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Author Topic: EP153: Schwartz Between the Galaxies  (Read 43020 times)

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  The (social) science is just bad, and hopelessly outdated.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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Boggled Coriander

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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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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.

Moderator: fixed link
« 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.


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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?