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Author Topic: EP153: Schwartz Between the Galaxies  (Read 42698 times)

wakela

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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.



sirana

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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.



birdless

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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.

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



wintermute

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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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sirana

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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)



Listener

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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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Windup

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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.


"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


wakela

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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?



wakela

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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. 



eytanz

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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.



Tango Alpha Delta

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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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Tango Alpha Delta

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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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Darwinist

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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


Ocicat

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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.



wakela

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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.



Windup

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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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qwints

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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.

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DKT

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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.