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Topic: Sci-Fi reference and analysis: any suggestions?

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Subject: Sci-Fi reference and analysis: any suggestions?
Date Posted: 2/12/2010 1:32 AM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
Posts: 2,941
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I got the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction a while ago, and shortly thereafter decided I should collect a substantial shelf of references regarding speculative fiction in general, leaning heavily toward sci-fi.  I've a few books about authors like Heinlein and Herbert, Aldiss's Galactic Empires, Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and most recently the Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.  I went through a few searches here and put a bunch of titles on my WL, but as those selections are quite sight unseen, I wondered if anyone here had any suggestions based on experience with such works?  I'm looking for anything that does a respectful job of encapsulating certain aspects of the genre, analyses of particular works or themes common to portions of the genre, basically anything one might use to gain a deeper understanding of science fiction than can be had simply by reading.  Any responses will be appreciated greatly :)

Date Posted: 2/12/2010 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
Posts: 455
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I have no book ideas for science fiction.  I did find a book at the library called:  The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference.  Since it was only 50 cents I bought it thinking I could post it here since I have no intention of writing.  Well ,I started reading it and it's a fun light read with lots of info about mythology, magic and all sorts of fantasy elements.  I ended up keeping it and reading it.  It doesn't go into serious detail about anything but it does explain what it covers well and it's a good reference to have read when you are reading fantasy.

 

As far as sci fi goes -I like this website.  It has tons of links and info  Center for the Study of Science Fiction  http://www2.ku.edu/~sfcenter/
 

Subject: academic sf
Date Posted: 2/12/2010 1:33 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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If you are interested in a more academic approach, here's some books I've used.  They are somewhat dated at this point, but pretty good if you are interested in the whole history.

New Worlds for Old: The Apocalyptic Imagination, Science Fiction, and American Literature, by David Ketterer.

Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction, by Brian Aldiss

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, by Brian Aldiss

-Tom Hl.




Last Edited on: 2/12/10 1:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/12/2010 4:18 PM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
Posts: 2,941
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Ann, the book you recommend sounds great, but the story of your experience with it is even better!  I love finding literary treasure like that, cheap and unexpectedly excellent.  Even while reading your post, I was thinking to myself "I'd totally keep something like that" lol

Tom, dated material is actually a plus as far as I'm concerned.  I think there's much more to be learned from the Golden Age and it's surrounding era than from recent works.  Most modern analysis looks to the past anyway.  New Worlds for Old seems like exactly the kind of book I'm after.  Academic's the perfect word for it, and I'm a little ashamed that I didn't think to use it in my initial post.  I definitely think I'll look into those Aldiss books, too.  I love the Galactic Empires set, in which he did an excellent job of presenting the genre through a small collection of short stories.

Date Posted: 2/12/2010 10:44 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,515
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This is interesting turf you speak of, only occasionally worked, and always in a disconnected sort of way.

I have a book by Edward James titled Science Fiction in the 2oth Century (1994). It isn't particularly profound, but the author views Sci Fi as primarily a cultural phenomen, and that gives it a unique perspective.

I have another book by the well-known Brit, Lin Carter. His entire focus is on the 19 the century stuff by C. S. Lewis, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, etc. The book is titled Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy. (1973). I have never read this one and would be willing to part with it for a credit.

Somewhere I have one I particularly liked by, I think, a Terry McCaffery. I thought it to be quite good. I will see what happens if I search for it; if nothing I will dig it out tomorrow and list specific title.

Once I sent off on PBS an interesting hardcover with a title like H.G. Wells and the Logic of Fantasy. I will check my books sent file and post the correct title tomorrow.

Date Posted: 2/13/2010 12:56 AM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
Posts: 2,941
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I completely forgot about folks like Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp!!  I have a few books that bear their names, but for some reason it never occurred to me to look up any others.  Thanks for the reminder!! 

I've found H. G. Wells had a lot to say by way of non-fiction; his outline of history is one of my favorites on the subject.  I love the seeming paradox of "logic" and "fantasy".  Definitely something I'll have to add to this list. 

Not to kill the thread or anything, but thanks to the three of you for your suggestions.  They've been immensely helpful, and to be honest quite encouraging.  Sometimes I worry about the lengths my geekiness might go to, and it's good to feel a little emboldened by good company sharing common interest :)

Date Posted: 2/13/2010 10:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2009
Posts: 64
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If you would like something that explores the more scientific aspects of sci-fi, I suggest Michio Kaku's "Science of the Impossible". It consernes (sic) what it would take to get current technologe to its sci-fi counterparts...very interesting read...also I have a book ( can't remember title or arthor...) that is about 30 years old...its about the prospect of interstaller human travel...very acadamic and informative...I'll post the info later...(sorry, very poor speller).



Last Edited on: 2/13/10 10:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/14/2010 2:55 AM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
Posts: 2,941
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I'm actually quite excited to hear more about this older book you mention.  It's the oddball or esoteric works, the old forgotten volumes, that interest me the most.  Popular(ized) opinion does one little good when pursuing the underlying truths of a matter.  A book respected by millions has its value, but not nearly as much imo as the book valued by the experienced few. 

I relish opportunities to say this:  I already have Physics of the Impossible :)  I LOVE the job Kaku has done in bringing cutting edge science down to the layman's level.  They've turned the idea from that book into a series on the Science Channel, with episodes dedicated to inventing warp engines, or lightsabers, for example.  I actually got his book nearly by accident, as part of a gift bundle for signing up with a scientific book club.  I remember distinctly being impressed by the fact that the cover bore the image of not one but two TARDISes lol  Still, it's an excellent suggestion, as I hadn't thought to include it in my list of research material.  Thanks!

Date Posted: 2/14/2010 9:50 AM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
Posts: 455
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I didn't know that show was based on a book.  One more to go on my wish list...  If you are expanding your subject matter to science (now) and it's (potential) relation to science fiction, Carl Sagan's Deamon Haunted World has some interesting thoughts.    I say potential because basically he's debunking much psuedo science in the book.  So when you read it you can say OH that's why that story didn't work or Wow that author has a good grip on how technology is developing.  He can be rather forceful in some of his opinions -and some of it is opinion not fact.  (the burden of proof and all...) 

One book I like is The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel Florman.  Either many science fiction writers have read this book or they came up with the same philosophy of innovation on their own -which wouldn't be hard for an engineer-

Date Posted: 2/14/2010 12:57 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2009
Posts: 64
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"One can learn little of the wind by observing treetops a-sway, and infinitely less in study of their shadows..."  -  Me

 

I would just like to point out that this EXACTLY how scientists study higher diminsions...through he study of the shadows of their shapes....

Date Posted: 2/14/2010 6:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
Posts: 2,941
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I've actually had some trouble expounding upon the passage I wrote, so you might have to bear with me a bit as the explanation might be a tad convoluted, for lack of a better term.  Your comment actually speaks to the point that (I think) I was trying to make with that line.  The main point is that if we look only at the results of the unseen phenomenon we'll never understand the cause.  As with black holes, for example, we had to go past simply observing the bright spots that are actually the resulting effects of the black hole itself.  We can move on to theorize their existence and nature by observing that surrounding and resulting phenomena, but until we start to use different means of observation (like looking for x-rays) we can't really directly apprehend the object in question.  As with water, where currents are only really visible at the surface, where the water makes contact with rocks or atmosphere, or by observing objects caught up in subsurface currents, it's difficult to observe the actual object we might wish to study.  It's not to say the Wind can never be understood, but that it takes a slightly different tack than simple direct observation.  There's also a certain philosophical symbolism to the line, speaking to the unseen motivations behind our existence as sentient beings.  In much the same way that our thoughts, unseen, motivate our movements, there is something behind our thoughts, of which our thoughts are only the perceptible result.  My current interpretation is that our physical existences are represented by the trees in motion, and our lives are the shadows.  What we miss by obsessing about our thoughts and the construct we call our lives is the nature of whatever cosmic laws dictate the sum total of reality.  I haven't even begun to wonder what those laws might be, and think that it's almost the point to leave it open to interpretation. 


Bit of a rant, that.  Hopefully it makes sense.  I haven't had much opportunity to speak on it, and seized upon the chance perhaps a little too eagerly lol.

Ann, I LOVE Carl Sagan, and I've gotten a copy of Cosmos but haven't yet gotten around to compiling a to-get list of his many other titles.  I'll put that one at the top of the list!

Date Posted: 2/16/2010 12:07 AM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2006
Posts: 50
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The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy & Science Fiction by Ursula Le Guin is a great read, and pretty easy to track down.  Another "how to" title that is a nice companion to the previously-mentioned Card book is David Gerrold's Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.   If you're looking for fantasy-specific stuff I could recommend more, but for SF this is all I've got at hand...

Date Posted: 2/16/2010 2:32 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,476
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I have no idea what this one is like.  Published by a university press.  But it is posted.

Alien Encounters by Mark Rose