(urth) This Week in Google Alerts: Home Fires

Thomas Bitterman tom at bitterman.net
Tue Apr 10 13:02:40 PDT 2012

On Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 9:35 PM, Nick Lee <starwaterstrain at gmail.com> wrote:

> "The crazy right-wing politics. There’s the North American Union, with
> its single currency. There’s the European Union, where thieves get
> their hands cut off because of sharia. There’s the UN, which always
> takes the sides of the poor nations of the world instead of the NAU."
> This childlike view of politics is creeping into all reviews of Wolfe
> now.

Because Wolfe keeps sneaking politics into his works.  What effect did the
existence of sharia law in Europe really have in the story?  It was just
another thing for the narrator/author avatar to grouse about.  And he goes
on and on about this and that, until one wishes the hijackers would just
get off this guy's lawn so we could get back to the story.

I like to point out to these people that Wolfe is 1) an
> environmentalist and 2) a believer in a matriarchal pre-history.

A pre-history he is glad is dead and gone.

"The tech illiteracy. The setting is Earth, in a resource-poor
> near-future. Our protagonist has a cellphone, but nobody else seems
> to, and from what we see in the half of the book I read, it’s just a
> phone. Websites exist, but there’s no sign of social networking. When
> pirates hijack an enormous, luxurious cruise ship, the protagonists
> talk for a while as if there’s a possibility of keeping the news under
> wraps, as if there wouldn’t have been hundreds of people tweeting “OMG
> pirates!” within ten seconds of the first shots being fired. When the
> protagonists talk (via some kind of video-phone communication) with
> the authorities on shore, they argue a bit over the location of the
> ship, as if there’s no such thing as GPS. The whole thing could’ve
> been written in the 1970s."
> And here he turns ageist. Why is everyone on board with the idea that
> in the future we can have more technology but never the idea we will
> have less?

Perhaps because we have relativistic rocket ships fighting an
interplanetary war?  That would seem to indicate that GPS technology would
be well within our grasp.  An author writing a book set in the
non-apocalyptic, non-Singularity near future (where Home Fires would appear
to be set) should take pains to cover his bases when using tech.  Wolfe
doesn't.  Even a single throw-away line to the effect of "These pirates
were no amateurs - their jammers left us electronically isolated" would
have been enough.

There are fewer cell phones because we're running out of helium and
> silver, among other things.

We can figure out giant spaceships, but not how to make cell phones
differently?  Again, a single sentence ("The government used its wartime
powers to severely restrict cell phones") would have done it.

I just wanted all the wars to be over so that we could spend the money on
starships and Mars colonies.
   - Grant Morrison
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