Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scalzi Has a "New" Book Out...*snore*

(*This is not a review, I have not received an advance copy nor will I pay for a copy of The Collapsing Empire.*)

There is no such thing as a completely original story.

That's the truth of it.

Any story is really just made up of patches of other stories like a quilt.

The background of the Foundation itself was lifted from the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Asimov was the first to set it in space so congrats there Issac but I think it's fair to raise the question of "how good was it?"

Well...Dune, it ain't.

I've read Dune repeatedly since I first read it in college during the nineteen-eighties. I made it through Foundation exactly once.

Except for The Mule (who wasn't in Foundation) I can't really remember any of the characters. They all fail the Cataline Character Test.  Which goes like this, without describing anything they did or what they look like, tell me about the characters.

Nothing, I'm drawing a blank.  Leto, Paul, Stilgar, Jessica, The Barron, no problem telling you about them but I can't really tell you anything about Hari Seldon and that guy is my fucking avatar.

I suppose I should cut Asimov a little slack.  Foundation started life as a  novella in Astounding, I doubt if Issac thought he was creating a gold standard.  But he did.  Simply with the concept itself.

But we should take a moment to examine that concept.  And the bottomline is that it's based on a flawed paradigm.  That when the Roman Empire fell, civilization collapsed into barbarism.  

Yeah, actually not so much.

Celts and Iberians who had been subjugated and exploited by Roman governors stopped being  subjugated and exploited.  In truth the general standard of living went up once the Romans were out of the picture.

True you didn't have any mega-building projects going on in Rome anymore but that had never been beneficial to the outlying provinces anyway.

The Romans themselves had destroyed their own culture with early and ill-advised experiments in open borders and multiculturalism.   The massive immigrant invasion came in the form of slaves.  Roman tradition held that you paid your slaves a small salary or Peculium with a view towards buying their own manumission.  Once freed, the newly minted freedman became his former owner's client and thus raised the former owner's status within Rome.  The problem being that the Freedman never really abandoned his own culture.  The fact that he was now a citizen (of any rank) debased Rome's.  By 300 AD Roman culture would have been completely unrecognizable to Gaius Julius Caesar.

These themes were not explored in Foundation and I am reasonably certain that they aren't examined in Scalzi's new book.

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster-than-light travel is impossible―until the discovery of the Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.

Riding the Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war―and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal―but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, the Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals―a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency―must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

As you can see it is the complete lack of multi-culturalism that is going to cause the collapse.

Asimov's un-examined premise is that of  "mysterious civilization rot".  Hey don't ask me why because I won't like the answers if I ask them, this "mysterious civilization rot" just magically started happening one day.

Asimov's premise was that while civilization rot couldn't be reversed and indeed would have to run it's course the ensuing Dark Ages could be shortened.  This was done by re-creating the events and institutions that ended the (*non-existent*) Dark Ages and lead to the Renaissance. First assemble all scientific knowledge, the Foundation shares its technology with the Four Kingdoms while referring to it as religious truth. Maintenance technicians comprise Scientism's priesthood, trained on Terminus. A majority of the priests themselves are unaware of the true importance of their "religion," referring to advanced technology as "holy" artifacts and tools. The religion is not suppressed by the secular elite of the Four Kingdoms, reminiscent of Western European rulers of the early medieval period, who use it to consolidate their power over the zealous populaces.  

Basically, Asimov, a devote  atheist, created a fake and atheistic religion to substitute the Christian missions that "civilized the barbarians" and paved the way for medievalism which lead the way to the Renaissance and hence to a return to learning which lead to the enlightenment and then us.

It is a story of inevitability and than give people a lot of comfort.

It's all bullshit of course.  

The two events that lead to the rise of the West were the Crusades against Islam and the Black Death.

The Crusades were a barbarian incursion like any other but it did give our ancestors a taste for Arab fashions for a while.  We took up poetry and accurate record keeping but we were headed for a high population status quo like China or Rome itself for that matter.  Nobody needed to invent any kind of labor saving device because there was always plenty of labor...Until there suddenly wasn't.

While this has finally been recognized by revisionist historians, they have tried to claim that it was the Black Death's causing a loss of faith in the Church that lead to the rise of the West which is absolute and complete bullshit if anything they were more religious than ever.

Anyway back to Scalzi's latest.  As you can see from the blurb it's basically a combination of  Asimov's Foundation and Bujold's Barrayar.  Except it will have plenty of strong women, snark and Alpha Male hatred.  If you were expecting anything original or thought provoking you don't know John Scalzi.


ghostfromplanetspook said...

If you don't mind me asking, could you do more posts on the medieval period?

Cataline Sergius said...

I never had that request before but sure, no problem.

Sillon Bono said...

I agree with "ghostfromplanetspook", please write about the medieval period, I found your comments in this post about the transition from the Roman empire most interesting.