Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Science Fiction; The Devil is in the Details

For years, literally since I was 15, I've been knocking around ideas for a sci-fi novel. But I wear myself down trying to nail the science before I can even get to the story. It's not a "work in progress" so much as a "premise in progress". My "you're not smart enough" demon and my "easy way out" demon keep telling me to stick to YA fantasy and paranormal.

The scientific details, details like those I meticulously research in my real-world fantasies, are outside my comfort zone. Yet I read and re-read Heinlen as a teen, Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus in Flight, and of course, Madeleine L'Engle's very meta sci-fi.

Today's science fiction seems to be less interested in the limits of the human intellect, and more in the depths of the depravity humanity can sink to. Of course, there is the indomitable nature of the human spirit side to these stories, but what happened to the science? What happened to the techno-centric societies authors of the 50s through the 80s used to write about? Did we wake up and discover we're in one? Where the hell is my hover-car, dammit?!

That little diatribe aside, I'll definitely read The Hunger Games, but it feels like the latest in a string of dystopian novels (and the occasional "zombie" book, fantasy-horror disguised as sci-fi) that are keeping the genre clinging to the cliff's edge. Hell, heist movies seem to have more hard science elements than some sci-fi does these days. The last time I asked someone online to recommend a good sci-fi, they simply said, Heinlen. Perhaps I should have specified something written in the last five decades. ;)

Sci-fi I'm curious about:
Spacer and Rat
Uglies series and any other Scott Westerfeld

Anyone just dying to share a good sci-fi they've read? I prefer YA because I like to read widely in the genre I write, but I'll eagerly devour a good adult sci-fi.


ElanaJ said...

I'm with you on science fiction. An agent I'm working with recommended these authors: Ursula Le Guin and John Christopher.

I read Ursula's "A Wizard of Earthsea" (more high fantasy) and Gifts (also seems fantastical) and they were both excellent. I have "The Telling" I believe, which is adult sci fi and I'm going to be reading it next.

John Christopher's "A City of Gold and Lead" was utterly fantastic. Dystopian, yes, but it had some science fiction in there too. I mean, it's about an alien invasion, so...yeah. It was good.

You should also read "Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow. It's very "soft" sci fi, not even dystopian. But good. And "Truancy" by some guy who's name I can't spell. It wasn't my favorite, but still okay. It's dystopian too, though.

I picked up Linnea Sinclair's "Finders Keepers" but it was too "hard" sci fi for me. But you might like it, who knows?

And I love all things Westerfeld so I, of course, adored the Uglies series.

Oh! A couple more. The agent said MY dystopian sci fi was reminiscent of "The Giver" by Lois Lowry and "Gone" by Michael Grant. I am ashamed to say that I haven't read either, so I put them on my request list at the library. Apparently they're both quite popular too. *sigh*

Hope this gives you somewhere to start, at least.

Abby said...

I actually just started reading Uglies yesterday. It's been good so far and several bloggers have said it was a good read.

I write sci-fi, as you know, but mine is by no means hard sci-fi. But it would be nice if it made a comeback. I'm tired of all the YA books looking the same in the bookstore. Seems like everything's vampires or fairies anymore.

And I want a hovercar. Do you know where I can get one?

Rebecca Knight said...

I totally agree. A really good "harder" sci fi I recently read is A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski. The tech in the ocean world the author creates is largely biological. It's fascinating!

Elana--that is so weird! I've had The Telling collecting dust on my shelf since college and just the other night brushed it off and put it in my "to read" pile. I loved Gifts, so I'm game for more LeGuin.

TereLiz said...

I'm writing these all down and putting them on my reading list. Thanks for the great recommendations, y'all!

I'll probably pick up Uglies on Saturday. I read Earthsea as a teen, but I barely remember it. Maybe I should read more LeGuin, too.

A Door in Ocean sounds intriguing!

Eric said...

I completely agree with you here. As long as the writer doesn't go way overboard on technical details, I think it can really enhance the story rather than detract from it. Piers Anthony once started a fantasy series called The Mode Series (Chaos Mode, Fractal Mode). I think the problem it didn't really take off was because the concepts described (mathematical in that case) were too dry and hard to keep up with. If you're a math genius, maybe it's really neat. But for the rest of us, the story just got lost in the details. There are alot of sci-fi authors listed here that I haven't heard about, so I may just have to check them out. I would have been one of the masses offering up Heinlen as well.

Bookgeek said...

Have to say that I prefer fantasy to science fiction and really like dystopian novels. And I too would recommend Le Guin. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Hunger Games is fantastic (I've just started the sequel and am unable to stop reading). Little Brother is great and I am a big fan of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series (he's also got a new book called Leviathan that will be out in the Fall). Try the Sabriel series by Garth Nix. It's very very good (especially the middle one - Lirael). Try Neil Gaiman. I especially like Stardust, Neverwhere, and Anansi Boys (but not particularly The Graveyard Book, despite all the awards). And there's always Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass series - also excellent.And Dianna Wynn Jones - almost everything she's written is good. Recently Gone by Michael Grant is good (and the sequel Hunger)