obsession with sexuality - state-sponsored religions try to suppress a drive as fundamental to human live as breathing and eating. If you don't have food, what else are you going to think about except food? If you don't have air ... you get the picture.


In fact, I used to argue that very position for years on the "Cerebus" list. Enforced abstinence twists the human spirit out of shape until you get such institutionalized perversions as "pedophile priests". More than a few Cerebites on the list considered Dave Sim's own conversion to celibacy as worthy of emulation, so they argued the opposite side--that if you scratch an itch, you make it worse, whereas if you leave it alone, it will leave you alone.

I claim the evidence of real life doesn't support that hypothesis. And it's easy to understand why. Sure, sex is different from food or air in that you won't literally die if you fail to get some. But our instincts are formed at the species level as well as at the individual level. If the species fails to reproduce, it will die. And those of us who were actually born are inheritors of the genes of those who did reproduce after all. So the fact that our bodies feel about sex the same way they do about food or air makes sense.

Also interesting is that the pro-celibacy Cerebites also tended to agree with Dave on monotheism being superior to secularism. It seems to me that only an irreligious person can argue that it's not a good idea to make use of the body's reproductive system. The idea that God intelligently designed so much purposeful hardware into the human body so that we can avoid making use of it boggles the mind. My mind, in any case.


This makes trouble when it comes time to inherit in a patriarchal society, because males who did not pop out from the official spouse of a man can claim to be his son and demand an inheritance after his death. This is especially problematic when what is up for grabs is the Kingdom, or a barony, earldom, etc. Succession crises can tear kingdoms apart. Solution: insist that the process by which babies are made is sinful and will be punished by all-knowing supernatural forces to try to remove some of the motivation for women to cheat on their spouses.


The supernatural punishment aspect seems designed more for the hoi-polloi. I think more to the point is the concept of "legitimacy" conferred by marriage. A brother from another mother doesn't get to press a claim because he is an illegitimate son.

This also explains the double standard. Ultimately it is women's reproduction which has to be controlled, making it easier for men to get away with cheating.


Yes, because legitimacy is essentially conferred by the mother. A man can cheat because if his mistress gets pregnant, the only result is a bastard child who doesn't get to inherit anything. But if the queen produces a son by another man which son manages to "pass" for the king's own...well, it's understandable why the king would guard his wife's "virtue" with the force of his authority--why what Guinevere did with Lancelot in the musical "Camelot" was considered not just adultery but literal treason.

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tac:

So much better than loading your screeds up in a sack, whacking people on the head with them and proclaiming the deplorable if they don't agree with you immediately and in all particulars.


I can't tell if you're directing that complaint at producers of heavy-handed stories in the entertainment field or at (yeah, er...choke, ahem!) some of us here on the list. If the latter, I think you do at least some of us a disservice. I proudly defend the use of "deplorable" to describe a subset of the opposition, but not merely because they are the opposition, let alone because I disagree with them on some things. By the time I get to calling names like "deplorable", I've been forced into it. Like, "I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but you're no longer leaving any doubt."

Literal Nazis who shout, "Jews will not replace us!" fit the bill. And like it or not, they are an essential part of the Republican base, and even the Republicans who don't agree with their sentiments feel/know that they can't afford to alienate those voters.

That's not "proclaiming the deplorable if they don't agree with you immediately and in all particulars." It's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.


"Ensign....alter heading to avoid further exposure to political radiation field".


By that, I take it you won't see this response. Sigh. I get that our personal tastes are different in this regard, but please understand that to some of us, the political discussions are not something that the discussion unfortunately derails to. It's the bread and butter of personal interest--especially at this moment in history.

LarryHart said...

This appeared way after the "onward..." of the last post. Lorraine commenting on Maureen Dowd's Republican brother:

If they move any further left, they will be driving in Britain.

LITERAL translation: If they move any farther left, they will be left of center.


Sarcasm aside, that's not what the guy is trying to say, but it is the reality of the situation.

And that comment is what makes me despair that we will ever be able to find a basis for compromise with that segment of the population. If they sincerely believe that the Democratic Party is operating that far to the left, basing their support for even the crazy Republicans on those fears, then our choices would seem to be limited to "let them rule us" or "take the reins of power away from them." I'd like to have a third option, but I'm not seeing one.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"Legitimacy" was the whole point. The kings really didn't care much if the peasantry was having orgies every New Year's Eve, as long as they paid their taxes. But once the God Kings of Sumer and Egypt started using these ideas to prevent their own wives from cheating on them, and precipitating succession crises, the symbols and memes they represent expanded and evolved. Once ice cream was only for the nobles, right? We are supposed to emulate our masters because they are "noble," so the demands for faithfulness among the aristocracy filtered down to the entire population. And of course supernatural punishment applied to the aristocrats - or at least their wives - as those were the original targets of the intervention. All of the world's major religions bear that same legacy. Details, names and rituals change, but as long as power is inherited by patriarchy, the demands to obey supernatural powers and punishment for "illegitimate" sexuality will remain. Never mind that the world is changing and those beliefs are holding us back from broader freedom. It's not too hard to see how the idea that some sex is "legitimate" and some is not can lead our more extreme thinkers to conclude that all sex is dirty. Once the genie gets out of the bottle, it's going to mutate and multiply throughout human life.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
I recall one of the villains of Eugenics having the last name of Goddard. I wondered if he was related in any way to the much more famous rocket scientist, and thought it would be interesting to write a story that contrasts the two men, one trying to help people fly, the other trying to chain people down.

They were both trying to "help people fly" - but one of them was horribly wrong about the way he went about it

David Brin said...


“But if the queen produces a son by another man which son manages to "pass" for the king's own…”

The dirty secret is that Queen Victoria probably could not have been sired by the son of GeorgeIII, as officially alleged. There is no known sign of haemophilia in her mother’s line or the Hannover royal line. Well… that’s the assertion of a book I glanced at…

"oh, no We can't evade the political radiation field, because of the foul space wind... its stench gets through our shields and bulkheads and gives headaches and will cause death. So set a course for the source. It's over there!

"To the right."

Smurphs said...

PSB said:

"Any story is better the more easily you can suspend disbelief."

This is exactly my problem with The Orville. When they do witty banter (and dick and fart jokes) on-board ship, it is fun and makes you feel like part of a family. When they do the same on a life-and-death away mission with an entire civilization in the balance, I can no longer suspend my disbelief and have to turn off the TV. Completely ruins the show for me. The only reason I'm still watching at all is because it does not bother my wife (as much).

Cari D. Burstein said...

@Paul SB Regarding miniseries, HBO has a grand tradition of high quality miniseries. Just recently they had "Big Little Lies" and "The Night Of". I'd love to see HBO do a mini-series of Glory Season, although I must admit I read it over 20 years ago and barely remember the story (although I do recall quite enjoying it). Given what they've pulled off with Game of Thrones I'd love to see them tackle more of the high quality sci-fi and fantasy stories out there that really belong as a series.

Childhood's End was also made into a short miniseries on Syfy recently but I wasn't particularly fond of the result.

locumranch said...



Reality often contradicts the reality that the individual perceives.

David grasps this truth occasionally when he notes that the putative US anti-immigration party (GOP) actually favours illegal immigration while the US pro-immigration party (Da Dems) opposes it.

The same holds true for the whole 'free' federally-subsidised University loan movement that has increased US university tuition costs by 100-fold, 'free' insurance subsidies for Obamacare that have almost tripled the average per capita insurance premium cost in less than 5 years, the 'Free' Love movement that has made the cost of a heterosexual relationship unaffordable for most men, and the Woman's Liberation movement which continues to criminalise & de-liberate male heterosexuality in deliberate fashion.

Perversely, note also how attempts to marginalise the deplorable Alt-Right has made it mainstream, how doubling-down on sexual harassment hysteria has led to the election of a Pussygrabber-in-Chief, and how attempts to delegitimise the white identity has led to the creation of a legitimate white identity movement.

If written-down analog style, the 'realities' that you misperceive would make the OED look like a pamphlet, insomuch as almost everything that you think you know about human psychology is wrong.

We're talking Thermian level credulousness here.


Best

Smurphs said...

Back to politics.


We're losing the tax reform battle. It's already out of the news cycle, which means if the GOP can stop fighting itself, they could pass it tomorrow. We can't depend on the GOP to commit fratricide. We have to act. Using reason and arguing facts sure won't work. Facts don't work these days.

And for once I have a concrete suggestion. Rename the tax cuts.

Every time someone mentions the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (or the "Cut, Cut, Cut Act", snort), we have to reply:

You mean the "Debt Bomb Act"? Or the "Trillion Dollar Deficit Act"?

There are a lot of creative people here, I'm sure someone can do better, as long as you get the concept across.

Much like calling the "Estate Tax", the "Death Tax", it's all about the optics. Or, as Dr. Brin likes to say, "Use judo on them!"



LarryHart said...

@Smurphs,

Maybe this will make you feel better (or maybe not, but still...)

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :


Forbes magazine, which is not exactly a noted bastion of left-wing politics, has come out against the GOP tax bill in no uncertain terms. Under the headline "GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington," longtime contributor and budget expert Stan Collender writes:


If it's enacted, the GOP tax cut now working its way through Congress will be the start of a decades-long economic policy disaster unlike any other that has occurred in American history.

There's no economic justification whatsoever for a tax cut at this time. U.S. GDP is growing, unemployment is close to 4 percent (below what is commonly considered "full employment"), corporate profits are at record levels and stock markets are soaring. It makes no sense to add any federal government-induced stimulus to all this private sector-caused economic activity, let alone a tax cut as big as this one.

This is actually the ideal time for Washington to be doing the opposite. But by damning the economic torpedoes and moving full-speed ahead, House and Senate Republicans and the Trump White House are setting up the U.S. for the modern-day analog of the inflation-producing guns-and-butter economic policy of the Vietnam era. The GOP tax bill will increase the federal deficit by $2 trillion or more over the next decade (the official estimates of $1.5 trillion hide the real amount with a witches brew of gimmicks and outright lies) that, unless all the rules have changed, is virtually certain to result in inflation and much higher interest rates than would otherwise occur.

Paul SB said...

Smurphs,

How about the "Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich Act" or more simply, the "Inverse Robin Hood Act?" Or maybe the "Been There, Done That - It Didn't Work Last Time Act?"

Cari,

The SyFy Channel is notorious for slaughtering good fiction. Greg Bear once told me about how they wanted to do a series based on his novel "Darwin's Children" which he thought was odd as it was a sequel that would be fairly incomprehensible without reading the first book. They want to make the "virus children" into something along the lines of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." He wisely pulled the plug. Better to not have a cinematographic version than to have one that makes you look stupid.

Duncan,

This Goddard fellow was very specific about helping people fly at the expense of those he considered inferior, which meant anyone who was not Caucasian, male, Christian and of West European extraction (he disliked Italians as much as blacks and Chinese). He was one of the people who convinced America that Binet's test measures some unalterable aspect of human nature. The damage people like this do lives on long past their own graves.

"Status on those torpedoes, Captain. They're locked and loaded."

Smurphs said...

Hasn't anybody noticed how all of the low and middle class tax cuts expire just in time for the 2024 election cycle, so they can run on tax cut again?

Blow up the deficit, then run on tax cuts and austerity. It doesn't matter if it is oxymoronic. It doesn't matter who dies. It's been working since 1980. They won't stop until the Republic falls.

Tony Fisk said...

I reread John Wyndham's "Chrysalids" recently, and was struck by the level of eugenics I found in it. The final speech by the unnamed Kiwi rescuer, and her callousness at the fate of the inferior beings (aka the characters' parents) with the advent of superior beings like themselves is palpably chilling.

... and then you realise who she's just come to rescue!

@Paul SB I've read "Radio". I suspect "Darwin's Children" on its own would come across as "the Midwich Cuckoos", which would be quite counter to Bear's original idea: his children were very empathic (in the good sense)

Daniel Duffy said...

Having seen the Blade Runner sequel, I am interested to see what Villaneuve does with the Dune remake.

locumranch said...



'Darwin's Children/Radio' and 'The Village of the Damned' are different interpretations of the very same tale:

(1) Each presents the very same fictional reality; and
(2) Each presentation results in distinct & diametrically opposed perceptions of the very same subject material.

The first reflects Xenophilia (aka 'Otherness'), the second reflects Xenopobia (aka 'Stranger Danger'), both are fictional, and both fictions make different assumptions as to the significance of said subject material.

The so-called 'facts' as presented are immaterial; idiosyncratic interpretation & perception of the so-called 'facts' is everything; and the reality perceived often contradicts the reality presented.

Is this so hard to understand?

Perceived Reality (yours, mine, ours) does not reflect actuality, merely an approximation thereof.


Best

TCB said...

@ LarryHart, YAYYYY thank you! Flattered.

@ Paul SB: you say,

"A question for you, though, regarding McFarlane's approach. If he is able to communicate his ideas in ways that are not sledge-hammer preachy and create fictional scenarios that are believable and show that his ideas are reasonable, does that mean you can concede that he might have a point? Sure, we are talking about fiction, here, not interpreting current or past events. Nonetheless, can he persuade you?"

This is a matter I like to think of as the Uncle Tom's Cabin Dilemma. It is a choice faced by any creator of fiction/poetry/art: shall I create Art, or shall I create polemicism/agitprop? Many writers insist that "If you want to send a message, call Western Union" because good art makes different demands than propaganda does. And there is something to this point. However:

Sometimes- sometimes- the situation demands persuasion rather than Art.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin would probably get mauled by writing circles, editors, and critics alike nowadays. The characters are rather flat, and even have names that telegraph whom to root for (a tactic well known in Dickens and Disney: people with names like Scrooge, Gradgrind, Cruella DeVil, and Maleficent are sure to have character flaws.) The plot is also intended to delineate the characters into clear villains and victims (as I recall, Simon Legree [likely allusion to greed and simony?] whips poor Uncle Tom to death). There's a reason nobody has done a movie of Cabin for a long time. It's just not a great dramatic property.

But Cabin is great agitprop. Beecher Stowe is like a literary siege engineer. She had one good battering ram and one well-chosen gate, and succeeded in forcing that one gate when it needed forcing. If Cabin were 'better' art, more like Melville or Twain, would it be less effective agitprop? I am confident Beecher Stowe would prefer to be a 'bad' artist who helped steer the nation toward freedom, than a 'good' artist who wrote some well-regarded books but failed her core mission.

Paul SB said...

TCB,

This is a discussion I have had many times and in many contexts. Your interpretation of Stowe sounds right to these ears. As a counter example you could look at Douglas Hyde. Who? Someone you would probably only know about if you were Irish or took a class about Irish history. He founded an influential 19th C. literary society and penned volumes of poetry meant to inspire the people to his cup against their English masters. His poetry was just plain bad, and he made a lot of noise but had very little actual affect on the nation at all. So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. There probably has to be a modicum of literary skill to raise interest and actually persuade people. I haven't read Cabin, but I expect it was probably at least somewhat better than the poetry of Douglas Hyde (which did not quite get to Vogon level as my poetry does).

Tony,

Did you feel like Bear went a little bit overboard in Darwin's Children when he had finds of different hominid fossils from very different time periods together apparently helping one another (on the subject of agitprop)? Overall I liked both books, but the archaeologist in me squirmed in places.

Jon S. said...

Tim, in case you were actually interested, the judicial board conceded that Bortus and the humans had a point, but they were ruling on a matter of law - and by law, the fact that Bortus' husband had already requested that the "error" be "corrected" meant that they were bound to do so.

Bortus was angry, but still loved his husband anyway. It was just going to take them a little while to move past the incident.

(There were also signs that the law might be changed in the future...)

TCB said...

Jon S., I saw that episode of Orville and I got the impression that the "correction" surgery was perhaps much more common than Bortus's people were willing to admit, and they'd been sweeping it under the rug... but maybe I got that wrong...

Steven Hammond said...

TCB said:

But Cabin is great agitprop. Beecher Stowe is like a literary siege engineer. She had one good battering ram and one well-chosen gate, and succeeded in forcing that one gate when it needed forcing. If Cabin were 'better' art, more like Melville or Twain, would it be less effective agitprop? I am confident Beecher Stowe would prefer to be a 'bad' artist who helped steer the nation toward freedom, than a 'good' artist who wrote some well-regarded books but failed her core mission.

I think this is pretty accurate, but I had to remind myself that Cabin didn't change many minds in the South or really lead to a nation-wide epiphany regarding the evils of American slavery. It did help make those already inclined against slavery or at least not emotionally invested in it see the practice as evil--and more important--it made them see the people benefiting from it as evil (and "other") . There is some real truth in the apocryphal statement of Lincoln's on meeting Beecher Stowe, "So this is the little lady who started this great war."

I don't mean to say that there was necessarily a way of avoiding that war, but agitprop is certainly useful in making war palatable to those going off to kill or die in said war (and the parents sending them.)

Does a more literary approach sow seeds that might take root in ground where agitprop wouldn't? I think so, but those truths are slow growing and sometimes time is of the essence so a less refined approach could be useful. This goes both ways, of course, as the Fox News agitprop has been remarkably successful for their short-sighted goals.

Tony Fisk said...

@PaulSB I should have been more clear. I haven't read Darwin's Children. To be honest, the first book didn't really grab me as a story (although the idea was interesting: I wonder what Dawkins and Gould would have made of it?).

Zepp Jamieson said...

TCB said: " If Cabin were 'better' art, more like Melville or Twain, would it be less effective agitprop? "

the most effective writings for bringing about social change are usually ones deemed "low art" by the writer's contemporaries. Shakespeare and King both have had major impact beyond their respective genres, as did Heinlein and Twain. In many cases, "low art" simply means "it speaks to the people."

Steven Hammond said...

Zepp Jamieson said:

the most effective writings for bringing about social change are usually ones deemed "low art" by the writer's contemporaries. Shakespeare and King both have had major impact beyond their respective genres, as did Heinlein and Twain. In many cases, "low art" simply means "it speaks to the people."

I think it's very hard these days for anyone in print media to bring about social changes. TBH, the writer with the most impact in the last 30 years is probably JK Rowling. The Harry Potter phenomenon will not be reproduced anytime soon and (for better or worse) her stories are now cultural touchstones acting just as the King James Bible did for generations.

Now, with so many ways to access stories and art such as youtube, Netflix and other streaming platforms, Spotify and others, it's so difficult to reach everyone in our country. I'm an oldster, so I remember when the miniseries Roots captivated a nation. I'm a fan of MST3K and the original series tapped into that nationally shared popular media experience. That has definitely changed.

I think people are also more savvy to being manipulated. More suspicious perhaps. Maybe this has to do with the Flynn effect, but it's very real. Viewers of current media are not only critical, but they also expect that in ongoing series, their thoughts and preferences may be addressed. The line between creator and audience is blurred to say the least.(I was a frequent poster on a site for the TV Show "Sleepy Hollow" which opened my eyes to varying concerns that some, people of color, and females people of color had.)

I still can't say why Harry Potter became a world-wide phenomenon while countless other fantasy stories after Tolkien and Lewis didn't. I'm tempted to say you need to be from the UK to write something that influential and I might opine about that elsewhere, but regardless, it's pretty damn hard to write something that the whole English-speaking population reads.

Video media is (i think) where to focus your attention as an artist with a message. Unfortunately. dystopian and feudalistic stories seem to have the upper hand. Lord or the Rings, The Hobbit, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones all come to mind.

It's hard to push aside 6,000 years of feudalism in a culture, We're so used to acquiescing to the desires of our betters--or maybe just those with power to hurt us--that we readily accept the idea of a better lord and master as opted to throwing aside the idea of anyone being our lord and master.

I realized how long this post was so please forgive me and "thanks" if you've read this far.

Love this forum!

Steve

TCB said...

Heh, 95% unrelated, but I read somewhere that Hugo's Les Miserables was released in serial form during the war, and was followed on both sides as avidly as Thrones. The Confederate troops sometimes called themselves "Lee's Miserables."

Steven Hammond said...

Addendum: In my experience on the site discussing Sleepy Hollow, the TV show, I learned about concerns grounded in reality, legitimate and worth being addressed by women, people of color and women of color. The show went downhill and I left the forum, but I appreciate the education I learned there and have gained a new understanding and appreciation for views of a wide variety of women.

It's probably a topic we should discuss at another time, but I have a question for folks here. (It's kind of an elephant in the room thing.)


Why are there so few women posting on this comment section?

locumranch said...


It's fascinating how the truly intelligent recognise the Agitprop nature of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' yet still insist that the Southern Confederacy was evil because of the fictionalised abuses detailed in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', even though the author admitted that it was fictionalised agitprop.

Absolute moralists like myself agree that slavery is BAD -- our Great Flying Spaghetti Monster said so in 'Exodus' -- but I'm at a lost to explain the ever-so enlightened atheist position, the Universe & reality being silent (as it is) about human dominance & submission.

I guess that such alleged abuses COULD have happened in the Old South -- assuming that ownership of other humans generated the same contempt as the ownership of automobiles, houses, horses or other other property -- but I (along with most of you) have yet to see to our neighbours burn down their houses everyday, take a sledgehammer to their prized Lexus just for kicks, or cripple their favorite horse before a trail ride.

By & large, shit like that just doesn't happen because 'ownership' means people take extraordinary care of their property. But, such abuses COULD happen which is why all of you hate the idea of both slavery & the new confederacy. We deplorables could turn into fearsome werewolves, rape your furniture, enslave your pets and your babies would welcome us as liberators.

No worries though. Your fears, furniture, pets & babies belong to you alone -- own it outright -- because we certainly won't as 'no ownership' means 'no responsibility'.

Best

Paul SB said...

Steven,

The question about why so few women has been asked here before, and I don't think anyone really had much of an answer, including women. My own suspicion is simply that this place gets to be really, really political, an arena women have been excluded from for so long that even though it is open to them legally, our culture still channels males and females into different attitudes and different interests. There's nothing biological about cooking and crochet vs cars and politics, but even the behavioral flexibility of being cultural animals can change at a glacial pace.

I think you are right about the proliferation of story-telling channels and how that makes it much more difficult for any one story teller to have a big impact. I remember "Roots" too, and the original "Cosmos" not long after, and shows like "MASH" that became part of the national conversation (and I suspect helped to form the personalities of young people in that time), but those were the days when there were half a dozen TV stations to choose from, and kids spent more of their time running around outside in the healthy sun.

I'm not so sure about the impression that younger people are more savvy and aware of manipulation. As a high school teacher I have a bit of experience with the young's, though in a limited geographic/SES range. It only seems to me that they are aware of some ways they are being manipulated, but remain quite blind to others. Certainly their ability to think critically about what they see on the Internet needs major work, and they don't seem to be any more critical of their own biases than previous generations.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

Who defines what is "high art" and what is "low?" The people who own the means of meme production - the upper crusties as I like to call them - are the ones making those distinctions. Since they are on top of the social/financial food chain, they tend to favor the status quo that puts them on top. They don't have a lot of incentive to call for change, unless it's change that allows them to suck more of society's life-blood. But on the lower end, there is the idea going around that if a story means something it's bunk, which is another way that people use their feet for target practice.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Steve: clear back in the 60's, Marshall MacLuhan (sp?) identified print media, including books, magazines and newspapers as "cool media" and predicted their influence would decline in comparison to "hot media". I think radio is moving in that direction, cooling off in the face of satellite and internet sources for talk, music and entertainment.
Still, some books still carry heavy influence: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, or Life of Pi. The Road. GRR Martin's tomes. And so on.
Radio and commercial TV are largely silly and irrelevant. The action is online these days.

Steven Hammond said...

And now we come to the part of our program with Mr Locum Ranch! (clap, clap, clap)

Locum Ranch said: It's fascinating how the truly intelligent recognise the Agitprop nature of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' yet still insist that the Southern Confederacy was evil because of the fictionalised abuses detailed in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', even though the author admitted that it was fictionalised agitprop.

Absolute moralists like myself agree that slavery is BAD -- our Great Flying Spaghetti Monster said so in 'Exodus' -- but I'm at a lost to explain the ever-so enlightened atheist position, the Universe & reality being silent (as it is) about human dominance & submission.


I'm glad you find the fact that we liberals self-criticize and. to extend the idea further, that scientists rely on peer review to help assess thoughts, plans and ideas that are often very powerful and have (potentially) very harmful effects.

That being said, you know very well that the accounts in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" were not just fictionalized but moderated to make them readable by a wide audience. If Beecher-Stowe wrote a very real account of the very common rape of slaves by their owners and the callous treatment of subsequent offspring--sending them off to even worse situations absent from family--the audience of the day wouldn't believe it, but there is so much evidence to show how common and bad this treatment was.

I'm glad you believe slavery is bad though I'm not sure how you read Exodus. I'm not an atheist, BTW, I'm a former Christian who is now agnostic in the true sense who is hopeful that some of the ideas of Jesus are "true" (in the absolute sense) but
recognizes some limited benefit at least to his philosophy--picking and choosing what I like, of course. :)

Your other raving about how much owners care for their "property" are wrong. People extract from their property what pleasure and satisfaction they can. If they see people as property, well...rape etc is part and parcel of the whole enterprise.

I'm actually surprised to see you try and defend such an egregious institution. I expected better of you for whatever reason..

Steven Hammond said...

Hi Paul SB and Zepp!

Your thoughts are insightful and worth pondering. And so I shall. I hope to have some thoughts worth reading...tomorrow. :)

Goodnight!

Jon S. said...

Exodus 21:2-6
2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

Leviticus 25:44-46
44 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Ephesians 6:5
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

1 Timothy 6:1
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.

I dunno, man, I don't think the Bible agrees with Loco about what it says...

Paul SB said...

Jon,

Glad you pulled quotes out from both Old and New. If you had only quoted Exodus & Leviticus, many people would respond that the NT supersedes the OT and then deny that the NT has anything bad in it at all.

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

Love this forum!


I'm thankful for it myself.


Why are there so few women posting on this comment section?


Because "Women don't read science fiction"?

I can only extrapolate from "Why don't more women visit comics shops?" and suggest that they don't feel welcome or they aren't interested in the subject matter. My wife is a fan of science fiction and a fan of David Brin's (she got me to read the Uplift books), and I talk about what's on the forum all the time, and yet she has no inclination to spend time "here".


LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

If you had only quoted Exodus & Leviticus, many people would respond that the NT supersedes the OT and then deny that the NT has anything bad in it at all.


I don't know, it seems to me that Christians who want to find support for slavery in the Bible easily do so all the time.

There does seem to be a schism within American conservatism between those who (as you say) lay claim for conservatism to the idea that slavery is wrong vs. the ones who insist that slavery never should have been abolished. Both sides claim to be backed up by God.

We spoke earlier of movies in which you have to know that the writer expects the audience to cheer and boo at certain times, even if the film doesn't really make you feel that way at the correct moments. Did you ever try watching the 1915 "Birth of a Nation"? The ultimate example of the sort of thing we discussed about George Lucas, Ayn Rand et al is the climax of that film--a heroic save-the-day cavalry charge by the fully-sheeted Ku Klux Klan!

LarryHart said...

@Troutwaxer, very late in the previous thread...

On free range kids, I tend to agree with you. I'm not sure all of the "Big Mothering" in that arena comes from liberals, but some of it does, and I wish they'd cut it out. Dave Sim distinguishes between types of female power structures: Cirinists (Mothers) and Kevillists (Daughters), the former being more like the wives in "A Handmaid's Tale" and the latter being his perception of 1980s feminists. While he conflated Kevillists with liberalism, Cirinists were more like family-values conservatives. He considered Anita Bryant and Margaret Thatcher to be Cirinists, for example. And that, rather than progressivism, seems to be where forced helicopter parenting comes from.

On drug laws, I agree completely, but do understand that draconian drug enforcement is a tool of the right, not the left. And the whole point of civil asset forfeiture is to raise revenue.

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB | Oh, crap. I'll go to jail if I report this now... so maybe I just play along...

They actually train against that in the classes they put us through every year. No... you might not wind up in jail... if you come forward. If I were ever trapped that way, I suspect they'll be upset and and my career might end, but they might have another use for me if I'm willing to wear a wire. 8)

What they try to get across in the training is "The Institution Isn't Stupid... just partially blind and deaf.' They teach us to maintain some situational awareness so we watch out for each other because that increases the odds of catching people who have been trapped. If the perceived odds are high enough, those people might just choose not to play along.

They also talk about punishments, but more often they focus upon improving our chances of detection. The punishments are already bad enough.

David Brin said...

Amazement! locumranch actually perceived something he was shown! That the GOP is the party of illegal immigration, while dems are responsible for the demographic effects of legal immigration. If goppers got mad at THAT, at least they would scream at dems for something they actually did, isntead of making up Clinton fantasies, black helicopters, gun-confiscation, death panels and all the rest of the standard bull.

Beyond that, his cause and effect assertions are evidence-free nonsense. It’s the GOP that specifically outlawed sovereign US citizens from refinancing one kind of debt… student loans. Utter, utter monsters.

Smurphs, I’d love to spread those memes! But I am listened to by a few thousands, sometimes a few tens of thousands. I don’t have that kind of push, alas!

Larryhart, try to give full URLs so I can link to the sources more easily.


===
But he goes back to evil! Pure, unadulterated evil.
"It's fascinating how the truly intelligent recognise the Agitprop nature of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' yet still insist that the Southern Confederacy was evil because of the fictionalised abuses detailed in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', even though the author admitted that it was fictionalised agitprop."

We know that every single abuse that was told in that book actually happened thousands of times. Vile, even in his illogic.

Twominds said...

@Steven Hammond and others

I'm a woman, and I comment here now and again. I don't know if there are others with a nym or neutral name are female here. It doesn't feel like a lot.

I found that when my gender is known especially at a technical forum, my questions and comments get a different reception than when it's assumed I'm male. I get more detailed and interesting answers. I think it's often not deliberate, not meant as a snub, still the difference in interaction is there.

I don't expect that to happen here too, barring one or two commenters.

I comment here not that often for a couple of reasons. It's hard to follow the details of american politics from across the pond, and that's a main subject here. Mostly I read here in the morning before I go to work, and I have little time to comment.

@Larry Hart:
I love science fiction, always have!

David Brin said...

Twominds I hope you've always felt fairly treated here, and will be, in future. Your perspectives are welcome. Especially so.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | lay claim for conservatism to the idea that slavery is wrong

Yah. We libertarians like to poke our Conservative neighbors by asking them what they actually conserve. On things like this point, they are conserving a tradition born of old-school liberalism. Much of conservatism in the US connects to classical liberalism. The divergence (from my perspective) occurs where traditions related to faith are defended. There is the historical fact that old-school liberals were often anti-organized-church, but of mixed opinions regarding private faith. The first time I heard the phrase "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" I thought the speaker was referring to our unspoken truce that keeps us (mostly) out of religious squabbles. 8)

Except for conservatives believing the trickle-down voodoo nonsense, a lot of their fiscal ideas can also be traced to classical liberalism. One big error, though, is too much trust in corporate rule. Yah. Many libertarians do that too. The notion that we should all be mostly let be to look out for our own interests is classical, though. A lot of conservatives will defend that up until social and faith traditions get them to hedge their positions

... like standing for the national anthem at football/baseball games. Can't disrespect anyone! Shame! Pfft. The old-school liberal in me finds anthem playing at games mildly annoying (pledges are worse as they are blatant fealty oaths) and a social expectation that I display patriotic passion VERY annoying. I do more in each day to help my country than they know, so how DARE they!

Conservatives are necessary, though. If not for them, many more traditions would have been toppled by now. Many traditions emerge in such a way that the people following them don't even know what problem got solved. Remove the tradition, though, and we might find out. Serial monogamy? Kinda useful as a damper on sexually transmitted diseases. I don't think our ancestors who adopted it and later enforced it knew that, though. Is it necessary now? Nah. We have a decent germ theory... now.

Alfred Differ said...

@Twominds | I was going to blame our testosterone and our inclination to compete with each other. Many of us are doing exactly that. It's not about knock down arguments, though. It's about getting our message clear and communicating it.

In other words, I was going to blame it on a bunch of us engaging in intellectual strutting. That's a guy's dance. 8)


I'm with David's tone, though. The dance gets old... and boring... and pointless. I prefer a mix.

Cari D. Burstein said...

On the topic of women posting here, I've been an active reader of this blog and the comment threads for years, but I almost never post, and on the rare occasions I do it's usually anonymous.

As Twominds mentioned, specifically stating you're female in an online forum tends to color the way people interact with you. When I got my first internet account back in college (in the early 90s), I was told by my male friend who first introduced me to the internet not to pick a female sounding username or I'd get random talk requests from Singapore. Even when I use my real name, most people seem to assume a poster is male and misread Cari as Carl (granted there are many men by the name of Cari although I don't know any who spell it the way I do).

Most of the groups I participated in discussions with were not problematic, but I'm also a gamer, and in the gaming sphere women very much get treated differently, to the point that a lot of women would choose to either play male characters or avoid revealing they're female to short circuit any problems they might run into. I never hid that I was female, but I didn't go out of my way to point it out either, and I've run into my fair share of wacky behavior in response to it. Sci-fi audiences have a fairly high overlap with gamers, so I imagine women who come to this site as sci-fi fans have probably gotten used to not drawing attention to themselves.

I also suspect some of it is just that women in general have probably learned to be more circumspect in general about public commentary in mixed or male dominant groups. I probably way overanalyze anything I post, especially if I sign my name to it. All the stories about women getting harassed online are always bouncing around in my mind anytime I think about posting, although I've personally not had any serious issues of the type.

@PaulSB For the record, I'm not sure I considered Childhood's End to be all that good fiction. The concept was interesting but the writing style did not appeal to me. It felt very dry and I couldn't really seem to care about any of the characters, so when the Syfy version had a similar problem I wasn't sure whether to blame the network or the story. I have enjoyed some Syfy series like The Expanse, Dark Matter and Defiance, but their quality seems to be irregular, and certainly not at the level of HBO. Netflix also sometimes does miniseries, so I could see them pulling off something with quality.

Theresa williams said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony Fisk said...

We appear to have acquired a duck*!

*It's a fair cop.

Tim Wolter said...

Oh, my. It may be deleted shortly but has the discussion on relative absence of female posters here provoked the obvious spam post from a purported female? Are the spambots that smart?
Sometimes when I post on my own site I try to lay a spambot trap just to see what happens. It is actually difficult to write something with chopped up diction that has as a subject the sort of things spambots seem inclined to offer me. (The usual...plus lots of industrial equipment!).
They never seem to take the bait.

TW/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Twominds:

@Larry Hart:
I love science fiction, always have!


I purposely put the quotes around "Women don't like science fiction", meaning it's a generally accepted notion. I know it doesn't reflect reality, as I've been married to a fan for 21 years. I introduced her to "The Postman" (which she read in basically one sitting--she's one of those), but it had never occurred to me to search out other books by the same author. She, in turn, found the rest of Dr Brin's repertoire and introduced me to them.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@LarryHart | lay claim for conservatism to the idea that slavery is wrong

Yah. We libertarians like to poke our Conservative neighbors by asking them what they actually conserve. On things like this point, they are conserving a tradition born of old-school liberalism.


I've mentioned before my conservative buddy on the "Cerebus" list with whom I used to be able to have truly enlightening discussions until Obama's election drove him insane. He once argued to me with a straight face that "slavery is bad" and "civil rights for everyone" were legitimate conservative values because they had stood the test of time. Basically, his claim was that liberals come up with all sorts of whacky ideas to upset the apple cart, and therefore should be resisted, but when a few of those ideas prove out over time, then conservatives agree to conserve them. It was his way of saying that liberal values (those not blessed by conservatives) are always bad and conservative values are always good.

He completely failed to grasp (willfully, I believe) that by his own argument, conservatives were completely dependent on liberals for their values in the first place, and that all those that conservatives eventually adopted as their own were values they had earlier opposed.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

Oh, my. It may be deleted shortly but has the discussion on relative absence of female posters here provoked the obvious spam post from a purported female? Are the spambots that smart?


I don't know the answer, but I have seen that particular spam message before.

It seems to believe that what it offers is more enticing than it really is. My daughter recently had her first life's lesson in relationship break-ups, and while she misses having a boyfriend, she doesn't want that one back. The ham-handed way he broke up with her (by text message, no less) helped her see that clearly.

LarryHart said...

Ok, let's try this permalink:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2017/Senate/Maps/Nov27.html#item-5

I include this here to point out the pieces I rendered in bold. This site always used to use much more journalistic language, and has only started using this sort of snark very recently. It does seem to be what the times demand, though.


The argument being made by [CFPB assistant director] English's opponents, with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Wal-Mart) taking the lead, is that her appointment is "unconstitutional." Fortunately, there just so happens to be a copy of that document on the Internet, and in Art. II, Sec. 2 it says:

-> [The president] shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges
-> of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments
-> are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the
-> Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think
-> proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Careful readers will observe that Congress is specifically empowered to vest the right to choose inferior officers—like, say, the assistant director of the CFPB—in the heads of departments—like, say, the director of the CFPB. Perhaps they do not cover the Constitution at Cotton's alma mater, Harvard Law. But inasmuch as that is exactly what Dodd-Frank does, then English would appear to have the stronger of the two arguments, and Cotton would appear to have the weaker. Of course, the courts have been known to allow politics to intrude on their rulings on occasion, so we shall have to wait and see what they come up with.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The evils of slavery were manifest long before Uncle Tom's Cabin was written. Like all really effective propaganda, Cabin made strong use of actual truth. The accounts were fictional, but not particularly exaggerated. Indeed, descriptions of some of the worst excesses of slavery would have made the book unpublishable.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Who defines what is "high art" and what is "low?"

As mentioned, contemporaries. I recognize your point that in an era of manufactured consent, we are sometimes managed into our opinions, but it wasn't always so. Cromwell and the Puritans may have hated Shakespeare, but the reason he was viewed as entertainment for the common folk was because back then, those were his audiences. Admission was a ha'penny, and sideshows included jugglers and dancing bears. Leaving the critics to sniff disdainfully. And be ignored.

Same with King now. Critics bash him, for the most part, but his books still sell in the millions, and they'll be teaching him in college a hundred years from now, and students will grown and ask why they can't read something other than this high-brow shit from the 20th century.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"It's hard to follow the details of american politics from across the pond, and that's a main subject here."

Imagine if somehow Boris Johnson became Queen, and you'll get a glimpse of what we're dealing with here. Or Nigel Farage became head of the BBC.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

I love your point about how the low-brow stuff of one time period becomes the high-brow stuff of the future. Think about how Jazz was derided by the upper crusties from Jelly Roll Morton up until the '70s, when some of the high brows seem to have decided that they wanted some way to deny claims of racism against them. It also fits very well with Larry's discussion, and Alfred's previous assertion, that much of what conservatives are conserving are actually the low-brow liberal values of earlier ages. I had such fun in my youth watching jehovah's Witnesses get into spats with Catholics over all those Christian holidays that just happen to correlate with the pagan traditions that were there before Christianity.

I can only think of one counter-example, where it went in the opposite direction, but it goes over such a long time span it's much more understandable. That would be beer. I used to participate in an internet discussion group focused on Aegean archaeology, where I asked an innocent question about what evidence there might have been for brewing beer among the Minoan and Mykenaean civilizations. I was immediately lambasted by high-brow wine culture snobs who insisted that there was. " ... no way the Mykenaeans were pot-bellied, beer-guzzling plebes!" (to the best of my memory). I pointed out that beer was invented in Mesopotamia, where it was a drink for the nobility, not the unwashed masses, and an Egyptologist pointed out that up until the New Kingdom beer was reserved strictly for the Pharaoh. There was even a Sumerian goddess of beer, named Nanki. Somehow beer fell from grace over the millennia. The high brows also assumed that I must be a beer drinker whose agenda was to legitimize the drink. Couldn't be further from the truth - it all smells like goat pee to me.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jazz is an interesting example, PaulSB. You're correct in that many people deprecated it as "Negro music", but in Harlem, at least, a big chunk of the audience were flappers and zoot suits; definitely the high-caste "Zelda" set. I think in the twenties through the sixties, you're opinion of jazz largely rested on whether you were a racist or not.

Paul SB said...

Cari,

I'll have to confess a lack of experience here, as I have had so little time for TV since I became a school teacher 14 years ago, I'm just way behind.

Cari & Twominds,

It's easy to forget that on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog, as they say. It's going to take a long time before Western culture gets past the default male assumption, but things are slowly improving. I'm glad you have been willing to make statements here, and I wonder how many others are hiding behind pseudonyms. A majority of the regulars here are not at all disrespectful (with a couple obvious exceptions), and I think there are many who would bend over backwards to be extra polite - a sort of sexual version of "white guilt." The guilt thing doesn't motivate me, personally, because I see people as individuals rather than as mass-produced stereotypes. If some men are pigs, that's terrible, but it doesn't mean that all men are pigs, nor that those who are not pigs should feel guilty because someone else is. I never owned a slave and have no desire to. It doesn't matter if ancestors of mine might have, they are not me.

But then, I'm something of weirdo by most people's accounting. I'm more concerned about truth and fairness than about belonging to some fictitious clonal order. Maybe I have a disease, or maybe I never truly grew up. It bugged me when I was in elementary school how most of the boys treated the girls, and I swore to never let myself become typical in that way. People are people.

I used to be a gamer, but face-to-face, not on line. There it's pretty hard to hide, but when you get mixed groups I found that the civility factor tended to rise, which made the business more enjoyable. Much of the being more circumspect applies to any subordinated group, though I imagine it must be doubly so for the color purple. It's all about who has power and status in society. The powerful can afford to express their idiosyncrasies, while the weak have to try harder to appear to conform.

Fans of science fiction, which is most of the people who come here, tend to be on the more intelligent side. Well, let me qualify that statement. Fans of "hard" science fiction (I hate that term) tend to be a smarter lot, though that is not necessarily true for fans of space opera, which only wears the trappings of science fiction. That's why our trolls are having such a hard time here. They are used to wowing pug-ignorant people with their intellectoid demeanor, but here we shoot holes in every argument. Look at the latest pro-slavery/pro-Confederacy silliness. In the days before the automobile, when horses were the main means of transportation - and an expensive one at that - it was quite common for owners to abuse their horses, precisely because horses are living things with a will of their own. Beating has always been seen as a way to put an end to resistance, and you can expect a human would be even more resistant to being treated as property. Yet another False Equivalence argument. That stuff might work with Fox bobbleheads, but not here.

raito said...

Paul SB,

The non-network content makers make miniseries. HBO, Netflix, PBS, etc. (which others have already said, but I'm catching up here)

TCB,

The only Star Wars parody worth watching is Hardware Wars.

Tim H.,

Maybe I'm older, but created humans as property go back to R.U.R. for me.

LarryHart,

I slightly disagree about civil asset forfeiture. My take is that originally, it was a tacit admission that 'justice' can be bought. At the present time, though, it certainly is about revenue.

On the rest of it..

Lucas only started to stink at plot and characters when he went all Campbellian. And I'm not sure old Joe would approve. There's a big, big difference between what Campbell did (attempting to figure out what various myths had in common) and what Lucas did (attempt to force stories into that mold, even if they didn't fit). Moorcock did it a lot better.

But look at Lucas's earlier works. Both versions of THX 1138 (very different from each other). American Graffiti. Indiana Jones (the stories anyway). Even Willow (also story).

Still, a much better (as I've said many times) thematic arc would have been Jedi vs. Clones. Is it better to take each one to their maximum, or to have a million of your 'best' guy. (Though Jango and Boba are laughable at being best.)

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

But then, I'm something of weirdo by most people's accounting. I'm more concerned about truth and fairness than about belonging to some fictitious clonal order. Maybe I have a disease,...


That disease used to be called "being an American".

Twominds said...

Tim Wolter, I hope Dr.Brin will leave that spam. The timing is hilarious! The English too. Does anyone recognise the spammers' native tongue?

Larry, I'm one of those too. I just read the second Uplift trilogies, in basically a weekend. I did that deliberately, because I knew I had a lot to do the week after, and I didn't want to spend energy staying away from the books when facing boring but necessary chores.
I did recognise your tongue-in-cheek by the way!

Zepp, there's another bit of water between me and the US. UK politics are strange to me too. But I think I'd have an equivalent in imagining Wilders as our king. Shudder!

On the subject of if and how people react differently to women than to men:
I'm active in another forum, that one at least 90% female, with an enormous range of topics.
Some males there have a male name/nym or avatar, some do not. I'm going to open a thread there, asking if they feel that they're treated differently if they're assumed to be women too. I know that I do assume everyone there is female, until I know someone's not. Here, it's the other way round.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

LarryHart,

I slightly disagree about civil asset forfeiture. My take is that originally, it was a tacit admission that 'justice' can be bought. At the present time, though, it certainly is about revenue.


Well, since I used the present tense, you're not really disagreeing, are you?


Lucas only started to stink at plot and characters when he went all Campbellian. And I'm not sure old Joe would approve. There's a big, big difference between what Campbell did (attempting to figure out what various myths had in common) and what Lucas did (attempt to force stories into that mold, even if they didn't fit).


Exactly. I have made the same argument. In addition to your list of better Lucas movies, I would add the original "Star Wars". When he decided to deform that movie by turning it into a Campbellian mold, he (IMHO) did what Dave Sim called "A kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead."

I've found that people who argue in favor of Lucas generally mean something analogous to "It's his gold, so if he wants to turn it into lead, that's his right." Which is true, but irrelevant. Just because it's your gold to turn into lead doesn't make lead better than gold. If one wishes to argue that even turning gold into lead is still quite the physics accomplishment and can be appreciated as such, that has some truth as well, but is also irrelevant. That's a great magic trick, but you could accomplish the same end by selling a small fraction of the gold and buying lead with the money. In addition to the lead, you'd still own a lot of gold.


Still, a much better (as I've said many times) thematic arc would have been Jedi vs. Clones.


I think "The Clone Wars" was just a whiz-bang throwaway phrase that sounded good as part of a backstory. It wasn't worth two whole movies leading up to an explanation to have the term make sense. We don't need hours of exposition to explain how you can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

Here's an aside which I once mentioned on the "Cerebus" list. In the first movie, Princess Leia's recording says to Obi Wan (emphasis mine) "You fought with my father in the Clone Wars." Now, I'm sure that was meant to be read as "You fought alongside my father," and the father in question was Bail Organa. But if you think about the literal wording in light of what we know from later movies, the sentence has some interesting, likely-unintended connotations.

LarryHart said...

Twominds:

Larry, I'm one of those too. I just read the second Uplift trilogies, in basically a weekend. I did that deliberately, because I knew I had a lot to do the week after, and I didn't want to spend energy staying away from the books when facing boring but necessary chores.


And I'm a different thing, in fact the opposite thing. I began the unofficial sequel to Asimov's "Foundation" series--"Psychohistorical Crisis"--in late July, and I still have about a third of its 700 pages left to read. There are people on this list who literally can't understand* someone doing that. The fact is, I'll be sad when it's over and there's no more left to read.

* I'm reminded of an episode of The West Wing in which known alcoholic Aaron Sorkin describes the mind of an alcoholic through the character of Leo McGarry. Paraphrasing: "You don't leave a glass half empty. You don't understand people who can leave a glass half empty."

LarryHart said...

Twominds:

I did recognise your tongue-in-cheek by the way!


In light of Harvey Weinstein and company, I'm not sure that phrasing helps me.

:)


But I think I'd have an equivalent in imagining Wilders as our king. Shudder!


Norway, is it? My wife's family has a business connection to Denmark. We were just in Copenhagen (and Berlin) the summer before last. Right around the summer solstice too.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry: I tend to take weeks or months to read a book, but on the other hand, I may be reading a half dozen books at any given time (Nooks are wonderful that way) jumping from one to another as the mood strikes. An exception is when I'm reading a book for review; I'll usually take about four days to read one of those, ten minutes if it's obvious crap from the get-go. There are books you know are going to be rubbish before you even get to the ISBN number. You read the first chapter as a kind of formality, for the same reason you watch a train wreck.

Two Minds: are you by chance a fan of SSSS?

locumranch said...


Indeed, you'd expect that any human -- especially one who believes slavery to be immoral -- would be even more resistant to either treating others as property or being treated as property, yet so many of you support a status quo wherein (1) Wage Slavery is commonly accepted, (2) California balances its budget on the back of forced penal labour, (3) the US & EU Family Court System have re-instituted Debtor's Prison for those males who cannot afford to pay court-ordered disbursements and (4) any male can be tried, convicted & deprived of his livelihood in the Court of Public Opinion on the basis of unsupported allegations.

And, then there's the modern concept of racial & gender privilege which is used to devalue, cheat & marginalise those identity group villeins (mostly males) who construct, repair, maintain, feed, clothe & protect those mighty cities full of oppressed victims. You call that 'privilege'?

For those who don't own a dictionary, the term 'privilege' is defined as "special right, immunity, reward or benefit granted or bestowed". During the halcyon days of actual Meritocracy, social privilege was once bestowed as a reward for exemplary public service, but no longer. Now it is commonly used as a term of disapproval, disapprobation & condemnation.

Well, those of us with deplorable privilege have taken the hint: We recognise that we are more likely to be punished for years of meritorious service as we are to be rewarded; we expect our good faith efforts to minimised, taxed & misappropriated; and, to be brutally honest, our hearts just aren't into this whole self-martyrdom thing any longer.

The Money you pay us with is valueless to us because it can purchase neither acceptance, nor hearth, nor heart, nor home, nor what we desire.

And we are NOT anyone's slaves, including yours.


Best
____
It does not matter what PSB believes: He is an individual with 'privilege' who insinuates himself around children; and, he will be judged guilty of potential gender & racial malfeasance by association. Then, they will come for you and you and you, and we will not speak for you because you've already thrown us to the wolves to prove your 'merit' to the status quo. Now, enjoy your newfound 'privilege'.

Cari D. Burstein said...

@Steven Hammond On the topic of reaching everyone in the days of so much streaming content- I actually wonder if in some ways it isn't easier now. There's certainly less overlap of what people watch in general given how many choices there are, but on the other hand it's much easier to catch up on the truly popular content when you're behind and get other people excited about it through social media and other instant forms of communication. So it seems like some shows end up being watched by far more people than they would have historically although it takes longer for everyone to jump on the bandwagon. I never would have expected Game of Thrones to become the phenomenon it is, where even my mother watches it and has read all the books.

That being said, my favorite outgrowth of all this variety of content is the success of higher quality stories which require a slower build. In the days with only a few networks and almost everyone watching live, if you had complicated stories it was pretty difficult to get anyone into them, especially since you'd usually end up starting in the middle. Now that you can catch up on years of a series in a few weeks they can really make meatier stories that never would have succeeded 20 years ago.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

our hearts just aren't into this whole self-martyrdom thing any longer.


So certain are you?

It sure sounds to me as if you aren't into much but the whole self-martyrdom thing.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Going back to "Who's the best director", here is a little gem from a couple of years ago. Warning: f-bombs ahead!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wYtG7aQTHA

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Your Star Wars/Clone Wars post is addressed to me, but it was Raito who wrote what you responded to. Stuff happens, especially when you are reading several posts in one sitting.

Not all people who have strong feelings about fairness and truth are/were American, regardless of what they used to say on the old Superman show. Case in point: Charlie Darwin, who grew up in a staunchly abolitionist family and devoted a lot of his work to (very subtly, possibly too subtly) to finding a scientific argument against slavery. America has some good things going for it, but it hardly has a monopoly.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

Yes, Jazz has an interesting history. One of my favorite stories is actually about Stravinsky, who became enamored of Jazz in the twenties and wrote his own jazz suites. He sent the scores to his favorite band in Chicago (I don't remember who they were, unfortunately) asking them if they would perform his music for him. The jazz musicians looked over his score and said it isn't really jazz, but he asked so politely they agreed to do it for him. He flew out to Chicago once they accepted, and the band members got the impression that what he really wanted was just to shake their hands. He acted a bit like an ecstatic fan, and at a time when a whole lot of Caucasoids absolutely would not shake hands with an African American.

Thinking about this reminded of a thread or two back when people were discussing Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Someone brought up the fact that Tolkien said that he did not write allegory. I was going to make a point about that with another musician's tale. Antonin Dvorak was so harassed by reporters after the performance of his ninth symphony, titled the "New World," about American influences, that one day he burst out and swore it was pure Bohemian music. I kind of think that Tolkien may have made that statement for a similar reason - he didn't like being compared to Lewis, who was a far inferior, far more transparent and pedantic writer. I could be wrong, but it's hard to read Tolkien without reference to the ages he studied.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Stravinsky may have had a more art-related motive: he wanted jazz to embrace achromatic scales.

LarryHart said...

@raito and @PaulSB,

Ah, yes, those posts that begin addressed to someone else's name sometimes get confusing.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

That wouldn't surprise me. Stravinsky was trained by Rimsky-Korsakov, who was a flaming nationalist interested in creating music that defied the largely German classical form. Stravinsky seemed to be much less interested in nationalism and more interested in playing with the art of music.

Smurphs said...

Dr Brin said:

I’d love to spread those memes! But I am listened to by a few thousands, sometimes a few tens of thousands. I don’t have that kind of push, alas!

Hey, I am well aware your reach may be limited, but it is still about three orders of magnitude greater than mine. Have at it!

Twominds said...

LarryHart:the Netherlands, actually.

Zepp Jamieson: I don't know the acronym, what book or series do you mean?

Locumranch: yes, there's still a whole lot to do.

Tim Wolter said...

Twominds

Allow me to add my welcome. ConBrin can be an interesting place.

As is the Netherlands. Around here we often touch on issues of current interest to you, the colonial past, the changes in European demographics, how much regulation should there be on capitalism, legalization of drugs.

Likely you will have a few things to say on such matters.

Groeten!

Tim Wolter/Tacitus

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin, I am sorry for the loss of your friend Jerry Pournelle. But perhaps you should see another side of him. Please feel free to rebut this description.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/from-lucifers-hammer-to-newts-moon-base-to-donalds-wallthe-sci-fi-roots-of-the-far-right

"The Sci-Fi Roots of the Far Right—From ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ to Newt’s Moon Base to Donald’s Wall"

Pournelle — who died earlier this month — first rose to prominence as part of an influential group of right-wing science-fiction writers in the 1970s and 1980s that also included Larry Niven, David Drake, Janet Morris, and S. M. Stirling. All envisioned the best of a militarized humanity breaking away from the evils of bureaucracy and bleeding-hearts and aggressively colonizing and conquering space, exploiting its military and financial potential. Unlike most conservatives, all were less concerned with preserving the past for its own sake than for planning for the future—their preferred future.

In partnership with Niven, Pournelle’s science-fiction married aggressive military might with Atlas Shrugged-style techno-futurist fantasies and nativist paranoia, offering what in retrospect looks like an uncannily prescient portrait of the Trump era and its cultural overtones. Take, for example, the pair’s Hugo-nominated 1977 novel Lucifer’s Hammer, which depicts a small ranch of patriotic American farmers as they struggle to survive after a comet hits earth. Early on, the farmers debate how to keep out undesirables:

“They'll all be here, all that can get here," Christopher shouted. “Los Angeles, and the San Joaquin, and what's left of San Francisco … How long can we keep it up, lettin' those people come here?”

"Be n**gers too," someone shouted from the floor. He looked self-consciously at two black faces at the end of the room. "Okay, sorry—no. I'm not sorry. Lucius, you own land. You work it. But city n**gers, whining about equality—you don't want 'em either!"

The black man said nothing. He seemed to shrink away from the group, and he sat very quietly with his son.

"Lucius Carter's all right," George Christopher said. "But Frank's right about the others. City people. Tourists. Hippies. Be here in droves pretty soon. We have to stop them."

This kind of scene — the asterisks are mine; they spelled the word out — plays on the same fears Trump stoked in his campaign of immigrants and undesirables invading the “real” America. Yet Pournelle and Niven yoked this divisiveness to an Ayn Randian view of technological progress, in which there are those who work and those who leech.

In Lucifer’s Hammer, the free-thinking libertarian survivors, naturally, win the day over their wrong-thinking competition. The hippy-dippy Shire collective, who attempt to rebuild society according to principles of socialism and environmentalism, is wiped out because of its weakness, forced to submit to the cannibalistic New Brotherhood Army—led by the inhumane Sergeant Hooker, a black man. Strong leader Senator Jellison (who is white) then asks former Shire founder Hugo Beck what went wrong, and Beck says his fellow hippies just never realized how great technology and laissez-faire economics were, and now all his old friends are dining on human flesh under the thumb of a scary black communist.

We also learn that the New Brotherhood Army is very politically correct—they are genuine Social Justice Warriors—and forces equality on its members: “And you never say anything bad about blacks, or chicanos, or anybody else. First couple of days they just slap you for it…but if you don't learn fast they figure you're not really converted …”

One antagonist of Lucifer’s Hammer is Alim Nassor, a black man who loots during the day of the comet, then goes on to start a gang that eventually links up with the New Brotherhood Army. (At one point, he kills a follower who won’t eat human flesh.) Nassor’s name is of his own choosing:

Zepp Jamieson said...

Two Minds asked: Zepp Jamieson: I don't know the acronym, what book or series do you mean?

Stand Still, Stay Silent. One of the best on-line graphic novels around. Situated in the Nordic lands in a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Twominds said...

Zepp, something to check out, thanks!

I return Scandinavia and the World in case you haven't seen that one yet. Dry and funny!

Jon S. said...

Interesting way to take quotes from Lucifer's Hammer out of context. For starters, those "libertarians" quickly evolved into a fiefdom, with the Senator as the effective King ("the high and low justice", as Hamner put it), and with the rulership passing to the man who married her daughter.

Also, that scene quoted above? It was continued with others, including the local preacher, pointing out the immorality (and impracticality) of Christopher's position. The Senator overrode Christopher on the immigration policy, although until they got a crop going he wanted newcomers to prove they'd be useful to the community. (Limited resources, dontcha know.)

As for the New Brotherhood, sure, they talked the talk on social justice - because one of their organizers used to be a televangelist. He's also the one who decided that since the world had ended, his followers were angels, and eating human flesh was now permissible - even required. That elided response to a "failure to learn"? They got tossed into the pot, eaten by the rest of the Angels.

I think the author of that article just skimmed the book, looking for bits to support his prearranged conclusions, without actually reading to see what the book was in fact about.

Steven Hammond said...

Cari D. Burstein said:

On the topic of reaching everyone in the days of so much streaming content- I actually wonder if in some ways it isn't easier now. There's certainly less overlap of what people watch in general given how many choices there are, but on the other hand it's much easier to catch up on the truly popular content when you're behind and get other people excited about it through social media and other instant forms of communication. So it seems like some shows end up being watched by far more people than they would have historically although it takes longer for everyone to jump on the bandwagon. I never would have expected Game of Thrones to become the phenomenon it is, where even my mother watches it and has read all the books.

Good point! I would say, though, that there are demographics that are hindered from accessing the wide range of streaming media such as those in some rural areas without broad-band internet access, those who can't afford to pay for a Netflix or HBO Go subscription- not to mention the proliferation of other streaming platforms-or may be a bit older and not tech savvy or interested in this new-fangled streaming thing. Of course there are work-arounds for people who can't afford an HBO Go subscription such as using a friend's account, signing up just for a month or two etc. I'm not sure if streaming service prices will go up or down in the future. It may evolve more into something like Amazon Prime where you can buy access to a season of your favorite show on a one off basis, but that's pretty expensive now and adds up quickly.

In any event, I worry that the lack of access to popular media will leave some folks with only crappy media and crappy internet access so they end-up spending their time posting on FB or some weird Sagebrush rebellion forum railing against "the urban elites with their goldang Game of Thrones and Kimmy Schmidts." It could happen... :)

Oh, and I totally agree that streaming media and the competition for viewers (and dollars) has led to some really great content that can afford to tell stories that can't be squashed into a two or three hour movie, or even a trilogy of two or three hour movies and can't be profitable if done on network television. Obviously this added scope allows the possibility of some serious character development and plot twists in original content, and for allowing these very things that made the original stories so enjoyable in adaptations or other works.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Scandinavia and the World

Very cool! I got to "white-on-white hate crime" and lost it I was laughing so hard. Definitely going to have fun exploring that one!

David Brin said...

Cari, please speak up any time. If you ever want to wade in with sharp elbows, pseudonyms are acceptable! But seriously… do we look dangerous? ;-) Gruff sometimes….

Yes, Childhood’s End does not stand up to modern standards… but then, we are standing on those shoulders.

Tim/Tac: I am often amazed by how little filtering I must do on this site. That might end at any time, e.g. when Putin’s guys decide they need more disruption here.

“Imagine if somehow Boris Johnson became Queen, and you'll get a glimpse of what we're dealing with here. Or Nigel Farage became head of the BBC.”

Alas, Zepp, you are too modest. We have the Brits beat on the loony front, hands down. Look at George F. Will’s jeremiads against Trump! When such a large and evil intellect cringes at what he-himself helped to create, you know it must be a work of art.

Dan Duffy, I infuriated Jerry Pournelle for 30 years, because I never accepted his cliches of left-right and always used judo to show his position was untenable, including the “star wars” systems that - in fact - I didn’t mind spending R&D on, but his rationale was lame. Despite that, I believe he was a man who WANTED to be honorable. Even if in many cases - e.g. regarding me - he sometimes did not behave that way.

David Brin said...


locum’s latest expressed a howl of pain over his own life… and indeed, even taking into account possible (even-likely) emotional exaggeration, it is quite possible he was the victim of a terrible person. I certainly have been abused by truly demonic members of the opposite sex.

The problem though is generalizing from anecdotes — even painfully personal ones — is dumb.

David Brin said...

Announcement! We may be in Helsinki then LAPLAND in March to lead a bunch of folks observing aurorae at an arctic resort.

Anyone expert at cold weather amateur astronomy/telescopes?

Paul SB said...

Steven,

It's very easy for people to take the words of a character in a story and simply assume that they represent the intentions of the author. This is a discussion I have had many times, especially with Heinlein fans - and a few detractors. It's pretty witless, but not everyone can read between the lines.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Alas, Zepp, you are too modest. We have the Brits beat on the loony front, hands down. Look at George F. Will’s jeremiads against Trump!"

T'aint irony if it ain't deliberate. Them's the roolz.

Although I'm not sure which is the more surreal: Will discussing Trump, or Friedman discussing climate change. Either way, it's a bit like encountering a garden snail that can sing opera.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Anyone expert at cold weather amateur astronomy/telescopes? "

Don't lick the metal bits.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Re: Jerry Pournelle, I didn't know him personally, but I would point out that everyone needs to find a way to sleep at night, assured that they are honorable. It's not as easy to be honest with yourself about when you are being dishonorable. Fairness does require some effort to self-assess honestly, which is something humans have never been too good at.

Locum goes beyond dumb, way beyond dumb, beyond even willful ignorance. His idea of being honorable is to hurl unsubtle libel at anyone who disagrees with anything he thinks, which pretty much covers most of the human species.

Steven Hammond said...

Paul SB said:

Steven,

It's very easy for people to take the words of a character in a story and simply assume that they represent the intentions of the author. This is a discussion I have had many times, especially with Heinlein fans - and a few detractors. It's pretty witless, but not everyone can read between the lines.


I'm afraid I'm not clear on what of my many stream of consciousness posts/thoughts this refers to. ;) Please remind me with a bit more context. I'm sure my confusion is my own fault.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Who defines what is "high art" and what is "low?"


My sense is that "high art" is supposed to be analogous to a fine wine which only an educated and highly trained palate can appreciate the subtleties of. Low art is "too easy"--it takes little skill, but anyone can be entertained by it. Of course, that's how you reach "anyone" with your message.

There's a place for both. I do enjoy it when I "get" the higher aspects of a work which might go past the average reader or listener. But if the goal is to spread a meme far and wide, then low art is probably your best medium.

LarryHart said...

@Twominds,

As Maxwell Smart would have it, "I hope I wasn't outta line with that crack about Norway". I'm not sure how I mixed those countries up, as I've actually been to The Netherlands (albeit almost 20 years ago). Y'know, it's easy enough to find the correct train from Delft into Amsterdam without knowing the language, but it's not so easy to find the correct train back out. Just sayin'.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Yes, Childhood’s End does not stand up to modern standards… but then, we are standing on those shoulders.


I have a soft spot for "Childhood's End" that it maybe doesn't deserve because it was the first full-length science fiction novel that I ever read, and at the impressionable age of 15. Some of the touches that I remember fondly--the bit about Karellen being depicted in a political cartoon in the Chicago Tribune, for example--may be the kind of thing that is done just as well or better in other books, but because CE was my first, they stuck with me. I'll always remember the line about "It was a golden age, but gold is also the color of sunset."

And the character who stowed away to the Overlords' planet because he was pining for unrequited love--that just hit way too close to home at the time. It was as if Clarke had looked into my life and wrote a book about it. :) He even got the year correct--although written much earlier, the action took place in 1975, which happened to be when I was reading it.

Needless to say, I don't expect anyone else's experience with the book was the same as mine.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

T'aint irony if it ain't deliberate. Them's the roolz.


That's not right, is it? Or was that an ironic comment? :)

I'm thinking almost the opposite is true. If you're making a clever play on words, that's not irony. If you're saying something that you think is persuasive of an argument, but it actually makes the case for the opposing argument (which also happens to be true), then that's ironic.


Either way, it's a bit like encountering a garden snail that can sing opera


I'm not sure what the simile actually implies, but that just makes it funnier. Maybe that's ironic.

Steven Hammond said...

Zepp Jamieson said:

Steve: clear back in the 60's, Marshall MacLuhan (sp?) identified print media, including books, magazines and newspapers as "cool media" and predicted their influence would decline in comparison to "hot media". I think radio is moving in that direction, cooling off in the face of satellite and internet sources for talk, music and entertainment.
Still, some books still carry heavy influence: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, or Life of Pi. The Road. GRR Martin's tomes. And so on.
Radio and commercial TV are largely silly and irrelevant. The action is online these days.


That's interesting and as I'm not familiar with the details Marshall Mac's argument, I wonder if he differentiate media that has a lasting influence on a culture and those that are more ephemeral and faddish. I think some sociologist could get a grant to explore this in an academic setting. Is it the media or the message? I've argued that J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter work is a cultural touchstone for a generation of (at least) the Anglo-sphere. Is this influence real and substantial? In what way is it substantial? (Standing up for the rights of house-elves or their proxies, perhaps?) Were the books or the movies more important to the Harry Potter generation? (My 24 year old daughter actually agrees with this thesis of mine and says the books were the prime mover, here-that's unusual from her, BTW. :) )

Zepp, I agree with you about radio "cooling off". My suspicion is that the automation of radio and whatever algorithms they use to decide which song to play have eliminated much of the feeling that "something new" would be coming on next. Something that the actual human host might enthuse about, tell some backstory, relate it to groups you listened to in the past. And if you worked at it, you could find a station that was "cool" , which I suspect actually means "hot" according to Marshall Mac. This station would provide a connection to artists that had some hidden knowledge or at least provide you with some knowledge of what some interesting people listened to. It might rub off and make you interesting as well. I suspect this all is out there now but harder to find. My kids probably know, but they won't tell me. (Ingrates)

Paul SB said...

Steven,

Sorry, that comment was actually intended for Jon. My brain!

My introduction to Harry Potter came in the form of two Chinese kids who had lived in Japan for a few years, who were obsessed with the books, though they were not reading them in English. My wife and I decided to treat them to the first movie. Then that family moved to Vegas and I didn't pay much attention to the series after that. But the books seem to have a pretty wide audience outside the Anglosphere as well.

Jon S. said...

It's even worse than that, Paul - they had to take a few words out of context from one character, and then completely ignore the context for another, even though the context was revealed in the post's previous paragraph. (Say that three times fast with marbles in your mouth, and you'll never need a dentist again!)

Steven Hammond said...

Paul SB said:

Steven,

Sorry, that comment was actually intended for Jon. My brain!

My introduction to Harry Potter came in the form of two Chinese kids who had lived in Japan for a few years, who were obsessed with the books, though they were not reading them in English. My wife and I decided to treat them to the first movie. Then that family moved to Vegas and I didn't pay much attention to the series after that. But the books seem to have a pretty wide audience outside the Anglosphere as well.


No worries! I'm just that I didn't say something especially offensive--at least this time.

Interesting about the obsession those two Chinese kids had for Harry Potter. I wouldn't think the stories would be that universally enjoyed, but at the same time, it doesn't surprise me. I'm not sure ho to explain that great love for the story. So many have tried to replicate whatever those stories had but with no similar success. The same could be said for the imitators of Tolkien, I suspect. That was very kind of you to take them to see the first movie, BTW, and I'm sure you and your wife's kindness will be remembered.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Childhood's End: I think I read it when I was 14, and for years considered it Clarke's finest work. There was a three part miniseries made of it a couple of years ago that was not bad.

My first full SF novel was "Orphans of the Sky."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Steve Hammond wrote: " My suspicion is that the automation of radio and whatever algorithms they use to decide which song to play have eliminated much of the feeling that "something new" would be coming on next."

I listen to RadioParadise.com fairly often precisely because there's likely to be something in the next hour I've never heard before and want to hear again. Thanks to them, I've discovered the Waterboys, Erik Satie, Pentangle and Ludivicio Enauldi. Plus others. Great station. Virtually no DJ chatter and no ads.

Paul SB said...

Jon,

Yeah, it sounds more deliberate than misunderstood. I am in the bad habit of assuming that incompetence is more likely than malevolence, but maybe not since the Newt started us down the path we are on.

Steven,

I am not easily offended, and try not to jump to conclusions too quickly. And there aren't a lot of people here who really are offensive.

When I was an undergrad, books, articles and anthropology professors were constantly noting how different life is for some humans than it is for Western society. It was an important idea - that our customs do not represent the sum total of human nature, nor the pinnacle of human accomplishment. But after a year or so I came to realize something - it's not a West vs. East thing. It's a nation-state vs. everyone else thing. The similarities between the nations of Asia and their needs to the West is fundamental. The kind of stories told here are the kind of stories told there in important ways. So if you can get past ethnonationalism, it's not hard to find something of value in stories from different nations. It's the stories created by tribes, bands and chiefdoms that are truly different. I'm not surprised that those Chinese kids could get into Harry Potter, even though the story takes place in England and uses European concepts of magic. Their sense of what is right and what is wrong is largely the same.

As to being remembered, never forget Harrison's Law. Never volunteer, for no good deed shall go unpunished.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re Jerry Pournelle

From the POV of an ingrained lefty Pournelle was right more often than he was wrong!
when he was growing up and for most of his life one of the constants was a steadily growing crime and especially violent crime rate

Violent crime and especially violent crime in the cities grew from 1960 - until about 1996
It was after 2000 before this trend had plainly stopped and reversed

This idea that crime was rising, with no apparent end point has driven a huge amount of Science Fiction - and is still current with most writers

If we were living in that world - where violence was increasing - then Jerry Pournelle's ideas and societies look a lot more sensible

Instead we are living in a world where we lucked out - a solution for a different problem (air pollution) required catalytic converters which meant that we had to take the lead out of petrol
It was only after the removal of the lead that it became completely obvious just how much damage it had done

Jerry Pournelle never fell into the Randian stupidity of only a tiny percentage of the people being able to contribute
In his societies almost everybody - except those trapped by "the system" - contributed

He was wrong about how societies that have not been poisoned by lead behave - and took the free enterprize idea to an extreme
But he believed as I do that we can use our minds and technology to fix things
To "Survive With Style"

I will miss his writing

locumranch said...


Like Paul_SB's confusion between that which is 'defied' and that which is 'deified', Larry_H equivocates between 'playing martyr' & 'martyr-dumb' (neither of which appeals to me) and 'irony' & 'sarcastic hyperbole' (both of which do).

I mean, really now, don't you cockeyed optimist wackadoos ever get tired of being wrong, insomuch as your vaunted Enlightenment Morality is just the Lockean extension of the same old illogical, archaic & unscientific absolute, objective and divine moral fictions that religious fundamentalist zealots hold dear?

'Better Angels', either fallen or unfallen, are biblical fiction. The Quality of Mercy which 'droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven' has only anecdotal support. Universal intelligence, purpose, law or intent is teleological nonsense. Only universal indifference has been validated by science. Romantic Love is a 14th Century fairy story; Liberty, Equality & Fraternity are 18th Century tall tales; the healing powers of Kellogg's Cereal & Positive Thinking were the 19th & 20th Century versions; and Unity through Diversity is the modern equivalent.

It's almost as 'scientific' as the timely invocation of 'Lucifer's Hammer' (by Niven & Pournelle, published 1978), an eerily prophetic post-apocalyptic tale of a Postman who delivers junk mail, self-abases & literally 'chokes chickens' in order to ingratiate himself to the nearest pseudo-aristocratic feudal protector.

Coincidence? Perhaps, except for a certain Uplift novel which prominently features other chicken chokings of the interstellar variety.

By the by, I've been reworking Hawthorne's 'Scarlet Letter' to reflect modernity's rejection of absolute morality:

After hooking (up?) with Dimmesdale, an empowered Prynne pops out a baby but nobody cares except Chillingsworth who (1) is placed in stocks & publicly condemned, (2) loses his home, his business & half-his-stuff, (3) is accused of unspoken & non-physical domestic violence by making Prynne feel unsafe, (4) is sentenced to a lifetime of forced labour in order to pay ruinous alimony & child support and (5) ultimately imprisoned for penury when his health fails. Dimmesdale runs for public office, gets caught in a sting operation at a public washroom, but is celebrated for being 'stunning and brave' when he renounces his toxic masculinity & self-identifies as female. Single-mother Prynne has 3 other babies with 3 other unidentified men, is held up as a role model by Governor Bellingham (who seeks reelection) & faces no consequences whatsoever. Happy Endings USA !!!

It's Theatre of the Absurd on global scale.


Best

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

I'm just that I didn't say something especially offensive--at least this time.

Interesting about the obsession those two Chinese kids ... I'm not sure ho to explain


Isn't that offensive?

:)

Zepp Jamieson said...

"I wonder if he differentiate media that has a lasting influence on a culture and those that are more ephemeral and faddish."

What media would you characterise as ephemeral and faddish? I think I would need to understand that before I could frame a coherent answer.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Pournelle: I was sorry to hear of his death. Never met the man, disagreed with his politics, but had enormous respect for him as a writer. Any writer can annoy; a good writer will annoy and inspire. Pournelle was a good writer.

LarryHart said...

locumranch equivocates between "irony and sarcastic exaggeration" and lying.

Cari D. Burstein said...

Regarding Childhood's End- I actually only read it a few years ago (when I heard it was being made into a series), so my take on the book is probably colored from 30 years of sci-fi books and TV shows. I might have felt different had I read it in my early years. That being said, I think my problem had less to do with the story and more to do with Clarke's style, which just feels so sterile. I read one of his other books before on the recommendation of my boyfriend, but it really felt more like he just had an idea and built a story around it without actually breathing any life into the characters involved in the story. So the idea is interesting enough, but the story didn't really grab me.

To contrast though, I also have recently been reading a lot of Octavia Butler who I'd somehow managed to skip in my earlier years. Her books also seem to start with an idea she wants to build a story around, but the characters really pulled me in and made me care about what was going on. Granted, Butler is from a later period than Clarke, but they're both somewhat dated compared to today's stories and I just didn't feel the same way about them.

I think it just depends on what you like in your books though. I often can't process a lot of the heavily science laden sci-fi books, not because I don't find science interesting, but because I just can't slog through pages and pages describing the science in detail instead of showing it through the perspective of the people living with it. I have the same problem with some military sci-fi, if it's done well I quite enjoy it, but when they spend all their time describing battles in minute detail instead of what's going on with the personalities in the story I start to tune out. So some of the most popular authors I end up giving up on because their style just doesn't mesh with mine.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

What media would you characterise as ephemeral and faddish? I think I would need to understand that before I could frame a coherent answer.


Miami Vice? Dynasty? Moonlighting?

LarryHart said...

Cari D. Burstein:

I often can't process a lot of the heavily science laden sci-fi books, not because I don't find science interesting, but because I just can't slog through pages and pages describing the science in detail instead of showing it through the perspective of the people living with it.


See, I thought Clarke did that very well. I especially like "Imperial Earth", which is nothing at all what the title sounds like. One section involves a trip from Titan to Earth in the fastest ship in history and makes it as understandable to the reader as a cruise ship.

I also enjoyed "Rendezvous With Rama", which I just recently read in while in my 50s. It made the discoveries inside an artificial alien ecosystem entirely plausible, despite (or maybe because of) surprise after surprise as the story progressed.

Paul SB said...

Cari,

My daughter has read quite a few by Octavia Butler and enjoyed them a lot, and not just her science fictions. I haven't had the time, but with Christmas break looking I just might. Are there any you would recommend?

Cari D. Burstein said...

@LarryHart To clarify- I actually wasn't trying to say his books were a science slog. That was more a reference to other sci-fi that everyone tells me I must read and then try and find I can't get through. Clarke's issue I found was just that his characters weren't all that interesting because he seemed to care more about the idea than the characters. My boyfriend likes his style, probably because he's more interested in the ideas than characters. The other book of Clarke's I've read is "The Light of Other Days".

Then again writers can go too far in the opposite direction. I just read "The Uploaded" by Ferrett Steinmenz, based on a Big Idea post on Scalzi's blog. The idea was really fascinating, but man, the execution was completely muddied by the attempt to make it somewhat of a teen hero story. I still enjoyed the story but I felt like if he'd focused more on the idea than the character drama it would have done it a lot more justice.

Cari D. Burstein said...

@PaulSB I quite enjoyed the Lilith's Brood series. I thought it was a fascinating take on an alien species and how they might interact with humans. I also recently enjoyed the Parable of the Sower/Talents books, although apparently I accidentally read them in the wrong order (which didn't actually mess things up, but was a bit confusing when I went to read the second book and realized I was in the past of the first). I think I actually started reading those because of Brin's references to them in the comments section here- it is a bit scary to read them thinking about the the current state of the country, because you can see some connections to current events.

BTW if anyone else here uses Goodreads and wants to add me, I find it quite useful to see what other people who have similar book tastes have rated. This is my link: https://www.goodreads.com/friend/i?feature=friend-invite-url&i=LTM2MDQ4NjcyOTM6Mzcw

Zepp Jamieson said...

Bruce Willis is a media?
Next you'll be telling me there's five elements...

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Clarke's style, which just feels so sterile..."
It wasn't sterile as much as it was heavily constrained. His characters were very British, and it is hard to imagine them feeling emotions much stronger than "rather put out about that". That famous British reticence.
Where Clarke excelled, beyond nearly any other science fiction writer, was in instilling a sense of wonder. Rendezvous with Rama is a good example: his characters may have been wandering around inside the thing and saying things like "Oh, I say, that's rather clever" but I was reading descriptions of the ark with eyes the size of dinner plates.

Tony Fisk said...

I haven't come across the HP books v movies argument before. I have to say that I thought "Fantastic Beasts" was wonderful without a book. One reviewer said (unkindly) to forget the plot and just revel in Scamander's menagerie! On that note, I think the producers missed a beat by not giving David Attenborough a cameo, but there's the sequel to come...

There were a surprising number of SF novels lying around the dusty bookshelves of rural Australian libraries in the sixties. I well understand Pratchett's reference to "L-space". My first SF novel... I think it might have been John Christopher's "City of Gold and Lead", was snaffled from the slightly more senior shelf of the primary school library I attended. Probably a bit old for 8-9. The brief section where Will is told that the Masters beamed hypnotic videos into peoples' TVs so that they thought it the best thing to go out and be capped into servitude is worthy of TASAT. Earlier than that, TV series Doctor Who and Lost in Space, and the Anderson puppet series (I know where Elon got his rapid transport ideas from!)

LarryHart said...

A variation on colonels running in red states. This one probably won't win, but might help as a spoiler.

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2017/Senate/Maps/Nov28.html#item-4


Col. Lee Busby, USMC (ret.) is launching a write-in campaign for senator from Alabama. Busby said that neither of the current candidates, Roy Moore (R) or Doug Jones (D), is qualified to be senator.
...
Even if all votes for Busbee, Bussby, Bussbee, Busybee, Busbea, Buzbee, and Buzzbee are counted for him, the colonel has zero chance of being elected the next senator from Alabama. But he does have a decent chance of helping Jones win. The polls so far have shown it to be close race between Moore and Jones. It is almost inconceivable that more than a handful of Democrats vote for Busby, as Jones is a credible candidate with no scandals or even missteps in his campaign. However, more than a few Republicans who think Moore is disgusting but can't bring themselves to voting for a Democrat now have an outlet to help Jones win but have a clean conscience doing so by voting for a pro-life military officer. If even 5% of the Republicans write in Busby, that could be enough to elect Jones.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Where Clarke excelled, beyond nearly any other science fiction writer, was in instilling a sense of wonder. Rendezvous with Rama is a good example: his characters may have been wandering around inside the thing and saying things like "Oh, I say, that's rather clever" but I was reading descriptions of the ark with eyes the size of dinner plates.


That's exactly what I felt as well.

And "Imperial Earth" instilled the same sense of wonder, not so much at any technology, but at America. The book was published in 1976 as a tribute to the American bicentennial, and took place in 2276 around the celebrations of the 500th anniversary. And considering that the author is British (and very much so) the tribute seems more genuine as it is not narcissistic.

Paul SB said...

Cari,

Thanks for the suggestions. I will ask my daughter when she gets up if she has read any of those and see what she thinks. It's good to triangulate. I have never used Goodreads, except to buy books from, so I'll check that out, too.

On the subject of sterile writing styles, this is a major gripe I have with a lot of old science fiction. I once picked up Poul Anderson's "Tau Zero" and found it to be a real slog to get through. While the physics of it was interesting (though not entirely new to me at that time, so no dinner-plate eyes), the characters were so dull I found it very hard to care what happened to them. The early years of sci-fi were often like that - the writers were so entranced with the world of physics they wanted to share their excitement with others, but too often they just weren't all that good at the basics of writing. Star Wars made science fiction much more mainstream, and in spite of Lucas' poor writing skills, it eventually improved the quality of science fiction overall by bringing more people into it. For a long time after Star Wars all we were getting was space opera stuff - science fiction in name only - but we are seeing a return of real science fiction done by authors who know how to write good stories as well as good science. There were always some gems in that respect, but it seems to be getting better.

Tim H. said...

An Arthur C. Clarke novel I enjoy re-reading is "The Songs of Distant Earth", in which a starship from Earth visits a colony started by a seed ship. Clarke's 2001 novel has the virtue of making Kubrick"s 2001 more accessible.
And Octavia Butler being mentioned upthread, her story "Bloodchild" was amazing.

Troutwaxer said...

"On drug laws, I agree completely, but do understand that draconian drug enforcement is a tool of the right, not the left."

I'm not sure it matter whether any particular aspect of "Big Momma" comes from the right or the left. There are certain categories of law which are easy to abuse, and which probably do more harm than good, regardless of which variety of do-gooder has backed them. In fact, one of the problems in identifying "Big Momma" as a single phenomenon is the left/right divide.

To address the larger politics of the issue, I sometimes wonder if there isn't a possible Democrat/Libertarian alliance available, in which the Democrats promise to take on "Big Momma" and the Libertarians settle for well-regulated but VERY TRANSPARENT markets (which make rational economic decisions more likely.)

LarryHart said...

concerning the relationship between religion and morality

The whole article is worth reading:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/opinion/does-religion-make-people-moral.html


...
The religious conservatives [in Turkey] have morally failed because they ended up doing everything that they once condemned as unjust and cruel. For decades, they criticized the secular elite for nepotism and corruption, for weaponizing the judiciary and for using the news media to demonize and intimidate their opponents. Yet after their initial years in power, they began repeating all of the same behavior they used to condemn, often even more blatantly than their predecessors.
...
Notably, some of the more conscientious voices among Turkey’s religious conservatives criticize this ugly reality. Mustafa Ozturk, a popular theologian and a newspaper columnist, recently declared that religious conservatives are failing the moral test miserably. He wrote: “For the next 40 to 50 years, we Muslims will have no right to say anything to any human being about faith, morals, rights and law. The response, ‘We have seen you as well,’ will be a slap in our face.”

Another prominent theologian, the former mufti of Istanbul, Mustafa Cagrici, also wrote about “the growing gap between religiosity and morality.” In the past, he noted, moral conservatives like him would argue that “there could be no morality without religion.” But now, he wrote, “there should be no religion without morality.”
...


LarryHart said...

Troutwaxer:

I'm not sure it matter whether any particular aspect of "Big Momma" comes from the right or the left. There are certain categories of law which are easy to abuse, and which probably do more harm than good, regardless of which variety of do-gooder has backed them.


The only sense in which it matters is that people who detest "Big Momma" government think that electing Republicans is the solution to the problem rather than (part of) the problem.


To address the larger politics of the issue, I sometimes wonder if there isn't a possible Democrat/Libertarian alliance available, in which the Democrats promise to take on "Big Momma" and the Libertarians settle for well-regulated but VERY TRANSPARENT markets (which make rational economic decisions more likely.)


I'm child of the 60s when liberals were dirty anti-establishment hippies who smoked marijuana and said "Do your own thing, man" and "Never trust anyone over thirty"; and conservatives were Law-and-order, break heads, "America, love it or leave it!" types. My sense used to be that liberals and libertarians should be closely aligned in their goals.

The right's ability to turn the popular conception of liberals into authoritarian wielders of big government police powers and the popular conception of conservatives into defenders of individual rights for persecuted non-conformists is the biggest public relations coup in the history of the universe.

Darrell E said...

Cari D. Burstein,

I understand exactly what you mean about Clarke's writing, though he is still a favorite of mine. If you haven't already read it I would recommend The Songs Of Distant Earth. The full length novel. There is also a precursor short story and something like a novella or movie script (can't remember). Though it is a relatively late novel of his it is my favorite I think. It is very much people oriented and very poignant. I haven't read it in a while, but perhaps I'll reread it soon. I can't help but cry at a few points in the story.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...
"concerning the relationship between religion and morality"

Religion is an excellent way to instill behaviors in adherents that would otherwise be recognized as immoral while conditioning the adherents to believe that not only are those behaviors not immoral, but that they are especially moral.

Religion isn't the only category of ideology that does that but it is arguably the most effective and widespread.

Cari D. Burstein said...

Thanks for the the book recommendation Darrell E and Tim H- I'll add it to my long list (I've bought way too many book bundles lately!) I think I have read Bloodchild as well, but I can't remember for sure and apparently I forgot to rate it on Goodreads, which rarely happens, so I'll check later and be sure- it came in one of my book bundles so I know I own it.

locumranch said...


Choking the Chicken and the Semantic Cascade

Sigmund Freud once said that 'Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar'. Semantically speaking, however, he was wrong. A cigar can never be just a cigar because it remains intrinsically associated with the mouth, the teat & the phallus by form, purpose & function. And, so it is with word choice.

Slaughtering chickens is necessary (as it provides us with fresh chicken to eat), but it is also smelly, dirty, bloody, brutish, cruel, demeaning, menial, low status & vaguely obscene (hence it's association with masturbation).

In 'Lucifer's Hammer', Pournelle reveals his opinion of his Postman by character & action. A petty bureaucrat, pleasant enough, who spends his life engaged in inconsequential tasks (junk-mail delivery), goes to work after the world ends (because he can think of nothing better to do) and slaughters chickens in order to prove his servile utility to a greater authority figure.

David invokes the same meme in one of his Uplift novels in regard to one of his military combat officers, a confident capable well-configured greek god of a man who ends up swinging through the jungle like a lower primate & literally 'choking alien chickens to death' with his bare hands, which reveals that David views military service as necessary BUT also smelly, dirty, bloody, brutal, cruel, demeaning, menial, low status & vaguely obscene by subconscious association.

His blog & novels are treasure trove of subconscious revelations, a window into his soul (as it were), that expose much of his biases & underlying belief system. More about this later.

Best
_____
Neither exclusive to the Right nor the Left, 'Big Mother' is a feature of Establishmentarianism & its need to protect the Status Quo, as described by Pournelle's "Iron Law of Bureaucracy" wherein the bureaucracy itself (self-preservation) takes precedence over its original bureaucratic purpose. This is also the point where Modern Liberalism & Libertarianism parted ways in the long long ago.

Darrell E said...

Since I was offline for a week I was just reading some previous comments and came across the following that stopped me in my tracks!

LarryHart said...
(LarryHart quoting Tim H) "Tim H:

I suggest a few mods to the top house cookie recipe,



(LarryHart)I assume you meant "Toll House". If not, then never mind.


(LarryHart quoting Tim H again)...and do not substitute margarine for the butter.


(LarryHart)For years, I was a purist on the ingredients for Toll House cookies, which I absolutely love. Then I married a woman who is lactose intolerant, and was forced to start using margarine instead of butter. My experience is that it doesn't affect the final taste at all.

Where is my fainting couch when I need it? What kind of butter have the cookies you've eaten been made with!? Try making a batch with Kerrygold butter. You'll change your story, or you're truly a heathen!

More seriously (that previous was fully tongue in cheek), obviously if butter is out due to biological constraints then that's it. But, the easiest way I've found, after long practice, to significantly improve a given cookie recipe is to change the butter from whatever your using (like Land O'Lakes) to Kerrygold or equivalent. It is really that much of an obvious taste difference, as in better tasting. And actually I have not yet found an equivalent though I'm sure there must be at least one.

LarryHart said...

@Darrell E,

As you say, butter is out for biological reasons. Yes, I could make a separate batch of cookies for myself, but that defeats the purpose. If you haven't already noticed, Toll House cookies are a powerful aphrodisiac.

It just so happens, though, that my sister-in-law, who is the real cook in the family, imparted her secret to making Toll House cookies. Yes, like you, she's particular about the brand of butter, and of the vanilla as well, but even more so, she insists you have to use King Arthur flour. It apparently holds more moisture or less moisture or something like that better than other brands of flour. I can only take her word for that, but I trust her implicitly in matters of cooking.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart,

She's absolutely correct! King Arthur is the go to for serious baking in our house. Cookies, pies, whatever.

Twominds said...

I hadn't been at Scandinavia and the World for some time when I posted the link here, and I wondered around a bit again. I found this gem!

Viking father

This fits beautifully to the discussion earlier about sexual restrictions. If the comic is right, Vikings had another solution!

Paul SB said...

Let's see, I think we need a raise of hands again.

How many people here are for the status quo?

Anyone?

Just the crickets?

David Brin said...

Wow, Cari is unleashed and turns out to have lots of great insights into science fiction! Yes, I miss Octavia terribly. Lovely person.

David Brin said...

Troutwaxer: “I sometimes wonder if there isn't a possible Democrat/Libertarian alliance”

Blatantly my dream! Logical adults who want to maximize the benefits of freedom and competitive markets, arguing respectfully over whether state intervention - to maximize the number of skilled and confident citizens - can be replaced by market solutions to the same problems!

This is the thing that would kill feudalism and confederacy, forever and lock us into the virtuous cycle that no one set of prescribers could never achieve. And hence it is the thing the Kochs and Forbes and Thiel and all their ilk fear most. Reciprocal accountability between sincere, competing grownups can do it. HAS done it, many times in the past!

Note, my novella “A Stage of Memory” portrays just such a coalition or rivals.


Har! For the blatantly traumatized-reflexive and predictable locumranch to claim insight into MY “soul” is hilarious. Dig it, fellah. Till you grasp what the Positive Sum Game means (and you never have, even a glimmer), you’ll know nothing about the soul of those who built this civilization.

Catfish N. Cod said...

I'm going to assume that locum's latest piece is a parody of the equally crappy attack on Pournelle. It's the only way it makes any sense at all. I am so sorry for his experience; he is a broken man.

@Dr. Brin: the notion that Victoria was illegitimate is patently ridiculous.

The Duchess of Kent's theoretical lover would have to have been a hemophiliac himself, as Christmas disease (also known as Factor IX deficiency) is on the X chromosome. In the 1810's this could not have been covered up as it would have caused no end of medical issues; indeed, Victoria's grandsons had immense problems dealing with it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries despite access to royal resources and a century's advancement in science.

The Duchess was also not so desperate that she would take a sick man as her solution to the succession crisis. Victoria's first cousin George of Cumberland, heir to the throne of Hanover (later George V of Hanover), was born three days later, and George of Cambridge was born two months earlier -- Victoria's birth bumped him from being heir. (As Army Chief of Staff, he so resisted reforms as to nearly cripple the British Army -- good thing he wasn't King).

And finally and most conclusively, Victoria was said to favor her father and especially her grandfather in features and mannerisms. Furthermore, a few of her descendants inherited the porphyria that drove her grandfather, George III, into bouts of insanity.

Victoria was the genetic daughter of the Duke of Kent. Her mutation was bad luck, but not as much of a surprise as might be assumed: mutation risk rises with paternal age, and the Duke was fifty-one at the time.

Steven Hammond said...

@Twominds:

I enjoyed that cartoon and found the Viking view of sex, children and marriage in it fascinating as I'd just recently watched this short video about marriage in Iceland.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/03/23/the-wonder-list-iceland-marriage.cnn

Here in the US, views such as those common in Iceland are considered "liberal", but if they actually are due to long-standing cultural views, are they, in fact, culturally conservative. I don't know enough about Iceland or Scandinavian culture to comment further.

Twominds said...

@Steven Hammond

The video from CNN keeps hanging in a loop, maybe region issues. If it starts to behave, I'll have a look at it.

In the text below the cartoon it's said that it was hard to keep a child alive in Viking culture. I don't know if that's so, but it does remind me of an older scandinavian culture. An late Iron Age one in south Sweden that lived so marginally, that when the climate deteriorated in the 4th century, they couldn't feed themselves anymore. At a grave field archeologists found the skeleton of a 14 year old girl, that had the traces on her bones of 13 times that her growth had stopped. So, only one year in her life, she wasn't so hungry (probably late spring) that her growth wasn't interrupted.
I seem to remember that shortly after, the village was abandoned. It's speculated that the people went south to find a place where they could farm and live, but were thwarted by the people living there. The fights that must have occurred again and again, contributed to the Great Migration that swept over Europe, helping end the Roman Empire.

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

I don't know enough about Iceland or Scandinavian culture to comment further.


My wife is not Danish, but her family has business connections there. She once told me that the custom is to get around to marrying when a child is on the way. Sometimes, not the first child.

Caveat emptor.

David Brin said...

Catfish thanks for the correction. Then the haemophilia lay dorment in the Sax-Coburg female line. Still… there are always male haemophiliacs who live into adulthood. Sexy-pale-vampire-looking, I’d guess.

A.F. Rey said...

Sexy-pale-vampire-looking, I’d guess.

I had a sudden flash of a Queen Victoria/Twilight crossover novel.

Please tell me it can't happen... :)

Paul SB said...

Twominds,

The bit about it being difficult to keep babies alive among the Vikings is one of those mundanities of the past that archaeologists all know about (and some historians, too) but the average person raised in the 20th Century is utterly clueless about. Today, thanks to scientific medicine, most modernized nations have infant mortality rates around 5%. The US has the highest with 8%, which is an interesting thing to think about when we talk about the state of health care in this country. You only have to go back a century to get to where the infant mortality rates in virtually even nation on Earth was around 50%. There are societies that traditionally do not give a baby a name until they reach the age of 3, feeling that is helps the parents deal with the inevitable loss better. Through most of history birth control meant promoting birth, not stopping it. That's a mostly 20th C. phenomenon. Obviously the Vikings took a different attitude than most other cultures did, but the underlying fact of 50% of babies dying within 3 years of birth is true everywhere. Maternal mortality matched that percentage as well. It was rarely on the first pregnancy, more often the eighth or ninth, due to placenta previa, where scars left in the uterus by earlier pregnancies cause the placenta to block the birth canal. I have always thought that the callous attitudes so many men have had toward women in pert reflects the expectation that a wife would not be there to keep their husbands company in old age.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Larry Hart

From what I can tell, Iceland has customs similar to those of the Danes your wife's family has met--if not more so.

What really struck me in the brief interview I linked to of an Icelandic couple (who have four kids from three other partners and appear to be thriving) was the young woman mentioning "this horrible term, you have in English. Like 'broken families?'"

It's interesting to think that these customs in Nordic countries, and the "Nordic Model" economy that makes them possible, may be rooted in ancient folkways and not in very recent Marxism or even !9th century Christian Socialism, the Fabians and all that.

I think if older derivation of these customs (as opposed to a Marxist one) was shown in a thorough, scientific manner by an interested anthropologist (cough, Paul SB, your expertise is needed to critique) it might make the idea of a less purely competitive economic model palatable to Americans. The fundamentalist/evangelical Christians would remain resistant, I'm afraid.

Paul SB said...

A.F. Rey,

Just saying something like this could set the Chaos Butterfly in motion. You never know who might be reading this blog, and the Victorian Era is a pretty common setting for vampire stories.

Catfish,

I agree that locum is broken, but there are medications for that. But instead of getting treatment, he is living the old saying that misery loves company, and trying to spread as much misery as he can. Hate to the World. Pitiful, but by responding to him we are feeding his perverse cravings. Maybe if he were consistently ignored he would stop getting his fix and look for actual medical treatment. It's like we are giving a compulsive gambler bags full of chips.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Steven Hammond said...

Twominds said:

The video from CNN keeps hanging in a loop, maybe region issues. If it starts to behave, I'll have a look at it.

It's probably that stupid ad you have to watch before the video itself that bunged it all up. I suspect that's the regional bit right there! (It's a Toyota Camry ad for me)

The evidence you mentioned of the skeleton of the 14 year-old girl from the iron age is compelling and suggests a seasonal absence of food. Paul SB mentions that infant mortality was universal even a century ago, but what you present is something different.

If I was a researcher writing a paper on this skeleton and the evidence of yearly famine she (apparently) experienced, I would look at climate date to see what was happening at the time. Was it "weather as usual"? A protracted drought or cold spell? A period of time influenced by a volcanic eruption somewhere?

And what was the response of people living in this girl's area at the time? Did they weaken and become absorbed into a more well-fed group or become more aggressive and raid the fat and happy groups?

Oh, and how might this type of experience that (I would hazard) affected the entire local population and not just this young girl affect sexual mores, marriage etc?

I don't think I've ever written that many questions in a row, BTW. :) I love this kind of speculation!

Oh, and is there any link to a paper or video discussing this skeleton?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Re: Victoria/Twilight crossover.
You should mention it to Pab Subgenus....

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Bill Door said...

I have been lurking around Dr. Brin's blog for some time now, and have been waiting for someone to tell Larry Hart and Daryl E that lactose is milk sugar, and there is actually very little lactose in butter -only trace amounts- less than 1 gram per tablespoon.

Undigested lactose can cause severe GI misery, but lactose intolerant people are usually asymptomatic as long as the lactose content of a meal is under 12 grams.

A dozen Toll House cookies made with butter would contain less than 7 grams of lactose. -Just don't eat more than a dozen at a time!

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