Sunni: It was Asimov who turned me off of science fiction for a long time. Do you prefer older sci-fi to new stuff?
Wally: Not at all. I love the older stuff, and I enjoy returning to it. But there are plenty of newer masters. Ken MacLeod, Vernor Vinge, John Scalzi, Scott Sigler, Charles Stross—they’ve all become sci-fi go-to’s for me.
Sunni: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve only recently begun to read Vinge. I like a few MacLeod books, and it’s interesting that you mention Stross, as I’ll be reviewing his Prometheus finalist book, Glasshouse, this month too. I was disappointed by it.
Wally: I haven’t gotten to that one yet, but I liked Accelerando and got a real kick out of his two amped-up leftist space operas, Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise. I recently bought a copy of Vinge’s Rainbows End, another Prometheus nominee this year. It’s about two or three books from the top of my to-read stack.
Sunni: I intend to read Accelerando at some point, and depending on how that goes, may read more Stross. I also noticed that we’re both Edward Abbey fans, although you’ve apparently read a lot more by him than I have. My favorite book might be The Fool’s Progress, but I haven’t read Good News yet. What else would you recommend?
Wally: I enjoy Abbey’s fiction, but his non-fiction absolutely sings. You can’t go wrong picking up any of his essay collections—The Journey Home, Down the River, there are others. Desert Solitaire, of course, is Abbey’s masterpiece—part memoir of his years as a park ranger in southeast Utah, part political polemic. It’s stirring stuff. I’ve got a copy here. Listen to this closing graph from Abbey’s introduction to Solitaire:
Sunni: Wow. Great stuff, Wally; thanks for sharing that with me.
Wally: I could read Ed Abbey aloud for hours. His writing is fantastic. Abbey wanted to preserve the wilderness because it offered the best places to hide from federal agents. His solution to illegal immigration was—lemme find the quote ... ah, here it is—“to stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are.” The traditional right-wing and left-wing both despised Abbey, of course. He was undeniably one of us, though—one of the good guys. I’d place him in the left libertarian pantheon. But some libertarians might argue with me about that.
Sunni: I don’t know enough about him to be one of those individuals. But I’m definitely putting some Abbey nonfiction at the top of my to-buy list.
Wally: You won’t regret it. I promise.
Sunni: A lot of pro-freedom people seem to take pride in their disdain of a lot of today’s culture, especially television. But you seem to be just the opposite, focusing a fair amount on TV shows at your main blog, and various elements of pop culture at The Sudden Curve. Is it escapism, or do you see rays of hope there?
Wally: I think we freedom activists ignore popular culture at our own peril. While some libertarians stand with their noses in the air, saying TV and celebrity don’t matter, the power elites are harnessing the culture and conditioning Joe and Joan Public to shut up and bend over. [pause] Pardon my lack of finesse, Sunni. Finesse. Is that the right word? [laughs]
Sunni: Ha! After some of my earlier language, I should be apologizing to you! [laughs] Finesse is way overrated, anyway.
Wally: You’re right. Anyway, I think we should spend a lot more time trying to influence the culture. We should permeate the entertainment industry. We need libertarian screenwriters, directors, and producers. There are some healthy signs. Movies like V for Vendetta and Children of Men lifted their liberty-loving heads out of the cultural goo. On TV, we’ve seen Joss Whedon’s wonderful Firefly series. X-Files always preached distrust of government and power elites. Tim Kring’s Heroes has a strong anti-authoritarian bent.