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More Macroscope - Input Junkie
December 30th, 2013
01:41 pm

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More Macroscope
Previous post.

I finished rereading Macroscope, it's a pretty good book, and as far as I can tell, it isn't sexist. There are two major female characters (sorry, I didn't check for Bechtel), and they're well developed, have something in their lives beside their relationships with men, have agency, and consent is taken very seriously. There might be something bad I missed, but Anthony at least made a very honest effort, and there's a lot of good.

I'm emphasizing this because when I mentioned to people that I was rereading something by Piers Anthony, I often enough got the reaction "Oooh, Piers Anthony!". I propose judging books rather than authors. I realize that sometimes it can feel as you have a relationship with an author just by reading their books, and then feel betrayed if the author does or says something awful, but I'm very dubious about encouraging other people to avoid an author on such grounds.

This being said, I'm only going to give the book a moderate recommendation-- most of the people I talked with said they'd read it back when, and they didn't remember anything about it. The book is probably of the most interest for people who like large scope sf-- vast spans of time and space and many intelligent species. Other examples are the Lensman stories, Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, and Stapledon's Star Maker, Last and First Men, and Last and First Men in London. Any recommendations for more?

One thing that caught my eye is that the main characters are much less violent than I'd expect from current sf. The plot line simply isn't set up to support a lot of violence, and a major theme is the importance of learning to live in peace.


I'd say one of the big problems is Schon's characterization-- he's supposed to be superbly intelligent, but emotionally five years old. He's a personality trapped inside Ivo, and a lot of what goes on is Ivo figuring out how to get some use of his talents without being swamped.

Unfortunately, Schon is simply nasty-- constantly calling people stupid-- in a way which actually shows implausibly bad judgement (I'd say he's shows much better understanding of emotions when he's constructing hallucinations) and which also seems rather older than five to me. Those of you who remember the book and have more experience of children, please weigh in.

An annoyance is that the two older characters are cleared out of the story so that we can have the simple happy ending of a couple.

One of the good things about the story is that Afra wins by recognizing intelligence where Schon hasn't noticed it-- this fits in neatly with the theme of obsession about intelligence (Ivo and Schon grew up in a project which was intended to produce very smart people).

This time around, the astrology section made sense to me. The last chunk, which is substantially about Afra fighting her way past an emotional trauma, previously struck me as incoherent. Partly, this might have been because it's more broken up than the previous three sections-- it's a multi-stage conflict between her and Schon rather than a single story-- but I think mostly it was too emotionally stressful for me to focus on.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1029809.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:kalimac
Date:December 31st, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
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One relevant reason for avoiding buying a new copy of Macroscope would be if one wished, by reason of the obnoxiousness of his later work, to avoid giving him any royalties.

Otherwise I agree: judge the book and the author separately. Hey, I listen to Beethoven and Wagner, pretty crappy guys in their personal lives, but I judge the music as music and the man as a man.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 31st, 2013 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Or one could hope that buying Macroscope sends a signal there's a market for non-obnoxious Anthony, but a letter would probably be better.
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From:agrumer
Date:January 1st, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC)
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Is Macroscope in print?
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From:nancylebov
Date:January 1st, 2014 10:22 pm (UTC)
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Yes, but if you get a mass market paperback, you can be sure you're not sending Anthony any money.
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:December 31st, 2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
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I love Xanth, but his long serious books smelled so creepy that I scarcely tried them. In some middle or later Xanths, he was obviously trying to get away from the sexism in major plot events-- but the sick attitude was still there.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 31st, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
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Do you include Macroscope among the long serious books?
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From:captain_button
Date:January 3rd, 2014 03:27 am (UTC)
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"(Ivo and Schon grew up in a project which was intended to produce very small people)."

Small? I missed that part. I recall that it was a program to breed humans back to the original root stock from before they broke up into different races. Because that would create supersmart people or something else Really Cool. Never was real clear exactly what.

I recall even at the time, I couldn't quite follow how they were getting significant results in what didn't sound like it could be more than two or three generations. Especially when they kept talking about thirds rather than quarters or halves.

For those who haven't read it, a couple of the characters are from this project and thus are 1/3 Caucasoid, 1/3 Mongoloid, and 1/3 Negroid. This becomes a plot point when Afra realizes she was unknowingly sleeping with a black man.
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From:nancylebov
Date:January 3rd, 2014 06:46 pm (UTC)
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Sorry-- typo. It should have been very *smart* people.
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