[FRIAM] Science Fiction Books

Jochen Fromm jofr at cas-group.net
Sun Sep 3 17:14:43 EDT 2023

Well, I still believe there is a gun problem in the United States, yes. Definitely. Just recently a police officer fatally shot a pregnant Black woman in the parking lot of a grocery store in Ohio after she refused to exit her car. And Ohio is not even a red state, right? It is also well known that the US has substantially more mass shootings than other countries. This is one reason why I do not want to travel to the USA at the moment - South Africa also does not feel safe to me after various reports in the last months about missing tourists.The other is the lack of good food. In Europe and Asia there is such a variety of good restaurants and healthy food. In Germany and Great Britain not so much, except in the larger cities, but in the Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy, Greece and Israel the food is awesome. In South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan as well. -J.
-------- Original message --------From: Steve Smith <sasmyth at swcp.com> Date: 9/3/23  8:59 PM  (GMT+01:00) To: friam at redfish.com Subject: Re: [FRIAM] Science Fiction Books 
    Jochen -
    I thought of you more than few times on my long walkabout through
      Red/Purple-state 'murrica...  mostly your concerns a year or two
      ago about traveling to the US "because gun violence".   I was in
      the heart of "gun country" through this trip and saw a few
      artifacts of that which would naturally be *very* disturbing
      (methinks) to someone not already innured to it... but not nearly
      as many as you might expect.  On the other hand I just saw a news
      item that Canada and many other first-world countries have in
      place "travel warnings" for not the US proper, but many of the
      more egregious "red states".   I believe you may have already made
      your 'murrican sojourn so the point may be moot... but I couldn't
      help thinking "how would Jochen see this?" as I stumbled through a
      landscape of bison, hay bales, corn fields, motorcycles, strip
      malls, and gun shows.
      I have read "Highway of Eternity" from Clifford D.
        Simak this weekend, one of the books from the golden age of
        science fiction which is comparable to "The city and the Stars"
        from Arthur C. Clarke and "The end of eternity" from Isaac
        Asimov. Both belong to my favorite books. Modern authors don't
        write like this anymore. Their books are often gloomy and
        depressive, and do not span millions of years. What is your
        favorite science fiction book? Will the AI breakthrough in large
        language models lead to more optimistic science fiction books
    Back on topic:  I grew up on a lot of "Golden Age" works/authors
      which includes Simak/Clarke/Asimov of course.   I would claim that
      this time was naturally one of "Utopianism" that came with the
      rapid development of industry/technology/science.  I think the
      Dystopianism ramped up with PostModernism and Cyberpunk.   I'm a
      big fan of Cyberpunk (esp..
      Gibson/Sterling/Stephenson/Cadigan/etc.) and *some*
      post-Apocalyptic works... now almost exclusively "CliFi" (Climate
      Fiction), but I get your yearning for "the good ole days".   I'd
      say Elon Musk grew up on "too much Utopian SF" as well and (unlike
      me) hasn't outgrown it?   
    My *favorite* golden-age author is Jack
        Williamson who I've mentioned here before and had the
      distinction of being somewhat elder when he published his first
      work at age 20 (1928) in Hugo Gernsback's first-of-kind Amazing
      Stories (1926).   I feel like he hit his stride after WWII where
      he had been a (civilian, not military due to age) Weatherman in
      the Pacific and reacted to a dawning self-awareness of the flip
      side of techno-Utopianism (exemplified by Hiroshima/Nagasaki)...  
      His (re)entry into publication after a long hiatus (during/after
      WWII) was With
        Folded Hands, a reflective dystopian view of
      techno-utopianism as well as work presaging Asimov's Robot series
      as well as a plethora of concepts like
      Borg/Cylon/Replicant/Terminators/Cybermen/Sentinels, etc...   and
      of course all of this was preceded by Lem's Trurl and
        Klapaucius (wizard-robot constructors) and the Hebrew Golem (and
        Frankenstein's Monster and... and and.)  He wrote over 50 novels
        ultimately in his 98 year long life as well as myriad short
        stories, novellas and a 3 year run of a comic strip (early
        50s)... He also penned a reflective autobiography late in life
        (70s) but with nearly 20 years worth of career following that! 
        He taught writing at Eastern NM University well into his 90s as
    For the most
        part I'm thankful to be beyond the flat-character
        cardboard-cutout, misogynistic, stoicly independent/capable
        (white-male) hero-worship classic SF tropes but I hear your
        interest in more positive grand narratives that the Golden Age
        also carried.  For the seminal Epoch-spanning humanity I offer
        Olaf Stapledon's "Last and First Men" (1930) and "Starmaker"
        (1933).  The former spans 2 billion years and 18 human
        Heinlein is the avowed Master of Human Chauvanistic
        technoUtopian/Libertarian fantasies which even satisfies some of
        us reformed/anti-Libertarians sometimes.   Many of his more
        minor novels are a fun romp in near-future techno-utopianism
        (e.g. Moon is a Harsh Mistress) as well as epoch and dimensional
        spanning works such as Time Enough for Love and Job
        (respectively).   Stranger in a Strange Land stood up
        well next to Herbert's Dune in the 60s to satisfy
        Hippies and non-Hippies alike.
    Larry Niven's
        Ringworld series are pretty
        far-flung/futuristic/optimistic epochal.  He does
        post-Apocalyptic well too (e.g. FootFall, Mote in
          God's Eye)
    I did enjoy
        Simak's work "back in the day" and his 1968 "So Bright the
        Vision" gestured toward what ChatGPT is today.
    A.E. Van Vogt
        offers some great classics as well...  The Worlds of Null A
        and Weapons Shops of Isher stand out.
    Poul Anderson
        simultaneously created/celebrated and lampooned the canonical
        pulp hero with his Nicholas van Rijn characters in a series of
        works and his PsychoTechnic League is a Future History
        to rival Asimov's Foundation series.
    I know you
        asked for "A favorite" but I'm not so good at
        narrowing such things down...  hope you made it through my romp
        of recommendations and at least one is useful!   If you lived
        closer (same continent?) I would bequeath you a few boxes of
        pulp from that era <grin>...  
    - Steve

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