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   It is an old saying but still quite true: Leaders are readers. When farmerchuck first noticed my writings here on DailyKos that was nothing so special, as quite a few have done so, but what got my attention was this:

  I started getting emails asking for clarification in some areas and suggesting expansions in others.

  There are quite a few very bright, motivated people who’ve accumulated around the Stranded Wind Initiative, but Chuck is the only one that challenges my thinking in this fashion; this was one of the primary drivers in my coming out here. I always look at people’s bookshelves when I visit and in this case it’s gone a little deeper, as we’ve traded the tomes we each find most instructive regarding our current dilemma.

 I’ve read most everything in the cyberpunk genre written by William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Vernor Vinge, and Bruce Sterling, but Sterling stands head and shoulders above the rest, primarily for his move from author to prophet. This snippet is the beginning of his October 14, 1998 introducing of the Viridian Design Movement.

     Hello.  Good to see all of you tonight.  Thanks for
taking the trouble to show up. Tonight I'm going to do
something that I've never done before.   I'm going to do
something that I've struggled against doing for twenty

     Tonight, I'm going to prophesy.

 If you want to connect with this prophecy in its raw form you can go to the Viridian web site and read all of 496 Viridian Notes, but I came to it by a more normal means – reading Distraction, a political thriller set in dystopian, post collapse Louisiana a generation from now.

  I found the Regulators and Moderators, two "prole mobs" who play a key role in the novel particularly interesting. They’re sort of nomadic biohackers, for lack of a better description, and I am very much taken with the concept of "reputation economics".

  Today we have reputation economics in many forms. Got a social security number? Then you’ve got (or not) a criminal record, a credit history, and so forth. Less formal (and federal) are your Ebay feedback and your DailyKos mojo. The prole mobs need to move about and reconfigure themselves in realtime without being part of "the system" lead them to the creation of a complex, multifaceted distributed server farm tracking folks’ skills and character, and while we only see peeps of it here and there the whole thing is a concept that has arrived. I think as we see more and more people cut loose from the disintegrating corporatocracy this will become vital. Rural areas just have this - everyone knows everyone, and this sort of information will become important as those with skills wish to circulate, as I am, putting them to work.

  Chuck’s tastes run a bit more sci-fi: Kim Stanley Robinson’s award winning Mars Trilogy. I’ve just completed Red Mars and I’m a bit miffed – the murder of the character closest to my temperament and skills, John Boone, comes in the first few chapters, then we learn how things got that way. I guess fair is fair, Arkady Bogdanov is killed near the end, leaving his Bogdanovist movement to carry on his vision. Chuck’s selection of the name "Arkady Bogdanov" on the Stranded Wind Initiative’s web site was my very first hint that I should pay attention to this author’s works.

  Chuck has all sorts of ideas that are, well, anarchist or socialist, and he has gone about mapping them into common constructs. There is already a cooperative of local folks sharing skills, contacts, tools, and equipment, and there are several other things along these lines that are about to hatch.

  I have the next in the trilogy, Green Mars, sitting here awaiting my attention, but there is another work with it that I believe to be equally weighty; Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I’ve had this book for years and always meant to read it, but now that I’m an hour away from the historic location this need has become more urgent, Oh, and I read the first twenty pages and I found quote after quote after quote ... I think this work is very deeply embedded in our national psyche, and I’m looking forward to simply wallowing in it once I’m done with the Mars Trilogy.

  So ... if you had to name a piece of fiction as the most influential thing you’ve read, which would it be? Distraction definitely gets the nod from me.

Originally posted to Stranded Wind on Sat May 17, 2008 at 02:45 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  for Sci-Fi fanntasy fans the coolest site (8+ / 0-)

    is the Baen Free Library.

    They have lots of titles both old and new for free download or to read online. Plus the entire Baen Books Sci Fi library is available at reasonable prices.

    I have read a lot of David Drakes stuff lately. Kind of like Tom Clancy meets Buck Rodgers, shoot em up stuff but cool space opera

    " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

    by buddabelly on Sat May 17, 2008 at 02:57:33 PM PDT

  •  SciFi (5+ / 0-)

    Sci Fi in general has probably not influenced me much, although I have read hundreds and hundred of SciFi novels.

    The exception would be those of Kurt Vonnegut:

    Cat's Cradle
    Sirens of Titan
    Slaughterhouse Five

    Non-SciFi - probably "Catch 22".  That definitely gave my head a spin.  I encountered it as a freshman in college, back in 1967.  "1984".  Those two books will teach one a lot about spotting propaganda.

  •  Well, of course, I must mention (5+ / 0-)

    David Brin's Startide Rising and the sequel, Uplift War...

    Thanks to people who share book titles at Bookflurries on Wednesday evenings and plf515's book diary on Friday mornings early, I have a list of nearly 1000 books I would like to read.  You are very welcome to come by.

    Have you read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon?

    Have you wished to walk the Appalachian Trail?  Then try A Walk in the Woods by Bryson.

    The short stories of Pat McManus are hilarious...
    A Fine and Pleasant Misery and They Shoot Canoes, Don't They? are just two.

    Best wishes!!

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sat May 17, 2008 at 03:27:59 PM PDT

  •  All The Kings Men (5+ / 0-)

    I read the Robert Penn Warren book about corrupt Louisiana politics as an early teenager, and was blown away by the parallels to the politics and political machine activities that I had grown up with in Independence, MO. It was a WOW! moment, particularly to realize that those Huey Long folks were so much slyer and more corrupt than my local politicians could ever hope to be. I became a life-long skeptic at that moment.
    Other books have influenced me in other areas and for other reasons:
    Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury) - Wake up! They can burn your books!
    Of course, 1984 and Brave New World.
    And also:
    The Great Gastby (Fitzgerald) for its evocation of a time and place long gone.
    Ada (Nobokov) for the language if nothing more (I still take joy in quoting, "... the ardors and arbors of Ardis...")
    The Wind in the Willows (Graham) for escape and imagination and imagry. (" ... there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.")

    And not only Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, but also his newer "eco-trilogy" that starts with Forty Signs of Rain - don't miss it!
    But most of all: Harry Potter!!!

    Book lists are such fun!!

  •  A Modern Fable (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, Got a Grip, Stranded Wind

    Let me start by saying this is open source, so the long quote isn't a copyright violation.

    I think this is something, although not directly related to the topic, pretty darn close to the thesis of this series of Diaries. It is a part of Neil Postman's The End of Education. And keep in mind it is a fable.

    Once upon a time in the city of New York, civilized life very nearly came to an end.  The streets were covered with dirt, and there was no one to tidy them.  The air and rivers were polluted, and no one could cleanse them.  Each day brought a new strike, and each strike brought new hardships.  Crime and strife and disorder and rudeness were to be found everywhere.  The young fought the old.  The workers fought the students.  The poor fought the rich.  The city was bankrupt.

    When things came to their most desperate moment, the city fathers met to consider the problem.  But they could suggest no cures, for their morale was very low and their imaginations dulled by hatred and confusion.  There was nothing for the mayor to do but to declare a state of emergency.  He had done this before during snowstorms and power failures, but now he felt even more justified.

    "Our city," he said, "is under siege, like the ancient cities of Jericho and Troy.  But our enemies are sloth and poverty and indifference and hatred."

    As you can see, he was a very wise major, but not so wise as to say exactly how these enemies could be dispersed.  Thus, though a state of emergency officially existed, neither the major nor anyone else could think of anything to do that could make the situation better rather than worse.  And then an extraordinary thing happened.

    One of the mayor's aides, knowing full well what the future held for the city, had decided to flee with his family to the country.  In order to prepare himself for his exodus to a strange environment, he began to read Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," which he had been told was a useful handbook on how to survive in the country.  While reading the book, he came upon the following passage: "Students should not play life, to study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.  How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?"

    The aide sensed immediately that he was in the presence of an exceedingly good idea.  And he sought an audience with the mayor.  He showed the passage to the mayor, who was extremely depressed and in no mood to read from books, since he had already scoured books of lore and wisdom in search of help but had found nothing.

    "What does it mean?" asked the mayor angrily.

    "Nothing less," replied the aide, "than a way to our salvation."

    He then explained to the mayor that the students in the public schools had heretofore been part of the general problem, whereas, with some imagination and a change of perspective, they might easily become part of the general solution.  He pointed out that from junior high school through senior high school, there were approximately 400,000 able-bodied, energetic young men and women who could be used as a resource to make the city livable again.

    "But how can we use them?" asked the mayor.  "And what would happen to their education if we did?"

    To this, the aide replied, "They will find their education in the process of saving their city.  And as for their lessons in school, we have ample evidence that the young do not exactly appreciate them and are even now turning against their teachers and their schools."  The aide, who had come armed with statistics (as aides are wont to do), pointed out that the city was spending more than $1 million a year merely replacing broken school windows and that almost one-third of all the students enrolled in the schools did not show up on any given day.

    'Yes, I know," said the mayor sadly.  "Woe unto us."

    "Wrong," said the aide brashly.  "The boredom and destructiveness and pent-up energy that are an afflictgion to us can be turned to our advnatage."

    The mayor was not

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Sat May 17, 2008 at 03:32:06 PM PDT

  •  Dune (6+ / 0-)

    Dune by Frank Herbert was one of those watershed books for me.  I think it will come to be seen as one of the defining works of my generation.

    More recently, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn has been one of those special books that caused me to recalibrate a lot of things.

    The blurker formerly known as ignorant bystander

    by budr on Sat May 17, 2008 at 03:52:09 PM PDT

  •  Anarchist Science Fiction (5+ / 0-)

    Try Ursula LaGuin's The Dispossessed.

  •  Heinlein (7+ / 0-)

    I read Stranger in a Strange Land when I was 10--learned to question any authority on anything. Moon is a Harsh Mistress taught me freedom and revolution. As a PK (preacher's kid) these books certainly rocked my world.

    Will and Ariel Durant's Story of Civilization. Thoreau, Whitman, Emily Dickinson.

    Spider Robinson, Dune, Lois McMaster Bujold.

    The main thing is to read. It almost doesn't matter what you read, as long as your brain is engaged and challenging assumptions (yours, society's, the author's).

    "Zen: Infinite respect for all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility for all things future."--Huston Smith

    by Maggie Pax on Sat May 17, 2008 at 04:22:10 PM PDT

  •  In one way, it might be (4+ / 0-)

    A Wrinkle in Time, since that is the book that turned me from someone who knew how to read into a reader.

    Generally, the books that have influenced me most have been nonfiction.

    I do read a lot of SF, though.  Current favorite writers include Nancy Kress, John Varley, Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, Charles Stross, etc. I think I've read all of Heinlein's SF....

  •  Here's a wonderful piece by Moira Roth (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind

    who understands how the Net works

  •  And then three+ more important ones: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind

    Peter Carey's The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1995) - a ferocious look at something like Australia and that other place called 'the Circus.' Written at white heat.

    And almost any of Doris Lessing's 'space fictions,' not to mention the phenomenal Mara and Dann and its sequel The Story of General Dann ... [long title] in which, as a woman in her late eighties-nineties she is writing about what continues after things have fallen apart yet go on.

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