james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Spoiler warning.

I really wanted to like this book. I have loved some of what I’ve read of KSR’s work, and I wanted this to be as wonderful an experience for me as others have reported it was for them. And indeed there are some cool things about this book. Unfortunately my enjoyment of them was ruined by certain aspects of the book that I frankly found appalling. But as far as I know, in the general uncritical adulation, hardly anyone has pointed out some of the things that make this a less than stellar work. So I am sticking my neck out in full anticipation of having it chopped off. Because some things need to be said.

Date: 2013-03-19 05:47 pm (UTC)
ext_22548: (rogue)
From: [identity profile] cmattg.livejournal.com
Isn't this the one that has the line about "irrefragable Africa"?

Date: 2013-03-20 02:08 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
By the way, James, I sent you this video about the vast improvements in child mortality over the last 50 years, particularly in Africa http://www.openculture.com/2013/02/hans_rosling_visualizes_the_incredible_progress_of_the_developing_world.html which demonstrates how non-irrefragible Africa realy is.

Date: 2013-03-19 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
I've only ever seen the word "irrefragable" used seriously a few times, but so far the person using it has always been wrong.

Date: 2013-03-20 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scott-sanford.livejournal.com
I don't know why; it's a perfectly cromulent word.

Date: 2013-03-19 08:20 pm (UTC)
ext_6388: Avon from Blake's 7 fails to show an emotion (Exoticising the otter)
From: [identity profile] fridgepunk.livejournal.com
Is there any sign yet of the cyberfunkywinkerbean sub-genre ending?

Date: 2013-03-19 11:20 pm (UTC)
ext_22548: (rogue)
From: [identity profile] cmattg.livejournal.com
......everyone gets Computer Cancer and dies?

Date: 2013-03-19 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
The stuff about the Africans and India sounds damning. The more philosophical stuff in the review leaves me going "eh?"

And wow, the review she links to. "Terraforming without geophysical or moral limits in the 24th century permits the arrogance of humanism to justify the wholesale pillage of the sun's revolving neighbors that pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment inhabitants on Earth had hitherto approached with wonder, awe and restraint."

Talk about Romanticizing pre-modern non-Europeans.

'Evidently, Robinson has still not recognized, as Wendell Berry so astutely acknowledged, that no less than on Earth, there is "an ecology of the heavens."'

What.
Edited Date: 2013-03-19 08:44 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-03-19 08:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mmcirvin.livejournal.com
I think that from a scientific perspective, there's a point to be made here. Even if there's no indigenous life elsewhere in the solar system, remodeling another planet means destroying information about its preexisting environment, and at the very least it has to be thought through carefully.

As one of the commenters said, Robinson actually explored that question at some length in the Mars trilogy (and the novella that preceded it). Maybe he figured he was done with that issue.

Date: 2013-03-19 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
Preserving scientific information is an interesting concern but almost entirely unlike what I read in that review.

Date: 2013-03-19 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bruce munro (from livejournal.com)
Yeah, there were a few annoying bits in there. One wonders what her "scientific background" consists of? She seems to be confusing the right-wing engineer brain-eater with the scientific enterprise in general.

"There are consequences to having a scientific-technological viewpoint that sees the world in disconnected little (or big) chunks."

Does she actually know anything about climate scientists?

Date: 2013-03-19 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
Kim Stanley Robinson is a man. His formal academic qualifications are all in literature as far as I know. His wife of 30 years is an environmental chemist.

Date: 2013-03-19 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
Bruce's "she" was Vandana Singh, the reviewer James linked to.

Date: 2013-03-19 10:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
Ah, my apologies. Singh has a PhD in particle physics per http://worldsf.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/locus-online-spotlights-vandana-singh/

Date: 2013-03-19 11:19 pm (UTC)
ext_6388: Avon from Blake's 7 fails to show an emotion (Irony)
From: [identity profile] fridgepunk.livejournal.com
One wonders what her "scientific background" consists of?

Well as noted down thread, she's a Particle Physicist, but that's beyond the point that bringing up her background relative to her argument is bullshit: No ad hominems pls, they're uncouth.

Date: 2013-03-19 11:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
She's the one who brought up her background.

Date: 2013-03-20 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
Sure, but merely to say that she had the right to have an opinion in the matter -- she didn't go all I Am the Real Scientist, Bow Down Before My Knowledge about it.

Date: 2013-03-19 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bruce munro (from livejournal.com)
In my defense, that was an actual question, not a rhetorical flourish. If she's going to be offering sweeping (and IMHO somewhat dubious) criticisms of the scientific enterprise, and saying she's doing it from the POV of someone with a scientific background, my immediate reaction is annoyance and suspicion of the person's knowledge: I, alas, tend to assume badly of people. I suppose as a particle physicist, she certainly works with very small chunks... :)

In any event, this is a side issue: on the main point of KSR's blinkered world view, I have little to quarrel with.

Date: 2013-03-21 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilya187.livejournal.com
"gorgeous inventiveness of placing a moving city-on-rails on the planet Mercury, designed to stay on the night side through the motion provided by the expansion of the rails on the sun-side"?

Does he think KSR came up with that idea? I saw exactly that in a short story published at least 30 years ago.

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