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Messages - Francis Buck

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1
General Misc. / Re: DUNE movie cast revealed
« on: February 16, 2019, 01:30:24 am »
Themerchant's right. Who needs a Dune movie? They already made a great adaptation anyway. It's this movie called "Star Wars". It gets rid of all the boring political bullshit and character drama, and also cuts out 90% of the worldbuilding -- and let's be honest, if there's one thing about Dune that just about everybody can agree on, it's how fucking shitty the worldbuilding is, am I right?


2
General Misc. / DUNE movie cast revealed
« on: February 15, 2019, 12:36:52 am »
Put your stillsuits on baby because this movie is gonna be HOT.

Slated for release in 2020, the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert's 'Dune' is being directed by Canadian master Denis Villeneuve (whose impeccable track record includes Bladerunner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, and Enemy). Word is that the film will be a two parter, and actually follows the story of Paul Muad'dib from both the first book and its follow-up, Dune Messiah.

The casting revealed so far is:

Timothee Chalamet as Paul

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica

Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto (in talks)

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck

Zendaya as Chani (in talks)

Stellan Skarsgaard as Baron Harkonnen

Dave Bautista as Rabban

Javier Bardem as Stilgar (in talks)

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho (in talks)

Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother

Assuming those still in negotiation go through, this is a pretty great cast for the movie in my opinion, and there are still a few big characters to go, including Feyd-Rautha and Duncan Idaho.

3
General Misc. / Re: 'How the Brain Creates a Timeline of the Past'
« on: February 14, 2019, 03:21:58 am »
Got a link there, friendo?

4
Philosophy & Science / Re: Video on the nature of time.
« on: February 07, 2019, 07:06:21 pm »
I always love me some timey-wimey shenanigans. Will watch.

5
Philosophy & Science / Re: Consciousness Live! with Bakker
« on: February 06, 2019, 08:11:35 pm »
This is good stuff, mucho gracias.

6
I seriously doubt Serwa will be dead -- unless TUC was the final installment of the series, then killing her off now feels like a huge waste of the character, which is almost certainly why RSB left it ambiguous. I also think Serwa still being alive would be interesting simply because I think she's the only one who WOULDN'T instantly believe that Kellhus is actually the No-God. She was clearly the one who knew the most of her father's true plans for the Great Ordeal (up to and including the Proyas betrayal), so I could see a lot of dramatic tension being created in whatever sort of counter-force is assembled based purely on that.

However, discounting Serwa, I do think Achamian is probably the most powerful sorceror in Earwa.

Honestly I think this is the point wherein Achamian's characterization will deviate the most from its status quo in the series thus far. He is now, really for the first time, completely "in his element", even if he didn't realize it to be such. The No-God walks -- Seswatha won't stand idle. 


7
So after going for a minimum of three years spent reading primarily non-fiction with maybe 5 fictional works (including TGO and TUC), specifically material that was completely new to me, I decided that needed some fixing. Around the end of summer and up to this moment, taking recommendations from various people and sources, I've read roughly 8 books, all them recent or on-going fantasy. I specifically looked out for whichever books were the most unanimously considered the best of the bunch and went after them. I was not particularly impressed with any of them, in that none seemed to really stand out from the genre enough to actually rub shoulders with the greats (and it would be disingenuous of me not to say that my own personal standards of "great" may not align with others, and if anything my standards are probably a bit too high). This changed very abruptly when, less than a week ago, I finally got around to reading "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" by Seth Dickinson.

And it totally blew me away. I immediately bought and read the sequel, "The Monster Baru Cormorant" (which did know existed until finishing the first book and seeing an excerpt for the sequel at the end).

For a generic non-spoilery synopsis, here is Amazon's description:

Quote
In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

This series closest comparison by far is probably stuff by K.J. Parker -- it is "hard fantasy", with virtually no apparent supernatural elements, although there's still a sprinkling of speculative-fiction ideas. I think it could fairly be called "science-fantasy". The plot is definitely heavy on the court-intrigue side of things, but make no mistake, there is some spectacular action sequences in both books.

I call this a "must read" because it's so topical, dealing heavily and deftly with themes of gender, race, and sexuality, all the way up to politics, economics, philosophy, spycraft, brainwashing, and more that I can't bring to mind.

The prose is very strong, with not in-frequent spikes of greatness and some serious quotability. The dialogue is whip-cracking superb and there's a lot of humorous touches all over, which help alleviate the sometimes extremely dark and disturbing subject material.

And the characterization is just plain superb. The titular Baru Cormorant is utterly distinct from anything I've seen in the genre, using her genius at accounting (among other talents) to win battles instead of a sword -- though there are plenty of other characters who to satisfy that craving. Baru herself is just captivating to inhabit, feeling at once like an extraordinary individual that is also fully human. Her sheer unpredictability is mesmerizing, particularly as the stakes continue climbing up, and up, and up...

But ultimately, man, these series is fucking SMART. It's smarter than you think it is, even after you've realized it.

I really can't sing this series's praises enough. It is quite easily the best new work of fantasy I'm aware of, and there are still (I believe) two more books yet to come. However I would not let its incompleteness dissuade you -- these books are at once deeply interconnected while also having strong resolutions in and of themselves. I felt totally satisfied (and totally floored) by the ending of the first book before even realizing this was a series at all.

It's also something I'd very much like to hear the reactions to from fans The Second Apocalypse, particularly on how it deals with things like gender and sexuality (although there are a number of other small similarities to TSA).

The author himself wrote a sort of essay on his goals with the series, which I would NOT suggest reading in its entirety (the author gives several "spoiler warnings" as the essay goes on), unless you don't mind any spoilers whatsoever, or if you're just interested in hearing more about the series from the guy who wrote it. The post can be found here: https://www.sethdickinson.com/2015/11/24/the-secret-design-of-the-traitor-baru-cormorant/

That being said, I did want to include one snippet from it which I think is very informative about a particular aspect of this series, and which I find an interesting juxtaposition to how other "grounded" and/or comparatively realistic fantasy series (including TSA) have handled the issue:

Quote
For the past several years the Internet has been having a conversation about who’s allowed to be the protagonist of our stories. In some stories, the argument goes, it is ‘unrealistic’ for certain types of people to star — because they’d face too much oppression to act as an interesting character. Women in a generic medieval setting, for example, might be too confined to the roles of ‘housewife’ and ‘prostitute’. Non-white people might be seen as alien, or simply absent, erased from the demographics. Queer people never appear (since many writers don’t do enough research on the relatively recent construction of modern gender) or face brutal punishment.

These arguments don’t work out factually. They’re historically inaccurate, and moreover, historical accuracy isn’t always what we aim for.

But I wanted to say, okay, let’s say you have a world which is an absolute hellhole for those who aren’t part of the narrow power majority. You can still write a protagonist from the bottom of the power structure, stack the deck against her, and make her compelling! You have the power! You’re closing your eyes to great stories you could tell.


8
The Unholy Consult / Re: "Kellhus is dead, but not done."
« on: December 20, 2018, 02:32:39 am »
I feel relatively confident that the God-of-Gods and the Cubit/Zero-God are the same thing. The only reason I think there's the level of confusion here is because the most in-depth description of the God-of-Gods we get is from Koringhus, a Dunyain, who very explicitly isn't thinking about/framing the God-of-Gods the way a human would, but rather from the perspective of a Dunyain. I think trying to divy up all these interpretations (God, God-of-Gods, Zero-God, the Cubit) into distinct entities is actually part of the "lesson" of Koringhus, and also hits thematically, on the entire concept of Mimara being a vessel for the God. Kellhus actually seems like an example of this -- he states to Proyas/Akka (can't remember which) that the GoG is merely the "witless sum", while also claiming to the Mutilated that he is an Inverse Prophet -- bringing word of Man from the Temporal to the Eternal. Yet it is Mimara who is ACTUALLY doing this (and indeed this dovetails with her belief that she actually is what Kellhus claims to be). 

This also comes down to how I imagine the Gods/Outside and their utilization of a human vessel in the World. I tend to think that trying to envision the Outside as any kind of "dimension" analogous to something in our world may be a bit "overthinking" it, perhaps. The Outside seems like an amalgamation of a Noosphere and theological ideas of the Pleroma.

Specifically on the Gods and their use of Vessels, this to me seems like RSB's implementation of the ambiguity of the Soul or Consciousness which is prominent throughout the series, but finds itself most apparent when we look at Vessels.

Basically, the "Outside" really is just sort of the "Inside" -- that is, inner space, the Noospheric subjective realm, in contrast to the actual Outer Space (the Void) that is literally outside of Earwa. And so when it comes to Vessels -- Psatma, Cnaiur and Kellhus, Mimara, and in a weird way even Kelmomas -- there is no actual difference between the Soul of a Vessel acting is it would, and the Vessel's "possession" (an imprecise term, according to Oinaral, and I think he's right) by a deity.

In other words, a person doesn't become a Vessel for a God because the God just picked that person. Rather, one becomes a Vessel for a God when the nature of their Soul is in unity with agency from the Outside, including their thoughts and feelings (their Desires, which I suspect is the real spiritual weakness of the Dunyain). All of which, again, are elements of what we could call the Inside, or the Inner Space. So, Kellhus and Cnaiur becomes Vessels for Ajokli because the quality of their Souls coincide with the qualities of Ajokli. Same with Psatma and Yatwer, same with Mimara and the God-of-Gods.

This resolves conundrums like "is Mimara actually granting Absolution, or is the God?" The answer to this (or any other similar scenario -- Kellhus and Cnaiur with Ajokli, for example) is that it's literally both at the same time, because they're actually the same thing.

It also applies even down to the No-God and Kelmomas. The No-God doesn't choose Kelmomas to be its Vessel any more or less than the other Gods "choose" their Vessels. The Gods simply manifest in those Souls which coincide with their own, and vice versa.

Lastly, I think the folks theorizing that Inchoroi Progenitors knew of Damnation/the Outside but simply viewed it in scientific rather than spiritual terms are on the right track. The glossary for TUC supports this pretty well, wherein the Inverse Fire is described as something like a Post-Material Interface Device or something (can't remember the exact wording), but to me -- along with the other stuff people have brought up -- pretty clearly implies that the Inchoroi did not view any of the metaphysical aspects of the Universe in a spiritual manner until they actually got to Earwa, where they directly witnessed the way meaning takes precedence over existence in a more extreme capacity than they previously thought (likely the most immediate indicator being the observation of sorcery as used by the Nonmen).

9
General Misc. / Re: Vampires(Blindsight universe) vs. Dunyain
« on: December 17, 2018, 03:57:01 am »
(mild spoilers for both series ahead)

I think on an even playing field, the Dunyain would almost certainly outclass the Vampires, although there are a lot of issues one could bring up here, since the whole idea has a number of built-in nuances making it weird to figure out (like just deciding on what actually counts as an "even playing field" is hard to imagine).

Nonetheless I've pondered this numerous times, given that both series rank very high among my all-time favorite/most influential pieces of media, period. It's just a bit tricky though, since in the series with arguably more scientific grounding (Firefall) we actually don't get to see all that much of the Vampires in-depth, and certainly nothing on the level of the full-on POV we get via Kellhus. On the other hand, while we have a lot more general information on how the Dunyain mind actually functions and so forth, they're also just plain more fantastical. I'm not saying the IDEA of a Dunyain-like being is pure fantasy, but in my opinion the abilities they have definitely cross further into the line of fantasy than the Vampires do -- although to some extent this might depend on if we're talking about any old Dunyain rather than Kellhus, who is unique even among his own kind (at the very least, a prodigy).

Ultimately though, since both "species" have degrees of realism mixed with speculative ideas (which both authors then sort of just run with according to what their plots demand, using the "smarter-than-a-human-can-comprehend-anyway" flavor of handwavium as needed), I think the Dunyain would probably curb stomp the Vampires. Whether or not this would be an immediate or easy victory is definitely up for debate though, and again brings us to the issue of the context of any such showdown.

The biggest weakness the Dunyain have (discounting anything spiritual because otherwise this whole idea just doesn't really work) is basically their individual, initial exposure to the world outside of Ishual. Beyond that, their only other notable susceptibility to an opponent is the opponent actually realizing that they're a Dunyain. One of the main advantages the Dunyain have is their ability to appear completely human (and thus weak), whereas the Vampires seem to be almost the opposite; the humans in Firefall can instinctively tell the Vampires are "something not quite human" literally just by being in the same room with them...but then, in neither Blindsight nor Echopraxia were the Vampires actually attempting to be deceptive about their identity. Nor do we know if the Dunyain could pull this trick off on a Vampire anyway (considering that the Vampires can literally smell cancer, I'd give them the advantage on this one based  -- they might not know what the Dunyain actually is, but I don't think they'd be fooled into assuming they're just another run-of-the-mill human).

The biggest points of possible contention mainly stem from the fact that, for the audience, the Vampires simply aren't as fleshed-out as the Dunyain, ranging from what they are/aren't capable of (be it in terms of superhuman intelligence or just stuff like strength, reflexes), to whether the Vampires are even sentient beings --and if so, whether that even matters.

From what we do know, however, there's really nothing I can recall off-hand that gives the Vampires any particular edge over the Dunyain. The Vampires do, however, have at least one major weakness -- the geometric pattern of a crucifix causing their brains to fuck up.

But then, again, this an issue of context, since the Vampires we actually see on page have a drug (I think it's a drug anyway, been a little while since I read either book) that negates this handicap. So if we're going to attempt putting the two on an even playing-field, I'd say you'd kinda have to include that in there, in the same way we'd have to assume the Dunyain in this scenario are already at least somewhat acclimated to the world-outside-of-Ishual.

However if we drop all pretense of an even playing-field, and just assume the Dunyain are all still in Ishual with little-to-no knowledge of the outside world, and that the Vampires are functioning without their anti-crucifixion-induced seizure drugs...then I'm pretty sure the mere geometry of Ishual itself would fuck up any Vampire attempting to invade.

Probably the most interesting match-up would be something like Kellhus, post-Leweth but pre-Atrithau, encountering Sarasti in the wilderness. It's the closest thing I can think of to making it "fair" for each side. As someone above mentioned, preparation is a big element here, so it's easier to assume neither Dunyain nor Vampire have any knowledge of the existence of the other species, nor what they are -- or aren't -- capable of.

ETA:

Blindsight spoilers

(click to show/hide)

I'm still genuinely unsure how to parse out where one ends and the other begins with this issue (I feel like Watts has answered it in an AMA or an interview but I've no idea where). In any case, the Vampire we do see in Echopraxia seems to operate essentially on the same level as Sarasti. If anything the Echopraxia character could be SMARTER than Sarasti, although this impression is likely more just because we don't get all that much in-universe exposure to the Vampires period (relative to the Dunyain, that is).

10
This is awesome, thanks for link Sci.

11
Man, I was memorized watching this.

I know it's just a typo but this legit made laugh out loud, given the subject matter.

Even so, I too was quite ensnared by the video. For one thing, I already love Peter Watts (both as an author and as a generally cool/smart person -- his AMA's and blog are great) but I can't recall ever seeing him "live". He has a pretty strong stage presence though and seems well-equipped for delivering some pretty wild seeming shit to a fairly casual audience.

It's a shame how little views this has, it seems to me that there is far, far too few people in the world who are discussing these sort of bleeding-edge topics that otherwise get a little airtime, short of a token Elon Musk quote here and there (and like most of the big voices that even come close to this stuff, he's nowhere nearly troubled enough about the ramifications of mankind fucking with our own consciousness before we even know what the hell consciousness is).

Watts is much like RSB in this regard. These guys are both talking about the same broad issue(s), even if their focal points are different -- RSB has his BBT obsession and is obviously more laser focused to subject matter surrounding that, but the subject matter itself is essentially the same sorts of things Watts touches on in his storytelling, and certainly in this talk. I would love to see these two just having a back-and-forth for an hour (or three), waxing about science and the possible looming disasters of the near future (at least, a future near enough that folks should be at least a teensy bit more aware of it).

I hope PW does more of this, or a damn T.E.D. talk or something! 

12
Philosophy & Science / Peter Watts: Conscious Ants & Human Hives (video)
« on: December 10, 2018, 11:24:52 pm »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4uwaw_5Q3I&feature=share


This a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in consciousness, future technology, etc.

Awesome talk done by marine biologist-turned-science fiction author Peter Watts, best known for Blindsight and short stories such as The Things (both of which are available online for free, along with several other of his novels and numerous shorts - links below for the uninitiated). Some of it -- maybe a lot of it -- will be old hat for a few of you, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to find another example that squeezes so much mind-blowing (possibly soul-shattering) ideas on consciousness, hiveminds, technology, and the scarily not-too-distant-future of just one little way it might all come crashing together, all in one 45 minute video.

There were several scientific papers/studies/experiments referenced here that caused me to immediately google and save them for later reading just because they were so fascinating/horrifying (admittedly, one of them in particular is the only instance I've seen that takes a serious look at what's probably the most conspiracy-theory whack-jobbish of my own pet theory/opinions on the potential ubiquity of consciousness - confirmation bias achieved!).

If you're interested in some of the stuff RSB talks about on his blog but have trouble with the accessibility of it (or lack-there-of, at least for one such as myself), this treads some very similar ground and is much more digestible -- even if a lot the actual ideas themselves remain firmly counterintuitive and outlandish (and all the more wonderful/troubling for it, given that the scientific evidence backing the main concepts at hand).

As mentioned, some links to Watts' hard-as-nails, ultra grimdark science fiction:

Blindsight - https://rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

The Things - http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

13
Philosophy & Science / Re: Physicalism and the Problem of Base
« on: November 15, 2018, 08:54:25 pm »
Very interesting, good posts Sci -- just wish I knew more about physics/math/stuff in general to understand it better, though I think I get the jist of them. Will definitely give these good read overs though again, as I am one who leans toward a possible waning of the view of physicalism as we see it today.

14
General Misc. / Re: Is anyone else blown away by this or is it just me?
« on: November 13, 2018, 11:46:10 pm »
I absolutely think it's mind blowing and I actually use this sort of thing as an example when discussing things like "what is real" or "truth" with folks IRL when the topic comes up (I.E. the notion that a table is "solid" or "brown" or any other arbitrary human interpretation of Reality-As-It-Is...whatever that is, lol).

15
Writing / Re: With Teeth by Francis Buck (TSA short fanfic)
« on: November 11, 2018, 11:29:43 pm »
I should say, the small poem at the end made my day.

Much thanks, amigo! I'm always self-conscious of my own poetry, and rarely do I embark on such endeavors...;)

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