1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Ringworld

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Steerpike, Jan 17, 2017.

    I read this book as a teen, and just finished a re-read of it. Not all SF published in 1970 holds up, but I thought Ringworld did, for the most part. There is a current of both sexism and paternalism running through how the female characters are portrayed, sadly not unusual for SF of that era....

    The next novel, Ringworld Engineers, came out in 1980, by which time Niven may have progressed beyond some of the problems with female characters. I don't know, since I never read the rest of the Ringworld books.

    So my question is: are they worth reading?
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Niven, sadly, does not progress in his understanding and portrayal of women, and it's not just Teela Brown. Even when the women are from the Ringworld and described as being of significantly diverged lines of evolution, even then it would seem that boobaliciousness is as intrinsically inseparable from human female evolution as the seven cervical vertebrae rule for mammals. o_O Only when they become Pak Protectors is this rule broken.

    Don't get me wrong, I liked the books, and as a gay youth the boobaliciousness was rather lost one me, but Niven is from a certain slice of history and it shows, even in his latter novels.
     
  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I will add one caveat:

    In his Smoke Ring books (A World out of Time, The Integral Trees, The Smoke Ring) he favorably engages the topic of transgenderism loooooong before it ever became a talking point, so... I will give him that for progressiveness. :)
     
  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Last comment: As you know I like to read/watch author interviews when I can. It's hard to get a bead on Niven, though, because he gives lousy interview. He's really monosyllabic.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Ah, too bad. Was hoping he'd evolved. I was willing to give him a little slack on Teela, since she's young, naive, never faced adversity. But I never got better. I have The Integral Trees in my stack, as well as Ringworld Engineers. Which to choose?
     
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you pick The Integral Trees, I'll give you a little clue: Prikazyvat' (приказывать)* means order or command in Russian. ;) It's not a spoiler, but it will help you to better understand some parts of the text.

    *I think he writes it without the apostrophe at the end indicating the soft sign, typical of infinitive verb forms in Russian.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    @Wreybies have you read Among Others, by Jo Walton?
     
  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Nope, but I just read the wiki page on it. Sounds interesting. :) Is there a particular thing that invokes its mention?
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Talk of classic Sci-Fi. It's a great book, and the main character is into classic SF, so there are all kinds of overt references and allusions to classic works that you'd appreciate.
     
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  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ah... the meta-effect. :)
     
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  11. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I read it a long time ago (like when Halo first came out) and I didn't notice any blatant sexism. I guess I never noticed how dumb Teela was.

    As for the natives, anyone who claims sexism, I'll just claim anthropocentricm. You can't be sexist with aliens if it's logical in terms of evolution, then you're just pandering. The fact that none of our intellectual genes are on the haploids is dumb luck.

    It's been a long time since I read it like I said, but weren't the natives bred? I read Engineers too, but I really don't remember much about it. I know it was more about how the ring worked than anything since the first book violated so many laws of physics.
     
  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    They were referred to as breeders, but not because they were bred, so to speak. In Niven's Known Space, of which the Ringworld is a part, it's made known that we humans are the sexually active, reproductive phase of a creature that evolved much closer to the galactic core, called the Pak. Childhood is our first phase, puberty our first metamorphosis, and the second metamorphosis requires the consumption of a plant called Tree of Life that contains a virus-like organism that provokes a change into a Pak Protector. The stories make mild allusion to the idea that cassava plants are Tree of Life, but that the virus-like organism didn't survive the introduction to Earth, so we got stuck in the breeder phase.
     
  13. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Part 2 (spoilers)

    This makes Earth a sort of lost colony. The Ringworld is also a lost colony, as regards trope, but since it's artificial, there wasn't any other fauna to compete with breeders. A few million years go by and you get breeders that have evolved to fill the empty ecological niches. There is active Tree of Life on the Ringworld, though. In one of the oceans there is a complete, full-size reproduction of the continents of Earth and also Mars (big-ass ocean) and in the Mars map, Tree of Life is hidden.
     
  14. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    He wrote a novel (novelette by today's standards) called Protector. On the original cover you get an idea of what humans would look like if we ate Tree of Life and metamorphosed into our true adult phase, a Pak Protector.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Wow, it has been a long time. I thought Known Space was very similar to our universe, just with slightly modified laws of physics to allow spaceships and stuff.

    I would not expect western morality to be imposed on people who are not westerners and not even really human. Millions of years? Our species literally hasn't been around that long. That's one of those things that really annoys me in sci-fi, when someone takes known scientific things like the age of humanity and royally screw with it. Especially considering that the second book tried so hard to be hard sci-fi. If we evolved somewhere else, why are we related to everything else on this planet? Why can we trace our lineage back millions of years? Why can we show that our basic genes also exist in fish, trees, bacteria, bananas....
     
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  16. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, totally agree with your there on the human evolution deal. Strangely, though, that's not the thing Niven got pegged on in this series. In a bit of Sci-Fi infamy, Niven is known to have been "mobbed" (I use the term loosely here) by a crowd of fans at a convention, all of them chanting "THE RINGWORLD IS UNSTABLE!! THE RINGWORLD IS UNSTABLE!!" He wrote Ringworld Engineers as a response to this and addressed the scientific inaccuracy by indeed making the Ringworld unstable, with the sun at its center slowly drifting to one side (or the Ringworld drifting to one side, same dif) and this becomes the central conflict in this book.
     
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  17. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, he should have asked a physicist how to do that, and it's pretty obvious that he didn't. He needed to make it both unstable and segmented. Not only is ringworld's stationary position above a star violating orbital dynamics, but the fact that it's rigid would mean that any deviation would exert ridiculous pressures on the ring that no material could withstand and it'd shatter as though it were glass.
     
  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Handwavium. He has the structure made of something the natives call scrith. It can do it all. It slices, it dices, it makes julienne fries. :) It's not completely impervious, though. Don't know if you remember, but there's a bit in the first book (gets revisited in subsequent books) where Lious Wu & Crew come across what appears to be a mountain that the natives call Fist of God. It's an impact the Ringworld sustained from the outside that punched a hole in the structure and created that mountain. Luckily the hole created (which is the top of the mountain) raises to just above the level of atmosphere contained in the Ringworld.
     
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  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I think you're misremembering.

    There are two significant females - Teela and Prill. Far from being free of western 20th century values, it is pretty clear that American values circa 1950s and 1960s are imposed on them. Sex is a primary function for both of them, and they behave much like women who exist in large part to fall in love with and attend to their men.
     
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I recently read Legacy of Heorot. Same problem. Women are defined primarily (though not entirely) by their bodies and their ability to attract a man and have his children. It's a bit ludicrous, but Niven et al. are products of their time. I thought the book wasn't bad overall, that problem aside.
     
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  21. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    He also cringingly takes pains to tell us that from the chin up, Halrloprillalar (Prill) has clearly followed her own evolutionary path, but from the chin down: Standard Issue Space Hottie™.

    There's a pretty fair artistic rendering of her at this location, which tends to illuminate the issue with how Niven engages this character in discription.
     
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  22. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    It's too bad he was still in the same mindset by the mid-1980s (and Pournelle and Barnes didn't help tremendously, it seems). That's the nature of SF/F from that era, in large part, but it tends to make the works unintentionally comical in retrospect.

    But I still like the old SF/F. Heck, Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think was written in the 1940s and is still pretty good.
     
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  23. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    BTW, and just to be fair, and mildly off-topic... in going through my own WIP (the Fantasy piece) and tracking through chapters I've not been through in a while, I must confess to being guilty, on occasion, of omniscient pectorals & abs (gay version of omniscient breasts).

    I'm working very hard to fix that. :bigoops:
     
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  24. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    Add some omniscient biceps and glutes, and you're good to go. :p
     
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  25. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    Jesus, it's like someone put Roberts Blossom's head on Jenna Jameson's body!

    <Iain curls up in the corner muttering about brain bleach>
     
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