Maybe TANSTAAFL, But TISATAAFB

J. Neil Schulman’s agorist science-fiction novel Alongside Night is now available for free online. (CHT Wally Conger.)

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13 Responses to Maybe TANSTAAFL, But TISATAAFB

  1. Robert Paul June 15, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    I haven’t read this, but I think it would be difficult to write a story involving a specific political philosophy like agorism and simultaneously get a lot of details about the real world right. There’s always the strong possibility that something unrealistic happens in the novel to conveniently fit the philosophy. It seems to me that this is what happened in The Probability Broach.

    • Roderick June 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

      Well, FWIW, it’s certainly more realistic than The Probability Broach — no interdimensional travel or talking animals!

      • Robert Paul June 15, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

        Heh, true, but let me give you an example of what I meant. I vaguely recall a scene in TPB in which a criminal is caught and people are supposed to voluntarily refrain from torture or interrogation until the private cops arrive, because the criminal’s rights must be respected. I think it was implied that everyone in that society followed this custom religiously, but come on. Maybe there will even be a time and a place where that works most of the time, but we need a better enforcement mechanism than that.

        • Miko June 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

          I don’t think that need necessarily make writing a story more difficult. Handled properly, the tension between the ideals and reality can work well as a plot point. For example, Heinlein did an excellent job of dealing with this in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: there are voluntary courts, but there are also people who are willing to throw you out of an airlock without a trial; hence, the characters can discuss why they’re doing one or the other and what the consequences would be, which is beneficial on both the levels of story and of philosophy.

        • Robert Paul June 16, 2009 at 1:21 am #

          Miko, that’s true, but it doesn’t seem to be very common when a novel sets out to advocate a single, specific theory. I haven’t read Alongside Night, so I can’t say if this applies to it, but often when a specific theory is the focus, anything which could realistically cause problems is brushed aside. As you point out, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is more realistic about this. I believe that’s because Heinlein’s focus was not as specific as L. Neil Smith’s in The Probability Broach.

        • Roderick June 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

          Well, The Probability Broach is about a working, established libertarian society. Alongside Night is (mostly) about a libertarian revolution against an existing statist society — as is, for example, F. Paul Wilson’s Enemy of the State. (And Heinlein’s book is some of each.) So a lot of the how-would-the-established-society-work? questions don’t come up in Alongside Night.

        • Roderick June 16, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

          I think it was implied that everyone in that society followed this custom religiously

          Well, they might follow it prudentially. If a) security services tend to require their clients to refrain from torturing suspects (since those suspects are also potential clients), and b) people would rather not get dumped by their security agencies or have trouble getting a new one, this might plausibly be so.

        • Robert Paul June 17, 2009 at 12:46 am #

          So a lot of the how-would-the-established-society-work? questions don’t come up in Alongside Night.

          That sounds promising.

          Well, they might follow it prudentially…

          I agree, but in TPB it seemed like this wasn’t the reason at all, and instead it was as if they were following a religious code. Maybe I’m just not remembering it correctly, though.

        • Roderick June 17, 2009 at 11:29 am #

          Well, it doesn’t seem that surprising that a well-working political system would both support and be supported by widely held cultural norms.

        • Robert Paul June 17, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

          But surely you shouldn’t have to depend on cultural norms alone to protect your rights? Maybe you’re right and what you’re saying is exactly what the author had in mind, but I wish it had been fleshed out a little more. It seems like a non-anarchist could read that scene and easily think, “Well, that’s silly. Why would the victim always care so much about the criminal’s rights?”

  2. Bob Kaercher June 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    But interdimensional travel and talking animals are what make life interesting!

    BTW, does TISATAAFB mean There Is Such A Thing As A Free Beer? Oh, wait…Free BOOK! Silly moi.

  3. Briggs June 15, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    I think I would read your blog just for the titles!

  4. Anon73 June 18, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    It’s interesting when you think about the kind of person that lives in a novel like “Alongside Night”. Most people in our world take statism as absolute gospel truth. Take this article, where service to the state is equated with serving one’s homeland and serving something greater than oneself:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090618/ts_nm/us_financial_usa_cia

    It seems like humans have a built in desire to serve something “greater than oneself”, but that thing doesn’t have to be an aggressive monopoly on force, although I’d hesitate to say “society’s good” qualifies. In “Alongside Night” people can actually see with their own eyes that “another world is possible” and that “serving something greater than oneself” can mean promoting a prosperous and free society.

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