The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, May 29, 2009


Divisions, the second half of the Fall Revolution books, is out. (Following on, logically enough, from Fractions.) It comprises The Cassini Division and The Sky Road, and it looks good, with a very classy cover.

Readers new to the Fall Revo books may like to know that the second book in this volume takes place in an alternate future to the first.

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I saw 'Fractions' in Amsterdam and was impressed by its fine production. All I can say is that readers of 'Divisions' should ponder the two majestic opening paragraphs of chapter six of 'The Sky Road.' They are concentrated, powerful, and above all true. They had a decisive effect on my own thought and SF preferences. Any reader of them should look at once at the final page of Barbara Tuchman's excellent history (of the end of progress), 'The Proud Tower.'

Thanks for those kind words, George. But I should add that the passage in question is (in my opinion) only partly true - the world did end on 4 Aug 1914, but Reid's view on our current status as (non-)moral actors is (especially coming from him) self-serving tosh. Myra called it right: 'a callow undergraduate nihilism, shallow and wicked and absurd'. (And I know, of course, that this part of Reid's view isn't yours.)

Thanks Ken. It was mainly your reminding me of that date and event that got me to where I now am. I plan to re-read the entire series. And of course I'm no Reid and will never become one. Tuckman's last words fills in the details. The German Social Democratic Party voted unanimously for war credits. Its membership included R. Luxemburg, K. Liebknecht, and F. Mehring. This free publicity and the nearly simultaneous murder of Juares in France made it easier for the international warmongers to pursue the war: their propaganda was made easier and more effective by the silencing of some potentially opposing voices. What a bloody shame! The vote violated all of the Party's previous anti-war statements. I have read those paragraphs of yours out loud to many friends, and each time me and my voice nearly broke up from emotion. I think you put all you have into those short paragraphs.

Ken, my memory of the series is fading, but those two paragraphs will not. In the literature that I know there is only one other instance of this. It is the wonderful sentence of Tacitus, right at the beginning of his 'Histories.' I have no Latin, but my old Penguin no doubt captures it well. It reads: "Modern times are indeed happy as few others have been, for we can think as we please, and speak as we think." He was referring to the reigns of the Antonines. This is very hard to beat. I wonder if it correctly describes the here and now.

I know it's an faq, but I'll ask anyway ;)

Any chance of the production a third half, please?


Great to see the 2nd volume out; I've given the first volume as gifts to several friends.


Well, it's a matter of debate whether Tacitus is being sincere or ironic in that passage. (Compare the passage in De Oratore where Tacitus explains that while oratorical skill has declined, that's really okay, because it's only needed in societies where the people run their own affairs, and now that all decisions are made for us by the Emperor we have nothing to argue about, and oratory is obsolete.

Derek, it isn't an FAQ at all, and the answer is no. I couldn't inhabit the Fall Revo universe sincerely - it's all future alternate history now, and so on.

The only books of mine open for sequels (etc) are Learning the World and The Night Sessions. I've already written short stories set in these futures, and I have ideas for more books.

Roderick, you have severely dented my admiration for the great historian. I would like to be charitable and say that he thought well of Enlightened Despots like Nerva and the other four were said to be by Gibbon. I really don't know much about this, so thanks for the info and the references. Very interesting. My point though, didn't concern Tacitus the possibly ironic writer. I was only interested in the style and pithiness of that great sentence. I am sure that it's even better in Latin. Isn't the concise, pungent style what literary people mean when they call it 'pointed?'.

Roderick, I just read the passage your link led me to. Holy Cow! What an eloquent denunciation of the role of eloquence! As if only shyster lawyers and slimy,slick, lying, politicos needed that talent in the past. What did T know about the Greek dramatists? Well, that's one reason I can understand the Romans as well (not much) as I do: if T. is right in that great passage, politico-speak has not changed one bit in structure and function since he wrote. Indeed, a certain new Commander In Chief's speeches are being studied like mad, with comparisons to Lincoln ad nauseam. That makes Obama not one bit better ( to T) than Caesar and Cicero, master manipulators. I'd agree.

I would like to be charitable and say that he thought well of Enlightened DespotsI guess charity comes in many flavours.

Must admit to not having read any of the Fall Revolution series. The pile of half-read books at my bedside is approaching a manageable size though so will have to pick them up. Got a few holidays on the horizon, perfect excuse for new reading material :-)

I just noticed that each of the two volumes takes its title from the first book in it, and the cover image from the second book in it.

I mean, of course I'd noticed the about the titles, but I hadn't noticed the images, and thus hadn't noticed the (intentional?) symmetry of taking the titles from one and the images from the other.

Roderick, until you brought it to my attention I hadn't noticed that, just as the first books have titles that echo each other (Fraction/Division), so do the second books (Canal/Road).

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