I think I got some beef w/ China Mieville

Here is what he wrote. My summary in my initial response:

"The bottom line to me is that it feels like the piece, while prettily written, is in essence a hatchet job by someone who demonizes libertarians. And demonization is antithetical to understanding. Yeah, it makes for nicely flowing vituperative prose, but not a very accurate picture of libertarianism's flaws, let alone a balanced viewpoint. There are plenty of reasonable criticisms to be made about libertarianism and seasteading. I've made lots myself, and heard plenty more from smart people who knew enough about the subject to argue about the actual movements, rather than the caricatures which Mieville paints here."

But it's worse than that. Here's my second take, after mulling it over enough to get indignant:

Assuming that the congruence between his article's list of projects and those in our book is not some kind of wacky coincidence, you get the following:

1) Someone who detests libertarianism decides to write an article about how libertarian seasteading is crap.
2) He uses, as a source, our book's listing of libertarian seasteading projects, most of which we think were crap.
3) He talks about how they are crap.
4) From (2), we can see that he is aware of the existence of our book. And the whole point of our book, at least as I see it, is to say "Hey, here's this really cool idea, of settling the ocean, which has heretofore been explored only by dreamers and nut cases. What happens if you try to look at it more practically, and figure out if it could realistically be done?"

At this point, he could: a) mention the existence of this useful source which also happens to be a less crazy, less easily parodizable take on the same subject, as exemplified by the fact that they agree with him about the impracticality, if not the ignobleness, of most of the projects he lists, or b) ignore it completely, because nothing should get in the way of a good story.

Maybe I am foolishly succumbing to the temptation to be indignant. But as someone who has poured a lot of effort into trying to realistically explore an idea I think is important but has been the province of dreamers and nut cases in the past, it pisses me off to see someone apparently using my work to paint that idea as the province of dreamers and nut cases without admitting the existence of a more sensible alternative approach.

Fortunately his article allows comments, so I replied there. Perhaps some of y'all can add your (polite) thoughts too.

UPDATE: Miéville replies.  The original article did cite my book as "irresistible reading", but the site it was republished on removed all references (and shortened the essay).

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I can't

I don't have it in me to be polite in response to an article like Mieville's. Sorry. I'll just stay out of it.


I cracked up so much when I read that article. It was the worst piece of writing I've seen in years. China, step away from the thesaurus!

I was hoping you would come across the piece, but I think you're way too charitable in your response -- at least from a literary criticism POV. I guess it wasn't so hot on the idea side of things, either.

It looks like China also borrowed heavily from Wikipedia, without attribution.

Unfortunately, his smears are *accurate* for many.

This caricature is a pretty good description of a number of self-identified libertarians I've run into.

The crime is that he manages to use the term 'seasteading' and write a whole article on it, without apparently visiting seasteading.org to discover that there's at least one person in the movement who is neither a closet fascist in freedom-loving guise, nor a utopian nutcase. Or if he's got some good argument that you are too, he sure failed to even sniff in the general direction of it.

Thing is, even if he came up with the projects independently, he would have talked about your arguments if he weren't writing a hackish hatchet job. When I googled 'seasteading', the first three links were to your sites, and the next one to wikipedia entry which linked to you also. The idea that one could write an article essentially dismissing seasteading as nothing more than a petty-bourgois lunatic fantasy without addressing any of what you've written is incredibly disingenuous. As the market of google links appears to have nominated you as chief spokesperson for the term, leaving you out entirely renders the article meaningless.

But the first rule of the hack is never to address any reasonable arguments from your opponents. Because that's *hard*. Finding an occasional gaffe or out of context statement to mock is much easier. Better yet -- if none of your opponents have your status such that you have to address *them*, then searching through anything anybody writes, you can always find tons of ridiculous wankery to write about without ever having to consider the proposition seriously.


Speaking of seasteading, I was surprised and somewhat appalled to discover that Bioshock is (or appears to be, early on) about an ocean-bottom libertarian seastead that has gone wrong - it seems strongly implied that the disaster was inevitable. I'm still loving the game. It's just, well, too bad about the political backstory.

re: bioshock

Objectivists... what do you expect ?