El Coyote Gordo (supergee) wrote,
El Coyote Gordo

Falling off the shockwave

Ken MacLeod complains that the sf community is full of people who hate politics, who want to find a system to solve social problems instead of letting political processes work on them. The Horrible Example might be Isaac Asimov's Foundation, in which victory goes not to those with the political virtues--the strongest, best-armed, loudest, most persistent, or most numerous--but to the side that has the best map of the situation.

That's what I love about sf. I have a particularly virulent form of the antipolitical condition. My mother believed that sex is a basically positive natural force, one that is seriously fraught and thus must be handled carefully but is a Good Thing, and that assertion/aggression is a filthy animalistic form of behavior whose necessity reflects very badly on who- or whatever created us. My mother said it; I believe it; that settles it, but in my more lucid moments I realize that while our approach is better than the more common opposite view, it would be still better to accept both.

But I don't feel like the Lone Ranger. Fortunately, the sf community is inhospitable to the theocrats who want the world run by the Fundamentalist God, that elderly Caucasian gaseous vertebrate who made men in His own image and women almost as good and who bitterly regrets His tragic blunder of making the penis convex and the anus concave. We are, however, more accepting of those who want the world run by other Higher Powers: the Holy Dialectic, the Holy Market, or the paradoxical God of Godless Evolution who can be followed by a full understanding of our nature as evolved animals. A more sophisticated view recognizes that none of these views is entirely mistaken and believes that we can create a synthesis, such as Asimov's psychohistory (which, as Donald A. Wollheim said, is like Marxism except that it works). That dream inspired at least one sf nerd to begin studies that led to a Nobel Prize, but we don't have psychohistory yet, and we may never have it.

One consequence of the antipolitical worldview is the dream of the Man on Horseback, the Hero who will ride in, kick ass, and run things right. I am too cynical or realistic (I forget which) to believe in him, but I have some hope for the milder version, the sneaky Hari Seldon-like agent who cracks open the door and lets the light in. John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider is my favorite version of that particular dream.

And now we have Wikileaks, sneaking into America's diplomatic apparatus and offering the delicious promise of doing the same to a major bank. (I strongly recommend Charles Stross's take on this.) Note icon of Wile E. leering delightedly and treating it as an early Christmas present.

I love the first 95% of The Shockwave Rider. It's got Brunner's usual wit and worldbuilding genius. It's got teamwork. (Brunner and Spider Robinson do the best teamwork porn evar.) Then, as such things do, it winds up with a John Galt speech, though of course much shorter, much better written, and of an opposite orientation. We will have a command economy, with all the problems of a command economy made to vanish by the Magic Computer, and we will sell it to the masses with a Viguerie poll rotated 180 degrees.

Still, I am not cynical or realistic enough to assume that it has to end badly. Go, Wikileaks, Go!
Tags: spying

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