“Intermediates: A Cuckoo For Mankind” by D.W. Cook

They co-evolved with us. They are unknown to mankind, and have our external physical appearance, with one difference: They phase from one gender to the other, as part of their reproductive cycle, seducing unwitting humans of both genders. Their continued survival as a species depends on taking their offspring from duped human mothers and in regarding mankind as a useful tool. They call themselves “Intermediates”.   https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XB7RKSS/

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Judging Men

Hugh looked up the length of the pipe. From his position, it really could be considered “up” because centripetal acceleration was at a maximum here. The pipe was a uniform two meters in diameter, and it ran from where he stood, on the inside of the outermost wall of the crew habitat, all the way to the engine. The crew habitat of the interplanetary space ship Maine was like a large, circular bicycle wheel with a long metal cylinder, about a fourth its diameter, running through and perpendicular to its center. The crew habitat spun relative to the cylinder, which was the unmanned, fusion-powered engine of the Maine. One end of the pipe Hugh was in terminated when it reached the engine cylinder. The other end of the pipe terminated in the irsing door that Hugh currently stood on. When the Maine was in “dry-dock” for engine repairs, and the crew habitat wasn’t spinning, the pipe could give quick access to an entry hatch on the engine. When the crew habitat was spinning relative to the engine, the entry hatch could periodically be seen by an observer inside the pipe as it passed over the hatch, but it would be impossible to open in the short time it was in proper position.

While the ship was traveling in space, the pipe Hugh was in served a less glamorous function. All along the pipe were small openings that allowed the material collected from the ship’s human-waste-removal units to empty into it. Centrifugal force and air pressure than forced the waste material towards the irising door, which was periodically opened to empty the material into space. It was Hugh’s job to see to it that the tunnel remained clear of obstructions and clogs. Every Tuesday, Hugh would clean a different section of the pipe, 15 meters ahead of the section he had cleaned the previous week. By custom, all of the apprentices on ship were supposed to take turns at this weekly duty, but the Junior Crewman in charge of making the duty roster each week had decided that Hugh would always clean the pipe. The J.C. had a grudge against Hugh because his father had once been laid off by the company Hugh’s father used to own, before the Chinese Prosperity Alliance Space Expeditionary Force had annexed the Earth’s moon and nationalized all non-C.P.A.-owned businesses.

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Robert Heinlein: Some of His Writing I Love, But Some of It I Really Hate

I’ve decided that I have a “love/hate” relationship with Robert Heinlein’s fiction. I read “Tunnel in the Sky” the summer after eighth grade, and thought it was one of the best books I’d ever read. It was about a student in the future who takes a wilderness survival class, and the final exam is to be transported to another planet via teleportation to survive for a week -but something goes wrong and he and other students are trapped there indefinitely. At the time I was really into wilderness survival and science fiction, so I loved that book.

The “Door Into Summer” is a great novel about a brilliant inventor whose ideas are stolen, and his use of cryonics and time travel to get back what is his, as well as to meet the love of his life. It was a touching novel that almost moved me to tears.

“Orphans of the Sky” is about a “generation star ship” where the inhabitants have forgotten they are on a star ship and think that the “universe” consists of just the ship. The main character learns the truth, but the others don’t believe him -similar to Galileo. Also a great book about human institutions and superstitions in conflict with the facts of reality.

However, two of Heinlein’s books are quite possibly some of the most vicious science fiction novels I’ve ever read. First, there is “Stranger in a Strange Land” -arguably Heinlein’s most popular novel, but I absolutely hate it. It involves mysticism, non-monogamous “free love”, cannibalism, and some sort of mystical epistemology (“groking”). Heinlein said he wrote it to challenge every central tenet of Western Civilization. It was Charles Manson’s favorite novel with good reason, and, from what I’ve heard, Heinlein refused to take any responsibility for intellectually “aiding and abetting” that deranged mind.

“Waldo” is a shorter novella, and at the end of it I thought: “I’m not sure I want to believe Heinlein meant what I think this novella stands for.” Basically the main character is a misanthropic genius who is severely, physically disabled. At the end, he discovers some mystical power that lets him become physically fit again, and then slowly has pieces of his brain removed and becomes a vapid “every man” who gets along with everyone. What I took as the theme of the novel was: “You can either be intelligent, miserable, and physically deformed or you can be happy, stupid, and physically fit -but not both.” It seemed like a complete “mind-body false dichotomy” to me.

The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury

A few months ago, I finished Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”.  I was so impressed with it, that I decided to read some more of his short stories.  If you have been a science fiction fan for a while, then you should read some of his work, if you haven’t already.  I just finished “The Illustrated Man” today.  Overall, Bradbury seems to have a very bleak view of the future.  This is manifested in several ways.  First, many of his future societies are dystopian.  For instance, “The Fox and the Forest”, involves the main characters “escaping” from the future via time travel to the past –to 1932.  At several points, in the story it is made clear that 1932 is a better time to live than their own time.  Children also tend to be portrayed negatively in Bradbury’s stories.  For instance, “The Veldt” involves children that only want to watch lions kill things in their virtual reality “nursery”.  The story “Zero Hour” involves very young children collaborating in a make-believe “invasion” from Mars -that turns out to be not-so-make-believe.  Since children represent the future in a certain sense, the fact that Bradbury tends to portray them so negatively is yet another way that he manifests a bleak view of the future.
I suspect that Bradbury’s dystopianism lies partly in his view of human nature.  He tends to portray people as brutish, irrational, and short-sighted.  For an example of this, read “The Visitor”, which involves a telepath that arrives on Mars and offers the human exiles living there visions of the Earth they would like to return to.  Another reason Bradbury tends to be dystopian is probably due to his mysticism.  I suspect that Bradbury was religious.  (See “The Man” and “The Fire Balloons”.)  As a result, he would tend to believe that human beings are born with “original sin”, rather than being “tabula rasa”, at birth.
Although Bradbury’s dystopianism and religiosity would have turned me off when I was younger, I can now appreciate the fact that he was an excellent writer, even if I don’t agree with the themes of a lot of his stories.  His writing style is remarkable because he uses metaphors and similes so effectively.  For instance, in his story “Kaleidoscope”, he describes a rocket exploding and men being sucked out into the vacuum of space in this manner:
“The first concussion cut the rocket up the side with a giant can opener.  The men were thrown into space like a dozen wriggling silverfish.  They were scattered into a dark sea…”
The description of the explosion as a “giant can opener” and the space-suited men as “wriggling silverfish” thrown into space effectively painted a picture in my mind, and it really brought the story to life in a way that a straight description of the scene never could have.  Although I may not agree with many of his themes, Bradbury’s style and technical proficiency as a writer is excellent.

I don’t know that I would recommend Bradbury to younger science fiction readers.  Let teenagers start off with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.  But, if you are a mature “sci-fi connoisseur” like me, then you should read Ray Bradbury.