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Philosophical science fiction 
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
iirc, in "By His Bootstraps" the word "epistemology" is used. Q.E.D. :)

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Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:11 am
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
If we are wandering slightly from short stories (what exactly is the definition of a "short" story?) Then surely one of the biggest philosophical stories is Starship Troopers. RAH even includes some very deep and long philosophical arguments for the basis of the social and economic make up of the polictcal system in place - his characters are even required to study History & Modern Philosophy. Poor old Johnny Rico has to become an expert to gain his comission - rather him than me!

I agree that Jonathan Hoag makes a statement - philosophical? not too sure - I am but a simple man! And Lazarus waxes lyrical many times in TEFL on his personal philosophy. And what about Job? Surely there is the big "is it God" question - thought by many (well me anyway!) to be the main point of philosophy! I might have missed the point somewhere along the way as I have never quite undestood what it (philosophy) is all about.

Why is there air? = To blow up baloons with!

Is this a question? = Are you asking me?


Mon Nov 16, 2009 11:47 am
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
KeithJones923 wrote:
(what exactly is the definition of a "short" story?)

A piece of fictional or fictionalized writing with a word count shorter than that of a novella. :D

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Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:38 pm
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
JamesGifford wrote:
KeithJones923 wrote:
(what exactly is the definition of a "short" story?)

A piece of fictional or fictionalized writing with a word count shorter than that of a novella. :D



Wow thanks James, that really helped! :?


Tue Nov 17, 2009 12:00 pm
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
JamesGifford wrote:
KeithJones923 wrote:
(what exactly is the definition of a "short" story?)

A piece of fictional or fictionalized writing with a word count shorter than that of a novella. :D

Actually there is a slightly more useful definition: a short story is the working out of a single story incident. Typically constructing such a story arc takes anywhere from about 800 words (the average scene length) to about 10,000 words (for which reason there is usually interposed another category, novelette, to talk about minimally expanded story arcs, which typically run from about ten thousand to about twenty-five thousand words. The novella tends to run anywhere from twenty-five thousand to about fifty-five thousand -- fringing on the short novel.

The lengths are not prescriptive, though -- just rules of thumb. Elaboration of story tends to be the important characterization.


Sat Nov 21, 2009 8:59 am
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
Why has no one mentioned 'world as myth' from both "The Number of the Beast" and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset"? Surely someone else must see 'world as myth' is a philosophical notion.


Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:56 pm
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
Starry wrote:
Why has no one mentioned 'world as myth' from both "The Number of the Beast" and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset"? Surely someone else must see 'world as myth' is a philosophical notion.

I think it's a question of what you regard as "philosophical." When it was written, "Elsewhen" (from which the World as Myth concept is remotely drawn) was a part of a debate about the nature of time in what could be called "philosophy of science." That particular debate is rooted in Kant's critical idealism, because there was a major neo-Kantian revival going on at the turn of the 20th century. If some other philosopher had been popular at the time, the debate would have looked very different. Aquinas, for example, has some pretty "advanced" notions about spacetime (and there was a Thomist resurgence in the 1930's, but too late to catch this particular issue).

Now the ideas are very confused in science, with a lot of people settling on the Wheeler-Everett hypothesis (also embodied in the World As Myth), but the debate has died out.


Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:41 am
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
audrey wrote:
IWFNE did not describe ANY differences in a person because of gender - the heroines were identical to his heroes with a few minor appendages tacked on here and there. IMHO. If you want to look at what I believe is a GREAT treatise on gender identity I think Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness still holds up.


It's very easy to hold up that viewpoint as "naive" or something of that sort, but the real question is--does it happen to be true? I mean obviously there are those whose gender identity is more than "minor appendages"--those whose identification with a gender they didn't happen to be born with is so strong that they go through all of the difficulty and ostracism associated with gender reassignment. But for most people is gender an essential part of your identity, or just an accident of birth?

In A Civil Campaign Lois Bujold makes the case (in a subplot, mind you) that gender identity is less a matter of one's bedrock identity and more a matter of how the people around you perceive you and (thus) treat you.

There are always going to be those for whom Heinlein's "stong female characters" are merely "men with different parts." But other readers are going to reply "exactly!--that's precisely why those characters speak to me-- I am a person first, my reproductive organs are not an essential part of my core identity."

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Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:46 am
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
Hmm. "There is something in what you say," Sergei, but I admit being perpetually bothered by some aspects of Heinlein's "strong women." Understand, I've grown up and lived in a world of strong, self-determined women, so I do have a basis on which to form an opinion. Heinlein's characters of that stripe never come across as particularly feminine or even female except in dry descriptives. Maybe it's not that they're male characters with female names, but a more generic interpretation of a strong character with female shadings - where the male characters have NO shadings, masculinity being the assumed state.

Reproductive organs aside, I think it perceived gender does greatly shape individuals in this time and place, and Heinlein has mostly written about a form of our time and place. So yes, I think that a convincing female character would have some basically different perceptions, ideas, reactions and thoughts from a male or assumed-masculine character, and I don't think Heinlein ever mastered that. He hung a frilly dress on a neuter character, and not often convincingly.

I think both parties have a point: No, Heinlein did not do particularly convincing female characters; yes, he did an admirable job of eroding assumptions and boundaries given the era, and much more so the genre, in which he worked.

Let me drag in a much later example which may not be entirely comparable but with which I am far too familiar: Babylon 5. There are at least three VERY strong female characters, each of whom do world-shaking things, convincingly. All three are very feminine and very female in my perception. (For those who know: Delenn, Ivanova and Lyta.)

Then there's a character who has at least as much brass as any strong character in the series and is front-and-center for a full season. The character is played by a woman (a very luscious woman, indeed - Tracy Scoggins in her prime). However, I have always been bothered by the character, who absolutely never says or does one single thing that is identifiably "female" or "feminine." You could CGI in a male figure and no one would ever notice the difference. (We're about to rewatch the fifth season and I will again be watching for the SLIGHTEST indication that Lochley is "female" beyond her genes.) That, unfortunately, is how Heinlein handled his strong female characters: descriptively luscious, sometimes to extremes, but in speech, action and revealed thought... utterly neuter/assumed masculine.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:51 am
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Post Re: Philosophical science fiction
Seems to me that no discussion of gender identity in Heinlein's writing is complete without considering " 'All You Zombies--'," one of my favorite short stories. Question: Did Heinlein give any serious thought to the shifting gender identity of the protagonist (i.e., from his/her point of view, there being no other in the story), or did he just write it as a lark, the story equivalent of making a Moebius strip out of construction paper? All I know is that writing it was enjoyable for him, rather than a chore (so says his brief note before "Zombies" in a 1963 anthology*), which says nothing about how he may have prepared to write it.

*The Worlds of Science Fiction, Robert Mills, Ed.; early-1970s mass-market edition.


Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:19 pm
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