Saturday, October 08, 2016

New Sci Fi media and messages and... fun?


Traditionally, I try to avoid politics on the weekend and focus instead on much less disgusting goings on... like dystopias, apocalypses and science fiction! Still, we're in a sci fi world right now... Robert Heinlein predicted the "Crazy Years" and we've been spiraling into something truly weird.

So tune in at the end of this posting for what I am hoping, for this Sunday's U.S. Presidential Debate.

For now, though -- sci fi!

ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative just published Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fictiona free digital collection featuring 12 stories from ASU's global Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. The book includes a foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson (the lead judge for the contest) and an interview with Paolo Bacigalupi. Free to download.

How about the new Star Trek? Sure, I have some disagreements with the J.J. Abrams conceptual reboot… but it’s still way cool stuff.  Frankly, we need the ambiance and underlying assumptions of Trek… that our children might – conceivably – be better than us.  It’s what we want. Yet the gloom and stupidity industries (Hollywood) seem to think you cannot tell a story that will sell tickets, if you let even a glimmer of hope raise its head.  See where I appraised this in my published piece on Trek

See this speculation about how Game of Thrones will end leaves out one factor… that George R. R. Martin has been trying hard to show readers and viewers how bloody awful feudalism is! Okay, so none of you got that.  Wallow in the blood and oppression and infantile behavior and extremes of human nastiness while rooting for the marginally less-nasty!

But maybe, just maybe, the underdog common folk may have the last say.

== Rant-mode on! ==

 It may surprise you, given that I deem Yoda to be the most evil character ever, in the history all versions and forms of human storytelling... but I have no objections to his appearing in Episode 8 of Star Wars. After all, he lied to Luke endlessly about everything, so why not about "dying"? 

Poor Luke is an okay dude but a very dim bulb and on Dagobah he fell for the old Jedi "death fade-away" trick, which the vile green oven mitt pulled, just when Luke was ready to demand some answers!

Yes, yes, Mr. Abrams - while an absolute genius with characters - seems unable to imagine an original plot. He portrays Luke's new Jedi destroyed in exactly the same way that the original Jedi were. (Did I mention Luke is dim?) Luke then (The Force Awakens, Episode 7) goes on to precisely repeat Yoda's and Obiwan's cowardly actions - hiding away from the world, instead of trying to fix your own mistakes.

Only, if you actually think Yoda is anything but flat out super-Hitler, actually try sometimes tabulating the tens of billions of deaths he caused. And please, please come up with one... even one... genuinely wise and helpful thing the gnasty gnome ever really says.

He senses Anekin may be dangerous, yet foists him off to be trained by the most inexperienced master. He over-rules Mace every time Windoo says "let's tell the Republic what's going on!" Never once does he do his duty to the republic. 

There is zero reason to believe that the super smart gene crafters of Planet Kamino weren't telling the truth when they say that Yoda ordered up the clone army. Lucas doesn't even TRY to offer an alternative explanation. After all, who takes delivery of the clone army? Yoda!

When does he take delivery? Before he goes and orders all the Jedi into a suicide charge that kills 2/3 of them. He conveniently arrives with the clones JUST in time for that slaughter to be almost done.

Are you freaking kidding me? You noticed none of that? Yoda "dies" conveniently at the very instant when his dupe, poor Luke, is ready to look him in the eye and demand answers? W... T... F?

See this explored in more detail in Star Wars on Trial. I am giving you the tip of the iceberg, here.

The challenge stands. ONE genuinely wise and helpful thing that the little monster says. One. One. Offer up one.

Instead you have shit like "there is no try." Ooooooooooog

== a better Jedi ==

 Ursula LeGuin is deservedly praised as a giant of American letters. I also learned important things when I took a class from her, in grad school.  I am glad she has been receiving waves of commendation and recognition, almost-annually, all across the 21st Century. (See her latest: The Complete Orsinia.) 

Still, LeGuin also represents the purest archetype of a literary maven who was given everything by science fiction – the liberty to express and develop a vast range of notions, ideas and thought experiments – and who was treated with respect by her SF peers and readers long, long before any discovery by the doyens of erudition... who has thereupon taken relentless pains to kick aside and spurn her first and most-generous love. From The New York Times: Le Guin has earned a rare honor. Just don't call her a Sci Fi writer. 

Oh, it is a fairly typical pattern. Kurt Vonnegut did it, as has Margaret Atwood, though both amended their disparagements at times, when brain and blood surged with that rare but precious trait called gratitude.  Heck, even Harlan Ellison gave in to the temptation, across a stretch of years when sycophants did what sycophants do – urging him to drop the pejoratively “career harmful” Science Fiction label. A harm that only happens because so many titans of exploratory fiction listened to the devil on their shoulders.

Fortunately, that era is passing. The best and brightest of a new generation – e.g. Paolo Bacigalupi, Michael Chabon, and Neil Gaiman  -- want no part of nasty ingratitude.  All refuse every invitation to re-name their writings “magic realism” or any other shill-concoction. They openly and proudly say: “I write science fiction; live with it.”  And the effects are starting to show.

Oh, it is still a very rare university lit or English department that promotes its science fiction lecturer with tenure. Hatred of SF – ironically the boldest and most-American of all genres – is still bilious and venom-drenched in those sections of campus.  But in New York literary circles, there’s been real movement. 

For example, The Atlantic, New Yorker and Harpers used to trade off a cycle of running hit pieces, savagely dissing SF, every 5 years or so. That cycle is shattered now, replaced by excellent survey articles by very with-it reviewers, every year.   

In other words, there is no longer even a fig leaf reason to perform rituals of churlish ingratitude toward the audacious genre of Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Huxley, Butler and Kress.

It’s a habit. And it is never too late to outgrow such childish things.

...At the HIGH end!... 

Seth Rogen and partners are preparing a pilot for a TV series about… the Singularity.  Got some funny ideas on that.

Hip-hop scifi? Gift of Gab and Blackalicious, especially their excellent pop-rap song “Powers,” which is joyful and stunningly original. Follow Gift of Gab over to The Mighty Underdogs doing “Droppin’ Science Fiction!” Sci-fi rap!  Seriously!

Let’s add to my list of sci fi comics Star Power, which appears to have a more uplifting motif and sensibility. The sort of attitude we need more of, these days. 

... and finally... yes... the crazy (political) year...

Hillary Clinton seems determined to obey advisers, who urge her to fight Donald Trump using political "Sumo"... grunting and shoving for margins of undecideds over this or that exchange of insults or tax returns.  It is a bloody awful mistake.  

Oh sure... fight those fights.  But only doing that is exactly why Tim Kaine did badly, last week. What would work better is Judo!

I've offered riff after riff that could be effective.  But all of them depend on HC wanting to win the OVERALL election. Which means taking back what was once the greatest deliberative body on the planet from monsters who have turned the U.S. Congress into the laziest, most dogmatic and worthless in US history.  

What? Does she want to accomplish anything? Or is she content to commence 4 years of pure hell, the moment she enters office?

In the first debate, she used the word "Republican" just once! Coached to try to win over marginal republicans, she has played nice to a party that has become a travesty. How about actually taking this seriously?

-  Cite Reagan!  He famously said "The Democratic Party left me." Brilliant.  So USE THAT! Say "the Republican Party has left you, abandoned you to cozy up to oligarchs and ONLY oligarchs."

- Point out that no GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan was even mentioned during the recent RNC.*  Bush, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hastert, Ailes... a long list of which the party is clearly ashamed, helping propel the Trump insurrection. And do not be afraid to mention the Bushes. You do not need their "support."

- Use the word LAZY to describe a Congress that almost never meets, passes no budgets, hates science, and avoids hearings about things that matter.  Lazy goes straight to character, bypassing typical divides. And it applies to republicans.

- Demand Trump appoint 5 distinguished conservatives to a commission to (1) check on accusations of election cheating AND (2) to supervise a trusted fact-checking service. With 5 democrats and 5 appointed by (say) Sandra Day O'Conner. Demand he name these sages THIS WEEK!  Or else admit he was bluffing.

Lots of republicans dismiss Trump as a temporary disease-aberration. He is a symptom. Portray him as the natal outcome of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes's takeover of US conservatism.

- Most metrics of US national health do far better across democratic administrations, even military readiness and the curve of change in deficits, which accelerate under republicans and slow down under democrats. And we'd be father along if the GOP congresses had passed the damn infrastructure bill.  Folks can understand this. 

List the professions that Fox & pals attack! Not just science, teaching, journalism, medicine, economics… but all of them. Dare DT to name an exception.

Enough.  I got a million of them. But she's not reading this.  Nor are any of her stodgy, unimaginative and dismally-sumo-obsessed advisers.  All we can do is hope for the best.

=====
* Okay, Newt Gingrich got some time at the RNC. But think that one through. 

67 comments:

David Stigant said...

In Attack of the Clones (SWep2), a Jedi named Syfo-Diyas is named as the person who ordered the clone army. He apparently died 10 years before the events of ep2. There's some uncertainty as to what exactly was going on, but Yoda is not implicated in any of the theories. Here's a discussion including analysis of pre-drafts, novels, and the Clone Wars TV series:
http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/5776/who-really-ordered-the-creation-of-the-clone-army

Robert said...

You know, Dr. Brin, I understand how you despise the Jedi and you have quite a few valid reasons to do so. However, I think you are incorrect to claim Luke is repeating the mistakes that Kenobi and Yoda did.

Let us consider for a moment. Luke is using what he was taught by Kenobi over a matter of a day or two... and Yoda over a couple weeks. He doesn't know much about the Jedi or their ways. And his teaching methods end up with his nephew turning to the Dark Side, another Jedi going dark, and all of his students (the ones who didn't go to the Dark Side) being massacred. However, there is no Empire at this time. The First Order is still building itself up. The New Republic is doing well. And if he spent the time chasing down his nephew and Darth Gollum, then he not only risks succumbing to the Dark Side (vengeance and anger), but he might lose. If he dies? So goes the Jedi Order.

Instead of starting to teach a new crew of Jedi? He decides to do research. Rather than trust what he learned from Yoda and Kenobi? He seeks out the oldest of the Jedi Temples so to find out what the First of the Jedi did and what their own mistakes were. In short, he's trying to avoid mindlessly repeating the mistakes of old by going to the original source and learn how it was first done.

To put it in scientific grounds, it would be like a scientist who was following flawed data from previous research and having her experiment fail. Rather than repeat the same experiment several times she decides to start fresh, working from the ground on up to find the flaws in the newer research... and thus discover their failures and succeed on her own.

If a scientist did this? You would praise her. Luke does this? He's a coward running from his mistakes.

Of course, I am running from a third-party basis of knowledge (Wikipedia) and have not bothered to watch the film. Maybe when it's in the discount bin for $1 I'll actually pick it up. Otherwise, there's no need to waste money and several hours of my time.

Rob H.

Jonathan Sills said...

We don't really now what Luke was doing, Rob. He doesn't even speak, as I recall - we're left to wait until Ep 8 to find out, if he even tells then.

Re: authors no longer running from the "science fiction" label - I read an interview with Tom Clancy once, in which the interviewer called him one of the foremost writers of military fiction. He replied that he preferred to think of what he wrote as near-future SF. I'd like to see more such authors proudly seize what was once the label of a ghetto, in much the same way as "comic book movie" has transformed from Roger Corman Special to Blockbuster Tentpole Move.

Jonathan Sills said...

"...don't really *know..." Stupid typos.

David Brin said...

Burden of proof on those who claim that the geniuses on Planet Kamino would take such a huge order, with huge transfer of Jedi funds, without knowing whom they are doing business with. For it to be anyone but Yoda depends on not ONE leak happening across a decade, ever, even once. No such worries if it truly is Yoda.

But the capper is WHO TAKES DELIVERY? Under those conditions, a storytelling burden falls upon those who claim it was NOT Yoda's army!

Even if he grabbed someone else's army, ponder the timing. It would take weeks to gather the army and get it to that planet. Yet JUST as he's approaching, he orders the Jedi into a suicide charge that kills most of them.

Are... you... freaking... kidding... me?

It's not hate ALL Jedi. Mace Windoo was that rare Jedi, simultaneously smart and good, who wanted to tell the Republic everything (over-ruled by Yoda) and who almost stops the conspiracies TWICE... and would have succeeded if he had any help at all.

==
Rob Luke is studying? Hm. Maybe. We'll see. But the stuff you say before that is malarkey. He Exactly repeats with Ben Solo the same mistakes made re Anekin.

Jumper said...

https://urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu/2015/09/08/forget-what-youve-heard-houston-really-does-have-zoning-sort-of/
Houston solved zoning by not calling it that.

Of course I think treehouse grandmas should not have their treehouses condemned. That's wrong.

LarryHart said...

@Jonathan Sills concerning Spock from the previous thread...

Back when I watched the original episodes in the 70s, I took Spock's "emotionlessness" seriously. I wasn't all that impressed with the movies making him into someone who rejected that idea.

But as a much older adult with 40 more years of experience, I see more and more that Spock portrayed a being without emotions rather than actually being one. In that, he seems to be paralleling someone in (say) Saudi Arabia who takes the tenets of Islam seriously, only to see his authority figures debauching and drinking in private. Or a true-believing Evangelical in the US who tries to be a good disciple of Christ while his authority figures vote for Donald Trump.

When I said he was trying to be more Vulcan than Vulcans, the episode I was thinking of was the animated episode called "Yesteryear" in which young Spock undergoes an ordeal of manhood, and his father (Sarek) tells him something along the lines of "Many fail the first time, and that is no shame--for them. If you fail, there will be those who call you a coward the rest of your life." That's not an exact quote, but pretty close.

Jonathan Sills said...

Vulcan disdain for "half-breeds" like Spock was made pretty clear, I thought, in "Amok Time", especially with T'Pring and Stonn. T'Pau looked down on pretty much everybody, of course. And if the term weren't so strongly insulting to Spock, it wouldn't have gotten under his skin so badly in "This Side of Paradise", when Kirk was trying to piss him off so he could throw off the effect of the spores.

So yeah, that would seem to be exactly the correct interpretation - especially keeping in mind Nimoy's explanation for why Spock was seen to smile in the first pilot, "The Cage" (which was recycled as the only two-part episode in the original series, "The Menagerie"). He said that at the time, Spock was experimenting with human emotions, to see if they had the same value to him as Vulcan repression. There are also a few hints of this in early episodes like "Charlie X", where Uhura is flirting with him in the rec room and his reaction is a small smile. (Nichelle Nichols said that her read on the scene was that Uhura and Spock had had a bit of a fling, but broken up amiably shortly before the series started, and that was how she played all their subsequent scenes together.)

Yes, I'm an old-school Trekkie - what of it? :)

Paul SB said...

Nothing wrong with an old-school Trekkie! I would rather talk Trek than Star Wars, any day.

Larry's point about what Sarek said to Spock during his rite of passage (I haven't seen the animated episodes in so long, I don't remember much, aside from how bad the animation and music was) sounds very Human, doesn't it? Not exactly logical to disdain "half-breeds" or anyone else based on their heritage rather than actual performance. So much for that vaunted Vulcan logic!

I suspect that a lot of Obama's unpopularity comes from that same kind of double standard, that as the first non-Caucasian president of the U.S. his performance must be inhumanly flawless or he would be judged more harshly than all his Caucasian predecessors. Likewise if Clinton becomes the first non-male president. Many hated Obama simply because he isn't one of "them" and many more will hate Clinton for exactly the same reason.

Tony Fisk said...

I think all political advice has gone out the window in the last 24 hours or so. A sumo wrestling chihuahua could probably roll Trump at the moment. (of course, the remaining dregs of the white hot crucible Trump is still holding would follow him anywhere.)

I liked the contrast between Spock and Data: one an emotional being striving to control that emotion through the application of logic. The other a completely logical creation seeking a more emotional existence. ("Pinnochio", as Riker describes him when they first meet.)

Spock's attitude to logic and emotion changed over time. As a younger man, he adhered to a strict discipline. Later, he came to a more mature understanding that emotion wasn't necessarily to be suppressed, but guided by logic. Hints of this started appearing before the movies. For instance, in the episode "Galileo 7", Spock logically concludes that an emotional response ('desperation') is the best solution to catching the attention of the Enterprise.

As to the latest Star Trek, I liked it overall. It's shaken off those echoes of Universe Prime (as someone's pointed out, Kirk's opening log is stardated to the point where the TV series left the original 5 year mission) My biggest grumble was the reveal that the villain was an ex-Starfleet officer who'd 'gotten lost'. It felt tacked on. Having spent most of the movie looking like an escapee from a Narn prison camp, he suddenly turns human? Ummmm...!

LarryHart said...

Johnathan Sills:

keeping in mind Nimoy's explanation for why Spock was seen to smile in the first pilot, "The Cage" ... He said that at the time, Spock was experimenting with human emotions, to see if they had the same value to him as Vulcan repression.


Well, that's an interesting retcon. Isn't the real reason that Spock was not written as emotionless in the pilot because the logic-only character was Majel Barrett as Number One?


There are also a few hints of this in early episodes like "Charlie X", where Uhura is flirting with him in the rec room and his reaction is a small smile. (Nichelle Nichols said that her read on the scene was that Uhura and Spock had had a bit of a fling, but broken up amiably shortly before the series started, and that was how she played all their subsequent scenes together.)


I never heard that before, but I can believe it. Later on in the series, it was Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett again) who had the thing for Spock, but yes, the way Uhura teased Spock in that early episode only seems in character if there was some history as you suggest.


Yes, I'm an old-school Trekkie - what of it? :)


Nothing wrong with that.

David Brin said...

JS your geekdom is most welcome here. This is a safe zone for your... kind. ;-)

Paul SB said...

Tony,

I haven't seen the latest in the Trek franchise. My daughter and I were both pretty disappointed with the previous two, so neither of us could muster enough enthusiasm to see it in the theater (this was a movie-dry summer for me - the only time I went to the theater was for Finding Dory, which was okay but not great even by kiddie flick standards). I'm wondering if it will be worth checking out on DVD. One thing I have to mention is that my daughter has little patience for low-class antics, like that tacky scene in the first movie with Kirk & the Orion girl. If the movie is less low-class than that, she might be persuaded to watch it. What do you think?

Paul SB said...

Matthew,

I was going to say last thread that there are worse things you could have named after you than a hurricane. Of course the story about Charles Marsh naming the coprolite after his dishonest rival Edward Cope is apocryphal (the name comes from Greek κοπροσ), but it's too funny a story not to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I find to be very annoying is the modern trend for films to be color-graded in blue & orange. (or teal and gold) The latest Star Trek film pandered to this by having the production design use these colors almost exclusively.

https://priceonomics.com/why-every-movie-looks-sort-of-orange-and-blue/

I also think that Trek has lost its progressive heart. There's too much gratuitous violence and not enough science, exploration, or meaningful storytelling.

Tony Fisk said...

@Paul SB

Hmm. Depends on what you mean by 'low class'. It's basically a fun and longish Trek episode that doesn't slavishly follow the original movie sequence. The caste have fun emulating the character dynamics of the Old Series. There are a few comely alien ladies, but nothing in the serious steam department. There's a slightly silly opening scene where we can safely say that diplomacy has failed, but which has little to do with the rest of the film (it's a setup for Kirk's mood). There are also some poignant moments (Look for the shore leave sequence)

I haven't been to many movies either, but another film worth seeing is "Kubo and the Two Strings".

Paul SB said...

Tim again,

With reference to Star Trek, low class is mainly sexploitation. Abrams hasn't stooped to things like fart jokes or beer chug-a-lugs, but she gets real annoyed when they are showing too much skin for no apparent reason. It's a different thing if it is actually a part of the plot, like a scene in a comic she read last month where an alien tries to lure a human crewman into a dark corner by disguising itself as a beautiful & scantily clad female human. The video comes out next month and I'll see if she'll bite based on your reassurances. It will probably have to wait until I have Thanksgiving vacation - though I realize I could stop clacking out my thoughts here and have more movie time, but as a social animal I would rather have the social interaction.

The other movie looks potentially fun, but I think she is as sick of animated kids movies as I am. It looks like it might not be in theaters a whole lot longer.

Paul SB said...

Tim? That was meant for Tony Fisk. I must not be entirely awake yet ... My inner Dalek is shouting "Caffeinate! Caffeinate! You will be caffeinated!"

Paul SB said...

I missed this latest Anon, and am happy to see a comment that makes good sense. "Red Matter?" Just what the frog kind of excuse for an explanation is that?

LarryHart said...

The one movie my daughter wanted to see this past summer was the sequel to "Now You See Me". And that one was out when we were in Europe, and then seemed to fall off the face of the earth.

Did anyone see that one, and if so, is it worth seeing on video?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Abrams hasn't stooped to things like fart jokes or beer chug-a-lugs, but she gets real annoyed when they are showing too much skin for no apparent reason.


Gee, I happen to like when they show a lot of skin for no apparent reason. I'd think it would be annoying if the POV of the movie draws too much attention to the fact that they're showing it, but if it's just there for those of us who enjoy it, I'd say no harm, no foul. I'm partial to the female uniforms of TOS.


LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

I've mentioned that I'm re-reading "Existence". I'm just getting to the part where an autie plays a major role in the main storyline, and I can't help noticing that his free-associating rhyme pattern echoes the wordplay in the musical "Hamilton".


"Yes. Many--numerous multitudinous...Shining--luminous numinous...Stones--crystalline serpentine olivine..." He tugged at her and skipped along gaily. "But only a rare-pair speak!"

Zepp Jamieson said...

Virtually no American is aware of this, but the cult British SF series, "Red Dwarf" is back with the original cast, and while superficially very silly, has some extremely sly satire going on under the surface. In the first episode of the eleventh season, Lister, Rimmer, the Cat and Kryton end up on a planet where all scientific theory from Einstein forward is banned. Morality police are shown demolishing examples of post-19th century technology such as toasters (the type you stick bread into) and arresting people caught with equations from Einstein or Dirac. In this world, there are hidden speakeasies where you can drink booze (which is legal) and hire women to speak dirty physics to you. The monologues are hilarious.
Available on Dave Channel.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Red Matter?" Just what the frog kind of excuse for an explanation is that?"

Well, nobody said what colour Unobtainium had to be....

Jumper said...

The Coen brothers tend to color grade their movies a lot but not orange and blue. Often they'll ban colors altogether. Or save them for the right moments.

locumranch said...


Statements like "Censor, subjugate & rule in secrecy, we must, to protect the liberal & democratic sensibilities of the Republic of Planets" are perhaps why David hates Yoda so much: Yoda is a political progressive by all criteria who dares to give away their elitist, classist & anti-democratic game plan.

On this, I agree: Science Fiction has the Noblest Pedigree as it allows the author to make astute, immoral & politically incorrect observations about the current social order without immediate denunciation, a truth known & utilised by the likes of Jonathan Swift & Salmon Rushdie.

I've even started my own short piece (set on the distant planet Uranus) wherein HC, a once-great champion of sexual & verbal liberation, condemns and censures her competitor DT for taking INAPPROPRIATE sexual & verbal liberties that she once championed but now finds offensive.

That said, I find it hard to give credit to what now passes for 'Climate Fiction' as it amounts to little more than the propagation of the officially sanctioned social narrative, and I'd much rather read JG Ballard's take on climate fiction (Drowned World, Vermillion Sands) than today's dreary, predictable & socially sanctioned propaganda.


Best

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Oh, it is a fairly typical pattern. Kurt Vonnegut did it, as has Margaret Atwood, though both amended their disparagements at times, when brain and blood surged with that rare but precious trait called gratitude.


In fairness, I think Vonnegut's body of literature is in a class of its own. Many of his short stories, and some novels like "The Sirens of Titan" and "Timequake" are pure science-fiction, and "Player Piano" could be argued as such. OTOH, "Mother Night", "God Bless You, Mr Rosewater", and "Bluebeard" are regular fiction except for the excerpts of stories by Kilgore Truot which they contain. "Jailbird" was intended from the start (and he said as much) to be "a science-fiction novel about economics," even though the reader doesn't really know that until the author tells us toward the end of the book. And with "Palm Sunday", he attempted a new genre, a sort of melange of fiction, non-fiction, and autobiography all melting-potted together.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I've even started my own short piece (set on the distant planet Uranus) wherein HC, a once-great champion of sexual & verbal liberation, condemns and censures her competitor DT for taking INAPPROPRIATE sexual & verbal liberties that she once championed but now finds offensive.


Sounds like you pulled it out of Uranus.

Does your story mention that HC doesn't need to condemn DT for sexual proclivity, because his own party's voters are the ones who are offended by it? All HC has to do is nod and smile politely as DT immolates himself. Or that there's a no contradiction between advocating freedom for consenting adults to engage in sexual proclivity while condemning a predator?

Paul SB said...

Larry,
Great observation about the autie in Existence. I'm still waiting for an affordable copy on CD to add to my queue. Right now I'm listening to a book called "Predictably Irrational", which has been a lot of fun (I like to alternate between fiction & non-fiction). I have only been through the first few chapters and it has mostly been stuff I am already aware of, but in much more fascinating detail. I recommend it (I think Alfred would get a lot of food for thought out of it, as it goes into economic models).

Regarding flesh on video, I said that my daughter doesn't like it, and to some extent I agree with her assessment of tastelessness, but to be perfectly honest the sight of smooth, round hiney tends to melt me. I started referring to GOT as "Game of Buns" some time back. But there are things you can watch with your buddies that you wouldn't watch with your kids, no matter how old they are.

Paul SB said...

Little loci is back to his twisted spew again. Ho-hum!

"Does your story mention that HC doesn't need to condemn DT for sexual proclivity, because his own party's voters are the ones who are offended by it? All HC has to do is nod and smile politely as DT immolates himself. Or that there's a no contradiction between advocating freedom for consenting adults to engage in sexual proclivity while condemning a predator?"

Larry points out a key here that a permanent child can never get. When the whole world revolves around your desires, however dark or light, and you have no concern whatsoever for anything else but indulging yourself, his implication of hypocrisy against Clinton makes sense. Just about any normal human being, though, gets that freedom comes with responsibility toward your fellow human being. They might not talk about it in those terms, but human nature ensures that most of us get this at a visceral level. But neither genetics nor memetics ensures that everyone will get it. Once again, do we pity people like that, or condemn them as monsters?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Right now I'm listening to a book called "Predictably Irrational", which has been a lot of fun


I think I might have read that one. Is it by the same author as "Innumeracy"?

Paul SB said...

No, that was a guy named John Paulos. I haven't read anything by him, but I have heard good things about that book. My daughter read "Predictably Irrational" from cover to cover and loved it.

RFYork said...

Dr. Brin,

I have no idea where you have gotten the impression that Ursula LeGuin has denied her origins or in any way denigrated Science Fiction or Fantasy. Precisely the opposite is true. The link below takes you to a review of a most extraordinary exchange between LeGuin and Atwood some years ago. I was fortunate and blessed to attend the event and the lively and fascinating dialogue between these two literary giants and simply wonderful women. LeGuin most modern popular science fiction movies as "fantasies with rocket ships". I have been reading science fiction since before you were born (although not long before you were born, I read my first sf story when I was 4, 2 years before you were born).

Ms. LeGuin prefers the more honest term "non-realistic" fiction. As she puts it whenever asked about the term science fiction, "it's complicated". It is. Objectively speaking, given the laws of physics as we know them, science fiction is fantasy with rockets or wonderfully imagined technology.

Believe me, LeGuin has no'qualms about her own literary history.

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5650396/margaret-atwood-and-ursula-k-le-guin-debate-science-fiction-vs-realism

Here's another interview with her from the Paris Review:

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6253/the-art-of-fiction-no-221-ursula-k-le-guin

Laurence said...

Burden of proof on those who claim that the geniuses on Planet Kamino would take such a huge order, with huge transfer of Jedi funds, without knowing whom they are doing business with. For it to be anyone but Yoda depends on not ONE leak happening across a decade, ever, even once. No such worries if it truly is Yoda.

But the capper is WHO TAKES DELIVERY? Under those conditions, a storytelling burden falls upon those who claim it was NOT Yoda's army!

Even if he grabbed someone else's army, ponder the timing. It would take weeks to gather the army and get it to that planet. Yet JUST as he's approaching, he orders the Jedi into a suicide charge that kills most of them.

Are... you... freaking... kidding... me?

It's not hate ALL Jedi. Mace Windoo was that rare Jedi, simultaneously smart and good, who wanted to tell the Republic everything (over-ruled by Yoda) and who almost stops the conspiracies TWICE... and would have succeeded if he had any help at all.

==
Rob Luke is studying? Hm. Maybe. We'll see. But the stuff you say before that is malarkey. He Exactly repeats with Ben Solo the same mistakes made re Anekin.


It's Palapatine's army. He's the one who pushes through the Military Creation Act, the army is "the army of the republic" with the Jedi serving as commanders, ostensibly because they have field experience, in reality of course it's so the clone troopers are standing right behind them when order sixty-six is given.

Windu isn't all that smart. He tries to stop Anakin joining the Jedi, which sounds sensible at first glance seeing as he senses Anakin's emotional instability; but consider what would have happened had Anakin been turned down? You'd have an unstable force user, who had good reason to resent the Jedi high council. What do you think the Sith would do in this situation? In Attack of the Clones, Windu dismisses Obi Wan's concerns about Anakn's attachment to Padme since he's "the chosen one". By Revenge of The Sith he's changed his mind...and decides the best way to deal with Anakin is to be unbearably rude and mistrustful of him, feeding Anakin's alienation, which Palapatine sucessfuly exploits. As for the whole "inform the senate we have lost our ability to see the force" plan, what wold that accomplish? Palapatine would most likely have used the revelation to justify accruing yet more emergency powers. Ultimately it made little difference in the end, but if Windu's plan had been followed, the Jedi would have likely ended up dead a few years sooner than they actually did.

Laurence said...

Actually, if you're for an evil character supposedly on the "good" side in Star Wars, look no futher than Padme. What follows is not so much a fan theory as an idea I think Lucas should have followed:

Padme's "love" for Anakin makes no sense, she's a confident, attractive and successful politician, he's a mentally unstable stalker and self-confessed child murderer. If Padme were really a good character, she would undoubtedly pity him, and probably approach Obi-Wan saying "this guy really needs help" but she would not fall in love with him. Her own behaviour is pretty baffling if we assume she's good too: she's so convinced of her own indispensability that she's willing to use her servants as doppelgangers, in at least one case fatally. Consider also the assassination attempt made the night after Corde takes a bomb blast for her - an assassin has a clear shot at her with a remote-operated drone, but decides to drop two (apparently) poisonous worms into the room instead. Padme knows there's likely to be an attempt on her life that evening, she even suggests Anakin use her as bait. Yet when Anakin and Obi Wan burst into the room she's...snoring away peacefully. How well would you sleep if you knew someone was about to try and murder you? It seems far more likely that she knew full well she was in no danger at all; the worms were harmless, and the entire setup was a ploy. What was the plan? Padme was a stooge of Palpatine, either an apprentice Sith (or lesser force user) or just an ambitious politician. Palpatine encouraged her to head the opposition to his Military Creation Act, and to monopolise power within the opposition faction. Just before the bill was passed, the pair conspired to fake an assassination attempt, so as to give Padme an excuse to "flee" thus throwing the now leaderless opposition into disary, allowing Palapatine's bill to pass smoothly. While in hiding she deliberately gave in to Anakin's clumsy "seduction" precisely in order to play on his attachment and begin his slide into evil.

Laurence said...

This leaves only one inconsistency, Padme's reaction on discovering Anakin had turned to the dark side. There are two possibilities. First, Padme could have realised she had outlived her usefulness and suggested running away with Anakin out of sheer self-preservation. However, this doesn't explain her reaction to his proposal that he overthrow Palpatine and they rule together. An evil Padme would have jumped at the prospect. The alterative is that the prospect of having children caused a change of heart, Padme could quite stomach the prospect of her children being raised as Sith, which would most likely entail a loveless upbringing, culminating in a brutal fight to the death with their parents, and/or each other. Her plea with Anakin was therefore a heartfelt effort to sae her children, and the beginning of a confession, tragically cut short. This would mean both of Luke and Leia's parents were ultimately redeemed by their love for their children.

Laurence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurence said...

I'd had a similar theory, as soon as I heard Han Solo say Luke was looking for the first Jedi temple I assumed he was looking for some magical force artefact. Remember also what Han said to Ren 'When he's [Snoke] got what he wants, he'll crush you.' Not who he wants what That sounds to me like Snoke and Luke are both racing to find some sort of talisman

Jumper said...

Great links, RFYork. Thank you.

Tony Fisk said...

@Paul SB
The skin exposure in ST:B is commendably restrained*. (There is a short 'chug-a-lug' scene, however.)
Kubo is glorious to look upon, and having an animated underage protagonist doesn't make it a kid's movie. It's more 'Coraline' than 'Kung fu Panda'.

* (Maybe next time eh, Larry? ;-)

My contribution to the SW narrative was along the lines of It's Anakin, Ben, but not as you knew him. (Doesn't absolve Yoda one bit, but it sorted out a *real* annoyance I have about the fallen always being beyond redemption. It would have required such small changes to the ROTS script)
I may check what Rogue One's about, but SW8 is going to have to deliver some brilliant plotting for me to be interested.

greg byshenk said...

A thought on the continuing discussion of "what should Clinton do?":

I'm pretty sure that there are smart folks in the Clinton campaign working hard at different tactical ideas, and I suspect that anything we might think of here is something that someone there has already thought of.

As to "why don't they do X?", the answer probably lies in focus group testing. And, as the first serious female contender for the presidency, Clinton has to walk a very narrow path. If she becomes too aggressive, then she is in danger of losing as many votes as she might gain, as people call her 'hysterical', 'un-presidential', or some such. Yes, the same people who don't think Trump is 'un-presidential', but that's the sexist double standard for you.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

The skin exposure in ST:B is commendably restrained*.
...
* (Maybe next time eh, Larry? ;-)


If I gave the impression that I'm a drooling sex-obsessed fanboy, let me say that my personal tastes are more toward what is known in comics as "good girl art". It doesn't have to be overly sexualized, or focused on specific body parts. Just overall pleasant to look at.

David Brin said...

Mr. RF York, I respect my elders! ;-) But seriously, did you READ the Paris Review Interview? In which she sniffs and dismisses her colleagues with: “The “hard”–science fiction writers dismiss everything except, well, physics, astronomy, and maybe chemistry. Biology, sociology, anthropology—that’s not science to them, that’s soft stuff. They’re not that interested in what human beings do, really. But I am. I draw on the social sciences a great deal. I get a lot of ideas from them, particularly from anthropology. When I create another planet, another world, with a society on it, I try to hint at the complexity of the society I’m creating, instead of just referring to an empire or something like that.”

What stunning, unutterable bullshit. She does not “get a lot of that.” It is an utter strawman and I doubt it has happened even once. Ever. But if once or twice -- from some jerk -- then that’s all. The people who overwhelmingly voted her the Nebula for Left Hand of Darkness were the same welcoming and fascinated colleagues she now disdains and slurs.

Oh, and novels with "soft" topics and science win far more awards than physics tales. It was the biological speculations in STARTIDE and in UPLIFT that won me Hugos, not the physics is SUNDIVER

Yes the iO9 article was different. Duh? She knows her audience and was placatory toward the iO9 geeks.

But in the Paris Review article she shows utter churlishness toward a community that nurtured and welcomed and gave her a loving home and launched her.

David Brin said...

LH: “I've mentioned that I'm re-reading "Existence". I'm just getting to the part where an autie plays a major role in the main storyline, and I can't help noticing that his free-associating rhyme pattern echoes the wordplay in the musical "Hamilton”.”

Huh!

Temple Grandin seemed to think I got aspects of autistic “voice” right. Never made the connection with Hamilton, though!

locum: “Yoda is a political progressive by all criteria “

Except… um… none? Not one. Go ahead goombah. Name one "criterion". Even one. Just one. He’s a troglodytic elitist, eligious fanatic, secretive and obsessed with inherited status. And you are a dope, sir.

Officially sanctioned narrative? Har! Roger - sexual predator - Ailes ran every branch of power in the US… Congress, the presidency, courts, media… and waged bitter war against any elite he could not control - like science. But he still controls you. Sir.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Right now I'm listening to a book called "Predictably Irrational", which has been a lot of fun (I like to alternate between fiction & non-fiction). I have only been through the first few chapters and it has mostly been stuff I am already aware of, but in much more fascinating detail. I recommend it(snip).

I have a copy and I've read most of it. The only issue I had with it is it focuses too much on individual irrationality. Over the last couple years, I've been coming around to the idea that we aren't all that irrational. It's not that we are rational in the Homo Economicus sense, though. It's that we aren't just individuals. An economic theory that treat us as individuals can't be on a good foundation.

I've got a copy of Marshall Sahlins little book "What Kinship Is... and Is Not" on my desk now. I don't know enough to follow most of the anthropology examples he offers in support of the 'mutuality of being' definition, but the definition itself makes sense to me from what I've seen in my own life. I suspect a good economic model will have to include a kinship model because kin are the only real economizers from what I've seen. The rest of us are traders with only partially intersecting goal sets, thus markets and their rules apply.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Temple Grandin seemed to think I got aspects of autistic “voice” right. Never made the connection with Hamilton, though!


Maybe rap lyrics in general, more than "Hamilton" in particular, but "Hamilton" is my first real exposure to that free-associating word play with incredible complexity in rhyme scheme.

Jumper said...

I got the feeling LeGuinn referred to the '40s - '50s guys, and there's a lot of truth in it. After Bradbury, Silverberg, etc. she couldn't mean it.

hadend said...

Alfred Differ,

You should check out Sahlin's The Use and Abuse of Biology - it's a brilliant critique of sociobiology. Definitely related to ideas about 'rational man' but in the context of biology rather than strict economics, if that's your sort of thing. I know pretty much nothing about anthropology and could get through the book - it was definitely not written for academic anthropologists. Seemed to me like he intended it as a general counter-argument to E.O Wilson's ideas.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I hope I didn't unintentionally open up some bucket of worms for us here, re. the use and abuse of scantily-clad images in Star Trek. I took you as expressing pretty ordinary hominid feelings. I'm sure mine aren't too far from average, either. I'm just the kind of egghead who likes to analyze those things, and I don't care to see it when it is nothing more than a cheap trick to draw eyes and get money. I put it in the same category as a lot of popular music, which is devoid of any interesting content but appeals to the hormonally challenged, separating them from their money. It's not that I am bothered by what happens to a fool's money, but capitalism has a way of reducing everything to that level, making the kind of quality we enjoy harder and harder to find. Or, as Natalie Merchant once sang, "Give 'em what they want."

In a sense my values there are kind of conservative, but I don't try to impose them on others.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I am in chapter 5, not yet half way done with the book, and I can see what you mean. In chapter 4 Ariely did go into the difference between market norms and social norms, which really goes all the way back to Marcel Mauss back at the turn of the century, though with more experimental data to back it up. But like most people who approach things from an economic view (or a psychological view, or even a neurological view for that matter) the emphasis on the individual out of social context is a key weakness. You're really showing your chops by recognizing this flaw. Most Americans wouldn't.

It reminded me of a video I saw in the very first graduate class I took. The class was called Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific Rim, I have no idea what the video was called, though. At one point they talked about Japanese fans of American Westerns. They interviewed Americans talking about "Bonanza" (I think - Dory brain in full swing) who emphasized how the show was all about these tough, rugged individuals who went out and faced cattle rustlers and whatever like True Men TM. The Japanese fans said the Americans had it all wrong. Whenever they had a problem, they got the whole family together and talked it over, discussing how to handle it, then they went out and tackled the problem together as a family. It was ironic hearing Japanese people lecture Americans about he meaning of one of their own shows, but I thought the contrast was informative. Our charter myths and propaganda tend to blind us to most of the social aspects of being human. This is one of the key differences between the more corporatist of conservatives and lefties. Although I often warn about going to extremes, you can probably guess which end I lean more toward.

I had to refresh my memory on Sahlins' "mutuality of being" idea, which makes me feel really sheepish (no references to Shawn, here). I have been away from this stuff for far too long. It seems to me that you get the basic idea. Humans are so dependent on one another that nearly every aspect of our existence is shaped by the social groups in which we exist, the 'web of connections' between them.

"I suspect a good economic model will have to include a kinship model because kin are the only real economizers from what I've seen."

Maybe. In fact, I would say this is only the case where you have what in ancient times was called "silent exchange." In that system, some Phoenikian merchant ship would beach somewhere on the African coast (for example) and unload their cargo of manufactured goods some distance from their ship, then go back behind their ship and wait. The local people would go to the stack of cargo, examine it, then create a second stack of goods they were willing to trade for it, then withdraw off the beach but in view. If our sailor/merchants liked the offer, they load up the African goods, leaving their own on the beach. If they didn't like what was offered, they loaded up their own gods and set sail further down the coast to make an offer to another group of people. Otherwise, even kinship groups live surrounded by, and familiar with, the other kinship groups they exchange with, and those strict rational actor models of our pointy-headed economists fall flat on their faces, because social norms trump financial motives for most hominids. Those rational actor models sound logical and in some places appear to work, but that his because they were generated within and meant to apply to very large-scale societies, where at least some hominids can escape social norms by moving to cities where they are unknown and have no reputation.

Tony Fisk said...

@Larry @Paul, I certainly wasn't expressing disapproval of scantily clad scenes, but agree with Paul (and daughter) that it is overdone. For all that I enjoy the exploits of Agatha H. I'm waiting for the day Phil Foglio discovers heroines come in sizes smaller than 'F'.

Paul SB said...

Tony,

I am laughing my anatomy off! Yes, Phil Foglio is quite obsessed, isn't he? This seems to be pretty typical of North American males, though a certain maiden of Clan Kardashian has made some headway against that particular anatomical stereotype. I read a little of Agatha Heterodyne, but dropped off when I got busy with work and by the time I thought about it again, my daughter said that it had gone off on a tangent so far removed from the original story line that she had lost interest - though she still proudly wears her AH Trilobite pin on her backpack.

There are some miniature sculptors who have the same issue, and who really neglect their art on the other end.

Alfred Differ said...

Aww... Foglio has done that since forever. It is part of his charm. It looks to me like his wife plays it up on the scripting side too. It's fantasy after all. 8)

Paul SB said...

Yes, Foglio has been doing that for a really, really long time!

A question for anyone in the community who is familiar with Phil Foglio. I saw a print of a piece of his art when I was 17 and had just moved out of my mother's house. I was in a shop in San Diego (I was checking out San Diego State at the time), and loved it, but I was pretty much dead broke, working for minimum wage in a place where minimum wage wasn't enough to pay for floor space in a crack house. Since I became more financially solvent I have been hoping to find a copy of it - I would be okay with a digital copy I could print - it was just a funny image. It showed a young man in a huge flowing cape pounding his fingers on the keyboard of a pipe organ, while a scrawny, very annoyed monk held up a pocket watch to his face, pointing at the dial that read 4:00. With moon and stars visible out the window, you knew it wasn't 4 in the afternoon. It reminds me of many a neighbor... If anyone knows the whereabouts of this image, you would have my gratitude.

LarryHart said...

9:30pm Central time.

I am more confident in my prediction that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I wish I could claim I saw what bugs me about Ariely's book when I actually read it. At the time I was working on some of Hayek's material that few people read anymore and using it to argue with a social/fiscal conservative that there should be a distinction between the two parts of his conservatism. I was making the case that fiscal conservatives and old school liberals have a lot in common, but I couldn't get around the purity of motives he demanded. I'm an atheist and he knew it, so there were issues. He suggested I read Ariely's book and I got through most of it before telling him I had already encountered flaws with the rational player model in economics. He believed I was an advocate of pure reason and wanted to show me the flaws. He didn't grasp that Ayn Rand's description of 'human' struck me as 'alien' and that I could put my finger on why. Individuals aren't the social 'atoms' Rand needs for her philosophy to make sense. I was married for many years by then and understood well my willingness to abandon my individual sovereignty. Family mattered more and I knew I wasn't alone in this.

It was actually McCloskey's books that got it through my head that human individuals are both atoms and sub-atomic parts at the same time. I knew it at an intellectual level, of course, but her first book on virtue ethics and the connection to markets is what really did it. I could see the measures being used socially. The ruler is multi-dimensional. She didn't describe it as such because I don't think she has seen Hofstadter's work on the modeling of minds (as compared to brains) in theories of cognition, but there is potential in the idea.

(McCloskey also had a thing or two to say about the American Cowboy in the last book of her trilogy. The abstract character is a blowback to feudal noblemen and their focus upon the aristocratic definition of courage. The rise of the Cowboy Myth occurs at an interesting time in America. We were finally industrializing in a way began to radically alter the lives of people at the lowest levels. Peasants were joining the bourgeoisie. Interesting times.)

Sahlins idea (from what I've read so far) seems to be that my 'kin' are those people without whom I would be diminished. If one combines that with Hoftstadter's material from his Strange Loop book, one can explain it as 'kin' are those people with whom we share sizeable copies of each other. Through in a little from V. Vinge and we get 'kin' are the members of my Tinish pack that relies upon Love between soul fragments to bind us. It begins to sound rather mystical at this point, but it isn't. Hofstadter's copying technique is remarkably physical.

Those rational actor models sound logical and in some places appear to work, but that his because they were generated within and meant to apply to very large-scale societies, where at least some hominids can escape social norms by moving to cities where they are unknown and have no reputation.

I'm not convinced they work well there either. Escape in markets terminates options for repeat trade. In markets with reputation mechanism, this is mercantile suicide. At very large scale, it might appear reputations don't work, but I argue that this possibility is difficult to distinguish from a very slow evolutionary mechanism. If the selection effect takes a few generations to demonstrate the true fitness function, we haven't been at it long enough to know yet. The melting together of our different civilizations that started our 20th century didn't penetrate to the lowest levels until the Chinese decided to join our world in the late 70's. If we could check in again near the end of the 21st century, I suspect we would see that the selection function works, but slowly. By the end of the 22nd, it should be very clear.

Tony Fisk said...

@Larry Assuming the crucible has finally been emptied. Still, 'First Laddie' has a certain ring to it (even if it goes through the nose. Sorry Bill ;-)

donzelion said...

RFYork: I cannot read the NYT article (paywall, and I subscribe elsewhere), was there some new statement where she denied her role in SciFi?

On her website, she describes her writing philosophy as such:
"If there is science in a science-fiction story I'm writing and I need to check my facts, I do."

Elsewhere, she describes her 'science fiction novels' (and tries to help people looking for an 'order' in which to read them, which she seems to be chuckling at since they're not a unified history). But I find nothing on her website indicating discomfort at so many of her best works being science fiction. So is there something new, or just possibly a journalist trying to stir up controversy?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Foglio made his bones (so to speak) drawing soft porn comics for several years.
GG has a vast, labyrinthine plot that took a decade to devise before the first page was drawn, and it's now well over 1,200 pages. So the "original plot" is just one of a dozen or so plots that intertwine and play off against one another. I've little doubt it will end as a monumental work.
It's a bit strange to see Neil Gaiman described as an SF writer. I regard him as a fantasy writer myself, indeed one of the best examples of the genre. I regard him as one of the greatest fiction writers of this century.
I mentioned "Unsounded" in the threads about web comics, and mentioned that perhaps it didn't fit David Brin's criteria since it is fantasy rather than SF. It's a world where the main motive force is magic ("the Khert") but has some of the most sophisticated and consistent world-building, characterization and plotting I've seen anywhere. Fantasy can be very intellectually demanding, and rewarding to the reader.

locumranch said...


Yoda performs well on all of Robert Nisbet's five "crucial premises" of the Idea of Progress:

(1) He "values the past" as a defender of the Galactic Order x 900 years;
(2) He embraces the "Nobility of Western civilization", and just oozes Jedi snobbery, credentialism & noblesse oblige;
(3) He finds "worth in economic/technological growth" & opposes those luddites who do not;
(4) He manifests "Faith (the key word) in reason and scientific/scholarly knowledge obtained through reason"; and,
(5) He accepts the "intrinsic importance and worth of life on earth" (which he calls the Force).

All in all, Yoda is a typical progressive elitist who thinks himself more capable, intelligent & deserving than the much more common mud-blood ignoramus, much in the same way that HC & David relegate those who do not agree with them into a 'basket of deplorables'.

And, much like Yoda, our progressives seem intent to hasten the destruction of our little Republic through their own creeping credentialism & egotism.

Best

Paul SB said...

Alfred,
A lot of wisdom in that long post. We are, following that analogy, both atoms and particles in many respects. The relationship between any individual hominid and the community in which that hominid lives is recursive. The culture does not create the thoughts, but it channels them in specific ways. But each individual is an actor on that social stage, capable of moving the memetic needle a bit one way or another. Some have more influence than others, obviously. (This reminds me of when I was still a history major. I had a professor from the Air Force Academy for a History of England class who wanted us to do lengthy research papers on figures from the early 20th C. I chose the composer Benjamin Britten. When I wrote about how the zeitgeist affected him, she was totally on board, but if ai ever suggested he had any impact on society as a whole it got pooh-poohed, as if the idea that individuals impact society was something quaint and totally outmoded. Otherwise she was a fun professor.)

The American cowboy post Civil War was essentially a throwback, as Mccloskey suggested, in their feudal ideals of manly virtue. They were also basically trying to escape the Industrial Revolution, and you can hear those same throwback attitudes in so many conservatives of today. Just a few days ago they were interviewing a variety of people in Arizona regarding the upcoming election, and one of their interviewees was a cattle rancher. I listened to his complaints about how hard the business had become and was feeling for the guy, until close to the end when he told the interviewer that "You fellas back in Boston don't see this stuff" while noting that the interviewer did not have a hint of a Bostonian accent. That immediately told me the guy was thinking in pure stereotype. But when he then told the interviewer that he and everyone else who live in the big cities should get down on their knees before him, I lost all sympathy. Excuse me, Lord Cattlemeister! I can live without your cholesterol- and triglyceride-laden product, thank you! In fact, I will likely outlive the jerk by decades. If he goes bankrupt, he won't get a tear from me. If the entire cattle industry goes down, the nation will be a much healthier place and our ecological footprint will improve dramatically. It is exactly those throwback sentiments that right-wingers appeal to in the Quest for Votes, and they find plenty of fools who don't get it in the big cities, including Boston.

I haven't read Hofstadter - or maybe I have but forgot, my reading lists for grad classes were enormous! - so I can't comment there, but the idea of sharing sizable copies with our kin, neighbors and communities makes perfect sense in terms of memes, which are in many ways more significant than genes since the Neolithic at least.

As far as escape in markets, that would depend a lot on how far one goes and whether there are compensatory technologies. With the internet, cell phone cameras and fools getting fired after posting pictures of themselves in drunken debauchery on Facebook, escape is becoming less and less possible. For a long time taking a steamer to some other continent or riding off into the sunset (look at Arizona, where half the people there are on the lam, as a friend once suggested, though I doubt this is as true today as it was in the 60's) meant a chance to start over where no one knew what you were guilty of "back east." Reputation can be like a railroad roundhouse, though. The employee who gets wasted and is video dancing with his underwear on his head might think that it makes him look like a real swinger to his frat-boy buddies, but when his boss sees the video and decides that the company does't need this fool making their collective reputation look bad, he gets the boot. Other elements of society will look at the same event from different angles and take the tale down different tracks. Give it time, and we will see how these things unfold. As you imply, it is too soon to make predictions.

David Brin said...


“I got the feeling LeGuinn referred to the '40s - '50s guys, and there's a lot of truth in it. After Bradbury, Silverberg, etc. she couldn't mean it.”

Then it is a dismal ancient grudge with the perps all dead. But I know it is untrue even then. She may have endured some slights. But overall, SF is always more enlightened than the era. And she overall was treated like a queen.


donzelion said...

re Yoda: "I deem Yoda to be the most evil character ever, in the history all versions and forms of human storytelling..."

Intriguing. Given that sort of a rubric, Dr. Brin, do you think your fans will put greater, or lesser weight in your judgments about, say, oligarchy or political actors?

Hmmm...perhaps after AotC and RotS, Yoda realized just how badly he'd screwed up EVERYTHING. He failed his Jedi, failed civilization, tried to turn the tools of an enemy against them (and rendered his own group nearly extinct as a result) - he realized that though he could be a deadly green goblin and sort of see futures, he couldn't save anyone or anything: recognizing his complete failure, he retired to a swamp where he hoped he'd do no further harm. Having lost everything, he set about boiling swamp roots into supper as an aged, derelict failure.

I like to think of Luke confronting the same lesson: "my great failures resulted in the death of my best friend, the loss of his son, and deaths of millions" (how many planets were blown up by the new super big death star 3.0"?). Sitting there in isolation thinking: shouldn't I slice my own head off with this light saber to stop from hurting anyone ever again?

Old men, confronted with the failure of all their ambitions, looking for peace without committing suicide - an existential crisis that seldom arises in popular fiction. And in the end, whether Yoda was wise or an errant fool, he tried and didn't kill himself.

But I'll answer the question that I posed at the outset here: I think Dr. Brin does care immensely, but also, doesn't care all that much - at the same time. Ambivalence. Desire for community, and opposition to community. Glee at pricking a sacred gnome, and also, heartfelt reverence for a world in which a silly green puppet voiced by a cartoonist becomes a symbol greater than anyone could have anticipated - and in which mocking that puppet would drive fans to laughingly play 'what if' games...and hope a little.

(As far as I'm concerned, the best character in all of Star Wars has to be the giant redwoods that conspired with teddy bears to bring down an empire...you don't think those trees chose sides in the Battle of Endor? And even if I'm wrong, I enjoyed giving a couple of their bigger brothers in Sequoia National Park a hug this weekend).

donzelion said...

Locum: I may disagree with you often, I may even dislike your book once it's finished, but whatever the case - I still hope you finish it. I lose my courage every time I get to my first hundred pages, then sit back and watch as stories get told, movies made, often with themes I came up with decades ago, and wonder why I never brought my own ideas to completion. Anyone who finishes a work of writing merits some respect.

Except Ayn Rand. Yuck.

And you're dead wrong on Yoda being progressive. He:
-Defends a deep and complete connection between religion and state
-Takes no position on abortion or LGBT rights that anyone can detect
-Refuses to raise tax issues in the dispute with the Trade Federation, and has no concern whatsoever with monopolistic practices
-Appears to favor military strength over infrastructure (look at his hovel on Dagobah)
-Makes no provision whatsoever for public health care, ignores slavery for centuries, and finds the Republic to be little more than platforms for him to dodge and jump upon during a fight scene

That said, he does stick it to Darth Saruman in order to stop evil, recognizing the need to kill an evildoer outweighs saving some neophytes...oh wait....

donzelion said...

Hadend: (continuing from previous thread, which I stopped contributing to on account of spending some time in the shade of the biggest trees in the world)

"Clinton's and Sanders' positions on social issues are near identical, sure...the critical difference between Clinton and Sanders is not in their individual platforms, it's in their theory of politics."

Hillary tried the "great revolutionary" approach in 1992, with a Democratic president, and both the House and the Senate in Democratic hands. She was widely blamed by many for ending the multiple decades of Congressional rule by Dems, and many pointed specifically at her failure to bring about universal health care as the cause.

"My point is how are the Dems going to bring about reform?"
Incrementalism is always centered around policy and people: what are the existing tools and institutions, how can they be tweaked, can they go far enough as they are, or must they be dismantled and must we start from scratch? Incrementalism assumes that ultimately, the institutions are sound, the people good, and so long as leaders get out of the way (or even push a bit), progress can occur.

Everyone, everywhere, always feels ambivalence toward the status quo. Things SHOULD be better than they are. We shouldn't have thousands of children dying in...too damn many places. We can do better. We must do better.

But here's the problem: we cannot do better without recognizing what exists around us, both its strengths, its weaknesses, but ultimately, it's reality. In terms of Hillary's positions -

"While all those things you mention above are great, I’m skeptical we’ll see them with her in office…"

I'm 100% CERTAIN that we're more likely to see some of the good things with you in the world trying to help bring them about. We all have our jobs to do. Even if, like Yoda, we screw it up pretty badly, spout wise-nonsense and muck things up for our friends, we still have to get up and try.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Very recursive. That is the point Hofstadter drives at repeatedly even if he sticks to models that focus on a single 'self.' In the Strange Loop book, he starts off with a bit of re-explanation of content from GEB, but then launches outward to explore the recursiveness of 'mind.'

You probably haven't read his stuff unless you were into the AI scene in the 70's, but he doesn't self-identify as an AI person anymore. The community went in the direction of modeling brains and he wanted to model minds. I think his turf is now called Cognition Studies or something like that. He and his friends seem more interested in what humans are than in how we function physiologically.

The Ghost of Popper might say Hofstadter's subject area is in world #3 while the other AI folks study world #1 structures. Consider a copy of Beethoven's 9th symphony. When played, it is a world #1 thing creating world #2 (mental) affects. When it isn't played, though, it is a world #3 thing manifested on sheets of music in world #1. One shouldn't take these worlds too literally, but they can be a useful way to abstract our thoughts. Hofstadter's loops recurse between worlds #1 and #2 though he didn't use Popper's terminology. From Surfaces and Essences, one might extend this to include #3 (and maybe more) because language structures involve abstractions that exist outside individual humans. For example, the definition for 'uplift' changed after David wrote his books because many of us who know them imply connotations in our use of the word.

It's the copies that are the neatest thing, though. The more we get to know each other, the better we model each other. One can look at these models as partial copies and 'love' as the applicable action verb when they are being constructed. If one takes this seriously, I'm not inside one skull. I'm MOSTLY inside one skull, but spread out a bit among all who know me. Uh oh. Things get interesting from here because it gets tricky to ask what it means to me when I experience a particular stimulus. Which part of me? Is the experience communicated between the parts? Heh. Now we are on Robin Hansen's turf and we haven't even posited an Em production technology. We also have a s potential secular definition for 'soul' that could be more socially rousing than anything Darwin suggested.

These are such interesting times and I'm a member of a civilization that can do this. What a blast! 8)

David Brin said...

I'll be low on communication for a while. Look for new postings without the standard...

...onward