The SFFaudio Podcast #728 – Ministry Of Disturbance by H. Beam Piper – read by Phil Chenevert for Librivox. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (1 hour 55 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Evan Lampe, and Trish E. Matson
Talked about on today’s show:
Astounding, December 1958, why John W. Campbell bought this story, because psychic powers are real for no reason, a whipping scene for Weird Tales, robots he can take or leave, precognition, a very weird story, a day in the life of the emperor of the galaxy, a galaxy at peace, manufacture churn, a momentous day, more changes today than in the last 600 years, very ossified and stagnant, i went outside and looked at the leaves, maybe things are going to change in the future, the anticipation effect, a protest, maybe he’s going to get overthrown, no, all ginned up, some degree of power was taken from him, he wants to be replaced by a robot, the council of counts, staged a quiet coup, change who has authority, not a Russian Revolution, eventually if this technology works out, faster than light communication, an ansible, possibly time travel, courtiers around power, towards expansion, a lot of theses going on, surprisingly unfocused and yet pretty good for what it is, historical philosophical, Murder In The Gun Room, Little Fuzzy, Space Viking, he’s setting stuff up, parallel universe stories, paratime, very Oswald Spengler, a decadent empire that’s static, engineering fake plots, manufacturing disturbances, too ossified, if you have enough problems the problems solve each other, Wag The Dog (1997), domestic problems? gin up foreign problems!, Roe vs Wade, Paul’s not convinced, there was no application of heat, a tool, Paul’s going to shutup for a bit, a Machiavellian story, strange guy, weird writer, not academically trained, brilliant guy, a self-taught man, smoking all those cigarettes, drinks some coffee, conjures up a whole galaxy of intrigue, he’s our emperor Paul the 22nd, Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, neo-barbarians, same kind of thinking about civilization and barbarism, Philip K. Dick, obsessed, imperial decadence, how do we keep a civilization going?, points to the frontier, some kind of disorder, they need to expand, Toynbee, Time Out Of Joint, Ibn Khaldun, dynasties last three generations, when empires begin, decadence inevitably comes in, various empires, how top heavy the bureaucracy is, automation, class conflict, how this student revolt is a sign, institution built up, technologically significant, students upset they fire my professor, A World Out Of Time, snake-cat, hydraulic empires, contaminating influence, they’re old and decadent, too ossified, stave off, the sack of Rome in 410, the tone, he’s having it both ways, very jokey, very humorous, he’s thought a lot about it, Queen Elizabeth died, people care, Caitlin Johnstone, doubling down on the monarchy, Charles the III is the king of Australia, Rodericks and Pauls, 43 generations?, semi-competent, just assumed, the only way to manage a galactic empire, in our own history, he’s having some fun, how seriously should we take all this, the robots, starts and ends with feelings of the robots, it might be silly, treating robots like people vs. treating people like robots, if so many people didn’t act like robots, poor me, i have to Machiavelli people all day long, promote the incompetent, economic systems, industrialization of society, cogs in machines, just a fun story, he’s his own author insert in the main character, he likes to write characters who manipulate, turning rye into whiskey, so clever, the point of the story seems to be they’re in a very fine balance, the solution is to promote the incompetent, he’s having it both ways, this is impossible, over analyzing it?, H. Beam Piper is the working man’s science fiction Tolkien, that makes a lot of sense, potatoes and pipeweeds and saurons, he built elvish, capable of spinning up all this stuff, we’re told he killed himself, he was interested in this stuff and it shows, interesting secondary worlds, how many of Philip K. Dick stories are set in the same world?, 2?, two Doc Labyrinth stories, Nick And The Glimmung and Galactic Pot-Healer, a lot like Asimov, galactic empire, robots, not academicy, a professor of chemistry, Larry Niven, a rich kid, Heinlein: an officer, Piper’s situation, he’s not an officer, he has no authority, I could be emperor, also emperors are silly, engaged with the idea, what makes it science fiction, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, technology never changes anything in Middle Earth, last decimal places, maybe there’s something to do now, some barbarian lands to conquer, galactic geography, China not expanding, shaped like a pork chop, a communications issue, Omnitrend’s “Universe”, expansion beyond limits of communication, a struggle with motivation, what it all means, infected Jesse’s dreams, the central idea, leveling off to a certain level of technology, becoming stable, looking at our own society, technological changes have great effects, birth control pill, social stratification, granaries, there’s no technology trees, the game has run out of ideas, technological change is what changes society, including food, a David Graeber essay, jetpacks, flying cars, going back to the moon, internet hasn’t got us to the moon, where is our post scarcity, Jesse is so close to post-scarcity, the lawyers, the ideology and the institutions get in the way, a Byzantine state, your job is to vote, paid so you can vote properly, the communist planet, he didn’t carry a weapon but if he did it would have been a slide-rule, everybody is the same, a cul-de-sac, stating facts about what’s happening, is it good for the company or is it good for me?, the inverse of Foundation, explode the contradictions, make Charles III the king and see what happens, a very serious book, Claudius The God by Robert Graves, engendering revolt, an accelerationist, silly rules, Messalina’s infidelities, he’ll get assassinated too, a very serious book, people thinking they can control and guide events, smart and lucky, Frank Herbert and Dune, dukes and plans and wheels within wheels, the trappings of technologies, interstellar travel, kings on every planet, a manipulator at the emperor’s level, wheels and airplanes, drugs, physics and robots, still dealing with the effects of life extension, fantasy stories tend to go the opposite direction, new evil coming from the east, Saruman making orcs is a technological change, Bene Gesserit yoga stuff, the cast of magic, nobody sensible, the rise of a god, Slan is the rise of a god species, The Golden Man, eugenics, it even has a map, most science fiction novels don’t have maps, Dune has a map, the tension between lack of technology and the effects of technology, science fiction is about progress and change, the breeding program is at the center of the story, sociology, Dune is science fiction in the same way that this is, at core they’re both about technologies, four shows on Dune, a purer example, very interesting buy every light, full of ideas, his Hyborian Age essay for his universe, we’re grading on a scale here, it isn’t like what happened to the Queen last week, when is the plot gonna start?, all of these things were the plot, a surprising story structure, when the title was going to come in, the minister of disturbance was the emperor, why we need a king or a queen in Canada, she doesn’t visit much that’s good, you need a head of state for reasons, forces of stability, a horrible human being, she didn’t effect Canada’s politics, the personal fortunes have survived European in drama of the 20th century, ridiculous, when you don’t think about it, Charles on my money, the Albertans aren’t going to like that, significant in the media, their wealth, public dole, the emperor is not symbolic in the story, more like Elizabeth I, historians or nerds like Paul, Augustus: not a force of stability, Hadrian, Trajan, build walls everywhere, build that wall!, good emperors and bad emperors, long term stabilizing forces, the ones who show up in the 9th grade history books are chaos agents, Antonius Pious, the most boring reign, no revolts, to his credit, an even keel, Winston Churchill is a chaos agent, commando units, trying to make this war happen, George W. Bush: chaos agent, Wanli (a late Ming emperor), hanging out with the concubines, refused to go to meetings, chose not to rule, 17th century crises, the agenda is full, he wants to take that break, the wife, the kid, he wants a robot emperor, another Asimov story, one of the big three or whatever, H. Beam Piper is weird and odd, commentary from the sidelines, Paul Krugman’s not going to become an H. Beam Piper fanboy, few do, Junkyard Planet/Cosmic Computer, on LibriVox, muting or Jesse talking?, Evan’s first Piper, some of the themes are so simuilar to some of the Philip K. Dick was writing, a connected conversation, Dick would never do it this way, a very tired robot emperor, The Last Of The Masters, all these meetings, really well done, so much going on, if The West Wing didn’t suck, I am a reflection of the reality we wish we had, everybody is still going to be smoking 4000 years in the future, coffee is a technology, cigarettes is a technology, vaping, some sort of reaction to it, engaging with the change of technology, Augustus and Caesar, intellecutal technologies, that amazing move Napoleon made, liberate the rest of Europe from Kings, an imperial dynasty, ideas are technologies, they control your thoughts, they convinced me pumpkin spice latte, people abbreviating: PSL, not all technologies are good for us, eventually technologies mature, Bryan Alexander, matured technologies, the AK-47, between 1947 and today, working on a couple of systems, the AR-15 works differently, coil guns, a slug going down a rail with a bunch of capacitors, its not in the constitution, a fully automatic railgun is not a firearm, ATF, Gauss rifles, internal combustion leveled off in the 1990s, sailboats aren’t radically changing, tech can stable off and robots can’t replace the emperor, a massive revolution, supporting the ministry of disturbance, the reviews on GoodReads, 3/5, hard to review a story like this, a manifesto, these are the things I would like to talk about, Little Fuzzy, seed vs. Foundation, they can’t make fire and they can’t talk, the talk and build a fire rule, Murder In The Gunroom, a locked room mystery, gun collector, gun nut, shot himself with a gun, a lawyer becomes a private detective solving a firearms collector, Omnilingual, Philip K. Dick thinks about how cruel his wife is, mundane things like cigarettes, focus the attention, red herrings, a pleasant fellow, Lord Sugar, the House Of Lords, you scumbags are all jealous, taking pictures of your yacht, scum, all the poors are scum, in 2022, Poul Anderson’s No Truce With Kings, espers, the tyranny of feudal structures, post apocalyptic America, you’re thinking of a sailboat.