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Chris

Chris lives in Austin, TX, where he once shook Willie Nelson's hand.

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  1. Avatar Patrick
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    says:

    physicists must find all science fiction seriously disconcerting

    My technologist brain is typically sparsely engaged while reading most science fiction.

    More often than not, engagement is a bad thing.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    “If you haven’t read The Illustrated Man, don’t. It’s preachy, silly at times, and at least to my mind, not very well-written or thought-out.”

    Sacrilege.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      Tod, I was afraid it might be. I really, really disliked it, though. My son is enjoying it more than I did, though. He’s about half through.

      But man, it really is preachy. And sometimes silly. I felt this way from the opening story, which is about parenting and technology, though neither with a particularly sophisticated view in mind. Maybe it’s dated? I feel like I’ve read less dated stuff from around then, but it’s been years so maybe I’m misremembering. Does Asimov feel dated? I haven’t read him since the 90s.

      Also, I read Bradbury in between reading the first and last parts of Watts, and given how contemporary and out there Watts’ book is, the Twilight Zone-esque Bradbury stories seem quaint in comparison, so that may have colored my perception.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Well, I will grant that Illustrated Man is my least favorite of his books. But to your larger question about Bradbury being dated…

        I think of Bradbury being a different kind of writer than most sci-fi writers. Bradbury always seemed to me to be more of a fiction short story writer, whose stories just happened to often be set in a fantastical framework. But most of his stories are about things like crumbing marriages, or feeling old as middle age sets in, or nostalgia for the innocence of childhood. When I think of his best short stories, they feel to me less kindred to Asimov or Gaiman than they do Cheever or Updike.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Maybe I will check out some other stuff, then, particularly if this is your least favorite.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Bradbury is not a science fiction writer. What he is is the sort of person that your high school English teacher thinks is a science fiction writer.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        That might explain why my son’s high school English teacher has him reading it.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chris
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        says:

        We all have our heresies.

        Mine are that I find Tolkien to be wooden and Victorian as a writer and Terry Pratchet is not very funny.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I haven’t read Tolkien since high school, and I’ve never read Pratchet. I’m not sure which is the worse heresy, yours or mine.

        You know, my on is into card games (right now, he’s on a Cardfight! Vanguard kick), and that means that over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time in comic book stores, hanging around a lot of people who are, for all intents and purposes, from a very different world than the one I’ve spent most of my life in. In addition to being card and role playing game enthusiasts, they also tend to be comic book enthusiasts and sci fi/fantasy enthusiasts (hell, some of them spend much of their time at the big shop, which is within easy walking distance of my home, dressed as sci fi/fantasy/comic book characters). I have never really read a comic book, I am not a big sci fi/fantasy person (though I occasionally like it in movies or TV), I don’t really like the card games, and I played D&D once or twice when I was a teenager (and didn’t really enjoy it). Were I a more skilled writer, I’d try to write something about the experience. It really has been interesting, in a mostly good way (a few of the people I’ve met have been downright unpleasant, but I’d estimate that the percentage of downright unpleasant people in that world is significantly smaller than the percentage of downright unpleasant people in mine).Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I used to be really heavily into Science Fiction and Anime but I grew out of reading the stuff in my early to mid 20s and switched to what usually gets called literary fiction. I never really liked fantasy/middle ages stuff. Most be something innate about my background. I always think of Jews being massacred by Crusaders traveling through or being accused of blood libel.

        There is still some stuff I like. Doctor Who and Deep Space Nine come to mind and maybe some Miyazaki. Also Jeff Noon novels (Biopunk SF as done by someone who really likes or liked drugs especially halloucinogens) But even when I was in fandom, I was ultra heretical on the canon and more visual. I could never get into Spider Robinson, Terry Pratchet (too silly), Tolkien, etc.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I suppose my heresies are from someone who used to be really into fandom from 14-23 but dropped out. I still have a lot of friends especially from undergrad who are self-described geeks and part of fandom but not me.Report

      • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @mike-schilling : Bradbury is not a science fiction writer. What he is is the sort of person that your high school English teacher thinks is a science fiction writer.

        Bradbury himself only claimed to have ever written one sci-fi story. He considered his body of work to be be fantasy and maybe some straight literary fiction. He distinguished sci-fi from fantasy by the criteria that sci-fi had to be something that could happen given the constraints of currently understood science. So by that criterion, given the almost certain impossibility of “transporter beams”, the barely-possibility of warp drive, the what-the-hell-does-that-even-mean? of “phasers”, and the extreme unlikelyhood of a bazillion alien races all at roughly the same technological level in our galactic neighborhood, Star Trek would certainly be classified as “fantasy”.

        I’m satisfied distinguishing between sci-fi and fantasy by having the magic in the latter produced by wizards using wands and in the former by engineers using machines.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @rod-engelsman
        He distinguished sci-fi from fantasy by the criteria that sci-fi had to be something that could happen given the constraints of currently understood science.

        Which is like a sixth-grader’s understanding of the differences between them.

        The real thematic difference between fantasy and sci-fi is that sci-fi takes the society we have, and has people, in the story or before the story started, changed the rules of it. The people change the rules, via technology. Whereas fantasy has the rules of society already be different. Either by moving to another land with different rules, or a secret society hidden in ours.

        The sci-fi society is us, mutated. The fantasy society is not from us. (The _main character_ can be from us, though.)

        This is a thematic claim, and hence it’s not technically true 100% of the time. But it’s why Star Wars is often considered fantasy, and it’s why something like Heroes is sci-fi, and it’s why planetary romances (like John Carter of Mars) are usually considered ‘science _fantasy_’.

        It’s why fantasy likes to use magic, aka, something that’s always been around and a group of people already know how to use it, while science fiction like to use ‘psi-powers’, which just somehow appear one day in existing society. Despite the fact the only real difference is that magic tends to have more complicated rules. (And nowadays, there’s a kick for inexplicable ‘super powers’, which are functionally saying ‘magic’ without saying ‘magic’. But the important thing is they just appear in society.)

        So by that criterion…Star Trek would certainly be classified as “fantasy”.

        Star Trek is ‘soft science fiction’, which is ‘science fiction that uses science that makes very little sense and almost certainly is impossible’.

        I’m satisfied distinguishing between sci-fi and fantasy by having the magic in the latter produced by wizards using wands and in the former by engineers using machines.

        There are settings and tropes that go along with science fiction and fantasy, and it gets very confusing when science fiction-ish setting appears in fantasy (like Star Wars) or when fantasy tropes appears in science fiction (like, I dunno, Matilda?) and an argument can be made that other things might need to be the deciding line. But just calling something ‘magic’ is not the deciding line, nor does inventing weird handwavey explanations for things make it science fiction. (I’m looking at you, midichlorians.)

        Anyway, the point is Bradbury writes stories in a sci-fi setting, and then completely fails to actually explore the possibility of those settings, which is the entire damn point of sci-fi. You could replace ‘Mars’ with ‘Brazil’ in 80% of the stories in The Martian Chronicles. And when he does try to explore the possibilities of something, like with Fahrenheit 451, he comes to completely idiotic conclusions. Now, we’re not expecting sci-fi writers to be perfect predictors, but usually they fail in predicting technology or how it will be used, not making idiotic guesses like ‘TV will cause us not to care about war!’Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      I GUESS I can see some of Chris’ complaints w/r/t Bradbury, if I look from certain angles.

      I re-read some Bradbury short stories a few years ago, and the prose was, in places, a little more workmanlike than I had remembered; and compared to something like Blindsight, Bradbury is definitely “soft” SF (the science and technology are very much incidental/handwavy in Bradbury stories, which are much more about human nature).

      That said, Bradbury is still one of the greats, not just of SF, but of American authors for: 1.) The sheer breadth of his imagination – the man told a LOT of stories, and a lot of different types of stories 2.) His way with a memorable hook or twist ending – I remembered some of those stories like I read them yesterday, though it had been almost three decades and 3.) his luminous warmth and humanity and wonder, which somehow came through in even his darker stories.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        This sounds like a description of Harlan Ellison.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Well, except for “warmth”…by all accounts, I’d rather be stuck on an elevator for eternity with Bradbury than Ellison…Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        I actually talked to Ellison on the phone once, many years ago. He had asked, through various fan channels, for anyone with a certain edition of his I, Robot screenplay [1] to call him collect. [2] He didn’t say why, but knowing him and the industry, probably because he thought he was getting screwed on royalties. I had one that was close, so I called him. Harlan answered the phone himself, and after we pretty quickly established that it wasn’t close enough, we talked for another 20 minutes. He was completely funny and charming. I wished I’d taped the call, because the only part I remember is:

        “Hey, didn’t I tell you guys to call me collect?”
        “It’s fine, I’m calling from work.”
        “Oh, OK. Fuck ’em.”

        1. Much better than the one which eventually got made.
        2. This was long enough ago that a long-distance call could run into money.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Mike,
        I actually know an author who kept in touch with J. D. Salinger.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      I think (really!) we should do Pratchett’s Small Gods as our post-Sandman book club.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      @mike-schilling
      Bradbury is not a science fiction writer. What he is is the sort of person that your high school English teacher thinks is a science fiction writer.

      Amen.

      And can I point out that Fahrenheit 451 is not science fiction _at all_, and the premise is stupid. The premise, in case anyone’s forgotten, is that you can only get empathy and knowledge by reading about things in books. Television couldn’t convey any meaningful emotion.

      The book ends when _no one cares about the war they’re entering_ and they all die in atomic bombs. Because reading books, of course, would be the best way to make people oppose atomic weapons and the horrors of war. Instead of, I dunno, _pictures_ of war and dead soldiers being broadcast into people’s houses, like, uh, what actually stopped the Vietnam war. (And somehow books didn’t stop any of the _previous_ wars.)

      You’ll also note there’s not actually any science fiction in that. And what science fiction there is (Extrapolating the new technology of TV) was really, really, really incorrect.

      Yes, TV sucks in many ways, and there are superficial similarities to his book if you’re not paying attention, but generally he gets things completely backwards…for example, people poorly informed who watch TV are poorly informed not out of apathy, but out of watching lying people and getting angry about it. He seemed to think that TV would forever be short comedy sketches, and no news or serious drama, or something like that. (How the hell he missed newsreels during WWII, which is how many people got their news, I have no idea, but maybe he never connected the fact they could be played on _TV_ at some point. Which is really really shitty extrapolation of the future, the exact thing we demand of sci-fi writers.)

      To give credit to Bradbury, his premise was an interesting one in 1953 when he wrote the damn thing, but it’s absurdly outdated and stupid now. Hell, it was absurdly outdated and stupid in the 70s.

      Bradbury is not a science fiction writer, he is a writer who liked to write about normal things in a sci-fi setting. And then, to add insult to injury, the book of his that your high school English teacher makes you read isn’t even in a sci-fi setting!Report

  3. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Try reading The Martian Chronicles. The correct opinion is that it is very good.Report

  4. Avatar zic
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    says:

    There are two kinds of science fiction. Science science fiction (Hal Clemont mastered this form) and magical-thinking science fiction.

    Then there’s fantasy, realms of magic, yet I am certain that reading Zelazney’s Amber stories helped me grok quantum physics, and I’m sure there are plains of reality where the Zelazney who wrote those stories wasn’t sexist.

    But you’re right about the aliens; and this confounds me to no end. I’m pretty convinced we won’t leave earth and seed other solar systems, simply because we’re colonies, not individuals, and we’re incapable of taking enough with us to sustain our colonies. And for the most part, we don’t get that. We think of the creatures that we live with as alien, and life on other planets as humanoid. The lack of real alien and alienating our brothers-of-earth suggests, to me, that we’re pretty much stuck here swatting mosquitos until the sun burns out and explodes.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to zic
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      says:

      That’s kinda cool that it helped you with quantum physics.

      I like magical-thinking in my books. I’m currently trudging through Grass’ Too Far Afield, in which the characters themselves switch between not just identities, but centuries, often in the same paragraph. It’s somewhere between magical and insane, suggesting a continuity of time and culture and history and perhaps even awareness. It’s as dizzying as vampire-captained space ships, but I’m more familiar with the ground upon which the book’s figure rests, so I find it less disorienting and more straight-up intellectually challenging.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Sounds like reading Pynchon.

        I’ve been meaning to read Duplex by Kathryn Davis, which your description of Too Far Afield brought to mind, or more accurately, it brought this NPR review to mind.

        Her work is classified as fantasy, but I highly recommend the work of Patricia McKillip (exception being her most famous work, the trilogy the Riddle Master of Hed, which is just too pat for my taste.) She turns language and meaning in on itself, and does so with a decidedly feminine touch. I recommend Alphabet of Thorn, Od Magic or The Book of Atrax Wolfe, or her collection of short stories, Harrowing the Dragon. This has repeat variations of the same stories as she explores a theme or idea, and it’s enlightening; it’s like how I will knit variation after variation, finding what works best; a glimpse into the effort behind the finished art.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        repeat variations of the same stories as she explores a theme or idea

        It’s not exactly the same, but on my Blindsight re-read, I noticed Watts weaving his themes in more places than I had on the first run-through. The different characters’ personas; the protagonist’s flashbacks; the story confrontation/climax; the name of the protagonists’ ship (Theseus) even the vampire, which is both slightly-less-crazy, and just as crazy, as that sounds.

        Speaking of – I have tried to imagine this book without the vampire, and I think it wouldn’t work as well. Not just because he does serve to illustrate some of the themes, but because without him the book might feel more like, say, 2001 – a story we’ve seen before, with villainous (or at least uncaring) AIs as antagonists. He puts a suitably human-yet-inhuman face on parts of the story.

        Plus, I often like some seemingly-random crazy element thrown in a story or song – gives it flavor and character, you know?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Watts has a theme — seeing even when you’re not seeing — that runs, in different forms, often layered forms, throughout the book. That may be the thing I like best about the book, particularly given the way it plays out in the ending (the very ending). It keeps what could otherwise be a disjointed collection of flashbacks and present moment confusions together as a coherent and compelling whole.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        OK, so I will ROT13 this part, since it concerns a question I have about the climax:

        Jura Fnenfgv nggnpxf Xrrgba, ur fgnof uvf unaq; jr ner gbyq yngre gung ur nyfb ohearq uvf onpx fbzrubj – NAQ Xrrgba npphfrf Fnenfgv bs “encvat” uvz.

        Vf gung npphfngvba zrnag gb or gnxra yvgrenyyl be svthengviryl?

        NAQ, jung hygvzngryl qb lbh frr nf Fnenfgv’f zbgvingvba/cbvag va gung qrzbafgengvba? Vf vg gb fubj gung orpnhfr cnva/pbafpvbhfarff vagresrerf jvgu uhzna vagryyvtrapr/pbtavgvba (nf bccbfrq gb gur fpenzoyref, jub ner vagryyvtrag ohg abg pbafpvbhf), gurl ner pyrneyl hc ntnvafg n fhcrevbe rarzl? Be jnf vg gb bireevqr uvf uhzna pbafpvbhfarff, fubj uvz jung npgvat ba cher vafgvapg zrnaf – znxr uvz frr gur jbeyq guebhtu Fnenfgv’f (naq gur fpenzoyref’) rlrf?

        Fbzrguvat ryfr?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Uzz… V gbbx gur encr gb or svthengvir, onfvpnyyl fvtavslvat gur rkcrevrapr bs orvat ivbyngrq gung Xrrgba pyrneyl unq.

        Nf sbe jul ur qvq vg, ng gur gvzr, V gubhtug ng gur gvzr V ernq vg gung ur jnf gelvat gb trg Xrrgba gb or cerfrag, juvpu vf gb fnl, gb vagrecerg guvatf nf Xrrgba engure guna nf gur “Puvarfr Ebbz.” Xrrgba jnf gur bayl bar ba gur fuvc jub jnf yvxr gur fpenzoyref, orpnhfr ur jnf whfg hapbafpvbhfyl cebprffvat gur vasbezngvba sebz gur erfg bs gur perj jvgubhg nal njnerarff. Gung jnf uvf jubyr shapgvba, naq whfg orsber Fnenfgv uhegf uvz, ur gryyf uvz gung sbe bapr ur arrqf uvz gb guvax nobhg gur vasbezngvba. Ur arrqrq uvz gb frr jung ur jnf frrvat.

        Xrrgba jnf greevsvrq bs Fnenfgv. Znlor Fnenfgv/Gurfrhf jnagrq Xrrgba gb jnxr hc naq ernyvmr ubj greevslvat gur jubyr fvghngvba jnf, fb gung jura ur jnf frag onpx gb Rnegu, gung srne jbhyq or cneg bs uvf ercbeg, engure guna whfg gur genafyngvba bs gur vasbezngvba sebz gur raunaprq rkcregf.

        Ubjrire, lbh’ir abj pnhfrq zr gb dhrfgvba gung vagrecergngvba. Ng gung cbvag, V unq nyernql orra guebja, fb vg’f ragveryl cbffvoyr gung V zvfernq gung cneg ragveryl.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I thought it was figurative too, but just making sure.

        Your interpretation works well also. Interesting that it works so many ways.

        The “Ship of Theseus” philosophy question also plays into the characterizations of all non-vampire characters – how much brain can you remove/replace/partition, and still be considered the same human(s)?

        Is killing a personality, killing a person?Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to zic
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      says:

      I agree about the two categories of sci-fi. Some science fiction is about the science, exploring how the world would be affected, and some is about setting up whatever situation is needed for the author to explore his themes. A good example of the latter is C. S, Lewis’ space trilogy. There is no real science involved. He never bothers to explain the how things work, instead he just handwaves it. The whole point of the space ship is to get the characters to the other world where the story takes place. The stories could have been told just as easily by having the characters step through a magic wardrobe.

      Then there is Arthur C Clarke, who manages to combine real science with “science so advanced that it looks like magic.”Report

  5. Avatar KatherineMW
    Ignored
    says:

    I’d recommend some works by Arthur C. Clarke. I’ve read the book of 2001: A Space Odyssey – which is substantially better than the movie – and Childhood’s End. His stuff is disturbing but good.

    Asimov’s robot short stories are also fun, largely for averting the genre convention of robots seeking to overthrow humanity. There are problems, but they’re caused by programming mistakes or poor concepts rather than malevolence.Report

  6. Avatar aaron david
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    says:

    Chris, if I may, a recommendation for SF/Fantasy that you might find more up your alley (if you like shorts) is Gene Wolfe’s The Island of Doctor Death And Other Stories and Other Stories. I don’t read much SF any more, but those stories have always stuck with me.
    By the way, loved Victory, now working on Under Western Eyes (among others.)Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to aaron david
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      says:

      Glad you loved Victory. What a wonderful book that is. Under Western Eyes is colder. Conrad didn’t like Russians (he blamed them for the death of his mother, and maybe his father too) and you can feel the bitterness. I think that takes something away from the book. But it’s great in its own way.

      You’ve read Lord Jim, right?

      Wolfe is now in my queue. At this rate, by this time next year I will be a sci fi expert.Report

  7. Avatar Glyph
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    says:

    So here are some more thoughts on the vampire aspect. I am not going to rot13 these, because even though some might consider it slightly spoilery, vampires really aren’t what the book is about, and I’d hate for people to skip what I think is a pretty excellent book because they can’t wrap their heads around that (relatively minor) part of it.

    1.) The vampires in the book are not supernatural in any way. They are given a “scientific” origin, as a short-lived and previously-extinct branch of homo that was predatory and cannibalistic; the line has been revived via genetic engineering.

    2.) Their vulnerability to crucifixes is explained as a glitch/crosswire in their visual processing neurocircuitry, that triggers grand mal seizures when encountering intersecting right angles* in their visual field; rather than the rise of Christianity, it was the rise of simple human civilization/construction (right angles being rare in nature) and differences in their sexual reproduction rate, that caused their original extinction.

    * A couple fun things occurred to me just now on this bit.

    The whole concept of giving vampires a “scientific” origin (rather than, say, a Lovecraftian one, like Whedon does) recalls Matheson’s I Am Legend, which then resonates in a couple ways – Watts’ vampires might have viewed homo sapiens’ plain old boring right angles with the same sort of gibbering instinctual terror that Lovecraft’s humans experience on viewing the “impossible/wrong” geometries of his interdimensional hell horrors; and also, humans thereby became the legendary “monsters” that eventually out-competed Watts’ vampires to ground (on the first go-round, anyway), recalling Legend‘s protagonist’s realization at the novel’s end.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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      says:

      Oh, and one more parallel to Matheson – Matheson’s vampires are vulnerable to garlic, crucifixes, etc. due to conditioning – essentially, they fear and are harmed by these things, because they believe they should be, from legends they heard when they were “alive” – IIRC, Legend explicitly likens this to “hysterical blindness”, where a person is “blind” but not for any physical cause.

      This concept also crops up in Watts’ story, obvs.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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      says:

      I assumed the right angles thing was meant as a joke. I definitely found it amusing.

      Bs pbhefr, gung vg npghnyyl cynlrq n ebyr va gur fgbel jura gur fuvg jnf znwbeyl uvggvat gur sna zrnaf vg jnf n hfrshy wbxr.

      Nyfb, juvyr V’z ebg13vat va gur ebyr gung ur qvq: gur onfvp vqrn jnf gung Gurfrhf jbexf zhpu orggre jura vg pna vagresnpr jvgu n zber cbjreshy oenva, naq jr’er gbyq gung inzcver oenvaf ner znal gvzrf zber cbjreshy guna rira gur raunaprq uhzna oenvaf bs gur bgure perj zrzoref. Ohg fgvyy, inzcverf?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        What humor there is in Watts appears to be of the black variety, so I didn’t take it as a joke (and, it does come up in story, with him taking drugs to suppress the seizures).

        Gurfrhf qvqa’g arrq na vagresnpr jvgu zrng oenvaf ng nyy; vg’f riraghnyyl erirnyrq gung Fnenfgv vf, yvgrenyyl, n chccrg bs Gurfrhf (vg’f fgevatf, nyy gur jnl hc). Gurfrhf, naq cerfhznoyl gur bgure NV’f gung ner ERNYYL ehaavat gur fubj, whfg arrqrq n “uhzna”-vfu pncgnva gb tvir gur uhznaf beqref.

        V guvax vg’f nabgure vebal bs gur obbx gung nygubhtu Xrrgba ortvaf gb fhfcrpg gung gur inzcverf unir gnxra bire onpx ba Rnegu, vg znl ernyyl or gur NVf ehaavat gur fubj, jvgu gur inzcverf nf gurve cnjaf/fbyqvref.

        Uhznaf nera’g rira frpbaq ba gur sbbq punva.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        So I woke up thinking about this morning, and now it’s bugging me.

        Gur obbx ortvaf jvgu uhznaf qverpgvat NV (gur fuvc gung svefg “urnef” gur negvsnpg), naq vg raqf jvgu NV qverpgvat n uhzna. Vf guvf flzzrgel bs fbegf fvtavsvpnag? Vf vg zrnag gb fvtany n punatr va bhe eryngvir cbfvgvbaf? Lbhe pbzzrag nobhg NV abj ehaavat gur fubj znqr zr guvax nobhg guvf.

        Nyfb, zl zvaq vf fgvyy gelvat gb jenc vgfrys nebhaq inzcverf. Gurfrhf hfrf n inzcver gb qverpg gur orunivbe bs uhznaf. V’z jbaqrevat vs guvf jnf sberfrra jura gurl jrer frag hc, naq vs vg vf jul inzcverf jrer erivirq. Va snpg, V’z jbaqrevat vs vg fhttrfgf gung jr qvqa’g znxr gur qrpvfvba gb erivir gurz ng nyy, gur znpuvarf qvq orpnhfr inzcverf ner hfrshy (vs abguvat ryfr, gurl fpner gur fuvg bhg bs hf, znxvat gurz rssrpgvir ng trggvat hf gb qb jung gurl fnl).

        Guvf nyfb znxrf zr jbaqre nobhg gur Fnenfgv uhegvat Xrrgba ntnva. Vs V erzrzore pbeerpgyl, whfg orsber ur qbrf fb, Xrrgba abgvprf gung gur pbeq, be jungrire vg jnf, gung pbaarpgf Fnenfgv gb gur fuvc vf abg pbaarpgrq. Jnf Fnenfgv nyfb fraqvat n zrffntr nobhg gur fuvc, be jnf gur fuvc va pbageby ng gung zbzrag nf jryy?

        Svanyyl, vs Gurfrhf ernyvmrf, nf vg zhfg, gung rira vg vf ab zngpu sbe jungrire vagryyvtrapr cebqhprq gur negvsnpg, jung vf gur cbvag va fraqvat Xrrgba onpx? Vg zhfg xabj gung vg jvyy znxr ab qvssrerapr vs gung vagryyvtrapr vf orag ba qbvat nalguvat gb hf.

        I really think I’m going to have to reread it. There is no rereading, only rereading, right?

        Oh, and I’m trying to think of how to say what I want to say about the Ship of Theseus issue. It’s… complicated. I’ll try to put something down. Just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring that question.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        @chris Vs V erzrzore pbeerpgyl, whfg orsber ur qbrf fb, Xrrgba abgvprf gung gur pbeq, be jungrire vg jnf, gung pbaarpgf Fnenfgv gb gur fuvc vf abg pbaarpgrq. Jnf Fnenfgv nyfb fraqvat n zrffntr nobhg gur fuvc, be jnf gur fuvc va pbageby ng gung zbzrag nf jryy?

        V jvyy arrq gb tb onpx naq ybbx, ohg vs Fnenfgv jnf fraqvat Xrrgba n zrffntr nobhg gur fuvc, guvf jbhyq or na vagrerfgvat gnxr; naq senaxyl, jbhyq frrz gb yraq zber jrvtug gb lbhe gurbel bs jung Fnenfgv vf gelvat gb qb, jura ur nggnpxf Xrrgba.

        Gur vffhr V unq jvgu lbhe vagrecergngvba, vf gung jr unir yrnearq gung “Puvarfr Ebbz” vagryyvtrapr nccrnef gb or zber nqncgvir guna “pbafpvbhfarff” (juvpu zhpxf hc gur jbexf, ol nyybjvat cnva/rzbgvba/frys-njnerarff gb gnxr cebprffvat erfbheprf sebz, naq vagresrer jvgu, cher fragvrapr naq cnggrea-zngpuvat/ceboyrz-fbyivat). Fb V thrff V qba’g haqrefgnaq jul Fnenfgv jbhyq vagragvbanyyl fubpx Xrrgba (jub zragnyyl vf pybfre xva gb fbpvbcnguvp Fnenfgv, guna nal uhzna) vagb “pbafpvbhfarff”, jura gung vf gur vasrevbe fgngr sbe nal tvira gnfx (vapyhqvat npphengryl erpbeqvat/pbairlvat gur riragf gung unir gnxra cynpr ba gur zvffvba)?

        Ohg, ehaavat jvgu lbhe “Fnenfgv unf svanyyl ernyvmrq gung gur NVf ner gehyl va punetr naq vf fhogyl gelvat gb jnea Xrrgba bs gung gbb”, fhpu n jneavat pbhyq npghnyyl or Fnenfgv npgvat bhg bs fbzr fbeg bs flzcngul (be ng yrnfg, xva-fryrpgvba) sbe uvf sryybj zrngont ubzb – zr ntnvafg zl fbpvbcngu pnaavonyvfgvp pbhfva, zr naq zl fbpvbcngu pnaavonyvfgvp pbhfva ntnvafg gur NVf.

        V qba’g guvax gur NVf ner urycyrff ntnvafg gur nyvraf – V guvax sbe n juvyr, gurl’ir orra yrggvat gur uhznaf (naq znlor gur inzcverf) GUVAX gurl ner ehaavat guvatf, cynlvat gurz bss rnpu bgure nf arrqrq – sbe nyy Fnenfgv’f inhagrq 11-qvzrafvbany purff novyvgl, ba guvf zvffvba na ragveryl qvssrerag tnzr jnf orvat cynlrq ol gur NVf, jvgu obgu inzcverf naq uhznaf nf cnjaf.

        Gur NVf abj unir qngn ertneqvat gur nyvraf, naq pna cercner obgu jrncbaf naq fgengrtl sbe gur arkg rapbhagre (gurl ner zber fhvgrq gb jne BE pbrkvfgrapr jvgu gur nyvraf guna uhznaf be inzcverf, naq abj xabj gung nal nggrzcg ng pbzzhavpngvba juvpu pbagnvaf nal pbagrag bgure guna “qngn” jvyy or frra nf qr snpgb ntterffvba), naq guhf znl unir qrpvqrq gb fgbc gur punenqr nobhg jub vf npghnyyl va punetr ba Rnegu. Gur uvagrq-ng “inzcver eribyhgvba/pbhc” jvyy yvxryl or n fubeg-yvirq ivpgbel sbe inzcverf. Gur zrng jvyy ABG vaurevg gur rnegu.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Reading a bit about the book, I see that there may be a sequel in the works, slated to be published sometime next year. This may answer some of these questions.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I’m pretty sure the right angles thing is a joke, too. Kind of a meta-joke? If one’s background is in biology somehow, then like Watts, one will have read A LOT A LOT A LOT of far-fetched physiological (or evolutionary) explanations for mysterious things (some of which are actually true), and so the logic of “well, we are going to have vampires in this story. SO WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN THE CRUCIFIX THING.” is funny in and of itself. And then the way the information was presented was also amusing to me. It is rather black humor, honestly. “Oh, no, that wasn’t a way for desperate humans to protect themselves from a superior species on occasion, it was an accidentally GENOCIDAL thing they did. Funny humans, running around ruining things for other species right and left and not even having a clue how they managed it until decades later!” At least, I can’t be amused at that without getting depressed.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Like, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the crucifix thing came up in some drunken, happy, ridiculous pub conversation years ago and then mutated into the seed for this entire book.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        That would be awesome.Report

  8. Avatar DavidTC
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    says:

    The Connie Willis time travel books are very enjoyable. Start with ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      They vary wildly. TSNotD is largely farcical (the title references Jerome K. Jerome, and a scene towards the end where the main characters are impostors staying at a country house where the smartest person is the butler is an obvious tribute to another master), while Doomsday Book is an unrelieved tragedy.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        I would just skip Doomsday Book. Start with To Say Nothing of the Dog, followed by Blackout/All Clear.

        Willis does an amazingly good job of bringing in the _time period_ as a…a character, I guess you could call it. Her time travel books are less about time travel than a way to insert ‘modern’ humans (20 minutes into the future in theory, but ‘modern’ enough.) into past situations, and the books are actually about what happened in the past, mirrored in the future.

        This makes for a farcical TSNotD set in the absurdly pretentious class-conscious Victorian era (With a modern reflection of pretentious absurdities happening in the present), a heartening B/AC about people refusing to cower or even stop being themselves when threatened with extinction by the Nazis (With a modern reflection of the time travelers being afraid they literally have no future because they broke time)…and a depressing-as-hell story of death and disease and paranoia set in the Middle Ages in Doomsday Book. (With a modern reflection of…death and disease and paranoia.)

        They’re all good books…but Doomsday Book is the one I’ve never reread.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Hmm, I’ll have to give B/AC a try. I did like her short story Fire Watch, about time travel to London during the Blitz.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        The themes in Blackout and All Clear are basically the same as Fire Watch. (And St. Paul’s eventually makes an entrance, too. In fact, the point the story runs into it is the incident mentioned in Fire Watch with the unexploded incendiary.)

        Except, of course, they are much, much longer, totaling over 1100 pages put together.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Willis definitely has a thing about St. Paul’s.

        And she has gotten verbose . Passage would have been a terrific book at about half the length.Report

  9. Avatar Maribou
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    says:

    By the by, Blindsight and most of Watts’ other books are available under a creative commons license (ie FOR FREE), in all common electric formats, at his website. So, y’know, if you like to read pixels, you don’t even have to pay for ’em. (I donate to the kibble fund from time to time, me, but that’s just because that’s how I would like author backlists to work everywhere… gotta encourage the mercantile model you want to see happen, nu?)Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Maribou
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      says:

      I read the Rifters trilogy that way (after buying Blindsight hard-copy) and dropped some $ in his PayPal, and he personally sent me a very nice thank-you mail.

      He may not always do that, maybe it was a slow day for him, but it was still pretty cool.

      Speaking of Rifters: V birenyy rawblrq vg dhvgr n ovg (plorechax ncbpnylcfr traer?), ohg V qvq unir n ovg bs n ceboyrz jvgu gur Yravr Pynexr punenpgre – fcrpvsvpnyyl, ure vagragvbany pebff-pbhagel cynthr fcernq – V jbaqre jul vg pbhyqa’g unir orra unaqyrq qvssreragyl, jvgu ure fgvyy ba n zvffvba bs eriratr, jvgubhg ure XABJVATYL pnhfvat gur qrnguf bs gubhfnaqf be zvyyvbaf bs olfgnaqref – senaxyl, vg jnf gbb uneq gb erfphr gur punenpgre nsgre gung, jurernf fur pbhyq unir sryg whfg nf thvygl vs fur’q fcernq vg haxabjvatyl, naq svkvat gung fgvyy pbhyq unir orra ure yngre zbgvingvba.

      V nyfb gubhtug fur sbetnir Yhova gbb rnfvyl sbe Npgba’f zheqre – rfc. fvapr fur’f abg gur sbetvir/sbetrg glcr.

      Naq gubhtu ur hygvzngryl znqr n cerggl tbbq ivyynva (naq pbagenfg ntnvafg Yhova, jub snprq gur fnzr rkvfgragvny ibvq naq npdhvggrq uvzfrys orggre ol nqurevat gb uvf bja crefbany pbqr naljnl), fbzr bs gur Npuvyyrf Qrfwneqvaf fghss jnf…htu. V guvax vg hygvzngryl jbexrq, ohg V jnf dhrfgvbavat gur htyvarff sbe n ybat gvzr; gb n cbvag jurer sbe n yvggyr juvyr gurer V jnf dhrfgvbavat Jnggf’ bja nggvghqr gbjneqf jbzra nf rkcerffrq guebhtubhg uvf obbxf (va Oyvaqfvtug, Xrrgba’f zbgure hygvzngryl pbzrf npebff nf jbefr guna uvf sngure, gubhtu Xrrgba uvzfrys vf gur onq thl va uvf bja eryngvbafuvc synfuonpxf – naq bs pbhefr Xrrgba znl or na haeryvnoyr aneengbe/abg cevil gb nyy uvf cneragf’ frpergf, naq/be uvf zbz ernyyl gehyl znl unir orra jbefr).

      Hygvzngryl gubhtu, V qba’g guvax Jnggf vf nal xvaq bs zvfbtlavfg, fb zhpu nf cynva byq zvfnaguebcvp. Rirelobql fhpxf nf sne nf ur’f pbaprearq.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        I actually find all of Watts’ really annoying character choices to be part of his books charm. ARGH FUCK YOU WHY DID YOU DO THAT is… not something I *often* think about people in real life, by any means, but, I mean, people in real life often act in unexpected and disappointing ways.

        I know this doesn’t cover all of your rot13’d above, but perhaps a large part of it? I didn’t sleep last night so I’mma go to bed now.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        The annoying character comment got me thinking about the biologist with the cigarette (is it a retro thing? an enhanced hipster, maybe?), which got me thinking about…

        Gur snpg gung rirelbar ba gur perj xarj nobhg gur cyna gb fraq Xrrgba onpx, naq va snpg zhfg unir xabja jul uheg uvz, orpnhfr gurl nyy qryvorengryl yrsg uvz nybar nf ur pbjrerq va uvf grag nsgrejneqf. Jung qbrf guvf fnl nobhg gur ernfba Fnenfgv uheg uvz?

        Naq jung’f zber, jul fraq Xrrgba onpx? V zrna, lbh pna fraq uvf ercbegf, naq gura fraq fbzrbar jub unf gur fcrpvnyvmrq xabjyrqtr – gur ovbybtvfg, fnl, be uryy, gur inzcver. Jul fraq gur qhzorfg bar? Guvf zhfg unir fbzrguvat gb qb jvgu jul Fnenfgv uheg uvz, evtug?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @maribou – “unexpected and disappointing” doesn’t quite cover intentional indiscriminate biological warfare, does it?

        @chris – RE: the cigarette – we already know that the ship’s med bays can repair cancers and cellular damage (and, presumably, yellow teeth & wrinkles), so there’s no real reason NOT to smoke (assuming good ventilation/courtesy), particularly for nicotine’s mental stimulant qualities.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @chris – as to the “why Keeton?” question, two reasons, one in-story and one real-world.

        va-fgbel: cerfhznoyl gurer’f n ernfba Xrrgba tbg guvf wbo gb ortva jvgu. Ur’f gur orfg gurer vf ng jung ur qbrf, vagrtengvat naq genafyngvat gur vafvtugf naq qngn bs gur bguref vagb fbzrguvat pburerag sbe gubfr onpx ba Rnegu. Ur’f n yvivat “rkrphgvir fhzznel”. Fb nffhzvat lbh unir gb fraq bar onpx, ur’f gur bar.

        Nf gb jul lbh unir gb fraq NALOBQL onpx, gung trgf vagb erny-jbeyq pbapreaf…FBZROBQL unf gb fheivir, gb gryy gur fgbel jr whfg ernq, naq gung fbzrobql graqf gb or gur aneengbe/cebgntbavfg.

        Vg’f abg gur bayl ernfba Evcyrl znxrf vg bss gur Abfgebzb naq cbfgf ure svany ybt ragevrf orsber gur perqvgf ebyy (naq guvf fgbel pregnvayl unf fbzr bs gung bar va vgf oybbq), ohg vg’f n gvzr-grfgrq naq cenpgvpny fgbelgryyvat qrivpr.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @glyph For me, it actually did? But then, that’s another sf trope that I felt was being subverted. Not to mention a Strong Female Character trope.Report

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