BOOKS: Dropping the Attanasio meme
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 16:22:45 EST


I wonder if A.A.Attanasio has even been discussed in Extropian circles. I personally consider him the best science-fiction and fantasy writer ever, and many of his themes are typically extropian.

One of his most recent novels, *Centuries*, which I personally consider one of the ten greatest novels ever written, is a history of the third millenium, from the point of view of several pivotal characters: Ellen Vancet, a scientist from the research team that created the anthrofacts, a group of genetically engineered metasapient humans; Rafe Von Takawa, the less intelligent of these anthrofacts, or "metas", and the hero of the novel; the Machine, an artificial intelligence which later adopts a human form...

The book is perhaps the most visionary novel I have read, its only competitors being other books written by Attanasio himself. Its characters are all immortals, many of them are metasapients, and the settings range from Earth to the Moon, Mars and Jupiter's moons, not to mention a limbo of "waveforms"
(kinds of astral bodies) which Attanasio calls the "tesseract range" (I don't
know whether he coined the term or borrowed it).

I think one of the problems with the fiction books which have been selected in the extropian reading list is that they tend to have been included for their themes and ideas more than for their literary qualities. (Is it because most extropians are scientists with a stunted esthetic sensibility?) But you can get ideas and science in a more rational presentation in non-fiction books, so why go through the tedium of reading poorly plotted novels with flat, boring characters and an execrable style? ("Give us the facts, Ma'am, just the facts.") Novels should be literary, and I don't see the point of reading junk novels just because they deal with issues that are dear to us.

In the original Extropian fiction list, I personally consider Sterling's *Schismatrix*, Walter Jon Williams' *Aristoi* and Ayn Rand's *Atlas Shrugged* to be the only three truly great novels. The others are either average or above average, the worst being *Inherit the Stars* and *The Great Explosion*.
(By the way, why not include Rand's *The Fountainhead*, if superior
intelligence and creativity are actual extropian values?)

For an upgrading of the list, A.A.Attanasio would be a good place to start. I also recommend *Radix*, his first novel, the story of an obese delinquent in a post-apocalyptic world who transforms into a superman. (I have read four other novels by Attanasio, but they were all closer to fantasy than genuine sciencefiction.)

*Centuries* has not been published in the US but is available in an English edition via

Comments welcome,

Jean-Francois Virey,
Douai, France.