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Line and Orbit: Science and the Protectorate’s original sin

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
– Carl Sagan

One of the cool things about writing – and I think this is especially true of writing anything book-length – is that you’re not always aware of what’s going in there. What you’re producing is coming out of you; in that sense what you

courtesy of NASA

write is a jumbled mirror image of all the fragments of you that make you who you are. Your values, your dreams and your fears, what you think you are and what you hope you might become. Fiction is self-reflexive, though it’s that way implicitly; it’s not a memoir but it is a part of the greater whole that makes up the messy history of you.

So it’s always neat when people find things in it that are unquestionably there but that you didn’t notice at the time. Again, my friend Natalie is a great example of this in that she spotted a big overarching ecological theme in Line and Orbit that I didn’t realize was there at all, and that I don’t recall discussing with my co-author aside from a few things about Melissa Cosaire’s orchids.

But it’s also the case that sometimes things come out in such a way that you don’t think what you meant is clear. Or that you didn’t think through the theme enough to specify it clearly – which is always the risk you run when you’re not explicitly trying to Be Thematic, which I don’t recommend doing (it smacks of ham-handed effort and Look How Deep I Am and people can usually spot it). So I was rereading a bit of L&O the other day – always fun when you can read your stuff with enough distance that you can enjoy it as if it weren’t actually yours – and I spotted something that troubled me a little: that the book might be open to an interpretation of being anti-science. (very mild spoilers under the cut)

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