The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Intellects vast and cool

Crooked Timber, a group blog by academics mainly (I think) in the humanities and social sciences, is having a book event on the work of Charles Stross. I'm well impressed that they've got Paul Krugman to write about the economics of the Merchant Princes series. My own contribution is about Charlie's novel Saturn's Children, and goes some way to lower the tone and keep SF in the gutter where it belongs.


Thankyou so much for posting this, Ken. It's great to see some intelligent commentary on Stross' highly deserving work.

I guess I'll have to get started on Stross's works next, eh?

On a completely different topic, what are your thoughts on the space elevator hype that has been fueled by the development of this new carbon nanotubule-based super ribbon?

Thanks for posting the link. I enjoyed reading both your commentary and Krugman's; I expect I'll want to go back and look at other contributions.

But as a side note, I'm not sure I agree with you about the lack of plot in Heinlein's "Friday." The surface story, the action/adventure line, certainly isn't strongly plotted; it could almost be called picaresque. But the understory has a much stronger plot, taking place largely inside the title character.

Friday is, to be blunt, a victim of massive abuse. She lives in a society that doesn't even define her as human; she was raised by people who treated her as instrumentum vocale. And she seems to have accepted that negative view of herself: "My mother was a test tube, my father was a knife" can be used as a slogan of bitter defiance, but the bitterness comes because it's negative. She accepts her own inferiority to "real" human beings . . . even though, as Heinlein points out, there is no scientifically meaningful standard by which she is not herself a real human being. And yet all through the novel she rebels against that inferiority, without clearly understanding why or even that she's doing it. And the psychology of that rebellion gives the plot a coherence that the external actions don't provide. Or so I read it.

Great pieces, very enjoyable. And the sort of thing that could be applied to other peoples works... (strokes chin thoughtfully ;) )

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William, you've said much better what I meant. And I must remember 'picaresque' as a possibility for a defence to an editor, some day.

"lower the tone and keep SF in the gutter where it belongs" - I think that cover is doing a fairly good job of that, actually.

I noted in the Guardian a few days ago that they had looked at the books on David Cameron's shelves at home and found Saturn's Children. There you go eh?

I didn't know whether to be more 'annoyed' about having one of my favorite authors degraded by having one of his books on Mr Cameron's shelf, or by the condescending tone the Guardian piece took about it ;).

More seriously, thanks for introducing me to that site! Some really fascinating writing on there...

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