It’s time for fantasy heroes to go on strike

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Ben Burgis is the author of over a dozen fantasy and science fiction stories. In “Smokestacks Like the Arms of Gods”, the workers of a magical factory lay down their tools to fight for better working conditions.

“The title comes from the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Youngstown,’ where there’s a line about ‘chimneys rising like the arms of God,'” Burgis says in episode 510 of the The Galaxy Geek’s Guide Podcast. “The story is essentially a fantasy world remix of something roughly resembling the great sit-down strikes that built the CIO unions in the 1930s.”

The story is inspired by the history of the de Burgis family. His mother grew up in Youngstown and his great-grandfather Morris Field was a union organizer. The story “was originally published at PodCastlewhich is a fantastic news podcast, so it was actually reprinted at Jennywhich is Youngstown State’s literary journal, so they obviously liked it because of that connection,” he says.

In addition to writing fantasy fiction, Burgis is also the author of several non-fiction books, including Give them an argument: logic for the left and Canceling Comedians While the World Burns: A Critique of the Contemporary Left. “I was involved in left-wing politics even before I started writing, and it’s always been a big interest of mine,” he says. “Most of the writing I do now is for Jacobin magazine, so the policy has remained fairly consistent.

Burgis would like to see more fantasy writers explore the idea of ​​organized labor. “A lot of fantasy fiction is either about high politics within feudal systems or mostly about stories of upward mobility – about someone from a lowly background moving up the social ladder of their society,” he says. “Collective wrestling, I think, is something you don’t get a lot of in this business. Or for that matter really in science fiction, although we see it more there. But even still, not that much.

Listen to the full interview with Ben Burgis in episode 510 of The Galaxy Geek’s Guide (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Ben Burgis on Suitcase:

It was always one of my favorite books, and I first read it before studying philosophy, but the fact that I was so drawn to it probably had a bit to do with it, because in addition to the usual Philip K. Dick stuff about playfulness and ambiguity about what’s really going on, and reality and our knowledge of reality and all that good stuff, there’s also a lot of “very sat around arguing about “philosophy” – about the problem of evil and stuff like that. And combined with the dark humor of the book and all that, it’s something that always spoke to me.

Ben Burgis on Cancel comedians while the world burns:

This title itself is kind of an effort to grab people by the collar and tell them “No seriously, stop doing that stuff.” There was a whole series of incidents that convinced me that a lot of people who shared my political commitments – who basically had the same goals as me, who wanted society to change in the same way I did – had fallen into this strange judgmental way of looking at politics that in practice thinks far too much about controlling individual virtue or signaling individual commitment in a way that I think makes it unnecessarily difficult for us to appeal to a lot of people ordinary people who might otherwise be attracted to a leftist agenda.

Ben Burgis on freedom of expression:

I certainly don’t have anything good to say about Elon Musk, and I don’t think a good long-term solution to the problems of free speech standards in this strange privatized public square is to hope that the right billionaire will leads, who will make wise and benevolent decisions, but I think it’s incredibly telling, the reactions to the Musk case from people who the second they suspect someone won’t make the decisions they like , it’s not just that “Twitter is a private company. What are you talking about?” … Suddenly I think people are showing they see the point in how [social media] is not just something like a newspaper, not just like a company bulletin board, that it has a broader importance to society.

Ben Burgis on artificial intelligence:

I just wrote for Ongoing cases a review of a novel by Francis Spufford entitled lots of red. This is not a science fiction novel, it is just a kind of literary historical novel, but this is an attempt that was really made by some Soviet computer scientists in the Khrushchev era – the years 60 – to think about how a [AI-managed economy] would work, and try to implement a version of it. … In the novel, I think he alludes to some reasons why at least the version they had in mind might not have worked as well as they thought, but I don’t see any reason why. exclude that. I think the only honest answer as to how far technological progress might take us in this regard is that we don’t know.


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