Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Engines of God vs Deepsix

Covers of McDevitt's Deepsix and The Engines of God

Covers of McDevitt’s Deepsix and The Engines of God

The story of Jack McDevitt’s novel Deepsix takes place about 20 years after the events of The Engines of God, to which it is a sequel. They’re both fun reads. They could both be described as energetic science fiction novels. And yet, Deepsix lacks something that appeared in The Engines of God—namely, a sense of awe. In Engines, the characters are struck by archeological clues in a mysterious universe, while in Deepsix the story arc is based upon a race against the clock to engineer an escape of some people out of a dangerous environment, which—oh yeah—has some scattered remnants of alien civilization, but we don’t have time to look at it so forget it. The story of Deepsix could easily have been set in Alaska with a few variables replaced.

The Promise of School

What is it that one must ask of schools today? Academia is in the strange positon of offering the means by which we might pursue bourgeois ideals on the one hand, and on the other hand offering—because they must—specialized training for the job market. If you ask an institution what it can offer, it will say it can allow you the means by which you might grow as an individual. But the next question becomes, what does that mean in today’s society? Self-improvement appears to be determined by the salability of one’s labor-power on the market. We know it truly can’t be reduced to that, and yet, we know it is. This is an antinomy that must be overcome. But knowing that it can’t be overcome without the overcoming of capital itself, how does one work in academia as it stands now? It almost seems as if academia must procede as if we were already free, so that all topics might be broached as mere historical peculiarities. If only.


Contentment with life cannot be reduced or found only in the practice of having the right thought.

Adorno and Horkheimer noted that today’s anti-intellectualism can in part stem from resentment of perceived happiness that the intellectual appears to have achieved mentally. This appearance of happiness, which isn’t true, raises such ire because it is a reminder of the question of the crisis of society, a reminder of an unfree society, which one even unknowlingly participates in its reproduction.

And speaking of that reproduction, even thought participates in labor that is the total mediation of society. There are those who can trace the movement of Spirit to trace its trajectory, to see how the crumbling totality is sick, but—as Nietzsche points out—its sickness is pregnancy, and it is pregnant with a classless society. The problem is that such an outcome requires the overcoming of this sickness. Either that or barbarism. Perhaps the intellectual is discontent because of a more acute sense of the latter.