Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category
You can read “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” over at Tor.com, and really, you should. It’s a quick story, but that doesn’t really matter, because you’ll be hooked right away. But you might want to read it at home, with tissues handy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Such a beautiful, but painful story to read. On a happy note, I got a kick out of the nods to a The Wizard of Oz, which gave the story an ethereal, almost nostalgic feeling. A little funny to read a scifi story about a Mars colony, and getting a feeling of nostalgia! But that’s all that is funny about it. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” has a gravitas to it, a maturity, a wordless something I don’t often get to see in science fiction. It’s about a husband and a wife who love each other, who want to help each other, and they both understand one of them is dying.
It was nice to read a speculative fiction piece that stars an aging woman. We get male characters of all ages, teens, young men, 20s, adults, retired guys. But those female characters always seem to be in that nineteen to thirty two sweet spot – old enough to kick some ass, but not, like, old. And Elma York? She’s old. She’s retired. No one recognizes her anymore. Her body is not taught, her back is hunched, her arms and legs jiggle. But she still dreams of flying. Back in the 1950s, Elma was known as The Lady Astronaut of Mars. But that was thirty years ago. Now, living on Mars, Elma has a new life. Yes, she still keeps in shape as best she can, yes, she keeps up with the physicals and the tests, anything to keep her name on the active list of astronauts, but she knows she’s not going anywhere. She’s retired. Her dreams haven’t changed, but her priorities have.
Elma’s in good health, but her husband Nathaniel, his health is failing rapidly. Their life rotates around his medication schedule, when the nurse visits, how his tests come back, when the doctor expects the paralysis to set in. There are some undignified moments, but Kowal lays their story bare, gives us everything. Because that’s love, you know? It’s in sickness and in health, for better for worse. Signing up for love means signing up for everything. You know those stories that after you read them, you suddenly find yourself across the room, holding your partner’s hand, and they when they ask if everything is ok you tell them you love them? This is that story.
In case you ever need to talk me into doing something, the magic words are Iain M. Banks.
Kamo over at This Is How She Fight Start is organizing a read along of Banks’ Inversions for later this month. Join Kamo, Two Dudes in an Attic, and myself, as we convince the rest of the universe that Iain M Banks was the best thing to ever happen to said universe. Because you’ll be joining us, tweet Kamo or comment on his announcement and let him know you want the deets. Come on, it’ll be fun!
The first sentence of the Wikipedia for Inversions page states
Banks has said “Inversions was an attempt to write a Culture novel that wasn’t.”
I didn’t scroll down any further, didn’t want spoilers.
I’m only about 50 pages in so far, and at least twice I have already audibly exclaimed “damn I love you Banks” while reading. If I don’t respond to tweets or e-mails for the next 24 hours, this book is why.
people have been posting Vintage SciFi reviews and discussions all over the place! While I’m battling airport traffic today, you should enjoy these links to Vintage SciFi goodness all over the blogopshere! it’s like a giftbox of chocolate truffles. where do I start? with the caramel? with the white chocolate? with that sparkly one?
Found a link I missed? Post it in the comments and I’ll update the list as soon as I can.
Howling Frog Books offers up a selection of reviews, including Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clark, We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick.
Sheila Williams has a heartfelt editorial in Asimov’s about remembering Frederik Pohl
My Readers Block reviews Dangerous Visions #3, edited by Harlan Ellison and including short stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard, and more, and Angels and Spaceships by Fredric Brown
Lynn’s Book Blog reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
50 Year Project reviews The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Genre-Bending discusses The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
I can always count on Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations for Vintage goodies. In the past week he’s posted an extensive cover art gallery, and a review of A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire by Michael Bishop.
AQ’s Reviews discusses Marooned on Mars by Lester Del Rey
I Read Therefore I Am discusses The Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham
Today’s guest post is from Kamo, who blogs at this is how she fight start. If that’s not an alluring enough blog name for you, Kamo posts about speculative fiction, life in Japan, and food with a quippy wry style.
The Future Was Now, by Kamo
“Vintage Science Fiction.” There’s an oxymoron right there.
In my day job I teach English to Japanese high school students. At night I don a sentient suit of armour (with cape) and deal out vigilante justice to the scum of the city in a psychologically disastrous attempt to displace my raging alcoholism and avenge the death of my parents at the hands of Big Mo’s henchmen when I was naught but a child. But I’ve been asked to write about Science Fiction here so I’m going to talk about the day job instead.
In addition to the linguistic aspects of English teaching, there are also certain cultural considerations that accompany the role. As such, I’m expected to be something of an ambassador for the entire Rest of the World. Me. This is hilarious.
I am patently unsuited to many roles, but perhaps none more so than Ambassador of the World (Ambassador OF THE NIGHT, maybe). But I’m getting paid real money for this so I may as well give it a go, eh? Thus we watch a lot of dvds and clips I’ve ripped off youtube. This year my students have been subjected to Jane Eyre (the BBC TV adaptation), Mad Men (the AMC mega-phenomenon), and The Matrix (the movie, singular. There is only one Matrix movie).
In preparation for their final presentations I’ve also shown them a couple of famous speeches: Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech (obvs) and JFK’s speech at Rice University launching the Apollo programme. I must have watched the same clips about fifty times by now, and the part that still surprises me is when JFK poses the question, “Why, 35 years ago, did we fly the Atlantic?” Thirty-five years ago. The speech was made in 1962. We are now further away from Armstrong’s moon landing than Armstrong was from Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight.
Let’s all just take a moment to consider that.
Thanks to the amazing organization skills of Rinn over at Rinn Reads, we’re right in the heart of Science Fiction Month. And I’ve noticed something. Something wonderful: lots of folks who are participating in SciFi Month are completely new to science fiction.
This is fantastic! That so many people who have never picked up a science fiction book are interested in giving some weird stuff a try, it warms my heart. Getting into science fiction isn’t always easy. Strange names, alien planets, technobabble, far future technologies. . . it can be a bit much. Luckily, there are plenty (countless, actually) of “gate way” books, books that take place right now, or maybe a few years in the future, or even a few years in past. Books that don’t leave the solar system, maybe don’t even leave the Earth. You don’t need to be fluent in technobabble or have a degree in astronomy to enjoy these. You just need to turn the first page. . .
to help you on your journey into scifi, I’ve linked the titles to my reviews. If you have any suggestions for other gateway books, let everyone know in the comments!
American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett – After her parent’s death, Mona inherits her Mom’s old house in a sleepy town in the southwest. It’s one of those old fashioned towns, where everyone knows everyone else, and the oldsters remember all the family secrets. there are family secrets, and then there are Family Secrets. How will Mona react when she learns her own?
In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. I love Kage Baker, it’s as simple as that. This novel is the first of her Company Series. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you won’t feel sucked into reading another long series. Mendoza is an operative with a company that collects historical artifacts, and they’ve turned her into an immortal cyborg, of sorts. She spies on people, but can’t tell anyone who or what she is. Really sucks, when she falls in love with someone on her first mission. This book is as heartbreaking as it is funny. By the way, I’ve got a review of some Kage Baker Company short stories that’ll be posting in a few days.
published in 2012
where I got it: Hugo Voter’s Packet
The umpteeth entry in her famous Vorkosigan saga, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance takes place very late in the Vorkisigan chronology, in fact, we only briefly meet the famous Miles Vorkosigan, and he’s semi-retired and chasing toddlers. Never read a Vorkosigan novel, or only read the first one? Have no fear, you really jump in (or back in) at this one. Bujold does her world building in my favorite way – through interactions between characters. Relatives and friends show up from time to time to let everyone know how things are going back home, which also lets the reader know about “back home”, and how it fits into the chronology. There’s no infodumping, just characters have an easy going and often inadvertenly funny conversation.
Right off the bat we meet Ivan Vorpatril, and his buddy Byerly Vorrutyer. These young men are effectively rich wastrels – extra heirs in a hierarchical militaristic society. They have wealthy parents, a title, and maybe some inheritance, but no one expects much from them because they’re so far down the line from the throne. Ivan spends his free time chasing women and promising his mother he’ll settle down one day, and Byerly uses his reputation as an idiot cad to his advantage in his career. It’s easy to think at first that these two playboys are exactly what they seem.
Ivan does a favor for Byerly, and ends up tied to a chair in a beautiful woman’s apartment, while the real kidnappers are breaking through the window. The beautiful woman, Tej, happens to be the on-the-run daughter of a deposed Major House of Jackson’s Whole, a planet on the other side of the wormhole.
In a last ditch effort to protect her from the local authorities, Ivan offers her instant entry into High Vor society, via becoming his wife (in name only of course, with a promise of a divorce once he’s seen her safely to her destination). A few hastily spoken sentences later, and poof: Tej is now Lady Vorpatril. She’s only know Ivan a few hours, but he seems earnest in that he’s just interested in helping her. And besides, if he tries anything (which he swears he won’t), Tej’s blue skinned companion will beat the shit out of him.
I don’t think I can afford to buy any more books until the end of the summer! Also, reviews have been light recently because I’m up to my eyeballs in epic The Diviner, by Melanie Rawn. ignore it’s hokey cover art, and go read this right now because it is amazing. Review will show up eventually, I’ve got to finish it first!
but, there’s New Stuff!
A Stranger in Olondria was recommended to me by my friend at the bookseller. The debut novel from Sofia Samatar from Small Beer Press, it never hurts to support new authors and small presses. the cover art? eh, bleh.
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay – after a long discussion with the other half last night about how Kay’s writing has evolved over the years, we decided that even though neither of us were in love with Under Heaven, we should give the pseudo-sequel, River of Stars a try.
New to me stuff! (because I can’t resist a used bookstore!)
Yes, I know the Doctor Who novelizations are kinda hokey. BUT I DON”T CARE I LOVE THEM!
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding – I remember hearing a ton about this when it came out, time to give it a shot.
Kushiel’s Dart by Jaqueline Carey. When 99% of the blogging world is saying this book is a must read, who am I to pass on it?
It’s almost January, and you know what that means!
well, besides THIS of course, January means it’s time for the 2013 Science Fiction Experience over at Stainless Steel Droppings! The SFE runs January and February, and Carl does a beautiful job with artwork and articles and link lists. If you’re not familiar with his blog, get your rear-end over there and check it out. His is THE PLACE when it comes to friendly and in depth discussions of speculative fiction.
there’s even banners and badges and goodies like that!
Also, on a very slightly related note, is a fascinating experiment happening over at Teresa Frohock‘s blog (Yes! that Theresa Frohock, author of Miserere!). A handful of authors have provided writing samples written under a pseudonym, and your job is to figure out if the sample was written by a man or a woman. Truly, go check this out.
Meanwhile, I have already broken my Vintage Scifi intend-to-read list by reading and listening to stuff that’s not even on there.
or, random thoughts on hard science fiction.
How hard is too hard? How much science do you really want in your science fiction? According to wikipedia, hard scifi is defined as
“a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both.”
It goes on to say that hard scifi should have accurate science and lots of scientific details. To simplify greatly, in hard scifi the science is an important part of the worldbuilding. the soft scifi story says they boarded a ship and went to another planet, the hard scifi story offers information regarding the type and design of the ship, how it manages to travel faster than light, and what it’s fuel is made of, and all of these details are important to plot development and characterization.
I’ve always had a soft spot for hard scifi because I love knowing how things work. Doesn’t matter if the author mentions elements or fuels or technology that doesn’t currently exist (that’s the fiction part), because I’m still getting a plausable scientific foundation for the technologies mentioned. Many books that I’d categorize as hard scifi can easily fall into other categories as well – space opera, military scifi, first contact, etc.
Titles that come to mind when I think hard scifi include Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, Faith, by John Love, Clockwork Rocket, by Greg Egan, and plenty of Peter Watts, Gregory Benford, Larry Niven and A.E. Van Vogt. It’s the type of stuff where accurate science trumps all, and it’s usually pretty damn awesome.
as readers and fans of hard scifi, how hard do we really want it?
I bring this up because I recently survived Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan. Egan is a bit of a mystery man, and this was my first taste of his style. Egan dumps his reader on an alien planet (sounds good so far!), and the story mostly follows a scientist who learns of the danger her planet is it (still sounds great!). The physics work a little different in this solar system (sweet!) so we get all sorts of charts (cool, i guess) and academic discussions (when did I sign up for SCI302 Astrophysics II?) about the physics and how basically time and light and spacetime is completely different here. And then there are more charts, to put everything in 4 dimensions, more academic discussions (when did I sign up for SCI515 Non-real Relativity??), and then, well, I started to feel a bit stupid. What happened to the cool aliens and interesting plot?
If the heavy science in the book bores me to tears, can I still call myself a fan of hard scifi?
I freely admit I’m not the smartest person in the world, I’ve always loved math and science, even if it didn’t love me back. But when a hard scifi book makes me feel like I flunked 10th grade geometry, the hard scifi just got too hard for me.