Discussion Board

Topic: The Country of the Mind

From: Andrew Carley
Location: Seattle, WA
Date: 05/17/2009

Dear Mr. Bear,

I have read your book Queen of Angels (I read Slant first), and I was extremely fascinated by your idea of the Country of the Mind, specifically Emmanual Goldsmith's as it appears to Martin Burke toward the end of the book. I was disappointed that Goldsmith's Country was not described further. I did not understand what exactly we were seeing in Goldsmith's Country. If Goldsmith was not psychotic, then was Goldsmith's Country not the Country of an extremely psychotic person? It certainly had extremely disturbing, one would almost say psychotic, imagery. I seem to recall reading that standard psychological testing, done prior to Burke's foray into Goldsmith's Country, showed that Goldsmith was, in fact, NOT psychotic. If this was the case, what was Burke experiencing? A personality so distorted that psychological testing would miss the psychosis? (this strikes me as unlikely, assuming that psychological testing in the mid 21st century would be able to diagnose a pyschosis, regardless of whether the person was aware that he/she was psychotic). Was Goldsmith's personality completely annihilated by another, manufactured personality (Colonel Sir)? Again, wouldn't psychological testing have revealed such a condition? Goldsmith's condition, at the end of the book, was unclear to me. I am guessing that his primary personality had been destroyed and replaced by another personality, a personality that was little more than a manifestation of a primal and archetypal evil. But were this the case, it seems alarm bells would have been going off in IPR long before Martin and Carol (I think that's her name), placed themselves in his Country (especially with no buffer).

In any event, it is good to finish a book and want to know more about what is described in it, an by that standard I thoroughly enjoyed Queen of Angels (and Slant).

Andrew Carley

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/22/2009

These questions are so primary and intelligent that I wonder if I'm the one to answer them, Andrew! Short response, entirely inadequate: Goldsmith was broken by upbringing. His internal landscape reflected damaged goods, but he did not have primary, physiologically-induced disease or dysfunction.

The Country of the Mind is an internal reflection of personality and thought processes, and some of my own "dreamings" and "imaginings" have been quite disturbing (QUEEN OF ANGELS, for example) without, I hope, implying psychosis!

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Kelly
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 05/23/2009

I think that all of us inherit behavioral traits from our parents, whether we like it or not. Sometimes even the ones we find the most abhorrent crop up unexpectedly, as when we deal with a child, and something like "Because I SAID so!" pops out of our mouths seemingly without our own volition.

And then we mentally clap our hands over our mouths, and say to ourselves "Oh, my God,I've become my (insert parent of appropriate sex here.)"

I am currently taking care of my 87 year old mother, and though I thought I had long ago weeded her negative behaviors out of my mind, I can still see where I am similarly imperfect, and where these imperfections were learned.

I, for one, can certainly see where Goldsmith could present one aspect of his personality to the world in general, and even to the people examining him, and yet have another, entirely different personality beneath it, perhaps while being unaware of it himself.

Ever meet an otherwise nice guy who was a mean drunk?

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Kelly
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 05/23/2009

Oh, and Greg,several years ago I saw a movie that dealt with this same thing. I can't remember the title, but I remember it was a similar situation, save that they had a chance to save the last potential victim. They entered the country of the mind of the villain, got trapped, yadda,yadda.

Inside, (among much else) there was a horse that got sliced to pieces, and a female bodybuilder with improbably inflated breasts.

Do you know the movie I'm talking about, and if so, would you care to comment?

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/23/2009

The movie was THE CELL. No comment.

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Andrew Carley
Location: Seattle, WA
Date: 05/23/2009

Greg,

On another subject, also related to one of your books (The Forge of God), I find the idea of Von Neumann machines absolutely fascinating and terrifying. The idea that the universe could be populated by malevolent species wielding incomprehensible technologies, and that we are inviting our own destruction by naively advertising our presence in the universe, is chilling and somewhat thrilling.

My question to you is this: What do you think the answer is to the Fermi Paradox? Is it just that we haven't been advertising our presence long enough? Are they among us? Are we alone? The zoo hypothesis? The Star Trek hypothesis (what I call the hypothesis that we will be contacted once we reach some kind of ethical or technological threshold; in the case of Star Trek, warp drive)? The "we've got it all wrong" hypothesis, which is the idea that our whole framework for understanding the universe is wrong and that asking the very question of aliens is meaningless? None of the above?

It is frustrating because this is fundamentally a question of knowledge--there is an answer, we just don't have enough information to know what that answer is. We can speculate and wonder, but not know. I want to know!

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: patrick
Location:
Date: 05/25/2009

Hahahahah. Yeah.

People are, as Freud discovered, inherently schizophrenic. There are also genetically-passed behaviors, for example a tendency toward onery-ness or frustration with certain kinds of circumstances. My grandpa had it (whom I never saw it in, but later heard about), my dad has it. It's a chemical element that gets transmitted. And there are substance-related things, as mentioned above, although a commonly-unknown one is, food-related. For example, too much spice makes me onery.

Regardless, there is something to be said for genetic potential in the sense of transcending socio-cultural environment. Admittedly few can.

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/29/2009

Could be a mix of all these factors, of course--different reasons for different parts of the galaxy. David Brin and I discussed these problems back in the early 80s, and that led to my writing THE FORGE OF GOD; David produced a pretty comprehensive essay on the possibilities in 1983, available on his web site. (And we're all Von Nuemann devices, aren't we?--just squishy...)

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/29/2009

Reminds me of the joke about sneezing...

Re: The Country of the Mind

From: patrick
Location:
Date: 05/30/2009

"(And we're all Von Nuemann devices, aren't we?--just squishy...)"

Yeah. Ditto, but in the reverse, for 'artifical intelligence'.


Andrew - wish for it. It may come to you.

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