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August 14, 2020

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asiaseen

ludicrous educator still ludicrous

But happy enough to rely on British institutions for her crust - even though she has to be called a "Fellow":
Priyamvada Gopal is a Professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, where she is a Fellow of Churchill College.

bgates

Unprecedented fire tornado

Now that's a band name.

But give a miss to their opening act,

hastily-unwrapped Magnum

Hal

. . . give a miss to their opening act,

hastily-unwrapped Magnum

Apparently their debut album, a thorough tonguing, left much to be desired . . . .

Daniel Ream

To pile on with @pst314, why?

It's a multi-page essay on how Superman can't ever have sex with Lois Lane because he'd kill her, due to all the involuntary muscle reactions inherent in the male orgasm.

It's just crass on multiple levels. Not only is Niven sneering down his nose at comic book superheroes for the sin of being more popular than his brand of SF, the whole essay is crocked because it ignores several basic facts about the character. It's half-assed deconstructionism. It's like a Very Serious material scientist writing a scholarly article decrying that Transformers are impossible because no earth metal would have the structural strength to support an articulated body that size, or a zoologist decrying the works of Beatrix Potter because rabbits don't actually talk or wear clothes.

Richard Cranium

You realize that essay was written as joke, don't you?

pst314

"Not only is Niven sneering down his nose at comic book superheroes..."

You are mistaken:
Niven loves comic books and you can find some references in his stories. One that immediately comes to mind is an antique car aficionado driving a manually-controlled 20th century automobile many centuries from now. The narrator backs away from him because he is obviously "dangerously insane" which is a reference to the Joker. And the driver is wearing body paint emulating the Joker's look.

What Niven was doing was just having a little fun by applying a scientific analysis to the Superman stories. Think of the essay as something written for a fanzine which was good enough to include in a professional collection of stories. I may be wrong, but I think Niven has written a few other such just-for-fun essays.

Now, it is somewhat crass--a TMI discussion of Superman's sex life--but setting that aside it is funny.

pst314

Correction/clarification: the above scene was from "Flatlander" in the story collection "Neutron Star" (and the collection "Crashlander".) A more complete quote:

"We landed and met some of the racers. One of them, a thin guy with tangled, glossy green hair and a bony white face with a widely grinning scarlet mouth, offered me a ride. I declined with thanks, backing slowly away and wishing for a weapon. This joker was obviously dangerously insane"

Governor Squid

You realize that essay was written as joke, don't you?

Wait, he was joking? Next you'll be telling me that he didn't seriously intend that we should press our nuclear waste into coins...

Daniel Ream

Niven loves comic books

Niven loves certain kinds of comic books. At the beginning of the Silver Age, DC Comics employed a number of SF authors to write their flagship books. Gardner Fox was one example; he wrote a ton of early Justice League. They included one-page science fact sheets in the books.

It didn't take too long before this stopped; I suspect the competition with Marvel and their gonzo style of writing had a lot to do with it. A number of SF authors of the time period, apparently deeply confused about what a superhero comic is, lamented that DC's comics were no longer teaching Actual Science to the nation's youth. Niven is of the same ilk.

Yes, I realize he wrote it as a joke. It just isn't funny, because much like David Brin's bizarre rant about Star Wars vs. Star Trek in 1999 it starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of what he's lampooning and proceeds on the basis that it ought to be something that it wasn't, isn't, and was never trying to be.

Governor Squid

In that case, I hope you can accept my humble apology for being amused by wronghumo(u)r. In my defense, I was an undergrad when I first encountered the article, and had many wrong opinions about what was good or funny or socially acceptable. (It was the 90s, and I was still trying to come to grips with the transition from Hair Metal to Grunge.)

While we're on the topic, could somebody give me a verdict on Ziggy and Zippy the Pinhead? I've never been quite sure what to think about those two.

pst314

"While we're on the topic, could somebody give me a verdict on Ziggy and Zippy the Pinhead?"

Today is a Tuesday and an odd-numbered date in an even-numbered month, so Zippy is good while Ziggy is bad. Are we having fun yet?

pst314

"In my defense, I was an undergrad when I first encountered the article, and had many wrong opinions about what was good or funny or socially acceptable."

I was in my twenties. I am not as amused by it now as I was then but it's still funny.

pst314

"A number of SF authors of the time period...deeply confused...lamented...Niven is of the same ilk."

Evidence that Niven belongs to that group?

"It just isn't funny, because much like David Brin's bizarre rant about Star Wars vs. Star Trek in 1999..."

Fortunately Niven's essay is, as you acknowledge, not a rant but a lighthearted essay.

"...it starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of what he's lampooning and proceeds on the basis that it ought to be something that it wasn't, isn't, and was never trying to be."

What misunderstanding? I think Niven knows exactly what Superman comics are, accepts them as they are, and wrote his essay merely to be a humorous hard-sf pseudo-critique--not something to be taken seriously. There is nothing in his essay that can be reasonably construed as a serious argument that Superman comics are wrong/bad and should be something other than what they are. The absurdity of applying hard sf standards to Superman was part of the joke: "hey, if we interpret Superman according to hard sf criteria then all these funny observations drop right out."

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