Re: Worst Hugos Ever?
- From: "David E. Siegel" <siegel@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2008 12:35:01 -0700 (PDT)
On Mar 13, 2:13 pm, Gene Ward Smith <g...@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
"David E. Siegel" <sie...@xxxxxxx> wrote in news:77878951-3fac-4189-aa7a-
I tend to agree. It is interesting (to me at least) to analyze both
its merits and its problems, and to point out the holes in the logic
as presented -- perhaps in significant part because I found the logic
so very persuasive when i first read it (at about age 15, IIRC).
Huh. I first read it when I was twelve, and the arguments struck me as the
usual baloney at that time; I took them no more seriously than arguments in
favor of cannibalism. The book was my first big disappointment with
Heinlein (I found Rocket Ship Galileo disappointing also, but not so
actively annoying.) My reaction when the movie came out was positive; I
thought it fixed some of the problems I recalled from the book. When I
finally re-read it, after having studied philosophy extensively, I was
appalled. I might not ever have done so except for all the people running
down the movie and lauding the book, which did not accord with my memories
at all. So it goes...
On thinking back i may well have been rather younger than i said
above. But I found many of RAH's pontifications presented as fact
persuasive when i first read them, and only later realized how many
holes they papered over.
Hmm. I did not find the movie in any way an improvement on the book,
with the sole exception of correcting the IMO illogical assumption
that the MI would be all male. But Haldeman, in The Forever War,
handled that far better than the movie did -- indeed it is better
handled even in David Weber's Honor Harrington books.
I found the book an attempt to make serious points and tackle serious
questions, plus a fairly successful attempt to tell an interesting
story (the lectures did bog it down a bit, but not quite too much) The
movie told a less interesting story, where it differed - it was IMO
far less successful in depicting characters that I cared about at all
-- and its background assumptions and its image of the Bugs is far
less sensible and coherent than the ones in the Book, open to
challenge as those may be. Enough about the movie, for me.
I suspect that RAH wanted to think (and least on
the "wouldn't it be cool if" level) that sociology and indeed morals
and ethics could and should eventually acquire the same sort of
mathematical underpinning that Ballistics and mechanical engineering
had -- and that if they did, his own strongly held ethical opinions
would be provably correct.
There's a huge gap in logic between mathematical sociology and mathematical
ethics. As Wayne and Bill point out, for the latter it makes more sense to
assume they aren't talking about what we would presently describe as
ethical theory. As for an sfnal version of the idea that there is One True
Ethics and science can find it, I think A. E. van Vogt is more convincing
(in null-A) than Heinlein.
There is indeed a huge gap there. Whether RAH believed, or hoped, or
merely wished that it could be crossed, i can't say. Or perhaps he
merely found it interesting or useful from a story perspective to
assume that it could be crossed. But I think that the reader is meant
to take the "mathematical science" in ST as covering purely ethical
problems -- consider that the question of whether one unreleased
prisoner is sufficient reason to restart a war is something that Reid
instructs a student to address and 'prove" mathematically. There is no
suggestion of any limitation of the applicability of this mathematical
theory in the book.
Whether this is convincing is another matter, of course.
(As for Null-A I never found it convincing in the slightest. But I
encountered it later, and only after I had read Damon Knight's
devastating review in In Search of Wonder. Besides, van Vogt's style
never seemed nearly as persuasive -- nor as enjoyable -- to me as
Heinlein's did. That, of course, probably says as much about me as it
does about the authors.
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