[conspire] OT: Science Fiction, places to start

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Sat Aug 6 10:46:56 PDT 2011

On Sat, Aug 6, 2011 at 05:05, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Quoting Edward Cherlin (echerlin at gmail.com):
>> Thinking about the Stross I have read, I can't come up with one for an
>> introduction.
> Yudhvir being a very clueful Linux user, he'll find _Halting State_ both
> hilarious and occasionally exhilarating, I'd expect.

No doubt. I meant more generally. Stross is big on cataclysmic evil,
as with the Vile Offspring, the Laundry's enemies, and Iron Sunrise.
Right up there with Jack Faust (Michael Swanwick), or Jack of Shadows
(Roger Zelazny).

> But I'm betting that you're expressing opinions on such matters without
> actual knowledge.

It's funny, I never know what will set you off. But this is clearly
stated on the basis of no actual knowledge, since I actually have some
idea of what I know and what I think, and you obviously don't.

>> I don't suppose that's where Lem got a similar idea for his robotic
>> Poland-of-the-mind.
> Improbable.  Lem detested Western SF authors, particularly Golden Age
> ones.

No, not from _reading_ Heinlein. From the idea of digging him up in
order to kill him some more, an idea that occurs in the Cyberiad.

>> This is not the least offensive Heinlein in my circles. TMIAHM has
>> some of the most vicious and elitist fantasy politics and revolution I
>> have ever read.
> Funny, I would have expected you to have gotten atop that ideological
> soapbox about _Starship Troopers_ if anything.  Perhaps your timing is
> off, and this is a delayed effect.

Perhaps you have no idea what you are talking about, but like any of
Socrates's victims, are entirely unaware of that fact because you are
so knowledgeable about other matters. It is a trap that is entirely
too easy to fall into, as I know to my own cost.

No, I object to The Roads Must Roll and the last page of The Puppet Masters.

I have no problem with characters arguing political views, or even the
glorification of military service by one who served. I agree with the
characters who diss Karl Marx and Plato, or point out the inanity of
the labor theory of value put forward equally by Adam Smith and Karl
Marx. I agree with much of the training, given the goals of that
training in military effectiveness. A few bits are cartoonish, which
is also not a political objection.

I like to distinguish costs, including capital, raw material, and
labor; current price in a market; and the value to a purchaser in
using the purchase. Note that only prices, including interest,
dividends, and wages, can be expressed directly in money. Capital
items and raw materials are held on books of any business at cost,
that is, the price paid, not at current market price or expected value
in making and selling things, or any other use. Contrary to
appearances when using only money as a standard of supposed value,
both parties in a free transaction must come out ahead, receiving
value greater than their costs, while any exchange price in money is
the same for both.

Perhaps we should start a separate OT thread about political
philosophy and economics, under the rubric of the declensions

I am firm; you are obstinate; he is pigheaded.

I am principled; you are ideological; he is demagogic.

We could do a segue through SF writers who despise democracy in any
form, even democratic republics. Rudyard Kipling, for example, who
described voters in the future in essentially a zoo exhibit. There is
a substantial body of libertarian SF, and also anti-libertarian SF
such as Vinge in Across Realtime. Heinlein did a marvelous hatchet job
on California legislative politics in Magic, Inc.

> (If you're getting the impression I'm not impressed by the gratuitously
> injected advocacy crap, you'd be right.)

You raised the issue. I am not impressed by your gratuitous dismissal
of others' points of view.

>> OK, Ayn Rand is worse....
> Rand as an SF author: now _there_ is a dark fantasy.

Thank you. Rand was of course a dark fantasy, not an SF author, in
real life. Her proposed economic and political systems could only work
by magic, as laid out in her supposed philosophy of Objectivism, which
seems to come down to "I Object, therefore I'm not, and you can't make
me." Thus also

Atlas Shrugged is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be
_thrown_, with great force.--Dorothy Parker, aka Marie of Romania

> Maybe Norman
> Spinrad will write it (maybe writing as Philip Jose Farmer, in turn
> writing as Kilgore Trout).

There, that's more like it. Get into the spirit of the thing, and
don't take it so seriously.

>> And a truly deviant AI.
> WTF does that even _mean_, Edward?

It means a computer that you allegedly have to talk to in Loglan
because it can't understand English accurately, that somehow passes
the Turing test in real time with flying colors, as a pivotal member
of an entirely self-unaware revolutionary conspiracy that throws its
political opponents out airlocks. Or rather, requests that somebody do
something about opponents, who are then never heard from again, so
that it has implausible deniability. In the finest tradition of "Will
no one rid me of this turbulent priest?!" Whose "morals have been
declared particularly correct" but who "have a little list". And then,
for absolutely no reason, the computer goes back to being just a

> Wait, don't answer that.  I'm suspecting some sort of personal
> show'n'tell, and it'd be better if you took that elsewhere.

You asked for it, you got it.

>> Cardboard cutout characters, in sharp contrast with some of his
>> renderings of working craftsmen and professionals.
> Funny you should claim that, since young Hazel Meade, in particular, is
> one of the very few believable, fully realised female characters
> Heinlein ever wrote.

I rest my case. _You_ turn into a cardboard cutout character when you
get angry. ^_^ Star in Glory Road was far more believable to me. Even
Margrethe in Job.

> Anyhow, you're entitled to your opinion.  You could even get off your
> ass and send Yudhvir your own damned list of (what you assert to be)
> extremely worthwhile and entertaining SF novels, once you get through
> making bizarre and semi-random comments about mine.

I did. You commented on it. You even thanked me for one item.

>> I would have recommended Tunnel in the Sky....
> A creaky 1955 juvenile?  Better you than me.

Maybe it's because I am explaining education and philosophy to
six-year-olds these days. They seem more believable to me than
so-called grown-ups.

> ... or for intermediate lengths....
> Which were not under discussion.

Except, of course, when they were. By you. But you seem to have lost
the concept of an e-mail discussion, in which people bring up whatever
they want, even on off-topic threads.

Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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