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Author Topic: EP153: Schwartz Between the Galaxies  (Read 42699 times)

Russell Nash

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on: April 10, 2008, 10:08:03 AM
EP153: Schwartz Between the Galaxies

By Robert Silverberg.
Read by Stephen Eley.

This much is reality: Schwartz sits comfortably cocooned — passive, suspended — in a first-class passenger rack aboard a Japan Air Lines rocket, nine kilometers above the Coral Sea. And this much is fantasy: the same Schwartz has passage on a shining starship gliding silkily through the interstellar depths, en route at nine times the velocity of light from Betelgeuse IX to Rigel XXI, or maybe from Andromeda to the Lesser Magellanic.

Rated R. Contains some sex, some drug use. It’s a Silverberg story.


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Hatton

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Reply #1 on: April 10, 2008, 04:58:09 PM
Wow... first comment, though I think I know why.  At the end of this story I was left with a great surge of lack of caring, understanding feeling or even perceiving that I had heard a story.

No, really, I did think about the words that I was using and the order in which I was putting them!  The entire concept of the story seemed to me to be that of a man born for another time, trying to make other people in his time live in the past.  During the course of his attempts, he has managed to drive himself mad. 

While I like the quote, "Body like dry bone, mind like ashes," I wonder if the attempt to live in two worlds is what's driving him mad, the drugs or the fact that he actually tries to explain what being a non-observant Jew is to an Antarean.

Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.


qwints

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Reply #2 on: April 10, 2008, 07:12:05 PM
I liked this story, but I agree that I don't really care about anyone in the story. Maybe it's how far predictions of the end of history and melting pots were off that made the story ring hollow. Papua New Guinea has more than 500 languages, so the idea that it could turn it a basic American culture in just a few generations seems implausible. But the writing, unsurprisingly, is excellent.

The lamp flared and crackled . . .
And Nevyrazimov felt better.


Brian Deacon

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Reply #3 on: April 10, 2008, 08:02:44 PM
I quite enjoyed this story.  It fired off a number of clusters in my head.  I visited my sister in Birmingham, AL over New Year's and was nauseated that it had been transformed into the same suburbia hellscape that I see here in North San Diego county.  Except that Carl's Jr. was called Hardee's, and you'll get sugar in your iced tea unless you ask for Not-Sweet-Tea.  Contrast this with my visit some 15 years ago when Alabama was less stripmallified, and my reaction was an opposite, but equally pretentious attitude of the Northern bigotry against Southerners.

I would disagree that the melting pot thing is overblown.  But just like my personal hovercraft, and 1984, it's coming in past deadline.  Although I could maybe sympathize with mourning over a loss of diversity, I think on balance we're moving towards more of the good type of diversity, and less of the pogrom-inspiring flavor.  It would be nice if we could all just get along, but I think the ultimate resolution of racism isn't going to be that we all suddenly become more tolerant, but that eventually it will be the rare person that will be able to say they are more than 1/8th any particular ethnicity.  I admit, that's not the most optimistic of opinions on human nature.

I think maybe Silverberg was more going for the meta thing, though, which is what I think Steve alluded to.  That we SF fans, as escapists, are sort of turning our nose up at the real world.

Oh, and as to the suburbia hellscape thing.  I can attest that Weeds is a brutally accurate depiction of sprawl as it is playing out here in SoCal.  I'm curious as to how much it resembles the rest of the country.  Maybe you guys have less Spanish tile on your roofs.



Grayven

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Reply #4 on: April 10, 2008, 09:55:00 PM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.



Nobilis

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Reply #5 on: April 11, 2008, 04:19:52 AM
The whole way through, the nagging thought that spoiled the whole story for me was:

It didn't happen that way.  He's wrong.

Culture wasn't destroyed, it was transformed.  Instead of Californians and New Yorkers and Londoners and French and Liberians, you have Republicans and Veterans and Furries and Soccer Moms and Unitarians and Fetishists and Podcasters.

The fact that the world's many varied cultures can't be pointed to on maps anymore doesn't mean they don't exist, and it doesn't mean they don't exist in as much variety as they used to.  You just can't go looking for them by flying around.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #6 on: April 11, 2008, 07:31:14 AM
I don't know, I feel like a lot of what this story predicted is pretty spot-on, or on the way to it (remember, this is set in 2080-something).  Sure, he missed the horizontal culture-formation, but the basic hypothesis -- there isn't anything in the world that's terribly foreign -- still holds.  Sure, there's, say, a subculture of podcasters, or republicans, or the anti-vaccine movement.  But any one of us could pretty easily slip into any one of those, immerse one's self in it, and become a part of it, in a way that one couldn't become a Ba'Mbuti pygmy.  And there is a general super-culture that we all participate in, even those of us so completely submerged in our particular subcultures.

The discussion of voluntary re-adoption of dead cultures (which, in the narrator's vision, did strike me as destructively luddite) also rang true.  I live in the state of Washington, where there is a running debate over tribal harvesting rights, most visible in the Makah whaling controversy.  You can also see this playing out in the field of dead/dying language preservation.  In the end, it does come down to a question of whether it is worth the resources to preserve and teach an aspect of culture that is failing to be competitive in the face of globalising culture.

And finally, I think he captured the ennui of the lost potential we all feel entitled to from our childhoods of reading space adventure SF quite eloquently, from the very start of the story.

Sure, it hasn't played out exactly like this (yet), but we still read Wells and Burroughs and Bradbury and Heinlein even though we know that martian life, if any, is microscopic and sparse.  Should that our own predictions come anywhere near as close.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2008, 07:33:59 AM by bolddeceiver »



Chodon

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Reply #7 on: April 11, 2008, 11:32:16 AM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.
That was my thought through the whole story.  It was really depressing to me that in another 70 years all we will have accomplished is shaving a couple of hours off a trans-atlantic flight and making more plastic junk that people don't want.  There weren't any quantum leaps in technology, just people doing the same old stuff we have been doing for the last however long.

I want to see some goddamned spaceships in my lifetime!  This story made me realize...really and truly accept for the first time....it's not likely to ever happen in my lifetime.

I think this story ruined my day.  :'(

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


Darwinist

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Reply #8 on: April 11, 2008, 01:27:06 PM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.
That was my thought through the whole story.  It was really depressing to me that in another 70 years all we will have accomplished is shaving a couple of hours off a trans-atlantic flight and making more plastic junk that people don't want.  There weren't any quantum leaps in technology, just people doing the same old stuff we have been doing for the last however long.

I want to see some goddamned spaceships in my lifetime!  This story made me realize...really and truly accept for the first time....it's not likely to ever happen in my lifetime.

I think this story ruined my day.  :'(

Seconded.  I grew up watching Apollo and guys riding freaking dune buggies on the moon!  I thought by the time I was 40 humans would be patrolling Mars and headed to the stars.   What a bummer.   The Mars Rovers are cool and having scientific robots cruising Mars is quite an accomplishment but I was expecting bigger things by now.  I thought the story was good, but a bummer.   

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


birdless

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Reply #9 on: April 11, 2008, 01:55:40 PM
I usually don't like to state my opinions so strongly, but I'm tired and cranky and had high hopes about this week's EP so I'm going to be uncharacteristically blunt: I absolutely hated this story. I couldn't understand why someone who wants to rail against the homogenization of culture would decide to write a story where absolutely nothing happens instead of just writing an essay. I thought it was boring, pointless and fruitless. I'm going to stick to the old rules that say a proper story needs to have a plot. Sure, you can break the rules for the sake of freedom, art or even nonconformity, but if it isn't compelling, it's just winds up being pretentious.

Like Chodon and Grayven said, this story described a future with no hope. Now, I've seen it done where the portrayal of a grim, hopeless future inspires us to redouble our efforts, but this story was not that.



Chodon

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Reply #10 on: April 11, 2008, 02:16:46 PM
Maybe I should clarify: I don't think it was a bad story.  Just very, very depressing.  There was a story there.  It was about a guy who was as bummed that we aren't in outer space as I am, and dreamed about escaping it.  I judged the story by how it affected me.  Sure, it made me totally depressed that I really never am going to see some other solar system, but it made me think about how sad that was.  That's why it's a winner.

I want to go cry now.  I feel like I've just been told there's no Santa Claus.

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


birdless

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Reply #11 on: April 11, 2008, 02:35:31 PM
Sorry, Chodon, I didn't mean to suggest that you said/thought it was a bad story. But I think I would have to submit that by your description of how it affected you, it was a bad story. It didn't seem to inspire you to do anything productive. It just made you cry. What's so winning about that (don't get me wrong, I understand the therapeutic value of a good cry)? Sure, we have to face cold, hard reality (e.g. no Santa), but 2080-whatever isn't reality, yet (please don't get into the metaphysical or quantum mechanics of that statement 8)).

I guess that raises a different question, though: does a story that evokes an emotional reaction—of any kind—make it a good story? Maybe even the answer to that question is subjective.



Chodon

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Reply #12 on: April 11, 2008, 03:53:32 PM
Sorry, Chodon, I didn't mean to suggest that you said/thought it was a bad story. But I think I would have to submit that by your description of how it affected you, it was a bad story. It didn't seem to inspire you to do anything productive. It just made you cry. What's so winning about that (don't get me wrong, I understand the therapeutic value of a good cry)? Sure, we have to face cold, hard reality (e.g. no Santa), but 2080-whatever isn't reality, yet (please don't get into the metaphysical or quantum mechanics of that statement 8)).

I guess that raises a different question, though: does a story that evokes an emotional reaction—of any kind—make it a good story? Maybe even the answer to that question is subjective.
I know you weren't trying to put words in my mouth.  I often go back and re-read my posts and find I rarely make myself 100% clear.  Then I need to re-post to make sure everyone understands what I'm trying to say.

I think that any emotional reaction to a story is good, whether it makes  one feel happy or sad.  I'm sure that after letting this story sink in a little more I'll do something to make things change so this future DOESN'T come to pass.  Here's an example:

I never used to believe in global warming, and thought that if it existed that it was a natural thing we would have to deal with.  Because of this I didn't really give a damn about the environmental movement or saving the earth.  One day in engineering school we had to calculate the percentage of the energy in gasoline that it takes to physically move the driver of the car from point A to point B.  I was mortified to learn that after calculating the efficiency of an IC engine, the weight of the car, the rolling resistance, air resistance, thermal losses, etc, it was only .02%.  That is sickening!  The other 99.98% of the energy from gasoline was WASTED!  With all that waste we must be having some sort of impact on the climate.  We just had to.  I had the same reaction that I had to this story, and was in a funk for a while.  Then I decided to do something about it.  I researched electric vehicles.  I wrote my congressman and asked him to support the Joint European Torus.  I am currently in the process of designing an electric bicycle conversion, and have all the calculations complete for a full EV conversion on a car (I just need the funding now). 


To make a long story short, I'm sure I'll come up with something I can do to get myself out of this funk about the story and turn it into a good thing.  I doubt I'll come up with interstellar travel, but I'll come up with something.

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


birdless

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Reply #13 on: April 11, 2008, 05:14:57 PM
That's very cool, Chodon! Unfortunately, I don't have the resources or the time to devote to going back to college to be able to contribute in that way, so for me the only reaction this story evoked in me was "Why?" which really isn't an emotion. And I don't count the aggravation I felt at listening to an hour (or whatever it was) of a story that I didn't find compelling in the least as an emotion. But I'm truly glad it did for you, seriously, because realizing you really did enjoy it causes my perspective to shift a little bit about art in general.

I tend to think in terms of art, because that was my field of study, and I agree that emotional reaction—regardless of what kind—is a good valid thing. I believe that if it evokes an emotional response, that makes it art. That doesn't necessarily make it great art, or mean that I have to like it, but I believe that's what makes art art. Thus the question, does an emotional response make it a good story or just valid as a story?

So for instance, Mondrian's grid-based abstractions do absolutely nothing for me except aggravate me that it's considered art. But some people might have a valid, non-pretentious reason for liking it and therefore it is art to them. So, whether I find the artistic merit in it or not, I guess I have to admit that it is art, even if it isn't for me, but I don't have to like it, or even call it "good."

Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.

<edit: clarified which motif of Mondrian I was speaking of... and again for a typo>
« Last Edit: April 11, 2008, 05:18:27 PM by birdless »



Chodon

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Reply #14 on: April 11, 2008, 05:36:47 PM
Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.
For sure.  Other people's opinions of stories has a huge effect on how I see them.  I'm amazed at how the same group of words can have such a different impact on people.

I still think a good story is one that effects people, good or bad.  My wife tends to agree with birdless though.  We saw "Children of Men" together, and she left the theatre, walked about 10 paces, and started SOBBING.  I mean, uncontrollable, can't talk through it, don't even try sobs.  I thought that meant she thought it was a good movie.  I was wrong.  She was mad I made her watch it.  To each their own I suppose.

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


Peter Tupper

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Reply #15 on: April 11, 2008, 06:33:24 PM
I can't say I feel a lot of sympathy for Schwartz. Setting aside the vexing questions of whether the world is getting more homogenous, and how that relates to peace and standards of living, the issue is romantic primitivism and the Great White (or in this case Jewish) Anthrolopologist.

When Schwartz talks about reading Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa as a young man, I could tell right away he had latched onto the heroic image of the anthropologist, a noble hero who travels into an alien, distant environment, has adventures (sexual, psychedelic and otherwise) among the "primitive" peoples there, and returns to tell the tale and show off souvenirs. It's more PC than the Great White Hunter with his gazelle head mounted on the wall, but the underlying assumptions and fantasies are the same.

It isn't the lack of cultural diversity in the world that Schwartz mourns, but the lack of a space for him to be heroic, as opposed to just another scholar. His fantasy is untenable, and all that's left for him to do is evangelize the romantic primitivist fantasy to people who feel the same kind of "colonial nostalgia," mourning for what you yourself destroyed.

Silverberg hints a bit at this, but doesn't really go far enough. In both frames of reference, Schwartz's "Others", Dawn and the not-male, are standard male sexual fantasies, beautiful, supportive, uncritical and available. The not-male even lets itself be taken as "female" by Schwartz with nary a complaint.

That's my chief complaint of this story, that it doesn't get post-colonial enough, though I guess for a story written in the 1970s that's to be expected.



Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #16 on: April 11, 2008, 09:29:19 PM
Breaking the trend, I liked this alright.

I'll second the complaint that there were no compelling or sympathetic characters, but I don't think that compromised the lessons in this story.  A lesson is that comfort, tolerance and peace are not end-all virtues to be striven for.  A world in which everyone is wealthy, healthy and safe can still be a world that is not worth living in.  The assumption behind most secular moralizing seems to be that suffering = bad and comfort = good.  This story showed in an off-hand way that the equations are not so simple.  The story didn't do a particularly good job making that point–it isn't a classic by any means–but it is appreciated all the same.

More obviously, I love the potent irony of all the culture-clones standing and cheering for the value of diversity.  The same man giving the same speech to what is essentially the same audience over and over and over again until the sheer monotony is literally maddening... all in the name of promoting diversity.  That is a highly relevant satire for today's culture, I think, in which the popular use of the word "diverse" has come to mean "containing prescribed proportions of prescribed components."

A story with a good idea but mediocre execution.

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Peter Tupper

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Reply #17 on: April 11, 2008, 11:59:21 PM
Critiquing the story from a different perspective:

Thomas de Zengotita's book "Mediated" proposes a though experiment that always generates a lot of discussion:

Suppose that it was possible that the entire population of Earth would be guaranteed sufficient food, water, medical care, education and so on, and there would be no more war or poverty. The catch is that, in this world, no matter where you go, from Siberia to Argentina to Madagascar to New Zealand, everywhere looks like a southern California suburb.

This is guaranteed to get people talking about cultural diversity, how material conditions affect culture, the unfeasibility of Earth supporting 6 billion people at that level of consumption, but even that sidesteps the issue of who gets to decide. Ask the question of some child soldier or HIV-infected prostitute in Central Africa, and would they give a damn' about cultural diversity?

This puts Schwartz on the margins again, a crank who cares about something nobody else does, trying to save people from themselves when they don't really want to be saved. Those homogenized people who horrify Schwartz aren't starving or trying to kill each other.



coyote247

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Reply #18 on: April 12, 2008, 01:52:32 AM

I like this story, but Schwartz's plan to restore cultural distinction on Earth made me want to punch dolphins and break clay jars. The technourbanprogunitareccumenicalarianista in me I suppose.




deflective

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Reply #19 on: April 12, 2008, 02:02:41 AM
interesting take on the story Peter, i hope to hear from you more often.

I liked this story, but I agree that I don't really care about anyone in the story.

none of the characters were particularly interesting me either (the comments have changed that) but that really isn't necessary in every story. this one was wide enough in concept that it was enjoyable even if you discount the characters.

I grew up watching Apollo and guys riding freaking dune buggies on the moon!  ...   The Mars Rovers are cool and having scientific robots cruising Mars is quite an accomplishment but I was expecting bigger things by now.

you post in a virtual discussion with people from everywhere in the world... big things have happened, they're just big in unexpected ways.



birdless

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Reply #20 on: April 12, 2008, 02:57:44 AM
interesting take on the story Peter, i hope to hear from you more often.
Ditto. I thought Tweedy's critique was insightful, as well.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #21 on: April 12, 2008, 05:45:02 AM

you post in a virtual discussion with people from everywhere in the world... big things have happened, they're just big in unexpected ways.


Indeed, and it does well not only to realize this, but also to realize that if it were routine, jetting off to the crab nebula that would probably strike us as just about as blasé as the internet does.



Windup

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Reply #22 on: April 12, 2008, 03:34:59 PM

Like some others, I went through the story thinking, "Well, at least somebody is happy that there are still people bolt-holed in the mountains and blasting away at strangers who happen by."

I saw it as a period piece as much as anything -- in much the same way that some of William Gibson's early fiction, with the continuing Cold War rivalry and the inevitable progress of the Japanese economic juggernaut as backdrop, has become representative of "the way we looked at the future back then."

I think there is a "global culture," and it is getting bigger, but it's only relevant for about a billion or so people, concentrated mostly in North America and Europe and to a lesser extent, Japan, with "outposts" of elites scattered around the globe.  I think the big change in the next 70 years or so will not be world-wide homogenization, but rather the influence that the Chinese and Indians joining that culture in large numbers is going to have.  I haven't a clue what it will look like, but it'll definitely be less "pseudo-American."

As for the extinction of native folkways, I don't think we have to look much further than the willingness of Basque seperatists and Islamic fundamentalists to stand and fight for their culture -- or the Scots and Irish to work peacefully to preserve it -- to put that particular worry to rest. Yes, we will lose a lot of small, fragile groups, but we aren't going to see wholesale homogenization anytime soon.

Unlike a lot of listeners, I found Schwartz sympathetic. He's in a tough box -- uncomfortable with the change that's happening in the world, but the only tools available to him to reverse it are so indebted to those changes that trying to use them makes things worse rather than better. Reminds me of the conundrum facing Western environmentalists -- high-consumption lifestyle is much of the problem, but in order to alter it, you have to use the tools of a high-consumption lifestyle. 

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Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #23 on: April 12, 2008, 05:42:29 PM
Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?  Sure, the narrator tells you where Schwartz's physical body is located and all... but you don't have to accept that, you know.

I mean, it sounds to me like every species on the ship is a variety of scholar, there to learn about the other species.  The foremost thing on the mind of every scholar is likely to be some combination of fascination/revulsion over the differences between the species.  Being on such a ship would expose a lot of these tensions, and sharing this drug could be the "spikens'" way of communicating their people's attitude towards the mixing of cultures or their way of bringing out the underlying fears/motivations of their fellow passengers.

Doesn't the name of the hostess (Dawn) being the same as the Archarean (sp?) tell you something?  There were other similar clues... with no text at hand, I can't "cite" them, but you get the idea.

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CGFxColONeill

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Reply #24 on: April 12, 2008, 09:09:52 PM
so for me the only reaction this story evoked in me was "Why?" which really isn't an emotion. And I don't count the aggravation I felt at listening to an hour (or whatever it was) of a story that I didn't find compelling in the least as an emotion.

that pretty much says everything you need to know about the story, kinda the same feeling I got after watching Laurence of Arabia.

Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?  Sure, the narrator tells you where Schwartz's physical body is located and all... but you don't have to accept that, you know.


interesting idea but I dont care enough about the story to put my self through listening to it again to try and pick up on that angle

I think we are now 0 for 4 on Social SF stories recently, its kinda depressing

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ajames

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Reply #25 on: April 12, 2008, 09:23:10 PM
Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?  Sure, the narrator tells you where Schwartz's physical body is located and all... but you don't have to accept that, you know.


interesting idea but I dont care enough about the story to put my self through listening to it again to try and pick up on that angle 

I more or less agree with CGFxColOneill here.

An irrelevant but persistent reference which kept popping in my mind as I listened to this was Mel Brooks' Spaceballs. I'm pretty sure the movie came out after this story, which makes it all the more a shame that it kept distracting me. But if the story had drawn me in a bit more I think I could have kept my focus.



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Reply #26 on: April 13, 2008, 01:12:39 AM
Peter Tupper has already summed up most of my feelings on this story.  I understand that it was written in the 70's, but it has not aged well at all.  As an anthropologist by training, every time Schwartz/Silverberg mentioned "primitive cultures" I physically cringed.  The (social) science is just bad, and hopelessly outdated.  I think it would have been a very inspirational piece when it was first written, but we've gotten far past that point now.  We know that homogenization doesn't work the way Schwartz fears.  It just doesn't hold up any more as insightful cultural criticism unless you look at it as an insightful criticism of 1970's anthropologists, and there's too much of that kind of navel-gazing around already.



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Reply #27 on: April 13, 2008, 02:55:37 PM
Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?  Sure, the narrator tells you where Schwartz's physical body is located and all... but you don't have to accept that, you know.

I mean, it sounds to me like every species on the ship is a variety of scholar, there to learn about the other species.  The foremost thing on the mind of every scholar is likely to be some combination of fascination/revulsion over the differences between the species.  Being on such a ship would expose a lot of these tensions, and sharing this drug could be the "spikens'" way of communicating their people's attitude towards the mixing of cultures or their way of bringing out the underlying fears/motivations of their fellow passengers.

Doesn't the name of the hostess (Dawn) being the same as the Archarean (sp?) tell you something?  There were other similar clues... with no text at hand, I can't "cite" them, but you get the idea.

That did occur to me, yeah. The main problem with that theory is that, for interstellar distances, 9 times the speed of light is slow. Six months to our nearest neighbour.  About a hundred years from Betelgeuse to Rigel. Twenty thousand years from the Milky Way to the Lesser Magellanic. At least a quarter of a million years from Andromeda to the Lesser Magellanic. Are people really likely to make more than the shortest hops, one way, at those speeds?

Other than that, everyone's already said what I wanted to say. Dull story, poorly told. Far from Silverberg's best.

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Reply #28 on: April 13, 2008, 05:43:06 PM
I love the irony of listening to a story of choosing an imagined fantasy world instead of a reality homogenized by technology -  as a science fiction podcast over the internet.

I was somehow reminded of my favorite quote from the Purple Rose of Cairo:   
"Go! See if I care. Go! See what it is out there. It ain't the movies!"    When,  of course, it is.

Having said that, I do disagree with the dystopian view of more technology removing diversity.  It just changes it, like it always has.

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Reply #29 on: April 13, 2008, 05:48:28 PM
Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?

I also kinda thought that the reality and fantasy worlds might be reversed, but I like the idea that Schwartz is one of the aliens even more!

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Reply #30 on: April 14, 2008, 05:12:58 AM
More obviously, I love the potent irony of all the culture-clones standing and cheering for the value of diversity.  The same man giving the same speech to what is essentially the same audience over and over and over again until the sheer monotony is literally maddening... all in the name of promoting diversity.  That is a highly relevant satire for today's culture, I think, in which the popular use of the word "diverse" has come to mean "containing prescribed proportions of prescribed components."

I totally missed that.  Great point.  "Yes!  We are all individuals!"  :)

In response to other people's outrage at the cultural supremacy stuff.  I think it's totally valid and good for us to tear something to shreds on the standards of our own time rather than excuse it for being "typical of the time period".  It reminds me of the tortured logic I read in college trying to weasel Shakespeare out of being anti-Semitic.   But in the interest of enjoying a story, it's often helpful to put the generation-gap blinders on at least until the story is over.

But I again wonder if the cultural supremacy stuff wasn't intentional.  Again, I don't think we were to like Schwartz.  Compare it to the less overt sexism in the piece.  The sexism seemed typically 70's.  The racism did seem out of place.  (And AFAIK, there were no actual cannibals in Papua, and we knew that even back in the 70's.  But IANAA.)



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Reply #31 on: April 14, 2008, 02:01:54 PM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.

I've been resigned to that for years.  The Challenger explosion set space travel back so far that we'll never recover.  We (that is, government) is too afraid to try something new and dangerous, and when space tourism outfits show up, they're smeared, discredited, and ultimately prevented from giving the people what they want.

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Reply #32 on: April 14, 2008, 02:04:14 PM
Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?  Sure, the narrator tells you where Schwartz's physical body is located and all... but you don't have to accept that, you know.

I had that thought, but dismissed it.

Quote
Doesn't the name of the hostess (Dawn) being the same as the Archarean (sp?) tell you something?  There were other similar clues... with no text at hand, I can't "cite" them, but you get the idea.

Perhaps it's along the lines of her name being Dawn being the closest translation in our language.  "Kasumi" is a beautiful Japanese name, but in English it would be "Misty".  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasumi)

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Reply #33 on: April 14, 2008, 02:07:44 PM
My procrastination in listening to this story led me to have all my comments made already.

To recap:  I didn't really LIKE the story, but I LOVED that the author brought up my pervasive fear: that we will never, EVER go into space on a scale like this.

My thought is this, though:  perhaps the cultures who homogenized wanted to homogenize.  When you see there's a better way, you're likely to take it.  I'm not saying the Western way is the best way, but if, say, the Papuans believe it to be so, why is it so wrong of them to choose to abandon their "primitive" (in quotes because I only see them that way due to my Western upbringing) ways in favor of more "civilized" ones?

One other thing:  first a Resnick, now a Silverberg... at that rate, next week will probably be "Union Dues" (no offense, Jeff).  I don't mean to be overly critical of my free entertainment, but are there any new (or at least lesser-known) authors that might have some works out there for us to enjoy?

PS: I liked the reading of the Spicans' voices.

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Reply #34 on: April 14, 2008, 03:53:59 PM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.

I cant find the quote but I think it was Buzz Aldrin that said something to the effect that History will remember the inhabitants of the 20th century as the people that went from kitty hawk to tranquility base in 66 years. Then spent the next 30 in low earth orbit.

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Reply #35 on: April 14, 2008, 04:04:38 PM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.

I cant find the quote but I think it was Buzz Aldrin that said something to the effect that History will remember the inhabitants of the 20th century as the people that went from kitty hawk to tranquility base in 66 years. Then spent the next 30 in low earth orbit.

Good quote.  Here is another Aldrin ditty:

      “We can continue to try and clean up the gutters all over the world and spend all of our resources looking at just the dirty spots and trying to make them clean. Or we can lift our eyes up and look into the skies and move forward in an evolutionary way.”

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


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Reply #36 on: April 14, 2008, 10:15:01 PM
Great discussion guys. You make me feel like some brain cells are regenerating just reading it ;)


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Reply #37 on: April 14, 2008, 10:38:50 PM
Great discussion guys. You make me feel like some brain cells are regenerating just reading it ;)
That just means you're not drinking enough.

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Reply #38 on: April 15, 2008, 02:50:15 AM
Great discussion guys. You make me feel like some brain cells are regenerating just reading it ;)

Agreed.  I thought the story itself was "meh" but I'm finding this discussion considerably more interesting.

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Reply #39 on: April 15, 2008, 03:48:53 AM

In response to other people's outrage at the cultural supremacy stuff.  I think it's totally valid and good for us to tear something to shreds on the standards of our own time rather than excuse it for being "typical of the time period".  It reminds me of the tortured logic I read in college trying to weasel Shakespeare out of being anti-Semitic.   But in the interest of enjoying a story, it's often helpful to put the generation-gap blinders on at least until the story is over.


I'm not sure exactly what you mean by saying "tear something to shreds."  It's inherently unreasonable to expect all authors at all times to share the values of early 21st-century Westerners -- attitudes change, even over a period of 30-35 years.  The question is, how do you respond to those that don't?

If by "tear something to shreds" you mean simply, "note that the attitudes we now fund repugnant are there, maybe note why people at that time might have thought that way" then I think it's a perfectly valid approach.  If you mean, "obsess over the objectionable elements to the exclusion of all else," that seems ridiculous. 

I think the attempts you describe to "deliver" Shakespeare from being anti-Semitic represent the worst approach -- trying to insist that somehow, no, really, this author we enjoyed is just like us even in the face of evidence to the contrary. OK, Shakespeare was an anti-Semite.  Along with virtually the entire Christian population of Europe at that time. No, I'm not proud of that, but I'm not giving up Henry V because of it, either.  (Admittedly, The Merchant of Venice is a tougher case -- story's not as good and the anti-Semitism is overt -- but I'll probably just hang a disclaimer on it and keep moving...)

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Reply #40 on: April 15, 2008, 03:54:04 AM
Agreed.  Not my favorite stories, but one of the better forum discussions.

I'm thinking Schwartz was just a lazy, self-absorbed, hypocritical douche. 
-"Maybe I'm on my way to Rigel, or maybe from the Andromeda Galaxy to the Large Magellanic."  Certainly Silverberg would have known that the difference in distances here is great enough (as wintermute pointed out above) to make this comparison ridiculous.   But Schwartz didn't really care about the  plausibility of his fantasy, even though he uses it to convince people in the real world.
-His explanation of his Judiasm was very telling.  It was basically, "I dunno.  I never thought about it."  He's eager to force the Papauans back into being jungle cannibals, but he's not willing to give up pork chops.
-The lack of actual cannibals in Papua was mentioned above.  Maybe Silverberg knew that too, and was just making Schwartz that much less informed.

The first half of this story was very dull.  I perked up a little in the second half.  I admit it made me think, but not really about anything I haven't thought of before.



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Reply #41 on: April 15, 2008, 08:17:14 AM
I never read any book of Mr. Silverberg, but judging by his short stories I doubt that I would enjoy it.
I haven't liked any story of his that appeared here and there was only one ("When we went out to see the end of the world") that I didn't hate.

This one didn't make an exception, I hated it.
The language was bland, the plot is more or less nonexistent, but that is not the reason.
I know you can't substitute the feelings of the main character for the feelings of the author, but still, that was one of the least likeable characters that I have encountered in a while.

"Oh no, primitive cultures aren't primitive anymore. So lets stop trying to improve our lives and go back to a world with 40 year livespans, female genital mutilation and dying of typhus."
I haven't been so pissed of by an Escapepod story in a long time.



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Reply #42 on: April 15, 2008, 04:01:19 PM
(And AFAIK, there were no actual cannibals in Papua, and we knew that even back in the 70's.  But IANAA.)
This really doesn't have anything to do with anything, but on a completely unrelated subject, I came across this entry in Wikipedia


Apparently, there was cannibalism in New Guinea... Oh, you said Papua... that I don't now about.

Moderator: fixed link
« Last Edit: April 15, 2008, 06:20:46 PM by Russell Nash »



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Reply #43 on: April 15, 2008, 04:05:45 PM
The lack of actual cannibals in Papua was mentioned above.  Maybe Silverberg knew that too, and was just making Schwartz that much less informed.
Uninformed and still a world-class authority on the subject? Somehow I doubt Silverberg did that deliberately.

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Reply #44 on: April 15, 2008, 05:15:34 PM
Its a scary thought, that we'll never leave this world and it'll always be the only place we roam. I hope he's wrong.
That was my thought through the whole story.  It was really depressing to me that in another 70 years all we will have accomplished is shaving a couple of hours off a trans-atlantic flight and making more plastic junk that people don't want.  There weren't any quantum leaps in technology, just people doing the same old stuff we have been doing for the last however long.

Ahem ... the fact that you are saying this on the Internet to a couple of people who live thousands of miles away from you strikes me as ironic. I think this speaks more about the fact that technology doesn't develope in the direction that people expect it to develope, so instead of flying cars, jetpacks and interstellar travel we have podcasting and MMORPGs.



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Reply #45 on: April 15, 2008, 06:26:20 PM
(And AFAIK, there were no actual cannibals in Papua, and we knew that even back in the 70's.  But IANAA.)
This really doesn't have anything to do with anything, but on a completely unrelated subject, I came across this entry in Wikipedia


Apparently, there was cannibalism in New Guinea... Oh, you said Papua... that I don't now about.

Moderator: fixed link

From this Wikipedia article:
Quote
The disease spread easily in the Fore people due to their cannibalistic funeral practices. The dysmorphism evident in the infection rates -- it was more prevalent in women and children -- is due to the fact that while the men of the village did not participate in the eating of the flesh of the deceased, the women and children divided up the body based on family ties.

So not the hunt the next tribe and eat them kind of cannibals, but the "eat grandma's liver, it's good for you" kind of cannibal.



birdless

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Reply #46 on: April 15, 2008, 06:54:43 PM
So not the hunt the next tribe and eat them kind of cannibals, but the "eat grandma's liver, it's good for you" kind of cannibal.

Reminds me of a Monty Python sketch (or, alternatively, here on YouTube)



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Reply #47 on: April 15, 2008, 08:00:25 PM
So not the hunt the next tribe and eat them kind of cannibals, but the "eat grandma's liver, it's good for you" kind of cannibal.

Flashback to the end of "Stranger in a Strange Land", anyone?

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Reply #48 on: April 15, 2008, 10:09:03 PM

"Oh no, primitive cultures aren't primitive anymore. So lets stop trying to improve our lives and go back to a world with 40 year livespans, female genital mutilation and dying of typhus."


I guess I didn't hear him saying that -- he was in the unenviable position of trying to retain the advantages of the modern world without paying the price of lost diversity. He seemed to be trying to find ways to salvage the art and cultural aspects in a different material environment -- probably a fool's errand, since those aspects arose, at least in part, from the material environment in which they formed.

I found his plans a tad draconian and unrealistic, though.  "Restrict travel, especially tourism?"  Good luck...  I think all you'd discover is the speed with which trips can be re-labeled.


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Reply #49 on: April 15, 2008, 10:55:55 PM
The lack of actual cannibals in Papua was mentioned above.  Maybe Silverberg knew that too, and was just making Schwartz that much less informed.
Uninformed and still a world-class authority on the subject? Somehow I doubt Silverberg did that deliberately.
Yeah, that was a reach on my part.
But I still think that the point of the scene where he explains his Jewishness was to show that he wants other cultures to revert to their traditional ways, while he is not willing to do this himself. 

Another comment.  Having the coolest part of the story, the descriptions of the aliens, exist only in a character's fantasy diminished the sense of wonder for me.  These aliens aren't real, they are only this guy's dream.  And I don't even like or respect this guy, so why do I care?



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Reply #50 on: April 15, 2008, 11:00:07 PM
In the future Antares must be the Grand Central Station of the galaxy.  How many aliens have we come across from Antares?  How come no one ever visits Zubenelgenubi*? I want to know what the Zubenelgenubians are like.



*Amazingly, Google actually predicted that I wanted to search for Zubenelgenubi when I was only half-way through the word. 



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Reply #51 on: April 15, 2008, 11:05:24 PM
As a late listener to this story, I find that I have little to add to the discussion. But I must say that I find this thread a whole lot more interesting than the actual story.

I think I may have liked the story better if I were reading it rather than listening to a reading. There were long lecture segments (both the actual lecture and the earlier lectures to Dawn) which, by their nature, were dry and not particularly exciting to listen to.



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Reply #52 on: April 16, 2008, 03:31:12 AM
The lack of actual cannibals in Papua was mentioned above.  Maybe Silverberg knew that too, and was just making Schwartz that much less informed.
Uninformed and still a world-class authority on the subject? Somehow I doubt Silverberg did that deliberately.
Yeah, that was a reach on my part.
But I still think that the point of the scene where he explains his Jewishness was to show that he wants other cultures to revert to their traditional ways, while he is not willing to do this himself. 

I didn't take that passage that way at all; rather, I saw it as an attempt to explain the inevitability of cultural drift.  I am surprised that the two kinds of "Jewishness" are not explored more often.  There are ethnic Jews (meaning there's a genetic connection) and there are religious Jews (who could be converts) - but rather than explain that to the alien, Schwartz simply fumbled around trying to explain his own identity.

Take my own heritage: Scots-Irish Presbyterians (or possibly Manxmen... came over circa 1750, and I haven't proved either yet), Palatinate Germans, Dutch (possibly by way of New Amsterdam), Irish (1840s), Pennsylvania Dutch, and a few that are most likely English.  In one sense, a real hodge-podge of language, class, and religion; but also distinctly "white European Christian".  Which box do you suppose I have to check on my census form?  But our family lore has always said that we were Irish, and that's how we tend to think of ourselves, despite having very little actual connection to the island.

My theory is that all of these people came to North America for pretty much the same reasons, and thought of themselves the same way; poor, devout, persecuted folk looking for a better lot in life.  (Sorry, indigenous peoples... if I could go back and tell them to be nicer, I would.)  Point being, we tend to "homogenize" over time - that is inevitable.  But we all hold on to a romantic ideal of who we are and where we come from.

And I think Schwartz ought to have been able to figure that out.

Another comment.  Having the coolest part of the story, the descriptions of the aliens, exist only in a character's fantasy diminished the sense of wonder for me.  These aliens aren't real, they are only this guy's dream.  And I don't even like or respect this guy, so why do I care?

I think that's why I decided I liked "my" interpretation better... ::)

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Reply #53 on: April 16, 2008, 03:35:10 AM
I never read any book of Mr. Silverberg, but judging by his short stories I doubt that I would enjoy it.
I haven't liked any story of his that appeared here and there was only one ("When we went out to see the end of the world") that I didn't hate.

I wouldn't say I *hated* his EP short stories, but I can see where you're coming from.  If you were going to try one of his books, the Majipoor Chronicles are completely different from the sampling you've seen here.  (And I remember liking Lord Valentine's Castle, for whatever that's worth; I don't think I've attempted any of the others.)

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Reply #54 on: April 16, 2008, 01:13:24 PM
I never read any book of Mr. Silverberg, but judging by his short stories I doubt that I would enjoy it.
I haven't liked any story of his that appeared here and there was only one ("When we went out to see the end of the world") that I didn't hate.

I wouldn't say I *hated* his EP short stories, but I can see where you're coming from.  If you were going to try one of his books, the Majipoor Chronicles are completely different from the sampling you've seen here.  (And I remember liking Lord Valentine's Castle, for whatever that's worth; I don't think I've attempted any of the others.)

I'm reading Silverberg's Face of the Waters right now and I like it.  I've also read Dying Inside and Hawksbill Station.  Dying inside was really good.  He's got a sh*tload of work out there, that's for sure.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


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Reply #55 on: April 16, 2008, 09:58:06 PM
I found his plans a tad draconian and unrealistic, though.  "Restrict travel, especially tourism?"  Good luck...  I think all you'd discover is the speed with which trips can be re-labeled.

I'm sure Silverberg found Schwartz' plans unrealistic as well.  That was actually the point of the story - what Schwartz wanted was not only impossible, but a bad idea.  And through the course of the story, he was figuring that out.  He was a pretty bad example of a Jew.  He was, in fact, exactly what he was decrying.  Actually, his whole plan was designed to make more adventure for *him*, not to improve the lives of others.  Limit travel?  Not for anthropologists!  It was just a childish fantasy.  Just like his life in the starship was...

I'm sure that Silverberg wasn't advocating Schwartz' plans.  But I'm not exactly sure what his point *was*.  And I certainly agree that that future no longer looks plausible.  In the end, I enjoyed the story enough, but not so much as to go back through it and try to figure out what the lesson we're supposed to take away from it.



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Reply #56 on: April 16, 2008, 10:56:07 PM
This morning I realized that while Schwartz longs for a multicultural Earth, the aliens in his fantasy come from not even monocultural worlds, but monocultural star systems.



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Reply #57 on: April 17, 2008, 03:33:33 AM

I'm sure that Silverberg wasn't advocating Schwartz' plans.  But I'm not exactly sure what his point *was*.  And I certainly agree that that future no longer looks plausible.  In the end, I enjoyed the story enough, but not so much as to go back through it and try to figure out what the lesson we're supposed to take away from it.


I don't know enough about Silverberg to know what actual positions he might hold on the subject. 

One aspect of my life is storytelling, and it's made me somewhat resistant to the idea of a story having a single lesson or "moral." At least, for stories told to adults, by adults.  People will, and should, fit the story and find its meaning in the context of their own lives.  I like the storyteller's parable: "You can help pull the cork out of the bottle, but don't imagine you can control what happens next."

On possibility that did pop into my head as I was writing was that it's an advocacy piece for the importance of space travel.  As earth becomes more homogenized, poor Schwartz is stuck with two fantasies -- an imaginary journey in a starship, and an equally unrealistic plan for reacting to the trends that bother him. (I agree we're supposed to take the trends seriously, not the plan.)  Real space travel solves the problem with aliens.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2008, 11:37:05 PM by Windup »

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Reply #58 on: April 17, 2008, 06:22:22 AM
How much significance was there to the fact that Schwartz didn't have a Jewish mother? I thought that to be considered a Jew by the Orthodox, it didn't count if only your father was Jewish. Maybe there's something to be taken from the fact that Schwartz is self-identifying with a culture but rejects others similar identifications.  (e.g. the Hopi and Navajo)

The more I reflect on the story, the more intensely I dislike Schwartz. Maybe it's the references to primitive tribes or the way he treats women, but I think he comes off as a whiny, weak-willed jerk.

The lamp flared and crackled . . .
And Nevyrazimov felt better.


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Reply #59 on: April 17, 2008, 04:31:41 PM
I just finished listening to this story and am coming to the thread a bit late, but this quote made me grin like an idiot.


Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.

<edit: clarified which motif of Mondrian I was speaking of... and again for a typo>

I know exactly what you mean, man.


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Reply #60 on: April 17, 2008, 05:06:32 PM
I just finished listening to this story and am coming to the thread a bit late, but this quote made me grin like an idiot.


Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.

<edit: clarified which motif of Mondrian I was speaking of... and again for a typo>

I know exactly what you mean, man.

I gotta say, this is why we moderators like what we do.  You guys really make this place worth moderating.  Honestly most of the time we're just splitting off smart discussions into their own thread, so they have space to grow.  In almost a year and a half I've had one post where I had to edit out an insult and one battle with a jerk who Steve later banned.  That is just amazing. 

Don't let any of this go to your fat heads, but you guys are great.



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Reply #61 on: April 17, 2008, 07:43:35 PM
I just finished listening to this story and am coming to the thread a bit late, but this quote made me grin like an idiot.


Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.

<edit: clarified which motif of Mondrian I was speaking of... and again for a typo>

I know exactly what you mean, man.

I gotta say, this is why we moderators like what we do.  You guys really make this place worth moderating.  Honestly most of the time we're just splitting off smart discussions into their own thread, so they have space to grow.  In almost a year and a half I've had one post where I had to edit out an insult and one battle with a jerk who Steve later banned.  That is just amazing. 

Don't let any of this go to your fat heads, but you guys are great.
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome). 

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Reply #62 on: April 17, 2008, 07:56:49 PM
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome).
Why is that an insult? I like the smell of elderberries.

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Reply #63 on: April 17, 2008, 09:49:41 PM
I just finished listening to this story and am coming to the thread a bit late, but this quote made me grin like an idiot.


Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.

<edit: clarified which motif of Mondrian I was speaking of... and again for a typo>

I know exactly what you mean, man.

I gotta say, this is why we moderators like what we do.  You guys really make this place worth moderating.  Honestly most of the time we're just splitting off smart discussions into their own thread, so they have space to grow.  In almost a year and a half I've had one post where I had to edit out an insult and one battle with a jerk who Steve later banned.  That is just amazing. 

Don't let any of this go to your fat heads, but you guys are great.
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome). 

Is that supposed to be a reference to my weakness for fruit wines?  What was the other insult?  Was that the velcro recomendation?

I like the smell of elderberries.

Want some of my wine?  ::burp::



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Reply #64 on: April 18, 2008, 12:13:45 AM
I just finished listening to this story and am coming to the thread a bit late, but this quote made me grin like an idiot.


Man, I love how this forum makes me think and re-evaluate/validate things. Does anyone else benefit from this place that way? This forum is art to me.

<edit: clarified which motif of Mondrian I was speaking of... and again for a typo>

I know exactly what you mean, man.

I gotta say, this is why we moderators like what we do.  You guys really make this place worth moderating.  Honestly most of the time we're just splitting off smart discussions into their own thread, so they have space to grow.  In almost a year and a half I've had one post where I had to edit out an insult and one battle with a jerk who Steve later banned.  That is just amazing. 

Don't let any of this go to your fat heads, but you guys are great.
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome). 

Is that supposed to be a reference to my weakness for fruit wines?  What was the other insult?  Was that the velcro recomendation?
How am I supposed to know?  You edited it out.  The velcro reference was just a tip from someone who has some friends that went through fraternity initiations.
In almost a year and a half I've had one post where I had to edit out an insult...
Sheesh, not the sharpest pencil in the box either.  Ooh, that makes three.


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Reply #65 on: April 18, 2008, 12:25:12 AM
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome).
Why is that an insult? I like the smell of elderberries.

I think because it was used as an insult in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Or maybe it's an Arsenic and Old Lace reference.  Though considering context, I'm thinking that the former is more likely than the latter...

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Reply #66 on: April 18, 2008, 12:48:47 AM
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome).
Why is that an insult? I like the smell of elderberries.

I think because it was used as an insult in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Or maybe it's an Arsenic and Old Lace reference.  Though considering context, I'm thinking that the former is more likely than the latter...

Well duh, Sherlock.

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Reply #67 on: April 18, 2008, 12:50:47 AM
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome).
Why is that an insult? I like the smell of elderberries.

I think because it was used as an insult in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Or maybe it's an Arsenic and Old Lace reference.  Though considering context, I'm thinking that the former is more likely than the latter...

Well duh, Sherlock.


Hey, I'm not the one that asked...

« Last Edit: April 19, 2008, 02:53:14 AM by Windup »

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Reply #68 on: April 18, 2008, 01:33:10 AM
That's awful nice for someone who smells of elderberries (now you have two insults...you're welcome).
Why is that an insult? I like the smell of elderberries.

I think because it was used as an insult in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Or maybe it's an Arsenic and Old Lace reference.  Though considering context, I'm thinking that the former is more likely than the latter...

Hey, I'm not the one that asked...

Well duh, Sherlock.

I would say he smells of dingleberries... now THAT would be a worthy riposte!

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Reply #69 on: April 18, 2008, 01:45:52 AM
did anyone else think of spaceballs when they saw the title?

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Reply #70 on: April 18, 2008, 02:46:18 AM
did anyone else think of spaceballs when they saw the title?

God yes. I was fully expecting Yogurt to show up for a bit.

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Reply #71 on: April 18, 2008, 04:29:05 AM
I fully expected this to be a comedy when I saw the title, until Steve's intro.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get the "I see your schwarz is as big as mine" bit from my mind.

Then, when the Antarean showed up, I was waiting for the cross-over from the "43rd Antarean Dynasties."

Mostly, I agree with Nobilis.  While listening to this story, I kept thinking, wow.  He was pretty far off.  It reminded me a lot of when I read Michael Crichton's The Lost World back in high school, and he was railing against how the internet was going to destroy culture, because everyone would only read the same top ten books, or watch the same tv shows, or listen to the same music.

It's certainly not a story I would've sought out and read on my own, so I'm glad I got to listen to it here, even though it wasn't a favorite.  One of the things I love about EP (and PP, and probably PC from the sound of it) is the diversity of the choices and broadening my own perspective on genre fiction.  And like I said before, the forums are amazing.  Some of the things other people came up with (TAD) I'd never considered.  You all broaden my perspective, too.


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Reply #72 on: April 18, 2008, 01:21:04 PM

One other thing:  first a Resnick, now a Silverberg... at that rate, next week will probably be "Union Dues" (no offense, Jeff).  I don't mean to be overly critical of my free entertainment, but are there any new (or at least lesser-known) authors that might have some works out there for us to enjoy?


You nailed it!!

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


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Reply #73 on: April 18, 2008, 01:47:14 PM

One other thing:  first a Resnick, now a Silverberg... at that rate, next week will probably be "Union Dues" (no offense, Jeff).  I don't mean to be overly critical of my free entertainment, but are there any new (or at least lesser-known) authors that might have some works out there for us to enjoy?


You nailed it!!

I was going to mention that when the EP154 thread opens up.  But when I updated my iPod this morning I had a good long LOL.

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Reply #74 on: April 19, 2008, 02:48:25 AM
 :'( 

Anyone else think of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by Thurber or am I just showing my age. 

Really didn't like the story.  Seemed like an update and expansion of Thurber's story.  Original was better.

We're slower than I'd like getting of this Rock, but we WILL go to the stars. 

 :-[



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Reply #75 on: April 20, 2008, 12:10:30 AM
:'( 

Anyone else think of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by Thurber or am I just showing my age. 

Really didn't like the story.  Seemed like an update and expansion of Thurber's story.  Original was better.

We're slower than I'd like getting of this Rock, but we WILL go to the stars. 

 :-[
It's been a loooong time, but I seem to remember some parts of Walter Mitty to be humorous... Maybe i'm getting it confused with some other Thurber piece, though.



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Reply #76 on: April 20, 2008, 08:55:58 AM
The whole way through, the nagging thought that spoiled the whole story for me was:

It didn't happen that way.  He's wrong.

Culture wasn't destroyed, it was transformed.  Instead of Californians and New Yorkers and Londoners and French and Liberians, you have Republicans and Veterans and Furries and Soccer Moms and Unitarians and Fetishists and Podcasters.

The fact that the world's many varied cultures can't be pointed to on maps anymore doesn't mean they don't exist, and it doesn't mean they don't exist in as much variety as they used to.  You just can't go looking for them by flying around.
Hmmm, yes, there is that. The variety of adopted life-styles and belief systems you come across on the intarweb is sometimes more strange and wonderful than, say, Victorian-era non-Western cultures.
But then all of the "ethnic" restaurants will be serving macaroni casseroles. Meatloaf for the adventurous.
Quel dommage.

The Mars Rovers are cool and having scientific robots cruising Mars is quite an accomplishment but I was expecting bigger things by now.
How about this: A modem used in one of the first Mars Rovers was an off-the-shelf commercially-available item, not a prototype from some Skunkworks lab.

"The Future ain't what it used to be." Or, today's speculation on future technology will be tomorrow's steampunk.

Was I the only one who read this story as "Schwartz is on an interstellar ship with a wild array of aliens, and is dreaming the whole 'archaeologist on a homogenous' planet while tripping on orange fungus"?  Sure, the narrator tells you where Schwartz's physical body is located and all... but you don't have to accept that, you know.
It had worried me for a while, but I'm pretty sure that's covered in lists like Stories We've Seen Too Often, in section 9:f.
Oh, wait, the trope goes back much further than 1974:
Quote
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.
- Zhuangzi (c. 369 BC - c. 286 BC)


It did remind me a little bit of Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, "coming unstuck in time", in that I wasn't absolutely positive that one setting was any more real than the others. A bit of fallout leftover from the '60s, I guess.

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Reply #77 on: April 20, 2008, 12:47:57 PM

But then all of the "ethnic" restaurants will be serving macaroni casseroles. Meatloaf for the adventurous.
Quel dommage.


No.  Just as people are constantly creating culture in other areas, they will continue to create culture when it comes to food.




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Reply #78 on: April 25, 2008, 03:17:56 AM
You've got to remember this story was written in 1974. There are still lots of different cultures in the World and by no means everything available in any one country is available in all other countries. I'm really depressed by predictions that we'll never go to other planets in our solar system or to the stars. I read that NASA planned a manned mission to Mars to take place in the mid 1970's, but it was abandoned. Even now, people with enough money can book flights just into space with Virgin Galactic.

 



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Reply #79 on: April 28, 2008, 05:54:52 PM
I only listened to this this morning and would appear to be exactly as blown away as everyone else is. I did get the point that, while awake, Schwartz longs for earth cultures to remain 'alien' but, in his dream world, his brain presents him with literal alien cultures which not only prove impenetrable to him but also reflect back to him how little he understands his own culture, but he doesn't learn from this, just slips into maudlin self-pity and, we have to guess, is dead at the end of it.

It's not exactly Walter Mitty, he at least is the hero of his little fantasies, I suppose that Schwartz is living up to another of the stereotypes of 'his people', self-hatred...



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Reply #80 on: May 01, 2008, 08:00:50 PM
I only listened to this this morning and would appear to be exactly as blown away as everyone else is.

I'm not sure how that math would work out...something like:
If (Loz's blown awayness) = (everyone else's blown awayness), where (everyone else's blown awayness) is a partial derivative of (birdless's blown awayness) and (birdless's blown awayness)=(not at all (in fact the opposite of blown awayness, which is to say so not blown away as to actually have been pulled forward in time a little so that where (birdlessª)=the birdless in present time while listening to this episode and (birdlessƒ)=the birdless in future time after listening to the episode, then (birdlessª)sin(birdlessƒ)≈(birdless)/∞)), then what is (Loz's blown awayness)?



I didn't take trig, so "sin" may be the wrong term... feel free to correct at your discretion



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Reply #81 on: May 02, 2008, 02:14:28 AM
I only listened to this this morning and would appear to be exactly as blown away as everyone else is.

I'm not sure how that math would work out...something like:
If (Loz's blown awayness) = (everyone else's blown awayness), where (everyone else's blown awayness) is a partial derivative of (birdless's blown awayness) and (birdless's blown awayness)=(not at all (in fact the opposite of blown awayness, which is to say so not blown away as to actually have been pulled forward in time a little so that where (birdlessª)=the birdless in present time while listening to this episode and (birdlessƒ)=the birdless in future time after listening to the episode, then (birdlessª)sin(birdlessƒ)≈(birdless)/∞)), then what is (Loz's blown awayness)?



I didn't take trig, so "sin" may be the wrong term... feel free to correct at your discretion

Oh, I'd say that was a big "sin" alright... some of us are "language people" here, ya know!   ;)

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Reply #82 on: May 04, 2008, 08:46:08 PM
I only listened to this this morning and would appear to be exactly as blown away as everyone else is.

I'm not sure how that math would work out...something like:
If (Loz's blown awayness) = (everyone else's blown awayness), where (everyone else's blown awayness) is a partial derivative of (birdless's blown awayness) and (birdless's blown awayness)=(not at all (in fact the opposite of blown awayness, which is to say so not blown away as to actually have been pulled forward in time a little so that where (birdlessª)=the birdless in present time while listening to this episode and (birdlessƒ)=the birdless in future time after listening to the episode, then (birdlessª)sin(birdlessƒ)≈(birdless)/∞)), then what is (Loz's blown awayness)?

... Mornington Crescent?



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Reply #83 on: May 05, 2008, 04:54:49 PM
I only listened to this this morning and would appear to be exactly as blown away as everyone else is.

I'm not sure how that math would work out...something like:
If (Loz's blown awayness) = (everyone else's blown awayness), where (everyone else's blown awayness) is a partial derivative of (birdless's blown awayness) and (birdless's blown awayness)=(not at all (in fact the opposite of blown awayness, which is to say so not blown away as to actually have been pulled forward in time a little so that where (birdlessª)=the birdless in present time while listening to this episode and (birdlessƒ)=the birdless in future time after listening to the episode, then (birdlessª)sin(birdlessƒ)≈(birdless)/∞)), then what is (Loz's blown awayness)?

... Mornington Crescent?
Beautiful! Even though the answer is probably 42, I like the one you gave.



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Reply #84 on: May 06, 2008, 01:54:04 AM
Oh, I'd say that was a big "sin" alright... some of us are "language people" here, ya know!   ;)

tad is that yet another attempt to derail a thread w/ a pun?

if so I like it lol

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Reply #85 on: May 07, 2008, 01:15:14 AM
Oh, I'd say that was a big "sin" alright... some of us are "language people" here, ya know!   ;)

tad is that yet another attempt to derail a thread w/ a pun?

if so I like it lol


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Reply #86 on: July 02, 2008, 05:39:13 PM
I am reading Barry Malzberg's book "Breakfast in the Ruins" (very fine, Hugo nominated, book - was my number one choise in its' category). He has very different take to this story. Silverberg was at the time disillusioned with science fiction, and didn't write any for at least seven years after this story. Malzberg's take on the story is that it tells about science fiction, and about writing science fiction. Direct quote: "It is, in fact, a castigation of the genre which perpetrated it and in which it appears, and as such it is devasting, a demolition of the genre...."
« Last Edit: July 02, 2008, 06:19:53 PM by tpi »



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Reply #87 on: July 02, 2008, 05:58:54 PM
I am reading Barry Malzberg's book "Breakfast in Ruins" (very fine, Hugo nominated, book - was my number one choise in its' category).

Not to be confused with the Michael Moorcock novel Breakfast in the Ruins[/i]]Breakfast in the Ruins, I'm sure.

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Reply #88 on: October 20, 2008, 10:31:51 PM
I think I liked the descriptions of the aliens most about this story. In particular, I always think the rich history of gender-less and multi-gendered aliens in science fiction is interesting, as there is on the whole far less acceptance of such identities in humans. It's a telling phenomenon.

I heard Nobilis' comment in the feedback summary for this episode, and I'm glad it was chosen. I agree. I don't think culture is necessarily less legitimate if it's not based on genetic or geographical ties.

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Reply #89 on: March 19, 2010, 05:34:22 PM
I gave this one a chance, but couldn't take it any more after 15 minutes or so.  I've liked some of Silverberg's other work here, but this was my least favorite of the bunch.

For starters, the story started out by telling me that interstellar travel will never be possible.  And then spends half the time on a starship.  And then Schwartz gives a dissertation speech to the stewardess--doesn't she have other things to do?  Way to long a lecture, too dull, especially since I didn't really agree with his basis, or have any reason to give a crap about him as a person.

The homogenization of culture was an interesting idea, but pretty baseless.  I read another story, years ago, in which intra-racial marriages were illegal--supposedly to remove the basis of racism by attempting to homogenize physical characteristics after several generations of breeding.  The protagonist of the story was in love with a woman of the same race as he, and they were viewed by the general public as an interracial couple might've been viewed in the American south in the 50s.  There were also other major differences.  "Prok" was a swear work similar to the current f-word, stemming from "procreate" because the world's overpopulation was so rampant that those who chose to have kids were looked down upon.  Does anyone happen to know what book that was?




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Reply #90 on: March 19, 2010, 06:52:43 PM
The homogenization of culture was an interesting idea, but pretty baseless.  I read another story, years ago, in which intra-racial marriages were illegal--supposedly to remove the basis of racism by attempting to homogenize physical characteristics after several generations of breeding.  The protagonist of the story was in love with a woman of the same race as he, and they were viewed by the general public as an interracial couple might've been viewed in the American south in the 50s.  There were also other major differences.  "Prok" was a swear work similar to the current f-word, stemming from "procreate" because the world's overpopulation was so rampant that those who chose to have kids were looked down upon.  Does anyone happen to know what book that was?

Maybe The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess?  It's on my to-read list.

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Reply #91 on: March 22, 2010, 04:41:32 PM
The homogenization of culture was an interesting idea, but pretty baseless.  I read another story, years ago, in which intra-racial marriages were illegal--supposedly to remove the basis of racism by attempting to homogenize physical characteristics after several generations of breeding.  The protagonist of the story was in love with a woman of the same race as he, and they were viewed by the general public as an interracial couple might've been viewed in the American south in the 50s.  There were also other major differences.  "Prok" was a swear work similar to the current f-word, stemming from "procreate" because the world's overpopulation was so rampant that those who chose to have kids were looked down upon.  Does anyone happen to know what book that was?

Maybe The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess?  It's on my to-read list.

I don't think that's the one, though it does match my description.  Hmm...  will return after Googling.



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Reply #92 on: March 22, 2010, 04:44:45 PM
If I remember correctly it also involved a means of traveling through the stars that I'd never heard of.  Instead of moving through space, you move through time at a fixed location in space.  Because the universe is ever-expanding, the stars and galaxies within it are constantly moving.  So if you can move through long periods of time and somehow remain fixed in space, then the stars come to you instead of the other way around.



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Reply #93 on: March 22, 2010, 04:50:52 PM
Got it!  The story I'm thinking about is "Ghost" by Piers Anthony (1986).  I read it as a pre-teen and at the time I thought there were a lot of cool ideas in it.  I can't say what I'd think of it now--I'm much more picky these days.  Publisher's Weekly's review of it that I found online, with some plot summary:

"Anthony's latest novel is one of his most minor efforts, a mechanical working out of an absurd, rattletrap plot, overwhelmed by talk and introspection. The story is set in a future in which a law has been passed (the Miscegenation Act) forbidding the marriage of two people of the same race (this in response to ''savage race riots'' and the need to slow population growth). Kerr Shetland, captain of the Meg IIa ''timeship'' traveling beyond the farthest reaches of the universe in search of new energy sources for an energy-poor Earthand his crew of six spend the trip in a paroxysm of racial, sexual and psychological self-examination, finally reaching some sort of epiphany when the ship breaks up on the rim of a Black Hole, and they are transformed into pure spiritall to little effect."