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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Birth-defective literature

John C. Wright answers a question concerning whether books can contain messages concerning politics, religion, or philosophy without being propaganda:
I am a Christian, hence I regard God as the ultimate floor of reality, the one necessary being from which all contingent beings flow. If I am a faithful Christian, this one ultimate reality influences all lesser realities, and there is no neutral ground. Even something as lighthearted as a fight scene, I must decide if the characters act like pagan warriors or chivalrous knights, that is, with the romance of Christendom. Even a love scene must show love to be romantic, as a Christian sees love, or as situation of shameful weakness, erotic madness, or mutual exploitation, as various pagan and secular worldviews see love.

The Leftist for whom politics is the ultimate floor of being is an idolater, and makes power arrangements his personal little crappy god. It influences everything in his thought and life, and if left unchecked will eventually ruin his writing.

The Leftist who is a faithful Leftist only on their sabbath days, and otherwise ignores the business (and that would be the majority of Leftists) can write a perfectly passable story about space pirates kidnapping space princesses without any hint of politics, to the satisfaction of all involved. He will write his love scenes with romance and his fight scenes with chivalry without noticing or caring about the origin of these Christian cultural artifacts. He will not think of them as particularly Christian, merely as part of the moral atmosphere and cultural background of his society. He will not notice the incongruity between his art and his philosophy.
The distinction Wright is making can be seen very clearly in the difference between Larry Correia's MONSTER HUNTER NEMESIS and Greg Bear's DARWIN'S RADIO, both of which I recently finished reading. Now, Bear is much more highly regarded in the science fiction community. DARWIN'S RADIO won the Nebula Award for best novel and was nominated for the Hugo, Locus SF, and John W. Campbell awards. Bear is a multiple award-winner who is described as a hard SF writer "who often addresses major questions in contemporary science and culture with fictional solutions."

Larry, on the other hand, can't get nominated for the Hugo without being accused of rape, child abuse, and sexual deviancy... no, wait, that was Marion Zimmer Bradley. Or was it Samuel Delany? Anyhow, the point is that his books are generally considered little more than pulp urban fantasy that is popular among right-wing mouth breathers due to its heavy gun-porn content. And that's not an entirely unfair characterization, if one looks solely at the early Monster Hunter books.

But here is the interesting thing. I will come right out and say that NEMESIS will hold up much better over time than DARWIN'S RADIO, and eventually will be seen to be a deeper, more serious novel, because, under the skin of its hellacious action-fury, the former contains the significant examination of some long-contemplated philosophical questions, whereas despite its erudite flights of scientific fancy, the latter contains nothing deeper than cheap atheist propaganda.

I'll explain the philosophical questions of NEMESIS on Monday, when I review the book that is easily the best of the Monster Hunter series to date. And as for the propagandistic elements running so strong within DARWIN'S RADIO, the book is almost startling for its contempt for the unwashed, easily frightened masses, with a lack of faith in humanity surpassed only by Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall".

The core idea is a response to the fossil and DNA dichotomies that falsify the models supporting the theory of evolution by natural selection: evolution doesn't merely punctuate its equilibrium, but occurs instantaneously across a broad spectrum of a species under stress because [long complicated theory concerning viruses I couldn't possibly explain on the basis of a single reading.] Informed? Highly. Ingenious? Absolutely. But then recall that the "major question" he's nominally addressing (despite never expressing any serious doubts about the consensus dogma), is "why doesn't the evidence support the conventional neo-Darwinian synthesis?"

And his answer is absurd. Magic Science Elves or Alien Uplifters or even a bored, sadistic Creator God would have been considerably more plausible than the Magic Ancient Virus-Program, which raises far more questions than it purports to answer. The real question underlying the nominal one is: "just how terribly would those awful little people who are too ignorant to place blind faith in scientistry react if they found themselves in a situation where living as a traditional married couple would cause them to a) believe that the wife was unfaithful, and, b) humanity was on the verge of becoming extinct through miscarriages.

As you can probably imagine, it isn't long before we are treated to riots, televangelists, thousands of women being murdered by their husbands, the president and several governors being assassinated by a bomb, and even a ritual lampooning of Pat Robertson.
“They’re calling it ‘original sin,’ you know that?”

“I hadn’t heard that,” Augustine said.

“Tune in the Christian Broadcasting Network. They’re splitting constituencies all across America. Pat Robertson is telling his audience these monsters are God’s final test before the arrival of the new Kingdom of Heaven. He says our DNA is trying to purge itself of all our accumulated sins, to...what was his phrase, Ted?”

The aide said, “Clean up our records before God calls Judgment Day.”

“That was it.”

“We still don’t control the airwaves, Frank,” Augustine said. “I can’t be held responsible…”

“Half a dozen other televangelists say these unborn children are the devil’s spawn,” Shawbeck continued, building up steam. “Born with the mark of Satan, one-eyed and hare-lipped. Some are even saying they have cloven hooves.”

Augustine shook his head sadly.

“They’re your support group now,” Shawbeck said, and waved his arm for the aide to step forward. He struggled to his feet, shoved the crutches into his armpits. “I’m tendering my resignation tomorrow morning. From the Taskforce and from the NIH. I’m burned out. I can’t take any more of this ignorance—my own or anybody else’s. Just thought you should be the first to know. Maybe you can consolidate all the power.”
Oh, that dreadful ignorance! Oh, those awful violence-prone Christians! Only turning to science and giving unlimited power to politicians wise enough to unhesitatingly accept the untested and unproven assertions of scientists can save Man! With only superficial changes, this could have just as easily been a book about global warming, or nuclear disarmament, or an unexpected attack by rapidly evolving salamanders.

That's what Wright means when he talks about the leftist ruining his own writing. I found myself putting down DARWIN'S RADIO twice, and had to force myself to finish it once it became clear that the philosophical message was not merely an integral part of the story, the message WAS the story. The characters, the plot, even the "major questions addressed" were only there to serve the all-important Message: Evolution by natural selection is real despite the appearance of the evidence and only Scientists can save you from the blind fury of the ignorant masses.

So, it's not terribly surprising to discover that despite its scientific erudition and its panoply of literary awards, DARWIN'S RADIO is presently ranked #731,269 on Amazon and Greg Bear is now reduced to writing game tie-in novels for an Xbox game. This leads me to conclude it might be interesting, and more than a little informative in this regard, to compare Bear's CITY AT THE END OF TIME to John C. Wright's CITY BEYOND TIME.

Labels:

86 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Ashley June 29, 2014 6:18 AM  

I was surprised to see you reading DR because the back cover on the following book had the notion that normal people getting upset about kids being born with the potential to unleash a viral apocalypse was somehow the Worst Thing Evar.

Rereading the back cover, I wondered if it was a bit more sophisticated than I had given it credit for. Reading your review of the first book, I'm going to say, my original impulse to throw the book down, make the sign against evil, and spit on the carpeted floor of my local bookstore a great big loogie was correct.

Anonymous VD June 29, 2014 6:33 AM  

I'll read pretty much anything and give it a fair shake. As a game reviewer, I was known for my impartiality; even the SFWA people couldn't find anything to complain about in my three stints on the Nebula juries. (Wikipedia is wrong; I was on three juries.)

I do draw the line at de Sade and Delany, however. I simply won't read rape porn. Or, for that matter, "dinosaur erotica".

Blogger Cataline Sergius June 29, 2014 6:41 AM  

I couldn't plow my way through Darwin's Radio either. But it did have the name Darwin in the title so it must be art.

Like any good atheist GB any examination of good and evil ends begins and ends with are you on the left or are you EVIIIIILLLL!

Murder in Metachronopolis on the other hand has within is narrative a thoughtful and fascinating examination of the nature of evil.

Anonymous TroperA June 29, 2014 7:40 AM  

Any book with a plot point that centers around Pat Robertson and other televangelists actually being taken seriously by mainstream Christians in 2014 is full of dookie. After the Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swiggert scandals and Oral Roberts holding himself hostage for collection plate money, I thought most televangelists had been discredited. (By sane people, at least.)

I think most leftists live in a bubble where they view Christians through a late 1980's lens when Republican, God-Thumping, Big Haired, Fake Smile Televangelism was at its height. Either that or they see all Christians as Modern Day Young Earth Creationists (whom they're happy to point to as representatives of the Christian Mainstream.) Christians exist only to be feared as bogeymen or mocked mercilessly as fools. (Marxists, of course, exist to be revered and respected, and even given their own Google Doodle if they've become famous enough...)

Anonymous hygate June 29, 2014 7:48 AM  

The dialog seems pretty stilted to me. And the characterization of Christians makes me think that Bear has all insight into Christian thinking and culture of someone who worries about the threat of dominionism and what an abomonation creationist museums are.

In short, why I stopped reading most SF about 25 years ago.

Anonymous jack June 29, 2014 7:50 AM  

Could not agree more on your positive thoughts concerning Nemesis.
I read DR some years ago and at the time enjoyed the story. Your analysis up page reminded my that there were some uneasy moments there. Back then, I had more faith in evolution than my more informed notions now. Looking to the further dissection of Nemesis.

Anonymous Founder June 29, 2014 8:07 AM  

I've got Darwin's radio at 162,937, which is not bad at all considering Darwin's radio was published in 1999.

Plus, I thought Amazon rankings weren't informative?

Blogger MidKnight June 29, 2014 8:23 AM  

Looking back I remember that Bear was supposed to be one of the "great" hard SF writers. Digging through his list of works, I was surprised at how little there really was.

DW, and for that matter Slant/City of Angels I'd avoided because somehow the blurbs never caught my curiosity. Other books I don't even remember if I HAD read them or not.

Some of it struck me as interesting attempts at stuff, but others left no mark in my memory.

The Forge of God is the only book of his I've kept around (the second was pretentious crap wallowing in angst....)

Anonymous VD June 29, 2014 8:24 AM  

I've got Darwin's radio at 162,937

I now have a screen capture showing both your comment and the current Kindle rank of #731,438 to prove otherwise.

I thought Amazon rankings weren't informative?

I can't say I'm terribly concerned about what you thought in the past, what you think now, or what you will think in the future.

Anonymous Founder June 29, 2014 8:28 AM  

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,937 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Radio-Greg-Bear-ebook/dp/B000FA675M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404044836&sr=8-1&keywords=darwins+radio

Not sure what to tell you, and what I meant was, I thought you claimed Amazon rankings weren't informative?

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 29, 2014 8:30 AM  

Eh, give me Childhood's End any day. Unreadable, of course, but at least interesting ideas. This sounds like a David Cronenberg movie with big words.

“We still don’t control the airwaves, Frank,” Augustine said. “I can’t be held responsible…”

Ah, yes, those poor, besieged leftists, ever imprisoned in the cone of silence by the evil, media-controlling right-wing octopus. Why, if only these poor, unjustly-gagged knights of science could somehow get control of the airwaves, they might be able to talk some scientific SENSE into those Xtian apetards. Yawn.

"The dialog seems pretty stilted to me."

You've got a character named Shawbeck, for pete's sake. Shawbeck. I wonder, does he report to President Thorndyke and Governor Watkinson?

It's actually got to be a big problem for SF writers, I would think, what to name human characters in the distant future? It drove me crazy in The Mote in God's Eye, you've got humans on the other side of the galaxy thousands of years from now with names like Sally and Jack. Hell, there are barely any Sallys left even now. OTOH you don't want to name them Xaargax and Computotron, so I don't know how you solve it. Probably by naming everybody Jose, Fatima, and Ngungo.


Anonymous scoobius dubious June 29, 2014 8:35 AM  

btw, OT but since this is an SF thread...

recently the name of Colin Wilson came up in conversation. I had never heard of the guy, but I guess he was prolific and well thought of in some circles. Anybody here have any opinions about his stuff?

Anonymous Salt June 29, 2014 8:40 AM  

Just pulled up Amazon, got this -

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,937 Paid in Kindle Store

Where do you see #731,438 Vox?

Anonymous PhillipGeorge(c)2014 June 29, 2014 8:42 AM  

Wright is right. Christianity informs everything.
One of the grandest delusions picked up by nominal Christians these last 100 years in particular is the mythology of secularism.
Separation of church and state destroyed nations. Separation of religious and secular destroyed individual writers - or at least lobotomized them. All they were left with is nerves and muscles, base impulses. Higher functions destroyed.

Blogger Nate June 29, 2014 8:43 AM  

I've been holding out on Nemesis for the audio version... I need something to listen to on the tractor. I expect to get a crap load of work done when its released.

Anonymous VD June 29, 2014 8:47 AM  

Where do you see #731,438 Vox?

Right here: http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Radio-Greg-Bear-ebook/dp/B009FUFER0. It's 731,100. Mass market paperback is #108,082.

And that's enough of the Amazon tangent. Amazon's rankings and their idiosyncracies are not the subject here. The point is that Bear's work is not particularly popular or highly rated by the public despite his numerous awards.

Anonymous VD June 29, 2014 8:51 AM  

Probably by naming everybody Jose, Fatima, and Ngungo.

That appears to be the strategy of the Pink SF/F crowd. I always find it amusing that for all of their self-righteous and self-conscious multiculturalism, Jose, Fatima, and Ngungo are almost always US or EU astronauts. Somehow, even the Pinksters can't swallow the notion that the United Congo or the Scientific Republic of Ecuador are going to become the dominant spacefaring power of the 23rd century.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 29, 2014 8:57 AM  

"Separation of church and state destroyed nations."

To be fair, union of church and state has destroyed nations too. Not that I'm advocating either way.

"All they were left with is nerves and muscles"

Yeesh. Was their editor Ramsay Snow?

Anonymous hygate June 29, 2014 9:00 AM  

@TroperA

A secularist's understanding of Christian culture and Christianity can usually be gauged by how much influence they ascribe to televangelists.

Most televangelists that I am aware of preach properity gospel. "God loves you and wants you to be healthy, happy, and wealthy and that is why you need to send me money."

They have no interest in changing their listeners' behavior. They certianly aren't going to tell them that anything they are doing is "wrong."

Working towards changing the culture or laws? You have got to be kidding.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 29, 2014 9:01 AM  

"Jose, Fatima, and Ngungo are almost always US or EU astronauts"

Thing is, it's probably the one thing the pinksters get right. On present trends (I know, I know), the only people left in the US and EU in the 23rd century will be Jose, Fatima, and Ngungo. Oh, and Duck Dodgers. So Tom Kratman's cryogenically frozen head will have a little bit of company, anyway.

Anonymous A Plate of Shrimp June 29, 2014 9:04 AM  

"Working towards changing the culture or laws?"

I'm kind of afraid that at this late date those sorts of efforts may be futile. You change the culture, the left will just flood you with even more mass immigration til your changes are erased. You change the laws, they'll just be overturned by a leftist federal judge. Secession. It's what's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Anonymous Founder June 29, 2014 9:10 AM  

It would appear random houses kindle edition is #162,937 and harpers kindle edition is #731,438.

And that's enough of the Amazon tangent. Amazon's rankings and their idiosyncracies are not the subject here

Yes sir, Mr. Scalzi sir. Although I would argue 108082 and 162937 for a 15 year old work runs counter to your point that Bear's work is not particularly popular or highly rated by the public despite his numerous awards.

Now, if you could demonstrate what it's rating/ranking was in 2000 you might have something.

Anonymous hygate June 29, 2014 9:12 AM  

@A Plate of Shrimp

True. But even if it were possible, televangelists wouldn't be the ones leading the effort.

The whole point of watching a televangelist is to be a "Christian" without exerting any effort, even something as basic as joining a church and engaging in fellowship with other Christians. The minute that the televangelists starts asking his listeners to actually do something is the minute they change the channel.

OpenID cailcorishev June 29, 2014 9:22 AM  

"All they were left with is nerves and muscles"

Yeesh. Was their editor Ramsay Snow?


A lifetime of feminism destroys one's ability to do subject-verb or pronoun-antecedent agreement. And verb tense, apparently.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan June 29, 2014 9:30 AM  

Bear and the Pinksters are nothings, ask them what they think of Islam. I could care less about their absolutely rotten adolescent ranting about Christianity. If they think they are so smart that they should lead the world out of superstition then let me hear their opinions of Islam. They won't say a word, all atheists are cowards and useful idiots to the cynical vermin who dominate the Left. Hell I couldn't get these cowards in front of a Black church congregation today even if I gave them SEAL Team 6 for personal protection, cowards to the bone.

Anonymous agathis June 29, 2014 9:32 AM  

Leftist SF writers never get conservative Christians right in their books, no matter how hard they try. They never hesitate to laugh at Monster Hunter's characters as flat and cliched, but then just look at the characters in Bear's book. Now, look. I liked Darwin's Radio well enough for what it was, but as soon as he tried to put words in Pat Robertson's mouth, I started laughing. Literally. Bear doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. He doesn't understand how conservative Christians think. He doesn't know what they believe. But he thinks he does, and in the process he makes himself look like a complete idiot. Most of the people who read his books are just as ignorant, though, so they don't notice. Hence the Nebula.

Blogger Al Cibiades June 29, 2014 9:33 AM  

"Evolution by natural selection is real despite the appearance of the evidence and only Scientists can save you from the blind fury of the ignorant masses."

"whereas despite its erudite flights of scientific fancy, the latter contains nothing deeper than cheap atheist propaganda."

These lines reminded me of the 'Save us Ape Man!' dissatisfaction I had with "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn.

Anonymous VD June 29, 2014 9:37 AM  

Although I would argue 108082 and 162937 for a 15 year old work runs counter to your point that Bear's work is not particularly popular or highly rated by the public despite his numerous awards.

Lois Bujold's runner-up to the Bear novel, published in the same year, is at #41,000. And Lois Bujold is not reduced to writing media tie-in novels. I note that another runner-up from the previous year is at #201. You're obviously wrong.

So, for the second time, drop it. Amazon is not the subject here. And if you refer to me as John Scalzi again, I will treat you in the same way John Scalzi treats critics and ban you.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben June 29, 2014 9:40 AM  

Monster Hunters is great. I just finished Legion and I'm guessing that Franks is now hunted in Nemesis.

Blogger IM2L844 June 29, 2014 9:56 AM  

As an aside, in a moment of mental masochism, I "accidentally" watched an episode of The Wil Wheaton Project. Now, I completely understand why worshiping Wheaton gives Scalzi a boner. My brain is going to need an extended chemical scrubbing followed up with a dose of Fagothey's Right and Reason.

Anonymous REG June 29, 2014 10:07 AM  

"Not sure what to tell you, and what I meant was, I thought you claimed Amazon rankings weren't informative?"

No, he was listing Amazon ratings in comparison to a Leftist writer and one of the leftist defenders claimed that he was wrong to use Amazon, because it wasn't informative. He is remaining consistent by using Amazon.

Anonymous Andrew Sullivan June 29, 2014 10:42 AM  

RONALD REAGAN AND CHRISTIANISTS GAVE GAY PEOPLE AIDS

Anonymous clk June 29, 2014 10:42 AM  

I think Wright and many others need to come up with a new term to describe what they hate ... instead of using the terms leftists and liberals...

The RCC teachings on social justice and the poor are about as "leftist" as one can be (this is using the real definition of leftist .. not what you guy use here) .. there is no contradiction between the teachings of Christ and what is traditionally know as leftist position for 99% of that words existence. If you are a member of the RCC, and you follow the teachings of the RCC you are a leftist and a liberal... and not a bad person at all. Many of the founding fathers of the US held what were traditional leftist positions. Democracy is a leftist concept. Libertarian philosophy is loaded with leftest ideals.

And don't get me going on the term liberal ... there as a time when a liberal education meant one that was well rounded in science, math, the classics, philosophy and religion ... we could do with a lot more of those liberals today .... in fact by that definition it would mean that both Wright and VD are liberal educated men as well ...

"He will not notice the incongruity between his art and his philosophy."

....And while your being honest Mr Wright .. lets remember that the morals that we assign to having been be created by God and thus proof of his existence doesn't not .. repeat does not.. mean only Christianity or even Judaism. Many of these universal ideals of right and wrong existed in other religions and philosophies, predating Judeo-Christianity ... so even if their existence and universality provides the existence of a Creator (which I tend to support roughly) -- that is much closer to agnostic thought than any Christian religion ... I know you are a new convert to RCC and its easy to get star struck by the works of the great doctors of the church, and their methodical attempts of using reason to prove the correctness of the Churches positions.. and perhaps there is a irresistible draw to be be counted in similar company today.. but its a dated philosophy created by great men on a wrong idea. You can construct an logical argument towards a higher intelligence in the universe and in fact science does just that (although many scientists don't realize this) but past that you are in the realm of faith only.. the entirety of Christian religion (including the RCC ) is faith only .... faith.


Anonymous the shite, it burns June 29, 2014 10:45 AM  

clk = concern troll poop

Anonymous clk June 29, 2014 10:50 AM  

wrong. Get a dictionary.

Faith = belief in lies.

Anonymous A Plate of Shrimp June 29, 2014 11:00 AM  

"there is no contradiction between the teachings of Christ and what is traditionally know as leftist position for 99% of that words existence"

Couldn't be more wrong.

JESUS: You, the individual, must give to the poor.
LEFTIST: We, the State, will take your money at gunpoint collectively, and give it to the --well, not even poor, really -- hell, we'll just give it to whoever we feel like. The point is, we feel righteous because we took YOUR money, you didn't give it, and neither will we.

Try again, dictionary boy.

Anonymous Andy June 29, 2014 11:10 AM  

I thought Nemesis was his best one yet as well. It is impressive that Larry has improved as a writer throughout the series.

Blogger Bard June 29, 2014 11:12 AM  


"....And while your being honest Mr Wright .. lets remember that the morals that we assign to having been be created by God and thus proof of his existence doesn't not .. repeat does not.. mean only Christianity or even Judaism. Many of these universal ideals of right and wrong existed in other religions and philosophies, predating Judeo-Christianity ... so even if their existence and universality provides the existence of a Creator (which I tend to support roughly) -- that is much closer to agnostic thought than any Christian religion ... I know you are a new convert to RCC and its easy to get star struck by the works of the great doctors of the church, and their methodical attempts of using reason to prove the correctness of the Churches positions.. and perhaps there is a irresistible draw to be be counted in similar company today.. but its a dated philosophy created by great men on a wrong idea. You can construct an logical argument towards a higher intelligence in the universe and in fact science does just that (although many scientists don't realize this) but past that you are in the realm of faith only.. the entirety of Christian religion (including the RCC ) is faith only .... faith."

Ahhh, and now my favorite argument. Morals predated Judeo Christianity. Well, what existed prior to Abraham? After the flood, Shem was still alive up to the point of Abraham. He lived before the flood and his dad (Noah) was the first person who could not have know Adam personally. But his grandfather could have and probably did. My point? All generations up to Noah could have talked with Adam personally about what life was like walking and talking with God in the garden before the flood. The morals would have been passed from Adam down to them. Look how quickly the counter moral humanity developed. In just 10 generations (long ones I grant) and God had to destroy it. So yeah, morals predated Christ, all Jews from Abraham, and the generations to Adam. But, they did not predate Adam. Now, if you don't believe the Bible narrative, then this rationale makes no difference and I cannot help you.

Anonymous Lucius June 29, 2014 11:34 AM  

To highlight the actual point of this post, you couldn't get a clearer example than the current Hugo reading list. So much of it is well written garbage. White-washed tombs. Beautifully composed of necrotic substance.

Take de Bodette's Spacewoman of Mars. Spoiler. Woman chooses career over kids and over her dying husband for a chance to get back to the stars on a pointless mission. But it's okay because all children are on mars are hers. Utter nonsense. Women can do at least one thing better than men. Have children. But the story was at least competently written. I finished it. Most others I couldn't.

Now Turgeson's The Chaplain's Assistant is easily one of the best stories I've read. Full stop. The story had heart and substance and a deep philosophical discussion within an exciting situation. It really doesn't get any better.

And that is the times we live in. The sick hate the healthy. The abnormal despise normalcy. Yet it is clear at even a most cursory glance who is who. (or whom or whatever)

As for Bear, I never forgave him for the Postman. In the world to come we will not look back wistfully on the US postal service or reunite around a bureaucrat. He should write a follow up called The Obamacare Exchange Worker.

Anonymous Trimegistus June 29, 2014 11:35 AM  

I will certainly second the idea that no SF writer has ever been able to convincingly depict Protestant fundamentalist Christians. They invariably mix up doctrines from different traditions, throw in made-up shit from movies or whatever, and generally use them as proxies for everything the author doesn't like.

Anonymous Jason June 29, 2014 11:37 AM  

Slow down there, clk, you're getting so shaky you're spitting out typos like a little kid spits out brussels sprouts--messily, and not in a good way.
You're also obviously no expert on faith or Christianity. Faith is, among other things, the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction (firm belief) in things unseen. Just because what I hope for (as a Christian, eternal life with God) hasn't happened yet doesn't make it a lie: just like your hope for a decent job and a wife and kids isn't a lie; it just hasn't happened yet.
In the same way, just because I haven't seen heaven yet (unseen) doesn't mean it isn't real. I've also never seen you, and I believe you're real.
Now I'm no Catholic, and I don't know much about Catholic doctrine; you've got me there. But I know what "leftist" means when the commenters above use it. I also know what "liberal" means. Yeah, they both used to mean something different; but since none of us are members of the National Assembly of pre-Revolutionary France, why don't we just use the meanings which are generally accepted currently?

Anonymous Rabbit Response Squad June 29, 2014 11:49 AM  

Al Gore... the Ultimate Televangelist

Blogger James Dixon June 29, 2014 12:13 PM  

> If you are a member of the RCC, and you follow the teachings of the RCC you are a leftist and a liberal... and not a bad person at all. Many of the founding fathers of the US held what were traditional leftist positions. Democracy is a leftist concept. Libertarian philosophy is loaded with leftest ideals.

Total and complete BS created by using two different definitions of the words and treating them as the same. Standard leftist tactic. Lies are their stock in trade.

Anonymous Trimegistus June 29, 2014 12:16 PM  

If libertarian philosophy is loaded with leftist ideas, and Catholic doctrine is fundamentally leftist and liberal . . . then why are liberals so fanatically hostile toward the Catholic Church and the Libertarian movement?

Anonymous Jonathan June 29, 2014 12:21 PM  

@ clk

The RCC teachings on social justice and the poor are about as "leftist" as one can be

My impression is that very few catholics comment on this blog or at least the percentage of commenters who are RC is very low.

Faith = belief in lies.

Cite a blatant falsehood that is believed by most commenters on this blog. Remember, a lie is something that is demonstrably false, e.g. Jesus may or may not have risen from the dead but the assertion he did is not a lie.

My guess is that you, like most leftists, have problems using basic terms correctly.

Anonymous Jonathan June 29, 2014 12:24 PM  

@ clk

An example of a lie would be if I told you that the bog in back of my house contains a magic mud that, if smeared on your body, will may you immune from gunfire. Such a claim is demonstrably false and anyone who acted on such an assertion would wind up shot. It is a demonstrably false claim.

If you can empirically demonstrate that Jesus did not rise from the dead I am willing to evaluate your evidence.

Anonymous a. scientist June 29, 2014 12:40 PM  

Faith means willful beliefs contrary to science. Faith in magic, unicorns, faith healing, leprechauns, Santa, the devil, Jesus, etc.

OpenID cailcorishev June 29, 2014 12:47 PM  

The RCC teachings on social justice and the poor are about as "leftist" as one can be

Utter nonsense. You should stop listening to people who think the Catholic Church was founded in 1965. The Church has consistently condemned socialism, liberalism, modernism, and all the other -isms that are bound up in leftism. Leftism is, almost by definition, the opposite of Catholicism in every way.

Blogger Bies Podkrakowski June 29, 2014 12:49 PM  

After I had read Hodgson’s “The Night Land” I found that there is homage to his book written by known and lauded science fiction writer Greg Bear. However his “City at the End of Time” was simply boring. Sure, the great ideas are there - sinister force called Typhoon, last human city besieged by forces of chaos at the end of time, parallel dimensions and time skipping - but execution is sloppy. To cut long story short, I stopped reading because I simply couldn’t force myself to read further. Meanwhile I have read every story (even those not very good ones) on http://www.thenightland.co.uk. This is a place where you can find a lot of pastiches written in the world Hodgson has created. John C. Wright had some of his “Night Land” stories there before Castalia started publishing them. How Greg Bear could waste such great ideas is beyond me.

Blogger RandalThorn June 29, 2014 12:51 PM  

Isn't science the blind belief in the ignorance of scientists?

Anonymous Daniel June 29, 2014 12:57 PM  

Lucius, are you thinking of David Brin's The Postman? I've never liked Greg Bear, so I'm not aware of his character of the same title.

Blogger MidKnight June 29, 2014 1:01 PM  

@Lucius

I think the Postman was David Brin

Anonymous Varenius June 29, 2014 1:26 PM  

[Bear's] “City at the End of Time” was simply boring... I stopped reading because I simply couldn’t force myself to read further.

I had exactly the same experience. Something was missing and it just couldn't keep my attention.

Blogger James Dixon June 29, 2014 1:40 PM  

> Faith means willful beliefs contrary to science.

You mean like human equality and global warming?

Anonymous Feh June 29, 2014 1:43 PM  

Eh, give me Childhood's End any day. Unreadable, of course, but at least interesting ideas.

Search through John C. Wrights site and you will find some cogent criticisms of it.

Anonymous Feh June 29, 2014 1:44 PM  

You should stop listening to people who think the Catholic Church was founded in 1965.

Unfortunately, all too many people in the RCC, including many of its priests, do indeed preach messages on "social justice" that are indistinguishable from Leftist dogma.

Anonymous kh123 June 29, 2014 2:06 PM  

"An example of a lie would be if I told you that the bog in back of my house contains a magic mud that, if smeared on your body, will may you immune from gunfire."

No no, it creates life spontaneously. Over millions of years. We need to keep on topic, people.

Anonymous Stickwick June 29, 2014 2:08 PM  

a. scientist: Faith means willful beliefs contrary to science. Faith in magic, unicorns, faith healing, leprechauns, Santa, the devil, Jesus, etc.

That's not what it means. You might want to do some research and see what influential Christian thinkers believe faith to mean before you say silly things like this.

Anonymous TroperA June 29, 2014 3:08 PM  

I will certainly second the idea that no SF writer has ever been able to convincingly depict Protestant fundamentalist Christians. They invariably mix up doctrines from different traditions, throw in made-up shit from movies or whatever, and generally use them as proxies for everything the author doesn't like.

Lefties (the ones who aren't already Cafeteria Catholics) don't understand Roman Catholicism either. Here is a comedic review of an X-Man comic where an anti-mutant Church has taken over the Vatican and is trying to get people to believe that the Rapture has happened by giving them explosive communion wafers:

http://atopfourthwall.blogspot.com/2009/01/uncanny-x-men-424.html

(Skip to 2:52 to get past the introduction.)

Anonymous TroperA June 29, 2014 3:11 PM  

Whoops. Scratch that link I posted. Start here to see the actual beginning of the review:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slH7UnyttYU

Blogger Eric June 29, 2014 3:17 PM  

Unfortunately, all too many people in the RCC, including many of its priests, do indeed preach messages on "social justice" that are indistinguishable from Leftist dogma.

The freakin' pope sure seems to have sympathies in that direction. And gay marriage. Of course he's deliberately vague, but I can't help getting the same vibe from him as I get from SCOTUS as they make gay marriage a constitutional right without actually ruling on it.

Anonymous kfg June 29, 2014 3:44 PM  

" . . .why don't we just use the meanings which are generally accepted currently?"

Because that would be capitulation to Newspeak at the deepest level?

Blogger Whiskey June 29, 2014 4:57 PM  

As Nicholas Wade Hate-Fact noted, evolution among humans is recent, copious, and race-related. That is, Africans are on a different evolutionary path than Whites, who are on a different path than Asians, who are on a different path than Native Americans. In each instance, widely separated groups of humans in vastly different environments responded differently to natural and sexual selection.

Now, as the resident racist, bigot, and don't forget, homophobe, real science tells you all sorts of things that makes PC diversity clap-trap nothing but a child's fairy tale. Does it touch on Christianity? No. It cannot. By its very nature the theory of Evolution (which is still being refined but empirically holds up very, very well if one is rigorous) has nothing to say one way or another about Christ's Divinity or not, the Nature of God, if God even exists. Perhaps Cosmologists and physicists might eventually get at some clues, an arrow or two pointing to some conclusions, but that is about as close as humanity (or highly advanced aliens for that matter) could ever get.

Some things are simply beyond knowledge.

What makes Bear's stuff junk is his inability to reconcile his religious beliefs (and he DOES have them they are just post-Christian) to science. The analog is the neo-Platonists constructing every more elaborate perfect circles for the orbits of the planets around the Earth instead of the simple and robust model of the Earth orbiting the Sun along with the other planets in an ELLIPTICAL, NON-PERFECT NON-PLATONIC ORBIT. It took a hard, empericist like Kepler to reject that Platonic nonsense.

A REAL scientist committed to empericism would note that MUSLIMS not Christians reject science like crazy. That MUSLIMS have a God-centric view of every thing happening by an active will of God, and that should God will it, mysterious things would happen all the time outside of human perception and understanding. Water flow uphill, gravity abolished, etc. The REAL magical world is the Muslim one.

And secondly, evolution implies that different races are radically different in not just lactose tolerance and disease resistance, but social behavior and intelligence.

Let me say that again in all caps emphasis. DIFFERENT RACES ARE DIFFERENT ON AVERAGE IN INTELLIGENCE AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR. RADICALLY DIFFERENT. [Cue ritual denunciations for hate fact now!]

This means that the idiot post-Christian delusion of buying the World a Coke and the Colors of Benetton is an idiot delusion. That genetics and evolution imply I as a White guy care more about someone plausibly my distant cousin (who shares my genes and thus at least half of my innate character, beliefs, and behavior) far more than some random African. Or even non-Random African. And no amount of Post Christian moralizing will make me care about someone far removed from my family versus someone far closer. Period.

And that Africans: selected for male violence/sexiness, low IQ/sexiness, high testosterone-violence-impulsivness/low dutifulness, are radically different from Whites and Asians. This does not imply African ubermensch or untermenschen status, merely difference.

But the difference is there. And that's science. Which will tell you things you don't like to know about the idiot Post-Christian religion mixed with Folk Marxism polluting our society.

Blogger rycamor June 29, 2014 6:07 PM  

Whiskey June 29, 2014 4:57 PM

What makes Bear's stuff junk is his inability to reconcile his religious beliefs (and he DOES have them they are just post-Christian) to science. The analog is the neo-Platonists constructing every more elaborate perfect circles for the orbits of the planets around the Earth instead of the simple and robust model of the Earth orbiting the Sun along with the other planets in an ELLIPTICAL, NON-PERFECT NON-PLATONIC ORBIT. It took a hard, empericist like Kepler to reject that Platonic nonsense.


Yes, there's definitely a key to the West's downfall in there. Platonism is to Aristotelianism as collectivism is to individualism, as Keynesianism is to Austrian economics. Those who decide on their ideals based on what they consider to be "pure reason" (actually, emotion) before examining the hard evidence are doomed to such ever-more-elaborate rationalizing in attempting make reality fit the model. However, the theory of evolution itself bears evidence of the same contorted, ever-extended rationalizations. A simple and robust model, it no longer is.

Anonymous map June 29, 2014 6:14 PM  

I've said it once and I will say it again...if evolution through natural selection and random mutation were correct, then the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and giant anaconda would all be real. What would also be real is a woman giving birth to a baby that would be completely unable to breed with the existing species of humans...speciation at the micro level.

Anonymous Sluggo: Amazing Master of the Obvious June 29, 2014 6:47 PM  

Whiskey: "Cue ritual denunciations for hate fact now!"

Umm... you do know which site you're commenting on right now, don't you?

You're so bloody ubiquitous, maybe you should start keeping a calendar to keep track.

OpenID simplytimothy June 29, 2014 8:10 PM  

Faith means willful beliefs contrary to science.

Epicycles? The plumb-pudding model of the atom? TENS?

okey-dokey, then.

Blogger Brad Andrews June 29, 2014 8:21 PM  

VD, the Amazon rankings might be worth their own post at some time. I found at least 4 or 5 for Darwin's Radio when I just look, depending on the version. That will make it really hard to tell exactly what a given book ranked if each is counted completely separately.

Though I haven't been impressed with other ranking systems, such as the one that allowed Hillary's latest book to shoot to the top.

====

TroperA,

You believe what the media tells you about any figure? That is how all the opinions of televangelists most people have come, via what the liberal press that hates them says.

I would not argue they are perfect, but they are far from the scum many claim as well. Look at how much anyone who disagrees with the leftist dogma gets slimed and you might be less content to jump in with them so quickly.

I wonder if anyone can be successful on TV now without having some kind of significant flaws.

Anonymous Daniel June 29, 2014 9:42 PM  

Extremely rough rule of thumb for Amazon sales ranks:

#1000 - sold about 100 (or possibly more during high volume weeks) units last week.
#10000- sold anywhere from 12-75 units last week.
#100000 - sold anywhere from 5-10 units last week.
#500,000 - might have sold one last week.
#1,000,000 - might have sold one last month or so.


Now, the minute I oversimplify things as above is the minute either a) a traditionally published author pipes up and says, "wait a minute - your figures are off. My royalty statements in no way reflect sales that high..." or b) an author who has direct access to his own numbers will say: "Hey! My Sad Puppies II is ranked X, but no way did it sell as many as you say!"

That's why I call it rough: I intend those figures to be understood by readers, not used by authors.

Funny thing, these rankings. Your lowest selling book on Amazon might be your best-selling book in Australia via kobo or something.

Anonymous Daniel June 29, 2014 9:50 PM  

Oh - one other thing: those figures are only for regularly selling titles outside of special events. If a book is in a successful book-bomb or an author is running a special online promo, the ranking and unit sales per week may or may not fall into the above guideline, because activity velocity within the last 15 hours or so is an important daily variable in the rankings. Amazon wants book-bombs and such, so intense marketing is rewarded a little bit with an ability to move faster than regular unit sales would typically indicate.

Anonymous Daniel June 29, 2014 9:51 PM  

Also, just so it is really clear: the above Klavening is only based on my experience and guesses. I have no insight into how Amazon really makes it work.

Blogger Bogey June 29, 2014 9:59 PM  

And if you refer to me as John Scalzi again, I will treat you in the same way John Scalzi treats critics and ban you.

Scalzi insults you first then slams the door on you before you can blast his fucking teeth out.

Anonymous Jonathan June 29, 2014 11:04 PM  

@ a. scientist

Faith means willful beliefs contrary to science.

Your list, mostly, consists of items that are unrelated, not contrary, to science. That "a scientist" cannot distinguish between things that are unrelated and things that are contrary does not exactly say much for science.

Anonymous Jonathan June 30, 2014 12:26 AM  

why are liberals so fanatically hostile toward the Catholic Church and the Libertarian movement?

As a former, long time libertarian I have no idea what you're talking about. Libertarianism and leftism are undergoing a historical process of reconciliation. Yes, I realize Vox calls himself a "libertarian" but it is very much at odds with how most self-styled libertarians understand the term.

As for the RCC? My impression is that, come election time, leftist pols all but fellate the RCC to win votes. I don't see the same sort of "outreach" to evangelical protestants, therefore, I think you're just wrong on this one.

Anonymous Jonathan June 30, 2014 12:31 AM  

You should stop listening to people who think the Catholic Church was founded in 1965.

What percentage of roman catholics think the church was founded in 1965? My guess is somewhere between 60 and 70 percent, over 80 percent for ordained priests and consecrated nuns.

Yes, you are welcome to declare the remaining 20 percent as "real" catholics but it's sorta like Vox declaring himself a libertarian. Yeah, he can do it but not many people are gonna care. Usage is meaning and the terms "catholic" and "libertarian" simply do not mean to the vast majority what Wright and Beale, respectively, would like them to mean.

This is not to say either man is "wrong" in some absolute sense but that they are fighting wars that are already irrevocably lost.

Blogger Michael Maier June 30, 2014 12:40 AM  

Dammit... scared of spoilers... I have to skip reading this post. :)

OpenID luagha June 30, 2014 12:44 AM  

And just to add, current scientific research is teaching us that what we think we know about the state of death is all wrong. Current temperature techniques and chemical techniques are able to put people in death-like states for extended periods of time with the capability of bringing them back.

Look in the papers. You'll see countless reports of people 'waking up' in their coffins at their funerals; of people freezing to death in icy rivers and coming back, of that kid who stowed away in the wheel well of a plane and survived 5 hours at 35,000 feet in freezing temperatures and just 'woke up.' It's why paramedics refuse to state that they know someone is dead and always have a doctor do it; and even then doctors make mistakes.

Any modern medical scientist steeped in the current literature would have no problem believing Jesus died to the point where even modern sensors couldn't detect signs of life, yet he arose on the third day.

Anonymous Eric Ashley June 30, 2014 2:17 AM  

Which is why an expert practitioner in the art of making people dead, a Roman soldier, stabbed him in the side with a spear

Anonymous Jonathan June 30, 2014 5:26 AM  

Any modern medical scientist steeped in the current literature would have no problem believing Jesus died to the point where even modern sensors couldn't detect signs of life, yet he arose on the third day.

I don't think this is what the Bible is describing. It's pretty clear that Jesus was dead in the same way that someone who died a century ago was dead.

OpenID luagha June 30, 2014 9:39 AM  

Oh, absolutely, Jonathan and Eric. The problem I'm pointing out is with our definition of death and with those who think to use it to discredit the bible; who claim 'Science!' and scream, "That couldn't happen!"

Blogger John Wright June 30, 2014 10:41 AM  

"I think Wright and many others need to come up with a new term to describe what they hate ... instead of using the terms leftists and liberals..."

Sir, I seriously and earnestly think you should find out what I actually believe before you voice a criticism of it.

Example one: find out what I have been saying for years and years about the use of the words 'leftist' and 'liberal' to define the enemies of God and Man.

Example two: find out what I have been saying ever since I joined the Roman Church about the social teachings of the Church vis-a-vis leftwing perversions of those same teachings.

Example three: find out where I put the Church in the left-to-right spectrum which only the Left uses to categorize political stances.

Example four: Find out what I think of natural law, the objective nature of morality, and special position of Judaism in history.

Example five: ' Many of these universal ideals of right and wrong existed in other religions and philosophies, predating Judeo-Christianity' Find out my educational background, and discover whether or not I can read Aristotle in the original Attic Greek, before assuming you know what I think about other religions and philosophies, or how deeply I have studied them.

Example six: Find out whether I believe in God because of an imaginary epistemology you mislabel 'faith' or because of empirical evidence, rationally considered.

Finally, just a personal word in your ear -- a thread dealing with Greg Bear's inability to understand even the basics of the Christian religion is not the most adroit place to display your own misunderstandings about that same thing. The setting makes the stone look duller.

I am not going to bother to state my opinions and conclusions on any of theses examples given above, because you have not asked. You merely used your sockpuppet strawman make-believe version of me to make your point and proselytize your own jabberwocky and pseudo-scientific faith. You did not act in good faith; I will not reply in good faith.

If you want to have a real conversation about any or all of these topics, I am at your service and would welcome them, once metaphorically speaking you put on a jacket and tie and comb your hair, and make yourself presentable. It is impolite to put words in another man's mouth.

Blogger John Wright June 30, 2014 10:58 AM  

"Faith means willful beliefs contrary to science."

Such as the belief that DDT harms eggshells, that the Ozone Hole exists, that Acid Rain is a threat, that Global Cooling is about to take place, that Global Warming is about to take place, that minimum wage laws raise wages rather than create unemployment, that socialized medicine does not lead to rationing, and that Darwinian evolution is proved by experiment and observation.

Need, I go on, you lying ass piece of crap? The word faith means fidelity to a person to whom you owe allegiance. We Christians keep faith with Christ because we believe His promises; we believe in Him for the same reason you believe in George Washington or (in your case) Carl Sagan, because the preponderance of evidence makes it more reasonable to believe than to disbelieve.

Kull Wahad! But this modern generation of atheists are a disgrace to the forces of evil! Learn to argue your own position!

Anyone who cannot argue without making up definitions to words he shoves in the mouths of others is a worm. Do you have anything aside from strawman and ad hom? ANYTHING? If you are going to mock Christianity, at least grow some balls, you eunuch, and mock like a man!

Blogger John Wright June 30, 2014 11:13 AM  

"Yes, you are welcome to declare the remaining 20 percent as "real" catholics but it's sorta like Vox declaring himself a libertarian. Yeah, he can do it but not many people are gonna care. Usage is meaning and the terms "catholic" and "libertarian" simply do not mean to the vast majority what Wright and Beale, respectively, would like them to mean. This is not to say either man is "wrong" in some absolute sense but that they are fighting wars that are already irrevocably lost."

LOL and Hoo-ha. One advantage to being a Roman Catholic, or having a classical education, or both, is that one gets a sense of the depth of time, and a parochial concerns of one decade, one generation, one nation, or one century do not and cannot fascinate one's entire attention.

The Catholic Church is not what the popular usage of the term says she is. She is what God Almighty says she is: the Bride of Christ and the mystical body of all Christians on Earth, a body which extends via the communion of saints to the Church Suffering in Purgatory and the Church Triumphant in heaven.

When she was born, the Roman Republic was still within living memory, and the Imperial system was brand spanking new. We are older than Caesaropapism. We are older than Feudalism. We are older than the concept of the nation-state. We are older than Monarchic theories of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. We are older than the Republican theories of the Eighteenth Centuries and far, far older than the Socialist theories of Queen Victoria's day.

We are older than your political philosophy, your nation, and (unless you speak Greek) we are older than your language.

We older than everything in your culture, except the things that came from us, or which we transformed and baptized when they passed through our hands.

Little man, you have no idea of what great things you speak. Two thousand years from now, the Church will still be young.

OpenID cailcorishev June 30, 2014 11:57 AM  

Mr. Wright, well said. It's true that many in the Church today have leftist leanings. Our current pope may; as a Latin American Jesuit, it would be surprising if it were otherwise. But that's not the claim that started this discussion; the claim was that Catholic teaching itself is inherently leftist, and that all faithful Catholics must therefore be leftists. That's a lie, but I generously allowed that he might just be ignorant.

No one generation since the Apostles, or even one series of popes, defines Catholic teaching. Today's heresies will pass away, or more likely be morphed into new forms under new names, as so many heresies of the past are currently appearing as modernism. I have a feeling that centuries from now, people will look back on the current generation in power as a particular frivolous one.

Anonymous Olen June 30, 2014 1:47 PM  

I read City at the End of Time all the way through, and agree with you both. The ending is just a big nothing-ball. Perhaps it was meant to be longer, or several novels? But even if so, that's no excuse. Glenn Cook's The Dragon Never Sleeps is incredible, and it was initially planned to be a series of books.

Anonymous The CronoLink June 30, 2014 7:44 PM  

That portion was embarrassing; it always the same with these films/tv shows/comics that try to appear thoughtful and witty (and judgmental) about stuff they know jackshit about, but only come off as heavy-handed, preachy and stupidly arrogant.

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