September 13, 2017

"What Happens When a Science Fiction Genius Starts Blogging?"

The New Republic asks (on the occasion of Ursula K. Le Guin's publication of a book collecting selections from her blog):
For Le Guin, imaginative fiction is not “escapist” in the usual, derogatory sense, but in a different, subversive sense: “The direction of escape is toward freedom,” she notes. “So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”

Now, at 87, Le Guin has stopped writing fiction. She continues to blog, and she has found ways to pursue a similar subversive mission in the new medium.

On the blog, Le Guin’s scope is somewhat narrower. A running theme is the life of her cat, Pard. Between each of No Time to Spare’s four topical sections are essays entitled “Annals of Pard.” Devoting such time and interest to the observation of a cat might seem to represent the commonest impulses both of internet culture and old age; but, as always, Le Guin wades into her new genre to deepen and expand it. When Pard brings her a living mouse... and drops it on her bed in the night, her solution is to lock them together in the kitchen until the mouse disappears (whether through elusion or ingestion, she doesn’t know). She reflects on the ethical implications and possible reasons for her resistance to intervention....

“A lot of younger people, seeing the reality of old age as entirely negative, see acceptance of age as negative,” she writes. “Wanting to deal with old people in a positive spirit, they’re led to deny old people their reality. ... ‘You’re only as old as you think you are!’” She scoffs at this attitude and points out its logical and moral problems. Unlike capitalism and patriarchy, the illusion* surrounding old age is that it is an illusion:
Encouragement by denial, however well-meaning, backfires. Fear is seldom wise and never kind. Who is it you’re cheering up, anyhow? Is it really the geezer? To tell me my old age doesn’t exist is to tell me I don’t exist. Erase my age, you erase my life—me.
Age, she insists, makes one a “diminished thing.” Likewise, a blog does not possess the same artistic or persuasive power as a novel; reading about Le Guin’s cat will not change your life, the way that reading about her strange, freer worlds might. Blog posts are short, topical, and often polemical in a narrow way....

But even in a diminished form of writing,** the spirit of Le Guin’s work remains...
Here's the blog No Time to Spare and here's the book "No Time to Spare." (And here is another collection of blog posts, "The Notebooks," by the Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago. Saramago took up blogging when he was in his 80s, and this inspired Le Guin.)
____________________

* Illusion... not to be confused with elusion.

** A diminished form of writing... That makes me feel a little bad, bad enough to play a diminished 7th chord:


"Whenever one wanted to express pain, excitement, anger, or some other strong feeling – there we find, almost exclusively, the diminished seventh chord. So it is in the music of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, etc. Even in Wagner’s early works it plays the same role. But soon the role was played out. This uncommon, restless, undependable guest, here today, gone tomorrow, settled down, became a citizen, was retired a philistine. The chord had lost that appeal of novelty, hence, it had lost its sharpness, but also its luster. It had nothing more [to] say to a new era. Thus, it fell from the higher sphere of art music to the lower of music for entertainment. There it remains, as a sentimental expression of sentimental concerns. It became banal and effeminate." — Arnold Schoenberg.

87 comments:

Jeff said...

Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor happens.

Fernandinande said...

“So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”

Leaving work early to make up for coming in late.

Ann Althouse said...

"When Pard brings her a living mouse to and drops it on her bed in the night, her solution is to lock them together in the kitchen until the mouse disappears (whether through elusion or ingestion, she doesn’t know). She reflects on the ethical implications and possible reasons for her resistance to intervention..."

It seems to me that if she got the cat + mouse from her bed into the kitchen, she did intervene. A more passive approach would be to leave them in her bed and lock herself in the kitchen.

Another perplexity is: Why lock a door to keep a cat/mouse out? But I bet I could find an internet video of a cat turning a doorknob and opening a door.

Ann Althouse said...

Yep.

buwaya said...

Jerry Pournelle was blogging before there was an internet.
Before BBS's even, he was blogging in PRINT.

Le Guin was always a good writer, and is yet another SF/Fantasy writer that fits no mold. As I've said before these genres (SF moreso) are unconstrained and varied beyond the bounds of any other, certainly more than modern academic literature.

I admired "Left Hand of Darkness" especially. Its still interesting today, with all the gender fluidity nonsense going on.

John said...

Jerry Pournelle wrote a blog called Chaos Manor that I read for years before that, going back to the 80s he did it in print.

I am not into sci-fi too much and only read a few of his books.

Been a fan of chaos manor since about 1987

RIP Jerry I miss you

John Henry

Nonapod said...

Whenever one wanted to express pain, excitement, anger, or some other strong feeling – there we find, almost exclusively, the diminished seventh chord.

Similarly, the tritone (an interval of three whole tones) is often used for generating a sinister, menacing atmosphere. Sometimes called "the devil's third", a good example is the main riff in Black Sabbath's eponymous song.

buwaya said...

Chaos Manor was his regular column in Byte magazine, a very bloggy thing. And that was just the last iteration of his print venues, he had had columns regularly in SF magazines, Galaxy IIRC but others too.

I once had a vast collection of Analog, F&SF, some Galaxy at least, Asimovs, and etc., and for that matter Byte, in which we once advertised.

tastid212 said...

I'm not sure, and I'm not a musician, but how does Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord" end? Is it on a diminished 7th also?
Thanks for making want to pick up LeGuin again.

Jives said...

Don't get me started on Shoenberg.... While some composers didn't subscribe to his radical re-vision of art music, many fell for his argument. The diminished 7th chord only loses it power when you completely uproot it from its original tonal context, which Shoenberg did in his own music. Unfortunately, he also sapped every other chord of its emotive power by denying the tonal context, where meaning in music is found. This results not in a "new, high art" , but a meaningless cacophony, causing all but the most dedicated ideologues to flee the concert hall.
Thanks again Arnold.

William said...

I'm in my diminished seventies. So far so good, but the discordant notes are inevitable and coming soon. I suppose that's what makes the present melody so pleasant and enjoyable. Old age, to date, has been a pleasant surprise. I can't say that about some of the other ages I've lived through..

Ann Althouse said...

"Jerry Pournelle was blogging before there was an internet.
Before BBS's even, he was blogging in PRINT."

That's such an early-blogging topic, the idea that there are all these proto-bloggers (e.g., Montaigne).

William said...

I would not like to be awakened by having a live mouse dropped on my bed. Never have a mouser for your muse.

Ray said...

How do you figure out if a cat is mouser?

A stray adopted us after we fed her, but went out one night and never returned.

And the rabbits, rats, and squirrels are rampaging in the vege garden.

Ray said...

Le Guin vs Jerry Pournelle, which influenced society more?

In college 30+ years ago I had to read her book. I view her as a literary success.

Outside of school requirements, I bet Jerry sold more books. And one of his books became a textbook at the Air Force academy.

Volume 2, of his "there will be war" is free at Amazon this week. A+ read.

buwaya said...

Pournelle was more influential, without a doubt.

Le Guin got "Earthsea" at least into a lot of Middle-school required reading. Its literate and thoughtful but uninspiring. Not something that would give anyone a blood-coursing urge to read more of the same.

"The Dispossesed" was a bit of a seasons wonder in its day, among the left, but it was deeper than its audience, and, not to put too fine a point on it, its rather tedious. The modern left certainly isnt up to reading that sort of thing, and they couldnt understand it if they tried.

Roger Sweeny said...

Ah, Schoenberg. What a maroon.

Ralph L said...

Note that effeminate was a pejorative to Schoenberg. But as Jives implies, he was full of it.

Ralph L said...

I'd never heard of either of them until this week/today, but then Dune is the extent of my science fiction reading, if you don't count 1984.

Bad Lieutenant said...

If you look into it, Pournelle and LeGuin are not unconnected...

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091224/0017057497.shtml
https://boingboing.net/2007/10/14/an-apology-to-ursula.html
https://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail408.html
http://file770.com/?tag=jerry-pournelle

Christy said...

I once woke to find my cat standing guard over a mouse corralled between my splayed legs.

I read Le Guin excited to find a woman in science fiction. Hated her, hated her, hated her. The decades have erased the details, but I do remember thinking she was divorced from the realities of human nature.

buwaya said...

Heh, File770, I've been banned from there for years.

tim in vermont said...

I used to like Le Guin, I named one of my cats "The Otak" even, but yeesh! Genius? Has she written something new?

Ray said...

Jerry Pournelle's There Will be War 2 - Free. Volume 1 was Free, but no longer...

There Will Be War Volume II Kindle Edition

buwaya said...

"I used to like Le Guin, I named one of my cats "The Otak" even, but yeesh! Genius? Has she written something new? "

There are few literary geniuses in SF. I would rate Gene Wolfe as a genius, but not many others.

Jim S. said...

So . . . in the aftermath of Jerry Pournelle's death they write an article about another blogger/SF author but never mention Jerry? I mean, would they seriously suggest that they weren't motivated to write this article in light of Jerry's death? That's weird.

chuck said...

I would divide Le Guin's work into three phases.

1) Early: political and trivial
2) Middle: worth reading, Earth Sea trilogy, Left Hand of Darkness, etc.
3) Late: PC and boring.

If she was a science fiction genius, it was only for a short time and long ago.

Sebastian said...

Blurb on Saramago's Notebooks: "Characteristically critical and uncompromising, Saramago dissects the financial crisis, deplores Israel’s punishment of Gaza, and reflects on the rise of Barack Obama." In other words: even worse than the novels.

Bruce Hayden said...

I liked both LeGuinn and Pournell. Her first, but she seemed to lose steam, and mostly disappeared from my radar until my kid discovered her several years ago. Luckily, I had pretty much her entire collection by then. May retread them when (and if) I get them back.

One of the things that I like about the genre is that authors can talk about subjects that otherwise cannot really be addressed in fiction. They can take something and extrapolate to show what might happen. Which is maybe why so many readers tend to be somewhat libertarian, after seeing some of what could, and even may likely result from too much government. Not just 1984 - it is just the tip on the iceberg there. Indeed, I can't count the books that I have read over the years where the enemy, the antagonist, is a socialist/fascist/statist government. Some are set within, but maybe more are set from without, with the good guys, the protagonists, fighting against such a government.

Sigivald said...

Never cared for Le Guin; partially this might be the way the capital-F-Feminist-Left always idolized her.

But had they really never heard of Pournelle's blog, per above?

(Or maybe it's just that Pournelle never made it to "literary" fame, just "SF" fame.

The Times, for instance, would never admit to having heard of him, I imagine.

I'd have been deeply interested in a Stanislaw Lem blog, if he'd lived long enough to have one ... and had been fluent enough in English for it.)

buwaya said...

"I can't count the books that I have read over the years where the enemy, the antagonist, is a socialist/fascist/statist government. "

To be fair, this is not an idea that started in SF/Fantasy.
This is a typical trope in Romanticism.
Its not for nothing that Byron went to Missolonghi.

Meade said...

Not really SciFi but I can recommend to just about any young reader, especially boys, age 15-18, Le Guin's Very Far Away from Anywhere Else.

Fernandinande said...

Jim S. said...
So . . . in the aftermath of Jerry Pournelle's death they write an article about another blogger/SF author but never mention Jerry?


In Memoriam: Jerry Pournelle

tim in vermont said...

If you consider A Clockwork Orange SciFi, then Anthony Burgess qualifies as a genius, in my book. I like the Earth Sea Trilogy, and because of it, I started a couple other of her stories, which I never finished. I do think of those Earth Sea characters when I see a sparrowhawk (Kestrel) from time to time after forty years have gone by since I read them.

tim in vermont said...

Vonnegut produces a lot of good stuff early, before he decided that what he heard at cocktail parties among his rich liberal friends was more valid than the ideas that got him his start.

Orwell wasn't bad, either, but I bet he couldn't get 1984 published today.

buwaya said...

If you consider the devil/demonic possession a subject in fantasy, then Burgess qualifies for "Earthly Powers" as well.

tim in vermont said...

A stray adopted us after we fed her, but went out one night and never returned.

Around here, we would assume there was a coy dog about that was a good "catter."

tim in vermont said...

Preach it Jives!

Gospace said...

Ursula K. Le Guin is recommended reading by librarians (my first and last exposure to her dreck) and assigned by teachers, read largely by people who have no choice but to slog through it because it's part of their grade.

Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Sarah Hoyt (who I knew for her blogging BEFORE I knew she was a science fiction writer), VoxDay (same comment as for Sarah), are all read by people doing it because they want to and shell out their discretionary fund money to purchase their works. Well, for some it's discretionary, for other's entertainment is a hard budget item.

Jay Elink said...

Ray Stevens covered the Coasters' "Along Came Jones" with a diminished 7th arpeggio right at the start.

It used throughout the song.

Listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yYQ8CwZ1k8

gregq said...

"What Happens When a Science Fiction Genius Starts Blogging?"

1: Ursula K. Le Guin's an idiot, not a genius, so the headline is clearly wrong
2: (As other's have pointed out) Jerry pournelle's Chaos Manor is what happened

I mean, we're talking about the idiot who wrote "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". The one who's so stupid she couldn't figure out that the actual moral response is to leave, raise an army, come back, and free the kid.

Christy said...

Neil Gaiman has been blogging for years. I love his work, particularly Sandman, but found his blog uninteresting.

tim in vermont said...

Sarah Hoyt should call her blog "Logorrhea" Her blog reminds me of the comment yesterday about increasing the value of a ditch by digging it with a teaspoon.

Kristian Holvoet said...

Or maybe it's just that Pournelle never made it to "literary" fame, just "SF" fame.

"The Mote in God's Eye" and "Inferno" (both co-written with Larry Niven) were very good novels, not just Sci-Fi / Fantasy.

IMHO, Pournelle was more deserving of the tag 'Genius' when you add in his Aerospace Engineering (working for Boeing and NASA where he worked on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions) and Geopolitical Theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_of_Technology). Perhaps Polymath would be a better tag?

MikeR said...

"Le Guin vs Jerry Pournelle, which influenced society more?" Pournelle was a Cold War strategist, one of those who (under Stefan Possony) may have saved Western civilization from the Soviet Union. He was also Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles under Sam Yorty and oversaw the development of the California State University and U of Cal systems. And was a founder of the Citizens Advisory Council on Space that pushed for the kind of spacecraft that SpaceX is now becoming. And a lot of other stuff.
I liked LeGuin's Left Hand and Dispossessed, but she didn't influence society at all.

pacwest said...

Ursula K. Le Guin = genius? I don't think so. I could never figure out how she even got published. The 60's and early 70's was a wasteland of good SF, I'm assuming due to the cultural backdrop of the times. I will admit to a predilection to the hard stuff, and there was very little of it. Never made it to Dune #75 (or however many there were). Even Heinlein was a bit freaky during that era.

Ray said...

>Around here, we would assume there was a coy dog about that was a good "catter."

My guess is Coyotes, lots of missing dog signs around, and I have seen Coyotes in my neighborhood. I called up the LA County animal control, and was told basically we can't do anything due to fears of bad publicity. And then a person gets attacked or some other publicity, and they take care of that issue.

buwaya said...

"The 60's and early 70's was a wasteland of good SF, I'm assuming due to the cultural backdrop of the times. "

I don't think so -

1967 - Heinlein was still in top form - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, man.

1968 - well, maybe it isn't SF, but Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

1969 sucked. Alexei Panshin, ick. I'll give you that.

1970 had Le Guins best - OK, not for everyone, The Left Hand of Darkness

1971 SF Novels that were very very good indeed - just prompting from the Hugo finalists

Ringworld, Larry Niven
Tau Zero, Poul Anderson
Tower of Glass, Robert Silverberg

1972 - Opening again the question of "is it SF?" but geez, if these don't matter, I don't know -

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer
The Queen of Air and Darkness, Poul Anderson

1973 - The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe; The Mercenary, Jerry Pournelle; Hero, Joe Haldeman (the short and better version of "Forever War")

So there was stuff, and more than this by piles.

Ray said...

A+ Link - Thanks!

Fernandinande said...

>In Memoriam: Jerry Pournelle 9/13/17, 1:41 PM

Lucien said...

Were I teaching a seminar in ethics, Vonnegut's "Handicapper General". LeGuin's "The ones WHo Walk Away from Omelas" and Philippa Foote's Trolley Problem could be the foundational texts.

Ray said...

Norstrilia I enjoyed, published 1972.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norstrilia

The author Paul Linebarger (pseudonym Cordwainer Smith) was into psyops. I need to read his book on psyops sometime, I believe the LA County Library has a copy. Pretty penny to buy it.

Unfortunately he could not make a go of it in SF, most people could not at the time, so he ended up writing for a travel magazine.

Hammers Slammers by David Drake was 1979. This was around the time I started reading a lot of SF.

tim in vermont said...

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" - 1968

gregq said...

Blogger Lucien said...
Were I teaching a seminar in ethics, Vonnegut's "Handicapper General". LeGuin's "The ones WHo Walk Away from Omelas" and Philippa Foote's Trolley Problem could be the foundational texts.

Well, the only thing "Omelas" teaches is that walking away from a child who's being tortured, and leaving him to be tortured, is the "moral" choice".

IOW, it teaches that leftists are the moral dregs. Decent people free the child, even if it takes getting an army together to do it.

"The Deathbird", by Harlan Ellison, OTOH, would be a good work for an ethics class

tim in vermont said...

"Slaughterhouse Five" - 1969

pacwest said...

buwaya,

1967 - Heinlein was still in top form - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, man.
I'll give you Heinlein, and Asimov was still producing as well as a few others.

1968 - well, maybe it isn't SF, but Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
Zelazny sucked.

1969 sucked. Alexei Panshin, ick. I'll give you that.
Villiers was even better than Retief. Panshin's few novels are still touted for his ability to create a setting.

1970 had Le Guins best - OK, not for everyone, The Left Hand of Darkness.
Not for everyone I guess.

1971 SF Novels that were very very good indeed - just prompting from the Hugo finalists

Ringworld, Larry Niven
Not his best, but OK.

Tau Zero, Poul Anderson
Anderson was solid, but never excellent.

Tower of Glass, Robert Silverberg
Silverberg? Nooooo.

1972 - Opening again the question of "is it SF?" but geez, if these don't matter, I don't know -

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer
You win this one. Great book, and the first time I'd seen the concept handled so well.

The Queen of Air and Darkness, Poul Anderson

1973 - The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe; The Mercenary, Jerry Pournelle; Hero, Joe Haldeman (the short and better version of "Forever War")
Wolfe-no. Just no.
Pournelle-Fun quick reads, but I never thought he brought any new concept to the genre (except in collaboration)
I forgot about the Forever War. Great book. Halderman's best.

It's obvious you've read a lot of SF, and I've been a lover of it since I first read about John Carter in the early 50's. I read SF almost exclusively til college. And I mean a lot of it. I'll stick with late 60's thru early 70's was a wasteland (comparatively speaking), for me anyway.

Always fun though!

Jim S. said...

Fredric Brown, a grossly underrated SF author. He was the master of what is called today "flash fiction": extremely short stories. "Answer" is one page long and is an outstanding horror story, one that addresses the existence of God. "Hall of Mirrors" and "Letter to a Phoenix" are haunting. "Etaoin Shrdlu" addresses Buddhism in a very clever way. Really, "clever" is the best word to describe him.

Jim S. said...

I think you folks are missing the significance of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". The point is that there are ways all societies effectively sacrifice others for the good of the society. If the moral response is to free the child in the story, then the moral response to any society you live in is unending revolution until there is no suffering of that kind. Civilization, in other words, is dependent on the sacrifice of innocents.

Of course you could challenge the claim that we're really "sacrificing" people in the same way that the child is sacrificed in Omelas. But I think LeGuin is exaggerating the point so that we can see it. The alleged parallels -- such as drafting 18-year-olds in time of war -- do not have the same impact that the child in the story does. Like the Joker says, nobody panics when things go according to "the plan", even when the plan is horrifying.

Gospace said...

Vonnegut's "Handicapper General" is actually "Harrison Bergeron". And while the short story is good, the Showtime film is one of those few cases where the movie is better than the book.

As far as Pournelle being fun quick reads, but not bringing anything new to the genre- there hasn't been anything truly new in storytelling for centuries. Name any recently published work, and something similar in plot can found that was previously published.

pacwest said...

"Name any recently published work, and something similar in plot can found that was previously published."

I would argue that there have been many new concepts introduced. FTL for one.

rcocean said...

I'd liked the stuff about the cat, but I wasn't really impressed by Le Guin as a SF author. But then I thought Asimov was so-so.

Jim S. said...

Name any recently published work, and something similar in plot can found that was previously published.

But that's precisely the beauty of science-fiction. Our science has changed and science-fiction bases itself on scientific realities that were unknown a hundred or couple hundred years ago.

Henry said...

Synchronicity. I've recently been rereading all of Le Guin's Earthsea novels. In these new editions Le Guin mentions that the idea of Earthsea -- a fantasy series directed toward young adults -- was her editor's idea and she wasn't sure what to do with it at first.

The idea of science fiction being about the projection of hard science is compelling, but misses the point. Heinlein was not a brilliant engineer or physicist. He was a sponge that drew as much on his time in the navy as on his technical expertise. Asimov was a polymath with a solid grounding in chemistry, which came in handy for his science-based mystery stories, but no one reads Asimov's Foundation series for it's descriptions of tiny nuclear reactors. Le Guin's science fiction, and fantasy, was a projection of anthropology and the humanities in which she was deeply versed.

As for the most influential science fiction author, I defer to Freeman Dyson who pointed to Jules Verne -- Verne being the man who, from the beginning, defined science fiction as optimistic.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

@christy ... Try Lois Bujold. Vorkosiverse.?

Henry said...

I read very little fiction these days. I have just started Carlo Rovello's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, which is as fantastical and poetic as anything invented.

I did enjoy Ted Chiang's book of short stories "Stories of Your Life."

Jim S. said...

Well, Asimov is most known for his ideas of a new scientific enterprise (psychohistory from Foundation) and the potential humanity of automatons (I, Robot). The first is original to him and the second only began to be thought of with the advent of automatons. So I think these new ideas did drive the stories.

I LOVE Ted Chiang. Everything he writes -- which appears to be about one short story a year -- is just golden. The best thing I read recently is Ciu Lixin's trilogy starting with Three Body Problem. Maybe the best thing I've ever read.

pacwest said...

"But then I thought Asimov was so-so."

SF in a nutshell, great literature it ain't. But the concepts it introduced! They were new - to me at least.

wildswan said...

I liked City of Illusions. When I consider LeGuin I remember that as a child she knew Ishi. Ishi was a California Indian, the last of his tribe, who came out of the wilderness into the Kroeber ranch and stayed with them. I always thought that all LeGuin's books about people separated from their own civilization had a strange power - due I thought to her understanding of Ishi - which her later PC books did not have. Like Ishi she lost her whole tribe somehow.

Back in the day, I too thought "Walking Away From Omelas" had something wrong with it. Now I just think that LeGuin is asking a question that only makes sense if you imagine asking it of leftys. I know a perfect world - perfect except for one person's suffering - won't happen so the whole issue is unreal. But a lefty does think that a perfect world could be brought into being. But what if that perfect world required unending suffering of a child? Most leftys would see this as a real dilemma which is why LeGuin wrote the story, I guess

Narayanan Subramanian said...

I am inclined to say ... Ayn Rand in We the Living asks question similar to Omelas.

pacwest said...

One more thing. Never buy a book that doesn't have a picture of a skimpily clad babe, or a spaceship firing it's weapons on the cover. Preferably both. You know it is going to be a good book if it is both.

John said...

Re sci-fi predictions of the future, james lileks (I think) really nailed it the other day.

They predicted rockets to jupiter, he said, but that we would use paper tickets to board.

In other words, nobody predicted smart phones.

John Henry

chuck said...

science-fiction bases itself on scientific realities that were unknown a hundred or couple hundred years ago.

Yes and no. Computers and communications tech has certainly changed. OTOH, all that FTL stuff is pure fantasy, might as well have wizards waving magic wands. I can ignore the fact that the authors piss all over Einstein if the story is good, but it is still fantasy in a tiny universe. I just think of it as retro Georgian era fiction with fancy sailing ships and slightly more exotic natives. There really isn't much science fiction written these days that could be considered scientific.

tim in vermont said...

Any backwards time travel is completely absurd, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the stories.

John Nowak said...

Verne's kind of an odd bird in genre. He wrote fictional travelogues, and in order to write about the bottom of the ocean, he needed to use science fiction. That just kind of struck me when I was reading his stuff.

Ray said...

Try Charlie Stross Rule 34 for something scientific, for Sci Fi. He also wrote Glasshouse that is way out there.

Shockwave Rider was published 1975.

I enjoyed the adolescence of P1. One of the first stories on AI. 1977

Baen is a publisher I own a lot of books from. I have been buying a lot more independents recently via Kindle. Selection at local bookstores of sci fi has been horrible. Most bookstores near me are now closed.

The Red Mars by Robinson had interesting ideas on actually colonizing Mars.

Bruce Sterling at the time had some neat ideas. Part of the new wave sci fi movement. I would rather forget the movie.

Michael McClain said...

Sorry no one mentioned Gordon Dickson's Dorsai novels. "The Tactics of Mistake" was influential among many military officers of the 1970's and 80's.

Christy said...

@ Narayanan Subramanian, I love Bujold's Vorkosigan Series. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is my current comfort read. I cannot bring myself, however, to read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, her latest. The sample I downloaded promised a lecture on gender identity, and while I probably agree with her positions, I avoid tedious anvils dropped on my head.

Nancy Kress writes speculative fiction that springs from genetic science. While I can enjoy space opera as much as the next nerd, I particularly enjoy what-if tales that spring from the latest science.

gregq said...

Ray said...
Try Charlie Stross Rule 34 for something scientific, for Sci Fi.

The problem w/ Charlie Stross is that he's such an economic idiot that he's impossible to read

I tried his book with the "venture altruist". The idea that he could "make somebody rich" by giving him an idea is just so f'ing ludicrous that it screams "this idiot has no clue about anything!"

gregq said...

Blogger Jim S. said...
I think you folks are missing the significance of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas".

No, Jim, we get the significance, which is that lefties are all moral turds.

The Lefites say "I want to be one who walks away from Omelas". Not the one who fights to stop the evil, the one who averts his / her eyes while walking away.

These are people who would see someone getting mugged, and feel moral because they didn't dart in and steal some for themselves. Call the cops? Of course not. intervene to save the victim? Never!

The point is that there are ways all societies effectively sacrifice others for the good of the society. If the moral response is to free the child in the story, then the moral response to any society you live in is unending revolution until there is no suffering of that kind. Civilization, in other words, is dependent on the sacrifice of innocents.

Of course you could challenge the claim that we're really "sacrificing" people in the same way that the child is sacrificed in Omelas. But I think LeGuin is exaggerating the point so that we can see it.

No, she's exaggerating the point to the point that it's been ripped to pieces.

Somewhere in the city I'm in, an innocent person will get killed this month. I am not required to be out 24/7 trying to find and save that person. But if I walk past and do nothing when I see the crime, I'm a moral failure.

That is what every person who "walks away from Omelas", is doing. They are all wretched monsters, only slightly better than the ones who stay.

Nancy said...

Ann, you may have missed the allusion/elusion/illusion to the Robert Frost poem "The Oven Bird", which is about appreciating midsummer even if it isn't as beautiful as spring and fall is coming. "The bird would cease and be as other birds/Except he knows in singing not to sing./ The question that he frames in all but words/Is what to make of a diminished thing."

John Nowak said...

>
No, she's exaggerating the point to the point that it's been ripped to pieces.

Been a long time since I read that, so apologies if I'm off base.

Where the story fails is that it conflates intentional action with side effects. The fact we do not execute all criminals for any crime inevitably means there will be some number of people who repeated their crimes. However, it is absurd to say that non-capital punished required recidivism.

Unknown said...

absolutely loved comments herein. Got a new reading list. I used to read books a week, all ScFi.

Recently went back & reread "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," my memory of it is warped; I remember it as a slog that got under my skin so I couldn't stop reading it -- this time around I found it how light, refreshing, innovative somehow.

Leguin is still a good writer; in some ways I am 100% on board with her Trump-take, article "123. Constructing the Golem" at http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Blog2017.html
-- would be interested in others' view.

Robert Cook said...

Odd historical note: Philip K. Dick and Ursula LeQuin went to the same high school at the same time and graudated the same year. Who'da thunk two such notable SF writers would have attended the same high school?

buwaya said...

Not so strange really.

Berkeley High was, as mentioned, huge, and it was the public high school of the most important university town on the West Coast (Stanford was, in comparison, tiny then). The median IQ in Berkeley High at the time might have been matched only by Lowell High in SF, which was smaller.

Ray said...

I liked Gordon Dickerson childe series, that includes tactics of mistake. The last two took a wrong turn.

Charlie Stross's economic is a socialist and very SJW, and it colors his writing...

EMyrt said...

Nonapod said...

Whenever one wanted to express pain, excitement, anger, or some other strong feeling – there we find, almost exclusively, the diminished seventh chord.

Similarly, the tritone (an interval of three whole tones) is often used for generating a sinister, menacing atmosphere. Sometimes called "the devil's third", a good example is the main riff in Black Sabbath's eponymous song.
9/13/17, 10:19 AM

Not surprisingly, Ozzy is fond of the tritone. Mr Crowley is a superb example. It's the opening chord. https://youtu.be/G3LvhdFEOqs

Perhaps more surprising is the arpeggiated tritone that John Barry uses in You Only Live Twice ("and love is a stranger, who'll beckon you on" on "beckon") https://youtu.be/hs8uYxTJ53

Myrt

EMyrt said...

William said...

I would not like to be awakened by having a live mouse dropped on my bed. Never have a mouser for your muse.

9/13/17, 10:37 AM

Ha! Back in the day, Conan the Barbarian used to bring live cockroaches to bed. Chairman Mao came to bed with blood-bated breath once, but he had the courtesy to leave the dead mouse on the first floor.

EMyrt said...

buwaya said...

Pournelle was more influential, without a doubt.

Le Guin got "Earthsea" at least into a lot of Middle-school required reading. Its literate and thoughtful but uninspiring. Not something that would give anyone a blood-coursing urge to read more of the same.

"The Dispossesed" was a bit of a seasons wonder in its day, among the left, but it was deeper than its audience, and, not to put too fine a point on it, its rather tedious. The modern left certainly isnt up to reading that sort of thing, and they couldnt understand it if they tried.

9/13/17, 11:17 AM

I'll certainly miss Pournelle more.

Tediousness was the abiding fault in LeGuin's writing. I've never been able to get through Left Hand of Darkness; rather read social anthropology monographs.

A Wizard of Earthsea had that marvelous creepy maze to get lost in.
For me, it was all downhill from there.

Myrt