We'll always have that bit where the giant whelk eats her rapist.

It sucks when you like someone's artistic work and then find out that they're a jackass.

Piracy helps, of course. If you just can't stomach making some mad religious bigot richer every time you see one of his movies or listen to one of his albums - rip 'em off!

That's harder with books. I suppose you can do it if you buy them second hand, but that can be tricky for books that are (a) recent and (b) not rubbish.

I was all set, you see, to write a happy clappy post about how much I've enjoyed a couple of Neal Asher books.

Neal, I presume, wanted to tell some bloodcurdling tales of the sea. But nothing that's ever happened on any sea here could possibly be bloodcurdling enough for him, so he invented a planet, "Spatterjay".

Spatterjay's fauna is almost constantly brutally violent, its human inhabitants get tougher and tougher as they get older and older (and older...), and all sorts of entertaining things happen there. Plankton that eats people, people that don't die even when they've been eaten, treacherous alien slavemaster crabs, cybernetically animated corpses, giant robot pterodactyls...

It goes on. It's a lot of fun.

I've only read a couple of Ashers so far. "The Skinner" was the first one set on Spatterjay, then came "The Voyage of the Sable Keech", which isn't as good (and doesn't seem to have been nearly as well proofread...), but is still a rollicking old tale of blood, guts and hundred-ton-sentient-mollusc rape.

Then I noticed that Neal Asher has a blog.

And everything went downhill.

Look, if you can be coherent about your bitter right-wing realpolitik throat-slitting, I'll read it with a song in my heart and a smirk on my face. But if you keep trotting out arguments that I could see didn't work when I was using FidoNet at the age of 16, you're letting the free speech side down.

Neal reckons that it's bad that governments want to tell us what to do, but we should definitely let them kill us. Before we're convicted, if at all possible.

He doesn't know much about climate change (what a shame there isn't someone you can ask!) but he does know it isn't happening and if it is then it doesn't matter and if it does then it's not our fault and if it is then there's nothing we can do.

And then, there's this.

It's not that he says things I disagree with. He says many things with which I agree. It just seems that he doesn't think too hard about anything he says, and I don't like encouraging that sort of thing by helping to make his books bestsellers.

I don't ask for much from the authors I like. A bit of coherent thought now and then, an affection for orangutans, a few obscure references to Tony Hancock, a recognition that AK-47s for everybody is not necessarily a great way to run a railroad.

Or, of course, just telling your adoring fans to bugger off while you write another vast tome involving hot-swappable mistresses.

That'll do.

Neal Asher does not make the cut.

I propose that the sci-fi-writer version of this Creative Jackass Syndrome be referred to as The Orson Scott Card Problem.

Posted in Books. 17 Comments »

17 Responses to “We'll always have that bit where the giant whelk eats her rapist.”

  1. spinn Says:

    Oh holy crap thank you. I keep telling people that, once I find out an artist is a schmuck, I can't enjoy their stuff anymore. Seems like half the people believe me, and half the people ask me what the hell my problem is.

  2. Jago Says:

    Oh damnit. I really didn't want to know this.

  3. corinoco Says:

    Bugger. I have read a couple of his books, though 'Runcible Tales' freaked me out a bit because (I think - I haven't read it for a while) one of his characters ranted a bit that quinces (things that you eat with runcible spoons) aren't real. Then what's that quince jam doing on my cheese plate, Mr. Asher?

    Ah, no 'Gridlinked' was the book the rant about quinces-aren't-real was in. Never mind, both were a bit freaky for me.

    I think there are plenty of sufferers of CJS out there - L Ron Hubbard comes to mind.

  4. dio Says:

    Thanks for introducing me to Card's opinion pieces, I am quite enjoying them. As to Ms. Minkowitz's interview, I think she allows her own bigotry to cloud her understanding of Card's positions. She tries hard to rationalize, but she demonstrates her own religeous faith in humanism. There is an irony here that is quite spectacular. Again, thank you for sharing.

  5. cas Says:

    jago: yeah, i didnt really want to know that either. i've enjoyed Asher's books so far (except for sable keech which i thought was a waste of paper) - it'll be really hard to do that now that i know he's a raving right wing nutter.

    dio: i think you need to read this. secular humanism is not a faith, it is an absence of faith. the only irony is that she wasted her time interviewing OSC when his fiction is grossly over-rated juvenile crap, and his non-fiction opinion pieces are even worse (as should be expected from a neo-nazi holocaust-revisionist right wing religious lunatic)

  6. matt Says:

    If I was listening to this guy talk, I suspect I'd be sitting on my hands to avoid doing something rash.

    I guess one way of "unpurchasing" his books would be to put them on the second-hand market. At least you're preventing someone else from buying them.

    Incidentally, for much the same reason, I don't watch Tom Cruise films any more.

  7. dio Says:


    'An absence of faith'? I'd say you've got that a bit backward. It's just that their faith is in the superiority of their doctrine and their intellect over all else in the world. Been known to lead to hubris, that.

  8. cas Says:

    yes, it IS an absence of faith.

    religious types like to claim that science is just another form of faith but that's because they don't understand either the nature of faith or the nature of science.

    a scientific belief is one that is arrived at by reasoning, after examining the evidence. if new evidence turns up that disproves the belief then the old belief (theory) can and should (must!) be discarded.

    by contrast, faith is believing in something without recourse to reason and regardless of the evidence...in fact, despite the evidence. if evidence exists or turns up that contradicts the belief then it is the evidence that gets discarded, and the faith retained.

    a scientific "belief" or theory is not permanent, nor fixed in stone, nor handed down on stone tables from on high. it is just a current working theory that fits all the currently available evidence.

    faith, on the other hand, is inviolable and unalterable, regardless of the evidence. it is immune to reason.

    you really do need to read that book.

    btw, religious types love to accuse scientists of arrogance and/or hubris....in fact, it's the religious types that are arrogant: they are the ones saying "i know the truth. it is undisputable, and beyond any doubt or question". scientists have a more humble approach: "this is what i currently think, based on the evidence currently available to me".

    faith is what makes people believe they'll go to heaven if they strap a bomb to themselves and murder innocent strangers.

  9. balistic Says:

    Can't say I'm too surprised. Asher's space opera has been a guilty pleasure of mine for the past year. I've read The Engineer, The Skinner, Brass Man, Line of Polity, and Gridlinked. Not many original ideas in any of them, but he writes fun enough action pulp. He's got a knack for pacing.

    But given his lack of compelling female characterization, his propensity for one-dimensional bad guys, and the fact that the unkillable, emotionless Agent Cormac seems an awful lot like he's meant to serve as the author's own avatar ...

    Dan, check out "A Fire Upon the Deep" by Vernor Vinge if you get a chance. It's great idea-driven space opera, but without the authoritarian overtones of Asher's stuff. It's got probably the best space chase sequence I've ever read (stretched over a third of the book).

  10. dio Says:


    I spoke of Humanists, not scientists.

    You make the linkage there without thinking it through. Many scientists are believers in the various religious traditions. Belief in deity is not contradictory to scientific enterprise.

    The only real difference is that the question being researched is not “What hath chaos wrought?”, but “What hath God wrought?” You don’t have to agree on the agency of creation to study it and figure out the mechanisms. Biblical literalists however, are incapable of doing this. The same is true of committed atheists. When you completely discount a possibility because there is no proof yet, you will never see the proof should you come across it.

    Too many people discount the beliefs of others out of prejudice. “This is my worldview, and any who disagree are (Insert derogatory description here).” This is not tolerance, nor is it consistent with the espoused principals of either the religious or humanistic communities. It is just the way imperfect humans conduct themselves when they aren’t called on it and are too lazy to think.

    Which brings me to the problem I have with Humanists: I once was one, but found it wouldn’t stand against the realities of human nature.

    The fault with Humanism, as with other “utopian” philosophies, is the belief that humans can be perfected: That they can be led to act in the interests of the greater collective rather than in their own self interests through “enlightenment”.

    Self interest is the engine of progress if harnessed by a social construct which rewards the individual for their efforts and creates relationships and interdependence between individuals which benefit all. Capitalism, leavened with Judeo-Christian sensibilities has been very successful at this. The Japanese have done well with their own cultural take on it. Socialism/Communism, in its many flavors, has not.

    Having wandered a bit off topic, I will close with this: If you find yourself calling names when you disagree with another, you have stopped thinking and are only emoting. Which also means you are being lazy and are probably making an ass of yourself.

  11. MT Says:

    "Or, of course, just telling your adoring fans to bugger off while you write another vast tome involving hot-swappable mistresses."

    The link you give there to http://www.well.com/~neal/ is actually for the website of another author: Neal Stephenson (who I highly recommend BTW :)

  12. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Yes, I know. The hot-swappable mistresses are a Stephenson reference, not an Asher one :-).

  13. RichVR Says:

    "When you completely discount a possibility because there is no proof yet, you will never see the proof should you come across it."

    That's a rather sweeping assumption isn't it?

  14. cas Says:

    dio: i can see there's little or no point in discussing this with you. all i have to say is "there are none so blind as those who will not see".

    and one final reply to your comment about "calling names": yes. but take a good hard look in the mirror - remember it was you who descended to ad-hominem attacks with your implied accusation of arrogance/hubris. looks like you have no problem with throwing the first stone, even when you are not without "sin" yourself.

  15. cas Says:

    balistic: absolutely! "A Fire upon the Deep" is great. as is "A Deepness in the Sky". Vernor Vinge is an excellent writer - which is doubly amazing because he's the only libertarian author i've ever encountered that can write stuff that's actually readable AND enjoyable rather than tediously juvenile sophistry.

    (which is why i didn't like his Across Realtime stories - they were OK-ish but had way too much libertarian propaganda embedded in them. IMO, libertarianism has a superficial appeal, if you don't think too deeply about it, but is so simplistic as to be utterly absurd).

    [Tim Kreider referred to part of this problem as "AK-47s for everybody". That is indeed what the American, at least, interpretation of libertarianism inexorably leads to. And it's not really a problem, as long as you're not bothered about the inexorable conclusion that a near-100% rate of armament can only lead to a homicide death rate even worse than that of the USA right now. The USA is, I think, clearly the First World country that's currently closest to the libertarian weapons-ownership ideal, and it has a homicide rate that's just hilariously higher than that of the rest of the First World. And that homicide rate is definitely not all due to gun violence - something like 40% of US homicides are committed with weapons other than firearms. You Americans just seem to love killing each other. I shudder to think what'd happen if everyone was walking around with a gun strapped across his back every day. You're already an armed society, but you're pretty damn far from being a polite society, and I see no reason to suppose that adding more weapons will create more peace. -long-winded Dan]

    if you can stomach the ultracapitalist propaganda in his works (which isn't that bad in AFutD or ADitS) then read his stuff. highly recommended.

  16. dio Says:


    I pointed out the risk of hubris, I did not assign the label.

    You make a solid observation with your comment that "there are none so blind as those who will not see”, but I suggest some introspection.

    Certitude in the "correctness" of one's beliefs closes one off to other possibilities. If there can only be one answer, and all others must be wrong; what is the point of investigation and research? All must already be known.

    Do you think that I am convinced of the absolute correctness of my world view? If I was, would I be reading and enjoying Dan's blog? Or anything not written by me?

    I don't need to agree with your worldview to appreciate your intellect, wit and perspective on things. To me this is a function of humility, a trait that seems a bit undervalued today, and one which I try to cultivate in myself.

    Having hijacked Dan's comment thread into some sort of idiological discourse; I shall now offer my apologies to Dan for being an ass and shuffle off into the data stream.

  17. ULOFB Says:

    Oh - you ain't seen nothing yet. Asher's just called Obama a 'watermelon'.


    Great guy.

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