Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

(1) FIRE WATCH. The Westworld sets are casualties of the Woolsey Fire – Variety has the story: “‘Westworld’ Location at Paramount Ranch Burns Down”.

The historic Western town area at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif., where productions including “Westworld” have shot, burned down Friday in the Woolsey fire, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area’s Twitter feed.

Westworld” uses the Western town set to shoot its Main Street scenes. The HBO series is also shot at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita and in Utah and other locations.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Taste the tiramisu with Vina Jie-Min Prasad in episode 81 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Vina Jie-Min Prasad has been a multiple awards finalist with fiction “working against the world-machine” published in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside Fiction, Queer Southeast Asia, and HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology. Her short story “Fandom for Robots” and her novelette “A Series of Steaks” were both finalists for the Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Awards, and she was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

We discussed why she didn’t start writing any fiction until the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, the reason food has such a prominent place in her fiction, why she might never have become a writer if the Internet hadn’t existed, the lessons she took away from her fan fiction days, what she meant when she wrote in her bio that she’s “working against the world-machine,” why her multi-nominated story “A Series of Steaks” was her first submission to a speculative fiction magazine, her fascination with professional wrestling and wrestling fandom, why her story “Pistol Grip” needed a warning for sexual content but not violence (and what Pat Cadigan called her after reading that story during the Clarion workshop), the reason she likes working in the present tense, and much more

(3) FANTASTIC BEASTS. The BBC’s roundup of critical reaction: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gets mixed reviews”.

The latest Fantastic Beasts film The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned mixed reviews from critics.

It has a number of three-star reviews with suggestions that the plot is “overburdened” with details and preparing for future adventures.

There is praise for the “vibrantly drawn” characters and Jude Law is highlighted for his performance as young Dumbledore.

Many agree JK Rowling’s imagination is “as awe-inspiring as ever

The second of five planned Fantastic Beasts films by JK Rowling also earns praise for its special effects.

(4) KNOW YOUR BEASTS. Merriam-Webster.com sets a challenge: “Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz”. I scored 8/13, which isn’t good, but is better than I’ve done on some other quizzes….

You are an amateur cryptozoologist, setting out on an adventure to evaluate evidence of monsters around the world. On your plane ride to your first destination, we recommend you bone up on your monster lore here.

(5) ANIMAL PHYSICS. Kathryn Schulz’ article in the November 6, 2017 New Yorker, “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them”, discusses imaginary creatures and how they continue to persist in the imagination. (Martin Morse Wooster sent the item with an apology: “Yes, I am 11 months behind in reading the New Yorker. You may report me to the Reading Control Board.”)

Although Walt Disney is best remembered today for his Magic Kingdom, his chief contribution to the art of animation was not his extraordinary imagination but his extraordinary realism.  ‘We cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real,’ he once wrote, by way of explaining why, in 1929, he began driving his animators to a studio in downtown Los Angeles for night classes in life drawing. In short order, the cartoons emerging from his workshop started exhibiting a quality that we have since come to take for granted but was revolutionary at the time:  all those talking mice, singing lions, dancing puppets, and marching brooms began obeying the laws of physics.

It was Disney, for instance, who introduced to the cartoon universe one of the fundamental elements of the real one:  gravity.  Even those of his characters who could fly could fall, and, when they did, their knees, jowls, hair, and clothes responded as our human ones do when we thump to the ground.  Other laws of nature applied, too.  Witches on broomsticks got buffeted by the wind. Goofy, attached by his feet to the top of a roller-coaster track and by his neck to the cars, didn’t just get longer as the ride started plunging downhill; he also got skinnier, which is to say that his volume remained constant.  To Disney, these concessions to reality were crucial to achieving what he called, in an echo of Aristotle, the ‘plausible impossible.’  Any story based on ‘the fantastic, the unreal, the imaginative,’ he understood, needed ‘a foundation of fact.’

(6) FINLANDIA. The Finlandia Prize is the premiere award for literature written in Finland, awarded annually to the author of the best novel written by a Finnish citizen (Finlandia Award), children’s book (Finlandia Junior Award), and non-fiction book (Tieto-Finlandia Award). It has had its eyes on stfnal books before: in 2000 Johanna Sinisalo (GoH at the Helsinki Worldcon) won it with her fantasy novel Not Before Sundown. Tero Ykspetejä’s news blog Partial Recall reports this year’s Finlandia award also has some nominees of an stfnal character: “Finlandia Award Nominees 2018”:

Magdalena Hai’s Kolmas sisar is a nominee for best children & YA novel, and the general literature category nominees announced today include Hunan by J. Pekka Mäkelä.

(7) THE SATANIC VERSUS NETFLIX. Not everyone believes the axiom that “all publicity is good publicity.” “The Satanic Temple Files $50 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against Netflix And ‘Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’”ScienceFiction.com has the story:

The Satanic Temple has made good on threats made by co-founder Lucien Greaves on Twitter about two weeks ago, and filed a $50 million lawsuit against Netflix for their use of a statue of the pagan deity Baphomet as a set piece on its new series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’.  Greaves claims that the creators of ‘Sabrina’ stole its design of the statue from the Satanic Temple, which placed a copyright on their design, which depicts the goat-headed deity with two children by its side, looking up at him.  On ‘Sabrina’, the statue is never referred to by name but is a focal point at the Academy of Unseen Arts, where young witches and warlocks go to hone their magical abilities.

The Satanic Temple is not only seeking financial compensation but wants Netflix and Warner Brothers to stop distributing ‘Chilling Adventures…’ or further distributing it, meaning releasing it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

(8) FAST OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has a fine list of the “50 of the Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Debut Novels Ever Written”. It includes —

Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy (1983)
R.A. MacAvoy’s debut is pitch-perfect in its light use of fantasy elements. Martha Macnamara is a middle-aged, free-spirited musician who meets Mayland Long, an older Asian man with elegant manners and a lot of money—who also claims to be a 2,000-year old black dragon in human form. Their conversation (over tea, naturally) hints that he was an eyewitness to momentous events throughout history, and counts as close friends many long-dead historical figures. He and Martha strike up a thoroughly charming, adult relationship, instantly and believably drawn to one another as the story morphs into a mystery. It’s the sort of novel that floats between genres, never precisely one thing, never entirely another. It’s an achievement many writers never manage; MacAvoy nailed it on her first try.

(9) HAWKING AUCTION. “Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis fetch $1 million at auction”DW has the story.

A motorized wheelchair and a thesis belonging to Stephen Hawking have sold at auction for more than $1 million. The sale raised money for two charities, including one belonging to the British physicist.

(10) MARVEL ACTION DOLLS.  The entire line-up of Hasbro’s Marvel Rising Action Dolls is available exclusively at Target. They’ll feature on the covers of some Marvel comics soon –

The next generation of super heroes have arrived! To celebrate, Marvel is excited to present Marvel Rising Action Doll Homage variants, hitting comic shops this December!

Featuring Marvel Rising characters such as Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, Ghost Spider, and Quake stepping into their predecessor’s shoes, each of the five covers is a homage to a classic cover from years past.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 9, 1921Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the fifties and sixties. That he was also sf writer is an added bonus. Indeed his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he wrote under the name A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1946Marina Warner, 72, Writer, Historian, and Mythographer from England who is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, and has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities. Her nonfiction works From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock have garnered several Mythopoeic Award nominations and a win, and a host of non-genre awards as well. In 2017, she was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the first time the role has been held by a woman since the founding of the RSL in 1820. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born November 9, 1962Teryl Rothery, 56, Actor who is best known for her role as Dr. Janet Fraiser on Stargate SG-1. She can also be found as ISN reporter, Ms. Chambers, in the Babylon 5 movie Voices in the Dark, and has appeared in many genre series including The X-Files, The Outer Limits, Jeremiah, M.A.N.T.I.S., Kyle XY, Eureka, and the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Caprica.
  • Born November 9, 1973Eric Dane, 45, Actor who stars currently as Captain Tom Chandler in the The Last Ship series, and played James Arthur Madrox, aLso known as the Multiple Man, in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played a character named Jason Dean on the superb original Charmed series, and Nick Pierce in the Painkiller Jane film.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Three NEOs will make relatively close approaches to Earth this Saturday (Newsweek: “Three Asteroids to Whizz Past Earth in One Day—And One Will Come Closer Than The Moon”). The first one (2018 VS1) will pass by about 861,700 miles from Earth at 9:03AM (Eastern time). The second (2018 VR1) will be significantly further away at over 3 million miles, about 15 minutes later. The third (2018 VX1), though, will pass only about 238,900 miles from Earth at 1:26AM.

The three objects are relatively small—variously estimated to be from 43 to 98 feet wide—but big enough that they could cause widespread destruction if they were a wee bit (by astronomical standards) closer on a future pass. In the US, Near Earth Objects are the province of CNEOS—NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

(14) A LABOR OF LINGO. The legacy of a 15th-Century noblewoman lives on in the form of collective nouns used to describe groups of animals across the world: “Why a Group of Hippos Is Called a Bloat”.

As it turns out, these scintillating nouns are neither coincidence nor misnomer, but rather the result of centuries of linguistic evolution.

People have been coming up with terms to describe animal groupings for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until The Book of St Albans, written by Juliana Berners, a 15th-Century Benedictine prioress from England, that they were recorded extensively. Also known by the title The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms, Berners’ 1486 publication of this gentlemen’s catalogue of wildlife and hunting included 165 collective nouns for animal species, and is said to make her one of the earliest female authors writing in the English language.

(15) DISNEY HIRES LOKI. His show will be part of Disney’s new streaming service — “Tom Hiddleston to return as Loki in new TV series”. When was the last time a villain got their own series?

(16) DIGGING MARS. BBC says “ExoMars: Life-detecting robot to be sent to Oxia Planum”

The robot rover that Europe and Russia will send to Mars in 2020 will be targeted at a near-equatorial site on the Red Planet known as Oxia Planum.

The area was recommended by an expert panel meeting at Leicester University.

Oxia is rich in clays and other minerals that have resulted from prolonged rock interactions with water.

The ExoMars vehicle will carry a drill and sophisticated instruments to this ancient terrain to look for signs of past or even present life.

(17) THE ONLY WAY TO WIN. “The gamer who spent seven years in his dressing gown” has created a game to wean people from game addiction.

It’s a role-playing board game for small groups.

Players meet once a week over a period of weeks or months, improving their social skills as they play.

No equipment is needed aside from a pen and paper, but additions can include dice and character descriptions.

The idea is the participants play themselves, earning points by achieving certain tasks.

They can improve their “characters” and get extra points in between sessions by taking on a challenge in the real world.

Participants have to prove they have completed the tasks and share the details in an online group set up for each game

(18) YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN NOW. Maybe they couldn’t compete with YouTubers free game videos? Variety reports “Video Game Strategy Guide Publisher Prima Games Is Shutting Down”.

The imprint’s guides all feature in-depth content, detailed screen captures, quick-reference tips, and professional strategies. They were a godsend to many gamers of a certain age, back before internet walkthroughs and wikis became de rigueur. Prima Games later tried adapting to an increasingly digital world by offering eguides filled with interactive maps, streaming video, searchable apps, and more.

(19) NEWS FAKER. Yet another job—newsreader—is under threat from Artificial Intelligence (Popular Mechanics: “This AI Reporter Would Never Get Kicked Out of Press Briefings”). Chinese media, already tightly controlled, appears to be in the process of becoming even more buttoned down. (Original source Xinhua.net: “World’s first AI news anchor makes ‘his’ China debut”)

With a state-run media like China’s, there’s already some concern that newscasters are little more than puppets. After an AI news anchor debuted at the World Internet Conference in China this week, we’re one step closer to that reality.

The anchor was created in a partnership between Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media outlet, and sogou.com, a Chinese search engine company. The Chinese news, of course, is thrilled and impressed, claiming that the character “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.” Two versions of the AI anchors are now available on Xinhua through their apps, WeChat account, and online news channel.

(20) NUCLEAR CHRISTMAS GIFT. You can now order Threads on Blu-ray, called “The most influential film about nuclear war ever made.”

Directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) and written by Barry Hines (Kes).

Threads shocked the nation when it first aired on BBC Two in 1984 at the height of Cold War nuclear paranoia, and became one of the most significant and iconic films ever produced by the BBC.

It was nominated for seven BAFTAs in 1985, winning four including Best Single Drama.

Threads was one of the first films to depict the full consequences of global nuclear war when a bomb hits the city of Sheffield. It is uncompromising in its display of the tense weeks leading up to the bomb dropping, the attack, and the bleak years of nuclear winter that are left in its aftermath.

(21) VISIT FROM A DINO. There’s a giant, animatronic dinosaur roaming around BBC…

(22) CHAMPION MAGICIAN. Gizmodo promises “The Winning Trick at the World Championships of Magic Might Fry Your Brain Like an Egg”.

But Chien’s ‘Ribbon’ routine is a non-stop barrage of lightning-quick illusions, leaving you with little time to figure out what you just saw before his next trick baffles your brain all over again.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Karl-Johan Norén, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

93 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

  1. Perhaps you have a different definition of free will than I do. (Which wouldn’t be too surprising, considering how much philosophers can argue about the topic, and neurobiologists cower from discussing it.) But I certainly don’t see the difference in quality. Miles frequently talks about planning for every contingency. And even if he’s not as good at it as the Culture’s AIs, it seems to me that that’s all they’re doing. It’s not that they force you down a specific path; they simply have plans for every path. (And frankly, they’re not perfect–just so much better than us that it’s hard to tell the difference.)

    I’ll grant that the ending of Player of Games seemed a little deus ex machina to me. But I certainly didn’t (and don’t) find it depressing. Charmingly weird is closer.

    Anyway, I dunno. Maybe we’ll never see eye-to-eye on this, but it’s been a fun discussion so far. So feel free to continue or not as you see fit; I’m quite happy either way.

  2. “Agency” would probably be a better term for me to stick with than “free will”, because it descrbes the external effect rather than the internal impulse.

    I really really want to quote an illustrative passage from Player of Games, but I’m not at the computer and I’m not sure if I have an old e-version of the book — I listened to it in audio. Gimme a few hours to check and I’ll post more.

  3. Well, sadly, I don’t have a text version of that — and it’s $9.99 on Amazon, which I’m not willing to pay.

    Anyway, the passage I wanted to quote explains that the AIs had arranged each and every decision that Gurgeh thought he was making for himself, possibly even for years before the events of the book. And then Banks made sure to tell us that Gurgeh died and his ashes were scattered and life went on without him as though he had never even existed. IOW, his life was essentially pointless.

    Here’s what I wrote in my GR review:

    On the whole, I think I’d rate this around three stars and at least not as depressing as Consider Phlebas, although Banks still felt compelled to tell us at the end that his hero (Gurgeh) was dead and his atoms scattered, and made it quite clear that said hero had been thoroughly manipulated from beginning to end.

    For some reason, Banks’s nihilistic/cynical though “civilized” attitude bothers me more than a lot of grimdark does. It’s the essence of what bothers me most about some grimdark — I can handle a lot of blood and gore and morally questionable characters, **as long as** there seems to be some point to the suffering. But with Banks (at least these two books), I’m left with the feeling that no, there really is no point after all. The inhabitants of the culture think they’re making their own decisions, but really everything is determined by behind-the-scenes manipulations of the AIs. The humans have no real reason for existing. There’s no point, even if the book did create nice parallels between the Culture citizens playing games of many types to make their lives less boring, Gurgeh playing games with the Empire, the Empire playing games with its citizens, and the AIs playing bigger games with everybody — the humans are merely game pieces on their board. Blech.

  4. Anyway, the passage I wanted to quote explains that the AIs had arranged each and every decision that Gurgeh thought he was making for himself, possibly even for years before the events of the book.

    Well, I just dragged out my copy and skimmed the last couple of chapters, and can’t find anything like that. Here’s some excerpts that seem to contradict it, in fact:

    “My respect for those great Minds which use the likes of you like game-pieces increases all the time. Those are very smart machines!”

    “They knew I’d win?” Gurgeh asked disconsolately, chin in hand.
    “You can’t know something like that, Gurgeh. But they must have thought you had a good chance.”…

    “All my life,” Gurgeh said quietly, looking past the drone to the dull, dead landscape outside the tall windows. “Sixty years…and how long has the Culture known about the Empire?”

    “About–ah! You’re thinking we shaped you somehow. Not so. If we did that sort of thing, we wouldn’t need outsider ‘mercenaries’ like Shohobohaum Za to do the really dirty work.”

    Of course, that’s all just what “Marwhrin-Skel” tells him, so it’s not necessarily reliable, but I didn’t find anything to contradict it elsewhere, so I tend to assume that that part was true.

  5. Dangit, you made me go buy the book.

    The reveal isn’t as compacted as I remembered, but it’s there.

    Examples:

    “First things first,” Flere-Imsaho said. “Allow me to introduce myself properly; my name is Sprant Flere-Imsaho Wu-Handrahen Xato Trabiti, and I am not a library drone.” — “Mawrin-Skel” has been manipulating Gurgeh’s decisions since before even the possibility of the trip ever arose. He even manipulated Gurgeh into taking the trip.

    ““You’ve been used, Jernau Gurgeh,” the drone said matter-of-factly. “The truth is, you were playing for the Culture, and Nicosar was playing for the Empire.”

    ““You really thought I’d win?” he asked the drone. “Against Nicosar? You thought that, even before I got here?” “Before you left Chiark, Gurgeh. As soon as you showed any interest in leaving. SC’s been looking for somebody like you for quite a while.”

    “Everything worked out a little more dramatically than we’d expected, I must admit, but it looks like all the analyses of your abilities and Nicosar’s weaknesses were just about right. My respect for those great Minds which use the likes of you and me like game-pieces increases all the time. Those are very smart machines.”

    “All you needed was somebody to keep an eye on you and give you the occasional nudge in the right direction at the appropriate times.” The drone dipped briefly; a little bow. “Yours truly!” “All my life,” Gurgeh said quietly, looking past the drone to the dull, dead landscape outside the tall windows. “Sixty years… ”

    “The drone gave a little wobble in the air. “Let’s see… what else can I tell you? Oh yes; the Limiting Factor isn’t as innocent as it looks, either. While we were on the Little Rascal we did take out the old effectors, but only so we could put in new ones. Just two, in two of the three nose blisters. We put the empty one on clear and holos of empty blisters in the other two.”

    “It’s forward planning that makes one feel safe, don’t you think?”

    Gurgeh realizes he’s been a puppet throughout — “He hadn’t played a single game of any description during those ten days, hardly said a word, couldn’t even bother to get dressed, and spent most of his time just sitting staring at walls. The drone had agreed that putting him to sleep for the journey was probably the kindest thing they could do.”

    “One thing; when Nicosar fired that gun, and the ray came off the mirror-field and hit him; was that coincidence, or did you aim it?” He thought it wasn’t going to answer him, but just before the door closed and the wedge of light thrown over it disappeared with the rising craft, he heard the drone say: “I am not going to tell you.”

    I mean, for heaven’s sake, the AI narrates the whole book. He’s the one who survives, after Gurgeh’s molecules have been dispersed to the universe.

    “Yes, I was there, all the time. Well, more or less all the time. I watched, I listened, I thought and sensed and waited, and did as I was told (or asked, to maintain the proprieties). I was there all right, in person or in the shape of one of my representatives, my little spies.”

    “We’ll never know; if you’re reading this he’s long dead; had his appointment with the displacement drone and been zapped to the very livid heart of the system, corpse blasted to plasma in the vast erupting core of Chiark’s sun, his sundered atoms rising and falling in the raging fluid thermals of the mighty star, each pulverized particle migrating over the millennia to that planet-swallowing surface of blinding, storm-swept fire, to boil off there, and so add their own little parcels of meaningless illumination to the encompassing night…”

    This is essentially the meaning of the whole book, from the title on out. Gurgeh realizes that the games humanity plays to occupy its time are pretty meaningless, and he goes searching for a larger, more meaningful game. But even when he thinks he’s found one, at the end he discovers that he was not actually the player, but only another game piece on the AI’s board. And after that game, he’s disposable — it’s the AIs who remain.

  6. I certainly don’t deny that Gurgeh was manipulated to hell and gone. I just don’t see how it rises anywhere near the level of saying he had no agency or free will. He was chosen because he was good at what he did. They didn’t know he’d win, but he was their best shot at a relatively peaceful resolution to the whole crisis, and he came through for them.

    As for his depression on the way home? He just witnessed a madman slaughtering huge numbers of people! Some of whom he almost liked. And nearly got killed in the process. Of course he was upset! To assume it came entirely from the discovery that he’d been totally manipulated, when he’d just been told he wasn’t totally manipulated (see my second quote above) seems like quite a stretch.

    And the part about his death? It’s saying that the photons emitted when his corpse was consumed were meaningless. Not him or what he did. I read it as ironic juxtaposition. He was a hero, but death levels us all.

    I just don’t see it. You’d have to assume that Marwhrin-Skel was not only lying to Gurgeh when he said “You’re thinking we shaped you somehow. Not so”, but lying to us by omission as well when he failed to point out the lie. Which he would have no reason to do. If Banks was trying to imply an absence of agency and free will, I think he failed!

    (He also failed to communicate the idea in any of the later books in the series. So I’m doubly skeptical.)

  7. @Xitfr —

    “I certainly don’t deny that Gurgeh was manipulated to hell and gone. I just don’t see how it rises anywhere near the level of saying he had no agency or free will.”

    Forget the free will part — that gets way too confusing with questions about internal impulses vs. external actions, and I shouldn’t have used the term in the first place. Stick with agency.

    We should be able to agree that a person lacks agency when their actions are dictated by others, or when their actions have no consequence. And both of those things are what’s happening here. From the very beginning of the book, Banks makes it clear that humans are just filling time with meaningless occupations — they play games that mean nothing, they create artificial volcanos instead of advancing knowledge or saving oppressed people or whatever, they repeatedly switch genders just because they’re bored, and so on. They aren’t doing anything meaningful, because everything meaningful has either already been done or is being done by the AIs. And when Gurgeh does try to do something meaningful, it turns out that every step, and the outcome itself, are all being directed behind the scenes by the AIs.

    I don’t know how it can be made any more clear than the blunt statement “those great Minds which use the likes of you and me like game-pieces”, and then “‘All my life,’ Gurgeh said quietly, looking past the drone to the dull, dead landscape outside the tall windows. ‘Sixty years… ‘”

    Remember, the drone even manipulated Gurgeh into making the trip by maneuvering him into getting himself blackmailed. Gurgeh never did know the full extent of the manipulation — he never did find out that Marwhrin-Skel was the same drone throughout.

    “and he came through for them.”

    Except that he didn’t, really. It was the drone who created all of the conditions, the drone who poked and prodded both sides into doing what he wanted them to, even the drone who ended up killing Nicosar.

    “Of course he was upset!”

    It’s not that he was upset — it’s that he was despondent at the pointlessness of it all. He’s not railing and screaming and crying about the deaths — he is completely empty.

    “I just don’t see it. You’d have to assume that Marwhrin-Skel was not only lying to Gurgeh when he said “You’re thinking we shaped you somehow. Not so””

    Remember, you don’t have to carve a chess piece yourself before you put it on your board — they didn’t have to create him in order to be directing every step of his life.

    And Mawhrin-Skel was lying to Gurgeh the whole time. Remember, Gurgeh never did find out that it was the same drone the entire way through — and he had known the drone in its first incarnation (Mawhrin-Skel) for almost a year before the possibility of the trip had ever even come up.

    “If Banks was trying to imply an absence of agency and free will, I think he failed!”

    Read the title of the book again. Then read that quote again that I posted above: “those great Minds which use the likes of you and me like game-pieces”.

    “(He also failed to communicate the idea in any of the later books in the series. So I’m doubly skeptical.)”

    Yeah, I can’t comment on the rest of the series, ’cause I’ve only read the first two. But in book 1 the MC specifically states that he is fighting against the Culture because he knows that AIs will essentially render humanity obsolete and meaningless (and he fails), and in book 2 we clearly see it happening — the humans are becoming more like pets and children and game pieces while the AIs make all the real decisions.

    I mean, just look at the lines from which the title of Consider Phlebas — the very foundation of the series — were taken:

    “Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
    Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
    And the profit and loss.
    A current under sea
    Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
    He passed the stages of his age and youth
    Entering the whirlpool.
    Gentile or Jew
    O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
    Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.”

    It’s all about how the mighty/young/handsome/living/active fall to death and nothingness. That’s what the series is founded on.

    And I find that incredibly depressing!

  8. This guy puts a more optimistic spin on the AI’s manipulation:

    “Gurgeh is, through a series of machinations plotted by the Minds, sent off to, quite literally, beat the Azadians at their own game, which he duly does. The emotional charge of the story turns on Gurgeh’s own transformation from game player to fully rounded human being, as he is taught the ultimate inhumanity of a society based on games. Gurgeh is the human element, introduced to redeem a society that has replaced all moral freedom with the mechanisms of game play. The allegory is completed when, in the story’s denouement, we learn that while Gurgeh has been making his moves, the real “player of games” are the Minds who have manipulated him into this quest.”
    (But he apparently ignores the fact that the Culture itself has become a “society based on games” that has “replaced all moral freedom with the mechanisms of game play”.)

    https://medium.com/science-fiction/iain-m-banks-the-player-of-games-why-learning-to-win-at-games-can-make-you-a-loser-aa828ac5506a

    And a telling comment from a reddit discussion:

    “It took me a couple readings to get that the real Player of Games was the Culture itself. When I first read the Culture novels, I read them as being optimistic (Consider Phlebas read originally as an exciting space opera/thriller, until I re-read it recently–it helped to realize that the titles of at least two of the Culture novels refer to the poem The Wasteland) , but I find that the inherent nature of the Culture is rather bleak and this was shown in the original novels: human agency is but a shadow puppet show when the real actors have been and always will be Minds far beyond our ken. We’re just lucky they are benevolent. ”

    https://www.reddit.com/r/printSF/comments/34x75h/spoilers_questions_about_the_ending_of_the_player/

  9. We should be able to agree that a person lacks agency when their actions are dictated by others […]

    Again, I refer you back to Miles Vorkosigan. You say that there’s a qualitative difference in how the AIs of the Culture act, not just quantitative, but you have yet to show it. They didn’t control every aspect of Gurgeh’s existence. They didn’t shape him solely to be their tool. They nudged him in the right directions when they noticed that he was already becoming what they needed. How is that different from what other skillful manipulators of men, like Miles, do?

    […] or when their actions have no consequence.

    Even if I accept that part of the definition (and I could argue about it for quite a while), Gurgeh’s actions did have consequences. Yes, the Culture would have eventually triumphed either way, but his personal skill as a game-player allowed a much better resolution of the situation than would have otherwise been possible. Even though his actions lead to quite a bit of death (which he found pretty disturbing), he saved far more lives in the long run. On both sides.

    From the anonymous reddit contributor:

    When I first read the Culture novels, I read them as being optimistic […], but I find that the inherent nature of the Culture is rather bleak […]

    Yes, if you’re expecting utopia, the Culture will indeed prove surprisingly bleak. They have the solutions to most of our biggest problems at present, but they still have their share of problems. That’s what I like about the series. If had been the simple utopia one might naively assume, it would have been boring, and there would have been few stories to tell.

    And, in fact, I think Banks was worried about there being stories to tell, which is why the first book takes place outside the Culture, with an outsider who is filled with irrational fears about what the Culture is like.

    In the end, though, I think he managed to find a great balance between a boring utopia and a hellish dystopia. The Culture is neither heaven nor hell, but a real, complex, fascinating place offering both good and bad. The stories are nuanced and real, not didactic philosophical essays.

    Again from the reddit commentor:

    We’re just lucky they are benevolent.

    Yes, but the point is that they are (generally). If they weren’t, it would have been a completely different series.

    The fact is, as Banks repeatedly makes clear, most of the Great AI simply aren’t interested enough in humans to meddle in their day-to-day lives, for the most part. They probably could end human agency–yes, they’re that scary–but they have no reason for or interest in doing so.

  10. @Xtifr —

    “Again, I refer you back to Miles Vorkosigan. You say that there’s a qualitative difference in how the AIs of the Culture act, not just quantitative, but you have yet to show it.”

    Several of the differences should be obvious. For one thing, the Culture is making their plans many years into the future, while Miles hardly plans at all. For another, while he is very manipulative, he is only manipulating a certain person or group of people for a few days, weeks, or months at a time — not, again, for years. For a third, he is manipulating only very small groups of people, while the Culture manipulates whole cultures. For a fourth, he is only one manipulative person — while the AIs are millions of colluding manipulators acting in concert when needed. There are vast differences.

    “They didn’t control every aspect of Gurgeh’s existence.”

    Are you sure about that? They were there every step of the way after his talent was recognized. Not “control”, perhaps, but “make sure things go the way they want”. Remember, they even manipulated Gurgeh into cheating so that they could then turn around and blackmail him into going on the trip.

    “Gurgeh’s actions did have consequences. Yes, the Culture would have eventually triumphed either way”

    You’ve just answered your own question — no, his actions didn’t have significant consequences — the Culture wold have triumphed either way.

    “but his personal skill as a game-player allowed a much better resolution of the situation than would have otherwise been possible.”

    How do you know?

    “with an outsider who is filled with irrational fears about what the Culture is like.”

    Except they aren’t irrational. Remember, the very titles of the books tells us what Banks is saying at a foundational level. And Banks shows us in book 2 inklings of the very outcome that the MC was afraid of in book 1.

    “Yes, but the point is that they are (generally).”

    Maybe (though the AIs are also ruthless in getting their way). But are benevolent puppeteers still puppeteers? And which is more important — physical comfort, or agency? These are some of the questions that books 1 and 2 ask.

  11. For one thing, the Culture is making their plans many years into the future, while Miles hardly plans at all.

    So they’re more like Simon Illyan, then. 🙂

    Again, you’re just talking about quantity, and assuming that it somehow magically transforms into qualitative differences if it’s on a large enough scale. That’s not a very convincing argument. How, specifically, do any of the Culture’s actions of manipulation rise to a level where agency is lost?

    In the book, they manipulated one guy on their side, plus one minor-but-hostile neighboring civilization. That’s not a pattern of “always manipulating everybody everywhere to the point where agency is lost.” That’s a bit of extreme action to deal with a pending crisis.

    Please keep in mind that I’ve read most of the series, not just the first two books. I don’t want to spoil things, but the Culture and the Empire of Azad aren’t the only groups out there. And while the Culture is far beyond the Empire, it’s not unchallenged–and it’s not the only game-player out there. There are real threats around. By comparison to many, the Culture’s manipulations are minor, and mainly aimed at self-defense.

    “They didn’t control every aspect of Gurgeh’s existence.”

    Are you sure about that?

    I’ve seen absolutely nothing to make me think otherwise. Am I sure of the details of a fictional universe whose author is dead, so we can’t ask him for clarification? I can only go by his words. And his words were that they didn’t. He put those words in the mouth of an unreliable narrator, but offered nothing that I can see to contradict them. Why shouldn’t I be sure?

    “but his personal skill as a game-player allowed a much better resolution of the situation than would have otherwise been possible.”

    How do you know?

    He averted a war. Yes, the Culture would have certainly won the war, but averting it probably saved millions, if not billions of lives. Grugah was a hero. (Even if the majority of lives he saved were probably in the Empire.) I don’t know how you can possibly call that meaningless.

  12. @Xtifr —

    Again, you’re just talking about quantity, and assuming that it somehow magically transforms into qualitative differences if it’s on a large enough scale. That’s not a very convincing argument.

    You’re arguing that there’s no qualitative difference between one drop of water and an ocean. You sure you want to do that?

    At this point, I think I’ll bow out of the discussion. I am satisfied in my interpretations, which are based on the contents and titles of the books and which are agreed with in substance by the sources I’ve quoted, and probably by others that I didn’t take the time to dig up. But each reader gets to interpret the books they’ve read as they wish, and your interpretation doesn’t have to agree with mine.

  13. Coming in late to the Culture conversation but what I have been reading makes me wonder how much overlap there is between those who find living in the Culture bleak & pointless, and those who have a negative opinion of socialized healthcare.

    I think of the Culture as an imperfect Utopia: the bulk of its human population live a life of ease & contentment. “A civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members” is a useful litmus test for me. I would rather live in a country with socialized healthcare, where there is a safety net for those under-privileged, than live in a country where I could die because I cannot afford essential medicine.

    The idea that the choices Gurgeh makes in “Player of Games” are pointless because the Minds have rigged the whole game anyway, makes me think of the general pointlessness of most of our lives. Only a minuscule percentage of us get to be gamechangers (the Queens, Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, highly successful tech-entrepreneurs) but for the bulk of the rest of us, the best we can hope for is to love & be loved, to be happy, and healthy. The Culture provides for that for as many of its humans as possible.

  14. @Soon Lee–I have a very positive view of “socialized medicine,” and I find aspects of the Culture…disturbing. Off-putting.

    Gurgeh sets out to do something he’s been led to believe is really important, and takes what he believes are real risks to do so–and finds in the end he’s just been a gamepiece. I don’t see how that’s anything but disturbing.

    It’s great that most people have safe, contented, comfortable lives. Gurgeh’s story is not that, at all.

  15. @Lis —

    I have a very positive view of “socialized medicine,” and I find aspects of the Culture…disturbing. Off-putting.

    After all this discussion and reading, I’ve come to think that one of the great things about Banks’s Culture stories is that we can take away such disparate ideas about it — and sometimes we can hold both views at the same time. It can be seen as both wonderful and awful, both benevolent and malevolent (and remember, it’s actively going out into the galaxy and forcibly converting other cultures to its own ideals). Sure, it’s got good intentions, but you know what they say about the road to hell. And resistance is futile….

  16. Yeah, I certainly don’t think the Culture is a utopia. My only real quibble with Contrarius is the idea that the AIs exert control to the point where human agency is lost. They almost certainly have the capability, and that’s certainly scary, but I see no evidence that they use, or want to use, that capability in general. Even in the case of Gurgah, which is a little ambiguous, I doubt they did, and I definitely do not think they do so routinely.

    On the other hand, humans are definitely a little like second-class citizens to their own creations. Which is a bit disturbing. Even the best of the Great Minds seem to view humans as barely above the level of charming pets. And others–well, you can get the feeling that the only reason they don’t treat humans worse is that they’re simply not interesting enough. (Plus, abusing citizens, no matter how lowly, could have some minor negative consequences.) It’s certainly a kick in the teeth to the old Campbellian idea of humans as “masters of all they survey.” 🙂

    But that’s part of what I like about the series. It challenges some classic tropes, and avoids glib, easy answers. If it were as unambiguously utopian as a surface glance might suggest, I think it would be boring.

  17. @Xtifr —

    Even in the case of Gurgah, which is a little ambiguous, I doubt they did, and I definitely do not think they do so routinely.

    I’m rolling my eyes at you now. 😉

    They TOLD Gurgeh that they used people like game pieces. They used those exact words, in fact. You keep insisting that the AIs didn’t lie to Gurgeh — which means they were telling the truth about using people like game pieces, too.

  18. “Using people like game pieces” is not the same as “controlling them so completely that they lose agency.”

    Here in our world, the Great Powers have been using people like game pieces for centuries, but with the exception of a few bizarre cases like Mk Ultra, they’ve never even tried to raise that to the level of complete mind control.

  19. @Xtifr —

    Using people like game pieces” is not the same as “controlling them so completely that they lose agency.”

    Agency isn’t like an on/off switch. It’s not a question of 0% vs 100%. You lose agency to the degree that your actions are coerced or manipulated by others. And in this case, the AIs specifically tell us, in plain language, that they have manipulated Gurgeh like a game piece for years in many different ways — and that doing so is not unusual for them (the drone refers to it as a generalized ongoing occurrence, not a special case).

    Here in our world

    Again, you’re comparing a single drop of water to an entire ocean and trying to pretend that they are equivalent. They aren’t.

  20. @Soon Lee
    Count me as another who is in favour of universal healthcare, but has issues with the Culture novels, though mine are a little different than those of Contrarius.

  21. @Contrarius: Ah, if you’re going to put it like that, maybe we’re not in such extreme disagreement after all. I mean, yes, I know the difference between a drop and an ocean, but that’s a non-binary set of choices. Having more water than a drop doesn’t prove the result is an ocean. There’s a lot of options inbetween!

    So, if being influenced by Miles Vorkosigan (or Simon Illyan) does involve some minor loss of agency (which it sounds like you’re now arguing), then yes, I would certainly agree that being influenced by the AIs, especially to the level that Gurgah was, involves some maybe-not-so-minor loss of agency. And yes, it’s rather ambiguous just how influenced he was. But if you’re not saying the loss of agency was total, then we may not have a lot to argue about. I could easily call it a lake, and I don’t doubt it’s at least a pond. 🙂

    One thing I have to say that I’m taking away from all this, though, is that I’m definitely going to be recommending that people not judge the series by the first two books. I’ve always felt like they didn’t fit in with the rest of the series all that well. The first one is interesting in its own right, but is only peripheral to the Culture, and the second one just doesn’t have the feel of the later books. Possibly because Banks was still thinking things out.

    As I said early in this discussion, I think the AI are some of the most interesting characters in the series–but there are hardly any major AI characters in the first two books.

  22. @Xtifr —

    Yes! Now we’re getting somewhere.

    So, if being influenced by Miles Vorkosigan (or Simon Illyan) does involve some minor loss of agency (which it sounds like you’re now arguing)

    Yes, absolutely. Agency is lost to the degree that behavior is constrained, coerced, or manipulated.

    And I think that’s one of the big questions the Culture books pose: do the “human” (organic sentient) residents of the Culture give up too much agency in exchange for their easy lives? Is that an informed choice, is it benign (for example, the friend who creates artificial volcanoes probably doesn’t care that her volcanoes are essentially meaningless frivolity), or is it a malignant usurpation of that agency? (For example, the AIs lie to Gurgeh throughout by not telling him about their manipulations, and it’s implied at the end that he kills himself because of it — he makes an “appointment” with the molecular dispersal unit, whatever it was called.) And even if the citizens don’t care, is that usurpation justifiable or good for the species as a whole? (Horza’s (sp?) big concern from Consider Phlebas was about destroying agency and the soul of the organic’s culture.) I mean, the AIs are merrily abrogating the agency of entire non-Culture civilizations when they take them over or manipulate them as they did to the Empire — sort of like (with some hyperbole) the Borg. Is that something to be applauded?

    One thing I have to say that I’m taking away from all this, though, is that I’m definitely going to be recommending that people not judge the series by the first two books.

    I’ve got no argument with this. In fact, I had somebody else tell me exactly the same thing before I started Consider Phlebas. I prefer to read series in chronological order, so I started there, but your sentiment is not a unique one!

  23. Something I come back to is that everything gets fuzzy at the fringes, and the Culture novels predominantly take place at the fringes, where ideologies clash. So I tend to think of the Culture novels as taking place outside of mainstream Culture, where circumstances can be special, and actions derive from that.

  24. @ Contrarius. I don’t believe Gurgeh kills himself because of the events. The last scene we see him in he is reconnecting with an old flame and we get the sense he is putting his life back together. Then much later, he kills himself – I don’t remember which book explains that although Culture citizens could theoretically live forever, most feel a few centuries are enough and choose to die after that.

    More generally, the agency question is a very important one in the series and Banks addresses it more than once – are the human lives meaningless? Very few people in our current reality have an effect on the Big Picture, does it matter that enough fewer do in the Culture? Is the Culture meddling with the other civilizations good or bad – should they be doing less or more? These questions come up again in later books. Personally, I like the Culture, I think it’s a place that I would like to live in. But I can see that some people would not, and within the books, we see people choosing to leave the Culture.

  25. While there are some valid comparisons to be made between the Borg and the Culture, an important distinction between the two is that the Culture is not trying to create a hive-mind. It has billions (if not trillions) of AI citizens who value their own independence. If some group of AIs were to try to start controlling large numbers of the biological intelligences in the Culture for some reason, the rank-and-file AIs would almost certainly object, fearing that they’d be next. Especially since most in the Culture (bio or machine) seem to think that the fact of intelligence is more important than its source.

    And I think that’s one of the big questions the Culture books pose: do the “human” (organic sentient) residents of the Culture give up too much agency in exchange for their easy lives?

    The same question could be asked of the AI residents. Trying to analyze the Culture in terms of organic-sentient vs. machine-sentient ignores the fact that the Culture doesn’t generally seem to care about that particular distinction. Unlike the Empire in Player of Games, where Special Circumstances had to find a human to beat them, because of their anti-machine prejudices. But keep in mind that Special Circumstances is not the same as “the AI”. The AI in the Culture are a broad and diverse group–every bit as broad and diverse as the humans in the Culture. And with many of the same problems.

    But yes, it’s an interesting question. 🙂

  26. @bookworm —

    we get the sense he is putting his life back together

    No. The very last thing we see of him is him crying at the window.

    I’m posting from my phone, so that’s all for now. Xtifr, I’m not ifnoring you! More when I get home!

  27. Oops, change of plan. I had to come to Nashville to sit in the ER with my mom, which is where I am now. I won’t be back to my laptop til at least tomorrow afternoon, and responding on the phone is just too annoying. So stay tuned!

  28. Contrarius, best wishes for your mom. (I’ve been lurking on this conversation with interest.)

  29. Thanks to all for the good wishes! I am now sitting in the ICU with Mom, and she is intubated, drugged up, and mostly sleeping, and I’ve been to my parents’ house and then home to my place and now back here, so now I have my laptop with me — and I have some time to start catching up!

    @Xtifr —

    While there are some valid comparisons to be made between the Borg and the Culture, an important distinction between the two is that the Culture is not trying to create a hive-mind.

    Yes. I am speaking with a huge mountain of hyperbole when I compare the Culture to the Borg. The similarity is that both cultures have that you-will-be-assimilated attitude; on the other hand, they go about that assimilation in very different ways, and with very different results. But in both cases, the culture to be assimilated does not have the choice to refuse.

    If some group of AIs were to try to start controlling large numbers of the biological intelligences in the Culture for some reason, the rank-and-file AIs would almost certainly object, fearing that they’d be next.

    They don’t control in the granular sense of dictating each movement, but they do control in the macro sense of civilization-level manipulations between cultures (as seen with the Empire) as well as a macro sense within the Culture (as with the huge starships, whose name I’ve forgotten at the moment, for just one example, which travel where they want rather than where the humans within them want), and in a more micro sense of manipulating people like Gurgeh into making the decisions they want, sometimes directly influencing a person’s life for years at a time (as with Gurgeh).

    And I think that’s one of the big questions the Culture books pose: do the “human” (organic sentient) residents of the Culture give up too much agency in exchange for their easy lives?

    Right.

    The same question could be asked of the AI residents.

    Except that the AIs we’re shown are generally party to the manipulations. Sure, Mawhral-Skel-whatever-else-his-name-is claims to be one of the game pieces, but he is in communication and collusion with the other AI manipulators and he’s an active part of the manipulation himself.

    And remember that the AIs have very different scales of measurement — they are going to live thousands of years, and they have much different needs and abilities than the organic sentients do. We are reminded at the ends of both books 1 and 2 that the organic sentients will be dispersed molecules and forgotten long before the AIs go anywhere. That’s part of what makes it so easy for them to manipulate the organic sentients, and part of the reason why Horza in book 1 was so worried about the consequences of the Culture taking over — the AIs have the ability, time, and resources to plan and carry out a lot more powerful and wide-ranging schemes than organics ever could.

  30. Thanks, Lis!

    We had a very scary time early Tuesday. Things are more stable now, but given her age and medical condition, the reality is that we’re more likely to be looking at months than at years even if everything else goes well during this particular crisis. Speaking of the differences between organic sentients and AIs!

  31. Well, then, I hope your mom has as comfortable and good a time as possible, for as much time as she can have. I’m glad that at least she’s more stable now.

  32. Thanks again for the well wishes, all! Tonight she is extubated and unsedated, improving with a few hitches here and there. Keep your fingers crossed!

  33. Very glad to hear your mom is doing better! Even if you’re expecting it and think you’re ready for it, losing a parent can be really hard. Voice of experience here. My fingers and toes are all crossed for your mom.

    Back to the topic at hand:

    […] they do control in […] a macro sense within the Culture (as with the huge starships, whose name I’ve forgotten at the moment, for just one example, which travel where they want rather than where the humans within them want)…

    So the freedom to decide where your own body/your own vehicle goes is somehow controlling others? That seems like quite a stretch. And why are you only complaining for the human passengers? Surely any AI on board a ship is equally at the whim of the ship’s owner? (Whether or not the owner happens to have had itself built into the ship.) And any AI that gets on a non-smart-ship owned and captained by a human is surely being “controlled by humans” in the same sense?

    …and in a more micro sense of manipulating people like Gurgeh into making the decisions they want

    Gurgeh was manipulated by Special Circumstances, a semi-independent CIA-like organization within the Culture’s government. Saying Gurgeh was manipulated by “the AI” is like saying that a CIA operation was a “white people operation”, just because the agent on the ground happened to be white. We don’t even know what percentage of Special Circumstances agents are AI. So it’s quite a leap to assume they represent all AI, or only AI. It’s also quite a leap to assume that they only manipulate humans.

    And remember that the AIs have very different scales of measurement — they are going to live thousands of years, and they have much different needs and abilities than the organic sentients do.

    Later books make it clear that biological science in the Culture is advanced enough that its human citizens can basically live as long as they want, just like its AI citizens.

    But in any case, I fail to see why that would mean that all the AI would all be conspiring to manipulate all the humans that share their domain. “They’re not the same as us” doesn’t translate to me as “they’re all out to get us!” We’re not all the same as each other, and the AI aren’t all the same as each other, either! AI and humans are both diverse groups of entities who can and do disagree with each other on all sorts of things. I don’t know why you think “we’re not biological” would be the one thing which would magically unite all those Culture citizens to conspire against other Culture citizens–many of whom seem to be their friends.

    Bottom line, I’m not seeing the motive for this grand anti-biological conspiracy. This isn’t a schlocky SF movie: they don’t want to steal our water or our women, and they don’t want to use us as batteries. So what is it that has made them all decide to trick us into…whatever it is you think they’re doing that requires all this constant control and manipulation? What do you believe they’re manipulating us to do? We make crappy servants, compared to the sub-intelligent machines that all citizens use. And if they want to wipe us out (again, why?), surely there are easier ways?

    I’m a big fan of wild fan theories in general, but I prefer the ones that have internal logic, even if they’re bizarre and hard to reconcile with canon. In this case, I’m not seeing the logic. You’ve got a lot of wild assumptions about how they’re doing all this, but so far you’re severely lacking in why.

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