Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Another World is Inevitable

I don’t normally comment in these essays on the political affairs of other countries. As I’ve noted more than once here, the last thing the rest of the world needs is one more clueless American telling everyone else on the planet what to do.  What’s more, as the United States busies itself flailing blindly and ineffectually at the consequences that its own idiotically shortsighted decisions have brought down upon it, those of us who live here have our work cut out for us already.
That said, a sign I’ve been awaiting for quite some time has appeared on the horizon—the first rumble of a tectonic shift that will leave few things unchanged. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen in the United States, but I was somewhat startled to see where it did happen. That would be in Britain, where Jeremy Corbyn has just been elected head of Britain’s Labour Party.

Those of my readers who don’t follow British politics may not know just how spectacular a change Corbyn’s election marks. In the late1990s, under the leadership of Tony Blair, the Labour Party did what erstwhile left-wing parties were doing all over the industrial world: it ditched the egalitarian commitments that had guided it in prior decades, and instead embraced a set of policies that were indistinguishable from those of its conservative opponents—the same thing, for example, that the Democratic party did here in the US. As a result, voters going to the polls found that their supposed right to shape the destiny of their nations at the voting booth had been reduced to irrelevance, since every party with a shot at power embraced the same set of political and economic policies.

That might have been bearable if the policies in question worked, but they didn’t, they don’t, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that they never will. Proponents of the neoliberal consensus—I probably have to explain that label, don’t I? It’s a source of wry amusement to anybody who knows the first thing about the history of political economy that the viewpoint considered “conservative” in today’s America is what used to be known as liberalism, and still has that label in economics. Unrestricted free trade, no government interference in business affairs, no government protections for the poor, and an expansionist and militaristic foreign policy: these were the trademarks of liberal political and economic thought all through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Those same policies came back into fashion as neoliberal economics, and as “conservative” politics, in the late twentieth century. Since then, proponents of neoliberalism have insisted that deregulation for industry and finance, tax cuts and government handouts for the rich, a rising spiral of punitive austerity measures for the poor, and a violent and amoral foreign policy obsessed with dominating the Middle East by force, would bring economic stability and prosperity at home and maintain peace overseas. That was the sales pitch that was used to sell these policies.  I think most people have begun to notice by now, though, that the policies in question have had precisely the opposite effect, not just once but wherever and whenever they’ve been tried.

I encourage my readers, especially those who favor the neoliberal policies just outlined, to stop and think about that for a moment. Around the globe, where businesses have been deregulated, taxes cut for the rich and government money poured into their hands, harsh austerity measures imposed on the poor, and foreign policy turned into a set of excuses for lobbing bombs at Middle Eastern countries, stability, prosperity, and peace have not been forthcoming—in fact, quite the contrary. At best, neoliberal policies bring a brief burst of relative prosperity, followed by a long slide into increasingly intractable crisis; at worst, you go straight into the crisis phase, and then things just keep getting worse.

Logically speaking, if the policies you propose don’t yield the results you expect, you change the policies. That’s not what’s happened so far in this case, though.  Quite the contrary, the accelerating failures of neoliberalism have been met across the board by an increasingly angry insistence from the corridors of power that neoliberal policies are the only options there are.

What Jeremy Corbyn’s election shows is that that insistence has just passed its pull date. Corbyn’s an old-fashioned Labourite of the pre-Blair variety, and he’s made it clear for decades that he supports the opposite of the neoliberal consensus: more regulation of finance and industry, higher tax rates and fewer handouts to the rich, more benefits for the poor, and a less aggressive foreign policy. When he entered the race to head the Labour Party after Ed Milliband’s embarrassing electoral defeat earlier this year, party apparatchiks rolled their eyes and insisted that he didn’t have a chance. What they hadn’t noticed, and what the establishment across the industrial world has by and large never noticed either, is that the consensus is only a consensus among a privileged minority, and most people outside those rarefied and self-referential circles will vote against it if they’re given half a chance.

That’s what happened in the Labour Party election. When the ballots were counted, Corbyn had staged a monumental upset, winning by a landslide on the first ballot with a total three times as large as his nearest rival’s. What’s more, since his election, people who’ve stayed out of party politics in Britain have been joining the Labour Party in droves, convinced that at long last they have the chance to have their voices heard. Until and unless he loses a general election or some other Labour Party figure mounts an effective challenge against him, Corbyn’s now the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and the heir apparent to No. 10 Downing Street should Labour come out ahead in the next election.

Whether that’s a desirable outcome or not is not something I propose to discuss here, as that choice is up to the people of Great Britain and nobody else. Myself, I’m not a great fan of Corbyn’s variety of socialism, or for that matter most of the others; it seems to me that there are many better ways to run a society—though it’s only fair to say that the neoliberal consensus is not one of these. What makes Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise important is that it shows just how fragile the neoliberal consensus actually is, and how readily it can be overturned by any politician who’s willing to break with it and start addressing the concerns of the eighty to ninety per cent of the population who don’t agree with it.

That fragility need not lead to better things. Here in the United States, Donald Trump remains sky-high in the polls for exactly the same reason Jeremy Corbyn now heads the Labour Party: he’s willing to talk about things the political establishment refuses to discuss. In his case the unspeakable issue is the de facto policy, supported by both parties, of encouraging illegal immigration to the United States in order to drive down wages for the working classes and maintain a facade of prosperity for the privileged.

A great many Americans are concerned about that, and not unreasonably so. Whether allowing mass immigration to the United States is a good idea or not, it’s fair to say that sharply limiting the number of legal immigrants and then turning a blind eye to illegal immigration lands us in the worst of both worlds.  The only people who benefit from it are the employers who get to pay substandard wages to illegal immigrants, and the privileged classes whose lifestyles are propped up thereby. Since the voices of the privileged are the only ones that have been let into our collective conversation about politics for the last three and a half decades, the concerns of the broader public haven’t been addressed; now Trump is addressing them, and he just might end up in the White House as a result.

He’s not the only one who’s riding that particular issue to the brink of power. Marine Le Pen, to name just one example, is more or less France’s Donald Trump—though, France being France, she has better fashion sense and a less absurd hairstyle. Europe’s privileged classes encourage unlimited immigration, just like their American equivalents, to force down wages and break the political power of the working classes, and Le Pen’s Front National has harnessed the resentment of all those French voters who have been on the losing end of those policies for decades. Nor is France the only European nation where that’s an explosive issue. The British politicians and pundits who are busy decrying Corbyn’s election just now might want to temper their rage and consider the alternatives: if Corbyn falls, Nigel Farage and the UKIP party are waiting in the wings to harness the public’s frustration with the abject failure of business as usual, and if Farage falls in his turn, what replaces him could be much, much worse.

The mere fact that a failed consensus is cracking at the seams, in other words, does not guarantee that what replaces it will be an improvement. All it means is that there’s an opening through which a range of alternative visions can enter the political conversation of our time, and perhaps find an audience among the disenfranchised and disillusioned. That some such window of opportunity was on its way comes as no surprise; as a student of history, I’ve long taken comfort in the fact that even the most thoroughly entrenched political and economic orthodoxies have finite life spans, and will eventually be hauled out with the trash. Much of what I’ve done over the last nine years on this blog has been a matter of getting ready for the opening of that window, putting certain ideas into circulation among those few who were ready to hear them.

That’s a more important step than I think many people realize. In Germany in the early 1930s, when a failed consensus finally came apart, the only alternative visions that had any significant presence were the Leninist version of Marxian socialism, on the one hand, and a bubbling cauldron of racist fantasies and radical antirationalism on the other; the latter triumphed, and no doubt most of my readers are aware of what followed. In other places and times, less psychotic options have been available, and the results have generally been much better. The Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico a while back favored the slogan “another world is possible,” and of course they’re quite right—but a great deal depends on what kind of other world people are prepared to imagine.

This is why, for example, the last three posts here on The Archdruid Report have been devoted to a narrative describing a future very different from the one that most Americans like to imagine: a future in which the United States slams facefirst into a brick wall of unintended consequences, plunges into a bloody civil war, and fragments thereafter, and in which one of the fragments pursues a set of political and economic policies that go zooming off at right angles to the conventional wisdom of our time. I expect to resume that narrative next week, and to continue it with an assortment of interruptions thereafter, precisely because a less impoverished sense of the possible futures open to us is so crucial in facing the rising spiral of crises that defines our time.

It’s a source of some amusement to me that I’ve fielded a fair number of comments insisting that I have to reshape the narrative just mentioned to fit one or another version of the conventional wisdom. This blog’s focus being what it is, most of them have fixated on one or another aspect of what might as well be called the Ecotopian model—the last really imaginative vision of the future in this country, which was midwifed by Ernest Callenbach in his brilliant 1974 utopian fiction Ecotopia. If you know your way around today’s American Green scene, even if you haven’t read a word Callenbach wrote, you know his ideas, because they still shape an enormous amount of what passes for original thought today.

That’s not a model I’m interested in rehashing. Partly that’s because not that many people outside the San Francisco Bay region find Callenbach’s vision especially appealing; partly it’s because some aspects of the model, notably the claim that solar and wind power can support something akin to modern middle class American lifestyles, haven’t held up well in the light of experience; but it’s also partly because other worlds are also possible. The Ecotopian conventional wisdom is not the only option. It’s an option toward which I have a nostalgic fondness—I was wildly enthusiastic about Callenbach’s book back in the day—but it’s not the only game in town, and all things considered, it’s not the option I would choose today. Thus Retrotopia, as the name suggests, is not going to be full of avid spandex-clad cyclists who dine on the produce of permacultured edible forests, or what have you. It’s heading in directions that are far more threatening to the status quo—including, by the way, the Ecotopian status quo.

The crying need for an abundance of alternative visions of the future, apart from the conventional wisdom of our time, has also driven another core project of this blog, and with that in mind, I’m delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Space Bats challenge. Those of my readers who are new to The Archdruid Report may not know that since 2011, this blog has hosted a series of contests in which readers have submitted short stories set in a variety of deindustrial futures—that is, futures in which industrial society as we know it is a thing of the past, our current complex technologies have faded into legend, and human beings are busy coping with the legacies of the industrial age and leading challenging, interesting, and maybe even appealing lives in that context.

The first Space Bats challenge was a shot in the dark, and to my delighted surprise, it fielded a torrent of fine short stories, the best of which were duly published by Founders House Publishing as an anthology titled After Oil: SF Visions of a Post-Petroleum Future. A second contest duly followed in 2014, and produced two anthologies, After Oil 2: The Years of Crisis and After Oil 3: The Years of Rebirth. The fourth contest was launched in March of this year; as before, I was deluged with an abundance of excellent stories, and had a hard time choosing among them; I owe thanks to everyone who submitted a story and made the choice so difficult; but the following stories will be included in the next anthology, After Oil 4: The Future’s Distant Shores:

“Sail Away Home” by Alma Arri
“Finding Flotsam” by Bill Blondeau
“Alay” by Dau Branchazel
“Crow Turns Over a Rock” by Eric Farnsworth
“Notes for a Picnic” by Phil Harris
“The Remembrancer” by Wylie Harris
“The Bald Eagle, the Lame Duck, and the Cooked Goose” by Jonah Harvey
“The Baby” by Nicky Jarman
“Northern Ghosts” by Gaianne Jenkins
“Caretaker Poinciana” by Troy Jones
“Scapegoat” by Cathy McGuire
“Flowering” by John W. Riley

I trust you’ll join me in congratulating the authors and, more to the point, in reading their stories once those see print.

In its own small and idiosyncratic way, my experience with the Space Bats challenge parallels the political earthquake currently shaking the British landscape. All I did was ask readers to come up with stories that broke with the conventional wisdom concerning the future—to set aside the weary, dreary, endlessly rehashed Tomorrowland of spaceships, zap-guns, and linear technological expansion along the same lines we think we’re following today, and imagine something different—and as it turned out, that’s all I had to do. Given the opportunity to write about some less hackneyed future, scores of readers lunged for their keyboards and flooded each contest with quirky, thoughtful, interesting know, the kind of thing that science fiction used to feature all the time, back before it got sucked into the role of cheerleading for a suffocatingly narrow range of acceptable tomorrows.

There will be another Space Bats challenge, beginning in the spring of next year. I invite my readers to propose potential themes for that challenge—this fourth anthology consists entirely of stories set at least a thousand years in the future, and I’d like to have some equally offbeat focus or limitation on the next contest, in the hope that it will inspire an equally stellar collection of stories.

I’m also pleased to note that the After Oil anthologies and my post-peak novel Star’s Reach are far from the only contributions to a growing genre. Founders House, for example, has also recently published Ralph Meima’s novel Fossil Nation, the first volume of a trilogy, which offers its own lively and readable glimpse at a future that cuts across the conventional wisdom of our time and heads off in new directions. Other projects are in the works, at Founders House and elsewhere.

At the same time, it’s worth remembering that the same process is under way on a much vaster scale, and with much more serious consequences. As the neoliberal consensus shatters and the failure of its policies becomes impossible to ignore any longer, another world is not merely possible, it’s inevitable. The question is purely what ideas, visions, dreams, hopes, and shuddering terrors will shape the world that will emerge from neoliberalism’s smoldering corpse—and that, dear reader, will be determined in part by what you yourself are willing to imagine, to work for, and to struggle for, during the difficult years ahead of us.

One other note may be relevant in this context. Many of the readers of this blog will be familiar with my alternative-future novel Star’s Reach. Ever since it was published, I’ve fielded requests for more fiction set in the same imaginary future, and while I’m flattered by the requests, my fiction is heading in other directions at least for now. As a result, Founders House Publishing and I have been talking about the possibility of transforming the setting of Star’s Reach into a shared world to which many authors can contribute, and doing at least one anthology—and possibly more—of short stories set in 25th-century Meriga, or the wider future in which Trey sunna Gwen and his companions have their place.

Obviously that’s a project that would require a dozen enthusiastic authors at least. My question is whether anyone’s interested in writing stories for such an anthology. If this interests you, please post a comment here; if there’s enough interest, we can get the project rolling.


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Ray Wharton said...

I didn't get my submission for the last space bats tied together in time, but it proved to be good therapy! I think the therapy was too good, so the work ended up being a bit more personal than I was ready to make completely public.

That aside I am very interested in the Star's Reach future, and would love to try my hand at a contribution to it. I am specifically interested in the Rocky Mountain region, and would love to flesh out a small relatively simple culture living in the refugia of mountain valley and avoiding the intense inner continental heat on high mesas. Provided we can work out how harsh of limits the drought draws; considering the intensity of climate change in that future I suspect it is harsh.

Repent said...

Star's reach would make a very good movie, have you ever considered the idea of selling it to Hollywood. Epic, science fiction, end of civilization films earn big bucks these days.

I must say however that I prefer your essays on the state of the world and where it is heading over the interesting, but fictional stories as of late. No comment here about the latest end of the world pronouncement, where the economy was supposed to end in total disaster on Sept.13th. The radicals who suggested this fate never bothered to check the calendar, and failed to realize that Sept.13, 2015 was a Sunday and the markets were all closed. I for one breathed a sigh of relief on Monday morning Sept.14th when nothing happened.

peter4045 said...

You have a most impressive grasp of British politics. I'm an expat Brit, left the UK for Canada in 2005, now about to return to the UK after 10 years in exile, and I too was astonished that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Labour Party leader - in fact for a moment I thought I was having some sort of hallucination. I remember him well as a "fringe leftie" in the 1980s and 90s, always in the news for some outspoken, left-of-centre position, but having absolutely zero chance of being invited into the inner circle of people who made the real decisions. He used to have long(ish) red hair and a red beard, and it's a bit of a shock now to see him with short white hair and a white beard, but it does give him more gravitas.

I don't know American politics as well as you know British politics, but I can't think of any American equivalent to Corbyn. It's almost as if Mikhail Gorbachev suddenly showed up as the Democratic Presidential nominee.

donalfagan said...

Congrats to the authors of After Oil 4. I ran across a Science Magazine feature article proposing that we make liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and water. Not exactly a new idea.

Greg Belvedere said...

Congratulations to everyone. I look forward reading the stories. I plan on picking up the other anthologies soon. The list of books I want to read just keeps growing.

I started writing a story late in the contest and what came out begged for a larger format. I'm thinking about working it into a novel if I can find the time and headspace amongst all my other obligations.

rapier said...

The parallels between Corbyn and Trump are obvious to those of us outside the bubble. To those inside they will stay invisible. Inside the bubble the only things seen are those things which fit onto the political continuum from left to right. One fun aspect of which is the curiosity that what passes for hard left now is Richard Nixon's domestic policies, and there is no hard right, just Conservative. At any rate today's 'hard left' is moldy old Socialism which for me and many has the vague emotional appeal of old fashioned liberal social values but nostalgia is not my game. As a practical matter socialism is as far removed from the real big issues confronting mankind as is the most reactionary Tea Party doyens expecting Jesus to descend soon somewhere near the Texas-Oklahoma border soon.

The parallels being Corbyn and Trump represent beginning of the reset or exhaustion of official political parties. With the kicker being they are coming from opposite sides of the old now outmoded continuum. In the big picture of course the old continuum is the road to nowhere. The reset or whatever you call it is not going to be the driver of necessary change as the guys are simply a symptom of systematic dysfunction and not a cure.

I will probably pass on the national election again. I toy with the idea of supporting Trump because he represents the biggest quickest chance for systematic failure but the old liberal in me hates the cynicism of that. It's probably best to simply be a stoic and that the best fit for someone who is 64.

Marcu said...

Australia also experienced a bit of a political upset this week with the ousting of Tony Abbott for the presumably less extreme Malcolm Turnbull. I can only speculate to the implications of this and what it signals in light of this post.

I would be delighted if the Star's Reach world was opened to more authors. I would like to try my hand at writing a story set there.

I will also contemplate any suggestions for the next After Oil anthology and post them here.

latheChuck said...

I don't know which of the political analysts carried on the local radio said this, but I recently heard Donald Trump described as "America's Boris Yeltsin". There was no mention of candidates for the title "America's Vladimir Putin". Too soon, I suppose.

RepubAnon said...

The best evidence that the neoliberal consensus is crumbling in the US as well is Donald Trump's advocating elimination of the "carried interest" income tax loophole and taxing Ford Motors for having factories in Mexico. For an alleged Republican (and keen observer of the current zeitgeist) to say these things and stay well ahead in all the polls is a clear sign that the rules of the game have changed.

Don't get me wrong - Trump as President would likely lead to as dystopian a future as one could imagine. However, notice how the idea of raising taxes on the rich and using taxes to punish companies for outsourcing jobs overseas is very popular with the Republican base - something that bursts the alleged automatic loss fear for anyone not taking the Grover Norquist tax pledge

Matthew Sweet said...

Here in Canada the traditionally left-leaning equivalent of Britain's Labour Party, the New Democratic Party, won official opposition status in the 2011 Federal Election primarily due to the charismatic leadership of Jack Layton, who passed away shortly thereafter. The party has spent the past four years doing its best to shift to the centre in order to woo a few more votes with promises that they are not doing business as they once did and are a more palatable option to the general electorate. The capper on this particular shift has come in the form of a promise to only run balanced budgets during a four year term of government. So, austerity without saying as much.

Then yesterday in the midst of the 2015 Federal election campaign, Naomi Klein launched the Leap Manifesto alongside reps from labour unions, First Nations, environmental groups etc. Some of the traditional NDP support base. Obvious comparisons are being drawn in the media, though Klein insists the initiative is not in support of any one particular party.

Which raises an interesting point to which JMG alluded in his post. If one believes (based on reading JMG and others of his ilk) that "business as usual" is leading us down the road to ruin, and if major political formations are just slight variations on the business as usual model (neoliberalism), what is one to do when confronted with such limited options on the ballot? Is voting in these circumstances unimportant and irrelevant? At least in theory, there is more to the political process than voting day, and one of the points that Klein makes is that the idea behind the Manifesto is to raise the profile of these issues to the point that no matter who is elected, that person / party must take steps to answer the questions raised if sufficient noise is made. But insofar as the political process is highly controlled, manipulated and sanitized to prevent ideas outside of the narrowly defined set permitted, is it better to disregard elections that feature a lack of actual options and work instead outside the political process? Or be vigilent and look for opportunities created by the breaking of consensus which brought about the change in the UK Labour Party?

C.L. Kelley said...

Oh, yes, please! I've had a scene from Nuwinga kicking around the back of my head for YEARS now, and this would light just thr right fire to turn it into a story.

Matthew Griffiths said...


I would interested in participating in the "Star’s Reach" project if my style and perceptive fit your vision.

May 100 flowers bloom!



Ice Torch said...

Mr Corbyn - yes, an amazing turnaround. In 1997 I was amazed to see a Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, invite the formerly despised political enemy, Mrs Thatcher, to visit 10 Downing Street. Gordon Brown did the same, shortly after he became prime minister. And in 2013 Mrs Thatcher / Baroness Thatcher died and was given a state funeral, no less - the first for a politician since that of Winston Churchill. Two years later, the leader of the Opposition, in this supposedly permanently Thatcherised Britain, is the sort of semi-Marxist whom Mrs T thought she had consigned to the dustbin of history. How times change. Still, I'm not particularly surprised. In my home town here in South London, there were riots back in 2011 - a clear sign that younger people in particular were dissatisfied.

Travis Marshall said...

"Thus Retrotopia, as the name suggests, is not going to be full of avid spandex-clad cyclists who dine on the produce of permacultured edible forests"

So funny, I spend a small amount of time with people very interested in Permaculture and do try and practice many of the ideas myself, but there does quite often seem to be a good amount of fairly blind optimism present in many of these peoples viewpoints. People do have a very hard time realizing that just because there are very good ideas, or technically possible solutions to our various issues that it does not mean these ideas and so called solutions will ever come to fruition. I suppose this would be fine if this optimism translated to action, but too often it does not have that effect. One of the "certified permaculture" designer/instructors gardens is an odd example of preparation. In about 100 sq ft exists layers of permaculture wonder plants, comfrey, nitrogen fixing ground covers and the like. A good design no doubt for the outer reaches of ones holdings, but I fail to see anything that would keep someone from starving through a winter like maybe a potato or some beans. I suppose if one was a rabbit, or one kept rabbits this might be an effective use of a small space.

Isaac Hill said...

Working on building an attached greenhouse/bioshelter to the South side of our place, eating fresh stewed rabbit with garden vegetables and herbs, trying do what I can, now, with what I have available. Seems that as certain resources become less available, other resources and opportunities arise.

Congrats all ye Space Bats winners! I have been too unsure of my prose writing skill to write anything in the past, but I'm looking forward to the next one!

I recently read "Three Hainish Novels" by Le Guin and was really moved by the spans of time she moved over, I also figured out where George R. R. Martin got all his ideas besides the War of the Roses... but anyway, in that last novel, she gives us an Earth at the end of Man, many thousands of years in the future. I was thinking that it would be interesting to write a story set at the end of Homo sapiens, where we are like H. neanderthalensis in 40,00 B.C.E.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG and everyone,

Congratulations to all of the writers who made it into the After Oil 4 anthology. Respect.

People looking for a political solution to the current series of intractable crises will be sorely disappointed. Some political solutions will certainly make the process of decline easier for all involved, but the underlying problems are not political at all, they are more of the realms of the geological, resources and environmental spheres.

Neoliberals bore me, because it appears to me that for them to somehow believe what they do, they have to disconnect themselves from other people and simply stop thinking. Nuff said really. It is not a good look. But oh boy, do they make a lot of noise in the media.



PS: I've got a new blog entry: Picket lines talking about the bees here and their whizz bang new design hive box which is nearing completion. The sun is now producing copious quantities of electricity and solar hot water - although to be honest it is probably a fraction of what most people consider to be a normal supply, but for me it is huge. I'm constructing an enclosure using local and recycled materials to keep the wallabies off the many berries that will soon grow there. And, there is also lots of house construction stuff. Hope you all enjoy the cool photos and fun and interesting dialogue.

Tony f. whelKs said...

Jeremy Corbyn's rise has certainly been interesting to watch - wish I'd put a fiver on him when the bookies were giving 200/1 against (not that I ever gamble, though). The full-on onslaught of media vitriol being poured onto the slightest perceived flaw is testament to the way he has riled the 'establishment'. Whether or not one agrees with his full programme, there's no denying he is a very different kind of politician, and a breath of fresh air for that alone. It's sort of gratifying to see all the Blairite aparatchiks backing away. Goodness only knows how long it will last, but for now Labour has become a party of the Left again.

His first showing at PMQ (Prime Minister's Questions) was a real eye-opener. Instead of the usual charade of recent years, he fielded a list of questions from the PUBLIC! Oh, the humanity. More telling was that the public had sent in over 40,000 questions they wanted putting to the PM. It became POLITICS again - a discussion of policy - rather than the usual bad-tempered sniping from the massed ranks of spin-doctors and focus-groups and electoral strategists that had previously concocted the appropriate 'soundbite of the week' for the Opposition Leader to field.

It's hard to imagine where it's all going, but I think it will be a thrilling ride for a while - even if it's for nothing more than the thrill of seeing the Labour Party actually standing for something more than just just getting re-elected, which seems to be the only pre-occupation of the Blairite wing. Of course, that all said, they still don't have a clue about decline or its causes...

ChaosAdventurer said...

Another sign of views of alternate ways is becoming a bit more main stream appears in a new anthology
This editor has done so very well on other topics and it great to see his attention turned this way. It would be very interesting to see what he makes of the Space Bats stories and where he would take it.

Tom Bannister said...

I'll just comment from my neck of the woods...

I've heard though that Jeremy Corbyn has managed to get himself offside with the feminist faction of the British Labour party (there are no women in his shadow cabinet). How substantively this affects his political carrier we will though of course see...

Here in New Zealand I will rejoice when we start hearing about policy instead of the current which-politican-has-the-biggest-smile-and-swauvist-suit contest which passes for politics these days. As long as our current prime minster John Key smiles, people keep voting for him, regardless of how dismally his policies are failing. To be fair though, the economic political situation is still in my view a few years from getting to anything like critical. For now our government can keep imposing spending cuts, selling of state owned assets and running up a bigger and bigger deficit, and in the short term, everything will at least superficially appear to be ok. At this stage even the greens, though trying to talk policy, have to do a considerable amount of neo-liberal window dressing. Its still far too easy to portray them as 'those wacky hippies'.

Claire said...

Its too bad about the absence of "avid spandex-clad cyclists" at least in Carr's part of the world. I was looking forward to that particularly egregious sample of cycling culture being contrasted with something like this: in Retrotropia.

beneaththesurface said...

Congratulations to all the After Oil 4 winners! I look forward to reading the selected stories.

One last reminder to DC area AR readers:

I would like to organize an informal gathering of AR readers/Green Wizards in the Washington, DC area.

If you are interested, please send an email to me at rwhite at fastmail dot fm

I'm thinking sometime in October at a place in the DC area that is easily accessible without a car.

Architrains said...

I've been telling my moderate friends from both parties that even though they hate Trump, he is a symbol of just how disenfranchised with the system a certain group of voters is. And how dangerously open we now are to the "third option" of something much much worse coming to pass.

The first idea for next years Space Bats contest that pops into my head at this late hour is to have some kind of technological limitation on the stories, or perhaps better call it a "kit of parts" for the stories. The problem I have had when discussing my own ideas of The Steampunk Future and Retrotopia with people is that visions of using past technology carry with them other baggage of past times. The "steampunk aesthetic" hasn't helped this preconceived notion much, as much as I love 19th century design. My wife is the rare woman that likes adapting the corset to her own retro wardrobe. I've actually heard people talk about how they hate hats. Well, just because you're driving a steam car doesn't mean you need to wear tall boots, a duster and goggles (although the goggles might be a good idea for safety).

I'm imagining a contest limitation/kit of parts to something like "steam power," but that being the only limitation, would produce stories that demonstrate retrotech is a buffet of options we can pick and choose from and not just a tasteless combo meal with no substitutions.

Degringolade said...

Nicely done for putting so much work into this. I cannot thank you enough.

I would be very interested in the Stars Reach "Universe". For a while I was quite impressed with a similar project over at Baen Books. Eric Flint did something quite similar with his "1632" universe and some pretty nice work came out of that.

I am already thinking about the tack I want to take. I have always wanted to visit Memfis


Max Osman said...

After the failure of Trump and Co, the time of the warlords will presumably come. ( for a given definition of come )

John Michael Greer said...

Ray, that sounds like a solid setting for a Merigan story. The Rockies in the Star's Reach future are desert mountains, like the mountains of the western Sahara, but those latter have substantial settlements in them -- precisely in mountain valleys where what little moisture there is tends to concentrate.

Repent, if a Hollywood producer were to approach me with that in mind, I'd certainly be willing to discuss the matter, but that I know of, trying to market the movie rights to an offbeat book published by a small press is pretty much a lost cause. As for September 13th, I somehow managed to miss that one -- can you point me toward any more details? As you know, I like to collect failed apocalypses...

Peter, thank you! No, we really don't have anybody like Corbyn here -- the leftist politicians of that generation pretty much all sold out once neoliberalism became fashionable.

Donalfagan, funny. Notice the handwaving about the amount of energy that would be required.

Greg, do that novel! If it's any incentive, Founders House (the publisher of Star's Reach and the After Oil anthologies) is looking for original novels these days.

Rapier, granted, but when the bubble pops, it might be possible to get some useful things into the political conversation, at least for a while. That's my goal just now, at least.

Marcu, so noted. If the initial response to the idea is any bellwether, I think there's enough interest for an anthology.

LatheChuck, nah, our Putin is a ways off yet.

RepubAnon, yes, that's an important sign. The consensus is cracking, finally, because it's just too obvious to too many people that, ahem, neoliberalism doesn't do what it's supposed to do.

Matthew, that's not a question that has a single answer, because an enormous amount depends on the details of the political situation and also the resources and opportunities available to each person facing that decision. In my case, for instance, I've concentrated all my efforts outside the political process, because a longhaired, bearded Druid with a head packed full of philosophy is not going to be a viable player in the political arena on any level. Other people in different situations may be better off making different choices.

C.L., so noted! It'll need to be more than a scene, of course: I'll be looking for short stories, and possibly a novella or two. Still, if you can unfold the scene into a tale, you're in the running.

Cathy McGuire said...

Congrats to all the authors, and I'm honored to be a part of the 4th book. And I'd love to be part of a "shared world" project with your Star's Reach! I've always wanted to be part of one (ever since I first read Thieves' World - decades ago). There are so many parts of it that I'd like to explore... and I'll be looking forward to seeing the direction your fiction is taking now.

I just watched both Republican debates tonight (the kid's table and the "main stars") and it was appalling and amazing what a different world they perceived (even assuming some of them were being honest). It doesn't make me hopeful, since they jumbled idealism together with pure blindness about the state of the world... and I noticed that the audience was 98% white... not surprising. Also, I sat at a farmer's market last Saturday with a woman who at one point exclaimed, "Donald Trump! Either him or Bernie Sanders... " That she saw no difference between them stunned me... and makes your warning about some out-of-the-blue dictator/"savior" being elected seem just that much more probable.

One idea for the next After Oil might be an "explorer" theme - where the main character for whatever reason leaves their known world and goes to find what else is left in the hinterlands... or two very different societies suddenly discovering each other.

John Michael Greer said...

Matthew, likewise so noted. I'll try to be very clear about what I'm looking for, if the project gets off the ground. The two main rules will be (a) every word of the published version of Star's Reach is canonical, and (b) don't try to drag Meriga back to today's conventional wisdom. What that latter means, if I may expand a bit, is that the core theme of the novel is that industrial society is over and will not be coming back, and stories that try to impose the mythology of progress on Meriga by any means -- industrial enclaves hiding out in some other corner of the world, heroic young technologists overcoming the burden of superstitious reverence for nature to get progress going again, et cetera, ad nauseam -- will be chucked in the shredder bin at once. Other than that, I'm open to pretty much any kind of story in any kind of style. Still, we can discuss this in more detail if the project gets under way.

Ice Torch, one of the comforts of history is that nobody's permanent revolution is ever actually permanent. Of course that's one of history's frustrations as well!

Travis, yes, I've seen the same sort of thing. There are some good ideas marketed under the Permaculture label, but there are also plenty of good ideas outside it -- a point that overenthusiastic followers of the movement -- would one call them Permians? -- tend to miss.

Isaac, one of the reasons I gradually lost interest in most science fiction after 1990 or so is that the sort of sweeping vision and relentless originality you find in Le Guin et al. got replaced by endless rehashes of the same images and ideas. I still read a lot of old SF and fantasy, but when I glance at the rack of new paperbacks at the local library, it's very much a matter of "Yeah, that was already old hat before I grew my first beard."

Cherokee, oh, granted! But the political inertia stands in the way of even trying to deal with the consequences of the geological and ecological predicament, and if that can be shoved aside, at least here and there, some useful things might be accomplished.

Tony, even from the other side of the pond, it's a spectacle worth watching. You should have put down the fiver!

ChaosAdventurer, thanks for the tip. So far, as far as I know, the After Oil anthologies have gotten zero press in the science fiction scene -- not surprising, all things considered. If that sort of story becomes more widely popular, the results might be interesting.

Tom, oh, granted, some nations are further along the curve than others.

Claire, I think a spandex-eating microbe was accidentally released from a lab in 2034 or something.

Architrains, interesting. I'll consider that.

Degringolade, okay, that's five votes in favor of the project. We'll see what happens when the big rush of comments hits tomorrow, but it's looking favorable so far. Memfis is a town worth visiting -- I'm glad Trey went there!

Max, all in good time. They're called "drug gangs" right now, you know.

John Michael Greer said...

Cathy, okay, make that six votes. An "explorer" theme -- hmm. Possible.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

A few nights ago, Chris Hayes, who is one of the evening political commentators on MSNBC, compared Donald Trump to Juan Peron.

nuku said...

JMG, re science fiction: I've recently been reading a book called Extreme Metaphors the collected interviews with J.G. Ballard. He too rejected the SF of 50's space travel and technological glitz in favor of looking at and extrapolating on contemporary trends in society. M. Atwood does something similar in her work. I find both very stimulating.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Here's a small news item about community radio, possibly also of interest to people thinking about the monastic model as a survival strategy and cultural lifeboat.

The Grassroots Radio Conference, an annual gathering of community based, FM radio station owners and operators and staff, will happen next week, Sept. 24-27 in the hamlet of Palenville, New York. The conference happens in a different location every year. This year the host is a Pagan abbey called The Matreum of Cybele, which recently went on the air with a low power community radio station, WLPB.

There's a fifteen minute segment about the Grassroots Radio Conference on a recent podcast of Radio Survivor. The segment starts about ten minutes in. I'm not sure I can paste the link properly, so I refer you to the September 16 blog entry at, near the bottom of the page, which is where I saw it. The Wildhunt squib also contains links to previous journalism about the Matreum of Cybele.

BoysMom said...

So my suggestion, and this is part based on what I feel like reading . . . someone brought up the list of plots last week, and Man versus Nature came up. Right now, some natural disaster happens, and, if it's first world, we get a technological response, and if it's third world, we get doleful tv anchors and panoramic shots.

But there have been natural disasters since before there was anything like man on this planet and there will continue to be. As long as there are people, we'll have to respond to them. There will be relatively minor disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires; huge disasters like the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the next Ice Age, and Yellowstone; slow disasters like droughts and fast disasters like floods. People have lived through all of those before, what about stories addressing how people face nature in the future? Not necessarily how they survive a volcanic eruption, but how do they live, what sort of mental structure do they come up with, that lets them deal with these events?
We consider them to be, well, disasters. Disruptions of the status quo, to be eliminated, papered over, ignored, and insured against as much as possible. People in the future might view them very differently, might even see what we regard as disaster as a sign of supernatural beneficence. Not '. . . and then they all die' stories: those to me always seem to encourage depressive profligacy.

Stories addressing how humans might humanely cope with nature's inhumanity.

Ossian MacUrcrin said...

Hi JMG. :)

Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader seems to be the latest sign that the winds of change are sweeping through UK politics.
I live in the North West Scottish Highlands and was utterly amazed to see the Scottish National Party, (SNP), decimate Labour, and The Liberal Democrats..,.(The Conservatives have been an irrelevance here in Scotland for quite a whiles now!..), and take all but 3 of the seats in Scotland, during the last UK election.

Much like the Blairites who poo-pooed the idea of Corbyn's chances of realistically being elected, the same drivel was being espoused by the Neoliberal politicians and media,towards the SNP, as they stifled their yawns and complacently thought about "Businesses as Usual"... By God, they fairly woke up quickly as the results came in and they found themselves, stripped of power and interestingly enough, at a complete loss for words... That in itself made the results worthwhile! ;)

Anyways, this is my first time commenting, but have been a long time reader and admirer of your work and would just like to say Moran Tàing (many thanks), for your work, thoughts, philosophies and ideas and the interesting, thought provoking debate that they stimulate. :)

Beannachd Leibh!

Ossian :)

Seb Ze Frog said...

Good morning.

In this little dream world of mine I have been telling myself the story of a Melumni scholar who ends up with those letters sent between this old scientist from the other side of the Pond and this erudite in what was America talking about the shake up that was already being called "the Big Bang effect". A story between the past and the present. I don't know if people would find it interesting, but I have lots of fun exploring it when I end up wandering over there.

My English being what it is, and me being already involved into some other writings, this might not weight too much as far as voting is concerned. But give it the weight of the enthusiasm ;-)


PRiZM said...


I love the idea of opening the Star's Reach world up to others. It was a great story that has the potential for lots of other storylines. My personal favorite was the keepers of the stories. Sorry if I am not clear, I forgot the character names, but there was a fellow who helped Trey out quite a bit, who happened to belong to a group that seemed to have a lot of wisdom that they had acquired through old stories; stories which they guarded and passed along. It reeks of Knights of the Templar intrigue, even if it is nothing even remotely similar. And I love to see it explored a bit more. So I cast a vote of please, let's get some more SF stories rolling!

Hubertus Hauger said...

JMG: "... one of the comforts of history is that nobody's permanent revolution is ever actually permanent. Of course that's one of history's frustrations as well!"
I am nooding in agreement. In my perspectiv history repeats itself. Again and again that old one in new cloth. Whilst changes just gradually get on a slightly new course. Due to the inevitable circumstances we get into an "abstinence for fittness" movement. Only to start form a reduced volume then the same old all over again. I see that´s the law of evolution. All revolting in itself with slight changes accumulating over time, but still letting life settle in the same niches again.
I look at history for a vivid example of that repercussion; As the roman empire collapsed, first followed by the so called dark ages, but afterwards emerged the frankonian empire. Thus acclaiming to be the romans empires successor. The final end of that succession of the roman empire was, when Napoleon declared the then "roman empire of german nation" to be finished. Well! So more than 1300 years passed by, before the roman empire passed away.
No, wait, what did Napoleon then do? Crown himseld the new emperor with Julius Cesars laurel wreath. Thus creating many functions and emblems of the roman empire. So at least after he deceasd the romaan empire was finish? No, I dont see that, as the "Greatest Nation in the World" appeared as the succesor of the not roman empire first, but the roman republic. While nowadays there is so much reverence of the (US) empires clory broadcasted frequently. So I see another 200 years of the roman empire has added.
My assumptions are: The fabric of the system repeats itself until maybe forever and ever. Whatever comes, no collapse will be permatent. Don´t let us fear, all is going to end. Instead, we´ll get the same procedure as every time. The king will die. The king will live!

earthworm said...

Tom Bannister said...
"I've heard though that Jeremy Corbyn has managed to get himself offside with the feminist faction of the British Labour party (there are no women in his shadow cabinet). How substantively this affects his political carrier we will though of course see..."

15 men and 16 women in his shadow cabinet I think:

But it is not surprising that people might think that given the media's general coverage.

So on that, he then got trouble because no women were appointed to the 'great offices' (of the 19th century) such as treasury or foreign secretary, so how that squares with women being appointed to defence, education and health is anyones guess; however, the levels of attack across the spectrum suggest his election was not part of the establishment plan.

Since it might be argued that Parliament is little more than the executive arm of the Privy Council (which he has apparently been invited to join), people might be interested to read the oath that has to be taken:
"You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto The Queen's Majesty..."

Entertaining to watch the frothing and no doubt interesting to see where it leads.

faoladh said...

As an avid roleplayer, I would like very much for whatever shared world "bible" that you come up with to see publication itself, in order that it could be used along with the published stories to develop the setting for RPGs. Publishing it as a series "bible" would also allow you to avoid the necessity of picking one system over another and licensing it - perhaps others might develop the specific gaming statistics for various systems and they could be published as supplements.

Tony D said...

Thank you for the interesting post John. It's been most revealing to see the 'Establishment' in the UK expose it's dark heart since the election of Corbyn. The attacks upon this decent and gentle man (whatever you think of his views) have been extraordinarily brutal and personal. Like many it's a rare experience to see a leader emerge whose policies are based on a 'where people matter' foundation. Something in the man has caught the imagination of the people, particularly the youth and I believe his policies and his practice are the basis for a re-connection of socialists of all stripes back into the wireboard of politics, fracturing the anti-human neo-liberal death cult. Socialism is a soup of many flavours and it's not going to satisfy all tastes but like we say to our kids at the table-just try it and see.
To be born in the 50's and to still be an optimist about politics means you are either a bit dim or relentlessly, intelligently-hopeful.

On the matter of the short stories, I think it's a great idea.

Thank you for your work.
Love and will in balance!

Tony Dougan

earthworm said...

PS on that last:
Papers were reporting it as 'Women lose out on top jobs' - even at the end of the day when it was apparent that there were more women than men, headlines remained the same. Next he was in trouble for not singing the national anthem - the funny thing being that (whilst in all papers), the irony of 'Corbyn snubs Queen' in one of Rupert Murdochs organs (the Sun I think) has mostly been missed... Not to mention the hypocrisy since it was also one of Murdoch's papers that printed a picture of the queen recently doing a nazi salute as a child.

JMG said:
"...people who’ve stayed out of party politics in Britain have been joining the Labour Party in droves"

Some 30,000 in three days apparently.

Although I can't help feeling that Marcus Tulliou Cicero had it bagged 2000 or so years ago:
"Politicians are not born; they are excreted."

MigrantWorker said...

Good morning mr Greer,

What a change of tack - an Archdruid reporting on politics, and of my adopted homeland no less!

You did mention Nigel Farage. Now I would argue that he was even more of a breath of fresh air than Jeremy Corbyn is - being the first one chronologically to break out of the line, relatively young for a politician, coming from the fringes to become a household name (and likewise dragging his policy along with him into widespread recognition), outspoken and approachable at the same time; and doing all of that in his own inimitable style, enjoying a pint and a smoke at a local pub and mixing freely with other patrons. It can probably be said that his antics paved the way for Corbyn. But of course Farage did not have the inertia of a big and established party to overcome, so there were no ranks into which he could have been pulled back.

On a different subject: Star's Reach world is very short on information on the Old World! I am thinking of filling that gap. Not necessarily as a theme in its own right - but then, the as yet unexplored continents of Europe, Asia and Africa can easily become the setting for any story you care to imagine.


Yossi said...

Tom Bannister
Not sure where you heard that Corbyn got himself offside with the neo-lib feminist faction of the Labour Party. 16 of his 31 person shadow cabinet are women.
The traditionally senior posts like Foreign Secretary are mainly men, but as he himself has explained, given UKs real position in the world (i.e. tame poodle of the US), the posts of Health Secretary, Education secretary etc are arguably more important anyway.

Sven said...

Regards the next space bats challenge. Seeing as the last one was set in the far future, why not set the next one in the immediate future? Perhaps stories set today, or the next ten to fifty years that explore the first signs of whatever world will come next - which could be the actions of small groups of people responding to their circumstances, or global stories akin to Twilight's Last Gleaming.


Jason Heppenstall said...

I too was stunned by Corbyn’s landslide victory. I won’t pretend that it hasn’t been immensely gratifying and entertaining watching the press – the entire press, both those organisations that are ‘conservative’ and those that are ‘liberal’ – either squirm in discomfort or spew out torrents of bilious balderdash. Career politicians and talking heads have been sent scurrying to their bunkers squealing “He’ll be gone within a month” and the internet is buzzing with cruel but frankly very funny parodies of the neoliberal establishment. It feels like a real Wizard of Oz moment … but one wonders what is going to happen next.

Incidentally, Corbyn has indicated he would send Tony Blair to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes if he is elected. It’s a very popular promise for many people but also a dangerous game. The last few people who have made credible threats along those lines have ended up heading to the Great Beyond in mysterious circumstances (heart attacks, suicides etc.). I would advise Corbyn not to visit too many remote beauty spots or drive too fast (not hard as the man only owns a bicycle).

As for fiction, congratulations to those who have made it into After Oil 4 – I look forward to reading those stories. For those interested, I have been working on my own fictional story called Seat of Mars. It’s set in modern day Britain and details a few of the opening dramas of our Long Descent. I’m adding a new chapter every Monday and hope to turn it into a 'trilogy in five parts' with my story from After Oil 3 (set in 25th century Greenland) rounding it off.

JMG – if you’re looking for Star’s Reach spinoffs, count me in. I too like the idea of voyages of discovery being a theme.

KoldMilk said...

The election of Corbyn immediately made me think of the 1982 novel by Chris Mullin: "A Very British Coup". Alas, the events in the novel are all too plausible and relevant today.

Thomas Daulton said...

I would certainly be interested in writing a story for submission to a "Star's Reach" genre anthology.

On the other hand, for a future "After Oil" anthology -- how about the theme of "Preserve One Thing". A touchstone, though not necessarily the entire plot, of each story would be to describe how one cultural or technological art was preserved from the Petroleum Age, how it materially impacts the future society at some future era of the writer's choice, and how it changes or expands the thinking of the people in that future society (or if they reject it, or if it causes wars etc.) Again, this need not be the whole point of the story -- a sketchy history mentioned in passing by a character would do; we shouldn't let tech get in the way of a good story and compelling characters -- but each story should include some mention of how the past breaks through into the future.

For example, here's some low-hanging fruit that contestants should be able to better with their own ideas:
* 80 years after the final collapse of the electric grid, a teenager discovers a buried vault full of rock-n-roll phonograph records, sheet music, and instruments -- and tries to put on an electrified concert to his peers who are accustomed to acoustic folk music. Hilarity ensues.
* 500 years from now, a cloak-and-dagger spy mission between two eco-technic countries leads to a sexy tale of seduction, paranoia, and emotional betrayal. Just one among the spy's several objectives, is the theft of wheat seedlings which have been carefully bred and preserved in secret cool gardens for centuries, by the Emperor's royal botanists, until the world's weather cooled enough that they could start to thrive again.

Have fun with the concept!

Pavel said...

Hello, JMG.

Regarding the idea of using Star's Reach as a setting for other stories for other writers, have you considered a possibility of making it into a GURPS setting?

patriciaormsby said...

Congratulations to all the Space Bats Challenge winners this year! (I didn't win, but I'll keep on trying.) And thank you to JMG for the thought-provoking challenge.

Odin's Raven said...

Archdruid, it seems as if your Mr. Carr's post-American railway journey is an oblique commentary on the famous road journey across the western states of America by Emily Post.
Post Haste

'In 1915 cross-country motoring was a new trend, the offshoot of a decade of publicity that aimed to lure travelers out west. Railroads, politicians and assorted other commercial interests in the western states had been exhorting Americans to “See Europe if you will, but see America first” since 1906. Keen to get a piece of the $500 million Americans were spending each year in travel to the Old World, they promoted the unique natural wonders of the American west from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean in contrast to the inconveniences and expense of travel to Europe. Traveling towards the Pacific rather than across the Atlantic was advertised as a patriotic duty, a means to commune with the “Great Architect” through his greatest works. '

Will this Carr's journey from sea to shining sea be done in more or less comfort than Emily Post's?

donalfagan said...

@Claire, In the '70s I worked with Hendrikus, who told me that in the Netherlands all the butchers delivered meat in heavy steel bikes with big racks in the front - and that Hercules carrier bike on the Tradesman site is just what I imagined. On weekends, he continued, the butchers jumped on light bikes and won all the races with their big muscles.

@Cathy, after riding with some younger guys to a meeting, I gather they *like* that Trump doesn't hide his feelings, and doesn't mind offending people. They attribute Trump's immunity to criticism to people being so thoroughly tired of the media judging people and spinning the hell out of everything. I notice my friends who are for Sanders are clearly less economically-successful Dems. In general I think many people have given up on Washington and just want a change. And congrats again.

Thomas Mazanec said...

Will you make Retrotopia into a book?

Dan Mollo said...

The kabuki theater that is our national politics has been a source complete fascination, although as you have pointed out on several occasions this is really nothing new in the history of human civilization in general and political interaction in complex societies in particular. Trying to tell friends and family that no current politician running for high office really differs from each other with regards to the underlying premise of industrial civilization (that being the complete faith in perpetual progress), I get thought-stopper responses and vacuous stares. Then I remember I get to live in my own kabuki theater of social interaction everyday. Never a dull moment!

I rather like the idea of an explorer theme for the next book, it would be a great way to set the stage for how different localities adopted different life-ways in a post petroleum world, and how they interact with each other. I think that's what is so entertaining about your current story, the fact that Mr. Carr is having his underlying assumptions of how the world is supposed to be challenged by a radically different but seemingly successful way of life. Perhaps I should finally sit myself down in a chair and write something.

Martin B said...

The conspiracy theorists are pointing out that shortly before the election, the Labour Party made it easier and cheaper to become a member, and there was a flood of new members. The suspicion is they were fifth-columnists who voted for Corbyn because he was the most certain to lose the next general election.

I lived in Britain in '73-'74 when the Labour Party under Harold Wilson overthrew the Heath administration. Terrible time. The Labour Party was dependent on the unions and the union leaders were enormously powerful. The workers were forever going on strike for the smallest of reasons, or even for no reason at all except to show solidarity with other workers on strike. Britain was going backwards fast, industrially.

Thatcher stopped the rot, but industry never recovered. Only the finance sector became dominant. The workers have only themselves to blame for their current malaise, IMO.

Miroslav Smolka said...

Having gone through the fall of communism, it is amazing to be watching very much the same process going on again, from the other side of the former iron curtain. Senility of the elites, inefficiencies in the economy, media propaganda like we have seen in late 1980´s... There certainly is an end to any status quo. It is good to have this experience of going through major shifts in the society each 20 years (It helps to keep you awake and cautious about what you see happening around). Those who have spent all their lives on the cushion of stable and rich societies may be lacking an important experience now.

Miroslav, Slovakia, EU

alex_uk said...

The problem with UK politics is that most of the media is owned by the financial elites. Even the independent BBC tends to follow the same agenda as the rest of the press - they are scared of having further budget cuts if they would be seen to attack the Tory party in power. I would be surprised if Mr Corbyn lasts to even fight the next election - though he may do so if the stock market and economy dives. He is already facing the full hostility of the press and doesn't have the full backing of most of the MP's in his party. If he does last as Labour leader I would be stunned if he wins - in every election since 1979 the UK electorate have chosen the most sociopathic Prime Minister they can. I also don't really rate Mr Corbyn - I feel his mental map was fixed in the 1970's and he probably has no idea about the severely resource-constrained future that we are facing. If he were elected I fear that our future would most resemble that of Venezuela. The best chance of the labour party getting back in power would be if the Messiah currently over your side of the pond - the other Milliband i.e. David were to return as leader.

gregorach said...

Tom Bannister: "I've heard though that Jeremy Corbyn has managed to get himself offside with the feminist faction of the British Labour party (there are no women in his shadow cabinet)."

You may well have heard that, but it's completely untrue - actually, slightly over half of the members of his shadow cabinet are women. The press made a big deal about how none of the "major" posts had gone to women - for a very specific and eccentric definition of "major", and in fact before the full line-up had been announced. This is just one example of the ridiculous lengths they have been going to find bad news about Corbyn.

Tidlösa said...

I agree that Trump and Corbyn are part of the same phenomenon: plebeian discontent with the status quo (or rather: a status quo that´s coming apart at its seams). In Britain, it happens to go to the left, in the United States to the right (a fake populist right). In Uzbekistan or Zambia, who knows?

In Sweden, the discontent goes to the right at the moment, with the Sweden Democrats getting 27% in a recent opinion poll - being in effect the largest party, larger than the Social Democrats, the party actually in government! The Sweden Democrats is the pariah party of Swedish politics, shunned by both leftists and neoliberal rightists alike, due to their nationalism and opposition to immigration/immigrants. They are represented in Parliament, but are blocked from real influence through a deal between the Social Democratic government and the neo-liberal opposition.

The recent success of the Sweden Democrats is arguably even more sensational than Trump and Corbyn!

Permit me some background information...

During the 1980´s, the Social Democrats habitually got around 45% of the votes in the national elections (the election turn-out was a staggering 90%), had been in power (with short breaks) for around 40 years, had a firm grip on the "working class vote" and the labor unions, and had a two-thirds majority in some local elections.

The Sweden Democrats, by contrast, were a small neo-fascist party which got virtually no votes at all. Many supporters were skinheads. The Sweden Democrats were so few, that one of their public meetings was trashed by anti-fascist activists from an even smaller pro-Albanian Stalinist group whose total membership can´t have exceeded 40 people!

Today, 30 years later, the Sweden Democrats get more sympathy in an opinion poll than the Social Democrats...

Imagine if Lyndon LaRouche would out-poll the Democrats! It´s that kind of crazy (even bearing in mind that the Sweden Democrats are more "realistic" today than back in the street fighting days, and has been so for quite some time).

If this will last is another matter entirely. A single opinion poll during the migrant crisis isn´t a general election, after all. The Social Democrats have been "down for counting" before, and always managed to stage a come back - Swedes like their welfare state (I admit that I vote Soc Dem myself).

But yes, it´s definitely one more sign that the decades-long period of political lethargy is coming to a close - for good or for worse.

Odin's Raven said...

Corbyn is not so popular with the taxpaying public:
poll results

@Tom Bannister No women in his shadow cabinet? It's the first shadow cabinet to have a female majority!! Shadow Cabinet

Corbyn has form with 'wrong-uns'. He was closely associated with Soviet supported causes, and even took a romantic motorcycling trip through East Germany with the woman who has become the most derided woman in British politics - now a member of his shadow cabinet, along with a shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer who praised the I.R.A.
Being a laughing stock is incompatible with gravitas. The Tories are loving it.

Denys said...

After Carly Fiorina's performance in the debate last night, maybe she's your come of out of nowhere presidential dictator. She's never held an elected office so we don't really know who she is since she has no public record, and her personal background will rouse positive emotions for her, like it did for Barack Obama. The country seemingly votes based on how they feel about a candidate.

I'm still waiting to see what the establishment does to take down Trump once and for all. Or perhaps they are waiting for him to implode. The damage we do to ourselves is usually greater than what someone else can do to us.

Thank goodness for a spandex eating microbes in the future! Every time leggings come back in style for women, I shudder.

Congratulations to all the winners! Those books are on my wishlist to order and looking forward to diving in.

Tony f. whelKs said...

@Tom Bannister

"I've heard though that Jeremy Corbyn has managed to get himself offside with the feminist faction of the British Labour party (there are no women in his shadow cabinet)."

You might want to run an audit of your news sources, because they seem to have been seriously infected by the media vitriol I cited in my first post.

In fact, there is a female MAJORITY in Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet, and the mock outrage isn't coming from the 'feminist wing of the Labour party'. It's an example of faux-feminism from his detractors, most probably outside the party, who are claiming that no 'top jobs' were given to the women in the Cabinet.

Let's look at it, what are the 'top jobs'? Leader - himself, so what can he do? Deputy Leader - separately elected, ditto. Shadow Chancellor (ie Finance Minister) is John McDonnell - you may dislike his Left-wing politics, but he did run the finances for the Greater London Council with a BALANCED BUDGET (which I guess proves he can't be a real Socialist ;-) ), so from the field available, probably the best experienced for his new job. Shadow Home Secretary is Andy Burnham (mending bridges with another leadership contender) and Shadow Foreign Secretary is also a bloke.

But women hold the briefs for: Defence, Health, Education, International Development, Chief Whip, Energy, Environment, and Transport. I think these all qualify as 'big jobs', especially given the leader's likely programme.

It seems the media vitriol has done its job if what is probably the most female (and minority ethnic) friendly shadow cabinet of all time is successfully being portrayed as the opposite.

I'm not a Labour supporter, but as a voter I do have an interest in how the media operates around these issues and painting impressions that too few people actually look into for themselves.

Mark Mikituk said...

Corbyn is much more similar to Bernie Sanders(He also congratulated Corbyn on his election, Trump did not of course.) then Trump, and if Corbyn is a predictor of anything vis-a-vis American politics then Bernie is your future president :P

James M. Jensen II (badocelot/shiningwhiffle) said...

Congrats to the winners!

One theme you might consider for the next After Oil is "Instead of Oil": an alt-history collection set in worlds where the fossil fuel revolution never happened in the first place, because the fossil fuels just weren't there.

I realize that's a bit outside the bounds of the anthology's purpose, but it could allow for visions of how the religion of progress could have proceeded without cheap energy, and the problems it would have run up against. For example, deforestation would likely have been an even bigger issue than in the real world as trees were cut down en masse to produce charcoal. Even without cheap energy, empires and progress can still fail spectacularly.

Phil Harris said...

Err ... Tom from N Zealand
there are 16 women of 31 attending Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet according to Wikipedia.
Enough anyway to meet his policy of gender number equality.


James M. Jensen II (badocelot/shiningwhiffle) said...

Also, while I don't feel I can commit to writing a story for a Star's Reach anthology, I am very much hoping you can go forward to it. Not only would it be nice to revisit Meriga, but I'm toying with the idea of running a tabletop RPG campaign set there and such an anthology would be very useful as source material.

Speaking of which, I've been trying to work up a magic system for the game based loosely on real-world magical systems. Do you happen to know anything about what magic in 25th century Meriga is like, and what the social status of its practitioners are? I'm assuming the priestesses practice healing and other magics, and scholars likely practice something like the notory art, and of course fortune-tellers offer various forms of divination, but any pointers here could be useful.

zaphod42 said...

Good morning, sir. Your take on the election in England was interesting. I am not sure he is that great a departure from status quo... time will tell.

My personal political philosophy is sort of a blend of Libertarian and Progressive. This from experience and observation since, as should be clear just from watching events, any 'pure' form of politic is easy to do in a novel, where you have control of everyone's actions, and not so easy when 'human nature' enters the scene, as it always does.

It seems to me that government should regulate as little as possible, yet it must provide a framework for peaceful trade, personal interactions, and of course transactions between citizens. When any group becomes harmful to the stability and peace of the land, the citizens would be able to enact regulatory (or criminal) laws to satisfy these requirements.

Again as a Libertarian, I worry at the government becoming repressive; Franklin and others call it "tyranny of the majority," and believed that true democracy would lead to such excesses.

As a Progressive, I worry that, left unregulated, bullies would terrorize the population, and greed would drive an untenable division into a few wealthy and mostly poor segments. As we see today.

This is the unfortunate reality that drives conflict; left unchecked either form has failed. I don't know if they can be successfully joined. Lamentably (or not), I doubt that I will see the denouement of our present crisis; I am not particularly sanguine as to the outcome.

I will watch for new works of fiction outlined. Those extant have been fun reads.

Keep the faith!

zaphod42 said...

JMG, I had a few thoughts (good for me, eh?) that I wanted to share and ask for your take. Taken in order, so you can see that they are actually connected, they are:

Architrains made mention of steam powered cars. My first thought was, "Powered by what, exactly? If fossil fuels, are they affordable, and allowable in a climate crazy future? If wood, is it possible for wide spread steam power to be fueled by wood? If I recall correctly, lack of wood became a problem in the past as human population grew. It was only the plague that drew populations back sufficiently to enable the forests to recover a bit. And fossil fuels are all that allow population at anywhere near the level it is today.

So, my next thought was, other than plague, what is going to reduce population to levels sustainable for a wood powered society, where coal and oil/gas are no longer available?

Your thoughts or your readers' are welcome. I have no answers - only ever more questions.

Quos Ego said...

Dear JMG,

if I may, a good subject for the next anthology could make use of the nice framework defined in this post of 2013 :

You could even be as bold as to call it "After Humans," and go into truly uncharted territory.

Mister Roboto said...

It's because Donald Trump may be the Republican candidate that I hope Bernie Sanders has as much of a shot at getting the Democratic nomination. Sanders might be able to beat Trump, but I sincerely doubt Hillary Clinton could. Not that I'm very deeply invested in the outcome of US elections anymore, it's just that the talk coming from the Republican candidates has me once again ready to hold my nose while filling in the arrow on the ballot for the Democrats, even if Hillary is the nominee.

Pinku-Sensei said...

@Peter4045 "I can't think of any American equivalent to Corbyn." Bernie Sanders is considered to be the closest analog to Corbyn on this side of the Atlantic and some in the mainstream political press are making that comparison. As for people comparing Trump to Corbin, I think that's misplaced. Trump reminds me of a more charismatic Nigel Farage, the head of the UKIP. Imagine Farage with Silvio Berlusconi's most salient qualities and that's Trump.

@JMG One of the tendencies you've mentioned when people envision the future is either utopia or doom. Your solution has been to invoke ternary thinking and imagine third options, like you have in your "Journey to Retropia" series. One of the dooms du jour is Burning all fossil fuels could melt Antarctica. I doubt that will actually happen as the point of diminishing economic returns will kick in long before we frack all the shale and excavate all the tar sands. Still, the warmer, higher sea level world of "Star's Reach" appears unavoidable and is something we need to prepare for. As for utopia, I found examples of one of the hackneyed future you described in The case for colonizing space. One of the reasons given is to escape disaster, or what the techno-utopians consider disaster. I know that vision doesn't sell well here, but, who knows, Ugo Bardi's readers will probably enjoy it.

RPC said...

A quibble: "...some aspects of the model, notably the claim that solar and wind power can support something akin to modern middle class American lifestyles, haven’t held up well in the light of experience..." I suppose it depends on how far you can stretch "modern." I grew up (1956-1972) in a house where the 115V service entrance consisted of two 15 amp fuses, which is a whopping 7.5% of the capacity of a present-day 200A 240V service entrance. Despite that miserly budget, we had electric lights, a television and hi-fi, and an assortment of electric tools and kitchen appliances. (Of course my dad couldn't run the saw without checking that mom wasn't running the toaster, but it didn't seem to bother anyone.) And the electric utility seemed to be able to turn a profit supplying that measly amount of power from the little hydro plant on the pond south of town. Now, granted, that's not "solar and wind," but it certainly qualifies as "renewable!"

Nicolas Costa said...

I would be interested in filling a different geographical portion of Earth in the setting of Star's Reach (have you thought about a Role-Playing Game, that one could be very interesting too). In my case I would write about Argentina in the 25th century. (If I can win over my INFP tendency to start something and leave it in the middle).

@Unknown: and Christ Hayes is very right on that comparison. Seventy years latter and we're still suffering in Argentina from that particular populist, if he gets elected, run for your life. From personal experience I can say that populists should be repudiated as much as neoliberals, once you remove the surface details, they are as bad as the other side, only with better disguises. Last night, for the first time since 1983 (last year we had a military government) an election was deemed null and void.

The astonishing evidence of manipulation of the process was so heavy the justice system had no other choice but to make that statement, it was just a State election for governor, but it also showed how desperate the current government is about retaining power. They know once they don't have the protection of their positions they face a near certain chance of being locked in jail. And of course, as soon as the ruling was out the president wasted no time in saying the ruling was anti-constitutional and golpista (a local scare-word used to evoke the fear of the military interventions, so overused by them every time the justice system stopped one of their attempts at becoming a monarchy it has been emptied of meaning).

RPC said...

donalfagen (& JMG): Of COURSE you can make liquid fuel from carbon dioxide and water! You plant sugar cane or beets, harvest and dump into a tank with some yeast, then filter and distill the product. Oh, gold catalyst or 1000C reactions...I guess it'll never work.

Troy Jones said...

I think I probably would contribute to a Star's Reach anthology. I don't have any story ideas for it at the moment, but that may be due to the ear infection I am currently coping with. Pain is rather distracting to the creative process...

A few questions about ground rules for the proposed anthology though. Would stories need to be in roughly the same time frame as SR, or could they be a bit in the past or future from Trey, e.g. set during the civil war, or during the Presdency of Trey's friend (name escapes me at the moment)? And, are characters from SR off-limits to be characters in submitted stories? I don't really have any ideas along those lines (unless they are subconscious), but I would like to get a sense of what we'll be allowed to do.

Aron Blue said...

Trump stimulates the imagination. When he talks, part of me longs to see his inauguration ceremony. Not because it's the future I want, but because it would be such an incredible spectacle. So I figure you take that profoundly common urge, and then you multiply it by the number of people who do want, or think they want, his future, and you got yourself a new president. All that directing of the will, even for people who "know better" (if there is such a thing these days).

While we're not visiting Retrotopia this week, I do have a couple more songs for the playlist.

The Deslondes
Yum Yum

One Hundred Years from Now
Flying Burrito Brothers

Finally, thanks JMG for putting me in touch with an old friend via the comments section! That's some real old-time live action community building.

Morgenfrue said...

I recognized the references to Ecotopia, but I've always had mixed feelings about that book. Frankly I much prefer your writing. Maybe it's because I'm from a younger generation, but his writing style seems so heavy-handed - and the hospital bit drove me crazy (sexy nurse services male patient!!) years before I became a nurse. It was like a sudden weird detour into porn fantasy land. Definitely not part of my vision of the future.

I have vaguely registered the elections in the UK but had not appreciated the context of the landslide, so thank you for that. For me, the refugees wandering the freeways of Scandinavia has been a real eye opener that things are changing, right now and here. Up until that I've been wobbling between states of semi-complacency and a sense that I'm wandering around in a reality that everyone else is oblivious to.

Robert Honeybourne said...


Nice summary of the Corbyn victory

I'm a radiation protection physicist and I guess moderately professional, and work in the NHS

I'm also a Labour Party member, and I voted for Corbyn

I took the view that although he may represent the past to some degree, that heading back may not be the worst thing in the world. More importantly, I thought that he said what he thought. We've had way too much 'smiling bullshit' from politicians all trying to paint a different story with an acceptable face. While it may be a disaster, I felt Corbyn was saying 'this is what I believe'. He was capable of saying what he believed from several angles rather than coming unstuck at the first hurdle- showing some depth of character. He also answered questions rather catching out the press who are used to evasion

I hadn't thought of the Druid's very good point regarding the UKIP alternative. It made me quite pleased that Corbyn has invigorated politics a little. I think it is a good thing that younger people are more interested. Every generation has to take some interest and when things float in the status quo it's not healthy

So as I have no hat, I'll take a bow to the Archdruid and Mr Corbyn and wish both good fortune


team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

Ideas for the next space bats competition: what can be done without warp drive. I'm interested in civilizations that last, in contacting other species (Dolphins, African Greys, ETs, and whatever else is out there) and in moving Venus to Mars's orbit and settling another planet.

Since the end of the last ice age humanity's civs have lasted about 1,000 years. With the notable exceptions of ancient Egypt (routine river flooding with tributaries high in phosphorus and decaying organic matter) and China ( with rice, that increases the soil fertility the more intensely it is worked, and bamboo as a fast growing source of fuel and construction material) at ~3,000 and ~5,000 years. The two civs that lasted longer both had special conditions that allowed them to maintain the productive environment in spite of the pressures that civilizations usually exert toward degrading the system that supports them.

You said once that every new tech is an ecological disaster waiting to happen and that over time the rough edges get knocked off and sustainable ways are found, equilibrium situations are muddled to, and I am curious about the very long term projects that an ecotechnic society could achieve.

Let's say that enough rough edges get knocked off that a civilization can lasts somewhere in the 100,000 year range (which is what an ecotechnic society would need to move Venus to Mars's orbit) then what happens? This seems like a promising avenue for original fiction to me. No magic tech, no trivial answers to Fermi's paradox, just an honest answer to what could happen is civilizations didn't crash and burn all the time.


Philip Steiner said...

More stories in the world of Star's reach is a fantastic opportunity! Maybe an adventurous lieutenant of the Merigan Army retraces Lewis and Clark's expedition in quest to establish diplomatic relations with Neonjin? Sign me up, I'm plotting it out in my head already!

Philip Steiner said...

And please pass along my congratulations to this year's Space Bats winners! Look forward to devouring their stories.

KevPilot said...

JMG- Thanks so much for the weekly commentary. At times, so much of what I see out there is so twisted and ugly that it takes your wavy, anti-consensus, Fun-House Mirror to counter the torque and present a clearer and un-distorted image.

I too have had several conversations with people who are just fine with either Bernie or The Donald. And I gotta say, I get it. I don't so much agree as understand. No great revelation here: both candidacies are fueled by dissatisfaction with the parties as usual. What I find interesting is that both men present themselves as canvases for the hopes, desires and temper tantrums for the alternatives to those stati quo arrangements as seen from substantially different points of view. I felt very much the same way about the Occupy movement and the very early Tea Party: two radically different approaches to addressing more or less the same set of problems. Back in those days, I desperately hoped that someone could have straddled the gap, before it became a cultural chasm, between the two movements. Those two powerful engines working, if not together then perhaps not at odds with each other, could have cracked open the current state of things earlier and provided more alternative visions for what else is out there. As individual candidates, I don't really see such a bridge possible between Bernie and The Donald. I certainly cannot see them sharing a ticket, but who knows.....

On a separate request: I'd love to see you continue on with your observational posts mid-week as you do now and leave open a Friday posting, on a semi-regular basis, for special projects like Retrotopia. I doubt you'll find much opposition in this space to the proposition that "we" double "your" workload.

Thanks again for all of your good work!

Ed-M said...

Interesting post, JMG. Lots to think about.

Now on Trump... is he our Boris Yeltsin? or our Vladimir Zhirinovsky? By the way he's been pontificating and behaving, more like the latter.

On your comment to Travis: "[Y]es, I've seen the same sort of thing. There are some good ideas marketed under the Permaculture label, but there are also plenty of good ideas outside it -- a point that overenthusiastic followers of the movement -- would one call them Permians?"

I would call them Permacultists, as opposed to the more serious Permaculturalists. In this country, if you're overenthusiastic about something, chances are you're not really serious about putting it into practice, just evangelizing it.

Now Bernie Sanders, I think he's the best of the lot considering he's the reactionary candidate who wishes to chuck neoliberalism (i.e., pseudo-Conservatism, neo-Conservatism, Republican policies adopted by Democrats, etc.) and restore the New Deal inasmuch as possible. Although he doesn't realize our true situation, Sanders would, if we vote in a cooperative Congress, would put in place policies and institutions that would help us ride out the decline; because as Orlov has reported, socialism tends to distribute the social stresses of the decline and even helps people prepare for the descent.

aiastelamonides said...

Congratulations all!

As for future Space Bats themes, how about volumes centered around particular cultural aspects of possible futures? For example, a volume focused on education, or on large-scale construction projects (e.g. Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, the Netherlands, etc), or on warfare, or on the relationship between humans and animals. Restrictions on settings could be interesting as well- a volume of stories set in city-states or free towns, and volume set in deserts, etc. I also really like Architrains' idea of technological requirements.

I personally really enjoyed writing about a far-future society and, even more than that, reading about the ones other people came up with. I hope you continue to encourage (though not require) stories set on "the future's distant shores."

william fairchild said...


Yes it is fascinating to watch the rise of Corbyn. The closest American parallel, it seems to me is the strong challenge of Hillary by Sanders. The left (particularly the youth) seem to to be saying if you wanna be left, go Left, young man! The rise of Trump seems to parallel the rise of the National Front in France and UKIP in the UK.

The consensus, as well as the opposition from the right and the left (although I lean hard left) seems to be worn out. We no longer have the energy, finance, or resources to support their programs. Will a third (or fourth) option come out of the blue. Possibly, but the propensity for political mischief and scapegoating is huge. The public was promised the moon. They got a litter-box.

Drat! Ray beat me to the punch. :) I always wondered about the Rocky Mountain region in the Star's Reach universe. They say, write about what you know. Well I was born and raised in CO and lived ten years in WY. A desertified Intermountain West makes sense. Even now, there are areas referred to as the Great American Desert. Except perhaps for the Northern Regions, it is not a lush paradise. Water is the currency of life. It will be even more so 400 years hence.

They fought wars over grazing and water rights (The Johnson County Cattle War). My Dad once told a story about a Mexican farmhand in the San Luis Valley in the early 20th century, who left the gate on the irrigation ditch open. The rancher was so angry he shot him dead. An all white jury acquitted him. The Judges stern warning was "Now, Sir, you gotta knock this stuff off!"

I think the fate of the Anasazi (Chaco Canyon, the Four Corners, Chimney Rock, etc) is informative as to what may have happened out there in those 400 years. I envision regression on a much more severe scale than the Midwest (Meriga), perhaps a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle based around herding. Maybe the people who live in valleys with microclimates that still allow some agriculture rediscover the Ancient Puebloan methods of dryland agriculture.

Perhaps the least populated state in the Union (WY) becomes rather a nomadic enclave.

I was able to piece together most of your place names (Meriga, Genda, Meyco) Neeonjin always confused me a bit. Anyways, yes! I would love to participate.

william fairchild said...


Wanna collaborate? You popped the idea in first, so you have dibs. I don't want to step on your toes, man.

George R Fehling said...

Congratulations to all the authors! I've read the previous anthologies and look forward to reading the next.

Greg Belvedere said...

Thanks. That was exactly the information I was fishing for with my comment. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, but I think I can make some room. It just might take a while.

I'm curious how you would deal with the topic of this post if you got more exposure outside of fringe media outlets. I search for podcasts and radio shows you have appeared on periodically, so I know you make it onto public radio from time to time. But part of me would like to see your work become more widely known. I think a lot of people are looking for something different and that parts of the NPR crowd might appreciate hearing your perspectives. Of course a lot of them would pull out the usual thought stoppers etc., but at least it would make more people aware of some of the alternatives you address. While NPR often shows as much dedication to the myth of progress as other outlets, a time might come where you can squeeze in. I think people are hungry for it and that would be the least hostile place where you could address a larger audience. It would certainly be a welcome change from guests talking about self-driving cars and climate change. I realize you probably don't go looking to make these appearances, but given the prominence of this blog and your Archdruid title it (kind of) surprises me that you have not been asked to appear on the show On Being.

David James Peterson said...

Aha, Sep 13th... I'd been hearing about the blood moon stuff from an acquaintance of mine for a bit. I'm not overly familiar with it myself but it has something to do with blood moons and the Jewish calendar (and I've heard my acquaintance mention the Jewish Shemitah multiple times).

I did a quick Google search, this is the best that I've found so far at to info (apparently the idea originated from a book called "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn):

Patricia Mathews said...

@ William Fairchild: IIRC, "Nihonjin" is Japanese for "Japanese."

Bill Blondeau said...

Congrats to the rest of the selected authors! It's not only an honor but a pretty exciting development to be included in such company. Looking eagerly forward to reading everyone's finished versions.

@Greg Belvedere:
I started writing a story late in the contest and what came out begged for a larger format. I'm thinking about working it into a novel if I can find the time and headspace amongst all my other obligations.

This sort of happened to me too. The excellent and indispensable folks in my local writing group, when reviewing the first part of my first effort for this contest, gently concurred that I was (to observe this site's rules of verbal decorum) "fracked and doomed" if I thought that what I'd shown them could possibly fit within the submission guidelines. "You're writing a novel. It's beautiful writing, but it's a novel not a short story."

I tried to condense it but it wouldn't go. So I gave up and wrote, as a short story, a prequel, sort of an origin story, that fit within the guidelines. I managed to submit that under the wire. A reckless ride, all in all.

And I will be writing the novel. Hopefully several...

The point of which is this: when a compelling story is "begging for a larger format", we should never ignore the cry.

I sincerely hope to read your novel soon.

Bill Blondeau said...

Ah. Just had an idea about a theme for the next Space Bats contest.

The fundamental constraint of the contests is that no cheating Alien Space Bats are permitted. Nothing can excuse the human race from its core dependency on the solar budget; nothing can save industrial civilization from its fate as a one time only event.

However, that's industrial civilization. The specific civilization we're riding down the slope right now.

According to The Ecotechnic Future, there will (absent catastrophe) be successor technic civilizations, each better adapted (on balance) to the last to the global, ecological, and human constraints of the world at that future time.

As a theme, how about "Stories must occur within the scope and timeframe of a successor civilization"? Not in the dark ages between civilizations, but during the civilization itself, depicting something of its worldview? Perhaps even invoking, as you might say, a Sense Of Wonder?

Difficult to define, and hold, that line, perhaps. But it could result in some really fascinating work.

Varun Bhaskar said...

Congratulations to all the winners of this years contest. I look forward to reading your work once it comes out in print!


Count me in for a short story about the desert west in the world of Star's Reach. I was already sketching out a story about a small, nomadic, religious order that's paying penance for the sins of their forefathers. I shall say no more than that, since it would ruin the story. :P

I'll probably keep working on my 1000 years in the future too, but more research is needed before I can continue.

Ray and the Rest,

Apparently we all want to know what's going on out west. My piece is a short story about a religious order, perhaps you all can fit it into your own stories? I feel like this religious order would a perfect way to deal with excess population that these valley civilizations would generate. Just a thought...



Ray Wharton said...

@ William Fairchild

A few weeks ago I visited the area I grew up in on the western slope and was struck with an urge to move back, which is a bit mad considering the potential for drought. The calling back comes from my family having been in the area since the 1880's settling the area immediately after the Utes were removed. I feel a calling to explore that history and the meaning of my families stewardship of the area for seven generations. Since that calling I have been trying to learn what I can about the native people's of the area; Ute, Deni, and Hopi mostly.

I would love to work together, at least figure out some of the setting details. I have been looking at the Toubou people since last night for inspiration about what desert mountain life shapes a people. After all their Mountains, Tibesti, are the 'Rocky Mountains' in their language. I see Colorado being abandoned outside of the cooling effects of the mountains. Where springs offer a source of water towns of a few hundred people might exist, as a general rule many miles from the next settlement. Some mesas and other high lands still offer grazing and pinon nut harvests. Maybe hunting too, what critters you figure would adapt to the changes, thing the big horns are likely to have any adapted decedents?

I doubt much technology remains, I suspect enough metallurgy to manufacture weapons on the order of a Girandoni rifle survives in a few towns, though the herders tend make do with a good sling.

Historically mountain peoples have been wary of visitors, I wonder how they would receive some explorers from Neeonjin territory?

pygmycory said...

Congrats to the Space Bats winners. If you decide to go ahead with the shared world of Star's Reach I might be up for writing something for it. I don't know yet. I still need to read the book... shuffles feet in embarrassment.

I was pleased by Jeremy Corbyn's win, but hadn't realized it was so important.

Canada looks like it may be undergoing a shift away from Stephen Harper and his Conservatives version of politics, but how far it will shift I'm not sure. I think that it is likely to be a reversion towards pre-Harper behaviour. I think the Conservatives will lose their majority if they don't get kicked out, which would rein in their policy a bit. I really hope that they lose office.

The riding I'm in is very left-leaning, and not all that typical for Canada as a whole. It will probably go NDP, or maybe Green. At a recent debate I went to, the conservative candidate didn't bother to show up. I don't think the consensus on worldview has cracked much though; all three candidates present(NDP, Liberal and Green) kept agreeing with each other on almost everything, so even if the NDP were to get a majority I doubt it would get entirely out of neoliberal territory unless Canada/world economy goes into a true tailspin or there is a war with huge consequences to the West. Reform, not revolution.

Myriad said...

@team10tim, I did a few calculations. If you want to move Venus to Mars's orbit it requires, at an absolute minimum making impossibly optimistic assumptions, about 1.8 * 10^33 Joules of energy. If you spread that energy expenditure evenly over 100,000 years, you'd still need in each of those years about thirty million times the amount of energy all of humanity currently uses per year. (Which is about 6 * 10^20 Joules, not counting ambient insolation).

For comparison, consider getting the Starship Enterprise up to 1/10 the speed of light under impulse power, and then slowed down again. By Star Trek standards, that's kind of like pulling her out of the space garage and down the driveway. Using comparably madly optimistic assumptions about efficiency, that single maneuver requires "only" about a thousand times the amount of energy humanity currently uses per year.

From such figures, I gather that any kind of starship, even one without warp drive (which there's no particular reason to believe is physically possible) that would take decades to make a one-way trip to one of the very nearest stars, is not consistent with any ecotechnic vision I'm familiar with. Let alone moving planets around.

Violet Cabra said...


It is heartening to read your political analysis, although I must admit I'm still on the edge of my seat eager to learn what Mr. Carr sees!

Personally, I'd love to read an anthology of short stories that were essentially hagiographies written about the people who preserved technology and culture and helped transmit them to the future. I imagine the book being being written from the perspective of 1,000 - 1,500 years in the future and concerning people who lived somewhere between the next great crisis and 300 years from now. This would be structured so every civilization is different and each hagiography serves as both a snapshot of a potential civilization, as well as a narrative and commentary. I deeply appreciated this complexity of perspective in The Glass Bead Game and would love the added layer of possibility explored by the differences of each imagined civilization in its springtime looking backwards. This would, I think, potentially highlight how the choices we make could lead to widely divergent futures.

Cherokee Organics said...


Perhaps and maybe. I reckon the core underlying problem is that people attempt to outsource their individual community responsibilities in the current political system. Does it benefit them to attempt that feat? You betcha it does, look at all the freebies thrown at some classes of society down here and they know they're in good hands. Unfortunately many of the other classes - and I feel that the young are particularly vulnerable - are in the dark about their situation and are also completely clueless as to how to respond.

When they do respond, helpful people show up to enforce the present paradigm of consensus politics which isn't far off an attempt by a dog to bite its own tail.

Which brings me to: As a suggestion for your Retrotopia story, it might be an instructive experience for everyone here to have Mr Carr attend a meeting where he acts like people do today (as a further suggestion, he could even possibly even attempt to hijack the meeting with a minor furphy?) and have him treated like the moron that he is. Imagine having Mr Carr have his say and then sit down and keep quiet (an impossible thought).

Or, as another suggestion: How about walking Mr Carr through the basics of a working democracy?

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I read something about Australia recently being made open to Japanese funds which are seeking yield? I honestly didn't believe they could pump the housing bubble up much further but that move is ingenious. What could possibly go wrong? Oh that's right, it looks like our next batch of submarines are possibly going to be built in Japan rather than at the ship yards in South Australia. Well done.



Hi Marcu,

Don't hold your breath. The dude is from one of the wealthiest corners of our society. However, having said that when the GFC hit, he worked co-operatively with Mr Rudd and did you happen to notice any impacts of the GFC here? Nope. Mind you, he also presided over some of the great shifts in wealth inequality in our time and they're shutting down local car manufacturing which will put about 250k people out of work because they’re whingeing that it cost the government $1bn over the past 10 years. Did I mention that tax free giveaways to retired baby boomers are something in the order of $32bn over 3 years? Why is no one talking about that?

Tom Bannister said...

Ok thanks for the correction! My source was clearly off...

John Michael Greer said...

Okay, before I plunge into the comments, two general notes.

First, at this point it's clear that there's more than enough interest to justify trying a Star's Reach-based shared world anthology. I'm delighted; I'll get a Blogger blogspace set up to function as online headquarters and clubhouse for the project, and announce the address here once it's up and running. Stay tuned for more.

Second, I'd like to thank every one of the people who submitted stories to the latest Space Bats challenge that didn't get chosen. It's always hard to look at a long list of readable stories and have to pick out a short list for an anthology; it's particularly hard when no small number of the authors are longtime readers and commenters. What's most remarkable to me is that everyone has been gracious about it all. That's rare in any writing contest; normally some of the people whose stories don't get picked do the sore-loser routine and make matters wretched for everybody. Having gotten plenty of rejection slips in my time, I know what it feels like to put everything you've got into a story and still have it turned down, and I want to thank each of you who ended up in that same situation for dealing with it gracefully and professionally.

If there were thirty-six hours in a day and ten days in a week, I'd solve the problem by launching a quarterly magazine of deindustrial SF, using print on demand technology so there wasn't an up front investment. Since I'm already doing as much as I have time to do, I'll simply put the idea out there: if any of my readers with editing and layout skills is interested in a second income that could add up to rather more than pizza money in time, and is willing to invest the time needed to make a quarterly magazine function, talk to me; I can set you up with a bunch of good stories, and advertise the magazine here so it gets plenty of initial subscribers. (Count me in for a subscription to start with!)

Okay, that said, on to the comments.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown Deborah, I tend to think that Trump has much more in common with Benito Mussolini, but maybe that's just me.

Nuku, true enough. BTW, if you'd like to resubmit your other comment with the profanity snipped out, I'd be happy to put it through.

Unknown Deborah, small-scale community radio is another venue that begs for green wizardly involvement; interesting that the Matreum has gotten into that.

BoysMom, hmm. That's also worth considering.

Ossian, you're welcome and thank you!

Seb, that could be a fascinating story, and very much out of the ordinary run of things -- which is good. I'd look forward to seeing it.

Prizm, that'd be Plummer and the Rememberers. Something about them would certainly be worth seeing.

Hubertus, and of course the United States in its early days made rather a fetish of copying the Roman Republic in its architecture et al. -- that's why we have a Senate, for example -- so you may have something there.

Faoladh, I've thought for a very long time that the setting of Star's Reach would make a great setting for roleplaying games, but I'd need some experienced help to get the "bible" structured so that roleplaying games could use it. Once the new Blogger space is up and running, could I ask you to come on over and help give me some idea of what would be useful?

Tony, the media attacks on Corbyn tell me one thing above all: the British establishment is terrified of him. That right there tells me that there are constructive potentials for change.

Earthworm, I make it a habit never to argue with Cicero. ;-)

MigrantWorker, what Star's Reach specified about the Old World is that most of Europe is Muslim, having been flooded by mass migrations from the Middle East. (Yes, I wrote that in back in 2010 or so!) Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Baltics, and Russia are the exceptions, and a state of chronic religious war exists between them and the emirates of Europe. If you want to consider a story in that setting, by all means.

Sven, the first two volumes of After Oil had a lot of stories set in the immediate future; that's why I proposed the thousand-year minimum this time around, because the "right after the collapse" options had been pretty heavily worked over. Still, I'll consider it.

Jason, I'll look forward to reading "Seat of Mars"!

John Michael Greer said...

KoldMilk, yes, I thought of that possibility as well. We'll hope not.

Thomas, hmm! That's definitely an interesting theme idea. I'll consider it.

Pavel, I've never played GURPS -- my roleplaying game experience was early Dungeons & Dragons (think staplebound booklets, followed by first edition AD&D), Tunnels & Trolls, and especially Chivalry & Sorcery. If you and/or other GURPS players would be willing to work with me, though, some kind of co-authorship arrangement could doubtless be worked out.

Patricia, you're welcome and thank you.

Raven, many thanks -- I wasn't familiar with that.

Thomas, I've already made arrangements with a publisher to have Retrotopia appear in book form once it's done.

Dan, I'll have to put in a word for Kabuki theater, which to my mind is far more interesting and entertaining than current politics!

Martin, I think there's plenty of blame to go around.

Miroslav, no argument there! At least half the reason Americans are so clueless these days is that they have no idea what real hardship is like. I suspect they'll be learning that lesson fairly soon.

Alex, well, we'll see.

Tidlösa, yes, I'd read about that. Definitely a major change.

Denys, at this point just about anybody from outside the political establishment can get a following, just because they're from outside. My guess is that Trump will be far more difficult to brush aside than anyone in the GOP expects.

Mark, he may be the Democratic nominee this year, if Clinton keeps phoning in a vague representation of a campaign. I doubt he'll win -- though we'll see.

James, fascinating! I may go ahead and do that one anyway, whether or not it becomes the next Space Bats theme. Hmm...

sgage said...


"I tend to think that Trump has much more in common with Benito Mussolini, but maybe that's just me."

It's not just you - the bluster, the pomposity, even his posture and the faces he makes - Mussoline all the way down.

Ventriloquist said...

@ myriad

I agree with your assessment of team10tim wanting to move Venus to the orbit of Mars (!)

Where does that come from?

Somehow in our energy-depleted future, we are able to move an entire solar-system planet from one orbit to another?

I'm bereft of cognitive capacity here.

Can team10tim actually explain what he/she is thinking about and make it plain to us who cannot grasp this concept?

Thank you.

Joel Caris said...


Last week, I had a moment while thinking about your Retrotopia narrative in which I realized that this lovely vision (undoubtedly imperfect and troubled in its own way, but so far much more appealing than our current arrangements) will also pass. It was a surprisingly affecting moment and something of a jolt as to how I continue to see the world. In your narrative, I had these visions of a mode of living spiraling out into the future. I didn't see an end to it, only the possibilities of this way of living.

But no matter how adapted a mode of living, it too will end at some point. Particularly within the context of taking place in 2065, it would still be a series of social and economic arrangements existing tentatively within a collapsing civilization. Maybe it would prove effective for a few decades, or perhaps even manage to adapt itself out for a 50 or 80 years, or even a century. But it, too, would ultimately fall in tandem with the crumbling girders of its enfolding civilization.

It struck me as sad, yet also an important reminder. When thinking about a hopeful future, I still think about the arrangement that might prove stable enough to last indefinitely. There's still that sense that somewhere out there is a mode of living that's right, and that will thus continue. I know rationally that that's not the case, that all cultures and civilizations (indeed, species, ecosystems, and planets) are temporary. But I don't think I know it emotionally yet. When my imagination runs unrestricted by what I know rationally, it always comes back to a search for a permanent ideal, even though no such thing exists.

It's interesting, instead, to think of the Lakeland Republic (or our current culture, or my current home, or any other arrangement of living) as something unique and of its particular time, beautiful and horrific, flawed and uplifting and inspiring and cruel, all these things interchangeably and still, ultimately, transitory on some timescale. "This too shall pass." I know it's true, but it's such a hard concept to truly believe.

All that said, I was fascinated by your "tiers" comment late in last week's discussion. The counties are the lines of demarcation and they exist in various tiers, presumably of technology. I would assume there's a certain level of local control over which tier they exist in, but I also wonder if it's something more complicated than that. My initial thought was that the counties might move through the tiers, advancing through various levels of technology. But, of course, the counties couldn't advance through different levels of technological complexity without some correcting mechanism, so I wondered if they might advance through and then ultimately reset back to a lower level, in some sort of planned and managed version of collapse. But that would be quite a trauma to be planned, so then I wondered if they might advance forward and then cycle back down the tiers. An interesting thought.

And then an obvious thought occurred to me: what if the higher tiers are lower levels of technology? What if the Lakeland Republic utilizes a system in which counties cycle backward (in today's terms) through the technological suites? What if the Lakeland Republic has instituted an ethos of managed, reduced complexity in which counties start off at a certain, more "modern," technological level and slowly cycle downward through technological suites as they learn the necessary skills to live with less energy- and resource-intensive technologies, with an understanding that that's the current course of the world anyway?

I have no idea if this bears any resemblance to how the Lakeland Republic works, but what a fascinating idea. It could make a heck of a story.

Repent said...

JMG- The Sept.13, 2015 end of day's prophesy was a radical Jewish faith sect. They called the problem the 'Shemitah' Here are a few (Now dated links):

(I'll take the long decent vs a fast crash anyday)

Joel Caris said...

As for the quarterly magazine, I have to admit to a strong interest in this. I immediately started thinking about taking on the project. I'm going to have to think about it for a day or two and be honest with myself as to whether it's something I can do, but my schedule will become less crowded in October, opening up a day a week that I could put toward this project. I believe I'm a strong writer, but I'm not sure if I have the requisite editing and design skills to be the best person to take this on. That said, I have dabbled in such efforts in the past, including putting together a small journal of AmeriCorps writing, and I think it's possible this is a project I could take on. With the right tools (i.e. I don't have InDesign skills to the level of this, but can make relatively attractive pages with a simpler tool) I think I could do this.

It's an exciting idea. I'll be curious to see what other peoples' interests are.

Debra Johnson said...

JMG, Congratulations to all the Space Bats winners! I read all the stories that were posted through this site and am anxious to see if my favorites are among them (I'm slowly working my way through past comment pages to match the winners with their stories) and look forward to reading the entire anthology. Of course, I'm disappointed not to have a spot, too, but not discouraged. I expect to enter a future contest. Happy to see my fellow Sweet Hominid, Cathy McGuire, made the cut! Write on! - Debra

faoladh said...

"Once the new Blogger space is up and running, could I ask you to come on over and help give me some idea of what would be useful [for roleplaying games]?

Sure! There's a lot going on in the roleplaying world these days, and there are at least two divergent directions that you can take it (or you could try to take both, which is not impossible especially if you eschew system-specific information in the core setting materials). But I'll save detailed comments for that other arena.

faoladh said...

Pavel: When I thought of a Star's Reach roleplaying setting, GURPS was my first thought as well. Unfortunately, due to the way that GURPS works, it would also be one of the most difficult to do as getting licensed to use the GURPS system commercially is notoriously difficult. There are several other options, though, and I think that all should be examined. Probably the best direction to take, as I noted, would be to make a systemless core, publish details for those systems which allow for that, and leave closed systems like GURPS to hobbyists (or, if things work out that way, for the companies owning those systems to license and produce themselves). Open systems - that is, ones that use the OGL and D20 SRD*, for the most part, but other options exist such as FATE, Savage Worlds (note that there are both fan and publication licenses), or Traveller - are the best options. I'll say that I have my own personal preferences, and some of the ones I mention here are not among them, but I think that making the setting available to the widest audience is better.

But I should really be saving all of this for the new forum.

*This is jargon, and basically means that some games are given a very wide-open and indiscriminate license for publication known as the Open Game License ("OGL"), and that most of those games are based, though sometimes very loosely, on the parts of 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons ("D20 System") that were released under that license for nearly indiscriminate use ("System Reference Document" or "SRD"). A bit later I mention Traveller, but in that case I am specifically referring to the version of that game published by Mongoose, which was published under the terms of the OGL and which has its own SRD, which I linked. Using the Traveller logo or asserting any connection with that game has another license that basically amounts to "Get Marc Miller's permission and send him a copy".

Jo said...

Congratulations to all Space Bats winners:) I read every submission, and the range of creative and original thought was stunning!

For folks interested in similar literature, and while you are waiting for the anthology to come out, I recently re-read 'The Chrysalids' by John Wyndham (of 'Day of the Triffids' fame). Set in a far future the other side of a nuclear war, a particular subset of the remnant of humanity has started to mutate in an intriguing direction..

Jo said...

Oh, and I do want to add this - trying my hand at fiction is something I have wanted to do for such a long time, but have always put off for many and varied reasons. Even though the story I submitted did not make it into this anthology, I am SO proud to have finally written a story and put it out there in public.

So thanks, JMG, for providing this supportive forum for many aspiring authors to get brave and publish among friends:)

And I'm going to keep on writing. Creating a whole world? The sense of power is heady. Already one of my blog readers has converted to my future, fictional religion:) Maybe I will try theology next..

James M. Jensen II said...

@faoladh, Pavel, etc.:

I agree with faoladh about the problems with GURPS. There are a lot better choices out there in terms of avoiding legal hassles. Of the ones mentioned, I'd probably vote for FATE, just because it's based on FUDGE, the old warhorse of free, universal, customizable systems.

That said, I really like the idea of a systemless core setting. I've been toying around with the idea of running a Star's Reach game for a while now, and I'm currently working on a homebrew system based on Mirima Tyalie, an old free game with a similar mechanic to OWoD that has some features I always thought were worth a try. The core mechanic seems to lend itself nicely to the sort of magic system* I'm wanting to use.

* I don't remember much magic being explicitly discussed in the novel, but the overall thrust of the setting strongly suggests to me that it is reasonably prevalent.

John Michael Greer said...

James, clearly there's interest in Meriga as a setting for roleplaying games! As for magic, may I be allowed -- as a professional occultist with quite a bit of experience in the field of magic -- to express a pet peeve? Every roleplaying game system I know of absurdly exaggerates what magic can actually do. In RPG terms, what real magic does is give you an extra point or two on your saving rolls, and that sort of thing. That's a good thing to have; it can mean the difference between success and failure, and occasionally even between life and death -- but all those flashy spells in the rulebooks? Please.

Magic in Meriga, to answer your question, is basically folk magic; there's a lot of it, as there is in every society, helping people deal with the uncertainties of life. If you know the right street to visit in any city, or the right house to visit in most villages, you can get spells cast to give you luck in love and business, take somebody's ill-wishing off your loms, or have the bones cast to reveal hints about your future; the same person will give you a potion to treat the flu or an ointment made of fat, pine resin, and powdered herbs that will keep wounds from getting infected. The educated traditions of magic didn't survive the end of the old world; in Merigan times, people who want to study dangerous lore from the distant past generally go in for technology, not magic.

Zaphod, it's the nature of politics, and more generally of human affairs, that there's no right answer. If that has any kind of denouement waiting, as I see it, it's somewhere off in the distant reaches of evolutionary time. As for steam powered cars, well, of course; it should be axiomatic that nothing can keep the current status quo going. The question is purely what technologies, on a much smaller scale, might be able to continue into the future.

Quos Ego, and that's a possibility as well. I'll consider it.

Mister R., if Hillary is the nominee the Democrats will lose. I think that's starting to sink in now even among her fans.

Pinku-sensei, both of those are so hackneyed! Can we please get some imaginative dooms and utopian fantasies in place of the tired old set that everyone keeps on rehashing?

RPC, of course a vast amount depends on what "modern" means in the discussion. I know from personal experience, as you do also, that it's possible to maintain a decent and humane existence on a small fraction of the electricity most people in the industrial world nowadays think is absolutely necessary -- but that's not a common realization these days, you know.

Nicolas, that would be interesting. All I know about the southern two-thirds of the New World is that the Meycan Empire occupies the very northern end of what's now South America -- it's the largest power in the 25th century's western hemisphere, embracing everything from California and Texas to parts of what are now Venezuela and Colombia -- but beyond that? Trey mentioned in Star's Reach that trading ships came into Memfis from countries south of Meyco, all the way down to Nardiga, which is free of ice and "all trees and grass and cattle." What Argentina is up to would be worth reading.

Troy, those are reasonable questions. I'd be willing to see an expanded time frame -- anything back as far as the drought years, or forward a decade or two into the presdency of Sharl sunna Sheren -- but I'd prefer writers to come up with their own characters and not use mine. All of this will be covered in posts on the other site.

Aron, you're welcome and thank you.

Morgenfrue, Ecotopia does have its dated bits, doesn't it? That's always the risk a utopia runs -- after a few decades, quite a few of the details seem either quaint or creepy, due to the change in attitudes and mores.

Robert, thanks for the view from your side of the pond. Why no hat? In Britain's climate that would seem to be a necessity...

John Michael Greer said...

Team10tim, with all due respect, that's exactly the kind of hubristic technofantasy I'm trying to get away from. We can't maintain our civilization's current levels of energy expenditure as fossil fuels deplete, much less boost them by the many orders of magnitude that would be necessary to play billiards with planets, and this notion of yours that simply making civilizations last longer will somehow free us from the limits to growth strikes me as dubious in the extreme -- does the phrase "law of diminishing returns" strike any chord of memory? No, to my mind what you're suggesting goes in exactly the wrong direction; distracting ourselves with such fantasies of omnipotence simply provides excuses to help people ignore the hard planetary limits that will shape the futures we can actually expect.

Philip, hmm! That sounds like something I'd like to read.

KevPilot, er, sorry; no can do. Unless somebody wants to chuck a year's income into the tip jar, I have to earn a living, and that means that the time I put into my two blogs is about as much time as I can afford to put into them.

Ed-M, the Permian thing was a joke, of course. I think they're far more Carboniferous. ;-)

Aias, I was very impressed by the results of asking for far future stories, and so, yes, I'll be encouraging that as we proceed.

William, glad to hear it. "Neeonjin" is the 25th century Merigan pronunciation of Nihonjin, "Japanese person." In this future history, the Pacific Northwest was settled by waves of boat people from Japan, and has a culture and language largely descended from that of modern Japan. As for stories set in the arid Rockies, I see no reason why both of you couldn't do such stories; by all means work together on details of the setting, but tell different tales -- I'm sure there are many narratives to tell about the people of the high mountain valleys!

Greg, NPR is the radio station of the privileged Left; they have no time whatsoever for someone who's going to tell them that their lifestyles are propped up by the suffering of the people they like to think they're helping, and that they and all they stand for are going to be ashes in the wind in the not too distant future. All I have to do is suggest that using less is the key to a livable future and you won't be able to see them for the dust cloud, because since the death of the Sixties, living with less in any sense is the road they've refused to take.

David, fascinating. Many thanks; one more apocalypse bites the dust!

Bill, interesting. I'll certainly consider that as an option.

Varun, once the new site is up and running, it'll be a good place for this kind of conversation -- and I'd be delighted to see your story, of course.

Pygmycory, thanks for the tidings from north of the border. I hope you manage to get someone less embarrassing in office than the current inmate.

Myriad (if I may interject), thank you. You've just earned tonight's gold star for puncturing an absurd technofantasy with the needle of quantitative thinking.

Myriad said...

Add my congratulations to the chosen dozen!

I didn't want to say this during the competition (it might have come across as discouraging), but I regard settings that far in the future, when that's not just an excuse to recapitulate some historical era, as one of the two most difficult challenges in SF. Even where space bats are permitted. (For academic interest only, the other challenge is truly alien aliens, that don't merely mimic some earth creature's life cycle [e.g.intelligent parasitic wasp aliens] or exaggerate some common human personality trait [e.g. greedy merchant aliens, logical aliens, proud warrior aliens, prude aliens, etc.])

I really like Bill Blondeau's idea of stories set in successor civilizations. That might make the next contest even more challenging still, especially given the short format. (I tried to do that with my entry this time around, but can't say I was very successful.)

A Star's Reach shared world effort sounds really interesting also, not just for the stories but for the discussion that developing the stories could generate. I think I could portray certain aspects of life in Nuwinga pretty well, but I'd need some word-of-god rulings to establish certain background facts. (For instance: what is the condition of the Grand Banks? Viable offshore fisheries would make a huge difference to Nuwinga lifeways. Come to think of it, that's also a critical question for the Republic of New England and the Maritimes in 2065.)

James M. Jensen II said...


"In RPG terms, what real magic does is give you an extra point or two on your saving rolls, and that sort of thing."

That's actually similar to what I had in mind. In the system I'm toying with, action rolls are accomplished by rolling one or more d10's, depending on your level of skill, which count as successes if they roll under the relevant attribute value. For most tasks, a single success is enough, but just barely, and getting more successes can increase the efficacy of the action (doing extra damage, for example).

So my idea was that magic could, for example, allow you to roll an extra die as if your skill level were one higher, or force an opponent to reroll some of their dice that were successes against you.

"The educated traditions of magic didn't survive the end of the old world"

That's a real shame, but good to know, as I was under the assumption that something like the Golden Dawn had made it through. Not necessarily the Golden Dawn, per se, of course, but something similar in structure and purpose. Ah, well.

This does seem to eliminate some of the more interesting possibilities I had in mind, like using the notory art to make a skill more effective and easier to increase in level.

John Michael Greer said...

Violet, unless something improbable happens, we'll be back in Toledo with Mr. Carr next Wednesday evening. As for the anthology theme, I could certainly see some stories with that focus, but I'm not sure about a whole anthology -- that might be a little much. Still, I'll consider it.

Cherokee, Carr's going to see quite a few things, and the politics of the Lakeland Republic will be among them. Clueless as he is, he's not dumb, and within another few episodes he should begin to catch on.

Joel, excellent! I was wondering if anybody was going to catch that little sidelong reference. Stay tuned... ;-)

Repent, many thanks. This looks like a classic.

Joel, if you decide you want to take on the magazine, put in a comment with your email address in it, marked "not for posting," and we'll talk.

Debra, please do keep writing. If that magazine gets under way, the pieces that didn't get into After Oil 4 will be going straight to the editor, and of course there will be other contests, and other issues!

Faoladh, many thanks. This could be a lot of fun.

Jo, I'm delighted to hear it. The sense of power -- oh my, yes. I still remember the rush I got from creating my first ever fantasy kingdom, for an utterly forgettable story I wrote at the age of 12. I'll look forward to future stories from your keyboard!

Kevin Warner said...

Just some thoughts on what has happened in the UK. Corbyn's election stems from the UK General Election this year in which the Labour Party failed disastrously. Reading articles at the time I was under the impression that the Labour Party elite had elected to become a party of the 'aspirational' middle-class and depend on the fact that, for the lowly workers, they would have to lump it because of TINA - as in There Is No Alternative.
This idiotic idea has led that party to be reduced to a few enclaves on the 2015 electoral map and it is noteworthy how much these enclaves are for middle-class places like London. If you were an average worker in the UK in 2015, good luck in finding a party that would stand up for your interests or rights that was not composed of rat-bags or drongos.
Their Liberal Democrats had also turned on those who had helped bring them to power after going into government with the Conservatives in 2010. They tried to play it too smart in 2015 by maneuvering themselves to be king-makers after this election but got annihilated instead.
Average workers have been on a losing streak in the UK since the Thatcher years and have become very embittered and have long memories. It was not for nothing that when Thatcher died recently, large swathes of the population sang the refrain 'ding-dong, the witch is dead' as that woman had helped bring on enormous damage to British society and civil life.
Now for the first time in decades someone has appeared that is not a right-wing, neo-liberal who would be at home in any of the major parties. Apparently the establishment are finding it hard to deal with a person that actually has convictions that also lives them. This should be interesting so perhaps it is time to pull up a seat and grab some popcorn as events unfold.
People here have also noted the hostility of the British press to Corbyn but there may be a reason for this. In recent times this press has been recruited almost entirely from the middle and upper class ( to the point that now only about 3% of journalist have working class parents ( They are mostly from the 'aspirational' middle class that Labour actively sought to recruit, hence their hostility to anything left-wing. Corbyn is simply not one of them.
As for a future theme, what intrigued me in your essay 'The Next Ten Billion Years' was the kernel of an idea that we are in only the first global civilization. Yes we may be facing the second Dark Ages down the track but I refuse to accept the idea that we will never be any more than yokels, shamans and tribespeople. Sooner or later we will crawl our way back again to a new civilization that is equivalent to say the 20th century. A different suite of technologies, of course, and nowhere near the amount of resources but that does not matter as a civilization is not its technology but in the way that they act out their beliefs. What would life in the second civilization be like might prove to be a very informative theme. I believe that another reader named Bill Blondeau is also thinking along these lines and this could hold promise for a series of stories.

John Michael Greer said...

Myriad, agreed on the two challenges. I sweated bullets trying to make the Cetans in Star's Reach as alien as possible, and even so I don't think they ever quite got far enough away from the slime molds that inspired them. As for the Grand Banks, that would take some research; sea level is 50 meters higher, and so it would take some work to figure out exactly what that would do, plus guesses as to the recovery time of Atlantic fish stocks, the state of the deep thermohaline circulation, etc.

James, that would work. As for the educated traditions of magic, those are historically very fragile -- we know only fragments, for example, of what mages were up to in the Roman Empire. You could probably justify a reinvention of one or two useful things, such as some version of the notory art, but given the scale of the losses at the end of the old world, unless an abandoned building in the deserts of ancient Nebraska turns out to have a couple of books buried in the sand, it's probably going to be a matter of starting all over at the beginning.

Mitch Davis said...

Hello JMG,

Retrotopia has been fascinating, thanks.

The nature of life is to expand to consume all resources. I look forward to reading of how Lakeland Republic handles this problem. To what do individual Lakelandians subscribe, so that collectively the republic lives within its resource budget? And how was such a conversion wrought?

Mitch (Green, Australian, unexplainably happy about Abbott's demise)

Ben said...

JMG - Might I suggest the next space bats anthology focus on some specific segment of the human condition? For instance, all the stories have family relations as their focus, or maybe religious experience, or, heaven forbid, coming of age stories?

Also, I think a shared world project based on the Star's Reach world would be a fantastic project, and I would certainly put forward a story or two!

3rdly, might the election of Corbyn be the start or the real contest between money and blood? We should be at about that period in the life cycle of Western civilization, and it would be quite fitting if the British kicked it off. Of course, unless I forget my Spengler, Caesar-ism follows the conflict between blood and money, does it not?

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

"in Merigan times, people who want to study dangerous lore from the distant past generally go in for technology, not magic."


I daresay the psychological stress such people would go through trying to get up the nerve would be similar to what I felt when the sign saying "Door to the occult, right this way" swam into view.

Hubertus Hauger said...

Myriad: "... calculations... consider getting the Starship Enterprise up to 1/10 the speed of light ... that single maneuver requires "only" about a thousand times the amount of energy humanity currently uses per year."
This counting of energy-need shows me several thing;
- One is, that no wonder, there are no visitor from the stars. They may share the same future like us. After having burned up their fossil energy, there wasn´t even enough left, to fire a universal radio, to let neighbouring star systems know: "Hallo, here we are!" Not to think of, putting star ships into orbit, cruising over to us. Thats why there are no UFO´s. They are broken, like we soon will be. RIP!
- Another is, that inventing a gigantic energy ressoure doesn´t seem to succed. Even the one and only project, where the whole human race on earth has come together, in order tho coordinate efforts and ressoures, to develop it. Since the 1930´s, till today I doesn´t work. A fusion rector ist still said to be 20 years ahead from now. So its said since 60 years. So it will need another 500 to 1.000 years, than it might work out. But yet we are soon broken, having burned up our fossil ressources.
All we are bound to stay on that wastland, we made. No escape possible. We are bound on earth. That´s indeed something new. Througout in human history, when we devasteded our home, we could leave it and invade someone else´s cosy place. To start there dirting it all over again. However now all places are occupied. Well, that was so before too. It usally just let us hit the old owner over the head and take what was his, to posses it ourself. Yet, really new is, now, all places are in a bad shape!

John Michael Greer said...

Kevin, I've never suggested that humanity will spend the rest of its time on this planet as "yokels, shamans and tribespeople" -- though I'm far from sure that would be as bad a thing as you seem to think. If you have a chance, you might want to read my book The Ecotechnic Future, which argues that ours is simply the first and clumsiest of what might as well be called "technic societies," and that future technic societies will develop their own distinctive technological suites based on the far more restricted resources available to them. The challenge, and it would be an immense one, would be to avoid the trap of thinking that these would necessarily look anything like the 20th century technology you've cited as an example!

Mitch, whenever anyone starts a sentence "the nature of life is..." what follows is always pure ideology. Most human societies, and most living species, don't behave that way, and it's a source of some amusement to me to watch people nowadays treating our hugely dysfunctional society, which does behave that way, as a template for all possible life. May I suggest that this isn't that useful a habit?

Ben, that's an interesting prospect, and I'll certainly consider it.

Unknown Deborah, exactly. Remember that the Merigans tell robot stories the way we tell ghost stories; to them, advanced technology is spooky...

Pavel said...

@JMG, faoladh: I was mentioning GURPS, because it is well known, universal and skill based (which I like). My personal preference would be old World of Darkness system. And I was not considering licensing issues. But system is not the important part, and IMHO faoladh's approach i quite practical. For an example of structure for such a sourcebook, I suggest you to look at some of GURPS sourcebooks (Arabian Nights, Aztecs, Conan, Camelot, China, Creece, Low-Tech, Ice Age, Old West, Vikings... the list goes on).

John Michael Greer said...

Okay, I'm pleased to announce that the new site, The Meriga Project, is up and running. I've posted a basic overview and some ground rules, and also a general discussion thread. I'd like to ask everyone interested in a Star's Reach shared world anthology to bookmark the site and move discussions on that subject there. See you in Meriga!

steve pearson said...

The Mussolini-Trump similarity seems to be getting some play. Just saw a friends Facebook posting of very similar photos of the two captioned Il Duce- The Douche.

Kieran O'Neill said...

Corbyn's election has caused some earthquakes, and I'm definitely excited. Partly because I do somewhat agree with his kind of socialist policies, but also because, as you say, it's the beginning of the cracks in the neoliberal consensus.

I'm still cautious -- from a realpolitik point of view, I think there may still be just enough bread and circuses to keep "middle Britain" voting to the right -- but if it isn't him, it may well be the next actually-socialist Labour Party leader.

It's also been incredibly satisfying watching the right-wing (ie most of the mainstream) press completely melt down over it. The dialogue this has opened up over the quality and utility of that part of the media is, I think, quite positive.

Spanish fly said...

'The Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico a while back favored the slogan “another world is possible,” and of course they’re quite right—but a great deal depends on what kind of other world people are prepared to imagine. '

There are another worlds, but they are inside this one (Paul Eluard).
An assortment of worlds as we can imagine them, but we will live only one of them.

Maybe some possible worlds are here and now in embrionary state. Could we choose the best of them? giving birth a future monster?

Weazel News said...

I must say, you are one of the most impressive, prolific writers of today. I have been slowly, steadily collecting my thoughts about your extensive writings on this blog and the Well of Galabes. I have read more than a dozen of your posts. I should first say that it's hard to argue with most of your contentions, but there are some striking disagreements I should mention. Still, I particularly appreciate how much time and effort you put to your responses to commenter objections. This is the first response I've made to your writings and I hope you consider them. I'm intrigued to know what you think.

So...where do I begin? Well, there are so many things to say, but I guess I'll start from this post and move backward. I'll probably leave out most of my criticisms and questions for a later date, since I know a full reply could warrant its own post. Haha. I think I'll bring in my criticisms in drips along the way just to have a better chance of getting your attention. First, you mentioned you were against Corbyn's variety of socialism and most types of socialism. Is there any flavor of socialism you prefer or do you not like the label association? Could you generally describe your own political/economic views as it relates to things like: ownership of the means of the production, money, class & hierarchy, governance, trade, democracy, etc.? I would hesitate to categorize you with any label because so many people are afraid to be associated with groups perceived to be disloyal, unpatriotic, anti-American and the sort. However, I get chuckles when people say that they defy categorization or "are beyond the left-right paradigm." Everyone can be categorized and everyone, no matter their political orientation, can be placed somewhere on the Nolan chart. I have to say that some of these issues are not gray and instead are very much binary. Are you in favor of top-down hierarchies or not? Are you in favor of using money as a means of organizing human activities or not? There's no room for middle ground in these questions. And it's answering these sorts of questions that will prove crucial to deciding what comes next.

Secondly, I am confused by your assessment of "magic." I'll say that I am by no means an expert in this field but I find it fascinating. One thing that stuck me is how you attack people like Rhonda Byrne and other occultist who believe that humans have absolute latent powers to manipulate matter and energy with no limits. In a sense, they are saying that absolutely anything is possible to those who have enough imagination and faith in the mind's ability to manifest their wishes. This is their definition of "magic". I would say that it appears to me that even Aleister Crowley and Manly P. Hall leaned in this direction, although with some caveats and some restrictions. You however, don't agree with this absolutist view of magic, but you never draw clear defining lines between what's possible. It seems conflicted to me when you have a strict adherence to "the limits to growth", "carrying capacity", and other delimiting catchphrases as well as others I haven't heard you mention, like homeostatic equilibrium -- and yet you believe in supernatural means to break these very laws. I think most of your occultist readers would appreciate if you explain exactly what you think is possible with magic and what is impossible.

I am looking forward to your response. Thanks for all your elucidating work.

To be continued...

Kevin Warner said...

John Michael Greer said...
Kevin, I've never suggested that humanity will spend the rest of its time on this planet as "yokels, shamans and tribespeople" -- though I'm far from sure that would be as bad a thing as you seem to think. If you have a chance, you might want to read my book The Ecotechnic Future, which argues that ours is simply the first and clumsiest of what might as well be called "technic societies," and that future technic societies will develop their own distinctive technological suites based on the far more restricted resources available to them. The challenge, and it would be an immense one, would be to avoid the trap of thinking that these would necessarily look anything like the 20th century technology you've cited as an example!

I can see that I explained my suggestion badly here. After reading your 'The Long Descent', I also conclude a future technic societies evolving their own technological suites in a resource-constrained world but I never said you suggested a future purpetial society of "yokels, shamans and tribespeople" nor did I ever suggest a future 20th century technology would ever resemble ours. Who the hell would want it to?
When I mentioned the 20th century, I did not mean its god awful set of technologies but what I meant was rather a level of societal sophistication where lives do not have to be led according to the whims & fancies of chieftains, priests, warlords & the like and that the science is sophisticated enough to have an understanding of the natural world and thereafter its limits. That is what I actually meant.
The only technology that this future 20th century would then share with our own would be only that which would be sustainable and that would be only after calculating all internal and external costs. By definition, that would eliminate most of the technology that we now use. The challenge here then would be to imagine a future 20th century with its sophistication but without the majority of our own technology but what they have managed to evolve on their own and how it shapes that society.

Dan Mollo said...

"Dan, I'll have to put in a word for Kabuki theater, which to my mind is far more interesting and entertaining than current politics!"

No argument there! Maybe a better analogy would have been circus clown show, although at least clowns have integrity!

John Roth said...

@Hubertus Hauger

As a footnote to the final end of the Roman Empire, in approximately 1918 the last four holders of the title of Caesar abdicated or were executed: the Czar of Russia, the Czar of Bulgaria, the Kaiser of Austria-Hungary and the Kaiser of Germany. I picked this tidbit up in a lecture by Rob Hand on the astrology of the cardinal axes against the fixed stars.


As far as Carly Fiorina goes, she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for a few years before the board kicked her out. As I hear the story, there was dancing in the aisles when she left. My biggest impression of her tenure is that she got rid of the profitable HP calculator division by disbanding it when there were offers on the table from its executives to buy it out. There were undoubtedly other reasons for the board to kick her out. If she's the Republican nominee, expect all that dirty laundry to come out of the woodwork.


Interesting you should mention the Occupy movement. It’s been below the radar for a while since the establishment didn’t buy it out like it did the Tea Party, but it’s apparently still alive and kicking and it’s now backing Bernie Sanders. See

@Hubertus Hauger

I wouldn’t say there are no visitors from other systems. They simply don’t use the technology and physics we’re familiar with. If you want to know what’s going on elsewhere in the cosmos, our current physics is a dead end.

Phil Knight said...

One of the more bizarre elements of British politics nowadays, and obliquely related to the rise of Corbyn, is the frantic retrospective investigation of "Establishment paedophile rings" in which a bunch of senile and dead politicians (including a former Prime Minister) are posited to have raped and even murdered children. The whole phenomenon is reminiscent of the belief in Extraterrestrial UFO's, in that despite the fact that there is no evidence that any of this abuse actually took place, there is a tremendous commitment on the part of a significant section of the public to believe that it did.

It seems obvious that as paedophilia is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the betrayal of innocence, then the whole Establishment paedophile ring "scandal" is a dramatic playing out of a sense of political betrayal. It's also remarkable how many people who should know better have failed to notice this. The whole thing started with an expose of a minor disc jockey and television presenter called Jimmy Savile, who since his death has been transformed into an all-powerful reptilian ultra-predator who could intimidate hardened Fleet Street journalists into quivering jelly. What is little-known by most of the British public is that even the "evidence" against Savile is flimsy to non-existent.

If Corbyn is a "foreground" phenomenon, then the purported paedophile rings are an important part of the background in that they demonstrate the quietly corroding trust in the established political class.

Seb Ze Frog said...

Roleplaying and other GURPS guys...

I ain't no native English speaker, but I am native roleplayer ;-)

If you feel like discussing a magic system that, I think, could be

1) different
2) workable
3) and maybe to the taste of our esteemed host,

please contact me

Mark Rice said...

I thought the neoliberal consensus would hang on for a lot longer. But the popularity of both Trump and Sanders in the USA show this breaking down. I wonder if neoliberalism would have been in better shape if some banksters had been prosecuted. I think the lawlessness of what neoliberalism has become has as much to do with it's increasing unpopularity as the fact that it does not really work that well.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

Exactly the opposite, with all do respect. I understand that fossil fuels are the most energy dense source of power that humanity is ever likely to have and that Moore's law is limited by Wright's law of continuously doubling the cumulative production in order to achieve continuous increases in a performance characteristic. I'm interested in making contact with whoever is out there, like you did in Star's Reach, but I want to play by the rules, and again, all due respect, but you cheated a little on that one. The universe is a big place and an old place, that means that any communication between civilizations will require that both civs spend a lot of effort looking and a lot of effort broadcasting, and above all, a long time at each. If our history is any guide then there won't be contact between civs, even if they are relatively common, because they crash and burn so quickly.

So rather than dream up some fantastic vaporwear like warp drive or sub ether transmissions a la StarTrek I work the problem the other way. If I want to know what an alien civ could do to reach or contact us but I assume they are limited in the same way that we are then I work out what we can do with the tech we have now and the constraints that we have. That sharply limits the possibilities and the only way to achieve anything is to add more time.

So, ignoring any techno fantasies, what can we do right now with what we have? The James Webb Space telescope is set to launch in 2018 and it could find other civs within 50 light years, but it probably won't get an occulting disk that it needs to do so. The Square Kilometer Array is set to start construction in 2018 and it could spot a an airport radar up to 100 light years out, but the funding is in doubt and it requires an Internet connection roughly equivalent to the entire internet right now, so cross that one off.

If you take a hard look at what we have and where we are going, the long descent, with a best case of maybe a billion people and no fossils fuels, then what is possible with the tech and resources they have? Very little unless you add in more time.

An ecotechnic civ with only biofuels (mostly for eating, but a limited amount for kerosene rockets) and limited hydroelectric could have a very limited space program. None of the terraforming options out there are possible with existing tech, much less restricted ecotechnic futures. The only way we could settle another planet is to move a suitable planet to a location that terraforms itself, and the only way we could move a planet with existing tech on a limited ecotechnic budget is to use gravitational assists from a small asteroid (between 100 and 200 KM in diameter) to steal a little bit of angular momentum from the gas giants and impart it to Venus (the only suitable candidate) on a carefully calculated return trip. And that would take a very long time.

You asked for alternative visions that embrace the hard limits we are facing, and any civ that could last 100,000 years looks a lot more like ants and bees than I'm comfortable with, but it will be a fertile ground for new ideas and original fiction that strictly adheres to the hard limits we are likely to face and I thought that was what you asked for.


Mark Northfield said...

I don't want to add too much to other comments about the fairly monumental political upset that is Corbyn's election to leader of the official opposition here in the UK (with nearly 50% of existing membership voting for him, never mind the new £3 'supporters') but I feel it worth highlighting this link to Corbyn's 'Green Britain I want to build', much of which is quite agreeable to me as a Green Party member. And whilst it is not yet being shouted out, somewhere in there are the important words 'consume less'. So, a step in the right direction, but how much of it becomes official Labour policy and how quickly, remains to be seen. His fellow MPs are going to be the biggest hurdle, it would seem. Interesting times.

Raymond Duckling said...

On the topic of "Instead of Oil"

There's some precedent known to me, in the form of the Twig online novel:

The premise is that instead of having an industrial revolution based on the command of Physics and then Chemistry, the driving force behind progress is the unraveling of the secrets of life itself. So we have an alternate history line where technology as we know it stagnated around the Victorian era, but with Frankenstein-style biological breakthroughs driving Progress. It's been described as a Steampunk + Bioshock crossover.

That said, congratulations to the winners in the latest Space Bats contest. Looking forward to read your stories.

onething said...

Ventriloquist and Myriad,

I realize that I have not done my homework on the question of moving Venus into Mars' orbit, so perhaps my objections are ignorant, but have they addressed how to make the move past Earth's orbit safely, and what is the plan for Mars itself? You can't have 2 planets in the same orbit, or even too close to one another.

Urban Harvester said...

David and JMG,

Interestingly, the September 14th Apocalypse contributed to a sizable Mormon prepper/collapse phenomenon here in the future quasi-theocratic state of Deseret. In the Mormon belt, people have been selling homes, cashing out their 401k's, pressuring their adult kids to get ready - sales of freeze dried foods have reportedly gone up 500%. There's a certain kind of really big tent that is sold out with a huge backorder waitlist, with people getting ready for the future tent cities prophesied about by an LDS woman who had a near death revelatory experience. Her followers extrapolated the September 14th date from the start of the Jewish holidays (also citing stirrings in the market), leading up to their predictedly calamitous blood moon on the 28th resulting in earthquakes and "invasion" by UN troops. Should be entertaining - I'm already getting invited to "Apocalypse" cocktail parties.

Joel and JMG

I have experience with InDesign and designing/laying out magazines, I wouldn't have time to take on the whole magazine project but I could definitely work with an editor to do the layout!

Varun Bhaskar said...

"@David_Cameron: The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family's security."

That's what Cameron tweeted about Corbyn. The establishment is terrified.

thecrowandsheep said...

JMG, in reading your discussion of neoliberalism and British politics, i was beside myself with apopleticism that you did not mention unicycles. Not only do unicycles require a mere third of the material of bicycles, you can ride them backwards while juggling and sporting a clown costume, very useful while conducting neoliberalism at number 10 Downing Street.

Stuart said...

Congrats to the After Oil authors! And I will be following The Meriga Project with live interest.

I think what's going on in Canadian politics this election is primarily our delayed version of dynamics that arose in the 2008 US election, split between the two opposition parties. So Mulcair's NDP aim to win and consolidate the consensus around Harper's failed neoliberal policies; Trudeau has been attempting the Obama campaign style of empty youthful excitement. Ho hum. If the NDP do win they stand a decent chance of beginning to restore balance to Canada's traditional economic foundations of resources and industry. Maybe. That's about all I expect to change.

The Leap Manifesto, on the other hand, is potentially a bombshell. I'm not sure how to think about it. Its "theory of the future" is in part quite silly-- it proposes that we can improve our economy while eliminating fossil fuels by 2050. But the actual political demands it makes are much more clear-sighted (with the one exception of elevating NIMBY to a social principle-- I get what they're saying, but it could only ever amount in practice to rich progressives not wanting to think about where their wealth comes from). The unrealistic vision may be beside the point or even useful, if it helps generate political will for confronting the long descent. It gives me pause though. Thinkers I respect a great deal-- Charles Taylor, Guujaaw, John Ralston Saul-- are initiating signatories. The establishment response has been like the response to Corbyn: nervous laughter and dismissal based on the usual celebrities fronting the manifesto, and on how embarrassing it must be for Mulcair to try to look acceptable with that environmentalist nonsense going on behind him. Tant pis.

At the same time I do think the name and iconography are uncomfortably Maoist, which strikes me as... a poor choice.

My riding is a Conservative seat that stands a good chance of swinging NDP; I was planning to vote NDP, but I'm considering asking the candidate to endorse Leap and threatening to vote Green if he doesn't.

JMG, pygmycory, Matthew... thoughts?

Ed-M said...


I like the humor in your suggested name for permacultists. Describes their hypocrisy perfectly! It's like calling Christians cruciferous.

On your and sgage's comments re: The Donald:

"'I tend to think that Trump has much more in common with Benito Mussolini, but maybe that's just me.'

"It's not just you - the bluster, the pomposity, even his posture and the faces he makes - Mussoline all the way down."

Ditto the comparisons with Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Plus the Vlad has some colorful history to him, like the Donald.

Marinhomelander said...

Ed-M said:

"I would call them Permacultists, as opposed to the more serious Permaculturalists. In this country, if you're overenthusiastic about something, chances are you're not really serious about putting it into practice, just evangelizing it." Thank you Ed for this useful label.

Years ago I enthusiastically joined a local permaculture group in Marin County, California, only to sit through hours of talk,and more talk, drawing charts, being asked to contribute ways to "get the homeless involved in permaculture", moving to another table, "how to get people of color involved in permaculture?" etc.

Finally I stood up and almost shouted: "Are we ever going to actually DO anything here?" Persona non grata after that. Went home and worked in my yard.
Fortunately, many authentic groups have started since then, working in surplus food distribution schemes, trading seeds, cuttings and exchanging knowledge throughout the county.
The Finest all organic supermarket in the country is located here as well.

Many of the original do-nothing environmental groups have been co-opted and captured by medium sized money to front for high density real estate development which profits builders and banks.
i.e. building 350 apartments, with as many parking places, shilled as "helping fight GHG emissions".

Greg Belvedere said...

@Bill Blondeau

Thank you. I hope to read yours as well.

I agree, there is no way I can ignore the cry. Finding the energy is another matter. My two year old son takes a lot out of me.

Hubertus Hauger said...

team10tim:"...If our history is any guide then there won't be contact between civs, even if they are relatively common, because they crash and burn so quickly...You asked for alternative visions that embrace the hard limits we are facing, and any civ that could last 100,000 years looks a lot more like ants and bees than I'm comfortable with, but it will be a fertile ground for new ideas and original fiction that strictly adheres to the hard limits we are likely to face and I thought that was what you asked for."

Just because being fascinated with astronomy and sci-fy I wondered, why there are no visitor from the stars. You say it so to the point, "because they crash and burn so quickly". Locically!

Then, being a historian by hearth, I cannot imagine a civilisation that could last 100,000 years. Not to think of billions of years, which I suppose are ahead of us. Yet even our high civilisations are shortlive up till now, only about 15.000 years old. Yet there is no lighthouse project even a 100 years old, where mankind as a whole is cooperating in order to put up some smokesignal to attract visitors. The international space station, as a sort of planetary cooperation, just counts up to a handfull decades.
Well, getting into first contact with aliens is something new, so it can´t be on the screen for such a timespan anyway. Still there is hope, I guess. Looking at it from another perspective, there is at least that competitive coordination for, sort of common goods, streching over quite some time. For instance like trade infrastructre like habour, tradeposts and traderoutes spanning over millennias. Quite different, but also covering such timespans, are libaries, reaching our forfathers thoughts and knowledge trough time up to us.

While I see the potential, I am not sure, if a planetary movement could unite for millennias, to broadcast out upto the universal our beep. Letting neighbouring civilisations know: "Hallo, here we are!

Fabian said...

I despise the middle class liberals and phony “progressives” of the NPR set, with their oh-so-fashionable, politically correct causes and their studious refusal to seriously consider how their opulent lifestyles are made possible by the suffering and exploitation of millions all around the planet. These people have got to be some of the biggest hypocrites in the history of the human species.

Now you have the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, pretending to be just another working mom and saying she would quit if parental leave were not available. Of course she can: she’s an exceedingly wealthy member of the socio-economic elite and a multi-millionaire many times over, with an obscene amount of stock options and a contract that guarantees her an opulent golden parachute if she does quit.

But how many working moms in America have that luxury these days, especially after the destruction of the American working class by Corporate America and its political enablers over the last few decades? Wojcicki reminds me of another “economic royalist” (to use FDR’s felicitous phrase), namely Hillary Clinton, who also talks about “fighting for the common man and woman” while lining her pockets with speaking fees, dubious business deals and cashing in on her celebrity status and political connections. These people fill me with revulsion and disgust. Let the tumbrels start rolling!

John Michael Greer said...

Steve, thank you! Very funny.

Kieran, it's always fun to watch the media lose its cool right out there in public. Corbyn's accomplished that much already!

Spanish Fly, that's a choice we all make, knowingly or not, every minute.

Weazel, if you'd like to know my views on political economy, I'd encourage you to read my book The Wealth of Nature, which sets those out in some detail. I'm always amused when people insist that any political and economic viewpoint can be forced into the one-dimensional straitjacket of "left vs. right," or into some other overly simplistic set of rigid binaries; to my mind, that speaks much more of the mental limitations of the person making that insistence than it does about the facts on the ground. With regard to magic, I gather you haven't read my essays on The Well of Galabes, where I've stated at rather some length that magic doesn't violate any of the laws of nature. Magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will, not a surrogate technology or an escape hatch in the laws of nature -- but you'll find that explained in detail on my other blog, and also at even more length in my books on magic.

Kevin, many thanks for clarifying! I think we're in agreement, then. In a previous post here, The Next Ten Billion Years, I sketched out a hypothetical future history in which humanity has more than eight thousand global civilizations in the ten million years or so our species has left, and some of those accomplish things our current civilization hasn't even dreamed of achieving -- all on a renewable basis, of course, since that's all that will be left once our civilization falls.

Dan, yeah, I know clowns who get really upset when people compare politicians to them. It's hard to come up with a metaphor that doesn't have that problem!

Phil, I wonder if that's an offshoot of the "Satanic ritual abuse" panic that made such waves in the US a while back.

Mark, I've long thought that if Obama had simply had the guts to let the Justice Department prosecute a few of the most egregious bank frauds, the Democrats would have had a lock on the White House for a couple of decades.

team10tim, any civilization smart enough to last for 100,000 years would be too smart to fall into the kind of hubris that makes rearranging the solar system look like a good idea. (Besides which, that concept's been done to death in SF -- Larry Niven was writing about long-lived civilizations moving planets around back in the 1970s.) The whole point of the Space Bats challenges is to get people thinking of futures that aren't loaded down with that kind of gargantuan technofantasy.

Mark, interesting. Well, we'll see what Corbyn manages to accomplish.

Raymond, interesting. Thanks for pointing this out!

Harvester, fascinating. People do love their apocalypses!

John Michael Greer said...

Crow, funny. I personally would pay good money to see David Cameron in a clown costume, juggling, while attempting to ride a unicycle backwards.

Stuart, interesting. I'll have to look at the LEAP Manifesto when time permits.

Ed-M, I wonder if we should take up a collection to buy Trump a natty Mussolini-style uniform.

hari capra said...

I see a problem when writing about this genre of science fiction in that it is all too easy for people to simply dismiss it as post apocalyptic scifi, which it definitely is not. I feel like a name for the genre would be worth coming up with.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG - Trump with a Mussolini uniform? He'd love it! How about a Napoleon uniform, cocked hat and all?

John Michael Greer said...

Hari, true enough. I tend to call it "deindustrial SF," but it may need a different name.

Patricia, oh, for the necessary Photoshop skills! Trump dressed as Mussolini, Trump dressed as Napoleon, Trump dressed as Nero... ;-)

ed boyle said...

A few weeks ago you wrote that violent revolutions are counterproductive and must fail. Permanent change is gradual, srategic coalition building. On one of my favorite blogs 'history unfolding' he reviews the autobiography of walter white, an early civil rights leader, and remarks on his realiism in this respect against historical background. We have a similar overwhelming problem today facing an entrenched industrial system with fossil fuels.

Sometimes however as in 1848 or 1989 change just happens. The last week saw such a'zeitenwende' in central europe with fences being built, borders reclosed and now german ayylum laws to be made very restrictive and probably a military zone made on libyan coast where all refugee boats will be returned not saved and brought to europe. Meanwhile russia deals effectively nonhypocriticaly with IS inSyria and donbass moves closer to joining russia while Ukraine proper goes the way of disintegration. New saudi king, egyptian govt, even israels see ruusia as go to place for realpolitik solutions to crises. America has lost initiative in eurasia completely. Putin's approach is exactly the patient realism you recommended and what the civil rights leader walter white mentioned in 'history unfolding' practiced. USA policies fail as they are violent and erratic, what you criticized. You are, unknown to yourself, a great Putin fan, as he takes your advice and thinks like you.

Neil Furby said...

JMG- Thank-you, an interesting view of the Corbyn victory. One thing that those not resident in the UK might like to look for (utube has several excerpts) is the first encounter between Corbyn and our current PM, Cameron, during the shameful theatre known as Prime Ministers Questions (PMQ).

Whatever one thinks of Corbyn and his leftist leanings, this was the first time ever that PMQ time had been dedicated to issues submitted by the electorate. Whether this was simply a clever stunt or not (I suspect the not), it was shocking to see how quickly the hooting and screeching mob behind the Prime Minister were tied up in knots by Corbyns refusal to engage in the aggressive circus that PMQ has become.

It is painfully obvious that whatever his policies, Corbyn has now to face the massed opposition that forms most, but quite all, the British press and TV. Given his PMQ performance, there might just be a glimmer of hope that the Tory rollercoaster might at least lose a wheel or two?

Thanks for an always stimulating and provocative blog.

JackyT said...

Dear Archdruid, as a UK fan of yours I'd like to take up the cudgels on behalf of Jeremy Corby, our great bringer of hope. 'Socialism' makes much more sense over here than it does in the US, with your founding stories of the making of the country by sturdy independent settlers. Our stories are of the great communal revolts against the ruling powers from the Norman Conquest on - the fourteenth century Peasants' Revolt, the seventeenth century Diggers & Levellers, the nineteenth century Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs etc. and they're all to do with justice for the poor and oppressed, with the rights of the community, with restoring the lost commons - all of which could be described as forms of 'socialism'.

So Jeremy Corbyn's philosophy is grounded in that long tradition of fighting for communal rights. But at the same time he's in the forefront when it comes to fighting the neo-liberal status quo with contemporary weapons - people power - and a contemporary vision - democracy for real: restoring powers to local communities; respecting the Earth: switching from fossil fuels to renewables; social justice: using taxes to reverse the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us.

And renationalising the railways makes perfect sense. At present under privatisation we have the most expensive and the worst run train services in Europe. Meanwhile the national train companies of other European nations have bought up parts of our network, and the profits they make from our trains go straight over to get re-invested in their own national railway networks. The same applies to our privatised utilities, where the money we all pay for water, gas and electricity which used to come back to our government to reinvest now disappears out of the country. Wouldn't it be better for the US if more money was spent by your government on reinvesting in what we read is a crumbling infrastructure, in roads, bridges, a modern railway system?

Martin B said...

@ those who wish to move planets around, there's a fun game on Astronomy Picture of the Day that allows you to do just that.

Super Planet Crash will let you to pick as many as ten planets of various sizes and orbit them for up to 500 years. Watch their orbits wobble as they react gravitationally with each other, and watch your planets crash into each other or fly off into space. It's not so easy to pick a stable arrangement!

Tony f. whelKs said...

@ Hari - you're right in that 'prior art' may predispose people to misjudge the genre. Strictly speaking, 'speculative fiction' would be accurate, but that is already co-opted. I quite like the sound of 'ambitopian futurology', though ;-)

Cherokee Organics said...


Please accept my apologies for offending you with my thoughtless use of the word "moron" in my previous comment. If it helps, I was actually referring to his actions rather than the actual character. Sorry. I do get that you love your fiction and are creating something amazing out of your own ideas, and my thoughtless words were moronic in and of themselves. The passion in the comment derived from my own real world experience with the many community groups which eventually drove me to complete distraction with them and their consensus politics.

Forests are a wonderful place to contemplate the world, and today I was doing all sorts of work in there - for the benefit of the forest and all of its denizens as well as myself - and took time to contemplate and meditate (I find that sort of labour exceptionally meditative) and had a whole lot of time to contemplate my own actions.

Honestly, I was gutted when I read that my story had missed out from being included in the anthology. I'm no stranger to disappointment, but for some reason I'd invested way too much emotional energy into the recent attempt at fiction writing – when, as you are well aware, there are other concerns that I should be spending my time on that are perhaps better suited to my skills. The final story that I submitted arose out of the ashes of the previous idea that I mentioned previously to you. Fiction writing for me is a painful process in that it is like sitting an exam when you have absolutely no idea what the structure of the matter is and even if you submit words, there is no possibility of improving because there is absolutely no feedback mechanism. Al you get from the process is a pass or fail result. And if I were to take a course, read a how to manual, attend lectures or groups - then how do I even know if all that I am writing is merely a reproduction of someone else’s concept of what fiction should look like? How does dissensus even fit into that creative process? - it has been a question that I have been pondering today whilst out in the forest: Where do ideas come from and who owns them? It is not a clear cut issue at all.

I remarked to you many years ago, John-Michael: how do we know where your thoughts stop - or any of the commenters here for that matter - and ours start? I don't believe that there is even an answer to that question and I don’t expect one.

Given the spirit of last week’s comments you could say that I was being a true numpty in my previous comment. Again, please accept my humble apologies. Hang around anyone long enough and you’ll see that they have the occasional bad day. Do you ever have bad days?



Tony f. whelKs said...

"Patricia, oh, for the necessary Photoshop skills! Trump dressed as Mussolini, Trump dressed as Napoleon, Trump dressed as Nero... ;-)"

Oh, dear. You shouldn't have said that :-))

I Janas said...

Dear JMG,
the After-Oil series were very much enjoyed by me. I wonder: will the books be translated to German? I`d love to be able to present some People (who unfortunately don´t read English) with these stories, so that they can circulate here.

Also looking forward to reading more about the adventures of Mr. Carr. I know from your blog (or books?) that bicycles are considered a rather fragile Technology.
Still my youth was somewhat centred on being able to go around by bike (and even today the trend for me goes in the direction of third bikes) so may I humbly ask for them to at least get a shot at being present in one County or other? That would be great.

Myriad said...

@Onething and Ventriloquist,

I can think of a few tricks for getting Venus past Earth's orbit without breaking anything. And for sharing its orbit with Mars. And even for getting it moving in the first place.

And that, of course, is the snare. The geeky fun of technical problem-solving; the illusion of plausibility. Just gather me enough of those shiny precious Joules...

That's one factor that speaks to your questions, Ventriloquist. Another (out of several more) that I think comes into play is that when talking about the universe, no matter how big a number you come up with, there's a bigger number you can set it against. For instance, that prohibitively enormous amount of energy needed for the 1/10 light speed Enterprise excursion is considerably less than the sun puts out in a hundredth of a second. The far greater amount needed to move Venus to Mars's orbit is about two weeks' worth of the sun's output, or an insignificantly tiny fraction of Jupiter's orbital energy. "The energy's right there!"

It sounds almost reasonable if you think only of the quantities (distances, times, even energies) and not of the material effort actually required, and if you disregard risks and side effects.

Appended later: I see that the method team10tim had in mind does involve using some of Jupiter's potential energy, transferring energy between two planets via the "slingshot" effects of a large asteroid shuttling between them. I'm not familiar with the details of the scheme, but it sounds like the physics is valid. However, it would still involve engineering on an unprecedented scale to push and steer the asteroid. Maneuvering a 100+ kilometer asteroid still represents controlling (though not directly generating) millions of times more power than anything humans have ever done before. And if the project were abandoned partway through for any reason (say, the civilization in question only lasts 40,000 years), the orbits of Venus and Earth could end up close enough to influence one another via gravitational resonance, likely dooming both worlds within a few million years thereafter.

(Now that might make a good very-far-future story. As the earth and Venus draw closer to flinging each other out of their orbits, what myths might whatever civilization exists by then tell, to explain why?)

Weazel News said...

As far as your socioeconomic, political views – whatever they happen to be – suffice it to say, you don’t defy categorization. There are no meaningful middle grounds in the attributes I brought up. There might be room for compromise in other aspects of political economy, but as far as class, hierarchies, property, form of governance and monetarism, there is no other dimension. What’s amusing to me is how people like yourself insist that they defy categorization as if they’re somehow on a higher plane of wisdom that defies the comprehension of mere mortals. I was inclined to call you an anarchist of the Bookchin or Kropotkin type, but since you don’t like “the straightjacket of left-and-right,” I’ll leave it alone. Anyway, I want your take on other items.

Your definition of magic is not consistent with the descriptions I’ve heard from other prominent occultists, Manly P. Hall and Aleister Crowley in particular. Even the supernatural effects of the magical rituals you describe don’t fit into any conventional scientific materialist. If magic is only a conscious rewiring, then how do you explain, for example, Dean Radin’s noetic science experiments in precognition? Can you list some of the phenomenon you believe occur in magical rituals? By the way, I can attest that I have unequivocally experienced some of these states in my own life. I’m only trying to establish a firm demarcation between what’s actually possible in these practices.

Your thoughts?

onething said...

"Crow, funny. I personally would pay good money to see David Cameron in a clown costume, juggling, while attempting to ride a unicycle backwards."

And with a microphone on his lapel so that he can speak on matters of state.

SLClaire said...

Congratulations to the story contest winners and everyone who wrote stories for it! I have a hard enough time writing nonfiction that I think is decent enough to put on my femtocorner of the blogosphere, much less fiction. It's kind of like the difference between public speaking, which I can do easily and with enjoyment, versus playing music in public, which I could not do at all for a long time and even now makes me uneasy at least. I don't have a clue on how to begin writing fiction at this point, much less how to write something that someone would find worth reading.

Someone above, I don't remember who, suggested as a theme for the next Space Bats contest ideas or appropriate technologies from now that people manage to get into the next hundred to next thousand years or so, and how they affect lives and communities at that time. Since you've suggested saving one thing as one of your ideas for adapting to decline, I'd be quite interested in reading about how that might happen and how they might make a difference. But I'll read a book on any theme that ends up being chosen, and I'll read the After Oil 4 stories once they are in print.

Ed-M said...

Hi, Marinhomelander.

Man, you've said a mouthful! :^) This is exactly what left-liberal groups on the grassroots used to do, and for all I know, still do.

And on their point on getting people of color involved in permaculture, that do-nothing group of yours didn't know ANYTHING about black psychology! Any white person trying to get a person of color to "get into" permaculture is self-defeating on its face because it will just remind him/her of his/her ancestors' suffering under slavery and then sharecropping on the plantations in the South.

Ed-M said...

Hi JMG, "I wonder if we should take up a collection to buy Trump a natty Mussolini-style uniform."

Well I think that's not his style. He likes business suits. So I think getting him a natty European-cut suit the likes of the kind Zhirinovsky used to wear would be far more appropriate.

Images of Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Howard Skillington said...

As an adolescent I enjoyed Niven’s Ring World stories very much, but not because I imagined them as humankind’s destiny. Like the books’ central characters, I was in awe of the fact that, even centuries in our future, they might encounter this astounding technical feat, apparently accomplished by some civilization unimaginably more advanced than ours. No one in the stories supposed it possible that humankind would ever be able to accomplish such a thing.

In my collection of preposterous predictions from techno-cornucopians, my favorite was contributed a few years ago by a writer from the Texas panhandle for the Oil Price website, Shea Laverty, who declared that Dyson Spheres are "almost certainly" in mankind's future.

Given that enclosing a star with a manmade sphere of orbital diameter would be orders of magnitude more challenging than even Niven’s Ring World, I thought that showed pretty breathtaking faith in both human ingenuity and the providence of nature.

onething said...

Weazel News,

I have generally considered myself uncategorizable, not so much because I don't have any specific opinions on particular topics, but in the sense that most people fit their views within a cluster that most of their comrades would also fit into.

I looked up the Nolan chart, and found the questions almost impossible to answer. Usually, I found it hard to choose between two of them, or had a particular disagreement within one choice and so could not really agree with any. Since I found it so hard to choose, I did the test twice, changing my answers to most questions to the one which seemed more or less just as good. It wasn't as far apart as I expected. First I came out as a liberal near the center, and second right on the black line between liberal, centrist and libertarian. Although I consider the libertarians crazy.

But I don't think the Nolan chart has too much meaning, precisely because in the end it is just an average. I'm conservative on a couple of things, liberal on a couple, and libertarian on some.

I'd like you to explain what you mean by using money as a means of organizing human activities?

I'm not sure some of your questions are entirely binary, either. Top down hierarchies? I tend to reject them, but they might be necessary in some cases.

sgage said...

@ Tony f. whelKs,

Awesome work on the Benito Trump shop! Thanks!

Hubertus Hauger said...

Approximately one year now, since I entrench myself into the topic of post-carbon future. One thing, I am well aware of, is that thinking so much about it and observing where the topic is beeing disscused, more and more all is looking like an accelerating slide down to post-carbon future. On the other side I dont think, its a mere illusion. Sure, decline has long started.

Out of what I know about us human species, I lack the confidence, that a significant portion of people will clearsightedly enter a trail towards that post-carbon future. Instead I see that an engraved genetic programm ends in cognitive dissonance. Probably in order to cope with that overhelming fear and pain nobody can deny.

Anyway, the fassade of that "All will be o.k!" attidude will be tumbling down. Mass phenomenons of panic, annoyance and especially blaming others for all that bad bad things to happen, will take place.

Our societies are overstreched and due to tear apart. Time is up to reduce the complexity. So, there are political movements represented by Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and whoever. They are only symptoms of what happens. There is no saviour on the horizon! Remember; the light in the tunnel isn´t the exit we are getting nearer, but a train fast approaching.

Remeber Barack Obama having not remained the saviour, people wished him to be. I consider him being a goodwilling capable person. However most of the population is in denial of post-carbon future and the overhelming established forces are far too strong to be defeated. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn fates are predictable. No miracle shall happen. No exit! Collapse is unavoidable!

Even, I rather doubt, that after 300 years, JMG´s prediced dark ages, people will remember the real reasons behind our decline. Far from it! There will be myth´s blaming the losers for having done it ominously wrong. To my knowledge there is a mutual agreement traditionally on such breakdowns. The old ones call it generally, having acted against the rules of God or the gods. So with the mythical Atlantis, down to all vanished real civilisations.

Great efforts of historians over many past decades reveal nowadays the actual multidude of reasons being really behind collapsed societies. Most reasonable for me ist Joseph Tainters conclusion, that every society is collapsing, due to the diminishing returns of the costs, encountered by the societies comlexity.

The message is, all life is going to end. We all are going to die. Inevitably! No-ones fault! Just law of nature.

I am really tired of either many having that compulsory urge to put the blame on someone, or wanting to find the spring of life to avoid that mortal end.

I die. You die. That "feels" bad. Really terribly awfully bad. But it "is" not bad.

I see, fear and pain are so strong, we rather keep onto wishful thinking instead of accepting the sober reality. The reaper is waiting ... and than ... the craddle again too!

Patricia Mathews said...

@Hubertus - "I die. You die. That "feels" bad. Really terribly awfully bad. But it "is" not bad." My, that has a familiar ring.

"Men die. Kinsmen die. Cattle die. But I know one thing that will never die; the deeds you did in life; and your own good name."

You can count on the Norse to give you the gloom and doom straight from the shoulder and tell you to deal with it like a grownup.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed, you might want to reread the post in question. I didn't say that violent revolutions always fail; I said that a successful revolution, violent or otherwise, comes at the end of a much more complex process in which violence plays no role -- which is a very different thing. As for Putin, he's an extremely competent statesman who, if the current events in Syria are any guide, is about to score yet another win against the fatuous incompetents in Washington DC. I disagree with many of the man's policies, but I respect his abilities and his achievement.

Neil, one way or another, it'll be entertaining to watch!

Jacky, you might want to have lunch sometime with the Bernie Sanders fans on this blog. A little while back, I didn't happen to mention him in a post that referenced a few of our other presidential candidates, and they decided that I hated him and belabored me for that alleged opinion. Now here you are, swinging a cudgel at me because -- having already noted that who Britons choose as their next prime minister is none of my business -- I expressed a lack of enthusiasm for socialism. Here's a thought -- after you've had lunch with the Sanders fans, the lot of you could dress up a straw man in archdruid robes and beat it up to your heart's content!

Martin, thanks for this. Of course that's one of the problems; human beings have never even been able to solve the three-body problem, and now we've got people talking confidently of rearranging the entire solar system for humanity's alleged benefit. I'd like to point out that the biggest danger to our species' survival isn't the sort of cosmic catastrophe that so often gets brought up as a justification for such harebrained schemes. The biggest danger to our species' survival is precisely our tendency to assume that we can tamper with systems we don't understand, and not suffer any negative consequences as a result.

Cherokee, I wasn't offended at all. I understand about the story -- I've fielded enough rejection slips in my time to know how it feels! The fact of the matter was that I had twelve slots to fill; sixty people submitted stories, so five-sixths of those were mathematically certain to be rejected, and it didn't help that well over half the stories were publishable by any standard. This is one of the reasons I made the plaintive note earlier about wanting a quarterly magazine! Mind you, that may well happen; as of this morning, I've received no fewer than four serious proposals for such a magazine -- and when the dust settles and it's clear who's actually going to do the thing, all the stories that were submitted to the fourth Space Bats challenge and not chosen for the anthology are going to be emailed to the editor of the new magazine, so that he or she has a good collection of raw material for the first few issues.

Do I have bad days? Of course. Fortunately this isn't one of them. ;-)

Tony, thank you. He looks quite fetching in that kind of outfit, doesn't he?

I Janas, getting a book published in another language requires two things -- a publisher willing to publish it, and a translator willing to translate it. If you happen to know a German small press that would like to publish these anthologies, please let me know and I'll put 'em in touch with my publisher!

John Michael Greer said...

Weazel, if you'd read any of my political or economic essays, you'd know that my ideas have nothing in common with those of Kropotkin or Bookchin. Still, your assumption is exactly the kind of absurdity that normally results when a complex system of ideas gets flattened out into some overly simple-minded set of categories. As for magic, I gather that Crowley and Hall are the only writers on the subject you've read -- and I'm pretty sure I know which one of Hall's books, too, as his later works, written after he learned more about occult traditions, were considerably more nuanced and accurate. I'd encourage you to read Eliphas Levi, Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie, and Gareth Knight if you want a less one-dimensional grasp of the subject.

Onething, only if he speaks on matters of state in pig Latin. He would probably make more sense that way anyway.

SLClaire, whatever theme the next anthology has, I'm sure it'll be worth a read. I've been quite frankly stunned by the quality of writing in the submissions to these contests. When I launched the first Space Bats challenge, I figured it was even odds I wouldn't get enough publishable stories for an anthology at all -- and then the stories started coming in, and it suddenly became a matter of figuring out how to choose among three times as many stories as I had space for! Since then, if anything, it's gotten worse -- I'm convinced that some of the writers in this latest anthology are going to become major names in the next wave of science fiction, the wave that finally washes over the sand castles of techno-narcissism and turns SF back into the literature of challenging ideas it used to be. If these contests help some of those writers launch their careers, I'll be a very happy archdruid!

Ed-M, I insist on the natty uniform. It really does suit him!

Howard, I was thinking of A World Out Of Time rather than Ringworld -- the former is the one where Niven has a longlived civilization tossing Earth into orbit around Jupiter, using one of the outer gas giants to provide the gravitational slingshot effect. As for the Dyson Sphere, no question, that one's way up there in the techno-hubris scale.

Hubertus, of course! Every person dies; every civilization dies; every species dies, and eventually, so does the earth and the universe itself. So? The question is what we do while we're here.

Ben said...

JMG - Think my comment got eaten by the interwebs. Do you see the victory of Corbyn-type populists as the start to the conflict between blood and money that comes towards the end of a civilization's life cycle (at least, according to Spengler)? If so, we really do have years of conflict to look forward to before Caesarism. Yay.

On a lighter note, I'd love to contribute to either a quarterly or a Star's Reach anthology. Didn't get around the submitting a story for this installment of space bats, sad to say.

latheChuck said...

Just a an idea for another anthology: stories set in the near future, where just ONE thing that we take for granted today is no longer in use. Maybe it's television, or bicycles, or gasoline, and so on, but figure out how we stopped using it and how we carry on without it. Maybe it's international military adventures; maybe it's humanitarian aid. Of course, we can't give up a less energy-dependent item for something that's even more dependent on fossil fuels. I'm thinking that giving up one thing is a way to imagine the near term impact of decline.

Caryn said...

Many Congrats to the Space Bats Challenge winners. Can't wait to read the anthology.

re: Permacultists: It's given me another "You too!?" moment. We have only one Permaculture club here that focuses almost solely on fundraising and organizing introductory presentations in tropical paradises near and far. "Come to our presentation in Bali!, Come to Chiang Mai! etc." I haven't yet found any help or 'how to' sessions from them on the actual DOING, the growing/gardening. Fortunately, there is another small business for hire that does do that. They're a bit pricey, but they'll come in and help you set up a backyard garden or terrace garden / indoor apt. garden working with whatever space you have. The fall is our best planting season, so my little garden is finally showing some promise with saved organic seeds. :) Store-bought grow-kits have not worked at all. I'm starting to suspect them as frauds.

I agree with Hubertus's take on it.

I'm a fan of Bernie Sanders, but no: He's not a saviour. We won't find any saviours. It's too late for that. We're going to have to step up to the plate ourselves. None of them seem to see that we're well on the downward slope. That aspect cannot be fixed anymore than gravity. We just have to prepare for it as best we can. Honestly,

I wouldn't be surprised if the election were down to Sanders and The Donald. The people want change. The elites seem to be as far out of touch as they can be today. Watching the insanity has been fun and terrifying at the same time; and you know it's only just begun. More to come.

Looking forward to Carr's adventures to resume next week.


Ben said...

Other thing from my comment that got eaten; have you considered the next contest focusing on a specific part of the life cycle in the de-industrial era? Maybe a series of stories about family, coming of age, or even end of life?

John Michael Greer said...

Ben, I think it probably did. As for the contest between money and blood, no, that got under way right after the First World War; the plutocrats have won the first few rounds, as they always do, though Putin (a classic charismatic despot of the Caesarist type) is doing very well just at the moment. Here in America, Caesarism is fairly well represented, and may well, ahem, Trump the plutocratic power in the near future.

LatheChuck, interesting. I'll certainly consider that.

Caryn, I tend to think that it's exactly the habit of waiting for a savior, rather than rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, that's behind a lot of the trouble we're in just now.

Ben, I could see doing on on life cycle issues generally, but just one point on the cycle seems a little narrow. Still, I'll consider it.

Hubertus Hauger said...

JMG: "Hubertus, of course! Every person dies; every civilization dies; every species dies, and eventually, so does the earth and the universe itself. So? The question is what we do while we're here."

Quite right. One question to me is, how do I use my given time.

Another was, that I am agitated by the two notions of, either that compulsory urge to put the blame on someone, or wanting to find the spring of life to avoid the mortal end. And to utter my frustration, instead of rational, emotion rules our motions, in particular fear and pain are so irrationally strong, that wishful thinking instead of accepting the sober reality gets often the upper hand.

And to put the two together, I am suggesting giving up that misanthropy and the wishful thinking. Instead focusing ones usefull liveforce towards whatever my call is for that upcoming future.

And also I am emphasising on getting away from the sorrowful fantasy: "We all gonna die!" All I see, there is a metamorphosis ahead of us. And I am impatied that on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross´s 5 steps of dying: "denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance" I want them to step further, off the denial.

Damo said...

As a relatively recent convert from the religion of progress, I do find it difficult to tease out my own internal evolution from that of broader society. Still, it does seem there is a broad and real shift away from the failed neo-liberal policies of the past 30-40 years. And on the fringes, is that an acceptance of limits to growth and technology I detect? Honestly, it is hard to know for sure. These days I don't bother to read 'the economist' (I swear it used to be quite good 10 years ago, now it just seems like so much trash) and Mad Max was my favourite movie of the year. No doubt there is a confirmation bias in the media I choose to consume.

But but but, Bernie Saunders, Corbyn, Trump, Syriza in Greece. The plebs are beginning to get restless. Friends now tell me that if we didn't waste so many resources on the 1% the wheels of progress will turn again for the western middle classes (no mention of the other 6 billion inhabitants of this planet of course). I partially agree, but a million dollar car is still just a car. After the inevitable redistribution (perhaps via the ballot box, but probably through violence) fails will people finally start looking at the physical constraints? I fear we still have a few decades at minimum before industrial decline is something that can be mentioned at dinner parties the same way inequality and the 1% can be now.

On another note, a big congratulations to the space bat winners. Like cherokee organics, I must admit to being a little gutted at not making the cut. The logical part of me says I can't expect to do well at my first attempt let alone exceeding the word count by 5000 words, but still... :p

Tony f. whelKs said...


Thanks for the kind words - just a little something I rustled up in a few minutes (but then Photoshop is one of my favourite toys). Feel free to copy and distribute however you see fit.

What struck me was just how natural it ended up looking... spooky ;-))

@ Weazel News - have you considered that your insistence that JMG (or anyone) 'must' fit on the Nolan chart is an attempt to force the territory to conform to the map?

Cherokee Organics said...


That was a most gracious reply, as I was most ungentlemanly. Thank you.

A quarterly magazine would be an interesting read. I have hung my fiction hat up though and bow deep acknowledgement to the greater powers that be. Other things need to be written here instead and I have delayed too long.



Nastarana said...

Dear Ed-M and Marinhomelander, About the clueless permie group: They were possibly smarting from previous confrontations with angry persons of color, some of whom can be just as clueless as anyone else. Or, they might have been hoping to attract grant money, an extremely foolish strategy in the present climate. Check out the formerly respected Seed Saver's Exchange for an object lesson in what angling for grant money can do to a worthy organization.

Dear Ed Boyle, I am surely not the only American who welcomes Putin's careful intervention in the Middle East. About time the Old World powers stop depending on the US to take out the bad guys.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Travis, Ed-M, Marinhomelander, and Caryn,

Once you realise that Permaculture is just a tool for organising a property it makes a whole lot more sense. You don't need to do an expensive course either (I've never done one) as there are books available for a few bucks which outline the basic concepts. You really need a library of books rather than one or two sources to nut out how to live well on a small holding.

I reckon a design is all well and good, but rarely does it stand the test of the real world (Sun Tzu had something to say about that too). Every season, I modify and adapt my surroundings based on what I've learned over the past few years and it is really the extreme conditions that teach you the most. If you got things right the first time around, you probably wouldn't realise that you had done so. All up I reckon you could say quite comfortably, that Permaculture is a starting point on a long journey and not an end of itself - anyway, from a big picture perspective, the whole lot looks to me more like a circle.

Caryn, well done with that discovery. Every year, your seeds will get a little bit hardier and more prolific if you choose wisely. Top work and excellent observation.



Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG - I see Pompey and Crassus on today's scene, many times over; and dear, dithery old Cicero, and all the rest of the gang, but so far, no Big Julie showing up to cross the Rubicon and buy his way into a Dictator-for-Life scam. The time to beware is when he's unmistakably there.

But the real one to watch out for is that quiet little coldly rational pipsqueak over there in the corner, who plays a mean game of chess and dutifully pays homage to all the forms and conventions of the Republic. Wherever he may be; I'd look for him among today's Millennials. (Contemporaries of my oldest granddaughter, now in high school and very much the quiet little rational student government type.)

Crow Hill said...

JMG Thanks for the aphorism: “Every person dies; every civilization dies; every species dies, and eventually, so does the earth and the universe itself. So? The question is what we do while we're here.”

BoysMom said: People in the future … might even see what we regard as disaster as a sign of supernatural beneficence.

Here’s an example of a scientific explanation re the 2004 Tsunami: “Deadly and Yet Necessary, Quakes Renew the Planet” (W.J. Broad, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2005, quoted in M. Dowd):
“It’s hard to find something uplifting about 150,000 lives being lost,” said Dr Donald DePaolo, a geochemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “But the type of geological process that caused the earthquake and tsunami is an essential characteristic of the earth. As far as we know it … has something very directly to do with the fact that the earth is a habitable planet.”

Thomas Prentice said...

Best concise description of neoliberalism and its failure and other discontents and that it was originally laissez-faire liberal capitalist economics.

Yes on stories and I would suggest something between now and 2050; perhaps between ten years from now 2025 and 2050 -- 2050 because that seems to be to "Go To" date for Climate Disruption tipping points to really hit.

The permaculturing of Detroit is a fascinating study of how lemons and be made into lemonade -- a human culture emerging out of the devastation inflicted by neoliberal capitalism.

Finally, looking forward to more installments of Retrotopia. I think a Cascadia (non-China client) Republic, an ArklaTexasMiss Republic (maybe even Black-run), Confederacy to the east and north to southern Virginia), a KenTenn Republic maybe with the estern parts of Va and NC and Iowa and Missouri breaking up probably Mississippi River and Not, joining adjacent republics and Eastern Missippi/Lake Superior MN going with Lakeland. ANd of course, I couldn't be more pleased that Toledo is capital of Lakeland given as I was born and grew up there. I might suggest that Southern Ontario would deign to join in.

A nukular-armed Texas Republic is an intoxicating possibility for troublemaking in your story but I think the reality is that a mass dash to the exits because of Climate Disprution, water issues, desertification -- the Chihuahuan desert moving in because of Climate Change (Austin and south have had remarkably mild winters since about 2000), vast, unchanging monoculture causing new dust bowls, and even more brutal racism and intolerance of BlackTinos and gays will happen. But a nuke Texas, even given all the foregoing, would probably be expansionary, acquiring NM, CO, OK, ArklaMiss and maybe even the northernmost provinces of Mexico. One other possibility is of a breakaway from nuke Texas by Hispanic/"liberal" Austin/San Antonio, Corpus, South Texas or maybe a kind of simmering Chechnya ... ?

The mind boggles.

I am also astonished at the renaissance of writing you have provoked, absolutely astonishing, the desire you have unleashed by readers who want to write and who write well, to be creative, to think beyond boundaries, to color way outside the lines and on to the floor and walls and ceilings, this is perhaps one of the most totally hopeful signs I have seen. Yes, the apocalypse doth loometh, but people given half a chance even in THIS country -- Detroit and permaculture, your readers and wtiting damned good stuff, well, quite hopeful. Maybe there is a chance ... not to save civklization, but to realy actual sit around that campfire amid the ruins and decide what is next. Indeed I would say all this more hopeful than Corbyn ... who is also damned hopeful ;)

Robert Mathiesen said...

Weazel News wrote (about the Nolan chart):

"In some cases I agree that there may be more options than the choices listed. In the examples I brought up, I don’t believe there is any room for mixed options. Either you’re in favor of private property or not; either you’re in favor of using money or not; either you’re in favor of class stratification or not; either you’re in favor of involuntary hierarchies or not. These are some of the most crucial questions in determining how any society will operate, and they are binary."

What about the person who argues (and believes) that one size never fits all, that one norm or rule or law should never be applied to everyone in a polity?

How would you place a person who holds that some people should be able to have private property if they choose (perhaps only people who don't care much about having it), while others should not be allowed to have any?

Or one who holds that some people should be locked into castes or classes, while others should be shut out from any caste forever?

Or that some may possess and use use money (perhaps rural people), but others (perhaps urban people) may not under pain of death?

How would you categorize a political position who would allow freedom of speech to some (perhaps only those who can not own any property), while others should be permanantly silenced at birth (perhaps those who are allowed to own property)?

Since you speak of logical possibilities, and not simply current common political positions, such bizarre questions are entirely legitimate. I can imagine a social system in which no two people are allowed to be equal under law, but the advantages and disadvantages of such equality are set to run at cross purposes with one another, so that no single person can ever acquire all that much power over very many other people. What of such possibilities, logician?

Indeed, the territory is always more complex than any possible map can ever capture. And this may well be a good thing for our species.

Art Myatt said...

A little off-topic for this particular post, but this is an astounding example, IMO, of added complexity producing negative results. In this case, the negative results would include driving a whole class of people out of the city whenever they have a chance to move:

Bill Blondeau said...

Some thoughts about naming the subgenre of science fiction under discussion here: choosing a name is not without its (if you'll forgive the expression and the sentiment) marketing aspects. We should try to find, and converge on, a name that will catch the interest of potential readers, rather than driving them away. One initial resistance we'll encounter from many is the worry that this kind of fiction will be dismal.

"Science Fiction" was a powerful name because science was a powerful totem during the 20th Century. Other names for genres of the fantastic tended to emphasize memorable, intriguing, or culturally powerful concepts: High Fantasy, Horror, Sword and Sorcery, Planetary Fiction, Hard SF, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Post-Apocalyptic.

"Deindustrial" would frankly be an underwhelming addition to that company. Although technically accurate (referencing the process of industrialism's end, and the aftermath), it has the following defects:

- On first glance, it's too much like the form "not (something)". A categorical definition in terms of what something is not is inherently weak.

- This kind of fiction is not really about the end of industrialism. It does, and must, deal with the inevitability of industrialism's end; but that's only the beginning.

Extrapolating from the Space Bats contest rules, I submit that this kind of fiction is about three principles of constraint:

1. Ye cannae change the laws of thermodynamics. Nor circumvent them. (This permits speculative science, without enabling Space Bats that violate the core concept.)

2. Interstellar travel is not meaningfully feasible. See #1; also, Charlie Stross's classic takedown of the feasibility of space colonization.

3. Technic civilizations, on this single planet, will follow in more or less rhythmic succession. Each civilization will have its own characteristic technological suite, and its own sciences. Some successor civilizations will presumably be more brief, others more prolonged, but they will all rise, have their apex, and fall; and there will be interim periods, dark ages, in which the benefits of civilization are lost and the scraps of historical and cultural memory, and the remnants of the sciences and technologies of the lost civilizations, will seed the intellectual soil of the next civilization's rise.

What can we call this?

Myself, I have taken to calling it "Ecotechnic SF". Which is probably a grievous violation, given that "ecotechnic" is a specific term of art in JMG's nonfiction writings. Still, it's an example of the sort of term I'd really like to see picked by the community.

Something that implies interest, energy, fascinating possibilities.

One that doesn't indicate mopery.

Ben said...

JMG - Heh. I suppose that enough bluster might, ahem, Trump, one's lack on military experience on the way to becoming a Caesar. Hmm... Food for thought.

I think a space bats contest asking for stories explicitly dealing with the life cycle (i was thinking specific part since you were asking people for parameters) could make for some sci-fi that truly challenges preconceived notions and established ideas.

John Michael Greer said...

Hubertus, I'm convinced at this point that no known explosive is powerful enough to jolt someone past the stage of denial until they're ready to take that step by themselves.

Damo, my guess is that you won't be able to talk about resource constraints in polite company as long as "polite company" still exists. It's only outside that narrowing circle of privilege that reality is an issue.

Cherokee, I hope you'll reconsider at some point, and try some more fiction. Still, all things in their proper time!

Patricia, yes, Octavian is the one to watch for, but of course he won't be obvious until his rule is a fait accompli. In the meantime, D. Trumpius Crassus and T. Cruzius Catilina are going at it hammer and tongs in the Senate, with B. Sanderius Gracchus rousing the plebs down in the forum.

Crow Hill, thanks for the reference! Makes sense to me.

Thomas, you're not the only one who's rattled by the literary explosion these contests seem to have set off. I had no idea things would get as lively, or involve as much raw talent and good writing, as they have.

Art, I tend to see that as a bug, not a feature -- the city government wants to chase off people who have the effrontery to make jobs for themselves rather than begging some employer to give them one.

Bill, I could definitely see "Ecotechnic SF," so long as that didn't make people think it's the sort of green-spraypaint stuff being marketed just now under the label "bright green environmentalism" -- cornucopian economic fantasies with a few solar panels and wind turbines tacked on, in other words.

Ben, agreed -- America is increasingly resembling a Caesar salad, needing only a Caesar to sit down and dine on it!

John Michael Greer said...

On another note -- I've gone ahead and deleted Weazel News' latest comment and will not be putting through anything further by or about him. I have no objection to people coming here to ask questions, but when they start trying to hijack the comment thread to push their own agendas, well, as the text above the comment box says: "Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current week's post are welcome." 'Nuf said.

Bogatyr said...

Not exactly on topic for this week, but this article is rather relevant to past speculations on "third-party countries" supporting "colour revolutions" etc.

Hi from Beijing, by the way. Previous attempts to post about this lost me my VPN connection - I was obviously using key words which triggered the Great Firewall....

Varun Bhaskar said...


Maybe we should call it Civilizational Si-fi?

What we're writing is outside the mainstream of SF because we're actually trying to abide by all the laws of science, ecology and resource constrains included. We don't cherry-pick the laws we want to follow and thus our stories are closer to what science fiction is supposed to be, unlike the techno-fantasy that comprises the market. We're also trying to see how and why civilizations invent technology, and the use of technology shapes society, Again, these are issues that SF traditionally dealt with.

Plus Civ SF sounds kinda catchy.



Wilton Vought said...

"Logically speaking, if the policies you propose don’t yield the results you expect, you change the policies. That’s not what’s happened so far in this case, though."

I have to disagree with your premise here. I think the policies in question HAVE yielded pretty much the expected and desired results. That explains why the policies remain in force.

Death and destruction can be quite profitable for some privileged sectors. A series of crises, both internal and abroad, can serve to concentrate all, political, few hands, while neutering any effective opposition.

Let's not make the mistake of thinking the elites' interests necessarily coincide with those of the broader society, or of underestimating their propensity to fixate on short term gains while ignoring long term threats to their own well being.

MawKernewek said...

As far as terraforming goes, in Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 they shade Venus with a giant screen, let the whole atmosphere freeze out and lock the CO2 away underground. Doesn't have the risk of smashing the planet into the Earth on its way out.
I find it interesting that from the original Mars trilogy Red Mars (1992) which focuses on the colonisation and terraforming of Mars, 2312 and the newer work Aurora which postulates a starship sent to Tau Ceti as a generational ship, it seems to have become less optimistic about subjects like terraforming Mars and the progress of human society.

Hubertus Hauger said...

Marinhomelander: ""I would call them Permacultists, as opposed to the more serious Permaculturalists. In this country, if you're overenthusiastic about something, chances are you're not really serious about putting it into practice, just evangelizing it.""
I´ve talked with plenty of people about permaculture. Sounded fascinating. Miraculously to say it better. Tried to get more solid information about it. Didn´t succed. So I conclude the hype about it has other vital reasons, however not the one´s acclaimed. One: Playfullness! In order to experiment with methods to do gardening "different" from our predecessors. Another: Magic! Finding that magic spell, to open the door to access the never ending abundance of supply with little effort. (Déjà-vu - gosh, just like with oil, isn´t it!).

Crow Hill: "… regard ... disaster as a sign of supernatural beneficence..."
Rather I focus my liveforce towards whatever my call is for that upcoming future and getting away from the sorrowful fantasy: "We all gonna die!" Let´s live our life, not die in our fear!

John Michael Greer: "I Janas, getting a book published in another language requires two things -- a publisher willing to publish it, and a translator willing to translate it. If you happen to know a German small press that would like to publish these anthologies, please let me know and I'll put 'em in touch with my publisher!"
As a German I am interested too. I Janas; How about I inqure with my people, maybe something is coming up? Publishing JMG in German, would be great!

Patricia Mathews said...

@Wilton Vought - Yes. I have often thought our massive incarceration rate here in the States was doing precisely what it was supposed to do - making a large chunk of people effectively outlawed, and unable to get any housing, jobs, or benefits, thereby reducing the competition for the same or the burden on "society" as variously defined. A feature, not a bug.

A secondary feature is the possibility of using the ultimate in cheap labor - prisoners.

And in this month's Atlantic Magazine, Ta-Nehisi Coates adds what is blatantly obvious to him: that this is Round 4 in keeping the black population down. (That it also hits Indians, Latinos, and some poor whites is, again, a feature, not a bug.)

Round 1 was slavery. Outlawed in 1865. Enter lynchings to enforce peonage.

Round 2 was harsh Jim Crow laws reinforced by mass lynchings. Outlawed in he mid-20th Century. Enter de facto segregation.

Round 3 was simple de facto segregation. Outlawed in the last quarter of the 20th Century. Enter the Prison-Industrial complex.

Not to mention Feature #3: prisoners and former prisoners have no vote, therefore no say in the political process, and hence no rights the power structure need respect.

And all this not onyl benefits the elites, who have a bogeyman ("Crime") to scare the masses with, it benefits the masses. Those not caught in the gears! And if they are, well (all together, now, in unison), "It's their own fault! If only they just....."

OK - end rant. Especially from that figure of fun, the li'l ol' lady white lib'rul of (as with any pensioners) the rentier class. Awk! Aux lanternes!

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