The Big Idea: C.L. Anderson

“All we are saying is give peace a chance,” John Lennon once sang, from his bed. The question is: What does it take to give peace a chance — and is it an equitable price for what you get? This is a question that C.L. Anderson has thought more than a little bit about, and in no coincidence whatsoever, it’s one of the questions at the heart of Anderson’s debut novel Bitter Angels, in which peace is challenged and the cost of keeping it is very high indeed. Here’s Anderson with more thoughts on war and peace, and how they interact with the telling of a good science fictional tale.

C.L. ANDERSON:

There’s a lot of war in science fiction.

I mean a lot, and not just in the sub-division of Military Science Fiction. It is all over the place. Science Fiction has re-fought the Revolutionary War, the various Indian Territory wars, the Napoleonic Wars, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and now the War on Terror, in more environments and under more circumstances than I can count. Plus, of course, it invents its own wars, large and small, against an endless array of alien species, as well as, both alien and human political concepts.

Part of the reason for this is that war, frankly, can make life easy for an author. In a story you need conflict and when you’ve got a war, conflict is instant, immediate and highly apparent. It’s also directly and immediately dramatic and the stakes do not get any higher.

Also, writing about war is a heck of a way to discuss a wide variety social and political issues. You can use a war to demonstrate the inherent evil of somebody else’s political or social point of view. You can use war to demonstrate the necessary evil of being ready to defend against Bad Guys. You can use war to demonstrate that war is God-awful and filled with God-awful things and we really shouldn’t be doing this. War shows the scariness of strangers. War shows the personhood of strangers. War shows the bravery of people. War shows the cowardice of people. War shows the contradictions in people that never go away no matter what their shape or origin.

As a bonus for the science or speculative fiction author, when you’ve got a war as a frame for your story you have an easy way to show-off high-tech, hard-tech, bio-tech and med-tech developments and what they might mean.

Added to this is a thread running through the science fiction culture that suggests long-lasting peace is actually impossible, and creates stories to back up this view. The worst of these are the ones that say that war is not only inevitable, it’s laudable. In such stories, people who eschew violence just get killed. They aren’t strong. They aren’t realistic. They’re fools because they don’t know that war will always come and get them.

Me, I think the counter-culture movement of the sixties really torqued some people off and they are still writing about it.

But if SF does show a peaceful world, frequently there is something wrong with the peace. Everybody’s drugged or brainwashed or has to die before they turn twenty-one, or are under the psychic influence of a gigantic alien brain and forced into conformity (okay, maybe that example’s not fair. I love A Wrinkle in Time, but you get my point). Or a terrible dictatorial (and odds-on quasi-socialist) political system has risen up to repress all dissent.

Then there are the SF stories that convey the notion that to actually have peace you’re going to have to fundamentally change human beings on a genetic level. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this bugs the crap out of me. It’s just another way of saying war is inevitable. We can’t help it. We’re genetically programmed to rise up en masse and kill each other a lot.

Ummm…no. In fact, we’re not. It’s actually really, REALLY hard to get most people to kill a stranger. Most people most of the time just want to be left alone to live their lives.

But the most difficult idea of all to overcome, over and beyond the thoughts that war might be inevitable, unavoidable or laudable, was the idea that that from a storytelling perspective, peace is boring; that it is an inherently static situation. It must be. It’s peace. Even in Star Trek, where we have the peaceful Federation in which money has been eliminated along with poverty and all kinds of other bad stuff, the creators were constantly having to invent Bad Guys who start wars that have to be fought by the Good Guys.

So I had a real problem when I decided I wanted to write a story around the idea of a peaceful future. First of all, I wanted a peace that felt achievable by human beings. Furthermore, I wanted to set that peace up in such a way that wouldn’t make people go “oh, BLEEP! If that’s peace gimme my war back.”

For starters, I realized I had to make a peace where people were not completely peaceful. Nobody is or wants to be completely peaceful all the time (unless you are a religious contemplative, in which case you have all my respect, but I hope you’ll concede, this is not the life for everybody. For one thing, it is really tough to be a contemplative when you’ve got a 7-year-old tearing around the house).

Second, I realized that I couldn’t have most people going around talking about the bad old days and how great everything is now. That’s not storytelling, that’s polemic and we’ve got plenty of that in SF too. The background would be the long-term peace. The underlying driver of the characters could be the long-term peace, but the main purpose of the story could not be a history of, or tour through the peace.

But I still had to decide, what actually makes for peace? Beyond wealth, beyond everybody deciding not to be jackasses, what makes for peace?

Weirdly, I started with freedom of movement. Real, genuine, human peace would have to provide for the means to get people away from other people who are bound and determined to be jerks to them because of how they look, what they were born as or what they believe. After that, real peace would have to provide for the fact that people are going to say things that get other people mad at them. Real peace would have to allow that people want different, sometimes conflicting things, and that even in abundance there’s going to be things that more than one person wants at the same time.

True peace, real, genuine human peace, would have to accept that at some point somebody is going to lose it and sock somebody else in the nose and peace cannot overreact to the fact (no all-rule-breaking-is-punished-by-death. That’s not peace, that’s totalitarianism and it’s never actually worked with a human population). It would also have to deal with the fact that people are going to lie, cheat, steal, assault and otherwise be anti-social. That is not going away without the kind of genetic manipulation that most people do not wish to contemplate let alone live under.

In short, a real, genuine, long-term peace would be a complex, dynamic situation that would have to be constantly maintained. Real peace would require law enforcement, diplomacy, and intelligence services. Real peace might get mistaken for weakness by people who look at places like say, Switzerland and see the cuckoo clocks and the chocolate and don’t see the universal required militia service, and it would have to have plans and training in place to deal with people who might make the mistake of trying to muscle in on its territory.

And that’s just for starters. Then you get to how could you maintain a genuine peace without killing people, without repressing anybody or disappearing people or ideas? Now, that would be tough. That would be dangerous. That would tear an average person apart from the compromises and bleak ideas they’d have to live with and the contact with vile people that you’d just really want to murder but you can’t. Because if you start killing them, their friends and relations might start retaliatory killings and then you’d have to kill more of them, and they’d kill more of you and before you know it you’re right back where you started from.

Real peace would require new technology and new weapons that would allow for self-defense without killing the people launching the attack.

Real peace would definitely need spies. Real peace might need saboteurs to keep the bad guys from getting away with their bad moves while the diplomats sit in the embassies and say “What?  Who?  Us?  Now why would we do something like that?” And they’d have to be very, VERY good at what they did, because if they got caught, the blowback might actually bring on the war.

Real peace would get people killed trying to maintain it. Real peace would have agents willing to stand up to torture and endless confinement if they got caught. Keeping peace would damage some people.  Some people it would damage beyond repair.

By the time I had lined up all the elements that would be necessary to the in-story creation of an even semi-plausible long-term human peace, the novelist portion of my brain had only one thing to say:

Bring it.

—-

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93 thoughts on “The Big Idea: C.L. Anderson

  1. Wouldn’t such a society (where spies and “enforcers” are required) be the same as a covert war instead of an open war.

    Reading CL Andersons words immediately popped a few questions in my head, like:

    * How would such a state be anything other then totalitarian anyway? Only one where you can say what you want, but putting some thoughts into practice is unaccepted.
    * Who decides which behavior is tolerated and which is not? (The ancient adage: Who watches the watchers).
    * How can there be any realistic hope of catching/stopping ‘bad guys’ before they commit to an action that will lead to “war”.

    This isn’t peace. This is merely the absence of (open/declared) war. [Oh, and that is probably the whole point. *Smacks head*]

    Looks like a good read…

  2. Sounds similar to “Serenity” when the assassin explained how it was his job to do terrible things in order for the Alliance to maintain and achieve a peaceful state.

  3. C.L. Anderson’s book sounds interesting and I intend to check it out but I can’t help but disagree with a couple of things said above. I would tend to agree that we are not programed “to rise up en masse and kill each other a lot.” Mostly this is because humans are not lemmings with cugels that all just happen to show up and bash each other into extinction. Human warfare is usually about religious, political, ideological, and more often economic reasons. The Barbarians invaded Rome because they wanted Rome’s stuff not for simple slaughter. I have never heard of a major war that was started for the sake of warfare itself.

    “It’s actually really, REALLY hard to get most people to kill a stranger.” I would like to know where this idea comes from because in my 18 years in the Marine Corps I have found that is indeed very, VERY, easy for strangers to kill each other. It is quite simple to dehumanize another group and eliminate them because “they” are not one of “us”. It’s not right but it’s usually how it works. History is replete with people enslaving, killing, and robbing each other simply because “they” were not quite human. This was one of the reasons I totally understood why the human colonial government was on board to fight every alien race to the bitter/losing end in Old Man’s War(although I didn’t neccessarily agree). If we are this racist to other humans imagine how we would treat someone who was completely inhuman.

    In the story idea presented above warfare is eliminated but obviously violence isn’t. Covert operations are conducted to keep the peace and those agents are still being killed. Now I want to read the book just to figure out where the peace part is happening.

    Not trying bash C. L. Anderson at all here as I am genuinely interested in reading the book but those two sentences in particular caught my eye.

  4. I don’t think that the underlying assumption is that people are programmed for war, but that people are programmed to have a capacity for evil. So long as we maintain that capacity, we will have war, is what they’re saying: so long as humanity is as it is, large-scale conflict will exist, because that is the nature of humanity.

    To write a surmise about the future which eliminates a feature of humanity, without altering humanity via the use of drugs, alien-brain oppression, etc … well, how would that trick be pulled off? Evolution? A really good educational system, with enforced prayer and meditation?

    I wish there were not so much war in the Science Fiction world – I truly do – but Science Fiction is about humanity and human nature, which just isn’t going to change. The question is, How do we manage humanity, given unlimited technological resources, whatever we can imagine, etc.? That’s why we have the darkness: we can’t imagine we’ll change for the better.

  5. I would like to know where this idea comes from because in my 18 years in the Marine Corps I have found that is indeed very, VERY, easy for strangers to kill each other.

    I wouldn’t say it was that easy. How many weeks are soldiers put in boot camp which is explicitly designed to break their will? A process that has had to be developed over a couple of centuries? Aren’t there reports that (at least in WWII) that the majority of soldiers would not shoot directly at their enemies, only “for effect”?

    I think you see it differently because you’ve been through that process, and assume it’s the norm.

  6. A Quote often misattributed to George Orwell due to another line he wrote about Rudyard Kipling’s “Tommy”:

    //quote
    We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.
    //unquote

    Wheather in open war or in covert operations, is peace the absence of war or the absence of violence?

    I think we (mankind) are just emotionally instabil. This makes us able to do great things on one hand and horrible things on the other. One is not possible without the other (for most people on my side of the Dalai Lama at least).

    So until everybody is lobotomized at birth (isn’t that a violent thought…) there will be violence and thus no final peace.

    My five cents :) open to discussion

  7. Diplomacy is WAR by other means.

    Meme wars result in absolute positions unless specifically targeted and negated (which implies mutual conflict and some level of organization with a mandate of direct force applied to the Other)

    /looking forward to see how fanatic Islamicism is negated.

  8. I doubt very much that birds consciously understand why they have the urge to collect materials and build nests out of them.

    There is a purpose there. The action is purposeful. But the birds’ awareness does not extend to that purpose.

    As Feynman famously stated, physics is like sex – it may serve a practical purpose, but that’s not why we do it.

    Human beings most certainly ARE programmed for war. On a tribal scale. Certain situations induce human beings to go out and try to murder other human beings. Usually not “strangers” – the people being killed are known to their killers, even if only as a stereotype of “what the rival tribe is like” that causes us to see individuals as representative members of their group instead.

    Those instincts are co-opted by modern societies in order to wage modern-style warfare. The conflicts they now spark have little to do with the conflicts evolution designed them to create, and the groups involved are far different from those in the ancestral environments. But they’re certainly there.

    War is a part of the human heritage for pretty much the same reason rape is – it’s a successful strategy on some levels, and the rest of the time it’s the result of desires and drives that are themselves successful strategies.

  9. Don’t all wars require leaders who think that they will benefit by the destruction of their enemies? Wars are not created by the soldiers. People do not spontaneously form armies. Diplomats and spies, in their less violent conflicts, are also carrying out the will of the leaders they serve.

  10. If this definition of peace is really just war, why aren’t there dozens of milSF novels by Baen with terrible covers featuring it? Even if the premise falters or fails, it’s a really interesting place to start– more so, I think, than a fictional war-you-don’t-have-to-define-because-everyone-knows-it’s-war.

  11. immediately when I saw today’s Big Idea : “The Big Idea: C.L. Anderson” my unconscious flashed in my brain “C.L. Moore” – an icon of sci-fi/ fantasy from the 40′s and 50′s. I wonder if the author chose to have her byline (if that’s the right term) appear the same way as an homage to that pioneering woman, or if it is just coincidence?

  12. The idea of peace as a backdrop sounds interesting – to me, it immediately brought to mind Iain Banks’ Culture series. Peace-keeping spies and infiltrators? that has “Special Circumstances” written all over it. But the Culture aren’t exactly human…

    I think it is historically provable humans find it easy to kill each other. I mean, they have. In every era, on every continent. Perhaps not all people, and not to the same extent; Maybe even just a small minority – but war doesn’t require 100% participation of the populace. In this, at least, SF simply describes the realities of the human condition. Sad, perhaps, but true.

  13. Shades of Kenneth Waltz’s Man, the State, and War…

    Weirdly, I started with freedom of movement. Real, genuine, human peace would have to provide for the means to get people away from other people who are bound and determined to be jerks to them because of how they look, what they were born as or what they believe. After that, real peace would have to provide for the fact that people are going to say things that get other people mad at them. Real peace would have to allow that people want different, sometimes conflicting things, and that even in abundance there’s going to be things that more than one person wants at the same time.

    The more I’ve thought about these sorts of issues, the more I’m convinced of the following:

    a) This is correct. The genius of the principle behind federalism and subsidiarity is that it allows local communities to organize their own affairs as they see fit, to make their own tradeoffs and live their own lives. (Cuis regio, eus religio… et lex, et veritas.)

    b) The limiting factor behind this is the inherent scarcity of property. A human being cannot be truly “free” unless they have some piece of real property that they can exclude other people from. Colonization of other worlds is the only way to ensure this, without legally-enforced population control and an inhuman administrative state. There are three key technologies that will tend to ensure this peace: direct mass-energy conversion power sources, terraforming, faster-than-light travel. To paraphrase Heinlein, this does not mean there will always be peace (human beings are bastards), it just means there is a possibility of peace.

  14. Mr. Teufel, boot camp is definitely not designed to break anyone’s will. It is an introduction to Marine Corps culture, history, customs, courtesies, marksmanship, martial arts (martial as in military), teamwork, corps values, and the like. Boot camp doesn’t strip anyone of their ability to make independent rational decisions. It is a radical lifestyle change for those who choose it. Three months of boot camp has rarely undone 18 years of bad habits, or fundamental character flaws. But my point wasn’t about professional soldiers as such. I have seen untrained thugs kill more people than I ever have Marines. Tustis vs Hutus in Africa or Shiite vs Sunni in Iraq, neither group needed much conditioning to treat the other less than human. In contrast we use a considerable amount of training time on how not to kill in a given situation. That is why we constantly drill in Escalation Of Force scenarios, Defensive Actions, and Rules Of Engagement.

  15. The world Anderson describes sounds an awful lot like the Cold War. This may be real, but just what is SFnal about it?

    I’m in the camp that believes world peace is flatly impossible without the kinds of restrictions Anderson denies herself, because it requires global unanimous consent. There will always be someone willing to kill for whatever reason, and to rally others to his cause. That’s how wars get started.

  16. Mr. Burke, I agree that it would be an overstatement to say that boot camp is designed to break a person’s will. However, it is a resocialization program designed to change a civilian into a soldier, and part of that change is acclimating to the idea of firing a weapon at human-shaped targets with minimal hesitation when the circumstances require. Without this training, soldiers have been shown to be reluctant to fire at human targets, and the training is specifically designed to overcome this hesitation – which has improved the firing rate of US soldiers in combat from under 50% to over 90%.

    With respect to your other points, I agree that human beings are quite capable of being convinced to dehumanize and enact violence on the other. That said, I don’t think it follows that the idea of peace as described by the author is impossible. To my mind, however, it would require a majority consensus on the importance of peace and a willingness to interfere with localized conflicts, forcibly if necessary – in other words, an organization with the mandate and funding to actually become what conspiracy theorists suspect the UN and the International Criminal Court of being. :)

  17. I am impressed. Don’t get me wrong I love the backdrop war provides in a story. However, this seems very well thoughtout and I am very interested to see where Mr./Ms.? Anderson takes it.

  18. My first thought was James H. Schmitz’s Hub and Agent of Vega series, in which very effective police and espionage agencies suppress most threats to the peace before they get big enough for very many people to notice. You get plenty of stories revolving around alien invasions or whatnot, it just never gets to the point of the big shooting wars that most SF writers seem to adore, because the characters are very clear on the concept that that would be bad.

  19. This was a pleasure to read. I have always been a fan of behind the scenes type interviews. I often find a far deeper appreciation for something when I get a chance to view it through the author’s eyes.

    I will have to take take a look at this.

  20. It is easy to shoot at strangers and try to kill them. Heck, I come from a culture that is famed, unjustly, for shooting at strangers that dare to intrude. Of course we are also well-known for shooting at friends and kinfolk too.

    Aggression, especially at strangers, is darn easy. Why do you think war involves so much effort to convince people how much the enemy is different from the folks back home? The more distant the relationship the easier it is to kill folks. My father, who died recently, never forgave the Navy for its efforts to convince him that the enemy in WW II was sub-human. He was too aware of the efforts in the mid 1800s to depict some of his ancestors as not worthy of status as USA citizens and humans. He also saw resemblances in the Nazi efforts against Jews and other groups in Europe and the way the US military depicted Japanese. It disturbed him a lot.

  21. I didn’t see why any discussion of why this world was “a world beyond salvation” or why anybody would go to such efforts to save a world that was beyond salvation.

    Or am I nitpicking?

  22. What an interesting concept for a book. I’ll definitely be buying it.

    And really, not a lot of patience with the “peace is war” arguments in the comments here; Anderson isn’t postulating the Great Hippie Paradise, but asking given what people are like, what would a peaceful world look like? It would have conflict, but conflict and war are not the same thing.

    Her Big Idea post also takes a very incisive look at some issues in SF/F, too, and I wonder if that’s not what’s really ticking people off.

  23. Alastair Reynolds had a similar idea in The Prefect: there was peace, but the main reason started with the ability for people to easily move to other societies that had the values they did. There was always a group available that lived life the way you wanted to, so there was somewhere to go, and the police didn’t enforce any universal laws.

    There were free and open societies, ones where everyone lived in cyberspace, ones that were tyrannies as well. People who thought there was one right way could move to a tyranny that also believed the same way.

  24. and the police didn’t enforce any universal laws.

    Except for “don’t screw with the polling machines”, right?

  25. She has set the bar pretty high, considering the fact that there hasn’t been a single day in human history when there wasn’t a war of some sort going on somewhere.
    As long as there are people willing to kill for the cash in the drawer of the local convenience store there will be people willing to do it wholesale.
    Plus we ALL think we know the best thing for everyone else. If we could just get them to see that we are right.
    One last thought. I am very lucky and a historical anomoly. I have never had to fight in a war. I was too young to get drafted for Vietnam. We haven’t had military conscription since. So I am probably a member of the first generation in history that hasn’t had to fight for my freedom. This isn’t to say that my country hasn’t been at war.
    Ok one more thought. Did Mr Lennon die in bed of natural causes?

  26. I’m one of those who has reluctantly concluded that in order for there to be lasting, true, world-wide (or at least species-wide) peace, there would have to be a fundamental re-engineering of the human being, probably at the genetic level. To mute or curb certain aspects of territoriality, dominance, heirarchy, as well as ambition.

    As we are now, we can — generally — figure out how to get along, with low-level flare-ups — law enforcement’s problem — or high-level flare-ups — such as 9/11 and the ensuing invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Basically, due to human nature, peace is unstable. It eventually breaks down.

  27. My first thought was of Niven’s ARM.

    I find this Big Idea slightly idealistic in terms of “thoughts about humanity”, but I’m going to bite due to curiosity – “how *does* this problem play out?”

  28. CLA: Weirdly, I started with freedom of movement. Real, genuine, human peace would have to provide for the means to get people away from other people who are bound and determined to be jerks to them because of how they look, what they were born as or what they believe.

    To last in the longterm you’d have to make sure the peace system controls all of humanity and prevents people from moving far enough to get outside the system. Unless that is also so far as to make war impossible.

    plutosdad@26:
    Alastair Reynolds had a similar idea in The Prefect: there was peace, but the main reason started with the ability for people to easily move to other societies that had the values they did. There was always a group available that lived life the way you wanted to, so there was somewhere to go, and the police didn’t enforce any universal laws.

    Not even a universal law against restricting emigration?

  29. Whoa! Go out for a couple hours to see PONYO and look what happens!

    Hi. I’m CL (Carolyn Louise) Anderson.

    First of all, jasonmitchell got it in one. CL Moore both with and separately from Henry Kutner was a major influence on me when I was just starting out. Her “No Woman Born,” was the first story to make me really _think_ about how to actually define human.

    Other answers to follow.

  30. Mike: my premise that it is genuinely difficult to get a person to kill a stranger has two primary sources. First is a book called ACTS OF WAR (which, of course, I cannot now find on my shelves) about the psychology of soldiering. Ah, here we go, Amazon to the rescue:

    The other is the evolution of the training of soldiers for combat. Now, I am not now nor have I ever been a soldier, and I speak with deep respect for those who undertake the task. But, I think you’ll agree, in order to create an efficient, modern army it is necessary to reshape the bonds between people, it is necessary to reshape personality and inclination through intensive training. This, we can see from the infrastructure the military devotes to it, is resource and labor intensive.

    So how does this apply to mobs, such as the participants of krystallnacht or the Hutu/Tutsi slaughters? I’d argue that uprisings like this happen at times of extreme cultural and economic pressure. People are squeezed and starving and desparate, on one or more levels and have been for a long time, and then somebody or something lights the match. People do not generally mob up in times when they themselves have plenty and security.

  31. “I think we (mankind) are just emotionally instabil. This makes us able to do great things on one hand and horrible things on the other. One is not possible without the other (for most people on my side of the Dalai Lama at least).”

    Granted, but does it follow we can’t reduce the level and nature of horrible things we do? F’r instance, when my mother was growing up, it was much more socially acceptable for a man to beat his wife and kids than it is now. In the Middle Ages it was a sport to tie a peasant’s hands behind him back and make him beat a live rooster to death with his face while the rooster was dangling from a string (no, I am NOT making this up). And this doesn’t even touch on things like slavery, and other historical abuses of minority groups. We have decided to make ourselves better at many points in history. I’m basing my story on the premise that this will, with some steps backward, because that always happens, continue.

  32. well yeah i forgot the polls and emigration, you need to be able to let people move to other societies or there’s not much point.

    Plus of course it all broke down when someone decided he knew what was best for all 10,000 societies ;)

  33. Tustis vs Hutus in Africa or Shiite vs Sunni in Iraq, neither group needed much conditioning to treat the other less than human.

    If you don’t consider decades of religious indoctrination or colonial interference “conditioning.” (Not disagreeing, per se — this is more societal than individual.)

  34. “Diplomacy is WAR by other means.”

    A famous saying. Very much depends on your definition of war.

    “Meme wars result in absolute positions unless specifically targeted and negated (which implies mutual conflict and some level of organization with a mandate of direct force applied to the Other)”

    Okay, you got me on this one. What’s a “meme war?”

    “/looking forward to see how fanatic Islamicism is negated.”

    Fanaticism is fantaticism. What label it wears is immaterial. It is the hatred of one group for another with an underlying power/cultural motivation. It probably never goes away, but its effects can be seriously mitigated by such measures as: reduction of poverty, expansion of social and physical mobility, integrated and open communications to facilitate contact between peoples, even-handed application of law enforcement. And, of course, the tried and true method of pointing out that people who advocate blind hatred of any one group are idiots.

  35. “Human beings most certainly ARE programmed for war. On a tribal scale. Certain situations induce human beings to go out and try to murder other human beings. Usually not “strangers” – the people being killed are known to their killers, even if only as a stereotype of “what the rival tribe is like” that causes us to see individuals as representative members of their group instead.”

    A lot of it, I’d say, is less programming for violence and more the basic desire of a subsitance level group to acquire the most resources the most efficient way possible. Mobbing up to take them from the guy who’s already got them works, sometimes. And if it works really well the, Irish will sing about you for a thousand years (VBG)

  36. “The world Anderson describes sounds an awful lot like the Cold War. This may be real, but just what is SFnal about it?”

    Lack of mutually assured destruction, gulags, re-education camps, killing fields, walls cutting cities in half, and world leaders banging shoes on tables.

    “I’m in the camp that believes world peace is flatly impossible without the kinds of restrictions Anderson denies herself, because it requires global unanimous consent. There will always be someone willing to kill for whatever reason, and to rally others to his cause. That’s how wars get started.”

    With respect, that’s how mobs and riots get started. Wars get started when armies with large amounts of resources and state-level backing get pointed at each other.

    Which is an ongoing difficulty with this discussion (which so far has been most thoughtful and interesting. Thank you guys, you’re making me think about my premises and I appreciate that) is what is the definition exactly of a war? Does it strictly speaking have to involve a formal army and state-level backing? Does that definition cover wars of rebellion? The Cold War becomes problematic, because it was a political condition as well as an umbrella term for a lot of proxy conflicts and the whole nuclear-missles-pointed-at-each-other thing.

  37. “I didn’t see why any discussion of why this world was “a world beyond salvation” or why anybody would go to such efforts to save a world that was beyond salvation.

    Or am I nitpicking?”

    I deny all responsibility for the blurb. *VBG!*

  38. “It is easy to shoot at strangers and try to kill them. Heck, I come from a culture that is famed, unjustly, for shooting at strangers that dare to intrude. Of course we are also well-known for shooting at friends and kinfolk too.

    Aggression, especially at strangers, is darn easy. Why do you think war involves so much effort to convince people how much the enemy is different from the folks back home?”

    Excellent point and excellent question. What becomes difficult is to sustain the effort on an organized and coordinated basis. One person who believes they are defending their home/honor/family, that’s easy to get a violent response especially if the culture agrees violence is an appropriate answer to such precieved threats and they’ve got a weapon at hand. But to get them to fight effectively and efficiently over months or years against people who aren’t anywhere near places or people they regard as _theirs_, that’s harder. As an example, the desertion rates during the Civil War were incredible. Of course the fact that the conditions sucked might have had something to do with it…

    “My father, who died recently, never forgave the Navy for its efforts to convince him that the enemy in WW II was sub-human. He was too aware of the efforts in the mid 1800s to depict some of his ancestors as not worthy of status as USA citizens and humans. He also saw resemblances in the Nazi efforts against Jews and other groups in Europe and the way the US military depicted Japanese. It disturbed him a lot.”

    My condolences for your loss. Your father was clearly a man of deep thought and human feeling. My mother told me about some of the posters she saw growing up. He was right. There were strong resemblences.

  39. “As long as there are people willing to kill for the cash in the drawer of the local convenience store there will be people willing to do it wholesale.”

    Willing does not mean able. And it is much more difficult to find a lot of people willing to do something that the cultural and economic framework does not support. There’s a reason that noted radical Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the Military Industrial complex.

    “Plus we ALL think we know the best thing for everyone else. If we could just get them to see that we are right.”

    Yes, but we don’t all have an air force.

    “Ok one more thought. Did Mr Lennon die in bed of natural causes?”

    Neither did he die on a battlefield.

  40. “Basically, due to human nature, peace is unstable. It eventually breaks down.”

    Exactly! Which is what makes the struggle to keep it going a good backdrop for stories!

  41. “To last in the longterm you’d have to make sure the peace system controls all of humanity and prevents people from moving far enough to get outside the system. Unless that is also so far as to make war impossible.”

    Without giving too much away, what I posit in the book is the Pax Solaris, a set of worlds that have signed onto a constitution and legal establishment for the preservation of rights and the elimination of war. There are human colonized worlds outside the Pax. Occasionally they look to the Pax worlds and get ideas. And thus do we get novels. How do you defend yourself without becoming the monster? Because IMHO, it is not only possible to do so but highly desirable that we should.

    Idealistic? You bet’cha.

  42. This all got me thinking about non-warfare Science Fiction, with “warfare” defined as inter-human or inter-civilized species conflict. Maybe one of the best is THE LEGACY OF HEOROT by Niven and Pournelle. There’s lots of room in science fiction for the action and conflict to come from the alien biosphere/environment, with additional conflict between characters with differing opinions and methods, none of which has to be person to person war; military, political, amateur or otherwise.

    Other examples would be Hal Clement’s MISSION OF GRAVITY, Leinster’s Med Series stories, most of the work of Eric Frank Russell, and a zillion others.

    Matter of fact, If you take away the CU and Conclave from THE LAST COLONY and just focus on the problems of internal politics and external biological threat, you have a non-war work.

  43. Murder is not war- If anderson was presupposing a world without violent death, I would scream “Waaaait a second” at the top of my lungs, but honestly, a world without war could come about in any number of ways ; a few, off the top of my head –
    “The Union” – basically, a loose planet wide federation, (think the european union scaled up to planetary size) that provides a bare minium of common rights and laws, and avoids large rebellions mostly by being both rather hands off and sufficently strong that it would blatantly be suicide.
    “Global convergence, a multilateral world and the nuclear peace, V 2.0″: Economic and social science finally produce something useful again, and the world figures out a mostly reliable way to turn a third world shithole into a more or less prosperous country. 30 years after that, the planet is carved up into economic alliances and spheres of influence, none of which are any more prone to internal warfare than China, the US, the EU and India are now. And they dont dare make war on each other, because they all have nuclear deterrents.

  44. Very interesting Big Idea, I’ve just downloaded the sample chapter and I’m looking forward to reading it. Oddly enough, I was reading this article earlier today: http://peacecenter.berkeley.edu/greatergood/2009april/Pinker054.php
    which talks about how we civilize ourselves out of violence and warfare. Here’s a quick extract:

    “[10,000 years ago] the likelihood that a man would die at the hands of another man ranged from a high of 60 percent in one tribe to 15 percent at the most peaceable end. In contrast, the chance that a European or American man would be killed by another man was less than one percent during the 20th century, a period of time that includes both world wars. If the death rate of tribal warfare had prevailed in the 20th century, there would have been two billion deaths rather than 100 million, horrible as that is.
    [...]
    Why has violence declined? Social psychologists find that at least 80 percent of people have fantasized about killing someone they don’t like. And modern humans still take pleasure in viewing violence, if we are to judge by the popularity of murder mysteries, Shakespearean dramas, the Saw movie franchise, Grand Theft Auto, and hockey.

    What has changed, of course, is people’s willingness to act on these fantasies.”

  45. VultureTX@9
    “looking forward to see how fanatic Islamicism is negated.”
    The same way you negate any fanatic belief system whether it be Christian, Jewish, Hindu or other. All religions, why that pattern?
    Negate and marginalize the fundies.

    Steven desJardins@20
    Schmitz’s societies had already had their ‘major war years’ and decided, as a group, that wars were a losing proposition for the long term as far as humanity was concerned.

    Looking forward to the book, while I’m not locked into either the ‘war is inevitable’ or ‘peace is a doable state’ camps I’m very interested in your take on the question. Christopher Anvil made the point in one of his Interstellar Patrol shorts in Analog that war is easy/peace is hard (but perhaps, worth the pursuit).

  46. I came here to mention that this idea immediately reminded me of Iain M. Banks’s excellent Culture series of novels, and when I got here I saw that Michael Grosberg, #14, already mentioned it. Very well, consider this a second. Those books are great.

    Also, Ms. Anderson, I’m going to pick up your book ASAP. You’ve definitely piqued my interest.

  47. C.L.,

    Thanks for the great responses. You had me at ‘achievable peace,’ but the discussion here adds a cherry or six on top. [adds to 'buy soon' list]

  48. I concur with those who are reminded of The Culture’s Special Circumstances operators.

    Thinking about unrestricted travel and emigration I was also reminded of Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos, the Hegemony of Man, and the role ostensibly played by the Ousters.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ousters

    It’s hard for me to believe that Hyperion was published almost 20 years ago!

    Looking forward to looking for this book.

  49. Side plug: I think John Barnes does a pretty good job examining some of this topic in his Million Open Doors universe.

    How, exactly, does humanity grapple with preserving the peace, allowing cultures and individuals to prosper and flourish, while also avoiding the double traps of genocide — making ‘peace’ by obliterating your neighbors — or retreating from the question altogether by running to Virtual Reality while leaving your real body to atrophy in a box.

  50. MarkHB@54,

    See- you are a perfect illustration of what Ms. Anderson is talking about. You didn’t threaten to hit her with your shiny rocks, or get all your friends to throw them at her- you offered to trade.

  51. I think we get mixed up with war and conflict as terms. War is a level of conflict, the highest level. There’s always going to be conflict in humanity, as long as there are two people in the world (or one with multiple personality disorder) but there doesn’t always have to be war.

    Anderson makes a pretty compelling arguement to how engaging and interesting all the little conflicts that occur to keep the scales of peace and war swung heavily to the peace side could be.

    Hell, I just read a Big Idea that told me nothing about the plot, characters or setting and I’m absolutely dieing to read the book now.

  52. Carolyn, I haven’t read Acts Of War but I did read On Killing by Dave Grossman. It had a lot of great info but I tend to disagree with Grossman’s conclusion that humans are not wired to kill one another. There is a lot being said here about conditioning soldiers to kill in combat but I would argue that our training is more about efficiently employing weapons systems vice stoking blood lust. Insurgents have had no problem shooting at us in Iraq; they simply don’t shoot well. These are people with little to no training and it shows. It hasn’t stopped them from murder/intimidation campains against fellow Muslims though. I could go on but since I intend to go get your book anyway I guess you win. :-)

    A good source on the study of human combative behavior can be found at http://www.hoplology.com/. There are some interesting articles and book reviews on this very subject.

  53. Re comments at #41:

    #
    # CL Andersonon 25 Aug 2009 at 3:57 pm

    ” But to get them to fight effectively and efficiently over months or years against people who aren’t anywhere near places or people they regard as _theirs_, that’s harder. As an example, the desertion rates during the Civil War were incredible. Of course the fact that the conditions sucked might have had something to do with it…”

    There was also a strong cultural factor, especially in the South. Years ago I read a book titled, IIRC, “Attack and Die” with the basic assumption that the American Civil War was the last great Celtic war. The authors cited the high percentage of Celtic ancestry in the South and the history of Celtic fighters. In short, the Celts tended to be big on strong starts in war and prone to withdraw if the inital rush did not win. Add to that the fact that someone had to go home and tend the crops and people tended to leave before the war ended.

  54. Mike:

    Thanks for the title and the link. Always interested in new information.

    “There is a lot being said here about conditioning soldiers to kill in combat but I would argue that our training is more about efficiently employing weapons systems vice stoking blood lust.”

    I would not, and hope I have not, suggested that the training given to the modern soldier is about stoking blood lust. And you are absolutely correct, that is it about training on equipment and methods. You also, of course, speak from a much greater direct knowledge than I’ve got (I’d probably keel over and die after five minutes at boot camp.). I’d also say that in addition, a soldier’s training is about handling, the battlefield conditions, the stress, and, importantly, how to follow orders.

    But at the risk of going all Skinnerian on the subject, I would also suggest that this same process directs and reshapes responses to stimuli in the desired direction; to operate the equipment, to follow the orders in ways which are most likely to accomplish the mission and the primary mission of any military engagement is going to be to render the enemy incapable of fighting back. This requires them to be willing and able to kill large numbers of people when the conditions warrant, to do it without hesitation and to do it for either abstract reasons or to save their own butts or the butts of the people next to them with whom they have bonded over the long training process. I would suggest none of this is easy, quick or inate (except possibly the saving your own butt part).

    “Insurgents have had no problem shooting at us in Iraq; they simply don’t shoot well. These are people with little to no training and it shows. It hasn’t stopped them from murder/intimidation campains against fellow Muslims though.”

    And yet, even under the enormous pressures of the conditions currently prevalant in Iraq, it is still only a minority of the population actively engaged in the commission of violence.

    ” I could go on but since I intend to go get your book anyway I guess you win. :-)”

    Hope you enjoy, then we can make this a win-win.

    ###

    Mark: I haven’t read that one, but I did recently read BITTERLY DIVIDED which is based extensively on what was appearing in the newspapers of the era, and has some very, VERY interesting things to say about the motivations for and conduct of the Civil War.

  55. First of all: Thanks to CL that she read through all this and answered to so much of it.
    That book is on my “have to own this” list.

    Reducing the violence with which we have to put up is, in my opinion, the reason for civilisation. So the more we civilise each other, the less need we will have for violence.
    BUT, unfortunately, the more civilised we are, the lazier we will become. The more lazier we already have become.
    Uncertainty boosts creativity.

    Please don’t see this as promoting violence!!!!!! Quite the opposite. I just want to say that either we have to deal with it or stagnate. It is quite important to find out how much violence and uncertainty we will need to advance :)

    But that’s the work of future generations and SciFi writers!

  56. #37 CLAnderson
    meme wars -a story arc by novelist John Barnes

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_True

    of course it has a more terrestrial 20th century origination.

    As for your not valid comments on fanaticism.
    sorry 16 of the 19 on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. Many had college degrees, had traveled to Europe and the US, were from well off families. Had email addresses, cell phones, and laptops and did not have records of LE issues in their past. Yet they did it and their supporters would again.

    In short I know multiple COIN experts that disagree with your simplifying fanaticism backed up by a holy Quoran vs. that which is attributed to the third world conditions in modern day terms.

    /sorry to have not read the book yet, I just got the call my special order of it is in . Turns out it got little distribution in Austin , TX. I will of course follow upon reading with a comment of applicability.

  57. Vulture TX: Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian theocracy. The societal conditions prevalent there are not unique to modern Islam, neither are they backed up by consensus opinions of modern readings of the Qu’ran. The conditions there are much closer to a feudal monarchy from the Middle Ages than to a modern state. Among other things, this makes social mobility difficult, creating a permanently disenfranchised class that may be rich, but has no real power, or opportunity. These are conditions that have contributed to fanatic actions in many societies across many ages. For an interesting look at life in modern Saudi Arabia, I highly, HIGHLY recommend THE GIRLS OF RIYADH, by Rajaa Alsanea the first novel written by a Saudi woman translated into English. Fascinating.

    Further, the Qu’ran is a long, complex book. IN addition, the Prophet Mohammed lived a long time and made official pronouncements on a lot of subjects that are included in commentaries but not on the Qu’ran itself. As with the Bible and the Letters of the Apostles, it is possible to pull out quotes that will back up almost any stance.

    If we look down the history of revolution, many of them were started by educated and relatively wealthy classes; our own American Revolution was incited by the topmost strata of society. There was a very strong student presence in both the Soviet and Chinese revolutions. Poverty and ignorance are not sole motivating factors, and I don’t believe I said they are. Ongoing, long term social pressures can take many forms, including but not limited to the sense that the state is or has failed, whether this is an accurate view or not. Combine that with personal animosity on the part of the powerful or the clever (Ben Franklin became a revolutionary because after being dealt a personal insult) and you have an explosive mix.

    Osama Bin Laden’s background, his personal animosity to the Saudi royal family and his desire to see them toppled are long and complex, as are most conditions giving rise to violence and the incitement to violence. One intepretation of the attacks on the US is not the generalized hatred of our society but an attempt to get us out of the Middle East and dissolve our support for the Saudi Royal family and, possibly, for Israel, but that is a whole ‘nuther can of worms.

    As to the implication of Islam in the violence; it is my opinion that, as in other places and at other times, religion is being used as an excuse to incite violence. It is not the reason for it. Similarly, blood libel against the Jews of Europe was used as an incitement to riot and loot.

    IMHO, the reasons for the violence are a combination of the following: a desire for power, a desire for revenge, a desire for territory, and a desire for wealth on the part of those who feel they are entitled to all three. As such, we are seeing nothing new, or unique in the violence in the Middle East.

    Are there many people who disagree with this opinion? Yes. All I can claim for it is that it is my own.

    I hope you enjoy the book.

  58. I would not have given this book a second look before this writeup. Now I am definitely going to give it a try. I’m not sure what it is about the cover that put me off, but it is a good lesson for me and another great thing about the web.

  59. Ms. Anderson

    Just picked up the pb and am about to dive headlong into the book. I am the kind of nerd who reads the stats page to see the artists name, etc.

    While doing so I ran into “copywright 2009 by _Redacted_”. Error by the publisher or did I just blow your nom de plume?

    About to enjoy the book either way.

  60. Nargel: And now you know the truth. CLAMS GOT FEET! Oh, wait, that’s something else…

    And if you get that joke, you have just revealed yourself to be Of A Certain Age.

  61. Yes I am. :)

    And, of course, being of An Even More Certain Age, I’m now enjoying the pleasant earworm ‘taking my oyster for walkies’. ;)

    About page 264 at the moment and it has been very interesting so far, looking forward to the rest. Fun book, makes my mind stretch.

  62. Hi John,

    Thanks for noting the ‘Spies in Space’ Twitter fiction contest for ‘Bitter Angels.’ I ended up as one of the winners, so I’ll have a chance to read the book.

    cornellbox: @bookviewcafe Sputnik watches from overhead. Realizes she’s been left alone with no way home. So she sends messages to other side in code.

  63. Okay I finished the book even though it was a way slower read than the other 9 works of hers I have on the shelves on my library.

    It is a universe with war, as in cold war with no open conflicts. A war in the shadows from Pax Solaris spying on EVERYONE else who has a less elite society. And doing it badly , inefficiently but trying as well as their cult doctrine allows them. Yes Cult as in no killing, swearing by the Prophets, and other precepts based on faith and not science. The Cult aspect is a background thing to justify the actions of the Guardians and is not directly mentioned. They also have the concept of a “Takedown” which is a total non lethal (on their part) rebuilding of a failed society. The book fails to mention how many die as this process is drawn out because surgical intervention are not permitted. As for the non lethal aspect of the Guardians, they are torturers in that they will give immortality and medical stabilized sanity to a criminal and then isolate them for an eternity to contemplate their crim and their failure as is mentioned in the novel for a “convicted torturer”. The irony here may be argued.

    It is also interesting that the “Bad Guys” have a hydraulic empire with an added layer of slavery. and that in this universe you only have the resources of your own star system; even though you have one way jump gates and also ships with jump drives. Given that and the inability of other societies to moderate another star systems policies , people die en masse w/o hope in the Bad Guy’s worlds as time progresses.

    /as promised my comments, though not a full review of all the other issues , just on the concept of universal peace in a SF setting and what it implied in this work.

  64. VultureTX@72

    Just by reading your ‘review’ it becomes obvious that you went into this with an agenda. Fail.

    Cult, prophets? Unstated, unmentioned, not required or needed for the universe in question. Based on your earlier comments as well as this one, I’m probably closer to correct if I assume you are a fundamentalist Christian and viewing this through that lens. Hey, if a Cult is all you are used to, I suppose that is all you will see.

    Given that it is explicitly stated more than once that once jump gates had an alternative, the system in question became a backwater. Other, more vibrant systems, may share in a more distributed economy and information flow. Vulture, read the book not look for snippets you can twist to fit your preconceived attitudes.

    As a society’s attempt to avoid organized, armed, mass conflict involving mass death as a desirable outcome, this was an interesting attempt. The fact that elements revealed early on in the novel turned out to be crucial at the climax was a nice twist. FWIW, I enjoyed the book and the resulting brain stretch. I am sure that further looks at this human, hence flawed, society would be interesting to see. The “inability of other societies to moderate another star systems policies” would most likely be shown to be inaccurate in more mainstream areas of the universe, for example.

  65. Nargel @73 – now who is reading too much into the writings of others? Being US centrist there much?

    Not a christian, not even a “people of the book”. And I went into this work as a Militarist, because the author said emphatically that this was a universe at peace. And it was not.

    As for Cult , yes an organized system of faith that pervades the Guardians, “please search for their reference to “God and the Prophets”, it is in the book. Please look at the assertions that death only brings more death, that by asking for forgiveness is the only way for a Guardian who kills. Which one must take on Faith, because it was not echoed at all in the book. (the one supposed example was by a Guardian who was not a killer). also their method of “justice”, that eternal reflection and enforced sanity , yeah more cultish than based on a society of laws and men.

    BTW wars tend to brew in these Backwaters, because they have resource issues.

  66. Vulture: I did not say the whole universe or even the whole human diaspora was at peace, either here or in the book. There has been no war within the Solar System or between the worlds of the Pax Solaris for at least a century. It was my intent to show that peace is the result of a series of choices, just like war, neither state being either impossible or inevitable.

    As to the various interjections involving God and the Prophet. I have always found one of the most difficult aspects of world-building is how do you allow people to swear or express loud, sudden surprise in culturally appropriate ways. This is a tough one if you want to expand past the current slang, and at the same time don’t want to sound silly. For the most part, that’s what that was about, but yes, religion is a part of the future. I didn’t have the room to go into religion explicity but in my background vision there are multiple versions of multiple religions because religious freedom and tolerance are important to the creation and maintenance of any long-term peace involving humans.

    You are correct, the main solar system the story takes place in only has easy access its own resources in terms of water anyway. That’s part of the reason the place is such a mess. That is not the prevalent condition of most of the rest of the human diaspora worlds. If I didn’t convey that clearly, that’s my bad.

  67. VultureTX@74-Maybe I am reading too much into your earlier comments. I did see the TX as reading Texas which, while not being totally wingnut, has way too many Christian fundies for comfort. The blanket slam on Islam as well as the quick labeling of Cult read as Fundie rather than militant atheist. My bad.

    That said, I still think that your take on the context of the story is too narrow minded and a case of seeing what you wanted to see rather than what was there.

  68. #75 CL Anderson
    And as stated you don’t have peace you just have a lack of open conflict there. There is a Cold War (covert and aid ops) that is being actively done by people in Chicago (and assumed other places on earth). As a result of those ops, it is also obvious as stated in the novel that there are deaths. When a society refuses direct confrontation but authorizes multiple covert actions , then war is just a matter of definition. Which I assume is why you made that defining comment about my first statement “Diplomacy is War by other means”.

    And yes I fully understand the limits implied on about the two systems involved and the implied tactical and logistic capabilities of your jump gates and Internal Drives (ex: jump gate has one jump to earth. Internal Drive takes 4 jumps to do the same. Jump gates can jump microdrones and other non ship parcels. Target and destination are purely a distance limit and not restricted to “empty space”). Since water is just hydrogen , oxygen and a exothermic chemical process, it is implied that all nearby systems are under the control of other societies, since otherwise you could just send a jump gate, a robotic plant and a solar array (all via Internal Drive ships that the Blood has) and water shipments would arrive in the depleted system. [startup costs are unknown but no economic information is actually given in the book. but hey those jump gates are just lying around ;)]
    .

    Thanks for taking the effort to write this work and for your responses to all of us. I look forward to your next work.
    -
    -

    #76 Nargel – stereotype much? the usage of Cult in no ways implies a christian orientation. It is standard terminology for sociologists and Cultural Anthros. HINT Cults predate Christianity. As for Islamicism it means Islamic fundamentalism and I specifically added the qualifier fanatic. I really do oppose the implementation of Sharia in all forms.

    /hopefully I have not abused the bounds of Scalzi’s hospitality and will cease further comments on this variance of opinions.

  69. #77 VultureTX – stereotype? No. I’ve already stated why I saw your comments as possibly pushing a viewpoint I’ve seen way too much of the last 10 years. Note: I never stated that had to be the case, just that that was how I was reading your comments. I never said that ‘Cult’ usage meant Christian orientation although the Fundies have a pronounced tendency to refer to any religion other than their own personal variant as a cult and your usage of Cult as a synonym for religion gives the same usage. Cult may have a different definition than common usage to “sociologists and Cultural Anthros” (are you either?) but if you intend to use a non-standard definition, you should state so when you use it. HINT other organized religions also predate Christianity. So what?

    if you remember, my response to your first comment pointed out that the problem was not Islamic fundamentalism but rather fundamentalism (in ALL it’s flavors). And I don’t care how you feel about Sharia, it is not germane to this discussion.

  70. Who was it again that a fanatic can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject?

    Whether or not Bitter Angels succeeds in answering the question of what a world at peace would be like is one thing; but it strikes me as petulant to insist that such a thing is impossible and therefore it IS TOO WAR!!!!! because we define any kind of conflict as “war”, QED.

  71. While i hope that a world without war one day comes. I dont believe it will. Simply because in my experience it isn’t hard to teach someone to kill, especially if that someone is male. (im a male guys, no im not gay, and no im not a feminist – im a realist)

    I’m still gonna read your book, ’cause as much as i disagree with your premise, your article was well written and intriguing.

  72. Richard:

    Interestingly enough, I also see myself as a realist.

    The reality is that all things, including relationships between nation states, change.

    Therefore, IMHO, it is as realistic to imagine that those relationships will get better as it is to imagine that they will get worse, and either is more realistic than imagining that they will stay the same.

  73. You are correct, the main solar system the story takes place in only has easy access its own resources in terms of water anyway.

    Could you expand on this statement?

  74. James:

    We’re dealing with a repressive regime in a colonized system that is a series of moons in orbit around a gas giant. Only one of those moons has naturally occurring H2O. Now, there is FTL, so technically, anyone with access to an FTL ship or a “jump gate” could import water from elsewhere. However, access to FTL in all its forms is also severely restricted by the government/ruling corporation, so the general population only has (relatively) easy access to what’s on their world of residence or available within the system.

    This raises the question of manufacturing water. As I understand the physical requirements, this is a fairly resource intensive process and the still-suit variants are not such a great idea after all. And, of course, as the ruling corporation wants to maintain a monopoly on water, any large scale H2O manufacturing operation would be shut down. Which in turn raises the possibility of water sellers operating like meth labs, which I have to admit, I didn’t think of when I wrote this, which is why discussions like this are a Good Thing.

  75. It’s actually really, REALLY hard to get most people to kill a stranger.

    Not exactly. What is difficult is to get most people to kill a stranger on behalf of another stranger. That requires significant effort to induce, usually focused on making the soldier-to-be identify with his unit as early man identified with his tribe.

    At that point, however, human nature takes over. The standard mode of interaction between human hunter-gatherer tribes (or, indeed, between groups of chimpanzees) is hostile territoriality which regularly breaks into lethal violence.

    This is why soldiers (beyond a few outliers) fight for their “buddies”, not for their country.

  76. This Big Idea has been fairly unique for me. This is the first time in my life that I’ve bought a book based on a single article, mention, or review. I read the Big Idea, and literally whispered “sold” when I finished. The book’s in transit as I type.

    I’m normally very slow to try new authors. Even Scalzi’s (brilliant) Old Man’s War series took consistent haranguing on the part of my sister, and a visit to a DC reading, before I relented and plunked down cash.

    I don’t know that I agree with the entire premise, and the conversation in the comments is fascinating, but I am sure it’ll be an interesting read.

    I just wanted to share that with you. CL Anderson, if you’re still checking these comments, this Big Idea earned you one tick on your royalties chart. It’s not much of an ROI, I’ll admit, but hey, every little bit helps, right?

  77. Indeed it does. My thanks to you and the other folks who have said they were picking up the book for being willing to take a chance, and also our Host, not only for allowing me to blog here, but for encouraging a civil atmosphere for the debate and discussion of this and other Big Ideas.

  78. I’m reading this now, based on this article. One thing that hasn’t been emphasised is how good the characterisation is in this novel. The author has given most of the characters a family to worry about; and suddenly, even across cultural gulfs you can see the characters as human. I’m already glad I bought this, and I haven’t finished yet.

    I’ll certainly be seeking out more by CL Moore, too.

  79. Thank you!

    Although you could do a lot worse than seeking out more by CL Moore. I highly recommend “No Woman Born” and “Shambleu.”

  80. I just finished the book. Bravo! I was very impressed by the way you brought everything together in the grand finale (and surprised me with what was _really_ going on!). Effective use of point of view, too. (especially in the very last scene) Amazing book.

    Thank you Scalzi for featuring this book – never would have picked it up otherwise.

  81. In short, a real, genuine, long-term peace would be a complex, dynamic situation that would have to be constantly maintained. Real peace would require law enforcement, diplomacy, and intelligence services. Real peace might get mistaken for weakness by people who look at places like say, Switzerland and see the cuckoo clocks and the chocolate and don’t see the universal required militia service, and it would have to have plans and training in place to deal with people who might make the mistake of trying to muscle in on its territory.

    It is possible, but is a long-term unstable situation. Peace as posited by C.L. Anderson requires constant maintenance by dedicated AND competent people. Sooner or later either corruption or laziness will spoil things. Not necessarily on large enough scale to cause an all-out war — in fact, a small breakdown leading to a localized conflict is far more likely, — but here is the kicker: the longer is the period without breakdowns, the bigger is a breakdown when it does come. The longer peace lasts without obvious problems, the more time there is for “watchers” to become complacent, stuck in routine, or used to “skim off the top” because “nobody will notice”. And hence the bigger is the crash.

    Which is very similar to earthquakes and stock market crashes — the system is mostly stable, small adjustments happen fairly often, and the bigger “adjustment” is, the less often it occurs. Problem is, given enough time really big “adjustments” are inevitable. AKA, war IS inevitable, it may just take a long time for before it happens.

  82. I loved reading “Bitter Angels” very much. It was a great sci-fi mystery. Do you plan to write a sequel? If not, what is your next book? Will it be published in the near future?

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