Discussion Group Read for April 22, 2020--The Words of Guru by Cyril Kombluth

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Kurben

The Fool on the Hill
Apr 12, 2014
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Questions regarding the next group read of If It Bleeds.

Will we read the stories in order?

Some are longer than others- will it be a one week read, or every other week?
That depends on the others. I know that i could read the three stories that are under 100 pages in a week but the title story is about 160 pages so perhaps two weeks for that one. But thats me, i know everyone reads in different pace and we should adjust so as many as possible can partake in my humble opinion.
 

Dana Jean

Dirty Pirate Hooker, The Return
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That depends on the others. I know that i could read the three stories that are under 100 pages in a week but the title story is about 160 pages so perhaps two weeks for that one. But thats me, i know everyone reads in different pace and we should adjust so as many as possible can partake in my humble opinion.
I asked this earlier and fljoe commented that yes, we would start with the first story in the book for at least next week.
 

fljoe0

Cantre Member
Apr 5, 2008
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Sounds like a good plan. My book should arrive today.
First story in If It Bleeds for group read April 29, 2020.


If I remember correctly, the first story is about 100 pages. I didn't think I had time to start it last night because it was late but I picked it up just to read the first page or two out of curiosity and ended up reading 40.
 

cat in a bag

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Aug 28, 2010
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My book delivery has been pushed to at least May 4. :(

This is how I feel about THAT happy crappy...:table::m_spicy:

Thought about running to WM but according to online site, my store does not have it in stock and it would still be next week if I ordered it shipped to store. It sucks living somewhere with no bookstores!!! (Yes I know I am throwing an unreasonable tantrum given the situation but DAMMIT!!)

I am just going to have to get the kindle version in the meantime I guess.
 

Kurben

The Fool on the Hill
Apr 12, 2014
9,682
65,192
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sweden
My book delivery has been pushed to at least May 4. :(

This is how I feel about THAT happy crappy...:table::m_spicy:

Thought about running to WM but according to online site, my store does not have it in stock and it would still be next week if I ordered it shipped to store. It sucks living somewhere with no bookstores!!! (Yes I know I am throwing an unreasonable tantrum given the situation but DAMMIT!!)

I am just going to have to get the kindle version in the meantime I guess.
In the circumstances i say a BIG tantrum is called for. I feel the same about the suburb where i live, no bookstores suck!!!
 

hollis517

Well-Known Member
Mar 16, 2020
50
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Interesting takes on Peter — The arrogance of knowledge seems to be as unpopular as the arrogance of ignorance (that’s how I describe the Dunning-Kruger effect). I found his arrogance refreshing. He takes things at face value and never questions himself, which I also like. Of course, we mere mortals must question everything, but Peter is beyond that. That, in itself, is frightening, wouldn’t you say? He even intimidated Guru with his insistence on knowing the word ”that will explode this planet like a stick of dynamite in a rotten apple.” Idk why that sentence doesn’t creep y’all out like it does me. He’s someone — SomeThing? — to be feared. His motivations are not apparent to we mere mortals.

What he does to Mary is not to be known to us. As so very much in this little story, it is merely suggested. It is for Peter to know and we readers to guess. He takes it for granted that we cannot guess because he lives in a different reality than ours. Peter doesn’t think we could handle it, like Mary couldn’t. I got that. I’m content with not knowing or even being able to imagine. That’s where the horror lies, for me.

IMO that final word doesn’t have anything to do with nuclear weaponry. The Manhattan Project (named for the borough of Manhattan in New York City where it was initially based) didn’t really start untill 1942, and this story was conceived and written c. 1939-40. (Manhattan Project) He was a very bright kid and could have had inklings just from the work being done on enriching uranium, I grant you that; he was such a brilliant anachronism that it’s possible he had ”the bomb” in mind, but I doubt it. Again IMO it was a metaphoric reference to the absolute power of destruction that he literally held over an unsuspecting human race … in the palm of his hand: an apple, rotten, of course.

Y’all have helped so much in clarifying my heretofore unrefined thoughts about this story. As an Aspie, I didn’t get the lack of emotional connection between the narrator and the reader. I had an entirely different, perhaps even opposite, reaction. I love the spareness, the absence of excessive description. It’s a mind game that Kornbluth has written, the bare bones of a modern video game with its layers upon layers of embellishment. Maybe that’s why I like this story so much but am entirely indifferent to video games. IMO less is definitely more.

So I see the reactions of y’all v. my own take on The Words of Guru as a succinct example of the difference between NT and Aspie thinking. As such, it is enlightening and exciting. I’ve been trying to understand and delineate the differences my whole life, and Cyril Kornbluth was able to devise this mind game of a story that does the job while in his teens!

His most famous stories, The Little Black Bag and its sort-of sequel The Marching Morons, will be in SF anthologies until the end of time. I have all his short stories in a collection available at Audible.com: His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth. His story Two Dooms is one of the earliest What If The Axis Powers Had Won? WWII stories. Not as slick as Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, perhaps, and possibly it’d be considered racist in our times with its broad characterizations bordering on caricature, but I love the way he explores the moral anguish of a Manhattan Project scientist.
 

Dana Jean

Dirty Pirate Hooker, The Return
Moderator
Apr 11, 2006
53,633
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Interesting takes on Peter — The arrogance of knowledge seems to be as unpopular as the arrogance of ignorance (that’s how I describe the Dunning-Kruger effect). I found his arrogance refreshing. He takes things at face value and never questions himself, which I also like. Of course, we mere mortals must question everything, but Peter is beyond that. That, in itself, is frightening, wouldn’t you say? He even intimidated Guru with his insistence on knowing the word ”that will explode this planet like a stick of dynamite in a rotten apple.” Idk why that sentence doesn’t creep y’all out like it does me. He’s someone — SomeThing? — to be feared. His motivations are not apparent to we mere mortals.

What he does to Mary is not to be known to us. As so very much in this little story, it is merely suggested. It is for Peter to know and we readers to guess. He takes it for granted that we cannot guess because he lives in a different reality than ours. Peter doesn’t think we could handle it, like Mary couldn’t. I got that. I’m content with not knowing or even being able to imagine. That’s where the horror lies, for me.

IMO that final word doesn’t have anything to do with nuclear weaponry. The Manhattan Project (named for the borough of Manhattan in New York City where it was initially based) didn’t really start untill 1942, and this story was conceived and written c. 1939-40. (Manhattan Project) He was a very bright kid and could have had inklings just from the work being done on enriching uranium, I grant you that; he was such a brilliant anachronism that it’s possible he had ”the bomb” in mind, but I doubt it. Again IMO it was a metaphoric reference to the absolute power of destruction that he literally held over an unsuspecting human race … in the palm of his hand: an apple, rotten, of course.

Y’all have helped so much in clarifying my heretofore unrefined thoughts about this story. As an Aspie, I didn’t get the lack of emotional connection between the narrator and the reader. I had an entirely different, perhaps even opposite, reaction. I love the spareness, the absence of excessive description. It’s a mind game that Kornbluth has written, the bare bones of a modern video game with its layers upon layers of embellishment. Maybe that’s why I like this story so much but am entirely indifferent to video games. IMO less is definitely more.

So I see the reactions of y’all v. my own take on The Words of Guru as a succinct example of the difference between NT and Aspie thinking. As such, it is enlightening and exciting. I’ve been trying to understand and delineate the differences my whole life, and Cyril Kornbluth was able to devise this mind game of a story that does the job while in his teens!

His most famous stories, The Little Black Bag and its sort-of sequel The Marching Morons, will be in SF anthologies until the end of time. I have all his short stories in a collection available at Audible.com: His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth. His story Two Dooms is one of the earliest What If The Axis Powers Had Won? WWII stories. Not as slick as Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, perhaps, and possibly it’d be considered racist in our
times with its broad characterizations bordering on caricature, but I love the way he explores the moral anguish of a Manhattan Project scientist.

I appreciate your view of this. Interesting.
 

cat in a bag

Well-Known Member
Aug 28, 2010
12,038
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wyoming
What he does to Mary is not to be known to us. As so very much in this little story, it is merely suggested. It is for Peter to know and we readers to guess. He takes it for granted that we cannot guess because he lives in a different reality than ours. Peter doesn’t think we could handle it, like Mary couldn’t. I got that. I’m content with not knowing or even being able to imagine. That’s where the horror lies, for me.

So I see the reactions of y’all v. my own take on The Words of Guru as a succinct example of the difference between NT and Aspie thinking.

I got that whatever happened to Mary was because her feeble human mind could not handle hearing "the word." I understood it. In my opinion though, if just one of the words he was so proud of knowing had been explained, the power of him knowing them would have been scarier. Kind of like, if that word did THAT, just think what THIS word could do. I get that was the intention the author had for the reader's reaction but it just did not work for me.

Also, what does NT mean?
 

Kurben

The Fool on the Hill
Apr 12, 2014
9,682
65,192
55
sweden
Interesting takes on Peter — The arrogance of knowledge seems to be as unpopular as the arrogance of ignorance (that’s how I describe the Dunning-Kruger effect). I found his arrogance refreshing. He takes things at face value and never questions himself, which I also like. Of course, we mere mortals must question everything, but Peter is beyond that. That, in itself, is frightening, wouldn’t you say? He even intimidated Guru with his insistence on knowing the word ”that will explode this planet like a stick of dynamite in a rotten apple.” Idk why that sentence doesn’t creep y’all out like it does me. He’s someone — SomeThing? — to be feared. His motivations are not apparent to we mere mortals.

What he does to Mary is not to be known to us. As so very much in this little story, it is merely suggested. It is for Peter to know and we readers to guess. He takes it for granted that we cannot guess because he lives in a different reality than ours. Peter doesn’t think we could handle it, like Mary couldn’t. I got that. I’m content with not knowing or even being able to imagine. That’s where the horror lies, for me.

IMO that final word doesn’t have anything to do with nuclear weaponry. The Manhattan Project (named for the borough of Manhattan in New York City where it was initially based) didn’t really start untill 1942, and this story was conceived and written c. 1939-40. (Manhattan Project) He was a very bright kid and could have had inklings just from the work being done on enriching uranium, I grant you that; he was such a brilliant anachronism that it’s possible he had ”the bomb” in mind, but I doubt it. Again IMO it was a metaphoric reference to the absolute power of destruction that he literally held over an unsuspecting human race … in the palm of his hand: an apple, rotten, of course.

Y’all have helped so much in clarifying my heretofore unrefined thoughts about this story. As an Aspie, I didn’t get the lack of emotional connection between the narrator and the reader. I had an entirely different, perhaps even opposite, reaction. I love the spareness, the absence of excessive description. It’s a mind game that Kornbluth has written, the bare bones of a modern video game with its layers upon layers of embellishment. Maybe that’s why I like this story so much but am entirely indifferent to video games. IMO less is definitely more.

So I see the reactions of y’all v. my own take on The Words of Guru as a succinct example of the difference between NT and Aspie thinking. As such, it is enlightening and exciting. I’ve been trying to understand and delineate the differences my whole life, and Cyril Kornbluth was able to devise this mind game of a story that does the job while in his teens!

His most famous stories, The Little Black Bag and its sort-of sequel The Marching Morons, will be in SF anthologies until the end of time. I have all his short stories in a collection available at Audible.com: His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth. His story Two Dooms is one of the earliest What If The Axis Powers Had Won? WWII stories. Not as slick as Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, perhaps, and possibly it’d be considered racist in our times with its broad characterizations bordering on caricature, but I love the way he explores the moral anguish of a Manhattan Project scientist.
I do get what he means and i do agree that less can be more. But i dont think it is in this story and i also think his immaturity shines through (he was after all a teen when he wrote this) and IMO his stories and novels from the late 40,s and the 50,s is where you find his best work. This gives me an impression of a budding writer trying his tools. It is completely true that a hint or suggestion can be more scary than a full view but here he dont even gives us a hint or suggestion which, if the ambition is to scare or horrify the reader, gives the readers imagination extremely little to work with. And so the story, IMO, fails. I see it as an interesting tryout that tried to fly but didn't quite get off the ground.
 

Dana Jean

Dirty Pirate Hooker, The Return
Moderator
Apr 11, 2006
53,633
236,696
The High Seas
I got that whatever happened to Mary was because her feeble human mind could not handle hearing "the word." I understood it. In my opinion though, if just one of the words he was so proud of knowing had been explained, the power of him knowing them would have been scarier. Kind of like, if that word did THAT, just think what THIS word could do. I get that was the intention the author had for the reader's reaction but it just did not work for me.

Also, what does NT mean?
I do get what he means and i do agree that less can be more. But i dont think it is in this story and i also think his immaturity shines through (he was after all a teen when he wrote this) and IMO his stories and novels from the late 40,s and the 50,s is where you find his best work. This gives me an impression of a budding writer trying his tools. It is completely true that a hint or suggestion can be more scary than a full view but here he dont even gives us a hint or suggestion which, if the ambition is to scare or horrify the reader, gives the readers imagination extremely little to work with. And so the story, IMO, fails. I see it as an interesting tryout that tried to fly but didn't quite get off the ground.

Once again, great insights and comments.
 

hollis517

Well-Known Member
Mar 16, 2020
50
208
66
I got that whatever happened to Mary was because her feeble human mind could not handle hearing "the word." I understood it. In my opinion though, if just one of the words he was so proud of knowing had been explained, the power of him knowing them would have been scarier. Kind of like, if that word did THAT, just think what THIS word could do. I get that was the intention the author had for the reader's reaction but it just did not work for me.

Also, what does NT mean?
Sorry. I think I explained elsewhere but I forget how labyrinthine this SKMB is.

NT refers to ”Neurotypical Thinker,” the way ”normal” people think. Not an insult, but a delineation. Steve Silberman explains Aspies very well in NeuroTribes, IMO. NeuroTribes - Wikipedia

Your use of words like ”feeble” and ”proud” demonstrate the difference between us very well. I appreciate knowing the NT take on this story so much. I never considered Mary’s mind feeble or Peter’s knowledge prideful. To me, she was innocent and normal, while Peter was the opposite of innocent and curious about normal reactions. As a result, his curiosity was satisfied and Mary was damaged goods, surely mentally and possibly physically. But at least he let her live. Or maybe that was her punishment?

Good grief, I think I identify with Peter — not with his desire for power but with his detached, clinical curiosity. No wonder I like The Words of Guru so darn much!
 

cat in a bag

Well-Known Member
Aug 28, 2010
12,038
67,827
wyoming
Sorry. I think I explained elsewhere but I forget how labyrinthine this SKMB is.

NT refers to ”Neurotypical Thinker,” the way ”normal” people think. Not an insult, but a delineation. Steve Silberman explains Aspies very well in NeuroTribes, IMO. NeuroTribes - Wikipedia

Your use of words like ”feeble” and ”proud” demonstrate the difference between us very well. I appreciate knowing the NT take on this story so much. I never considered Mary’s mind feeble or Peter’s knowledge prideful. To me, she was innocent and normal, while Peter was the opposite of innocent and curious about normal reactions. As a result, his curiosity was satisfied and Mary was damaged goods, surely mentally and possibly physically. But at least he let her live. Or maybe that was her punishment?

Good grief, I think I identify with Peter — not with his desire for power but with his detached, clinical curiosity. No wonder I like The Words of Guru so darn much!
Thank you for that explanation.

Another point of discussion...I don't think Peter thought Mary was feeble, I felt like he was trying to share his "gift" with her but she was but a mere mortal and it ruined her. He brushed her aside then, and that is where my use of "feeble" comes into play.
She was not worthy of any further attention after that.
 

hollis517

Well-Known Member
Mar 16, 2020
50
208
66
I do get what he means and i do agree that less can be more. But i dont think it is in this story and i also think his immaturity shines through (he was after all a teen when he wrote this) and IMO his stories and novels from the late 40,s and the 50,s is where you find his best work. This gives me an impression of a budding writer trying his tools. It is completely true that a hint or suggestion can be more scary than a full view but here he dont even gives us a hint or suggestion which, if the ambition is to scare or horrify the reader, gives the readers imagination extremely little to work with. And so the story, IMO, fails. I see it as an interesting tryout that tried to fly but didn't quite get off the ground.
Good analysis. As I said, he gave my imagination exactly enough. I took what he wrote and ran with it. Of course, his more mature writing is more shall I say giving to the reader and I just love his talent so very much. I mourn his loss but I love that when he obeyed doctor’s orders (no cigarettes or alcohol or spicy foods, plus various potions en vogue at the time to be consumed) it made him dull and stupid, so he went back to living his life his way, was able to once again write brilliantly, and paid the ultimate price. He did it his way. You should read Frederik Pohl’s short essay on Cyril that prefaces His Share of Glory. I think you’d like it.

p.s. That doctor prescription reminds me of what Johnny Gunther went through in the early ’40s, a brilliant child (15 when diagnosed with glioblastoma, 17 when he died) whose life, brilliance, and final battle were so beautifully chronicled by his father, John Gunther, Sr., in Death Be Not Proud, one of my favorite memoirs.

Yes, it’s possible to mourn what you never personally knew. I wish someone would write a sort-of ”sotto voce” pseudo-memoir of Cyril Kornbuth.
 

hollis517

Well-Known Member
Mar 16, 2020
50
208
66
Thank you for that explanation.

Another point of discussion...I don't think Peter thought Mary was feeble, I felt like he was trying to share his "gift" with her but she was but a mere mortal and it ruined her. He brushed her aside then, and that is where my use of "feeble" comes into play.
She was not worthy of any further attention after that.
Wow! That’s brilliant! I think you’re right!!! Awesome! Thanks so much for that excellent explication. It’s the kind of feedback I yearn for. I’m currently rereading His Share of Glory and when I get to this story I’ll keep your observations in mind.