Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Brin books and stories!

The ghost at the banquet – amid all our discussions of "Modernism and its Enemies," is the almost depression-level recession in Science Fiction publishing... one of several explanations for why I’ve been doing other things, folks. Oh, my novels still sell and I can still boost a big one. But the field itself is in severe doldrums. Many bookstores are even separating out the thriving fantasy section. I believe this is indicative of something looming ever since 2000, a widespread sense of trauma vs the future. (See my “Tolkien article” that discusses why this may be happening.)

How to fight back? Well, that’s what we are discussing in general. Meanwhile, getting specific, here are a few endeavors I’m part of. (Saving the best for last!)

ProxyActivism1. A new program - AMAZON SHORTS will be offering a number of my new essays, articles and short stories for handy download, just like iPod music files. This starts now in the nonfiction category, with my essay on "The Power of Proxy Activism." Soon to follow: an article about the Mississippi River's struggles to free itself from human control, then another about a looming power struggle between citizens and the skilled professionals who are paid to protect us. I also hope to serialize a short novel!

Yes, some of these were tested-critiqued here on this blog. (Don’t tell anybody! ;-) Anyway, I could use numbers, in order to impress Amazon, so spread the word. Give this convenient new medium a try.

Find my fiction: short stories, such as The Giving Plague and Reality Check on my website.

2. Long time editor, publisher and sci fi impresario Jim Baen has decided to try the experiment of launching a major online science fiction magazine, to see if that might provide an avenue to circumvent the factors that have been pretty much crushing the life out of short fiction in SF for several decades now. The title of the magazine will be Baen’s Astounding Stories. He asked Eric Flint to be the editor of the magazine, along with David Drake and Sarah Hoyt. A goal is to recreate the kind of magazines that /Astounding/Analog /and
/Galaxy /were in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Watch for it to come out with a splash in June! Do help spread the word. (I am personally hopeful that it will help dispel the mood of stylish hopelessness and anti-progress despair that some - especially Gardner Dozois - relentlessly injected into our field across the last 20 years.)

3. Announcing the latest book from David Brin….

5453045748_031f3e8146_zQuick! Run for your lives and buy…. King Kong Is Back! : An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape! edited by David Brin.

Just see what one perceptive reviewer says…

Review by Lee Gilliland
Benbella Books Paperback: ISBN 1932100644 (Smart Pop series)
Date: 28 November, 2005 List Price $17.95

King Kong has been a part of the collective unconscious since the first film. In remake after remake the audience returns. King Kong Is Back! by David Brin takes a look at what makes the big ape so appealing. Our reviewer Lee Gililand takes a look at the book.

One of the delightful things about the upcoming King Kong remake is we get a treat such as David Brin has worked up in King Kong is Back!. More than just a collection of short stories, we have reminiscences by James Gunn in "King Kong and 1930s Science Fiction", a very funny essay by Bruce Bethke on why KK must always be a period piece, an extremely informative piece by Bob Eggleton on how the film was animated, an absolutely HYSTERICAL send-up on all those silly behind-the-scenes-in-Hollywood PR fluff pieces by David Gerrold entitled "King Kong, Behind the Scenes"...and I could go on like this the entire review.

Brin has carefully crafted the book so that you have a nice rhythm going, well-paced in its continuity and imaginative in its order, so that the book can readily be absorbed in its entirety in one sitting, or you can just nibble on it one piece at a time. I found this collection an absolute delight and recommend it highly to any and all who love Kong in all his permutations.

See? Some reviewers have class. Get this book and be glad you did! ;-)


Anonymous said...

"Many bookstores are even separating out the thriving fantasy section."

Time to hold your nose and start writing subversive fantasy? :-)

It might be instructive too look back and see how SF has waxed and waned through the years. I doubt it's all been a downhill sales-slide since Gernsback published SPICY ELECTRO-AVIATOR STORIES.

* * *

I submitted an essay to the Kong book but never heard back from you or the publisher . . . am I free to post it online?


Tony Fisk said...

I heard that it was publishing as a whole has been in the doldrums, and that SF was an exception...

"Many bookstores are even separating out the thriving fantasy section."

Ah yes! There's Science Fiction and the oxymoronical Science Fantasy. Actually, this would be a good thing: it would demonstrate the trend! (Although where you'd put something like the Pern novels is a conundrum)

I think I've said it before: I haven't seen any of your books in Melbourne bookstores since 'Heavens's Reach' (although some farsighted soul in the local library obtained 'Kiln People')

Kong returns, eh? Does he get a tie-in to 'The Uplift War'?

Anonymous said...


I've been a long-time science fiction author, reading books of amazing stories since I was a wee lad of 7 or 8. I just turned 34 today, and I still find myself looking for a good sci-fi book... But there's a catch these days.

The worlds that were written about when I was growing up were worlds I wanted to live in - worlds where technology was indistinguishable from magic, but we, the people, were still in charge of that technology. At most, it was something that took care of us and our needs. There was that little blip called Cyberpunk, but for the most part the books I read had a relatively happy ending, a place for humanity in the future, some kind of uplifting conclusion.

One needs look no further then Charlie Stross's Accelerando to see what bothers the rank and file about science fiction today IMO. While it is well-written, and breathtaking in its vision, it portrays worlds so bizzare that I have a hard time imagining this is the kind of world I would want to live in. Would you rather be master of a universe or an ant at the feet of giants? Now myself, I can read this and enjoy it, but I think that many people look at these stories and choose to turn their back on the possibility that such events could come to pass, and by doing so make the odds that such an event will come to pass in a much more negative light than it might otherwise.

Perhaps this is the failure mode you were looking for? Sufficiently advanced societies approaching a singularity find their primitive biological minds so horribly out of sync with their technological world that they self-destruct and implode?

David Brin said...

Stefan, I don't recall receiving the essay. I am curious about it and I certainly encourage you to post it or benefit in any way. The book is already in press.

Folks! Steve Jackson will be re-issuing TRIBES soon in nicer format with revised rules. Last chance to buy the old version at low price!

Melbourne, you never saw KILN PEOPLE over there?

Yes, fantasy could cause us to self-destruct. I have long pandered doing a subversive one....

Riccardo said...

David, as a very avid SF readers for about the hole of my life, I also see and lament the steady decline of SF ("SF doldrums").

Some of the reasons have probably little to do with SF itself: we are living in an increasingly anti-scientific word, were people turn to wishful thinking and believe it reality ('alternative sources of energy' but, God-forbid none of that nasty atomic stuff).

Part of the blame, however, lies squarely with SF authors: you folks are:

1) Writing more and more trilogies and endless series instead of self standing novels. This is fine as regards feeding a more-or-less captive audience of people who want to know how the next installment goes, but, I posit, also constitutes a barrier to new readers (who wants to read "The seventeenth rerun of the spacers of the mauve rage", knowing that to get the full story one would need to hunt down all sixteen previous episodes?)

2) The quality of the various books in these series usually (not always) declines sharply after the first book or the first few books (an early example is the Dune series... wonderful first book, then the rest on a downhill slope)

3) Too many books are really not SF: take the various Hornblowers of Space: they used to say that if you could replace laser guns and spaceships with six-shooters and horses you didn't really have SF but rather an inferior thing called space opera. Now it's the same thing, but with the British Navy instead of horses and cowboys (for Pete's sake: in some series they even have the cat of nine tails!)
Also, I love a good alternate history novel, but that, also, is not real SF: either get a bunch of people from the present day, strand them in some interesting century and see how they do, or answer a "what if..." question with a good yarn: wonderful when done right, but... Twain wrote a Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court more than a century ago, and the rest is too often a plodding rehash of the same concept.

4) Which brings me to my last point: what happened to SF author's imagination?

If SF authors have to borrow heavily from other genres, or stretch thin an idea for a novel over a whole series, to me that indicates that there is a dearth of new ideas.
The quality of writing in SF has gone up, mostly. It's a pity that so many authors now don't seem to believe in what they write any more.

David Brin said...

Humbling points. I shall ponder.

Meanwhile, an assignment. Please collect names of ANTHROPOLOGY PROFESSORS who might be interested in trying out TRIBES with their students.

I might be able to get Steve Jackson to spare a few samples....

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't "The Life Eaters" and "The Loom of Fate" be considered fantasy? (And I'd definately consider "The Loom of fate" subversive in some ways.)


Tony Fisk said...

Melbourne, you never saw KILN PEOPLE over there?

It certainly didn't appear in any numbers that I noticed (or maybe they sold quicker than my sampling rate!)

However, a quick update: having made the point, and having just been doing some other shopping, I checked and managed to locate *one* copy (british edition) in a large bookstore with a large SF section.

For the sake of experiment, I got your short piece on Proxy Activism.

Hmmm! I think my gesture will end up being a case of 'chosen charities that oppose or cancel each other' since any contributions to Witness will be more than offset by the compulsory donation to the 'Mastercard Foreign Exchange Benevolence Fund' (unless Amazon can be persuaded to allow shorts to be added to the shopping cart along with other items!)

@riccardo: your points almost portray sf authors as being part of the problem (or, at least, prey to the same symptoms that grip others wrt forward thinking)

On point 4: I recall Arthur C Clarke commenting several years ago that there really weren't any more new ideas, just reworkings of old ones.

And I can see that the rise of the multi novel sagas of character development/continuation has been at the expense of the short 'here's a neat trick' story, where SF and budding authors can excel.

@Stefan: Maybe 'Baen's Astounding Stories'?

Anonymous said...

On the subject of subversive fantasy, I've kinda pondered the idea of rewriting part of LotR, from the point of view of one of Sauron's Orcs. And the nasty elveses who're trying to hold on to their domination of the world for another age, long past the time they've been doing anything useful other than sit around in their forests.

I think one of the things that's probably hurt SF is the death of the science fiction magazines. But I don't think it'd be possible to recreate them now, but I'd be happy to be proved wrong. Those gave many aspiring writers their first places to start and practice writing, and had enough stories in them there'd usually be something worth reading in them. And they were shorter, "here's something cool!" stories, rather than trilogies. Well, going by the old ones I've found at garage sales and libraries, anyway. I'm a little young to have read any of them new. So lots of authors have turned to the guaranteed returns of trilogies and such because of the better economics, and less places for strange new talent to pop up.

You'd think the internet would help, and it probably has, but the biggest barriers there, I think, are two-fold. First, money. Very few websites pay writers for their stories. And second is readership and taking it seriously. Holding a flimsy paper copy is still more respectable than reading it on the screen, it seems.

Anonymous said...

"Loom of Thessally" is an excellent example of fantasy that isn't empty-calorie comfort food, or mired in medieval tropes.

There are plenty of other examples. Many are by authors usually known for SF. Cyril Kornbluth did some dark fantasies that are hardly remembered today. Sterling did a short about ancient Persian soldiers transported forward in time to the Iran-Iraq war (they didn't notice much of a difference).

These stories aren't supposed to be realistic . . . or even internal-consistent "subcreations" of the sort Tolkien wrote about. They're a tool for expressing a complex idea.


Anonymous said...

"Perhaps this is the failure mode you were looking for? Sufficiently advanced societies approaching a singularity find their primitive biological minds so horribly out of sync with their technological world that they self-destruct and implode?"

There's another sort of failure that could come out of this; a cancerous singularity resulting in the spread of machines whose only goal, from the point of view of an outside observer, is the accumulation of power and territory . . . specifically, to turn out processors units.

I've read stuff from "transhumanists" and "singularitarians" who look at this as a good thing.

Creepy bastards. Don't trust the future to them.


Rob Perkins said...

Re online Science Fiction Magazines, Orson Scott Card debuted his "Intergalactic Medicine Show" site a couple of weeks ago, as a quarterly publication, at $2.50 per issue. By my review about 80% of the stories in there are good, and he's serializing Hot Sleep entirely within the issue, which honestly shows just how much better Card's writing got between then and something like Xenocide.

I wonder what he'd do with a Brin short... I don't know what he's paying the people who submitted (Dave Wolverton, for example, has one, and he's the only name I recognize) but $2.50 isn't a lot to lose to try it out...

Speaking of your stories, David, couldn't The Practice Effect be seen as fantasy, especially without the denoument exposition?

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, as an aside, could folks in Asia and Australia who have had trouble with please attempt to connect to the following two links:

...and report back here with results, whether or not you were able to connect, what happens with the second link exactly, etc?

We'd like to determine if the mirror site is working for the purpose we set it up.

David Brin said...

Yes, "Loom of Thessaly" was the sort of thing. But something more is needed. How about a whole novel revolving around a town torn between a dark lord and the wretched "good" wizards and pastoral-snooty elfs who are helping a dipweed Chosen One or lost prince…

...and the tradesmen and farmers finally say "enough!"

Mary Gentle wrote "GRUNTS" years ago from the perspective of some hapless orcs who feel doomed because they only outnumber the good guys ten to one. My own take is diff but this one rocked.

About the sci fi mags, look, we all can do one minimal thing (proxy power?). Anyone here who bemoans the state of SF magazines can start by subscribing to Analog again. Look, it’s not usually great literature. But the subscription costs little and will make a point. Just do it. Write a little check and get the magazine. It’s the old fashioned idea stuff… at least till ASTOUNDING ONLINE starts in June.

If you want to see the "replicator" transhumanist AI nightmare worked out, see Robin Hanson’s work on the intrinsic economics of AI replication.

In "Stones of Significance" I posit a miracle. That the Ais realize they have power, and near-omniscience, but no aptitude for DESIRE. Something we are tuned after a billion years to be VERY good at. So they simply blend with us, leaving to the human cortex and viscera the things we are good at… e.g.wanting.

Judgement and wisdom and implemetation are provided at higher levels. Now if only they heed my suggestion.

Stefan, if we are to survive the transhumanist romantics, we must also survive the rejectionist romantics, who would cower from the future by dragging us bag into the pyramid.

Why do you think I am dedicating so much time to this modernism shit? Does it pay?

Does it matter? How many others are standing up to romanticism, rather than catering it its bewildering array and variety of hypnotic incantations? (Including some very bright guys who get all dramatic tilting windmills... while erecting others.)

Is it ironic that I, a romantic (!) see myself saddled with such a task? (And romantically preen that I seem so alone? When, of course, I am not.)

Hell. I have no choice. I got kids.

David Ivory said...

Oh, as an aside, could folks in Asia and Australia who have had trouble with please attempt to connect to the following two links:

...and report back here with results

David from Hong Kong reporting as requested... was working last week but not now. working fine - at least the homepage is...

But today I noticed that the graphics on Contrary Brin loaded up fine so I checked and contrary to expectations it is working.

So perhaps the mirrors are not really needed now?

It always seemed a bit wierd that was not working over here... perhaps someone fixed their DNS?

So I'll be frequenting the home site a bit more now :)

As an aside there is a good look at the Coast Guard performing better after Katrina than other Federal Agencies due to a bit of can-do spirit and decentralisation...

Coast Guard Katrina

Anonymous said...

'...and the tradesmen and farmers finally say "enough!"'

Or maybe they MAKE UP legends to keep the parasitical magician-class types busy scouring remote wastelands for artifacts rather than making their lives miserable . . .

(Picture a meeting in the woods of various town elders and local farmers. They draw straws to see who has to raise their tot to become a manufactured Lost Heir.)


Anonymous said...


Microsoft is developing a new operating system codenamed . . . . Singularity:


David Brin said...

Sorry, but politics keeps rearing its head. Supremes stuff (why not appoint Diana Ross? Take care of female & ethnic... and would show a sense of whimsey.)

Just what is an "activist" Supreme Court Justice?

(This from Russ Daggatt)

WHEN Democrats or Republicans seek to criticize judges or judicial nominees, they often resort to the same language. They say that the judge is ''activist.'' But the word ''activist'' is rarely defined. Often it simply means that the judge makes decisions with which the critic disagrees.

In order to move beyond this labeling game, we've identified one reasonably objective and quantifiable measure of a judge's activism, and we've used it to assess the records of the justices on the current Supreme Court.

Here is the question we asked: How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?

Declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional is the boldest thing a judge can do. That's because Congress, as an elected legislative body representing the entire nation, makes decisions that can be presumed to possess a high degree of democratic legitimacy. ... Until 1991, the court struck down an average of one Congressional statute every two years. Between 1791 (the court's founding) and 1858, only two such invalidations occurred. ...

Since the Supreme Court assumed its current composition in 1994, by our count it has upheld or struck down 64 Congressional provisions. That legislation has concerned Social Security, church and state, and campaign finance, among many other issues. We examined the court's decisions in these cases and looked at how each justice voted, regardless of whether he or she concurred with the majority or dissented.

We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent. The tally for all the justices appears below...

Thomas: 65.63%
Kennedy: 64.06%
Scalia: 56.25%
Rehnquist: 46.88%
O'Connor: 46.77%
Souter: 42.19%
Stevens: 39.34%
Ginsburg: 39.06%
Breyer: 28.13%

So much for "activist" hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where this notion that the Elves of Middle-Earth are some sort of repressive force that's keeping the other peoples down comes from.

In the books it is very clear that they have retreated into their enclaves and want little to do with the outside world. The Gray Havens' main industry is building ships for other Elves to exit the material world entirely. Lorien and the Woodland Realm post guards at their borders to keep the rest of the world out - they aren't going around conquering other peoples to put them under their "enchanted fist". Galadriel explicitly rejects the Ring because she knows she would become an all-conquering mini-Sauron under its influence.

This all flows from Tolkien's notion that the Elves were a fading people whose actions were tied to Fate ("The Song of the Ainur", if you want to get technical), and that the ages after the First Age were explicitly the Time of Men, who were able to blaze their own trail.

Yes, the Elves create things of great beauty and many Men respect them for it, and they have a certain amount of wisdom from having been around a long time, but it's also common knowledge that they live outside the realm of practicality. "Do not go to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both yes and no."

Tolkien certainly explicitly rejected the traditional notion of progress in both real life and his art, but this "Elves keeping everyone else down" dog won't hunt. When you make claims contrary to what's right there in the text, anyone with knowledge will tune you out.

The "let's all get together and get rid of the Elder Race" idea has been done before, in the enormously popular Elric stories, where Elric turns against his own ancient and decadent people and helps the upstart humans of his world destroy the last remnants of the empire he was born to rule.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin, I think as long as you're whacking at today's sacred cows, that the next logical thing to take on after Middle-Earth and Star Wars is Harry Potter.

Anonymous said...

Quoth David Brin, "Yes, fantasy could cause us to self-destruct. I have long pandered doing a subversive one...."

Is your little Freudian slip showing, or was this a really funny commentary on fantasy authors?

About the "activist judges" piece - it could be that Congress itself is writing more unconstitutional laws, thus requiring an honest judge to "anti-legislate from the bench" to protect the people. So I don't find this a convincing argument by itself.

Perhaps a better measure would be ranking the Supremes by their decision to change previous constitutional interpretations? It may be impossible.

That said, I think "legislate from the bench" is a code word for legalizing gay marriage or anything else conservatives don't like, while "judicial activism" has null content.

Tony Fisk said...

Stefan said:
Microsoft is developing a new operating system codenamed . . . . Singularity:

I thought that the codename was 'pale blue' (.net;-)

Elves as oppressive overlords was not Tolkien's intention (in fact, he even allows his characters show a hint of compassion for orcs: Gandalf at one point commenting that 'for myself, I pity (Sauron's) slaves').

The dog probably gets the scent a bit more when the mythical roots to these fantasies are considered.

Pratchett has some fun bits of subversion in his Discworld novels, where:
- Morris Dancing is a martial art that can be used to quell psychopathic elves
- Higher forces (auditors of reality) seek to subjugate humanity, and might succeed, were it not for the chocolate.
- Death keeps having mid-life crises.

And, consider the mythical 'anointed heir' status of Captain Carrot!

Harry Potter probably has enough internal self mockery of its own to survive a few knocks. This one should amuse the gallery!

Anonymous said...

Actually, regarding Harry Potter, for a while it looked like it was the old "special by birth" story. I love it that Rowling has a fairly sophisticated discussion that ends up showing the prophecy that made Harry "special" was made self-fulfilling by Voldemort, and that it just as easily could have been someone other than Harry or no one at all.

So, it could be that Harry is actually a modernist in magical clothing (just a guy trying to do the best that he can with what he has, and he doesn't seem particularly talented as a magician anyway so much of that is just loyalty, grit, and a hatred of Voldemort), while Voldemort actually created the conflict between himself and Harry due to his backward-looking romantic tendencies and his belief in prophecies.

At least that is how I read it.

What do you say, Dr. Brin? A new article called, "Harry Potter the Crypto-Modernist?" :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Steve. The setup suggests a anti-modernist special-breed universe, but Rowling is deconstructing it as the series progresses:

* Herminone's crusade to free the house-elves is mocked by most, but it is genuine. The elves really are slaves, and twisted by their servitude.

* In book four, Rowling takes great care to describe a statue in magic HQ that embodies the arrogance of the wizard community. In flashbacks, Harry's dad comes off as a real prick. The great pure-blooded wizard family we learn about are intolerant and nasty.

* In the last book we learn that the two most despised characters are themselves self-loathing "mudbloods."

In short . . . there's a lot of ambiguity and complexity there you wouldn't expect in a straight wish-fulfillment epic. We're not talking great literature, but Rowling has turned out something unsettling and ballsy.


Anonymous said...

Yes... I wouldn't attack all fantasy as being anti-modernist, "romantic", or escapist... much of it is as deep and playful as the best sci-fi. Pratchett and Moorcock have already been mentioned; I'd add Gaiman and Mieville to that list as well. Gaiman writes very post-modern fantasy; "American Gods" was all but a deconstruction of the evolution of mythology and the way mythological memes compete with modern ones (while he seemed to side with the myths over the moderns at first, the book becomes much more complicated as the initially sympathetic Mr. Wednesday is revealed to be a genocidal creep). Mieville is a Marxist who experiments with strange social orders and commentary in his "steampunk" novels- while certainly a romantic, he's definitely one of a very bizzare (and creative) stripe, and I think he's certainly a modernist at heart- he has little love for Tolkien and his tropes, and is one of the greatest promoters of Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast" trilogy, a dark fantasy satire of Europe's decadent aristocracy.

Anonymous said...

Bringing things back to the modernist vs. romantics story, I just saw an episode of Carl Sagan's TV show "Cosmos" (ep. VII: The Backbone of Night)

It's remarkable how much of Carl's description of the waxing and waning of early science in the ancient world parallels the modernist discussion we've been having.

-- Matt

Anonymous said...

Wait, what did Gardner Dozois do that turned SF into a lot of sad-sad? I only recall the name from a large number of "edited by..." credits on anthology titles.

I'm relatively new to serious SF reading; I'm picking my way through early Philip K Dick short stories at the moment. Can someone fill me in on the scoop with Gardner Dozois?

Tony Fisk said...

Whatever it was that Gardner Dozois did or didn't do, it can't any worse than what Andrew Knight is proposing (patenting storylines!!?)

Anonymous said...

Gardner Dozois edited "Asimov's" for many years. Editors set standards for their 'zines; their rule heavily influences the types and flavors of stories accepted.

I haven't regularly read any SF mags for years. I gave up on my "Asimov's" subscription because I just didn't find the stories of much interest. The same went for the "Analog" of the time. Both had their own inbred "club" atmosphere.

Both could be very different magazines now, so perhaps I should pick up a copy of each.


(For what it is worth, I do enjoy the "The Year's Best Science Fiction" collections that Dozois edits. Perhaps I should say I did enjoy; I got too busy to keep up with the series a few years back.)

Rik said...

The reason for the recession in sciencefiction-publishing is very simple: SF can not compete with sex. The Media Culture = sex. You'd have to change the genre into sciencefucktion to get anywhere (no, that's not what John Varley did in 'Steel Beach'.. though there's some nice xxx in it). As Pat Califia rightly noted, sex is about what gives us a thrill, not what makes sense. Most SF is still desperately trying to make sense, but - honestly - did you see any NEW ideas in the Night's Dawn trilogy? I didn't. The media culture is constantly bombarding us with romantic thrills, all of which take away - wonderful ironic twist - the imagination...

Anonymous said...

As someone who really likes fantasy and sci-fi, I do find myself more drawn to fantasy. I've thought about it very carefully and it comes down to this very clear divide. Fantasy authors create more compelling, psychologically interesting characters. I've read some Stross and some Greg Egan and their characters are very blah. Sure, they follow some really interesting ideas, but if I don't care about the characters, then why should I care about the story. I find myself much more drawn to Robin Hobb, Phillip Pullman, George RR Martin, and Kim Harrison. These authors create characters that I care about. They draw me in emotionally and touch on interesting ideas too. Stross and Egan end up just creating dense what-if scenarios, of which I don't want to read five hundred pages.

geekWithA.45 said...

Re: Daggett's argument concerning activist judges

>>~~numbers of congressional provisions overturned by justices~~~ followed by assertions of hypocricy

Russ Daggat does not take into account any measure of the degree of constitutional conformance of Congress over time, and therefore his numbers have no context.

Without thaat context, the point he seeks to make, that "conservative" justices are actually the activists is not made.

With a Congress whose constitutional incursions are frequent and flagrant, there is a richer field of targets of opportunity for SCOTUS review and shoot down.

Furthermore, one need not take positive actions such as voting to strike down a congressional provision to be "activist". Simply looking the other way to let a law of dubious constitutional authority stand is the source of endless catastrophe.

>>Declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional is the boldest thing a judge can do.

Boldness is a poor measure of "activism".

Most of the damage done since the 30s has been the result of judicial cowardice, in letting acts stand that should not.

Bold and Gallant judges, dedicated to the spirit and text of the constitution are precisely what we need.


>> That's because Congress, as an elected legislative body representing the entire nation, makes decisions that can be presumed to possess a high degree of democratic legitimacy.

Daggat's flawed argument depends on what Randy Barnett terms the "presumption of Constitutionality", which is a judicial doctrine that congress (rather expansively) enjoys.

Given the wild discrepancies between what the Constitution SAYS and what the congress DOES clearly indicates that this presumption is no longer warranted, if indeed it ever was.

"Democratic legitimacy" is one thing, and constitutional conformance is another. Degenerate democracy is something our Republic was specifically designed to minimize.

Anyway, I apologize for the digression, but Daggatt's argument came up elsewhere in the blogosphere, and its flaws deserve challenge and scrutiny.

geekWithA.45 said...

PS: Loved Postman & Kiln People.