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== Books 2 -- Science Fiction ==

by,

Martha Adams

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Science fiction is an imaginative, useful, and commonly misunderstood literature whose beginnings go far back in history. This annotated listing of science fiction books does not treat that history nor the many discussions of it. (But if you want to follow that side track, the works of John Clute are a good starting point.)

This node outlines (incompletely) a narrowly defined part of a very large field. It lists several books offering insights to the character and potential of humans in space. Be reminded, 1) science fiction is speculative and visionary. It is not predictive. It's entertainment -- for a readership more bright and open minded than the mundane average. The writer's objective is to get paid for his work, not to forecast a future that is expected to happen. A story's development from its initial conditions must proceed rationally (else it's bad fiction) and it implies a well constructed imaginary universe the reader can enter. But it's not reality nor an attempt to construct an (external) reality.

Expectably, 2) science fiction is usually very knowledge based. Newspapers seem to like printing crazy stuff about science fiction conventions (they do it to sell more copies). But if you attend one, you should not be surprised to find yourself looking at a panel of all PhD's exchanging views with a knowledgeable and constructively verbal audience.


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[] John W. Campbell, The Moon Is Hell. 1951.

This book reads, to me, like it was written in the middle 1930's. The story has to do with the first lunar settlers. Campbell's engineering background from MIT is very visible here. This background is central to the story.

When I read this book, I came out with a question. Yes: mining in solid rock seems a very good approach to starting an off-Terra base and settlement. However. After a multi millions years meteors bombardment, some of it much heavier than we see today, is there in fact any usefully unfractured and solid rock remaining in our Solar System's planetary surfaces? Like Terra's Luna? Or even in smaller bodies like Diemos and Phobos orbiting Mars? ??


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[] Robert Heinlein, The Man Who Sold The Moon. About 1949.

Delos David Harriman is one of my favorite story characters. (For a glimpse into Heinlein's mind, research the name and compare what you find against the story in which he appears.)

This book is a prequel to Heinlein's story Requiem (1939). In this book, Heinlein pictures access to space as a challenge rooted in available money. It was a new idea at the time.

See also by Heinlein: The Roads Must Roll (1940); Methuselah's Children (1941); And He Built a Crooked House (1941).


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[] Robert L. Forward, Dragon's Egg (1980) and Starquake (1985).

If you had not yet noticed that anywhere else is greatly different from your local Terran experience, Forward will help you stretch the limits of your perceptions.

Forward's two books assume life on a neutron star's surface: the gravity is 67 billion times our local norm; the temperature about 8200 K; the magnetic field about a trillion gauss; rotation about 5/second. Life cannot exist in such a place ...can it? What's more, Forward brings people into the story. How does he do that? See Forward's books, and his technical discussion at the end of each of them.

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[] Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1993); Green Mars (1994); Blue Mars (1996).


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"Science fiction" is a much maligned and misunderstood form of literature. Some who study mundane writings and call themselves critics, say it's not literature at all. That thinking is not helpful here. In fact, science fiction and its siamese twin, fantasy, are essential to our future for they offer unmatched resources for thinking about that future. It's a critical detail for anyone who begins in their later years to read science fiction, to remind themselves that for knowledgeable readers, 1) science fiction and fantasy are visionary not predictive; 2) all fiction happens in imaginary universes; and 3) most writers, most of the time, write to get paid for it. There's more on these and related topics elsewhere in Adra.


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