Re: The hazards of writing fiction about post-humans

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Tue May 03 2005 - 12:24:52 MDT

At 09:29 AM 5/3/2005 -0700, Eliezer wrote:

> Despite all Vingean rules there is no good reason why transhumans,
> especially in a work of fiction, should not have strong emotions the
> reader can empathize with. If you need to explain why, tell your readers
> that they're outgrowths of humans.

Some of them are, some of them aren't (in my new novel, I mean).

>Rationality is not about emotionlessness, and neither is intelligence

Indeed; I've made the same point many times. I think the reviewers' problem
is not with a lack of portrayed emotion, because as far as I can see the
characters are frequently emotional. It has something to do with the
reader's emotional response to the big strange ideas and big vistas I bring
to the canvas. These ideas are commonplace on a site like SL4, or among
old-time extropians. I think even for us, having them come thick and fast
in what amounts to an opera without music is still emotionally evocative.
But some readers, this is just infodumping. Sigh.

>The Singularity is not an ironic commentary on the rate of change. <snip >

Interesting thoughts, Eliezer, and I thank you for them.

>When you wrote about _SitS_ in _The Spike_, you wrote, "Well, of course,
>one smiles, recalling the exaggerated postures of adolescence." Being
>rather fond of that youthful Eliezer, you attached no particular utility
>to hurting his feelings;

I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, or his feelings, but this is a risk
whenever public commentary is made on a highly personalised text.

>yet you found it necessary to insert *something* that would make clear
>your emotional detachment. Why? Because you had to avoid, and
>automatically avoided, a scenario in which your readers might think you
>cared about something

Not so. (More exactly, what parlour psychoanalytic drivel.) I was an adult
speaking -- as I saw it, predominantly -- to adults, drawing on some
brilliant and passionate writing about an urgent topic very few people had
considered until then, writing unfortunately distorted precisely by "the
exaggerated postures of adolescence." I wanted people to take the ideas
seriously, without dismissing them for the wrong reason. Possibly this
tactic worked. Again, though, I apologise that my using it caused bruising.
But hey, what are a few lumps compared with getting the singularity here
faster and more safely, stopping those deaths, everything young Eliezer was
shouting about at the top of his voice.

Damien Broderick

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