Am I the only one offended by S.M. Stirlings Emberverse series?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by Spartasman, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. Spartasman Member, Well-Known

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    Listen, I take issue with some of the elements of his work, obviously, but I don't think it's particularly useful to defame someones character to describe why I do so. I don't know Mr. Stirling in real life, and I'm not comfortable with some devolved conversation dragging him through the mud. If there is a need to do so someone can start a thread called "S.M. Stirling is a horrible person and here are the reasons why".
     
  2. Petike Sky Pirate Extraordinaire

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    Hey, none of us are saying people can't enjoy his writing. We're just noting our problems with the contents and premises of his works, and our problems with the dodgier side of him that he's shown publicly. Those rather awful things he admitted here already years ago ? It wasn't a secret, private conversation someone snooped out. This is a public forum and always has been. He basically said the stuff he said in public, albeit only on the Internet. He payed the price for openly expressing such opinions, and our views of him had soured for understandable reasons (not all of us, but plenty if not most of us).
     
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  3. VidaLaVida American-Japanese Bisexual

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    I'm not too read up on Stirling, admittedly. I haven't read Emberverse, though I have read Peshawar Lancers (I liked it. Sure it's weird and problematic in some cases, but fun with enough suspension of disbelief) and tried reading the Drakaverse (lost interest pretty soon in).

    From what I can grasp about the man both in terms of his writing and what I've heard about his personality/behavior, I get the strong impression that he's a very creative and imaginative guy in terms of abstract thinking, but really not good with people.

    From his writing, I always remember thinking it was great elaborate world-building and civilization development, and that he was clearly knowledgeable about the politics and philosophy that would go into it. But by God, he is not a people person. His characters are very stock and serve only to represent their particular broad class of race/culture/societal position, and his dialogue never flowed with me. Love him or hate him, I'll always give Harry Turtledove credit for one thing: for better or for worse, he gets how real people operate. His characters might sometimes be boring and have their quirks constantly come up every single time, but his dialogue is down-to-earth and distinctive for each character, and really seems like something that could come out of the mouths of actual human beings.

    And then you get into the reason why Stirling was banned from here, and it just drives the point home. That is NOT something a humanistic guy with a general basic empathy towards people would ever say. It's what happens when you have a person who has mostly learned about human beings through history and sociology textbooks instead of through actually getting out and talking to people; you start seeing people as abstract representations of their broader big picture group or class, and not as individual human beings who you can empathize with.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  4. Malta Kirked

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    Prince Charles did get to the Throne, married the Queen of th Netherlands or something like that. Then he got old and senile and started those thatch roof and morris dancing laws. The wife tried to get her children to inherit over William, a brief coup with William coming out on top and joinning with the Papacy to crush raiders out of Dakar and get crowned Holy Roman Emperor of Greater Britain.

    Also John is the "King" of a sucessor state in Australia. He is pretty laid back. One story has him sending a team of adventurers to Sydney to nick a lost music sheet of I think ACDC so he could put on a drunken stadium concert.
     
  5. EnglishCanuck Blogger/Writer/Dangerous Moderate

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    Charles married some Icelandic refugee named Hallgerda Haldorsdottir (honestly he seems obsessed with Icelandic names) in 1999, who tried to control the throne and lost her coup. William managed to put together a coalition to crush the "Moors" out of Dakar.

    He was then crowned: William, Rex Britannorum et Imperator Occidentalis: King of Great Britain and Emperor of the West. All that without a trace of irony in CY 10. Somewhat cool as that is I have a few reservations about it myself.
     
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  6. Worffan101 Dirty Communist

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    And that's not including just how nasty the prion diseases will get the moment somebody gets kuru.

    Cannibalism is the number-one best way to fuck over your culture's store of old people, which is critical for tech advancement since they have more experiences and know more things than young people in a society without formal education.
    Let me flip this on you. What exactly is so special about the Angrezi religions that causes them to NOT have crazy cults? Maybe not controlling the country, but there must be fringe groups--there are always fringe groups, and the more stress the people are under the more fringe they get. Where is the Angrezi ISIS to complement the Orthodox Satanist Cannibals?
    You do realize that the Japanese and the Chinese hate each other with the burning fire of ten thousand suns from centuries of strife between the two, right? And the Japanese Empire of OTL barely managed to control a relatively small part of China via a network of puppets at great expense even after China had basically collapsed from internal strife, corruption, and gross incompetence by the government?

    Then again, I suppose you have a point. The English did conquer Ireland, then assimilated into the culture of the conquered Irish and now have a powerful Irish empire that is united in their vaguely malevolent Celto-Saxon culture, right?
    I did actually like those, they had a nice Edgar Rice Burroughs feel, though like with ERB books the paleontologist in me had issues with them.
     
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  7. Worffan101 Dirty Communist

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    This. Anyone who tried to put a King in charge of America would be laughed out of town, and if he tried to do so seriously (using foreign mercs since no American would even think of joining him), he'd be ridden out on a rail.

    Americans hate the idea of having royalty. That's for our wacky cousins the Brits. Charming little parochials over there who still think they're relevant, doncha know*. But you try to bring a king to 'Murica, and we'll George Washington your ass in a Boston Tea Party to remember, God damn it! This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, one of our biggest "evil alternate universe" PoDs is "George Washington becomes a King" because it's just that much against the ethos here.

    *Parodying our national attitude here--I personally am a bit of an Anglophile. Their TV is better than ours and the accents sexy as hell.
    I take it from this that you're not from America. American culture is steeped in instinctual association of royal rule over America with tyranny. We are taught practically from birth about our struggle for freedom and the sacrifice of the brave patriots who fought for Freedom and Liberty (tm) against the savage and thuggish minions of the cartoonishly evil Neandertal King George, a brutal and ruthless tyrant who unlawfully oppressed Peace-Loving and Free America, Land of Liberty and Don't Tread On Me. We don't care that a lot of the rebels were just drunk angry thugs like Ethan Allen, or that the King was a fairly decent if mentally ill man for the period, or that we'd been treating Native Americans so badly that the Brits tried to get us to lay off, or that the roots of the conflict lay partially in unfair treatment and partially in the fact that like 50% or more of the population in the colonies was ethnic and religious minorities who hated London on principle. We just instinctively accept that America is good and Kings are bad.

    If you think that people raised for decades in a culture where that attitude is so deeply ingrained into our minds that we hardly ever notice it and we simply instinctively assume that that's the way things are will turn around and just accept a bizarre feudal clan structure with stupid noble titles and autocratic rule, you're completely unfamiliar with 'Murica and its people.
    If you lurk in the right parts of Baen Books's forums, some of the other big-name Baen authors, all ones who've worked with him, have a tendency to imply that he's a right prima donna who cuts deadlines uncomfortably tight at best and is super hard to work with.

    Generally speaking Stirling's an asshole who's written a couple of fun books, some meh books, some shit books, and one hilariously entertaining deconstruction of his most infamous books ("The Chosen", which is basically the Draka if the Stupid Virus wears off halfway through and such concepts as "logistics" and "oh fuck our tiny island country is occupying a fuckhuge empire and everybody is rebelling at once" are forcibly introduced to the not-Draka. I love that damn book). Overall he has interesting ideas but he just can't pull together a cohesive world and has a marked tendency to fall back on eye-rolling stereotypes--the hard-boiled detective from Drakon, the unbelievably stupid Samothracian agent (Stupid virus is canon, y'all) from that book, the Draka being an entire culture of ridiculous, pointlessly evil cartoon villains, Clan MacKenzie's version of Irish-ness, and the cannibals. All of the cannibals.

    He also tends to fall into black and white morality more than I'm comfortable with.
     
  8. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

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    I need to join the Baen forums one of these days, as many of their books as I read.
     
  9. Worffan101 Dirty Communist

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    Honestly, it only confirms what hints to their personalities you can glean from their books. Though, John Ringo is actually surprisingly chill, for a right-wing gun fanatic, and he had the decency to openly admit that one of his books was pure shit.
     
  10. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

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    I've met a few of them at cons before, and am facebook friends with a couple of them. Ringo is absolutely a chill guy, nearly all the folks from Baen I spoke with have been.
     
  11. wcv215 Well-Known Member

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    Erm, its not "dragging him through the mud" when people point out actual things he's repeatedly said, and shown absolutely no contrition for.

    Pointing out the man's views is a legitimate point of discussion when talking about the merits, or lack thereof of his work, as an author's personal views will influence the work itself. And again, none of this is being said without substantiation. Every single one of his posts on this board, including the ones that ended up getting him banned are available for review if you think someone's being unfair.
     
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  12. theg*ddam*hoi2fan Beware of the Leopard

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    India does - the Kali cult. Which has Angrezi members. Though it's small by comparison...

    To be fair to Stirling: at the point the Fall happens, there wouldn't even have been a First Sino-Japanese War, and Japan would have just emerged from seclusion. The attitude of the Chinese to Japan at the time would have been more one of contempt towards an up-jumped tributary than the righteous fury of the modern day

    I'm more cynical about this, I have to say. I'd agree that America hates royalty...but at the same time, if you're starving and a guy has food, odds are you'll call him anything he likes to get fed. And will do his bidding if you want to keep eating. Plus... I look on the Change series as being a mystical equivalent of Mad Max - Australia's a pretty freedom-loving country too, but those films have lunatics like Immortan Joe getting worshipped as gods because they've got water and guzzoline. And most importantly because the collapse of society's basically driven the population round the bend thanks to PTSD and various other things, so what seemed impossible a few years ago is now palatable by comparison to the alternatives. That's at play in the Emberverse, IMO. More so because of the sheer inexplicability of what happened. I think that some thing as bizarre, as fundamentally impossible as the Change, would basically do a number on the collective human consciousness. People would become 'unmoored', for want of a better word, and would follow whoever seemed to be more grounded.

    Of course: you note that Norman Armiger never actually took the title of King himself - probably for this very reason. It took until the next generation - people who'd been raised without the anti-monarchical tradition - for this to become an option.
     
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  13. teg The Worst Unionist

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    I think in the wake of an event like the Change you could easily see some of autocratic rule emerging but it wouldn't be an out and out wacko like Arminger (seriously, the guy was planning his castles before the Change and such like)*, it would almost certainly be an army officer or somebody else with existing institutional power and a ruthless streak. Because it is worth noting that Augustus and Julius Caesar weren't exactly nobodies prior to their takeover, they were just low enough down the pecking order to not be too associated with the old regime. This person would maintain the pretense of being a republican figure while subverting democratic principles heavily. It is notable that the US is already having problems with political dynasties both at a national and a state level, so a full scale institutional collapse would give plenty of opportunity for that to happen. It is rather ironic that perhaps the most plausible villain for the Emberverse would be a Mike Havel type character.

    *I'm just going to also state that Arminger is quite possibly the most insulting depiction of a 'nerd' character I have ever read about. I can totally get behind entitled guys being set up as villains but the way it is simply slapped onto his character without any sort of proper set up or push back.

    Another negative point about the Emberverse is that the far more interesting Island of the Sea of Time books was both cut short (should have been a quartet or the final book needed serious editing) and haven't been continued since. :/

    teg
     
  14. EnglishCanuck Blogger/Writer/Dangerous Moderate

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    I pretty much agree that the idea of someone setting themself up as some kind of monarchical figure isn't completely far fetched, if they have the means and the choice is "fealty or starvation" I would say that in the first decade of the Change that isn't an impossibility. Then a second generation grows up knowing nothing but this new-feudalism and bam, you've got an entrenched society to whom American democracy is nothing more than an old myth.

    That being said, that would be an outlier. More likely it develops over time. Say a governor/mayor/general grants themselves emergency powers, suspends elections "for the duration" and holds on to power. Then his son or hand picked successor is railroaded into office using these emergency powers, eventually his title, be it Governor or whatever, becomes a hereditary position, like how the position of Stadtholder eventually became one in the Dutch Republic.

    What's important to remember here is that in such an unnatural and completely jarring emergency people would be panicking and focusing on the primary methods of survival in the first two years rather than high minded political notions, and certain factions will have an inordinate amount of power compared to others.

    A caveat is that I don't think this the likeliest scenario. More likely is a series of unequal-republics where the franchise is based on wealth or land holding. Most likely you end up with a psuedo-aristocracy composed of former army officers, new landowners, and businessmen who resemble the Dutch Republic/Roman Republic more than feudal states. The regional culture will affect this however.
     
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  15. Clandango Well-Known Member

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    Yep, which was part of what made the Montival stuff so moronic. I forget which book I stopped with, but it was around then and the time when they met the former Governor of Iowa who had set up a throne covered in gems, then sat in another chair at the bottom. They compared it to Lord of the Rings, though I imagine this was before the movies were something big. Hmmm, didn't Arminger have a great eye as his symbol? Been so long since I read them. Anyways, hated how the knock off Tolkein elf leader practically went 'tee he' when someone pointed out that she was running a protection racket that announced loudly and publically those who didn't buy their services. So many interconnecting things to hate... Let's see, Iowa then loudly cheered as Iowa's First Lady declared no one would take the throne from her baby.

    Arminger would have died early on for real as some academician in a suit of armor isn't going to beat thousands of fit police officers trained with shields, batons, and hand-to-hand combat. Hell, how would he move his armor around? He got a donkey and cart? His choosing Lord Protector at least gave some support to old time values and historical precedent, as Commonwealth is a translation or republic (well, the original Latin word) and it fit for various types of republics. At some point his being used as a possible fall-guy for if the lights turned back on though would run out. Surprising he wasn't challenged publically earlier, and it took to the Bear Killer (a decent enough guy, if a bit theatrical about calling his illegitimate child his son while hugging him) to do it.
     
  16. Clandango Well-Known Member

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    Quite right. The balance of things in Oregon does seem like it would work well for that, as well as the greater Oregon Territory (probably called something Northwest, most certainly not Cascadia which would suggest deciding to immediatly gut themself off from seeing kinship with others from the former US), could allow a system of Electors to get added oomph. I doubt they would keep the old voting districts like the British did for centuries, and the precedent of gerrymandering would be deemed acceptable for simply giving each community a certain amount of representatives or electors, who then make the decisions on who the next Governors will be.

    Let's see, logger communities, ranchers, a university town, various survivalist, biker fiefdoms, neo pagan Marysuedoms, various Mormon communities, survivors from California (I imagine there would still be a couple tens of thousands innthe far north of California, as well as those who moved into Oregon and would probably want to move South again, even if the place is covered in corpses), port towns, farming communities, Native Americsn groups, military remnants, isolated rural towns... Could work.
     
  17. Worffan101 Dirty Communist

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    Still, the numbers imbalance is there. Japan went into the 20th century modernized, stable, an economic powerhouse, and expansionist; China went into it disorganized, disunited, corrupt, fragmented, and behind on military tech. Japan still got only a small part of China under its control for a decade or so of constant war.

    Besides, the conquest dynasties were always the newest steppe nomads on the block, not a long-time regional rival with its own long cultural history that would have no reason to assimilate.
    Yes and no. We'd accept a dictator, a "Supreme Life President" or a "Temporary State of Emergency" or a military junta--we wouldn't like it but we'd accept it--but a King would be far too much until at least the 3rd generation.
    this^^^^

    Pretenses of democracy with de facto dynasties. Think the early Roman Empire, where calling someone "he wants to be King!" was a surefire way to start a lynch mob.
     
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  18. theg*ddam*hoi2fan Beware of the Leopard

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    Both good points.

    On the other hand... We don't know what kind of condition China was in in-verse right after the Fall. If it was in chaos - which is implied, the map we see of Japan-occupied China is like half the size - then it's entirely likely that the Japanese didn't so much 'invade' as 'rescue' China. I have an idea of remaining Chinese nobility/bureaucracy and what was left of their military - the country in chaos, the Emperor possibly dead, etc. - making a devil's bargain with Japan, which is sold to them like this:

    'You want order back again, right? You want the country quiet, and you want it strengthened so it can stand against the cannibals and the foreign devils? We have the Western technical knowledge and the disciplined military - you invite us in, you crown the tenno as Son of Heaven, you state that he has the Mandate of Heaven and the whole lot, and we'll pacify the country for you and make sure you remain in power'. They agree, and the peasantry fall in line because they figure even the Eastern Devils are better than the post-Fall madness.

    Fair enough.

    Bear in mind: I'm not defending the Emberverse as written. Stirling did a terrible job for the most part (I liked Tiphaine d'Ath as a character and I liked the idea of a LOTR-inspired group springing up, but beyond that...meh). What I'm defending is the general idea: I think that after an event like the Change, any government would be hard-pressed to hold the centre, and in countries as vast as the US, Russia and China it'd be impossible. And yes, I know that the US grew before a lot of modern tech...but that argument fails to take into account the sheer shock of the Change and how quickly it happens. The government/military won't just know what to do right away, they need time...and every day of delay is making it harder and harder. Between the massive and constantly-rising death toll from stuff that would have been preventable, religious mania, severe depression (and a colossal suicide rate - which will most likely include a few senior government and military officials), and every scumbag going deciding to take advantage of the situation, there'll be chaos and power vacuums inevitably.

    I'd agree that we won't see someone declaring himself a King. But I don't think America or any other large, sprawling country that's come to depend on modern technology to hold it together - as America does, let's be honest - will be able to hold together. There will be regional strongmen, there will be people flocking to whoever offers food, water and safety. These men won't call themselves 'Kings', but they'll basically be Kings in all but name. And the longer people are under their rule - and as long as these strongmen aren't cartoonishly evil, are fair and make sure they follow through with their promises of food, water and safety - then people will inevitably stick close to them. People fear the unknown and after an event like this, they'll fear things getting worse.

    Say...it's six years after the Change. A guy in Northern Washington has cobbled together a large community under his rule. Call him the Warden. The Warden's a strict ruler, and he's not letting power out of his hands, but he's not being overtly repressive either and he does keep his people safe and fed. Then, a successor government appears on the scene: they control about the same amount of territory as the Warden and they want him to join up. He won't, because he enjoys the power...and his people won't, because they know the Warden. They know he follows through on his promises, they know that life's harder than it was pre-Change, but it's far better than things were right away. They won't know this successor government - for all they know, it's a tyrannical hellhole that uses the US flag to try to sucker people in. Most of them, therefore, will stick with the Warden, because, well, 'devil you know' and they don't want to risk things getting worse for them.

    Again: that's for the general scenario. How it got written, though... Yeah, no.
     
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  19. Jürgen Well-Known Member

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    I must admit I too have problem with the whole nobodies and mobster take over.

    As people have said the police and military will likely takeover.

    In fact I expect most gangbanger and mobsters will end up being killed by the cops in the first few days, if not I expect that they and their families will be lynched by their neighbours instead. The primarily reason that kind of criminal aren't murdered are because other people fear the law, in a somewhat lawless society where their behviour threaten other people, and there's really no punishment for killing them, they won't survive.

    As for how a post-collapse society will look, I expect that emergency council of the governors, majors, the leader of police, state guards and local military commanders will set up successor states with trappings of the old states. Of course in isolated areas we will likely see militias and other NGOs (like Churches) to set up their own state-like structure, these will likely develop into clans or tribes over time.

    While we will see large population loss early on, I expect most places the losses will be far smaller than Sterling describes, yes we will likely see rampant cannibalism, but it will be opportunistic scarvenging rather than hunting people down. The cannibalism will stop as other food sources become available and people won't devolve into primitive savages just because they have tasted human flesh.

    We will likely see a development of proto-feudalism with people leaving the cities to become tenants on other people's land.

    Slavery will likely also return with many criminals ending up de facto slaves/serfs.
     
  20. theg*ddam*hoi2fan Beware of the Leopard

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    I agree that military leaders would be the ones who take over alright.

    IIRC, Stirling's way of dealing with that was lazy as hell. I could be wrong, but I think he implied their discipline was their downfall - they were still waiting for orders from Washington while people like Armiger were getting going.
     
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