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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:02 pm 
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I won't get involved in the arbitrary sci-fi in 'Poppyfields' debate other than to say I enjoyed the story, and though I feel it would have worked (better?)without the dimension-travelling, I'm not familiar enough with Beckett's work to really comment. (That said, I seem to have commented quite a lot after all.) I liked each of his stories here, though, and 'Rat Island' in particular for the parent child relationship.

The story that really stood out for me was 'IF'. On the one hand I found it incredibly amusing (and what a great ending), yet at the same time found the concept terrifying - an imaginary friend that never leaves?!! Brilliant.


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 Post subject: GREENLAND
PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2008 5:58 pm 
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Location: Uppsala, Sweden
As a retired academic philosopher, 'Greenland' interested me so much that I'm writing this even though I've read little further in 218. Besides being a grippingly tense read, the story raises three contemporary philosophical issues. FIRST, do you need consciousness to engage in intelligent behavior? Toussaint tells Juan that as a copy, he (Juan) doesn't 'even have a mind.' (This suggests that the author realizes that there's a problem with the consciousness of copies.) Yet Juan acts and seemingly thinks intelligently throughout this tale. Is he then a ZOMBIE, an intelligent but nonconscious person? (For the best SF word on this issue, read Peter Watts' brilliant BLINDSIGHT.) Question unanswered in the text and in my profession. SECOND, is continuity of a memory stream, here that of the narrator, necessary and/or sufficient to pick out a single person? John Locke thought so, Mr. Beckett does not. THIRD, does Juan (-copy)'s use of the first-person pronoun 'I' indicate that the narrating entity is a self-conscious person named 'Juan' who can refer to himself AS a person? In my opinion, this issue is unresolved here and quite properly so. No philosopher has answered these questions in any definitive way, although all have been under constant discussion since at least the late 1970s.
I'm don't know if the author was conscious (sic) of these problems when he wrote 'Greenland.' But a statement of three closely related issues in several pages of fiction strongly suggests to me that he was and must have been. This is fascinating stuff.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:46 am 
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George: the subject is an interesting one, but because it is a first person narrative - and the way his thinking is shown - it's difficult to believe the narrator isn't conscious and self aware. Of course the narrator could be lying in his account, but its not appropriate to the story being told.

A story could be written (it probably already has been) where an intelligent but non-conscious creature or construct provides an account where he appears to be conscious in an attempt to protect itself (or get something it needs).

There was a James Patrick Kelly (I think) story a couple of years back where someone who died had programmed their computer to mimic his thinking, so it could pursuade a friend to undertake a task, but the situation was confused by the friend treating the computer as a conscious version of his dead pal: the computer had to constantly berate the friend for doing so: telling him he was only listening to a machine giving the appearance of consciousness (but because it did so in the same tone and phrasing as his dead pal, the friend was hard to convince)!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:49 pm 
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That's a good point Stephen. You are right to say that this narrative makes the possibility I mention 'difficult'. But it IS logically possible that the narrator is non-conscious. That's the point, I think, of some current philosophical discussion. I've seen (but not read) papers that debate this possibility and take one side or the other to be correct. Again, this is a question of POSSIBILITY. Here it reduces to: Can a non-conscious human-like entity produce such a narrative, or does the narrative's nature rule this out? Could Juan have written this down? Could he have told it to Dr. Brennan? I don't know at all!
This isn't my philosophical cup of tea. I never enjoyed reading papers that argue such topics. The reason is simple. In common with too many other philosophical problems, every offered solution has a counterargument (or 2...), and this tends to go on forever. Specialized cottage industries are produced that keep academics employed and readers of pop-psychology and pop-philosophy happy. Nothing gets definitively solved. My taste is towards larger-scale constructed THEORIES whose cogency or lack thereof can be CONCLUSIVELY demonstrated. Contemporary academic philosophy of mind has little of this, which partially accounts for its poor track record.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:37 am 
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Location: Split, Croatia
First, I have to say I liked Beckett's stories a lot.
But, the best for me was Rat Island, maybe because I liked Piccadilly Circus.
With its main character snapping all the time it reminded me of my own two children playing with the camera, and the lingering backstory of older Tom from the future, writing the story, and not revealing the details is just excellent idea (it's probably better to read this one before Piccadilly Circus to fully enjoy the twist). By the way, in Piccadilly circus Tom is reffered to as a younger brother and here he is older?
Poppyfields is another Tamsin Pendant installment, I am familiar with her from few stories published in Asimov's, and this is a good story, but not the major one in the series. I haven't read Marcher before reading this, but I did it after (I wasn't Interzone subscriber back then, but I have Dozois Best of), and it fits nicely as a follow up (there was a similarly named field in that story).
First half of Greenland reads like something by younger Ballard crossed with that movie by Mexican director whose name eludes me right now. But second half is asking some big questions about life, intelligence and soul. I have to say that I couldn't predict how the story would end.
If isn't a bad story, but it was completely predictable, the beginning was promising, but... Still, o.k. read.
His Master's Voice is a very dense story,at moments brilliant, and then pretty naive. I have to say I didn't like the ending, but the story is a worthwile read.
Tim Leese's story is excellent prose about strange relationship between younger man and his aunt's friend who's dying of cancer. SF is not particularly important part of the story, but ships coming out of nowhere bringing cold are a nice touch. This is the best of the rest story.
All in all, good mundane issue, better than 216.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 2:04 pm 
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Review by David Hebblethwaite on The Fix.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:33 am 
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At first I disliked "Rat Island," since the goggles seemed to be a gimmick intended to make a grim story a bit more SF-nal. I now think that I was wrong and that this story has a hidden subtext, just as I believe "Greenland" does (see my previous 2 posts). Here it is. The goggles alienate their users from others, themselves, and the world. The climate is going to hell, and alienation diverts most people's attention from the coming disasters. The only people who do something are some politicos and their henchpersons, who plan an escape while leaving the plebs behind. Dad, loaded down with guilt by association, tells his son Tom, takes to the bottle, and kills himself. Tom, in love with his technotoys, detaches himself from what's going on and continues taking photos while the world goes down the drain and the elite escape.
Was all this in Chris Beckett's mind when he wrote "Rat Island?" Who knows? It took three days to enter mine.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 2:50 pm 
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Mark Watson at Best SF.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:03 am 
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Another great review at SF Revu.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 11:25 am 
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And another at SF Crowsnest, this one by Gareth D. Jones.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:01 am 
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Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:46 am
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A very good issue but Tim Lee's "The Corner of the Circle' was far and away my favourite - its probably the my favourite since I started subscribing actually. I was really impressed that he could take such a standard SF trope and turn it into a moving, personal story. A lot of authors seem more interested in exploring the mechanics of an idea through characters rather than visa versa.

Is there any way I can get my hands on his collection other than an extra lucky find at a second hand place? (I live in Australia). The publisher; elastic press, is sold out and no one seems to be selling any 2nd hand copies through amazon.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:13 am 
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Hi Glen

I think (but I'm not certain) that Tim's collection can now be found on Fictionwise, along with other Elastic Press books. It's the only solution I can think of right now. I'll ping Andrew.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:14 am 
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My email isn't working (again), sorry. I'll PM him.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:32 pm 
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Thanks for the message Andy.

Glenn: BBR Distribution in the UK still have copies of Tim's collection. It can be ordered here: http://www.bbr-online.com/catalogue/Ite ... Come.shtml

Whilst some of our titles are on Fictionwise, this one isn't as yet.

Hope that helps!


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:30 am 
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It does - many thanks.


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