125 thoughts on “Is SF Becoming More Conservative?

  1. Carl Pham

    Why do you think banning guns would do zip in the Tuscon case?

    Oh, I dunno, Bob. How I can compete with your theories of why it would’ve worked I do not know. All I have is a grubby little collection of facts, such as for example that the murder rate in DC or Chicago are sky-high, yet these places have the strictest gun-control laws around. Then there’s the Virginia Tech massacre, which occured in a place that strictly banned guns — er, except that the gunman, that naughty boogerhead, didn’t obey the law. Such impudence!

    Or I could ask you whether you thought Prohibition stopped drinking, or whether the current War on Drugs has put a dent in marijuana consumption, or whether even the East German police state could stop the black market, or whether you think Mexico, with strict gun control laws, is a Paradise of peace, or Switzerland, where every adult male keeps a gun in his house, is a hell of random murder.

    But enough of that. I don’t really have the heart for this fight. As I said above, I don’t like guns, and I bitterly resent their necessity. I find it distasteful in the extreme that, much as I would like to believe as you do, that a well-crafted wise law would remove their necessity forever — the facts just aren’t so. I will defend to the end the rights of good men to defend their lives with lethal violence, and own the tools thereof, but I don’t like it, and it brings my spirits low to have to perform the duty of correcting your persistent delusions. Let others do it.

    but my mother caught me, and instead of chewing me out, she asked me how I thought a television worked, and why I thought banging on it would improve its operation.

    Goodness, Bob, what demeaning parenting. To discount the importance of your emotional experience, and force you to humiliate yourself by in effect writing I am stupid 100 times. I sure hope you treat your daughter with greater empathy and kindness. Give her feelings the respect your honor for her demands. If she smacks the TV in rage because Barney has a cerebral hemorrhage and flops dead, by all means yell angrily at her — reflect her emotion, let her see it affect you emotionally — and tell her to knock it off, but do not become cool, intellectual, above it all, and make her feel like her emotional outburst makes her a subhuman worm.

    As for cursing, I curse God and, mostly, Jesus.

    A great religious man I knew, the Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, once talked at length about prayer. He said prayer had a silly meaning, which is a childish asking of God for favors, but that its true meaning was just a conversation with God — which could, and sometimes should, consist of a raging cursing tirade. He talked, indeed, about ministering to a young man dying of AIDS (at that time, the late 80s, there was no effective treatment at all), who struggled to reconcile his awful tragedy with his childhood faith. He spoke about how he relieved the man of thinking that a God worthy of the name would be some prissy plastic petty tyrant, unable to hear a word of hostility without throwing thunderbolts. Is not a true and loving father one whom his sons can curse and kick the shins of, without fear, when he inexplicably takes their toys away?

    Then he and this pour soul sat together and, as the Dean said, shaking his fist, really let God have it. The Dean was supremely angry, too, after all — how could he reconcile his faith with the misery and suffering among his young congregants?

    I have no prism of faith through which to interpret this, precisely, being agnostic myself, but my observation impels me to interpret your cursing of God frequently as a steady practise of prayer, and I conclude you have a pretty tight relationship with your God. Which is not to say it isn’t fraught with significant hostility, but then our most intimate relationships often are.

  2. Carl Pham

    my answer is that not using lethal force helps you to avoid cases of mistaken identity

    And here I would have thought using your brain would be a still better method. Silly me!

    I suppose she might have shot him if she had been armed.

    What is it with you and your women and this culture of mutual disrespect? Listen, if you don’t think your wife can be trusted with a handgun, what the heck are you doing trusting her to be mother to your child? I assure you she can do far more damage with that power.

  3. ken anthony

    Let’s imagine a world with no guns yet still has the maniacs. The assumption is they would look for a way to kill…

    …car as a weapon … fewer people would have been killed

    Are you kidding. I guarantee I could kill more intentionally with a car than you could with the largest clip manufactured.

    Now we’re imagining no cars yet still we have maniacs…

    Explosives, not hard to buy, not hard to make, not hard to remotely trigger…

    Explosives gone (requires that we change the laws of physics, but this is imagination damn it) intent maniac…

    Chemical that kill (generally requires an enclosed area like inside a building, but depending on the chemicals, not necessarily) Easy to buy, easy to mix, easy to deliver.

    I could go on but the point is IT IS NOT THE GUN, IT IS THE NUT.

  4. Bob-1

    Carl, I enjoyed your discussion of prayer, I’ll cheerfully ignore your speculations about my wife in favor of urging you to consider that everyone makes mistakes, and as for your condemnation of my mother’s parenting, I think you misunderstood: perhaps you’re not familiar with the Fonz’s magic touch. So-called “percussive maintenance” is what Apollo 12, Skylab, and the Fonz have in common, as explained in this article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percussive_maintenance#Famous_taps_in_history

  5. Bob-1

    Ken, probably you could, but I think the shooter in Tuscon couldn’t. And that’s my reply to Carl as well — crime statistics don’t address the specifics of the Tucson situation, in which a man who was not particularly ambitious or smart or coherent was able to wreck havoc because he had an easily purchased tool specifically designed for killing people in the way that he did. Guns make it easy for lazy unskilled killers in a way that cars, explosives, chemicals, and knives do not, hence their popularity as murder weapons.

  6. Bob-1

    One last comment for Carl and Ken: I think you’re making all the same great points that 2nd amendment advocates always make, but unlike Mexico, it actually is hard to get a black market handgun in the UK, right? This doesn’t make the UK a crime-free zone, but it does give an example of a free and democratic society making laws which really do limit access to handguns.

  7. Andrea Harris

    I remember being like you. Back when I was young I was sure that private citizens who owned guns were just immature. I came up with what I was sure was a real good argument against guns: they weren’t as useful as knives because you could at least whittle and cut a pie with a knife! And I also used the “guns are the easy, lazy way to kill” argument. I was into medieval-based fantasy so I was sure that swords were way cooler than guns. Man, it’s embarrassing to remember what a childish, smug, ignorant git I was. I’m glad I’m not like you anymore.

  8. Andrea Harris

    PS: what on earth does that pathetic post you linked to (some Indian somewhere mocked a magician so that means it’s okay to be rude and curse and swear, what?) have to do with Blaise Pascal? And OMG, what an arrogant, up-yourself jerk you have to be to compare your timid little 21st century Christian tweaking (I note you don’t claim you curse Mohammed, even though Muslims have done as much if not worse harm to Jews as Christians have) to the serious questions on faith of a man living in 17th century France, where heresy could get you imprisoned killed by the authorities. But never mind that — Pascal is one of my heroes, a great mind who accomplished more in his 39 years of life than I’m sure you have. Unless, of course, you’ve done things comparable to inventing the first calculator and adding a permanent legacy of work to the field of philosophy. Well, have you? What are your great accomplishments, oh brave Jesus-curser? (A person in whom you don’t even believe! That’s like cursing the Stay-Puft marshmallow Man!)

  9. Bob-1

    I don’t think people who own guns are immature, I do think they are useful for self-defense, and I don’t think medieval swordsmanship is cooler than modern-day marksmanship. I like the sword fighting scene in the Princess Bride, and that’s about it for me and swords. I find projectiles much more intriguing, and that might tend to be gender-specific.

  10. Bob-1

    I agree – Pascal was an amazing person! I just think Pascal’s wager is a silly and cowardly, if he really meant it. Cursing fictional characters strikes me as funny, not brave, but truthfully, when I’m angry, I’m sure bellow “Jesus Christ, what the hell?!” due to my enculturation, not my beliefs.

  11. Andrea Harris

    “I just think Pascal’s wager is a silly and cowardly, if he really meant it.”

    The childishness of the American liberal, encapsulated. “I don’t agree with it, I’d be a lot braver anyway, and he probably didn’t mean it anyway!” Unable to understand that people living in different eras thought differently from us, and what we would laugh or sneer at now they took perfectly seriously. Well, the average American liberal doesn’t even seem to understand that people from different countries today think differently — for example, liberals think that all we need to do is show the Muslims or the Chinese or what have you how nice we are and how much we like them and they’ll just come round to our way of thinking.

    And getting back to the subject, which is science fiction, maybe this is why so much of it sucks and seems stuck in a state of adolescent rebellion and social anxiety: most science fiction writers are liberal, and even if they keep their politics out of their stories their overarching worldview (the need to rebel against Daddy/break free of Mommy to find their own identity, and the need to seek out strangers to impress & thus have sex with — standard adolescent personality drivers) has to affect the writing. As I got older — I hesitate to say “more mature,” maybe less immature — I began to get tired of most science fiction. It lacked something — humanity, maybe. I mean, there really aren’t any aliens, science fiction is written by humans.

    And then there is the overtly political scifi, but the less said about that the better. *twitch*

  12. Bob-1

    Was Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy popular among space libertarians despite its overt advocacy for socialism?

  13. Carl Pham

    Bob, technology makes it easier for human will, even bent human will, to result in tangible consequences. TV news created terrorism, for example, and without Youtube and the like there would be no filmed beheadings of hostages. But the solution is never Luddism. Technology is always a two-edged sword.

    Guns enable murder. But guns also enable the prevention of murder and the keeping of peace by small elderly women. As a society and as individuals we spend less on security, both social and personal, than our forefathers, and we can enjoy much less intrusion into our motives and fewer restrictions on our movement — because technology multiplies the power of others to defend themselves against us, if necessary.

    The problem with seeking simple broad solutions to the complex issues of technology is the Law Of Unintended Consequences. What are the unintended side effects of gun control? You cannot seriously propose it without considering those, as well as your predicted good effects. And the UK is a terrible example for you: it is increasingly violent and insecure and evolving towards police-state Department of Precrime intrusiveness that Americans would find extremely unpleasant. People often feel less safe in their persons or homes while at the same time more spied-on by government. It’s not what it used to be — no longer the genial stiff upper lip crowd circa the coronation of Elizabeth (1952).

  14. Carl Pham

    Andrea, good points in your last post. I agree with you that I find sf far less interesting as I have grown older. It seems so plonking angsty humorless, lacking in the pure joy of possibility and success that it seemed to have when I was younger. But maybe it’s me.

  15. Bob-1

    Carl, I recommend the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books of Wil McCarthy’s Queendom of Sol series. Particularly the 4th book – To Crush The Moon.

    1st book: Light hearted wonky applied physics. A lesser accomplishment. Skippable.

    2nd book: A romp in the Oort Cloud exploring the ethics of duplicating people. Still quite light hearted, not very deep. Read it at the beach.

    3rd book: “Lost In Transmission”. A more interesting look at how a not very Earthlike planet orbiting Barnard’s Star might be colonized and what might go wrong. A bit deeper, not perfect, but pretty good.

    4th book: To Crush The Moon. The best one. This might have what you’re looking for. I suppose it is angsty and even post-apocalyptic, but it is also full of the joy of possibility and success, and it is rather beautiful, in a geeky sort of way, and the author is on record as being surprised that people didn’t realize the entire series was intended as a hard-SF comedy, and indeed, I thought the whole series was full of good natured optimistic humor.

    Use Rand’s Amazon button to have a look at the reviews.

  16. Bob-1

    And I want to repeat my recommendation of Geoffrey Landis’ Outsider’s Chance, the best depiction of nuclear thermal rockets and libertarian space colonies I’ve ever seen.

  17. Carl Pham

    Thanks, Bob. I’ll put ‘em on my wish list. It is true, however, that my reading over the last 10 years or so has become almost completely dominated by nonfiction — history, biography, as well as some scientific fields that are not my own but interest me (cognitive science, high-energy physics). I believe I have become middle-aged and boring.

    Well, except in the sack, where I make you inexperienced whippersnappers seem like clumsy unimaginative oafs.

  18. Mike Borgelt

    Bob-1 Says:
    January 27th, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Was Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy popular among space libertarians despite its overt advocacy for socialism?

    Well I guess I fit that “space libertarian” bit. No I didn’t like the Mars trilogy. I read the first two and can’t be bothered with “Blue mars”.

    I read some of KSR’s other stuff and quite liked it but the Mars trilogy could have used severe editing.

    Current writers I liked include Greg Bear “Vitals’, “Quantico” and Mike Flynn’s Firestar quadrilogy and all his other stuff.

  19. Leland

    I so enjoyed Ryan Olcott’s comment. Please sir, might we have another? There seems to be a ready victim in need, and Andrea and Carl continue on with their brutal abuse of the mentally handicapped. Scold them, scold them I plead!

  20. ken anthony

    Guns make it easy for lazy unskilled killers…

    There are surprisingly few lazy unskilled killers because the ones you hear about are motivated to learn skills to kill.

    An unskilled gunman is much more likely to wound or miss than kill even at point blank range. Anytime you hear a gunman has killed multiple targets you’re hearing about someone motivated to become skilled. A blade can be effective in close combat.

    I recently bought the Firefly complete series. Prior I’d only seen Serenity. The series was F#$%#%g AWESOME. Everybody, sell a parent or sibling and go out and buy it. I’d read critics saying they wouldn’t use handguns (yeah, we’ll all have phasers. What a lack of imagination. What idiots.) Handguns are superior to knives or swords but would not eliminate them, anymore than TV eliminated radio (or reading.)

  21. Ed Minchau

    Firefly is definitely pro-Liberty. It sure isn’t hard SF, but anachronistic space western. Be sure to check out the feature-length fanfilm “Browncoats: Redemption”, set after the events in Serenity.

  22. Laurel Anne Hill

    Dear Kurt9,

    I write primarily fantasy, and yes, I’m the artsy type, even brought my artsy perspective to my various jobs in the scientific field through the years. My political views lean neither far right nor far left. I consider each view and issue on its own merit. I’m an individual, not a stereotype, thank you.

    Laurel Anne Hill (Author of “Heroes Arise”)

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