Re: I have never read Ender's Game

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I have never read Ender's Game

It's worth reading the short story. I've never been interested in the various expansions of the universe, but I think the original is a classic.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:46 PM
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It's a very good book, in the same crabbed and adolescent context as a lot of science fiction (and Ayn Rand, for that matter). Something great to have read at 12 and outgrown by 16. I've come to really dislike it, but I'm not sure how much of that can be disentangled from the huge number of inferior sequels Card cranked out as well as its enormous cult favorite-hood.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:54 PM
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"Enormous cult favorite-hood": something to contemplate.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:55 PM
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I would agree that it's a good short story and a bad book, and I'm really kind of disturbed by the idea that the military uses the book to teach anything important.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:56 PM
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Does this mean that DARPA's working on one of those fly-around training rooms? Because that would be neat.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:58 PM
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I prefer cults whose favorite hoods are small.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:59 PM
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As opposed to an enormous cult's favorite 'hood, or an enormous cult favorite like Robin and the 7 Hoods.

I should note that I agree with 1 and 4 -- the short story excises the weakest part of the book. but keeps most of the good bits.

Have you read the Elaine Radford essay Kessel* links to, Neb?

* Who is himself a very good writer, and I recommend his short story collection The Pure Product.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 1:59 PM
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I have this gut reaction to reading the first sentence, nay, the first clause of Ender's Game as linked above, though I kind of hate that this is my reaction: I don't know what they're talking about; I tell myself I'll have to become versed in something, be that the logic of the story or of the entire genre, to know wtf is going on; I think for half a second about whether I'm interested in really exploring science fiction and conclude in a quarter of a second that I am not; I don't read the rest of the paragraph.

Maybe I'll give it another go later.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:01 PM
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I really liked the book when I read it, and like whoever that Salon reporter was lo these many years ago thought it was making a basically anti-war statement. Ha ha, stupid teen Sifu.

I also concur that the sequels (well, the first two, at least) are pretty terrible.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:04 PM
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When one is a Marine one spends an inordinate amount of time on board as hip, going from place to place or as part of a regular "float". Keeping everyone out of trouble is a big job, especially in tight quarters. One goes through books like crazy. Of course all of this changes with psps and the like, but internet access is rationed. Having a reading list at all is a"good thing"


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:11 PM
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7, continued - And I would be lying if I didn't admit that Card's increasingly vocal role as a tedious, homophobic crank didn't play at least some part in my current evaluation.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:11 PM
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That's a ship, not as hip. Hipster Marines, what a concept.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:12 PM
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one spends an inordinate amount of time on board as hip

So, what, tight jeans? Ironic sunglasses?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:12 PM
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8: You're too old for the story anyway. It's like the sci-fi Catcher in the Rye.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:12 PM
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The main thing that I take from the story is to compare Ender to David Foster Wallace's description of professional tennis player Michael Joyce:

Whether or not he ends up in the top ten and a name anybody will know, Michael Joyce will remain a paradox. The restrictions on his life have been, in my opinion, grotesque; and in certain ways Joyce himself is a grotesque. But the radical compression of his attention and sense of himself have allowed him to become a transcendent practitioner of an art -- something few of us get to be. They've allowed him to visit and test parts of his psychic reserves most of us do not even know for sure we have (courage, playing with violent nausea, not choking, et cetera).

I read "Ender's Game" long before reading that essay but, to me, they describe a similar situation (with "Ender's Game" placed in a military setting partially just because that's what a SF audience is used to).

Obviously I'm somewhat idiosyncratic in choosing to emphasize that aspect of "Ender's Game"


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:12 PM
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Dammit.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:13 PM
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One goes through books like crazy.

So contrary to what I learned in the Army, there actually is a Marine who can read?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:19 PM
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9: I think the original short story was anti-war, and then the book it was expanded into wasn't. Something weird happened to OSC at some point after he started writing -- I read some of his stuff back in the eighties, as a teenager, and while it wasn't great literature, it didn't make me think of him as a particularly disturbing person. And then he just got more and more unpleasantly authoritarian.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:23 PM
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I'm pretty sure that I've read Ender's Game but recall neither adoring it nor the sort of "not only do I hate this, I condemn anybody who professes to like it" reaction so common on the Internet. Maybe I read it at the wrong age: I think I was about 18.

Hipster Marines, what a concept.

I wish I had a good story about the hipsters who showed up for paragliding lessons one day, but the wind was way too strong, so they just took their giant sunglasses and mauve and chartreuse stovepipe pinwhale corduroys home.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:27 PM
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15: Actually, I think that's dead on -- that the original story was about how Ender gets used up by the war he's fighting, in a very similar kind of way to the way Wallace talks about professional tennis.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:27 PM
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Anyone have an overwhelmingly strong opinion about whether it's better to live in Berkeley, CA or Cambridge, MA?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:27 PM
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For like a year, not permanently.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:28 PM
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I'll bet Tweety does.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:29 PM
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To tie the threads together, Ender is a dick who only fucks assholes.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:29 PM
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Actually, I think that's dead on

Thanks. <preens>


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:31 PM
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21: Berkeley Berkeley Berkeley. Mostly for weather-related reasons.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:33 PM
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I loved Enders Game when it came out, and even didn't mind Speaker for the Dead. And like Sifu I read EG as basically anti-war (drives adults to destroy the lives of brilliant children and commit genocide on the basis of a mistake.). Speaker for the Dead also did not read anything like an endorsement of anything like what Card is pushing these days. I still think Ender's Game is nowhere near as pernicious as people make it out to be. I haven't read Ayn Rand, but I haven't heard of anyone walking away from her books thinking they're a critique of capitalism. The Ayn Rand excerpts I've read also make OSC's prose in Ender's Game look like literary genius.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:38 PM
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I've lived in Cambridge and only visited Berkeley. California is really pretty and the produce is wonderful, and people rent adorable houses that have citrus trees and bird of paradise flowers in the yards. In Cambridge, it rains a lot and the wind off the Charles in the winter is colder than anything else I've ever experienced.

I'd take Cambridge, but mostly because I'm ambivalent about pleasure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:38 PM
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The OP essay gets it exactly right, and if he has read it there is now no reason for neb to read the books.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:42 PM
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Berkeley for the weather; Cambridge for the social scene. IOW, Berkeley is prettier, Cambridge is more fun.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:43 PM
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27 - I don't think EG, even the novel, is an endorsement of war; what I find so pernicious about it is the relentless parade of, as Kessel puts it, Ender being "resented by others for his skills, honesty, intellect, superiority". It's not even Ender's use of violence to overcome those obstacles that bothers me; it's the geek ressentiment whittled to a sharp, eye-gouging point.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:45 PM
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I found the linked critique problematic in its smugness.

"Yes, we must take intentions, means, and consequences into account when judging actions, in some rational balancing of compassion. And this is so easy!"

I always questioned all three about Bush and Iraq. I certainly did not take his professed intentions as sincere or accurate self-assessment. This is what we do when we judge people.

I do not, as seems ever more popular, judge actions by the means used alone. "Do no harm to anyone in pursuit of goals" will lead to unfortunate consequences, and is usually inhuman and self-deceiving. When not, you have saints, who may be monsters.

Born, created, or potentiated I always considered Ender a monster, and my lesson learned was Alice Miller's. Society creates monsters. That is what it is for.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:46 PM
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[rambling] I read the book for the first time about half a year ago and kind of enjoyed it, actually. I think I sometimes have a suspension of the moral sense when reading certain types of fiction (I can easily buy into a Mary Sue if it's moderately well written). I don't think I'd be able to enjoy rereading Ayn Rand, though. Maybe it's worth a shot just to see how I react to it.
On the other hand, I also recently reread Lolita. The last time I read that was when I was young enough for sex with a thirteen/fourteen year old girl to seem totally ok, and I remember being turned on by the sexual bits. Rereading it now, though, I was on the verge of tears every time the girl managed to penetrate through the nymphet idealisation, and the aspect of pain and abuse was revealed (I think I didn't even notice all these the first time around).
[/rambling]


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:48 PM
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Oh. And I thought Card's point and purpose in EG was to create a problematic, rather than answering all moral questions.

I got my youthful quandaries about intentions from Sophocles and Dostoevsky.

I guess I'm happy that y'all have solved this ancient problem. I'm still struggling.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:50 PM
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I don't think I'd be able to enjoy rereading Ayn Rand, though.

I'm doing that now. The only reason I am still reading "Atlas Shrugged" is because I'm a feminist.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:51 PM
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Oh, for God's sake, fuck Lolita. Find some other book to gain your sensitive feminist creds with.

And the favored interpretation of L is so fucking simplified and boring it destroys the art of the book. It deserves better readers.

L is an attack on all bourgeois sentimentality. As, for instance, this critique of Card.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 2:58 PM
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That should be "Atalanta Shrugged", then.

Hmm, that just got me thinking about how the book would have been received if the semi-rape scene had ended with the heroine murdering the hero. But that was actually "The Fountainhead".


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:01 PM
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If I had to choose between Cambridge and Berkeley for a year I might choose Cambridge just for the novelty of a winter. For more than a year, Berkeley no doubt.

Which is to say it depends where you're moving from, doesn't it?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:02 PM
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37 to 35, and to 36 I'll just say that I don't need any sensitive feminist creds, thank you, and wouldn't pick them up reading books (or watching movies - take that!) if I wanted them.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:03 PM
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mostly because I'm ambivalent about pleasure

You may be a New Yorker by birth and all, but by God, you belong to New England.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:03 PM
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It's not even Ender's use of violence to overcome those obstacles that bothers me; it's the geek ressentiment whittled to a sharp, eye-gouging point.

Yeah, but is a bit of that really such a horrible thing for a nerdy kid to get in an escapist novel? I found the idealization of Ender a Mr. Perfect annoying when I reread it in my early twenties. But that wasn't about the message, just about quality. In that sense the mix of living saint and total narcissistic asshole that you get in Speaker for the Dead is much less of a problem though as a whole EG is a better book. I still maintain that the extreme hostility towards Ender's Game that you see in many liberal SF circles is first of all a product of OSC's nauseating current politics, second of all the way they've been expressed in his later books, and only marginally attributable to the book itself.


Anybody manage to get through the later stuff? I read the third book but my only memory is that it sucked, I tried reading the first of the parallel ones and stopped about halfway through, something I almost never do with SF.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:05 PM
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just for the novelty of a winter

I think I'd go crazy living in a place without winter. I get the idea of wanting to get away for a week or two, but to miss out on it altogether? That's just not normal.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:07 PM
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Berkeley's got plenty of winter -- no snow, but endless days of gray drizzle. And the Sierras aren't so far away that you can't go get a fix, you know, if you get desperate.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:15 PM
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Oh. And I thought Card's point and purpose in EG was to create a problematic, rather than answering all moral questions.

Wrong again.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:17 PM
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Berkeley's got plenty of winter -- no snow, but endless days of gray drizzle

You mean they have April?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:20 PM
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but mostly because I'm ambivalent about pleasure.

Ha! I'm afraid I might be also.

I've spent enough time in and around Cambridge to have a pretty clear sense of what it's like. Most of my time in the Bay Area has been spent in the boring suburban part.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:24 PM
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I think the original short story was anti-war, and then the book it was expanded into wasn't. Something weird happened to OSC at some point after he started writing

Short story: 1977
Book: 1985
What happened to OSC? Reagan.

An excerpt from Xenocide - just the bit about the obsessive-compulsive girl ("Gloriously Bright") - was published in Analog when I was reading it as a teenager. Much like Ender's Game, that bit was quite a bit better than the book that surrounded it.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:25 PM
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Hah. 25 inches of rain, in a 5 month period.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:26 PM
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41 - Not in general; see me at 2. But it's particularly egregious in this one, because Ender is constantly put forward by the narrative as a moral exemplar and because the book is (unsurprisingly) held in such high regard by so many people who were bright, awkward teenagers.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:30 PM
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48: Yes, plus several thousand days of fog/mist per year.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:30 PM
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I read Ender's Game (the short version) when I was still young enough that the entire plot sounded plausible.

Re-read the novel some time later, early 20s maybe? Not improved.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:36 PM
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As quasi-fascistic SF goes though, Ender's Game only rates a mention for its popularity. I read much worse shit than that in my early teens.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:37 PM
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41 - I think in liberal SF circles in the Internet age it's hard to separate the book from its audience -- the people who identify with the supergenius children because, as they will tell you, they themselves were supergenius children.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 3:47 PM
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True, it is such a chore to endure several months of 50 degree days with similar levels of precipitation to the East Coast. But Berkeleyans soldier on.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:07 PM
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Please, somebody pay attention to me. I know it's pathetic, but I'm just that lonely.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:10 PM
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46. I went to Stanford and will admit that the town of Berkeley is more fun. Plus awesome views. Living in SF and commuting to Berkeley is quite doable.


Posted by: BA | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:12 PM
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The SF Bay Area is a really amazing place, but as I consider the Berkeley vs. Cambridge question I'm finding myself surprisingly ambivalent. If you can deal with the weather (which I am somewhat newly able to do) then Cambridge has a lot to offer (especially if you don't care about things like "going out to nightclubs"). On the other hand, the first year I lived in the SFBA was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I've had. On the other other hand, when I lived in (actually near) Berkeley it was kind of frustratingly suburban, and Telegraph is weird and unfortunate. I really love the walkability here, and Berkeley does not particularly meet that standard, except in certain specific parts.

So it depends, is what I'm saying. Except you should totally come to Cambridge and, like, come to meetups.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:17 PM
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Living in SF and commuting to Berkeley is quite doable.

Oy what a pain in the ass.

I think I've totally lost my ability to visualize a lengthy commute.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:18 PM
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Which is weird, since I have in my time had some insane commutes. (Oakland hills to Sausalito? Echo Park to Santa Monica? What on earth was I thinking?)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:19 PM
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Not really relevant to this thread, but OSC has pulled a Dos Passos with an astounding intensity. After hearing about Empire I pulled it off the bookstore shelf - the first random page read like SF by Glenn Beck.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:19 PM
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I keep reading "Lejeune" as "Jejeune"* in the OP, which makes me think, of course they would read it there.

Also, I don't get the Nosferatu joke.

*Yes, I know it's spelled "jejune", but "jejeune" is a common misspelling.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:28 PM
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Thee main point about the short story enders game is that it would be fucking awesome if you thought you were playing a video game and it turnerd out to be real. I read the short story when it came out in analog and that was a completely original idea at the time, at least to me. Video games were very new in 1977. The antiwar stuff was completely unoriginal in the post vietnam period.

The main point of the novel is that it would be fucking awesome if a teenager could establish what we would now call a blog, use his big sister as a sort of sock puppet, and convince the grownups to make him king of the world before they figure out he's a kid. Also quite original in 1985.


Posted by: Unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:32 PM
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I read EG a few years ago and enjoyed it enough to pass on to my then 9 year old. She REALLY liked it, and has read a few of the sequels. I found out more about OSC and was rather turned off going anywhere near him again - although, actually, I have read a bit of "Ender's Shadow". Recently this-year's-9-year-old read it and he liked it too - they've listened to the audiobook a lot too, which is read by a bloke with a really odd voice.

Walt is probably completely right in 14.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:37 PM
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which is read by a bloke with a really odd voice

Sounds just like a lawnmower ridin' a slim jim.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:39 PM
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On the other other hand, when I lived in (actually near) Berkeley it was kind of frustratingly suburban, and Telegraph is weird and unfortunate. I really love the walkability here, and Berkeley does not particularly meet that standard, except in certain specific parts.

Thanks. That's useful information, because I'd perceived (on the basis of, like, three nonconsecutive days there) Berkeley as being comparably walkable to Cambridge (albeit with somewhat slower public transit).


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:39 PM
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41 - I think in liberal SF circles in the Internet age it's hard to separate the book from its audience -- the people who identify with the supergenius children because, as they will tell you, they themselves were supergenius children.

In the Internet age you would think people would identify more with the later books, where Ender's siblings take over the world by posting on internet message boards, or something like that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:40 PM
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Because the people are like "wow, these pundits are so amazingly logical! we should let them lead us!"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:41 PM
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63 - correction, she was actually 10, not 9. Here she is, reading EG and ignoring Paris.

Really odd is probably a bit unfair. I couldn't listen to 11 hours of it though.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:46 PM
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In the Internet age you would think people would identify more with the later books, where Ender's siblings take over the world by posting on internet message boards, or something like that.

obligatory.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:47 PM
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66 - perhaps people feel it's more acceptable to brag about what amazingly brilliant and precocious children they were, rather than to claim current brilliantness?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:48 PM
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41: Yeah, but is a bit of [ressentiment] really such a horrible thing for a nerdy kid to get in an escapist novel?

Yes, it is horrible, the moreso when overindulged (at, say, the length of an entire novel). Card himself, or at any rate Card-the-public-personage, is proof of this; the trajectory of his writing is that the ressentiment gets less subtle, but it never got [i]more ugly[/i]. It was always ugly. It didn't seem like such a bad thing back in the Eighties, mind you... but that was the Eighties.

I still maintain that the extreme hostility towards Ender's Game that you see in many liberal SF circles is first of all a product of OSC's nauseating current politics, second of all the way they've been expressed in his later books, and only marginally attributable to the book itself.

There's no great difference between OSC's current politics and his prior politics. All that's changed is that he's gotten blunter and louder about it. The hostility towards Ender's Game is a result of gaining perspective on what once was a childhood classic: all of Card's subsequent douchebaggery is already there in Ender's Game, just in slicker packaging, and once you've noticed this, you can't un-notice it. (In this sense it's much like the sensation of "discovery" one feels on really reading those icky pedophilic passages in Piers Anthony that you skipped over as a kid. It's not like people are retroactively reading something into Ender's Game that isn't there. They're just losing their former ability to bracket out the unlikable stuff.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:48 PM
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Yeah, but is a bit of [ressentiment] really such a horrible thing for a nerdy kid to get in an escapist novel?

The question commits a category mistake: nerds don't get ressentiment from trashy (or trashy-but-supposedly-praiseworthy cough tor.com, I am looking in the direction of your insanely overstated recommendations cough) SFF, but they do get approval of the ressentiment always already* resident in the nerd spirit.

* I've missed this.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:52 PM
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My 66 and 67 pwned by 62.last. But that was in Ender's Game? I thought it was in the next book. It's all a little fuzzy for me now.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:55 PM
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the people who identify with the supergenius children because, as they will tell you, they themselves were supergenius children.

I'll say again, this is why we should be pushing a reading of the book as a metaphor for the problems with AAU basketball or, say gymnastics.

Not that I expect that to really catch on, but it makes it more interesting.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:56 PM
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Berkeley's pretty walkable; you just have to pick your neighborhood somewhat carefully (the same is true with Cambridge, no? Though I don't know that area all that well). There's also Oakland or it's quite easy to commute in from SF.

My decision tree would go something like: It is 100% worth living in the Bay Area for a year, which is a pretty unique place, even if you don't love it for life, whereas the positives of Cambridge, such as they are, are pretty much indistinguishable from any other big old-style Northeastern or Midwestern city where you might conceivably find yourself (Philadelphia, Chicago, DC, wherever), so, as a 1-year max gig, I'd take Berkeley in a heartbeat.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:57 PM
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62: My experience was similar to unimaginative's; I was only vaguely aware that it had been expanded into a novel until my kids started reading it as preteens. I thought the early use of the video game morphing to real control was far and away the most compelling SF element. The anti-war aspect was so understated to me that it flew right past and I thought it more of a (not necessarily judgmental) commentary on the layers of misdirection and insulation that accompanies the real dirty work of humanity.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 4:58 PM
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the layers of misdirection and insulation that accompanies the real dirty work of humanity

Marketing? I thought Ender was a solider or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 5:08 PM
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Also, I don't get the Nosferatu joke.

Well, have you got any bananas?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 5:12 PM
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Well, have you got any bananas?

No, I'm just happy to see you.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 5:23 PM
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I'm going to stick my neck out and say I like "Ender's Game." I'll admit it has shortcomings: some parts are unbelievable, and the book's overall point of view is authoritarian, which I accepted uncritically when I read it in high school. On the other hand, it's easy and accessible science fiction (so, re 8: you just read it, you don't have to "get into" it), and while I don't know what else might be on the Marine Corps reading list, "Ender's Game" at least has more moral depth than a Tom Clancy novel. It *is* morally ambiguous, but I guess I don't have the strong negative reaction that other people have. I read it more as a study of how horribly immoral things can happen in life.

(My positive feelings don't extend to Orson Scott Card's more recent work, though. I think he's gone mad.)


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 7:30 PM
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Continuing to be way off-topic: is there a takedown anywhere of this "Quantitative Easing Explained" video that's floating around everywhere? I haven't watched the whole thing but it seems to start out by trying to say that we should be scared of inflation rather than deflation. Which is the exact opposite of what I gather from occasional reading of Krugman and DeLong. (I'm pretty much an economic illiterate.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 7:43 PM
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This video, that is.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 7:44 PM
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I liked Ender's Game, the novel, when I was a kid. I enjoyed the first sequel, too -- it was kinda dippy as sci-fi, but I read it as creating an interestingly problematic moral universe. I don't trust my readings of either book now.

As a side note, Card used to be at least a fellow-traveller of liberal Mormonism. These days he's firmly in the reactionary camp.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 7:46 PM
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83: "As a side note, Card used to be at least a fellow-traveller of liberal Mormonism."

Was he? It seems to me there was a time when he wasn't openly hostile, but that's different from being a fellow-traveller. His writing is more obviously reactionary now, but the difference seems to be mainly in deterioration of the craft that once made it possible to ignore (to an extent) the politics.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 7:57 PM
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82: Counter with this video. Or simply explain that they are either confused, easily-manipulated douchebags or intellectually dishonest partisans. They're free to choose!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:11 PM
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OT confession: I am only now beginning to figure out what steampunk is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:15 PM
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86: Did ye nivir read The Nomad of the Timestreams then? Nor yet The Difference Engine?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:17 PM
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Is he also a telepath? Anybody else read that article and start having flashbacks to one of the best SF novels ever written?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:29 PM
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87: Well, that's the thing. I did read The Difference Engine, though quite a while ago, and after I'd read a fair amount of other Gibson, so I put it in the class called "what Gibson writes" (which I think of as cyberpunk, which I understand is somewhat related, yet not the same). And I actually don't recall The Difference Engine as a stand-out. In fact it's the one that kind of dropped out for me.

I read Tim Powers for the first time about 5 years ago, and liked it. Hm, let's see, it was Dinner at Deviant's Palace. I didn't register it as a member of a particular genre.

Call me uninformed.

I'd vaguely had it on my list to investigate more Powers, but hadn't yet gotten around to it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:35 PM
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If you want early proto-steampunk then even though Powers' Anubis Gates is seen as the start of the sub genre, Moorcock's Warlord of the Air is more representative of what it has become.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:47 PM
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81:QE is not hard to explain. Felix Salmon goes into the nuts and bolts. And Krugman is a brilliant blogger. Take an hour at his site.

Big banks have accounts with the Fed. The Fed buys longer term securities from the banks, say 10 year T-bills, by crediting the banks accounts with cash, created from thin air or keystrokes. The banks use the cash profit to loan money, or buy more securities. Interest rates go down. Prosperity ensues.

(I like it, but I want this times ten. I don't think 600 billion will be enough, want 6 trillion. One thing we know is that the Fed can stomp inflation like Godzilla, raising interest rates to 25% tomorrow. They can't easily go below zero.))

As far as inflation goes, y-to-y (excluding food and energy) has been under 1.0%. Bernanke wants 2.0%.
(I want 4-5) Krugman et al says there are no signs of present or future inflation, and unemployment is forecasted to remain high. No worries, except about disinflation or deflation. A big big worry, the Fed hates QE.

I can't speak for the bond traders, but we have not seen disinflation for decades (except, you know, Japan for twenty years) so they may not understand.

Or the money players may know something that is almost impossible to get into the heads of economists like DeLong or Krugman or Bernanke. That there are money players that can get psycho or crazy or evil. Economists don't model those well.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:48 PM
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For instance, if Boehner and the House simply refuse to raise the debt limit.

What you will get from Krugman is "He will. They will."

And you ask, "Well, what if they don't?"

"They will." He can't model it at all.

What if Goldman-Sachs calls everything in, or China sells all its reserve funds?

"They won't do that."

Bond traders live in a less rational universe than economists, and have their own skin in the game. I don't completely blow them off.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:56 PM
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90: Hm. I was just looking at Moorcock's Wikipedia page, simply because I could swear I've read him -- how could I not have? -- yet I can't remember a single title, and upon review, I still can't.

I'm not necessarily interested in reading things for research or historical purposes at this point. If it's good writing, that's one thing.

Charlie Stross's rant against steampunk is somewhat interesting. I'm just trying to exercise due diligence in understanding just what steampunk is before I start nodding in agreement.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 8:59 PM
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I strongly disagreed with Stross' rant when it was linked to earlier, particularly from someone who has written space opera and alternate universe stuff. It certainly doesn't apply to either Anubis Gates or the Moorcock. However, while I remember both fondly, I read them in my teens so I'm not going to vouch for their literary quality or lack thereof.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 9:07 PM
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Anyone have an overwhelmingly strong opinion about whether it's better to live in Berkeley, CA or Cambridge, MA?

Probably Berkeley, but if you're not used to sketchy things, Cambridge might be more comfortable. If you're into food, drugs, or booze you'd want CA. Bay Area bookstores are better, MA libraries kick ass.

Berkeley as being comparably walkable to Cambridge (albeit with somewhat slower public transit)

Parts of it certainly are; others not so much. It's perfectly possible to get by without a car in most of Berkeley, but it would depend on where you ended up.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 10:29 PM
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The merits of Ender's Game notwithstanding, that Kessel article was pretty weak.


Posted by: qb | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 10:37 PM
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Well, have you got any bananas?

In your imagined conversations, do your interlocutors Google your references, or do they just chuckle knowingly?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 11:13 PM
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Having recently relocated to the greater Bay Area from Minnesota for a to-be-determined amount of time, I'd say go with Berkeley. I'm not really missing winter yet. If you're only going for a year, jumping someplace completely different seems like the way to go.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 11:19 PM
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Is he also a telepath? Anybody else read that article and start having flashbacks to one of the best SF novels ever written?

What novel is this?

97: they either groan or chuckle knowingly, but they do so because they get the reference.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 11:21 PM
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I'd lean to Berkeley too, I think, but this -- the positives of Cambridge, such as they are, are pretty much indistinguishable from any other big old-style Northeastern or Midwestern city -- is completely indefensible.

You can live in Berkeley without a car -- I did it 30 years ago, and the public transportation situation hasn't gotten worse -- but for the life of me I can't see why anyone would want to limit themselves in that way (other than, you know, real poverty). Wake up and look out the window on a winter morning, and see that a north wind has brought cold dry air, what should you do? Go to the top of Mt. Diablo asap, and look at the Sierras. And Mt. Shasta. That's right, on the right day, you can see Mt. Shasta. A clear and still sunny morning, late spring: Angel Island (by canoe or rowboat, if you can swing it). Etc.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 11:28 PM
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That's right, on the right day, you can see Mt. Shasta.

And Half Dome.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 11:36 PM
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100- It's true that there are fewer racist asshole nightmare sports fans and insanely lame Harvard students in other East Coast and Midwestern cities, but I was trying to be positive about Cambridge.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-17-10 11:52 PM
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You can live without a car in Berkeley, but it's not pleasant. You can't go to SF late because the BART stops running at 12:30. The downtown Berkeley BART station is far from Telegraph Ave. And, as others have pointed out, half the advantage to living in Berkeley is the outdoor stuff that you need a car for.

I routinely have more fun and meet more random people going out in Cambridge than I do in Berkeley, but there's more outdoorsy/athletic stuff to do in Berkeley.

101-And Russia. Or maybe it's Japan. Who can tell?

102-You've been reading too much Kissing Suzy Kolber if you think there are more racist nightmare sports fans in Boston than, say, Philadelphia or New York.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:53 AM
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I've heard people from the east coast express surprise at the grayness of the Bay Area winter (also, the Bay Area summer, if they're in the fog zone). But that might be because of their expectations. Pretty much all of the rain that falls there falls in winter; I think I've run into, on average, more intense rain showers there than up here, but up here is far more miserably gray and cold for far longer.

Anyway, my three winters in the east (DC and NY, so a lot milder than Cambridge) offered more variety in terms of rain/sun/and of course snow. I didn't find March and April in DC and NY all that much like the Bay Area, actually. There are, however, usually some days in January/February/March that can be genuinely warm. (Aside: Stanford's weather is much more like stereotypical warm California weather; there's lots of variation within the Bay Area.)

I think you should hold out on buying a car if you go to Berkeley, then, when you get the Nobel prize parking spot, you should say, off-hand, "I guess I'd better get a license."

Except for pockets near supermarkets, I suspect Berkeley is walkable mainly in the Northside and Southside neighborhoods relatively close to campus, and in the Elmwood/Rockridge area around the Oakland border. Otherwise, you're looking at longer commutes into the downtown/campus areas, which, if you plan on trying to get elsewhere in the region every now and then, can add a lot to your travel time. Kind of like how SF can be walkable out along the park towards the ocean, but it's a long way to the east bay by transit.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:00 AM
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I would imagine that it's on the Marines' reading list because (as this Kessel bloke completely fails to mention) about half of it is about good small-unit leadership. Ender's an emotional cripple, but he's also becoming an excellent infantry platoon commander. (Why these skills necessarily translate into also being an excellent naval battle group commander is the least convincing bit of the novel).

It's still an odd choice for the list, because the other half is about how a permanent war society turns people into monsters. Especially the child soldiers, but everyone else as well. Ender's parents, Graff, Rackham, Ender's teachers - they're all doing horrible, immoral things, because they think it's worth it for the war effort, and the war's been going on so long that no one can remember peace.

Everyone freaks out about the book because it shows the process happening to ten-year-olds, but if Ender and his friends were six or seven years older everyone would think it perfectly normal that they should go away and get made into killers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:12 AM
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Hipster Marines, what a concept.

That would be Rudy Reyes, presumably.
(Generation Kill: no war movie more SWPL.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:07 AM
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102-You've been reading too much Kissing Suzy Kolber if you think there are more racist nightmare sports fans in Boston than, say, Philadelphia or New York.

And if more than three of them live in Cambridge I'd be reasonably surprised.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 5:18 AM
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101 -- And just to give you Eastern folk a scale to understand this, it's reasonably close to saying that on the right day, with the right weather, you can go to the top of the Empire State Building and see the towers of Boston off to the East. And turning to the southwest, you can see the Capitol dome in Washington DC. With your naked eye.

Try it some time.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 6:01 AM
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99 Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 6:22 AM
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Hipster Marines, what a concept.

It's Edwardian. Those TA units with drill halls in absurdly rich parts of central London that were both rich and louchely fashionable in 1912. Like this lot.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 6:23 AM
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I read Ender's Game as a teen or maybe even as late as college and liked it, although in hindsight the problems are obvious and I think (or at least, hope) I had a glimmering of them before the first time I read Kessel's dissection, which was years ago. I also read the three direct sequels and think they hold up as well as EG. I didn't like them as much, but they weren't as horrible as most people seem to think either; they were just middle-of-the-road SF to me. The interquel trilogy though, focused on Bean, sucked. I finished that, but I wish I hadn't. All the usual criticism of Card could be based on that alone and be totally fair.

71

I still maintain that the extreme hostility towards Ender's Game that you see in many liberal SF circles is first of all a product of OSC's nauseating current politics, second of all the way they've been expressed in his later books, and only marginally attributable to the book itself.

There's no great difference between OSC's current politics and his prior politics. All that's changed is that he's gotten blunter and louder about it.

This seems to be missing the point. If the topic is EG, then the subtlety and volume of OSC's opinions are totally relevant. A story with bad but reasonably subtle politics is a much better story than one that beats you over the head with bad politics.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 7:22 AM
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Wow. Two active threads, one discussing Card, the other Clancy; someone whack one up about Chricton.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 7:35 AM
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90: If you want early proto-steampunk then even though Powers' Anubis Gates is seen as the start of the sub genre

I've read this in a lot of places but never been able to understand why people keep saying it. Anubis Gates isn't steampunk in any real sense; there's no punk sensibility, there's no extrapolation of Victorian technology; it's set before the Victorian period and before the start of the Age of Steam. And it's about magic and the Egyptian gods. Blaylock's books like "The Digging Leviathan" are from the same period and much more recognisably steampunk. Powers is friends with a lot of steampunk authors, but that doesn't make The Anubis Gates steampunk.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 7:39 AM
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Wow. Two active threads, one discussing Card, the other Clancy; someone whack one up about Chricton.

And then go back in time and find me when I was 13, so that I would care.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 7:50 AM
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113 Because Powers, Jeter, and Blaylock coined the term back then in a semi joking way to describe what they were writing. It wasn't traditional SF, cyberpunk had taken the SF world by storm, so why not 'steampunk'.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:05 AM
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I'd pick Cambridge for sure, but my reasoning is a carnival funhouse of personal associations, starting from "people in the northeast don't find me depressing," and getting less useful from there. I think for most people, the weather alone makes the decision easy, and if you're one of those folks who likes the spaces between cities, there's not much competition (though Boston is accessible to some very nice patches of this alleged "outdoors" I hear so much about. And more importantly: NYC.)

I will say this: I've never met anyone in Boston who considered it the only place worth talking about, which is more than I can say about Some Places.

Some of it also comes down to whether you're more kindly disposed toward people who say "I hate how the fetish clubs have been colonized by housewives from Marin and I practically have to get something amputated if I want my own kink" or above-mentioned "racist nightmare sports fans."

p.s. I read maybe half of the short story version of Ender's Game on the train and yeah maybe if I were fourteen and a very different person...


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:06 AM
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Perhaps essear should do a comparative viewing of Mystic River and Martin Mull's genius 1980 Serial. (Sure, neither takes place in Cambridge or Berkeley.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:16 AM
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Do people in Berkeley drive sanely? Because that would be different from the Boston area.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:20 AM
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114: Yeah, there's a Back to the Future/Peggy Sue Got Married idea for a book or movie there. Someone goes back in time to when they were 13 to try to convince themselves or their friends to eschew certain books/movies/music/ideas that will embarrass them in later years. The "feel good" ending hook is that it the protagonist has exactly zero effect and comes to realize that it was all good for its time.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:21 AM
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If I had to guess, I would expect conservatives to have very different reactions to Ender's defensive sociopathy, and that the liberals reaction exemplifies why conservatives consider liberals weak.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:21 AM
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120: For example, the conservatives who make up the American Family Association don't see value in bravery unless it involves "inflicting casualties".

Jesus, in words often cited in ceremonies such as the one which will take place this afternoon, said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). So it is entirely right that we honor this kind of bravery and self-sacrifice, which is surely an imitation of the Lord of Lord and King of Kings.
However, Jesus' act of self-sacrifice would ultimately have been meaningless - yes, meaningless - if he had not inflicted a mortal wound on the enemy while giving up his own life.

What mortal wound was that? Which enemy?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:29 AM
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Death, Ned. Death was defeated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:33 AM
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The Gospel according to Orson Scott Card? Between EG and Speaker for the Dead I think this works.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:34 AM
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117: (Sure, neither takes place in Cambridge or Berkeley.)

I concur that essear shouldn't move to Everett or Dorchester.

Seriously, though, people who aren't from Massachusetts: Cambridge isn't Southie. Southie isn't even Southie anymore. The only hilariously-accented townies you're likely to meet in Cambridge will be driving cabs.

I definitely agree, however, that the nature immediately accessible from Berkeley is much grander (and more fire-prone) than the nature immediately accessible from Cambridge (which can still be utterly lovely, if not particularly majestic).

If essear was, for instance, a big-time recreational cyclist, and wanted to move someplace where he could go for amazing 100 mile rides up and down steep, incredibly scenic hillsides, I would recommend the bay area. If, on the other hand, he wanted to get along without owning a car, I would recommend Cambridge. It all depends, but Halford's fear of Celtics fans probably shouldn't enter into it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:34 AM
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I know dirty words! Look how naughty I am!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:37 AM
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Since your experience to date has been the east do Berkeley. Easy decision.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:38 AM
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Whether I will even have to make this choice depends on various things that haven't happened yet, but I did have to sort of preemptively sort-of-commit to make a particular choice in the event that certain other things happen. (In the sense that if I failed to make that particular choice given a certain contingency, people could be pissed off, probably rightfully.) Vague enough? It's boring anyway. Basically I just needed to be talked into not thinking of Cambridge as a clearly inferior option, which has been accomplished by numerous people IRL and here.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:40 AM
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Sort of sort of sort of. I should really read my comments before I submit them.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:41 AM
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PLEASE BE MY FRIEND.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:41 AM
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Mentally, I am unable to picture myself as a Californian. I have no idea why, but it sort of became a fixed idea for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:43 AM
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127: woohoo! That's the new city slogan. "Cambridge: definitely not clearly inferior."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:43 AM
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However, Jesus' act of self-sacrifice would ultimately have been meaningless - yes, meaningless - if he had not inflicted a mortal wound on the enemy while giving up his own life.

Wow. Jesus Christ - Suicide Bomber.

Note that this line of reasoning says that even dying to save someone else's life is meaningless. It's dying to cause damage to the enemy that's virtuous.

Not to mention that this
That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.

is massively wrong. See Murphy, Gordon, Shughart. Of the eleven awarded in the last 20 years, three fall into this category.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:45 AM
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"Cambridge: definitely not clearly inferior."

Compare "BELLINGHAM: CITY OF SUBDUED EXCITEMENT".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:46 AM
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Would you guys be my friends if I wrote in Spanish? I only know a few words. TACO! BURRITO!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:47 AM
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132: Bryan Fischer is the same guy who thinks grizzly bears are a sign that America is cursed, and so they should be shot on sight.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:47 AM
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135: And now the zoo won't let me back.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:49 AM
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88,109:Inspired me to nostalgia, revisiting the monster of my youth that was Robert Silverberg. DI is one of at least ten SF masterpieces that made my teens bearable.

But the man was a monster. During 1965-75, pouring out award-winning stories and novels month after month, he also edited two New Wave periodicals. And wrote maybe 2 dozen non-fiction books (probably for young adults;some under pseudonyms) on subjects like Edison, Wars of the Roses, Hayes vs Tilden, China, Sophisticated Sex Techniques in Marriage)

Silverberg by my rough calculation produced 5-10 published pages every day for ten years. He was equally prolific 1955-65, but with only craft, no art.

Which makes interesting the theory of Ray Davis (Pseudopodium) that Dying Inside, ca 1970, is really about writer's block


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:51 AM
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The new Pauly Shore replacement comments are cracking me up.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:53 AM
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94: It certainly doesn't apply to either Anubis Gates or the Moorcock.

But Stross is saying the same thing. There's a somewhat more serious and less bellicose piece by Magpie Killjoy in a recent issue of "Steampunk Magazine", that makes very similar points. I don't think Stross is wrong, at all, but I think there's a larger plurality of interesting, less-derivative, better-politicked steampunk out there than he admits.

Short list of steampunk I've read that passes the Natilo Test:
The Nomad of the Timestreams
The Time Ships
The Difference Engine
The Steampunk Trilogy

"The Secret History of the Ornithopter" (Although this is more of an electro-punk hybrid. It's still pretty awesome.)

Beyond that, maybe there really isn't much more to it than a fad for gears-and-goggles cosplay.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:54 AM
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Beyond that, maybe there really isn't much more to it than a fad for gears-and-goggles cosplay.

Stupid as I think the trend is, I have to admit it's spawned some very rad Burning Man vehicles.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:57 AM
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Also, I did wind up buying Westerfield's Leviathan on a whim the other day. Almost finished. It's not amazingly great, but the politics are not awful for a juvenile pot-boiler. I was not prepared for the aesthetics to be quite so Warhammery though.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:00 AM
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138: Agreed.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:16 AM
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On the original topic, my son seems to have enjoyed EG and the sequels. I refuse to check them out -- I wasn't a nerd/geek/etc in the 70s, and only know about these books though my kid -- both because of OSC's politics today, and the mistreatment I was subjected to in Cardston 30 years ago.

I'll see if I can get Megan to go in on a Grudge Seminar.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:18 AM
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Natilo, you should take a look at "Anti-Ice", it's tricky to find but a good read.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:18 AM
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137 The late sixties/early seventies Silverberg is right up there in any list of the best SF/F writers of all time. Then he stopped, angry at the world for failing to appreciate him. The SF critics liked him, but the SF book buyers were ignoring him since he wasn't providing the escapist fix they wanted, and the mainstream lit community wasn't going to take an author with spaceships and bug eyed monsters on his covers seriously. (Ballantine's marketing decisions on Dying Inside... WTF?). So when he returned to writing he gave fandom Lord Valentine's Castle, a well crafted, big fat bit of escapist SF/fantasy fluff; and he made a fortune off of it. I don't think he ever wrote any great novels again, or even bothered to try, though some of the shorts from his latter period are very good.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:19 AM
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CHIMICHANGA! FERNANDO VALENZUELA! MIAMI SOUND MACHINE!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:20 AM
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I was really just trying to pointlessly provoke Tweety for no reason, but it is true that I haven't spent significant time in Cambridge in about 20 (!) years. It's also true that I really disliked it then, though -- not so much the Celtics fans, but the whole freezing cold/rigid class distinctions/commitment to preppyness thing. But I think almost all of that has changed in the intervening years -- the coasts are a lot more similar than they once were.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:21 AM
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the whole freezing cold/rigid class distinctions/commitment to preppyness thing. But I think almost all of that has changed in the intervening years

Pretty much all of it, yeah. It's not even as cold as it used to be!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:22 AM
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I am 100% sympathetic to the aesthetic goofiness of steampunk (in its most recent incarnation). Goggles are a venerable tradition on this blog, after all.

When the term first came out, I explained it to people as a genre that took sf's fascination with technology and how semi-alien technology shapes lives and narratives, and used that insight on worlds with less, uh, cyber- forms of technology. I still think that version of steampunk has interest and promise.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:23 AM
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LA LA LA LA LA LA BAMBA!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:25 AM
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Anybody here read deFilippo's steampunk trilogy? Should I bother?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:26 AM
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(Orson Scott Card is, of course, a cousin.) I'm still fond of Ender's Game, although I recognize its flaws and fucked-upedness. For what Bave is talking about in re: Card's early liberal-Mormon fellow-travelling, see his Alvin Maker series, which is inspired by some stuff the Church would really rather sweep under the carpet. For some truly weird, early quasi-predestinarian Orson Scott Card, check out Wyrms. I reread that over and over as a kid until I grew up enough to realize how utterly insane it is.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:28 AM
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144: I think I've seen a copy at Uncle Hugo's. I will check the next time I am there. It sounds good. The only other Baxter I've read was Coalescent, which was interesting, but creepy.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:30 AM
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149: it's also a good way of defamiliarising Victorian technology. You can't get across to a modern person the sheer unsettling novelty of something like a telegram or a gas lamp or a Jacquard mill or a dreadnought to a Victorian - so you turn the technology up to 11 and say "Look! This is how it really felt to have your entire industry replaced by steam power!"

I mean, Westerfield writes about giant steam-powered war robots striding across Europe and scattering cavalry brigades before them in terror - and it's a good way of conveying the alarm and unease that, say, Palmerston felt when he saw HMS Warrior lying at anchor surrounded by wooden sailing warships, "like a black snake among rabbits".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:30 AM
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FUTBOL! TORQUEMADA! CINCO DE MAYO!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:35 AM
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defamiliarising Victorian technology

Exactly! Or even earlier tricknology. If Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle had been more coherently edited, it would have been awesome steampunk.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:35 AM
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151: What am I, chopped liver?

Yeah, it's good. Victoria has some iffy sexual politics, if you ask me. Agassiz is much better. Walt and Emily is by far the stand-out. Di Filippo is an amazingly frustrating author to follow. Ciphers may be the worst-written book I have ever read all the way through. Yet some of his stuff is really brilliant.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:38 AM
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Oops, sorry.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:40 AM
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156: yes in the defamiliarising sense, but I think he does it in a different way: I don't think there's much in the books that isn't historically justifiable (with the exception of Enoch Root and the quintessence, of course). He doesn't take the seventeenth century and turn its technology up to 11, he just tells it more or less straight. And it works, I think, because we aren't as familiar with the period.

George Orwell, I think, takes the same approach in Nineteen Eighty-Four, which basically is set in a world that has 1940s technology - ration books, nuclear weapons, V-2s, television, surveillance microphones, helicopters - turned up to 11, as a way of really emphasising what it's like to live in a totalitarian state.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:40 AM
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153: interesting but creepy is right.

Baxter's books fall into several very different categories: the ones that depend on massive amounts of astrophysics (Ring, Raft, Flux), the ones that depend on 1970s booster technology (Voyage, Titan, Moonseed), and the oddball historical ones (Weaver, Coalescent etc). And the steampunk ones (Anti-Ice, Time Ships).

I loved Voyage, but it's not to everyone's taste.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:45 AM
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"BELLINGHAM: CITY OF SUBDUED EXCITEMENT".

A slogan that it completely lives up to.

Are we in the same neck of the woods?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:49 AM
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I waded through the second and third books of the Baroque Cycle hoping to find more of the descriptions of the early Royal Society and their attempts at science that I had enjoyed so much in the first. I was disappointed.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 9:49 AM
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Because Powers, Jeter, and Blaylock coined the term back then in a semi joking way to describe what they were writing.

This made me think, wait, Derek Jeter and Hank Blalock write steampunk novels? But Kenny Powers is a fictional baseball player! What?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:00 AM
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161: no, but I've visited Bellingham. Agreed that the slogan is spot on.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:05 AM
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162: then you'll love Robert Boyle's to do list.
http://blogs.royalsociety.org/history-of-science/2010/08/27/robert-boyle-list/

The Prolongation of Life.
The Recovery of Youth, or at least some of the Marks of it, as new Teeth, new Hair colour'd as in youth.
The Art of Flying.
The Art of Continuing long under water, and exercising functions freely there.
The Cure of Wounds at a Distance.
The Cure of Diseases at a distance or at least by Transplantation.
The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions.
The Emulating of Fish without Engines by Custome and Education only.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:06 AM
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165: That is awesome!

From the same list:

Varnishes perfumable by Rubbing.

Is Boyle imagining Scratch and Sniff?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scratch_and_sniff


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:11 AM
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That is truly wonderful.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:12 AM
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Related: business plans from IPOs during the South Sea Bubble era.

For supplying the town of Deal with fresh water.
For trading in hair.
For assuring of seamen's wages.
For importing pitch and tar, and other naval stores, from North Britain and America.
For insuring of horses.
For improving the art of making soap.
For improving of gardens.
For insuring and increasing children's fortunes.
For a wheel for perpetual motion.
For importing walnut-trees from Virginia.
For making of rape-oil.
For paying pensions to widows and others, at a small discount.
For making iron with pit coal.
For the transmutation of quicksilver into a malleable fine metal.
For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage; but nobody to know what it is.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:17 AM
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The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions ... laydeez.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:19 AM
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The best thing about it in retrospect is the mix of the sublime and the petty. I want to conquer death! I want the secret of eternal youth! I want to be able to cure disease!
And I want to be able to make nicer smelling varnish!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:24 AM
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ajay, that was the most generous take on steampunk's ahistoricity I've ever read. Me, I like it as a response to minimalism, so I think of it as an aesthetic movement. That makes its incoherence and embarssing politics quite similar to the Victorian aesthetic, which is tidy.

I recommend Girl Genius as a first and most stteampunk work. You can read it online for free, even. The story isn't done, so I don't know how the politics will turn out, but in bits and hints it undercuts a lot of the nasty master-race stuff that it starts on (or maybe sets us up to accept it, dunno. Also, most people don't read it that seriously).

Eggplant, have you read _The Jewel House_ and _The Age of Wonder_?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 10:58 AM
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171: I'm going to order them tonight.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 11:07 AM
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The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions...ye olde laydeez.



Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 11:28 AM
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Baxter's books fall into several very different categories: the ones that depend on massive amounts of astrophysics (Ring, Raft, Flux), the ones that depend on 1970s booster technology (Voyage, Titan, Moonseed), and the oddball historical ones (Weaver, Coalescent etc). And the steampunk ones (Anti-Ice, Time Ships).

Speaking of Baxter, I liked Flood more than I expected. It seemed goofy at first but, by the time I was finished, it more emotional impact than I expected.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:09 PM
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The Emulating of Fish without Engines by Custome and Education only.

Better techniques for swimming?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:14 PM
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140, apropos of Steampunk: Burning Man

Huh. I had that thought last night as I was reading more about the arguments that have been going on about this.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:17 PM
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Practicing holding your breath, like pearl-divers?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:21 PM
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Who here remembers the 1970s well enough to explain how Victoriana/train nostalgia felt the last time we turned to it in the face of energy shock and imperial setback?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:24 PM
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175: I believe it means he wants to act like a fish without a bicycle.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:24 PM
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178: I remember the 1970s but I dont' remember any Victoriana/tran nostalgia.

As I remember it in the 1970s we were nostalgic for the 1950s when things were simpler because there was no sex, drugs or non-white people.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:30 PM
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Why did you googleproof Victorianatran? And what does that even mean?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:33 PM
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As I remember it in the 1970s we were nostalgic for the 1950s when things were simpler because of those bastards Sha-Na-Na.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:34 PM
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178: Taking Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as a representative sample, it was awesome.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:37 PM
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How did Sha-Na-Na make the '50s simpler?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:37 PM
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184: Ivy League learnin'!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:39 PM
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like a fish without a bicycle.

Which is why this product label amuses me. A woman without a man is unlike Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Unless she's wearing a bike helmet.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:41 PM
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178: "1970s Victorian/train nostalgia" makes me think of the decor at Wendy's restaurants of that era. And revivals of My Fair Lady.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:43 PM
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The 'i' is in 'train' on my screen. I remember a lot of pizza parlors (newly respectable) tarted up with train whistles and pipe organs and laughably bad pseudo-1890s typography. Cheap nostalgia for fancy times. I don't suppose it needs any more explanation than that, but i am curious why we go for Vicky and Japan for rococo.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:45 PM
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185: Fascinating!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:47 PM
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188: I remember a lot of pizza parlors (newly respectable) tarted up with train whistles and pipe organs and laughably bad pseudo-1890s typography.

Yes! That is what I was remembering! Not just the big chains either, it seemed like Every. Single. Pizza. Parlor. had the fake-Tiffany lamps and brass-plated fixtures there for awhile.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:48 PM
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188: You wrote "train" but I wrote "tran". Because I'm no good.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:49 PM
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Infernal Devices is a hoot; I just lent a friend my copy. I should pick up Avram Davidson's The Other Nineteenth Century, as I suspect it's seven kinds of awesome.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:50 PM
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Hello Dolly was '70s, right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:51 PM
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There is no 'I' in tran.


Posted by: Confused Coach | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:51 PM
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"1970s Victorian/train nostalgia" makes me think of the decor at Wendy's restaurants of that era.

Wow, I completely forgot that that used to be Wendy's shtick.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:54 PM
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188/90: Not an east coast phenomenon. We did have Ground Rounds, though.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:54 PM
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196: fuck yeah we did. I loved Ground Round as a kid. Free popcorn! Old-timey cartoons on a projector! Kids pay their weight! Fuck. Yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:57 PM
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I have a vague memory of 1970 bartenders on TV being all Edwardian looking, as well: big moustaches and vests, that kind of thing. And contra oudemia, I remember Victorian shtick in pizza parlors, although not in NYC, and not in good ones anywhere. But even on the east coast, if we were getting pizza someplace out of town in a strip mall, it'd have that kind of decor.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 12:58 PM
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197: From Wikipedia: The newest incarnation of Ground Round doesn't support such behavior and markets to the adult dining and cocktails crowd


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:01 PM
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There was also that weird big band revival in the '70s, as seen in the movie Xanadu. Maybe the '70s were just kind of spazzy about their retro enthusiams.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:01 PM
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I thought that 70s Pizza Parlor aesthetic was supposed to be more old-timey 1920s WC Fields than Victorian. Heavily influenced by The Sting and places with names like "B.C. MacGillicutty's."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:04 PM
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185: I did not expect my question to be so thoroughly answered.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:06 PM
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199: I know. And it's a darned shame. Actually the continued existence of Ground Round is something of a heroic underdog story, as it was on its way out before the franchisees banded together to buy it out and keep it marginally in-existence.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:07 PM
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The best thing about it in retrospect is the mix of the sublime and the petty. I want to conquer death! I want the secret of eternal youth! I want to be able to cure disease!
And I want to be able to make nicer smelling varnish!

Dude, have you *smelled* varnish?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:10 PM
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Wow. My dad loved the Ground Round. We generally had a good time when we went there (there was one on the way into Cambridge from a westerly direction). This would have been in the early-mid 80s.

Are there not still chains of various sorts that affect the old-timey thing? Are we distinguishing between the Edwardian and the Victorian? I have lost track of what this has to do with steampunk, but that's probably for the best.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:10 PM
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But even on the east coast, if we were getting pizza someplace out of town in a strip mall, it'd have that kind of decor.

Weird. Of course I grew up in the suburbs and the land of strip malls (which is often where really good pizza was found!) and pizza places were all of the plastic red-and-white checkered tablecloth and cheezy pictures of Mt. Vesuvius variety.

The old-timey handlebar mustache and arm bands on your stripey shirt aesthetic was big though. There was a place -- a chain; they had tv commercials -- called Charley's or something, and their logo had was Pringle's can looking dude.

The best thing about the Ground Round was throwing your peanut shells on the ground.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:14 PM
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I have lost track of what this has to do with steampunk

The Ground Round used to cook broccoli in a mesh cage over a pot of boiling water; then, for the last 30 seconds, they would drop the veggies right into the water, a cooking method known as steam-plunk.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:16 PM
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Just for combining themes, that was great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:23 PM
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206.1: too close to New York, maybe.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:25 PM
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207: A timeless masterpiece of Unfogged punnery.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:25 PM
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The best thing about the Ground Round was throwing your peanut shells on the ground.

If you're really desperate for that experience there's a chain in California called Clearman's Northwoods Lodge that still encourages it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:27 PM
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208, 210: Don't encourage him. Moby and peep are banned.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:40 PM
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I'm afraid Stanley is going to hit some kind of punning Singularity, making puns exponentially faster and worse until our entire world alters beyond recognition.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:45 PM
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Who here remembers the 1970s well enough to explain how Victoriana/train nostalgia felt the last time we turned to it in the face of energy shock and imperial setback?

This is the Michael Crichton thread, right?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:51 PM
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212: Does Jesus have that power? Can he make me stop? Because obviously I can't stop myself.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:51 PM
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|| The most scandalous novel of all time! |>


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:53 PM
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Dude, have you *smelled* varnish?

Smelled, or sniffed?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:57 PM
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As a vegetarian, I only huff shellac-less varnish.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:59 PM
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There was a place -- a chain; they had tv commercials -- called Charley's or something, and their logo had was Pringle's can looking dude.

Hey, that place is still around.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 1:59 PM
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at least half the reason i love The national in concert is that the Frontman is always becks-style


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:00 PM
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so drunk but happy. Tschuess.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:02 PM
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203: Also according to Wiki-p, the headquarters of that franchisee syndicate is located in a Comfort Suites in Freeport, Maine.

This conjures up the image of a harried Gil-the-salesman-from-the-Simpson's character sitting on the edge of a twin bed with a cheap floral print bedspread, excitedly answering the room phone and dejectedly finding out it was just the pizza place down the street, calling for a different room.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:03 PM
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222: "but stick around, fellas, huh? Wouldn't'ya like to throw some peanut shells on the floor with ol' Gil? Huh? Why you could throw them at me, if you want! Please, fellas, I'm desperate."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:05 PM
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I remember when the decor at Wendy's was all old-timey newspaper ads. I thought it was just my local location though, since my local McDonald's had wallpaper consisting entirely of Broadway playbills, which does not seem to have been an interntaional marketing strategy.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:06 PM
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219: The place I was remembering was called "Beefsteak Charlie's," it seems. And there were SNL fake ads based on it. Hmm!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:11 PM
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Oh man. Beefsteak Charlie's.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:13 PM
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I am now incapable of hearing the name "Charlie" without that goddamn unicorn video taking over my auditory cortex.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:14 PM
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227: Shutupshutupshutupshutup.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:16 PM
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227: Whereas I get "Charlie bit me!" on repeat. Not sure if that's better or worse.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:20 PM
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And I get the Bobby Short/Revlon commercial. Damn you, Charlie!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:23 PM
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My work here is done. Is there a German word for the joy experienced by making others share your unpleasant fate?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:30 PM
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Schiessefreude?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:34 PM
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trapnelseinheit?


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:34 PM
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The USMC Professional Reading List does have some interesting choices. Both Ahmed Rashid and Bernard Lewis Are represented for higher ranks. The Moustache of Understanding also appears


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:39 PM
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The unity of trapnel, or the quality of being trapnel?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:49 PM
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the latter.
Shit just missed the bus.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 2:53 PM
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||

I saw Jeff Warner in concert last night, and it was fantastic. It's the second time I've seen him perform, and he was just as good as I remembered. If you like traditional music I would strongly recommend keeping an eye out for him. For anybody in Seattle it looks like he'll be playing there on Saturday and Bainbridge Island on Sunday.

I would also say, since we have some historians here, that it's amazing going to here somebody who has that direct a connection to the folk music traditions of the late 19th century. Listening to him is an amazing opportunity to consider how music reflects the social lives of the 19th century. His parents were folklorists and he grew up traveling with them as they were hunting for songs. At one point in the show he mentioned this picture which shows hin as a young child sitting next to John Galusha, a logger from upstate NY who was born in 1859 and, he said, who had an older brother who died in the civil war.

In his singing and his introductions to the songs he comes across as somebody who has a real empathy for the people who originally sang the songs.

An amazing evening.
|>


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:05 PM
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...I didn't know Crichton did frockporn. I didn't know he did anything so admirable.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:06 PM
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Modern philosophy has forgotten the Trapnelseinsfrage.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:06 PM
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exactly. Oh shit the u bahn. I'm so fucked.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:26 PM
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...I didn't know Crichton did frockporn.

I read the book and saw the movie as a teenager, and the only thing I particularly remember is a reviewer noting how closely Crichton's camera followed Lesley-Anne Down's character (IIRC) getting into Sean Connery's character's bed, which at the time I thought was an apt observation. So yeah, point for frockporn.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:28 PM
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this is all much too complicated for me. I just want to sleep. :-(


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 3:51 PM
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The USMC needs to move Sledge's book into the Private - Lance Corporal range. Plus, it isn't on the officers' list at all. The Heinl has to be old (although it isn't his big history of the Corps). Millet is a better history and more recent. Funny, Millet is only on the list for CWO3 and O3.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 4:11 PM
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Little late, but, 111:

If the topic is EG, then the subtlety and volume of OSC's opinions are totally relevant. A story with bad but reasonably subtle politics is a much better story than one that beats you over the head with bad politics.

Once you've noticed the mechanisms being used to convey the bad politics, they no longer count as "subtle," is what I was getting at. The noticing is a sign that the subtlety has expired for the reader, and thereafter you are indeed being beaten over the head.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 4:27 PM
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oh, hey- and my hostess is a beautiful frenchwoman. Suesse traeume, Mineshaft. . .


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 4:29 PM
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205- They knocked down that Ground Round and replaced it with a strip mall containing a Chipotle, a bank, a mattress store, a liquor store, a T-mobile store, and an organic sushi restaurant. To my knowledge the latter does not encourage throwing shrimp peels on the floor.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 5:00 PM
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Yeah, Fresh Pond rotary.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 5:09 PM
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Ok I read the whole story.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 7:28 PM
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oh, hey- and my hostess is a beautiful frenchwoman. Suesse traeume, Mineshaft. . .

Sweet trauma to you too! Oh, wait.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 7:33 PM
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||

While the steampunk, one must mock it, this brings me great joy. Pizza with extra cheese, but hey, beautiful brash boys in braces and brollies.

|>


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-18-10 8:50 PM
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The best thing about the Ground Round was throwing your peanut shells on the ground.
If you're really desperate for that experience there's a chain in California called Clearman's Northwoods Lodge that still encourages it.

I think I went with a whole lot of strange violent people once. The weird thing was how difficult it was to overcome one's early conditioning not to throw stuff on the floor.
They also served beer in coffee jars.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:39 AM
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for christ's sake was there really a debate going on about whether to move to berkeley for a year or cambridge? for the love of god, you puritan, suffering-minded types: BERKELEY. cambridge has a lot of great qualities but I refute its partisans thus: february.

I guess I don't know about the sleaziness factor of cambridge; the bay area has some top-notch sleazy. but it's so fun! and you can walk out your door and go hike in beautiful mountains! and I never had a car in the bay area. essear just needs to get a boyfriend with a honda cb750. there are like a million of them. the boyfriends, I mean. thus, by implication, the motorcycles, I suppose, though it seems less plausible.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:26 AM
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Ok I read the whole story.

Was it worth it?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:21 AM
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246, 247: They knocked down that Ground Round and replaced it with a strip mall

Aw. Not that I feel incredibly strongly about the Ground Round, but still, I can picture that rotary perfectly -- through a 20-years-later nostalgic haze -- and sticking a mattress store (among other things) there just seems wrong.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 10:22 AM
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253: The first half was like some grating, grandiose adolescent male fantasy, but I'm an easy mark for a surprise ending and genuinely didn't see what was coming. And as an allegory, yeah, it pushed my liberal buttons. I don't feel enriched for having read it but then I wasn't really going to use that time curing cancer, so.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 11:03 AM
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I wasn't really going to use that time curing cancer, so.

Slacker.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 11:18 AM
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255 I don't think you should take it as SF at its best, though it is, overall, better than average, certainly for escapist juvenile SF. At the same time I'm never really sure what one should recommend to people who never were SF fans. It is a genre which assumes a great deal of familiarity. This is especially true of the best strongly SFnal books which tend to consciously playing off themes and conventions. There are good science fiction books like Silverberg's Dying Inside which I mentioned the other day which don't, but to a large extent they tend to be classified as SF because of who the author is.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 11:47 AM
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I was talking to a co-worker who knows a lot of people in the "curing cancer" kind of line of work, and apparently they spend most of their time trying to knock down other people's ideas about how cancer might be cured (which seems to be how you make a name for yourself in the cancer-curing world), as opposed to developing potential cancer-curing ideas of their own so, you know, don't feel too bad.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 11:56 AM
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I'm never really sure what one should recommend to people who never were SF fans

LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, or The Dispossessed. Anything along those lines that's more, erm, literary; what used to be called specifically speculative fiction to distinguish its themes from the standard tropes of genre science fiction. Presumably that's how you view the Silverberg you mention; I haven't read it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:26 PM
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Sorta on-topic: I was eating at the Chinese buffet yesterday, and one of the other patrons turned around in her seat to inquire of another patron whether she was correct in asserting that fiction is not factual, while non-fiction is factual (in a general sense, obvs, not some kind of post-structuralist debate).

It's weird to think that there are people who live near by me, share many cultural signifiers with me, have managed to get through ~40 years of life, and who do not seem to have any developmental disabilities, who would be unclear about that distinction. And yet, there are.

So what SF should you recommend to someone who has not read much SF before? It's hard to know, even in as culturally homogenous a forum as this one, without a lot more specifics about taste and intellectual preoccupations etc.

Does it make sense to start out with Verne and Wells? In some ways that's going to be less accessible to even well-educated readers. Or do you look for the absolute classics of the genre -- Bester and Gibson and Russ and LeGuin for instance? Or just throw mud against a wall and see what sticks? In that case, maybe you just want to suggest some decent anthologies that will give a lot of exposure, except that then you miss out on the people who are great novelists, but whose short-stories are either sub-par or overlooked.

Hmph. It's tricky.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:29 PM
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Or, what parsimon said.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:30 PM
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258: As long as they stop short of giving American Spirits to the other guy's treatment group.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:35 PM
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The only thing I would say against The Dispossessed is that there are some parts that are somewhat slow-going. If you can't find your rhythm with it, it might not be the best thing to jump into.

On the other hand, take George Alec Effinger's Marid Audran novels: Literary, action-packed, lots of little meta-cues; but they do presuppose a lot of familiarity with certain genre tropes that might be kinda offputting for some readers.

Or something like Sterling's Islands in the Net -- a pretty good intro to reading SF for the uninitiated, I'd say, except his politics were already showing signs of reaction, even back then. And, now, given that we are living after the events in the book ostensibly take place, it's really starting to show its age. But some people like that.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:35 PM
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I haven't been a sci-fi fan (or for that matter, even a sci-fi reader) since I was a teenager, but have always enjoyed Dick*.

*Philip K., of course, but LHF is its own reward. Like Dick.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:36 PM
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I agree with 264. Was about to recommend "The Man in teh High Castle".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:39 PM
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Well, there are two different questions -- there's "What would I recommend to someone unfamiliar with SF that I wanted to introduce to the genre in the hope they would enjoy it" and "What SF books would I recommend to someone who doesn't read SF because they should be congenial to a non-SF reader?"

The first, I'm not sure, but I don't think it matters much -- someone who's disposed to like that sort of thing will recognize it as appealing if they're exposed to anything much that doesn't completely suck. The second, I'd be thinking about things like The Road, or Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake or the sequel to it, whatever it was called. SF by any objective definition, but aimed at readers who aren't steeped in genre background.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:39 PM
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I'm inclined to think SF/Fantasy are just not for me, though I've always had a soft spot for Diana Wynne-Jones since reading her when I was young. My underlying reaction is "aren't things that could actually happen more interesting, in that they could happen?"

I gave Neil Gaiman a go a year or two ago and found I was having a kind of throw-book-across-room reaction to it for some reason I'm not sure of. It was bad but probably not that bad.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:40 PM
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266: Good point, except Frowner shared this excerpt from The Road with me the other day (apparently it has been highlighted by fans as one of the outstanding passages in the book):

"I'm speaking the truth. Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us. They will rape me. They will rape him [the boy]. They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you won't face it. You'd rather wait for it to happen. But I can't. I can't. . . . She watched him across the small flame. We used to talk about death, she said. We don't anymore. Why is that?
I don't know.
It's because it's here. There's nothing left to talk about.
I wouldn't leave you.
I don't care. It's meaningless. You can think of me as a faithless slut if you like. I've taken a new lover. He can give me what you cannot.
Death is not a lover.
Oh yes he is."

[Gag me with a squick. Also, pretend I know how to do blockquotes.]


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:45 PM
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263.last: never did like that book. Sterling's politics are reactionary, though? I hadn't gathered.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:47 PM
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There's always William Gibson's late-period not-actually-science-fiction stuff. It could happen, Smearcase! It's in the present! Still genre-y, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:48 PM
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Well, there are two different questions -- there's "What would I recommend to someone unfamiliar with SF that I wanted to introduce to the genre in the hope they would enjoy it" and "What SF books would I recommend to someone who doesn't read SF because they should be congenial to a non-SF reader?"

Or, put another way, there's the difference between, recommendations for someone who thinks they might like SF but doesn't know where to start vs someone who doesn't like SF but wants to know if they're missing anything important.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:52 PM
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The only thing I would say against The Dispossessed is that there are some parts that are somewhat slow-going

Agreed; I added The Dispossessed after a moment's hesitation.

I was assuming that teraz's question wasn't about introducing someone heretofore unfamiliar to the genre so that he/she might be inspired to explore further, but about showing that SF isn't all crap (as some people think), but has some rilly good stuff.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:56 PM
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Foundation is a decent place to start reading SF.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 12:59 PM
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Oh, I see 272.last is pwned by 271.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:00 PM
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it has been highlighted by fans as one of the outstanding passages in the book

Okay, I finished reading this book a couple of days ago and thought it surprisingly well-written with the notable exception of that specific passage.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:02 PM
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I recently read a few chapters from a physics textbook, and I now feel I know all I need to about Science: Friction.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:05 PM
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Usually, those intro textbooks are non-friction.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:10 PM
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Tweety, are you confusing B. Sterling with S. Stirling?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:10 PM
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267: But Neil Gaiman isn't proper SF at all. He's written some SF, but all of his major works are straight fantasy. Diana Wynne-Jones is completely fantasty.

If that's where you're at, then definitely check out LeGuin, maybe some Walter Jon Williams, Joanna Russ, Terry Bisson, Fritz Leiber, hmm. That's what I can think of right now.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:14 PM
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276: and I now feel I know all I need to about Science: Friction.

I picked up this book with high expectations, but all did was convince me that the author, despite fighting the good fight (founder of Skeptic magazine), was a right fucking wanker.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:17 PM
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Haha. You're all making me think of Roman from Party Down.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:18 PM
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I enjoyed Gaiman's The Graveyard and my daughter and I read "When the Wolves Come Out the Walls" all the time.

BR and my son howl from other rooms, and my daughter and I howl back.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:18 PM
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I recently read a few chapters from a physics textbook, and I now feel I know all I need to about Science: Friction.

I didn't know you were a Tim Berne fan, Stanley.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:22 PM
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I've linked to this before but how about Bruce Sterling's "We See Things Differently?" Another short story that you can read online.

I think Frowner made fun of the overwrought descriptions of the music in that one, but I like it and it's punchy and doesn't require a lot of genre background.

But Neil Gaiman isn't proper SF at all. He's written some SF, but all of his major works are straight fantasy. Diana Wynne-Jones is completely fantasty.

How about the original Calahan's trilogy?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:27 PM
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I have read Ender's Game, The Left Hand of Darkness, and Neuromancer (and Pattern Recognition), and I actually don't remember a damn thing about any of them. They somehow just sort of passed through me undigested, I guess.

266- I'd agree to this, except: The Oryx and Crake sequel was The Year of The Flood, and I sadly dis-recommend it.

I think Gaiman's short stories and kids' books are good, but when it came to American Gods, ugh, I'm with Smearcase.

I've heard good things about M. John Harrison, but haven't gotten around to actually picking up anything of his.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:28 PM
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278: I'm thinking of the Bruce Sterling that wrote Islands In The Net.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:32 PM
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Maybe Natilo has him confused with Stirling? Doesn't seem hugely likely. I'm confused.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:37 PM
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Oh, hey, what about Have Spacesuit Will Travel? I haven't read it in years but it seems like about as good an introduction to golden age SF as you could want.

Thinking about the Calahan's books again, I'm curious if anybody else has recommendations for good SF book that feature music as a significant plot element? I liked Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill and would be curious for more in that vein.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:40 PM
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270: Is book 3 of his recent trilogy readable without having read book 2? I didn't mind Pattern Recognition, but I failed to get past the first few chapters of the second book both times I tried.


Posted by: Suomen Radioamatööriliitto | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:45 PM
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No, S.M. Stirling's politics have always been pretty reactionary. Bruce Sterling's politics keep creeping further and further that way. His short story "Taklamakan" in A Good Old-Fashioned Future is pretty stunningly racist in both form and content (and it won the Hugo! Whoo-hoo!) and his most recent novel The Caryatids is bad all over the place -- authoritarian, racist, sexist. It's weird, because some of his early stuff was so good. Norman Mailer Syndrome strikes again.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:46 PM
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Maybe Natilo is thinking of the fact that the protagonist unashamedly is working for her big multinational company oppressing the people of Haiti? I mean, that's a reductionist way to look at it, but possible. ("Reactionary" isn't how I would describe Sterling's politics, especially outside his books, where he's a rather strident voice about corporate-backed climate change, but hey.) Islands in the Net isn't even the Sterling book I would recommend to a non-SF fan (Distraction).

I think LeGuin is a very good book for the non-fan, as would be Dying Inside or, more recently, Geoff Ryman's Air. Or, hey, Never Let Me Go or something.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:46 PM
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289: I thought it held up pretty well. Frankly, I liked Spook Country better, even though aspects of it seemed to be pandering to his fanbase excessively.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:47 PM
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Since most longer form SciFi sucks big donkey dicks (comparatively), I'd point a beginner to The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:48 PM
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I haven't read The Caryatids, as everyone says it's not very good.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:49 PM
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Suomen Radioamatööriliitto!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:51 PM
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The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is a good introductory sf novel, especially for a lefty. It is also has an interesting contrast to Ender's Game, which came a few years later and plagiarizes it has some very simialr plot elements. The two novels show the difference between a war imagined by someone who fought in a real one, and a war imagined by someone who played a lot of video games.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:51 PM
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291: I couldn't get more than a little ways into Distraction. And The Zenith Angle was kinda bizarrely problematic. I haven't really liked anything he's written since Zeitgeist.

I recently heard about a private communication in which Sterling described himself as a "big-government liberal" (as opposed to any kind of radical). That's probably true insofar as his activism is concerned, but I think his writing really has moved rightward of that.

With Islands In the Net, the portrayals of characters of color are iffy at best. The women other than the heroine are bothersome. And the general sense that the US is the best of all possible worlds, even when its fucking with other countries doesn't help.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:53 PM
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297 - His last couple of books have been not-very-good to terrible; Holy Fire was a pretty distinct peak in his novel-writing career. I think Distraction is probably more accessible to a non-SF-reader, though.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:55 PM
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Also Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land by David Shipler is a good introduction to the genre of Zion's friction.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 1:56 PM
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299: OUCH!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:00 PM
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While Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography will give you some introduction to a scion's affliction.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:08 PM
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Oh, The Road. Alas, The Road. I am trying to resist calling things overrated, because (even beyond the hipster associations of "overrated" as an all-purpose diss) I suppose it's just a form of self-aggrandisement, but...I really think The Road is a terrible book.

As some Russian writer said of some other Russian writer "he means to threaten me, but I am not frightened." The Road, for me, is generic apocalyptic snuff fiction meets boys' adventure story with a cheaply mythic air about it and some big words thrown in to make sure everyone knows it was Literature. Forty pages in, I couldn't take it seriously.

I liked it a lot better once I started picturing the kid as Stewart from Mad TV, though.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:09 PM
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301: While Diana: Portrait of a Princess will give you a good sense of Di's convictions.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:11 PM
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Plus, mccarthy doesn't actually know what some of the big words he uses means, which is a bit comical at times. In No Country forOld Men he confused an azimuth with a horizon.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:19 PM
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Some less big-name SF I've read recently and thoroughly enjoyed:

L. Timmel DuChamp's 5-volume anarchofeminist Marq'ssan series--now available as ebooks, too!

Nicola Griffith's "Slow River."

Peter Watts' "Blindsight" and "Starfish".

Oooh, if I were to recommend something to a non-SF person, it would be Octavia Butler's "Lilith's Brood" trilogy. Or "Pattern" books. Or "Kindred."


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:21 PM
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Peter Watts is good hard sf but could be challenging to civilians because of its massive density of ideas and also the fact that its hella depressing stuff.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:27 PM
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302: I mostly thought that it was terrible as SF -- the atmospheric horror of it all is dispelled by the fact that it makes no sense. But enough people seem to have thought well of it that I figure that among people who don't normally read SF but are making an exception, 'making sense' isn't highly valued.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:38 PM
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Callahan's Cross-Time Salloon by Spider Robinson and several sequels offer a mix of mediocre science fiction and awful puns that may appeal to this crowd.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:39 PM
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284, 288 to 308.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:47 PM
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Callahan's Cross-Time Salloon by Spider Robinson and several sequels offer a mix of mediocre science fiction and awful puns that may appeal to this crowd.

Words cannot express how angry Spider Robinson (and his fiction!) make me. Exhibit A under "evidence that science fiction fandom is full of people who've never gotten past adolescence".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:48 PM
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I've completely lost track of who we're allegedly recommending books for. Not Smearcase, clearly. Is it somebody real, or did we just veer off on this topic randomly?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:52 PM
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Some possibly hypothetical acquaintance of Natilo's, first mentioned in 260.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:55 PM
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These conversations always remind me of the incredible volume of stuff I've read and enjoyed that objectively sucks. It's kind of depressing that whether I like reading something has very little to do with any literary quality it may have, either way.

(Just read Wuthering Heights for the first time since early adolescence. Not bad.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:57 PM
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recommendations for good SF book that feature music as a significant plot element?

Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music? I actually don't recall music being an important element to the story, but I could just be forgetting great swathes.

The Road totally doesn't count as SF. He didn't even really bother constructing a world. I mean, that's the part I kind of liked. That and the meter.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:58 PM
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312: No, I thought it was for Smearcase!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:58 PM
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Hey, this reminds me that I just finished Cloud Atlas. Thanks for recommending it, Mineshaft!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:58 PM
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OSC's early liberal-Mormon-fellowtravelling is mostly, in my mind, his writing (and maybe doing some editing) for some of that movement's publications (Sunstone, Dialogue, etc.) back in the late '70s. He also published a big potboiler of a historical fiction novel about Joseph Smith's polygamy (setting aside the Alvin Maker series). I suspect he got tired of having to defend his orthodoxy, especially since he never really was a liberal.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:59 PM
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I don't even have a possibly hypothetical friend.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 2:59 PM
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The Road totally doesn't count as SF. He didn't even really bother constructing a world.

That makes it terrible SF, but still more SF than not.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:02 PM
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Words cannot express how angry Spider Robinson (and his fiction!) make me.

Wow.

I mean, I've never met the man, but I was under the impression that he was a decent enough sort, even if he's written quite a bit of mediocre fluff (and, IMO, some quite good pieces).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:07 PM
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I actually don't recall music being an important element to the story, but I could just be forgetting great swathes.

It isn't.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:08 PM
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320: Oh, I know nothing about him personally; for all I know he's an angel among men. But have you ever read "Rah Rah RAH!"?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:09 PM
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315 It was totally not for me though I'm not averse to recommendations. Wait, it was totally you. See 260.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:11 PM
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No, I thought you were requesting such recommendations based on teraz's response at 253. I see now that this was not the case.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:15 PM
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320: Oh, I know nothing about him personally; for all I know he's an angel among men. But have you ever read "Rah Rah RAH!"?

Yes and, though I am not fond of Heinlein, I don't mind it.

Have you read "Spider vs. The Hax of Sol III" from the same book? I don't think that he would expect his taste to be the last word on anything and, for what it's worth, I believe that his apology to L. Sprague de Camp, in the notes to that piece is quite well done.

One flnal word on this column. Since its publication I have had an opportunity to apologize privately to L. Sprague de Camp, an apology he most graciously accepted; I would like to do. so now publicly. When I first met that worthy gentleman, he suggested with exquisitely gentle politeness that perhaps I had been a trifle harsh in reviewing his Lovecraft biography. I suggest that what I was was a horse's ass. To heap scorn and abuse on a book one doesn't happen to be excited about, on the grounds of its thoroughness, is the mark of an amateur playing to the bloodthirsty.

Perhaps I just read it at an impressionable age, but that always made me think a little better of him. It is precise in both it's language and the specificity of the apology and the precision makes it feel more rather than less sincere.

[Silly as it sounds, I'm actually serious that reading that made a lasting impression on my as an example of what it looks like to graciously re-consider something which made sense at the time.]


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:30 PM
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Sorta funny. Can anyone recommend some fiction to a misunderstanding between Natilo and me?


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:39 PM
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326: Hmm. The literature of misunderstanding . . . Romeo and Juliet? Certainly the epilogue in our anthology can be something like "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 3:57 PM
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Jeez, you guys. We are (or were) recommending SF for a hypothetical acquaintance of teraz, per 257.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:04 PM
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If The Road is science fiction, then is The Stand as well?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:08 PM
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327- It's all so "Gift of the Magi".


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:16 PM
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re: 329

That's the question that comes up whenever I hear people discussing The Road. How much does it rip off the theme of The Stand?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:20 PM
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What about Lucius Shepherd? It's been years since I read it, but I remember Life During Wartime as being much more transparently 'literary' than a lot of 80s SF. Although fromt past experience, going back and reading stuff I liked circa age 16 or so hasn't been kind to what I thought was good then.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:29 PM
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||

So I just got back from a public lecture on climate change by Ja/mes Ha/nse/n. In response to some question he talked about the problem posed by the media always presenting "both sides" of a story by bringing on some contrarian. This led to the next question, when a very earnest woman stood up and said "why can't we start some information source that can fight back against the corporate media? Shouldn't there be a blog?"

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:32 PM
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Just one?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:34 PM
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It's just so cute that there are still people who believe in the transformative power of blogs in 2010.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:46 PM
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How much does it rip off the theme of The Stand?

At a first guess, not much. I haven't read The Road, just read reviews of the recent movie version of it, and it's been many moons since I read The Stand, but the latter involves a number of survivors trying to rebuild a society, as well as a central Devil figure who must be combatted, and -- checking Wikipedia now -- a central inspirational good Mother figure who keeps people on track. I'd forgotten about her for some reason.

My understanding of The Road is that while, yeah, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic environment (but how many zillions of novels have such a setting?), there's not much of the rebuilding society, and not much of the epic struggle between God and Devil good and evil. Much more stark and grim. The Road is about love? While The Stand is about power?

I'm kind of surprised by the comparison, to be honest, so I'm groping a bit. It doesn't help that I haven't read The Road.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 4:49 PM
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re: 336

Yeah, I suppose. I've read the Stand, and listened to part of the audio book for the Road [a trial, while commuting, that I never got into]. There was something about the way the setting was drawn that seemed slightly similar [beyond just the post-apocalyptic element], but I never got into The Road enough to make a meaningful comparison.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:03 PM
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recommendations for good SF book that feature music as a significant plot element?

_Synners_, which I think is also a pretty good into-the-deep-end intro book; or almost anything by Melissa Scott.

I don't see how one could recommend something to an unknown reader. I ask people what they like otherwise -- sweet stories? War stories? Lots of exposition straight up front, or a puzzle that the author leaves fair hints about? Just pointing out that the puzzle is part of the 'game' in some SF is sometimes helpful.

I recommend _The Yellow Arrow_ to intentionally lit'ry persons. Russian fatalism, gets right under their skin. (It is more speculative than science fiction.) Or _Ethan of Athos_ to the rare womanly woman who's curious about the fuss.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:04 PM
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_Synners_, which I think is also a pretty good into-the-deep-end intro book;

One of my favorite books to recommend, but that's definitely starting out "into the deep end."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:09 PM
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No real connection between The Road and The Stand, other than the fact that almost everyone's dead. In The Road, pretty much everything alive is either dead or dying, and the characters are going to be dead fairly soon (or that's the impression I got); in The Stand, almost everyone died of some biological weapon, but everything else is fine, and the people who lived through it are largely fine. The Road doesn't have much of a plot, The Strand is seething with plotlines. The Road is all literary and poetic; The Strand is by Stephen King.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:27 PM
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Stand. Stand. Not Strand.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:30 PM
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Although the Strand is seething with plotlines, scattered over zillions of shelves.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:31 PM
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The Stand is by Stephen King

Cheap shot, but otherwise, yeah, like I said. Unless there's some tonal similarity between The Road, which I gather maintains its tone throughout, and at least some portions of The Stand, which shifts tone repeatedly, I'm not seeing it.

I'll just make a general complaint to the ether about the number of books that have been ruined by movies, by the way. It doesn't even have to be a movie adaptation of a particular book; at this point, we have so many films taking place in post-apocalyptic settings that it must be virtually impossible to write a book so set.

I'd been prepared earlier upthread to mention LeGuin's "The Word for World is Forest" as an intro for the hypothetical non-SF-fan, but instantly thought that it would remind the casual reader of the recent Avatar film, so forget it. Boo.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:43 PM
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Suomen R! Another unfogged commenter sent me his copy of the latest Gibson and I'd be glad to send it along to you. (To be clear, I enjoyed it! And I was not as much a fan of Spook Country.) If you're interested, I'm motherissues at google's mail.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:44 PM
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I liked The Stand much better than I liked The Road, but you've got to admit that literary and poetic isn't a target King's aiming at, mostly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:46 PM
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Who the heck is Suomen R?

345: literary and poetic isn't a target King's aiming at, mostly

No. The Stand was probably the best shot he took at literary (if not poetic), at least where literary means epic. God knows what I'd think about it if I read it now. Early King wasn't completely awful. I don't know what happened to him; he didn't used to suck.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 5:58 PM
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Thinking about this and reading the comments, I was struck by the relative lack of short fiction, which is such a major part of the SFF genre. One good place to start would be Gardner Dozois Best of the Best: 20 years of the Year's Best Science Fiction which is a selection of the first twenty volumes of his annual 'best of' starting in the mid eighties. For single author collections, a best of Silverberg, Zelazny, Russ, or Tiptree for the earlier authors (mid sixties to early eighties mostly) or more recently Ted Chiang's Stories of my Life and Others is wonderful, and the recent newest collection from Jeff Vandermeer The Third Bear is very good.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:12 PM
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There are two Stephen King The Stands: the when he was already a bestseller, but didn't have the clout to tell editors to stop cutting his precious words, and the let's make money by releasing a gigantic book with hundreds of thousands of words "restored" version. I only read the first. It's possible the second was an attempt at "literary"; I think I bought a copy after reading a borrowed copy of the first, but never got through it because I was older and came to the conclusion that it (and, in retrospect) the original) is not actually worth reading.

I thought it the Dark Tower series and the preceding Eyes of the Dragon were considered as close to literary as King gets. But I stopped reading King when I was still an adolescent.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:15 PM
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I recall a number of recommendations and hypothetical recommendations discussions,* but I'm not sure that any recipient of recommendations has reported about the reception of the accepted recommendation(s). I'm sort of curious.

* Disproportionately about SF, I think, though I could be wrong.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:15 PM
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That's a really terribly written comment I just posted.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:16 PM
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The seasonally themed book of novellas (the source material for the films Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, and Stand by Me) is pretty literary. I really liked it. (Read it in 8th grade, but still.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:19 PM
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349: "Reception" should be something like "response to," for clarity's sake.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:23 PM
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Gardner Dozois Best of the Best: 20 years of the Year's Best Science Fiction

I hadn't heard of it. Someone else mentioned a Best of collection upthread, but I don't find the comment right now. I've always thought that the Dangerous Visions and More Dangerous Visions collections were excellent; they're pretty dated by now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:25 PM
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316 to 349.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:36 PM
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I've had Cloud Atlas on my hold list for four months now. I started out with about ninety people ahead of me, now I'm at twenty something. WIth the trip to Europe coming my damn hold will expire before I can get it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:40 PM
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355: Amazon has a used copy for $0.02 plus shipping.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:42 PM
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You're welcome to borrow it from me if we can arrange a handoff.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:48 PM
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356: For the record, it's not Amazon who has it. It's listed on Amazon, but it's a destroyer of all civilization who has it available (on Amazon) for 2 cents.

That penny-seller phenomenon is really a trip. You know that of that $3.99 shipping fee Amazon charges you, only $2.63 is given to the seller; Amazon keeps a good portion. How the penny seller makes money is a slight mystery.

(/end mild annoyance)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:52 PM
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353 - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol I. It's a collection of stories selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America that predate the Nebula, the award given by the SFWA every year. It's quite good, although not universally excellent (the Judith Merrill story is a clunk, e.g.). There's also a Vol. II, which covers novellas and has Jack Vance's "The Moon Moth" and C.L. Moore's "Vintage Season", both of which are frigging awesome.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:53 PM
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I used to read Brazilians of 40s sci-fi short story collections. (a) they're awesome, and (b) they have the best covers ever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:58 PM
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The compilations snark mentions are also awesome and are (shut up) the first place I read Borges.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 6:59 PM
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361: The guy who played the piano funny then turned the sheet music over and played it right? I never knew he wrote SF.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:04 PM
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359: Ah, thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:04 PM
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I rather like some of Stephen King's early work. Especially Firestarter. I'd argue that it is literary in the sense of exploring a theme in some depth, and coming back with some new insight. The Stand also explores a theme, in much greater depth... but unfortunately it doesn't find shit.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:13 PM
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302:

I guess it helps not to be very smart, bc I loved The Road. Blood Meridian too.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:32 PM
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I loved The Road. Blood Meridian too.

They're no Cooking with Cormac McCarthy, though.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:42 PM
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You're not seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth?

My problem with those Stephen Cormac King books is that I always read "Randall Flagg" as "Randall 'Tex' Cobb".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:53 PM
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I have not read Blood Meridian or The Road but I want to. (I even have copies of them.) I enjoyed All the Pretty Horses, although I guess a lot of people see it as the most "accessible" (and therefore not as literary?) of his novels. I thought The Crossing was good but it had a lot of passages that yelled THIS IS LITERATURE a little too loudly for my tastes. I started reading Cities of the Plain on a flight and I haven't picked it up since the plane landed. In 2001.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 7:55 PM
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I started reading Cities of the Plain on a flight and I haven't picked it up since the plane landed. In 2001.

Lots of people have this reaction to Proust, try again. Kidding, but as this is a rec thread, anybody here read any of the Proust translations and the original? I always want to recommend it, but I'm a little hesitant since I imagine it would be horribly difficult to translate and the quality of the prose is a big part of what makes RoTP so amazing.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:04 PM
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On the Wiki page I see that the most recent translation, which I seem to remember hearing was decent, has Du côté de chez Swann as The Way by Swann's. That does not sound promising.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:10 PM
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I like McCarthy a lot, but Suttree is my favorite novel of his by a pretty wide margin.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:11 PM
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I haven't read any Proust - although I can tell you that reading How Proust Can Change Your Life did not change my life - but the New Republic's embarrassingly poorly maintained website appears to still have the article on the English Proust translations that I remember reading a few years ago.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:11 PM
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There aren't many books that I would commend, if not recommend,* more strongly than Blood Meridian.

Maybe The Code of the Woosters.

* Strong stuff, overpowering style, de gustibus, women seem to hate it, etc., etc.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:29 PM
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Curious fact: I only read A Dance to the Music of Time because of the blurb that compared it favorably to Proust, which I knew I was never going to read.


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:48 PM
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A Dance to the Music of Time is one of my mom's favorite books.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:51 PM
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375: Wait 'til she reads the other 11.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 8:54 PM
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Curious fact: I only read A Dance to the Music of Time because of the blurb that compared it favorably to Proust, which I knew I was never going to read.

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Whoever wrote that blurb was either a PR person lying like a Fox newscaster or a complete idiot. I liked Dance, or at least the first nine volumes (the postwar stuff went from mediocre to crap IMO), but that's a bad joke. Powell is a much easier read, I bounced off of Swann several times myself and after life known as grad school intervened I stopped after five volumes and never managed to finish the rest since then, but Proust remains the single most amazing and intense reading experience of my life. No comparison.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:01 PM
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I can't contemplate reading Proust without thinking of Roald Dahl's My Uncle Oswald.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:08 PM
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"The Way by Swann's"? Now that's awkward, even if reading the book makes it make sense. Calls to mind the translations of Japanese poetry that just leave in the Japanese particle-words of the original while translating the rest. For specialists only.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:11 PM
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I find that a surprising number of classic novels are written largely in phonetic dialect-speak, which makes them, I can only imagine, unreadable by anyone. I certainly can't read these things. But they were written before the age of audio-books! Maybe my antipathy is partially because they remind me of the ToS.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:16 PM
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From an SF blog:

Interstellar Empire, John Brunner (1976), is a fix-up of three novellas from 1953, 1958 and 1965. They're juvenilia and it shows. For a start, it's "enslaved", not "slavered".

Part of me wants to check it out just for the fun of seeing 'slavered' used that way through out a book.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:17 PM
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the translations of Japanese poetry that just leave in the Japanese particle-words of the original while translating the rest.

Srsly? I've never come across that. Any in particular come to mind?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:18 PM
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I find that a surprising number of classic novels are written largely in phonetic dialect-speak, which makes them, I can only imagine, unreadable by anyone.

What do you mean? I find that novels tend to standardize characters' speech away from what it actually would be e.g. somebody like Faulkner includes elements of phonetically rendered dialect for effect and realism but it's still a lot more understandable than listening to an early twentieth century poor southerner would be.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:26 PM
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Let's see here...a book called "Peonies Kana".

I came across it here and actually checked it out via interlibrary loan. Cool stuff but, you know, the layman's main reaction is "I know I'm missing something and don't care enough to find out what I'm missing".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:27 PM
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I find that a surprising number of classic novels are written largely in phonetic dialect-speak, which makes them, I can only imagine, unreadable by anyone.

I, too, am curious about what novels you have in mind here.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:31 PM
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Oh, I don't know. Basically I hate any sort of phonetic spelling of anything. Just a single character who uses words like "Ah'd" makes me ignore the story and devote all my effort to detecting flaws in the writer's attempts at creating a new system of orthography.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:42 PM
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386: What about something like A Clockwork Orange? (Not sci-fi, but the language part interests me.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:47 PM
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The book, I mean. To be clear.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:47 PM
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To go back to SF, there's a recent 'MindMeld' over at SFSignal asking various professional SF/F types what stories they'd include in their dream anthology Table of Contents for the Perfect Short Fiction Anthology (Part 1)


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:50 PM
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384: Huh. I like it. I also like how angry it makes the author of the article, though I give him credit for "Oulipoic" (though not for "haikoid").


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 9:50 PM
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I've always maintained that Stephen King's true legacy will be as a master of short fiction. His novels are meh, but his short stories are really, really brilliant.

I really didn't like "Vintage Season". It just seemed so mean-spirited to me, even as a sort-of "Holiday In Cambodia" response to colonialism.

386, etc: The thing that causes me to tune out of any SF/F novel is when the characters are rendered rilly, rilly exotic by having names with too many H's and apostrophes in them. If your name is Kh'nihrah, and your faithful steedbeast's name is Liihoohph'a'la, you need a deed poll, not a mystic quest.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 10:14 PM
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Part of the appeal of C.L. Moore is her amoral viciousness married to a twisted vision of sexuality. Anyone who has any liking for old school pulp needs to read the Northwest Smith stories if they haven't already done so.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 10:35 PM
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365: Well, hence my hedging. I'm not such a creep as to think you're dumb for liking it. I just had a visceral reaction to it, an unusually emphatic "THIS IS BAD WRITING" feeling. FWIW, I did find it quite easy to get through. I read it on a train to New Orleans mostly. But, as above, it rubbed me wrong in a big way. I will now shut up about it until next time it's brought up when I forget I said any of this and repeat it all.

368 but it had a lot of passages that yelled THIS IS LITERATURE a little too loudly for my tastes.

"The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. 'Vámonos, amigos,' he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight."


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-19-10 10:44 PM
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re: 381

"Slavered" is a Scots word. But I'm assuming it's not being used in the Scots sense; "to drool; salivate; talk crap"?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:02 AM
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re: 386

I don't mind a small amount of 'phonetic' spelling, if it's done well, but it often isn't. Also, authors often get dialects wrong and that can be particularly annoying if you speak the dialect in question.

I listened to a Radio 4 serial set in Edwardian Glasgow [I think], recently, and the author had clearly 'Scottish'd' up the dialogue a bit. Which would have been fine, except all the dialogue was defiantly not West coast [it was Fife/Edinburgh/Central and even 'Doric'].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:06 AM
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Also, authors often get dialects wrong and that can be particularly annoying if you speak the dialect in question.

How did you feel about the bits in dialect of The Bridge?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:09 AM
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A long time ago I read Proust in Terence Kilmartin's revision of C. K. Scott Moncrieff's original translation, under the title Remembrance of Things Past, and loved it. Since then it's been entirely retranslated as In Search of Lost Time, which title, though no doubt it is in some sense more accurate, sounds to me like an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:57 AM
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Since then it's been entirely retranslated as In Search of Lost Time, which title, though no doubt it is in some sense more accurate

The Enright translation is a revision of Kilmartin's revision, and the title is in every sense more accurate; "Remembrance of Things Past" was taken from Shakespeare.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:09 AM
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smearcase, is that real? or are you just fucking with me? teraz: I have read proust but only in the older translation (and not in french, jesus); like everyone else I read the discussion of the new translation and sort of want to read it, but "the way by swann's" is not much of a recommendation. my sanskrit professor in grad school, together with her husband, were the fucking sanskrit-knowingest non-indians ever, and were making a translation of the ramayana. I was so excited! it was literal to a degree beyond tedious, rendering the whole thing incomprehensibly boring without letting you experience any of the original aesthetics. it sucked. it made me want to learn sanskrit better and actually do a good translation. honestly, the one I did of a shorter poem (a lot shorter, durr) was better. unfortunately my heavy partying schedule did not allow for further sanskrit (the class was listed as meeting twice a week at a certain time; at the first meeting she explained it would actually meet 3 days a week at 8am. me and the other five dudes in the class had to come together like a fucking infantry squad to get through that shit.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:39 AM
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)


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:39 AM
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I keep starting the ramayana (not in sanskrit) but I never seem to make it very far into it.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 3:10 AM
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I don't mind a small amount of 'phonetic' spelling, if it's done well, but it often isn't. Also, authors often get dialects wrong and that can be particularly annoying if you speak the dialect in question.

Phonetic spelling is interesting --- Tom Leonard's quite good when he talks about it.

(I think Kelman, for instance, gets it absolutely right.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 4:53 AM
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399: You mean the snippet of Cormac McCarthy? Not real.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:16 AM
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On the subject of translations, there was recently an interesting takedown of Pevear and Volokhonsky's latest.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:18 AM
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398:

I know "remembrance of things past" is from Shakespeare. Maybe I should have said "in some sense more correct" about the new title - my objection wasn't to the literal accuracy of "In Search of Lost Time", but to the connotations it has for me.

Also, there was an entirely new translation in 2002, done by a number of hands, which was the one I was referring to.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:23 AM
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"In Search Of..." is still the best conspiracy/esoterica show ever produced on television.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:30 AM
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Connotations stemming largely from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Search_Of..._(TV_series)


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:32 AM
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My translation of Proust will be titled "Wangling Previous Events".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:44 AM
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From that horribly formatted TNR piece linked by FA above:

Davis, who translates very closely, has since written about the eleven rules she found herself following when translating the first volume, Du ct de chez Swann. Like those that governed the King James companies, hers were developed to impose internal consistency (albeit on her text alone). Consider four of Davis's rules: "not to add any material that is not in the original ... not to subtract anything from the French ... not to normalize something that seems off at the moment ... retain the same order of elements in a sentence."

Sounds like an ideal translation for someone with poor French wanting to read Proust in parallel. I used something like that for reading a canonical Polish text with numerous passages written in nineteenth century Galician peasant dialect. Saves a lot of unabridged dictionary manhandling. I really don't see the appeal for anyone else, though I suppose it made her job quite a bit easier. Between that and the sample passage with multiple translation versions that the article presents, I'd say stick to the older translations. The Guardian review of the new Zhivago translation goes into the pitfalls of this sort of approach to translating as well.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:58 AM
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399: smearcase, is that real? or are you just fucking with me?

Smearcase is quoting the literary master Eli Cash from the Royal Tenenbaums; funniest reading scene evar. (And the really funny thing is that it could be real.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:12 AM
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I say go with the translator with the biggest tits.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:36 AM
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Also how to pick a dentist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:06 AM
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I'm shocked at and disappointed in both of you.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:12 AM
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Well now, this is a surprise. Pope approves use of condoms in fight against Aids.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:22 AM
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Huh. Provisionally, go Pope! But I'm mostly expecting this to get pulled back somehow.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:31 AM
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413: So am I. How could they not take the ass into account?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:33 AM
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But I'm mostly expecting this to get pulled back somehow.

That's for birth control, not AIDS prevention.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:46 AM
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Provisionally go, Pope!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:49 AM
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(Once you go Pope, you don't need dope.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:49 AM
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Whoda thunk it would be the gay Nazi Pope to be the one to backslide on this?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:53 AM
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How could they not take the ass into account?
That, too, is about birth control rather than AIDS.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:16 PM
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LA LA LA LA LA LA BAMBA!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:22 PM
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420: Only Nixon could go to China & etc.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:30 PM
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I read a 200 page prose summary of the Mahabharata which was great, but translations of the real thing have way too much detail. Simply as a plot, though, the Mahabharata is very engrossing. The Ramayana seems dull in comparison.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 12:53 PM
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Only Nixon could go to China & etc.

Diplomatic historians must have whiled away tens of thousands of hours on counterfactuals like "LBJ and Lady Bird tour the Forbidden City," "JFK and Mao discuss Indochina, the Korean Peninsula" and "Ike in Beijing: 'Mao to recognize Taiwan'," but the rest of us have had to hear the same cliché about the timely, irreplaceable virtues of Richard Nixon (!) for, by my count, a million years.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:02 PM
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Thanks to Star Trek we know it will still be a cliche in the 24th century.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:05 PM
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The timely, irreplaceable virtues of James Tiberius Kirk are manifest. Those of Richard Milhous Nixon, less so.

* Green-skinned ladies....


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:09 PM
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The fine print on the pope's remarks appears to be that he supports the use of condoms by male prostitutes when contraception is not an issue but remains opposed otherwise, and he hasn't disavowed his claim that condoms worsen the AIDS epidemic. So, still a cunt.

424 et al.: When you give up on trying to read the whole Mahabharata, watch Peter Brooks's adaptation, which is really beautiful.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:14 PM
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All you green-skinned ladies
All you green-skinned ladies


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:28 PM
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428: Now in netflix queue.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:33 PM
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||
So. Had a really good experience at the Normative Orders Excellence Cluster's annual conference yesterday/today! And perhaps made the beginnings of a going-to-dorky-events-together friendship. Also, the administrative person for the Cluster with whom I talked seemed almost absurdly encouraging about the possibility of my getting some sort of administrative job with them, my schreckliches Deutsch notwithstanding. Woo!
Back in HD now. Time to get btocks-style at a party at the house of a Freundin von meiner Mitbewohnerin. (When/why did that replace "becks-style"?)
|>


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:34 PM
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428: I'd never heard of it before. I'm amazed that it's only three hours long -- in the original you'd need more than 3 hours just for the advice the guy on the bed of arrows hands out.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:44 PM
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Even more primordially, it was Michael who was drunk all the time.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 1:54 PM
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Also, Netflix recommended that I watch The Human Centipede on streaming video RIGHT NOW. Is this a sign I should go back into talk therapy? Change my meds?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 2:00 PM
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You must pluck out your own eyes and sacrifice them to Krishna.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 2:03 PM
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432: The original stage production was 9 hours; the film came out in two versions, one (for TV?) 6 hours long.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 2:08 PM
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At first I assumed that 432 and 436 were referring to The Stand.

Netflix is certainly insistent about certain things it thinks you should do. I swear, no matter what I watch, it recommends Pandorum as an obvious follow-up. That movie must be all things to all people. If it doesn't mention Pandorum it mentions At Close Range.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 2:56 PM
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At first I thought 436 was to 434.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 3:19 PM
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Late to the party, but John Shirley's Eclipse trilogy has a lot about music in it. Well handled, too, with Shirley's actual experience in rock showing, even though some of the specifics are now dated. (And some aren't. Shirley grasped just how far trend recycling can go before I did.) It's also one of the '80s sf works that really for true doesn't make me feel embarrassed about in light of later developments - it's very vigorously anti-fascist, and very aware of ways fascism creeps in during times of disorder, particularly manufactured disordered. (I would have to think about it some with regard to other issues, but recent novels, at least, have been quite good on both sex and class. He knows where he stands and where others do, I think.) The three books cover the rise of a fascist hegemony in Europe and America a few decades hence, and the rise of a very eclectic kind of resistance to it.

The scene with Rickenharp's somewhat impromptu concert on one of the monuments in fascist-dominated Paris is overblown, but delightfully so. Heart completely in the right place, and a passage of prose that feels a lot like the ways a great song resonates within me.


Posted by: Hidden Heart | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 3:35 PM
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413/416 -- It's like Monty Python never even existed.

423/425 -- You know why 'only Nixon could go to China'? Because the right wing is made up of intellectually dishonest assholes.* And that's the only reason. Pass it on.

* Or shrill traitors, take your pick.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 3:56 PM
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441

440

... And that's the only reason. ...

Oh, I think liberal weakness and cowardice has something to do with it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 4:22 PM
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'Liberal weakness and cowardice' are calumnies spread by shrill traitors.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 4:28 PM
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416 does not make sense. Regardless of how attractive it is, if you see more of your dentist's ass than chest, you need to find a new dentist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 4:30 PM
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I love how the SF thread rolls around every six months or so!

Music as a theme: subject to many of his lately more obvious flaws, but OSC's Songmaster impressed me as a teenager (and has a gay character who's meant to be sympathetic, quite radical for SF at the time, though he's functionally pretty much all stereotype). Interesting meditation on the Galactic Empire theme, too.

Philip K. Dick is a favorite of mine since adolescence, but I suspect you have to start there to really get him. Also he's a terrible prose stylist, and often you have to read several books to really see where he's aiming conceptually; he wrote furiously to keep from starvation in the pulp market, so he tends to recycle a concept over several books even though most of his work is not meant to be read serially. The Man in the High Castle is almost certainly best to try him out, and if you like it you'll like more. I favor Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and A Scanner Darkly (which IMO is the PKD novel most faithfully adapted to film).

I'm actually reading Moorcock's Oswald Bastable books now--distinctly anti-colonialist if you're paying attention, though I suppose there's stuff to pick at politically if you want. Not especially deep, but does a good job with the Victorian narrative style.

Since it's nearly winter, I have to recommend LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness as usual. The Dispossessed keeps forgetting it's supposed to have plot.

Sterling's Holy Fire would be good for a dabbler I think--well paced, engaging adventure that is pretty purely extrapolation, and topical too.

The major awards used to be a pretty good indicator; Nebula winners being distinctive for literary polish, Hugo winners for populism.

Out of left field: George Alec Effinger's The Wolves of Memory.

Good books not quite destroyed by mediocre sequels: Larry Niven's Ringworld (first sequel is okay; skip the rest); Frederik Pohl's Gateway (despite a bit of ridiculous psychologizing); Frank Herbert's Dune (worth sticking it out to the third book, as far as I've gotten--the latter three he wrote himself I've heard praised, but his son's stuff is reportedly atrocious).

I'm leaving out most of my actual favorites, but I have to leave some room on the Internet.


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 5:44 PM
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445

Only John Adams could write Nixon in China.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 6:18 PM
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Only Mister Smearcase could write, "Only John Adams could write Nixon in China."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 6:24 PM
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Out of left field: George Alec Effinger's The Wolves of Memory

I love this book, but I would, wouldn't I?

Man in High Castle is pretty unrepresentative in its limited themes and subtexts, quality of writing, and air of reality. I might recommend for Ubik or Clans or Androids. I also think the late work like Flow and Scanner got prosaic and a little leaden. The breakneck tweaker excess is part of the fun of 60s Dick.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 6:28 PM
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Frank Herbert's Dune (worth sticking it out to the third book, as far as I've gotten

It's just an uber-recycled Idaho, Paul's descendant, and a jewish woman escaping from a garden.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 6:34 PM
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On Amazon, I see where a VF pb copy of Wolves of Memory goes for $96. Maybe I should go through all those boxes I haven't touched since 1985. Many are 50s pbs in plastic bags I needed as a completist. I always treated my paperbacks like 1st folios out of weird bibliophilia.

Nah. I ain't starving yet.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 6:43 PM
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Many are 50s pbs in plastic bags I needed as a completist.

I've not know any completists. Is that like the Mormons and the cans of grain?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 6:56 PM
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In the age old SF fandom argument between those who argue that like all literature, a great SF book requires good writing, characters, etc. and the opposite side that sensowunda and specifically sfnal elements can carry a novel all on its own, Ringworld is exhibit A for the second group.

449 Bob, if you're ever starving and have any R.A. Lafferty's, you can probably live for a year on those.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 7:45 PM
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Also [Philip K Dick]'s a terrible prose stylist, and often you have to read several books to really see where he's aiming conceptually

I started with the short story collections, and I highly recommend them. In particular the final one, Eye Of The Sybil has some outstandingly good writing in it.

Whenever I read "Cadbury The Bever Who Lacked," for example, I want to stop people and read it out loud to them.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 8:57 PM
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PAY ATTENTION TO ME
shit. too close to pauly shore
but Andreas Paulus thought I asked a good question today!


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:00 PM
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R.A. Lafferty's stuff is almost all back in print through Wildside (which is a print-on-demand press, but good for what ails you, if what ails you is lack of access to Fourth Mansions and Does Anyone Else Have Something Further To Add?. Which it quite possibly is).


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:02 PM
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SF worth reading: Wells/Clarke/Banks.

Gray, especially A History Maker, Lanark, and Unlikely Stories, Mostly.

Verne is good. Stapledon.

(I always plug Gray, because he is in my opinion the most criminally underrated sf author in the world.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:08 PM
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I love Gray, but I wouldn't have pegged him as (unambiguously, anyway) a science fiction author.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:12 PM
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457

Not much sf in 1984 Janine.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:12 PM
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1982 Janine, rather, though writing 1984 Janine might be an interesting project.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:13 PM
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(& yes to short PKD)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:13 PM
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A History Maker is unambiguously sf. Lanark is dodgy, but if you're looking for sf it is I think readable.

Unlikely Stories, Mostly contains several very sfnal pieces. Especially I love the one about the art students who blow up the planet.

Poor Things is steampunk done well.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:22 PM
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I've never read A History Maker, and all I remember about Poor Things is that I didn't like it and I read it at a time when I was completely ignorant of the existence of steampunk and whatnot, so, you know.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:24 PM
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I quite like A History Maker; it is I think quite good.

I didn't particularly like Poor Things either, to be honest, but I think it is a good book anyway, if that makes sense.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:28 PM
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260.last and 262.last make sense if steampunk sucks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:39 PM
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+400 to both of those numbers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:40 PM
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+200, rather.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:43 PM
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Yes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 9:45 PM
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OT: Why does it seem to be impossible to buy a DVR that doesn't require a monthly service? Is this just Big TiVo, or is there something that I'm missing? I just want to be able to use it like I do a VCR for over-the-air TV, nothing fancy.

Signed,
Well Behind the Technological Times


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 10:53 PM
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467: How big is the market for something like that? Most people these days get their DVRs from their TV provider, so it's not like they see a monthly fee just for the DVR service. Besides, programming a VCR was a pain in the ass; so much easier to be able to see the schedule in the DVR's menu.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:05 PM
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Yeah, we don't have cable, which makes us so un-American we're practically French.

When analog TV was turned off, I bought one of the few converter boxes that is supposed to work with a VCR, but it requires a cable that doesn't seem to be manufactured anymore -- at least neither I nor the many people who complain about it on the internet can find one. I think we may be stuck with having to buy a DVD recorder.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:10 PM
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Shorter 469: We don't even pay for TV.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:16 PM
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471

What do you want to record from broadcast, anyway? All the good stuff's on cable.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:32 PM
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Do you have a Mac? EyeTV might work (that is, it's supposed to allow you to record over-the-air TV, but I don't know how well it works).


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:34 PM
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472: Nope.
471: Don't be silly.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-10 11:46 PM
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My mistake, it appears they work with PCs now as well. See here. It's basically a tiny TV tuner that plugs into a USB port.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 12:03 AM
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Good books not quite destroyed by mediocre sequels:

Perfect list! But also, Pohl's "Gateway".


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:28 AM
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Off the shelf no monthly fee digital recorders are common in the uk. Either set up for freeview (free terrestrial digital tv) or freesat (similar but uses a satellite dish). Ours is getting old now and doesn't do hi-def but is/was cheap and functional.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:32 AM
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||

Let's see if I can make this productive insomnia instead of unproductive insomnia.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:43 AM
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productive insomnia instead of unproductive somnia? Or more to the point: undestructive somnia instead of destructive insomnia.

(anyway, taking pills helps - just increase the dose until)


Posted by: Earnest O'Nest | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 3:38 AM
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479

The somnia is still elusive, but the grading has been tackled.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 3:44 AM
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Now I'm dreadfully tired and could sleep really easily, but it's too soon until when I need to get up anyway. But I got a decent amount of grading done.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 4:30 AM
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Don't get up anyway.


Posted by: Earnest O'Nest | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 4:47 AM
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Getting up gets you down.


Posted by: Earnest O'Nest | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 5:43 AM
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468 et seq.: Hauppage WinTV. Pretty cheap on Amazon. Work swell.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 6:56 AM
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To be more specific and hopefully grammatical, this is the dongle of which I spoke.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 8:00 AM
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I do not dare click on that link.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 8:53 AM
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485: No, it's safe. It's essentially the same as the thing I mentioned in 472.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:09 AM
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Don't be scared.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:15 AM
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487 is SFW even with safe search off. Kind of disappointing, really.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:23 AM
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I was pretty surprised.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:28 AM
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488 gets it exactly right. Sigh.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:29 AM
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||The football bracket is out this morning. Any alums in the mood for trash talk?

Can we all agree that the important thing is that Eastern Washington and their garish red field lose asap?|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:41 AM
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You know who on the red field. Too bad, the staff guessed final conference standings wrong!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 10:44 AM
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It seemed obvious to me that the word "Dongle" was a combination of the words "Dong" and "Dangle." Hence, a dongle was something that dangled from your USB port like a flaccid dong. The discussion of the meaning and etymology of the term does not confirm this, however.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 11:17 AM
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That Language Log post was the first time I ever encountered the use of "dongle" for something that isn't floppy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 11:29 AM
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491: I saw that for the first time today and was suitably appalled.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 11:31 AM
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Dongles don't dangle, gang. Dang. Dongle's a data wrangling dealie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 11:33 AM
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Happy Sunday, everyone! We're still friends, right?

Guys?

GUYS?!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 11:34 AM
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496: Don't try to fob that off on us. Dongle's dangled originally.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 11:54 AM
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Tsk.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 12:17 PM
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500

Kobe, or something. Whatever.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 12:17 PM
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You've taken the beam out of Stan's eye. His mom will be angry.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 12:20 PM
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Semidekakobe?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 12:21 PM
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Thanks for the advice on dongles (such an annoying term, though not quite as stupid as "femtocell"; no one could think of some reasonable generic like "wireless booster"?) and the like.

The next annoying obstacle is that my docking station has an S-video port but my laptop doesn't, so I need to buy a VGA-RCA converter or move my docking station to a very inconvenient location. Oh, the humanity.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:10 PM
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(Which is to say that I'm intrigued by eyeTV, but I don't want to be stuck watching everything on my laptop. Get your tiny screen off my damn lawn.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:11 PM
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"femtocell"

That's really dumb. I highly doubt that they have 10^-15 the power of a standard station.

"femto" means something, darn it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:20 PM
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though not quite as stupid as "femtocell"

From Wikipedia:

Typically the range of a microcell is less than two kilometers wide, a picocell is 200 meters or less, and a femtocell is on the order of 10 meters.

Fucking metric prefixes: how do they work?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:21 PM
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Pwned by NickS. But value added?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:22 PM
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||

Can we have some cock jokes, please?

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:26 PM
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Fucking metric prefixes: how do they work?

Not like that for a start. Where's the nanocell?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 1:35 PM
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from the link in 508

What has taken everyone's breath away most recently is their using the male's genitals to determine his male hormone levels, to see if he is able to withstand the rigors and intense competition of football athleticism, [because] according to one of the club's seasoned officials, little boys whose genitals are short but thick and whose scrotums are taught are good new sprouts or football.

This looks like one of those cases where a method of divination or diagnosis from traditional Chinese medicine is given a justification in terms of Western medicine and then used without really altering the procedure. Yin and yang and qi become hormones and proteins, but you are still examining the outside of the body looking for signs and portents.

I mean, if they really wanted to measure hormone levels, why not just measure hormone levels?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:08 PM
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Because they like looking at penises?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:15 PM
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Flipping back and forth between my browser and my text editor is dangerous. I'm going to end up with some mysterious sentence about penises in the middle of the proposal I'm writing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:17 PM
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Or, worse, a well-informed sentence about physics on unfogged.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:19 PM
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511: Everyone does, but can't they just use chatroulette like the rest of us?

Related.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:22 PM
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whose scrotums are taught

The problem with my schooling was, nobody ever taught my scrotum properly.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-21-10 2:39 PM
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295: Stanley! Erm, yeah. This is why I only lurk here; I'm way too slow to keep up with y'all.


Posted by: Suomen Radioamatööriliitto | Link to this comment | 11-22-10 5:47 PM
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