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Inherit the stars
July 13, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe


 
He also appears to have been a Truther.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:50 PM on July 13, 2010


Wow, I know one is not to speak ill of the dead, but if those are the finer points of his biography, well then:

.

, I guess.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:51 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


More on the Holocaust angle, from Hogan's bulletin board.
posted by jbickers at 2:51 PM on July 13, 2010


Wait, is this guy associated with the Yankees in some way?
posted by MattMangels at 2:53 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Code of the Lifemaker was a really interesting book, even if I think it went off the rails in some avoidable ways.

.
posted by pts at 2:55 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's To You, Ernst Zundel: A Lonely Voice of Courage

No period for you, dead guy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:57 PM on July 13, 2010 [7 favorites]




Oh, man. I read Thrice Upon a Time as a kid just when I was getting into computing. Hugely influential writer. Alan Dean Foster's Damned series owes quite a bit to the Giants series, too.

I was just fondling my copy of Realtime Interrupt this weekend. The leprechaun! That bit at the end, "Set mu-sub-f to zero" inspired me to do all kinds of wacky things in Quake's god mode.
posted by adipocere at 2:58 PM on July 13, 2010


*
posted by longsleeves at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]




/sigh.

Why are so many science fiction writers doofuses? I am starting to think the jocks were right after all.
posted by Xoebe at 3:14 PM on July 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Hogan was at one point of the best "ideas" writers in Sci Fi, ever.

The introductory chapter to Code of the Lifemaker should be required reading for anybody with even the slightest interest in robotics or AI.

The first book of the Giants series was an incredibly well-structured mystery novel, attempting to solve the origins of mankind after some astronauts stumbled on a 50,000 year old corpse in a spacesuit hidden in a cave on the moon.

The second is one of the better First Encounter writeups in the genre, and the third is a terrible, terrible novel that contains some of the furtherest-out-there ideas within the context of hard sci-fi. Think galactic civilizations powered by moon-sized matter/antimatter reactions, parceled out to the constituent planets via X-ray-frequency lasers fired through microscopic wormholes (using the old spinning toroidal singularity idea for artificial wormhole creation) that bridge the distance between the planets.

It was somewhere around this point, I think, that Hogan started going crazy. While I'm sympathetic to pro-science/anti-irrationality polemics, around the third novel he started to seriously tread into Ayn Rand levels of caricature and monologue. Hogan was never a great character writer, and he ranks as one of the worst dialog authors of all time, but in the third novel he clearly stops even trying despite the plot pinning on some very key conversations/conversion moments amongst the antagonists.

Every novel after these became progressively more terrible, and both Hogan's personal relationships and beliefs apparently broke down until he became exactly the sort of anti-science raving conspiracy nut he spent the first half of his career railing against.

Tragic.

That said, the first half of his career was some of the most interesting, if not best-written, sci-fi of all time. As an ideas writer he ranks only behind Larry Niven, and within the realm of "Hard" sci-fi he has no peer.

.
posted by Ryvar at 3:18 PM on July 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


OK, so the denial thing kind of fits with the whole Libertarian crank thing that's not uncommon amongst American SF authors, but he was also into Velikovsky? WTF?
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on July 13, 2010


I mean, seriously, can you be into hard SF and into Velikovsky?
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did he think Velikovsky was right or was he more the "Velikovsky should be heard" type. Because that was not an uncommon sentiment among SF writers back in the 70's, even after it was apparently that Immanuel Velikovsky was a fucking nutbar.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:23 PM on July 13, 2010


First I ever heard of Velikovsky was an essay by Asimov explaining why he was a fucking nutbar.

"Inherit The Stars" sounds rather Von Danikenish as well...
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2010


Yeah, Thrice Upon A Time was one of my favorite SF novels. I know I read a lot of his other works, but that one has stuck with me across the decades.

.
posted by hippybear at 3:27 PM on July 13, 2010


Did he think Velikovsky was right or was he more the "Velikovsky should be heard" type. Because that was not an uncommon sentiment among SF writers back in the 70's, even after it was apparently that Immanuel Velikovsky was a fucking nutbar.

Uh, a little bit of both?

To quote a review of Kicking the Sacred Cow:

"Section four is called "Catastrophe of Ethics: The Case for Taking Velikovsky Seriously." If you’ve heard of Velikovsky at all, it is likely negatively, as just some nut case who thought he could explain the miracles of the Bible by having Venus somehow shot out of Jupiter in historical times. Hogan himself used to think essentially this, but later actually read Velikovsky’s books and discovered that what the man was and said in reality were essentially different, and a great deal more reasonable, than the simple disparaging caricature suggests."
posted by Amanojaku at 3:29 PM on July 13, 2010


.

crap
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:30 PM on July 13, 2010


As an ideas writer he ranks only behind Larry Niven, and within the realm of "Hard" sci-fi he has no peer. Quoth Ryvar.

I disagree. At the present time, the best ideas writer in SF is Ted Chiang (followed by Niven) and the best "hard" SF writer is Vernor Vinge. As for Hogan, he is (or was) too much of a nut job for my taste.
posted by grizzled at 3:30 PM on July 13, 2010



Is there some old saying that I haven't been aware of lately along the lines of:

"Those who question crazy ass theories, read science fiction, those who can't, write it."

I don't know how many examples of something is needed before a trend becomes something else, but, geez...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:31 PM on July 13, 2010


is there a period where he was relatively sane before the braineater got him?

I read a few of his books in the '80's. Their explorations of their sfnal premises were decent; the prose and characters, um, not so much. But I don't remember any crazy leaking into the books.

There's a story in Minds, Machines, and Evolution that includes robots dismissing as ridiculous the idea that humans could have created them. I thought robots being wrong about creationism was a clever enough premise. It's strange for me to consider that the story probably meant something very different to Hogan from what it meant to me.
posted by Zed at 3:32 PM on July 13, 2010


Hmm... he's about ten years older than my mother and went crazy about ten years before she did. Is there something about the Irish that causes insanity if they live into their late 40s without dying in the line of duty (police-/fireman) or in a drunken brawl?
posted by Eideteker at 3:47 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are so many science fiction writers doofuses?

Sturgeon's Law.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ugh. I had no idea. :(
posted by zarq at 3:56 PM on July 13, 2010


Hmm... he's about ten years older than my mother and went crazy about ten years before she did. Is there something about the Irish that causes insanity if they live into their late 40s without dying in the line of duty (police-/fireman) or in a drunken brawl?

Dear God, I hope not; I just turned 42.

But, then, I did just start giving away most of my plays.

Oh shit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:09 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure his family, friends, and fans will miss him terribly.

Even when he was bonkers, and often more in spite of his characters than because of them, his writing was always (in my experience) entertaining and his passion for the various (often bonkers) issues came through. He was an unusual author, and I'm not sure his niche will fill up again anytime soon (especially with Jim Baen dead too).

At the present time, the best ideas writer in SF is Ted Chiang (followed by Niven) and the best "hard" SF writer is Vernor Vinge. As for Hogan, he is (or was) too much of a nut job for my taste.

I could argue for Greg Egan on both.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:13 PM on July 13, 2010


Without feeding into stereotypes about the Irish, I can say that my hot Irish ex-boyfriend kind of went a bit nuts between 45 and 50 and has never recovered. I don't know how much that had to do with his being Irish, but he has never been a cop or fireman, neither does he drink to excess. Maybe it just has to do with being male. Mid-life crisis, and all that.
posted by hippybear at 4:13 PM on July 13, 2010


Oh shit, I was supposed to wait until my late forties?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:17 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously, drinking to excess is is the solution.

(Reaches for Red Breast.)
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:18 PM on July 13, 2010


m... he's about ten years older than my mother and went crazy about ten years before she did. Is there something about the Irish that causes insanity if they live into their late 40s without dying in the line of duty (police-/fireman) or in a drunken brawl?

If my father is any indication, they just devolve into a pun-spouting machine if they don't go crazy.
posted by Falconetti at 4:19 PM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


At the present time, the best ideas writer in SF is Ted Chiang (followed by Niven) and the best "hard" SF writer is Vernor Vinge. As for Hogan, he is (or was) too much of a nut job for my taste.

I could argue for Greg Egan on both.

A reasonable case could probably be made for either Alistair Reynolds or Metafilter's own Charles Stross.

Chiang is damn hard to beat, of course.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on July 13, 2010


Damn, I knew nothing of his later life turn to the crazy. That's too bad.

But Inherit the Stars, The Gentle Giants of Ganymede and Code of the Lifemaker are some of my favorite SF books of all time. For those, he gets a


.
posted by snwod at 4:56 PM on July 13, 2010


grizzled: "At the present time, the best ideas writer in SF is Ted Chiang (followed by Niven) and the best "hard" SF writer is Vernor Vinge. As for Hogan, he is (or was) too much of a nut job for my taste."

What, Niven's not a nutjob?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:57 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recall reading a book of Hogan's short stories -- possibly Rockets, Redheads & Revolution -- and coming to some dry "story" about how HIV does not cause AIDS. I quickly picked up on this being some kind of alternate history as shown through that world's scientific research, but I couldn't figure out what the story was about.

Turns out, no, the guy was just a nut. And ever since then I wasn't able to enjoy his work quite as much.
posted by jepler at 5:05 PM on July 13, 2010


What, Niven's not a nutjob?

heh. Advisor to nutjobs.
posted by Artw at 5:09 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


And I'm really not entirely sure what to make of Neal Stephenson's current career as a glorified patent troll.
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember liking some of his early novels. He had good ideas, but pathetically underdrawn characters (sadly, like so many "idea-oriented" SF writers). Sadly, this post has pretty thoroughly tainted any memories I have of him.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:14 PM on July 13, 2010


At the present time, the best ideas writer in SF is Ted Chiang (followed by NivenEgan)...

FTFY. Seriously, Niven? Other than mutual masturbation sessions with Pournelle, what has Niven done since....1985?
posted by DU at 5:18 PM on July 13, 2010


It would be interesting if brain autopsies were regularly done on previously sane people who take a turn for the crazy in the later parts of their lives.

Remember Gerald Finneran, the investment banker who on a 1995 flight got drunk, climbed onto a serving cart and took a shit? He died 10 years later from Alzheimer’s though he didn't show any symptoms in 1995.

Stephen Jay Gould is another slight example. He was an excellent writer on natural history and I subscribed to Natural History in part so I could read his monthly columns. However in the years shortly before his death his columns took a turn for the weird in that every single one involved a conspiracy against particular Jews. He wasn't up front about this. Instead the columns often came across as a rambling account of say some episode in the history of science and burred inside would be an instance of anti-Semitism. Reading them became a game of finding the Jew hate and appreciating how the whole essay had been structured so this could be mentioned in a larger context - even though the larger context was not all that interesting in its own right.

When the elderly tend toward paranoia or conspiracy theories is this just general brain degradation, an early symptom of Alzheimer's which can involve paranoia, or are there more specific causes?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:22 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


what has Niven done since....1985?

Fantasy novels, although that kind of proves your point. Well, Destiny's Road I suppose technically.
posted by GuyZero at 5:23 PM on July 13, 2010


There's actually a new Ted Chiang story, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, that I've not read, though it seems to be only available in some odd format.
posted by Artw at 5:27 PM on July 13, 2010


Reading them became a game of finding the Jew hate and appreciating how the whole essay had been structured so this could be mentioned in a larger context - even though the larger context was not all that interesting in its own right.

Like that comment? This is the first time I have ever heard SJG accused of anti-semitism and you seem to be the only person with an internet connection to have ever done so. Dude was a (secular) Jew himself which while it doesn't automatically make him not anti-semitic certainly should raise the bar for proving he was.
posted by DU at 5:28 PM on July 13, 2010


I've noticed the correlation between nuttiness and libertarianism before. I think it's a sort of cognitive dissonance - first you start defending people's right to say things, then you start defending what they say, then you start endorsing it. And the other libertarians don't denounce you, because that would be oppression, and there are so few libertarians that you'd lose your social group if you started excluding people.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:35 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


.

Great sci fi author
posted by codswallop at 5:39 PM on July 13, 2010


In reply to the questions posed to me in the above comments, no, Niven is not a nut-job although he can be accused of some degree of eccentricity, and as for his accomplishments since 1985, I don't really think that is the point; he has produced many brilliant SF ideas and deserves to be respected for that. Even though it was published in the 1960's, his novel "Protector" is still among the most brilliant of any that I have ever read. The passage of time has not diminished Niven's stature.
posted by grizzled at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2010


DU:This is the first time I have ever heard SJG accused of anti-semitism

Just the opposite: SJG was exposing instances of anti-semitism in the sciences in the course of his essays, and MonkeySaltedNuts suggests it was obsessive.
posted by tspae at 5:50 PM on July 13, 2010


.

sorta
posted by disclaimer at 5:51 PM on July 13, 2010


Sure, I remember being blown away by Niven too. But that doesn't make him one of the best idea SF writers "at the present time".
posted by DU at 5:51 PM on July 13, 2010


Oh I see. Even with that in mind it's hard to extract that from MSN's comment, though.
posted by DU at 5:52 PM on July 13, 2010


I'm sitting here trying to line up the attitude that I saw in "The Genesis Machine" and what I'm seeing here and well, I just dislocated my brain. Or maybe he did. I guess that's the question.

Niven can still tell a good story (or has some decent stuff in his slush pile) but before I paid him for any homeland security advice, I'd remember that he wrote a mess or Ringworld sequels because people pointed out unforeseen consequences of plot points he put in his previous Ringworld sequel. For example: "Let's circulate the rumor that hospitals are harvesting organs from illegal immigrants, what could go wrong?"

You'd think a guy who all but weeps if he gets the orbital mechanics in a novel wrong would get that public health is all about rate equations.

posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:52 PM on July 13, 2010


He may have had some strange ideas but I can tell you that like many writers who have had some opinions I disagree with %100 he was a consummate gentleman and brilliant conversationalist and although I only met him and his wife briefly over 10 years ago I still will remember the good bits first when my thoughts turn to him.

.
posted by Megafly at 6:12 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh I see. Even with that in mind it's hard to extract that from MSN's comment, though.

No it's not, you just misread.
posted by ericost at 6:16 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hmm... it seems that James Nicoll had Hogan in mind when he came up with the Brain Eater, as well as Poul Anderson (not sure what he's done that's particularly nutty though).
posted by Artw at 6:23 PM on July 13, 2010


Here's To You, Ernst Zundel: A Lonely Voice of Courage

I don't know anything more about the Zundel case than what I skimmed on the Hogan page linked to, but, if Zundel was in fact deported so that his US-based web page could be used as evidence of a violation of German law against Holocaust denial, no, I don't think that protesting that detracts from James Hogan.

Holocaust denial is despicable and deplorable and stupid, but worse is imprisoning people for having beliefs we disagree with.

And Code of the Lifemaker is a good thought experiment. marred by Hogan's insistence on making too many too obviously contrived parallels to contingent human history, when he could have instead explored how the robots' environment and evolution would have diverged from a mere recapitulation of human history. But still great fun to read.
posted by orthogonality at 6:41 PM on July 13, 2010


Chiang is damn hard to beat, of course.

If you're a Seattlite you can pick up the newest City Arts and read an interview with him and here's an extra one online.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:44 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


No it's not, you just misread.

I read it the wrong way too at first.

At least with L Neil Smith, you know he's a libertarian up front.

public health is all about rate equations.

I'd feel better about criticizing this idea if I knew what other ideas he came up with for them. If that was idea #10,001, and in context of the other 10,000 that were more reasonable, and can be taken as an over the top Swift-ian Modest Proposal...that would seem more in line with my picture of Niven. The guy who wrote A Gift From Earth can not have changed ethics that much, I hope.


Also, dear metafilter, please stop telling me unpleasant truths about artists I liked in ignorance, kthxbye.
posted by nomisxid at 6:45 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


pick up the newest City Arts and read an interview with him

I'll keep an eye out for it...

here's an extra one online.

Yikes. That business with Tor does sound like a big clue as to why he's remained relatively obscure despite being so very, very good.
posted by Artw at 6:55 PM on July 13, 2010


At the present time, the best ideas writer in SF is Ted Chiang (followed by Niven) and the best "hard" SF writer is Vernor Vinge. As for Hogan, he is (or was) too much of a nut job for my taste.

I like Stross, but his style feels a little too much like a blog post at times.

I'd like to somehow clone Chiang and William Gibson in a vat somewhere, and create the ideal ideas/stylist writer (with a removable thumb tip hiding a nanowire).

For what it's worth, The Windup Girl has a nice combination of ideas and style, in a biopunk dystopian future. [googles] Ok, it won the Nebula, so you've probably heard of it.
posted by mecran01 at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What Paolo Bacigalupi lacks in easy pronunciation he certainsly makes up for in SF cool. I did a bit of a post on him a while back.
posted by Artw at 7:01 PM on July 13, 2010


Several of Hogan's books, including Inherit the Stars, are available for download at the Baen Free Library.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:48 PM on July 13, 2010


Yowza. I was a fan of his from The Genesis Machine - but now I know he was a nasty nutcase I'm a lot less positive about him.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:38 PM on July 13, 2010


My overall opinion of Hogan was always that he was a terrible writer, so bad he shouldn't be in the business at all.... but one with such interesting ideas that it was often worth suffering through the stilted, labored prose.

Reading his books always felt like seeing paintings by Rembrandt through a lens smeared with vaseline. You could tell the original art was fascinating, but it lost a lot between the creator's head and yours.
posted by Malor at 8:44 PM on July 13, 2010


I liked Realtime Interrupt.

.
posted by limeonaire at 8:51 PM on July 13, 2010


"My overall opinion of Hogan was always that he was a terrible writer"

As I recall his first 1 or 2 books were really badly written, then he got an editor or writing teacher and the following books were not much worse than many others in the genre. One still read him for his ideas and plots rather than his prose and characterizations.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:22 PM on July 13, 2010


Hmm, looking at the site again the death notice is... strangely dry.

"James P. Hogan died suddenly on July 12, 2010. He was alone at his home in Ireland at the time. The exact cause of death has not yet been determined. Jim is survived by his wife, Sheryl, and his six children."

It's also peculiar... "alone at his home" (so someone must have found him...?)

I'm really hoping that when I die my website has a somewhat warmer announcement than this on it, at least something saying, "Beloved by lots of people, a figure of fun."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:40 PM on July 13, 2010


I loved his Voyage to Yesteryear novel. His later beliefs - he's not the first author I liked to go off the deep end or hold abhorrent views. Unless we're talking about Ezra Pound-level crank behavior, I'll just thank them for their creations.

.
posted by dragoon at 10:43 PM on July 13, 2010


a figure of fun

Sure you want that on your web site?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:48 PM on July 13, 2010


I don't know anything more about the Zundel case than what I skimmed on the Hogan page linked to, but, if Zundel was in fact deported so that his US-based web page could be used as evidence of a violation of German law against Holocaust denial, no, I don't think that protesting that detracts from James Hogan.

Hogan's FOS on this one. I remember all this stuff being raved about on the fringes of Usenet; it was interesting to follow it up. Basically, Zundel was deported from the USA because he overstayed his visa; and he was deported from Canada because he was a jerk, had a neo-Nazi publishing business, and hung out with neo-Nazis. Once he was back in Germany he was prosecuted for distributing neo-Nazi literature inside Germany. Wikipedia's page on Zundel is entertaining: Ernest Zundel actually applied for refugee status in Canada, claiming to be persecuted by Germany. The irony is quite amazing.

Anyway, I've got no problem with Hogan defending Zundel because he believed in Zundel's innocence or in his right to free speech, but in fact he defended him because he, Hogan, was a Holocaust denier - from Hogan's page titled Here's To You, Ernst Zundel - A Lonely Voice of Courage:
Under any civilized system of law, an individual accused of murder has the right to be heard and to present evidence in his defense. But when an entire nation is accused of murder on a mass scale, claims that are wildly fantastic, mutually contradictory, and defy common sense and often physical possibility are allowed to stand unchallenged, truth is openly declared to be irrelevant, no evidence for defense is admitted, and even defense attorneys for the accused can be charged and imprisoned as being guilty of the same offense. Need it be said that truth does not need this kind of protection?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:55 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure you want that on your web site?

"funny like a clown, he amused us."
posted by Artw at 10:55 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


.

He went off the rails there but his second giants book gave me my first "OMG, there is a sequel to that book. Must Have!".
posted by Mitheral at 3:12 AM on July 14, 2010


Why are so many science fiction writers doofuses? I am starting to think the jocks were right after all.

Keep in mind Sturgeon's Law of Doofuses: "90% of all sf writers are doofuses, but then 90% of everyone are doofuses."

That said, I'm sorry for Hogan's family in their time of grief, regardless of the man's clear nutjobbiness.
posted by aught at 6:35 AM on July 14, 2010


Darn it, ChurchHatesTucker! (Though I should have know someone else would make the joke.)
posted by aught at 6:38 AM on July 14, 2010


There's actually a new Ted Chiang story, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, that I've not read, though it seems to be only available in some odd format.

Just a pricey limited-edition small press run of a novella, right? (I recently bought Subterranean Press's edition of the newish Greg Egan collection, speaking of very good hard sf writers who aren't nuts.)

As for the Chiang novella, I would guess one of the SF Best-of anthologies (Dozois or Hartmann, or both) will include it next year.
posted by aught at 6:46 AM on July 14, 2010


My overall opinion of Hogan was always that he was a terrible writer, so bad he shouldn't be in the business at all

Agreed. I tried to read Code of the Life Maker and Inherit the Stars and wondered why such hideous novels were held in such high regard, but to each their own of course.

but one with such interesting ideas that it was often worth suffering through the stilted, labored prose.

I was always to weak to put myself through so much suffering.
posted by juiceCake at 7:11 AM on July 14, 2010


Since DU objects that Niven is not one of the best SF writers at the present time, I can only say that Niven is still writing at the present time, and I do still enjoy his writing. His earlier work is still available and is still part of the existing body of SF at the present time. I will agree, however, that there have been many excellent new writers since Niven's early prominence in the 1960's, and he is not as dominant a figure in the field as he once was, much as the late Isaac Asimov, whose novels remain enjoyable even after all these years, is not as central a figure in the SF world as he once was. Stephen Baxter is another writer who has very interesting ideas, who might be compared to Niven. There is no objective standard to establish in any definite sense, which writer has produced the most important or original or interesting ideas in SF (although in a historical sense, H.G. Wells remains the most influential). I will just say that Niven remains a favorite of mine.
posted by grizzled at 7:29 AM on July 14, 2010


You can write dozens of commercially successful novels, but do they call you a novelist?

Nooooo...

You can write reams of non-fiction, but do they call you an essayist?

Nooooo...

You can win the Prometheus Award for Best Novel awarded by the Libertarian Futurist Society, but do they call you a libertarian?

Nooooo...

But you deny one Holocaust...
posted by Zed at 10:18 AM on July 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


You can win the Prometheus Award for Best Novel awarded by the Libertarian Futurist Society, but do they call you a libertarian?

The weird thing about the Prometheus Award is they so frequently give it to total lefties, presumably by mistake.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2010


Yikes. That business with Tor does sound like a big clue as to why he's remained relatively obscure despite being so very, very good.

I'm not typically the first guy to defend Tor, and I think SF in general would be better if more writers were like Chiang -- really good, and not inclined to spend a lot of time loudly drumming up a weird Cult of Personality on the internet -- but his complaints strike me as ... naïve? Expecting cover approval on his first book? Really? If it wasn't in the contract -- and on a first book, I'm sure it wasn't -- it ain't gonna happen. It's weirdly unprofessional to expect that.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:29 AM on July 14, 2010


Darn it, ChurchHatesTucker! (Though I should have know someone else would make the joke.)

I have to admit that I was tempted to tack on "First!" to the end of my post.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:32 AM on July 14, 2010


Amanojaku - Well yes... and while I don't particularly like that cover it;s not like it's hugely horrible. Tor have certainly done worse, and they are by far not the worst offenders in SF publishing.

Likewise, with editors, being edited can really be a pain in the ass and an affront to ones sensibilities. But at the end of the day lthe most annoying thing is that they are often right. Now, we're not really able get a before and after on Chiangs work, but the stories as printed in that book are damn good, and the Tor folks are not exactly complete idiots.

So all in all... it's a little strange.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know how much that had to do with his being Irish.

I'm guessing nothing, considering he's English.

"Hogan was born in London, England. He was raised in the Portobello Road area on the west side of London."
posted by kersplunk at 11:44 AM on July 14, 2010


So all in all... it's a little strange.

Yeah, exactly. I can only think that he's a tremendous perfectionist, which would explain his writing and a difficulty accepting compromise. I'm told he's super nice in person, at least. ::shrug::
posted by Amanojaku at 12:10 PM on July 14, 2010


"a figure of fun"

Sure you want that on your web site?


Damn right! I work very hard on being fun. :-P
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:42 PM on July 14, 2010


Artw wrote: The weird thing about the Prometheus Award is they so frequently give it to total lefties, presumably by mistake.

Or to annoy the lefties. You can have a lot of fun with this sort of thing.

I think someone ought to institute the Socialist Workers' Award and give it to politicians who tie the passage of a bill to some big works project in their electorate. Have it bestowed by, oh, the American Soviet Committee; and make sure the award gets into all their biographies.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:11 PM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I remember an interview with Chiang where he admitted basically being slow/finicky etc... hence the fact he's not produced that much/not produced a novel.

But the idea he'd get to pick his own cover is a bit 'taking my ball back'... I've seen some terrible covers over the years (the one Chiang did'nt like seemed ok to me), but by and large the publishers do know what they are doing and often the writer is the worst person to pick what is essentially a selling tool for the work (and the one Chiang wanted just seems to too generic).
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:13 AM on July 15, 2010


Heh.

“Libertarianism is very much part of the intellectual argument of science fiction,” says longtime Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden. “It’s impossible to be a part of the argument of science fiction without engaging both broad libertarian ideas and also specifically the whole American free market intellectual tradition.”
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on July 15, 2010


Well, one can separate appreciation for the art from appreciation for the artist. Orson Scott Card's a good example- hyperconservative mormon to five hilts, which is a fact that sometimes informs his work, but is also entirely ignorable while enjoying Ender's Game.

Not too familiar with Hogan, but if he wrote short stories at all, I've probably read them. His politics are also unsurprising- it sounds to me like he was a hellion of a contrarian. We might not always agree with these consensus-breakers, but the fiction that comes out of their heads can be fascinating.
posted by maus at 11:28 AM on July 15, 2010


I emailed Charlie Stross awhile back laughing about Terry Pratchett winning the Prometheus Award just before releasing Going Postal, a book which in many ways satirizes the libertarian arguments about property and freedom, and he says that the LFS, unlike apparently every other Libertarian group, actually care about things other than tax cuts and deregulation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:34 AM on July 15, 2010


Ken Macleod won it with The Stone Canal, in which libertarians (of the transhumanist kind and the anti-tax and government pro-property kind) are very much the bad guys. Unless they're handing out awards just for mentioning libertarians there might be something to what you are saying there.

It's kind of an odd list. Some of it *is* explicitly Libertarian, like Vinge's Realtime stuff, and some of it I'd call more anti-authoritarian in a general sense. Books with an interets in society and economics seem pretty prominent too. I'd also say that it looks like it's had a better track record of picking quality reads than many of the other SF awards.
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on July 15, 2010


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