The SFFaudio Podcast #196 – Scott, Jesse, and Tamahome discuss the Blackstone Audio audiobook of A World Out Of Time by Larry Niven.
Talked about on today’s show:
Tamahome is a third, Ender’s Game, 1976, Rammer by Larry Niven (1971), a fix-up novel, Infinivox, Pat Bottino, “his most perfect short story”, the novel ruins the short story (sort of), the anticipation is more interesting than the resolution, chapters 2 and 3 nullify the power of chapter 1, Corbell, Peerssa, the Clouds of Magellan, “a fuck you ending”, interesting social systems, a sciencey vocab, cryonics, Bussard Ram Jets, ergosphere, Protector, Beowulf Shaeffer, The Soft Weapon, the Technovelgy website, biological package probes, the bubble car, the empty man, gravity assisted subway, poster TV, RNA shots “don’t read Cliff Notes, eat Cliff”, planaria (flatworms) experiments, humans are wired for language, birds are wired for flight, young forever, Star Trek, null field, consciousness transferal, continuation of consciousness, Robert J. Sawyer, Rollback, Identity Theft (or Shed Skin), your robot body, we care about will, Four Worlds Of The Diamond by Jack Chalker, “there’s a mystery that needs to be solved, cloning, Lilith: A Snake In The Grass, Audible.com, The River Of The Dancing Gods, The Identity Matrix, Demons Of The Dancing Gods, G.O.D., Inc., Dancers In The Afterglow, Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley, “who are you when you’re just some ground up hamburger?”, he’s treated like a criminal, why don’t the citizens want to make this trip?, a certain kind of person, Louis Wu, “a special sort of breed”, the two CBC Ideas shows on James Cameron, manned spaceflight, Playgrounds Of The Mind, “my favourite characters are all tourists”, “I demand to be a tourist”, The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, a whole world in zero gravity, “this guy is Mr. Physics”, Arthur C. Clarke, Hothouse by Brian Aldiss, Ringworld, The Ringworld Engineers, Robert A. Heinlein, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, David Brin, passing a planet, “something on the order of that”, moving planets, Uranus, mathematically logical (but with non-existent materials), the air is full of the oceans, the null-rooms, a null-box, zero-entropy space, better sandwich storage, transporting the garbage out, Doctor McCoy, quantum communication and quantum teleportation, Think Like A Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly, Seeing Ear Theatre, Dream Park, Oath Of Fealty, The Mote In God’s Eye, Inferno, Lucifer’s Hammer, Luke Burrage, Escape From Hell, Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, an alien invasion story, Scott has a signed copy!, elephantine aliens with twin trunks, the audiobook of Footfall is available, a book written by people who care about science!, a septic tank full of books, Robert A. Heinlein, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, David Brin, the DHS vs. the U.S. military, what would Larry Niven do as the head of the EPA?, a Death Star, Obama’s unemployed geekishness, Newt Gingrich, moonbase!, he loves himself because he’s surrounded by idiots, the idea of an idea man is fantastic, Douglas Adams, a thousand or ten thousand year project, focused on the current and the recent past, the deep time issue, time capsules, the Long Now Foundation, cathedral building, pyramid building, “on the cosmic scale”, the space race was motivated by military competition, Space X http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX , a private moonbase?, the ultra rich, science isn’t for profit, human existence isn’t for profit, space probes, hydro-electric dams, where is the Moonbase Kickstarter?, maybe we could have just one guy and his clone up there, Moon, real Science Fiction, Crashlander, Neutron Star, Peter F. Hamilton is an ideas man, Great North Road, five pages describing a weather change, another fix-up novel, Neutron Star, the animated Star Trek, Kzin, Alan Dean Foster, World Of Ptavvs, Algis Budrys, telepathy, Charles Stross, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Community, The Big Bang Theory, Dan Harmon’s keynote.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Unincorporated Man
By Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin; Read by Todd McLaren
2 MP3-CDs – Approx. 24 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: May 2009
Themes: / Science Fiction / Utopia / Dystopia / Time Travel / Slavery / Economics / Business / Cryonics / Immortality / Virtual Reality / Philosophy / Law / Alaska / Colorado / Los Angeles / Switzerland / Nanotechnology / Space Elevator /
The Unincorporated Man is a provocative social/political/economic novel that takes place in the future, after civilization has fallen into complete economic collapse. This reborn civilization is one in which every individual is incorporated at birth and spends many years trying to attain control over his or her own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares. Life extension has made life very long indeed. Now the incredible has happened: a billionaire businessman from our time, frozen in secret in the early twenty-first century, is discovered and resurrected, given health and a vigorous younger body. Justin Cord is the only unincorporated man in the world, a true stranger in this strange land. Justin survived because he is tough and smart. He cannot accept only part ownership of himself, even if that places him in conflict with a civilization that extends outside the solar system to the Oort Cloud. People will be arguing about this novel and this world for decades.
Even though I had never heard of the authors I like this book right from the start. The title reminded me of a Philip K. Dick novel called The Unteleported Man. There are probably a whole bunch of SF books following the formula “The (negative attribution) Man”, with The Invisible Man perhaps being the first of them. But there’s a lot more to like about this novel than the title alone. Among the pleasures it brings is good, old-fashioned idea based SF. It has been quite a while since I was so intellectually engaged by a novel’s central premise. And The Unincorporated Man has one. Set on a future Earth The Unincorporated Man is fundamentally different in both tone and scope than most SF novels I’ve read recently. Authors Dani and Eytan Kollin have envisioned a future in which the institution known as “the corporation” has replaced the convention of “person.” When born each child has stock of 1000 shares issued in his or her name. 10 percent of these stocks are held by each parent, the government gets another 5 percent and the rest is held in trust until the age of majority after which the balance of the stock is given to the child-cum-adult. He or she can then sell, or keep his or her stocks as they so desire. Holding a majority of your own stock insures relative autonomy (based on the amount above 50% you hold). The primary difficulty comes when you realize that you’ll need to invest in yourself. If you want an education you’ll need to pay for it. But without an education the pay won’t be much. So, you can either get education money by working at a low-wage job, and deriving whatever profit percentage your current stock level allows, or by selling your stock off for cash. This typically manifests itself in the majority of humanity not owning majority in themselves. With the possibility of living for centuries, thanks to the ubiquitous nanotechnology, you’d be wise to invest in an education. But in so doing you’ll loose control of your majority, and thus perhaps have to work at jobs that your shareholders choose, take vacations when your shareholders agree and generally have your life dictated to you by those that hold your stock. Why not just take the money and loaf? Who cares what the shareholders say? They can’t make you work can they? Well, yes they can. The corporate system is enforced by a forced mental audit that is applicable whenever shareholders think a corporation, who they hold stock in, is committing malfeasance (shirking their job, deliberately getting fired, etc.). Every corporation is trackable, thanks to GPS-like implants, and is thus ultimately accountable to his or her shareholders. It is the ultimate invasive tyranny, a slavery to the bottom line, a profit motive enforced by an invisible hand that you shook a deal with.
But things aren’t all doom and gloom. Those who are lucky enough to have been born with enough money, drive, intelligence, talent or beauty are able to do pretty much whatever they like with their time – that is assuming they don’t loose too much of their stock in luxuries or in judgments rendered against them in civil lawsuits. You can live like a king, wear any kind of clothing you like, read the newsies and travel the world in an endless party. But, as the centuries have rolled past it seems that fewer and fewer people have found it fashionable (or is the correct word possible?) to retain or even re-seek their majority stock. After all, in their nanotechnological society material abundance sees that no-one starves, no-one remains un-housed. Freedom, it seems, is just out of fashion. Enter Justin Cord and his unincorporated status.
I really liked this novel, but it isn’t without a few caveats. I found the fascinating society portrayed to be the most interesting thing about The Unincorporated Man. The characters are all pretty stiff and the problems facing Jason Cord, our hero, were far less interesting than they were useful in exploring this strange new society. Like many novels I review this one suffers most greatly from excessive page count. At 480 pages the novel takes 24.5 hours to listen to. I’d have preferred the novel with a steadier editorial hand. The editor could have done two relatively easy things. First he or she could have cut out a lot of the filler. I’m not just talking about empty sentences, there are many scenes that could have been eliminated or described in just a sentence or two. There are, for instance, two big court cases in this nove. Would it have been impossible to tell this story in one? Second, there was a useless detour along the way. I enjoyed it, but don’t see any reason it was needed in this novel. It could have been easily explored separately, in another novel. Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin wanted to talk about the relatively unexplored idea, a social scourge in the form of really vivid virtual reality. Larry Niven did something similar with his idea of the “tasp,” but that wasn’t exactly VR. If you could live your whole life in an artificial reality that was extremely cheap why wouldn’t you? The answer, cooked up by Kollins, is less persuasive than I’d have hoped. And again it doesn’t really need to be in this particular novel. They foresee a coming global catastrophe created not by ecological destruction, but rather by an addictive technological neuropathology. That’s great, but like I said it doesn’t need to be in this novel. When a false reality is far more enjoyable than a real one why should we care about the real one? Good question. Just don’t ask it here.
Narrator Todd McLaren, who I first encountered in Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon |READ OUR REVIEW|, is very talented. He mispronounce one or two words. “Concomitant.” being one of them. McLaren isn’t called to do many accents here, but he gives voice to a fairly large cast of characters. There are also several scenes in which he is required to portray a man giving impassioned speeches to crowds. These don’t sound like shouts, thankfully, but instead give the impression of a strained voice, speaking so as to be heard.
Posted by Jesse Willis
A Bite of Stars, A Slug of Time, and Thou, that terrific radio show on Resonance FM presents another terrific story, this one from the September-October 1974 issue of “Worlds of If” magazine. On the podcast Magnus Anderson joins the Slug Lords to talk about Arsen Darnay’s short story, “Such Is Fate” – which is a strong SF story that really isn’t very SF at all, but which is really quite good nonetheless.
Episode 12 – Such Is Fate
By Arsen Darnay; Read by Elisha Sessions
Podcast – 60 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: A Bite Of Stars, A Slug Of Time, And Thou
Podcast: September 30th, 2008
A gypsy, a sailor, and a tank of liquefied gas all combine to retell an oft told tale.
Posted by Jesse Willis