We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

But top universities are also crucial for induction into the luxury belief class. Take vocabulary. Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.

Rob Henderson

32 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Phil B

    Cultural appropriation, eh?

    You mean something like this?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULIHjFy-eUo

    Or does it only work one way?

  • Patrick Crozier

    See also English spelling.

  • Or does it only work one way?

    Of course it only works one way, the very notion rules apply to everyone equally is ‘racist’. You think I am joking? No, by this stage in the Culture War I imagine you know I am not.

  • Mr Ed

    An echo of the Ukrainian writer Viktor Suvorov writing about advancement in the Soviet Army (he is ex-GRU), he said that education was essential to advancement and there was a bias towards those with degrees in the social sciences over STEM as it was important to be able to talk smoothly, i.e. to know how to follow the Party line.

  • The Nomenklatura of any regime has always been self-selecting, but often seem disappointed when they are the first to face the firing squad after the revolution.

    I will look forward to watching that part.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed and Paul (and anyone else, of course),

    What is your opinion as to the reliability of Anatoliy Golitsyn? I ask because so many of these defectors seem to have proponents and bashers. Suvarov comes in for his share; so does Pacepa.

    I could go back and live through the times myself to check (provided the KGB/GRU/NKVD/FSB didn’t catch me), but unfortunately the dog ate the thingamabob on my time machine. :>(

    .

    Also, are there any Anglospheric or other Western historians whom you trust on the history of the U.S.S.R. Andrew Roberts? Christopher Andrew? Stephen Kotkin? Ferris Bueller?

  • CaptDMO

    Sheesh, I learned “indubitably” from Commander McBragg cartoons as a kid!
    Hetronormative? Cisgender?
    It’s NOT that they’re 25 cent words, they’re made up words designed to drive a wedge between
    insufferable Dunning-Kruger folk desperate to see evidence that they’re actually “smarter” from their so-called effort at school (HOW MUCH?), and average Mensa candidates..

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.”

    No, it works both ways. Everyone regards their own vocabulary as “ordinary” and the vocabulary of other cultures as “strange”. But from either end, it always looks one-way.

    I doubt many ‘ordinary’ people know what the word ‘libertarian’ means, either.

  • Also, are there any Anglospheric or other Western historians whom you trust on the history of the U.S.S.R. (Julie near Chicago, November 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm)

    Robert Conquest (The Harvest of Sorrow, The Great Purge and Stalin: Breaker of Nations) is well worth reading. It is interesting to compare The Great Purge second edition, when in an appendix he uses a range of statistical methods to estimate upper and lower bounds on how many died, to the third, published just after the fall of the Soviet Union, when this was replaced with more direct information. Both are worth reading because, while he does compare his past estimates (mostly pretty good) with present information, you can learn more still by reading both and thus seeing the usefulness and limits of his statistical methods – good example to have in mind when more recent cases arise.

    I have read a fair bit of defector literature, analyses, etc., and also talked to people. I knew an officer who, as part of his job, visited the old USSR, made military estimates and explained things to me. My team today includes a woman who grew up in the USSR’s waning decades and came west after it collapsed. One of my friends is daughter of a UK diplomat stationed in East Germany – as a teenager, she had a pass she could have sold for $5000 or more. Other friends studied Russian and stayed in the USSR as part of their training course. If you’ve already read Conquest I can mention other things – but so, I am sure, can others and I invite them to mention anything they found informative (I’d be interested too).

  • Novus

    NiV, it strikes me that

    a) significantly more ‘ordinary’ people could have a decent stab at defining ‘libertarian’ (with or without the orthodox terminological style to which we have accustomed ourselves) than would manage ‘cisgender’ or ‘heteronormative’. A good few of them might note the amusing etymological bunfight going on in the latter though;

    b) the luxury beliefs class would not struggle with ordinary ideas to the same extent as the ordinary class would struggle with luxury beliefs. Half the point of luxury beliefs is their inaccessibility to ordinary people. The LB class might be behind on a few pieces of street slang, new words for known ideas or quantities, but the LB vocabulary is unknown to the OB class because the ideas themselves are unknown to the OB.

  • I doubt many ‘ordinary’ people know what the word ‘libertarian’ means, either. (Nullius in Verba, November 17, 2019 at 1:19 pm)

    Or ‘woke’, as I’ve observed in some who would use it only with derision if they knew it. However I’d agree with the OP quote that only the affluent can afford these vocabularic luxury goods. As Dominic Cummings remarks, virtue-signalling is less important when you are on £20k a year, in part because how a policy will immediately affect your annual budget is necessarily more important.

    Vocabulary and customs to exclude the commoners is an old trick: Versailles in France is an extreme example; U and not-U in England a milder form. The OP has the PC absolutely dead to rights in pointing out that their ‘inclusive’ vocabulary excludes – and that is its purpose, and the reason for its popularity with those who most like it.

  • GregWA

    Seems to me Henderson’s article and the comments I read on it miss one thing: while elites are virtue signalling, some of them (most?) likely also mean some (most?) of what they are saying. They really believe this drivel. So, by all means, take them down as just status seekers whose vocabulary has negative consequences, and point out their made up words that are either meaningless, deceptive, or plain stupid, but don’t forget to deal with the bad ideas (and I’m not saying that the Samizdata community has not done this, not much gets past you all).

  • An even worse linguistic signal is the constant changing of obscure words and manufacturing of new ones. It means that one is not only of the Elite, one has been paying attention to the shifting foundations thereof. Myself, I figure if the word for something keeps being changed, there is something terribly wrong with that something. When people start noticing, said something gets relabeled and remarketed.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “NiV, it strikes me that”

    Like I said, everyone regards their own vocabulary as “ordinary” and the vocabulary of other cultures as “strange”.

    “As Dominic Cummings remarks, virtue-signalling is less important when you are on £20k a year, in part because how a policy will immediately affect your annual budget is necessarily more important.”

    Virtue signalling is more important when the penalties for not fitting in with society are higher, when the society you live in is less tolerant of differences.

    So for a bunch of working-class manual-labour lads, it is very important to fit in with the “lad” values – brave, tough, masculine, gets drunk, can fight, chases women, and has no truck with education, authority, or softness. If you fail to signal your virtue sufficiently, you’ll get beaten up, and so men of that sort take their image among their peers very seriously. This male culture long been considered one of the main reasons men commit suicide at a much higher rate than women, and are much less likely to go to a doctor, or ask for help when in trouble.

    It’s still virtue-signalling – just a different definition of ‘virtue’.

  • I figure if the word for something keeps being changed, there is something terribly wrong with that something. (Ellen, November 17, 2019 at 3:59 pm)

    Spot on, Ellen. You are perhaps familiar with the “Yes, Minister” episode in which Sir Humphrey explains to Hacker how the terminology for a certain kind of third-world country has been progressively changed as each prior form was ‘discovered’ to be racist, complete with a freshly-prepared term ready to be introduced when the current one is similarly denounced. 🙂

  • Julie near Chicago

    Conquest, of course. Thanks, Niall. :>))

    And I for one would welcome anything else you and the rest of our commentariat have to add on the subject.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post – this language is supposed to mean the user of the language is “against privilege”, but actually it means that people who use the language (with approval) are showing they are part of a privileged elite, which they believe is entitled to rule and boss everyone else about.

  • Fred the Fourth

    I (upper middle class hetero Anglo male) had occasion to make small talk with the housemate of an MIT grad i was visiting in Somerville MA. It started out ok with remarks about an unexpected mutual interest in crew.
    Fairly quickly it veered into some small theatre she was working on, which led naturally into Arts SJW territory. I just let her run, nodding or making affirming sounds as required. Her topics and vocabulary grew increasingly outre, in what I concluded was an attempt to get me to ask her to explain some bit of esoterica.
    Too soon, my host, a biologist, arrived and took me away. Too bad, I was wondering if there were limits to the weirdness.

  • Phil B

    @Perry,

    Peace! I have long argued for a sarcasm font for the internet and my previous comment most definitely needs such a mechanism to signal sarcasm.

    Of course, I realise that only the white race and its culture must accept multiculturism and the destruction of its own culture.

    Mocking and culturally appropriating white culture, legends and denigrating its religion is all part of the plot.

  • Phil B

    @Julie near Chicago

    The difficulty with defectors, particularly ones from the USSR, are that they have comprehensively and irrevocably burned their bridges and returning to the USSR would mean torture and execution. Therefore they are anxious to please the new country that they have defected to and their statements and behaviour must be viewed with a sceptical eye.

    However, having said that, you can dismiss their tales as anecdotes but when every defector, no matter which branch of the service (KGB, GRU, Army etc.) essentially state the same things independent of each other and over a prolonged time period, then the anecdotes start to stack up as evidence.

    I note that many in the West defend the USSR and/or dismiss the evidence provided by the defectors. They are the Communist versions of Holocaust deniers and should be treated the same as them.

    Turning to books etc. which are written by or about defectors then in no particular order, look for or order from your local library:

    The Storm Petrels by Gordon Brook-Shepherd (published 1977). This describes five key Soviet defectors from the late 1920’s onwards.

    KGB The Inside Story by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky (published 1990). This describes the history of the KGB and its development through the Checka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, MVD, to KGB. It glosses over the atrocities but does record defections and the names and periods. Interestingly it also names from KGB archives the mysterious fifth man (Cairncross) of the Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt moles in British intelligence.

    Regarding Victor Suvorov (more correctly Vladimir Bogdanovitch Rezun, his real name) I’d recommend his books – written under the Suvorov nom de plume – in approximate logical sequence as:

    The Liberators – explains why he joined the Soviet army (he would have starved to death) and gives a wry insight into the way that the Army operates.

    Aquarium – describes his transfer to the GRU and why he defected.

    Inside Soviet Military Intelligence – gives a history of the organisation and the numerous purges and the expected life span of the heads of that organisation (hint – none of them would have bought a five year diary as it would mostly have been a waste of paper and money). It can be read on line or downloaded here:

    http://militera.lib.ru/research/suvorov8/index.html

    Inside the Soviet Army – this one describes the structure and the training methods of that Army and the brutality of the system. Again, download it or read it here:

    http://militera.lib.ru/research/suvorov12/index.html

    Finally, he was a member of the Speznaz and their organisation and role in the time of war is described in his book of the same title. It is useful as he describes the agents in the west that would host and supply the Speznaz troops and their fate immediately before operations began (again, the agents would be advised not to waste their money on economy sized tubes of toothpaste). Chilling and interesting from the point of view of how thoroughly the Soviet intelligence agents have infiltrated the west and how much effort, time and money that they have devoted to the effort. Download it etc. here:

    http://militera.lib.ru/research/suvorov6/index.html

    Unfortunately, the rest of Suvorovs books on that site are in Russian so unless you can read that language are inaccessible to the rest of the world.

    You might also want to look at this website/blog which is the record of Yuri Bezmenov, another defector:

    http://uselessdissident.blogspot.com/2008/11/interview-with-yuri-bezmenov.html

    Look a the right side of the blog for parts two and three.

    Turning to non Soviet sources, Anne Applebaum wrote a book called Gulag – A History (published 2003) which describes the camps and the system. She has been criticised as being biased because her husband is Polish and no great lover of the Soviets but take that for what it is worth. Another link to a Russian source on the camps is here:

    https://shalamov.ru/en/library/34/

    Anything by Robert Conquest is well worth reading although I found his The Great Terror somewhat tedious because he took a sledgehammer to the subject, no doubt to deflect criticism, and the impression I am left with was that it consisted of an endless series of “And Stalin signed an order to arrest 250,000 dissidents and ship them off to the camp, followed by a purge and liquidation of the KGB. He then signed an order to arrest another 250,000 dissidents and …” rinse and repeat.

    Can we use some kind of independent source to check the statements of the defectors? I believe we can. For example, the mass slaughter that took place in the USSR such as the Katyn massacre of the Polish officers. The Nazis exhumed the corpses and to their credit got other nationalities and POW’s to witness and carry out forensic examination of the bodies. Only those pathologists that were in Soviet controlled territory retracted their statements after the war and then the post Berlin wall collapse did the Russians admit that, yes, they did murder them. Note that the Polish officers were only one of many mass graves in that area which was a known KGB execution ground and that the Polish officers were murdered in several locations, not just Katyn. So claims that the Soviet government indulged in mass slaughter of its citizens is “case proven” in my opinion.

    But this is turning into a comment of war and Peace proportions so I’ll leave it for now. It should keep you out of mischief for 5 minutes or so … >};o)

  • Niall Kilmartin
    November 17, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Spot on, Ellen. You are perhaps familiar with the “Yes, Minister” episode in which Sir Humphrey explains to Hacker how the terminology for a certain kind of third-world country has been progressively changed as each prior form was ‘discovered’ to be racist, complete with a freshly-prepared term ready to be introduced when the current one is similarly denounced.

    My knowledge of the popular culture of the British Isles is spotty. I can quote Monty Python, know a bit about the Goon Show, and am fond of the St. Trinian’s cartoons. (The movies leave me cold.) I’ve read many books out of Britain, though, and it’s led to many an argument with spell-checkers and proofreaders. The vocabulary isn’t so bad, but the punctuation gets them every time.

  • Phil B

    @Ellen,

    You can start here with the first episode of Yes Minister and I’ll leave you to search for the continuation series of Yes, Prime Minister. >};o)

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=yes+minister+full+episodes

  • From a Quillette article on luxury beliefs (h/t instapundit)

    It seems reasonable to think that the downtrodden might be most interested in obtaining status and money. But this is not the case. Inhabitants of prestigious institutions are even more interested than others in prestige and wealth. For many of them, that drive is how they reached their lofty positions in the first place.

    Hannah Arendt noted the same thing in ‘On Revolution’.

  • bobby b

    “Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.”

    I don’t think it’s vocabulary. Every group that is insulated from other groups develops its own language as its language evolves.

    I think it’s more “only the affluent can afford to develop group abstract ideas because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.”

  • There is a mystery short story in which the detective must decide which of two people is the true Navy man, and which the imposter. They both speak English. They both know the jargon. But only the true sailor knows the argot. Just as politically-correct language comes down from the literati, argot comes up from below. But if understood, they both mean the same thing: “This person is one of us.”

  • Julie-near-Chicago, Hannah Arendt put it best when she noted that some western intellectuals rejected defector accounts, preferring official soviet information, but it was precisely the official information that was wholly propaganda, leaving the defector accounts the sole useful source of information about life in the soviet union.

    Phil B (November 17, 2019 at 10:09 pm), I found Conquest’s The Great Purge interesting – detailed, instructive and with many individualising incidents (some blackly humorous). Obviously, there is a sense in which it does read like the communist version of “they killed 5000 Jews from Chelmno, then they gassed 10,000 Jews from Lodz, etc.”. And those who find Russian novels tricky to follow with all those unfamiliar names will find Conquest worse as so many such names appear only to be killed in the next chapter or on the next page.

    These days, Anne Applebaum is a bit never-trumper for my taste (speaking generally, not just about her attitude to Trump specifically). She was indeed sincerely opposed to communism and her Gulag book may be informative – her Polish husband would help with information. In a much more recent article, Anne described the joyous Polish party she was at after communism fell and lamented that some of the very friends she partied with then were now, three decades later, political opponents (and doubtless amongst those who cheered Trump when he visited Poland). It was an article well worth reading as regards seeing how things look from other points of view, but (IIRC) the obvious analogy did not seem to strike her. Many a new-nation American must have celebrated their victory over the British in the mid 1780s – and three decades later fellow party-goers were Democrats or Whigs (maybe a few survived to be Democrats or Republicans). But that normal, un-alarming analogy would undermine the alarmist logic that sees something illegitimate in Trump, Brexit and similar rejections of the elite.

  • Julie near Chicago

    PhilB, thanks for the guide to sources. I’ve read John Earl Haynes’ & Harvey Klehr’s “Venona” book, although in a way there’s not too much there there because of all the redactions. Big fan of Tomas Schuman (Bezmenov). Also The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America*. And I have the two Mitrokhin volumes — migawd, that guy (and similar) had guts.

    *On UT there is a lecture that Mr. Haynes presented to the Library of Congress on the book. 1:04. Bot-suppression URL:

    www. Yoo-Toob .com/watch?v=4uBDddWBSdw

    He also did a presentation in 2010 called “Early Cold War Soviet Espionage Records,” 1:03 at

    www. Yoo-Toob .com/watch?v=IPUKu3jhtyo

    I remember how Chomsky et al. trashed the Cambodian refugees’ accounts. And there were a few comments at Front Page Magazine wondering if Gen. Pacepa was telling the whole truth and nothing but. A question worth asking, IMO, although the evidence of which we (or at least I) am aware puts the Soviet PTB squarely in the glory hole.

    Have you seen the paper by the Cambodian refugee Sophal Ear, “The Khmer Rouge Canon 1975-1979: The Standard Total Academic View on Cambodia,” written in 1995, at

    https://jim.com/canon.htm ?

    Actually, at this point James was pretty solidly libertarian, and he posted a bunch of more-or-less classical lib. stuff plus more, such as the above, as “James’s Liberty File Collection Index” at

    https://jim.com/

    including his switch from his own shortish teenage flirtation from Maoism to a place with a bit less of a hermetically-sealed hothouse atmosphere.

    .

    Ellen, there is something off-putting in a good deal of British 20th-century fiction, if you ask me. Even in the rare instance (I can think of one! non-comedic novel) where the ending is mostly positive, there’s a reason to go a way a little depressed. (That would be my all-time-favorite SF book, Out of the Deeps as entitled in America. I use the American title because for me, it already carries the sense of ominous mystery that the whole book invokes.)

    As a snarky side-note, as far as I can tell American editors don’t even speak American English. I b’lieve Prof. ‘Iggins remarked on this, briefly. The English, of course, swear by the comma splice and after 60 million years I’ve decided to use it myself, once in awhile, deliberately, for stylistic reasons. :>((

    On the other hand, one British movie I do love is Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol. I don’t even feel suicidal after watching it, which I’ve done four or five times now. [Then there are the Pierce Brosnan Bonds. True, they lack the alleged depth of Mourning Becomes Electra (not Brit, of course) or Uncle Vanya (ditto). Of course, in American spy films, I say nothing beats Red and Red 2. (Well, and Notorious.) I’ll stop now, I feel a 20-page article on Movies I Have Loved and Hated. –You’ll notice the comma splice. *g*]

    .

    Niall, thanks for your comment just above. And in particular, for your remarks on Miss Applebaum. I remember that the right-wing commentariat, theretofore wholly pro-Applebaum, was rather disappointed in the book, for the reasons you mention. I will try to hunt up the article you mention.

    I can’t remember whether it was a comment on the Internet or in a thriller I’m currently reading (and my gad, the American lady thriller-writers of the ’90s-’00s were certainly a gruesome and sadistic bunch!), but somebody hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned when he or she remarked that American leftism grew out of the sense of a New England (and maybe Pennsylvania, technically speaking), which yearns for its previous status as the natural home of America’s aristocrats.

    I don’t know if this is really fair to my countrymen or not, but I’ve held the same idea for quite a while now. Of course there’s also the Southern Agrarian Gentleman, but it seems to me he grows from a different source, perhaps largely the Scots-Irish, with its rather different values — or so I assume. Maybe I’m talking through the back of my neck?

  • Julie near Chicago (November 19, 2019 at 12:39 am), I’d agree that there is more negativity in UK fiction, though there’s plenty on your side of the pond (and yet more on the continent than with us). Perhaps it would be better to say, the tendency is there on both sides but you have more push-back against it. It’s (yet) more shameful not to be cynical (except about PC) in literary circles here than in the US and the common culture pushes back (even?) less hard.

    ‘Out of the Deeps’ always seemed to me a more obvious, and so poorer, title than “The Kraken Wakes”. (Had it been “Out of the Depths”, the classical reference might have given it some subtlety.) I understand that titles were mostly changed back then for UK-US copyright-law-clash reasons that have since been somewhat (I think) sorted – though, alas, no prizes, just mockery, for guessing why its US publisher changed the title of Dianna Wynne Jones “Black Maria” to “Aunt Maria”.

    As well as enjoying the best Wyndham books as SF, I was interested by their picture of the same man when married to very different women (the narrator was always obviously the same man, differing in age if at all, but each wife’s character was chosen to serve that book’s plot yet well-characterised).

  • Julie near Chicago

    The Great Frog saith,

    No one is so expert on the Back Story of all things great and small as the wondrous Scotsman Niall Kilmartin. ;>)

    I’m teasing, of course, Niall, although in seriousness I mean every word. Probably has to do with the fact that whereas you improve yourself reading history, doing system design, programming, and theoretical physics, with a side of Great Literature for R&R, I wallow in the Slough of Despond with desperately depressing American lady whodunit-writers. :>((

    –Although I’m delighted to report that last night I found on UT an audiobook of an old Alistair MacLean that I hadn’t read, Night Without End. Man had a penchant for doctors caught in chilly circumstances, as for instance in Ice Station Zebra. I was with him all the way (except for H.M.S. Ulysses*) up until either Athabasca or the one where California falls into the ocean. Sigh … it was time for me to move on.

    *I also hated Gallico’s The Poseidon Adventure. You go through all that nightmare and in the end everybody dies. Well, almost everybody. I’m so relieved.

    .

    Seriously: I have teased about Wyndham’s “Kraken,” but the truth is that what a reader gets from a text does depend on what he brings to it. I discovered somewhere along the way that “kraken” is the British word for “octopus” (who knew!). I also discovered that the Kraken is a mythical creature and an inhabitant of the Deeps (I prefer that word to “depths,” which to my ear is too clinical and Earth-bound: that is, belonging to The Fields We Know).

    (There’s said to be a word “contradiction.” Whose meaning I, or someone, knoweth not.)

    In the latter case, I can well imagine that “Kraken” has the same sort of mystique to the British ear, with its British cultural background, as does the American title I prefer. And I’m indebted to you for causing this thought to jump from gawd-knows-where into a more accessible and unoccupied region of my brain.

    I have to admit that that book is the only thing by Mr. Wyndham that I’ve liked. I won’t rain on your parade about it, but I’m curious about his apparent fixation with the image of the human female as a breeding-sow.

  • I have to admit that that book is the only thing by Mr. Wyndham that I’ve liked.

    I noticed, as I’m guessing you did, that, in “The Day of the Triffids” the arrogant left-wing ‘utopia’ that the presented-as-good-guys create would doubtless be dire in real life, nor would it be opposed solely by a group of murderous fascists and a group of narrow-minded technically-ignorant organisationally-incompetent Christians. However Wyndham keeps his hero away from this ghastly utopia for the whole story – it is merely a goal to which they flee at the very end – so it affects the experienced plot little. Likewise the dea-ex-machina who saves the day in ‘The Chrysalids’ is a eugenicist killer whose superiority over her victims seems to consist solely in their aiming at a static form of the human race whereas she seeks a better (i.e. more like her) form. Again, the story keeps this to the very end so the dramatic plot is little affected by it. In ‘Chocky’, the latter part of the plot is motivated by a somewhat similar left-wing intellectual-cum-anti-capitalist arrogance of assuming mankind will reject invention unless it is sneaked up on them, but while the events this motivates affect the dramatis personae a lot, this explanation of them only appears at the end. Only in ‘Trouble with Lichen’ does the same contempt for the masses – this time seen as led by the official left of Wyndham’s day, not greedy capitalists – play such an acknowledged part through enough of the story that it was hard for me to avoid a smile when reading it.

    ‘The Kraken Wakes’ is unusual in that the affectionately-mocked enfant terrible scientist, who complains about being born in a democracy “where every fool’s vote is worth as much as a sensible man’s” not only has an occasional sense of humour about himself, and his friends who talk to him more so, but eventually goes full Heinlein: after pleading for peaceful co-existence with the aliens for the first half of the novel, Bocker admits he was wrong and humanity must exterminate them or be exterminated.

    “De Profundis” is translated as “Out of the Depths” in my mind and so has a poetry that makes “Out of the Deeps” sound prosaic. But I suppose that is an accident of old translation and quotation.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ah yes, dear Dr. Bocker. Your description is perfect. And he provided the only — and it was relatively slight — downer at the end, when he remarks that you guys on that little tiny island are going to have to institute population control — and the Missus remarks to the effect that at the present, that is a bridge too far.

    I’m not sure I ever got around to reading Lichen; I had a quick look at the Great Foot, and the plot does not sound familiar. It does, however, remind me of Mildred Clingerman’s not-too-short story “Letters from Laura,” which I always have thought excellent.

    As for preferred titles — You say tomayto, I say tomahto [NOT!]. But I don’t think we should call the whole thing off on such piffling grounds. It’s interesting getting a peek behind the Kilmartin curtain as to what rouses your reactions to the various titles. :>)

  • I’m not sure I ever got around to reading Lichen

    You haven’t missed much; his more famous books are his better-written ones. Lichen is vaguely feminist, albeit in a very 1950s way that might see it put on the feminist index expurgatorius of today. We are obliged to assume that the male-oriented Jeremy-Corbyn-lookalikes in the Labour party of that time would oppose a life-prolonging medication as a plot by the bosses to defraud the workers of even more surplus value during their now longer working lives, and would have no difficulty rounding up lefty goons to riot against being given it, but be outwitted by a group of enlightened women cleverly passing the cure off as a beauty product, the women’s actual motive being the belief that, while standard feminist propaganda wasn’t convincing enough women fast enough, if women started living for three times the biblical three-score-and-ten then they’d all sooner or later see through the male chauvinist propaganda about getting married and having families, and anyway the longer-lived population would have less need of kids. Stylistically, he attempts a multi-viewpoint third-person narrative instead of his usual first-person narrator and I’d say that works less well also, making the narrative cluncky.

    My summation is a bit negatively-oriented – you could find things even in Lichen to distinguish Wyndham from the average run-of-the-mill SF writers of his day. But even I found his idea of the socialist left explicitly refusing to live longer just a bit hard to take. 🙂

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