The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of

May 21, 15:50 by John Frost
Comments on Lavie's review of Disch.
May 21, 18:40 by Thomas Reeves
I'm still glad I didn't read this book. I'd heard some quotes from it before, and that the man is wrong on most things seems even clearer to me. Yet after reading this review it sounds like it was clear to him too. It sounds like he was just having fun with whatever odd theory he threw out, not intending a genuine or plausible history of SF.

Still "The Cold Equations" as a story of punishing girls for going on spaceships? That strikes me as a tad goofy. Godwin might have purposely chosen a girl, but that was likely to evoke more sympathy. Judging from my Dad's era if a boy did something stupid they were just dang dummies who caused their own problems. At the very least they were expected to be "big boys" and bravely accept that the rules of science required them to die. Women were allowed to be a bit more "irrational", being upset at your own death isn't all that irrational to me mind you, so if he purposely chose a girl that'd probably be why. Dumping off a male stowaway would be less drama.
May 21, 19:08 by Chris Dodson
Gotta agree with Camden on this one. Far from being "clear-sighted and significant," I thought the book was riddled with contradictions and filled with some of the most crackpot ideas I've ever seen in a work of criticism. The rocket ship is the genre's primary icon? The starship Enterprise as schoolroom and office?

About the only thing I do agree with is his evaluation of John Norman, although I wouldn't go so far as to call his books "dangerous." Seedy and unimaginative, yes; frighteningly dangerous, no. That section reminded me a little of those folks who blamed the Columbine massacre on Marilyn Manson and The Matrix.
May 21, 20:07 by Thomas Reeves
I don't read John Norman, but in a sense I might actually agree he is dangerous. Not in the "he'll collapse civilization way" more in the Turner Diaries way.

I've had no contact with this on a personal level, but it seems there really are Gor fans who prey on women who hate themselves and then make out whatever dehumanizing fantasy the books helped formulate for them. Now likely they would've done some twisted violent thing of their own initiative, but I think in some cases a book can be an instruction manual on doing violence more effectively. I don't know enough about Norman to judge on that.
May 22, 06:49 by Marissa Lingen
Was there anything about this book the reviewer didn't find just absolutely wonderful? For example, when Disch decided that Octavia Butler was essentially John Norman, did that make total sense to you? Did you find it absolutely necessary to hear snarky personal gossip about Theodore Sturgeon and his wife? It's always dangerous to swallow someone else's literary theories whole. Even Clute said in his review of the book that Disch was playing with elliptical billiard balls.
May 22, 12:14 by David Bratman
Camden and ChrisDodson are correct - "The Cold Equations" isn't an object lesson to women. It's supposed to be a tragedy, and the more innocent the innocent victim is, the greater the tragedy. As the other character, the pilot, says, if the stowaway had been a big tough man he'd have ejected him without a second thought. Making her a young girl is intended to make her less expendable, not more.

David G. Hartwell has written that if you don't understand this story, you don't understand SF, and in that case there are a lot of self-proclaimed SF experts who don't understand it, starting with Disch and with the late Damon Knight, who entertained himself making a list of objects on the spacecraft that could have been ejected for weight rather than a passenger. Knight may have proven Godwin a sloppy writer, but he's oblivious to the story's point.
May 22, 15:40 by Camden
Damon Knight, who entertained himself making a list of objects on the spacecraft that could have been ejected for weight rather than a passenger.


Thomas R: Well I can almost see that. In least in a tongue in cheek way that's kind of a point. The anti-girl thing just struck me as goofy. Plus there's plenty of overt sexism of SF in that age, even Susan Calvin has to give up men to have a career, so you don't have to go hunting for subtle sexism.
May 24, 22:55 by Mike Brotherton
I was telling a friend of mine that I'd met Godwin's daughter at a convention one time.

My friend asked me how much she weighed.

[True story!]
May 25, 13:17 by David Gardner
I thought the book was riddled with contradictions and filled with some of the most crackpot ideas I've ever seen in a work of criticism.

Having survived both a BA and an MA in English, and having been subjected to tons of the garbage that goes under the general title of "criticism," I'm largely forced to agree with you here. On the other hand, I think the value of most of this stuff, if it's reasonable well thought out, is that it makes one think about the topic in ways that perhaps don't usually occur.

I had a professor during my BA who very proudly announced on the first night of an SF Lit class that he was "a card carrying member of the American Communist Party," and that anyone who disagreed with him was "unlikely to get an A."

I had thought that class was going to be a blow-off; I'd been reading SF for decades. Instead, it was one of the hardest classes I had, harder even than most of my MA classes, because I chose to challenge him, and to do that I had to challenge myself. It was a valuable experience.
   

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