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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Smith & Wolfe: Robots
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2002 13:20:52 -0700

> Oh, yeah. It's very clear in Smith. Something like: Language 
> is a sign of the "image of God" wherever it is found.
> Speaking is linked with free will is linked with worship.

H'mmm. An interesting, if questionable ... what would it be? 
Pneumatological? ... point of view ... where "questionable" 
is not intended as a pejorative term, since an SF writer is 
free to take any hypothesis she chooses as a given from which 
to extrapolate, and, at any rate, Smith lived and died before
computers were able to produce plausible language ... your
mileage may vary of course regarding whether they can today.

At any rater, this would seem to imply freewill for the 
manshonyaggers, which I find highly dubious, but that's for 
another list or something. 

Come to think of it, don't the taluses (tali? Taliim? 
Talae?) have a status in the Whorl not unlike that of the 
manshonyaggers? And a talus does seem to have a certain 
amount of free will ... H'mm. So does Oreb. Not at all 
sure about Tik; we don't know him well enough.

Okay, it becomes more interesting when you dig into it.
And there's the whole question of "standing orders," I
suppose, which suggests at least some of the limitations 
under which any plausible conception of free will must 
operate ... Good Lord, is there _anything_ these books
_aren't_ about?

> I asked Wolfe years ago about Smithian influence on 
> him, and he said he was not aware of any. He had not
> read all of Smith, but after our conversation said he
> thought he'd better. 

Well, and it's possible he had read at least most of it
-- it's kind of surprising how little Smith there is,
considering the breadth and depth of his impact on the
"genre." (The only name I can think of to compare in this
connection is Stanley Weinbaum.) 

>          Still, if he'd read very many, he'd've encountered 
> underpeople and 
> robots. And "Dead Lady" is a much anthologized classic.

yes/no. The core Smith stories, the ones you can't seem to
avoid if you read much "classic" SF at all, would be "Scanners
Live in Vain," "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell," and _maybe_ "Alpha
Ralpha Boulevard*" or "The Game of Rat and Dragon." Note that I
am not claiming these as "the best" or anything -- just the
ones anthologized to the point of chestnuticity.

* My personal favorite, and one of two short stories (the
  other being Tiptree's "The Women Men Don't See") that have
  had major effects on the direction of my own life.

> Yet, the motif is so broad that "great minds think alike"
> could easily account for it. 

As also could "It'll steam engine when it comes steam engine 
time," my favorite expression of the idea that certain ideas 
seem to float about in the cultural aether, waiting to be 
grabbed and instantiated. "Wells's early exploration of the
theme" is right; and, come to think of it, the aforementioned 
Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" is another well known approach 
to it from another angle, as is Heinlein's "Jerry Is A Man."
And, doubtless, many others, down to "Rachel in Love"...


You one-one-two, he one-one-two.


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