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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Kate
    November 23, 2015 @ 5:29 am

    Say, is “Guided” gonna be available in dead tree format?


  2. Riggio
    November 23, 2015 @ 8:17 am

    I haven’t read Three Body Problem yet, but it’s been on my (increasingly long) list of books that I’d like to get. I’m especially interested now that I’ve learned from you that ecological concepts play a major role in Liu’s trilogy. For one thing, it’s a serious political and philosophical interest of mine. Environmentalism is an issue I care deeply about, and I wrote an entire (still too expensive from the publisher) non-fiction book about ecological activism, politics, science, and philosophy.

    But just regarding the book itself, I want to see how Liu tackles ecological issues. Because a Chinese person would be quite likely to think of humanity’s ecological problems as so massive that they’d need foreign-planetary intervention to solve. I mean that in the pragmatic sense: some of the worst ecological disasters have happened in China and the Chinese spheres of influence in central Asia. The worst industrial smog in human history, the disastrous flooding from the Three Gorges Dam (which may also have caused the Szechuan earthquake several years ago), thousands of massive e-waste and metal dumps, and some of the world’s most horrifying river pollution.

    I’m glad Liu seems more hopeful about it, as it’s at least a sign of hope that still exists in human cultures. But I’d also like to see some of the really pessimistic dystopian fiction that emerges from modern China, grappling with all this ecological destruction.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      November 23, 2015 @ 8:20 am

      One of the two main characters of The Three-Body Problem comes to the exact conclusion that “humanity’s ecological problems as so massive that they’d need foreign-planetary intervention to solve.” Nearly to the word.


  3. Aberrant Eyes
    November 23, 2015 @ 8:53 am

    “The appeal of this to someone like Vox Day is esoteric, and based mainly on the belief that there are people stupid enough to think that every form of socialism and Marxism is interchangeable with Maoism and will thus inevitably share all of its flaws.”

    Nobody stupid enough to think that is smart enough to think at all, or even to rearrange their prejudices, but you don’t need to go very far here in Unistat to find people who are ignorant enough to believe it. The typical Unistater has, in the words of a great English exponent of socialism, “an outlook similar to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that all nations other than his own worshipped ‘false gods’.”


  4. Camestros Felapton
    November 23, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

    I think Vox Day’s motives were simpler. The points you mention (e.g. the Cultural Revolution section) were primarily just elements that meant the book had elements he could spin. The main motive was that he could pick something that could 1. could win and 2. wasn’t Leckie or Addison.
    Aside from a core set of ‘payload’ ideological works (primarily John C Wright) neither set of Puppies put much effort in considering ideological aspects of what they were nominating (most obviously Guardians of the Galaxy which included literal tree-hugging) as opposed to what they objected to.
    None of the Puppies (including Wright and Day who have pretensions towards this) have particularly good critical skills. Their ideological objections to particular works tend to be very shallow and politically inconsistent regardless.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      November 23, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

      I don’t dispute this on a factual level, but I think it remains helpful to pretend as if they did, simply because the result displays a sort of unexpected perversity that serves as an effective critique in ways that mere demonstrations of their stupidity do not.

      Put another way, I note that Vox has basically crawled away like a hurt puppy since his debate with me, lobbing sophomoric softballs like drawing me as a Satanic zombie pedophile in an editorial cartoon (while simultaneously, in doing so, elevating me to the level of the Nielsen Haydens and Scalzi among his nemeses) without so much as an attempt at refuting me. And frankly, I enjoy getting under his skin so. 🙂


      • Camestros Felapton
        November 23, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

        //And frankly, I enjoy getting under his skin so. :)//

        It is certainly entertaining 🙂
        I think you discombobulate him because you superficially fit his fever-dreams of what a SJW is like (all Marxism and literary criticism, & an earnest stances on things) but you are quite happy to use humour, hyperbole and general not-giving-a-shit-at-petty-insults.
        The Right habitually confuses the center with the left. They assume the various actual liberals they meet really are the rhetorical-socialists that they portray them as. Consequently they tend to not know what to do when they encounter people who are ACTUALLY left-wing i.e. people who respond to the supposed insult of ‘You are a socialist’ with ‘Yes, of course I am.’


      • Shannon
        November 23, 2015 @ 9:47 pm

        I have that “problem” with my father-in-law. While I’m not a Marxist, I’m also not the stereotypical New York State Democrat that just follows along with the straw man talking points he imagines they have. So my answers frequently surprise him because they seem to come out of left-field, despite the fact that they’re very consistent with my personal philosophy.


    • Vivienne Raper
      November 26, 2015 @ 10:42 am

      I also think Vox Day’s motives were somewhat simpler. In 2012, critic Paul Kincaid wrote an essay about the exhaustion of science fiction – focusing on the short story.

      I wrote an essay about it around that time and reading some Hugo short fiction finalists from 2014 (and earlier) has only reinforced this point-of-view. You can see the Puppies as a rebellion against that exhaustion, but I think – with a few exceptions – they don’t really have any counter-examples to champion themselves. The causes of that exhaustion are cultural and apply to them too.

      Instead of speculating on whether Vox Day is a ‘fascist’ (and fascism is ultimately ideologically difficult to define because it is anti-intellectual and lacks a philosophical basis), you might be better served analysing why too much of the fiction appearing on recent Hugo short fiction ballots is meek, self-indulgent, narcissistic and abhorrently ‘right-wing’ in its support of superficial consumerist identities.

      I could have a field day doing a Marxist reading of 2010 Hugo-nominated “Eros, Philia, Agape” – a beautifully-written whinge about the desire for radical self-expression of a rich woman and her superficially vapid robotic boyfriend.

      This self-indulgent writing is arguably a result of structuralist thought and the surrounding theory. A model of oppression that is diffuse and constantly created by social relationships provides NO model for positive political struggle other than haranguing individuals. And NO way for labour to mobilise en masse because cultural identities and oppression are defined across class boundaries. People with more education/money inherently find it easier to discuss other forms of oppression they may experience, meaning that the whole movement becomes about elites.

      If Vox Day is both religious and popularist right (at least in his language), you can see the appeal of a book that grapples with geopolitical and philosophical issues – rather than the whining of the privileged over the politics of small differences. This would also explain his expressed enthusiasm for China Mieville – a materialist (?) leftist writer.

      I don’t like Vox Day’s politics (at all), but at least he seems to be trying to encourage ideas-driven fiction. Where the ideas go beyond “I am an upper-middle-class writer – allow me to interrogate my feelings of butthurt.”


  5. Jarl
    November 23, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

    The Three-Body Problem is the most successful work of science fiction in China in living memory. This matters, as does translating it into English where it can reach a smaller audience.
    heh heh heh

    Reminds me a bit of the Cinema Snob’s ambiguous statement that Godfrey Ho would splice American and British actors directed in Hong Kong action footage into films from China, Japan, Thailand, and elsewhere in order to reach a wider/whiter audience.


  6. Camestros Felapton
    November 23, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

    In terms of the numbers. There were 453 1st preference votes for 3BP that in the race for 2nd place transferred to Puppy nominees. In the last round of preferences for 1st place, the difference between Goblin Emperor and 3BP was 200 votes. So there certainly is cause to say that the Rabid votes made a marginal but significant difference.

    Using the numbers provided, it is possible to run a hypothetical version of the 1st place race with those 453 ‘Rabid’ votes missing by deducting them from 3BP’s 1st preferences and then assuming all other votes went the same way. If you do that then Goblin Emperor wins by 253 votes.

    However, the question then is would 200+ non-puppies have voted differently if Vox Day had NOT endorsed 3BP? Given the size of the anti-Puppy vote that is plausible but there is no way of demonstrating it.

    Taking the counterfactual further, with zero Puppy nominations (including Gannon and Torgersen’s works as well) then the works would have included John Scalzi’s Lock In and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs. There simply isn’t a way of knowing how everybody would have voted in that case 🙂


  7. Roderick Long
    November 23, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

    Even assuming it’s true that “civilization continually grows and expands,” the inference from that thesis to the further thesis “intelligent civilizations will necessarily try to destroy each other” depends on a rather unimaginative and narrow conception of what civilization expanding has to look like. There’s no reason in principle why two cultures can’t influence each other in a peaceful way that counts as both of them expanding. Indeed, real-life cultural interaction often involves just that, even if it all too often involves the violent-supplanting mode of interaction as well.


    • Froborr
      November 24, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

      It also makes some rather narrow assumptions about what an alien civilization would NEED. I’m reminded of that one group of Niven aliens who RULE THE GALAXY, by which they mean they claim all habitable planets, and by “habitable” they mean small, tidally locked rocky planets orbiting red dwarf stars.


    • Aylwin
      November 26, 2015 @ 10:57 am

      It does sound a rather mercantilist outlook, as it were. Needs a read of The Wealth of Nations [ducks].


    • Inst
      April 16, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

      One of the most interesting reviews of The Dark Forest was from people with International Relations backgrounds, and they argued successfully that The Dark Forest was essentially a descriptor of the doctrine of offensive realism.

      I’m not sure whether or not LCX actually believes in that, though, since even in the text he doesn’t hold The Dark Forest as a doctrine that necessarily holds; for LCX; there simply need to be enough civilizations that believe in The Dark Forest as their game-theoretical optimum to nova any exposed civilizations.

      From the spoilers I’ve read, Death’s End is not an optimistic work, but it does tackle with the flaws of TDF theory successfully.


      • Inst
        April 16, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

        One other thing; I think it was ascribed to John Mearsheimer that “Western civilizations often forget that they achieved their dominion through force of arms, whereas non-Western civilizations never forget that”. From the history of human civilization, there are way too many examples of civilizations with more advanced organizational and military systems subjugating less militarily-capable peoples; if you’re an American, you’re living on land that was conquered or colonized away from the Amerindians. When European peoples first encountered South, Southeast, and East Asian trading networks, they did so pacifically, focusing mainly on their religion and their profits, but with their inherent military advantage they rapidly transitioned to full colonialism. It’s this history that LCX is considering and rebroadcasting; as Westerners, we forget the noxiousness of our origins quite quickly, especially when we clothe our materialist victories as that of values and ideology (Enlightenment vs Imperialism and demographic expansion to escape the Malthusian trap that destroyed China after the Song Dynasty), but in the Islamic World, in South Asia, and in East Asia, they will not forget the structuralist dynamics that led to our profiting at their expense.

        The most interesting reviews of LCX’s SF magnus opus are those from a post-Colonialist perspective; as less political writers have proposed, Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a Banksian Outside Context Problem. Instead of friendly aliens subliming into other dimensions, however, the Culture becomes the equivalent of Pacific Islanders first meeting Europeans, who then exploit, subjugate, then turn their island into an atmospheric nuclear testing site. This has happened way too many times, why shouldn’t we expect this to be the median scenario?


  8. Doctor Memory
    October 5, 2020 @ 12:19 am

    Cixin Liu is not a fascist nutbag

    Welp, we regret to inform you…


  9. Ars Noctis Cælum
    October 24, 2022 @ 12:11 am

    “Cixin Liu is not a fascist nutbag”

    Yea, seems we were wrong in hindsight given his statements about China’s war on terror in Xinjiang.

    And his politics did show through his books as well I think, not that they weren’t great.


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