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Space Alien Invasion.
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James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Trekkers, not Trekkies on 04/19/2010 20:30:08 MDT Print View

Star Trek enthusiasts refer to themselves as "trekkers", not "trekkies". Guys with your obvious mental faculties should be mindful of this small, but important fact so as not to completely negate the brilliance of your previous discussions. ;)

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Believe me I dig it on 04/19/2010 21:29:13 MDT Print View

A few years ago I was in Qingdao in the PRC. Man it is Bladerunner or The Man In The High Castle come to life.And beyond this there is what I call Social Science Fiction. Against the Day by Pynchon my latest fave.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Trekkers, not Trekkies on 04/19/2010 22:16:11 MDT Print View

Nope, it used to be "Trekkies", not "Trekkers". It may have changed since I was in college, but then I haven't kept up with that in quite a while.

By the way, another movie I really like is "Gattaca". Very unexpected.

I also like the original Planet of the Apes series, "Silent Running", "Capricorn One", "Soylent Green", "Destination: Moon", and perhaps one of my favorite, "Brazil".

Bladerunner will always be one of my all time favorite movies.

About Starship Troopers, perhaps I was in the wrong mood when I saw it... have to look at it again... After all Riddley Scott is one of my favorite directors...

Edited by butuki on 04/19/2010 22:27:33 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Movies on 04/20/2010 10:56:00 MDT Print View

I have to admit that I agree- people who found the movie Starship Troopers to be offensive weren't getting the joke. It is OBVIOUSLY a criticism of militarism, not an apology for for it. (And, IIRC, the director has even stated so.) More to the point I think it was a BRILLIANT critique, at that- darn near farcical!

But, I re-emphasize, it had darn near nothing to do with the book.

Bladerunner was an amazing film, not least because it was made so long ago. (It also blows my mind to think that 2001 was filmed in 1968, before we landed on the moon!) In many ways it was the dystopian film equivalent of Neuromancer. But I agree it did go somewhere that Dick's story didn't. I read the story long after seeing the film, and in large part it just wasn't the same story. And I'll admit that I found Dick wierd enough that I haven't read much of him.

@ Miguel, again-

I also liked Gattaca. Too bad it flopped.

Yes, I too differentiate between "soft" science fiction and "space opera." If you can transplant the story flawlessly into a fantasy setting, particulalrly if the laws of physics are violated all over the place, it's space opera. Star Wars is space opera. Start Trek might arguably be called soft sci-fi. Granted.

I abhor space opera.

Essentially, hard sci-fi is about hard science themes; technology, essentially- physics, astronautics, cosmology, etc. Soft sci-fi is about the softer sciences, per se- psychology (psychohistory?), sociology, diplomacy, etc. As such, Star Trek could be considered to be about sociology, and thus soft science fiction. But it's treading a fine line.

And the aliens are still just humans in rubber suits. Yech. At least Babylon 5 made the effort, occasionally.

I actually find human-only stories aesthetically pleasing.

And, trust me, you guys will always be "trekkies" to the rest of us... :o)

A really neat website:

There you will find mention of the hands-down most realistic space-combat game ever devised, Attack Vector Tactical, by Ad Astra Games. Be prepared for a STEEP learning curve if you try that one! It's 3D, and includes closing velocity (and a way to calculate it) into kinetic weapon damage, Newtonian motion, managing a heat clock, etc. It gets into details about the differences between a lithium, sodium, or water heat sink. In short, there is a LOT of math hidden in the rules.

And I'll pit my Wasp against anyone in a Rafik. :o)

Edited by acrosome on 04/20/2010 14:12:25 MDT.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Space Alien Invasion. on 04/20/2010 11:11:41 MDT Print View

nevermind, BPL doesn't seem to like the links.

Edited by redmonk on 04/20/2010 11:13:53 MDT.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Low/high art on 04/20/2010 18:33:15 MDT Print View

This thread is too good to end . Surely Pitch Black is a very good nighthike movie. And Johnny Mnemonic must have made William Gibson think he was about to be directed by Lynch in Blue Velvet 2 vs. The Hidden?

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Old school on 04/21/2010 04:51:28 MDT Print View

How could you not mention Ian M Banks? I've read a lot of SF and he's head and shoulders above anyone else writing at the moment, Ursula le Guin included.

"Starship Troopers, Robert A Heinlein- (This book has been accused of supporting fascism, among other things."

If you've ever read Farnham's Freehold or The Puppetmasters it would be hard to not come to the conclusion that Heinlein is both fascist and racist.

Oh, to segue back into the original discussion, in The Puppetmasters Heinlein ends up saying, in response to aliens invading earth, "beat your ploughshares back into swords".

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Bladerunner on 04/21/2010 05:01:02 MDT Print View

The cinematography in Bladerunner was actually based on modern-day Tokyo: if you've ever been in the back-streets around one of the major stations you'd recognise it immediately, although I have to say that Tokyo's been cleaned up a lot in the last 20 years.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
butting heads on 04/21/2010 08:31:30 MDT Print View

OK, Arapiles, we actually will butt heads now... :o)

Heinlein was OBVIOUSLY a libertarian, not a fascist. He has libertarian ideals threaded through almost everything he wrote, including early stuff like Farham's Freehold. (He was, in fact, an extreme, frightening kind of libertarian...) Heck, his middle works are often called his "libertarian period." Certainly, like anyone else, his views changed over time, and there is no doubt that he had no love for leftists in his early work and even admitted that he wrote some extreme stuff just to annoy them, but calling him a fascist is a bold statement.

Likewise, he came of age in the 1940s, so of course some of his earlier works, like those you mentioned, don't even try to be racially sensitive. (Didn't he write a novelette about blacks enslaving whites at one point? Or am I thinking of someone else?) But if you read ANY of his later works he is pretty obviously not a racist. Or, at least not a bigot; one can argue that no-one totally lacks some racist tendencies- even you. :o) But particularly if you read any of his later, wierd literature-as-reality stuff, like The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, etc. this is obvious. Any serious literary critic concededs that these final works of his were meant to more clearly define his own, personal beliefs, and were sort of meant to address the criticism he endured for his other works. They all contain long monologues (diatribes) explaining his thoughts on sex, religion, government, personal freedom, etc.

The throw-away Friday is a thinly-disguised criticism of discrimination on "genetic" grounds.

Even as early as Starship Troopers the protagonist, Rico, is a Filipino. Several of his later protagonists are minorities. Personally, I think that's pretty laudable for someone who was born Missouri in 1907.

And, yes, I've read both of those books you mentioned, though it was a long time ago, and yes I noticed the very dated and non-PC themes in them, too. If all you read is his early pulp you will get a skewed view of the man. And a LOT of people do so. In almost any sci-fi discussion this argument comes up. There is no doubt that the man is controversial. :o)

Edited by acrosome on 04/21/2010 08:38:51 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Space Alien Invasion - Low/high art on 04/21/2010 11:23:37 MDT Print View

>> John said: This thread is too good to end

Agree. We have some really awesome minds among us. I'm amazed at the depth of the sci-fi opinions/comments. I will definitely begin reading more sci-fi than I have been. Good work!

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Interesting confluence on 04/21/2010 19:46:49 MDT Print View

I was surprised that backpacking and science fiction crossed the streams here, but then again both seem to be directed toward getting Out There. Here is a book review from the NYT on recent takes on SETI. But it may have been written by those critters in The Arrival to cover up the volcanoes they just set off.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: butting heads on 04/22/2010 04:30:36 MDT Print View

"Heinlein was OBVIOUSLY a libertarian, not a fascist. He has libertarian ideals threaded through almost everything he wrote, including early stuff like Farham's Freehold. (He was, in fact, an extreme, frightening kind of libertarian...)"

Actually, from what I've read of him he was all over the place - he went from being some kind of socialist activist in the 1930s to a red-baiter in the 50s and later.

I read Farnham's Freehold as a teenager and even then it struck me as racist: for those not familiar with the plot the main character and his family are thrown forward in time by being at ground zero of a nuclear bomb. They arrive in a world which is run by black people who have white slaves. The ruling people are brutal and teach by violence (which Heinlein appears to approve of). The plot denouement is that the black people are cannibals. What's more, the main character's son is some kind of wishy-washy "liberal" who accepts castration in return for a soma type drug and (from memory) watching television. The protagonist then escapes back to the time he came from which is now post-apocalyptic and sets himself up as a rugged individual whose property can only be approached through land-mines.

I understand the argument that you can't judge an author by his characters - and I disagree with it. And that's not a naive response - I have an Honours degree in English Lit (and probably would've done a Masters/Ph.D in it if the law hadn't come along around the same time). The argument used to be about "the death of the author" - the reality is that the author did not die and Heinlein wasn't channelling anyone when he wrote this stuff - all of his writing reflects his beliefs, state of mind and concerns.

Re fascism, there are lots of elements in the two books I referred to which sound like extreme right-wing material - a contempt for government, a contempt for the "left", whatever he conceives that to be, the belief that pacifism is foolishness and that armed individuality is the proper response to life's challenges, and, somewhat inconsistently, an admiration for violent autocracy.

On the other hand I did like "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" although even then I thought that setting up the young woman he travelled with as a future love interest was stupid and the characters weren't as smart as we were supposed to think that they were.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Heinlein on 04/22/2010 16:17:05 MDT Print View

There is no doubt that Heinlein was one of those writers who liked to lecture his readers and spout political theory, but I think this is most apparent in his later writings, not so much the earlier. (And I'll absolutely disagree with you, when you imply that writers are incapable of producing protagonists that are anything but mild copies of themselves.) I doubt, for instance, that in Starship Troopers he was seriously proposing a system of voting franchise predicated upon national service. I think it just made for an interesting backdrop upon which to hang his story. (Extreme societies always do.) Sort of like how there is a whole subset of works set during World War 2 dealing with the Nazis, because it creates a very dramatic environment for characters. Reading a story with well fleshed-out Nazi characters is always interesting, precisely because they have to a certain degree a mindset that most people find difficult with which to empathize, but which can be used to create some intense drama, be it internal or external.

Anyway, I stand by my contention that he was more of an extreme libertarian, not a fascist. After all, doesn't:

"...a contempt for government, a contempt for the "left", [...] the belief that pacifism is foolishness and that armed individuality is the proper response to life's challenges,..."

sound like the scarier libertarians? I should know- my brother in law is one of them, and even ran for office, once.

I mean, you're right- some of his stories glorify individuality at the expense of all government (most of his later works), some deal with very autocratic governments (Starship Troopers), some deal with the overthrow of autocratic governments (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), etc. So how can you POSSIBLY pick out what his real beliefs were? Well, I propose that his later, more pedantic works are probably a better measure, and they are DECIDEDLY libertarian.

Farnham's Freehold was the story I was talking about when I mentioned blacks enslaving whites. (When you first mentioned it, I confused the title with the story from The Puppet Masters, for some reason.) I read it long after reading Heinlein's later works, as do many modern readers, and like many people found it disturbing, on many levels. If you want my honest opinion, I think that it likely WAS simply a manifestation of the widely-accepted, taken for granted bigotry of that era. (As I said, he was born in 1907 Missouri, and his views mutated through his life.) But a few critics think it was a deeper work than that. I read somewhere, once, that the storyline of the middle of the book closely copies some sort of traditional American slave narrative. Excepting the cannibalism, there really is nothing in the book that American slaveowners didn't regularly inflict upon their slaves: selective breeding, breaking families, institutionalized inter-racial sexual exploitation and rape, etc. These critics contend that Heinlein may have been trying to shock readers with the racial aspect. (You must admit, that one sure would shock any unreconstructed Southerner who read it and, possibly, seriously shake their laughable contention that American slavery was somehow benign.) Since he was most familiar with the antebellum American model of slavery he may have thought that the system in his story had to be racially-based, too, contrary to most of Western history. (And unlike S.M. Stirling.)

Predictably, Heinlein has only ever given pithy, terse, curmudgeonly answers to questions about the story, IIRC.

So, in my opinion he probably was to some degree a racist, particularly earlier in life, but for the large part I don't think he was a flaming bigot. Certainly not in the later half of his works, or so. Otherwise, again, how do you explain all of the minoroty protagonists, often with the elitist libertarian ideals to which Heinlein obviously subscribed? Off the top of my head I can name a Filipino, a couple of Asians or part-Asians, a Hispanic, and a genetically-engineered Native American who by the way was a victim of discrimination. If you contend that he was a racist bigot, then I'm really interested in your analysis of Friday, brother. (Less, of course, Heinlein's sexual fetishes.)

So, like you, I find it hard to disagree with Thomas, that he was sort of in his own league, politically. All over the place. Definitely a wierd guy. And he ALWAYS causes arguements like this when people discuss him.

How about we jump all over S.M. Stirling, now? His obsessions with chattel slavery and les6ians just SCREAMS for criticism... :o)

P.S.- Equating "right-wing" with fascism is a bit disingenuous, isn't it? Should I refer to you as a communist? (I guess I should be careful- there undoubtedly are communists on this board.) Personally, I think that both fascism and communism are off the main sequence, politically, if you get my meaning. And, oddly, they are very similar in one way- both are very AUTOCRATIC. I think most Westerners, at least, don't have much of a problem IN THEORY with most of the political systems along the capitalist vs socialist scale, until they get autocratic. I really don't, for instance. (As much as I am a difficult, individualistic American, I have seen socialism work very well.) But I grant that a lot of people get heated up over such things in practice.

Edited by acrosome on 04/22/2010 16:33:16 MDT.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
On Heinlein on 04/22/2010 16:38:29 MDT Print View

Starship Stormtroopers had him pegged in 1977. Just read it:

Libertarian. Fascist. Whatever. He was an authoritarian nutjob. And personality disordered to boot.

From the link:

"Starship Troopers (serialised in Astounding as was most of Heinlein's fiction until the early sixties) was probably Heinlein's last 'straight' sf serial for Campbell before he began his 'serious' books such as Farnham's Freehold and Stranger in a Strange Land -- taking the simplified characters of genre fiction and producing some of the most ludicrously unlikely people ever to appear in print. In Starship Troopers we find a slightly rebellious cadet gradually learning that wars are inevitable, that the army is always right, that his duty is to obey the rules and protect the human race against the alien menace. It is pure debased Ford out of Kipling and it set the pattern for Heinlein's more ambitious paternalistic, xenophobic (but equally sentimental) stories which became for me steadily more hilarious until I realised with some surprise that people were taking them as seriously as they had taken, say, Atlas Shrugged a generation before -- in hundreds of thousands! That middle-America could regard such stuff as 'radical' was easy enough to understand. I kept finding that supporters of the Angry Brigade were enthusiastic about Heinlein, that people with whom I thought I shared libertarian principles were getting off on every paternalistic, bourgeois writer who had ever given me the creeps! I still can't fully understand it. Certainly I can't doubt the sincerity of their idealism. But how does it equate with their celebration of writers like Tolkein and Heinlein? The clue could be in the very vagueness of the prose, which allows for liberal interpretation; it could be that the ciphers they use instead of characters are capable of suggesting a wholly different meaning to certain readers. To me, their naive and emblematic reading of society is fundamentally misanthropic and therefore anti-libertarian. We are faced, once again, with quasi-religion, presented to us as radicalism. At best it is the philosophy of the Western applied to the complex social problems of the twentieth century -- it is Reaganism, it is John Wayne in Big John Maclean and The Green Berets, it is George Wallace and Joe McCarthy -- at its most refined it is William F. Buckley Jr., who, already a long way more sophisticated than Heinlein, is still pretty simple-minded.

Rugged individualism also goes hand in hand with a strong faith in paternalism -- albeit a tolerant and somewhat distant paternalism -- and many otherwise sharp-witted libertarians seem to see nothing in the morality of a John Wayne Western to conflict with their views. Heinlein's paternalism is at heart the same as Wayne's. In the final analysis it is a kind of easy-going militarism favoured by the veteran professional soldier -- the chain of command is complex -- many adult responsibilities can be left to that chain as long as broad, but firmly enforced, rules from 'high up' are adhered to. Heinlein is Eisenhower Man and his views seem to me to be more pernicious than ordinary infantile back-to-the-land Christian communism, with its mysticism and its hatred of technology. To be an anarchist, surely, is to reject authority but to accept self-discipline and community responsibility. To be a rugged individualist a la Heinlein and others is to be forever a child who must obey, charm and cajole to be tolerated by some benign, omniscient father: Rooster Coburn shuffling his feet in front of a judge he respects for his office (but not necessarily himself) in True Grit.'

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Heinlein in context on 04/22/2010 17:40:48 MDT Print View

By the time Heinlein was writing Stranger and basically trying to get laid with his Lazarus Long persona SF had shifted so much that he was a dinosaur. My first free book from the Science Fiction Book Club was Dangerous Visions by Harlan Ellison. New Riders of the Purple Wage by Phillip Jose Farmer hit us all right between the eyes. Barry Malzberg was getting his stride.Herovit's World takes a writer like Heinlein and dissects him at a Community College S.F conference where he boozes it up and tries to find a girl while going insane. Spinrad wrote things like The Men in the Jungle and it was a hit in American prisons. His The Iron Dream was a direct assault on S.F . that glorified war. It wasn't called The New Wave for noth And political people took notice. Costa Gravas optioned Spinrad's Bug Jack Baron for a film. Thomas Disch wrote Camp Concentration as a direct assault on the Vietnam War.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Paul Verhoeven on 04/22/2010 19:56:43 MDT Print View

I also think that Starship Troopers was just a brilliant parody of a typical Hollywood SF/action feature. Compare it to Robocop and Total Recall. Paul Verhoeven had that outsider's edge at playing with American Culture. And if you consider it in relation to his Basic Instinct and Showgirls it is as if he was trying to O.D. on American Blockbusters or rather to O.D. us on them. The other thing which seems ironic now is that the DVD of Starship Troopers was considered to be a major test of Dolby home theater set ups and video . Total swarming bug mayhem on the screen . Edited first in Vietnam , and ever after. I can't think of an American director who could have managed the same movie. Maybe Dennis Hopper after he did The Last Movie. And least of all we seem to be led back to the echoes of Leon Russell and The Shelter People and probably Charles Manson. Or The Executioner's Song.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Yes, nutjob. on 04/23/2010 13:11:48 MDT Print View


Nutjob... yes. Perhaps not on the same scale as L. Ron Hubbard, but a nutjob.

But authoritarian? No. It's kind of hard to be a libertarian and an authoritarian at the same time, innit? Heck, I mostly got the impression that he kinda resented authority.

I just think that people try desperately to pidgeonhole other people into nice, neat little boxlike categories. Thus, Heinlein gets tagged as a "racist fascist", which I find ludicrous. I think Heinlein, like most people, is more complex than such a simplistic label.

Not to mention- you cite Moorcock?!? Heck, he hates almost every other author of note- barely has a nice thing to say about any of them, doesn't he? Basically, he thinks that anyone who doesn't write just like he does is a hack. I mean, come on- as if the Elric of Melnibone series was Great Literature! Pfft.

He seesm to find Tolkein trite, for instance. Well, the themes in Tolkein are now "standard fantasy fare" precisely because he made them so. Everyone copied him, because he led the way, in a lot of areas. So, that's like criticizing Gibson for writing "just another cyberpunk story." Y'know?

What I also find humorous is that the article you quote seems to hold Atlas Shrugged up as some major work of literary value. I've noticed that no one BECOMES a Randist after reading her. Instead, such people START OFF as self-absorbed egoistic narcissists, then read Rand and use that to rationalize their pathetic attitudes. It NEVER goes the other way. So I'm not sure how viable it is as a great philosophical work.

Many years ago, when I was but a naive lad, I was tricked into reading some Rand, notably Atlas Shrugged. Generally, I would make some progress into the book until I figured out that those self-centered shallow characters were supposed to be the HEROS, then I'd just get ill and stop reading.

And, mind you, I really enjoy a good anti-hero now and then. But that was too much. There was NOTHING to admire in those characters.

There, I've just managed to annoy both the Scientologists and the Randists. Hopefully no one will declare me Fair Game or anything... :o)

Edited by acrosome on 04/23/2010 13:41:10 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Space Aliens Want To Know: Who is John Galt? on 04/23/2010 13:37:12 MDT Print View

Interesting that Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged crept into the discussion. It's 50 years old, but sold more than 500,000 copies in 2009. I don't believe it's regained popularity is about the heroes - it is more about the policies of the villains (Mouch and Meigs) kinda like the way many in US perceive the acts by our government officials now. More about ceasing government intrusion in our lives IMO.

Either side of the Rand debate would have to admit that she had some interesting discussing back in her day with her inner circle friends such as Alan Greenspan.

Maybe the financial melt down was really how space aliens are attack. They blow bubbles at us : )

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Re: Space Aliens Want To Know: Who is John Galt? on 04/23/2010 13:43:42 MDT Print View

"Maybe the financial melt down was really how space aliens are attack. They blow bubbles at us "

Really? I thought they just wanted cow lips?

Wasn't that the deal Reagan made? "Hey, look, give us your technology and you can have all the cow lips you want?"

So... name that quote...

Edited by acrosome on 04/23/2010 13:45:23 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Space Aliens Want To Know: Who is John Galt? on 04/23/2010 14:16:13 MDT Print View



that IMO was a good movie

I like Ike