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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » Disappointed in sci-fi

   
Author Topic: Disappointed in sci-fi
Antinomy
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Iím not a sci-fi fan. For some forgotten reason I stopped reading in that genre years ago. But recently I came across Isaac Asimovís Nemesis, and realized I have never read his works. Heís written over 400 books, so I took it home. After reading through it I was disappointed, and remembered why I dislike science fiction.

There is something special about journeys to other worlds. To explore the unknown and confront the unexpected can be a fascinating, intriguing and breath-taking experience. Why is it that sci-fi writers are very good at setting up trans-space journeys taking us to new planets with great anticipation, but once there they are dreadful about landings and reluctant to get out of a confined space ship (as I would be) to explore new worlds.

In my humble opinion, they seem unable to break away from personal conflicts, philosophical differences and troublesome antagonists thereby making personal agenda the main topic in a space travel story. I say shoot, any writer can do that without ever leaving earth.

Give me someone bold enough to describe a world Iíve never been to.


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arriki
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Yes, but stories, in the end, boil down to people doing something. Otherwise, all you have are just travelogues.

I'm sure you can find a few exceptions to the rule, but mostly, once a reader is settled in to the setting, he or she wants something to happen. Plot should unroll. There should be something for the reader to worry about: will the crew escape the dreadful lizard folk? A question to be resolved: what did happen to the missing settlers of Orion IV? Will ____ be destroyed? Even, will John finally get up the courage to face down Bob and marry Mary, the half Orion slave girl?


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Wolfe_boy
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Seems to me you're looking for pre-Golden Age science fiction, then; try looking for 1920's era pulp mags, or at least stories collected from that era. Starting in 1939 approx. the Golden Age started, with a switch in focus away from the amazing event/cool location/wonderful gizmo, towards the people involved with them.

Jayson Merryfield


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Antinomy, it seems to me that you are asking for what I call "solve the puzzle of the planet" stories (which I happen to love).

Basically, they are about what happens on a planet after a spaceship has landed there accidentally (so it is a totally unknown planet), and how they learn about this new world and figure out how to survive on it.

My favorite one is probably POLYMATH by John Brunner. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote one called DARKOVER LANDFALL, and Anne McCaffrey wrote one that I hated called DRAGONDAWN.

There is a variation on that kind of story that involves a planet people know about, but they don't know if there is sentient life on it, so the story is about how they learn how life works on the planet, and that there really is sentient life and how to communicate with it.

OSC's SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD is partly this kind of story. Sheri Tepper wrote a couple of them, that I know of (and that I liked): GRASS and AFTER LONG SILENCE.

If you really want to be shown a world you've never been to, I'd recommend that you try to find a copy of Brunner's POLYMATH and read it.

As for travelogues, you could look for Leigh Brackett's ERIC JON STARK stories. They explore some pretty cool worlds.


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Robert Nowall
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Well, I can't pinpoint any exact time when I lost interest in science fiction. It was a gradual thing. I subscribe to the magazines but I stopped reading them through, and often not reading them altogether. I still wander into the SF section of the bookstore but rarely buy any, and that usually an older work or a recommended work.

Yet, unfortunately, I'm still interested in writing science fiction. Certainly nothing else grabs at me wanting me to write it, though a few notions come up from time to time. (I'm somewhat less enamored of publishing what I write of late, but that's another story.)

As for Asimov...well, Nemesis really isn't the place to start. It was, I think, his second-to-last novel...he was not terribly enamored of writing all these late novels, I gather, but did it to please his publisher...and he was also in the throes of ill health, which, I think, may have shown in the work.

If you're looking for prime Asimov, try the Foundation trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation), or the stories that make up I, Robot, or The Caves of Steel, or shorter stories like "Nightfall" or "The Martian Way," written where Asimov was younger and healthy and firing on all cylinders.

(Aside note about pulp fiction: somebody just reprinted some of the Doc Savage novels, printed in pulp magazine size (but much more neatly). I saw some yesterday at the Barnes & Noble, in a special stand, commemorating the seventy-fifty anniversary of their first publication. Pick up some of 'em, if you never have before.)


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Antinomy
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Thanks KDW, your signpost was more than Iíd hoped for. Iíve already ordered one of your recommendations through our local computerized library system.
Space launch is expected in three days.

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tnwilz
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I find Sci-fi easier to write because the reality is entirely made up and so requires less time-consuming research, although you can't be completely ignorant of space science either. Also the events are often on a more global scale, making Sci-fi more inclined to be epic and exciting. But you're right; it is all just dressing in the end isn't it? I much prefer a 3020's PI over a 1920's PI. It's a believable fantasy reality without some of the silly-unbelievability of the actual fantasy genre. Itís like fantasy but within the realms of actual possibility (although itís fun to stretch it a bit sometimes)
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KayTi
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I think you may have selected a stinker of an Asimov book. I remember being unable to get into that story, though I can't for the life of me remember what it was about.

If you want to give the genre another try and are drawn toward the Golden Age authors who have that wonder and awe in their works, I suggest The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein, Foundation by Asimov (or any in the Robot series, which are mystery in style/structure rather than travelogue), or the Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke (which I keep talking about. He doesn't do deep POV immersion, and tends toward omnicient POV, which I find pretty odd to read in this day and age, yet I really enjoyed the books.)


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Antinomy
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Thanks all. Now I have a recommended list to choose from. It sure beats selecting at random.
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Robert Nowall
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Well, if starting with a work of Clarke, I wouldn't start with the Rama series. It seemed the remaining books had next to nothing to do with the original Rendezvous with Rama, and were, I gather, co-written with someone else as well.

I wouldn't start with any of the 2001 books, either. The original is at variance with the movies...the later ones spend a lot of time exploring the future and less time with the monolith...

I'd start with some of Clarke's earlier stuff...say, Childhood's End or Earthlight...there's also The City and the Stars, which probably takes things further than any other of Clarke's novels...Prelude to Space and The Sands of Mars are good, but have really badly aged by subsequent events in real life.

You might sample some of the stories in a massive "Complete Short Stories" collection published a few years ago...you should still be able to find a copy...

Once you get hooked, you'll move on to most of these other works. I don't know what's in print right now. (Beware! Childhood's End exists in at least two different editions, both with different beginnings. Either are okay but the meat is further on in the story.)


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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One of my favorite Clarke novels was FALL OF MOONDUST, which I thought would have made a great disaster movie. It's been ages since I've read it, though, but I think it would still be good.
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