Jerry Pournelle responded to my my most recent blog post with a detailed series of comments worth reading in their entirety. Given that we were already deep in the thread, I’m rebooting the whole discussion for a brand-new week.
Jerry- thanks for the comments. I’m sorry (though not surprised) to hear you reiterate your judgment re the rigor of the science in my books, all the more so as this is based on a ten minute exchange we had in which you repeatedly interrupted me and rarely allowed me to finish an answer. Same goes for your view on my knowledge of history. But in the hopes that print will lend itself better to clarity than talk, here’s my take on the various issues we’ve been discussing.
Re SDI: we agree on much here. But I think the daylight between us centers on the distinction between the system’s architects saw the projected capabilities/intentions of what they were building VS. what was being sold to the American public. The American people weren’t told that SDI would still leave most of their cities a smoking wreck, otherwise there’s no way they would have supported it. They were simply led to believe that ultimately an effective “missile shield” was possible. This isn’t the first time that insiders have been aware of the nuances of something while the broader public was encouraged to subscribe to a more black and white view. All the more so as it was important to amplify/oversell SDI’s capabilities to the Soviet Union as well, so as to keep the Red Bear scared and get him to the negotiating table at speed. All of which seems like practical politics/diplomacy to me. Note at no point in our conversation have I disagreed with you about the ultimate intention of those who initiated SDI, and yet here I am being told I’m misinformed and don’t know what I’m talking about. I fear you may be misinterpreting–or may have misheard–my position.
On those solar powered satellites: I understand that belief in a comprehensive, cheap SPS solution is an integral part of your world-view, and I hope you’re right that it’s a workable one. It’s just that in my fiction. . . you aren’t. For what it’s worth, this skeptical stance re the environmental side-effects of SPS is by no means an integral foundation-item for the Autumn Rain universe, and this is one area where being cut off Thursday night probably got in the way of clarity. The Autumn Rain world is one that’s trying to turn the corner, and the question it faces is whether bootstrapping the off-Earth economy can occur before environmental decline becomes irreversible. Even if SPS works, we will still, I think, face this task.
Re global warming: yes, I subscribe to the current mainstream position that global warming is a serious problem, and that human industrial factors are contributing to it. As you say, that position *may* be incorrect.
Re the state of hard science fiction: My understanding is that hard science fiction involves a rigorous attempt to ground the narrative in science and scientific speculation. But if we’re going to narrow that definition to science approved by particular authors/scientists, then yes, I would agree, hard science fiction is in rapid decline, and that’s probably a good thing too. Personally, I think the genre is in much better shape than you might think vis-a-vis the issue of scientific rigor, all the more so with regards to the social sciences, where the level of realism used to veer toward the laughable. Indeed, I think science-fiction has historically subscribed to way too many illusions regarding how politics really works, but I guess that’s an issue for another time. Maybe over a beer some day.
I already gave Jerry a copy of BURNING SKIES, but the rest of you are going to have to buy your own.