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Small Talk: The Coffee Machine

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16 minutes ago, JZL said:

I also tend to forget, which asterank shows, that the solar system is canted ~ 60° from the galactic plane, which was not what was taught when I was a kid.

And if you zoom in, you can see that Mercury is canted about 15 to 20 degrees from the ecliptic. which is why it appears to "retrograde".

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I'm going on a trip next week and want to load up with some e-books. I won't read the Expanse but maybe you have some other recommendations?

I read mostly sci-fi, but other things as well occasionally. Some authors that I like are Ursula K Le Guin, Ann Leckie, Vernor Vinge and John Scalzi.

Edited by Holmbo

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2 hours ago, Holmbo said:

Some authors that I like are Ursula K Le Guin, Ann Leckie, Vernor Vinge and John Scalzi.

Two out of four ain't all that bad . . .

Just bought a number of books to re-read, including Vinge's Peace WarMarooned in Realtime.  Also Le Guin's entire Earthsea Cycle.  Already re-read Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle (the Dorsai! universe).  Also waiting is some classic Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. And Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar.

Will consider giving Leckie & Scalzi a try!

I own everything from Leviathan Wakes up to and including Persepolis Rising, but I've only read the first couple.  When the Season 3 broadcast concludes, I will continue reading.  I don't want to spoil myself by reading too far ahead, but I can't bring myself to stop halfway through a book.  I don't know how far I will get before I stop again to await S4, now we know it will be forthcoming.  Unfortunately, the TV series doesn't seem to be in phase with the books.

Just finished Dana's Two Years Before The Mast, which isn't Sci-Fi, but coming from the deck of a square-rigged merchant ship over 180 years ago, is as much a view of another world as anything from Isaac Asimov, Bill Gibson or Neal Stephenson!

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Yesterday I told my son about the show so he's going to start watching on Prime. Every viewer counts!

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23 hours ago, Netfoot said:

Two out of four ain't all that bad . . .

Yes there's some overlap there. I bought Two years before the mast, and Stand on Zanzibar so I'll let you know if I like them :)

23 hours ago, Netfoot said:

Will consider giving Leckie & Scalzi a try!

Leckie writes a lot about social constructs, playing around with different concepts like gender and hierarchies. She also explores AI in really interesting ways. And aliens that are truly very alien. Maybe the Presgers were the ones that sent the Protomolecule. Seems like something they would do.

Scalzi is a fun and breezy read. Military sci-fi with lots of humor.

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3 hours ago, Captanne said:

Stephen R. Donaldson wrote a fascinating series based on Wagner’s Ring Cycle called The Gap Series.

I hesitate, having read through The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever trilogy (about a million words!), which I found tough going as well.  It didn't help that I found Thomas Covenant himself to be such an unlikable character.

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I don't blame your hesitation at all.  I thought the Covenant Chronicles were just ghastly.  The Gap is tough going, no lie there.  But it's not gratuitous -- if you are looking for a deep, political, techno-space odyssey it's the best one I've ever read.  There is deep, strong violence but every bit of it has a purpose in the broader story line.

The advantage of The Gap is that the first book is very short -- called The Real Story.  The title is ironic because you, at first, think you're reading a novella about a kidnapping.  But that's not even half of "the real story".

When I read the books they blew me away.  

I came to this show (Expanse) because of Jared Harris' performance in The Terror (see it....) which I was interested in from Dan Simmons' book.  I knew about Simmons because I read Hyperion (yawn) after reading The Gap.  I sent out the same request you did here and someone recommended Hyperion.  Not even close to The Gap.

Forewarned is forearmed, though.  The Gap is not for the faint of heart.

 

PS:  Like every John Irving book (The World According to Garp, frex) there is one particular violent act that is in every Donaldson book.  I would read that wiki entry thoroughly before diving in.

Edited by Captanne
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57 minutes ago, Captanne said:

I thought the Covenant Chronicles were just ghastly.

I recall my 11-16 year old self thinking the Covenant Chronicles were just the awesomest thing that ever awesomed, mostly because of the whole "white gold super-blast magic thing."  While I can't say I really like the works any more (and didn't bother to read the Last Chronicles), I find I do appreciate them.  During a time where most fantasy heroes heroically quested their way against villainous villains, the TC Chronicles asked the (admittedly unnecessary) question, "What if the great heroic hero who is prophesied to save us all from the evil Evil One is actually a selfish, destructive asshole and an otherwise truly shitty human being?"  Really the best thing that can be said about Covenant is that over time in the books he does end up becoming less of an utter shit.

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Those first 3 Thomas Covenant books are really, really dark.  I liked the next 3 but could never get into any subsequent TC books.

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I thought the Covenant books sucked.  Too obviously an attempt to make the Tolkien books "adult" -- as if an allegory about WW1 isn't dark enough.  I agree with Netfoot, Covenant himself was reprehensible.  I just remember getting so frustrated that he wouldn't use the damn White Gold Ring.  (It's been a long time since I read them and I have no desire to revisit them.)

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On 6/2/2018 at 8:07 AM, Holmbo said:

Some authors that I like are Ursula K Le Guin, Ann Leckie, Vernor Vinge and John Scalzi.

The Left Hand of Darkness is my favorite novel ever . It has it all: action, adventure, space travel, political intrigue, romance (sort of) and deep thinky thoughts about human nature. And LeGuin wrapped it all up in about 300 pages.

Edited by marinw
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2 hours ago, Captanne said:

The advantage of The Gap is that the first book is very short -- called The Real Story.

I'm thinking of dipping my toe... but this book is very expensive.  Thirty bucks for a new paperback!  Fortunately, I'm not above taking someone else's leavings, so it'll be a second hand copy for a buck, for me!

1 hour ago, johntfs said:

I recall my 11-16 year old self thinking the Covenant Chronicles were just the awesomest thing that ever awesomed

When we were around that age (or a little more, perhaps) I had a buddy who absolutely raved about the series -- which is why I started reading it.  I struggled through to the very end, but as you succinctly say, a "selfish, destructive asshole and an otherwise truly shitty human being" makes for a tedious hero.

(By the way, the next 10 years showed that my buddy could himself, in fact, be described with that exact descriptive phrase I quoted above.)

19 minutes ago, Captanne said:

It's been a long time since I read them and I have no desire to revisit them.

I'm with you.  I don't think I have those books any more (I lost all my books when my house went up in flames 27 years ago) and I certainly don't intend to buy them again, just to cudgel my poor brain with Thomas Covenant!

 

So!  Anyone got any other good Sci-fi to recommend?

Edited by Netfoot

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If you like sweeping space stories, I enjoyed The Saga of the Seven Suns by Kevin J. Anderson. Also Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga.

Edited by AngelKitty

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^^^ I'll consider them.

Anyone read the later stuff from Neal Stephenson?  I've not read anything since The Baroque Cycle.

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2 hours ago, marinw said:

The Left Hand of Darkness is my favorite novel ever . It has it all: action, adventure, space travel, political intrigue, romance (sort of) and deep thinky thoughts about human nature. And LeGuin wrapped it all up in about 300 pages.

My absolute favorite is The Dispossessed. I'm marveling in how many different conflicts LeGuin can fit into one story. 

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The Lathe of Heaven by LeGuin is also brilliant.  (Like marinw, my fave is The Left Hand of Darkness.)

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This series isn't strictly science-fiction, but it should appeal to fans of The Expanse (and fans of Firefly). Chris Wooding's Tales of the Ketty Jay. It's a series of four books about a disparate crew of smugglers trying to survive in a world that's a cross between steampunk and cyberpunk. Bags of action, airship battles, betrayal, romance. All that good stuff.

Edited by Danny Franks

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9 hours ago, Holmbo said:
12 hours ago, marinw said:

The Left Hand of Darkness is my favorite novel ever . It has it all: action, adventure, space travel, political intrigue, romance (sort of) and deep thinky thoughts about human nature. And LeGuin wrapped it all up in about 300 pages.

 

My absolute favorite is The Dispossessed. I'm marveling in how many different conflicts LeGuin can fit into one story. 

I loved The Dispossessed, I re-read it a couple of years ago. The Lathe of Heaven is great too, as @Captanne has already said.

There are reports that there is a Left Hand screenplay in existence. I can see Sterling K. Brown or Chadwick Bosman as Genly. As for the rest of the characters, there is no way to cast those people without offending somebody.

Edited by marinw

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Don't recall The Left Hand of Darkness or The Lathe of Heaven.  Can't have read them.  I remember The Dispossessed very well!

Tales of the Ketty Jay sounds like it could be fun...

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12 hours ago, Netfoot said:

Anyone read the later stuff from Neal Stephenson?  I've not read anything since The Baroque Cycle.

A couple of years ago I read Anathem, finished it, turned right back to the beginning, and read it again.  I've NEVER done that before.  High praise indeed.

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1 minute ago, WatchrTina said:

High praise indeed.

Indeed!

Shouldn't be surprised.  Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon and the whole Baroque Cycle (even Zodiac, which wasn't sci-fi) were extremely good!  (Diamond Age less so, I thought.)

I've just stuck a copy of Anathem in my shopping cart.  Will place the order shortly.  (I currently have 41 books inbound, so...)

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3 minutes ago, Netfoot said:

I've just stuck a copy of Anathem in my shopping cart.  

Excellent!  As a taste, this is the single best line in the entire book: "Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs.  We have a protractor."

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Nnedi Okorafor's Binti trilogy is a great read (CAUTION: one bit of horrific violence keeps getting referred to, for reasons) and is differe3nt from most SF stories.  The Ngerian and Nigerian-American authors are putting out GREAT work.

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Another good one is the Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch.  Same lighthearted camaraderie as the Roci crew.  It's more fantasy than sci fi though.

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Inbound books now standing at 50.  And I bought three from The Arc's "First-Tuesday" tent, earlier this week.  Including the stack I've got here waiting to be read...  I'm afraid to add it all up.

I'm going to have to build myself a new bookshelf!

 I buy something every month, just to put a few bucks their way.  

Edited by Netfoot

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Netfoot, I'm up to episode 8 of Series 2 and the more I watch, the more like The Gap this show is.  Just, let me warn you, without the ultraviolence in The Gap.  (Although watching folks get spaced and/or used as lab rats in a genocide is pretty rough going, so all things considered, The Gap isn't that violent compared.  It's just that The Gap uses rape rather than a bullet to the leg, arm, brain, you choose.  Added to that, the pivotal rape in The Gap is the crux of a multi-thousand page narrative.  It is THE point of the whole story.  Nothing gratuitous about it.)

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1 hour ago, Captanne said:

Netfoot, I'm up to episode 8 of Series 2 and the more I watch, the more like The Gap this show is.

I ordered The Real Story: The Gap into Conflict which I understand is #1 in the cycle.  It's in Atlanta right now, making it's way to me.  It's one of 24 books en route to my re-shipper in Florida. Seven are in Florida being processed, and 19 are "In transit to destination country." But some of those have been "in transit" for the last five days, so they are probably using an aircraft built by Louis Blériot himself...  Still, with any luck I'll get them some time this week.  

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@Holmbo, I just received Scalzi's Old Man's War three-book boxed set, as well as The Imperial Radch three-book boxed set by Leckie.

@jhlipton, the three books of the Binti trilogy (not a boxed-set) is waiting for me to pick it up tomorrow, along with The Lies of Locke Lamora (#1 of the Gentleman Bastard series) suggested by @Haleth, along with Judas Unchained which is part #2 of the Commonwealth Saga recommended by @AngelKitty. (Part #1 is still stuck in transit for some reason.)

With these arrivals come another 16 books of another series I've been collecting.  Plus, I've got a number of other books in the queue from earlier.  So, I don't know when I'll get to these new books, but believe me, I'm working on it!

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Heh!  Yes, for a while!

Confession:  I recently decided to re-read the "Biggles" books by Cpt. W. E. Johns, which I last read as a 10 year old boy.  (I believe my interest in Aviation, and my aero-modeling hobby stem from this source.)  There are 101 original books in the series, and I've acquired 56 of them (9 still waiting here to be read) and have a further 21 on order.  The remaining 24 may never be acquired.  They are scarce and not exactly cheap.  Some well in excess of a thousand bucks!  I continue to scour around for bargains.  Who knows?  I may pick up a few more.

Why go to so much trouble for books written for an essentially juvenile audience?  Dunno.  Except that I'm really enjoying reading them again, after all these years.  And I'm understanding them more now than I did when I was 10.  Also, it's fun when I find marking in the books that say a little about their earlier owners.  One I acquired Thursday was presented by the Tighnabruaich School to Neil Angus for his "Handwork" in the Primary V class, for the 1959-1960 school year.  

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that apart from the more normal books I have to read, I've also got 30+ other books to read.

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Here is my to-read list:

reading.thumb.jpg.b03d648c1763efa83d80398d3e45f3ea.jpg

The grubby, little bookshelf on the left, is my "Biggles" collection.  Both shelves are double-stuffed.  The front row of the top shelf -- with their spines facing up -- are the ones I still need to read.  The only book in that unit that isn't a Biggles book is the slim, blue one on top of the to-read books.  That is what I'm halfway through right now.  The two piles on the right are to-read as well.  Some of those are books I have already read and plan to re-read, others are first-time reads for me.  

Note the four "Expanse" books in there.  I actually have all seven.  I'm waiting for the current series to end, and then try to figure out how far to read so as not to spoil season #4.  Or maybe I'll just read them all and be done with it!

Twenty seven more books inbound.  I think I'd better stop ordering for a while...

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On 6/2/2018 at 6:07 AM, Holmbo said:

I'm going on a trip next week and want to load up with some e-books. I won't read the Expanse but maybe you have some other recommendations?

I read mostly sci-fi, but other things as well occasionally. Some authors that I like are Ursula K Le Guin, Ann Leckie, Vernor Vinge and John Scalzi.

Try some Jack McDevitt.  He is a very accomplished author and he doesn't rely on gimmicks and tropes.

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@jhlipton, just finished the Binti trilogy.

Very enjoyable and very different.  I won't say it was easy to read, because of the number of unusual concepts, which are dropped into the narrative with little explanation, forcing me to figure them out by myself.  I think I will give it some thought for a while, and then re-read it again.  I'm sure it will reveal more, a second time around.

Binti's use of otjize is difficult for me to accept as a personal thing.  Not because of it's use itself is all that foreign a concept (my own ancestors used to dye themselves blue with woad) but because it appears to rub off on everything she touches.  Being blue (or in her case, red) isn't of concern, but the constant cleaning up after yourself must be maddening!

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On 6/8/2018 at 7:33 AM, Haleth said:

Another good one is the Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch. 

I read The Lies of Locke Lamora but could not really get into it so I haven't tried any of the others.

I just started The Lathe of Heaven.  I have to be in the right mood to read something that was written in that 60s-70s period; even when the author is projecting into the future, they still seem somehow dated.  So far I am liking it though.

I'll add The Death Gate Cycle  to the recommendations.  It's really fantasy, but it's fun; seven books about what happened after a planet (probably Earth) was purposefully torn apart.  There are the usual wizards, dwarves, elves, humans, assassins (and an interesting take on an assassin's guild) - all that stuff.  I don't read a lot of fantasy but I own all 7 books of this series and re-read them every now and then.

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I know I've read something by Weis/Hickman but for the life of me I can't remember what.  It must have been a while ago!

Will add The Death Gate Cycle to my list, but I will probably delay for a while, before purchasing any more books.

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13 hours ago, Netfoot said:

I know I've read something by Weis/Hickman but for the life of me I can't remember what.  It must have been a while ago!

I thought this same thing, but after a little research, I think the one I'm thinking of was: The Star of the Guardian series by Margaret Weis alone.

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On 6/18/2018 at 5:12 PM, Netfoot said:

Binti's use of otjize is difficult for me to accept as a personal thing.  Not because of it's use itself is all that foreign a concept (my own ancestors used to dye themselves blue with woad) but because it appears to rub off on everything she touches.  Being blue (or in her case, red) isn't of concern, but the constant cleaning up after yourself must be maddening!

Glad you liked the trilogy.  As I understand it, otjize is a it more like clay than mud, so I don't think it rubs off.  I don't recall anyone complaining about that.

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I gather it's a clay mixture with fragrant oils.  Not dissimilar in nature to certain types of lipstick or foundation creams, I expect.  I don't recall anyone in the trilogy complaining about it, but Binti herself does mention in several instances how it has rubbed off and needs to be replaced.  

Perhaps it is applied much more sparingly than my mental picture.  I have obviously been  erroneously affected by the cover of the book, which does imply a thick, plentiful coverage.

51RG0w7cxTL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Either way, a great read, which (as I previously said) promises to be an equally great re-read!

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Netfoot, the right side of your shelf looks like my childhood reading pile!  I never read Biggles but the very sound of it reminds me of a little known series by Isaac Asimov about Lucky Starr.  I loved them.  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1470365.Lucky_Starr_and_the_Rings_of_Saturn  (Just an example.)  

Because of The Original Series Star Trek, I became an Air Force jet pilot (21 year career).  I had a wonderful life flying for the Air Force and then the Air National Guard.  (I became a lawyer in real life.  Flying is such a treat that I can't call it working, in all fairness.  LOL  Except for that whole military "war" thing and getting shot at.  That was no fun.)  Now, at my old age, I'm an historian.

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I never read any of the Lucky Starr books, but funnily enough, they are listed on my "To Read" list, admittedly at the low priority end of the list.

Interesting that you followed through into a career of flying.  I too, was going to be a pilot, but the 1973 oil crisis came along at just the wrong moment, and pushed me into another career path.

Here is the partial story of my flying history, in images.  

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Just finished the first two Murderbot books, @WildPlum.  Enjoyed them very much (except for a small amount of crazy-pronoun dialogue which I found slightly annoying).  Interesting to note in the background noise of these stories:  The clear indication that non-human intelligence is beginning to emerge as dominant, and that without any indication they are aware of it, clearly poor old homo sapiens is on the slippery slope.

Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy are now on my wish-list, but I'll wait to see if I can save a couple of bucks on the paperback version.

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@Holmbo, I just got around to Old Man's War by Scalzi, which you recommended.  I enjoyed it.  It was reminiscent of those two well known books by Heinlein & Haldeman, yet sufficiently different to be well worth reading in it's own right.  I still have the other two  books in the boxed set to read (The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony) but I won't begin them immediately. I've lots of other books to read, and I'm switching things up so it doesn't get stale.

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Just finished The Left Hand of Darkness suggested by @marinw and recommended by others.  It's taken me a couple of days.  The Gethenian reproductive mechanism takes a bit of getting used to, but never the less, it's a great read.  The one thing I can't understand is why the Ekumen insist on sending their ethnologist with no evidence of his extra-terrestrial (extra-planetary?) origin.  I understand the need to make the envoy nonthreatening, but I don't see why his alien origin has to be accepted on faith alone.  A small demonstration to lend legitimacy to his claims surely wouldn't hurt?

Also continuing to read my growing Biggles collection.  Books read is now 54, on the bedside shelf to read are 15, on order/en route are 16, which from the total of 101, leaves 16 I haven't managed (and probably won't be able) to acquire.

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2 hours ago, Netfoot said:

The one thing I can't understand is why the Ekumen insist on sending their ethnologist with no evidence of his extra-terrestrial (extra-planetary?) origin.

 

Glad you took up the recommendation @Netfoot

 Genly had the ansible, which he showed the King. I suppose that would serve as evidence. 

Apparently there is a screenplay for Left Hand somewhere. I see Chadwick Bosman or Stirling K Brown as Genly. As for the Gethans, there is no way you could cast them without offending somebody.

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9 minutes ago, marinw said:

Genly had the ansible, which he showed the King. I suppose that would serve as evidence. 

True.  The evidence of his own body, the ansible, and his drop-ship, convinced the scientists that examined them, and those people who accepted the scientific reports.  But that didn't convince the majority of the population, many of whom remained unconvinced.  Especially those in foreign countries like the Orgoreyn. Something like a bright light in the sky that the envoy could predict would be clearly visible to much of the population, and repeated in all countries.

Can't find TLHoD in IMDb, but it would make a very interesting movie, providing they didn't depart too far from the story in order to promote some political agenda, save costs, or "improve" the story in some stupid way.

Edited by Netfoot
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6 minutes ago, Netfoot said:

Especially those in foreign countries like the Orgoreyn.

Genly could have been considered a “pervert” since he was always the same gender.

11 minutes ago, Netfoot said:

t would make a very interesting movie, providing they didn't depart too far from the story in order to promote some political agenda, save costs, or "improve" the story in some stupid way.

Too true! Gender Identity is a very fraught topic right now.

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