Re: I Am Legend

1

I've seen several previews for this and none of them implied that there were any monsters. The idea seemed to be "The Pursuit of Happyness with a dog instead of a boy, meets Children of Men without all the violence". Then looking at the reviews was very surprising, as I suppose the movie would have been if I had seen it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:46 PM
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A movie that took the problem of surviving as the last person on earth would be fantastic. This ain't it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:48 PM
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I hear the monsters maintain the power grid and all the utilities, too.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:49 PM
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no decent person can give a shit about what happens to the two or thirty people who are left

In the SF case at least, these movies all play on the secret belief of everyone that they would be amongst the small group of survivors in such a situation.

It sounds like the film departed from the book wherever the book was thought-provoking or otherwise good.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:50 PM
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no decent person can give a shit about what happens to the two or thirty people who are left

I see what you're saying, but I disagree.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:52 PM
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Wait. So that movie isn't like Wittgenstein's Mistress (minus the erudition)?


Posted by: gea | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 3:59 PM
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Definitely not.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:00 PM
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I kind of liked it. I've seen worse. In fact, last night we watched what may be of the five worst movies ever made: The Stone Merchant.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:10 PM
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A movie that took the problem of surviving as the last person on earth would be fantastic. This ain't it.

Exactly. And the parts that focused on the survival aspect were the most interesting. All that stuff about the monsters and religion was terrible.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:12 PM
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I'm also guessing that the DVD version is going to get a little more into zombie social structure.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:16 PM
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9: Ironically the previews made it seem like an intelligent movie like that. This indicates that the marketers thought such a movie would be popular (at least with Will Smith in it). And yet they made a much dumber movie anyway.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:19 PM
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The full text of the book appears to be online.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:26 PM
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Or maybe not. It's missing the occasional page.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:28 PM
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I suppose we'll have to wait for the Coen brothers' adaptation of The Road.
In vaguely related Sci-Fi news, I just finished a very good book that makes extensive use of a wonderful word I just learned today: "saudade"


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:37 PM
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Wow, excellent word indeed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:39 PM
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Ooh, saudade is nice. It's like, uh, the feeling in Solyaris?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:40 PM
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Most everybody's already dead, ogged.

I apologize for bad taste, but just in surfing this week I caught the 1st hour of Exodus with Paul Newman. Seemed, at least to me, that we could care about those minority left, and get involved in the dramas of those protagonists. In fact, I remember a lot of stories about survivors.

But vicious evil snark aside, I think the constant subtext of stories like Seventh Seal ,The Pawnbroker, Sophie's Choice, Dawn of the Dead, and as an explicit example, Connie Willis' Domesday Book, are the techniques of managing survivor guilt.

Incidentally, I feel it every day as I approach 60. Dan Fogelberg just died at 56.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:41 PM
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Fuck man, I just remembered the The Pianist.
And I have trouble reading Iraqi blogs & stories any more like Riverbend's. I just feel something too strongly, or in my weakness.

I mean, that's the question, that's the drama, at least for...well, given this fucking world, why go on, why do something, what to do.

Oh yeah, to get ridiculous. In the opening credits of the pilot of Michael Park's best friend, Martin Sheen, jumps off the GG Bridge. Parks quits his reporter job, hops on his Harley, and cruises that long lonesome highway until he meets naked Bonnie Bedelia throwing her wedding dress in the ocean..


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:53 PM
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I don't know what the point of making I Am Legend could have been. No version could ever compete with The Omega Man and that's that.

I just saw Charlie Wilson's War. I was nonplussed. Centering the narrative on blowback/unintended consequences totally let the Reagan-era apparat off the hook for all of the human catastrophes it engineered while the Soviet-Afghan War was taking place. Not like I expect much from Hollywood of course, but there are ways to tell that story that don't elide the ocean of misery that in which these same capitalist hooligans immersed the world. And what's more, the Afghans were like super-deformed anime characters, never mind that it was their ferocity and resolve that won them that pyrrhic victory.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:54 PM
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19: "misery in witch" obviously


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:55 PM
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Martin Sheen has (or, I guess had) a pilot? Like a little dude in a bomber jacket sitting in his head pulling oversized levers and shouting orders to the pilots of Charlie and Emelio as they fight mecha-Kurtz and his army of man-animals (manimals?!?)? Awesome.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:56 PM
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18: "opening credits of the pilot of Then Came Bronson"

I was looking up Parks today, while watching Dusk til Dawn 3


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:56 PM
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The TV ad for Charlie Wilson's War is funny.

"He was a congressman better known for his antics than his politics. Until he found a cause he could believe in." I believe that's the exact quote. I really thought the next words from the announcer would be "The Taliban."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 4:56 PM
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Think about Robinson Crusoe.

Does I am Legend remind anyone of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Written in the same 50s America, there is a neat story by Damon Knight about a guy who after a horrible accident is fitted with almost a full body of metal & plastic prostheses, to the extent he doesn't look human. (Or was he re-engineered for space?) Everyone pities him, but at the end you hear him thinking:"I just can't stand being surrounded by these filthy stinking fleshies."

Frederick Pohl kinda stole the story & punchline for Man Plus, but added an end-of-the-world scenario, and gargoyle symbolism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 5:17 PM
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Speaking of a terrifying future defined by empty neighborhoods full of blood-sucking scavengers, I hadn't seen this until Atrios linked to it. I wish I had a blog to post about it, because holy shit. Glad I'm not a homeowner.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:02 PM
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Funny. Searching about Man-Plus (Nebula Winner), the reviewers at Amazon seem to take it literally, as a neato story of how a man is turned into a cyborg, and feel the personal & political elements detracted from the science. But here is the summary from Pohl's site:

"Man Plus (1976), a Nebula winner, is a striking account of a man surgically altered for life on Mars. It asks how much we can give up and still call ourselves humans."

SF is all frickin metaphor to me. So MP and IAL are variations on the same theme of alienation, and people who take the decorative & stylistic elements literally and are unable to find the universal themes and relate to the personal dramas are like the zombies, dude. I need to build my personal little fortress of art & music & literature and lock the doors to keep the brain-eaters out.

I am not going to like the new IAL, from what I hear of the ending.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:11 PM
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17: It gets worse, Bob. Sixty may be the new forty but sixty-five is still the same old fuckin' sixty-five.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:12 PM
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25:The class war accelerates. Millions with bad credit, millions more in debt peonage, all the bad debt monetized away, well not away, the inflation in necessities is another part of the plan to eliminate the middleclass and change the democracy into oligarchy.

Most may not notice or know who to blame. I study economics, money & finance like my life depends on it. Greenspan & Paulson & crew are very smart.
The econbloggers are also smart & well-intentioned but the needed level of cynicism goes against the neo-classical-liberal mindset.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:26 PM
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I kept expecting the boss zombie to talk. There were at least three places where I was sure he was about to stop bellowing and deliver a monologue, and then all of a sudden WTF angels?

Blah.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:38 PM
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because holy shit. Glad I'm not a homeowner.

If you're in something you can afford and don't need to move anytime soon it's not a big deal. But yeah, lots of people are totally fucked.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:45 PM
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30: kinda sucks to be locked in your house for four more years minimum, but yeah, there's worse things. Still, owning a masssive depreciating asset is no fun unless it's a Ferrari.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:48 PM
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I've seen four movies this year, all this month: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, American Movie, and the Big Lebowski. I'm a man of simple tastes. Next up is the Monk documentary.

Tara Reid plays a character exactly like herself. Named Gunderson and from Moorhead MN, and presumably a niece of the husband of the pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:48 PM
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32: The Coens are cute like that. The factory patch on Hi's work uniform (in Rasing Arizona) reads Hudsucker Industries.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 6:52 PM
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The Coen brothers discovered Tara Reid. Before TBL she only did commercials. Presumably she nailed the audition:

"I'll suck your cock for a thousand dollars.....Brandt can't watch though. Or he has to pay a hundred".

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 7:07 PM
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i have no problem imagining myself to be a superhero, capable of surviving cataclysms and apocopylss, the last hope of east african planes apes


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 7:34 PM
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All prase teh gloryuss futcher huminz!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 7:38 PM
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American Movie

Oh sweet Jesus, how I loved that movie.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 7:49 PM
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14: Foolish M, I'm reading Nova Swing. I like it better than Light, which I detested, which made me sad, because I like an awful lot of M John Harrison's work (Do you suppose everyone calls him M? That would be neat.). M John Harrison tends to fall back upon the crappiest, most sentimental plots and politics possible, whenever he doesn't stop himself. (Seriously--male novelist lurkers, bear in mind that "and she was sexually abused as a child, which is why she is alluringly troubled and does alluringly sad, self-destructive things", well, that's a plot that you have to be really careful about using.)

Weirdly, McManus, your comments make me think that you might enjoy Archaeologies of the Future. Which is not the very finest Jameson ever and could I think be condensed by about fifty pages, but it's pretty neat.

Of course, the point about most social-collapse stories is that they're really utopias--the dream of getting rid of all those other people. More charitably, you could think of it as suddenly living in history, doing important and meaningful work; everything is meaningful when you're one of the survivors. Or--and this is true of left-wing ones--getting the dead weight of capitalism off your back, when you can't envision any other way to do it.

Which is why I rather like Joanna Russ's very, very depressing We Who Are About To..., since it's the total refusal of that kind of utopia.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 8:10 PM
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no decent person can give a shit about what happens to the two or thirty people who are left

Sweeney Todd ended up right about there for me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 8:16 PM
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38:Yeah, love the Russ. Got it around here somewhere. Depressing? "Go forth, multiply and accumulate, and help others to do the same. Alpha Centauri or Bust, beetches" Sid Meier consciousness, This I find depressing.

For ages & cultures it was joy & pride to say:"No." and considered a sacrifice rather than selfish. Let us all just say No! I am the embodiment of John Cave, 1st Unfogged, then the World!

Aw hell, maybe I got some Xmas blues.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 8:39 PM
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40: No, you miss my point, it's depressing because everybody dies, not to put too fine a point on it. If it weren't depressing, it wouldn't have any political force; it would be all "goody-goody gumdrops, what joy it is to off our fellow human beings!"

A very, very peculiar book, even for Joanna Russ. I find on reflection that I can practically recite from it. All her stories are sad--have you read The Two of Them? Which is actually a rather racist book, in a she-clearly-knew-better way.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 8:47 PM
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One big problem with I Am Legend is that the zombie vampires no longer looked human. When people become zombies that still look like people, it adds an extra layer of horror to the situation because it drives home that the thing trying to kill you used to be a person just like you. These might as well have been aliens.

Also, PIAB made an excellent point:

[SPOILER]

How did Anna and the boy get to Manhattan if the whole island was quarantined, all bridge destroyed and all tunnels flooded?

[\SPOILER]


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 8:54 PM
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41: Umm, the John Cave reference is from Gore Vidal's Messiah.

I was asking myself why is the protagonist of WWAAT depressed, just cause everybody dies? Guilt? Loneliness? Because all possible human societies are heirarchical and fucked up? Because she isn't really as free as she wants or needs to be?
Because there isn't any point or purpose to being the last person? Why is she depressed?

The Universe doesn't need us, and the last person doesn't need to pity the universe. The dead need no pity.

I don't remember why she is depressed, except that she remains depressed is depressing.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:10 PM
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I'm going to demonstrate some terrible lack of knowledge of NY geography, but isn't the island-ness of Manhattan kind of minimal at the northern end? On maps, it certainly looks like it's an island on a technicality.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:22 PM
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44: TOURIST!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:36 PM
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bourbon bourbon bourbon


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:43 PM
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46: . . . I made you out of corn,
Bourbon bourbon bourbon . . .


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:51 PM
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14 is freaking me out. I'm pretty sure I saw the exact same comment about saudade here on Unfogged six months ago. I've long suspected that I have a brain tumor, but is this tumor causing Unfogged-related hallucinations? Have I actually developed an Unfogged center of my brain, and the tumor is pressing on it? Or has the tumor caused me to come unstuck in time?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:52 PM
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... then you gave me the horn.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:52 PM
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Dammit, Walt.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:52 PM
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Cut the guy some slack, teo, he's got a brain tumor.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:54 PM
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That's no excuse.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:54 PM
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It's not his fault, teo. He's unstuck in time. He had no idea when his comment would be posted.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:55 PM
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52 to 53.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:55 PM
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38.1: Are you kidding? Light was brilliant. Good thing Harrison isn't about either plot or politics, though, otherwise it might have sucked.

48: Google says brain tumor. Sorry, dude.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 9:59 PM
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55.2: Not necessarily. It could have fallen down the hoohole.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:01 PM
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56: What do you know from hooholes?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:02 PM
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I've read things.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:02 PM
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I wouldn't worry about it too much, Walt. Ogged had a brain tumor and they just removed part of his brain and he was fine, apart from a notch in his skull.

Or wait. Maybe it was his lungs. His spleen? Anyway, some organ. Anyway just carry on, you'll be fine.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:03 PM
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Teo reads with his WOOZLE.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:04 PM
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55: Have you read what he says about his own work? He thinks he's about plot and politics, at least some of the time. (He goes on a bit in Things That Never Happen, if you've seen that.) Although actually I think he's wrong about his own work a lot of the time; that's the nice thing about all this pomo lit crit stuff, you certainly don't have to take what the author says as truth. And the key to the White Cat subplot was so cheesy and hackneyed that it made me throw the book across the room. Light, schmight, that's what I say. The last of the Viriconium novellas, now that's exquisite.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:06 PM
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61: What he thinks is that he's subverting the dominance of plot in SF,which I think he does in Viriconium rather well, and I have yet to read an intentionally political word from Harrison's pen. If you're going to let unpleasant politics spoil a book for you, I don't know what to tell you. "Suck it up", probably, if that would do any good.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:16 PM
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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned 28 Days Later. Sounds to me as though I Am Legend is more-or-less a direct ripoff - except 28 Days Later was really good.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:17 PM
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Just saw Sweeny Todd. I liked it. HBC had the weakest voice of the leads, but I could live with that. I was surprised that I didn't mind it being pared down. It worked well. A gruesome musical is a nice change from Hairspray. Biggest complaint: too much use of Dies Irae in the incidental music.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:23 PM
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No, Depp had the weakest voice, and neither should have been cast.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:26 PM
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Hmm, I could live with Depp's performance. His diction was clearer. Depp did keep reminding me of Edward. HBC, yeah I could do without her there. Rickman was delicious.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:28 PM
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62: If you don't care about the politics of what you read, I don't know what to tell you. "I'm sorry to hear that," probably, if that would do any good.

The most boringly political of Harrison's work, the most literally political--probably "Running Down", which was written in the mid-seventies and is (by his own admission) about the politics of Britain at that time. And what about the one where he uses the refrain of "no one drives themselves any more"? If that's not the most banal thing evar...or "Science and the Arts", where he's all bashing on an absolutely ludicrous straw-feminism. And he's all about class, and how class is marked by accent, material goods, patterns of consumption, etc. He foregrounds those things, mostly with disgust and dismay.

And he's obsessed with decaying industrial landscape--it's rather difficult to write about that without politics as a subtext. I'd always assumed that's why Delany and Mieville like him so much .

His ideas about fighting teh reification are political--I mean, they're about literature, but they're about literature-as-political-function. That too seems to be why Mieville likes him--their collective distrust of "escape" fiction.

Both Mieville and Harrison are paranoid that somewhere, some reader might read something they wrote in a non-pre-approved manner.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:29 PM
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I'm reading Mieville right now as endorsing the need for an evil bureacracy to keep order.

I found Man Plus is very disturbing read, the way it makes the description of what goes into cyborgization disgustingly physical, and the way the main character has no particular interest in undergoing the process.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 10:51 PM
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67: Inshallah you've gone to bed, but I think you misunderstand me. It's not that I ignore politics in writing, just that I willingly yield them for the duration of the text. Do you really dislike Gene Wolfe's writing just because his politics are just a little bit to the right of yours? I do not. Do you reject Tolkien because he doesn't have a female character worth a damn? Read first, ask questions later, that's my policy.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:02 PM
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67: I actually love China Mieville's books, because they're so transparently by someone who is both an RPG nerd and a radical activist. Also because they contain almost no romance.

One could put together a really neat anthology of SF stories about cyborgization--The Ship Who Sang, of course, and some of John Varley's short stories. Really, there's plenty of sorta-cyborgization in Mieville. And then you'd put some theory, too, although cyborgs aren't as trendy now as they were in the late eighties/early nineties.

The ReMade are actually pretty interesting, since their cyborgization is a punishment. Or hey, what about Rat Korga from Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand? Radical Anxiety Termination is akin to being cyborgized, and the rings he gets later on certainly are.

Or those kites in China Mountain Zhang...that's kind of the cyborg note that seems most appropriate to me now, that sort of desperation where the whole horizon is defined by what is really (no matter what it's called) a ruthless neo-liberalism.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:10 PM
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69: I have read and enjoyed Heinlein. His Starship Troopers was too over-the-top fascist for my taste - but at the same time, Verhooven's Starship Troopers was both a faithful adaptation and a genuine hoot. It's possible that I should be embarrassed to admit this, but I really enjoyed it.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:12 PM
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69: Oh, yeah, I dislike Gene Wolfe's work. I mean, I've read an awful lot of it; I like it and dislike it at the same time.

Now, I'm going to make a large and perhaps unwarranted assumption, Foolishmortal, that you're male and probably well-educated. Your experience of Gene Wolfe isn't going to be the same as mine. Wolfe really believes (as far as one can say that an "author" really "believes" anything) that women like me are living the wrong kind of life. Feminism, per Wolfe, makes the world a worse place. Women can't really be intellectuals in Wolfe's work; women appear most often either as Chestertonian idiots or opportunistic, stupid traitors.

It's like when you read That Hideous Strength and there's all that guff about how Jane really wants to submit to Mark, and her resentment of submission is not only a misunderstanding but actually imperils the salvation of the world.

Now, there are certainly women who can read that stuff and not be bothered by it. But surely you can see why it might bug me. Do you read radical feminist SF? (Like Joanna Russ, for example? She's pretty widely considered a very accomplished writer--and she's very funny--but routinely described as "too angry" by non-feminists.)

The thing is, maybe you notice crap politics, but it feels much different when those politics are aimed at you. It's much harder to tune them out. And why should they be tuned out? Gene Wolfe, for example, is so clearly a Writer With A Message. Or several.

Now I really am going to bed.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:20 PM
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Now I really am going to bed.
What a cheap shot. After dissing Wolfe, no less, and implying he isn't taking shots at me; I almost dropped my monocle! If we must yell at each other, yell at the email behind my handle. Otherwise, I shall be forced to say nasty things about Octavia Butler.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:32 PM
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I'm not going to bed, and I'm prepared to say that Gene Wolfe sucks.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:38 PM
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Does Gene Wolfe suck raw eggs? News at 11.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:40 PM
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Gene Wolfe wears combat boots.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:41 PM
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Most newer Wolfe I can skip. Older Wolfe is among my favorites. It ain't because the protagonists are attractive either. Look at Alden Weer. A casual monster. But he's at the center of Peace and that one of my favorite books.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:43 PM
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I am sure he did when he was a manly man serving in Korea as an infantryman.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:44 PM
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Verhooven's Starship Troopers was [] a faithful adaptation

I'm going to have to ask you to surrender your nerd card and your decoder ring.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:46 PM
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The thing is, maybe you notice crap politics, but it feels much different when those politics are aimed at you.

This is a very good observation about literature, but also about life in general.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:48 PM
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Do you know what else is a good observation about life in general? That Gene Wolfe sucks.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-22-07 11:53 PM
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The thing is, maybe you notice crap politics, but it feels much different when those politics are aimed at you.

Sure it does, but I can take it: e.g. I recently described Nova Swing as a "very good book". And all of you Wolfe-haters can suck my peos.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:04 AM
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Fuligin, the color that's blacker than black. I rest my case.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:16 AM
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Fuligin, the color that's blacker than black.

Yikes. I've been meaning to pick up a new author for some casual sci fi/fantasy reading. That fuligin business is not promising.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:28 AM
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Fuligin, the color that's blacker than black.

This was back before Wesley Snipes, you see.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:38 AM
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Breaking news: faster-than-lightspeed space travel is a crock.

I understand a critique of Wolfe's politics or the unsavoriness of his leads or his wordiness or just not liking it. But fuligin. Proving again that tastes vary.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:44 AM
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"Blacker than black" as a description indicates a style that's going to annoy me. Just saying.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:54 AM
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If that annoys, I agree Wolfe's style probably would annoy you on the whole.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:58 AM
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Gswift, the color that's whiter than white.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:58 AM
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What's blacker than bein' black?

FULIGIN!

I want to see y'all on your baddest behaviour!

Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbour!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:01 AM
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Shake it like a Polaroid picture!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:02 AM
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I've got an Italian grandmother. I'm pretty sure that makes me interracial.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:02 AM
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Your hair color says different.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:03 AM
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One part Italian, three parts UK.

110 percent oppressor, bitches.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:08 AM
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If 83 is uncomfortable with fuligin, I can understand. Many of his generation are. I just hope his children aren't so constrained.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:14 AM
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110 percent oppressor, bitches.

The Italians were very much the oppressed for many centuries, you know. Most of them, at least.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:16 AM
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I need to go shank a Spaniard. Maybe an Austrian too, while I'm at it.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:24 AM
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The Italians were very much the oppressed for many centuries, you know. Most of them, at least.

who wasn't?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:25 AM
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Much as in Some Internet Celebrity's Law, 90% of any group of people are oppressed.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:27 AM
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I need to go shank a Spaniard. Maybe an Austrian too, while I'm at it.

Don't forget the French.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:30 AM
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who wasn't?

The French did all right. Also the Swedes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:31 AM
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who wasn't?
Indeed. Somehow, throughout all the oppression, my ancestors managed to fuck into existence something that would eventually become an unfogged commenter. If that isn't life-affirming I don't know what is.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:33 AM
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It's surprisingly difficult to come up with other examples (which I suppose is the point), even within Europe. The only other ones I can think of are the Austrians and the Danes. Outside of Europe there are the Mongols, of course, and you could make a pretty good case for the Turks and the Japanese.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:39 AM
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If that isn't life-affirming an argument for intelligent design I don't know what is.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:40 AM
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But would an Intelligent Designer really want to create an Unfogged commenter? I ask you.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:41 AM
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The ways of the Lord are mysterious, young teo.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:42 AM
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I think the Turks are always whining would argue that they were oppressed by the Greeks, no?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:45 AM
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I just learned how to do strikethrough, and I plan on abusing it to deathI plan on abusing it to death.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:46 AM
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I just learned how to do strikethrough, and I plan on abusing it to deathI plan on abusing it to death.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:46 AM
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103: What? Of peoples that haven't been oppressed? Or those that have? The former would, of course, be easier.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:46 AM
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See?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:46 AM
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103: Right, it was flip, but wasn't meant as a universal claim. If an argument can be made for a coherent group of some sort that avoided this cycle, it's pretty exceptional.

106: those noodley appendages are tricksy.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:46 AM
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112: I wish I had a noodley appendage.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:50 AM
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The French did all right

They's a bunch of weak-ass bitches if you ask me.


Posted by: Julius Caesar | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:53 AM
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107: Probably, but when and for how long?

110: The former.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:53 AM
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114: Those would be the Gauls. The French are the ones that conquered them several centuries after you did.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:54 AM
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It also depends how you define "oppression." I'm thinking of it in terms of either overt political control (e.g. conquest) or extremely powerful indirect control leaving the indigenous polity little room for action even if it's nominally independent.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:56 AM
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If you add less overt hegemony (economic, say), then there probably isn't anyone who's escaped it entirely.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:57 AM
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The Mongols had a good run but were finally oppressed in the 20th century. Source: this article about pop music sensation Ariunaa.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:58 AM
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38: Of course, the point about most social-collapse stories is that they're really utopias--the dream of getting rid of all those other people

Jerry Pournelle of all people made that point after having written several disaster novels, that it's too easy to let civilisation collapse and start over right rather than fix the problems in the current system.

Myself, I think that vastly understates the problems a true collapse of civilisation would bring with it, but they're not fantasies for nothing.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:58 AM
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And with that I must be off to bed. I'm going up to Santa Fe tomorrow and may not have reliable internet, so I'll just wish everyone a Merry Christmas now.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:59 AM
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Feliz Januca.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:00 AM
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Good night teofilo!


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:05 AM
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But here's the rumour I heard about I Am Legend: that it has a happy ending with overtly Christian overtones? If so, now there's an example of politics in a story you cannot ignore.

Also, M. John Harrison has a blog.

As for not being oppressed too much, after we kicked out the Spaniards, the Dutch did alright.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:05 AM
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Solstice-Appropriate Platitude, Mr. Teo.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:06 AM
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re: 118

The English had a pretty decent 900 year run. Depending on your view of 1688, you arguably go from the 11th through to the early 20th centuries pretty much sticking to oppressing [rather than being an oppressee].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:06 AM
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Somehow, throughout all the oppression, my ancestors managed to fuck into existence something that would eventually become an unfogged commenter.

New hovertext!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:41 AM
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speaking of sci-fi novelists that totally suck, JERRY POURNELLE. though nothing can compare to the awfulness of arthur c clarke's dickweed little sidekick geddy gentry lee. ("here, I thought of some bad-ass speculative fiction ideas--now you write some bullshit human interest stuff while I lie in the hammock at my sri lankan estate. put a chick in it, or something, like maybe some hot oceanographer" "[repulsively sniveling] very good, sir!") wolfe...I think he's an awesome enough writer that I let him skate on the misogyny. and frankly, if I started to care about that too much, what the fuck would I be able to read?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:48 AM
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I've actually read garden of rama twice, even though it is one of the single worst books of all time. somehow, I was kicking drugs and up all night and there was nothing else to read...I don't even know how it happened, but it was awful. under similar circumstances I read stephen king's tommyknockers for the second time, in a single night in a malaysian youth hostel. I've either mentioned this horrible experience before, or I have a brain tumor. --or both!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:53 AM
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129: ow. Drugs are bad!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:57 AM
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oh, John Emerson looked up Ariunaa
did you like the song i posted ystrday, it's about the early 20th century period 1910ies perhaps according to the costumes
i wanted to post this to your site but could not find the comment section
writing emails to bloggers feels too personal and kinda intimidating for me, so with you permission i'll post it here

about opression, we are taught at school that throut history we built 5-6 empires - Khunnu, Xyanbi, Kidan, Jujaan, Tureg, Uigur, the last and the largest one Mongol, China's Chin (Manschu) sometimes considered late Yuan ( i wrote it all in mongolian pronounciation - in chinese they spelled may be differently )
Tureg and Uigur are considered not mongol in succession, but still very close people in customs, though not language
and were the most opressed during chin, not soviet period


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:32 AM
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throughout


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:33 AM
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I don't read SF, as a rule, or more correctly haven't since about 1975. Life's just too short.

I know a lot about history, though, and the notion that English, French, or whoever hasn't been oppressed much is laughable. There was a class of English people not oppressed in the 15th century, but it wasn't most people. Ditto France: from about the dawn of time to 1789. And then quite a bit more thereafter. I don't know what the life of an ordinary Mongol farmer (even a horse farmer) was like in 1450, but I bet 'oppression' would be an accurate description.

On the subject on Mongolian history, though, I have a question for read. I read somewhere that ancient Mongols worshipped the wind. It seems cool; too cool to have been true.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:10 AM
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we worship the eternal blue sky
and all kinds of spirits, spirits are invisible, the closest to visibility - the winds may be :)
well, there are sacred mountains, trees (udgan mod), rocks, rivers, so i won't be surprised if there is also the wind named and worshipped
i don't know


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:18 AM
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re: 133

I don't think anyone was claiming that 'no English people were oppressed'. That would be, erm, extremely stupid.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:57 AM
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I feel oppressed by that comment.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:03 AM
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The question is not who was oppressed. The question is who was denied the opportunity to oppress others.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:04 AM
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i'm ignoring you until you take back your nasty words about rap


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:11 AM
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I demand equality of oppressortunity.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:16 AM
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There's a book in French by Jean-Paul Roux about Mongol religion, including pre-Buddhist Mongol religion. I've only looked at it and don't quite trust the guy's scholarly methods. Mongols have been Buddhists for centuries now, following the Tibetan model.

Since the end of the Yuan Dynasty / Mongol Empire, the Chinese and Russians have been pretty successful in keeping the Mongols under control, with several outbreaks of resistance. Inner Mongolia has been Chinese dominated for some time, and large numbers of Mongols have lived under Russian rule for centuries, with the present Mongolian Republic only recently gaining independence.

Scandinavia seems to be the only place in the world that hasn't either been resettled or conquered at any time in known history. If you count the occupations during and after WWII, there's only the Swedes. I don't know how to count Germany and Austria: they used to be dozens of independent states which were conquered one by one by other Germans. I suppose this would count as the uniting of Ein Volk. By and large most of that area was never conquered by a non-German-speaker.

Sweden had an aggressive period ending in 1709 and even founded a colony in Delaware. My theory is that with a little luck, Sweden would have become the major Northern power and neither Russia and Prussia would have become as powerful as they did.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:37 AM
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Sweden/Scandinavia also has a history as the birth place of successive waves of conquerors from the North. The Goths, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:44 AM
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Latest is that the actual Goths came from the SE Baltic, though their legendary homeland was in Scandinavia. Karl XII of Sweden (their last imperialist King) adopted a Gothic persona and some of of our ideas about the Goths is a relic of Swedish propaganda.

The Vikings were peaceful traders who occasionally had to defend themselves against the brutish and superstitious locals. Don't believe the hype!



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:51 AM
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we were nominally independent since 1911, with Chin collapse, there was period of chinese occupation around 1919-21, and the russians helped us to throw it in 1921, socialist period had their dark sides, repressions for example my father's own two uncles were in gulags at the White sea. But without that choice we would be a part of China now.
Inner Mongolia chose themselves the alliance with Manschus in 1680ies or around, forgot the date, so they helped to ruin the greater Mongolia, we still consider them traitors


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:55 AM
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73: Foolishmortal, I went to bed because it was midnight and I was tired. I'd rather assumed that we could carry on quarreling in the morning. And was I yelling? I ask you, plaintively, was I yelling?

In a weird way, John Varley reminds me of Gene Wolfe. They both write very detailed, extremely unexpected remote futures (as long as you don't mess with that Wizard-Demon-Whatever series that Varley wrote); both try to construct really un-now-like sets of values and obsessions for their future people. There's a lot more sex in Varley and he's much more left wing.

Although I believe fuligin is the color darker than black, not blacker than black. Wolfe is really quite good, though. If funny names for things bother you, you might want to start with The Fifth Head of Cerberus rather than The Book of the New Sun. There's a newer edition than the Amazon page reflects, although all editions seem to be as one in the ugliness of their covers. (By which I mean that they lack space maidens in bikinis, of course.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:59 AM
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The Vikings were peaceful traders who occasionally had to defend themselves against the brutish and superstitious locals.

Heh, don't you mean, 'opportunists, who either traded or fought/robbed depending on which looked easiest at the time'?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:05 AM
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Initially Astartu was a religion of peace, but the Norse soon learned that various Brits were not ready for peace.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:10 AM
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It's not the name, it's the idea. I'm surprised a metal band hasn't put out a concept album around it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:10 AM
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||
Quick request: I am going to go buy liquor to make Sifu's egg nog. What is a good bourbon? Brandy?
|>


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:11 AM
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Di, I'm sorry to hear about your sad times. I got very pleasurably drunk on Knob Creek last night, but that might be a little strong tasting for eggnog. Makers Mark is standard, and has a quieter flavor.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:18 AM
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148: we use Jim Beam, but if you want to fancy it up, go for it. Brandy... well, y'know, whichever. Hennessy?

Makers would be lovely, I'm sure. I think one year we used Courvoisier as the non-bourbon liquor, and that was swell, but really it's not the kind of drink where you need sipping liquors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:26 AM
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Thanks, jms. Maybe I'll pick up one of each -- one for the nog, one for the nog-maker. =) Sad times suck, but they do reveal alot about the people around you, both good and bad. In a few more days, I'll be able to focus on that. In the meantime, I'm thinking of throwing whatever eggs are left after the nog making at bad people's cars...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:26 AM
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Fuligin. Blacker than black, up to eleven. I can see it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:32 AM
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"Back in Fuligin" just doesn't have the same ring to it.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:35 AM
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Frowner, you're so eccentric, well-read and highbrow that it might not apply to you, but I remember being touched by Brook Gladstone's piece a few months ago about what Star Trek meant to girls from the sixties onward, as a depiction, despite the costumes, of a world where women would be full participants. I just took that for granted, I suppose, and never realized how much it would mean.

I have that experience nearly every day, of finding out something I thought limited and mediocre transformed the life of people I know.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:36 AM
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Foolishmortal, about Harrison: This is from my favorite short story of his, "Anima", from Things That Never Happen:

"'Only people who are socially dead use a bus station.'
Everything warm, he said, went on at a distance from people like that. Their lives were at an ebb. At a loss. They had to watch the clean, the happy, the successfully employed, stepping out of new cars and into the lobbies of warm hotels. If the dead had ever been able to do that, they would never be able to do it again. They would never be able to dress out of choice or eat what they would like.
'They're old, or they're bankrupt, or they've just come out of a long-stay mental ward. They're fucked."
(p. 298, Nightshade Press edition, which is much nicer than the currently available one.)

The thing is, almost everyone in Harrison's short stories can't figure themselves out enough to be happy, or perhaps wanting to be happy is their problem. Everyone is either starved of what they want or wants only stupid things in a stupid manner. Harrison isn't political in the way that Mieville is political--he's not trying to mobilize people, he doesn't have a programme. But he writes always about scarcity, physical misery, starvation, malnourishment in a way that is political, that is critique.

I can't think of a Harrison character who is "political" in any direct way. This sort of bothers me, but not for the obvious reasons. There's a mute, blunt stupidity to all his characters, even the clever ones. They suffer and suffer and starve, but they never theorize their suffering, except perhaps the characters in The Course of the Heart. They never have any explanation for themselves about why they live as they do. It needn't be a left-wing explanation; in The Course of the Heart it's a mystical one. But in "Anima" he writes, "People like Choe are like moths in a restaurant on a summer evening just before it gets dark. They bang from lamp to lamp then streak across the room in long, wounded trajectories. We make a lot of their confusion but less of their rage...."

All his characters are like that. Futility, scrabbling--it's like "gurning" and "chitinous" are the characteristic words used by Mieville.

It bugs me because I don't think that's how most people are. If anything , people set up systems and explanations that lock them into bad situations; people systematize, theorize, make political. The oblivious, flapping, miserable people in Harrison are only perhaps like certain de-skilled white collar workers, perhaps.

That's why first Viriconium book is so odd--there's a civil war but it's absolutely depoliticized at the level of narrative. Of course, the terrible flailing about in the mud, the stupid deaths, the sense of futility--that's political and straight out of WWI literature.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:38 AM
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As a frequent Greyhound rider, I object to Harrison's "only", which sounds yuppyish. Bus stations are depressing, partly because a lot of people riding the bus are in fact socially dead, but mostly because bus stations can a place for urban losers to congregate. The biggest things I notice at bus stations is rurality and tackiness


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:45 AM
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Frowner, you're so eccentric, well-read and highbrow that it might not apply to you... Why IDP, people say this to me all the time!

We didn't really watch TV much when I was growing up (part of the freakish mystique of the Frowners, as you may imagine) so I'm only sort of familiar with Star Trek. But yeah, one of the reasons I like science fiction so much is precisely that, the way it bears the weight of so many dreams. I have a lot of tolerance for really crap SF for this reason. On the Mieville front, this is something he misses when he damns virtually everything he doesn't like as "escapist". (Mieville is teh awesome, though, and per rumor a very nice fellow as well.)

SF is such an elastic and reflexive genre...boy, if I had the money to do a vanity PhD, it would totally be science fiction studies.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:46 AM
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When your ship comes in, Frowner. Just keep playing the Megabucks.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:49 AM
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The biggest things I notice at bus stations is rurality and tackiness

And that's only in places, like most of the US, where bus service is considered something that only poor people do.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:54 AM
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156: Hi there, Emerson! Actually, the Harrison is spoken by a character from the north of England who grew up riding the bus; I think we're meant to take it as an unconscious comment on his own persistent feelings of stuckness (lostness? unreality?) and deprivation as well as a critique.

Harrison is a bit yuppie in some ways, I think--sort of a classy arts/literature/design feeling to his work, but in a rather self-conscious way. "Anima" captures this almost perfectly; I do recommend his short stories. Most of them are only loosely fantasy/science fiction, if that's a concern for anyone.

His characters cross class lines a lot. He seems to draw on experience in (or around people from? I forget) the building trades, particularly the dangerous jobs.

He's a neat writer. I wish they hadn't published Nova Swing in that stupid matte textured jacket that shows every dint or smear from the second you first pick it up, though. It's a very difficult kind of paper for bookstores to keep tidy, and of course looks messed up after you've carried the book around in your bag for a day.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:54 AM
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"because I like an awful lot of M John Harrison's work (Do you suppose everyone calls him M? That would be neat.). "

"Mike," actually.

"John Varley," on the other hand, is "Herb."

I'd say something about how Joanna Russ is an old friend since the early Seventies, and more so from the years we were friends in Seattle circa 1978-1984, and how I first read We Who Are About To in manuscript when Jim Freund, then working for Jim Baen at Galaxy and If, brought it by a Fanoclasts meeting, and how it was most definitely a response to Marion Bradley's Darkover Landfall scenario, in which the women had to submit to forced pregnancy For The Survival Of The People, and the like, but as usual I note the conversation long after it's all moved on.

But: "And then you'd put some theory, too, although cyborgs aren't as trendy now as they were in the late eighties/early nineties."

I'd say cyborgs were a Seventies thing more than earlier or later, so far as general pop culture: Six Million Dollar Man from Caidin's original (not entirely bad or unserious, though still a pot-boiler) Cyborg, and a gazillion worse "sci-fi" movie and tv usages.

By the Nineties it was digitized consciousness, uploading, and Singularity nano-whatsis stuff, at least in the sf field.

Although the Delany and McHugh cites are good, of course; I'm not saying there was a moratorium on cyborg use by the Eighties or Nineties.

Alameida, I was exchanging Dr. Dr. Jerry stories with the wide circle of mutual exchangers of such stories again, back in the early Seventies; let's not even get into working convention operations and catching his son tossing convention bid fliers down an elevator shaft....

Arthur Clarke (whom I've also met, he namedropped!) turned 90 on December 16th, so let's have a little respect for the geezer while he's still around. So he cashed in when money finally started flowing into the sf field for a few top sellers in the Seventies and Eighties: who deserves it more? It's not like anyone made more than peanuts in sf prior to the Seventies.

Mind, I wouldn't recommend any of the Gentry Lee books, and I have to confess that I worked on -- along with very good books -- books such as "Arthur C. Clarke's Venus Prime," and "Isaac Asimov's Robot City," so I'm more than a little tainted with the stain of taking money for working on not the greatest English literature ever written, myself.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:05 PM
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161: That plot point in Darkover Landfall enraged me. What a stupid book.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:10 PM
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I read a review making the complaint in 3 (that the utilities are on) before I saw the movie, so I was keeping my eyes out for it. It's not true, or at least I noticed no evidence of working power other than things that Neville himself set up. On the other hand, if anyone thinks the trap in front of Grand Central makes sense, I'd like to hear about it.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:11 PM
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He bathed the dog with water from the regular shower, right?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:14 PM
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Oh, and the idea that fiction where huge numbers of, or even most, human beings are dead, is inherently bad, would pretty much invalidate something like a fifth of science fiction/fantasy. Heck, plenty of stories start out with the human race non-existent, or extinct. Let alone deal with vast interstellar wars, massive evolutionary changes, plagues, extinctions, etc.

Let's not even mention the multitude of stories in which whole universes are destroyed.

And by definition, the entire subgenre of post-apocalyptic fiction would be invalid.

One shouldn't be small-minded, petty, and parochial, about mere humanity, Ogged. Consider the entire multiverse of possible life!

And, damn, that's why it's fiction. Otherwise, fiction about evil people would also be reprehensible, or too depressing, or whatever it was you were trying to suggest.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:15 PM
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John Varley is not Herb! It cannot be! Really? Although actually "Herbert" is probably due for a comeback, what with all the little Sebastians and Olivias running around now. I read that story of his in the Norton SF book (or was it the Norton SF book? Some major anthology) and then was absolutely hooked, even unto buying a copy of The Barbie Murders despite the title.

I was thinking about Donna Haraway and "Simians Cyborgs and Women", really--the academy is always a bit behind the times. It was cyborgs-as-metaphor for a while, then vampires; I expect that zombie studies will be picking up speed any day now.

The thing is, I think there's a sort of neo-cyborgism which emphasizes sort of a quotidienne cyborg, one geared perfectly to corporate capitalism. A cyborg where there isn't as much trauma about being a cyborg as simply an extension of exploitation into the furthest reaches of the body.

Darkover Landfall, you say. I never read any MZB, for some reason. But I'd like to see it now for the Russ connection. Joanna Russ has just about the perfect narrator voice; you can pick out her work instantly. I've heard that her health prevents her from writing much now, which is an awful shame.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:18 PM
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165: I'm afraid I sort of have to disagree...there is something sinister, something bizarre, in the fascination with books where almost everyone else has been conveniently killed. That's not to say that people can't have those books, or shouldn't write them, or whatever--sinister, bizarre fascinations are the stuff of doctoral dissertations, after all!

The "everyone is dead except--" book is a fascinating thing. A perfect mirror of politics--everyone is dead except for the feminazis and our hero; everyone is dead except the wicked corporate capitalist thugs and our trusty band of anarcho-communists; everyone is dead except for a society where women suffer and suffer and suffer/get what they deserve....

Oh, I've got a lot more to say about this, but I need to head out into the snow now. I'll be back.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:22 PM
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OT, Gary, but have you looked at The Edge of the American West?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:24 PM
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I'm not a big fan of Chuck Heston's ventures into what most often could legitimately be called "sci-fi," and probably, though by no means certainly, the movie company promotion folks are canny about at least what they're trying to sell, but I have to say this is the first time it ever crossed my mind that someone could go see a version of Matheson's I Am Legend, and, well, does anyone go see Dracula and complain they weren't warned that it had vampires?

But I guess, clearly, if someone has no familiarity the most famous last-man-alive-surrounded-by-vampire book ever written, they'd be surprised to find out that that was what the movie was about. Like the last movie about it.

And one can never count on people hearing of stuff.

162: Well, Marion was nothing if not of many firm opinions. I was fairly annoyed at her arrogance when, in 1977, she took one of my issues of Harlan Ellison's 1950s mimeoed fanzine, Dimensions, out from under protective material, to autograph the story she had in it (a very different, early, pre-professional -- she hadn't yet sold any fiction, and neither had Harlan; both were well-known highly active fans in the early Fifties) version of Falcons of Narabedla, when no one was around, from a historical display of science fiction fanzines and materials from the 1930s and onwards that I'd put together for several Worldcons and other cons. I know she thought she was doing me a favor, and meant well, but it was still pretty arrogant to just assume that I wanted someone, including her, defacing my copy of that issue.

On the other hand, in 1978, when I was director of operations (and retroactive vice-chair) of the Worldcon, she walked into a plate glass doorway and shattered it, which I wouldn't wish on anyone (fortunately she wasn't seriously injured).

She surely did inspire a lot of enthusiastic fans of Darkover, over the years, though. And she also deserves some recognition for helping an awful lot of young and aspiring writers, as well.

But although it's a bit unfair and unprofessional to say, I'd have to grade her as never more than a b-level writer. A good competent journeyman story-teller, at times, though.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:32 PM
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re: 164

In lots of places the mains water would still work for a while, at least until the water towers were emptied. I have no idea about New York, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:32 PM
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We have it piped in from upstate. Don't know how much power is used in that, though it does run downhill to us. Very tasty clean water, actually. We're very fortunate.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:35 PM
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Don't you also need power for the water to work? Maybe it's realistic; I'm just addressing the claim that nothing other than what he set up was working.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:35 PM
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re: 172

No, the water gets from the water tower to your home generally without using any power. the tower needs power to be filled. But a single water tower, filled, would last one person a LONG yime.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:39 PM
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Ogged, I think you're too secular to get the attraction of the "everyone's dead but these guys" story. If you believe that humanity contains a kind of magical, unworldly spirit, having the numbers of people who carry that spirit narrow down to a handful makes their lives profoundly more important. The apocalypse allows a single individual to carry the entire meaning of the human race inside him: awesome.

You can look at these movies in this way if you're secular, too—but then you need to be at least slightly romantic, and you need the survivors to be carrying around a Shakespeare anthology, or something.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:39 PM
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the water gets from the water tower to your home generally without using any power

Huh. Didn't know that. Seems odd.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:45 PM
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It's called gravity, Ogged. A Western concept. Mass, kinetic energy, shit like that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:47 PM
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Thanks, John. Still seems surprising that the pressure of the water in my shower is accounted for solely by gravity.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:49 PM
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"I've heard that her health prevents her from writing much now, which is an awful shame."

Without saying anything that isn't perfectly public knowledge, her health has always been poor. When she was in Seattle, I was her live-in houseboy for a week, when she was recovering from back surgery, and couldn't move from bed. (If you ever cook for Joanna, she has the largest preference for the most bland possible, and the most boiled possible, food of anyone I've ever known; this is, or at least was, also common knowledge among anyone who would eat with her.) She moved to Arizona for a while for the air.

She's always been an awesome writer, from before I could rub two paragraphs together.

Haven't been in touch in some years, though.

While we're mentioning writers we'd like to hear more from in recent fiction, I kinda selfishly wish Chip Delany, another old friend (why, we've slept together!), kept a little more energy left over in recent years for fiction, over teaching, but whaddya gonna do?

"John Varley is not Herb! It cannot be! Really?"

Last I looked, which is also a while ago. (I first met Herb -- like so many people -- back in the mid-Seventies, when he was married to Anet Mconel, and we'd sometimes cross paths on the Pacific NW con circuit.) Where do you think "Herb Boehm" came from? :-)

But he's John Herbert Varley, known as "Herb" to everyone.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:51 PM
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Isn't science fiction pretty silly?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:54 PM
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I'm not legend.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 12:58 PM
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".there is something sinister, something bizarre, in the fascination with books where almost everyone else has been conveniently killed."

Certainly there can be, but I don't think it's necessarily so in sf; humans may simply not be relevant to the story. I don't think Hal Clement, say, is sinister. Neither Olaf Stapledon. Just for instance. They simply weren't writing about human beings.

Then there's stuff where we might be critical of, say, the shallow treatment of how many humans died in, oh, the Lensman books by E. E. Smith. Superficial and shallow, arguably, but necessarily sinister?

But you're probably suggesting a considerably more narrow sub-genre, which perhaps might gain for a bit more definition when you return, Frowner.

"OT, Gary, but have you looked at The Edge of the American West?"

Not till just now; thanks. Someone might suggest to those guys that they put their names on their blog, though; not everyone will bother to click on "about," and anonymous blogs are less interesting. Besides, putting your name on what you write: not that complicated a concept. Looks interesting, though.

175: "the water gets from the water tower to your home generally without using any power

Huh. Didn't know that. Seems odd."

What's weird is that everyone kept doing that after the Romans had invented electricity so they could have aquaducts.

The shame was that the Chinese, the Mayans, the Eqyptians, and every other culture in world history never had running water, other than in rivers and streams, since they never heard about electricity until the 1800s.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:03 PM
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One of my very cute sophomores recently discovered sci-fi after a lifetime of reading Serious Books. He has a little nerdgasm over each and every one. I've been making some recommendations to him, out of stuff I've read and stuff one of my friends reads, and he's been plowing through them. After reading his first Atwood title, he literally ran through the hall when he saw me, because he just had to tell me how enraptured he was with it.

I was more the sort of kid who read a lot of sci-fi as a youngster and then started reading other stuff as an adult, so I rather envy his bliss. How fun, as a young adult, to discover that the world of the imagination is much bigger than you supposed!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:03 PM
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I contend that no Roman shower had the fantastic water pressure my shower has. Prove me wrong, snark boy.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:06 PM
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183: Shouldn't you be thanking your showerhead?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:06 PM
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Speaking of last-people-left-alive stories movies, who else remembers this one (originally by M. P. Shiel)?

(Not a large cast: only three people.)


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:07 PM
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181: The shame was that the Chinese, the Mayans, the Eqyptians, and every other culture in world history never had running water, other than in rivers and streams, since they never heard about electricity until the 1800s.

Don't be silly, Gary. Everybody knows the Christians invented electricity.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:11 PM
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Shouldn't you be thanking your showerhead?

Nah, it's not one of those "make a trickle seem like a stream" efficient showerheads. It's a "totally awesome if torrents of water are jetting (as if pumped) out of the wall, not so great if not" ones.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:11 PM
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185: Great movie.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:14 PM
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"I contend that no Roman shower had the fantastic water pressure my shower has. Prove me wrong, snark boy."

You've never been in a place with as elaborate a set of baths, including running hot water, as the Roman baths. (Enjoy the caldarium!)

I dunno what PSI your shower has; you might be correct, but I bet I'd prefer a visit to a classical Roman baths than I would to your shower.

The Roman problem was actually bringing down the water pressure enough to where it could be safely used. See here.

[...] Looking at this system of water supply to the final point of use it is clear that the pressure built up in the mains descending from the castellum at the top point of the city was dramatically broken down and regularised in the water towers tanks ,so that a level of water of about 7 meters, without accounting for all the pressure losses in the delivering customer pipes, was maintained over the final point of discharge. (figure 14)
We also note here:
[...] Rome received all of its water (according to Encarta, about 38 million gallons a day) through a system of aqueducts. All water flowed to the city by gravity, but because it was arriving from surrounding hills, it could be stored in large cisterns very similar in concept to today's water towers (the main difference is that cisterns are filled from the top).
Water flowed from the cisterns either through pipes to individual houses or to public distribution points. Fountains served both decorative and functional purposes, since people could bring their buckets to the fountain to collect water. The cisterns provided the height needed to generate water pressure for the fountains to spray. As discussed in How Water Towers Work, a foot of height generates 0.43 pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure, so a cistern does not have to be that tall to develop enough pressure to give a fountain a reasonable display.
7 meters; I'll leave the math to you.

Bonus link! How Water Towers Work.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:19 PM
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"I contend that no Roman shower had the fantastic water pressure my shower has. Prove me wrong, snark boy."

You've never been in a place with as elaborate a set of baths, including running hot water, as the Roman baths. (Enjoy the caldarium!)

I dunno what PSI your shower has; you might be correct, but I bet I'd prefer a visit to a classical Roman baths than I would to your shower.

The Roman problem was actually bringing down the water pressure enough to where it could be safely used. See here.

[...] Looking at this system of water supply to the final point of use it is clear that the pressure built up in the mains descending from the castellum at the top point of the city was dramatically broken down and regularised in the water towers tanks ,so that a level of water of about 7 meters, without accounting for all the pressure losses in the delivering customer pipes, was maintained over the final point of discharge. (figure 14)
We also note here:
[...] Rome received all of its water (according to Encarta, about 38 million gallons a day) through a system of aqueducts. All water flowed to the city by gravity, but because it was arriving from surrounding hills, it could be stored in large cisterns very similar in concept to today's water towers (the main difference is that cisterns are filled from the top).
Water flowed from the cisterns either through pipes to individual houses or to public distribution points. Fountains served both decorative and functional purposes, since people could bring their buckets to the fountain to collect water. The cisterns provided the height needed to generate water pressure for the fountains to spray. As discussed in How Water Towers Work, a foot of height generates 0.43 pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure, so a cistern does not have to be that tall to develop enough pressure to give a fountain a reasonable display.
7 meters; I'll leave the math to you.

Bonus link! How Water Towers Work.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:20 PM
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I am pwned. And clean.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:21 PM
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Geez, I got "access forbidden" messages, damnit.

To cross sub-thread topics, I'll note that despite Heinlein's consistent use of "the refresher" and "the 'fresher" in his "future history" to refer to an elaborate set of shower/massage/bath/tan/heat/steam/etc/etc/etc, combinations, along with other perfectly doable contemporary technology, in a room replacing our mundane "bathrooms" with that elaborate set of options (implicitly also aiding in doing hair, make-up, and anything else related to hygiene and pre-dressed body appearance, that not much like this has ever really happened, other than elaborate high-end hotel suites to some degree.

On the other hand, he had people pulling their phones out of their pockets to answer them, back in 1948.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:25 PM
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Also, Ogged, your shower would be crowded if I brought my slaves to wash my back. I can't bear your oppresive limitations on my slaves. You're probably downright anti-slavery, anyway.

A thread for curse tablets might be useful, though.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:35 PM
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I guess Gene Wolfe really did steal somebody's fudgesicle.

Fuligin is referred to by the torturers as "the color that is darker than black," but this is part of a torturers' conversation about what it is to be a torturer, if I recall correctly, where a certain amount of formula and repetition might be expected. Elsewhere, Severian characterizes it as sooty and non-reflective, rather than HyperGothWherearemyJesusandMaryChainCDsBlack (new from Martha Stewart Home!).


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:13 PM
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