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Discussion: Great writers read as well

kelson.philo's picture

So, right now what is everybody reading?

I'm purling through Gravity's Rainbow at the moment, and probably will be for a long time.


I just finished the "Tour of the Merrimack" parts One and Two. They're by R.M. Muelch. And they are as good as Stark Trek. I was actually pretty disappointed with the end of the first book, "The Myriad" but the second, "The Wolf Star," was a nice recovery.

It's not hard science, but it's fantastic fiction. It reads a lot like a sci-fi Patrick O'brien, really. Captain John Farragut is a space-faring Jack Aubrey.

Read to it to the Flash Gorden soundtrack and Led Zepplin.


kelson.philo's picture

Sounds awesomely fun.

Sounds awesomely fun. Perfect for all this rainy weather...

Reading a heap of Sarah Vowell & David Sidaris

True-life stuff told well.

every wall collapses, given enough time.

kelson.philo's picture

Love their work on This

Love their work on This American Life...

stanley.lieber's picture

Oswald's Tale, by Norman

Oswald's Tale, by Norman Mailer

kelson.philo's picture

Mailer's one of those Names

Mailer's one of those Names that are on the Big List, like Pynchon and Delillo, that I'll be spending a number of lifetimes trying to ingest...

Thuvia, Maid of Mars

Burroughs, dude!

kelson.philo's picture

Gotta luv the ERB. Tarzan,

Gotta luv the ERB. Tarzan, all the Martian stuff. Ever read "Number of the Beast" by Heinlein? Pretty nice homage to Burroughs.

Ever read "The Mucker?"

ERB's hard boiled tough guy. It totally rocks & may be one of the most influential pulp novels ever.

every wall collapses, given enough time.

kelson.philo's picture

I will totally have to look

I will totally have to look into this Mucker business. Is it Doc Savage kind of stuff or more Sam Spade?

The Mucker... for free!

Go to:
and you can download the e-book. Originally published serially in
Cavalier- if I were to compare it to anything, it'd be Frank Miller's
Sin City books.

Hope you enjoy.

every wall collapses, given enough time.

John Scalzi's "The Last Colony"

For the 2nd time. I think I inhaled it so quickly the first time I want to make sure I actually read and rememeber it the second time.

After this I swear I will finish Accelerando. Swear it.

- C R T
--------------------------------------------------------------- - music//yoga//blather///and more on a blog no one reads! for more of the same.

kelson.philo's picture

Fantastic. Charlie Stross

Fantastic. Charlie Stross is just a fabulous writer. Pair him up with Ken Macleod and you've got my top two Scotish sf d00ds.

I'll have to add this Scalzi fellow to the Big List.


I just finished Pride of Carthage. Its historical fiction about the Carthaginian general Hannibal and his war upon Rome. Not science fiction, but a darn good read!

kelson.philo's picture

Sweet. Do you find what you

Sweet. Do you find what you read leaving an impact on what your write? I know I do. Also, is this Pride of Carthage part of a series? I'll have to take a look.


Yes my choice in reading does impact on how I write. Pride of Carthage is such an epic book, that it makes me want to write epics, although I don't think I'm ready yet! :) As for Pride of Carthage itself, its one of one (no series), and I happened to find it sitting on top of a trashcan! Weird. But its a wonderful story. The thing about historical fiction is it can go different ways. For example there is stylized historical fiction (like franck millers 300, which isn't very technical) and then there is technical historical fiction (like Pride of Carthage) which goes to great lengths to be accurate, although there is an element of the unknown since the events occured so long ago. I am sure you know this already. But after reading Pride of Carthage, I had the urge to write something like a future historical fiction, document the distant past from some point in the distant future. In fact, maybe even documenting something that happens in our current events from the perspective of say, 1000 years from now. It would be interesting to see how stylized and epic our current struggles would evolve into over the passage of time. Does that make sense?

apologizes for teh posting-lag, meh intertubes is confused


kelson.philo's picture

Oh that totally makes sense.

Oh that totally makes sense. A fantastic notion! You'll have to forgive my exuberance, but i think that's a great idea and opens up a lot of possibilities. You'd also have to be very disciplined in how you took it on. We see carthage through the lens of history, so you'd need to make a whole other lens to view it fom, like a great toroidial telescope that looked intot he future so as to look back at the past....all sorts of heisenberg weirdness going on there....

Warning: Rant follows....

Yeah, I was just listening to music and having a discuss with some friends about this very same topic. (listening to coltrane always puts me in the philosophical mood). Our premise was this (and I mean no disrespect to any other beliefs):

The ideas of say, pre-monotheist beliefs (greek gods and such) and mono-theist beliefs (christians, muslims, etc) are really quite the same if you view them as "legend". Who is to say that in a thousand years, some current events would not be viewed with the same "legendary" descriptions?

I, of course, view sept 11th to be horrid and despicable, but how will they be described in 2,000 years? Will the events be told as parable? as some form of nightmare warning? Will participants be elevated to god-like status or given demonic characterization? I use sept 11th because it is the only event in my lifetime that will stand in the collective memory for many many generations to come.

So in terms of science fiction, the use of the historical lens is an approach that opens up many doors stylistically and themetaically. I've been pondering a story using the historical lens (its an epic, so it may be years until I actually start writing it), but it basically is a galactic historian (human) doing a historical analysis of the human race after the singularity. I tried writing singularity stories, but found that descriptions involving the singularity were often very complex and hard to visualize (see my first post Dawning Obsolete?) Some one on oort posted a blog conjecturing that HardSF might be killed by Singularity SF, but I think the historical lens perspective might be an effective way to write about it.

Its late, I've had a few stouts, so I hope my writings make sense...

Could you link...

... to that post about Singularity SF... since I haven't a clue what that is and Hard SF (Stephen Baxter, Kim Stanley Robinson) is really my favorite. My feeling is that if the insidious right-wing militaristic take over of Hard SF that began in the '80s (die Jerry Pournelle... DIE DIE DIE) couldn't kill Hard SF, I'd be really interested in seeing what might.


Oh wait... never mind. I found it. Interesting read. I guess I'm not so convinced that "something big will happen." It just doesn't seem plausible to me. Technology really isn't all that impressive. I don't see humanity as significantly different than it was on the veldt. We are still just pack animals clawing at each other for resources. I mean... is being able to download seventy thousand versions of "My Teen Sluts" really an advancement in information flow? If anything science has shown us that we will rapidly overextend as a species and use up the available resources. The universe beyond our atmosphere is harsh and unforgiving and too damn far away to really matter. We will convulse in an orgy of self destruction (maybe that is the "big thing") and the survivors will fade away as the majority of the world ends up looking like the Sahara (thank you CJ Cherryh and the Faded Suns trilogy.)

Now... maybe the point is that, to be a writer of SF one must inherently be a technological positive futurist. There is an inherent belief that advancement in technology is transformative of humanity. Thus, if that is your base hypothesis, then yes, you have to consider the Singularity and ain't that a bitch.

I guess my question is... can you be considered a writer of SF if you DON'T have an inherent belief in the transformative power of technology?


Well, I think the important thing about SF is that it enables us to imagine possibilties. And quite often those possibilties seem to fall in line with the direction that technology flows. SF has been known as a precursor of things to come. I believe in certain ideas behind singularity theory, although some people have elevated it to a panacea, almost a religion, which is kind of freaky (and very SFish I might add).

The idea of SF without the positive transformative tech does exist (think Mad Max, and parts of Foundation), but those type of stories seem to rely on the transformative power (good and bad) of human psyche, rather than technology. So perhaps there are battles within the ranks of SF. SF based on technology progression, and SF based on human progression? And if so, thats where the singularity gets interesting, because it melds the two (tech and humanity) along a path that might actually happen.

Damn. My brain feels weird after reading what I just wrote. Does it blend?


... I think it blends. I may not have enough understanding of this sigularity concept to really get it. I'm actually glad you brought up Mad Max and the distopian/appocalyptic SF, because hey, I grew up in that era. I read Brunner's "The Sheep Look Up" and "Arslan" by Enge... there was a time when looking at the future seemed to be impossible because "Of course we are going to nuke/overpopulate/chemical burn ourselves back to the stone age in the next 30 years!" So is this singularity issue just another "The sky is falling!" scenario?

Other than "Accelerando" is there a definitive singularity story/book I should read that captures this idea the best?

kelson.philo's picture

I'd say that if you want the

I'd say that if you want the "turd that was dropped in SF's punch bowl" (as said by Stross) you might wanna check out Vernor Vinge's essay that developed into said 'turd'.

It's certainly put prognostication in SF under a megaton press. What's going to be considered SF to those after the singularity comes and (maybe) goes? Rudy Rucker posited some interesting idears on it. I think he's even working (or is done with) a novel calle Post Singular. It's a difficult concept to deal with as books, in general, are very pre-singular things in terms of their own technology... SF at it's best, imho, deals with the human reaction to new tech, so what happens when humans are tech themselves? Almost gets quasi mystical, Ken Macleod's "The Rapture for Nerds"...

Post Singularity

I have been curious about the post singularity world of literature for a while now. The way I have come to think of singularity literature is to assume that there will be differing levels of a singularity future. What I mean is that perhaps in the Sing-SF future, there may still be humans as we know them. Perhaps they chose to live outside the sing. progress that transformed the human race, and now occupy a planet in a different solar system, a space station, or what have you. Perhaps they live a simple lifestyle, with relics of technology they barely understand. A story I am contemplating is based on this idea. Basically, a human must travel back to Earth, which is now completely unrecognizable as the birth place of man. Along the way, as he gets closer to Earth, he visits other human societies/Planets, each with a greater degree of human-technological integration (as they are closer to the "source").

This has great advantages from writing from a singularitarian perspective. For one, it allows for contrast between Human and Superhuman reactions. It also allows for a degree of mysticism, or mystery, as you mentioned.

Ultimately, I don't know what singularity, post-singularity, etc. etc. is going to have as an effect on SF. I suspect however, that great ideas that cause such reactions within a literature genre will have a beneficial outcome, as people create new ideas to circumvent what may be conceived as the proverbial "turd in the punch bowl".

-Happy Memorial Day......

Just so long as you don't

Just so long as you don't give up on Dawning Obsolete. =)

I'm still hoping to see more of that world. (Unless that will actually be a part of the idea you're talking about here?)

Dawning Obsolete

The Dawning Obsolete world would indeed be one component. That world would be what I consider to be a heavy singularity level. Consider that if the singularity does indeed come to pass, there would undoubtedly be a large segment of the human population that would resist it. My hypothesis is, that if this occurs, a segment of the population would split from the rest. The Human Purists might be exiled, or the Singularitarians might be exiled, but either way distinct groups would form. Say for example, the human purists went to exile on the next inhabitable planet. Since the nature of the singularity and its effects works with exponential changes in evolution, over a matter of say, 100 years the singularitarians might change a million orders of magnitude, whereas their human counterparts might change but little, perhaps only culturally. That leaves an interesting divergence when the two may meet again. As Asimov said in "Foundation", at a certain level technology becomes indistinguishable from magic. When a Human returns to the singularity source, it would seem to be a world of magic and mysticism. A human might travel back to post sing. earth to learn some knowledge that is needed on his home planet, but what would the singularitarians desire, or need? If anything? Thanks for the feedback guys, its really getting my mind moving!


kelson.philo's picture

Ha! Very good. I find the

Ha! Very good. I find the whole sing-sf thing to be interesting because it's the first time i've heard authors speak with some trepidation (and perhaps, even, fear?) about a certain subject. Yes, sf always gave wary examples of what happened when things ran amok, atomic energy, super Gargantua-cyber brains and all that, but the story was approached from the view point of "well, here's the physical principles involved with this thing, and we can draw logical conclusions like so..."

Then, watch out! Here comes the singularity! Suddenly, it becomes really scary to speculate about what's going to happen because there are so many unknowns and the general importance of status quo humanity seems to dwindle in relevance like a candle against a supernova. One of the questions i keep repeating here and elsewhere is, What is SF to a post-singular entity?

We enjoy the idear of faster than light travel because we are creatures of limited life spans. But, if i can simply hit my own personal pause button for the duration of the trip, FTL isn't quite so necessary. We know how to quantum entangle little photons, i expect to the post singular, a form of QE instantaneous communications array might be set up. And if yer a downloadable conscious entity, well, suddenly you've got something faster than "conventional" idears of FTL, and then if you speed one of those QE tranceivers up to relativistic speeds, well, they you have the start of a localized time loop empire...

It's a whole new thing, a new paradigm and it may, or may not be already here. What can pre-singular humanity do about it?

As for the fear, perhaps it

As for the fear, perhaps it is fear of becoming the machine. If we change into machine-bio lifeforms, do we keep our creativity? Will our words take on the form of dull code like structure, or will they flower into incomprehensible extremities of words that cease to make sense in any human way? Fear of losing our humanity.....but evolution, if you view the sing. to be evolution, seems to slowly move us towards more refinement, so is fear even warranted? We approach an evolutionary cliff, rather then the slow sloping of the past. And as we recognize the exsistence of this cliff, we fear what the rapid ascent will contain. Can we handle it?

I havent made up my mind if the sing. is real. There are quite a few signals that seem to agree with sing. theory. And it seems to me creativity is increasing all the time....

just some thoughts - Rob

influence or direct digestion

I think like while or right after I read accelerando I wrote that thing about the reality tv and WoW.

I feel like except for a few folks--- like Stross... Its hard to write about the trends of near future as it feels like the future is unfolding as were making it right now....

Take this site for example.
I feel we outmoded the old mode of publishing... even just a little.... (of course it applies to different needs and hungers of humanity... when I want to read a book, I read a book. and always will. when I want to read a post. I read a post knowmsayn?)

Thats why I tend to write more poetic/ absurd stuff in my rare bursts of inspiration... I can get a better hold on something thats more visceral and present when its less connected to the current real world.... fairy tales etc...

bogart pony blablabla....

kelson.philo's picture

kew kew kewlio...I suppose

kew kew kewlio...I suppose the question that comes up (one of several perhaps) is what will happen with this nu-out-mode?