Cast Under an Alien Sun


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/30/cast-under-an-alien-sun.html


#2

Are there any ebooks that aren’t part of a multi-book series?


#3

Maybe Amazon’s recommendation engine knows I want to real serials?


#4

If you enjoy the Connecticut Yankee type story, let me recommend Blood’s Force. Feudal politics in a collapsed star-faring civilization, with a semi-monastic order that maintains the ancient knowledge of science.

It’s the book of the month for a feminist blog.

(I do know the author and am named in the dedication, but it’s actually a pretty solid novel, I’m not just shilling)


#5

“[H]umanity isn’t quite as developed” doesn’t mean what I thought. I was imagining Australopithecus, not low-tech savages.


#6

From the synopsis on Amazon:

He awoke amidst strangers speaking an unintelligible language, and despaired losing his previous life. He used knowledge of chemistry to introduce new knowledge—but not too advanced of the planet’s technology to avoid being labelled a demon. He found a place in the society and developed new friendships, male and female.

Oooohhh!!! “Male and female!” Do tell…


#7

Step 1: Invent pants. (Or not, I guess. Hey, this could be a chance for a new, more laid back society!)


#8

I was just talking about this common trope on another thread, and how it usually makes no sense.

I liked A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Twain invented the “future man uses his modern knowledge to transform a primitive society” trope, and an engineer from Mark Twain’s day who worked in a machine shop (as the protagonist did) might possibly have enough hands-on skills combined with practical knowledge to help advance a society’s technology in a meaningful way. But in general, this trope is way off. Just as a modern kid who grew up using an iPhone would be practically helpless trying to work on a DOS-based computer (or at least be no more proficient than the folks who were already used to using them) most modern scientists & engineers would have little chance of being able to immediately improve upon the “primitive” technology of local people if suddenly sent back in time or marooned on a primitive planet. I consider myself a pretty hands-on person, and I’ve built a lot of stuff, but I have enough humility to know that indigenous peoples spent many generations developing and refining building techniques and technologies that work well for ther local environment, and I’d have little chance of doing things better if suddenly dropped into their home without without having the advantage of modern tools and materials at my disposal.

Maybe this is unduly harsh (especially since I haven’t read the book!) but this whole idea also has echoes of the “white savior” trope. But I really should read it before judging, I suppose.


#9

Agree in general, but the summary says the protagonist was on his way to a chemistry conference so he probably knows enough to make gunpowder or some other potentially society-changing stuff.


#10

Fair enough.


#11

His knowledge of science and technology can save his new society, if he just doesn’t scare with his sorcerous ways.

I think it is much more likely the past could save us if we adopted their technology.


#12

I’ve always thought that was the point of much of the genre (which I have not read so much to be knowledgable on): what do you actually know that you can “invent?”

In Lest Darkness Fall, the protagonist tries to invent a bunch of stuff (clocks, gunpowder), but fails at most of them. He is able to build a still, which requires little skill (if you don’t care too much about the small chances of making people blind), and the printing press, which most intelligent people could work out if they worked on it for a bit.

Another more random example: In one of Terry Pratchett’s Johnny books, one of the kids gets stuck in the 40s, realizes he doesn’t know how to make anything at all, but he does know what products will work, so becomes a very successful investor for people’s seemingly-harebrained ideas.

Anyway, I always thought the fun game was precisely that: what do I know now that I could usefully apply to being stuck in X-era? What would people have been able to invent back then if only they had the knowledge? I can steal the still and press ideas, those are good and I know enough about how to make them to make a good stab at it. Arabic numerals are great, but not really marketable, and my knowledge of math is not good enough for me to get the jump on Newton or Leibniz, although I’m sure if I met any mathematicians, I could give them enough of a description of calculus etc that they could take it and run with it, and maybe I’d get a mention in a footnote… Oooh, maybe windmills, that would be good and simple.


#13

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