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OLD CODGERS READING BACK IN TIME


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Posted on Sep 4, 2012 6:43:44 AM PDT
sbissell3 says:
Kurt Vonnegut said, more or less, that most literary critics of the 1950s put all science fiction in one drawer, and then used it as a urinal! He wrote, as I recall, an essay about how science fiction was never given serious consideration until Heinlein managed to break the imaginary barrier of the NY Times Best Seller list with Stranger in a Strange Land. Slan: A Novel was indeed considered a landmark book and I'm looking forward to reading it again.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2012 7:39:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 4, 2012 7:51:23 AM PDT
W.T. says:
I read "Stranger in a Strange Land" years ago and recently read the so-called "uncensored" version, which restores the book back to Heinlein's vision prior to nervous editors having their way with it. After reading it, I have to say frankly that the editors had a point. The published version is better than Heinlein's original version, and most of the edits not only improved the flow of the story, but also enhanced the focus on the actual themes of the book. Just goes to show you that sometimes a good editor is worth his weight in gold.

I still think that the reason for the book's crossover success was because it us only marginally science fiction. It's more of a sociological fantasy story. In that fashion, it's not really aimed at traditional sci-fi fans. To this day, it still bugs me that the Martians and their culture are only defined to the extent that story requires. Things that the book implies interest me more than the actual story it tells, and I think a lot of sci-fi fans feel that way. But non sci-fi fans don't care about investigating Mars, or the way the science is never explained in a remotely workable way.

Heinlein intentionally wrote a book that took the logical requirement out of sci-fi and replaced it with primal emotionalism, and that was a huge departure. The result was that the masses, controlled by emotionalism and barely familiar with logical order, discovered sci-fi for the first time.

Posted on Sep 4, 2012 7:57:07 AM PDT
sbissell3 says:
The cut was not for the sake of censorship, but as you observe the editors felt it too long. . .and hence boring. I agree the original published version is the better version. I personally think the timing of 'Stranger. . .' was the big factor. It rode the cultural tide at that time.

The other point is that because of Heinlein's sales, book publishers and critics (I dislike them for the most part) were forced to take SciFi seriously. Nowadays I think all the various types of speculative fiction have made the distinction of SciFi, Fantasy, etc. very difficult to understand. . .fortunately readers don't seem to care much.

Posted on Sep 4, 2012 2:12:45 PM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
I've been on a scifi binge of 'hard' and 'new space opera' sub-genres for the past couple of months, mostly short story and novella collections of the past two decades. With more anthologies on the way I hope to catch up to current thought. Not that I'm neglecting other genres, but the influx of "futurism" is having a definite effect upon my conversations with the here-and-now advocates. Why are we still stuck on this minor planet with Luddites wanting to return to the good old days before penicillin and modern dentistry? Does anyone really care that three of the solar panel assemblages are out on the ISS? Or that a large meteor could smash into the Earth in our lifetime? Yet here we are electing our representatives by the use of sophisticated lying technologies. If futurism is still considered the playground of a subset of fiction readers, where progress is measured by another Hollywood Scifi Film, then why aren't we at the forefront of political debate?

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 1:24:51 PM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
"The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories" ed. by Tom Shippey. A surprisingly good short story collection arranged chronologically, starting with an H.G.Wells ("The Land Ironclads" 1903) to David Brin's 1990 "Piecework." Hardly definitive but many stories new to me. Reading this rather humbles my knowledge of scifi.

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 1:48:42 PM PDT
I don't believe it--2009's "Solomon Kane" is playing at 1 theater in San Francisco. Talk about a limited release LOL!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2012 5:44:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 1, 2012 5:46:05 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Wow. I would have loved to see it on the big screen. It was like an act of congress just to find a Region 1 DVD to buy. I think I ended up ordering off the Amazon UK page.

I loved the movie, btw. While it's not perfect in the choices it makes in detailing Solomon Kane's origins (which Robert E. Howard never explained himself), it's still the best Howard film adaption ever, imho.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2012 7:00:56 AM PDT
R. Larkin says:
B.A. Dilger, I don't remember anything in the news about the solar panels being out. Just googled it and added ISS to my newsfeed. Thanks!

Considering the intransigent stupidity and growing Ludditeism, it's a wonder we managed to get Curiosity launched.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2012 7:28:18 AM PDT
sbissell3 says:
According to Rotten Tomatoes it is now in limited release in the US. It's playing at one theater here in Denver. I might go today as it's raining anyway.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2012 7:52:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 1, 2012 7:52:16 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Thanks for the tip. I will be looking for it. I cannot figure out why they didn't do a wide release back in 2009. They even aired TV commercials in the US back then, but never released the movie. It was strange.

Posted on Oct 1, 2012 8:17:50 AM PDT
sbissell3 says:
I think it was a decision by the distributor. Once they buy the rights they get to make all decisions about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2012 10:35:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 1, 2012 10:37:29 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Personally, I think the movie deserved to be a 100 million dollar box office movie. It's that level of quality.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 7:42:29 AM PST
sbissell3 says:
I just finished Arthur C. Clarke's The City & the Stars. It has an interesting history; it was originally published as Against the Fall of Night but was considered so poorly written that John W. Campbell, Jr. refused to published it. Clarke extensively revised the original and brought it out a few years later, after Childhood's End, but it remains essentially his first attempt at a novel. I've always thought that although Clarke is one of 'The Big Three' in SciFi, his novels are not nearly as good as his short stories both in concept and writing.

What kind of got me interested here is that both Artificial Intelligence and putting human personalities into computer are central to this book's plot. I don't think this is necessarily the first time the ideas occur, but it was certainly near then as complex computers were merely theories back then. The first mention I can remember or find of artificial intelligence is a Moxon's Master by Ambrose Bierce. It is about a chess playing machine and I think it came out toward the end of Bierce's career and before he disappeared in Mexico. It is available as a new publication and in comic book form.

Nowadays AI and putting human memories and personalities into computers has become, to my taste, too common. Most of the newer novels with this theme seem to ignore the actual science of AI or computers and go back to when it was imagined that they would become 'intelligent' like humans. I'm one of those people who think that computers are already intelligent, just computer intelligence, not human and I've always thought that the idea of being able to somehow electronically transfer human personalities to a computer was more far fetched than faster than light travel. The device has become a good example of 'God in the machine' as a way to get out of a tricky plot problem.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 9:00:12 AM PST
B. A. Dilger says:
By an odd coincidence I'm halfway through " The City and the Stars." I think it's a beautiful Clarke novel. Less flowing is " The Deep Range" but full of advanced ideas. Next will be "The Other Side of the Sky," his collection of short stories. All these works were written before 1960.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 10:16:30 AM PST
sbissell3 says:
Just personal preference, there are only a couple of Clarke novels I really like, but his short stories are still the best! It amazes me that Clarke came up with all the ideas he did. Just amazing.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 11:30:06 AM PST
B. A. Dilger says:
I've been trying to catch up on some scifi since I neglected it for a while. So anthologies of short stories from the 1990's and 2000's have taken me to today. Comparing these selections with the writers of the 1950's and 1960's, "The Golden Age," can only be described as mind expanding. I like hard science and space opera scifi, finding recent authors just as fluent in their ideas as the past. With over 150 new stories read I can look back like you're doing and see the difference that the years make. And compare the stories over time.

Posted on Jun 12, 2013 7:17:22 PM PDT
sbissell3 says:
I just finished The Mote in God's Eye by Nivens and Pournelle. I still consider this to be a classic of 'first contact' novels; Robert Heinlein said it was the best SciFi novel he had ever read. I was a bit surprised to see that it doesn't hold up all that well, but it's still classic SciFi.

Nivens and Pournelle were ardent militarists but I've always wondered why so many SciFi novels set in the future assume a hereditary monarchy for a government considering the fact that as government monarchies are pretty much always terrible and in the long run unsuccessful. Also reading this in hindsight makes the sexism stand out; the military is all male and treats women as 'the weaker sex.'

All that aside there is one big issue I have with it that I cannot resolve for myself. In nearly all SciFi there is some element that we know is impossible but accept for the sake of the story, faster than light travel is a good example. In this novel the aliens turn out to be mammals? If that were true it would obviate everything we know about evolution. At first I assumed that Nivens and Pournelle would invoke some sort of panspermia as an explanation, but they don't. There was also the possibility that they just wanted to skip over the issue for the sake of plot but they include a major discussion of evolution late in the novel. Here is the deal; all other considerations aside we know that evolution is a random process; if two independent systems give rise to the same end then you have to assume outside direction or something. None of that appears in the novel and it really bothered me.

All that aside I'll read the sequel The Gripping Hand in a month or two and hope for some explanation in that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2013 9:14:50 PM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
If evolution were true a lá Dawkins, and I say if, then perhaps the factors that lead best to survival are mammalian. Hominids are very general-purpose creatures, witness our branch of the species that put men on the moon and can speculate about the future. As for why pre-90's writers had men predominate in the military has been discussed ad infinitim on other discussion sites. Have you ever served in the military? Senator McCain recently caused controversy when he recommended that women shouldn't enlist. With an estimated 26,000 "rapes" in the US military, half of of them women according to the Pentagon, maybe women should opt for a safer career and leave the molestations to the males.

This wasn't my vision of the future while growing up on scifi.

Posted on Jun 12, 2013 9:20:38 PM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
Here's the McCain link:

http://m.military.com/daily-news/2013/06/05/mccain-advises-women-to-avoid-the-military.html?ESRC=army.nl

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2013 1:27:47 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
"In this novel the aliens turn out to be mammals?"

It's been a few years since I (re)read Mote; is there a direct, explicit statement of this in the book? Or was it more to the effect that the Moties (and related species) exhibited mammalian characteristics?

"all other considerations aside we know that evolution is a random process; if two independent systems give rise to the same end then you have to assume outside direction or something."

Um, no, you assume convergent evolution in similar environmental situations to solve similar problems. I forget exactly how many different types of eyes have independently evolved among forms of life just here on Earth, but it's several tens at least. Similarly with wings. Occam's Razor: no outside agency or direction is required to explain the facts.

Now whether Niven and Pournelle had something else in mind is something only they can answer. ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2013 1:30:28 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
"If evolution were true a lá Dawkins, and I say if"

[snicker]

"then perhaps the factors that lead best to survival are mammalian. Hominids are very general-purpose creatures, witness our branch of the species that put men on the moon and can speculate about the future."

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. LOL

"maybe women should opt for a safer career and leave the molestations to the males"

Don't you usually confine your droolings to the Politics forum?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2013 1:33:25 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
"but I've always wondered why so many SciFi novels set in the future assume a hereditary monarchy for a government"

Herbert's Dune is another good example of this. He also has some interesting musings about women in the military in God Emperor of Dune. ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2013 5:16:36 AM PDT
W.T. says:
"Nivens and Pournelle were ardent militarists but I've always wondered why so many SciFi novels set in the future assume a hereditary monarchy for a government considering the fact that as government monarchies are pretty much always terrible and in the long run unsuccessful."

There are two answers to that question:

1. Because beyond everything else our species does, human beings specialize in repeating the same mistakes over and over.
2. Because of Lord Acton's dictum: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Leaders are always going to crave more power than they have. That's human nature, unfortunately.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2013 5:54:41 AM PDT
sbissell3 says:
Evolution is probably as close to a 'law' as there is in biology, no 'if' about it really. But you are confusing 'success' and 'purpose' in evolution. On Earth the most 'successful' group are beetles, not mammals. There are an estimated 500,000 species of beetles, far more than mammals. The view that mammals are 'most' successful is anthropocentric and a tab egoistic. But my point is that evolution is random and there is no chance that mammals would separately evolve in independent systems.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2013 6:59:27 AM PDT
W.T. says:
Is evolution truly random? We see in our world where different evolutionary variations have produced similar results. Not every animal that can fly gained that ability in the same evolutionary change, for example. Rather, several different original animals all independently evolved the ability to fly based on similar environmental conditions necessitating it (though not necessarily at the same point in history). So would not an animal on another world similarly evolve an ability to fly when faced with similar conditions?

That said, some sci-fi has gone a bit overboard with illogical extensions of "parallel evolution" as an excuse create aliens cheaply by merely gluing stuff to actor's heads. "It's an earth-like world, so they're just like us except they have extra ridges on their noses."
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  146
Total posts:  948
Initial post:  Aug 2, 2008
Latest post:  May 10, 2014

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