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Author Topic: EP101: The 43 Antarean Dynasties  (Read 49312 times)

mike-resnick

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Reply #40 on: April 20, 2007, 06:43:25 PM
Oops -- make that signature "Mike Resnick".

Seven eye surgeries in 3 years makes you hit a lot of wrong keys.

-- Mike



Simon Painter

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Reply #41 on: April 20, 2007, 08:26:50 PM
Gosh, where to start.

First off, I'm genuinely amazed by the intelligent and reasonable responses I've had.  On many forums offering an opinion contrary to the Host's would kick off some fairly nasty lines of conversation.  Since posting that last comment I was half-expecting to be banned faster than L. Ron Hubbard can type after a night of drinking caffeine!  That or an attack by a vengeful quill-wielding writer :-p

First-off, Thaurismunths:

I'm afraid to say that in my own experience, the chances of anyone's mind ever being changed by fiction are minute.  I'm reminded of the Frank Zappa obscenity trials in which the judges were concerned that his music was adversely affecting the youth of America.  Part of Zappa's defence was to point out that the vast majority of songs are love songs, but that listening to them doesn't seem to make us love each other any more.  Sadly, it's similar here, anyone with a political view adverse to this story will dismiss it out of hand or else give up on it.  The only people that will find meaning in it are those who already hold these views.

It goes without saying that it really shouldn't be like this.

For me a social observation story should work on two levels, the story itself and a deeper level of meaning for those that want to find it.  The only example I can think of off the top of my head is Animal Farm by George Orwell, which could be taken as a fantasy story about animals taking over a farm, of could be taken as a take on the Russian Revolution.  But in the case of Animal Farm, you don't need to appreciate the sub-text in order to be able to just enjoy the story. (This isn't a fantastic example, I know, but it's the first that comes to mind)



ClicheKiller:

(Nice Moniker, btw.)

I do accept your point about good literature existing to make us think.  I would also add that it should stimulate the imagination, this to me is just as important.

I'm afraid I'd be reluctant to accept the internal conflict within the guide, as this conflict was resolved before the story even started, when he decided to take the job.  Had the story started, f'rinstance, when the guide had just left University and was debating whether or not to become a guide, I could have accepted that as a plot.  In this case, though, there is no conflict, the guide's opinions are fixed before the story begins, as are those of the American Tourists.

With the Asimov pieces I'd actually be more inclined to think of them as Science Fiction pieces with a Murder Mystery backdrop.  The Science Fiction aspects are what he's trying to relate, the Murder Mystery is the medium through which he relates them.  With this story here, the story about the Tourists is what Mr Resnick is trying to relate, the Science Fiction elements are only a backdrop.

It's true that awards and popularity are often a mark of quality, but not always.  Dan Brown springs to mind for one example of an exception :-p (I'm in no way implying that Mr Resnick is as bad as Dan Brown, just giving an example to support my supposition)

Thankyou also clichekiller, you presented your arguments most eloquently, I'll look forward to seeing you around on these forums in future.


Mr Eley:

It's OK, I don't think you're trying to cramp feedback, your opinion is always welcome  :)

First off: I have automatic respect for anyone that likes Percy Shellley!  The Mask of Anarchy is one of my favorite poems, I literally have the T-Shirt.

I'm afraid the imagery of the story didn't do anything for me at all for two reasons.  Firstly, that to me this is background material, it's like the painted backdrop of a stage in a theatre, it's better if it's attractive to look at and portrays the atmosphere, but it's the story and the performances that're really important, anything else is secondary.  The second reason (which may possibly explain something of my attitude here) is that I'm a massive fan of the British New Wave SF Movement (Michael Moorcock, Barrington J Bayley, etc) where such imagery is commonplace.  Michael Moorcock for one has produced a multitude of such images in just about everything he's every written.

Also, this idea of Western ignorance is nothing new to me, I've been aware of it ever since I was at school, and images of American Tourists such as those portrayed here abound in films, and have for as long as I've been watching them.

Now, if that building had actually contained a God, we might be on to something  :P



Finally, Mr Resmocl (should we ever meet in person, you'll know me when I address you as that  :P):

SF for me doesn't have to be about "starships, aliens, or zap guns" and never has, just about ideas, vivid new ideas well told, or even just stories that exist for no other reason than to be good stories (though it's much harder to find cases of this working). 

To cite another example: to me calling this story Science Fiction would be like calling the David Carradine TV Series 'Kung-fu' a western, it isn't really.  The series is mostly concerned with philosophy, the Western element is just a backdrop, you could have set it almost anywhere without changing the characters or the plot one bit.

Similarly here, this story could be changed from Science Fiction to Mainstream by pretty much just changing the names and nothing else.



It might be worth mentioning at this point (I've probably not made this clear) that although I stand by my three criticisms, the main one is actually the lack of plot. I can forgive the other two to an extent if the plot is good enough to carry me along, and in this case I don't believe it was.


Thanks again everyone for such a though-provoking debate, it's been a good many years since I've had to think like this about my own opinions.

Simon Painter
Shropshire, UK

"Save the Squonk!"


SFEley

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Reply #42 on: April 20, 2007, 08:37:16 PM
First off, I'm genuinely amazed by the intelligent and reasonable responses I've had.  On many forums offering an opinion contrary to the Host's would kick off some fairly nasty lines of conversation.  Since posting that last comment I was half-expecting to be banned faster than L. Ron Hubbard can type after a night of drinking caffeine!  That or an attack by a vengeful quill-wielding writer :-p

Pshaw, no.  Just to be clear: the only thing that will get someone moderated around here is an insult against a real person or group of people.  Strong disagreement is totally cool, as long as everyone's respectful of the people they're disagreeing with.  Overall I think this community does a superlative job of that.



ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine


mike-resnick

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Reply #43 on: April 20, 2007, 09:07:33 PM
madSimon --

Works of fiction never changed anyone's mind? Any student of
American history can refute that with just three words: UNCLE
TOM'S CABIN.

I suspect we will never agree on what science fiction is, and as far
as I am concerned that is a Good Thing, because you have just given
me my editorial for the next issue of Jim Baen's Universe. It will be
an historical survey of all the critics (and others) who tried to put
science fiction in a straitjacket, and how it has broken out and gained
new high ground every time.

So please accept my (sincere) thanks. Editorials are a lot harder to
come by than science fiction stories (my definition -or- yours).

-- Mike Resnick



Simon Painter

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Reply #44 on: April 20, 2007, 09:59:31 PM
with the very greatest of respect, I didn't say "never" just that the chances were minute.  It is certainly true that there are works of literature that've had a great influence on the world, but if you take the number of these next to the number of those that didn't, the gap is depressingly vast.

I do agree that we'll sadly never see eye-to-eye on this matter, although I should say that I've no interest in 'straight-jacketing' the genre, as you put it.  Believe it or not I have a very wide definition of SF, far more so than many of my fellows.  My *only* criteria is that the SF element(s) be a factor of the plot, not merely a back-drop.  This is the one-and-only restriction I place upon it, anything else is up to the writer.

I should reiterate that, as I'm sure is the same for many here, I'm willing to forgo any debate on classification if a good story is presented.  This is very much a side issue to me.

Simon Painter
Shropshire, UK

"Save the Squonk!"


Simon Painter

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Reply #45 on: April 20, 2007, 10:12:58 PM
Pshaw, no. 

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I've no idea what "Pshaw" means.  I'm assuming from the tone of your post that I've not gone too far wrong.  Please don't hesitate to say something if I do step over the line, though.

Thanks,

Simon Painter
Shropshire, UK

"Save the Squonk!"


Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #46 on: April 21, 2007, 01:59:25 AM
He's saying, "Don't worry about it", or my favorite variation:  "Fugedaboutit".

Published genre fiction author with stories in print and upcoming.

Official site: http://jonathancg.net/ | Twitter: JCGAuthor | Facebook


mummifiedstalin

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Reply #47 on: April 22, 2007, 03:27:57 AM
madSimon --

Works of fiction never changed anyone's mind? Any student of
American history can refute that with just three words: UNCLE
TOM'S CABIN.

I suspect we will never agree on what science fiction is, and as far
as I am concerned that is a Good Thing, because you have just given
me my editorial for the next issue of Jim Baen's Universe. It will be
an historical survey of all the critics (and others) who tried to put
science fiction in a straitjacket, and how it has broken out and gained
new high ground every time.

So please accept my (sincere) thanks. Editorials are a lot harder to
come by than science fiction stories (my definition -or- yours).

-- Mike Resnick
I'll be interested in what you have to say about the limits of the genre. After all, the idea of genre itself seems to imply limits, or at least a strong tradition. If not for limits, then how could you ever distinguish science fiction as something discrete that could recognizably "break out and gain new high ground"? Even though there are, of course, numerous definitions of what actually constitutes the genre, it seems like almost all of sf's allies want to distinguish it as somehow "special." So maybe it's not a question of genre definitions as a *limit* to what science fiction must be. Instead, "genre" is what distinguishes it, makes it special and different from mainstream fiction (and from other genres).



mike-resnick

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Reply #48 on: April 22, 2007, 09:21:04 AM
In one respect, it's a marketing tool. You say "mystery", people kinda sorta know what you're talking about. You then limit it even further, with "hard-boiled" or "cozy" or "trraditional" or what-have-you. Same with science fiction. You say "science fiction", you know you're not going to have a private eye going fown the dark alleys of 1940s Manhattan or San Francisco, unless there's an alien or something similar involved. But because science fiction encompasses all time and all space -- my own definition, however inadequate, is that it deals with an altered past, an alternative present, or an imagined future -- you can't put the same straitjacket/restrictions on it that you can on a detective story or a Western.

Publishers love categories, because every category has a ceiling, above which nothing but the exceptionally rare DUNE or GORKY PARK sells, and a floor, below which nothing sells. You call it "science fiction" and you're going to sell X,XXX copies even if it's got all blank pages. So from a publisher's point of view, when he's dealing with any new or unproven writer, all he has to do is keep his expenses below the floor (low advance, generic cover art, no ads) and he can't lose money....which is why publishers love genres and categories, even if no one agrees about their definitions and restrictions. It lets them know how much (or how little) to spend, and for publishers, it's not about Art, it's about Profit. (Which is not a perjorative; if they don't make a profit, no one pays us to attempt art.)

-- Mike Resnick



Simon Painter

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Reply #49 on: April 22, 2007, 09:35:51 AM
out of curiosity, do you count Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons as Science Fiction?

"Save the Squonk!"


mike-resnick

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Reply #50 on: April 22, 2007, 08:43:45 PM
Never read Cold Comfort Farm. But if I were a publisher and she was an unknown quantity with no track record, I'd -label- it science fiction. The average mainstream novel prints 1500 copies in hardcover and never finds a paperback publisher. Market the same book as science fiction and you'll sell a couple of thousand hardcovers and close to 10,000 paperbacks even if it bombs. Market it as romance and you can triple those paperback numbers with a bottom-of-the-barrel seller. THAT's why publishers love categories.

Mike Resnick



mummifiedstalin

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Reply #51 on: April 22, 2007, 09:19:32 PM
I certainly understand what you're saying about the commercial effects on labelling genres. But of course that's not all there is. The sf fandom is one of the most willing to self-identify, to determine their tastes in opposition to mainstream and other genres, and is very self-conscious of its own literary history. So are there any positive benefits to thinking in terms of genre, or are you suggesting that in the end, the idea of genre is simply a marketing tool?



mike-resnick

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Reply #52 on: April 22, 2007, 10:03:34 PM
That's an almost-impossible question to answer, because there -are- two separate and distinct answers, both of them correct.

From the point of view of the publisher -- and without publishers there are no professional publications -- categories are simply marketing tools, and very useful ones.

From the point of view of science fiction fandom -- which on good days probably numbers abour 30,000 -- about one-hundredth of one percent of the American population -- it clearly means much more, and is the basis of a sense of community and shared interests.

There's a third answer, which is more meaningful to me personally. From the viewpoint of the writer, as long as I feel what I'm writing is science fiction and I can find some editors who agree with me, I couldn't care less about definitions -- yours, madSimon's, Gardner Dozois's, Stan Schmidt's, or anyone else's. If the day comes when I can't find a bunch of editors who agree with me, then I'll have to consider changing my notion of science fiction. But that day's not coming anytime soon. The reason I mentioned "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" awards and sales was not to brag or convince anyone they had to like it; it was to show that, in terms of the sales, 13 professional science fiction editors thought it fit comfortably in their publications and wss clearly science fiction; and in terms of the  awards, they were voted on my science fiction fans, who clearly had no problem defining the story as science fiction.

Mike Resnick



mike-resnick

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Reply #53 on: April 23, 2007, 04:10:50 AM
Again, I apologize for all the typos. Eye surgery #8 is coming up
in May. I would not anticipate the absence of numerous typos
anytime soon. Sorry about that.

Mike Resnick



slic

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Reply #54 on: April 23, 2007, 01:13:30 PM
No apology necessary, most of us have two perfectly good eyes and typos still show up everywhere.

I considered leaving in some of mine, but figured that joke needed a rest - nevertheless in this little note, I've added four extra letters and mispelt 'nevertheless' three times :)



Simon

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Reply #55 on: April 24, 2007, 10:12:53 AM
Hey guys,

Usually my analyses of stories on EP are based on dissection, I enjoy taking apart the cogs and looking at the screws, but in the case of this story MadSimonj and Slic have already covered everything about the structure I would like to say... So I'm going to talk about how I responded to it emotionally.

I strongly disliked this piece, really reacted to it on a gut level...  Something about the tone went straight to my insides and started chewing them up... Part of it might have been that I am am a relatively experienced traveller myself, and therefore found this twee rather than revelatory.  This week itself I happened to be in Knossos on Crete, visiting friends, and ended up taking a guided tour with a friend of a friend who has a masters degree in Physics but still makes his living giving guided tours of Knossos because real work is no-where to be found.  Crete is not the third world (although my professional experience in Archaeology and Geology mean I've spent quite a lot of time in these sorts of places thinking about these sorts of issues) but I think it illustrates that yes Mike is getting at something valid here.

The problem is that when a story such as this is a morality play as this one is, it needs some level of deeper insight and characterisation in order for it to hold any water, whereas in this piece I felt the characterisation was really pretty third rate.  I didn't empathise with these people, they didn't have enough backstory to empathise with (the only moment the story began to take flight with the blind "saviour" it dies off almost immediately back to the mundane themes)... And while there are many tourists like those mentioned here, I think it doesn't do justice to the story to use tourists this idiotic here.

I think part of it may be that I disagree with the politics so strongly.  This piece is preachy, and is designed as such, but doesn't hold any deeper insight.  These are complex issues, with complex solutions, and I want to talk a bit about Guilt, as already touched upon by Slic.  There is a very very strong theme amongst the western world's middle classes at the moment to feel something akin to puritan guilt about the failings of the economic process be they economic, environmental or political.  There have been a number of Escape Pod stories which to me have hinged on this Political Guilt - Blood Of Virgins, Smooth Talking, and Nano Comes To Clifford Falls.  I think that the key feature when it comes to enjoying these stories is whether feeling political guilt makes you feel virtuous, or kicks off your libertarian (as I have) instinct of "This is a problem, but it is not *my* fault". The audience for this story is the SF market, who are predominantly western and middle class, meaning that the villain in this story is universally similar to the neighbour down the reader/listerners street that they don't respect very much.  The target audience are the very people being demonised, so I will very heavily say that this story is about guilt and whether you find it satisfying to feel guilty.

Thinking about this I am near certain that it is this emotional reaction that put me off the story so strongly, and I'm rather glad I have written this post and got to the bottom of it.  In a story with these themes, I need something a little more than "the failings of western tourism as allegory" to get any enjoyment out of it.  There is no deeper insight here, no solutions offered here, and no real hope - it's an arrow pointed straight at middle class guilt, and I find that really distasteful.

As always much respect to Mr Resnick for taking on us naysayers in the comments thread.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2007, 10:29:54 AM by Simon »



mike-resnick

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Reply #56 on: April 24, 2007, 06:23:42 PM
I can't make you like it. Enough people did that I'm still in business. I was just explaining why it -was- science fiction.

Mike Resnick



Roney

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Reply #57 on: April 25, 2007, 07:30:14 PM
My first reaction to this story was that the reading is excellent.  There are only so many story ideas in the world, so it says something for the... texture of this implementation that it gave the readers so much to work with.  I was entirely convinced by the characters as portrayed, even if the tourists as written didn't have much depth.  (Even that seemed realistic: most people I've met come across as 2D when they've got their tourist hat on.)

I still thought the story was a bit "meh", mostly for reasons that others have mentioned.  Still, it's my favourite Mike Resnick story on EP so far, so I'll play a bit of devil's advocate.

Sure, there's no plot.  Plot is important to story, but short stories by their very shortness often benefit from concentrating on just character or scene instead.  This one had a fairly strong central character and a very densely painted scene: the addition of a plot could have diluted its focus or overwhelmed it with too many details.

Genres in Venn diagrams:
  • All fiction written is fantasy.
  • The subset of fantasy where the science is plausible or at least hand-wavily arguable is science fiction.
  • Mainstream fiction is the subset of science fiction where the science is restricted to the currently or historically possible.
Of course, genre labelling isn't that logical.  But on that scheme, there's no arguing that the story's SF.

Could it just as easily have ditched the SF trappings?  Well, no.  You could write a story about Egypt and bring out the ancient monuments aspect.  (I found this quite amusing in Egypt, actually, when our guide kept emphasizing how the beautiful temples had been built when Western Europeans were barely able to stand the stones of Stonehenge on their ends.)  You could write a story about pacifist reactions to occupation in, say, India or Tibet.  You could write a story about a culture that achieved heights of civilization long before Europeans got civilized, say in Mesopotamia or China.  You could write a story about a primitive nation being utterly defeated by superior technology, such as in the Americas.  But in an SF story you can bring together all these elements and make them bigger, wider, higher, older, wower.  It may not be a particularly imaginative tradition in SF but it's a distinguished one, and pushing those boundaries does mean that the SF element is adding something beyond an ordinary travelogue.

Preaching to the converted is pointless because the converted either feel patronized, or validated in their smug complacency.  An SF audience in America (where some stats indicate that fewer than 30% of citizens own a passport) may not already be converted to this story's message.

See?  Nothing wrong with it at all.  ;)



.Morph.

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Reply #58 on: April 26, 2007, 09:15:20 AM
I liked this story.
So many of you seemed to have problems with this story because it didnt reach any definate conclusions whereas i loved this story because it was a valid commentary that used SF storytelling to get across a point which is meaningful no matter what setting you put it in.

And as for people saying that there was no plot, in actual fact the story was based on telling the guides life experiences so theres your plot right there.
I do not think that the plot should be the main thinking point for this story....as with all resnick story i went away thinking about the inperfections that it highlighted in our own society or ways of thinking.

No human thing is of serious importance.
Plato


ClintMemo

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Reply #59 on: April 26, 2007, 12:06:00 PM
Well, I picked the wrong time to get behind on my Escape Pod listening. I've been avoiding reading this message board until after I listened to the story and when I finally get here I find the hugo award winning author is prominently in the thread.
How cool is that?

After reading the board, I'm reminded of something Scott Adams said about his short-lived Dilbert animated series. A producer (or someone similar) told him that the show was doomed because everyone liked it but no one loved it (and no one hated it.)  If it didn't make a strong enough emotional connection to make some people hate it (and others love it), then it would fail.

Well, Simon "strongly disliked" it and lots of people, (including me), loved it, so - Success!
Though, I suppose that's not surprising given it's Hugo award winning status.  :P

Congrats and good luck on the eye surgery.


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