August 9, 2012

Heinlein on "The Mote in God's Eye"

Here's an interesting bit of science fiction literary history: Robert A. Heinlein's 17-page critique of the first draft of The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (pp. 15-31 of this PDF). Heinlein tells them it's the best first-contact-with-aliens story ever, but nobody's going to read it unless they replace their original title Motelight, ideally with something Biblical (Heinlein's title Stranger in a Strange Land from the story of Abraham has to be among the best names ever bestowed upon a book), and lose the first 100 pages of future history backstory.

In a recent vote on the top 100 fantasy and sci-fi novels by 60,000 NPR listeners, Mote came in 61st in a broadly defined list that includes just about every conceivable classic except Gulliver's Travels.

63 comments:

TH said...

title Stranger in a Strange Land from the story of Abraham has to be among the best names ever bestowed upon a book

Moses, not Abraham.

Kai Carver said...

deserves a link: NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

Mitch said...

"The Thing from Another World" was adapted (unfaithfully) from John Campbell's "Who Goes There". Unless Heinlein had a real hate-on for science fiction films, he probably saw the movie.

The line is delivered by Dr. Carrington, the "pure science" guy, in defense of the alien who is "a stranger in a strange land".

I've always thought it more likely Heinlein picked up the phrase from the movie than the Bible.

Now, the movie definitely picked it up from the Bible, because it's not in the original story.

Steve Sailer said...

Since Campbell was Heinlein's editor and "Who Goes There" was Campbell's brilliant valedictory story, I'm sure you are right.

NOTA said...

Heinlein used biblical and literary references for a lot of his titles, and tossed both around in his essays.

And Mote was very clever--they gave you a snapshot of human civilization via showing instead of telling, in the course of showing you Motie civilization. They could do that, I guess, mainly by reference--some combination of Star Trek, US surface navy, British aristocracy, academic politics and culture, even Ireland vs Protestant Northern Ireland--you could fill in the gaps with stuff you'd already read and understood from the present or past.

Anonymous said...

Heinlein's comments make one reflect that making a space empire version of the 19th century British empire is pretty ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

He might well have done it in part because the line appeared in Campbell's story, but Heinlein was not averse to biblical quotes and references. "I Will Fear No Evil," "Job: A Comedy of Justice," "The Number of the Beast."

Heinlein clearly knew the Bible and referred to it rather frequently.

sunbeam said...

These kinds of lists are kind of subjective.

Given the impact I can see why Lord of the Rings was the first pick.

But Ender's Game at three? I've never understood the hullabaloo about that book. I figured out what was going on about 10 pages in. I didn't find the writing, plot, or characterization very good either.

Disagree on a lot of this list, and I mean a lot.

As relatively minor quibbles Starship Troopers was the best thing Heinlein ever wrote, and Ringworld the best thing Larry Niven wrote.

Lots of people liked the Sandman by Gaiman, but not to my tastes. I can see why it was there though.

But all the comic book entries could be replaced by stuff Alan Moore did by himself. He's that good.

Don't judge him by the crappy movies that have been made about his work.

V for Vendetta was about a man who wants to tear it all down, and explains why he wants to and how he is able to do it. The movie was an insult to that work.

Miracleman is kind of forgotten except by comic book fans, but I found it very disturbing. I literally could not tell what was going to happen next. Best book ever about how ridiculous comic book heroes are, and how disturbing the existence of super powered being are when taken to logical extremes.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is in a league by itself. Another crappy movie about a great work. Google this thing, there is at least one book analyzing this thing out there, with a whole chapter on one page in one comic.

Anyway I'll shut up.

Wait I can't, I have more.

Leaving Tarzan and John Carter off this list? No Lovecraft?

I have a theory that stuff lives on if it strikes a chord. Tarzan, John Carter, and Cthulhu have been stocking the bookshelves at every bookstore I have been to in my life.

And just for giggles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxScTbIUvoA

Anonymous said...

When literary historians look back on the twentieth century or contemprorary age, I have a feeling they will see the birth of scifi/fantasy as this epoch's contribution of lasting value.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Did you bring this to our attention because of the letter to FM Busby on Freedom and Race Relations?

Anonymous said...

thank you for that pdf! btw, pp 55-78 of that pdf (heinlein's 1964/65 letter on race relations) is also very good! -- panjoomby

Kylie said...

According to Donald Spoto's biography of Tennessee Williams, "The Poker Game" was the working title for "A Streetcar Named Desire".

Apparently Scott Fitzgerald fumbled around with risibly unwieldy names before he finally settled on The Great Gatsby.

I was sorry to see Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven did not make the NPR Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Books. That's probably my all-time favorite title for any work of literature.

pat said...

The Mote in God's Eye is a very remarkable book because it is intelligent and therefore scary. The Moties are vastly more frightening than the standard nasties usually portrayed as menaces to Earth.

Niven and Pournelle have an anti-Hollywood approach. Hollywood generally doesn't make movies based on original concepts unless it is desparate. They much prefer to make movies based on previous movies.

For example the Ridley Scott blockbuster Gladiator is a remake of The Fall of the Roman Empire an earlier Roman blockbuster. It is not based on the actual history. Or consider Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans. It is not very much like the famous novel. That's because it's based on Randolph Scott's earlier film not Cooper's story.

Most of us were startled by the originality of George Lucas and Stven Spielberg in their adventure films like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. But they weren't original. They were remakes of earlier films. If you can't find an earlier film to remake a producer can reluctantly turn to a comic book. Hollywood avoids having to actually base a movie on a novel but really, really hates to base a movie on an original idea.

That's why although Niven and Pournelle are revered among SF readers, they have not punched through into Hollywood success.

This can be seen in the spate of recent "Invasion of Earth" movies. In these modern movies the producers like to portray the power and menace of the alien invaders. But Niven and Pournelle actually thought about the prospect of a real invasion. They fashioned a very different kind of invasion plot. In Footfall they work hard to develop a plot in which the alien invaders are boobs - stupid and bumbling. This is exactly the opposite of the standard Hollywood approach.

The problem is that "Earth Invasion" stories written for the amusement of earthlings must end with humans triumphing. This is a very unlikely outcome in a conflict with any real spacefaring civilization. It would be trivial for smart aliens in orbit who understand human biology to eliminate all those pesky humans. Just drop a some pathogens.

Hollywood typically has the aliens come down to earth and fight it out man to man (or man to creature) with small arms. Not bloodly likely! When I get ants in my kitchen I don't feel compeled to confront them in a fair fight.

Similarly The moties who are asymetrical and exist in separate casts are very alien but plausible. They have a military cast of course but they also have a lawyer cast and a public relations cast. Some casts are nasty looking but some are cute.

Humans are easy to manipulate. Ask my little dog Charlie. He's so cute that complete strangers ask to take his picture. Niven and Pournelle give us an alien threat who looks like my Charlie. This is a scary prospect.

No intelligent alien invader if he chose to come down from orbit would appear like a typical Hollywood monster. That sort of appearance would engender all sorts of atavistic reflexes. Moties would have their cute representatives appear on Fox News reciting their "talking points". All the gorgeous blond human female newscasters would gush over them. They would find them adorable. We would be surely doomed.

Very damn scary indeed.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

That NPR list is suckass.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read much sci-fi.

MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Liked it.

FAHRENHEIT 451. Liked it as 1984 for juniors. I like the movie more.

ILLUSTRATED MAN. Few good short stories.

FOUNDATION. Great idea but too much silly stuff. Read about 1/3 of it.

SOLARIS. Masterpiece. I should read more by Lem.

STARMAN. Read about first 1/3 of it. Interesting. Should finish it.

STARSHIP TROOPERS. Zzzzzzzz. Barely managed to read about 20 pgs.

DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF... Liked the movie BLADE RUNNER more.

INTER ICE AGE 4. Liked it much.

HARD BOILED WONDERLAND. Murakami's sole decent work.

2001. Read about first two chapters. Movie is so much better.

RENDEZVOUS TO RAMA. Interesting but didn't finish. I should.

CONTACT. Read the first page and stopped. Didn't like the movie either.

I might have read a few others.

I'm not counting stuff like BRAVE NEW WORLD and 1984 as sci-fi. They are primarily works of satire speculating on possible uses of technology. At any rate, they are primarily about the human condition, not gizmotics.

John Cunningham said...

Heinlein, being born in 1907 in rural Missouri, was probably highly familiar with the Bible from his earliest years.

Anonymous said...

Did Niven and Pournelle heed Heinlein? I only vaguely remember "Mote," liking it but thinking it was too long.

Anonymous said...

With such an endorsement I will have to give Pournelle and Niven another try. Lucifer's Hammer was a good story, but far too many of the characters spoke like nerdy science fiction authors, not how such characters would speak in real life. It was impossible to care if any of them drowned or got eaten by cannibals.
This is probably related to the social awkwardness of very smart science/engineering types like Pournelle, because the lack of or poor character development is a problem that plagues the whole genre.

ResnoTemperedBell said...

The phrase "stranger in a strange land" also pops up in Heinlein's "The Rolling Stones", published in 1952. (I think the grandmother uses it to describe herself.) So, yeah, possibly Heinlein saw "The Thing from Another World" (released in 1951) and got the phrase stuck in his mind.

Anonymous said...

Heinlein's comments make one reflect that making a space empire version of the 19th century British empire is pretty ludicrous.

Why all this anglocentrism in SF anyway? I'd sooner like to see equally-ludicrous Maurya Empire in space.

beowulf said...

Off topic (though would make for a good Sci Fi allegory).

"A high-ranking Mexican drug cartel operative currently in U.S. custody is making startling allegations that the failed federal gun-walking operation known as “Fast and Furious” isn’t what you think it is.
It wasn’t about tracking guns, it was about supplying them — all part of an elaborate agreement between the U.S. government and Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel to take down rival cartels."
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/high-ranking-mexican-drug-cartel-member-makes-explosive-allegation-fast-and-furious-is-not-what-you-think-it-is/

Eric said...

For hard sci-fi fans that's a great book.

Things have gone downhill since they merged "sci-fi" and "fantasy" in bookstores. The last time I went into a brick and mortar bookstore, a giant Borders place (yeah, it's been awhile), the "sci-fi/fantasy" books were all on one four foot shelf. In terms of numbers the section was dwarfed by each of a dozen single title displays.

Anonymous Rice Alum #4 said...

@Anonymous
8/9/12 10:47 AM

Did Niven and Pournelle heed Heinlein? I only vaguely remember "Mote," liking it but thinking it was too long.

They heeded him by cutting out the space battle and getting to the arrival of the Motie probe at New Caledonia within a few dozen pages. Still a slow opening, but apparently better than the draft Heinlein read.

Anonymous Rice Alum #4 said...

@Anonymous 8/9/12 11:11 AM:

Mote is the best Niven/Pournelle collaboration. They focused on story, instead of political points that crop up in Lucifer's Hammer and Oath of Fealty. Inferno is both philosophical and fun ("balls like twin Astrodomes," I'm paraphrasing), though their choice to replace Virgil as the virtuous pagan guide is odd.

Anonymous said...

Why is Brazil so bad at the Olympics?
They have lots of blacks. And lots of whites. They should be producing top level sprinters and swimmers.

Is the amerindian contribution so deleterious to athletic performance that it's holding Brazil back?

Severn said...

With such an endorsement I will have to give Pournelle and Niven another try. Lucifer's Hammer was a good story, but far too many of the characters spoke like nerdy science fiction authors, not how such characters would speak in real life. It was impossible to care if any of them drowned or got eaten by cannibals.
This is probably related to the social awkwardness of very smart science/engineering types like Pournelle, because the lack of or poor character development is a problem that plagues the whole genre.



You're reading it wrong. You don't read sci-fi for character development. That would be like reading "erotic fiction" for character development. The stars of the show in a sci-fi book are the ideas, and the characters are just props to help bring those ideas to life.

Anonymous said...

Several of those such as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, and Slaughterhouse Five are more social commentary than science fiction or fantasy. Just the sort of thing you'd expect NPR listeners to vote for. And the big one missing from the list is The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christoper Stasheff. The Sword of Shannara starts off horribly written and then after about 275 pages the author learned to write over a 25 page span. Also it was followed by a 4 novel sequel and a prequel making it an 8 volume effort, really

Anonymous said...

@pat:

I would like to hear you break down from what movies Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark are borrowed. I was aware that Star Wars owed a vast debt to the novel Dune and Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, but I had never heard of other cimematic influences.

Anonymous said...

"You're reading it wrong. You don't read sci-fi for character development. That would be like reading "erotic fiction" for character development. The stars of the show in a sci-fi book are the ideas, and the characters are just props to help bring those ideas to life."

And likewise, the music of Britney Spears is not bad, insipid music because you're not supposed to listen to it too hard, just dance to it....or whatever excuse her fans give.

To address your point, if a character is to help bring something to life, it would help if they were lifelike, correct? The genre of a book does not excuse elements of bad writing.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Wow, that review was a really fun read. Good find.

Loved Starship Troopers, couldn't finish Stranger. Vague memories of Starman Jones and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Absolutely fell in love w/ the female lead in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

Steve Sailer said...

The main characters in Nabokov's big books are just versions of himself and other characters barely exist. But the glass is half full because Nabokov was a pretty interesting character.

The main characters in Waugh's books are pretty bland because Waugh was an interesting but unpleasant personality, so he toned himself down and made all the characters more vivid.

FredR said...

Having an interesting personality is a big factor in good writing.

Severn said...

To address your point, if a character is to help bring something to life, it would help if they were lifelike, correct?


Can you explain why you think that this is "correct"? Preferably via some examples from sci-fi books? 2001: A Space Odyssey was excellent sci-fi, though you'd be hard pressed to describe it as having having excellent character development. Which specific sci-fi books were much better than they otherwise would have been thanks to their character development and realistic, three-dimensional characters?

Anonymous said...

Does no one read Brian Aldiss' brilliant "Hothouse" any more?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothouse_%28novel%29

I see the full version wasn't published in the States until 1976.


and I used to love Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Cloud

Kylie said...

"The stars of the show in a sci-fi book are the ideas, and the characters are just props to help bring those ideas to life."

Thus my admittedly snippy dismissal of sci-fi as bad science and worse fiction.

International Jew said...

At 50% into the Kindle edition, this thing still seemed like a typical Star Trek episode--same cliches, some of the same characters even (with changed names). I quit at that point.

Eric said...

If you want to read good sci-fi with well-written characters I would recommend Paulo Bacigalupi, specifically The Windup Girl, which is a sort of green distopia story.

Severn said...

bad science and worse fiction


"Fiction" denotes any work of an imaginary or non-factual nature. There is no assumption, either explicit or implicit, that "fiction" should denote "good writing". If you pick up Clark or Asimov or Heinlein with the expectation that you're going to read sentences and characters on a par with those in Capote or Wolfe or Hemingway, then you're missing the point rather badly, and I'd advise you to not read science fiction.

Anonymous said...

anonymous:"I would like to hear you break down from what movies Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark are borrowed. I was aware that Star Wars owed a vast debt to the novel Dune and Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, but I had never heard of other cimematic influences."

RE: Influences on STAR WARS,

THE DAM BUSTERS was a huge influence on the attack on the Death Star sequence. There's even a YOUTUBE clip showing the similarities.Also, Ford's THE SEARCHERS is all over the Tatooine stuff, especially the scene where Luke returns to his ravaged home.One might also add a lot of comic book influences as well (DR Doom and Darth Vader, Kirby's Source and the Force, etc).Also, from the pulps, Doc Smith's LENSMEN series had a big impact.

RE: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK,

One influence that springs to mind is Heston's SECRET OF THE INCAS.

Syon

Anonymous said...

"Several of those such as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, and Slaughterhouse Five are more social commentary than science fiction or fantasy. Just the sort of thing you'd expect NPR listeners to vote for."

Actually, you'd expect NPR listeners to be sophisticated enough not to confuse those works with sci-fi or fantasy.

Kylie said...

"There is no assumption, either explicit or implicit, that 'fiction' should denote 'good writing'."

Who said otherwise? I sure didn't.

"If you pick up Clark or Asimov or Heinlein with the expectation that you're going to read sentences and characters on a par with those in Capote or Wolfe or Hemingway, then you're missing the point rather badly, and I'd advise you to not read science fiction."

If you continue to make assumptions about my comment that are so far off the mark, then you're missing the point really badly and I'd advise you to think twice or at least, read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote, before you reply to me.

It never even occurred to me to pick up any sci-fi with the expectation that the sentences and characters would be on a par with Capote, Wolfe or Hemingway. That would be silly. I don't even know where you got that from, certainly not from anything I said.

Anonymous said...

"Starhammer" is quite possibly the most epic of all sci-fi book-titles.

Mitch said...

Of course Heinlein knew the Bible. But without question, the movie (not the story) used the quote ten years earlier, in exactly the same context. Unless Heinlein didn't see the movie, he got the idea from the movie, not from the bible.

That list was really, really weak, by the way.

Anonymous said...

http://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/the-return-of-chinese-clans/

Chan Clan back.

AmericanGoy said...

Sigh.

The Stars My Destination is missing.

So is the Gordon R. Dickson Dorsai saga, but seeing as it is a military sci fi I can see the neckbeards of NPR hate it.

Harry Harrison wrote perhaps the two most brilliant alternate history trilogies, the Eden trilogy (what if dinosaurs were not wiped out and mammals and humanity arose anyway on the cold climate lands that the intelligent reptiles did not covet... until the climate change, that is), and

The Hammer and the Cross trilogy, of a rise of a religion in medieval Europe that challenger christianity... somewhat successfully.

If I can get anything through here, is that if you haven't already, you should post haste get to reading Harrison's two trilogies, then Stars My Destination, then Tactics of Mistake...

AmericanGoy said...

Sigh.

The Stars My Destination is missing.

So is the Gordon R. Dickson Dorsai saga, but seeing as it is a military sci fi I can see the neckbeards of NPR hate it.

Harry Harrison wrote perhaps the two most brilliant alternate history trilogies, the Eden trilogy (what if dinosaurs were not wiped out and mammals and humanity arose anyway on the cold climate lands that the intelligent reptiles did not covet... until the climate change, that is), and

The Hammer and the Cross trilogy, of a rise of a religion in medieval Europe that challenger christianity... somewhat successfully.

If I can get anything through here, is that if you haven't already, you should post haste get to reading Harrison's two trilogies, then Stars My Destination, then Tactics of Mistake...

Anonymous said...

Hey pat, you should read Kushiel's Dart. It's about your favorite subject, S&M.

But seriously, it's a worthy book. Great worldbuilding. Too many fantasy worlds are based on Britain or some Celtic or Nordic backwater; not many are based on the Renaissance France.

wren said...

Wow, I read that in the 70's and forgot about it except for the title and the watchmakers, which I subsequently forgot came from that book.

Why did they stick in my mind?

I have been wondering what story they came out of for the last twenty years or so.

Thanks.

Vermicious Knid said...

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is practically a remake of the 1939 movie "Gunga Din". In this case I would say that the original is better, despite its lack of Harrison Ford. The chief bad guy rules.

Anonymous said...

AmericanGoy, I had the same thought. Probably left off Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry/Polesotechic League stuff for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/culture-without-the-war/

Baloo said...

All kidding aside, you can't have a list of the 100 best SF/Fantasy without
Keith Laumer,
the P. G. Wodehouse of SF. For that matter, I don't think there's any humorous stuff on that list at all.

Kylie said...

""Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is practically a remake of the 1939 movie "Gunga Din". In this case I would say that the original is better, despite its lack of Harrison Ford. The chief bad guy rules."

Despite the lack of Harrison Ford, the original had Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Fontaine, Sam Jaffe and Eduardo Ciannelli (the chief bad guy), in front of the camera and George Stevens, Alfred Newman and of course, Rudyard Kipling behind the camera.

The Harrison Ford movie had Harrison Ford, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw.

Back in 1977, I went to see Star Wars, expecting, for some reason, to see a science fiction movie. After about 40 minutes, I complained to my friend, "This is nothing but intergalactic cowboys and Indians" and thereafter just dozed in my seat.

George Stevens may have been a poor man's John Ford but neither Spielberg or Lucas comes anywhere near being a poor man's George Stevens.

Anonymous said...

My favorite SF author is Octavia Butler.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavia_E._Butler
The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents are wonderful books set in a post-apoplectic future. A recurring theme in her books is the nature of relationships between human, hybrids, vampires, etc. Hey, I', a girl and I'm interested in relationships too!

pat said...

Hey pat, you should read Kushiel's Dart. It's about your favorite subject, S&M.

I don't read S&M books. Largely because I'm a man. S&M fiction appeals mainly to women especially submissive women. The girls like The Story of O and the Sleeping Beauty books.

Whoever this anonymous fan is he doesn't seem to know very much about S&M. I'll try to provide some enlightenment from time to time.

I've always been a Sci Fi fan. I think I graduated from the Hardy Boys books directly to Heinlein. There is a sub-genre of SF called the "Juveniles". These are simple vivid stories aimed at pre-teens. Jerry Pournelle wrote one of these only about a decade ago. Juveniles are usually the basis for SF movies. Star Wars for example has a juvenile plot and style.

SF fiction doesn't pay well I'm told. Detective fiction I think pays more. This may be why detective novels and police procedurals almost always have better writing and much better characterization. Dean Kuntz for example started in SF but moved into horror for the big bucks. SF payed so badly L. Ron Hubbard used his pulp fiction skills and plots to form a religion.

As it happens I don't care for "who dunnits". I just don't care who did it. I know the mystery will be resolved in the last chapter. I can wait.

I don't like westerns either. I read a Zane Grey oater novel once just as I once read a romance novel. Never again.

Jerry Pournelle can do one thing very well even if he can't manage to create believeable human characters. I think I've read everything he ever wrote so this must be important to me. He can write a battle. Few can. Very few.

Battles I'm told are confusing to live through. They certainly are hard to describe in fiction. Colleen McCullough writes very very well and can characterize up a storm but she cannot write a battle. That's a real pity because her major life's work is in her Roman history series and she is just lost when she tries to describe a military conflict. She just can't grok it.

Pournelle's military SF is very strong on military details and especially battles. The only novelist who is better at this sort of thing is probably Bernard Cornwell.

At the risk of my reputation as a fair minded and decent person I'll admit a personal prejudice. I will never read an SF novel written by a woman. Women just can't write SF.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"Can you explain why you think that this is "correct"? Preferably via some examples from sci-fi books? 2001: A Space Odyssey was excellent sci-fi, though you'd be hard pressed to describe it as having having excellent character development. Which specific sci-fi books were much better than they otherwise would have been thanks to their character development and realistic, three-dimensional characters?"

While scifi may not need as much character development as other genres because, "hey guys, there are really big things happening!", it doesn't mean that creating believable characters should just be completely thrown out of the entire recipe.

A good sci-fi book I read recently is "The Time Ships" by Stephen Baxter. No, there is not too much character development either, but everyone behaves according to how their characters should behave, a stark contrast to the book I read by Niven and Pournelle.

Lucifer's Hammer picked up toward the end, but a substantial portion of the dialog in the first half of the book was of face-palming quality. This is a problem across the scifi genre, probably for the reason I noted above.

"bad science and worse fiction"

Ha, pretty much.

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land#In_popular_culture

Anonymous said...

"At the risk of my reputation as a fair minded and decent person I'll admit a personal prejudice. I will never read an SF novel written by a woman. Women just can't write SF."

Connie Willis: The Doomsday Book

Nancy Kress: Beggars in Spain (hbd theme)

Lois Mcmaster Bujold: The Vorkosigan series

All really well done.

Baloo said...

And further back, Leigh Brackett and Andre Norton. It's true that there are fewer good female SF writers than there are in other genres, but it is possible. There are plenty of others, but I listed the two who I know are good.

Mitch said...

Second Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. Her short stories are also excellent. She's become weaker in the last decade, sadly, but had an excellent 20 year run.

Justthisguy said...

Eric, you idiotic doodah, there is no such thing as hard "sci-fi." There is of course hard SF, of the kind which Hal Clement wrote and John Campbell bought.

Anonymous @9:49 doesn't know what he's talking about. His examples lean more toward fantasy than SF, then he claims that Brave New World and 1984 are not SF, when they are really pure SF. It's not about the gears and rockets, it's about the speculation. As Heinlein said, good SF is either about "What If...?" or about "If this goes on..."

Anonymous said...

"RE: Influences on STAR WARS,"

I saw Alexander Nevsky a year or two after seeing Star Wars, and found it amazingly familiar and similar to Star Wars, even down to the Teutonic Knights looking like Imperial stormtroopers and playing a similar role. I suppose the basic formula is a universal...

Justthisguy said...

Oh, Steve? I believe that you live very near to both Jerry and Larry. You might consider attending meetings of the LASFA, which I believe is the oldest continuously-existent SF club in the country. Jerry and Larry are both members, and show up there from time to time.