Hellstrom's Hive

    Non-Dune Frank Herbert Book Discussion

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georgiedenbro
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby georgiedenbro » 23 Jul 2020 10:10

Serkanner wrote:It is new to me too the book is based on a film. You can find the film on youtube here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVZpzLUoGU0


I managed to watch 2/3 of it last night, and it's quite weird and eccentric. I'll post again when I've finished it.

It has been some time since I have read it, but isn't also the Axolotl tank used here?


I don't think that term is used verbatim, but it does seem like they are developing a proto version of that in the hive. Maybe the term was avoided because it's about insect metaphors and terms, and so amphibians are out :animals-frog:
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby georgiedenbro » 27 Jul 2020 09:29

I managed to catch the 90 min film on the weekend, "The Hellstrom Chronicle". It's a pretty creepy, even chilling story about a guy who slowly over the film reveals that his fascination with insects is more than just mere admiration. He speaks almost with glee at the thought of insects toppling human civilization, and the amazing graphic images of insect interactions show us just how brutal and merciless this would be. Even the film's comical attempts to show us 'romantic' insect scenes end up being sardonically morbid. It's a pretty neat film, probably belonging in the horror genre even though everything you see is documentary footage.

The hilarious thing, though, is that this "documentary" about insects being the superior form of life was actually reviewed by major reviewers like the NY TImes and Roger Ebert. Both reviews praised the cinematography and thought the narration was ridiculous and over-the-top, claiming that they thought its pronouncement that humanity was doomed was a distraction from the good nature footage. The reason this is hilarious is because apparently the film went right over their heads. The footage is real, but the explanations about how this proves the insects are superior to us is pretty obviously fright-night kind of stuff, like John Carpenter type thinking. The humor laced into it should be a giveaway, but I guess they thought it was just an 'eccentric' opinion about insects. The fact that it's announced at the end that Lawrence Pressman is "playing" Nils Hellstrom should have clued them in that the piece is about him, not about the insects. So basically they thought the character was a real documentary maker or something :doh:
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Freakzilla » 30 Jul 2020 19:55

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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby georgiedenbro » 03 Aug 2020 13:32

Freakzilla wrote:https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-hellstrom-chronicle-1971


Yeah, in that review Ebert seems particularly to assume that Hellstrom is trying to scare us into taking action, or into changing our ways or something. He thinks this is an ecological documentary dramatized to get us to do...I dunno what. Even he can't say what, which is part of his complaint. I guess it didn't occur to him that the film isn't trying to get you to do anything.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 25 Apr 2021 03:57

it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Freakzilla » 28 Apr 2021 23:25

xcalibur wrote:it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.


Are you suggesting that we are more successful than hive creatures? By what metric?
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 29 Apr 2021 04:08

Freakzilla wrote:
xcalibur wrote:it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.


Are you suggesting that we are more successful than hive creatures? By what metric?


yes, by our use of technology, and our control of environment and resources. by those metrics, we are the dominant species on Earth today. what other species has shaped the earth to the extent we have? when I say the eusocial insects are second to us, I'm not downplaying them by any means.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Serkanner » 29 Apr 2021 05:48

xcalibur wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:
xcalibur wrote:it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.


Are you suggesting that we are more successful than hive creatures? By what metric?


yes, by our use of technology, and our control of environment and resources. by those metrics, we are the dominant species on Earth today. what other species has shaped the earth to the extent we have? when I say the eusocial insects are second to us, I'm not downplaying them by any means.


With the metric "use of technology and our control of environment and resources," as a measurement of success, how is it that you regard eusocial as the number two, and not any other species?
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 29 Apr 2021 06:30

Serkanner wrote:
xcalibur wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:
xcalibur wrote:it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.


Are you suggesting that we are more successful than hive creatures? By what metric?


yes, by our use of technology, and our control of environment and resources. by those metrics, we are the dominant species on Earth today. what other species has shaped the earth to the extent we have? when I say the eusocial insects are second to us, I'm not downplaying them by any means.


With the metric "use of technology and our control of environment and resources," as a measurement of success, how is it that you regard eusocial as the number two, and not any other species?

because, among non-sentients, eusocial colonies are unparalleled in their complexity, efficiency, and ability to tap resources and shape their environment for the good of the species. you can consider scent trails, honeycombs, etc. to be technology, which is highly effective. to add to tech and control of resources/environment, you could add social organization, which eusocial species excel at, of course.

it's a successful lifestyle, which has prospered for millions of years. however, we don't live in a dystopia from the recent Cyberfrog comics. they live in our shadow, we don't live in theirs.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Serkanner » 29 Apr 2021 07:33

xcalibur wrote:
Serkanner wrote:
xcalibur wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:
xcalibur wrote:it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.


Are you suggesting that we are more successful than hive creatures? By what metric?


yes, by our use of technology, and our control of environment and resources. by those metrics, we are the dominant species on Earth today. what other species has shaped the earth to the extent we have? when I say the eusocial insects are second to us, I'm not downplaying them by any means.


With the metric "use of technology and our control of environment and resources," as a measurement of success, how is it that you regard eusocial as the number two, and not any other species?

because, among non-sentients, eusocial colonies are unparalleled in their complexity, efficiency, and ability to tap resources and shape their environment for the good of the species. you can consider scent trails, honeycombs, etc. to be technology, which is highly effective. to add to tech and control of resources/environment, you could add social organization, which eusocial species excel at, of course.

it's a successful lifestyle, which has prospered for millions of years. however, we don't live in a dystopia from the recent Cyberfrog comics. they live in our shadow, we don't live in theirs.


But now you added another metric, namely: non-sentients ... it is hard to draw useful conclusions when you keep moving goalposts. My conclusion is a lot simpler: every species has its own set of pro's and cons and it is rather ridiculous to compare them based on a few randomly chosen metrics and make a ranking, therefore don't make a ranking at all.
"... the mystery of life isn't a problem to solve but a reality to experience."

“There is no escape—we pay for the violence of our ancestors.”

Sandrider: "Keith went to Bobo's for a weekend of drinking, watched some DVDs,
and wrote a Dune Novel."

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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 29 Apr 2021 08:40

Serkanner wrote:
xcalibur wrote:
Serkanner wrote:
xcalibur wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:
xcalibur wrote:it's an interesting thought experiment on eusocial life, which is the second most successful way of life on earth (after ours, of course). it's no Dune, but Frank Herbert's style is unmistakable.


Are you suggesting that we are more successful than hive creatures? By what metric?


yes, by our use of technology, and our control of environment and resources. by those metrics, we are the dominant species on Earth today. what other species has shaped the earth to the extent we have? when I say the eusocial insects are second to us, I'm not downplaying them by any means.


With the metric "use of technology and our control of environment and resources," as a measurement of success, how is it that you regard eusocial as the number two, and not any other species?

because, among non-sentients, eusocial colonies are unparalleled in their complexity, efficiency, and ability to tap resources and shape their environment for the good of the species. you can consider scent trails, honeycombs, etc. to be technology, which is highly effective. to add to tech and control of resources/environment, you could add social organization, which eusocial species excel at, of course.

it's a successful lifestyle, which has prospered for millions of years. however, we don't live in a dystopia from the recent Cyberfrog comics. they live in our shadow, we don't live in theirs.


But now you added another metric, namely: non-sentients ... it is hard to draw useful conclusions when you keep moving goalposts. My conclusion is a lot simpler: every species has its own set of pro's and cons and it is rather ridiculous to compare them based on a few randomly chosen metrics and make a ranking, therefore don't make a ranking at all.


the only sentient race I know of is us, humans. our nests are far grander and more complex than even the largest eusocial colonies. non-sentient isn't so much a metric as a way of excluding humans, ie eusocial colonies are the most complex living structures, sans those built by humans.

I see nothing absurd in pointing out that human civilization is the most dominant force on earth today, so much so that recorded history is considered a separate geological epoch, the Holocene (and I believe this is based on more than just hubris). It's also apparent that, in terms of social organization, ability to shape the environment and utilize resources, eusocial insects are simply more advanced than many other lifeforms.

of course, that doesn't mean the most dominant species are more significant to ecology. all sorts of species have various roles to play, and without the humble primary producers, it would all collapse. it's not so much a value judgment as an observation as to which forms of life are most successful in perpetuating themselves and their way of life.

eta: I should add sophistication as a metric. there are unsophisticated lifeforms that have established themselves far and wide, like algae and nematodes. however, we humans are the most sophisticated, followed by colony organisms (the collective, rather than the individual insect). I see this as clarifying rather than shifting goal posts.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Serkanner » 01 May 2021 04:23

xcalibur wrote:I see this as clarifying rather than shifting goal posts.


Well, I don't. I will stop further discussing the subject
"... the mystery of life isn't a problem to solve but a reality to experience."

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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Freakzilla » 01 May 2021 10:56

There's a lot more insect species and they've been around a lot longer than us :think:
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 03 May 2021 10:46

Freakzilla wrote:There's a lot more insect species and they've been around a lot longer than us :think:


that's true. you could argue that they're more successful if you go by longevity of species and their way of life: human civilization is thousands of years old, while eusocial colonies probably arose millions of years ago. I'm not trying to lay down the law here, and officially rank us as first and the eusocial insects as second. Rather, I'm acknowledging that eusocial colonies are a very dominant and successful form of life. I consider them second to us because (for various reasons) I consider human life to be the most dominant of all. but ultimately, the ranking is not that significant.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby Freakzilla » 10 May 2021 06:54

I'd say wheat was the dominant life form on Earth and has domesticated humans :)
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 10 May 2021 16:02

that's certainly another way of looking at it. and that's consistent with the messaging of Dune, which warns us about our dependencies on resources.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby georgiedenbro » 11 Jun 2021 20:21

Interesting that you guys were debating how to assign a rank value to hive insects versus humans. One of the things HH brings up is that we can mistake which metrics are the most important; but it also seems to be saying that some metrics may actually be the most relevant, even if we didn't foresee them.

For instance in HH the 'normal' human civilization might have considered a metric of power to be military or even intelligence-gathering. Based on standard criteria even the hive we see in the book couldn't compare to the U.S. in terms of pure might or amount of spies. But the big surprise is that these metrics seem like the key ones, but actually the metric that mattered most was who would be first to develop a doomsday device. This is likely a deliberate analogy to nuclear war, with the proviso that in this case it wasn't just the doomsday tech that mattered, but the ability to implement it in a completely one-sided and safe way that would devastate the enemy and leave your side unscathed.

Another criterion we see upended in the book is cultural supremacy. We are given a lot of reason to be repulsed by the brutal and cruel (to say nothing of gross) methods of the hive, and based on our cultural and moral understandings we would see ourselves as superior - or perhaps more enlightened - than them. We could feel this way at least to an extent because of our numbers, and our mass media. The hive wasn't a 'competing culture' precisely because it was hidden. And yet the culture wars in this story end up decided not by majority rule, but based on which culture would be first to develop the right weaponry against the other side. And maybe also which culture was better at cloaking itself.

So I don't think it's so wrong to have goalposts that are hard to define here; the theme of upended metrics is core to the reading of the book. I don't see it as wrong to suppose that we may be superior and more sophisticated than hive insects, but what the books says at any rate is that we should be prepared one day to realize we were looking at it all wrong and that another factor was far more relevant. But the factors we assume are relevant may actually be so. The point is that we'll never quite know we're right, and will probably only be proven wrong when it's too late. It's a fatalistic theme :)
Last edited by georgiedenbro on 05 Jul 2021 11:16, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hellstrom's Hive

Postby xcalibur » 02 Jul 2021 21:34

insightful post as always, georgie. I appreciate the feedback.
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