Liberal Academia and Classic Sci-Fi

The Dartmouth Review Pleads Innocent was an okay book. On the one hand, the stories of undergraduates poking fun at and fighting against the entrenched liberal dogmas at their university were funny and inspiring (ah, that my own college paper had such gumption), but they were boring and repetitive on the other hand. The silliness on display seemed no more outlandish than that seen at just about any other university and the responses to it and personal stories of the students at The Review seemed less than exceptional. Really, I think The Review can be compared to Citizen Kane. Seen today, it seems like a fine, though unremarkable, film. Its greatness lies in the things it did first and best. Many film techniques, I am told, were pioneered in Citizen Kane, and in like fashion The Dartmouth Review was the first student paper to push back in such a way against the tide of PC that was rising on campuses around the country. The story of the conservative David fighting off the liberal Goliath, on campus and off, is now so well known that these stories seem less than stunning. Not because they are unimportant or unimpressive, but because use has jaded us to the tales.

Switching gears, I pounded through Ringworld quite rapidly. I liked the concept, a world composed of a giant ring spinning around a sun, though the author falls victim to the same temptation that ruined several of the Heinlein novels I tried to read; Larry Niven has an adolescent fascination with sex. Thankfully, he doesn’t indulge it to the point of describing the acts themselves, but the protagonist has a one-track mind and the author feels it necessary to make a point of the fact that he is frequently copulating. I don’t think I’m going to read the rest of the series; it just wasn’t that good.

Continuing in the sci-fi vein, I read Asimov’s The Martian Way, which is four short stories including one which shares its title with the book itself. They were all interesting and well-written. I am always struck when I read Asimov’s work at how good he was at writing. Some of his scientific notions now seem rather quaint 54 years later, but despite that his stories still engage and entertain. Each story in the book involves visits to other planets, though not necessarily by humans in every case. The only real drawback was the constant and religious deference given to Science. Science truly was Asimov’s god. (And, sadly, that also seems to now be the case with John Derbyshire.)

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