Thursday, June 20, 2019

Mailvox: we have an answer

No, Neal Stephenson was not taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to writing Seveneves. Yes, Neal Stephenson has gone SJW, or so we are informed by a reader of his latest:
Neal Stephenson's last novel Seveneves was just bad.  His newest effort Fall is full of social justice AND bad.  Thank God I got it from the library.

In this story, he has adhered to your theory that the USA will break up sometime in the 2030s, but the "Red State" area is called Ameristan, from which all smart/educated people have fled.  Ameristan has no dentists, so everyone has brown or missing teeth.  If anyone needs medical care, they have to sneak across the border to the "Blue Lands." Nothing of value is produced in Ameristan, nothing is exported, everyone is dirt-poor.

Furthermore, Ameristan lives under the Levitican Law, which is a literal interpretation of the Old Testament.  Even the most obscure passages from the Bible are enforced, such as executing anyone who wears mixed linen and wool.  They also crucify people and burn crosses a lot.  The countryside is infested with roaming bandits, so everyone has to drive around with AK-47s or even vehicle-mounted machine machine guns, a bit like ISIS territory.  It's such a heavy-handed parody it's like something out of Saturday Night Live, but he isn't joking.

Finally, Stephenson really lays on the feminism here.  The female characters are hyper-alert for "microaggressions" (yes, he really uses that word), for instance in one scene a character "decided to let the microaggression pass without comment."  Also the women call out a male character for "mansplaining."

At one point he talks about the bad old days, where women were harassed on the internet all the time, and men didn't believe women could write good code.  Now (in the 2040s) everyone has an anonymous public ID - no one knows your sex, even when applying for jobs - so OF COURSE it turns out that when code is written anonymously, female-written code turns out to be better than men's code!

Seveneves pretty much took Stephenson from "buy immediately in hardback" to "borrow from library only" in my eyes.  Now I think I'm just done with the guy.  I guess he was probably always like this, but now has so much money he thinks he can go wild.
I don't know. It sounds so over the top that in light of his famous account of his duels with William Gibson, I can't help but suspect him of selling books while taking the piss out of his SJW readers.

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Blogger JG June 20, 2019 9:17 PM  

I'm about half way through the book. I've had to roll my eyes several times, especially the nonsense about "Ameristan" not exporting anything. Where, oh where, do you suppose, do these enlightened cities get their food? Not to mention the "technicals", armored SUVs with 50 cal machine guns mounted on the roof and drones. Dirt poor, but somehow the Ameristanis have armored SUVs, trillions of rounds of ammo, and drones.

The Leviticans are Christian heretics who believe it is impossible for Jesus to have been crucified on the cross, because that's "beta", and an alpha God could not possibly be killed. Yeah, another eye roller right there. Leviticans burn crosses, not because they are fond of the KKK, but because the crucifixion is heresy.

I'll finish it, but Stephenson is off my list for good. At least the flaming retard William Gibson manages to write books that don't cause me to roll my eyes.

Blogger Vaughan Williams June 20, 2019 9:17 PM  

The SJW element was there in the background even back in Cryptonomicon, where he wrote a homosexual sex scene where Alan Turing invited the protagonist to join him in a homosexual threesome. Then in the Baroque Cycle he main hero was the "kickass woman" who bent European royalty around her little finger, sexing up any number of alpha males, while her true love interest was a man who had literally had his male member chopped off (Half-cocked Jack Shaftoe)

So, the signs were there, but he mostly kept it under control. If he is just taking the piss out of SJWs, I'm waiting for the punchline.

Blogger Cataline Sergius June 20, 2019 9:22 PM  

I haven't read it yet.

From the reviews I am looking at on Amazon, I'm getting the distinct feeling that Stephenson has joined the ranks of authors who will no longer listen to their editor.

Blogger Bob Loblaw June 20, 2019 9:28 PM  

I loved Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon, but it's been twenty years since he released what I consider to be a good book. I'm not surprised he's resorting to gimmicks to get some of the old magic back.

Blogger Bob Loblaw June 20, 2019 9:29 PM  

The countryside is infested with roaming bandits, so everyone has to drive around with AK-47s or even vehicle-mounted machine machine guns, a bit like ISIS territory.

Didn't Heinlein do this in the '70s?

Blogger Matt June 20, 2019 9:29 PM  

Honestly that sounds like fairly sharp satire of SJW to me. I didn't like the last third of seveneves but I find it hard to believe that Stephenson would be so oblivious.

Blogger bobby June 20, 2019 9:39 PM  

Strange. He made plenty of comments in The Diamond Age and The Baroque Cycle that convinced me he saw behind the SJW aura.

Blogger Cataline Sergius June 20, 2019 9:41 PM  

It sounds so over the top that in light of his famous account of his duels with William Gibson, I can't help but suspect him of selling books while taking the piss out of his SJW readers.

His early books were very much over the top. Snow Crash in particular featured a Hero Protagonist named Hiro Protagonist who lived in a world where pizza delivery was literally a life or death business.

However I think I will go the library route this time around. Just to be safe.

Blogger Christopher June 20, 2019 9:52 PM  

I disagree in part. I thought the Ameristan and microaggressions we're just jokes; over the top Snowcrash type extrapolations. In fact, I enjoyed the first half and thought it was so good I told another fan I was relieved he hadn't 'lost his fast ball.' The second half... For me it was bit of a slog. The plot didn't really amp up like I have come to expect. It was interesting but I really wasn't into the characters.

But the Ameristan explanation came off to me as a refreshingly blunt counter to the pro red state civil war 2 'we'll just cut off their food' argument. Don't get me wrong, I think in a collapse situation it's very likely the cities will be as depicted in Cormac McCarthy's novel 'The Road,' but NS makes an interesting point or argument for an alternative way the future might play out short term.

Blogger pyrrhus June 20, 2019 9:56 PM  

Seveneves is just unreadable SJW trash...I gave up after 50 pages.

Blogger Sean June 20, 2019 10:08 PM  

When I read description of the novel, I was thinking parody straight away!

Blogger BalancedTryteOperators June 20, 2019 10:11 PM  

Was Abraham Lincoln a SJW?

Blogger Crew June 20, 2019 10:23 PM  

Seems like Stephenson is pretty much like the Duck of Death.

Blogger Balam June 20, 2019 10:53 PM  

Cataline Sergius wrote:His early books were very much over the top. Snow Crash in particular featured a Hero Protagonist named Hiro Protagonist who lived in a world where pizza delivery was literally a life or death business.

I did enjoy Snow Crash but I was uncomfortable with how YT cucked the main character out of the leading 'most special person' role by the end. It might have been intentional, since the Hiro Protagonist doesn't get to be the Hero Protagonist by the end, but reading about the adventures of the kickass teenage girl who does what Hiro can't, the mob wants as the next godfather, the main villain wants to bang got tiresome. The story was obsessed with her.

Blogger Laramie Hirsch June 20, 2019 10:54 PM  

They'd make this into a movie, but not Covington's The Brigade.

Blogger Damelon Brinn June 20, 2019 10:54 PM  

Hard to say. Quite a few leftists do repeat that image of "Ameristan" where everything more than 50 miles from a Starbucks is a dystopian Hee-Haw where the people are retarded meth-heads who only survive on the largesse flowing out from the cities. They don't seem to be trolling, but really believe it. I try to encourage them in this belief.

Blogger Doktor Jeep June 20, 2019 11:08 PM  

The author is either daft or we have another display of Poe's Law in effect

Blogger Didas Kalos June 20, 2019 11:22 PM  

Life is short! Don't read dumb books!

Blogger Mystic On Main June 20, 2019 11:29 PM  

I liked SevenEves very much. It was very "Neal Stephenson"....about a 3rd too long. But I thought very well rendered. But also, SevenEves wasn't his last novel. There was another between SevenEves and this latest one. I'm not sure how SevenEves could be defined as filled with SJW themes. That's a stretch.

Blogger kurt9 June 20, 2019 11:43 PM  

I was disappointed with Seveneves. It seemed totally out of character for him compared to, say, Snowcrash and Diamond Age. I will definitely pass on Fall.

The interesting thing is that I share Neal's quasi-libertarian cyberpunk world-view. At least that which is presented in these two earlier works. But that I have moved "right" and he has moved "left" with regards to the culture wars.

I'm wondering if he's cucked or something of a similar nature. I think changes in Neal's personal life must of made him become an SJW.

If you want a decent novel of a future balkanized U.S. Try Kurt Schlicter's "People's Republic". Another good novel about a during and post-plague U.S. is John Ringo's "Last Centurion".

Blogger Sam Sutherland June 20, 2019 11:55 PM  

Reminds me of Guillermo Del Toro. He made a few movies and wrote a few novels I liked, but after he got rich and influential, he decided to "do what he really wanted" and began promoting buggery.

Blogger JAG June 21, 2019 12:04 AM  

I've read Neuromancer, but nothing by Stephenson. I sure hope that's parody. Could be a master troll stroke, but other commentators have mentioned previous SJW infections.

ErotemeObelus wrote:Was Abraham Lincoln a SJW?

He was a warlord.

Blogger Brutus June 21, 2019 12:16 AM  

I started this book Sunday Night and read about 200 pages. It was okay but way too much circumlocution. Part two just plain doesn't make sense. Like a good liberal does, Stephenson inverts reality. Part three really begins the full throttle poz. So at, what, page 320 or so I go read some reviews to see if it is worth it to devote this week to the book. I decided not.

I liked Cryptonomican. Picked up Seveneves and stopped halfway.

From what I can tell, Stephenson had some potential but, among other things, just wears you out taking 200 pages to tell what can be adequately conveyed in a short paragraph. I have come to the conclusion that John D MacDonald was the true master of the novel. Two, three hundred pages can contain a saga. This "character development" as opposed to so called "cardboard characters" everyone has been parroting the last 30 years has destroyed novels. I don't give a damn about that much psychology, which is what so much "character development" amounts to. King was right about one thing at least in his quasi autobiography advice to aspiring writers: story is boss.

Blogger James Fox Higgins June 21, 2019 1:31 AM  

That's a shame. I thoroughly enjoyed The Diamond Age (one of my favourite visions of a post-nation-state world) and Anathem.

I recently picked up Seveneaves but haven't read it yet. Luckily it was only $1.50 at an op-shop (that's Aussie for thrift store). If the reviews here are correct, that's probably about the correct value of the book (since it's large enough to be useful as a door-stop or kindling for the fire). I will reserve my own judgement for now.

Blogger tublecane June 21, 2019 1:36 AM  

@12- No, Lincoln was just a politician.

However, he did exploit the Puritan abolitionists, who were a forerunner of today's radical left. He also adopted Fire-Eater rhetoric, as found in Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Blogger JC June 21, 2019 3:03 AM  

"I don't know. It sounds so over the top that in light of his famous account of his duels with William Gibson, I can't help but suspect him of selling books while taking the piss out of his SJW readers."

I read Snow Crash last year after remembering Cernovich recommending it. I knew Vox thought well of Stephenson too. It is possible but I really can't imagine the writer of that book writing something like what was described unironically. He's no doubt well off and certainly an eccentric. He's certainly not beyond writing a novel to see how much he can agree and amplify.

Blogger Jill in StL June 21, 2019 3:51 AM  

I hope this book is some form of weird satire and not the author's disturbed actual thought process because I am damned sick and tired of being characterized as some country bumpkin, uneducated, ugly chick with rotten, browning teeth, with the intelligence of a second grade public indoctrination house student, dirt poor (of course, because they refuse to acknowledge the entire middle section of America as it is; you know, where all their food is grown for the most part and where the vast majority of the populace is ashamed in some degree to seek out any form of government financial intervention because of that strong Midwest Christian work ethic, and where I would assume they think all women are perpetually pregnant and birthin' our babies in a shack in some "holler." I would not waste a penny to buy this skeevy SJW author's book of drivel if it was the very last book left on earth if he actually believes what he writes. If not satirical, it is trash.

Blogger SciVo June 21, 2019 4:28 AM  

Doktor Jeep wrote:The author is either daft or we have another display of Poe's Law in effect

A good parody should be funny and a good story. This sounds more like a Poe's Abject Failure, or whatever you want to call it where a work is ignominiously distinguishable due to neither sinking to the level of the subject, nor rising to the level of good mockery.

And unless the Ameristanians literally raped their daughters and forced them to birth incest babies, Neal Stephenson did not even sink to the level of actual SJW delusion.

Blogger maniacprovost June 21, 2019 6:23 AM  

IDK about this new book, but Seveneves could definitely be read as satire of Neil DeGrasse Science! and Hillary Clinton. My only complaint with that book is he tacked half a sequel onto the end. Oh, and they should have used iron pellets for propulsion if they actually had a competent engineer.

Cryptonomicin is as close to cypherpunk anarchocapitalism as you're likely to get. Surely it was only published because the publishers are too dumb to understand it.

He has to write that way to be traditionally published.

Blogger damaris.tighe June 21, 2019 6:55 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger roundeye June 21, 2019 7:09 AM  

There is no more decisive writer today. I read Fall and completely hated it. But SevenEves I loved. Snowcrash and Diamond Age are masterpieces but Cryptonomicon became a hate read. I gave up on the Baroque cycle seventy pages in. I lasted 200 of the time-travel book. Reamde or however it is spelled was great.

I can live with the SJW stuff, but are there any female or black bad guys? It becomes tiresome.

But the length of Fall - I think all the editors have died. I blame Amazon.

Blogger roundeye June 21, 2019 7:09 AM  

Decisive, damn autocorrect.

Blogger roundeye June 21, 2019 7:10 AM  

Devisive....just nuke the damn string.

Blogger VD June 21, 2019 7:24 AM  

Complaining about autocorrect doesn't demonstrate to everyone that you are a Smart Boy who Really Knows How to Spell. All it does is underline the obvious fact that you can't figure out how to turn it off.

Blogger Skyler the Weird June 21, 2019 7:55 AM  

I'm slogging through it now and find it to be an SJW fantasy where all the smart Womyn and POC create the tech Utopia while Deplorables live in squalor dependent on WalMart. I did think I saw in the mood and background of things the beginning of the breakup of the U.S. Further into what became the Burbclaves of Snowcrash. It is a sequel of sorts to
Cryptomonicon, the Baroque Cycle,and Reamde.

Blogger Jack Ward June 21, 2019 8:08 AM  

@34 All it does is underline the obvious fact that you can't figure out how to turn it off. That was cold. I like it.
The last Stephenson I've read was Seveneves. Got through the whole thing. Sort of liked it but had some bad feelings. One of those feelings was that his next book would get him back on full track. I tried the Cycle but could not get into it. His earlier writings were a delight. Of Seveneves, I never re-read it, unlike several of his others.
You know, to be charitable, maybe he was trying to do some parody so over the top in Fall that it might be some sort of 'in your face' teaching effort to warn folk about the precarious nature of this upside down world here in what used to be a Christian nation. This of course not having read Fall just the references to it. I may pass on this one. I do agree that Seveneves probably should have been two books.
Oh, I liked Reamde a lot. Was one of his I have re-read. I think twice over the years. I will have to look up this mysterious book between Seveneves and Fall.

Blogger Jack Ward June 21, 2019 8:20 AM  

OK. Checked on Amazon and found the Stephenson novel Rise and Fall of Do Do.
Certainly sounded interesting. Maybe even worth the 12 bucks for Kindle addition. Certainly long enough at over 700 pages. I noticed most of his other works are really pricey. There be notoriety for you.

Blogger pyrrhus June 21, 2019 8:36 AM  

@23<< I have come to the conclusion that John D MacDonald was the true master of the novel. Two, three hundred pages can contain a saga.

Absolutely...John D. MacDonald was the most readable novelist of the last 60 years..Doesn't waste your time, and gets to the heart of the matter..Perhaps related to him being ex-military officer, Tank corps I recall...I think I'll reread some of his novels.

Blogger Beardy Bear June 21, 2019 9:21 AM  

Post Pizza gate, this gets a different response.

Blogger Beardy Bear June 21, 2019 9:29 AM  

Yeah, after pizza gate, your comments raise more questions for me. How old was this girl? Now... how old was she really?

Blogger Hohokam June 21, 2019 9:49 AM  

I didn't interpret “Fall” as being a pro-SJW novel. There is, without blatantly giving away spoilers, a significant event that occurs a decade or so before the “Ameristan” sequence which causes the population to subscribe to media filters. Those filters are intended to exclude information that each subscriber finds contrary to what they want to know or are comfortable with, and has the effect of creating strong cultural “echo chambers.” I interpreted “Ameristan” to have subscribed to full-bore “4chan /pol/ on a cranky day” (/pol/ was not cited in the book, this is my analogy) and everybody else fully and exclusively embracing main stream media and its obsessions with political correctness. I did not consider this section as being an SJW attack on Christianity, given that the "Ameristan" inhabitants deny the most important event in Christianity and specifically reject 2,000 years of Christian theology. I also recall some of the microaggression-related lines as being a critical commentary about life in the other cultural bubble and not favorable to SJWs, but I could be misremembering. You can argue what contemporary line of thought may have given rise to “Ameristan” and get offended if you want, but this section of the book is a presentation of what could happen to a society if subscribers to media filters receive only what information they are comfortable with having. You can also look at this as a very broad foreshadowing of a drive for information control in the second half of the novel.

If there was an explicit statement in the book that female coders are better (and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was), it didn’t leave an impression with me as being a main point, and I promptly forgot it. If this is in reference to the actions of Dodge’s niece as aided by Zula, she had a strong motivation for her actions that drives her to do what she did on the timeline that she chose, and programming was a necessary means to get to her goal. Having her be a female tied in nicely with some of the mythology presented in the beginning of the book and her capabilities in the second half of the book, so having this character be female made sense to me.

I found that “Fall” was somewhat of a slog in the second half, but I think that this is because I am personally not too much into the genre that the second half arguably is. I did find it to be better than the average read, and at some point I will re-read to see if I missed other tie-ins between the vastly different two halves of the book. Never having been an author nor an editor, I will assume that there is good reason why “Fall” is written as it is.

Blogger Sam June 21, 2019 10:05 AM  

That sounds like a massive fallacy of the golden mean. We know what extreme right wingers with media filters look like- the Amish and Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Blogger rcocean June 21, 2019 10:24 AM  

Parody/Satire have to contain an element of truth and be interesting and hopefully funny. This sounds like: None of the above. BTW, I'm always skeptical when some fanboy pulls the "Don't you understand? Its not bad X. Its REALLY clever Y - if you look at it from this angle" - That's almost always wrong.

Blogger Christopher June 21, 2019 11:03 AM  

Hohokam's comment had me nodding 'yes.'
Wrt the media filters, NS, in his non-fiction book 'In the beginning was the command line,' had a passage about how intellectual wild goose chases at least had the benefit of providing some intellectual exercise; like a regular Joe without access to state secrets might never figure out without a doubt everything about certain historical events, but just looking into it and reaching that null result would be valuable for him. Owen talked about something like this in a recent episode.

With Fall, NS runs with the idea to an even further but sinister way: that, with sophisticated enough programming, certain entities might keep certain people spinning their intellectual wheels indefinitely! Never reaching even a null result. NS thus further develops --or at least alludes to, an idea he riffed on in Reamde about how game designers can program in addiction. Imho there's a sort of call back to Crytonomicon --well to all his novels, in that this programming has to be fought by the good guys.

Blogger Skyler the Weird June 21, 2019 11:05 AM  

From the Red Card:
You show the Red side to the person you're chatting with to send a non verbal signal that you disagree with what they're saying and refuse to be drawn into an argument.

The reverse side facing you reminds you of what is really going on.

1. Speech is Aggression
2. Every utterance has a winner and loser.
3. Curiosity is feigned.
4. Lying is performative.
5. Stupidity is power.

Blogger Zander Stander June 21, 2019 11:07 AM  

I have read it. SJW references annoyed me, although I tried to convince myself it had to be satire or irony or some meta device. Didn't work that well. At all. Stephenson is dead to me.

Blogger DeepThought June 21, 2019 11:10 AM  

Unlike some people here, I found his books to be too long by half.

Even those "masterpieces" some have mentioned are dreadfully slow.

Blogger EMP June 21, 2019 11:37 AM  

I'm a third of the way through my second reading of Fall. It will probably take three reads to fully wrap my head around this novel (I'm no midwit, nor genius). I'll not judge it now beyond entertainment value--it is a very engaging novel from where I sit.

It is arguably Stephenson's most ambitious novel to date. It is overflowing with big ideas and clever narratives. Only Anathem can compare in scope.

To write this novel off for the reasons given by the reviewer in the OP is akin to disregarding Tolkien because he was racist toward orcs.

Blogger Alexamenos June 21, 2019 12:45 PM  

I'm not saying Ameristan would be my idea society, but if I have to endure another freaking weak of #Pride I'll be ready to take that over Blue Land in a heartbeat.

Blogger tublecane June 21, 2019 5:34 PM  

@41- Usually they deny mass media has that kind of power. If all it takes to turn entire regions of America into Taliban territory are some filters, control of media should be fought over to the death every day.

It's not like that in reality, of course. A great amount of influence is asserted through media, but you can't snap your fingers and "radicalize" large swathes of the country. Individuals, yes. For instance, the Western-born kids who become suicide bombers after chatting with ISIS online. But even over in Muslimland they need more than that. Entire educational systems are dedicated to shaping kids' minds toward the ends of holy war They cut their people off from malign influence. It requires a lot of investment. Totalitarian dictatorships aren't always that good at it.

Over here, if you saw or heard nothing of the larger world without /pol/, you'd still be exposed to MSM brainwashing. Because they talk about stuff in mainstream culture constantly. And as we all know the educational system and wider culture work directly against fundamentalist revolution.

Blogger Gregory the Tall June 22, 2019 7:42 AM  

I thought Zodiac and Snowcrash were very good. After that I tried a few more and found them, overly constructed an single ideas, later even pompous, and frankly boring.

Blogger Edgar Abbey June 22, 2019 3:44 PM  

I just bought the book "Fall" and I am curious how it will measure up to "Cryptonomicon," and "Anathem," which I thought were pretty good.

Blogger CF Neal June 22, 2019 10:20 PM  

Who has time to read?

Especially THIS stuff, if so many of the opinions of such trusted sources are so divergent. Besides, aren't there a lot more reliable reads with which to indulge oneself during a spare hour or two?

As for me & my house, we are feasting upon "IN DEADLY COMBAT: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front" by Gottlob Herbert Bidermann -- all the while slogging through the rules for World in Flames in preparation for yet another "Barbarossa"-scenario, since finding AH's Hitler's War unacceptable.

Nuff said.

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