Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Tsunami of Science Fiction Shows

== A multitude of new shows ==

Turning from the (almost always) ridiculous to the (very often) sublime, CBS plans to release a new Star Trek television series  in 2017. 

The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film “Star Trek Beyond,” which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.  Which is fine. I don’t mind the reboot started by J.J. Abrams as much as some do -- it's fun-fluff that offers little depth -- but it should be clearly demarcated (I know how) as an offshoot parallel world from the main line of this spectacularly successful mythic universe. 

J.J. Abrams will also produce Westworld, an HBO series based on Michael Crichton's 1973 movie about a futuristic Old West amusement park (with robotic cowboys), starring Yul Brynner. 

But that’s just one drop in a veritable tidal wave of new, televised science fiction coming up.  

From Jonathan Nolan’s planned epic version of Isaac Asimov's Foundation to the vivid Expanse series, based on the James S. Corey series of novels.  From Fred Pohl’s Gateway all the way to three different productions of John Scalzi tales, including (possibly) an adaptation of Redshirts. 

As a fellow at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, I am thrilled to see plans for Arthur C. Clarke's  concluding tale 3001 to reach the screen… 

…along with optioned stories by China Mieville, Kim Stanley Robinson, Octavia Butler, Anne Leckie, Dan Simmons and Ian McDonald and a timely remake of Brave New World, plus a TV series based on H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

See this site for a full listing of twenty-three SF projects in the works.  And no, not all of them will make it. Still, we had better hope that some of them (at least) are big hits, so that this trend will be more than a mere flash in the pan.  

Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” is already out on Amazon. Released in December was a miniseries based on Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" -- (an earnest and sincere effort, if bloated and ultimately kind of tedious. I know exactly how it could have been much better, alas.)  See more below...

Then there is the panoply of already running shows, like the under-rated “Extant” and “Humans,” “Minority Report,” “Limitless,” “Defiance,” the amazing “Person of Interest,” and the new dystopian "Colony," (And possibly a dozen more.)

Sometime fellow at the Clarke Center and by revered bro Kim Stanley Robinson has signed for Red Mars to be a miniseriesTen episodes, with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski in charge.

Yipe, who is funding all of this… aliens? Is our explosion of dramas evidence that we’ve been secretly contacted – subsidized to broadcast amazing-lurid-na├»ve dreams about what’s going on, out there? 

If so… then what am I, chopped liver? ;-)

== And finally... ==

Oh, one last note. Did you actually join in the like-frenzy for Mad Max: Fury Road?  Really?  I found it awful. Some of the fight scenes were okay, but fairly routine and... endless. The first three Mad Max flicks were notable for punctuating the action with some very interesting and provocative musings on what it takes to maintain a semblance of civilization. And the meaning of being a hero. When Beyond Thunderdome was not infuriating me, it was dazzling me with sharply-pangful poignancy or things I had not contemplated before.  I wanted to argue with Thunderdome. 

Look, I am willing to try to enjoy films that appeal to only part of me... e.g. the ten year old who loves cool visual fight scenes and gutsy women punching mean guys. And that part of me liked this flick... though the fight scenes palled as they stretched on and on and on...

But when a flick gives nothing to the rest of me?  Not an instant of thoughtfulness or interesting dialogue or attention to the Mad Mad tradition of discussing the meaning of civilization? Just
 Sauron-like demonics complete with red, glowing eyes and not a clue how all these people got either food or the gasoline they spent in tanker-loads. Seriously, another masked-hissing villain behaving in ways that would get any feudal lord swiftly killed by his own men, in any real world?  And you liked that? Feh.

Yes, yes, I am told it is significant in having "strong female characters." Say what? Sure, that's kind of true -- amid a giant, misogynist rape fantasy, wherein the spunky women still need a male hero when the chips are down. But okay, points for that. Still, might I ask, where the folks saying this have been for the last 30 years, since Sigourney's Ripley and Xena and all the Kick-Ass Ladies (KAL) who followed? Science fiction is the genre that embraced KALs first and most thoroughly, from Underworld to Stargate and Sanctuary and Serenity to Trek's Captain Kathryn Janeway to Storm and Mystique and Buffy! From Sarah Conner to Katniss to Lara Croft to Trinity and... oh please.  Make your own list and if you cannot reach fifty within 5 minutes then you've been a hermit.  

Be proud! Our genre is the leader. And MM:FR added nothing much.

Look, I am willing to try to enjoy films that appeal to only part of me... e.g. the ten year old who loves cool visual fight scenes and gutsy women punching mean guys. And that part of me liked this flick... though the fight scenes palled as they stretched on and on and on...

But when a flick gives NOTHING to the rest of me?  Not an instant of thoughtfulness or interesting dialogue or attention to the Mad Mad tradition of discussing the meaning of civilization?  Just idiots who have endless supplies of gasoline to burn?

Sorry,  This is a roadrunner cartoon.

In contrast, we rather enjoyed - despite ourselves - the amusing and very stylish - The Man From Uncle. A minor action flick, but with good/clever dialogue and real sensitivity to all the cliches in the genre, it tried (often successfully) to offer a different riff on those cliches.  Kinda cute.  Mostly harmless.

== addendum re: Childhood's End ==

Because some of you asked me to elaborate, let me explain how the Childhood's End miniseries -- while pretty good in many ways and faithful to the text -- could have been far, far better. 

Why, oh why, not have one of the kids actually TALK to an adult human? Offering a little solace and kindness? If they are incapable of any nostalgia or affection for their parents and birth-civilization, then they are not "graduating" to a higher level. In that case they are a blank slate, being absorbed by aliens whose aim is anything but to grow larger and wiser from human experience.

This kid - and by proxy representing all of them - could easily say:


"We still love you but we have to move on to things you won't understand. Though in a sense, isn't that the old story of parents bewildered by their brilliant kids? We're just moving faster and farther. Be happy for us! We'll take Beethoven and Van Gogh and all human arts and literature and stories with us! And we take with us your affection, which will warm us for challenges ahead. You prepared us for a great adventure! And we are grateful. HERE is how much you are loved..."

And the children touch nearby adults and all the adults in the world experience a moment of utter joy.

Then: "Goodbye." And they are gone.

That would have been faithful to Clarke... but also a deeper, better moment.




133 comments:

Jim Satterfield said...

What did you think of the miniseries of Childhood's End? I just got around to watching it a few days ago. I was impressed.

Jumper said...

I'm glad you focused on the inanity of the Mad Max plot. For a post-apocalyptic world short on energy they sure burn it. Death metal and irony. What an alloy.

David Brin said...

Jim S.... the Childhood's End miniseries was pretty faithful to the book, except the silly "wise farmer" thing that's now a cliche.

But it could have been far, far better. Why, oh why, not have one of the kids actually TALK to an adult human? Offering a little solace and kindness? If they are incapable of any nostalgia or affection for their parents and civilization, then they are not "graduating" to a higher level, they are being absorbed by aliens whose aim is not to grow larger and wiser from human experience.

Kid could easily say: "We still love you but we have to move on to things you won't understand. But in a sense, isn't that the old story of parents and kids? We're just moving faster and farther. Be happy for us! We'll take Beethoven and Van Gogh and all human arts and literature and stories with us! You prepared us for a great adventure. And we are grateful. HERE is how much you are loved..."

And the children touch nearby adults and all the adults in the world experience a moment of utter joy.

Then: "Goodbye." And they are gone.

That would have been faithful to Clarke... but also a deeper, better moment.

Jumper said...

One funny thing about Philip K. Dick is how one of the most unthinkable horrors to him in '59 as expressed in The Man in the High Castle actually came true in his lifetime. Can the miniseries retain that?

Jim Satterfield said...

I do agree, David. I was just impressed that a show actually talked about God and humanity the way they did.

Stanley Morris said...

Sometimes Clark was boring. Childhood's End is an example. I would rather they make Niven's and Pournelle's Dream World than another Westworld. Even better would be Oath of Fealty which would be perfect for the terrorist/security world we live in.
Expanse is good. I grew interested in Dark Matter. Defiance? Uh, uh. Magicians looks good. Colony? Meh. You would think someone would recognize the interest in a Moon Colony and do a show set there. Wasn't Person of Interest canceled?

Brandon Mather said...

What was that you said about ten year old women fighting? Sorry, must have zoned out.

I agree, by the way. Mad Max was lacking something(s) fundamental.

David Jordan said...

I'll have to be the contrary one regarding Mad Max.

In the lead up to it, I was actually very worried that it would be a disaster after thirty years of development hell. (Usually prolonged, troubled developments lead to bad things.) However, I was really quite impressed by the level of storytelling (achieved mainly through visuals and action). There's not very much dialogue, which means not so much musing, but there's quite a rich narrative woven in.

I have a hard time believing you missed the throughline about women taking back their lives from the feudal patriarchy. Where Max and Nux become fuller people by helping in Furiosa and the Five Wives story?

As much as it isn't talking about how citizens wouldn't go crazy (that's part of the series' premise) or the logistics of rebuilding, I think you're not giving it credit for the things it says about a world in which awful shit like "Gamer Gate" exists and the way forward for both men and women toward a healther, more inclusive society. Nux's arc in particular makes the thematic core pretty obvious, or at least it should. Also, note how it very much isn't Max's story, it's Furiosa's.

I have a couple of friends who were pretty disappointed on first viewing, saying it was all action and no story...then they saw it again and completely changed their minds. It might be a case of having a clear, fully realized story that's easy to miss with everything going on.

Tacitus2 said...

I can't comment on the recent Mad Max, beyond my general marveling at the degree to which the 1970s and 80s keep getting recycled.

But I join you in appreciating Thunderdome more than the average fan. Yes, it was two separate stories welded together awkwardly, but they were both compelling and interesting stories. Reminds me in that sense, plus the post apoc deal, of your Postman.

Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

When will the Postman get the (re) boot?

MM:FR was over the top barking mad, except the dust storm. Parts of that could be archival footage from Melbourne, 1983.

David Brin said...

Thunderdome was amazing in the parts I adored and parts I hated! Tina Turner's Auntie character, holding civilization together. The poignant moment of despair when Max wakens to see the children around him and the look on his face that said: "Oh fuck, now you'll be wanting me to save you!"

I loved the final fight scene - punching mohawk guys and throwing them from a moving train... did any of you notice that not one single human being DIED in that fight? Max can't kill any of them because they are not villains! They are city cops just doing their job. It is by far the most gentle manic post apocalyptic fight scene ever filmed!

Oh but then there is the undercurrent of theological-christian preaching. Max being punished according to a strict, Old Testament Law, then redeemed by New Testament sacrifice. I told you it was infuriating! But so, so interesting! A very, very under-rated film.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, they could not do what you wanted with Childhood's End for one reason.

Childhood's End is not about the ascension of humanity into something else.

It is about the consumption of humanity's future and its utter destruction out of fear of what humanity could become.

Childhood's End is a horror story and is ultimately a negative tale.

Think of how the aliens had horned heads and hid what they looked like from humanity until religion was debunked... because the aliens looked like the Devils of our myths, a subconscious warning by humanity's soul to say "no" to this offer.

The "children" of humanity having lost their own and destroying their own nest while heading off to be subsumed by the Overmind... that is the soul, the essence of what the book was about.

To have the children of humanity say "it's okay, we don't need you anymore..." that is to make it all better, to assume humanity will go on to bigger and better things.

It does not.

Childhood's End is the destruction of the human race and the utter annihilation of everything we worked for... while at the same time poisoning the well from which humanity formed so that another potential threat-race would not arise.

Thus the miniseries remained true to the soul of a truly horrifying book.

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

Robert, to borrow from Stracynski, "We weren't dying, we were becoming". Though didn't Heinlein have a transcendence story where the Earth was left intact for whatever next developed intelligence?
And David Gerrold comments on CBS vs Axanar
http://www.axanarproductions.com/david-gerrold-on-cbs-vs-axanar-part-1/
I think there would be room for both Axanar and the next "Trek-like object".

David Brin said...

I expect Paramount will do a deal, along the lines that David G recommends.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "re:Conspiracies

Have you seen this?

http://goo.gl/fLW2Iu
"

It's a joke site. ...?
Please tell me it's a joke site.

***

* "Jonathan Nolan’s planned epic version of Isaac Asimov's Foundation"

They're going to Nolanize Foundation? Yuck.

***
* "Not an instant of thoughtfulness or interesting dialogue or attention to the Mad Mad tradition of discussing the meaning of civilization?"

What little remains of civilization has fallen under the control of a feudal lordling who's convinced himself that his younger years' martial prowesses legitimated his desire to found his own dynasty.
The first two acts are about people running away from the dystopia he made in the hope to find a more decent place to live, only to discover that the decent society they were seeking collapse, because the environmental apocalypse is still an ongoing process, leaving them no choice than to come back to the dystopia they were running away from and to overthrow its tyrant, which they do.

Of course, the movie skews heavily toward the Show, Don't Tell credo, so there's no didactic dialogue explaining in great detail what the movie is all about: here the audience is expected to link the dots and perceive the bigger picture by itself, without lengthy monologues telling them "Here's what the Author Really think"

***

* "I'm glad you focused on the inanity of the Mad Max plot. For a post-apocalyptic world short on energy they sure burn it."

Well, Immortan Joe's regime is pretty much a Malthusian prepper's wet dream: with a society reduced to a few thousands individual and motor vehicles turned into a privilege reserved to the armed forces, the daily production of a large refinery could last for several years, and a single large oil storage base could last for decades if not centuries: with demographic collapse rendering scarcity moot, taking control over a handful of facilities like an aquifer, refinery, mine, etc... and keeping the knowledge necessary to operate them exclusive to his inner circle of lifelong accomplices, was enough for Joe to solidify his rule, at least for a time.

***

* "As much as it isn't talking about how citizens wouldn't go crazy (that's part of the series' premise)"

The series premise is not much about citizens going crazy: it's about how, when the social fabric is strained to the point of tearing apart, opportunistic bullies take advantage of the power vacuum and take over.
And you think the series' premise is wrong, just take a glance at Syria.

David Brin said...

Laurent do not look for an over-arching plot in Max Max. The first flick showed a functioning, if ragged, civilization in Australia. The second one REFERRED to that functioning civilization, where the petrol refiners hoped to sell their fuel. Thunderdome broke entirely from those and showed an empty desolate Sydney ready to be re-colonized by the kids. And FR shows them saying there's only one source of clean water for a jillion miles in all direction, but they use up more fuel in five minutes than the petro refiners made in a year.

Sure, there may have been a World War IV that shifted from a functioning Australia (in #1) to utter wasteland (#4) but there is no hint of such.

The four flicks use a single metaphorical character to explore four entirely different scenarios.

Anonymous said...

Dear science fiction readers:

In last post, somebody wrote:

"The debt was at its worst during time of war (1943 at $29.6 billion) and times of economic recession (1976 $4.1 billion) and more anomalously, the Reagan years (1983 $5.9 billion). Under the current president the debt rose to $9.3 billion in 2009, which seems kind of paltry compared to 1943. Remember that 2009 was not the best of times, it was the worst of times - the Great Recession. That deficit has been dropping down toward more normal numbers."

Here you have somebody who thinks the debt was 9.3 Billion dollars in 2009, than writes about the low intelligence of tea party activists, and compares them to sheep from Animal Farm.

I am not the anonymous that posted prior data (I have a different handle), but I have a mental image of what the US debt and deficits are, the debt is on the order of the GDP, around $50K per US resident, or 15 trillion (10^12), whereas the deficit is in the 300 to 1000 billion range, around $1000 to $3000 per US citizen.

Here are the actual numbers: Debt in 2009 was nearly 12 Trillion US dollars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_of_the_United_States

How can somebody be off by a factor of ~1000 for the 2009 debt, and still be confident about his reading comprehension? And his understanding of orders of magnitude.

What I found interesting was that nobody called him on it, and he didn't even understand he was off by a factor of 1000 based on his reply comment in previous thread. I made an analogy about journalists the mixes up millions and billions.

Did nobody see that mistake? Is it OK to use made up numbers, as long as one attacks somebody with an unpopular opinion?

BTW, I am not subscribing to the theory that the Bush II tax cuts paid for themselves, I just know the current decision makers are doing a rotten job, by mortgaging the future of the young people. It is OK to borrow money for a public investment. If we still had waterborne diseases, I would be all for borrowing to invest in sewer systems. The things that are called public investments today are just extravagant spending.

Anonymous Coward (AKA Viking)

Jumper said...

Typo?

Quintopia said...

"Look, I am willing to try to enjoy films that appeal to only part of me...the meaning of civilization? " This excerpt is included twice for no apparent reason. It seems like a mistake.

Tony Fisk said...

I've heard that FR is supposed to take place between the second and third movies.

I also thought it was cocking a snoot at gamergaters. Did anyone notice how *fast* the chase was?
I do recall one of Joe's henchmen grumbling about the cost of it all.

greg byshenk said...

David, regarding your comments about MM (and bearing in mind that I haven't actually seen the film), I think it might be important to remember that most of the world is made up of non-SF people, and (particularly for film I think) would think of most SF-related films in relation to other genres (action-adventure, drama, etc.). MM:FR, for example, is listed in IMDB first as "action, adventure", and only secondarily as SF, as is Avengers, while Alien is "horror", and only secondarily as SF, and The Postman is "action, adventure, drama", with no recognition as SF.

So, if we consider major, big-budget 'action. adventure' films, then the number made featuring female main characters (even if we don't discount those like Avengers that feature one female among a group of males) is quite small compared to those that feature all male lead roles.

So, while it is at least arguably true that SF (as a genre) does reasonably well regarding female characters, movies, and particularly action/adventure (as a genre) to quite poorly. And I think the latter is more appropriately regarded as the peer group for MM:FR.

Michael C. Rush said...

I have to agree with you on Fury Road (and you're the first I've seen not riding that bandwagon). Pretty, but of low ambition and underwhelming.

Some of the better of the current crop of SF shows that you didn't mention: Orphan Black, Black Mirror, and Dark Matter. And of course, the 2479 superhero shows.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin on "Mad Max":

The four flicks use a single metaphorical character to explore four entirely different scenarios.


That was my sense when I first saw the two earlier films on cable tv in the 1980s. That "Road Warrior" had only the most superficial connection to "Mad Max", and that they were really two separate films.

Paul SB said...

Anonymous Viking,
If you were not the same Anonymous who posted that first data set, then you and I both have been bitten by the pointy teeth of anonymous posting. As to the data, and orders of magnitude, I was referring specifically to the data presented in that link, not from any other source. The point I was making was the tendency for people to only see what they want to see, even when the very data they are holding up to support their contention shows a much more complicated picture.

So while you may have a valid point, the point is out of context and not really applicable to the point I was making.

And if you are a Tea Party member and not a shrieking, unthinking reactionary, you are atypical, in my experience at the least.

Paul SB said...

Laurent,

I haven't seen the latest Mad Max movie, so I can't say anything about it beyond what I saw on commercials. However, I do think you brought up a great point about "show, don't tell" in film, though the idea has relevance to creative pursuits of all kinds. It's typical with science fiction to do more tell because the nature of science fiction is commonly much more complex and technical than other genres, though this is only really true for "hard" science fiction, as space opera stuff rarely has any actual science in it. In Julie Czerneda's book "No Limits" she describes the practice among sic-fi authors of having a 'key informant' (term borrowed from ethnography) to explain the heavy science to the audience, generally by way of explaining it to other characters. But since Mad Max is really more of an action/adventure flick, and the themes (if any) are more along the lines of the kinds of social issues the arts have been concerned with since people started painting on the walls of caves, the "show, don't tell" approach is probably appropriate.

Having said that, though, one of my sci-fi pet peeves is that people tend to see science fiction as physics fiction, as if physics were the only science. Stories that are described as "psychological" somehow are disqualified from being science fiction, even though psychology is a science. And art of any kind that deals with social issues rarely takes cues from the social sciences, as if personal opinion and cultural norms must always trump verifiable scientific facts.

Paul SB said...

Anonymous Viking,

I just realized that I did make a mistake in that original posting, though it was a different mistake than you thought I made. I looked back and realized that the numbers I was quoting were from the percent of GDP column, not dollar amount in billions. So the figures I was quoting should have been specified as percentages, not as billions of dollars. That's what I get for checking the blog before I've had my morning caffeine!

Jon S. said...

There's been considerable discussion of the Axanar suit at the forums for the MMO Star Trek Online (not surprisingly - it's a topic near and dear to our hearts, especially those who contributed to the kickstarter). Apparently, the trigger for the suit was (almost certainly) the financial statements released in December, in which producer Alec Peters revealed that he had been using some of the money raised using the Star Trek IP to fund Ares Studios, which he intended to keep in operation later to produce money-making films for himself. In short, he was using the Star Trek name to generate his own profits, a strict no-no. (One poster with a background in financial law said it wasn't so much a financial statement as a signed confession.)

As for the Primeverse and the JJverse (as we've taken to shorthanding them), the '09 movie did specify in dialog that the JJverse was in fact an alternate universe, diverging from the Prime timeline the moment the Nerada emerged in front of the Kelvin (which, given Jim Kirk's imminent birth, I have to assume was en route to Earth, where he was originally going to be born in Riverside, IA, before heading to Tarsus IV, where Kirk as an adolescent witnessed Kodos the Executioner's slaughter of Federation colonists). The TNG episode "Parallels" establishes that many parallel timelines are possible, as Worf begins sliding between them as a result of a spatial distortion he encounters while returning to the Enterprise (eventually winding up in the one where Riker is captain, he is first officer, and he's married to Deanna Troi and the father of two children with her).

I sincerely hope that the new series is set in the future of the Primeverse (no more prequel series, please!), but the statement was simply that the new series "is not related" to the JJverse movies - which may mean that they're in that timeline, but either a hundred years later (as with TNG), or just following a different ship (there were, canonically, twelve Constitution-class ships, Kirk can't have had all the fun).

locumranch said...


Part of me is excited by the proliferation of Science fiction on the Telly, but the larger part of me despairs because of the almost total absence of creativity & the omnipresence of the new official female narrative:

As Tacitus notices, most of the 'new' shows are retreads from the 1970s & 1980s, reinvigorated only by improved CGI and a most insidious strain of political correctness, giving us all of the remakes mentioned above, and such stinkers as 'The Last Man on Earth'(remade from 'The Quiet Earth') & 'Star-Crossed' (remade from 1985 film of same name). So, with more trepidation than hope, I await the inevitable remakes 'The Goonies' (please, no), 'Looker' (no, no, no), 'Phase IV', 'Logan's Run' & THX 1138.

Then, there is the omnipresent official narrative, one briefly commented upon by David_J in reference to the new & improved 'Mad Max', which reimagines the female gender as the 'end all & be all' of human civilisation, casts the male characters as either Heroic Enablers of the Female Imperative or one-dimensional villainous sexist psychopaths & propagates the meme of the 'gifted, head-strong, plucky, independent, fashionable, (yet) ravishingly beautiful' female heroine whose emotional lability serves to justify ridiculous plot devices.

To its detriment, 'The Postman' film was created under the early influence of this same meme, so much so that our male survivalist 'Dances with Trees' star quickly became a whiny bitch once paired-off with his 'strong, independent (etc) yet ravishing beautiful' female co-star & then spent the rest of the film 'proving' his (parental; reproductive; and societal) value to her through self-sacrificial White Knight heroics, wherein the book-based negative consequences of the 'women must choose' meme were entirely absent from the film.

And, to MY detriment, I discovered that modern examples of this meme are telly-omnipresent, even more prevalent than 'The Hunger Games' films would suggest, for I personally witnessed no less than 3 brand-new meme-related examples of this in less than 40 minutes of casual television viewing.

To whit: 'The Shannara Chronicles' (based on books by Terry Brooks; wherein a number of gifted, head-strong, plucky, independent, fashionable & ravishingly beautiful, females are pandered to by accessory males); 'Shadow Hunters' (written by some hack pseudo-named Cassandra Clare; same plucky cast, fashionable wardrobe & plot); and 'The Expanse' (penned by Abraham & Franck; wherein a 'heroic' Thomas Jane suffered a prolonged beating to 'prove his love' to that same entitled, plucky & independent such-and-such).

The was a time, my children, when Men imagined a Life of Adventure & Scientific Discovery for PERSONAL reasons, eschewing the humiliating comforts of female servitude, and it's still available online, at the odd anachronistic bookstore or your local library:

It's called 'The Golden Age of Science Fiction'.


Best

David Brin said...

Anonymous Viking, you very badly need to look at my chart showing the SECOND DERIVATIVE of deficit spending. If you are as intelligent and educated a person as you appear to profess to being, you might – perhaps – understand that an administration cannot immediately (of for years) reverse the actual deficit or first derivative (rate of change). The metric that reveals fiscal responsibility is the 2nd derivative or rate of rate of change.

And that key metric shows that democratic administrations are absolutely ALWAYS fiscally more prudent and responsible than republican ones… since Vietnam. That is abso… lutely… always.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

It's there on the chart. Blatant. Obvious. Devastating.

AJP said...

Absolutely agree with you about MM:FR.
Bilbo Baggins entitled his written description of his adventure to slay Smaug, "There and Back Again."
I re-titled MM:FR "There and Back Again.... In Cars."
I enjoyed it for what it was worth, but seriously did not get the excessive applause for a largely implausible film.
One scene: Tied to the front of the car, car dirves into MASSIVE sandstorm, man keeps uncovered eyes wide open with zero consequences.
I have been in much milder sandstorms. Um, no. Just no.

Forgottheusername said...

re: Post-apocalyptic civilizations

I think Dr. Bring would appreciate the Fallout franchise then; yes, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic America rife with bandits and bloodthirsty mutants of all species, but ordinary people are still able to maintain something resembling civilization (even as they fight over what that civilization will ultimately look like). Heck, one your companions in the fourth game is a journalist, while one of the franchise's most powerful factions is a flawed but functional semi-industrial republic centered in California (that said, one of Fallout's main writers is on record as hating the latter for "ruining" the post-apocalyptic feel, which I think proves Brin's point about how myopic our vision of the post-apocalypse can be).

LarryHart said...

AJP:

I re-titled MM:FR "There and Back Again.... In Cars."
I enjoyed it for what it was worth, but seriously did not get the excessive applause for a largely implausible film.


I can't figure out myself why modern audiences get so excited about new regurgitations of old ideas. I can't even get overly excited about modern additions to older series, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, or James Bond. Even less so for 21st century remakes of the likes of "The Stepford Wives" or "Rollerball" or "The Poseidon Adventure".

If I want to see classic old films, I'll watch them on DVD or on their 50th anniversary theatrical re-releases or whatever.

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

...or just following a different ship (there were, canonically, twelve Constitution-class ships, Kirk can't have had all the fun).


That's what I couldn't stand about the prequel series called "Enterprise". It seemed to demonstrate that absolutely everything of historical consequence happened to or because of Captain Archer and the original Enterprise.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

...but the larger part of me despairs because of the almost total absence of creativity & the omnipresence of the new official female narrative:


Because macho men like Vladimir Putin and ISIS command a higher level of creativity in their science fiction, you mean.

Tony Fisk said...

Since we are talking, in part, about the current obsession with recycling old movies, I thought I'd point out Chris Berg's recent contribution to the topic (and Australia's 'silly season'). Berg is an IPA/Murdoch mouthpiece, so you can guess where this might go. Even so, he can usually dash out an amusing yarn. (He raises some good points. If only there was some *other* activity)

Locum had better not look too deeply into the Golden Age of Science Fiction, lest he discover eldritch horrors like Clarissa MacDougall, or 'Poddy' Fries.
... or *Dr.* Susan Calvin.

Jon S. said...

What, is someone getting cooties all over loco's scifi? I mean, of course there were no worthwhile female characters in the Golden Age - everyone knows Podkayne Fries, Dr. Susan Calvin, and Elder Mary Sperling were all boys, right? (And that's just off the top of my head...)

Jon S. said...

Ninja'd by Tony Fisk. That's what I get for cooking dinner while I type... :-)

LarryHart said...

...Mary Shelley?

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Since we are talking, in part, about the current obsession with recycling old movies, I thought I'd point out Chris Berg's recent contribution to the topic (and Australia's 'silly season')


I've only skimmed the article, but he seems to conflate "New stories of existing franchises" with "remakes". I don't find anything inherently bankrupt that there are new movies about The Avengers or Captain America or James Bond. At least not in the same way that I do with remakes of older movies, with so little respect for the concepts that they'd cast Adam Sandler as the lead role of "The Longest Yard".

I know a few messages back, I just said I can't get excited about the latest offerings of Star Wars or James Bond, but that's a separate complaint. It's not because they're sequels. I just think the writing on those franchises is getting stale. Not that it has to be--just that it is.

locumranch said...


No argument from me.

Golden Age Scifi women were much superior in terms of writing, plot line & character development, whereas all the modern Scifi film heroines seem to possess is tight black leather, adolescent narcissism, a kick-ass attitude & many pairs of shoes.

This is what most modern Scifi has become: Harlequin Romance Telenovelas in Space.


Best

David Brin said...

Oh what silliness. Plenty of gals writing action space opera with the best. Lois Bujols, Mercedes Lackey, Maureen McHugh, Elizabeth Bear.., CJ Cherryh.
Mind you there certainly is a PC mob that's almost 10% as fervidly political and narrowminded as the Sad Puppies were... yes, that conniving and bigoted. Well... more like 1%, which is plenty awful. But to whine over it is sillier than sillyThe general and overall trend toward equality and Kick-Ass Ladies (KALs) is way-cool. We have to stop wasting human talent and I am proud that science fiction leads the way.

locumranch said...



Again, I've nothing against female Scifi authors. Some are quite proficient. I'm just not a big fan of the KAL fantasy, nor am I a fan of all the 'Star Maiden' retreads that seem to be dominating the telly nowadays. I'm nobody's *puppy* either.

That said, maybe David should give in to the trend & write some tales with pouty-lipped, Ivy League-educated, Xena Warrior Princess Women who search for true love, kick-ass, take names & look good (snap) while doing it in 5 inch stiletto heels. No, wait. I think the WB, Fox & Syfy channels have already cornered that particular market.

Best

Paul SB said...

Hollywood has been throwing out that adolescent wet fantasy of the macho chicks with guns/swords/wands for a long, long time, and not just in science fiction. It's a way of making money off of drooling adolescent males. There's good to be found with the bad. The female lead in Tomorrowland, important female roles in The Martian and Interstellar, to name a few, stepped out of that Hollywood ploy. One of the things I liked about Ripley in the old Alien movies (the first two, anyway) was that she was not gorgeous, she dressed normal, did not have superhuman powers or skills - she was pretty much Josephine Average in an extraordinary situation. I find that appealing regardless of the sex of the character.

Come to think of it, I haven't seen the old Avengers (the spy show, not superheroes) for so long, I don't remember if Emma Peele (Dianna Rigg's character) ever tried to fence in high heels.

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of puppies, I noticed an interesting thing about the Graphic Story shortlist in last year's Hugos: even *without* 'Girl Genius', all the lead characters were female.

End times...

Treebeard said...

(I don't know what inspired this little rant, but it's already typed, so I might as well share it...)

Retelling classic tales generation after generation is a healthy thing in a sane society that values its traditions, but in a pathological place like Progressive America, which can't stand still for even a single generation or lose the plot, it must be a symptom of some kind of cultural collapse. How is it that most of the really popular movies are still recycling stories and characters created 50+ years ago? America must have been a much more creative place back then, full of un-PC oddballs, misanthropes and geniuses of the sort that seems all but extinct in the hyper-corporate PC culture of 2016.

You can remake a classic sans some white men and call it innovation, but that's not *primal creativity*, just *cheap PC engineering*. As we saw with the Soviet Union, PC destroys primal creativity and turns culture into an instrument of political control, leading to mediocrity, demoralization and collapse. This appears to be America's destiny as well, if its present trajectory continues. Powerful creativity emerges from the untamed realms of mind and experience (mostly among men, who tend toward extremes), which America once had in great abundance. But as America is tamed, emasculated and Facebook-ified, the wellsprings of its creativity dry up, and we become another dull, over-socialized sandbox society, but without deep roots in a primal tradition.

So this is my idea of dystopia (which some might say is the future): human drones being driven around by robot cars, with every sort of information at their fingertips, sharing every detail of their banal lives with the social media pseudo-friends, congratulating each other on their progress, with no sense of history, no great struggles, never uttering an un-PC word, nor doing anything else that might require the existence of a soul. Oh well, maybe Global Warming can save us...

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

This is what most modern Scifi has become: Harlequin Romance Telenovelas in Space.


There, you'll get no argument from me. Most popular "sci-fi" these days is really something else in sci-fi trappings. The fact that the Sci-Fi Network thought it necessary or desirable to re-brand as "SyFy" says something.

David Jordan said...

Dr. Brin: Thanks for responding to people's comments regarding MM:FR. I do have a few more thoughts though.

For me at least it wasn't just that the movie had strong female characters (which it does...Furiosa isn't just kick-ass either, she's interesting and comes across as having a complex inner life). Yes, that's relatively rare in modern blockbusters* For me, it's that the story itself is about toxic masculinity, and how the world can be a better place with both men and women working together to overcome the twin plagues of sexism and oppression.

My reading of the film wasn't "a giant, misogynist rape fantasy, wherein the spunky women still need a male hero when the chips are down." Rather, it I saw the male protagonists (Max and Nux) as constructive role models for men, a counterexample to the toxic masculinity shown by Immortan Joe and his War Boys.

And Fury Road isn't a misogynist rape fantasy. It definitely depicted a misogynistic rape culture, but only to show characters trying to change it. By that token, Star Wars is a galactic empire fantasy, and Selma is a fantasy for southern racists.

Fury Road's pretty classic in the science fiction sense of depicting a classic social issue in a far off setting. You can certainly argue whether it's any good, or whether the "show, don't tell" approach worked or not, but there's definitely a timely social argument being made in the dialogue, plot, and character arcs of the film.



*television and books are different story

5ynic said...

OK I'm gonna go out on a limb and admit that my reading of MM:FR is a little different from the consensus in this thread.

Basically I think the movie has some tension between being a linear story set in a (trying-to-be) consistently imagined future, and being a (fairly deft, IMHO) allegory for our current behaviour - burning what little light oil is left, living in a precarious, water-scarce civilisation between the last 2 industries standing (oil & bullets), and the people (Saudis, Texans) deepest inside that guns & oil Matrix also being the deepest inside the religious nutcasery (be it Islam or Southern Baptist...) Shiny and Chrome.

Tony Fisk said...

I had a little epiphany a couple of years ago, when I stumbled across a late night showing of'A Clockwork Orange'. As I watched this iconic tale of a sad and sorry lad making his way through a sad and sorry society, I thought "This isn't us, and never will be". After that, I was able to walk away from it without a second glance.

I had a similar thought early on in MMFR. Seriously? If Humanity *ever* gets into those straits it won't be coming out again. After that, I was able to enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and suspect the Director had his tongue in his cheek at times.

Going back to Childhoods End, while I agree with David that a few words of solace from one of the children would have taken away a lot of the sting, that was clearly not Clarke's intent.
He was quite remorseless in his description of how Humanity was stripped of its final generation, and of how that generation was stripped of personality before its apotheosis. Only the compassion of the Overlords was offered for solace.

Paul SB said...

The Sapling doesn't get that the problem with the Regressive Agenda is that the past comes pre-cherry picked, whereas we see the present in great detail. I once read an interview with James Blish in which he was asked why he would want to dedicate his career to working in a genre that was 96% crap, to which he answered, "96% of everything is crap." That was back in the Golden Age of science fiction. Glorious golden ages are only glorious in the imaginations of whiners.

Of course, if he really wants to whine about the lack of imagination these days, he might mull this one over:

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1-9

Jumper said...

Every time they re-make King Kong, it isn't PC culture I blame.

raito said...

Working down the list:

Westworld - I could maybe see something based on Futureworld. Westworld is a bit limiting.

Foundation - I could see maybe an anthology series. I don't think this will be good.

Gateway - I'm not sure at all how they'd do this right.

Brave New World - Geez.

War of the Worlds - I fail to see this as a series.

Red Mars - Only makes it if the series runs for a decade. The source material, while good, runs slow.

As far as Mad Max goes, I've always maintained that the first 3 movies took place in different universes. Geez, the kid says at the end of the second movie that they never saw Max again. Then there the kid is, back in the third movie. The current offering wasn't that good, especially compared to the first two. And did anyone else have flashbacks to the end of Logan's Run? My thought is that the idea is that running away to greener grass is never the right decision. Either run away to get space to flourish, or change things where you are.

And I did like Thunderdome more than most. In particular, I love the idea of Auntie. Someone who was no one (with the connotation that the opportunity wasn't available) ending up running things, and for the most part running them well. And probably not because she had any fantasy about being powerful, but because it needed doing if any sort of civilization was to survive. I find it optimistic that 'opportunistic bullies' aren't the only ones who can deal with a power vacuum. Auntie and Max were quite a pair, even though their methods were different.

I must have missed, all these times, the notion that the refiners were going to sell their product. I figures they just wanted to be able to get to the coast and out of the desert.

As for the goodbye speech, I've been on a bit of a Lensman kick lately. Especially since the new Star Wars came out. I'd still much rather have Lensmen than Jedi. In that series, as you recall, Mentor turns the goodbye speech on its head.

Treebeard seems to think that Wall-E is coming.

As far as works I'd like to see done visually...

I'd like to see The Demolished Man done right. The idea of how telepathy would actually change people is fascinating. Unfortunately, what we'd get is a bargain basement Scanners.

I think that Omnilingual would also make a very good, is small, movie. There's not quite so much SF in there, but a nerdy archaeological study and the idea of whether fame or good work is more rewarding would be a nice change of pace.

David Brin said...

Silly historical myopia abounds on both the left and right, but especially among troglodytes. The ent implies that past generations did not bemoan their creative movies. Horse-hockey. “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” and “Mr. Deeds” and even the Andy Hardy films were all denounced as commie propaganda. Nor was the ratio of original material to rehashes probably much different… maybe one in ten.

As for the 99% of human history and generations that languished under the trogs’ favored feudalism? Guffaw!!! Our ancestors were lucky to hear one new thought or concept or story across the span of their short-oppressed lives. Face it, Treebeard, you are gonna be reminded of that every time you come by with your rancid nostalgia.

That final paragraph was choice, though!. Like young people in that pampered world won’t rebel and call their parents soul-less? And insist that “At least *I* have a soul!” I am from the sixties, man. And self righteous sanctimony like you expressed is mother’s milk. Cheap even at high octane. It will boil out of millions of folks — and not just your solipsistic-moaning-cliched-cynical-pampered self. You aren’t special. You are so-so-so-so typical.

Jumper said...

I had the same thought about Gateway, raito. Who has the ability to bring that to the screen?

LarryHart said...

When "Cerebus" was coming out monthly, I had to "listen" to its author, Dave Sim, rant on about how feminism took over the world in 1970 and that civilization lost sight of the masculine values it had revered before that point, when women and men both knew their place.

I found it instructive when I read C.S. Lewis (That Hideous Strength) that the "Mother Dimble" character said the exact same thing about the contemporary generation in 1946--how men and women of her (older) generation had known their place but the current generation of young uns had lost their way. Only this was 1946, not 1970.

Having a young child, I revisited Mary Poppins a few years back, and there was the same argument being said about the current generation in a story that takes place prior to WWI.

So yes, I'm on board with the notion that every generation thinks the next one has lost its way, and that it doesn't seem to matter much.

matthew said...

Our host's comments about his work not getting in on the this wave of new SciFi on the telly - I suspect that the property that would generate the most interest in viewers would be the Uplift works. But they would require a ton of money to make. Much more in line with today's budgets would be either an expanded version of "Senses Three and Six," or a long-drawn out series from "Glory Season."

"S3&6" lets us dwell in stories of government "malfeasance" (all those missing billions and overblown gov't contracts) while still having a bit of the "chosen one-" type hero that does so well in our mythology, plus evil aliens and far off planets. Good stuff, broad appeal.

"Glory Season" would let a thoughtful show-runner have a long conversation about gender roles and racial destinies, all in an exciting shiny SciFi package. All things that treebeard and locumranch would hate. Any show that drives Men's Rights Activists to a fury(and it would) is probably going to do well, simply from the free publicity they would generate. Doesn't take a huge budget to make the series either.

Any other thoughts on Brin-projects that we think would be possible, given the flow of new money into the field?

raito said...

Jumper,

The referenced article calls it a first contact kind of thing. Yet the HeeChee don't show up until the third book. And most of the best stuff in the first book is in the guy's head. At the moment, I can't think of anyone who's good at putting on the screen what's happening on someone's head.

LarryHart,

I's very important to the point of being essential that absolutely every generation thinks its predecessor had it wrong. Otherwise there's no impetus for forward movement (our host is bound to agree with that, just read his last comment). But what also gets lost in the shuffle is that every generation ought to think that the previous at least started out with good intentions. Hating your parents isn't good for the soul.

While I'm at it, the Matador series might make good movie or TV fodder. But I'm not so sure the current viewing public would be up for the revelation that the hero of the first book is only second-best at anything. Nor am I positive they'd understand the bouncer hiring scene in today's political climate (they'res more than one way to solve a problem). On the other hand, The Musashi Flex might work out OK, even though the ultimate message might get to be a bit muddled. Even today, the young guys I spar with have a very hard time understanding that mo matter how fast or strong they are, if I know what they're going to do before they do, they're toast. They often need more maturity before they can understand Boyd's OODA loop (and even then, much of his was based more on physics than mind).

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

I's very important to the point of being essential that absolutely every generation thinks its predecessor had it wrong. Otherwise there's no impetus for forward movement (our host is bound to agree with that, just read his last comment). But what also gets lost in the shuffle is that every generation ought to think that the previous at least started out with good intentions. Hating your parents isn't good for the soul.


Well, what I was talking about was the other way around. Every generation thinking that its children had it wrong. Almost the opposite of an impetus for forward movement.

matthew:

Any other thoughts on Brin-projects that we think would be possible, given the flow of new money into the field?


I think that "Sundiver" as a stand-alone (not trying to do the entire Uplift series) could be worth a shot.

David Brin said...

David Jordan, of course I understand that the rape-misogynists in MM:FR were the villains who die for their crimes. Um duh? The problem is that uber-violent post-apoc films like this have a core boy-audience and a large minority are absolutely guaranteed to draw the wrong lesson. They may root for the particular villain to die. But the SITUATION is still an attractive fantasy to some. You know this.

Do I want anti-feudal propaganda? Sure! This just wasn’t it. Not even a little bit. Certainly not compared to Thunderdome, which actually discussed what it takes to rebuild some civilization out of chaos.

Larryhart: Kids! Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way. What’s the matter with kids toooo-daaaay! (Bye-Bye Birdie. Great flick.)

Brave New World needs re-telling. It is surging ahead of 1984 in plausibility, and asks really pertinent new era questions. Above all, Orwell’s dystopia is obsolete. The professional castes have too much knowledge and power to repress easil;y. Tomorrow’s despotism will be like in Fahrenheit 451 or in BNW… democratic surfaces and with delusions of citizen sovereignty. Pleasure, not pain, as the means of control.

And sure, our ent and locum would say we’re already there! I disagree… but such assertion-accusations are welcome. They remind us to check it out, before turning and saying ‘tsk tsk… fools.... not yet."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Larryhart: Kids! Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way. What’s the matter with kids toooo-daaaay! (Bye-Bye Birdie. Great flick.)


The thing is, the examples I was describing weren't simply the general "Our kids have lost their way" lament. They were very specific--that the current generation has lost knowledge of the proper gender roles, whereas they--the older generation--properly knew their place in that regard. It's amusing to see that each "older" generation had the exact same complaint made about them in their time.


Brave New World needs re-telling. It is surging ahead of 1984 in plausibility, and asks really pertinent new era questions. Above all, Orwell’s dystopia is obsolete. The professional castes have too much knowledge and power to repress easil;y. Tomorrow’s despotism will be like in Fahrenheit 451 or in BNW… democratic surfaces and with delusions of citizen sovereignty. Pleasure, not pain, as the means of control.

And sure, our ent and locum would say we’re already there! I disagree… but such assertion-accusations are welcome. They remind us to check it out, before turning and saying ‘tsk tsk… fools.... not yet."

I just recently saw, for the first time, the 1970s film "Rollerball", partly because of locumranch's mention of it here. I understood the point the film was making about choosing comfort over freedom, and in a way, it was very Brave New World like in its message. But I thought the film was clumsy about it--telling rather than showing, what benefits the corporatocracy was providing and exactly how people had lost their freedom in exchange. Except for the Rollerball players themselves, there was no apparent cost to anyone, and even the players seemed no less free than modern football or basketball players are. I was disappointed in the presentation, even compared to contemporaries of similar messaging such as "Logan's Run" or "Soylent Green".

As for BNW itself, I agree with you about plausibility. When I first read both 1984 and BNW in high school, I found the former chilling, but about BNW, I kept thinking "What's really so bad about this?" Only 30 or so years later did it occur to me that that was the point.

David Brin said...

Actually, I found Rollerball touching and inspiring, about a low IQ fello, inartivulate but big-hearted, who can tell that something is very wrong, and fights back the only way he knows how.

sociotard said...

Huh. Science Fiction as vehicle for Jihadi Propaganda.
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/a-jihadist-magazine-is-trying-its-hand-at-science-fiction

"The Unit" by Yuito Abdillah, published in the German magazine Kybernetiq. Any German speakers here feel like tracking it down for a review?

David Brin said...

Sociotard mind if I quote you verbatim on social media?

raito said...

I'm not as sure Jonathan can tell that something's wrong with society per se. But he does know that he wants to play, and is told he's not allowed to. That he's not free.

And if you haven't read the original, go to archive.org, and look for the radio program Mindwebs. It was a 70's radio show where they read SF stories. Some good stuff there.

LarryHart said...

raito:

I'm not as sure Jonathan can tell that something's wrong with society per se. But he does know that he wants to play, and is told he's not allowed to. That he's not free.

But how is he any less free than anyone in the real world who is fired from a job? And most people these days who throw around "freedom vs comfort" these days would have no sympathy for the worker who loses a job. They'd be all about defending the freedom of the employer to do whatever he wants.

And what would have happened had society gone the other direction--chosen freedom over comfort--way back when? He'd have been allowed to continue playing Rollerball without interference? No, chances are, the game wouldn't exist at all. The only reason Rollerball exists is because of the society he senses is wrong. He's not free in the same sense that I'm not free because I'd like to retire, and I'm not allowed to.

I'm making it sound like I disliked the movie more than I did. I get the message--I just didn't think the film itself did as good a job of presenting it as I was expecting.



Tim H. said...

Considering previous comments, Spinrad's "A World Between" would be useful socially as a film, and much easier to produce than "Child of Fortune". Looking at the work of OGH, "Kiln People" would be a good one.

sociotard said...

Go for it Dr brin!

David Jordan said...

Dr. Brin,
If I understand you, the issue you take is that MM:FR is likely to be misunderstood by the people who most need its message. That's a major issue in many kinds of subject matter, especially anything involving war or post-apocalyptic scenarios. There's a certain indulgence that's hard to avoid, since both are widely romanticized and often exciting when dramatized.
Hence people watching war movies imagining themselves as badass warriors or zombie fans coming up with all the ways they would kill zombies and totally survive.

Lots of art gets taken the wrong way (I'll bet you've got readers who thought joining the Holnists would be a totally cool idea, even though you're quite explicit "Nathan Holn, may he rot in hell." that it wouldn't)

Some of that core boy audience is just going to see the cool car stunts and go "Oh cool! I totally want to be a War Boy!", but they'd do that whether or not George Miller smuggled in a feminist/healthy masculinity/anti-feudal message. My hope, and based on responses in a number of other online places I visit I think it's fairly successful, is that it helps some of those boys who like watching things explode open their minds a bit. That's kinda like you talking about convincing sane moderates of which side they need to join with.

P.S. - I didn't mean to imply you where too dumb to see the message, it was just that your actual statements refused to acknowledge the clear (intended) text of the film. Concerns about mixed messages/misinterpretation are a lot more valid.

Alfred Differ said...

That's the problem with the positive definition for freedom. People can take it from you when, from their perspective, they are managing what they see as their property. People who cling to closely to the positive definition set themselves up for this pain when the large fraction of us who disagree act as we think we should.

If my job is not my property, it is far easier to see the actual exchange being made when I show up for work. I'm trading my time doing certain tasks that fill the role they defined. The job is theirs. My time is mine.

Alfred Differ said...

Childhoods End was definitely a horror story for me when I read it years ago. The TV version stuck to that fairly well. There is only one way out of it that I can see that doesn't involve inserting a short scene where the kids soften the blow. The Overlords were still essentially human in scope, so their compassion would be sensible to the human parents losing their children. The Overmind was essentially non-human, thus it could see the humans as little more than animals. Would it have compassion for us? Would it care? The range of what it could think should confuse small minds. How much would a river trout understand the awe many of us felt when we saw humans set foot on the Moon? How many of us care that they do?

I can feel compassion for mammals and some of the other social species, but I'll admit that a lot of that comes from me imagining them to be like us. I can appreciate a trout and not want to harm it or its habitat, buy my compassion has strong limits. I'm mostly inclined to leave them be, but I don't get upset if others eat them or destroy a piece of their habitat. I'd be upset with losing them all, but not because of compassion. I'd see it as a personal loss no trout could possibly understand.

So... having the kids soften the blow completely changes the story. I would have preferred a less traumatic ending as a kid reading it the first time, but horror has its place.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred said
"The job is theirs"
Nonsense!
Its like a marriage - both contribute both should have some ownership
Neither party should be able to change the terms of the contract without some degree of "buy in" from the other

Alfred Differ said...

regarding Mad Max...

I have issues with post-apocalyptic stories that do not have the fuedalists re-enslave pretty much everyone. Treating them as fodder is dangerously short-sighted. No new-lord will last that way. Unless the communities are above the carrying capacity of the land, their lords should be treating them like farmers treat seed supplies. Land is worthless if you can't work it and skim the products to benefit your own offspring.

It's not the carrying capacity issue that bothers me with this Mad Max movie, though. The problem lies with the maintenance of technology. They showed the devolution associated with the heavy lift 'crane' used for deploying vehicles. They did NOT show the preservation (teaching) of skills needed to keep those vehicles operating. We can assume it IS happening from the existence of operational vehicles, but there aren't enough people shown to live lives secure enough to do it.

Eric Flint and the other authors in the 1632 universe tried to tackle this issue. It's not enough to have a couple thousand people come from a futuristic civilization. Know single one of them knows enough to reproduce their modern tech. They MUST preserve libraries. They MUST devote considerable resources toward teaching what they do know to their decedents, learn the gap knowledge they relied upon from other members of their civilization, and teach it ALL to large communities secure enough in their basic needs to devote the necessary time to learn. Fail at this and knowledge dies through attrition.

An author who underestimates the number of people needed to preserve modern knowledge is guilty of writing competence porn when their stories make it too easy with too few people. Humans are amazing enough as individuals, but it is our collective, emergent capabilities that make civilizations work. A community of a thousand of us is a radically different creature from one with a thousand thousands and vastly different from one with a thousand thousand thousands.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: I disagree. It is NOT a marriage. It is a trade.

David Brin said...

Dj of course movies that preach one way can be misconstrued the other. But MM:FR made that trivially easy, since 98% of the flick caters to adolescent males.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

Getting tradesman or casual laborer to do a days work is a "trade"
An actual 9-5 non fixed term job is much more like a marriage and if everybody thought of it as a daily "trade" we would be back in the days of my grandfather in the shipyards - and the unions with "join or we will break your legs" would be back - everybody loses in your world

Jumper said...

"Implied contract" law has been bent by legal pliers into an odd shape when applied to employment.
http://jumpersbloghouse.blogspot.com/2009/09/confusopoly.html

Paul SB said...

"Dj of course movies that preach one way can be misconstrued the other. But MM:FR made that trivially easy, since 98% of the flick caters to adolescent males."

Ah, interpretation! Always such a relative thing, as we see with a couple of our regular contributors, here. Adolescent males are well known for their testosterone-driven behaviors, but the hormone is neither good nor evil by itself. For some it drives bullying, self-interested villainy, in others it drives their desire to punish the former. Both the knight in shining armor and the black prince ply their trades with the same hormone, so it should be no surprise that an audience of adolescent males would be able to interpret the same movie in two different ways. Something every meme-slinger needs to think about.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "By that token, Star Wars is a galactic empire fantasy"

Shhhhhhhhhh: don't mention Star Wars here: the landlord seems convinced that by telling the tale of a cunning demagogue establishing a corrupt, murderous, fascistic autocracy that screws the pooch on a galactic scale George Lucas was fact telling that autocracy is cool & awesome.

***

* "Every time they re-make King Kong, it isn't PC culture I blame."

Hey! I like the Peter Jackson's remake!

***

* "Red Mars - Only makes it if the series runs for a decade. The source material, while good, runs slow."

And it gets boring in the end. I remember a conversation with a classmate with the book back in highschool:

Me: It's good, until the Martians succeed their revolution and establish a socialist, feminist, space hippie utopia
Her: What's wrong with socialism and feminism?
Me: In real life? Nothing. In Fiction? It's booooooooring: at first there's a bit of suspense because the overcrowded Earth is suffering from large scale ecological damage, and there's some risk of conflict, but soon birth control comes and saves the day, and you get 500 pages depicting spaceships flying on time while all the heroes go on very long vacations around the solar system

And I stand by this opinion: there's a reason Iain Banks didn't write much about the life Inside the Culture: everyone's virtually immortal and spends centuries partying, having tons of sex and playing highly advanced MMOs while their godlike communistic computer overlords administrate their artificial worlds day-to-day? Sure: I for one would most certainly enjoy living this life, but reading about it? Yeesh: Marysuetopias aren't fun, even when you agree with their authors' politics.

***

* "I had to "listen" to its author, Dave Sim, rant on about how feminism took over the world in 1970 and that civilization lost sight of the masculine values it had revered before that point

There's a reason Dave Sim appears on top of the Tvtrope's Creator Breakdown page.

***

* "Well, what I was talking about was the other way around. Every generation thinking that its children had it wrong"

It works both way: every generation thinks that its children have it wrong, the kids reacts by lashing against their progenitors until they finally overthrown them, after which they refuse to listen the criticism coming from younger than them, because fuck, they spent decades spent to take the old fossils' place, so for now one they'll be the unquestioned masters of their domains, and if the kids are too stupid to understand what it's well deserved, well fuck'em... and the cycle goes on.

***

* "Brave New World needs re-telling. It is surging ahead of 1984 in plausibility"

An hyper-consumerist society of castes remaining functional for over half a millennium without collapsing from catastrophic environmental damage nor devolving into a decadent court of inbred aristocrats? I could accept the plausibility of the year 100 After Ford, but that kooky civilization still going strong in 632 AF? Nope, not believe it for one second.

1984 will always remain the most plausible story for one single reason: its elites don't give a shit about the long-term sustainability of their regime: what matters to them is that the proles and the low-ranking party drones remain convinced that the Party is invincible and not worth challenging for long enough for them to grow old and fat and die in their sleep.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "@Duncan: I disagree. It is NOT a marriage. It is a trade."

As my mother often said "Marriages are at their core business deals: modern marriage are deals between consenting and equal adult spouses, traditional marriage were deals between the groom and the bride's father, so fuck traditional marriage and fuck all its advocates"

***

* "Adolescent males are well known for their testosterone-driven behaviors, but the hormone is neither good nor evil by itself. For some it drives bullying, self-interested villainy, in others it drives their desire to punish the former."

That's precisely why I've always loathed Orson Scott Card. Ender's Game is a bullied kid revenge fantasy. I was bullied in school -a lot- and that exploitative book basically told people like me "I know that deep down, you wished you could turn the table on your bullies, become the alpha male of the school and terrify them into submission, and that's cool, and I agree with you: here's the perfect cathartic masturbatory fantasy for you; just imagine you're like Ender who can beat bullies to death, commit genocide and then become more beloved than Jesus because he says he feels bad about it"

Well Fuck NO! My brain doesn't work that way you psycho. You want to tell the story of an oppressed youth who slay the evil king (of the school, the realm, the Galaxy, whatever?) only to basically take his place and be remembered as a great ruler because he was marginally less shitty than the previous princeling? Fine, just don't pretend that your putschist is a paragon of virtue, and don't saturate your books wit winks that imply that deep down I share that perverse fantasy with you.

raito said...

Well, I loathe Ender's Game >as< a bullied kid revenge fantasy. I get it, I just don't agree with it. As for the genocide, he was kind of manipulated into it. It is too bad that Ender wasn't smart enough to achieve his ends without killing. But if he had been, the whole story falls apart. Shoot, for me it's a cautionary tale.

A.F. Rey said...

Going off topic for a moment, NPR just aired a segment confirming what you've always preached: the first-generation rich are more philanthropic than those who inherited their wealth.

You can hear it at http://www.npr.org/2016/01/19/463550989/social-science-research-examines-the-generosity-of-the-wealthy

A.F. Rey said...

And going slightly less off-topic, I just saw a zombie flick you might enjoy.

Yes, I know you dislike zombie tales because of their subtextual message of the elites being threatened by the hoi polloi, but this wasn't one of those.

"Maggie" has Arnold Schwartznegger as a father who brings home his bitten daughter to die. It's a sad, contemplative tale, one that could have been done without the zombie aspect. Not your typical zombie movie.

Of course, for a typical one, you can't beat "The Walking Dead." It has all the tropes: hoards of undead, people being ripped apart and eaten alive (on-screen! Man, it's violent), decapitated heads wanting to bite you. It's very much a horror story.

But the emphasis is on the characters. It's not really about fighting off the undead hoi polloi, but about trying to preserve your humanity in a desperate situation, and the cost of doing so. Because good, civilized people die. So do the bad, uncivilized ones. Good decisions lead to bad results. Bad decisions lead to worse ones. Some of the zombies are people that the characters knew, and loved. And what they have to do destroys them, although some do heal.

There are some dumb parts (don't think too much about how the CDC is set-up--which, by the way, is actually a mall in Atlanta), but you get really close to the characters and their dilemmas. You end up caring about them. My wife actually cried when one of the characters died (and a lot of them--a lot of the main characters--do die). When was the last time anyone did that for a horror movie/series?

These are worth checking out, if you haven't seen them already.

Tori Hamblin said...

I think you're all missing the "point" of Fury Road. It's not trying to present a realistic view of survival and rebuilding. It's telling a mythical story of "superstition vs science"

The whole film is about the contrast between a totalitarian theocracy, complete with a well developed and believable death cult, and the memories of something civilized furosa and the Miss Giddy(the auntie who is shot covering for the wives escape) cling to. At it's core the movie is about the contrast between the voluntary teamwork of the protagonists and the ravening cult of the villains.

Instead of a the crumbling remains of a functioning civilization we are shown a warlord who has mythologized everything to do with himself. He is the source of the aqua-cola. He will lead the war-boys through the gates of Valhalla shiny and chrome. He must have an heir.

David Brin said...

Laurent you underestimate the chillingly logical wisdom of Mustafa Mond and the world controllers in Brave New World. They even know that their metastable condition cannot be the ultimate society. That is why they do not kill their dissidents, but instead send them to islands where they can explore alternate paths and gradually (glacially) recommend changes. What’s chilling is how smoothly and calmly and un-oppressively they have set up the ultimate feudal-pyramidal society, by making past feudal rationalizations about lordly superiority simply come true!

You all know that I believe in the Star Trekkian diamond-shaped society. Mustafa Mond is my enemy. But I can respect he is both competent and sincere. Heck they even set up reservations where guys like Locum and the ent can go and be macho to their hearts desire.

==
Re Enders Game, what I focus on is its brilliance as tear-jerking, emotion tugging propaganda. Card sets up an ubermensch demigod in the Mormon variant of ancient tradition… and has Ender spend book after book BLAMING HIMSELF in order to prove how soulful and decent he is, thus compelling others around him (like the dying queen of the civilization Ender destroyed) crying: “No Ender! Stop beating yourself up! It’s not your fault; it’s lousy democratic-foolish human civilization! Please take over! We can’t be trusted. Be our god, pleeeeez!”

If we are ever taken over by some demigod I hope it will be an OS card character. Because at least he won’t enjoy it. All the repression will be painful to him and “for our own good.”

David Brin said...

Tori Hamblin, you think any of us missed any of that? To which... so?

A stunningly boring-non-credible failure mode portrayed with so little correlation with anything in history or plausibility that no "lesson" can possibly be learned from it except "mean people suck - so kill em!"

A dismally stupid-dreary-awful mess.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Laurent Weppe:

"...George Lucas was fact telling that autocracy is cool & awesome."

But that's not actually the objection: it's that he's telling that democracy is uncool & useless. Which is not the same thing. In Star Wars, the Empire gets a few things done at horrific cost; the heroes get many things done at much less cost... and the Republic achieves absolutely nothing at all. It's that last that sticks in the craw. In Star Wars, the Republic only exists as a neutral placeholder, part of the scenery or a passive obstacle. We have yet to see the Republic lift a finger to defend itself without a Force-sensitive (Jedi or otherwise; Leia has the Gift from the start, remember) pushing matters.

=================

Me: It's good, until the Martians succeed their revolution and establish a socialist, feminist, space hippie utopia
Her: What's wrong with socialism and feminism?
Me: In real life? Nothing. In Fiction? It's booooooooring


Blue Mars suffers from the dread disease of edit bloat: a successful author who seems to have "The Magic" winds up in a sequel with his editors, both internal and external, toning themselves down in an effort not to edit out "The Magic"... not realizing that good editing is an integral part of "The Magic". The story falls apart and fans become upset. Seen it happen over and over.

Blue Mars is at least twice the length it should have been; the best part is the first third, with the questions of both an internal civil war and an Earth-based War-of-1812 repeat attack hanging. After that... the desperation of Mars to defend against the hordes flooding off Earth is never well conveyed and KSR gives in to traveloguing. Only the very last sections, where the protagonists are trying to fight the side effects of their own longevity, become interesting again. It felt like a Dickens book to me: story, story, filler, filler, quick resolution, done!

===========

1984 will always remain the most plausible story for one single reason: its elites don't give a shit about the long-term sustainability of their regime.

I had nightmares for a week after reading 1984 in high school, but that was the hope that I finally found in the story. The technological degradation being actively practiced in all three Great Powers was going to eventually erode their ability to do anything at all, but most especially their ability to react to anything new or outside their control.

A climate shift or EMP or asteroid impact could kill their pathetic excuse for a civilization off, but even if none of those happened fast enough, the barbarians they bred in the conflict zones would do it. People would evolve fast there, and hearing multiple points of view would teach them to reject forms of control the way cuius regio eius religio did in Germany. Meanwhile the Party systematically destroys the ability to maintain its technology; there are even references to how the machines of war are becoming less sophisticated with time. The Party works extremely hard at convincing everyone, including themselves, that they have built the Final Society... but it takes a lot more than crossing Stalin with Whorf-Sapir to do that.

1984, in fact, is the only world in which I can envision ISIS winning. It is also the only world in which I would be marginally in their corner.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

If my job is not my property, it is far easier to see the actual exchange being made when I show up for work. I'm trading my time doing certain tasks that fill the role they defined. The job is theirs. My time is mine.


I don't entirely disagree, but the totality of your libertarian argument is a little too "law of the jungle" for me personally. I believe that society exists for a good reason, and that reason is not simply to enforce contracts and repel invaders. In part, this is because I personally am more suited to survive and thrive in a first-world industrial (or post-industrial) society than I am in a perpetual state of war with my neighbors over the means of survival.

So I hold to be self-evident, the truths that a certain percentage (exact amount to be argued separately) of the wealth of society belongs to the commons, to be managed wisely for the mutual benefit of all. A subset of the commons is not mere luxury, but infrastructure necessary for the great majority to survive in any meaningful way. And if another has the right to withhold from me my rightful share or the commons, or my rightful use of the commons whenever it suits his purposes, then I am not free.

In your scenario, I can agree with the notion that an individual job is the employer's property, but stop short of agreement when the whole concept of "having a job" is the private property of a select few, and the masses are dependent on the magnanimity of those few for their very survival. I may be free despite going hungry because of a hapenstantial lack of food in my immediate area, but if the entire concept of "food" is someone else's private property, and my right to food, and therefore, to live, is dependent on my value to him, then I am not free.
I may be free despite my employers ability to fire me at will, but if he has the right and the power to not only fire me, but blacklist me as a "troublemaker" so that no one else will hire me either, and if his doing so is strictly dependent on how he feels about me, then I thrive at his whim, and I am not free.

In the case of "Rollerball", I get that Johnathan "knew something was wrong" because he wanted to play and was not allowed to. That's a different situation from what I was describing above, since he was not being shorn of his right to the comforts of his station. He was not being threatened with the loss of his job in order to blackmail him into anything. Rather, the job was no longer going to be available to him because it suited the owners of the job (society) that it be so. Through that lens, I can see and empathize with his disappointment, but I'm not sure I agree (with the film) that a fundamental evil is being done. The game he wants to play exists only in the society that is harming him by forcing his retirement. It's not as if there was ever a separate choice to be an excellent Rollerball player in a different type of society.

The only way I can see it from his POV is to say that he had evolved into excellence by the rules that society laid out for him, and now he's being penalized rather than rewarded for doing well.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

You all know that I believe in the Star Trekkian diamond-shaped society. Mustafa Mond is my enemy. But I can respect he is both competent and sincere.


When I recently (ok, probably 10 years ago now) re-read BNW, I was struck by the chapter near the beginning where Mustfa Mond describes why he has to do his job, and to some extent seems as trapped in it as anyone. Basically, since industrialization, the population has grown to the point where industrialization is a requirement to keep them alive, which requires ever-greater efficiently in keeping industry working.

IIRC, he even had some other thing he'd rather be doing with his time, but accepted the need for him to run the world instead.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ:

I forgot to add (which somewhat diluted my point), that if I get to decide to forego a day's pay for a day off of work, then I am free. If I have to work late hours and weekends and check in from vacation just to keep my job (and to keep from being blacklisted from other jobs), then I am not free. In your own terms, if the terms of trade are the private property of another, then it impinges my freedom.

sociotard said...

this dark dune on mars is pretty boss looking
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1601/DarkDuneMars_Curiosity_4937.jpg

Laurent Weppe said...

* "you underestimate the chillingly logical wisdom of Mustafa Mond and the world controllers in Brave New World [...] calmly and un-oppressively they have set up the ultimate feudal-pyramidal society, by making past feudal rationalizations about lordly superiority simply come true!"

Past feudal rationalizations about lordly superiority were also "true", by virtue of the (legitimate) children of the lords having preferential to exclusive access to food (especially proteins) and education. And these massive advantages didn't stop feudal lordlings' dynasties to devolve into inept, sybaritic degenerates one after the next.

The methods used in BNW to rig the competition by crippling the working classes may be more technological and bureaucratized than those used in past tyrannies, but they are identical in essence: Even if their embryos aren't poisoned in the petri dish like everybody else,the Alphas will, generation after generation, become increasingly lazy and incompetent and eventually incapable of maintaining the very system that sustains them: entropy isn't kind to the scions of privileges, regardless of the tricks they use to artificially maintain their dynasties on top of the food chain.

That's why the existence of a cabal of Mustapha Monds is plausible when the civilization is still relatively young, but after centuries, smart people like Mond would already be a tiny minority among their own caste of designer babies, probably perceived as dissenters -or as dangerous, unwanted competition- by their own peers.

***

* "the Republic achieves absolutely nothing at all"

The Galactic Republic allowed trillions of sentient beings from multiple different species to prosper in peace for a millennia. You call that Nothing? Simply because the movies and tv series focused on its final years when it was at its most corrupt and weakest and the tyranny that followed -the iron rule of drama- doesn't mean that the Republic was useless. It's like saying the Roman Republic sucked because in 50 BC the Latin voters had to choose between voting for the corrupt and arrogant optimate party or an ambitious demagogue and his cronies and virtually all Peplums focus on that time period.

***

* "1984, in fact, is the only world in which I can envision ISIS winning. It is also the only world in which I would be marginally in their corner."

1984 IS the world where Daesh wins: Daesh is loosing ground against the Kurds, against the other anti-Assad rebels, against the incompetent to an almost comical degree Iraqi army... the only foe they are beating is the woefully inept -yet more subsidized than all the others combined- Assad regime: a decadent pseudo-socialist autocracy ruled by a mediocre heir, which tried to carefully monitor its educated classes to avoid the emergence of an organized rebellion of intellectuals by preemptively imprisoning any who dared voicing dissent while using the threat of wanton violence by its Shabihas militias and Hezbollah shock troops to keep the proles quiescent.

Think about it: Big Brother is real, and he's getting his ass kicked by a bunch of sociopaths that Bin Laden and his inner circle regarded as uncontrollable loons, surviving so far only because larger neighboring countries are artificially keeping him in place as a client-king.
Alas, that pathetic slow-motion downfall comes after 45 years of a tyranny that successfully exterminated virtually every rebel and dissenter who would have made better leaders than the damascene "elite".
As I said before: I don't fear any eternal tyranny -for I don't see such regime as even remotely possible-: I fear that a tyranny's ruling class may, in its suicidal selfishness, create the conditions for a complete societal and demographic collapse to follow its own downfall.

Alfred Differ said...

@Laurent Weppe: Marriages are at their core business deals
…and that’s why I refuse to treat employment as marriage. It is too close to slavery. A marriage is technically a general partnership, but tradition for many brings along many aspects of property ownership too. Marriages ARE business deals, but they are also about the submission of one’s personal goals to the goals of the partnership. Family effectively owns each family member. In the US we reject some of that, but we are cultural outliers… and we don’t reject it all.

My wife is not my property.
I am not my employer’s property even if the job is.
My employment contract obligates me to trade my time, but NOT my goals. I do not surrender mine for theirs.

I get Duncan’s perspective and know I won’t convince him to see things my way. My point is that many people see things the way I do and it’s pointless to accuse us of being immoral. There are too many of us for there to be a social consensus. Without consensus, the best we can do is be pragmatic to find compromise. What I offer is regulation of trade involving employment contracts. I won’t tolerate rules treating jobs as shared property, but I WILL tolerate rules opposing coercion and less than voluntary trade that we see when power levels between traders aren’t near balanced.

LarryHart said...

Jumper in his blog (linked above):

Often in a corporation, the rules of confusopoly prevent the bureaucrat from getting a solid idea of whose interests are covered by "company loyalty." Is it loyalty to the stockholders? This sounds good until you think of the day-trader who bought stock in your company this morning and, sure as day becomes night, is going to dump it either this afternoon, or at most wait until the end of this week. What is the employee's loyalty to this stockholder to be?


Increasing shareholder value, ideally, should mean that the holders of company stock do well over time. The idea that someone should do well by flipping the stock is really talking about increasing ex-shareholder value. Not quite the same thing.

David Jordan said...

A. F. Rey:
While the subtext of elites being threatened by the consumer masses is fairly popular (especially since the original Dawn of the Dead), there are quite a few examples that buck that trend, and they tend to be among the better entries in the genre.

World War Z for instance, uses the living dead to explore the social, political, and personal effects of such a catastrophe: how civilization crumbles, changes, and pulls itself back together. It's pretty masterful stuff, thanks to deft writing and a strong, economical sense of characterization and irony.

My ZHackers series takes the zombie apocalypse, and while I've kept the "civilization crumbles" as a starting point (so that the rest of the story can play out), I specifically wanted to look at how a bunch of scientist/engineer types who wouldn't last a day in a Holnist enclave would fare. Not just whether or not they ultimately survive, but what kind of society would they build. How would enthusiastic members of the enlightenment experiment, possessing some fraction of the accumulated knowledge of civilization, try to solve the multitude of problems?

As for The Walking Dead, while it's well-made and really has some great characters (the series' strength IMO), that show would absolutely drive David Brin nuts. The characters move from place to place, dying off as often as they find new characters, and nobody really thinks to try to rebuild anywhere larger than the band level (or at least is unable to make it work for any length of time). They're scavengers off the back of a dead civilization, to remain so until none remain. It's an interesting, engaging drama, and worth watching in that respect, but the nihilism that emerges as patterns repeat themselves through the seasons can be frustrating and disheartening. Nobody ever learns.

Even though I have some reservations with the show's progression (or lack thereof), I'm really glad it exists. I've met some of my biggest fans at Cons for The Walking Dead.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: I’m not rabid enough to want to support the libertarian argument that there is no such thing as common property. I’m more of an old school liberal than a strict libertarian, so I’m very willing to respect the lessons we’ve learned through tradition that we don’t happen to know that we know. While I’m often willing to support incremental changes to traditions, I firmly believe humans learn to do things without realizing we do and that many of these lessons manifest as tradition. We mess with them at our own peril. Shared property is an old concept that must have a valid place in society, but I’m wary of it mostly because historical feudal lords tried to pretend they were the owners for our own good. My mistrust of the tradition comes from my mistrust of certain people to know what is best for us all. No one is capable of knowing such a thing.

When it comes to jobs being owned by too few, we get to the harm done by inequality in trade. Michael Munger coined the term ‘euvoluntary’ for the kind of voluntary trade that happens when both traders can safely walk away and not trade. This is a subset of voluntary trade. The person dying of thirst in the desert who encounters someone willing to trade water isn’t really capable of euvoluntary trade. I’m very willing to consider regulation that impacts non-euvoluntary trade, but I despise solutions that try to turn traders into involuntary family members. My employer is not my family no matter what everyone else might have me believe. I simply won’t suffer that. I simply won’t suffer a legal structure that places them in an equivalence class.

There are many possible solutions to the problems associated with non-euvoluntary trade. Altering the definition of freedom to encompass the positive definition is not one I’ll accept. I CAN be free to starve if no one wants to employ me and still accuse them of a different moral crime. They have not taken my freedom if they do not trade their property with me. What they’ve done is something rather stupid. I’m going to take their property anyway and give them nothing in return except maybe a bullet. I’m free to do that too and would if I was hungry enough. It wouldn’t matter what people thought about private and common property. Humans dealing with Maslow’s first tier needs aren’t all that civilized. 8)

David Brin said...

Sociotard, cool dune!

Laurent, a few dynasties remained virile for surprising spans. The Plantagenets produced stunningly savvy-strong sons for 400 years. But yes, Generally speaking, it is a stupid system.

DJ. Don't the zombies eventually decay? Sorry, but after a year shouldn't there just be a lingering odor?

David Brin said...

Sarah Palin endorses Trump. Okay, there's overlap. But seriously? She is always running out of money and he has lots. Need anything more?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

When it comes to jobs being owned by too few, we get to the harm done by inequality in trade. Michael Munger coined the term ‘euvoluntary’ for the kind of voluntary trade that happens when both traders can safely walk away and not trade. This is a subset of voluntary trade. The person dying of thirst in the desert who encounters someone willing to trade water isn’t really capable of euvoluntary trade. I’m very willing to consider regulation that impacts non-euvoluntary trade, but I despise solutions that try to turn traders into involuntary family members.


We agree more than we disagree.

David Jordan said...

David Brin:
It's fairly common in zombie fiction to either set your story over a short enough period where that's not an issue (Shaun of the Dead takes place over a couple days...well aside from the gag at the end) or to invent some reason why they take much longer to decay.

In World War Z for instance, the living dead do decay, but slowly, with the exact rate depending on environmental conditions. Zombies in tropical swamps decaying within a couple years, while ones frozen in ice can emerge decades later when the ice melts (having a froglike ability to freeze/thaw).
Implausible, yes, but slow decay the genre's equivalent to warp drive.

In the case of The Walking Dead, there's a reveal that makes it pretty much ensures the dead will keep rising (though in smaller numbers).

In ZHackers, the question of decay rate is very much on the minds of my characters, who wonder how long they have to plan for. It's even a matter of experiment.

David Jordan said...

I've always found the idea of using the indulgent, genre staples that get people in seats, like car chases, cool tech, zombies, etc. and using them as an on ramp for much more interesting ideas. People come looking for their fix of "I'd totally survive against the zombies!" and get, "Wow, I kinda want to learn more about electromagnetic waveguide antennas."

Inevitably, people will mix and match the indulgent parts with the thoughtful parts, but I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. Not ten minutes ago I came across a comment in which someone repurposed the "cool" iconography of MM:FR's villains to salute a largely forgotten hero of nursing, "Mary Seacole will ride eternal, shiny and chrome." I've seen that a lot around MM:FR, where the cool-but-yucky symbols get used, but with its meaning turned around into something more positive, inclusive, and healthy. That doesn't necessarily support either of our hypotheses, but it does suggest a fairly complex relationship that people have with the film.

Alfred Differ said...

back to the topic...

I've learned not to mind movie remakes, but I judge them different. They strike me as similar to when a band does a cover song. As long as I'm not sold on it originally as new material, I'll judge it as a retelling where the new artists get to have their say on old material. Some covers are better than originals, so I don't mind. Some stories are worth retelling, so I don't mind that either.

Turning books into movies is similar as far as I'm concerned. I know screen plays can't be structured like novels, but message and meaning better be translated well or I'll notice.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I've learned not to mind movie remakes, but I judge them different. They strike me as similar to when a band does a cover song. As long as I'm not sold on it originally as new material, I'll judge it as a retelling where the new artists get to have their say on old material


My issue with modern remakes is more accurately an issue with the way movies seem to be currently watered down (supposedly) for mass appeal. I find most popular movies in the past decade or two to be dumbed down self-parody. So my problem with a remake in that context is that the original is actually being degraded by being used as an inspiration for a 21st century movie. Not that the concept of a re-make has to go that way, but that in the current world, it does.

I know I'm overgeneralizing, and everyone has their lists of "But thus-and-such is a great film, and it was made in 20xx!" Sure. But for most of the time since, I'd say the 90s if not before, when I thought I'd really like to see a new film, the actual experience was disappointing. That was not the case in the 60s and 70s. Something has changed.

And I can't help but think of the bit from Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" where a character realizes that people might conceivably have thought Francon (blanking of his first name) was a genius, but when they start proclaiming the genius of Gus Webb, they can't possibly believe it, and what they're really doing is not so much elevating Gus Webb as spitting on the concept of "genius".

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not sure I can fairly compare movies from the 60's and 70's to the current stock when they are remade. I was pretty young back then, so my experience on first seeing them isn't close to what I'd do now if I saw them for the first time. Apples and Oranges are being compared because I've changed.

I DO think the story telling technique for big budget movies has changed, but that doesn't shock me. Tech has advanced, so technique should too. Some of the stories told today couldn't be rendered on film earlier. For example, I remember the short version of Dune when it came out in the 80's. I considered it very lame. The longer version was slightly better. Dune is hard to translate to a screenplay, so I wasn't surprised. My first reading of it was shallow the way we might expect of a teenager (I was), but by the time the movie was out I had read the available sequels and thought about the politics involved. The techniques needed to translate Dune well enough to appeal to me then didn't exist. They still don't, but I've changed again from the person I was in the 80's.

I don't expect retellings to amaze me very often, but I do expect them to improve on the story in some way to justify my entertainment purchase. The two modern Star Trek movies did do that, but only just barely. The visuals were fun on a big screen and the old Star Trek couldn't do that. I saw again the first Star Trek movie just the other day and I could see where the money got spent and what they could NOT do. It's fun in it's own way, but a modern retelling probably isn't worth my money. I kept bumping into AI thoughts I've learned since the late 70's that should be in a retelling, but they would utterly change the story.

Jumper said...

LarryHart, my "day trader" was a reductio ad absurdum. At what time frame does corporate loyalty kick in? My own rule of thumb was seven years when I worked for multinationals, and seemed in synch with most but not all upper management. I suppose the opposite exaggerated investor desires a corporate entity which will retain its value for 100 years and pay a small dividend dependably for the whole time like clockwork. How much do you subscribe to that goal as an otherwise not-counseled employee? The arbitrary aspect allows some management to see such paradigms as threats to their own short term schemes, causing complications. Or system-wide "confusopoly."

David Brin said...

Remakes don't have to be lazy rehashes. Rollerball's remake was awful, but I am eager for the coming remake of Point Break, which has taken the crazy notion of criminal surfers and appears to have really expanded it in some cool directions.

But yeah, in order to be worth not spitting on, a remake should have something way cool to add. Despite some cool features -- and Kate Beckinsale (!) - the Total Recall remake wasn't enough.

Unless it's a but up, why not make something new? Wait. Don't answer.

Paul SB said...

Off topic, but it's something Dr. Brin might be interested in: I heard this interview with the author of a book about the Koch brothers on the radio while driving to work this morning.

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/19/463565987/hidden-history-of-koch-brothers-traces-their-childhood-and-political-rise

David Brin said...


David G Hartwell passed on suddenly, one of the greatest editors in literature, not just science fiction… though he staunchly and effectively defended and promoted the genre of boldness and exploration. I suppose my anthology, coincidentally given David's green light this week, may be his last book.

Dang. An unusual fellow who designed his own life path. An original and the hardest working editor I ever knew. And my friend.

Jumper said...

My condolences on loss of a friend and undersung comrade.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

LarryHart, my "day trader" was a reductio ad absurdum...


Well, my point is that the commonly-accepted "Only Law Of Corporatics", that a company strive to maximize shareholder value, is incorrectly applied when it is taken to mean maximizing the profitability of flipping the stock. To me, that's maximizing ex-shareholder value. The two are not necessarily incompatible, any more than the short term and long term interest rates can't trend in the same direction. But when the two diverge, by their own rules the corporation should put the interests of shareholders above those of sharesellers. Instead, they hardly (if at all) recognize a difference between the two.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Larry: I think there's more than one Law of Corpratics, but that's definitely the First Law according to the present pernicious paradigm. May I use that? It's perfect.

Laurent:
The Galactic Republic allowed trillions of sentient beings from multiple different species to prosper in peace for a millennia. You call that Nothing?

I accept the criticism and rephrase. The Republic does nothing to defend itself that is not initiated and led by Force sensitives.

* The so-called "Grand Army of the Republic" consists of the Jedi Order as senior officers/commandos and the clones as grunts. Only a few local volunteers (Hi Chewie!) break up the image of a Republic that is letting mercenaries do the dirty work while the galactic population lazes. And they pay the price: the clones are loyal to Palpatine, not the Jedi or the Republic, and cheerfully coup d'etat. Rome, the Mamelukes, the Mandarins, this is a common historical trope. Oh! And the Emperor is also Force-sensitive!

* The Rebellion, in turn, has a few other political leaders, but the driving force portrayed in the classic films is Princess Leia. Another Force sensitive, even if she wanders around for two movies unaware of it. And here she is in the new film, ---CENSORED--- still, while the Republic is only good for ---CENSORED---.

Why why why why WHY can't you show the Republic doing something defense-related of its own accord? Even if it's wimpy and insufficient??

=========

I never thought Ender was an ubermensch in any sense of the word. He was a man with "certain talents" (a: intuitive comprehension of alternative, even non-human, viewpoints and b: explosive, tactically brilliant violence) who was manipulated into the most extreme use of those talents, and then regretted the "decision" that had been made for him so much that it twisted his whole life. The character spends the entire remainder of the story trying to overcome massive child abuse, creating some bits of beauty in the process. Other characters think he's an ubermensch, but it's an illusion and always was.

Paul451 said...

David Jordan,
"In the case of The Walking Dead, there's a reveal that makes it pretty much ensures the dead will keep rising (though in smaller numbers)."

I haven't watched (or read) TWD, so maybe there's an in-universe justification, but that explanation never made sense. If everyone is already infected by the zombie-pathogen, why are mere zombie bites still dangerous? (And why does amputation of a bitten limb prevent zombification.) Is there a second pathogen that prematurely activates the first? Or are zombie bites independently toxic, causing death and hence reanimation?

Paul451 said...

"Why why why why WHY can't you show the Republic doing something defense-related of its own accord? Even if it's wimpy and insufficient??"

Or at least show a realistic corruption and weakness of the system. Particularly, corruption and weakness being manipulated by Palpatine (and his Ep7 replacements).

We are told by Palpatine that the Republic is corrupt and weak, but what we see is... nothing. The entire galaxy consists of 8-10 people and a few trillion zombies in their dormant phase.

In even the lamest filmic depiction of the corruption of turn-of-the-millennium Rome, we are shown the decadence of the elite; even if it's in the most stereotyped ways.

Only in the original Star Wars (aka ep4) was there even a hint of larger matters in the galaxy. Leia's "the Senate will not tolerate such...", and Vader's mocking response; the pre-existence of a rebellion that Luke/Han join. The prequels have nothing.

Paul451 said...

This... wanders a bit...

Looking at the familiar argument between LarryHart and Alfred Differ, it seems that their experiences have so strongly dictate their philosophies that they cannot even agree on the meaning of the words they use. Larry has occasionally stated that, due to health issues, he has long been dependent on the society around him. From Alfred's previous comments, it's clear that he never has. He apparently has never been a conventional employee, he's always been a specialist in a field where he really is "trading" his skill with employers. For him, work is no different than myself and the plumber I hire, entering a clear trade.

Unusually for a libertarian, Alfred can conceive of someone being so excluded by the owners of resources that it becomes morally just (and just plain inevitable) that this person would steal the resources he needs and/or harm the resource-owners. What he can't conceive of, it seems, is that the vast majority of people live in a slower, less extreme version of that trap.

Similarly, he can't really see a value in the commons, only that it has been valued for so long. So he accept the idea, but isn't comfortably with it. He can blithely talk of employment being "trade" because he's never experienced a life where employment was closer to feudal dependency. He can conceive of such a dependency only as an abstract intellectual exercise, it isn't real, it doesn't have consequences. Hence he is actually offended by the idea that he should have (should "suffer") obligations beyond family (and, grudgingly, the barest minimum conformity to the law, but only if agreed by 90% of people.) Because for his life, there really is nothing in between those three: Family, genuinely voluntary trade, and the grudgingly accepted law.

It's not elitism or arrogance. I don't see Alfred in any way as a bad person. Nothing like Locumranch, for example. It's like the difference between "white privilege" and racism, or "male privilege" and sexism. It's not vindictive, it's not a hatred of The Other, it's a simple blindness to their own privilege, that the world just doesn't work for other people the way it does for them. I'm struck by this whenever I talk to libertarians, the sense that they really do live in an alternative reality, one that is not only not shared by anyone else, but where they can't understand that it isn't shared by everyone else.

Paul451 said...

cont.

And I wonder if the entire US is a bit like that. Has the utterly unique experience (and mythology) of US settlement created an ideal of society that is fundamentally unsuited to anywhere else in the world (and an ideal of settlement that is utterly unsuited to anywhere else in the solar system, see below)?

Outside of a few deserts and below the Arctic circle, North America may be one of the easiest and softest continents in the world. Fertile, resource rich, benign. Emptied of most rival humans by disease. (But left partially cultivated by of those prior humans, essentially an abandoned farm rather than a wilderness. Post-post-apocalypse.) Vast grasslands with feet-thick fertile soil.(**) Broad open forests filled with abundant game. Continuous running streams freakin' everywhere.

(** I live on a continent where, on most farmland, you can brush away the top two inches of soil and see a colour change as you reach bare regolith.)

In the Midwest, particularly, a small urban-raised 18th and early 19th century family group with just the supplies in a single wagon could go well beyond the current edge of settlement and carve out a homestead. A more experienced individual could take a few iron tools and go beyond the current edge of settlement and survive indefinitely off the land.

Nowhere else in the world is like that. Not even Africa, the land in which our species actually evolved.

Hence this idea of "not suffering" an obligation to society can only exist, can only arise, in America. And the creation of a whole philosophy around the idea that society is optional (a series of voluntary trades) can only exist, can only arise, in America.

Recently I saw a discussion on the idea of colonising Venus (buoyant cloud cities) and when discussing motivations for colonising Venus, one of the commenters made the oft-used and very American argument that people will want to go to "get away from the bureaucrats". And reading it, I nearly choked on my cereal. There's no place on a floating freakin' city for "rugged individualists". If you... to use Alfred's terms... "will not suffer" others imposing familial-like obligations upon you to those around you, then you will quickly be invited to step-through-that-hatch.

As much as I loved Heinlein as a kid, it's hard to imagine any space settlement resembling the European expansion across Nth America. No self-reliant rockhounds, armed only with a one-man torch-ship and a slide-rule, making their fortunes amongst the asteroids. No Tom Sawyer-like juvenile adventures across Mars or Venus. No salvaged spaceship crammed with a dozen inexperienced settlers and minimal supplies escaping from Earth and landing on a bare patch of the moon and creating a town from nothing but spit and moxie.

The irony is that this uniquely American myth is the reason so many of us support the idea of settling space, while being completely incompatible with the actuality of settling space.

Jim Baca said...

Sorry Dave, but I can't let you endanger this mission. And that mission is saying that the New Mad Max movie was really good. Go watch it again.

A.F. Rey said...

I haven't watched (or read) TWD, so maybe there's an in-universe justification, but that explanation never made sense. If everyone is already infected by the zombie-pathogen, why are mere zombie bites still dangerous? (And why does amputation of a bitten limb prevent zombification.) Is there a second pathogen that prematurely activates the first? Or are zombie bites independently toxic, causing death and hence reanimation?

I haven't read the comics, but as far as I know, there is no explanation given, much less one that makes sense. But then there is no plausible explanation for zombies anyway. When you consider humans as a group of cells with an elaborate system for feeding those cells, zombies simply wouldn't work. You need a constant stream of materials to supply energy to the cells. Dead people don't have those systems--and any disruption of the system, like by shooting or beheading the zombie, would destroy any remanent of those system--and so their cells would quickly stop functioning. The only way a zombie could keep going as depicted is if they have a huge store of materials and/or energy in practically every cells. They would be biological perpetual motion machines! :)

So, like dragons or magic or FTL, they are simply a given in a story. And so is the rule of being bitten kills you. I'm sure there are some hand-waving explanations out there, but like zombies, nothing that will survive close scrutiny.

A.F. Rey said...

And that mission is saying that the New Mad Max movie was really good.

...and that's why HAL went crazy. :)

raito said...

Paul451,

With regard to NA expansion, there's always the Laura Ingalls stuff to be read. In particular, her accounts of how Pa Ingalls carved out that homestead you speak of. How many people in NA today could do the same? And why or why not?

I'll agree that the whole 'pioneer' thing is pretty unique to NA.

But it also presupposes a frontier. And these days, there isn't, to my knowledge, that sort of frontier available to the average person.

Yes, even on the frontier it's very difficult to be completely self-sufficient. But it is possible to minimize contact with civilization. Which I think is part of the point.

And actually and amusingly, the 'pioneer' thing also happened in Japan, but on a much smaller scale, and a long time ago.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N Cod:

Larry: I think there's more than one Law of Corpratics, but that's definitely the First Law according to the present pernicious paradigm. May I use that? It's perfect.


Feel free.

There are several past discussions on this site concerning an attempt at casting Three Laws of Corporatics after Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (and for similar reasons as Asimov's). I believe one of those discussions was the very first post of 2015. An earlier one is in Dr Brin's Ayn Rand post of...I want to say late 2011.

Without rehashing too much (and very much a work in progress):

First Law: A corporation may not impose externalities upon its community without fair compensation

Second Law: A corporation must act to fulfill its mission statement to the extent that doing so does not violate the First Law.

Third Law: A corporation must maintain its own viability to the extent that doing so does not violate the First and Second Laws.

Obviously, this is wishful thinking on my part, not claiming that such laws do govern corporations, but that they should. In the world where I am king, the Three Laws would be legally presumed to be part of any corporate charter.

To put them even more simply:

First Law: Don't make us sorry we chartered you.
Second Law: Do what we chartered you for.
Third Law: Respect the constraints of reality

LarryHart said...

Catfish N Cod:

I accept the criticism and rephrase. The Republic does nothing to defend itself that is not initiated and led by Force sensitives.

...this is a common historical trope. Oh! And the Emperor is also Force-sensitive!


Just pointing out that all of that is basically a retcon. The original 1977 movie had no sense at all that the Emperor was supernatural. Darth Vader was the only character on the Death Star to show any signs of Force powers, and none of the others took his supernatural powers seriously. General Tarkin, who was not supernatural at all, ordered Vader around like a lackey (and Vader obeyed him like one as well).

Vader and Ben Kenobi were both treated by their respective sides as tolerated but outdated relics of a bygone age that perhaps never really was.

And except for the nascent power Ben taught Luke to apply, no one else in the movie used the Force, or even tried to.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Looking at the familiar argument between LarryHart and Alfred Differ, it seems that their experiences have so strongly dictate their philosophies that they cannot even agree on the meaning of the words they use.


Funny, I don't see Alfred and myself as all that far apart. When he clarifies his position, I usually find myself nodding in agreement, going something like "Ok, as long as you're saying that and not THAT."

I like the fact that he recognizes there are some "trades" one side really can't walk away from, and therefore, are not fair trades. I don't mind carving out separate rules for that kind of trade and leaving the other kind alone. I also think health care falls under that kind of trade, same as the police and fire department when you really need them.

David Brin said...

Catfish, sorry, OS Card does not know how to have a major series protagonist who is NOT a chosen one demigod. Ender is indeed a classic exemplar, Nietzchean in all ways… except so theatrical in his morally superior soulfulness and extravagantly expressed empathy that readers so WANT him to just take over and be in charge.

Paul, looking across history, name for me another time when a core of privileged elites so willingly allowed themselves to be guilt-tripped by terms like “white privilege.” Sure, the past is not our only moral litmus. There’s also the future, and we can envision one where there is not such thing, anymore. And compared to that future, yes, today’s white males – even liberals – might be judged insufficiently vigorous in reform. We need BOTH directionalities for moral comparison. Why do you think I am in science fiction?

“Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.” -Frederick Douglass

Still, watch FRONTIER HOUSE to see that homesteading was not as easy as perhaps you imply.

Jim Baca I have SO much better uses of lifespan than watching that super-fun-violent adolescent wet dream again, lacking even a single calorie for anything adult within me, nr a single lesson worth learning. But go wallow, if you like. Enjoy!

LarryHart… in the 1977 SW flick Kenobi offer to teach it to Han! None of this ubermensch demigod crap/. Yet. Only note that Palpatine comes from the same ruling caste and same planet as Amadala and Anekin’s mom was on the refueling stop from Naboo to Coruscant and was presumably abandoned there by another Nabooan. Face it. The Galaxy is nearly destroyed by members of the same mutant human family.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

in the 1977 SW flick Kenobi offer to teach it to Han! None of this ubermensch demigod crap/. Yet.


Exactly.

Only note that Palpatine comes from the same ruling caste and same planet as Amadala and Anekin’s mom was on the refueling stop from Naboo to Coruscant and was presumably abandoned there by another Nabooan. Face it. The Galaxy is nearly destroyed by members of the same mutant human family.


But again, none of that was even hinted at in the first movie.

When "Star Wars" was made into "The Star Wars Saga", it became something other than what it had been. And to quote Dave Sim, this represented a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead.

Robert said...

The thing to recall about Star Wars (the first) is that when Ben Kenobi was offering to teach Han the ways of the Force... he could very well have been saying "you are a Force-Sensitive, and I can bring that potential out if you let me." It may even have been that Han wasn't THAT much of a Force-Sensitive... but just enough that he was "lucky" far too often.

This would help explain why Ben Solo was in fact so powerful. He was the child of two Force-Sensitives, one of whom was the Skywalker bloodline.

That said, the thought that anyone could be taught the ways of the Force is heartening somehow. It says "we all are special and any of us can be taught how to become a Jedi."

Screw the prequel trilogy and the mitochondria-wannabe organisms. We choose how to interpret the stories we read and view. We can thus choose that anyone can be Jedi... which is something young children playing with padded sticks and glowing plastic tubes already know when they pretend to be Jedi.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: The libertarian within me wonders if I have to pay for the session on your couch. 8) Your analysis is fairly close, so let me offer some information to help refine it.

My stint as a ‘conventional’ employee was brief. I felt that the employer wanted to abuse me. They wanted me to surrender my intelligence and believe that their view was the correct one. I already had my PhD at that point and was just trying to put together a temporary income while I looked for academic work. I say this to point out that I had a fully developed ego by then, so I didn’t put up with the fool I had as a boss. I was on to a better arrangement within a week of my realization. I HAVE worked for other bosses who see things in a ‘conventional’ way, but I can tolerate them if they don’t ask for my surrender. My current employer gets that, so there is no issue. I can believe what I want about being a specialist (I do try to be) and they get value from me in exchange for my time.

I have three siblings. One tends to strive to be a specialist and most of their income would be considered as self-employment or a partner’s share. Another straddles the fence while the third lives in your conventional world. I CAN conceive of problems associated with conventional employment (wage slavery) because I see them through my sibling’s eyes. I also see how to avoid some of them through my sibling’s eyes. It takes courage to walk away from those who would enslave us because we lose the security that comes with being owned and told what to do. I wish more people understood, though, that the risk is worth the reward.

I can see how there is value in the commons, but I can also see value in dividing it up as private property sometimes. People do the strangest thing when they think they own something. They use it as best they can to benefit their offspring. In a free market, though, that effort can wind up benefiting everyone’s offspring even when the owner did not intend it. The Market itself is a commons of a sort, so my objection to people regulating it is similar to my object to them taking private ownership of it. I want both concepts to thrive where they make sense and don’t trust ANYONE who thinks they are the best judge of what makes sense. Show me social consensus and I’ll budge, however, because I DO believe in the wisdom of crowds.

I have no doubt you are on the mark when you wonder about my experience base and wonder if much of the US is like that. I believe that to be correct, but it isn’t really blindness on my part. I’m a firm believer in the Enlightenment principles you’ll find in the written works of men like Adam Smith, David Hume, and F.A. Hayek. (There are many others, but be careful about adding French and German authors.) I’ve seen with my own eyes the value of protecting someone else’s liberty even when they don’t agree. I know many people (even Americans) don’t see things as I do, but that’s the beauty of living here. I don’t get squashed for my minority opinion. The philosophy you are describing, though, is Liberalism in its early form. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: It’s worth listening to a podcast at EconTalk.org to hear Munger describe the term he is trying to coin. He points out that some kinds of trade are formally forbidden by a super-majority of us even when everyone involved seems willing. He goes on to ponder why and to explore the boundary between what is forbidden and what is tolerated. He also went another step and asked what the traders could do IN ADVANCE that would convince everyone else to tolerate their desires.

Consider the market for human kidneys. The vast majority of us don’t tolerate kidney sales, but we will look the other way for kidney donations. Why? It can’t be just that a rich buyer and a poor seller are imbalanced when they face each other to establish a price because we won’t accept brokered deals either. A broker who earns a percentage of the sale price CAN walk away from a trade with a rich buyer, but few of us will consider this to be good enough. Why? What virtue applies here to overrule Prudence? Obviously economics isn’t complete if the only virtue considered is prudence.

Munger’s example study involved a ship’s captain selling an extra anchor to a ship at sea that had lost theirs. Obviously the seller can exploit the buyer, but is there any arrangement the two could strike where we would not be tempted to regulate their trade to prevent price gouging? Munger things there is.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Paul 451: Eh, that always seemed clear to me despite Palpy's whispers. What would be the equivalent... hmm...

A multinational corporation hires a private navy to blockade a small, prosperous, peaceful community -- Nantucket, MA, or Santa Catalina Island, CA -- and tries to extort favorable tax and regulatory policy by force. The President is too beholden to special interests to intervene and Congress prefers to debate technical points of law. A Supreme Court challenge will take too long. The mercenaries begin rounding up citizens from their homes as further pressure...

Hell yes the Republic is weak and corrupt.

Larry: It's a retcon Lucas chose to make.

Robert: The thing to recall about Star Wars (the first) is that when Ben Kenobi was offering to teach Han the ways of the Force... he could very well have been saying "you are a Force-Sensitive, and I can bring that potential out if you let me."

It is very, very easy to imagine that the Jedi and Sith had strict entrance criteria, and that a significant chunk of the galaxy could be using hedge-witch level Force tricks if knowledge of the Force hadn't been locked up by elitist organizations. One character in the new movie hints at this being the case.

David: Oh, Card wants Ender to be an ubermensch. It's just that I think in this case he fails. He could have been one but he's too broken to have even my respect, much less my loyalty. I read it for the worldbuilding, and to me the main character of the series is Jane the AI.

On whom else did the "white privilege" argument work? Great Britain. But that may not be far enough away in social space for you.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N Cod:

Larry: It's a retcon Lucas chose to make.


Sure. I was simply explaining that one can enjoy the original Star Wars without having to turn off the part of the brain that worships feudalism. One simply has to turn off the part of the brain that thinks about the sequels. Of (if one is of a certain age) remember what it was like before the sequels.

Alfred Differ said...

Great Britain isn't far enough away. This is easily seen by asking is the US more like England, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. We'd look a little confused and answer "Yes".

Others have floated a concept called 'The Anglosphere' to help distinguish one particular part of The West. The point David is making applies across most of the anglosphere.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Talking about "The Frontier"
It is not just the North American continent - there is something about that time in history as well

The USA still has vast stretches that could be "homesteaded" - there are some minor bureaucratic issues but you could buy a piece of land and go to it

As does NZ - but I didn't and only a tiny tiny number of people will go down that route

Effectively there is still a "Frontier" - but nobody takes advantage of it

Daniel Duffy said...

Late to the party.

Just finished "The Three Body Problem" by Cixin Liu.

Freaking brilliant!

This and the rest of the trilogy must be made into a mini series.

But can a Chinese-centric story find a Western audience?

David Brin said...

Daniel the problem with Three Body is that he could not maintain the western-dynamism after book II. (Which is even better!)

Book II returns a bit to Asiatic grouchiness. But still terrific stuff.


And now onward!

onward

onwad

raito said...

Yes, we've moved onward. Still, that Jedi stuff...

Assuming that the top Jedi know that two sensitives procreating creates very powerful sensitives, and assuming that's why they do not allow Jedi to have children, makes them even more righteous pricks than before.

Because the next generation would take over relatively quickly. And the top guys never want to give up power.

But it's still flawed. At some point, and untrained sensitive will figure stuff out, and apply it. At which point the monopoly falls apart.