John Scalzi

Android's Dream by John Scalzi

Amazon / Audible

The Android’s Dream, a novel by John Scalzi, is a science fiction tale that takes place in the not too proximate future. This was my first experience with Mr. Scalzi, and I came away impressed enough to want to read other titles by him that have garnered more acclaim. There are a variety of different tones and elements in the present novel, in use of which Scalzi demonstrates talent. He can be funny, clever, action-oriented, and even, on occasion and to a small degree, poignant. I was not always convinced by the way he mixed these different tones together, but overall the novel was a fun read. Scalzi exhibits the flair of a true storyteller with his well-refined and polished plot and cast of diverse characters.

The title refers to a line of specially bred sheep, named in honor of Philip K. Dick one supposes, which become the object of a hunt to prevent an intergalactic war. When a group of men of varying interests conspire to insult an alien diplomat during trade negotiations, the blowback leaves Earth on the brink of war. As things get increasingly out of hand — to the point where even the original conspirators begin to doubt the course they have plotted — an agent of the American government must find an Android’s Dream sheep to offer to the aliens, as appeasement, so they can sacrifice it in an important ceremony.

I do not know whether or not Scalzi has written sequels or other novels in this world, or if he plans to, but he has a knack for world creation that would seem to leave a lot of room for future work in this universe. There are different alien species with odd customs and cultures, eccentric politics, a variety of characters, and a number of odd social developments (including a religion devoted to Evolved Sheep whose adherents belong to one of two categories: true believers, and those with a sense of humor who want to make the Church’s prophesies come true for the fun of it). The message is not profound and the characters are not explored in the kind of depth that makes them stick with you long after you have closed the book for the last time, but the story is coherent, moves well, and provides a few interesting twists that give it a little kick at the right time.

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Prometheus Unbound Podcast

The new year has started off slow for us at Prometheus Unbound as we prepare some major new features and changes, but things are about to take off and I think 2013 is going to be an exciting one.

The Prometheus Unbound Podcast

The Prometheus Unbound Podcast

We’ve been republishing some science-fiction-related episodes from the Mises Institute and Jeff Riggenbach’s Libertarian Tradition podcast, but within the next couple of days we’ll be launching our own original podcast. You’ve probably already listened to our promo for the podcast. We hope you like it and will help us promote the podcast by sharing it around to anyone you think might be interested in liberty and speculative fiction.

For our first episode, we have for you an interview with libertarian legal theorist and patent attorney Stephan Kinsella. If you’re not familiar with Stephan and his work, you may be wondering why we interviewed a patent attorney. Well, Stephan is a leading figure in the movement against intellectual property. After talking about his favorite science fiction and fantasy novels, and the new Hobbit movie, we go on to discuss with him the history and origin of intellectual property; how copyright has shaped and distorted the publishing and film industries; how the internet, piracy, and advancing technology are undermining the intellectual property regime and the antiquated business models built on it; the rise of self-publishing; and more.

In our second episode, we’ll be discussing libertarian speculative fiction. What qualifies a work of fiction as libertarian? What are the best, or our favorite, works of libertarian speculative fiction? Do libertarian authors tend to be too heavy-handed and preachy?  Does the Prometheus Award to a good job of finding and promoting libertarian science fiction? Why are so many winners of the award written by authors who are not themselves libertarian? We’ll seek to address these questions and more.

And in episode three, in February, we’ll be interviewing Jeffrey Tucker, the editor of Laissez Faire Books.

Subscribe to our podcast-only rss feed to get episodes directly on your phone, tablet, or mp3 player: http://feeds.feedburner.com/prometheusunbound/podcast.

We hope you enjoy the show and will help us spread the word.

Site Redesign

I’m redesigning the site from the ground up on the new version 2.0 of the Thesis Theme Framework for WordPress. I think it will be much more slick, professional-looking, and powerful than the current design.

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  1. In July, Amazon announced that Kindle book sales had surpassed hardback book sales. Analysts pooh-poohed this milestone as paperback sales are far greater than hardback sales. But now Kindle book sales have overtaken paperback sales as well. Amazon is now selling more digital or ebooks in its bookstore now than physical print books. We’ve reached a turning point in the way people read books.

    There is still a ways to go, however, for ereader owners are still buying print books and ereader ownership is still not mainstream. While the adoption of ereaders is spreading, even at an accelerating pace, a recent survey of book shoppers shows that only 21% own one. I don’t own one yet, though I hope to buy an Android tablet in the next year or so.

    I’m not sure print books will ever go the way of the dodo. Print books will increasingly have collector value. Some people may still prefer reading them, if only out of nostalgia for a bygone era. There are ways to add value to a print book as well: high-quality production, handwritten signatures, personal notes, and so on.

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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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