A Deepness in the Sky

The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Back in February, the Libertarian Futurist Society announced the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award finalists. Over the weekend, on March 31st, they announced the 2012 finalists for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Novel.

Below is the most of the press release.

io9 picked up the press release as well; the comments offer up a predictable ton of FAIL, so you might want to read them for a good laugh or avoid them if you have a low tolerance for stupidity and ignorance.

The first finalist on the list, The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge, was reviewed by Matthew Dawson back in February. But we still need reviews of the rest of the finalists, preferably before the winner is voted on.

As a reminder to our readers, we are open to submissions of reviews (as well as news, articles, interviews), whether you’d like to contribute regularly, irregularly, or just once.

So if you’d like to read and review one of the finalists, nominees, past winners, or another piece of fiction, we’d be happy to consider it for publication.

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The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

The Children of the Sky is the long-anticipated sequel to the Vernor Vinge’s Hugo Award–winning A Fire Upon The Deep. It is set in his Zones of Thought universe, which imagines a galaxy divided into regions that support different levels of technology and intelligence, from the easy FTL travel and posthuman Powers of the Transcend to the appropriately named Unthinking Depths at the galactic core.

The first time I read this book, I didn’t like it. I, like many others, was expecting a fast-paced adventure spanning the galaxy, such as A Fire Upon The Deep. Instead, the setting is limited to Tine’s World. I was looking for a satisfying resolution to the menace of the approaching Blight fleet, but the ahuman superintelligence stays comfortably in the background. I almost didn’t give it a second chance, but I did, and I appreciated it more the second time through. Once I got past the fact that this book was not what I was expecting, I enjoyed it, although it isn’t on the same level as A Fire Upon The Deep or A Deepness In The Sky.

The story starts 10 years after the ending of the previous book. Ravna Bergsndot leads the awakened Children, refugees from the Blight’s destruction of their home and stranded on Tine’s World. They are attempting to build a technological civilization capable of repelling the Blight with the help of the Out of Band II, the partially-functional starship that originally carried Ravna and the frozen Children to Tine’s World, and the Tines, a fascinating alien species made up of packs of 4 to 8 wolf-like creatures that act as a single individual.

Ravna and the Children have the support of Woodcarver, the ruler of an emerging empire. However, many of the Children are suspicious of Ravna’s interpretation of the Blight and the destruction of their home world, and in the far-off Tropics, a pack named Tycoon is starting an industrial revolution, assisted by Vendacious, Woodcarver’s traitorous spymaster.

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MOVIE REVIEW | Avatar Thumbnail

Storyworld Creation, Justice, and Environmentalism on Pandora and Earth

It may seem that watching Avatar is akin to taking a libertarian pill. True, the libertarian nutrients are rich and of universal appeal. Unfortunately, the pill is also laced with the same bad old drug: anti-technology, anti-business, and pro-primitivism.

(Estimated spoiler risk: Moderate)

Avatar is a beautiful piece of modern visual artistry and it deals reasonably well for a film with several classic science fiction themes (see the postscript for recommended novels). It portrays legitimate defense against military aggression, making a much-needed popular statement of anti-militarism.

The story of a soldier looking for “a single thing worth fighting for” is poignant. How often throughout history has the impulse to defend been manipulated and twisted for unsavory political aims?

Roderick Long said in his review that, “The movie’s most important message may be this: soldiers are responsible, as individuals, for the actions they carry out, and when they’re ordered to do something immoral they have an obligation to disobey.”

Despite the film’s thematic positives, it also encourages some dangerous misconceptions. It identifies as a “corporation” an entity that carries out actions that only states on Earth are known to perform. It also mixes a clear and principled justice issue with a primitivist, anti-technology motif in a bait-and-switch rhetorical move.

We will tease apart these and a few other confusions, clearing a path through the film’s Rousseauian intellectual thicket wide enough to enable us to enjoy the show without compromising our minds. In examining these confusions, it is instructive to reflect on the role of storyworld creators, both those who create science fiction and those who create “message,” news, spin, and sometimes even “science.”

In enjoying science fiction, we happily hand over to storyworld creators the power to temporarily redefine reality. We must take extra care to take back that ability at the theater exit or upon closing the novel. Other kinds of storytellers await us in the non-fictional world, and their motives do not include providing entertainment.

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