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Old 08-17-2009, 08:19 PM   #21
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There exists, in principle, a possibility that I might have read The Republic.
Oh, surely not! ;)

Such extravagant speculation! It is sheer irresponsibility, the most ephemeral flight of fancy; a supposition which can rest on no more solid foundations than airs and vapours.

Incidentally, the irony of the work's Latin title and the later meaning of that phrase in modern languages has always titilated me somewhat. Whatever Plato's Republic is, it is no republic. ;)

But then, I suppose that since most places that refer to themselves as being some variation of 'The People's Democratic Republic' can confidently be assumed to be none of these things, we should not be especially surprised to find an ancient example of this phenomenon, however accidental.
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Old 08-17-2009, 08:26 PM   #22
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Oh, surely not! ;)

Such extravagant speculation! It is sheer irresponsibility, the most ephemeral flight of fancy; a supposition which can rest on no more solid foundations than airs and vapours.
It is no more unlikely than speculations that I might have read Aristotle's Politics or Parkinson's Evolution of Political Thought.
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Old 08-17-2009, 08:53 PM   #23
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It is no more unlikely than speculations that I might have read Aristotle's Politics or Parkinson's History of Political Thought.
But to venture any assessment on the likelyhood or lack thereof regarding your perusal of these works would be a gross liberty, I should think. One more becoming of a biographicist than an aesthete.
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Old 08-17-2009, 09:26 PM   #24
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Incidentally, the irony of the work's Latin title and the later meaning of that phrase in modern languages has always titilated me somewhat. Whatever Plato's Republic is, it is no republic.
Actually, I have been struck in the past by the impression that Plato is actually describing a libertarian society. He gives a lucid explanation of the social surplus from trade (a point that Aristotle never figured out, with his "just price" idea); he points out that the wealth it generates will make a community a target for invaders and brigands, and that it will need protectors; and he asks how those protectors are to be prevented from using their power to advance their own private interests at the expense of the people they protect, and argues that the only really workable method is to have them lead lives devoid of private interests. Thus, they may not own property, and men may not know who their children are.

I know, it's not remotely like the usual readings. But it's kind of like Heinlein's Space Cadet, where the three space services are defined in terms reminiscent of Plato's guardians, auxiliaries, and commoners, and where the motto of the Patrol is Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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Old 08-17-2009, 09:40 PM   #25
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But it's kind of like Heinlein's Space Cadet, where the three space services are defined in terms reminiscent of Plato's guardians, auxiliaries, and commoners, and where the motto of the Patrol is Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
It is, similarly, possible that I might have read Space Cadet. I'm rather keen on Heinlein's writing up to about 1966.
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Old 08-17-2009, 09:51 PM   #26
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Actually, I have been struck in the past by the impression that Plato is actually describing a libertarian society. He gives a lucid explanation of the social surplus from trade (a point that Aristotle never figured out, with his "just price" idea); he points out that the wealth it generates will make a community a target for invaders and brigands, and that it will need protectors; and he asks how those protectors are to be prevented from using their power to advance their own private interests at the expense of the people they protect, and argues that the only really workable method is to have them lead lives devoid of private interests. Thus, they may not own property, and men may not know who their children are.

I know, it's not remotely like the usual readings. But it's kind of like Heinlein's Space Cadet, where the three space services are defined in terms reminiscent of Plato's guardians, auxiliaries, and commoners, and where the motto of the Patrol is Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Bill Stoddard
Which, if you'll allow me to dance little sidestep, cut a little swathe and lead the people on; brings us back to FLAT BLACK.

The Imperial solution to this perennial solution is similar, but influenced by the particular technological projection for the setting. Imperials generally do not accumulate property; being fed, housed and equipped at the expense of the Empire and receiving a modest salary for which they usually have little use. They do have children, but the children are raised at least partly in Imperial crechés where they are indoctrinated as the selfless, ruthless philanthropists that the Empire wants.

The key difference is that there is no serious attempt to remove the external temptations that lead men to corruption and selfish acts. Instead, the internal motivations that make men suspectible to such temptations are bred out, selected against and quite literally replaced with The Right Stuff, the mental state which makes someone an ideal Imperial.

This procedure does not have a 100% success rate. Not all children born to Imperials have The Right Stuff. Most have a compatible temperament and motivations, but not the awesome detachment and moral courage which is needed to bear the responsibilities of high Imperial office. The Empire can use all the honourable and dedicated people they can get, finding places for them where they will never be faced with a decision where they might need to sacrifice thousands to save millions. Some, a very few, but some, emerge from the crechés still incapable of discharging any sort of responsibility. Those are found some unimportant jobs to do in order to keep them busy, fed and content.

Colonial recruits make up about half of their numbers and even though most colonies are parochial to the extent of being almost ignorant of the Empire and inclined to be resentful of it when they do remember it, there are still people out there in agreement with the aims of the Empire or at least compatible enough with them to qualify. Mostly, colonials get assigned to parts of the Imperial Service where they may serve but not influence policy too much, but there are those exceptional individuals who naturally develop into the kind of selfless servant of humanity that the Empire treasures.
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:21 PM   #27
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:26 PM   #28
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It is, similarly, possible that I might have read Space Cadet. I'm rather keen on Heinlein's writing up to about 1966.
My personal opinion is that Heinlein was at his best in the young adult novels from Space Cadet through Starship Troopers. After The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress he became unreliable, and the novels with Lazarus Long as a character are mostly painful to read. I somewhat like Friday and Job, but neither one has an actual ending.

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Old 08-17-2009, 10:47 PM   #29
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My personal opinion is that Heinlein was at his best in the young adult novels from Space Cadet through Starship Troopers. After The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress he became unreliable, and the novels with Lazarus Long as a character are mostly painful to read. I somewhat like Friday and Job, but neither one has an actual ending.
I am in complete agreement on that.

Other works that influenced FLAT BLACK (and that I am aware of) include:
  • Isaac Asimov: Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun
  • Lloyd Biggle, Jnr: Monument
  • Arthur C. Clark: Imperial Earth, Rendezvous with Rama
  • Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness, The Secret Agent
  • Phillip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Gordon Dickson: Dorsai, ‘Soldier, Ask Not…’
  • Tom Godwin: The Cold Equations
  • Joe Haldeman: All My Sins Remembered, Forever War, Worlds, Worlds Apart
  • Robert Heinlein: Beyond This Horizon, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Space Cadet, Starship Troopers
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed, Left Hand of Darkness, Rocannon’s World, The Word for World is Forest
  • Frank Miller: The Dark Knight
  • Allan Moore: Watchmen
  • Larry Niven: The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton
  • Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Footfall, The Mote in God’s Eye, Oath of Fealty
  • George Orwell: 1984
  • H. Beam Piper: Space Viking, Minister of Disturbance
  • Jerry Pournelle: The Mercenary, Prince David’s Spaceship, West of Honour
  • Robert Silverberg: The Tower of Glass
  • Cordwainer Smith: Norstrilia
  • Elizabeth Marshal Thomas: The Animal Wife
  • Jack Vance: The Anome, Araminta Station, The Augmented Agent, Blue Planet, The Book of Dreams, The City of the Chasch, The Château d’If, The Dirdir, The Dragon Masters, Ecce and Old Earth, Emphyrio, The Face, The Gray Prince, The Killing Machine, The Languages of Pao, The Last Castle, To Live Forever, Marune, The Moon-Moth, The Palace of Love, The Pnume, Servants of the Wankh, The Star King, Throy, Trullion, Whyst.
  • John Wyndham (John Beynon): Trouble with Lichen, Survival
TV Shows
  • Bird of Prey
  • Edge of Darkness
Movies
  • Alien
  • Aliens (not the director’s cut)
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Bladerunner (director’s cut)
  • Gattacca
  • Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan
  • Soylent Green
  • 1984 (the 1984 British version)
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Old 08-18-2009, 12:56 AM   #30
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I am in complete agreement on that.

Other works that influenced FLAT BLACK (and that I am aware of) include:
  • Gordon Dickson: Dorsai, ‘Soldier, Ask Not…’
  • Cordwainer Smith: Norstrilia
The Smith sticks out all over, and I've commented to you on the similarities of the economic modeling.

Bill Stoddard
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