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Reading at Work

I finished Ilium and went to the library to get the sequel, Olympos only to find it checked out. On a whim I perused the library's collection of John Barnes novels and picked up a copy of The Sky So Big and Black sequel to the (seemingly) unintentionally homoerotic and vastly entertaining Candle.

The novel, so far, takes place entirely on Mars, and it deals with the cultural tensions between rugged individualist ecoprospectors and the socialist residuum of bureaucrats and "sitters." I've been transcribing the bits of naked social commentary that float unselfconsciously to the surface of Barnes' narrative. The bits collected here come from the first third of the novel and come from the mouths of two characters.

“The idiots running the schools are trying to induce unreasoning panic in the next generation, now. For a whole Mars year they’ve subjected these kids to grief-counseling and anxiety-discussions and plain old fear-mongering intended to make the children permanently dependent on the self-misnamed “helping professions”--that is, make the children be permanently children. (…)

The stupid things we’re about to do to kids, just so the world will be a little more comfortable for grown-ups--it used to be the point was to get them out of school so they could go have lives, not keep them around as toys for the teachers and counselors to coddle and moon over. (…)

Before I was even twenty, I had had to improvise my way out of so many things that I had lost any fear of the new. We saw more, and learned more, and it is the opinion of this experienced shrink that these kids don’t really need counseling, they need a chance to get to work, to make and do and dream and think, to make adults out of themselves. And if you gave them half a chance they all would.
But so many in my damned generation say that they‘ve had too much stress already and they want the world to calm down, just because it wasn‘t calm when they were kids. So we‘re going to build society in the form of a quiet garden for old people and let the kids rust away unused, soothing Grandma‘s nerves at the minor expense of making Junior narrow and dumb and lazy. The way every basically comfortable society turns out, given half a chance. The only thing we learn from history is convenient metaphors for our current follies.”


“…now and then you get ideas that, no matter how repulsive, just live on and on for generations, sticking like a dingleberry in the ass hairs of culture.”


“How do you know something’s a principle till it gives you trouble, hunh? If you won’t put yourself to some trouble about it, it’s not a principle, it’s just a comforting slogan.”


“So for example, back before CSL, in those old things they called high schools, mostly they needed people to mover paper around and kiss each other’s butts, so they taught some kids to make blah-blah noises like administrators. They also needed kids who were going to do actual work, but they had too many of those, so they kept the rest of the kids locked up to keep them off the labor market. They taught the first group to make vague noises about any subject that came up, just like the noises in the media, and that that was what knowledge was; and they taught the ones they were warehousing that learning anything was for snots. And they got just what they needed, a bottom group that never learned anything (because they had been taught that they didn’t want to), and a top group that never learned anything (because they thought the blah-blah noises were all there was to know). It even reinforced, because the tops thought the bottoms were stupid since the bottoms didn’t make blah-blah noises, and the bottoms thought they didn’t like learning because they didn’t like blah-blah noises. It worked just fine for pretty nearly everyone.”


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)
So you dig homoerotic novels... nothing wrong with that.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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