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The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the not-*those*-dreams-you-fool! dept.

Technology 154

Duncan Lawie, stalwart science fiction reviewer, this time steps up to the plate with what you might call a meta-science fiction book, Thomas Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World. Considering that SF has been around as such for far shorter than many other types of literature, a book like this sounds like it may be useful in explaining its disproportionate hold on the public imagination. (Personally, I'd like to read the stuff on Heinlein.)

*

Thomas M. Disch was raised in Minnesota and started publishing science fiction in the early 1960s. His close involvement with the New Wave meant much of his early work was more closely associated with the UK than with the country of his birth. From the mid-1970s, he has been as well known for his poetry. Though he has not ceased to write, his increasingly large sphere of interest has reduced his science fictional output considerably, though he clearly remains in close contact with the authors and trends of the genre. His literate, intelligent approach is apparent in all he does.

The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of sets out to present a critical history of science fiction but is perhaps more interesting instead as a critical view of the American psyche. Disch's thesis is built on twin foundations -- that science fiction is an American form and that Americans believe they have a "right to lie." The first pillar is not thoroughly investigated -- at least, the argument is unlikely to convince non-Americans. The second idea is approached from almost every angle; its corollary -- and the reason for Disch's subtitle -- is that people want to believe. Disch's exploration of science fiction can decide that Edgar Allen Poe is "our embarrassing ancestor" because he has already reached the decision that SF is itself an American form. He dismisses Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a progenitor because her science is "fast talking and stage props" which serves to set the stage for classic melodrama, rather than as the real core of the book. Against this, Poe is set up as a prototypical American hoaxer and that his 'science fiction' is defined by a genuine desire to convince readers that what he writes is not mere fiction. It is thanks to this root stock that Disch feels able to discuss science fiction beyond its existence as a literary and visual form.

The book is primarily structured as a series of thematic essays, without much emphasis on timeline. Disch assumes a reasonably well-read audience, while making considerable room for those unfamiliar with his more obscure subjects. This is, of course, a necessary approach as it is often through early authors (with works unavailable to the general public) that Disch builds his background. Nevertheless, he does not rely on them to provide him with sacrificial victims; he would far rather tear pieces off the big names we are already familiar with. There is no shortage of diatribe in these pages. The invective is principally concentrated on those who have come to use the form for their own propaganda and those who present their fictions as fact. In the first camp, his principle targets are famous names who have spent the latter parts of their career attempting to reshape their work or the history of the field itself. Heinlein is an obvious target; Disch provides a good serving on this author's long march from Radical Socialist to Radical Libertarian. He has even less good to say for the "military strategist" members of Heinlein's circle and very little to the benefit of Ursula Le Guin. His concerns with Le Guin are based on her apparent attempt to mould not just science fictional histories and futures to her own ends but the history and future of science fiction. According to Disch, Le Guin has gained vertiginous regard in academic circles and is using this position to influence the manner in which SF is taught academically. A particularly tasty element of his case against Le Guin involves his Aunt Cecilia's recipe for lemon pudding -- you too can cook a footnote.

Disch prefers to see the blemishes of the field he loves than to remake it in his own image but he retains his greatest scorn for those who attempt to remake the world in the image of their own fictions. This is where SF is indeed in danger of conquering the world. The principal natures of this particular megalomania are the UFOlogists and the home-made religions. Readers familiar with Disch will know of his long-standing disgust at Whitley Strieber and can enjoy the thorough dismantling of Strieber's alien encounters. Disch returns again and again to the UFOlogists and their increasing hold on the American mind: he compares the nature of these tales with the stories of science fiction itself, he discusses the increasing complexity of the scam which constitutes the average abduction tale, he considers the place of such beliefs alongside other modern manias for recovered memory. The ability of the human mind to "entertain" belief is a vital element for the success of these alien tales. The desire to actually believe is essential to the success of the 'science fiction religions' and, Disch suggests, the most successful of these in the late twentieth century is Scientology. Like Strieber, he recalls, L. Ron Hubbard started out as a science fiction writer. Like Strieber, Hubbard wanted more. Unlike Strieber, though, Hubbard was supported -- at first -- by the SF community from which he came. His first public presentation of Dianetics was in Astounding Science Fiction, after Hubbard had apparently already suggested that "if a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion." Disch's final position is that, amongst the many deluded minds, there are those who have realized that the best way to make money from fiction is to present it as fact, and the fiction that people most want to believe in our era are fictions of a better future -- science fiction.

The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of offers hugely entertaining detail and such incisive insight that it earns forgiveness for its inevitable moments of contrariness.


You can purchase this book at ThinkGeek, and you may want to check out Thomas M. Disch's website as well. Me:

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Re:Nice review (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 12 years ago | (#461745)

Come now... Americans don't own the corner of the market on lying. Denial and self-rationalization thrives in Europe as well, I'm certain.

Hardback edition (3)

volsung (378) | more than 12 years ago | (#461746)

You can also grab used copies of the hardback edition of this book at Half.com [half.com] for around the same price ($8-$12.50). Three copies currently available.

Disclaimer: No, I am not one of the people selling this book there. I just happen to really like half.com.

over 99% correct to your 94% (2)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 12 years ago | (#461750)

Gee, so I mispelled one word out of over 200.
Well,
no-one expects ...

Next time you're going to be such a dick, you should make sure you're 100% correct...

Frankenstein first? (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 12 years ago | (#461753)

<P>Frankenstein is generally considered the first
"what-if" book based on a scientific principle.
<A HREF="http://www.desert-fairy.com/franken.shtml"&g t; Here </A> is a reference.
This novel was written in the <A HREF="http://www.ieee.org/organizations/history_ce nter/early_history_electricity.html"> early days </A>
of electricty between Franklin's kite experiment in 1747 and the electic motor in 1820.
</P>

wonder what he said about.. (2)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 12 years ago | (#461755)

I will be curious to read this and see what he has to say about HG Wells. As far as "science fiction" is concerned, I have always thought it to be a reasonable projection, based on current technology, of where we will be at a certain time.

Look at some of the things that are basically unpatentable now due to them being pre-written about:

microwaves
waterbeds
heated floors
UV sterilizers for rooms when people arent in them.
(thanks RAH!)

Seems to me from the review, that he is more interested in attacking the politics of the authors than he is in wondering about "science fiction" itself.

I wonder what his take on Ellison is, the man who announced (after recieving several awards) that he was "no longer a sci-fi writer, but was a fantasy writer now, as there was no money left in sci-fi". (or so niven said, in "playgrounds of the mind") If ever there was a political mover and shaker, or one who tried to mold the genre to fit his personal views, it is Ellison. (and Bradbury to a lesser extent).

That has a lot less to do with "fiction" than it does with what the Author felt at the time.

Heinlein, himself, in the blurbs in his anthologies, explained a lot of his viewpoint changes and why they happened. Niven and Pournelle also have a tendency to do this. I do not need a reviewer telling me what they did, when I can read in the authors own words why their opinions and feelings changed.

Heinlein, as an example, was in the military. After watching a war, his attitudes changed. he also began writing on a lark, not for any great cause.. as a supplement for his money.. and you have to remember.. this man wrote for over half a century.. there is a *lot* of sociological change that goes on in that period, leading him to go from anti-nuke (mistakes happen) anti war (starship troopers) to group love (number of the beast) and multiple wives (lazarus long). His opinions changed a *lot* around the first heart surgery he had, possibly him coming to grips with his own mortality, and suddenly realizing there are other things in life to worry about. (though I could have done with a lot less of horny old maureen in the later books, and more with some of the other characters).

I will have to read this book, and see what is up!

Maeryk

hmmm (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#461756)

I don't get it, I'll have to read the book

The Dreams of Science Fiction are based on lies, and therefore *what*?

Technically, any fiction, anything invented, is, in a certain sense, a lie of sorts.

so do we now get all moral about this an decry this sort of lying?

maybe I read it too fast, or something.

But this type of creative thinking, these so called "lies" are the things from which we build our future. It gives us something to work towards.

Let's see - - - we look around and see an imperfect world. And so we create a story of a better world. We should say well that is all a lie and therefore we shouldn't even bother?

maybe I'm getting it wrong here, but it smells like a certain kind of FUD going on here, in the guise of being *so* intellectual.

I'm starting to wonder if being certain kinds of "intellectual" is just an excuse to FUD around.

us vs uk style (2)

linuxpimp (236963) | more than 12 years ago | (#461757)

I have to disagree with Disch about Mary Shelley not being "real" science fiction. While Frankenstein wasn't hard sf by any streatch of the imagination, it set up certain patterns that would emerge in European (esp. the UK) science fiction. Frankenstein is primarily concerned with the relationship of the individual to the community and ethical questions that concern society at large. These themes were continued in Wells, Huxley, etc. Nathaniel Hawthorne's scifi stories like "Rappaccini's Garden" also fall in this category. However, most American scifi was based on the tradition of low budget serials, e.g. "Steam Man From the Plains," which focuses on the inprobable adventures of a frontier boy and his steam-powered robot. The attitude of self-reliance and coming of age that defined the American West leaked into the American scifi genre and into the short stories published in Hugo Gernsback's "Amazing Stories" and other magazines, which influenced almost all American scifi authors of the first half of the twentieth century.

In short, British/European science fiction is rooted in late Romanticism and is often concerned with the community. American science fiction is formed by a self-reliant streak that was part of the 19th century national character. Neither one is "better" in an objective sense, just different.

Re:hoist by your own petard (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 12 years ago | (#461758)

Which would seem to imply that elements of science fiction have existed since the first glimmerings of scientific thought.

If intellectual flavor is your criterion, then Conneticut Yankee is most certainly science fiction. It was written to critique the Romantic historicism being favored by elitists on both sides of the Atlantic. In the book, not only are the ancient nobles ignorant brutes, but technological knowledge allows the New England commoner to conquer them easily.

The idea that technology is a source of empowerment over social stratification is about as science fiction as you can get.

--
Bush's assertion: there ought to be limits to freedom

If you have enjoyed this book... (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 12 years ago | (#461759)

Thomas Disch is also known as the man who perpetrated _The Brave Little Toaster_ (and its sequel, _The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars_).

Make of this what you will.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (2)

Jodrell (191685) | more than 12 years ago | (#461760)

Anyone noticed how Michael Crichton's novels all follow the same pattern? Here's how it goes:

  1. Something interesting/dangerous needs investigating.
  2. A team of scientists are assembled to investigate it.
  3. Something goes wrong, most commonly hubris on the part of one of the scientists or the sponsors/political leaders.
  4. After a few deaths, the scientists get their heads together and calmly work their way out of the situation, resolving their personal problems at the same time.

I've found that most of Crichton's work follows this pattern, including:

  • The Andromeda Strain
  • Jurassic Park
  • Sphere

The noteable exceptions that I know of are Westworld and Rising Sun, anyone know of any others?

Anyway, I'm calling it "Crichton's Law" ;)


Re:Great book (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461761)

No kidding. I had a good chuckle when I saw this:

"His close involvement with the New Wave meant much of his early work was more closely associated with the UK than with the country of his birth. "

As if he would only be dealing with American writers if he was around in 1890!

So far as I am concerned, the history of Science Fiction begins with H.G. Wells.

I don't really consider Poe to be a science fiction writer. His short story "Into the Maelstrom" was a very convincing tale of an adventure that he obviously never had, but sci-fi had little to do with it.

Props to old Edgar for writing the first great story that gives a detail account of encryption hacking ("The Gold Bug")... but I would say that he is a lot closer, in both style and substance, to Herman Melville than to Isaac Asimov.

Re:Mike Sinz said it best (1)

GruffDavies (257448) | more than 12 years ago | (#461762)

I thought it was "Quantum particles: the dreams that stuff is made of" and I thought it was Paul Davies that said it...

Re:Edgar Allan Poe (2)

Jodrell (191685) | more than 12 years ago | (#461763)

Of course, the author also screws up by failing to note the most important thing to know about science fiction -- that as literature, most of it is abysmal.

This is true to a certain extent, but I think that bad SF is mostly perpetrated in other forms (e.g. TV and film) - mainly because production executives mistake it for "family entertainment", or the writers think that special effects are an effective substitute for bad dialogue and poor plots. It's funny, the production companies spend so much time and money developing SFX for SF tv and movies, when a bit of extra script development time would render it unecessary, and improve the quality at the same time!


Actually Shakespeare said it best (2)

GruffDavies (257448) | more than 12 years ago | (#461764)

These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air; and like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve; and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. -- Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV

Re:Fiction becoming fact (1)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 12 years ago | (#461765)


They got addicted to Everquest.

--

'Academic' Infighting (2)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 12 years ago | (#461766)

According to Disch, Le Guin has gained vertiginous regard in academic circles and is using this position to influence the manner in which SF is taught academically.

Who gives a flying hooey how 'SF is taught academically'? Brilliant science fiction is only rarely produced by 'students' or 'academics'. All those college sci-fi (yep, that's what I still call it ;) lit classes can do is pretentiously pick over the bones of what has come before, fluffing each others egos in an ultimately pointless academic love-fest. Nothing useful whatsoever comes from their ponderings.

Someone, somewhere, will always be writing something brilliant.

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (2)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 12 years ago | (#461767)

**What was, I think, pioneered in the US was science fiction as a genre. That formed around Doc Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Amazing Stories and the like. Someone correct me if I'm wrong...**

You are right. You mised Gardner, L Sprague De Camp, (dead on on the Lensman).

I also credit (believe it or not) Dixon with "the hardy boys" and the fellow who wrote the Tom Swift stuff. People who read this as children went on to read more mind-opening question asking fiction as they got older.. Conan, Pellucidar, ERB's Lost World, etc. This led in time to the other "antique" authors who were churning stuff out heavily in the range of the 1950's, when the boom *really* started to kickoff.

I still dont consider Bradbury to be Science Fiction.. he pretty much takes history and rewrites it into the future, AFAIC, which isnt much of a stretch. One I keep *not* seeing mentioned, is Anthony Burgess.. who tended to play with a bizarre and not-so distant future, based on trends obvious in the present.

Just my .02

Maeryk

True (2)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 12 years ago | (#461768)

I'd seen a PBS series, The Story of English [pbs.org] that had some things I found to be rather interesting:

1) all communication between airplane and control tower, anywhere in the world, is conducted in English

2) a lot of European companies conduct their business in English, even if none of the parties involved are from an english speaking country.

3) English is an approved language for official documents in China

Mike Sinz said it best (2)

kyz (225372) | more than 12 years ago | (#461769)

"Quantum Physics - the dreams that stuff is made of" -- Michael Sinz

In case you're wondering where that joke came from.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

Ugmo (36922) | more than 12 years ago | (#461770)

Max Headroom
20 minutes into the future.
Gimme the star

Nice review (3)

Yoshi Have Big Tail (312184) | more than 12 years ago | (#461772)

It's really nice to see something as literate and well-written as that posted to Slashdot.

Perhaps it will start a trend :-).

On the American right to lie, I think it's a good point - Americans do think they have a right to lie.

But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's through the American arrogance that such a great nation has been built.

You don't make the greatest country on Earth by being nice to everyone.

Also, even though lieing is a positive thing from a success point of view, I think in many respects Americans have a right to lie - as human beings (the most successful animal), we have dominion over the animals, and as the most successful nation, I think America should be allowed a little leeway.

Great book (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#461775)

I got it when it first came out, and just re-read it. Caused quite a stir in the SF field when it came out. I don't agree with his argument that SF is an American form of literature, but his arguments are well presented and entertaining.
In other news, Jerry Pournelle [jerrypournelle.com] is reporting that Gordon R. Dickson has died.

School (1)

Rosonowski (250492) | more than 12 years ago | (#461779)

I just seem to full of stuff about my school today.

Anways, they have a great class at my school.
20 weeks of talking about sci-fi. The homework:he might assign you to watch dune or something to that effect.

No work, fun discusions. 1/2 credit in english or science. I only wish I could take it twice.

"I have not slept a wink"

Avatars are still around (1)

fibonacci8 (260615) | more than 12 years ago | (#461780)

Everquest, Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, and others. They're chat rooms with monsters and quests. And each and every person has an avatar.

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

democritus (17634) | more than 12 years ago | (#461781)

Sorry but no.

Asimov is Russian, moved to the US in 1923. The other three are British, though it's hard to call Adams a "seminal author." Yes, he writes amusing books, but just because book has spaceships doesn't mean it's sci-fi. Adams is a humorist, writing a farce.

And what's this about America not having any good sci-fi writers? To the names Heinlien, Asimov (he moved to the US before he was 3), Niven, Pournelle, Varley, Brin, Robinson, Sheffield or Bova mean anything to you? While I don't agree that sci-fi is a purely American artform, we sure have made a decent sized contribution.

Now what's really curious is why Jules Verne wasn't mentioned at all...

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

Jodrell (191685) | more than 12 years ago | (#461782)

Robert Heinlein: American
Cliff Simak: American
Phillip K. Dick: American
Carl Sagan: American
Gene Roddenberry: American
J. Michael Stracynski: American

Now, I'm British, but I have to admit that Americans have made a major contribution to SF. Not only have they produced some brilliant writers and film-makers, but American culture has helped raise the genre's profile and level of acceptance beyond mere "cult" status. This is something we should be grateful for.


Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 12 years ago | (#461783)

Congo is like that. Good book, baaaaaaad movie! I liked The Terminal Man. I always thought it was a great movie of contrasts :-)

----

Re:If you have enjoyed this book... (2)

Lotek (29809) | more than 12 years ago | (#461784)

Okay, admittedly OT here, but..

For the longest time, back when I had Television, I thought that the Disney channel had become the Brave Little Toaster Channel. Every freaking time I surfed past, THERE IT WAS!

It was almost as bad as the Milo and Otis Networks of my Youth. (Shudder.)

Just one of the many reasons I mostly avoid TV now.

Re:Actually Shakespeare said it best (2)

barawn (25691) | more than 12 years ago | (#461785)

This is the source of the "the stuff that dreams are made of" quote, not "the dreams that stuff is made from". Note the 'witty' switching of noun and object - oh so clever.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

fibonacci8 (260615) | more than 12 years ago | (#461786)

Nah, that's the classic greek tragedy line. Read Oedipus Rex to better get the idea. 1. The King's been slain and a plague fall's upon the land. 2. No one knows why, let's all ask the oracle! 3 & 4. Oedipus finds out it was him, eye gouging and wandering in the wilderness commence.

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

frygdsjbvjdfs (312233) | more than 12 years ago | (#461787)

The major UKian contribution to science fiction seems to be "Red Dwarf" - My god what a stupid annoying whiny fucking show that is.

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

davidmb (213267) | more than 12 years ago | (#461788)

4 of those I'll possibly grant you, the other two....
Still, you've got a point

Great book review (1)

magic (19621) | more than 12 years ago | (#461789)

This is a very well written and informative book review-- thanks! -m

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461797)

Sorry, you don't quite get the "no-prize".

"The Andromeda Strain" fails to fit your profile. The story begins with your step 3: Something goes wrong, and continues from there.

Actually, most of his books are not like that at all.

The Great Train Robbery - Story of a train heist
Eaters of the Dead - An arab encounters a Viking culture
Disclosure - A computer geek gets framed for sexual harrassment to cover a scandal
Congo - A corporate firms races against the competition to stake a diamond claim deep in the African jungle
The Terminal Man - After a car crash, a man slowly changes into a killer cyborg
ER - "Saint Elswhere" with more car-crash victims.

Science Fiction : 17th Century (2)

acroyear (5882) | more than 12 years ago | (#461798)

Science Fiction as a concept is older than most people think. Its only its popularity that's "new".

Kepler wrote a book, Somnium (trans: "The Dream"), about man flying to the moon and seeing the earth from the moon, in the early 1600s.

Re:Fiction becoming fact (1)

Frums (112820) | more than 12 years ago | (#461799)

Speaking of Snow Crash and fact becoming fiction. Both that work, and Vinge's True names, and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier are regular required reading in CS Phd programs. Snow Crash in particular I know for a fact is required by one professor at Georgia tech.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (2)

Grab (126025) | more than 12 years ago | (#461800)

Depends on what you think sci-fi is. If you think that descriptions of cool gadgets are more important than the story, then sure, a lot of sci-fi isn't.

But if you reckon that the sci-fi/fantasy aspect is there to present a different world in which things happen differently, and the actions and reactions of the characters in this environment, then Frankenstein fits perfectly. Taking Asimov's robots as an example, the actions of each robot's personality in following the Laws is the important element, not the fact of the robot's construction.

So it all hinges on your definition of sci-fi. Which really comes down to "sci-fi is what sci-fi writers write" - and good luck getting a better definition! :-)

Grab.

Re:Edgar Allan Poe (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 12 years ago | (#461801)

I have to agree. When Kurt Vonnegut wrote Player Piano, he never intended it to be a work of high art. Many of his books have SF elements in them (Slaughterhouse 5, Prometheus 5, etc). His books are wildly popular though with the lit crit community tho, and rightly so.

----

Re:Edgar Allan Poe (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461802)

IIRC, many of the classic "Arabian Nights" stories involved a hero who had to solve mysteries. While Poe might have been the first to do so in the form of a novel, the "detective story" goes back a lot farther.

Re:Nice review (1)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 12 years ago | (#461803)

who needs a 'right' to lie. lie if it serves your purpose. don't if it doesn't. there is no such thing as 'rights' other than a legal defintion.

Re:Edgar Allan Poe (2)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 12 years ago | (#461804)

Of course, the author also screws up by failing to note the most important thing to know about science fiction -- that as literature, most of it is abysmal.

I think that fact is way too obvious to be a serious omission. As Theodore Sturgeon pointed out, "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud."

(Yes, in the original quote it was "crud", not "crap".)

Re:Gordon R. Dickson, RIP (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 12 years ago | (#461813)

That is *really* sad. The Dorsai books changed my life.

Disch is an extraordinary intellectual... (1)

Caffeinated (122694) | more than 12 years ago | (#461814)

although I actually prefer his "horror" novels (the supernatural Minnesota books) over his science fiction novels. His sci-fi always seemed a little drab to me, but when his books are ground in a contemporary setting, everything seems much more live and extraordinary.

This is a link to a very comprehensive Disch site [freeserve.co.uk] , and here is one to Amnesia [theunderdogs.org] , an Infocom-style text adventure that he wrote back in the mid-'80s (and cites in Dreams).

- - - - -

Re:Nice review (2)

barawn (25691) | more than 12 years ago | (#461815)

There are a few counterarguments to bacteria, parasites, etc. that don't apply to humans. Granted, we're human, and so we have a biased point-of-view.

For instance: bacteria/parasites/diseases. We can produce an environment almost completely without bacteria/parasites/disease: (space, for instance) the bacteria cannot do the same with us (much as they try). The same essentially goes for domesticated animals- we don't need them around, we suffer their presence.

In essence, the point is just that while other animals may exploit humans, we choose to let them exploit us, whereas they have no choice as to whether or not we exploit them.

Think of it this way: if we founded a colony on Mars, and that colony brought no bacteria/domesticated animals, well, they wouldn't be able to exploit us then, would they? (Granted, new diseases would evolve, but this is different: every living being has to fend off other predators- the fact that humans do as well is immaterial)

Simply put: 'dominion' is actually somewhat the correct word for it. Humans are now capable of doing whatever we want to any living species on the planet. The same cannot be said about any other living species. In some respects, that makes us the most successful animal.

Plus, if we ever do migrate off-planet, then we have the potential to become the longest-lived animal species, which definitely qualifies as the most successful by Nature's definition.

Amnesia (1)

lemox (126382) | more than 12 years ago | (#461816)

Sorry for the offtopicness, but does anyone remember Thomas M. Disch's Amnesia [sparkynet.com] ? That was probably one of the best written (and definitely the longest) text games I've played.

Re:Edgar Allan Poe (1)

Caffeinated (122694) | more than 12 years ago | (#461817)

re: Poe was responsible for the idea of the novel as an intellectual creation rather than an emotional one.

Um, yeah right. Poe spent a lot of time masquerading as an intellectual for respectability, but I think he was more of a Picasso-type absinthe muddled genius. But that's just me (not that I'm dissing Poe, I'm a huge fan).

w/r/t "most of sci-fi as abyssmal," isn't that the point of the last chapter?

- - - - -

Re:Yeah, like language... (2)

dsplat (73054) | more than 12 years ago | (#461818)

To a certain extent I have to agree with you. It is typically American to either never learn a second language or make only a half-hearted attempt at it. Even those of us who make the attempt have difficulty maintaining fluency. At one time I had learned enough French and German to ask direction on the street and order a meal. I haven't used either in years and couldn't manage now. I learned even more Spanish, but I haven't spoken that in over a decade and have lost most of it.

Where monolingualism crosses the line into arrogance is when it includes the expectation that the world will come to us linguistically. Not bothering to learn other languages to speak to foreigners visiting your homeland is simply a choice. Going abroad and relying on short English words spoken loudly is arrogance.

Sed mi flue parolas Esperanto, kiel naciulo.

Re:Fiction becoming fact (1)

TheOutlawTorn (192318) | more than 12 years ago | (#461819)

Any idea where an interested party could pick up a copy of True Names? I've heard it's coming back into print, but are there any caches of used ones out there?

Older than he credits (1)

Frums (112820) | more than 12 years ago | (#461820)

I'm going to step on a (admittedly wide) limb here and say that sci-fi goes back to the early roots of literature. Some of the earliest recorded work, say Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the book I cannot rememebr but written by the Popul Vu people of South America with a section generally referred to as "The Wooden People" all can be considered Sci-Fi in that they base their stories around extrapolations of the currently understood functioning of the world. The term "science" as it is presently use had really been invented yet, but the infatuation with speculative, extrapolative, fiction was at the core of much work. Gilgamesh and the Popul Vu both predate such nice things and famous writers as Aristotle.

Re:Science Fiction : 17th Century (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461821)

If you want to go back even more, you could make a case for Homer's Oddesssey. At the time, sailing to unknown lands was their equivalent of a voyage into space.

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

Eazy-N (215511) | more than 12 years ago | (#461822)

Oh yeah? What about:
Quatermass
Dr. Who
Thunderbirds/Captain Scarlet/etc
Hitch hiker's Guide To The Galaxy
The Prisoner

...and that's just off the top of my head!

Eazy-N

Well what else did you expect? (4)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 12 years ago | (#461823)

He dismisses Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a progenitor because her science is "fast talking and stage props" which serves to set the stage for classic melodrama, rather than as the real core of the book

Which means that Mary Shelley got it right. The best Science Fiction has never been about the technology, but about people. The technology merely serves as a backdrop to get the people into an interesting situation, or presents new obstacles or opportunities for the characters.

Re:If you have enjoyed this book... (1)

Caffeinated (122694) | more than 12 years ago | (#461832)

Thomas Disch is also the man who is getting scr3wed by Disney, who is making more Toaster sequels and not paying him for rights to the character. And have you actually read Toaster? If you're thinking that a Disney movie might somehow be an accurate reflection of the story it was based on, go rent Aladdin.

- - - - -

Re:I just want my air car (1)

frank249 (100528) | more than 12 years ago | (#461833)

The Moller Skycar [moller.com] is making real progress. News here [moller.com] . Apparently the military is evaluating it and they have just filed with the SEC to go public.

A few more years and everyone will be flying to work and landing on sky scrapers.

Yeah, like language... (5)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 12 years ago | (#461834)

One of the "US Arrogances" I've always heard is that we American's are arrogant because we don't learn other languages.

The reality of life in America seems to escape non-Americans. Most people I went to school with learned another language(for example, ich kann deutsch). However, unlike people in other countries, it's quite far/expensive for us to travel someplace where English is not the primary language. Thus, we're unable to practice and maintain any form of fluency.

I'd spoken with a German about this once in the late 80's(he used to use the internet to get to a modem in Houston to call my BBS). He had mentioned the "language arrogance" so I asked him how long it took to him to travel to another country where German was not the language - a mear 3 hour drive, and another 3 hours on top of that to get to where a 3rd language was required.

Contrast that to America. I live in Houston. To drive to Mexico would take about 7 hours. To drive to Canada would take close to 30 hours. Going west to San Francisco would take 32 hours, and going East to New York would take 27 hours. English is the primary language everywhere within this driving range.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

earlgrey (15039) | more than 12 years ago | (#461835)

Max Headroom?

Re:Amnesia (1)

frygdsjbvjdfs (312233) | more than 12 years ago | (#461836)

It's somewhat amusing that you ask if anyone remembers amnesia...

Heinlein (2)

Goon Number 1 (168487) | more than 12 years ago | (#461837)

Heinlein is an obvious target; Disch provides a good serving on this author's long march from Radical Socialist to Radical Libertarian.
Heinlein didn't neccesarily agree with the views he was showing in his books, he was just exploring different ideas.
from here: http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail81.html
Scroll down to the section on Talin and Starship Troopers

I am tempted to give Larry Niven's answer to the chap who wrote to complain about the attitudes of one of the characters in Niven's "How the Heroes Die." Larry wrote: "We in the writing profession have a technical term for people who believe that the authors believe everything their characters believe. We call them 'idiots'. None of my best friends are idiots. Merry Christmas."

Re:Edgar Allan Poe (1)

streetlawyer (169828) | more than 12 years ago | (#461838)

You're quite right

Borges also makes that point; Poe thought of himself as a poet rather than a prose stylist. Borges also correctly notes that it's a shame his poetry wasn't better. His prose is him in mannered, respectable style, while the poetry is the other side.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (2)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 12 years ago | (#461839)

"What differentiates real SF from Crichton and his ilk is that at the end of non-SF the evil science is defeated and destroyed, and we are back in the world that we now live in. Whereas real SF involves a change in the world, and it is a good thing." Lois McMaster Bujold

I would heartily disagree with this quote. The moral standing or permenance of scifi tech is not a defining charecteristic of the genre, any more than the moral standing or permanence of a magical event is for fantasy, or the moral standing or permanence of a haunting is to horror.

Individual stories in many genres use the plot device of "something is changing in the world, but by the end of the story the change has been averted and only a few people know that it had ever been happening." Even the "and then he woke up" or "but it was all a flash of imagination in the instant he died" endings don't (IMHO) change the genre status of the intervening story.

Kahuna Burger

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

frygdsjbvjdfs (312233) | more than 12 years ago | (#461840)

The Prisoner is shit - Oh yeah - I'm fucking terrified of a whie balloon chasing King Longshanks around.

But Mark Twain was first (1)

typical geek (261980) | more than 12 years ago | (#461841)

and American, though Samuel Clemens' pro-American Anti-European themes (cf. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, the Prince and the Dauphin episode) may cause European critic to give him short shrift.

It's not surprise that Mark Twain has not been mentioned yet, as he's basically become a non-person thanks to the overwhelming political correctness movement on high school and college campuses (sorry, there were slaves, they were called the n-word, if you would read Huck Finn you would see that n-word Jim is perhaps the most moving, fully fleshed and capable character in the book, but capable black people are shunned by the PC movement, look at the tarring of C. Thomas 10 years ago), though in defense of /.'s own resident attorney, his education probably has huge holes in it due to the extensive studying in law that his curriculym demanded, to the disclusion of humanities, an all to similar fate affects most /.er's, sadly.

For a good appreciation of the debt SF owes Mark Twain, try a search engine, or here. [uiowa.edu]

define very few (1)

typical geek (261980) | more than 12 years ago | (#461842)

Now, I am not a lawyer, but very few implies at least one, right?

More from the article:

By no means do I wish to belittle the stature of Mark Twain as a major figure in the history of SF. Indeed, it seems to me that Ketterer if anything is too defensive and timid in presenting his subject. Part of his problem here may lie in the simple fact that Twain's importance in SF comes almost entirely from a single work, a work that towers as perhaps the greatest achievement of l9th-century American SF: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Now I'd ask you if creating just one work allows one to be known as the father of the field, but you probably don't know your father, indeed, calling a lawyer a bastard is redundant.

3D Chatrooms (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 12 years ago | (#461843)

Try Active Worlds [activeworlds.com] . Not VRML (as far as I know), but some other custom protocol. Only Windows clients tough. It is fun, well *I* had lotsa fun hours on it.

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (2)

update() (217397) | more than 12 years ago | (#461844)

Well, I see the every-Friday US-UK troll squabble has spilled up out of -1. ;-)

I can't help wondering how the Frenchman Jules Verne didn't make your list. I would consider him the real originator of what we know as science fiction, lit-crit cleverness about Poe or Shelley aside.

What was, I think, pioneered in the US was science fiction as a genre. That formed around Doc Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Amazing Stories and the like. Someone correct me if I'm wrong...

Re:Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

robbway (200983) | more than 12 years ago | (#461845)

Excellent examples of SF not being primarily American. Jules Verne is a Frenchman who was very influential in the genre. Both the French and the English are really the biggest influences in molding SF into what it is today.

However, American money makes American SF, particularly movies, the most influential force right now. All I can say is read the book and we can see if he means "pop culture," of which there are many national flavors.

----------------------

Fiction becoming fact (1)

TheOutlawTorn (192318) | more than 12 years ago | (#461846)

I wonder if the great science fiction writers gain satisfaction from seeing things they originally wrote of as fiction come to pass in reality. For instance, the Avatars in "Snow Crash". Do you think Neil got goosebumps when he saw his first avatar oriented chat room?

Dismissing frankenstein? (3)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 12 years ago | (#461847)

He dismisses Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a progenitor because her science is "fast talking and stage props" which serves to set the stage for classic melodrama, rather than as the real core of the book.

I don't buy it. "fast talking and stage props" describes half of the sci fi tech out there, and how else would you describe the motivating force of the entire story except as the core of the book.

Frankenstein actually sort of reminds me of some of Criton's (sp?) work, like congo. Sort of a "twenty minutes in the future"* idea that reaches seemingly just a little farther than the advances of the day and discovers something totally other.

Sounds a little like he formed an opinion then interpreted the evidence to support it.

* gold star (but no Karma) for identifying the line.

Kahuna Burger

Re:Great book (2)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 12 years ago | (#461849)

Do you have a link to the notice? It can be hard to find stuff at Chaos Manor and it does not appear to be on the front page. I'm going to have to take the day off if this true. :( I do agree with you though on SF *not* being American, Verne and Wells both had it going on a very long time ago.

considering that religeons 100's of years ago (1)

LennyDotCom (26658) | more than 12 years ago | (#461851)

used the bible as thier basis for science I think this quote

Considering that SF has been around as such for far shorter than many other types of literature,

is not valid
The bible is the oldest work of sience fiction

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#461853)

"fast talking and stage props" describes half of the sci fi tech out there

Which is a point that Disch makes...

Gordon R. Dickson, RIP (3)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#461857)

here [jerrypournelle.com] at the bottom of that days view.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

rudbek (28000) | more than 12 years ago | (#461862)

Well there is precedent for not including Crichton's work as SF. The reason applies equally well to Frankenstein. Though it is not the reason given by Disch. Wish I remebered where I got this quote (sorry).

"What differentiates real SF from Crichton and his ilk is that at the end of non-SF the evil science is defeated and destroyed, and we are back in the world that we now live in. Whereas real SF involves a change in the world, and it is a good thing." Lois McMaster Bujold

Re:Yeah, like language... (1)

CraigoFL (201165) | more than 12 years ago | (#461863)

However, unlike people in other countries, it's quite far/expensive for us to travel someplace where English is not the primary language.

That's more a function of your region rather than your country. There's lots of places within the US where English is not the mother tounge of most of the residents. Miami is the example that's closest to me; I'd wager that theres plenty of areas near Houston where Spanish is the preferred language. Also note the Asian districts in various cities (Chinatown in San Francisco), or the French Quarter in New Orleans.

There's plenty of languages in the US, you just need to know where to look.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (2)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 12 years ago | (#461864)

Congo - A corporate firms races against the competition to stake a diamond claim deep in the African jungle

I disagree. Congo fits his profile perfectly. The orriginal mission encounters an unexpected stressor (psychotic talking apes) at which point the personality flaws of group members come out to prevent them from dealing with it correctly, and everyone goes home barely alive and depressed.

Awful book, I thought. What the hell does he have against math prodigies anyway? I actually disliked the book more than the movie, if that's possible.

Kahuna Burger

Re:Yeah, like language... (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461865)

America is a nation of immigrants, and has always had pockets of non-english-speaking recent arrivals. Their children usually learn English, though, so this separation only lasts one generation, and by then a wave of immigrants from a completely different part of the world is coming in.

If we all took the trouble to learn German and Italian when all the immigration was coming from there, it would have done us very little good when the flood of migration from East Asia and Central America kicked in... it would just mean there would be two more languages that people would need to deal with when they came here.

A one-language nation is much more immigrant-friendly, if you ask me. I would hate to move to a country where dozens of languages are spoken, according to region. Knowing that you only need to get the hang of one new language in order to get by is very handy.

Re:Dismissing frankenstein? (1)

update() (217397) | more than 12 years ago | (#461866)

Well, the Andromeda Strain" is:
1) The pathogen kills the town.
2) The team of scientists is assembled.
3) They can't figure out how to stop it.
4) They make a breakthrough but then have their lives threatened.

So it's a little off the blueprint but I'd say it essentially fits it. And Congo is straight out of the Crichton-o-matic.

By the way, that review was excellent - literate, well-thought-out, insightful and did an excellent job conveying the sense of the book.

Re:Great book (1)

guinsu (198732) | more than 12 years ago | (#461867)

Poe did write a story about taking a balloon to the moon, I forget the name of it, I found it in a very old collection of his stories when I was 10.

We have a winner! (1)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 12 years ago | (#461868)

Max Headroom?

Indeed. and not just those silly Pepsi commercials, either. :)

Kahuna Burger

20 Min into the fu-fu-future (2)

bjorky (78181) | more than 12 years ago | (#461869)

Max Headroom

Who ever thought a stutter would be so popular?

-----

hoist by your own petard (2)

streetlawyer (169828) | more than 12 years ago | (#461870)

From your own link:

Yet by any even halfheartedly rigorous definition, very few of these works are truly SF.

Mark Twain anticipated a couple of narrative devices which were later used in science fiction. However, his writings lacked the intellectual flavor of science fiction, and can't be considered part of the genre. In any case, juxtaposing a modern person with an ancient setting and vice versa is far older device than Twain; it occurs at least once in Homer, and Swift made use of a similar device a hundred years earlier. I dare say that something similar happened in the bible, though it doesn't come to mind.

Re:Nice review (1)

CraigoFL (201165) | more than 12 years ago | (#461871)

Obligatory Devil's Advocate post:

We can produce an environment almost completely without bacteria/parasites/disease: (space, for instance)

Wow, I didn't know we produced space! :-)

In essence, the point is just that while other animals may exploit humans, we choose to let them exploit us, whereas they have no choice as to whether or not we exploit them.

Check out the Center for Disease Control [cdc.gov] . Depending on what you mean by "exploited", one could easily argue that we choose not to be exploited by bacteria or viruses, but are slowly losing that fight, despite all our efforts.

Think of it this way: if we founded a colony on Mars, and that colony brought no bacteria/domesticated animals, well, they wouldn't be able to exploit us then, would they?

The trouble is that we humans are so infested with all sorts of bacteria that we can't go anywhere without bringing them along. And as for domesticated animals... you'll probably get pretty hungry that way, since we would have nothing to eat (in your arguement, there's really no reason why you shouldn't lump plants into the same category as animals). We are dependant upon other life forms for food, just as a lot of other species are.

Simply put: 'dominion' is actually somewhat the correct word for it. Humans are now capable of doing whatever we want to any living species on the planet.

Last I heard, there was still no cure for the HIV virus, and the mosquito has been doing quite well even though it's in our best interest to get rid of it.

Plus, if we ever do migrate off-planet, then we have the potential to become the longest-lived animal species, which definitely qualifies as the most successful by Nature's definition.

Uhh, longest-lived how? Blue-green algae has been pretty much unchanged for billions of years. Sharks (a complex and intelligent animal) have had the same general biology for millions. Homo Sapiens have existed for a tens of thousands; we've had civilization (the first stage of environmental control) for a few thousand, and any real impact on the world as a whole for a few hundred. We've got a lot of catching up to do in order to become the longest-lived species.

Just so that I'm not making a colossal mistake here, were you trying to get a +1 Funny for your post?

Re:define very few (1)

streetlawyer (169828) | more than 12 years ago | (#461872)

calling a lawyer a bastard is redundant.

Calling a "typical geek" a cunt, however, is a duty, and one which I am happy to do.

Re:Yeah, like language... (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461873)

Fortunatly for us, the British Empire spread the practice of speaking English to most corners of the world. In India, Enlish is the only language spoken by nearly everybody. (It's not the first language for any of them, but it's the second language for almost all of them.)

Between England and the US, this language has been the international language of commerce for two Centuries. It is possible that 21st Century America will decline the way 20th Century England did, and somebody else will be the next economic superpower... but if their language is not well suited to tty screens and keyboards (i.e., most of Asia), they will probably use English, too.

There are, however, a few really out-of-touch third world nations that don't speak much English. France, for example. For their sake, we sometimes need to learn other languages, in the unlikely event that we need to ask directions to get to Euro-Disney. ;)

Re:Great book (1)

pallex (126468) | more than 12 years ago | (#461874)

I`d say `the picture of Dorian Grey` by Oscar Wilde was science fiction!

Re:Nice review (1)

gus goose (306978) | more than 12 years ago | (#461875)

Of course, you opened yourself up to this one ... Americans are not only able to lie, but they lie to themselves, ti such an extent they actually believe those lies. This is a near definition of arrogance. It is this arrogance which leads you to believe "America is the greatest country on earth ..."

Many non-Americans have a lot to say about the U.S.Arrogance.

Now that my rant is over, I have to admit that I will be a pile of ashes soon, having risen to such obvious flame-bait.

Re:Nice review (1)

Jodrell (191685) | more than 12 years ago | (#461876)

as human beings (the most successful animal), we have dominion over the animals, and as the most successful nation, I think America should be allowed a little leeway.

Hmm. I would question whether Homo Sapiens is the most successful animal. I could think of various other species, of bacteria, parasites and domesticated animals who exploit us as much as we exploit them.

And as for the "most successful nation" bit, I'll assume it's flamebait and ignore it ;)

Reminds me of the paradox:

I always lie, in fact I'm lying now!

Edgar Allan Poe (5)

streetlawyer (169828) | more than 12 years ago | (#461877)

The better argument for EAP as the originator of science fiction is the one made by Jorge Luis Borges in an essay on the detective novel, where he points out that Poe was responsible for the idea of the novel as an intellectual creation rather than an emotional one. This makes him (proximately) the father of the detective novel and (somewhat more remotely) the grandfather of science fiction.

I don't believe this argument, however; it presumes that science fiction is fundamentally intellectual, which it isn't, or at least, not in the same way that detective stories are. Science fiction is not, in the main, an intellectual exercise for the author, except in those dreadful Asimov and Clarke outings where he tries to deduce sixty semi-amusing implications of one piece of speculative science.

A lot of science fiction is slap bang in the Mary Shelley tradition, and to pretend otherwise by saying that her "science" wasn't central enough is to completely ignore one of the main features of the genre -- its relationship to fantasy and thence to the gothic tradition. He certainly needs to come up with some explanation of the proximity of the fantasy and science fiction sections of most bookshops in order to defend this idea.

And anyone who can pretend that science fiction is essentially American ought to be introduced to HG Wells or his descendants. It has its roots in Whiggish extrapolation of modern technology, which started off as a British trait, and moved to America along with global technological hegemony, about the end of the First World War. American science fiction is essentially American; British science fiction isn't, or doesn't have to be.

Of course, the author also screws up by failing to note the most important thing to know about science fiction -- that as literature, most of it is abysmal.

So basically... (3)

eghost (311291) | more than 12 years ago | (#461878)

What it sounds like our reviewer is saying falls along this line, "Disch is up on his soapbaox and pissed because he can't cut the mustard as a SciFi writer."
Now I realize that isn't what he actually says but its what I got from this...

Minor points based on the review
  • Disch would seem to have his shorts in a bind over socio-political issues in the writers' lives.
  • Referencing "classic" lit., says to me that he hasn't been paying much attention to the SciFi community as of late(not that I have anything against Poe, just making a point)
  • Touting personal issues against an author, what more do I need to say...

In my analysis, I'd say he's trying to make money off his jealousy towards SciFi authors. Though I have to admit I'm surprised to see that the reviewer didn't mention Harlan Ellison in the laundry list of authors that Disch seems to have a grudge against.

Re:considering that religeons 100's of years ago (1)

TheOutlawTorn (192318) | more than 12 years ago | (#461879)

Mmmmm, not just flamebait, but badly spelled flamebait. My favorite!

Re:oh? (1)

Sheeple Police (247465) | more than 12 years ago | (#461880)

I plead insanity by all night caffeine binging/programming.

Science Fiction is not an American Invention! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#461881)

It is amazing that the author is trying to claim that Science Fiction is an American form. All of the seminal authors of sci-fi are in fact English! Let's take a look at a list:

H.G. Wells : English
Arthur C Clarke : English
Isaac Asimov : English
Douglas Adams : English

It's obvious that all the pioneers of science fiction were in fact English. America has produced a few sci-fi authors, of lesser quality and with lesser popular and critical appeal, but the efforts of these authors are insufficient to claim that America invented the genre.

When will America get over it's fascination with itself and realise that it didn't invent popular culture?

Jules ?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#461882)

Ahem. I've let Netscape perform a case insensitive search on this document on 'verne'; it couldn't find anything. 'nuff said.

Citizen of the Galaxy (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 12 years ago | (#461890)

Recently reread one of Heinlein's most perfectly-paced kid's books. Child sold in slave market on distant world to beggar who turns out to be more than that, escapes to join traders-on-spaceships-based-society, ends up among upper class on Earth. The thing that excited me on first reading (at about 10), and which I think explains much of the power of sci-fi, is the Margaret Mead-based anthropologist who is along for the ride with the traders, and who befriends and briefs the kid.

Heinlein was into cultural hacking, which builds on the knowledge from anthropology that there are many ways to structure cultural norms, that these have much to do with the fit of a culture to its particular ecological and economic niches (which are much the same thing), and also have much to do with the mythology of the culture. He saw that one of our present powers was to consciously create both our cultural norms and mythologies, and that these efforts are closely akin to our conscious creation of technologies (which is not to say they are wide open: not every cultural norm or myth will work equally well, just as not every techological idea will). Stranger in a Strange Land is a footnote to Citizen of the Galaxy.

As for the claim that he went from radical socialist to radical libertarian - this is just nonsense. He was always consistent with an anarcho-syndicalist position, which has elements resembling both (which generally pisses the pure proponents of both off), and closely resembles the open source community (hmm).

Re:Great book (2)

Kotetsu (135021) | more than 12 years ago | (#461893)

What about Jules Verne? Verne's writing is the earliest stuff I've read that has the "science fiction" feel to it. His first books were published in the 1860s and he died in 1905, wealthy from the sales of those books. His writings were tremendously influential - the first nuclear submarine was named Nautilus after Captain Nemo's vessel in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He wrote From the Earth to the Moon in 1866, the year H.G. Wells was born, and 35 years before Wells wrote The First Men in the Moon.

Re:Fiction becoming fact (2)

volsung (378) | more than 12 years ago | (#461894)

Are avatar-oriented chat rooms still around? I remember hearing about them as an example of why VRML would be "the next big thing". VRML died, so what happened to the avatars?

I just want my air car (4)

Don Negro (1069) | more than 12 years ago | (#461895)

Really, it's Febuary 2 already.

Let's get on the ball here, people.

Don Negro

Re:Great book (1)

Cenotaph (68736) | more than 12 years ago | (#461896)

It's just a single line on the front page, just above all the byte.com links.
--
"You can put a man through school,
But you cannot make him think."

Re:considering that religeons 100's of years ago (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 12 years ago | (#461897)

...and to think, I always considered it fantasy... doh!

Re:Nice review (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 12 years ago | (#461898)

I disagree. I think that GWB (for all his faults) is quite right when he stresses that it is time for America to excercise a lot more humility when dealing with other nations. If he follows through with policy to back up that rhetoric, it will stand in sharp contrast to the gunboat diplomacy of the Clinton Administration, and I would consider that to be a Good Thing.
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  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>