sechilds + books:science_fiction   32

Armada by Ernest Cline: Follow-up to Ready Player One, reviewed.
Indeed, after Zack blasts off to join the Earth Defense Alliance, he explains how he feels again and again not by telling us, but by referencing the experiences of main characters from better versions of this story: “I felt like Luke Skywalker surveying a hangar full of A-, Y- and X-Wing Fighters just before the Battle of Yavin. Geek culture has long been preoccupied with trivia; the ability to recognize and make references to games, movies, and TV shows beloved within various “geeky” subcultures is often considered an in-group badge of honor, a signifier of credibility and even power. On more than one occasion, soldiers salute each other en route to world-ending battles by solemnly swearing that “the Force” will be with them, and one character flies to his supposedly tragic and moving death while screaming quotes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . In one revealing moment, Zack calls his mom in midst of the alien invasion and says the words that burn in the heart of every gamer who has ever felt demeaned for the hours they lavish on their favorite hobby: “All those years I spent playing videogames weren't wasted after all, eh?” Advertisement And familiar: Ready Player One , the novel that launched Cline's career, was a sci-fi adventure about teenagers cavorting through a futuristic virtual reality world where the limitless creative possibilities of the digital universe were oddly laser-focused on 1980s pop culture references.
movies  books:science_fiction 
july 2017 by sechilds
N. Cat on Twitter: The kvothe thing is included because I'm still mad at an entirely different set of books!!
@naricat: The kvothe thing is included because I'm still mad at an entirely different set of books!!
books:science_fiction  books:fantasy 
july 2017 by sechilds
The Man in the High Castle: Morality Versus Reality
I reread The Man in the High Castle last week. This is one of those books I’ve always read too quickly. Honestly, I’m trying to stick to new fiction, but the book kept peering out at me from deep inside the stack. Now that it’s closed again, better-read that it’s ever been (my first reading was when I was a teenager, when I used to skip school and spend all day at the library — yeah, I was that lame at truancy). I know why I wanted it. It’s about false reality as a moral hazard. That’s easy enough to attach to a bunch of Dick’s later books, but this one’s different in that it takes aim at the literary-cultural construction of reality.

I’m going to mostly assume that you’ve read the book (if not, read it!). But I’ll let you cheat with Wikipedia and a short summary. The book takes place decades after the Axis won the Second World War. Japan and Germany have split up the US and brutalized the West’s former colonial possessions (well, brutalized them more). Alt-history what-ifs aren’t the point, however. On the West Coast, various characters navigate through a world shaped by the conquest, but not through the usual stories of insurgency or righting the wrongs of an “off track” world. In various ways, art (including a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which spins an alt-alt-history where the Allies won) inspires characters to find an escape from their stagnant, immoral world into authentic lives, “off the map” of the false history.

In some ways, this makes it the opposite of VALIS and Dick’s exegesis-related writing. In those works, reality is the Black Iron Prison that sets us apart from truth situated in the Logos — the Word. We can’t see the real universe, but it’s out there: true, benevolent, and manifest in a text. The Man in the High Castle isn’t as confident; characters bounce between the false narratives they generate about themselves, and alternatives represented by the book-in-a-book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Dick could have taken the easy way, and made that book an account of our world, but it isn’t — it posits a US-UK cold war, for example. It isn’t real either.

Understand that in this book, everyone’s creating their own histories, just like us. We live with the illusion that history is made and compiled for us because we privilege text over experience — the Bible taught us that, even if we don’t believe it. But the strategies used to produce stories for texts aren’t the same as our experiences. They organize themselves by theme and structure. Stories have arcs. Lives don’t, unless we choose to impose them. And because we’re either People of the Book or have had our lives influenced by them, we tend to account for ourselves in relation to big, privileged texts — histories, pop culture, all that crap. In some ways, this is inevitable, but unconscious participation turns our real experience into a kind of unwilling dream, separate from the true reality, and ultimately imposed from without. When we’re truly immersed, I think we’re experiencing something like Baudrillard’s hyperreality: a veneer of epic ideas and hypnotic images painted upon what really exists.

In The Man in the High Castle, hyperreality goes about kicking everyone’s ass. For antiques dealer Robert Childan and artisan Frank Frink, the imposed dream tells them that American history is essentially over. The Japanese elite only care about prewar kitsch. The desire to see America represented as a collection of old artifacts is a powerful, arbitrary one, so Frink and his co-workers manufacture fakes to prop up the demand. For Tagomi and Baynes/Wegener, their triumphal cultures provide the illusion of a thousand-year stasis, but they both know that this is drawing them into an apocalyptic shift — Gotterdammerung is the only story left. Juliana Frink has the advantage of an unstable subject position. She lives in the buffer area between Japanese and German possessions, sliding between cultures as a single woman and judo instructor. She’s already aware of the world’s inauthentic nature because it isn’t really designed for her.

(Racism is a large part of the book’s false reality. Even when characters resist political dominion, they structure their responses according to Nazi race doctrines. Childan use racism as a performance because he believes it’ll help him socially, but also resorts to it reflexively to frame his resentment for a Japanese couple he befriends. Unfortunately, the book also contains a chunk of period-typical racism as well.)

So in large and small ways, the characters escape the stories they selected for themselves. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy confirms Juliana’s intuitive doubt, and when she finally meets its author she learns that in some ways, he’s a fake too — a Bohemian who pretends to live in a fortress. Frank Frink creates new American art that is somehow more than a continuation of the past, affecting Childan, Tagomi and others. This art is imbued with the Tao — the mysterious true reality in the book’s scheme. Before that, characters look at the Tao through the I Ching, but are usually so caught up in their fake lives that they don’t understand what it’s telling them.

Aligning themselves with the Tao requires morale choices. Tagomi and Juliana kill secret police for the right reasons, but also work out their actions as moral problems. Juliana confronts Abendsen and Tagomi mourns, and consider’s Frank Frink’s jewellery. Frink’s work inspires Childan to live authentically, instead of aping the elite’s desires. These actions complete their oracles, and crack the false stories around them.

The Tao is mysterious, however, and doesn’t give them new structures to live in. It isn’t a text, or an alternative hyperreality. They end the book adrift, but mostly in the right.
books:science_fiction  Phillip_K_Dick  tv:man_in_the_high_castle  science_fiction:alternative_history  from instapaper
august 2012 by sechilds
Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books : NPR
More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. Over on NPR's pop culture blog, Monkey See, you can find one fan's thoughts on how the list shaped up, get our experts' take, and have the chance to share your own.

A quick word about what's here, and what's not: Our panel of experts reviewed hundreds of the most popular nominations and tossed out those that didn't fit the survey's criteria (after — we assure you — much passionate, thoughtful, gleefully nerdy discussion). You'll notice there are no young adult or horror books on this list, but sit tight, dear reader, we're saving those genres for summers yet to come.

So, at last, here are your favorite science-fiction and fantasy novels. (And a printable version, to take with you to the bookstore.)
books:science_fiction  books:fantasy 
march 2012 by sechilds
The books of 'Among Others'
The main character of Jo Walton's fantastic novel 'Among Others' reads a lot of books. I was going to make a list of them, but a pinboard is much more fun. This board should be all the books mentioned by name in the novel. If I missed anything, let me know!
march 2012 by sechilds
Life With and Without Animated Ducks: The Future Is Gender Distributed
One of the things that has frustrated me about science fiction is that technology pertaining to the smaller aspects of our lives is often neglected in favor of big giant rockets and exotic weaponry. Birth control seems non-existent and childbirth is still rocking the stirrups. And the home is at best not mentioned much. One of the things that "the future," when we use that word as a metonymy for an idealized world in which machines solve all our problems, is supposed to do for us is give us time. Relieve us from work that is repetitive or unpleasant and allow us the sheer, simple hours in the day to do more. And yet, by far the biggest time sink going is the need to clean our habitats, prepare food and clothing, and maintain our environments. For those who have always had the, dare I say, privilege of ignoring that work, you simply cannot imagine how much time it takes to do all that and then turn around and do it again, often multiple times a day if there are offspring at play. Despite the fact that we here in the first world are supposed to have leveled up our gender equality stat, women still perform the majority of this labor, often in addition to a full shift outside the home. Fully automating this activity would free humanity on a scale that even the most awesome BFG can't even begin to contemplate.
gender  Japan  science_fiction  books:science_fiction  from instapaper
february 2012 by sechilds
Lauren Beukes – interviewed by Bruce Sterling
In the first of our interviews with Webstock ’12 speakers, we asked Bruce Sterling to interview Lauren Beukes. Lauren was excited enough about this to tweet with the hashtag #AlsoholyshitBruceSterlingisinterviewingme.

Here’s the interview. Thanks to both Lauren and Bruce.

Bruce: Since you’re a South African writer from Cape Town, you must get all those South African Writer cliche’ questions from your many foreign interviewers. Why don’t you tell us about a few of those? You don’t have to actually answer them.

Lauren: Ha, actually no-one’s really made a big deal about that. Or not unreasonably so. They usually ask me about other South African writers, which means I get to list my favourites (some of whom are friends). Best stuff I’ve read lately: Siphiwo Mahala’s wonderful African Delights, Deon Meyer’s edge-of-your-seat thriller, 13 Hours, Diane Awerbuck’s Cabin Fever, full of perfectly beautiful and fractured short stories and SL Grey’s incredibly disturbing consumer horror, The Mall.
Lauren_Beukes  Moxyland  Zoo_City  books:science_fiction  from instapaper
december 2011 by sechilds
Do you have April Fool’s Day in the United States? In England and Australia April 1st is a day in which practical jokes and whimsical tricks are traditionally carried out. On April 1st, 1992, I was exhausted writing theme entries for the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, and my brain was hurting. A possible theme that had been suggested was ALIEN ARTEFACTS, but it was April Fool’s Day and I decided purely for my own entertainment, and aware that John Clute might well be cross if he found out, that it would be appropriate to write a joke entry as a prank. I would pretend that a phrase of Roz Kaveney’s that I’d always liked, but which was not in general use, was actually a known critical term. I decided that I would write ALIEN ARTEFACTS but call it BIG DUMB OBJECTS, and write in a poker-faced style, suggesting an even more absurd critical term to be used in its place, “megalotropic sf”.
But the joke was on me, because as I came to write the entry, I realized that the subject– which was vast alien enigmatic artefacts–was at the heart of what attracted people to science fiction. And even stranger, I realized that no matter what literary shortcomings you found in Big Dumb Object sf–and believe me, there are plenty–that Big Dumb Object stories were often successful, that even if badly written they were usually good to read. Why?
books:science_fiction  from instapaper
november 2011 by sechilds
Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination. - Slate Magazine
On Margaret Atwood's new book, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination

Now, with her new work of literary criticism, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, Atwood continues to be my sci-fi guide. In Other Worlds is a meditative love letter to science fiction, a scrapbook of decades’ work and passion for this divisive genre. Atwood recollects her early reading years, full of unsophisticated novels of space and superheroes; her work in and eventual abandonment of a Ph.D. thesis “The English Metaphorical Romance,” which explored fantasy at a time when it was an ill-regarded genre; her philosophical motivations in writing her speculative novels The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Atwood also shares a handful of older essays on science fiction, from Nineteen Eighty-Four to Never Let Me Go to the work of Ursula K. Le Guin. We also are treated to a cheerfully scolding open letter to a school district that banned The Handmaid’s Tale, ruling it “offensive to Christians.” (“[W]hy are some Christians so quick to see themselves in this mirror?” she asks. The ban has since been overturned.) She ties up In Other Worlds with five short works of her own sci-fi, including one gleaned from her book The Robber Bride. In Other Worlds even contains some illustrations from Atwood, like a kidney surgeon-cum-superhero.
books:science_fiction  Margaret_Atwood  from twitter
october 2011 by sechilds
Freedom (TM)
Suarez, Daniel. Freedom™. New York: Signet, 2010. ISBN 978-0-451-23189-5.
You'll see this book described as the sequel to the author's breakthrough first novel Daemon (August 2010), but in fact this is the second half of a long novel which happened to be published in two volumes. As such, if you pick up this book without having read Daemon, you will have absolutely no idea what is going on, who the characters are, and why they are motivated to do the things they do. There is little or no effort to fill in the back story or bring the reader up to speed. So read Daemon first, then this book, ideally not too long afterward so the story will remain fresh in your mind. Since that's the way the author treats these two books, I'm going to take the same liberty and assume you've read my review of Daemon to establish the context for these remarks.
The last two decades have demonstrated, again and again, just how disruptive ubiquitous computing and broadband data networks can be to long-established and deeply entrenched industries such as book publishing and distribution, music recording and retailing, newspapers, legacy broadcast media, domestic customer service call centres, travel agencies, and a host of other businesses which have seen their traditional business models supplanted by something faster, more efficient, and with global reach. In this book the author explores the question of whether the fundamental governance and economic system of the last century may be next domino to fall, rendered impotent and obsolete and swept away by a fundamentally new way of doing things, impossible to imagine in the pre-wired world, based on the principles used in massively multiplayer online game engines and social networks.

Of course, governments and multinational corporations are not going to go gently into the night, and the Daemon (a distributed mesh networked game engine connected to the real world) and its minions on the “darknet” demonstrate the ruthlessness of a machine intelligence when threatened, which results in any number of scenes just begging to be brought to the big screen. In essence, the Daemon is creating a new operating system for humans, allowing them to interact in ways less rigid, more decentralised and resilient, and less hierarchical than the institutions they inherited from an era when goods and information travelled no faster than a horse.
Daemon  Daniel_Suarez  books:science_fiction 
january 2011 by sechilds
Monsters and Manuals: Science Fiction Illiteracy
There's been a bit of talk about Inception lately, on the film review show I regularly tune into, since it set out its "films of the year" list for 2010. Naturally Inception features highly on that list, and I think it would be hard to dispute that it was definitely one of the best films in a pretty forgettable year for cinema.

But what everybody - reviewers, fans calling in, and the film's participants - seems to talk about is something that I can't relate to at all; the supposed difficulty of following the plot. Now, I'll grant you that Inception has a more convoluted plot than most films. I guess if all you're used to watching is Marley and Me and Transformers 2, it might have been a minor shock to the system. But really, to anybody who has done any reading of Gibson, Zelazny, Wolfe or even Alastair Reynolds, it should present any sort of challenge at all - par for the course, really.

Though aye, there's the rub - ordinary cinema audiences and, perhaps more critically, supposedly well-educated intellectual film reviewers, are not science fiction literate. They aren't used to following a relatively complex plot while also keeping track of new information and concepts that require them to stretch their imagination in any way. When presented with something just a little bit mind-bending they find it very difficult to handle and they shut down into "Crikey, does not compute, pass the popcorn" mode.

It's at times like these that I find myself succumbing to the arrogance of the snobbish geek. Join me in wallowing in it.
january 2011 by sechilds
Jason Sanford: I promised myself I wouldn't rant, but then...
I promised myself I'd cut back on my outrage at humanity. After all, it's so easy to get outraged these days. In fact, everyone's doing it. Outrage seems to be the de facto normal state for people in today's world.

So I promised myself I'd let all that go. Simply focus on my fiction writing. Finish running this year's Million Writers Award.

But then I read Norman Spinrad's latest On Books column "Third World Worlds" in the April/May 2010 Asimov's. So many statements in this review made me want to throw the magazine across the room that, in the end, for my own sanity I had to rant.

For example, Spinrad says, "With the exception of the Japanese, I at least, am at a loss to point to any science fiction that I know of that has evolved independently in non-European languages or cultures disconnected there from."

Right off my head I can name a few: Juntree Siriboonrod, the "father of Thai science fiction." Or how about Rimi B. Chatterjee of India, or perhaps more well known in SF circles
march 2010 by sechilds
Greg Egan's Home Page
I am a science fiction author and computer programmer. This site contains:
information, illustrations and applets to supplement some of my work;
a bibliography;
links to works online (including twenty-two free stories);
the Foundations series of introductory science articles;
some more technical science notes;
links to related sites;
an applets gallery;
side-bar and full-screen site maps.
imported  books:science_fiction 
september 2007 by sechilds

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