April 27th, 2008

Keeping the iffy in Skiffy

OK, please explain to me the subtleties in this story http://nofearofthefuture.blogspot.com/2007/05/alternate-history-of-chinese-science.html
It is a nominee for the short form Sideways Award http://www.uchronia.net/sidewise/ and superficially to this weasel it seems bizarre that in a year in which more than 7 alternate history short stories were written (which seems a fair bet) this would be one of the seven nominees.
But I am probably missing something.

Then again, Halfpenny is one of the nominees for the long form, and if it is anything like Farthing it seems a fair bet that the nominators' tastes are very different from mine.

Also, now that The Yiddish Policeman's Badger has won the Nebula, this is your last chance to explain the POD to me, before I am forced to go through it in detail making notes as I did when I found the enormous chronological holes in Cryptonomicon.

I will be making particular reference to the presumed role of Glubb Pasha http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glubb in the defeat of Israel. I assume that it is supposed to be him wot done it in Chabon's timeline.

Oooh, bitchy

Fans of my obscure minutiae may recall me posting http://celestialweasel.livejournal.com/214795.html
This was a quote from someone getting at Stafford Beer, head of O.R. at the United Steel Companies. Well, a copy of one of Mr Beer's early works 'Decision and Control' had winged its way to me from the U.S. via ABE Books. I had ordered an earlier work in the hope that it might (a) put some things into context and (b) have the author's head less far up his jargon than the later works.

The final chapter (no, I haven't read the book yet, I do intend to, but to my mind he is actually quite a turgid writer, so it may take some time) is a 25, count 'em, 25 page chapter entitled 'On Practicability' beginning with the epigraph: 'I define the practical man as the man who has no idea what to do in practice.' Betrand Russell, Impromptu (1958)

It contains, inter alia, this wonderful prose..
'The practical man sees (and has even described) himself as the king of the ironworks. Perhaps it is because he alone has the experience to woo and beguile the blast furnace into acceptable behaviour. Rejection of the new aids of modern science springs from this posture. It is as if an unknown rival could suddenly seduce the object of affection who had resisted the courtship of a life-time.'

One wonders if Elliot ever heard about Beer's book and if so what he thought. I cannot imagine they were on each other's Christmas card lists by that point.

It is interesting to note that there were seven years between the publication of the two books, ample brooding time!