Science fiction recommendations?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brad Porter, Jan 9, 2003.

  1. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    I'm interested in some recommendations for science fiction books, movies, television series, graphics novels, etc. Not so fast... I have some rules.
    If the fiction violates any generally accepted modern day scientific principles and theories, it had better offer a damn good hypothesis/explanation for how the phenomena occurs. In other words, I'm not interested in the fiction if it merely posits that something is possible without supporting it. I am especially interested in the fiction if it does offer credible supporting explanations for violations of current scientific principles and theories. Even more interesting to me would be fiction addressing the development of new technology which is reliant upon a new understanding of the metaphysics of the universe. Examples of violations are:
    a. faster than light travel of matter, energy or information (including wormholes)
    b. anti-gravity/anti-inertia devices
    c. causality paradoxes
    d. failure to conserve mass/energy
    e. interactions between multiple universes/dimensions
    f. "supernatural" powers (unpowered flight, psychic powers, telekinesis, etc.)
    g. "ghosts in the machine" - proposals of intrinsic properties of deterministic processes/mechanisms which exist independent of or are not produced by those processes/mechanisms.
    The way I see it, this elimates the Star Wars universe (hyperspace and "The Force"), the Star Trek universe (warp drives, inertial dampers, transporters, etc.), Superman and most of his super friends, The Terminator and its sequels, Minority Report (the Pre-Cogs), a majority of The X-Files episodes, and many, many other very popular stories.
    Two subject matter areas which I am particularly interested in are human space exploration and travel and the development of and interaction with artificial intelligence.
    Can anyone come up with any good examples, particularly ones which are not mainstream or that most people are unlikely to be familiar with?
    Brad
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Most SF authors and readers would recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. as the finest-ever SF novel ever written. So would I.

    Also...

    More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
    Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
    Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
    Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
    Gateway by Frederick Pohl
    Tau Zero by Poul Anderson
    • the first three Foundation volumes by Isaac Asimov
    Universe by Robert A. Heinlein
    City by Clifford D. Simak
    The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
    The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber
    The Planet Buyer by Cordwainer Smith
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
    Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg

    ...and more when I wake up.
     
  3. ChuckDeLa

    ChuckDeLa Cinematographer

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    Sounds like you need some Foundation by Asimov. It's "mainstream" in that any serious SF fan is familiar with it, but most people outside hardcore SF circles have never heard of it. Read all his robots works while you're at it... they kind of tie in with Foundation.
    There are various recommended "reading orders", this is what I prefer:
    Start out with the robot stuff:
    The Complete Robot
    The Caves of Steel
    The Naked Sun
    (optional: The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire)
    then the original Foundation trilogy:
    Foundation
    Foundation and Empire
    Second Foundation
    then the later Foundation novels (though chronologically, some occur before the original trilogy):
    Foundation's Edge
    Foundation and Earth
    Prelude to Foundation
    Forward the Foundation
    Have fun!
     
  4. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Vernor Vinge. A Fire Upon The Deep has FTL, but it also makes it very believable and has a nifty new brain-melting idea every ten pages or so.
    Another good idea is to go to your nearest newsstand and pick up the latest copies of Analog, Asimov's, and Fantasy & Science Fiction. Analog is probably the closest to what fits your criteria - they do like the hard-sf there - and the issue on the stands for the next week or two has a nifty first contact story and the start of a believable western-in-space serial. Anyway, the short fiction will give you a sample of several authors' work, and all of them have decent book review columns.
    (Asimov's occasionally even has Norman Spinrad review books. That's where I learned the phrase "subliterate crap". [​IMG])
     
  5. ben hunt

    ben hunt Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd have to recommend anything by Gene Wolfe (Book of the Long Sun etc). All the other recommendations made so far are just as worthy.
     
  6. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the recommendations so far. I'll investigate them further and see if anything sounds particularly interesting.

    As far as books go, my reading list has been quite limited. I've stumbled through Stranger in a Strange Land and Ender's Game, gaining limited entertainment from both. I've enjoyed the humor of Douglas Adam's work, having digested most of the Hitchiker's Guide. The most rewarding work that I've read is Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. I still have Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress sitting undigested on my bookshelf. That's about it for fiction. Most of my reading material is non-fiction science texts (Sagan, Dennett, Dawkins), entertainment essays (mostly from the MST3K guys), or engineering/technology guides (programming, robotics, electronics).

    Brad
     
  7. TedE

    TedE Stunt Coordinator

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    A second for Stephenson's work (Snow Crash in particular). Along the same lines, you may want to check out early William Gibson stuff: Neuromancer being the first, and probably best, but the others in the Sprawl trilogy rock as well: Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive. His collection of short stories, Burning Chrome, is actually one of my favorites (I love "Dogfight"). Gives a good intro to his style if you want to check it out before diving in.
     
  8. David Forbes

    David Forbes Supporting Actor

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    If you want really hard SF read Revelation Space by Alaister Reynolds. Very cool book, has some interesting ideas about replicated human personalities in machine form. He has written a few other books in the same universe but I haven't read them yet (but plan to). He's a physicist or astronomer (forget which) with the Eurpoean Space Agency.

    Dan Simmons' four Hyperion novels are fabulous, but they have FTL as well as time travel. Otherwise, though, they are pretty hard SF and among the best SF books ever written.
     
  9. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    Brad,
    Be sure to read Stephenson's other book "The Diamond Age" (nanotech). If you liked Stephenson then you should check out Gibson (Neuromancer, etc.). A random assortment that I've recently enjoyed:

    - The Forever War (Haldeman): Military sci-fi, temporal effects of faster than light travel
    - The Demolished Man (Bester): Telepathic cops, 1st Hugo award winner
    - Moving Mars (Greg Bear): Interesting treatment of faster than light travel
    - various Philip K. Dick short stories and novels
    - I'll 3rd the Foundation series recommendation. However, I'm not a huge fan of the robot Asimov robot series.

    You may want to get the Hugo and Nebula award winner lists and start working through those novels. Some of the earlier novels can be dated but it's interesting (to me at least) to see where some sci-fi concepts originated. Once you find an author you like then you can read more of his/her works.
     
  10. Grant B

    Grant B Producer

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    the foundation is the only series I ever liked, great!

    there is a 2 hour history of sci-fi on the history channel. you might want to check it out, they mention a lot of good books.
    they tend to repeat these things on the HC quite often, shouldnt be hard to find
     
  11. StephenK

    StephenK Stunt Coordinator

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    Brad,

    Could spend hours going over books...however, it sounds like you would love Larry Niven's stuff. Larry has been called the best "hard" science sci-fi writer by many reviewers.

    IMO, his best work (with Jerry Pournelle) is Lucifer's Hammer.

    Also, while Snow Crash is justly famous, I found Diamond Age was Stephenson's most interesting work and his first book, Zodiac, while not sci-fi, was the most fun to read.
     
  12. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    I'm going to second alot of the stuff you have heard so far.

    If you liked Snow Crash, Neuromancer is the best and most entertaining near hacker future book written yet (IMHO). It is the cornerstone of cyber-punk, read it.

    The Foundation books, although serverely dated and subtlely breaking a few of your rules above, are so darn good that they are pure gold. It's a bad pun, but the series really is THE foundation of all space sci-fi that followed it.

    And though it breaks every single rule you set forth above, I highly suggest a graphic novel called Ronin by Frank Miller. Same guy that wrote The Dark Knight Returns, it is a really fantastic read and a great story.

    If you want to borrow any sci-fi, let me know as I'm right down in Westminster (edge of Broomfield) off of 36. My wife runs an online editting business and I love to read, so we have tons of books just lying around everywhere, icluding some of the ones listed in this thread.
     
  13. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Why put limits on Science Fiction? Anyhow I'd also recommend:
    Asimov's The Foundation Series, Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun etc..
    Clarke's Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, 2001...
     
  14. Dave Smith

    Dave Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    We had a really great thread on this last year, I'd recommend doing a search.

    I like:

    - "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons (and the sequels)
    - "Across Realtime" by Vernor Vinge (actually two books in one - "The Peace War" and "Marooned in Realtime", two of my favourite books in any genre)
    - Anything by Iain M Banks (might be hard to find in the USA), especially "Use of Weapons".
    - "Ringworld" by Larry Niven

    I've found that as I get older, I've been reading more fantasy than sci-fi for some reason.
     
  15. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    OK gang, I've just returned from the Borders (it's a few blocks away and it's next to the Moshi Moshi Bowl, from which I've collected dinner) store where I made several purchases.
    In Space, a collection of short works from Larry Niven (I randomly opened to a page in which he was discussing the dangers of sex with Superman and was amused enough to make the purchase despite my rules against superheros)
    True Names, and the opening of the cyberspace frontier, a short story by Vernor Vinge and collected essays from cyberspace developers on the impact/prescience of the story.
    Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. I will work my way through most of his work in the years to come, so I felt this was an inevitable purchase.
    Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick What can I say? I like to have collections of short fiction around for when I'm "taking the Browns to the Super Bowl". The deal was closed when the jacket cover called him "our own homegrown Borges". I dig Borges.
    The selections of Asimov were surprisingly limited, with zero copies of The Foundation or I, Robot on the shelves. I'll probably pick up the latter in the near future.
    As I browsed through the books on display, I was intrigued by the subject matter of books by the following authors:
    Ben Bova
    Rudy Rucker
    L. Neil Smith
    Does anyone have any opinions their work? Don't feel the need to warn me about the politics of Mr. Smith as I classify myself as a libertarian.
    Before I could make it to the register, my arms were compelled by strange forces to also pick up the following:
    The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker
    Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich
    And Medicated Magic, a new CD from The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I was fortunate enough to have turned my head at just the right angle as I was walking past the music section or I otherwise would have had no idea there was a new DDBB release.
     
  16. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Brad, Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" is an excellent book. Probably the best book on evolutionary psychology ever written (and there are quite a few already). It does an excellent job of debunking all the social-constructionist crap that's taught by academia (with zero scientific evidence).

    But anyhow, I second Vernor Vinge's "Across Realtime". I still regard it as one of the best sci-fi books (well, two books) ever written. Mind-boggling stuff. Hell, anything written by Vernor Vinge is gold.

    Carl Sagan's novel, "Contact" is also very good.

    I very much liked the Gregory Benford and David Brin collaboration, Comet, where a group of scientists embark on a mission to land on and study Halley's Comet. I especially liked how they touched on Sagan's doomsday scenario, where a comet's orbit is diverted, posing a serious threat to all life on Earth (uh, I think that's what happened...it's been nearly 10 years since I read the novel).

    Let's see...Greg Bear's "Blood Music" isn't bad. Oh and his "Forge of God" is a classic.

    There's so much good and recent hard science fiction out there!
     
  17. andrew markworthy

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    Try the novels of John Wyndham. His best-known books are 'Day of the Triffids' and 'The Kraken Awakes', but arguably his best book is 'the Chrysalids' (though you might not like that, as it's about telepathy). Also, the SF works by J.G. Ballard (in his later career he's tended to do non-SF stuff like 'Empire of the Sun', but his earlier SF works are worth reading, and like John Wyndham, concentrate on a post-apocalyptic world where a natural or man-made disaster has fragmented civilisation).

    It's worth mentioning the works of mainstream writers who've branched out into SF. E.g., Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' and E.M. Forster's 'The Machine Stops' (actually, a short story). Also, don't forget George Orwell's '1984' or Anthony Burgess's '1994' (wirtten in the early 1980s, and envisioning a world taken over by Muslim extremists ...).
     
  18. jeff morris

    jeff morris Agent

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    Neutron Star by Larry Niven (I reccomend all his works.)
    The Foundation series is REQUIED reading.
    Personally, anything by Robert Heinlein
    jeff[​IMG]
     
  19. Ben Seibert

    Ben Seibert Stunt Coordinator

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    If you like the short stories by Philip K. Dick, there is a whole series of these collections. All the ones I've read so far are great. I'm currently reading Time Out of Joint also by Dick, and would recommend it too. You might also want to check out some of Heinlein's books, including Strangers in a Strange Land.
     
  20. Shoaib Lateef

    Shoaib Lateef Second Unit

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    anything by the master himself....Arthur C. Clarke!
     

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