So we’re coming to the end of the year, and I’m about to take a break from the blog until January. Lots of good things planned for the New Year, but I need to recharge my batteries a little. (It has been a hell of a year in so many ways; I suspect we’ll all be glad to see the back of 2016.) But before I go, I thought I’d leave you with a little reading for the holidays.
Let’s start with a quick tour around the world, because quite frankly science fiction is getting everywhere these days. So we start with Iraq, and this article which talks about a new anthology, Iraq + 100, in which 10 Iraqi writers use science fiction to imagine the future for their war-torn country.
Then, in his on-going series on 100 African writers of science fiction and fantasy, Geoff Ryman introduces a bunch of writers based in Britain. It’s an impressive and intriguing list, including Nick Wood, author of Azanian Bridges, and Tade Thompson, author of Rosewater, which are two of the more interesting sf novels published during 2016.
Moving on to India, there’s this article about two rather different stars of Indian science fiction, Jayant Narlikar, scientist and author of The Return of Vaman, and Vandana Singh, author of the collection The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet.
For a more conventional (essentially Anglo-American) view of science fiction, there’s this list of sf books that changed the genre. Anyone who has been reading this blog with any attention will know that I’ve got no problems with any of the books on the list, but it does seem rather limited. Where’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which by some accounts actually started the genre, or E.E. Smith’s The Skylark of Space which single-handedly created the most successful sub-genre, space opera? Where are the books that opened up science fiction to the mainstream (or vice versa) like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow? Where’s Philip K. Dick or John Brunner, for heaven’s sake? In other words, this is an unexceptional list of some fairly decent sf books, but it’s hardly genre changing.
You’ll find more radical work in the things these women were writing at a time when sf by women really didn’t get the respect it deserved, and when conventions could still, straightfacedly, stage panels like this on “Women in SF”. This particular panel was at MidAmericon in 1976, and it features some really stellar names, including Kate Wilhelm, author of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, and Suzy McKee Charnas, author of Walk to the End of the World, as well as Susan Wood, Marta Randall and Amanda Bankier.
Talking about radical sf, here’s an interesting piece about how Ted Chiang’s intellectually challenging and supposedly unfilmable story, “Story of your Life“, was turned into the brilliant and popular film Arrival. (Encouragingly, Arrival was directed by Denis Villeneuve, who has also directed the Bladerunner sequel due next year; well, encouraging for those of us who wonder whether we even need a sequel to Bladerunner.)
And while we’re on the subject of the intellectually challenging, ever wondered if real life could possibly match up to the wilder ideas of science fiction? Well, consider “The Case Against Reality“, and it may be difficult to look at the world around us in quite the same way again.
Another challenge to a science fictional view of the world is this piece from the New Yorker which considers whether true artificial intelligence, if it is realized, might pose a danger that exceeds every previous threat from technology.
Fortunately, there are more positive, or at least more exciting science stories out there. Here’s a bunch I’ve noticed:
- A possible ninth planet may be the reason for a tilt in our solar system
- Scientists confirm a structural similarity between our cells and neutron stars
- The speed of light may not be constant
- And there’s evidence of quantum distortion in empty space
And if all of that isn’t enough to stimulate the mind with wonderful new sf stories, how about coming face-to-face with some of these aliens who are actually living among us. These remarkable creatures were all caught by a Russian fisherman, and I can imagine more than a few horror stories emerging from this lot.
Well, that’s it for this year. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, and I’ll see you again in the New Year.
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.