Upcoming Seminars

by Henry on November 26, 2012

We have a few seminars here at Crooked Timber over the next eight or nine months. The first, which will be coming out in a few weeks, is on Jack Knight and James Johnson’s recent book _The Priority of Democracy_ ( Amazon, Powells). It proposes a pragmatist understanding of how democracy works because, not despite of, the stark conflicts of interest and ideas within it. It’ll make for some good arguments.

In addition, we have advanced plans for the much delayed Erik Olin Wright _Real Utopias_ event, for Ken MacLeod’s various novels, for Felix Gilman’s _The Half Made World_ and its about-to-be-published sequel, _The Rise of Ransom City_, and Strongly Formulated Intentions for a couple of other events to be announced at a later date. Those who haven’t read Gilman’s book yet may want to take advantage of a Tor deal for the e-book edition – for this week, and this week only, it can be purchased for $2.99 at “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/The-Half-Made-World-ebook/dp/B003P8QSAA/ref=redir_mdp_mobile?redirect=true&tag=henryfarrell-20, “Barnes and Noble”:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/half-made-world-felix-gilman/1100357766?ean=9781429949248&itm=1&usri=half+made+world and “Apple”:https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-half-made-world/id376226529?mt=11. In Cosma Shalizi’s words:

A splendidly-written high-fantasy western. (It is by no stretch of the imagination “steampunk”.) Gilman takes great themes of what one might call the Matter of America — the encroachment of regimented industrial civilization, the hard-eyed anarchic men (and women) of violence, the dream of not just starting the world afresh but of offering the last best hope of earth — and transforms the first two into warring rival pantheons of demons, the third into a noble lost cause. (I think Gilman knows _exactly_ how explosive the last theme is, which is why he manages to handle it without setting it off.) Beneath and behind it all lies the continuing presence of the dispossessed original inhabitants of the continent. A story of great excitement and moment unfolds in this very convincing world, tying together an appealing, if believably flawed, heroine and two finely-rendered anti-heroes, told in prose that is vivid and hypnotic by turns.



OCS 11.26.12 at 9:10 pm

I want that deal on Rise of Ransom City, but the Amazon link takes me to Kings of Infinite Space, and a straight Amazon search shows the regular price. Any chance of an updated link?


Luis 11.26.12 at 9:30 pm

OCS: Look for the Kindle edition (no link, as I’d like CT to get the merchant’s share).

Also, does anyone know when Tor is actually going to start offering e-books directly as they had said they would in the summer? Glad to see that the Amazon version is DRM-free, but I’d love to skip the middleman in that case.


KCIvey 11.26.12 at 9:53 pm

OCS, yes, the Amazon link is wrong, but the deal is for The Half-Made World, not The Rise of Ransom City.


TheSophist 11.26.12 at 9:54 pm

Any suggestions on which MacLeod to start with? (Either “His best books are…”, or “The books we’ll be discussing on CT are…” would be a great help.)


Manoel 11.26.12 at 9:54 pm

Amazon is 9.99 (at least for me), and BN doesn’t have the app to read the e-book available for my country (Brazil!).


Manoel 11.26.12 at 9:58 pm

Nope, My fault. I just followed the link and the link linked to another book, which it is being sold by 9.99. But the Gilman’s book it is indeed 2.99


Phil 11.26.12 at 10:32 pm

The Star Fraction, because it’s (a) his first, and a great fizzing hey-ho-let’s-go of a first novel, (b) brilliant & almost obsessively thought-provoking, and most importantly [c] the only one I’ve read so far.


djw 11.26.12 at 11:55 pm

Yay for Knight and Johnson seminar! I’ve been enjoying it immensely, and wishing I had someone to talk to about it. Looking forward.


bianca steele 11.27.12 at 12:55 am

I picked up two MacLeods randomly at the library, and both were good (surprisingly so, given I don’t read much SF these days). My local library seems to have made a practice of buying the last installment in each series (the ones I read, The Cassini Division and Engine City), until his last few, and the Star Fraction is apparently nowhere to be found in the west-suburban Boston network.


Henry 11.27.12 at 1:04 am

link should be fixed. On MacLeod, there will be a variety of people doing different books. I am pretty sure The Cassini Division is getting covered; also Learning the World (a book that I am very fond of) . And I’d be surprised if the Star Fraction doesn’t get a look in.


between4walls 11.27.12 at 1:13 am

I recommend starting MacLeod with the Fall Revolution series, which comprises, in publication order:
The Star Fraction
The Stone Canal
The Cassini Division
The Sky Road

They come in two omnibuses- Fractions and Divisions.

The best one by far is The Sky Road, but it builds on backstory from The Stone Canal. I recommend trying The Star Fraction, for the reasons given by Phil, but going with The Stone Canal instead if you can’t get into it. The Star Fraction is set on Earth ~2025, while half of The Stone Canal takes place in a far future space setting, if that influences your choice either way. Either way, definitely read The Sky Road.

If you want a stand-alone novel, “The Restoration Game” is a fun part sci-fi, part secret history, part thriller, set during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.


Luis 11.27.12 at 2:47 am

Note that, if you’re looking for Star Fraction, it is often no longer available individually, but is available as “Fraction” (which is two books in one volume, one of which is Star Fraction).


JanieM 11.27.12 at 2:54 am

Also, fwiw, AbeBooks and B&N have used copies of The Star Fraction for a few dollars, including shipping. I’ve gotten decent, cheap copies of quite a few books from AbeBooks, no bad experiences so far.


Stephen Frug 11.27.12 at 3:57 am

Thanks for the link to the sale on Half-Made World. I’ve been meaning to pick that up since seeing Shalizi’s review.


LFC 11.27.12 at 4:05 am

Yay for Knight and Johnson seminar! I’ve been enjoying it immensely, and wishing I had someone to talk to about it. Looking forward.

I put my hands on Knight & Johnson this evening — a library copy, apparently untouched by other humans, or at least by students wielding marking implements. I intend to read the book (note: “I intend to read the book” not “I will read the book,” thus leaving myself a bit of an escape hatch). A preliminary perusal suggests that, unlike djw, I am not going to enjoy it — a prediction which I hope turns out to be completely wrong.


Odm 11.27.12 at 4:23 am

For Canadians, Kobo Books also has an e-book version for $2.99.


Rakesh 11.27.12 at 8:10 am

Review of Knight and Johnson’s book at Understanding Society blogspot by philosopher of social science Daniel Little.


Farah 11.27.12 at 8:47 am

Hmmm: six men, no women.


otto 11.27.12 at 12:39 pm

Lots to look forward to here.

Shame Rise of Ransom City is not available on Kindle in “Europe”, I may be forced to buy a dead tree version.


LFC 11.27.12 at 2:30 pm

oh the horror! to have to buy a real book!


rm 11.27.12 at 2:52 pm

Also, Gilman published a novella at Tor.com that I think is a prequel to The Rise of Ransom City. It is available on Amazon. The title is “Lightbringers and Rainmakers: A Tor.com Original.” It’s a bit hard to get to from Henry’s link; just go back to the all books page and search for Felix Gilman. It’s completely wonderful, and makes me very excited to read the new novel.


Dairy Queen 11.27.12 at 3:28 pm

Have to say my first reaction tracked Farah’s.


Henry 11.27.12 at 4:14 pm

Farah, dairy queen – fwiw (perhaps not much), one of the 2 books that is in the formulated intentions category (i.e. planned, but not set in stone) is by a woman author.


Dairy Queen 11.27.12 at 5:37 pm

Wouldn’t have bothered to post the comment if didn’t suspect this was feedback you would be open to hearing. Thanks for the response, always enjoy the seminars.


sanbikinoraion 11.28.12 at 10:22 pm

Henry: what is the gender balance of the contributors to the known seminars so far? This has been a bit of a sore spot on CT before.


Dairy Queen 11.28.12 at 11:32 pm

Sanbinkinoraian (pls excuse spelling errors, posting from phone), two separate issues. 1 – Women authors as subjects of seminars (or their books, obvs), and 2 – gender balance of contributors.

My recollection is past has been better on 2 than 1. Hopeful for redress of 1 and amelioration of 2.


Latro 11.29.12 at 3:27 pm

“A splendidly-written high-fantasy western. (It is by no stretch of the imagination “steampunk”.) ”

Eh… what? Few pages into the book and we get a cowboy gambling in a riverboat casino/brothel while “ornithopters” patrol in the distance. If thats no steampunk then I dont know what it is.


Latro 11.29.12 at 10:08 pm

Or I’m an idiot and that phrase means it IS steampunk while I read it as It isnt by no…. so, forget I said anything :P


Charles S 11.30.12 at 4:35 am

Dairy Queen,

The ratio of participants in the one that I noticed was about as bad as the ratio of authors in the 21 seminars (6:1) that have either happened or are planned. Looking through all the seminars, the ration of participants is actually worse (10:1 on average), and I didn’t see any women participants who were not regular Crooked Timber authors (most seminars have non-CT invited participants, as far as I noticed they were never women).


Is 1 out of 8 seminar subjects a ratio you’re happy with? That is worse that the 2 out of 13 in the previous seminars.

Previous seminars:
Berman- 6:0
Benkler- 6:1
Clarke- 3:2
Levitt- 5:0
Henwood- 3:0
Rodrik- 6:0
Mooney- 7:0
Meiville- 4:2
Stross- 5:1
Teles- 9:1
Schialabba- 7:0
Graeber- 11:0
Spufford- 12:1


Charles S 11.30.12 at 4:37 am


“by no stretch of the imagination” means it is definitely not, so your first reading was correct.


Latro 11.30.12 at 10:24 am

At the risk of proving again that I learned English reading computer programming manuals,

“It is by no stretch of the imagination “steampunk” means “You dont have to make any effort to classify it as steampunk, it is obvious it is” or “No matter how much you try there is no amount of imaginative speculation that will let you put this into the steampunk genre”?

In any case, so far as Chapter 11, I’m enjoying it above my initial doubts, so looking forward for the seminar :-)


LFC 11.30.12 at 3:22 pm

most seminars have non-CT invited participants, as far as I noticed they were never women.

Henry can answer for himself, but on this gender-balance-of-contributors point, he’s said before that not everyone who is invited to contribute accepts. You have to go w the people who agree to contribute, obvs., and that can make a difference. [Frankly I can’t get too exercised about these issues, esp in the context of a blog (as opposed to, say, something ‘required’ of a group of readers, like a course syllabus).]


rm 11.30.12 at 5:02 pm

I think the statement this is not steampunk is the same here as this is not science fiction when applied to novels like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Slaughterhouse 5 (all those number-in-the-title novels). What it means is this is obviously [GENRE] but it is a good work of literature, and therefore cannot be [GENRE] because it is not escapist fluff.


Henry 11.30.12 at 7:03 pm

Sorry for lack of response – have been travelling and dealing with Other Stuff. Briefly, the gender balance will be better for the Knight-Johnson seminar than in the last couple, but still not where we would like it to be at. And in fact, it has been significantly delayed because one of the woman participants pulled out (otherwise it would likely already be up). The participants for the other two seminars are still a work in progress – I may well seek to co-opt at least one person who has been raising these issues in this comment section if she is willing ;) More generally, all I can say is that the gender ratio among the contributors is a problem which we are trying to deal with, but not having nearly as much success as I would like. The rough gender balance of the people I’m inviting these days is about 75% women to 25% men – but the take-up rate among women is far, far lower than it is among men. This may be something to do with the topics that we’ve been choosing, and the gender imbalance among authors we’re discussing. It may also be a product of the limitations of my and a couple of other CTers’ social networks. It may be a product of the fact that there aren’t as many women in some areas of the academy as men, and those who are tend to be heavily overburdened. Also, other gender stuff – women bearing a disproportionate brunt of household work as well as working fulltime may have less time to say yes to random invitations. All I can say, again, is that we’re aware (I’m aware) that this is a problem, am doing my best to try to deal with it, recognize that these efforts are not adequate, and if I can’t promise to succeed, at least promise to try to fail better in future.


Henry 11.30.12 at 7:15 pm

And on the “is it steampunk” question, my position, fwiw is set out in this old post.


Latro 11.30.12 at 9:18 pm

I have not read Priest’s novel, and just looked very quickly over the links in that other post, so in a completly “I dont know what I’m talking about ” vein, may it not be that Priest explanation is that if you are going to have your steampunk gears over everything being something more that looking cool but doing nothing, you need to have the conditions to it? I mean, “a long war” seems like very much “yes, this is what the long 19th looks like”, for example.

But again, you have read the novel, I havent, so maybe she doesnt get anywhere with that a part from having a source for the gears in the clothing steampunky aesthetics.

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