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Sci Fi that doesn't suck

This is a continuation of the topic Sci Fi for discerning intellects.

Literary Snobs

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Edited: Oct 7, 2013, 8:17am Top

Apparently this "Gravity" movie is supposed to be above average. Any thoughts?

And what about Afrofuturism? Ytasha L. Womack has a new book out that explores the topic.

Nov 4, 2013, 12:11pm Top

Jan 13, 2014, 4:46pm Top

A three-dimensional model of the universe--science fiction geeks should love the accompanying short film:


Jan 13, 2014, 4:52pm Top

Er, actually, this is the link with the short film. But the previous post is a good introduction to this:


Jan 14, 2014, 9:49am Top

The one science fiction film in 2014 I might drag myself out to see--Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar":


Feb 11, 2014, 3:28pm Top

Kids' book on space flight, from the Soviet era:


Feb 20, 2014, 5:39pm Top

This video reminds of reading Heinlein, before the first space walk when he described what it was like to be weightless. A short 2 minute film which appeals to the intellectual side of the discriminating futurist palette embodied by this LT area.


Feb 21, 2014, 10:46am Top

#7 I loved the comment: "the good thing is your breasts don't go anywhere when you're upside down".

Feb 24, 2014, 7:55pm Top

I just love shit that has to do with space:


Mar 2, 2014, 11:03am Top

In the near future, technology will be more pervasive, invisible, discreet.

So says the new Spike Jonze movie and this here article:


Mar 2, 2014, 12:21pm Top

That's a little frightening to me.

Mar 6, 2014, 12:04pm Top

For those of us who are fans of the film "The Thing" or "Who Goes There?", the original John W. Campbell short story:


Mar 14, 2014, 4:34am Top

In the Ocean of Night
Across the Sea of Suns
Great Sky River
Tides of Light
Furious Gulf
Sailing Bright Eternety

These are the titles in Gregory Benford's Galactic Center Series. He is a professor, physicist, and writes good SF novels. A beautiful language in them - even the titles above sort of form a poem together.

Edited: Mar 14, 2014, 11:33am Top

I HAVE to see this documentary on Jodorowsky's "Dune":


May 15, 2014, 7:00pm Top

Gord dug up this fun short piece by Terry Bisson--very Robert Sheckley-like (and that's high praise):


May 15, 2014, 9:32pm Top

There are (...at least...) two distinct short videos based on that story; here's the one with higher-production-values:


May 17, 2014, 10:57am Top

#16 & 17 .....Neat stuff!

May 19, 2014, 6:21pm Top

Love Frank Herbert's "Dune', not bad for a SciFi

~Devine Destinies~

Jun 5, 2014, 11:39am Top

What's wrong with contemporary science fiction? Our chum Ian Sales might have part of the answer:


Jun 12, 2014, 9:14am Top

Our colleague Ian has a fine new SF tale just published. Read it here:


See? Some SF doesn't suck...

Jun 12, 2014, 9:27am Top

Jack Chalker's Soul Rider series.

Jun 12, 2014, 11:19am Top

I tried reading Chalker but he didn't work for me at all--amazingly prolific author, I'll give him that.

Recently I had a chance to listen to a Philip K. Dick story, produced by BBC Radio. It was a straight reading of the tale, not an adaptation, and I had to turn it off after five minutes. Dick, like many SF hacks of that generation, was tone deaf. That immediately becomes apparent when you read an author out loud (you don't believe me, try reading a page--any page--from THE DA VINCI CODE out loud and keep a straight face). And you can tell a writer is used to being paid by the word because it takes them so long to get to the point. Padding means higher payment. Dick wrote a few good novels and a few good stories. The vast majority were drek.

Jun 12, 2014, 11:20am Top

>22 Felurian: You're taking the piss, right?

Jun 12, 2014, 6:02pm Top

>20 CliffBurns: Best story by Ian I have read so far! {only read a couple}. Nice meld of technical detail and SF "wonderment", reminds me a bit of "golden age" stuff.

Jun 13, 2014, 3:42am Top

>25 DugsBooks: I keep on getting that "golden age" comment - to me, what I write is modern. Ah well :-)

(I think what it is, is that I'm using modern literary techniques on distilled science fiction ideas, and it's the latter that harkens back to sf of earlier decades.)

Jun 13, 2014, 3:35pm Top

>26 iansales: Aha ok. The sudden transition in the story got my imagination flowing which is very unusual for a short story {has to be a good one!} which reminded me of some golden age SF I read when very young. I am not sophisticated enough to make constructive comments on literary techniques .

Jun 13, 2014, 3:39pm Top

The best SF, regardless of the era, has that "sensawunda" that utterly transports the reader.

Ian's work has that quality and that, I think, sets it apart from so many of his less adventurous, less literary contemporaries.

Edited: Jun 14, 2014, 3:10am Top

>27 DugsBooks: I took your remark as a compliment, and it's always good to hear when people like my stories. You're not the first to say it reminds them of reading sf when they were younger and getting that pure hit of wonder... which, I suppose, is one of the aims of good science fiction. And if it happens, I'm grateful - whether I'm trying for that effect or not :-)

But I will say that I try to keep as much of the story off the page as I can, in order to force the reader to work it out for themselves :-)

Jun 15, 2014, 10:35pm Top

Making contact with a lost spaceship. Story in here somewhere, Monsieur Sales?


Edited: Jun 17, 2014, 5:20pm Top

Interesting link Cliff, ::Conversation at the drive up::: "I'll I have two egg McMuffins and a tweak of an asteroid orbit".

Jun 17, 2014, 6:44pm Top

I had a recent encounter with a fondly-remembered name from my past.


Jun 17, 2014, 7:15pm Top

Really enjoyed that, Robert.

Jun 18, 2014, 6:22am Top

All SF sucks unless it's funny (Pratchett/Fforde/Holt/Rankin) EXCEPT John Wyndham. Most authors think if it's not the real world they can write whatever comes into their heads.

Jun 18, 2014, 8:07am Top

>34 fredsmithx: You probably need to read a little wider in the genre - there's plenty that doesn't suck: Park, Jones, Delany, Russ, Saxton, Shepard, Watson, Priest, Banks, Tiptree, Duchamp... and I've probably forgotten loads of authors...

Jun 18, 2014, 10:22am Top

Terry Pratchett has done more damage to the credibility of fantasy writers than Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and all those other hacks combined. The genre is bad enough without being held up to ridicule with the lamest gags and most basic, juvenile writing. Fforde at least is literate...not sure about the others.

Jun 18, 2014, 11:12am Top

Isn't Pratchett written for kids?

Jun 18, 2014, 11:15am Top

...and the childish at heart.

Jun 18, 2014, 11:19am Top

It's not hard to find science fiction that doesn't suck. For the lay reader, the "literary snob" not familiar with the genre but interested in good writing, I would suggest two names from the past and two more contemporary writers.

First of all, Theodore Sturgeon was a wonderful stylist who wrote mostly short fiction. There are tons of collections of his work, including a wonderful ten-or-so volume of his complete short fiction, and many little paperback collections. I would suggest picking up one of the little collections and reading through the stories. I think at least a few of them will grab you. Two titles for the Literary Snob to look for would be "Largo" and "The Man Who Lost The Sea". Roger Zelazny is best known for his Amber novels - which, if you ask me, start off quite well and slope off asymptotically towards the X axis. However, his other novels and his short fiction work at a really high level. The story called 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, By Hokusai is a lovely piece of work, you'll find it in a collection called Frost and Fire.

Closer to the present day, the recently late Iain M. Banks wrote a slew of wonderful novels in his "Culture" series. This isn't a series in the sense of continuing characters and action, just a set of novels sharing a common backdrop. They need not be read in any particular order, and each novel does its own work. Some of them are pretty grim, all of them have brilliantly funny bits, as far as I can tell there aren't any clinkers in the bunch.
Still among the quick is China Mieville. The first book I read of his was Perdido Street Station, which I don't recommend as a start - his imagination comes up with some very unpleasant images, and he's very good at executing those on the page. It's actually somewhat unpleasant to read, I thought. However, the Literary Snob might well enjoy The City and The City, which uses some nice science fiction devices to tell a pretty contemporary story.

Jun 18, 2014, 11:41am Top

Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Ken Macleod, Vernor Vinge, John Varley, Ian McDonald, James Morrow...

Jun 18, 2014, 1:08pm Top

...and I can't believe I neglected to mention my Canuck colleague, Peter Watts. Super writer.

Edited: Jun 18, 2014, 6:26pm Top

>34 fredsmithx:: That's exactly what science fiction is not: writers who write "whatever comes into their heads". The whole point about science fiction is that whatever change from our everyday life is the focus of the story has to be consistent and based on rationality and firm scientific underpinnings. It has to work in the real world. (There is some debate over whether stories that are based on some of the wilder extrapolations of current science are real science fiction or just science fantasy.) The excuse of "it's just science fiction, you can make up whatever you want" is most often used by cheap tv and film makers, and careless authors of much fame and none. It's when the world of the story is well thought out, the scientific underpinnings rational and consistent, and the writing imaginative but well crafted that you get science fiction that doesn't suck.

At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, I'd say that you've described fantasy.

Jun 18, 2014, 9:23pm Top

>32 RobertDay: Nice stuff Robert. I thought of the short story by Bob Shaw "The Light of Other Days" when I read an article about scientists using low temps and different materials to slow the speed of light to the extent it is almost light in a bottle. I tried to search out the article again but can't find it.

Jun 19, 2014, 10:58am Top

I'll try your recommendations. I read science stuff and would expect to like SF but usually hate it. I don't need books for the young at heart but the author must have enough sense of humour not to take themselves too seriously - not funny or childish but not anal uptight like many in this genre. Anyway you're right, I mixed it up with fantasy. The danger there is stupidity. Of course all that faux-Tolkien rubbish is usually uptight too. I was impressed that Eragon landed near the top of my unsuggestions page...

Jun 19, 2014, 11:04am Top

...and, as has been pointed out to me here, there's a huge difference between FANTASY and HIGH FANTASY...

Jun 19, 2014, 11:05am Top

Don't know anything about the credibility of the genre. You go into any UK public library - huge fantasy section all adolescent nonsense.
Pratchett/Fforde/Holt/Rankin are all very literate. I'm actually impressed by their writing. Fforde if anything has bad bits. Rankin just gets carried away. Pratchett is a very careful but brilliant writer. His first books were ridiculously juvenile but they improved very fast. Read Nightwatch.
It's fine if you dislike comic fantasy.
And yes, Jordan is the worst author ever published.

Edited: Jun 19, 2014, 11:09am Top


Jun 19, 2014, 11:28am Top

"Fantasy" covers everything from Jonathan Carroll to Jorge Luis Borges. "High fantasy" is anything imitating Tolkien: elves, fairy queens, etc.

Jun 22, 2014, 3:16am Top

Christopher Priest certainly seems to think this sf sucks: http://arcfinity.tumblr.com/post/89245740023/were-reading-barricade-by-jon-walla...

Jun 22, 2014, 6:42am Top

There's more to Tolkien then elves. There's that awful epic language which everyone tries to copy. Tolkien was a genius. It merely made him boring. It makes his imitators suck.

Jun 22, 2014, 9:59pm Top

50: What a nice turn of phrase!

Jul 3, 2014, 9:52am Top

Zazen by Vanessa Veselka was one of my favorite recent post-apocalyptic dystopians. Although, really, it's more pre-apocalyptic. It takes place right on the verge of the end of society. The narrator is struggling with an early 20's freakout but it turns out she's also an unreliable narrator and you don't know how much of what she's recounting is real or in her mind.

Oct 28, 2014, 9:59am Top

Christopher Nolan's epic "Interstellar" gets mixed initial reviews:


(Personally I prefer his early, smaller efforts like "Memento" and "Following" to his big budget, comic book smut.)

Dec 26, 2014, 1:43am Top

Warts and all feature on "Buzz" Aldrin:


(Thanks, Gord.)

Dec 26, 2014, 11:56am Top

Wow, that article is a lot to process. It must be so hard to be a certain kind of celebrity like that.

Dec 27, 2014, 10:52am Top

Best "space" photos of 2014:


(Can't help it, I'm a geek.)

Edited: Dec 29, 2014, 10:48pm Top

I visited Felica Day's website and found a new channel on Youtube that she & others participate in called Geek & Sundry. I like the series I have checked out so far, "Space Janitors"

More links if interested, in my post at the SF topic of LT

>57 CliffBurns: Nice selection of photos, good resolution and cropping.
>55 CliffBurns: Buzz should be cast in the new SyFy series Ascension, write him in a part immediately!!!

Edited: Jan 20, 2015, 7:54pm Top

Hey, Ian, have you heard about the "Ascension" mini-series (see mention in previous message)? It's alt-history, right up your alley...but something about it sets off my "stink-o-meter". Have a look:


This series starts playing on CBC here in Canada later in the month.

Jan 21, 2015, 2:12am Top

I watched the first episode last Friday. The twist was bloody obvious from the start, and some of it was your typical telly stupidity, but I'm told it improves so I'll continue watching it. After all, pretty much all series start badly...

Jan 28, 2015, 9:33am Top

A planetary system 11 billion years old. Imagine the number of civilizations that could have risen and fallen during that interval.


...imagine the multi-volume SF series that might inspire, an epic that would put FOUNDATION (dreadful books) in the shade...

Jan 28, 2015, 10:35am Top

>61 CliffBurns: Imagine the number of sequels of Rambo they could have.

Jan 28, 2015, 10:52am Top


Edited: Jan 29, 2015, 11:21am Top

So from Earth's timeline of ...4.5 billion years for our sun? to its cultural level of today, pizza delivered and cold beer with efforts to have the same at a space station. Now imagine a species a billion years sentient......teleporting pizzas?

I was dumb struck for several seconds while reading the article with wonderment imagining what could happen in a period of time so much greater than ours.

I also posted in the SF section of LT. From what I have read; this is in our Milky Way galaxy but some 100 light years away?

::edited for usual reasons::

Jan 30, 2015, 11:37pm Top

Richard Dawkins reads some of the "fan mail' he receives from loving, tolerant Christian types:


Feb 4, 2015, 9:41am Top

Elon Musk names his two ocean platform landing ships after Iain M. Banks characters:


Feb 4, 2015, 9:52am Top

Cool tribute to a great author.

Feb 4, 2015, 10:46am Top

I have a 22 foot sailboat I wanted to name Bora Horza Gobuchul but the rest of the family thought it was too long. We may go with an Arthur Ransome name instead.

Feb 5, 2015, 6:17pm Top

Anyone heard of Aleksei German's "Hard to Be a God"?


Medieval sci fi? Grungy? Long, troubled production overseen by obscure genius?

Oh, yes, this sounds like one for me...

Feb 6, 2015, 4:24am Top

A friend tweeted that link to me last week. Definitely one to get when it hits DVD.

Feb 6, 2015, 7:27am Top

Based on the Strugatsky Brothers' novel, I assume?

Feb 6, 2015, 9:38am Top

Yep, same boys that wrote "Stalker".

I note that the Wachowski's "Jupiter Ascending" film is getting critically mauled. Their day is done...

Feb 8, 2015, 4:54pm Top

Apollo gear on public display...for hardcore space nerds (Hey, Ian!):


(Thanks to Gord)

Feb 17, 2015, 9:57am Top

The Martian death machines are on the way:


Clearly these scientists can't recognize the plume of vehicles launching from the surface...

Feb 12, 2016, 12:53pm Top

NASA has commissioned a series of lovely travel posters, celebrating its space explorations. Free for download and sharing:


(Thanks, Gord)

Edited: Feb 14, 2016, 4:20pm Top

Has anyone here read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber?

Feb 14, 2016, 10:27pm Top

Yes, interesting book about first contact. Not completely successful but not irretrievably stupid either.

Did you like it?

Edited: Feb 15, 2016, 1:30pm Top

It was disappointing as compared with The Crimson Petal and the White, in the light of good scifi and in a few other ways, but I liked enough about it to give it 3 stars.

Feb 23, 2016, 9:58am Top

Send your name to the outer reaches of our solar system:


Apr 7, 2016, 3:50pm Top

A piece on sci fi's "difficult genius", Gene Wolfe:


(Thanks, Gord)

Apr 8, 2016, 3:23am Top

He's certainly "difficult" - a friend of mine interviewed him for Interzone, and all he got was yes and no replies.

Apr 28, 2016, 3:48pm Top

Mars panorama--file this under "cool shit":


Edited: Apr 29, 2016, 8:09am Top

>82 CliffBurns:, thanks for that. I read The Book of the New Sun years ago and still I parse every article, interview or essay to see what else I can glean from it.

Apr 29, 2016, 6:26pm Top

When asked "1984 or Brave New World?" Chomsky replies "neither actually"

Apr 29, 2016, 11:15pm Top

>86 anna_in_pdx: But he likes We which influenced both and which is an expressionist, as opposed to realist, novel. 1984 always conjures up for me the grimmness of post war Britain something that was tapped into by Alan More's V for Vendetta. Huxley's novel was based on the latest theories of biology which he kept up with as one can see in his reference to neoteny in After Many a Summer Dies the Swan.

Apr 29, 2016, 11:51pm Top

Gimme 1984 over BRAVE NEW WORLD any day. No contest.

Apr 30, 2016, 8:42am Top

>88 CliffBurns: I agree even though I love Huxley.

Edited: May 2, 2016, 8:32pm Top

>86 anna_in_pdx: I say neither to 1984 vs Brave New World, as well.

Jul 6, 2016, 12:06pm Top

Anyone wish to send a few $$$ to support a Canadian science fiction magazine?


Jul 10, 2016, 4:25am Top

Version Control, Dexter Palmer

Sep 5, 2016, 6:10pm Top

Sep 21, 2016, 9:52pm Top

Cool short sci fi film that will convince you once and for all why virtual reality means the end of the human experiment:


Sep 24, 2016, 3:24pm Top

Anathem by Neal Stephenson. Real science. Real fiction. Probably best snobby speculative fiction I've ever read. But I'm not a sci-fi fan.

Nov 8, 2016, 10:13am Top

New Jack Womack book, reviewed by John Crowley:


(Thanks, Gord)

Nov 8, 2016, 12:52pm Top

>98 CliffBurns: I wondered what Womack, one of the most gloriously gonzo sf writers of recent years, had been up to recently.

One of the reasons that most science fiction fans don't believe in UFOs is that most UFO stories sound like really bad science fiction. Perhaps more pertinently, sf fans wouldn't mind if the aliens turn out NOT to be little grey men who go around in disc-shaped craft; whereas the arrival of a bona fide alien who resembled a perambulating tree and who arrived in something resembling a flying concrete mixer would nonetheless probably not satisfy UFO believers for whom they did not fit the myth.

Nov 8, 2016, 1:03pm Top

Let's hope he has another novel in the pipeline as well...

Nov 10, 2016, 7:12am Top

>99 RobertDay: a bona fide alien who resembled a perambulating tree

I am Groot!

Nov 10, 2016, 9:40am Top

>100 CliffBurns: - he's been working on a non-sf novel called Ashland for years. You can see if reading from it in 2009 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDWER1rPF8o

Nov 10, 2016, 10:45am Top

Binibon, the opera Womack collaborated on with composer Elliott Sharp, was recently performed in New York. Not SF, but interesting nonetheless.

Nov 10, 2016, 10:46am Top

A lot of people on twitter have been recommending Random Acts of Senseless Violence lately.

Nov 10, 2016, 10:48am Top

The new SF epic "Arrival" is getting a lot of buzz--included in the roster of films to watch in November:


Nov 10, 2016, 4:16pm Top

>105 CliffBurns: It's a wonderful story. I just hope they haven't screwed it up.

Edited: Nov 14, 2016, 11:38am Top

Seems like there's been some really big-budget SF extravaganzas in recent years. 'Constantine'? 'Prometheus'? 'Elysium'? 'Inception'. All that kind of thing? Mixes of mysticism and SF blended together?

Frankly --no matter the actual quality of the flicks (which I hear is as 'variable' as it ever was) I'm turned off by it. The frenzy of promotion and advance hoopla always have a bludgeoning effect. Like being sucked into quicksand. There's almost nothing one can do to escape these ad blitzes.

Everyone is free to do as they please of course, and I hope other theater-goers enjoy themselves. But me, I literally never attend any more movies based on their advertising. Been burned too many times. I shrink from the feeling that some marketing team has once again manipulated me into a theater seat. The West Coast media vortex has long ago lost my trust.

Nov 14, 2016, 11:39am Top

Completely understandable--films these days are hyped like the second coming of Christ.

It's pathetic...

Feb 9, 2017, 4:54pm Top

Ralph McQuarrie, great fantasy artist. This image brings back some fond memories of that first theatrical release, back in 1977. I'd seen some of McQuarrie's artwork for the movie in various science fiction fanzines before the film was released and it definitely caught my eye:


Feb 23, 2017, 5:23pm Top

A nice piece on rediscovering Jack Womack:


(From Gord, natch.)

Feb 24, 2017, 1:05pm Top

Feb 24, 2017, 6:58pm Top

I've just started Kim Stanley Robinson's 2002 short story collection Vinland the Dream, which appears to have alternate histories as a sort of broad theme (and it seems to be interpreted quite generously). The title story, and the second in the collection, "A History of the Twentieth Century, with illustrations", take a broad view of the sweep of events; indeed, they might only be considered 'science fiction' if you think of history as a science. That second story in particular dates from 1991 but is only set in 1996, and its central character is a historian.

May 2, 2017, 11:17am Top

For a limited time, buy a "story bundle" of recent science fiction:


Aug 27, 2017, 6:43pm Top

Sep 29, 2017, 10:22am Top

The prescient fiction of J.G. Ballard:


Jan 20, 2018, 3:50pm Top

Does spec fiction really work on the small screen:


Jan 27, 2018, 7:00pm Top

Feb 16, 6:32pm Top

Watching "First Man", the Neil Armstrong biopic, in the next couple of days.

We'll see how it goes--I read the book and liked it very much.

Neil wasn't a very demonstrative guy so a cypher like Ryan Gosling should be a good fit in terms of casting.

Feb 17, 9:23pm Top

>123 CliffBurns: Tried to check that out tonight but it was not in the “Redbox” which is near me. I didn’t know there was a book - fictionalized biography or just journalistic view?

Feb 18, 10:16am Top

No, it's a legitimate biography by James Hansen and very good:


Aug 6, 2:36am Top

>126 CliffBurns: "an escape hatch for the Earthlings they’re leaving behind". Earthlings. FFS.

Aug 6, 10:45am Top

Gotta love those publicists, no?

So adept with words...

Edited: Today, 2:03pm Top

>132 CliffBurns: I did not {know - how the hell did that happen?} any of Gibson’s background. He was born on a route we used to take frequently to the beach and moved to Canada at a time we were all waiting for draft numbers and buying maps of Canada. The more recent books sound interesting {having read the earlier ones}

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