Science fiction authors offer unusual Homeland Security Advice

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83 Responses to “Science fiction authors offer unusual Homeland Security Advice”

  1. TharkLord says:

    An example about a controversy based on a flawed premise.

    A while back (I wish I could find a link to the archive) KQED San Francisco had an interview with a couple of emergency room administrators from both a public and private hospital. When asked about all the illegal immigrants crowding emergency rooms they both said that wasn’t a problem. I was one of the few things they agreed upon during the course of the interview.

    The big problem was citizens and legal residents without insurance. There were actually very few illegal immigrants showing up in hospitals. They were both very clear about this.

    But of course, when a hospital shuts down its emergency room due to cost overruns, the knee jerk response is to blame “the brown hordes”; not the costs created by insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, medical equipment manufacturers, or how insured patients demand unneeded tests from their doctors.

  2. The Unusual Suspect says:

    Jerril @ #32:

    Surely you’re not saying Niven is evil because he chooses science over environmentalism, are you?

    It shouldn’t be surprising that a writer of “Silver Age” SF sees the former (especially in aid of nuclear power and space flight) as mankind’s only hope of expanding beyond Earth, and sees the later as merely tidying up what will eventually become mankind’s coffin.

  3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Takuan (77): You do what you did before: buy and read books that appeal to you. Your reading of their book is yours, not theirs.

    If you loathe the author, publisher, cover artist, or marketing category, buy it second-hand.

    Pipenta (75): Emma Bull, The War for the Oaks. If you like that, try her other books as well.

    John M. Ford’s How Much for Just the Planet? is unbeatable. In its own very different way, so is Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds.

    Have you read any Steve Brust? The Khaavren novels may or may not appeal to you, depending on your tolerance for a narrative voice that’s two-thirds an homage to young Steve Brust’s favorite translation of Dumas, and one-third Steve amusing himself (which tends to be catching). The Vlad Taltos series started out being Roger Zelazny meets Raymond Chandler, lightly seasoned with Marx, Engels, and Trotsky, and since then has undergone considerable development.

    If you’ll forgive me for recommending a book I bought and edited, I’m very fond of Bad Magic by Stephan Zielinski. People who like it tend to like it a lot. Mild caveat: he uses what I regard as laudably economical exposition. All the necessary information is there; he just doesn’t take a lot of time getting it out. Readers who are used to sprinting through loose, wordy modern fantasy are sometimes brought up short by that. On the other hand, you like Pratchett. If you can find a copy of the hardcover, check it out.

    Copies can also be hard to find of Patricia Geary’s Living in Ether and Strange Toys, but you might like them.

  4. Pipenta says:

    Teresa,

    I didn’t mean to limit it to books about dragons. I was just thinking of things that I enjoyed as a youngster and a teen that I couldn’t abide once I got past the last bit of puberty.

    And I like fantasy, I just prefer Miéville and I adore T.P., I do I do. He’s brilliant.

    I guess I haven’t read that enough books about dragons to justify jumping to a conclusion. Honestly, sometimes the tacky cover art you see as you walk by that section in the bookstore is pretty scary. Could be good stuff inside. Would go digging if there weren’t so many other interesting things to read.

    I’ve been trying to think of genre writers with blatant politics who I do enjoy. I used to read Sheri Tepper. Guess I just happen to prefer her politics.

    I still want to know what Mr. Ellison got up to on that stage.

    And all you folks who seem to think that Card is queer and that somehow excuses him from homophobia, it doesn’t. Have no idea if he is or isn’t. Makes no never mind.

    My son read Ender’s Game when he was twelve and found it both fun and creepy. He’s the one who pointed out the mother’s big riff on obligatory breeding. He didn’t think that philosophy would make for parents who were, to paraphrase, very healthy about their relationships with their children. I thought that was pretty damn astute for a kid his age.

    Other than that, he enjoyed the book.

  5. markbellis says:

    That IS disappointing – I liked Ringword when I was a kid…

  6. absimiliard says:

    I think a fair amount of good about Harlan, unless . . . ..

    1. You’re in his class at Clarion.
    2. You’re a woman on stage with him at an award-show.

    That said, both he and Niven are excellent writers, with solidly good ideas. (good in an SFnal sense) I just regret that I can’t think of Niven as other than a jerk now. Not that being a jerk makes a bad, or good, writer. All it really does is make me want to avoid said jerk in 1-1 conversation.

    -abs

  7. Nelson.C says:

    Pipenta @75: Oh, I don’t think anyone feels that Card’s purported repressed homosexuality excuses him. Quite the opposite, I feel.

  8. Takuan says:

    Great. Now that I know all this about these people, how do I act ethically?

  9. Mary Dell says:

    I don’t exactly think of Niven as just a jerk, now, and what Teresa said at #15 is true – my elderly parents have said things to me that would stun their younger selves. I emailed him years ago to ask for some writing advice and he answered back with some that was very helpful. I met him a few years back, when “Stars our Destination” was still a live bookstore, and he seemed very nice, although quite shy. He was wearing a button that said “once you have removed the pin from Mr. Hand Grenade, he is no longer your friend.”

    Which is why it’s so distressing to hear of him advocating being cruel to people.

  10. Takuan says:

    @54

    “Men Who Stare at Goats”

  11. Nelson.C says:

    Eh, I’m not going to slap Niven down for saying one dumb thing, not when I’ve said my fair share of dumb things unexposed by the media spotlight. And especially when the report seems so obviously biased (against SF writers?).

  12. Takuan says:

    amazing. One possible throw-away line at a conference and look where it’s spun to.

    I say we kill him.

  13. Takuan says:

    Not I, I have never said a dumb thing anymore than I have told a lie.

  14. strider_mt2k says:

    Niven’s “Known Space” universe also has the death penalty for things like having too many traffic tickets and having children without a license.

    Think of it as evolution in action.

  15. Clifton says:

    #19: Sorry, but I have to jump in there: Ursula LeGuin never wrote anything of the kind.

    You’re mixing up her Hain with R.A. Lafferty’s lovely satirical short stories ‘Polity and Custom of the Camiroi’ and ‘Primary Education of the Camiroi’.

  16. jim.cowling says:

    Is this an April Fool’s joke? David Brin is described doing this:

    “It is impossible for you to succeed without us!” he shouted at the assembled officials, while banging his fist on the table and at one point jumping off his chair to wave a mobile phone in their faces.

    I dunno. Niven being racist, that I can see. He’s got a history of it, but maybe that’s part of the gag, too.

  17. Avram says:

    Teresa, Niven’s been reactionary for a while. Oath of Fealty was published just over a quarter-century ago, when he was in his mid-40s.

  18. schmod says:

    Out of curiosity, are there actually any reliable numbers for how much illegals cost the healthcare system?

    The anti-immigration crowd keep going on and on about how much illegal immigrants are costing the US healthcare system, although I’ve never actually seen any firm numbers that support or refute that hypothesis.

  19. semiotix says:

    A wise man once said, “There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.” I suppose keeping hospitals solvent is a fairly “right” cause.

  20. Toastpoints says:

    He’s a witch!!!

  21. absimiliard says:

    Hrmphhh.

    Guess my opinion of Niven just went down.

    If he keeps it up I’ll start to class him with Harlan Ellison.

    -abs

  22. The Unusual Suspect says:

    Reminds me of Swift’s comment that Irish poverty could be eliminated if Irish parents sold their excess babies to the English to be eaten.

    (For the humor-impaired: The above is a satirical remark. It’s not hard to imagine Niven’s was too.)

  23. Takuan says:

    Ok,ok, let’s do this right, you! get the scales.I’ll get the duck.

  24. teapot7 says:

    at #19 posted by slamorte:

    > fwiw, ursula k. le guin proposed the death penalty for children that do poorly in school, as well as for people that fail to perform their civic duty in a responsible matter. and civic duty could mean anything on Hain… at any moment any citizen could be taped to run a school board, business, or even a government. yet somehow i still love ursula!

    I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of R.A.Lafferty and his stories “Polity and Custom of the Camiroi” and “Primary Education of the Camiroi” – and of course, coming up with outrageous ideas is not a sign of being a bad person – it’s context and other clues which let us know how much they’re a sign of the writer’s own beliefs.

    While I’ve thoroughly gone off Larry Niven since Jerry Pournelle ate his brain, I don’t think he deserves any criticism some people are making of his organ transplant stories – they’re legitimate SF extrapolation.

  25. Stefan Jones says:

    Brin was talking about involving citizens in civil defense and disaster preparedness . . . the “we” was “us” in this case.

    Over in his blog, he described the SIGMA meeting as a disaster.

  26. aluxeterna says:

    srsly…is this some kind of weird performance art thing?

    “…the writers used their time to pontificate on a variety of tangentially related topics, including their past roles advising the government, predictions in their stories that have come to pass, the demise of the paperback book market, and low-cost launch into space.”

    I can just imagine a meeting where all the Homeland Security squares are scratching their heads, blindsided by one non sequitor after another.

    Video footage, anyone?

    Also, any chance of “It is impossible for you to succeed without us!” turning into the next “All your base…”?

  27. themindfantastic says:

    I find it interesting that we expect writers we like to have politics we like… remember Kerouac was for Vietnam. SciFi writers write about potential futures, which sometimes is all about taking an idea and running with it into the future (or an alternate present) and imagining the world as it could be like that. Our resident SciFi writer Cory might have some pretty bizzare politics/ideas he doesn’t mention because he knows the backlash would be too great to say them in public, but its his right to have them. But hey if he writes a fictional sci-fi book about it, hey might be something we would read, just to go WOW.

  28. strider_mt2k says:

    Niven’s “Known Space” universe also has the death penalty for things like having too many traffic tickets and having children without a license.

    Think of it as evolution in action.

  29. Stefan Jones says:

    Pournelle never seems to have gotten over having been taken seriously by the Reagan administration twenty years back, when he and Niven were part of General Graham’s (sp?) push to get the “Star Wars” / SDI project funded.

  30. Cicada says:

    No speculation involved– whether you are your neighbor’s keeper or not is an old question. I take it they side with “not”.

  31. Mary Dell says:

    Niven is why I started reading SF…this is soooo disillusioning. Not that I thought he was a liberal or anything, but I didn’t think he was, y’know, evil.

  32. strider_mt2k says:

    Sorry about the repost folks.

  33. joellevand says:

    Not that I agree with Niven at all (I don’t) but I would like to point out that I know of many individuals — many of them citizens of this country — who’ve scammed the hospitals for everything from basic medical care to the entire cost of child birth services, and it does cause the hospital costs to rise for those of us who pay. Of course, I see it often because it’s what happens when you work in one of the poorest inner cities in the country with one of the highest rates of violent crime (we were once the murder capital of the country!) and a very high rate of illegal immigrants whose under the table jobs can’t really offer benefits.

    Having said that, I’d also like to point out the racist and classist nature of the Niven’s comment against the Hispanic community and say this: the worst offender that I’m aware of *is* an illegal immigrant who scammed several area hospitals the most for various types of care including the cost of her maternity stay. She’s from England and middle class.

  34. martykay says:

    I loved Niven and Pournelle’s work when I was younger, but like some others have said, it appears he is to go into the same box as Card now.
    Hope they don’t fight.

  35. consideredopinion says:

    What may be perhaps more insulting to these futurologist authors is that the organ-harvesting idea is hardly new. The Soviets played that card against the Americans before.

    http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive_Index/The_Baby_Parts_Myth.html

  36. Bus says:

    Having worked as a Tech in an ER for 7 years, and having gone to meetings for most major departments, you would be amazed how many “Community Hospitals” are vanishing because there’s ‘not enough profit’. Not too long ago, a Hospital in California was dumping patients on Skid Row and simply cabbing them to other hospitals because they were unable to pay for proper treatment. Community programs are being cut and people without insurance ARE being forced to make multiple emergency room visits because no primary doctor will take them without insurance.

    I even had a dilemma where I cut my leg biking home from work, and though I was not 2 blocks from work and over 2 miles from home I made the choice to bike home and hope it wouldn’t get infected because I knew it would cost me at least 100 bucks to get stitches at my own place of employment. Fifty Dollar ER co-pay plus 80/20 split for the rest of the cost. Assuming more than 3 stitches, that’s a level 3 plus procedures and supplies. 100 is a nice estimate with insurance.

    I hope for universal health care because I can’t stand how I had to make a choice like that about my own health. Then these thoughts would be seen as archaic rather than racist.

    I’m also wondering why this is a Homeland Security issue.

  37. Keith says:

    The Unusual Suspect @ #5:

    Niven is no Swift.

    And trying to backpeddle a slur as satire is such a stinker, even Jerry Pournelle could smell it.

  38. Kaboom says:

    Aahh. I see it all now in the bigger picture now that some of you have pointed out that Pournelle ate Niven’s brain.

    Seriously, I’ve been wondering for years now, how Niven could go from such an excellent writer to producing newer stuff that I can’t even finish. The last thing I liked by Niven was A World Out of Time. Such a long time ago.

    Now we see that his other faculties are fading. Too bad.

  39. cavalaxis says:

    Harlan is a mensch, and I don’t care what anyone else says about him. I’ve never heard him say anything remotely as backward and wrong-headed as Niven’s statement taken at face value. (I have no context for Niven’s words. It could very well have been satire. Colour me old-fashioned, but I’m not one to judge a person based solely on a two second sound bite.)

  40. PeterErwin says:

    Niven’s “Known Space” universe also has the death penalty for things like having too many traffic tickets and having children without a license.

    To be fair, the “death penalty for traffic tickets” was portrayed as the outcome of a stage in (future) history where organ transplants from executed criminals became the main way to extend lives — so society moved in the direction of more executions to improve the organ supply. (And later in the “Known Space” history these penalties were rescinded, after new medical technologies made organ transplants unnecessary.)

    It’s not like Niven was saying — in those stories, anyway — that these were intrinsically good ideas; he was exploring directions society might take if certain medical technologies became available (and others were not).

  41. Antinous says:

    Why is everyone so down on Orson Scott Card? Being a Mormon, husband-and-father-of-five, closet queen can’t be an easy life. Can anyone name a book with more gay subtext than Ender’s Game?

  42. Yamara says:

    I was on a panel with him once. He always looks like he doesn’t want to be around people.

    He’s wrong about time travel, too, btw. Niven’s Law is simple misanthropy, it has nothing to do with physics.

  43. Takuan says:

    now that you mention it….

  44. Ant says:

    Maybe Niven was high on fatigue poisons when he said it.

  45. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Remember back when there was all the fuss with SFWA and copyrights, and I made certain remarks about one of the authors present at the SIGMA conference? He’s not the worst of that lot, not by a long shot. On top of that, all three of ‘em are used to having the mike. I’m normally a fearless panel moderator, but I wouldn’t have touched that lineup with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

    Absimiliard (4), think what you will of Harlan, but I can still imagine being on a panel with him.

    Mary (10), he’s getting old. Some of them turn reactionary when they’re that far along. Go ask the open thread if you want names.

  46. Takuan says:

    (lousy Canuck bastard…):
    “Tommy Douglas was born in 1904 in Falkirk, Scotland. In 1910, his family immigrated to Canada, where they settled in Winnipeg. As a child, Douglas injured his leg and developed osteomyelitis. The leg would have been amputated had it not been for a doctor who saw the condition as a good subject to teach his students and agreed to help for free. This rooted Douglas’ belief that health care should be free to all, as he thought people shouldn’t be dependent on generosity in order to get their health in good order.”

  47. Stefan Jones says:

    #10: Yeah, same here.

    I realized that N&P had gone off the rails — no, rather, were on their own private railroad that had video monitors rather than windows looking out onto the real world — when I re-read “Oath of Fealty.”

  48. artistVictoriaC says:

    #7 : “Also, any chance of “It is impossible for you to succeed without us!” turning into the next “All your base…”?”

    I’ll start using it if you will. ;)

  49. Takuan says:

    That’s why I never make any effort to meet people whose work I enjoy. Be fair though, you shouldn’t judge Niven until you talk with him.

    Regarding Harlan, a lucky man. Talent and a schtick indistinguishable.

    I would gladly pay good money for a personal, first hand cursing from Mr. Ellison. I do hope he finds time for a side business doing such. To be able to show the video to my grandchildren! How much would he charge ,do ya think?

  50. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Piper: I’d say yes to your question if it weren’t phrased in the singular.

    ArtistVictoriaC: go for it.

    ScottFree (28): Out of touch? How can you say so? Why, one of them was an artillery officer during the Korean War! And while we’re on the subject:

    Contrarian scientific views: Pournelle has expressed support for several viewpoints that differ from the general scientific consensus. These include skepticism on a significant human contribution to global warming and on evolution, and he has advocated research to directly investigate Peter Duesberg’s controversial views on the cause of AIDS. Pournelle has also commented on possible links between race and IQ.

    So regrettable.

    He emphasizes that in some cases, particularly when the effects of wrong decisions could be disastrous, contrarian research by competent researchers is valuable as insurance.

    I’d be more inclined to believe that this theory preceded his espousal of those causes if his “contrarianism” didn’t always point in the same direction.

    Still, I have had recognizably human conversations with Niven and Pournelle.

    TheMindFantastic (43), you know Cory’s political views. The man’s unnaturally short on sneakiness.

    Cavalaxis (47), everyone gets old, gets shaky, makes mistakes; and I can’t deny Abisimiliard’s cavils; but Harlan is a mensch.

    Takuan (18), I think you’re too late for the full-scale performance, justly famed in song and story. Likewise, you’re too late to see the nearly supernatural ability to get an audience to believe just about anything, as long as he kept talking. (Folklore says you’re protected from the full force of that effect if you’re sitting sufficiently close to Barry Malzberg, who is rumored to be immune to it.)

    Finally: Matthew 13:9

  51. slamorte says:

    bummer. i’ll have to put larry niven with michael crichton and orson scott card into the “authours i used to like but apparently they are assholes” category.

    fwiw, ursula k. le guin proposed the death penalty for children that do poorly in school, as well as for people that fail to perform their civic duty in a responsible matter. and civic duty could mean anything on Hain… at any moment any citizen could be taped to run a school board, business, or even a government. yet somehow i still love ursula!

  52. Takuan says:

    hee! oh yeah….

    Well,I still hold out hope to one day feel the edge of his tongue. Just once.

  53. danfan says:

    Niven is an obvious racist. Witness the horrible caricatures of black people in Lucifer’s Hammer.

  54. The Unusual Suspect says:

    Keith @ #12:

    Nor Swift Niven, surely.

    But “backpeddle” is hardly called for, as Niven has prior art on this subject: Many of his tales incorporate a theme of harvesting organs from the disenfranchised, as PeterErwin @ #13 reminds the thread.

    Teresa @ #15:

    Agreed that Harlan Ellison is still the guy you want with you if you suffer a heart attack in a strange city, as Stephen King once noted.

  55. Roach says:

    You guys might be down on Card because you only know the Ender series (and maybe the less known series, like Alvin Maker and Homecoming). I still like the first couple of Ender books. However, he did some fiercely original one-shots, like A Planet Called Treason and the magnificent Worms.

    Don’t know much about Niven (other than a like a couple of his books), but the readership might like to see Pournelle’s reaction to 9/11 on his blog. It’s entitled “What Is To Be Done”:

    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/war/whattodo.html

    I remember it being…extravagant.

  56. Roach says:

    Whoops! Meant Wyrms.

  57. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I hadn’t thought of the Camiroi stories in years. How nice to recollect them.

    Pipenta, why are you leaving Terry Pratchett out of the reckoning? He outweighs much stupidity. And if you’re limiting it to books with dragons, try Jo Walton and Michael Swanwick.

    Antinous: Well. Orson Scott Card. Not much I can say about him.

    Avram, thanks for the reminder. I persistently misremember Oath of Fealty as having been written by Pournelle. I think they both succumbed to fear of the underclass.

  58. Mark Temporis says:

    Ellison’s craziness isn’t terrible or anything; it’s the familiar luddism of people of his age who don’t understand the Internet and see it eating their lunch.

    Niven’s statements, taken at face value, are evil. In the past, I understood he had a problem with gay Kzin, too. He and Pournelle are part of the strange cadre of SF writers who can’t or won’t understand the Internet either. It makes them sound like cranky old men, and makes one wonder who ate the brain of the visionary that used to be there.

  59. Chernobyl Kid says:

    #10, #16,

    Know what you mean. I was a huge Lucifer’s Hammer fan, even though the racial stuff made me uncomfortable.

    For a real howler from Niven and Pournelle, go read “Fallen Angels” if you can still find a copy. It’s about the future where science fiction has been outlawed (!) by SF-haters known as Mundanes (!!) whose territory is known as the Danelaw (thanks for the medieval reference.) The world is in the grip of an ice age because all the (and I apologize here, I must use TROLL CAPS to convey the kind of tone at work) ENVIRONMENTAL EXTREMISTS used their VAST POLITICAL INFLUENCE and ILL-INFORMED, IGNORANT SUPERSTITION ABOUT NON-EXISTENT GLOBAL WARMING to STOP BURNING FOSSIL FUELS. And now there’s an ICE AGE and only the persecuted SF READERS and LAGRANGE COLONISTS WHO WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG, ALL ALONG I TELL YOU, AND AREN’T YOU SORRY YOU DIDN’T LISTEN [post devolves into Sam Kinison-style screaming.]

  60. angusm says:

    Organ-harvesting in Niven’s stories is not presented as some high and desirable ideal. Rather, it’s a case of SF doing what SF does: taking some trend and asking “Where will we end up if we follow this trend to the end?”. The story everyone’s probably thinking of is “The Jigsaw Man”, where Niven argues that once you allow organ-harvesting from condemned criminals, the death penalty will come to be applied to progressively more and more trivial cases. That hardly sounds like an endorsement of the idea.

    On the other hand, if Niven really recommended what you describe and if he was serious, that’s disappointing. I’ve always enjoyed Niven’s work, but what he suggests is not merely ethically wrong on every level, but profoundly stupid as well. The final irony is that it should be Jerry Pournelle – who under other circumstances I might have imagined to be the one more likely to offer this kind of ‘advice’ – who ends up going “Whoa, Larry, you’ve gone too far there.”

  61. Antinous says:

    Roach,

    Card is persona non grata for his support of Bush, the war and various other quaint notions. He’s off my dance card because of his approach to gay rights. His spewing forth of his own barely repressed homosexuality is breathtaking to behold, yet he seems to really not get that he’s queer. Well, he’s not the first. He’s not even the millionth to be the last person on earth to figure it out. He’s just amazingly brazen about exposing his own subconscious material. And I’m not one of those people who think that everybody is gay. Having said that, I still like his Ender books. There are few SF novels that speak so eloquently, if subtextually, about growing up gay in a straight world.

  62. Pipenta says:

    I saw Harlan Ellison at Carnegie Mellon back in the seventies. He was full of piss and vinegar. He spoke/ranted/performed for about four hours. No one got up and left. Actually, the room just filled way beyond the point of SRO.

    For all that, there are plenty of more prolific writers in the genre, and he is not writing crowd pleasers. Niven’s stuff (and the last time I read him was about the same time I saw Ellison) is more escapist. I don’t know if there are furry folk out there dressing up as Kzin, but it wouldn’t surprise. Hard to imagine anyone projecting themselves into the world of “I Have No Mouth, But I Must Scream.”

    Harlan wasn’t comfortable and he wasn’t trying to make his readers comfortable. But I learned stuff from him that day, sitting in the audience with my jaw gaping, life stuff, stuff I have put into use for decades.

    Teresa, do tell, what the heck does he do when there are women on stage with him? Behaving badly, he must be a handful. Hell, on his best behavior he must be a handful. Can you imagine him as a toddler? They’d have him on a Ritalin I.V.!

    Politically, I’ve found Niven offputting for years. Never could stomach Pournelle’s stuff. I read Ringworld when I was young enough to have a soft spot for large ill-tempered talking tigers with parasol ears. So I’d always let myself believe that Niven had fallen under Pournelle’s spell. But I didn’t track the whole science fiction scene all that carefully, so I had nothing on which to base that suspicion.

    But that quote from Niven seems really nuts, even given his politics. Somebody must have slipped angel dust into his Metamucil.

    Why is it that so many folks who write a particula r kind of escapist type science fiction and fantasy come off as total asshats when they are interviewed? Is there something about writing about dragons and spaceships that turns you into a thoughtless turd? Or is there something about being a thoughtless turd that lead you to writing a particular type of story. Niven, Heinlein, Card, Anne the-underclass-deserve-to-be-drudges-because-if-they-worked-harder-they’d-be-rich-like-me McCaffrey, they all have characters who succeed against great odds and the lessons are that the characters share the writer’s values. Only of course, it’s an obstacle course the writer has set up to begin with. And they pander and stroke readers who are hungry for this weird affirmation because reality is rather an unnerving strain.

    Well, yeah, I get the strain part, I get the unnerved part. I’m just too old and cranky to want to be part of that kind of circle jerk.

    Is it something about inventing worlds, and not having to step back and see how they’d really play out over time? This could be why this stuff isn’t sitting on the literature shelf.

    Oh, I’ll still genre stuff. I’ll read Neal Stephenson and Gaiman and China Miéville knocks my socks off, truly he does. I want to have fun as much as the next person… But I didn’t go near the Discworld books for years because they looked so much like the Xanth books my sister read, and that I couldn’t go near without a basin. And look at all the fun I nearly missed…

    Hmmm, somebody musta put something into MY metamucil, because I surely am rambling.

    And not proofreading, no no never.

  63. Jeffrey McManus says:

    If the Federation had only taken the simple, prudent step of installing deflector shields and quantum torpedo launchers atop the World Trade Center, we would not be having this conversation right now.

  64. Via says:

    What a scary, small-minded dick.

    May he wake up someday in an alternative universe a stranger in a strange land, penniless and in pain, and then get rejected for care at an emergency room unless he agrees to give his organs.

  65. Elorin says:

    Oh, I would pay to see video of that meeting. Now I have a new “must have” set of books on my to buy list, also.

  66. Andrew says:

    I hope you meant over-regulated drug companies reaping massive profits. After all, they wouldn’t be where they were if not for the blessings handed down to them by the patent system and the FDA.

  67. Takuan says:

    you mean India?

  68. Mary Dell says:

    Pipenta, Google “harlan ellison stage.”

  69. Mary Dell says:

    themindfantastic @#43:

    I don’t expect writers to have politics I like, but I also don’t expect them to bootstrap their way into government advisory roles. The SIGMA group seems to be doing that pretty successfully–Greg Bear was on the Daily Show a few months back talking about how much fun it was working with Homeland Security. So instead of political opinion merely informing the text, it is the text.

  70. scottfree says:

    how can sci fi and fantasy writers be so out of touch with reality? Oh, wait…

  71. Roach says:

    Antinous – I picked that up from your earlier post (How’s Hadrian?). I was more referring to earlier posts that suggested the quality of his writing might be low. I get why you might not like him for his positions, although generally I don’t pay much attention to those positions unless they crop up in the person’s writings – perhaps the subtexts of Card’s novels are closer to his real positions than he thinks.

    Then again, I don’t know if the boarding-school atmostphere of Ender’s Game could really be considered the “straight world,” heh.

  72. Antinous says:

    He denies subtext.

    Which is funny when your enemies are called buggers and you’ve got a wise, old queen talking inside your head. He frequently transcends subtext. In one of the Bean books, a character essentially interrupts the narrative flow of the book to give a lecture on how he’s homosexual, it’s a sterile lifestyle and it’s better to just try to be straight. And we all know what subtext is an anagram of.

  73. Jerril says:

    If this comment hasn’t been taken way out of context, and he seriously suggested this as an actual course of action he would endorse, then that’s really kind of sad and Niven gets major humanity demerit points.

    I can’t say this would make me stop enjoying most of his writing, anymore than H.P.Lovecraft being a blatant xenophobe ruins his writing.

    I also can’t say I’m 100% surprised at the news – I’ve read Lucifer’s Hammer and Falling Angels, and I’ve read his essays on the glory Regan years when the government (gasp) listened to him and his peers. Just like H.P.Lovecraft’s screaming xenophobia shows through in his writing, Niven’s crazed viewpoints on some subjects are pretty clear in his own writing.

    I would like to see a video of this thing, though. It sounds a little crazy-funny in a car-crash sort of way.

  74. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    He denies subtext.

  75. jrtom says:

    Niven stated in at least one of his “collected works” books (either _N-Space_ or _Playgrounds of the Mind_) that he wrote “The Jigsaw Man” (and subsequently other books involving the practice of “organlegging”) to point out that he felt that there was a real risk that easy organ harvesting would lead to the institution of the death penalty for a wide variety of offenses (including false advertising–seriously).

    I don’t know what his real views are. But his quote here should be put in the context of the above. In all seriousness, I suspect that he brings up things like this at least in part so that people will recognize that it’s a possibility. (Consider that now that he’s put it out there, if the government _were_ to try something like this tactic, people would be more likely to spot it and recognize it for what it is.)

    @21: _Fallen Angels_ was explicitly written as fan service (or “tribute to SF fandom”, if you will). It wasn’t intended to be taken very seriously.

    (I can attest that David Brin’s views were accurately reflected in his quote, though. It’s a theme he’s repeated many times on his blog…although it’s clear that the quote is out of context.)

  76. Antinous says:

    Most illegal aliens avoid contact with officialdom anyway. Many legal ones with poor English skills do so as well. Anyone with any experience with the health care system desperately tries to avoid it. Niven’s rumor isn’t that much worse than reality, and most Americans already know that.

    On another note, Heinlein was also a piece of work. It’s pretty common for highly creative men to be narcissists.

  77. Jerril says:

    @30:
    @21: _Fallen Angels_ was explicitly written as fan service (or “tribute to SF fandom”, if you will). It wasn’t intended to be taken very seriously.

    The “Geek shall inherit the Earth” part is transparently fanservice with a dash of wish-fulfilment. What’s interesting is the recurring theme about SCIENCE! vs The Environmentalists, and how Larry’s protagonists all seem to come down on the side of SCIENCE! (in the guise of Nuclear Power, usually).

    Environmentalists seem to be
    1) recurring themes in Niven’s near future stories
    2) non-existent in the far future stories (where, like many other distasteful nonsense things Niven doesn’t want to think about, they presumably don’t exist), and
    3) the nutty extremist type who are out to destroy civilization and send us all back to eating bark and sitting naked under trees.

    It’s pretty blatant.

  78. JSG says:

    I didn’t check out the link but….

    “Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.
    “The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway,” Niven said.”

    isn’t this one of the things that the Palestinians say about the Israelis?

  79. Michael says:

    This thought isn’t fully formed, but doesn’t the SIGMA group (wacky people with a certain uniformity in their political views advising the government on security threats) sound kinda like Germany’s predilection for hiring similar mystics in the late 30′s?

    I’ve got to get more sleep; that one made a shiver go down my spine.

  80. Piper says:

    So it seems that at least one great sci-fi author is an eccentric asshole who likes to provoke others with inflammatory rhetoric –this a surprise to someone??
    Plus, it IS a rather interesting experiment in urban mythology…

  81. Cochituate says:

    44 – joellevand was talking about the folks who scammed us out of services- that’s the thing I hate the most of the last third of a century of this country’s history, that the corporations have scammed tax dollars out of us for corporate welfare schemes that are inherently stupid, but have all been put in place by the revolving door congress that then steps into the companies and helps drain off the money. Time for American Revolution II, and rolling back this whole notion that companies can be beings (Oliver Wendell Holmes, what the HELL were you thinking of?!?).

  82. Takuan says:

    “an eccentric asshole who likes to provoke others with inflammatory rhetoric ”

    aw,shit! I can DO that!

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