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Author Topic:   Scifi recommendations
Posts: 4558
Joined: 05-02-2006
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Message 20 of 27 (861775)
08-26-2019 5:14 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by caffeine
08-26-2019 12:53 PM

Having always been a great fan of science (name that reference!), I have also been a fan of science fiction for most of my life. Unfortunately, life, family, career (software engineering, which had me doing mostly technical reading for the past few decades), and life changes (divorce) have left me with little time to read fiction.

I've never read Slaughterhouse 5, but I did read Schlachthof 5, the German translation -- that was the only Vonnegut I've read and even then it wasn't him but rather an interpretation (which is what a translation is, after all -- my ex-wife would enjoy novels primarily for the word-crafting, something that gets lost in translation). I also read Es ist Schwer ein Gott zu Sein and was decades later surprised to find an English translation of that Russian novel at a used book store -- a Russian movie based on it was on USA Netflix, but it was just too much of an effort to slog through it.

Isaac Asimov's standard story of how he got started is that as an immigrant in an immigrant family (paraphrasing loosely from memory: "I was born in Russia and upon realizing my mistake, I had my family immediately emigrate to the US"). His father wanted the best opportunities for his son and, since science was just such an opportunity, when he saw a science fiction publication he bought it for his son, unwittingly starting a great career.

As evil and vile a person as she turned out to be, my ex-wife was ideal in a few ways. For one, we both shared the same love of science fiction. German uses two names for it that I know of: Zukunftsromane and Möglichkeitsromane (future novels and possibility novels). Most people seem to gravitate to scifi film and TV for the special effects thrills (a friend's mother loved spy stuff, the more explosions the better, but she was bored by a very real political thriller, Z because there were no explosions), but for us the real interest was looking at how people react and adapt to unique and novel situations. That is the only thing I miss about her.

Science fiction's past is in pulp fiction and apparently it still suffers from that. I heard about Zane Grey, the great Western novelist, that he started out like all writers of Westerns, paid per word, so in all his stories the characters would fire each and every round in their revolver because each and every bang was another buck (or pennies) in the writer's pocket. For my Palm Pilot I downloaded a copy of E.E. Smith's Triplanetary and read it. Great literature, it was most definitely not. Such appalling sexist melodramatic stereotypes (damsel in distress, bad guy with luridly evil intentions towards her, etc). But, that was the nature of the beast back then catering to the audience of the time.

Kind of like comic books in the late 50's and early 60's which was my generation. I did learn some things about science, but not all of them were good. A few years back I saw an interview with Stan Lee in which he declared that he was the least scientific person possible, wouldn't recognize a gamma ray if it came up and bit him, but he'd heard these scientific terms and think, "Yeah, that sounds good. I'll use that!" So the Fantastic Four got their powers from exposure to cosmic rays, which instead should have killed them. Bruce Banner became the Hulk because of gamma rays, which instead should have killed him. The X-Men get their powers from a "mutant gene" and the entire film franchise touts mutation as the be-all and end-all of evolution. Fertile soil for some really great storytelling, but too often really crappy science which ends up shaping much of the public's misconceptions of what science and evolution are.

A friend at work clued me into a novel that was online as a PDF and was part of a series: 1632.

From Wikipedia:

The fictional town of Grantville, West Virginia (modeled on the real West Virginia town of Mannington) and its power plant are displaced in space-time, through a side effect of a mysterious alien civilization.[2]

A hemispherical section of land about three miles in radius measured from the town center is transported back in time and space from April 2000 to May 1631, from North America to the central Holy Roman Empire. The town is thrust into the middle of the Thirty Years' War, in the German province of Thuringia in the Thuringer Wald, near the fictional German free city of Badenburg. This Assiti Shards effect occurs during a wedding reception, accounting for the presence of several people not native to the town, including a doctor and his daughter, a paramedic. Real Thuringian municipalities located close to Grantville are posited as Weimar, Jena, Saalfeld and the more remote Erfurt, Arnstadt, and Eisenach well to the south of Halle and Leipzig.

Grantville, led by Mike Stearns, president of the local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), must cope with the town's space-time dislocation, the surrounding raging war, language barriers, and numerous social and political issues, including class conflict, witchcraft, feminism, the reformation and the counter-reformation, among many other factors. One complication is a compounding of the food shortage when the town is flooded by refugees from the war. The 1631 locals experience a culture shock when exposed to the mores of contemporary American society, including modern dress, sexual egalitarianism, and boisterous American-style politics.

Grantville struggles to survive while trying to maintain technology sundered from twenty-first century resources. Throughout 1631, Grantville manages to establish itself locally by forming the nascent New United States of Europe (NUS) with several local cities even as war rages around them. But once Count Tilly falls during the Battle of Breitenfeld outside of Leipzig, King Gustavus Adolphus rapidly moves the war theater to Franconia and Bavaria, just south of Grantville. This leads to the creation of the Confederated Principalities of Europe (CPoE) and some measure of security for Grantville's up-timer and down-timer populations.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by caffeine, posted 08-26-2019 12:53 PM caffeine has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 21 by Theodoric, posted 08-26-2019 6:38 PM dwise1 has responded

Posts: 4558
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.7

Message 22 of 27 (861780)
08-26-2019 6:51 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by Theodoric
08-26-2019 6:38 PM

I haven't read any of the sequels. My friend at work mentioned some, including mention of characters going into the Inn of the Golden Arches.

But my point was that regardless of everything else, placing normal people into novel circumstances and see how they behave is an important outcome of scifi.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 21 by Theodoric, posted 08-26-2019 6:38 PM Theodoric has not yet responded

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