Why I like science fiction so much

Science fiction is a great medium for conducting thought experiments.  What makes it so great is that nothing is at stake.  Science fiction is just a harmless form of entertainment, so you can let your imagination have free rein without worrying about the consequences.

2578-planets-science-fiction-photomanipulations-fresh-new-hd-wallpaper-bestI’ve read science fiction for 60 years, and I’m struck by how many times I am reminded of old science fiction stories when I read speculative articles about politics or metaphysics.

Of course science fiction is also a form of escape literature.  It creates a virtual reality that people enjoy imagining they live in.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  As C.S. Lewis once remarked, the only category of people hostile to the concept of “escape” are jailers.

Currently my favorite science fiction is Ken MacLeod, a Scot whose novels are published in the United Kingdom, but not always in the United States.  I order every book he writes without waiting to see if it will be published in the USA.

Click on The Early Days of a Better Nation for Ken MacLeod’s web log.  I don’t include it on my BlogRoll because he doesn’t post very much.

Click on Science fiction novels for economists for a list.

Click on Science Fiction (Bookshelf) for links to science fiction stories available on-line through Project Gutenberg.

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14 Responses to “Why I like science fiction so much”

  1. Joachim Boaz Says:

    What are your favorite 60s70s authors? I’m always curious about people who’ve read science fiction from the era that I enjoy the most who actually read them as they came out 😉 Being in my mid-20s I tend to like older science fiction much much more than newer sci-fi…

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  2. philebersole Says:

    Some novels from the 1960s and 1970s that I like a lot are

    Gateway by Frederik Pohl

    The Dispossessed and The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin

    Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

    The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner) by Philip K. Dick

    The Mote in God’s Eye and Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

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  3. Joachim Boaz Says:

    Ah, yes, I’ve read all of those. I’m no fan of Gateway but I did read it a while ago and might enjoy it more now…. I was very anti-Freudian themed science fiction until I read Barry N. Malzberg’s work (namely Beyond Apollo and Revelations).

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  4. philebersole Says:

    I first started reading science fiction as a young teenager in 1950 or 1951. I remember the first science fiction magazine I ever saw. It was an issue of Astounding (now Analog) Science fiction with a picture of a Mohawk Indian watching the landing of a craft consisting of a transparent sphere with external jets.

    I liked the science fiction writers who flourished in the 1950s—Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Frederik Pohl, Theodore Sturgeon, Alfred Bester, Isaac Asimov. All of them faded in output or quality in later years, except for Pohl.

    Joachim, I admire your web log. Obviously the depth and breadth of your interest in science fiction is a good more than mine is.

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  5. Joachim Boaz Says:

    Ah, I know which one you’re talking about — here it is! December 1950 issue.

    Never cared for Heinlein or Pohl or Asimov — although some of Pohl’s satires are fun…. Definitely prefer Kornbluth’s satire over Pohl’s though. Kornbluth’s shorts are amazing…. Of the 50s authors I most enjoy Aldiss, PKD, Kornbluth, and Gunn — slightly darker visions of the future, less technological positivism — shall we say, slightly tempered visions. Of course, they also wrote a lot on the 60s. But, the late 60s and early 70s saw my absolute favorite novels — Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo, D. G. Compton’s The Unsleeping Eye, Silverberg’s Hawksbill Station, Effinger’s What Entropy Means to Me, etc

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    • Joachim Boaz Says:

      Thanks for the kind words!

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    • philebersole Says:

      Wow! Joachim, thank you so much for that link. I would have been just a couple of weeks short of turning 14 when I first saw that cover. Your brings back a lot of memories (and also helps pinpoint the date, which I’d forgotten). It also reminds me of how much I liked the work of James Blish, not just his Cities in Flight series but Black Easter.

      I may have read some of Robert A. Heinlein’s boy’s books before then; I don’t remember. But this is what really got me started on science fiction.

      John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar is one of my all-time favorites. In some ways we’re living in that world today. If only there were an equivalent biochemical solution to the real world’s conflicts!

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      • Joachim Boaz Says:

        Here’s a great resource by through which I found the cover…. Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

        http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/index.cgi

        You can search by author, artist, magazine, title, etc… HIGHLY recommended. I have used the cover in one of my earlier art posts a while back — or, it’s in a new post I’m putting together, argh, forgot….

        But yes, Stand on Zanzibar is my favorite sci-fi novel of all time — without question.

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      • Joachim Boaz Says:

        I’ve read half of the Cities in Flight novels and some of Blish’s other works but not Black Easter — they were ok… I read a good 10 or so of Heinlein’s juveniles when I was younger — Starman Jones stands out, as does Citizen of the Galaxy, but the others I found rather forgettable….

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      • philebersole Says:

        I remember reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo and taking the whole thing—the engineer buying a used rocket and converting it into a spaceship, him recruiting high school students to help him and them getting permission from their parents to accompany him to the moon, the colony of Nazis already existing on the moon—with complete suspension of disbelief.

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  6. (Pre-)Golden Age Science Fiction Free Online | Classic Literature of Science Fiction Says:

    […] Why I like science fiction so much (philebersole.wordpress.com) […]

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  7. dagorym Says:

    I’m curious where you found the image you included in this post. I edit a magazine for an old SF role-playing game and would love to use it on the cover and I’m trying to track down the artist to get permission to do so.

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