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Sunday, July 2nd, 2017 08:29 am
The end of last week featured a great deal of demotivated being. I think i understand it: a biological nadir, the joys of the self assessment at work, long weekend anticipation. I picked up two digital speculative fiction books from the library: I checked out Haldeman's Forever Peace and then my hold on Butler's Seed to Harvest came available. That's actually an omnibus edition and I have read Wild Seed & Mind of My Mind. I'm drawing the line at Clay's Arc some chapters in, partly because i need to get up, partly because I'm really tired of Butler's characters.

It's remarkable, given the semi-random selection i made from Overdrive, how very similar the concepts are in the two narratives -- and yet how very different. Race, with African American and African characters, is featured in both books, as is a sort of change of humanity. Butler's focus on slavery is far more prevalent than in Haldeman's, and i've been left with a great deal of discomfort. (And, after reading Butler's Fledgling, i feel the ground well explored.) I guess the power dynamics of manipulation and enslavement is a more accurate description of Butler's theme, not slavery outright.

I think the two books would be a little more comparable if Haldeman had kept going and described the post "humanization" world. In Butler's "Patternist" world, there was a clear hierarchy within the powerful. Haldman's optimism -- that there is a way to overwhelm the viscous part of human nature and bring compassion and love forward -- stopped at the point where the narrative gets challenging (but perhaps less dramatic). Would he have described a Quaker-like governance?

Butler's focus on manipulation exhausted me, but it's made me poke at Forever Peace and its focus on violence: am i missing something? I feel like i'm watching a magic trick where the violence is the misleading distraction. It might be a difference in scale. The powers in Haldman's narratives were governmental and global scale; the two "Patternist" books were much more interpersonal, concluding with a couple thousand.

I'm thinking about reading the nonfiction work The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters. It seems to argue for a fractal quality of ecological rules. Perhaps i could phrase that as "Life is life at any scale." I need to think about how that sort of fractal view meshes with the concept of emergent properties of complex systems. Hmmm, most of my learning about nonlinear mathematics and properties of chaotic systems was absolute ages ago. I bet there's some synthesis of understanding, a correlation between the concept of emergent properties and strange attractors.

This comes to mind because there may be some fractal similarity between Butler's communities and Hadleman's global consideration, human dynamics aren't linear.

I was watching the first episode of season 4 of Sherlock, where he makes some statement about if all the threads were known, everything is determined. Poor writer, missing the point of Lorenz's butterfly (and on the smallest scales, dice are everywhere).
Sunday, July 2nd, 2017 06:25 pm (UTC)
Loved the first season of Sherlock, but didn't quit watching part way thru third bc thought got silly. However the point of the character is that he can pull all the threads together, butterflies or no.

Like your concept of life as fractal. Please expand.
Saturday, August 5th, 2017 07:36 pm (UTC)
Not quite the definition of 'fractal' that seem to remember (that being more mathematical), but I understand & appreciate your point. Many systems are self-organizing, to a point. Example, an higher multi-cellular organism (humans, for example) have an increasing structure of organelles -> cells -> organs -> entity. However, it is not purely self-organizing at each level. There are signals sent (mostly chemical mediators) between organs, cells, and even organelles. Plus, there is a control mechanism ("police" if you will) if something gets too out of whack, too self-aggrandizing at the expense of the organism. That is to say, the immune system fights cancers.
Monday, July 3rd, 2017 01:41 am (UTC)
Have you read Butler's Kindred? It's literally about slavery historically and psychologically via a time travel narrative.
I feel like Kindred grounds Butler's more abstract sfnal psychic manipulation scenes, like she's extrapolating from what she started exploring.
I know what you mean about Butler being a heavy read, but I think it's because she's so horribly plausible.