Where has all the Sci-Fi gone?

First off, a confession. I grew up reading science fiction, and have read lots of it. There are different types of reading. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction for strictly education purposes, because I had to, or because I was interested in the subject. I frequently read literature because I like the writing, or because I feel that in some way the author’s ideas will improve me. But sci-fi is strictly entertainment and escapism: it’s the junk food of my library. Give me a good space opera, and an hour or two in the hammock on a summer day, and life is good (except, right now, Asheville is under assault from the 17-year-cicada-devil-bugs-from-hell, and outside it sounds like car alarms in every direction).

The vision of large scale space colonization has languished, and interest in reading and writing sci-fi seems to have diminished as well. Three things I look for in the sci-fi part of my speculative fiction are good writing, interesting characters, and great imagination. I like pondering an author’s vision of possible futures. To that end, I humbly present the following books as entertaining and relatively fresh members of the genre.

Thirteen by Richard Morgan blends cyberpunk and noir, for a dark, hard-edged vision of social consequences of genetic manipulation and population growth.

Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge takes on ubiquitous computing, and what it might be like to live in a world where nearly all information is available nearly all the time. Wearable computing, here we come.

Counting Heads by David Marusek is a creative, fast-moving exploration of politics in a wired future, complete with artificial intelligences and replete with cyber-warfare. It’s an impressive first book.

Ian McDonald’s book Brasyl is an entertaining, quantum-aware romp, smart with plenty of action. It’s a strong follow-up to his 2006 River Of Gods.

Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained by Peter Hamilton were great fun, an epic tale well told.

As to what I’m waiting for, I like Charles Stross. Halting State looks like fun. I’m a sucker for Neal Stephenson (that guy has a sense of humor that won’t quit!) and Anathem is coming out in September. Alastair Reynolds has been producing great work lately, and his new book The Prefect came out yesterday. I hope you enjoy your summer reading.

4 thoughts on “Where has all the Sci-Fi gone?”

  1. Leslie says:

    Is it Ok to comment here? I was a big fan of old school science fiction, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury…. My very favorite books are still Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward, the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert L. Heinlein. I’m not familiar with the titles you mention but I haven’t done much SF reading lately. My favorites may not be “hard” science fiction, either!

  2. jim says:

    Yes! It’s OK to comment, in fact, that’s a big part of what we’re hoping to do with this blog: engage people who are interested in books. Welcome!

    Dragon’s Egg and Dune were two of my favorites, back in the day. Here I’m aiming for new stuff, that hopefully will compare favorably in both quality and imagination (the mind-bending factor) to the sci-fi that got us both interested in the first place. I think all of these would be considered hard sci-fi, but some might disagree on the last two.

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