Friday, September 01, 2006

"Inferno"

The madman's wandering blue eyes found me. He said, "I was a psychiatrist."

"I didn't ask." In fact, I'd already learned more of Hell than I really wanted to know. I only wanted out. -Don't tell me any more!- I closed my eyes.

"They trusted me," the mad voice said happily. "They thought we knew what we were doing. For fifty bucks an hour I listened to their life stories. Wouldn't you?"

He subsided. The woman said, "He's crazy."

"Thanks. I really wondered about that," I told her without opening my eyes...

The mad psychiatrist noticed me again. "We were just playing," he said dreamily. "Tinkering with something we didn't understand. I knew. Oh, I knew. Let me tell you..."

"Don't tell me." They kept hurting at me, all of them!

"He was a catatonic. He was like a rubber doll. You could put him in any position, and he'd stay there for hours. We tried all sorts of things in those days. Shock therapy, inslin shock, lobotomy. Punish the patient for not noticing the outside world."

"Or for not noticing you."

I meant it to hurt, but he nodded happily. "So we put him in a hotbox and started raising the temperature. We watched him through a window. First he just sweated. Then he started to move around. At a hundred and thirty he said his first words in sixteen years. 'Get me the fuck out of here!'"

The mad eyes found me, and his face seemed to cave in. The cherubic smile vanished. Urgently he said, "Get me the fuck out of here!"

"I can't. I'll be lucky to get out myself." I tried moving again. There was pain, but not enough to keep me in that place. I stood gingerly and started up the slope.

The girl cried, "You can't do that! Come back here! Come back!"

I kept going.



--Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, "Inferno"

18 comments:

Andrew said...

I hope that doesn't include psychologists who run relationship advice sites, or I'm in deep trouble! :o)

Andrew
To Love, Honor and Dismay

mandos said...

Larry Niven's a bit of a jerk though.

Have you ever read any Lois McMaster Bujold, especially her copious Miles Vorkosigan/Barrayaran Empire novels? You might like the short story Borders of Infinity. It's about prisoners of war in a bizarre futuristic PoW camp which technically complies with interstellar law, but is nevertheless designed to play a subtle mind game with the inmates.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, so I hear. And the end of the book's a bit dubious for me; I was gonna quote it and thought, you know what, in a way it sounds all too...familiar. No, I haven't, thanks, sounds interesting. I'm pretty limited wrt SF; what I do read tends more toward the "fantasy" end of the genre(s), generally speaking. I like "Inferno" because I tend to like mythic/"journey" stories.

Do you know Roger Zelazny? "Lord of Light," I liked that. also playing around with religious themes.

and I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan, I know, fall over from the originality, but I do love him.

Tuffy said...

in a way it sounds all too...familiar.

Familiar how?

belledame222 said...

Obliquely (very, really) referring to my impression of certain events/ tendencies on recent intrablog shitstorms; long backstory, kind of hard to recap if you're just tuning in. (you know, sort of exactly like the WELL, only much bigger, and now with 30% more feminist thrashing!) Why, do you know the book?

how you doon, anyway?

mandos said...

I never read Zelazny, but I've heard of him.

If you like fantasy, Bujold has something you might like too: her recent Chalion series, particularly the second book, Paladin of Souls. It's about the pilgrimage of a side-character from the first book, and contains most of the features that you say you like.

belledame222 said...

Cool, sounds interesting, thanks, will check out.

Who else do you like in the SF genre(s)? ("speculative fiction?") Or, what kind of stuff?

soopermouse said...

Larry Niven is a shitty writer... who has such brilliant ideas that we forgive him for it and read them all breathless.

OK, except for the Ringworld Children. That sucked.

Try "Little Heroes" by Norman Spinrad sometimes

belledame222 said...

Truthfully that's the only work I know of his (half his, with Pournelle, whom I also don't really know). swiped it from my dad's shelves; he used to be the SF guy. not so much anymore. these days he's mostly into mysteries, I think.

Tuffy said...

Hey there BD!

1) Fine. I've been having trouble keeping up with FMMA lately because of all the tangled ideological thrashing. I set myself little assignments, like "OK I'll just give the first half of the comments a preliminary skim, then come back," and then I don't finish them. I wish people self-edited more!

It's really awe-inspiring that you have so many regular readers who get involved in commenting, though. Especially so many people who have a grasp of the main ideological questions of the past 15 years or so and/or carefully follow several feminist blogs (or at least Twisty) and not just yours. Brava!

That said, I don't know that I'll get involved in the discussions myself. When I comment on blogs I always feel like nobody pays attention to what I say. Or to much of what anybody else says. It's a really different vibe from the Well, where it was abnormal for someone's post to be ignored. The whole world of blogs is flawed this way, I think. Not only is there the anonymity problem, but there aren't any built-in structures to promote a conversational spirit. Like, I've been using co.mments to keep track of what I say at different blogs, but how many people use tools like that?

I've often thought it would be good for blogs to have forums, but the blogs I've seen that *do* have them seem to have trouble attracting users to them. Also forums are apparently a giant hassle to manage.

2) You've read Octavia Butler, right? Because the Xenogenesis books are indispensable for anyone trying to understand racism and patriarchy. The first two, especially, are a perfect evocation of -- of -- bleh, I can't think straight this morning -- of all the subtle, virtually invisible ways that oppression affects interpersonal relations and individual decision-making.

Tuffy said...

Oh, I almost forgot! This is off-topic but I dunno where to stick it -- just wanted to FYI you about this book

http://www.wnyc.org/books/62879

belledame222 said...

>Fine. I've been having trouble keeping up with FMMA lately because of all the tangled ideological thrashing.

Oh, I understand. Believe me. Seriously, it's like, I keep MEANING to get back to, you know, other stuff, much less actually (what?) turn it off for a while, but...

No, but so like another commenter says to me, I'd like to understand more of this but I feel like I'm missing a key piece, can you recap? How'd this start?

And I'm all, O, where to begin. Well, first, the earth was created, and it was very hot. Then the dinosaurs came! Then they all died, and...

belledame222 said...

>When I comment on blogs I always feel like nobody pays attention to what I say. Or to much of what anybody else says.>

Well, see, I do. To you, and to my other readers (many of whom in turn I am their readers), or I try.

And, to be honest, I think that at the end of the day that is the -only- reason I have as many commenters as I do, at least any more so that any number of other very fine bloggers, if indeed that is the case.

mandos said...

I do also recommend Octavia Butler. I haven't read Xenogenesis, but the Parable of the Sower was a chilling warning. That *could* be the future in 20-30 years. It is a very simple extrapolation from the present. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.

In general, while she certainly doesn't focus on gender except in the Chanur books, I very very highly recommend almost the entire opus of C. J. Cherryh.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, I've been meaning to read "Parable."

I did read "Left Hand of Darkness," LeGuin, ages ago, speaking of gender.

and, oh! speaking of feminism, and gender: Joanna Russ, of course. Like her lots. Although in general I tend to prefer her essays to her fiction. But "The Female Man" is kind of an excellent snapshot of how a brilliant gay upper-middle class woman would come to second-wave feminism...but, she does it not quite like anyone else. I'd take it over "The Women's Room"...well, no, that one's good, too, it's just different.

mandos said...

You may also like Julian May's entire Galactic Milieu opus. It's very psychological with interesting religious themes---actually, it may be fair to call it "Catholic" science fiction although the Pope would hate what a PC mishmash Julian May makes of his church. The Catholic theology is a necessary backdrop for the Teilhardianism.

It's three units, The Saga of Pliocene Exile (4 books), Intervention (1 or 2 books depending on edition), and the Galactic Milieu Trilogy. You should read them in that order to appreciate how clever it is, although each series completely spoils the other series---in, again, a very clever way. Let me put it this way: she could only have written the first (in the 70s) if she knew the intimate details of the plot and ending of the last (written in the 90s).

I find *some* of May's politics disturbing, actually, but in a very interesting way. If you can get over the somewhat slow first half of "The Many-Coloured Land" (the first book of the Pliocene Exile), I think you'll really like these books. Also some fascinating alternate history in Intervention.

soopermouse said...

also try
Faraday's Orphans.

belledame222 said...

cool, thanks for the recs, guys.