Re: 2001 Prometheus Award finalists, Best [Libertarian Science Fiction] Novel

From: Travas Gunnell (
Date: Sat Apr 14 2001 - 17:55:26 MDT

I should be able to help with a few things here...

--- wrote:

> I've been trying to read The Stone Canal, and it's
> heavy going. Granted,
> when reading SF I expect to be faced with strange
> cultures, alien viewpoints,
> unfamiliar references.
> I just don't expect to find that in the flashbacks
> to present-day Earth.
> New Mars, with its human-equivalent machines, its
> violent anarchy, and
> all its futuristic technology, is far more
> comfortable and understandable
> to me than 1970s England.
> Here they are at the bookstore, regarding the
> owners;
> "Probably on old ILP'er or something," Reid
> muttered, pouncing on a
> blue Charles H. Kerr & Co. voume of Dietzgen.
> he blew dust off it
> and sneezed.
> What's an ILP'er? Who's Dietzgen? Later, they find
> some interesting
> books:

The ILP is the Independent Labour Party, which was
formed in 1893 in Britian. For the curious, look

Dietzgen was a socialist 'proletarian' philosopher. I
found a quote of his that seems appropriate here, "We
may leave certain objects of scientific research to
professionals, but general thought is a public
matter..." There's a book of his essays that you may
be able find called "Some of the Philosophical Essays
on Socialism and Science, Religion, Ethics,
Critique-of-Reason and the World-at-large"
> This was almost certainly unique, a living
> fossil: a wartime Russia
> Today Society pamphlet called Soviet
> Millionaires. It hadn't
> stayed in circulation long, not after the SPGB
> had seized on it as
> irrefutable proof that behind the socialist
> facade the USSR concealed
> a class of wealthy property-owners.
> What's the SPGB? Why would their conclusion about
> this magazine take
> it out of circulation?

The SPGB is the Socialist Party of Great Britain,
which has been in exsistance since 1903. They
envision a "democratic, non-statist, non-market
socialism in opposition to Social Democracy and

> "Ah, now, what about this?" He opened a book
> and studied the
> fly-leaf. "Stirner, The Ego and His own,
> property of the Glasgow
> Anarchist Workers' Circle, 1043. Five pounds."
> This is supposedly quite a find! Wow! Stirner!
> Who's Stirner?

Max Stirner, famous anarchist. The book in question,
"The Ego and His Own", can be found in full here:

> Later they go to the "Union smoking room":
> We both sat back at the same moment. Reid toyed
> with the bamboo
> holder of the previous day's Guardian. The MPLA
> had taken Huambo,
> not for the last time.
> Who's the MPLA? What is Huambo? (I have two
> theories: one is that
> Huambo is some kind of newspaper, an underground
> competitor to the more
> established Guardian, and the MPLA is a leftist
> group which steals it
> to read it at home. The other is that Huambo is
> some kind of military
> target and the MPLA an insurgent group, and it has
> changed hands many
> times as the tides of battle have shifted.)

Your second guess is more accurate. The MPLA is the
"People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola", and
Huambo is a city in Angola. The MPLA (founded in
1956) is a movement for complete independence. During
the war for independence from Portugal (which broke
out in 1961) the MPLA was supported by socialist and
communist states, UNITA (National Union for the Total
Independence of Angola) was backed by western powers,
and the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of
Angola) was backed by the 'nonleft' power groups of
southern Africa. The MPLA and UNITA are still at war.
> Later they're at McDonalds with the family:
> My father spotted a young woman carrying a
> bundle of papers...
> and asked her in a tone of polite curiosity:
> "Why don't you fight
> capitalism, for a change?"
> But after the young woman had said only a few
> sentences, he
> stopped her with a smile and an uplifeted
> finger. He looked at his
> watch and brought the finger down to tap it
> triumphantly.
> "One minute, twenty-five seconds," he said to
> the puzzled cadre.
> "Congratulations. That's the shortest time yet
> for a member of
> -- let me see --" he made a pretence of counting
> on his fingers
> "-- a split, from a split, from a split, from
> the Fourth International
> to call *me* a sectarian!"
> Wow, what a put-down. He sure got her, eh? But
> what's the Fourth
> International? And why would she have called him a
> sectarian? Is that
> something nasty?

The Fourth International is the latest, and probably
least significant, of a series of Internationals. It
is Trotskyist is nature. Trotskyism being one of many
leftist "sects". The official website of the Fourth
International is here:

Much more interesting was the First International
(1864), which was split between the authoritarian
Marxists (led by Marx) and the anti-authoritarian
anarchists (led by Bakunin). A few websites:

> All the early flashbacks are full of this stuff.
> It's utterly
> incomprehensible, some kind of alien world where
> everything I know is
> turned upside down.
> I was in college in the 1970s. I'm the same age as
> these characters.
> Maybe I didn't hang out with the right people, but I
> don't think
> the culture described here existed in anything like
> this form in the
> U.S. The pervasive leftism, the labelling of
> positions, the careful
> hair-splitting to find out exactly which leftist
> category you fit into,
> it's all utterly bizarre.

It did indeed exist, you just didn't hang out with the
right people. Here's a nice list of such groups as
they exist today in the US:
And in the world:

And for general interest and learning more about all
this crazy stuff, I suggest going here:

> If he were making up this kind of stuff for his
> alien culture, an author
> would feel obligated to explain a little more about
> what is going on.
> But since he's apparently describing a real place
> and time, he doesn't
> feel the need. As someone who grew up in a very
> different milieu,
> I find it awfully hard to understand the emotional
> currents and the
> unstated meanings which are flying hot and heavy in
> these passages.

I'm sure that the average person that picks up a
scientific text, or who reads this list, feels much
the same way. Speaking as someone who is fairly
familiar with this stuff; in order to fully explain
all these references, the author would probably have
to at least double the length of his book. And unless
he had all this information off in a glossary or
something, he would have to have written a very
different work.
     It is quite sad, I think, that this kind of
information is so unknown in this country.
> I think I see why The Cassini Division was released
> first in the U.S.
> It doesn't suffer from this problem. Without being
> motivated by wanting
> to see what came before, I suspect that American
> readers would give up
> on The Stone Canal in the first hundred pages.
> Hal

I hadn't heard of this book before. It sounds quite
interesting to me. :-) I'll have to hunt it down...


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