Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

A Few for Thursday

with 6 comments

* The apparatus of free will in medieval theology allowed for a world not unlike our own. Free choice condemned the vast majority of human beings to a hopeless fate, while a privileged elite gained rewards — in both cases, despite the fact that God had predetermined everything, theologians were confident that everyone had gotten what they deserved. God’s justice was vindicated, and his glory assured. Our version is less grandiose. We want to vindicate something called “the market,” which always makes the right choices if only we allow it to, and in place of the glory of God we have the shifting numbers in various market indices and economic indicators. We are also content to let people waste the one life they have in this world, rather than imagine them suffering beyond death through all eternity. Another essential micro-essay from the great Adam Kotsko.

* “TFA recruits based on a social justice and community service message,” says Van Tol. “We think that’s deceptive and doesn’t get at what TFA is really about,” which is about dismantling democratic institutions of public education with market-driven education reform.

* Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, and the rise of “Actually…” Journalism. More Nate Silver bashing from CJR. From my perspective the fight between journalists and wonks is shaping up to be something of an Alien vs. Predator situation. Whoever wins, we lose…

* Tyler Cowen attacked during class. Unreal.

* Misremembering Kitty Genovese.

* The Hugo Schwyzer longread no one wanted is finally here.

* Your yearly reminder that your taxes could be much simpler than they are.

* And this reasonably good list of 50 essential SF texts is making the rounds, with ten or so I’ve yet to get to. But a list like this without any Octavia Butler does the work of debunking itself, alas.

6 Responses

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  1. Hey Gerry – what’s a good starting point for Octavia Butler? Anything else you would add to that list?

    Mike Beggs

    March 27, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    • KINDRED is her most mainstream book, but my real favorite is the Xenogenesis trilogy (DAWN, ADULTHOOD RITES, IMAGO). I’d start with either of those.

      A lot of the additions I’d make are second books for people on the list: the next Alfred Bester book, more and more PKD and Le Guin, more KSR, etc. Writers that aren’t on the list at all that I’d tell people to read: Olaf Stapledon, James Tiptree, Margaret Atwood, Adam Roberts, Iain Banks…


      March 27, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      • For novels, I’d say definitely Kindred. The Xenogensis trilogy is great, but it’s kinda hard, and (for me, at least) the latter entries aren’t as good as the first. Whereas Kindred is damn near perfect. And you might emphasize it’s not a *mainstream* book — it’s a time-travel plot.

        But another good starting point are her three brilliant mid-eighties short stories — “Speech Sounds”, “Bloodchild”, and “The Evening and the Morning and the Night”. They give a real sense of what her work is like in a short space. And while she wasn’t primarily a short story writer, those are brilliant — the first two won (IMS) a Nebula, and a Hugo & Neblua: which is to say, most of her SF awards were (ironically) for her short work. Anyway they’re brilliant and also a good starting place.

        Stephen Frug

        March 27, 2014 at 7:26 pm

  2. Yeah, most authors seem to be on there through representative works. Both the big Besters are on there though. (I never quite clicked with ‘Stars My Destination’ so I haven’t read ‘Demolished Man’ yet, but maybe I should.) Banks is actually on there with ‘Player of Games’. Margaret Atwood should definitely be there. I am a huge fan of Adam Roberts’ critical writing but I haven’t yet read any of his novels, though I really should.

    Recent stuff I’ve loved that’s not on there – Ian Macdonald, Ken Macleod, Stross, and the second coming of M John Harrison.

    Mike Beggs

    March 27, 2014 at 7:24 pm

  3. Oh, and the two Nate Silver links go to the same place; the text makes it look like there ought to be two links there. FYI.

    Stephen Frug

    March 27, 2014 at 7:28 pm

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