What're you readin'


Great anticapitalist sci-fi palate cleansers:

For space opera socialism and weaponized board gaming, read Iain M Banks’ The Player of Games.

For interplanetary anarchosyndicalism, read Ursula K Leguin’s The Dispossessed.

PKD does rule too though. My favorite is A Scanner Darkly.


Nice! I’ll put 'em on the list, I’m on a reading (rainbow) roll lately.

Probably going to read Ubik first - that old, comfortable recliner of a novel that makes me question my perception of reality. Also he has to put a quarter in his own door to leave his apartment.

A Scanner Darkly does rule though, one of my favorite books ever.


Hell yeah, Ubik is my second favorite.


Decided to get around to reading The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, since I’ve had the book for like over a decade, when an old roommate left it behind. Also looked intriguing.

So it starts really good. It was written in 1974 by a guy that went through the Vietnam War, and the entire book is basically about that experience. A war is started with an alien race nobody has seen, the first half of the book is spent training in exo-suits, then they actually travel to a planet and wipe out a village. The government/military is presented as being pretty evil, drafting everyone of value into the army and using a form of hypnosis to put troops into a murderous frenzy before the start of combat. There’s also some interesting stuff about time dilation, and the way in which they are sometimes fighting enemies from their past, and sometimes fighting enemies from a decade in the future, with technology that’s advanced accordingly.

UH THEN?? THEY GET BACK TO EARTH and it’s the far-flung year of 2020. Due to the time dilation, they’ve only been out at war for two years, but back on earth, thirty-something years has passed. Haldeman is going for a “troops return from world to find themselves utterly alienated culturally” kind of thing, and on the base level that works, but god, the details are a little wild.

So immediately we’re told that the population grew absurdly large in the 30 years he’s been gone, to the tune of like 13 billion. Then 4 billion died in the Ration Wars, when there wasn’t enough food to go around and wars were fought to feed everyone. Once that was over, calories became the new currency system (which I kinda liked), and farming’s kind of the only job that matters, so all space everywhere is made up of farms - there are no forests or national parks or anything. Also, it’s impossible to find jobs, since there’s way more jobs than people, so there’s a huge black market for buying other people’s jobs, with the arbiter getting a cut. So far, beyond the crazy population spike, that isn’t unbelievable - The Expanse has a similar situation with everyone on Earth on a UBI due to the lack of jobs.

So the thing is, though, the homosexual population is exploded in the last few decades, leading to a thing called “homolife,” which, is just being gay. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that homolife is in fact intentionally being driven by the government as a means of population control. So, people in the book just become gay, either willingly or without explanation, until by the book’s end the vast majority of Earth’s population is gay, and the protagonist is THE LAST STRAIGHT STANDING, spat upon by the gays in this hellish topsy-turvey future dystopia. They call his kind “breeders.”

So um!!! There’s a few problematic ideas being tossed about there. Feels like the kind of thing TVTropers would love to death.

Don’t know if I’m going to finish it. Basically he’s re-enlisted because he has no other options in this Earth gone mad, so, I guess we’re back to the grind. And I do like the war side of the book, so, might be worth it.

There was one bit I liked from the super-bleak Earth section, which reminded me of Garrick’s speech about Cardassia at the end of DS9:

The main thing that was wrong was that everything seemed to have gotten just a little worse, or at best remained the same. You would have predicted a least a few facets of everyday life would improve markedly in twenty-two years. Her father contented the War was behind it all: any person who showed a shred of talent was sucked up by UNEF; the very best fell to the Elite Conscription Act and wound up being cannon fodder.

It was hard not to agree with him. Wars in the past often accelerated social reform, provided technological benefits, even sparked artistic activity. This one, however, seemed tailor-made to provide none of these positive by-products. Such improvements as had been made on late-twentieth-century technology were – like tachyon bombs and warships two kilometers long – at best, interesting developments of things that only required the synergy of money and existing engineering techniques. Social reform? The world was technically under martial law.


Forever War is definitely a product of it’s time, and Haldeman has expressed regret about the weird messaging about homosexuality, if that helps at all. I think it’s worth reading as a “see how vets who were fucked up about Nam we’re trying to deal in 1974” book, but obviously that has some major issues that can’t be excused.


Yeah, that’s what I read when I was looking into whether or not Haldeman was secretly an Orson Scott Card-type.

Does feel like he went way too hard on the dystopia of Earth a mere 30 years in the future, though. Like, there are roving gangs of rapists on every street, there are thugs waiting to assault you in literally every elevator, and farmers are regularly attacked by raiders in armored trucks. Seemed like a lot, especially now that it is 2020 and everything is horrible, but nowhere near that horrible.

Just sets off some alarms in my brain when he’s using an anti-gay conspiracy theory out of InfoWars to show the moral and cultural degradation of future Earth.


I’d wondered for years why Heinlein liked a book that said the military was bad. Heinlein hating gay folks even more than he loves military dictatorships makes perfect sense.


I mean, it’s pretty decent for 1974 for most of the book. During the whole first half, gay soldiers exist openly and sleep around just the same as all the others, and nobody has any issue with it. I actually liked that quite a bit, how incidental and not relevant it was that some of his fellow soldiers were homosexual.

But yeah, then you get to this homolife thing and it’s pretty clear that the main reason Haldeman introduced gay characters at all was to show that they were in the minority at the start, then became the majority by the end, for the purposes of further alienating the main character.

One of the big horror-ey moments near the end of the book is his good friend accepting the homolife treatment from the government and turning himself gay, just so he can fit in with the rest of society.

I get that his overall desire is to show that the world at the end of the book is unrecognizable to the main character, it’s just a bizarre idea to use for that purpose - that the government would have a sinister plan to make straights a minority for population control reasons. It’d be funny if times weren’t what they were and ridiculous anti-lgbt conspiracy shit like this is all over the place.


So is his unit calling him “the old queer” yet?

If I recall correctly the conclusion puts a very weird cherry on the “uh…” sundae of that whole thread (I reread it pretty recently after reading it (and the comic adaptation with slightly updated dates that we’ve still caught up with by now?) as an adolescent): he and the other soldier who survive the whole war retire to some resort planet/habitat for The Straights to be a Couple Unit and some other veterans decide I Think We’ll Be Straight Too! And go with them. They all live happily ever after in their segregated space, cause how could they ever fully adjust to homoworld?

Haldeman’s method for humanizing his characters has always been Okay But How Do They Fuck? so of course What If the Whole World Fucked Different Than You?! is the most alienating thing a young him could think of?

Still like the way he concieves of a lot of shit? He manages to encode the “long stretches of boredom punctuated by brief spikes of terror” rhythm you always hear about re: combat into the cludgy interplay of his tech and setpieces. But then there’s that other thing always simmering in the background.


I guess it is now time for me to read The Society of the Spectacle.

It’s me, the guy who made a documentary with a scene about Situationism, but has not read their most popular text. Here’s hoping I didn’t get it ALL WRONG!


I’m almost done with the second book of the Demon Cycle that started with the Warded man. I enjoyed the first book as mild power fantasy about trying to systems of complacency and having the courage to explore the world but the second book started to make some patterns apparent and not very good ones. The worst is its getting to casual with using sexual violence as a narrative tool. Right now I think any major female character has suffered these “trials” before getting to be baddass in their own rights. Because of this I do not want to reccomend them at all but it’s been ages since I sat down and tried to enjoy reading for the sake of reading. The yarn itself is serviceable but it leaves a very bad taste. Fell free to offer suggestions for other trashy fantasy reads to read before bed.


Society of the Spectacle update: Been slowly making my way through it. I tried to read it once several years ago and completely bounced off it, but this time I’m coming to it with a knowledge of marxist theory and terminology that’s making the book far more digestible.

It’s still a very difficult read. Debord himself once said that he threw red herrings and smokescreens in the book on purpose because the authorities can read the book too and he didn’t want to give them all the answers. But I’m mostly tracking the book so far. It makes a lot more sense once you escape the first chapter, which is mostly pithy catchphrases and provocative abstraction.

So far I think my film did not get it all wrong, so that’s a relief!


I’m looking forward to the new Susan Choi


Today I snagged a copy of the first two volumes of Book of the New Sun.

It’s me, the guy who buys your book when you die.


Had a short beach vacation and finally managed to read (in a single day) the rather short The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which has been sitting on my bedside table for like 18 months. It was good.

Then needing more reading material I bought this massive volume of all the Earthsea books collected. Never read any Ursula LeGuin, to my shame. Got through the first four books. It is fantastic.


Le Guin is so good! I’m halfway through The Dispossessed and loving it. If I ever get the fantasy itch, I’m definitely jumping into Earthsea.


I could not get into the dispossessed at all but the new Susan Choi was good


The only Le Guinn I have read, is Left Hand of Darkness. And it was really good. I bought my mom the first Earthsea book.


Introduction is all “I meant to write a two page aside and wound up writing a book” and “so few of my sources are available in English translation that I felt compelled to include quotes from my own in unusually large volume for this kind of work.”

I’m sure everyone here is as excited as I am.


The author of Warrior Churchmen of Medieval England, 1000-1250 is in the list of Special Thanks I may soon locate the center of the academic circlejerk. :face_with_monocle: :boot: :gloves: :goggles: :andknuckles: