Apr 19, 2019 4:54 PM
Fabulous Bell in the Raadch
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"She was a divisive person."

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"Oh?"

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"I was told growing up that the linguistics departments of our Royal Academy had never had so much as a fistfight before she joined but it was hard to believe because by that point they were weekly and there'd been at least three attempted murders."

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"Wow."

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"I loved her very much and I am not a tenth as deft as I'd have needed to be to keep her alive."

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"I'm sorry."

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"It's all right. It was a very long time ago."

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"That I'd guessed."

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"These days I really don't have to be very deft at all to keep people alive, it's great."

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"But not so alive that they get to do your thing."

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"There've been some, over the ages."

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"Oh? Under what circumstances?"

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"It didn't look catastrophically destabilizing and I was sufficiently sure that the person they'd be with a lot more attention and in a thousand years would be - still safe."

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"Is an old person really that much more threatening than a younger one? Are most people who wind up destroying civilizations a hundred and sixty-three?"

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"Older people are much wealthier and more influential than younger ones. They're not particularly more likely - less likely, actually - to find a way to destroy everyone."

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"So you're not preventing existential catastrophe, you're preventing the accumulation of social oomph in directions that wouldn't align with you?"

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"It seems to me you're entrenched enough that you'd see a threateningly powerful person coming from a long way off."

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"I'm not afraid of losing the Radch. But - when I decided we should stop expanding, to a first approximation every single person in a position of power on every major station disagreed, and this didn't actually complicate the change of direction in any way, and there was no need to threaten them. That's important to me."

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"Hmmm."

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"It's not off the table."

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"You're in a really unique position. Well, I suppose I don't know if there's another planet or some aliens doing something like it, but. I can't think of anyone else I've ever heard of with quite your degree of insulation from public opinion and I'm trying to work through the implications of it from first principles."

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"I do believe that in a lot of important ways it makes the Radch freer."

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"Specifically what I'm thinking is that it makes the Radch exactly as free - and exactly as everything else - as you want it to be, or at least as you want it to be given various considerations like maintaining your stranglehold on power. There was a political argument on the Internet that I read once where someone brought up something he attributed to some author I can't remember the name of; the gist of the comment was that if the Earth were conquered by a genuinely omnipotent alien whose only desire was to extract gold, the alien's best interest would be served by free market capitalism, taxed heavily for the purchase of gold, but it would probably let people have free speech and whatever else because it's omnipotent and can't be threatened and doesn't care what people say - and you're not quite that omnipotent and aren't that alien and the story was made up so who knows what a real gold-seeking alien would feel like doing about that, so in some respects this is dissimilar, but there's a common element."

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"I don't think the Radch is - exactly everything I'd like it to be, but I do think it reflects what I want much, much more than societies normally reflect what their rulers want."

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