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Author Topic: EP153: Schwartz Between the Galaxies  (Read 42697 times)

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.



Gwyddyon

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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.



wintermute

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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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RKG

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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.

rkg  101010


RKG

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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!

rkg  101010


Brian Deacon

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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.)



Listener

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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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Listener

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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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Listener

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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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CGFxColONeill

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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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Darwinist

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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


Biscuit

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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 ;)


wintermute

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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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Windup

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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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