Berserker Q4 - Time


"I say that you may prevail, I say not that you will. For in each of your generations there are men who choose to serve the gods of darkness."

Has this book withstood the passage of time? Which aspect of the book would be totally different if these stories were written today? What might remain the same?


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    The role of women is, surely, very dated. They may well play important parts in the story, but they don't have important roles in society. So far as I recall not one woman was in the armed forces, or the various ruling groups of different planets - blokes ran everything and women supported them in that, if they were present at all.

    Also, the role of machine intelligence. The idea of AI as without any possibility of emotion is surely another one whose time has gone. Granted that different people are divided as to whether a machine intelligence can "really have" emotions or not, but I think most people would now accept that machine intelligences can at least simulate an emotional response, and comprehend when a human is in different emotional states.

    Talking of AIs, I also wasn't sure what Fred Saberhagen's thinking was about machine logic. Some of the time, especially near the start of the book, there was a randomness to their choices (driven by radioactive decay) which meant that their actions were occasionally illogical and failed to take advantage of obvious moves. But later on they became more cunning in their attempts to leverage situations, eg the quite clever attempt to get Karlsen to open up his ship in the orbit of the black hole.

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    I don't think it has withstood the passage of time very well, but I'm not sure if the time that has passed is my subjective experience of time, or the zeitgeist.

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    It's very much some dated SF. I don't think it's any more offensive than most other literature of the time: it wouldn't be published now, but it was a reasonable reflection of the times it was written. As Richard points out, just about everyone active in the stories is an able-bodied cishet white man.

    The ideas of artificial intelligence and machine learning were very new when it was written, so I think we have to give the stories credit for including what was then-cutting-edge science into the stories.

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    The role of women (and large absence from the story, especially as people of consequence) was a really obvious one for me. Even Lucinda (not important enough for a last name) was often simply called 'the girl'. No way this would happen in a modern novel. Similarly, everyone had a European name, so we're basically looking at white dudes in space. Race isn't mentioned at all, so it's quite possible we had characters of multiple races, but not of multiple cultures, I guess.

    There were other oddities - like using the hands to write - that suggest times gone by.

    The zeitgeist has definitely moved on, but our own subjective time likely has, too.

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    Very dated! As people point out above, it's SF by a cis white man about cis white men, for cis white men. The women were defined by their relationship to men. It's like "What were all the other people doing?" It was a product of his times, and not mean or insulting, just a guy who didn't think about anything not like himself.

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