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Marooned! on Mars with Matt and Hilary

116 EpisodesProduced by Matt Hauske & Hilary StrangWebsite

a kim stanley robinson read-along podcast with regular forays into utopia. hosted by some friends who are into communism, science fiction and other stuff

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Blue Mars, Part 11: “Viriditas,” Part One: Freedom, Pleasure, and Zo

Matt and Hilary let you into one of our planning sessions, demystifying the amazingly shallow and slapdash way we decide what to talk about. This chapter is so rich that we figured we'd have to divide it up into two episodes. This episode focuses mainly on Zo and the kind of problems we have with her and the kind of problems that she presents to us.

We ask really fundamental questions that the book puts to us at this point in the narrative, including about the nature of pleasure and freedom in a world that spans the solar system and in which humans can expect to basically live forever. The big question we seek to answer across this and the next episode (which we probably don't ever answer) is, as articulated by Hilary: What do we make of the relationship between the things we’re learning about the transformations in the solar system (accelerando/ explosive diaspora) and what we learn about Zo?  

We talk about our problems with Zo. Both of us didn't like Zo at all the first time we read this book, and the second time through we're discovering that we understand her a little bit better now. But we still don't like her! At the forefront of our displeasure with her is her experience of pleasure, which often seems to come at the expense of others. 

The way Zo treats Ann and Sax are real triggers for us here. Zo's youthful dismissal of Ann's communion with rocks, or of Sax's contemplativeness, open onto a discussion of relationships between generations. The contrast between Nirgal and Zo, set up at the end of the previous chapter, is borne out here through their genetic and spiritual lineages back to John Boone and Frank Chalmers. Zo's hedonism and adrenaline junky-ness, her interest in Nietzsche, her weird references to Keats, all of these indicate a youthful arrogance and solipsism that we find distasteful.

And yet... Why shouldn't she be able to tell these old farts to fuck off?

Ultimately we're presented here with a new version of the problem of what freedom is and where pleasure is found. Hilary raises the issue of the recent left's taking up of the language of morality and moralism. Matt compares Zo to the stock broker character from New York 2140, whose name he still can't remember and he's not going to go look it up because there's a cat in his lap. 

References: Paul Lafargue, "The Right to be Lazy." Stan was recently interviewed on The Antifada podcast (really excellent interview if you haven't heard it).

Freedom (according to Matt): not feeling the need to be doing anything other than the thing that you’re doing right now.

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