Some light reading for fellow science fiction junkies

amisnewmapsofhellAt last: I’ve got an author index of my science fiction reviews here at The Finch and Pea. If you compulsively read vintage science fiction like me (my interests mostly fall in the ~1945 to 1986 range), then you may just find something to your liking here.

Why vintage science fiction? It is a literature that has a lot to say about our culture’s relationship with science and technology, one that has developed some striking metaphors for science and nature.

Over the last few years I’ve managed roughly 30 reviews, fewer than I’d hoped, but not too shabby. Up next is a series on Big Dumb Object science fiction, already begun with Rendezvous with Rama. Coming up soon will be a discussion of Niven’s Ringworld, Varley’s Titan, Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville, Greg Bear’s Eon, and finally, once I finish working my way through the Polish original, Lem’s Solaris.

SolarisWhat’s so interesting about big dumb objects, or macrostructures? A Big Dumb Object is a metaphor for the vast, unexplored spaces and aspects of the natural universe. It’s a way of dramatizing two particular features of the natural world we tend to take for granted: its vast scales and its mysteriousness. Lately, I’ve been thinking about DNA as a Big Dumb Object, a macrostructure within a nano-world. Like many Big Dumb Objects, or like an unseen planet detected only by its gravitational effects, DNA’s influence was noticed millennia before its physical structure was known. Stay tuned.

Of course, we also have a science fiction blog tag, where you’ll find more than book reviews. And my particular niche is post-apocalyptic fiction, and you can find my post-Hiroshima curriculum here.

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6 responses to “Some light reading for fellow science fiction junkies

  1. It seems as though Sci-Fi is not taken seriously sometimes. So you have a good point that to read Sci-Fi, especially older works, is a good way to get some insight on the relationship of a culture to Science.

    • We’re in this weird place where it’s not taken as seriously in the book reviewing world, but it’s position in academia is perhaps better than ever – more and better journal articles, books, and college courses. At least that’s my impression as someone at a university but not in an English dept.

  2. I’d recommend ‘The Bridge’ br Iain Banks, and ‘Inverted World’ by Christopher Priest. I think they would qualify as Macrostructures, if not BDO.

    • Inverted World is a great suggestion – that book was my gateway drug into classic sci-fi. I read the NYRB edition, mainly because I was just reading stuff put out by NYRB. From there it was on to the NYRB edition of The Chrysalids, and then the discovery of sci-fi stock at used book stores…

      I’ve been meaning to get around to Banks Culture series.

      • NYRB has published a good selection of Sci-Fi. They came out with a Robert Sheckley collection recently. I’d also recommend ‘Memories of the Future’ by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky since you like Lem.

        I think you’re right about criticism lagging behind academia!

        And I haven’t read any of the Culture books, but I’ve heard they’re kind of post-post apocalyptical.

  3. Pingback: What’s your favorite massive object in space? | Musings of a Mild Mannered Man

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