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    Posted by robgambrill 5 years, 6 months ago
    The Electrostatic Engine, Rearden Metal, Project Xylophone, The Gulch Stealth Screen, etc. These technological story elements do not actually exist, but could come to be in some form or another.

    So Rand cast Atlas Shrugged in the realm of Science Fiction, but yes, it is obviously social and ecomomic commentary as well.
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    • Posted by $ jdg 5 years, 6 months ago
      You beat me to it.

      More to the point, most science fiction is social commentary, and a huge amount of social commentary is SF. Frankenstein, 1984, Soylent Green all were written primarily as social commentary, but all are considered SF. So too most of the works of Heinlein, and Asimov before him.

      I only know of two authors who ever actually tried to get the SF label removed from their stories. One was Harlan Ellison, who thought it hurt his story sales. (It's hard to judge whether he was right, since he published very little new material after that time.) The other was L. Ron Hubbard, who actually said in an interview that he intended to start a religion in order to get rich, and did so. He decided it would hurt his recruiting if his prospects knew he had been an SF author.
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    • Posted by KevinSchwinkendorf 5 years, 6 months ago
      I read that Hillary Clinton described it as "a boyish fantasy," or something like that. Obviously, she does not want to understand it's obvious lessons on economics and the main theme of John Galt's speech, which was why "Central Planning" does not work.
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      • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
        Hillary and rational thinking are strangers. Her world view centers around her and she views everyone and everything as nothing more than a means to an end. As far as central planning goes the alternative is spontaneous order. the collectivists hate that idea because it makes them superfluous.
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  • Posted by MinorLiberator 5 years, 6 months ago
    I have no definitive answer, maybe a theory. A lot of science fiction is pro-Liberty, or anti-authoritarian, like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. One possibility.

    But as a major in Economics and minor in Philosophy, AS is definitely more realistic and predictive than science fiction. For God's sake, it's coming true just as written, and clearly to me has been since my first of many readings in 1969.

    My other theory is that the people who fear it being read call it science fiction in order to marginalize the truth in it, and minimize the profound lessons to be found in both the novel and her incomparable leap forward in Rationist Philosophy
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  • Posted by Rex_Little 5 years, 6 months ago
    Say what?? I first read AS more than 40 years ago, and this is the first time I've ever seen the "Science Fiction" label on it. Most of what I read is science fiction, and I've been haunting that section of bookstores since the ink was barely dry on the first printing of AS. I've never once seen it on the shelves there.
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  • Posted by $ allosaur 5 years, 6 months ago
    Me dino had never heard of Ayn Rand when AS1 came out.
    Fortunately for old dino, I like speculative science fiction about the near future.
    The "labeling" led me in.
    I found the social and economic commentary fascinating.
    Thus I became exposed the Ayn Rand's philosophy and discovered the Gulch doing research.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 6 months ago
    It is science fiction that is social and economic commentary with a strong hunk of morality and ethics thrown in. The science part is to provide a vehicle for the philosophical backbone of the story.
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  • Posted by $ CBJ 5 years, 6 months ago
    I hardly ever hear Atlas Shrugged labeled as science fiction. Most critiques center on its political and philosophical content. However, I discovered that a major science fiction magazine published two reviews of Ayn Rand's novel in 1958:
    http://www.troynovant.com/Franson/Ran...
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    • Posted by $ sekeres 5 years, 6 months ago
      Campbell's "[T]his is a book to start on Friday evening. You won't be much good to anyone else until you've been allowed to finish it." rings true. Begun on the 4-hour ride to start college. Finished before sleep the next day.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 5 years, 6 months ago
      Thanks! That was interesting. I do collect a bit. I have some of the magazines in which William Gibson's works first appeared. I also have Neuromancer and others in first edition hard back. So, I will keep an eye own for those two issues of Astounding when I am in the mood to acquire.
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 5 years, 6 months ago
        I just picked up these two issues on eBay, $12.45 for both. Not in very good shape, but I'm only interested in the articles so that's okay.
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  • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 6 months ago
    Really I usually hear it called a philosophical novel, or a thriller, or literary fiction.
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    • Posted by lrshultis 5 years, 6 months ago
      Or in one of the Whole Earth Catalogs, Brand(?) said it was preposterous but full of gold. Probably got some of those early dropouts to read it.
      What I find interesting is how Paul Ryan, who loved AS, could take so long to detect that the philosophy was atheistic and thus not to be recommended to his staff any longer.
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      • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 5 years, 6 months ago
        Paul Ryan is a coward. He curried favor with Objectivists, speaking at an Atlas Society dinner, for example. He was done in by his nomination to run for the vice presidency in Mitt Romney's campaign. That thrust Paul Ryan into the national spotlight. He retreated.

        Anyone with insight and knowledge could have crafted a position for Paul Ryan to articulate. He apparently had no such intellectual acumen of his own.

        Let me offer this: "Yes, Ayn Rand was an atheist and I am a Roman Catholic. Rand had a lot of respect for the Catholic scholastic tradition and praised St. Thomas Aquinas. But she chose not to believe in God, which is a consequence of the free will that God gave her. It has no bearing on the correctness of her ideas in other areas, especially social, political, and economic matters."

        I could write much more on that. Do you know about Ayn Rand's letter to the Reverend Dudley? You can still view it on eBay here:
        http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI....

        It is discussed on Objectivist Living here:
        http://www.objectivistliving.com/foru...

        And Rebirth of Reason here:
        http://rebirthofreason.com/cgi-bin/SH...

        And Christian Egoist here:
        http://www.thechristianegoist.com/201...

        I am only pointing out that Paul Ryan could have talked his way out of the problem. Politicians are supposed to be good at that. I believe that his real self came out: he was just using Ayn Rand (and her admirers) for political purposes of his own.
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  • Posted by $ Temlakos 5 years, 6 months ago
    Four elements of the plot of Atlas Shrugged qualify as science-fiction plot devices. They are:

    1. John Galt's electrostatic motor,

    2. Rearden Metal,

    3. Project X, and

    4.John Galt's refractor-ray camouflage screen.

    Of these, I'd pick the electrostatic motor as the main element.

    Years ago, for a project to discuss Atlas Shrugged on Conservapedia, I researched each of these four elements, to decide whether and how well I could explain them. The electrostatic motor was a staple of the science fiction of Jules Verne. Captain Nemo's Nautilus (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) had an electrostatic power plant, and so did Robur's Albatross (Master of the World, Robur the Conqueror). (The film adaptation of Twenty Thousand Leagues changed the electrostatic power plant to a nuclear power plant. But the adaptation of the Robur story kept the electrostatic power plant for Albatross. Considering the latter was a multi-rotor helicopter, it made sense.)

    People have tried to build the electrostatic motor, but have achieved no success beyond a student-level project. Rearden Metal remains a dream of metallurgy: a substitutionary alloy of iron and copper, with interstitial carbon to harden it. The refractor-ray screen frankly needed a microprocessor to run it. But Project X, in view of the coherent sound beam project at Leeds University, now becomes a feasible project in present day.

    Having said all that, I did not regard Atlas Shrugged as science fiction. The inventions seemed to me to be the kind of thing one would expect in a few years from a contemporary setting. And most of the story took place in the setting of contemporary inventions. So whoever labeled it science fiction, probably didn't want to believe some of the other future-history elements. Like the runaway Constitutional convention that is the only thing that could have produced a generically named "Head of State," and a unicameral Legislature that could grant such sweeping powers to the quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial bodies we saw in Directive 10-289 and the Railroad Unification Plan.
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    • Posted by lrshultis 5 years, 6 months ago
      Atmospheric electric potential is hundreds of volts per a few thousand feet, but is only enough to run very small little electric charge run engines. Had Rand written a few decades later she might have had the engine using power from zero point energy which may or may not be much more energetic than atmospheric electricity. If lightning were constant in some area, then the atmospheric electric engine could work well.
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      • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
        In the movie AS1, Dagny points out that the motor uses the Casimir effect which is thought to be caused by zero point or vacuum energy. She then drifts off into atmospheric static electricity which is completely unrelated. That was not in the book so it is clear that whoever wrote the screen play had no idea of the real science. Rand did not try to make the science plausible because that was not the point of the book. What she wanted to show was that great ideas are hard to come by and are always targets of moochers and parasites. That she did quite well.
        Zero point energy is part of my specialty as a physicist and it serves quite well as the mechanism behind Galt's motor. It is poorly understood but if the models are even remotely close to to reality its potential as an energy source is astronomical. It is also likely to be quite dangerous.
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        • Posted by lrshultis 5 years, 6 months ago
          I am not sure of that dangerous part. I just see it at each point of reference as the summation of the radiation from the visible Universe. That does not have a direction, just as in a charged spherical shell the EM field is 0 until there is motion in giving a force on the body, the zero point radiation would have a force to a moving body. In the Casimir effect the solid metal plates shield the space between them from the longer wave radiation and so that radiation exerts a force to drive the together.
          I am just winging it here because I was just a lowly physical chemist and mathematician. It sure would be nice to be able to shield one side of a body from part of the radiation but does not look like that would be possible. Same for gravity if it is particle driven, otherwise not possible to shield gravity and get rid of inertia, if inertia is due to all the sources of gravity in the Universe.
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          • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
            I am not sure if this is appropriate in an objectivist post but it may shed some light on a possible mechanism for Galts motor.
            The predictions of the dimensions of quantum foam are that the mean value is several orders of magnitude smaller than that of a proton. However, the quantity of these fluctuations is so large that their presence can inferred by several different experiments including the Casimir effect. The problem is that according to special relativity any energy represented by QF should also produce a space-time curvature which has never been observed. This space-time curvature would manifest its self as an observable cosmological constant. Recent astronomical observations suggest that a positive cosmological constant may be present because the observed rate of expansion of the universe is inconsistent with both Newtonian and Einsteinian mechanics. It has been suggested that QF consists of complementary pairs of particles not of matter and antimatter but of positive and negative gravitation. While this possibility is not part of the standard model of quantum mechanics there is a mathematical formalism that extends general relativity to include it. This is found in the deSitter space equations. Based on some (reasonable?) assumptions the energy available from quantum foam is about 20 orders of magnitude greater than that from matter-antimatter annihilation reactions of an equal volume of space. In other words the vacuum energy contained in one cubic centimeter of empty space is greater than the mass-energy equivalent of the entire solar system! Harvesting even a tiny fraction of this would more than fuel Galts motor. Releasing much more than that would be incredibly destructive.
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            • Posted by $ Temlakos 5 years, 6 months ago
              Any form of energy must have a certain destructive potential in order to be even "peaceably" useful. Petroleum-based fuels are not only flammable but also, under the right circumstances, explosive. The atomic bomb decided the Second World War at great cost in injury and damage before someone harnessed atomic power to fuel the ships of the United States Navy and supply power to many of the world's cities. Quantum foam would be no different. Indeed a simplified Atlas Shrugged dramatization would make quantum foam the real basis of Project X, not the relatively poorly understood sound effect.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 5 years, 6 months ago
      I see the unicameral legislature and “head of state” as a device to simplify the plot and reduce the political situation to essentials, especially the statist mentality, range-of-the-moment pragmatism and lust for power that infected both political parties even back in Ayn Rand’s day. By then, quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial bodies in the form of regulatory agencies already had sweeping powers – that aspect of Atlas Shrugged was not futuristic at all.
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      • Posted by $ Temlakos 5 years, 6 months ago
        All true enough. But did you know that Rand found distasteful the idea of a Congress and President of the United States behaving so shamefully? She changed those titles for that specific reason, and said so publicly when someone asked about it.
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        • Posted by $ CBJ 5 years, 6 months ago
          I didn’t know that. The change in titles did involve a trade-off. It was probably easier for a reader to accept a generic legislature and head of state doing the evil things they did, than it would be to believe that a near-future Congress and President would do so. But by altering a fundamental feature of the U.S. political system, the change also weakened the link in the reader’s mind between the America that they knew in 1957 and America as it might exist a few decades later.
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          • Posted by $ Temlakos 5 years, 6 months ago
            Agreed. Which is why I at first took the change to reflect Rand's ignorance of American civics, and of the English language. Recall: in The Fountainhead, she used the word "dipsomania" to stand for the disease we all know as alcoholism.
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  • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
    I think that the critics choice of a "scifi" category is an attempt to reduce the influence of the novel. In the minds of some Scifi is not a serious literary category.
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    • Posted by IndianaGary 5 years, 6 months ago
      That is very likely back in the 50s but much less so now. I can't think of a more pointed social commentary than Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" if you grok it. Shoving "Atlas Shrugged" under the SF rubric was an attempt to bury it as inconsequential. The attempt failed, of course.
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      • Posted by 5 years, 6 months ago
        I agree completely. I am re reading "Stranger" for about the fifth time. It is a brilliant piece of work. The "science" in AS is only a vehicle that Rand uses to make a larger point. As far as the actual science goes it's pretty thin but that doesn't matter because it does not detract from what Rand was saying.
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    • Posted by robgambrill 5 years, 6 months ago
      Well, fair point.

      But as "1984" and "Brave New World" are also often classified as Science Fiction, I do not think it is dismissive to include "Atlas Shrugged" in this category.

      Science Fiction often has that predictive element, as it imagines what the world could be like. Atlas Shrugged does have that "20 minutes Into The Future" aspect to it, wouldn't you agree?

      NOTE: I may be biased in that I first found Rand in the Sci Fi section of my library in the 70's. After reading Atlas Shrugged" and "Anthem", I was pleasantly surprised to discover her other novels and essays.

      Perhaps I never questioned the category where they were to be found via the "Dewey Decimal System", because other (Great) dystopian novels were placed there as well?

      Good Question +1
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  • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 5 years, 6 months ago
    I never looked AS as sci-fi. The tech advancements were used as a vehicle to exemplify her philosophy. It's actually odd for me to learn AS is considered sci-fi.
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  • Posted by $ Snezzy 5 years, 6 months ago
    In the dark past of Science Fiction, the Future (at least the way the future was supposed to be) belonged to technocrats, progressives and socialists. In a sort of Hegelian antithesis and synthesis, some sf writers, including Bob Heinlein, produced stories that were anti-progressive or anti-socialist.

    The question of which books ARE science fiction and which are not has occupied the minds of sf fans for decades.

    Referring to Rand's works as (mere) science fiction is one of the many methods of disparagement applied by her detractors over the decades. Rand herself did not care for the sf genre, according to remarks that I heard her make in answer to questions about sf. She often bristled at attempts to classify her style into some literary compartment, but I recollect hearing her say that "Anthem" was a poem.

    In the vast library of the MIT Science Fiction Society ("We're not fans, we just read the stuff.) the Bible was at one time shelved under Anthologies, G.

    Let's check the catalogue:

    http://mitsfs.mit.edu/pinkdex/index?t...

    author(s) . . . title(s)
    GOD . . . . HOLY BIBLE, THE (GIDEON)

    Let's see if they have anything by Ayn Rand:

    http://mitsfs.mit.edu/pinkdex/index?t...

    author(s) . . . title(s)
    RAND, AYN . . . ANTHEM
    RAND, AYN . . . ATLAS SHRUGGED
    RAND, AYN . . . FOUNTAINHEAD, THE

    The MITSFS library is missing, according to the aforementioned Pinkdex, a notable work (a cookbook) by sf author Anne McCaffrey: "Cooking Out Of This World." Someone should donate a copy to them.
    https://www.amazon.com/Cooking-This-W...

    Or perhaps not. The MITSFS Library is running out of shelf space. Perhaps someone would like to donate them a building.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_Sci...
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  • Posted by chad 5 years, 6 months ago
    The social planners are always trying to discredit Ayn's work in hopes that it will not be read. When I first heard of Ayn Rand I was told that she was interested in witchcraft and her books were based on that theme. I avoided her books until a friend of mine read one and told me that the previous report was erroneous and I would find her work very interesting. I am thankful someone I trusted had referred me to her work, I devoured everything I could find of hers after reading one book.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 5 years, 6 months ago
    1984, which is definitely social and economic commentary, is also usually grouped in science fiction. Technically, novels of this type are in the subtype of alternate history.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 5 years, 6 months ago
      My understanding is that alternate history involves changing one or more events in the past. Atlas Shrugged and 1984 would qualify as alternate history now, since the "events" in both novels take place prior to 2016, but they were not alternate history at the time they were written.
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  • -1
    Posted by $ MikeMarotta 5 years, 6 months ago
    Actually, it is a love story. Ayn Rand said: "That's all it ever was." If you read the other comments and follow the link provided by CBJ https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post... you will see that John W. Campbell identified the fact that the story starts with individuals and their families.

    I do not agree that calling AS "science fiction" works to discredit it in a society that cannot get enough Star Trek. As has been pointed out by others, in all my years since 1966, I have never seen it shelved with other science fiction.
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