L.B.: New Babylon

Left Behind, pp. 346-353

Buck Williams and Hattie Durham are in a cab on their way to meet Rayford and Chloe Steele at the airport, when Buck decides to swing by his office to pick up his cell phone and laptop.

Hattie waited in the cab, but she told him she was not going to be happy if she missed her appointment. Buck stood by the window of the cab. “I’ll just be a minute,” he said.

When Buck gets inside, however, he finds that Steve Plank and Stanton Bailey, Global Weekly’s publisher, are waiting to talk to him. Their conversation takes place over the next nine pages, during which neither Buck nor the authors seems to remember that Hattie is stuck in a cab outside with the meter running.

In Bailey’s office the boss got right to the point. “I’m gonna ask you two some pointed questions, and I want some quick and straight answers. A whole bunch of stuff is coming down right now, and we’re gonna be on top of every bit of it.”

This is how Bailey talks, a rat-a-tat stream of cliches:

“You brats think that because I’m two or three years from the pasture, I don’t still have contacts, don’t have my ear to the ground. Well, let me tell you, my phone’s been ringing off the hook since you left here this morning, and I’ve got a gut feeling something big is coming down.”

These stock phrases are Bailey’s native language because, after all, he’s a stock character, a type. He wasn’t created by LaHaye and Jenkins, he was taken off the shelf ready-made and inserted into their story.

In most books, the arrival of such stock characters is a low point — a lazy lapse by the author. Here in the World’s Worst Books, however, these walking cliches actually stand out as more vivid than the characters around them. Readers already know Stanton Bailey. He is The Executive — the no-nonsense, graying-at-the-temples white male authority figure we’ve met dozens of times before in other hastily written novels, movies and TV shows. A character actor with limited skills but the right “look” can make a long and lucrative career out of playing this type over and over, never having to change anything about his performance except his tie and the nameplate on his Big Desk. (Oddly, some of our elite political pundits seem to think that such a career as a paycheck actor is all the experience you need to become president.)

The Executive is hackneyed, trite and two-dimensional, but our longstanding familiarity with the type almost makes Bailey seem more real and more human than Buck, Rayford, Steve or any of the other original creations who surround him.

L&J have summoned this literary day laborer here for a bit of expository catch-up. They’ve got a lot to tell us about Carpathia’s rise to power so they’ve brought in Bailey to summarize. Bailey has the inside scoop because he’s a journalist. Our hero is also a journalist, of course, a choice of vocation that I think initially was intended to allow Buck to keep us up to date on these kinds of plot developments. But since Buck has been distracted lately other journalist-expositors like Bailey and Dan Bennett are having to pick up the slack.

Bailey has figured out some pieces of the puzzle and he wants Steve and Buck to fill him in on the rest. “I’m telling you that nothing you say here is gonna go past these walls, so I don’t want you holdin’ out on me,” he tells them. That’s a fine summary of Global Weekly’s journalistic approach: Pursue the truth relentlessly, then make sure it never leaves the building.

Anyway, Bailey has figured out that Carpathia is angling for the position of U.N. secretary-general:

“Rumors are flying that Mwangati Ngumo is calling a press conference for late this afternoon …”

How is this a “rumor”? Is Ngumo calling a press conference without actually telling the press? How would that work, exactly?

“… and everybody thinks he’s stepping down as secretary-general.”

“Really?” Plank said.

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Bailey growled. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure what’s happening here. If he’s stepping down, your guy knows about it. You forget I was in charge of the African bureau when Botswana became an associate member of the European Common Market. Jonathan Stonagal had his fingers all over that, and everybody knows he’s one of this Carpathia guy’s angels. What’s the connection?”

The entire scene plays out like this, Bailey “growls” a couple of lines of hard-boiled boilerplate boss-speak (Jenkins’ grasp of the type is a bit unsteady, at times The Executive sounds more like The Police Sergeant) and then a couple of lines of PMD-world nonsense. Or he growls at Steve until he babbles something insane from off of the End-Times Checklist. The contrast between The Executive’s no-nonsense persona and the raving nonsense he’s actually saying is unintentionally delightful.

“I get a call from a guy who knows the vice president of Romania. Word over there is the guy has been asked to be prepared to run the day-to-day stuff indefinitely. He’s not going to become the new president because they just got one, but that tells me Carpathia expects to be here a while.”

Hmmm. Put that together with the fact that the guy sitting next to him just took a job as Carpathia’s New York-based, English-speaking press secretary and I think he might be on to something. Bailey spends a couple of pages summarizing things we already knew before finally moving things forward a bit. The publisher of Seaboard Monthly had called, he said:

“… about how you, Cameron, and his guy that drowned last night were working the same angle on Carpathia, and whether I think you’re going to mysteriously get dead, too. … He said his guy had intended to take a slightly different approach — you know, zig when everybody else is zagging. Miller was doing a story on the meaning behind the disappearances, which I know you were planning for an issue or two from now. …

“An issue or two from now.” So your kids — everyone’s kids — vanish into thin air and Global Weekly decides to wait three weeks or a month to do a story on it. Talk about trying to “zig when everybody else is zagging.”

To his credit, Bailey does say, later in this section, that the story on the disappearances is:

“… the one that interests me most. … Sometimes I think we get too snooty as a newsmagazine and we forget that everyday people out there are scared to death, wanting to make some sense of all this.”

I don’t think “snooty” would be my first choice for a word to describe someone who doesn’t regard the disappearance of every child on the planet as newsworthy. I’d lean more toward “sociopathic.” But at least Bailey aims to correct for this snootiness. Eventually. In a month or so.

“… an issue or two from now. How that ties in with Carpathia, and why it might paint him in a dark light, I don’t know. Do you?”

Buck shook his head. “I see them as two totally different pieces. … I sure wouldn’t have thought to somehow link Carpathia with the disappearances.”

From Buck’s point of view, the only thing the two stories have in common is that neither one is likely to ever be written.

Bailey turns back to Steve, demanding he tell them all about Carpathia’s agenda for the United Nations. Normally, telling the publisher and editor of a major news magazine all about your boss’ secret agenda is something you should try to avoid as a press secretary. But Steve knows these two. Buck is already elbow deep in covering Carpathia’s (and Stonagal’s) tracks, and Bailey is far more interested in collecting and guarding secrets than in publishing them. “I won’t tell anyone,” the publisher insists. (That could be etched over the front door of the building as the Weekly’s motto: “We won’t tell anyone.”) So Steve knows he’s safe here, safe among friends just like when Tim Russert has one of his friendly off-the-record chats with Karl Rove.

“He wants a new Security Council setup, which will include some of his own ideas for ambassadors.”

“Like Todd-Cothran from England?” Buck said.

“Probably temporarily. He’s not entirely pleased with that relationship, as you may know.”

Buck suddenly realized that Steve knew everything.

Well, everything except how little the secretary-general has to do with the appointment of ambassadors to the U.N. Maybe the “new setup” Steve refers to means that all the ambassadors to the U.N. will be replaced by ambassadors from the U.N. Or maybe the authors don’t understand that there’s a difference.

“And?” Bailey pressed.

“He wants Ngumo personally to insist on him as his replacement, a large majority vote of the representatives, and two other things that, frankly, I don’t think he’ll get. …

OK, brace yourself. Put one hand on either side of the frame of the looking glass. Take a deep breath. Ready? Now … jump!

“… Militarily, he wants a commitment to disarmament from member nations, the destruction of 90 percent of their weapons, and the donations of the other 10 percent to the U.N.”

“For peacekeeping purposes,” Bailey said. “Naive, but logical sounding. You’re right, he probably won’t get that. What else?”

This is insurmountably ridiculous. Voluntary universal disarmament. Try to imagine a world in which such a thing is even remotely plausible, let alone “logical sounding.” Such a world would be radically, irreconcilably different from this world in ways too numerous to count.

The story has just moved beyond unrealistic, beyond implausible, into the realm of hopelessly impossible.

And keep in mind that, for the authors and most of their millions of readers, this isn’t merely a story. This is a fictional account of what they think of as actual events that will soon occur. Their unreal and impossible fiction is a reflection of their unreal and impossible beliefs about the actual world.

The authors produced this passage and they thought it sounded good. They thought they were offering a plausibly accurate description of the world and how it works. It needs to be said: Dr. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are profoundly stupid men.

But let’s continue with Steve’s summary of Carpathia’s agenda:

“He wants to move the U.N.”

“Move it?”

Steve nodded. … “He wants to move it to Babylon.”

“You’re not serious.”

He is.”

“I hear they’ve been renovating that city for years. Millions of dollars invested in making it, what, New Babylon?”

“Billions.”

That’s the first thing in this book that really does seem, as they say, “ripped from the headlines.” American taxpayers, after all, have been “renovating that city for years” at a cost of billions of dollars. And the centerpiece of New Babylon is a secretive, palace-like compound “six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York.” If I were the Antichrist, bent on world-domination, this is exactly the sort of place I would want for my headquarters. Here in the real world, of course, the United Nations refuses to have anything to do with the place.

“Think anyone will agree to that?”

“Depends how bad they want him,” Steve chuckled. “He’s on The Tonight Show tonight.”

“He’ll be more popular than ever!”

So the authors seem to think that Jay Leno will be among those left behind. The authors also seem to think that The Tonight Show is closely watched all over the world by the key decision-makers in every member nation of the U.N. Or I guess they think that everyone TiVo’s Leno since, as has already been established a couple of chapters earlier, the whole world (except for Marge’s husband) watches Nightline.

Steve says that right now Carpathia is “meeting with the heads of all those international groups that are in town for unity meetings.” Kind of an awkward moment for Buck. He was supposed to be attending those meetings himself to report on them, so right now he is so busted.

Steve explains, matter-of-factly, a bit more of Nicolae’s agenda:

“He’s asking for resolutions supporting some of the things he wants to do. The seven-year peace treaty with Israel, in exchange for his ability to broker the desert-fertilizer formula. …”

We were already told, way back on page 8, that Israel was at peace with all her neighbors. The only nations Israel wasn’t at peace with were Russia and Ethiopia, whose militaries Israel destroyed without even lifting a finger. So it hardly seems they would be feeling an urgent need to trade their most precious asset in exchange for a peace treaty. Carpathia’s universal disarmament scheme would also seem to make the need for any such treaty even less urgent. But so what if it doesn’t make sense? It’s in the Checklist, so it has to happen.

The chronology here also seems a bit dodgy. Nicolae will acquire the formula in order to become secretary-general, after which he will sign a peace treaty with Israel. In exchange for the peace treaty, Israel will give him the formula that will allow him to become secretary-general. Huh?

“… The establishment of one religion for the world, probably headquartered in Italy.”

“He’s not going to get far with the Jews on that one.”

“They’re an exception. He’s going to help them rebuild their temple during the years of the peace treaty. He believes they deserve special treatment.”

“And they do,” Bailey said. “The man is brilliant. Not only have I never seen someone with such revolutionary ideas, but I’ve also never seen anyone who moves so quickly.”

This is, again, insurmountably ridiculous. With the exception of “the Jews,” who will be bought off with a new temple (that worked so well for Herod), none of the world’s religious believers will have any objections to Nicolae’s plans for a merger with a new “headquarters” (because all religions have “headquarters”) in a non-neutral site.

L&J believe this sounds not just plausible but “brilliant” because in their minds, these religious believers are all the same. They are aware, dimly, that some of these believers call themselves “Hindus,” while others call themselves “Muslims,” “Buddhists,” “Wiccans” or “Roman Catholics,” but to L&J no such distinctions are really meaningful. All that matters is that these people are not RTCs. There are only two categories that do matter: the saved and the damned.

This goes back to what Rayford said a few pages back (see, “Mystery Dance“). “To people who didn’t want to admit that God had been behind the disappearances,” Rayford said to himself, “any other explanation would salve their consciences.” From the authors’ perspective, everyone knows that the Real True Christians have the Real True Truth. Those who reject becoming RTCs just “didn’t want to admit” what they knew to be true, so they latched onto these other religions — which they knew to be false — to “salve their consciences.” All that supposedly sectarian conflict occurring right now in New Babylon? That’s just play-acting.

L&J seem to believe not just that all other religions are false, but that all other religions are insincere.

  • LMM

    Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever
    I quite enjoyed the story but the style was infuriating.

    Alledgedly, there’s a game some fen play in bookstores. Everyone goes to the SF/Fantasy section and gets out a different Covenant book, and flips through the pages. Whoever finds the word “clench” first wins.
    I’ve never tried it, personally. I’ve yet to see a reason to pick up even one of those books.

  • lou

    So glad others hated the Thomas Covenant books. He was a true anti-hero in that I never felt any liking or sympathy or empahty for him ever.
    And about the best thing I can say about Terry Goodkind books is at least they end at page 7xx. These cliffhanger serial opuses (opi?) are driving me up the wall.
    And I love the Frank Miller test. I was contemplating that while reading “The Darkness that Comes Before.” Why do so many male fantasy writers who write novels with few female characters always, always, always make at least one a prostitute? Then again, it’s also too true of a lot of Hollywood movies.

  • http://users.livejournal.com/_dahne_/ Dahne

    I got a bit past the rape in this first Thomas Covenant before finally giving up. What can I say, I’m persistent. The central conceit is interesting; What if the hero destined to save us all arrives, and is an insufferable dickwad?
    The problem, in execution, is that you have to spend the book reading about an insufferable dickwad.

  • LMM

    And about the best thing I can say about Terry Goodkind books …
    I’m just happy that other people find them as painful as I did.
    There are some books which I expect to appreciate more now then I did when I read them in high school. Goodkind’s books are not included in this category.
    These cliffhanger serial opuses (opi?) are driving me up the wall.
    Especially when the writer freaking *dies* before finishing the final book!
    I suspect that, barring a miraculous discovery of an almost finished manuscript, Robert Jordan’s death will annoy me for decades. As a hardened atheist, I find myself wishing there were an afterlife, if only so that I could read the final book.

  • http://bellatrys.livejournal.com bellatrys

    Dahne, I found one recent fantasy novel by A.C. Crispin which has one of the heroes almost get raped by pirates, before they totally implausibly decide that they’d rather flog him instead. But he does get stripped, bent over, and have moments of “this can’t be happening to me” panic. And the sexless quasi-alien being is threatened with being forced into a sexually-mature gendered state and married off to stop its nonconformist behavior, although it escapes.
    Of course, of the three heroines in the book two are raped, the other is threatened with rape and carried off for that purpose albeit rescued in time. But it’s sort of telling that I thought “wow, this is daring” at the pirate scene…
    IMO, the same problems that are there in the Belgariad (and its sequels, and its clones-with-numbers-filed-off, the Tamuli books) are the ones that are in Sword of Truth, only raised to the 11th power. And I gave up about halfway through Thomas Covenant, before the end of the second book I just wanted Rocks To Fall, Everybody To Die (and this happened, repeatedly, but never soon enough) although Mordant’s Need was so good by comparison it was as if it was written by a different author.
    Although neither the Belgariad Etc Etc (Etc Etc) nor the Covenant books are as bad as Eragon. Some fans pointed out that it’s tres bizarre that he’s a) the mighty hunter, and b) so concerned at the beginning with buying meat, and how often “meat” came up in the books, this spawned all kinds of bawdy humor as to what “meat” actually meant, and anti-fanfic a la Right Behind.

  • http://bellatrys.livejournal.com bellatrys

    Really, women can have all sorts of bad non-rape things happen to them (being female doesn’t make being knifed any more enjoyable), and rapists don’t have some mystic power that renders women who could otherwise defend themselves helpless.
    Ako, you heretic! You have denied the power of TEH PEENZ! Don’t you know that its priapic aura makes strong women swoon, and manly men grow delirious, even thinking about the Mighty Tool in its Platonic splendor?

  • Skyknight

    Looking at Left Behind and the commentary on Eragon here, and what Wikipedia had to say about the title artifact in the “Sword of Truth” series, it looks like that in all of these cases, we’re dealing with a severe case of yang overreach. Now if we could just figure out how to give the authors in question a yin boost…Suggestions?

  • jamoche

    what do you do when you commit a great atrocity because you think it’s a dream?
    *shrugs* I dreamt once that I kicked a guy out of bed because he was married (which he was in RL, though that didn’t stop me fancying him rather a lot). When I woke up I was very miffed at my subconscious. I can imagine people dreaming (and following through!) about consensual sex with someone who wouldn’t do it in RL, but that they’d rape a dream-person? Just not seeing it.
    Damn near every geek goes through a phase (some never leave the “phase”) where they armchair-quarterback spec-fic novels and imagine what they would do in the protagonist’s place
    Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash puts it beautifully: “Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherf**ker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
    Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherf**ker in the world. The position is taken.”

  • http://users.livejournal.com/_dahne_/ Dahne

    @bellatrys: Huh. Interesting. Don’t think I’ll be picking that one up, but hell, at least it gets spread around some. I’m curious – what gender was the alien threatened with being turned into?
    @LMM: Actually, word is that he told someone (son-inlaw? Well, somebody) what’s supposed to happen just a few days before, since he knew he probably wouldn’t make it long. So I assume a conclusion will be available in some form sooner or later.
    It’s funny that Mordant’s Need comes up. I picked up the first one, since I tend to like Donaldson’s stuff as long as Thomas Covenant isn’t in it, and I found it, well, fairly boring. And Master Eremis was obnoxious, though that was probably intentional. Are the later ones worth tracking down?

  • ako

    See, I thought the Covenant books were interesting, and hated the Mordant’s Need ones. It could be too much exposure to bad fanfiction; after enough “Poor Victim Mary Sue” stories, even reading about a bastard is far more appealing than “The lonely and mistreated girl meets people who value her, and learns how Special and Important she really is.”

  • Jon H

    “So the authors seem to think that Jay Leno will be among those left behind.”
    Nah, he was replaced by Carrot Top.
    See, it really is the Tribulation.

  • hapax

    I liked a couple of Donaldson’s short stories in DAUGHTER OF REGALS, mainly because there was enough time to enjoy his twist on the set forms, without enough time to really get to hate the characters.

  • Tonio

    “I still can’t get over how jaw-droppingly ignorant LH&J are about how the U.N. and the secretary-general actually work(s).”
    What exactly is their stance on the UN in real life? Do they see its workings as merely a front for current one-world government? Do they see it as part of a conspiracy to establish such a government? Do they believe that the UN will naturally evolve into that government? All of the above?
    I’m a huge fan of the Zuckers’ work and I love the Airplane! references in this post. Half the characters in LB seem drawn from the melodramas that the Zuckers were satirizing. I think we’ve discussed before how LH&J seem to get their dialogue and story sense from old movies. I’d like to see the Zuckers do a satire of Revelation movies that includes digs at both LB and The Ome.

  • Salamanda

    Hiro used to feel this way, too…
    *pictures Hiro Nakamura as a badass*
    Hehe. Nope. Still want to ruffle his hair and pinch his chubby little cheeks.

  • jamoche

    Different Hiro, though the idea is amusing.

  • the king in shreds and tatters

    You know, the writers of DS9 wanted to end the series with Benny Russell holding a script for the show in his hand…

  • MikailBorg

    You know, the writers of DS9 wanted to end the series with Benny Russell holding a script for the show in his hand…
    I think it was more in the manner of, “played briefly with the idea over lunch, then sensibly discarded it.”

  • http://aberranteyes.livejournal.com/ Captain Slack

    EBOWF gets assigned its name in Rev.17:5:

    And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

    @Eddings(es): I have to admit their world looks a lot like the Fantasyland of the Tough Guide, but they mix up the pieces enough that they didn’t jump the shark for me until the make-it-didn’t-happen ending of “The Dreamers”.
    @Donaldson: on the other hand, jumped for me with the rape scene. I put the book down and backed away from it slowly.

  • Ken

    Especially when the writer freaking *dies* before finishing the final book!
    I suspect that, barring a miraculous discovery of an almost finished manuscript, Robert Jordan’s death will annoy me for decades.
    — LMM
    Ever heard of Cordwainer Smith? He died in the early 1960s, just as he was building up to the climax of his Instrumentality of Man series, and all his notes were lost. So some of the weirdest and grandest cult SF in lit-SF history will forever be without its capper.

  • Ken

    I’m wondering if the invocation of Enigma Babylon might have worked better if it had been shown to have existed around 4-40 years BEFORE the Rapture, prepared by the Antichrist that far in advance. — Skyknight
    Question, Skynight:
    Who other than a PMD/RTC/Hal Lindsay/Left Behind/End Time Prophecy fanboy WOULD name their new original religion “Enigma Babylon One World Faith”?

  • Tabigarasu

    LMM: Rumor has it that since he knew he was dying, Jordan dictated notes to his wife and son(-in-law? I’m not sure), so that they could complete the final book. I gave up on WoT many years ago, but have to admit that Jordan really cared about his fans and wouldn’t leave them in the lurch.

  • Ursula L

    A bit of news I heard yesterday (on NPR, the CBC program “As it Happens”) it seems that Montreal is putting a bid in to have the UN move there from NYC. Seems vaguely on topic as relevant to Nicky Mountain’s desire to move it to “New Babylon.”
    http://www.cbc.ca/radioshows/AS_IT_HAPPENS/20071023.shtml

  • Ken

    G.K. Chesterton’s sister-in-law wrote serial potboilers, and one time she got a letter from a fan who pointed out that the hero and the heroine had been locked up in a warehouse or so, for over a week, “and they’re not even married!”
    E.E. “Doc” Smith’s first “Skylark” book, written around 1920, has a scene where his two female protagonists, having been captured, carried off to an alien planet, and rescued by their respective fiances, are indulging in a bit of justified freaking-out. They’d really like to be comforted by their boyfriends (said comforting being, apparently, nothing more prurient than a nice hug – which, yeah, a nice hug is quite welcome when one is freaking out), but gosh, no, they aren’t married! So of course the only thing to do is to get married immediately.
    — Jamoche
    According to recent LJ reviews of and commentaries on Lensman by Jordan149, E.E. “Doc” Smith (who got his “Doc” legitimately; he had a doctorate in Engineering) married young and had a very stable and happy marriage. He got ragged on by Robert Heinlein for not being creative enough in his characters’ sex lives. Doc Smith also wrote in the 1920s and 1930s, whose sexual morality was an alien culture compared to today’s. And his emphasis was on epic action and (literally) intergalactic scale; in such Milieu/Idea/Event-driven storytelling, Character needs to be just enough to play a supporting role. (Doc Smith CREATED the space-opera genre; every one of its tropes — alien multicultures, galactic civilizations, FTL, planetkillers, mystic “Force” users, (literally) cosmic-level conflict being played out by mortal agents — originated with his Skylark and Lensman.)

  • hapax

    @Tabigarasu: If by “rumor has it” you mean “explicitly stated on Robert Jordan’s official website” that he not only left extensive notes and tapes outlining the final book, but also had detailed conversations with his wife and stepson a few days before he died about finishing up Memory of Light , yes, it’s true.
    I’m no WoT fan, but Robert Jordan was a good man and a true professional.

  • hapax

    Oh, Doc Smith; one of my true guilty pleasures. There’s nothing like the mindless fun of smashing planets together.
    He also created one of the great villains in Blackie DuQuesne, one of his characters who actually had a personality. I was so glad that he gave DuQuesne his own galaxy to rule at the end.

  • Tabigarasu

    hapax: By “rumor” I mean I head some coworkers discussing it at lunch last week. It would never have occured to me to check the website. Good news for his fans then. If someone ever writes the reader’s digest version I might pick up where I left off and finish the story, but I don’t have the attention span for ten thousand pages of high fantasy.

  • Ken

    So how come, each time they come up with some ridiculous contrivance to solve the interchangeable plot complication of the week, Geordi doesn’t turn to Data and say, “Hey! This is just like that one episode of Star Trek!”
    That, my friend, is what Galaxy Quest is about.
    Hm. Thinking of fundies as hard-core Trekkies — the kind who think the Enterprise will land tomorrow and prove that *they*, not the people who scorn them, are really right all along — suddenly explains a lot.
    — LMM
    Because (parapharasing Chesterton’s Battle of the Ballad of Gibeon):
    “These three fanboys said one to another
    Fanboy unto fanboy o’er the world is brother.”

    And that common ground holds whether the fanboy is Drooler, Foamer, or Wanker — Trekkie, PoliticalGeek, Mackinista, Perotista, Furry, or Jesus Fanboy.
    Ever thought that in the Parable of the Sheep & Goats, the Goats are the Fanboys?

  • LMM

    If by “rumor has it” you mean “explicitly stated on Robert Jordan’s official website” that he not only left extensive notes and tapes outlining the final book, but also had detailed conversations with his wife and stepson a few days before he died about finishing up Memory of Light , yes, it’s true.
    Ah, okay — that makes things a bit better.
    Really, though, it still won’t be enough. I didn’t start reading Knife of Dreams until two days after Jordan’s death — I had bought the book on a whim a few weeks back, but was going to hold out until the last book — and up until that point, I was toying with the idea of who ought to write the final book. And then I started reading Knife — it’s way, way better (IMHO) than the last few books, and I actually found myself liking the characters and interested in the plot again.
    And somewhere in the middle of it, I realized that, no matter who wrote it, it wouldn’t be the real book — that the plot might be Jordan’s, but the wording would at best be a parody.
    He died in the early 1960s, just as he was building up to the climax of his Instrumentality of Man series, and all his notes were lost. So some of the weirdest and grandest cult SF in lit-SF history will forever be without its capper.
    Ouch. Right. That’s going on my list of “books not to read, lest I kill myself with frustration.”
    Then again, so long as it’s written somewhere, there’s always a vestige of hope. After all, they did find the end to the “Eye of Argon” a few years back, and that had been lost for decades.

  • jamoche

    Don’t let that put you off Cordwainer Smith; it’s not a series, it’s a collection of stories in a common future. It would be nice if there were more of them, but it’s not like there are plot threads left dangling – I didn’t even know there was supposed to be more of it.

  • jamoche

    Doc Smith also wrote in the 1920s and 1930s, whose sexual morality was an alien culture compared to today’s.
    Yes. That was rather my point. Aliens I could handle, but 1920s sexual mores were just weird.
    Of course, there are all the rumours about just what he was planning for the sequel to the Lensman series – even Heinlein thought it would be considered shocking by the general public (not that Heinlein himself was shocked, of course)…

  • Skyknight

    Ken: I was thinking more along the lines of the new servant-to-Antichrist religion in general, than the name proper…

  • LMM

    but 1920s sexual mores were just weird.
    Not as weird as they were, say, ten years before that. The 1920s were really the beginning of the sexual revolution — the 1960s were just the climax of trends that had been set in motion decades before.
    Everyone blames the Boomers, but it was their grandparents who started the mess.

  • Zyzzyva

    not that Heinlein himself was shocked, of course
    I would not like to read the book that would shock Heinlein.

  • http://bellatrys.livejournal.com bellatrys

    Dahne, I’ve mislaid the book, but as I recall from that chapter, and I’d put money on it if I had any, the village elders want their renegade to impress as female and be made pregnant ASAP to keep it from meddling in forbidden relics from the former days by diverting its energies to domestic concerns. (I can’t rec the novel because the trilogy has apparently gone on hiatus, very frustratingly. It has an interesting genre take on the American Revolution (slaveholding colonies are rebelling against the regents of the founding nation, with lots of impassioned rhetoric about “Freedom!” and “Tyranny!” and little-to-no willingness to have it pointed out to them that they’re not exactly stellar examples of what they’re demanding for themselves.)
    Ken, don’t make the Sadly, No mistake of conflating your personal anti-genre bigotry with larger moral issues. (It’s akin to saying “wingnuts often praise classical music, therefore classical music people are wingnuts,” which even apart from the existence of Tristero being enough to disprove it, is illogical.) There are a LOT of anti-fundamentalist, non-wingnut fen out here, starting with Fred himself.

  • Ken

    Don’t let that put you off Cordwainer Smith; it’s not a series, it’s a collection of stories in a common future. — Jamoche
    NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association) has reprinted a two-volume collection of ALL Cordwainer Smith’s works; part of their small-press collections of SF classics. I know because Anaheim Public Library has the copies I picked up for them at 2006 WorldCon.
    As for Doc Smith’s characters, I’d much rather have his married life than that of so many celebrity authors, despite the handicap it would give me in “characterization”.
    Bellatrys: I had my “one fanboy encounter too many” years ago, and they still keep coming. Plus, at 52 I’m getting cranky in my old age and have developed zero tolerance for stupidity. No matter where the stupidity hails from.
    I’m involved in Furry Fandom (I write “anthropomorphics” — semi-human upright talking-animal characters — and like to interact with in-character fursuiters), and if you want to run into some REAL stupid wingnut fanboys, that’s the place.
    Oooooo boy, is that the place to run into them…

  • Ken

    And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. — St John of Patmos, Rev 17:5
    I didn’t know Hattie the Hottie had that large a forehead, unless the tattoo artist goes to 12-point (or smaller) type…

  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Goat

    We all seem really enthusiastic about the wretchedness of “Left Behind.” Perhaps it can form the cornerstone of a new canon of delightfully bad novels. What other books do you think would make the list?
    “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell.
    Near Earth Object is discovered, splashes down in the Pacific (with a truly delightful scene in which a surfer decides to catch the Big Wave and is slammed into a skyscraper for his trouble). After three hundred pages of people driving around in the rain, society begins to rebuild itself- hampered somewhat by the fact that the African-American population seems to have gone cannibal.

  • Technomad

    One thing to keep in mind about “Doc” Smith was when he was writing…”pulp” editors in his time, particularly John W. Campbell, would run away screaming from any mention of evil s-x. To be fair to the editors, the censors of that time were numerous and hypervigilant, and could ruin a magazine with great ease.

  • Ryan Ferneau

    Placing the snark aside for one second, right here for me is a shining example of how hideously bad L & J’s writing is. NOBODY who has mastered English as their primary language would say “mysteriously get dead”.
    “You don’t understand. People are getting dead!”
    “You mean, people are getting nude?”

  • Stephen

    Let us not forget that the real Antichrist will, when he comes on to the world scene will be very popular. He will be very charismatic. So the point is when we look for the “Antichrist” we shouldn’t be looking for a villain. We shouldn’t be looking for a bad guy, for that is not how he is going to appear, not to most people, at least not at first.
    In fact he is going to appear as an hero. He is going to appear as an humanitarian. He is going to appear as a savior. He is actually going to be responsible or seem to be responsible in solving some of humanity’s most intractable problems. Perhaps he is going to be responsible for curing some disease, or develop ways to make things grow on barren land.
    This is why I am guessing that he will be an industrialist because only an industrialist could have the infrastructures to develop such technology. Obviously what pushes this guy into the world stage would be the continuing success of his company.
    And from there his success and charisma is going to pull him into politics. I say pull but it was his plan all along, though like the best of politicians he will make it look like he only begrudgingly entered the political sphere.
    I believe he will become the head of the European Union, an entity that right now isn’t that strong, but since I see see this as happening from 30-50 years from now I see that by then the organization will have grown in strength
    I still believe we have a generation or two before he arises, but in the term of human history a generation or two isn’t that long from now.

  • Ecks

    Stephen, it would save a lot of time and bother for everybody if you started your posts with “warning, comment-spam.”

  • Ken

    “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle…After three hundred pages of people driving around in the rain, society begins to rebuild itself- hampered somewhat by the fact that the African-American population seems to have gone cannibal.
    “HOT FUDGE SUNDAE FALLS ON A TUESDAE!”
    I was listening to Hour 25 back when Lucifer’s Hammer first hit the shelves back in the late Seventies. (It was the first disaster novel to use a cometary impact as the Holocaust for a post-Holocaust survival story.) Niven & Pournelle got hammered in turn for making the character that starts a post-Holocaust cannibal cult black; they spent a lot of the Hour 25 interview alternately dodging and defending. I suspect it wasn’t deliberate, but just one of those bad choices that didn’t seem like it was that important at the time. Or it could have been a joke on someone they knew at LASFS; if you knew what to look for, I remember about half the characters being self-insertion shout-outs of one sort of another — especially the colorful biker (based on ex-Hell’s Angel Frank Gasperik, a local character around LASFS at the time).
    Besides, only one of the two leaders of the cannibal cult (the rogue ex-Army type) was black. The other cult leader was a white guy, a flake preacher (based on Herbert W Armstrong from geographical evidence) who went completely crazy after surviving Hammerfall. (And during the Eighties, I actually heard lunatic-fringe Survivalists advocate human flesh as the most plentiful food source in the cities — “PREPARE TO DO WHAT MUST BE DONE TO SURVIVE!!!!”) One creepy detail I remember was the cult carrying around a large cooking pot (for The Meat) just like the proto-Jews carried around the Ark of the Covenant.
    The cult leaders used the cannibalism as a calculated tactic to bond recruits to his cult — if you didn’t partake of The Meat, you became The Meat. And once you partook, every man’s hand would be against you — CANNIBAL! So there was no place to go outside the cult.

  • Jenny Islander

    Necroposting again . . .
    Re relatively well written Rapture fics: When I was in my early teens, I found a used paperback about the Last Days that I actually kept and reread. It painted a plausible (to me at the time) picture of Things Falling Apart, people growing more and more paranoid and quarrelsome as sin reaches the peak of its power in the human heart–and then the angels appear and the Last Battle is upon us. It was ultimately a hopeful book and it had good characterization and world-building. One of the most memorable scenes runs like this: Our Heroes, a family, have been in hiding due to the increasingly insane religious purity laws meant to Preserve Our Way of Life. At last they are discovered and the state troopers bash in the door. Looking at the family with utter disgust, they prepare to march them off to the internment camp, and one of the troopers sneers, “You’ll get what’s coming to you now, you dirty subversive. Better pray to your God–if you have one.” And yet, the book clearly shows (or at least I thought so at the time) that the Bad Guys think they’re being righteous and cleaning out a horrible cancer before it spreads and causes total anarchy.
    I didn’t realize until years later that it was actually a Seventh-Day Adventist tract in which I was one of the Bad Guys. I just read past “They hate us because we worship on Saturdays,” equating it with “They hate us because we’re Quakers and don’t have a liturgy” in terms of the people in power trying to find a reason to get rid of anybody weird. It was that well done.
    Anybody out there know what this book might be? I’d like to reread it to see what I think of it now.

  • http://twitter.com/GlockPalin Glock H. Palin, Esq.

    “The seven-year peace treaty with Israel, in exchange for his ability to broker the desert-fertilizer formula. …”

    Uh, am I the only one who would be *extremely* suspicious of someone offering me a peace treaty with a specific end date? If someone tells me they won’t shoot me Monday through Friday, isn’t the question that immediately springs to mind “And what happens on Saturday?”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Well, I wouldn’t be suspicious exactly, but sure, given a peace-treaty with a specific end date, I would assume that unless we take additional steps at some point, hostilities will resume after that date. But it’s not like I’d consider it a trick or something.


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