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[P]
A Review of Contemporary Science Fiction

By polyglot in Culture
Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:28:15 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)
Books

In the fine tradition of E2's Books that will induce a mindfuck, I present a list of authors and books that I think are more than worth the time required to read them. My main criteria here are that the books be interesting, gripping, etc. -- not necessarily of great "literary" value.


First, some definitions. By contemporary I generally mean "the last 20 years"; there is no shortage of good science fiction before this period but I'm less familiar with it and so don't cover it here. Science fiction is a term much more difficult to define so I'll wimp out by saying what its not: no (well, mostly) fantasy and no franchised universes (eg all the dressed up fanfic the bookstores carry that's written about the Star [Wars|Trek] universes). The emphasis in my choices is on quality ideas taken to their logical conclusions. There are obvious omissions, mainly of authors I expect that you have all heard of and/or are considered "classics". Likewise, in some cases I have listed only part of an author's work, usually because I wasn't so keen on the bits I've left out - I can provide no other honest metric of what to include or not.

You may well have heard of or read many of these authors; if so, I urge you to consider those that you have not yet. Likewise, I'm always on the look-out for things to read myself, so if you're into these sorts of books, feel free to make recommendations. To those of you who respond with "but what about Foo Bar, how could you possibly bear to leave them out!?", consider that to be the point of this article: a massive troll to find out what are the good books other than the ones I've read.

Vernor Vinge

Vinge excels at writing stories of very large scope (millennia within a galaxy) without succumbing to corniness. The premise of A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky is that the galaxy is composed of onion-layers of consciousness with The Unthinking Depths at the bottom (mechanical devices don't work), up through the Slow Zone (where Earth would be - electricity works but strong AI and FTL travel are not possible) and higher layers up to The Transcend (a zone not understood by those the books are about). Vinge is a professor of Computer Science and it shows in his writing; the technology is well thought-out and internally consistent. Its not a crutch for poor writing, but a small amount of technology and its effects provide the basis for much of the plot and make Vinge's universes interesting to live in.

In A Fire Upon the Deep, a billion-year old meme is imported from the lower Transcend and wreaks havoc until it is stopped (duh, I ain't going to spoil it all). Along the way, the reader meets many interesting and well conceived races including intelligent plants in powered pots and pack-mind dogs that communicate with ultrasonics.

A Deepness in the Sky (written later but preceding the Fire Upon the Deep timeline) is about the discovery of an alien society at about Earth-1950's level technology, except that they're hibernating when found.

Across Realtime is a compilation of two Vinge books: The Peace Wars and Marooned in Realtime, where technology is developed on Earth that forms impermeable spacetime bubbles inside which no time elapses. They are initially used to enclose nuclear explosions and enemy activity during wartime (safety) but become a method for the surviving population of humans to extend their lives well past the natural duration of civilisation.

Stephen Baxter

Baxter, too is into large scope (the end of the universe and how to escape it); the Xeelee Sequence is a set of books detailing humankind's struggle with the Xeelee and a few other unsavoury characters working their way to the end of the universe. The writing is extremely dry, basically without meaningful characters; the point of the stories is not the people in them but their environments and the adaptations they have made to those unusual environments. Baxter demonstrates (at least to my thin understanding of it from a couple of undergrad Physics subjects) a strong grasp of relativity and cosmology, he just likes to bend them in interesting ways for the purposes of his universe.

Vacuum Diagrams provides an overview of the Sequence by including a chapter or two from each book. If you enjoy it, the rest are:

Separate from the Xeelee Sequence are Manifold: Time, Space and Origin, three takes on one character's voyages across the universe in time-like and space-like directions and then an adventure into parallel realms. These books actually have believable people in them, but are still dryer than what most people are used to and they don't have quite the imagination as seen in the Xeelee Sequence.

Baxter also has a few standalone stories of varying quality, notably Titan, an excursion into the small scale.

Greg Egan

Egan subscribes to the Baxter school of dry writing but is concerned with the very small (often subatomic) rather than the very large (cosmology). For example, in Diaspora, humans manufacture wormholes with neutrons and get themselves through as information to alternate universes. These universes seem to be based on some of the more outlandish ideas appearing in actual physics research of recent years (eg 10-dimensional universes with some number suppressed). Likewise, in Schild's Ladder, and experiment on vacuum structure goes awry, causing a vacuum conversion to spread in a sphere across space; the protagonists discover that a more detailed universe exists on the far side of the conversion and a fight ensues over whether humanity should run from the conversion or embrace it as their new home universe. Common to his stories are a love of mathematics, particularly finite-state systems, geometry and topology.

The books have (shock-horror) diagrams and formulae in them :) The narration does stop to explain concepts, but instead of disturbing a story it adds depths and makes the books more than just enjoyable fiction. A year or two of undergraduate maths will help you with these books, but it is not required.

Iain M. Banks

Banks' books are dark; there is just no other succinct description for them. They are often violent, cruel and an ordeal for the characters. Most of his books with M. in the name are set in the Culture universe, which is special for the Ships' Names that they choose for themselves, if nothing else.

The Player of Games is a good introduction to the Culture universe and its assumptions, without getting too nasty. Use of Weapons is a novel of monumental cruelty and psychological torture, not just for the characters but for the reader as well; I can't recommend it highly enough. To a less disturbing degree, there is Against a Dark Background, also a gripping read.

Good Culture books without the personal cruelty aspect include Excession and Consider Phlebas. Feersum Endjinn is a shorter story, narrated by someone with a speech impediment which makes it initially very difficult read. When the scope of the book is revealed in the end, its quite an amazing story - the majority of the book is set in a post-Diaspora Earth, but there are hints of Culture influence around the edges. I don't subscribe to "a Culture book is a good book", particularly because of Look to Windward, an example of how predictable and tedious Banks can be when he's not got something to say.

I won't go much into his non-M. books here (they're not really science fiction), but they are similar to the Iain M. Banks books. In particular, The Bridge is an interesting concept: a car accident victim's coma dreams in which he can apparently observe his physical self via various glitches that assert themselves in his dream world of the Bridge. The character has dreams inside his dream which are alternately crying-out-loud funny (the barbarian) and disturbing (the coachman).

Neal Stephenson

In contrast to the above, Stephenson writes about the recent past, present and the very-near future to great effect. The novels have decent characterisation and show the author's deep love of technology. Common themes are cryptography, subversion and arsehole characters, all of which make for great reads. I have an engineer friend who "doesn't read" (his words); having gotten him to read Cryptonomicon, he now has the rest of my Stephenson collection. Just beware: Stephenson could not write an ending to save his life.

The Cryptonomicon is probably Stephenson's book most familiar to geeky people, it contains two concurrent tales of cryptography: one in the second world war and one closer to now. If you're a CS or eleceng person with any interest in computation then this book is a must read, even though it is fiction.

Zodiac is short and fast book of environmental activism and somehow makes its awful main character into someone you can relate to and cheer for in their battle against corporate conspiracies and pollution. The plot sounds cliched, but the book is anything but.

The Diamond Age is a book about a book (yet again, as per Cryptonomicon) for subverting the next generation. The core interest in this book lies in Stephenson's imagination of a future culture where corporations and governments have been superseded by clans, not to mention what he has to say about parenting.

Snow Crash is Stephenson's answer to Gibson's Neuromancer; its a story of the two "Baddest Motherf*ckers's" to grace the surface of the earth, Raven with his personal nuclear bomb and Hiro Protagonist (really, that's his name) with Reason. In common with Diamond Age, it is set in a post-government world, this time ruled by anyone who wants to have their own patch.

Peter F. Hamilton

Space Opera. 'nuff said, except to say that it is actually good space opera, an unusual thing. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy is his main work, a (long) tale most quickly summarised as "the evil undead and how we defeated them". That summary makes it sound lame, but of course the greatness of the books lies in the societies involved and how they are depicted. This borders on fantasy (teleportation, resurrection, etc), but there is enough self-consistent technology in the books that I didn't feel too guilty about including them. The books are fast, exciting and in every way engrossing; the author is obsessed with sex but it fits well with the general tone of the books.

Night's Dawn is composed of The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God. Published as 3 volumes in Australia, but 6 in the US (split each of the above into 2), so don't accidentally buy half or 1.5 copies of one of the volumes. A Second Chance at Eden is set in the Night's Dawn universe and will appeal to those who've read the main trilogy.

There are also Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder and The Nano Flower, a trilogy (somewhat shorter than Night's Dawn and constrained to a single planet) about a psychic detective. Once again a cliched topic bordering on fantasy, but very well executed - the books are just damn good fun to read.

Fallen Dragon is a good introduction to Hamilton's writing, given that its not a 3000-page behemoth. In its brevity it is nowhere as intricately detailed as Night's Dawn but will give you an idea of whether or not you like the style.

Orson Scott Card

Card's writing is beloved by all those who see (or saw) themselves as child geniuses and would like to see some reasoning for their persecution and a fantasy in which the genius overcomes all. Having said that, his many (more than I could hope to list here, see above link) books and stories are of the highest quality and variety.

Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow describe the lives of said child geniuses through "battle school"; they are fast, action-packed, exciting, and have the reader identifying strongly with the main characters. However, they were apparently written only as a prologue to Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind. They are not fast, action-packed or exciting but what they are is philosophical and beautifully imagined; Card has a lot to say about people's attitudes to violence and cultural relations, disguised as the humans' (in the books) interactions with alien races: all but exterminating one and attempting to coexist with the second, despite the well-intentioned but extreme violence of each. As comments below have pointed out, there are many more books in the Ender series that I haven't covered here. I figure that if you like the first few, you'll find the rest in short order :)

Card also has an Earth/Homecoming series which I've not yet read.

Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars are a (long) story of the colonisation, terraforming and politics of mars in the near future. Red Mars in particular manages to have a large cast of detailed characters as well as induce in the reader a sense of confronting and conquering the unknown while Green Mars focuses more on the debate of whether or not Mars should be terraformed. Blue Mars is set much further in the future, once a breathable atmosphere and a large-scale society have formed; it describes in detail the politics of such a new planet.

Robinson has a plethora of more standalone books, eg The Memory of Whiteness, the tale of a drug-addled musician. You need not be a physicist or musician to take from this book the power that his music holds over people.

In contrast, The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge and The Wild Shore are three tales of an alternate post-apocalyptic California. They are superficially about the future, but the focus of the books is of course the present and how we (might) reach that particular future. More recently published, The Years of Rice and Salt is an alternate history of a world with a Black Plague of 99% mortality. European civilisation effectively ends and this book tells the story via the serial reincarnation of its characters throughout a new history.

Richard Morgan

Altered Carbon is a book I recently finished; its a cyberpunk / detective mystery cross that's seriously fast and exciting, if a little shallow. The premise is that humans can be digitised and downloaded into arbitrary bodies ("sleeves"), which is how interstellar travel and punishment are executed: the transmission and storage of information. The protagonist is brought out of long-term storage for capital crimes on a colony world by a murder victim with offsite backup who wants to prove that he was in fact murdered. The exploration of the premise of the story (sleeving) and its effects, eg having an identity separate from the body you wear and how this effects various religions is quite interesting, without detracting from the excitement of the story.

Elizabeth Moon

Another book I've read recently is Moon's Speed of Dark, an introspective first-person account of an autistic person wrestling with their concept of identity in an attempt to decide whether they wish to undergo dramatic change to become "normal". The main character is not what we'd currently call autistic, having had some treatment at birth, making them more like a high-functioning Asperger's case.

Dan Simmons

Lastly and furthest from least is Simmons' Hyperion Cantos (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, The Rise of Endymion and Endymion). I cannot write a description that begins to do these books justice; they are are a multi-layered construct of science fiction (anti-entropic fields, artificial intelligence), religion, literature, poetry (particularly Keats) and how all of these things interact and relate to death. The first book (Hyperion) describes the journey of seven pilgrims, both physically across Hyperion and personally to a realisation of their selves. For once, the Amazon reviews are actually valuable.

That sounds pompous as hell, but the books really are that good. At least read Hyperion; if you are a being capable of emotion and reason it will likely change the way you think.

Other Authors

I cannot hope to make a comprehensive survey in even an order of magnitude more space than this. I've left out many of the classics and genre-defining books you've all heard of, no use preaching to the converted. Here are a few that fall into that category or just fell off the bottom of the list:

  • William Gibson - Neuromancer, Difference Engine (with Sterling)
  • Bruce Sterling - Distraction
  • David Brin - Uplift series, starting with Sundiver
  • Gregory Benford
  • Ben Bova - Saturn
  • Greg Bear - Queen of Angels (for the concept of "the country of the mind"), Forge of God and Eon for the fans of apocalypse

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Related Links
o E2
o Books that will induce a mindfuck
o Vernor Vinge
o A Fire Upon the Deep
o A Deepness in the Sky
o Across Realtime
o Stephen Baxter
o Vacuum Diagrams
o Flux
o Raft
o Ring
o Timelike Infinity
o Time
o Space
o Origin
o Titan
o Greg Egan
o Diaspora
o Schild's Ladder
o M.
o Banks
o Names
o The Player of Games
o Use of Weapons
o Against a Dark Background
o Excession
o Consider Phlebas
o Feersum Endjinn
o Look to Windward
o The Bridge
o Neal Stephenson
o Cryptonomi con
o Zodiac
o The Diamond Age
o Snow Crash
o Neuromance r
o Peter F. Hamilton
o The Reality Dysfunction
o The Neutronium Alchemist
o The Naked God
o A Second Chance at Eden
o Mindstar Rising
o A Quantum Murder
o The Nano Flower
o Fallen Dragon
o Orson Scott Card
o Ender's Game
o Ender's Shadow
o Speaker for the Dead
o Xenocide
o Children of the Mind
o many more
o Earth/Home coming
o Kim Stanley Robinson
o Red Mars
o Green Mars
o Blue Mars
o The Memory of Whiteness
o The Gold Coast
o Pacific Edge
o The Wild Shore
o The Years of Rice and Salt
o Altered Carbon
o Elizabeth Moon
o Speed of Dark
o Dan Simmons
o Hyperion
o The Fall of Hyperion
o The Rise of Endymion
o Endymion
o Also by polyglot


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A Review of Contemporary Science Fiction | 422 comments (372 topical, 50 editorial, 0 hidden)
And for those with no money (none / 0) (#3)
by aldjiblah on Mon May 05, 2003 at 07:54:42 AM EST

I'm not condoning stealing, but I actually found downloadable electronic versions of nearly all the mentioned books by searching through Direct Connect hubs.

I prefer reading the dead-tree variant, but for reading a few chapters and making a buying decision, I recommend it.

Buy second-hand (none / 0) (#194)
by axxeman on Tue May 06, 2003 at 12:07:32 PM EST

At $2-$8 each (Australian), great value.

Alternatively, borrow from library.

Being or not being married isn't going to stop bestiality or incest. --- FlightTest
[ Parent ]

Swapping books. (none / 0) (#212)
by joshsisk on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:09:37 PM EST

Not to spam, but I trade books with other people at this site : swappingtons.com. It's pretty cool. I've gotten rid of some old DVDs and books that I didn't like and got some cool books that I had wanted to get but didn't want to pay the full hardcover price for.

I'm sure there must be other sites like that too... And there is also always eBay.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

Marge Piercy (none / 0) (#9)
by danny on Mon May 05, 2003 at 08:20:38 AM EST

I highly recommend Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1983) and Body of Glass (1991).

But most of her writing is not science fiction, so perhaps she doesn't qualify as "a science fiction author".

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

He, She, and It (none / 0) (#115)
by michaelp on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:40:22 AM EST

certainly is Sci-Fi

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
He, She, and It == Body of Glass (none / 0) (#299)
by danny on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:27:53 AM EST

They changed the title for UK publication, for some reason.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

What about RAMA? (none / 0) (#12)
by enderbean on Mon May 05, 2003 at 08:53:07 AM EST

My wife likes to stop by half price books on the way home from work and buy me a book to read. She normally picks them out based on the cover or the author (she know my favorites are OS Card and AC Clarke). Well she came home with Rendezvous With Rama and I was hooked. There are four books co-written with Arthur C Clarke and Gentry Lee. I believe the order is as follows: Rendezvous With Rama, Rama II, Garden Of Rama, and Rama Revealed. There are also two kind-of-prequels (you'd have to read them to know what I'm talking about) that are set in the same universe. They are written by Gentry Lee alone, no ACC. They are Bright Messengers and Double Full Moon Night. In my opinion, these were not as good as the original Rama series, but still quite good. Most of the books after Rendezvous With Rama were given horrible reviews (at least the ones I could find online) but I never give those much credence anyway. I got most of the books off of Half.com anyway, so I didn't pay an arm and a leg. If you get into series rather than stand alone novels, I recommend Rama. Very good.

I also recommend The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card. Absolutely brilliant book.


----------
"No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." - James Madison

Rendezvous with Rama (none / 0) (#25)
by carlossch on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:35:15 AM EST

Has not been co-authored by Gentry Lee, and it shows. The first book is much better than the following ones.

This is not to say that Rama II and Garden of Rama are bad (Rama Revealed is terrible). It's just that Rendezvous with Rama that is much, much, superior to the other three books.

The timescale of the whole series is impressive and very mind-bending, really. If it weren't for the last book, I'd say the series is comparable to the much more popular Space Odyssey series (which, incidentally, also has a terrible last book, 3001)

Carlos
-- He took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots.
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#28)
by enderbean on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:41:25 AM EST

That Rendezvous With Rama was the best of the series... the rest of the books were good though. I guess what gets me is that if you read the reviews you'd think to rest of the series was written by a 1st grader with a brain the size of a troglodyte. I think the series is good, and I enjoyed the 2 books written by Lee as well. I guess maybe Rendezvous spoiled people because it was so well written?

~Enderbean

p.s. I agree that 3001 was a bit lackluster... it's kind of like it was just put out to sell more books?


----------
"No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." - James Madison
[ Parent ]

I only read Messengers' blurb (none / 0) (#31)
by carlossch on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:50:09 AM EST

... in the end of one of the Rama books. Is it too distant from Clarke's style? The story seemed interesting, but I couldn't convince myself to buy the book.

Carlos
-- He took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots.
[ Parent ]

well here's the thing (none / 0) (#33)
by enderbean on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:58:18 AM EST

I've heard (and noticed myself) that Clarke's contributions were very minimal after Rendezvous With Rama. To put it simply, the rest of the series is essentially written by Lee. So if you LIKED Rama II, Garden Of Rama, and Rama Revealed it's a safe bet that you will like Bright Messengers and Double Full Moon Night. There are some story elements that pissed me off with those two books, which I won't get into here for reasons of brevity and not wanting to give any spoilers. I must say though, the fact that I was INTO the story enough to get pissed off by certain story elements is a good indicator of how much I liked the book. Go to half.com and buy them, in my opinion it's well worth it.

~Enderbean


----------
"No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." - James Madison
[ Parent ]

Thanks a bunch, will read them someday [nt] (none / 0) (#42)
by carlossch on Mon May 05, 2003 at 12:49:48 PM EST


-- He took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots.
[ Parent ]
Now you tell me... (none / 0) (#154)
by fn0rd on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:29:24 AM EST

the much more popular Space Odyssey series (which, incidentally, also has a terrible last book, 3001)

...5 days late. '3001' stunk. I'm reading Burning Chrome now to sear the stink out of my mind.

I think it was all the cutesy references to the culture and technologies of 2001 which Clarke hadn't the foresight (not that he should be criticized for that) to include in '2001' that really bothered me. That and the total lack of compelling character development, or is that asking too much from pulp SF?

Ah well. On the redeeming side, it was amusing to see one Clarke's characters quoting him, attributing it to "Somebody once said...".

--------------------------------------------------------------
This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
Death to the fidels!

[ Parent ]

Now that I think about it (none / 0) (#234)
by carlossch on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:26:16 PM EST

The main reason I think the Odyssey series has had a great impression on me are the two first books (2010 even more than 2001). If it weren't for that, I guess I'd even put the raunchy stinky Rama series ahead of the Space Odyssey in my mind.

I was more pissed about Clarke selling out the great mysterious tone of the monoliths than anything else. Seriously, 2001 and RWR are great novels, but he has a big problem with finding endings for them (don't read Rama Revealed if you liked the first books. At best, read it until halfway, and shred the rest of the book). For crying out loud, ACC, write new material, or at least learn to write endings from Gibson.

Carlos
"If you think big enough, you'll never have to do it." - Reisner's Rule of Conceptual Inertia
[ Parent ]

"Contemporary" (none / 0) (#44)
by davidduncanscott on Mon May 05, 2003 at 01:04:34 PM EST

The article does restrict itself to post-1983 works, a mark that the original Rama misses by about a decade.

Of course, it all depends on how you look at things. To me, Ender's Game is also outside the time zone, because I first read the short story around 1977, but the novel came in 1985.

[ Parent ]

Rama 2-4 sucks (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by Cruel Elevator on Mon May 05, 2003 at 02:00:41 PM EST

Rama 2 and 3 sucked so bad, sometimes I kick myself for reading that trash. I think the sci-fi bit about aliens were put in by Clarke himself and the remaining space opera shite was by Lee. I thought I'd buy the 4th book to see how this long, boring tale ends but the reviews had been so horrible, I can't force myself in paying for the book.

As a side note, you'll find the Rama 1-3 books in p2p, but not the Rama 4. Probably it sucked so bad that nobody was motivated enough to digitize it.

As a sidenote, The Light of Other Days, authored by Clarke and Stephen Baxter, was equally awful. If Stephen Baxter was even partially responsible for this pile of horseshit, I'm staying clear of his works.

Do yourself a favor - read Rama 1 and forget about the sequels.


[ Parent ]

Richard Morgan And the M-less Banks (3.50 / 2) (#13)
by pmc on Mon May 05, 2003 at 09:01:41 AM EST

In the interests of completeness Richard Morgan has a new book - "Fallen Angels". It has the same protagonist as "Broken Carbon", and same universe. Except this time the action goes all the way up to eleven. Shallow, but lots of fun.

Iain Bank's M-less books are also good - some moreso than others: "Canal Dreams" is marginally less enjoyable than a root canal treatment at the dentist, "A Song of Stone" only slightly better, but "The Crow Road" and "Espedair Street" are excellent. But how could you miss out "Consider Phlebas"?

Erm... (none / 0) (#30)
by pmc on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:44:47 AM EST

...That should be "Broken Angels". "Fallen Angels" is a very average Niven/Pournelle/Flynn Book.

[ Parent ]
Banks sans M (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by Three Pi Mesons on Mon May 05, 2003 at 02:26:39 PM EST

To which I would add The Bridge and Walking on Glass. Two rather short novels, but very densely packed with ideas and cunning references.

:: "Every problem in the world can be fixed with either flowers, or duct tape, or both." - illuzion
[ Parent ]
Banks' Problem (5.00 / 3) (#73)
by pwhysall on Mon May 05, 2003 at 06:02:40 PM EST

...was that he wrote The Wasp Factory first. That's a hell of a book to have to follow.

I enjoyed Complicity, Espedair Street and Walking On Glass most of all, after The Wasp Factory. I still regard it as his finest work.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Erm...Part Deux (none / 0) (#365)
by Flave on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:46:00 PM EST

...and we should also mention that it's "Altered Carbon". "Broken Carbon" is... well, actually I don't have a clue what "Broken Carbon" is.

[ Parent ]
Doh (none / 0) (#367)
by pmc on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:28:44 PM EST

I must have been having a bad day. I sure my memory's thingying.

[ Parent ]
Robert Sawyer (5.00 / 2) (#14)
by bradasch on Mon May 05, 2003 at 09:14:50 AM EST

I would recommend several Robert Sawyer's books, specially The Terminal Experiment, Factoring Humanity and Calculating God. All are excellent, IMO.

Ugh (none / 0) (#117)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:54:17 AM EST

Sawyer pisses me off for two reasons:

First, every book I've read by him reads like a fucking travel guide to Toronto.  "So I went to the ROM, taking the Yonge subway line south down University Avenue, and getting out at College Street."

Secondly, what the hell happened to originality?  Factoring Humanity - oh yeah, I remember reading that when it was called Contact!  Let's see, conflict between main character and their lover over some deep personal issue (religion vs. sexual molestation) - check!  Indecipherable alien signals - check!  Signals turn out to be instructions on how to build a transporter device (travelling through stars versus the "overmind") - check!

I cannot believe he wasn't sued over that one.

[ Parent ]

Originality (none / 0) (#172)
by bradasch on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:31:05 AM EST

I read 3 or 4 times your message and could not understand why you think that using and describing places in Toronto is so bad. It's a minor, very little part of the books. You should ignore them if they hurt you that much.

Secondly, you are right. Factoring Humanity isn't a very original concept. But in spite of that, I found it a very amusing, fast and easy reading. Just what I need for a book to read in a weekend.
IMO, it's a matter of personal taste: I don't seek originality in every single book I read. Take, for instance, Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow from Orson Scott Card: it's the same story, told by two different characters. Not very original. But they are good books, both.

What I enjoy in Sawyer's books is that they always turn out to be amusing, and easy readings, with good storylines. Just that.

[ Parent ]
Hm. (none / 0) (#199)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:23:50 PM EST

Gibson for instance has described many real-world places that I've been in his books - but he points out the actual location names very rarely. For instance, he'll say the phrase "downtown San Francisco, near Market and Post." That's cool, very low key. Or something like "strolling through Roppongi near the ANA Hotel" - acceptable again.

Sawyer on the other hand constantly breaks my train of thought - my literary groove - by shoving all this Toronto propaganda in my face. It really snaps you out of what has the potential to be an interesting story (minus the aforementioned plagiarism). The following gem is from "Calculating God":

"Yes?" she said. "I see. Umm, hang on a second." She looked at her boss. "CITY-TV is here," she said. "They want to see the alien." CITY-TV was a local station known for its in-your-face news; its slogan was simply "Everywhere!"
Who the fuck cares about CITY-TV? This crap is totally out of context. The book is written from a first-person perspective - actually, I think most of his are. But the first person seems to always be a tour guide. Maybe it's just me that finds this really annoying :-)

Oh and I live in Toronto - maybe that affects my judgement.

[ Parent ]

Answer (none / 0) (#272)
by bradasch on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:20:38 PM EST

I guess it's just you :-). I know Toronto from my honey moon, so I guess maybe those descriptive passages are kinda romantic for me (when I recognize the places I've been).

I'm convinced that the fact that you live in Toronto affects your judgement: I remember the CITY-TV thing, but never connected it to a real TV station (is it?); for me, it was something to fill in, just that. Very non-important. I guess it's... well, very particular.

[ Parent ]
Hahaha (none / 0) (#294)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:44:56 PM EST

Yeah CITY-TV is real. Christ, I should get out more :-)

[ Parent ]
Not original, but... (none / 0) (#222)
by John Bayko on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:42:05 PM EST

Carl Sagan's "Contact" (1986) was a rehash of "The Listeners" by James Gunn (1972).

And by "rehash" I mean completely original, except for the using the same premise as a starting point. You can do that, you know.

[ Parent ]

Hey! (none / 0) (#371)
by LukeyBoy on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:25:46 PM EST

Nice catch, I'll have to check that out. I've found like 20 new authors from this story alone :-)

[ Parent ]
Yes so? (2.08 / 12) (#18)
by tkatchev on Mon May 05, 2003 at 09:52:56 AM EST

What about those of us who read literature instead of sci-fi?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

Easy Solution (4.71 / 7) (#20)
by Rand Race on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:16:19 AM EST

Just go to the bookstore or library, take the book out of the scifi section, put it into the literature section and you are good to go.

Seems to work for George Orwell, Ursula K. LeGuin, Aldous Huxley and Kurt Vonnegut.

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Or David Foster Wallace (nt) (none / 0) (#41)
by ucblockhead on Mon May 05, 2003 at 12:41:28 PM EST


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Re: (2.25 / 4) (#50)
by tkatchev on Mon May 05, 2003 at 01:54:41 PM EST

Orwell is not sci-fi, Le Guinn isn't literature, Huxley is not sci-fi, Vonnegut is not sci-fi and is only very barely literature.

Problem solved.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Orwell is SF (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by epepke on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:48:05 PM EST

1984 by Orwell is SF by any reasonble definition of the term. It isn't sci-fi, however, but then again, a lot of modern SF isn't sci-fi.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Re: (3.00 / 1) (#138)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:49:18 AM EST

Personally, my definition of "sci-fi" is "anything that uses science and/or technology as a literary device".

Neither Orwell nor Huxley do.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I don't understand (5.00 / 1) (#145)
by NotZen on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:02:06 AM EST

I don't understand how Huxley's vision of a scientifically dominated and controlled society full of cloning vats doesn't use technology as a literary device.

[ Parent ]
It doesn't. (2.00 / 1) (#179)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:06:26 AM EST

Cloning vats are irrelevant here. If you don't see how, then you probably missed the whole point of Huxley's work.

"Brave New World" could be set in Babylon, 3000BC and not lose any of the significance or expressive power.

Contrarily, remove giant man-eating robot cyborgs from "Hyperion", and you are left with a very boring and long-winded crypto-pedophile story.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Irrelevant? (4.66 / 3) (#195)
by Wespee on Tue May 06, 2003 at 12:12:04 PM EST

Cloning vats are irrelevant here. If you don't see how, then you probably missed the whole point of Huxley's work.

"Brave New World" could be set in Babylon, 3000BC and not lose any of the significance or expressive power.

I see... if you think the book has merit, it's not science fiction. How can you look at a book whose first two chapters take place entirely in a clone-farm, where the deity-equivalent is Henry Ford, and say that it doesn't use science or technology as a literary device? The entire book is suffused with the hum of machinery and taken up with the dehumanizing affects of technology in the service of utopia-building. Brave New World couldn't exist in Babylon of 3000BC, because it truly is about people as cogs in a societal machine--the entire metaphor would be useless in a pre-technological society.

Perhaps the difference here is that the technology in this case doesn't rule the story but serves it.

Contrarily, remove giant man-eating robot cyborgs from "Hyperion", and you are left with a very boring and long-winded crypto-pedophile story.

Take gigantic man-eating monsters out of Beowulf and you don't have much of an epic. Take Fairies out of A Midsummer Night's Dream and you don't have much of a play. Take ghosts out of A Christmas Carol and you don't have much of a novel. Take artificially constructed humans out of Frankenstein and you have a nutcase chuckling to himself. Your point is?

I'll even give you "Hyperion sucks," but does it necessarily follow that any novel which uses technology/science/the fantastic to advance its story is necessarily unworthy of attention?

Paul



[ Parent ]
Bear with me; a PbPR. (2.00 / 1) (#229)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:18:21 PM EST

Brave New World couldn't exist in Babylon of 3000BC, because it truly is about people as cogs in a societal machine--the entire metaphor would be useless in a pre-technological society.

I'm afraid you severely misunderstood what "Brave New World" is all about. Huxley didn't write about cloning vats; Huxley wrote about the relationship between free will and society, a problem that has plagued humanity since the first caveman invented the first wooden club. For as long as people existed, there was a society. The particular trappings of place and time do not matter much here.

(I also suggest you read a bit about ancient Babylon, and why the word continues to carry such a negative connotation to this day.)

Take gigantic man-eating monsters out of Beowulf and you don't have much of an epic.

"Beowulf" has neary zero literary value. It is important because of the historical value attached to it.

Take Fairies out of A Midsummer Night's Dream and you don't have much of a play.

Not at all. "Midsumme Night's" is about love and romance, not about fairies. Fairies serve a very marginal role in the play.

Take ghosts out of A Christmas Carol and you don't have much of a novel.

Perhaps you are correct. But then I don't consider "A Christias Carol" to have much literary value.

Take artificially constructed humans out of Frankenstein and you have a nutcase chuckling to himself. Your point is?

"Frankenstein" is trashy pulp, even though it is old trashy pulp. Jeez, you might as well have cited "Dracula", too...

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I'm sorry... (5.00 / 2) (#251)
by Wespee on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:51:00 PM EST

...but I thought I was actually addressing your comments. Obviously, we will never agree.

However.

You're changing the rules in mid-stream. Your original post (a few levels up) asserted that:

Personally, my definition of "sci-fi" is "anything that uses science and/or technology as a literary device".

Neither Orwell nor Huxley do.

I'm afraid you severely misunderstood what a "literary device" is. A literary device is not a unit of meaning (what it's all about) but rather a technique for conveying that meaning. You seem to be asserting that neither Orwell nor Huxley uses technology as an element to illuminate and/or convey his larger themes. That's patently wrong. Brave New World is not "about" cloning, but it uses cloning as a device to point out the very theme you mention, within an overarching mechanistic metaphor that is very contemporary and post-Industrial Revolution.

Paul.



[ Parent ]
OK, whatever. (none / 0) (#265)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:59:31 PM EST

So I used the phrase "literary device" wrong.

I'm sorry; but that doesn't invalidate my point.

My point is that fiction about technology and/or science are of no interest to those who aren't interested science and/or technology.

Please prove me wrong.

Also, the "mechanistic metaphor" is far from a product of the Industrial Revolution. Again, read about ancient Babylon. (I'll try to post links tomorrow, if you are interested in the subject.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Is that you Jack? (4.33 / 3) (#256)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:13:58 PM EST

I'm afraid you severely misunderstood what "Brave New World" is all about. Huxley didn't write about cloning vats; Huxley wrote about the relationship between free will and society, a problem that has plagued humanity since the first caveman invented the first wooden club. For as long as people existed, there was a society. The particular trappings of place and time do not matter much here.

If I may quote Northrop Frye:

The absurd quantum formula of criticism, the assertion that the critic should confine himself to 'getting out' of a poem exactly what the poet may vaguely be assumed to have been aware of 'putting in', is one of the many slovenly illiteracies that the absence of systematic criticism has allowed to grow up. This quantum theory is the literary form of what may be called the fallacy of premature teleology. It corresponds, in the natural sciences, to the assertion that a phenomenon is as it is because Providence in its inscrutable wisdom made it so. That is, the critic is assumed to have no conceptual framework: it is simply his job to take a poem into which a poet has diligently stuffed a specific number of beauties or effects, and complacently extract them one by one, like his prototype Little Jack Horner.

In brief, neither the vats, the monster, nor the faeries are extraneous and insignificant in relation to their respective narratives.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Uh yes they are. (none / 0) (#267)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:02:05 PM EST

They are all, indeed, irrelevant and insignificant to their narratives.

I'm afraid that you haven't at all understood what you were reading.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Not at all (none / 0) (#276)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:07:44 PM EST

The problem seems to be that you are an unsophisticated reader. Were 1984 simply about the "relationship between free will and society" and little else besides, one might as well just read The Castle and be done with it (Kafka being the superior writer, after all). And yet, in spite of the fact that both books explore similar themes, only the dullest reader would ever confuse the two. Similarly, relocating 1984 to the Babylon of antiquity would make for a very different book indeed. In other words, Ran is not King Lear, nor was meant to be.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
You're mistaken. (none / 0) (#309)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:41:19 AM EST

The only technological element in "1984" is the surveillance television.

Replace the televisions with magic seeing-stone palatirs, and the story could well have taken place in Babylon, 3000BC. You wouldn't even have to edit the text much.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

The fact remains... (5.00 / 1) (#335)
by Wespee on Wed May 07, 2003 at 09:59:41 AM EST

...despite your persistent and seemingly impermeable solipsism, that Orwell did not choose to call the book 3000 BC. He called it 1984. He chose to place his novel in an extrapolated dystopian future. He chose to make the "surveillance" technological. This wasn't a mistake, nor was it an arbitrary choice, and it isn't insignificant.

Show me how the following could be made non-technological without making 1984 an entirely different book:

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinised.

There is more to a book than what it is "about". If that were not the case, then we'd just hand kids the Cliff Notes and be done with it. Set in Babylon of 3000 BC, Orwell's novel would have been a different thing entirely, and surely would not have resonated with readers as it did on publication and still does.

I admire your defense of an untenable position, and you obviously aren't amenable to argument, preferring repeated assertion. I will now withdraw like the good little indoctrinated zombie that I am.



[ Parent ]
Being set in the future != sci-fi. (none / 0) (#349)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:23:06 AM EST

Sci-fi is about science and/or technology.

"1984" is about politics and society.

I don't see how you can honestly claim that "1984" is sci-fi. I doubt that Orwell himself intended his book to be sci-fi, or even that he read a single sci-fi book in his life.

Orwell was not a sci-fi writer.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

SF (4.00 / 1) (#352)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:46:43 AM EST

If "Sci-Fi" is about science and/or technology, then probably 80% of the books sold as "Sci-Fi" aren't "Sci-Fi".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
You're wrong. (2.00 / 1) (#356)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:51:12 PM EST

Visit your local library's sci-fi section. 90% of the books there have to do something with space travel, time travel or computer networks.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Blah (none / 0) (#375)
by richo on Thu May 08, 2003 at 04:14:48 AM EST

Every book in the scifi section, or any other 'genre' for that matter, can have everything stripped down to its bare ideas, but the point is that it would be stupid. ANY book can be broken down the way that you suggest, not just scifi books

[ Parent ]
Dear boy (5.00 / 2) (#362)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:08:17 PM EST

Can you truly be so obtuse? My point was that 1984 set in ancient Babylon would not be 1984, but another novel altogether with similar themes.

Your brutish insensitivity to the significant affective differences between a futuristic dystopia and a mytho-historical one is no evidence that such differences do not, in fact, exist. You're plucking plums and I'm not impressed. A narrative cannot be reduced to just its "big ideas", otherwise we'd all do better to just read a condensed synopsis and save the time. Literary essence is diffuse and only exists in aggregate.

As to whether or not you would categorize 1984 as sci-fi, I couldn't care one whit. I'm content to call it a pastoral and leave it at that.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 0) (#303)
by epepke on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:08:29 AM EST

I'm afraid you severely misunderstood what "Brave New World" is all about. Huxley didn't write about cloning vats; Huxley wrote about the relationship between free will and society, a problem that has plagued humanity since the first caveman invented the first wooden club. For as long as people existed, there was a society. The particular trappings of place and time do not matter much here.

Certainly. You're just describing one of the things that some of the best SF (not sci-fi) can be about. Yet it's still SF.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I disagree (none / 0) (#315)
by salsaman on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:15:50 AM EST

You say:

I'm afraid you severely misunderstood what "Brave New World" is all about. Huxley didn't write about cloning vats; Huxley wrote about the relationship between free will and society, a problem that has plagued humanity since the first caveman invented the first wooden club.

My take on the book is that it is in large part about the separation of the human race from the natural environment. In that respect, cloning forms a very significant role in the plot.

[ Parent ]

well ... (none / 0) (#386)
by xrakk on Thu May 08, 2003 at 07:26:31 AM EST

I think you'd all enjoy the story more if you didn't look for hidden meanings or "what the author was writting about" about and just enjoyed the story more. Yes sometimes meanings are important but I think that high school english kills lots of peoples enjoyment in books and films because they are shown how to look for hidden meanings.
------- "The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." - [ B. F. Skinner ]
[ Parent ]
what exactly.. (none / 0) (#188)
by Ward57 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:37:33 AM EST

.. is a literary device in this context.

[ Parent ]
somebody's already covered Huxley... (5.00 / 2) (#244)
by janra on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:35:36 PM EST

Orwell's "Big Brother" wouldn't work without all the technology, the 2-way TV screens... even the fact that a paper diary is almost unheard of contributes.

Meh. It just tweaks me the way some people have it stuck in their head that "SF is bad, therefore if I think it's good it can't be SF." Kind of like the lady that asked where to find Lord of the Rings and looked horrified when led to the Fantasy section, because LoTR shouldn't be filed with "that trash". Sure, lots of SF is crap. Lots of "literary" fiction is crap, too. I believe the commonly accepted figure is 90%, in fact.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Come on, don't act stupid. (none / 0) (#263)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:54:51 PM EST

"Two-way video screens" are a tiny, insignificant part of "1984". Totally irrelevant to both the plot and the central idea of the book.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

It seems this can be resolved in two ways (none / 0) (#249)
by Symmetry on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:42:01 PM EST

Either the prominant use of video and cloning respectivly in Orwell's and Hexley's work let those novels qualify as Science Fiction (though certainly not sci-fi) or they do not. If the former, then we have an example of science ficiton literature. If the later, then half the authors listed above aren't science fiction authors, and you and I speak a different language.
Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Don't assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance. And try not to assume you opponent is the ignorant one-until you can show it isn't you. -M.N. Plano
[ Parent ]
Your geek-addled mind is failing you. (1.50 / 2) (#269)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:07:29 PM EST

Neither Orwell nor Huxley use sci-fi elements "prominently".

In both books the use of technology is a very insignificant part of the setting, and used only insofar as to highlight the ideological point they were making.

Calling "1984" sci-fi is akin to calling "Crime and Punishment" a detective story. That is to say, is akin to total idiocy.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Oh bullshit (4.00 / 1) (#278)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:46:49 PM EST

The idea of pervasive survelience was central to "1984" and the idea of designed human beings and mood control through drugs was central to "A Brave New World". This is especially true when you consider the technology of the period in which both were written.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Exactly right. (none / 0) (#308)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:38:38 AM EST

The central idea is that of pervasive surveillance, not the technical means of achieving it.

Replace televisions with government informers, or magic seeing stones, for that matter, and the book wouldn't suffer at all.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Authors (none / 0) (#345)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:16:32 AM EST

Well, clearly George Orwell didn't think so, as he felt the need to use an invented technology of two-way telescreens rather than more mundane government informers.

That's like saying that "Animal Farm" isn't fantasy because you could just replace all the talking animals with people and the book wouldn't suffer.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

That's true. (3.00 / 1) (#357)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:17:52 PM EST

Using animals in "Animal Farm" is a silly gimmick. It adds nothing to the story.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Prominent (2.00 / 1) (#289)
by Symmetry on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:52:22 PM EST

Dictionary.com defines "prominent" as:

1:Projecting outward or upward from a line or surface; protuberant
2: Immediately noticeable; conspicuous
3: Widely known; eminent.

In both "1984" and "Brave New World" the use of technology clearly fufills the second definition of prominent, as both are extremly noticable.  

If by "prominent" you mean instead something like "4: is central to the moral and societal implications of the work" then you have to admit that what I said about the above works still applies.  Among the authors above whose use of technology isn't prominent4 in all their books are
Banks, Card, Moon, Brin, Bear, and prehaps others I havne't had the opporunity to read.  Perhaps that wasn't quite half of all the authors listed, but it comes close.  Thus, my above comments still stand.

By the way, the title of your post really made me chuckle.  I hope you'll forgive me if I use that one myself without proper attributation.

Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Don't assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance. And try not to assume you opponent is the ignorant one-until you can show it isn't you. -M.N. Plano
[ Parent ]

television (4.00 / 1) (#291)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:11:58 PM EST

tkatchev probably doesn't realize that when "1984" was written, the idea of a television in every home was itself science fiction. That's the trouble. A lot of what seems mundane now about that book was not at all mundane in the forties.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Posh. (2.00 / 1) (#307)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:36:15 AM EST

Read "1984" again.

Try as you might, but televisions are far, far from a central plot element.

P.S. The 24-hour propaganda boradcast/surveillance thing was already being done by the Nazis, though they used radio instead of television.

There is nothing novel or scientific about the idea. Even Babylon in 3000BC had secret police and government informers.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

"Government informers" (5.00 / 1) (#343)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:05:36 AM EST

That's not the same book. Orwell was also talking about the dehumanizing aspects of modern (for his day) technology. Something that you appear to have completely missed in your genrephobia.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#358)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:19:58 PM EST

Orwell didn't talk about technology at all, dehumanizing or not.

He talked about the dehumanizing aspects of totalitarianism.

And totalitarian governments are far from a modern invention; the first totalitarian governments appeared in prehistoric caveman times.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You miss the point of 1984 (5.00 / 1) (#392)
by bil on Thu May 08, 2003 at 10:22:59 AM EST

Surely 1984 set in Ancient Babylon would miss the entire political point of the work which is not "secret police and informers are bad" but to warn that the inevitable outcome of the road he belived society (both western and Soviet, there is no reason to belive that 1984's London is in any way exceptional, in fact quite the opposite) was embarked upon was fascist dictatorship where a small political elite used patriotism, war and the fear of (possibly mythical) opponents to justify the repression of every freedom and the manipulation of every aspect of human life.

A 1984 set in Babylon is a fairly grim piece of fiction of how things were, a 1984 set in the future is a stark and searing warning of what will happen if we do not prevent it. That it is just as important today in a post 9/11 world as when it was first written and why Orwell is regarded as one of the most important writers of his generation, indeed of the 20th century

The politics are more important then the science in 1984 but a non-SF version would worthless. The ability to comment on the way society is heading be showing a possible future is one of the great strengths of science fiction, something no other genre of fiction, or field of art in general manages to explore in anything more then the most trivial ways.

P.S. I belive Brave New World also had an element of political commentry to it but its so long since I read it I dont remember exactly

bil

bil
Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

1984, BNW, and dystopias (5.00 / 1) (#403)
by epepke on Thu May 08, 2003 at 07:08:45 PM EST

Here's one thing I've never been able to verify about 1984. Back when I was doing a lot of computational linguistics, I was looking for a reasonbly well defined subset of English to bootstrap a language-understanding system. I came across something called Basic English, an English limited to 500 words or so (plus a poetic addendum with somewhere around 200 words). The thing is that Basic English was very popular in the 1940's, and advocacy had a strong political component. Advocates believed that BE made certain kinds of lies impossible. I wonder if some of the things Orwell wrote about Newspeak were influenced by the political aura surrounding BE.

1984, while a brilliant book, always seemed to me a bit of a letdown as a dystopia, as I think it overemphasized oppression as a method and underemphasized people's willingness to build their own dystopias. Winston Smith didn't need to be tortured by the inner party and made to love Big Brother. In real life, he'd just get a blog, and everyone would jeer at him and make cracks about a tinfoil hat. Brave New World gets this a bit better. The participants mostly want their dystopia, so it's more of a morality tale in the history of the traditional tales about the Devil which also form the basis of almost every Twilight Zone ever made. Nor is it so clear, at least in retrospect, that it's such a dystopia. This is not a defect, as much good literature is deeply ambiguous. BNW also has a kind of Ring Lardner-like datedness about it.

My favorite dystopia isn't literature at all; it's an operetta called Joe's Garage by Frank Zappa.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Brave New World (none / 0) (#131)
by salsaman on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:53:00 AM EST

how can you claim that is not a sci-fi work ?

[ Parent ]
Like when Douglas Adams died. (4.00 / 1) (#135)
by jeti on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:35:39 AM EST

I heard that the day after Douglas Adams died, a lot of bookstores moved his books from the SF shelves to the literature section.

[ Parent ]
Douglas isn't sci-fi. (1.00 / 1) (#143)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:00:00 AM EST

His books have nothing to do with either science or technology.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

SF, Adams, and flame (none / 0) (#160)
by yanisa on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:21:14 AM EST

You either don't know what SF is or you have your own definitions - if that's the case, don't be too surprised that the rest of the world doesn't adhere to them.

Adams is as much SF as Pratchett is F. To forestall your indignant reply - look them up in Encyclopedias of SF and F - you will find them listed.

And re LeGuin and your other comments - let me guess, a lit major with a Ulysess hard-on came to teach us the _true_ path to literary enjoyment?

Bah.

Y.

I think this line's mostly filler
[ Parent ]

Flames aside. (none / 0) (#177)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:01:35 AM EST

Look, sci-fi isn't simply "books that geeks like".

To me, sci-fi is "books that use science and/or technology as a literary device". If you have a better definition, let me know.

Besides, you are going to have a very difficult time convincing me that Adams' "Dirk Gently" books are science fiction.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

no, (5.00 / 1) (#187)
by Ward57 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:36:14 AM EST

Dirk gentley's fantasy. On the other hand, if producing a hitchiker's guide to the entire galaxy, building planets and matter transportation devices aren't science fiction, then what is?

[ Parent ]
Oh come on. (2.00 / 1) (#232)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:25:02 PM EST

Having spaceships in a story doesn't make it sci-fi.

Take "Hitchhiker's Guide" and replace spaceships and robots with magick and goblins, or with happy shrooms and hallucinogens, for that matter. The book wouldn't lose any of the charm or significance without the "tech".


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

SF (none / 0) (#236)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:28:58 PM EST

Read Haldeman's "Forever War", and tell me either a) how it can't be "literature" or b) how you could remove the central time dilation metaphor without causing it to fall apart.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, (none / 0) (#262)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:52:47 PM EST

I haven't read the work in question.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Your loss. (5.00 / 1) (#281)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:54:49 PM EST

It is to the Vietnam war what "Catch-22" was to World War II.

It uses the time dilation experienced by interstellar starcraft as a metaphor for the culture shock returning Vietnam vets (like Haldeman) experienced after the war. As such, the central theme of the book requires that it be science fiction.

Another book whose theme requires science fiction elements and yet is "literature" is Wells' "The Time Machine". Another is Shelley's "Frankenstein".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I very much dislike both Wells and Shelley. (none / 0) (#306)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:30:04 AM EST

Both are very sub-par pulp fiction writers.

For some reason, people think that "victorian" automatically equates with "literary classic".

I think not.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I don't agree (5.00 / 1) (#338)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:52:18 AM EST

the robot's depression is funny precisely because he is a robot, expected to be exceeding rational. This is deliberate (but gentle) mockery of rational thought. Comparing space travel with the dull airline experience was deliberate mockery of excitement about modern technology (although possibly the kind sort). Oh come one, he spends a fair bit of his time mocking modern life/technology. Demolishing the earth, after all. The other main laugh point is that nothing really improves in any way - politicians of the future are dishonest, things still break down all the time (aside from leaving the robot for a few million years, where there is a bit of a plot inconsistency). You could call it a scathing mockery of modernism, done in a cheeky enough silly voice that a modernist would forgive him.

[ Parent ]
Second comment. (none / 0) (#339)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:54:18 AM EST

The joke about the origins of the earth is also purely scientific in nature. (plus, making a hitchikers guide to the galaxy was one of the things I had in mind when I said nothing changed).

[ Parent ]
In that case (none / 0) (#190)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:41:25 AM EST

Half of the books in the "SF" section aren't "Sci-Fi".
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
So? (none / 0) (#231)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:20:42 PM EST

Bookstores also carry comix and music CD's.

Your point?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

SF.. (none / 0) (#193)
by yanisa on Tue May 06, 2003 at 11:07:58 AM EST

Most good SF uses future tech/future worlds as a setting for exploring basic humanity. 1984 and BNW have been metioned, and there are many others. In fact, a large portion of stories whose plot centres on future tech are bad - they are exactly the "oh my, the transporter has gone awry" or "no, no, the asteroid will crush us" pulp novels that you diss in your other posts.

As I've said: your definition of SF contradicts accepted definitions. Your choice. But don't expect the rest of the world to fall in line.

You can find a better definition of SF in Encyclopedia of SF, Clute & Nicholls, page 311. I'd type it up if it was short, but it turns out it takes three pages as the authors take a somewhat historic view in describing it.

Still, yours is a rather novel argument - I keep expecting someone to jump in with "sci-fi =/= SF".

Y.

I think this line's mostly filler
[ Parent ]

"Takes three pages"? (none / 0) (#233)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:25:36 PM EST

Well then, it's not much of a definition then, is it?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

So you want a neat little definition? (none / 0) (#252)
by yanisa on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:56:22 PM EST

"Good literature cannot be fitted into neat little genre boxes."

Y.

I think this line's mostly filler
[ Parent ]

Read The Hyperion Books (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon May 05, 2003 at 01:56:34 PM EST

Those are literature if nothing else is.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

I read all of them. (3.00 / 2) (#56)
by tkatchev on Mon May 05, 2003 at 03:10:18 PM EST

Though I wish I really hadn't.

The books are very average pulp trash. Typical adolescent waste of time.

I really don't see how you could be impressed by them, seeing as they are no different from one million other identical sci-fi novels.

Anyways, I'd suggest you read some descent literary fiction instead. It might sound weird at first for somebody raised on sci-fi, (like I was at one point) but, really, descent literature is more fulfulling and vastly more interesting.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Some people (4.50 / 6) (#67)
by Secularist on Mon May 05, 2003 at 04:26:59 PM EST

are able to enjoy literature from any genre, and aren't pretentious snobs about it.

Those people are also generally able to spell 'decent'.

[ Parent ]
English (5.00 / 2) (#98)
by qpt on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:23:40 PM EST

Is his second or third language. No quicker way to look foolish than to start nit-picking the spelling of a multi-lingual.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Uh. (2.00 / 3) (#136)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:45:22 AM EST

Maybe I'm a snob, but in my book anything that is a "genre" is not literature.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Heh (4.00 / 2) (#174)
by ender81b on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:39:56 AM EST

Guess since 'fiction' is a genre that prevents it from being literature eh?

Man do I hate snobbish literary readers.

[ Parent ]

No. (2.00 / 1) (#180)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:09:47 AM EST

"Fiction" isn't a "genre".

"Genre" is when you can label a book "sci-fi", "detective story", "romantic", "children's", etc.

Decent books do not have labels attached to them.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Except, of course... (4.00 / 1) (#181)
by Wespee on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:19:38 AM EST

...that they do. You're labeling them "decent". Your choice to exclude "genre" fiction from your approved reading list seems short-sighted to me.

Dickens was definitely a "genre" writer, even if it's a genre that's been subsumed into a greater literary canon now.

Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the other "noir" writers have had a tremendous effect on "serious literature" and are being studied and thought about as part of the spectrum of great American literature these days.

Examples could continue for days. If it's good, it's good. If it's trash, it's trash. Don't waste your time if you don't want to, but scoffing is silly and narrow-minded.

Paul



[ Parent ]
No, misunderstand. (none / 0) (#225)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:08:07 PM EST

Labelling something as "genre" automatically makes a book "trash", as you put it.

Whether or the particular genre in question is accepted by ivory-tower academia ("greater literary canon") is irrelevant.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I can't believe I'm actually responding to a troll (none / 0) (#213)
by ShaiHulud on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:09:59 PM EST

I've heard the whole "if it's genre it's crap" line before, and it doesn't hold up. A "genre" is just a means of classifying a group of works based on similar themes, it says fuckall about the quality or worth of those works. The Grapes of Wrath is a prime example of the "gloomy dirt-farmers" genre. War and Peace is a standout in the "lots of dead Russians" genre. Great Expectations is the epitome of the "useless brat acts like a retard" genre (A Separate Peace was SO derivative.)

The only reason these genres aren't more easily recognized by all readers is that they're so fucking boring that nobody else ever writes in them, so there are far fewer difinitive examples.

[ Parent ]

You're wrong. (1.00 / 1) (#224)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:05:32 PM EST

Good literature cannot be fitted into neat little genre boxes. If a book is worth reading, then it should speak something about the human condition that transcends all boundaries; including ones imposed by "genre".

Unless, of course, you view books as a way to pass time when the electric plant breaks down and your TV doesn't work.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

am not (none / 0) (#274)
by ShaiHulud on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:58:11 PM EST

Don't you see, I just DID fit literature into neat little genre boxes. It's quite easy.

Your criticisms of science fiction are criticisms of *any* bad fiction, and yes there are piles and piles of crappy sf out there, right alongside the piles of crappy non-genre fiction. Your mistake is in dismissing ALL of science fiction as crap simply *because* it is sf and not on the merits of the individual stories.

What if I say ALL stories about Irish people are crap, simply because I fucking HATE James Joyce? Wouldn't you find that a little unreasonable? But if you point out a story I liked which happened to be about Irish people, I can use your methods to escape my own trap by simply claiming that they weren't really Irish.

Your logic is deeply flawed. You're making unfounded sweeping generalizations, and doing so in a manner which is clearly calculated to insult. If you had merely said "I'm not a fan of science fiction" this whole stupid thread wouldn't have happened, but no, you did the equivalent of entering a biker bar and shouting "Harley's are for fags."

So, congrats on a well-executed troll. You give literacy a bad name.

[ Parent ]

You miss my point. (1.00 / 1) (#305)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:28:02 AM EST

You see, there is good fiction about history. There is good fiction about race relations. There is good fiction about love. There is even good literature about sex.

But I've yet to read good fiction that deals with science and technology.

I'm not saying that it is impossible; merely that I've never encountered such a beast in real life, and I've read a lot of sci-fi in my day.

(I think "Dune", the first book, is the one that comes closest in that regard, of the books I've read; it's still far below the normal literary standard, though.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I was with you until... (none / 0) (#336)
by Homburg on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:00:19 AM EST

... you said
I think "Dune", the first book, is the one that comes closest in that regard, of the books I've read; it's still far below the normal literary standard, though.
Dune is pleasent enough skiffy, but it's in no way literature. It's not particularly well written (although it's less execrable than a lot of science fiction), and it doesn't really have anything to say, as far as I can see.

That being said, I think you're wrong to completely rule genre fiction out as literature. Others have given the examples of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. Wilkie Collins is probably another. Genre is a flexible thing, and some books manage to obey enough of the rules to be in a genre while also subverting enough to be interesting as literature.

So, are there any SF books that fit these criteria? I think Philip K Dick, Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut are all contenders. Have you read any of their stuff? And, coming at this from the other side, what would you consider pinnacles of genuine literature?

[ Parent ]

Re: (none / 0) (#346)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:18:23 AM EST

Well, it's not that "Dune" is particularly good -- it is more like I see what the author was trying to get at, and if only he'd put more effort into it, he might have gotten something that transcended genre labels and become "literature".

As for Dick, Bradbury, Vonnegut -- they're OK, but not great. I read some stuff by Dick, but I don't even remember what exactly. So I guess I wasn't that impressed. Bradbury -- he's a good writer, (though not my taste) but his best stuff seems to be when he tries to move away from sci-fi. Bradbury as a sci-fi writer seems just too hokey to me. Vonnegut -- I find him to be very trite. Reminds me of pre-processed pop-culture. (Though I admit that I haven't read "Cat's Cradle".)

Anyways.

As for "normal" literature, I find someone like Updike to be very good. Not that he is some sort of genius writer -- far from it -- it's simply that he consistently delivers good fiction.

Oh, and by the way: about "genre books", I enjoyed early Stephen King very much. ("The Firestarter", et al.) He is a very talented writer, though also an incredible slacker.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Doris Lessing (none / 0) (#400)
by Flave on Thu May 08, 2003 at 03:52:25 PM EST

What about Doris Lessing? She's arguably one of your 'true' literature authors; she's won all sorts of awards and been short-listed for the Booker Prize on several occasions. She's also written several scifi books, most notably the Shikasta series.

So, I guess by your citeria she's no longer a 'real' writer? Have you read any of the Shikasta books? Do you even know who I'm talking about?

[ Parent ]

"decent" (none / 0) (#215)
by kaens on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:16:42 PM EST

Ummmmmmm last time i checked, "decent" was a matter of OPINION. Something that one person finds decent might be considered trash by someone else. So quit talking about how a book can't be good if it's got a "genre" slapped on it. Those "labels" are there to help out people who like those types of books. If they didn't have genres, it would be really, really hard to find a good new scifi writer now wouldn't it?


--I surface, and I stagnate.
[ Parent ]
Fiction like who (none / 0) (#71)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon May 05, 2003 at 05:25:16 PM EST

Maybe I already read it.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

By the way (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon May 05, 2003 at 05:27:55 PM EST

Now you're just being a dickhead.

Thanks,

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Indeed. (2.50 / 2) (#137)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:46:38 AM EST

Like always.

Though maybe I just strongly disliked "Hyperion", so nothing personal.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

What about.... (2.00 / 1) (#84)
by carbon on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:24:11 PM EST

...those of us who read what they like to read, rather than read what they like but treat those preferences as being the result of some universal "good book" metric?


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Write your own. (5.00 / 4) (#91)
by Kwil on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:52:12 PM EST

  Or do you write angry letters to car and driver complaining about a lack of boat reviews as well?

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Try Peter Carey. (none / 0) (#94)
by cdyer on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:01:46 PM EST

He's got at least one book that might fit the bill for literary speculative fiction. First, try a collection of short stories entitled The Fat Man in History.

[ Parent ]
Thanks. (none / 0) (#141)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:57:51 AM EST

Actually, my parent post wasn't just empty trolling; in theory, sci-fi books could be as good as any other, but in practice I never read a sci-fi book that could stand on its own merits.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

define (none / 0) (#184)
by Ward57 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:27:21 AM EST

stand on it's own merits.

[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#248)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:41:36 PM EST

I mean "books about science and/or technology that non-geeks would love to read".

Personally, I think the best sci-fi book is "Dune".[1] It approaches what I would consider to be "standing on its own merits", though it isn't so good when compared to the average non-sci-fi book.

[1] Only the first book; the rest of the five or six of them are worthless wastes of oxygen. They keep getting progressively worse.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I think the best science fiction book is (none / 0) (#340)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:56:34 AM EST

Foundation, although it's very much a book of it's time - fall of the old empire/international order.

[ Parent ]
I disagree. (4.00 / 1) (#342)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:01:56 AM EST

Foundation is badly written (like almost all Asimov) and isn't very good literature.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

perhaps it isn't good literature, (2.00 / 1) (#348)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:22:06 AM EST

but it does make fairly good science fiction, and is written with that purpose in mind, not writing literature.

[ Parent ]
I find Asimov to be bland. (none / 0) (#359)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:23:06 PM EST

I didn't like much of Asimov's work.

I find his writing to be bland and slow-going.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Definitions (none / 0) (#370)
by whelk1 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:24:22 PM EST

Given that most people seem to assume that you're a geek if you love to read sci-fi, then your claim is probably accurate.

Anyway, I think you might just have had really good luck picking non-sci-fi reading material.  I didn't particularly love Dune, but I think it's definitely better than the average book of any genre.

People have preferences when it comes to books, and you happen to dislike sci-fi.  It's pointless to debate whether you're wrong or right, because it's entirely subjective.  I'm reminded of the times in college when I'd argue with my best friend about James Joyce.  She loved him enough to devote her postgraduate study to his writing, whereas I think Ulysses was a big joke he played on future generations of literature students.

[ Parent ]

reasons (none / 0) (#387)
by xrakk on Thu May 08, 2003 at 07:49:28 AM EST

There is probably a reason that generally only "geeks" like sci-fi and that is because it IS about techology, its impacts on people, social systems and how many different uses it can have, and people who are not geeks aren't interested in that kind of stuff anyway. SO IF THEY DON'T WORK WITH IT OR PLAY WITH IT THEY WONT WANT TO READ ABOUT IT. Or maybe the same can be said about fantasy as well because non-geeks just dont have imagination, they just imitate (monkey see, monkey do).
------- "The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." - [ B. F. Skinner ]
[ Parent ]
So it's not your cup of tea, so what? (none / 0) (#139)
by NeXTer on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:53:42 AM EST

You don't see us complaining about War and Peace, do you? If every person on this planet had the same preferences it would become a rather dull place to live, don't you agree?

Sci-Fi isn't by any means literature likely to receive the Nobel Price, but that doesn't make it not literature.

One of the things I personally like is how sci-fi lets me escape for a moment to a place where the laws of physics as we know them don't apply and where interesting ideas—from my perspective—are presented.



[ Parent ]
quite simple. (5.00 / 2) (#185)
by Ward57 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:28:00 AM EST

Why don't you tell us about literature.

[ Parent ]
I'd love to. (1.00 / 1) (#246)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:38:28 PM EST

I would, but I don't know where to start. :)

What would you like me talk about?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

How about a list (5.00 / 1) (#344)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:14:31 AM EST

of books that you consider to be literature. I'd be pefectly happy to read them.

[ Parent ]
Difficult subject. (none / 0) (#395)
by tkatchev on Thu May 08, 2003 at 01:28:36 PM EST

If I start to list my book preferences, I'd be trolling for sure. :)

Dunno, you could start with Shakespeare. :) Shakespeare reminds of "Beavis & Butthead" for some reason; same in spirit, only more repsectable and corrected for the 500 year time difference.

Or Ralph Ellison. I believe him to be the best English-language writer of the last century. Though this might be my weird cultural preference.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Ursula Le Guin (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by tetsuwan on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:14:12 AM EST

I recommend The Dispossessed. It hasn't got anything in the way of fascinating technology, in spite of being about a scientist. But it's still great SF.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

Yes, how can you forget LeGuin?! (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by Cheetah on Mon May 05, 2003 at 03:33:38 PM EST

Ursula LeGuin is, imnsho, one of the best SciFi writers ever.  While much of her writing isn't necessarily contemporary (she's no spring chicken), much of it is, and all of it that I've read (which is almost everything she's written in the Hainish universe) feels contemporary enough.

Other LeGuin stories I highly recommend:

  • Fisherman of the Inland Sea (short story in collection of same name)
  • The Lathe of Heaven
  • Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions (short stories in a collection of the same name, covers the beginning and end of the Hainish universe?)
Ob.Link: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/


[ Parent ]
Contemporary (none / 0) (#66)
by ucblockhead on Mon May 05, 2003 at 04:01:37 PM EST

I believe that the author is talking about writers who came to prominence in the last twenty years. Le Guin showed up in the sixties, and her best work is mostly prior to 1980.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
+1 FP, but.. (5.00 / 3) (#24)
by kitten on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:34:40 AM EST

I believe Gibson deservs more than the afterthought-style blurb you gave. Neuromancer upped the ante on science fiction, especially during a time when it was significantly losing popularity, and is essentially the first of the entire cyberpunk genre, which makes Gibson the father of the genre.

His literary style, I've found, appeals to even those who don't particularly care about the subject matter; I've caught people reading some of his stuff who could not care less about computers and who didn't like movies like The Matrix. And he's branched out significantly from his Neuromancer days - the "Bridge trilogy" is more "now", and his latest, Pattern Recognition, takes place today, referencing things like Google, Mac Cubes, and the WTC attacks.

He deserves a lot more credit, I think, than you gave him.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
I agree completely (none / 0) (#37)
by enderbean on Mon May 05, 2003 at 12:07:36 PM EST

I won that book about 2-3 years ago as part of a sci-fi story writing contest hosted by ShellCity.net. Read the entire book the day I got it, and it was easily the coolest book I had read to date. As a side note, I also won the domain geekcowboy.com in that constest, which I never, sadly, ended up doing anything with.


----------
"No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." - James Madison
[ Parent ]
Pattern Recognition (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:05:53 AM EST

Am I the only one totally let down by Pattern Recognition?  I busted my ass to get an advance review copy of it and I thought it was pretty lame.  The writing style is definitely Gibsonian, but there was very little science or fiction.  I like Gibson because he applies sci-fi concepts (nanotechnology, virtual reality, etc.) to our society and paints the results - P.R. just seemed like it was trying to depict our current society.

Plus it felt like a total rehash of one of his earlier novels in the Neuromancer universe - can't remember which one.  The quest to find the mysterious creator of the film was way to close to the quest to find the creator of the "art boxes" in his other book.

[ Parent ]

Re: PR (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by harb on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:24:10 AM EST

It definitely felt like he was just telling Marly's story from "Count Zero" over, with lots of elements from "Mona Lisa Overdrive" thrown in for good measure. I didn't really mind, though. I liked Casey as a character (tongue in cheek, there, obviously) enough to enjoy it on a different level. I also enjoy his insights on life in general. If you've got the time, "No Maps for These Territories" in an interesting watch.

It's possible that I had my expectations realigned before reading the book -- I'd been reading his blog for a few weeks before PR came out. I wasn't expecting cyberspace decks, AI, or nano-replicated idorus. I was expecting something new.

Just because it's set outside doesn't make it bad. :-)

I'll just sit here and wait for someone to call me a fanboy, I suppose.

bda.
[ Parent ]

Hey, I'm a fanboy too! (none / 0) (#201)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:30:07 PM EST

Count Zero, thank you! That's the one. Total retelling.

I haven't followed his blog - but like you, the last thing I was expecting was decks and the matrix (the one without Neo :-)

What I was expecting though was vision; PE totally lacked this. Referring to searching for background information as "Googling" isn't the Gibson I like. The ideas from his other two universes (as well as the short stories in Burning Chrome) were a lot more creative and alive. The difference between Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition feels like a parallel between Iain M. Banks and Iain Banks - from sci-fi to just fiction.

[ Parent ]

"I might buy him a coffee, but..." (none / 0) (#216)
by harb on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:18:28 PM EST

kitten and I were discussing this the other day, actually. Gibson doesn't sit down and think "I need some grand vision to write about." He sits downand thinks, "I want to write about watches and eBay."

And thus was "All Tomorrow's Parties" written.

He sees things in life, and exatropolates. Previously, he'd moved it all thirty or fourty years down the line. With PR, he did it today.

I can understand not liking the shift, but I don't agree that it wasn't good. :-)

In "No Maps", Bono asks him about the guy who wrote "Neuromancer"...

I may be misquoting, but: "He's a totally different guy. If I met him today, I might buy him a coffee, but I wouldn't lend him any money."

bda.
[ Parent ]

Extrapolation and Neuromancer (none / 0) (#405)
by jrandomhacker on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:07:38 PM EST

Gibson has commented that when he wrote _Neuromancer_ what he was really thinking about was kids in video arcades.

Here's a quote:

'If I'd actually know anything about computers, I doubt if I'd been able to do it.' He was inspired by watching kids in video arcades: 'I could see in the physical intensity of their postures how rapt these kids were. It was like one of those closed systems out of a Pynchon novel: you had this feedback loop, with photons coming off the screen into the kids' eyes, the neurons moving through their bodies, electrons moving through the computer. And these kids clearly believed in the space these games projected. Everyone who works with computers seems to develop an intuitive faith that there's some kind of actual space behind the screen.'  (interview in 'Mississippi Review' Vol 16)

[ Parent ]

*.ware (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by lurker4hire on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:55:08 AM EST

I would add Rudy Rucker to this list. He sorta covers the same type of ground as gibson and stephenson, except with way more drugs and aliens.

For maybe 10 seconds after reading white light I felt that I understood infinity. Then I blinked. Anyone know any other scifi that attempts to novelize mathematics?

Lighter books (none / 0) (#80)
by cam on Mon May 05, 2003 at 07:35:26 PM EST

Ruckers books in my opinion were pretty light in tone and story. I much preferred the depth of Egans and Vinges stories. Both those authors gave flippant shocks to the reader that the environment the story was in was alien to the reader. I recall reading Permutation City which was released not long after "Madonna's Tits" went up in Glebe. In the novel they are fixing the run down sewerage.

I used to get off the train each day at Central Station. Across from the Station was brand new salmon pink faced high rises with blue windows. In one of Egans novels, I cant recall which, one of his characters glances at the old run down "salmon and blue" high rises. Brilliant.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Meta recommendation (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by GGardner on Mon May 05, 2003 at 12:02:43 PM EST

Instead of recommending a particular author, I would recommend the two yearly "best of" SF reviews. Almost all of the authors mentioned above have been anthologized in one of these two annual collections. Reading these two books is a great way to discover new authors, or remember favorite old authors with a minimal investment (of both time and money). Gardner Dozois' yearly work, The Year's Best Science Fiction tends to be more wide ranging. Dozois' preface, summarizing the SF's previous year, in all forms of media, is worth the price of admission alone. David Hartwell's Year's Best SF 7 tends to focus more on "hard science" fiction.

Dozois (none / 0) (#162)
by p3d0 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:33:58 AM EST

I have one of Dozois' collections, and I found it pretty dull. Every story in there seems to revolve around sex.

Maybe it's just me; I don't have any interest in arbitrary characters doing arbitrary things. I want to read about insightful ideas taken to their conclusion, and how they affect people.

I bought Arthur C Clarke's collected short stories and enjoyed it immensely.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]

Try again (none / 0) (#168)
by BenJackson on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:00:49 AM EST

I have one of Dozois' collections, and I found it pretty dull.
I have seventeen of the Year's Best SF collections (and a few others also edited by Dozois, including _The Good New Stuff_ and _The Good Old Stuff_). Not every story is a winner (and after 19+ Dozois anthologies I can say for sure that my taste doesn't align perfectly with his) but the collections beat Sturgeon's Law by a wide margin.

[ Parent ]
Ok, will do. Thanks. [n/t] (none / 0) (#260)
by p3d0 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:37:42 PM EST


--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
And, for a different twist on SF (5.00 / 4) (#36)
by carlossch on Mon May 05, 2003 at 12:06:44 PM EST

Jorge Luis Borges is a must. Not the easiest read around, but if you have a chance to buy his "El Aleph" (I think the English title is The Aleph, but I'm not sure. I only have my portuguese version), do it.

It's not exactly SF, but his stories feature many interesting thought experiments, such as a story in which the main character remembered everything he ever saw, and the story that titles the book above, in which a man finds a place where he is able to see the entire universe. Very, very interesting reads.

Carlos
-- He took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots.

Online version of The Aleph (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by carlossch on Mon May 05, 2003 at 12:08:42 PM EST

here.

Carlos
-- He took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots.
[ Parent ]

JLB is great, but... (none / 0) (#151)
by Bassdust on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:44:49 AM EST

..he is not contemporay, which was what the list was about. Many of the writers mentioned in these postings owe alot to him, some even have the guts to admit it.

[ Parent ]
heh. that's what I get for missing the title [nt] (none / 0) (#230)
by carlossch on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:18:45 PM EST


"If you think big enough, you'll never have to do it." - Reisner's Rule of Conceptual Inertia
[ Parent ]
What about Dune (none / 0) (#46)
by asad on Mon May 05, 2003 at 01:07:41 PM EST

or do you consider that fantasy ?

Not "contemporary" (none / 0) (#49)
by ucblockhead on Mon May 05, 2003 at 01:50:24 PM EST

This is a review of "contemperary" authors, i.e., authors that became known in the last twenty years or so.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
preaching to the converted (none / 0) (#92)
by polyglot on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:54:35 PM EST

I don't think there are any science fiction readers here that have not heard of Dune, so there's little point in putting it in the list. I know many of the authors I've listed are well known and popular, but not to the degree Herbert is.
--
"There is no God and Dirac is his prophet"
     -- Wolfgang Pauli
‮־
[ Parent ]
Besides (none / 0) (#171)
by schrotie on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:27:26 AM EST

Dune is rather trashy.

Yes spank me, I need it :-) Of the authors mentioned in the article I only read Egan and Vinge. Compared to Dune the books of these authors are are quality literatur. Dune is what that troll comment was about.

Thorsten

[ Parent ]

Cryptonomicon - not so hot (5.00 / 5) (#53)
by Three Pi Mesons on Mon May 05, 2003 at 02:23:54 PM EST

Cryptonomicon is a real bloated mass of a book. I don't object to long books, as long as they have a reason to be long: this book just feels like Stephenson couldn't bear to leave out any of the Big Important Thoughts he'd been having for the past few years.

There's one scene where some of the "present-day" characters demonstrate the power of TEMPEST by eavesdropping on a laptop in an adjacent hotel room. It so happens to be being used to write erotic fiction. Stephenson inserts the entire story into his text. OK, it's quite funny. It also serves to flesh out the personality of one of the minor characters. But the story is never referred to again - it's just something Stephenson thought was screamingly funny, decided he simply had to put in, and his editor was too lazy or cowed to take out.

The same goes for the "wank-o-meter" graphs: funny, again, and at a moment when some light relief is needed. But did so many trees really have to die?

I hear he's writing a sequel now. Can't wait.

:: "Every problem in the world can be fixed with either flowers, or duct tape, or both." - illuzion

Cryptonomicon was kind of a letdown (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by Polverone on Mon May 05, 2003 at 03:19:27 PM EST

I picked up The Diamond Age and read it when I had never even heard of Stephenson before. I was hooked. It's still one of the best adventure books I've ever read. I wasn't as impressed by Snow Crash when I read it, partially because my expectations were higher by then, I'm sure.

Cryptonomicon seemed to go on forever and then end abruptly, from what I recall. Of course I think the other two books ending pretty suddenly too.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

For 20+ bucks, I would like to see some editing! (none / 0) (#64)
by GGardner on Mon May 05, 2003 at 03:45:05 PM EST

Yes it was long. If it is any consolation, his next book (Quicksilver), looks longer. But what got me was the sloppy editing. Not just the unformatted perl code mashed into a couple of lines. But when the book discussed why the army unit had it's particular number, and then the number changed the next time the unit was mentioned, that's just sloppy editing. Or when a major character comes back from the dead for no apparent reason. And on and on...

[ Parent ]
Number changing? (2.50 / 2) (#158)
by EMHMark3 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:11:48 AM EST

I suppose you're refering to detachement 2701. The name was changed because it was the product of two primes (73 and 37), which are themselves a permutation of two primes, 7 and 3. This sort of this would have been noticed by the enemy codebreakers, hence the namechange to detachement 2702.

T H E   M A C H I N E   S T O P S
[ Parent ]

2702 (none / 0) (#220)
by GGardner on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:36:16 PM EST


That's not quite what I'm talking about -- there is this big explanation of the significance of 2701 and 2702, then a few pages later, at least in my edition, they talk about unit 2072.  I had to stop, go back a bunch of pages, completely lose the train of thought until I realized that it was just a typo.  This was just the first of many, many obvious typos.

-greg

[ Parent ]

Go Look Again (none / 0) (#382)
by 0xA on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:50:32 AM EST

You are mistaken about the sequence. Unit name was 2701, name is significant, significant is bad, name changed to 2702.

You were not paying attention. This is probably my only gripe about this book, every once in a while you had to stop for a few minutes and think about it. You really have to _read_ this book not just casually flip through it and that's not always what I want to do.

[ Parent ]

Re: major character coming back to life (none / 0) (#404)
by jrandomhacker on Thu May 08, 2003 at 07:59:17 PM EST

I was also confused by the "major character coming back to life" until I realized that this wasn't a problem with the book at all -- and it was, in fact, a really important part of the story.

Think about it. The book is about information flow, and who knows what when.  Who knows that this major character is dead?  And how do they know it?  And how do we, the reader, know that they know it?  And what does this "knowledge" make us believe?

Then read the sequence where he dies again.

Cryptonomicon is not Stephenson's best work (_Interface_ gets my vote), but I find that it rewards multiple careful readings.  He can't write a believable character, but I find myself discovering new twists of his plot each time I revisit it.

[ Parent ]

Well then avoid David Foster Wallace (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by localroger on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:29:16 PM EST

Actually, I "got" Cryptonomicon; while it's long it is rewarding for one who is willing to spend a little thought to penetrate its secrets. Something different and interesting happens on every page and it all ties together.

As for the erotic story via TEMPEST he doesn't include the whole thing -- it is cut off as the guy running the computer says "I can't take any more" after a page and a half or so. And the insight it gives to the minor character is invaluable a few dozen pages further up.

Meanwhile GF is a big fan of David Foster Wallace and his magnum opus Infinite Jest. This is a book that makes Cryptonomicon look short and easily digestible by comparison. I have never been able to read more than 20 pages without going to sleep, and it is also festooned with several hundred pages of ostentatiously absurd footnotes which, if you don't read them, you have no hope at all of understanding the story.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Pattern and structure (none / 0) (#161)
by Three Pi Mesons on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:24:34 AM EST

It was interesting to read - I just didn't think the pieces really fit together, and a lot of it felt extraneous. I'll have to read it again!

:: "Every problem in the world can be fixed with either flowers, or duct tape, or both." - illuzion
[ Parent ]

agree (none / 0) (#126)
by Fuzzwah on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:01:22 AM EST

I just finished Cryptonomicon yesterday. It took me a few months to read, I hit the 350 page mark and my interest dropped to nil for a while. I picked it up after being assured by a friend that it all came back together and became somewhat interesting at around 500 pages.

It still wasn't a great book, but I certainly did thoroughly enjoy bits of it. Stephenson's humour really works on me, it's just a shame that it was spread a lot thinner in this book than previous works.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Stephenson is the quintessential hackers' novelist (4.66 / 3) (#133)
by randyk on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:59:09 AM EST

He gets 90 percent finished with a story, gets bored with it and then abandons it to write the next one. That's a hacker role model if there ever was one.

__


--
I love diaries like this. It's like a man who comes home to a burning house and asks the smoldering remains of his wife what he's missed. - rmg
[ Parent ]
Most of the extended bits are funny, though (none / 0) (#163)
by pw201 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:34:18 AM EST

The one thing which really grated was the whole "remote islands with their own language" bit, which was just too silly (no pun intended). Maybe it'd sound more plausibile to a US audience.

[ Parent ]
I kind of agree (3.00 / 1) (#286)
by Homburg on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:55:30 PM EST

Cryptonomicon has a lot of bad features - the misogyny (the closest thing to a genuine female character ends up being simply a receptacle for the hero's spunk, for god's sake), the complete sacrifice of plot or pacing to expounding the ideas, the interminable digressions about wanking (who could think it was a good idea to have the main character refer to his prostate as his 'hunk of burning love' on multiple occassions?), and the sheer length of the bloody thing.

On the other hand, Cryptonomicon also includes Stephenson's best exposition of the idea that animates all his books - that there is no real distinction between things and data. The Diamond Age and Snow Crash both use more or less plausible technological innovations to explore this idea. In Cryptonomicon, Stephenson points out that the real and virtual worlds existed, and were indistinguishable, in 1945.

By usual standards of literary merit, Cryptonomicon is fairly poor (easily Stephenson's worst book). But it's well worth reading for the brilliant exploration of one fascinating idea.

[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#391)
by sto0 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 09:36:41 AM EST

I've nearly finished the book, which I bought having read Snow Crash. It just seems too laboured and ``obvious'' in some places, and I always get the sneaking suspicion whenever the technical bits come up that he's just adding them in because he can.

There were a few highlights; I thought that his explaination of rotor machines using Turing's bike was quite good. It just a shame that he took it too far in other places, and its at these points when I've thought ``get on with the story!''. The concepts in the novel are an extremely strong point. I just wish he had been more subtle about getting them across to the reader.

Snow Crash, on the other hand was a far better book; not laboured, just enough technical stuff to be readable and some really incredible ideas as well.

[ Parent ]

For Those Who Liked Ender's Game (4.50 / 2) (#58)
by Juppon Gatana on Mon May 05, 2003 at 03:18:21 PM EST

I would recommend Songmaster, also by Orson Scott Card. It has a similar feel to it, but the plot is different enough that having already read Ender's Game won't make it stale. I've read just about all of Card's available books, and in my hierarchy of favorites Songmaster is just below the Ender's Game and Alvin Maker series books. Speaking of which, the Alvin Maker series (starting with Seventh Son) is a great read. OSC's website is at hatrack.com if you're interested in learning more about him or his works. I strongly disagree with his politics, but respect him greatly as a writer.

Another book that is not contemporary but still worth a mention is The Glass Bead Game or Magister Ludi (the same book -- two titles) by Hermann Hesse. It is an absolutely amazing book that is loosely science fiction; its focus is on the concepts of learning and teaching, the conflict of isolation versus reality, and unifying the various forms of knowledge and intelligence. It also deals with the evanescence of life and desire for spiritual satisfaction, as nearly all of Hesse's books do. I believe it was published in 1946, but it's just such a great work that I couldn't leave it unmentioned.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
card is also a mormon (3.66 / 3) (#70)
by zzzeek on Mon May 05, 2003 at 05:16:48 PM EST

for me, i feel his religious background and its influence on his work is important to note. not for better or worse, mind you, just to give more perspective to the man. just my 2 cents.

[ Parent ]
Yes, and it shows (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by epepke on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:47:59 AM EST

The ... of Earth series is based on the Book of Mormon


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
not recommended (none / 0) (#241)
by Sacrifice on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:31:27 PM EST

As a idle college student, I read the first 8 or so of that series (since the library kept buying them), and regretted it.  Perhaps they would seem less contrived and strained to someone who was not familiar with the Book of Mormon.  It pained me to see a good writer debase himself in some sort of misguided turd worship.

[ Parent ]
OT: Your sig (none / 0) (#169)
by mayonakahni on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:07:38 AM EST

I'm sorry, but that sig has bothered me since I first saw it. You're missing the "wo" (を)between "tsume" and "kakusu." Ask your teacher if you don't believe me.

[ Parent ]
OT: Your sig (none / 0) (#189)
by Pfft on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:37:44 AM EST

Shouldn't there be a ga between nou and aru as well?

[ Parent ]

Nope (5.00 / 1) (#205)
by Juppon Gatana on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:41:20 PM EST

Gramatically, you're right, there should be, but it's a proverbial expression, and the traditional proverb omits the ga. I thought it omitted the wo too, but I was wrong.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Oh Hey, You're Right... (none / 0) (#202)
by Juppon Gatana on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:40:06 PM EST

I always assumed that the wo was omitted, but never double-checked. I'll be damned... Guess I'll fix it tonight, when I don't have class in a few minutes.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
The use of Japanese in the Mars Trilogy (5.00 / 1) (#301)
by mayonakahni on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:41:03 AM EST

Thanks, that's much better. Being a native Japanese speaker, Japanese grammatical mistakes bug me as much as you'll probably be bothered by the poorly used "Engrish" you'll notice all over the place when you go to Kyoto. On an somewhat on-topic note, the poor Japanese in the Mars Trilogy interefered with my enjoyment of the story quite a bit. Using an adjective (sabishii) for the name of a place is very awkward at best, and made me cringe every time I saw the place mentioned. Although that's the one that comes to mind most readily, there were probably other instances of poorly used Japanese. Great reading otherwise though.

[ Parent ]
The Kanji in My Sig (none / 0) (#207)
by Juppon Gatana on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:47:48 PM EST

Is it right? A few people on k5 have told me it's incorrect, but as far as I know, the meanings match the words. I haven't learned any of these kanji yet in class, so I can only check them against my Nelson. My next year of college is going to be entirely in Kyoto, however, so that should help my character recognition a bit.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
OSC (4.66 / 3) (#69)
by Zara2 on Mon May 05, 2003 at 04:30:23 PM EST

I think this is a great article and I will be reading some of the authors you mentioned that I haven't read yet. However, your short treatment of OSC really does not do him justice. While he is best known for his "Ender" books (which the "shadow" series is better than the originals by his own admission) his real artwork comes out in several other stories. You mentioned the Homeworld series which is a re-telling of the mormon bible. The best thing that I think he has done is his "Alvin Maker" series which details a alternate history of the colinazation of America if magic actually worked. His horror books are actually scary. I would also recomend a read of a set of post-apacolyptic Mormon short stories called "Folks on the Fringe." Great stories of people coming together after the worse has happened.

Well there's my short list of OSC stuff. As a note I am not a Mormon but am a pretty big fan of his.

I agree (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by epepke on Mon May 05, 2003 at 06:47:33 PM EST

The major components of Card's writing are a deep sense of empathy and and understanding of moral struggles and ambiguity.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I used to enjoy Card's books (2.00 / 1) (#203)
by ElMiguel on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:40:22 PM EST

And then I made the mistake of reading this political article he wrote. I found it so offensive on so many levels that since then, whenever I feel like reading Card's fiction, I remember the article and do something else.

[ Parent ]
Good story, some others (4.00 / 2) (#76)
by epepke on Mon May 05, 2003 at 06:57:38 PM EST

Lucius Shepherd didn't write much, but what he wrote during the mid-to-late 1980's was very good. It was generally called "humanistic" for some reason.

Connie Willis is excellent. She's won more Nebula awards than anybody else, and she deserves them. She has enough sense to be aware of P.G. Wodehouse but also enough sense not to try to imitate him.

Tim Powers writes freaked-out literature with a fair amount of logic in it. It is not for everybody, but it is excellent for many.

Samuel R. Delaney pissed the fuck out of me by abandoning SF right after writing Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand. Bastard! But what he did write is pretty good.

Rudy Rucker can out-wig or wig-out practically anybody. Even his didactyc writings on the fourth dimension or infinity are entertaining. He's gotten a bit petulant since he's gone into recovery, though.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Powers is a lot of fun (none / 0) (#82)
by subversion on Mon May 05, 2003 at 08:38:48 PM EST

The Anubis Gate is excellent, as is Earthquake Weather (which is the combination of two seperate novels whose titles I can't remember).

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]
They both rock [n/t] (none / 0) (#101)
by epepke on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:34:52 PM EST


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Earthquake Weather (none / 0) (#149)
by zakalwe on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:39:00 AM EST

I liked The Anubis Gates and The Drawing of the Dark (the only other Powers I've read), but I completely bounced off Earthquake Weather. The Anubis Gates was fast moving, with lots of weird and wonderful stuff happening, but it all seemed to fit into a coherent whole (Provided your definition of coherent can encompass time travelling poets, evil beggar clowns and body-swapping werewolf priests of course). Earthquake Weather seemed too confused and mixed up - I couldn't really get a handle on anything before Powers started throwing in new elements.

[ Parent ]
Powers (none / 0) (#176)
by tim bissell on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:54:28 AM EST

Yep, my top SF / Fantasy books (i.e. books I have reread so often I have bought decent hardback copies) include (in no particular order)

(1) American Gods / Neil Gaiman
(2) The Drawing of the Dark / Tim Powers
(3) The Gold Coast / Kim Stanley Robinson
(4) Soldier of the Mist / Gene Wolfe
(5) Excession / Iain M. Banks
(6) The Uplift War / David Brin
(7) Cryptonomicon / Neal Stephenson

Take any of these authors, and almost all of their books are excellent.

Drawing of the Dark is (almost literally) fabulous - my second favourite fantasy after LotR - I want Peter Jackson to make the film of it!

Earthquake Weather is  the third book in a trilogy, perhaps the two earlier volumes would have helped...

[ Parent ]

Trilogys (none / 0) (#182)
by zakalwe on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:22:39 AM EST

Earthquake Weather is the third book in a trilogy, perhaps the two earlier volumes would have helped...
This is quite possible. I read the book not knowing that it was part of a series. A few chapters in, I started to wonder whether it was one, but failed to find any indication of this on the book. I should probably give it another chance some time after I read the earlier books.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (none / 0) (#235)
by subversion on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:28:21 PM EST

It's not... exactly a trilogy.

There are two earlier books - Last Call and Expiration Date.  Reading Expiration Date prior to Earthquake Weather is required; Last Call is optional.

I was thinking of Fault Lines, now that I've had a chance to look at my library, which is a single binding containing Expiration Date and Earthquake Weather.  Apparently, it's a publication by the Science Fiction Book Club, so you might not be able to find it in your local bookstore.

Dinner at Deviant's Palace is also recommended.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Drawing of the Dark? Really? (none / 0) (#417)
by Maurkov on Wed May 14, 2003 at 06:17:39 PM EST

Drawing of the Dark is (almost literally) fabulous

I read this recently, and it had very little impact on me. I very much enjoyed his Anubis Gates, thought Expiration Date was interesting, and slogged through Dinner at the Deviant's Palace. What made this one so great for you?

Maurkov

[ Parent ]
Lucius Shepard (none / 0) (#87)
by ucblockhead on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:41:31 PM EST

He's still writing. He seems to be more of a short-story writer, which is economically "bad". In fact, he's the author of the best short story I've read so far this year, and the only 9/11 rumination I've been able to stomach. ("Only Partly Here", from the March Asimovs.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Glad to hear it [n/t] (none / 0) (#102)
by epepke on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:35:33 PM EST


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
You forgot one (lesser known) by Stephenson ... (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by cafeman on Mon May 05, 2003 at 07:24:57 PM EST

Interface by "Stephen Bury". He wrote it with his uncle (or some relative) under a pen-name. It's still very much Stephenson though - it's about a political race where the secret leaders of the world get together to make sure their man wins. They hire the talents of a hacker who's designed a new technology for measuring emotions.

It's a good read - I actually bought it and read it before I knew it was Stephenson. I was always disappointed that the author hadn't written more. Many years afterwards, I found out he had, I had just read them already :)


--------------------
"No Silicon heaven? But where would all the calculators go?"


ignored rather than forgotten (none / 0) (#89)
by polyglot on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:48:16 PM EST

The copy I have has "Neal Stephenson and Frederick George" listed as the authors; while it is an interesting read (perception control and instant feedback in politics), I don't think the writing quality is quite up there with Cryptonomicon or Diamond Age let alone anywhere near Zodiac.

If you are a Stephenson completist, you'll note I've left out

  • Quicksilver, much hyped but not released
  • The Big U, his earliest IIRC; once again I've not read it
  • In the Beginning was the Command Line, because it annoyed me

/
--
"There is no God and Dirac is his prophet"
     -- Wolfgang Pauli
‮־
[ Parent ]

The Big U (none / 0) (#147)
by cafeman on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:09:21 AM EST

You didn't miss much - if you thought the endings to his other books were bad, expect the last 50% of The Big U to be worse. Seriously worse. Which was a pity, as the first 50% was pretty good. I can understand why he's said publically that he can't understand why there was such interest in a reprint, as he didn't think much of the book.

I thought you might have missed out The Command Line because it wasn't really fiction. I mentioned it because like I said, I read it back when it was under the name Stephen Bury, so I thought others might not have known. Still, I didn't think Interface was that bad. As you say, not as good as the others, but I still think it's better than a lot of what else is out there.


--------------------
"No Silicon heaven? But where would all the calculators go?"


[ Parent ]
Yeah... (none / 0) (#167)
by Ranger Rick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:56:30 AM EST

All in all Interface was only "OK", but I must say that Cy Oglethorpe is still one of my favorite Stephenson characters (along with Sangamon Taylor from Zodiac).

And at least Frederick George must be a little bit better than Stephenson at ending a story, it didn't peter out as badly as most of his books do.  =)

:wq!


[ Parent ]
The Big U had a better planned ending than Crypto (none / 0) (#264)
by georgeha on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:54:57 PM EST

I won't argue that it was over the top, but at least it's better than the:

"We have lots of gold!"

The End

That Cryptonomicon has.

Teh Big U is floating around as a text file, too, so don't bother with a real copy.

[ Parent ]

You forgot one more... (none / 0) (#275)
by drivers on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:58:49 PM EST

The Cobweb by "Stephen Bury"

(You did say "completist" didn't you?)

[ Parent ]

re: ignored rather than forgotten (none / 0) (#350)
by danceswithcrows on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:27:29 AM EST

The Big U, his earliest IIRC; once again I've not read it

It's pretty hard to find, and it suffers from first-novelitis. Still kind of neat and worth reading, though it's not as good as Snow Crash. I wish I'd read it before I started college. In fact, I think all college-bound high school science/CS people should read it, just so they know a little bit about what to expect. (Well, minus the mutant rats and remote-controlled tanks.) Drop me an e-mail if you still want to read it (mind the SPAMtrap.)

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

Write In: John Varley (5.00 / 4) (#79)
by localroger on Mon May 05, 2003 at 07:34:32 PM EST

John Varley's Eight Worlds series included a couple of anthologies and the fine novel The Ophiuchi Hotline. This is a mind-stretching future in which Earth is invaded by vastly superior aliens, the Solar System is colonized with help from another alien race who gives us technological hints, there is serial immortality through cloning and personality transfer, and some of the weirdest effects of all these things are explored.

Varley also wrote the Gaia trilogy Titan, Wizard, and Demon about a living space station like world.

Varley has recently re-entered the Eight Worlds with some longer and more character oriented books, Steel Beach and The Golden Globe. However a lot of people who liked his earlier work hate these, probably just because they are different in tone.

P.S. Re: Iaian M. Banks I don't think Feersum Endjinn is actually set in the Culture universe.

I can haz blog!

I was just about to mention him for Steel Beach (5.00 / 1) (#112)
by SamuraiJack on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:27:52 AM EST

READ THIS BOOK!

[ Parent ]
Many of these authors (5.00 / 3) (#83)
by subversion on Mon May 05, 2003 at 08:47:57 PM EST

appear in the pages of sci-fi magazines such as Asimov's, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog.

If for no other reason than the convenience of having a bunch of stories delivered to your door once a month, I recommend subscribing to a few of these (Asimov's and Analog are really the best of the bunch, by my mind).

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.

Palm (none / 0) (#88)
by ucblockhead on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:42:15 PM EST

All these magazines are available for $3.95/issue in PalmReader format from peanut press.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
I still prefer (none / 0) (#237)
by subversion on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:29:08 PM EST

my dead trees.

Well, that and I don't own a Palm.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Yeah... (none / 0) (#239)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:30:21 PM EST

But it's a pain taking ten Asimovs and SF&F with you on the train every day just in case you feel like reading short fiction on the way to work.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#245)
by subversion on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:38:00 PM EST

I have to drive to work, so I don't have that problem, but on occasions when mass transit was an option I never had a problem taking one magazine or book along.

Besides, by the time the next one comes along I've always finished the previous, so I never need more than one.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Not forgetting interzone (none / 0) (#320)
by JonDowland on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:08:52 AM EST

Not forgetting Interzone, a british effort in a more magazine format. Seems that fewer stories from IZ make it to the awards (at least this year) but I found it more approachable as a newbie to such things.

[ Parent ]
Weber (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by arthurpsmith on Mon May 05, 2003 at 10:49:29 PM EST

Great list of authors - I was in the local bookstore the other day trying to remember Vernor Vinge's name (I remembered the V, and they definitely didn't have any of his books - they were restocking apparently) - so he's definitely on my list to try to read soon. And I love the others that I've read - with Card my favorite has to be "Speaker for the Dead" - the biology is amazingly imaginative, but the treatment of the humans in it even more so. I was very impressed.

One author I thought ought to be listed here is David Weber - more "space opera" and in a military style than the harder SF - on the other hand, his approach to grand space battles is very much based on physics (with a bit of artificial anti-gravity and inertial compensation thrown in to make things interesting) and makes for some very intense battle scenes. He covers politics in a rather interesting style (which I can only interpret as British conservative) - and the central character in his famous Honor Harrington series is a woman modeled on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower; a very interesting character. Well worth reading...

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


space battles (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by polyglot on Tue May 06, 2003 at 12:10:49 AM EST

If you're into a well thought out concept of how space battles might be fought in the future, based upon technology that we can easily foresee, I point to the Night's Dawn trilogy. Amongst other things, these books have some of the most realistic (given non-existent technology) and gripping space battles I've read.

There are well defined technical capabilities and Hamilton has clearly put a lot of thought into the strategy and tactics of conducting a conflict with the weapons of his universe.
--
"There is no God and Dirac is his prophet"
     -- Wolfgang Pauli
‮־
[ Parent ]

Night's Dawn (none / 0) (#287)
by Matrix on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:41:11 PM EST

The problem with the Night's Dawn "trilogy" is that Hamilton suffers from a bad case of Robert Jordan-itis. He has far too many characters running around doing totally disconnected things, and spends far too much time focusing on the minor characters. It would - in theory - be a good way to portray a setting, and get ideas across, if he could pull it off. (He doesn't. But that's no criticism of him as a writer, because I've yet to read an author that can) I can't help but feel that he should've focused more on the main characters (Joshua, Louise, etc.) and their plot, and dropped out most of the other stuff. (the chapters and chapters about the politics of Capone and his organization, for example.) Even just from the Joshua and Louise portions, you get a good look at the human socities of his setting.


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Hamilton's Too Verbose (none / 0) (#399)
by Flave on Thu May 08, 2003 at 03:09:27 PM EST

I'd have to respectfully disagree. The grand scope of his writing, which includes the large number of story arcs, is a major part of what makes his work interesting (to me at least).

Where *I* would fault Hamilton is that his exposition is much, much too detailed. I swear, if given half a chance, I have little doubt that he is capable of describing a scene down to its component atomic structure. You can skip pages upon pages of long descriptive text and not miss a beat. In fact, I have now learned to read Hamilton precisely this way. A tad self-indulgent I think and I fault both him and his editor(s) for allowing this.

Still, I love his imagination and scope.

[ Parent ]

You sexist nerds (1.00 / 21) (#95)
by BankofAmerica ATM on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:05:31 PM EST

All your authors have had negative experiences with women, and thus portray them as weak and inferior.  Get some sunlight, you fucking goobers, see real people once in a while.  By the way, Linux is dying.
STOP PROJECT FAUSTUS!
Cute troll (none / 0) (#206)
by Gorgonzola on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:44:49 PM EST

A good troll in the sense that you can largely base it on facts. I should give you a higher score than the 0.84 you currently have. A pity though that although most SF writers are indeed pasty nerds with a malformed view on women, there are a few too many examples of the contrary on the list. Iain M. Banks for a starter has very strong female characters in his books.


--
A page a day keeps ignorance of our cultural past away, or you can do your bit for collaborative media even if you haven't anything new or insightful to say.

[ Parent ]
Kim Stanley Robinson sucks ass... (2.50 / 8) (#96)
by BankofAmerica ATM on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:13:40 PM EST


Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars are a (long) story of the colonisation, terraforming and politics of mars in the near future. Red Mars in particular manages to have a large cast of detailed characters as well as induce in the reader a sense of confronting and conquering the unknown while Green Mars focuses more on the debate of whether or not Mars should be terraformed. Blue Mars is set much further in the future, once a breathable atmosphere and a large-scale society have formed; it describes in detail the politics of such a new planet.

No, it's just a long string of shit sitting in the bowl of literature along with almost all science fiction.  In the first few pages scientists were having sex and that just proves that Kim Stanley Robinson needs cheap sex to make a really boring story drag on.  Very boring, like I said, it's menstrual-cycle drippings.
STOP PROJECT FAUSTUS!
Yes, the sex was annoyingly unnecessary (none / 0) (#99)
by tang gnat on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:30:38 PM EST

By the way, you meant to say "toilet bowl of literature", right?

[ Parent ]
heh yeah (none / 0) (#111)
by BankofAmerica ATM on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:14:16 AM EST

Drinking makes you forget things.
STOP PROJECT FAUSTUS!
[ Parent ]
Antarctica Was good. (none / 0) (#196)
by brain in a jar on Tue May 06, 2003 at 12:56:55 PM EST

Lots of good observation on how the modern world works, decent characterisation too. Though I guess some of the stuff in their could drag on a bit for non-scientists/geologists, too much detail.

Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Thanks. (none / 0) (#243)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:34:59 PM EST

I feel horrible that I wasted my golden years reading wastes of oxygen like the "Rainbow Mars" trilogy.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Riddle me this (none / 0) (#302)
by carbon on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:05:26 AM EST

For a guy that doesn't like sci-fi, you sure seem to have a read quite a bit of it, and have a lot to say about it. Reading your other posts, you seem to have read practically all the major works of science fiction, and although you hated each one, you continued reading them. What's up with that?


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Not quite. (none / 0) (#319)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:55:11 AM EST

I mis-spent my loser days of youth.

Looking back, I see that the sci-fi I read was mostly shallow, ideologically bound indoctrination. I didn't really notice and didn't really care, though, back when I was reading them.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

As opposed to mis-spending your mid-twenties... (5.00 / 1) (#383)
by rev9of8 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 06:37:15 AM EST

Blue Mars was published in 1995, so if you read it as part of your allegedly mis-spent youth then you are only in your mid-twenties at most (unless you have an interesting and novel definition unbeknownst to the rest of us).

Although it's good to see you engaging in what, to most peoples' minds, is an even more wasteful use of your time by apparently wanting to troll people. And, in a discussion of what is or represents good examples of modern sci-fi, it is reasonable to assume that the target audience of such a discussion will be those who - amazingly enough - happen to appreciate sci-fi.

Consequently, doing nothing more than simply slamming sci-fi with no constructive criticism and engaging in sweeping generalisations is staggeringly pointless.

If you have problems with sci-fi, then what are they? Elucidate upon your position. You have a problem with sci-fi being ideological?

In what fashion, it can't be because there is a common ideological position adopted by sf writers - the whole gamut of sociological and philosophical positions are represented and explored.

The only real commonality about all sf is that it explores issues that either currently affect us as a society, and are therefore contemporaneous, or may well come to affect us based upon our present knowledge base. Admittedly, these can verge on the utterly esoteric such as the consequences of interesting subsets of possibilities allowed for by m-theory, but as these are the principles which  may well govern how our universe behaves then they still have a bearing on you regardless of the degree of abstraction from effect.

Sometimes this is a fundamental apparency of the text, in other cases it is by means of allegory and metaphor (case in point - Kim Stanley Robinson uses the stark contrasts in the Martian geography/geomorphology as a thematic metaphor for the socio-politico-economic ideas he explores in the trilogy as well as exploring these issues transparently in the main narrative thread).

By contrast to Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, Alastair Reynolds explores a potential consequence of the Fermi Paradox which has significant bearing on our future development as a species and maybe even our very survival itself (ignoring for a moment that, to the first approximation, all species are extinct).

As for indoctrination, i'm deeply sceptical about your claims. It can't even be convincingly argued that sci-fi is unanimously pro-science - there is plenty of sf which is highly reactionary, anti-technology and advocating a return to archaic, retrograde pre-technology behaviour. Much of pulp sci-fi is filled with the idea of the scientist as out-of-control madman whose actions will destroy man because he refuses to remain in his station and be content with what he has.

If you have such problems with exploring or discussing sometimes complex issues with the underlying ideologies and philosophies which are mutually causative upon one another, then one has to wonder why you're wasting your time here at K5 anyway. Or, for that matter, what you particularly like - maybe you should go buy yourself a Teletubbies colour-in book and get your mummy to help you keep the crayoning between the lines? That shouldn't cause you to have to deal with too many ideas...

[ Parent ]

In a word. (none / 0) (#394)
by tkatchev on Thu May 08, 2003 at 01:22:38 PM EST

All sci-fi indeed does share a common ideological agenda. 99.9% of sci-fi is written to push the writer's ideology of englightenment materialism.

The fact that you don't notice this only means that you bought into their ideology hook, line and sinker.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

In a way... (none / 0) (#398)
by Wespee on Thu May 08, 2003 at 02:57:31 PM EST

...you may be right. In that most science fiction has been written at least in part to enrich its authors, I suppose it is pushing "enlightenment materialism". In any meaningful sense, however, you are full of horseshit.

You continually evade the meaningful (and therefore difficult) questions. Show us, for instance, how Robert Heinlein and Sheri Tepper share an ideology. How about Doris Lessing's Canopus in Argos and Robert Forward's Dragon's Egg?

You claim we have been brainwashed. Deprogram us. Show us the light.



[ Parent ]
I'm sorry. (none / 0) (#401)
by tkatchev on Thu May 08, 2003 at 04:07:25 PM EST

I don't know who Sheri Tepper is.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Moderan (none / 0) (#414)
by anonymous cowerd on Sun May 11, 2003 at 07:38:52 PM EST

99.9% of sci-fi is written to push the writer's ideology of enlightenment materialism.

True indeed. Then there's that 0.1%. Dju ever read Moderan by David Bunch? Or Ballard, Aldiss, Dick? Theirs too was all about enlightenment materialism, but at least harshly critical. Of course that's all old stuff. I haven't read any SF for ten or fifteen years. The stuff I've seen recommended lately turned out to be turbocharged Larry Niven at best, or oftener raw ideology painted with, like, massive awesome explosions and cringe-making fornication.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

obviously not your brand of science (none / 0) (#296)
by davros4269 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 11:04:39 PM EST

The books were great and dealt a lot with politics; not in corny "happy world government" kind of way, but in a realistic kind of way... It can be considered dry in parts because his brand of science is geology, obviously, and he goes into excrutiating detail about how a land form or canyon could have been formed. It's also obvious he loves Mars. But you learn a bit of geology and it adds depth to the story, a bit like Fremen culture and dry-land ecology in Dune.
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]
Write-in (4.00 / 2) (#97)
by damballah on Mon May 05, 2003 at 11:18:55 PM EST

Ursula K. Leguin. Did anybody mention her?

*******************************************
" I apologize for this long comment. I didn't have the time to make it any shorter. " - Blaise Pascal

" zombie accounts promote an unhealthy interest in the occult among our younger readers. " -

Ursula Le Guin (none / 0) (#120)
by danny on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:22:35 AM EST

Yep, Le Guin deserves a mention, though her best known science fiction novels (The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness) are outside the 20 year boundary. I own more books by Le Guin than by any other author - check out my reviews of some of them.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

The Queen of Cyberpunk! (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by morkeleb on Tue May 06, 2003 at 12:56:55 AM EST

I don't think any list would be complete without mention of Pat Cadigan,

Synners and Mindplayers

Her first novel Synners blew me away. I haven't had the same response to a cyberpunk novel since the first time I read Dr. Adder by K.W Jeter


"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
Jeter's a Punk-Ass Bitch. (none / 0) (#130)
by ti dave on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:30:35 AM EST

Hopefully, your response was to take an emergency dose of Syrup of Ipecac.

I'd like to put a bullet in your head, Ti_Dave. ~DominantParadigm
[ Parent ]

Yeah. Jeter's a bitch. (none / 0) (#148)
by jjayson on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:17:12 AM EST

Oh, my shoulder hurts. I'll take BP in a month. I'll only make $180 million over the next ten years, not nearly enough to exert myself.

*whine*moan*

What a bitch.

_______
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

Yeah, him too. (none / 0) (#150)
by ti dave on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:43:34 AM EST

K.W. Jeter owes me $20 and six missing hours of my life.

What a god-damned, corporate-shill, devil-spawn, talentless hack son-of-a-bitch.

I'd like to put a bullet in your head, Ti_Dave. ~DominantParadigm
[ Parent ]

Stole my Thunder! (none / 0) (#411)
by exile1974 on Sat May 10, 2003 at 07:04:08 PM EST

I was reading all the book add-ins and there you were with Synners, which sits on my desk with a well worn copy of "In Death Ground" David Weber/ Steve White.

Although I liked Synners more...

exile1974
"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle
[ Parent ]

another write in (4.50 / 2) (#110)
by Sikpup on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:08:20 AM EST

James P Hogan.

Best near term techno-utopia ever! (none / 0) (#113)
by michaelp on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:33:13 AM EST

In an age when few dare to write of such things.

Voyage from Yesteryear

Libertarians rejoice! All you need is benevolent robots and a colony grown from fresh embryos:-).



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Hogan (none / 0) (#211)
by nne3jxc on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:07:52 PM EST

Absolutely, James P. Hogan is, a somewhat overlooked serious sci-fi author. His Giants Trilogy, "Two Faces of Tomorrow" and "Code of the Lifemaker" are all thought-provoking, easy reads.

[ Parent ]
A great read (none / 0) (#409)
by LairBob on Fri May 09, 2003 at 04:36:58 PM EST

I wouldn't stack Hogan's intellectual pretensions or writing style against many of the folks on the list so far, but I've made an effort to read just about every one of his books. I just find he's a great, easy, enjoyable read, and invariably has an interesting, intelligent take on whatever initial premise he stakes out.

[ Parent ]
Feersum Endjinn clarification. (none / 0) (#118)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:59:52 AM EST

For what it's worth Feersum Endjinn isn't a Culture novel. And I don't think it's short - the hardcover takes up a hell of a lot of space.

WAKE THE FUCK UP (1.33 / 18) (#121)
by lester on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:35:08 AM EST

look around you. touch yourself (sexually or not, i don't care, and actually the former would make my point better; i suggest you pinch your genitals). now say: "i live in the real world, not in a fucking stereotypical late 20th century techno-worship fantasy that will look as silly in 100 years' time as those from the early 20th century look today." (and resist the temptation to cite one or two such works from 100 years ago whose memory survives, since the typical science fairy tale from back then has been thoroughly forgotten-- not to mention the actual mass of bullshit that was "science" in that day, silently replaced with today's mass of bullshit, which in 100 years' time will in turn be forgotten.)

i am alternately amused and angered by people who care so much about hypothetical scenarios about life in other planets and ages that they couldn't care to know whether there's still life in somalia. give me a fucking break.

you're being indoctrinated into a certain ideology by these books you'll certainly defend from this attack as innocent harmless fun (only to laud them when I'm not looking as examples of hard thinking about possible situations "the human race" (fucking cultural imperialists) might face because of "our" technological advance, i know). you're being indoctrinated into thinking that the world is nothing more than a web of causal relations between detached objects, that people's bodies are nothing more than machines, that their "minds" are computer programs, that computation is a phenomenon of nature, that rational inquiry solves all problems, that consciousness is a fact of the causal order of things in the world, that knowledge is context-independent, that knowledge is the ultimate good and obtaining it is always justified after the fact, etc., all the bullshit that these stories invariably presuppose.

and don't get me started on the "psychology" of the characters in stories like

So wrong, (5.00 / 1) (#129)
by monkeymind on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:59:10 AM EST

one of the main questions that I find being asked again and again in SF is "What is it to be Human?".

My question to you is "Should we also stop reading the bible as it sets up man above all other life on this planet, which we can piss on anyway, as our paternalistic God will sort everything out and do our thinking for us?"

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

That's as good a reason as any... (5.00 / 1) (#155)
by fn0rd on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:52:43 AM EST

...to stop reading the bible. Any way you can convince yourself to stop reading the bible is OK with me.

--------------------------------------------------------------
This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
Death to the fidels!

[ Parent ]
Trust me, (none / 0) (#314)
by monkeymind on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:13:22 AM EST

I don't need to be convinced.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

Well, (1.00 / 1) (#318)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:51:59 AM EST

I'm glad you already made up your mind in a nice, indoctricanted, mindless zombie-like fashion.

Free thinking roolz, xtians droolz. Yeah. Totally.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

no (none / 0) (#266)
by lester on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:00:14 PM EST

one of the main questions that I find being asked again and again in SF is "What is it to be Human?".

which is precisely the problem

[ Parent ]

Why is that a probelm? (none / 0) (#313)
by monkeymind on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:56:51 AM EST

Please instruct me.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

Obviously (4.00 / 1) (#175)
by schrotie on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:47:55 AM EST

You have no idea what you are talking about. The classics of science fiction are among the highest ranks of world literature: "1984", "Brave new World", "Clockwork Orange", "Fahrenheit 451". Sorry if I left out your favorite.

Younger science fiction of comparable quality (but probably lesser impact) was written by Stanisly Lem and the e.g. the Strugatzky brothers. And contemporary science fiction also touches very important subjects: What are the implications of AI (e.g. Greg Egan)? What about politics in a world packed with technology (e.g. Ken MacLeod)? What about crypto-technology (e.g. Neil Stevenson). What with gene technology (pick your favorite). Just because you have no clue about these subjects, does not mean they are not important. We are living in a science fiction world, but most people still apply concepts from past centuries. I actually believe the western world faces a turning point in its history and we are are turning away from freedom and liberty because people like you have no clue what is happening. Wake the fuck up. Somalia won't be safed if the current course is kept, and the course won't change if ignorants like you refuse to learn.

At least read "1984", president Bush is basically taking it and turning it into politics (hint: the book is not primarily about control over information, that's rather a side note - though an important one that the current US-administration has not forgotten).

Thorsten

[ Parent ]

wherein i quote myself (1.00 / 1) (#204)
by lester on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:41:10 PM EST

The classics of science fiction are among the highest ranks of world literature: "1984", "Brave new World", "Clockwork Orange", "Fahrenheit 451". Sorry if I left out your favorite.

and i said:

and resist the temptation to cite one or two such works from 100 years ago whose memory survives, since the typical science fairy tale from back then has been thoroughly forgotten-- not to mention the actual mass of bullshit that was "science" in that day, silently replaced with today's mass of bullshit, which in 100 years' time will in turn be forgotten.
replace "100 years" with the appropriate number and the comment applies. sure you can use hindsight and point at a couple of works that rose above the pile of bullshit but the whole fucking point i'm trying to make is about the pile of bullshit in the first place which the official ideological version of history of any endeavour erases off the map and not just in fiction and literature in general but even in that supposed prime exemplar of progress which we call science (read some kuhn goddammit)

and anyway i'm sure those works you cite are nowhere as good as you hold them to be in the balance of things

[ Parent ]

so? (none / 0) (#209)
by joshsisk on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:59:29 PM EST

So you're saying that people shouldn't try to write conjecture about the future, because there is a large chance what they write might be crappy?

Hate to break it to you : most books are crappy, whether they are sci-fi or not.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

yes (none / 0) (#214)
by lester on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:10:04 PM EST

So you're saying that people shouldn't try to write conjecture about the future, because there is a large chance what they write might be crappy?

we live in a free society. i'm off to check my horroscope which i'm sure will cheer me up much better than the horrorscope you'd put in its place (and don't point to some sf lit that paints a "bright future" without real people only the sf facsimiles thereof)

[ Parent ]

hmm. (none / 0) (#363)
by joshsisk on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:42:06 PM EST

don't point to some sf lit that paints a "bright future" without real people only the sf facsimiles thereof

I actually couldn't point you to any "sf lit", since I don't read fiction much. I probably read about 8-10 non-fiction books for each fictional one, and I couldn't tell you the last time I read a science fiction book...

However, that doesn't mean I rant against people who like to write it, or read it. Different strokes for different folks, I say. I don't see why the average Sci-Fi book is any worse than, say, the average mystery or thriller. None of it is real, after all - that's why they call it fiction.

i'm off to check my horroscope

(I think you mean horoscope.)
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

Condescending (none / 0) (#259)
by fractal on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:29:42 PM EST

"i'm sure those works you cite are nowhere as good as you hold them to be in the balance of things"

In other words, you've never read them; you don't like science fiction and you're in a snit because other people are enjoying it and or not adhering to your implied ideology.

Go read 1984 and come back when you're older.


"Towering mastodons of destruction - grotesque, weird horrendous, many stories high appear from the bowels of the Earth, from the black depths of outer space, from the murky deep."
[ Parent ]

Bullshit (none / 0) (#312)
by schrotie on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:49:06 AM EST

but the whole fucking point i'm trying to make is about the pile of bullshit in the first place
You don't read much, do you? You don't listen to music much, do you? You don't enjoy other works of art much, do you? You don't enjoy fine craft much, do you? Fine food, drink, wine, dance, computer-programs, TV, movies, games, talk ... the internet? And so on and so on.

Are you from this planet at all? If you were, you knew that 99% of everything is crap.

Look kid, if you don't even know 1984, if you - as is apparently the case - haven't even heard about it, your claims sound utterly ridiculous. You do not have the vaguest hazy idea in your badly educated mind about what kind of genre science fiction actually is. So why don't you just get lost and read up on your claims?

Thorsten

[ Parent ]

Wow... (5.00 / 2) (#178)
by Wespee on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:04:19 AM EST

Reading that comment was like watching someone pass a kidney stone--I certainly hope you feel better now.

Are you philosophically opposed to all fiction, then? Shakespeare? Dickens? So much of literature and art is concerned with other ages and milieus, if not other planets.

How about non-fiction like Newton's Principia Mathematica or The Origin of Species? Most (not all, most) science and philosophy deals with the world as "a web of causal relations between detached objects."

You're also setting up a false dilemna by making the assumption that it is not possible to enjoy Speculative Fiction (or even, gods forbid, take it seriously) and also "care to know whether there's still life in Somalia." I'm a big boy, and I can put down my book and watch the news and contribute both materially and intellectually to efforts to alleviate the suffering of other people.

There are numerous authors of speculative fiction who set out specifically to question some of the notions you find so odious. More and more folks are exploring the noösphere in Teilhard de Chardin's sense rather than a rationally delimited, mechanistic universe. No one's going to force you to read them, but I don't understand your unthinking vituperation at encountering this discussion. Surely you didn't think that your approach would enlighten or edify?

Paul



[ Parent ]
Uh hello. (none / 0) (#242)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:32:08 PM EST

Sci-fi, unlike normal "fi", carries a very heavy ideological load.

All sci-fi stories are very boorish attempts to indoctrinate our youth. Seriously.

If you don't see the all the ridiculous ideological baggage that goes into sci-fi, then you have already been indoctrinated.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Uh.... (5.00 / 1) (#253)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:01:59 PM EST

I defy you to give any ideological common points shared by Ursula Le Guin and Robert Heinlein.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Please learn to read. (none / 0) (#317)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:50:08 AM EST

After you're done with that, read the parent top-level post by lester.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

He's not trying (5.00 / 1) (#355)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:26:55 PM EST

to disprove you, he doesn't have to. His comment would seem to imply that science fiction contains a range of ideologies - so it's likely to be more of an education than an indoctrination.

[ Parent ]
Not now (none / 0) (#257)
by fractal on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:17:46 PM EST

If you're speaking of the "juvenile" science fiction of the forties and fifties, I'd have to say you're right. But it's not 1950 anymore, and the science fiction reading audience is older and more diverse.

And we're talking science fiction books here. Books to indoctrinate the young? Why, if I were going to inculcate shallow, consumerist values into the kiddies, I would do it via television.
"Towering mastodons of destruction - grotesque, weird horrendous, many stories high appear from the bowels of the Earth, from the black depths of outer space, from the murky deep."
[ Parent ]

Sir, you drool. (none / 0) (#316)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:48:23 AM EST

Remind me again where I said anything "shallow consumerism"?

Or is this some sort of reflex on your part where you automatically connect "indoctrination" and "consumerism" without thinking?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Goodness (2.00 / 1) (#396)
by fractal on Thu May 08, 2003 at 01:40:06 PM EST

but you're angry. Maybe you would be happier if you didn't spend so much energy trying to prove your superior intellect to everybody you meet.

Anyway, you are right. You didn't say anything about shallow consumerism. This doesn't change the fact that you're full of crap. If sci-fi is meant to "indoctrinate youth," it's failing miserably.
frctl


"Towering mastodons of destruction - grotesque, weird horrendous, many stories high appear from the bowels of the Earth, from the black depths of outer space, from the murky deep."
[ Parent ]

Naw. (none / 0) (#410)
by tkatchev on Sat May 10, 2003 at 05:09:48 AM EST

Judging by the groupthink on this site, it is doing a wonderfully effective job.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

OF COURSE science fiction has a message... (3.50 / 2) (#273)
by Skid on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:22:20 PM EST

... but only because all good fiction does. Hell, even horror movies have a message that, at the core, is quite moralistic. A book without some kind of point to make is merely a series of boring and meaningless ancedotes, which you may like... but I find that to be a horrible idea.
"The problem is, there's no shit... people shit, animal shit. You ought to spray everyone with shit as they walk in." - Hob Gadling, The Sandman
[ Parent ]
So what if you aren't young? (none / 0) (#321)
by JonDowland on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:14:18 AM EST

"All sci-fi stories are very boorish attempts to indoctrinate our youth. Seriously. " So what happens when people out of their youth read it?

[ Parent ]
Why ridiculous? (none / 0) (#354)
by Ward57 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:22:52 PM EST

On what points do you disagree with it?

[ Parent ]
It's a long story. (none / 0) (#360)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:24:18 PM EST

I dislike sci-fi for the same reasons I dislike communism and "dialectic materialism".

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Nice Troll! (none / 0) (#223)
by avdi on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:00:16 PM EST

unless it wasn't, in which case I'm guessing you've only managed to read one sci-fi novel in your life.

Now go back to Slashdot where you belong, with all the other kiddies who can't tell reality from fiction and project their inadequacy on the rest of the race.

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
[ Parent ]

Right over your head (none / 0) (#226)
by Dphitz on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:10:17 PM EST

You miss the point entirely of what Sci-fi is all about.  It does not indoctrinate into those things you speak of.  Much of sci-fi is a warning of where we might be headed or about some of the dumb shit the human race is doing or has done.  I could of course name a number of titles to support this but that would undoubtedly piss you off for some reason.  Maybe the meds are wearing off.  

Also, you are a pissy bastard aren't you?  Why does it bother you so much that people enjoy a little escapism in fiction?  Fucking relax.  Pinch yourself and say, "I am way too uptight.  I need to get laid and perhaps read a good sci-fi novel afterwards."  By the way, good sci-fi is timeless regardless of what the technology of the day was.  Again, I could cite titles but the aneurysm in your head might bust.


God, please save me . . . from your followers

[ Parent ]

Thanks. (none / 0) (#238)
by tkatchev on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:29:42 PM EST

You summed up nicely virtually all the problems I have with sci-fi.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

It's too late for me (none / 0) (#254)
by fractal on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:05:07 PM EST

I've already been indoctrinated, and am a slave to simple, dualistic Cartesan logic. I am indebted to you though, becuase I know you're just trying to help we who are lost in the mind-sucking fog of popular fiction, so could you tell me where Somalia is?
"Towering mastodons of destruction - grotesque, weird horrendous, many stories high appear from the bowels of the Earth, from the black depths of outer space, from the murky deep."
[ Parent ]
Interesting Question (4.00 / 1) (#331)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 07:13:34 AM EST

Ok, the above comment is obviously a troll; still, it brings up an interesting point.

My friend once asked me: why is it that people waste their time reading fiction ? Fiction (speculative and otherwise) deals with imaginary places, imaginary people, and imaginary events. My friend then argued that if he wanted to learn something, he would read history, or biographies of actual people. For example, why waste time reading about some girl who fell down a rabbit hole, when one could instead learn from the life of Napoleon ?

I am curious how the k5 community would answer this question, since I could not. In fact, the question left me almost physically stunned; I could not even imagine that someone might eschew all fiction globally. However, recently I have begun to realize that this is in fact how most people think. So... any takers ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Fiction is just another form of entertainment (none / 0) (#337)
by Dphitz on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:06:35 AM EST

And why would anyone deny themselves entertainment?  For some, entertainment comes in the form of TV, sports or movies.  For others it is reading fiction.  Maybe it's a long drawn out game of chess.  So the question should be, "why do people waste their time being entertained"?  Everyone needs entertainment in some form or antoher.  

It's not neccessarily always about learning, although fiction can be educational.  Fiction can provide for us a contextual framework for what we learn in life, perhaps see things in a new light or give us a better understanding of whatever it is we are trying to grok.


God, please save me . . . from your followers

[ Parent ]

Entertainment (none / 0) (#366)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 05:54:33 PM EST

So, you are essentially agreeing with the original point. Fiction is just entertainment; as such, it's really only a pleasant waste of time. There is no difference between reading a fiction book and, say, getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

However, later on you say

Fiction can provide for us a contextual framework for what we learn in life, perhaps see things in a new light or give us a better understanding of whatever it is we are trying to grok.
Can you elaborate on that ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
"Just" entertainment (4.00 / 1) (#376)
by zakalwe on Thu May 08, 2003 at 04:49:33 AM EST

Fiction is just entertainment; as such, it's really only a pleasant waste of time.
I don't think that necessarily follows. There are lots of things that are entertaining that still aren't wastes of time. I enjoy learning new things, so, reading even a non-fiction book may well be entertaining if its a subject I'm interested in. Entertainment covers a much wider field than ways to spend time.

That said, the primary purpose of fiction is to entertain. If it isn't enjoyable to read, it has failed. Whether the enjoyment is obtained through humour, storytelling or intellectual puzzles is irrelevant - the fact is that any information, philosophy, or message an author wishes to send can be written more concisely, exactly and unambiguously as non-fiction. The big advantage of fiction over non-fiction is that it makes people want to read it. Someone uninterested in reading huge volumes of history or philosophy will probably find the ideas fascinating when diluted in fiction. Fiction can help give us a framework for learning things because it can present it in a way that interests us, making us want to learn it.

[ Parent ]

Fiction can be both (none / 0) (#397)
by Dphitz on Thu May 08, 2003 at 02:05:00 PM EST

Entertaining and educational as well as important.  What I meant was that fictional writing can present things to us in a way that is easier to understand than say, reading from a manual or textbook.  

For example, say I wanted to learn about Taoism.  I could pick up a book about Taoism but it might seem puzzling or vague (as we Westerners usually see Eastern thought to be).  However, much of Ursula K. Le Guin's writing is heavily influenced by Taoism.  Maybe by reading her I can, in effect, see Taoism in action and more easily understand it.

Another example would be if I were to learn everything there is to know about biology, physiology, etc., IMHO it would essentially be cold and meaningless without a good dose of philosophy.  After all, what good is knowing the scientific criteria for what constitutes life if you never ponder the meaning of it?  The best writers of fiction usually involve a good deal of philosophy in their work (Heinlein, Le Guin, P.K. Dick).  Hopefully they can influence you to think deeper.  


God, please save me . . . from your followers

[ Parent ]

ok (none / 0) (#389)
by xrakk on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:45:31 AM EST

So, insted of reading Murder Mysteries, you'd expect all murderers to write explicitly about their crime, including how they got away with it for so long.

Or if some one wanted to write a mystery story they'd have to go out and steal or kill someone.

Those limitations belong to TV, lack of limitations is something that makes books so appealing.
------- "The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." - [ B. F. Skinner ]
[ Parent ]

Bad day at Bible class? (none / 0) (#385)
by rev9of8 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 07:05:11 AM EST

Because the previous few hundred years of scientific methodology, rational materialism and enlightenment philosophy clearly aren't something you seem willing to come to terms with (yet are all too prepared to take advantage of given your use of the products of said enquiry)...
that knowledge is context-independent, that knowledge is the ultimate good and obtaining it is always justified after the fact, etc., all the bullshit that these stories invariably presuppose.
How can knowledge (in, and of, itself) be context-independent and yet also take an inherent value position? Surely, it can only assume a value position when viewed in relation to its application?


[ Parent ]
! Feeding the Troll ! (none / 0) (#390)
by xrakk on Thu May 08, 2003 at 09:02:01 AM EST

The Topic was tittled "A Review of Contemporary Science Fiction", so you obviously came here to fight.  My only reply is this:

"We are told never to cross a bridge until we come to it, but this world is owned by men who have 'crossed bridges' in their imagination far ahead of the crowd." -- [ Anon ]

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." --[ Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727), Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675 ]

[ Parent ]

you know... (4.80 / 5) (#122)
by Cruel Elevator on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:43:47 AM EST

when I logged in my Slackware box yesterday, this fortune came up:

"Grownups are reluctant to take science fiction seriously, and with good reason: sci-fi is a hormonal activity, not a literary one.  Its traditional concerns are all pubescent.  Secondary sexual characteristics are everywhere, disguised.  Aliens have tentacles.  Telepathy allows you to have sex without any nasty inconvenience of touching.  Womblike spaceships provide balanced meals.  No one ever has to grow old -- body parts are replaceable, like Job's daughters, and if you're lucky you can become a robot.  As for the adult world, it's simply not there; political systems tend to be naively authoritarian (there are more lords in science fiction than on public television) and are often ruled by young boys on quests.  The most popular sci-fi book in years, Frank Herbert's Dune, sold millions of copies by combining all these themes: it ends with its adolescent hero conquering the universe while straddling a giant worm. -- Arnold Klein"

I, uh, thought it'd be wise to post it here.

Of course (none / 0) (#142)
by NotZen on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:59:45 AM EST

This the political naivety isn't really part of Iain Banks' Culture Novels, Ken Macleod's Novels or numerous other good sf works.

I've read very little SF with tentacles in it since I was 12, and the existance of spaceships, body replacements and suchlike are down to the fact that these seems like eminently reasonable predictions for the future.

[ Parent ]

Often, but not always (none / 0) (#157)
by sphealey on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:55:58 AM EST

No one ever has to grow old -- body parts are replaceable, like Job's daughters, and if you're lucky you can become a robot. As for the adult world, it's simply not there; political systems tend to be naively authoritarian
First of all, let me say that was one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. Thanks for posting it!

Second, consider that 99.5% of what you find in any part of the fiction section is junk - my local bookstore just expanded their collection of bodice-rippers from one shelf to five! That doesn't mean that none of it is good, just that most of it is not.

But finally, consider the quote above. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Larry Niven wrote a series of stories revolving around the social consequences of flawless organ transplantation. Some were set in a futuristic earth, some in space, a few on the Moon. None would qualify as prizewinning "literature", but all were amusing "stories".

But wait - just last year (2002), we read that the government of the PRC was scheduling convicts for execution to maximize the number of organs that could be harvested from their bodies. Wasn't that something that Niven discussed in his "juvenile" stories? Hmmm - perhaps there was something there after all....

sPh

[ Parent ]

Larry Niven (4.00 / 2) (#125)
by Fuzzwah on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:58:14 AM EST

Personally I'd add The Mote in God's Eye -- by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle to the list, along with it's sequel; The Gripping Hand.

Infact, there's a whole string of books by these guys I've really enjoyed; The Legacy of Heorot, and Footfall stand out.

Niven's Ringworld was also a damn good read.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

Ringworld (none / 0) (#329)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 07:01:38 AM EST

I didn't actually like Ringworld... It reminded me too much of Ian M. Banks. It's an epic, fast-paced space opera with absolutely no substance. The plot is boring, the characters are boring and flat, the ideas are not all that new either. Yes, his description of the Ringworld is cool, but that's not enough to save the book. Maybe the series improves in the sequels, though, I don't know...
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Margaret Atwood (none / 0) (#132)
by ffrinch on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:58:04 AM EST

She's not best known as a science fiction writer, but "The Handmaid's Tale" and her new book "Oryx and Crake" both fit the genre.

I haven't read the latter, but "The Handmaid's Tale" was good: it's a story about a young woman living in the United States -- a decade or so after a military coup by religious fundamentalists. It's an interesting story, though it probably would have been better without the final explanatory chapter. At any rate, she's a much better writer than a number of the authors mentioned above.

"The Blind Assassin" (that won the Booker Prize in 2001), also contains some science fiction in the form of a book-within-the-book.

-◊-
"I learned the hard way that rock music ... is a powerful demonic force controlled by Satan." — Jack Chick

Atwood (none / 0) (#268)
by janra on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:07:22 PM EST

She's not best known as a science fiction writer

She refuses to be known as a science fiction writer, you mean.

I made the mistake of reading an interview with her at the back of "Handmaid's Tale" (very good science fiction story, I agree) in which she insists that "Science fiction is filled with Martians and space travel to other planets, and things like that." and that an "extrapolation of life" and a "twist on the society we have now" is not science fiction, despite exactly that being a well-regarded sub-genre of science fiction for quite some time now.

Rather a shame, that somebody so well respected falls into the trap of "SF is crap, and this isn't crap, therefore this isn't SF."
--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]

"Books that will induce a mindfuck" (5.00 / 2) (#134)
by zakalwe on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:08:06 AM EST

Someone not mentioned yet is Michael Marshall Smith, a British author who IMHO really epitomises the above description. I've currently only read Only Forward and Spares both of which were incredibly good. His books seem a mix of cyberpunk, black comedy and horror. Here's a couple of mini-reviews:

Only Forward is hard to describe without spoilers. It starts like a post-cyberpunk comedy, reminicent of Snow Crash. Its set in The City, a vast futuristic city divided into Neighbourhoods - regions organised around various themes such as Colour (quote: "The Street Colour Co-ordinator Computer had sent me a message saying how much it had enjoyed working with my trousers."), or the Actioneers Neighbourhood, full of hyper-motivated go-getters and buildings such as "Department of Doing Things Really Quickly." Halfway through the book, it becomes something entirely different. I can't really say more without major spoilers, so I'll just say read this book now!

Spares is set in a more recognisable dystopian future. The Spares of the title are clones, there to supply a source of spare organs for the children of the rich and powerful. It tells the story of Jack Randall - a washed up ex-cop who ended up working in one of the Spares facilitys. He finally snaps, and flees with several of the spares. One of the more disappointing things was the similarity to Only Forward - many of the same devices get reused, and the characters, setting and even plot have a lot in common with Only Forward. That said, its still an excellent read.

Damn, you got there first.... (none / 0) (#144)
by Bassdust on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:00:32 AM EST

.... spent way too long compsing my post :)

Believe me if you like Mr Smith you'll love Jeff Noon.

[ Parent ]

Spares was good (none / 0) (#152)
by Gully Foyle on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:58:14 AM EST

Until it turned into Yet Another Crappy Vietnam Story.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Two More Brits (5.00 / 4) (#140)
by Bassdust on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:56:50 AM EST

A great list with some of my favourite writers in there. Here are two more British writers that fit in with these guys.

Michael Marshall Smith

"Only Forward", his first, was a fast paced "dream" detective novel in an unbelievably altered yet recognisable world. The following two, "Spares" and "One of Us", were both bought in seven figure movie deals, by Dreamworks and Warner respectively.

Jeff Noon

My personal favourite, when "Vurt" came out I was blown away, and have since had to buy four copies, because they are never returned after lending. His blending of technology, stories, culture, the mind and all the other good stuff is a heady cocktail, guaranteed to keep you coming back for more.
Although they can be read in any order I recommend them as they were written, Vurt, Pollen, Automated Alice, Nymphomation, and Needle in the Groove, with the short stories of Pixel Juice thrown in somewhere along. Enjoy

Multiple copies (none / 0) (#156)
by Gully Foyle on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:55:35 AM EST

Copies of Vurt just seem to disappear. I've had to buy at least 4 copies of it, and I still don't have one right now. I'm glad to hear it's not just me that loses them.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Walkabout copies of Vurt... (none / 0) (#381)
by rev9of8 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:33:45 AM EST

What is about people not bothering to return copies of this damn book?!?!

No other book i own goes on permanent vacation if lent out or left lying around, but Jeff Noon's beautifully realised debut tends to disappear on a disconcertingly regular basis.

Yes, i know it's good but... If you like it that much BUY YOUR OWN COPY AND STOP PILFERING MINE!!!

[ Parent ]

Another two Brits (none / 0) (#173)
by PhadeRunner on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:37:49 AM EST

Jon Courtney Grimwood

His Arabeske trilogy Pashazade, Effendi and Felaheen (third novel released this week) is an excellent near future crime series based largely in North Africa and themed around the elite ruling classes, the Beys.  The main character is an orphaned American detective who suddenly finds out he's the blood heir to the top government position of the city of Iskandryia while being accused of murder.  Also wrote redRobe, reMix, Gridlink, Mappa Mundi etc.  

Richard K. Morgan

First two novels Altered Carbon and Broken Angels are set in the far future where personality can be digitised and transferred between sleeves (bodies) containing stacks (digital personality storage and transfer devices).  The main character is a world-weary ex-Envoy, the military and diplomatic elite who are digitally deployed across the populated worlds in needlecasts (high speed interstellar data transfers) into highly bio- and tech-augmented sleeves to perform their mission.  

Both well worth a read, check them out!

[ Parent ]

Ian McDonald (none / 0) (#146)
by NotZen on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:06:52 AM EST

I highly recommend Ian McDonald's Necroville/Terminal Cafe (different names for different continents, apparently) and Chaga books.

Necroville's background plot device involves nanotech and the dead, but the actual point of the story are the personal journeys of the characters as they travel towards their yearly meeting at the Terminal Cafe.

Chagas vision of a world infected by incomprehensible alien terraforming is a bit of a mindfuck too.  Especially for those unfamilliar with Africa (where most of the book is set).

Richard Powers, David Zindell and Ballard (none / 0) (#153)
by Rylian on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:10:35 AM EST

Richard Powers - I've only read his book "Plowing the Dark", but it was excellent. Speculation on the nature of reality through some SF means and some non-SF.
David Zindell - His "Requiem for Homo Sapiens" series, beginning with "Neverness", is far too long and wordy, but is excellently mind-expanding.
J G Ballard - excellent psychological SF, particularly his short stories like "The Time Garden." Read that while listening to the album Substrata by Biosphere and you'll have your mind altered, alright  :).

I second the recommendations on Greg Egan and Stephen Baxter, although Baxter is a one-trick pony, I think. At least, he's got one good trick. Read his sequel to HG Wells' "The Time Machine", called "The Time Ships". His short stories also tend to be more varied, since the value in his fiction tends to be in the ideas, and it's more or less compulsory to have a high density of ideas in short stories.

The problem with Zindell... (none / 0) (#341)
by danceswithcrows on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:58:29 AM EST

Neverness was excellent. The Broken God, The Wild, and War in Heaven suffered in comparison. I didn't think the story he told itself was "too long and wordy", but Mallory was a much easier main character for readers to relate to than Danlo was. I got the impression that Mallory was more like a real person than an impossibly perfect bodhisattva figure. And the ending of War in Heaven... gah. The $BADGUY/Danlo confrontation was nifty; the rest of it was cringeworthy. Bad writing, forced, over-the-top symbolism. At least he kept Bardo around so at least part of it felt anchored.

I'd have to say AOL on the mind-expanding bits, though it's not hard SF by any means. Very fuzzy on a lot of things, devolving into pure mysticism in spots. Might make you think.

I must be the one of the only people so far to consider the Night's Dawn trilogy a waste of cash and paper. Most of the main characters felt like cardboard cutouts. Interesting ideas were presented, but the first book promised a lot and the sequels didn't really deliver. I'd read Illuminatus beforehand, and its descriptions of the undead Nazis sort of colored Hamilton's descriptions of his undead... I couldn't imagine them effectively after that, and they didn't seem internally consistent. The first undead released were incredibly nasty, by the third book, it was like, "Ho hum, more zombies to zap." The ending was very unsatisfying, though I liked the bits with the seahorse-critters in the immense space station near the dying star (good SF, juxtaposed with the silly "naked singularity" thing.) And the loose end with the alien observer mentioned in the first book is never tied up.

Somebody mentioned Haldeman elsewhere. I've read almost all his stuff and can report that the only things he's written that are worth reading are Forever War, Forever Peace, and There Is No Darkness. YMMV.

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

Ken MacLeod (5.00 / 2) (#159)
by vicchi on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:14:41 AM EST

Reading through this article and its' associated comments I've found myself either nodding in agreement or switching to Amazon in another browser tab to check out authors which are new to me.

One omission is that of Ken MacLeod, a British (Scottish?) author whose works are mostly set in a future where the dominant world power is the, Soviet controlled, European Union, which is in itself a nice twist from the over familiar world state stype superpower found in much of today's contemporary Sci-Fi. Novels such as "The Sky Road" and "The Stone Canal" are loosely interconnected with common themes but are self contained and eminently readable in their own right.

MacLeod's also gone down the space opera stroke multi part series route with the 3 book series "The Engines of Light", which while very readable are not, at least in my opinion, as strong as his other work.

I've picked up MacLeod's books several times in the past before finally putting cash down for one and have come to conclusion that as an author he's done great disservice by the author of the dusts jacket blurb.

But with this one exception, Ken MacLeod is keeping SciFi alive and well and with a distinctly British and European feel to it.

There are two major products that came out of Berkeley; LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be a coincidence.

Fall Revolution cycle (none / 0) (#378)
by rev9of8 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:20:31 AM EST

Agreed that the Fall Revolution cycle of The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division and The Sky Road make for excellent reading.

However, a slight correction is required to your post. The EU most definitely is not a resurgent neo-Soviet controlled entity in the Fall Revolution cycle. That's in the first part of the (incredibly weak, lacklustre and generally uninteresting) Engines of Light trilogy, Cosmonaut Keep.

The background for the start of the Fall Revolution cycle (whose final two acts are actually alternative futures following on from events in the first two novels) takes as its premise a post-Republican Britain in the mid-twenty first century which is fragmented into mini-states supposedly under the dominion of the Crown in a world where politics is engaged in via the gun barrel and conflict is an ultra-urbanised internecine affair involving mercenaries, terrorists, activists, black hat hackers, guerillas and the armies of the few remaining coherent nation-states.

All the while, the professional and conscript forces of the US/UN and their strategic weapons platforms under the form of Space Defense police over this insanity in the guise of 'peacekeeping' and the UN's anti-tech 'Men in Black' STASIS cops seek to stop any ultra-tech emerging (or the Singularity occuring) which would fatally threaten the cosy, sub-totalitarian hegemonies which rule the roost.

The cycle follows what happens as this vicious concensus collapses in the emergent presence of AIs in the data-sphere which may or may not have their own agenda up to (via the Cassini Division thread), and past, what happens when uploaded post-human, post-Singularity AIs threaten the stability of the anarcho-socialist Solar Union and the anarcho-capitalist New Mars colony (linked to our solar system by a wormhole built by the post-humans, for ends unknown, when they destroyed Ganymede...).

Oh, and Ken MacLeod is a Scot (as you thought) as well as being a good friend of Iain Banks.

[ Parent ]

Deepness obligation (5.00 / 1) (#164)
by johnny on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:39:28 AM EST

I have promised myself that I will finish reading "A Deepness in the Sky." Maybe I'll go back and start the "Fire Upon the Deep" first. While I love the ideas and ambition of the Deepness stories, the characters just seem flat, and I found the tone sentimental and cloying. As in much SF, the ideas and plot are a whole lot stronger than the people & insight into emotional reality. The prose is servicable but not scintilating.

I like Gibson mostly for the quality of the prose-- the ideas are cool, but it's that Gibson-language that really sets his work apart.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

A Fire Upon the Deep (none / 0) (#186)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:32:30 AM EST

"A Fire Upon the Deep" is a far better book.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Agreed; (none / 0) (#373)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu May 08, 2003 at 01:41:17 AM EST

It even has Internet trolls! But in this story, one of them was right all along....

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

MY suggestions (none / 0) (#165)
by Skippy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:40:23 AM EST

Steve Perry - (no, not the guy from Journey). His "Matador" series of books (The Man Who Never Missed, Matadora, and the Machiavelli Interface) have recently been republished. They are light, fast-paced space opera but the first 3 are VERY good. Similar in pace and tone to Starship Troopers.

I'll also put in a plug for Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress. Great book, though likely to annoy Objectivists. Do not read the sequels, they suck hard.

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

two authors I rarely see mentioned: (none / 0) (#166)
by speek on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:48:59 AM EST

Lois McMaster Bujold,
Nancy Kress

Bujold is simply far more readable space opera than any else you'll find. Funny, witty, intelligent, and damn good writing.

And Kress is simply a better writer than any of the others on your list. Go read her short stories. They are everywhere in the Best Of... books and in Asimov's, so they're not hard to find (every Best Of for the past 10 years has at least one, if not more, of her stories, so you don't have to look too hard).

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Late additions (none / 0) (#170)
by zerth on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:15:44 AM EST

Tad Williams "Otherland" series(I haven't finished the second book and the remaining two have magically appeared and are collectively hogging an entire shelf, the selfish bastards)

Also, perhaps a little silly, but I've got a shoddy little hand bound copy of MOPI sitting on my shelf that I'm going to have to unstring and rebind to add "The Passage Home" to as an appendix. (I was extorted 90-some bucks for "unlimited printing privileges" as a CS major so I'm making a point of it to get some use out of it before I graduate)

Rusty isn't God here, he's the pope; our God is pedantry. -- Subtillus

I gave up (none / 0) (#192)
by tezmc on Tue May 06, 2003 at 11:03:44 AM EST

I gave up on Otherland at the beginning of the third book.. I was totally into it for the first volume and part of the second... but then by the time the third came along I realised that as Tad had been signed up for a contract for 4 books, four books was what he was going to write.. even though he only had a 1.5 (or possibly 2 at a push) book length story.

It went from being a fantastic story at the start through to being just the same thing over and over again... The characters find themselves in a world based on a slightly twisted version of something that Tad saw on TV at the time he was writing it... Wizard of Oz... Warner Bros cartoon etc..

The main character (whose name I can't remember despite reading about 1000 pages or so of her adventures) then feels guilty about her brother for a bit.. and maybe she will... maybe she won't get it on with the monkey with the clicky name...

So someone might or might not die.. to try and keep the tension going... and then the group of characters move along to the next world based on something Tad saw on TV when...... etc etc.

So this would go on, over and over and over, until you get to the end of the volume and you get a tiny little revelation about the story... just in the hope of piquing your interest enough to actually get you to buy the next book...

Sorry for the rant.... but I got a little miffed at the amount of time I wasted reading two volumes of Otherland when I could have been reading something much more worthwhile and with a lot less padding.

,T
The eight legged groove machine
[ Parent ]

ebay business (none / 0) (#197)
by Suppafly on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:06:13 PM EST

(I was extorted 90-some bucks for "unlimited printing privileges" as a CS major so I'm making a point of it to get some use out of it before I graduate) Ebay business selling homemade books perhaps?
---
Playstation Sucks.
[ Parent ]
More pompous reading suggestions. (5.00 / 1) (#191)
by harb on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:55:29 AM EST

Two of my favorite series are already mentioned below: The Hyperion series, by Dan Simmons, and the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. I can't suggest either enough to anyone who enjoys science fiction.

A few books I've not seen listed:

Scott Westerfeld's "Evolution's Darling". A mix of post-cyberpunk and sci-fi, with a good deal of deviant sex thrown in. It revolves around consciousness, the soul, and transcendence. The subplots are the really interesting bits, in my opinion. Passing sentences which define Westerfeld's world and vision. He's also working on a new series, starting with "The Risen Empire", which was decent enough space opera, though rather short.

"Remix", by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. Poppy cyberpunk with a definitive Euro-flavor. He has another 'punk book out, which is apparently a pain in the ass to get, as it's taken almost a month for Amazon to dig it up, called, "Redrobe". I trust Amazon reviews about as far I can throw google's webserver cluster, so I went ahead and ordered it, though the reviews are rather lukewarm. "Remix", on the other hand, is great fun for anyone who enjoys Stephenson.

"Revelation Space", Alastair Reynolds. Excellent science fiction. There's another book, taking place in the same universe, called "Chaos City". Very fun and interesting reads for the hard scifi set. Looking forward to more.

"Metaplanetary", by Tony Daniels. I can't quite decide if this is scifi/fantasy or not. The entire solar system is connected via a giant web of super-tensile fibers, allowing train-like travel between the planets. However, the rest of the tech is also far enough advanced (personalities inhabiting multiple bodies with instanteneous communication, starships with human minds living in them, out beyond the Oort cloud, etc) that is all ends up seeming plausible. The characterizations and the revolution overplot also help aid in dispension of disbelief.

I'm only halfway through this, but "The Golden Age", by John C. Wright, is incredibly interesting thus far. Taking place 10,000 years in the future, it asks more questions about personal identity than you'll find on a livejournal. Only not stupid or annoying. I recommend it highly and look forward to the rest of the series.

And this last, not scifi in any sense of the word, but more of a horror noir detective novel: "Word Made Flesh", by Jack O'Connel. It's a bit difficult at first, to get into, but more than worth it. Can't really say more, as it's a convoluted read and I'd just end up giving something away.

bda.

Neal Stephenson (2.75 / 4) (#200)
by Gorgonzola on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:25:02 PM EST

Is a crappy writer. I am not trolling here. I have read Snow Crash and even bought Cryptonomicon, which I regret. Yes, his ideas are interesting. And yes, you keep on reading, so by that standard he is a good reader. His characters are flat and boring, the way they interact with their love interests is just flat out without any credibility. The storyline just happens to them. The twists in the plotlines tend to have deficiencies in the credibility department. Stephenson can't hold a candle to Gibson or Banks. He is just one level up from someone like Jack Vance.

And now, that is a crap writer.


--
A page a day keeps ignorance of our cultural past away, or you can do your bit for collaborative media even if you haven't anything new or insightful to say.

Nah, Cryptonomicon was gripping (none / 0) (#247)
by fractal on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:40:09 PM EST

Ambitious in scope; enormous in a good way with treatises on game theory and cryptography and too much other than should be stuffed into a novel. But this isn't a novel, it's an epic.

[ Parent ]
Stephenson hates people (none / 0) (#279)
by fantods on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:48:45 PM EST

"The Diamond Age" was engaging and interesting, but "Cryptonomicon" is *only* for people who value cryptography and Ayn-Rand-like expositions of the glories of macho geekiness over character and wit. I think Stephenson must have Asperger's syndrome or something. In "Cryptonomicon" all the characters are quirky and tortured and driven but have the emotional depth of plastic wrap.

[ Parent ]
Cryptonomicon (none / 0) (#328)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:57:39 AM EST

Cryptonomicon wasn't even a book; it was a list of security techniques. In contrast, Stephenson's other books are excellent, IMO.

But if you did not like his most popular books, I am sure you will enjoy Interface, which he wrote under the pseudonym "Stephen Bury". It's a sarcastic look at how our political system operates -- take out all the SF elements, and you will end up with our current election system. And that scares the crap out of me.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Needs to figure out how to end his books (none / 0) (#408)
by LairBob on Fri May 09, 2003 at 04:31:22 PM EST

In my opinion, as much as I've enjoyed at least the first 2/3s of any one of his books, they've all just fallen apart at the end. To my taste, not one of them had a satisfying, coherent ending that seemed like a logical extrapolation of the plot.

[ Parent ]
Some good authors (1.00 / 1) (#208)
by kaens on Tue May 06, 2003 at 01:54:34 PM EST

Some of the best scifi writers that i have ever read are :

1. Frank Herbert : Dune. Enough said.

2. Robert Heinlen(sp?) : He helped write The Mote in God's Eye, one of the most original books on first contact with alien life i have ever read. Also wrote Ringworld. Great stuff.

3. Tad Williams : Mainly a fantasy writer, but he wrote a scifi series called Otherland that was excellent.

These are some good authors. Check them out if you've got some free time.


--I surface, and I stagnate.
Larry Niven (none / 0) (#217)
by nakomus on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:30:18 PM EST

Although he wrote many other great science fiction stories, Robert Heinlien did not write The Mote in God's Eye or Ringworld. The Mote was written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Ringworld was written by Larry Niven.

I assume you are thinking of Larry Niven, who would probably be flattered to be confused with Heinlien.

[ Parent ]

oops (none / 0) (#300)
by kaens on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:35:45 AM EST

yeah i did mean Niven. Crap. I dont know why, but at the moment i could have sworn that Heinlen wrote Ringworld......jeez im a dumbass.


--I surface, and I stagnate.
[ Parent ]
Heinlein helped write Mote? (none / 0) (#218)
by wurp on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:32:55 PM EST

Mote was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (I love Niven; Pournelle is more iffy).  If Heinlein was involved somehow, I'd love to hear more about it.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]
He didn't help write it... (none / 0) (#228)
by ajdecon on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:17:59 PM EST

but he did help edit and bounced ideas with Niven and Pournelle, as well as writing the cover blurb: "Possibly the best science fiction novel I have ever read." Close to true, I think.

For a good look into the culture of science-fiction writing and fandom, from Niven's perspective (and really an essential for any Niven fan), try N-Space and Playgrounds of the Mind: short-story collections mixed with essays and blurbs from Niven (including the story behind Mote).


--
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself."
-Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Geez, (none / 0) (#219)
by SnowBlind on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:35:47 PM EST

Heinlein did not write those books, Larry Niven did.

While Heinlien does not qualify for contemporary because is very very dead, Heinlien's great books are:

Starship Trooper.
Space Cadet.
Stranger in a Strange Land.
The Puppet Masters.
Citizen of the Galaxy.
The Star Beast.
Rocket Ship Galileo
Job.

and a must read:
Expanded Universe.


All of his books are decent (Number of the Beast is the only one I could not finish.) and some are just stunning, like Stranger.
Expanded Universe is a very interesting read if only for "Solution Unacceptable" just in case you want to know just how badly we screwed up with "Atomic" weapons.


For extra credit, read some of Azimov at the same time, and think about these two having lunch at the Norfolk shipyards where they worked together.
 

There is but One Kernel, and root is His Prophet.
[ Parent ]

Heinlein (none / 0) (#240)
by fractal on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:30:24 PM EST

I think "The moon is a harsh mistress" is one of Heinlein's must-reads. And I couldn't finish "I will fear no evil." If you want to read the so-called "juveniles" try "Red Planet." The science (native mars fauna, no computers, etc.) is badly outdated, but it was the first Heinlein story I ever read, and I credit it with making me into the nerdy, friendless loser science fiction fan I am today.

[ Parent ]
ahhh, Heinlein's juvies (none / 0) (#271)
by janra on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:12:06 PM EST

I have a soft spot for those books, even though I didn't discover them until I was an adult. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favourite from his juvie collection (of which I'm trying to make a full set - only recently found Rocket Ship Galileo in a used bookstore; I've never seen it new).

Some of his later books are a bit ... odd. He sure has a flair for pulling you into a story even if there's a weak plot, though. Just look at Time Line, his first ever...


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Great Heinlen short story (5.00 / 1) (#377)
by myyth on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:02:38 AM EST

I read Heinlen a lot when I was a kid and still have a soft spot for "Time enough for love" and "Have space suit, will travel", but his writing (for me) is certainly badly dated and I find his characters, as an adult, too cartoonish. HOWEVER, I still re-read a short story of his called "By his bootstaps" - absolutely fabulous investigation into time travel paradoxes. Don't miss it !!

[ Parent ]
I can't believe it. (1.00 / 2) (#221)
by Mr Hogan on Tue May 06, 2003 at 02:41:27 PM EST

I can't believe no one mentioned Margaret Atwood - is it because she opposes the inhumane agenda gives you milquetoast science Nazis nocturnal emissions? Is it because she's a feminist? A Canadian? Writes way better than Neal Stephenson? Black?

--
Life is food and rape, then tilt.

Is Margaret Atwood really science fiction? (none / 0) (#227)
by Symmetry on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:16:23 PM EST

I must confess that the only two works by her I've seen are the movie version of the Handmaid's tale and Surfacing. The first was pretty good, and I'm sure the book was better than the movie. Unfortunatly, it wasn't really science fiction in the sense that the other books on the list are, and it could just as easily have been an alternate history. The author also bills the books he lists as that the books be interesting, gripping, etc. -- not necessarily of great "literary" value. The author also makes no claim that the list is exhautive, maybe if you kindly recomend that he try her you'll get more converts?
Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Don't assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance. And try not to assume you opponent is the ignorant one-until you can show it isn't you. -M.N. Plano
[ Parent ]
Not sure about the rest (none / 0) (#293)
by janra on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:00:48 PM EST

Handmaid's Tale definitely is SF, though. It's a classic near-future dystopia. (For some reason a religious dictatorship taking over the USA is plausible enough that it's been used fairly often...)

She does a nice job of showing how the society works, and grounds it with the narrator's memories of her life before - at the same time, showing us how fast it changed, and how a lot of people helped because they didn't know what was changing until it was too late. Very believable - and if you doubt me, keep in mind post WWII Germany and watch "The Wave" (IIRC based on a true story - a high school history teacher used Hitler's methods with only the thinnest of veils, namely a wave logo instead of the swastika, to create a group of kids who started acting frighteningly like the Hitler Youth).

People don't think about the big picture or history when they're caught up in something.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
It's definitely SF (none / 0) (#304)
by epepke on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:13:49 AM EST

The Handmaid's Tale, at least, is definitely SF. The only problem is whether it's contemporary. Like Joanna Russ and even some of John Varley's work, it's really showing its age.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Are you a typical Margaret Atwood fan? <nt> (none / 0) (#250)
by fractal on Tue May 06, 2003 at 03:47:24 PM EST


"Towering mastodons of destruction - grotesque, weird horrendous, many stories high appear from the bowels of the Earth, from the black depths of outer space, from the murky deep."
[ Parent ]
That is a question. (none / 0) (#255)
by Mr Hogan on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:10:16 PM EST

Only a typical sci-fi reader could ask.

--
Life is food and rape, then tilt.
[ Parent ]

feminism is -soo- 1990's. (1.00 / 1) (#292)
by ph0rk on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:46:07 PM EST


[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]
Uhh, Margaret Atwood isn't black. (none / 0) (#415)
by Kiscica on Sun May 11, 2003 at 11:02:21 PM EST

She's a hell of a writer though. I like her poetry.

[ Parent ]
Stanislav Lem should be in here, somewhere. n/t (none / 0) (#258)
by poopi on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:24:38 PM EST


-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." -

"Contemporary" (none / 0) (#280)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:53:53 PM EST

He's been around for a lot longer than twenty years, and so doesn't fit the author's definition of "contemporary".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Wil McCarthy (none / 0) (#261)
by Matrix on Tue May 06, 2003 at 04:42:48 PM EST

I don't believe that no-one's mentioned Wil McCarthy yet. His newest book, The Wellstone is decent, though not incredible. His previous one, The Collapsium, is amazing. Not only does he seem to have a good grasp of science, but the man can actually write, with a wit and style I've only seen matched by Lois McMaster Bujold. Never mind the fact that his books actually have a plot (instead of showcasing the author's pet theories or philosophies, as so much "hard" sci-fi does) and interesting characters.

If you can find a copy of The Collapsium, pick it up and give it a try. Sure, its not great literature, but its a damn fun read.

For Greg Bear, I recommend Moving Mars. Be very careful when picking up Bear books - his stories are either great or suck horrendously. Also be careful with Vernor Vinge - A Deepness in the Sky, especially, had a meandering, unfocused style that I could not stand.

If Moon's made the list, then Weber definitely deserves to. He's beginning to succumb to Heinlien-itis (over-emphasis on his pet political theories) instead of focusing on what he does well. (War stories)


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett

Greg Iles (none / 0) (#270)
by stormysky on Tue May 06, 2003 at 05:11:56 PM EST

Anyone here read Greg Iles?  The only book of his that could be classified as SF is probably "Mortal Fear", where a happy go lucky serial killer uses an adult BBS to stalk his victims.  I'm doing a lame summary with that sentence, but, really, it's good: Can't put it down good, at least, for me.  His other stuff is more like John Grisham, except not lawyer-centric, and actually pretty interesting.  Mortal Fear, though, the first one I read of his, just totally got me hooked. It was nice seeing an author who researched for a change and acknowledged that not everyone runs windows. :P (Read the book, you'll catch what I'm talking about).  (The 'little death' when the chick has orgasms is pretty cool too. :) )

We can face anything, except for bunnies.
SF and sci-fi (4.00 / 1) (#277)
by Skid on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:10:32 PM EST

Rather than suggest books (as all the ones I can think of have been suggested) I'd like to add there's a line of thought that draws a difference between "SF" and "sci-fi". I find it a useful distinction as to why "SF" seems to be equal to "what geeks like".

SF can be considered "speculative fiction", involving fiction that extrapolates one or more changes from reality as we know it, specifically those that alter society at large.

Science fiction is one instance of SF, specifically involving technological and scientific alterations, often ones that are plausable given current theories.

In either case, both can be "literature", whatever one chooses to mean by that. Much of it is not, but here one should remember Sturgeon's Law - 90% of sci-fi is crap, but 90% of EVERYTHING is crap.
"The problem is, there's no shit... people shit, animal shit. You ought to spray everyone with shit as they walk in." - Hob Gadling, The Sandman

a mindfuck can be nice (none / 0) (#282)
by Bobsyerunkle on Tue May 06, 2003 at 06:58:33 PM EST

As a person who enjoys a great mental mindfuck every now and then I'm really amazed that some of my more favorite mindfuckers aren't listed.

Sheri S. Tepper's book Grass once I started reading it had some truly amazing theories. She's also written many other books that have produced that same feeling of WTF???? followed by a few other choice expletives when the mind finally encompasses the scope of what she's talking about.

James Alan Gardner - anything by him is well worth the read. A little space opera, a little mystery, some crazy-ass nanites makes for a good blend

Octavia Butler - the first black woman science fiction author to win an award.

Elizabeth Hand - the Queen of the mindfuck

Mike Resnick - ahh the space opera especially Widowmaker Reborn
help I'm being repressed. Its the flaw inherent in the system - MP
Tepper (none / 0) (#283)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:05:25 PM EST

Her books around the period of "Grass" are her best. I feel she got a bit too strident in her more recent works, and her early works, while good, are juveniles. My favorites are "Sideshow", "Raising the Stones" and "Beauty", though that last one I found incredibly depressing. (Though I'll be honest and admit that I've not read her last couple.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
D'oh! (5.00 / 1) (#284)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:06:10 PM EST

Forgot the best (and most famous) one, "The Gate to Women's Country".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
total agreement (none / 0) (#330)
by Bobsyerunkle on Wed May 07, 2003 at 07:03:04 AM EST

and you are absolutely right, she did become very strident in making her point. You named my other 2 favorites, Raising the Stones, Sideshow, and The Gate to Womens country. After long silence is also pretty good. The family tree really messed with me and was a definite hallmark of her decline as a writer.
help I'm being repressed. Its the flaw inherent in the system - MP
[ Parent ]
Charles Stross (none / 0) (#285)
by soulcake duck on Tue May 06, 2003 at 07:19:36 PM EST

I haven't read a lot of him yet, but this story here whets my appetite for more. John Crowley, Avram Davison and R.A Lafferty are not exactly newcomers to the scene, but they're all very good, and under-appreciated.

Anne McCaffrey (none / 0) (#288)
by SamBC on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:50:46 PM EST

Not certain if she started recently enough for all of you, but she is a fantastic science fiction writer, with a keen eye for light-hearted and a mastery of ongoing plot arcs in her novel series.

Her main downfall in inappropriate continuations of such series - such as Skies of Pern or Freedom's Ransom. Good books, but a bridge too far...



kicking myself that I left Revelation Space off (none / 0) (#295)
by polyglot on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:45:36 PM EST

Alastair Reynolds' trilogy of Revelation Space, Chasm City and Redemption Ark should have been on the list, except I forgot to add them before submitting.

Starting with Revelation Space, it is the story of (among other, more personal things) humanity's discovery of weapons from a billion-year old war and interactions with the entities protecting the weapons. It is big-ideas SF in a similar style to Vernor Vinge - his universe has palpable age, majesty and scope to it, the concepts the story is based on are mind-bending and the characters have more depth than Vinge's.
--
"There is no God and Dirac is his prophet"
     -- Wolfgang Pauli
‮־

Agreed. (none / 0) (#297)
by LukeyBoy on Tue May 06, 2003 at 11:08:16 PM EST

Reynolds is a genius - he stylishly merges space opera and hard science fiction, I'm a total addict.  He's got two other stories out in one paperback, named Diamond Dogs and Turquoise Days.  They thankfully take place in the same amazingly-detailed universe as the first trilogy.  If you liked the rest of his work, don't pass these up.

The fourth book in the Revelation Space series is Absolution Gap... It may be out in the UK, but I'm not sure.

[ Parent ]

Absolutley (none / 0) (#368)
by anon868 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:54:04 PM EST

Quite possibly my favorite SciFi. There's another of the revelation space books coming out in October too.
Open a window. No, not that one! One made from actual glass, set in an acual wall, you dork.
[ Parent ]
separator (none / 0) (#298)
by eschatron on Tue May 06, 2003 at 11:39:58 PM EST

1) Banks had lots to say in Look to Windward. Maybe you weren't paying attention.

2) The only good book Card wrote was Ender's Game. The rest is drivel.

Speaker for the Dead (none / 0) (#327)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:51:39 AM EST

The only good book Card wrote was Ender's Game. The rest is drivel.
Hey now. I liked Speaker for the Dead, even though it's a completely different book from Ender's Game. But the rest is pretty pointless, especially Children of the Mind. That book is the Star Trek V of science fiction literature. Bleh.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
well now (none / 0) (#333)
by eschatron on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:11:13 AM EST

It's all personal opinion of course. I can't say I remember that one too well, but what I do remember is wishing that I had never read it.

[ Parent ]
Strongly disagree re "Speaker/Xenocide" (none / 0) (#407)
by LairBob on Fri May 09, 2003 at 04:25:45 PM EST

While I've got to admit--and I'd guess that just about everyone else would agree, Card fan or not--that Children of the Mind is a total disappointment, and arguably not worth the time to read, I couldn't disagree with you more on the novels that come in between.

To begin with, I think most everyone would concur that Ender's Game is a classic of modern SF. For me, though, the real accomplishment is the transformation between the first, relatively straightforward "classic SF" style and tone of the first book, and what I saw as the remarkable complexity and mature humanity in the next two books. Even though I'm not crazy about Card's personal views on religion, sexuality, etc., I thought he created a widely varied set of empathetic characters in Speaker, gave each of them a compelling and human set of strengths and flaws, and most importantly, let each character's character take them where it would.

One of the strengths I've always found in Card's books (and granted, it's a simplistic one), is that he's willing to kill off (or seriously mess up) a key character if that's what the plot requires. I find it a genuinely more compelling read when a character I care about gets into a scrape, and you know that they might just die, right then and there.

Beyond all that, though, beyond the realistic dysfunctional dynamics that Card set up within Ender's family, and the rest of the supporting characters, I thought that his treatment of the moral complexity of understanding and interacting with an alien race was one of most sensitive and nuanced ones that I've yet read. I would genuinely recommend both of those books to anyone who enjoyed Ender's Game, even if you basically have to accept it as an unfinished work. (Then again, CotM finishes open-endedly anyway, so it's not like it even does it's job of tying up the plot.)

[ Parent ]
Another couple of books... (none / 0) (#310)
by jefu on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:03:19 AM EST

Someone mentioned Dan Simmons. While his more recent work ("Darwin's Blade") has been pretty inconsequential, his earlier work - including the Hyperion series and a couple of horror novels - is well worth reading. One particularly noteworthy work of his is "Song of Kali" - which I read about three years ago and remember quite clearly still. I can't think of any good way to describe it except that I want to reread it, but am not sure I'm ready to. And that should be taken as a compliment.

Sherri S. Tepper is also worth a look. Some of her stuff is predictable and she usually tries to end her books with a bang - that too often fizzles. But she has the kind of good ideas that attract me to science fiction in general and does a very good job with her characters.

But the best thing I've read recently was the first part of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series - which is fantasy. Still, if you've not tasted it, its well worth a read (all three volumes so far at 900+ pages per volume).

Feersum Endjinn (5.00 / 2) (#311)
by bjornfr on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:05:34 AM EST

That's not a speech impediment. That's a Scottish accent.

California Trilogy (none / 0) (#322)
by JonDowland on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:23:17 AM EST

Just to clarify: the california trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson are not three tales of an alternate post-apocalyptic California. One is a post-apocalysm, one is a dystopia and one a utopia.

C.J.Cherryh (none / 0) (#323)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:30:49 AM EST

Her SF stuff is really good; I would consider it to be in the best traditions of "hard SF", which are rarely followed nowadays. Cyteen especially is a great book -- it is hard SF, mindfuck and social commentary all at once. I liked it because it strings you along with its evil little schemes. The character you are introduced to in the beginning is a cold, calculating monster. And yet, as the book progresses, you find yourself empathizing with her... understanding her... even liking her... until finally you endorse the same decisions she does. And then, it hits you: now, you are the monster.

Her other novels, such as Hellburner (part of Devil to the Belt compilation) and Downbelow Station let you see the world from the other perspective (Sol vs. the Union described in Cyteen). If you read Cyteen, you realize that the characters of Sol are right... It's either us or them. There can be no truce.

All in all, these books are nearly perfect, and everyone should read them. Before I run intervention on you.
>|<*:=

Homeworld, Wheelworld, Starworld (none / 0) (#324)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:36:10 AM EST

An excellent trilogy by Harry Harrison. It is written somewhat differently from his usual style, which makes it even better. It's a story about extrasolar colonization, rebellion, ingenuity, and linear accelerators. What else might one want ?
>|<*:=
Firestar (none / 0) (#325)
by bugmaster on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:43:47 AM EST

Another great series of books is the Firestar series by Michael Flynn. The first book, Firestar simply blew my mind when I read it. The book shows a practical, realistic way of finally getting humanity into space, starting with our current world -- not a mystical land of pink unicorns and antigravity. And the book does this by presenting a compelling story, told Rashomon-style from the point of view of many characters. Each character feels like a real human being -- in other words, these are fully developed individuals, not mouthpieces for the author's ideas (a trap that so many writers fall into nowadays). The book also happens to be virtually impossible to put down -- I think it actually cost me a full letter grade level in college.

Regrettably, I'd have to say that the sequels do not measure up to the original (though they come very close). Still, I have read very few books with the sheer realism and intensity of Firestar; for example, the previously recommended "*World" trilogy does not even come close. Perhaps my opinion is a bit biased because I always wanted the events described in Firestar to come true... I desperately want the Planks (SSTO vehicles) to become commonplace, even though I realize that the chances of it happening are slim.
>|<*:=

Joe Haldeman (4.00 / 1) (#326)
by freaek on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:49:04 AM EST

I realise Forever War is over the 20 year cutoff, but he has done some more stuff more recently :) I finished The Coming not long ago, thought it was orrite, but too short, I ate it up! I also read Forever Free, and found it was good, but the ending... I dunno, I feel it was lacking.. something. I'd like to read 1968 next http://home.earthlink.net/~haldeman/ is his homepage btw

Forever War (4.00 / 1) (#364)
by nne3jxc on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:50:18 PM EST

I agree -- I would put the Forever War in my Top 3 best science fiction novels of all time.

[ Parent ]
Peter F. Hamilton (none / 0) (#332)
by Eivind on Wed May 07, 2003 at 07:42:07 AM EST

(minor spoiler alert !)

I agree with you that Hamilton writes good entertaining space-opera. The Nigths Dawn trilogy is something like 4000 pages thick, but it never gets boring, it has a fascinating universe, some interesting (if stereotypical!) characters and many neat ideas.

What he however do, not to save his life, is write a decent ending. in Hamiltons books, the story ends in the last 10 pages. In those 10 pages everything is made ok. I mean *everything*. Even the *bad* guy gets (his version of) heaven for crying out loud. And the explanation given for all this ? A main character has met God. He talked to God, told him how he'd like stuff, and God made it happen. Really. Yes, the "God" is typically a "powerful alien", but it migth aswell have said God.

This is most obviosu in Nigths Dawn, but all his books suffer from it to varying degrees. The Nano Flower for example, has a nearly identical ending. (powerful alien found -- talked to -- powerful alien makes everything ok.)

True but.... (none / 0) (#413)
by Liet on Sat May 10, 2003 at 10:31:28 PM EST

even if it was a lame ending it wasn't terrible and if he hadn't used it he would have had to written another 3000+ page book to finish off. That series was one of my favorite sci-fi reads ever. Also the ending in Fallen Dragon was very good and kept you thinking for a while after you put the book down.

[ Parent ]
Agreed... (none / 0) (#422)
by Stunt on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 04:22:49 PM EST

The ending was too short. I reread it 3 times in order to get let it feel as if the ending was longer (stupid sentence, i know.). But then again, i don't have any suggestions on how to improve it. Maybe he got tired.

[ Parent ]
For the true mindfuck... (4.33 / 3) (#334)
by c4miles on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:43:53 AM EST

Try Philip K Dick. The long stories are hit and miss, albeit excellent in places. The short stories collections, OTOH, are mindblowing. Existential questions figure largely, as do alternate realities, parallel universes, and coping with the unimaginable. The movies that have been based on his work show these themes in varying degrees of quality:

Screamers
Minority Report
Blade Runner
Total Recall

Of course, for the novel that screws with your head, dumps it in a trashcan and then locks it in a screaming vat of penguins, read The Illuminatus Trilogy (Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea). Genius wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a straitjacket.


--
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Good PKD: (5.00 / 1) (#347)
by Jetifi on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:21:21 AM EST

OK, PKD isn't contemporary, and "A Scanner Darkly" is only half-sci fi.

For anyone who hasn't read it, it's about identity and addiction, and it's easily the best work of his I've read yet. The dedication at the end is mind-numbing.



[ Parent ]
Agree with non-contemporaneity (none / 0) (#351)
by c4miles on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:43:03 AM EST

Although he was still publishing into the early 80's.

Haven't read A Scanner Darkly. Thanks for the tip.
--
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
[ Parent ]

A Scanner Darkly (none / 0) (#353)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:48:33 AM EST

"A Scanner Darkly" isn't really sci-fi at all, but Dick had been ghettoized in the sci-fi genre, so he had to shove in a couple technological marvels in to get the label.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
I don't know... (none / 0) (#384)
by Jetifi on Thu May 08, 2003 at 06:57:19 AM EST

I agree that the premise, focus etc. of the book what you'd call typical sci-fi.

I think the scrambler suit was an important plot device. Having said that, so were the wall-screens from 1984. It depends on where you draw the boundaries, which is where thigs get subjective. Oh well :-)



[ Parent ]
Aargh, bad spelling etc. (none / 0) (#402)
by Jetifi on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:49:43 PM EST

So ''the premise, focus etc. of the book is not what you'd call typical sci-fi'', is what I meant to say, and ''thigs'' should be ''things''. Me? Incoherent? mumblemumblemumble!



[ Parent ]
More Dick (none / 0) (#372)
by sgoldgaber on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:57:03 PM EST

BladeRunner is, of course, a classic sci-fi movie. In fact, it's one the most influential contemporary sci-fi movies since it was released in the early 80's. Impressively, it is also heads and shoulders over the book it was based on, PKD's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", which is one of Dick's minor works.

Total Recall is also excellent sci-fi, and quite true to the short story it was based on. Although, the story carried the premise even further than the film.

Minority Report was pretty awful, and Screamers was even worse. The short stories they were based on were alright. Minority Report, the story, is really an exercise in convoluted logic, and not an action movie with pretenses at drama. Interestingly enough, both Screamers and The Terminator (more losely) were based on the same short story, "Second Variety", with The Terminator obviously doing a far better job.

Dark City and The Matrix were also pretty heavily Dickian. Though, again, Dick is really not concerned with writing action, but with exploring questions of reality, human nature, life and death. But, I guess Hollywood wouldn't be Hollywood without somehow working in sappy love stories and a chase scenes.

For less well-known Dickian films, check out Philip K. Dick Hollywood. Of those, I can heartily recommend Jacob's Ladder, Stalker, and The Game.

As far as PKD's books, you have a whole lot to choose from. He got paid very, very little for what he wrote while he was alive, contributing in no small part to making him very prolific. To start off, you can't go wrong by reading these:

Ubik
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
Martian Time-Slip

If you're interested in finding out more, the Everything2 entry on Dick is a good place ot start.

--Sergey

[ Parent ]

More Dick flicks (none / 0) (#374)
by epepke on Thu May 08, 2003 at 02:09:03 AM EST

Impostor. Kind of disappointing.

Barjo. A truly delightful and largely faithful rendering of Confessions of a Crap Artist, except that it's French and set in France rather than California.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I don't like Gibson and Neal Stephenson (none / 0) (#361)
by darthaya on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:02:18 PM EST

I find their books are a little bit difficult to read, and not so interesting to attract my attention.

But it is just me. :)

That's the point of Gibson (none / 0) (#379)
by myyth on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:21:06 AM EST

Whenever I loan my well worn copy of Neuromancer to someone, the first thing they say is "but, its so hard to read !!". For me, that's the whole attraction of Gibson. He manages to pack 10 ideas into the space most writers are battling to fit one. I always tell them to battle on ... it gets easier as you go along. PS The workings of the invisible car in the latest Bond flick was, for me, lifted from the clothes worn by the "Panther Moderns" in Neuromancer.

[ Parent ]
Another really good author is Charles Sheffield (4.00 / 1) (#369)
by Bwah on Wed May 07, 2003 at 07:42:55 PM EST

One of my favorite quotes from him (about writing SF) is that if you remove the science from the story and there still is a story then it's not SF.

Between the Strokes of Night is the only book I have ever read that explores interstellar travel in a mode that does not include faster-than-light capability. GoodShit(tm). Highly recomended.

Heh ... I forgot I had that sig on there till I previewed. How freaking appropriate ...

--
To redesign an infinite ensemble of universes: what terrible responsibility, what arrogance ... It sounds just like the type of thing your average Homo sap would do for a dare. -- Stephen Baxter

The Book Of The New Sun (5.00 / 1) (#380)
by Severian67 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:29:29 AM EST

No-one has mentioned Gene Wolfe's "Book Of The New Sun", which I consider to be a masterpiece. Superficially, it might appear to be a fantasy epic (and hence outside the scope of the specified SF remit stated on the article header), but all of the fantasy tropes which appear in the books are plausibly explained in the context of the far-future decaying Earth in which (most of) the story is set and many hard-SF themes and conventions are also featured. The degree to which Wolfe layered his tale with references to literature, myth and religion, and the subtle hints at certain facts behind the events which befall the main protagonist and narrator, mean that the reader can come back to the story time after time and discover aspects which escaped his/her attention on previous readings. It should be noted, however, that, although it is often implied whenever these books are reprinted ("The Shadow Of The Torturer", "The Claw Of The Conciliator", "The Sword Of The Lictor" & "The Citadel Of The Autarch"), that they represent a finished series, the fact is that a full appreciation of the story is not really possible without a reading of the little-mentioned separate volume, "The Urth Of The New Sun". That one completes the series.
An entertaining conceit of the books is that Gene Wolfe does not utilise a single "made-up" word in the entire story cycle (quite unusual in SF circles), but instead uses archaic words from Latin, old French and other sources to identify the things he describes. Part of the fun in reading it is tracking down the definitions of words such as: analept, autarch, cacogen, carnifex, cultelarii, dimarchi, fuligin, peltast, zoanthrope and many others.
I apologise for subjecting you all to this lecture, but these books are something of an obsession with me. :) Not least amongst Wolfe's achievements in writing them is that he manages to create a protagonist who (at the beginning of the tale, anyway) is a torturer and later takes part in more than one act of cannibalism, and nevertheless makes him (IMO) an extremely sympathetic and engaging character. Go out and find these books. You owe it to yourself. :)

Another write-in. (none / 0) (#388)
by claudius on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:34:49 AM EST

Ken Wharton, Divine Intervention and a number of short stories in Analog.  Ken (I guess he's Professor Ken now) writes what could be termed "hard" science fiction.  I knew Ken in grad school, but don't hold that against him.  He tells a great story, doesn't invoke Space Opera silliness when in a tight corner (Orson Scott Card anyone?), and has a provocative angle on many of the tenets of modern physics and religion often taken for granted.  

Two Good Recent Ones I've Read (none / 0) (#393)
by JLester on Thu May 08, 2003 at 12:51:00 PM EST

Octavia Butler - Lilith's Brood = A collection of three separate books detailing how a (very) alien race saved some humans during a global nuclear war.  They wake up Lilith first and use her to prepare other humans to meet the very frightening race.  The aliens reproduce by incorporating the DNA of other races in their own.

Mary Doria Russell - The Sparrow and Children of God = Music is heard coming from a not too distant star.  While politicians struggle over whether to start a mission, the Jesuits actually send someone.  The store of what they found is very remarkable.  Children of God continues The Sparrow's story and ties up lots of loose ends.

First contact stories have always been my favorite.  Reading author's descriptions of different alien races is very interesting.  The two races above are both good along with Niven/Pournelle's Moties and the inteliigent lupines and spiders in Vinge's stories.

Jason

New SF author to watch: John C. Wright (none / 0) (#406)
by mike2050us on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:10:39 PM EST

I just finished his first novel _The Golden Age_ (2002) which is a far-future tale of mind-bending scope. It's also an incomplete story which is continued in _Phoenix Exultant_ (just published spring 2003). Wright's story is deeply psychological, but the psyche being explored is that of a man in the year 10,000 A.D. (or thereabouts) when people routinely augment their minds through intelligence augmentation, conscious control of remotely operated synthetic bodies, uploading (temporary or permanent), sense filtering, consulting with servant AI's, and even designing their own mind children offspring. And that's just the bare background to this complex tale. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Mike2050us
Robert Silverberg (none / 0) (#412)
by Liet on Sat May 10, 2003 at 10:28:41 PM EST

has written some great sci-fi and also some great fantasy (even if thats off topic) so check him out.

Tip for reading Feersum Enjinn by Iain M Banks (none / 0) (#416)
by moon on Tue May 13, 2003 at 05:51:44 AM EST

The narrator does not have a speech impediment - try forming the words into a scottish accent as it's written fonetyk alli with that in mind. Use of Weapons is a great mindfuk story - definitely his best work. His early non-SF stuff is very like Kafka.

Stephen R. Donaldson - Remember him? (none / 0) (#418)
by FDuvall on Fri May 16, 2003 at 01:13:48 PM EST

Stephen R. Donaldson wrote the Thomas Covenant series (Fantasy) back in the 70-80's, which many found tedious. In the 80-90's, he wrote the Gap series, and it blew me away. Incredible space opera, with ties to Wagners Ring cycle. The intrigue, the betrayals and the pain that many of the characters experience (physical and moral), made this a gripping story for me. There is one caveat to enjoying this series. The first book is not very good. It can get graphic and it is not too well written. It is short, however, and sets up the rest of the 4-5 (long) books. Check the Amazon reviews or do a Google search if you want more opinions, but I loved this series.

Donaldson (none / 0) (#420)
by B'Trey on Sun May 18, 2003 at 03:08:49 PM EST

I strongly agree with your opinion of the series, although I didn't find the first book any less well written than the others. Donaldson's writing is dense but I personaly wouldn't describe it as "tedius." It certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea.

[ Parent ]
Robert Forward for hard SF (none / 0) (#419)
by Wood Owl on Fri May 16, 2003 at 03:21:44 PM EST

Scientist Robert Forward has written some excellent hard SF such as Dragon's Egg and Starquake about life on a neutron star, the Roscheworld series, Camalot 30K, and Saturn Rukh, among others.
- "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."
Literature (4.00 / 1) (#421)
by tneff on Wed May 21, 2003 at 09:50:06 PM EST

Those who believe that great SF cannot (or should not) be great literature understand neither SF nor literature.

A Review of Contemporary Science Fiction | 422 comments (372 topical, 50 editorial, 0 hidden)
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