Aug 7 2009 4:28pm

Murder in deep time: Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime

Marooned in Realtime (Tor Books, 1986) is many things. It’s the book that introduces the idea of the Singularity—and that’s why I’ve been re-reading it, in advance of a Singularity panel at Anticipation. Then it’s a mystery novel, in which a detective who isn’t as famous as everyone thinks he is, has to solve a mystery that took place literally geological ages ago. It’s a book about deep time and evolution and intelligence. It’s also the sequel to The Peace War. The Peace War is a fairly standard SF novel that introduces one technological innovation, “bobbles” that create an impenetrable mirrored sphere around a piece of space. They’ve been used (mainly to control the planet) but not understood, and the book is about the process of understanding them. Talking about Marooned in Realtime at all beyond that requires huge spoilers for The Peace War, so since everyone seems to be very sensitive about spoilers, let’s have a spoiler break here.

Time is stopped inside the bobbles. By Marooned in Realtime, people have been using the bobbles for all kinds of things for a long time, and then everyone suddenly disappeared in a Singularity except for the people inside bobbles at the time. When they come out, the world is pretty empty except for them and whatever they’ve brought with them. Some of them, from quite different times, have banded together to make a settlement that’s going forward together (in bobbles) to when everyone will be out of their long term bobbles and there will be enough humans to have a community.

There are several brilliant things about it. The first is that Wil Brierson was a policeman who was bobbled by a criminal in the course of a crime, and wound up far in the future. After his bobbling but before his recovery, his son, who he remembers as a child, wrote a series of books featuring him as a detective. Everyone born later therefore thinks he’s a famous detective, which he never was, or asks him about his son. This is lovely. Then there’s the interesting confusion of having people from different times and tech levels, with the natural resentments that causes. (“Lo Tech don’t mean no Tech.”) All the people are from our future, of course, but some of them are from each other’s past, and some of them are historically notorious people. Then there’s the investigation of the murder—Marta has been murdered by being left out of the bobble. She lived to die of old age while everyone else made a leap through time without her.

What makes the book so re-readable is the diary Marta writes when alone on the empty Earth of the future. It’s fascinating, and it’s tragic—Vinge is good at tragedy—and it’s the key to the question of who murdered her. I never get tired of it.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

Clifton Royston
1. CliftonR
The thing I always remember from this (slightly spoilery, stop now if you DO NOT WANT spoilers) is the bit about the two couples from shortly before the Singularity.

(I probably am remembering the details wrong anyway since it's been a long time since I read it.)


One couple was sure that the Dreadful Apocalypse was about to come, and spent their life's savings on the most advanced high-tech equipment they could buy before going into their bobbles. The other couple went into the bobble a few months later, treating it as the equivalent of a weekend camping trip with some supplies they ran out and picked up at the neighborhood store - and because of the level of tech progress in those few months, they had vastly superior equipment and power to the ones who had spent their life's savings on it, and the latter hated them.
F. P.
2. F.P.
I really like the idea behind MIR as you've stated it; I especially enjoy science fiction/mystery combos. But because I like to read things in sequence, I just checked out the first book--and immediately saw the sexist exclusionary "mankind" word in the description. I usually won't read any further when I see this or "man" intended to represent a species that's half-and-half, especially if that word is right at the beginning.

So then I scratched reading TPW and checked out MIR's description--mankind in there too! This word is often used in science fiction--or really in any kind of fiction, speech, whatever!--and then some people wonder why sexism abounds? Duh! I think the language people use ultimately helps shape their behaviors, ultimately helps shape society. EVERYTHING probably helps shape it, just maybe some things more or less than others.

I'm tired of seeing the man term used as a universal while the woman term is used as a local. There are other words. Hint-hint: humanity, humankind. For a field that prides itself on being forward-thinking, I'm still not seeing nearly enough forward-moving gender-wise in science fiction.

Did this "mankind" description come from the author or publisher--or both? From the first few paragraphs, I can't tell if the actual books are very sexist.

For various reasons, not just sexism, I've grown increasingly unhappy with official book descriptions--like I think a first experience with a story should ideally happen inside the actual narrative. Plus, so many descriptions don't seem very connected to the actual works--like the descriptions are inaccurate.

Could that be the case here? I wish both publishers and authors would start posting actual text FIRST before any summary descriptions. Let the narratives cause first impressions.
F. P.
3. F.P.
I know Tor published these and I see MIR was in 1986 (first?). But this is 2009. Why on earth can't the descriptions be updated to reflect, you know, that half the species isn't male?
p l
4. p-l
@F.P. I'm all for gender equality in science fiction, but tirades on terminology obscure the issues that have actual consequence: i.e. which authors get the money and fame.

Let's do a thought experiment. Imagine two neighboring countries - sharing their cultures to a large extent but having completely different languages.

Country A has a language with a rich system of gender marking. Separate terms for "waiter" and "waitress," "he" and "she," and so on. As in most gendered languages, the male term is used as the default.

Country B has a language with no gender marking at all. There's a single term meaning "wait-person," a personal pronoun encompassing both "he" and "she," and so on.

Which country would you expect to be more sexist? You might expect it to be country B, where people are not constantly being reminded of sex distinctions or of the masculine gender as default.

In fact, that experiment has been done in real life, and it simply does not matter. Country A and country B are Sweden and Finland, both of which are among the best places in the world to be born a woman. They are also, however, any Arabic- or Pashto-speaking country and Iran. Both cultures are exceedingly sexist, and it's not clear that Iran's lack of encoded gender-discrimination has resulted in any great advances for women.

Grammar and vocabulary don't really have much influence on our thinking. This is because the brain generally processes the meanings of words in terms of how they fit into their contexts, rather than the word's basic definition or that of its parts. That is, "mankind" is almost always used in contexts that reinforce the meaning of "human beings in general," so that is how it's understood. This process is called semantic bleaching. It's a side effect of how good the brain is at disregarding irrelevant information, including in this case the meaning of the syllable "man" (which originally meant "person," anyway).
Chris Meadows
5. Robotech_Master
The book had some really great ideas in it, but the murder method squicked me like no murder method ever has. Sentencing someone to 80 years of solitary confinement in a survival situation, letting them die of old age away from everyone they've ever known…gah. It's a fascinating book, but it just gives me the shivers.
F. P.
6. F.P.
Whenever someone points out sexist terminology or instances of sexism, she--the operative word being she--can usually count on someone--usually a male--to come in and excuse it all and invoke words like "tirade," "emotional," "ranting," "hostile" and so on, sexistly slotting women and their words into she-can't-reason slots. My post was no tirade.

Here's my “thought experiment”: instead of writing man, men and mankind everywhere in written works, write woman, women and womankind everywhere, and see how fast many people stop reading, especially male people, because many will likely interpret that as works about and geared toward women, which typically aren't considered universal stories about humanity, at least going on the readerships of works slotted this way, which readerships are mostly female.

Many males wouldn’t appreciate this womankind insertion happening to the language, but many females are not only supposed to appreciate that the language has a long history of being this mankind inserted way but also CONTINUES to be this way?

That "mankind" has been used to represent a whole species is both a result and a cause of patriarchies devalue-ignoring women, that mankind is still in use continues to devalue-ignore women--this is my opinion based on my experience and my observations of society. Changing the conversations people have can help change both their thoughts and their behaviors--eventually, even changing their conversations with themselves (like in cognitive-behavioral therapy somewhat).

"That is, "mankind" is almost always used in contexts that reinforce the meaning of "human beings in general," so that is how it's understood."

--I'm waiting for your definitive proof of this absolute-sounding statement that you've attached no doubt to it or haven't presented it as your opinion, which it is. That's "how it's understood" by whom and by what? You have direct access to the inner workings of all brains, and in an objective way that you know that statement for certain is true and isn't colored by your own biases in your observations and interpretations?

I think many instances of sexism affect people on subconscious levels; conscious understanding isn't necessary for brains to be negatively and sexistly affected, for somewhere in brains to equate whatever males do as automatically representing the whole species but whatever females do as not automatically representing the whole species, for equating males with the default human representative or equating the human representative as default MALE.

So, according to you, Sweden's language usage is "a rich system of gender markings"** and this is "among the best places to be born a woman"? According to who? Not according to me. If that's the case, if the language is structured that way, I would hate living there and listening to the language put sexist dividing lines on everything. "Among the best places" is a relative term anyway. If many places are very horrible, a not-that-horrible place could be among the best, but it would still be horrible.

In my opinion, using brains to study how brains work is like the definition of nonobjective, subjective, likely highly inaccurate rife-with-error observing. I think very little is known about how minds work. So I always choose the safer side and assume sponge-like processes.

Sexist propaganda can take different forms--not only noun and pronoun gendering, but gendered expressions, gendered contents. So a (hypothetical or real) language has no gendered pronouns or nouns--so what? Maybe everything else about it idiomatically is sexist. My initial post addressed one sexist language aspect of English; I could have picked other aspects. I consider this country one of the most sexist. And the traditional sexist language usage is now both a cause and an effect of this sexism. It seems when systems are in place long enough, all parts somehow become both causes and effects of the system's existence, a cause-effect self-fueling co-dependency develops throughout--this seems to be the way the universe works (generally). Finding initial causes (assuming they exist) is often very difficult.

But how nice to see that on a publishing/reading site, at least one person reading considers language in this way: "Grammar and vocabulary don't really have much influence on our thinking."

Have you never heard of rhetoric, persuasive writing or propaganda? Emotional verbal abuse, verbal assault?

Words do hold a certain amount of power in a society that's incorporated languages into its foundational structure--but of course, this is my opinion. I can't definitively absolutely prove this. It's an impression I've gotten from the continual human use of words, propaganda, publishing, advertising and so on. Yet some people want people like me to believe that sexist language usage in every aspect of life, in the home, outside the home, in the media, in the street, in the workplace, probably just about everywhere--I'm supposed to believe that this has little to no effect on human psychology and behavior? If this extremely pervasive sexist language usage doesn't have an effect, then I say probably no other specific type of language usage does because few are as all-encompassing. And then plenty of people--writers, marketers, advertisers, propagandists--really have no reason to exist, have no use to society, have little to no effect on society, so maybe they should have gone extinct by now.

Real life isn't a thought experiment.

*Your use of the word rich holds a positive connotation to me. In my opinion, you sound like you like gendered languages and separations; that is your bias. And if that’s the case, frankly, I’m not interested in your opinion on this issue. I brought it up mostly to show Tor that the company lost a reader for certain works but probably can increase its readership by not excluding certain readers in descriptions, especially if the actual work contents don't exclude them.

**It seems “Swedish” has changed/is undergoing changes toward some gender reduction. From Wikipedia:

"Early medieval Swedish was markedly different from the modern language in that it had a more complex case structure and had not yet experienced a reduction of the gender system. Nouns, adjectives, pronouns and certain numerals were inflected in four cases; besides the modern nominative, there were also the genitive, dative and accusative. The gender system resembled that of modern German, having the genders masculine, feminine and neuter. Most of the masculine and feminine nouns were later grouped together into a common gender....

Nouns have two grammatical genders: common (utrum) and neuter (neutrum), which determine their definite forms as well as the form of any adjectives used to describe them. Noun gender is largely arbitrary and must be memorized; however, around three quarters of all Swedish nouns are common gender. Living beings are often common nouns, like in en katt, en häst, en fluga, etc.

Swedish formerly had three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter. Though traces of the three-gender system still exist in archaic expressions and certain dialects, masculine and feminine nouns have today merged into the common gender. A small remnant of the masculine gender may optionally still be expressed in the singular definite form of adjectives according to natural gender (male humans), in the same way as personal pronouns, han/hon, are chosen for representing nouns in Contemporary Swedish (male/female humans and optionally animals)."


“A contrastive study of comparable German and Swedish newspaper texts shows that the lack of motion in Swedish is partly compensated by composition and attribution with gender-specific lexemes. Still, the 64% gender-specific noun phrases in Swedish cannot compare with the 95% in German. But the use of gender-specific forms for well over half of the person references calls into doubt the general opinion shared by most Swedes that Swedish has a gender-neutral person reference system.”

From The Handbook of Language and Gender":

“In Sweden as well as in other Nordic countries the position of women is more nearly equal to that of men than in most parts of the world....”

--More nearly equal is NOT enough. Only EQUAL is enough. If these languages are highly gendered, they just aren’t good enough, just like the English language isn’t good enough. But it can be changed. It's not carved in eternal stone.
Madeline Ferwerda
7. MadelineF
_Marooned in Realtime_ is the only Vernor Vinge I like, because it is the only mystery. Vinge has this infuriating habit where he makes sure you know his good guys are good because they are fighting villains who are shown to Rape Kittens!!1!11! Which habit 1. actually very much undermines the good guys and the author both--what, the heroes have to stand next to kittenrapers to look good? Does the author have the subtlety to even notice the ways the heroes also suck? and 2. in the instances where the "kittens" are women, just reinforces the impression that women in Vinge books only exist to provide the actors something to angst about.

But! In a mystery, we can dodge hearing about the kittenraping Evil Guy until the very end wrap up bit. The first 95% of the book has to stand on its own merits. It is easy to imagine that the issues of the good guy are something Vinge has considered, and that the women just happen to not be the main drivers of the plot. In Marooned, the women actually are free to do a hell of a lot.

There are plenty of authors who fail like Vinge does, but he's one of the most celebrated, so I'm more annoyed at him. Still, he can spin a great yarn when he isn't getting in his own way, and Marooned in Realtime is that yarn.
Michael Grosberg
8. Michael_GR
F.P.: I think you have an unrealistic expectation of how fast language can change to accommodate new social mores. Like it or not, the word mankind is still in use as meaning "the entirety of the human race" and it is possible that it was used unthinkingly even today in 2009.

A book's description is never written by the author. I do find it somewhat amusing that you complain about sexism in a Vinge relate thread, as Vinge is anything but. If gender and language interest you, you should try "A Fire Upon the Deep" which features several viewpoint characters from a culture with a matriarchal past, something which heavily influences their language and social expectations to the opposite direction than our own culture. It is not a major part of the book though, just a background detail. Marooned in realtime features several prominent and strong female characters, including the gay couple who are the community leaders, Marta and Yelen Korolev, but also space pilot Della Lu and others.
Trey Palmer
9. Pilgrim
You're straining at gnats.
Could you take it elsewhere? Like a revisionist blog or forum where someone cares?
F. P.
10. F.P.
Wow, yet another MALE basically telling me I should just give this up and accept exclusionary sexism.

And I find it somewhat amusing that your second paragraph sounds like you didn't even read my posts. If Vinge is "anything but" sexist, then Tor did his books a disservice by writing sexist-sounding descriptions, assuming Tor wrote them and didn't base them on something Vinge wrote about his own stories.

That "mankind" may have been used unthinkingly is part of my point. Not all sexism is intentional; oftentimes the worst is unintentional and more subtle, and it persists in the language and therefore society, ultimately causing more damage because no one checks it. They just let it go as if it's no big deal because it isn't obvious. Minds are shaped by the unobvious too, in my opinion.

'the word mankind is still in use as meaning "the entirety of the human race"'

--So? That doesn't mean it will be in use tomorrow. And I don't like it being in use. That's why I spoke up. Maybe it'll be in use for less tomorrows, or maybe at least one person reading will think twice before using it in future--I mean a truly not-sexist person who didn't in-the-past realize the total effect of the word.

These kinds of threads always bring out all the sexists and sexism--at the very least, the women reading here will know where they stand with whoever and can avoid those whoevers.

In my opinion, this blog and the behavior of too many people on it is sounding increasingly sexist. Just about every major blog gets ruined this way (traffic goes up and the blog's demographic becomes too mainstream, which mainstream is very sexist). Too bad this one will be ruined too if this crap keeps up.
Michael S. Schiffer
11. Michael S. Schiffer
One thing I find interesting is how successfully the book frames what happened to Marta as murder, when in practice it was more like kidnapping or shanghaiing (or, as in the book's title, marooning). She lived out to a lifetime we'd consider of more or less reasonable length (I don't recall if we know how old she was supposed to be at the time she was abandoned), with (IIRC) access to a lot of tech that's better than what we have. But of course from her and her sister's perspective, she was Robinson Crusoe, and died way too young.

(And the separation from all of humanity for forty years is a horrible enough crime itself. But leaving someone on an isolated island for that length of time wouldn't be considered murder.)
p l
12. p-l
You may decry this as the typical next move of a smugly crypto-sexist male, but if you'll look at the other sexism thread (about the Mammoth Book of Mind-Blowing SF), you'll see me speaking out against sexism there. I don't say that to render myself immune to charges of bias, but to gain some credibility when I say that I'm not speaking out against you out of sexism. I'm speaking out against you because (1) you are abusing linguistics, which is a subject I care about; and (2) I want to defend the claim that stripping gender from language does little or nothing for the feminist cause.

I'll address some of your points now and others later when I have the time.

From The Handbook of Language and Gender":

“In Sweden as well as in other Nordic countries the position of women is more nearly equal to that of men than in most parts of the world....”

--More nearly equal is NOT enough. Only EQUAL is enough. If these languages are highly gendered, they just aren’t good enough, just like the English language isn’t good enough. But it can be changed. It's not carved in eternal stone.

This is true not just of the Nordic countries, but of the Scandinavian countries as a whole (i.e. the Nordic countries + Finland). Finnish is a totally genderless language, but what does that get them? Women are empowered to about an equal degree in Finland as they are in Sweden. If there's any difference it can more likely be attributed to the sexism of the large Pakistani immigrant community in Sweden than to any feature of the language.

**It seems “Swedish” has changed/is undergoing changes toward some gender reduction.

This process is in varying degrees of completion throughout the Germanic language family. It is complete in English and Dutch (except for the pronouns), in progress in (some dialects of) Swedish, and it hasn't gotten going at all in German or Icelandic. Of the nations speaking those languages, guess which ones have female heads of government? Germany and Iceland: the ones that retain the most gender distinctions.

Incidentally, the parts of Europe with no linguistic gender distinctions tend to have little gender equality in government: Basque Country, Hungary and Estonia all have male leaders. The exception, of course, is Finland - which is in the equality-minded Scandinavian region.

*Your use of the word rich holds a positive connotation to me. In my opinion, you sound like you like gendered languages and separations; that is your bias.

"Rich" is a neutral word with a technical meaning in linguistics: it means elaborate, showing many distinctions. English has a rich system of helping verbs; Russian has a rich gender system. In applied linguistics, it connotes "really hard to learn," which is really not so positive.

Here's my “thought experiment”: instead of writing man, men and mankind everywhere in written works, write woman, women and womankind everywhere, and see how fast many people stop reading, especially male people, because many will likely interpret that as works about and geared toward women, which typically aren't considered universal stories about humanity, at least going on the readerships of works slotted this way, which readerships are mostly female.

I use the term "thought experiment" ironically because in every case the experiment has already happened. For instance: It's standard practice in developmental psychology to refer to experimental subjects (i.e. the infants who look at blinking lights or play with blocks while the experimenter stands by with a stopwatch) as "she" by default. It hasn't driven men out of the field, nor has it stuffed the field with women (the field was already stuffed with women when that tradition was instituted).

As far as getting rid of gendered terms altogether, see the above point about Icelandic and German vs. English and Dutch.

In any case, you seem to think that I want English to stay the same in order to entrench the patriarchy. I don't. "Mankind" may very well be phased out. I just don't think it will matter. As in developmental psych, it will be a symptom of societal change rather than a cause, and I think that as feminists we would be getting absolutely zero bang for our buck by pursuing the symptoms of sexism rather than the causes.

More later, if you care to continue the conversation.
rick gregory
13. rickg
FP. What does this have to do with Jo's post? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You're not going to be satisfied with any reply that doesn't agree with you either, so what's the point of posting this? Oh, right, to make yourself feel good. And, apparently, to waste the time of people who were hoping to have a discussion about the TOPIC OF THE FRIGGING POST.

Speaking of that... thanks for reminding me of this book Jo - it was the second book of Vinge's that I ever read (after True Names) and to this day I've not read The Peace Wars mostly because what I inferred of that book from this is that it's a rather standard 'evil geniuses try to take over world' book. Knowing Vinge, I'm probably wrong about that though and should find a copy of the book and dig out my copy of this one.
F. P.
14. F.P.
How do I delete my account from here? I want no part of a sexist blog that allows male posters to attack females, both slyly and overtly, allows them to tell females what they think and feel, patronizingly talk down to them, etc., which this place is, in my opinion. That doesn't mean everything on here is sexist, but way too much is. In my opinion, this is becoming a boy's club, no matter that some females post and blog here. They should not be putting up with the sexist stuff. But since when do most females stick together and actually do real things for empowering females? So the behavior here isn't surprising. It is condoned by both males AND females. As usual in society.

To the last poster with yet another male-sounding name: blow it out your ass. I specifically spoke about my disappointment with the Vinge descriptions and asked what the insides are like, and this has "absolutely nothing" to do with Jo's post? Yeah, right.

Going on the content of hers I checked out, Jo's writing seems better than Vernor's is, but then she's the wrong sex so typically the wrong sex's books will not likely attract as much attention, no matter how good they may be.

And I also just checked out the third paragraph of the book MGR recommended above and guess what? Mankind's in there! No thanks, I'm not reading this any further. And maybe I got the answer to my original questions: the author's word choice may have influenced the publisher's. Maybe his other two books contain the excluding term too.

Too many writers (and nonwriters) seem to think using the term "man, mankind and men" is majestic grand large writing. Oh the drama of it all--MAN! Feel the majesty, the power, the larger-than-lifeness. MAN. Big bad important MAN.

Not to me. When I read this, I see FAILURE, I see weak cliche writing.

To the other women posting here: goodbye and good luck. You're gonna need it.
James Wu
15. kamikazewave
FP, all you have to do is never post again if you don't like this site. I assure you, you're being hyper over something of little value. Are you going to complain about the use of "history" because of the "his" in it?

Think what you want, but male posters aren't "attacking" you for being a woman. Obviously you refuse to accept any other opinions besides your own, and believe that any other opinions should not be allowed, which is fine. But that's not going to happen here, because you're the ONLY one who cares that the term "mankind" is used. Maybe human shouldn't be used either. Why not use "huperson" instead?
F. P.
16. F.P.
Tor: DELETE MY ACCOUNT HERE. I cannot find a button to do this; I'm sorry I signed up. You should offer this option here.

You continually allow posters to attack me and address their posts toward me personally rather than toward my statements, and speak for what's in my mind and NOW for what's in everyone else's mind too.

The more you allow this, the more sexist you look. Pull the plug on this discussion--if you're smart. I'm sorry I ever spoke here, period. I give up on your company. You disgust me now. I will never buy a book from you again, even while I really like a few of the writers you publish. But they will lose out too for your behavior.
Michael Grosberg
17. Michael_GR
F.P.: I understand you completely. I, too, would not want to take part in a blog that actually allows males to tell females what they think and feel. This is just not right and should be stopped.
p l
18. p-l
@17: No one is telling F.P. what to think, and as far as I can tell she is the only one making ad hominem attacks on other posters. I only stood my ground, and I did so politely. F.P. and I are both feminists. If I disagree with her about the relative importance of different feminist causes, that doesn't make me a sexist. (Recall that I didn't say that F.P. should feel one way or another about words like "mankind" - I just presented evidence that changing them is not likely to accomplish anything.)

I'm not ignorant about feminism and I'm certainly not ignorant about linguistics. If I make a point about the intersection of the two, it's not sexist to defend that argument, even if doing so dismays F.P.. I feel that anything except swift and utter acquiescence would anger F.P., but if that's not the case I'd be happy to have a conversation where we can disagree respectfully.

PS: I apologize if anyone was offended by my characterization of the Swedish Pakistani community.
Torie Atkinson
19. Torie
@ F.P.

It is you, not p-1, who is making ad hominem attacks and harassing commenters. is a peaceful shire--treat others with respect.

More importantly, this debate is completely off-topic in this thread about this book. If you want to have a discussion of that here, start a conversation, but do not derail this conversation.

As to your assertions of sexism on the part of, I'm rather astonished. I'm the editor of this blog, and I am a woman who frequently speaks out vehemently against sexism in both genre fiction and the community. Many of our bloggers are women, and many of our bloggers and commenters (not all of whom are women) vociferously condemn sexism when they see it (on-topic, of course). I am sorry you've missed these conversations. If you still want your account to be deleted, e-mail me at torie dot atkinson at tor dot com.

For my own part, I find many of your thoughts interesting and I share your frustration with a real and continuing sexism within (and without) the SFF community. But any validity to your argument has been lost in your trolling behavior. No more comments on this subject in this thread (as I said, you can start your own conversation), and ad hominem attacks are never acceptable.
Tony Zbaraschuk
20. tonyz
>to this day I've not read The Peace Wars mostly because what I inferred of that book from this is that it's a rather standard 'evil geniuses try to take over world' book. Knowing Vinge, I'm probably wrong about that though and should find a copy of the book and dig out my copy of this one.

Actually, it's more like an "evil geniuses liberate the world" book. I'd recommend finding it and seeing how it works out.
p l
21. p-l
I loved A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, but I couldn't get into The Peace War. I put it down after the first chapter or two. The sequel sounds interesting enough to make it worthwhile, though.
Ursula L
22. Ursula
I read this back in high school, via my father's Analog magazines. Oddly, I remember the story from Marta's diary, but next to nothing of the framing of the mystery and the people who stayed in the bobble.
Michael S. Schiffer
23. Henry Troup
One thing that comes to my mind after the Singularity panels at Worldcon is the ambiguity of the character who "left" nearest the Singularity. He hadn't really understood Earth on his last visit there, and he wasn't sure if the evidence of nuclear war might not have been a really big survival game.
I also remember reading MIR for the first time and thinking "how could the database have been in his jacket pocket?" - but that was before flash drives/data keys. Now I occasionally leave my database in the wrong pocket.
Michael S. Schiffer
24. TheTrobbleWithBobbles
Not having read this, I'm curious how the bobbles work? Are they visible to those outside of them? Are they impenetrable and immovable? For example, if Marta is murdered by being left out of the bobble, what's to prevent her from taking the next 80 years figuring out how to drop her murderer's bobble into the nearest ocean?
Peter Willard
25. Bladrak
They look like perfect spheres that are also perfect mirrors. They are impenetrable but not immovable. And if I remember correctly she didn't know who the murderer was. She was also limited because most of their tech was also bobbled and unaccessable.

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