Originally posted by: utzoo!decvax!ucbvax!ARPAVAX:UNKNOWN:sf-lovers
Posted: Tue Oct 12 02:43:54 1982
Received: Sun Oct 17 03:21:03 1982
>From SFL@SRI-CSL Tue Oct 12 00:09:13 1982
SF-LOVERS Digest 11-Oct-82 Volume 6 : Issue 53
Destination Moon, violence, Castenada, Cordwainer Bird, Herbert's
THE WHITE PLAGUE, Brunner's STAND ON ZANZIBAR, shielding in PODKAYNE,
British education, Lem, COURTSHIP RITE, A PERFECT VACUUM
Date: 13 Sep 1982 20:30:53 EST (Monday)
From: Mike Meyer
Subject: Destination Moon
To: sf-lovers at sri-csl
Cc: mwm at OKC-UNIX
Destination Moon ran on the babble box here about a week ago, and (after the
discussion on sfl) I made sure to catch it. The credits at the begining of the
file listed Heinlein as the sciencetific advisor.
However, one of the key characters (The ex-military man who was the driving
force behind the moon rocket) looked like some of the pictures of Heinlein
from that period. The joes who ran the film didn't bother running the trailing
credits, which carried the actors names. Does somebody know if that was him?
Date: 13 Sep 1982 21:03:05 EST (Monday)
From: Mike Meyer
Subject: Violence In Our Time
To: sf-lovers at sri-csl
Cc: mwm at OKC-UNIX
On the subject of why movies/sf/video games/etc are so violent, there
seem to me to be two (nearly mutually contradictory) explanations:
1: These things are all escapism/entertainment (ESCAPE to something by
Ellison?) and as such feature things that people find
exciting/entertaining. This implies action, and lots of it; most of
this is translated to Violence.
2: People are basically violent.
The first of these is the one that most people would like to believe is
true. I am fairly certain that this is what applies in my case: I tend to
read sf that is either action/adventure (Hard sf, and most of the things
run by Analog), or go looking for things that make me think (Ellison and
some of the rest of the `new wave'). Anything that is neither of these
two (We Who Are About To... & The Lathe of Heaven are good examples: both
of them were slow and had obvious solutions) I tend to avoid.
So we have one example where the first case applies. As a good counterexample
consider the success of Ordinary People. Very little action, and problems
that you can run into in real life without suddenly qualifying as a @B(HERO).
If everybody who went to movies were escaping, I don't think that movie would
have done well at all.
This leaves us with people being basically violent. In support
of this we have the rising crime rate. We can also note that the good old
U. S. of A. has been engaged in armed conflict of some sort or another for
something like 200 years during its 206 year history. As counterpoints we
have vegetarianism. There also seems to be a growing number of people in my
circle of friends who find the thought of consciously doing harm to another
person/being sickening. These people are still in the minority, but the
number is growing.
Conclusions? It seems that both reasons apply. There are people who are
there to avoid something obnoxious in the real world (like the real world),
and people who enjoy violence for the sake of violence. Hopefully, the
second class is in the minority and shrinking, but the evidence doesn't
point that way.
Video games are another matter entirely. I've never met anybody who played
them (as opposed to dropping a quarter now and then for social reasons)
who thought of them as anything but a GAME. By definition, a game involves
competition. In this case, the competition is you vs. the computer, and
these things come across better if there is some object/objects on the screen
that you can be seen to competing against, or fighting.
There are non-violent video games. Check out Actavision's Barnstorming. In
this you are trying to fly a biplane through some set number of barns in
as little time as possible. The `violence' in this game happens when you
hit something (a windmill, a barn or a goose), and the plane bounces a little
and slows down. These things are manifestly to be avoided, so Barnstorming
actually encourages non-violence!
Sorry 'bout the long non-sf discussion.
`And if you hear me sobbing once in a while, it's only because
you've killed me, too...'
Date: 13 Sep 82 16:11:45-EDT (Mon)
From: J C Patilla
To: sf-lovers at Sri-Csl
cc: jcp.jhu at UDel-Relay
Subject: Castenada, Cordwainer Bird
Via: jhu; 14 Sep 82 3:52-EDT
A couple of issues back there was a flame on Carlos Castenada (sp?),
accusing him of being a fantastical fraud. Those interested should
see two books edited by Richard deMille, "Castenada's Journey" and
"The Don Juan Papers", in which the editor and company do their best
to prove Castenada a fraud. I have only recently read some of the
don Juan books myself, and having a degree in anthropology, I was
amazed to discover that he was passing this stuff off as honest-to-God
*ethnography* - he actually got his PhD for "Journey to Ixtlan",
submitted under a different title.
Re Cordwainer Bird - Ellison goes into his use of this covername in
some detail in the forward to a story in a recent paperback edition
of "Strange Wine".
j c patilla
Date: 14 September 1982 1611-EDT
From: Don Provan at CMU-10A
Subject: Carlos Castenada
To: SF-LOVERS at SRI-CSL
i like the Castenada books and believe in a lot that they say.
if i'm so greatly wrong, i'd be interested to hear why. i've
never been into halucinogenic drugs, so blasting me for being
manipulated by a conniving author is not sufficient. *if*
Castenada was manipulating his readers, and *if* he was doing
it just to make money and is a real phoney, that *still* isn't
an argument against the basic philosophy expressed in the books.
as it is, the note in V6 #45 doesn't give any real evidence for
any of these three points.
Date: 14 Sep 1982 0123-PDT
From: Dolata at SUMEX-AIM
Subject: Frank Heberts The White Plague
To: sf-lovers at SRI-CSL
The White Plague has an interesting plot idea which is almost developed
well. Characters who are almost real. Biochemistry which is almost
correct. And an editor who did almost nothing! The book is almost
The book starts out with an interesting twisting and intertwining of
several peoples lives. The style is very involved, and it makes one
think and puzzle at bits of the first chapter. However, as the book goes
on the style gets simpler and simpler, the intertwining soon restricting
itslef to chapters, then pretty much abandoned altogether.
The book is flat. Considering that all life is facing possible extinction,
very little of that feeling of DESPERATION comes through. Instead, the
book has as much End Of The World feeling as 'Travels With Charley'.
This book suffers from a problem that seems to be plaguing many SF books
these days; either editors who don't edit, or writers who pad. This
book weighs in at 400 pages, of which 200 are story and 200 are baggage.
A good editor could have chopped the dead wood out and produced a much tighter
more 'desparate' story. It is hard to believe that the End Of The World is
near when the characters take a leasurely many week tramp through the woods.
Do other people think that modern SF&F books are tending to be overlong?
If people send to me (dolata@sumex-aim) I'll tally the results and send
it into sf-lovers in a week or so...
Date: 13 Sep 1982 2100-PDT
From: Mike Peeler
Subject: Re: John Brunner (SF-LOVERS Digest V6 #47)
To: Allen at YALE
cc: SF-LOVERS at SRI-CSL
In-Reply-To: Your message of 24-Aug-82 2101-PDT
I am sure you will get a hundred replies to
your remark, "Zanzibar is well known, but never
won any awards or great acclaim," so I will be
brief: since when have we started considering
Hugo Award winners deprived of acclaim?
Date: 14 Sep 1982 11:03:45-EDT
From: csin!cjh at CCA-UNIX
To: sf-lovers at sri-csl
Subject: shielding in Podkayne
I seem to recall that the statement was that the ordinary structure of
the ship provided the layers of shielding---there were four decks, representing
increasingly lower-class accommodations as you went inward, and each deck
flooring had to be sufficiently substantial (in order to support herds of
people at up to one G) that it incidentally provided the necessary radiation
shielding. So your description, while more economical than four layers on
the outside, would still require more material than Heinlein describes---
and hence would probably be thoroughly uneconomical since the ship travels
in continuous-acceleration "orbits" and changes spin to match the gravity
of the next port of call (yes, I know the spin should be gyro-stored, but
you're going to have significant inefficiencies in such a system). Speaking
of ship spinning, did you notice that they stopped spinning the ship to
dock? This strikes me as a bad idea, unless you really want to be able to
bring in peers and peons by difference entrances. . . .
Date: 14 Sep 82 15:38:55-EDT (Tue)
From: David Axler
To: sf-lovers at Sri-Csl
Subject: Comments on Vol 6, #s 44-47
Via: UPenn; 14 Sep 82 19:44-EDT
1) British Education (per hjjh@utexas-11)
A co-worker of mine who was once an Oxford don pointed out several years
back that one of the biggest distinctions between the US and UK educational
systems is the expectation that, no matter what one's field might be, one's
college education is almost totally focused on one's major -- all the liberal
arts courses and the "broadening" that the average American college student
is forced into via electives, sub-majors, and similar mechanisms don't exist.
Instead, the British student has had his or her breadth supplied at the high
school level, where it belongs.
2) "Destination Moon" (per Griffin @ sumex-aim)
At the L-5 meetings in April, where Heinlein was a Guest of Honor, the
film "Destination Moon" was shown several times to commemorate Heinlein's
part in its making, which was not as technical advisor, but rather as writer.
One can see many points in the flick where RAH drew almost directly from his
own stories, esp. "The Man Who Sold the Moon."
3) Stanislav Lem (re many assorted entries)
Overall, I think that Lem has been over-rated, primarily as a result of his
critical reception. When was the last time you saw a "standard" sf or fantasy
writer given front-page treatment in the NY Times? As several folks have noted,
how good Lem seems is very dependent on his translator; however, since he is,
I'm told, fairly fluent in English himself, I'm minded to wonder why he doesn't
take the time to check out the translations himself.
The Continental writer who, to my mind, makes Lem pale in comparison is
Italo Calvino. Often, their books deal with similar themes, but Calvino's work
(or, at least, his translations) are far more readable. I especially recommend
his latest piece of fiction, "If On a Winter's Night A Traveller...", in which
the classic them of works within works within works within.... gets a superb
treatment. In some ways, Calvino reminds me of Borges, in part because they
both have an interest in the occult and/or mystic, but Calvino writes in a
manner far less diffuse than Borges.
4) Casteneda & Fantasy (re decvax!utzoo!watmath!watarts!geo)
Ever since Casteneda's first book appeared, there has been a good bit of
controversy within the anthropological realms as to what his truth level really
might be. There have been a number of articles defending his work as good,
honest field work, but there have also been many anthropologists who think that
his books are pure fiction. They don't mind the fictionalization, but they do
resent his claims of academic credentials as a mechanism for selling his books.
(By the way, the best spoof of Castenada is to be found on The Firesign
Theatre's album "Everything You Know is Wrong," which also takes on UFO cults,
the Air Force's plans for alien invasions, and Evel Knievel. It may be out
of print, but it's worth finding at your local cutout store.)
5) Violence and the Roadrunner
The last three issues of "National Lampoon" have had an excellent series
dealing with the notion that the Coyote finally gets sufficiently fed up with
his failures that he sues the Acme Products Corp. (suppliers of all the items
that never catch the bird) on assorted counts. The legal machinations on both
sides ring all too true. Whether you're on the side of the Roadrunner, or that
of Wile E., you should look this one up.
6) Courtship Rite (re Walker @CMU-10a)
I talked briefly w/Kingsbury at Chicon, and he commented that the serial
version of the story was over 20K words shorter than the bookstore version,
but that he got to do the trimming, so there was some control over what was
lost. He agrees with me that the cover does not accurately depict the scene
it was intended to represent, and that the tattooing has no relationship what-
soever to that described in the book. In fact, the artist originally didn't
want to do tattoos on the bodies at all!
Unlike many authors (tho' this may change as time goes on), Kingsbury
actively seeks contact w/fans at conventions. He even goes so far as to throw
his own open parties! Certainly a far cry from those who hole up in the SFWA
suite. . . but such is life.
7) John Brunner (re N.NELSON@SU-lots)
John Brunner wrote three novels in the same world-scenario. The third
(your article mentions the first two -- Stand on Zanzibar and The Jagged Orbit)
was The Sheep Look Up. It didn't get quite the acclaim of the other two, for
a number of reasons (all wrong, I dare say).
The key factor was that Stand on Zanzibar was, to many sf readers, a bold
and daring experiment in writing style. (That, of course, is because few of
them recognized that Brunner was, quite intentionally, adapting the style of
John dos Passos [q.v., U.S.A.] to science fiction.) I suspect that it was
style, rather than quality, which won this book the Hugo. (Note: I'm NOT
knocking the book; it's one of my favorites on both style and quality.) When
Jagged Orbit appeared about eighteen months later, the newness of what he was
doing had worn off, and the fans didn't respond as positively. When The Sheep
Look Up (which deals extensively with the problems of pollution and industry in
the future Brunner had posited) came out, the style was old hat and interest
had waned. (It might even be the case that many fans resented books that
demanded a bit of thought during the reading process, but perchance I'm too
One key feature in Stand on Zanzibar was the coming-to-awareness of the
giant computer, Shalmanesar (sp?). Curiously, a fairly recent academic book
from MIT Press (I don't recall the precise title, but it's something on the
order of "The Cybernetic Intelligence in Science Fiction," by Patricia
Warringer) which does note later works by Brunner on this theme fails to even
consider this aspect of SoZ, focusing instead on Asimov's positronic brains
and Three Laws. It's work like this that makes me suspect my fellow academics
should be kept away from sf, for their own safety.
Well, enough for now . . .time to read the next few issues, which just arrived.
Date: 12 Sep 1982 8:19:25 EDT (Sunday)
From: Andrew Malis
Subject: A perfect Vacuum
Cc: malis at BBN-UNIX, ucbvax!sdcsvax!sdchema!donn@Berkeley
I have also always wanted to get A Perfect Vacuum, especially
after having read excerpts of it in The New Yorker. It is a
collection of ridiculously pompous "scholarly" reviews of
non-existent books, and the "reviews" that I read in New Yorker
were absolutely wonderful. Well, I was on a trip to Europe this
summer, and in an English bookstore in Vienna (Shakespeare and
Co.), I found a British trade paperback that was a collection of
Solaris, The Chain of Chance, and A Perfect Vacuum. Since I
didn't previously own any of the three, this was absolutely
perfect, and I snapped it right up. If you want to order the
book from your local store, the book is a King Penguin, published
in Britain by Penguin Books, 625 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022,
and was first printed in 1981. The ISBN number is 0 14 00.5539 8,
and the suggested price is 3.95 pounds, or $9.95 Canadian.
The translations are by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox for
Solaris, Louis Iribarne for The Chain of Chance, and Michael
Kandel for A Perfect Vacuum. I don't know if these are the same
translators for the American editions or not.
If you like imaginary literary criticism, then you'll LOVE
Vladimir Nobokov's Pale Fire, which contains the same sort of
review of a non-existent epic poem, and is absolutely hilarious,
especially if you suffered through the real thing in high school
Date: 12 September 1982 14:42-EDT
From: John G. Aspinall
Subject: Sequel to Brunner's Zanzibar
To: Allen at YALE
cc: SF-LOVERS at MIT-MC
According to the cover blurb, "The Sheep Look Up" is a sequel to
"Stand on Zanzibar". It is not an obvious sequel; it does not contain
the same set of characters etc., but it certainly could take place in
the same universe, a few years later.
Re your comments about "Jagged Orbit" - I have always regarded that as
a good but imperfect stab at what he finally covered much better in
I've read most things by Brunner that I could get a hand on - I don't
have my collection handy, but those that come to mind include :
Stand on Zanzibar - highly recommended
The Shockwave Rider - ditto
The Sheep Look Up - well worth the read, but not first rank
The Jagged Orbit - ditto
The Infinitive of Go - a novelty - Brunner discovers hackers' language
The Dreaming Earth - read 'em at the laundromat, but don't break a
Age of Miracles - date to do so.
End of SF-LOVERS Digest