Reading Discussion?

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honorentheos
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Reading Discussion?

Post by honorentheos »

Years ago MeDotOrg kept two or three books in his sig line he was reading at the time, from which I know more than a couple found their way to my list. I believe the discussion about Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind had two lives here, once as a result of it being in MeDot's SIG line and the other time due to beastie bringing it up.

I tend to enjoy when a book gets brought up that I've read.

I've also had the distinct pleasure of engaging in a reading group with another board member via Facebook and found their insights invaluable.

I'm floating the question out there about who might be interested in starting up a reading discussion here? I've participated in a few online reading groups and it's usually manageable provide a few things are addressed up front:

Book selection seems to work best under a nomination/voting system.

Reading discussing work best when broken into milestone discussions on a schedule. This encourages keeping up rather than waiting to the day before the discussion to try and binge read the entire book, but also discourages spoilers. If everyone knows the discussion will.be up to chapter x on Wednesdays it's easier to ensure participants are roughly at the same place in reading and are keeping pace.

Lastly, the person who nominates the book selected is the de facto moderator of the discussion.

Anyone interested?
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Res Ipsa »

That's right up my alley.
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Marcus
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Marcus »

I am interested. Do you have a genre or general area of interest in mind?
honorentheos
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by honorentheos »

Marcus wrote:
Wed May 04, 2022 10:08 pm
I am interested. Do you have a genre or general area of interest in mind?
I've found that having book selection be driven by a nomination/voting system allows those interested to both find books they might like, and then the book that gets selected had a majority of interest. Then the genre could also evolve as interests shift.

I'm pretty omnivores when it comes to reading. :)
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Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

I can’t really commit to a reading group right now, but I do want to pop in and make an unsolicited recommendation. I’ve been on a Neil Stephenson kick the last few months, and have enjoyed his writing immensely. It’s near-future hard science fiction heavy on socio-political commentary. His world building is thorough, he writes tightly, he masterly weaves story lines together, and projects out reality thirty or so years in the future so adroitly you have to set the book down and let it marinate. I guess I’d describe him as a smarter version of Michael Crichton, but that feels a little disrespectful to him. Author info follows:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Stephenson

https://www.nealstephenson.com/social-media.html

If you have time to spare I recommend his sit downs with the lovable Lex Fridman:

https://www.google.com/search?q=neal+st ... s-wiz-serp

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Marcus
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Marcus »

Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Thu May 05, 2022 1:08 am
I can’t really commit to a reading group right now, but I do want to pop in and make an unsolicited recommendation. I’ve been on a Neil Stephenson kick the last few months, and have enjoyed his writing immensely. It’s near-future hard science fiction heavy on socio-political commentary. His world building is thorough, he writes tightly, he masterly weaves story lines together, and projects out reality thirty or so years in the future so adroitly you have to set the book down and let it marinate. I guess I’d describe him as a smarter version of Michael Crichton, but that feels a little disrespectful to him. Author info follows:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Stephenson

https://www.nealstephenson.com/social-media.html

If you have time to spare I recommend his sit downs with the lovable Lex Fridman:

https://www.google.com/search?q=neal+st ... s-wiz-serp

- Doc
I love Stephenson. his first novel, The Big U, is quite different from his other stuff, but wow, still wildly creative. I have reread that one probably more than any other novel of his. Have you read any Greg Egan?
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Xenophon
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Xenophon »

Like Doc I'm don't think I'd be able to 100% commit to it. Assuming the group was okay with it I'd be down to chime in when/where I could. I might be able to meet some of the reading deadlines and would only jump in if I could and sit out those I miss. I'm also content to just ride the bench until a later date.
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Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

Marcus wrote:
Thu May 05, 2022 2:10 am
Have you read any Greg Egan?
I have not. I only know about Stephenson because of his Lex Fridman interview, so Greg Egan is a complete mystery to me. I’ll queue a book up based off your recommendation. What’s the first Egan book I should read - remember, I’m a midwit who likes Ancient Aliens and gets headaches when I look at mathematical formulas.

- Doc
1. Speech is aggression.
2. Every utterance has a winner or a loser.
3. Curiosity is feigned.
4. Lying is performative.
5. Stupidity is power.
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Morley »

I'm in.
Marcus
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Re: Reading Discussion?

Post by Marcus »

Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Thu May 05, 2022 2:29 pm
Marcus wrote:
Thu May 05, 2022 2:10 am
Have you read any Greg Egan?
I have not. I only know about Stephenson because of his Lex Fridman interview, so Greg Egan is a complete mystery to me. I’ll queue a book up based off your recommendation. What’s the first Egan book I should read - remember, I’m a midwit who likes Ancient Aliens and gets headaches when I look at mathematical formulas.

- Doc
A lot of his later stuff has serious math, but his earlier writings, while still technical are very philosophical. Try this short story first, “Learning to Be Me.” here’s a great overview of it:

My main issue with the Hard Science Fiction genre is that it can be frustratingly inaccessible with its high density of information and unrelenting technical jargon. Taken from Greg Egan's excellent collection entitled Axiomatic, "Learning to Be Me" finds a nice balance between the author's mind-bending scientific concepts and adept story-telling abilities. What does it mean to be human? is often at the heart of a lot of science fiction but here the author reverses the question: What is it like not to be human? Set in the not-so-distant future, this story introduces a new technology where the brain is eventually removed and replaced by a device called "The Jewel," allowing humans to live forever. The device is implanted at birth while the brain is still in the early stages of development and learns over time to replicate all the cognitive functions, sensory inputs and active neurons that make up a person's consciousness. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me.

Transhumanism is the primary ideological discourse explored in the story. Those individuals with the Jewel implant would technically still be human but that does not necessarily mean that they actually feel human. The protagonist undergoes the procedure and struggles to reconcile between his human self and Jewel self. Egan then delivers a terrifying scenario: what if a person undergoes "the switch" (as it is referred to in the story) but there is an error and they no longer have control over their new brain? The paradox of subjectivity engenders the protagonist's otherness and is dramatized by his intense paranoia. An intense cognitive dissonance gives way to the story's psychological realism as the protagonist is confronted by the ontological Other: himself. He is both human and nonhuman. The story's fatalistic implications seem to suggest that humanism is under threat by technological advancements and our impending dissolution is inevitable.

The first person narrative voice gives us direct access to his inner thoughts but this focalization is undermined by the nonhuman aspects of this technological modification. Therefore, who is the real person during this merging of consciousness? Egan's narrative ingenuity is most apparent with the shifting focalization that occurs simultaneously, making the first person narrative voice particularly tricky to pin down. Is the protagonist a reliable narrator or is the Jewel the unreliable narrative voice the entire time? Fascinating stuff.

http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/20 ... -me_7.html
Another of my favorite short stories of his is ”Reasons to Be Cheerful”, with a similar philosophical bent.

My favorite books along the lines of what you requested are Permutation City, Quarantine, and his short story collection, Axiomatic. Now you’ve motivated me to dig that one out yet again for another re-read!

Not to be overwhelming, but he has an awesome website, https://www.gregegan.net/BIBLIOGRAPHY/Online.html

He lists there sources for a lot of his shorts, non-f, novels, interviews, a lot available free. If you get interested in his short stories I’m happy to list another set of my favorites in that group. This newish one, the link a free version from his site, is “Uncanny Valley.” https://tor.com/2017/08/09/uncanny-valley/ Another stunning piece of creativity, in my opinion.

And I thought you would appreciate this little disclaimer from a corner of his front page:
There are no photos of me on the web. The world contains many people besides me who are named Greg Egan, and thanks to the idiots at Google and the trashy click-bait sites they rely on it’s possible to find images online of half a dozen different people that are labelled as “Australian SF writer Greg Egan,” but none are what they claim to be.
8-)
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