The Jerry Pournelle series continues.
I’ve been to a few science fiction and “dark fantasy” conventions since writing this and am a bit more kindly disposed to fans now. However, my earlier feelings did color my feelings about this novel.
Raw Feed (1991): Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Flynn, 1991.
This novel was a big disappointment.
All these authors are capable of good work and Niven and Pournelle together have done some great stuff. It’s not that I think these authors can’t work together; it’s that I don’t like what they set out to do — and probably succeeded in doing.
This book is dedicated to “Science Fiction Fandom” and that is the main focus of the book. I think that focus will get this book at least nominated for an award. I’m not particularly fond of sf Fans (with a large F as opposed to people who just like the stuff). Die-hard enthusiasts of any streak make me nervous. And I’ve found many sf fans I’ve met obnoxious and obsessed with showing off their self-perceived cleverness. So, I’m not at all comfortable with the book’s focus.
And this book panders to fandom’s lofty notions of itself. To be sure, fans are shown as bickering, silly, obnoxious but ultimately effectual.
I did like some fannish bits: the thinly disguised Forrest J. Ackerman character (here Tremont J. Fielding) and his Minneapolis mansion. (As far as I can tell, the authors got all the Twin Cities details right, but you’d expect these guys to.) The authors have some fun with themselves. Pournelle’s alter ego is a drunk and Niven’s has been exiled to Australia.
The book contained many allusions to people, places, and works in the real sf world which were not really necessary but just a fannish exercise in spot the allusion.
Some, like Army Engineer George Scithers, were fun. Most were pointless (like Wisconsin farmer Enoch Wallace named after the main character in Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station).
I did like some of the characters: Gordon Tanner, spacer and enthusiastic amateur poet was my favorite and bisexual (Perhaps a Flynn addition. There was a homosexual in his In the County of the Blind) policeman Lee Arteria. However, the authors blow it with their final, one-paragraph explanation on why she switched from sf fan and aeronautical engineer to Green police investigator, albeit for the Air Force. Very unconvincing.
There’s also Alderman of dying Milwaukee, no doubt a Pournelle invention and reminiscent of the Boss in H.G. Wells’ film version of Things to Come.
It was that bit in Milwaukee that I hoped the rest of the book would be like: a wide portrait of industrial society meeting an ice age and a satire on radical environmentalism. The book had just a bit of that. To be sure, the stupidity of the Greens was not exaggerated over what they’re like now. But if the authors were trying to make a propaganda point similar to Pournelle and Niven’s Lucifer’s Hammer (which I think they were) — that industrial civilization is worth saving — they failed. Their message was not frequent enough and buried under fans on a quest for a spaceship.
The need for space travel was even less effectively argued for here than the anti-Green perspective though NASA was bashed frequently — and, probably, deservedly so (Niven and Pournelle have went from supporters to critics).
The intents of the book — satirical and propaganda — are clear from the acknowledgements. They are less well handled in the text.
In short, fandom killed a story that could have been better satire and propaganda.