Discussion:
Torture in SF: the book of the new sun
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a***@gmail.com
2020-02-09 10:23:37 UTC
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In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild of torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of Truth and Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not so marketable, as such not the commercial or literary success it deserves to be.

Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall him torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do whatever it takes to protect national security, including water boarding suspected terrorists.

What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".

Abhinav Lal

"I serve humanity"
m***@sky.com
2020-02-09 21:05:10 UTC
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Post by a***@gmail.com
In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild of torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of Truth and Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not so marketable, as such not the commercial or literary success it deserves to be.
Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall him torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do whatever it takes to protect national security, including water boarding suspected terrorists.
What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".
Abhinav Lal
"I serve humanity"
Baen Free Radio have been very complementary about a series of books by Susan R Matthews, the Fleet Inquisitor series, which features judicial torture. I think I read a short story they placed on their website, but I don't find the series attractive. I don't believe either series glorifies torture, but it is an unfortunate fact that it was historically very widespread and is still in use today, so it's one possible feature of an imagined world. David Drake was an interrogator in Vietnam and believes that torture is not efficient in practice - see https://david-drake.com/2015/newsletter-84/.
D B Davis
2020-02-09 21:24:10 UTC
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Post by m***@sky.com
Post by a***@gmail.com
In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild of
torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of Truth and
Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not so marketable,
as such not the commercial or literary success it deserves to be.
Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall him
torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do whatever
it takes to protect national security, including water boarding suspected
terrorists.
What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".
Abhinav Lal
"I serve humanity"
Baen Free Radio have been very complementary about a series of books by
Susan R Matthews, the Fleet Inquisitor series, which features judicial
torture. I think I read a short story they placed on their website, but
I don't find the series attractive. I don't believe either series glorifies
torture, but it is an unfortunate fact that it was historically very
widespread and is still in use today, so it's one possible feature of an
imagined world. David Drake was an interrogator in Vietnam and believes
that torture is not efficient in practice
- see https://david-drake.com/2015/newsletter-84/.
Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, believes that most
torture's undertaken to hide information rather than reveal it.

What does it mean when UN member states refuse to provide information
to their own Special Rapporteur on Torture?

That it is a prearranged affair. A show trial is to be used to make an
example of Julian Assange. The point is to intimidate other
journalists. Intimidation, by the way, is one of the primary purposes
for the use of torture around the world. The message to all of us is:
This is what will happen to you if you emulate the Wikileaks model. It
is a model that is so dangerous because it is so simple: People who
obtain sensitive information from their governments or companies
transfer that information to Wikileaks, but the whistleblower remains
anonymous. The reaction shows how great the threat is perceived to be:
Four democratic countries joined forces - the U.S., Ecuador, Sweden and
the UK - to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so
that he could later be burned at the stake without any outcry. The case
is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law. If
Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of
the press.

https://www.republik.ch/2020/01/31/nils-melzer-about-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange



Thank you,
--
Don.......My cat's )\._.,--....,'``.
telltale tall tail /, _.. \ _\ (`._ ,.
tells tall tales.. `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
-dsr-
2020-02-12 00:54:36 UTC
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Post by m***@sky.com
Post by a***@gmail.com
In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild of torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of Truth and Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not so marketable, as such not the commercial or literary success it deserves to be.
Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall him torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do whatever it takes to protect national security, including water boarding suspected terrorists.
What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".
Baen Free Radio have been very complementary about a series of books by Susan R Matthews, the Fleet Inquisitor series, which features judicial torture. I think I read a short story they placed on their website, but I don't find the series attractive. I don't believe either series glorifies torture, but it is an unfortunate fact that it was historically very widespread and is still in use today, so it's one possible feature of an imagined world. David Drake was an interrogator in Vietnam and believes that torture is not efficient in practice - see https://david-drake.com/2015/newsletter-84/.
The Susan Matthews series is excellent work, despite (a) the subject matter, and
(b) some really odd things going on in the physics of ship propulsion. But (b) is
more or less to be expected.

Briefly: the author makes it clear that the Judiciary is not a good government,
not an effective government, not an uncorrupt government -- and over the course
of the series it falters and begins to crumble.

Torture is shown to be primarily a tool of terror: the Judiciary can arrest you
speculatively, then use torture to extract a confession. When our protagonist
arrives, he is a qualified surgeon and pharmacologist who has been ordered by
his father to serve a term in the Judiciary Fleet. The Fleet requires that all
of their licensed torturers -- Inquisition -- be medical doctors, so they snap
him up and break him.

The rest of the novels are varying tales of humane intervention, resistance,
justice and mercy and also abuse, deprivation of civil rights, genocide, and
the occasional torture scene. Also, a fascinating pseudo Rus/Slav culture
with mythology based around weaving to produce textiles.

It's not for everyone. Parts of it achieve greatness. Parts of it are absolutely
horrifying, which I believe is the author's intent.

-dsr-
Titus G
2020-02-12 06:55:42 UTC
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Post by -dsr-
The Susan Matthews series is excellent work, despite (a) the subject matter, and
(b) some really odd things going on in the physics of ship propulsion. But (b) is
more or less to be expected.
Briefly: the author makes it clear that the Judiciary is not a good government,
not an effective government, not an uncorrupt government -- and over the course
of the series it falters and begins to crumble.
Torture is shown to be primarily a tool of terror: the Judiciary can arrest you
speculatively, then use torture to extract a confession. When our protagonist
arrives, he is a qualified surgeon and pharmacologist who has been ordered by
his father to serve a term in the Judiciary Fleet. The Fleet requires that all
of their licensed torturers -- Inquisition -- be medical doctors, so they snap
him up and break him.
The rest of the novels are varying tales of humane intervention, resistance,
justice and mercy and also abuse, deprivation of civil rights, genocide, and
the occasional torture scene. Also, a fascinating pseudo Rus/Slav culture
with mythology based around weaving to produce textiles.
It's not for everyone. Parts of it achieve greatness. Parts of it are absolutely
horrifying, which I believe is the author's intent.
-dsr-
You've convinced me. I now own An Exchange of Hostages.
Titus G
2020-03-12 04:44:19 UTC
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Post by -dsr-
The Susan Matthews series is excellent work, despite (a) the subject matter, and
(b) some really odd things going on in the physics of ship propulsion. But (b) is
more or less to be expected.
Briefly: the author makes it clear that the Judiciary is not a good government,
not an effective government, not an uncorrupt government -- and over the course
of the series it falters and begins to crumble.
Torture is shown to be primarily a tool of terror: the Judiciary can arrest you
speculatively, then use torture to extract a confession. When our protagonist
arrives, he is a qualified surgeon and pharmacologist who has been ordered by
his father to serve a term in the Judiciary Fleet. The Fleet requires that all
of their licensed torturers -- Inquisition -- be medical doctors, so they snap
him up and break him.
The rest of the novels are varying tales of humane intervention, resistance,
justice and mercy and also abuse, deprivation of civil rights, genocide, and
the occasional torture scene. Also, a fascinating pseudo Rus/Slav culture
with mythology based around weaving to produce textiles.
It's not for everyone. Parts of it achieve greatness. Parts of it are absolutely
horrifying, which I believe is the author's intent.
-dsr-
Am over halfway through and it is brilliant. I really enjoy such details
of behaving properly requiring constant interpretation of body language,
tone of voice, etc of themself and others. Salesmen and fraudsters must
operate like this as well as successful negotiators, classes of people I
will never join being incompetent at manipulation and poker but remain
fascinated to read about. The horror doesn't register with me although I
am squeamish even in regard to small amounts of escaped blood no matter
who from in reality. I enjoy her writing, so thank you.
Titus G
2020-03-13 02:50:48 UTC
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Post by Titus G
Post by -dsr-
The Susan Matthews series is excellent work, despite (a) the subject matter, and
(b) some really odd things going on in the physics of ship
propulsion. But (b) is
more or less to be expected.
Briefly: the author makes it clear that the Judiciary is not a good government,
not an effective government, not an uncorrupt government -- and over the course
of the series it falters and begins to crumble.
Torture is shown to be primarily a tool of terror: the Judiciary can arrest you
speculatively, then use torture to extract a confession. When our protagonist
arrives, he is a qualified surgeon and pharmacologist who has been ordered by
his father to serve a term in the Judiciary Fleet. The Fleet requires that all
of their licensed torturers -- Inquisition -- be medical doctors, so they snap
him up and break him.
The rest of the novels are varying tales of humane intervention, resistance,
justice and mercy and also abuse, deprivation of civil rights, genocide, and
the occasional torture scene. Also, a fascinating pseudo Rus/Slav culture
with mythology based around weaving to produce textiles.
It's not for everyone. Parts of it achieve greatness. Parts of it are absolutely
horrifying, which I believe is the author's intent.
-dsr-
Am over halfway through and it is brilliant. I really enjoy such details
of behaving properly requiring constant interpretation of body language,
tone of voice, etc of themself and others. Salesmen and fraudsters must
operate like this as well as successful negotiators, classes of people I
will never join being incompetent at manipulation and poker but remain
fascinated to read about. The horror doesn't register with me although I
am squeamish even in regard to small amounts of escaped blood no matter
who from in reality. I enjoy her writing, so thank you.
She has created a fascinating repulsive environment with interesting
characters and writes well. Our saintly perfectly competent hero
discovers by his erect fish to have a dark side independent of his evil
acts excused as required behaviour by authority but the scheming schemer
has no good side. The male on male physical stuff was a bit weird, not
homosexual in the novel but would be seen to be so in reality. There was
impractical fantasised sex but only implied and there was more sexual
weirdness with a fish representing a penis and vaginas being the "oceans
of the world". It was brief (but weird).
I plan to read the next in the series.

Robert Carnegie
2020-02-09 23:37:11 UTC
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Post by a***@gmail.com
In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild of torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of Truth and Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not so marketable, as such not the commercial or literary success it deserves to be.
Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall him torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do whatever it takes to protect national security, including water boarding suspected terrorists.
What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".
Abhinav Lal
It's widely said that torture doesn't work anyway.
But that is not the point.

<https://patricktreardon.com/book-review-small-gods-by-terry-pratchett/>
quotes most of the torture cellar description
in Terry Pratchett's _Small Gods_, which is significant
without making a show of it, and a paraphrase of
Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" essay: that doing
dreadful things can be just a normal everyday job.
Whether people who do it therefore are or aren't
especially dreadful is difficult to decide, but
they needn't have started that way.

And they don't particularly hide, either.

Terry Pratchett's early work has the torturing tyrant
as a figure of fun, except when torturing actually
occurs, which Terry avoids showing. As he got more
sophisticated, he stepped back from that particular joke.
Titus G
2020-02-10 03:27:13 UTC
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Post by a***@gmail.com
In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild
of torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of
Truth and Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not
so marketable, as such not the commercial or literary success it
deserves to be.
Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall
him torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do
whatever it takes to protect national security, including water
boarding suspected terrorists.
What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".
Abhinav Lal
It's widely said that torture doesn't work anyway. But that is not
the point.
<https://patricktreardon.com/book-review-small-gods-by-terry-pratchett/>
quotes most of the torture cellar description
in Terry Pratchett's _Small Gods_, which is significant without
making a show of it, and a paraphrase of Hannah Arendt's "banality
of evil" essay: that doing dreadful things can be just a normal
everyday job. Whether people who do it therefore are or aren't
especially dreadful is difficult to decide, but they needn't have
started that way.
And they don't particularly hide, either.
Terry Pratchett's early work has the torturing tyrant as a figure of
fun, except when torturing actually occurs, which Terry avoids
showing. As he got more sophisticated, he stepped back from that
particular joke.
Human rights, due process and "Innocent until found guilty" are all
great examples of mythology suitable for SF but torture is real and
therefore almost OT. My favourite, NOT for client volumne and duration
of sustained screaming, torturer is ....
Drum Roll .....
Sand dan Glokta.
Reading The Book of the New Sun was torture but Joe Abercrombie's First
Law Trilogy featured such great characters as Glokta.
a***@gmail.com
2020-02-10 14:08:48 UTC
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Post by Robert Carnegie
Post by a***@gmail.com
In Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, our hero belongs to the guild
of torturers, except IIRC they call themselves the Seekers of
Truth and Penitence. It's an excellent series, but probably not
so marketable, as such not the commercial or literary success it
deserves to be.
Our hero serves as executioner of criminals, but I don't recall
him torturing anyone. Some of you may think it is alright to do
whatever it takes to protect national security, including water
boarding suspected terrorists.
What about human rights, due process, and "Innocent until found guilty".
Abhinav Lal
It's widely said that torture doesn't work anyway. But that is not
the point.
<https://patricktreardon.com/book-review-small-gods-by-terry-pratchett/>
quotes most of the torture cellar description
in Terry Pratchett's _Small Gods_, which is significant without
making a show of it, and a paraphrase of Hannah Arendt's "banality
of evil" essay: that doing dreadful things can be just a normal
everyday job. Whether people who do it therefore are or aren't
especially dreadful is difficult to decide, but they needn't have
started that way.
And they don't particularly hide, either.
Terry Pratchett's early work has the torturing tyrant as a figure of
fun, except when torturing actually occurs, which Terry avoids
showing. As he got more sophisticated, he stepped back from that
particular joke.
Human rights, due process and "Innocent until found guilty" are all
great examples of mythology suitable for SF but torture is real and
In the rich and free economies, torture is generally avoided, especially on your own citizens. There is, of course, still, cruel and unusual punishment like, solitary confinement.

Maybe if you were to travel to a country where human rights are not respected, and forced to confess to spying for your country, you will change your mind about torture.

Abhinav Lal

"There is freedom within"
Post by Robert Carnegie
therefore almost OT. My favourite, NOT for client volumne and duration
of sustained screaming, torturer is ....
Drum Roll .....
Sand dan Glokta.
Reading The Book of the New Sun was torture but Joe Abercrombie's First
Law Trilogy featured such great characters as Glokta.
Carl Fink
2020-02-10 15:10:31 UTC
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Post by a***@gmail.com
Human rights, due process and "Innocent until found guilty" are all great
examples of mythology suitable for SF but torture is real and
In the rich and free economies, torture is generally avoided, especially
on your own citizens. There is, of course, still, cruel and unusual
punishment like, solitary confinement.
Maybe if you were to travel to a country where human rights are not
respected, and forced to confess to spying for your country, you will
change your mind about torture.
Not sure what you mean about Titus' attitude, which is that torture is
horrible, but distant enough from the lives of most developed nations'
citizens that it's safe to use in fiction as a device.
--
Carl Fink ***@finknetwork.com
https://reasonablyliterate.com https://nitpicking.com
If you want to make a point, somebody will take the point and stab you with it.
-Kenne Estes
k***@outlook.com
2020-02-10 09:26:12 UTC
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Nice to know another Nils is on the case. When church ladies invited me, as a former interrogator, to comment on torture, I said the purpose of it is to get the subject to confess he is the queen of England. If you want information you do something else.

Nils K. Hammer
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