Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Rereading “The Defenseless Dead” by Larry Niven

I was a bit put off by the cover of the collection it was in (The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton). It almost shouted: THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BLEEPING SEVENTIES!

First a bit about Niven's SF. This was part of the Known Space series. One of the big ideas was the social consequences of routine organ transplants … such as getting organ parts from executed criminals … or criminal gangs obtaining bootleg organs from kidnap victims.

The story starts out by mentioning the Freezer Bill, which declared that cryonics patients (cryonics is also part of this universe) who would not be able to support themselves were now legally dead and a source of spare parts. You can think of this as capital punishment for being poor. As the story opens, a second Freezer Bill is in the works. This one declares that insane cryonics patients are now legally dead. (It looks like the “insane” include religious fanatics.) A typical quote (about the revivification of some of the mental patients):

Now they were stranded in a foreign land, their homes forever lost in the mists of time. Revivification had saved them from an ugly, humiliating death at the hands of most of the human race, a fate that smacked of cannibalism and ghouls. The paranoids were hardly surprised. The rest reacted like paranoids.


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