Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Good Story 127: Tuf Voyaging

Julie and Scott call Haviland Tuf to solve the world's problems. The solution will include sea monsters, manna from heaven, and at least one Tyrannosaurus Rex. George R.R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging is the subject of Episode 127.

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed book for the most part. Haviland Tuf is such a fun character. A vocabulary as large as the Oxford Dictionary employed wittily and sarcastically. The dialogue was just so good, that you would have to retrace what was just said. That and his protestations when his honor was impugned as a dishonest character. Although he was not clear as the driven snow when it came to how he dealt with others.

    Each story was also quite solid and the type of short story that appeals to me. Just masterfully done.

    I could have done without the Malthusian aspect especially in the last of the series of stories involving S'uthlam. One aspect of this sub-series I found rather interesting was the idea common in pro-life circles that we will miss out on some great people by curtailing population. I am not the fondest of this argument as it diminishes the individual and only counts those that are "great". Still this planet was mentioned to have all of these brilliant people because of this. This was reinforced in some aspects in later stories.

    One aspect of those stories that annoyed me is how they could easily be seen as mocking Catholics. Although maybe the culture building annoyed me more. Really a planet of humans almost totally faithful to their religion? So much so that they could see a increasingly worse situation and not makes excuses not to follow it or to go all cafeteria? So this seemed more like a stereotype than a planet of real people.

    The third of the stories is what annoyed me the most. It reminded me a lot of the cases of forced sterilization in Peru and other cases where women were sterilized in South America by elites determining what was best for them. Or the cases of compulsory sterilization that occurred in over 30 states during the eugenics phase of the last century in the U.S. I expected that this in fact was going to happen eventually and so was not surprised in the least by it. You can understand this attitude and how it develops as "well meaning." So for me that solution was deeply evil where he had become corrupted by power and being god.

    That said, I still really enjoyed the stories. I know Mr. Martin is a man of the Left, so this was hardly surprising. I don't mind novels with a ecological message because we are stewards of a gift given us. I once read that Dune was going to be primarily a ecological message novel with most of the focus on Liet-Kynes as the Imperial Planetologist. We can be thankful an editor helped him to expand the story beyond this.

    As to The Sandkings, I never read it. But I know the story from the first episode of the Showtime "Outer Limits" which had Beau Bridges. Such a great episode.

    As for Galileo, I remember once Jimmy Akin being asked what he thought of him at the very end of an episode of Catholic Answers with only seconds left. The reply "He was a bit of a jerk." Jimmy could have of course expanded way beyond that - but I laughed at the accurate capsulation. He was a bit of a jerk and he did not just run afoul of churchmen, but other scientists of the day. He was on the right track, but many of his proofs were just plain wrong. Like he thought the tides proved it. Plus at the time they were unable to measure the expected Stellar Parallax if the theory was true. In fact it took almost two centuries after his death until we had instruments accurate enough. What I though was especially funny about his "imprisonment" was that he was supposed to pray the penitential psalms as part of it. He got a dispensation so that his daughter, a nun, could pray them instead for him.

    What I find interesting about the whole thing, as others have noted, is that in the whole history of the Church this is the one event trotted out. Gee you would think you could multiply such a proof? Worse though is that for most of my life this was about the only thing I knew about Church history. I remember this being the only time in public school that that Church was ever mentioned.

    1. I am midway through listening to In Our Time's discussion of Utilitarianism. Boiled down it is the greatest good (happiness) for the greatest number of people. By looking at the mass of people instead of individuals, philosophers thought they could make ethics and morality into a science. Instead, as we know, grave evil came from it as attempts were made to apply it to government. Anyway, it really applies in Tuf's case for the last story. He can only see the big numbers, not the individuals. As he says in an earlier story, people are just a cog in the ecological wheel. And that's no attitude for a decision maker.

      You make a great point about Galileo being the hallmark symbol always given for Church history. Nothing about priests like Mendel (genetics) or Georges LemaƮtre (big bang theory). Or if they are mentioned, their priesthood is an aside, not a symbol of the Church's interest in truth in all areas of life.

  2. Haven't read the book, enjoyed the podcast! I appreciated the earlier commen. Couple of things-- first, open borders only work if we don't have an extensive welfare state which extends to anyone within our borders. Second, Germany does have a negative growth rate; not quite in the demographic death spiral of Japan (more adult than infant diapers sold), and which Italy is approaching. However, assuming that large numbers of unassimilated young men, usually lacking either language skills or transferrable skills, and often completely opposed to the receiving culture, will *fix* their problems is naive at best. I do suggest you look at Jonathan Last's "What to expect when no-one's expecting" which is an accessible discussion of demographics around the world, and their impacts on societies & economies...