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Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



I, like many a goon, love reading science fiction, and for obvious reasons science fiction is a perfect playground for every halfbit political theorist to theorycraft a utopian (or dystopian) future political system. I thought it'd be a fun discussion to explore some of the more interesting theoretical futures and reflect on how many of them are quite fascist.

I'll get us started with a few examples!

Robert Heinlein - Starship Troopers

Heinlein is the proto-fascist origin story of a lot of contemporary military science fiction (coincidentally almost all published by Baen Books) which imagines a future in which the dominant political system is a quasi-libertarian/fascist state where military/public service is required to "earn" citizenship attendant privileges beyond a basic level of human rights.

Here's a quick Wikipedia summary:

quote:

Set approximately 700 years from the present day,[20] the human society in Starship Troopers is ruled by the Terran Federation, a form of world government dominated by a military elite.[6] The society is depicted as affluent, and futuristic technology shown as coexisting with educational methods from the 20th century.[20] The rights of a full citizen, to vote and hold public office, are not universally guaranteed, but must be earned through Federal Service.[19] Those who do not perform this service, which usually takes the form of military service, retain the rights of free speech and assembly, but cannot vote or hold public office. People of either sex above the age of 18 are permitted to enlist. Those who leave before completing their service do not receive the vote.[20][33] Important government jobs are reserved for federal service veterans.[6] This structure arose ad hoc after the collapse of the "20th century Western democracies", driven in part by an inability to control crime and juvenile delinquency, particularly in North America, and a war between an alliance of the US, the UK and Russia against the "Chinese Hegemony".[34]

So, pretty fascist, although Heinlein would probably refer to it as libertarian.

Heinlein launched an entire generation of essentially fascist science fiction authors who love playing political theorist and decrying the crimes of liberalism and socialism, culminating in perhaps the nadir of science fiction, noted dipshit Tom Kratman.

Kratman is well known for his transphobia and feuds with critics, but I had the displeasure of reading what is perhaps the worst science fiction novel ever, A Desert Called Peace, in which the UN, which controls Earth, colonizes a future planet which for Reasons follows the history of Earth up to 9/11. The main character (an obvious author stand in) loses his family in Space 9/11 and wages an extremely, shockingly racist revenge campaign against space Iraq. What's notable beyond an extended fantasy on how cool it is to kill Muslims, is that the real villain of the novel is the UN and "socialists", whose insistence on basic human rights leads to degeneracy and bad things. Oh, Kratman also wrote a novel in which the heroes are the Waffen SS.

Hopefully people will share up write ups about their own favorite science fiction books!

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Aramis
Sep 22, 2009




I'll play along.

Isaac Asimov - The systematic rejection of absolutes.

Many science fiction authors take an idea to its logical extreme in order to make a point. Asimov fits right into that category. His novels almost all revolve around the idea of taking a seemingly absolute statement and then deconstructing it to expose how it does not hold up to scrutiny. Asimov's work, for the most part, paints the universe at large as rejecting one-size-fit-all solutions in all matters of policy and morality. As such, Asimov's view of the ideal future systematically revolves around the idea of local optimization, where each area has a set of rules appropriate to its local concerns and circumstances.

The classic example of this is the famous three laws of robotics, which, despite being simple and seemingly foolproof on the surface, are always painted as fraught with problems, misinterpretation, and frankly more trouble than they are worth in the end. This becomes particularly clear when the line between humans and robots becomes extremely fuzzy in the later stories and novels

The foundation series also follows the same pattern. What is presented at first like a rigorous plan by a future-predicting hyper-genius turned out to require multiple layers of fallbacks, one on top of the other, in order to stand any chance of working at all.

The most extreme example of this is in the criminally underrated "The end of Eternity", where a centralized time-travel agency has taken upon itself to correct "mistakes" across all of humanity's accessible history, ranging from the late forties to the hundred-thousandth century, in order to maximize utilitarian value across the board. This ultimately dooms humanity.. The actual mechanical reasoning that lead to this being a bad thing are shaky at best, but the rejection of utilitarianism is no less blatant.

Aramis fucked around with this message at 22:06 on Jan 19, 2021

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



bump

Dick Trauma
Nov 30, 2007

God damn it, you've got to be kind.

Clapping Larry

I was never much of a political person until our country's most recent decent into madness, so I rarely considered the political perspective of the media I consumed. There was a lot of Heinlein talk in the USPOL thread so I was surprised that no one mentioned "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" which I enjoyed as a kid but apparently is some sort of revolting Libertarian fever dream.

I expect that much of the 1960s and 1970s sci fi I read in my younger years probably had a laughable/repulsive political undertone that I didn't notice because I was reading for enjoyment, not enlightenment.

EDIT: I should also mention that shows like The Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek gave my young mind the impression that human beings should avoid thinking that they can solve every problem with technology, or that modern human beings have moved beyond the ignorance and flaws of earlier times. I was not interested in "perfect" sci fi heroes. The cynicism and dystopia of the 1970s and 1980s definitely made sure I was not going to engage in America's usual hero worship bullshit.

Dick Trauma fucked around with this message at 17:30 on Feb 11, 2021

Kchama
Jul 25, 2007





Aruan posted:

I, like many a goon, love reading science fiction, and for obvious reasons science fiction is a perfect playground for every halfbit political theorist to theorycraft a utopian (or dystopian) future political system. I thought it'd be a fun discussion to explore some of the more interesting theoretical futures and reflect on how many of them are quite fascist.

I'll get us started with a few examples!

Robert Heinlein - Starship Troopers

Heinlein is the proto-fascist origin story of a lot of contemporary military science fiction (coincidentally almost all published by Baen Books) which imagines a future in which the dominant political system is a quasi-libertarian/fascist state where military/public service is required to "earn" citizenship attendant privileges beyond a basic level of human rights.

Here's a quick Wikipedia summary:


So, pretty fascist, although Heinlein would probably refer to it as libertarian.

Heinlein launched an entire generation of essentially fascist science fiction authors who love playing political theorist and decrying the crimes of liberalism and socialism, culminating in perhaps the nadir of science fiction, noted dipshit Tom Kratman.

Kratman is well known for his transphobia and feuds with critics, but I had the displeasure of reading what is perhaps the worst science fiction novel ever, A Desert Called Peace, in which the UN, which controls Earth, colonizes a future planet which for Reasons follows the history of Earth up to 9/11. The main character (an obvious author stand in) loses his family in Space 9/11 and wages an extremely, shockingly racist revenge campaign against space Iraq. What's notable beyond an extended fantasy on how cool it is to kill Muslims, is that the real villain of the novel is the UN and "socialists", whose insistence on basic human rights leads to degeneracy and bad things. Oh, Kratman also wrote a novel in which the heroes are the Waffen SS.

Hopefully people will share up write ups about their own favorite science fiction books!

drat you for posting what I was going to say about Kratman.

Oh also never forget John Ringo who he coauthored the Waffen SS book with. That one had a postword where they talked about the evil Tranzies (Trans Nationalists) ruining America.

Also it's funny how David Weber's own Honorverse actually has the original enemies be 'socialists'. He even, himself, explicitly stated that the People's Republic of Haven were explicitly meant to represent Welfare State America and were represented by being a Revolutionary France/Soviet Russia fusion after a couple of books. With villains creatively named Rob S. Pierre, St. Juste, and so on and also the ships having corrupt, brain-dead political officers called Commissars and everyone is forced to call each other Citizen.

And then the final baddies is the Solarian League which is super explicitly the UN.

Kchama fucked around with this message at 17:35 on Feb 11, 2021

VitalSigns
Sep 3, 2011
Probation
Can't post for 22 hours!



VitalSigns
Sep 3, 2011
Probation
Can't post for 22 hours!


Dick Trauma posted:

I was never much of a political person until our country's most recent decent into madness, so I rarely considered the political perspective of the media I consumed. There was a lot of Heinlein talk in the USPOL thread so I was surprised that no one mentioned "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" which I enjoyed as a kid but apparently is some sort of revolting Libertarian fever dream.
Yeah you didn't notice as a kid and don't remember now.

I'll just say this: to deal with a shortage of women moon colonists, Heinlein's moon society has a group marriage system called "line marriage" which continually adds members as existing members age up and young people marry in. Since these family units never die, they can become quite wealthy, accumulating property over centuries thus the richest and most desirable ones to marry into stretch in a "line" back many generations.

Due to the underlying gender imbalance, these marriages too tilt towards being sausagefests, therefore a woman can pretty much get in free, but a man who wants to marry in has to bring something to the table like money or property or best of all a hot girlfriend who will only marry in if he gets in too.

Naturally the new sister-wife is required to gently caress all the men equally from her young hot boyfriend (if she brought one) up to the oldest creepiest Heinlein self-insert patriarch. If this sounds like a nearly-transparent gloss over legalized sex slavery, have i got a "well akshually something completely voluntary can't be slavery, if only the laws would catch up to my intellect" for you!

VitalSigns fucked around with this message at 17:52 on Feb 11, 2021

Youth Decay
Aug 17, 2015

a little too tithonic
yeah I really do think


Olaf Stapledon's 1937 novel Star Maker is basically an acid trip (or opium trip I guess since acid wasn't invented yet) interrupted by bits advocating for literal fully automated space communism. Also some eugenics, whoops. Stapledon was a socialist, a pacifist (except when it came to Nazis) and an internationalist and his beliefs bleed through all of his works.

the preface to Star Maker posted:

At a moment when Europe is in danger of a catastrophe worse than that of 1914 a book like this may be condemned as a distraction from the desperately urgent defence of civilization against modern barbarism.

Year by year, month by month, the plight of our fragmentary and precarious civilization becomes more serious. Fascism abroad grows more bold and ruthless in its foreign ventures, more tyrannical toward its own citizens, more barbarian in its contempt for the life of the mind. Even in our own country we have reason to fear a tendency toward militarization and the curtailment of civil liberty. Moreover, while the decades pass, no resolute step is taken to alleviate the injustice of our social order. Our outworn economic system dooms millions to frustration.

In these conditions it is difficult for writers to pursue their calling at once with courage and with balanced judgement. Some merely shrug their shoulders and withdraw from the central struggle of our age. These, with their minds closed against the world’s most vital issues, inevitably produce works which not only have no depth of significance for their contemporaries but also are subtly insincere. For these writers must consciously or unconsciously contrive to persuade themselves either that the crisis in human affairs does not exist, or that it is less important than their own work, or that it is anyhow not their business. But the crisis does exist, is of supreme importance, and concerns us all. Can anyone who is at all intelligent and informed hold the contrary without self-deception?

Yet I have a lively sympathy with some of those ‘intellectuals’ who declare that they have no useful contribution to make to the struggle, and therefore had better not dabble in it. I am, in fact, one of them. In our defence I should say that, though we are inactive or ineffective as direct supporters of the cause, we do not ignore it. Indeed, it constantly, obsessively, holds our attention. But we are convinced by prolonged trial and error that the most useful service open to us is indirect. For some writers the case is different. Gallantly plunging into the struggle, they use their powers to spread urgent propaganda, or they even take up arms in the cause. If they have suitable ability, and if the particular struggle in which they serve is in fact a part of the great enterprise of defending (or creating) civilization, they may, of course, do valuable work. In addition they may gain great wealth of experience and human sympathy, thereby immensely increasing their literary power. But the very urgency of their service may tend to blind them to the importance of maintaining and extending, even in this age of crisis, what may be called metaphorically the ‘self-critical self-consciousness of the human species’, or the attempt to see man’s life as a whole in relation to the rest of things. This involves the will to regard all human affairs and ideals and theories with as little human prejudice as possible. Those who are in the thick of the struggle inevitably tend to become, though in a great and just cause, partisan. They nobly forgo something of that detachment, that power of cold assessment, which is, after all, among the most valuable human capacities. In their case this is perhaps as it should be; for a desperate struggle demands less of detachment than of devotion. But some who have the cause at heart must serve by striving to maintain, along with human loyalty, a more dispassionate spirit. And perhaps the attempt to see our turbulent world against a background of stars may, after all, increase, not lessen, the significance of the present human crisis. It may also strengthen our charity toward one another.

In this belief I have tried to construct an imaginative sketch of the dread but vital whole of things. I know well that it is a ludicrously inadequate and in some ways a childish sketch, even when regarded from the angle of contemporary human experience. In a calmer and a wiser age it might well seem crazy. Yet in spite of its crudity, and in spite of its remoteness, it is perhaps not wholly irrelevant.

At the risk of raising thunder both on the Left and on the Right, I have occasionally used certain ideas and words derived from religion, and I have tried to interpret them in relation to modern needs. The valuable, though much damaged words ‘spiritual’ and ‘worship’, which have become almost as obscene to the Left as the good old sexual words are to the Right, are here intended to suggest an experience which the Right is apt to pervert and the Left to misconceive. This experience, I should say, involves detachment from all private, all social, all racial ends; not in the sense that it leads a man to reject them, but that it makes him prize them in a new way. The ‘spiritual life’ seems to be in essence the attempt to discover and adopt the attitude which is in fact appropriate to our experience as a whole, just as admiration is felt to be in fact appropriate toward a well-grown human being. This enterprise can lead to an increased lucidity and finer temper of consciousness, and therefore can have a great and beneficial effect on behaviour. Indeed, if this supremely humanizing experience does not produce, along with a kind of piety toward fate, the resolute will to serve our waking humanity, it is a mere sham and a snare.

PeterWeller
Apr 20, 2003

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.



Antifa Turkeesian posted:

The decline of American hegemony and a multipolar future has been a fixation for Americans since the 70s, though. It wasn't Japan, but Americans have been obsessed with the idea that they would be culturally dominated in the same way they culturally dominated the rest of the world after World War II, and in a very deep, pathological way, since well before the end of the Cold War.

Yes. Losing in Vietnam and then suffering through the fuel crises and stagflation made us realize our empire could and would decline like all others and created a great deal of social anxiety.

The particular fear that Japan would come to dominate us culturally and economically, a reversal of how we had dominated Japan after 1945, was a major anxiety in the 80s, expressed in films ranging from Gremlins to Gung Ho. It became a big part of the cyberpunk milieu--see CP2077's main antagonists. And it turned out to be as accurate a prediction as datajacks and razorgirls.

Zophar posted:

I taught a Cyberpunk lit class last Spring and at each new step underscored how the genre was always much more about processing the present moment at the time of their creation, aligning the events of the novels/stories with the transitions in global social/economic paradigms that accompanied them.

This applies to a great deal of science fiction, not just cyberpunk in particular. The Time Machine isn't about the wonders of time travel. It's an allegory about the dangers of Victorian class divisions. Spice in Dune stands in for oil. The Forever War is about the Vietnam War. More recently, Famous Men Who Never Lived is about being a refugee.

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



I wonder what peoples thoughts are on A Mote and God's Eye and the CoDominium universe.

quote:

The point of departure of Pournelle's history is the establishment of the CoDominium (CD), a political alliance and union between the United States of America and a revitalized Soviet Union. This union, achieved in the name of planetary stability, reigns over the Earth for over a hundred years. In that time, it achieves peace of a sort, as well as interstellar colonization, but at the price of a complete halt in both scientific and political evolution.

The CoDominium (CD) is a supranational alliance of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This alliance eventually becomes a de facto planetary government, and later, an interstellar empire. Despite this, no other nations on Earth are given representation or membership. Other major powers become mere client states. It is governed by a "Grand Senate", which is composed of Senators chosen from the two superpowers. A CoDominium Council exists and appears to function as a judicial branch. The CD did not unify the United States and the USSR, who appear to retain their separate identities and mutual distrust. The CD was only created for the shared benefit of the two member states. It does not govern either nation, and each state has been allowed to retain their government structures, nationalities, militaries, and to run their own internal affairs.

The United States of the CoDominium Era is a welfare state divided into two social classes: Citizens and Taxpayers. "Citizens" are welfare dependents who are required to live in walled sections of cities called "Welfare Islands." People are given whatever they need, including the drugs like Borloi to keep them pacified. There are no limits to how long they can stay on welfare, except that they must live in a Welfare Island. Although people are free to gain an education and work or become a colonist, many citizens did not, preferring to live their whole lives supported by the government. Generally citizens are uneducated and illiterate. Some BuReLoc involuntary colonists are Citizens. By the late CD era, the Welfare Islands were three generations old. "Taxpayers" are the working, educated, and privileged upper class. They carry identification cards to separate them from Citizens.

Its an interesting twist in that it is founded on an alliance between the USSR/the US which creates kind of a quasi-UN body that functions to stifle technology amongst everyone else, and their key political opponents are nationalists. Of course when that fails it sets the stage for a Heinlein-esque Empire in the vein of Ancient Sparta (of course), but until then it does have an interesting setup.

Perestroika
Apr 8, 2010



Kchama posted:

Also it's funny how David Weber's own Honorverse actually has the original enemies be 'socialists'. He even, himself, explicitly stated that the People's Republic of Haven were explicitly meant to represent Welfare State America and were represented by being a Revolutionary France/Soviet Russia fusion after a couple of books. With villains creatively named Rob S. Pierre, St. Juste, and so on and also the ships having corrupt, brain-dead political officers called Commissars and everyone is forced to call each other Citizen.

And then the final baddies is the Solarian League which is super explicitly the UN.

Speaking of Weber/Honorverse, it always struck me just how terrible the antagonists are. Not "terrible" in the sense of "fearsome", but in the sense of "bad at everything they do". Their entire society and system of government is generally described as completely inferior. Even when we get a chapter from the point of view of an antagonist, it's just them mentally describing how much their own side sucks and how they only really fight for them out of some stoic sense of duty. Any plan of the antagonists usually fails quickly and immediately. When the much-hyped moment of the cold war going hot finally comes, their offensive fails completely and utterly across the whole front, mostly offscreen. From what I hear, that remains a pretty constant trend all the way to the end of the series (never read past book three or four).

It's kind of emblematic of a lot of conservative wankfiction. They like the aesthetic of being the outmatched or oppressed underdog, but they're loathe to even entertain suffering any real consequences or defeat even in fiction.

Aramis
Sep 22, 2009




Perestroika posted:

Speaking of Weber/Honorverse, it always struck me just how terrible the antagonists are. Not "terrible" in the sense of "fearsome", but in the sense of "bad at everything they do". Their entire society and system of government is generally described as completely inferior. Even when we get a chapter from the point of view of an antagonist, it's just them mentally describing how much their own side sucks and how they only really fight for them out of some stoic sense of duty. Any plan of the antagonists usually fails quickly and immediately. When the much-hyped moment of the cold war going hot finally comes, their offensive fails completely and utterly across the whole front, mostly offscreen. From what I hear, that remains a pretty constant trend all the way to the end of the series (never read past book three or four).

It's kind of emblematic of a lot of conservative wankfiction. They like the aesthetic of being the outmatched or oppressed underdog, but they're loathe to even entertain suffering any real consequences or defeat even in fiction.

It's not just conservative wankfiction though. It's one of the fundament characteristic of reactionary Fascist ideology/propaganda.

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



i always felt that david weber wasn't as much a fascist as he is whatever you'd call someone who is obsessed with 1800s british naval culture (a man-o-waraboo?) who happened to write science fiction. for all his bizarre diatribes against socialism and for individualism, he never falls into the explicit fascism a la kratman or even ringo. he's conservative, but he doesn't walk the line (or leap past it) like many of his baen fellow authors.

for more recent work, has anyone read Cry Pilot? its a great book (and the start of a great series), but sets up a much more modern twist on cyberpunk corporate dystopia and is one of the first better takes on that setting since neuromancer.

Lawman 0
Aug 17, 2010





Science fiction that dosen't engage with politics is basically just fantasy for engineers

Kchama
Jul 25, 2007





Perestroika posted:

Speaking of Weber/Honorverse, it always struck me just how terrible the antagonists are. Not "terrible" in the sense of "fearsome", but in the sense of "bad at everything they do". Their entire society and system of government is generally described as completely inferior. Even when we get a chapter from the point of view of an antagonist, it's just them mentally describing how much their own side sucks and how they only really fight for them out of some stoic sense of duty. Any plan of the antagonists usually fails quickly and immediately. When the much-hyped moment of the cold war going hot finally comes, their offensive fails completely and utterly across the whole front, mostly offscreen. From what I hear, that remains a pretty constant trend all the way to the end of the series (never read past book three or four).

It's kind of emblematic of a lot of conservative wankfiction. They like the aesthetic of being the outmatched or oppressed underdog, but they're loathe to even entertain suffering any real consequences or defeat even in fiction.

It just gets worse and worse, in fact.

The Solarian League is, in the first several books, touted as the series equivalent of God. It is why you do not use kinetic killstrikes on planets and the like, because the Solarian League enforces that rule and it has such a hegemony in everything that to go against it would be suicide and the only reason why Haven is in the game at all against Manticore is that the Solarian League sells them 10th-rate technology.

Cut to the last few books when the series starts moving towards war with them. It soon turns out that they are actually centuries behind on technology and in fact their top of the line fleet with their best technology would get curb-stomped by Manticore's fleet at the start of the series. Their only hope is to literally drown Manticore in bodies and hope they run out of missiles first (Which they never do despite having all of their missile production capability destroyed and the smallest capship missiles at the start of the series costing 1 million for just the frame and drive and nothing else and Manticore's economy being destroyed and also them turning on their biggest trading partner in the universe) it turns out the SL has no money at all and can't actually afford to activate any ships.

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



Lawman 0 posted:

Science fiction that dosen't engage with politics is basically just fantasy for engineers

i take it you're not a big fan of k. j. parker

Lawman 0
Aug 17, 2010





Aruan posted:

i take it you're not a big fan of k. j. parker

I have no clue who that is lol.

VitalSigns
Sep 3, 2011
Probation
Can't post for 22 hours!


Aruan posted:

I wonder what peoples thoughts are on A Mote and God's Eye and the CoDominium universe.


Its an interesting twist in that it is founded on an alliance between the USSR/the US which creates kind of a quasi-UN body that functions to stifle technology amongst everyone else, and their key political opponents are nationalists. Of course when that fails it sets the stage for a Heinlein-esque Empire in the vein of Ancient Sparta (of course), but until then it does have an interesting setup.

I loved that book for the interesting and truly alien psychology of the, well, aliens and the anthropological (xenological??) puzzle of Motie society, and I kept getting annoyed at having to slog through the weird serf-mentality aristocracy-humping and Jerry Pournelle's iron age opinions about women (and you know that part was Pournelle because it was maximum-prude whereas a Niven society is maximally horny, too horny for normie males to even survive since Ringworld-novel humanoid females have pheromones or sexual kungfu moves or both that render men into temporarily mindless gently caress-zombies).

And ya know humanity's key social advantage over the Moties being our ability to put female sexuality under tight male control so our population sizes don't get out of hand and destabilize society

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Aruan posted:

i always felt that david weber wasn't as much a fascist as he is whatever you'd call someone who is obsessed with 1800s british naval culture (a man-o-waraboo?) who happened to write science fiction. for all his bizarre diatribes against socialism and for individualism, he never falls into the explicit fascism a la kratman or even ringo.

Aramis posted:

It's not just conservative wankfiction though. It's one of the fundament characteristic of reactionary Fascist ideology/propaganda.

He's not explicitly fascist by virtue of not having actually had enough exposure to fascist ideology, but he's the type of conservative who becomes fascist the day the YouTube algorithm shows him the right videos. His writing has all the hallmarks.

-Racial superiority politics
-Hypernationalism
-Good guys are alluded to possess a predestined grand fate
-Anti-federal, pro-centralization, and explicitly pro-war economy
-Enemies are simultaneously omnipresent and overpowering and also weak and cowardly, easily defeated by direct confrontation by The Right People
-An actual secret conspiracy to racially extinct the good guys

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



Lawman 0 posted:

I have no clue who that is lol.

its a joke, k. j. parker writes fantasy, and literally wrote a series a called the 'engineer trilogy' where the main character is an engineering and its 25% about engineering and 75% about colonialism.

Aramis
Sep 22, 2009




Lawman 0 posted:

Science fiction that dosen't engage with politics is basically just fantasy for engineers

To be fair, I'm fairly confident that Jules Vernes was extremely aware of that, and was perfectly comfortable with it.

Edit: But seriously, The Mysterious Island is basically "Minecraft, the novel", and possibly the most blatant "Engineers stand above all other men" thing ever put to paper.

Aramis fucked around with this message at 18:38 on Feb 11, 2021

Lawman 0
Aug 17, 2010





Aramis posted:

To be fair, I'm fairly confident that Jules Vernes was extremely aware of that, and was perfectly comfortable with it.

Good point

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



VitalSigns posted:

I loved that book for the interesting and truly alien psychology of the, well, aliens and the anthropological (xenological??) puzzle of Motie society, and I kept getting annoyed at having to slog through the weird serf-mentality aristocracy-humping and Jerry Pournelle's iron age opinions about women (and you know that part was Pournelle because it was maximum-prude whereas a Niven society is maximally horny, too horny for normie males to even survive since Ringworld-novel humanoid females have pheromones or sexual kungfu moves or both that render men into temporarily mindless gently caress-zombies).

And ya know humanity's key social advantage over the Moties being our ability to put female sexuality under tight male control so our population sizes don't get out of hand and destabilize society

have you ever ready 'oath of fealty'? its niven and pournelles stand alone novel about a functioning arcology in california, where the moral is 'its good if we allow corporations to become independent entities with the power to kill, because we can always trust them to be better than Incompetent Socialist Governments'

and yea pournelle's terrible sexual politics only get worse in the rest of the Motie books. his solo series in the same universe - about Falkenberg's legion - is also an insane trip, because the central political thesis is heinlein's service guarantees citizenship but with way and '...and its ok to kill people who don't serve, because they're trash, and their deaths will lighten the burden on everyone else.' it feels like his ur inspiration is peak oil, or something similar, because the central concern in a lot of his works is scarcity, including mote in god's eye. i think its distinct from a lot of other authors in that they are more concerned with global war.

Aruan fucked around with this message at 18:37 on Feb 11, 2021

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



they also wrote 'lucifer's hammer' which is novel in the sense that it is one of the first post-apocalyptic novels about an asteroid hitting the earth, but also an insanely weird 80s scifi trip where the villians are black bikers who speak solely in some bizarre dialect and post-apocalypse immediately become cannibals, which Stains Their Soul

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



General question: are there any acclaimed science fiction authors who are not sex pests, crypto or otherwise? I used to be in a book club where all we read was award winning sci fi for two years and that was the common theme across all sub-genres, male and female authors, and from the fifties up to around 2010 or so.

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



The Oldest Man posted:

General question: are there any acclaimed science fiction authors who are not sex pests, crypto or otherwise? I used to be in a book club where all we read was award winning sci fi for two years and that was the common theme across all sub-genres, male and female authors, and from the fifties up to around 2010 or so.

most modern science fiction authors not published by baen are not sex pests or fascists. do you like military scifi, hard scifi, or what? if you like military scifi theres always marko kloos, who owns because he is happy to troll the rest of the genre.

Lester Shy
May 1, 2002

Goodness no, now that wouldn't do at all!


I'll take any opportunity I can to recommend Kim Stanley Robinson. I'd grown entirely disenchanted with SF/F until I picked up his Mars trilogy. Along with Le Guin, he's one of the few authors that makes me feel some of the awe and wonder and hopefulness I did as a kid. His stuff gets derisively written off as "hard" sci-fi, which it is, but there's also a lot of heart and imagination in his stories. If you have any interest in SF/F and leftism, I can't recommend him enough.

quote:

These days I tend to think of dystopias as being fashionable, perhaps lazy, maybe even complacent, because one pleasure of reading them is cozying into the feeling that however bad our present moment is, it’s nowhere near as bad as the ones these poor characters are suffering through. Vicarious thrill of comfort as we witness/imagine/experience the heroic struggles of our afflicted protagonists—rinse and repeat. Is this catharsis? Possibly more like indulgence, and creation of a sense of comparative safety. A kind of late-capitalist, advanced-nation schadenfreude about those unfortunate fictional citizens whose lives have been trashed by our own political inaction. If this is right, dystopia is part of our all-encompassing hopelessness.

On the other hand, there is a real feeling being expressed in them, a real sense of fear. Some speak of a “crisis of representation” in the world today, having to do with governments—that no one anywhere feels properly represented by their government, no matter which style of government it is. Dystopia is surely one expression of that feeling of detachment and helplessness. Since nothing seems to work now, why not blow things up and start over? This would imply that dystopia is some kind of call for revolutionary change. There may be something to that. At the least dystopia is saying, even if repetitiously and unimaginatively, and perhaps salaciously, Something’s wrong. Things are bad.

Probably it’s important to remember the looming presence of climate change, as a kind of techno-social disaster that has already begun and which will inundate the next couple of centuries as some kind of overdetermining factor, no matter what we do. This period we are entering could become the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, and the first caused by human activity. In that sense the Anthropocene is a kind of biospheric dystopia coming into being every day, partly because of the daily activities of the bourgeois consumers of dystopian literature and film, so that there is a nightmarish recursive realism involved in the project: not just Things are bad, but also We are responsible for making them bad. And it’s hard not to notice that we’re not doing enough to make things better, so things will get worse too. Collective political action is necessary in order to make things better; fixing the problems will require more than personal virtue or renunciation. The collective has to change, and yet there are forces keeping the collective from seeing this: thus dystopia now!

It’s important to remember that utopia and dystopia aren’t the only terms here. You need to use the Greimas rectangle and see that utopia has an opposite, dystopia, and also a contrary, the anti-utopia. For every concept there is both a not-concept and an anti-concept. So utopia is the idea that the political order could be run better. Dystopia is the not, being the idea that the political order could get worse. Anti-utopias are the anti, saying that the idea of utopia itself is wrong and bad, and that any attempt to try to make things better is sure to wind up making things worse, creating an intended or unintended totalitarian state, or some other such political disaster. 1984 and Brave New World are frequently cited examples of these positions. In 1984 the government is actively trying to make citizens miserable; in Brave New World, the government was first trying to make its citizens happy, but this backfired. As Jameson points out, it is important to oppose political attacks on the idea of utopia, as these are usually reactionary statements on the behalf of the currently powerful, those who enjoy a poorly-hidden utopia-for-the-few alongside a dystopia-for-the-many. This observation provides the fourth term of the Greimas rectangle, often mysterious, but in this case perfectly clear: one must be anti-anti-utopian.

One way of being anti-anti-utopian is to be utopian. It’s crucial to keep imagining that things could get better, and furthermore to imagine how they might get better. Here no doubt one has to avoid Berlant’s “cruel optimism,” which is perhaps thinking and saying that things will get better without doing the work of imagining how. In avoiding that, it may be best to recall the Romain Rolland quote so often attributed to Gramsci, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Or maybe we should just give up entirely on optimism or pessimism—we have to do this work no matter how we feel about it. So by force of will or the sheer default of emergency we make ourselves have utopian thoughts and ideas. This is the necessary next step following the dystopian moment, without which dystopia is stuck at a level of political quietism that can make it just another tool of control and of things-as-they-are. The situation is bad, yes, okay, enough of that; we know that already. Dystopia has done its job, it’s old news now, perhaps it’s self-indulgence to stay stuck in that place any more. Next thought: utopia. Realistic or not, and perhaps especially if not.

https://communemag.com/dystopias-now/

Youth Decay
Aug 17, 2015

a little too tithonic
yeah I really do think


The Oldest Man posted:

General question: are there any acclaimed science fiction authors who are not sex pests, crypto or otherwise? I used to be in a book club where all we read was award winning sci fi for two years and that was the common theme across all sub-genres, male and female authors, and from the fifties up to around 2010 or so.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, C. J. Cherryh, Margaret Atwood

James Tiptree Jr. wasn't a sex pest but she may have been a murderer

Aramis
Sep 22, 2009




Lester Shy posted:

I'll take any opportunity I can to recommend Kim Stanley Robinson. I'd grown entirely disenchanted with SF/F until I picked up his Mars trilogy. Along with Le Guin, he's one of the few authors that makes me feel some of the awe and wonder and hopefulness I did as a kid. His stuff gets derisively written off as "hard" sci-fi, which it is, but there's also a lot of heart and imagination in his stories. If you have any interest in SF/F and leftism, I can't recommend him enough.


https://communemag.com/dystopias-now/

If you haven't, you might want to check out Alastair Reynolds, particularly his post-Revelation Space stuff. Some people feel like he pushes a bit into performative wokeness, but I personally find it absolutely fine.

Aramis fucked around with this message at 19:08 on Feb 11, 2021

VitalSigns
Sep 3, 2011
Probation
Can't post for 22 hours!


Aruan posted:

have you ever ready 'oath of fealty'? its niven and pournelles stand alone novel about a functioning arcology in california, where the moral is 'its good if we allow corporations to become independent entities with the power to kill, because we can always trust them to be better than Incompetent Socialist Governments'

and yea pournelle's terrible sexual politics only get worse in the rest of the Motie books. his solo series in the same universe - about Falkenberg's legion - is also an insane trip, because the central political thesis is heinlein's service guarantees citizenship but with way and '...and its ok to kill people who don't serve, because they're trash, and their deaths will lighten the burden on everyone else.' it feels like his ur inspiration is peak oil, or something similar, because the central concern in a lot of his works is scarcity, including mote in god's eye. i think its distinct from a lot of other authors in that they are more concerned with global war.

No I haven't read that. I've read a lot of Niven (although his later stuff seemed like a setting created by a good writer who gave it to a 14-year-old boy to fill in the details, probably a lot of that has to do with them all being about his obvious self-insert horndog protagonist Mary Sue Louis Wu), my only exposure to Pournelle is the original Mote book and this scathing review of Lucifer's Hammer which explained so much about Mote in God's Eye in retrospect.

Are the Mote sequels any good, it felt like the first story had a self-contained resolution and that the authors had already shot their whole load of solving the central mystery and conflict, so it seemed like any sequel would be Pournelle coming back like "oh and another thing about how women are the downfall of all societies everywhere ", but if it's not that I may give it a try.

VitalSigns fucked around with this message at 19:14 on Feb 11, 2021

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Aruan posted:

most modern science fiction authors not published by baen are not sex pests or fascists. do you like military scifi, hard scifi, or what? if you like military scifi theres always marko kloos, who owns because he is happy to troll the rest of the genre.

I've read a bunch of his work but I wouldn't call him acclaimed; the closest he came was when those right wing reactionaries nominated one of his books for a Hugo to try to get back at Ann Leckie and he withdrew from consideration.

Youth Decay posted:

Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, C. J. Cherryh, Margaret Atwood

James Tiptree Jr. wasn't a sex pest but she may have been a murderer

Margaret Atwood is a good example. I haven't read enough of either le Guin or Butler to really feel like I have an idea of what they're like on this front (if anything), but the first book of CJ Cherryh's I read included the rape of a child and then went a tad too far on the "but the rapist meant well" front for me to give that a pass.

Lester Shy posted:

I'll take any opportunity I can to recommend Kim Stanley Robinson.

At least this guy's bizarre sex content was all between consenting adults as far as I can remember.

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



for acclaimed, maybe william gibson? as far as i know there are no weird sex things in any of his work. there's also dan simmons, but, uh, don't read anything after 9/11 because 9/11 broke his brain. but hyperion is still one of the best scifi books ever written, and i like the sequels.

Nth Doctor
Sep 7, 2010

Darkrai used Dream Eater!
It's super effective!




I'm really uncomfortable with just how much I liked Heinlein's books in high school and college. They are rife with mouthpiece characters in heroic protagonist roles, and frequently stop to lecture you about this cool thing they're so smart for thinking about.

Late Heinlein is so loving creepy on reflection but the way he structures the books like, for instance, Time Enough for Love is like the frog in the pot brought to a boil. Only after the fact do you realize he led you to "... and that's why it's okay that he hosed his own mother". It's super hosed up.

Aramis
Sep 22, 2009




The Oldest Man posted:

At least this guy's bizarre sex content was all between consenting adults as far as I can remember.

This somehow put back the memory of reading Dan Simmon's Olympos in my mind. . Imagine writing a really original and well received work like Ilium and sequeling it with stuff like "You must rape this unconscious woman to save humanity".

Aramis fucked around with this message at 19:27 on Feb 11, 2021

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



Aramis posted:

This somehow put back the memory of reading Dan Simmon's Olympos in my mind. .

I have mentally edited out so many weird sex scenes from sci fi novels that I actually don't trust myself to make recommendations to normies anymore which is partially why I asked this question in the first place. The other reason is that I think a major component of many science fiction writers' engagement with politics is envisioning a political order that makes the world a safe and/or mandatory place for their sexual fetishes. Heinlein for sure falls into this category.

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



lol i also forgot about that in olympus. yikes. i guess you could read leckie's ancillary justice series, but i find it unreadably bad, so :welp:

Kchama
Jul 25, 2007





Nth Doctor posted:

I'm really uncomfortable with just how much I liked Heinlein's books in high school and college. They are rife with mouthpiece characters in heroic protagonist roles, and frequently stop to lecture you about this cool thing they're so smart for thinking about.

Late Heinlein is so loving creepy on reflection but the way he structures the books like, for instance, Time Enough for Love is like the frog in the pot brought to a boil. Only after the fact do you realize he led you to "... and that's why it's okay that he hosed his own mother". It's super hosed up.

This just reminds me of OSC's stuff, where Ender's Game is VERY specifically written to take you down his specific morality path, but in his case he hosed it up and people just read it as more of a generic "YOU are a badass supermurderer at age 8 who is oppressed, reader."

Aruan
Nov 4, 2020



orson scott card's earlier work before he went insane was pretty decent, particularly the Worthing Saga and A Planet Called Treason, but he's just been on perhaps the sharpest downward road to insanity amongst all working science fiction authors, including his "gay marriage is actually bad" campaign in 2012 and his atrocious rewriting of the book of mormon

Kchama
Jul 25, 2007





Aruan posted:

orson scott card's earlier work before he went insane was pretty decent, particularly the Worthing Saga and A Planet Called Treason, but he's just been on perhaps the sharpest downward road to insanity amongst all working science fiction authors, including his "gay marriage is actually bad" campaign in 2012 and his atrocious rewriting of the book of mormon

Is Planet Called Treason the one where the villain is evil because the protag's dad raped her a lot?

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Ethics_Gradient
May 5, 2015

Common misconception that; that fun is relaxing. If it is, you're not doing it right.

My submission would be Iain M Bank's "Culture" books - a post scarcity, transhumanist society which is sorta governed by superintelligent AI's. I wouldn't say politics or ethics usually takes top billing (the stories tend to be more character driven) but you can definitely find some themes there. He writes well, many of the weirder aliens like the Affront, and the AI minds are particularly fun.

Dick Trauma posted:

I was never much of a political person until our country's most recent decent into madness, so I rarely considered the political perspective of the media I consumed. There was a lot of Heinlein talk in the USPOL thread so I was surprised that no one mentioned "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" which I enjoyed as a kid but apparently is some sort of revolting Libertarian fever dream.

I expect that much of the 1960s and 1970s sci fi I read in my younger years probably had a laughable/repulsive political undertone that I didn't notice because I was reading for enjoyment, not enlightenment.

EDIT: I should also mention that shows like The Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek gave my young mind the impression that human beings should avoid thinking that they can solve every problem with technology, or that modern human beings have moved beyond the ignorance and flaws of earlier times. I was not interested in "perfect" sci fi heroes. The cynicism and dystopia of the 1970s and 1980s definitely made sure I was not going to engage in America's usual hero worship bullshit.

Moon is a Harsh Mistress is definitely libertarian - I went back and listened to an audiobook at a boring desk job in college though and it was magical because the reader did the main character's narration with a Russian accent. I remember enjoying the narrative, but again, that was a very long time ago now.

TBH the incest stuff that took front seat after his stroke is probably worse than his politics.

Lawman 0 posted:

Science fiction that dosen't engage with politics is basically just fantasy for engineers

I am definitely going to steal this quote.

Aruan posted:

I, like many a goon, love reading science fiction, and for obvious reasons science fiction is a perfect playground for every halfbit political theorist to theorycraft a utopian (or dystopian) future political system. I thought it'd be a fun discussion to explore some of the more interesting theoretical futures and reflect on how many of them are quite fascist.

I'll get us started with a few examples!

Robert Heinlein - Starship Troopers

Heinlein is the proto-fascist origin story of a lot of contemporary military science fiction (coincidentally almost all published by Baen Books) which imagines a future in which the dominant political system is a quasi-libertarian/fascist state where military/public service is required to "earn" citizenship attendant privileges beyond a basic level of human rights.

Here's a quick Wikipedia summary:


So, pretty fascist, although Heinlein would probably refer to it as libertarian.

Definitely fascist, but what part is libertarian? It's been half a lifetime since I last read Troopers, which was one of my favourite books growing up (not because of the politics - liked the narration style and way you could see Rico mature over the course of the novel), but I don't remember hearing much if anything about the economic system in the book. If anything it came off as "government controls everything". Now that I think about it, is fascism even compatible with libertarianism? I'm not saying either is good, mind you.

Heinlein was in the Navy as a young man but was discharged due to medical reasons. I think some of the commentary I've read on Troopers suggests that it's partly him working through that, but also the bugs are a racist stand-in for the Communist hoardes.

My relationship with Heinlein is complicated - never read him for the politics (or sex stuff) but he'll probably always have a place in my heart as one of the first authors I discovered as a kid and tried to read everything of. I actually didn't mind the politics of Troopers when I read it as "here's a scifi thought experiement" rather than "full facism now" - I actually do still think it's more the former than the latter just on the basis of how solidly libertarian the rest of his work is, but the fact it only shows the upside of it is rather damning.

Lester Shy posted:

I'll take any opportunity I can to recommend Kim Stanley Robinson. I'd grown entirely disenchanted with SF/F until I picked up his Mars trilogy. Along with Le Guin, he's one of the few authors that makes me feel some of the awe and wonder and hopefulness I did as a kid. His stuff gets derisively written off as "hard" sci-fi, which it is, but there's also a lot of heart and imagination in his stories. If you have any interest in SF/F and leftism, I can't recommend him enough.

https://communemag.com/dystopias-now/

I haven't read them since high school and should go back - I remember the politics but not very clearly, the hard SF stuff I found very interesting at the time though. Red Mars was written very early in the 90s IIRC so it's got a bit of a retro-future thing with the Russians being a big player. (You can argue that they still sorta are, but if he was writing today I'm sure KSR would have swapped them with the Chinese to give the latter a more prominent role).

Ethics_Gradient fucked around with this message at 19:55 on Feb 11, 2021

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